This is the ninth of this season's articles on newyorkjets.com about the draft and free agency from the independent personnel analysts at Real Football Services, on teams restacking their boards before tonight's second and third rounds.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on newyorkjets.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the New York Jets organization, front office staff, coaches and executives.
Around midnight Thursday night, the last of the fans in attendance at the 2013 NFL Draft filed out of the exits of Radio City Music Hall, the team reps at each of the tables headed back to their hotels, and most home viewers probably turned off the TV and went to bed. But for the decision makers in draft rooms across the country, there was still work to be done.
Player personnel staffs were restacking the board late last night, evaluating the risers and fallers of Thursday's first round of selections, and regrouping the remaining players based on value, grades and team needs. Most fans may think that a team's draft board looks a lot like the prospect rankings board you see on so many Websites prior to the draft, like Mel Kiper's Big Board, a listing of every potential draftee from 1 to 600-something. That's not really how it works. Most of the draft boards we've seen in our time around the league put players into groupings and then make their draft decisions from there.
For example, a team may only have 12 players graded out as Round 1 picks. If you have one of the first 12 picks, it's pretty simple. When you go on the clock, you take the highest rated player remaining on your board, or the player that satisfies your greatest need.
But if you're picking 16th and you have only 12 first-round grades, you have some decisions to make. If your top players are coming off the board quickly with the early picks, you may want to get on the phone to start seeing how viable it is to trade up from your spot to go grab one of "your guys". If that doesn't work out, you hope that one of your 12 falls to your pick.
If not, then it's time to start looking at your second group of players on your board, what we call the "1-2 Group". These are players your team would feel comfortable taking if they can trade down into the bottom half of the first round or top of the second round.
We won't speculate, but this may be what happened to the Jets last night. Word is they were trying to trade out of the 13th pick before selecting Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson. These are also players teams might consider worthy of trading back into the first round for. An example of this was Minnesota's move back into the bottom of the first round to get Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson. But short of that, you have to make your pick.
We give you all this as background because as you could see last night, there are always some surprises. There are some players that no one expected to go in the first round. These may have been players that teams had grouped for selection in the second and even third rounds. Now that those players are off the board, it may affect the groupings of the players still remaining.
Likewise, there are players who were probably in those first two groupings on many boards last night who still don't know where they are going to be playing. These players will be moved to the top of the board for tonight's second- and third-round selections and could provide terrific value at this point in the draft for many teams.
As we mentioned in many of our mock drafts and predraft stories, the NFL world was not high on the top-end value of the skill position players in this draft group, and it showed in Round 1. That will make for an exciting night tonight as some of the marquee names in the college game are available for the taking in Rounds 2 and 3.
Here are some of the players we consider to be top values available for tonight's draft action:
The Jaguars, Eagles, Cardinals, Jets and Raiders could all be in play for Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib within the first 10 picks of the night.
Oakland reportedly considered Smith long and hard at No. 12 last night, so we might see a trade right off the top tonight. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville's new head coach, is a Pete Carroll disciple who is all about competition, so it seems reasonable to think the Jaguars would be in play for one of these signalcallers. Philly is also looking for an athletic, strong-armed passer to run Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense, so there will be even more competition for Smith's services, we believe.
Nassib is a strong-armed guy with excellent leadership skills whom Jon Gruden has called the best QB in this draft. Barkley could be a good fit in a system like Bruce Arians' in Arizona, or he could excel in a West Coast offense like the one the Jets will run under Marty Mornhinweg, though we still think the Jets have to use a high draft pick on a pure pass rusher to bolster Rex Ryan's defense.
Tennessee's Justin Hunter and Robert Woods of Southern Cal head this list. Both are extremely polished receivers with great hands, excellent route-running skills and tremendous production. Both are ready to play NOW and, in our mind, should have been off the board before Patterson.
Other names to watch are Cal's Keenan Allen, who has fallen in large part because of an injury that has limited his ability to run and work out for teams, and Quinton Patton, another productive pass catcher out of Louisiana Tech.
In Round 3, teams could have an eye on Terrance Williams, who played in that prolific offense down at Baylor, and West Virginia's Stedman Bailey, who was a more reliable and productive receiver than Tavon Austin in college but has been saddled with some off-field and maturity issues and is not an ideal size-strength-speed guy by NFL standards.
For the first time since 1963, no backs were taken in the first round. Pretty shocking. Eddie Lacy certainly tops the list here, but there are some concerns about his production. He didn't always dominate at Alabama, and he's going to get hurt in the NFL if he doesn't lose that spin move! UCLA's Jonathan Franklin, whom we mentioned as a possibility for the Jets before the draft, is another back who can grind out yards and has good size-speed numbers.
Wisconsin's Montee Ball could be an option at the end of Round 2 or the beginning of Round 3, and Giovani Bernard of UNC, Stepfan Taylor of Stanford, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and Andre Ellington of Clemson could all hear their names called today.
The real standout still available is Zach Ertz of Stanford. At 6'5" and 250, he's a fluid route runner with tremendous hands and averaged 13 yards per catch on 69 receptions a year ago. In Round 3, guys who made names for themselves at the combine like Cincinnati's Travis Kelce, Rice's Vance McDonald and San Diego State's Gavin Escobar could all be in play.
Menelik Watson, the Florida State RT, should be selected fairly early tonight. He had moved into first-round status in recent mock drafts, and is an intriguing story. He's from England, has played just one year of major college football, was a former basketball player at Marist, and considered boxing before coming to football. He's got tremendous size and athleticism and some teams feel with time and coaching he could play LT in the NFL.
Tank Carradine, another Florida State prospect, should also be an early selection. Some scouts believe he's better than former teammate Bjoern Werner, but a serious knee injury sidelined him before the end of the 2012 season. Extremely productive with tremendous pass-rush skills, he could be an ideal LE in a 4-3 for a team that believes he can fully recover from the knee.
Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins is a prototypical 3-4 NT, and Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore will be a steal for someone in Round 2. He performed terribly at the combine and in workouts, which has caused his stock to plummet, but he had 26½ career sacks and 20 tackles for loss in 2012 alone, playing both LB and DE. He has experience in 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, and some see him as the second coming of former teammate Von Miller.
We really thought Manti Te'o would be taken in the bottom third of the first round, and thought it was a foregone conclusion that the Vikings were trading back into Round 1 to get him late last night. He's another scheme-versatile guy and an instinctive football player who just makes plays. He's not going to win a track meet, but turn on the tape and you'll be as amazed as we will be if his name isn't called in the first five picks tonight.
The other guy we love is Kansas State's Arthur Brown. This is a player who can play inside or outside and recorded over 200 tackles in his career. He lacks ideal size, and he's not a big playmaker who gets a lot of sacks or big hits — he just puts people on the ground. Think Kyle Clifton with a little more versatility and athleticism.
Finally, there's Kevin Minter of LSU. He's another guy who may be undersized for an interior player and may lack the athleticism to play outside in the NFL. But he's an instinctive football player who wrap-tackles and can be the glue for a defense.
The two guys we like early are cornerbacks. You'll hear a lot about Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien, but Jamar Taylor of Boise State and Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State are better players in our book. Taylor is best-suited playing off man or zone coverage, but closes very quickly and is a reliable open-field tackler and run defender who can also make plays on the ball with great instincts. Banks has excellent ball skills, is an effective blitzer, and is a reliable run defender and tackler, a key skill set for NFL corners. He's a fast riser up boards and the Jets would be fortunate if he were to fall to them in the third round.