Almost anyone who claims to be an NFL draft analyst has done a mock draft in recent days. Those usually focus exclusively on picks during Thursday night's first round or the first round plus Friday's second and third rounds. We believe that these mocks don't go far enough.
Why? Well, where's the #MACtion? Despite the presence of players like Khalil Mack and Jimmie Ward, it's a fact that most Mid-American Conference players are selected toward the back end of the draft, which means that their names will be called on Saturday and will never appear in a mock draft. We aspire to change that.
Chris Cullum and I have chosen to do our own MAC-exclusive mock draft. We'll pick which players from the MAC will be taken in the 2014 NFL Draft, and we'll even pinpoint the exact round, pick number and team. Which one of us will make the best predictions? Let us know what you think or even make your own picks in the comments area below.
2014 NFL Draft
MAC Draft Prospects Scouting Reports
We broke down some of the MAC's top NFL Draft prospects, weighing their strengths, weaknesses, and where we think they'll fit in at.
2014 NFL Draft
We'll start with Chris Cullum's mock. Here's what he says:
Khalil Mack, First Round, Pick #3, Jacksonville Jaguars
I mentioned on the podcast that his two most likely spots are picks three and five. The more I think about it, he's just too good to last any longer than the third pick. He's arguably the best player in the draft, and guys like that don't last too long.
Jimmie Ward, Second Round, Pick #48, Baltimore Ravens
I've seen him connected to the Ravens a lot and it really does make a lot of sense. They need another safety, but I don't think it's something they address in the first round (they have other needs, like tackle and wide receiver). He'd be a great complement to Matthew Elam, Baltimore's first round pick last year.
Dri Archer, Fourth Round, Pick #126, New Orleans Saints
I tried so hard to mock Archer to the Seahawks (I mentioned how well he'd fit in my column on him) but I don't see that happening unless they trade into the back end of the third round. Archer's speed is extraordinary, but I do think NFL teams will look at his size and future durability as a question mark. But at some point, the speed outweighs the question marks and he becomes great value here for the Saints in the fourth round.
Keith Wenning, Sixth Round, Pick 206, New England Patriots
Tom Brady won't be around forever, and while I find the notion of the Pats taking a quarterback in the first round (something I've seen floating around) absurd, taking a guy like Wenning later in the draft provides little risk.
Willie Snead, Seventh Round, Pick #242, San Francisco 49ers
I'm betting on Snead getting drafted and, if he does, it'll be in the seventh round. The draft at this point is a crapshoot and the 49ers have a need at wide receiver.
So, for Chris, his scorecard reads five total picks, with one each in the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. I'll be straight forward here -- my picks are going to be more ambitious. Perhaps I have my "homer" hat on, but I believe the MAC could break into double-digits for number of picks this year.
Khalil Mack, First Round, Pick #1, Houston Texans
The smart money here is probably with Chris, who has Mack going to the Jaguars at #3, because the pressure for the Texans to pick Jadeveon Clowney is high. However, I believe that football smarts are going to win the day here. Mack is going to be a first-day starter and is a fantastic scheme fit for the Texans. Besides, if the Texans really wanted Clowney, would trade rumors about this pick be flying? My gut says that Houston doesn't get the trade package they want, so they choose to stay at #1 and pick the guy who will do the best in their system.
Jimmie Ward, Second Round, Pick #48, Baltimore Ravens
I'm going to agree with Chris here, but I do it while holding my nose. Ward should go late in the first round or very early in the second. Washington could pick him at #34, and a trade up from a team that picks later in the second round is also a distinct possibility. There's nearly a dozen teams who might end up picking a safety on Thursday or Friday, and Ward is one of the top two or three at that position, so he's going to be in high demand. However, I'm not going to try to predict a trade -- as the current order stands, Baltimore will have him fall in their lap.
Dri Archer, Third Round, Pick #86, Philadelphia Eagles
As I said above, I'm going to be ambitious with these picks, and part of that is saying that Archer will blaze his way into a Friday nigh pick. Running backs are being severely devalued in the NFL, but Archer is a multi-faceted talent that can be lined up almost anywhere and provide matchup nightmares for defenses. Who better to exploit that than Chip Kelly, master of the don't-blink read-option offense. He could be Kelly's NFL version of DeAnthony Thomas, and that is a scary thought.
Jordan Lynch, Fifth Round, Pick #162, Philadelphia Eagles
Similarly to how I said #48 was probably too low for Jimmie Ward, this pick is probably too high for Jordan Lynch, but I can't resist this possible coupling. If Dri Archer would make waves with Chip Kelly's offense, imagine what the equally-athletic Jordan Lynch could do as a change-of-pace quarterback in that system. The Eagles also have needs in the secondary, so that would provide extra value -- if Lynch didn't work out on offense, they could move him to the defensive secondary. I'd like this better in the sixth round, but the Eagles don't have a pick there (yet), so I'm pulling the trigger with this.
Jonathan Newsome, Fifth Round, Pick #164, Cincinnati Bengals
Trying to pinpoint later-round picks is much about gut feelings, team needs and not much else. With that said, the Bengals could be looking for some help along the defensive line early on Saturday, and they could do a lot worse than Newsome. Newsome had a fantastic career at Ball State, and he would be going to a comfortable situation with already-established stars on the Bengals' line. He wouldn't need to be the main producer and could spend time learning on the job.
David Fluellen, Sixth Round, Pick #207, Denver Broncos
The Broncos lost Knowshown Moreno to the Miami Dolphins earlier in the NFL off-season, so they'll likely be looking for a late-round replacement that can help complement Montee Ball. Despite some injury concerns as a senior, Fluellen was still one of the best running backs in the MAC and earned positive reviews at the Senior Bowl. He doesn't necessarily project to an every-down back, but he could be very good in a complementary role here.
Alex Bayer, Seventh Round, Pick #221, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I have to include a Bowling Green player among my picks, right? Bayer is a solid pass-catching tight end who has earned the focus of several NFL teams, particularly the Buccaneers. Bayer has excellent size and is successful as a blocker, too. Most view him as a UFA signing, but I could definitely see a team (like Tampa) value him enough to pick him in the seventh round.
Willie Snead, Seventh Round, Pick #229, Dallas Cowboys
Prolific MAC wide receivers have had a difficult time making NFL rosters in recent years, but I believe that Snead will be drafted. He's not the biggest receiver, and his lack of good speed won't win him points. However, his hands are as sure as they come, and his part of Ball State's prolific offense should earn him a solid chance in the NFL.
Keith Wenning, Seventh Round, Pick #236, Green Bay Packers
Snead's partner in crime, Keith Wenning, had a record-breaking career with the Cardinals. Unfortunately, his performances in the workouts leading up to the NFL Draft were often disappointing. At the East-West Shrine Game, he did well during practices, but that success did not carry over to the game. Still, I believe that a team will take a chance on him as a developmental project. His talent is too good to pass up.
There's no doubt that several MAC players will have their names called in New York City during the next 72 hours. Which ones are called and other specifics remain a mystery, but it will certainly be fun to watch as those mysteries are revealed. Who are the next MAC alumni to become NFL stars, and will any of our picks be on the money? We'll know soon enough.