Now that the Combine is over and Sport Change’s football February is nearly over, the time is ripe for a fun little exercise: the territorial mock draft.
For a full explanation of what is meant by “territorial draft picks,” please click on this link for a description. To sum it up and to put it in context for this post, the basic premise is NFL teams having one special round prior to the draft in which they can pick players based on holding the territorial rights to players who played college ball in the NFL team’s geographical region. The NBA once had a system like this, and that was the reason that the great Oscar Robertson went directly from the Cincinnati Bearcats to the Cincinnati Royals. For this exercise, Sport Change will first clearly delineate territorial borders and then present the 2013 NFL Draft Territorial Round. Enjoy!
Though some territorial rights are obvious (Colorado U and the Broncos, for instance) others are more nebulous. Generally speaking, it means rights to teams within that state, nearby region if necessary, and (in a few cases) out of state; but within 100 miles and culturally relevant. Let’s go though each team’s territorial claim:
Arizona Cardinals: all schools within the state
Atlanta Falcons: all schools within Georgia
Baltimore Ravens: all schools in Maryland
Buffalo Bills: schools in western or “upstate” New York
Carolina Panthers: both North and South Carolina
Chicago Bears: all of Illinois, plus Notre Dame
Cincinnati Bengals: partial rights to Ohio State, plus the Bearcats, Bobcats, and Miami of Ohio.
Cleveland Browns: partial rights to OSU, plus Kent State, Toledo, and Youngstown
Dallas Cowboys: Baylor, Texas Christian, Southern Methodist, and shared rights to UT
Denver Broncos: all in Colorado
Detroit Lions: all in Michigan
Green Bay Packers: all in Wisconsin
Houston Texans: Texas A&M and shared rights to UT
Indianapolis Colts: all of Indiana except Notre Dame
Jacksonville Jaguars: we’ll give them the Gators
Kansas City Chiefs: they get Kansas State and Kansas
Miami Dolphins: the U, of course, but also Florida International
Minnesota Vikings: no strong college teams in the state, so they get all of Iowa
New England Patriots: Boston College, and shared rights to Uconn
New Orleans Saints: all of Louisiana
New York Giants: shared rights to Rutgers and Uconn
New York Jets: Rutgers (what else is there?)
Oakland Raiders: they get the Cal Bears and shared rights to San Jose State
Philadelphia Eagles: few prospects from Temple this year, so Philly gets Penn State
Pittsburgh Steelers: Pitt, of course, but also nearby West Virginia U.
St. Louis Rams: they get Mizzou
San Diego Chargers: San Diego State is theirs
San Francisco 49ers: Stanford is theirs, plus shared rights to San Jose State
Seattle Seahawks: all of Washington
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: they get Florida State and Southern Florida
Tennessee Titans: all in Tennessee
Washington Redskins: all in Virginia
Some of the territorial claims were subjective choices based somewhat on this year’s crop of players in an effort to spread the wealth just a little. The state of Florida was a bit of a logjam, but we gave Tampa rights to FSU, despite Jacksonville being closer. The Jags are happy with the Gators, anyway. With Rutgers the only legitimate program anywhere near NYC, rights were shared with the Giants and Jets. While doing research for a previous Sport Change article, I discovered that football allegiances in Hartford, Connecticut are basically 50/50 Giants/Patriots. As such, both teams have equal rights to Uconn. The Patriots also get Boston College, but that means little this year. In Ohio, the only fair thing to do was to give access to OSU to both the Bengals and Browns, with smaller programs going to the nearest city. In Texas, we’ve split most schools between Dallas and Houston, but both have equal rights to the Longhorns. Notre Dame is closer to Chicago than Indy, both geographically and culturally. As such, the Bears get the Irish. Missouri basically came down to giving KSU to the Chiefs and Mizzou to the Rams. The Bay Area teams simply get the Pac-10 program slightly closer to them: Stanford to the Niners and Cal to the Raiders. Regions with essentially no prospects to speak of (Minnesota, DC) claim states that are nearby and culturally similar.
