NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
After listening to the Draft Breakdown podcast with Justin Higdon and Seth Cox (great podcast and 2 must follows on twitter) regarding their hits, misses and what they learned when they looked back at the 2013 draft class, I decided to do the same thing. I was not writing for anyone at that time and twitter was something I thought would never make it(another bad take by me) so my work was not seen by many. Except for a handful of my buddies who used draft weekend as an excuse to get together after college and make some bad decisions, the work I put into the draft was primarily for my eyes only. I was able to find several old emails I sent to these friends of mine, including a top 100 list. So today, I pull back the curtain and reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly of my 2013 draft evaluation.
First email: sent January 28, 2013
Title: Senior Bowl musings
Just thought I would pass on a few things I saw from this past week from the Senior Bowl practices and then the game. Not sure if any of you guys caught the game on Saturday, but here is what I saw both positively and negatively.
PART 1: I am a genius!
Two guys that I talked (before anyone else might I add) about in my first email about this years draft class were down at the senior bowl and of course they were dominant and now there is a love fest going on over these two guys.
The first is Eric Fisher, the tackle out of Central Michigan. He was so dominant in practice all week. He almost looked bored out there because it was so easy for him. In the one on one drills he literally lost one time and that was it, the rest of the time he just had his way with every defensive lineman there. Now Mayock has him going at worst in the top 12 but thinks he will go as early as top 5. All day Saturday Mayock just kept saying how much money this kid made himself and how much he had jumped up draft boards. To me he looks just like Nate Soldier only more polished at this point of his career.
The second was Ezekial Ansuh from BYU. One of my favorite players in this draft. I thought his week of practice was a little up and down and I thought maybe he would last until the Patriots pick at 29. Then on Saturday, during the game, he was by far, not even close, the best player out there. He had 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and two tipped passes. I think during the week he was thinking too much and that was messing with his performance, but come game time, he was a bad ass.
I said the QB class sucks, and after this week, I stick by my statement and feel pretty good about it. There are some guys who show some flash here and there, but for the most part, they are inconsistent, have bad habits that are going to be corrected, or just make bad decisions.
PART 2: Tell me more
Some guys impressed me over the week and game that either I had not really heard of or were down on for some reason, one of those guys was CB Robert Alford of SE Louisiana. Alford was great in drills all week and played with extreme confidence for a kid coming from a small school. In the game he showcased his speed with an 88 yard kickoff return to start the game and the other thing I really liked is that he was in on a couple of special teams tackles. He has nice size for a CB and I expect him to go off the board no later than the end of round 2.
Another guy that caught my attention was OT Lane Johnson out of Oklahoma. I cannot say that the games I saw of Oklahoma this year that he jumped out but he was right behind Fisher this week in his dominance. Another tall athletic guy who moves really well and will be a 1st round LT by the time the draft rolls around. Kaufman, this could be your guy as I could see him going somewhere in the early 20’s.
A few more guys that I came away really intrigued by were RB Mike Gillislee out of Florida and Safety Johnathon Cyprein, WR Marquiss Goodwin (super fast and better route running and hands than I thought), LB Zavier Gooden (undersized LB but moves well, plays the pass well, which the patriots really need)
PART 3: Looks like Tarzan, Plays like Jane
I lumped all the QB’s in as guys I thought disappointed, so I won’t talk any furthur about them, but here are some other guys that I had high hopes for that I thought hurt themselves this week.
Margus Hunt, SMU: Everything about this guy screams NFL stud. He is a 6’8″ 285 lb defensive end that is athletic and fast enough to play OLB in a 3-4. He was a guy that I had targeted early this year. Unfortunately for Hunt, the games are not played on paper. He shys away from contact, he has horrible balance, he runs himself out of plays by not recognizing the play or overpursing. He does not play with leverage and he rarely utilizes his freakish size and speed to his advantage. Really disappointing.
Terrance Williams, Baylor: Alot of sites and draft gurus have this guy pegged as a first round WR, I just do not see it. He does not run great routes, it slow in and out of cuts and drops far too many balls for my liking. His one major asset is supposed to be his ability to go deep and get open but this week I saw him struggle to get separation even on the deep route.
Mallicah Gooden, Clemson: Another physical freak of nature who has all the tools to be an OLB in the NFL but underachieved in college and did nothing to help his case this week. He looked lost, and at one point was being coached up, went back in and did it wrong on the next play only to get yelled at by the staff and it lloked like he just didn’t care.
Overall, the talent at the Senior Bowl was pretty good. Not a lot of elite talent and probably only 8-10 first round guys there which is down from recent years, but there were a lot of guys who should go in rounds 2-3 from this game that can contribute.
There is some good and some bad in this email. What I find so funny is how absolute I was on some of these players that early in the process. Clearly I was all in on Eric Fisher already at this point in the process and while he went #1 overall, he has not lived up to that draft spot. Ansuh has turned out really well and is one of my better hits. There was something about him that caught my attention very early in the process and I never looked back.
Second Email: sent April 5, 2013
Title: Top 100 and my love/like/hate list
What I got right:
Not much, to be honest. I was high on Ansuh throughout the process and he has been a very good player to this point. I was down on the QB class and for some reason I still had Geno Smith ranked 32, even though I had him in my hate column. I think this was a case where I was either trying to rank him close to where I thought he would actually get drafted or I was too afraid to be so different than the big media guys. Remember, I was not on twitter back then and my exposure to the draft was mainly guys like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. At that time, I knew when I liked a guy and would be more bold, but I don’t think I trusted my evaluations enough when I didn’t like a prospect to be on an island by myself. I can’t remember what the thoughts were on Eddie Lacy coming out of college, but I had him as my #1 back and he was drafted close to where I had him ranked.
What I got wrong:
Le’veon Bell has to top this list. I had him 92nd overall and I was not high on him. I thought he was sluggish in college had been used so much that he wouldn’t have much left in the tank. It is amazing how he reshaped his body and became the runner he is today. Jarvis Jones was a bad one as well. At the time, I payed little attention to testing numbers and if I had, there would have been some red flags for Jones. There are so many more misses I could talk about, but you get the point.
What have I learned?:
I like to think my process has evolved over the years. I am definitely more comfortable with my process and willing to go out on a limb when I like or dislike a prospect. I am trying to be a more well rounded evaluator as well. I try and use all the information that is available these days when it comes to these prospects. I still rely heavily on the tape, but I have found that analytics can help build a more complete profile on these players. As a Patriots fan, it seems the team favors players that meet certain athletic thresholds, so using those thresholds can help weed out prospects as well. Even though my mom would disagree, I am not perfect, especially when it comes to evaluating NFL prospects. The beauty is, no one is. For most of us, we do this for fun. Sure, we all want to be able to say “see, I got every player right!” For me, I enjoy the process. I continue to learn each year something new that helps make my process better for the following year. The draft community as a whole has really grown over the last few years and there are so many knowledgeable people out there who are willing to talk draft all year round that it is nearly impossible not to learn something new or at least see something from a different perspective. I know that I will miss on more prospects than I get right, but if I can continue to ask the question “why?” then maybe that gap between what I got right and what I got wrong will close.