By Jeff Risdon
The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft on Thursday will be remembered as the Year of the Lineman, as nine of the 32 picks were offensive linemen. Other intriguing developments caught my eye as well, some positive and some negative.
-- To the wild unpredictability of this year’s draft. I’ve said it many times but it bears repeating: I have better contacts with more teams than ever before, yet this is the year I knew what fewer teams were going to do than ever before. Once I got past the professional humiliation of having a wildly inaccurate mock draft, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not knowing what was going to happen was titillating, like riding a roller coaster with a blindfold. I run a Detroit Lions' draft website and I honestly had very little idea who the team was going to pick until about 15 minutes before they were on the clock. Beat writers for just about every team fumbled and balked on answering direct draft questions because they had no clue either. It made for the most exciting first night of the draft I can remember.
-- To the Kansas City Chiefs for opting on Eric Fisher as the #1 overall pick. I like Luke Joeckel and I think he’ll be a very good tackle for a long time, but Fisher offers the chance of Joe Thomas-esque greatness. When you have the #1 pick, you have to go for greatness. The Chiefs made the correct choice, even if it scuttled what my team (the Lions) had planned.
-- To only having one quarterback in the first round. Never mind that it was E.J. Manuel, a player I graded out as a fifth round prospect. The bellyaching over the relative lousiness of this quarterback class led everyone to histrionics about how big of a mistake some teams were going to make in selecting Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, and Ryan Nassib in the first round. Guess what…it didn’t happen. Either the teams listened or they knew it on their own. Either way, it’s a positive for both the teams and the quarterbacks themselves, who are now in a much more favorable position to succeed with a lot less pressure to do so off the bat.
-- To the Carolina Panthers, who made what I believe to be the best pick of the first round by taking Star Lotulelei at No. 14 overall. Star fills what is by far the biggest need on the team, and he was a top 3 overall talent before the pesky heart issue at the Combine. He’s also an outstanding foil to Mark Ingram, Steven Jackson, and Doug Martin within the division.
Other picks I liked: Cleveland Browns/Keke Mingo, Cincinnati Bengals/Tyler Eifert, the Dolphins trading up for Dion Jordan, Lions/Ziggy Ansah, San Diego Chargers/D.J. Fluker and the St. Louis Rams trading up for Tavon Austin and down for Alec Ogletree.
-- To the early run on interior offensive linemen. I’m actually okay with the Cardinals taking Jonathan Cooper at 7, because the North Carolina guard is an immediate above-average starter and it fills what is unquestionably the weakest position on the team. I would like him a lot better at 14 instead of seven, but the Cards did what they had to do. Chance Warmack is one of the few guards worthy of top 10 consideration as well, but he goes to the Titans, who broke the bank to import free agent Andy Levitre. Now Tennessee has a massive investment at the guard position, traditionally the one spot on the field where teams skimp to save money for the skill position players. They have what should be the best guard tandem in the AFC, but they still don’t have a passing game that scares anyone but their own fan base or the ability to stop any other team’s passing game with a pass rush. But what really points the thumb down is the later picks. Justin Pugh, Travis Frederick and especially Kyle long (more on him below) are all horrible value picks in the first round in descending order. Yes, the teams who took them (the Giants, Cowboys, and Bears respectively) absolutely needed help at the positions. But first round interior linemen are supposed to be players with such overwhelming and obvious talent. None of these guys fits the bill, and none really help their teams as much as other players available could have in the long run.
Other picks I didn’t like: I really like DJ Hayden, No. 12 overall is too high for the Oakland Raiders. The Atlanta Falcons traded up for the wrong cornerback, taking overrated Desmond Trufant instead of Jamar Taylor or either Mississippi State player, Johnthan Banks or Darius Slay.
-- To the Minnesota Vikings, who made three picks in the twenties. Holding onto their original selections at 23 and 25, they took Florida DT Sharrif Floyd and Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes. Not content to call it a day, GM Rick Speilman engineered a trade with the (who else?) New England Patriots to move back into the first round. Every single person covering the draft presumed the move was made to acquire Manti Te’o, including the team’s own beat writers, who Tweeted out that Te’o was the pick. Except the Vikings took Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Pattterson instead. Believe it or not I actually like the picks in inverse order; Patterson has game-changing potential at should have gone at 23, while Rhodes is one of the more overhyped players in this draft. Rhodes benefitted from fitting the physical profile of the big corners in Seattle, never mind that he is a holding machine with iffy instincts. Floyd is an intriguing player who will be widely seen as one of the perceived “fallers” in this draft, though 23rd is about where he belonged. However, they selected Floyd over Sylvester Williams, a better player and a better scheme fit. And they passed on Te’o, who for all the criticism he’s taken would have been an excellent fit for the Vikings as well. This is a “chips all in” move for the Vikings to try and win with Adrian Peterson still in his prime, and it made them a better team for sure. I’m just not sold that they couldn’t have made themselves even better with some savvier choices.
