Setting up My First Mock Draft: AFC Underdogs April 27, 2014

With an additional two weeks before this year’s NFL Draft, it seems like everyone with a website or podcast has had time to get at least one mock draft out this season. As much as I’d love to follow suit, I truthfully have neither the resources nor the experience to go through all the teams as thoroughly as they deserve. Instead I’m going to focus on only four teams: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland. (Another benefit: BUF, JAX & OAK will each play the Browns again this season.)

my 2014 mock draft

Yes, they are all AFC teams, and (with the exception of Jacksonville) they all finished last in their division in 2013. None won more than four games, except for Buffalo with six. If I were the slightest bit more ambitious, I would include Tampa Bay and St. Louis, rounding out the six teams who haven’t made the playoffs since at least the 2007 season. I could also make a case for adding Washington, Minnesota and (above all) Houston, as these three teams had fewer wins than Buffalo’s six last season. But for now, the four will do.

Before I dive in, let me briefly explain my methodology. I don’t study film (strike one!), nor have I seen many of these four teams’ games in recent years – except for the Browns (Woof Woof), and when the other three play against Cleveland. Also I know next to nothing about college ball or its players. I used DraftTek, an automated draft pick selector (strike two!) as a baseline for all 32 teams before cross checking all picks against sources I trust (see below) and modifying the calculator for needs, grabs and lockouts – heavily in the case of my four teams, moderately for the other 28.

On the more positive side, I do read a lot of other people’s mocks, and I pay attention to the ebb and flow on #DraftTwitter (at least I think this is a positive *chuckle*). I enjoy reviewing the bigger big boards out there, and I’ve dropped a couple coins on Dane Brugler’s Draft Guide and Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio.

In conducting my exercise on the next page, I wanted to accomplish three objectives: (one) to identify the needs of each of the four teams, (two) to get a general sense of overall draft trends for all teams in all rounds, and (three) to give reasonable guesses as to the type of players drafted in each of the seven rounds by these four teams. For purposes of this study, I assume no trades (though I can make a strong case for Atlanta buying the second pick from St.Louis). While I believe in going Best Player Available (BPA) over drafting to fill needs, it’s probably easier said than done. I base my BPA-ratings on a hodgepodge of online big boards as well as the resources I purchased.

I’m not expecting to get any of these picks correct, and no one should read too much into my “analysis”. It’s more a chance for me to cautiously dip my toe into the pool and test to see how ridiculously off-base I will be when the final picks come off the board in ten days. My biases creep in all-too easily; but in the end I try to remember that it’s only a game.

The needs and draft positions are below, and my mock is on the next page. Have at it.
🙂


The Set-up

Needs

I freely admit that I’m not as familiar with the needs of other teams as I am with the Browns. Spending time on Pro Football Focus as well as a handful of other site (including the team sites themselves), I begin to get a picture of needs. For me, the first round of the draft are more about BPA, but I then quickly shift to focus more on needs.

  • Buffalo: OT, FS, TE, G, WR, QB, ILB
  • Cleveland: QB, WR, CB, OL, ILB, RB
  • Jacksonville: QB, G, T, DT, DE, FS, ILB, WR
  • Oakland:DE, DT, FS, CB, QB, G, OT, WR

Of these four teams, Buffalo looks to have the fewest holes to fill, but they also own the fewest picks: six (their sixth-round pick went to Tampa Bay). The biggest task I see is to replace Jairus Byrd at free safety. The recent acquisition of Mike Williams takes some pressure off the WR role, but another dynamic playmaker is still a need. Though they have second-year starter EJ Manuel, a developmental QB would be a welcome addition.

Cleveland has been busy this offseason, and it wasn’t limited to players. They’ve swapped out line backer and safety (T.J. Ward and D’Qwell Jackson have been replaced by Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby), but still need to fill holes at CB and ILB. The Browns also added Ben Tate and Andrew Hawkins (slot receiver), but can use more offensive weapons. Quarterback is still a concern, and the offensive line could use help on the right side as well.

The Jaguars may have the most pressing need for QB, and as much as I’d love to have Johnny Manziel come to Cleveland, his new home may be in Jacksonville. The offensive line comes next, needing significant work, and there is weakness at the DE/DT positions on the left. An upgrades at FS and ILB would help, too.

The Raiders have their work cut out for them after so many one-year deals last year left the cupboards pretty bare. According to PFF, Oakland has the weakest lineup strength and the most unknowns in its current projected lineup. They earned some relief at QB by signing Matt Schaub, but it’s still a position of need. An adequate pass rush is lacking, and the offensive line seems porous as well. It’s a good thing that this year’s class of wide receivers is deep, as the Raiders may be able to pick one up late after filling other holes. Three of their seven picks are in the final round.

Draft Order

As reference, below is a table containing the 2014 NFL Draft Order for only the four teams (including picks they traded away). This order was last updated on April 22nd, after compensatory picks were awarded. None of the four teams had earned a compensatory draft pick.

ROUND ROUND PICK OVERALL TEAM NOTES
1 3 3 Jacksonville
1 4 4 Cleveland
1 5 5 Oakland
1 9 9 Buffalo
1 26 26 Cleveland from Indianapolis
2 3 35 Cleveland
2 4 36 Oakland
2 7 39 Jacksonville
2 9 41 Buffalo
3 3 67 Oakland
3 6 70 Jacksonville
3 7 71 Cleveland
3 9 73 Buffalo
3 19 83 Cleveland from Pittsburgh
4 5 105 Jacksonville
4 6 106 Cleveland
4 7 107 Oakland
4 9 109 Buffalo
4 14 114 Jacksonville from Baltimore
4 27 127 Cleveland from Indianapolis
5 4 144 Jacksonville
5 5 145 Cleveland
5 9 149 Buffalo
5 10 150 Jacksonville from Detroit
5 19 159 Jacksonville from Baltimore
6 3 179 Jacksonville
6 4 180 Cleveland
6 29 205 Jacksonville from San Francisco
7 3 218 Cleveland
7 4 219 Oakland
7 7 222 Jacksonville
7 9 224 Buffalo
7 20 235 Oakland from Arizona
7 32 247 Oakland from Seattle

resources for getting team needs:

  1. Draft Breakdown
  2. Pro Football Focus: projected lineups
  3. team sites

resources for getting big boards:

  1. Dane Brugler’s Draft Guide
  2. Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio
  3. various pages linked from twitter 😐
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