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Reading the NFL Draft Tea Leaves: Just Announce the Pick, Cleveland

A quartet of rumors and what they mean for the 2018 draft

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Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As promised, with the 2018 NFL Draft less than a week away, the media has taken to new heights. There are now, by my count. 60 players being considered in the first round, 7 quarterbacks linked to round one teams, and the Browns are, for sure, taking some player that’s different from the player they were, for sure, taking a day ago. Pouring through these rumors is an exercise in multi-tasking, but I did my best to squint through the smoke and determine where the real fire lies and what it all could possibly mean.

Make up your minds, Cleveland…

For months, the consensus, undisputed choice for the Cleveland Browns has been USC’s Sam Darnold. As we approach draft day, it should be a surprise to no one that the Cleveland media has spun this story into an incomprehensible mess. Exhibit A.

Hold up.. over the last two weeks we’ve been force fed Wyoming’s Josh Allen as a new contender for the 1st overall pick, but the favorite was still Darnold. This tweet doesn’t even mention Darnold.

OH. OH OKAY. Look, this is the same thing that happened last year. Myles Garrett was the slam dunk pick for the Browns at the top of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Browns shocked the world (not really) when they selected Garrett despite the media circus that suggested quarterback Mitch Trubisky was receiving strong consideration. I still have Darnold in marker, as I trust the Cleveland media less than I trust myself to not get black out drunk on draft night.

But wait, there’s more! Kevin Clark of The Ringer reported that the Browns could take not one, but TWO quarterbacks in the first round.

“The people I have thought about it, discussed it, and investigated it. This is not to say it will happen, but the Browns have considered it. In fact, one person I spoke with could immediately rattle off every previous instance of teams drafting two passers high because he’d done the prep work on the idea.”

Kolton Miller, OT1 for some reason…

“I continue to hear from evaluators and offensive line coaches I most trust that Miller, and not Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, is the best tackle in the draft.” - Jason La Canfora

Let’s stop for a second. If Kolton Miller is considered the best tackle in this draft, it might be best to shoot these tackles into the sun. La Canfora continues…

“Miller has the potential to be an elite left tackle with tremendous feet on a 6-foot-9 frame.”

Stop, STOP! Sorry, but if tremendous feet means he literally can’t get out of his stance and into his drive-catch effectively, yeah they’re tremendous. Per people that actually coach the position that I’ve talked to, and others I trust, that false step is not something that is easily coached out of a player. Until it’s fixed, he’s going to get feasted on by speed rushes unless he receives Jack Conklin-level help.

Also, 6’9” is not a good thing*; in fact it’s a detriment if you have pad level issues, which Miller also has. Then you look at his wide, late punch, and you’ve got a perfect three for three on technical issues that he’ll need to get cleaned up and quick.

“Plenty of teams have their eye on him. McGlinchey, from what I gather, is much more likely to go in the late-teens to early-20s. Not sure Miller makes it past Detroit..”

I have an early 4th round grade on Miller. I like him as a developmental project with tremendous athleticism that is hidden behind numerous technical flaws. It shows you how weak the top of the offensive tackle class is this year that Miller is being considered in the OT1 conversation.

*[BLG Note: Speak for yourself, Kist, I’m 6’9”.]

Denver Bronocs moving out…

“Have long reported that I don’t get any information leading me to believe Denver is taking a quarterback and the Broncos are very open to a trade. John Elway confirmed the trade part at his press conference Thursday, and if the Broncos did swap picks with the Bills, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is someone very much on their radar.” - Jason La Canfora

Earlier in the week, I mocked the Broncos trading down to 11th overall, allowing the Miami Dolphins to move up and select Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. There’s a lot of moving parts to all of this, including Mayfield being heavily linked to the New York Jets in the past couple of days. If Mayfield goes 3rd overall, the incentive for the Dolphins is less attractive. If the Buffalo Bills make the move from 12th overall it would be for UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who is rumored to slide on April 26th.

The other scenario includes the Broncos, Dolphins, and Bills staying at their respective draft slots while Rosen slides. When Rosen is still available at 10th overall with the Oakland Raiders at the clock, don’t be shocked if the New England Patriots come calling. Rosen is my QB1, possessing the mental acuity and accuracy to be a long-time starter in the league, and would be too perfect successor for the aging Tom Brady. If the league collectively allows it to happen, shame on them.

The other component to this is where linebackers will come off the board. Georgia’s Roquan Smith is reportedly the consensus cream of the crop and should go top 10. Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds was also mentioned by La Canfora as worthy of a top 10 selection.

“Edmunds, at just age 19, is a lock to go in the top 10 from everything I’m hearing and I wouldn’t be shocked if he went as high as sixth overall depending on who else comes off the board. His stock has continued to soar through this process.” - Jason La Canfora

Sixth overall seems super rich for Edmunds, despite his tremendous (incoming buzzword) upside. Still, that would leave the Broncos with one option at 11th overall if they wanted a linebacker, and that’s Vander Esch. After Vander Esch, Alabama’s Rashaan Evans is the only remaining linebacker on the board that I would consider in the first round. The Eagles brought in Evans for an official visit, but if the scenario plays out as suggested, that’s a long way to go to 32nd overall without another linebacker being selected.

Cowboys don’t have a first round grade on Sutton…

“Despite needing a wide receiver, I’m told the Dallas Cowboys do not consider Courtland Sutton a first-round talent. They would consider him in Round 2 if they don’t address the position in Round 1 and Sutton falls that far.” - Tony Pauline

Opinions on SMU’s wide receiver Courtland Sutton are all over the place in the evaluation community, so it’s not a surprise that it’s the same for NFL teams. Sutton supplanting the recently released Dez Bryant seems like a slam dunk for me, but sometimes things make too much sense for the Cowboys and it clouds their vision.

The Cowboys, like the Eagles, don’t hide their intentions when mapping out their official visits, and they’ve looked heavily into this wide receiver class:

They’ve also had workouts with LSU’s DJ Chark, Colorado State’s Michael Gallup, Penn State’s Daesean Hamilton, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, UCF’s Tre’Quan Smith, and Limestone wide receiver Vyncent Smith, who I profiled on episode 16 of The Kist & Solak Show. On top of all that, they worked out SMU’s Trey Quinn during “Dallas Day” among several other less well known receivers.

If the reports that they are not sold on Sutton are accurate, Ridley and Moore are still firmly in play for the Cowboys in the first round.

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