Mock draft by Gandhi - FINAL

Gandhi

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I realize that this has become a rather long post so I will make a quick recap here at the top of it. I have detailed each pick in the writing below, and if you want to know something that I have not covered yet, I hope that you will not hesitate to ask me.

1. Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Clemson

2. Carl Lawson, edge rusher, Auburn

3. Isaiah Ford, wide receiver, Virginia Tech

4. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, inside linebacker, Tennessee

5. Dwayne Thomas, defensive back, LSU

5. Mack Hollins, wide receiver, North Carolina

5. Ethan Cooper, offensive guard, Indiana (PA)

7. David Jones, safety, Richmond


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If you don’t want to read my entire post, here is a link to the mock draft: http://americanfootball.freeforums.org/gm-mock-2017-drafttraden-t835.html

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For a number of years I have participated in a mock draft where each participant plays the role of a general manager, and thus controls a team. This year there was only one mock draft planned (in years prior there has been two), but in that one I was in charge of managing the Cardinals. This is the result.

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I think my strategy this year differs a bit from the previous years because the Cardinals didn’t do a whole lot in free agency to address their so-called weak spots - actually they lost some key pieces - and that has caused me (and probably every other fan) to wonder which players we can trust to step up their game, and which positions should be prioritized in the draft. My case in point – in 2014 we all knew they badly needed a left tackle, and they went out and signed Jared Veldheer. The next year we could all see that their defensive line could use some more depth, and then they signed Corey Peters and Cory Redding. Last year it could not have been more obvious that they needed a dominant edge rusher, so they traded for Chandler Jones. At this time a lot of fans (myself included) are worried about positions like cornerback, inside linebacker, wide receiver – and maybe others – but the Cardinals did not address those positions in free agency. Now, I believe that it might have been a good idea to keep it low but it obviously depends entirely of players such as Brandon Williams, Robert Nkemdiche, John Brown, Harlan Miller and even Karlos Dansby among others. Who do you trust to step up? I am not saying they didn’t have needs going into the draft the others years, but I am saying that I have a lot more doubts in regards to what the biggest need is right now, and how I would use their draft capital the best.

Having stated those things, I do have a plan in place. Like I wrote a couple of years ago (http://www.arizonasportsfans.com/forum/threads/gandhis-mock-draft-2-0.220522/), I could not care less in this game about what Mel Kiper, Mike Mayock and the likes says about rankings, as it simply doesn’t matter to the Cardinals (and in that regard I can’t help but noting that I have previously correctly predicted that both Deone Bucannon and Robert Nkemdiche would be their first selections), and because of that I solely uses my own rankings. I will probably have at least a handful of players I will target in each round, and my goal is to get out of the game with at least a new cornerback, a new inside linebacker and a new wide receiver. I obviously don’t know which players would be selected by the other teams, and which players will be available with my picks, but I am fairly sure that my goals are attainable since I most likely will have one player from almost each of those positions ranked and targeted in each round. It doesn’t matter that much to me in what round I can select a specific position because of what I wrote about not knowing what the biggest need actually is.

Also, the one thing I would like more than anything, and which could make every one of my thoughts irrelevant, is if the right quarterback would be available at a certain pick. There are about three or four quarterbacks in this draft that I like, and if one of them should be available to me where I have ranked them, I will not hesitate for one second. I remember the days of John Skelton, Max Hall, Derek Anderson, Kevin Kolb and all those other bad quarterbacks all too well, and I pray it won’t be necessary to go through a period like that again. I haven’t felt such strong desire to draft a quarterback the last few years – maybe because Carson Palmer has been in place – but now I do, and even though it might not be a big need, I think the chance to have Palmer being some kind of mentor and teacher is extremely valuable. By the way, I think it’s crazy to even consider not drafting a quarterback this year because the class next year is supposed to be better overall. First, a plethora of things can go wrong between now and a year from now, and thus maybe making that quarterback class average. Second, talents like Andrew Luck only comes around every 15 years or so, and you could very well be kidding yourself if you either thinks that such a great talent will be available to anyone next year or even that he is the standard for “good quarterback prospects”. Third, I honestly believe there is some great quarterback talents in this draft, even though the overall class might not be that impressive.

