One must wonder how much work draft experts at the highest level put into their mock drafts. I'm not saying that they (Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Walter) don't put a lot of work into them, I'm only saying... One must wonder.
Because there are a million different factors that ultimately culminate into the final product known as the "completed NFL draft" and I don't think that's an exaggeration. If anything, I'm underselling it. Just looking at the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, from Houston to Seattle, so many different "things" (expert jargon for "stuff") will transpire that lead into the final decision of what player the Seahawks will choose. And even then, Seattle might not be picking 32nd anyway.
We love trades because they create an excitement where excitement had long since passed. Something as simple as moving up from four to three, as Cleveland stupidly did two years ago, can make us go "ughh. ughh." followed by an "ooh-na na na. ooh-na. na na." Because the second before we heard the news, there was no news, and the second after we heard the news, the Browns were picking a little bit higher and were going for running back Trent Richardson. (Which at the time sounded like an exciting proposition where Trent Richardson would get to carry an entire offense.) Not only that, but even more exciting for Vikings fans, they were still getting the player they wanted, plus a new fourth round pick, fifth round pick, and seventh round pick.
Yes, that's correct. In case you forgot, the Browns traded away three draft picks just so they could move up one spot to draft a player that almost certainly would have fallen to them anyway and even if he didn't, they could have used pretty much any other player available.
Conversely to that silliness, here's an example of a trade that makes almost too much sense.
The St. Louis Rams are picking second overall and 13th overall in the 2014 NFL draft. They have the Washington Redskins first round pick from their 2012 draft (the same one in which Cleveland said, "ahh fuck it, we don't need these extra picks our roster is stacked!") trade for Robert Griffin III, and that's what has allowed them to be in the same position two years later.
Back then, the Rams felt they had no need for Griffin, and the Redskins were soiling their jorts over him. They almost certainly overpaid for Griffin when they sent over the sixth overall pick, their second round pick, plus a 2013 and 2014 first round pick, but here we are. And once again, here we are.
St. Louis has a strength on defense in the names of defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Together they had 27.5 sacks last season, with 19 of those coming from Quinn, their first round draft pick in 2011. Long is expensive, but has racked up 41.5 sacks over the last four years, and his presence on one end certainly helps boost the effectiveness of Quinn on the other.
On offense, the Rams have quarterback Sam Bradford, the first overall pick in 2010. Though Bradford has struggled to take his game to that next level, where we would expect him to be the type that could carry a team to the playoffs if necessary, and that he's coming off of ACL surgery, it's hard for a lot of people to just cut ties with him. Bradford was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010 and he posted a passer rating of 90.9 last year before being injured.
In fact, over his last 23 games, Bradford has 35 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 6.63 Y/A, and a passer rating of 85.3. It's not amazing, but neither is anything else on the Rams offense. That's Bradford working with a lot of average offensive weapons and several really bad ones. That's St. Louis missing again on prospects like Isaiah Pead, and Brian Quick, and Tavon Austin coming along slowly as an unusual offensive weapon that's still figuring it out. Not to mention the continuing woes and worries of a shitty offensive line that's been like five anti-Orlando's since Orlando Pace retired.
Bradford could be released this year and the Rams would save $10 million against the cap, but if he's retained through 2014 and plays well, he would almost certainly require an extension next year because it is the last year of the mega-deal he signed as a rookie before he ever took an NFL snap.
Last year, St. Louis signed left tackle Jake Long to a four-year deal. He was placed on injured reserve in December with a torn ACL, MCL. If he returns at some point next season healthy, he would still technically be on contract for two more years, but it's still an obvious need.
Given that information, here's what we know about the prospects being considered with the second overall pick:
- Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney
- Quarterbacks Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgwater, and maybe even Derek Carr.
- Wide receiver Sammy Watkins
- Offensive tackle Greg Robinson
- Outside linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack
What we know about Mack and the Rams is that he has visited with the team, that Dane Brugler compares him to Quinn, and that they are "strongly considering" Mack at two. But that seems like a smokescreen to me. St. Louis already has Alec Ogletree at one OLB spot, and they literally already have Quinn at DE. The other OLB is Jo-Lonn Dunbar (who I think should change his name to Joe-Don Baker) and he's of starter quality. If you're looking at Watkins, Clowney, or Robinson, why in the world would you take a position that's not of great need?
It doesn't make any sense to me.
Quoth the Arthur, Furthermore:
- Clowney makes sense from a "Holy shit but he amazin' tho" perspective. But the only way that the Rams would take him is if they made someone do a position switch and Jeff Fisher has been around far too long to be that dumb. Don't fix what ain't broke.
- A quarterback makes sense in terms of the fact that Bradford might not be a franchise quarterback, but if you draft Bortles or Manziel, you better just release Bradford. His trade value is nil, and if you take Manziel, you've just sent Bradford a memo that he's finished in St. Louis.
Therefore, I'd say that Watkins and Robinson do make the most sense. Having Watkins and Austin on the field at the same time, with the pretty-talented Givens, would be a set of weapons unlike what they've had since they partied in 1999. On the other hand, the tackle situation is really weak and Robinson may also hark back to memories of Pace.
Or, if you dare imagine, Jason Smith.
But do Watkins or Robinson jump off the page so much so that you absolutely can't take the risk to pass on either of them? As the daughter of the Sinbad movie Houseguest once said in regards to the boyfriend that was cheating on her: "Uh-uh, no way, no how, see ya!"
Much like in 2012, all that St. Louis has with the number two pick is a "playing chip." And thy name of that chip is "Jadeveon."
