SEC Bloggers NFL Draft Review
NFL Draft #1 Pick Cam Newton
CFN's SEC Bloggers put the NFL Draft under the microscope looking for the Lucky 7.
BG is Billy Gomila, BH is Brian Harbach, GH is Gabe Harris , RM is Russ Mitchell, and BS is Barrett Sallee.
BG: Mark Ingram; RB, New Orleans – It might be the perfect marriage of team and player, as Ingram does a little bit of everything well and the Saints need a back that fits that description. And while he'll get plenty of opportunities, New Orleans has the depth to keep Ingram from being overworked. With Drew Brees' explosive passing attack, Ingram will probably get a ton of red-zone carries, and should be the early odds-on-favorite for offensive rookie of the year.
BH: Nick Fairley; DT, Detroit – This isn't about where Fairley was drafted, 13th, but the situation he becomes part of in Detroit. Usually there is a lot of pressure on a first round player to fill the shoes in a spot that is lacking...that is not the case for the Lions who drafted Ndamukung Suh last year. Fairley will not be double-teamed, he will not be the focuse of the Lion's interior D-line, he will just be free to play. If he plays like he is capable...this is the best situation in the draft for any SEC player..
GH: Cam Newton; QB, Carolina – Like everything else this past season it's all about Cam. He's the most recognizable and exciting player in college football and will automatically make the Panthers relevant to fans outside of the state of North Carolina again. The Panthers will gear their offense around his skill set and Newton will make some plays that will cause the NFL's collective jaw to drop. There will be more jerseys sold and eyes watching the Panthers in 2011 than there will be wins but those will come eventually.
RM: Cam Newton; QB, Carolina – We could write a tome here, but everything has already been written. Twice. Other than to say that given a headliner is a performer who is promoted as the top attraction, how can one pick a better headliner leading into, and out of, the draft than Cam?
BS: Cam Newton; QB, Carolina – What else can I write other than what's already been written? Newton came into the draft as the most scrutinized player in recent memory and, by being drafted No. 1 overall, will leave the draft in the same manner. Personally, I think he'll do just fine in Carolina. Anyone that saw him play the last half of the season saw that he can make the NFL throws. Can he digest an NFL offense? That remains to be seen. But I certainly will reserve judgment until I see him play on the field. One TV segment with John Gruden shouldn't hold as much weight as it did, especially considering the fact that many of the teams that were considering drafting Newton held the same exercise.
2. MOST SHOCKING FALL:
BG: Justin Houston; DE, Kansas City – A lot of people will look at Ryan Mallett dropping to the third, but with the rumored attitude issues and missed interviews, his potential fall was foreseen by a number of pundits. Houston was the league's most dominant pass-rusher last season, and was considered a mid-to-late first-rounder. But a heavy combine weigh-in was compounded by a failed drug test, and suddenly the Chiefs netted him early in the third.
BH: Ryan Mallett; QB, New England – There were consistent comments on how fall Ryan Mallett was dropping so looking back it isn't a surprise Mallett fell to the Pats in the 3rd round. The shock is after four quarterbacks were taken in the first 12 picks that no team reached for him earlier. The way the draft was going set up perfectly for someone to panic and pull off a trade before all the QB's were gone. That never happened and Mallett was drafted where many thought he would be. You can bet after the first hour of round one, Mallett thought his name might be called a lot earlier..
GH: D.J. Williams; TE, Green Bay – The Mackey Award winner as the nation's best TE ended up being the 7th one taken in the draft. Williams has been a great receiving TE and has overcome much personal adversity to get to where he is. He will use this as fuel to motivate him even further and having Aaron Rodgers throwing to him as a part of the high-flying Packer offense isn't a bad spot to be in.
