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Running out of time before the draft, so here it is — a mock of the first 34. Largely without comment.

I suspect Sacto actually trades the pick to Houston. That would rearrange 5,6,7,8 to be Drummond (to Houston), Lillard (to Portland), Barnes (to Golden State) and Waiters (to Toronto). Everything else stays the same. I have no idea what picks Houston would give up, and I’ll just guess the Kings would use them in the same way (Zeller at 12, Harkless at 16 both make a fair amount of sense for them. A little less so for Marshall at 18, so hopefully that stays with Houston.)

1    New Orleans Hornets    Anthony Davis
2    Charlotte Bobcats    Thomas Robinson
3    Washington Wizards    Bradley Beal
4    Cleveland Cavaliers    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
5    Sacramento Kings    Harrison Barnes
6    Portland Trail Blazers    Andre Drummond    (from Nets)
7    Golden State Warriors    Dion Waiters
8    Toronto Raptors    Damian Lillard
9    Detroit Pistons    John Henson
10    New Orleans Hornets    Austin Rivers    (from Wolves)
11    Portland Trail Blazers    Meyers Leonard
12    Houston Rockets    Tyler Zeller    (from Milwaukee)
13    Phoenix Suns    Jeremy Lamb
14    Milwaukee Bucks    Terrence Ross    (from Houston)
15    Philadelphia 76ers    Terrence Jones
16    Houston Rockets    Moe Harkless    (from Knicks)
17    Dallas Mavericks    Royce White
18    Houston Rockets    Kendall Marshall    (from Jazz via Wolves)
19    Orlando Magic    Quincy Miller
20    Denver Nuggets    Arnett Moultrie
21    Boston Celtics    Perry Jones
22    Boston Celtics    Andrew Nicholson    (from Clippers)
23    Atlanta Hawks    Fab Melo
24    Cleveland Cavaliers    Jared Sullinger    (from Lakers)
25    Memphis Grizzlies    Marquis Teague
26    Indiana Pacers    Draymond Green
27    Miami Heat    Jeff Taylor
28    Oklahoma City Thunder    Evan Fournier
29    Chicago Bulls    Doron Lamb
30    Golden State Warriors   Kyle O’Quinn  (from Spurs)

31    Charlotte Bobcats   Will Barton
32    Washington Wizards   Tony Wroten
33    Cleveland Cavaliers   Orlando Johnson (from New Orleans)
34    Cleveland Cavaliers  Festus Ezeli

Enjoy the draft folks!

Before I get into full mock draft mode, let’s take a minute to discuss the Cavs’ situation specifically. With the 4th, 24th, 33rd and 34th picks they have some options. Here’s what’s being discussed, speculated about, made up, etc.

At this point the clearest target in the draft save New Orleans and Anthony Davis is Washington at #3 with Bradley Beal. This puts the Cavs in a tough spot if, like me, they have Beal at the top of their board. So we’ve seen some mulling about the Cavs trading with the Bobcats to jump over Washington and pick 2nd. Generally this rumor involves #4 and #24 for #2.

Let me just come right out and say that it would be ridiculous to expect that trade to happen. Charlotte presumably has a target. Most people think it’s Thomas Robinson. You really think they’re going to increase the chance he gets away by even, say, 10%, in exchange for one lousy late first round pick? Sure Washington probably won’t take Robinson at 3, but maybe they will take the DC native. Or maybe they’ll flip it to the Kings who are hot for Robinson and have the 5th pick. And if Charlotte really wants MKG or Harrison Barnes the worry that the Wizards will take their guy is even higher.

No, to get a higher pick the Cavs would have to offer more than that. Charlotte wants them to take Tyrus Thomas who has 3(!)  more years on his lucrative deal. No thanks. The Cavs could, however, relieve them of the last year of DaSagana Diop (remember him?) and the nearly 7 million owed to him by swapping much smaller contracts (Omri Casspi and Samardo Samuels would work) and eating the rest of the contract with their empty cap space. The Cavs also could throw in one of the second rounders. Or even a future first from Miami (swapped up to the Lakers spot in next year’s draft) or the Kings (with pretty heavy protection.) If you combine all of that you might get the Bobcats to bite. But I’d be VERY surprised if the Cavs think the difference between #2 on their board and Beal is worth a future first. My guess is they stay at 4 and pick MKG.

What about going in the other direction? Rumors broke late Tuesday that the Cavs had brought Terrence Ross in for a late-in-the-game workout. Is something brewing that would get the Cavs in the range to take him or Lamb (early teens at the latest.) Or, more horrifyingly, Adrian Wojnarowski heard from a source that the Cavs had a strong interest in Dion Waiters. Could they be interested in sliding down a few spots in the top 10 to get him?

The only asset of any interest other than the #4 pick that the Cavs have is Anderson Varejao. Does Portland do, say, 11 for a package based around Varejao (tough to make salaries work, but possible.) Maybe. But I really don’t think the Cavs are interested in moving Andy. So the only scenario that makes sense is the Cavs swapping back for multiple picks or a pick and another asset. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out what could be in the works, and the only 2 candidates seem like Portland and Houston. Both have multiple picks, and Houston’s got other mildly attractive players. But is, say, #12, #16 and Patrick Patterson enough to get #4? Hell no. So we’re down to Portland at #6 and #11. Why would they want to jump 2 spots? Well, here’s my pet theory. Their interest in Damian Lillard is just a smokescreen. We keep hearing about how he had “the best workout they’ve seen since Kevin Durant.” Well, as Lillard himself pointed out, they didn’t even pick Durant. They took a young center with huge upside. Sound familiar? In that case it was a bad call (though I don’t blame them for Oden’s injuries.) But let me ask you this, would you rather have a 22 year old 6’2″ kid from Weber State whose pure point guard chops many are still questioning, OR an 18 year old who’s the most athletic center to enter the draft since Dwight Howard? I know my answer. And I think Portland does too. Well along comes Houston making serious noise about moving Kyle Lowry and picks to Sacto for the #5 pick. Neil Olshay up in Portland gets nervous and puts in a hush hush call to Chris Grant to see if he’d be interested in a 4 for 6/11 swap if it looks like the Rockets are going to pull the trigger. Grant decides to do his homework on Ross to see if pairing him with Harrison Barnes/MKG (one of whom will be left at 6) is worth it. Depending on how big a gulf you see between the 2 small forwards (and I suspect it would be Barnes that would be left at 6) I think you think very hard about that if you’re Grant.

Odds I put on anything in that last paragraph being true? 10 to 1 at best and probably closer to 50 to 1. Face it, folks. The Cavs are picking MKG at 4.

So what about those other picks? A brief list of names that have been associated with the picks

Pick 24: Fab Melo – The next Ryan Hollins?!? Big, athletic Brazilian (that sounds good) Great defensive player in his 2 years in college at Syracuse. Strangely averse to rebounding. Hands of stone? Ah, now that sounds like Hollins.

Jared Sullinger if he falls – The kind of low post presence I think actually pairs well with Thompson — big enough body to bang with centers and the best developed post game in the draft stretching out well into the midrange. Short, but we’ve got Tristan for help blocks. Back problems worth the risk at 24?

Will Barton – A scorer with nice college statistical profile. Good height for the 2 guard, but super-skinny. Bizarrely awful combine athletic testing but I assume that has an explanation. Would be a nice complement to Kyrie and MKG.

Andrew Nicholson – Stretch 4. Would fit well in a 3 or 4 man big man rotation. Not very athletic but thought to be a competent defender.

Doron Lamb/John Jenkins – Shooters, but do they have complete games? I have higher hopes for Lamb than Jenkins on that score.

Evan Fournier – French 19 year old shooting guard. People describe him as a slasher, but he takes an awful lot of 3′s as well and ain’t too bad at hitting them. Probably ready to come over this year, or next year at the latest. To be honest I can never make heads or tails of whether international players are actually going to be good.

Perry Jones if he falls – Irresistible physical talent at this point. Inconsistent player for 2 years at Baylor, but I don’t believe in this thing called motor. Rumors of knee problems circulating, and may cause him to slide.

Quincy Miller – The other guy from Baylor. Might be off the board. Lanky freshman small forward who was coming back from an ACL injury this year. Underwhelming season but overwhelming upside.

