Every year, come draft season, there always seems to be one guy I single out as my sure-fire, can't miss, wish we could have him prospect. Past recipients have included guys like Patrick Peterson, Eric Berry, Calvin Johnson, etc.
This year, that guy is David DeCastro. And it just so happens that a legit starting offensive guard is likely our top need right now. Unfortunately, I don't see DeCastro making it out of the top half of the first round, and at #24, we won't have the ammunition to go up and get him (especially considering that we have multiple other needs to be filled).
So where do we go with our first pick? The next best OG prospect in Cordy Glenn (who may not be available at #24 either)? A top notch young ILB prospect like Dont'a Hightower or Vontaze Burfict? A massive run-stuffing NT like Dontari Poe? The #1 safety prosect, Mark Barron? All would be solid picks at positions of need. But I am going to go the other way with this pick...totally disregard positions of need and choosing who I feel could be the best player available...a player that I am surprised to keep seeing late in many mock drafts...a talent that I simply can't ignore. I am actually going to suggest using our top pick on the position with more young, quality depth than any other. Yes, the WR position.
Am I nuts? Probably. But hear me out. Our offense is able to move the ball between the 20's as well as any other team in the league. Wallace can get deep better than anyone in the league. Brown simply makes plays whenever he has the ball in his hands. Sanders is a smooth route-runner (when healthy). Cotchery can find holes in the zone (if we are able to re-sign him). Miller can move the chains. But for some reason, when we get down into the red zone where the field shrinks, our offense fails miserably. Our offense as a whole would be much better if we could just score once the ketchup bottles have been tilted.
Alshon Jeffrey started his career at South Carolina with a solid 46 catches for 763 yards and 6 TD's in 2009 and then really stepped it up in 2010 with 88 catches for 1517 yards and 9 TD's. At this point, it looked like it would be a two man race between Jeffrey and Justin Blackmon for the top WR prospect in the 2012 draft. However, in 2011, Jeffrey's numbers dipped back down to 2009 levels with 49 catches for 762 yards and 8 TD's. Suddenly, people were thinking that he may not have the pure separation speed in his 6'4" 229 lbs frame to be an elite All-Pro level receiver at the next level like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald, and his draft stopped dropped from top 10 levels down to late first levels. I'm thinking that the drop in production had everything to do with Stephen Garcia being dismissed from the team, and Jeffrey having to make do with sub-par quarterbacking this past year.
Frankly, I don't care if he doesn't have game-breaking speed...we already have those types of guys to get use big chunks of yards between the 20's. What we don't have is a guy who will go up and fight for the ball in the red zone...a guy that is dangerous running a fade route from in close...a guy with tremendous body control and the ability to make tough catches in traffic. Jeffrey still has all of that in spades, and those are qualities that can make our red zone offense truly dangerous.
After this admittedly unusual first selection, I'll spend the rest of my draft filling holes in the trenches on both sides of the ball, plus at ILB and FS.
So, without further adieu, I will release my initial truly EPIC mock draft that is BEAST!!!
1. WR Alshon Jeffrey 6'4" 229 lbs. South Carolina
2. NT Alameda Ta'Amu 6'3" 337 lbs. Washington
3. OT Levy Adcock 6'5" 322 lbs. Oklahoma State
4. OG Amini Silatolu 6'3" 324 lbs. Midwestern State
5. ILB Mychal Kendricks 5'11" 240 lbs. California
6. FS Blake Gideon 6'0" 205 lbs. Texas
7. DE Ryan Van Bergen 6'6" 288 lbs. Michigan
Note: I used NFLDraftScout.com site (CBS Sports bought this site for their solid draft coverage a few years ago) as a basis for my initial projections, since we are so early in the process. Since we pick late in each round (24th), I made sure that I chose players in each round who were rated either on the borderline of that round and the next round or else were ranked a round (or more) later than where I took them. NFLDraftScout listed Jeffrey as a 2nd round prospect, Ta'Amu in round 2-3, Adcock in round 4, Silatolu in round 4-5, Kendricks in round 6, Gideon as 7-FA, and Van Bergen as a FA.