It's that time again!
If you've been following the brand or the site for the past few years, you know that I love this format of posts, as a matter of fact, it's the very concept that gave birth to my weekly column Would You Rather. These are the prospect versus prospect drafts.
Originally branded as pretty penny versus bargain buy, these columns help me look at two players from the same positions at different round values, and discuss which deal I'd prefer if given the choice on draft weekend. Of course, teams will never know the exact circumstances of their decisions when they're on the clock, but this is the mental bargaining you do with yourself: I'll pass on Tee Higgins in the second because I think Michael Pittman will still be on the board in the third round (see below).
I send out a tweet every week asking for suggestions, so get on Twitter and shoot me a follow to get your prospect head-to-heads answered on the next Would You Rather.
Clemson WR Tee Higgins (Round 2) vs. USC WR Michael Pittman (Round 3)
These are the sort of questions that this exercise is really built around. Not only do Pittman and Higgins both play wide receiver, but they also fill the same prototype at the position. Neither is an explosive athlete, though both have good footwork and stride length to help qualify for the baseline athletic requirements of the position. Both are tremendous at adjusting to inaccurate footballs downfield with good initial judgment of deep passes and aggressive, alpha mentalities around jump balls. And both predicate their game on winning with physicality, length and downfield volume.
Neither has a profile that tends to translate really well to the NFL.
The big catch-radius players who don't have much yards-after-catch juice or separation ability tend to struggle beyond a certain cut-off point in league play. That is to say: The really good ones can stick around, but the Day 3 players, who just need to be fed jump balls to make an impact, don't really get enough volume or trust from their quarterback to do so. Which makes me lean Higgins.
But at the same time, if Higgins and Pittman are going to fill roughly the same role at the NFL level (I believe so), and neither is going to be a WR1 in the NFL (which I believe), why wouldn't I take the round discount?
I think Higgins has a higher ceiling, and I think they have similar floors. But I'm willing to spend less capital on Pittman to do a comparable job for me, even if I miss out on Higgins developing into something more at the NFL level.
Would rather: Pittman (Round 3)
Houston OT Josh Jones (Round 2) vs. UConn OT Matt Peart (Round 4)
It’s interesting one would put the better player in the later round. I respect the audacity.
In all seriousness, I like to grab at least one of these every round, because they're fun to discuss. I know NFL teams and their corresponding leaks in the media seem really big on Josh Jones, but I just can't get my head all the way around it. Jones is certainly a toolsy player who has an NFL ceiling, but we tend to view tools as a binary assignment in scouting circles: Is he toolsy or isn't he? Jones definitely is, but it's really not to a ground-breaking level, as my eye can see. Maybe the combine will change my mind, but Jones seems to me just a fine athlete.
Accordingly, if we're drafting Jones on tools, I prefer players like Auburn's Prince Tega Wanogho or South Carolina State's Alex Taylor. Critically, not only do these players have better raw physical abilities, but they're also underdeveloped technique-wise relative to the class of the position — neither has played offensive tackle for very long. Jones is a four-year starter at the position and started through high school as well. If he was going to cash in on the promise his tools illustrates, I think we would have seen more development by now.
Matt Peart is comparable as an athlete, with better flashes on film, and a more promising developmental profile at a fraction of the cost. Count me in.
Would rather: Peart (Round 4)
LSU S Grant Delpit (Round 1) vs. Cal S Ashtyn Davis (Round 2)
Usually, when I start writing these blurbs, I know my conclusion and I write to arrive there. This time, I'm really divided on it, so I'm just going to go with it and see where I end up.
The most valuable safeties in the world are the players who can play and win from a single-high alignment, and I think that's both Grant Delpit and Ashtyn Davis in this class. If you can't be a true middle field safety, you have to be wild versatile in the box, which I believe is the case with Xavier McKinney from Alabama.
So both Delpit and Davis check that box; good. Who's better there? I think Delpit is more consistent and has better route recognition ability, while I certainly recognize that Davis flashes that a good deal — I just think he's less consistent in terms of football IQ and instincts.
With Delpit, everyone complains about the tackling, and rightfully so, but the list of safeties who can play single-high is already pretty thin, and when you take away the guys who don't like tackling, it's almost empty. With that said, that makes Davis really attractive, because I know Ashtyn will run and hit at high velocities, and I'm intrigued by his potential generating turnovers with his physical play from the rooftop. With that said, the productivity went down for Davis this year but so much of that is just situational.
I prefer Delpit when you need to get your safety in the box. I'm pretty equal on them as run fit players. I really like Delpit's measurables advantage in man coverage. Egads.
I think I like Delpit enough to warrant the Round 1 selection, even with the tackling concerns. Ask me this question again when we get medical checks back from the combine. I'm worried Delpit's shoulder will be prohibitively poor such that it gets red-flagged, and the entire conversation changes.
Would rather: Delpit (Round 1)