Random Draft Musings

By Joe Tarell (AKA Quadzilla)

Every draft has a theme and this one is no different. Sometimes they are defined by the top draft pick, if it is someone who is clearly the best, but usually it is by positional strength or weakness. Last year there was a clear lack of offensive linemen and this was clear at the start of free agency when O-linemen got deals that were way too high for their skill level. Might be just the opposite this year, but most people consider it the year of the quarterback.

What is strange this year is that the best offensive lineman is a guard. This usually signals a weak class because LT is the premier position on the line and some would say is second only to QB in importance on a team. But there is a strong OT class this year, just not strong enough to out rank Quentin Nelson, the guard from Notre Dame. He might turn out to be the best player in this class 15 years from now. He is big enough and quick enough to play tackle, but has a nasty streak and the pulling ability that lends itself well to guard. He should go top five unless the QB class dominates that group. If Nelson slips some team in the second five will be very happy. There is almost no chance he gets to the Dolphins at 11 unless all six quarterbacks go in the top ten. Yes, I said six... more on that later.

There could be as many as seven O-linemen in the first round. The run will start sometime after the Redskins pick at 13. By then Nelson will be gone and those that need OL help will start taking tackles like Mike McGlinchey from Notre Dame, Connor Williams from Texas, or Kolton Miller from UCLA. But there are also interior players getting attention like Will Hernandez from UTEP who blew up the combine, Isaiah Wynn who played tackle at Georgia but projects to guard, then there are G/C players like James Daniels from Iowa, Billy Price from OSU and even Frank Ragnow from Arkansas. There is also a good second tier of players likely to go in rounds two through four.

Last year there were only two O-linemen taken in the first round but seven defensive backs and 57 total in the entire draft. Conversely, there were only 33 O-linemen taken. It won't flip flop this year but let's just say it will be more even. The DB's in this class do not have the elite talent that we have seen in years past. The consensus number one corner, Denzel Ward from OSU, is only 5'10" and is not really a consensus. Many people see the two safeties, Derwin James from FSU and Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama going ahead of a CB. By the time the first round is complete we will likely see Josh Jackson from Iowa, who has good tape but lacks measurables, Jaire Alexander from Louisville and possibly Mike Hughes from UCF. The interesting thing is that all the corners mentioned above have one thing in common; they each have but one year of starting experience because they were beaten out, transferred or injured. Ward gets the consensus label because he was beaten out by guys who were also first round picks at Ohio State.

We may still see seven or more DB's go in the first round because of the premium on those positions but it is just not that strong a class. We all know that the premium positions are those that pass the ball, protect the passer, sack the passer or defend the pass. Notice that catching it is not part of that group. WR is the hardest position to draft. They are typically among the most arrogant divas on the field but they are totally dependent on others for their success. This topic could be a full length article of its own but suffice it to say that there are very few receivers in this draft class that warrant risking the IME to draft in the first round. Maybe Calvin Ridley from Alabama but that is a risk when all you hear are excuses why he didn't have bigger numbers in college and why his small stature is not that big a deal.

For those who don't know, the term IME was coined a few years ago to try and measure a draftee’s potential to bust. It stands for Instant Millionaire Effect. Let's take some examples to clarify this effect using current or past prospects. Orlando Brown is an OT from Oklahoma who protected the Heisman winner's blind side for three years and some project as a first round talent. The IME says that if you are fat (400 lbs. in high school) and lazy (14 reps on the bench press) these deficiencies will not get better if you are drafted in the first round and guaranteed 12 to 25 million dollars. Reuben Foster from Alabama was widely considered one of the top five most talented players last year, but went 31st to the 49ers because he had failed drug tests and got kicked out of the combine for abusive behavior with some medical staffers. Perhaps had he fallen out of round one and out of the guaranteed millionaire category he might have gotten humbled and would not have three felony charges right now.

The Wide Receiver position is becoming the Dime-a-Dozen position that RB has been in recent years. RB has had that label because it used to be that the best kid on every Pop Warner field was put at RB so by the time you got to the NFL they were all really good so you don't want to waste a first round pick on one who will be out of the league in four years anyway because of the abuse on their body. When looking at the talent in this draft at WR, and considering the IME and diva potential, most teams will wait until later in the draft and try to get someone with skills that is a little hungrier and might actually block someone. With the proliferation of the spread at lower levels of football and most parents scared of little Johnny getting hurt, everybody wants to be a WR. It is likely we see more TE's than WR's in the first round for the first time ever.

