Final Thoughts - Happy NFL Draft Day
Auburn QB Cam Newton
Auburn QB Cam Newton
Posted Apr 28, 2011

Is this going to be Cam Newton's big night to cap off a wild year? Is this the draft that's going to signal the end of the running back? Who's going to be the big pickup late in the first round, who's going to be the quarterback to take, and is it going to be worth taking any of the top passers? The CFNers give their final thoughts before all the fun kicks off tonight.

Final Thoughts 

April 28 ... NFL Draft

Final Thoughts  March 11 | BCS Champ - Auburn vs. Oregon | Dec. 31 - The Big Bowls
- Dec. 3 | Nov. 27 | Nov. 20 | Nov. 13 | Nov. 6 | Oct. 30 | Oct. 23 | Oct. 16 | Oct. 9 | Oct. 2 | Sep. 25 

E-mail Pete Fiutak
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- Enjoy everything that is NFL Draft Weekend 2011, and don't you dare apologize for it.

Don't listen to people who complain that it's too long; no one on the planet has anything better to do.

Don't explain yourself to anyone who considers this a colossal waste of time, especially to people who clogged the DVR with a Real Housewives of Fargo marathon.

Don't feel the least bit guilty that you'd rather spend the next four days with Mel Kiper than your children; chalk this up as a preemptive strike for the home they're going to throw you in and the car they're going to take away.

Oh yes, you have permission to drink in every single overhyped, overblown, overanalyzed second of the beautifully American marriage of college and pro football. You deserve it.

- Yes, you do.

- From a pure interest and ratings standpoint, this is going to destroy the NBA playoffs, will embarrass the NHL playoffs, and when combining the coverage on ESPN and the NFL Network, will flirt with – but not beat – the 2010 World Series.

- Here's the thing about taking Cam Newton No. 1 overall, or anywhere in the top five; no one can really dog you too much if it doesn't work out. This wouldn't be like San Diego mortgaging the farm to move up to take Ryan Leaf, and it wouldn't be like the Grand Poobah of the Mellonhead Parade, Mike Ditka, giving away an entire draft to take Ricky Williams. If you're taking Newton, at least without trading away a ton to get him, you're saying, "I want to win." Taking Newton might not bring a Super Bowl, and he certainly might bust, but you're taking a chance on being great.

- Upon further review, though, the theory might actually be correct. I've lived my life based on the unwavering belief that it's impossible to be wrong by being on the opposite side of any opinion spewed by Ditka, but if you look at the history of the NFL draft, it's dumb luck if you stumble on a real, live player after the fourth round, and usually you can all but blow off everyone outside of the top 60. If there's one guy who you think could be a perennial all-pro, yeah, it might not be that bad an idea to give away the collection of stiffs you'd probably take in the back half of the draft.

- Think about how crazy this last year has been. No one knew who Cam Newton was last year at this time, and now he has won a Heisman, won a national title, had the best year of any quarterback in college football history, and possibly will go No. 1 overall.

- Cam, you're living every sports fan's wildest dream year. Make sure you act like it.

- Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the draft that officially signals the death of the running back. As any fantasy football owner can attest, the days of the franchise, No. 1 runner are over. Oh sure, there's an Adrian Peterson here and there, and having a star to hand off to is nice, but running backs don't win Super Bowls anymore, quarterbacks do.

- Two words: James Starks.

- In today's day and age, relative scrap heap prospects like Arian Foster, LeGarrette Blount, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Ray Rice can all be among the NFL leaders in rushing. Peyton Hillis is going to be on the cover of Madden, Foster won the rushing title, and 14 of the top 20 rushers in 2010 were taken after the first round meaning running backs really are a dime a dozen. Of the top 20 rushers last year, just three – Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson, and Cedric Benson – were taken in the top 20.

- And that's why a franchise back like Mark Ingram can be had somewhere in the late teens.

- New England had a hand in this after thumbing its nose at the rest of the league by finishing ninth in rushing with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead as the main backs.

