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Draft King Analysis
February 10, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

Reader feedback is always welcomed here on Draft King. Sound off with your thoughts on Twitter (@LouPickney) or via email at LouPickney@gmail.com.


Putting together a mock draft can be challenging, a never-ending series of evaluations and re-evaluations and adjustments and considerations. Team needs now will, in some cases, be dramatically different than they will be in the days leading up to the draft itself.

Last year's draft was in many ways an anomaly, an odd situation where the draft took place before the start of free agency in late July. 2010 was a unique situation as well under the final year of the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, with unrestricted free agency available only to players with six or more years of NFL experience, a shift from the four year threshold of 2009 which returned under the new CBA. In some cases it created some bad blood, with players like Vincent Jackson (San Diego) and Logan Mankins (New England) with five years of NFL experience facing unusual restrictions under the Final Year Plan.

Moreover, savvy players like DeMarcus Ware saw the forthcoming gridlock and signed new long-term contracts during the 2009 season, avoiding the headaches that others from the 2005 Draft encountered. In short, the upcoming free agent market will be loaded at several positions, particularly with guys from the 2008 Draft who signed four-year rookie deals ready to cash in on the open market. So keep that in mind as free agency approaches: what makes sense now won't necessarily make sense by the time the draft rolls around.

The evaluation process for draft prospects is something I really enjoy: part performance from the college ranks, part assessing physical tools, and a touch of intuition. It'a an inexact science, and plenty of supposed "can't miss" prospects have been picked high in the draft (in some cases #1 overall) and turned into colossal busts. There's also a certain degree of groupthink as well, particularly in recent years with the rise in the volume of mock drafts available on the internet.

There are some draft prospects out there who I rank differently from other analysts and/or who are the source of somewhat rigorous debate among NFL Draft prognosticators. As promised yesterday, here's a look at some of the biggest names involved.

Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Some think Adams has the chance to leapfrog Iowa OT Riley Reiff as the #2 overall offensive tackle prospect, which is interesting to me, particularly with the NFL Network's Mike Mayock ranking Reiff ahead of USC OT Matt Kalil on his list of best offensive linemen. Others think Adams is more likely to fall to round two.

Adams had an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl last month, and with a strong performance at the NFL Combine later this month, he could find himself in the mix in the middle of the first round. All it takes is for one team who need an offensive tackle to really like him for him to be snagged off the board earlier that some might expect.

At 6'7" 325, Adams has the size needed to effective play offensive tackle in the NFL. It may come down to his technique and how teams that might be interest see him potentially fitting into their system.

Dre Kirkpatrick
Dre Kirkpatrick was an important member of Alabama's 2011 BCS Championship team. (Icon SMI)
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: Kirkpatrick entered the 2011 season as the apparent top cornerback prospect with potential 2012 NFL Draft eligibility, though he was surpassed on most boards by LSU CB Morris Claiborne by the time the season ended. Kirkpatrick was popped on a marijuana possession charge (a nonsense "crime" but one that the NFL cares about) in Florida, which caused his stock to drop in many circles.

Ultimately the prosecutor in the case opted not to press charges, and the driver of the car Kirkpatrick was in at the time of the arrest signed an affidavit that the weed (a plant that grows naturally out of the ground) that cops found was all his and not Kirkpatrick's. You can thank William Randolph Hearst and the lies he spread through his media holdings many decades ago for the ridiculous laws the United States has about that.

My take on Kirkpatrick: he is a physical corner who has good size at 6'2" 190, and I anticipate cornerbacks who are good at jamming receivers within five yards of the line of scrimmage will rise in value with new player safety rules having tilted the NFL product toward the passing game. Tampa Bay desperately needs a top-tier cornerback, and if the Buccaneers don't sign a high profile free agent CB *and* if Claiborne is off the board by the time their pick comes up, I could see Tampa Bay selecting Kirkpatrick at that slot.

Keep in mind that some think there are multiple corners who project better than Kirkpatrick, including Nebraska CB Alfonso Dennard, Iowa State CB Leonard Johnson, and North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins (who I'm also bullish on), all three of whom rank ahead of Kirkpatrick on Mike Mayock's list of cornerbacks.

Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: I went out of my way to watch Coples play in the 2011 Independence Bowl at my girlfriend's parents' house, and I came away from that broadcast feeling that Coples wasn't giving his full effort on every play. That's not necessarily an indication of how he will perform in the NFL, but I was turned off by what I saw.

Coples is huge for a supposed 4-3 defensive end prospect at 6'6" 285. To me, Coples would be an ideal 3-4 DE, with the size to keep offensive lineman from reaching the linebacker level to open up holes for the running game while also being a threat to pressure the quarterback. I've seen him listed under 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB categories in a few places, and the thought of Coples at 285 pounds playing linebacker in any set seems laughable to me.

But there are others who are very high on Coples' NFL potential, including Matt Bitonti of Draft Daddy writing on Twitter that he believes that Coples will be the first defensive player selected in April's draft unless LSU CB Morris Claiborne runs a 4.3 40 yard dash.

One more player to keep in mind is Alabama RB Trent Richardson, who is the near universal projection to be the first running back drafted in April. I concur with that assessment, though I think it's far more likely that Richardson will go in the 16-20 range than the 5-10 range that some are projecting for him. That's because of the way that the NFL game has changed -- we just came off a Super Bowl with an undrafted RB (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) starting for New England and a seventh-round selection (Ahmad Bradshaw) starting at RB for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

Maybe I'm wrong about where Richardson will go, and please don't misunderstand that as a knock on him -- he's a fantastic talent. But the NFL game has changed, and GMs that fail to recognize that defending the pass and having a strong passing game will put themselves at a distinct disadvantage.


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