Zach's Draft Corner: Potential First Round Fakers

Image Credit: Ole Miss Athletics

Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.

The day was April 26, 2018. I was sitting on the couch, watching the end of the first round of the NFL draft while my wife was on the other side of the room studying for finals. The Seattle Seahawks had moved around quite a bit, settling on the 27th overall pick. I leaned in in anticipation of the next player I have to learn to hate when it was announced. The Seahawks took Rashad Penny, a player who I had given a day 3 grade to, in the first round. I burst out laughing to the point that my wife looked up from her studies and immediately started reconsidering her life’s choices. The laughter died down, but was forced out of me again when the Steelers took safety Terrell Edmunds out of Virginia Tech, widely projected to only be at the draft because his brother, Tremaine, was a lock to go in the first round as a linebacker. These picks were widely questioned, and their first season did nothing to quell the noise. This week, we’re going to look at this year’s candidates who should absolutely not be looked at in the first round, but might get taken there anyways.

Daniel Jones, Quarterback, Duke University

Quarterbacks are always the first candidates to be overdrafted because of positional importance. While my final big board has no surefire first-round quarterbacks and a couple of fringe first-round guys, Daniel Jones is solidly in day 3 territory for me. However, his experience under pro football veteran David Cutcliffe has people mentioning Jones’s name as high as the top-10 picks to the Giants. My view of Jones is that he doesn’t have the ability to read defenses, move much past his first read reliably, or extend plays while looking downfield to throw the ball. If you magically have an offense where the first read is always open, Daniel Jones could be great. Then again, if you had that offense, you could reasonably place any quarterback in that system and they’d be just fine.

Any Running Back

The top running back on my board is Devine Ozigbo out of Nebraska, and he has a fringe first round grade. I’m putting all running backs here because I’m not sure the value is there, even for Ozigbo, when considering who else will be on the board at the end of the first round. This is especially for Josh Jacobs, who I think has the best chance of going in the first round but is not so much better than many of the running backs who could be had quite a bit later, even into day 3.

Marquise Brown, Wide Receiver, University of Oklahoma

Teams love speed. Marquise Brown has speed, and plenty of it. The issue is that foot injuries tend to linger, especially Lisfranc injuries. Further, I’m not sure Brown has much else other than his speed. His hands are decent, but any separation he gets on underneath routes is from non-NFL cornerbacks giving him so much cushion because of the threat of him going deep. NFL defenses will be better suited to handle that threat, and I’m not sure he can get open much otherwise. I’ll take a chance on his one elite trait on day 2, but I won’t touch him in the first round.

Parris Campbell, Wide Receiver, Ohio State University

Campbell is another receiver that has been garnering some first round chatter lately. Some even have him above D.K. Metcalf as the first receiver off the board. I can’t emphasize enough how misguided this would be. I do not have Campbell in my top 10 at receiver, let alone as a top-32 overall player. Campbell may certainly find success, but there’s plenty of evidence out there that athletic gadget players who have put no actual routes on tape (e.g., Tavon Austin and Curtis Samuel) will not live up to their lofty draft status. Avoid Parris Campbell in the first round. Unless you’re Seattle or Oakland. Then draft away!

Greg Little, Offensive Tackle, Ole Miss

Little was seen by some to be the number one overall pick at the beginning of the season. The rationale was that he was an uber athletic tackle whose ceiling was so high that, with one more year of college and some coaching in the NFL, he could be the best tackle in the league in a few seasons. The issue is that his technique made no strides at all this year and his combine was more uber disappointing than uber athletic. If the hype remains from last year, someone could reach for him and hope he still has that ceiling. Instead, all I see is a player with poor technique and poor athleticism.

Mack Wilson, Linebacker, University of Alabama

Mack Wilson was very hyped after stepping in at the end of Alabama’s national championship run in the 2017-18 season and playing like a man possessed. In the 2018-19 season, Wilson followed it up with some very average linebacker play. He was good in coverage, but didn’t show the same athleticism or instincts in the running game. In a poor linebacker class, someone may feel the need to reach at the position with the Devins (White and Bush) off the board early. Hope that your team isn’t the one to do it.

Darnell Savage, Safety, University of Maryland

This is the one I was most hesitant to place here. Of all the players listed here, I give Savage the smallest chance to bust. This one comes down to positional value. I think that Savage’s best role in the NFL will be as more of a box safety as opposed to a playmaking free safety, meaning his best role has a reduced value. He plays great from the robber position, and will have a long future in this league. I simply think that there will be better value later in the first round, and that, for the role, you can get a safety who can do 90% of what Savage can much later.

Johnathan Abram, Safety, Mississippi State University

Abram is very similar to Savage, but potentially even more towards that extreme. Abram is a headhunter at safety, and his coverage skills suffer because of his aggression. He has the attitude and the toughness to be a key cog in a defense, but I’m not sure the results on the field will warrant first-round consideration. I would certainly look to him towards the end of the second round if I needed to inject some attitude and confidence into my defense, but drafting him sooner would raise the expectations higher than they should be.

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