The NFL Combine is the starting point for the peak of narratives around the NFL Draft. Whether it has to do with testing numbers, player interviews, or reporters scooping potential draft plans from team personnel members, narratives and hypotheticals run rampant during and after the Combine due to the influx of information. With the NFL Combine now a few weeks in the past, the dust has settled enough to sift through which of the rising narratives and possibilities seem legit versus those that do not. It's time to Buy or Sell.
Zack Baun is a first-round pick: Sell
The answer to this hypothetical depends in part on how it is framed: should Baun be a first-round pick or could he be a first round pick?
Should Baun be a first-round pick?
No. Outside of the rare cases such as Isaiah Simmons and Derwin James, “versatility” tends to be a fluffy way to say a player has no clear strength with which they can win. Baun falls into that category. However, in this particular offseason, Baun is benefitting from a player like Kyle Van Noy getting paid big bucks in free agency. Baun is similar to Van Noy coming out of college in that he is not necessarily a true EDGE, nor is he a traditional off-ball linebacker. It took years (and getting out of Detroit) for the light to finally come on for Van Noy and for him to be put in a role that truly fit him.
At 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, Baun is terribly small for an edge defender. Per Mockdraftable, Baun’s height and weight come in at the 10th and 1st percentile, respectively, among all EDGE defenders with athletic testing data since 1999, in addition to arm length that measures in at the 18th percentile. His agility numbers are quite good, but for a player his size, they are not as impressive in raw form as they would be if adjusted for player density.
The film is not a better indicator of Baun being a first-round pass-rusher either. While he is an excellent blitzer and shows decent flexibility in space, there are few instances in which Baun proves himself strong and/or explosive enough to take over a rep. Baun is not the caliber of pass-rusher many teams should want as a starter, even if he could fit well as a third or fourth option, similar to Devon Kennard (formerly Detroit Lions and New York Giants).
Could Baun be a first-rounder, though?
Considering the lack of talent in this EDGE class, absolutely. Beyond the obvious star in Chase Young, the 2020 EDGE class starts to fall apart, with LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson, Iowa’s AJ Epenesa, and Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos likely serving as the next tier. Chaisson is a bit small and lacking in strength, Epenesa may be more of a five-tech than a traditional defensive end, and Gross-Matos is an underdeveloped technician with serious off-field issues.
Baun, given his versatility and experience in an NFL-like Wisconsin defense, hits all the right boxes for teams to talk themselves into drafting him for his stability over the coin-flip nature of the other “top” EDGE defenders. Moreover, with teams such as the Patriots, Dolphins (even with Van Noy), and the Lions looking for EDGE help in their multiple-front defenses, the conditions are there for Baun to end up as a first-round pick.
Washington should consider Tua Tagovailoa at No.2: Sell
Drafting Tua Tagovailoa with the second-overall pick assumes two things to be true:
Tagovailoa is a clearly more desirable prospect than Dwayne Haskins was
Tagovailoa is a safe bet with regards to health
Neither assumption is true.
Tagovailoa is not a bad quarterback prospect by any means. He is easily the next-best option for a franchise quarterback in this class after LSU QB Joe Burrow. However, Tagovailoa is not a clearly-better prospect than Haskins just because he is the newest toy on the market.
For one, Haskins currently holds the second-best adjusted accuracy score in my database behind Joe Burrow (since 2016). While Tagovailoa’s “peak” throws may be a smidgen more impressive, Haskins was as consistently accurate as any evaluator could ask for, whereas Tagovailoa’s ball placement falls a notch below (while still quite good) per my charting. Additionally, Haskins was a fantastic processor coming out of Ohio State. When Haskins took over the reigns, it was very clear that the offense opened up its passing attack, particularly down the field. Haskins handled the responsibility incredibly well and proved each week his ability to identify safety rotations, coverage shells, leverages, and all the other nuances that lend to sharp quarterbacking. Tagovailoa is a fairly sharp processor himself, but again, he is a notch below Haskins in that regard.
To be fair, Tagovailoa is a much better athlete than Haskins and has a much fuller draft profile and film catalog than Haskins did coming out. The two approach the game in fundamentally different ways, too, with Haskins being a more conservative and calculated passer compared to Tagovailoa’s loose play style. Play style difference alone may sway the argument for many evaluators, which is entirely fair.
