Check the picture, friends. It's 9 PM on Monday night, and I just got out of class. I had a busy day in the office, with another one starting preternaturally early (for me, anyway) tomorrow. I also need to devote some time to my impending housing situation tonight. I've decided that I have three hours to contribute tonight, and I thought that I'd reprise something I experimented with last year, which I called the Rational Actor Mock Draft. Last year, I did it as a PowerPoint slide deck and voiceover, but I'm going to write it this time.
This is conceptually different than other mockery for a few reasons:
- Every team has a rational actor for a decision maker. Essentially, I'm saying what I would do as the GM for each team, not what their actual GM will do.
- I'm factoring in two key hypothetical trades: Kevin Kolb was traded to Seattle for the #25 pick, and Kyle Orton was traded to San Francisco for their third-round pick in 2011 (#76), and a conditional 2012 pick that could be as high as another third. Cincinnati refuses to trade Carson Palmer, and he retires. This clears up the key part of the veteran QB market.
- One part of my mind can trade with the other, where it makes rational sense for both sides. I'm only bothering to do this in the first round.
1. Carolina Panthers Cameron Newton QB Auburn
The Panthers can't possibly have seen Jimmy Clausen play last year and still think he's their long-term answer. I begin and end with Clausen's body language, which is terrible in a Cutler-esque way. He's not a guy others will follow. While Newton has a mechanical flaw or two with his footwork, by all accounts he's been working hard to improve it. Newton is too much of a natural playmaker for Carolina not to take in this spot, and they'll just have to trust their staff to coach him up to the pro game.
We have a trade. The Denver Broncos trade their #2 overall pick to the Arizona Cardinals for their #5, #38, and #69 picks, and a 3rd-round pick in 2012. (Points = Denver Receives 2533-2650 points, Arizona Receives 2,600.)
2. Arizona Cardinals Blaine Gabbert QB Missouri
The Cardinals can't play another season with no hope at the QB position, and they should pay the price to get up to #2 for Gabbert. While I don't love Gabbert generally, I do think that fit-wise, he couldn't go anywhere better than Arizona. He's athletic and throws a good ball - especially outside the numbers - and although this may not be a perfect plan for Arizona at QB, it's the best one they've got. By the way, the calculation of points for the trade hinges on whether you discount next year's third-rounder by a round. (I would, and so would most/all teams.) The middle pick in the third round is worth 185 points on the ubiquitous trade value chart, and the middle pick of the fourth is worth 68, hence the difference of 117 points. If you split the difference, you have a pretty even deal.
3. Buffalo Bills Marcell Dareus DT Alabama
Dareus is narrowly the pick over Nick Fairley, based solely upon his greater scheme-versatility. The Bills had a pretty unsuccessful transition from 4-3 to 3-4 last season, and it's not entirely clear if they're sticking with it. George Edwards, the Bills' Defensive Coordinator, has coached both. I like Dareus for this situation to play alongside the excellent Kyle Williams. The two of them would make Buffalo pretty hard to run inside against.
4. Cincinnati Bengals Nick Fairley DT Auburn
Fairley is the most dominant football player in this Draft class, as I've said a number of times. Cincinnati famously ignores personality concerns, which I find to be overblown in Fairley's case, anyway. (I follow him on Twitter, and believe me, what he says on there couldn't possibly be a scripted act, and he's far less intemperate than many players. He seems less intemperate than me, actually.) The Bengals need some help with the interior of their defensive line, and as much as I considered Da'Quan Bowers, I had to go with the better player at the end of the day. The Bengals hit with the high-ceiling Carlos Dunlap last season, who also allegedly had character issues.
5. Denver Broncos Von Miller OLB Texas A&M
Miller is the second-most dominant football player in this class, and the Broncos have to be happy to get him here. By trading down to 5 so that Arizona can take Gabbert, the Broncos are essentially saying that they're happy with any one of Dareus, Fairley, and Miller, which I think is appropriate considering the payout. Miller can start as the Sam LB right away, and give the Broncos a ton of scheme flexibility in sub packages. He'll be a threat to blitz on every play, and given Dennis Allen's background, I like the way that sounds.
