There’s one good way to spot a draftnik who is truly putting in the work watching tape and networking with his sources: His draft board doesn’t look like everyone else’s.
One frustrating part of the pre-draft process is that as media covering the draft, we often reach a safe consensus that lacks original thinking and doesn’t match up with how teams view players. The reality is that teams disagree on prospect values far more than draft websites, which often only have minor differences.
This thought hit me while watching Bill Parcells’ excellent draft special on ESPN. The Big Tuna has been preparing for this draft as if he’s in the league out of habit. We got to look at his big board, and his player evaluations had a lot of rankings you wouldn’t see on many draft websites.
You would probably see them on some teams’ draft boards. Here were the most interesting rankings we saw:
1. Quarterback: Cam Newton was ranked as a high first round pick, with Blaine Gabbert Parcells’ only other first-round value. Parcells had Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, and Jake Locker having second round value, with Locker low in the round.
Andy Dalton was a third-round pick, with draftnik favorite (and PFT favorite) Colin Kaeprnick ranked as a late-third round value.
2. Wide receiver: Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin was ranked as a third round prospect, which was a surprise.
4. Tight end: Parcells believed Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudolph was worthy of a first round grade.
5. Tackle: Nate Solder from Colorado was Parcells’ top tackle, ranked high in the round. Tyron Smith and Anthony Costanzo were the only other first round grades. Gabe Carimi was all the way down in the third round.
6. Defensive end: This was Parcells’ most surprising position. He had Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward third at the deep position. Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn remained a firs round pick. Pittsburgh’s Jabaal Sheard was a third-round pick, while Arizona’s Brooks Reed was all the way down in the fourth round.
That makes us wonder if Reed and Sheard will last longer than people expect on draft day.
7. Defensive tackle: This position was fairly predictable, with Corey Liuget a second round grade a bit of a surprise.
8. Linebacker: The most surprising grade on Parcells’ entire board was a first round grade for N.C. State’s Nate Irving. ESPN’s Mel Kiper called him a mid-third day pick. (3rd-to-7th round.)
Parcells is only one opinion, but he shows how NFL evaluators truly do see players differently than the draft industrial complex consensus.
So don’t be surprised if some of Parcells’ favorites get drafted earlier than expected — especially by the Dolphins.