The NFL General Manager Team Building Strategy As It Relates To The NFL Draft

Written By: David Maziasz - Apr• 22•14

As we enter the final stretch before the NFL Draft, I want to share a collection of thoughts and observations from the research that I have done on the NFL general managers. When I began this blog, I had assumptions that shaped how I looked at the draft, and it reflected in how I designed and shaped my mock drafts. Five drafts later, my understanding of this process has led me to view things much differently. Found below are some previously held ideas of mine, in addition to some newer theories that I am excited to test for accuracy.

Original assumptions about how the draft works

  1. Team need is primary indicator in draft picking
  2. Most, if not all team draft boards look pretty much the same (this makes big boards rather useful tools)

These assumptions eventually were replaced by newer ones:

  • Teams fall into two major categories
  1. drafting for need
  2. drafting best player available

Listening to dozens of post draft press conferences, I realized the term “best player available” is rather vague and is used frequently by most teams to describe why they selected a certain player, saying player X was the highest rated player on their board when they picked. Each team’s best player available will probably be different, especially as the draft progresses. To understand what is meant by this term “best player available,” it is essential to understand the process of building a draft board, and its role on draft day.

Building a draft board

First, understand that this is a process.

A team’s draft board is usually made up of the 100 or 150 prospects that that team rated the highest. This sounds straightforward, but it requires us to go back and define the term “best.” What makes one player better than another, in the eyes of Team X?

Consider these factors:

  1. Scheme fit-does this player have the skills to play in our scheme? Some teams are very scheme specific, while others are very flexible and prefer players with a high level of versatility
  2. Physical Measurements- Teams sometimes place a premium on prospects who display a certain trait(s) such as height, weight, arm length, speed, and hand size. These specifications can be very specific, and varies from team to team. Most of these traits are natural, and cannot be coached, thus being heavily linked to perceived “upside.” More on that later.
  3. On-field playing temperament-The majority of teams are looking for players who play the game a certain way. Franchises such as the Steelers, Ravens, and now the Seahawks have developed a very recognizable style of play. Does a prospect show that intensity, hustle, physicality, consistent effort on the field?
  4. Off-field character-Is this player a leader/team captain? Do they have off field issues? If so, were these issues legal offenses or team rules violations? Teams want to feel comfortable with the character of the player they are bringing in. Certain teams are very strict in this area, and will remove players with certain issues off their board entirely. Pre-draft visits and interviews play a role in this area of evaluation.
  5. Other traits-Some teams have additional factors that can increase their value considerably, such as special teams experience, being able to play multiple positions, or even experience playing in certain highly competitive conferences.

New understanding of team building strategy:

Measurables are a BIG deal. More or less, teams want players who look the part of an NFL player. Coaches can teach many things, but speed, length, and size they cannot improve significantly. This may seem obvious, but the more I study about it, the more I find this to be true.

The “targeting a player” approach to drafting

First of all, I contend that NFL teams use NFL free agency, and to some extent the college free agency to fill positions of need. The draft is for finding players that fit what that team does, regardless of position (expect if they have a top quarterback). This theory does not eliminate the consideration of need from the equation, but it heavily de-emphasizes it by making it something of a tie-breaker.

Through my analysis of specific team drafting behavior, and by listening to post draft press conferences, teams do indeed target specific players, identifying which players they like the most, then maneuvering into position to select these players at spots close to league value.

Since rookie contracts no longer are quite so enormous, moving up and down in the draft has become much more prevalent, not to mention less costly. This further aids in the targeting approach to drafting.

How do teams decide to move up or down?

Here is an example:

Lets pretend we are looking at the draft board of the our favorite team, Team X.

The players on our board are listed along with their respective grades, (each player name will he the position he plays, and the number that follows is his draft grade). Our current draft pick is at number 11 overall.

