by Bobby Bishop
While most of America stays indoors, one sports event has not been pushed back: the NFL draft. While Americans care about the safety of athletes, we miss sports. The draft is a ray of light, giving hope to football fans that the NFL season will start as normal next Fall, and these new players will give their team exactly what they need to help them lift the Lombardi in 2021. During these trying times, 32 football fanatics from across the USA came together with an end goal in mind: to do a 32 person 7 round mock draft.
This mock draft would seem like the ultimate test of an internet GM. While Fanspeak’s amazing On the Clock Mock Draft Simulator allows you to draft for your team with the other 31 teams drafting based on your choice of a plethora of big boards, this community mock draft allowed the human factor to make a major impact. Fans from across NFL fan bases picked for their team (with no trades) and tried to improve their teams as much as possible. Here are the results:
Almost every football fan thinks he could be a great GM. When I was 12, I was flying home from Michigan in the Detroit Airport. My mom pointed out a Detroit Lions’ coach sitting in the airport, whom she had seen in a newspaper article about him and his son (Defensive Coordinator Joe Berry – current Linebackers Coach of the LA Rams). I talked with him for a few minutes, and he gave me his card and told me to write him a letter and send him some football cards, and he would get them signed. I sent him my Calvin Johnson rookie card, which he sent back signed. The next letter I wrote him, well into the season, detailed how the Lions needed to select DeSean Jackson, a speedy wide receiver and return specialist from the University of Cal, who I thought would complement Calvin Johnson perfectly. My mom wouldn’t let me send the letter because she didn’t want a 12 year old trying to tell a grown adult how to do his job. At the time, I had no idea that an offensive line coach wouldn’t have a huge say on his team’s draft choices anyway.
In the second round in 2009, the Detroit Lions selected Jordon Dizon, a linebacker from Colorado, 45th overall. Dizon had gotten arrested only 6 days prior. He played in the league for two years before suffering a career ending knee injury in a preseason game. DeSean Jackson got drafted four picks after Dizon to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he took the league by storm, making the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He has the most 60+ yard touchdowns in NFL History with 24. I had no idea how good DeSean would become. I was only 12, but I saw him play and knew he would be special. It helped me realize at an early age that sometimes sports players can be over-analyzed. GMs may see a player and tear them apart based on perceived weaknesses, but true talent and hard work will translate to the next level. If they can play, they can play.
Every since then, I’ve dreamed of being an NFL GM. I’m a huge Panthers fan, so I’ve always paid attention to what positions we’ve needed and who we might draft. As a fan, it is fun when your team drafts who you want them to and tragic when the make a perceived mistake. As Giants fan’s know thanks to Daniel Jones, a “mistake” is not always a mistake. Last year, I was frustrated when the Panthers passed on the likes of Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (a nickel corner who ultimately was drafted by our division rival) for Will Grier (who fought for and ultimately lost the battle for back up QB). Fans often take to twitter to voice such frustration. Twitter users who do this often are referred to as “Twitter GMs,” using their twitter platform to try to be what they wish they could be. A community mock draft is the ultimate test for a twitter GM, and I was excited to be a part of it.
The draft had several surprises. First, the Chargers chose Jordan Love over Justin Herbert, which cause Herbert to free fall all the way to the Vikings at pick 22. Was I surprised that the Raiders past on him twice? Yes. Was I surprised that the Vikings snagged him after extending Cousins? Also yes. In the first round, 6 corners came off the board (Okudah – Lions #3, Henderson – Falcons #16, Fulton – Cowboys #17, Gladney – Raiders #19, Terrell – 49ers #31, and Diggs – Chiefs #32). Deandre Swift (#56 to the Dolphins) was the only running back and Cole Kmet (#44 to the Colts) was the only tight end selected in the first two rounds. The lack of early tight ends is definitely less surprising, as that class seems much weaker than the RB class. The draft played out fully with everyone feeling like they came away with a great draft.
As a Panthers fan, we went through a brutal offseason so far. The loss of Luke Kuechly was bittersweet. I respected his decision to part with football before it parted with him. Their was nothing bittersweet to losses of Greg Olsen or Cam Newton. Rhule is coming into Carolina with fresh energy and does not seem to be interested in “tanking for Trevor.” The signings of Bridgewater and Robby Anderson shored up the offensive side of the ball, but the Panthers still have gaps on defense. In the first round, I wanted Simmons or Okudah, but both were gone by pick #7, so I drafted Derrick Brown to start immediately next to Kawann Short in the interior of Carolina’s D Line. In the second round, I stayed in Auburn and drafted Noah Igbinoghene to play outside corner on the opposite side of Dante Jackson.
For the third round, I wanted a linebacker to help replace Kuechly. Dye has a great football mind, but not comparable to Kuechly. He is a little thin to play linebacker at the pro level. If he bulks up, he could be a solid MLB in the league, but I went a different route. I think the Panthers massive extension of Shaq Thompson shows that they have faith in him to step up and play MLB as we shift back to a 4-3. This thought allowed me to shift from trying to fill Kuechly’s shoes and instead work to fill Thompson’s as he fills Kuechly’s. One perceived weakness of Dye’s is that he gets lost occasionally as an Outside Linebacker. I instead drafted Jordyn Brooks, a hard-hitting linebacker out of Texas Tech.
In the fourth, I drafted Albert Okwuegbunam, the 6’5” tight end from Missouri that ran a 4.49 at the combine. The Panthers are going to start Ian Thomas at tight end next year, but given time, a guy like Albert O could develop to be really special at the next level. In the fifth round, I drafted Shane Lemieux to compete with Denis Daley at left guard, and Jonathan Garvin from Miami to give the Panthers some depth at edge rusher. In the sixth round, I drafted John Reid, who would fit in nicely as the Panthers nickel corner. In the seventh, Chauncey Rivers, the Last Chance U alum, would give the Panthers some extra depth on the defensive line.
