Caplan’s Insider NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Here’s my first mock draft for 2013.

Feel free to tell me how you know your team won’t draft the player that I put down for them—I always enjoy those comments.

I’ll add detailed analysis and more possibilities (with possible trades) for each team in next week’s update.

1) Team: Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel/OT/Texas A&M

Needs: RT, ILB, OLB
2) Team: Jacksonville Jaguars: Shariff Floyd/DT/Florida

Needs: DE, CB, WR, G, OLB, SS, QB
3) Team: Oakland Raiders: Geno Smith/QB/West Virginia

Needs: DE, CB, QB, RT, G, OLB, DT, FS
4) Team: Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Jordan/OLB/Oregon

Needs: G, DE, CB, S
5) Team: Detroit Lions: Eric Fisher/OT/Central Michigan

Needs: LT, DE, CB, WR, G, RT, SLB
6) Team: Cleveland Browns: Dee Milliner/CB/Alabama

Needs: CB, ILB, WR, FS, OLB
7) Team: Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson/OT/Oklahoma

Needs:OLT, OLB, G, ILB, WR
8) Team: Buffalo Bills: Chance Warmack/G/Alabama

Needs: G, OLB, WR, ILB, QB
9) Team: New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo/OLB/LSU

Needs: RB, OLB, G, QB, WR, FS, DE, CB
10) Team: Tennessee Titans: Star Lotulelei/DT/Utah

Needs: G, DE, DT, CB, SS
11) Team: San Diego Chargers: Xavier Rhodes/CB/Florida St.

Analysis:

Needs: LT, G, CB, DE, OLB, ILB
12) Team: Miami Dolphins: Ziggy Ansah/DE/BYU

Needs: OT, DE, CB
13) Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Datone Jones/DE/UCLA

Needs: CB, TE, DE, WR, DT, SLB
14) Team: Carolina Panthers: Tavon Austin/WR/West Virginia

Needs: CB, DT, WR, DE, SLB, FS
15) Team: New Orleans Saints: Jarvis Jones/OLB/Georgia

Needs: LT, OLB, WR, SS, DE
16) Team: St. Louis Rams: Jonathan Cooper/G/North Carolina

Needs: FS, RB, WR, G, SLB, CB, DT
17) Team: Pittsburgh Steelers: Eddie Lacy/RB/Alabama

Needs: RB, WR, OLB, ILB, CB
18) Team: Dallas Cowboys: Kenny Vaccaro/S/Texas

Needs: G, S, DE, WR, DT, CB
19) Team: New York Giants: Bjoern Werner/DE/Florida St.

Needs: DE, MLB
20) Team: Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree/LB/Georgia

Needs: LB, CB, DE, WR, DT, G
21) Team: Cincinnati Bengals: D.J. Fluker/OT/Alabama

Needs: RT, RB, DE, SLB, MLB, CB, SS
22) Team: St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Eric Reid/S/LSU

Needs: FS, RB, WR, G, CB, DT, SLB
23) Team: Minnesota Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson/WR/Tennessee

Needs: WR, MLB, CB, DT, DE, G
24) Team: Indianapolis Colts: Damontre Moore/OLB/Texas A&M

Needs: OLB, G, CB, WR, ILB
25) Team: Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle Seahawks): Desmond Trufant/CB/Washington

Needs: WR, MLB, CB, DT, DE, G
26) Team: Green Bay Packers: Matt Elam/S/Florida

Needs: RB, WR, OLB, S
27) Team: Houston Texans: Tyler Eifert/TE/Notre Dame

Needs: RT, WR, ILB, OLB, TE
28) Team: Denver Broncos: Sylvester Williams/DT/North Carolina

Needs: DE, DT, CB
29) Team: New England Patriots: Terrance Williams/WR/Baylor

Needs: WR, DE, CB, SS
30) Team: Atlanta Falcons: Jamar Taylor/CB/Boise St.

Needs: CB, DE, RT, TE
31) Team: San Francisco 49ers: Jonathan Cyprien/S/Florida International

Needs: FS, NT, CB, DE, WR
32) Team: Baltimore Ravens: Robert Woods/WR/USC

Needs: WR, RT, ILB, SS, CB

Lance Zierlein’s NFL 2014 Mock Draft 2.0

Quick Hits

  • Word around league circles is that the Cleveland Browns have a great deal of interest in Derek Carr.  While this may be true, I’m hearing they are also high on Teddy Bridgewater who is a safer option.  The Browns need a safe selection at QB who can take care of the ball and get the ball down the field to Josh Gordon and Bridgewater fits.
  • You might be surprised by the Jets taking Blake Bortles and I was surprised I ended up putting him there, but keep in mind that the Jets just fell into Geno Smith in the second round and they might not be married to him after watching him for a year.  It’s all about getting the QB position right and if the Jets like Bortles they could take him over one of their primary need positions.
  • The Eagles love speed and with Trent Cole getting up there in age, I could see Chip Kelly and the Eagles locking in on one of the quickest pass rushers off the edge in this year’s draft – Dee Ford.
  • The more I dig around on the CB position with scouts and front office men around the league, the more I’m hearing that Darqueze Dennard could fall much further than most people think.  I put him with the Saints in that spot, but that could easily be Kyle Fuller there with Dennard falling to the back end of the first or even out of the first round.
  • The Broncos might be thrilled to see C.J. Mosley fall to them at 31.  However,  with some medical concerns out there surrounding Mosley, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him fall out of the first round into the early part of the second.  In this scenario, I’ve got the Broncos going with a huge need selection at CB with Kyle Fuller.
  • The Seattle Seahawks really don’t care how you do things because they have their own way of drafting.  While I wouldn’t take Joel Bitonio this highly, he is a good athlete with outstanding tenacity who can likely fit into the RT or LG positions for the Seahawks.  The Seahawks need to improve their pass-blocking and overall consistency on the offensive line and Bitonio might be their kind of fit.
  • I ended up having some “name” players fall out of the first round.  Alabama LT Cyrus Kouandjio has medical concerns and didn’t play as well in 2013 as he did in 2012.  I’ve already covered C.J. Mosley’s potential fall out of the first.  I was told by a source inside the league that Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan could “fall like a rock”.  I didn’t question the source, I just left him out of the first round.  Missouri DE Kony Ealy could end up going in the first round, but he doesn’t have the strength to make it as a 3-4 DE yet and I don’t see the edge speed that would excite teams looking for a first round DE.

Lance Zierlein’s OT Draft Grades

The tackle draft is very uneven.  While the top three tackles in this draft all have Pro-Bowl caliber potential, the middle rounds offer a very scarce amount of starting potential talent.  Guys like Watson, Long, Bahktiari and Armstead are all solid prospects, but once you get past them, it’s a wrap.  Teams looking for tackle help will have to draft tackle earlier than they might like or they will be out of luck.

LZ Favorite – David Bakhtiari:  The big man from Colorado is a little more high-cut than you might like, but he’s a solid pass protector who also climbs to the second level with ease in the running game.  I’m a huge fan of his foot quickness and I wonder if he won’t end up as a center on the next level.

