The most hyped 3 days of the NFL offseason arrive next week with the 2015 NFL Draft. It's amazing how popular it is betting at sportsbooks. Here are a few things to look before making some NFL Picks.
Don't Fall For Smokescreens
One problem with the draft being held so long after the Super Bowl and NFL combine is that teams can find "warts" on even the best of players. I mean, some general managers much preferred Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning in 1998. Nine years earlier, the Green Bay Packers took Michigan State offensive lineman Tony Mandarich No. 2 overall because he was the most dominant college tackle ever. "Sports Illustrated" fell for that hype as well, putting Mandarich on its cover. We all know what happened: Mandarich was a fraud, largely because of steroids (allegedly). The next three picks after Mandarich that year? Barry Sanders (Lions), Derrick Thomas (Chiefs) and Deion Sanders (Falcons). Those guys weren't half bad.
So when you hear rumors that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston can't do this and that some GMs "wouldn't touch him" or that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota can't do this, take it with a huge grain of salt. Of course the Bucs will leak rumors that maybe they don't like Winston's off-field character after all and might consider Mariota. You have to at least listen to potential trade proposals. Ditto for Tennessee at No. 2, which seems to waffle on and off Mariota every other day. The Titans unquestionably are making that pick available. One day it's the Chargers who are close to a deal. Next it's the Browns. Next it's the Jets. Next the Eagles.
Don't fall into the trap of all these rumors. NFL beat writers have run out of things to write at this point so they just float every rumor possible out there, and teams use these rumors as potential trial balloons.
Learn Teams' Backgrounds
Some general managers will always draft for need, while some will just take the best player available, within reason. The Colts, for example, wouldn't take a quarterback at No. 29 overall in next Thursday's first round if he's the best player available because they have Andrew Luck. But you get my drift. The Bucs need a quarterback most of all and franchise quarterbacks trump all other players. They are taking either Winston or Mariota. Florida State has never produced a No. 1 overall pick, which is surprising.
The Titans don't need a QB first and foremost, with Mel Kiper listing an offensive tackle as their top need. However, there's no tackle worthy of the No. 2 pick. So that's why it would make sense for the Titans to slide down the first round a bit in a deal with a team that wants Mariota. Then perhaps Tennessee could grab Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff.
Also consider how aggressive a GM or franchise might be. The Patriots and 49ers are always swapping draft NFL picks, but usually moving down. Eagles coach Chip Kelly clearly is a gambler with all his moves so he might sell the farm to move up to get Mariota. Then there are conservative teams like the Bears or Giants or Steelers who tend to stay put and not make waves.
Finally, look at recent draft trends. Running backs have been devalued in the NFL in this passing era while wide receivers and cornerbacks are much more valuable than they were a decade ago. Trent Richardson (oops), Doug Martin (probably oops) and David Wilson (oops) were the last three Round 1 running backs in 2012. From 1985-2012, each draft had a minimum of two first-round tailbacks. A cornerback, meanwhile, has been selected in the Top 10 at each of the past five drafts. Two wide receivers should go in the Top 10 this year.
Total Running Backs Taken in First Round: 'Over/under' 2.5. Go 'under' even though it's a big -340 favorite on NFL odds. Georgia's Todd Gurley and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon both will go in Round 1 but that's going to be it.
Total Quarterbacks Taken in First Round: 'Over/under' 2.5. Go 'under' even though it's a huge -650 favorite. Clearly Winston and Mariota are locks and no other QB has close to a first-round grade.
How many teams trade up in first round: 'Over/under' 2.5. The Browns with their two first-round picks could be busy. Ditto the Chargers with apparently wanting to dump Philip Rivers. The receiver-needy Rams might move up to get Kevin White or Amari Cooper. Someone could move into the end of the first round if Gurley or Gordon is sitting there. Go 'over' at -245.