Groups. Plateaus. Shelves. Pods.
Every player to be drafted over the course of the next
three days is in one. After months of evaluating college
games, the Combine and individual workouts, every team
ranks each player 1-700, but also groups them together in
terms of talent pods. Out of every piece of internal
information each of the 32 NFL teams try to keep secret,
player grouping is close to number one.
If another team knows how you value a prospect, that can
be used against you in trade negotiation.
Pod 1 is the same for every team. Only Andrew Luck and RG3
have a ticket into that group. Every team has Claiborne
and Kalil in group 2. The question becomes the value of
the RB position and your value on Justin Blackmon.
If you value Trent Richardson above the recent disregard
for running backs, he’s in group 2. If there’s no way
you’re filling that position this early when there are
millions of other RB’s you can draft later, Richardson
drops to the top of whatever shelf you begin to value
RB’s. Blackmon, on the other hand, is a special WR but not
in the elite class of Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald,
so he floats between pod 2-4 but gets bounced from any
attempt to get on stage with Luck and RG3.
The big question for the Arizona Cardinals isn’t where
they pick today overall (13th), it’s what pod will they
enter when they select. Do they want to pick first in the
6th grouping of players or last in the 5th group of
players? How will the desires of Jacksonville to trade
down from #7 affect Arizona? Who is it they value enough
that they would trade up to get if they’re convinced that
player won’t be available to them at 13?
The Kevin Kolb trade really handcuffs the Cardinals in the
2012 draft. They can’t trade up to get that special player
using any 2012 draft picks because Arizona is already down
a 2nd round pick to the Eagles in the Kolb deal. This
draft is too deep to be giving up more picks for one
player. I was against that trade last year and if the
Cardinals don’t come away with one of three players in
today’s first round, I will feel more vindicated.
It was early September of 2011. I was fascinated with the
importance of an SEC game early in the year. Georgia had
already lost to Boise State which is a loss an entire 8-
state region of our country took personally. I knew if
Georgia lost to South Carolina there would be calls for
Mark Richt’s head (admittedly I was also hopeful of this
in case Richt would come to Arizona State). South
Carolina was coming off an appearance in the SEC
Championship Game, so there was huge pressure on USC to
take the top of the East right from the start. It was here
I met Melvin Ingram.
I had seen Ingram at LB in years past when I watched USC
(I’ve watched a lot of their games because I’ve loved
their RB–Marcus Lattimore–since he was a freshman). I
always thought Ingram was a good prospect but not special
a LB. In 2010, he was moved to DE and became special. In
the Georgia game he ran a fake punt for a touchdown.
First reaction: MAN THAT GUY’S FAST FOR HIS SIZE. Second
reaction: MAN THAT GUY’S JUST PLAIN FAST. Third
reaction: Holy ____ that’s Ingram. Fourth reaction:
WHAT’S MEL KIPER THINK OF THAT GUY BECAUSE I WANT HIM
When the Arizona Cardinals select at 13, if Ingram’s on
the board and the Cardinals pass him up, it won’t be a
Terrell Suggs moment, but it will be close. Ingram is the
clear choice for Arizona.
Since I assume that other NFL GMs have seen Ingram, I
realize the chances of Ingram still on the board by 13 is
a stretch. This puts the Cardinals in a quandary. DeCastro
Leaving DeCastro on the board to select Floyd is not going
to send me off the deep end like passing on Ingram would
do. I would disagree with the pick but I would understand
it. There is a good rule to follow at pick 13: NEVER TAKE
A GUARD THAT HIGH. There is another rule equally
applicable: DONT PASS UP A GREAT FOOTBALL PLAYER!
David DeCastro is Russ Grimm. He’s not the athlete Grimm
was (Grimm was actually a high school QB) but he’s not
terribly far off. DeCastro is scary smart and violent on
the field but not off it. Guard is not a need for the
Cardinals. Pass rusher is number one. Tackle is number 2.
WR is 3. DeCastro fills none of those needs. Don’t care.
He’s going to be an elite guard in this league for years.
Pass him over and look for another one like him for the
next 10 years.
Missing out on Ingram or DeCastro but coming away with
Michael Floyd is still a successful day. He’s an
immediate number 2 receiver. All during 2011 training
camp, we were told that the number 2 receiver position is
not a weakness and the answers could be on the current
roster. I disagreed. I was right. After Larry Fitzgerald,
the Cardinals have a great array of 3’s, 4’s and 5’s.
Floyd instantly makes the offense challenging to defend.
Floyd’s arrival would quickly make the receiver depth an
asset as opposed to a whole bunch of decent players.
What makes Floyd the most interesting is it would end all
speculation about whether or not Kolb is the quarterback
of the future. If he has a RB tandem of Wells/Williams, a
seam runner as strong as Housler/Heap and a foursome of
Fitz, Floyd, Doucet and Roberts as weapons, he should be
able to move the chains. Yes, he still has Levi Brown at
tackle, but with those options on the outside, Dave Burns
would be able to lock up the DE long enough to get the
The nightmare is if Ingram, DeCastro and Floyd are gone by
13. Although I don’t think that would happen, it would be
time to trade down. It would be hard to find a team who
would trade up but if there’s still some DTs/LBs on the
board, you might be able to convince someone to get ahead
of the Cowboys because everyone knows they’re going
defense (Upshaw/Barron/Perry/Poe). Even better would be
to trick Dallas into thinking you’re going to deal with
someone else and get something to just switch spots.
I usually love the idea of trading down. My problem with
it this year is the hidden meaning. The Cards didn’t get
Ingram, DeCastro or Floyd and couldn’t trade up to get him
because the 3rd/4th round pick is too valuable when
there’s no 2nd round pick.
If the Cards pick up Ingram, DeCastro or Floyd, the 49ers
will be challenged for a repeat as division champs. If
not, go D-Backs.