Let us be clear: the NFL is very “ugh” right now.
But I still find it hard to hate the thing completely. For one reason, I hear rumors that the New Orleans Saints are still very much a part of the league (even despite the absurd punishments handed down during “Bountygate”). For another, the good flavor of the Falcons blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl is still fresh.* And finally, the draft itself is always going to have some merit even for people who hate the NFL because it’s one last chance to see their favorite college players paraded in front of the camera before they’re officially professionals. So, yay.
* This is one of the more improbable things I’ve seen in my sports-watching lifetime. Like, the Falcons literally had to have everything go completely wrong for them to pull it off … and they did it! And my enjoyment of it was fueled by a persistent Falcons hater laughing at them and dancing around my living room throughout the proceedings. It was truly a memorable and enjoyable experience, even for someone disillusioned by the league and basically anything that it tries to do.
In past years, I’ve tried to mock draft based on players I liked and fit and all that. But admittedly, my own knowledge of things has diminished a bit over time. I still watch the college game relentlessly, but the inner workings of pro football is more of a mystery nowadays. I am fine with this in principle. The college game doesn’t make me want to vomit.
But I still have some insights I’d like to share, and maybe some of it will prove useful or prophetic. Or at least amusing. At the absolute minimum, it may provide an alternate take on some guys you’re already read some ink on.
So here goes:
- I love Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) to an almost irrational degree. I watched the guy demolish competent (and less than competent) defenses for years, and he was just such a frustrating guy to go against. I think any good defensive coordinator who tells you something along those lines (“most frustrating”) is paying the highest of compliments, and that’s certainly the case here. Most LSU fans would probably allow him being an annoyingly hard player to shut down after their bowl matchup (indeed, for comparison’s sake, look at what the LSU defense did to Lamar Jackson a year later), and the dude has a gun, mobility, the right attitude, and basically anything you could want OTHER THAN super pretty refined mechanics. He’s one of the best Brett Favre comparisons to come along since Matt Stafford, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had a career like either of them (if he is allowed to marinate properly).
- Jordan Willis (Kansas State) is a guy I can speak intelligently on due to my EMAW-ness. My take: He’s a first-rounder. He has the production, the tape, and the workout warrior numbers. Yeah, he gets taken out some, and yeah there are plays you scratch your head at. But he also had moments of dominance in college and he basically checks every box. He may not be a dominant pro, but he looks like an 8-12 sack guy to me – a guy who won’t embarrass himself or your team — and you could do way worse than that in the late first. Heck, you could do way worse than that at No. 11 (though you’d love to hit it big there if you can).
- Leonard Fournette is a bad fit in New Orleans and I understand that will be supremely frustrating for LSU/Saints fans to hear … especially if he’s on the board and they go with another running back instead (a distinct possibility). Fournette is a lot like Mahomes, where if a team is stupid and drafts him and tries to ask him to do things he isn’t capable of, they’re going to flame out, the team will be shite, and basically everyone will look dumb. He’s a downhill guy. Full stop. For a team that has always put a premium on runners who can move laterally and factor big in the passing game (Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, etc. etc.), that doesn’t sound like the best of marriages.
- For the Saints at No. 11, beyond the dream scenarios of a Jamal Adams (LSU) or Jonathan Allen (Alabama) somehow becoming available (yes, please!), I am just not enamored of anyone, especially the likely available candidates on defense (yes, pretty much all of them). The aforementioned Willis would be fine, as would Tennessee’s Derek Barnett (less ideal size/speed ratio than Willis but better technique), and I guess someone could talk me into one of the linebackers, but I’m actually leaning offense here (which makes trading away an all-pro receiver even more frustrating). In terms of fit, you couldn’t ask for a better mix of value and a particular skillset than Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) who is basically the perfect Saints receiving back. He’d make those missing 78 or so receptions from one Mr. Cooks sting a little bit less. In a similar way, ultra speedy John Ross out of Washington would feel like a nice soothing balm … until you realize he’s less of a sure thing and has injury concerns. Yay! Dalvin Cook is good, but I’m on the fence about him as a pro. I like Mahomes, but taking him here would be irritating with a functional QB still on the roster. Honestly, if they don’t go McCaffrey, Barnett or even someone like Willis here (yes, defensive end is a repeating theme), I’d be way cool with them taking one of the top offensive linemen, in particular Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, who is a better gamble on the edge than most any other option the Saints have available going forward.
- At No. 32, just trade the pick to the Patriots for Malcolm Butler, okay? No? Why do you have to make everything so difficult? Okay, so draftable guys here: I very much like Ross as a gamble here if available and would endorse Mahomes here as well. Any available RB if you whiffed on McCaffrey could be good value. Dalvin Cook (Florida State) is probably gone, but how about Curtis Samuel (Ohio State)? He doesn’t have the baggage of OU’s Joe Mixon and would thrive in a Sproles role. Willis would be good here for obvious reasons if he’s on the board. And obviously LSU fans are clamoring for Tre-Davious White, and you could do worse. I don’t hate it. I would also consider Jabrill Peppers (Michigan) a potential upgrade to Kenny Vaccaro … or at least a fine replacement with Kenny going to free agency next year.
- You may notice a lack of cornerbacks. I don’t like this crop. Get Butler instead.
So there you have it. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments or get at me on social.