I’ve updated the mock draft for the final time this year. There’s just four months left until the next NFL draft and we’re starting to get a clearer picture as to how things may shape up.
To see the latest projection click here or select ‘mock draft’ from the title bar.
Remember – the deadline for underclassmen to declare is January 15th.
As the bowl games come to an end we should start to find out which of the high profile draft prospects will turn pro. It should be an interesting fortnight.
I suspect nearly all of the top-underclassmen will declare. While the threat of a lock-out remains a real danger in 2011 – April’s draft is secure as the final event in the current CBA (collective bargaining agreement). Whenever a new CBA is agreed it will almost certainly contain a rookie salary cap, ending the ever increasing fortune earned by the top prospects.
Because the first overall pick can agree a contract at any point leading up to the draft, it’ll make it almost impossible to install a rookie cap to include the 2011 class. At the moment there is only doubt as to whether the big money will remain – by 2012 that doubt will be completely removed with a new CBA. Money talks – and this could be the last chance to earn a big pay-day.
In my latest projection I have five quarterbacks being drafted in the first thirteen picks. This would be clearly be an unprecedented occurrence.
However, it’s also rare to see as many QB’s with such a high grade. Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are all worthy of top-ten consideration. I consider Ryan Mallettvery much a top-15/20 talent with only some concern’s about his personality and work ethic causing some resistance. I would grade Jake Locker in the late first or early second round region – but understand why there’s every possibility he will be drafted amongst the top-15 picks.
At the moment, there are a number of teams where the quarterback position is clearly the biggest need. As we move towards free agency this situation should become clearer. When Washington traded for Donovan McNabb last year, it was considered less likely that they would draft a QB.
If, for example, a team like Arizona were to approach Denver regarding Kyle Orton (a smart move in my opinion) – suddenly they have solved their biggest need. If Arizona don’t find a QB before the draft, you would have to believe they are going to take one.
Right now, it’s hard to look at teams needing a QB and placing them with a different prospect. I’m not totally convinced five quarterbacks go in the top-13 as expressed here – but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out at this early stage.
Holiday Bowl thoughts: Washington vs Nebraska
This was a strange game to watch – basically one team played like their lives depended on a victory (Washington) and the other like there was a beach somewhere with their name on it.
The main focus was on Jake Locker (QB, Washington) to see if he could improve from a disastrous performance when the two teams met earlier this year. Statistically, there wasn’t a major improvement (5/16, 56 yards). Look behind the stats though and you’d realise this was absolutely a much better performance from the Huskies QB in his college football finale.
For starters, he didn’t force anything and he made much better decisions. There were no deep throws down the middle into double coverage or reckless attempts with a desperation to make things happen. Locker was cool, collected and managed the game very well.
When a throw wasn’t on – he lobbed it into the stands. He took what was offered by the defense, including a number of smart plays on the ground (83 yards, one touchdown). He was hampered by more drops (something that has plagued Washington the past two years).
Let’s not get carried away here – he was still methodical and grounded rather than spectacular and dominating. Clearly the Huskies defense and the excellent running of Chris Polk were responsible for a 19-7 upset victory.
But there were positive signs here from Locker. We know that he has superb athletic and physical qualities – he just needs to manage them. Being capable is sometimes better than actually expressing. Against an excellent defense, he controlled his team and showed the kind of ball security scouts want to see.
The teams that don’t rate Locker due to accuracy problems and a lack of development this year will not change their minds based on this performance. Those who are sold on his talents were never going to be put off by a game against a team that had already dismantled Locker’s game once.
I predicted that little would change whatever happened in the Holiday Bowl.
But this was an encouraging display and Locker takes momentum into a possible Senior Bowl appearance, the combine and his pro-day. I would recommend passing on the Senior Bowl where it’s notoriously difficult for quarterback’s to impress. The combine and pro-day work out will secure a high draft pick come April.
Elsewhere, I was again disappointed by Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska).
He came into the year a top ranked prospect – and people are using that to keep him high. It’s lazy, to be quite honest, because this has not been a good year for the senior.
For starters – how many big plays has Amukamara made this year? Absolutely zero. He has no interceptions. Do teams avoid him? Absolutely – for the most part (although Oklahoma State didn’t when Justin Blackmon gave him a schooling). But then don’t teams avoid Patrick Peterson too? He’s found a way to make plays – against better opponents too – collecting four picks and big return yardage.
Amukamara looks a little stiff to me which isn’t completely unexpected as a converted running back. He’s got good size but not elite speed and his reactions remind me a lot of Malcolm Jenkins.
If you remember Jenkins – he too was a top 5/10 lock ahead of the 2009 draft. I had my suspicions due to his size and lack of recovery speed and projected him as a safety. He eventually fell into the teens and was drafted by New Orleans – where he now plays safety.
I’m reminded a lot of Jenkins when I watch Amukamara. Whether he ends up at safety or not remains to be seen – but it’s time people stopped grading him based on a pre-season mark.
Right now I have Patrick Peterson (LSU), Jimmy Smith (Colorado) and Janoris Jenkins (Florida) ahead of Amukamara. Brandon Harris (Miami) is up there too and I suspect will over take Amukamara after work outs.
Indeed Smith is emerging as a big mover up the board. His size and speed combo may be the best available in the draft aside from Peterson. If you’re looking for another top-10 lock at cornerback, take a look at Colorado’s stud CB.
Hope you all have a great New Year’s Eve, enjoy the college football today and have a great start to 2011.