I will try to make it as realistic as I can, and one of the things I have noticed that seems to be a definite pattern with Steve Keim and Bruce Arians is the picks in the first three rounds. In the first round they select the fantastic athlete with the massive upside (Jonathan Cooper, Deone Bucannon, D.J. Humphries, Robert Nkemdiche). In the second round they select the hard working grinder (Kevin Minter, Troy Niklas, Markus Golden) who they basically know at the very least can be a part of the rotation, if they can stay healthy. In the third round they swing for the fences and picks underrated players with huge potential (Tyrann Mathieu, Kareem Martin, John Brown, David Johnson, Brandon Williams). Maybe this is not a defined strategy but since they have done it for four years straight I think it is likely they will follow the pattern again. By the way, using that blueprint is one of the reasons I still believe that tight end O. J. Howard is their most likely selection if he is available, which he was not in my scenario.

With each pick I will offer an explanation to the selection, as well as some thoughts to who I also considered drafting and why I in the end did not do it.

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First round – #11 - Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Clemson

I had seven players targeted for my selection in the first round:

Quarterback Deshaun Watson, Clemson,

tight end O.J. Howard, Alabama,

inside linebacker Reuben Foster, Alabama,

safety Jabrill Peppers, Michigan,

cornerback Gareon Conley, Ohio State,

defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, Stanford,

and runningback Christian McCaffrey, Stanford.

When my pick was about to come up, only Watson, Conley and McCaffrey was left on the board, and though it is obviously very easy and cheap to say it now, Watson would have been my first choice of the seven options if they had all been available. When, back in March, I was first informed that I got to be the general manager of the Cardinals, I started speculate if I should trade up to select Watson since I was sure he would be drafted very quickly – probably in the top five where I think most teams has him ranked. My problem was that in this game we are only allowed to use current draftpicks as payment, and I wasn’t willing to give up my second round pick, which I figured would be the starting point in any trade-discussion to get into the top five.

None the less, I had several hours before my pick came up contacted the general manager of the Saints to discuss a potential trade where I would jump up two spots and in front of the Browns if Watson was available. I offered him my fourth round pick in exchange, and actually I was certain that he would reject it and ask for my third round pick at the very least. He did not, and the trade got done. One of my reasons was that the Browns selected edge rusher Myles Garrett with their first pick, and I was afraid they would take Watson right before it was my turn (actually, they did select quarterback Mitch Trubisky, so if Watson had been available they very well could have drafted him).

I zoomed in on Deshaun Watson back at the start of January when he was the deciding factor in Clemson coming from behind to beat Alabama. That is an extraordinary accomplishment, and I haven’t seen anything like it since Cam Newton did something similar in the Iron Bowl while he was at Auburn. To do that against Alabama’s vaunted defense speaks a lot of volume to me, and if you can do that, well, then I figure there is not a lot of thing you can’t do or learn as a quarterback. To me personally, this is the first time ever I have wanted to draft a certain player in the first round for several months. Usually I lock in on someone in January only to change my wish a lot of times until April.

Clearly there is some challenges to Watson’s game as a quarterback, and he is by no means a perfect prospect. However, I think you can work with those shortcomings, and that they are easily offset by his many strength, not in the least his personality which I believe is almost as good as it gets in a quarterback prospect. I believe that his leadership, winner instinct, work ethic, charisma and ability to make people follow him wherever he goes is what makes a good franchise quarterback. Obviously you have to have some physical talents on the field as well to become successful in the NFL, but while you can’t teach those intangibles, you can teach technique, footwork and stuff like that.

That said, I do think Watson has a lot of the required on the field-skills. I think he is very good moving around in the pocket, and I think both his decision making and throwing motion is excellent. I don’t see his arm strength as any issue, though he does need to work on his ball placement on deep throws. I am not implying that Watson is a surefire product but I think that all his playing tools are at a stage where they are sort of “good enough but can still get better”, if that makes any sense. That is, to me, an entirely different world than for example Logan Thomas was in when they drafted him, and I think it makes all of Watson’s technical problems acceptable and almost more or less irrelevant, seeing how he can learn from some of the best for at least an entire year. Also, in that regard, to put it mildly the transition from having Jordan Palmer as his mentor to having Carson Palmer as his mentor should be rather easy.

By the way, I am having a really hard time understanding how some fans can argue that Watson is not a “Bruce Arians-kind of quarterback”. In just a few years we have all witnessed several times how Arians will tweak his offense to make it fit his best players, and thus I simply don’t get why anyone would doubt that he could and would do it again.

