Last Thursday I offered up a Viewer's Guide for the draft. Now that all the festivities are wrapped and the players are settled, I want to circle back and see where they landed. For the most part, everything went as I suspected. Actually, everything went about as I suspected, so kudos to me for reading way too much about the draft and getting lucky with my guesses. Your breakdown, after the jump...
Morris Claiborne, 6th overall, Dallas Cowboys
In the least surprising news of the year, Morris Claiborne went in the top 10. I said Mo wouldn't last past the 5th pick. He went 6th. Drats! I want to talk about this move for a second.
Jerry Jones is often reviled for over-meddling with his franchise. Numerous, numerous writers, coaches, analysts and fans have said he should simply step back from the GM role and let "football" people do the work. He's a brilliant businessman. GM, eh, not so much. The thing is, Jerry considers himself a "football person." Call it pride or whatever you will, he has confidence in his ability to evaluate talent and make decisions. Often times, this leads to puzzling moves, but in this case, Jerry played the draft board like a true pro.
Following the draft Jerry said Claiborne was the highest rated corner prospect they've evaluated since Deion Sanders. He called Claiborne the no. 1 defensive player in the entire draft. He was no. 2 on their board overall (I presume Luck or Griffin was 1). That's some uber-gushing. What I found interesting is that Mo said he had absolutely zero contact with the Cowboys prior to the draft. Well played, Jerrah.
Allow me to speculate here. The dominoes started tumbling early. First, Minnesota swapped with Cleveland to move back. Cleveland didn't need a LT, and I'm not sure they felt the need to move ahead of a team with a franchise RB to pick a running back, but what the hell, it's Cleveland (maybe Tampa or someone else was trying to get there to get Richardson, who knows?). Nevertheless, that first domino locked up Richardson to Cleveland. Minnesota oversold their position to the point that it became obvious they were taking Kalil and just trying to move back and gather more picks. It paid off for them. Kalil goes 4th. That puts the Bucs on the clock with Claiborne a seemingly automatic selection:
-They need a CB.
-Their DB coach coached him at LSU.
-The only other player worth the pick is a WR, in which they already have resources heavily invested.
Here, I think TB got too clever. They looked at the draft board and thought, "Hey, we can pick up a pick or two, move backwards 2 spots, and be behind St. Louis who probably won't take Claiborne, because they have bigger needs.).Jerrah capitalized. He was aggressive and decisive. He swapped with the Rams, moved up 8 picks and got his man. All of this was put into play months ago. See Dallas had a grade on Claiborne both on film and at the combine that they knew needed no further investigation. No character issues, no reason to work him out, no reason to let the world know you are interested. He was "their guy" and Jerry played it perfectly to get him.
I honestly think Tampa thought Mo would fall to them at 7. When Jerry jumped, Tampa was thrown into a tizzy and invested a high pick at a less influential position. If Barron turns into Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed, Tampa looks brilliant. But if Barron is just a solidly above average safety, they totally blew it. Barron doesn't stand out to me. I think he'll be a solid pro, but I'm not sure he's a top-10 pick difference maker. Obviously Tampa had a higher grade on him. Most analysts loved the pick, but most analysts loved Barron a lot more than me. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Side note: As an Eagles fan, this depresses me.
Michael Brockers, 14th overall, St. Louis Rams
I said Brockers would fall somewhere between 10-25. He went 14th. Jeff Fisher said they would have taken him 6th. Every coach/GM/scout is going to say they got their guy after the draft, but Brockers makes some sense for St. Louis. Fisher loves to build from the inside-out. Almost all of his Tennessee teams featured dominant OL/DL play and less noteworthy outside guy. The NFL Network staff asked Les what they thought Brockers could become. His answers weren't particularly surprising (as if he's going to critique his own player), but he did mention he think he can become a guy who "presses the pocket."
Brockers will never be a guy that speed rushes interiors and makes a lot of sacks/hurries (like Cullen Jenkins on the Eagles or Warren Sapp of old). The big question was could Brockers become the type of guy that can press the pocket on the interior. Jeff Fisher seems to think so. I'm certain that St. Louis drafted maybe the best (or 2nd best) run-stuffing DT in the draft. At worst, he's a 2-down running game stopper. Miles mentioned that with his height he can get his "paws" on a lot of balls. Think about the best QBs in the NFL: Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Manning... they are rarely frustrated by outsider rushers. Those guys struggle when the interior guys are able to flush them or get their hands in their throwing lanes. If Brockers becomes that, he'll be a top 10 player in this draft. If he becomes Pat Williams, well then he'll just be a massive run-stopper that will play a long time in the league. He's a very low risk pick IMO.
