GUEST EDITORIAL: BREAKING DOWN THE NFL DRAFT

WRITTEN BY BILLY TONER

@BILLYTONER

I guess I should start this with an introduction.  Hi, my name is Billy and I’m a sportsaholic.  This will be my first piece vaulted into public viewing, no matter how many or few happen to read it.  Inspired to write this from writers like Bill Simmons, Bill Barnwell, Chuck Klosterman, Dave Dameshek, and this sites’s own Max Kenkel (a former roommate of mine).

I’m a sports nut (see: nerd).  It started as a kid, first watching with my dad, then getting active myself (high school lineman), then back to watching again.  My current favorite football memory is betting dad at halftime of Super Bowl 22, I don’t remember the actual bet as I had recently turned 7, but I bring it up every year because it’s fun.  My next favorite will be taking my boys to the Iowa Hawkeyes home games at Historic Kinnick Stadium when they’re old enough.

College Football has taken over in my sports hierarchy, but the NFL didn’t lose much ground as it is a close number two.  When the draft comes around, I get a little sentimental about my babies flying away into the real world.  As a Hawkeye fan I’d always like to see them drafted higher, but I’m a pretty realistic fan, which I hope you can tell.  I tried to put two tweaks to my picks that you won’t see in the mainstream. First, a little bit of humor (if you want a lot check out Chuck Klosterman’s piece at Grantland). Second, realism – realism in the sense that trades will occur, guys will slip or be picked too high, and just what fits for a team, which is where the draft eventually goes 80% of the time.  Lastly, I’m doing all seven rounds (part 1 is just round 1, I’ll rip these off over three days the same way the NFL will).

Anyway, have fun, enjoy.  This is going to be a long journey and I promise, as we get later in the draft, I’ll be quicker, just like the time limit.  Feel free to leave me some feedback. I can only get better from here, right?!

Round 1

(1)    Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB – Stanford

Anointed the best NFL ready QB since Elway (whom the Colts also drafted and didn’t want to play for them so he went back in the draft) (also, Elway was also a Stanford grad).  Instant upgrade at QB position from 2011 can’t turn my neck at Peyton Manning and the trio of Kerry Collins/Curtis Painter/Dan Orlovsky.  In this day and age, you throw your money and time away not starting Luck game 1, and besides, the only other QB of note on the roster is Drew Stanton, so it is a good bet he starts and it is a good bet that he can lead the team to at least 3 wins this year, but I wouldn’t bank on much more.

(2)    Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III, QB – Baylor

I’m not a fan of RG3 yet, but it is getting closer.  My fear for RG3 (just like Cam Newton) is that the NFL is too stuck in its ways to let these guys lead a football team and give them the tools they really need to be successful. The difference I’ve seen on tape and such is that RG3 looks like he can play QB no matter how you build the offense.  If the NFL can adapt like high school and college football can, then RG3 will become a true star. If not, then I still think he’ll keep the Redskins in games but they won’t be able to completely rely on their QB.  He’ll start game 1, he’s got good tools added for him, but it’s a tough division – 6 wins in year 1 will be a good first year.

(3)    Minnesota Vikings – Trade to Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB – LSU

I still don’t think I quite understand the minds of the GMs in the NFL.  The new CBA made it cheaper to draft high, yet it’s still rare and going to be rare to see the trades for the top spots.  I still don’t think many are willing to take the risk, or teams still value those picks too much. I believe this draft only has six elite players that can be top 10 in their position year one: Kalil, Richardson, Blackmon, RG3, Luck, and Claiborne. I’m not alone, either, as the experts pretty much agree.  So when you’re in the elite player spots, you almost want to stay and make sure you get one of those six, but that has also got to be where you judge the gaps in the players and their counterparts on your roster and in the draft.  With that said, I just don’t think that the Vikings should keep the pick if they can get the Dolphins/Buccanneers/or any other team to jump up there.  If they do keep the pick it’s Kalil.  I saw Ponder in person last year and he had to run for his life from the Raiders (63 yards I believe he ran for, but you don’t want your QB doing that if it’s not his specialty).

