Andrew Luck might be the most talked-about quarterback prospect since the Peyton Manning vs. Ryan Leaf debate
Draftniks and casual fans alike count down the days, hours, and minutes leading up to the NFL draft. It's the annual chance for every team to improve and inject optimism into their fan bases. Star power isn't as important as actual ability, and NFL front offices try not to let things like popularity affect their draft decisions, as it doesn't necessarily reflect a player's ability.
For casual fans, though, popular players are the main reason many people watch the draft. It's an intriguing storyline within an already-exciting event, and the plight of popular college stars is what makes the draft most interesting.
Where will so-and-so end up? Who takes the chance on this player and his injury issues, or that one and his character concerns?
It's like a great reality show combined with the most popular sport in the country all wrapped up into a three-day long TV marathon.
There are many stars in this year's draft, whether it's due to their high level of talent, their attention-grabbing personality, or their incredible college stats. Stars do not always remain stars, but for now, they are the best of the best, the brightest lights on college football's biggest stage. Who will be lucky enough to land these star players in the hopes they can take their franchise to the next level?
Griffin is a star due to both his presence off the field as well as his performance on it. In 2011 he completed 72.4% of his passes for an outstanding 37 touchdowns and six interceptions. He averaged 10.7 yards per pass attempt, rushed for 699 yards and ten touchdowns, and was awarded the Heisman Trophy for his efforts. Yeah, he's good.
Griffin is the kind of player that sells tickets and excites crowds. He's got an outstanding arm and can make both deep and short throws with accuracy, but he also has the raw athletic ability to make plays with his legs as evidenced by his ten rushing touchdowns and the blazing 4.40 40-yard dash he ran at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Generally, players like Griffin are worth the number one pick, but there's one thing standing in his way: Andrew Luck.
If it wasn't for the presence of Luck, Robert Griffin III would easily be the most talked-about prospect in this draft and the clear-cut number one overall pick. As it stands now, he is the clear-cut number two overall player.
The St. Louis Rams hold the second overall pick, and it seems like a foregone conclusion that they will sell the rights to the pick to the highest bidder. Who will that bidder be? We will see come April.
Predicted destination: Second pick in the first round to the Cleveland Browns via trade.
Richardson is the kind of running back people can't help but enjoy watching. He has the speed to beat defenders to the edge and the power to blast forward and pick up tough yardage inside.
Richardson led Alabama to its second national title in three years in 2011 and finished as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He racked up 1679 yards on 283 attempts for a ridiculous 5.9 yards per carry average, scoring 21 touchdowns on the ground and three more through the air.
Though today's NFL stresses the passing game more than the run, Richardson is the type of back that could end up being worth a top-ten pick in the draft. His combination of power and speed has drawn comparisons from Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson, and even Walter Payton.
Trent Richardson is not any of these, though; he's simply Trent Richardson. His college stardom should follow him to the pros, where he should make a team very, very happy.
Predicted destination: Fifth pick in the first round to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brian Quick is not a star to the general public. He's so lacking in general star qualities that we don't even have a picture of him available. However, Quick is an absolute star to small-school draft gurus like Josh Buchanan of JBScouting.com.
Buchanan specializes in scouting FCS teams, and says Quick is one of the better prospects he's ever scouted. He told TheDraftSeason.com's Bobby Deren that Quick "has become more polished, a good route runner, and is fast for a guy his size. He has great hands and uses his body well. There are no deficiencies in his game."
Quick's 2011 stats were exceptional; he racked up an astronomical 2001 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 71 receptions, good for 15.4 yards per catch. Even more impressive: he did it in only 12 games, giving him a ridiculous per-game average of 166.8 yards.
At the combine, Quick measured in at 6-foot-3 and 1/2 with 34 1/4-inch arms, second-longest among wide receivers. He ran an unofficial 4.48 and an official 4.55 40-yard dash, both impressive times for a receiver of his height.
Buchanan thinks NFL personnel people will be high enough on Quick to draft him as early as the second round, and honestly, I don't make a habit out of disagreeing with the experts. I fully expect Brian Quick to be off the board by the end of day two of the draft.
Predicted destination: Seventh pick in the third round to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Blackmon is the kind of wide receiver people love to love. He's a big, strong receiver who can make things happen after the catch, and isn't afraid to knock defenders on their backs.
The Oklahoma State receiver finished 2011 as the nation's fourth-leading receiver with 1522 yards on 121 catches, scoring 18 touchdowns. He was a huge part of the Cowboys' thrilling 41-38 victory over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, racking up 186 receiving yards and three touchdowns against the Cardinals.
Blackmon isn't a Calvin Johnson, or a Larry Fitzgerald type of receiver, but he does have similarities with a player like Anquan Boldin. He's under 6-foot-1 and doesn't have a freakishly-large wingspan, but he's a tough wide out who can make plays down the middle.
