17 Days Until The Draft: More Random Draft Musings
Two and a half weeks to go and at this point there isn’t much news to report. 90% of news that you read between now and April will either be a fabrication (either by team sources blowing smoke or by “experts” looking to generate clicks/views). Almost all prospects have been graded, watched endlessly on tape, dissected, worked out, run through medical tests and had their character evaluated thoroughly. If you’re a die hard draftnik, or spend your life evaluating talent, your board should be about set by now. With that in mind, here are 17 quick hit musings – one for each day until the draft:
1. Running back David Wilson might have tantalizing athleticism, but don’t confuse him for a 3-down back just yet. He has a long way to go in pass protection and route running before any team uses him in obvious passing situations.
2. I previously mentioned Boise State’s Shea McClellin and Doug Martin as possible late 1st rounders who are flying under the radar (though NFL Network featured both as potential 1st rounders last week, so I guess the cat is out of the bag on these guys). Their teammate, Billy Winn, could be the best of the trio if he lands in the right scheme. Winn is a well-balanced 4-3 3-technique who could play 5-technique in a 1-gap attacking scheme. I don’t like him quite as much for a 2-gap scheme, he’s probably stout enough to anchor in the run game, but he’s just a bit undersized compared to what the (few) remaining 2-gap 3-4 defenses like in their 5-technique DE’s. With the prevalence of 3-4 schemes, I doubt Winn gets out of the top 50 picks.
3. Cincinnati DE/DT Derek Wolfe looks like a 2nd rounder who is a bit tough to project to an NFL scheme. He has the length to succeed as a 2-gap DE but his weight fluctuations this offseason have been borderline alarming. Somehow, he managed to lose 15 lbs between the Combine and his pro day. If he can bulk up, and stay bulked up, he could be a solid contributor in the NFL but he will have to get by on effort more than athletic ability. He appears to be a better rotational/backup type than a long-term starter.
4. Coby Fleener is being touted as a potential first round prospect, and it’s understandable to some degree. He projects as a quality receiver who can do enough in the blocking game to be a full-time player. That said, guys like Fleener remind us how rare Rob Gronkowski is. One would have to think that a TE with Gronkowski’s physical tools, blocking ability and hands would be a sure-fire top 15 pick this year.
5. Dontari Poe seems to have fallen out of favor of some lately. With good coaching, he could be an absolutely dominant player for a long time. That said, it’s tough to teach instincts and Poe seems to really lack them. Any GM that talks himself into drafting Poe is doing so with the hope that the massive DT’s lack of awareness is a matter of being raw rather than a fundamental lack of football IQ. Drafting guys with questionable instincts is a good way to ensure you don’t stay employed long in an NFL front office. GM’s on the hot seat would be best served to stay away from Dontari Poe.
6. It’s curious that 3 months ago, when NFL mock draft season began in earnest, UNC LB Zach Brown was being mocked to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the #4 pick. With less than 3 weeks to go, most mocks have Brown being available when the Bucs come on the clock in the 2nd round. While Brown didn’t blow people away at the Combine the way some thought he might, he hasn’t done anything this offseason to warrant such a wild swing in opinion. If you liked Brown in January, it’s tough not to like him now. If you saw him (like Poe) as a guy without the mental tools to make in the NFL a few months ago, he should still be off your radar. I still think he is worth a 1st rounder, though not in the top half of the round.
7. I’m surprised that more teams don’t take shots on mid/late round QB’s. While these guys almost never work out, it’s much tougher to find a “hidden gem” QB on the waiver wire than it is to find career backups and special teamers – which is what most 3rd-7th round non-QB’s turn out to be.
8. If there is a “WTF” moment of the 1st round, I expect it will involve a linebacker. One name to keep in mind: Mychal Kendricks. Few players have seen as meteoric of a rise in their draft as he has. The incredibly weak LB crop has convinced some people that Kendricks is worth a top 40 pick. Kendricks is often being projected to an inside spot, but his lack of size leads me to think that his best spot could be WILL in a 4-3 scheme. Drafting him as a MIKE in the top 50 picks would be a mistake in my book.
9. A guy who will go earlier than you might think: Bobby Massie. Don’t be surprised if he is the 4th OT, maybe even the 3rd, off the board. He has late 1st round value and could be a steal in the early 2nd round if he lasts that far.
10. You might have never heard of him but University of Regina DT Akiem Hicks could be a guy we are all talking about as a huge steal 5 years from now. He has a lot working against him – off field issues, poor level of competition, sloppy technique – however, he flashes game-changing ability. From a purely “tools” standpoint, there isn’t much difference between Hicks and Poe. At 6’5 325 and with an explosive burst off the snap, Hicks could be a dominant player in the league if he lands in a situation with a strong defensive coaching staff and veteran leadership.