- Over/Under on the number of "that guy," "this guy," "my guy," or any references by Jon Gruden to a "guy" of any sort: 639

- Not to completely abandon my theory that taking Newton is an acceptable shot for the stars, but there's a very, very good chance that the answer to the 2011 NFL Draft quarterback debate is a screaming None Of The Above.

- Whether it's Vince Young, or JaMarcus Russell, or moving Matt Jones to wide receiver, or Shawn Bradley "revolutionizing the game," good luck naming the freak of nature/glaring warning sign prospects who have lived up to expectations.

- Okay, besides Michael Vick.

- You can't make a quarterback accurate. That's what every quarterback coach likes to say, and that's what every GM is hearing when asking his scouting staff about why Jake Locker isn't higher on the draft board.

- Over the years I've asked various coaching types about the idea that you can't teach accuracy, and no one seems to buy my theory that anyone can be Drew Brees with lots and lots and lots of repetition and The Patriot concept of aim small, miss small.

- A: Kellen Moore, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Greg McElroy, Andy Dalton, Scott Tolzien, Ryan Mallett, Bryant Moniz, Dan Persa, Terrelle Pryor, Chandler Harnish, Richard Stanzi, Tyrod Taylor, Aaron Murray, Jeff Godfrey, Brandon Weeden, Darron Thomas, Kirk Cousins, Colin Kaepernick, Denard Robinson, Ryan Lindley, Stephen Garcia, Mike Hartline, Landry Jones, T.J. Yates, Ryan Colburn, Geno Smith, G.J. Kinne, Robert Griffin, Carson Coffman, Matt Barkley, Taylor Potts, Chris Relf, Nick Foles, Alex Carder, Jordan Wynn, Taylor Martinez, Corey Robinson, Zach Collaros, Kyle Padron, Ryan Tannehill, Tino Sinseri, Boo Jackson, Christian Ponder, Danny O'Brien, Riley Dodge, Austin Dodge, Austin Davis, Dominique Davis, Steven Threet, Jeff Tuel, Ryan Aplin, Ben Chappell, Nathan Scheelhaase, Bryan Ellis, Adam Weber, Matt Simms, Zac Dysert, Nick Fanuzzi, Wesley Carroll, Kolton Browning, Jeff Van Camp, Russell Wilson, Ryan Katz.

- Q: Alex, who were the 63 college quarterbacks more efficient than Blaine Gabbert in 2010?

- Just a hunch based on the precedents set in the 1997 draft, when it was assumed that Reidel Anthony was going to be taken ahead of Ike Hilliard, and 1999 when Ricky Williams was obviously going to be taken ahead of Edgerrin James; don't be shocked if Julio Jones is selected ahead of A.J. Green.

- Has there ever been a year when there's been such wild and crazy fluctuations with the No. 1 pick projections? Mainly because I took so much grief about it, I keep blowing my own horn – insert joke here about never having to leave the house again – about being the first with the call, coming right after Andrew Luck decided to be an architect, that Cam Newton would be the top pick. There was a time, though, when Nick Fairley was the consensus pick for Carolina. Da'Quan Bowers was supposedly going with the first pick as the lineman to build the Ron Rivera defense around. Marcell Dareus was thought to be the No. 1 guy right after the Combine, and people who really and truly know these things were swearing that Blaine Gabbert was going to be the Panthers' franchise-maker. And the craziest part about it is that up until Wednesday night, other than Bowers, all of those prospects, including Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green, were still on the table.

- C'mon, Lollapalooza. Coldplay? Really? Who's headlining in 2012, Lemonade Mouth?

- The only reason I want to go is so I can weasel my way on stage and ask 75,000 people, "D'you know how I know you're gay?"

- No way, no how does New England end up making the 17th and 28th picks in the draft.

- Over/Under on the number of tired Chris Berman references to songs played exclusively on WOLD: 59.5

- Keyshawn Johnson, Irving Fryar, Dave Parks … if you want to draft a receiver No. 1 overall, trade down.

- You're going to hear a lot of comments about how you have to build your team through the offensive line. Fine, you sort of do, but Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Chicago all finished in the NFL's final four despite working behind lousy O lines. The Bear offensive front ranked dead last in the league. Pittsburgh's was 25th and Green Bay's was 19th.

