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Draft Bytes: News, rumors and thoughts on the 2016 NFL Draft

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One month to go... One month to go... One month to go...

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Less than a month from now all the speculation, smoke-blowing and plain old-fashioned lying about what NFL teams are going to do in the draft will end. The actual draft will occur and all that noise will be instantly replaced with very similar sounding arguments about who "won", who "lost" and what teams should have done instead. Smart fans know they'll have to wait at least two full NFL seasons to see what really happened, but that never stopped the true Twitter warriors from pouring out their boiling-hot takes. So ride the wild wave Draft Bytes readers. It will crest and fall soon enough. Might as well enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Top Takes

1.) Sometimes players are so good they become foregone conclusions who nobody really talks about. Laremy Tunsil is that player this year. He's really, really, really good. I think he is so good that he'll stop the recent streak of O-line picks taken high in the draft struggling in their first year. I think Tunsil is going to toy with people from day one and keep right on going. He has all the tools you could possibly want in a tackle and seems to have his head screwed on straight to boot. That's a rare combo and it will propel him to early and sustained success in the league no matter where he lands. Since there is a about a 0.0000034% chance that landing spot is the Bears, we can just drown our collective sorrows with a brief clip of him absolutely hammering the bench press at his pro day this week.

2.) Speaking of the Ole Miss pro day, all eyes turned to one of this draft's top WR's as he ran through drills there on Monday. Laquon Treadwell is a very good receiver but many observers have started to say that one of his rivals, Ohio State's Michael Thomas, might offer greater long term benefits. Thomas knew that everyone in draft-land would be glued to their Twitter feeds on Monday to see how well his main rival for the top WR spot ran at the Ole Miss pro day. So the crafty Buckeye "just happened" to drop a flattering pic of himself on the scale showing that he'd gained five pounds (up to 217) on the very same day. A brilliant little piece of social marketing to snare some of Treadwell's marketshare/mindshare and keep himself (Thomas) on the minds of evaluators even on the day they would be most focused on his Ole Miss rival.

3.) I ran a marathon film session last weekend focusing on later-round CB's and WR's. I picked up a ton of information and put a fair bit of that into Ken's excellent WCG Weekend Den (Thanks Ken!). In case you missed out on that extravaganza I'll drop a few more tidbits here in quick bullets to share some of the spoils I picked up from about 22 hours of film work (Sat. - Mon.):

  • There are a lot of quality CB's stretching much deeper into the draft than I thought there were at first glance. Not many superstars, but a lot of guys who can play right now (as nickel or dime defenders) and could grow into more full-time roles with experience.
  • Seems like there are a bunch of very solidly built, physical corners who are right around 5'10" in this group. If you want 6'2" and taller skyscrapers at CB you don't have much to choose from. But if you want feisty guys with muscular builds and decent ball skills there are plenty to look at.
  • Cyrus Jones (CB, Alabama) has been mentioned in this column before, but he is worthy of it again. He is not the best corner, but his return skills are off the charts. You can draft him as a pure returner a full round earlier than you would as a corner and be totally satisfied with your choice. He's that good with the ball in his hands.
  • Speaking of returners, Demarcus Ayers (WR, Houston) is another one who is worth the price of admission. He threatens the opposition every time he takes a return and provides his own team with better than expected field position time after time.
  • If you want a player with better true CB skills than Cyrus Jones who can also add value as a returner (although not on Jones' level) you just have to look a little further south. Cre'von Leblanc from Florida Atlantic is your guy. He's got better cover skills than Jones, and is an above average returner... but his small school profile means that he'll probably cost a full 1-2 rounds less in draft capital to acquire.
  • There is more depth in the WR class than you have been led to believe. While they are are not fast as a group, and there are a limited number of "#1" receiver candidates at the top, there is a nice talent pool on the second level that will produce some quality starters throughout the league.
  • I mentioned on Twitter this week that I found a gem while digging through WR film. What if I told you there was a senior WR who played in a major conference, is his school's all-time leader in receptions, runs great routes, understands how to play in space and catches the ball very well. You'd probably say "That's nice EJ, but not too special". Then I'd add in that he's 6'3", 220 pounds, ate a future Bears 1st round pick's lunch in college (when the two met in 2013) and has not been shown on any scouting list I have seen at all, for the entire year. It's true. His name is Quinshad Davis and he played at the University of North Carolina. UNC runs the ball more than most and their quarterbacking has been erratic of late, so Davis did not get a ton of chances. Davis considered declaring last year but broke his leg late in the season and returned for his senior campaign. He's just one of those guys who did not make a ton of noise as a senior and the scouting world seems to have passed him by a bit. Big mistake. He's a savvy, technical route runner who creates good separation often. When he is not able to, he uses his frame and large hands to make the contested catch. His double move (out and up) route for a TD against Kyle Fuller in 2013 was a thing of beauty. Don't sleep on Davis as a late pick or even a UDFA possibility.  He's be a redzone matchup nightmare.
  • I get a lot of interesting tips about college players from my friends and family around the country. My cousin is a professor at UVA and when I asked him who I should watch on the Cavaliers last fall, he mentioned senior wideout Canaan Severin. I got around to Severin's tape this weekend and my cousin was right; he's a player. Unfortunately the only tape on Severin is his effort against Notre Dame. That's not a bad thing as he racked up 11 catches for 153 yards and looked dominant all day. However, that was his best game ever and I'm always wary about watching the best and not contrasting it with the worst. Even so, Severin showed plenty of skills to go along with his very good size (6'2", 209). He's worth keeping an eye on.

Player's Lounge - Every week I will look at a player who is trending in the draft process

Believe the hype: Malcolm Mitchell (WR, Georgia) is going to be very productive pro. Not only is he plenty fast in a straight line (4.45) he is wickedly fast through his cuts. He does everything at full throttle and carries more speed through his breaks than almost anyone in this draft class. He's sure-handed and understands how to set up a DB on route to get open. When you combine that savvy with his speed and hands, you've got a player who will win regularly against coverage on Sundays. If you need a more expert opinion than mine, Matt Harmon did a great workup on Mitchell after the combine. I really like Mitchell and if the Bears had a greater need at WR I would be happy with him in the 3rd round. As it is, if Malcolm is there in the 4th, teams have to consider the value and at least consider choosing him based on that alone.

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.

WCG user TJGOBIG asked in the Weeknd's Den "Any late rd CB's that you see as a sneaky steal of a pick when we convert them to safety?"

It's a fantastic question and was well timed, as I had just finished up watching a few players who could possibly be considered for the swap. In my answer in the Den I mentioned Maurice Canady from Virginia. He plays well at corner but has the toughness and tackling ability that could set him apart as a safety. Brian Poole played some safety for Florida and is a stout little hitter. His major lacking is height (5'9") and the ability to stay with taller, faster receivers down the field and defend the fade/corner post routes.

The last player I'll mention would actually be making the switch to SS from LB, not CB... but I think he can do it. I went back and forth this week with another writer who noted that Su'a Cravens' 4.41 short shuttle time should signal the death of the notion that he can play safety. I pointed out that another player, very similar to Cravens in size, ran the following numbers during his pre-draft testing:

  • Player X (6'3", 231): 4.41 short shuttle, 7.36 3-cone, 31.5" vert, 4.69 40
  • Cravens (6'1", 226): 4.41 short shuttle, 6.92 3-cone, 30.5" vert, 4.61 40

Player X? That's Kam Chancellor. Food for thought. Cravens had some quality tape at SS in 2014. He's a young player and he can improve. Is he on Kam Chancellor's level? Not right now. But the thing to remember is that neither was Kam Chancellor when he was drafted.