I’ve done a lot of full mocks where I analyze all the picks and probably just as many practice mocks to see where guys fall and experiment with trading down. Going through all this, I had a ridiculous one that ended with more picks than I imagined and it gave me an idea, I challenge for myself:
Could I build an entire starting lineup with just one draft?
Well, I feel pretty good about my board and I’ve seen some guys I like fall late, so why not? How could I possibly find anything better to do with my time?
Well, I did it and I warn you: this is not for the faint of heart and it’s not for casual draft watchers who just tune in when their team picks. My other mocks are just fine for that audience, but this is different – this is for those who are truly a fan of the draft and enjoy digging deeper to understand how a team is built.
I couldn’t just jump into this without a little thought, so I gave myself come rules to follow:
- I had to start with the Packers draft positions
- I was not allowed to trade future draft picks (so, no cheating to offer a future 1st to snag another 2nd rounder this year or any similar shenanigans)
- I had to put together an actual team, meaning I needed to take into account what kind of scheme I would run on each side of the ball and how these parts would fit together
- I only get one chance; I have to do this beginning to end on the first try – no cheating to run a few and find the best team, no refreshing the page if someone I wanted got picked – this was a big boy exercise!
I took it as a pretty big challenge, because, even though the Packers had an extra first round pick, they were picking from the middle third of the round each round – that’s way worse than expansion teams get.
The results are in the image, but the really beauty is in the analysis.
If you can’t make out the picture, you can check the draft page to see how the whole thing went down.
This is a scheme built on a strong running game with a zone blocking system and large receiving targets. The zone blocking approach is really what saved this team – it allowed me to get what I think it a very capable NFL caliber offensive line. For the aerial assault, I went with a “smashmouth passing” scheme… I’ll explain it more below.
- QB: Kyler Murray – A little undersized, he’s a spectacular athlete and the guy this offensive scheme will be built around. It’s not a great year for Quarterbacks (and they went quick), so it’s a rough time to run this experiment, but let’s see what we can do.
- Murray is an Elite runner who will be called on to run zone reads and designed runs in this offense, which will focus on zone blocking with a workhorse back.
- He struggles with his progressions and read, so we’re going to try to make it easy on him. He can hit tight windows especially on out routes, so we’re gonna combat his relatively weak progression reading by giving him big targets, which will allow him to use his great ball placement to throw to his early reads even if they don’t have separation (think of what Hakeem Nicks did to the Packers all those years – that’s what Murray would do in this offense).
- RB: Josh Jacobs – a compact, powerful runner with great vision and patience. He has moves and, at 5’9, he’s hard to find and very slippery. Him and Murray running read options behind an athletic zone-blocking line could give defenses fits.
- LT: Chuma Edoga – This was one of the guys who really made this work. Edoga is a true Left Tackle talent and he proved it at the Senior Bowl where he had a practice on par with anyone else. He seems to be slipping on boards because of whispers of legal issues. But in the 5th round, with no Left Tackle, beggars can’t be choosers.
- LG: Dalton Risner – One of the top linemen in the draft, he will be a fixture for Josh Jacobs to run behind. He can run and pass block like a total boss and has a nasty streak that I just love.
- C: Garrett Bradbury – Voted best Offensive Lineman at the Senior Bowl, Bradbury started his college career as a Tight End, showing how athletic he is for a blocking scheme like this. Very smart player with polished technique, he’ll be the great at on the line class.
- RG: Dru Samia – Mobile and athletic, Samia has the tools for ZBS and is a good project for the pros. He did struggle a bit at the Senior Bowl, which caused a drop in his rankings, but for a starting lineman in the 7th round, I guess I can’t ask for much more than a second team All American.
- RT: Bobby Evans – Very mobile, smart player, he was a Left Tackle in college but doesn’t quite project there in the pros. Good puller in college, he needs to clean up his hand technique. If he struggles and needs to be inside, I could easily swap him with Risner.
