The hell are you throwing me the ball for?
DK edit - Jacson published this on Friday but it was immediately buried so I'm throwing it back up to the top. Definitely worth another read.
So, how many of you had Bruce Irvin in the Seahawks draft pool? Liar! You know where liars go? No? I suppose I don't either. Happy Hour, I'd imagine.
Look, let's get one thing out of the way: the NFL Draft is arguably the most over-hyped event on the sports calendar. An entire cottage industry has erupted from what was once a smoldering pothole in a side road on the vast NFL map. It used to be a relative blip on the sports radar, a marble beneath the otherwise flat area rug of football's offseason; now we're bludgeoned with predictions, expertise, and analysis from all angles by pundits, radio hosts, bloggers, publishers, Chris Berman, TV networks, and anyone with a Twitter account.
It ain't a bad thing though. Hell, I'm guilty; both of feeding the hype and of gobbling it up. We do it because it's exciting, really and truly exciting, even if on the surface it's just a bunch of 20-somethings putting on ugly hats and shaking some guy's hand. It's exciting because it lets our minds start thinking about how next season will be different than the last one. Exciting because someone that wasn't part of our collective is now. It's exciting because it makes us think about football.
If there's one thing that unites all of us in this, however, it's that none of us really have a fucking clue what's going on. I mean, we can carve out some rough ideas based on team needs and perceived value, but the best we come up with is a rough etching of a reality far more nuanced and intricate.
Consider this, today I "out-picked" 97% of the people who played ESPN.com's Draft Forecaster game. Know how many picks I got right? Six. The winner of the whole shebang* only got 10 of the possible 32 right. Beat tens of thousands of people by being right 31% of the time. Mel Kiper Jr. was right on less than 22% of his picks and this is what he does for a living. That's not a knock on Kiper, either, because I actually think he's good at what he does, it just further highlights how tough it is to accurately identify the thought processes, strategies, and reactions in rooms full of highly-paid secretive professionals.
*Is there a word in our language that sounds as dirty, but actually isn't, than this one?
Now that the first round is over, however, we can stop prognosticating and begin reacting, and let's be real here, that's the best part anyway. Join me, as we revisit the Seahawks' pick and those of their NFC West brethren.
Arizona Cardinals (1.13): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame -- According to Adam Schefter, Cardinals management promised Larry Fitzgerald that if Floyd was available when their turn came around, they'd take him. Whether that's true or not, that's exactly what Arizona did and, in doing so, added the receiver I think will have the best NFL career of any in this draft.
Floyd boasts remarkable size at 6'3", 220 and uses it well, being widely considered not only a strong force on 50/50 balls, but the best blocking receiver in this class. In fact, if you watched Floyd much at all, you can't help but notice the ferocity with which he approached his blocking assignments, even on running plays to the other side of the field. It's a small thing, but an important thing, and I would even say a thing that's indicative of his mindset.
The big thing, of course, is what he does when the ball is thrown to him. The results speak for themselves: school records for catches (271), yards (3,686), and touchdowns (37) at a university that has produced Tim Brown, Raghib Ismael, Jeff Smardzija (a consensus 1st-rounder if he didn't decide to throw 98 mph fastballs instead), and Golden Tate. The numbers look great on the surface, sure, but they look stupendous when you consider that his quarterbacks were a ragtag collection of freshman and backups with zero NFL potential. A product of the system he is not. Did I mention he did all of that in a career significantly hampered by a broken collarbone?
The upside for Floyd is immense. The biggest on-field knock on him that I heard was that he may lack straight-line speed, but he silenced that talk with a 4.47 40 at the Combine. I said on-field there, because the largest cause for concern with him is behavioral. While never involved in anything nefarious, as far as we know, Floyd did have three alcohol-related incidents during his time at ND. Underage drinking by a college star isn't very unsettling on it's own, but the fact that it was repeated may speak to larger issues. Anyhow, that's not for me to say, as all I can go by is what I see and what I see is a big strong man-child that runs well, has great ball skills, and is committed to overpowering the guy lined up across from him whether he's getting the ball or not.
Perhaps Floyd's biggest impact will lie in what he does for Fitzgerald. Seahawks fans know as well as anyone what Fitz is capable of and his prodigious talent requires the constant attention of at least two defenders. For what it's worth, I think Fitzgerald is the single most skilled WR I've ever seen, and for the last few seasons he's put up insane numbers without good QB play or a legitimate threat lined up on the other side. You don't think he's chomping at the proverbial bit to get a new Anquan Boldin (who, by the way, is about the best Floyd-ceiling comparison I can think of)?