RM: Terrence Toliver; WR, Undrafted– For a guy rated the #1 wide receiver in the nation coming out of Hempstead High in Texas, and as LSU's #1 receiver last season, not even getting drafted is a bit of a shock - particularly given his career yards per reception (14.4) were close to both conference colleagues A.J. Green (15.8) and Julio Jones (14.8). However, even given that the Tiger's abysmal passing game was largely the fault of poor quarterback play, Toliver failed to shine in all but a few games. And his lukewarm performance at the combine didn't help matters. Many still believe he has the intangibles to be a good NFL receiver, so expect him to get a free agent contract - though it's still a significant fall from grace. LSU has another national prep #1 receiver in junior-to-be Reuben Randle - who has so far underperformed expectations. If he too should fail to get drafted, that would be a pretty damning indictment on LSU's ability to develop quality wideouts. Stay tuned...
BS: Ryan Mallett; QB, New England– Those reported character issues that scared away many teams must have been more serious than anyone at Arkansas indicated. Mallett has the NFL size and the NFL arm, but apparently that wasn't enough for some teams. But, in the end, Mallett couldn't have scripted his landing spot any better. Learning behind Tom Brady in New England? Sign me up.
3. BIGGEST REACH:
BG: James Carpenter; OL, Seattle – Carpenter was a nice tackle who could easily become a very serviceable guard or right tackle in the NFL. A very safe pick, but not the type of talent that screams first round.
BH: Stevan Ridley; RB, New England – Most draft rankings had Ridley listed as a 5th or 6th round pick but the Patriots picked him up in the 3rd...not shocking but they did this after taking running back Shane Vereen in the 2nd round. Ridley could end up being a great player for New England but he was taken way too early by a team that already drafted a higher ranked back in the previous round.
GH: James Carpenter; OL, Seattle – Nick Saban's reaction at seeing Carpenter being picked in the first round is worth 1,000 words.
RM: James Carpenter; OL, Seattle – We like Carpenter, and believe he has a long pro career in front of him. But a first round draft choice was a reach.
BS: James Carpenter; OL, Seattle – As Gabe mentioned above - seeing Nick Saban's reaction to the pick was all you needed to know.
4. BEST VALUE:
BG: Ahmad Black; DB, Tampa Bay – Black was the stalwart leader in the Gator secondary for the last three seasons, with 13 interceptions, 13 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles over that time period. He may not be the biggest or the fastest, but he consistently made plays, and will see the field quicker than several SEC players drafted ahead of him.
BH: Randall Cobb; WR, Green Bay – Cobb couldn't have moved into a better situation and not because the Packers are the reigning Super Bowl Champions. Getting to work with a QB like Aaron Rodgers is a plus, learning from guys like Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson is a bonus and he will be an immediate impact player on special teams. Cobb may not have been a first round player on many boards but as the last pick in the second round he wasa steal.
GH: Lee Ziemba; OT, Carolina – When you get the SEC's best lineman as voted on by the coaches and one who started every game of his career (52 in total) in the 7th round then you have great value.
RM: Lee Ziemba; OT, Carolina – This was nearly my biggest fall, but given Ziemba was a mid-round projection, and given how many years he should perform in Carolina, he slips in nicely to the Best Value catagory.
BS: Randall Cobb; WR, Green Bay – Cobb was one of the most underrated players in the SEC during his career, and that trend continued through the draft process. Knock whatever combine stats you want - Cobb can flat out play. Aaron Rodgers will love having Cobb as a weapon for the next few years. .
5. "BEST" CONTRIBUTION BY A UNIVERSITY:
BG: Best "fits"; LSU – The three Tigers that went off the the board in round three should fit in with their teams exceptionally well. Kelvin Sheppard is a textbook 3-4 inside linebacker for the Buffalo Bills: big, physical but not necessarily sideline-to-sideline fast. He'll upgrade the position well, and will have Pro Bowl nose guard (fellow ex-Tiger) Kyle Williams and third-overall choice Marcell Dareus keeping blockers off of him. Stevan Ridley will likewise work in well with the Patriots. They are a pass-first team that likes to lean on their bigger backs in the fourth quarter, and Ridley is a strong pass-blocker and led the SEC in fourth-quarter rushing last year. And Drake Nevis' selection by Bill Polian's Indianapolis Colts might have been the most formulaic in the entire draft. The Colts defense has been defined by undersized but quick linemen for the better part of a decade.
