Last year I compared the players who I thought were first round picks to Kanye West songs. Not everybody could relate, but it was fun.
This year I wanted to change it up and compare players to cities. What’s fun about this is your experience in Chicago isn’t going to be the same as mine. I could think the smallest, rural, quietest town in Wisconsin is a great experience whereas you might be all about the city life. Since these are the players who I think are worth a first round pick I’m going to base it off of my experience in these cities.
Last year I had 16 players worth a first round pick. That was probably too steep for the class. I should’ve omitted a few of those players. This year it’s more top heavy. There are 20 players worth a 1st round pick. A reason I choose to use cities is because like football, our experiences will be different. We both could like a player but for completely different reasons. We each could look at the same play and come up with a completely different conclusion. There are going to be names listed on here that you’re going to roll your eyes at. There are going to be names not listed that you’re going to want to stop reading. I’m well aware some of these names won’t go until late day 2, possibly even 3. We are projecting. I am projecting first round production. Again, my experience and what I value is different from yours. Let’s get it started.
20- John Ross, WR, Washington
Panama City, Florida
Anybody who has been to Panama City knows it was probably a bad idea to go. You know what you’re getting yourself into. You know you’re probably going to make some terrible decisions. But I’ll be damned if it’s not going to end up one of the most memorable times in your life.
Like Ross, everything is moving a million miles an hour all the time. Like Ross, it could all end just like that. In a football sense, it’s injuries. In real life sense, it’s “college kid decisions.” That’s not stopping you from making a high investment, though. Because opportunities like this don’t come around often.
19- Solomon Thomas, Edge rusher, Stanford
San Francisco, California
My first cousin lives in the bay area and I’ve had the chance to visit him quite a bit. The idea sounds great every time. From afar, San Francisco sounds great. I fall under a “city type” so for me, it’s scenic. I enjoy it and there’s plenty to do. But, there’s always a but, the investment you have to make to get the full experience is just way too rich for my blood.
Oh, hey, Solomon Thomas. A player who gets wrecked inside against the run and doesn’t win enough on the edge as a pass rusher but is such a high-end athlete you know he’s going to be good, just not sure when. To get the full experience of Thomas you’ll have to pay a steep price. He’ll be worth the gamble. I’m just not sure how soon you’ll be able to cash your ticket out.
18- Jordan Willis, Edge rusher, Kansas State
Kansas City, MO
A few years back I went to Kansas City for the first time not knowing what to expect. I thought it’d be “just another big city.” I left wanted to come back once a month. I love it there. I can go with my family and have a great time or with my boys and have a better time. Each time now when I leave, I leave satisfied.
That’s how I feel when I watch Willis. Satisfied. I don’t have many questions. I know he’s a good football player. I know he’s strong. Thanks to the combine, I know he’s athletic as hell. There were hints, they were just being ignored. Watch him against TCU & Oklahoma State and tell me he’s not a 1st round talent.
17- Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State
New York City, New York
One of my boys just got a job in Manhattan. Yay, go you! His starting salary is about $69k. In my neck of the woods that’s more than enough to stay above water. In New York City, where a 2 bedroom in the heart of the city is going to cost you no less than $3500 a month, hard pass.
The price you’ll have to pay for Hooker is going to be steeeep. He’s good. He plays his butt off and it’s safe to assume he’s a high-end athlete the way he covers ground in each direction. I don’t think he’s great. And that’s where the disconnect is. He has some bad habits when it comes to tackling. He’s green in regards to recognizing routes and being manipulated by QBs. I do believe he’ll be able to correct his issues against the pass. Not so sure against the run. I’d prefer to live in the suburb instead of the city if ya know what I mean here.
16- Tedric Thompson, Safety, Colorado
Well well well. Would ya look at that? A suburb! I could take my 5-year old to be in Naperville and not bat an eye seemingly anywhere we go. It’s that safe. The school system is great. There’s plenty to do outside. All while being incredibly affordable. A little over 30 miles from Chicago I’m getting a big city experience at a fraction of the cost. My kinda deal.
