We’re just a bit more than a week out from the NFL Draft.
I don’t know about anyone else, but this delayed draft (it’s usually in April) isn’t enjoyable. You can only read so many mock drafts and “analysis” of college players, only so many predictions of who is a Pro Bowler and who is a bust, before it crosses the line from fun into complete and utter banality.
So, we’re going to break that trend and do something no mock draft has done before (maybe): Playoffs.
A few weeks ago we began our series of mock draft roundups, taking a look at what different experts were saying and giving you a chance to select your favorites from the bunch. In our first installment, voters tabbed Louisville safety Calvin Pryor (158 votes). In 2.0, you favored Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (162 votes). Last week, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley (89 votes) narrowly took the win.
What we have here is the makings of a bracket. To round out our Final Four, we’ll add a wild card, the player who earned the most votes but failed to win his mock roundup: Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks (115 votes).
This week, we’ll go head-to-head in two semifinals, with the winners meeting up next week to earn the coveted title of Mock Draft Roundup Champion (OK, maybe it’s not exactly coveted, but seriously, we have to change things up around here before we all go insane).
Semifinal matchup 1: #1 Kelvin Benjamin v. #4 C.J. Mosley
Just because Mosley won his heat, we’re not giving him the three seed. He had the fewest votes. No free passes in the Mock Draft Roundup Playoffs.
Mosley came to us via NFL.com’s Charles Davis and fills what many fans and experts have identified as a need at linebacker. ESPN identifies Mosley as the top inside linebacker in the draft and the eighth-ranked athlete overall. Those are rankings that, if the Eagles were to grab him with the 22nd pick, make Mosley a steal.
He has good size and should earn some extra points because he’s a senior who stuck around for four years. There is a certain level of maturity NFL players need, or people don’t want them around (see Jackson, Desean), and Mosley has it. ESPN wrote of him, “outstanding football character…no off the field issues…matured into leadership role during 2012 season, continued to improve in that area in 2013.”
He had some injury issues early in his collegiate career, but rebounded to start all 13 Alabama games last season. He’s outstanding against the run and a little raw against the pass, but “blitzes with reckless abandon.”
Check out his video highlights here. Talented guy with great closing speed (he wears No. 32). Is he the edge rusher Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is looking for?
Or, does Kelly want a big-bodied wide receiver, a piece of raw talent, like Benjamin?
Benjamin was the selection of NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, as well as numerous other mock drafts across the planet. At 6-5, 240 pounds, Benjamin has freakish size, the kind of size that Kelly and company supposedly prefer.
The biggest knock on Benjamin is his hands, with ESPN calling his ball skills “highly erratic.” That’s not something you want to hear about a wide receiver, but we also need to recognize that Benjamin is only a sophomore and qualifies under the phrase “work in progress.” He has huge upside, with ESPN noting he has “deceiving top-end speed to stretch the field vertically…flashes potential to be a one-on-one downfield matchup nightmare such as the likes of Alshon Jeffery.”
Check out his highlights here. One thing that jumps out – aside from his NFL body – is the number of ridiculous catches Benjamin was forced to make during the season. The guy is knocked for his hands, but he looks pretty good contorting his body in mid-air to grab passes thrown a few yards behind him, etc. Pair him with an accurate quarterback and, hey, who knows?
So, who will it be in our first semifinal?
Who is your pick in this Mock Draft Roundup Playoffs semifinal?
- C.J. Mosley, linebacker, Alabama (76%, 105 Votes)
- Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver, Florida State (24%, 33 Votes)
Total Voters: 138
Semifinal matchup 2: #2 Calvin Pryor v. #3 Brandin Cooks
This is a rematch from Mock Draft Roundup 1.0, where Pryor defeated Cooks, 158 votes to 115.
The buzz has faded on Cooks, possibly because so many mock drafts now have him going much, much higher than No. 22 overall. Cooks joined the Mock Draft Roundup via CBS’ Pat Kirwan right about the time the Eagles had released Jackson and right about the time the buzz on Cooks had started.
Like Jackson, he’s a talented player in a small package (not even 5-10). In everything but his size, Cooks is rated “above average” or “exceptional” in all ESPN measurements. He put up disgusting numbers last season at Oregon State, with 128 receptions for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. His highlight reel needs to have a highlight reel (check it out here). The play he makes at the 1:22 mark is one college football fans will still be talking about in a decade.
Cooks obviously fills a need. He’s talented. He’s fast. He makes plays. But if the Eagles are concerned about how Jackson’s lack of size was exposed against the league’s more talented corners, he might not be their guy.
Of course, he might not be their guy simply because they’re looking to upgrade the defense. Enter Mr. Pryor.
The Louisville safety was once the prediction of ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ESPN calls him a “heavyweight fighter in run support” and he also has pretty good ball skills, with 14 pass breakups and seven interceptions in his three-year collegiate career.
The Eagles had a strong bounce-back campaign from safety Nate Allen last season and added Malcolm Jenkins in free agency, so I don’t know that this is a position of need. But the Eagles aren’t drafting for need, right? “Best player available” is supposedly the law of the land.
Pryor is the No. 2 ranked safety and 17th-best player overall, according to ESPN. He is a strong guy, “thickly built with muscular frame,” with a “relentless playing style.” “Plays the way it’s supposed to be played. Leaves it all on the field.”
His aggressive nature can leave him vulnerable to the big play, but those are the kinds of things one hopes would improve with maturity. Check out what he already has here. The guy brings it. He’s the kind of player who will make opposing wide receivers very uncomfortable and he’s not afraid to bring it in the run game.
So, is he your guy in our second semifinal?
Who is your pick in this Mock Draft Roundup Playoffs semifinal?
- Calvin Pryor, safety, Louisville (71%, 99 Votes)
- Brandin Cooks, wide receiver, Oregon State (29%, 40 Votes)
Total Voters: 139
Voting will remain open until Sunday at noon. We’ll take a look at our finalists next week.