Several years ago, I was looking for a new draftnik to be jaguars.com's official draft analyst, an esteemed title that carried with it little in the way of financial reward. I did have a few carrots to dangle, however, and I would use them to entice one of the up-and-coming Kiper wannabes to provide me with some draft commentary, provided he was good at what he did. He didn't have to have a recognizable name, but he had to be good because I wasn't going to subject my readers to baloney from some guy that didn't watch tape.
So, I scouted around and found this guy at a little-known site (tfydraftpreview.com); I still don't know what the tfy means. Pauline was the site's star analyst.
I read his work, I made contact, I listened to his evaluations and I decided this guy did his homework. We entered into a nice, needs-based marriage.
My expectations weren't especially high but I began noticing that Pauline was scoring a lot of hits. In fact, his hits percentage was, in my opinion, better than Mel's. That's when I realized Tony wasn't going to be jaguars.com's official draft analyst for long, and I got that right, too.
These days, Tony is si.com's NFL draft analyst. Yeah, with apologies to jaguars.com, that's a step up for the guy from upstate New York. I've been scouting around for a new draftnik and I think I've found him; more on that later.
Fortunately for me, Tony is still agreeable to draft talk between the two of us. He still feeds me some gems and he gave me the gem of gems last year when, on the day before the draft, he told me the team I was covering, the Jaguars, were going to pick defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. We both figured it would be the result of a trade down but, as it turned out, the Jags made Alualu the 10th pick of the draft.
Boy, did I look good. Thanks, Tony.
Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith knew I was onto Alualu, but he didn't know where I got him. Watched tape? No, I don't watch tape. I'm a reporter, not a scout. I evaluate with my ears.
So, Tony, wadda ya got for me this year?
"If the draft is held today, I say Marcell Dareus, maybe Blaine Gabbert, outside chance of Da'Quan Bowers," Pauline said in predicting who the Panthers will make the first pick of the draft. Pauline then sees the Panthers going for "a Christian Ponder or a Colin Kaepernick, so they get an impact defensive lineman and a developmental quarterback."
Should they hit on both, that would be a game-changer for the Panthers. A lot of great teams were built that way; dominant defensive lineman and star quarterback.
"Dallas will be the first key spot because Jerry Jones loves Patrick Peterson, but he's not going to get him, they don't love Prince Amukamara and they desperately need an offensive tackle. One, they're going to reach for an offensive lineman there or, two, they'll try to trade down," Pauline said, suggesting the Cowboys might make a reach pick and allow a better player to fall to some lucky team, or trade and allow someone to come up for the difference-maker they need.
"The next key spot is Miami at 15 because Miami picks right ahead of Jacksonville and Miami is in desperate need of a quarterback. Either Miami reaches for a quarterback, takes Mark Ingram, or trades down to a team that wants to jump ahead of Jacksonville and take a defensive lineman because they think Jacksonville is gonna take a defensive lineman. They want a big defensive end. That's what I'm hearing; J.J. Watt or Cameron Jordan, if he slides," Pauline said.
"Average" is the most oft-used word to describe this draft. The scouts aren't crazy about it; Pauline is.
"It depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for a front-seven defensive player, it's a very, very good place to be," Pauline said of drafting at the bottom of the first round, where the Packers, of course, will be picking. "If you're looking for a number two receiver, it's a good place to be. There are talented receivers but they're number two receivers: Jonathan Baldwin of Pitt, Leonard Hankerson of Miami, Randall Cobb of Kentucky."
Pauline sees the first fall-off at about pick five or six, "but it's not a huge fall-off. At some positions, like defensive line, it doesn't fall off until the second round. I think it's going to be remembered as one of the best defensive line drafts of all time," he added.
Gabbert, Cam Newton, Ryan Mallet and Jake Locker are the four quarterbacks Pauline sees being selected in the first round. "Maximum of four," Pauline said.
What teams can use this draft to put themselves over the top?
"The Jets," Pauline said. "If they get a defensive front-seven player they need to improve the pass-rush, which is very likely, that's going to help them get to the Super Bowl. The Falcons, also; they need a pass-rusher and there will be plenty available when they pick. New England has three picks in the top 33 and it's good where they need help."
When he talks, I listen.
Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 39 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.