Jeff Taylor. 23 year old senior out of Vanderbilt. Good defender. By senior year developed his shot and ability to put the ball on the floor too. But limited upside. Probably a better pick for a team that’s already in the playoffs looking for role players.

Tony Wroten – Big physically talented combo guard that could play alongside Kyrie even though he’s more of a point guard. Cannot shoot at all. Turns it over all the time. I get the physical appeal, but I’ll let someone else take that risk.

Festus Ezeli – Another big athletic center. Great athletic measurements. Just never saw it on the court at Vanderbilt. Probably better bet in round 2.

I’d lean towards Sullinger, Barton or Nicholson, probably in that order.

Picks 33/34:

Could still have Lamb, Jenkins, Wroten, Ezeli hanging around. Maybe even Barton or Fournier. Take Barton immediately if he’s there!

Kim English from Missouri is sort of one tier down from Lamb and Jenkins on the “can shoot but can he do anything else?” list.

The sources Woj had that said the Cavs had interest in Waiters also mentioned he’d heard that in the 2nd the Cavs were looking at Bernard James and Furkan Aldemir here. James is the Brandon Weeden of this draft — he’s already 27. To be honest I haven’t looked into him that much. It’s a second round pick — I can’t get too angry about anything here. That said, isn’t Cleveland’s workforce aging enough on it’s own? Do we need to keep injecting new senior citizens? Aldemir is an undersized 4 and people seem torn on whether he’d ever come over. The next Milan Macvan?

If they’re going to go international the top 2 seem like Fournier and Greek SF Kostas Papanikolaou. People don’t seem that high on his upside, but again, it’s the second round. Probably wouldn’t come over this year. Your guess is as good as mine.

Heard Jae Crowder’s name. Really an undersize 4 though he’ll be listed as a SF. Good college player. Will have to get by on energy in the NBA. A little repetitive if they get MKG too.

I’m partial to taking a flyer on a small school guy. I love Orlando Johnson from UC Santa Barbara. Another shooting guard. Did it all for them the past few years. Great kid who’s overcome a lot of personal tragedy. Good shooter, but can he create off the dribble in the NBA. Awesome length, but not known as a great defender in college. Another guy is Kevin Murphy from Tennessee Tech. Skinny 6’6″ kid with a sweet shot. Probably not going to turn into anything at the NBA level, but I’d be happy to see the Cavs (or somebody else) take a chance.

Last guy I’ll mention is Jared Cunningham from Oregon State. A little bit of an odd fit since again he’s a 6’5″ combo guard who’s more adept at slashing than outside shooting. But one of the guys likely to go in the 2nd that I’d bet on as far as being an NBA success.

Going to try and get two or three draft posts in here before the clock strikes 7. Here goes.

So who should the Cavs draft, who will the Cavs draft and where? Those seem like the pertinent questions. To start out, how do I see the top (non-Anthony Davis) players in the draft? I’ve actually had a remarkably consistent perspective on that for the past couple of weeks. Here’s the order:

1) Bradley Beal. To believe in Bradley Beal is to believe your eyes and ears over those pesky things like statistical performance. His freshman year was relatively unspectacular, at least for a top 5 pick. About 15 points. A shockingly high number of rebounds for a 2-guard, but you aren’t drafting a shooting guard just to rebound. Not a lot of assists. Just doesn’t stand out. Even physically he’s an underwhelming, though in my opinion perfectly adequate, 6’4.5″ with a 6’8″ wingspan. If you look at Hollinger draft rater he’s about an 11, firmly a middle of the pack kind of outcome that projects as fringe starter/backup kind of level.

So what gives? Well, you have to believe all the hype. Usually that’s a bad idea. Given enough time you can talk yourself into about anyone. His shot is picture-perfect the scouts will tell you. It took him a little while to assert himself, his coach will tell you, because he didn’t want to step on toes of ball-hogging upperclassmen. Once he figured it out (in the SEC and NCAA tournament) he was great! (small sample sirens blaring) He was playing out of position at small forward. He was used to shooting off the dribble in high school and it took time to adjust to being a catch and shoot player.

But you know what? I buy it. All of it. I just think this kid has it. And in a league where the two best shooting guards under age 30 are Eric Gordon and James Harden, I think he has the chance to be a perennial All-Star. Probably not leading-his-team superstar level good, but pretty darn good. You aren’t going to do better in this draft.

2) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I’ve never really believed in these things like “motor” and “heart” and “being a winner” but maybe there’s something to it. If someone’s ever going to sell me on those things it will be Kidd-Gilchrist. I like him. I like the storyline of him and Kyrie being reunited. His intensity impresses me. I know you’re all thinking “there’s Cavalier Perspective going soft on us and buying into a character guy.” Well, yeah. But he’s also got statistical chops, if in a pretty subtle way. He was a low usage, but highly efficient player. Thrived in transition and drawing free throws. That sounds like a nice pairing with a sweet-passing point guard. Add in some lockdown D and the tenacity to maybe, just maybe repair that shot (okay, maybe now I’m stretching it) and this guy looks really good.

3) Andre Drummond. I find myself having to make excuses for all of these guys. Maybe that’s a bad sign. But again, I think the explanations have some merit here. This is a guy who signed onto UConn way late, missed much of the summer practices, lost the coach for more than a month and still managed to be the second best defensive player in the NCAAs. He’s 18. He’s nice and doesn’t make trouble. Okay, maybe he’s a little hot and cold and doesn’t always seem to be focused and concentrating. Did I mention he’s 18? We can’t all be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He can’t play offense. But he’s 18. And 6’11″ and 270 pounds and moves like a gazelle. You’d really don’t want to take a chance on this guy?

4) Harrison Barnes.  He ONLY scored 17 points a game on 44% shooting and 36% from 3 pt land as a sophomore. He ONLY got 5.8 rebounds a game. He didn’t pass it much. He had trouble creating off the dribble. He often seemed to float around the perimeter. He didn’t seem to use his incredible (emphasizing this again, INCREDIBLE) length and athleticism very well on defense. Oh, and he wasn’t Kobe Bryant.

That seems to have made a lot of people angry. It led to one of the most pathetic hatchet jobs on a 20 year old kid I’ve seen published in quite some time (yes, I’m talking to you Jay Caspian King.) And you know what? They’re right. That’s not how the guy who’s going to get picked first or second in the draft needs to play in college. It’s more like, say, the guy that’s going to get picked somewhere between 5 and 8 should play. You win Jay Caspian King. Enjoy your brand over there at Grantland while Harrison has himself a nice little career as the second or third best player on damn good team (or the best player on a bad one.) Unfortunately seeing as the Kings and Warriors are heavily in the mix here I worry it might be the latter.

5) Thomas Robinson. This has nothing to do with Thomas Robinson. I think he’ll be great. He has the requisite size, athleticism, energy level, and talent level to develop into something maybe a step below Al Horford. If 3 guys from this draft are going to make an All-Star team I’d probably put him on the list. But he couldn’t be a worse fit. He and Tristan Thompson (or Andy for the next couple of years) would sit there 3 feet from the basket fighting each other for rebounds and putbacks and generally getting in each others way. You don’t want to let Robinson stray out to the perimeter (like he sometimes did at Kansas.) You want him to develop into a low post force. Similarly, you definitely don’t want Tristan Thompson to be caught dead out on the perimeter. You want him hustling around wreaking havoc in the paint. You don’t want either guy banging bodies all game with centers on defense. You want them both to do exactly the same thing. That doesn’t work. Robinson may well be better than Thompson, but trying to get both of them minutes likely means neither reaches their full potential. As I covered some time ago, it’s not best player available. It’s who are going to be able to develop as the most valuable asset 4 or 5 years down the line. That requires thinking a little about fit. For the Cavs, Robinson just isn’t a fit.

