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2015 NFL Draft: The wrong books

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Why many of your favorite draft sources are telling you to look at and like the wrong players; and some of the players you should see instead.

Preston Smith
Preston Smith
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

"You fuckin' people baffle me. You spend all your money on these fuckin' fancy books. You surround yourselves with 'em. They're the wrong fuckin' books." – Will Hunting

It’s strange how much of my world perspective(s) come back to a select handful of movies: "Swingers", "Pulp Fiction", "Princess Bride", etc. "Good Will Hunting" is on that list; first on that list if we’re talking the deeper meaning, rather than simple quotability.

Where we see Will in his dive rental living amongst stacks of books, getting that Harvard education for a dollah-fifty in late charges from the public library; I’m more likely to be found surfing through draftbreakdown and youtube watching as many prospects as I can get my eyes on. But the conclusions are similar…

Draft media are looking at the wrong fuckin’ prospects.

The whole process is actually fascinating to me. What is the origin of the early versions of draft rankings? Like, who determines which players open seasons as commodities or the buzzy names? And why are those people terrible at what they’re doing?

I would understand a production-based system: "okay, Vic Beasley was 3rd in the country in sacks in 2013…he’ll be a senior in 2014…he gets to open the year as a 1st round name." But then I think to myself, "Hau’oli Kikaha had exactly as many sacks as Beasley, but Kikaha opened as roughly a 3rd rounder." So that’s not consistent at all.

I’m sure there’s a significant element of conference-favoritism; the guys from SEC get 1st plug, followed by Pac12, ACC, Big12, Big10…whatever the order is. I’m sure there’s an element of film-study basis, but that frequently becomes useless across school years. Is there an element of intel from actual NFL scouts?? These are all rhetoricals.

The whole mechanism seems odd to me. And sadly, the mechanism is so lumbering. I mean, here we sit, most teams having played 10 games, and the machine is still woefully inept in evaluating the draft class based on a majority of the season’s worth of tape and production.

So this is my attempt to point out the Howard Zinn’s "A People’s History in the United States" of draft prospects:

Offensive Tackle

I try to walk a fine line between reading too much of other writers’ draft thoughts (so as to avoid influencing my opinions…#Pepsi Challenge), but reading enough to know where the national pulse is sort of registering. In doing so, I’m actually noticing that nationally people are realizing that the preseason OT names (Scherff, Ogbuehi, Erving, Collins) are kinda looking bougie. So they’re onto the first part of the equation, which is: not those guys. But I’m not seeing them finding the right guys. Not completely.

I am (unfortunately) seeing many people catching on to TJ Clemmings. I first wrote about Clemmings on September 26th (here), when he was projecting in the 3rd round or lower. Now, I am increasingly seeing him ranked in the 1st round (#23 with a bullet, as we used to say in radio, on draftscout’s current rankings), and he’s not done rising. The helium is real as more people watch videos like this one. The 2:00 mark is one of my favorites:

The second OT I’m advocating was featured in my Preseason Gems. At the time, news that Oregon’s Jake Fisher would be moving from RT to LT to cover for injury was just-breaking. Fisher has now played 6-8 games at LT, including games against Shilique Calhoun, Nate Orchard, and Hau’oli Kikaha; and I think he belongs at LT. Not only has Fisher looked really good against tough competition; Oregon’s OL looked TERRIBLE when Fisher missed a couple games mid-season. I believe Fisher was out in week 5 when Oregon lost to Arizona; the Ducks’ only loss this year.

Here is footage of Fisher taking on UCLA, including touted DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa:

Fisher is currently ranked #87, and his upward trend may stall in the 2nd round, but that’s kind of a good thing. We really don’t want all three of these guys going in the 1st round. It would be nice for one to linger till the 2nd and give Seattle options.

The third OT it took me a long time to be able to get a decent chunk of tape on. But once I did, I was fully impressed. Colorado State’s Ty Sambrailo is 6’5"/315 (pretty ideal LT specs), missed a few games early in the year, came back in week 4 and has been dominating the Mountain West Conference ever since. Most really good teams, be it college or pros, don’t really go anywhere without sound OL play, and CSU is now 9-1. Sambrailo is a big reason why.

