Prior to the NFL draft which is set to kick off on Thursday night, let’s get caught up on MY top five quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Following the rankings I offer a few draft predictions that fly in the face of recent news, expectations and expert predictions.
The misinformation is flying. Dare I say that I can’t recall a year in recent history that has rivaled 2011 in the amount information that is being “leaked” and the drastic affect that has had on the values of the related players. What is truth and what is fiction is anyone’s guess at this point, but a fact that you can bank on is that the 2011 first round is a complete crap shoot. I didn’t even enter any draft challenges for the first time in the last decade or so. But that uncertainty is what makes for an enjoyable draft. My hope was for more offensive play-makers outside the top ten selections, but perhaps surprises are lurking there as well.
Please note that these rankings are my own rankings based on my research and tape analysis, not the order that I expect them to come off the board during the draft.
1. Cam Newton
I’ve cooled on him quite a bit the more I have watched. Gabbert is a legitimate talent, but Newton has a dynamic that I can’t ignore. He’ll be as good as he wants to be. Prediction (1.01): Carolina Panthers.
2. Blaine Gabbert
I believe he’s a better fit for Carolina but I also think he’s beginning to slide just a bit. In fact, I think he will drop outside the top five now. Buffalo will be tempted but there’s enough question in the position for them to wait to see who falls into the second round. Prediction: Tennessee Titans (1.08).
3. Colin Kaepernick
In the muddy waters that represent the second tier of quarterbacks, Kaepernick rises to the top. I love his mobility and arm strength. What I don’t love is his longer throwing motion. Quarterbacks with this motion often struggle in the NFL. That said, his motion is not as pronounced as Byron Leftwich and his mobility will aid him in this area. Prediction: Buffalo Bills (2.02).
4. Jake Locker
What a ride. No doubt Locker is wanting to get it over with. I believe Locker is much better suited as a second round selection but too many teams have needs and he’s not going to last. Furthermore, his arm strength, mobility and character are facets that will raise his value. The competition at the position is going to force the hand of a team early. Prediction: Minnesota Vikings (1.12).
5. Christian Ponder
His college system, character and mechanics are raising his stock. However, his arm strength is too limited in my opinion for a consistent down-field passing attack. Ponder may go at the end of the first round but the number of passers available could also cause him to fall. Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals (2.03).
1. Mark Ingram
The easy choice for first back off the board although Leshoure is making a late push and could surprise. I stand by my original fantasy analysis that this is a bad year to have the first pick. Prediction: New England Patriots (1.28).
2. Mikel Leshoure
I’ve watched Leshoure for some time and have been amazed at his consistent productivity, motor and determination. Very strong downhill runner that runs with purpose. Prediction: Detroit Lions (2.12).
3. Ryan Williams
Jekyll or Hyde? Which Ryan Williams do you believe will show up in the NFL? A very risky fantasy pick in the top five, but if you believe he can shake the injury tag, he’ll outproduce his selection. Prediction: St. Louis Rams (2.15).
4. Kendall Hunter
Smallish back but if you’ve watched tape, he has a nose for the narrow lanes and the toughness and leg strength to get through them. I love his leg drive given his size. Prediction: Chicago Bears (2.30).
5. Shane Vereen
Very underrated runner and has a great all around game. Love his heart and his dynamic and his speed surprised me. He’s going to be tough to keep off the field once he gets up to speed. Prediction: Denver Broncos (3.02).
1. A.J. Green
Little way that he lasts until Cleveland at 1.06. I’d love to see Carolina step up and take him but they won’t. He’s fluid and dynamic and with all-pro hands. Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals (1.04)
2. Julio Jones
I like him as much as I like Green and think he has a bigger heart. I haven’t seen the game speed that he displayed at the combine though and that is concerning. He’s still going to be a NFL producer. Prediction: Cleveland Browns (1.06).
3. Jonathan Baldwin
The first receiver in a so-so second tier of receivers. I have a problem with his attitude and I think it’s going to be an issue in the NFL. Skills-wise, he’s got game. Prediction: Arizona Cardinals (2.06).
4. Leonard Hankerson
I’m probably higher on him than I should be but I keep going back to his tape and I see some Andre Johnson in him. If he can display hands consistency, he’s going to be a steal. Prediction: Washington Redskins (2.09).
5. Torrey Smith
Really want to choose Greg Little here but I have to leave him at my sixth receiver for now. Smith is a good route runner with solid hands, dynamic with the ball. Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs (2.23)
Predictions for a NFL draft are a fool’s folly. Like performing a first round mock draft, where a good performance is twelve correct picks, making bold predictions without being in the war room is no less the folly. For my predictions, I try to take recent news and events and take a logical yet opposite stance. Regardless, it’s still folly yet an enjoyable exercise.
Yes, I know Cam Newton is penciled into 1.01 and in all likelihood, they’ll take Newton. But I’m sticking with my original prediction that Carolina NEEDS to select Marcell Dareus. Clausen isn’t a bust yet. Two unknowns aren’t better than one.
Andy Dalton will NOT be a first round pick. I’ve seen him mocked as high as 1.08 to Tennessee with the note that the Titans believe he’s elite. He’s not! Good kid, yes … but he throws an ugly ball and has a questionable arm.
Ryan Mallett has too many character concerns to be a first round choice. But a coach with a great ego will see him as a project with high upside. Mallett will be a second round selection to the Washington Redskins at 2.09.
The Patriots will KEEP their first three draft selections and NOT trade them. Bill knows they need talent and this draft has the talent at those three picks to make them better in 2011.
Cincinnati will blow up my #3 prediction. I know I have Ponder going to the Bengals in the second round but who’s the one player that will call to Cincinnati GM Mike Brown in his dreams – Ryan Mallett. It’s a match made in hell and, sadly, probably a lock.
Jets fans will be 100% behind the organization and actually cheer their first round selection. Could it be? I know, it’s crazy talk!
NFL Network will have to do a quick-cutaway at least once during the broadcast when Mel Kiper’s hair gets stuck in light rigging which trips the breaker and causes a power outage in Radio City Music Hall.