That all being said, the point is not so much that Haskins is a better prospect than Tagovailoa outright, but that they are comparable enough in quality that Tagovailoa does not serve as a better bet at getting a franchise quarterback than Haskins does. Taking that risk and burning the second-overall pick for a side-grade in quality of quarterback prospect is not good asset use.
And none of that factors in Tagovailoa’s health. Reports to this point suggest Tagovailoa is doing well in recovery with his hip injury, but the hip injury is major regardless of how smooth his recovery is. The hip injury will almost certainly linger in some capacity, whether that means hindering his athletic ability or forcing him to tweak his throwing mechanics due to not being able to stress that side of his hip the same way he used to. Worst case, Tagovailoa does not ever get back to the form he showed at Alabama. With teams and players no longer being able to conduct visits, it is tough for teams to even get a feel for how comfortable they are with Tagovailoa’s health because they can not do their internal medical examinations.
Draft Chase Young.
Under 3.5 quarterbacks in the first-round: Buy
Another way to frame this is asking whether or not Jordan Love will be a first-round pick. Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa are first-round locks, while others such as Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, and Jalen Hurts are almost certainly Day 2 or Day 3 picks. Love is the only real coin-flip in this class.
Burrow and one other quarterback are going to be drafted by the Bengals and Dolphins, respectively. Those are the two teams with a clear need and intention to draft a quarterback in the first round. All of the other teams who may take a first-round quarterback are not certain to do so, especially considering there are a couple of veteran quarterback options still on the market (Cam Newton, Jameis Winston).
The Chargers are the most likely to pick whichever is left between Tagovailoa and Herbert. That leaves fringe needy teams such as Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Denver, and Carolina as potential suitors for Love in the first-round. Jacksonville and Denver both have young quarterbacks who they seem to believe have played well enough to earn a chance at the starting job in 2020. Las Vegas still has Derek Carr on payroll and recently signed Marcus Mariota as a backup. Lastly, Carolina signed Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million deal with the intent to make him the starting quarterback.
Carolina’s situation may be the most likely for Love in this hypothetical, especially since they are looking to scrap it all and rebuild anyway, but rushing to select the first quarterback available to them still seems like a longshot. Head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady will almost certainly be given a long leash — they should get at least one year to do whatever they want before they feel pressured to address quarterback at all costs. Drafting a project quarterback right now should not be a priority.
There is always the chance a team swings on a QB without absolutely needing one in the immediate. Heck, that is how the Chiefs landed Patrick Mahomes. Still, once you really dive into which teams need quarterbacks and which ones should be willing to take on a project like Love, the possibility of Love actually being a first-round pick fades away. It won’t be shocking if Love ends up falling the way Drew Lock did.
Tristan Wirfs should play guard: Sell
For the life of me, I do not get this one. Since right around the NFL Combine, numerous reports and breakdowns have suggested Wirfs would be better suited inside at guard. While there is no doubt Wirfs could slide inside with success, immediately converting a good tackle into a guard without giving them a legit chance to be an NFL tackle is poor resource management. Tackles are far more valuable and less replaceable than guards.
The only minor reason that may suggest Wirfs is a guard is his height. At 6-foot-5, Wirfs is a tad below-average for a tackle, but it is not as though he is alarmingly short. Wirfs’ arm length, while also below-average, is still well within a reasonable length for it to not be an issue. Wirfs is almost exactly the same size as Trent Williams, though Williams’ arms are slightly longer and his hands are a bit smaller. Other studs such as David Bakhtiari and Mitchell Schwartz have been Pro Bowl players at tackle despite similar frames to Wirfs. Sure, Wirfs does not have ideal size for a tackle, but he will be just fine in that regard and there is plenty of precedent for players like him succeeding.
As far as agility goes, which is generally the concern with tackles who are suggested to move to guard, Wirfs falls has the tools to stay outside. Wirfs is a bit on the heavier side for a tackle his size, which naturally makes it tougher for him to slide side-to-side and keep up with pass-rushers on counter moves and stunts. However, agility is not necessarily a weakness for Wirfs, he just isn’t the same absurd on-film mover that, say, Ronnie Stanley is. Furthermore, Wirfs tested above the 60th percentile in both the 3-cone drill and the short shuttle, both of which suggests he is a plenty capable athlete in space.
Even if Wirfs ends up moving to guard eventually, not giving him a go at tackle would be foolish. Wirfs has been as good a college tackle as anyone can be and has experience playing both left and right tackle. Best case, Wirfs ends up something comparable to Trent Williams. Worst case, Wirfs can slide inside like Rodger Saffold or Brandon Scherff.