Now onto the trade and pick, TB gives up their 5th for the 3rd for the ability to get their man Claiborne.  They need DB help bad, and are in one the toughest passing conferences.  TB will probably have to give up an early 2nd round pick and 4th or 5th too, which is too much, but I don’t own the stupid chart these GMs still use that say what things are worth.  Minnesota, by moving back only two spots, stays in that top six gives them the choice of Kalil or Blackmon if/when both fall to them.

(4)    Cleveland Browns – Justin Blackmon, WR – Oklahoma State

No matter who they’ve got at QB, they need targets.  If you’ve watched the Browns over the last few years, I’m sorry.  But that probably means you are a fan or have broken remote and broken legs.  If so, you know that Braylon Edwards left and didn’t succeed at the Jets or 49ers, so you can take a little comfort in that. You also have tried to convince yourself that Massaquoi/Cribbs/Little are #1 NFL WRs (they’re not).  But, you should be able to get a 2 and 3 out of that group, once you get an elite WR, which Blackmon will become.  Immediate rewards? Maybe not, but it’s a step in the right direction, just like Joe Haden and Joe Thomas have been.

(5)    Tampa Bay Buccaneers Minnesota Vikings (via trade) – Matt Kalil, OT – USC

Other teams help the Vikings select their player, not much unlike a few years ago when they bobbled the pick selection process (then tried to pay the player the slot they drafted and not what they would have drafted, very sneaky).  Anyway, Kalil gives Ponder the protection they need for a suspect OL.  His brother has proven himself as a capable OL in the NFL for the Panthers, so I think he’ll be ready to go game one, I just wouldn’t bet on him being LT for game one; although, I’ll wait till training camp is over to make that call.

(6)    Saint Louis Rams – Trent Richardson, RB – Alabama

This is a sticky situation. The pick is clear – you take Trent Richardson because you have Steven Jackson, who’s been adamant that he’ll be on the field every down (Richardson voiced the same opinion, BTW).  That means you draft Richardson and trade Jackson, who then goes for pennies on the dollar because that’s how the NFL trades work for most veterans.  The valuable thing for the Rams is that Jackson is only 28, which qualifies him for a couple of great years still.  Personally I’d keep them together for at least one year and go from there, assuming that it won’t implode your locker room.

(7)    Jacksonville Jaguars – Melvin Ingram, DE – South Carolina

Drafting 7th in this years’ draft is like taking your sister to the ball.  Yeah you’ll still have a nice evening, but it’s nothing like taking the prom queen.  They’ll have wished for Blackmon, Claiborne, or Kalil to have slipped to them and it’s just not going to happen unless they trade up even a spot or two just to ensure they get one of those three.  Instead, they get to do what most teams will do in the draft, which is taking best available for their needs. And what needs! Their needs are many in Jacksonville, with DB and DL being the tops and WR right behind that. Looking at the roster I’m still surprised the Jags aren’t picking first.  So, that’s how we end up with Ingram, that and the fact that a kid that big can do a standing back flip so you know he’s athletic.

(8)    Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB – Texas A&M

It is never a good thing when you’re in a tax friendly state with beautiful people and great weather and you can’t get guys to come play for you.  This puts the Dolphins into the position that the Jags/Vikes/Titans were last year with the need to draft a QB no matter what.  The good thing is they have his old coach (Mike Sherman) on staff who knows what his true capabilities and flaws are. (BTW, if they pass on him all others should be scared, my example goes back to Pete Carroll passing on his prized safety Mays from USC his first year back in the NFL. Mays has floundered and Carroll is building something in Seattle.)  They’ll try to start the season with Matt Moore, a serviceable QB, but they’ll get Tannehill in there after their bye week or at the latest week 10 and they’ll be picking in the top 10 next year. But *knock on wood* they’ll have the foundation they need.