6. Cleveland Browns A.J. Green WR Georgia
I thought about both Robert Quinn and Patrick Peterson here, but I decided that the Browns had to go with Green. Colt McCoy has been named the starter, and I think that's a pretty low upside play, regardless of the wild love he's getting around here. He was better than I expected as a rookie, but I still think his ceiling is "average/limited starter". When you have one of those, like a Mark Sanchez, it's best to surround him with outstanding talent and let them make plays for him. Green is going to be a Larry Fitzgerald-caliber player.
7. San Francisco 49ers Patrick Peterson CB LSU
I saw a fair bit of Peterson at LSU, and while he's good, I think he's a bit overrated as a coverage player. Green made some plays against him in 2009, and so did Julio Jones in both 2009 and 2010, as did Jheranie Boyd from North Carolina in 2010. Cobi Hamilton of Arkansas made him look really stiff in the open field on this play. I think that Peterson's maximum value is as a press man-to-man CB, and I think that San Francisco is going to do a lot of that under Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers solved their QB issue of the present with Orton, and this is too high for Jake Locker.
8. Tennessee Titans Da'Quan Bowers DE Clemson
I think that the Titans would love to get Bowers here and pair him with last year's first-rounder Derrick Morgan, who looked good before he got hurt. The Titans have two underrated but very good DTs in Jason Jones and Tony Brown, and with those two young DEs, they'd be pretty tough to handle up front. Bowers isn't as much of a quick-twitch guy as he's made out to be, but I think he's still a 10-12 sack guy in the NFL, based on size/speed alone.
We have a trade. The Dallas Cowboys trade their #9 pick to the New England Patriots for their #17, #60, and #124 picks. (Points = New England receives 1,300 points, Dallas receives 1,298 points.)
9. New England Patriots Julio Jones WR Alabama
Jones is a Patriots-kind of guy, as a size-speed athlete who is an excellent and willing blocker outside. He was also coached by longtime Bill Belichick associate Nick Saban, and Belichick certainly has a way of drafting players from programs where he has friends. (See Florida.) With so many picks, the Patriots are a perfect candidate to move up for a blue-chip guy, and Jones can be a slightly less dynamic version of Randy Moss. The Cowboys are a great candidate to trade down, because their major needs are at 3-4 DE and RT, and both needs are pretty desperate. The value for both spots is lower in the draft, so you move down. Everybody has them taking a CB in Prince Amukamara, but that doesn't compute to me. Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman are good players who for some reason played badly in 2010; neither is a lost cause, to me.
10. Washington Redskins Robert Quinn DE-OLB North Carolina
This is a best-player-available pick, and I think the Redskins would be really difficult to block with Quinn and Brian Orakpo coming off opposite edges. Which way do you slide that protection? While I'm sure the Redskins would have liked a QB, the board didn't work out that way. There's going to be very good QB value available at the top of Round 2 though, so we can't really get too worried about it. I also think Washington would be an excellent landing spot for Alex Smith in free agency.
11. Houston Texans Prince Amukamara CB Nebraska
This is the spot for Amukamara. The Texans' secondary was atrocious in 2010, even after drafting Kareem Jackson in last year's first round. Jackson was about the worst starting CB in the AFC, but he should improve, hopefully. Amukamara is a better prospect than Jackson, and I think he could do a credible job on most #1 receivers from Day 1.
12. Minnesota Vikings Tyron Smith OT USC
I've never been a believer in Bryant McKinnie, and the drafting of Smith would allow McKinnie to either be shifted to Right Guard or sent packing entirely. Again, this could be a QB spot, but I don't think the value is there for a Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett here. This begins a mini-run on non-elite LT prospects. I think all of the first-round guys will be 10-year starters, and maybe make one Pro Bowl as an injury replacement between them. That is fine for mid-first-round picks, of course.
