The NFL Draft has long been one of my favorite sports-related events. I was that kid in middle school who do mock drafts in my free time. My dad still has at least one copy of one such hand-written mock draft. So I can’t think of any better focal point for a weekly column, titled What's Going Downey, for Chat Sports.
The goal of this is to have a longer piece each week, focused on the NFL Draft. If it does well (read: gets views), it will hopefully become a weekly article. In terms of content, I’ll have some type interview each week with an athlete/media person, questions I'll answer from social media, updates on my Draft Big Board or a new mock draft and a section I’m calling "Downey’s Dozen." That will consist of 12 things from around the NFL/NFL Draft that I want to discuss. I’ll also conclude with something funny/stupid. Probably the latter.
Here’s what we have on tap in this column:
The prospects I've given a first round grade
Downey’s Dozen (a look at the NFL & NFL Draft)
A Q&A with Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus
Q&As from Facebook and Twitter
I Know Takes, I Have The Best Takes
That’s the five section breakdown, and there’s plenty of information in each one. So, my hope is you all enjoy this column and hopefully read it each week. In next week's edition (since this version is coming out in the middle of the Combine), I'll go much more in-depth with winners, losers and more. With all that out of the way, let’s get started.
First Round Players
1. Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
2. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
4. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
5. Jamal Adams, S, LSU
6. Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
7. Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
8. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
9. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
10. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
11. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
12. Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
13. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
14. Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
15. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
16. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
17. Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
18. Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
19. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Obviously, that's less than the 32 who will go in the first round. But very rarely do NFL teams actually give out 32 first round grades (I have many who have 1st-2nd round grades). So I'm in line with most NFL teams there, although I'm sure the number and players included will be different.
Also, my big board is not close to being finished. There are several guys I still need to add and many I haven’t watched enough film of yet. I’m not going to go too in-depth on this each week, although I do have some notes on a few further down. So if you’ve got questions, hit me up on Twitter and I’ll either answer them there or in next week’s version of the column.
One final quick note: this is pre-combine, so it hasn’t taken into account the reports of Jonathan Allen having arthritis in both shoulders. That’s a concern, but I’m still in the information gathering stage (I’ll hopefully have more on that in next week’s column). I expect he’ll slide at least a bit and there will be some general shuffling up until the draft throughout my board. But overall, these 19 guys are the ones I feel confident about giving a first round grade.
Each week, I'll have 12 thoughts, comments, observations or whatever from around the NFL/NFL Draft.
1. Franchise Tags
The Franchise Tag deadline passed a few days ago, so I’ve got all of the tags (plus a list of notable FAs who didn’t get tagged) and a quick thought or two on each below.
1a. OLB Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals ($14.55 million)
It had to be done. I think they’ll work out a long-term deal.
1b. DT Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers ($13.39 million)
I don’t expect another Josh Norman situation, but a long-term deal will be tricky thanks to Fletcher Cox breaking the bank/market.
1c. OLB Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers ($14.55 million)
I was worried the Chargers would let Ingram leave. He’s a fit as a LEO in the Chargers’ new 4-3 scheme.
1d. CB Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles Rams ($16.7 million)
Tagged for the second year in a row, Johnson gets 120 percent of his 2016 salary. There’s a real lack of corner depth behind Johnson, so a tag was needed. A long-term deal would be smart for both sides.
1e. DE Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants ($16.9 million)
Both sides want a long-term deal. I think they’ll get one done.
1f. RB Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers ($12.1 million)
This one was a no-brainer. I think a long-term deal also gets done.
1g. QB Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins ($23.9 million)
Tagged for the second year in a row, Cousins is getting PAID one way or the other. More on this situation below.
1h. Notable players not tagged:
WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
DT Brandon Williams, Baltimore Ravens
LB Dont’a Hightower, New England Patriots
DL Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals
DT Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs
CB A.J. Bouye, Houston Texans
CB Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo Bills
OG Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals
OT Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals
These guys (and many others) are about to get paid in a big way.
2. Brandin Cooks Trade Rumors
We’ve reached the juicy part of the NFL Combine when trade rumors start to pop up. It appears that both the Eagles and Titans are trying to land Cooks from the Saints. The rationale is obvious for the Eagles and Titans: They badly need WR help. As for the Saints, well, it appears that Cooks wants out, so they might as well flip him for something that can help out the defense. Plus, the offense and the WRs should be fine without him (even if he is a key part). But if first round picks are involved, we could get some crazy trade scenarios. Now I'm not sure Cooks will be dealt for a first round pick straight up, but perhaps there could be a swap involved, plus some mid-rounders for the Titans? If it's the Eagles, perhaps the Saints get one of their defensive pieces with a pick or two? This is one deal that actually could happen and I’m quite curious to see how it all goes down.
3. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Was Overpaid
The Chiefs (wisely) gave Eric Berry a 6-year, $78 million deal with $40 million guaranteed. It’s a lot, but totally worth it. But the deal the Chiefs gave to Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was not worth it. The Chiefs handed him a 5-year, $41.25 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. That’s a ton of money for an average guard (who is still getting better) on a team with cap issues. That $8.4 million per year is the 3rd most in the NFL (behind David DeCastro and Kyle Long) and if the reported $20 million guaranteed is accurate, it’d be the most of any player not on their rookie deal (Brandon Scherff). That’s too way too much. Kevin Zeitler’s agent owes Duvernay-Tardif’s agent a nice bottle of wine.
4. Kirk Cousins Rumors
I’m not even going to approach the weirdness that is the Redskins front office right now, but Washington might as well change their slogan to "Stranger Things" for the time being. At the front of the unusual problems is Kirk Cousins. There are reports he’s not happy, that he wants to be traded to the 49ers to reunite with Kyle Shanahan, that he'll play for teams not named the 49ers or Redskins and that the Redskins are (still) low-balling him. The Redskins haven’t been a well-run front office in some time, but it seemed like things were heading in the right direction under Scot McCloughan. Now, that's in doubt. The Redskins simply HAVE to re-sign Cousins to a long-term deal. Washington has no backup plan, unless they think Colt McCoy (who I love as a backup) is a starter for a playoff-caliber team. Cousins has cut down on the turnovers and he’s established himself as franchise QB. The Redskins wouldn’t get enough back in a trade, so unless Cousins is hell-bent on getting out of the Nation’s Capital, it’s time for the Redskins to pony up. Unfortunately for the Redskins, Cousins holds all the leverage.
5. Size Matters
Measurements aren’t the most important part of the Combine or scouting, but they do matter. For QBs, the general threshold is that they need to be 6-foot-2, 215-lbs with at least 9 inch hands. Now there are always exceptions (Russell Wilson is short, Mike Vick had tiny hands), but more often than not, those players don’t make it in the NFL. In this year’s class of QBs at the combine, the person who checked off those boxes the best? DeShone Kizer.
6. DeShone Kizer Is My Top QB
It’s not a great QB class. I don’t think any of the guys are truly ready to be a Day One starter. But as you can see on my big board above, Kizer is my guy. Let’s start with the negatives. His win-loss record is not pretty, since Notre Dame was terrible this year. He regressed a bit and his accuracy was not great either. But, outside of maybe Patrick Mahomes, there isn’t a QB with better upside (it's not just about the measurements by the way). He has the arm strength and the best size of anyone in this year’s class. The accuracy worries me (hence not being ranked too high), but he also played in an offense that asked him to throw downfield much more often than Trubisky and Watson. His accuracy figures aren’t inflated and he was really good (and clutch) in 2015. I don’t love the way he played at times this year, but most of the losses are on the defense, not Kizer. All of the QBs are a pretty big risky this year and I don’t want to be the GM who feels forced into taking one in the top half of the first round. But if I have to pick one, I'm taking the risk on Kizer.
7. Browns QB Search
I’d be stunned if the Browns took anyone other than Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick. They still need a QB, but in a bad class, just take the dynamic edge rusher who is the best player in the class and go from there. With that said, there is a report the Browns are considering taking Mitch Trubisky No. 1 overall. That also doesn’t surprise me, because the Browns at least need to entertain the idea (if only to try and drum up trade interest from a team who falls in love with him). But I expect Garrett to be the pick and my mock drafts will continue to reflect that. But I’m also not ruling out the Browns getting Trubisky too. Hue Jackson said his favorite QB might not make it to No. 12 and I suspect Trubisky’s is Hue’s favorite. His style of play reminds me of Andy Dalton, which makes him a logical fit for the former Bengals OC. Jackson is a big proponent of hand size (which helps explain why the Browns took Cody Kessler and his 10 7/8 inch hands), which does give me some pause with the 9.5 inch handed Trubisky (as mentioned above, Kizer has the biggest hands of the group). But they are big enough. So if Cleveland ends up going QB early, I think they’ll have Trubisky at the top of their board.