- As God as my witness, I 1) thought turkeys could fly, and 2) have no clue how the 2010 Chicago Bears came so close to winning a Super Bowl considering they whiffed on almost every pick for a decade.

- Donald Trump and the birthers are to political wonks what the Jay Cutler-was-faking crowd, the Tapouts, are to people like me.

- I'm begging you, networks, BEGGING YOU. Please don't use Tom Brady and Terrell Davis as reasons why we're supposed to care about the late rounds. Yes, your team could get ridiculously lucky and hit the lottery, but the sixth rounders are special teamers, at best.

- Congratulations! Here's your team jersey and here's your handshake and photo op with Roger Goodell! Now sign here for the fun of a lifetime with chronic traumatic encephalopathy! Just be sure Chris Nowinski knows where your brain is 25-to-40 years from now.

By Richard Cirminiello

10. When DE Da'Quan Bowers slips into the teens, some lucky team is going to get a steal. He's a top 5 talent, but persistent rumors about the health of his knee have caused a freefall. The knee will be fine, as will the length of his career at the next level.

9. QB Christian Ponder will wind up being drafted behind Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, and Cam Newton, yet have a more successful pro career than all three. Ponder's biggest shortcoming has been durability, which will be easier to overcome than the more heralded trio's issues with mechanics (Locker and Newton) and character (Mallett and Newton).

8. DT Phil Taylor has been moving up teams' draft boards like a freight train over the past month or so. Interior linemen that tip the scales at more than 330 pounds just don't usually move as fluidly as he does. Don't be shocked if someone trades up to nab the former Baylor/Penn State player toward the end of Round 1.

7. The New York Jets chose an ideal year to be in the market for pass rush help. This draft is gushing with talent at defensive end, outside linebacker, and defensive tackle, meaning Rex Ryan is going to get someone at No. 30 who can help immediately.

6. And playing the part of Clay Matthews in the 2011 NFL Draft will be … former Arizona Wildcat Brooks Reed. From the long blonde locks to his frenetic style of play, go ahead and label him Clay Matthews III. Oh, and go ahead and also call him wealthy because he may not last beyond the opening round.

5. If you're looking for one of the many feel-good stories, pay special attention to Robert Quinn, another one of this year's hybrids who can play end or outside linebacker. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in his senior year of high school, he's battled back after just two seasons at Carolina to be a possible top 10 selection.

4. Forget the fact that LB Nate Irving lacks prototypical size, standing just 6-1. Defenders with his instincts, intensity, and football speed find a way to make plays and make teams no matter where they're initially drafted. Ditto Greg Jones, another ultra-productive college player who'll get paid longer than expected for a later round pick.

3. The Miami Dolphins—and a slew of other teams—passed on an opportunity to draft Emmitt Smith more than two decades ago. They'll get the second-coming of No. 22 with another No. 22, former Alabama RB Mark Ingram. The two are often mentioned in the same sentence for good reason, sharing a build, a running style, and a habit of always moving forward.

2. Putting need aside and looking purely at physical ability and skill level, WR A.J. Green and CB Patrick Peterson are the two best prospects in the 2011 draft. NFL-ready about a year ago, both have the bodies, agility, and passion for greatness to blossom into perennial Pro Bowlers in two or three years.

1. Cam Newton is like a beautiful young lady, with limited personality. You know you shouldn't ask her out, but you simply can't help yourself. He'll drive some franchise nuts, making the occasional spectacular play, but too few to warrant such a high selection.
Barrett Sallee

- If you're already tired of the NFL labor talk, enjoy these next three days. Even with the latest rulings, this might be the last time we get to talk about NFL football on the field for the rest of the spring and summer.

- LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson is the best player in the draft, and will do more for his team than any other draft pick.

- Pre-draft reports say that Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is the most likely candidate to suffer a draft day free fall. That means some team near the bottom of the first round is going to stumble into one heck of a good situation.

