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Peter King: Things I think I know about a draft that's hard to predict
MONDAY MORNING QB
Things I think I know about a draft that's hard to predict
Lord. How great was that golf? Angel Cabrera's approach shot on 18 and Adam Scott's putting and Cabrera's excruciating near-miss putt and Scott's winning putt ... and the sportsmanship. The real sportsmanship. And hitting those championship shots under such tremendous pressure. That's one of the best 40 minutes of sport I can recall, in any game, any match.
How many of you said, watching that: "I've got to get to the Masters!'' And you do. I scratched that off the bucket list two years ago, and I'm still determined to go again, once, twice, three times. Other than the theater and the beauty and the setting, what's so great about it? Everything.
Anyway, enough with my Masters infomercial. The next big sports thing is 10 nights away. That's the first night of filming of Draft Day, the next Costner movie, in which he plays Cleveland GM Mike Lombardi. (Sort of.) It's also the night of the first round of the NFL draft, which occupied most of my time this weekend when I wasn't drooling at the TV over the Masters.
This was mock draft weekend. When Paul Zimmerman suffered a series of strokes four-and-a-half years ago, SI's Mock Draft was handed down to me. I've done one forever, just not with the pressure that comes from following Dr. Z.
It used to drive Zim crazy, the time he spent on the unknowable. Many's the Sunday afternoon before the draft we'd be on the phone, Zim trying to crack the code of just one more team and asking if I knew anything to help. How angry he'd be if he found out something about, say, the Vikings at 11, that swayed him to make a change there, and then of course the dominoes would fall and he'd have to change 12, 13, 17, 18, 20, 23, 25, 26, 27 and 28. Aaaarrrrrgggghhhhh! Not happy Sundays.
Now, with round one of the draft moved to a Thursday night, the magazine has moved the mock to a week earlier. I used to file mine two or three days before the draft, online; now I file it 11 days before, and it runs in the magazine a week before. It's never very pretty. This year, it could be a stink bomb.
I talked in confidence to quite a few people around the league Friday through Sunday, so they could (I hoped) be relatively honest. I tried to barter some information as the calls went on, but mostly I was fishing. And the lines I cast over the weekend came up empty quite a bit.
Empathizing with me Sunday was Mike Mayock, the wizard of these things and of draft research, and we agreed on the three reasons draft-placement intelligence is going to be hard to come by this year. 1. The absence of no-doubt franchise quarterbacks means you can't pencil in great prospects at the very top. 2. There's a lack of must-have franchise guys at the top of the draft, with a bigger upper middle class than normal, meaning a Star Lotulelei could go sixth or 26th; beauty's in the eye of the GMs. 3. So many new GMs and franchise czars are at the top of the draft -- six new coaches in the top 10 of the draft, and seven new men running draft rooms -- that it's tough to predict what they'll do when they haven't developed a track record. Only two men among the top 11 teams in the first round -- Buffalo's Buddy Nix and Detroit's Martin Mayhew -- have been running drafts longer than two years.
"And,'' Mayock said, "you throw a Chip Kelly in there at No. 4. He could be so different. I'm not sure they value things in Philadelphia the way everyone else does in the league anymore. So we don't know that. Add to that the talent in the first round and the second round is pretty equal at a lot of spots. I could see [defensive end] Bjoern Werner going six, I could see him going 28. Right now, I think it's simply an unpredictable year. I feel very good about my player analysis as we sit here right now. I don't feel good at all about where those players are going.''
I'm in the same boat as Mayock. Here are a few things I know, or feel good about, in round one:
1. Kansas City hasn't found any takers for franchised left tackle Branden Albert -- I hear the Chiefs would take a high second-round pick for him -- and regardless whether Albert's moved or not, I don't see them doing anything but taking tackles Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher first.
2. Jacksonville GM David Caldwell, choosing second overall, says he's narrowed the pick down to two names. (Well, I should hope so, if you're picking second.) I think coach new coach Gus Bradley looks at a special pass rusher here, figuring he can find plugger interior defensive linemen and corners down the line, the way he's done in his last couple of coaching stops.
3. Oakland. Reggie McKenzie wants out of this pick. He really wants to recoup the second that was blown in the Carson Palmer trade. I can't see it happening.
4. Philadelphia. Eagles have been nutty about getting players who fit the 3-4. Hear they like Star Lotulelei a lot to play all along the line, even at nose. Where they go -- Geno Smith, pass rusher, best corner in the draft -- I don't know, but my guess is pass rusher.