  1. DE 98
  2. OT 98
  3. OLB 97
  4. DT 97
  5. WR 95
  6. CB 95
  7. DE 91
  8. DE 91
  9. RB 90
  10. DT 90
  11. G 90
  12. S 89

Examining our board, you see there is a large drop off between prospect number 6 and 7. A good strategy would be for us to try to move up to select one of the top 6 players on our board if we do not think any will be available at our pick at #11. Now, if we are not the type of team that is aggressive in moving up, we may feel that we can move back and still get a good player while acquiring more picks. Building on the scenario above, lets now say that our top 6 guys are off the board and we are on the clock at #11. Here is how our board looks for the next 8 picks:

  1. CB 89
  2. ILB 89
  3. WR 89
  4. G 89
  5. OLB 89
  6. DT 86
  7. DE 86
  8. OT 85

Now, we have another cluster of similarly rated players between prospects #9-19. This is a great opportunity to try to move back from #11. Why? We have 11 prospects with virtually the same grade. We could move back to the back end of that cluster, receiving additional picks plus a very good player.

Using the targeting approach to drafting, let’s go through this same example, but lets just say that we chose to stay put at #11 and select prospect #9 on our board. Assume that prospect #11 is very highly rated by us, and he fits our system much more than he fits other teams. His league value is probably around the early 2nd round pick So, if we really like this guy, we decide to trade up 5 spots to select him. Now we have acquired the number 9 and 11 players on our board. Nice work!

Are private workouts and interviews an indication of interest by a team?

Pre-draft interviews and visits between specific players and teams do not necessarily demonstrate strong interest. Teams will often bring in players with some off field issue to get more information on the prospect. However, this holds true primarily in regards to early round prospects. Clubs will frequently select players with whom they have met in the later rounds and in college free agency.

Final Thoughts

I hope this information is useful to you, and that it will help explain why some of the decisions you see are made. As you know, the thoughts provided here are based on studying the data and from reading as much as I can about this fascinating topic. I shared my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours as well!

Full 1st Round Mock Draft

Written By: David Maziasz - Apr• 10•14

- (Updated 4/10/14)-

A preface to this mock draft, I focus a tremendous amount of effort in understanding the specifics of the team building process of as many NFL teams as possible. Therefore, you will see lots of references to team specific profiles and schemes. These are vitally important in my building of this mock draft scenario. One other note is that teams often target a player that fits their profile. This is significant because it indicates that they have a high chance of trading up or down to select that player at a spot that makes sense.

1. Houston Texans

Decision Makers: Rick Smith, Bill O’Brien

–Drafts primarily for: Production/Leadership

Blake Bortles | QB | Central Florida

This is a very interesting situation in Houston. There are strong reasons to favor Jadeveon Clowney (or even Khalil Mack) here, making the Texans defense a whole lot better by adding an explosive pass rusher with rare ability. Yet, there is compelling logic to drafting Blake Bortles. The size and type of character he displays is right in line with what Bill O’Brien likes, and the new head coach has had a first hand glimpse of the difficulty of facing the UCF quarterback while at Penn State. The Texans must ensure they have a point guard to distribute to their talented skill players.

2. St. Louis Rams (from WAS)

Decision Makers: Les Snead, Jeff Fisher

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Jadeveon Clowney | DE | South Carolina

The Rams have a keen eye for high ceiling impact players. They like length, explosiveness, physicality. If you look at their recent 1st round selections, each of them displays a combination of those traits. So, a guy like Clowney fits extremely well in all three of those categories. This defensive line already has a boat load of talent, and if they can justify the additional cap hit of adding another premiere rusher, then this could be a home run selection for St. Louis.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

Decision Makers: David Caldwell, Gus Bradley

–Drafts primarily for: Production/Leadership

Khalil Mack | OLB | Buffalo

The NCAA record holder for career forced fumbles, and a dominant rusher according to the Pass Rusher Rating, Mack would give the Jaguars defense the kind of versatility to become the centerpiece of this defense. Gus Bradley could employ him as a strong side linebacker or even weakside end in the Jaguars’ 4-3 under scheme.