(9)    Carolina Panthers – Quinton Couples, DE – North Carolina

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but I actually know someone who’s been hit by lighting twice, so you’re wrong Whoever Says That.  This is what the Panthers are hoping to do signing another athletic DE from North Carolina (see:  Julius Peppers). Couples has some rare size and athleticism that I think the Panthers have proven they can turn into success (ex. Peppers, Newton).  Good pick for the D too, and with last year’s re-signing of Charles Johnson the Panthers will be set to push the OL from both sides.

(10)Buffalo Bills – Riley Reiff, OL – Iowa

I’ll admit it; I’m going to NFL.com to find out who’s on team’s rosters to help me determine who they should draft.  The reason: I’m not 100% familiar with all the teams and their transactions.  I know the experts have predicted Reiff here and I know they have resigned Fitzpatrick, Jackson, and Johnson, so the fancy offensive parts are intact. I also know their D let them down last year so I had to figure out where those holes were and the best way to patch them up.    They’ve shored up their DL, but the rest of the D is suspect; however, have you taken a look at this offensive line?  It’s horrendous. So take the best OL you can take and keep putting the pieces together, maybe the dominoes will fall into the right spot over the next few years and you can challenge your division after September.

(11) Kansas City – David DeCastro, OG – Stanford

Here’s where it’s better to open Free Agency prior to the draft, unlike they did last year with the CBA negotiations.  If you didn’t know that you franchised Bowe already, I’d tell you that you should be drafting Flloyd here, a highly skilled WR that never played with an exceptional QB, just like Bowe.  But with Bowe there and Baldwin/Breaston, I think you’re set for this moment in time.  So that leaves the OL to continue to shore up, or anywhere on the defense.  This is also where you wish someone has fallen in love with a player still left and you can trade back and get more picks later, maybe Dallas to ensure they get Barron and nobody leaps over them to get him (I was this “”close to sticking with this to be the pick).  Truth is I feel that they have the tools on offense and need to protect them, so I settled on DeCastro.  This pick can go too many ways right now, the biggest fear I’d have for KC is that DeCastro and Martin looked better than they are because of Luck, but you might be able to say the same thing in reverse.

(12) Seattle Seahawks – trade to Dallas Cowboys – Mark Barron, S – Alabama

The Cowboys know the draft valuation almost better than anyone else out there and aren’t afraid to go get their man.  I think the gap seen between Barron and the rest of the safeties is too big for the Cowboys to let him pass, and they have to go with plan B – they’ll trade up and this is the spot where my dart hit the board.  They won’t have to give up much, maybe a 3rd or a 4th/5th combo along with their pick at 14.  This gives the Seahawks more chips to play with and there’s not really a clear cut pick for them yet.  Barron will make an immediate impact for the Cowboys who lack the athleticism that he can bring to their secondary.

(13) Arizona Cardinals – Jonathan Martin, OT – Stanford

There’s this nice group of players left out there that I believe everyone has rated just slightly differently on their draft boards.  For the next few picks it’s going to be hard for anyone really to nail these down without having the lips of an inside source.  I think their OL has made their QBs look bad, so I think that’s where the focus should end up.  That’s why we’re already getting the third Stanford Tree up to the podium.  Same concern as DeCastro, but the Cardinals need this help and he’ll be able to impact somewhere on the line in the first year; this is one area where the NFL is starting to grow up, they’re drafting guys like Martin and putting them at G instead of insisting they be a T first year when they’re not ready for the size and speed of these ends in the NFL.  I say let them develop and stay active at the same time.

(14) Dallas Cowboys Seattle Seahawks (via trade) – trade to New England Patriots – Luke Kuechly, LB – Boston College

I’m pretty sure I only did the double trade here for Seattle because I love when teams do this and stockpile the young talent.  I’m not sure Seattle is old enough or far enough away in the NFC West to need to do this, but I think their front office is kind of crafty.  This trade will be for both of NE 1st round picks (27 and 31) and, BTW, as I’m getting to the 27th pick I’m just reading that ESPN bloggers have predicted a similar trade, but for the 12th pick and Barron.

