MAQB – Draft Preview

by NFL Gimpy

The NFL Draft starts on Thursday. At this point, we still don’t know who the #1 overall pick will be. There are some really good guesses, but it’s more or less a coin flip at this point. I’ve continually said that this is going to be one of the most interesting drafts we’ve had in a long time. The lack of a top flight QB is the start of the confusion. This will most likely be the first draft since 2008 where a QB isn’t taken 1st overall (Matt Ryan, 3rd pick). There’s also a good chance it’s the first draft since 2000 that a QB isn’t taken in the top 3 (Chad Pennington, 18th pick to the Jets in the Tom Brady draft). Tommy posted positional rankings and David has gone through team by team needs. As always, I like a macro-level perspective on things so I will go over what to look for with each position over the first 2 rounds and what to watch for.

QB: The biggest crapshoot in the draft, more so than usual. Geno Smith is the top QB for most, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be the top guy. Ryan Nassib or Matt Barkley could steal that spot depending on who drafts a QB first and which QB they covet. The next question is how many QBs go in the first round. It could be as few as 1 and as many as 4. The main thing to watch for is how many go in the 1st round. A few teams may trade from the 2nd round back up into the 1st to get their man. If the 1st round is slow on QBs, the 2nd round will be crazy. There could be great value in the 3rd round at QB as well, depending on a lot of factors. I’ve been a huge fan of Zac Dysert as a 3rd round pick with great upside.

RB: Without a top guy like Trent Richardson was last year, it’s certainly debatable whether or not a RB will be drafted in the 1st round. There are several RB needy teams (Steelers, Broncos, Rams, Jets…) but there aren’t that many 1st round caliber RBs. I’ve seen Eddie Lacy, Gio Bernard, and Jonathan Franklin listed as the top guy. What’s important to note with RBs is that it’s a position where a rookie can make an immediate impact even if he isn’t a high 1st round pick. Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, and Alfred Morris all were worthy of their starting roles and only 1 was a high 1st round pick. David Wilson of the Giants came on strong late in the season with 247 rushing yards and 3 TDs in his last 4 games.

NFL teams know this and won’t invest a high 1st in a RB unless he’s special. None of these guys are special. Watch for the first RB go to off the board because it could trigger the following 2 to come off very soon after. With 3 RBs who are likely ranked 6 different ways by NFL Teams, there could be a mini-run on RBs in the late 1st or early 2nd round. One other thing to watch for is Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore could easy have been the top RB if it wasn’t for a gruesome knee injury. He’s easily one of my favorite players in the draft and I hope he gets the chance to shine in 2014.

TE: This is one of my favorite positions in the draft this year because it’s full of players who should translate into starters yet there aren’t many teams who have a big need. This means someone is going to steal an impact player in the 2nd or 3rd round. There could be 1 or 2 guys in the first round, Tyler Eifert and/or Zach Ertz. Travis Kelce is a great prospect with some character concerns around him that I’ve heard are overblown, but still not something you write off.

WR: WR is an extremely deep position with a lot slightly flawed talents. Tavon Austin is one of the most dynamic playmakers college football has seen the past few years, but his short stature (5’8”) hurts his stock a little. Cordarrelle  Patterson and Justin Hunter have had issues with drops. Keenan Allen has knee issues. There are 6 or 7 guys who will likely go in the top 2 rounds and all but Austin are 6’1 or taller. Look to see how much Austin’s height pushes him down. If he’s not one of the top 2 WRs taken, someone will be thanking the football gods. The NFL is a passing league; you need great pass catchers and there’s a lot of potential in this group.

OT: It is a close to a foregone conclusion that 3 OTs will go in the top 10. Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson, and Eric Fisher are all LT prospects and in a pass heavy league they’re highly valued. The order they go in will be based off of individual preference of the teams who draft them. The main thing to look for is next 3 or 4 guys off the board, guys like Menelik Watson, Justin Pugh, and Terron Armstead. Watson and Armstead are great athletes who need a little seasoning. Pugh isn’t as great of an athlete, but is much more of a finished product. When these 3 get drafted will have a big impact on picks 15-40. If they go in the top 30, it means some very talented players will get pushed down further than they should.  

OG/C: Interior OL is a position that NFL teams do not value as worthy of a high first round pick. It has been 16 years since an OG was taken in the top 10 (Chris Naeole, 10th overall Saints). Keep in mind that’s for players who were drafted to play OG, not guys who underwhelmed and ended up there, like Robert Gallery. That streak may end with Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper. I think there are too many other players who present better value for this to happen, but it’s possible.

