Rough Draft: Breaking Down The 2011 NFL Draft

April 27, 2011

The NFL Draft begins tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET, and will last until Saturday. It will help serve as a reminder (along with that other NFL story that I can’t quite seem to put my finger on…) as to how large a shadow the league casts over the sports world. Firstly, because there is a chance that every single one of the players selected tomorrow night will not even see the field in 2011. Secondly, because the most anticipated event for the past two weeks by the majority of sports fans isn’t even a game. There are NBA playoff games, NHL playoff games, MLB regular season games, and yet the average sports fan feels more compelled to watch an increasingly recognizable man in a suit call out a player’s name, give him a jersey, and shake his hand. 

Todd McShay and Mel Kiper will likely bombard viewers with their extensive knowledge of every player who will potentially be drafted before, during, and after coverage of the event. While this is nice, most people do not know the difference between Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech and Ian Williams of Notre Dame. Nor do most people care. In an effort to help make one knowledgeable but not overwhelmed with information, here are my thoughts on some of the bigger storylines surrounding the big night.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

It has been reported by certain media outlets that the Carolina Panthers will select Cam Newton with the number one overall pick in the draft. While doing so would eliminate the need for the organization to explain why they passed up on possibly the most athletic quarterback ever to come out of college save Michael Vick, they may actually inherit bigger problems by selecting him.

You’ve likely heard this other places, and you’re going to hear it here too: Cam Newton is not ready to play quarterback in the NFL. He faces a steep learning curve anyway, and putting him in the position to try to win games for his team right away is not the preferred option to attack that curve. He won’t have any star receivers to throw to (Steve Smith has allegedly cleared out his locker), which means he won’t have anyone to make him look better. He would be coming into a coaching situation that is making as many adjustments to the team philosophy as Newton will be making adjustments to his new life. Lastly, he would get to face a divisional quarterback lineup that includes Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and the intriguing Josh Freeman…eight games against quarterbacks better than he is.

All of these factors are setting up for a very tough road ahead for Newton if he is to be drafted by Carolina. It’s impossible to attach a failing grade to someone before they’ve even begun, but if Newton becomes a Panther, it would look to be much more likely that the second quarterback taken in the draft will have better luck in the NFL.

Meet The Elite

Forget Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert. Their futures will be altered significantly depending on the situation that they are thrown into. For Marcell Dareus, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson, and Prince Amukamara, where they go isn’t an issue. They will not fail. All four of the players are defensive stoppers, which helps to contribute to their “can’t miss” status. A team’s stock isn’t as wrapped up in a defensive end or a linebacker as it is in an offensive player, particularly a quarterback.

For players like Peterson, the ability to return kicks adds to their worth. Devon Hester has shown how valuable a good kick returner can be to a team, and when you have a guy who can do that but is actually better at his natural position (in Peterson’s case, cornerback), you have a player that makes an organization salivate.

The teams who are lucky enough to draft these players will probably have a lot of other needs before they start to think about the Super Bowl, or even the playoffs. Still, if your team picks up one of these can’t miss players, consider the draft a success and reason for optimism. Looking back ten years from now, not all of them may end up being bona fide stars, but all of them will have at least made some positive impact on the teams for which they play.

Year of the End?

There have been years where quarterbacks, cornerbacks, and even offensive linemen have been the hot commodity in the early rounds of the draft. This year, the title could go to the defensive ends, who are highly sout after prospects in this year’s draft. As many as eight players (Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan, J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan, Da’Quan Bowers, Aldon Smith, Adrian Clayborn, and Cameron Heyward) who play the position could be selected in the first round.

While this is exciting for the position itself, it may be more exciting for fans of the Big Ten conference. Four of those players (Watt, Kerrigan, Clayborn, and Heyward) battled in the trenches of the Big Ten.

If all eight players were to be selected in the first round, it would set a record for the position. Why such a high number? Simply put, defensive ends are relatively safe picks. They don’t tend to balloon in weight in the offseason, they aren’t normally high maintenance like wide receivers, and they can perform a multitude of jobs depending on a particular team’s defense. Also, one of the most pressing needs for any defense is a player who can pressure the quarterback.

– K. Becks

2 Responses to Rough Draft: Breaking Down The 2011 NFL Draft

  1. Anonymous on April 27, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I’d really respect an NFL writer who posted a “Final Mock Draft” link, and when you clicked it it said, “Fuck, just wait 27 hours you spaz.”

    • K. Becks on April 27, 2011 at 9:04 pm

      This one made me laugh…then again, wouldn’t ESPN have to lay off half their NFL analysts if they did that?

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