There are three or four TE's likely to go high with Mike Gesicki from Penn State the most talented, Hayden Hurst from South Carolina the most complete and Dallas Goedert the most intriguing. Goedert has some great tape. The problem is he played at South Dakota State and has yet to run a 40. He was never wide open against inferior competition, but yet he caught everything thrown his way. Gesicki has sick skills, running a 4.54 with 41 inch vertical at nearly 6'6" and had good production in the Big Ten but he has yet to meet a defender he wanted to block. Hurst seems to be the best combo TE but he is 25 years old after washing out in pro baseball because of the yips (I thought those were only in golf). And finally there is Mark Andrews from Oklahoma who is less talented than Gesicki, but with more production (perhaps because he had a Heisman winner as his QB and roommate).

The defensive line is not particularly strong this year, especially when it comes to pass rushers. Bradley Chubb from NC State is considered the best and then it drops off quite a bit. Marcus Davenport is the Jason Pierre Paul, Barkevious Mingo of this draft class. He is built like the next Charles Haley, but he played at UT San Antonio. Maybe he is JPP or maybe he is Barkevious; someone will be intrigued enough by the measurables to gamble on him in the first round. Harold Landry from Boston College should go in the first round but only to a 3-4 teams that projects him to OLB even though he had his hand in the dirt as a 250 pound DE in college. He has the bend and speed to get around the corner so he is worth the risk even if he is just a situational pass rusher until he gets a little bigger and stronger.

The interior of the DL is also a little sparse with first round talent. Vita Vea from Washington is the best of this group and can really move for a 340 pounder. Having played some running back in high school he has the look of a bigger version Warren Sapp. There is pretty big drop off after that to DaRon Payne from Alabama and Taven Bryan from Florida. Payne is not the athlete that Bryan is but he has the production. Bryan gets an IME label though because when you see talented, but lazy in college, it doesn't usually get better with a fat bank account. Some would say that Maurice Hurst from Michigan is the best of the bunch, and if the NFL team's doctors give his heart a clean bill of health he could go before any of them.

Okay so we have gone this far without mentioning the quarterbacks why not wait a little longer. There are a few special players in this draft, but they are not at the premium positions. Nelson was already mentioned and next in line is Saquon Barkley, the RB from Penn State. He is really special in that he runs, catches, blocks, returns and has been known to throw. He should be special... for four or five years. The other guys who look like they could be special are LB’s Roquan Smith from Georgia and Tremaine Edmunds out of Virgina Tech. Smith is a little small but he plays really fast and had big time production against big time talent. Edmunds looks like a Brian Urlacher clone and he is only 19 years old with a great football family pedigree. Neither of these guys are rush linebackers so that hurts their draft value but they can both make a ton of plays and most importantly, especially for Dolphin fans, they are three down linebackers, playing the pass as well as the run. Leighton Vander Esch from Boise State could go later in the first round, but doesn't have enough quality tape to compare to these two LB's.

And finally we get to those six quarterbacks I mentioned earlier; Baker Mayfield, OU, Sam Darnold, USC, Josh Rosen, UCLA, Josh Allen, Wyoming, Mason Rudolph, OK State and Lamar Jackson from Louisville. And yes, I would draft them in that order. Allen, Rudolph and Jackson do not belong in the first round but, you know, that whole premium position thing. The key is to decide who needs one badly enough to take one at their position in the draft order or trade into a spot to get one. The Jets have already played their hand, and Cleveland is so bad at drafting QB's they should take two. The Giants are smoke screening about not picking a QB.  Eli Manning is old, he was never that great anyway and nobody expects them to be drafting at number two again anytime soon. Buffalo and Arizona do not have an adequate starter. So there are five landing spots. Throw in New England, Pittsburgh, LA Chargers and New Orleans who have old starters and Miami, Jacksonville and Denver who have questionable starters along with Cincinnati and Baltimore who should be questioning their starters, and it is easy to see six go in the first 32 or 35 picks.

So, if you were paying attention there is a mock draft in there. There were 37 names of players in this draft mentioned above, not counting Orlando Brown who was mentioned only so he could be disparaged. You guys figure out what order and to whom and that's a pretty good guesstimate of who gets picked on Thursday the 26th. This list is lighter on WR and RB and heavier on OL and TE than some, but everybody has their biases. Put them in order, let’s see your best mock.