In an ongoing effort to beat you to death with draft news and discussion, we're joined today by one of the many contributors to a one of a kind draft site called Draft Tek. They're approach is not only unique but they're also the only site that posts seven round mock drafts on a regular basis (and who doesn't love a good 7 round mock in early March). So, we'll jump right in with some draft questions and see how they think the Arizona Cardinals draft will play out in April.
ROTB - The NFL draft has taken on a life of its own the past decade and it almost seems like a new 'sport' in itself, but with so many sites covering the draft these days it's hard to differentiate between the reliable sources and the bogus. Draft Tek has taken a unique view at the draft though. What's the basic premise behind Draft Tek and how has it evolved since its inception?
DraftTek - The NFL Draft has seen an increase in popularity due to the fact that they have quantified measurables (height, weight, speed, strength, agility) that fans can understand. In addition, players drafted by NFL teams go directly to that team, not a farm system as in MLB; therefore, the results can be gauged in a relatively short period of time. In addition, players can be found in all 7 rounds that will make a roster, as opposed to just the lottery picks of the 2 round NBA Draft.
Most mock drafts are one person's opinion of who will be drafted by each NFL team. Drafttek utilizes a simulation model that has 2 basic inputs: player rankings (our "Big Board", which is a compilation of player rankings from 3 respected sources) and positional priority codes on a team-by-team basis, as determined by our team correspondents. Drafttek attempts to remove as much subjectivity in its results as possible.
Drafttek was created by Warren Hauck and was initially a one-man show. Early on, I bugged Warren to death, questioning some of the system's logic (I would tell you it was totally from a constructive point of view - Warren would tell you otherwise!) The concept of team correspondents came into play last year, we added the "Grab" and "Lockout" functions as well, and this year we began to differentiate positions, i.e. 4-3 defense versus 3-4 defense, speed versus possession receivers and change-of-pace versus feature running backs.
Q - Ok, so a computer model picks players based on predetermined (and adjustable) team needs, but how do you rank guys to determine who should be the higher rated player?
A - Drafttek does not rank players - we utilize the resources of NFL Draft Scout, Scout.com and Pro Football Weekly (as well as other sources) to compile our "Big Board". There are over 400 prospects on this list, which more than covers the requirements of a 7 round draft.
Although it has been argued that not all of the teams would have players ranked the same way (each team having their own board in the "real draft"), team correspondents can utilize the positional priority codes in order to have a "massaging" effect on the Big Board and teams can "Lockout" players that do not fit their profile.
Q - I saw a link on your site about an 'on-line simulator' can you tell us a little about that function and how to use it?
A - The on-line simulator allows website visitors (not to mention team correspondents) the ability to run their own draft simulation based on their team needs inputs. If you are only interested in the results for your favorite team, the priority codes for the other teams will default to those of the team correspondents from the last consensus simulation. In other words, it works just like the simulations we post on the website.
The directions on the website are pretty much self-explanatory - one thing I would recommend is to thoroughly read the definitions of the priority codes. Just because you consider a particular position as the most important, does not necessarily mean you should make it a P1. The priority codes really have more to do with how desperate you are for a particular position and how far down the board you are willing to reach! If a team was of a mind-set to "take the best player available", they would label every position as P4.
Q - Ok, switching to some Cardinals related questions, there are still roughly two months between the draft and today so obviously a team's needs can drastically change between now and then but as of right now, what do you see as the Cardinals biggest needs?
A - The transition from a 4-3 alignment (even a hybrid 4-3) to a 3-4 is at least a 2 year process. The Cardinals must be able to rush the passer and in a 3-4, the pass rush comes from outside linebackers. I have set the priority of this position as P2, and also included a multiple (M5), which means look for a second player at that same position starting in the 5th round. Linemen in the 3-4 have the responsibility to keep the offensive linemen off of the linebackers. I believe Gabe Watson and Alan Branch can man the nose tackle position and out of Dockett, Robinson and Campbell, the Cardinals can come up with two 3-4 DE's.
Running back, offensive line, and safety I have categorized as P3 - JJ is gone, we don't know about Edge and I'm just a fan of the "Big Uglies". I don't care if you run a pro-style, shotgun, run-and-shoot, wishbone or single-wing offense, if my big guys whip your big guys, I'm probably going to win!
