Every year in the draft, there are certain players that we like more than others for some particular reason. Maybe you think that there's a certain underrated aspect of a player's game. Maybe the player is a victim of small school bias, but you think they'll make the transition to the NFL. Whatever the reason, you like this guy more than anyone else. I'm going to draft a team comprised entirely of these guys. First up, offense.
Jimmy Garoppolo QB Eastern Illinois - Projected 2nd round, would take mid-late first
When you're looking at a small school guy who could potentially be a high draft pick, you want to see him dominate the competition, be a man among boys on the field. 55 TDs, won the Walter Payton Award (FCS Heisman), and advanced his team to the semifinals of the FCS playoffs to lose in the 4th quarter of an amazing game to Towson on the back of a 300+ yard performance by RB Terrance West. Anyway, Garoppolo is a great prospect who displays good athleticism, intellectual play, goes through his progressions, has great footwork, can make a play after things break down. Draws Romo comparisons because they come from the same school, but he reminds me of Aaron Rodgers. Not the biggest arm, but throws a really pretty ball with great touch and accuracy.
Ka'Deem Carey HB Arizona - Projected anywhere from the 2nd to the 5th, would take in 2nd.
Hard hitting RB who can also move around with the best of them. Carey is a violent runner with a knack for finding and hitting the hole. Hard. He also has the ability to make people miss in the open field with great lateral quickness. His game reminds me of Marshawn Lynch. He absolutely refuses to go down and keeps his legs moving at all times. I can't count how many times I've seen him get wrapped up by a defender and then drag them another 2 yards for a 1st down. Outstanding (and violent) pass protector as well, so he can be a 3 down player.He's going to make some team looking for a HB very happy this year.
J.C. Copeland FB LSU - Projected in 7th, would take in 5th.
If it weren't for the FB being a dying breed in the NFL, I'd take this guy in the 3rd round. He is a prototypical old school fullback like we had with Moose in the 90s. A guy who will lead the back through the hole and then truck a would be tackler into oblivion. Playing under Cam Cameron at LSU, he is familiar with Pro-Style running schemes and will have no difficulty being an effective fullback for a power running team in the NFL.
Cody Latimer WRX Indiana - Projected all over the place right now because he's rising quickly, but I'm buying all the hype and more, would take in early 2nd, late 1st for a really needy team (read: Carolina).
The X receiver is your traditional "feature" receiver, your #1. Cody Latimer is a slightly less athletic version of Dez Bryant. If you watch him on tape, you can't help but draw the comparison. He refuses to be contained in press coverage, has good speed to go deep, refuses to go down after the catch in a very Dez-like manner, displays great body control and the ability to make contested circus catches. Also runs a perfect slant and kills the defense up the middle if the QB gets it to him in stride. I absolutely love his potential as a #1 receiver in the NFL.
Jordan Matthews WRZ Vanderbilt - Projected for rounds 2-3, would take in late 1st.
The PERFECT #2 receiver for a team. He does everything REALLY well, but nothing really spectacularly. That's his only weakness though. His routes are impeccable, he has really soft hands, he has toughness and some ability after the catch to make people miss. He also has functional deep speed, which was confirmed by his 4.4 40 at the combine. There is no hole in his game as he is effective from both the outside and the slot, doing damage from both positions at Vandy. He is he all time SEC receiving leader with over 18000 yards coming from subpar QB play. This means he is very adept at creating plays for himself. I think his potential is to be a great #2 who can still take over a game, like Roddy White is to Julio Jones in Atlanta.
Brandin Cooks Slot WR Oregon St - Projected in late 1st, would take mid 1st.
Cooks reminds me a lot of Steve Smith. He isn't the biggest player, but he's fast as a bullet, quick as lightning, and tough as nails. There is no fear as he lines up all over the field and just flat out makes plays and gets up from some pretty big hits. He also has 4.3 speed to take the top off the defense. If there's team looking for a multidimensional threat with some serious talent (again, like Carolina), then Cooks is their guy.
CJ Fiedorowicz TE Iowa - Projected rounds 3-4, would take in 2nd (don't kill me)
Eric Ebron? Pshhh. Give me CJ Fiedorowicz out of Iowa as a traditional TE in the Jason Witten mold. This guy blocks like a tackle and makes tough, contested catches in the middle of the field. He could use some work in the passing game to make him a more reliable threat, but the physical talent is there for him to become a very good, complete TE rather than a glorified big receiver who says "HEY LOOK! WE'RE PASSING!" every time he sets foot on the field.
Joel Bitonio LT Nevada - Projected rounds 2-3, would take in late 1st, early 2nd
Some people say he won't be a successful tackle in the NFL because his arms are too short. I say those people are crazy. Bitonio is one of the best technicians in the draft. His footwork is impeccable and he gets great punch in pass protection and uses his hands very well. Proper technique is how players get around physical "limitations" and Bitonio has a ton of it. He has a mean streak as a run blocker and gets push on every play. Could stand to get a little stronger in order to cover up his short arms. Luckily, he has the frame to put on a few more pounds of muscle. I think he'll be a very good LT in the NFL, similar to Duane Brown.
Gabe Jackson OG Mississippi St - Projected round 3, would take in 2nd
Gabe Jackson is strength embodied. He pancakes defenders without trying. He'll blow the DT off the ball and then bully a LB into submission on the next level. Every line needs a throwback road grader lineman and Jackson is the perfect player for the job. Sometimes carries some bad weight on him, but he has great feet when his weight is down, look for that problem to be fixed with an NFL coaching staff getting on him. If he can keep his weight under control and replace the bad weight with muscle, then watch out for Gabe Jackson to be a Pro Bowl Guard 90s style.
Travis Swanson C Arkansas - Projected for rounds 2-3, would take in 2nd
Extremely aggressive and fires right off the snap. Great run blocker who makes getting to the second level look easy. Plays with great strength. He could polish up his pass protection a bit, but he's nowhere near bad at it. Swanson is easily the best center in this draft and, like most SEC linemen, gives the offensive line a bit of nasty in the middle.
Trai Turner OG LSU - Projected round 4, would take in 3rd
Strength. That's Trai Turner in 1 word. He's pretty raw, hence the 3rd round grade from me, but he's strong as a bull. He won most of his battles at LSU by just being bigger and stronger than the guy he was going against. He needs to work on his technique though. He's a bit stiff in his movements and needs to use his hands better. If he gets with the right coach though, he will be a Pro Bowler with insane athleticism.
Billy Turner RT North Dakota St - Projected round 3, would take in 2nd
We start with a small school guy and we end with a small school guy. Billy Turner is just plain mean on the field, playing through the whistle and completely eliminating whoever is unlucky enough to be his assignment from the play. Like Bitonio, some think that his arm length will force him to kick in to guard in the NFL, but he is also technically sound enough to make it work. Turner displays great strength and footwork on tape and almost never gets beat, holding up quite well against FBS competition. I think he'll be an elite RT in the NFL and be an Erik Williams type enforcer on a lucky offensive line.
So there you have it. This is my Mancrush team on offense. All these guys stand out to me vs other prospects for some reason or other. All my evaluation of these players comes from watching tape on them via www.draftbreakdown.com, which is an amazing site for draft enthusiasts, like myself, trying to find actual games among hordes of useless highlight reels. Thanks for reading my list, I'd love to read your comments on my selections, as well as some of your own.