I have attended the NFL draft every year since 2010. It truly was about the best experience in sports — you could buy a VIP package for around $500 which included tickets up front for rounds 1-3 along with a “behind the scenes” tour.
Quite frankly, I always thought the NFL could charge more for this because it was such a good experience — a front-row seat to an event that draws the most knowledgeable/hardcore fans.
I smelled trouble in 2015 when the NFL announced they’d be relocating the Draft to Chicago. I figured they’d raise prices given that they were turning it into an “event” in Grant Park. But hey, I’m a superfan, right?
Then I saw the package:
So, the price goes from $550 to $2,000, but includes 3 nights in a hotel. Let’s be generous and assume the hotel would normally be $300/night — that still means the Draft ITSELF costs around $1,100, almost double the $600 I paid in 2014.
Oh and notice they don’t even seat you in the auditorium! You’re in carnival-like Grant Park, presumably watching on a big screen.
But wait. It gets better!
For $900 you go to a party, again not in the auditorium, but in some location in Grant Park where you “overlook” the Draft. Basically they give you a sandwich & soda, with a gift bag. And this costs MORE than what the “premium” package cost just 1 year ago!
So much to digest here. Not only is the NFL acting like a pig at a trough, but they are destroying what was a fantastic event. No more team tables in the auditorium. No more running a card to the Commissioner. It’s all a big pageant where they try to pack as many screaming yahoos into Grant Park (& presumably the auditorium). There is a “process” by which the public can get free tickets.
Seems like the NFL wants a made-for-TV event rather than an actual Draft. Even as a hardcore Draft guy, there is no way I’d spend that kind of money just to watch it from “Selection Square.” Honestly, if they doubled the price but still kept the Draft the same, I’d probably pay it!
In sum, if the NFL would rather hordes of casual fans pack a made-for-TV scene for 3 days, they can have at it. I’m staying home.
Ah, it’s that time of year — a couple weeks before the draft, and every asshole on the Internet is doing their “mock draft” because, quite clearly, THE WORLD AWAITS the opinion of a 23 yr old “expert blogger” who lives with his parents.
But let’s be honest. Every NFL team has been lying like Bill Clinton in a deposition for several weeks now, and NOBODY, even the most “experty” of experts, really has any clue what these teams will do on May 8.
So I say, screw it, let’s have some fun. Here is the 2014 edition of the Troll Mock Draft:
1) HOU: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson.
If you liked Sammy catching screen passes from Tajh Boyd, you will LOVE Sammy catching screen passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick or Case Keenum. Casein Keenpatrick. That rough & tumble AFC South won’t have any idea what hit ’em!
2) WAS: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (pick traded by STL for Washington’s 2nd round pick & 2 future 1st rounders)
Oh yeah, you read that right. The Rams will trade this pick, acquired in the RGIII deal, BACK to the Redskins, and they’ll double down. You think the 6’2″ RGIII will get killed in the NFL? Wait til you get a load of the 5’9″ Johnny Football. WHITE LIGHTNING!
3) JAX: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “But the Jags just picked a left tackle #2 overall last year!” Look, the Jags have learned their lesson. Build slowly & safely. Don’t take risks like drafting a quarterback. Luke Joeckel will turn 23 midseason. Don’t you think it’s time to plan for the future? Also, WAR EAGLE.
4) CLE: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
I know, I know. The QBs on the Browns roster are Brian Hoyer & Alex Tanney. Whereas they are loaded on D. But look, the whole “offense” thing just isn’t working on Lake Erie. As the Hindus say, better to do your dharma poorly, than try to do someone else’s well. Just punt on 1st down & put that D back on the field.
5) OAK: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Best player available. And for Oakland, that IS trolling.
6) ATL: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Okay, so they already have Roddy White & Julio Jones. But c’mon. Roddy looks like he plays in the WNBA & Julio went to Bama which means his knee cartilage looks like a used cotton ball. MATTY ICE NEEDS TARGETS. These are the anti-Browns. Forget the D — just sling it!