5. Detroit. One of the two good tackles, Joeckel or Fisher, or cornerback Dee Milliner.
6. Cleveland. Another team that wants to trade out badly. The Browns might figure they can trade down a few spots and still get Geno Smith if that's who they want; maybe one of the tackle-loving teams -- Buffalo, San Diego, Miami -- will figure if Joeckel and Fisher are gone here, the only way to get Lane Johnson is to move ahead of Arizona at seven. (That's what I certainly figure.) So the Browns could be in a good spot to pick up the second-rounder they lost last year when picking Josh Gordon in the Supplemental Draft.
7. Arizona. How do the Cardinals not take Lane Johnson if he's there?
8. Buffalo. Heard guard a lot over the weekend, with coach Doug Marrone figuring he can get his quarterback either at 41 overall or by moving up 10 to 15 spots to get Ryan Nassib or the QB of his dreams.
9. New York Jets. Rex Ryan might want a corner (is the Pope an Argentinean?) but I hear he's awfully smitten with Barkevious (brother of Hughtavious) Mingo of LSU.
10. Tennessee. Another lineman, maybe a guard, is what I hear.
BANKS: Surprise at the top of Mock Draft 5.0
Scattershooting after that: I did one mock draft Saturday night that ended with no quarterbacks in the first round. But I eventually put Geno Smith in my mock for the magazine, because there's just too much smoke about him going in the first round. I just don't know who's going to take him ... At 13, Tampa Bay is growing impatient with the Jets on this Darrelle Revis trade. What I'm hearing is the current discussion is first-, third- and fifth-round picks for Revis, though I don't know which picks are this year and which next. If the Bucs stay put, they love Tavon Austin ...
At 16, St. Louis has to think receiver or safety. My money's on a safety here, because the Rams figure the market is so crowded with wideouts with make-it grades they can easily get one at 46 in round two. I think the Rams, and many other mid-round teams, worry about the long-term viability of freaky talent Cordarrelle Patterson. "Randy Moss type,'' said one personnel man to me. "That can be good, but obviously not all good." ... I agree with the Pittsburgh-Jarvis Jones linkage at 17 ... Study history if you want to have the best chance to nail the Giants, at 19, and know they've taken four pass rushers high in the last 10 drafts and just lost Osi Umenyiora in free agency ...
At 20, Chicago seems poised to take a tight end or Brian Urlacher heir, with all the offensive linemen likely gone by this point ... Cincinnati (21) likes Alec Ogletree and Eddie Lacy -- and a strange one for this high: Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden, who had a risky heart-valve problem in 2011 but now checks out OK. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has spent loads of time investigating Hayden ...
As I reported Sunday night, Minnesota GM Rick Spielman ate dinner the night before the Notre Dame Pro Day with Manti Te'o. The Vikings have four Notre Dame players on their roster. As Archie Bunker might say, Ipso fatso there Edith, that imaginary guy's going to the Vikings. Then again, he might not. But the Vikes do have two picks, 23 and 25, right in the Te'o neighborhood, and Minnesota has Tyrone McKenzie at middle linebacker ... Clueless about New England at 29, but the Pats pick 29, 59 and 91, and then not again until the seventh round. You have to figure one of those, at least, is a receiver, and one's a corner ...
Now for the Super Bowl participants. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh has been at a high number of receiver workouts, I'm told. "This isn't about 2013 for the Niners,'' one GM told me. "Harbaugh knows he'll be there for a while. They just lost Randy Moss, and Anquan Boldin is there for a year, and they don't know about [2012 first-round pick] A.J. Jenkins [out of Illinois]. Receiver's very logical for them there.'' Harbaugh is one who wouldn't be scared of Patterson. I like that match ...
At 32, Baltimore would love a physical safety to play alongside free-agent acquisition Michael Huff, but it could be that all three big safeties here (Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam and Jonathan Cyprien) are all gone, and a tight end they love, Tyler Eifert, is gone too. Alec Ogletree wouldn't surprise here, but the guy I gave them in my mock draft is someone I haven't seen anyone else put in the first round. It's that kind of year in mock draft-land.
Finally: Quarterbacks Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib and E.J. Manuel all should be gone by 41. (Buffalo picks there, and I expect the Bills to take a quarterback in the first two rounds.) The quarterback position is the toughest to figure in this draft. A sliding Geno Smith could make it more problematic if he's not taken in the first dozen picks -- and I cannot promise he will be.
Re: Peter King: Things I think I know about a draft that's hard to predict
I think this all makes for one of the most enjoyable drafts to watch in years. It kinda sucks knowing where everyone is probably gonna go and when.
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