Like it or not we’ve about exhausted the additional time before next week’s draft. I, for one, hate waiting two more weeks for the draft but I’ve found ways to grin and bare it.
The two additional weeks allowed me to become bolder on my predictions as the overthinking process has set in and we’ve begun to explore avenues that weren’t even a thought this time last week (when the draft would normally take place).
Every year we make some bold predictions a week out from the draft. This year will be no different other than the fact that we have no idea how the top of this draft will play out. For three consecutive years, I’ve hit on the top four picks (twice on the top five) of the draft in The Huddle Report mock draft contest. That run could come to a close as I have no idea where this thing is going to go at the top. This uncertainty makes things very interesting and we’ll all be glued to ESPN or NFL Network next Thursday at 8:00 PM EST to see if Jadeveon Clowney is the top pick and whether Houston is still selecting in that spot.
Enough with the excitement building and onto the predictions.
1. Zack Martin will be taken before Taylor Lewan
Taylor Lewan is going in the six to ten range in most mock drafts while Martin is usually found in the twelve to nineteen range. On draft day I could see this trend reversing with Martin going probably in the nine to twelve range and Lewan going in the twelve to nineteen range. Why?
Well let me start by saying I haven’t been a Lewan fan, as he’s sat in the late round one, early round two range for me for a long time. Martin, on the other hand, has been a favorite of mine for some time. I view Martin as a guy that could play any of the five OL positions. I firmly believe Martin is a Pro Bowl guard early on during his career and possibly a stellar RT in the league for a lot of years. If we look at a team like Buffalo, they could use a guy with this versatility, so don’t be surprised if they go the safe route and take Martin, while Lewan sits and waits for his name to be called.
2. Timmy Jernigan falls to the mid-second round
Timmy Jernigan is a guy that many have going in the mid-first round (to Chicago/Dallas). I, personally, don’t see that happening and here’s why.
Jernigan undoubtedly had his best season as a Seminole last fall. Prior to a breakout junior season, I viewed Jernigan as an underachiever with a questionable motor. Last year, he dispelled those doubts in my book, showing in the National Championship game that he was capable of dominating the interior for spells. Yes, he gassed out but his effort prior to the fourth quarter was off the charts.
All that said, I don’t see an impact interior rusher…something I would expect from a first round DT. Nor do I see a guy that can alter the game as a run stopper. At a shade under 6-foot-2, 298 pounds with short(ish) arms the risk for teams will be his inability to play in multiple fronts. He may be limited to playing in base four man fronts, so I think teams that look to be more multiple or base three man fronts may avoid.
3. Kyle Fuller, not Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard, will be the first corner off the board
For months now, the debate has been Darqueze Dennard vs. Justin Gilbert for the rights to the top corner spot. At the very least, Kyle Fuller has entered as a third to this debate and my bold prediction is that he’ll be the first selected on May 8.
Justin Gilbert has all the physical attributes teams are looking for in today’s corners but his technique and footwork leave a bit to be desired. Combine that with the fact that he’s not exactly seeking out ball carriers and I think he’ll be lower on team’s draft boards than media draft boards.
Darqueze Dennard has the opposite problem of Gilbert’s. His measurables are so-so which will keep a handful of teams hesitant to make him a top half of the first round guy. Combine that with the fact that he could be a pass interference machine at the next level if he can’t clean up his technique when the ball is in the air.
Kyle Fuller is one of the more complete corners in the draft. While he won’t wow anyone in any one particular area, he’s good in most all facets of the game. There isn’t one area that I can point to and say he needs immediate improvement to impact in year one. For that reason, it wouldn’t shock me if he didn’t get a long look starting at No. 10 with the Lions and ultimately wind up being the first corner selected.
4. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif will have some fan base scratching their heads late on day two and scouring the internet for a watch on the Canadian
Who is this guy? Nine teams showed up to McGill University’s pro day. You know McGill University – that beacon of NFL talent in Canada. They showed up to see a raw, 6-foot-5, 298 pound tackle that blew the doors off the physical testing process.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif outshined most all of the tackles that tested in Indy, including some guys that are sure to go very high in the draft. Now, it doesn’t end there – this kid can play. Yes, he’s really raw and won’t be nearly ready to compete next year. But a couple of years in an NFL camp could have him postponing his medical career for a long NFL career.
Tardif is a med student with off the charts physical gifts that has NFL teams wondering what he could be down the road. The NFL isn’t the NBA in terms of seeking potential but this guy could be worth taking a shot on with the hopes of him developing into a future impact starter. Teams that implement a zone blocking system will have an eye on this guy – I think starting in the third round, which would be two or three rounds higher than most believe.
5. Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders avoid taking a QB high in the draft
With Matt Schaub in the fold, it became a much easier proposition for the Raiders to ignore the long-term QB need. Schaub had an abysmal season last year and should be good for a year or two before the Raiders have to begin thinking of a long-term plan at the position.
Common thought is the Raiders will spend a first or second round pick on the future quarterback. I see this playing out a bit differently. With Schaub and Matt McGloin comprising the current two-deep and other need areas it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Reggie McKenzie held off until 2015 to select a QB. From his standpoint, another down year and he won’t be there so all the eggs are really in the Matt Schaub basket, so why waste a pick that won’t make an impact next year.
One Not-So Bold Prediction
1. Khalil Mack will be the second player off the board
I say this one is not so bold because I’ve mocked it for a number of weeks. Whether it’s St. Louis or a team that moves up into St. Louis’s spot, I think Khalil Mack is the apple of many teams eye.
For teams looking to score Mack they need to get ahead of Jacksonville. If Mack is on the board for Gus Bradley to take, you can dial that one in. The talk of Houston trading down to six with Atlanta and still scoring Mack is a major assumption that Mack makes it down there – which I don’t see happening.
For these reasons, a team will surprise us on draft day and move up for not Sammy Watkins but for Khalil Mack and I think it happens in the two hole. Keep an eye on Detroit. I’ve been saying for a month they could be on the outside looking in sitting at No. 10. Les Snead could gamble and move down to No. 10 securing another haul of picks, present and future. Or Snead could beef up this already rather beefy defense in a division loaded with defensive talent by taking Mack himself.