In the world of football, "value" is about as real as pixie dust. And it's about as important as the state of Kim Kardashian's relationship with Kanye.
Value is a paper term, and it flies out the window once helmets start to collide under the bright lights of September. When check-marks start landing in the wins and losses column, ‘value‘ becomes a forgotten step child, whereas ‘impact‘ has then become the favorite son. Nobody cares if Team X got a good price for Dude1 over Dude2, not if Dude1 is sitting on the bench while Dude2 could have been making impact at their weakest position.
Value, my friends, is just the relative and perceived bargain - the price you pay to attain Johnny Football; impact is what he does for your team once you've already bought him.
Johnny Football will not positively impact your team if he's playing a position where you have a Pro Bowl starter. That's just the facts, Jack.
The only thing that really matters in the early rounds is how much impact you gain by upgrading Veteran X with newly drafted Rookie A. If the two players are roughly even in talent - whether good or bad - then the impact is extremely limited. But when a premium talent is drafted to take over for a mediocre role player, then the impact is extreme and it has ripple effects throughout that entire unit.
The nuts of the issue is that there can be no impact where there is no need. Add a first-round QB or guard to your fake team, and I'll add a running back or a defensive end to my fake team: My guy will be making impact while your guy is riding pine. I'll be kicking your ass in front of your friends and even your own mother will be laughing at you, while you're pointing to the bench talking about how great dude is going to be someday when someone else gets hurt.
In my first official mock draft of the season, I'll be looking for impact... not value. No matter how talented the prospect, I'll be largely ignoring positions such as QB, WLB, OT, OG, etc.. Because they will not impact my team. I'll be drafting players who can carve out playing time at positions of weakness. My overall vision for this draft is to build in a way that allows us to protect leads and close out games.
1. Eddie Lacy, RB - Alabama
5'11, 230 pounds
I'm giving Eddie Lacy the edge here over Alex Okafor (DE) and Damontre Moore (DE), mostly due to Eddie's general awesomeness in big games. And also due to the depth of this draft; It's thin for big backs and thick for defensive ends, so I feel like I can wait for an end but not for a back.
The other big backs in this draft, such as Bell and Taylor for example, have a chance to be good, but they also have a chance to be Lance Ball 2.0 - adequate at everything but not good at anything. And outside of them, there isn't really much to look at.
Eddie Lacy has been durable and productive throughout his career (current hamstring injury not withstanding), but also doesn't have a ton of wear on those wheels - after having been the primary backup behind Trent Richardson up until last season. As with most backs coming out of college, he'll need some time to develop in pass protection, but that'll just give us a chance to use Ronnie Hillman as the change-of-pace-back that he was drafted to be.
Lacy does everything else very very well. He can push piles in short yardage situations, keeps his legs churning through contact and also breaks a lot of tackles. He's terrific in the red zone and near the goal line, and he's the only back in this draft that can both push piles and also force a defense to account for him even when Peyton is his quarterback. Chew on that for a second, because it rings pretty true. This is an entirely new dimension that we add to our offense, and it's the kind of impact that we can't expect to attain later in the draft.
What I like best of all, is that Lacy is a guy who gets better as the game goes on, and he gets better as the season goes on. His best games were under the brightest lights.
Too bad we didn't have him on our roster last January, eh?
Eddie Lacy will be the starter from day-one. Hillman will be the change-of-pace back. Moreno is the backup, and McGahee can stay on to earn his ring so long as he takes a hefty pay cut. The only RB this move truly has to affect is Lance Ball... And so somewhere in the world McGeorge is shedding a tear.
2. Darius Slay, Mississippi State
6'0, 192 pounds. 32 ¼" arm length. 4.36 40-yard dash
The immediate plan for Darius Slay would be for us to get him playing time by using more corners and less safeties while in packages that require 6 and 7 defensive backs. The long-term plan is to further prepare for Champ's eventual regression and retirement.
Slay is good in both man and zone coverage and was tested quite a lot, considering he played opposite Jonathon Banks at Mississippi State. But he's also relatively inexperienced overall and still has a lot of upside. He's not very physical, and it will benefit him to spend a year on an NFL squad where he's forced to scrape and claw for playing time. When a guy gets hungry and humble enough, he'll start to do whatever it takes to stand out, much like Ed McCaffery and Rod Smith used to do with their physical blocking when they were once buried on the depth chart as well.
Slay has all the big things that you can't teach, including ball skills, elite speed, fluid hips and terrific overall length - and we have the time to coach him up in the areas where he is raw. This guy should make some impact in his first-year, but the choice here is just as much about setting up for the future. Slay has the ability to be a true cover corner in this league and to eventually be our #1. He is to Champ Bailey what Brock Osweiler was to Peyton Manning in last year's draft. Just like the Os pick, not everyone is going to light up with joy when we draft Champ's replacement, but there are no rules when you're putting a plan in place to replace a Hall of Famer. Even if this move is seen as drafting for depth, it does not matter. The only wrong move here would be to do nothing at all.
3. Bacarri Rambo, SS - Georgia
6'1", 211 pounds
We're building this defense to defend against the pass and to protect leads, and these days, that requires more than two quality safeties. This draft pick is to compete with Quinton Carter for the starting role at strong safety - the loser of which will still be able to carve out a ton of playing time. When you consider the surprising number of four-safety looks we had out there last year, it's easy to see that there's plenty of impact to be had by adding a safety here.
