The NFL Draft seems like one big trope. For me, it’s lost a lot of its allure. I just don’t care anymore. Tampa always drafts a defensive linemen way too early, and it fails. The Lions always screw up their selections somehow. Jerry Jones is going to (at least try to) pick a scumbag. It feels like a re-run with different actors sometimes.
So who’s going to do something unearthly stupid? Well, fortunately for us, two teams already have.
THE L.A. RAMS FLIP EVERYTHING FOR JARED GOFF
The Rams traded up from No. 15 to get the first overall pick, and shipped five additional picks to Tennessee to do this. In return, the Titans sent back the first overall, a fourth rounder and a sixth rounder.
There’s more to this deal than people are yammering on about. I think it’s a lot less about Jared Goff and more about the Rams’ shareholders pressing Jeff Fisher to bring in someone marketable. Todd Gurley is fantastic enough to shoulder the burden, and surely nobody is going to be worse than Case Keenum or Nick Foles. I do feel like Fisher had his arm twisted in this one, more so by his owners than by anyone else.
Why do I think something screwy is going on behind the scenes? First of all, the Rams organization is all about doing screwy things. Second, it flies in the face of everything the Rams have done this summer. They let go of James Luarinaitis and Chris Long, two staples of their fearsome defense.
If winning and “going for it” was a priority for the Rams, they would’ve done more to keep those two instead of letting either slip through their fingers.
Goff has more to do with selling tickets to a California fanbase that’s familiar with him than anything else. There is no bone in my body that think he’s worth the haul that the Rams just handed Tennessee.
That being said…
WHAT THE HELL ARE THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES DOING?!
Now this is some comedic shit. The Browns, after seeing what the Titans hauled in for the first overall pick, put out an open broadcast to any other team that was willing to pull off a dumb trade. Well, surprise! The Philadelphia Eagles were more than happy to cut one.
The Eagles gave up two first rounders, a second, third and fourth rounder for the second overall pick and a fourth rounder in 2017. Wow. Just freaking wow.
If Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State is so bad that even the Cleveland Browns don’t want him, then what in God’s burning eyeballs is Philadelphia even thinking? It’s like everyone always says: if you can get the best Division 2 quarterback in the country, you mortgage your entire future to do it!
Somewhere on the other side of the country, Chip Kelly is laughing.
WHY EVERYONE SHOULD DRAFT OFFENSIVE LINEMEN IN FIRST ROUND
Let’s get a bit more serious about the upcoming draft, shall we? And I want you to consider this thoughtfully because if your team isn’t taking an offensive linemen in the first round, they’re doing it wrong.
In the last three drafts, there have been 96 first round selections, and 40 of those picks have been spent on offensive players. Here are the positional breakdowns:
QB – 6
WR /TE – 21
RB – 2
OL – 21 (guards, centers, tackles)
Those numbers should jump out at you for a very simple reason. More and more teams are seeing that offensive linemen offer a better return overall than any other player drafted. In terms of investing in a prospect, there’s simply no other position which offers a more reliable return.
Offensive linemen drafted over the past three years have also played an average of 30.1 games between the 21 players selected. This stands well over the quarterbacks (20.7 games) and skill position players (25.4 games). To be fair, teams aren’t taking shots at running-backs anymore because players like Todd Gurley (#10 in 2015) don’t appear at any known frequency. More often than not, you end up with a back like Melvin Gordon (#15 in 2015), who is halfway out the door of the NFL already.
The 2013 NFL Draft Class seemed like a pivotal moment in favoring offensive linemen above all others. Five of the first 10 picks in that draft were used on offensive linemen, and this was just the fourth time in the history of the draft that a linemen was taken with the first overall pick. Unfortunately, Kansas City used that slot to draft Eric Fisher.
For the record, the other three lineman were the legendary Orlando Pace (1997), Hall of Famer Ron Yary (1968) and Ki Aldrich in 1939.
Harpooning Eric Fisher’s career seems like a redundant effort because he is nowhere close to being a Pro Bowl caliber player, but he has also managed to play in a whopping 46 games. Sure, he’s probably not worth a first overall but 2013 was also a bad year.
What Fisher represents is probably more important. The great thing about an offensive linemen is that they are generally multi-positional. Fisher himself has plied his craft at both tackle positions, both guard positions and in the process become an invaluable Swiss army knife on the offensive line for the Chiefs. He was Andy Reid’s go-to choice to replace Brandon Albert at left-tackle in 2014.
How hard is it to shift from one side of the line to another? Just ask second overall selection Luke Joeckel, who also came from the 2013 NFL Draft class. Joeckel played his entire college career at Texas A&M as a left tackle. After missing the majority of his rookie season due to a seriously unlucky injury, he returned in 2014 and was shifted to the right side of the line.
Things got really, really bad. Joeckel was rated as one of the worst offensive linemen in 2014, allowing eight quarterback sacks based on his individual evaluation. When he returned to left tackle in 2015, guess what happened? He allowed 2 sacks in the first 15 games.
It’s not easy to shift around on the offensive line, but it can be done, which is why you can never have too many big men upfront. They’re what make everything tick on offense. There’s no point in investing in a franchise quarterback if you have nobody up front to protect them.
