Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 NFL Draft - Combine Thoughts

Here are some thoughts after the conclusion of the Combine:

#1 pick is wide open
It sounds like Nick Fairley may slide down the board a little bit, and Carolina’s handling of the franchise tag has kept DE in play at #1 overall. I know they had a tough decision to make between Charles Johnson and Ryan Khalil, but, for me, it would be a bit bittersweet to spend the #1 pick on a pass rusher when you could have just retained a young player on the rise and spent this selection on another position of need. Moving on, that puts Da’Quan Bowers and the rising Robert Quinn in play at #1. You might add AJ Green to that discussion as well if they trade Steve Smith. I think Marcell Dareus deserves serious consideration, and even though this class is seemingly lacking in a franchise QB, you can’t completely rule out Scam or Blaine Gabbert going #1 overall. That leaves at least 7 guys in the discussion to be the first player picked, which is pretty rare this deep in the process, and I didn’t even include Patrick Peterson, the draft’s top talent. It will be an interesting two months.

Will Bowers and/or Fairley fall?
I see Dareus, Green, and Peterson as surefire top 6 picks. Quinn and Von Miller are on the rise, and that’s bad news for Bowers and Fairley. Fairley was the early consensus #1 pick, but his grip on that spot has weakened. Bowers was getting some buzz for the top two spots, but not working out at the Combine didn’t help his stock. I think they’re the two least ideal 3-4 defensive front seven players in the top portion of the draft because, in my eyes, they lack the versatility to be great selections for those schemes. Cleveland is a good spot for Bowers or Fairley if Peterson is off the board. After that you’re getting into dangerous territory. You’ve’ got a run of 3-4 defenses in San Francisco, Dallas, Washington, and Houston and the QB hungry Titans. Would Tennessee pass on Gabbert for Bowers or Fairley? Don’t be surprised if either of these guys experiences a Michael Crabtree like drop come draft day.

The offensive tackles are climbing
Tyron Smith's stock is soaring after this weekend’s activities. Nate Solder, as expected, displayed impressive athleticism and agility for a big guy and has his arrow pointing up. Anthony Castonzo is still my #1, and both he and Gabe Carimi were consistent in all of their drills and did nothing to hurt their stock. Despite the overwhelming amount of defensive line talent, my next mock will likely look like this:
9) Dallas – Tyron Smith
13) Detroit – Nate Solder
17) New England – Anthony Castonzo
22) Indianapolis – Derek Sherrod
23) Philadelphia – Gabe Carimi

Scam Newton is an assclown
You have all the time in the world to prepare for your first interviews with prospective employers, and you tell them, knowing (or at least someone giving him advice should have known) how the NFL is all about the shield, that you see yourself as an entertainer and icon?!?! Where is your head? I’m admittedly not his biggest supporter (not a fan of sleazy people), but his focus has to be concerning. The media is trying to make this guy the #1 pick, but I still firmly believe that it would be a huge mistake to take him in the top 10. After reading and listening to a ton of recent news/information, I don’t believe he’s an option for the Panthers at #1 or Buffalo at #3. Arizona at #5 sure isn’t taking him, and I’ll be surprised if San Fran at #7 does. Tennessee needs a QB, but I believe they’d take Gabbert over Newton. Does Shanahan really want him at #10? I know my bias is causing me a hard time in finding a landing spot for Scam, but I just don’t see how he’s going to be an automatic top pick. To me, he SCREAMS bust.

Dareus gaining steam
The former Crimson Tide defensive lineman is now starting to jump over Fairley in everyone’s DT rankings. Go figure.

Sit tight Tampa Bay
Mark Dominik has shown that he’ll move up a few spots to get his guy (Josh Freeman, Arrelious Benn), but I think the Bucs’ GM should kick back, sit tight, and wait until #20 is on the clock to make the team’s pick. It’s no secret that the Bucs are targeting a pass rusher in R1, and fortunately for them, this class is deep at DE. Quinn and Bowers will absolutely be off the board when the Bucs pick, and barring a big surprise, so will JJ Watt and Cameron Jordan. That would leave Aldon Smith, Justin Houston, Ryan Kerrigan, and Adrian Clayborn as the top remaining pass rush options, and I’m confident at least one of them, likely two, will be there when the 20th pick is on the clock. Follow my logic:

If I can assume that Green, Gabbert, Scam, Peterson, Dareus, Fairley, Miller, Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, and Prince Amukamara, get picked before Tampa goes on the clock, that would be 10 of the first 19 picks going towards positions the Bucs are unlikely to target at #20. With the impressive showings by the top tackles, it’s quite possible that as many as 4 of them are off the board when Tampa picks. Let’s, for simplicity’s sake, say Smith and Solder go in the top 19. That leaves 7 remaining picks to be spent on guys like Quinn, Bowers, Aldon Smith, Watt, Jordan, Kerrigan, and Houston.

All it would take is one top 19 team to draft Akeem Ayers, Anthony Castonzo, Muhammad Wilkerson, Jimmy Smith, Gabe Carimi, Corey Liuget, Cameron Heyward, Mike Pouncey, Phil Taylor, or Derek Sherrod for one of the top pass rushers to still be on the board when Tampa picks. At the moment, I feel most secure in saying that Castonzo will be gone by 19, and I think it’s quite possible for any of the rest of them gets drafted in the top 19 as well, depending on the top of the draft shakes out.

If that plays out as I anticipate, my top option for #20, Justin Houston, should be there for Dominik to claim.

(Coming Soon – my Bucaneer Big Board (my targets by position) and a revised mock including the draft’s first 51 picks and all of Tampa Bay’s selections.)

You've gotta love Rich Eisen's annual suited up 40. The best part is the combined replays against the actual competitors. Full speed Eisen barely beat out a half speed Julio Jones with a broken foot. I almost literally wet myself when they showed an older guy run the 40 and bust ass at the 10 yard split line. Funny stuff!

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