Which Positions to Draft in the Midst of the Pandemic?

By Jon Lowe
Apr. 01, 2020

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Since the pandemic began, the only thing left is the NFL Draft to watch. No offense, but those of you who think the draft shouldn't happen are dumb. Actually, total offense. Since the draft doesn't require person-to-person contact, why not?

What are my qualifications to know about "cerebral reps"? I played high school football at a high enough skill to walk-on to a power five school, but chose not to for reasons involving personal health. I played receiver and defensive back, as well as returner, backup kicker/punter and emergency quarterback. I got second team All-Division 2 in Wisconsin at defensive back. I never played lineman, running back, or inside linebacker, but I did block, blitz and run with the football. So I have an idea of what doesn't require as much mental reps, and I'm going position-by-position to discuss this. Believe my credentials or not, I have no way of proving them, but I still encourage you to think this way. Not all positions require the same amount of mental practice. t

What are my qualifications to know about "cerebral reps"? I played high school football at a high enough skill to walk-on to a power five school, but chose not to for reasons involving personal health. I played receiver and defensive back, as well as returner, backup kicker/punter and emergency quarterback. I got second team All-Division 2 in Wisconsin at defensive back. I never played lineman, running back, or inside linebacker, but I did block, blitz and run with the football. So I have an idea of what doesn't require as much mental reps, and I'm going position-by-position to discuss this. Believe my credentials or not, I have no way of proving them, but I still encourage you to think this way. Not all positions require the same amount of mental practice.

What are my qualifications to know about "cerebral reps"? I played hhe igh school football at a high enough skill to walk-on to a power five school, but chose not to for reasons involving personal health. I played receiver and defensive back, as well as returner, backup kicker/punter and emergency quarterback. I got second team All-Division 2 in Wisconsin at defensive back. I never played lineman, running back, or inside linebacker, but I did block, blitz and run with the football. So I have an idea of what doesn't require as much mental reps, and I'm going position-by-position to discuss this. Believe my credentials or not, I have no way of proving them, but I still encourage you to think this way. Not all positions require the same amount of mental practice.

*this has nothing to do with individual players, it has to do with a thought process when considering who is safer to draft in this crisis

QUARTERBACK

Why To:

Some quarterbacks have a feel for who is open and have the arm strength and accuracy to "throw someone open". This is usually a pretty rare trait at an elite level. Some quarterbacks, such as a Russell Wilson or Lamar Jackson, have the ability to improvise. If you are a team without a strong backup or looking for a replacement in a few years, it might not be a bad idea either.

Why Not To:

Obviously, quarterback requires the knowledge of the entire offense. Not only do you need to know how to receive a snap, hand off the football, and throw it while avoiding blitzes, you need to analyze if the defense is showing zone or man. You need to assign linemen to block who you think they should block. You might need to audible to something different based on this and call the shots.

Verdict: Only draft if desperate or can wait a few years

RUNNING BACK:

Why To:

Running backs are valuable, but they are as interchangeable as Miller Lite and Bud Light. Both will get you drunk and taste similar, and it isn't as hard to find an adequate product. Same with running backs. Having good running backs makes a difference, but a lot of their talent is based on talent and finding holes.

Why Not To:

Pass blocking is something you need to rep in the film room as much as on the field, if not more. Being able to protect your quarterback is important, and since running backs are interchangeable, it may be harder to find a better pass blocker.

Verdict: Not in the first or second round

WIDE RECEIVER:

Why To:

I have Jerry Jeudy on the photo for a reason. Receivers need to know routes, but all that they really need is speed, size and good hands. Route running is pretty universal, and same with getting open. It's a good thing this is the strength of the draft class.

Why Not To:

Understanding schemes is still important, and being on the same page with the quarterback is too.

Verdict: Take Whenever

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN:

Why To:

A lot of good linemen are actually very cerebral, and when it comes down to it all you really have to do is make sure the quarterback doesn't get sacked, and you block the heck out of somebody on running plays. Exterior linemen don't require as much cerebral reps as interior linemen, especially centers.

Why Not To:

Because the "why to" statement sounds like somebody who knows nothing of football. The offensive line is the most important positional group in football, and there is a reason. They need to understand who to block on all the plays, understand the technique for stances, and be able to disguise how they are set up. They need to be able to block on a secondary level, and understand all of the different techniques and disguise plays (like pulls and fake screens).

Offensive linemen don't just need to block, they need to sell to trick potential tacklers.

Verdict: Obviously if you are desperate, do it. I wouldn't in early rounds, especially on the interior line

TIGHT END:

Why To:

If you are intending on drafting this tight end to be more a receiving threat than a blocking tight end, view wide receiver.

Why Not To:

Same, but see offensive linemen.

Verdict: Depends on what you intend to use them for. If you want them to be all-around, be wise and avoid at least the first round

INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMEN:

Why To:

Interior linemen don't require a ton of mental skill, most of what they do is based on their size and drive. A lot of their job is to just stall blockers to allow edge rushers or inside backers to make the tackle.

Why Not To:

They need to understand which gap to rush.

Verdict: No Change

EDGE RUSHERS:

Why To:

Because you can't teach great pass rushing. It is a combination of size and speed, as well as a few moves they already have learned.

Why Not To:

Because at times they need to contain instead of rush, and need to understand when. Usually, they are the players who keep running backs from breaking a corner and getting into the defensive backfield. They also need to understand what type of quarterback they are rushing, and how to contain him if necessary.

Verdict: I'd wait unless they are future JJ Watt's

INSIDE LINEBACKERS:

Why To:

No reason on my mind

Why Not To:

I don't think inside linebackers are super valuable, aside from their cerebral command of the defense and their instinct. And a lot of that instinct comes from film study. They are the quarterbacks of the defense, and since they don't have the WAR value quarterbacks have, it's hard to justify taking one before the 5th round.

Verdict: Not on day one or day two unless you don't plan on using them

CORNERBACKS:

Why To:

Because if worst case happens, all you really have to do with a great corner is tell them "cover that receiver at all costs" unless they start blocking you. If you don't have a lot of surprise blitzes or something similar to learn, having corners cover if relatively simple whether it is zone or man.

Why Not To:

Corners have the simplest tasks in the NFL, in my opinion. Then again, if I played on the offensive line instead, I might say the same instead.

Verdict: Business as usual

SAFETIES:

Why To:

Some safeties are what are called "centerfielders" and usually just make sure that nobody gets behind them on the football field. These are the safeties that don't need as many mental reps.

Why Not To:

Safeties are a bit more complicated than corners, because usually they have to play zone or take whoever the corners aren't in coverage. Blitzes are also common with safeties, as well as the new hybrid-safety/insidebacker type that makes their jobs harder.

Verdict: You better be confident if you take one before the third round.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Verdict: I would never draft special teams unless you know they are going to be at least as good as Mason Crosby or Robbie Gould. Definitely never draft a punter or snapper.