4. Cleveland Browns

Decision Makers: Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Sammy Watkins | WR | Clemson

Cleveland’s new offensive scheme is expected to feature the West Coast style of attacking opponents mainly by stretching defenses horizontally by getting rid of the ball quickly to the playmakers. From a schematic standpoint, Sammy Watkins is a slam dunk fit for this brand of football. At Clemson, he was unstoppable with the ball in his hands, and would add an element not currently found on the Browns roster.

Oakland Raiders (NFL.com)

5. Oakland Raiders

Decision Makers: Reggie McKenzie, Dennis Allen

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Anthony Barr | OLB | UCLA

The Raiders run a multiple look defense, but they have yet to acquire a versatile pass rusher to power up this unit. I cannot think of anyone better suited for this task than Anthony Barr, who has been a force for UCLA, despite working constantly against opposing teams intent on shutting him down. This would be a great pick for Oakland.

6. Atlanta Falcons

Decision Makers: Thomas Dimitroff, Mike Smith

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Greg Robinson | OT | Auburn

In my research on Atlanta’s profile for offensive linemen, I found that they target blockers with exceptional arm length. The Auburn tackle, Greg Robinson has 35 inch arms, which put him in the rare category. Also, as befits a man of his stature and power, he fits the Falcons’ man blocking scheme well.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Decision Makers: Jason Licht, Lovie Smith

–Drafts primarily for:???

C.J. Mosley | LB | Alabama

The primary need for this team going into free agency was to acquire a quality edge rusher to help establish a strong pass rush for the Bucs’ Tampa Two defense. Having accomplished this with the signing of Michael Johnson, two potential moves make sense to me-either obtaining more depth at linebacker, or else adding another vertical threat to the passing offense. If they choose the former, then Alabama’s CJ Mosley would give them a LB capable of playing at least two spots for them. The other option is to make a move for A&M’s Mike Evans to pair with Vincent Jackson.

8. Minnesota Vikings

Decision Makers: Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Justin Gilbert | CB | Oklahoma St

As a unit facing at least one giant receiver in every division matchup, the Vikings would do well to have an ample supply of big defensive backs to match the likes of Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall, and Jordy Nelson. Xavier Rhodes helped them get bigger in the back end, but selecting another CB with elite speed, size, and ball skills would make a huge difference in strengthening the defense. Justin Gilbert also adds dynamic ability in the return game.

9. Buffalo Bills

Decision Makers: Doug Whaley, Doug Marrone

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Mike Evans | WR | Texas A&M

According to SportingCharts’ QB ratings in the red zone during the 2013 season, Buffalo was 6th from the bottom, indicating the necessity of adding size to the receiver group. The Aggies’ Mike Evans comes from a basketball background, which has helped him use excellent positioning, along with his 35+ inch arms (!!!) to win what are called 50/50 jump balls. This would be a huge help when trying to score in the red zone.

10. Detroit Lions

Decision Makers: Martin Mayhew, Jim Caldwell

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Brandin Cooks | WR | Oregon St

If Detroit has their druthers, Sammy Watkins would be their first choice. Finding a dangerous option to pair with Calvin Johnson has been a goal for this front office for years, to no avail. But having to move up 5+ spots isn’t likely, making the choice of Brandin Cooks (or even Odell Beckham), another electric receiver out of Oregon State a solid option here. Cooks is a tough player, despite his smaller stature, and will attack the ball in the air like a bigger receiver.

11. Tennessee Titans

Decision Makers: Ruston Webster, Ken Whisenhunt

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Darqueze Dennard | CB | Michigan St

On many levels, Darqueze Dennard is a great match with Coach Whisenhunt. The Michigan State corner has started a ton of games, which speaks to his toughness. He plays the physical brand of football that is typical of a Whisenhunt team. Moreover, Dennard’s specialty is playing in man coverage, a hallmark of defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s pressure packages. On many levels, I consider Dennard’s value to be markedly higher here than is many other schemes.

12. New York Giants

Decision Makers: Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin

–Drafts primarily for: Production/Leadership

Jake Matthews | OT | Texas A&M

I like Jake Matthews to the Giants because he fits their profile in many respects. Just like in the case of Justin Pugh, the Giants like versatility in their blockers, and they have a preference for athleticism and quickness. These traits give the team the luxury of achieving interchangeability on the offensive line. The one thing that doesn’t seem to fit is that Matthews’ hand size is marginally below the draft average. New York’s preference has typically been to select prospects with extra large hands.

