Every year, without fail, I swear off the NFL Draft. Every year, I try my best not to be bamboozled by 3 minute clips of slow-motion catches followed by sideline reaction shots to the sounds of some member of the A$AP Mob. The cadre of NFL Draft experts from a decade ago has exploded and now your friend that saw Jameis Winston throw an interception against Notre Dame is convinced that he’s going to be a terrific bust. He threw into double coverage, man. You can’t do that in the NFL.
The fact is, despite the wealth of information that we have regarding pre-draft visits, leaked thoughts from coaches, statistical data, and even the rare Wonderlic score, we haven’t even a modicum of the knowledge that NFL teams gather in the weeks, months, and even years leading up to the draft. Not unlike Jon Snow, we know nothing.
But my arguments against myself always fail. I think that part of the reason we’re driven to mock drafts is trying to appease a very low threshold of appearing smart on the internet. ESPN NFL Draft experts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay each predicted four of 32 first round picks correctly last year, meaning four players were drafted by the teams Kiper and McShay predicted. Granted some of their picks, like Sammy Watkins to Cleveland, probably should have been the correct pick. But still, that’s an 87.5 percent whiff rate, or basically 32 at-bats from Marlon Byrd. Here’s a more intelligent take on their inaccuracy from a 2012 study of five years worth of Kiper and McShay picks by The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective.
…the gurus’ rankings are off by around 35 spots when compared to the player’s actual performance. In other words, a player Kiper or McShay ranked as the 15th-best player in the draft is most likely to actually have been the 40th-best based on CAV to this point in their careers….In other words, you could take Kiper’s “Big Board” or McShay’s Top 25 and ask any random person to put them in any random order, and on average, that person’s rankings will be about as accurate as predicting future NFL success than any of ESPN’s two experts…
Though it might seem like it, this is not an attack on McShay and Kiper. Theirs is a very difficult job. It’s just evidence that the actual margin of error in this type of predicting is remarkably high. But sometimes you catch the rare instance of your instincts matching that of an NFL General Manager. If that happens a few times a year, a series of boneheaded choice are forgiven and you TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF.
When it comes to the NFL Draft, we are all Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas. But that won’t stop me from searching for my rinky mo-ped. Here are the players the Bengals will absolutely and unequivocally select in the 2015 NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night in Chicago, along with a little help from the spirit of Jon Gruden.
Round one – No. 21 overall
Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
I understand the logic behind drafting an offensive lineman. Really, I do. Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith, old/expensive, contract year. It makes sense that the team would address this position, especially considering nine of the players they brought in for pre-draft visits were offensive linemen. But to the Bengals credit, they’ve come to address talent over need in the first round in recent years and this year’s offensive line crop isn’t as talented as years past. I have a sneaking suspicion, based on nothing whatsoever, that there will be one of the top nine or ten offensive linemen available in this year’s draft come round two.
So I’m going with Brown, a disruptive defensive tackle who also fits an area of concern. Everyone at Paul Brown Stadium is crossing their fingers that Geno Atkins will return to his 2012 form soon, but there have to be concerns with his health throughout the organization. Domata Peko has not been particularly effective for the last two years. The Bengals need a strong interior defensive line presence because that’s where their pass rush begins. They rely on defensive tackles commanding double teams, which frees up ends to have room to maneuver both on the outside and through stunts on the inside. From the minutes and seconds of film that I’ve watched on Brown, he appears to work hard and has good size at 6-2, 319 pounds. If he can get a little stronger, he should be a versatile option for the team before eventually assuming Peko’s spot. Hopefully he’s still around at this point.
Jon Gruden’s analysis: “You look at Malcom Brown, and this kid is big. 6-2, 320, 330 pounds. I mean, THAT’S a defensive tackle. And what I like about him is that he’s got a nasty streak. I mean, he doesn’t play defensive tackle. He PLAYS the defensive tackle position, and I’ll tell you, that’s the kind of big kid that I want to play defensive tackle on my team.”
Other players considered: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC; Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida St.; T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh
Round two – No. 53 overall
Donovan Smith, OT, Penn State
I was wavering between Smith and Cedric Ogbuehi, who came to Cincinnati for a visit, and La’el Collins, whose stock may have dropped some in the past 48 hours or so. I went with Smith simply because I think he’s the likeliest player to still be on the board at this point and no one has convinced me that there is a precipitous decline from someone like Andrus Peat, who many believe to be a mid-first round pick, and Smith. The book on him is that he may have the size but not the athleticism to stick at left tackle, but hey, the team could be in the market for a right tackle too.
