While the current labor dispute continues between owners and players over a new collective bargaining agreement, there will be an NFL draft.
I’ve been closely following NFL drafts, long before they were being televised by ESPN, and I can tell you there is nothing like what is shaping up for this year’s one.
The first round will take place on Thursday night April 28 with the second and third rounds occurring April 29. The final four rounds are set for April 30. The site is Radio City Music Hall in New York.
There are several factors that make the 2011 draft different.
It’s a totally unpredictable draft. There is no one surefire consensus No. 1 overall pick. There also are a record 56 underclassmen declaring themselves eligible. So despite talk about this being a bad year for underclassmen to declare for the draft due to labor unrest, the talent pool is going to be extremely high.
This favors New England, which owns two first-round picks, and teams such as Green Bay picking at the end of each round.
Several sports book should be putting out various draft ‘props’ as the event draws closer. One popular ‘prop’ is an ‘over/under’ on quarterbacks taken in the first round. Normally it isn’t difficult to accurately gauge that question. Not with this draft, however.
Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert and Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton are sure-fire No. 1’s. But after that it’s up in the air. There’s a lot of divided opinion about Washington’s Jake Locker. It wouldn’t be surprising if he went in the top 15, or it wouldn’t be a total shock if he didn’t even go in the first round since he’s considered a project not ready to start right away.
Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett, Florida State’s Christian Ponder, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick and TCU’s Andy Dalton are considered to be second-to-third rounders, but it only takes one team to fall in love and pluck one in the first round.
It happened last year when Denver took Florida’s Tim Tebow in the first round with the 25th pick. Many believed Tebow would be drafted much later. But the Broncos wanted him bad enough to make what some believe was a ‘reach’ pick.
An argument could be made that the best player in this draft is either LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson or Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller. It would be a major surprise, though, if either Peterson or Miller is the first player selected because of their respective positions.
Carolina has the No. 1 overall pick by virtue of its 2-14 record. The Panthers need a quarterback after second-round rookie Jimmy Clausen looked so bad last year. That puts Newton squarely in the hunt as the potential first player selected.
Gabbert has support, too, as being the best quarterback in the draft.
Chances are a defensive lineman could be taken first overall. That could mean either Marcell Dareus of Alabama or Nick Fairley, a defensive tackle from Auburn.
It wouldn’t be a stunning development if Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green went No. 1 either. Some believe he’s the best player in the draft. Detroit has had great success with wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft. Green has been compared to Johnson, who played at Georgia Tech.
The draft is loaded with talent on the defensive and offensive lines. There are so many good ones that the Packers, picking 32nd and last in the first round, should be able to land a big-time talent.
There’s enough spillage that teams could also get legitimate first-round linemen in the second round perhaps allowing a team to ‘reach’ for a quarterback.
It’s also a decent year for wide receivers, thanks to Green and Alabama’s Julio Jones, and cornerbacks due to Peterson and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara.
Alabama’s Mark Ingram, though, may be the only running back going in the first round.