13. Detroit Lions Anthony Castonzo OT Boston College
Castonzo is smart, has B+ ability to move and bend, and he plays very hard. He's a lot like Jordan Gross to me, and he'll really help the Lions. As awful as the Detroit secondary is, there's absolutely no value at #13 at that position. Left Tackle has been bad for years in Motown, and Jeff Backus can finally move to Left Guard, which means the Lions can improve two positions with one pick.
14. St. Louis Rams Mark Ingram RB Alabama
Everybody has Julio Jones here, but he won't last till #14. I think Ingram would be perfect for St. Louis, because he'd finally let Steven Jackson cut back on his touches some. I don't quite think the Emmitt Smith comparisons are fair to Ingram, but I think he can definitely be a consistent 1,200-yard guy in a tandem with somebody. Anymore, the name of the game with RBs is maximizing each play with them, and Ingram is a maximizer of his talent.
15. Miami Dolphins Muhammad Wilkerson DT/DE Temple
Here's where the run on 3-4-sized DEs starts, and while many would say that Wilkerson is the third-best one, I have him going first. The reason why is scheme fit. The Dolphins play a lot of two-gap action up front, and Wilkerson is the best at playing that kind of style. Guys like J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan are more of one-gap guys, so I don't think they're a fit for Miami. After drafting Jared Odrick in 2010 and getting a strong season from NT Paul Soliai (strong enough to be franchised), the Dolphins have to like the prospect of adding another stout guy up front.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars Aldon Smith DE/OLB Missouri
Jaguars GM Gene Smith has been really preoccupied with building his lines the last couple years, and I think that he'll keep going to that end in the first round. The Jags still don't get to the QB enough with four men, and Aldon Smith could help them improve their pass rush productivity. I like Smith's length and speed to be a 4-3 DE.
17. Dallas Cowboys J.J. Watt DE Wisconsin
Watt is a Cowboys-type of DE, because he's a good pass rusher, and can quickly penetrate one gap. He can also hold up pretty well if they want him to two-gap. With Rob Ryan taking over the defense in Dallas, I expect a lot more one-gap stuff than most 3-4 defenses play, and I expect Watt to be moved around to a lot of different alignments, going from a 2-technique spot in a Bear look, to a 7-technique wide on the edge. That's how the Ryans do it, after all.
18. San Diego Chargers Cameron Jordan DE California
I think Jordan is a natural strongside DE in a 4-3, but he can do well in a one-gap scheme like the one the Chargers use. San Diego has been making do with guys like Jacques Cesaire for quite awhile, and could definitely use an upgrade.
19. New York Giants Nate Solder OT Colorado
Solder is a little tall and light in the lower body for my tastes, but the Giants have been living with a decent LG in David Diehl playing as a lousy LT for years. Consequently, Eli Manning has been hit a lot more than he should have been. This is another example of potentially getting better at two positions up front, as Diehl can move over and compete to replace the very average Rich Seubert, and Solder can move in as the LT. Your depth is also improved, because Diehl can play any position in a pinch.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Adrian Clayborn DE Iowa
I think that Clayborn projects really well as a Left DE in a Tampa-2 scheme. The player he reminds me the most of is Adewale Ogunleye, and he did a really good job in that spot for the Bears for years. Clayborn is quick enough to hit some QBs, but he's not an explosive pass rusher. I think that he'll be a very good 3-down player for the Buccaneers, as they continue to rebuild their line.
21. Kansas City Chiefs Phil Taylor NT Baylor
Taylor is huge and quick, and he projects to be a very good nose tackle in the NFL. I think he's a slightly better prospect than Dan Williams was last season, and Williams had a strong rookie year for the Cardinals after a fairly slow start.
We have a trade. The Indianapolis Colts trade their #22 pick to the Dallas Cowboys for their #40 and #60 picks. (Points = Dallas receives 780 points, Indianapolis receives 800 points.)
22. Dallas Cowboys Gabe Carimi OT Wisconsin
Jerry Jones goes all Josh McDaniels and gets into position to get his guys. This is the second part of the Cowboys' trade-down maneuver from 9 to 17; instead of taking Watt higher than they needed to, and being stuck with flawed offensive linemen at #40, they Cowboys move down, get their DE, and still land easily the best RT in this Draft class. If RTs ever got voted to Pro Bowls, Carimi would be a good candidate to go frequently once he got his feet under him. I generally liked how Doug Free played at LT last season for the Cowboys, and I think getting a useful guy on the other side has to be a high priority for the Cowboys. For the Colts, they think that having three 2nd-rounders is better than having one 1st-rounder and one 2nd-rounder. It's all about building depth at the bottom of the Colts' roster.
23. Philadelphia Eagles Mike Pouncey OG Florida
Pouncey is an excellent prospect as a guard, and the Eagles love to pick linemen on both sides of the ball high in the draft. The Eagles need to improve their ability to run the ball inside, and Pouncey would be a big upgrade over either of Todd Herremans and Max Jean-Gilles. Both of those guys are decidedly below average, and Jean-Gilles borders on terrible..
24. New Orleans Saints Ryan Kerrigan DE Purdue
I'm a big fan of Kerrigan, because I like guys with high motors. Kerrigan isn't the most athletic guy ever, but he's good enough, and he goes so hard that I think he'll have an Aaron Kampman-kind of career. The Saints have a ton of quality bodies on defense, and that allows them great scheme flexibility and a lot of opportunity to keep guys fresh. New Orleans has been built to be successful for a long time, and I think Kerrigan would be anther very good fit in doing so.
25. Philadelphia Eagles Jimmy Smith CB Colorado
This is the pick from the Kevin Kolb trade that I mentioned in the beginning. I think that Smith fits the Eagles' scheme very well, because he'll be best in press situations, whether man or zone. The Eagles do quite a bit of both, and their CBs have to be pretty versatile. There's some stuff getting around about Smith's "character" but when I've heard him speak, he seems bright, well-educated, and respectful to me.
We have a trade. Baltimore trades its #26 pick to Buffalo for their #34, #99, and #164 picks. (Points = Buffalo receives 700 points, Baltimore receives 694 points.)
26. Buffalo Bills Jake Locker QB Washington
Locker is an excellent fit for the Bills from a skill-set standpoint, because a Chan Gailey offense loves an athletic QB. His arm is more than good enough to deal with the Buffalo (and AFC East) elements, as well. Interestingly, Locker most reminds me physically and college productivity-wise of J.P. Losman, who obviously flamed out of Buffalo. By all accounts, Locker has far superior intangibles than did Losman, and I think this is worth the risk for the Bills. For the Ravens, this is a classic deal in the absence of an obvious player to grab; move down a few places, pick up a couple of picks, and keep the fierce competition coming at the bottom of the roster.
27. Atlanta Falcons Justin Houston OLB Georgia
Houston is really big for a LB at 270 pounds, but he's quick and he has some pass rush skills. He's also a local, from the University of Georgia, so the Falcons have to have good intel on him. I really like his fit with the Falcons alongside Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon. Lately, a lot of 4-3 teams are blitzing their Sams on first down, and Houston looks like he'd be really useful in a role like that.
28. New England Patriots Cameron Heyward DE Ohio State
I don't think that Heyward will be a big star for the Patriots, but I do think he'll be a good rotational guy on the defensive line. He displayed some ability to engage blockers and play off of their blocks at Ohio State. He's a good scheme fit for what the Patriots like to do, and he strikes me as a typical Parcells pick late in the first round.
29. Chicago Bears Corey Liuget DT Illinois
Liuget really should have gone higher than this, but he was squeezed a bit by the facts that he's a pure 4-3 DT and that a lot of 3-4 teams were picking in the recent past. The Bears let Tommie Harris go for performance reasons, and they really need to find an upgrade at that position. They could also obviously use offensive line help, but I think that Liuget is the best value here after having also considered Derek Sherrod and Benjamin Ijalana.