Rueben Randle, 63rd overall, New York Football Giants
I said Rueben would absolutely be gone in the first two rounds. By the skin of my teeth, I made it. Randle was the last selection of the 2nd round and really landed in a nice spot. Perhaps no other team has developed WR talent better in the past few seasons than the New York Giants. Getting the chance to play with Eli will means he actually gets to see some balls come his way accurately. They feature power running, which plays to his blocking strengths.
I mentioned that Rueben would be grouped with Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery and Kendall Wright and could go 1st or last of the four, neither surprising me. He went last. The shocker was maybe Brian Quick and Ryan Broyles going ahead of him. Coughlin said they had a much higher grade on him (though they passed at the end of the 1st so...) than seemingly others.
The immediate reaction has been "What a steal!" It may be true, but I want to offer some caution. Most believe that Randle was penalized for the poor QB play. Even the analysts acknowledged this. I'm not certain that's the true issue. Case in point, let's take a look at the QB play for Illinois, who had WR A.J. Jenkins go in the 1st round:
Nathan Scheelhaase: 133.4 efficiency rating, 184/291, 63.2%, 2,110 yards, 13 TDs, 8 INTs
LSU (Lee and JJ combined: 145.4 efficiency rating, 165/267, 61.7%, 2,043 yards, 20 TDs, 5 INTs
Jenkins: 90 catches, 1,276 yards, 14.2 YPC, 8 TDs
Randle: 53 catches, 917 yards, 17.3 YPC, 8 TDs
Looking at the QB play, the are very similar. This is what I mean when I say "poor QB play" isn't entirely to blame. If poor QB play dictated production entirely, why was Jenkins able to amass 350 extra yards and nearly 40 more catches? As a coach, it would bother me that a "number 1" never caught 60-70 balls. I think Randle has realy good physical traits, but doesn't have that "my ball mentality" that makes him a true elite, no. 1 WR.
Now, Eli, Coughlin and the World Champs could bring it out of him. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are superb route runners that can teach him how to get open. Randle is arguably more physically gifted than either. He's bigger than both. They both have elite explosive ability and great mitts. Those aren't two of Randle's finer traits.
Ultimately, I'm not surprised he fell as far as he did, but I think he wound up in a great spot.
As a side note, I HATE when the draft reporters go to the kids in the green room and say, "How does it feel to still be sitting here?" It will never happen, but I just want someone, anyone to look at her and say, "How do you think it feels? Fucking terrible." I realize they are just doing their jobs, but it's really disrespectful and the question doesn't even offer any insight...
Brandon Taylor, 73rd Overall, San Diego Chargers
I was right in speculating that Taylor would be a late 2nd/early 3rd round pick. He went 73rd overall. I really thought he may be a Patriots target, but they made a puzzling selection with the FS from Illinois. I suppose Belichick knows what he's doing, but that pick was off the grid. Most everyone was puzzled by it.
Taylor falls to a good spot. He will be a SS in San Diego and get to play next to one of the league's best in Eric Weddle. He'll compete with Atari Bigby for the job, which seems really winnable. Taylor is a smart player. He came to LSU as a CB and quickly transitioned to FS. Hell, I seem to hardly remember him being mentioned for that position the season he took it over. It seemed like he spent the spring and summer at corner and by the fall he was the starter at Safety. That speaks to his adaptability. I think he can win this job. Great fit for him.
Ron Brooks, 124th overall, Buffalo Bills
I speculated that Brooks would be a middle-round pick. He went in the 4th round, 124th, nearly in the exact middle of the draft.
I don't think we yet know Brooks' full abilities. I listened to a Bills scout break him down (can't seem to locate the video now), and he offered some nice insight. Said he believes Brooks can play inside or out. Said they loved that he never complained about his job, came to work prepared every day and performed. Mentioned that when he started outside, he returned two INTs for TDs. Mentioned return ability and overall ST ability.
Brooks, at the very least, will be a stud ST player. I wouldn't be surprised if he was a ST Pro Bowler in a couple of years. He's about as good of a gunner as there is. He's an unselfish, hard-working player. From the get go, I imagine he'll compete as a nickel and dime back and play ST, but it may take a year or two for a path to clear for tons of PT at CB.
Undrafted Free Agents
As I suspected, Brooks was the last LSU player selected. However, 7 other players signed UDFA deals with various teams. A lot of times, the UDFA process is more favorable players than the last round or two of the draft. You have say in where you go, so you can pick an offense, depth chart or coach which you consider most favorable to your development.
Jarrett Lee, San Diego Chargers
The Chargers signed 21 UDFAs, though Lee was the only new QB they brought including draft picks. Norv Turner has a good track record for developing QBs and he features a power-running, downfield throwing offense. Obviously, Phillip Rivers is firmly entrenched as the starter in SD, so Lee isn't walking into a situation where he will realistically challenge for the starting job at any point in the near future. The back-up is Charlie Whitehurst, who returns after a failed stint in Seattle. After that, they have no one.
