The Draft: Unsolved Mystery
Mock Draft 261. Mock Draft 262. Recycled, Mock Draft 1.0. Mock Draft 2.0.
The draft is a puzzle. So many pieces, and it’s not clear what fits where.
Even better, it’s a mystery. Instead of whodunit, it’s whogetspicked.
Like a mystery, there are red herrings. I’d say at least half of what’s said for attribution falls into this category. Why should a general manager or coach tip his hand?
So, for example, you have new Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, a hard-headed type, saying that Johnny Manziel “raises flags.”
Sorry, I’m not buying it. I think the Vikes would take him in a second.
Can you tell who’s going to be drafted by who the teams invite to see? Not necessarily.
I think much of that is for show. The plain fact is that whogetspicked is a mystery. Here are some of the elements of the mystery:
The major quarterbacks and where they’re drafted. Blake Bortles of Central Florida will be drafted first. No, he’ll go at the end of the first round.
Manziel will go first. No, he’s a second-rounder.
Teddy Bridgewater, despite that bad workout, will be drafted early. Oh, no he won’t.
Derek Carr of Fresno State will sneak past his quarterback brethren. No he won’t.
There are only four top-tier quarterbacks. No, the difference between those four and the next five or six is negligible.
From the teams’ perspective, there are the divergent viewpoints: Manziel (or Bortles or whoever) are franchise quarterbacks. Or, no, they’re just decent, and you’re better off taking, say Zach Mettenberger of LSU, Aaron Murray of Georgia or A.J. McCarron of Alabama in the late first or early second rounds.
Trades. One of the two likeliest teams are the Rams, drafting second (and, with Sam Bradford, presumably not needing a signal-caller) and the Raiders at five. This is a team that’s always been a wild card. (Raiders fans remember the horrifying draft when JaMarcus Russell was taken first on owner Al Davis’ orders, and Lane Kiffin was saddled with the consequences.)
A team might think they’re just one player away from being great, so they’ll trade up. The Falcons gambled away the house for Julio Jones, and he’s pretty good. But the team was terrible last year.
If you’re crappy, you want more players. That’s a good way to go. But I think the gambler in us wants to make a deal for that one guy. (If you’re a Minnesota or Dallas fan, you remember the Herschel Walker trade. The Vikings, who had a very good team at the end of the 1980s, gave away players and picks for Walker. The deal enabled Dallas to build a dynasty.)
How good are those top-tier quarterbacks? You could argue that using a first-round pick is always a gamble. Why?
Other players are in a one-on-one situation. A guard blocks a D-lineman, and it’s pretty clear if he’s decent or crappy. A defensive back covers a receiver.
But a quarterback can look much better than he is – or much worse – depending on his team. Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart were on great teams at USC. They were rarely rushed hard. The team’s always had great rushers, so a decent quarterback would get man-to-man protection. They had strong receivers, too, and didn’t have to come from behind.
Also, the quality of coaching is crucial for quarterbacks, both in college and as they move to the pros. I’m not sure Tom Brady would’ve been nearly as good if he’d gone somewhere besides New England. He’s constantly compared to Peyton Manning, but Manning’s had several coaches (and some mediocre teams).
Chemistry is important for quarterbacks. Some guys just aren’t a good fit with particular teams. It’s tough to know before the draft. For every Brady, picked up in the sixth round, there’s a Ryan Leaf, who was picked second behind Manning. (In fairness, he had some issues that were going to come up wherever he went.)
Does that answer where Manziel, Bridgewater or Bortles will go? No, I’m afraid not.
Football.com’s David Seigerman has a very rational mock draft on our site, and he says Bridgewater and Bortles go in the top eight.
Still, since when has the draft been rational?
I say: Let the madness begin.
Be sure to create (or update) your NFL Mock Draft on Football.com now. It's quick and easy!