Earlier this week I posted a mock draft article "Typical Mock Draft" that instantly became the most-read article I've ever posted. The funny thing is that originally that entire mock draft was going to be an addendum to this article, but I said "screw it, I'm lazy" and cut/pasted it into it's own piece so that I could buy some time.
I don't know why I ever try hard on articles. Clearly it's better to just cut and paste!
So this one is not so funny. It's serious business. Sorry everyone. All I will be doing today is going over how none of the mock drafts on the internet seem to have anything in common right now. Even for mock drafts, this is a weird year. I could see it getting to the point where by April 25th, we will be laughing at what people were projecting as top five picks in February. It could get that crazy in the next two months because you've got potentially six quarterbacks that you could see drafted in the first round and yet none of them are guaranteed to go in the first round.
I mean literally nobody is a guarantee at this point but it would be quite shocking to not see Luke Joeckel slip to round two. It would be a little less shocking to see Geno Smith fall that far, though he still probably won't.
I've been following the NFL draft pretty closely for probably fifteen years. It made me sad when they moved the first round to Thursday because I used to get up early on the Saturday of the draft, hold all my calls, prepare enough pizza rolls for the next 12 hours, and buckle into my seat while holding onto my butt. Years ago, when I had a girlfriend, early in the relationship I told her "Oh, this Saturday is the draft so don't bother trying to contact me because I'm busy."
Hi, I'm single.
I don't have the mind of a scout like Derek Stephens or Rob Staton. I am not a play-by-play guy like Danny Kelly. I'm not a women-want-him-men-want-to-be-him like Jacson Bevens. I am the history guy. I look at the GM, the team, the needs, drafts in year prior, and evidence to tell me what a team will probably do in the draft. I make fun of mocks but at the same time, I would probably throw one together because it's fun to guess. Right now I am compiling thousands of points of data from prior drafts and I can't wait to sit down with you guys and go over it but today I just want to go over a few questions and arguments that are controlling the 2013 NFL mock drafts and leading the discussion. As of now, it has very little to do with the Seahawks picking at 25, but it will eventually get there and could have serious implications to what they do eventually.
Here are the questions I am pondering today, beginning with a QB that many of us were sitting here a year ago thinking "how can we not suck and also draft this guy?" Well, you sort of got your wish but I wouldn't think you'll still be wishing to use a first round pick on him.
Is Matt Barkley a first round pick?
One useful thing about Walter Football is the Mock Draft Database that compiles all of the mock drafts around the internet, whether good (few of them) or bad (many of them). A surprising number of mocks in Walter's database have Barkley as not only a first round pick but as a top five pick. In fact, 42 of them do! Just one small caveat: 41 of those have not been updated since last year, most of them were last updated before December. The only mock draft right now of recent days that Barkley in the top five is actually SBNation's own Behind the Steel Curtain Steelers blog, where they have Barkley going to the Jaguars at 2. While I actually take no issue with the idea that the Jaguars could reach for a QB early, this is a very weird thing to say about a 2-14 team:
The Jaguars have a more than solid defense, a good receiving group, a great running back, and a good offensive line but have absolutely no quarterback play.
Jacksonville is not "one player away" and all of their struggles don't belong to Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. I think that a "solid defense" would be like slightly-above average, so then a "more than solid defense" would be like top 8 right? The Jags problems are mostly on offense, but they don't have a great defense. That's neither here nor there in regards to Barkley, but I wouldn't say it's "out of bounds" to say that maybe Jacksonville would select him. Just because you're the only guy in a bunch saying something, it doesn't mean you're wrong.
As far as the whole first round goes, a rough guess would tell me that about half of the mocks have Barkley going in the top eight while the other half have him falling out of the first round altogether. Rob Rang has him going to the Cardinals. Walter Football doesn't have him anywhere. Dane Brugler has Barkley to the Bills. Dan Kadar doesn't have him anywhere. Rob Staton is a fan of Barkley's still and has him going to the Cards as well. Scout the Seahawks doesn't have him anywhere.
Matt Barkley is an interesting case, but he's not a unique one. The "elite prospect goes back to school and hurts his stock" isn't a new concept. Does it effect a players future success though? Carson Palmer went back to school. Matt Leinart went back to school. Mark Sanchez declared early. Maybe the problem is just going to USC.
Additionally, Barkley is a 6'2", 230 lb QB that I have never once heard had any physical attributes that would scare NFL teams away. And then out of nowhere *fart*:
One AFC scouting director told the NFL Network's Albert Breer that USC QB Matt Barkley can be compared physically to Kellen Moore.
Moore (who sort of reminds me of a grown up version of the kids in Big Daddy) is 6'0", 200 lbs, and looked very slight on the blue field compared to other draft prospects. Not saying that you can't be a successful QB at, say, 5'10" even, but is Moore really a comparison for Barkley? One of them was considered an elite prospect less than a year ago, the other was never taken seriously for the next level. Did Barkley get smaller and really see his skills deteriorate that quickly?
