It was a busy week in the draft world with the Senior Bowl concluding in Mobile, Alabama so let's get right to it:
1.) The defensive line in the draft class is absolutely loaded. I mean stacked. Like 2014 WR-levels of abundance. If you have forgotten, that was the year of Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, Martavis Bryant, Jarvis Landry, Mike Evans, etc. etc. This year the following players (in no particular order) all have a chance to go in the first 3 rounds of the draft:
Following that immense list of talent is another very solid group of players who could all turn out to be contributors very early in their careers. They may offer very solid value if they are picked up in the latter half of the draft:
If you pour in the rest of pure edge-rushing types (Joey Bosa, Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd, Dadi Nicolas) who will work better for some teams than for others, you start to get a picture of the immense amount of talent available in this DT/DE/EDGE draft class. Their abundance alone will make for some excellent values on days 2 and 3 of the draft, as slots have already been filled and players fall a bit. This group will have a serious impact on the league moving forward.
2.) I got asked in the comments of my Draftwatch article last week if I thought a draft-eligible player would have Khalil Mack-like impact. I liked Mack coming out of Buffalo; a lot. I know he has played well in Oakland but to be honest I don't watch a lot of the Raiders on defense. The NFL was nice enough to put together his top 10 plays from this year:
In a couple of words: Holy crap. There are very few football players who can do things like that... IN THE WORLD. Hyperbole is rampant this time of year. Any time you start comparing some young player in the draft (who has not even made an NFL team yet) to a rare-air superstar like Julio Jones or Von Miller; come back and watch this clip again and try to temper your expectations. Very, very few of them turn out like this in the long run.
3.) The University of Illinois might turn out to be this year's version of the University of Miami from last year's draft cycle: a team that evaluators regarded as having quite a bit of talent that did not live up to expectations on the field. The Miami team that produced Duke Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, Ereck Flowers, Clive Walford and others had more NFL draft picks (7) than it did wins (6). Illinois is not that talent-rich this year but with players like WR Geronimo Allison looking very capable in the pre-draft process whispers about the quality of coaching at Illinois were starting to swirl before last week. If you don't follow college football 7 players transferred out of the Illinois football program and 4 high-ranking high school prospects decommitted during the same week. Al Golden could not survive his team's lack of wins and has been replaced at Miami. If Bill Cubit and his staff cannot work some magic on the field early next fall at Illinois his fate may well be the same.
4.) Always remember that it doesn't matter where players come from. All that really matters is if they can play. Many fans get very vocal this time of year and insist that their team has such a glaring need at a position that they "must do do something about in the 1st round of the draft." This is the height of lunacy. What the team needs is a capable player. Players come from absolutely everywhere. They come from lower rounds (Adrian Amos), from free agency (Pernell McPhee), from other leagues (Cameron Wake was a CFL player) and yes... even from the ranks of the undrafted masses:
Wow stat, from my man Doug Clawson: a league-high 25 of the 53 players on the Seahawks roster were undrafted.— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) December 16, 2015
So remember: all teams have multiple needs but that doesn't mean they must do something "...in the first 2 rounds or else!". If they can get a capable player using a method that provides more value than a 1st round pick, more power to them. And try not to yell at me when I get all giddy over the UDFA process... because it will happen. It always does.
Player's Lounge- Every week I will look at a player who is trending in the draft process
Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State) is not a gimmick. He is 100% legit as a true WR and will be a very capable productive player at that position in the NFL. Miller wowed just about everyone in attendance at the Senior Bowl with a wide array of skills. He was clearly one of the top players in attendance at any position and won matchup after matchup against some of the best defenders in the country. Braxton combines terrific agility, very good hands, speed in open space and physical approach to the position that will allow him to get open and produce yards after the catch at the NFL level. If you combine that with his overall football acumen (having been a QB for most of his career), special teams value (he returns punts and kicks) and ability to learn (he showed marked improvement between the end of the season and his time in Mobile) you have a player who could well slide into the final third of the 1st round. A year ago that statement would have gotten you laughed out of the sports bar of your choice. Today it is a reality.
Reader Question of the Week - I'll pick a question from a reader each week and answer it here. If you have a question you'd like to be considered you can either leave it in the comments section below, or send it to me directly on Twitter (@thedraftsmanFB) with the hashtag #askEJ.
This week's question is from WCG user Butkus'sBloodyknuckles about small-school safety prospect who is rising in the pre-draft process. He asked "EJ, what do you think of Miles Killebrew, SS out of Southern Utah?"
Killebrew made my radar late in the college season as a whisper on a draft-sleeper watch list. His name just sounded like a football safety so I looked him up. While I haven't done a full film study, I have my doubts about him so far. He comes off as stiff on tape and he misses a bunch of tackles (4 in the single tape I watched alone). 3 of those went for long gains and 2 of them were TD's; including the play that sealed the game for his team's opponent. He tackles up high and does not use his hands to wrap up. He has good size (6'1", 219) and really good speed but they don't get used that often. He is flat-footed at the snap, dances and doesn't really trend towards heavy contact hitting. Right now I say he‘d be a late-round pick with an eye towards special teams as his ticket to learn his craft. It's not a final eval as it was only one game (vs. Sam Houston State), but saying I didn't have reservations would be overly optimistic.