7) TB: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
We all know what Lovie knows best: Defense. And 2nd best, he knows bad QBs. Carr is probably no better than the 4th best QB on the board, but look, any time you have the chance to draft David Carr’s little brother, who played crap competition & looked like a scared toddler vs the 1 decent D he faced: YOU HAVE TO DO IT.
8) MIN: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Remember way back when (3 years ago) when the Vikings overdrafted a developmental QB from the state of Florida? Rick Spielman knows: if at first you don’t succeed, TRY TRY AGAIN.
9) BUF: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
OMG, a guy once thought to be the best QB on the board is still available at #9? He’s accurate, but lacks the type of outward leadership qualities you want in a QB. But wait, the Bills have EJ Manuel, who has those qualities, but can’t hit the broad side of a barn with the football. The plan is simple. Donald Trump buys the team and they use that contraption from “The Fly” to fuse Bridgewater & Manuel into one awesomely mediocre QB. WILD CARD ROUND, HERE WE COME.
10) DET: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
If you’ve read reports in the last couple weeks, the Lions are hosting guys they have NO PRAYER of drafting, unless they traded away their next 5 first round picks. So why the hell not – go for the youngest franchise QB in the league.
11) TEN: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Since Jake Locker can’t seem to stay upright, why not try drafting a guy to protect him also named “Jake.” Sounds like a plan.
12) NYG: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
I can’t even troll the Giants, given how dumpster fire-like their OL was last year. Plus, Lewan was arrested for allegedly beating up some Ohio State fans. Done & done.
13) WAS: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama (pick traded by STL for Washington’s 3rd round pick & 2 more future 1st rounders)
You didn’t think the Rams were actually going to use this pick, did you? After this finagling, they will have 2 picks in both the 2nd & 3rd round, plus every Redskins first rounder until the end of Hillary Clinton’s 2nd term. And obviously Washington selects a defensive back from a program which has produced such recent luminaries such as Dre Kirkpatrick, Rolando McClain, and Trent Richardson. But hey, that’s still probably an upgrade over the Redskins’ current DBs.
14) CHI: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Ever since 2008 or so, when Brian Urlacher stopped being able to move laterally faster than Steven Hawking, the Bears have been looking for a successor. And here he is… a guy who will be as effective in shedding NFL blocks as Kirstie Alley covered in velcro.
15) PIT: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
If your team is full of aging players on the decline, and you have no prayer of competing for a title in the next few years, the answer is clear: go for the local kid whose game tape was ho-hum but KILLED THE SENIOR BOWL.
16) DAL: CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama (pick phoned in by Nick Saban)
Saban figures why wait til he actually takes the Dallas job in 2015? Go ahead & start building a team now. And after all, Sean Lee is as good at staying upright as Stevie Wonder on a surfboard.
17) BAL: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Seems obvious. Steve Smith needs a teammate to beat up, and a kid who played for Les Miles seems like a pretty good choice.
18) NYJ: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Take 2 for “let’s try to replace Revis.” Dee Milliner, like most Bama players once they leave the dark domain of Saban, isn’t going to get it done. In comes a guy from a conference that plays no defense whatsoever. SUCCESS!
19) MIA: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
“God dammit, we’re going to prove to everyone we can hold on to a lineman whose last name is Martin.”
20) ARI: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Cornering the market on big-mouthed D-linemen from F$U. Why not?
21) GB: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
At 5’10”, 185, Cooks fits perfectly into the average pant leg of women in Wisconsin. As long as he can find clothing stores that carry non-behemoth sizes, he should do quite well in Green Bay.
22) PHI: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Who the hell needs defense? CHIP KELLY’S SYSTEM WILL PUT UP 47 POINTS A GAME, BRO, WITH OR WITHOUT DESEAN JACKSON. And now they add Lee, to go with Matt Barkley, who is sure to get playing time when Nick Foles is trampled trying to hit the pitchman in the wishbone.
23) KC: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC
I know it’s tough to believe they might be able to improve upon Anthony Fasano at the TE position, but hey, don’t question Andy Reid’s genius!
