I love draft season. Nothing in sports more embodies hope and optimism than this moment when every player believes they are the next Hall of Fame player, and every franchise believes that the 5-15 players they select are the things that will turn them around and make them a dynasty.
Then, of course, the season happens, but we're not there yet!
It's easy to plan on who your team is looking to get in the first round, which is hilarious because that's all they talk about on ESPN. But a strong draft is not just about the top; guys like Green Bay's Ted Thompson and Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome have earned their street cred as fantastic GMs partially from their ability to unearth quality talent in the middle and later rounds of the draft.
Thus, to a draft junkie like myself (and likely you, since you saw "7-Round Mocks" in my title and decided to read it), it's about the total draft picture.
While I greatly value all the research and scouting that can be found on the internet, I have found two websites that allow me to put my Rick Smith hat on (mental picture) and suit up as the chief of the Texans' War Room. Let me introduce you:
Draft Tek (drafttek.com) - This site has been a go-to for years for me and many other draftniks. They compile a big board of over 400 prospects, shift it as necessary during the draft season as players emerge, return to school, succeed/fail at the Combine, etc. They also have a massive online draft simulator that allows you not only to produce a 7-round mock draft, but literally adjust it to your every whim. Do you think your team should trade up or down? Go ahead! The simulation model is based on each team's needs at a given position, which you can also change if you don't agree with it. Literally an open book in which you get to play God on draft day.
First-Pick.com - I just discovered this this year, and have already devoted WAY too much time to it. They have also compiled a big board and allow for a 7-round mock draft, but instead of being an open source like Draft Tek, first-pick is a game. You go, you do the draft, your picks are graded and scored, and you get a final score after the draft based on how well you did, complete with getting to see how the other teams in the league scored compared to you. Like I said, I've spent plenty of time here.
What I'd like to do today is present dueling 7-round mocks. Here's the controls and variables of this analysis:
-Both drafts grade out as A+ drafts that, if they occurred, would be the top draft classes in the league. My First-pick model scored 4282 points (the next best team was 4014), and my Draft Tek model, which isn't a game but scores picks based on where they fall on the big board (example: Drafting the 10th best player at #1 overall is a -9; Drafting the 10th best player at #33 would be a +23), grades out at a +56 total value.
-Neither draft involves trades. Both simulations allow for trades (drafttek allows you to just make trades happen by adjusting the draft order; first-pick.com allows you to propose trades to CPU teams and, on your picks, offers seemingly random teams proposing you drafts.) but I'm ending this with a "Who Wore It Best" kind of poll, so I wanted to keep this level.
-Both drafts feature Teddy Bridgewater going #1. Sorry to those who are on Team Barr/Clowney/Bortles. Teddy scores as an A going #1 overall on first-pick, and while he's a -1 value on DraftTek, my other options were getting Bortles in the second round at a -8 value (listed at #41 overall on their board) or getting AJ McCarron at a positive value in the third round. I don't care what the score sheet says; AJ McCarron as our franchise QB of the future is a failed draft. Period.
-Seemingly vastly different draft boards. I mentioned Blake Bortles as a #41 value on drafttek. Well, I get an A for him at #1 on first-pick, and, when I tried to trade down, Jacksonville and Cleveland almost always took Bridgewater and Bortles with the #3 and #4 pick. That's just one example, but you get the idea. A player considered a great value on one board doesn't even appear on another (This actually affected my drafts)
One more final note:
Before I get to the drafts, I do want to share some information I learned from these mocks.
Pray for free agent Cornerbacks and Offensive Tackles!
You may remember my fanpost debut when I said, among other things, that we should throw a long-term deal at Brian Orakpo, and decent money to Vance Walker. Okay, I've changed my mind. While I still would love, love, love to sign Orakpo, I realize that those posting that a deal in which he gets about 8 mil a year wouldn't cut it are right.
