Archive for the ‘2014 Draft’ Category

Greg Robinson2

Plump defenders are driven wayside like dummy sleds. They succumb, folding like lawn chairs, or even worse, drowning into the ground. By the whistle, they’re scrambling to regain their balance, hoping to avoid the embarrassment of a pancake. They know it’ll show up on the coach’s film the next morning. There’s no excuse for it — other than facing Greg Robinson.

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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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bortles2

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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dennard2

They wanted to know if he could run, if he was fast enough, if the only way he would be able to really cover their flankers was by grabbing them and drawing penalties. What they didn’t think about, however, was if their flanker could get off the line and into his route.

In the first eight minutes of the opening quarter alone, Notre Dame tested Darqueze Dennard at least three times downfield. He beat up their flankers every time. He pressed them at the line and arm-fought them downfield. He’d grab and let go of their jerseys to slow them down. After, he would box them out and condense the room for the throw down the sideline with superlative technique.

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trent richardson2

In football time, 2012 seems like a distant past. That’s the side effect of dizzying offseason moves, a half dozen or so coaching changes each January, and other such ridiculousness that actually keeps our attention in the dreary months when football isn’t played.

But in human time 2012 wasn’t long ago at all. Go ahead and look back at the individual performances of that NFL season, and observe something odd when they’re compared to 2013. It was a year Drew Brees was doing all his passing for 5,177 yards and Matthew Stafford was only just behind him with 4,967.

Yet still overall there was league-wide balance, and the running game was very much present. Although 2012 will rightfully be remembered as the season when Adrian Peterson came just nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, a total of six running backs had 1,400 rushing yards or more that year. Expanding our net further, every running back in the top 10 had at least 1,200 yards.

We’re only one season removed from those rushing numbers. Yet for the second straight year, offensive draft approaches will be almost exclusively airborne in the first round.

What changed in 2013? The passing trend continued upwards, but rushing plateaued, with the number of +1,400 yard rushers falling from six to one.

That could mean absolutely nothing and be a one-year blip, similar to others we’ve seen in years past. But when it’s combined with the swift devaluing of running backs at the top of the draft, we’re given a nod towards where league thinking could be headed, and we’re left to answer a few questions. Or at least make an attempt.

Let’s go on a little journey together, and tell the story of a still productive and valuable offensive asset. Just not on draft day.

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eric ebron2

His smile was abruptly neutralized. His eyebrows suddenly stopped jumping above his eyes. He leaned in, expressionless, and listened to the words as they shot out of the reporter’s mouth as fast as he could run the 40-yard dash … How much do teams ask you about your blocking skills?

He thought about what to say, and then as his eyebrows furrowed, pointing straight at the bridge of his nose, he fired back: “They ask a lot. You know, every team wants a complete tight end, an all-purpose tight end. Not just one that can run down the seam and catch passes. They want a guy that can block too. I tell them I have been working hard on it, which I have, and that I’m not bad at it, which everyone thinks.”

It was late February at the NFL Scouting Combine, and Eric Ebron — tight end No. 6 — was at the podium, answering questions about his blocking skills. It’s a skill questioned by many, and Ebron wanted to clear the air. He wasn’t bad at it; he was still learning how to be good at it. There’s a difference, depending on who you ask.

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derek carr2

For scouts and general managers, bloodlines connect the dots when it comes to studying NFL draft prospects. Bloodlines are factored heavily in the process, using it to minimize the risk of drafting a bad prospect. When New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning entered the 2004 draft, teams analyzed him with Peyton’s throwing ability in mind. They naturally believed that Eli shared some traits with Peyton, making him a possible slam-dunk of a prospect. Now 10 years later, they’re connecting dots yet again, but in a reverse way — they’re hoping Derek Carr isn’t like David.

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