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March Madness in April: A 64-Player Bracket Determining the Best Player in the Draft

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Choosing an alternate route to reveal the best player in the draft

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There’s really no rhyme or reason for doing this. Just was bored on a Sunday afternoon. With the National Championship tonight, I decided to look through a bunch of mock drafts as well as a bunch of draft writers and their big boards to form a 64-man bracket.

This is not my top 64

Once I did put all the players together, that’s when my evaluations came in. A few different things went into deciding how players advanced. Who I thought would have a better career. Who I have a higher grade on currently. Positional value. This is really just to create conversation and give you a feel for where I stand with certain players.

Ok, here’s how the first round went.

Editors Note-Mike Hughes was previously listed twice so there was some shuffling(not that it impacted anything.)

Opening weekend upsets?

West/Darnold

Out west, it’s almost all chalk. Isaiah Oliver is a corner out of Colorado that, to me, has the highest ceiling of any. He’s a safer selection than Jaire Alexander, another corner who is being talked about in the 1st round.

The only surprise in this bracket is Taven Bryan over Mike McGlinchey. Bryan is the ultimate splash player in this draft. The 291-pound defensive lineman oozes athleticism. He has a long way to go to be consistent. McGlinchey is the opposite. The offensive tackle out of Notre Dame is the ultimate “safe pick.” I’m a gambler and I’m betting on Bryan here.

South/Rosen

Josh Jackson is a corner out of Iowa that many think will not get out of the top 20. I have big reservations about him and haven’t seen a “top” corner get beat in multiple games like him. I just don’t see it. Yes, I’m aware of his production. Mike Gesicki, the tight end from Penn State, suffered from poor usage. It’s so obvious he’s going to be a better pro than collegiate.

This might be where I lose you. I’m certain we do this every year. Prop up an interior defensive lineman as a 1st round talent that is a big name that just doesn’t project well. This year it’s Vita Vea. Vea will have a wow play, like a 1-arm club that sends the offensive lineman flying. Then he’ll have a 15-play stretch where he disappears and doesn’t impact the game whatsoever. On the other hand, Derrick Nnadi is the strongest defensive lineman in the draft. He had poor workout numbers, but that was never his game. He’s better against the run, has more range, played more, and when you watch, had plenty of “flash.” I’m betting on Nnadi over Vea at the next level.

Midwest/Nelson

Not much to talk about in this bracket. Courtland Sutton is the best receiver in the draft to me. Ronald Jones is an explosive player that bounces off tackles with relative ease. His issue is he doesn’t offer much power. He’s not nearly as effective when he can’t build up his speed. His vision is inconsistent and he stops his feet in the backfield too much for me to be considered a workhorse type back.

Horrible draws for some of the losers in this bracket. This one was loaded with talent.

East/Barkley

Now we’re cookin’. Leighton Vander Esch and Ronnie Harrison are both considered top 40 picks. Both play through the whistle and with tremendous hustle. That leads to both being high end run players. Harrison is a bit better at reading plays and while you likely want both closer to the line of scrimmage, Harrison is better in coverage there. That’s why he gets the nod.

Marcus Davenport: buyer beware. You don’t just magically fix your pad level overnight. James Daniels: Good. I’ve seen him “reach” defensive tackles that NFL centers don’t stand a chance at.

I like Calvin Ridley. I think he’ll be fine at the next level. He got picked apart at his combine but I think it matches up fairly well with how he plays. I do not think Ridley is a better player than Rashaad Penny. In a dream world, Penny goes to the Saints to replace Mark Ingram and wins the rookie of the year. His speed on that turf....lookout. Penny’s burst is insane and he can impact the game in more ways than Ridley. I have Penny rated higher so this wasn’t really a tough decision.

Sweet 16

I can taste your anger. Keep it coming.

West/Darnold

Harold Landry is arguably the best pass rusher in the draft. He has a strong chance to be rookie of the year. Payne is terrific against the run but I need more than that at this point.

Roquan has ridiculous range. When it’s 2nd & 3, 3rd & 2, or any short yardage distance, it’s tough sledding for him. There are so many exposures to him losing ground to avoid contact. On the other hand, I know Guice is converting in those situations. He pulls off the upset here.

Chubb is just a much better football player than Bryan.

South/Rosen

Against essentially anyone else Antonio Callaway is advancing. Coincidentally enough, he beat James when they were matched up a couple years ago.

Callaway is the most talented receiver in the draft. James, you know what you are getting without any off-field worries.

Josh Allen has a stronger arm than Hercules and Hulk put together but Justin Reid will cause turnovers, not make them.

Midwest/Nelson

Whewwwww. So the other day I asked some fellow footballers “who meant more to their team, Brandon Scherff or Chris Thompson?” The question has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with value. In this situation, I’d rather have Sony Michel on my team than Quenton Nelson. If you don’t like points, that’s fine. Keep your lineman and I’ll take the game-changer :)

Edmunds could very well be the best linebacker in this draft. He could also flame out. He’s a kid. His potential is obvious. He’s not there yet. Wynn is. Wynn is so good. He’s not Nelson but I don’t believe he’s that far off from a value standpoint. Wynn gets the nod and I’m leaving him at tackle until he fails.

