Paralysis through analysis.
It is an event that occurs when a situation is made so overly complicated by so many details that a decision is never actually made.
That seems to be what many teams have been engaging in so far in the run-up to the 2015 NFL draft. A deluge of information—from college film study, to February’s scouting combine, to pro days—has not made it easier for them to decide which single prospect will best help the organization, but it has kept them on the fence.
Hopefully, with the first round of the draft scheduled for April 30, the overall picture will start to come into sharper focus and NFL front offices will be ready to make confident decisions about whom they’re going to pick. Many players are making a final effort to impress and prove that they deserve to be selected earlier rather than later. Here’s a look at how I think the first round will shake out as well as a look at the fastest-rising prospects on the board:
Jaelen Strong is by no means the best wide receiver on the board. But in a class that is reasonably deep this year, the Arizona State product has established himself as the third-best pick at the position.
It was unclear where Strong might go early during the draft process, but he sure helped himself at the scouting combine with a respectable 4.44-second 40-yard-dash and a mega 42-inch vertical leap, the top performance at the combine at the wide receiver position.
Strong doesn’t have the polish of Amari Cooper or Kevin White. The scouting report at NFL.com describes Strong as:
Still raw and learning to play the position….Not twitchy or sudden as an athlete. Long-strider who takes a while to build up speed….Rarely gets separation deep against man-to-man. Routes need improvement. Forced to make a substantial amount of contested throws. Corners don’t fear his speed and are able to sit on underneath throws.
Strong caught 82 passes for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Ravens selecting Strong 26th overall, mainly because a top priority of the team is replacing Torrey Smith and because Strong is a superb leaper who times his jumps well to grab 50/50 passes.
Ronald Darby is another prospect whose name is surging as a result of a strong performance at the scouting combine. The Florida State cornerback ran a 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard-dash and has parlayed that elite speed into several visits with teams, including with the Panthers (25th pick overall) and the Colts (29th).
Darby’s toughness has come under fire, according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, but he still rates Darby as the third-best cornerback prospect in the draft.
Has shown the instincts to play off coverage and the athleticism to play press. It is a bit of a concern that scouts and even opposing coaches have commented on Darby’s toughness, but he doesn’t have very many missed or broken tackles on his docket and his cover skills should be prioritized over his run support regardless. He clearly has starter’s ability at the position.
It is generous to project Darby into the first round, but he might get in. The Panthers did add veteran CB Allan Ball during the offseason, but he is not viewed as a long-term solution. The Colts don’t have the same glaring holes at the position but could use more depth.
Indianapolis would be a great fit for Darby. He’d have the benefit of playing with QB Andrew Luck, who leads an explosive offense and causes opposing teams to have to throw often. Darby is considered much better against the pass than the run.
There is considerable disagreement about who is the better wide receiver in this year’s draft: Kevin White or Amari Cooper?
He is likely to be a top-15 pick regardless, but the difference between one or two draft spots can have a significant impact on a player’s earnings, Darren Rovell of ESPN illustrates by way of another player in the draft:
It was said by most experts all during the college football season that Cooper was hands down the best receiver in the draft. Apparently, that has been called into question since and White has seen his stock take a real jump thanks to the combine.
White, who stands a prototypical 6’3”, also had a spectacular senior season at West Virginia with 109 catches for 1,147 receiving yards. Those totals ranked third and sixth in the nation, respectively.
Oakland is projected to pick a wide receiver fourth overall, but it is unclear at this point which way the franchise will go between White and Cooper. Mike Mayock of the NFL network says that it’s really all about drafting the player who has the most potential or the one who comes most NFL-ready:
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