Jussel: Breaking down the NFL draft
Here’s your National Football League draft primer, everything you need to know for the annual extravaganza.
First, the nuts and bolts: It starts Thursday with the first round, with ESPN and NFL Network to do the broadcast, ESPN with live coverage of all the picks and the assorted fillers, the NFL Network to add the feature flavor.
The broadcast will start at 6 p.m. (MDT) Thursday. The second and third rounds will be shown Friday starting at 4:30 p.m., with the fourth though seventh rounds to be shown Saturday starting at 10 a.m.
You will be in charge of determining how large a couch potato you become.
Now, some helpful hints for the psychos out there who, like me, will take breaks from the action just long enough to avoid divorce or similar disaster:
If you are a Denver Bronco fan, you are probably thinking John Elway, John Fox and their massive support staff will be a minor player in the early going of the telecast. Based on each team having a maximum of 10 minutes in the first round to pick and the Broncos having the 28th pick, my math tells me that Denver will pick 280 minutes after the opening salvo, meaning somewhere around 10:30 p.m.
Of course, not every team will take 10 minutes to pick, so you’d better be in your comfort zone by 9 p.m.
I’m thinking, however, that the Broncos will not select with that 28th pick. They will trade down in similar fashion to what they did last year.
Why? For answers, let’s check out Todd McShay’s tier system of ranking draft prospects.
McShay and ESPN’s Scouts Inc. grade NFL prospects on a scale of 1-100. Players graded in the 90s are rare prospects who create mismatches and individually impact games. They are thought to become Pro Bowl caliber. Any player graded 70 or higher is thought to be capable of becoming a career NFL starter.
McShay has only three players in Tier 1 with grades of 96 or higher this season, as opposed to six last year. He has five players listed in Tier 2 with grades of 95, as opposed to nine such players last season.
So, how does this system affect the Broncos and their 28th selection? This year’s draft is loaded with second-day talent, with 109 players graded at 70 or above, compared to 94 in 2012.
As they sit now, the Broncos would have Picks 28, 58 and 90 in the first three rounds. They also have picks in the fourth (125), fifth (161) and seventh rounds (234).
If Denver picks 28th, it will pick up a player who will help in certain situations this season, third-down pass rusher, the defensive line rotation, fifth or sixth defensive back, maybe offensive line depth. The only full-time starter I could see at No. 28 is Alabama running back Eddie Lacy.
That’s why we need to break out our handy-dandy draft trading calculator that most NFL GMs use when talking trades, first published by ESPN in 2004 and now used en masse by NFL staffs.
The No. 28 pick is worth 660 points, according to the chart. Let’s say because of the perceived depth of the draft, Elway and his staff seek a team that is loaded with draft picks, like San Francisco, which has 11 picks and a roster that has very few holes to fill.
The Broncos trade their 28th pick to the 49ers (the Vikings also have 11 picks, but far more holes to fill) for the 50th pick (400 points), the 80th pick (190 points) and the 110th pick (74 points).
That’s 660 points traded for 664, one pick for three likely future starters. With that trade, Denver would have two second-round picks, two third-rounders and two in the fourth.
So who might be available from No. 50 up to No. 110?
Again, according to McShay’s tiers, defensive linemen Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern (330 pounds) and Johnathan Hankins of Ohio State (320 pounds) should be there. Either or both would help clog up the middle of the field.
Defensive backs D.J. Swearinger from South Carolina, Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State, defensive end Sam Montgomery of LSU and linebacker Arthur Brown of Kansas State could be had. All have been mentioned as late first-round picks in various mock drafts.
And running backs Wisconsin’s Montee Ball or Michigan State’s Le’veon Bell should be available and would seemingly fit into Denver’s plans.
Those prospects and others stashed away in McShay’s fourth through seventh tiers are reasons the Broncos will trade out of the first round again this year — unless, of course, Lacy is still sitting there when Denver comes upon that 28th pick about 10 o’clock Thursday night.
Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.