- Don't worry about Cam Newton. The Jon Gruden QB camp segment was for the public only. Every other team has already gone through that with him. He's the likely No. 1 pick for a reason, and it's because he's a player that a franchise can build around - on the field and off of it.

- The quarterback nobody is talking about is Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. He's got the brains and the physical ability to become the next great NFL passer. As long as he can stay healthy, he'll have a long and successful career.

- The story of the draft will be the amount of players that the SEC has drafted at or near the top. There's a reason that the conference is referred to as "NFL Light," and we will see why this weekend.

- When (not if) you get annoyed with Chris Berman, switch it to the NFL Network. Your sanity will thank you.

By Russ Mitchell:
Please follow Russ on Twitter @russmitchellsec

• Been gnawing on this throughout April – and forgive me the repetition – but if I had the first pick, I'd take Auburn's Cam Newton. (i) He's played in only two seasons and won two national championships – just imagine what some seasoning and full-time coaching will do. (ii) He's got a cannon of an arm, and with receivers he's comfortable with, his accuracy is pinpoint. (iii) He can get out of trouble with his legs, or his size for that matter; reminding us a little of Big Ben - with wheels. (iv) Ask anyone who's really spent time with Newton, and they'll tell you he's a born leader. And for being a bit of a ham, he's had a relatively sedate existence on the Plains. Finally, (v) any kid who can withstand the firestorm of criticism Cam did these past six or so months can survive the withering NFL spotlight. If you're going to roll the dice on any college quarterback not named Manning, you're asking for perfection to want much more.

• Speaking of quarterbacks, here's a pop quiz: what is Stanford's Andrew Luck doing this summer? Whatever the answer, it's a mistake. The economy might still double dip, but it's not like Stanford is going under. With due respect to Thomas Wolfe, yes, you can go home again - particularly if your home is "The Farm". As the guaranteed #1 pick, where's the fire, Andy? Ask any NFL GM – they want a QB with all the intangibles, certainly, but high up on that list is a player who's gagging to be a pro quarterback. Don't exactly get that feeling from Mr. Luck now, do you. We hate to bemoan a kid staying in school, but this stinks like another west coast quarterback situation we recall – some guy named Matt Lein-something-or-another.

• If the Arizona Cardinals pass at a quarterback with the fifth pick, are they going to post the job on

• Yes, Bama's Julio Jones had a remarkable combine, a fantastic junior season, and will likely be a good pro. But stop kidding yourself - he's no A.J. Green. Jones disappeared far too often during his career at the Captstone, while Georgia's Green was a star in virtually every game he played, despite being covered as such. Every time he laced them up, Green was the best offensive threat the Dawgs had – even as a freshman playing beside Matt Stafford (the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft) and Knowshon Moreno.

• Must See TV? Of all the years to be featured on primetime… Given that the labor crisis will likely be front and center through to the weekend, this was neither the storyline nor exposure Commissioner Roger Goodell was hoping for.

• We know that Colorado's Jimmy Smith has had a few run-ins with the law, but the uber-talented cornerback shouldn't be a darkhorse to be picked on Thursday. Smith possesses the right size, speed, and tenacity to star at the next level. He's got a mean streak that serves him well in run defense, and a burst of speed to keep pace with most NFL receivers. It's not table tennis, ladies – it's the National Football League. There's going to be a lot of GMs hitting themselves for passing on this talent.

• All the party talk around Arkansas' Ryan Mallet has gone a bit too far. We'd be more worried about the quarterback's immaturity in the pocket than at the nightclubs.

• To say we watch a lot of college football is to say the score is Her Demons: 3, Lindsey Lohan: 0. And we don't suggest we're right about everything all the time. For example, we never saw the Donald Trump for President thing coming. Still, what's up with the "slide" of Auburn's Nick Fairley? He may not be the biggest DT on the planet, and he doesn't have a superb multi-year resume. But we watched every SEC game the Tiger played this season, and he was truly unblockable.

• How do the hapless Oakland Raiders not have a first round pick? Oh yeah – hapless.

• Speaking of hapless… The SEC just might provide the first five players taken in this year's draft, to go with its usual third of the first round. Big 10/Big 12, thanks for playing.