13. St. Louis Rams

Decision Makers: Les Snead, Jeff Fisher

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Calvin Pryor | S | Louisville

Jeff Fisher has had athletic safeties to work with in his defense in Tennessee. Yet, a difference maker back there has eluded him in St. Louis. But no longer! Calvin Pryor, a surprisingly smooth athlete, and can do all the things expected of a playmaking safety. Great player with a lot of potential.

14. Chicago Bears

Decision Makers: Phil Emery, Marc Trestman

–Drafts primarily for: Height, weight, speed

Odell Beckham | WR | LSU

I’ve heard him say it, Phil Emery has “a preference overall, towards SEC football players” because of the high competition they face on a daily basis. Odell Beckham, an SEC receiver is tough, an excellent kick returner, and could eat up all that space opened up by the Bears’ two supersized outside receivers. He would complement their skillsets very well.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

Decision Makers: Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin

–Drafts primarily for:

Stephon Tuitt | DL | Notre Dame

From a body type perspective, Tuitt is a perfect fit in Pittsburgh. He has superb arm length and height, both traits the Steelers have targeted in their linemen. He can beat double teams, and is a physical player. Pittsburgh can build an impressive rotation with Tuitt, Cam Heyward, and Nick Williams, allowing them to stay fresh for 60 minutes.

16. Dallas Cowboys

Decision Makers: Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Aaron Donald | DT | Pittsburgh

Dallas has made the commitment to switch from their 3-4 defense to Monte Kiffin/Rod Marinelli’s Tampa Two style. Success hinges on establishing a 4 man rush, so finding a handful of athletic, quick-twitch guys is the key. Signing Henry Melton was a big step forward, but there is must be rotation of linemen rather than one or two marquee players. Although short in stature, Aaron Donald is the same type of explosive athlete that Melton is, and is a perfect schematic fit for Dallas.

17. Baltimore Ravens

Decision Makers: Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh

–Drafts primarily for: Height, weight, speed

Marqise Lee | WR | USC

You can count on the Ravens selecting a player with that ultra competitive, tough, and intense style for which the team is known. Marqise Lee is just a tad shorter than the team prefers, but he is tough as nails, will play through injury, and it is evident that he has a sheer love for the game.

New York Jets (NFL.com)

18. New York Jets

Decision Makers: John Idzik, Rex Ryan

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Taylor Lewan | OT | Michigan

Not that I believe his value is anywhere near this low, I think Taylor Lewan could be a great future replacement for D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Based on circumstance, I feel that only a few teams are considering using a first round selection on a tackle this year, which could work to the Jets’ advantage.

19. Miami Dolphins

Decision Makers: Dennis Hickey, Joe Philbin

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Eric Ebron | TE | North Carolina

Miami needs dynamic playmakers on offense, and a big target in the middle of the field will allow more single coverage on the outside for Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline.

20. Arizona Cardinals

Decision Makers: Steve Keim, Bruce Ariens

–Drafts primarily for: Production/Leadership

Zack Martin | OT | Notre Dame

Arizona now has two young tackles in Bobby Massie and Jared Veldheer. They could still be interested in Zack Martin because of his profile fit with this organization. This front office loves leaders/team captains (Martin is a two-time captain), productive (had the best Pass blocker rating this season), and tough prospects in the draft.

21. Green Bay Packers

Decision Makers: Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Kyle Fuller | CB | Virginia Tech

.In a recent draft, Mike Mayock made the statement that Green Bay prioritizes ball skills more than just about any other team in the league. Kyle Fuller has very good ball skills and matches the Packers’ size traits as well.

22. Philadelphia Eagles

Decision Makers: Howie Roseman, Chip Kelley

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Bradley Roby | CB | Ohio St

.If one of the PAC-12 standout performers is available (Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee) I would say the Eagles select him. If the character work done on Roby checks out, he is a front runner to Philadelphia because he has a rare combination of size and speed.

