That yearly period of mind-numbing over evaluation is upon us: NFL Draft season.
Like many others, professional and amateur alike, I will spend far more time than I should over the next 2 months trying to figure out what teams should do, what they will do, and what order they will do it in. All of these predictions will revolve around evaluations of hundreds of potential athletes trying to answer one question.
WILL HE BE A BUST, OR WILL HE GET A BUST.
With that in mind, I am going to steal the player rankings for the 2011 NFL draft from CBSSports. I am going to go through and make predictions about the 20 players rated. That way we can come back in a year or 3 and see just how wrong I was and how difficult these predictions are. Or, we will glow in the evidence of my prognosticative genius.
1. Nick Fairley DT Height: 6'5" Weight 298 lbs Auburn
Fairley is not a flash in the pan kind of player. He is a defensive lineman who is immensely strong and has a great motor. He could be used as a 4-3 DT or as a 3-4 DE. I expect that he will have a long career filled with many penalties and fines for unsportsmanlike conduct, and he will be a favorite of the fans for whichever team he is playing. I do not expect him to be a superstar player in the NFL, but he will likely start for several years and may make a trip or two to Hawaii.
2. Da'Quan Bowers DE Height: 6'4" Weight 275 lbs Clemson
There are no concerns about the talent and ability that Bowers brings to the table. The question are around why he was not more dominant before his senior year. What I prefer to focus on is that, at his worst, he was not doing the wrong things. I think we are talking about a kid who had to learn how to work because he has been able to beat everyone based on his talent alone. I think that Bowers will be a star.
3. Patrick Peterson CB Height: 6'1" Weight 211 lbs LSU
Peterson is as close to a sure thing as there is, physically. He will contribute immediately, and should be very good. My concerns are in looking at the recent draft history of LSU players. They have not been as great as they were expected to be. It appears that they may look better than they are for having been on a team full of such good athletes overall. Peterson may be an exception to that though, as it is awfully hard to hide a cornerback. If you excel there, it is because you are good at it. Look for him to be a starter withing 3 years.
4. A.J. Green WR Height: 6'4" Weight 190 lbs Georgia
Green was NFL ready when he hit college. That has not changed. If he goes to a team with a decent QB, he will be a stud from day 1.
5. Blaine Gabbert QB Height: 6'5" Weight 235 lbs Missouri
Gabbert is intriguing to me, having had the chance to see him several times during his career. To my eye, he had the best arm of any QB I saw play college football last year. He has streaks where he is an unstoppable passer who will occasionally leak out and run away from a linebacker. I think his physical ability is being greatly underestimated, and his ceiling is as high as they get. However, he needs to go to a team with a very good group of offensive coaches because the scheme he is coming from is a very unique hybrid of the spread offense. If someone can give him the same opportunity that Green Bay was able to give Aaron Rodgers, by letting him sit and learn for a few years, he will be a star in this league. If he is forced onto the field early, he may shatter and fall.
6. Adrian Clayborn DE Height: 6'4" Weight 285 lbs Iowa
Clayborn is a horse, and has a great motor, but I do not see him being a superstar in this league. He is a poor man's Nick Fairley. He has a chance for a long career, and he could be a very nice piece for any defense in the league, helping out up and down the line in a 4-3 and playing either end spot in a 3-4.
7. Prince Amukamara CB Height: 6'1" Weight 200 lbs Nebraska
I believe that Prince is the best corner in this draft. Though not quite as athletically gifted as Peterson from LSU, he is a very smart and technically sound corner. Oh, and please don't think that him not being quite as gifted as Peterson is a slight in anyway. He is a legit, big and athletic, CB in his own right. Both of these are very good press corners and will be best used that way.
8. Marcell Dareus DT Height: 6'3" Weight 280 lbs Alabama
Coming into the season, he was considered the premier Defensive Lineman in the SEC. He performed as expected, but Nick Fairley proved better than expected. This could be a great thing for Dareus, allowing him to be drafted by a better team, where he can be part of one of the better defenses, potentially. Dareus, is a game changer. I wonder if he won't be moved to DE however for a 3-4. He would be a good fit in that roll.
9. Cameron Heyward DE Height: 6'5" Weight 288 lbs Ohio State
I do not have a good feeling about Heyward. He is very talented and athletic, but there are personality concerns. Ohio State does not have a good track record for it's drafted DE's, and I don't know that he is going to help that record.
10. Nate Solder OT Height: 6'8" Weight 314 lbs Colorado
I don't expect much out of Nate Solder. He was not dominant in the Big 12, and the NFL is a lot tougher than the Big 12. Could potentially develop into a nice Tackle.
11. Von Miller OLB Height: 6'2" Weight 237 lbs Texas A&M
I think he will be hard pressed to be an every down player when he first hits the league. Look for him to be a pass rush specialist. He is a great pass rusher, and could be a difference maker, but he is a big slight. Will absolutely have to be an OLB in a 4-3 to play every down.
12. Ryan Mallett QB Height: 6'6" Weight 238 lbs Arkansas
I am high on Mallett. He looks like Joe Flacco with experience at a much higher level. He played in a more pro-style offense than some of the other QB's and has the arm to make all the throws. A couple years would serve him well, but that is true of nearly every rookie QB.
13. Robert Quinn DE Height: 6'5" Weight 270 lbs North Carolina
HUGE personality concerns for all of these North Carolina guys. Once they are on the field though, Quinn is as talented as any DE in this draft. He has the size and speed to play in any scheme. If he can find the right team, with a good structure and leadership, he has a chance. If he cannot find that team, he will be out of the league quicker than he thinks.
14. Gabe Carimi OT Height: 6'7" Weight 315 lbs Wisconsin
Carimi is going to be a stud in the league. He was the best OT in the country, and he will start early and often. He might start on the right side as a road grader and then transition to the left.
15. Stephen Paea NT Height: 6'1" Weight 311 lbs Oregon State
He is one of the few true Nose Tackles in this draft. He was born at the right time, with the proliferation of the 3-4. He should have a nice long career as an active big man in the middle.
16. Tyron Smith OT Height: 6'6" Weight 285 lbs USC
Smith is a bit under the radar, but he is a great talent as a tackle with proven Left Tackle pass blocking ability having played in a Pro Style offense. I think he is probably the #2 tackle prospect in this draft at this point.
17. Julio Jones WR Height: 6'4" Weight 210 lbs Alabama
Julio Jones is a beast. He is 1A to AJ Green in this draft and I expect him to have a a couple trips to Hawaii and a long career. His injuries at Bama are a small concern.
18. J.J. Watt DE Height: 6'6" Weight 292 lbs Wisconsin
I think Watt is overrated. He has a great motor, but he was not that dominant which concerns with his supposed "superior effort". He is athletic though, as a former Tight End, and it will be interesting to see what happens if he is picked up for a 3-4.
19. Cam Newton QB Height: 6'6" Weight 247 lbs Auburn
Please someone give Cam 2 years to adjust. Once he learns the progression tree, he will be a stud. He needs to be humbled, and he needs a good QB coach, but the ability and the mechanics are there. It amazes me that people are that concerned because he played in a spread. Guys, the spread has made it to the NFL. You are going to have to accept that one of these days.
20. Aldon Smith OLB Height: 6'4" Weight 260 lbs Missouri
A nice athlete, but he is pretty badly overrated.