Ted Bartlett evaluates draft-eligible prospects in his spare time, among a number of activities he pursues, including golf, MBA classes, and smirking about how much he's outkicked his coverage on the girlfriend front. When his kindergarten teacher told him that he was advanced, what she was saying was that, with minimal effort, he'd be able to do better than "really passionate" people who try their hardest. He also focuses on the NFL's business and legal environment, offensive and defensive schemes, going off on unrelated tangents, and all 32 teams in the NFL. Follow along as he offers his instant analysis of tonight's NFL Draft.
You never know what choices you’ll have in the draft when you’re at #25 - or wherever Denver ends up making their first pick. I expect some movement - GM Brian Xanders has moved around a good deal in all three drafts he's run for Denver, and likely will again, so the first pick could be one other than 25.
I’m a bit DT-centric in general at times, but a bit more so at the moment. I’ve made no secret of my feelings about the trenches, and DTs often take a few years to develop. Denver hasn’t made the move to deal with that in a long time, and the people they've wanted haven’t dropped to them. I understand that. Even so - each year you can’t find the right one, you are another year away from having one developed and in place. It puts more emphasis on free agency.
In the short term, that’s fine. I have no problems with the FA approach as long as it’s intentional, planned and generally fairly brief. However, it’s not a great approach long term to stick guys into holes because time is running out, and that’s shown for a long time with Denver. I’ve said this before - I think Denver should take two DTs in this draft. There are likely to be good RBs available in most rounds. The better DTs, though, are at the top. Like Willie Sutton, the famous old bank robber, said when asked why he robbed banks, "because that’s where the money is." That’s true of DTs, too, and it’s an unusual and deep year. Denver needs to fill their slots with the kind of talent that’s available this time. Claiming that this or that guy doesn’t fit your scheme has been overplayed. There are plenty of good guys this year that do.
|Rd||Pick||Player||Position - School||Notes|
|2||4 (36)||Derek Wolfe||DT - Cincinnati||via TB (w/ #101 for #31 and #126)|
|2||25 (57)||Brock Osweiler||QB - Arizona State|
|3||4 (67)||Ronnie Hillman||RB - San Diego State||via CLE (for #87 and #120)|
|4||6 (101)||Omar Bolden||DB - Arizona State||via TB (w/ #36 for #31 and #126)|
|4||13 (108)||Philip Blake||OL - Baylor||via NYJ (Tim Tebow)|
|5||2 (137)||Malik Jackson||DE - Tennessee||via STL (Brandon Lloyd)|
|6||18 (188)||Danny Trevathan||LB - Kentucky||via NYJ (Tebow)|
Take a likely top-15 pick at middle linebacker and add one trip to the Combine and what do you get? Good form on the testing. Luke Kuechly (KEEK-lee) produced such an outcome two months ago, and in doing so he showed exactly why the Combine’s best functions are to get medicals and interviews, look for outlying anomalies and serve to make sure that time will reward those expected to become higher draft picks with expensive semi-private training at the top facilities in the country, courtesy of their friendly, hopeful agents. His elite status also permits elite training. It showed.
I say hopeful agents because those representatives put out the cash for that training, which runs to 20 thousand dollars, and sometimes higher. They front other funds as well, and often lose money on the endeavors, but they’re hoping enough good will to get the next contract to negotiate as well. Much as it surprises no one who’s been in business, the best agencies usually take the lion’s share of the top market. Everyone scrambles to try to be the next success story - among both the athletes and their agents.
Are y’all ready to get RAMD? For the third year in a row, I’m doing a Rational Actor Mock Draft, which assumes that I know what a rational actor would do. Basically, if every team were run by somebody who thinks like me, this is what would happen. Please note the following ground rules:
2. This is meant to describe what teams SHOULD do, not what they WILL do. I’m not interested in regurgitating Peter King’s disinformed mock, and you shouldn’t be interested in reading something like that. Take this exercise as me sharing my thought process, and hopefully, a bit of football insight.
3. As such, I don’t care if this matches any actual picks, as they happen. When PK or some other tool is patting themselves on the back for getting seven or eight right, I’ll be smirking at them. When they bitch about agonizing over this pick or that pick for hours, I won’t be; there’s no agony to this whatsoever.
I’m glad we had this talk. Turn your clothes backward, and Jump! Jump! Because I’m the Daddy Mack, and I just told you to.
It's Lying Season for the NFL (moreso than usual), but it's no great secret the Broncos have a significant need at defensive tackle, again. Last month I profiled Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox, who is expected to be long gone when Denver makes its first pick at #25, provided they remain there. If that scenario indeed plays out, what will be the Broncos' options?
Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy has been talked about quite a bit. Certainly, cornerback is a point of need: perhaps of greatest need other than under tackle. Other folks will have other perspectives, but I think that in general, while interior OL, MLB (unless they like Nate Irving), RB, and possibly safety are all areas of need in degree, press-man coverage CBs and one-gap penetrating DTs might be the hardest to find as the draft moves on.
There are always the players who work out later in the draft, but my feeling is that the lines and the CBs are essential to Denver’s success this year. So is the Mike, but since we don’t know what Denver’s plans for Irving are, and we do on these two positions, I’m going to take the step of looking at the most desirable of the available DTs in Denver’s theoretical scope of scheme - the penetrating under tackle. Sadly, letting Brodrick Bunkley get away has also played hob with the nose tackle position, and some of these players make sense at either slot.
I recently rewatched the Combine film from Indy to study the DB tests and drills again. Combine can be overrated, but there’s an aspect to the live views of players that’s very helpful to a guy like me who makes part of his living doing and teaching postural analysis. It comes into evaluating players - usually ones that i’ve seen before, but if not, it helps me to understand what’s being said about them and to look for those tendencies, even on highlight film (which is often terrible).
I enjoyed watching the various players through the drills - not as much the tests, although I always like getting a greater feel for the players’ posture, and build - before I went back for a second and third look purely out of the pleasure of it. Although I strongly agree with those that feel the Combine tests are often heavily overweighted, the opportunity to do some analysis of why you see the things that pop out on film of the drill segment is one that I don’t get all that often.
Say, for example, that you have a player who has problems in his backpedal. On your average broadcast film, the back end of the field is out of the frame more often than not. I get to see the guy as the snap occurs (usually), then there’s generally a point where they don’t show anything on the defensive backfield until the pass is thrown or the runner breaks into the second level.
Perhaps the best linebacker-specific quote I’ve ever heard came from Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher:
I always say this: running backs and linebackers are very easy to recruit. When you hand them the ball and watch them, and you have to tell him where to run and what's going on, he's not a running back. If he's a linebacker and he's standing around the pile, he's not a linebacker. If he's at the bottom of the pile, he's a linebacker.”
I think that pretty much covers it. I want the guys who you find at the bottom of pile after pile. They generally have that only-slightly-controlled insanity that a top LB, particularly a middle linebacker, tends to carry, and finding them at the bottom of the pile tends to mean that they either made or helped make the tackle, or they've stolen the ball.
It’s official - according to the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective, there is no correlation between Combine tests or drills and success in the NFL. This is not news to me. The drills give me a chance to look at postures - how do they set their feet? Do they drop their hips easily on the backpedal? Smoothness? Power? The tests - the 40, three-cone and so forth - can confirm what you see on film, and they can sometimes give a marginal player’s scouts a reason to review his film, but they don’t prove much about future success. I list them for what they do or do not confirm, not what they predict.
I’ve fielded this question several times now, so let’s get straight into it - there’s probably not a lot of chance that Denver will take a center this year in the draft. I hope I’m wrong, but the facts are that John Fox really likes J.D. Walton’s blue collar attitude and work ethic. He’s dubbed J.D. ‘Trash Can’ as a result. The OL is the second-youngest in the NFL, and adding a rookie center would only exacerbate that unless that player is a major upgrade over Trashy. Denver looks, right now, as if they may try to keep the line together and let them mature as a group. Whatever my own feelings on that, it currently is how things stand. Jeff Saturday is still a possibility, and is scheduled to visit, but that’s about it as far as I’ve seen.
Even so, there’s really nothing like a good old position battle, and the centers from this year’s Combine are having a beauty over who is the best center in the draft. The question will be answered not by which goes first, but which plays best, but right how they’re jockeying for position with the fans, and it’s fun to watch.
With the rise of dominant tight ends like New England's Rob Gronkowski and the Saints' Jimmy Graham last season, and teams starting to see the position in a new (and very old) light, it was unfortunate to see that the TE pickings remain very limited this year. Yet, there's a chance one or two will surprise people down the road. The main reason is that the advent of the spread offenses in college have diminished the value of the position on that level, and fewer colleges are turning out legitimate TE candidates for the draft. There’s a disconnect there that will have to be worked out eventually, but for right now, all that matters is the options that are going to be available.
Georgia's Orson Charles and Clemson's Dwayne Allen were clearly the class of their group, with Coby Fleener of Stanford not participating. Both are extremely well put together - Allen looks a bit bigger, but Charles is by far the most defined in terms of his musculature. One thing that I look for is the level of muscular development - do they look more like a college kid or an NFL player? Are they at least slightly ripped? Do they have strong calves? Those are essential to anchor and cut well - Charles was the most impressive in that area, and in several others. If they block in line, do they have the bubble for it? How do they hold their hands in the rapid-fire drills? Are they natural receivers, or do they struggle to have their hands in position?