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clowney wave2

As mock draft machines continue pumping out scenarios with May 8 mercifully almost two weeks away, there’s an important fact to remember: the draft board in its current form is a filthy lie.

Since the introduction of the rookie wage scale through the 2011 CBA, trading up to grab the draft darling of your choosing has been far more affordable. Last year that resulted in eight trades on the opening night of the draft, and the 2012 draft was utter chaos. Including the trade that eventually landed Washington Robert Griffin III two years ago, only four of the top 10 picks were used by their original owners.

The constant jostling for the right player and draft value throws more mud on a process that’s already pretty dirty and difficult to predict. There are always trading hot spots, with some obvious and others not so much. As I see it there are five right now, and they’re driven by the likelihood of a falling quarterback (or falling quarterbacks), and Jadeveon Clowney lust.

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kony ealy2

It’s dangerous scouting defensive linemen these days. Too many projects and projections. Can he learn how to use his hands, scouts ask? Is he a fit in a 1-gap 3-4 defense as an end or linebacker, scouts wonder? They’re asking every question in the book and getting few answers because at the end of the day, they just don’t know. Nobody really does. Nobody knows anything. Yet decisions have to be made.

One of those decisions will be on Kony Ealy’s position.

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eric ebron again2

Eric Ebron is the best tight end in the 2014 draft. That’s not an adventurous statement, or a particularly bold one. At this point, it’s been accepted as fact.

Ebron has all the numbers and measurables we typically associate with the modern day behemoth tight end, standing 6’4″ and weighing 245 pounds. Like the Jimmy Grahams and Rob Gronkowskis of the league, he’s also versatile. When speaking to reporters at the scouting combine Ebron said he lined up away from the line of scrimmage roughly 40-percent of the time during his final year at the University of North Carolina, and he sometimes shifted into the backfield as an H-back too.

All that resulted in 62 catches for 973 yards. Or visually, this…

But here’s the next question we’re set to wrestle with: is he really, honestly on the same level as Vernon Davis, or Jeremy Shockey in his Giants prime? Because that’s the draft territory Ebron could be preparing to enter.

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Joel Bitonio2

On the dark green grass, he blended in with all the other offensive linemen wearing white uniforms. He stepped forward, locked his arms out and sat in his stance, creasing his knees before driving the defensive end out of the pitch play. It was simple, but he was still supposed to stand out from his teammates. He was the potential first-round pick, the team’s best linemen, the team’s left tackle.

For one play, Joel Bitonio didn’t look any different than the left guard by his right side.

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mack again2

Out of nowhere the pass-rusher threw a right jab like a boxer. One second he’s running downhill and the next … BAM! He pinned the offensive tackle on his heels, with the blocker stumbling into his own backfield, waiting for someone — anyone —to help. The pass-rusher went through the tackle and turned the corner, pressuring the quarterback out of the pocket and forcing an incompletion.

That’s the norm for the 6’3″, 251-pound Khalil Mack, who is a specimen from the University of Buffalo. His abdomen is littered with a six pack of abs. His muscles pop off his arms like landmark sites formed from natural disasters. And his legs are thick throughout.

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Barr2

From his 6’5″ frame hang nearly 34-inch long arms, creating a towering pass-rusher that has off-the-charts potential. When his size blends with his athleticism and explosiveness, he becomes a rare prospect that’s arguably the most impressive in this May’s draft.

But there needs to be more to a prospect than size and athleticism. Technique and tools are necessary, such as powerful hands and disciplined pad level. That’s where questions start to arise with UCLA’s Anthony Barr, who can be one of two different players on any given Saturday.

He can be dominating or dominated.

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tebow2

Because nostalgia is fun and so is the pain of horribly failed decisions, over the next month we’re going to fire up the ol’ time machine and revisit drafts. Unofficially this great journey started Monday with a not-so distant trip to 2011, the year of the pass rusher.

At each stop we’ll remember the major storylines, the busts, the bargains, the trends, and some other things that start with “the”. Today, 2010 is under the microscope, and conveniently that’s a notorious draft year due to the presence of a righteous quarterback.

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