By Rob Staton
It's strange to think that in just over 18 days the draft will be done for another year and discussion will be based on analysis rather than projection. We should probably make the most of it because for people who love the draft this 'calm before the storm' is probably the most interesting part. We've seen the work outs, we know a lot more about these prospects. Now it's a case of trying to figure out what could happen.
When I do a mock draft, I try to take into consideration a number of factors. Team needs are obvious and the main reason St. Louis are taking Sam Bradford first overall. They need a quarterback, therefore they take best one. I also look at trends to try and see how the people making the picks have drafted in the past - what do they look for in their prospects? Do they draft heavily for scheme or a certain character/position? This was easy when Tim Ruskell was Seahawks GM because he had a very defined draft policy.
But I also try and make the odd judgement call too. Nobody will ever create the perfect first round mock and those who go close either have a lot of inside information or a lot of luck. All it takes is one surprise pick and suddenly, your entire draft board looks different. You can never predict what kind of trades will happen and how that could change things. Last year I predicted (correctly) that the Broncos would take Knowshon Moreno 13th overall. It was a hunch, based on the talent of Moreno and that I thought Denver might bring in a running back to relieve pressure from Kyle Orton (in the same way Matt Forte did as a rookie in Chicago). I got that one right and I hadn't seen it predicted anywhere else. That's the kind of judgement call that goes well. I also gave the Seahawks Michael Crabtree (foolishly) when Aaron Curry was still on the board - suggesting a u-turn from the way Ruskell had drafted previously. That's the other end of the scale. But you have to make these suggestions, because ultimately you might get one or two right on the day and they do happen.
In my mock drafts, I've been making two regular projections that I don't see anywhere else (or at least very often). The first is Anthony Davis being the first offensive tackle taken. My justification would be for this - Davis is, in my opinion, superior in pass protection to Okung, Bulaga or Williams. He has the most upside and he's got the highest ceiling. People are down on him because of supposed work ethic concerns, but that won't stop a coach feeling they can mould a talented guy and get them to work. He has elite upside. Some will prefer the prospect who's near his peak now and is a more grounded individual. I'll admit - as a character I admire Russell Okung and like his personality based on what little I've seen or researched (never met the guy). I don't see much of a ceiling though and he's not half as dominant or technically as good as some want you to believe.
It needs to be the right team that takes a Davis first from this class. I think Mike Shanahan and the Redskins are the type of organisation who would look at a Davis, see the upside and roll that dice. I like the fit, which is why I have it in my mocks. The vast majority of people will be surprised if that happens, but I have a hunch that will either be proven completely wrong and misguided or justifiably correct.
In Kansas City, we have a team that many predict will take an offensive tackle. Drafting a Trent Williams or Bryan Bulaga - so the theory goes - will allow the Chiefs to move Branden Albert to the interior (a position he excelled in with Virginia). However, I think KC will look elsewhere. They've brought in Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann to boost the interior. They have a very good guard in Brian Waters. We saw the teams' commitment to invest in a drastic change to the 3-4 defense last year when they reached for Tyson Jackson with the #3 pick. That rebuild is still in the early stages. I don't think they'll be put off making a similar decision to get a guy who fits their scheme this year either. They have a major hole at inside linebacker - it might be their biggest need on defense. Personally - I'm a big fan of Rolando McClain and can't see another 3-4 ILB in this draft who comes close. Just a great football player and a leader. Criticism of him in some quarters, for me, is unjustified and I don't think he'll fall as far as some think. He fits the Chiefs' mantra and as with the 'Skins/Davis - I think it could happen. For the same reasons, I probably also wouldn't rule out Kansas City selecting nose tackle Dan Williams or safety Eric Berry.
We won't know the answer until April 22nd on either call. Both could be proven wrong and most people will tell me I'm wrong leading up to draft day. However - I see some element of logic with both moves. The talent is there with both prospects, as is the need. Let me know what you think in the comments section.