30. New York Jets Akeem Ayers OLB UCLA
Jason Taylor didn't work out in 2010, and an underplayed story was how the Jets lacked much of a pass rush from their hybrid DE/OLB position all season. To be most effective, that scheme needs its Terrell Suggs-type to be getting to the QB. I don't think that Ayers is a Suggs-type, but he's a piece of the puzzle, like Kyle Wilson was a piece of the puzzle last season. I can see Ayers getting 8-10 sacks per season on mostly speed rushes.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers Derek Sherrod OT Mississippi State
I think that Sherrod has the best feet of any OT in this class and that he'd be an instant starter for Pittsburgh at LT. That would kick the below-average Max Starks over to RT, where he would in turn replace the ungodly-horrible Flozell Adams. I could see the Steelers looking at CB too, but the value here is with Sherrod, to me.
32. Green Bay Packers Aaron Williams CB Texas
I know what you're thinking: Why would the CB-rich Packers take a CB? Williams is a unique CB, and I think he's a lot like 30-something Charles Woodson, in terms of skillset. By that I mean he's most effective in the slot, and he's a strong run defender. Since Woodson only probably has a couple of years left and could always get hurt, with Williams you'd have an eventual replacement for a key guy, and a strong fill-in in case of emergency. Remember, the Packers play Woodson as a de facto LB a lot, and that's a hard guy to replace.
I also projected the second and third rounds, to cover each of the first two days. Here is the second round:
|33||New England||Benjamin Ijalana||OT||Villanova|
|36||Denver||Marvin Austin||DT||North Carolina|
|38||Denver||Steven Paea||DT||Oregon State|
|41||Washington||Christian Ponder||QB||Florida State|
|45||San Francisco||Ryan Williams||RB||Virginia Tech|
|46||Denver||Kyle Rudolph||TE||Notre Dame|
|47||St. Louis||Titus Young||WR||Boise State|
|50||San Diego||Torrey Smith||WR||Maryland|
|51||Tampa Bay||Marcus Cannon||OG||TCU|
|52||New York Giants||Allen Bailey||DE||Miami|
|55||Kansas City||Andy Dalton||QB||TCU|
|56||New Orleans||Drake Nevis||DT||LSU|
|60||Indianapolis||Rodney Hudson||C-G||Florida State|
|61||San Diego||Marcus Gilbert||OT||Florida|
|64||Green Bay||Bruce Carter||OLB||North Carolina|
In this second round, there are still some guys who are going to be very good NFL players. You'll notice the run on QBs with Colin Kaepernick going to Tennesee, Christian Ponder going to Washington, Ryan Mallett going to Minnesota, and Andy Dalton going to Kansas City. I think that each of the four represents a good schematic fit for their respective selecting teams, and that each has enough talent (despite a few warts for each) to warrant being picked highly in the second round.
I really like the fit of UCLA FS Rahim Moore for Houston, and Miami CB Brandon Harris for Detroit. Both teams have horrible secondaries and can help themselves with those picks. I'm not as big a Mikel Leshoure fan as some, but it's about time that Philadelphia finally got a RB with some size to split carries with their small guy (LeSean McCoy these days). Atlanta got atrocious play from both of its OTs last season, and I'm a big fan of Lee Ziemba from Auburn; he was a four-year starter and held up every week against the best defensive lines in the country. I think he's probably a RT in the NFL, but he's an upgrade for the nearby Falcons, in any case.
Due to the (theoretical) trade-down from 2 to 5, and the (actual) Brandon Marshall trade, the Broncos have three 2nd-round picks here. I have the Broncos taking both Marvin Austin and Stephen Paea to play DT, and I think they'd complement each other very well playing together. Austin's fall from the top of the Draft is bewildering to me, because it didn't happen to Robert Quinn, and Austin showed up in much better shape at the combine and performed a lot better than Quinn did. Austin was considered a possible first-overall pick a year ago, and he still has the same talent. Paea isn't going to be a big-time pass rusher, but he's going to be really stout against the run. With all of the Over and Under stuff I think the Broncos are going to run up front, I really like Paea as a guy who can primarily play a 1-technique and hold up against double-teams. Kyle Rudolph could be this year's Rob Gronkowski, where he has first-round talent as a tight end and falls to the second round because of injuries. If he's available at #46, as in this scenario, I think the Broncos would have to take him.
