I watched my first Draft with some URI mates at my friend Brendan’s house. Initially, the prospect of sitting for two to three hours watching names of players I hadn’t heard of being called out didn’t sound great. I preferred the option of heading to nearby Newport, calling in at the highly underrated Walt’s Roast Beef.
The 1996 Draft was regarded as one of the better ones. It produced 6 Hall of Famers including Ray Lewis, Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison, and 33 Pro Bowlers, notably the number one overall pick, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.
Looking back, Keyshawn Johnson may have been what got me hooked on the Draft. Our friend Howie was (and still is, I believe) a long-suffering Jets fan. His growing levels of excitement as the clock ticked down to find out who his team would pick were infectious. I honestly can’t remember whether he was happy or disappointed with their choice. In hindsight, you’d take two-time Super Bowl winner and 13 time Pro Bowler, Ray Lewis, number one, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
So, I then I started to wonder who my team, the Green Bay Packers, would pick. My friends were interested in the top ten only really and then wanted to head out. I wanted to stay on now and watch. Walt’s Roast Beef would have to wait. Green Bay had the 27th pick in the first round. I wished it had been Ray Lewis. He was picked 26th. Instead it was John Michels, an offensive tackle from the University of Southern California. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I was hoping for a wide receiver or running back, one of the glamorous positions. My limited knowledge of the game failed to appreciate how important offensive linemen are. Michels ended up being a key part of the offensive line that protected Brett Favre and he won a Super Bowl in Green Bay.
Intriguingly, 1996 was considered one of the best draft classes for wide receiver ever. This year’s draft could match up to it. There are also lots of rumours that offensive linemen will be taken early in the first round.
This year's draft will be virtual, no hordes of fans cheering or war rooms with coaches and managers debating the next selection from their big white boards of talent mapped out over the walls. Teams will be making their selections from homes of General Managers. John Lynch, GM of the San Francisco 49ers highlighted his "At Home War Room" on Twitter this week. It promises to be a fascinating experience.
I have seven wide receivers going in my first round mock, and four offensive linemen. We’ll see what happens early Friday UK time. I’ve made my first attempt at a mock draft (see below), trying to guess which players will be picked by which teams. Here are my picks:
1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, Quarterback – LSU
2. Washington Redskins – Tua Tagovailoa, QB – Alabama
3. Detroit Lions – Chase Young, Edge – Ohio State
4. New York Giants – Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle – Iowa
5. Miami Dolphins – Justin Herbert – QB – Oregon
6. LA Chargers – Jeff Okudah – Cornerback – Ohio State
7. Carolina Panthers – Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle - Auburn
8. Arizona Cardinals – Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker/Safety – Clemson
9. Jacksonville Jaguars – Javon Kinlaw, DT – South Carolina
10. Cleveland Browns – Jedrick Wills, OT – Alabama
11. New York Jets – Andrew Thomas, OT – Georgia
12. Las Vegas Raiders – CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver – Oklahoma
13. San Francisco 49ers – Jerry Jeudy, WR – Alabama
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mekhi Becton, OT – Louisville
15. Denver Broncos – Henry Ruggs III, WR – Alabama
16. Atlanta Falcons – K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge – LSU
17. Dallas Cowboys – Kenneth Murray, LB – Oklahoma
18. Miami Dolphins – Justin Jefferson, WR – LSU
19. Las Vegas Raiders – Patrick Queen, LB – LSU
20. Jacksonville Jaguars – CJ Henderson, CB – Florida
21. Philadelphia Eagles – Brandon Aiyuk, WR – Arizona State
22. Minnesota Vikings – Denzel Mims, WR – Baylor
23. New England Patriots – Jordan Love, QB – Utah State
24. New Orleans Saints – Tee Higgins, WR – Clemson
25. Minnesota Vikings – Trevon Diggs, CB – Alabama
26. Miami Dolphins – D’Andre Swift, RB – Georgia
27. Seattle Seahawks - Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge – Penn State
28. Baltimore Ravens – Zack Baun, LB – Wisconsin
29. Tennessee Titans – AJ Espenesa, Edge – Iowa
30. Green Bay Packers – Jalen Hurts, QB – Oklahoma
31. San Francisco 49ers – Kristian Fulton, CB – LSU
32. Kansas City Chiefs – JK Dobbins, RB – Ohio State