There was a better chance of someone winning $1 billion from Warren Buffet for a perfect NCAA tournament bracket than there is of someone nailing a perfect first round of this year’s NFL Draft.
Most years I have a pretty decent handle on what’s going to take place in the NFL Draft. Admittedly not as good as Mel Kiper or Todd McShay or Charley Casserly or many of the nationally-known, plugged-in analysts that spend their days talking to scouts and doing mock drafts – but enough to have an inkling of what might happen. Heck, I usually publish a mock draft or two of my own.
Not this year.
This year’s upcoming NFL Draft is more puzzling than any I can remember. So much so that I didn’t even bother mocking up a first round. I’d be hard-pressed to confidently mock up a top-10 or even mock to the point where the Vikings are currently scheduled to pick at No. 8.
The foggy forecast begins with the fact that the biggest wildcard in this year’s draft also happens to be a position of need for a majority of the teams picking in the top 10… and the most important position in the game. There was a time not long ago that it seemed a slam-dunk that three quarterbacks would go in the top 10, and perhaps one might go first overall. Now it’s looking like we might only get three in the first round altogether – and maybe not the same three “we” thought would be in the top-10 two months ago. At this rate will Teddy Bridgewater even be drafted? (Editor’s note: yes, that last part was sarcasm.)
Johnny Manziel could still go No. 1. Or in the top five. Or the Vikings could get him at eight. Or he might red flag his way down the board to the 25 range. Blake Bortles has a similar outlook. The aforementioned Bridgewater has been supplanted as the consensus No. 1, 2 or 3 quarterback by Derek Carr on the draft board of many an analyst. These are the key dominos in round one, especially for those teams hoping to wait on a quarterback and take one in round two.
Just a week ago I had convinced myself that Jadeveon Clowney would be the first overall pick. Now I’m not even sold on that notion, especially if the Texans don’t find a trade partner for the top selection. Clowney remains the odds-on favorite to go at No. 1, but neither Khalil Mack nor Greg Robinson would stun me.
Regardless, I suspect the Texans will be trading that first pick to the Falcons or some other surprise team. I also think the Cowboys will be actively trying to move up. I never have any idea what the Raiders (pick five) will do. You can also bet your Vikings have already reached out to every team with the ninth through 32nd picks to gauge interest.
Vikings GM Rick Spielman has made no secret his desire to trade back and accumulate picks. Of course, it could be a smokescreen or a “reverse smokescreen” or something. General Managers are more apt to tell the world they don’t want to trade an asset in an effort to maintain leverage in trade negotiations so I don’t know what Spielman is doing by repeatedly suggesting the opposite. “Hey everyone, I want to trade our pick! Who wants it?” Maybe he’s employing the opposite strategy of most NFL front-office types at this time of year… and being honest. That’ll throw his fellow GMs for a loop. If so, that’s very crafty of him. It’s also an indication he’s a disciple of the wacky new draft philosophy called “stockpiling picks” discussed in various corners of the Inter-web this week. The more picks, the less chance of random bad luck. The more bites of the apple, the better. That’s what the statisticians say at least.
Having said all that, if I had to guess at the Vikings’ plans – and I suppose I better get something on the record since you’ve read this far – I’d say they do in fact trade back. I think their goals are to trade down to get another pick or two, go defense first and then hope one of their top-three quarterbacks is still there when it’s their turn to pick again. I count C.J. Mosley, Justin Gilbert and Anthony Barr among the most likely defensive selections for the Vikings in this scenario.
Furthernore, I think Clowney winds up going No. 1, Manziel goes before the Vikings’ pick at eight, and the Cowboys make a splashy move. In addition, Bridgewater will go in the first round, but not before Carr goes off the board. That’s as close to a mock as I’m getting this year.
Kudos in advance to those of you who manage to get 10 picks correct in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. Please feel free to brag if you do.
C’mon, Mr. Buffet… there’s still time for another contest!
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell