The "NFL Mock Draft" column is an annual rite of spring that turns sports columnists and bloggers into handicapping experts who spout terms like "upside" and "explosivity." This year is no different, with hundreds of draft breakdowns circulating the Web. So how to separate the Tom Bradys of the world from the Ryan Leafs? We can't parse all 255 draft spots, but here are four predictions to ponder before the first pick is made.
- Don't Sleep on Eric Berry Though the increasing hype surrounding the Tennessee safety has left many experts skeptical, ESPN's Bill Simmons argues the problem is money, not talent.
One of many things that bugs me about the NFL draft: Everyone, and I mean, EVERYONE, agrees that Eric Berry is (A) one of four no-doubt-abouters in this draft; (B) quite possibly "The Next Ed Reed"; and (C) someone who passes the Champ Bailey Test -- in other words, just glancing at his name makes you think, "That's a guy who sounds like he's gonna be good." So why wouldn't Berry go fourth? Because the moronic rookie salary structure severely overvalues the top-10 picks, so teams worry that top-5 is too expensive for a free safety.
Here's my counter: You're getting a multiyear All-Pro! Who cares???
- Tim Tebow Will Be a First-Round Pick Simmons pegs the Florida quarterback and college football legend to go to hometown Jacksonville with the 24th pick because: "Tim Tebow isn't just a local hero. He's a local demigod." Sports Illustrated's Don Banks picks Tebow to go 30th to the Minnesota Vikings, who still don't know if Brett Favre is coming back. "Anyone else thinking what I'm thinking, that the Vikings' signing of veteran cornerback Lito Sheppard on Wednesday will be the final impetus to not go for a corner in the first round and turn their attention to the future of the quarterback position?" he posits.
- Demaryius Thomas Will Be Drafted Before Dez Bryant In the battle of the two top-rated wide receivers in the draft, the Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin gives the edge to Thomas, whom he calls a "playmaker." Gosselin's take is Bryant is more ambivalent: "Bryant won't slide to the [Dallas] Cowboys at 27, so look for Jerry Jones to move up if Bryant tumbles deep into the teens. Bryant has immaturity issues that are scaring teams off."
- C.J. Spiller Is Year's 'Home-Run Pick' In a column directly refuting many of Gosselin's predictions, Bleacher Report's Jack Harver is aghast at how fall Gosselin dropped the uber-athletic tailback from Clemson. "Picking 20th, the Houston Texans are projected to luck into Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, this draft's biggest home-run threat and a prominent target for several teams picking in the top 15," he marvels. Banks believes Seattle would be overjoyed to take Spiller with the 14th pick. "Seeing Spiller still on the board would stifle the Seahawks' urge to select [quarterback Jimmy] Clausen and really complicate their future quarterback situation... Seattle believes Spiller has Chris Johnson-like home-run capability," he reports.
- BONUS: Picks 1-3 The across-the-board consensus is quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy will be the first three picks. All four columnists have some combination of those three leading off the draft.