I’ll regularly be gimmicky with my promotions of Mock Monday, but this is one of the few times I’ll ever be gimmicky with my actual selections of the week.
These selections need no introduction, other than to say that after spending much of the week reading and watching the Senior Bowl, here is who I would draft and where. “Honorable mentions” will follow after the rest of the picks, as will a hypothetical depth chart with the newly-drafted rookies on hand.
1. FS Taylor Mays, USC
Sorry Chiefs fans, Eric Berry will not be here. Plan accordingly. My board for the Chiefs’ pick is as follows (it assumes Suh and Berry are off the board, which are the only sure things so far): 1. RB CJ Spiller, 2. QB Jimmy Clausen, 3. SS Taylor Mays, 4. CB Joe Haden, 5. ILB Rolando McClain. Perhaps I should do a write-up for Haden and McClain. But I definitely do not want to go tackle, and I don’t feel I even need to link to AA’s arguments against that anymore.
Well the good news is that out of this short list, Mays actually went to the Senior Bowl. And guess what my friends? Sweet, sweet vindication! I watched Mays at the Senior Bowl and I knew that I was seeing the exact kind of player I knew he was, and this team could use. Of course, I saw him through the season, too, so none of this was terribly surprising on my behalf.
But Andrew, you might ask, didn’t Mays get embarrassed in coverage? Didn’t he have a tough time tracking receivers? Doesn’t our Senior Bowl experience tell us he is an athlete first, football player second?
No. What Mays did was get beat doing something he was never asked to do at USC, which was man-cover wide receivers instead of playing pure centerfield. I still think Mays has potential covering tight ends, but we never got a chance to see it. Instead, what we saw was a classic case of proper usage: when he played in the Senior Bowl, he baited the quarterback into throwing into him, and used his great speed to pull off the pick. Just like Bernard Pollard took off when the Texans finally used him primarily in run support, safety is one of those positions where you have to be very particular about how you play them schematically, and Mays will pay off if you play him properly. This team really needs him.
The rest of my picks, including honorable mentions and the hypothetical depth chart, after the jump.
2. CB/KR Kyle Wilson, Boise State
We have bigger needs than corner? I wouldn’t be so sure. In a game where we got pretty good pressure on Kyle Orton, the Denver QB still managed to throw for 400 yards with his best three receivers out. And while I still believe in Brandon Carr, help wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. It might even be a need.
There aren’t a lot of fits in this position that aren’t reaches or dream-wishing that someone will fall. I think Kyle Wilson, in addition to being player-of-the-week (in my opinion) at the Senior Bowl, showed that he has that special kind jittery athleticism that separates the good CBs from the genius CBs. Wilson/Flowers, with Washington in the slot and Carr rotating in. Or maybe Flowers/Carr, with Wilson in the slot. Keep in mind we’ll have Taylor Mays over the top.
Wilson is also a very fun kick returner.
2. NT Cam Thomas, North Carolina
We’re in the hunt for at least one nose tackle this offseason, and I think it’d be far wiser to draft one than to throw suitcases of money at the problem with Wilfork. Thomas (330 lbs and carrying it well) had a monstrous Senior Bowl, at times outdoing even Dan Williams with his earth-destroying bullrush. Holy moly this guy has power. Still fairly raw, too, so he can still develop.
I do believe that Thomas is a bit of a reach here because he’s not exactly readymade. But few NTs are, and besides I’d be willing to grab him with our 3rd but to be honest, NT is so important in the NFL and I don’t think he’d last through all the teams at the bottom half of the second round.
3. C Matt Tennant, Boston College
It might have been the nature of the line drills this week but I read and saw almost nothing that made me too enthusiastic about any of the OLmen at Senior Bowl, with a couple exceptions. Two of them ended up as Honorable Mentions in this mock, but the light Matt Tennant makes it to my actual mock. Tennant is light, he’s always been listed at 285 lbs, and weighed in at the Senior Bowl at 290. I don’t think he’s getting any bigger.
But the guy is a technician through and through. And Boston College players have a very high success rate in the NFL because they’re generally very intelligent, which is what Pioli and Haley love. Tennant isn’t the best center in this class, but he was the only offensive lineman I noticed at the Senior Bowl that wasn’t getting embarrassed.
4. OLB Eric Norwood, South Carolina
Norwood actually had a really bad Senior Bowl week, and his Senior Bowl was even worse. He seems athletic enough, but he’s playing a position that has a very high bust rate in the NFL because of the radical conversion to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Adding to that is the fact that he simply embarrassed himself in coverage regularly, and he wasn’t terribly effective in passrush. He’s going to get outlifted and outran at the Combine; he needed a strong performance here actually on the field. I’d bet that he starts dropping like a rock. This far wouldn’t surprise me.
That said, I think Norwood is still full of potential. OLB is a difficult position, and Norwood is athletic enough to get there. The problem of course is that we’re going to have to have a lot of trust in our defensive staff in getting him where he needs to go. He can probably play in the NFL today, but he’s virtually an infant when it comes to coverage. Still worth a midrounder.
5. QB Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan
The best QB of the entire Senior Bowl was none of the high rounders, but instead was Dan LeFevour, who simply looked smart and ready. Playing with faster players seemed to be absolutely no problem for LeFevour, and that kind of adjustment-making and composure is exactly what makes a good backup-with-potential in the NFL.
Our of this entire mock, this is the most outlandish pick because I bet LeFevour could go as early as the 3rd. But a good Senior Bowl doesn’t make a good player, so if he drops this far, Pioli wouldn’t say no to once again testing the mid-to-late round waters with a QB.
5. RB Ben Tate, Auburn
I’ve been bragging on this guy as the next Ray Rice. He is a load to bring down and can quickly get out to the corners. Tate has a pretty good burst, but he runs like he has an insatiable hunger for yards. I’m loving what this guy brings to the table in a pretty good running back class, and he has sleeper potential. But until he catches on with more of the Draft buzz, I’m guessing he remains a midrounder and would be a brilliant pick to compliment Jamaal Charles. To say he brings thunder is misguided; he brings the whole storm. I love a tough runner.
5. OLB Koa Misi, Utah
I’ve mentioned Misi in my Senior Bowl Week updates as the kind of midround athlete Pioli would love to gamble on. I’ll let my earlier comments on him do the talking.
Honorable Mentions: C JD Walton (Baylor) with our “2b” pick, WR Andre Roberts (The Citadel) with our “2b” pick, OG Mike Iatupi (Idaho) with our “2a” pick, NT Geno Atkins (Georgia) with our 4th rounder.
QB: Cassel, Croyle, LeFevour
RB: Charles, Tate, Williams, Smith
WR: Bowe, Chambers, Wade, Long, Lawrence
TE: Pope, Cottam, O’Connell
LT: Albert, Ndukwe
LG: Waters, Smith
C: Tenant, Smith
RG: Brown, Alleman
RT: O’Callaghan, Ndukwe
DE: Dorsey, Magee
NT: Thomas, Edwards
DE: Jackson, Gilberry
OLB: Hali, Misi
ILB: Johnson, Mays
ILB: Williams, Belcher
OLB: Norwood, Studebaker
CB: Flowers, Wilson, Carr, Washington, Leggett
S: Mays, Morgan, Page, McGraw