Happy 4.20 to all! You know what today is? That's right, it's Friday! In exactly one more week the first round will be over, marking the beginning of absolute mayhem for armchair GM's and draft addicts. If round one is a "crap-shoot," then days two and three may as well be spinning the roulette wheel; nothing goes as expected. What's my point, you ask? Nothing other than talk for Thursday has reached its boiling point.
Fortunately, SB Nation has given us nothing if not astonishment and "whoa, bro, that's crazy." I told you things would shake up quickly, and I wasn't blowing smoke. The first of our division rivals will soon be on the clock. After the jump, confusion sets in...
There is no question the Panthers will look to bolster the defense with this draft and that starts up front at DT where the Panthers were terrible at stopping the run last year. Though the Panthers would prefer an elite pass rusher like Quinton Coples with Coples off the board instead they take Fletcher Cox as the best DT in the draft. In spite of Dontari Poe getting all the hype from the combine, Cox was just as impressive and is a better fit for the Panthers' scheme.
Cox can play anywhere along the 4-3 front line, plays with a relentless motor and is the best DT in this draft getting off his blocks and making plays against the run and pass. Cox played against top-flight competition and is a strong, agile and athletic DT who can make plays in the backfield and might end up the best interior pass rusher in this draft. Another big plus is no one questions his effort and he enters the NFL as a high character guy with no red flags.
Pros: The argument here is most likely going to be centered around who is better here, Poe or Cox. From watching film on both, Fletcher Cox comes out on top more often than not. The guy can simply occupy space and move through the offensive line and get after the runner. His ability to shed blockers like a child bats away flies is impressive as well. Hell, if the Rams were this far back in the draft order I would almost consider going defense here to pick-up Fletcher Cox. Cox is athletic enough to even get over and play some defensive end if asked, and in the few instances during the season where he was placed there, he did extremely well.
Cons: Cox’s one glaring weakness when you watch his tape, is how he dips the helmet at the moment of impact, which can cause the perspective of the play to change. It may sound like a small thing, but taking your eyes off the flow of the play for just a second at the NFL level can spell doom for a player. This can be coached out of him hopefully. Other than that Cox could use some coaching on his outside work, particularly his inside shoulder move.
Conclusion: Fletcher Cox looks to be a solid run stuffing and pass blocking tackle, who, due to his size, work ethic, and natural ability should be making pro bowls for years to come.
Brian Galliford's rationale:
Bills GM Buddy Nix is one of the most transparent personnel evaluators in the league, always willing to tell some degree of the truth when speaking with reporters. In discussing the draft this winter, two themes have emerged: Nix has a desire to pick up an extra draft pick if possible, and he’s not particularly fond of the top of any positional group this year in terms of valuing those prospects worthy of a Top 10 pick.
Translation: the Bills seem ready and very willing to move down. Had I had that option in this here mock draft, I’d have most certainly explored it. I considered no fewer than 16 players with this selection. Every one of them felt like a reach.
In that light, knowing I’d be reaching, I decided to reach for a player that seemed like a Nix type of prospect. With Demetrius Bell looking like a sure bet as a free agent departure, the Bills have exactly one left tackle on the roster in second-year pro Chris Hairston - and the team admits that he’s probably not ready to be handed a starting job yet. He needs a competitor for that job, and the 6’7", 323-pound Adams fits Buffalo’s size requirement (the nine linemen Nix has acquired in just over two years are, on average, 6’6" and 331 pounds) better than other similarly-skilled prospects at the position.
Yes, Adams is highly inconsistent and has some red flags. No, he is not franchise-caliber. But he’s experienced, had very strong performances against top competition, and would be playing in a Bills offense that emphasizes getting the ball out of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hands as quickly as possible. He’s mobile enough to move around in the Bills’ spread-type attack, get to the second level as a run blocker out of those alignments, and can be polished up into a quality starter by line coach Joe D’Alessandris.
Adams fits what the Bills are looking for at tackle better than the likes of Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin, in my opinion. Could they get him lower? Absolutely - and again, a trade down is looking like the Day 1 goal for Buffalo. They may even be able to do better in a pinch if they’re forced to stay at No. 10; Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Melvin Ingram, Luke Kuechly and Dre Kirkpatrick, among others, all make sense. But on a roster that suddenly looks like it could be playoff-competitive, finding quality depth at left tackle is an absolute must. The earlier they address it, the better their chances of finding a guy that can push to start.
It seems that even in present day mock drafts, there is an unwritten rule which obliges at least one top-ten team to shock the football world with a pick that no one saw coming. In this case, Mike Adams could be this year's Ted Ginn Jr, Tyson Alualu or Andre Smith. I'll give Galliford a pass for making his call long before news broke of Adams' latest "extracurricular activity," but the bloodshot Buckeye has been a red flagged prospect for months.
