So the annual SBN live mock has just been completed, and in a moment I'll run you through who we picked and why, before ending with some reflections on the draft as a whole, and what you learn by doing something so crazy.
But first a shout out to our team. Big thanks to our Tea Lady, Slot Machine Player, who set up the draft room for us on both days. Made communicating a lot easier. Then the rest of the team was made up of experienced Pulpiteers who all helped contribute to what went on, even if we weren't all able to be around all the time. In no particular order the blame list is as follows: Jack'sAxe, Amorales, Middlesex, CruelangelT and me.
So onto the draft, if you want to you can view the tracker, and see where every player went, and even read the threads of the draft at Music City Miracles (Pre Draft, Rd 1, Rd 2, Rd 3, Rd 4, Rd 5, Rd 6, Rd 7), our kind hosts, or listen in on our War Room discussions to see how things looked behind the scenes (Day 1 and Day 2).
So the draft started and as suspected guys we had no chance at flew off the board. Before the draft had begun, I'd been in touch with opposing GMs to gauge trade prices depending on how the board fell. I had two offers:
One from the Jags:
We Give: 1#29 (640), 3#93 (128) and 4#130 (42)
They Give: 2#39 (510), 3#70 (240) and 4#105 (84)
And one from the Vikes:
We Give: 1#29 (640)
They Give: 2#40 (500), 3#96 (116) and next years 4th (39)
So with the Jags, we traded down a few spots, and upgraded our 3rd and 4th round picks to the start of the rounds, and with the Vikes we got an extra third pick, and a 2015 4th. I preferred the Jags trade, due to wanting to have more picks in the higher areas of the draft, at the cost of lowering our first pick.
As things got close to our pick, I contacted both GMs to check where we were with regards to the deals. Minnesota said they'd been targeting CJ Mosely who'd already gone, and so were probably no longer interested. And the Jags didn't reply.
As the pick got closer it looked like we were going to have to use it. The Jags GM was ill and AWOL, while Denver had taken Mosely. So the decision was on and the choice was really between four players. Stephon Tuitt DT (our BPA), Kony Ealy DE (almost as good and at a higher need position), Su'a-Filo OG (Solid player, but questions over positional value) and ASJ (value and background concerns, but probably the best TE for what we want - Gronk backup and complement).
But then the Vikes came back, and said they'd do the deal, so we made the trade and they took Darqueze Dennard.
1#29 traded to Minnesota for 2#40, 3#96 and a 2015 4th
That left us waiting to see if any of our guys would last. Ealy went at #32 to Seattle, then Su'a-Filo at #33 to Houston and the nerves started creeping in. Then after an OL run Attaochu went, another option after our trade back. But both Tuitt and ASJ survived until #40, and then we went with our BPA, and a consensus choice in Tuitt.
2#40 Select Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
A rare athlete at his size, Tuitt has the size, speed and power to be a Richard Seymour type of Dlineman. Able to excel at either 34 DE, or 3T in the 43, as well as play 43 DE at a push. He had a great season in 2012, but injury and follow on weight gain curbed his performances in 2013. Still a guy who would have gone higher last year, and next year, and a potentially dominant Dlineman to build the front around of our new look defense for todays passing NFL. Top 15 talent, and with BB having an in with Kelly at Notre Dame, a pick I could most definitely see us making. Turns a position where we have plenty of options, and as many question marks, into one of some strength and future potential.
After the back slapping and phone call, we moved onto establishing a target for our next pick, and came to a shortlist of Troy Niklas TE, Allen Robinson WR, Joel Bitonio OL, Weston Richburg OC, Marcus Martin OC and Kareem Martin DE. So we sat back and decided to see what the board would look like when we got close to our pick.
ASJ ended up going straight after we took Tuitt, then Easley, Amaro and Bitonio, and suddenly guys we wanted were going left right and centre. Then a slight reprieve, before both Centres went consecutively at #47 and #48. Leaving only three guys on our shortlist, with 13 picks to go. When Allen Robinson went three picks later, we decided to look for a trade, and found a willing partner in Green Bay.