23. Kansas City Chiefs

Decision Makers: John Dorsey, Andy Reid

–Drafts primarily for: Production/Leadership

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix | S | Alabama

The free safety position alongside Eric Berry looks wide open at this point. Historically, Andy Reid has liked players with pro-ready skills, and this Alabama safety has seen a complex system under Nick Saban. Optimistically, this selection would allow Eric Berry to roam closer to the line of scrimmage and use his outstanding instincts to make plays.

24. Cincinnati Bengals

Decision Makers: Mike Brown, Marvin Lewis

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Johnny Manziel | QB | Texas A&M

If the Raiders go with another player, my expectation is that teams picking in the middle of round 1 will not be a match for Manziel. Cincinnati has built a very strong roster, and adding more competition for Andy Dalton at QB makes sense. Furthermore, the Bengals front office almost exclusively drafts players from big-time programs.

25. San Diego Chargers

Decision Makers: Tom Telesco, Mike McCoy

–Drafts primarily for: Production/Leadership

Davante Adams | WR | Fresno St

Under the new staff, San Diego has had success early with drafting highly productive football players with great leadership skills. I could see them targeting Marqise Lee, Zack Martin, Darqueze Dennard, or even Davante Adams in the first round. Adams being available gives the Chargers another tall, run after the catch target to pair with Keenan Allen. Both of these guys are fantastic fits for Mike McCoy’s quick strike offense.

26. Cleveland Browns (from IND)

Decision Makers: Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Ryan Shazier | OLB | Ohio St

The one non-quarterback option that makes sense in Cleveland is the blazing fast linebacker from Ohio State, Ryan Shazier. Mike Pettine emphasizes speed over size in his linebacking group, guys who can flow to the football and play in space. Ryan Shazier is as explosive a linebacker as you will find, clocking in the 4.38 range at his pro day, and jumping 42 inches at the combine.

27. New Orleans Saints

Decision Makers: Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Dee Ford | DE/OLB | Auburn

Continuing their transition to a 3-4 defense, New Orleans has an opportunity to add to their pass rush. With their 1st round picks, this front office tends to select productive prospects from big programs (Kenny Vaccaro, Mark Ingram, Cam Jordan, etc). At the Senior Bowl and in the regular season, Dee Ford was a relentless speed rusher who helped bring Auburn to the national title game.

28. Carolina Panthers

Decision Makers: David Gettleman, Ron Rivera

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Morgan Moses | OT | Virginia

A power blocker in a power running scheme makes this a great schematic match. Carolina could really use depth at both tackle positions.

29. New England Patriots

Decision Makers: Bill Belichick

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Ra’Shede Hageman | DT/DE | Minnesota

There is a high chance that New England targets Hageman with their pick. The Minnesota Gopher has the traits of a Patriot: scheme versatility, team captain, special teamer, and he has the length that Belichick wants at the position.

30. San Francisco 49ers

Decision Makers: Trent Baalke, Jim Harbaugh

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Jason Verrett | CB | TCU

For the most part, San Francisco has a strong taste for length and physicality on their roster. One position where the premium is on speed is in the defensive backfield. Among the fastest prospects at the combine, Jason Verrett is a small, yet physical tackling corner who could play a valuable role as a nickel in sub-packages.

31. Denver Broncos

Decision Makers: John Fox

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Xavier Sua-Filo | G | UCLA

Watching the Super Bowl, the Broncos had a very tough time providing protection for Peyton Manning. In fact, Denver struggled in the run game as well. A grassroots effort in getting more physical and more athletic on the offensive line could have a big impact next season. I like the UCLA guard’s ability to play with power, and he has some position flexibility as well.

Seattle Seahawks (NFL.com)

32. Seattle Seahawks

Decision Makers: John Schneider, Pete Carroll

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Kelvin Benjamin | WR | Florida St

.If Ryan Shazier is availabe, I expect him to be atop the draft board. If not, another player with some rare skill that Pete Carroll can mold is Kelvin Benjamin. Though he isn’t as fast as the typical Seahawk, Benjamin has elite length and size for the position. The remaining question is whether he has that intensity of a Seahawk?