Since I’m making a bold prediction for the double trade I figured why not get farfetched and have the Patriots do the opposite of their norm and trade down into this group of talented DL then throw the curve of getting one of Boston’s sons in Kuechly.  Most have him going higher than this, so there is some reasoning behind NE moving up for him, the other is that the LB corps has been suspect with the use of FA and later picks.  Kuechly is the true MILB that is needed on most teams and he can start right away for a D that was the reason they lost the Super Bowl.

(15) Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Brockers, DE – LSU

The good news for the Eagles is that they need DL and the draft is heavy with them.  I didn’t catch Brockers until he was playing for the SEC Championship, he did enough that I remembered to watch him during the National Championship.  A)  He’s a champ; the Eagles need some of that right now.  B)  He’s a big body that looks like he can push people around year 1.  Instant upgrade to the DL and welcome addition to a team that is struggling for an identity.

(16) New York Jets – Michael Floyd, WR – Notre Dame

I know there are many holes on this team right now other than WR.  Honestly, I’ve been following this team since Rex took over, and I have no clue how they’ve fallen this fast. First off, Sanchez just hasn’t proven he’s going to become an elite QB.  I think that’s where they’ve struggled: they’ve given him the tools at RB/TE/WR/OL before and he just hasn’t gotten it done.  They also gave him an elite D and asked him to do less, but that wasn’t enough to make the final push to the Super Bowl.  So why Floyd now?  Because you’ve invested in a combo of Tebow and Sanchez, they’ll need weapons or whoever you have down the road will need the weapon too.  The D has good coaching, so you can plug guys in, it’s easier than trying to get one of these rookies up to speed with what I perceive to be a highly intelligent defense and difficult to learn.  Besides, if you do end up with Tebow taking over, Floyd has one of the best adjustments to the ball in the game, he hasn’t had an elite QB yet, but he’s played on another level, he might even make one of these guys look like a real star.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I disagree on Sanchez.  He is great but his coach neuters him.  How many games has he pussyfooted around and then had to go to Sanchez at the end of the game to pull something out of his ass?  Their play calls are terrible.  Give Sanchez the reigns and let him win the game for you. 

(17) Cincinnati Bengals – Dont’a Hightower, ILB – Alabama

I’m in the minority, I know, but I still think there is a lot of value in the MLB positions.  The Bengals look serviceable almost everywhere else in their defense except for the LB positions where it’s some good names but not a lot of production.  Hightower has the skill and has been highly touted for some time; I don’t think you let him slip to your next pick at 21. You take him now and figure out who’s left at 21 that you can add to your continued growth.

(18) San Diego Super Chargers –Andre Branch, DE – Clemson

I actually like Nick Perry better, but I pay more attention to USC so I’m probably slightly biased.  I also feel they should be paying attention to their OL since they’ve forgotten how to have a consistent run game recently, but neither of those will happen and they’ll be drafting a DL.  Speed is key here and that’s where the edge goes to Branch.  I think he’ll fit nicely and continue this stretch of 1st rounders starting year 1.

(19) Chicago Bears – Whitney Mercilus, DL – Illinois

Once again I actually like Nick Perry better, but I like to think that the pro teams have got the inside track on the local college players. Plus, it never hurts to strengthen your fan base with the locals (even though recent history shows that the Bears typically pass on Illinois guys).  The D is getting older in Chicago and I’d tell them they should be taking OL to keep Cutler upright, but I don’t really believe more in Adams or Glenn then I do much of the other OL in the draft, so stick with what you know and continue to get your defense to keep you in games.

(20)Houston Oilers Tennessee Titans – Stephon Gilmore, CB – South Carolina

Fun with strikethrough continues.  I’ve actually only been to two NFL games in person, the first was the Houston Oilers vs. Los Angeles Raiders in Oakland for a preseason game.  I think this was a year or two before the Raiders moved back to Oakland for good (side story is this was a night game and the lot was opened early, to top it off they screwed up the tickets and double billed one area, so you’ve got the “Black Hole” fans nice and drunk and pissed about people being in their seats.  My dad saw someone get their eye punched out of its socket and decided it was time to drive home.) So that’s how I’ll always remember the Oilers Titans.  As for Gilmore, I’m more of a Kirkpatrick fan, but think that they’ll see the speed of Gilmore that they can’t pass up.