24) CIN: AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
Look. One thing isn’t debatable. The only way to up the ante over a mediocre ginger quarterback is to draft a mediocre quarterback with a chest tattoo that says “Bama Boy.”
25) SD: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Bolts are ecstatic to get a guy who had to shut down all those elite Big 10 WRs.
26) CLE: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Having had such good luck with highly-rated prospects out of Alabama, the Browns to back to the well. Who cares if he had a couple botched knee surgeries?! What could go wrong?
27) NO: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Look, I know Brees will only be 36 this year, so he clearly has at least 12 good years left, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the future. Mettenberger played right down the street in Baton Rouge & once his knee heals, he could be a pretty good prospect. Plus, he played for an egomaniac in college & should adjust nicely to Sean Payton.
28) CAR: [FORFEIT]
In an effort to cut salary so they can pay their “elite” QB with a career passer rating of 84, the Panthers punt on their first round pick. Plus, who needs rookies? They have SUPER CAM!
29) NE: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Just seems too obvious, doesn’t it? Vince Wilfork is 57 years old and they will need some youth behind him. Plus, as a bonus, Nix is accustomed to dumb white people rooting for him. Great fit.
30) SF: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
What’s that you say? They drafted another DE out of Missouri just 3 years ago who recently was arrested at an airport for claiming he had a bomb? Harbaugh will call up Gary Pinkel & REALLY let him have it, and in return get inside info that Ealy is the best straight player on the Mizzou DL. Game, set, match.
31) DEN: Somebody, some position, some college
Seriously. Does it matter? BEST CASE: Peyton stays healthy & chokes in the playoffs again. WORST CASE: the Brock Osweiler era begins!
32) SEA: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
It’s just too obvious. He has “Seattle” written all over him. Kiper will say they overdrafted him, and then he’ll catch 80 balls for 1,500 yards next year. Just because.
Welcome to the silly season, when NFL General Managers lie & the media follow along with notebooks, drooling. But we’re too smart to buy into that, aren’t we?!
So instead of a “mock draft,” I’m going to focus on what we really care about: what will the Bucs do at #7?
Right off the bat, I’m going to redefine the question. It’s not “what will the Bucs do at #7″ but “what player(s) will be there at 7 whom the Bucs deem worthy of the pick?” Because at this point, given the offseason, I think there’s a sizable chance they will try very hard to trade down.
So let’s dive in.
There are six (6) picks ahead of Tampa. I think it’s just about a lock that 4 of those (in some order) will be: Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, and 2 of the QBs (most likely Bortles/Bridgewater). That leaves 2 other picks ahead of the Bucs, with the following players most likely to fill those slots:
- Khalil Mack. He is generally deemed 1 of the truly “elite” players in this draft, and it’s hard to see Atlanta passing on him at #6 given both their desperate need for pass rush & impending switch to a 3-4.
- An OT. Both Jake Matthews & Taylor Lewan are elite left tackle prospects, a hair beneath Greg Robinson. It’s entirely possible someone trades up for one, or a team like Oakland takes one (given their, um, “issues” this offseason).
- Sammy Watkins. This one is a wildcard. Watkins could go as high as #2 to St. Louis, or not in the top 6 at all. Really depends largely on:
- A QB. I think 2 QBs are a lock for the top 6, but it’s entirely possible all of the “Big 3″ go prior to the Bucs’ selection at 7. If that happens, it really only leaves 1 extra pick in the top 6 for 2 of the elite OTs, Watkins, and Mack.
As of now, my gut tells me that Watkins is gone at 7, which leaves the “best player available” as 1 of the elite LTs or Mack, with the possibility that 1 of the “big 3″ QBs is there as well. I don’t see the Bucs spending #7 on any of those players (unless they like the QB), so in this scenario they probably trade down. But we could also see a scenario where lots of trades push all 3 QBs in the top 6 and a guy like Watkins (a possible Bucs target) lasts until 7.
But right now, if I had to bet, I think the Bucs trade down to a team who wants either the 3rd QB or the 2nd LT and recoup a pick or two.
