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Mail Bag: One More Week of NFL Draft Questions

Who's moving up in the first round? What will the Bills do without a first-rounder? Why do so many mocks give the Chiefs a running back at 32? Albert Breer tackles as many questions as he can, given the eventful week in his driveway.

It’s been a crazy 24 hours here at the Breer Estate, so let’s dive right into the mailbag…

From Conor Orr (@ConorOrr): Albert, why did you put a big tree in your driveway?

Conor, I didn’t choose the tree. The tree, it appears, chose me. (Since it was actually in my neighbor’s yard, standing but very dead, before high winds knocked it over, right into my powerlines and completely blocking my driveway.)

From Derrick Sova (@DerrickSova): What kind of tree?

A pine tree! And a gigantic one. I’ll say this—you do not want the neutral line being the one to snap. I’d never heard of it before Monday. Then, ours snapped, we had intense power surges, had to shut down the electricity in our house altogether and, after talking to some of the workers on Tuesday, I found out we were pretty lucky that nothing burnt to the ground.

From Scott Zolak (@scottzolak): Oh what a relief!

Thanks, Zo!

From Taylor Bolton (@TBolt10) First of all. Are you ok? But actually, what team is most likely to trade up for a non-QB?

Yes, everyone here is fine. And I appreciate you asking. All joking aside, as is normal for me, I’ve had my moments through the whole thing where I want to throw my laptop off a cliff—particularly when the power only came on in half the house after the electric company left, and when the heat and hot water randomly stopped working five or six hours after that.

But given, well, everything, I caught myself losing it and stopped myself a lot faster on a handful of occasions Tuesday than I probably would’ve a couple months ago. And maybe that means this really tough time for so many has given me a better outlook on things.

Alright, so teams that might come up for a non-QB? Here’s something to remember—in this day and age, it almost never happens at the upper reaches of the draft. And if you do your homework, that much is clear. Over the last five draft cycles, teams have traded into or up within the top 10 on 10 different occasions. A quarterback was the object in seven of those trades up. The others were to the eighth (Jack Conklin in ’16), ninth (Leonard Floyd in ’16), and 10th (Devin Bush last year) picks.

So, chances are no one’s paying the freight to go into the top 5, even for a generational non-quarterbacking talent, like Chase Young. Could it happen in the back half of the top 10? Yes. It could. And if it does happen, maybe it’s someone like Atlanta coming up for one of the class’s elite defensive talents (like Isaiah Simmons). More likely, though, would be a scenario where someone deals up with Jacksonville at 9, to leapfrog the Browns and Jets for an offensive lineman.

From Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel): Are executives expecting more trades or fewer given the home-draft set ups and not personnel-crowded rooms?

Jeff, my kneejerk is to say fewer. And I know a lot of teams are expecting a more conservative approach to be taken league-wide—which means we could see players with injury history or character flags slide a little. That would, indeed, extend over to the trade market, where I think a lot of the setup work will have to be done ahead of time.

Some of that already happens between teams that have a level of trust with one another. What will be harder is the unexpected scenario, where a player starts sliding, and teams might start to scramble to move up to get him. And that means, again, relationships will probably matter in an environment where it may be difficult to have a handful of high-ranking team officials working the phones with different suitors simultaneously.

So watch for trades that highlight connections between teams—like the one between, say, the Lions and Patriots or the Chiefs and Bills. And look for a lot activity to set up other trades well before the draft begins.

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From Jeremias Sørensen (@Lactoo): A lot of so-called draft experts have the Chiefs taking a RB in Round 1. Most Chiefs fans don't understand this as Damien Williams is perfect for KC. There are players of greater need and similar value at 32, so why is the RB pick so common? Is it sources or guesswork?

Fun fact, Jeremias—This will Andy Reid’s 22nd draft as a head coach and, over that time, he’s never spent a first-round pick on a running back, and has only once spent a second-rounder on one (that player, of course, wound up being LeSean McCoy in 2009). That’s no accident, and it doesn’t mean either that he doesn’t know how to use a great one (both McCoy and Brian Westbrook accomplished a lot in his offense).

It does mean that he feels confident in his ability to find them, and there’s plenty of proof that his confidence is well-founded. The star tailback on his first Super Bowl team, in Philly, was Westbrook, who was drafted at the tail end of the third round. The star tailback on his second Super Bowl team was, in fact, Williams, a scrapheap pickup who wound up being important after the previous year’s team lost its workhorse—a former rushing champion, Kareem Hunt, who Reid also plucked in the third round.

So yeah, maybe this year’s different and Reid sees, say, D’Andre Swift, as a real difference-maker for an already-loaded offense. But I’m going to choose not to ignore history here, and guess that he and GM Brett Veach probably look elsewhere at 32.

From Finn (@ganggreen750): Lynn Bowden-I saw Gil Brandt had him ranked as his 44th overall prospect. Being that that’s noticeably higher than most public rankings, is that placement more indicative of what you’re hearing from NFL teams?