-- To the pick “spoilers”. I applaud both the NFL Network and ESPN for refraining from revealing the selections before Roger Goodell announces them at the podium, eliminating the cutaway shots of players on the phone. The vast majority of viewers didn’t want to see that, and the networks responded. Good for them. But at the same time I admit to harboring curiosity about who really knew what was about to go down. I also get Jay Glazer’s point about wanting a 100 percent accurate mock draft but then complaining about having to wait an extra minute to find out if it’s really correct. Guys like Jason LaCanfora are just doing their jobs by tweeting out the names before they are delivered to the podium. I like that both options are available, but if you are someone who must know the pick before the tension and suspense are broken by the Commissioner, well, I just don’t understand why you want to eat the dessert before the steak.
-- To the Chicago Bears, for taking Oregon guard Kyle Long with the 20th overall pick. This pick is the second-biggest reach in terms of value that I have ever seen. The biggest also happens this ear with EJ Manuel, a fifth round talent, but at least he’s a quarterback and even his harshest critics acknowledge that if the light bulb ever turns on, he could be very good. Plus he plays a premium position where reaches are not uncommon.
If Manuel is a 100 watt bulb, Long is the 40 watt soft white light. Long wound up with the 114th highest grade of the nearly 200 players we graded out at detroitlionsdraft.com, a solid 4th round value at what is arguably the least-coveted position on any football team. The Bears got caught up in the run on offensive linemen and name value (he’s Howie Long’s son and Chris Long’s brother) and executed a ridiculous reach. Even if Long becomes a serviceable starting guard, which he probably will, there is no value at all in taking him at 20. Teams cannot panic for an interior lineman.
The Dallas Cowboys did the same with Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, but they at least traded back to do so and I also had Frederick rated a lot higher (63rd) than Long. A team with a decrepitly aging defense ignores some excellent talent (Bjoern Werner was a perfect fit, Sylvester Williams or Datone Jones also made great value sense there) and makes a huge reach for a guard who started less than 10 games at the BCS level and was not real impressive during Senior Bowl week. That is a horrible fail by GM Phil Emery and the Bears staff.
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By Jeff Risdon
This is one of the strangest drafts ever. It’s two days before the draft and we still don’t know who will be the No. 1 pick. I talked to someone with War Room access with a team picking in the 16-24 range and he told me they have 37 players listed as “potentially gone” for their pick, or about 10 more than they would normally expect. The pain truth: this will be forever remembered by draftniks as The Year of the Inaccurate Mock. Trying to accurately project this year is insanely difficult. This is my best guess as to how it might play out. Enjoy the unexpected twists and turns and embrace the fact that nobody knows what is going to happen!
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M. The pick will be a tackle. Whether it’s Joeckel or Eric Fisher remains to be seen. I know there are people in the room who want Dion Jordan, but they are not calling the shots. Note that if Fisher is the pick here, Joeckel falls to five instead of going three, with Star Lotulelei or Sharrif Floyd going to the Raiders at three.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon. Jordan is the versatile edge presence the Jaguars sorely need, a player who can rush the passer or drop into coverage. New Coach Gus Bradley is a creative defensive mind and Jordan gives him a queen on his chessboard.
3. Oakland Raiders: Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan. He will be the top name on some draft boards, and I suspect the Raiders are one of those teams. Fisher doesn’t fill the biggest need in Oakland but is too highly rated to pass.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Because the demand for quarterbacks is great enough that teams actually traded picks for Matt Flynn, Colt McCoy, and paid surprising free agent dollars to Chase Daniel and Matt Cassel. Because the Eagles are at the onset of a major overhaul and have a little cushion built in. Because Smith could be electrifying in Chip Kelly’s offense. Because Dion Jordan is already gone.
