Mock Draft Tips: Don’t like any of your first-round options? The ‘luxury pick’ is your friend
As part of an occasional series, Fanspeak will offer tips and best practices for its wildly popular and first-of-its-kind On The Clock draft simulator.
Today’s topic: What do you do when all of your favorite targets are drafted ahead of you?
How Dak Prescott became a Cowboy is an example of what can happen when everything goes wrong during a draft.
Dallas, which had the No. 4 overall pick in 2016, thought it would have a shot at either Jared Goff of California or Carson Wentz of North Dakota State.
Then two teams leap-frogged ahead of Dallas: the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles. Those teams wound up with the QBs, so Dallas drafted running back Ezekiell Elliott.
But Dallas still needed to find a replacement for the aging Tony Romo and was determined to draft one. The team was allegedly close to a trade with Seattle to move back into the first round until Denver swooped in with a better offer.
Then it was on to QB choice No. 4: Michigan State’s Connor Cook. Instead, the Raiders – who had just drafted Derek Carr in the second round of the 2014 draft – surprised many and selected Cook with the No. 100 pick overall.
Dallas had the 101st pick.
Finally – finally – after Goff, Wentz, Lynch, Christian Hackenberg, Jacoby Brissett, Cody Kessler and Cook were drafted, Dallas selected Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott with pick No. 135 overall, one of the last picks of the fourth round and the team’s second fourth-rounder.
But that’s one of those rare occasions when something good happens despite a series of unfortunate events.
Most of the time, it’s just a headache.
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What do you do?
Let’s say your team desperately needs an offensive tackle, but you’re picking in the late first-round.
And you figure that at least one of the top OTs — Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills and Josh Jones – should still be there.
Then you watch as all five players are drafted ahead of you.
That’s OK, your team also needs to find a pass rusher. And then you watch as Chase Young (of course), K’Lavon Chaisson and Yetur Gross-Matos all go off the board.
Then repeat the process for that starting cornerback you’re looking for.
Now it’s your turn to draft: What do you do?
This is where the “luxury pick” enters the picture. Similar to taking the best player available regardless of position, a luxury pick is when your team drafts a player at a position that’s already a strength and/or has depth on your team.
This draft strategy works in any round, not just the first-round.
For example, it worked out great for New Orleans, who drafted former Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara in the third round in 2017 despite already having a Pro Bowl RB on the roster in Mark Ingram.
But here’s the caveat for teams that draft luxury players: You have to be committed to giving that prospect playing time. Otherwise, it’s a wasted pick.
Here are five “luxury picks” for the upcoming 2020 NFL draft:
- Dallas (No. 17), WRs Jerry Jeudy, Alabama, or CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma: It’s possible that either player could still be on the board when Dallas goes to draft, especially if there’s a run on OTs, CBs and QBs. Dallas has greater needs than receiver after losing seven starters in the offseason. Plus, Jeudy and Lamb would fit the bill of a “luxury pick” since Dallas already has a pair of young 1,000-yard receivers on its roster, including Pro Bowler Amari Cooper. But you could also make the argument that the top receiver would have a greater impact than the third-best DT or the fourth-best CB. Plus, what’s the plan in Dallas if either Cooper or Michael Gallup miss time with injury?
- Minnesota (Nos. 22 and 25), LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma: Linebacker is low on the list of Minnesota’s team needs, even though Kentrell Brothers is a free agent. Former undrafted free agent Eric Wilson did well in place of injured Ben Gedeon last season, and the team is already set at its other two linebacker spots with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. However, a linebacker trio of Murray-Kendricks-Barr might be the best in football.
- Tennessee (No. 29), TE Cole Kmet, Notre Dame: This is definitely a “luxury pick,” as fourth-year TE Jonnu Smith accounted for over 70 percent of the team’s snaps last year, according to Football Outsiders. And you can make the argument against drafting a TE in the first round (Kmet included). However, you can also make the argument for drafting the best player at a position. And, Kmet would provide QB Ryan Tannehill another big-bodied, chain-moving target who would likely be an upgrade over Smith.
- Green Bay (No. 30), CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama: Green Bay has invested heavily in recent years in its secondary. The team hit a home run in 2018 first-rounder CB Jaire Alexander, who played almost 99 percent of the team’s defensive snaps last season., while 2017 second-round pick Kevin King played over 77 percent of the snaps. But fans have remained frustrated with King and 2018 second-round pick Josh Jackson, who played in less than 10 percent of the team’s snaps. And now there is rumbling that Green Bay could look to draft a slot corner/nickelback early. Diggs would provide an immediate upgrade as the team’s third CB – and maybe even push King for starter minutes.
- Kansas City (No. 32), WR Jalen Reagor, TCU: Yes, Kansas City needs to add to its defense. Yes, it could use more pass rushers. And yes, you can add cornerback, interior offensive lineman and defensive tackle to its needs list. But can you imagine the havoc a Kansas City offense could do with Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman AND Reagor? (Or God help the league if Henry Ruggs III of Alabama falls that far.) Keep in mind, there’s no guarantee that Sammy Watkins returns to the Chiefs.
Jake Rigdon (email@example.com) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.