Final mock of 2010 & Holiday Bowl thoughts

December 31st, 2010 | Written by Rob Staton

Locker spikes the ball in the end zone after a touchdown run in the Holiday Bowl

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.

14 Responses to “Final mock of 2010 & Holiday Bowl thoughts”

  1. T-Town says:

    Really like the new mock.

    After Gabbert’s performance against Iowa I will probably have to eat crow and agree he will indeed declare. That kid can throw.

    I agree with your take on Amukamara. There is a ton of hype around that kid and not a whole lot of production. I believe he had what, 1 assisted tackle last night? Did he have any deflected passes either? Because I dont recall seeing him swat away anything. Do you think he will fall out of the top 15?

    Locker looked good last night. Not great but good. I personally think he gets a bit too much flak for being inaccurate. He does miss some throws but not a whole lot more than any other College QB. His receiving corps however both drop a loot of his passes or simply dont have the talent to make catches which will be caught in the NFL. I specifically remember the last 2 passes Locker threw at the end of the 1st half. One was around a 12 yard ball to the sidelines which looked perfectly placed to me and the receiver just didnt get around soon enough and it went through his hands. The next ball was a slant over the middle which hit the target in his chest and he just outright dropped it. I think Locker is the victim of misleading statistics which don’t tell the whole story.

    This could be a great draft for the Hawks. Full of QB/DE/CB talent. Now if only they still had that 3rd round pick and Josh Wilson still……

  2. Steve says:

    Rob, you’ve talked a lot about Locker going to the Redskins, so maybe you already have this info, but I was listening to the ESPN Football Today podcast yesterday and they were discussing Luck declaring or not. The conversation turned to Locker, and Adam Schefter said repeatedly that if Locker had declared last year he “100%” would not have gone later than #4 overall. If they were that dead-set on getting him last year, I wonder if Shanahan is still dead-set on getting Locker?

    • Rob says:

      I think it’s almost certain and suspect in the scenario I’ve mocked this week they’d trade above Seattle.

      The Seahawks will find it very difficult to draft a QB at #21 if they win on Sunday.

      • Alex says:

        I don’t know. I know QB is a high need and I’ve seen those charts that show every team ahead of us in the draft that need a QB, but I just can’t imagine 5 QBs in the top 21 picks. Some will just pass on QBs to draft the BPA, some have different concerns (e.g. accuracy , character, intelligence, or system). In matter of fact, when was the last time 5 QBs were picked in the 21? My impression is that it usually is 2-3 in a normal draft and 1 in a weak draft (last year). And note, the QBs prospects are deeper this year, but not necessary better than most other drafts. They all have their respective flaws.


        • Matt Q. says:

          Your never going to get a perfect or close to perfect coming out of college ( except Andrew luck)

        • Rob says:

          That is true Alex and noted amongst my thoughts. However, I certainly think all of these prospects are at least on a level par with the three that went in the first round in 2009. The difference is this year – there’s a couple more guys there. I’ve mocked Mallett falling out of round one and I still think that could happen. Maybe 1-2 guys don’t declare?

          If they did all declare, four will almost certainly be off the board before #21. I’m positive about that. Mallett is the one who could fall.

          • Alex says:

            @Rob, I guess I’ll take your word for it.

            @Matt, I realize that all college QBs have some sort of flaw, but my point is that because of those flaws, this group of QBs aren’t necessary better (and IMO a bit weaker) than say the Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman group; however, because there is a sheer # of solid QB prospects (if Luck and Gabbert declares), then it’s as deep of a QB class as we’ve seen in a while.

            And the later point is that it’s rare to see 5 QBs selected in the top 20. Some just don’t match. Some choose the BPA. Some have concerns,etc.


            • Rob says:

              In 2006 – three quarterbacks were off the board by the 11th pick. After that you’re looking at round two for guys like Kellen Clemons and Tavaris Jackson – a big drop off from the top three. I certainly think the 2011 crop are at least on par with Stafford/Sanchez/Freeman and in fact could easily prove to be better. We don’t usually see this quantity of good QB prospects – paired with a lot of teams needing a QB – it’ll be an unusual year with a lot of guys leaving the board early. When there’s strength at a position it’s usually exploited – we saw seven offensive tackles off the board by pick #21 in 2008.

  3. Patrick G. says:

    This is my first comment here. As a Seahawks fan who was relatively uninvolved for a couple years and have been getting back into the team this year, your blog has been an excellent read. Your effort and insight are very much appreciated!

    Now for some comments, questions, and theoretical nonsense. Both you and I share positive evaluations of Cam Newton. Perusing Bengals forums and mock drafts, the overwhelming feeling in that fanbase seems to be for AJ Green, rather than a replacement for Carson Palmer, especially after his return to form last week, the loss of TO and the possible departure of Ocho.