The Vast Unclaimed Void
Alas, great swaths of American soil produce terrific footballers with no pro team in the vicinity. Alabama probably has the strongest draft class this year, but none of their players are eligible here. So that means no Warmack, Milliner, Fluker, Lacy, Jones, or Williams. As long as there is no NFL team in LA, there will be no picks from USC or UCLA. Call it a protest until a team lands there–apologies to Matt Barkley. Defensive beasts like Dion Jordon (Oregon), Star Lotulelei (Utah), and Ezekiel Ansah (Brigham Young) are in no-man’s-land.
Depth and Disparity
Disparity in college football is getting more and more stark, with a handful of SEC and Pac-12 teams basically duking it out each year. Each new signing day only reaffirms the dominance of a program like Alabama, and the trend is disconcerting. In our territorial mock draft, some NFL teams are going to blessed with several talented players to choose from, while others have to reach for somebody…anybody. As such, stars like Damontre Moore (A&M), Kevin Minter (LSU), Tavon Austin (WVU), and Alex Ogletree (Georgia) don’t make the cut.
Territoral Mock Trades and Free Agency
I’m not going to go into too much depth here, but this game can also be played with impending free agents and players likely to be traded. I was elated to hear that Alex Smith is a Chief, for instance. It’s not like KC and Utah are next-door-neighbors, but the Utes and Chiefs have similar colors and logos, and that pleases me. Darrelle Revis may be leaving the Jets, and if he does, the former Pitt Panther and Aliquippa, PA native should suit up in the black & gold. If the Cardinals need a quarterback, they should trade for former Arizona Wildcat Nick Foles. Foles has a strong arm and could get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals send Kevin Kolb and draft picks to the Eagles. If I was getting really cheeky, I’d say Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is thrown in with Foles and sent back to the desert. Speaking of DRC, the Bradenton, Florida native should be picking off passes for the Buccaneers. While we’re in the Sunshine State, Dwayne Bowe goes home to Miami to catch passes for the Dolphins while partying with another Dwyane/Dwayne…that being Mr. Wade. I could do a whole post about this, but I’m not going to.
Yes, this is utterly ridiculous and you should know that before you read on. The disparity between regional programs is significant, and that’s why the NBA dropped the territorial draft about 50 years ago. This is simply a fun way to get to know the new group of future NFL players, and it’s a bit of a joke. That said, all mock drafts are jokes. I did my first mock draft back in about 1998, when you had to ask Jeeves what his draft predictions were. Most mock drafts then and now are nearly identical, and most mockers are timid to venture too far from the status quo/Mel Kiper. Of course, every year there are early trades that throw everything off course. Every year somebody grabs a Bruce Irwin or a Tyson Alualu. Every year teams reach for QBs (don’t be surprised if Barkley is a first-rounder) or freak out when their target running back is picked, and end up with David Wilson. In short, every year mock drafts are a mockery once the draft actually happens. With that in mind, let’s get wacky:
2013 NFL DRAFT: TERRITORIAL ROUND
1. Kansas City Chiefs select Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State. With few top prospects available from colleges in west Missouri or Kansas, the Chiefs pick the best player on the board, who moves in next to Derrick Johnson and becomes a part of one of the best linebacking corps in the league.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars select Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. The Jags fill a glaring need while taking a top player near the top of the draft. Sometimes it just works out for Jacksonville fans.
3. Oakland Raiders select Keenan Allen, WR, Cal. Top wide receivers are always welcome, and Allen gives Carson Palmer another target to miss.
4. Philadelphia Eagles select Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State. Philly really has to reach for a player in their area, but the Eagles need a tackle after releasing Cullen Jenkins.
5. Detroit Lions select Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan. It may not be their most glaring need, but Fisher is a top prospect who would theoretically take the reins from Jeff Backus.
6. Cleveland Browns select John Simon, DE, Ohio State. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins may be more of a blue-chipper, but the Browns choose to shore up their pass rush with another Buckeye.
7. Arizona Cardinals select Matt Scott, QB, Arizona. He may not be Matt Barkley, but it’s not like there a ton of options coming out of the desert this year. Scott may be the only Arizonan drafted this year.