Best of the Rest? Jeremy Lamb (even if he yawns in interviews and looks like he’s asleep when he’s on the court), Terrence Ross (very similar ranking to Lamb — little bit taller, little shorter wingspan, little better shooter, little worse shot creator, little less comatose), Dion Waiters (good enough, but why would we want a ball dominating sub-6’4″ combo guard?), Austin Rivers (a ball dominating 6’5″! combo guard who shoots better but has more questions about other facets of his game), Meyers Leonard (big center with underrated offensive game who could develop into a nice complement to Tristan. Or could completely bust),  Tyler Zeller (a center, though I’d like to see a little more bulk. Nice overall game though), Terrence Jones (could be cast as a stretch 4, though I’m not sure that’s a perfect role for him). No offense intended to Damian Lillard (PG) or John Henson (skinny shot-blocking PF) but they clearly duplicate the best players on the current roster.

One day into the draft, here’s a quick-hitting (i.e. not 7000 words) set of observations about the past day and the coming night:

1) Mock drafting is hard. I got 7 out of 32 right in this topsy-turvy affair (Luck, Griffin, Richardson, Barron, Tannehill, Cox, Kirkpatrick.) Most proud of the Barron call — getting that the Bucs would look to trade down and snag a safety. Also pleased that I had Doug Martin and David Wilson going to the Bucs and Giants. Just got them in the wrong order since I didn’t see the trade coming. Mark Dominik, I’m in your head!

2) The tackles are who we thought they were! Or, more precisely, the tackles are who a lot of experts thought they were. The gulf in talent after Kalil was apparent as several teams with serious offensive line needs (Bills, Cardinals, Chargers, Bears) shied away from grabbing these guys, letting Reiff fall to the Lions at 23. Some folks, seeing the gulf between expectation and reality conclude that reality is wrong and that the Lions got a steal with a top 15 talent at pick 23. I conclude that I was an idiot to pick Reiff over Floyd at 13 and that Reiff is about right at 23. Definitely my dumbest pick of the night. Going forward, we shouldn’t see guys like Martin and Adams as first round talents sliding into the second. We should think of them as second round talents who were overrated because we’re used to first rounds where 4 or more tackles are picked (last 4 years had 7, 4, 4, and 8.) That being said, there’s a difference between saying a guy is a 1st round left tackle prospect and saying a guy can compete with Oneil Cousins to start right away on the right side. I think these guys can help the Browns if they end up going at 37, and even the tier below them, which look like they’ll be available in the 3rd, might be where the Browns can find their right side protector for Weeden.

3) It’s more about picking the right guy than picking him at the right time. We saw a set of trades where teams shuffled up a few picks to make sure they got their man. The Browns from 4 to 3 were the most blatant, but there were also Philly going from 15 to 12 to make sure the Rams didn’t grab Cox, the Pats coming up 6 spots to make sure Chandler Jones didn’t disappear (who was the worry? Houston maybe?), Minnesota and Tampa Bay jumping back into the first to get Harrison Smith and Doug Martin. Some of the trades the threat was obvious — the Jags needed to jump the Rams to get Blackmon and the Cowboys clearly weren’t going to get Claiborne at 14. In the Moneyball era we’re all obsessed with the precise value of climbing each rung of the draft ladder, and how picking a guy too high isn’t maximizing value. But good scouting still swamps good moneyballing when it comes to building a winner. In 5 years it won’t matter whether the Browns gave up an extra 4th rounder, it will matter whether Richardson is the best back in the league. I can complain about the Browns grabbing Weeden at 22 when I’m almost positive he would have been there at 37 or even 67. But they’re still going to get one of the 2 or 3 guys I would have had top on my list at 22. If Weeden works out, even the 5% chance that he might not have been there at 37 is probably worth more than the difference between Rueben Randle and Stephen Hill. If you have guys in your front office that make the right decisions about player quality you’re going to rise to the top. If you don’t, then it doesn’t matter how good a deal your team gets on the bad players that it picks.

 

 

I’m not going to act like you’re excited. It’s another Mock Draft. When I started this, I thought I was going to go through 22. Then I went to the end of Round 1. But it was only 5 more picks until the Browns drafted again! Onwards to 37! But I still had guys left. I got into the mid-40s, and I couldn’t find a stopping point until the end of the 2nd. Hell, I went 5 deep in the 3rd before calling it quits. We’re lucky the magical Thursday is upon us, or else I’d end up doing all 7. Okay, enough verbiage. This is going to be over 5000 words anyway.

#1 Colts — Luck. Duh.

#2 Redskins — Griffin. Duh Duh.

#3 Vikings — Morris Claiborne, CB from LSU. It was en vogue for a few weeks to say that the draft began at pick 4 with the Browns, the assumption being that Minnesota was set on USC Tackle Matt Kalil. But as with everything that becomes a cliche during mock draft season it was wrong. NFL teams are finally coming around on the fact that cornerbacks belong in the top 10 on draft day on a yearly basis. In fact NFL Film’s Greg Cosell (one of the only non-blowhards who devotes a fair amount of time to writing about the draft) made a convincing argument for its inclusion amongst the top 3 “premium positions” in the NFL, edging out tackle and joining QB (the obvious #1) and pass rusher (scheme-dependent, either DE or OLB). I’ve yet to see anyone rank Kalil over Claiborne on pure talent. So if he’s more talented, plays a position that is becoming recognized as being of at least close to equal importance and is going to a team whose best CB option under 30 is hanging by a thread after being acquitted (on a self-defense defense) in one of the more painful sounding domestic violence cases in recent football memory, well then I think that’s a pretty compelling argument for making him your pick.

#4 Browns — Trent Richardson, RB from Alabama. This is becoming the accepted wisdom in Cleveland and the mock draft echo chamber, with the exception of NFL.com’s Mike Mayock and the PD’s Mary Kay Cabot who go with WR Justin Blackmon. And unlike most in Cleveland (or at least most cleveland.com commenters…that’s an accurate sample, right?) I actually see MKC’s point here. Justin Blackmon doesn’t have the physical profile of AJ Green or Julio Jones. He’s not going to beat corners down the sidelines with the frequency those guys will (at least if the defense is awake). But this is the West Coast Offense. It’s predicated on short quick routes. It needs receivers that can run precise routes, find the spaces in the defense, bring in any ball that’s close, and most of all, YAC it up for big gains. That’s precisely what Blackmon has done for Oklahoma State. Receivers like Blackmon don’t have the market value of Green or Jones, but are the Browns wouldn’t be putting him on the market — they’d be putting him on the field. So if you have a perfect scheme fit do you take the guy?

Well, you do if you can answer yes to two questions. First, is he what he appears to be? It seems safe to conclude that his hands are legit, but will his ability to get open at will over the middle and make huge after-catch gains hold up against NFL corners? Is that about football instincts and toughness that transcend his physical profile? Or is it taking advantage of soft Big 12 secondaries? Figuring that out is why they pay Tom Heckert the big bucks. If he answers yes to that there’s only one more question.

Is he really better than Trent Richardson? This guy is basically the consensus at this point in terms of most talent in the draft south of the 2 QBs. He can do everything you ask of a running back, and that includes the pass catching that’s so valuable in the WCO. Look at what LeSean McCoy does in Philly. Doesn’t he contribute more than Jackson or Maclin? Now imagine he was an even better runner on the ground. I’m not passing on that guy.

#5 TRADE! — Okay, predicting trades in mock drafts is basically a fool’s errand. You’re never going to guess them all. But why not try and guess a couple? Matt Kalil is still on the board, and the Bucs need to turn their focus primarily to the defense. Meanwhile, Buffalo, sitting at #10, is making a hard charge at playoff contention, but can’t do so without an offensive line that keeps its QB upright. So I’ve got the Bills moving up with #10 and #41 in the second to take Kalil here. The only Day 1 starting left tackle in the draft, and that’s what the Bills need. And conveniently, as I set out to write this, somebody’s leaking it to PFT. Apparently I’ve got a mole!

#6 Rams — Justin Blackmon, WR from Oklahoma. So the Rams had the West Coast Offense under the almighty Pat Shumur, then ditched it for about 12 games of Josh McDaniel and basically played no offense after he left. Now they bring in Brian Schottenheimer, the author of what I’d call the Jets’ “boring offense.” The boring offense features a heavy dose of runs by 3 yards and a cloud of dust backs (which at 29 we assume the once elusive Steven Jackson will be heading towards soon) to set up some safe short-yardage passes. Maybe Sam Bradford’s arm will inspire him to branch out a little. If it does, it’ll be good to have a receiver that can catch the ball (unlike, say, the currently available top 3 pick that played for the Jets in 2010.)


