I don't post mock drafts. What I will do here is explain some options and scenario's that I think might happen on draft day. Despite the lock-out being lifted, I don't expect Carolina to begin negotiating with their number one pick. With no clear cut first round pick, this may be the most unpredictable NFL Draft I've ever seen.
And with that, we begin. . .
1.) Carolina. Some great military leaders will tell you that you don't evaluate the army, you evaluate the leader. Marty Hurney started as a beat writer covering the Redskins in the 1980's. He worked his way into the Redskin organization, and learned from Bobby Beathard.
Beathard built Super Bowl teams with USFL cast-offs (Doug Williams) and 6th round picks (Mark Rypien) playing quarterback. Beathard also struck out with Ryan Leaf. Hurney is a cut from the same cloth, operating with Jake Delhomme, picking Jimmy Clausen in the 2nd round, and watching undrafted Matt Moore take the reigns for a short time.
Does Hurney go with his roots? Or does he gamble with greatness (Cam Newton)? How does the Beathard-Leaf situation play into Hurney's mind?
I'd say Hurney is 50-50 on Newton. He's spent a lot of time with him. I could easily see Von Miller or AJ Green as the first pick, though.
2.) Denver. What a difference a year makes. Last year, Tim Tebow was the toast of Denver. Now, those same fans wait anxiously to see if their last hero, John Elway, dumps their wannabe hero of the present.
If Hurney takes Newton, I can see Denver working their trade options, then settling on Marcell Dareus or Miller. With the lockout ended, though, we can't expect a lot of trading at the top of the draft, though.
What if Hurney doesn't take Newton? Would Elway take him? If Elway goes to training camp with Tebow on the roster and no rookie QB drafted high enough to placate fans, that may be a problem. Elway hasn't really come out and supported Tebow. If Elway doesn't draft Tebow's replacement, he owns the decision to groom Tebow as the QB of the future. That could be a hard pill to swallow for Elway if he's not sold on Tebow.
3.) Buffalo. Reference rule #1 of my draft rules.
Here's some fast stats: 46% of first round quarterbacks over the past 10 years have panned out. Sit that first round QB for a year, and your chances of him panning out go up to 75%. In fact, chances of that quarterback making the Pro Bowl are 75%.
20% of second round QB's pan out. 13% of 3rd through undrafted QB's pan out. So, while drafting a QB is risky, the best it gets is 46%, in the first round. The road to drafting another qaurterback is littered with non-first round QB's that didn't pan out.
Buffalo telegraphs its picks. Buddy Nix has said that it's the right time to draft a QB almost a half dozen times to the media. While Von Miller is my top rated prospect, and one who I think could be a Derrick Thomas-like force, franchise QB's win Super Bowls.
I've read the trade back into the first round commentary. First, no offense to Dan Pompei, but past the Combine, nothing is really believable. Second, didn't Buffalo supposedly play this game last year and lose?
Take the bird in hand and sit Blaine Gabbert for a year (or two) behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. There's no better blend of intelligence, accuracy, arm strength, decision making, size, and athleticism than Gabbert. I'll take the 75% chance with Gabbert all day over the hopes and dreams of 2nd round QB's.
Why Gabbert makes sense, beyond what I just said.
If Buffalo takes Gabbert, the team just bought itself two more years. Unless Fitzpatrick does his best Drew Brees impresonation, the team won't be ready for prime time until the 2012 season, but more likely the 2013 season. That leaves Chan Gailey a lot of time to make decisions on players.
Buffalo has players that are in the "wait and see" category, and the "hasn't developed yet" category. Does Buffalo need a new left tackle? Maybe. I'd bet by the end of the 2011 season, Gailey will know for certain. The same could be said with Shawn Nelson and the tight end position. And Aaron Maybin.
Additional, Nix now gets a couple more off-seasons to add players, similar to how Ted Thompson did when he drafted Aaron Rodgers, sat him, and built the team around him before he ever started a game.
What I would do if I were Buffalo from this point on. . .
I don't think Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, or Colin Kaepernick are first round QB's. But teams get scared with the numbers game. Counting out Carolina, who doesn't really need a QB, 10 teams could use a new starting QB or a developmental QB (Buffalo, Cincinnati, Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee, Washington, Minnesota, Miami, Jacksonville, and Seattle). Add in Denver, who could be looking for a QB as well.
If Carolina takes Newton, that leaves Gabbert, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, Ponder, Dalton, and Kaepernick as potential starting QB's, with Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb available in free agency. That's eight QB's for 11 teams. Demand exceeds supply, the value of the QB is pushed up, and teams will be willing to trade up to get them. Nobody wants to be left without a chair when the music stops.
That could push one of the five technique defensive ends, outside linebacker, or offensive tackle into the second round. I'm not a Nate Solder fan in the first round, but at 34, he can't be passed up. Same with Gabe Carimi, Cameron Heyward, Brooks Reed, etc.
I'd go front seven at 34 and 68, unless a first round offensive tackle falls. I'd trade back into the 3rd (with a 4th and 5th rounder) and take Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba if a top tackle doesn't fall to 34. Allen Bailey or Heyward make a lot of sense at 34, and Nix has a history of taking 3-4 ends high. Sam Acho or Dontay Moch makes sense in the 3rd. Casey Matthews makes sense with the remaining 4th rounder.
Somewhere in the 6th or 7th, Buffalo must draft Owen Marecic.
Do I have it out for Colin Kaepernick?
No. I really like the guy. He's smart and sounds smart when he interviews. I'd be very comfortable with him as the face of the franchise. He's got a ton of physical talent. And, contrary to some reports, the school he played at, Nevada, means nothing to me during the draft process. Phil Simms came out of Morehead State; Joe Flacco out of Delaware. I think Kaepernick at 34 would be a great option if Newton and Gabbert were gone at three.
20% of second round QB's pan out. Not counting the last draft, the role call of 2nd round QB's is: Pat White, Brian Brohm, Chad Henne, Kevin Kolb, Drew Stanton, John Beck, Kellen Clemens, Tarvares Jackson, Drew Brees, Quincey Carter, Marques Tuiasosopo, Shawn King, Charlie Batch, Jake Plummer, Tony Banks, Todd Collins, Kordell Stewart, Matt Blundin, Tony Sacca, Brett Favre, Browning Nagle, Mike Elkins, Billy Joe Tolliver, etc., etc., etc.
There's some talent on that list. Pat White was pretty talented, but came from a quirky offense and couldn't hit a receiver. Guys like Clemens, Beck, and Stanton were pretty solid college QB's. Jackson was every bit as talented as Kaepernick. Plummer was supposed to be a bigger Joe Montana, but never really became more than average. Lots of college talent on that list, but only two NFL franchise QB's: Favre and Brees.
No doubt that Kaepernick is a great college player. For that matter, so were Ponder and Dalton. I let my man-crush on Tebow get away from me last year. This year I'll take the better odds with Gabbert in the first.
WIOL 95.7 FM / 1580 AM ("The Zone") is the local ESPN station here in Columbus, Georgia. I'll be on air with the guys from "The Press Box" on Wednesday at 4PM doing a draft preview, and then (hopefully) covering the draft for them Thursday night. If you're local, give a call into the show on either day, or come to the Sports Page for the draft on Thursday night.