This is going to be a completely different NFL Draft. Gone will be the show-business aspect, Roger Goodell’s awkward hugs with large young men dressed up for the prom and the ritual booing of the commissioner, unless those in his household decide to provide it.
Because this will be the isolation presentation of the draft, done by remote conferencing. It won’t bring us back to the days of Pete Rozelle chalking up the draft picks on a blackboard for a handful of reporters, but it will present a challenge.
Although most of the actual business of the draft was in fact conducted remotely, on lines from teams’ draft rooms to the draft site, this time the decision makers will not be in the same place, and how that affects decision making could be crucial.
The balance of power in the so-called war room is always precarious, but now the influence of whomever talks loudest, or gets the last word, could be lost. This makes this year’s draft somewhat more unpredicatble than ever.
Look for flexibility in unpredictability
It’s always unpredictable. First, because even the best analysts of player talent (and with the lockdown there are more people who evaluate out there who fall short of that designation) can’t replicate each team’s own draft board; either in individual player analysis or the positional need, scheme need, or in some cases how ego need applies to those ratings.
Secondly, because the draft includes a domino effect.
You may believe player A is a lock for team B with pick C, but what happens when team D trades into a position just ahead of Team A and takes him? The butterfly effect knocks on right down the draft. When I used to do video mocks for NFL UK, or written ones for First Down, my best score for accuracy was 9 of 32. I once had 27 of the 32 guys picked.
I also figured out ways to give myself half-credits for getting the right position to the right team when the guy I’d chosen was gone, also if the right guy went in the right place to the wrong team. So if you’re looking to bet the draft, you have to be absolutely sure, or look for a bet that gives you some flexibility.
Watch out for the quarterback
Like most drafts, the first fulcrum in this one is quarterback. Every team has its own version of a big board, ranking prospects, but quarterback is the position where a guy ranked 25th becomes worthy of a top 10 pick, because it’s the most important position in the game, if not in team sports (I’d argue only goalie in ice hockey comes close).
Left tackles, who protect right-handed QBs and edge rushers who attack them are also what you might call ‘premium positions’: the fourth best tackle is usually likely to be picked ahead of the best interior lineman.
This year LSU’s Joe Burrow is a mortal lock to go to the Bengals. The best QB in the draft to a team in need of a quality QB on a team-friendly rookie contract.
Of course the Bengals are the Bengals, but, no, I won’t go there. The second pick is almost as likely, Ohio State pass-rusher Chase Young to Washington.
Yes, they might like to trade down, perhaps draft another QB, but Young is too good a value for a defensive minded coach like Ron Rivera to avoid; he could be his Julius Peppers. Like I said, absolutely sure, but of course you’ll find the odds on either pick reflect that surety.
Three is a magic number
But it’s at pick number 3 that the plot thickens. If Detroit keeps its pick, it is widely assumed they will take Ohio State corner Jeff Okudah, the best corner in the draft and an obvious fit given the losses (mainly self-inflicted) they’ve suffered in their secondary.
But with both Miami (who have three first-round picks to play with) and the Chargers entering the season with veteran journeymen at QB, the possibility that if the Chargers in particular have their eye on a specific passer, they might trade up.
The Giants at pick 4 are a possibility as well: they are generally mocked to take Isaiah Simmons, maybe the best player in the draft but one without a position. They need linebacking, but they need O-line help even more, and in a draft with at least four tackles who might step in and play from day one, they could move down and still get one (or indeed get Simmons) while picking up an extra pick along the way.
The order of the next QBs
The real problem is trying to get a read on Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, the next two QBs in line after Burrow.
What happens with players is that they get built up throughout the NCAA season, then start getting picked apart after the post-season and Combine. Herbert, who risked a lot by actually playing in the Senior Bowl showcase, demonstrated mostly positives, but teams still question his decision-making anticipation, and he started to drop.
Tua, who was a likely number one overall two years ago, has suffered a series of injuries, most seriously a dislocated hip: injury is the biggest worry, though size is another. Not being able to showcase his fitness at a pro day, due to coronavirus, hurt him too. But maybe because of that, he’s trending upward in the week before the draft (though a word of warning, listening to GMs peddle information and disinformation in draft week is like taking a Trump press conference at face value. But if a team were to trade up for a QB, Tua would be the more likely.
It’s been a long, arduous journey back from a devastating hip injury that almost finished his career, but thanks to his faith and family, @AlabamaFTBL QB Tua Tagovailoa is finally fit to take on the NFL (via @wyche89)
? NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) April 21, 2020
Did I say dominoes? That’s just the first three picks. You can get Burrow, Young and Okudah, in that order at 5/4, or Burrow, Young and Tua at 9/2.
You could also get Tua or Herbert at 3/1 to be the second offensive player drafted. But rather than break down the whole of the first round, let’s skip to the business:
Grant Delpit showed at LSU he could play high single safety or in the box. His open-field tackling isn’t the greatest, but with versatile safeties keys to many teams’ pass defense, I think he’s in the top 32.
This one depends on the Raiders (as I am assume the Skins Do The Right Thing and take Young). Las Vegas drafts in the spot ahead of the Niners, and will likely take a wideout.
I think Jeudy is the best bet among the top receivers, but Jon Gruden may suffer from Al Davis Disease and want the more explosive CeeDee Lamb or the super-fast Henry Ruggs, Jeudy’s teammate at Alabama. I think Gruden likes Lamb and the Niners take Jeudy.
To take this bet, you need to have Detroit Lions trading out of number three, because Okudah should go to them. As I said, I think Simmons may be the best football player in the draft, which should make him attractive to many teams, but may also make others wonder where to play him. His main competition is is Derrick Brown, at 10/1.
The defensive tackle from Auburn who’s got a rare combination of size, skill and smarts. Teams that love big guys who could play anywhere along the line, Calais Campbell type players will like him.
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Source: US Sports