Here, also, is the third round:
|66||Cincinnati||Kendall Hunter||RB||Oklahoma State|
|68||Buffalo||Greg Little||WR||North Carolina|
|70||Cleveland||Quan Sturdivant||ILB||North Carolina|
|72||New Orleans||James Carpenter||OG||Alabama|
|74||New England||Daniel Thomas||RB||Kansas State|
|75||Detroit||Kendric Burney||CB||North Carolina|
|78||St. Louis||Terrell McClain||DT||South Florida|
|81||Oakland||Chimdi Chekwa||CB||Ohio State|
|82||San Diego||Marcus Gilchrist||CB||Clemson|
|83||New York Giants||Luke Stocker||TE||Tennessee|
|84||Tampa Bay||Christopher Carter||OLB||Fresno State|
|86||Kansas City||Ross Homan||OLB||Ohio State|
|87||Indianapolis||Dwayne Harris||WR||East Carolina|
|88||New Orleans||Tyler Sash||FS||Iowa|
|89||San Diego||Jeremy Beal||OLB||Oklahoma|
|91||Atlanta||Jacquizz Rodgers||RB||Oregon State|
|92||New England||Sam Acho||OLB||Texas|
|94||New York Jets||Ricky Stanzi||QB||Iowa|
|96||Green Bay||Casey Matthews||ILB||Oregon|
Pitt WR Jonathan Baldwin was being talked about as a possible first-rounder, but he has fallen lately. I think he represents a good, big target for Cam Newton. Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas could fit very nicely with the Patriots, who use whichever back is going well at any given time. I couldn't resist giving Ohio State speedster/CB Chimdi Chekwa to Oakland; some things just must be. I like UConn LB Scott Lutrus as a size/speed guy for Philadelphia, and Tenneseee TE Luke Stocker for the Giants. Florida FS Will Hill is an outstanding athlete who lacks great film, due to poor instincts. He was a top-three high school recruit in 2008, and he's the kind of guy Baltimore takes fliers on. I think Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi looks like a quality NFL backup, and I think the Jets need to get themselves one of those.
Thanks to the trade down from #2 to #5, and the Orton trade (both theoretical for this exercise), the Broncos also have three picks in this third round. Having addressed Sam LB, DT twice, and TE, the Broncos are pretty free to go for the best players available at this point. I like Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray a lot, if you don't think of him as some 25-carry guy. Murray is an advanced receiver, and he can do a lot of the things that Reggie Bush can do to stress a defense. He's sturdier, and a better inside runner than Bush is too, albeit not quite as shifty in the open field. Illinois LB Martez Wilson ran really well at the combine, but for some reason he's not getting that much love from the scouts. I like his size and speed, and even if those things are a little better than his production, he was a pretty good player in college. A guy who was outstanding in college but showed bad measurables is Florida FS Ahmad Black. Black diagnoses plays, finds the football, and has excellent ball skills. I don't know if he'll ever be a starting safety in the NFL, but I think he'll at least be an excellent player in sub packages, and in the third round, you can be happy with that.
That's all I have for now, friends. I'm thinking that for Friday, I'll identify a few free-agent targets I'd like to see the Broncos go after, and join it up with this exercise to take a really theoretical look at what a 2011 roster could look like.
In a programming note, I was inspired to abandon the Hack 30 project by some of the comments I got on last Friday's piece about the pay wall the New York Times is implementing. I'm thinking that while criticizing specific points by specific people is within bounds, I don't really want to go forward with the disparagement of these people as professional entities. I used to think of myself as a blogger with something to prove - but anymore, I really don't care about measuring myself against other individuals.
I'm proud of our independent website, and I think that it's producing the best content related to the Denver Broncos. I'm going to focus on how we're doing as a team here and best serving our readership, and later for that picking-on-Pete-Prisco stuff. When looking at hacky stuff that he's said, I found myself wondering who in the world cares what he thinks, and I decided that the answer was roughly nobody. If you don't care, then we don't care, and all that good stuff.