Friday, April 29, 2016

5 things that stood out from the 1st round of the NFL draft

I didn't watch the NFL draft last night, frankly I don't see much appeal unless you enjoy the spectacle but much of that is captured immediately on Twitter anyways. The only downside to consuming the draft via Twitter is that the sheer volume of commentary forces everyone to channel their inner Donald Trump and try to say the most shocking thing possible in order to stand out.

Every draft selection was either the worst decision of all time that will bring ruin to a franchise or it was a perfectly orchestrated example of Machiavellian brilliance.

For instance, I like Josh Doctson as much as anyone but I think Will Fuller could be pretty dang good as well so I'm not ready to say that the team who chooses Fuller over Doctson will rue this decision for the rest of their days. Trading up to do it? Now that's more questionable.

So here's what stood out to me:

#1. Joey Bosa going number 3 to San Diego

I was a big fan of Bosa coming off his Ohio State's championship season simply because of the speed, power, and motor he demonstrated as a sophomore. However, there were a number of red flags from his junior year that really bothered me.

First was his somewhat limited pass-rush production, which SB Nation's scouting guru Stephen White noted results from a lack of bend and flexibility. He's better as an inside rusher than he is on the edge, but at 6'5" 270 he's not quite big and strong enough yet to show as a promising interior guy. So what you're getting with Bosa is probably a guy who's highest ceiling is in a role he hasn't really performed in yet.

And unlike with Myles Jack, there aren't as many positive signs that indicate he can be great there.

The second red flag is his attitude and the season that Ohio State just had. Despite having, by far, the most talented team in college football they underachieved last season. They started the year with a high profile match-up against Virginia Tech, who had handed them their only defeat in the championship season, and many teams have surmised that Bosa and some of his teammates took this game so seriously that they put themselves in a position where they had to refuse to take drug tests and got themselves suspended for the game.

Does Bosa have the drive to be great? The motivation to take on new challenges and roles in the NFL? Those all add up to some serious uncertainty about a guy that's going no. 3 overall.

#2. The Cowboys doubling down on offense with Elliott

Setting aside the fact that Elliott was mentioned in the linked article above as being a possible partier and user of "hard drugs" and even a bad influence on Bosa, using a number four pick on a running back when you already have a brilliant cast of WRs, a top 10 QB (if he's healthy), and one of the best offensive lines in the league is an interesting choice.

What's more, the Cowboys have been atrocious on defense for the last few years and could have drafted either do-it-all DB Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, or ANY DEFENSIVE PLAYER NOT NAMED JOEY BOSA. They were all available.

Dallas desperately needs players they can build their future defenses around and there's no better place to find such a player than in the first round. Running backs capable of having success in this offense can be found all over the draft and also in free agency, heck you could pull someone off the streets to run behind Tyron Smith and La'el Collins.

On the other hand, the NFL is a match-ups league and one way to ensure success is by having features to your offense or defense that no one can handle. For instance, having two truly great pass-rushers is not something opposing offenses can really protect against and now Denver has a Super Bowl trophy.

You got two dominant DTs that have to be doubled at all times? No one is going to be running the ball on your defense. That's how the Ravens destroyed everyone back in 2000 despite having Trent Dilfer as their QB.

You have a great QB with two no. 1 caliber receivers? Teams can't double them both, Aaron Rodgers brings a ring to Green Bay.

The idea here is that with a feature back like Zeke, Dallas could have an offense so overwhelmingly good that it becomes the decisive factor in games and allows them to win a Super Bowl. However, they still have to be competent on defense.

#3. Everyone throwing thunder bolts from Mt. Pious after Tunsil's totally unshocking admission

I learned virtually nothing from Tunsil's awkward confession on draft night because I would have already been willing to bet large piles of cash that Tunsil received money while at Ole Miss. There's no doubt that under Hugh Freeze the wealthy boosters around that program have put a lot of investment into their team and been able to successfully outbid other schools.

That last part is key, make no mistake the reason that other SEC schools (or anyone else really) is mad is because they're struggling to pony up enough cash to consistently outbid the Rebels for top talent.

If you think the players at your school aren't receiving cash and are all totally free from marijuana use you are just burying your head in the sand.

The Dolphins ironically got a steal taking Tunsil 13th.

#4. How undervalued Laquon Treadwell has been

The key with first round selections is to get versatile players that are easy to build around and Treadwell is exactly that. The people complaining about a 6'2" 220 pound dude that runs a 4.6 just make me laugh, as if that combination of size and speed was common or remotely simple to deal with on a football field.

The dude is plenty fast, he has great hands, he loves the game, and he loves to be physical and block. There isn't a system or a group of skill talent in the league that wouldn't benefit from adding a big, powerful receiver that is an asset on every down.

I'm not sure how many big, sure-handed receivers that lack ideal 40 times need to have success in the NFL before everyone gets wise. If the dude had bad hands you'd worry about the fact that 5'11" quick guys might be able to hang with him on his route breaks but since he has great hands...I'm not sure what the fuss is here.

#5. There are still 1st round caliber, "foundational pieces" left in this draft

There's Myles Jack for one, who was passed up because he admitted his knee will probably need micro-fracture surgery in the future. Considering the percentage of players just drafted that will need surgery within the next few years I'm not sure why this is quite as big of a deal as it is. Someone is probably going to get a steal.

Hunter Henry, the Arkansas TE, is still bafflingly on the board. He's a solid run-blocker but a fantastic route-runner that Arkansas would split out wide regularly over the last few years and use as a go-to guy on 3rd downs. When did everyone stop being excited about great TEs? Is there an offense in the NFL that has a really good TE that isn't very difficult to stop?

Mackensie Alexander put a lot of good WRs on lockdown over the last few years at Clemson, in a man-coverage league I'm not sure why arguably the best cover corner in the draft is still available.

Most of the knocks on Andrew Billings are related to him being young and inexperienced. The dude has already proven he knows how to translate his awesome power into production on the football field. For any team that still sees value in having a nose tackle Billings should be a top priority. I think his value will become more apparent next in the B12 when teams see what happens to Baylor's run D.

Hassan Ridgeway is also better than a lot of people realize, he could play either DT position and provide either pass-rush or gap control. His lack of production in 2015 is largely explained by some nagging injuries and the fact that they played him as a 4i-tech DE in the 3-3-5 rather than allowing him to just feast on interior OL. I think he'll surprise at the next level.

Finally there's Cody Whitehair who is a potentially dominant NFL guard that played "lead tackle" for Kansas State the last few years. He was really strong in pass protection despite lacking ideal length (6'4" and not with long arms either) and they would pull him a ton on "dart" runs where he excelled. You want pass protection inside? Whitehair brings it. You need flexibility, a guy that can move around as needed? This is your guy. Run a lot of power and like to pull the guards? Look over here.

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