Tackle Rankings

Tackle School Round
Luke Joeckel Texas A&M 1st
Eric Fisher C. Michigan 1st
Lane Johnson Oklahoma 1st
DJ Fluker Alabama 1st
David Bakhtiari Colorado 2nd
Menelik Watson Florida St. 2nd
Kyle Long Oregon 2nd/3rd
Terron Armstead Ark. Pine-Bluff 2nd/3rd
Jordan Mills La. Tech 4th
Oday Aboushi Virginia 4th/5th
Rogers Gaines Tennessee St. 5th
Brennan Williams North Carolina 5th
Nick Becton Virginia Tech 5th
Xavier Nixon Florida 5th/6th
Ricky Wagner Wisconsin 5th/6th
Chris Faulk LSU 6th
Reid Fragel Ohio St. 6th
Vinston Painter Virginia Tech 6th
Luke Marquardt Azusa Pacific 7th
Braden Brown BYU 7th
Emmett Cleary Boston College 7th
Elvis Fisher Missouri 7th/FA
Oscar Johnson La. Tech 7th/FA
Jamaal Johnson-Webb Alabama A&M FA
Jeff Nady Nevada FA
Jason Weaver USM FA
John Wetzel Boston College FA
Jordan Devey Memphis FA
Patrick Ward Northwestern FA
Mike Farrell Penn St. FA

A Metrics Breakdown of Top Running Backs: Tier 2

The second grouping of RBs certainly has its fair share of interesting prospects. Among the group, there are intriguing RBs like Marcus Lattimore and Christine Michael as well as college workhorses like Stepfan Taylor and Montee Ball. Are any of them worth being considered in the first tier? I’ll explore their college production, trying to determine just that.

Statistics are best used when put in the proper context and combined with film study. These metrics can tell you exactly how many tackles Lattimore broke and can provide support for what you see on film, but it can’t tell you what to feel about a player. Keep that in mind as you read through them. All statistics are provided by STATS ICE, a system that has every game charted from BCS contests this past year.

How Were They in the Open Field?

To start, we’re going to focus on how many extra yards the running backs were able to generate. Combining two common RB metrics, I’ve created an Extra score on a scale of 0-50, combining yards after contact per run and percentage of total yards after broken contact. The score is then divided by their size, since these metrics are geared slightly towards bigger backs. The size factor only had a slight effect on their overall scores. The higher the score the more extra yards a back created.

Montee
Ball
Marcus
Lattimore
Joseph
Randle
Mike
Gillislee
Christine
Michael
Stepfan
Taylor
Extra 27.5 13.87 27.46 16.95 21.76 25.43
Bkn Tak % 4.78% 1.40% 4.01% 2.46% 4.55% 4.97%
YAC 2.49 1.95 2.60 1.76 1.76 2.18
  • I’m going to feel bad about writing unkind things about Lattimore, but his ability to break tackles and gain extra yardage was abysmal. Maybe the lack of ability was due to his previous injury or some other unforeseen factors. On 143 carries he only had 2 broken tackles according to the STATS ICE data. That’s rough for a 230-pound running back regardless of how you slice it.
  • Ball and Taylor, the two workhorse backs, were just about average in these measures. You might hope for some more broken tackles and yards after contact from Taylor given his reputation, but all in all it’s not something that would drastically alter my perception of them.
  • My first instinct is to blame Lattimore and Mike Gillislee’s poor numbers on playing SEC defenses, but Eddie Lacy proved that one could indeed generate extra yardage against tough opponents. That type of ability is clearly what separates Lacy from the other RBs.  As for Gillislee, he’s on the smaller side at 208 pounds, so this could indicate that he may not be cut out for an every down role in the NFL.

Did Their Offensive Systems Suit Them?

With this metric, I’ve adjusted for run direction and formation to create a generic offensive system. Thus, how would they fare if their O-line remained the same, but each of their offensive coordinators ran the same number of times to each direction and formation. The goal is to see if the RBs were used optimally in their offenses. Due to the prevalence of the read-option in college, the directions are broken down into left-middle-right instead of off tackle, etc.

Montee
Ball
Marcus
Lattimore
Joseph
Randle
Mike
Gillislee
Christine
Michael
Stepfan
Taylor
Adjusted Yds 183.72 18.89 -17.60 -9.06 26.21 86.70
Left YPC 5.07 4.48 6.48 4.92 4.29 4.28
Middle YPC 5.19 3.79 4.63 4.06 5.37 4.88
Right YPC 4.71 9.00 4.75 6.53 2.25 4.75
  • Le’Veon Bell and Ball both had drastic increases in yardage when I adjusted for their systems. What this tells me is that it’s possible their Big Ten offenses were insistent on pounding the ball in a certain direction and out of certain formations without further thought for their skills. Had Ball been in an ‘average offense’ he would have gained roughly 183 more yards by this metric.
  • Taylor faced a similar predicament at Stanford, gaining 87 yards in an adjusted offense. The trend seems to be highlighting systems that concentrated on running the ball consistently and from under center. For all of these RBs, it could show they have the talent to thrive in more creative NFL offenses.
  • Every other RB was well utilized. Each one could have had minor gains or losses, but for the most part their programs used them in ways that took advantage of their talents.
  • Both Ball and Taylor were extremely consistent when running each direction. That’s exactly the type of back they need to be: consistent, well-rounded players.

How Clutch Were They?

The clutch metric measures how well each RB did in obvious rushing situations. Game situations like third and shorts, running when a team is ahead, and a few more factors combine to create a score 0-100 to measure the quality of a RB in clutch situations. A higher score meaning a RB is more clutch.

Montee
Ball
Marcus
Lattimore
Joseph
Randle
Mike
Gillislee
Christine
Michael
Stepfan
Taylor
Clutch 60.34 62.62 70.21 57.14 34.35 44.89
Third & Short YPC 3.30 3.30 5.10 3.20 2.10 2.90
  • To this point I haven’t written anything about Joseph Randle, but his clutch score is tops in this tier and third overall amongst RBs. The high score is mostly due to the fact that in third and short situations, he averaged 5.1 yards. That’s to say, he averaged enough to get a first down in third down situations, an impressive stat.
  • For a slower, bruising back, Taylor’s YPC on third and short was a bit wanting. He only averaged 2.9 yards in these clutch situations. Honestly, you’d expect more for a bigger RB who was used to pounding it up the middle.
  • Ball, Lattimore, and Gillislee all come out around the same with around 3.2-3.3 YPC in clutch situations and solid all-around scores in the Clutch metric.
  • Michael’s 2.1 yards per carry is underwhelming. For a big, athletic back who needs to find a niche in the NFL this stat certainly doesn’t do him any favors. It’s true that A&M likely used him in only the most obvious of situations, so that’s a possible reason for his low YPC.

How Many of Their Yards Were Free?

This section is a little bit of an experiment, combining some of my own charting ideas with the STATS ICE data. What I’ve done is sample their games and count the number of plays in which the running back was not touched or did not have to make a football move (juke, spin, etc) within 5 yards of the LOS. This is to measure how many “free” touches each RB got. It doesn’t necessarily measure the quality of the line because the quality of defenses affects the metric as well, but it gives you a feel for how many easy runs each RB had. I only counted runs that even the most mediocre of RBs could have made, so field vision didn’t play a factor.

