The 2010 NFL Draft will be on Thursday, April 22, and it has become one of the most anticipated football days of the year, even though there isn’t any actual on-field action. There’s always plenty of trade buzz, rumors and projecting from talking heads and fans alike. And for the first time ever, this year the draft is in prime-time, televised on both ESPN and NFL Network at 7:30 PM EST as Commissioner Roger Goodell decided to split the pick bonanza up into three days.
Before our Final Mock Draft hits the site on Thursday afternoon, let’s go over some of the hot topics and things to watch out for as well as my Top 5 players and Top 5 sleepers in this year’s NFL Draft . . .
Hat’s Hit: The 2010 NFL Draft – 24 Hours Before the Spectacle
*** Assuming the first three picks go as expected (Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford to St. Louis at #1 overall, followed by Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh to the Detroit Lions at #2 and Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy to Tampa Bay at #3), what Washington does at #4 overall triggers the next three picks in my opinion. Word has it that Kansas City GM Scott Piloli will steer away from off-field issues of Trent Williams, the offensive tackle from Oklahoma. Piloi is familiar with Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga and he knows his Head Coach Kirk Ferentz very well, but my feeling is they will go with safety Eric Berry, the second best player in the draft on my board and a can’t miss selection.
*** NFL Network expert Mike Mayock believes Earl Thomas, the defensive back out of Texas, has better ball instincts plus skills and range than Berry. Thomas led the NCAA with 24 passes defended last season and he also made eight interceptions. While Berry is probably the quicker, more vicious hitter, it could be interesting to see which DB goes off the board after Berry, most likely either Thomas or Florida corner Joe Haden. If one slips past #20, then a team might be getting themselves a major steal and a player that could be Defensive Rookie of the Year.
*** Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll would love to get Clemson’s C.J. Spiller, considered the top running back in the draft, at either pick #6 or #14 overall. While #6 could be a tad high, Jacksonville at #10 has their eye on Spiller as a nice complement to Maurice Jones-Drew because the Jags have to find a way to manufacture yardage, and who better than the all-purpose yard producer from the Tigers. Oakland at #8 could be the darkhorse to nab Spiller. After all, Raiders Owner Al Davis is as unpredictable as they come.
*** Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen, once thought to go #4 overall to the Redskins before they traded for Donovan McNabb from Philadelphia, is starting to slip the experts are saying. Clausen should go between 6 and 17 . . . both Seattle and San Fran each have two picks in that range. Buffalo at #9 has an interesting decision to make if they want to go quarterback or not.
*** Cleveland is a team in the second round that could look to move up late first round to get Texas QB Colt McCoy or Florida’s Tim Tebow. Likewise for Jacksonville, which knows they would sell a ton of tickets by moving into the ladder part of the first round and taking the hometown, Gator favorite. Minnesota may take a look at Tebow at #30 as well. Also don’t rule out Buffalo trying to move back up in the late stages of the first round to get one of them if they think neither will be available in the early second round when they pick.
*** Notre Dame’s Golden Tate reminds many people of Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Hines Ward and his college production last year (93/1496/15 in catches, yards and TD’s) speak for themselves. He struggles with press coverage and route running, and thus will likely go middle of second round, but because of his playmaking ability could be a steal for someone. My favorite wideout in the draft after Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant, who the scouts say has some character issues and has the look of that ‘boom or bust’ type receiver, is Illinois’ Arrelious Benn. He’ll make some team in the second round very happy they chose him.
*** Another one of the players I’m high on that should go off in the second round is Penn State linebacker Sean Lee. PSU is known for sending linebackers on to the NFL, but Lee is mobile and an impact defender that will help a team defend the run immediately. He’d be a good pick up for a team like the New York Giants, which lost Antonio Pierce. Durability concerns about a bad knee could keep Lee from going late first round. Another player moving fast up the draft board is Cal defensive lineman Tyson Alualu. There’s also some talk about the Giants moving up to 10 or 11 and taking Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, also high on the Jags board. Kyle Wilson of Boise, Jason Pierre-Paul of USF and McClain are high possibilities for G-Men. Brandon Spikes in 2nd round could be an option if they don’t take a linebacker there and Lee isn’t available.
*** Denver with Coach Josh McDaniels is a team that will be worth watching as they have dealt wideout Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins and most believe that he won’t take Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant with their #11 overall selection. What will they do? They could trade down from #11 and try to get McClain or Maurkice Pouncey, the Florida interior offensive lineman, at a later pick.
*** South Florida’s Jerome Murphy and Virginia’s Chris Cook are mid-late second round, maybe early third round prospects that are long, man-to-man coverage guys who could be major surprises in the NFL. The Jets are unlikely to reach in the late part of the first round for one of them, but keep an eye on Florida State’s Patrick Robinson for Rex Ryan’s team and also watch out for Jared Odrick, the defensive lineman out of Penn State to be a potential choice if he gets past San Diego and Baltimore, two fellow AFC contenders looking to add depth and talent to their d-line.
*** If Dallas doesn’t take USC safety Taylor Mays at #27 he may slip out of first round completely. Mays has good look to him, runs, but isn’t a super playmaker even though he’s 6-3, 231.
*** Who is flying up the draft board? Rodger Saffold of Indiana blocked everyone at East-West game, has 41 straight starts and can play four spots on the line. All of the sudden he can go as high as #23 to the Green Bay Packers, won’t probably go past 31, which is impressive to say the last since he was initially projected as a late second round to mid third round prospect.
*** One quietly rising quarterback is John Skelton of Fordham, slated to go somewhere in the third round. Some feel he has Joe Flacco type comparisons, partly because like Flacco, who went to Delaware, he went to an under the radar school not part of a BCS conference and is actually I-AA. My QB to watch out for is Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour, but let me caution folks that I was high on Charlie Frye coming out of Akron, another MAC QB who reminds me a little of him. Here’s hoping for LeFevour he has a better impact in the NFL.
*** This year’s Darren Sproles? It is Dexter McCluster of Ole Miss . . . 2nd or 3rd round, may sneak into 2nd round. His speed is game-changing . . . but there are questions about his size. He’s a super sleeper who can be used as a return man, scat back and be dynamic in open space. Put on the film from the bowl game against Oklahoma State and you’ll be a fan of his, too.
MY TOP 5
#1 – Suh
#2 – Berry
#3 – G. McCoy
#4 – Spiller
#5 – Tie with Dez Bryant and Earl Thomas
HM: Jerry Hughes of TCU
MY SLEEPER 5
#1 – M. Iupati
#2 – A. Benn
#3 – D. McCluster
#4 – S. Lee
#5 – Sean Lee and George Selvie
HM: Rob Grankowski and Javier Arenas