#7 Jaguars — Stephon Gilmore, CB from South Carolina. I told you CBs were hot! I’m normally not a sucker for the “late riser” (as I’ll elaborate on shortly) but I think this isn’t a workout warrior story as much as guy who got ignored because of flashier names (Claiborne, Janoris Jenkins, even Alabama’s Kirkpatrick) at his position. It’s really his play that’s doing the talking though. Cosell, about as rugged a video hound as there is, ranked him above even Claiborne and used the words “Charles Woodson potential” (don’t worry, I’m not just cribbing his mock draft — that’s about the last point I’ll make from him). Rasheen Mathis has had a nice career, but will be 32 by the time the year starts. Yes, they signed 29 year old Aaron Ross away from the Giants. But it’s time to develop a truly elite young corner in a division that’s now paced by Schaub to Andre Johnson and has Andrew Luck on the horizon. Another thing to note about CBs in this class — when the top tier is done, it’s done. The early 2nd isn’t where you want to be grabbing a corner. The Jags will find the pass rush pickings there much more to their liking than they will the remnants at this position.

#8 Dolphins — Ryan Tannehill, QB from Texas A&M — I didn’t even mention him in the Browns debate above in hopes that ignoring him will send a subtle message to the Browns to ignore him as well. While I’m not too confident in my telepathic powers, I am reasonably hopeful that he’ll be wearing a hat of a color other than Brown. A color like teal. A lot of rumors swirling that the owner is involved and demanding he be chosen here. And then a lot of counter-rumors from “highly connected sources” saying that’s hogwash. Highly connected sources like Jeff Ireland, annoyed that his power is being undermined in the media. Ross gets his way, and Tannehill is the guy. I’d give him about 1 in 4 odds of working out — no worse or better of a project than the Locker/Gabbert/Ponder group we saw from last year. Worth a gamble for a team not going anywhere fast? I suppose.

#9 Carolina — Quinton Coples, DE from North Carolina — No this isn’t some homer pick (if I wanted that I’d have let Gilmore fall — he’s from Rock Hill SC which is part of the Charlotte MSA, as opposed to Kinston, NC halfway across the state. No, Coples is here because he’s always been here. He’s a physical beast that has the highest ceiling of any defensive lineman in this draft. We’ve known that since long before the combine. As I said, I’m not a late risers guy — after two months of sifting through bogus rumors I really don’t think draft boards are any better than where they started. He was top 10 if not top 5 at the beginning of this process. Now people are putting Fletcher Cox here. I don’t buy it. I’m betting Coples is still here. Does he want to play? I don’t know. But Carolina got to ask him that question when they flew him in for a late second workout Monday. If he had the right answers I think he’s the pick.

#10 Tampa Bay (from Buffalo) — Mark Barron, S from Alabama — I might have the pick right even if I get the team wrong, as Buffalo is apparently keen on him as well (according to my inside Buffalo source). But I think he makes even more sense for the Bucs. If we look at Football Outsiders’ broken tackle numbers for defenses we see that the Bucs were the league’s #1 embarrassment in that department (you can thank them later Philadelphia.) Neither of their safeties could tackle at all (Browns fans will remember Sean Jones) nor could their corners or linebackers. Oy. One way to solve a tackling problem is to bring in a new hardass defensive minded coach. Check. Another way is to bring in a safety who people compare to the late Sean Taylor in terms of bone-jarring hitting ability and desire. Admittedly, a third way is to bring in an inside linebacker who made every play on the field for his college team last year. But you can only have one of the last two solutions, so that last guy gets left for…

#11 Kansas City — Luke Kuechly, ILB from Boston College — A playmaker. It’s hard to imagine a guy like this failing. Yet the hit rate on guys who seemed like surefire dominators (dominatrices?) at linebacker has been pretty low of late. Rolando McClain? Aaron Curry? Ernie Sims? Vernon Gholston (more of a rusher)? AJ Hawk? Andy Katzenmoyer? Oh, wait, now I’m just listing OSU Buckeyes. I guess that’s why some other school got the name Linebacker U. Anyway. But hey, there were hits too like Von Miller, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews (though he wasn’t actually thought to be top tier), and Patrick Willis. Speaking of OSU linebackers, I enjoyed this sarcastic quote from a scout included in one of Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal reporter Bob McGinn’s surveys “”If you consider (James) Laurinaitis great and (Sean) Lee great and Posluszny great, then, yeah, he’ll be great,” another scout said. “I love the way the kid plays but he’s not a dynamic player. He’s better than A.J. Hawk now, but not that A.J. Hawk that was at Ohio State.” All that said, he’s a good pick here for Crennel and I think he’ll be a good player.

#12 Seattle — Melvin Ingram, DE from South Carolina — You need pass rusher and you get one of the top 2  if not the best in the draft. A smaller guy than Coples, but capable of being a rush end in the model of Jabaal Sheard (okay — too soon for those outside of Cleveland, but you’ll know his name soon enough.) Gotta say the toughest part about being an amateur mock drafter is figuring out what guys can fit into what scheme. I’m sure I’m going to get some of them wrong on here, where I say a guy can play 3-4 OLB when he’s much better for the 4-3 DE or put someone at the nose who couldn’t survive there as well as in a 4-3 at DT. With this guy it seems the consensus is that he can swing both ways and that he’s the best rusher left on the board. We’ll go with that.

#13 Arizona — Riley Reiff, OT from Iowa — My heart says no, but my brain says yes, and as usual I go with my brain. This was about as close to a consensus pick as you get in mock draft land (until I look at the new Kiper and McShay, where they’ve of course changed their picks — Mayock still has it.) He’s seen as a reach at 10 if the Bills are picking there, but 3 picks later somehow he seems just about right. It’s a weird business. Admittedly, the three guys ahead are clearly superior talents and other than maybe Fletcher Cox I don’t know who you say that about going forward. Also Arizona has a hell of a lot worse offensive line than Buffalo or just about anyone else. David DeCastro is certainly in the conversation as a better overall player, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them take the guard here. But tackles are your best protection against the pass rush and if you’re going to salvage Kevin Kolb you’ve gotta at least give him a chance. Why does my heart say no? Because I’d love to see Larry Fitzgerald and Micheal Floyd teamed up as a dynamic pass catching duo that could make any quarterback look good. Oh, their QB is John Skelton? Maybe I take that back.

#14  Dallas — Dontari Poe, NT from Memphis — I’m not big on this guy. I don’t love workout warriors who haven’t shown it on the field. But that doesn’t mean that Jerry Jones and company don’t want to make a splash. Maybe Rob Ryan can get him going. When the talent (and frame) are this big it’s worth the risk. Not everyone can weigh in at 346 pounds, break 5 in the 40, bench press 225 pounds 44 times and look this good in a wife beater.

#15 Philadelphia — Fletcher Cox, DT from Mississippi State — Philly came in second on the list of broken tackles above, which tells you which side of the ball they need to focus on. Defensive linemen aren’t usually the direct culprits on these if you look at the article, but having a solid first line of defense against the run keeps backs out of the secondary where they can put the burn on smaller players. Brockers might actually be the better choice in terms of run stopping, but the Eagles can’t help themselves here in nabbing a guy who can eat up space AND put some pressure on the QB. Plus he’s a little bit further along in his development as a player, and thus readier for a team that wants to compete in the playoffs now. If Barron was here he’d be the pick, but he’s not, and no remaining safeties or 4-3 linebackers have the talent neccessary to justify this pick, so D-line is a no brainer.

#16 NY Jets — Courtney Upshaw, OLB from Alabama — Rex Ryan has actually managed to build a pretty solid defense despite never really getting good rush off the edge at the linebacker position. That’s a credit to what good corners can do for you in terms of freeing you up to bring pressure, and shows you why I’m excited about the guys defensive backs I had going up top. But Upshaw might finally add the speed rush element to the Jets defense. If he works out, watch out. Again Floyd tempts, but a talented player at a high need position dominates. There will be receivers in the 2nd round.

