NFL DRAFT – FIRST ROUND REVIEW

Kiper McShay

First of all, I want to apologize for not completing the explanation and “what I’ve heard” sections for picks 22-32 in my final mock with (some) explanations. That’s one of my favorite articles I write. I spend a lot of time on it, and I take a lot of pride in the draft columns because I feel like I can help readers out more than most so-called experts. Frankly, I ran out of time because I had work and had to prepare my draft board (a poster board), as well as clean my house for the 4th Annual Dennis Green House Draft Party (thanks for all who attended).

Next year, I’ll be sure to finish what I started. I assure you the unfinished product wasn’t because of a lack of preparation. And I’m ecstatic my mock draft went really well, mainly because I didn’t want to let my readers down with an unfinished draft preview article AND a bad mock. But I’m very pleased to report the results of my final mock in this column. Whether it involves picks I hit on, picks I missed, I’ll provide everyone with my thoughts on each first round pick in what was a crazy, but awesome draft day.

Before I break it down, I’ll post the results of my final mock draft in comparison to the final mocks of the “big 3” draft analysts, ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and NFLN’s Mike Mayock. Keep in mind that picks in mock drafts are counted if one accurately predicts the correct team OR the correct draft slot (pick number).

Last year, I was lucky enough to beat all three of the premier draft experts. This year, Mike Mayock took the crown, but barely.

1st – Mike Mayock (11) = NFL Network’s lone draft analyst got a whopping 11 picks correct, which was the second most picks/slots called correctly since I’ve been studying the draft. It was nothing short of an amazing performance in what was supposed to be an unpredictable year. Unfortunately, it’s extremely doubtful Mayock will match it next season.

2nd – Nick Guarisco (10) = I fared well this April, nailing 7 of the top 10 picks (the most of the “big 3”). Other than that, I only hit on Eric Reid to San Fran, DJ Fluker to San Diego and Jarvis Jones to Pittsburgh. I butchered picks 20-32 (which I guess I deserve because I didn’t finish their explanations in the article). Ten is one more pick correct than last year’s draft, and I’m honestly deathly afraid I’m setting the bar too high, because 10 is a very rare number to achieve.

3rd/4th – Mel Kiper (5) / Todd McShay (5) = Although McShay beat Mayock last season, the ESPN crew did not perform well in an unpredictable year. I think the problem with the ESPN guys is that they both know too much about college football. They do very respectable film work, but they don’t do enough research on team needs and often ignore inside information.

But enough about the nerds. Let’s see how the actual teams did:

1. Kansas City Chiefs – Eric Fisher (LT – Cent. Mich)

-Hours before the draft, rumors spread throughout league circles that Eric Fisher, not Joeckel, would be the top tackle (and top overall player) selected. Evidently, Chiefs scouts favored Joeckel while the coaches wanted Fisher. Generally, coaches win that battle, and they did in the end. Fisher was dominant at Central Michigan and talent evaluators think he has more upside than Joeckel. I agree with the pick. Fisher will open the season as the Chiefs’ right tackle if the team keeps LT Branden Albert. If not, he’ll immediately play left tackle and the Chiefs will have a huge hole at RT. Regardless, the Chiefs’ surprisingly talented roster is absolutely NO indication of their draft slot; they could surprise some people next year.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars – Luke Joeckel (LT – Texas AM)

-Once Fisher was deemed the first overall pick, Jacksonville had to choose whether to draft a pass rusher in Dion Jordan or the next best tackle in Joeckel. As expected, the new regime played it safe. There was a huge hole at RT, and LT Eugine Monroe is in a contract year. It’s time to get a quarterback now. I’m a fan of the pick. It’s not sexy, but it’s smart.