- TE: TJ Hockenson – My first pick and my only first rounder, Hock is a complete Tight End that is perfect for this offense. He’s a beastly blocker that can open lanes for Jacobs or seal an edge so Murray can break contain. On top of that, he’s a very good receiver who, at 6’4, presents a big target and is tough to bring down.
- WR: Hakeem Butler – Speaking of big targets, here’s a 6’5 monster who is built like a tight end, but catches and runs like a receiver (maybe a slower one at 4.5, but that’s what Jordy Nelson ran at the Combine, so don’t knock it). He’ll be a great guy for Murray to dump off to on out routes that pretty much no corners will have the length to deal with.
- WR: Jazz Ferguson – Brother of Jaylon Ferguson, he’s got all the athletic gifts in the world to go with his 6’4 frame. Another guy who runs in the 4.5’s, he probably has the most dynamic skills. He missed a lot of time for disciplinary reasons (like… a lot), but that’s about as much talent as you could possibly hope to get in the 7th round. He gives our runaround QB three guys at least 6’4 to throw at. This kind of offense is gonna bully the daylights out of defensive backfields.
- Slot WR: Mecole Hardman – Mecole is the little guy at 5’10. However, he runs in the 4.3s and will challenge for the fastest 40 at the Combine. He has great body control and can absolutely blast the top off a defense if someone tries to stack the box against the run game and big-bodied receivers. He’s the rock-paper-scissors weapon that gives this offense the final dimension.
Edge and Cornerback are premium players and you can’t get them late. I had to go for a hybrid approach and even added a flex player to give me the ability to go 4-3 or 3-4. I also drafted a defensive backfield with a lot of versatility.
This is a defense with a massive, powerful front backed up by a lot of speed and aggression. I went for big penetrating linemen to help generate a pass rush since I couldn’t get premium Edge talent. I also went with fast LBs to help with coverage and took safeties that can cover since I wasn’t able to get a blue-chip cornerback.
- NT: Daylon Mack – maybe the best pure Nose Tackle in the draft, at 6’1 320 he’s gonna be tough to move. he plays with lots of leverage, gets good push, and is a physical run stuffer, but the gravy is that he has serious fast twitch explosion. He doesn’t have a wide repertoire of moves, but he can demolish a pocket all by himself. This is a critical trait in the type of defense this group is gonna have to run.
- DE: Khalen Saunders – Another 320 pounder, Saunders is less mack truck (see what I did there?) and more circus elephant. There’s not a lot of 320 pound guys I’ve ever seen that can do back flips, but he can (yes, I’m serious: see)! He was the most impressive player at the Senior Bowl by many accounts and is better at slipping through the line than Mack, but can also clog the run lanes.
- DE: Renell Wren – At only 305, Wren is the little guy on the three-man front. He’s the best penetrator of the group, though. He has a quick first step and can twist through gaps to wreak havoc against the pass or the run.
- Flex DL: Ricky Walker – Very similar to Wren in size and style, Walker doesn’t have the strength to be a two-gapper, but he penetrates well and can handle one-on-one blocking. He is really a wild card in here and can change the approach of the defense for sub packages with his presence.
- Edge: Joe Jackson – This is probably my least favorite pick, but the Edge class was getting gobbled up right off the bat and there wasn’t a lot I could do. This is actually what made me re-think my defense mid-draft and look for more flexibility. All around solid player, though – he bulked up to get better against he run, but lost a little of his pass rush ability in the process. This makes him a more well-rounded player, but this defense is gonna need help generating pressure.
- Edge: Oshane Ximines – I actually like Ximines more than Jackson because I think he’s a better fit as a 3-4 edge rusher. He has very good pass rushing moves and the team will probably have to move him around to exploit that since he’s the best true passer rusher on the team. Ideally, he’d come into the league as a situational pass rusher and grow from there. Luckily, I grabbed a flex lineman to give me options for using these guys.