5. Detroit Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU. I’ll admit to making this selection more with my heart than my head; it could very well be Lane Johnson. With no trade back worthwhile to slide down and get Chance Warmack or Tavon Austin for better value, Detroit goes for the athletically rare pass rusher they got to coach up close and personal in Mobile.
6. *San Diego Chargers (from CLE): Lane Johnson, T, Oklahoma. San Diego trades #11 overall, #45 overall, and a 2014 2nd round pick to Cleveland to move up and take the third tackle off the board. They preemptively deal up to stymie the Chargers efforts to move up and get Johnson, using the extra 2nd round pick they have to sweeten the deal.
7. *San Francisco 49ers (from ARI): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. The 49ers trade #31, #34, a 7th rounder and their 2014 1st round pick to Arizona, giving precious picks to a division rival in order to secure Star Lotulelei. His ability to play all over the line and physical dominance convinces GM Trent Baalke to pull the trigger.
8. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse. Sometimes a pick makes too much sense, akin to Ryan Tannehill to the Dolphins last year. It was an obvious pick, just as this pick appears to be. I’m not going to fight it.
9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU. His production has yet to match his physical potential, but Mingo has the chance to invigorate a moribund pass rush. If the Jets are going to win in 2013, it’s going to be with defense. Rex Ryan would love this pick.
10. Tennessee Titans: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. This is one of the hardest picks to slot. At various points I had Dee Milliner, Sharrif Floyd, Chance Warmack, Tank Carradine, and Tavon Austin here. I settled on Richardson because an interior pass rusher with Richardson’s disruptiveness is the best way to immediately compete within the AFC South.
11.*Cleveland Browns (from SD): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. Cleveland falls back and still gets its man. Pairing Milliner with Joe Haden gives the Browns a long, talented starting CB duo that will be the envy of the AFC. At least that’s the hope. If he’s gone, look for Tyler Eifert.
12. Miami Dolphins: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida Intl. Because the Dolphins appear (as of Monday 7PM) poised to trade their 2nd round pick for tackle Branden Albert, I think this pick tacks to the defensive side of the ball. Cyprien is a local who rode a meteoric rise in the postseason and is NFL-ready to play either safety spot. Don’t ignore the fact he’s a local in a city where fans are as fickle as Miami.
13. New York Jets (from TB): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. If he’s not gone by this point, and he might be, I feel very confident about this pick. Austin can be the dynamic offensive playmaker this team so desperately lacks.
14. Carolina Panthers: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. This is my 10th year covering the draft here at RealGM, and Sharrif Floyd is the 2nd hardest player to slot in the final mock in those 10 years. The hardest? Brady Quinn. Panthers fans must hope that Floyd turns out a little better than Quinn…
15. New Orleans Saints: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia. The Saints need the piece de resistance for their shiny new 3-4 defense, and Jones is the most prolific pass rusher in the nation. I had DJ Fluker here for a long time but the pass rusher just makes too much sense.
16. St. Louis Rams: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson. The trashed hotel room notwithstanding, Hopkins is a relatively safe pick as far as wideouts go in this draft class. He would give Sam Bradford a more polished downfield threat and challenge defenses. Sleeper pick: Menelik Watson.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame. Eifert’s proven ability to make plays while lined up outside is the catalyst for Pittsburgh selecting him here. Coming off a down year puts the Steelers in a good position to make some transformative changes to the offense, where Heath Miller is no safe bet to recover. I strongly suspect that if they do go offense here, the rest of their draft is defense. I do believe they would take Cyprien over anyone else if he’s available.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama. I’ll believe the “guard in the top 10” talk only when I see it, even though Warmack is immensely talented. The Cowboys are the beneficiary of the inherent prejudice against using premium picks on guards. Plan B is Sylvester Williams, Plan C is Kenny Vaccaro.
19. New York Giants: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State. His impressive workout ameliorates concern about his torn ACL. The Giants get a top-shelf pass rusher to fall into their lap. They have more pressing needs elsewhere, but GM Jerry Reese does not look gift horses in the mouth.
20. Chicago Bears: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA. I have a strong feeling Datone Jones is one of those players that NFL teams covet a lot more than the general populous presumes they do. His ability to play rush end in base defense and slide inside in nickel situations is invaluable. Remember, he was the only player who found sustained success against Eric Fisher in Mobile.