Mayfield>Sutton because Mayfield is a psycho(in a good way) in the sense that he won’t fail. Not yet, anyway.

East/Saquon

Daniels and Penny are really good, Hurst and Ward are just better.

Bama on Bama crime. This was tough. I have the same exact grade on Fitzpatrick as I do on Evans, who I think is the best linebacker in the draft. Less projection and bringing just as much to the table as Minkah with the ability to sack the quarterback. The toughest decision I’ll make all tourney, but Evans wins in an essential coin flip.

Elite Eight

If you are still following along, maybe this is the round your blood boils over and you can’t take this anymore. I’m trying, trust me.

West

Darnold was a high school linebacker and has accomplished this much with essentially zero coaching. I know what he is and what he can become is scary.

Guice can impact a game more than Chubb. ESPN said Chubb is better than Myles Garrett. I think not.

South

A quarterback or a tight end. What do you think?

Reid really isn’t far off from James or Fitzpatrick to me. He’s going to be a great get for someone. That said, James is still superior.

Midwest

The touchdown maker Michel gets the nod over his college teammate.

Heisman versus Heisman. Jackson gets the nod because he’s worlds better against pressure. Mayfield needs surrounding pieces to succeed. Jackson doesn’t. Both will be good for many different reasons, but Jackson is a better quarterback.

East

Well, well, well. Saquon Barkley gets “upset” by Denzel Ward. Ward is the safest player in the draft to me and if the Raiders don’t select him if he’s on the board I’d fire everyone in Oakland. Barkley gets compared to hall of famers but nobody talks about how often he turns his back on the line of scrimmage. He’s a fantastic receiver. He is wildly elusive. He needs to know that singles are okay. Everything doesn’t need to be a home-run. Ward is better right now and plays a premier position. He gets the nod.

Final Four

Where did all the quarterbacks go? Well.

Darnold vs. Guice

Darnold is my favorite quarterback in the draft. If you want a guy to perform under pressure, he’s it. What will hold Darnold back from being a top-10 quarterback is not knowing when to give up on plays. It leads to poor decision making. I have a significantly higher grade on Guice which trumps positional value.

Michel vs. Jackson

You know all about Jackson’s strengths and weaknesses by now. Jackson isn’t disciplined with his mechanics on short throws and that’s what gets him in trouble. Michel is disciplined and doesn’t have to come off of the field. It’s not as significant as above, but I have Michel over Jackson.

Rosen vs. James

I am legit surprised that we don’t talk about how Rosen folds under pressure time and time again. He’s clearly talented. His accuracy, ball-placement, and anticipation are better than any quarterback in the class. You have to judge guys based on when times are tough not when it’s 7-on-7. Rosen is a completely different quarterback in the times you need him the most. James takes his game to another level. That’s why he gets the nod.

Ward vs. Hurst

I said Ward was the safest player in the draft. Hurst is the most disruptive up front. He’s a pain to block. Ward doesn’t advance due to his lack of turnovers or “star-worthy” plays. Hurst has a handful each game. He’s the real deal. That’s why he moves on.

For all the Marbles

Guice vs Michel

The two best running backs in the class face off in the final four. Again, this is less about money and more about talent. Both guys are likely to go in the second round. Both guys who I feel will be studs at the next level. The two most disciplined runners in the class. The two best pass protectors in the class. Both have a burst that is outstanding. Not to mention the change of direction in tight quarters for their size. Guice has the power/balance that you just cannot coach. He’s the next great back in the NFL.

James vs. Hurst

Nothing made me happier than hearing Hurst was cleared to play at the next level. On the field, his skills as an interior player aren’t rivaled by any in this class. Other guys just don’t bring to the table what he can. With James, his toolbox isn’t exactly light, either. Put him anywhere and you’re getting a play-maker. Both are great against the pass. Hell, James might be the best man to man defender in the draft. The difference is James is great against the run while Hurst is “just” good. It’s like picking my favorite children, but James wins this one.

I hate to break it to you Guice

Derwin James in the best defensive player in the NFL draft. His leadership and intangibles aren’t something we can quantify. His athleticism, impact hits, and ability to take your top threat away are. Some team will get a steal early in the draft if James falls outside of the top 5.

Guice is the best player I’ve watched in the draft. Because he won’t go in the 1st round doesn’t mean he’s not a 1st round worthy player. It’s so tough to find knocks in his game. He runs like he’s going to be benched his next carry. He has wow run after wow run but it’s all within the scheme of the offense. He’ll be a better receiving back at the next level. His durability is fair to be concerned about. A guy that big, that fast, with that type of tackle-breaking ability, it’s Marshawn Lynch all over again. I get the running back value argument, but Guice makes everyone around him look better. He wins the tournament. He has the highest grade out of all the players I’ve watched.