The first step is to admit you have a problem, so its time to come clean. I have been an NFL Draft addict for years. Love the endless mock drafts. Yes, I buy all the magazines,read all the websites and believe it or not, even like Mel Kiper’s hair. Ok that was a bit creepy….anyway Mel knows his stuff but what makes the whole process attractive is that hardly anyone is ever right?
I remember thinking Ryan Leaf might be a better QB than Peyton Manning….I wasn’t alone. I thought Matt Leinart would be a decent pro as I did Rex Grossman and much of Alabama’s 92 National Championship Defense whom I covered in my first TV job. Hard to believe NOT one member of arguably the best defense in the history of college football turned out to be an All-Pro despite its numerous 1st round picks. Such is the life of scouting the NFL Draft.
Thanks to the one and done’s, the NBA Draft’s plot is about as intriguing as Duck Dynasty. The Major League Draft has its moments but seems to have 345 rounds and is chock full of prep players we haven’t seen and many we haven’t heard off whom never pan out.
We know the bulk of the players participating each year in the NFL draft. This draft is about as blue collar as they come which means its about as sexy as Larry “The Cable” Guy. You need lineman—you have come to the right place. You need a brand new starting QB—-it doesn’t look to be your year. Not a wealth of marquee skill guys in this group but this draft has plenty of depth which means its a good year to have a lot of picks…the focal point of this week’s stroll in the Naborhood….
EXPERT MOCK DRAFT: Many of the past drafts have had a rhythm about them especially the top picks but not the class of 2013–a rare bunch for sure.The mocks for this crew have changed considerably in the past few weeks and months. So instead of me throwing darts, I have gone all over the country to give you the most accurate preview of the top selections— national reporters got back to me via email and twitter:
(1) Chiefs/ LT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star)
(2) Jaguars/DL Ziggy Ansah BYU (Ryan O’Halloran, Florida Times Union)
(3) Raiders/OLB Dion Jordan Oregon (Vic Tafur, San Francisco Chroncle)
(4) Eagles/LT Eric Fisher Central Michigan (jeff McLane, Philadelphia Inquirer)
(5) Lions/LT Lane Johnson Oklahoma (Dave Birkett,Detroit Free Press)
(6) Browns/CB Dee Milliner Alabama (Daryl Ruiter, 92.3 the Fan Cleveland)
(7) Cardinals/ G Chance Warmack Alabama(Kent Somers, Arizona Republic)
(8) Bills/ WR Tavon Austin West Virginia (Tim Graham,Buffalo News)
So our recent mock draft was as expected dominated by the big uglies—especially an early run on left tackles. Just 4 days ago–thanks to our friends from the LA Times—they also checked in with the team’s respective beat writers and here was their mock:
LA TIMES MOCK DRAFT (SAME LIFELINE FORMAT)
(1) 1. KANSAS CITY (Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star) — Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M: “With all the uncertainty over Branden Albert, the Chiefs need to do something to secure that position for the long term. That’s a priority.”2. JACKSONVILLE (Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union) — Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan: “The Jaguars have only one tackle, so they need one, and it’s a safe pick. The rest of the top players are too much of a gamble.”
3. OAKLAND (Phil Barber, Santa Rosa Press Democrat) — Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama:“Oakland’s secondary was a black hole last season, and drafting Milliner would be a big step toward filling the need there.”
4. PHILADELPHIA (Les Bowen, Philadelphia Daily News) — Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon:“The Eagles don’t have anybody who was drafted as a 3-4 linebacker. They’d like someone who can both rush the passer and drop back in coverage.”
5. DETROIT (David Birkett, Detroit Free Press) — Ziggy Ansah, DE, Brigham Young: “The Lions lost Cliff Avril in free agency and released Kyle Vanden Bosch, so there’s definitely a need at the position.”
6. CLEVELAND (Tony Grossi, ESPNCleveland.com) — Barkevious Mingo, DE, Louisiana State: “This would be the Browns’ worst nightmare and intensify efforts to trade down. But barring that, Cleveland would settle on Mingo as a pass rusher.”
7. ARIZONA (Kent Somers, Arizona Republic) — Chance Warmack, G, Alabama: “The Cardinals like a guy who can step in and play right away. They feel better about their tackles than outsiders do, so that’s why they would pass on Lane Johnson.”