I would be happy to share why I targeted the other six aforementioned players if anyone would like that, but for now I will just note that I did not even think about selecting wide receiver Corey Davis. That is partly because I didn’t want to myself, but mainly because I want to try to make this exercise as realistic as I can, and history doesn’t exactly imply that Bruce Arians would draft a wide receiver in the first round. Going back to 2001 when Arians became the offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns, and then including his stint as a wide receiver coach and offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his time as the offensive coordinator with the Indianapolis Colts and obviously his time with the Cardinals, only once did those teams select a wide receiver in the first round in the respective years (in 2006 Santonio Holmes was drafted by the Steelers). They did, however, select successful wide receivers later on such as André Davis with the Browns (second round), Mike Wallace (third round), Emmanuel Sanders (third round) and Antonio Brown (sixth round) with the Steelers, T.Y. Hilton (third round) with the Colts, and John Brown (third round) and J.J. Nelson (fifth round) with the Cardinals. I guess you could argue that while Steve Keim has been employed by the Cardinals they have selected wide receivers in the first round three times, but I still think that the partnership of Arians and Keim believes they can find bigtime value at the position in the later rounds.

I did think about cornerback Gareon Conley, who I think is the best cornerback in the draft as it relates specifically to the Cardinals and their defensive systems. Now, it wasn’t even close that I would pick anyone other than Watson, but if the Saints wouldn’t go through with the trade or if for some other reason Watson had not been available, I’m not sure I would have selected Conley anyway, as I still has some faith that Justin Bethel or Brandon Williams can step up their game. Also, the coaches were high on Eli Bouka before he got injured, just as they were prepared to start Mike Jenkins opposite Peterson before Jenkins went down.

Runningback Christian McCaffrey would only have been relevant to me in a situation where he was the only available of the seven players I targeted from the beginning. In that case I would have tried hard to trade down to about #20, where I think McCaffrey’s value to the Cardinals is. Though I have called him a runningback, I actually think he is more of an offensive weapon that can be utilized in a variety of ways. He can certainly run the ball between the tackles but he might have even been a first round pick as a wide receiver if that had been his primary position – he is that good at it. To pair him up with David Johnson would give Bruce Arians a lot of different offensive option that only very few teams have.

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Second round - #45 – edge rusher Carl Lawson, Auburn

Several hours before my second pick came up, I was contacted by the Browns who had a pick in the middle of round two (I don’t know how they got the pick or if they have it in the real draft), and they wanted to know if they could buy my pick #45 if the right player fell to that spot. I said yes, in part because I could always say no later on if someone I really liked was available but mostly because I really wanted to regain that pick I paid in the first round. When my selection approached, the Browns told me their guy had been drafted so that they did not want to go through with the trade anyway.

That didn’t catch me by surprise but it did confuse me, since I had for some time had four guys I would draft at #45 if it became relevant, but all four of them has issues that sort of made me uncomfortable selecting them that high. Because of that, I offered the rest of the general managers to negotiate a trade but no one responded before I had to make the choice.

The four players were:

Safety, Obi Melifonwu, UConn,

cornerback, Sidney Jones, Washington,

edge rusher Carl Lawson, Auburn,

offensive guard Dan Feeney, Indiana.

As it relates to Melifonwu I actually think that he is a much better football player than he is given credit for. I think it is very easy to label a guy a gym star when they put on such a fantastic show at the Combine, but when I watch him play I see a player that understands how to cover, understands how to tackle, understands how to use his technique. No, he is not great at any of those things but he is fairly good at all of them, and if you add that to his extremely high potential, I think you have at least a second round pick. My problem was that – as I tried to imply – he won’t be more than average if he does not react positively to professional coaching. Seeing that my first round selection are almost certain to sit on the bench for the entire season, I thought my second selection should be able to contribute more than I think Melifonwu is on day one.

(I will add that if you click on the link to the mock draft you will see that Melifonwu was selected by the Bills one pick ahead of mine. That is because their general manager did not make his pick in time, and so a board of three other participants decided to give them Melifonwu. That occurred after I had made my pick though, so if I wanted, I could have selected Melifonwu.)

The reason I did not select cornerback Sidney Jones was the exact same reason I did not end up with Melifonwu. I think Sidney Jones could be a steal in the second round – and really, how serious is an ACL nowadays with the technology available to these athletes? – but it will take some time before he can do anything on the field. I simply thought a selection of Jones would put a lot of pressure on myself in regards to finding starters with most of the remaining picks, and I honestly don’t think I can be successful in that, which would in essence be very bad for the Cardinals. So I resisted the temptation to draft Sidney Jones.