By grade and recent history, offensive linemen should be the top choice for almost every single team in the NFL who are rebuilding. I can not overstate their underappreciated value in the big picture of the game itself. You are a lot less likely to end up with a first round disappointment if you go with a lineman.
MOST LIKELY PLAYERS TO GET DRAFTED WAY TOO EARLY
Despite everything I’ve written above, teams will still go with the sexy pick, or the one that they feel addresses an immediate need. Laremy Tunsil out of Ole Miss is regarded as the best offensive linemen in the entire draft, and could fall as far as sixth or seventh because the defensive stalwarts in this particular class are garnering more attention.
Defensive linemen have proven time and again that they are hit-or-miss prospects, and secondary players can be even more of a letdown. I like Jalen Ramsey out of FSU, but he’s a bit stonehanded for more liking and isn’t as big of an impact player in the run game as people make him out to be.
Still, going on and on about what each NFL team needs and what each player does well isn’t the purpose of this space. You can find mock drafts anywhere. Instead, I’d prefer to focus on the five teams that will do something absolutely stupid with their first round pick.
#4 Dallas Cowboys Select Joey Bosa (Ohio State) – Bosa was a notorious party animal in college, and hasn’t slowed down. It’s part of what makes him great. He reminds me entirely of Lattimer from The Program. The Ohio State prodigy has known character issues, and nobody loves guys with baggage more than Jerry Jones. Bosa ranks far lower as a prospect compared to DeForest Buckner (DE – Oregon), Myles Jack (LB – UCLA) and Jalen Ramsey (CB – FSU). Unfortunately for all of those top-10 candidates, Bosa is a perfect fit for Jerry Jones, even if he’s not an ideal fit for the Dallas Cowboys.
#14 Oakland Raiders Select Will Fuller (Notre Dame) – Fuller is an absolute speed demon, but he’s also not the high impact receiver that teams need. The 4.32 time in the 40-yard dash will lure somebody in, and even the Ghost of Al Davis can’t resist that kind of speed. The thinking will be simple. Oakland (or Houston) already has a possession receiver like Amari Cooper (or DeAndre Hopkins) so Fuller is a perfect, field stretching compliment, right?
Listen, I’ve seen guys “stretch” the field before. Nobody cares anymore. Cornerbacks are as fast as these guys nowadays and defenses are more sophisticated. No team is scared of a guy like Fuller, who has shown no penchant for catching a football in traffic. Guys need to be gifted pass catchers, not just sprinters.
Laquon Treadwell is the superior receiver in this draft, and he’s probably followed very closely by TCU’s Josh Doctson. One of those is going to be snatched up by the Detroit Lions, who will panic in the wake of Calvin Johnson’s sudden retirement.
But Oakland? The only thing they’re committed to other than excellence is drafting the fastest guy in the NFL Draft.
#11 Chicago Bears Select Quarterback Paxton Lynch (Memphis) – Yes, a third quarterback is going to pop out of the first round and if my crystal ball has anything to say about it, it will be Paxton Lynch going to Chicago. At 32, Cutler still has some seasons left in him but he has to be wearing thin on the city in general. The guy has made one Pro Bowl in his entire career, and that was in 2008 when he was a member of the Denver Broncos.
The Chicago Bears also have no idea what they’re doing with themselves. They let Matt Forte go watching Jeremy Langford take 148 attempts for just 537 yards and 6 touchdowns. It’s time the Bears had a long time plan in mind that didn’t involve Jay Cutler.
My favorite part about this? Teams will basically talk Chicago into this by baiting them with “Oh we love that Lynch guy! If he’s around later in the first round, we’re going to grab him for sure!” Chicago will panic. They need to. The Jay Cutler era needs to die now.
#8 Cleveland Browns Screw Up Their Pick Anyways – Yes, it would be hilarious if Cleveland took Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch here, but they’re also targeting Ezekiel Elliott out of Ohio State, who is the only first-round worthy running back in the draft. Nobody has any idea what Cleveland might do at this juncture in the draft. It’s still too soon after the tremendous haul they traded for.
Astonishingly, Cleveland has been awesome in the first round when it comes to drafting defensive players. They have Danny Shelton, Barkevious Mingo, Justin Gilbert and Joe Haden from their last six classes. Unfortunately, they’ve complimented those first round picks with Johnny Manziel, Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden.
Remember that offensive linemen thing I was preaching about earlier? Well the Browns were the ones that drafted both Alex Mack and Joe Thomas, two of the best at their positions on the o-line. It’s about time they got to doing the smart things and investing where they need to.
Unfortunately, the Browns have way too many holes to fill and are bound to screw it up. So naturally I’m pumped to see what they do wrong.
#15 Tennessee Titans Select Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame) – Not all offensive linemen are created equal, and while Stanley has been routinely graded as a first rounder, there are too essential knocks on him. The first is his passion for football. The second is his toughness. Believe it or not, those are two really important qualities for an offensive lineman to have. Like Cleveland, Tennessee has too many holes that they need to fill even though protecting Marcus Mariota seems like the utmost priority. Essentially, they’ll have too many options to fix and will balk their draft pick in the first round by taking someone they think they need instead of someone who has more proven talent.