Mel Kiper took part in his weekly ESPN draft chat yesterday, with a few interesting observations. He thinks there’s a chance Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame) and Jonathan Baldwin (WR, Pittsburgh) will not enter the 2011 draft. I disagree because I’m not sure their situation betters anymore next year and circumstance will be on their side now, it won’t be in 12 months time. He has some high praise for Rodney Hudson (OG, Florida State) – someone I’ve been talking about for a long time too. He also labels Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn) an “elite” junior prospect.
However, his most interesting comment perhaps involved Washington quarterback Jake Locker, when asked by a Seattle native named Keith how much his stock had fallen:
From being right there at the top. He was No. 1 on the board through the early portion of the season. Obviously, he fell after that performance against Nebraska. He’s played better. He fell from 7 to 8 this week. He’s going to be a nice QB. He needs to be coached up. Like all QBs, he’s going to need some time. He’ll fall in the middle of the first round. Luck and Mallett and Newton and the other juniors can’t go to the Senior Bowl. Locker is the only highly rated senior QB. I hope he’s at the Senior Bowl. He can start to improve his rating down there.
It’s interesting to note. A lot of draft pundits have been down on Locker from the start of the year and therefore rank him low accordingly. I spoke to one scout for a high-profile national draft website this week who told me he thinks Locker has ‘Clausen range’ stock and won’t be drafted until the 20-40 region next April. Kiper is amongst a few of the big names who ranked Locker very highly (#1 on his big board) at the start of the year and he still maintains praise for the Washington QB. However, even he is listing Locker amongst the mid-teens range at the moment.
I had Locker going first overall in my latest mock draft and I explained why in a bit more detail here. If Buffalo select first overall as many anticipate (0-5 record, tough AFC East schedule) they’re almost certainly going to draft a quarterback. There just aren’t enough alternatives. When 1-15 Miami passed on Matt Ryan in 2008, it’s because they felt Jake Long could be a long term fixture at left tackle. They also felt comfortable selecting Chad Henne in round two. There’s not a LT anywhere near good enough to go first overall this year and although there is some talent at defensive end, it seems unlikely Buffalo would consider a Da’Quan Bowers or Robert Quinn with the first pick – even if Bowers continues his run of nine sacks in six games.
Perhaps they would consider A.J. Green (WR, Georgia) – potentially the best overall prospect in the draft class? They like playmakers at the skill positions (see: C.J. Spiller). It could be an expensive investment at wide receiver. They would also have to be convinced by a prospect like Ryan Mallett later on in rounds 2-3. Clearly Mallett has the arm that would comfortably deal with the Buffalo weather, but would the Bills be willing to ignore the QB position with the #1 pick to gamble on filling that gaping black hole later on?
Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I have a hard time seeing Andrew Luck in a Bills uniform, for the reasons I gave in the Jake Locker article. If they absolutely must have a quarterback first overall and the options are Locker or Luck, I still think Locker gets the call. However, there are enough voices out there at the moment who seem to think Locker won’t be drafted that high. I also fully appreciate the issues they raise with Locker – namely his occasionally erratic decision making, his need to get out of the pocket so much and the nightmare performance against a good Nebraska defense. We’ll see if that changes over the next few weeks if Washington keep winning and Locker keeps performing like he did against USC and Oregon State.