8. [Insert Team] considering/open to [Insert player/trade/anything]
From the 49ers considering Leonard Fournette at No. 2, to the 49ers open to trading No. 2 pick, to the Titans open to trading down and to Browns considering Mitch Trubisky at No. 1 (see above), you're going to see that headline a LOT over the next few weeks. NFL teams consider picking a ton of different players in the first round. They are always open to making trades, both up and down. It's their jobs. So don’t overreact as these headlines continue to come in. They’re interesting, but only a handful (if that) actually come true.
9. Takkarist McKinley's Shoulder
Because this comes out Friday, I’m probably not going to get to all of the medical red flags (looking at you Jonathan Allen) that pop up at the Combine. But one I can get to is UCLA edge rusher Takkarist McKinley needing shoulder surgery to correct a torn labrum. He'll undergo the surgery after the combine, which will likely sideline him until at least early August. That should hurt his stock a bit, but how much? The shoulder issues didn't really hurt Shaq Lawson's stock last year, but with a surgery that could affect how McKinley plays early, it could cause a slight drop. I'm not going to dock him much on my big board and he's among the first players with a 1st-2nd round grade (he's currently No. 20 overall). But if McKinley has a slight slide towards the back-end of the first round, the shoulder might be to blame.
10. Roberto Aguayo Fighting For Job
I hated the Bucs’ selection of Roberto Aguayo last year. Sacrificing a 3rd round pick (No. 74 overall) and a 4th (No. 106 overall) for a freaking kicker was never going to be okay in my book. Aguayo was a really good kicking prospect, but the value isn’t there for a player that has an impact on a mere handful of plays each game. His play this year was not good and the Bucs aren’t exactly signing his praises.
#Bucs GM Jason Licht on K Roberto Aguayo: We'll continue to look for competition for him or he may become the competition for someone else— Roy Cummings (@RCummingsFRS) March 1, 2017
Now Licht went on to say he thought Aguayo would improve, but these are not the words that Aguayo and the Bucs’ fan base wanted to hear. This selection could end up looking even worse in hindsight than it did at the time for the Bucs.
11. Teez Tabor
Every draft class, I have at least one of "my guys." These are the prospects that I tend to fall in love with. Sometimes they’re highly viewed by most (i.e. Solomon Thomas this year), but other times I feel like I’m higher on a prospect than just about anyone. Sometimes, I’m right (Jalen Ramsey, Landon Collins, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) and other times I end up getting it wrong (Sharrif Floyd, Ryan Williams).
This year, it’s Teez Tabor. I’ve got him inside my Top 10 overall prospects, and this play helps sum up why.
This play sums up why I like Teez Tabor so much. pic.twitter.com/iAsHBDkRhO— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) March 2, 2017
I think he has fantastic ball skills and will be a shutdown, No. 1 CB in the NFL. The worries mostly center on his off-the-field issues at Florida; getting suspended for fighting with a teammate, refusing to take a drug test and being a bit of high-maintenance player. From those I’ve talked to around the Florida program, the off-the-field issues aren’t anything to worry about going forward. As for the talking and the swagger he carries (the dude changed his name from Jalen to Teez, after all), I actually like it when my corner carries himself with overconfidence. It worked for Deion.
12. CBs As Ice Creams
In a loaded cornerback class, there’s some debate about which corner is the best in this year’s class. Ultimately, it comes down to which flavor you prefer. So, I’ve created the cornerbacks as ice cream comparison!
12a. Teez Tabor, Florida: Peanut Butter Cup
He’s my favorite and this is my favorite. Sometimes (ok, every time), I put in two scoops (ok, all of the scoops) of peanut butter in with it. I need help.
12b. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State: Vanilla
He’s the consensus, or at least the plurality favorite. Who hates vanilla?
12c. Quincy Wilson, Florida: Chocolate
Another very popular flavor. Not quite as good as vanilla, but it’s up there.
12d. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama: Strawberry
Not quite as popular as the vanilla and chocolate, but it is part of the holy trinity of ice cream. But, sometimes it has actual strawberry chunks which is gross. Also, the chunks are the Saban Shuffle in this analogy.
