We’re a little less than a month away from the draft, but there’s still quite a bit teams need to gather about the prospects they’re considering drafting in early May. Private workouts are finishing up, final scouting reports are being reviewed and team-by-team draft projections are being finalized for every NFL franchise.
Where the quarterbacks land on draft day is still to-be-determined, but how teams view these passers is becoming clearer as the process continues. Could the Browns have a split in the decision making when it comes to which passer they want? How do teams view AJ McCarron? What will the Jaguars do at #3 overall? And which two defensive lineman are highly viewed by NFL teams.
That and more in this edition of State of the Draft.
-We’ll start with the quarterbacks, because that’s where most draft discussion starts. I’ve heard teams expect Blake Bortles to impress during private workouts thanks to his skill-set and ideal size as a quarterback. Drafting a quarterback with clear developmental needs is concerning, but getting the chance to see them up close (and having your quarterback coach meet with him) could work to ease teams’ minds about how far away he really is.
-Dane Brugler of CBS Sports echoed these thoughts on Wednesday too, but Jimmy Garoppolo is a coveted man, and likely won’t last far into the second round if he gets there at all. After speaking with him, his coaches and teammates from his time in college and at all-star events, it’s clear he’s a highly intelligent quarterback with legitimate leadership capabilities. More importantly, he’s a guy that his teammates truly respect and will “go to war with”. That may seem minor, but having a guy who can foster confidence in himself through the locker room isn’t easy to find and could pay huge dividends. Just ask scouts how Joey Harrington and Blaine Gabbert’s lack of locker room confidence affected their development.
-Even before the story on AJ McCarron having his wedding to Katherine Webb be made into a TV show came out, teams had concerns about his ability to fit as a quarterback in an NFL locker room. He hasn’t drawn rave reviews from teams as it relates to his character, and at least one team has dropped him significantly after meeting with him. Football IQ-wise, he may be the second most pro-ready quarterback in this class (behind Teddy Bridgewater), but teams may opt for upside over McCarron.
-The Cleveland Browns are going to draft a quarterback someplace in the top-40 picks. That seems clear. Which one they might target? That’s less clear. From what I’ve heard, the scouting staff may prefer Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo, both 26th or 35th overall targets. However, new head coach Mike Pettine and owner Jim Haslam reportedly are excited about the potential of landing Johnny Manziel. I’ve long put Manziel at the Browns pick at number 26 overall, because of these rumors and that I simply can’t find a team fit for Manziel in the first round.
-The Vikings have been most frequently linked to Zach Mettenberger in round two, but they’ll strongly consider Derek Carr if he’s available at #8 overall. Don’t be surprised if Carr goes above Manziel, and potentially is the first quarterback taken.
-Jaguars are going to be a fun team to follow on draft day, both because they have a host of picks and they could go in so many directions. But at number three overall, they could go a number of different ways. First off, if Jadeveon Clowney is there, he’ll be the pick. After him, both Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are strong possibilities at third overall. I still think they consider a quarterback (Bridgewater has been their man since mid-season, but that can change based on their recent private workouts) at 3rd overall, but it wouldn’t shock me if they pass on a quarterback in the first for Garoppolo in the second.
-Jadeveon Clowney is by far the favorite to be the first overall pick, whether it’s the Texans or Falcons selecting. We could see Houston wait to be on the clock before pulling the trigger, hoping to garner as much trade interest as possible.
-A Ryan Mallett trade isn’t dead…yet. The most likely scenario as of now is if the Texans miss out on their second-round quarterback target and instead opt to trade for him. Still, it seems unlikely.
-Prime trade-up candidates (including into the top-10 picks): New York Giants (Greg Robinson, Mike Evans), Baltimore Ravens (Taylor Lewan, Mike Evans, Ra’Shede Hageman), Miami Dolphins (Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews), Arizona Cardinals (Anthony Barr, Taylor Lewan), Philadelphia Eagles (Odell Beckham, Anthony Barr) and the San Francisco 49ers (Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Justin Gilbert).
-Injury concerns every year drop players further than the media expects. Austin Seferian-Jenkins and CJ Mosley are both contenders to slip a bit on draft day, especially ASJ.
-Mike Evans and Anthony Barr aren’t easy to peg as to where they land on draft day, but they seem to be the trendy “best player available” for teams that maybe miss on their ideal draft picks. Evans could go as high as 4th overall to the Browns, while Barr has suitors at 7 (Bucs), 8 (Vikings), 11 (Titans), and 12 (Giants). The Jets could be a team to trade up if he starts to slip.
-Ra’Shede Hageman and Kony Ealy both seem to be highly coveted, and both seem like strong top-20 possibilities. Hageman could go to the Titans and Giants, and I doubt he slips past the Steelers at 15. Ealy could have the Titans and Giants as suitors too, but the Cowboys and Cardinals are likely his two most likely options.
-Despite being under-sized and having more than few teams remove him from their first-round discussion, Jason Verrett may have an outside shot at going in the first round. Denver looks like an intriguing target. If cornerbacks go early in the draft (three went in the top-15 in my recent mock draft), he’ll have some options in the 25-35 range.