Offensive guard Dan Feeney is, to me, the next best guard prospect in this draft, and a day one starter. I think he is a hardnosed, tough guy that will always do his job to the best of his ability – no matter if those abilities are good enough one, two or three years from now. He will give you exactly what you think he can on every play. That said, I have my doubts if in reality it might be better going with John Wetzel or Cole Toner, since they have been in the league and with the team for at least a year? I mean, Bruce Arians might lie from time to time (remember the “Levi Brown is elite”-fiasco?) but I believe him when he critics how college offensive linemen are nowhere near ready for the NFL as rookies. If I pick an offensive lineman with a high pick I expect him to be a starter and contributor as a rookie, and I simply don’t know if that would be a realistic expectation with any available offensive lineman at this spot.

So, in the end I choose to select edge rusher Carl Lawson. I think he was by far the best player available, and even a player that fit what the Cardinals do on defense, and I think that all you need to know about Lawson is that he is, in my opinion, a first round talent with injury red flags. I think he is among the three or four best edge rushers in this entire draft class, and he might even be the best technique-wise with his hands. He is extremely explosive and quick around the edge, and he does a good job of setting up his opponents for later in the game. I don’t think he has shown that much against the run, but that might just be because Auburn did not use him as anything but an edge rush monster.

Lawson did have an ACL in 2014, and a hip injury in 2015, but last year he was completely healthy and played every game.

With Chandler Jones and Markus Golden in place you could easily argue that edge rusher was nowhere near the biggest need. I could then counterargue that neither was the case when the Chiefs selected edge rusher Dee Ford in the first round even though they had Justin Houston and Tamba Hali in place. Or that the Broncos had Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware penciled in as the starters when they used their first round selection on edge rusher Shane Rey. I can almost promise you that they are now very happy with those selections. Now, it would be fair to point out that both of those teams had one of their starters near the end of his career (Hali and Ware respectably), but if I had to play the devil’s advocate I could also point out that Markus Golden is up for a new contract soon, and who knows how that negotiation ends?

You can never have enough good edge rushers, and the rotation should help keep everyone fresh. I don’t really have that much faith that Jarvis Jones will resurrect his career, and by now I figure that Kareem Martin is who he is.

My experience playing this mock draft game tells me that the pace will slow down about at the end of the second round, so I cannot say when I will make my next selection. No matter what, I will obviously let you know when it happens.

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Third round - #93 – wide receiver Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech


Almost immediately after my pick in the second round, I was contacted by the Packers who wanted to move up from their spot at #93. They would pay that pick and two picks (#172 and #174) in the fifth round for my pick at #76. I did not turn him down immediately but I was hesitant since I thought it was a rather long jump down in the third round. On the other hand, I really wanted to regain a pick or two, after I paid my fourth round pick to move up in the first round. I mean, obviously a fourth round pick is an extremely low price if in exchange you get your franchise quarterback of the future but I just value draft picks very highly.

When the third round started, no one had selected wide receiver Zay Jones yet, and I actually thought about trading up to get him. However, as I just stated, I value draft pick highly, and since I can only use current draft picks as payment, I most likely had to trade away several of my remaining selections. In fact, I did ask both the Bears and the Jaguars if their pick was for sale, which they were, but I would only part with a sixth- or seven round pick, and none of them would agree to that. Truth be told, I would not either but hey, it was worth a try.

Zay Jones got drafted, and the options I considered with just one pick until mine was:

Wide receiver Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech (I really like Ford but it kind of annoys me that he isn’t bigger since I think it clearly shows in his play that he can be sort of pushed around a bit),

inside linebacker Anthony Walker, Northwestern (I don’t think he is athletic enough to warrant a high third round pick – but then again, Kevin Minter was not a great athlete at LSU and he ended up being a fairly high second round pick),

defensive back Desmond King, Iowa (as a safety, I think he is a very good prospect. My problem with him as a safety, though, is that he is not that skilled at tackling, and I think a safety must have that ability),

cornerback Jourdan Lewis, Michigan (I think Lewis is a great competitor but he is simply too short to play on the outside with the Cardinals, and I am not really looking for a nickel corner – yes, I know Powers is not the tallest guy in the world but I was not thrilled with him on the outside either),

cornerback Jalen Tabor, Florida (I am a big believe in the saying “the tapes never lie”, and I don’t really care about all the testing in the run-up to the draft – in this case in reference to the 40 yard dash. That said, when a prospect performs badly at the Combine, and then does it even worse at his Pro Day, well, then I take notice. I mean, it is basically an unwritten rule that prospects will always run faster at their Pro Day since the environment and surface is almost made for them to impress. The teams most likely have a much better idea than I do of why Tabor ran that slow at his Pro Day, but it is a red flag to me, and since he has not disclosed any injury or other reason, I am not drafting him until at least day three.)

take the trade proposal from the Packers.

