Well it looks like the team is pretty well setup for the coming season on paper. So how do we match up the draft pool with our needs at this point? To my way of thinking we MUST get another TE and a Guard out of this draft, and it’s highly likely we’ll get a QB and a receiver. That’s four offensive picks for Lovie’s first draft with the team. But Licht’s comments have got me curious about what drafting philosophy he will follow. I believe we have several philosophical directions we can go in:
1. Take the Best Player Available
This has always struck me as such an obvious thing to say, but one that rarely happens. Teams seem to always talk themselves into getting who they want/need. Our recent debates on this site about Jake Matthews are a perfect example. If he is the BPA will we take him at 7? It’s tough to imagine taking a top tackle when you have two starting tackles. Does it make sense to draft him in the top 10 to play guard? Whatever the case may be, Licht has paid lip service to the idea that after filling our needs in Free Agency we will take the BPA. We’ll see if he follows through on it. My Prediction: We will not take BPA throughout the draft.
2. If You Don’t Have a Franchise QB You Must Get a Franchise QB.
Obviously this is easy to say but it is also what leads to so many bad QB picks and ruined careers in the NFL. QBs thrown onto bad teams and asked to be the savior. Hopefully we have the roster built up at other positions that a QB could come in and not be asked to carry the team, or even be able to sit for as much as a year before being asked to take over. I believe Licht’s comments on this matter should be taken well salted. I think they want Bridgewater but then have some sort of later round back up plan if he doesn’t fall to us. I don’t think they will trade up for Bridgewater. But with the Texans and the Raiders having left themselves with no one but Fitzpatrick and Schaub respectively, I believe Bridgewater and one of the other two will be gone when we pick. I think Cleveland and Jacksonville will both pass on QBs with their first picks. My prediction: We will have the opportunity to draft either Bortles or Manziel at 7, and we will not take them.
3. A Franchise Commitment to the Defensive Line
We love having Lovie back, and we predict his philosophy will be to invest heavily in the D Line and that spending will balance out the need to spend big in the secondary. Right now DE doesn’t look like a position of immediate need as we’ve picked up a locked in starter DE and have three other players with talent on the roster. I’m not counting Means. Clayborn and Bowers are in contract years so we can evaluate them this year with a real coach and resign one of them as needed. However committing to the line means you need depth and quality. Therefore pass rush options are popular picks in mock drafts and make sense with our philosophy, even if they crowd up an already crowded position group. The option that isn’t getting much discussion is the possibility of a DT. We have much less depth on the interior and there seem to be a number of solid prospects that we could have our pick of, even if we trade back. My Prediction: We will not take a DE in the first three picks, but may take a pass rusher like Mack or a DT.
4. A Franchise Commitment to the Offensive Line
In Chicago Lovie used to love to say "We get off the bus running the ball." It’s clear we want to run the ball and that our questionable QB play this year is going to require every other facet of the team to be solid if we want to win. Whether we go with one of our two (back up) QBs or try to develop a rookie, they will need to be well protected. At this point I don’t think we can rely on Nicks. He’s a bonus if he plays but we need to find two starters, and even that leaves us with no depth. My prediction: A Tackle will be selected in the 1st two picks and deployed as a guard. Then an undersized guard prospect will be drafted in round 5 or later.
5. A Franchise Caliber QB is Not Necessary with Enough Talent in the Skill Positions and the Right System.
Increasingly I think that Tedford plans to go with McCown this year with a late round developmental guy in his back pocket. For that he has got two new O Linemen to fit his scheme and he’ll grab two more in the draft. This is a deep receiver draft so it seems apparent that at some point we will take one. The question is if we make a third receiver and/or a TE receiving threat more of a priority than a Lineman or a highly rated QB prospect. My prediction: We will not come out of this draft with a credible starting QB.
The way the draft breaks it looks like we will miss out on the top guys who would really work for us. Bridgewater, Clowney, Robinson, Mack and Watkins. There are only a handful of decent TEs and Guards, but lots of pretty good options at Tackle and Wide Receiver. So my final prediction is that Licht trade back to 20 or lower in the 1st for an extra 2nd and then we will go Defensive Lineman, TE and OT/OG in that order. Then we scoop up a receiver with the 3rd round pick.