- LB: Terrill Hanks – A free safety turned linebacker, Hanks is built like Adonnis and plays nasty in the middle. He flies around in traffic and can cover out of the backfield. I like a reckless abandon guy in the middle of all this.
- LB: Joe Gile-Harris – He doesn’t have a great burst, but he can blitz up the middle with the best of them. He’ll be depended on to run some inside blitzes between Mack and Wren since edge pressure probably won’t be consistent. Quick thinker, good a finishing tackles, he can also cover, even at 6’2 240. Some believe he was the best player in the ACC last year and we’ll need talent like that inside.
- CB: Corey Ballantine – I’ll admit this isn’t the guy you want to start the season off as your CB1, but I like him for a lot of reasons. He won the Cliff Harris award as the best defensive player from a small school and was one of three D2 players invited to the Senior Bowl, where he really shined. I think there’s premium talent in the D2 ranks that get undervalued and Ballantine strikes me as one of those guys. In addition to covering as a cornerback, he blocked 4 kicks as a special teams star at Washburn.
- CB: Jimmy Moreland – Another Senior Bowl standout, Moreland was the only guy who could cover Deebo Samuels all week. Undersized at 5’10, he has a challenging attitude and aggressive style that resulted in 18 interceptions and 63 pass breakups. Also a special teams star, he blocked 6 kicks in his career, so this team will have some pressure on special teams, too.
- FS: Deionte Thompson – Here’s a premium name with premium talent to bring some legitimacy to the defensive backfield. There’s a lot of hemming and hawing about whether or not he’s the best safety in the draft or if he should go top 15 or top 30, but in the 4th round, there’s no denying he represents amazing value. He has Pro Bowl potential with lots of range and this defense needs safeties who can cover. He can also drop some hits when necessary and in an experiment like this, he’s one of the gems.
- SS: Darnell Savage – This is one of my favorite picks. He hits hard enough to be a strong safety, he has the strength to play in the box, but has the range to be a great zone defender with his 4.36 speed – and this defense may need to play a lot of zone with speed guys. He’s a fantastic tackler as a last line of defense, but also can play straight up man coverage. He was the best defensive back at the Senior Bowl and can serve as a nickel corner here, more than capable of covering slot receivers, tight ends, or running backs. Plus, he’ll have the baddest jersey of all in my imaginary expansion team.
Oh, you didn’t think I’d leave these guys out, did you? I went all for power with the specialists and think I have a pretty formidable group.
- K: Austin Seibert – This kid kicked a 70 yarder in high school. It was in practice, but you can watch it here. I’m gonna try it in real life when this team plays, too. At 5’9 215, this dude is straight up built – I’m not having no sissy kicker on this team!
- P: Mitch Wishnowsky – Mitch is the only 3-time Ray Guy finalist ever (he won it once) and, like his special teams counterparts, he also has a big leg – he booted a 68 yard punt against Oregon last year. He ran a fake 28 yards, which gives me a little more flexibility because at 6’2 215, this truck might be my goal line back.
- KR: Ballantine (see above)
- PR: Mecole (see above)
If you made it this far, congrats. I hope you enjoyed this.
I really did have fun doing this. The concept was tough to even plan out at first and I learned on the fly since I told myself I’d do it all in one shot, even if I got stuck or didn’t like the output. Turns out, I’m kinda pumped about the output – this looks like a team that could potentially win a game.
The big challenge in making this work was being able to get enough picks. That meant when I traded down, I had to be careful not to trade down too far or I’d run out of picks.
This really forced me to evaluate my board and find complementary players while making value tradeoffs based on who I think might fall (which was actually more stressful than I thought). Sure, I had targeted guys who I’ve seen flailing a lot, but you can never be sure. For example, I had four guys I wanted at Edge at 30, and when I waited for one to fall, they all went in the next five picks.
Edge and Corner are my weak spots, so I tried to balance that by grabbing pass rushing lineman and linebackers and making sure my safeties and linebackers that could cover. I also took a flex lineman to give me the versatility to go 3-4 or 4-3 – all I had to do was trade down one extra time!
