Why Paxton Lynch, Jaylon Smith missed out on Mock Draft 2.0
With Mock Draft 2.0 released, there’s always a disconnect between some of the players that made the cut as first rounders and others who are perceived first rounders in the eyes of other analysts. The first thing to consider, from our standpoint at PFF, is that this class does not have a lot of QB prospects that garner full confidence outside of Cal’s Jared Goff.
The cornerback position is similar. Few corners stood out in the grading the last two seasons, so despite public perception about a few players, this class does not look particularly top-heavy. Inevitably, both quarterback and cornerback will have players artificially rise in the process due to position value, but we have not seen that level of quality at this point in our evaluation process.
With that in mind, here’s a more in-depth look at three top prospects that missed out on the first round of Mock Draft 2.0:
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
The general perception is that Lynch is a first-round talent, and while his development since his freshman year is encouraging, he’s not a lock to go in the top 32. The size, arm and athleticism stand out, as does the touch he shows on a number of throws, but he’s often inaccurate when asked to throw the ball with velocity and that’s a concern. His accuracy percentage at the intermediate level (10-19 yards) and outside the numbers is only 49.0 percent — among the worst marks in the nation. On a positive note, Lynch graded well overall (+31.4, 10th in the nation) and he’s continued to improve every year, from high school through his junior season as Memphis. He’s a candidate to rise in the process as we further our evaluations, but at this point, we’re not confident enough to lock him into the first round.
Jaylon Smith, OLB, Notre Dame
There is little doubt that Jaylon Smith is a first-round prospect — the issue here is with his knee injury from the Fiesta Bowl. The timing of the injury is unfortunate, and teams looking to gamble on Smith may have to accept that he’ll be on the field for only a handful of games at best during his rookie season. For many teams, that’s a worthwhile risk, though in this particular mock, since his recovery status is unknown, I didn’t take that chance as “GM” of the 31 teams drafting in the first round. Ultimately, I do think he could end up in the first — perhaps in the middle or toward the back end — as his athleticism and coverage ability are too much to pass up. But even as knee injuries are less career-threatening than ever, there is still inherent risk when taking an injured player, and that will likely be shown in Smith’s falling draft stock.
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Touted by many as the top man coverage cornerback in the draft, Alexander has posted impressive coverage numbers the last two years (45.1 percent of targets completed against him in 2014, only 33.3 percent this year), so why is Alexander excluded from the first round? His grades simply do not match up with the coverage stats as he’s benefitted from poor quarterback and receiver play to achieve those numbers.
42.1 percent of Alexander’s targets involved some kind of quarterback or receiver error (inaccuracy, dropped pass, etc), the second-highest percentage in the nation. There were a number of plays in which Alexander was beaten cleanly but an inaccurate pass or a drop bailed him out statistically. While he’s being viewed as a pure press cornerback — and he does look smooth in that area — he’s had his struggles in off coverage, often getting turned around and whiffing on tackles (missed one of every 4.3 tackle attempts the last two seasons). So while those top-notch coverage stats will likely be touted in his favor during draft season, the +2.8 coverage grade that ranked 118th in the nation is what’s keeping him out of the first round.