Blackmon may never be a superstar in the NFL like he was in college, but the team that ends up with him will be more than happy with what he brings to the table.
Predicted destination: Tenth pick in the first round to the Chicago Bears.
To put it bluntly, Vontaze Burfict might be crazy. Maybe in a good way, and maybe not. He's the bringer of pain, the master of big hits, but also the drawer of many, many personal foul penalties which draws red flags both figuratively and literally.
Burfict is the kind of defensive player fans love to watch; he's intense past rational levels, and he lays the lumber on opposing ball carriers. He's a thumper, and fans who love using the "hit stick" on the Madden video game love watching Burfict lay his own "hit stick" blows to the opposition.
Though his college stats were solid, his NFL career doesn't seem likely to follow suit. Burfict ran an extremely disappointing 5.09 40-yard dash and didn't even participate in the bench press.
Some fans will point to Patriots inside linebacker Brandon Spikes as a comparison for Burfict, suggesting that he may still be an impact player despite his slow 40 time, but many scouts feel he is slow to react and can often be taken out of plays by competent blocking. The temper issues are just the icing on top of the "will he even get drafted?" cake.
There's no guarantee Burfict will be drafted, but wherever he ends up, it'll be interesting to see if he can tame his mean streak and channel his anger into productive play, or if he simply channels himself right out of the NFL.
Predicted destination: 23rd pick in the fifth round to the Detroit Lions.
During the 2011 season, Michael Felder of InTheBleachers.net coined the phrase "All Russell Wilson Everything" to describe the Badgers' quarterback. Though the phrase seems vague, its true meaning isn't that difficult to understand.
Felder is a big fan of Wilson's game, but Wilson started his college career at North Carolina State and Felder is a North Carolina Tar Heel fan. It was like Romeo and Juliet, college football style. Felder wanted so badly to root for Wilson, but wasn't able to let himself do so. Until...
Prior to 2011, Wilson transferred to Wisconsin, freeing Felder to root openly for the new Badger quarterback, and "All Russell Wilson Everything" was born. Wilson is the kind of player that brings fans with him everywhere he goes; he's electric on the field and makes things happen with both his arm and legs.
Wilson causes fans to change the channel to watch him play. His 72.8% completion percentage was third in the nation, and he ended the 2011 season with college football's best quarterback efficiency rating (191.8).
Wilson only measured at 5-foot-10 and 5/8 at the combine, meaning his role in the NFL will likely be as a backup and possibly a sub-package option. He ran a 4.55 40-yard dash and has the speed to play another position, but quarterback is likely where he will make his money in the NFL.
The best fit for Wilson would be a team with a starter that has a similar game, a la Cam Newton. Should that starter get injured, it would be time to show the NFL what "All Russell Wilson Everything" really means.
Predicted destination: Eighth pick in the fourth round to the Carolina Panthers.
There are college stars, and there are combine stars. Dontari Poe is definitely one of the latter.
Poe's performance at the NFL Scouting Combine was borderline legendary. He benched a combine-best 44 reps and ran an unofficial 4.87 40-yard dash...at 346 pounds. If that's not the definition of a "workout warrior", I don't know what is.
Poe's play on the field at Memphis left something to be desired; he often struggled to defeat blocks and didn't flash the athleticism he showed at the combine. He only picked up one sack and eight tackles for loss in the Memphis Tigers' disappointing 2-10 season, and was viewed as more of a second-day pick until he blew up the combine.
Though Poe's performance may have left the mouths of fans agape, scouts will see the tape more than his combine performance. His stock may have increased in the eyes of NFL personnel, but likely not to the point that he will go off the board in the first ten picks. After that point, though, anything goes. Where will this year's combine star end up?
Predicted destination: 11th pick in the first round to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Andrew Luck is not only this draft's biggest star; he may be the most widely-known quarterback prospect in NFL history. In the social media age, every player's highs and lows are immediately shared with the public. Scouting reports are now shared between experts on Twitter and amateur scouts just trying to break into the business, and we are consumed with information.
Luck's star shines not only because he's the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning, but also because of his personality. He's a humble, likable young man who should help propel the team that selects him back to the top of the heap in no time.
Luck possesses all the qualities a star quarterback must have: accuracy, arm strength, poise in the pocket, maturity, anticipation...everything. He's the real deal, and that's why he's going to go first overall.
The team lucky enough to land Luck is the Indianapolis Colts, who just yesterday cut ties with Manning himself. The veteran's release was in part due to the $28 million roster bonus he was due, but also partially due to the presence of Luck at the top of the draft board.
This one's a no-brainer, I promise I won't get this one wrong.
Predicted destination: First pick in the first round to the Indianapolis Colts.