Montee
Ball
Marcus
Lattimore
Joseph
Randle
Mike
Gillislee
Christine
Michael
Stepfan
Taylor
% Carries 4.67% 5.00% 10.75% 3.33% N/D* 4.59%
% Yardage 12.63% 17.71% 40.1% 18.39% N/D* 11.42%
  • The first thing that sticks out is Randle’s ridiculously high amount of free yardage and carries. Nearly 11% of his carries left him untouched within the first 5 yards of his run. Those runs weren’t just 7 or 8 yard runs, 40% of his yardage came on those. Whether it was poor Big 12 defensive effort or the result of an offensive line that only allowed 12 sacks this year, he got a lot of help.
  • Gillislee didn’t get much help from his offensive line at all. Between strong SEC defenses, a passing game that couldn’t get out of its own way, and some mediocre offensive line play, only 3.33% of his carries were free.
  • Much has been made of the Wisconsin offensive line. While no one would argue that the line play was as superb as previous years, these statistics don’t indicate he received an undue amount of free yardage. Both his percentage of carries and yardage are near average, which would seem to indicate that any talk about Ball’s o-line last year was far overblown.

* Michael was left out since he had such a limited amount of carries relative to the other players, the sample size would have been much smaller than the other players.

NFL Mock Draft 2012 #2 from Adam Caplan

  • 1.  Indianapolis

    ANDREW LUCK

    Quarterback | Stanford

    First Mock Selection: Andrew Luck/QB/Stanford

    Analysis: Now GM Ryan Grigson can build around Luck. And it will be interesting to see what his approach winds up being. Draft mostly offense early or defense?

    Needs: QB, WR, TE, G, CB, ORT, NT, DE, OLB

    Other Possibilities: None.

  • 2.  Washington (from St. Louis)

    ROBERT GRIFFIN III

    Quarterback | Baylor

    First Mock Selection: Robert Griffin III/QB/Baylor

    Analysis: It will be interesting to see how the Redskins use Griffin. Will they make him a true pocket passer or will they move him around a bit? Then again, their offensive line isn’t very good, so he may have to move around more than they would like.

    Needs: QB, C, G, ILB, CB, RB, WR

    Other Possibilities: None.

  • 3.  Minnesota

    MATT KALIL

    Offensive Tackle | Southern California

    First Mock Selection: Matt Kalil/OLT/Southern California

    Analysis: This pick could go either way (Kalil or Claiborne), but Vikings have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. And after making Christian Ponder their franchise QB last year (or at least they hope so), they must do a better job of protecting him.

    Needs: WR, CB, OLT, G, FS, SS, MLB, DT, DE

    Other Possibilities: The Vikings must significantly address the secondary if they want to compete at a high level vs. the better passing games in the NFL, so Morris Claiborne has to be a strong consideration here. I’m not buying the Justin Blackmon talk here.

    Don’t be surprised if they wind up trading this pick to the Buccaneers. And even if they wind up doing so, they could still take Kalil or possibly Claiborne at #5.

  • 4.  Cleveland

    TRENT RICHARDSON

    Running Back | Alabama

    First Mock Selection: Trent Richardson/RB/Alabama

    Analysis: GM Tom Heckert must address the offensive side of the ball in a major way early in this draft. Richardson can finally solve their issue at RB.

    Needs: WR, ORT, RB, QB, LG, DE, CB, OLB

    Other Possibilities: Morris Claiborne or a trade down.

  • 5.  Tampa Bay

    MORRIS CLAIBORNE

    Cornerback | Louisiana State

    First Mock Selection: Morris Claiborne/CB/Louisiana State

    Analysis: The Buccaneers have depth at CB, but veteran Ronde Barber is 37. Oh, and fifth-year pro Aqib Talib needs to prove he can stay out of trouble, so CB is a need pick.

    Needs: CB, RB, DE, LB, FS, SS

    Other Possibilities: Trade up in order to select Trent Richardson.

  • 6.  St. Louis (from Washington)

    FLETCHER COX

    Defensive Tackle | Mississippi State

    First Mock Selection: Fletcher Cox/DT/Mississippi State

    Analysis: With a defensive minded head coach like Jeff Fisher who will make the calls on draft day, Cox makes a lot of sense here. Plus, DT is a need position.

    Needs: WR, CB, DT, LG, WLB, DE, OT

    Other Possibilities: With the wide receiver position being a big issue for the Rams, they could select Michael Floyd, who is the top rated receiver for this draft by many personnel sources. Don’t be surprised if they trade down in order to select a cornerback or wide receiver. And if Kalil drops, that could be another player that they target. And OLT Rodger Saffold, some people believe, could be better off inside at guard.

  • 7.  Jacksonville

    JUSTIN BLACKMON

    Wide Receiver | Oklahoma State

    First Mock Selection: Justin Blackmon/WR/Oklahoma State

    Analysis: The Jaguars must add at least two WRs in this draft, and Blackmon would start right away for them.

    Needs: WR, DE, CB, C

    Other Possibilities: Stephon Gilmore. Trade down to possibly select a wide receiver or a cornerback.

  • 8.  Miami

    RYAN TANNEHILL

    Quarterback | Texas A&M

    First Mock Selection: Ryan Tannehill/QB/Texas A&M

    Analysis: The Dolphins must add their future at quarterback in this draft, so Tannehill is that guy for this team.

    Needs: WR, QB, ORT, DE, DT, SS, FS, OLB, TE

    Other Possibilities: The Dolphins are in bad shape at wide receiver, so Michael Floyd also makes sense for this selection.

  • 9.  Carolina

    STEPHON GILMORE

    Cornerback | South Carolina

    First Mock Selection: David DeCastro/G/Stanford

    Analysis: Gilmore would be an upgrade over CB Captain Munnerlyn, who then could handle the nickel role.

    Needs: G, DT, CB, DE, OLB, WR

    Other Possibilities: The Panthers need to add competition and upgrades at guard, so DeCastro would be the other option.

  • 10.  Buffalo

    DRE’ KIRKPATRICK

    Cornerback | Alabama

    First Mock Selection: Stephon Gilmore/CB/South Carolina

    Analysis: I checked with a high-level personnel source on Kirkpatrick who said the defensive back’s off-the-field issues were overblown. The Bills have depth at CB, but not one really good cover player at the position.

    Needs: OLT, WR (speed), OLB, CB, DE, QB (developmental)

    Other Possibilities: Trade up for Matt Kalil or select Luke Kuechly here, who would fill a need.

  • 11.  Kansas City

    LUKE KUECHLY

    ILB/OLB | Boston College

    First Mock Selection: Luke Kuechly/LB/Boston College

    Analysis: GM Scott Pioli has done a nice job in free agency, but there’s still work to be done. He must address the shaky run defense. And to do that, he could add the best available ILB for this draft in Kuechly.

    Needs: NT, DE, OLB, LG, ILB

    Other Possibilities: The Chiefs need to add competition and depth to their defensive line, so Michael Brockers would be an excellent addition.