But something both of these drafts have in common was that offensive linemen and cornerbacks went way higher than they deserved to. If you want to replace Derek Newton and Brice McCain with NFL-caliber players, they will have to be gotten in free agency. Since you asked, my vote is for Austin Howard of the Jets (highest-rated OT on walterfootball.com THAT DOESN'T POSSES LEFT TACKLE CHOPS. This means we can get him at value because we only need a Right Tackle, and he's young and improving so he could blossom into a great RT.) and Captain Munnerlyn of the Panthers (kind of a breakout player, but he hasn't gotten a lot of press despite playing on one of the best defenses in the league. I was just hearing from analysts how the Panthers have gotten great secondary play that allows them to put 8 in the box, which is a glowing endorsement, and I can name a half dozen cornerbacks whom I think will be chased more ardently by NFL executives. Finally, he's good enough to make our trio of cornerbacks one of the best in the league, but not so expensive that we absolutely can't keep both JoJo and Kareem if we wanted to)
Enough about free agency. You came for mock drafts, and mock drafts am I here to provide.
First-Pick.com Presents: Your 2014 Houston Texans!
First Round - Teddy Bridgewater, QB
I plan to provide some analysis on the draft picks. Teddy, however, I think you already know the guy. :)
Round 2 - Ryan Shazier, OLB/ILB, Ohio State
The word on the street is that OB-1 is looking for versatility and multiple packages for his defense. This reminds me of the hybrid 3-4/4-3 defenses during the Patriots dynasty, but also tells me that I need to find defensive players that can fit multiple systems and/or formations.
Ryan Shazier is everything the NFL has turned into the past few years: he's undersized but he's is so fast that it literally can turn into a flaw. He is expected to run a 40-yard dash in the 4.3s. At 230 pounds. In the 3-4, he can be an Inside Linebacker that can charge the backfield on most plays, and in the 4-3 he can be a Von Miller-like SAM backer. He needs to work on his coverage skills, but if we learned anything from that whole "HAR HAR! The Seahawks drafted Bruce Irvin! Wait...he's the rookie of the year?" fiasco, it's this: if a guy is fast enough to reach the backfield while the QB or RB is still back there holding the ball, he's a guy that can help your defense.
Round 3 - Ahmad Dixon, SS, Baylor
This dude is literally D.J. Swearinger as a Strong Safety. A little bigger, and a little weaker on coverage, but he's nasty, hard-hitting, fast, and with a great nose for the football. We don't know if Daniel Manning is coming back after this season, but I wouldn't mind if you had Swearinger and Dixon as our defensive backfield.
Round 4 - Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
Oh my freaking Lord do I want this guy to be our next 1B Running Back. EDraft compares him to Matt Forte, and I think that would work greatly with us. I suspect that despite the new coach this team will continue to be run-first and ZBS because that's largely how we are built, and it favors a rookie QB - even one allegedly excellent at decision making and pre-snap planning - if the team is leaning on Arian Foster and a rookie backup running back to be the primary weapon. That said, Sims feels like, out of the three options available (himself, Carlos Hyde, a Brandon Jacobs/LaGarette Blount wrecking ball type, or an Andre Williams who reminds me of Ben Tate but doesn't really know how to block or catch well) the best choice. And think of the money we are saving by going with a rookie instead of paying Tate what Cleveland is gonna pay him!
Round 5 - Jay Prosch, FB, Auburn
This guy is a Houston Texan, plain and simple. Auburn made it to the BCS Title game off of 2 things: crazy luck and an absurdly awesome running game. Just like you can't talk about the great Cowboys run game of the 90s without shouting out to Moose Johnston, you can't brag about the awesomeness of the War Eagle run game without a nod to their awesome fullback. Furthermore, his character is JJ Watt-esque (transferred from Illinois to Auburn so he could return to his home state and care for his mother who was suffering from cancer) and he has decent speed on him for his size (projected to run a 4.6 40 at 250-plus pounds). If you have ever appreciated the Vonta Leach days, you have to love this pick.
Round 6 - DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
This is more than just throwing Teddy a bone. Parker is seen as mainly a deep threat. He lacks sufficient size to beat press coverage, and doesn't have a lot of experience running intermediate routes during his time at Louisville. That said, he is still considered a legitimate threat for the long ball, and, given that the deep pass is Teddy's biggest weakness, I like the idea of helping his confidence by allowing him to inherit his favorite target for those bombs as he develops his accuracy on them.
Also keep in mind that, while WR is considered a surplus strength on this team, we don't know how OB-1 will evaluate Posey, Martin, or Jean. Plus, it's the sixth round.
