Draft King Analysis|
January 14, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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The last major undeclared underclassmen prospects for the NFL Draft made it official this past Thursday, as star cornerbacks Morris Claiborne (LSU) and Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) indicated their intention to leave for the NFL. Draft eligible underclassmen, those at least three years removed from their high school class graduation year, can apply for early entry into the NFL Draft, but they have to do so by tomorrow: Sunday, January 15. Any player who put in for early entry into the NFL can change his mind by Wednesday, January 18 and retain all remaining NCAA eligibility, provided that he hasn't signed with an agent.
Something you might notice looking at my mock draft on here, and on plenty of other mock drafts elsewhere, is that projections hold strong for elite players at key positions with teams in two critical areas: passing the ball and defending against the pass. In particular, demand is huge at a few key spots: QB, OT, WR, DE/OLB, and CB. Protect the quarterback, have a quarterback who can throw accurately, put capable wide receivers on the field, pressure the opposing QB on passing downs, and load up on physical cornerbacks with playmaking skill.
This isn't to say that there isn't important for truly special talent at positions like running back (Trent Richardson) or middle linebacker (Luke Kuechly). But elite talent that can make a difference in the passing game, or in defending the pass, has a premium value.
Don't get me wrong; the running game is still very important, and having a firm commitment to the run is important. But if you can't air the ball out effectively and accurately in the modern NFL, you put yourself at a distinct disadvantage.
One more point to keep in mind: only one team in the NFL scored more rushing touchdowns than passing touchdowns in 2011, the Carolina Panthers. Rven a team like Denver that relies on the run so heavily used the pass to put points on the board, with 20 passing touchdowns against just 11 rushing touchdowns.
I had fun reading Mel Kiper's regrading of the 2011 Draft (behind the ESPN Insider paywall), though I have to respectfully disagree with his opinion that it's okay to give instant grades to a draft. In my estimation, you can't grade a draft class until after three years, and even that is incomplete. I've stubbornly refused to go the draft grading route on here, in many ways because it feels as capricious and arbitrary as the grades given on papers by some teachers I had in school, both at Father Ryan High School and at the University of Evansville.
But talking about prospects and the draft is looking in the future -- there are playoff games on today. Saints/49ers and Broncos/Patriots is a nice Saturday twinbill, with the Denver at New England late game potentially drawing a massive audience thanks in no small part to the success achieved by Tim Tebow this season. Tebowmania has captured the attention of the mainstream and has helped the already massively popular National Football League draw in even more interested viewers.
Kickoff in San Francisco is pending: watch and enjoy!