1. There is something about this day that brings out my inner Navin Johnson. You know...when the phone books come out. It must be how you all feel every year, when I put out my "Best Player in the Draft" post and then stand back and gird my loins for the onslaught of criticism and mockery. After all, opinions around the draft are...uhhh...plentiful. As we always do, let's run down where I have been (this will require a Twelvepack next year!). I can be proud of some of these...emphasis on some. It's a hell of a walk down memory lane either way (I only made minor edits to the below copy--Aaron Curry can't be edited!)
(NOTE: I don't try and guess who the team with the first pick will draft. I just try and identify who the best player in the draft is--teams can then consult this and make their decisions accordingly.)
Ken: Mario Williams
NFL #1 Overall Pick: Mario Williams
This draft was all about Reggie Bush for months. Mario Williams began shooting up the draft board in the month before the draft, but most of us believe that many teams in the league would still have taken Reggie with the top pick if they had been given the chance. I had Vince Young as the second-best player in this draft, and my bias had me probably grading Vernon Davis over Reggie as well. Jay Cutler and Haloti Ngata were notable selections early in that draft, but Mario Williams looked like the slam dunk of the whole class. Give me the uber-athletic defensive lineman over the smallish, breakable running back all day long.
Ken: Calvin Johnson
NFL #1 Overall Pick: JaMarcus Russell
This draft has to make Raiders fans sick to their stomach. Talk about two players who went in two distinctly different directions. The fact of the matter is that accurately predicting which of these players would have better careers was just not that hard. Adrian Peterson was in this draft, as was Darrelle Revis, but neither came into the draft with the kind of polish that Calvin Johnson had on him.
Ken: Jake Long
NFL #1 Overall Pick: Jake Long
This was the last one I got "right" for a few years. Jake Long was the definition of can't miss. He has lived up to it and then some. I was super high on Aqib Talib but that might have just been a contact high--he has played well but he has had his problems. Darren McFadden was the other guy I had at the top of that draft. His combination of size, speed and strength at such a critical position made him the kind of player that teams could easily kick themselves for passing on.
Ken: Aaron Curry
NFL #1 Overall Pick: Matthew Stafford
I remember really talking myself into this one. Curry was smart, athletic and came off as the kind of player that was ready to handle being a star in the NFL. I was so scared of Stafford that I had Knowshon Moreno, Michael Crabtree and Brian Orakpo rated higher on my personal preference list. There were also guys like Mark Sanchez, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews sitting out there that tantalized teams in the first round. Ultimately, Stafford has shown he is an elite player--when healthy. Aaron Curry is bouncing around the league. This was not my finest hour.
Ken: Ndamukong Suh
NFL #1 Overall Pick: Sam Bradford
For the second time in a four-year span, the Detroit Lions landed the player I thought was the best in the field. This does not bode well for Detroit. Add in their selection of Matt Stafford and...wait, jeeeeeeeeeez they had a lot of top picks. I suppose the Rams had to take Bradford, but would anyone have really faulted them for taking Suh? At the very least, someone could have traded up to get the monster defensive lineman to prove me right. Russell Okung, Eric Berry and Ryan Mathews were the other players I had rated at or near the top. I wanted Eric Berry for the Redskins...badly.
Ken: Patrick Peterson
NFL #1 Overall Pick: Cam Newton
I simply never understood why Peterson would last past the #1 overall pick. To me, he was clearly the best player in the field. Not only did he not go #1, he slipped to #5! I did not envision him being the factor he has become in the return game. In fact, it would seem I overrated his coverage abilities but he was very clearly a special player out of LSU. I had Von Miller as the second-best player, with Julio Jones right behind him. I have said it before and I'll say it again--God, was I wrong about Cam Newton. Just to show how dumb I was, I had Nick Fairley as the best player in the draft out of Auburn.
Ken: Robert Griffin III
NFL #1 Overall Pick: Andrew Luck
I honestly think there is a chance the Colts are going to shock the world and take RG3, letting Luck fall to the Washington Redskins. This is a real 1 and 1A kind of draft, although injuries have favored one of these men over the other. Griffin's marketing machine/marketing potential make him a natural Dan Snyder selection, but he is also an obviously gifted player. His athletic prowess gives him the edge over Luck in my book, but neither one of these guys is a true consolation prize. I have Matt Kalil and Luke Kuechly as the top pair of players I would have taken if I were the Redskins and didn't need a quarterback.
Ken: Luke Joeckel
NFL #1 Overall Pick: Eric Fisher
Call it my mid-major bias (Parks, looking at you here!), but I just think the Texas A&M product is more NFL-ready. Eric Fisher really gained a lot of steam as the draft approached, with Lane Johnson also getting a lot of talking head love. The first round of this draft is going to be heavy on offensive linemen (no pun intended), so this likely also pushes these guys up. The player I am most afraid not to draft if I need a skill player is Tavon Austin. Don't worry--I won't push Kyle Long on you either!
Ken: Blake Bortles (let the rain come down!)
NFL #1 Overall Pick: ???????
Let it never be said that I am afraid to sound insanely stupid. Really, incredibly, laugh-out-loud foolish. In five years, I believe in my heart that this draft will go down as the Sammy Watkins/Blake Bortles/Johnny Football draft. I think these three guys will all be players, and the teams who take them will end up happy. I would take Khalil Mack over Jadeveon Clowney, and I love Greg Robinson, BUT I think it will be Blake Bortles who becomes a star, and since he is a quarterback, he wins the prize. I can honestly say this pick makes me a little bit nauseous, because it is a total feel thing and Sammy Watkins is just sitting there looking like a superstar already. Let's just hope it looks better in the rearview mirror than Aaron Curry!