I got a chance to sit in on a conference call with Gil Brandt and Mark Dominik Tuesday morning to discuss this year’s NFL Draft.
Dominik worked in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ front office for 17 years, as their director of pro scouting (1997-2008) and general manager (2009-2013).
They discussed the ins and outs of the draft process, intriguing prospects to watch out for, as well as how COVID-19 will affect the upcoming draft. It was extremely interesting to hear from the viewpoints of people who have been in war rooms on draft day.
On trading up in the draft:
Brandt- When you’re down there at pick 27, 28, 29, you kind of play the devil’s advocate. If I trade out of the first round and I pick up an extra second for trading down ten spots, which one of these ten players are going to be there when I make my pick?
Dominik- I think you’ve got to stick to your guns and be consistent. I think this held true for me back when I drafted Lavonte David and the Bucs tried to trade up feverishly to go back and get him. I didn’t change my offer of a (second-round pick) and a (fourth-round pick), because I knew what I was willing to give up to make sure I got a player that I coveted. And I didn’t want to start to get clever and ask for two and a five. I was willing to give up the fourth, even though by the point chart it might’ve been a but too aggressive. I wanted the player, and if you have that kind of conviction towards a player, it’s hard to ever feel like you’re going to lose in the deal.
On how the implications of COVID-19 will affect the upcoming draft:
Brandt- What happens is when you have all the data that you can accumulate in the combine, and we’ll use the defensive backs as an example. I think there were 34 corners at (the 2020 combine) and 10 of them completed everything. I don’t think you’re going to have that ability to pull players out by the traits that led to success, like Oakland did with Josh Jacobs last year, who wasn’t even a full-time starter. Mark talked about the charts, but I’m not sure how much the chart comes into play this year, because everything is a little bit different this year than ever before.
Dominik- I do think, because of the difficulty of managing the draft, the decisions that are made and the logistics in terms of quick conversations when negotiating, it can certainly make it more difficult for any trades to happen. I think that back-and-forth will be a lot more difficult to do. In the first round, I think you’ll see a normal amount of trades, because I think you can manage that. But I think if you keep the clock at five minutes in the fourth round, I think it will be easier for clubs to just not go down that path. Teams will need to have the conversation set up now, so there’s understandings and the process can happen a lot more real time. But I do expect there to be less trades overall
On how the current draft process will affect underclassmen and Senior Bowl participants:
Dominik- I think the underclassmen that declared, and not the elite underclassmen who we all know will be first or second round picks, but that group of underclassmen that would’ve been fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh rounders, we’re going to see a higher percentage of underclassmen that declared not get drafted. They didn’t go to the NFLPA game, East-West game or the Senior Bowl, and some of them might not have been invited to the combine. Therefore, you don’t have medicals. I also think you’ll see a higher portion of guys that were at the Senior Bowl get drafted, because you have so much more confidence in everything you need to know about that player, and you’re going to have more confidence in taking them.
On Tua Tagovailoa:
Brandt- The guy is productive and can he bring a team from behind? Just look at this year’s LSU tape and see what he did there. How long will his shelf life be? The doctors keep sending out these good reports on him, but nobody says how long his shelf life will be. I would not be surprised to see Miami take a position player at the 5th spot. It would not surprise me at all. It’s just a feel.
Dominik- Tua’s the much better talent (than Herbert). I think everybody realizes that, in terms of just velocity, headiness, leadership, all those things. And I don’t think there’s a GM out there that worries about Tua playing in 2020. It’s ‘Will be be here in 2022 or 2028?’
On Justin Herbert:
Brandt- I am a big Herbert fan. I’ll tell you why: I think if you put him with the receivers they have at LSU, or put him with the receiver they have at Alabama, I think you would see a player that would really excel. I first watched him mid-season in 2016, he came in the second half against California and they were down by three or four touchdowns, and he almost brought them back to win. Conversely, if you put on the Arizona State tape on from this year, he didn’t play very (well). But I think he has all the tools to be a really good player. I have him as my fourth-ranked player, and I have him ranked above Tua.
Dominik- Justin is super smart. Great kid. He did a great job at the Senior Bowl. I just think a lot of people look at him and think Marcus Mariota, in terms of like voice, talking, rallying, all that kind of stuff. That makes some folks a little nervous, but I still think he goes first round. I’ve talked to a couple of quarterback guys who think he’s a third-round talent, but I think he’s much better than that. But I don’t think it’s a guy you have to trade up to go get.
On the 2020 linebacker class:
Brandt- The linebacker group is not real strong this year. I think that Patrick Queen is probably the best guy inside. Murray is pretty good as an inside linebacker. The one (mid-round) guy who I think is a starter and played pretty well for LSU, is Jacob Phillips. I think when you can hit a guy like him in the fourth or fifth round, I think Phillips will be a middle linebacker for you for a lot of years to come.
Dominik- Jacob Phillips is who I would say, as well. For a mid-round linebacker, that’s exactly who you’re looking for. LSU has been putting out good linebackers for the last few years, and that would give you that much more confidence to take him. So I think Jacob Phillips could bring that, as well.
On the 2020 Wide receiver class and why it’s tough to evaluate wide receivers:
Brandt- One of the reasons I think it’s tough to evaluate them is because there’s so much difference at the NFL level, due to all the different defenses we see and all the adjustments we have to make. Next to the quarterback, it’s probably the mortality rate of any position. The other thing I think is separation. There’s a lot of guys who can run fast, but they can’t separate. So I think you try to find guys in college who get good separation, kind of like (Justin) Jefferson from LSU.
Dominik- I think a big reason why receivers bust more is because in college they’re going against 18, 19 and 20-year-old young men who still aren’t strong and physical. So a guy who’s a little more gifted and stronger can be the better college player from that perspective, but you get to the NFL and you’re going up against a 29-year-old man, which is a huge difference. I think that’s why you see receivers bust, because it’s just a different level of the person they’re going against.
Other interesting nuggets from the interview:
Dominik- I was talking to Mickey Loomis, and we always give Miami a hard time for passing on Drew Brees because they didn’t pass him on the physical. And Loomis always jokes ‘what about the other 30 teams who didn’t bring him in, those should be the ones we give trouble.’
Brandt- Let me say this about (Thaddeus) Moss, who is the son of Randy Moss. He is a checkered player. He’s gone to like 14 different high schools. He originally was a fullback. He hasn’t played much, except for this year. He originally went to North Carolina State. The one thing that worries me about Moss is that he’s had two operations on his foot, so I probably don’t have him graded as high as some others.
Dominik- We passed on Rob Gronkowski because our orthopedic doctor said you can’t touch him.