21. *Arizona Cardinals (from CIN): Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina. Arizona trades its acquired 2nd round pick from the earlier trade (#34 overall) and their 3rd round pick this year (#69 overall) and in 2014 to move up and take Jonathan Cooper. He is a plug-and-play top-shelf guard prospect who the Cardinals consider themselves very lucky to be able to acquire this late in the 1st, thus prompting the trade. Had the Bengals kept this, I had Kenny Vaccaro here.
22. St. Louis Rams (from WAS): DJ Fluker, T, Alabama. This seems artificially low for Fluker, whom I think could very well go in the top 10. Funny things happen during drafts, and in this one the Rams laugh all the way to the podium with their unbelievable good fortune. Fluker is the best run blocking tackle I’ve ever scouted, even though his pass protection can be ugly at times.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina. Not to be cute, but I like the marketing angle of “rebuilding the Williams Wall”. NFC North offensive lines strongly disagree. Sylvester Williams has an amazing first step and would draw attention away from Jared Allen. Some have Williams ranked higher than Floyd. I’m one of them.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. Rhodes has great size and speed for the position in a league that is trending towards those attributes. He’s going to get his fair share of holding and illegal contact flags, but he also provides potential to be a shutdown corner on a defense that desperately needs playmakers.
25. Minnesota Vikings (from SEA): Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. This is another one of the rare picks in this mock in which I have a strong degree of confidence. The marriage of need, value, and talent is too strong to ignore. And no, I’m not trying to catfish you here.
26. Green Bay Packers: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. Vaccaro could very well go 10 picks higher than this, but the Packers won’t mind being his basement. They can plug him into the Charles Woodson role of base safety and inside nickel corner, which is what the speedy Vaccaro did pretty well at Texas.
27. Houston Texans: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU. For as much as everyone knows the Texans need a wideout, their 2-deep on the defensive front 7 has nine names on it. Adding to that is also an imperative, and Hunt brings an intriguing blend of length, power, and a kick blocking acumen like none before him. I’m a big believer that one of the picks between 26-28 is dealt to a team that will move back into the first round and take a QB, likely the Jets and EJ Manuel.
28. Denver Broncos: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State. Werner is another player with an unusually wide draft range; he could go anywhere between 10 and 40. The Broncos can use him as a situational rusher and strongside end when using a 4-man front, which is an ideal situation for the German. Sprechen sie sack, Herr Elway?
29. New England Patriots: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee. This is a case of Hunter having too much potential to fall, and the Patriots with a glaring need for a downfield threat. If he ever masters the mental aspects of being a professional, Hunter is a steal at this point. Big “if”, however.
30. Atlanta Falcons: Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State. Another one of the postseason risers, Slay offers a lot more athleticism and outward confidence than his more celebrated college teammate Johnthan Banks. Even though the Falcons desperately need a bookend pass rusher, the value at corner here is much better. I do believe they will try very hard to move up and get a higher-rated CB, but if the draft comes to Dimitroff he knows what to do with it.
31. *Arizona (from SF): Menelik Watson, T, Florida State. The OL overhaul continues with Watson, a raw Briton with strong potential. Teams tend to take risks with acquired picks and Watson will either be really good or fail to get a 2nd NFL contract.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Justin Pugh, T/G, Syracuse. This pick is more on a hunch that Pugh somehow sneaks into the first round. With Bryant McKinnie not re-signed the Super Bowl cahmps have an opening at left tackle. Pugh has short arms for the position but could fall back as a strong guard as well.