2#62 and 4#130 traded for 2#56
With the trade made, we prioritised addressing concerns on the other side of the ball to our first pick, and took a beefy TE to upgrade our O.
2#56 Select Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
While not as athletically gifted as the three TEs that went before him, due to his size and strength, and better than expected nimbleness for his size, Niklas offers an intriguing threat at TE. He is raw having only played the position for two years in college, and starting one, but he has already shown a real willingness and aggression when it comes to blocking. Also he has shown good ability in the pass game to use his size and frame to make catches over the middle to move the chains. While he is not athletic enough to ever match the Gronk, he offers a great second blocking option, and elite red zone size, and potential in the passing game. Taking him would likely signal a desire to further take the pressure off of Brady in his last years, by creating favourable matchups with heavy two TE packages. Also by doubling up on players from the same school, we felt the hooded one would be happy.
As it turned out Niklas would have been the Packers pick, and Kareem Martin, the other guy we liked went one pick before us, so the trade definitely worked out well for us again.
We then set in for the wait for our next two picks, which were very close, with only one priority in our minds. At least one of them had to be an interior O-lineman, Guard or Centre, didn't matter which. But we had to add to the Protect Brady Crew.
By the time the pick had arrived we had a choice between Billy Turner or Travis Swanson. Given the level of competition we went with Swanson, who was being touted as a first rounder earlier on.
3#93 Select Travis Swanson, OC, Arkansas
With Swanson we got a guy who should push Wendell/Connolly in camp, and do enough to at least win the job in 2015, if not 2014. He doesn't offer the best versatility position wise, but has really good size, and underrated movement skils. With more seasoning he should be able to hold up much better against bigger NTs than we're used to. He hasn't had the best guys around him at Arkansas, but was a multiple captain and made the line calls. All in all a guy who has a lot to offer, with some question marks. He featured on the 2014 Freaks List, with this quote from his new strength coach Ben Herbert, who came over from Wisconsin standing out: "His movement ability is second only to Joe Thomas out of linemen that I have worked with in the last 12 years." So a smart leader with good size, and movement skills, should make for a good Patriots O-lineman, and hopeful anchor of our line going forward.
We had only a short time until our next pick, and with a few good Guard options left, thoughts focused on the defense. We were discussing Telvon Smith for the LB/SS hybrid role, as well as Jackson Jeffcoat for more speed and depth at DE, but settled on taking a punt on a falling DT.
3#96 Select Will Sutton, DL, Arizona State
Like with Swanson, this pick got us a guy who was a consensus first or high second rounder, in early mock drafts, based on him having a great year in 2012. He was a penetrating terror in 2012, that year's version of Aaron Donald, with people questioning whether he'd be big enough to hold up in the NFL. In response he added too much weight, and it damaged his game. When slimmed down to his true playing weight, around 285lbs, he has tremendous potential as a disruptive penetrator inside, wrecking plays before they get a chance to begin. With BB to bring the rod, hopefully he'd keep his weight down and bring more of that 2012 fire. This pick also creates plenty of options/dilemmas for the D-line. But gives us a lot of versatility for even and odd fronts, with a few multi talented players, who could be moved round to get favourable situations.
That ended the day and left us waiting until day two, and our unexpectedly high comp pick.
As the pick approached we identified OLB Christian Kirksey as the guy we wanted, but he was taken just before we could select him. So we then decide to fill OLB later and get a RB, in a debate between McKinnon and West, we went with West.
4#140 Terrance West, RB, Towson
We took the big back from the little college. Despite being a large guy at 225lbs, West has shown good ability in the passing game, both catching and blocking. He should be the backup to Ridley going into the year, our main goaline and short yardage back, as well as the replacement for Bolden in the role of the Do It All 3rd choice back. But by 2015 he has a good chance to be our starting RB, who would be an asset on third down as well as first.
We then had many other guys in mind to take in the remaining rounds, but were shocked to find our second choice for our fourth round pick still available in the 6th round.
