A part of me admires Mel Kiper Jr. The same part that admires the Kardashians and Snooki. This is America, and we need content 24/7 for all 800 television stations. And to have content we need talking heads. If you can make a career for yourself without any discernible talent, more power to you. Who cares if you’re consistently as wrong as you are ugly?
To assess Kiper's powers of projection, don’t rely on comparing his final mock draft to the actual outcome. Because by mid-April, he has had the time to synthesize rankings from other, more informed experts and condense them into something passably accurate. Rather, take a listen to what Mr. Kiper says in the days following the draft about the next draft. Among the talk of draft grades, winners, and losers, some itchy draft junkie will invariably prompt Kiper for his top five prospects. His top five will always, ALWAYS, include some Big Ten middle linebacker who will fall out of the first round in a year’s time.
He’ll do this because, after three decades of covering the NFL Draft, Kiper can only provide rudimentary insights into the decision-making process of NFL GMs and head coaches. When compiling my mock draft, I attempted to do better than him. Below is my top ten.
1. Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
After coaching Tom Brady in New England, new Texans coach Bill O’Brien knows the importance of the quarterback position. There has been some question as to whether Bridgewater is his type of quarterback, even though scouts rave about Bridgewater’s poise, leadership, decision-making, and accuracy. O’Brien remains insistent that he is missing that certain intangible quality, let’s call it whiteness, that makes a QB great. It’s only after the face-to-face interview that O’Brien starts to get a little jungle fever-y. He concludes that Teddy has what it takes to be a great white quarterback.
2. St. Louis Rams – Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M)
Coach Jeff Fisher is excited for the opportunity to coach another Matthews, having coached his Hall of Fame father Bruce for seven seasons. His enthusiasm is dampened only slightly during the pre-draft process when his inside sources report that Jake is “a bit of a momma’s boy.”
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
Concerned more with selling tickets than winning games, the Jags opt for the homegrown QB. Scouts laud Bortles for having a hot girlfriend and for not being as holier-than-thou as a certain ESPN College Football Analyst whose names start with T, the two criteria that factored in their decision to pass on Tim Tebow four years ago. And if Bortles doesn’t pan out, they reason, they could just redesign their logo again.
4. Cleveland Browns – Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)
Owner Jimmy Haslam loves Johnny Manziel’s tremendous swagger and believes it is just what they need to spark a much-needed culture change in Cleveland. But when Cavs owner and new bestie Dan Gilbert shows Haslam a picture of Manziel partying with LeBron James, he convinces Haslam that Manziel will bolt for the Dolphins first chance he gets. Haslam instead drafts for a linebacker as a big “Fuck You” to Manziel, LeBron, and Browns fans.
5. Oakland Raiders – Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Determined not to squander his team’s all-important pick, Coach Dennis Allen sits down to watch through all the film on each potential top five selection, starting with Clowney. But when he starts to dose watching the grainy, muted All-22 footage, Allen pulls up YouTube and finds Clowney’s massive hit from last year’s bowl game. He watches that on a loop for several hours, occasionally switching to FotC clips when he’s in need a of a break. On his 216th viewing, Allen notices something: Clowney’s pretty goddamn good.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson (OT, Auburn)
Coach Mike Smith values a player with a winning pedigree and loves that Robinson was a member of Auburn’s 2014 National Championship team. His scouts correct him, but when Smith begins to consider Florida State center Bryan Stork with their pick, the scouts quickly reverse course. They assure Smith that Auburn did indeed win the National Championship.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Manziel was born two towns down the road from where new Buccs coach Lovie Smith was, which, in the gaping abyss that is Texas, practically makes them roommates. Nepotism wins out, and Lovie starts requiring everyone in Tampa’s offices to wear bolo ties.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Taylor Martinez (QB, Nebraska)
Seeing quarterbacks starting to fly off the board, GM Rick Spielman knows he must acquire his signal-caller now. He'll ask his scouts “Which QB do we have after Manziel?”
“Um, Taylor Martinez… no wait, that’s the alphabetical list!”
“Too late. We’ll play it off like we love his mobility.”
9. Buffalo Bills – Kahlil Mack (OLB, Buffalo)
Unaware of the local university, coach Doug Marrone is both surprised and delighted to find that Mack already plays for Buffalo. The confusion is resolved and a consensus quickly reached: if a college athlete chose to play in Buffalo on his own accord, they should probably draft him and name him captain.
10. Detroit Lions – Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The Lions front office is unsure if they should invest more in regressing gunslinger Matt Stafford by acquiring another weapon for him to overthrow his routes. In the end, they decide to double down the Detroit way and they draft another receiver. Probably a second one in the next round too.
Sue Donem believes in the power of prayer, and also unicorns.