    If Newton falls past Cinci, we lose, and the Niners win, doesn’t that put us ahead of the Niners and in a potentially good position to snag him? I see the Cards looking for a veteran QB (2nd or 3rd rounder for Kyle Orton like you hinted at? Sign McNabb who I think I heard lives in AZ?) and the Bills seem happy with Fitzpatrick and other top talent is available there.

    How happy would you be to see Cam Newton in a Seahawks uniform next year?

    Also, a moderately insane scenario I was pondering (I have no sources on this) is a San Francisco/Harbaugh conspiracy where the Niners pay whatever it takes to bring over the #1 from Carolina, Luck declares, they hire Harbaugh as HC and and both Harbaugh and Luck stay in the Bay Area. Pretty insane, I know, but SF is a pretty talented team already, and the ownership could reap large benefits with the fanbase by a risky move to bring a hometown crew in for the new regime to spark some energy after this year’s disappointing season. Though the thought of the 49ers with Andrew Luck for years to come fills me with utter dread.

    Regardless of all this QB speculation (even though it’s far less painful than contemplating Hasselbeck and CW), I’ll be rooting hard for the Hawks tomorrow night for sure!

    • Rob says:

      Hi Patrick – delighted to have you on board and thank you for the kind words about the blog. Feedback (positive or negative) is always appreciated and being able to talk football with other Seahawks fans is the main reason why I started the blog, so your comments are always welcome.

      How happy would I be to see Newton in a Seahawks uniform? Very happy. I’ve never tried to gloss over what Newton has to do to improve and become a complete pro-prospect. He has to prove in meetings he’s got that desire to be the heart and soul of this team – be the first guy into the building and the last out. It’s been so easy for him in college (personally, I don’t think there’s a team that can stop him). Will he lose that passion for the game when he has to spend hours in a film room studying a defense just to be competitive? That’s my one big concern and it’s really only surfaced because Newton is THAT good. I would argue that while Luck is very talented, he’s already doing those things for his success. Newton could probably turn up with no practise and win. Newton has to prove in meetings he wants to be the best and that he can understand and learn a much more complex and thick playbook.

      I can’t sit here and say… Newton can/can’t do that. I won’t have a meeting with the guy. The NFL GM’s, coaches and personnel will. If Newton proves he can do those things, Cincy won’t pass. He’ll be a top pick, maybe even #1 overall. What I like about him and what I believe is that this is a guy who has the potential to be a defining playmaker. He can be a guy that makes everyone else on the offense look so much better – WR’s, RB’s and O-line. For a team with barely any playmakers (like Seattle) with a stagnated offense… Newton can turn up and immediately offer an extreme playmaker. I think he’ll be able to win quickly like Vince Young, but I think he’s superior as a passer to Young and not a head case either. I would be excited to see a player like Newton in Seattle.

      Even so, I think if the Seahawks can take Newton, they may already be sold on another QB. We’ll see what happens. I expect the Seahawks and Redskins to fight over Locker even if he doesn’t warrant the pick. I suspect Locker will be playing for one of Seattle, Washington, Minnesota or Arizona – having gone in the top-15. I gave Locker a second round grade personally, but see him in round one. With regard to Cincy – Newton just seems like a perfect fit for that franchise. AFC North – big, athletic, tough QB with an arm. A team who may not be so concerned with off field issues like work ethic (they took Andre Smith, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson after all). Even if Palmer plays another year, they should be preparing for the long term – aka doing what Seattle never did with an ageing Hasselbeck. I love AJ Green, but they need some long term security at QB to compete in that difficult division.

      I think it’s nailed on Harbaugh ends up at Michigan which will preceed Luck declaring. If he goes to the NFL then San Fran makes the most sense. Carolina and San Fran would be a good landing spot for Luck – both have good lines and weapons. He needs that to succeed more so than a Newton in my opinion. If Carolina think Luck is the once-in-a-generation type (I’m not convinced) then it may be impossible for them to make a deal. Of course, we see a situation like Manning and the Giants/Chargers and you wonder if that could happen again? San Fran might think… two firsts and change would be enough to trade up from around the #5 or #6 pick if thats where they end up. San Fran have a good enough team to compete with a solid QB.

      • Patrick G. says:

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I was out of the loop on the Harbaugh/Michigan buzz being so strong (as I see now that I’ve searched it). So much for that halfbaked thought.

  4. Cliff says:

    If Minn takes J. Jones does that mean they’ll be less likely to resign Sidney Rice? Jones, Harvin, and Rice would be a very good trio of WRs but they have other priority FAs. I don’t know about anyone else but i’d sure like to see Rice as a hawk.

    • Rob says:

      I think they’ll re-sign Rice. I also think the WR position is under rated in the NFL and you can never have enough good wide outs. Minnesota have a very good roster that has under achieved this year. They’ll pick high and it’ll give them a chance to draft BPA. Wide out isn’t their biggest need, but teams don’t always draft for need. If they sign a veteran QB – which remains to be seen – then giving him an arsenal of AP, Harvin, Rice and Jones will make things comfortable. They could also look at LT, DT, DE and CB… not to mention QB.