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Monday, May 5, 2014

Misc Draft Stuff

It's just short of four days until the draft, and honestly, at 28 and
beyond, I have no preconceptions. Not unlike my feelings about free
agency, I'm suggesting patience.

After having attempted to answer a message board post about hopes/fears
- I realize I have nothing to predict. I could throw out some
suggestions that might be more radical, like the team picking a
non-WR/OL this draft, or neglecting either the OL or WR spots, but
anything I throw out there tends to be more to intend to be different
than to assume anything would be correct.

I really feel like this draft is a blank slate. I'm really OK with
essentially any pick, outside a quarterback - it's not a great QB draft,
the team has its two players, and a QB pick plus Cam Newton's contract
status provides a little turmoil (I'm really not much of an anarchist).
I can deal with a RB pick - the depth chart gets muddied but you have
an 'out' and more emphasis on the run game (that lacked at times despite
so many attempts). I'd prefer not to have a high LB pick, but I can
understand it if it happens - Thomas Davis is aging, and gets expensive
after this. I anticipate one defender in the top three picks, and it's
not that they can't use a DE or DT, for various reasons.

*it feels like the two guys I've tracked the longest in this process -
Cyrus Kouandijo since last year, and Kelvin Benjamin for a lot of this
year - provide the best potential, and yet both have the most questions
to me. Both come with top ten type talent in a way (actually, if
Benjamin was a 4.5 guy or at least did better in change of direction, he
might be up there anyway), but both have a high downside - depending on
who you ask, you could easily just forfeit the pick and be as good.

*I'm tending toward the Jordan Matthews type receiver and the Zach
Martin type OT instead. Martin probably won't be there - even with
questions on whether he should be a G or T - but I hesitate to throw
Joel Bitonio up there. Matthews and Bitonio just don't value quite as
well right now compared to the 28 pick, but I'd be happy with either
player on the team (including at 28).


*I will say, since the two "needs" are WR and OT, that WR tends to be
the spot where you're more likely to get what you pay for - higher
drafted is more often better. But, even higher draft picks don't show
up well out of the box, so the higher investment takes longer to receive
return on investment. WR has trended upward this past year, where
Keenan Allen was a player who produced immediately, and you saw eventual
production out of first rounders Cordarelle Patterson and Tavon Austin.
But that's three that were solid by year's end out of the 9 by Allen's
pick (I won't count the two after him, there were 11 by the end of the
3rd).




I still, as I'd initially argued in the 2012 draft (while ignoring the
Luke Kuechly possibility), that an OL pick is the best way you get your
money's worth up front. You get an almost expected starter out of the
box, you get a potential upgrade on every snap compared to a WR that
probably doesn't start (and therefore upgrades a few hundred snaps on
average, if that).

On the other hand, the third need - CB - has a lot of potential snaps to
upgrade, and while CBs might seem like good out-of-the-box performance,
there's a lot of struggle there with most rookies. The below article
(sorry, I'm posting this from outside the ability to make this a link)
talks about this from Eric Davis' perspective, and he generally makes
sense:

http://www.nj.com/jets/index.ssf/2014/05/nfl_draft_2014_why_cornerbacks_always_have_toughest_rookie_adjustment_of_any_defensive_position.html

it's a Jets-specific link but it still does suggest that the want/need
will end up being for a roleplayer, and anything more might be hopeful
but not expected. Relatedly, the team needs a slot corner, where the
best options might be Josh Thomas (who started early on before being an
early Buffalo casualty), and maybe Eric Dockery, but while they have
more outside-specific corners, that might still end up being the pick to
push and back Melvin White.


*What would I do?
Honestly? I'd play the BPA game, to a point, and possibly prioritize WR
over OT despite the above. The 'why' is because I'd throw a mil or two
at Eric Winston as a vet tackle. He's experienced, he's played at a
high level most of his career despite what I expected of him coming out,
and he's a leader.

You could make a similar argument with Miles Austin, another free agent
who, if healthy, is a lot better than his 2013 - but I prefer the
Winston approach along with some WR youth. You have to be 100% ready to
assume that a WR pick will not play much this year, however. You could
also argue the team doesn't have enough money for either, being under $2
million right now and apparently trying to avoid the Charles Godfrey
release spilling over into 2015.

Consider, of course, if you could put WR off a year and throw in a later
OT choice, your needs become CB and then just depth. From a need
standpoint, the expectation would've been to fill the greater needs via
free agency, even if short term, and go best player (or defense to
balance) with draft picks. It's just that the money wasn't there, with
so much of it spent on Greg Hardy. They did throw money at three WR and
an additional TE, and I could argue some upgrades were made there, but
nothing at OT, where they're down one starter.


*I would target students of the game that tackle well at CB, and
honestly, the more ready prospects at WR, OT, CB have more value here
than projects. Seeing physically ready prospects like Amini Silatolu
and Ed Kugbila either struggle to adjust or just outright not be ready
to play makes me a hair gunshy about expecting an immediate starter at
OT, too. That does create risk, too.


*David Newton breaks down the outcome of the 28th pick in recent
history:

http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcsouth/category/_/name/carolina-panthers

instead of rehashing it or rebranding it as my own, figured I'd post his
and add what I think - you don't see significant production in the first
year out of anyone here. And yet, when the team talks about WR, they
point that out - so they may be expecting someone that can produce (and
therefore, possibly not at WR).
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