Draft day is coming and, I feel like we have covered all the possibilities here at BCC, but, something was still lacking. I still don't have a clear picture on what is going to happen. I had to know, so I texted my friend John, "Who is Gene going to select?" I wrote. "Relax, it will all make sense soon," was the reply. "Come on John, help me out here" I quickly typed. The cell rang, "What is your problem?" John said. "I don't get it John, there is all this conflicting information, help me make sense of it" I pleaded. "So, why is this year any different than any other draft, it is always like this, sit tight" he said. He is right; it is always a jumbled mess at this time, that's why Mel Kiper has a job, no matter how silly he gets. "But, you always know, humor me" I said. "OK, let's go through it together and see what we see. What is the difference in this draft between the offense and defensive selections?" he asked. The question stumped me; I didn't realize there was a difference. "I give up" I answered. "The college defensive players are stacked with seniors, the offense guys are mostly juniors" he said calmly. I hadn't noticed. "Let's break down the draft as if we are a General Manager" he continued.
"The linebackers represent the greatest value in the draft, there are eight good linebackers in this draft, Curry, Maualuga, Cushing, Matthews, Laurinaitis, Barwin, English and Sintim, all seniors and all top two round selection value" he pointed out. "Some of these guys are going to go at tremendous bargain rates and two or three can be pro-bowl caliber players" he continued. "Any team in the lower half of the first or upper half of round two will score" he said. That makes sense to me, a good linebacker is a great asset, and one at a decent price is a plus.
"Now, look at the receivers" he said, "Crabtree, Maclin, Heyward-Bey, Robiskie, Harvin, Britt, and Nicks, all are mostly juniors with only Robiskie a senior". Does that matter, I thought to myself. John read my mind. "Receivers are risky anyway, juniors even more so" he went on. "Give me any of those linebackers over these receivers any time" he said as if it was obvious to everyone except me. "Any team picking a receiver in round one isn't value picking, they are reaching" he said with assurance. "But John, juniors can play football, right?" I asked. "Yes, if they have their heads on right, but look who is screwing up right now, Andre Smith is out of shape, Hakeem Nicks gained 15 pounds, Percy Harvin failed a drug test, Vonte Davis even has issues. All four are juniors, they're not taking good advice, that extra year of maturity matters" he replied.
"Now, the defensive line guys look strong as well" he said without taking a breath. "Defensive ends are always a risky investment, but Orakpo, Tyson Jackson, Robert Ayers, Michael Johnson, and Jarron Gilbert can all go in rounds one or two. Add in Raji, Peria, and Hood and there are eight good defensive seniors that will bring value somewhere" he said. "Watch for teams selecting these guys as smart teams" he stated. "Everette Brown and Aaron Maybin are juniors and will need more time, and I am not sure why teams would select them over the others unless they want to wait for the development". I thought about last year's crop of first round defensive guys, and no one panned out. Again, he read my thought. "Much more risk in the defensive line" he said, "but you have to keep picking because it is the line that dictates the game most often" he said.
OK, so the linebackers look strong, the D-line has some possible value; the receivers are risky, "What else?" I mumbled.
"The Quarterbacks and Running backs are all juniors as well" he stated. "Stafford, Sanchez, Freeman, Wells, Moreno, Brown and McCoy are all coming out early" he said. "But, you like Sanchez, you told me he was a transcendental player" I said. "I also said in two years he would be good, he needs a team with a line and support, it won't be automatic" he replied. "If you have time to develop a player, a junior is a good option but rarely a savior" he continued.
So, all of the offensive playmakers are risky juniors and the defense looks like seasoned college players with bargain written all over them. "John, what about the offensive line?" I quizzed.
"A good bunch of tackles, and a great group of centers" he said. "Jason Smith, Monroe, Oher, Beatty, and Meredith are good selections, Unger, Mack and Wood are great center choices" he said. "Any team that gets a center is making a good choice" he continued. "Andre Smith and Eben Britton are juniors and may need more time, but there are no guards that look like value selections" he said. "John, shouldn't we go left tackle at number eight?" I asked. "I don't think so", he replied, "I would trade down and grab a linebacker."
As usual I don't get it, a left tackle is a huge asset and ignoring that position makes no sense, so I ask. John explained, "I am beginning to think that the entire line needs to be balanced, a good left tackle but a weak center or guard doesn't help as much as strength across the board. It might mean having an ok but not great left tackle". "Look at St. Louis, they had Orland Pace at left tackle but still allowed a ton of sacks" he said. "In 2005 Tra Thomas allowed one sack, yet the line as a whole allowed 41 sacks. Khalif Barnes didn't allow all the sacks on David last year, the line needs strength across the board." He continued, "Paying number eight money without the rest of the line being strong is a waste, 3-4 defenses are set up to find the weakness and attack it" he said. I still didn't understand and might not agree but I let it go. I'll ask another time.
"The cornerbacks are ok, I still think Alphonso Smith has something to prove and the safeties are so-so" he said. "So, there you have it" he summed up. "There I have what, you didn't tell me anything" I complained.
"I told you everything" he said, "let's go over it again". "The best draft scenario is to trade down, grab a linebacker, a center, a cheaper left tackle or preferably a decent third round defensive lineman. That is what this draft is offering in true value". "Maybe, just maybe if you get more choices and Brian Robiskie or Alphonso Smith are sitting there, you take a calculated risk". He went on to say "I am guessing Gene would take three second round choices over that one number eight spot, but it is not up to him". With that he said goodbye and hung up.
As per usual, my thinking has been blown apart. Is it true you don't need a great left tackle as much as a good overall line? Is it true the draft has more value in the non-playmakers? Should we ignore a potential game breaking receiver just because he is a junior, deeming him too risky? Is this what Gene is setting up with Tra Thomas and Torry Holt? Is this how Gene sees the draft? If John has his way it sounds like he would trade the number eight for more selections later and take (2) James Laurinaitis or Larry English or Conner Barwin, (2) Brian Robiskie or Alphonso Smith or William Beatty, (2) Alex Mack or Eric Wood and (3) Ron Brace or Fili Moala, or some other weird combination. I am still confused, and will have to wait until Saturday to find out.