#17 Cincinnati — Dre Kirkpatrick, CB from Alabama — If they want Kirkpatrick they’ve gotta use this pick, because he ain’t getting by Tennessee at 20. I know a lot of people will have Janoris Jenkins going to the Bengals with their second pick, but when you have an alternative this good, why take the risk of pairing Jenkins with Pacman? I love me some low character players (Don’t be offended Janoris! It’s a term of endearment here at Cavalier Perspective!) but at some point you put your young team at risk if you just continue to stir trouble into the pot (that’s a real cliche, right? I really swear I’m a native English speaker…) If I’m the Bengals I follow the sage advice of some anonymous scout and avoid adding more players who “just smoke and [have sex]“ (censorship PFT’s)

#18 San Diego — David DeCastro, OG from Stanford — Great pickup for the Chargers. Philip Rivers is going to look like a much better QB if the line play is solid in front of him. A top talent who they’re lucky to have fall to them at this spot. At some point you’ve gotta take the best player on the board, even if he’s a guard.

#19 Chicago — Michael Floyd, WR from Notre Dame — A lot of offensive lineman on the board, but can they step in and make an impact right away for a regime that needs to prove it can win now? That’s less of a question with Floyd, who’s too talented to fall much further. Beyond Marshall what do they have? Johnny Knox was never the gamebreaker they’d hoped even before the scary injury last year. Hester is better than a gadget player, but worse than a true second receiver. Sanzenbacher is a role player. Earl Bennett was totally not worth the 5th round pick that someone accidentally used on him in last year’s Gentlemen’s Elite League fantasy draft. And you might not have heard, but Sam Hurd got in some kind of trouble with some Federal Bureau of Investigation. Wow, does any other team in the league have that many mediocre yet occasionally fantasy-relevant receievers? Well, come tonight they’ll have a receiver that might be worth picking ahead of Earl Bennett.

#20 Tennessee — Michael Brockers, DT from LSU — Another case of talent trumping true need. In this case cornerback cries out for help, but they don’t bite on Janoris Jenkins. If they’re going D-Line a lot of folks are looking at them to take an edge rusher to complement/replace recent verging on draft bust DE Derrick Morgan. But the guys on the inside aren’t exactly stars and that’s just what they hope Brockers will be. Some people think he’s going to go considerably higher in the draft, but he made a puzzlingly high number of visits to teams, indicating that his camp is pretty uncertain that they’ve convinced anyone to take him. The Titans (one of the many to take a look at him) are happy to relieve their anxiety.

#21 Cincinnati — Kendall Wright, WR from Baylor — Now starts the serious discussion of players that might legitimately be available for the Browns at 22. In this case he’s not (22 is bigger than 21) but he’s certainly among those heavily discussed. What do the Bengals (and perhaps the Browns) see in him? He’s guy with the ability to get open downfield, though not a guy who’s going to sprint by NFL corners routinely. Makes catches all over the field and turns and runs with it. Big YAC guy — short but strong (and apparently fat according to his combine measurements.) What could go wrong? I’m not a huge measurements guy, but I can’t get over the 8.5 inch hands. I’m not quite sure how they measure hands, but it looks to me like I’m topping 8 from pinky to thumb. I wouldn’t want my hands on a wideout. And you know what they say about guys with small hands? They drop passes. And Browns fans have had more than enough of those in recent memory. The other concern I have is the identification problem. You’ve only seen him on the field with Griffin (likewise, with Blackmon, you’ve only seen him with Weeden.) These QBs make receivers look good. I wish I had data on these guys with average QBs so I’d be sure they were responsible for their gaudy catch numbers. I hope I can trust Heckert’s eye to sort that out. Or I hope the Bengals take him at 21 to pair with AJ Green and the Browns don’t have to worry about it.

#22 Cleveland — Rueben Randle, WR from LSU — Nooooooooooo! The Browns pick a guy who nobody seems to have on their draft board at 22. Boooooooo! I’ve seen him as low as pick #61 to SF (in Mel Kiper’s “Grade A Draft”) but you know what, I don’t care. Why are people not more excited about this guy? He has the physical tools (size, measured speed) that people are complaining Blackmon and Wright don’t have. He’s played with crap QBs and still put up adequate numbers. Hands are great and catches everything in reach. Tape jockeys love him (hat tip to Greg Cosell again, who picks him at 22 and compares him to Hakeem Nicks. But I had him here before reading his mock!) A young guy who won’t turn 21 until next week. In the words of the inimitable Nick Gilbert, “What’s not to like?” Now everyone’s going to start complaining about value. How we could have gotten him in Round 2. Well I don’t think so. I think you got Houston eyeing a wideout at 26. You’ve got the 49ers talking up receivers at 30. You’ve got Colts looking for a target for Luck and the Vikings still desperate ahead of the Browns in Round 2. If you’re going to get this guy it’s gotta be now.

#23 Detroit — Mike Adams, OT from OSU — Their line sucks. This and CB are their biggest needs. They’ve had their two top picks from 2011 get arrested for pot in the last month, one of whom, Mikel Leshoure, chose to eat it as the cops closed in. Apparently he could have used a bib and toothpick since the cop reported he had marijuana stuck in his teeth with crumbs sprinkled down the front of his shirt. So who are the top prospects at those positions? Janoris Jenkins, the previously mentioned smoker and copulater, and Mike Adams who tested positive at the combine for marijuana. They could go with a safer pick like Jonathan Martin from Stanford, but I don’t really see the Lions avoiding the risk on Adams if he’s the guy they want. A little smoking never hurt nobody (now sex….that’s a killer.) Adams seems to command a reputation as more of the lazy (by NFL standards) pothead, so I don’t really think it’s a huge risk PR-wise. I trust Ndamukong Suh can convince him to work hard enough in practice (while Nick Fairley encourages him to slack off and smoke more weed.) But be wary Lions — if he ever wins any awards he’s likely to commit the heinous crime of trying to sell them in exchange for free tattoos.

#24 Pittsburgh — Cordy Glenn, OL from Georgia — Adams has been rumored to be the apple of their eye, which probably means they want nothing to do with him. They’ve got multiple spots on the line in need of upgrading and could slide Glenn in at guard or tackle. Versatile. Huge. Seems like a solid pick. I hope he’s not.

#25 Denver — Coby Fleener, TE from Stanford — I know they brought in Joel Dreesen and Tamme-time (Jacob Tamme) but can you turn down a pass-catching TE of this caliber when he’s sitting there for you in the draft? When you just signed Peyton Manning? Okay, probably you do if you’re a responsible GM. But as I’m just a mere mock drafter it seemed like an idea worth floating.

#26 Houston — Jonathan Martin, OT from Stanford — The run on tackles continues, much to the Browns’ dismay. It’s tough to tell where these guys are going to go. Glenn is almost certain to be a first rounder, but Adams (lazy and weak) and Martin (lack of toughness) could fall into the second. Though even there, you’ve got the Rams and Vikings both hot for tackles, so hoping that a first round tackle falls to the Browns seems a dubious proposition. With Martin the concerns are about his passion, which I suspect might just be that guys that seem sort of cerebral worry non-cerebral scouts.  “‘Not very tough.’ Hails from North Hollywood, Calif. One scout said Martin’s father was a college professor and his mother was an attorney.” So basically a latte-sipping liberal. I do worry again about the identification problem — is it Luck or is it skill?  A quarterback who makes quick decisions and is mobile can make a tackle look pretty good. If the Browns take a chance on him at 22 I won’t be angry.

#27 New England — Nick Perry, DE/OLB from USC — The Pats need more of a pass rush and they’ve got a lot of choices here. Despite being a 3-4 team, the Pats are lining up more and more often in a 4-3. Perry seems to have the versatility where they could see him in either of those schemes. His physical tools seem phenomenal and his on field performance looks great. So what’s the catch? I don’t know. If the Pats don’t pick him they probably do.

#28 Green Bay — Shea McClellin, OLB from Boise State — The first of several highly ranked Boise St. players in this year’s draft. I love that this program is becoming a year-in-year-out powerhouse type team. Most teams would love to have a pass rusher that could have the impact of Clay Matthews (why did you pass on him Mangini?!?!?) The Packers want one for each side. McClellin is one of the few complete outside linebackers in this draft. He’s a good rusher but not exclusively a rush guy. Don’t see the Packers passing if he gets here.

