It’s Draft Week … Finally
The uncertainty of the 2014 draft is only rivaled in magnitude by the walkup, which mercilessly comes to an end in three days. Whose name will Roger Goodell call first at Radio City? It's the Texans' secret, and they're not telling
My meandering T-minus-three-days draftapalooza column (attaway to sell the column, King!) includes an eye-opener from Mike Mayock, predictions from the cognoscenti, separating fiction from fiction [cq] on Johnny Manziel, a rundown of places I think I think I know something about, a way to make a four-day draft sound almost tolerable, and the hottest name in the draft.
My mock draft runs Tuesday on The MMQB. Until then, here’s what I know now:
Ten things, from 1 to 32.
From the top of the first round to the bottom, here’s what I’m hearing:
No. 1, Houston. The buzz about a trade-down or Khalil Mack to Houston instead of Jadeveon Clowney won’t die. The Texans are doing a good job of sending mixed signals to the GM community, that’s for sure. Mack’s in the dark, which is to be expected. I can’t see Atlanta mortgaging the farm on any player, so if the Texans want to trade down, the return likely won’t be a ransom.
Nos. 2 and 13, St. Louis. I sense the Rams like Greg Robinson at two—over Sammy Watkins and Jake Matthews. A St. Louis contingent went to Auburn on Thursday to work out Robinson; no negatives surfaced. More mystery about 13. The Rams really like Johnny Manziel, and if he were there at 13 (which is unlikely), they would consider picking him. His workout for the Rams on Friday in Texas, with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer running the show, was impressive, as was the 80-minute post-workout session in the meeting room with Schottenheimer and coach Jeff Fisher, among others. One other piece of knowledge I got confirmed Sunday: Rams GM Les Snead recently went to Texas Tech and met at length with coach Kliff Kingsbury—Manziel’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at A&M in 2012—and came away thinking Manziel could adjust to life well as an NFL passer. Does that mean the Rams will take Manziel if he’s there at 13? I am still dubious. But I can tell you the Rams like him a lot.
No. 3, Jacksonville. A peer of GM David Caldwell said Sunday he knows a big Jag priority will be to play it safe with this pick. Sammy Watkins or Jake Matthews … quite safe.
No. 8, Minnesota. The Vikings are more inclined than ever to get their quarterback out of a bottlenecked group of passers at No. 40 in the second round. Vikes want a front-seven disruptor—defensive tackle Aaron Donald comes to mind—more than anything else up here.
No. 11, Tennessee. Hadn’t heard quarterback and the Titans in round one until Sunday. Now I hear: corner one, quarterback two.
No. 20, Arizona. We’ve been hearing a lot about quarterback here, and with the unpredictability of the QB market this year, it’s entirely possible the Cards could take a Derek Carr. On the other hand, Arizona’s not far away from competing in the NFC West, and is the best use of their draft currency to take a quarterback they’ll likely redshirt this year behind Carson Palmer?
No. 22, Philadelphia. Keep hearing they want in on the prime receiver action, and the receiver they want could be LSU’s Odell Beckham, who can play outside, inside in the slot and as a returner. But the Eagles would have to trade up, and GM Howie Roseman is doing his due diligence, talking to at least two teams in the mid-round neighborhood, when Beckham would likely go. But the cost could be too rich for the Eagles’ blood. They may have to settle for Marqise Lee, who would be some consolation prize.
No. 24, Cincinnati. Bengals like Teddy Bridgewater. They couldn’t. Could they? Well, if you’re Cincinnati, and you’re seriously thinking about making Andy Dalton the center of the franchise and paying him $17 million a year, you might be asking the question about whether Dalton’s worth it.
No. 26, Cleveland. Time to get a quarterback, right? Not so fast. GM Ray Farmer has asked at least one team low in the round about trading back into the first round from Cleveland’s second-round slot. That leads me to think Cleveland wants to get ahead of Houston, another obvious quarterback hotspot, and get a passer with a third first-round pick. That leads me to …
No. 32, Seattle. Think about the advantages of picking, saying, 35th instead of 32nd if you’re the Seahawks. Every dime is going to count going forward because of pricey vets like Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman who must be re-signed. Last year, the difference between the 32nd pick (safety Matt Elam) and 35th pick (tight end Zach Ertz) was $350,000 per year. Not a huge sum, but when you add a $1.4 million total difference between 32 and 35 to the fact that the Seahawks might be able to get a low-fourth-round pick for moving down three slots—and you remember how good Seattle’s been in the later rounds of drafts—you start to think John Schneider has to be thinking about this too. That’s if Cleveland would do a deal low in round one. But it’s intriguing. All Seattle would lose is the ability to add a fifth-year option by keeping its first-round pick. I think the advantages of saving $1.4 million and adding a mid-round prospect outweigh the edge of the fifth-year option.
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Four men look into the crystal ball.
I asked Mike Mayock, Todd McShay, Mel Kiper and Gil Brandt, “When round one is over Thursday night, tell me a story line or two that will surprise people.”
Mayock: “I’m going to give you this one: [Nebraska cornerback] Stanley John-Baptiste slips into the first round. He’s what today’s NFL is all about. He’s too long [6-3 and 213] and moves too well for this not to happen.”
Kiper: “If I predict something that would shock me now, then it probably won’t be too shocking when it happens. But there could be as many as eight wide receivers in the first round—and no running backs. Although if this was 1988, [Ohio State running back] Carlos Hyde would have a top-15 grade. The real shock would be no quarterbacks going before 16, but I really don’t think that’ll happen.’’
McShay: “I’ve got [Ohio State linebacker] Ryan Shazier going ahead of [more noted Alabama linebacker] C.J. Mosley. I just updated my mock draft today. I’ve got Shazier going to Arizona at 20, Mosley to Green Bay at 21. Shazier is lean, but he can fly.’’
Brandt: “I don’t think Teddy Bridgewater falls to the second round. I think Johnny Manziel will go in the top five, but not number one. And I think Khalil Mack gets picked ahead of Jadeveon Clowney.”
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Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin is this week’s Hottest Guy in the Draft.
Mayock surprised me the other day by saying he thought Martin will come off the board “between nine and 13 … He’s too good. He’s too safe. He’s about as safe a player as there is in this draft.” Mayock told me Sunday he saw a Notre Dame practice last summer in which Martin had to be shifted from his usual spot, left tackle, to guard because of an injury, and when he watched the tape of the practice, “It looked like he’d been playing guard for years.’’ I know one team in the top 10 seriously considering him.