Most teams carry 3 QBs, but it's hard to believe they would put the no. 3 QB in the stead of Lee. More likely, they will give him a look and keep him on the Practice Squad.
T-Bob Hebert, St. Louis Rams
I'm not terribly surprised T-Bob gets a look. He's more technician than mauler, but he played for three years as LSU's primary "swing" lineman on the interior. Guys like that will almost always get a look. Plenty of guys have made lengthy stellar careers out of outworking, out-techniquing their opponents. Could T-Bob be one? Sure. But the odds are against him. He lacks strength at the point, and he's not a stellar athlete. But he'll get a look.
DeAngelo Peterson, St. Louis Rams
Peterson has plenty of physical gifting. He's on the lighter side for an NFL TE, but he has good speed and great leaping ability (36" vertical). My problem with Peterson is that this rarely showed up on tape. Much like Randle, people will blame the QBs for his lack of production, but I'm not sure DP was getting open consistently for the QBs to find him. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Great athlete, not a great football player. Still, with his physical tools, you knew someone would give it a look-see, just in case, it was QB play that caused him not to produce.
James Stampley, Seattle Seahawks
Stamp profiles as a true FB, which is a position that is slowly getting phased out of the NFL. Fewer and fewer teams rely on a classic lead blocker, asking the player to be more capable as both a runner and receiver. Seattle features a downhill type of power run game, but their current FB, Michael Robinson is of the versatile mold. Stampley will get a look, but I'm not sure how he fits in the current NFL.
Will Blackwell, Carolina Panthers
Blackwell is more of mauler, but he has very little athletic upside. I think his physical limitations, injury history and lack of experience worried teams. He is a guy that will get nasty, and he likely has a chance to make a team based on tenacity and effort alone. But I'm not sure if he's big and strong enough to be the mauling type of blocker in the NFL. He needs to stay off the ground and reform his body and add strength to make it at the next level.
Ken Adams, Jacksonville Jaguars
I wrote a lengthier review of Adams for our Jaguars affiliate that I or PodKatt will link once it is posted. Adams is odd to me. He was never really a dominant player at LSU. He has always been listed at 6'5, 240 pounds, but at LSU Pro Day they measured him at 6'1 and some change and 244. That's quite a height discrepancy. Could it be a typo? The Jacksonville site still lists him at 6'5. Seems peculiar.
Adams has great straight-line speed and long arms, but little else. His cone, shuttle and vertical measurements are all subpar, which shows on tape. He doesn't have great change of direction. At LSU he was a disciplined run defender that never provided much pass rush (via hurries or sacks). That being said, at 244, his best chance to succeed is to morph himself into a speed-rushing dynamo off the edge. I can't recall any advanced pass-rush moves, but NFL coaches can bring those out of guys at times. If he truly is 6'1 (again, tough to believe with arms that aren't much shorter than Brockers'), arm length will help make up for it. Adams isn't without talent, but he seems to be a long shot to make it in the NFL.
Ryan Baker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Baker, more than any other Tiger, really fell off the radar in 2011. After his 2010 season, I thought he was a lock to be a late-round pick. His play in 2011 fell off (likely a testament to Kelvin Sheppard's ability). He's an undersized LB with good strength (30 bench reps). He doesn't work well in trash. He's at his best flying upfield to make plays. Can be an effective blitzer. I'm not certain what type of system new DC Bill Sheridan will implement, but his stint with the Giants wasn't overly successful. They usually play an aggressive brand of football, so Baker may have a chance as a downhill LB.
Jordan Jefferson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jordan actually didn't sign a UDFA deal. He's being brought in on strictly a workout basis. Jordan's flaws have been talked over time and again. I don't think he's an NFL quality QB. He's got some tools and some athleticism and Tampa will take a look, but I don't foresee him latching on.
2013 NFL Draft
Too early to talk about? Yes.
However, Todd McShay (who I loathe) speculates as many as eight players from LSU could be drafted next year in the first 125 picks. That's a monster number. Who? If I had to guess it's be 8 of these 10:
Barkevious Mingo (if he comes out), Sam Montgomery (if he comes out), Chris Faulk (if he comes out), Alex Hurst, Russell Shepard (maybe), Zach Mettenberger (if he comes out), P.J. Lonergan, Eric Reid (if he comes out), Tharold Simon (if he comes out), Tyrann Mathieu (if he comes out).
It's far too early for me to offer insight on these guys, particularly without another year under their belts, but I'm saying now, Mingo will be the first player taken from LSU next year. Rare, rare athlete.