Tuesday Question ... April 26
NFL Draft - What To Look For
How desperate are teams going to be?
While there appears to be a little bit of headway on the labor/lockout front, for the most part, teams have to look to the draft to get better for the season that, yes, really will happen after all the silly people get their act together.
While it’s always right and fair to look at drafts a few years after the fact to see who was able to do what, that’s not going to be the case this year just like it wasn’t with last year’s draft.
Of course, all the storylines are going to swirl around the high profile quarterbacks, but the bigger storyline will be how teams can and will improve themselves immediately with the right pick at the right time. Last year, Pittsburgh found its starting center for its great run to the Super Bowl by taking Maurkice Pouncey at the 18. The Packers didn’t win the title because it drafted Brian Bulaga at the 23, but he played a role throughout the year.
Sam Bradford proved to be ready right away; Ndamukong Suh established himself as one of the best defensive tackles in the game; and Eric Berry has the look of one of the NFL’s best young defensive backs. For every Ryan Mathews who did a fat load of jack squat there was a Dez Bryant and an Earl Thomas who stepped in and produced from Day One.
And now the pressure is on.
A.J. Green and Julio Jones are going to be disappointing if they don’t become No. 1 targets from the moment they sign; Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus and Corey Liuget are going to be asked to shine as instant starters in the middle of whatever defensive lines they end up working on; and Patrick Peterson is already being sent to Hawaii by almost all the scouts. Never has a draft been so full of so many ready-made starters, at least that’s the belief, but for all the good turnkey players that’ll be taken in the first round, the draft will be defined by the quarterbacks.
Yes, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, and Jake Locker are all expected to need a little bit of time and seasoning, but they’re going to have the pressure on, too, considering the success of Bradford last season and Tim Tebow over the last month.
Don’t screw this up, NFL teams. There are players to be had to improve yourself right now.
By Richard Cirminiello
By Richard Cirminiello
The D-line is going to be divine.
More than anything else, I’ve been wowed by the depth and caliber of talent along the defensive line since this process began with the January all-star games. While you knew the ends and tackles were good, they’ve actually improved their stock over the last three months. And will prove that point on Thursday night. Beyond just Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, and Da’Quan Bowers, who’ll be a gift to someone in the teens, it’s been incredible how many linemen have distinguished themselves at the Combine and in private workouts. J.J. Watt, Corey Liuget, Muhammad Wilkerson, Cameron Jordan, Brooks Reed, and Phil Taylor, for instance, have all been rising since the bowl season concluded. In the end, don’t be shocked if almost half of the 32 first round picks are defensive linemen.
I’m also looking for there to be brisker than normal trade activity. Yeah, yeah, it’s impossible to predict these sorts of machinations as teams update their draft boards and jockey for position, but you get the feeling that the top dozen or so organizations aren’t infatuated with this year’s overall crop of available talent and will be willing to move back if there’s a suitor. The draft is thin on can’t-miss talent, especially at quarterback so if there’s a chance to accumulate later picks, even if it means slashing prices, franchises might consider it.
And in case you’re wondering, a decade from now, LSU CB Patrick Peterson will be considered the valedictorian of the Class of 2011. Defensive backs with his size, speed, and smarts don’t come around too often. He’s a bona fide gem, even if he has to wait a few picks before hearing his name called.
By Matt Zemek
The main intrigue of the NFL Draft, each and every season, is not found in the safe and sensible picks that organizations make to fill their needs. The real drama of draft day emerges when several clubs with needs in multiple areas choose to focus on a specific target rather than the best player on the board, thereby allowing a gifted athlete to slip through their fingers. Yes, the Indianapolis Colts needed the next Dwight Freeney in last year’s draft, so they tabbed TCU’s Jerry Hughes with their pick at No. 32. That made complete sense. It also doesn’t make the NFL Draft interesting.
No, the entertainment value of this day is found when “the herd” ignores a gem and allows one team to steal a high-quality performer.
How did a receiver of Dez Bryant’s quality slip to No. 24? (Well, we know the answer, but that doesn’t make the decisions of teams 15-23 any more enlightened.) How did a playmaker of Dexter McCluster’s caliber slip to No. 36, especially when one considers the extent to which Darren Sproles enhanced the San Diego Chargers over the past several seasons? How did Golden Tate fall to No. 60? How did a winner like Colt McCoy drop to 85?
How did Jacoby Ford fall to 106? Clemson owns a losing subculture, but that reality has to be devalued when looking at Ford’s overall skill set. The speed merchant couldn’t crack the top 80 players in the league? It boggles the mind.
Yes, plenty of teams had to fill needs, but several teams surely missed the chance to help themselves by grabbing top-shelf athletes. Of the players mentioned above, only Tate really failed to make an appreciable imprint in his first season, and of course, the Notre Dame product still has a lot of time to figure out the craft of being a professional receiver.
In 2011, which players will slip through the cracks and give a general manager a coup at an absurdly low spot on the draft board? Which players with evident skill will be pushed down the pecking order because of perceived character deficiencies? Which players who simply have winning in their competitive DNA, and who have enough athleticism to translate their intangible assets into results, will be ignored far too long? These are the kinds of queries that give draft day its flavor.