I admit, being a guy from the old school, this new see-me/hear-me social media era throws me for a loop every now and then—mainly, when some high-profile personality or athlete so blatantly inserts a designer shoe into their own mouth. However, when it comes to football coverage and information, the endless access we now have is nothing short of god-given. Despite the countless mock drafts that grow in number every year, it never seems to bore us because we all have opinions and they change constantly.
Which is why I don’t do them.
Realistically, they are pointless until the last 48 hours before the draft. A perfect example: it was only a few weeks ago (pre-NFL combine) that one particular fairly-known NFL analyst posted a mock draft that had quarterback Carson Wentz going to the Arizona Cardinals behind Carson Palmer at their 30th selection…barely making the first round.
What I did instead is wait until the ground-clearing madness took its course so I can better give you my forecast of what might happen and/or what teams should do come draft day according to their needs.
Covering the NFC West, here is my assessment based on my most fundamental rule, KNOW WHAT YOU’RE WORKING WITH:
And what I know here is that GM Steve Keim and staff make their NFL draft selections based on best available player, not so much on position of need. Still, in my humble opinion, they would be crazy not to address the need for big uglies on either side of the ball. Carson Palmer is on the brittle side at his age and it showed in last season’s playoffs. Being in the bruising NFC West, they could do no harm in keeping up with their defensive opposition as well. Some experts think they lack in their secondary, specifically at the safety position, but I say that matters less if opposing QBs aren’t given all day to throw.
My Draft Forecast: … With their offensive sitting pretty for the most part, I see the Cardinals going defense in the first round. They like aggressiveness and speed, and more so than the Rams, Arizona is currently built well enough to withstand a move upward to get (MLB who is expected to drop somewhat), Shaq Lawson (DE), Leonard Floyd (OLB), or Darren Lee (OLB). I think Clemson’s Kevin Dodd (DE) would be a blessing if he happens to fall to their spot, but the Michigan State walk-on Jack Conklin (OT) would be a great pick at the spot as well.
You have to give the Seahawks credit, and no, I don’t mean for surviving Earl Thomas’ crowned catwalk wedding. They started the 2015 season looking rather atrocious. The Legion of Boom looked to be near its end as Kam Chancellor held out, and the O-line managed to place mobile quarterback Russell Wilson among the top highest-sacked QBs for the entire season. Despite all that, they made the playoffs and at one point, became the team considered most likely to rain on the Carolina Panthers’ season-long parade.
But they are no longer the only or biggest dog in the NFC West, and I don’t care that most experts and the oddsmakers of Las Vegas are so far picking them as one of three favorites to win the next Super Bowl — 8-1 odds, tied with the Steelers and Patriots. The Seahawks finally found the light switch for their passing game, and Thomas Rawls is a capable running back that will find decent fantasy numbers if he returns a hundred percent. But frankly, I can’t see any team with that O-line reaching the big show, and Rawls is no Marshawn Lynch in regards to punishing defenses for four quarters…and trust me, that’s important.
My Draft Forecast: How can a team among the Super Bowl favorites in the coming season have so much need? Offensive line, Cornerback, and defensive line help. Robert Nkemdiche (DT) might just fall far enough to land in Seattle’s lap at pick #26, and that would put any red-flag policy the Seahaws may have to the test. He is this year’s player voted most likely to be a bust. Very talented with flashes of greatness, but is said to have a ‘sometimes’ mentality. Noah Spence (DE), also with off-the-field issues (banned for failed two drug tests in college) could be high risk/reward pick as well for a coach that does extremely well with the youngsters. Kevin Dodd (DE) would be a safer selection without drop-off in production though not physically as gifted. Michael Bennett appeared to be the only real threat on Seattle’s D-line last season and can use the help. In the secondary, there is nothing close to Richard Sherman on the other side, but this will likely be addressed in later rounds. Still, the offensive line is the biggest need and either Jack Conklin, Germain Ifedi or Taylor Decker should be the first pick for them (all OTs), as on paper, they sport the NFL’s worst protectors.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Of course, with the first pick of the draft, the only mystery here is which of the two top quarterbacks tickle the Rams’ fancy more, Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. Knowing the Rams (as well as I think I do) Carson Wentz is the better overall fit for what a Jeff Fisher team is normally about. Wentz is a big strong guy that plows through DBs if he smells the goal line. He is capable of making the throws needed, and he’s more familiar with the under-center play of the Rams’ style. Let’s face it, this is Todd Gurley’s team now and for the foreseeable future. The Rams need a confident guy with toughness in this division.
On the flip-side of the coin, should the Rams open up offensively at the emergence of a second receiver threat, Jared Goff will also suffice, possibly more than Wentz. He is being compared to the Falcons’ Matty Ice, but won’t be reaching that plateau with the Rams’ power game, there is no Julio Jones to be found on the roster… Then again, after getting beat in proficient fashion by the Chicago Bears last season, Jeff Fisher snatched up two of Chicago’s offensive coaches in the off-season. Gurley could be getting a lot more passes out of the backfield, as did Matt Forte.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Welcome to the NFC West, Chip Kelly! A bit of free advice: Leave the quarterbacks alone in the first round.
Now that Sam Bradford’s whining about Philly’s intentions, look into obtaining him. Better still, a straight-up trade involving Kaepernick and the Jets’ Fitzgerald makes more sense than drafting QB Paxton Lynch with the 7th overall selection despite what media experts think. This is a defensive-rich draft, and should be taken advantage of. Think, NFC West running backs: Todd Gurley (LA), David Johnson (AZ) and Thomas Rawls (SEA), all expected to post respectable fantasy points at the least. And they know not to let Kelly’s offensive scheme take the field frequently.
And I’ll throw in this BONUS TIP also for free, Mr. Kelly: The 49ers, despite the off-season from hell prior to the 2015 season, played better than expected by many, including myself. Although the Eagles’ season could be called ‘fair,’ the season itself was a disastrous soap opera from a locker room standpoint. One thing you do not want is to lose the support of your best player, Navorro Bowman, exhausting his side of the ball with your notorious tendency to squeeze damn-near five quarters of defensive play into only four.
My Draft Forecast: Great opportunity here to get a coveted defensive gem in the 7th spot. It is conceivable that both Joey Bosa (DE) and Leonard Floyd (DE) are available still, or a pass-rushing linebacker like Darren Lee or Myles Jack are respectable choices also. Personally, I like Reggie Ragland as this year’s best long-term production LB. However, the San Francisco 49ers’ best bet is the defensive tackles, DeForest Buckner or Sheldon Rankins to plug up the middle.