#29 Baltimore — Dont’a Hightower, LB from Alabama — Seen by most as an inside linebacker, he can break into the league playing alongside Ray Lewis. Seems like a pretty good gig. Could also play outside if they prefer him there. A physical talent where scouts seem to feel he needs the right environment to thrive. As much as it pains me to say it, Baltimore has proven time and again that it knows how to make its draft picks look good.

#30 San Francisco — Kevin Zeitler, OG from Wisconsin — Their offensive line is starting to fill up with recent high picks. That’s the luxury you have when your defense is rock solid already. Have hole at guard. Fill hole at guard. That’s kind of how mock drafting works when you get to pick 30. The GMs probably put a little more thought into it.

#31 New England — Janoris Jenkins, CB from North Alabama — Of course New England gets the uber-talented guy who falls too far. If I didn’t hate them I’d love them. Nobody does low character like the Patriots these days. That’s what you can do when you have a strong organization in place. One day, Browns fans, you too can have confidence that players like this will produce for your team. Though I shouldn’t be complaining too much with last year’s dubious character haul of Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard and Greg Little. This ain’t the Mangini era of straight A students anymore. These are my kind of players!

#32 NY Giants — Doug Martin, RB from Boise State — Is it over yet? No, honey, that’s just the first round. There are still two more days of this! And we’re only 4500 words in. We’re just getting started! This is a pretty straightforward pick for your Super Bowl Champs. Their running game was thoroughly inept last year. Ahmad Bradshaw is an okay back, apparently one you can win a Super Bowl with, but it’s time for an upgrade or at least a complement no that Brandon Jacobs is safely out the door. Martin is another do-it-all type back who can grind out yards or catch passes out of the backfield. He’s not Richardson, but he has a chance to be a good player. If the Browns go a different direction with #4 he would definitely be under consideration for them at 37. Unless of course the Giants take him at 32. Which I think they will.

Thus ends the first round. Continue at your own risk. You could be here all night.

#33 St. Louis — Bobby Massie, OT from Mississippi — The last of the top tier of tackles in the draft, and the Rams are certainly in need of one. He’s the apple of Mel Kiper’s eye, for whatever that’s worth, but other scouts don’t see it quite the same way. “Physically, he moves better than any of those tackles, but he’s so (expletive) inconsistent. He’s not tough-minded. I don’t think he’s dumb. I think he’s naïve. He’s Mississippi.” Not sure what that means — sometimes I think these guys speak a different language. Anyway, not enamored with him for the Browns since I think he’s a high ceiling – low floor risk guy that’s going to take some development and as is a better gamble for a team hoping to land a guy that could turn into a great left tackle than a team looking for a consistent right tackle that can step in this season.

#34 Indianapolis — Jerel Worthy, DT/NT from Michigan State — What doesn’t this team need? They’re completely overhauling the offense, but they also have a new coach in Chuck Pagano who’s bringing in a new 3-4 scheme. Worthy weighs in only just over 300 at the moment, but there seems to be the feeling he can bulk up a little bit and play at the nose (on the nose?) The Colts have historically preferred speed over size and are in need of big bodies that can clog up space.

#35 Minnesota — Stephen Hill, WR from Georgia Tech — They miss out on tackles, but they grab a receiver with a lot of potential. His size and speed have everyone salivating, but he’s a risk I’m not eager for the Browns to take. Basically the opposite of Blackmon — he’s got the talent to blow by corners but that’s all he’s got. Doesn’t know how to play the position. If we’re sticking with McCoy who can’t throw more than 20 yards then what’s the point of drafting someone who can’t run any route but a deep out? Minnesota’s a weird team — they don’t seem to state their intention to do a full rebuild as baldly as the Rams or Colts. But they’re just as bad and have a young QB who isn’t ready to win yet. They can draft a boom or bust guy in the 2nd and afford to wait for him to develop.

#36 Tampa Bay — Zach Brown, OLB from North Carolina — Another Carolina kid with all the potential in the world who doesn’t seem to play hard. Will be as fast as any linebacker in the league, but is there more to his game? Butch Davis liked him out of high school, and as the Bucs’ new senior super special adviser to the coach he gets a voice in this decision. It helps that the Bucs are desperate for linebackers. Let’s just say I’m not pining for the days when Butch Davis was picking the guys for my team.

And with the 37th pick in the draft the Browns take…linebacker…(nooo!)…Lavonte David from the University of Nebraska. Love this kid. He’s a playmaker. He’s small, but I don’t think you need to worry that much about size for your weakside linebacker. You pick him here because he’s a special player that seems like he can have more impact on a game than anyone else on the board. It’s a bit of a luxury pick and maybe a luxury a team like the Browns can’t take with their glaring need on the O-Line and arguably in the secondary. But if you pick for need here you’re missing out on a special player, and it’s not as if linebacker is too far down the needs list anyway. Fujita is wearing down, and he’s both a physical and emotional leader for this team. Let’s get the guy who can grow into that role over the next couple of years.

#38 Jacksonville — Whitney Mercilus, DE from Illinois — There are too many pass rushers in this draft for one not to fall to the Jags in the second round. He seems like he has great potential to me. I never know why scouts are so worried about “one year wonders.” An entire season isn’t that small a sample size. May well be gone long before this pick, but if he isn’t here then one of the guys I have going ten picks earlier will be. This draft is deep in pass rushers that are just short of being top tier prospects. It’ll be interesting to see whether the guys that go in the first half of the first round (where as see them as slight reaches) turn out better than the guys who slip down into this region of the board.

#39 St. Louis — Kendall Reyes, DT from Connecticut — A guy who plugs a hole. Projects to be a solid performer. The Rams were an embarrassment on defense and they just need guys who can come in and tackle running backs up the middle. This guy fills one of their holes.

#40 Carolina — Devon Still, DT from Penn State — Uber-talented with motor questions. Could be a dangerous combination with the similarly-afflicted Coples who I had them grabbing in the first round. But they need a defensive tackle and his talent is too much to pass up here. Could easily see these two flip-flopping if Jeff Fisher and company are feeling adventurous at 39.

#41 Tampa Bay (from Buffalo) — David Wilson, RB from Virginia Tech —  Buffalo spent this pick to move up for Kalil. I see Wilson as the last complete back with a 1st or 2nd round grade. The other guys have a few more limitations. Again, being complete means you can grind out yards on the ground and be a factor in the passing game. That latter factor is key if we’re thinking about what the Browns might be looking for if they pass on Richardson. Expect him to be pick 37 if they take Blackmon or Claiborne at 4 — that is unless the Bucs take him at 36. With Cleveland out of the running the Bucs wait a few more picks here, but they still get their guy. None of these backs are big bruisers, but that’s perfect for a team like Tampa that already has LaGaurette Blount.

#42 Miami — Chandler Jones, DE from Syracuse — You don’t fool me late riser! He’s been creeping up draft boards in the last few weeks, which means nothing to me. He’s seen as a potential pass rusher, but I can’t find much firm evidence for that potential. Had a handful of sacks but not as many as most of his competition. Isn’t lightning fast. A big tall guy — maybe people have vision of Jason Pierre-Paul dancing in their heads. None of this is to say he isn’t going to be a good defensive end in this league. Miami is claiming they’re going with sort of a hybrid scheme but not really ditching the 3-4. He has the flexibility to play at 3-4 OLB, 4-3 DE or maybe even bulk up to 3-4 DE. A great, versatile value at this pick.

#43 Seattle — Bobby Wagner, LB from Utah State — The Seahawks main offseason acquisition was QB Matt Flynn on offense, so they keep their focus on the defense through the first two rounds of the draft. Another guy that’s a little small but flies around the field and plays hard. Those seem like good attributes in a linebacker.

#44 TRADE — Philadelphia from Kansas City — Harrison Smith, S from Notre Dame — The Ealges safety play has been an embarrassment. As you might recall, they were runner up to Tampa Bay in missed tackles and a lot of those were from their safeties. Smith has first round talent and the Eagles can’t resist hopping up two spots to preempt their division rival from grabbing Smith.