DE: The raw Ziggy Ansah and Tank Carradine, still recovering from knee surgery, are the top 2 DEs. Tank just had a very good workout a few days ago and that has really helped his stock for NFL teams. If they’re confident in his knee, he could very easily go before Ansah. Ziggy has only played organized football for 2 years but his physical talent is off the charts. Both could go in the top 10 or fall into the 20s due to their concerns, something several teams in that range would love.

DT: There are three potential Top 10 picks at DT: Star Lotulelei, Shariff Floyd, and Sheldon Richardson. Each player has his own pros and cons and they could go in any order. I expect them all to go in the top 15 because there’s a large drop off after them. Unlike positions like WR, TE, and QB where there are players with similar grades and upsides, you’re losing a lot after these guys.

OLB: Can you say fun? Between Dion Jordan’s incredible range, Barkevious Mingo’s upside, and Jarvis Jones’ production, three teams are going to feel like they upgraded OLB big time on Thursday. Khaseem Greene presents great value in the 2nd round as a 4-3 OLB. Alec Ogletree was suspended during the season for substance abuse but is a very talented player. Where he goes will depend on how teams view his off field issues.

ILB: Arthur Brown is the top dog at ILB and all non-pass rushing LBs. For all of the Manti Te’o hype during the season, Brown has finally been recognized as his superior even without the catfishing fiasco. Te’o very well may go after LSU product Kevin Minter as well. Like DT, there’s a big drop off after these 3. I’m not sure there’s another ILB in the top 50 so if you miss on them, it may hurt if you really need a MLB like Minnesota and Baltimore do.

S: The amount of value the safety position presents in the 20-60 range is incredible. Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam, Jonathan Cyprien, Eric Reid, Phillip Thomas, and DJ Swearinger could all go in the top 2 rounds. In a pass heavy league, safety play is vital. I expect a run in the late 1st through mid 2nd on these guys and we could see 4 or 5 rookies starting at safety next season.

CB: Thankfully, the deepest position in the draft in my opinion. I’m sick of QBs throwing for 300 yards like a game of backyard football. I see upwards of 14 or 15 players who could go in the first 3 rounds. Dee Milliner has been the top guy but his shoulder still isn’t at 100% and that’s concerning. An interesting name making its way around the rumor mill is DJ Hayden. Tommy mentioned him on Saturday as a player to watch for and his name is popping up too much to ignore. When you see multiple respected journalists pushing out something positive on a player this close to the draft, you pay attention. The negative stuff is normally garbage. If you’re a CB needy team and you exit day 2 without a CB, you probably messed up.

Random Thoughts/Predictions:

-There will be at least 1 trade in the top 10 and I think it’ll be for an OT. An OT needy team will make a good offer to grab one of the top 3, likely the Chargers or Dolphins if they don’t get Branden Albert.

-So many difficult to spell names in this draft class. If Tommy and I missed one, deal with it.

-I have absolutely no idea what will happen at QB. Whatever happens will be a surprise because I can’t find any way to accurately predict something close to what will happen.

-If Darrelle Revis is 100% healthy, the Buccaneers absolutely stole him. A 1st and a 2014 3rd (I’m assuming he’s on the team in 2014) for the top CB in the game? Would you rather have Revis or Dee Milliner? Contract differences aside, it’s not even close. It’s incredible to me how many people have forgotten how good Revis is. The only concerns the Bucs have are his health and whether or not he’ll be satisfied with his new contract. Talent level? Outside of Stevie Johnson, Revis has absolutely owned every WR he has gone against.

-I’ll be tweeting constantly during the draft. One piece of advice though: don’t believe all the negative stuff you hear this week. No player is a fast riser either; I ranted about that a few weeks ago. I know I mentioned DJ Hayden under CBs as a surprise high pick, but this is more about people finding out what NFL teams think about a specific player, not that he’s rising up boards. The only thing a player can do over the next few days is hurt his stock.

-I predict Ryan Nassib or Matt Barkley will be the 1st QB off of the board to Buffalo at 8. I lean Nassib.

-Biggest surprise will be how far Geno Smith falls. I think he was anointed the top QB a little early and will fall until someone trades back into the 1st for him. EJ Manuel will not go in the 1st round despite many predictions that he does.

-A top 20ish player will fall well into the 2nd day due to an injury or off field issue unknown to the public.

-I will be incredibly wrong on many things. So will everyone else.

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