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Draft King Analysis
April 19, 2012
Lou Pickney,

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One week from tonight, the 2012 NFL Draft will commence at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. I'll be there live in person to see it, which should be a very fun experience. I'm locked in to attend on both Thursday 4/26 and Friday 4/27, where I will take in the sights and sounds. But there are a ton of subplots and rumors and leaks and late moves that will come to light over the next week, and you can anticipate all kinds of swerves and well poisonings (metaphorically) and perhaps even a major trade or two, though at this point all indications are that there are more teams wanting to trade down than trade up.

But the motivation to trade up usually comes from a certain player coveted by a given team falling and that team making a move to get him. Even the Redskins/Rams trade had that element, with Stanford QB Andrew Luck all but a lock to the Colts at that time and the Redskins wanting to make a move to get a franchise quarterback in the form of Baylor QB Robert Griffin III.

Some thoughts on the latest developments:

Adam Schefter reported earlier this week that the Minnesota Vikings hadn't made up their mind on who they will take at #3. Until that point I had been skeptical of Minnesota's intentions, suspecting they wanted USC OT Matt Kalil but would put out feelers to see if a team might be inclined to trade up for someone like LSU CB Morris Claiborne or Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon or even Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd.

Schefter isn't a rube or a nave green reporter falling for a red herring or a patsy being propped up by the Vikings. You might recall that Schefter broke the news that the Rams had decided to draft Sam Bradford #1 overall in 2010. When he reports something, it's worth listening and paying attention. And it was no surprise today when news leaked that the Vikings still haven't made up their mind but that they have reportedly narrowed their consideration to three players: Kalil, Claiborne, and Blackmon.

Kalil makes the most sense. He's the best offensive tackle prospect by a mile in this draft class, and the Vikings need to protect last year's first-round pick, QB Christian Ponder, plus open holes for RB Adrian Peterson, who returns in 2012 from a torn ACL he sustained in his left knee last year. Claiborne is a great corner, but given that Minnesota primarily utilizes a Cover 2 style scheme that doesn't demand as much man-coverage skill from cornerbacks, he wouldn't represent the kind of value for the Vikings that he would for most other teams. Blackmon is an outstanding wide receiver prospect, but there will be talent at receiver on the board in later rounds.

I'm rather bemused by anonymous reports (chronicled here in an excellent piece by Doug Farrar) finding nit-pick faults with Griffin. It's not like the Redskins are going to reverse course on RG3 at this point, not after mortgaging the farm to move up four spots with the explicit intent of drafting Griffin. So why the snipes at Griffin for supposedly being selfish?

If you want to talk about something shameful involving Griffin, it's that Baylor didn't catch heat from the mainstream media for putting Griffin back in against Texas Tech after he sustained a concussion from a cheap shot elbow to the head that a Texas Tech player landed while Griffin was sliding. Griffin was removed from the game after the hit, but then Baylor's coaching staff inexplicably allowed him to return. RG3 scored on a three-yard TD run soon thereafter, and finally common sense set in and Baylor kept Griffin out for the rest of the game.

Robert Griffin III and Terrance Ganaway
Baylor RB Terrance Ganaway (right) checked on Griffin (left) after he sustained a concussion. (US PRESSWIRE)

Considering what is now known about CTE, along with the severe dangers involved with incurring multiple concussions within a short amount of time, Baylor deserves the shame and disdain of the sports world for putting Griffin at such a risk.

Much like a horse race, sometimes there are guys who break out from the back of the pack and make a late run up draft boards. Perhaps no example is stronger on that this year than Boise State OLB Shea McClellin, who was seen by many as a mid-to-late round prospect before impressing scouts and GMs at his pro day in Boise. At 6'3" 260 he has the size to play in a DE/OLB role (4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB), and he could manage to sneak into the bottom part of round one.

One disadvantage for McClellin is that this draft is stacked with great DE/OLB prospects. Any number of the following 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB players could end up being selected in the first round: Melvin Ingram (South Carolina), Courtney Upshaw (Alabama), Quinton Coples (North Carolina), Nick Perry (USC), Whitney Mercilus (Illinois), Chandler Jones (Syracuse), Vinny Curry (Marshall), Andre Branch (Clemson), and of course McClellin. Add in 4-3 OLB Zach Brown (North Carolina) and that's ten players who could go in the top 32 slots. Ten!

Of course all ten won't go in the first round, but it creates an interesting decision for a team like the Jaguars. If they want to go WR and 4-3 DE with their first two picks, would they go Floyd/DE or Ingram/WR? I realize that teams typically worry more about the highest ranked players on their board with filling needs being a secondary issue, but in this hypothetical situation the question is this: is targeting an elite WR and a second-round defensive end a better plan than targeting the top defensive end on the board and then go after a receiver in round two.

More tomorrow, including a look at players who might take a Chutes and Ladders type fall down the draft board if they slide beyond their expected range.


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