Sean Tomlinson

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When I took a long, sorrow-filled look at the NFL running back last week and the decline of this particular football species in recent drafts, the evidence provided by free agency was a footnote. That was mostly done out of necessity, because even in late March the sample size to draw from of running back free agent signings this year was moderate at best. It was Ben Tate, followed by Rashad Jennings, and then a bunch of bit players and veterans.

That last part is still true. As is expected of a position where body breaking is an epidemic, the available names beyond Tate this year often have a very specific role they need to play if their new team wants a favorable return on their investment. It’s still an important role, though, one that in theory deserves fair financial compensation.

Well, define fair.

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Desean shhh2

Depending on a number of different variables (how long you’ve turned away from a screen of some kind, your time zone, and the last time you drank orange juice, to name a few) there’s somewhere between five and nine teams interested in the services of DeSean Jackson. Shortly after his release this past Friday afternoon the high end there was widely reported, and since then the lower digit seems more likely.

Three days after a bizarre event in our lives, here’s what we know, or think we know.

  • We know the Chiefs aren’t interested anymore after doing their due diligence, which is peculiar given their need at the position, and Andy Reid’s familiarity with Jackson.
  • We know there’s mutual interest with the Raiders, who can buy several islands with their cap room, and play their football in a state where their potential future employee grew up. So that’s something.
  • We think we know the Jets aren’t pursuing Jackson yet despite still having a wide receiver need even after signing Eric Decker. They’re holding back for…reasons (mostly price, the usual character concerns, and an upcoming WR-rich draft).
  • We know he has a meeting with the Redskins today, his first official free agent job interview.

That last one is pretty important.

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clowney smile2

When I mocked the 2014 draft for the first time Friday — ridiculing it relentlessly — I did it with my mind, and not so much my heart. That’s how it should be done, with each mock presenting a scenario of what could take place, and for each pick the mocker is the general manager of that team for a moment.

What’s that team’s greatest need? And is that need so strong it trumps taking the best player available? Those are the two core questions the mock draft asks repeatedly, which is especially true with the very early picks. When we think in that basic yet fundamental way, Jadeveon Clowney quickly becomes the cornerstone which will determine how the top 10 picks play out. Where he lands and the still strong possibility of a trade involving the top pick is the first significant domino of this draft.

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The Philadelphia Eagles could have released DeSean Jackson for any number of reasons. But since 27-year-old receivers in their prime who fit perfectly in an offense aren’t exactly growing on branches, he must have been the worst locker room jerk in sports history, and his alleged gang affiliations certainly didn’t help matters. That’s all we can assume right now, because otherwise cutting someone with Jackson’s youth and talent is…confusing.

But reasons be damned, the Jackson era in Philadelphia is over now, and what an era it was. Filled with taunts and DJax repeatedly telling you that he is, in fact, the very best, it was a rather entertaining time in our lives.

One more time then, let’s get a little nostalgic and count down the top five Jackson moments in Philadelphia.

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The most bizarre story of the 2014 offseason came to what seemed like it’s inevitable conclusion around noon Friday when the Philadelphia Eagles released DeSean Jackson.

Go ahead and read that sentence again, but really, really remember this when you get to the “inevitable conclusion” part: DeSean Jackson is a 27-year-old wide receiver just entering his prime, and he’s fresh off of a year with 82 receptions, 1,332 receiving yards, an average of 83.2 yards per game, and nine touchdowns. Three of those numbers are career highs, and the other one (the touchdowns) ties a career high.

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Every mock draft is wrong. All of them, including this one, because you’re reading them wrong.

The goal here isn’t to nail all 32 first-round picks. That’s absurd, and surely when we look back on this first early mock there will be slam dunk picks, and other whiffs who become busts. Such is the nature of the draft creature.

Instead, the goal is to present a scenario. An elaborate, and very plausible scenario in which we evaluate players and team desires. In this experiment each team is balancing individual needs with the value forming at their draft position. In the end we get an approximation of what the first round could look like.

But like any good scientist, we’ll be conduct this experiment multiple times between now and May 8, and we’ll be doing it with several different mad hands over the beakers too. I’m kicking off the festivities today, and in the coming weeks around these parts you’ll also see mocks from our college football writer Scott Lewis, resident draftnik Justin Boone, and tape fiend Alen Dumonjic.

You’ll be given different viewpoints, perspectives, and possibilities to explore. And hey, maybe one of us will be right about something.

Let’s do this then. Below is my early-ish first-round mock here in late March with free agency fizzled and Pro Days moving along swiftly. Trades aren’t included, though the possibility of them is discussed.

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mike wallace2

A year ago at this time the Miami Dolphins were the Super Bowl champions, though annoying little details based in reality and fact told us the Baltimore Ravens were the real champs. But after signing every known free agent the Fins won our hearts and minds, and seemingly made winning in the fall a mere matter of marching.

That ended in rivers and oceans of tears, and it left Mike Wallace as the shining beacon showing us what not to do during free agency. With rumors percolating yet again about a Wallace trade — one that’s impossible due to his mountainous contract — now seems like a fine time to reflect upon what we’ve learned about paying wide receivers with delightful abundance.

Mostly, just don’t do it.

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