#45 Dallas — Amini Silatolu, G from Midwestern State — Dallas just misses out on a chance to substantially upgrade their secondary. They settle for an interior offensive lineman with big upside. Compared to Cowboy great Larry Allen by some ethusiastic scouts. Why not put him in the same uniform?

#46 Kansas City (from Philadelphia) — Alameda Ta’amu, NT from Washington — The Chiefs step back two spots, confident that the Cowboys won’t be taking 2 nose tackles. Probably the number one need for the Chiefs, but they were too chicken to gamble on Poe in the first. Ta’amu is a gamble too, but here you aren’t passing up a player like Luke Kuechly. Basically a massive hole plugger, he’s not going to move as much as Poe. But sometimes you don’t want your nose tackle moving that much. Fits the bill of what they’re looking for.

#47 New York Jets — Alshon Jeffrey, WR from South Carolina — The last of the receivers I’d consider at 37 for the Browns. He’s got good size, good speed, great hands…the whole package. A little bit of a diva maybe (or maybe not — I love how different sources have polarly opposite views on his divaness.) If he’s a diva he fits in well with the Jets. If not, well maybe he’ll be a welcome respite from the rest of their receivers past and present and their coaching staff. In either case he’s a nice value for them here to complement Santonio Holmes.

#48 New England — Peter Konz, C from Wisconsin — As usual New England gets exactly what they want in the draft. First round talent at a position that teams are reluctant to spend first rounders on (unless you’re Eric Mangini.) A great value here in the second.

#49 San Diego — Andre Branch, OLB/DE from Clemson — Another defensive lineman who could go anywhere from the late first to the mid-second. Really the last of that grouping to go in this mock draft. Played a lot of linebacker at Clemson and can step in as an OLB in the 3-4 that the Chargers play. A great pick here. Another team that could be eyeing a trade up to get Harrison Smith, but getting Branch without moving is even better.

#50 Chicago — Jeff Allen, OL from Illinois — They need line help and bring in the local kid to see if he can get it done. Mock drafters love local kids more than teams do, so I don’t expect that to actually play into the Bears’ thinking at all. But he’s a good fit. Can potentially play tackle but more likely an NFL guard. They’re not going to get an immediate starting LT here, so they bring in a guy who can compete for spots on the interior or work on developing into a tackle for the future.

#51 Philadelphia — Mychal Kendricks, LB from California — Another in a line of teams that are desperate for linebacker help and taking what they can get. Started both inside and outside at Cal, the Eagles would be looking to play him on the outside after acquiring DeMeco Ryans to man the middle. One of the few teams I could see taking a gamble on a second round QB such as Brock Osweiler. But I don’t have it happening here.

#52 Tennessee — Trumaine Johnson, CB from Montana — This guy’s been flying all over the country (12 stops on PFT’s tracker) and one of those stops was not in fact in Tennessee. Nonetheless, they’re a team dying for a cornerback after missing out on Kirkpatrick in the 1st round and he’s the most talented guy left.

#53 Cincinnati — Vinny Curry, DE from Marshall — Could go offensive line here, but with lineman flying off the board and an intriguing defensive end available they look to bolster the pass rush. Plays hard and seems to have speed. Not thought of as part of the real top tier with first round potential, but just outside of that group. Can still contribute to a team looking for a consistent outside rush.

#54 Detriot — Josh Robinson, CB from Central Florida — the floodgates are starting to open on that second tier of cornerbacks. A big dropoff from the top 4 studs down to these guys that we’ll start seeing now. But beggars can’t be that choosy, and at this point Detroit is begging for a corner. Is he going to be better than the guy some team gets in the mid-3rd? It’s tough to tell, but you’ve gotta pick somebody.

#55 Atlanta — Bruce Irvin, LB/DE from West Virginia — One of Bob McGinn’s most loquacious interviewees is Atlanta GM Thomas Dmitroff. He had this to say about Irvin: “He’s the one that’s the most eye-catching. He is the most talented bending around the corner, stopping, starting, recovering. But you have to have a home for him and understand his size. It’ll be interesting to see who takes a chance on him.” In this mock I have Dmitroff being that guy. Atlanta needs a pass rush and they’re a team that values speed over size. Mike Nolan will try to figure out how to use him in his new role as Atlanta’s DC.

#56 Pittsburgh — Brandon Brooks, G from Miami of Ohio — This might be a round high for him, but he’s a huge and athletic physical specimen that a lot of teams have been taking a look at. I have them taking Cordy Glenn in the 1st round, but they need help at both guard positions and can also think about grooming Glenn as a tackle. This is their need spot and they’re bringing in some huge guys to try and fill it.

#57 Denver — Brandon Thompson, DT from Clemson — Can he play on the nose for them? They hope so if they make this pick. Weighing in at 315 he’s starting to push nose tackle range, but scouts are divided on his future. Denver badly needs a man in the middle and he seems like he’s the best chance they’ve got if they’re looking to fill that need. Another place where Osweiler could go, but I’m bearish on these QBs being picked in the second.

#58 Houston — Mohammed Sanu, WR from Rutgers — What kind of team does Houston think it is at this point? Are they a championship contender looking to add a piece that can contribute this year? Then Sanu is the pick. He’s too slow to have a future as more than a #2, but they already have their #1 in Andre Johnson. Big target. Knows how to play. Can step in right away as a contributor. If they think they’re looking at a longer window and want a guy who can be a star in 2 or 3 years, then they’ve got a better bet with Brian Quick or AJ Jenkins.

#59 Green Bay — Lamar Miller, RB from Miami of Florida — Ryan Grant is unsigned and likely on his way out. James Starks hasn’t been consistent enough to trust. Why not grab a running back who has clear second round talent? Basically one-dimensional — a speed rusher. Has good size but not a fan of contact. But worth a chance at this spot.

#60 Baltimore — Kelechi Osemele, OL from Iowa State — Full honesty, I just wanted to get him in here so I could quote some scouts: “Here’s the thing. He is strong as an ox. If he gets his hands on you, you are done. Done! He can fricking stone your (expletive). But you never know what you’re going to get, baby.” But you might worry because, “He was raised by women, which bothers me. I mean, how tough can he be? It’s not his fault, but it’s still reality.” Can the men of Baltimore turn this 330 pound tackle/guard prospect into a player?

#61 San Francisco — Brian Quick, WR from Appalachain State — An interesting pick here. They’ve made it pretty clear they aren’t done at receiver yet. Quick is a project and not an immediate dividends guy. Big and fast and untested. But looking at the Niners roster that looks to me what they’d want. You don’t just want to bring in some consistent possession guy like Sanu if you’re them — you’ve already got some guys who can catch it in Crabtree and newly acquired Manningham. What you want is a guy who can develop into the top receiver they thought they were getting when they picked Crabtree. Quick could be a bust, but he has the upside to be a number 1.

#62 TRADE — Cleveland from New England — Mitchell Schwartz, OT from California — The Browns struck out on the top tier tackles, but they move up ahead of the Giants and Vikings here to get a guy who can come in and have a chance at starting from day 1. Oneil Cousins probably isn’t going to be too much of an obstacle. You kind of know what you’re getting here — consistent but unspectacular. Only concern is a back injury that has some folks worried about his long term durability. The Browns had him in for a workout and if they pick him that’s a sign they aren’t worried about it.

#63 New York Giants — Dwayne Allen, TE from Clemson — Giants tight ends caught the career threatening injury bug and it’s not clear whether either Beckum or Ballard will be back at full strength. Allen is in the mold of all of the post-Shockey Giants’ receivers in that he’s a solid blocker and a solid receiver. Not just a one trick receiving pony. They’re happy to see him fall here.

The next 5 picks without comment (guys that I wanted to fit in but couldn’t):

Colts take WR AJ Jenkinsl; Rams take CB Jayron Hosleyl; Vikings take OT Donald Stephenson; Pats (from Browns) take LaMichael James; Bucs take CB Casey Hayward

And that’s it folks. 7500 words later and now you know exactly what isn’t going to happen on draft night. Enjoy the festivities!

