ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. today released his latest mock draft of the season as we get closer and closer to the 2016 NFL Draft, and this edition of the mock draft was his "Grade A" version.
What Kiper means by that is simple: rather than predicting what he thinks will happen, Kiper is approaching this mock draft as if he were the general manager of each team and therefore approaching each pick with the mindset of what he would do, not what the team will do. This is always a very confusing part of mock drafts as one tries to figure out whether it is about who a team will take or should take (often, it's a combination of those two), but in Kiper's latest it is very straightforward.
If Kiper were the general manager of the Colts, then, here's what he'd do in the first three rounds. He says that in round one (18 overall), he'd grab Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker. In the second round (48 overall), he would pick USC linebacker/safety Su'a Cravens, and then in the third round (82) he takes Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson.
Analysis: I have offensive line as a need if I'm the GM here, and Decker makes sense at No. 18. He played both left tackle and right tackle for Ohio State, and while you don't assume he's going to simply come in and lock down the left side, I'm drafting with idea that I can't go wrong by adding O-line help. It's all about getting better in front of my franchise player both in the running game and in pass protection. With Cravens I'm getting the good kind of "tweener" -- a guy who could be a safety or an undersized outside linebacker, but I consider both of those need positions on this roster, and the talent is significant here. Johnson steps in as rotation help early on as an interior defender on the defensive line.
This would be an interesting draft haul for the Colts. We've spent a lot of time talking about the offensive line and whether or not the Colts should draft a tackle, but like so many mock drafts have done, Kiper is doing "best offensive lineman available" at number 18 for the Colts. Interestingly, Kiper again seems to assume or imply that Decker could play left tackle for the Colts despite Anthony Castonzo being in place (it's not the first time we've seen ESPN people confused by that or forget about Castonso), but the Colts could indeed slide Decker to the right side. What is perhaps the most interesting aspect, however, is those players Kiper passes on to take Decker: a list that includes players such as Alabama center Ryan Kelly, Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, Eastern Kentucky outside linebacker Noah Spence, and even Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott (surprisingly). Should the Colts take Decker over those players still available at number 18 in Kiper's mock draft? According to Kiper, if he were the general manager the answer would be no.
In the second round, he has the Colts adding Su'a Cravens, who can play either linebacker or safety for the Colts depending on where they want to put him. He said he has drawn more interest as a safety, but a question the Colts would have to decide is where to put him. The team does desperately need defensive playmakers, however, so if they think Cravens can be that the pick would certainly be understandable. Then in the third round, Kiper has the Colts adding defensive line help with Austin Johnson. In the SB Nation writer's mock draft, our own Stephen Reed actually had the Colts selecting Johnson in the second round, so if he lasts to round three it would mean even better value for a solid contributor in the trenches.
What are your thoughts on this mock draft?