The NFL draft is certainly an interesting exercise that displays the pressure that teams drafting early in Round 1 face as they go through the process of selecting a significant piece of their franchise’s future. The early part of Round 1 is reserved for special athletes that play in premium positions on the field, or for quarterbacks.
There is a synergy of thoughts happening here as teams must weigh the player’s ability to impact their team early, but more importantly, they are looking long-term at a players upside, or his ceiling. There is an emphasis on getting the player with the athletic tools to be game changers and this mentality brings significantly more risk to teams drafting early than it does for teams drafting later in the first round.
Simply put, teams drafting early are selecting from a pool of players that mandates they swing for the fences.
On the other hand, teams that qualified for the playoffs are selecting from a pool of players that are very good at football but might fall a touch short in the athletic testing phase of evaluation.
In some cases, there are players that slip to the bottom half of the first round that will positively impact teams right away because they are very good at football and their evaluation isn’t based on a projection. These players will be considered steals as we look back at the draft several years from now.
Some players are considered to be safe as they enter the NFL because their skills are developed to the point that they are ready to play in the NFL immediately. Other players do a certain thing so well and that’s something that will keep them in the league for a long time.
There is security in selecting players that are considered safe prospects, and while teams drafting in the 20’s (playoff teams) won’t be hitting home runs, they will be hitting singles or doubles, and there’s tremendous value in that.
As an example, the Dallas Cowboys got a gift in Guard Zach Martin several years ago and he’s the perfect example of what kind of player a team can after the elite athletes are gone. Let’s take a look at a few safe players in this year’s draft.
Western Kentucky OL Forrest Lamp
This year there is a player that will go in the bottom half of Round 1 and he’ll be an instant impact starter from the moment he steps on the field.
That player is Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp. Lamp will come out of the box ready to go and while he’ll be moving inside to play guard, there won’t be a steep learning curve for the college tackle turned guard at the NFL level.
He’s got all the physical tools with the exception of length. That’s the reason he’s getting pushed inside but he’s perfectly suited to play inside at the NFL level because of the things he does well. The move inside allows him to work in short spaces and takes away the amount of ground he needs to cover to play tackle which reduces his exposure athletically and mitigates the short arm problem.
Lamp moves well laterally over short areas and won’t have issues at guard from a movement perspective. The move inside means that everything happens quicker and with more power, but Lamp is well suited to handle what will get thrown at him inside.
From a passing game outlook, the guard position is getting looked at as more important than it used to be and we need to look no further than the most recent free agency period to see the serious cash getting thrown at the guard position. In some ways, pressure coming from the interior of the line is more detrimental to a passing game than edge pressure, and a player like Lamp will be a vital piece of an offensive line.
I’d look at the Miami Dolphins at pick No. 22 in Round 1 as a really nice spot for Lamp as he could form a fantastic tandem with last year’s first-rounder Laremy Tunsil who will play left tackle this year.