  • 12.  Seattle

    MELVIN INGRAM

    OLD/DE | South Carolina

    First Mock Selection: Quinton Coples/DE/North Carolina

    Analysis: The Seahawks must help their average pass rush by adding a few DEs out of this draft. Ingram could get in the rotation right away.

    Needs: DE, RG, LB

    Other Possibilities: The Seahawks must address the issue at defensive end, so the surprise pick here would be Chandler Jones, who could wind up being the best defensive end in this draft. DeCastro also makes sense here for the opening at RG.

  • 13.  Arizona

    DAVID DECASTRO

    Guard | Stanford

    First Mock Selection: Melvin Ingram/DE-OLB/South Carolina

    Analysis: The Cardinals must finally build their offensive line, so DeCastro would go a long way toward doing that.

    Needs: OLT, OLB, RG, WR, CB

    Other Possibilities: Riley Reiff, if the Cardinals think he can play LT.

  • 14.  Dallas

    MARK BARRON

    Safety | Alabama

    First Mock Selection: Mark Barron/SS/Alabama

    Analysis: Finally, a really good safety is added to the Dallas secondary.

    Needs: SS, C, DE, WR, CB, G, OLB

    Other Possibilities: Dontari Poe.

  • 15.  Philadelphia

    MICHAEL BROCKERS

    Defensive Tackle | Louisiana State

    First Mock Selection: Michael Brockers/DT/Louisiana State

    Analysis: I really think the Eagles could move out of this spot (up or down), but Brockers, who has more athletic than most fans think, is the pick here for now. That could change in the final mock on Thursday.

    Needs: DT, SLB, CB

    Other Possibilities: Trade up for Fletcher Cox, as I’ve been saying for nearly two months, or for a CB. With veteran CB Asante Samuel expected to be traded, CB is a priority need. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is on the final year of his rookie deal and veteran CB Nnamdi Asomugha turns 31 in July.

  • 16.  NY Jets

    COURTNEY UPSHAW

    Defensive End | Alabama

    First Mock Selection: Courtney Upshaw/DE/Alabama

    Analysis: The Jets’ pass rush was disappointing last season, so Upshaw could provide an impact in that area right away.

    Needs: WR, ORT, OLB, SS, FS, ILB

    Other Possibilities: The Jets need speed at wide receiver, so this could be the earliest Kendall Wright goes off the board. RT continues to be an issue, so Riley Reiff also makes sense here.

  • 17.  Cincinnati (from Oakland)

    MICHAEL FLOYD

    Wide Receiver | Notre Dame

    First Mock Selection: Michael Floyd/WR/Notre Dame

    Analysis: Floyd would give the Bengals really good size at the wide receiver position.

    Needs: WR, RB, CB, DT, DE

    Other Possibilities: Kendall Wright, Michael Brockers (should he drop) or Quinton Coples. Or trade up for a CB, which is a major need.

  • 18.  San Diego

    WHITNEY MERCILUS

    OLB/DE | Illinois

    First Mock Selection: Whitney Mercilus/OLB/DE/Illinois

    Analysis: The Chargers must add at least one quality pass rusher out of this draft. Mercilus could get into their rotation at OLB right away.

    Needs: G, OLB, ILB, CB, ORT, OLT, SS

    Other Possibilities: Riley Reiff.

  • 19.  Chicago

    CHANDLER JONES

    Defensive End | Syracuse

    First Mock Selection: Kendall Wright/WR/Baylor

    Analysis: The Bears badly need to add more pass rushers, so Jones, who has a ton of upside, could see a decent amount of time as a rookie with this team.

    Needs: G, DE, WR, CB, DT, SLB, OT

    Other Possibilities: The Bears, despite adding Brandon Marshall, still need help at WR, so Kendall Wright is a possibility.

  • 20.  Tennessee

    ANDRE BRANCH

    OLB/DE | Clemson

    First Mock Selection: Nick Perry/DE/Southern California

    Analysis: Branch could play quite a bit right away since the Titans lack enough quality pass rushers.

    Needs: DE, DT, CB, C, G

    Other Possibilities: Nick Perry or Dontari Poe.

  • 21.  Cincinnati

    DOUG MARTIN

    Running Back | Boise State

    First Mock Selection: Doug Martin/RB/Boise State

    Analysis: Here would be your new Bengals starting RB from the start of training camp.

    Needs: WR, RB, CB, DT, DE

    Other Possibilities: Trade up for a cornerback. Dontari Poe.

  • 22.  Cleveland (from from Atlanta)

    KENDALL WRIGHT

    Wide Receiver | Baylor

    First Mock Selection: Riley Reiff/OT/Iowa

    Analysis: Wright would add badly needed speed to the Browns’ offense opposite second-year WR Greg Little. The Browns had Wright in for a pre-draft visit and are believed to be high on him. It wouldn’t be surprising if GM Tom Heckert saw him in a similar fashion to WR DeSean Jackson, who he was involved in drafting during his time with the Eagles.

    Needs: WR, ORT, RB, QB, LG, DE, CB, OLB

    Other Possibilities: RT is a major need, so Riley Reiff makes a lot of sense for this selection, but there are decent right tackles who the Browns can look at later on.

  • 23.  Detroit

    RILEY REIFF

    Offensive Tackle | Iowa

    First Mock Selection: Jonathan Martin/OT/Stanford

    Analysis: Keep in mind starting RT Gosder Cherilus is on the final year of his rookie deal. And it’s not out of the question that Reiff could be used at guard.

    Needs: CB, OLT, ORT

    Other Possibilities: Cordy Glenn or Jonathan Martin.

  • 24.  Pittsburgh

    DONT’A HIGHTOWER

    ILB/OLB | Alabama

    First Mock Selection: Dont’a Hightower/LB/Alabama

    Analysis: The Steelers must add an inside linebacker in this draft, preferably early.

    Needs: G, NT, ILB, OT, CB, FS, RB

    Other Possibilities: Cordy Glenn or Dontari Poe.

  • 25.  Denver

    JEREL WORTHY

    Defensive Tackle | Michigan State

    First Mock Selection: Jerel Worthy/DT/Michigan State

    Analysis: Worthy would fill a huge need.

    Needs: DT, WR, DE, RB, CB, C, S

    Other Possibilities: Devon Still or Rueben Randle.

  • 26.  Houston

    RUEBEN RANDLE

    Wide Receiver | Louisiana State

    First Mock Selection: Rueben Randle/WR/Louisiana State

    Analysis: Randle has really good size and speed. I could see him starting next to veteran WR Andre Johnson this season if the Texans wind up selecting him.

    Needs: ORT, G, WR, OLB, DE

    Other Possibilities: Cordy Glenn.

  • 27.  New England (from New Orleans)

    SHEA MCCLELLIN

    OLB/DE | Boise State

    First Mock Selection: Shea McClellin/OLB/DE/Boise State

    Analysis: This is a Bill Belichick pick if I ever saw one. McClellin could start from day one at a need position.

    Needs: OLB, CB, FS, DE, WR (speed)

    Other Possibilities: Harrison Smith.