In my opinion, the Bengals (drafted by Blake Jewell, a Bengals reporter—@bjewell43_) had an excellent draft. After selecting Burrow first overall, they picked up Grant Delpit in the second. Delpit is starting the lose draft stock, but if you watch his college tape, he is special. There is no need to overanalyze. He will be a playmaker at the next level as well. In the third, the Bengals picked up Akeem Davis-Gaither, who was at the top of my draft board at the time of the selection. Davis-Gaither has been an absolute unit while playing for App State. Watching his tape against UNC and UofSC shows off his tackling ability. He reads the run game well. Against the Gamecocks, he helped hold RB prospect Rico Dowdle to 9 yards on 14 carries. He led his team with 2.5 tackles for loss that game.
The Colts (drafted by Colts Draft Board—@ColtsdraftB) had a very nice draft, even without a first round pick. In the second round, their passing game improved with the additions of receiver, Tee Higgins, who is a first rounder on my big board, and Cole Kmet, who is widely considered to be the best tight end in the draft. In the third round, they picked up Terrell Lewis, an edge rusher from Alabama who is young and extremely talented at getting into the backfield. With injury concerns in the past, NFL GMs may let Lewis drop as well, but if he stays healthy and continues to improve, he could be an elite pass rusher at the next level.
The Steelers (Matthew Artis) were able to get Auburn defensive lineman, Marlon Davidson, halfway through the 2nd, and added to their offensive future with J.K. Dobbins in the 3rd, and Jalen Hurts in the 4th.
The Falcons (Ben Kimsey) drafted Florida cornerback C.J Henderson (the consensus #2 corner in the draft) in the first to replace the loss of Desmond Trufant. In the second, the Falcons drafted TCU product Ross Blacklock (my #3 defensive tackle) to start next to Grady Jarrett on the interior of the defensive line. Their third round pick was Wisconsin center, Tyler Biadasz. Biadasz would eventually replace the 33 year old Alex Mack as the anchor of the Falcons offensive line.
The Jets (Colt Schiefer—@coltanschiefer) snagged elite offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs to protect Sam Darnold. They also drafted a pair of weapons for Darnold—Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State (48th overall) and Donavon People-Jones from Michigan (68th overall).
The Cowboys (Nathan Sharp) drafted cornerback Kristian Fulton (16th overall) to replace Byron Jones on the outside. They followed that up by adding further to their secondary with the stand-out safety Kyle Dugger (51st overall). Dugger, a Lenoir-Rhyne product, put the doubts about the talent level faced in college behind him when he showed out in the combine. In the third round, the Cowboys snagged another defensive piece in Alabama’s Raekwon Davis (82nd overall) a mammoth-sized defensive tackle, who is a special combination of height, weight, and length. He would help improve Dallas’ run defense immediately.
The Browns (Skyler Waterman—@watermanskylar) also had a very nice draft. They drafted Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas #10th overall in the first round. In the second round, they picked up Antoine Winfield Jr, a safety from Minnesota with great ball skills and an NFL bloodline. In the third round, Cleveland picked up the intelligent middle linebacker, Troy Dye, 74th overall, and Khalid Kareem, a powerful defensive end from Notre Dame, 97th overall. To top that off, they drafted the Antonio Gandy-Golden with their 4th round pick. AGG looked like 5 star prospect playing against the high school team’s reserve defensive backs when I saw him play against Buffalo University this season. The talent he played against in college wasn’t always the best, but he is special and tested well at the combine. He is 6’4” with a 36” vertical, ran a 4.6 40, and has great hands. He holds great value in the 4th round.
The Buccaneers (RealBucsTalk—@RealBucsTalk) picked up Mekhi Becton to protect Tom Brady in the first, Joshua Uche to get after opposing QB’s in the second, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the third. Somehow, QB Jacob Eason fell to the Bucs in the fourth round, allowing them to groom Eason behind Brady for the next two seasons before handing him the reigns of Arian’s offense. This was a great draft for them to further capitalize on this offseason and set themselves up to compete in 2020. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers did not address their need for improvement at the cornerback position, so they would have to hope that their young defensive backs (Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting) continue to improve this next season.
The Jaguars (Chad Koon—@JaguarGM) have a lot to improve, but made major steps this draft. Leonard Fournette would be thrilled that they improved their offensive line with Josh Jones (#20) and Logan Stenberg (#73). They also addressed defensive line needs with the selection of DT Javon Kinlaw (#9) and edge rusher Kenny Willekes (#116). Kinlaw would immediately become a starter and look to team up with last year’s first rounder, Josh Allen, to terrorize Quarterbacks across the league. They also picked up Ohio State product Damon Arnette (#42) to look to replace Jalen Ramsey, a formidable task.
The last team I want to highlight is the Packers. We had the honor of being joined by Ross Uglem (@RossUglem), the publisher of The Packer Report. In the first round, the Packers drafted Denzel Mims (#30) to become the Packers #2 receiver. This selection would make Aaron Rodgers thrilled to have another dynamic receiver to compliment Devante Adams. In the second, they selected Ashtyn Davis (62nd overall) from Cal, an athletic safety, who has excellent range. They selected another stud, Missouri DT Jordan Elliot (94th overall), to help solidify the defensive line. In the fifth, Green Bay selected Trajan Bandy (175th overall) from Miami University to come in and compete at the nickel corner spot.
Overall, I’m not sure who won the draft, but I do know that 32 fans from across the NFL came together via GroupMe for a weekend spent talking about sports and pretending to be GMs. Maybe all 32 of us won the draft.