Even if Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin don't perfectly fit the Bill of Chan Gailey's offensive philosophy, they still better emulate the value and upside which Buffalo must target with the tenth overall pick. Galliford hit nail on the head, though, when he said either Michael Floyd or Luke Kuechly "make sense." Floyd would give Fitzpatrick the big-bodied red-zone threat that he's been lacking and be a perfect complement to Stevie Johnson. Also, Buffalo is quickly building themselves a force to be reckoned with on defense; however, they still lack that centerpiece in the middle to be the leader. Kuechly, who has become a household name in the first half round one, could step in immediately and be an improvement.
Joel Thorman's rationale:
The Chiefs are stunned when they see Reiff, considered by many to be a better prospect than Mike Adams (No. 10 to Buffalo), still available with the 11th pick. This is a best player available type of situation and the Chiefs select Reiff knowing full well they have two NFL starters already on the offensive line. Reiff is the future replacement for LT Branden Albert, who is entering the final year of his contract. Reiff’s availability means the Chiefs don’t have to give Albert a longterm deal and could entertain trading him. Reiff comes from Iowa, where he was coached by Kirk Ferentz, a close friend of Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. Iowa linemen are noted for how well-coached they are and Reiff is no different. He pushes for playing time immediately but he’s not truly in the plans until 2013.
This one has me scratching my head a little bit. Kansas City just recently signed coveted free agent RT Eric Winston and used a first round choice in 2008 on Brandon Albert to be their franchise LT, but they could still use more help in the trenches. Albert has not lived up to expectations and may soon be on his way out, though he could possibly be moved back inside to guard, his position in college. In that regard, Reiff makes sense.
Nonetheless, I'm hesitant to believe that Romeo Crennel would use his first draft choice back as a head coach on an offensive lineman, especially one who may not start his rookie year. Crennel is a defensive coach and, in this scenario, would be very aroused by several players who could refortify and complement his front-seven, including Kuechly and NT Dontari Poe. The Chiefs have added only one defensive starter in the draft since Romeo joined them in 2010, safety Eric Berry. He may want a new toy to play with.
Rob Staton's explanation:
Pete Carroll has been quite open about his desire to improve the team's pass rush and that will almost certainly be Seattle's main priority in the draft. For the last two seasons the Seahawks have relied too much on Chris Clemons for pressure and finding a compliment has to be the #1 aim with the #12 pick.
Seattle needs a DE/OLB hybrid to fit into a scheme that uses a lot of 4-3 and 3-4 concepts. Essentially they need a player who can read well in space, provide solid run support and most of all get to the quarterback. Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram are the ideal candidates for this role and in this scenario, the Seahawks have the luxury of both being available. Although a lot of people believe Ingram is the superior player, I'm not convinced Pete Carroll will see it that way. The deal breaker could be Upshaw's superior ability in space and the fact he played the same role in Alabama's dominating defense.
Pros: I can’t argue with this pick one little bit. Once again, I draw upon my SEC roots and say that this guy is where it’s at in regards to Linebacker/Defensive End two-for-ones in this draft. It simply doesn’t get any better than this. As noted by Rob, Upshaw can get it done on the pass rushing side of things. He excels at pre-snap reads, which enables him to be in the right spot at the right time. He is not often caught out of position. He is a smart player who plays much smaller (read faster) than his 274 lbs.
Cons: For the Seahawk’s defensive philosophy, Upshaw makes more sense here, as Rob pointed out. But I’m not convinced that the fit would be that much more difficult to make with drafting Melvin Ingram. Taking a guy who is to also play standing up as an OLB, you want the player to be able to run with passing plays when needed. Upshaw’s tight hips could cause a hindrance there.
Conclusion: The Seahawks have an instant upgrade at the position with a guy who can play on the line or standing up on the outside. The pick is questionable however due to another Defensive End/Linebacker two for one who is a far superior commodity being available. Ingram is by far the better of the two, and with my GM hat on, I have to pull the trigger on Ingram here instead.
The Seahawks' mean, stingy front-seven has only gotten more intimidating this off-season, and I'm not happy about it. They may have lost David Hawthorne and Anthony Hargrove, but they've filled those gaps with MLB Barrett Ruud and DL Jason Jones - hardly a poor tradeoff. It appears that Seattle could not possibly need to add another player into that mix, but if Staton gets his way, they won't stop now.
Courtney Upshaw sets this year's mark for and joins the recent trend of defensive hybrids - every-down-players who can line up in any scheme, with his hand on the ground or standing upright, blitzing off the edge or dropping into coverage. Upshaw seems like a bit of a reach at this point, but I can't fault the pick; he could become an absolute terror for the rest of the NFC West and their dreary offensive lines. There is no doubt in my mind that Seattle would drool over the opportunity to land their own version of San Francisco's Aldon Smith. My only hope is that it does not happen.