33. Jacksonville: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
34. *Cincinnati (from KC via SF and ARI): Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
35. Philadelphia: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
36. Detroit: Terron Armstead, T, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
37. Cincinnati (from OAK): Matt Elam, S, Florida
38. Arizona: Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
39. New York Jets: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
40. Tennessee: DJ Hayden, CB, Houston
41. Buffalo: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
42. *Kansas City (from MIA): Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama. This pick will be traded to Kansas City so Miami can acquire LT Branden Albert
43. Tampa Bay: Keenan Allen, WR, California
44. Carolina: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, UConn
45. *Cleveland (from SD): Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
46. St. Louis: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
47. Dallas: DJ Swearinger, S, South Carolina
48. Pittsburgh: Sio Moore, LB, UConn
49. New York Giants: Eric Reid, S, LSU
50. Chicago: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
51. Washington: Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
52. Minnesota: Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
53. Cincinnati: Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
54. Miami (from IND): Robert Alford, CB, SE Louisiana
55. Green Bay: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
56. Seattle: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
57. Houston: Robert Woods, WR, USC
58. Denver: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
59. New England: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
60. Atlanta: David Bakhtiari, T, Colorado
61. San Francisco: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
62. Baltimore: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
63. Kansas City: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
64. Jacksonville: Dallas Thomas, G/T, Tennessee
65. Detroit: Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern
66. Oakland: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
67. Philadelphia: Kyle Long, G/T, Oregon
68. Cleveland: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
69. *Cincinnati (from ARI): Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
70. Tennessee: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
71. Buffalo: Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
72. New York Jets: Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
73. Tampa Bay: Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
74. San Francisco (from CAR): Duke Williams, S, Nevada
75. New Orleans: Corey Lemonier, DE/OLB, Auburn
76. San Diego: Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
77. Miami: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
78. St. Louis: Quanterus Smith, DE, Western Kentucky
79. Pittsburgh: Jamie Collins, DE/LB, Southern Miss
80. Dallas: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
81. New York Giants: Travis Frederick, C/G, Wisconsin
82. Miami (from CHI): LeVeon Bell, RB, Michigan State
83. Minnesota: JJ Wilcox, S, Georgia Southern
84. Cincinnati: Lavar Edwards, DE, LSU
85. Washington: Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
86. Indianapolis: Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon
87. Seattle: TJ McDonald, S, USC
88. Green Bay: Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida
89. Houston: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
90. Denver: David Amerson, CB/S, North Carolina State
91. New England: Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State
92. Atlanta: Mike Catapano, DE, Princeton
93. San Francisco: Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois
94. Baltimore: Jon Bostic, LB, Florida
95. Houston (comp pick): Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
96. Kansas City (comp pick): Philip Thomas, S, San Diego State
97. Tennessee (comp pick): Reid Fragel, T, Ohio State
As a bonus I’ll go out a few extra spots to include the top 100 picks
98. Jacksonville: Brian Schwenke, C, California
99. Kansas City: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
100. Oakland: Baccari Rambo, S, Georgia
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By Jeff Risdon
The 2013 NFL Draft will be history by this time next week. I greatly appreciate and enjoy the interactions on Twitter, via email, and on the RealGM “Ask Jeff Risdon a Question” thread. Keep ‘em coming! Here are some of the more recent questions.
1. From ATLBoy: There are multiple reports that the Falcons are trying to move up in the draft. Who are they looking at and what would it cost to move up?
Everyone seems to presume that “moving up” means “moving WAY up”, like the Julio Jones trade they pulled off a couple years ago. Moving from 30 to five, which is where they need to move to get Dee Milliner or Ezekiel Ansah as example targets, would cost them their first, second and fourth round picks this year and first and third next year. That’s asking an awful lot for one player. Here’s a more likely scenario: they trade up to No. 17 to get Tank Carradine or Xavier Rhodes, giving up their first and third this year and a second next year. Or just surrender the first and third this year and move up to No. 23 to take Datone Jones or perhaps Jonathan Cooper if he slides a bit. However, if they do want to make the big jump, teams like Detroit and Cleveland will definitely facilitate such a move.
2. From Magilla Gorilla: I’ve seen reports that Arthur Brown is dropping because of concerns about his shoulder. How much of this is a smokescreen by teams who want him to drop to them, or is there real concern? He didn’t miss a game the last two years.
I do believe there is a certain amount of smoke blowing here, for the reason you stated; Arthur Brown is a very good talent, handily the best and most versatile overall linebacker in this draft in both my eyes and the opinions of many others. But there is real validity to the injury trepidation. Brown is not a big-framed guy. He’s built a lot like Jon Beason, who has been great when healthy but has played just five games the last two seasons. I know some teams see that as not being worth the risk, not when choosing between Brown in the 20-30 range or Sio Moore or Kevin Minter a round later. I think if Brown doesn’t go to Chicago or Minnesota in the first--and I don’t believe he will--he very well could fall to the Rams at 46 or Steelers at 47.
3. From DSand: Last year Bruce Irvin was a surprise first round pick. Do you see anyone who will be a surprise pick in the first half of the first round this year?
Three Florida State players fit the bill: QB EJ Manuel, DE Tank Carradine and OT Menelik Watson. Carradine is probably not that big of a surprise, and he is the most likely to go in the top 20. In fact, it’s not out of the question he goes to Detroit at the five spot if things above there play out a certain way. Manuel is a player who I issued a fifth round grade based on what he’s done on the field. I will not deny he has a very high ceiling, and he is one of the smartest, most erudite players I’ve talked to over the past couple of years. Such a blend of physical potential and impressive personality could very well vault him into the top 10. The Jets at nine will certainly consider him, especially if Geno Smith is off the board, or again at 13 with Tampa Bay's pick from the Darrelle Revis trade.