I do not believe that the Houston Texans will select Clowney with the number one overall pick. Despite more and more mock drafts leaning in that direction, everything I've seen points me towards the belief that Houston will take a quarterback (probably Bortles) first overall and nothing more. (I was originally writing a mock draft article that led me to this conclusion, all of which was explained there, but it became obvious that what was once an article soon became a novella of drama and intrigue and sexual tension between me and Russell Wilson. Hence, just one article on this one trade, and then possibly future articles explaining more theories.)
The Rams don't need Clowney and they don't need a quarterback, but what they could always use is more draft picks. Not only that, but general manager Les Snead has not only shown a willingness to make draft deals, but an affinity for it.
In two years as GM, Snead has made four trades in the first round. He dealt down with Washington, then dealt down again with Dallas. Last year, he moved up for Austin in a deal made with Buffalo, then traded down with Atlanta so that the Falcons could take Desmond Trufant.
Hmmm... the Falcons, eh? Do they like to trade up? Do they have a need? Mawwiage?
In his first year as GM with Atlanta (2008), Thomas Dimitroff traded up to select OT Sam Baker. In 2011, he moved up to take Julio Jones. And last year, he moved up to get Trufant. When Dimitroff wants a player, he gets after it. The Falcons are not gun shy about trading picks for players when the player is absolutely perfect for the team.
I'm not Clowney around here.
The Falcons current defensive ends are: Osi Umenyiora, Kroy Biermann, Tyson Jackson, Malliciah Goodman, and Cliff Matthews. Last year, Umenyiora led the team in sacks with 7.5 of them. No other defensive end had more than four. Umenyiora is 33 years old and a free agent after this season. The quarterbacks that Atlanta has to deal with in the NFC South include Drew Brees and Cam Newton.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan helped breed Cameron Wake into a beast in Miami and Elvis Dumervil had a career-high 17 sacks for Nolan in Denver in 2009. He was also the head coach when the 49ers signed Justin Smith in 2008.
How hard do you think Nolan is lobbying Dimitroff and Mike Smith on Clowney? How hard does he really need to do that? Clowney is also a native of Rock Hill, South Carolina; a four-hour drive to Atlanta in traffic.
Atlanta is currently slated to pick sixth overall following their massively-disappointing 4-12 finish last year. However, with a healthy Roddy White and Julio Jones, the Falcons are expected to get back to competing next season but they'll be a lot more dangerous with Clowney. If they stay at six, it's hard to envision which player exactly will get them back to prominence.
Mack is certainly a possibility and a player that could play somewhere on the defense immediately, but he should still have a few more questions about his ability to play on the next level than Clowney does. And that's even if he's available at six, which he probably won't be. But Mack's small school background just doesn't compete (for me) with the fact that Clowney wasn't only the best recruit in the nation when he went to South Carolina, but that he blew that hype out of the water two years ago.
He's a beast, and he's the type of beast that Dimitroff has shown a willingness to go up and grab.
The Falcons have a need at tackle and could draft Robinson, Jake Matthews, or Taylor Lewan, but none of those players seem to be provide the immediate "win now" lifestyle that Dimitroff has bred in Atlanta over the last eight years.
And it's not going to be a quarterback or a wide receiver and there aren't any secondary prospects that rate that high, so it almost certainly has to be a defensive end or an offensive tackle. Clowney just screams louder than anyone else and I believe that he'll be available at two and that the Rams won't take him.
He's too good of a fit with Atlanta, too valuable to fall past two, too not good of a fit with St. Louis.
Two years ago, St. Louis snagged three firsts and a second for Griffin. I think that Clowney is almost as desirable, and the Falcons have the same sixth overall pick, but teams are a little wiser after seeing how Washington has handcuffed themselves presently. In this case, I think that the trade will look like this:
St. Louis seconds first round pick (2nd overall) to Atlanta for first round pick (6th overall), second round pick (37th overall), fourth round pick (103rd overall), 2015 first round pick, 2015 third round pick.
The Falcons likely feel that with Matt Ryan, Jones, White, Clowney, Trufant, Steven Jackson, Harry Douglas, Umenyiora, William Moore, and others, they don't need to add a bunch of players in this draft to get back to the postseason next year. And they're probably right. That'll be a pretty dangerous team and it'll be worth it for them to move up, just as they've shown a willingness to do in three of the last six drafts.
The Rams meanwhile have never felt comfortable where they are at under Snead and Fisher, and would be just as good at six as they are at two. I am currently projecting a top five of: Bortles, Clowney, Sammy Watkins, Johnny Manziel, and Greg Robinson. The worst they could do is Mike Evans, Lewan, Matthews, Mack. But in this case they'd also be picking again at 13, and at 37, and at 44. Four picks in the top 44.
However, as Matthew Lillard's character once said in Scream, "But wait! There's more!"
I also believe that the Rams, in Snead fashion, will make a second trade. They could take Evans at six (a big wide receiver that would play well as a complement to the tiny Austin) and then take advantage of their newfound picks to move up again. I see an opportunity with the Buffalo Bills at nine, wherein St. Louis could trade the 13 and the 37 to move up and select the best tackle available, either Lewan or Matthews.
Just like that, the Rams would come away with Evans and Matthews (or Lewan) in the same draft and still be able to draft a secondary player in the second round. Plus, the Falcons would get their man Clowney.
So yeah, one must wonder how much thought one expert puts into an entire mock draft, even if it only covers the first 32 picks. As you can see, it took me over 2,000 words just to come up with a conclusion on a single pick.
Now that's what I call a "Scream, baby!"