2014 NFL Mock Draft-Top 15 picks

Written By: David Maziasz - Apr• 03•14

- (Updated 4/3/14) -

1. Houston Texans

Decision Makers: Rick Smith, Bill O’Brien

–Drafts primarily for: Production/Leadership

Blake Bortles | QB | Central Florida

This is a very interesting situation in Houston. There are strong reasons to favor Jadeveon Clowney (or even Khalil Mack) here, making the Texans defense a whole lot better by adding an explosive pass rusher with rare ability. Yet, there is compelling logic to drafting Blake Bortles. The size and type of character he displays is right in line with what Bill O’Brien likes, and the new head coach has had a first hand glimpse of the difficulty of facing the UCF quarterback while at Penn State. The Texans must ensure they have a point guard to distribute to their talented skill players.

2. St. Louis Rams (from WAS)

Decision Makers: Les Snead, Jeff Fisher

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Jadeveon Clowney| DE | South Carolina

The Rams have a keen eye for high ceiling impact players. They like length, explosiveness, physicality. If you look at their recent 1st round selections, each of them displays a combination of those traits. So, a guy like Clowney fits extremely well in all three of those categories. This defensive line already has a boat load of talent, and if they can justify the additional cap hit of adding another premiere rusher, then this could be a home run selection for St. Louis.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

Decision Makers: David Caldwell, Gus Bradley

–Drafts primarily for: Production/Leadership

Khalil Mack | OLB | Buffalo

The NCAA record holder for career forced fumbles, and a dominant rusher according to the Pass Rusher Rating, Mack would give the Jaguars defense the kind of versatility to become the centerpiece of this defense. Gus Bradley could employ him as a strong side linebacker or even weakside end in the Jaguars’ 4-3 under scheme.

4. Cleveland Browns

Decision Makers: Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Sammy Watkins | WR | Clemson

Cleveland’s new offensive scheme is expected to feature the West Coast style of attacking opponents mainly by stretching defenses horizontally by getting rid of the ball quickly to the playmakers. From a schematic standpoint, Sammy Watkins is a slam dunk fit for this brand of football. At Clemson, he was unstoppable with the ball in his hands, and would add an element not currently found on the Browns roster.

Oakland Raiders (NFL.com)

5. Oakland Raiders

Decision Makers: Reggie McKenzie, Dennis Allen

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Anthony Barr | OLB | UCLA

The Raiders run a multiple look defense, but they have yet to acquire a versatile pass rusher to power up this unit. I cannot think of anyone better suited for this task than Anthony Barr, who has been a force for UCLA, despite working constantly against opposing teams intent on shutting him down. This would be a great pick for Oakland.

-

6. Atlanta Falcons

Decision Makers: Thomas Dimitroff, Mike Smith

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Greg Robinson | OT | Auburn

In my research on Atlanta’s profile for offensive linemen, I found that they target blockers with exceptional arm length. The Auburn tackle, Greg Robinson has 35 inch arms, which put him in the rare category. Also, as befits a man of his stature and power, he fits the Falcons’ man blocking scheme well.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Decision Makers: Jason Licht, Lovie Smith

–Drafts primarily for:???

C.J. Mosley | LB | Alabama

The primary need for this team going into free agency was to acquire a quality edge rusher to help establish a strong pass rush for the Bucs’ Tampa Two defense. Having accomplished this with the signing of Michael Johnson, two potential moves make sense to me-either obtaining more depth at linebacker, or else adding another vertical threat to the passing offense. If they choose the former, then Alabama’s CJ Mosley would give them a LB capable of playing at least two spots for them. The other option is to make a move for A&M’s Mike Evans to pair with Vincent Jackson.

8. Minnesota Vikings

Decision Makers: Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Justin Gilbert | CB | Oklahoma St

As a unit facing at least one giant receiver in every division matchup, the Vikings would do well to have an ample supply of big defensive backs to match the likes of Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall, and Jordy Nelson. Xavier Rhodes helped them get bigger in the back end, but selecting another CB with elite speed, size, and ball skills would make a huge difference in strengthening the defense. Justin Gilbert also adds dynamic ability in the return game.

