8) How do you think Indianapolis Colts GM Ryan Grigson is feeling today? Three days away from the deepest draft in history and his Colts only have three selections in the first 166 picks. The Colts don’t have a first round selection (#26) because of the disastrous Trent Richardson trade. Even if Richardson reaches his ceiling, he’s not worth anything close to a first round pick in this draft. They also lost their 4th Round selection (#127) to the Browns, opting to trade it to Cleveland during last year’s draft for the right to select DT Montori Hughes.
You have to give former Browns GM Mike Lombardi credit. He took Ryan Grigson to the woodshed twice and left the Cleveland franchise in the best possible position entering this year’s draft. As for Grigson, his sins will be paid for during the next week. He has little choice, but to stand pat and pick where they are, as the worst thing he can do now is to keep mortgaging future assets to get more picks this year. Just take your punishment and move on.
9) I can’t for the life of me figure out what is going to happen with Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifory come draft day. The two enigmatic Florida CB entered the draft process as highly regarded prospects, but have since dropped like an anchor due to disastrous pre-draft efforts. In Roberson’s case, he put out some bad tape during his time at Florida, but his snail-like 40 time has crushed his draft stock. It’d be one thing if Roberson was a dynamic playmaker on the backend and played faster than he is timed, but that’s not the case. How some people still have Roberson ranked in the top 60 players in this draft boggles my mind.
In Purifoy’s case his combination of bad on-field play, poor off-field decisions, and average at best workouts have dropped him deep into the draft. Purifoy’s poor 40 time surprised me more than Roberson’s because he plays a bit faster, however he lacks technique and discipline in coverage. Purifoy has always had character and coachability red flags, but his recent bath salts arrest might be the last straw. I have no clue where either player is going to be selected this week, but it will be later than many are still projecting.
10) It comes as no surprise that Nevada OT Joel Bitonio is soaring up draft boards to the point where he could be selected in the first round now. Not only is Bitonio one of the most versatile Offensive Lineman in the draft and has put out some impressive film vs. top tier edge rushers, he’s also one of the smartest players I encountered during this process. I distinctly remember interviewing Bitonio at the Senior Bowl with Alex Dunlap from RosterWatch and we were both blown away with how smart he was. Bitonio was able to breakdown various OL techniques, was keenly aware of his strength-weaknesses, and had a tremendous understanding of different blocking schemes.
Bitonio a very good athlete for the position, but he’s also one of the hardest workers in the film room. He can play just about any position on the Offensive Line and while he can play LT in the NFL, he’s a Pro Bowl OG in my opinion. When the run on Offensive Linemen starts in the first round, Bitonio is likely to benefit. I see him coming off the board between picks 28-35 with Carolina a likely landing spot.
11) For teams like the New England Patriots that need Running Back depth this is the perfect draft. Not only is the draft loaded with NFL caliber runners, but the value that can be found at the position is unlike ever before. There will not be a Running Back selected in the first round and there might not be one selected in the top 50 picks. When you look at the draft board it’s easy to see why teams will wait to address the position. In this year’s 4th and 5th Rounds teams can draft a RB that may have gone in the 2nd or 3rd rounds a few years earlier. Running Backs such as Devonta Freeman, Strom Johnson, Terrance West, Lache Seastrunk, and Isaiah Crowell are all backs that could fall to day three of the draft and provide tremendous value to the team that picks them. Inevitably some Running Backs will fall all the way out of the draft and this year more than ever, I believe we’ll see UDFA and late round RB make a big impact during the 2014 NFL season.
12) Georgia QB Aaron Murray is a player to watch on day two of the draft. Ever since his Pro Day a few weeks ago, he’s begun to generate some real buzz among NFL teams. Despite his knee injuries and lack of size, teams love his experience as a starting QB. A four year starter in the SEC, Murray’s battle tested and has plenty of big game experience. While his arm isn’t super strong, it’s strong enough to be successful in the NFL. He provides teams in the 3rd or 4th round a fallback option if they should miss out on their top target in the 1st or 2nd round. For my money Aaron Murray in the 4th round is a much better value than taking Tom Savage in the second round. If it wasn’t for his knee injury, I think it’s safe to assume Murray would be firmly in the 2nd Round of this year’s draft.
13) When USC Center Marcus Martin was invited to the draft in New York late last week it caught my eye. Martin has flown a little bit under the radar lately because he wasn’t able to work out prior to the draft, but after watching him on tape he’s clearly the best Center in the draft. Martin started his career at Guard for the Trojans and moved to Center this past season. He’s 20 years old making him one of the youngest players in the entire draft and has only played 13 career games at Center. He didn’t draw much attention during the season because many people didn’t expect him to enter the draft. Now that he’s been invited to the draft there appears to be a real chance he gets picked in the first round. It can be argued that he has as much upside as any OL in the entire draft. For teams picking at the end of the first round and don’t have a Center, like the New Orleans Saints, Marcus Martin has to be in the conversation.
14) This is an important draft for the other three AFC East teams. The Jets and Dolphins in particular have to hit on their first few draft picks to even have a chance to compete for the division title. The Dolphins once again were active in free agency, but have they closed the gap on the Patriots? As of right now it appears they are poised to reach for an Offensive Tackle with the 19th pick, potentially Tennnessee’s Ja’Wuan James and that certainly won’t put them over the top. The Dolphins will go as far as QB Ryan Tannehill will take them and in my opinion that isn’t very far.
The Jets are in a little better position entering the draft. The two glaring needs on the Jets roster remain at Wide Receiver and Cornerback. Sitting at pick #18 in the first round the Jets should have their choice of the top CB or WR on their board. If the Jets are able to land say an Odell Beckham Jr. or a Darqueze Dennard it will certainly make them better. But is either team ready to compete for the AFC East title? It doesn’t look like it.
15) UCLA DE/OLB Anthony Barr has taken a beating during the pre-draft process for his poor film, technique, and other flaws found on tape. Many project him to slide into the later part of round one. However, if history has taught us anything it’s that dynamic speed rushers go early in the draft. On pure potential and upside Barr is one of the most attractive players in the entire draft. His ceiling, once he learns the finer aspects of the position, is incredibly high and he can be a rare difference maker off the edge. I just can’t see 25-30 teams, many of whom are in dire need of edge rush help, passing over Barr if he’s on the board for their selection. Even though he won’t go as high as he was once projected, I see his draft range starting at pick #11 with the Tennessee Titans and extending to pick #20 with the Arizona Cardinals. I feel comfortable predicting Barr comes off the board somewhere in between those selections.