In the end, I decided that I would consider a selection of each of the five players to be a small reach, and since I believe that I can find four really good players in the fifth round – or use the picks to trade up after someone if I choose to – I took the trade.

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At #93 only Desmond King had been taken, so I obviously had the same targets as I had 17 picks before.

I went with wide receiver Isaiah Ford. Like I wrote, I think he is an exciting player. I like that he is extremely athletic and fast, and I like how he fights for the ball and often makes the contested catches. I just have doubts about his body structure, as I think he is too lean, and I worry what it will do for his NFL career. Obviously, it is a very good thing for his future that he will be with a professional sports team with a professional coaching staff to help with things like weight and body structure. I am just curious to see if it becomes a problem when he has to play like he has in college, and do all the things he has done on the field in college, in addition to all the new things he has to learn, while he changes his body. In all honesty, I am not sure he can do it.

All that said, I obviously think it is worth a shot. In some plays, he kind of look like at least a second round pick to me, and if the coaching staff manage to maximize his strength, I think he would be a nice addition to the wide receiver corps. I am excited that they are going to move Ellington to wide receiver (I think he could flourish there, if all things go well), but naturally he is a question mark. As is John Brown and Jaron Brown coming of their respective injuries, and though Fitzgerald has been defying the laws of nature for some years now, I do think it is a bit concerning that us fans must rely on him continuing to do that. I have seen Ford as both the outside receiver and playing in the slot, and I think he can be an asset in both situations.

Now, as I don’t have a fourth round pick it could take a while until my next selection. I would not rule out trading back into the fourth round but right now I don’t anticipate it.

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Fourth round - #125 – inside linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee

This guy can be the steal of the draft for some team.

Even though I initially thought I would not do it, I did end up trading back into the fourth round. I did so because I have studied Jalen Reeves-Maybin more carefully over the last couple of days, and if I had done that sooner, I would most likely have made him my third round selection. I wouldn’t sit around and pray that he would be on the board at pick #157 in the fifth round.

I traded with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it was a rather easy negotiation. Maybe that was because the role of Jason Lichts is been played by a friend of mine, or maybe it was because of something else. The result was that I got his pick #125 and #237 (seventh round), while he got my picks #157 (my first selection in the fifth round), #197 (sixth round) and #231 (seventh round). I thought this was a fair deal, and I still have three picks in the fifth round and one in the seventh.

After only four weeks of last season Reeves-Maybin had to undergo shoulder surgery, and actually it was not until recently he was medically cleared by the very well-respected Dr. James Andrews. I am pretty sure this is why he is flying under the radar. So I had to watch some games from 2014 and 2015, and in those he was impressive. He is a smaller linebacker but I don’t think it affects him that much because he is very good at moving around in traffic, and on top of that he is good at using technique to get of blocks. He can go sideline-to-sideline with ease, and he is a great cover linebacker.

While he was injured last season he embraced the role of being a mentor and sort of spiritual leader on the sideline. As a senior he was a captain, and for two years he was the defensive quarterback, so it meant something to his teammates that he was there, just as they would listen to his advices.

Though his size and injury obviously brings some question marks about his potential impact in the NFL, I also think he could end up as a scoop in the mid-rounds of the draft because of the same things. I believe he could quickly become a good special teamer, and at some point during the season I think he will compete for a bigger rotational role on defense.

Next up is my three picks in the last part of the fifth round, and once again I am fairly certain that I won’t use them to trade up.

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Fifth round - #172 – cornerback Dwayne Thomas, LSU

When the fifth round started, I had 14 players targeted. Some of those players I had ranked in the sixth round but since I did not have a selection in the that round, I bumped up some of them. Because of the number of players I had targeted, I tried to trade down and acquire more picks but I could not find a trade partner. I won’t get into an analysis of all 14 players but I would like to highlight one of them.

That is because I really like Alek Torgersen, the quarterback from Penn. He has great size, and his technique, throwing motion, ball placement and footwork is, in my opinion, pretty advanced for a draft prospect. On top of that, he obviously is a genius as he started three years straight in the Ivy League, and I simply like it when a quarterback is very smart. I think he would have been a first- or second round pick if he had played in the SEC for the last four years. Obviously, you can’t say and argue like that, and both the bad history of Ivy League quarterbacks in the NFL as well as the average competition Torgersen has played against is a major concern, and really is what makes Torgersen a two- to three year project at best. As it relates specifically to the Cardinals, I think they might see Zac Dysert as a better project than Torgersen as Dysert has been in the organization for some time. In this game I did not select Torgersen as I obviously see Deshaun Watson as a much better draft prospect, and I think it is almost unthinkable that Stanton would be replaced by a fifth round-selection.

