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2011 NFL Draft: Will Labor Issue Lead To Surprise Picks?

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We here at Buffalo Rumblings are avoiding discussions regarding the NFL's looming labor issues because, well, we'd rather deal with the inevitable when it arrives. We'll touch on it briefly this morning, however, because of this interesting thought process regarding the 2011 NFL Draft, reported on by Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net.

Finally, with the ever present labor negotiations a constant topic of conversation in Mobile and the potential of a long lock out looming, the consensus is there will be a lot of surprise selections in April’s draft. Talented but raw prospects that will need time to develop are likely to fall by the wayside in favor of the lesser athletic yet more "NFL ready" players.

Think about the type of impact that idea might have on how the draft shakes out this April.

There is not a quarterback this year that can't be described as "talented but raw," and "will need time to develop". Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and even a senior like Jake Locker would fall victim to this single-season phenomenon.

It extends beyond quarterbacks, too. Pass rushers typically take time to develop a repertoire of rush moves, get stronger, and adjust to the NFL setting. While that may not affect a guy like Da'Quan Bowers too much, you can bet that players like Justin Houston, perhaps Robert Quinn, and especially Aldon Smith will be looked at differently than in years past.

You can even apply this somewhat to this year's crop of middling offensive tackles. Some are NFL-ready (but might need to break in on the right side); that group includes Anthony Castonzo, Derek Sherrod and Gabe Carimi. Others, like Nate Solder and Tyron Smith, could slide.

The flip side of this is that NFL-ready players at non-premium positions could start to rise. That includes guys like RB Mark Ingram, TE Kyle Rudolph, and yes, even linebackers like Von Miller and Akeem Ayers.

Pauline continues:

Teams feel taking a developmental player in the first few rounds will be a waste of time since they are likely to miss out on rookie mini-camp, OTA’s and a host of other off season training critical for their development. In essence, depending on the length of the presumed lockout, 2011 could be a washout for a number of incoming rookies.

One additional factor that Pauline does not touch on is that due to the labor strife, NFL teams will be conducting the NFL Draft before free agency begins. Where in years past teams have been able to address a pressing need or two with veteran acquisitions prior to bringing in rookies, they'll need to address those needs with rookies first. That is certain to alter a team's draft strategy - not just in terms of the player being NFL-ready, but for a team like Baltimore, who is purportedly a BPA team. There isn't a team in the league without needs, and even the most ardent BPA philosophers may look to fill needs early.

We'll get to the idea of there being no NFL season in 2011 at a later date. Regardless of what happens there, there's no question that this is going to be an incredibly memorable and historic off-season.