8. BUFFALO (Mark Gaughn, Buffalo News) — Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse: “He played for the head coach and offensive coordinator at Syracuse, and the Bills need a quarterback. Simple as that.”
Luke Joeckel and Chance Warmack seem to be the only thing that we all can agree on. Its always true on draft day but this draft is proving to be even more unpredictable—which makes it all that more exciting to watch unfold
Sharrif Floyd/ Florida DT: The Gators Defensive Tackle is arguably hotter than any prospect on the board or so I thought before taking a poll in my mock draft? He told me at the Combine that Head Gator Will Muschamp told him before the season that “if you’re going 1st round this season than I’m kicking you out.” Well after the Sugar Bowl, Floyd got the 1st round rating and his head coach’s blessing. Back then many scouts had him as a late to middle 1st round pick but these days he has climbed into the top five in many mock’s and could go as high as second to the Jags. I think he has plenty of my favorite draft word “upside” Floyd was a big reason the Gators were so dominating on Defense last fall—he will make an immediate impact.
Tavon Austin: He is about as tall as me but the NFL has learned to judge a man by his size not his speed. The former Mountaineer showed off his wheels at the combine where he turned in a 4.34 40. His last year in Morgantown wasn’t shabby either—-114 catches for 1289 yards and 12TD’s. He may not go in the top 10 because so many teams need lineman but I think he will make an instant impact, so much so that in this pass happy league, I think Austin will be your Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Kevin Minter/LSU MLB: Simply put—this guy is a playmaker. I saw it first hand in Gainesville last fall where sure LSU lost to the Gators but it wasn’t because of Minter. He had 20 tackles (one shy of a school record in one game) along with a pair of sacks and a forced fumble in a losing cause. He was all over the football field not only against Florida but his whole career in the rugged SEC. Scouts question his strength and speed—LOOK AT THE TAPE!
DJ Hayden/Houston DB: His 40 time was better than Austin’s at the combine which is impressive but his story is even more so. The Houston DB suffered a collision which almost killed him last fall. A teammate’s knee collided with Hayden’s chest. A hit that was so impactful that it tore halfway through his inferior vena cava. Hayden refused to feel sorry for himself and has rehabbed himself back into the draft conversation. Before the injury he was a 1st round shoo-in, now he has lots of baggage but several say its more than a calculated risk. DJ may very well be the best cover man in this draft.
Matt Barkley/USC QB: The USC QB didn’t have a brush with death but his critics have tore him apart over the past few months. A year ago many thought he would be among the top overall picks—- now many of the “expert”s don’t have him going in the 1st Round. I like him better than all of the QB’s which in this draft is like saying he’s my favorite Backstreet Boy but Barkley to me is smart, mature and hungry entering draft day. He may not have the ideal size or arm strength but how many times have we heard that before—see Brees, Drew. Something about the way Barkley carries himself tells me he will have the best pro career of this bunch and like Brees could be a 2nd round steal.
Cordarrelle Patterson/Tennessee WR: Patterson just seems to be the kind of player that teases you every year. Looks great running routes at the combine but doesn’t seem to have the maturity or the smarts to be a great player in the NFL. After playing in the JUCO ranks, he only had one year of D-1 tape at Tennessee where he hardly lit up the stat sheet: 46 catches and 5TD. The pro scouts love his potential but the negatives out way the positives for me. At times doesn’t hustle and is very raw—could be a nice 2nd rounder but I’m not buying the 1st round hype.
Bjoern Werner/FSU DL : The FSU Defensive Lineman has personified this year’s draft. He started out as a top 10 pick but has fallen to the mid to late 1st round and many of the mock drafts have him in the 2nd round now. Great story as he only started playing football in high school back in Germany a few years ago but too many holes in his game to risk a top flight pick. After some NFL seasoning yes but right now seems to lack the elite strength and explosion of many of the top flight prospects in this draft.