I basically made the choice of Dwayne Thomas before this mock draft-game even started. Not with this specific pick, since it did not originally belong to me but the entire way the plan has been to select Thomas in the fifth round, providing no one I had graded higher would slip that far.

I don’t know if Thomas is an outside cornerback, nickelcorner or safety in the NFL but maybe that versatility can also be an advantage. I do know, at the least, that last season the Cardinals was in some form of nickel defense (more than four defensive backs) on about 67% of all defensive snaps, so they have a huge need for some good defensive backs on the gameday roster. Now, I believe the coaches has high hopes for Mike Jenkins, and hopefully Brandon Williams and Eli Bouka will continue the progress that made the coaches happy with them last offseason. The same goes for Justin Bethel, though I tend to think that by now he is probably never going to emerge as more than a special team stud – which is, by the way, absolutely fine by me.

Dwayne Thomas might not be the fastest or most athletic player but he does a nice job of route recognition and overall understanding of the game. He is also a very good blitzer.

I would have liked to select a cornerback way before the fifth round but other than in the first round the obvious option simply did not appear. That said, maybe we should have some more faith in the defensive backs-coaches and the defensive schemes. I mean, Tony Jefferson was an undrafted free agent, while D.J. Swearinger was originally signed to the practice squad of the street, and Marcus Cooper was acquired for a seventh round pick. Now all three of them have gotten big contracts after contributing bigtime last season. Maybe the coaches and the systems are simply capable of getting a lot out of what they have?

Fifth round - #174 – wide receiver Mack Hollins, North Carolina

Since I made this selection two picks after I had drafted Dwayne Thomas, my preferred targets were naturally the same.

In many ways I think Hollins is what you look for in a later round choice. He is big, he is fast, and he is a special teams-monster. Actually, he was a special teams-captain for four years straight at North Carolina, and he has made a ton of tackles on both the punt- and kickoff coverage units.

As a wide receiver he might be a long-term project. He does have great speed, and thus is a dangerous deep threat, and his hands are enormous which makes him very capable in jump ball situations. He just is not very skilled technique-wise or as a route runner, and even though he is big he can be pushed around a bit by physical defenders.

What I like most about Hollins, other than his special teams-abilities, is that he has typically been used in the “Larry Fitzgerald-role” at North Carolina, which is as a blocking slot receiver – almost as a small tight end. It seems fitting to me if Hollins are trained to replace Fitzgerald in some years.

While you could argue that it might be a bit overkill to select two wide receivers in the same year, I choose Hollins mainly because of what he can do on special teams. Any contribution as a wide receiver early on would only be a very nice bonus.

Fifth round - #179 – offensive guard Ethan Cooper, Indiana (PA)

I was literary ready to announce my choice of cornerback Channing Stribling from Michigan when he was drafted one spot ahead of me. I kind of got a flashback to “All or nothing” when they are on the phone with Ameer Abdullah just to see the Lions draft him right in front of them.

Anyway, I had narrowed my targets down to three players so really it was about choosing between the other two when Stribling was selected. The two players were Ethan Cooper and runningback Elijah McGuire out of Louisiana Lafayette, and even though I also had Cooper rated a little bit higher the choice came down to which player I could see slide all the way to my next pick in the seventh round. I don’t think it is that unrealistic to think that could happen to McGuire, as there is still some good runningbacks left on the board, and we are now in that part of the draft where it is very subjective which players each team likes.

I must admit that Ethan Cooper is a bit of an unknown to me, since I haven’t exactly seen every game Indiana (PA) played this season – or even one of those games. However, I thought he was somewhat impressive in both the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and in the on-field-drills at the Scouting Combine. On top of that, I can read that he dominated his competition, and that he has experience as both a guard and a tackle. His main issue apparently is a lack of technique which probably is not that surprising if he could dominate with his sheer physique.

I really think the Cardinals needs a new starting offensive lineman. I have high hopes for Evan Boehm but A.Q. Shipley can definitely be upgraded if you ask me. Maybe John Wetzel or Cole Toner can step up their game, and make Boehm shift to the center-position but I still think it would be a good idea to bring in some competition.

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Seventh round - #237 – safety David Jones, Richmond

I know I wrote after my last selection that I would take runningback Elijah McGuire at this spot if he was available. Well, he was available – I just learned and got smarter in the meantime as I did not know David Jones by then.