Jon Gruden’s analysis: “When I see Donovan Smith, I see a 6-6, 340, almost 350-pound mountain of a man. I mean, he is larger than your average human being. And I’ll tell ya, THAT’s an offensive lineman. And the thing I like about him? He plays with a little nasty streak. And that’s what you want from someone who is 6-6, 350, heck almost 400 pound offensive lineman.”
Round three – No. 85 overall
Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary
More like a Tribe Called Tre, amirite? Get it? It’s William & Mary, and their nickname is Tribe! I wrestled with this pick long and hard, mostly because I really thought the team could benefit from taking Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett. But in this fictional world that I’ve manufactured, some other team scooped up Lockett just before this selection. McBride is anything but a consolation prize, though. He’s got tremendous hands and good size (6-0, 210). The only real knock is the inferior competition argument, but if you think you just waltz into 100+ yards against the Norfolk State Spartans, you are sorely mistaken.
Jon Gruden’s analysis: “I’ll tell you what, that Tre McBride plays more like a William than a Mary. I mean, you look at this kid, and he is 6 feet tall and weighs over 200 pounds. Those are his actual measurements at the combine. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up. And something I noticed on tape? He’s got a streak that borders on nasty.”
Round three – No. 99 overall
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Ekpre-Olomu had a first round grade heading into the year, but inconsistency and a torn ACL to end the season has dropped his stock considerably. He’s a small corner (5-9, 192) but enough with all of that. The real reason I’m so fascinated with Ekpre-Olomu is that I have a dream that is a chant involving his name. Remember in Sister Act when Whoopi has the gals jamming to “Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above?” There’s a moment when they drop the “mater ad mater inter marate” and the whole choir belts out “sanctus sanctus dominus!” Ever since I first heard the cornerback’s name, I couldn’t stop thinking about how his seven-syllable name fits perfectly with this song. So I’d like to formally request the Bengals play “mater ad mater inter marate” after each interception, to which the entire crowd shouts “IFO EKPRE-OLOMU.” Whoopi is the best.
Jon Gruden’s analysis: “This Ifpro Olomalu fella [laughs], well, I’ll tell you his name is not important. What’s important is that he’s about 5-9, 192 pounds and when a player is a little undersized, you know he’ll make up for it with a nasty streak.”
Round four – No. 120 overall
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Now we are into the range where we can start addressing needs or concerns. We’ve heard little in regard to the status of Vontaze Burfict after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee. And the duo of A.J. Hawk and Rey Maualuga should inspire little confidence going forward. Hicks comes with a reputation that he never quite lived up to at Texas, but he does have quickness, and maybe Paul Guenther is the man to unlock that potential.
Jon Gruden’s analysis: “When I see Jordan Hicks, I see a kid who is a 6-1, 236 pound linebacker from the University of Texas. I mean, he is a Texas linebacker. And if I had to describe his streak, it would have to be nasty.”
Round four – No. 135 overall
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Who doesn’t want to watch a battle for backup between A.J. McCarron, and Brett Hundley? Hundley does have potential, but there seem to be too many mechanical flaws in his motion for scouts to get excited. He’s a project, but in the meantime the option of a five play read-option package featuring Hundley, Jeremy Hill, and Gio Bernard is enticing.
Jon Gruden’s analysis: “Brett Hundley is not just a quarterback. He is a 6-3, 226 pound athlete that ran a 4.63 40. I mean, that kid is big and fast. And I saw him play down there in UCLA and his streak is on the spectrum of mean to nasty.”
Round five – No. 157 overall
Jean Sifrin, TE, Massachusetts
The Bengals drafted old man Margus Hunt and weren’t concerned about his age or lack of experience. That same principle applies to Sifrin, a 27-year-old prospect who has gone from high school dropout to NFL hopeful in the span of a decade. (Make sure to check out Emily Kaplan’s story for The MMQB on Sifrin.) At this point, he’s all potential, but the Bengals could use an influx of that at the tight end position.
Jon Gruden’s analysis: “When you look at Jean Sifrin, you see someone might not know much about football. But at 6-5, 245 pounds, he knows something about nasty streaks.”
Round six – No. 197 overall
Austin Shepherd, OT, Alabama
He’s big. He went to Alabama. End scene. Jon?
Jon Gruden’s analysis: “This Austin Shepherd guy is 6-4, 315 pounds. I mean, that’s a man 76 inches tall. I’ve seen his streak before, and it has an air of nastiness to it.”
Round seven – No. 197
Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Southern Miss
By new decree, the only criterion for selecting a seventh rounder will be this: how close is that player’s name to someone from the Key and Peele East-West Game? It was between Nunez-Roches, Quayshawne Buckley, and Obum Gwachum. Tough luck, fellas.
Jon Gruden’s analysis: “Nasty.”
Adam Flango is an Associate Editor at Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @adam_flango.