Almost all mock drafts are educated guesses for one simple reason: no one knows how teams have specific players rated or any idea what particular teams' draft boards look like. So we all discuss, postulate, hypothesize, theorize, propose – all more sophisticated ways of saying that we guess, and lo and behold, people actually believe us!
With that in mind, I am going to present my thoughts on two teams that select in the top 5 of Thursday's opening round of the NFL draft: the St. Louis Rams at No. 2, and the Cleveland Browns at No. 4. My reasons are founded solely on football, nothing more. One I strongly believe will happen, the other I feel would be best for the team based on my overall analysis.
It's the year of the wide receiver. It would be no surprise if seven were drafted in the first round on Thursday night. That would not be an aberration. Since the turn of the century, six wide receivers have been selected in the opening round four times (2001, 2005, 2007 and 2009), and seven came off the board in 2004.
Unfortunately for some of those prospects, receiver is consistently the biggest first-round "bust" position in the draft after quarterback. There are certainly many reasons for that, and they must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis, but two factors really stand out: the wide gap between what receivers are asked to do in college versus the NFL regarding route concepts and adjustments, and the dramatically higher quality of cornerbacks they play against on Sundays.
On the flip side, with the increasing deployment of three- and four-wide receiver personnel sets in the NFL, there are more opportunities for receivers to find a niche and become important contributors.
- Greg Cosell at Shutdown Corner2 mths ago
How does one determine the NFL draft value of running backs? Is it the number of backs selected in the first round on an annual basis, which was none last year? Is it the value of backs in today's NFL, a position essentially diluted and thus merely supplementary given that offenses have become so pass-oriented?
For the second consecutive year, many evaluators do not project a running back going in the first round. This raises the question of how their respective skills impact the way they'll be utilized in the NFL.
Can anyone, relatively speaking, play running back for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and have the same success as Marshawn Lynch? If you believe this to be true, then you are among the many who subscribe to the notion that the running back position is significantly devalued in the NFL. If you don't believe that to be the case, then you would have a more difficult time arguing that running backs have a reduced value in today's NFL.
There are not many who would argue that Lynch was the offensive foundation of the Seahawks in each of the last two seasons. The players will tell you that. He has averaged almost 20 carries per game in both 2012 and 2013. Lynch is a classic between-the-tackles pounder who gets 6 yards, or more, when his offensive line blocked for 3 yards. He can run effectively in any offensive formation, whether it's base personnel (multiple backs and/or tight ends), or three- and four-wide receiver sets, with Russell Wilson in the spread shotgun. Lynch is a complete runner with no limitations.
We are told every year at this time, as if it's gospel, that NFL teams will draft quarterbacks early in the first round due to the transcendent value of the position. The reasoning being that if you hit the right one, you become an annual playoff and Super Bowl contender. Weaknesses throughout the rest of your roster can be camouflaged, your margin of error greater simply because of the quarterback.
In the 2013 NFL draft, that "platitude" did not hold. Only one quarterback (EJ Manuel) was chosen in the first round. The Bills traded up to take him at No. 16, marking the first time since 2001 that just one first-round passer was taken. That year Michael Vick was selected No. 1 overall (Drew Brees was the first pick of the second round). As recently as 2011, four quarterbacks were among the top 12 picks. Only one – Cam Newton – is an established starter (the other three were Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder).
The case for Logan Thomas as NFL draft's most intriguing QB prospect – more pro-ready than Cam Newton in 2011
Any evaluation of college quarterbacks must begin with an understanding of why NFL quarterbacks are successful. Talk to any NFL coach and they will tell you it begins with how a QB throws the ball. In the NFL, you have to make difficult throws against tough defenses in critical situations. It might happen only three times a game, it might happen eight times, but it will happen. If you can't do it, you will not be a high level quarterback.
That brings me to Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, the best thrower in the 2014 draft class. Most dismissed Thomas after a subpar 2012 season, and a less than strong performance against Alabama in a nationally televised matchup to open the 2013 season. Viewers may not have been aware that the Alabama game was Thomas' first under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
The question for the congregation: Has the quarterback position in the NFL changed enough to impact the 2014 draft?
Most people's initial reaction is, yes, it has.
The two best teams in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, each have quarterbacks that are associated with running, both by design and improvisation. Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick almost always feature a spectacular component to their games, often happening on third down. You constantly hear and read that the ability to extend plays and break down defensive discipline is now critical for NFL quarterbacks. It seems like a logical conclusion to draw from the evidence presented and the nature of the public discourse.
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You're a general manager or a head coach in the NFL. The subject is Johnny Manziel. You're not interested in the white noise that saturates Manziel across the airwaves and social media. Or at any rate you shouldn't be. Your job may be on the line. You should be focused on the tape that defines Manziel as a player. That's your starting point. What do you see? How do you evaluate it? Do you believe he can transition well to the NFL?
You begin with his size: 5-foot-11¾, 207 pounds. How many NFL quarterbacks who fit that profile are successful? You have to visualize Manziel in the league, not on Saturday afternoons. Size matters for a quarterback in the NFL. You can't dismiss that, so you better think hard about it and have a plan for what you want to do with Manziel within the context of your team.
You immediately think Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. Brees is the foundation of his offense. He's brilliant both before and after the snap. He's a quick-twitch athlete with outstanding pocket command and movement. He throws with extraordinary anticipation and precise ball location. He's a master pocket passer.
Greg Cosell’s Playoff Film Review: Colts brilliantly set up Andrew Luck’s game-winning TD to T.Y. HiltonGreg Cosell at Shutdown Corner6 mths ago
NFL coaches don’t just roll the ball out there and say, "make plays." Their offense might use the early portion of the game to set up the defense, running a play repeatedly, getting ready for a counter-punch and a chance at a huge score when they need it.
That's what happened on Andrew Luck's game-winning touchdown to T.Y. Hilton that capped the Indianapolis Colts' great comeback win against the Kansas City Chiefs. They set that up for the first three-and-a-half quarters.
The Colts started in a three-by-one set, with three receivers to the left. That's a staple of what they do, as a team that increasingly relied on "11" personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers) as the season went on. The play is a three-level stretch concept. LaVon Brazill ran a short route, Coby Fleener ran a corner route, and Hilton ran a post route. This is in a lot of playbooks. The New Orleans Saints are masters of this.
But what the Colts did here is they played off of a route Hilton ran numerous times in this game. So the Colts picked this time to play off that.
- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner7 mths ago
When I started really getting into college evaluation for the NFL draft about eight or nine years ago, one of the things I had trouble with was projecting bigger receivers in the NFL.
Size receivers rarely look fast on film when they run. I was wrong on some guys because I would note that they weren’t fast. They’d do well in the pros and I’d wonder what I was missing. Then I started to look at the big guys differently. Their stride length is so long, that makes their speed. It seems like they eat up 15 yards in three steps.
Alshon Jeffery, a second-round pick by the Bears in 2012, has some of those traits. He’s not as purely explosive as a guy like Randy Moss was, for example, but he eats up ground so fast.
There was a play against Minnesota that really stands out to me. It was a 19-yard catch and it shows Jeffery's explosion.