Ty brings really sound form, deceptive athleticism, and a good bit of nasty to his game. I’ll embed video of his QB, but just watch Sambrailo through the whole clip…especially the 1st play (#51 at LT):

If memory serves; Sambrailo had been polling around the 50th overall mark during the earlier season. He’s now at #30, and that feels about right. Of course, I say that knowing full-well it’s more wishful thinking. I honestly prefer Ty over Stanford’s Andrus Peat, who gets top 15 projection.

Defensive End

The top names here read: Gregory, Ray, Oakman, Fowler (Beasley ranked as an OLB). My top four DE’s are the guys that project as the # 5, 6, 7, 10 defensive ends in draftscout’s class. Granted, I think Ray is talented and Oakman has crazy upside, but I’d seriously rather get one of Bud Dupree (#26 overall), Nate Orchard (#33), Lorenzo Mauldin (#36), or Hau’oli Kikaha (#48).

Orchard:

 

Kikaha:

 

Mauldin:

Dupree:

http://mvads.cdn.espn.com/now/stitched/mp4/4d993388-8b49-4f34-9e48-87906e690281/00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000/8c913e59-c00a-4d37-925b-27b6ed698fcc/ea9b53cf-6879-415b-adcc-e85114f837f1/0/0/27/-1802013810/content.mp4

Each of these guys showcase get-off, strong hand use, great motors, and leadership. Orchard and Mauldin are both permanent team captains.

Wide Receiver

I’m actually not that mad at the WR that are projecting to go in the 1st: Devante Parker should be 1st off, and some combination of Amari Cooper, Kevin White and Jaelen Strong just after.

But I still think most of the mock world is missing a huge chunk of talent that I would evaluate in the 4th round. These are names like Vince Mayle (#160), Tony Lippett (#155), Jordan Taylor (#203), Phillip Dorsett (#140), Cam Worthy (#269), and Kenny Bell (#174). Lippett I’ve probably written on the most. Dorsett is an undersized, burner (possibly 4.2 speed) out of Miami who feels redundant on this Seahawk roster. Let’s focus on Mayle, Taylor, and Worthy.

Mayle of WSU comes in at 6’3"/219, has 86 catches, 1152 yards, and 9 TD’s on the year (basically a top 5 performer). He’s also auditioned a bit as a kick returner with a decent 19.67ypr.  Seems to be a team guy; willing to take a ton of targets (max catches single game = 14), or willing to play a pedestrian role (min = 5 catches). He does struggle with drops from time-to-time, but so did Martavis Bryant last year. Mayle is on record having run a sub-4.50 forty, so his stock may pop after the combine. For now: available in the 4th where the Hawks will have 3-4 picks.

Jordan Taylor, from Rice, is listed at 6’5"/210, missed some time this year due to injury, but since returning has averaged 101 receiving yards/game, with 4 TD’s in six games. Taylor looks to be the opposite of Mayle…his hands are his best attribute, but his forty time may disappoint. But those hands. Watch some of the angles that Jordan is catching at:

Cam Worthy, from ECU, is listed at 6’3"/220, missed two games this year while suspended, but on the field looks to be a combination of Mayle and Taylor’s best qualities. He is on record for a 43" vertical, 10’9" broad jump, and runs really well for his size. May not post a 4.4 time, but a 4.55 at 220lbs is fine. Worthy only has 31 catches this year, but they’ve come at a 20.42ypc clip. 25 of his 31 catches have gone for 10+ yards, and he has the same number of explosive catches (20+ yards) as: Nelson Agholor, Rashad Greene, and Jaelen Strong.

I don’t have a full-game edit of any of his games, nor an edited highlight reel. We have to do it the old-fashioned way…

Redzone:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11479626

9 Route:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11752726

Slant with some YAC:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11519276

Nice adjustment on the backshoulder fade:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11519272

Comeback that looks like a Seahawk play:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11752344

Redline highpoint (probably my favorite):

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11517682

He gives you all the routes. He catches contested balls. He’ll get some yards after catch. And he’s currently projected as an UDFA. If the off-field stuff checks out…I’d go 4th round…EASY.

Running Back

Much like the WR group, I think draft media is fairly accurate on their RB projections. I’ve always had Melvin Gordon in front of Todd Gurley, which will now assuredly happen. I love Ameer Abdullah’s elusiveness in the 3rd spot, and I like Tevin Coleman and Mike Davis before the end of the 2nd round. Cameron Artis-Payne would be my hedge in the 3rd-4th round range should the Seahawks not pick RB in the first two rounds.