3. Miami Dolphins *trade up*  – Dion Jordan (DE – Oregon)

-This was absolutely stunning! It was rumored that Oakland was expected to trade down all day, so it wasn’t that surprising to see Miami move up. GM Jeff Ireland knows this could very well be last year if he doesn’t succeed, which is why he’s putting all his chips on the table this offseason and going all in… but everyone and their mothers thought he was going for LT Lane Johnson. It was one of my favorite draft day moments when Dion Jordan was announced as the pick. As the best available player, I think the Dolphins made a great pick. The explosive hybrid DE/OLB is a perfect complement to run-stuffing DE Jared Odrick, and he’s an upgrade over SLB Koa Misi. Plus, the Fins only had to give up the 42nd overall pick to move up. That’s a steal.

4. Philadelphia Eagles – Lane Johnson (RT – OK)

-This is another pick that I absolutely approve of. Lane Johnson was coveted by many teams as an athletic left tackle. But he’s a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense. He’ll start immediately at RT, which will allow Todd Herremans to shift to his natural RG position, thus upgrading two positions. The Eagles’ offensive line is quietly now one of the best in football. Michael Vick will have no excuses (if he wins the starting job over Foles, which I think is highly debatable).

5. Detroit Lions – Ziggy Ansah (DE – BYU)

-We all know Ansah can get to the quarterback, and we also know he’s perhaps the most raw, underdeveloped first rounder in the draft. But his upside is tremendous. I was down on Ansah before the draft, but the pick makes sense for a number of reasons. First, the Lions needed a DE badly. Secondly, he’s a perfect fit for their “wide-9” scheme because it allows him to line up further separated from the offensive tackle, so he can gain speed on his first step without getting swallowed by the blocker initially (this was his problem in college). Although he won’t be effective in the running game, he could have 10 sacks this season if Detroit continues to play badly.

6. Cleveland Browns – Barkevious Mingo (OLB – LSU)

-I’ll start by saying that I think Mingo is a little overrated by all these teams coveting a freakishly athletic pass rusher. I think the media is also a little blinded by his upside when the reality is that Mingo had only 4 sacks last season. He certainly has potential, but I think he refused to bench press for a reason; he’s not strong enough to be an NFL OLB yet. When I studied his tape, he seemed one-dimensional in terms of his pass rushing moves. More athletic NFL tackles will swallow him whole occasionally, so I don’t really understand why Cleveland, a team with good OLBs already in Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger, chose him rather than trading down. That’s just one man’s opinion though. I hope he proves me wrong.

7. Arizona Cardinals – Jon Cooper (OG – UNC)

-I had heard so many rumors about the Cards being high on Cooper, but I stupidly chose to ignore them. Bruce Arians has a history of drafting guards highly, and I knew the Cardinals thought their o-line was better than the media made it out to be, but I didn’t think they’d take a guard this high. I’m not going to argue the pick though, as I absolutely loved watching Cooper’s film. He’s versatile, athletic and doesn’t really have a weakness. Additionally, RG Adam Synder was absolutely atrocious last season.

8. St. Louis Rams *trade up* – Tavon Austin (WR – WVU)

-The Buffalo Bills were smart to trade this pick, as they got a free 2nd round pick for moving down 8 spots, so they could take the player they wanted at 8 anyway (more on that later). The Rams desperately needed a playmaker on offense. They can use Austin like a queen in chess, lining him up all over the field. Suddenly, with Chris Givens, Austin and TE Jared Cook, the Rams’ offense has some speed. I do think this pick comes with a lot of risk though: he’s a small 5’8 target, 175 that may have health concerns in the NFL.

9. New York Jets – Dee Milliner (CB – Bama)

-I think the Jets may have reached a little to fill a need here. I know the Jets lost Darrelle Revis, but drafting Milliner here just seems like they are trying too hard to replace him. I’m not too sure Milliner wouldn’t have fallen a lot further had the Jets not taken him, based on his injury history. Plus, the Jets have a ton of other needs and it’s a deep CB class. I think a guy like Star Lotulelei or DJ Fluker would make more sense here.