Look, Michael Floyd might not amount to much, but the same can be said of everybody in the draft. Even Andrew Luck! Even Andrew Luck. There are no guarantees in the NFL, but as far as receivers go, I think Floyd is as equipped to handle the pro game as anyone in this crop.
St. Louis Rams (1.14): Michael Brockers, DT, Louisiana State --Last season, the Rams trainwrecked their way to the second-worst record in the NFL. They entered the season as a young, promising team with some question marks, but they finished it looking like Andy Dick after an ether binge. Fortunately for them, Dan Snyder needed a quarterback in a year when there are two stellar prospects and did nothing to hide it. The Rams flipped their #2 overall pick to the Redskins for the draft equivalent of Scrooge McDuck's money bin, including the #6 overall selection.
It seemed like the Rams were a lock to snag one of the top offensive "skill position" players, whether it be Trent Richardson or Justin Blackmon, and give franchise signal-caller Sam Bradford a much-needed weapon. However, once the Jaguars lept them to snag Blackmon, the Rams flipped the #6 to the Cowboys for the #14 (and other stuff, of course) and, when Arizona took Floyd, apparently didn't see a receiver or back worthy of the 14th overall pick. Instead, Jeff Fisher's squad was left looking at 300 lbs of Michael Brockers and, as any survival guide will tell you, in that situation you remain still and hope he doesn't maul you.
Brockers is the latest in a long string of SEC defensive lineman whose size and skill would fragment our minds if we hadn't grown so accustomed to seeing it over the last few years. While not the type of lineman noted for his pass-rushing abilities, he is exactly what you want if you're looking for a run-stuffing behemoth; and that is precisely what the Rams needed, given their horrific run defense in 2011.
Last season, the Rams allowed an insulting 4.8 YPC, despite being run on more often than all but two teams in the NFL. Playing from behind dictates that you'll see a lot of rushing attempts from your opponent; St Louis knew this, and still could do nothing to stop it, surrendering 152.1 rushing yards per game. Brockers will provide instant help on that front, as he appears to be the rare DL prospect that seemed to realize more than size and brute strength are necessary to be successful and has shown willingness to keep his pads low and use leverage even when tired. He is adept at shedding blocks and finishing through ballcarriers when he tackles them.
Brockers also shows a relentlessness when he sees an opportunity to get in on a tackle and has remarkable bounce-back ability on the rare occasions when he's knocked out of position. Brockers strikes me as the type of guy who can be really solid for a long time, but Ndamukong Suh he is not. Brockers won't collapse many NFL pockets and may be subbed out on passing downs, but the solidification he'll add against the run will instantly improve the Rams' defensive performance.
Seattle Seahawks (1.15): Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia -- I won't spend a lot of time on this one today, as Danny has already done a great job assessing the pick here, and (spoiler alert) there will be a lot more Irvin-related content on this site over the next few days. I'll throw my two cents into the ring later, but I'll cross that bridge when the water's under it.
For now, I'll leave you with the following:
San Francisco 49ers (1.30): AJ Jenkins, WR, Illinois -- Another new receiver for Seattle's young secondary to account for, Jenkins possesses a slight build (6', 190 lbs) but mitigates it with where'd-he-go? speed and large hands (ladies). If you ignore the fact that he was near-universally considered to be outside of the top five WRs in the draft (I thought 7th at best), Jenkins has some really likeable qualities, like production.
Quick, name the Fighting Illini's quarterback. Exactly. And yet there are the 84 catches for 1,196 yards, right there on his fact sheet. So the guy can get some separation, and has pretty consistent hands even when coverage is tight. He also appears to be a crisp route runner, a quality esteemed by all coaches, but perhaps by Jim Harbaugh more than most, given how quickly the ball is designed to be out of the QB's hands in his system.
The downsides to Jenkins are evident, however. Despite clocking a 4.39 at the combine, he didn't torch nearly as many guys as you'd hope a 190-lb 1st round WR would. Might be a classic case of game-speed vs track-speed disparity, but that would strike me as a troubling trait from someone who's unlikely to cleanly get off bigger corners who jam him.
I'll be honest with you, this one is a head-scratcher. Jenkins seems like the kind of player that Brandon Browner would swallow up, and if a division rival's first-round pick can be neutralized by Brandon Browner, well, that gives us all reason to smile. You hear that, Browner? Don't make me look like an idiot.