On January 28th, the President delivered his State of the Union. In a different twist, I’ll steal that headline to give the current rumors I’ve heard, the speculation I’ve formulated, and the opinions that differ from the norm in the NFL Draft world.
Manziel to the Browns, Bills looking at guards, Raiders playing it safe, Rams playing it perfectly, Carr on the Bucs board, Mettenberger off boards, five dark-horse potential first rounders and more in this edition of “State of the Draft.
-The biggest rumor as it relates to the quarterback prospects is the reported infatuation the Cleveland Browns have with Johnny Manziel. I already wrote why the Texans won’t take him, and why more than a few teams won’t be the “one” that takes a gamble on him. However, the Browns struggle to find a head coach has me wondering if they are sincerely going to take Manziel. Despite the fact that they fired their head coach after one season, the Browns job is very enticing, as they have talent at key parts of their offense, a roster in place condusive to a young quarterback, and a division that’s about as wide open as it gets. So why did 8-10 coaches say “thanks but no thanks”? Could it be that the Browns are insisting Manziel is the quarterback you need to build around, and, like teams did with Tebow, said no way?
-I’ve heard from a source that the Bills were, as of the start of the Senior Bowl, strongly considering taking an offensive guard at pick #9. They apparently had their sights set on Gabe Jackson of Mississippi State, but he’s likely fallen to the second day. If Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, and Sammy Watkins are all off the board, don’t be surprised to see the Bills try to move down as much as possible, and still secure Zach Martin or Gabe Jackson in the late 1st round. Lots can change before draft day, but an intriguing (and logical) guard option may last throughout the process.
-With Dennis Allen, his entire coaching staff, and potentially GM Reggie McKenzie riding everything on the 2014 season, the Raiders are going to draft guys that are very "Pro Ready". Quarterback-wise, that means Teddy Bridgewater and AJ McCarron are the best fits. If they stay at 5, don’t rule out both of those guys, as well as Khalil Mack. If they move down (very likely, if possible), look for them to target linebacker (CJ Mosley?) a defensive back (Darqueze Dennard?) or that quarterback (AJ McCarron?) and then look to the 2nd-3rd round for their receiver/pass rusher help.
-The Rams are in a perfect spot for the 2014 draft, and I’d be shocked if GM Les Snead didn’t take full advantage. After drafting well the past two years, the Rams don’t have any glaring holes. If Bridgewater is there at #2, the Jaguars and Raiders will look to trade up to secure him. If Clowney is there at #2, the Falcons are nearly a lock to make the trade up. And if the Browns are serious about Manziel, they may jump up to #2 to secure him. I’d bank on the Rams having at least four Top 60 picks.
-Here’s a fun little connection to watch for: Lovie Smith, new head coach of the Bucs, hired Jeff Tedford to be his new offensive coordinator, and claimed he highly respected Tedford’s offensive mind. Tedford is the former offensive coordinator at Fresno State (before taking over at California) and he’s the one who developed David Carr. During and since that time, he’s stayed close with the Carr family, including Derek Carr. In fact, this past season (when Tedford was out of coaching), Tedford communicated with Carr almost weekly to talk and work with him. Could Carr be an option in Tampa, where the new regime has no ties to Mike Glennon?
-After a breakout Senior Bowl week, how high could Aaron Donald go? In our most recent Big Board (excluding quarterbacks), Donald landed at 11th overall. So where are some fits in the Top 20? Dallas at 16 is the best fit, but Chicago at 14, and St. Louis at 13 are both options too. Regardless, I doubt he leaves the 1st round.
-Logan Thomas in a nutshell? He’ll remind teams of Cam Newton, he’s a long-term/questionable project like Terrelle Pryor, and he’ll be drafted into a situation like Brock Oswiler. The fits I’m rooting for: San Diego (with Mike McCoy), Arizona (with Bruce Arians) or Minnesota (with Norv Turner).
-Bryce Brown. Tyrann Mathieu. Colt Lyerla? Horror stories were abound when Brown and Mathieu were entering the draft despite not playing for their college their senior season. So far, they’ve turned out fine. Brown entered an Eagles team where he fit the offense/role perfectly. Mathieu got to play with his friend/role model Patrick Peterson in Arizona. Could Lyerla reunite with his former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly in Philadelphia and realize his potential to be one of the NFL’s best tight ends?
-I’ve heard now a handful of teams have Zach Mettenberger off their boards, and it could be more. Team’s are very cautious about his past at Georgia, why he was kicked off, and what he’s been since. We’ve gotten a Jay Cutler-esque attitude, which may (unnecessarily) worry teams initially. The NFL Combine interview process will likely be the single biggest factor in determining whether Mettenberger is a 2nd-3rd rounder or is praying a team takes a late round flier on him.
-Based on his weight-loss plans, teams are likely to focus on Will Sutton’s junior film when he played well under 300 pounds. High 2nd round not out of the question.
-Where do Adrian Hubbard, Stephon Tuitt, and Telvin Smith in the NFL? We’ve struggled to find an NFL position for them. While they may have homes in the NFL situationally, don’t be shocked if all three go much later than their college hype may lead you to believe.
-Don’t forget about these five talented guys that are injured through the process: Quarterback Aaron Murry, receiver Kain Colter, defensive tackle Dominque Easley, and cornerbacks Aaron Colvin and Dexter McDougle.
-Five guys I wouldn’t be shocked that end up as 1st rounders, despite what people are thinking right now: Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, Miami (FL)’s Seantrel Henderson, Louisville’s Marcus Smith, South Florida’s Aaron Lynch, and Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller.
-When you’re doing Mock Drafts, keep in mind that team’s are going to wait on receivers. I wouldn’t be surprised if we only saw three in the first round, despite the immense talent in the class. On the other hand, linebackers that can play in a 4-3 defense, press cornerbacks (Jean-Baptiste, Desir especially), and sure-fire NFL offensive tackles will be at a premium this year. There could be a strong run on those positions between 25-45 in the draft.