10. Tennessee Titans – Chance Warmack (OG – Bama)

-Former o-lineman and current head coach Mike Munchak said all offseason that he wasn’t opposed to taking a guard this high and that the team needed someone to block JJ Watt twice a year. He got his man. I don’t disagree with the pick for a number of reasons. First, now that the NFL has a set draft payment system in place, it’s easier to take guards because you don’t have to overpay a less premium position. Secondly, the Titans had a need and Chris Johnson’s two great seasons were played when he had a great interior line in front of him. And thirdly, the Titans’ offense needed to be addressed, because the GM and head coach are going to be fired if Locker doesn’t succeed this season. Good pick.

11. San Diego Chargers – DJ Fluker (RT – Bama)

-This pick was simple. The Chargers have to get Philip Rivers back up to standard, and the offensive line was in shambles last season. Fluker will start immediately at RT and be a road-grading mauler for Ryan Mathews.

12. Oakland Raiders *trade down* – DJ Hayden (CB – Houston)

-The Raiders were reportedly going to take Hayden at 3 overall if no one traded with them. They couldn’t let that happen, so they made the trade happen. Even though they only got a second round pick, it was essentially free, because they were going to take the same player regardless. Hayden was the #1 rated corner on many team’s boards, but the media was late in realizing that. He’ll help the Raiders cover Denver’s incredible 3-deep receiving core.

13. New York Jets – Sheldon Richardson (DT – Missou)

-While I think Sheldon Richardson is a great talent, I don’t understand this pick. The Jets have a Pro Bowl DE in Muhammed Wilkerson, who is not in a contract year, and they spent a  first round pick on DE Quinton Coples last season. He had a great rookie season. I figured the Jets were set there. Richardson is projected to be a 3-4 DE for this team as well. Even though Richardson is an awesome and underrated player, the Jets had too many needs to stack a position, unless they plan on playing Richardson or Wilkerson at NT. OLB Jarvis Jones or Star Lotulelei would have made more sense here.

14. Carolina Panthers – Star Lotulelei (DT – Utah)

-The Panthers captured a falling star. But seriously, there was absolutely no reason Lotulelei should have fallen this far. It wasn’t because of ability, it was because not many teams needed a NT/DT in the top 13. The Panthers got lucky, as one of the top-rated players on their entire board, who also was a major position need, fell to them. This was an easy pick, which is why they practically ran to the podium when they were on the clock.

15. New Orleans Saints – Kenny Vaccaro (S – Texas) 

-In a somewhat surprising move, the Saints passed on addressing the defensive front-7 with potential stars like DT Shariff Floyd or OLB Jarvis Jones on the board. They opted to address the safety position, taking the top safety available in this year’s draft class. It’s unclear whether Vaccaro will man the FS or SS position (and more importantly, who of Roman Harper or Malcolm Jenkins, will be demoted), but the Saints want him to start immediately. Vaccaro isn’t an incredible athlete, and he was just a solid, not great college player, but he fills a position of need. Seeing as Roman Harper’s 2014 salary actually escalates to $7.1 million, and the cap hit is much less than it is now, making him much more affordable to cut, and Malcolm Jenkins is a free agent next offseason, the Saints’ need at safety is greater than most think. I wasn’t a huge fan of the pick, but I didn’t dislike it either. It’s one of those wait-and-see picks. I’ll be writing a player profile column for each of our draft picks, including the strengths and weaknesses I saw on film. But to say Vaccaro won’t have a huge role in our defense would be foolish, especially considering how awfully bad Jenkins and Harper were last season (they graded out on PFF as the league’s WORST two safeties last season). Safety was position of need, Vaccaro is versatile enough to play both safety spots and Sean Payton absolutely loved his intensity, passion and leadership ability.

16. Buffalo Bills *trade down* – EJ Manuel (QB – FSU)

-This pick was one of the most disgusting and insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in their incoherent and sad excuse for scouting and draft preparation were they even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in the room was dumber for having listened to it. I award you the Bills no points, and may God have mercy on their souls, as well as all the souls of their fans.

