TAMPA (FOX 13) -
Buccaneer GM Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith offered their take on the upcoming draft Tuesday. OK, it wasn't much of a rundown, but no team is going to give up strategy and secrets going into the draft. But with their "insight," here is my mock draft -- and I've lost count on what version this is, maybe 5.1.
First thought when it comes to predicting the draft, even NFL GM's don't have the inside edge. So maybe mock draft is the right term, because to think anyone can really predict -- accurately predict -- the first round or the first two rounds is a mockery of the draft.
Even Licht tells us, if you look at the top 10 players on 32 NFL draft boards, the order will not be the same.
"I'll bet you -- Lovie and I talk about this all the time -- if you took our top 10 right now and compared it with all 31 other teams, I'll bet you you'll get 31 different variations of it," he said. "It's really interesting."
So what goes into making the top 10? Obviously it's game tape and Licht and Smith have seen plenty of it. Then it's the combine, interviews, and pro days.
But take the pro days with a grain of the proverbial salt. Jamarcus Russell had a fantastic pro day and never developed. Teddy Bridgewater struggled in his but that's not a sign that he can't do the job in the NFL.
"We try not to let the pro day really dictate where the player, whether he gets massaged up the board or not. Opinions have changed only if Lovie and I hadn't really had a chance to see a lot out of the player early, especially underclassmen, I think you make a lot of mistakes with underclassmen," Licht continued. "I would say the pro days and combine haven't really changed, you tweak it here and there, but no major moves. You've got to be careful with major moves."
What no one can really determine is drive, character, the will to want to play, rather than just a need to play. Does a player really love the game or like the paycheck?
With all that in mind, let's break down the top 10 picks in the draft, mock draft version 5.1
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney -- We asked Buc players whom they would draft with the top pick. It was unanimous, not even close. Everyone said Clowney. By the way, their second pick was Johnny Manziel.
2. St. Louis: Greg Robinson -- Could become one of the best left tackles in the game.
3. Jacksonville: Johnny Manziel -- I'm going with Manziel over linebacker Kahlil Mack. The Jags need a jolt, they need juice, they need to get their fans amped up, they need a playmaker. That's Johnny Manziel. 4. Cleveland: Sammy Watkins -- Everyone talks about the Browns' need for a quarterback and they definitely need one. The issue I have is that I think there will be quality QB's available in the later round. What the Browns need is a playmaker; that's Sammy Watkins, so look for Watkins to go here.
5. Oakland: Blake Bortles -- Still on the board for Oakland, Kahlil Mack, the offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Teddy Bridgewater, and Blake Bortles. Here is the hook on this pick: the Raiders have a QB; they traded for Matt Shaub. I know he struggled last year, but in the last few years, he has been racking up yardage -- but he's 33 years old, so the Raiders' move here is clear. Blake Bortles.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews -- It's the only choice. Last year, the Falcons gave up 44 sacks and Matt Ryan got hammered. Matthews is a lock for the position. His family is loaded with NFL playing history. Jake is the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. His uncle is Clay Matthews Jr., a Pro Bowl former linebacker for the Browns; Jake Matthew's cousin is Clay III, Mr. All World for Green Bay, and another cousin, Casey, is a linebacker for the Eagles. I think he knows what it takes to succeed in the NFL.
7. Tampa: Mike Evans -- He's big, he's physical, he's Vincent Jackson. That's why some think the Bucs will pass on Evans -- maybe take Kahlil Mack in this slot. I don't think so, because I don't see an issue with having two Vincent Jacksons. He's got great hands, is a nightmare to bring down after the catch. The Bucs need a wide receiver in this slot and if they don't work some kind of magic deal to get Sammy Watkins, they take Mike Evans here.
8. Minnesota: Khalil Mack -- The Vikings are another team that could use a quarterback, but there is no way in this slot they are passing on the linebacker. Mack goes to the Vikings.
9. Buffalo: Eric Ebron TE -- Or maybe they go offensive line, I'm hedging here. EJ Manual needs some targets and he needs a lot of help. That's why I give Ebron the pick over another top-ranked offensive lineman in this slot, but this is a roll of the dice.
10. Detroit: Taylor Lewan OT -- The Lions take Lewan out of Michigan. Detroit gets a steal here, there are a lot of people who don't think Lewan falls below the top five picks, but he has some off-the-field issues that may scare some teams off from a higher pick, which is one reason I have St. Louis getting Robinson instead of Lewan, but we will see.
So there is my top 10. I think Buccaneer GM Jason Licht puts it best regarding first-round picks when he tells us, "There's a high bust rate up there, especially where we're picking, so you want somebody that can handle the expectations that are placed on them from us, from you guys, from our fans. He's got to be a mentally strong player in addition to being a great player -- he's got to be very mentally strong. That's probably the number one thing we look for."
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