Best ball skills in the class. Great range. Love his aggressiveness. Can cover outside. Top notch instincts. Smart. Under Control. Tedric Thompson will be the steal of the draft.
15- Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
More and more senior citizens are starting to migrate and settle down in Philly. You already know how nasty their fans in every sport can be. Bolles is the best finisher in the draft. He’s also a few years away from getting his AARP card. Match made in heaven. He’ll be a good one and will help immediately. I honestly don’t worry too much about his age because he’s already developed.
14- Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU
Portland is the place to be if you’re an outdoorsy type of person. It’s a nice city. But in a way, it’s one dimensional. The unemployment rate is awfully high, as well. I could see why my sister chose Seattle over Portland.
In his role, Adams is fantastic. Probably the most instinctual player in the draft. The issue is guys who play his role, without using unicorn examples, don’t generally have that big of an impact. Take Keanu Neal for example last year. The Falcons safety was great in his role. One of the best rookies in the league. The Falcons defense was still abysmal. A 1-dimensional player who is getting pushed up because the unemployment rate is high at his position? Be careful what you wish for.
13- David Njoku, TE, Miami
I was in Orlando the weekend before last and I had a hell of a time. It was my first time being there and if I’m not there again within a year something went wrong. I loved it. The diversity was insane. The culture was lively. The people were fun. Everything was outside. There was so much to like. It was a bit on the expensive side but I felt like it was worth it.
Njoku is the best tight end in the draft and I’m not sure it’s close. He is a walking mismatch. A much better route runner than I expected. There are times he looks like a running back when the ball is in his hands. He’s a game breaker. Not to mention he can go up and get it. Njoku is a fun watch. Like Orlando, you might have to pay more than you’re used to, but it’ll be worth it without a doubt.
12- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
From an amenities point of view, Seattle is everything. I love it there. I don’t have any issues finding something to do or good food and drink. The cost of living is a bit higher than I expected, but you get what you pay for.
Ramczyk plays a premium position. So naturally, you’re going to have to overpay. His technique is Seattle’s amenities, it’s about as good as it gets.
11- DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Scottsdale is so legit. But for whatever reason, it’s always overlooked. Rent isn’t bad by any means there, either. Low unemployment rates. You can find a job that pays well. If you can handle the heat, this is the place for you.
Watson is constantly overlooked and I’m not sure why. You might have to pay more for his services like you would in Scottsdale, but when you look back on it, you’ll realize it was worth it. Talk about handling the heat? Watson excelled in high-pressure moments numerous times throughout his career.
10- Curtis Samuel
If you’ve never been to Madison, you won’t understand. People always say, “you gotta go to Madison, you gotta try it out.” Your natural response is something along the lines of “sure, yeah, yeah it’s in Wisconsin how fun can it be.” Then you go. Then you see what they’re talking about. Madison is dooppeee. I went there for Halloween a few years back when Tiger Woods..you know. And let’s just say that it was one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life. I had no idea what I was missing out on. The energy is unreal. There are some underrated scenic spots around the area and don’t get me started on the food and drink.
I didn’t know what to expect before I went to watch Samuel. Like Madison my initial thought with Madison, I thought he’d be another overrated tweener that we hype year in and year out. Like my post thought with Madison, Samuel is about as good as it gets. His energy is obvious. In the slot, he’s much better as a route runner than given credit for. From sitting down and finding zones to making you look silly. Samuel might never be “Chicago” because he’s not going to go outside of his frame for a tough catch. What he will do is give you consistency on a down to down basis and “the night of your life” once a game due to his big play ability.
9- Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Las Vegas, NV
I bet on everything. The Masters. March Madness. That the bartender won’t be able to guess my age in three times. If I can put a wager on something, I’ll do it. A lot of times, it works out in my favor. Sometimes, yikes, not so much. There are months when I eat well but there have been weeks where I’ve had cereal three times a day. Life is a gamble. Life is fun. That’s what Las Vegas is. Vegas has a lot more structure than we’re willing to give credit. Each time I’ve been I knew what I was getting into. There were hiccups along the way but I ended up on top.