Q - Considering that outside backers and safeties are so high on your list, it's a good thing that both positions are relatively stocked this year. The hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker is becoming a very popular role in the NFL and the safeties as a group ran very well at the combine. Most of us know about the guys at the top of draft board at these positions, but who are some guys who might be available in the later rounds who could help the Cardinals and become productive NFL players?
A - Skipping through Orakpo (Texas), Brown (Florida State), Maybin (Penn State), and Matthews (USC), I targeted (put a "Grab" on) Clint Sintim of Virginia for the Cardinals in the 1st round. He played the "Elephant" OLB position in Virginia's 3-4 and is probably more "Pro-Ready" than some of the DE's that will be conversion projects.
One of my personal favorites is Connor Barwin from Cincinnati - a DE with the Bearcats, this athlete has played TE, as well as Power Forward on the basketball team. 6'4", 256 lbs. motoring the 40 in 4.59, 21 reps of 225 and ridiculous performances in the vertical and broad jump, 20 yard shuttle and 3 cone drill.
Lawrence Sidbury Jr. of Richmond is a later round gem that may take some time developing from a 4-3 DE to OLB in the 3-4, but he has all the physical tools to make it happen.
Safeties? This is interesting, as some of the better safety prospects are being ranked as CB due to the pedestrian 40 times the CB's ran at the Combine. Malcolm Jenkins (yes, the top-rated CB is viewed by many teams as a FS), Sean Smith, Keenan Lewis, and Sherrod Martin are all prospects that should be gone within the first 4 rounds that may end up playing FS at the next level, and all would probably be ranked ahead of Louis Delmas, the current #1 FS prospect from Western Michigan. I watched Sherrod Martin (Troy) play against North Texas and if he was available in the 4th round, I would be all over him.
Q - Along the same lines, most of us know about Chris Wells, LeSean McCoy and Knowson Moreno and there's a better than zero chance that the Cardinals could take one of those three with the 31st pick. If they don't though and they wait until later in the draft to address the running back position, who are some guys who would fit into the Cardinals system and is there one name that stands above the rest to you?
A - Before JJ signed elsewhere, I was looking at feature running backs to spell Hightower. I'm not so sure one of the 3 "temptations" you mentioned won't be available at #31 - RB is becoming more of a "commodity trading" type position. Nevertheless, let's look at who might be available in the later rounds.
Rashad Jennings (Liberty) and Andre Brown (NC State) are physical specimens, but both run too tall and could be injury prone. An interesting prospect to me that fits 2 needs for the Cardinals is Cedric Peerman of Virginia - a 5'10", 216 lb. RB that motors a 4.39 forty, soft hands for pass receptions and has excellent KR capabilities. He strikes me as an excellent change-of-pace for Hightower.
Q - Any other random thoughts about the draft this year?
A - If I were to provide an overview for the 2009 NFL Draft, there are 4 legitimate LT prospects that will be drafted in the top ten, there are RT prospects throughout the draft board, OC and OG prospects can be found through the first 6 rounds. This is a weak class for QB and FB and not overly exceptional for RB. There are WR prospects other than Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin that will play many years in the league - both possession and speed category. Pettigrew's forty time brought a number of other TE prospects back into the picture.
B.J. Raji (Boston College) is like the joke about where does an 800 lb. gorilla sleep? Any where he wants to - and that's where B.J. will play as a DT; however, his college teammate Ron Brace may be a better 3-4 NT prospect. There are a number of defensive line prospects that will fit either alignment. 3-4 OLB prospects may be the strength of this draft, depending on how many of the 4-3 ends can play standing up. There may be some better ILB prospects later in the draft, the CB class is slow and you may see some of the better CB's end up at safety.
Thank you for the opportunity to present and discuss our website - if the 2009 rookies can make an impact, perhaps the Redbirds can hoist the Lombardi Trophy (like they should have last year)!
With the draft still more than a month away it's good to see that I'm not the only one anxiously awaiting it's arrival. So what do you guys think? Has anyone tried out the simulator?