So with a flexible defense and an offense that is a dynamic run game with a smashmouth passing attack (which, in its originality, is sure to take the league by storm), I have what I think is a pretty solid squad.
From a talent perspective, I counted 7 All Americans (3 first team and 4 second team), which isn’t bad considering NFL teams start with 7 total draft picks and I put together an entire starting lineup for both sides of the ball and special teams.
Ok, now I’m just indulging myself in ramblings. Thanks a lot for reading this, I hope you had as much fun diving into it as I did making it.
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Thanks for reading.
BEHIND THE SCENES
If you were really curious, about how I amassed these picks, you can see the full log below.
The thing that was really cool from my perspective was that I didn’t really get any ridiculous trades. From a trade value chart perspective, I ended up with the same relative value (just spread out over a whole lot more players).
For example, with my first pick, I could have taken Clelin Ferrell at 12 and been pretty happy. But I wasn’t going to build a whole team that way! So with pick 1.12, I moved down to 1.17 (picking up 2.17), then I moved from 1.17 to 1.28 and when I got to that 2.17 that I picked up, I moved down to 2.24 and when I got to 2.24, I moved down again, all along the way picking up more picks. In the end, I parlayed the 12th pick into these choices (with the draft value of the pick in parenthesis):
1.28 (660) TJ Hockenson
2.28 (300) Kyler Murray
3.23 (155) Garrett Bradbury
4.24 (56) Daylon Mack
5.3 (42) Chuma Edoga
5.24 (30.6) Renell Wren
6.23 (18.2) Hakeem Butler
6.28 (16.2) Joe Giles-Harris
7.2 (14.2) Ricky Walker
7.10 (11) Dru Samia
7.11 (10.6) Jazz Ferguson
7.20 (7) Mitch Wishnowsky
I probably would have taken Clelin Ferrell at 12 and been really happy – he usually doesn’t fall that far. But man, I really like that haul above… especially considering I got it for one guy! Now imagine you traded two or three of those for Khalil Mack…
I ended up with about 1320 points for a pick worth 1200 points. If you check the log below, you can see the trade value points and see that I made out pretty good on my first swap (a team valuing a higher pick), but the rest were pretty close or I may have even lost a little value in an effort to amass enough picks.
Still, I ended up with at least one pick from each round and 12 total choices… from one pick. It’s silly.
Again, to see how the entire draft went, you can check the draft page.
ROUND: 1 PICK: 12 (1200)
ROUND: 1 PICK: 17 (950)
ROUND: 2 PICK: 17 (410)
ROUND: 1 PICK: 17 (950)
ROUND: 1 PICK: 28 (660)
ROUND: 2 PICK: 28 (300)
ROUND: 6 PICK: 27 (16.6)
ROUND: 1 PICK: 30 (620)
ROUND: 3 PICK: 7 (235)
ROUND: 4 PICK: 11 (82)
ROUND: 4 PICK: 29 (48)
ROUND: 5 PICK: 10 (37)
ROUND: 2 PICK: 17 (410)
ROUND: 2 PICK: 24 (340)
ROUND: 4 PICK: 32 (45)
ROUND: 7 PICK: 2 (14.2)
ROUND: 2 PICK: 24 (340)
ROUND: 3 PICK: 23 (155)
ROUND: 4 PICK: 24 (56)
ROUND: 5 PICK: 24 (30.6)
ROUND: 7 PICK: 11 (10.6)
ROUND: 4 PICK: 29 (48)
ROUND: 5 PICK: 6 (39)
ROUND: 5 PICK: 17 (33.5)
ROUND: 4 PICK: 32 (45)
ROUND: 5 PICK: 3 (42)
ROUND: 6 PICK: 23 (18.2)
ROUND: 6 PICK: 27 (16.6)
ROUND: 6 PICK: 28 (16.2)
ROUND: 6 PICK: 40 (15)