4. From several people: What is the story with DJ Hayden and is he really going to go in the first round?
Hayden was a rising star who NFL scouts that had been through Houston knew very well. I had actually written a scouting profile on him the day before his unfortunate injury, a torn blood vessel in his chest from which he is incredibly lucky to survive. In that profile I had Hayden listed as a top 50 talent with the potential to ascend with a strong workout season, and his game is tailor-made to thrive at a venue like the Senior Bowl. I compared him to a slightly smaller, short-armed Champ Bailey in terms of playing style and attitude. Then the injury happened and I yanked him from the draft board for all intents and purposes. All his momentum stopped and he lost his chance to prove himself in a common setting against his peers. Now that he has full medical clearance everyone suddenly rushed back to his game tapes and saw what a few of us had seen earlier, a legit top 50 pick. I wouldn’t have a problem with Hayden going in the first round but I suspect the scariness of the injury pushes him into the top few picks of the second.
5. From Billy G: What are the Lions doing at the five spot? Is Chance Warmack really a consideration?
Here’s what I know about the Lions: they will take Eric Fisher if he’s on the board…but he’s extremely unlikely to last to fifth overall. In fact, of all the top shelf players Fisher is the least likely to fall out of the top-four. Going on the presumption that both Fisher and Dion Jordan will be gone, and I put those odds at 95 percent, it appears the Lions will get to choose between Ziggy Ansah, Lane Johnson, KeKe Mingo, Dee Milliner, Tavon Austin or Warmack. Of that group, Ansah is the player with the highest ceiling. Ansah also happens to play the position where the Lions need an impact talent more than any other, pass rusher. I’ve made no secret of it, he would be my choice; I’ve selected Ansah in a couple different Twitter-based mock drafts. Will the Lions follow my lead? I have been led to believe by people who would know that they rate him very highly. I’m more than a little scared they will take Lane Johnson, however. It’s not that I don’t like Johnson as a prospect, but he is not ready to step into Jeff Backus’ shoes at left tackle in 2013. I believe that if the Lions can trade back then Austin or Warmack or even Milliner (in that order) are more viable options.
6. From Fat Nose: How do you feel about Bjoern Werner to the Giants at 19? Why has he fallen?
The Giants at 19 are a logical landing spot for Werner. He has athletic limitations at the NFL level, lacking the ability to transition his power to the field very effectively and showing some real tightness of movement, but put him in a more limited role and he can thrive. The Giants present him with a couple of very nice advantages in that respect. Because they always have good depth up front, they can judiciously spot him on the field. They are also a team that is very good at developing pass rushing talent. Werner reminds me some of Kyle VandenBosch, a high-effort strong-side defensive end with active eyes and quick reaction speed. He’ll never be a star or a focal point of the blocking scheme, but he can contribute enough to be a solid player on a good team. That’s precisely what the Giants need. His star has taken more of a tumble with the general public than it has the NFL itself.
7. From Matt K: What does the word of Nuke Hopkins (with Mark Harrison) trashing his hotel room at the Combine do to his draft stock?
This is interesting because Hopkins has had zero off-field incidents in his past, while Harrison has had some attitude and behavioral questions in his Rutgers career. The general assumption was that everyone would just write it off as Harrison’s fault, but that has not been the case. Some of the “trashing” is pretty sketchy. I’ve worked in hotels where professional athletes stayed frequently, and I’ve seen and heard of a lot worse than what was left in that room. Food left in the bed, toothpaste smeared on the mirror, trash strewn about, none of that is exceptional. It’s the defecating on the floor that takes it to another level, especially since they were sober and at a de facto job interview. I really don’t think it hurts Hopkins much. His on-field résumé is impressive enough to stick as a top 25 pick. If he falls out of the first it has more to do with the way the draft plays out than anything he may or may not have done to his hotel room. As for Harrison, I think he’s an underrated talent that will come off the board earlier than expected. Perhaps late Friday night.
8. From Brad P: My Vikings have two picks at 23 and 25. Are they keeping both picks or can they bundle them and move up for someone like Star Lotulelei?