It’s the offseason, so it’s time to remind ourselves why we love the NFL: parity.
In 2012, Kansas City won 2 games & had the #1 overall pick. In 2013, the Chiefs won 11 games & made the playoffs. There is a story like this every year, and yet a big chunk of the fans & media seem to forget how fleeting NFL success can be.
So with that in mind, I’m going to divide the NFL into 4 groups:
- Teams with an elite quarterback
When I say “elite,” I mean “elite.” I’m talking about Brady, Brees, Manning, and Rodgers – guys who can win games pretty much on their own. If your team is in this group, consider yourself lucky because barring injuries or other weirdness, your team will pretty much be in the playoff hunt every single year.
- Teams with abnormally good talent across the board, but no elite QB
These are teams like the 49ers & Seahawks who are loaded at multiple position groups but don’t have a truly elite QB. This is a small group whose overall talent sets their “floor” at around 8-8.
- Every other average-to-above average team in the league
Here’s your parity. This is the majority of the league, and typically about half of playoff teams fall in this category. The variance is high for this group – they could go 5-11 or 11-5 depending on a bunch of factors: coaching, injuries, luck, etc.
- The basement (rebuilding teams)
This is a small group of teams that have fallen on hard times, such as Jacksonville. There aren’t many “pieces” in place and they need at least an offseason or 2 to right the ship.
Make no mistake – many NFL fans are nodding that their team is in group 1 or 2, but the majority are in group 3. That’s what makes the league so great — you just never know who will step up & claim the few playoff slots that change each year.
The draft “silly season” has started & some prognosticators are already predicting crazy things, such as “Houston might not take a QB #1 overall!”
Let me tell you a story that will teach you how to predict the draft better than about 80% of the sports media.
Flashback to the fall of 2011.
The Minnesota Vikings released their starting left tackle, Bryant McKinnie. He had, um, “issues” with his weight and the team moved Charlie Johnson to that position. He was serviceable enough, but at the end of the 2011 season they announced they were moving him to left guard. Free agency came & went & they didn’t sign a left tackle.
So, prior to the draft, the Vikings had no left tackle on their roster.
Repeat. The Vikings had no left tackle on their roster.
And as it turned out, they held the #3 overall pick in that draft, where blue chipper Matt Kalil was projected around that spot and was the only truly elite left tackle on the board.
Remember, picks #1 & #2 in that draft were decided long before draft night: Andrew Luck & Robert Griffin III. So, at #3, the Vikings were sitting pretty. Seems pretty obvious, right? They just took a QB in 2011 (Christian Ponder) and last I checked, a solid left tackle was a pretty important spot.
Yet, I remember very clearly in the days/weeks before the draft, talking heads projecting the Vikings taking a defensive back, or some other position. Do these people even look at the rosters of these teams before making these predictions? I called into Sirius/XM Radio to one of their morning shows & told the host this little tidbit – that the Vikings had no left tackle on the roster, while they weren’t all that bad at cornerback. The guy dismissed me, saying DB is a need.
Sure enough, come April 26, 2012, not only did the Vikings take Matt Kalil, but they actually were able to hoodwink the Browns into trading up a pick to get Trent Richardson. So the Vikings traded back 1 selection, got the guy they wanted, AND 3 additional picks (a 4th, 5th, and 7th). Credit GM Rick Spielman for that swindle.
Bottom line: don’t look at any mock drafts right now. Wait until free agency in March & watch what positions teams address. THEN make an educated guess.
The Bucs enter the 2014 draft short on picks (traded away a 3rd & a 6th), but also, thankfully, short on dire needs. The positions the team will likely want to address are (in no order): QB, interior OL, and pass rush.
Things might get interesting this year, because where the Bucs sit in the 1st round (#7 overall) will likely keep them out of the QB & DE market. This year, there is only 1 elite QB and 1 elite DE: Teddy Bridgewater & Jadeveon Clowney. Those guys will almost certainly be gone when the Bucs are on the board. And because interior OL is typically a “low value” position, they won’t address that at #7 either, so my guess is they will look to 1 of the elite linebackers, namely Anthony Barr or Khalil Mack. Either guy could be and end rusher on passing downs and provide an immediate boost to an already solid defense.