12e. Sidney Jones, Washington: Neapolitan
He’s got a little bit of everything. It’s not as good the individual flavors, but it’s solid. Also, why is it called Neapolitan?
12f. Gareon Conley, Ohio State: Cookies & Cream
It’s good. It’s not my favorite, but if someone goes "Hey, Tom we don’t have peanut butter cup and the normal flavors are out, I'm like 'no worries, I'll do the cookies and cream.'"
12g. Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson: Rocky Road
A solid, if under-consumed, ice cream. It’s got good size (cause of the marshmellows), much like Tankersley.
12h. Tre’Davious White, LSU: Sherbert
It’s underrated. Sometimes, sherbert is exactly what you need. And rainbow sherbert is easily the best of the sherberts.
12i. Adoree’ Jackson, USC: Cookie Dough
It’s got the flash. But you’re always worried you won’t get enough dough and that’s worrisome.
12k. Jourdan Lewis, Michigan: Cherry Garcia
It’s hyped, for sure. But I’m not a huge fan. Like, it’s solid, but look at all the other ice creams I can eat.
If you’re wondering if I ate a bowl of ice cream after/during this, you’re damn right I did. Next week, I’m doing edge rushers as fish/meat/etc.
Interview with Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus
This week, I'm joined by Mike Renner, one of the senior analysts at Pro Football Focus. He just wrote a fantastic piece breaking down what all the Combine drills mean for on-field production. He happens to share my view of the 3-cone drill being the best of all the drills. I've got a short question and answer with Mike, focusing on the NFL Draft, below.
Chat Sports: Who is "your guy" this year? It doesn’t have to be the best player, could be someone you like more than most.
Mike Renner: If I had to pick one it's probably Elijah Hood, the running back from UNC. I don't think he's a top-5 back in this class, but someone will be getting a starting caliber back in the mid to late rounds with Hood. His patience and vision is top notch and he has as much power through his lower half as any back in this class.
CS: Who is the most underrated prospect in your eyes this year?
Renner: I think Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis is currently the most underrated prospect. No corner in this class has better ball skills, but he'll get pushed down draft boards because of his size and athleticism. It's worrisome how often he allows separation on deep balls, but it almost never burnt him in college with how well he played the catch point.
CS: How about the most overrated?
Renner: I've seen Garrett Bolles as the first tackle off the board in multiple places and I can't get on board with that. He'll be 25 by the start of the season and only has one season of high level college play. Even at that rate he got beaten far more consistently in the pass game than the other top tackles in this class.
CS: Who is your preferred QB this year?
Renner: Mitch Trubisky. Let me first say, I'm not high on any of these quarterbacks and wouldn't feel comfortable taking any in the top half of the first round. Out of the top group though I think Trubisky has easily the most arm talent and consistent accuracy. He may not be an overnight success, but I'd bet on him being the best of the bunch down the line.
CS: Which girl scout cookie is best?
Renner: Thin mints. Not even close. Truthfully don't eat any others.
We’re going to come back to that thin mint comment at the end of the article.
Questions And Answers
Now we've got the questions and answers section. If you want a question featured, tweet them at me or post them on Facebook. I'll grab at least one each week from the Chat Sports Live videos we do. *Some of the questions are slightly edited for clarity and/or spelling.*
From William Carroll on Twitter:
Who will have the highest vertical this year? https://t.co/a6AcfqZ1je— William S. Carroll (@BCarroll138) March 1, 2017
This is a good one and one I’ll probably get wrong. I’ll go Obi Melifonwu, the safety from UConn. He’s a fantastic athlete and even if he doesn’t jump the highest, there will be plenty of buzz around him. He’s a likely Day 2 pick and if he blows up the Combine, I wouldn’t totally rule out the end of the first round.
From Joe DiTullio on Facebook:
1. Where does AD end up? 2. Where does Jamaal Charles end up?
We’ll do this as one question (shout-out to Wilson Lee for asking a similar one). Neither player is what they once were, in large part because of injuries, but they can still be a starting running back. Or, part of a committee where they take the bulk of the carries. First, I wouldn’t rule out a return to both teams for each player. For Peterson, the New York Giants stick out as a logical landing spot. Peterson has already mentioned them on Twitter and they need a RB badly. Peterson would be a great fit in New York, with Paul Perkins serving as the 3rd down/change of pace back. As for Charles, the Eagles make sense if they can fit him into their limited cap space. There’s the presence of Doug Pederson, although the Eagles could look for someone younger. The Raiders also make sense for both players and links to teams like the Patriots, Packers and even Redskins could be linked at some point.