The Cavs have been getting panned pretty hard for the deal they just made (see, for instance, John Hollinger’s D+ rating on ESPN). I’m not going to totally disagree with the commentators about this one, but I think their ratings are a little harsh. I’d probably go with something more in the B or B- range. The trade helped to further the goals of the team, but it would have been nice to see them take back a little less salary for what they gave up. I’ll outline a few reasons why I think the ratings of the trade sell the Cavs short, and then briefly discuss why the Cavs might have had difficulty getting as much as it seemed like they should have.

First of all, this was a trade that produced a fair bit of value to be split between the teams. The Cavs and Lakers were polar opposites in preferences and endowments, with the Cavs overloaded at the point guard position, willing to take on money and looking to build for later whereas the Lakers were fielding one of the 5 worst position groups in the league at the point and in desperate need of a team upgrade to shoot for a title in Kobe Bryant’s waning golden years, while still bizarrely wanting to cut money in the richest market in the NBA. When preferences and endowments diverge so strongly, even the exchange of modest resources (low draft picks, marginal starters) creates a large surplus to bargain over. It’s tempting for commentators to look at what the Lakers got and assume that since this trade met their needs so well, it must be that they pulled a fast one on the Cavs. And I do think the Lakers probably captured more than 50% of the trade surplus here. But that doesn’t mean the Cavs didn’t also do a pretty good job of addressing their needs.

Perhaps more critically, analysts need to reset their valuations of draft picks for the new era. Just as we have idiots using the old Jimmy Johnson trade chart to evaluate NFL trades in an age when a rookie contract scale has drastically realigned the valuations of picks, so too do we have normally intelligent NBA watchers thinking that the price for a late first rounder should still be around 3 million. With the more stringent luxury tax under the new CBA, more teams than ever are trying to build with low salary players from the draft. Yes, the Suns stupidly sold the pick that became Rajon Rondo to the Celtics for 3 million, but you might notice he’s been in the league for 6 years now. The TWolves machinations during last year’s draft netted them far more than 3 million for the 20th pick in the draft (trading from 20 to 23 to 28 to 31 and finally out entirely). And that was before the new CBA outlined the stiffer luxury tax penalties. (In fact, the TWolves got so much money from those deals that the new CBA responded by expanding the rule that had limited cash in a single trade to 3 million to one where a team could net no more than 3 million in cash in all trades their trades on the year combined.) Yes, Houston got a pick for what was about 3.5 million in the Fisher trade, but that’s a pick that’s top 20 protected this year (from a Dallas team that’s going to struggle to be in the league’s top 10) and has that same protection years into the future. That’s different from an almost certain pick (the Lakers are unlikely to come within 10 draft spots of 14). That’s also real salary cap dollars for Houston, who plan on using all their cap room, whereas for the Cavs it’s just Dan Gilbert’s funny money. We have no need for what will be around 25 million in cap room even with Walton’s salary. As fans why do we care about Dan Gilbert’s money?

Also, half the reports of the trade include that the Cavs received cash considerations. Were these reports wrong, or were the reports that omitted these mistaken? In particular, the Kapono portion of the trade seemed almost certain to be the kind of move where a luxury tax team unloads a player who costs twice as much to them as he does to a non-tax team and then pays the non-tax team slightly more than what is needed to cover his salary. If the cash considerations here amounted to anywhere close to the 3 million dollar limit then the Walton and Fisher trades barely differ in the price for the pick.

Add to that the fact that Walton is not an entirely unlikely candidate for a medical retirement. While he was presumably reluctant to seek such a fully compensated retirement option when he had the chance of putting more rings on his fingers, he might see it as a preferable option to competing for minutes with Omri Casspi on a team going nowhere fast. If the doctors can be persuaded that his career’s deterioration (as if he was ever good) is medically related, the possibility that insurance covers a fair amount of his contract next year should not be underrated.

And of course there’s the switch of picks next year, when the Heat could be as many as 10 picks worse than a Lakers centered on core composed of 2 players already over 30 to go with their younger center. Houston traded a first round pick to move up just 3 spots in last year’s draft, though they also managed to unload about 3 million in salary with that move. Score that trade as you like, but the switch certainly has value. I like a gamble on the Lakers crumbling.

So why couldn’t the Cavs get more? Simply put the Lakers had more suitors offering them a point guard than we had offers for ours. The Lakers did a nice job of getting rumors of their interest in every player under the sun into the media. Raymond Felton — the Lakers were dying for him. Hinrich? You betcha. Now most of that is talk — those guys are playing terribly. But more realistically, they claim to have had a trade lined up for DJ Augestin, a player I’d value only slightly below Sessions. There’s a surplus of competent point guards in the league and there are plenty of teams eager to unload salary for picks. The Cavs tried similarly to act as if interest in Sessions was high. Of the scenarios only Portland and Indiana really made sense, and by the time the trade occurred Indiana (who would have never given up a pick) had elected to go with Barbosa and Portland had completely changed gears to rebuilding mode. When it came down to it, the Cavs outside option (keeping Sessions) just wasn’t that credible. The Lakers exploited this to insist on the inclusion of Walton. Given this leverage situation I’m impressed the Cavs got as much as they did.

In short, well done Chris Grant. You weren’t dealt as good cards as it might have initially seemed, and you still managed to come home with a stack of chips bigger than you brought to the table. Now let’s all root for a Lakers’ collapse!

The smoke is still swirling around the NBA’s apparent veto of the Chris Paul trade, but for now it appears Paul isn’t heading to LA. And since the NBA owns the team it’s hard to see how Paul or anyone else will find legal standing to reverse the decision. Any owner can veto deals its team makes, and having 31 guys who have vested interests in other teams owning your team doesn’t seem to me likely to change that. But I’ll leave that for the lawyers.

I’ve gotta say that I think a lot of the NBA writers I respect have this one wrong. They think this is bad — that it hurts the Hornets and makes the NBA look foolish. And on those points they’re right. But looking foolish for a few weeks is different than having to tolerate the continuance of the Laker Era for another half decade or more. Because that’s what this was about. And those questioning whether Paul replaces the production of Odom and Gasol are missing the forest for the trees.

For 31 teams in the league team-building is about boom and bust cycles. You stagger through a few seasons of being truly dreadful in hopes of landing enough talent to make a sustained run. Sometimes that run lasts a decade or more if you land a truly special player like Tim Duncan. But before there was Duncan there were the 20-62 1996-1997 Spurs. Before the original Big 3 there was desolation in Boston. Before the Big 3 from Hell there was a last place Miami team. And everyone’s favorite frontrunner that never actually wins, the New York Knicks, had Scott Layden and Isaiah Thomas before they finally returned to respectability and annoyingly dominating every free agent narrative.

And then there are the Lakers. Outside of their self-imposed suckitude in 2004-2005 after the Shaq trade they’ve only missed the playoffs once since 1976. With that one exception (which luckily for them netted them Bynum in the draft) they’ve gone from 50 win teams in the mid-90s with Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones and Vlade Divac to the Shaq and Kobe era to the Kobe controls the ball 100% of the time era through the ridiculous Grizzlies robbery that led to the Kobe and Gasol era with Bynum contributing more and more over the years. And skip over a few borderline playoff seasons in the early 90s and you’re back in the Magic Johnson era. On one level this is a tribute to a good front office that knows when to close the chapter on one team and start anew without actually taking much of a step back. It’s a tribute to some nice picks (Kobe, Bynum) when they’ve only had a couple chances. But it’s also a tribute to having the money to stay 30 million above the cap, and to the fact that players are willing to extend with the Lakers when they might refuse to do so with other teams. And so they were ready to turn the eras again, sliding 2 still useful but aging vets on to another team in exchange for a 26 year old megastar. If they could’ve managed to convince Orlando to part with Howard either now or in a sign-and-trade at the end of the season they could’ve been set to dominate the next half decade.

And frankly, I’m glad that was stopped. Even if the Lakers win the championship this year the Bryant-Gasol-Odom core isn’t going to last too much longer. Yes, they may still get Howard at some point. Maybe they’ll add other pieces. But the opportunity to pair 2 top 5 under 30 players with a few years of Kobe and then some mini-mid level and sign and trade pickups seems like it isn’t going to come around again. For all of us who don’t live in LA (and don’t suck enough as people to root for the Lakers even when we don’t live in LA) this is something about which we can be thankful.

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