None of the three were the most talented at their respective positions, but all three will enter the league with an excellent shot at early playing time in 2011.
BH: Best talent on a bad team; Georgia – The Bulldogs had 6 players drafted which was tied for most in the SEC with LSU. Sounds like Mark Richt had a pretty good nucleus for a "Dream Team" last year in Athens. It's past time for all that Georgia talent to translate into a championship. If it's not the players then it must be the coaching, right?
RM: "Best" quality; Alabama – Say what you will about Carpenter going to early, but four first round draft choices speaks volumes about the quality Saban in recruiting into the Capstone.
BS: Best statement on last season; Auburn – Auburn wins the 2010 national championship with a senior-laden team, and has four players drafted - two of which were juniors. That speaks volumes on the ability of the Auburn coaching staff and its leaders from 2010.
6. BEST IMPENDING FREE AGENT SIGNING
BG: Josh Jasper; PK, LSU – Jasper made the most field goals in the country last year, and has been clutch when it counts for two seasons now. And given how LSU has struggled to score touchdowns, he's had even more pressure than the average kicker. He doesn't have the biggest leg for kickoffs, but with the NFL's new kickoff rules that shouldn't be a big deal. Every year several NFL teams wind up using multiple kickers, so it stands to reason that Jasper will get a call.
BH: Wes Byrum; K, Auburn– Byrum may be a kicker but he isn't a kicker in the Gramatica sense where you can bust your knee after jumping too high and falling awkwardly. Wes is an athlete, 6-2, 216 and he is physical on special teams. Byrum made game winning kicks as a freshmen in the swamp and won a BCS Championship with a chip shot. Kid has ice water in his veins and if an 18 year old can kick a game winner in Gainesville...not much in the NFL is going to intimidate him..
GH: Derrick Locke; RB, Kentucky – Locke isn't big and has had some injuries but the kid is a football player. He's versatile as he can run back kicks, play other special teams and catch the ball really well out of the backfield. He'll be a coaching staff favorite for whomever gives him a shot.
RM: Josh Jasper; PK, LSU – If not for Jasper, LSU could easily have been 4-4 in conference play last season. One of LSU's and the conference's all time best kickers. He'll go quickly.
BS: Derrick Locke; RB, Kentucky – Just like his Kentucky teammate Randall Cobb, Locke flew under the radar during his career. In a league that is becoming more and more dependant on multiple running backs, Locke will fit right in as a change-up back.
7. WHAT THE 2011 DRAFT SAYS ABOUT THE SEC
BG: It all starts up front; Of the 38 SEC players drafted, nearly half were offensive or defensive linemen. The line of scrimmage is the money spot in this conference, and it always has been. For all the talk about "SEC Speed," what makes the SEC different from other conferences is that each team can boast big, talented athletes up front.
BH: Early Entrants Rule SEC; Once again the SEC dominates the first round of the NFL draft and as usual the draft eligible juniors are leading the way. Ten SEC players were selected in the first round, only three of them were seniors (all offensive linemen). A year ago the first five SEC players drafted were juniors, this year the first six SEC players were juniors. Youth rules the SEC as three year players make an immediate impact on the league and in the NFL, it seems that this will continue to be the norm as fewer players red-shirt and more leave college early for the pros..
GH: The SEC wins championships for a reason – For the 5th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted with 38 in 2011. 11 of the 12 teams had players drafted (minus Vanderbilt) and every position except for K was represented. The SEC has the best teams and the most depth on the field and in the draft. No surprise there.
RM: Why the conference has won five straight titles – It's no surprise - the SEC has produced a third of the first round draft choices for multiple years now, and once again was at the top of the total players drafted by conference. The SEC continues to be Must Watch TV for this very reason: talent.
BS: That it's the best conference in the country – No, that's not a surprise, but it became apparent during the draft. The SEC not only produces NFL talent, it produces NFL stars. There's a reason that the SEC is referred to as "NFL Light," and no, it's not in reference to the perceived impropriety that has landed most of the programs in the conference on probation in recent memory. It's because the best players in the country flock to SEC programs and its coaches because it gives them the best opportunity to make it to the next level.
Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.