Variance is not a bad thing. In most of our minds, it’s an instant turn-off. That’s the thought in the NFL, anyway. With Mahomes, there’s plenty of variance. In a good way. Don’t trust anyone who says he’s not accurate because of his mechanics. Don’t trust anyone who says his system was “simple” and “easy.” These things are not true. Yes, there will be sometimes where Mahomes has an 18 and he asks the dealer to hit. It’s easy to focus on those and ignore the seven to eight other times when he’s at the roulette table, plays it safe, puts those chips on red, odd, and the middle 12, and everyone comes home happy. Mahomes has a rocket launcher attached to his right shoulder but could throw it throw a key hole if need be. Like Vegas, the first night you’re not going to be ready, but by the time you leave it’ll have been well worth it.
8- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
St. Louis, MO
The crime is awful. The education and employment rate are barely better. Something is off about this. As a tourist, I love it. Going to breweries and Cardinals game I have an amazing time. I just know I more than likely couldn’t invest in living here.
Foster is a top talent. Like St. Louis, he’s violent. Reckless at times. Something is off here as well when you hear about minor off-field issues. That’ll push Foster down boards I imagine in addition to the position he plays. But he’s a hell of a player.
7- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
I love Houston. Went to college there. It was a pain to get to class sitting 45 minutes in traffic every morning. The nightlife is great. During the day there’s always something to do. You better love people, because they’re everywhere. I do. There’s some risk here, though. The crime isn’t much better than St. Louis. You can eat your way to 20 pounds in a hurry. The traffic stinks. You’re going to have to pay top dollar here as well. There are issues, but the experience far outweighs the risk.
For me, Lattimore is head and shoulders above the rest of the cornerback class. His ability to recover is rare and that’s what lead to some insane on ball production. He’s today’s corner in that he’s physical, can run, and can take the ball away. He’s never missed a start, but there are some hamstring issues. Only a 1-year starter and didn’t really play much off-man coverage. So there’s a bit of projection as you’re not going to press every snap. Like Houston has all the people, Lattimore has all the talent. You’re going to have to pay a premium price to get it, but you won’t be disappointed.
6- Forest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
Thousand Oaks, CA
For things that are really good, you’re going to have to dig into the wallet. If you can get past that, the weather, the sight-seeing, the luxuries. The people make you feel wanted. They make you feel like one of them. It’s almost too good to be true.
Lamp is almost too good to be true. Watching him, he doesn’t get beat. He just doesn’t Whether it’s dominating the best defense in the country or what Conference USA threw at him. You might have to draft Lamp a little earlier than you want but he is so freaking good that it’s not much of a worry.
5- Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
It feels like nit-picky when trying to come up with reasons to not like Ann Arbor. There’s an old school vibe to the city. The tailgate is on a damn golf course when you go to a Wolverines game, scattered over each hole. The big house is everything you can imagine. There’s plenty to do there & the city is one of the safer cities in the country. You know what you’re getting. Could the weather be nicer? Sure. There’s way too much to like to pass up on a trip to Ann Arbor, though.
Could Davis be better with his timing and uncovering in zones? Yes. In 50/50 situations could he attack the ball more consistently? Yes. For a player his size, he sure isn’t as physical as you’d imagine. He’s not a burner, either. That said, he’s a terror in the red area and I’d be surprised if he didn’t have double-digit touchdowns as a rookie because of it. An above average route runner that also is a terror with the ball in his hands. I’d call him a “possession plus” receiver. There’s not much risk at all in taking Davis. A safe pick with not many holes in his game.
4- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Nashville is the best of both worlds. On one hand, you can feel the enthusiastic vibes walking downtown. It’s well known, as the music hall of fame is there, but you won’t have to splurge to enjoy yourself like you usually would in a well popular city. Not to mention the weather is perfect. As is the city, until you dig a little deeper. The crime rate in Nashville is 42%. I asked a friend about the bad part of Nashville and what I’m missing and he made it sound Chicago light.
Nothing about Dalvin Cooks performance at the combine was a surprise. As I mentioned with Nashville, if you dig deeper with Cook, the change of direction issues was there. With running backs, people confuse balance with power. Cook is not a powerful runner. You’ll see him stopped in his tracks up the middle.
That’s really where the critique stops. Cooks balance is rare. He breaks an absurd amount of tackles bouncing off would-be tacklers. What separates Cook from other running backs is he’s breaking tackles and taking it to the house. He’s a natural receiver that will thrive in space. Cook is a mature and patient runner that can excel in multiple schemes. Due to injuries, he’ll likely fall but like Nashville, you won’t have to splurge a top 15 pick. Cook produces at the biggest moments and even after re-watching, he still has star potential.
3- Myles Garrett, Edge rusher, Tennessee
Goofy. Can be realllly good. The people are a little lazy. And it’s a bit overrated. Offbeat. Original. Also, naturally ahead of the curve. Add in a sneaky high crime rate and pair that with a less-than-beneficial cost of living and housing and Austin is a little riskier than anyone wants to talk about.
Myles Garrett is not normal. Watch the combine and in drills, he looks like a clunky, goofy athlete. Then you watch him run and jump and you realize, like Austin, he’s ahead of the curve. If you use NFL rushers it’d be hard to find guys that cover as much ground with their first three steps as Garrett. He’s explosive in an unorthodox way. But there are hints when he’s asked to change directions and redirect of exactly what you saw at the combine. Garrett is going to be the number one pick in the draft. I think he’s good. Not great. I don’t see a can’t miss prospect. I don’t think he has the motor or technique to be in that category.
2- Budda Baker
San Diego, CA
The greatest city in America. Yes, my old apartment on Clairemont Mesa blvd was wildly overpriced for a 2 bedroom that was the size of a normal persons kitchen and living room. That’s it. That’s where it stops. Who cares about test scores and bachelor degrees. Everyone has a beer for lunch. The food is sent directly from heaven and the weather is so good it’s a joke. The crime is going in the wrong direction but it’s expected with the growing population.
I don’t think he’ll go in the first round due to his size and injury history. If we’re strictly talking on the field, Baker has the most impact save for one player in the draft in my book. Knocking Baker for his size is like knocking Balboa park for having entry fees or cost of living in general. Why would that stop you from experiencing something so flawless? Baker will have an impact in the NFL like PB has an impact on everyone in their early 20’s. He’s one of the players I’m most confident in this year and I fail to see a reason why he won’t be much like the city I compared him to.
1- Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
New Orleans, LA
I think most of us have been to New Orleans. Swamp Tours. Mardi Gras. Popular gambling city. Fantastic food. A little humid great weather. You know it’s probably not a good idea to invest here because of the high unemployment rate, crime, and it’s not exactly known for education. One of my friends lives there and I swear she’s in a street parade every day. It’s a great time. It’s worth the risk considering the cost of living is unmatched compared to bigger cities.
Like New Orleans, you hear so many bad things about McDowell. Then you actually visit. Even if it is for a few short periods at a time, or in his sense games. Against Indiana, Northwestern and Notre Dame, McDowell took plays off like people in the city take off Fat Tuesday. It’s a myth. People who covered the team will tell you he played hard and fought through injury and double teams until he couldn’t anymore. They say he shut it down once there was nothing to play for. That’s the risk. McDowell shouldn’t come at a steep price and his on-field play, when locked in, is a style of ferocity that I don’t recall seeing in recent memory. He is an incredible talent that at his peak, he’s Bourbon Street on after the Saints just won the Super Bowl. We’ve seen what that can be. I’m pushing all my chips in on McDowell.