What we learned about the NFL Draft, from the perspective of ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, after listening to McShay’s media conference call Friday:
1. The defensive end class, which includes players who could potentially be outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense, is “loaded from the back half of the first round all the way through the third round.” Clemson’s Andre Branch, Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus, USC’s Nick Perry and Marshall’s Vinny Curry were a few names mentioned in this category.
2. Alabama safety Mark Barron’s hernia shouldn’t knock him out of the first round. McShay said he’d be shocked if Barron fell out of the first round; he expects him to come off the board in the middle-to-late portion of the opening round.
3. Alabama could produce five first-round picks in this draft. McShay could envision a scenario where the top five Crimson Tide prospects are chosen within the top 24, with the Steelers a possible good fit for versatile linebacker Dont’a Hightower at No. 24.
4. There is a lot of depth in this receiver class. In the second and third round, specifically, there are a lot of bigger targets who can help offenses stretch the field.
5. If the Jets are thinking pass rusher at No. 16, McShay envisions the best fit as Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, but it's no certainty he'll be there. With Upshaw, South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram and North Carolina's Quinton Coples potentially off the board at 16, McShay sees it as a bit of a reach to go for another 3-4 OLB/pass rusher at that point of the draft.
6. From the overall perspective, McShay said, “I think the whole draft swings at number 4” with the Browns. McShay is sold that Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill would be the right choice, but noted the Browns have several needs and thus could go in a number of directions.
7. Great depth at cornerback in the second and third round, to the point that McShay believes the difference in talent between rounds is about the same. Some of the players in that range include Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech), Chase Minnifield (Virginia), Brandon Boykin (Georgia), Josh Robinson (Central Florida), Trumaine Johnson (Montana), Dwight Bentley (Louisiana-Lafayette) and Alphonzo Dennard (Nebraska).
8. Stanford guard David DeCastro is as ready to come in and play at a high level as much as any prospect McShay has evaluated. “He has a chance to be one of the elite guards right away,” he said.
9. This is a thin safety class. McShay has just three safeties among the top 64 prospects – Alabama’s Mark Barron (first round), Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith (second round) and LSU’s Brandon Taylor (later second round). McShay then has 4-5 safeties in the third- and fourth-round range, which is where he sees the value at that position.
10. McShay said LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers "looks like a young Richard Seymour." Yet Brockers didn't test well and hasn't developed completely from a physical perspective.
11. When assessing the first round, McShay sees the quality of player a team gets at the 9-12 range as the same as the 17-20 range. "I think there is a lot of depth when you get to the middle of the first round," he said.