(21) Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick, DL – Alabama

So this pick will fill a semi need of the Bengals, but the fingers crossed part of me is more on the fact that they’ve shied away from the “trouble makers” and Kirkpatrick does have some weed in his history.  All in all I actually think he could end up better than Claiborne, especially opposite Leon Hall who has emerged as a real talent.  So that’s two Alabama guys to Cincy in the first round and four overall so far, weren’t not done with the Periods Crimson Tide yet.

(22) Cleveland Browns – Brandon Weeden, QB – Oklahoma State

With them already taking Blackmon in my mock draft there is no need for a WR like the experts predict here, and maybe they can get Jackson from the Rams while they’re at it.   So I’m going out on a limb here, and making the pick something I think would be majorly beneficial if more NFL teams did this type of “combo” process.  Weeden and Blackmon know each other well enough for them both to be successful year one.  Weeden is 28 years old already and that’s a red flag, however he’s also ready to be in his prime now and not in a few years like most of these QBs you draft.  Because I don’t think Weeden will be available for the Browns in the 2nd round I think they need to pull the trigger now.  While I’m at it I’d send McCoy down to the Texans or Cowboys, guaranteed jersey sales for those clubs even if he can’t push their starters or be a serviceable backup.

(23) Detroit Lions – Cordy Glenn, OL – Georgia

Big versatile OL, reported to be able to play RT or either G position.  If you watch the Lions they need to work on their D and they need to ensure Stafford stays healthy.  The more you focus on the NFL, the QB is the most important thing and Stafford seems to have elite talent in him, so the most important thing is to keep him healthy and adding Glenn to that group is a big plus.  I’d play Glenn at guard year one and let Backus walk next year and slide him to tackle next year.  Lions still need to focus on D and I’d do that with basically the rest of the draft.

(24) Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Adams, OT – Ohio State

I listen to the talking heads all the time rag on the Steelers OL and rave about how Big Benjamin is so hard to bring down.  Well he’s getting older and not any wiser; I think it’s time the Steelers started protecting their number one asset, especially as they continue to put so much focus on passing.  Adams is a first round talent from what I read, and I think he’s dropping a bit for the Steelers here.  Also while they’re at it sign Wallace to a long term deal and Wallace, realize you’re not elite yet.  BTW, it is really interesting to be seeing so much of the AFC North this late in the draft.

(25) Denver Broncos – Dontari Poe, DT – Memphis

I’d be yelling at my TV the whole draft, “Trade the pick!”  Because personally I’d rather get more of these guys than just the best of what’s available at the time.  It’s how it works out in Madden for me so it would work the same in real life, right?  I really would like to see more of these teams making trades, go get the guy you want or trade down because you could care less.  However, the way my mock draft has gone, Poe just fell into the lap of the Broncos, being highly touted more for his combine performance than his work in the C-USA, a 2nd tier conference.  Poe gives the size up the middle for the rush to continue to be successful for Denver and takes the pressure of the secondary.

(26) Houston Texans – Chandler Jones, DE – Syracuse

Leaning back to my Madden expertise, I tell you, you can’t have enough weapons.  However, I don’t know what’s up with the front office for Houston, but they need to restock their D.  I’m drinking the Kool-Aid on Jones, I like to see these guys in tough situations (Syracuse isn’t very successful) that can still shine.  J.J. Watt was a big pickup for the Texans last year and they can beef back up with the loss of Williams with Jones, it’s not a 1 for 1 swap, but the money factor allows them to spend it somewhere else, like a TE latter in the draft for Schaub.

