Each year, around draft time, a bevy of pundits come out with some version of a "top 100" list, the best of which tend to assign to each prospect the round (or range of rounds) in which he should expect to be drafted. While useful these assignments are unrealistic; no NFL team assigns 32 first round grades. In a typical year, we see about 18-23 first round grades applied; what this means is that teams that draft late in the first round aren't necessarily getting a player to whom they have assigned a first-round grade. That's why we see so many teams in the 25-32 range trade back, either into the second round or into the next draft - it's because they don't see their pick offering value.
As the 18-23 range suggests, each draft is different. Some drafts have more legit prospects than others. Thanks to a leaked draft board, we know that, in 2010, the Cowboys had given 23 players first round grades. Sitting at pick #27, therefore, Dallas couldn't be sure that one of their first rounders would fall to them (as it turned out, they were able to draft two of them in Dez Bryant and Sean Lee). For Bryant to get to Dallas, other teams had to take players in the first round who the Cowboys didn't consider worthy of a first round pick. In fact, there were five players who they had given second round grades, and one third-rounder, taken before Dallas selected Bryant after trading up to pick number 24.
This year, it looks like they face a similar situation. Earlier today, Tony Pauline, who, you may recall, was awarded the top spot in my most recent edition of "Scouting the Scouts" because he's well connected and, as a result, has really good information, tweeted the following:
Overall feeling from GM's around league; 15 players have legitimate 1st round grades while close to 60 players come with 2nd round grades...— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 29, 2013
With the Cowboys perched at 18, a very real question looms: might all the first rounders go off the board before their first pick? Fortunately, they look to enjoy a 2010-like situation in that there's no real consensus about just who those top 15 players are. In response to Pauline's tweet, I asked several of the front page writers to nominate their top fifteen. As you can see, we have some divergent opinions:
|15||Werner||Cooper||D. Jones||J. Jones|
In this admittedly unscientific survey, there is very limited consensus. A total of 23 names appear at least once. Nine of those appear on all four writers lists; three players show up on three different top fifteens; four appear twice, and the remaining seven are seen only once. If this is any indication of the disparity we'll see on teams' boards across the league, then the first round should be a lot of fun. We're likely to see furious trading, especially in the middle of the round, as teams jockey up and down to get the last legit first rounders on their boards.
On the other hand we might not see many trades at all. Why? After the first round, there is a lot of even talent: as Pauline notes, there are as many as 60 prospects with second-round grades. That means that teams drafting in the third round are likely to get excellent value. Would teams waste a third round pick trading up in the first round when they will get second round value with that third round pick?
What do you think, BTBers. Assuming there are only fifteen legit first rounders, who is in your fabulous fifteen? Hit the comments section and let 'em rip!