From Ross Simon on Facebook:
Should the NFL introduce a relegation system, and if so where would the Browns fall
Joke answer: Yes and send the Browns down to high school in Ohio and see how they fair. Serious answer: obviously it won't happen. I do think a college football relegation system (Big Ten with MAC, ACC with American, Pac-12 with Mountain West, SEC with Sun Belt, and Big 12 with Conference USA) would be super cool.
From Alex Kaneps on Facebook:
Do you think the QB position is beginning to be more easily replaceable or are recent years just a blip? eg - Broncos likely still winning with Osweiler, Pats starting 3-1 without Brady, Dallas makes playoffs with Dak. Question being - do you think teams will begin to take the low cost QB approach so they can spend money elsewhere? Or will the NFL continue to go with the big money QBs?
This is a complicated one, but a good question. Ultimately, I think the examples of Dak, Wilson and the like are the outliers. Take a look at Denver, who did win with Osweiler, but then he went to the Texans and was terrible, while the Broncos completely missed the playoffs.
But, teams do value young QBs on cheap contracts. It’s why a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo or Kirk Cousins won’t net as much as it could in a contract-free bubble: those guys are need to get paid. But in the end, quarterback is the most important position in the NFL. Until that changes, the price for an average starting QB is going to be sky-high. It’s tough to find a franchise QB, so teams will pay big bucks for one.
From Nick DiTullio on Facebook:
Which team that missed the playoffs this season has the least amount of work to do during the draft and free agency to make it this season? Also, as a Steeler fan what are your thoughts on AB's new contract?
The first team that comes to mind is the Denver Broncos and that’s probably the right answer. They were pretty damn close this year. The defense is there, so if they can get some help on the offensive line, potentially a QB (Tony Romo?) and maybe help shore up the run defense, they should be back in the postseason. Outside of Denver, I really like how the Bucs are building. I’ve said this before, but they remind me of Oakland this time last year. The Titans are also in a really good spot going forward , but based on "least amount of work," it’s the Broncos.
As for Brown, there’s no doubt he’s one of the best WRs in the NFL, so he should be paid like one. It’s expensive, but if Alshon Jeffery is going to get $14-15 million on the open market, giving Brown $17 million doesn’t seem too bad.
From Zach Papineau on Facebook:
Where do you think Tony Romo will end up next season? Stay in Dallas? Or play somewhere else?
There’s about as much chance as me making it on the PGA Tour as Romo playing for the Cowboys next year. He’s gone, and I expect his release to happen shortly after the NFL Combine. As for the teams, if Denver wants him, I think they’ll get him. The Texans are a logical fit, although cap space could be an issue. If those options don’t workout, the Bears are my darkhorse. They’ve got some good pieces and he did play at Eastern Illinois.
From Anthony Holder on Facebook:
Any pure blocking TEs Miami might look at to put with Julius Thomas?
I took this one on the Chat Sports’ NFL Combine preview show and my answer is still the same: Iowa’s George Kittle. I haven’t finalized my grade on him yet, but he’s the best blocking tight end in this year’s class. In a really, really good draft class for TEs, Kittle can be the ideal No. 2 TE who thrives in blocking, while contributing in the passing game. I think he’s a Day 3 pick.
From Lauren Meleney on Facebook:
Would you rather: Christian McCaffrey or Curtis Samuel?
It all depends on what I need or want. Do I want a Reggie Bush-type RB? If so, I’m taking McCaffrey. Do I want a Percy Harvin-type WR? If so, give me Samuel. If I need both, I’m taking McCaffrey. He’s higher on my board (RD. 2 grade) than Samuel (RD. 2-3).
I Know Takes, I Have The Best Takes
At the end of each column, I’ll try to close with something non-NFL related and on the more light-hearted/funny side.
This week, we’ve got Girl Scout Cookies. Specifically, that thin mints are wildly overrated. The real gem of the girl scout cookie lineup is the Taglongs. I would so much rather have peanut butter (best food known to man) than mint (what my toothpaste tastes like) in my cookie. The only thing worse than thin mints are the Samoas.
The greatest of all the girl scout cookies. @ me thin mint-truthers. pic.twitter.com/pKMaM556tK— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) February 24, 2017
That includes you, Mike.