6. Continuing with the safety discussion, at one time it looked like the safety position was going to end up being one of the worst positions in this year’s draft. However, after spending more time watching some tape of guys and seeing a number of guys in person at the Senior Bowl, I am now under the impression that this draft will actually produce some very good safeties.
Mark Barron is the only one certain to go in round one, but guys such as Harrison Smith and Antonio Allen are both players who have been productive in college who should make an impact in the pros. Trenton Robinson, Brandon Taylor, and George Iloka are all good athletes who have their question marks but should be able to develop into a solid NFL player.
The one safety to keep an eye on is San Jose State’s Duke Ihenacho. Ihenacho is a ball-hawking safety who seemed to make a play every time I watched him on tape. He was always around the ball and made big hits on receivers. If he played for a big time college, such as LSU, he would be projected to go much much higher in my opinion.
Since he’s from a smaller school and the level of competition isn’t as good, Ihenacho will likely begin to come into play for teams that need safeties in round three-four.
7. Pro days are just about over, however, there remains a few individual pro days that I will be watching closely. The most important one in my mind is the pro day of Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles. Broyles is scheduled to work on on April 12th, six months after he tore his ACL.
Prior to tearing his ACL in November, Broyles had enjoyed a prolific collegiate career, breaking many records including the NCAA Division 1 record for most career receptions. When healthy Broyles is one of the best possession receivers in the draft. He is able to run good routes and catches the ball naturally. He was projected to be a high pick (top two rounds) prior to his knee injury. It’s hard to imagine that Broyles is fully healed from ACL surgery only six months out, so I doubt the times he posts this week will be an actual indication of his speed or agility.
It will be important to show NFL teams just how healthy he is and how close he is to being the player we have seen on Saturdays. Broyles might never be a #1 WR, but he has a chance to a good complementary piece if he’s healthy. April 12 will be the first indication of how close Broyles is to being back and will go a long way to determine how high he will go.
8. Tony Pauline of SI.com brought up an interesting point in one of his blog posts this week. Patriot fans are always concerned with the Patriots finding a edge rusher or a big, physical OLB who can set the edge. Pauline explains that the Patriots priority is finding a LB who can run and cover.
It’s an interesting thought because it would be a departure from Bill Belichick’s history. The need for a coverge linebacker is perhaps the most pressing need remaining on the team. The Patriots linebackers were awful in coverage last year. They were routinely picked on in coverage and struggled to cover receivers, ends and backs.
Adding speed and athleticism at the LB might be a lot easier than finding the traditional 6’3″ 265 lbs. Patriot linebacker. A name mentioned by Pauline is Utah State LB Bobby Wagner. Wagner is on the small size, but he can play both inside and outside, is one of the fastest linebackers in the draft and can cover.
Wagner was the defensive MVP of the Senior Bowl and showcased his coverage and special teams skills while there. Adding talented linebackers is never a bad thing and if Pauline is right Wagner would be one of the more interesting picks of the Bill Belichick era.
9. I have mentioned this one twitter a few times and I just want to explain myself a little bit on here. I believe that there are 3 elite QB in this year’s draft, Andrew Luck, RG3 and Ryan Tannehill. Outside of those three, there isn’t another QB I would take in the first round.
There is a HUGE drop off from the top three to Brandon Weeden, who I consider to be a late second round pick. After Weeden there isn’t a QB I would even think about selecting until day three of the draft. I don’t consider guys like Kirk Cousins, Brock Osweiler, Russell Wilson or BJ Coleman to be starter caliber quarterbacks in the NFL.
I am not going to waste a 2nd or 3rd round pick on a QB unless I am sure that he can develop into a starter down the road. Out of the guys I have mentioned Osweiler has the best shot to become a starter, based on his athletic ability, size and raw throwing potential, but he is nowhere near ready.
Back-up QBs can be found in the seventh round and as UDFA, and that is what I think the Kirk Cousins of the world will ultimately be in the NFL.
10. Syracuse DE/OLB Chandler Jones is a player that has drawn a wide variety of opinions from people I talk with. Some people think he is one of the best pass rushing prospects in the draft and could develop into a legit edge rusher for 3-4 teams. Other people I talk with think he is under-productive, raw and underwhelming on film.
While there seems to be a consensus on a lot of players in this draft Jones is one where no consensus exsists. His range seems to be somewhere from pick #25 in the first round to the beginning of round three. That’s a span of 50 or so picks, which is a wide range for a player, but just speaks to how hard he has been to evaluate.
I am stuck in the middle on Jones. I don’t think he is a first round pick by any means, but I do think he could be a situational rusher and a developmental 3-4 OLB prospect. How highly does a player like that go? That’s the question.