The season is winding down and while I am not ready to dive completely into the draft coverage until the Ravens season is over, I do want to take a minute to lay out some early predictions now that under-grad declaration is done. Last year I laid out 14 predictions and 11 of them were either dead on or very close(i missed big time on Burfict, but i think I should get some credit since he played so well this year)so I am pretty confident in my predictions when it comes to the draft. Without further delay, here we go.
1. Barkevious Mingo will slip lower than most people expect- Mingo is projected my many as a top 5 pick and by almost all as a top 10 pick. I am not saying that Mingo will be out of the first round or take a dramatic tumble, but I do see him being in the 13-17 range. I could see the Bucs, Rams, Panthers and especially the Saints all snagging him if he is available. Mingo has a very very specific skill set and many teams in the top 10 will be looking for a more versatile player. He will be a solid pass rusher for someone, but I don’t see it in the top ten.
2. Mike Glennon will go in the top 10- Glennon is not on most casual fans radars right now. He reminds me quite a bit of Joe Flacco. He has a huge arm, he is very tall and he has great leadership ability according to those who have met him and been around the program. I don’t see Glennon going 1st overall unless Kansas City trades the pick because Glennon isn’t really a west coast QB that Andy Reid will be looking for, but he could easily be a top 5 player. I could easily see the Jags, Raiders or Cards taking him, I doubt he lasts any longer. Glennon has issues, he is inconsistent under pressure and needs better footwork(those two things go hand in had), but I have Glennon graded as the top QB in this class. Let it be noted, I believe this is the weakest QB class we have seen in years. There are going to be a lot of reaches in this draft at the QB position. speaking of which…
3. There will be 5-6 QBs taken in the first round- This is a very weak QB class, but that wont stop needy and desperate teams from reaching like crazy to get a signal caller. sometimes teams take QBs for the right reasons, being that they believe they can win with them pulling the trigger, but just as often they are taken for the wrong reason. We NEED a QB so we should ignore our draft board. We have a coach that is feeling the heat and takes a QB to delay his firing for a year or two etc.. There will be a couple legit first rounder taken, but the rest will be reaches. Mike Glennon, Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib and maybe Tyler Bray will be first rounders. several will find themselves in the top ten despite no QB being a top ten talent.
4. Jarvis Jones will be the top defender taken- OK, this isn’t very bold, but it is true. barring an injury or some other dramatic occurrence(arrest, failed drug test, etc.), Jones will be a top 3 pick and the top defender taken. I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised to see him taken first overall thanks to the weak QB crop. Jones is clearly the top player in the class.
5. There will be no fewer than 5 WRs taken in the first round- The First round will be littered with wideouts. There is no clear guy in this draft that is a superstar WR, but there are a bunch of very good looking prospects. I expect Keenan Allen, Cordarrell Peterson, Justin Hunter, Terrence Williams and Tavon Austin will all be first rounders. Cordarrell Peterson might barely make it but he is probably the most talented of the bunch and could have the best career. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken by the Ravens.
6. Sheldon Richardson will fly up draft boards- If you have read my writing much you probably know by now that I love Richardson. He has had some injury issues staying healthy, but he is so incredibly talented. Another factor here is the rate at which Mizzou has been churning out stud defensive lineman. Recent Mizzou alums include Aldon Smith and Ziggy Hood. These players have been well coached and prepared for life in the NFL and Richardson is the next in that line. He will be a top 17 pick as long as he doesn’t bomb his combine interviews.
7. Chance Warmac will go in the top 15- This isn’t super bold. Any draft board worth its snuff has Warmac firmly within the top 15, but the fact that he is a guard means his chances of going that high are limited(look at Decastro last year). Believe it or not, Warmac is considerably better than Decastro was last year. There is not a single flaw in his game. Warmac will go in the top 15, my guess is 12 to the Dolphins.
8. Robert Lestor will be a second round pick- Lestor looked like a top 10 pick after his sophomore year, but two years of inconsistency he has slid considerably and now most have him pegged as a third rounder, many have him even lower. I say no. Lester will salvage his draft stock with solid draft season work. Expect him to play very well in the senior bowl and have good combine numbers. Lestor has been avoided by QBs for 2 years now and can play either safety position and hold his own in man coverage against TEs. He got lost in the shuffle at Alabama, but he is a solid pro prospect. He will be a firm second round pick.
9. Gavin Escobar will be the third TE taken and 2 TEs will go in round 1- Never heard of Escobar? don’t feel too bad, most people havent. He played for San Diego St. and was their main offensive weapon. Even working with sub-par QB play Escobar managed to look like a huge stud all season. He plays a lot like Jimmy Graham. He is essentially a giant WR. he is 6’5″ 255 lbs and runs about a 4.5 40. He is also a solid blocker, he isnt going to give you a dependable extra tackle type blocker for an entire game, but he will provide solid chipping and occasional run blocking for any team. The two TEs taken in the first will be Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert. Escobar won’t go in the first round, but he might be the best of the bunch, he is just a bit raw.
10. David Amerson will go in the 1st round- Maybe this is just me not being able to let go of a great season, but I think Amerson is being undervalued. most have Amerson as a late second or early third round pick, but he has prototype size and speed to go along with incredible ball skills that makes him a first round talent. 13 INT seasons don’t happen on accident. He is a playmaker. He needs some refinement, but the talent is there.
11. Montee Ball will slide- Ball is a solid power back. He has the potential, and probably will be, a solid NFL player. The problem will be that he has a lot of wear on him. Ball has racked up nearly 1000 carries in his Badgers career. He has taken probably 5 times that many hits. the guy is coming into the league with body fatigue similar to that of a 3rd or 4th year RB which might not sound that bad, but considering RBs only play about 6 or 7 years, Ball is already over halfway through his career. That means a shorter shelf life which means less value which means a lower round pick. I don’t expect to hear Balls name called until about the 5th round despite the fact he is a second round talent.
12. Lane Johnson will Sneak into round 1 after a big combine- Lane Johnson is a big tackle from Oklahoma. He started his career as a TE and is an incredible athelete. He is a prototype fit for a zone blocking scheme in need of a LT(like a healthier but slightly less talented Trent Williams or Nate Solder). He is a good enough athlete that I expect him to have a huge combine performance and boost him from a early second round grade to a late first.
13. Kevin Minter will be drafted to high- Minter is being valued as a first rounder, but for my money he is no better than the 4th best ILB in the draft, he might be the first one taken depending on how this whole Manti Teo fake girlfriend thing plays out. That is way to high. Minter should be a second round pick, a late second round pick, but he will likely go in round 1.
14. The Ravens will draft a WR, a TE and at least 1 LB- I could see them taking any of these three positions in the first round. WR because they need to prepare for life without Boldin, LB because they have no depth at the position and need to at minimum fill Ray Lewis’ roster spot, and, before you start telling me the Ravens have a solid TE duo, remember that both Pitta and Dickson are RFAs this year. there is a solid chance that Dickson will be back and I would be a bit surprised to see Pitta go, but the Ravens need to think about finding cheaper options that might be upgrades. i could see them taking any of the three TEs i discussed earlier, Cordarell Peterson, Terrence Williams or Justin Huner and Alec Ogletree or Manti Teo in the first round if no good DL prospect is available. they will take a player at each of these positions if nothing falls to them in free agency.