By the way, if they don’t draft a runningback I think the free agent-runningback market will become very interesting to the Cardinals and we the fans this offseason. David Johnson is a star but they need someone beside him. First of all, I don’t think it is out of the question that they re-sign Chris Johnson. Other than that, and considering what Keim and Arians has both said, I tend to think that Jamal Charles is very much on their radar if they consider him to be healthy. Also, dare I mention Fitzgerald’s good friend, Adrian Peterson?

David Jones is a huge safety who can absolutely lay the wood and set the tone. He is, though, also very athletic and can move around with a low center of gravity that in uncommon for players at his size. I have not watched him play that much since Richmond plays at a lower level that I do not have access to watch, but from the little I have seen I can tell that he dominated at that level. Later, at his Pro Day, he was highly impressive, setting multiple times that would have ranked among the top ten of safeties at the Combine (where he was not invited). At Richmond he actually did play cornerback at first, and I would not rule it out that he could potentially switch to that position again. Maybe it is even more important to know that he also played special teams at Richmond, and that several times he has done fine as a punt returner as well as a gunner. That obviously increases his chances of sticking on the team.

Last year his season ended with a broken arm as early as week four. He has stated that before it happened he was being projected as a third round pick, and ranked among the top five safeties in the country. Now, naturally that is highly questionable but still I wonder why he did not give himself even more praise when he was at it if not for the fact that it might not be completely bogus? I mean, why not the first round, the second round, or that he was ranked as a top three safety? He absolutely has some potential, and maybe some scouts simply noticed that.

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Conclusion

In the end, after a lot of trading back and forth, I basically used as many picks, and nearly drafted at the same spots, as the Cardinals have in the real draft. Instead of two fifth round picks, I ended up with three selections in that round and none in the sixth round but other than that the only different was a few spots in certain rounds.

I am happy with my picks. I would have liked them to be in another order but the board simply did not fall that way, and if I isolate each selection I think they would all make sense. I guess you could argue that I should have selected cornerback Gareon Conley in the first round but I don’t regret not doing so, simply because I still have vivid memories of John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Kevin Kolb, Derek Anderson and the likes. I believe Deshaun Watson can become a very good quarterback in the NFL.

As for what some might think about how they need to target instant playmakers because of how the so-called “Super Bowl window” is right now, I just want to say that I don’t believe in that stuff at all. I mean, if you accept that premise, what are you going to do when said window closes? Are you just going to be fine with the fact that your team has no chance at winning, and thus you will be rooting for them to clinch the first overall draft pick? I really don’t want to sound arrogant or call anybody out but I honestly don’t understand the notion of an “open Super Bowl window”.

I would very much had liked to select a defensive lineman somewhere. Specifically, I maybe should have given defensive tackle Chris Wormley more thoughts in the second round, and maybe I should have tried to trade up in the fifth round to select defensive tackle Vincent Taylor out of Oklahoma State. In a perfect world the Cardinals should be fine with veterans such as Frostee Rucker and Corey Peters, with Nkemdiche and Rodney Gunter stepping up, and with players such as Josh Mauro and Xavier Williams contributing to the rotation but there is not much room for errors, in my opinion. How would you guys like trading a third-, fourth- or fifth round pick to Todd Bowles and the Jets in exchange for defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson? He is obviously a great player trapped in a bad situation, and if the Cardinals where ready to spend huge money on Calais Campbell they at least have the required money to take on Richardson’s contract. Also, Keim and Arians likes players with big – and borderline eccentric - personalities.

The special teams should benefit from having Reeves-Maybin, Dwayne Thomas, Mack Hollins and David Jones on the coverage units. I don’t know what Isaiah Ford and Ethan Cooper can do in that department but with the addition of Phil Dawson as well the special teams could be much improved from last year.
 
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az jam

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I think the Browns will take Watson at #12 if he is there. Agree with you that if the Cards want him they will need to trade up and the Saints would make a good trading partner.
 

Garthshort

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The QB position is the one of high risk, high reward. Since CB, imo, is our biggest position of need, I guess my hope is that is where the Cardinals go in the 1st round. But like QB, there are no sure things available at #13. WR and ILB (Davis, Williams, Foster and Reddick) all seem like safer picks, so I don't know where we should go. The team has a Top #13 board, so I'm guessing we'll take the BPA. Whoever it is, I'll be happy, at least until TC.
 
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Gandhi

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The more I read the more I understand we WON'T get Watson.

Well, I don't think it's impossible since there are reports saying completely different things so what to believe? To me, it would be very surprising if it would not take a trade into at least the top ten to secure him. Even though there is a lot of teams in front of the Cardinals that do not need a new quarterback, I could see basically everyone of those teams drafting him because of the talent that he is.
 