  • 28.  Green Bay

    QUINTON COPLES

    Defensive End | North Carolina

    First Mock Selection: Peter Konz/C/Wisconsin

    Analysis: This is a value pick. Coples, because of his size, can play end in a 3-4. And the Packers badly need depth and an influx of talent at DE.

    Needs: OLB, DE, FS, CB, C

    Other Possibilities: Peter Konz.

  • 29.  Baltimore

    PETER KONZ

    Center | Wisconsin

    First Mock Selection: Andre Branch/OLB/DE/Clemson

    Analysis: He can take over at LG for now then take over for veteran C Matt Birk in a few seasons.

    Needs: DE, WR, OLB, OLT, LG, C, FS, SS

    Other Possibilities: Vinny Curry or Kendall Reyes.

  • 30.  San Francisco

    KEVIN ZEITLER

    Guard | Wisconsin

    First Mock Selection: Kevin Zeitler/G/Wisconsin

    Analysis: This is a need and value pick at the same time. Zeitler would start right away at RG. He might be the best guard available for this year’s draft. He would really help solidify the 49ers starting five on the offensive line.

    Needs: RG, WR (speed), CB, DE

    Other Possibilities: Amini Silatolu.

  • 31.  New England

    DONTARI POE

    Defensive Tackle | Memphis

    First Mock Selection: Devon Still/DT/Penn State

    Analysis: Poe has way too much athleticism for the Patriots to pass on him there. And also keep in mind they will play the hybrid 3-4/4-3 defensive scheme a lot.

    Needs: OLB, CB, FS, DE, WR (speed)

    Other Possibilities: Devon Still or best available DE for the 3-4.

  • 32.  NY Giants

    CORDY GLENN

    Offensive Tackle | Georgia

    First Mock Selection: Mike Adams/OT/Ohio State

    Analysis: Glenn is capable of playing either tackle spot. And the Giants need competition at both spots. And it also wouldn’t be surprising if some teams looked at him at guard.

    Needs: G, CB, OT, RB, DT

    Other Possibilities: Best available OT.

NFL Mock Draft 2012 #1 from Adam Caplan

  • 1.  Indianapolis

    Andrew Luck

    Quarterback | Stanford

    Analysis: Luck will be the Colts next franchise quarterback for many years to come.

    Needs: QB, WR, TE, G, ORT, OLB, CB, NT

    Other Possibilities: None.

  • 2.  Washington (from St. Louis)

    Robert Griffin III

    Quarterback | Baylor

    Analysis: Griffin will be an interesting player for the Redskins as he transitions to a West Coast offensive scheme.

    Needs: QB, C, G, ILB, CB, RB

    Other Possibilities: None.

  • 3.  Minnesota

    Matt Kalil

    Offensive Tackle | Southern California

    Analysis: Kalil would fill a major need on the left side of the Vikings offensive line.

    Needs: WR, CB, OLT, G, FS, SS, DT

    Other Possibilities: Morris Claiborne.

  • 4.  Cleveland

    Trent Richardson

    Running Back | Alabama

    Analysis: The Browns were terrible on offense last season, so Richardson could help on that side of the ball right away. They still will need to address other positions on offense as the draft progresses.

    Needs: WR, ORT, RB, QB, RG, DE, CB, SLB

    Other Possibilities: Morris Claiborne.

  • 5.  Tampa Bay

    Morris Claiborne

    Cornerback | Louisiana State

    Analysis: The Buccaneers, because of Aqib Talib’s off-the-field issues and Ronde Barber’s age, must address the cornerback position.

    Needs: CB, RB, DE, LB, FS, SS

    Other Possibilities: Trent Richardson (if he drops) or Stephon Gilmore.

  • 6.  St. Louis (from Washington)

    Fletcher Cox

    Defensive Tackle | Mississippi State

    Analysis: The Rams are not very good on the interior of their defensive line, so Cox can provide an impact in that area right away.

    Needs: WR, CB, DT, LG, WLB, DE

    Other Possibilities: Best available CB or Justin Blackmon.

  • 7.  Jacksonville

    Justin Blackmon

    Wide Receiver | Oklahoma State

    Analysis: The Jaguars still need speed at wide receiver, but Blackmon would start right away. He could give them badly needed physicality at the position.

    Needs: WR, DE, C, CB

    Other Possibilities: Quinton Coples.

  • 8.  Miami

    Ryan Tannehill

    Quarterback | Texas A&M

    Analysis: Veteran QB Matt Moore can start one more season, so that way the coaches can bring Tannehill along at a slower pace.

    Needs: WR, QB, ORT, DE, DT, SS, FS

    Other Possibilities: Justin Blackmon (if he drops).

  • 9.  Carolina

    David DeCastro

    Guard | Stanford

    Analysis: The Panthers need competition at depth at guard, so DeCastro seems like the smartest pick considering what’s left on the board.

    Needs: G, DT, CB, DE, OLB

    Other Possibilities: Quinton Coples.

  • 10.  Buffalo

    Stephon Gilmore

    Cornerback | South Carolina

    Analysis: Gilmore, according to several personnel sources, has a realistic chance to go off the board inside the top-10. While the Bills have bigger needs, Gilmore is the best player on the board.

    Needs: OLT, WR (speed), OLB, CB, DE

    Other Possibilities: Riley Reiff or Michael Floyd.

  • 11.  Kansas City

    Luke Kuechly

    ILB/OLB | Boston College

    Analysis: The Chiefs were #26 vs. the run last season, so adding an outstanding ILB like Kuechly could help them improve in that area right away.

    Needs: NT, DE, OLB, LG, ILB

    Other Possibilities: Michael Brockers or David DeCastro

  • 12.  Seattle

    Quinton Coples

    Defensive End | North Carolina

    Analysis: Coples would fill a major need on the Seahawks defense.

    Needs: DE, RG, LB

    Other Possibilities: Luke Kuechly

  • 13.  Arizona

    Melvin Ingram

    OLB/DE | South Carolina

    Analysis: The Cardinals have a lot of needs, but adding a pass rusher is one of their bigger ones. Ingram can provide an impact right away.

    Needs: OLT, WR, OLB, RG, CB

    Other Possibilities: David DeCastro, Luke Kuechly, Michael Floyd, Riley Reiff, or Jonathan Martin.

  • 14.  Dallas

    Mark Barron

    Safety | Alabama

    Analysis: The Cowboys can finally address their troubling safety position by adding the talented Barron.

    Needs: SS, C, G, DE, WR, CB, OLB

    Other Possibilities: Dre Kirkpatrick.

  • 15.  Philadelphia

    Michael Brockers

    Defensive Tackle | Louisiana State

    Analysis: Brockers is a better player than Poe, according to personnel sources, so the Eagles will add him here at a need position.

    Needs: DT, SLB, CB

    Other Possibilities: Dontari Poe.

  • 16.  NY Jets

    Courtney Upshaw

    Defensive End | Alabama

    Analysis: The Jets know their defense fell off last season, so adding a talent pass rusher like Upshaw makes a lot of sense at the point.

    Needs: WR, ORT, OLB, SS, FS, ILB

    Other Possibilities: Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Jonathan Martin, or Riley Reiff.

