NFL Media analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks discuss the latest NFL Draft topics:
In a year when everyone has a different opinion on the top draft prospect, people are agreeing on one thing – April 26 is going to be a wild night.
From the deep quarterback class to teams that have already traded up (and the ones still planning to do so), there is anything but a consensus heading into the final two weeks amid the speculation and smoke screens. Speaking on a conference call, NFL media analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks, both former NFL scouts, attempted to sift through it all as we enter the home stretch.
"I think it's going to be a crazy draft," Jeremiah said. "When you look at this, the way it's set up, having a team like Cleveland with two picks in the top four makes it fun. And then having really five quarterbacks that are name-brand guys that people are well aware of and opinions are all over the place. And you have that and coupled with the needy teams at the position, I think we could see a lot of trades. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it."
Right in the thick of it are the Giants, who hold the second overall pick.
"I think this is going to be a very, very wild ride when it comes to draft night, particularly the first night," Brooks said. "When you look at this draft, the fascination and need for quarterback will really drive the draft. We talk about maybe seeing five or even six quarterbacks that may come off the board in the first round just because they're brand names, because so many teams are in desperate need of a quarterback. That will really reshape the draft, particularly if there's a run on quarterbacks very, very early in the draft like many of us expect. I think this is going to be a challenge for evaluators when it comes down to making decisions on fitting a guy that can fill a need versus taking the best player available."
Here are the main takeaways from their conference call:
TO DRAFT A QB, OR NOT TO DRAFT A QB
New general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur don't think it will happen for years possibly, but at some point Eli Manning will not be the quarterback for the New York Giants, who hold their highest draft choice since taking Lawrence Taylor at No. 2 in 1981. So how does the team weigh not taking a quarterback when they will need one down the road and don't plan on drafting this high again for a long time?
"During those few remaining years that he has, if they play at a high level, they go to a Super Bowl, I think it's well worth the trade-off," Brooks said. "I think the big thing comes to now that you've made the decision that Eli is going to be your guy, how can you support him and elevate him, much like the New Orleans Saints were able to continue to keep Drew Brees playing at a high level by surrounding him with talented players. We saw the running backs kind of take some of the load off, we saw Mike Thomas be able to do some things. In New York, it is about trying to find the right weapons to allow Eli to play at a high level while his skills are beginning to diminish."
Brooks added: "If I'm the New York Giants, I don't necessarily get cute at No. 2. I know it could be beneficial to get a boatload of picks and to do those things. I think it depends how far out of the top five do I have to go to take advantage of those picks. When you think about the players that could be at the top of the board, a Bradley Chubb, a Saquon Barkley, even a Quenton Nelson, if you really love those guys, I think you stick and you pick those guys. You deal with the onslaught of criticism that may come with not taking a quarterback or not trading down and, quote unquote, manipulating the draft. I think the main thing if you're the Giants, you have to get a guy, like they said, someone who would be the No. 2 pick in draft after draft after draft. I'm going to go with the Pro Bowl caliber player over trying to get cute and make some sexy move."
JEREMIAH: DARNOLD 'SHOULD' BE NO. 1 PICK
What should happen and what you hear will happen are two different things when it comes to the draft. And sometimes it is tough to separate the two. For a long time, Jeremiah has believed USC quarterback Sam Darnold should be the No. 1 pick for the Browns. Lately, though, buzz has picked up around Wyoming's Josh Allen, who has a cannon for an arm.
"I think [Darnold is] the right guy there," Jeremiah said. "I personally think he's the best quarterback in his class. And I think he's, at 20 years old, is just scratching the surface of what he can do. So that to me, coupled with him going through the process, he didn't throw at the combine, so we'll see him at the pro day. And I thought it was a lights-out pro day, in the rain. Look, it wasn't a snowstorm. But you wanted to see how he spun the ball and it was wet out there, it was raining pretty good, and I thought he did a great job. You look up in the stands and you see his parents sitting with the owner of the team. And I think a lot of us just said, 'This is done, this is over. I mean, he's the guy.'
"So that's what I thought at that time. And that's what I would have done, and I still would do. But just in talking to people around the league for the last, I would say it really picked up in the last week, it's just a lot of people not from inside the building, stress that, but there's just a lot of people telling me, 'Hey, I think it's going to be Josh Allen.'"
OT, EDGE RUSHER WEAK POINTS IN CLASS
When Jeremiah looks at the strengths of this class, he really likes the quarterback group, which is full of a lot of "intriguing" guys. He also likes the depth of the cornerback class, and the "off-the-ball linebacker group is one of the best ones we've seen in a while." Running backs and interior offensive linemen are also good, but the weak points for Jeremiah are the edge rushers and offensive tackles.
SIMILARITIES TO 2011?
Because of quarterback-needy teams, the 2011 draft saw players like perennial All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith be selected one spot behind Jake Locker in the first round, and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt behind Blaine Gabbert. Brooks envisions similar things happening this year.
"We will see that play out at the very outset of the draft in the top 10," Brooks said. "We'll see teams going for quarterbacks and teams that may have veteran quarterbacks that have to make a decision of whether to get a quarterback of the future or take another player that can help the established quarterback.
"So I think the fascination for me will be what do teams do to put themselves in a position to get a quarterback, what blue-chip players find themselves in a bit of a free fall because these quarterbacks come off the board. And I think it could be very, very similar to 2011 where we see a lot of good position players come off the board that are perennial Pro Bowlers that come off later because the teams have come up to get their quarterback."
Of course, that meant teams reached for the most important position in sports. But Jeremiah thinks this quarterback class is different from 2011.
"I would say that year people were trying to create quarterbacks that didn't exist, trying to create guys that should have been third- and fourth-round guys," Jeremiah said. "And they were taking them in the top 15, when you look at [Christian] Ponder and Gabbert, those guys especially; Locker was in that group. I think there's a difference between creating a quarterback and maybe elevating a quarterback.
"Like in this situation, I have Sam Donald as the fifth-highest graded player in the draft, so you have to ask yourself, is it worth -- you take the No. 1 player in the draft is Saquon Barkley, it's a running back versus a No. 5 player, which is a quarterback. To me the value of that position is worth, if you need one, taking the quarterback in that spot. I do think it's different from 2011 in that regard. I think these guys are a much better crop of quarterbacks."