When you or I, or pretty much anyone, sits down and projects who we think is going to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft, we do so with the knowledge that it is not likely to come back to embarrass us. After all, there are now about 4.728 billion mocks floating around, and the real pros, like Todd McShay at ESPN, know that the best way to cover your tracks is put out a bunch of them over time. That way you can just point to the most accurate one to show what a genius you are and hope no one digs up the others.
But there is one mock that plays out live on multiple cable networks. Each year, the NFL invites a group of players it considers first round draft picks to come to New York and sit there, cameras focused tightly on them (or, in the case of some lucky guys like Ryan Tannehill, focused even more tightly on your wife/fiance/girlfriend). And every year, someone gets the Aaron Rodgers treatment. They sit there, as the room empties out, way past where everyone thought they would go, getting humiliated before a national audience.
That's what I call entertainment!
This year the league invited twenty-six of the top players eligible for the draft to come hang out in the green room so Roger Goodell has someone to hand all those "Number 1" jerseys to make him look like he is actually important. Three of the invitees have decided not to attend. Star Lotulelei of Utah wants to be with his family, Matt Barkley of USC may be a bit concerned about his status this year with no real consensus on where most of the quarterbacks will go, and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o possibly did not want to confuse the cameramen looking for his girlfriend.
But these gentlemen will be there, hoping they don't have to ask for an extra night in their hotel rooms:
|Tavon Austin||WR||W Virginia|
|Jonathan Cooper||OG||N Carolina|
|Eric Fisher||OT||C Michigan|
|Luke Joeckel||OT||Texas A&M|
|E.J. Manuel||QB||Florida St|
|Xavier Rhodes||CB||Florida St|
|Geno Smith||QB||W Virginia|
|Menelik Watson||OT||Florida St|
|Bjoern Werner||DE||Florida St|
I suppose if you had a somewhat evil sense of humor, the fun would be trying to figure out who doesn't belong here, and is most likely to be the last guy sitting in the green room. I have faith in you, the BTB readers. So feel free to use that evil side and pick who you think does not deserve the ticket to the Big Apple. You might also have some candidates you think are more deserving of the invite than some on this list. A few names that may push these down are Jarvis Jones, Datone Jones (maybe there is just an anti-Jones prejudice), Damontre Moore, Kevin Minter, and Sylvester Williams. You may have your own, uh, tame and beloved co-habitating feline creature. (I certainly don't, and I have highly paid witnesses to back me up.)
Since the Dallas Cowboys have pick #18 this year, you would expect that the player they wind up with will be here. And looking at it from a blue and silver perspective, there are a lot of names here that, position wise, are of great interest. Seven offensive linemen, reflecting the rising stock of Fluker and Watson. Five defensive line candidates. A pair each of safeties and wide receivers. I only see six names here that I would not expect to have been considered in Valley Ranch for that first round slot.
I also noticed that no inside linebackers made the grade. Te'o would have represented the position, but you have to wonder if he was not invited to be the Kardashian of the draft. He would have drawn a lot of attention, but there are certainly doubts as to how the teams would view him as someone to take home and build a relationship with.
Feel free to have a little fun. Pick your overrated and undervalued guys on the list, and off it. And then on draft day, we'll see how well the NFL can call it's own draft.
UPDATE: There has been a change in the invitee list due to a personal issue.
Desmond Trufant won't be in NYC for the #NFLDraft. His grandfather is ill. We're replacing him with Miss. St. CB Darius Slay.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) April 12, 2013