Rambo is a true-blue ball hawk who excels equally in zone coverage as well as man coverage, and he's also good against the tight ends. Could even be the fabled Tight End Killer we've been combing the earth for. Not sure, but I know he's twice as good at it as Mike Adams was last year. And his name is Rambo.
This is a deep class of safeties and a deep class of big hitters, so while he's not quite the intimidator that Matt Elam is, he's still very physical and can lay the wood. He's a physical run-defender and is also reliable as the last line of defense.
Not really as big of a difference in today's NFL as it used to be, but I project him best at strong safety even though he played more at free safety in college.
Speaking of college, Rambo tested positive for pot twice while he was there, and was suspended both times. He basically said it was a contact high, meaning he wasn't smoking weed but that his friends were. This isn't a good look and it needs to be weighed, but bare in mind, he's a kid with first-round talent that wouldn't be available in the third round if it wasn't for those two mistakes. There are no other known on- or off-field issues with him.
With 16 career interceptions, Rambo is a durable, versatile ball-hawk who excels in coverage and is a force to be reckoned with in the run-game. Whether it's as our 2nd or 3rd safety, Rambo will be making impact right out of the gate both by thumping running backs as well as taking picks to the house. He has the ability to change games.
4. Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB - Florida State
6'3, 251 pounds
As a sophomore, Brandon Jenkins notched 21.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. As a sophomore. Offenses were focusing on him just as much as they were focusing on Bjoern Werner (likely top-15 pick in April‘s draft) that year, and he actually outpaced Bjooern in the stats department. In his Junior year, the focus shifted even moreso to Jenkins instead of Werner. Jenkins saw his production dip that year to 12 tackles for loss and "only" 8 sacks. The NFL Draft advisory committee told him he'd be no latter than a second-round pick, but he chose instead to return to school. Notched a sack in that first game before he went down for the season.
Brandon Jenkins has elite burst. He has an explosive first step. He has the things you can't teach that most of the other pass rushers in this class only wish they had. He has the bendability to get around the edge, and he's got good length. He's still a bit raw, but he is a force to be reckoned with. He wasn't able to work out for teams before the draft and so this is where we make our stand. This is where we land the steal of the draft.
The plan for Jenkins in year-one would be for him and Von Miller to go into camp and battle it out to see which of them plays where - DE or SAM. With Dwight Freeney also in the picture as a situational rusher, this is a comforting scenario.
The backup plan here in the fourth-round is Lavar Edwards: The LSU defensive end that was stuck behind Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery (two first-round talents in April's draft). Mingo and Montgomery are terrific pass rushers but couldn't hold off Edwards indefinitely, as Lavar eventually earned 6 starts in his Sr season, notching 4.5 sacks, 7 tackles for loss and one interception he returned for a touchdown. It was a three-headed monster, with Edwards less than three sacks off the lead.
Even as merely a backup, Edwards was actually the leader of that LSU defense for the last two or three years - and that really speaks volumes when a role player, as a sophomore and junior, can really be a leader of a unit. Edwards has elite length and looks the part. Strong as an ox already, this guy actually played a lot of nose tackle in sub-packages. Guy has some real upside and he's a coach's dream. Great motor, great work ethic but still pretty raw. One of these two DEs should be ours.
5. Brennan Williams, OT - North Carolina
6'6", 318 pounds. 34" arm length.
According to nfl.com, Williams was considered a second-round prospect coming into this season. He was injured and missed a bunch of time this last year, although he still earned all-acc conference honors from coaches. He played RT throughout his career and projects best as a mauler on that same side once he's drafted. In the fifth round, you're not going to get everything you want, and so while I was really looking for a more versatile swing tackle, this guy is too good to pass up. And Ryan Clady is pretty much the energizer bunny, so he doesn't really need a backup anyway.
In all seriousness, though, Brennan Williams has a ton of upside and shouldn't be pigeon holed strictly as a RT already. He's a backup for us, not a starter. We don't need him to be an All Pro LT right out of the gate; we just need him to stop the bleeding if Clady or Franklin ever miss some time.
7. Chad Bumphis, WR - Mississippi State
5'10", 202 pounds. 4.46 40-yard dash (no combine invite)
Chad Bumphis is a poor man's Ryan Swope... which isn't a bad thing, seeing as how Ryan Swope is still probably my favorite player in this draft. Bumphis is made of the same mold: tough, quick, fast, fearless over the middle, dependable, sure-handed and underrated. And he runs great routes. Bumphis led Mississippi State in receiving yards for 3 of the 4 years he was there. He was money when called upon, and even though they didn't generally pass an awful lot, his numbers were very respectable, even if not earth shattering.
Bumphis can be looked at as the heir apparent to Wes Welker in the slot, but you won't hear me say that because I never want to see Rudy leave. N. E. Ever. I would say instead that our depth at wide receiver is comparable to the wealth in the middle east... epically rich at the top and epically poor at the bottom. Chad Bumphis isn't all that raw and he should contribute in a small role immediately. We need new blood on the back end of our depth chart, and not just in the slot receiver mold.