Reign Blood

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Well, I don't think it's impossible since there are reports saying completely different things so what to believe? To me, it would be very surprising if it would not take a trade into at least the top ten to secure him. Even though there is a lot of teams in front of the Cardinals that do not need a new quarterback, I could see basically everyone of those teams drafting him because of the talent that he is.
Watson wins ball games. I'm not going to say we won't get him but what I'm saying for the record is...

The Cards need a strong draft this year. After last years failure to land a starter makes this one very important. No risk it, no biscuit. Although I can see us grabbing a Mixon or a Sidney Jones in the third round.
 

Cardiac

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I always look forward to your yearly mock draft post Gandhi and this was as good as any. I'm torn between getting our QBOF and stocking this team with the incredible talent that is in this draft.
 

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Impressive thought process, Gandhi!

I couldn't find the rest of your mock, other than picking Watson at #11 and giving up the #13 and #127 picks. Could you list your whole mock? Thanks!
 

Cardiac

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Impressive thought process, Gandhi!

I couldn't find the rest of your mock, other than picking Watson at #11 and giving up the #13 and #127 picks. Could you list your whole mock? Thanks!

My impression is that it's still in progress.
 
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Gandhi

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Impressive thought process, Gandhi!

I couldn't find the rest of your mock, other than picking Watson at #11 and giving up the #13 and #127 picks. Could you list your whole mock? Thanks!

I sure will post it all, Mitch, but like Cardiac says it is in progress. I simply have not made any more picks yet.

I am going to post updates with each pick, and I will do it like that because I know from myself how it can be almost overwhelming to see an extremely long post. If I waited to post it all, it would have been a very long post. I know that it still is quite long, but I can assure all of you that the updates will be much shorter. :) I just wanted to describe my strategy this time, as well as how we all know that the first pick probably is the most exciting.
 
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Gandhi

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I always look forward to your yearly mock draft post Gandhi and this was as good as any. I'm torn between getting our QBOF and stocking this team with the incredible talent that is in this draft.

Thank you, Cardiac! Yes, I have the same issue. I mean, last year in the same exercise I selected Dak Prescott in the third round (http://www.arizonasportsfans.com/forum/threads/gandhi-mock-draft.234236/) so obviously I have wanted them to draft a quarterback for quite some time, but this year it is still different. Maybe it is because the end of Carson Palmer's career suddenly seems very near, or maybe it is because I don't really believe in Zac Dysert as a future star, and would I really dare to trust a rookie with the task next year? I don't know, but I really want to do something about the situation.

On the other hand is, as you said, the opportunity to strengthen the play on the field with some great talent right now, which a new quarterback obviously would not do. As I wrote, I do have some belief that Brandon Williams, Mike Jenkins, Justin Bethel or someone else currently on the roster can step up at cornerback, but still I was tempted to select cornerback Gareon Conley out of Ohio State. I believe his skillset is very much suited to fit James Bettchers' defense, and I believe Conley would be ready from day one, since he is both experienced and mature for his age. In real life the Cardinals could have a shot at some other prospects, that I did not have the chance to select, who could also make a huge positive different on the field - players such as tight end O.J. Howard, linebacker Reuben Foster or safety Jabrill Peppers would be fantastic additions.
 

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Gandhi, where do you see Peppers playing? Seems like a Buccanon clone to me, but I don't claim to have any expertise in this area. I do know that we need a FS.
 
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Gandhi

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Gandhi, where do you see Peppers playing? Seems like a Buccanon clone to me, but I don't claim to have any expertise in this area. I do know that we need a FS.

I can absolutely see where you are coming from, Garthshot, and certainly the coaches at Michigan can as well, since they played Peppers both as a safety and as a linebacker.

I think he is underrated as a safety playing single high at the backend. I mean, there is no doubt he is a force in the box, like Buccanon or Mathieu, but I thought I saw him doing a great job shadowing receivers or tight ends while at Michigan. I think his out-of-this-world athletism and moving skills makes him a valuable chess piece to any defensive coordinator, and as it relates directly to the Cardinals, I think he would allow Bettcher to do a lot of confusing (to the opponent, that is) things where each of him, Bucannon and Mathieu could be used in a variety of different ways at the same time.

Also, they say Peppers is a very bright player, and though it obviously can't be anything but a guess on my part, I do think the secondary and the defense as a whole took a step back in that regard with the departure of Rashad Johnson og Jerraud Powers.
 
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Gandhi

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I have updated the first post with the second round.
 
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