Finn, I don’t think many teams have him that high. But the fun thing about him is, because of the ambiguity of what he might be in the pros, GMs and coaches are all over the map on him. He was a high school quarterback, who became a receiver and return man when he arrived at Kentucky. He became good enough at the former to land on the Biletnikoff Award watch list going into 2019, his junior year. Then, thanks to a rash of injuries, he returned to quarterback a few games into that junior year—and starred. And he’s built like a tailback.

So he’s not fully developed as a receiver, and might have some Percy Harvin potential in how you deploy him, and with players like that beauty is in the eye of beholder. The trouble for him is that usually the value in players like that is how much more room there is to grow, and the way NFL prospects can verify that is through their raw athleticism. He pulled a hamstring and couldn’t show his in Indy, unfortunately, and never got a second shot to do it, thanks to the cancellation of the pro day circuit.

Based on all that, and the depth of the receiver class, mid-second round does seem a tad rich to me. But, again, some team may have great vision for what he’s going to be and pull the trigger on him earlier than expected.

From Cali Jets (@CaliJets): Predictions for the Jets at pick 11? If Joe Douglas’s OT4 is the only one on the board, would he still go tackle or do you think he takes Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb?

Cali, a receiver would surprise me a little—but I don’t think it’s impossible under a certain scenario. How does that play out? Well, if, and this is a big if, the four top linemen (Mehki Becton, Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs and Andrew Thomas) are gone, then there probably wouldn’t be one worthy of going at 11, and Douglas might need to look elsewhere. And that could happen, if Denver or Tampa trade into the top 10. Or maybe, like you said, Douglas isn’t wild about the lineman who is left for him at 11.

What I do feel confident about is that Douglas won’t reach to fill a position, even though I know, philosophically, he’d prefer to build inside out. And while I’ve had someone caution me that it seems unlikely a receiver would top his board at 11, if that’s where he is, that’s where he is. I still think, again, a lineman is the most likely scenario here. Or maybe someone like Florida CB C.J. Henderson.

Either way, the Jets aren’t exactly in a position to be cherry-picking needs that high in the draft. They just need to get more top-shelf talent on the roster, at this point.

From Brad Hesch (@bhesch34): Albert, any thoughts on what the Bills will look to do in the draft? I know Stefon Diggs is their big offseason move, but Brandon Beane likes to trade and move around a lot. Thanks!

Brad, the good news for Buffalo is, honestly, I’m not sure there are many pressing needs on the roster going into the draft. Their objective going into the offseason was to get guys to help them put points on the board—and trading for Stefon Diggs was a big step toward accomplishing that. And that left them without a first-round pick but with a lot of flexibility with the 54th, 86th, 128th, 167th, 188th 207th and 239th picks.

The one thing I’d watch for is Beane, perhaps, digging for a long-term bookend for Tre’Davious White at corner. This is a really good class at the position, with seven guys (Jeff Okudah, C.J. Henderson, Kristian Fulton, A.J. Terrell, Damon Arnette, Jeff Gladney and Trevon Diggs). My guess is Beane would love to pluck one of those guys (maybe Diggs’s little brother?) in Round 2, and maybe he’d even move up to do it.

I think Buffalo would also love to walk away with an edge rusher. It just seems less likely a high-end player at that position falls to them (K’Lavon Chaisson will be long gone by then, and I’d think Terrell Lewis will be too).

From Chris Jones (@cjjonesz): Jalen Hurts to the Steelers in Round 2... Can you see any truth to that projection?

Chris, I’m gonna be really interested to see where the second-tier quarterbacks (Hurts, Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm) wind up going, because if you look at draft history, you’ll see those guys almost always wind up sliding. And I’ve got numbers to back that up.

Over the last five drafts, 16 quarterbacks have gone in the first round. Just three have gone in the second round, those three being Drew Lock, Christian Hackenberg and DeShone Kizer. And just eight have gone in the third round, and another eight have gone in the fourth round. Which means nearly as many quarterbacks have gone in the first round, as have gone in the second, third and fourth rounds combined.

Why? It’s simple. Picking a quarterback is a yes-or-no thing. You either think a guy is good enough to build around, and stake your future to, or he’s going to be a backup. That’s the way the position works—there’s no, well, if this guy doesn’t work out at left tackle, he can be our right guard. He either is or he isn’t. If he is, most teams won’t risk waiting to take him. If he isn’t, then he’s a backup. Most teams don’t spend second or third rounders on guys they believe will be backups.

Hurts and Eason are both interesting in that regard, because there seems to be room for growth with them, and sometimes guys like that (Hackenberg, Lock, and Brock Osweiler would be examples) wind up hitting that second-round sweet spot. But more often than not, if a team falls in love with a quarterback, they’ll just take him in Round 1.

And to answer your question, no, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Steelers take another swing at the quarterback spot somewhere in next week’s draft.

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