6#198 Jerick McKinnon, RB/S, Georgia Southern
So we pounced on the former option QB from Georgia Southern. A guy who'd have what would likely be mainly a red shirt year as our 4th choice back, and primary back up to Vereen in 2014, before hopefully exploding in 2015. As a former option QB, he'd need to work on his pass protection, route running and catching, but as a former sort of QB, he would have a leg up mentally in those areas, and no bad habits to unlearn. Athletically he is a marvel, with rare speed, agility, explosion and strength. If he hits 90% of his physical potential, we have ourselves a Shady McCoy and Matt Forte hybrid.
Those picks left us covered for next year and the great RB exodus that could be looming, but still needing to find some LB and Guard depth.
6#206 LB Boseko Lokombo, OLB/SS, Oregon
So we then took Lokombo to be groomed as an OLB/SS aka middle of the field coverage guru, to provide depth there, and hopefully improve our pass defense in future years. Lokombo is an undersized college linebacker who has shown good aggression and instincts and decent athleticism. Possibly under the radar due to playing with some highly regarded LBers at Oregon, if he can provide something similar to either Kiko Alonso or Dion Jordan, then we could have something on our hands. Marquis Flowers was the other option
7#244 OG Charles Leno Jr, OG/OT, Boise State
Waiting for our OG until the 7th let John Urschel, Ryan Groy, Spencer Long and Garrett Scott get away, but we went for the OT convert from Boise State, who has long arms and good foot quickness. He needs to improve in run blocking by adding strength, but he’s a good developmental option for a G with great movement skills making him a fit in our mainly ZBS.
All that left was to address UDFAs. We got to pick our top 5 UDFA targets, and they were:
QB: Kenny Guiton – A college backup, who showed a good arm when called upon. Mallett’s 2015 replacement hopefully.
TE/HB: Gator Hoskins – A red zone menace in college, with versatility to play at TE or FB.
DE/OLB: Shaquil Barrett – An edge rushing specialist. Faster than the guys we have, with good room to grow.
SS: Alden Darby – A developmental option at SS, smart player with good lateral movement.
RB: Stephen Houston – A BPA pick, even though he became the 3rd RB we took. A very explosive power back, and destroyer of any remaining contract leverage for Ridley and Vereen.
So that was the draft we put together, and we'd love any feedback or questions on it.
But before I sign off, I thought I'd offer a few reflections.
1) Mocking like this is fun and interesting
Despite taking a lot of time, and a fair bit of organisation. being able to do this with other guys you know, even if only online, was a good fun experience. I also got to learn a lot more about some of the guys in the draft.
2) Trades are hard work to pull off and get right
We got lucky with our trade back with Minnesota, but there is a lot that goes into making a trade, let alone negotiating a price that you're happy with. In such a deep draft, don't be surprised if we don't get many good offers to move down, and have to pick guys a bit earlier than we might like. Pre draft chat is essential for gauging the market, and allowing teams to get deals done before the clock runs out.
As for trading up for Niklas, it seemed like a high price to pay at the time in a deep draft, that pick could have been Christian Kirksey or Jackson Jeffcoat, but if we hadn't made it, then Niklas, K Martin and Latimer would have been gone. Leaving us looking to trade down at late notice sacrificing leverage, or picking a guy earlier than we hoped like David Yankey.
3) There's only so much you can predict
Once a draft is completed it is easy to say, we should have traded down here, and up here, and taken X, Y and Z, but in reality, after your first pick, we have no idea how the board might fall. So while it makes sense to figure out the depth of a class at different positions, and who might be available where, don't be surprised when BB once again takes a guy higher than expected, because he thinks they're worth it, and might not last.
In our case we ended up taking two RBs, when ideally we'd have only taken one, and taken Sutton, when we could have got some great DT value in the 6th or 7th. Those picks could have gone towards another better O-lineman, or a SS or LB. But that hindsight isn't available at the time, and so you need to stick to your guns, and take guys you think will most help your team in the short and/or long term future.
All in all quite an educational experience