8. Buffalo Bills select Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse. This is too easy considering that the Bills need a QB, and new head coach Doug Marrone coached Nassib at Syracuse. Too easy.
9. New York Jets select Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers. This is a tough choice between Greene and Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan, and that’s not just because the Jets have green uniforms and a coach named Ryan. Greene is the choice because the Jets desperately need new blood in the pass rush game, with the Pace/Scott dynamic a distant memory. Also, Darrelle Revis is still on the team as of this writing. K. Greene stuffing S. Greene in the backfield during training camp would make a good photo.
10. Tennessee Titans select Cordarelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee. Jake Locker is still the future, so the Titans give him another weapon rather than replacing him with Tyler Bray.
11. San Diego Chargers select Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego St. San Diego may look longingly north at this year’s Trojan and Bruin offerings, but they keep it local and draft Antonio Gates’s complement and eventual replacement.
12. Miami Dolphins select Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International. It’s hard to believe that nobody from the U was worthy this year, but the ‘Phins get a blue-chip safety to bolster an already tough defensive unit.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. Florida State has a terrific class this year, and the Bucs pass on pass-rusher Bjoern Werner and pass-heaver E.J. Manuel. Tampa has the worst cornerbacking situation in the league, and Xavier Rhodes is a solid pick to tandem with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. (see Territoral Mock Trades and Free Agency, above.)
14. Carolina Panthers select Jonathan Cooper, OL, UNC. It’s a choice between Cooper and fellow Tar Heel Sylvester Williams, a defensive tackle. Cooper is the clear winner in a unit without Jeff Otah and with an aging Jordan Gross. As a side note, there are a ridiculous amount of Jonathans and Johnthans in this draft. Yikes.
15. New Orleans Saints select Barkevious Mingo, Passrusher, LSU. The Tigers have yet another strong class, and the Saints are pleased to meet a need effectively. This is one pick that could actually happen in April–the Saints say ‘bingo’ when they see Mingo. The Honey Badger sheds a single tear and lights up a joint.
16. St. Louis Rams select Sheldon Richardson, DL, Missouri. Richardson would perhaps line up next to Michael Brockers in the 4-3 to form the core of the Rams’ defense of the future. Jeff Fisher’s mustache twitches with delight.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers select Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin is tempting, but let’s assume that Mike Wallace is resigned and the Steelers opt for Big Ben’s backup and eventual replacement.
18. Dallas Cowboys select Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist. Hunt, a beast-of-the-combine, stays in the metroplex and bookends DeMarcus Ware. Something about a pass rusher named Hunt is scary.
19. New York Giants select Sio Moore, LB, Connecticut. A tough decision between Moore and Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan. In the end, the Giants fans just wouldn’t be able to accept anyone with the last name of Ryan. That, and linebacker is a slightly more (Moore) glaring need for Big Blue.
20. Chicago Bears select Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. This is a very tough choice between “The Full Manti” and tight end Tyler Eifert. Both positions are needs, but Te’o is selected as Urlacher’s eventual replacement. Sure, he’s gullible enough to believe his crazy cousin. Sure, he had a rough combine. But does anybody remember how dominant he was on the gridiron last year?
21. Cincinnati Bengals select Johnathan Hankins, DT, OSU. Hankins projects as a nose tackle, and the Bengals play a 4-3 already flush with talent. That said, Hankins is a top prospect and DTs tend to get injured. A solid pick for a rotation that already features Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Devon Still, and Brandon Thompson.
22. Washington Re****ns select B.W. Webb, CB, William & Mary. The Washington football team traded their actual first round pick to the Rams for the chance at RGIII, so they’re lucky for the territorial round. We’ve given the whole state of Virginia to the Washington football team, but the choice is a tough one. Offensive lineman Oday Aboushi of Virginia U fits a need, while similarly ranked cornerback Webb does as well. Aboushi has been sliding down the draft boards, so we’ll continue to see Tyler Polumbus give up sacks and we’ll go with the cornerback. Something seems lucky about a CB from W&M named B.W. Webb.