Then I have one sleeper, currently projecting an UDFA, who lists at 6’1"/238 and reminds me a bit of Christine Michael when he runs. As part of a RBBC, this back has run for 3114 yards and 41 TD’s in his college career. This is Alonzo Harris of ULL:

Alonzo has never posted better than 5.18ypc for a season, but he’s never posted under a 4.29 either. Actually, he’s numbers aren’t too different from Le’veon Bell’s at MSU. I love the way Harris attacks with the ball in his hands. He won’t show much ability to get skinny through the line, but once in the second-level, he becomes nicely elusive.

One quick play from 2014:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11882894

The lateral agility for almost being 240lbs is pretty intense. Hell, I’d take him as a RB/FB experiment in the 7th. Currently #402 overall.

Defensive Tackle

I picked Preston Smith in my mock draft a few weeks ago, but since writing that, and watching Preston some more; I really want to draft this guy, and I’d do it earlier than I did in that first mock. I think he’s better than Michael Bennett of OSU and Gabe Wright of Auburn. Both of those guys are approximately 6’2"/285, and Smith is more 6’5"/270. As much as I’ve been disappointed in Bennett and Wright’s run-stopping; I sort of feel like if we’re gonna go pass-rush only 3Tech in the draft, might as well get the better pass-rusher. If that makes sense.

Smith has 35 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks, 3 PBU, 2 INT, 15 QBH(!!!), 2 FF, and 2 blocked kicks this year. That’s what you call stuffing the stat sheet. Wright/Bennett combined only have 9.0 TFL and 3.0 sacks. And Smith can give you some legitimate passrush from DE, if need be. If the Seahawks go, for example, OT/RB in the first two rounds, and his projection holds even remotely true to his current #123 overall; I quickly take Smith in the 3rd round, give him Greg Scruggs roster spot, and let him compete for snaps with Moses Bennett and Cassius Marsh in 2015.

For 270 lbs, Smith has incredible ability to get skinny through that Oline.  Very cool.

Cornerback

I’ve been saying for a while now that I think this is a terrible CB class. But the more I’ve dug into it, I think this may only be a terrible CB class at the top, where the wrong guys are currently listed. Marcus Peters and PJ Williams are having off-field issues. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is looking small and overwhelmed on the field. And Trae Waynes looks merely 2nd round good.

For me, the CB class doesn’t start getting appealing until #64 overall, where Lorenzo Doss currently stands. After him, the list includes Kevin Johnson, Cam Thomas, Eric Rowe, and Josh Shaw in the next (hypothetical) three rounds. Add in the underrated Quinten Rollins and Robertson Daniel, plus the slightly overrated Ladarius Gunter and Bernard Blake (ranked in the 4th…should be the 5th), and this isn’t a terrible class. It’s just miscast so far.

Kevin Johnson:

Cam Thomas:

Eric Rowe:

 

Ladarius Gunter:

Lorenzo Doss:

I don’t have my mind settled on an order for these CB’s. It may not matter with the way Seattle coaches up corners once in-house.

MISC

I don’t have many ideas at the moment for OG, TE, or S. OG; simply because I think any player drafted to play OG on the Seahawk is likely playing OT at the college level right now. TE and S; simply because this is a terrible class at those spots.

Linebacker

I almost forgot about linebacker. And I think I keep forgetting/procrastinating studying LB’s because, after getting a couple nice futures players in Coyle and KPL out of the 2014 draft class, I feel fairly confident in finding a couple upside linebackers in 2015.

Derek Akunne, from North Texas, is a player that I just stumbled upon, but I loved this tape of his against LaTech. His reads are solid and his closing speed is rewind-worthy:

Akunne reminds me of a combination of Bobby Wagner and John Lotulelei. At listed 6’0"/242, Akunne is built like Bobby, but his hair-on-fire play style reminds me of Lotu. Akunne is not currently listed amongst draftscout’s top 1000 prospects.

The last player we’ll look at today is only a Junior, plays a LB position for ECU in a multitude of ways that suggest he’s playing a unique position on the Pirates. With 49 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 4 PBU, and 5 QBH; this is the versatile, and brutal Montese Overton:

Buckle up for this one. If not this year, even higher in 2016.