9. Buffalo Bills

Decision Makers: Doug Whaley, Doug Marrone

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Mike Evans | WR | Texas A&M

According to SportingCharts’ QB ratings in the red zone during the 2013 season, Buffalo was 6th from the bottom, indicating the necessity of adding size to the receiver group. The Aggies’ Mike Evans comes from a basketball background, which has helped him use excellent positioning, along with his 35+ inch arms (!!!) to win what are called 50/50 balls. This would be a huge help when trying to score in the red zone.

10. Detroit Lions

Decision Makers: Martin Mayhew, Jim Caldwell

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Brandin Cooks | WR | Oregon St

If Detroit has their druthers, Sammy Watkins would be their first choice. Finding a dangerous option to pair with Calvin Johnson has been a goal for this front office for years, to no avail. But having to move up 5+ spots isn’t likely, making the choice of Brandin Cooks, another electric receiver out of Oregon State a solid option here. Cooks is a tough player, despite his smaller stature, and will attack the ball in the air like a bigger receiver.

-

11. Tennessee Titans

Decision Makers: Ruston Webster, Ken Whisenhunt

–Drafts primarily for: ???

Darqueze Dennard | CB | Michigan St

On many levels, Darqueze Dennard is a great match with Coach Whisenhunt. The Michigan State corner has started a ton of games, which speaks to his toughness. He plays the physical brand of football that is typical of a Whisenhunt team. Moreover, Dennard’s specialty is playing in man coverage, a hallmark of defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s pressure packages. On many levels, I consider Dennard’s value to be markedly higher here than is many other schemes.

12. New York Giants

Decision Makers: Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin

–Drafts primarily for: Production/Leadership

Jake Matthews | OT | Texas A&M

I like Jake Matthews to the Giants because he fits their profile in many respects. Just like in the case of Justin Pugh, the Giants like versatility in their blockers, and they have a preference for athleticism and quickness. These traits give the team the luxury of achieving interchangeability on the offensive line. The one thing that doesn’t seem to fit is that Matthews’ hand size is marginally below the draft average. New York’s preference has typically been to select prospects with extra large hands.

13. St. Louis Rams

Decision Makers: Les Snead, Jeff Fisher

–Drafts primarily for: Height, Weight, Speed

Calvin Pryor | S | Louisville

Jeff Fisher has had athletic safeties to work with in his defense in Tennessee. Yet, a difference maker back there has eluded him in St. Louis. But no longer! Calvin Pryor, a surprisingly smooth athlete, and can do all the things expected of a playmaking safety. Great player with a lot of potential.

14. Chicago Bears

Decision Makers: Phil Emery, Marc Trestman

–Drafts primarily for: Height, weight, speed

Odell Beckham | WR | LSU

I’ve heard him say it, Phil Emery has “a preference overall, towards SEC football players” because of the high competition they face on a daily basis. Odell Beckham, an SEC receiver is tough, an excellent kick returner, and could eat up all that space opened up by the Bears’ two supersized outside receivers. He would complement their skillsets very well.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

Decision Makers: Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin

–Drafts primarily for: Combination

Stephon Tuitt | DL | Notre Dame

From a body type perspective, Tuitt is a perfect fit in Pittsburgh. He has superb arm length and height, both traits the Steelers have targeted in their linemen. He can beat double teams, and is a physical player. Pittsburgh can build an impressive rotation with Tuitt, Cam Heyward, and Nick Williams, allowing them to stay fresh for 60 minutes. If perhaps Calvin Pryor is available here, that could be another interesting fit for Pittsburgh.

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Talking Draft on BlogTalkRadio

Written By: David Maziasz - Mar• 29•14

This evening, I had the pleasure of being invited back on Every Day Sports Talk with David B.

Listen to the interview, where we discussed Johnny Manziel and some of the other players from the state of Texas. As always, let me know what you think, whether it is about something I said, or even how I said it.