Staton is less concerned about Barkley because he was more-or-less the same player he was as a highly-rated junior and was surrounded by bad coaching. We've seen others point out that it's best to have a QB that's not just stagnant in his last school year, but improved. The funny thing about this years draft is that its common to have a polarizing quarterback. It's less common to have five of them.
Are there any first round quarterbacks?
While most mock drafts have Geno Smith going somewhere in the first round, the most-read mock drafter (probably), Mel Kiper, has zero quarterbacks going in the first round. He adds a note that a team could very well trade into the backhalf of the first round and grab a quarterback but doesn't feel comfortable at this juncture predicting an average QB prospect to a top ten team simply because they need one. There's some validity in that, especially since the lack of "eliteness" in this group gives some weight to having someone like Barkley drop to that 25-35 range. Here are the teams I see as QB-possible:
KC, JAX, OAK, ARZ, BUF, NYJ
Now, only the Raiders are a team without a second round pick. That could lead Oakland to being the most-likely team that drafts a QB early even though I have only seen a handful of mocks project Geno Smith to the Raiders if he gets past the top two. That's also conceivable. (However, I would rather see the Raiders re-structure Carson Palmer, re-sign Matt Leinart, and draft Barkley to start ahead of both. That would be magical.)
That leaves five teams that sit at the top of the second round and realistically you will always get teams at the backhalf of the first round that are willing to trade down. They're already successful, so they don't mind taking advantage of grabbing a few extra picks. (Especially the Seahawks.) So let's say that the Raiders draft Smith and nobody else takes a QB in the top nine.
Barkley, Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib, E.J. Manuel, and Tyler Bray.
All the Cardinals have to do would be bank on the Bills and Jets passing on a QB but then do they even have to bank on that? Maybe they prefer Glennon and Wilson over Barkley. There is no real consensus on any of those first three to be honest and it's conceivable that a team could actually find Bray to be a better value than Barkley. The Chiefs could like Wilson the most and just draft Luke Joeckel, bide their time, and then trade their second to the Packers with another draft pick and take Wilson just to ensure they get him before the Jaguars do. Or the Jaguars could love Barkley, draft Star Lotulelei in the first and Barkley at the end of the first with a trade to the Patriots.
It all sets up, as of today, as a "nobody knows anything about the QBs" because you could literally have five of them go in the top nine or none of them go in the first round.
The other very important part of this equation is that if you draft a QB this year and still suck, you have put yourself in a position where you might have to either pass on a QB next year or embarrassingly find yourself already looking to replace him in 2014. Look at the Cleveland Browns, who traded away their #7 pick to the Falcons just so they could use it on Brandon Weeden? And now the Browns have a QB competition. The reason I bring this up is that you could see the Chiefs draft Smith, start him in Week 1 because that's what we do, he struggles because those kinds of things happen, and then KC is picking 1st next year.
Now KC is staring at Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, and Tahj Boyd. Probably all better prospects than anyone in this draft by a mile. You ready to cut ties with Smith, KC? Because that's what you're going to have to do. More likely, you will trade down and think "We got it all figured out!" but I would rather have an elite franchise QB and nothing else than a mediocre-to-bad QB and extra draft picks. It's all about the QB, so you better be sure you know what you're doing when you pick one early.
So should they pick Geno?
Geno Smith or Luke Joeckel?
Okay, I left out one small part about next years draft: Jadaveon Clowney. The Chiefs could still take Smith, suck, then draft Clowney next year if they are lucky. But what if they're unlucky and finish with only the 5th worst record?
It could end up being a pretty incredible draft next year, which is why it sucks for the Chiefs to have sucked when they did. This draft looks underwhelming at the top and the best prospects do not seem to fit in the KC puzzle. Which is probably why more people are evenly split on whether it's Smith or Joeckel.
Only a couple of people have anyone besides those two, though Todd McShay thinks that Lotulelei is the top pick. It's possible that we've never seen a better 2-14 team in NFL history. They've got an elite running back, a great receiver (for now), three Pro Bowl players on defense, and Brandon Albert at left tackle if they can re-sign him. KC could draft Joeckel and re-sign Albert, moving him to RT, but most don't seem to feel comfortable that KC can get better if they use their top pick on a position that's not a huge problem. QB is the huge problem, but they really should have delayed their sucktitude by one year. This class is not very exciting.
The Chiefs used their top pick on Dontari Poe last year, so do they want to go back to that area of the defense with Star? Could they find a spot for Barkevious Mingo? Perhaps get really crazy and put Dee Milliner opposite of Brandon Flowers? I still find it most comfortable to take Joeckel right now, but I'm also on board with the 5% of mock draft experts that think it won't be either Smith or Joeckel. Trading down would be the best case scenario, but they'll have a hard time at the moment convincing another team that there is a must-have player in this draft that won't slip to them anyway. Like I said earlier, teams are going to get legitimately better value by drafting a quarterback if they wait 25-30 picks. If the Chiefs pass on Smith, it could start a run on teams passing on QBs and play out as Kiper predicts.
It's a very odd draft, and these are only a few of my questions. But it's still only February.