I believe they are more apt to trade one of the picks in the other direction and move backwards rather than bundle and move up. That is the sweet spot of value in the draft, the prime range where teams that want to jump back into the first round will start hitting the phones. With the pick that they keep, I think they are looking hard at the strong defensive tackle class. Sylvester Williams from North Carolina or Sharrif Floyd from Florida both make sense there. Of course, if they’re able to trade back they could be patient on the DT front and take a guy like Kawann Short or Johnathan Hankins in the second. The name that keeps popping up with the Vikings is Manti Te’o, and they certainly need an inside linebacker. It might seem high, but keep in mind they have his former Notre Dame teammates Kyle Rudolph and Harrison Smith already and they will know him better than any other team. It’s one of those situations where it makes too much sense.
9. From Corliss Williamson’s muscular doppelganger at the 24 Hour Fitness in Friendswood, TX: Tell me the Texans are taking a wideout in the first round. Andre Johnson is old, Keyshawn Martin is nothing, Devier Posey is hurt, Lestar Jean is friggin’ Lestar Jean. No way they’re that stupid to pass on a wideout, right?
Don’t kill the messenger, big man, but prepare to be angry Thursday night. Texans GM Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak are notorious for finding reasons not to draft a first round receiver even though they’ve needed someone across from Andre Johnson pretty much ever since they got Andre Johnson a decade ago. And this year it’s easier to nitpick all of the potential first round receivers than ever before. Justin Hunter can’t reliably catch the ball, with a drop rate of 12% and a rep for being soft. Cordarrelle Patterson has little experience and is widely reported to not pick things up quickly. Keenan Allen is still battling a knee injury that should have healed weeks ago and got flagged for a suspicious drug test at the Combine. Nuke Hopkins has the trashed hotel room issue and runs in the 4.5s, slow for a downfield receiver. Stedman Bailey is slower than Hopkins and smaller too. Robert Woods has the best résumé, or rather the least glaring negatives, but then there is the concept that they are using a high pick on a complementary player. As much as they desperately need one, I believe they will take more of an impact player at a position that is just as thin: linebacker. The Texans are a team that runs a 3-4 scheme, and right now they have exactly five legit NFL linebackers on the roster. Both the inside backers, Brian Cushing and Darryl Sharpton, are coming off serious injuries that also aren’t the first serious injuries for either guy. There is also little depth along the defensive line, and where the Texans pick at 27 overall is prime territory to tap into that talent vein. I know the team is very intrigued by SMU DE Margus Hunt, and they’ve also done a great deal of homework on Datone Jones from UCLA. If either is on the board, I’m guessing that is their pick. Look for a wideout in the third or fourth round, which isn’t necessarily a bad option this year. And for the love of God can we get on the same team sometime instead of me being forced to guard you just because I’m tall?!
10. From MarqwithaQ: Who is a player that really surprised you as an evaluation, someone you didn’t expect to like as much as you do?
The first player who comes to mind is Boise State CB Jamar Taylor. I’ve generally found most Boise State prospects lately to be overhyped, and while he was decent during Senior Bowl week Taylor didn’t really jump out at me. Then I got around to watching some tape and I was really impressed, enough that I would have no problem drafting him in the top 20. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Jamar Taylor winds up as the most successful corner in this draft when all is said and done. A couple other examples are LSU DE Lavar Edwards and Florida OLB Lerentee McCray. To get out of the SEC, after watching more of Tyler Eifert there is no question he’s the best TE in the last three drafts. I knew he was good but I was still taken aback at how much he improved in 2012 even from the beginning of the season to the end.
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Some of these have basis in legitimate info gathered. Some are reading between some lines that may or may not exist. Some are wild figments of imaginary vision of the draft.
Dion Jordan, Eric Fisher, Tavon Austin, Shariff Floyd, Jonathan Cooper, Keenan Allen, Robert Woods, Gavin Escobar and Ryan Swope make this year's list.
People are always seeking out Jeff Risdon with their draft questions. In this edition, he answers several of the more intriguing ones.
Luke Joeckel at the top of the draft, Ezekiel Anash at No. 2, two quarterbacks in the top-10 and more in an uncertain draft.
Thumbs up to the Lions, while the Eagles, Broncos, 49ers and Packers are faring well, and Andy Reid is failing to learn from his own inglorious history.
Notes on the Dolphins, Ravens, Titans, Bears, Browns, Vikings, Eagles, Texans, Bills, Chiefs, Seahawks and Titans as free agency began.