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Draft King Analysis
January 26, 2014
Lou Pickney,

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With only one game left in the NFL season, next Sunday's Super Bowl, the attention of many fans has turned toward the draft. Yes, busy season has arrived for me. Some thoughts: -I fully anticipate plenty of teams looking to trade up with St. Louis at #2 overall, particularly teams with GMs in the dreaded "win now or lose your job" slot. If Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley were in this year's draft, the stakes could have been really high. But their respective decisions to go back to Oregon and UCLA mean that this isn't as strong of a draft class as it looked like it might be as recently as two months ago. Though, at the same time, that also creates a scarcity for elite quarterback prospects, which in turn raises the pressure for managers who might feel a desperate need to make the playoffs this season.

Supply-and-demand economics is just as real in the NFL Draft as it is in the world of business. I don't think we'll see the Rams land as one-sided of a deal as what they did with the Redskins in 2012, but there also aren't any prospects in this draft with as much buzz as Andrew Luck and RG3 had going into that draft.

-The annual overreaction time is here coming out of Senior Bowl week. There is usually some course correction on a few players and the occasional elevation of a player to elite status (e.g. Von Miller in 2011), but there is often a tendency among many in the draft analysis game to read too much into the results of a few days of practice for a glorified exhibition game in Mobile, Alabama.

A player who helped himself tremendously this week is Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman, who several evaluators have written highly about in the past week. I see him as being in the mix with Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan as being likely contenders to go in the middle of round one, particularly with 4-3 DT prospects with strong pass rush skills being as in demand as ever.

Three other players who gained plenty of positive attention this past week are Auburn DE Dee Ford, Notre Dame OL Zack Martin (tweener who will likely end up playing guard in the NFL) and perhaps the biggest shining star of the bunch, Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald. You can throw Donald into the mix with Hageman and Jernigan as far as first round 4-3 DT prospects, and by the time May rolls around you might end up seeing Donald drafted first out of the three.

Also, BYU DE/OLB Kyle Van Noy didn't hurt his cause any, and I've been high on him for some time. If the Jaguars end up taking a QB in round one of the draft, Van Noy (who they worked with this week) could be their target at the top of round too. The same is true for teams like Oakland and Atlanta.

One major downer out of the week was the torn ACL suffered by Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin in his right knee this past Tuesday. Some thought Colvin could have gone as high as round two, and he looked great in practice from all indications before his injury. Fluke injuries like that are a real shame to see happen, but they are an unfortunate reality of the game.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if Colvin falls to see the 49ers pull a Marcus Lattimore 2013 approach by drafting Colvin with one of its 12 (!) draft picks, stashing him on IR for a year, then having him as a young talented corner to add into the mix for 2015. When there isn't an insane pressure to win right away, teams have the latitude to plan for the future and, conversely, end up putting themselves in much better positions long-term.

-More later this week (hopefully) including a position-by-position look at some of the top contenders to end up being first-round picks. In some ways the quarterback jumble reminds me of 2011, though that isn't necessarily a good thing at all, but there are other pressing questions, including if we'll go a second straight year without a running back being taken in round one after last year being the first time that had ever happened. The game has changed though, and as a result so has the importance of certain positions relative to their draft status, with running back arguably being at the top of the list (with fullback a non-factor).


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