  • 17.  Cincinnati (from Oakland)

    Michael Floyd

    Wide Receiver | Notre Dame

    Analysis: The Bengals badly need to add talent at WR opposite second-year pro A.J. Green. Floyd’s addition would give the team another outstanding talent at that position.

    Needs: WR, RB, DE, DT, CB

    Other Possibilities: Kendall Wright, Dontari Poe, or Doug Martin.

  • 18.  San Diego

    Whitney Mercilus

    OLB/DE | Illinois

    Analysis: The Chargers need help on defense, especially in the pass-rushing department, so Mercilus makes sense for this AFC West team.

    Needs: G, OLB, ILB, CB, ORT

    Other Possibilities: Shea McClellin or Riley Reiff.

  • 19.  Chicago

    Kendall Wright

    Wide Receiver | Baylor

    Analysis: The Bears, despite adding veteran WR Brandon Marshall, need to add speed and more talent at receiver. Wright is talented enough to make an impact as a rookie.

    Needs: G, DE, WR, CB, DT, OT, SLB

    Other Possibilities: Shea McClellin.

  • 20.  Tennessee

    Nick Perry

    Defensive End | Southern California

    Analysis: The Titans biggest need is clearly DE. They likely will eye a bunch of DEs here, but Perry looks to be the best left on the board at this point.

    Needs: DE, DT, CB, C

    Other Possibilities: Dontari Poe, Andre Branch or Chandler Jones.

  • 21.  Cincinnati

    Doug Martin

    Running Back | Boise State

    Analysis: Martin would be the replacement for veteran RB Cedric Benson, who remains unsigned.

    Needs: WR, RB, DE, DT, CB

    Other Possibilities: Dontari Poe or best available DE.

  • 22.  Cleveland (from from Atlanta)

    Riley Reiff

    Offensive Tackle | Iowa

    Analysis: The Browns need to fill out their starting right tackle spot, so Reiff can do that right away.

    Needs: RB, WR, ORT, QB, RG, DE, CB, OLB

    Other Possibilities: Kendall Wright (if he drops).

  • 23.  Detroit

    Jonathan Martin

    Offensive Tackle | Stanford

    Analysis: The Lions really need to address the eventual replacement for long-time starting LT Jeff Backus. And keep in mind starting RT Gosder Cherilus is on the final year of his rookie contract, so Martin makes some sense here.

    Needs: CB, OLT, ORT

    Other Possibilities: Cordy Glenn

  • 24.  Pittsburgh

    Dont’a Hightower

    ILB/OLB | Alabama

    Analysis: ILB is a need position for the Steelers next to Lawrence Timmons, so Hightower can play right away for them.

    Needs: G, NT, ILB,OT, CB, FS, RB

    Other Possibilities: Cordy Glenn, Dontari Poe or Devon Still.

  • 25.  Denver

    Jerel Worthy

    Defensive Tackle | Michigan State

    Analysis: The Broncos lost starting DT Brodrick Bunkley in free agency, so they must fill the huge void that continues to stand out on the interior of their defensive line.

    Needs: DT, WR, DE, RB, CB, C

    Other Possibilities: Dontari Poe.

  • 26.  Houston

    Rueben Randle

    Wide Receiver | Louisiana State

    Analysis: As one personnel source told me this week, don’t be surprised if Randle goes off the board a lot earlier than we think. In that case, the Texans can fill a big need here with the talented wide receiver.

    Needs: ORT, G, WR, OLB, DE

    Other Possibilities: Mike Adams or Cordy Glenn.

  • 27.  New England (from New Orleans)

    Shea McClellin

    OLB/DE | Boise State

    Analysis: McClellin is the type of player that head coach Bill Belichick covets—versatility.

    Needs: OLB, CB, FS, DE, WR (speed)

    Other Possibilities: Harrison Smith, Andre Branch, or Chandler Jones or Vinny Curry.

  • 28.  Green Bay

    Peter Konz

    Center | Wisconsin

    Analysis: With new starting C Jeff Saturday turning 37 in June, the Packers need to plan for his eventual replacement. And keep in mind Konz is also capable of playing guard.

    Needs: OLB, DE, FS, CB, C

    Other Possibilities: Shea McClellin (if he drops) or Kendall Reyes.

  • 29.  Baltimore

    Andre Branch

    OLB/DE | Clemson

    Analysis: The Ravens need to add pass rushers, so Branch makes a lot of sense here.

    Needs: DE, WR, OLB, OLT, LG, C, FS, SS

    Other Possibilities: Chandler Jones.

  • 30.  San Francisco

    Kevin Zeitler

    Guard | Wisconsin

    Analysis: The 49ers can help solidify the interior of their offensive line with Zeitler.

    Needs: RG, WR (speed), CB, DE

    Other Possibilities: Any of the WRs that drop.

  • 31.  New England

    Devon Still

    Defensive Tackle | Penn State

    Analysis: The Patriots, according to a source, will play the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes on again on defense. And Still has the versatility to play in either scheme.

    Needs: OLB, CB, FS, DE

    Other Possibilities: Kendall Reyes

  • 32.  NY Giants

    Mike Adams

    Offensive Tackle | Ohio State

    Analysis: The Giants, because they’re coming off a Super Bowl victory, can afford to take a chance on Adams. He’s capable of playing either tackle spot.

    Needs: G, CB, OT, DT

    Other Possibilities: Best available interior OL.

Opening Eyes in Mobile

The Senior Bowl is just one part of the evaluation process for NFL teams, and it’s important to put in perspective that reviewing how these prospects performed on the field throughout their career more weight than one week of practice. However, due to prospects playing with lesser talent around them, changing positions, dealing with inconsistencies, or overcoming injuries, the Senior Bowl can also be a way for top NFL Draft talents to “rehab” or “rebuild” their reputation, and give team’s good reasons to overlook their film.

Most players here didn’t have their grade affected more than a few slots, but a handful of prospects performed well enough to warrant teams at least consider reviewing their film with a new look their skill sets.

  1. MARQUISE GOODWIN, WR, TEXAS

    Coming out of a Texas offense that has a (recent) history of not utilizing their weapons consistently, the track star Goodwin shined this week by utilizing his elite speed in a variety of unexpected ways. He obviously got separation with speed vertically, but it was the explosive burst he showed redirecting in shorter routes that impressed. He also got off separation off the press much better than expected, leaving the possibility of playing outside still open as well. With his burst between routes, flashing the ability to extend away from his body, and more development in his routes than expected, Goodwin has gone from track speed-type receiver to intriguing mid round “riser”, similar to TJ Graham last year.

  2. DENARD ROBINSON, WR, MICHIGAN

    While it was a rough set of practices for Denard in his first trial at receiver for NFL scouts, Robinson actually showed some intriguing and developmental attributes this week to show signs that he’s progressing. In each facet of his role as a receiver, he’s struggled, from extending away from his body to finishing catches to route tree development to getting separation. But he’s flashed each one of those skill sets individually, showing signs that he understands what he needs to do, but isn’t polished yet. A rough week for Robinson, he’s at least shown his willing and able to make the adjustment to receiver.

