So I've spent the last few weeks digesting as much film and as many reports as I can about LSU's players headed in this draft. I've thought a lot about who I want the Saints to go after, or more importantly, which positions, but to be honest, I haven't paid near as much attention to the rest of the league as I typically do. Haven't even picked up a draft guide magazine and that used to be a lock for me.
Overall, I just can't bring myself to follow the NFL overall the way I used to. Some of that is my disgust with its leadership (fuck off Rog), some of it the disgustingly sycophantic mainstream media (seriously, the NFL Network blows the doors off ESPN/Fox and that's not saying much) but most of it just realizing how much more I enjoy the college game and not prioritizing it as often.
What I do make sure to watch, is a lot of SEC football, so here are some thoughts on a couple that I either like, or don't at the next level.
Look, I get the arguments against him. The lack of ideal size. The "backyard style" of play. But there's an inescapable fact about Johnny Football, and it's that he's one hell of an accurate passer. Look, the improvisation might have lead the Sportscenter highlights, but Manziel never had a problem picking apart teams from the pocket at Texas A&M. You know, except for LSU. The situation is going to be key, with a coordinator that knows how to play to his strengths while still working on his weaknesses. But of the other QBs slated to be No. 1 picks, Manziel is really the only one I'd trust as a rookie.
I'm with Mike Detillier -- Hill is the best and most complete back in this draft. Yeah, Carlos Hyde is a stud, but the advantage Hill has on him was playing in an offense that's more in line with what he'll see in the NFL. Hill catches the ball and blocks exceptionally well. Plus, according to some folks close to the program he has an exceptional understanding of the game at a conceptual level. He'll pick up a playbook quickly. I know there's the off-field concerns, but too many people seem to truly believe that he's grown and matured beyond them. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he's the best pro out of this crop of LSU players.
Great size, good speed and ridiculous production at the college level, despite being the only significant receiving threat on Vanderbilt's team the last two seasons. Matthews might never be a great No. 1 guy in the NFL, but I'd be really surprised if he doesn't adapt to the game quickly as a contributor, particularly if he winds up on a team with a good quarterback that relies heavily on its passing game, such as New Orleans, Denver, Green Bay, San Diego or New England.
Another big target that runs well and was always relatively productive at Ole Miss, even as a freshman on an epically bad football team. Moncrief would be a great second-round pick for the Saints and give them a possible successor to Marques Colston as a big target that can dominate smaller defensive backs underneath but still make plays down the field.
He's an undersized slot receiver/return guy, but Ellington was a fantastic multi-purpose threat at South Carolina, with 17 total touchdowns in the last three seasons. And he also happened to be a relatively solid point guard for some bad Gamecock basketball teams. Ellington strikes me as the kind of athlete that will adapt quickly to whatever role a team has for him, and for a guy that's likely a mid- to low-round pick, that can translate to some pretty good value. And should he pick up the other nuances of the pro game, he could become a very productive slot receiver in the future.
Before the 2013 season, I compared McCarron to Matt Leinart, and thought there might be a chance that he could have an even better pro career, because whereas Leinart was the 10th overall pick and expected to instantly be the face of a bad Arizona franchise, McCarron would be selected much lower and given the chance to grow into a solid backup, and maybe even an eventual starter in the right situation. He's an accurate short passer that should fit in well in a West Coast-style offense. But that was before he spent the entire draft process basically proving himself to be an even bigger douchebag than I already suspected (and I suspected him to be quite the little asshat). Trying to big-time the Senior Bowl (in his own hometown, no less). Heaving his underclassmen teammates under the bus after the Sugar Bowl. Planning a reality show with his fiancée. And he's still telling anybody that'll listen about his Top-20 expectations. Maybe the Leinart comparison was more apt than I thought.
Look, I get it. Big, strong, fast and more productive than almost every other receiver in this draft. But every time a corner got in his face at the line of scrimmage and really fought with him, he struggled. Evans is a bully, and when cornerbacks stand up to him his only response is to complain to the referees. If a 170-pound freshman like Rashard Robinson can push him around, what are grown-ass men like Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, Brandon Browner, Charles Tillman or Aquib Talib going to do to Evans?