But seriously, I thought Manuel was a 4th round prospect at best. They could have traded down again to acquire him, or they could have waited a few rounds for a BETTER quarterback. The thought process was that Manuel is a good fit for Doug Marrone’s fast-paced read-option offense. I have my doubts.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jarvis Jones (OLB – UGA)

-The Steelers took the bait. Pittsburgh has a history of drafting players who were productive in college, regardless of their combine performance and other variables. Jones led the SEC in sacks, but he had a terrible workout in February, leading many teams to question his NFL potential. Also, he had medical concerns because of his spine. He was off many teams’ boards completely, but the Steelers were very excited to get him. He’ll likely compete with 2nd round bust Jason Worilids to fill James Harrison’s spot. The Steelers had a terrible pass rush last season, so this pick makes a lot more sense than taking a running back.

18. San Francisco 49ers *trade up* – Eric Reid (FS – LSU)

-The Niners’ only defensive weakness was free safety, so the team used some of their 13 draft picks to move up to acquire who they felt was the second best safety in the draft. Reid will compete with Craig Dahl to start in week 1, and he’ll likely win the job. He fits what the Niners do defensively, as Reid can certainly lay a licking on ball carriers. I was happy to see Reid go on-stage with his daughter, and I was happy to mock this pick correctly, but I was unhappy he’ll be playing for the 49ers.

19. New York Giants – Justin Pugh (OG – ‘Cuse)

-Mike Mayock was the lone analyst to foresee this pick. I was happy enough to have Pugh mocked in the first round (to the Packers), because Pugh was seen as a second-day prospect for sure. The Giants reached to get the road-grading mauler. He’ll likely start at left guard immediately, replacing a struggling David Diehl. I think the Giants could have traded down and still got Pugh, but he fits what they like to do offensively. I have no problem with the pick, especially since the Giants filled defensive line needs in a big way later.

20. Chicago Bears – Kyle Long (OG – Oregon)

-No one saw this pick coming. Other than EJ Manuel, this first round selection surprised me the most. Long was a late second round prospect at best, but new offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer knows a potentially dominant lineman when he sees one. He’s probably licking his chops to coach Long up. Long is a smart, quality football player. The Bears desperately needed offensive line help, and Long will likely man the left guard spot.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Tyler Eifert (TE – ND)

-This pick may not make sense to most because of Jermaine Gresham’s presence. But I like the pick a lot. First of all, Gresham is an overrated player. He’s not bad, but opponents aren’t exactly worried about him either. The Bengals had to go offense with this pick, and Eifert will give Andy Dalton another reliable option, especially in the red zone, that will take away coverage from AJ Green. Look for the Bengals to replace their fullback with multiple 2-TE sets. This was a pure BPA pick that could pay dividends sooner people think.

22. Atlanta Falcons *trade up* – Desmond Trufant (CB – Wash)

-I was so mad when the Falcons traded up to this spot because I thought, surely, they were going to take DT Shariff Floyd, who was a steal at that point. But the Falcons opted to take the fourth or fifth best cornerback in the draft. Trufant was inconsistent on tape, but he showed great instincts in zone coverage. He takes a lot of risks, kind of like Asante Samuel. But this pick isn’t that smart when you consider the Falcons got another good corner in round 2. Shariff Floyd would have been a better pick.

23. Minnesota Vikings – Shariff Floyd (DT – UF)

24. Indianapolis Colts – Bjoern Werner (OLB – FSU)

25. Minnesota Vikings – Xavier Rhodes (CB – FSU)

26. Green Bay Packers – Datone Jones (DE – UCLA)

27. Houston Texans – DeAndre Hopkins (WR – Tenn)

28. Denver Broncos – Sylvester Williams (DT – UNC)

29. Minnesota Vikings *trade up* – Cordarrelle Patterson (WR – Tenn)

30. St. Louis Rams *trade up* – Alec Ogletree (ILB – UGA)

31. Dallas Cowboys *trade down* – Travis Frederick (C – Wisc)

32. Baltimore Ravens – Matt Elam (SS – UF)

*Photo Credit: BusinessInsider.com

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Categories: The NFL Draft

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