The only other direction I could see them going at #7 is offensive tackle, simply because there is great value there in this draft. Donald Penn isn’t getting any younger and there are at least 3 OTs that grade top 15(ish) in this draft.
The 2nd round is where I think things might get interesting. Assuming they want to find an immediate successor to Davin Joseph, they can easily do so in the mid/late 2nd round. This is not a top-heavy draft for OGs, so it’s likely that someone like Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State) or David Yankey (Stanford) will be available in the mid-late 40s (Bucs pick is #38). In trading back, the Bucs could possibly get a 4th round pick or so AND get a guard who can immediately start.
You’re probably wondering “what about QB?” This is a very deep QB draft, and once you get past Teddy Bridgewater, there (arguably) isn’t a ton of difference between the next couple QBs off the board & a guy they could get in the 3rd round (assuming they trade up). And certainly, there’s nobody that is a clear-cut improvement over Glennon. For that reason, it’d be silly to overdraft someone when they can fill 2 big needs with guys who are less likely to be busts.
It’s January, so I might revise this as we get further into the process. But for now, that’s my story & I’m stickin’ to it.
Quick… who’s the 2nd best team in the SEC?
Quick… who in the ACC is half-decent outside FSU/Clemson & maybe Miami?
Quick… other than Ohio State, Wisconsin, & Michigan State, what Big 10 team even has a pulse?
2013 is fast becoming the year of the haves & have nots. As of now, there are 4 teams with a legitimate shot to play for the national title, and 2 of those play schedules so weak that winning all their games might not be enough. Let’s examine.
The Buckeyes will most likely finish the regular season having played one (1) ranked team – a home game vs Wisconsin. The rest of their schedule:
Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal, Florida A&M, Iowa, Penn State, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan.
Woof. Buckeye fans can gripe all they want about media bias, etc, but that is a very weak schedule, and if there are more than 2 undefeated teams at the end of the year, the weakness of the Big 10 will likely freeze the Buckeyes out of the BCS title game.
The Seminoles will complete 2013 with 1 marquee win: @ Clemson. They will also probably point to a home win vs. Miami, but let’s be honest – the ‘Canes aren’t an elite team. Miami will have feasted on a very easy schedule & finish the year overranked.
The rest of FSU’s schedule: Pitt, Nevada, Bethune-Cookman, BC, Maryland, NC State, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho, Florida
Make no mistake, this is tougher than Ohio State’s road, but still not exactly murderer’s row. FSU will be ahead of OSU in the pecking order, but they, too, need to hope both Alabama & Oregon lose a game, or else it’s Orange Bowl for them.
The Tide plays in the SEC, so they will have a great résumé, right? Eh. Bama lucked into a pretty easy SEC draw in a year when the whole conference is down. Their schedule includes Texas A&M, LSU, & Auburn – all good teams. But the rest?
Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Ole Miss, Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Chattanooga
Even if you lump Ole Miss in with the “good” teams on their schedule, it’s not particularly daunting. Certainly, this is good enough to keep their #1 slot, or at worst fall to #2, but the entire month of October was basically a vacation (Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee).
Very quietly, the Pac-12 has made a case for being the toughest conference in the nation. There is only 1 elite team (Oregon), but the middle of the conference (UCLA, Washington, Arizona State, Oregon State, USC, Arizona) is surprisingly decent. It certainly isn’t the SEC of the past few years, but unlike the above teams, Oregon won’t be able to lay an egg & expect to win each week.
It’d be a massive upset if either Ohio State or Florida State lost a game this season, whereas Alabama & Oregon may very well drop a game (Oregon, more likely).
In any case, it’s a fitting final year for the BCS, as someone will certainly be angry — either an undefeated Ohio State/Florida State team that is frozen out due to schedule, or an 1-loss Oregon who is passed over for one of the above teams simply because they had to play more tough games.