Manti Te’0/ Notre Dame LB: I know what you’re thinking but its not what you’re thinking. Forget the fake girlfriend, I think too many NFL scouts focus in on the workouts and not the tape. Of late neither one has been good on the Heisman runner up. He had a bad combine but even more damning for me was his performance against Bama which surely was his biggest test of the season. I do think somebody will be fooled and will snag him in the 1st round but that fool wouldn’t be me.
SAINTS SELECTION: I needed help from my fellow reporters around the country on most teams but I have a good handle on the team I’ve covered the last 8 years, those New Orleans Saints. While Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis always keep us guessing—-I can’t see them not going with defense. The only exception would be if LT Lane Johnson would fall as this team needs to replace Jermon Bushrod. I like the skill set of Barkevious Mingo but still think he’s raw and question his lack of big plays surrounded by such a great supporting cast at LSU? If I was calling the shot I would select Georgia’s LB Jarvis Jones. He proved to be more of a playmaker than Mingo with less of a supporting cast at Georgia. How about a junior season where he delivered 14.5 sacks and wait for it—seven forced fumbles! Jones would work well in Rob Ryan’s revamped 3-4 scheme. Jones should be the pick even though Mingo and Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro will get strong looks.
THE REVIS FACTOR: On the surface it looked to be your classic win-win situation. After months of keeping the Tampa Bay Sports writers up at night—the Bucs and Revis finally are married and I think that’s a great thing. The one consistency in this franchise over the years is having the guts to make a move. They did it by bringing in Keyshawn, again with Jon Gruden (that kind of paid off) now the latest power play is moving Revis Island to a much more tropical climate.
The naysayers and there are a few may wonder if Revis is healthy. The cynic in me wonders why the Bucs were the only team to really push hard for him—with the likes of the Niners sitting out there with multiple picks to play with in this year’s draft?? In the end though—I applaud the big cojones of Bucs GM Mark Dominik.
Sure the Bucs had plenty of room under its cap and could have signed two or three free agent corners but why not go for the big enchilada? The better news they get their man with absolutely postively NO GUARANTEED MONEY, not to mention only surrendering one other pick (likely a 3rd rounder next year). The Bucs to me immediately improve their playoff position and make the NFC South the toughest division in the NFL. What better trifecta than the Falcons, Saints and Buccos? Drew Brees said this week getting Revis immediately makes the Bucs better—the rest of the division is taking notice.
FREE AJ?!: There seems to be an easy cure to unemployment in our country of late—simply just say a few cuss words on local TV and you too can be a star. Ok that was snarky, but after local news anchor AJ Clemente started a weekend newscast in North Dakota by unknowingly uttering FU**ing Sh**!!— it was caught on air and he lost his job. The result –over 12,ooo Twitter followers and how about this—-a guest shot on the Today Show and Letterman among many others only a few days later.
Hey we all make mistakes especially at the small market level. Not only are the on air people beginning their careers but so is the production staff whom often don’t tell anybody when the “talent” are on the air. Unlike many others, I felt for Clemente and feel he deserves a second chance but to make him a national star—let’s not get crazy….
JOHNNY BE GOOD: You take a poll of todays comedians and the majority of them will tell you Jonathan Winters provided quite the inspiration and foundation for much of today’s work. One of my favorite entertainers left us this week—a passing that may have flown under the radar for some but not by my family. My dad exposed me to Winters at an early age and the master of improvisation lived thoroughout my life appearing on everything from tJack Parr to Carson to Mork and Mindy all the way to the Smurfs. He was surely one of a kind and will be greatly missed.Nobody could make something out of nothing better than the King of Improv.
NOBODY ASKED ME BUT: It was hard to blog last week about sports given the circumstances in Boston and Texas. Seems silly to talk about “upside” and “high motors” when our country was in such a state of danger and panic. Sports is trivial but even last week we saw the importance of the games which surely help the healing process. From the great national anthem at the Bruins game, to Big Papi’s speech at Fenway to even Neil Diamond pinch hitting for a little Sweet Caroline. Sports can take a time out during tragedy but time and time again can come off the bench for some quality comfort in time of need.
EXTRA POINT: Thanks to our friends at Sports Illustrated for this one— Out of the 280 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 98 were 1st round picks. But how about this—15 were taken in the 10th round or lower and another 15 went undrafted.
UNTIL NEXT BLOG,