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National Football League
Draft King Analysis

June 29, 2011
Lou Pickney,

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The NFL and its players are continuing to work on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, facing the pressure that grows every day to find a deal that both sides can agree to before deadlines start to be passed. Both sides are slated to meet again tomorrow in Minneapolis, with some owners and players coming to town to sit in on the negotiations, which hopefully is a good sign. Because of the federal court order for secrecy in the talks, it's unknown how much progress has been made during this week's talks. We'll find out soon enough.

The word that came out late today is not encouraging, though. Jay Glazer reports that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told players in a conference call that, while he couldn't go into details due to the gag order, that negotiations have not advanced as well as some in the media believed to be the case. One issue that Smith did address is the split between the owners and players on when unrestricted free agency would begin under a new CBA: the players want the four years to UFA that the last CBA had, while owners want the six years that was the case under the "final year plan" last year.

At this point mini-camps and off-season training have been scuttled, with little chance for there to be much of anything happening with teams and players before the slated start of the first NFL training camps. Moreover, as we move closer and closer to the start of camps, some teams that traditionally hold camp on the road are finding themselves potentially having to cancel plans to train far away from home. That might not sound like a big deal, but for a town like Mankato, MN (which is tentatively slated to host the 2011 Minnesota Vikings training camp), there are potentially millions of dollars in revenue brought in by the camp that are on the line.

In short, this involves more than just the players and the owners. All sorts of connected and associated businesses and municipalities and people have a vested interest in seeing a deal worked out quickly, but there's no sign that any sort of deal is imminent. To the contrary, while the clock is ticking, there are still a number of issues which must be ironed out and/or compromised on before the NFL returns to business as usual.

One thing I hope that everyone remembers is that it's the NFL owners who opted out early from the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, not the players. Had the owners not exercised their opt-out option, there would be a full NFL season this fall.

I'm decidedly neutral on the situation, save for wanting the 2011 NFL season to take place in its entirety, but it's important in my estimation to remind the people who visit this site how we reached this point. Business is business, and the owners had the right to opt out early, but now they must face the consequences of a potentially irritated fan base as a result of their actions.

As for the current 2012 NFL Mock Draft up here on Draft King, to be clear I believe that Stanford QB Andrew Luck is the most likely to be the first player taken next year. But if a team like the Panthers, which used their first-round pick on a quarterback this past April, ends up with the pick, it's extremely unlikely that the team would take Luck in that spot. Of course a trade could (and probably would) happen for teams hoping to land Luck, but since Draft King doesn't project trades, for now UNC defensive end Quinton Coples is in the top spot.

Quinton Coples
Quinton Coples recorded ten sacks in 2010. (Icon SMI)
Coples received some great news this week when the NCAA determined that he didn't violate any rules by attending a post-draft party held for Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn, who both played for the Tar Heels with Coples in 2008 and 2009. But Austin and Quinn missed the 2010 season due to their alleged violations of NCAA rules in connection with the John Blake/Gary Wichard scandal that rocked North Carolina's football team late last summer. Luckily for Coples, he has been cleared of any wrongdoing, and he looks poised to build on his stellar 2010 campaign where he recorded ten sacks as he angles toward a jump to the NFL in 2012.

Some defensive ends are listed with a DE/OLB hybrid designation, meaning they could play defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. But don't look for Coples to be considered as an OLB for any NFL team, not at 6'6" 275 pounds (or 285 pounds as some sources list him). If he stays healthy *and* if follows up on his great 2010 season with a comparable 2011 campaign, he could easily end up as the top defensive player selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. Dominant sack artists with that kind of size don't come along very often, and it's even more impressive that Coples posted his impressive stats without Austin or Quinn to draw the attention of opposing offenses away from him.

Cliff Harris
Cliff Harris earned All-American honors in 2010. (Icon SMI)
I've had Oregon junior CB Cliff Harris marked down as a player to watch this fall for some time now, but Dan Kadar of wrote an article today pointing out some negatives about Harris, who looked great at times last season both at corner and as a punt returner. The three big points Kadar makes: Harris recently weighed in at a paltry 165 pounds (down from his listed 180 pounds), he ran a reported 4.75 forty-yard dash (which is horrible for a corner) in Oregon's off-season conditioning, and he's presently suspended indefinitely from Oregon's football team for allegedly driving a rental car 118 mph in a 65 mph zone... on a suspended driver's license. Oops.

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly says that Harris will for sure miss the season-opener in Dallas against LSU. When/if Harris returns, he will have to overcome the doubts that have crept up in the minds of numerous NFL Draft pundits. With a height of 5'11", Harris has average but not superior height for the cornerback position by modern NFL standards, and clearly his speed is a concern if the off-season 40 time he posted accurately reflects how fast he is when healthy and in pads.

But Harris also returned four punts for touchdowns last season and earned All-American honors for his play in his second year of action for the Ducks, and he was part of the reason why Oregon earned a berth in the BCS Championship Game against Auburn. It's hard to fathom that Harris won't play in 2011 for the Ducks; if LeGarrette Blount could punch a Boise State player on the field and return in the same season, Harris should be able to return as well if he avoids any future trouble.

Returning is one thing, but performing at a high level in another. Harris had looked like a potential first-round pick based on his 2010 performance, but he will have to reprove himself all over again in 2011. However, even if he does that, he will still face criticism based on what happened this off-season whenever he heads to the NFL.


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