Good morning. Sorry, no cake blogs are on the horizon, but I’ll let you know.
I’ve made it pretty clear in the past that trying to grade NFL drafts immediately after the fact is a useless exercise, akin to reviewing a restaurant based on what’s on the menu.
So this might seem like a bit of a contradiction. But here goes: Some of the “expert” draftniks, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper, actually do a pretty decent job ranking the top players eligible for the next NFL draft. Even some general managers will tell you so.
Where they fail at times is understanding a team’s needs and how a certain player fits into a team’s schemes, based on his strengths and weaknesses. And, of course, there can be a significant difference of opinion on how extreme those strengths and weaknesses are.
For example: Some people ripped the Falcons’ first pick, Sean Weatherspoon, based on the fact that he’s not a classic blitzing outside linebacker that can help their pass rush. Left unsaid is that the Falcons see him as an EVERY-down back who can significantly help their pass coverage against the NFC South’s tight ends and running back, as well as defend the run and, yes, blitz.
With that said, Kiper — who I understand has quite a following — just came out with his first “Big Board” of the top 25 eligible players for the 2011 draft. Kiper pats himself on the back a little before listing the players, and that’s OK:
A little perspective to start. Last year, back before any games in the college season had even been played, my first Big Board came out. Looking back, six of the players in that top 10 actually went in the top 10 of the recent draft. A few guys fell for various reasons. Whether it was Carlos Dunlap’s judgment, a really odd interview process for Dez Bryant, or simply bad tape for Taylor Mays, some guys didn’t remain that high. It happens every year.
OK, here’s what will be of the most most interest to you:
♦ Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green is the highest-ranked local player on the board: fourth overall, behind only two quarterbacks, Jake Locker of Washington and Andrew Luck of Stanford, and North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn. Green will only be a junior but most expect him to come out. Kiper’s comment: “The profile of a No. 1 receiver. Great size and speed, instinctive, great hands.”
♦ There are no Georgia Tech players in the top 25, after Derrick Morgan and Demaryius Thomas both made the list last season.
♦ Anybody projecting Alabama to take a significant step back after winning the national championship should think again. Three returning players are among the top 17 on Kiper’s list: Defensive end Marcel Dareus (7), running back Mark Ingram (11), wide receiver Julio Jones (17).
♦ The top 25 list includes seven players from the ACC (below in blue) and six from the SEC (in red).
Here’s the list. Let me know what you think.
1. Jake Locker, QB, Washington.
2. Andrew Luck*, QB, Stanford.
3. Robert Quinn*, DE, North Carolina.
4. A.J. Green*, WR, Georgia.
5. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa.
6. Ryan Mallett*, QB, Arkansas.
7. Marcel Dareus*, DE, Alabama.
8. Anthony Costanzo, DT, Boston College.
9. Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State.
10. Patrick Peterson*, CB, LSU.
11. Mark Ingram, RB*, Alabama.
12. Aaron Williams*, CB, Texas.
13. Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina.
14. Jonathan Baldwin*, WR, Pittsburgh.
15. Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech.
16. Allen Bailey, DE, Miami.
17. Julio Jones*, WR, Alabama.
18. Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina.
19. Michael Floyd*, WR, Notre Dame.
20. Akeem Ayers*, OLB, UCLA.
21. Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia.
22. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC.
23. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska.
24. Gabe Carimi, OT, Washington.
25. Rahim Moore*, S, UCLA.