  3. VANCE MCDONALD, TE, RICE

    A relatively unknown prospect when he accepted his invitation early in the process, the Senior Bowl’s Executive Director Phil Savage spoke highly of McDonald throughout the process and before the week began, and McDonald didn’t disappoint.  McDonald has the ideal body type for a tight end, and showed the physicality and drive as a blocker and the receiving ability to work in-line and outside. Some concerns over how fluid he is and if his hands are consistent, but he’s done well to maximize his chance to get out of a lackluster Rice offense to impress this week.

  4. DATONE JONES, DE, UCLA

    Coming off an up and down senior campaign, Jones consistently showed this week what he flashed throughout his career. With his strong lower half and fantastic leg drive, he collapsed the pocket from the outside as well as any rusher here. He played with good pad level, extended and was forceful with his hands, and even gave the event’s best player, Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, a tough match-up on a few occasions. Able to play a 4-3 strong side end or a 5-technique in a 3-4, Jones may have helped his value the most of any player here this week.

  5. DESMOND TRUFANT, CB, WASHINGTON

    In college, Trufant showcased great ball skills, route timing, and quick hips to stay tight to his receiver. This week, he showed that on a consistent basis, especially in off coverage, consistently against the some of this draft’s best receivers. While he struggles a bit when asked to press, he’s got the initial back pedal, the recovery speed, the burst between steps, and the anticipation that makes a great off-man cornerback. Trufant proved he’s one of the better cornerbacks in this class this week, and firmly put himself in that early 2nd round, maybe even late first round, thanks to picks 25 through 40 being defensive back heavy.

Scouting the Draft: Centers

Editor’s Note: Author Larry Zierlein was a college and NFL offensive line coach for 32 years. His career is highlighted by a Super Bowl win in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Steelers under Mike Tomlin. We asked Coach Zierlein to take a look at several offensive line prospects from this year’s draft and share with us what he saw.

He watched multiple cut-ups for each prospect listed, but wants to remind the reader that for a final evaluation, it takes even more film work, interviewing the player to get a feel for his character, checking on the player’s background and working linemen out whenever possible.  Coach Zierlein gave us the order that he would rank each of the tackles and guards based on what he saw from each prospect.  The only player’s he evaluated are the ones listed.

Coach Zierlein is retired and working Under Armour’s “Football University” camps along with other former NFL coaches.  This was also his first year working out offensive line draft prospects in preparation for the Senior Bowl and Combine.  If you are an agent interested in contacting Coach Zierlein for work with future clients, please email us and we’ll pass the info along to him.

See: Offensive Tackles | Offensive Guards

Michael Brewster, C, Ohio State

Height: 6’4
Weight: 312
Arms: 31 1/2″

  • Good strength and plays with a good base
  • Marginal quickness
  • Good anchor
  • Some shotgun snap problems
  • Average with re-direct
  • Good awareness and pretty physical player
  • Average finisher in all games I watched
  • Average puller from center position
  • Slow twitch player who doesn’t accelerate to the 2nd level
  • Doesn’t accelerate feet after contact
  • On the ground too much
  • Somewhat of a waist-bender

Overall:  Average athlete with average feet.  He has some strength and toughness and his base is solid.  Very average quickness which limits the amount of teams who will look at him.  Looks like a 4th round center.

TSV Exclusive: One Round Mega Mock Draft

Editor’s Note: The Sideline View’s Mega-Mock Draft is a one-round mock with players selected “fantasy football” draft style using a snake draft format. No trades were allowed, and the first two picks were pre-determined; selection began at pick #3. Participants and selection order:

  1. Josh Norris, Rotoworld
  2. Ryan Lownes, Draft Breakdown
  3. Evan Silva, Rotoworld/ProFootballTalk
  4. Adam Caplan, The Sideline View
  5. Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
  6. Matt Miller, Bleacher Report
  7. Lance Zierlein, The Sideline View
  8. Anonymous Coach—We asked an NFL coach who has been a source of league-wide information for us over the last several years to take part in our mock draft and he agreed on the condition of anonymity.
  • 1.  Indianapolis

    ANDREW LUCK

    Quarterback | Stanford

    Selection: Pre-determined

  • 2.  Washington (from St. Louis)

    ROBERT GRIFFIN III

    Quarterback | Baylor

    Selection: Pre-determined

  • 3.  Minnesota

    MATT KALIL

    Offensive Tackle | Southern California

    Selection: Josh Norris

  • 4.  Cleveland

    TRENT RICHARDSON

    Running Back | Alabama

    Selection: Ryan Lownes

  • 5.  Tampa Bay

    MORRIS CLAIBORNE

    Cornerback | Louisiana State

    Selection: Evan Silva

  • 6.  St. Louis (from Washington)

    FLETCHER COX

    Defensive Tackle | Mississippi State

    Selection: Adam Caplan

  • 7.  Jacksonville

    MELVIN INGRAM

    OLD/DE | South Carolina

    Selection: Dane Brugler

  • 8.  Miami

    RYAN TANNEHILL

    Quarterback | Texas A&M

    Selection: Matt Miller

  • 9.  Carolina

    QUINTON COPLES

    Defensive End | North Carolina

    Selection: Lance Zierlein

  • 10.  Buffalo

    STEPHON GILMORE

    Cornerback | South Carolina

    Selection: Coach

  • 11.  Kansas City

    DONT’A HIGHTOWER

    ILB/OLB | Alabama

    Selection: Coach

  • 12.  Seattle

    LUKE KUECHLY

    ILB/OLB | Boston College

    Selection: Lance Zierlein

  • 13.  Arizona

    RILEY REIFF

    Offensive Tackle | Iowa

    Selection: Matt Miller

  • 14.  Dallas

    MARK BARRON

    Safety | Alabama

    Selection: Dane Brugler

  • 15.  Philadelphia

    MICHAEL BROCKERS

    Defensive Tackle | Louisiana State

    Selection: Adam Caplan

  • 16.  NY Jets

    JUSTIN BLACKMON

    Wide Receiver | Oklahoma State

    Selection: Evan Silva

  • 17.  Cincinnati (from Oakland)

    DAVID DECASTRO

    Guard | Stanford

    Selection: Ryan Lownes

  • 18.  San Diego

    SHEA MCCLELLIN

    OLB/DE | Boise State

    Selection: Josh Norris

  • 19.  Chicago

    MICHAEL FLOYD

    Wide Receiver | Notre Dame

    Selection: Josh Norris

  • 20.  Tennessee

    WHITNEY MERCILUS

    OLB/DE | Illinois

    Selection: Ryan Lownes

  • 21.  Cincinnati

    DRE KIRKPATRICK

    Cornerback | Alabama

    Selection: Evan Silva

  • 22.  Cleveland (from from Atlanta)

    KENDALL WRIGHT

    Wide Receiver | Baylor

    Selection: Adam Caplan

  • 23.  Detroit

    AMINI SILATOLU

    Guard | Midwestern State

    Selection: Dane Brugler

  • 24.  Pittsburgh

    DONTARI POE

    Defensive Tackle | Penn State

    Selection: Matt Miller

  • 25.  Denver

    JEREL WORTHY

    Defensive Tackle | Michigan State

    Selection: Lance Zierlein

  • 26.  Houston

    BRUCE IRVIN

    OLB/DE | West Virginia

    Selection: Coach

  • 27.  New England (from New Orleans)