Round 7 - Chris Boswell, K, Rice
If you know this guy, it's probably from this:
But what you may not know is that he is tied for second on Rice's all-time scoring list (one behind the career leader - WR Jarrett Dillard), and is the highest-ranked kicker on Walterfootball.com. He has the leg to make long field goals (his long is 57), and he's also not Randy Bullock. I can not overstate this point.
Overall Analysis: Besides Teddy, we have two day-one starters (Prosch, Boswell), anf four players who have the chance to get a lot of playing time (Shazier, Dixon, Sims, Parker). We've strengthened our pass rush and potentially drafted replacements for Daniel Manning and Arian Foster, two guys we may not be keeping long term depending on how the season goes.
DraftTek.com presents: Your 2014 Houston Texans!
Round 1 - Teddy
Round 2 - Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
For what it's worth, this guy is a constant Top 10 pick on First-Pick. He is Draft Tek's top rated 5-technique player. We all are bracing for Antonio Smith to move on and get a big contract that is not fiscally responsible of us to match (especially we have THAT OTHER DE to pay for). So what do you do when you lose a guy who can't afford to keep? Draft a replacement. At 6'6" and 300 pounds, Tuitt has the height to join JJ on the SWATT Team with some coaching, and he shows amazing fluidity, speed, and agility for a man his size. Bottom line: when you get a guy who is 20 pounds heavier than his peers but just as quick, you get him and you be happy about it.
Round 3 - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon StateHe's an undersized slot receiver with home-run speed. Tom Brady made a lot of third-down conversions throwing to Wes Welker. Tony Romo made a good amount of third-down conversions last year throwing to Cole Beasley. This is the same kind of benefit for Teddy and the Texans. I like AJ, Hopkins, and even Posey on the outside. Our best man on the slot is Martin, and Cooks is definitely an upgrade. Speaking of Martin, Cooks also projects well as a return man. This should make him even more valuable to a Texans fan base that longs for the Jerome Mathis days of our special teams unit.
Round 4 - Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
As I alluded to earlier, Charles Sims isn't even on DraftTek's big board at all. I don't know why. Either way, Seastrunk is projected as a potential every-down back. At 210 pounds with strong size and projected sub-4.4 speed, his biggest weakness is in the passing game, but since the Bears run an offense that simultaneously ignores running backs as receivers and also is too quick to really allow backs to show off pass blocking, it's hard to tell if Lache is weak as a blocker/catcher or if he just needs an opportunity to show his skills. Either way, he shows off the value of waiting til the middle rounds to draft a backup running back as opposed to paying Ben Tate the money he deserves.
Round 5 - Christian Kirksey, LB, Florida State
Very similar to Ryan Shazier in that he's a pass rusher who is undersized for the 3-4 OLB position and is best used as an interior rusher in the 3-4 and an Elephant in the 4-3. A situational player like this is arguably better value as a 5th round pick rather than a 2nd, but obviously Shazier projects to be better at this job than Kirksey.
round 6 - Jaylen Watkins, CB/FS, Florida
All of the Cornerbacks that are good enough to start at nickel from Day 1 are reached for all draft. Watkins is meant to be depth. He is experienced at both corner and safety, though scouts are pessimistic that he can play safety at the NFL level. However, I think he is better than Brandon Harris, but my main evidence continues to be that Brandon Harris was not better than Brice McCain. But Watkins could develop into a strong 3rd corner in time.
Round 7 - A.J. Tarpley, ILB, Stanford
A pure inside linebacker, he's way undersized currently (just 215), but he has the build to add size/muscle, and his fundamentals are strong. Considering how thin our depth at this position is (even if Reed moves inside permanently), there's something to be said about a guy that I don't think would be awful if he got significant rookie time.
Overall Analysis: Tuitt is a Day 1 starter at DE and would make a great 1-tech in a 4-3 formation. Cooks and Seastrunk would see plenty of game time on offense. Kirksey, Watkins, and Tarpley are likely improvements on our depth by the time their rookie season concludes.
So what do you think of the prospects and positions that I drafted? Which draft do you think was the best? Would you be happy if one of these drafts came to fruition? Sound off in the comments below!