23. Minnesota Vikings select A.J. Klein, ILB, Iowa State. The Golden Gophers have a terrible football program, so there is no decent college player in the entire state. Iowa, the neighbor to the south, has plenty. We’ll go with a linebacker named A.J. to fill the void left by E.J. and the other Henderson brother.
24. Indianapolis Colts select Kawann Short, DT, Purdue. Indy needs help on defense, and Lafayette delivers. For the record, he’s listed at 6’3″–about average height for a tackle. More like Kawann Averageheight.
25. Seattle Seahawks select Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. Yes, the Seahawks do not have a glaring need for a cornerback, but Marcus’s little brother is really the only option this year, and he’s darn good to boot. Doesn’t hurt to have another good cornerback….there’s nickel defenses, injuries, and the chance that Richard Sherman will go off the deep end. By that, I mean shave a stripe in his head, change his name to Dick Dos Cinco, and wear a 49ers helmet during a game just to mess with people. Trufant it is!
26. Green Bay Packers select Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin. This is a tough call between Frederick and fan-favorite Montee Ball. Both positions are weaknesses on the Packers, but it’s hard to imagine Ball being significantly better than James Starks, Ryan Grant, DuJuan Harris, or any of the other mediocre backs that the Pack have trotted out in recent years. The most gaping void on the team is at center, where recently-retired retread Jeff Saturday filled in last year. Frederick squeezes his 312 pounds in front of Aaron Rodgers and fills that void.
27. Houston Texans select Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M. Finally, at pick 27, Joeckel comes off the board. The Texans rejoice, as they could use an upgrade at right tackle anyway.
28. Denver Broncos select David Bahktiari, OT, Colorado. The Broncos pick the best available player from Colorado, after kicking the tires on tight end Nick Kasa. It’s always nice to have a full stable of O-linemen; particularly when your quarterback’s neck is worth more than the holy grail.
29. New England Patriots select Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut. This is just a classic Bill Belichick move: reach a bit at the end of the first round for a defensive back with a weird name. There are more highly ranked players from Uconn on the board, but Bee-Dub-Dub will become a fixture in Foxborough. Put money on it.
30. Atlanta Falcons select Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia. He’s more highly ranked and has a cleaner record than Alex Ogletree, and every team loves an elite pass rusher. The Falcons revel in SEC heaven.
31. San Francisco 49ers select Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford. The Niners drink the tandem-TE Kool-Aid by pairing up Vernon Davis with one of the top tight ends in the draft. Every other team in the league bites their nails. Incidentally, why are so many tight ends named Zach? What the hell? When this Zach gets an injury, his teammates call to the coach, “Zach Ertz, Zach Hurts.” (bad, bad joke) “Have you ever had an Ertz doughnut? *pinches arm* “Ertz, doughnut?”
32. Baltimore Ravens select Kenneth Tate, LB, Maryland. The Super Bowl champs get….not too much. It’s a lean year for Terrapin prospects. Even if we extended the range to include Delaware, there aren’t any Blue Hens this year either. Perhaps the blue hens are riding the terrapins across the Atlantic as we speak. Anyway, Kenny Tate was highly touted until blowing out his knee last year. Let’s say he heals up and helps form a new Baltimore linebacking corps in the wake of Ray Lewis’s retirement.
So there you have it. In the NBA’s old draft, round one would follow the territorial round. It would be interesting to have that now and see where all the Alabama, Texas, and Utah players go. For now, we’ll just say “the Jaguars take Matt Barkley” and call it good. It will also be quite fun to see if any of these territorial picks actually occur in April. The most likely are probably Floyd to Jacksonville, Mingo to New Orleans, Frederick to Green Bay, and Te’o to Chicago–in who knows what round. But I don’t want to get in to predicting the draft–then it won’t come true.
Thanks for reading. If you’re looking for a legit mock draft, I recommend Walter Football, a site I’ve been following for several years. Reports on football will now take a break for a while. We may have to weigh in on hot topics (like the Dolphins’ new logo) but March will be focused on basketball. There will be an Ideal NBA and D-League, as well as an NCAA moniker bracket. Stay posted.