    NICK PERRY

    Defensive End | Southern California

    Selection: Coach

  • 28.  Green Bay

    KENDALL REYES

    Defensive Tackle | Connecticut

    Selection: Lance Zierlein

  • 29.  Baltimore

    STEPHEN HILL

    Wide Receiver | Georgia Tech

    Selection: Matt Miller

  • 30.  San Francisco

    KEVIN ZEITLER

    Guard | Wisconsin

    Selection: Dane Brugler

  • 31.  New England

    DEVON STILL

    Defensive Tackle | Penn State

    Selection: Adam Caplan

  • 32.  NY Giants

    RUEBEN RANDLE

    Wide Receiver | Louisiana State

    Selection: Evan Silva

The Importance of Football Character

Drafting is the easiest and most efficient way to build a team, as NFL general managers are acquiring talented players who are fast, healthy and entering into the prime of their careers. Drafting talent is easy. Drafting talent with character and a good medical report is the ultimate challenge for any personnel evaluator.

Projecting anything or anybody is no easy task. As a rule, half the players drafted in the first round will fail to meet expectations and most will be considered a “bust” within three years. Only 25 percent of first rounders will play to a pro bowl level while the remaining draft picks will play to a rank and file level.

Most teams have their own reasoning and beliefs that they adhere to when deciding on who to draft.  Some teams have no real philosophy and those teams usually wind up drafting high every year.

I’ve found that the most intoxicating and overrated trait that teams use to justify their draft picks is speed and/or athletic ability since speed & raw talent are the real separators between the average and above players in the league. There are much better ways to evaluate a football player than on just speed or athleticism.

Understanding “Football Character”

Charles Tillman was a second round draft pick under Jerry’s Angelo’s management tenure. Photo: Chicago Bears

Before we go further, let’s first define “football character.” Football character entails a player’s work ethic, competitive nature, threshold for pain, football IQ, overall passion for game and level of play within these characteristics.

At the college level, a gifted player can dominate with his talent alone regardless of his lack of football character.  When the player gets to the next level, it tends to catch up to him. Rarely does a player have a long career in the National Football League without football character since he can no longer mask those flaws with his talent as he once did in college.

Football character is the glue that allows players to establish themselves and create the needed staying power when their talent starts to erode. It allows them to continue to play well past their prime. The exceptions are so rare that you almost can’t even categorize them as aberrations – they’re that rare. It might surprise you to find out that most busts have more to do with a players lack of character than talent.

Time, Money and Citizenship

The two things most players don’t have in college that they’ll have an abundance of at the next level is time and money. How a player handles his idle time and new money will have a big impact on whether he’ll have a future in the NFL.

Players with a strong sense of “citizenship” are more likely to be able to handle his new lifestyle and not let it become a distraction. My definition of citizenship is what type of person the player is once he leaves the facility. Football character has everything to do with what a player is doing when he’s at work at the facility while his citizenship is defined by who he is once he leaves work.

While both “citizenship” and “football character” are important to his future success as a football player, I would say that the latter carries more importance. That’s the reason I would always say “we’re not looking for boy scouts” because our jobs are to win football games. We weren’t hired to serve the community. That’s not to say a player’s citizenship isn’t important because I feel like it is very important. I’m just saying that football character is more important.

In the end, you’re much better off drafting players who have talent with a strong history of practice and games started, than a player with elite talent, that can’t be counted on.

Players Have To Play

The last criteria that can have a major impact on a player’s success at the next level is his durability. I’m a real believer that if a player is hurt (misses approximately 25 percent or more of practice time and games) in college he’ll be hurt in the pros. Why wouldn’t he? The pro game is more physical, the season is longer and the player is constantly getting older while accepting an accumulation of wear and tear on his body.

I’ve seen my fair share of players pass physicals despite having had a laundry list of injuries in college.  In the end, that laundry list has proven to be a better predictor or durability than any physical or MRI.

Sometimes a player has missed time due to the way a player was trained, but sometimes it is just a matter of how he handles pain. And sometimes, it is just a matter of a player’s genetic make up. The bottom line is that if a player can’t stay healthy, then he can’t practice and get better. When he’s not in there, it puts a real burden on his teammates and coaches and they never know if they can count on him week to week. That axiom, “you can’t help the club in the tub,” certainly rings true in the NFL.

Why Character Matters

Character is the barometer we use to gage the risk & maintenance required of a player.  The greater the character risk, the greater the chance the player will be a bust.  Time is not an ally when the season starts and low character players have a way of taking time away from doing the things you need to be doing on a routine basis.
Always remember that you can buy talent, but you can’t buy a locker room…. it has to be developed.  History confirms that the teams who accumulate talent with little regard for a player’s intangibles will LOSE.  Team oriented attitudes – winning attitudes – can’t manifest without players who have strong work ethics, a passion for what they do and the desire to be great. Nothing can withstand or sustain in this league without that type of resolve.
Talent is very important, but when you start compromising character for talent, you rob yourself of the glue that brings a locker room together and the “IT” factor all great teams have. It’s a fact, I’ve lived it!
The character of a football team good or bad usually shows itself at about the halfway point of the season. By that time injuries have taken their toll, most players are playing through some degree of pain, there have been some tough losses, the media is starting to beat up on you and agents are getting into their player’s ear about taking care of themselves and not getting hurt for contract purposes
And if you sign free agents from other teams before getting contracts done with some of your own players, it can cause dissension in the locker room if your don’t have a room full of high football character players.  All these factors are very common each year with most teams and the teams with character are able to work through them.

Examples of Good and Bad Football Character

When I was In Tampa, we drafted a player who had also been drafted by baseball.   Prior to drafting him in the 3rd round, we got him on the phone and made sure that if we drafted him that baseball would not be in the picture.  He assured us that his first love was football and that it wouldn’t be a problem, but all we had was his word.  He was not fast or overly athletic, but he was a good player.

Once the player was on the team, the coaches at that time did not like him because of his lack of speed.  There was a point when we were seriously entertaining cutting him.  In fact, we even tried to make him a LB to see if we could get something out of him.  He added 15 or 20 pounds and he looked bad and played worse at the experimental position.  That staff got fired and we told the new staff what was said about him.  They said they would work with him and see for themselves.  That player had very high football character and it was a real credit to the player that he never lost hope or his will to be great.  His name was John Lynch.

On the other side of football character, we drafted a LB out of the midwest with a high first round draft pick.  He was a hold out and got paid substantial money.  Between partying, buying new cars and water toys, we rarely saw any of the type of play we had seen in college.  He couldn’t learn his assignments and couldn’t be trusted to play every down.  The player was late for meetings, fined repeatedly and it went on and on.  It was one bad thing after another.  If it weren’t for drafting him in the 1st round we would have cut him after his rookie year.  He never got, but we sure did!

Two totally different people & talents, the separator were their characters and this is no exception. It happens all the time.  Talent without character is nothing more than a bad apple.