(27) New England Patriots Seattle Seahawks (via trade) – Coby Fleener, TE – Stanford

A few reasons this pick makes sense.  First, you get the top TE off the board before anyone tries to sneak up from day 2 to grab him late.  Second, this guy’s a freak and almost a lock to turn out like the top level TEs out there today.  Third, have you seen what Carroll used to do with good TEs at USC? Give him a great one and he’ll be ready for multiple pro bowls.  Four, the QB situation spells the need for a reliable TE.  I think I could go a couple more but I need to wrap this up eventually.

(28) Green Bay Packers – Peter Konz, C – Wisconsin

For one reason or another I’m kind of shocked they are picking here and not later.  With that said, I’m sure they’re just fine getting better talent because of it.  Now I know they went out and got Jeff Saturday, but I don’t think he’s there long term.  They also just let Chad Clifton go too, so they might want to patch some holes while looking to the future.  They can use Konz at guard this year to fill out the line, move Bulaga to LT, and a G/FA/draft pick out to RT.  Konz is the best center available this year and in recent years there have been some nice centers taken at the back of the first round, Konz is just the latest in that string.  The packers could wait on this move for the 2nd round and do the same thing with Molk out of Michigan, who is actually a better fit for guard year one, but a weaker center in my opinion

(29) Baltimore Ravens trade to St. Louis Rams – Fletcher Cox, DT – Mississippi State

The Ravens are lacking for need for what’s left and will only move 10 spots plus pick up another day 2 or 3 pick.  The Rams can show the aggression they have and pounce on a first round talent, plus they keep the 33rd pick too, so draft high and get the talent is the aim here.  I let Cox slip so that’s the carrot bringing the Rams up to ensure he’s there to fill the need they have at DT.  Cox will help free up Long and Langford on the ends.

(30) San Francisco 49ers – Janoris Jenkins, DB – North Alabama

So they botched the Peyton Manning thing, I’m actually shocked, on paper this is where Peyton should have gone for $1 contract and then won at least the next two Super Bowls.  Instead, there’s still Alex Smith and you’ve grown the talent pool around him.  I don’t see any more standout OL really left, so I think you can get a couple more in the draft and then in FA to come to camp to fill out that part of your roster.  Here I focus where there is still some high level talent left and some needs for a team on the verge.  That’s where the Jenkins pick comes in, a coach to help put his past behind him as well as teammates that have been down similar paths, sort of a perfect match.

(31) New England Patriots Seattle Seahawks (via trade) – Nick Perry, DE – USC

In what I believe to be the first Trojan drafted by Carroll, Nick Perry in my opinion slides right into the Seahawks and what they’re trying to become defensively.  I like this guy’s size and speed and think he can do some heavy lifting against RT in the NFL.

(32) New York Giants – Courtney Upshaw, LB – Alabama

The new pick that I hate, it’s the last of the night and kind of leaves you wanting more, especially with a lot of names that are worthy still being out there.  Alabama won the trophy and they’ve now got the most draft picks in the 2012 draft at the end of round 1 with 5.  Upshaw has been seen as a tweener and hard to define which LB position he’ll fit.  The good thing for the Giants is that he’s just another talent they can throw into their pool and make fit how they need.  The DBs are/were a hole for NY last year, but the LB corps was also suspect.  I think if given the opportunity at Upshaw, they’ll pounce.

First Round Summary (By the Numbers)

3 trades

3 teams picking twice

29 Big 6 conference players

2 ACC

2 Big East

4 Big 12

4 Big Ten

6 Pac 12

11 SEC players

5 Alabama players

4 Stanford players

7 National Championship players

50/50 split on Offense and Defensive players

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~ by maxaverage on April 25, 2012.

4 Responses to “GUEST EDITORIAL: BREAKING DOWN THE NFL DRAFT”

  1. Love it! Nice job for your first piece Billy!

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  2. Appreciate it Joel. Rounds 2 and 3 are taking a lot out of me. 4-7 will be a bear, but I’m pretty sure by then I’ll just be listing the player, pick, and team (without regards to trades, because it’s pretty scattered and unpredictable for that).

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