Earlier in the week, I presented a list of five guys making a late surge for first-round consideration (which you can read here).
Now, I’m flipping the script.
Simple physics says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So naturally, for every player that does “sneak” into the top 32, there has to be one that falls out.
But there are other factors in play, and the draft is a fluid beast on its best day. If you name it—need, availability, whatever—there’s a team willing to use it as an excuse.
Last year, the man to the left was that fall guy.
Many projected Rey Maualuga to go as high as No. 15 or No. 16 overall; instead, the Texans took fellow USC linebacker Brian Cushing, the Chargers selected DE/LB hybrid Larry English, and Maualuga fell all the way to the Bengals at No. 38.
That seemed to work out well, as Maualuga recorded 63 tackles, one sack, and three forced fumbles as a rookie.
The 10 players in the pages ahead have had their names bandied about as potential first-rounders at some point.
Unfortunately, they’re also the likeliest of that bunch to become the next Rey Maualuga for any number of reasons.
Bruce Campbell is an amazing physical specimen.
At 6’7”, 314 lbs., Campbell has almost the ideal size a team would look for in a left tackle. He’s also an exceptional athlete, as his combine numbers (4.75 40, 34 bench press reps, and 32" vertical) show.
But there are six offensive tackles in ESPN analyst Todd McShay’s latest mock draft—and Campbell isn’t one of them.
Size alone isn’t enough, especially at the most demanding position in the league, and even the addition of freakish athleticism doesn’t mitigate it much.
Campbell’s knocks seem to outweigh the positives: he demonstrates poor technique in certain blocks, has lazy feet, can be slow off the line, and so on and so on.
Then there’s his inexperience, as he declared early for the draft after starting only 17 games at Maryland.
Campbell probably could’ve stood to return to Maryland for his senior year.
The class of tackles in this draft is deep, and with guys like Indiana’s Rodger Saffold (who is in McShay’s first round) and UMass’ Vladimir Ducasse quickly moving up draft boards, there may be no room on Thursday’s dance card for a guy whose potential is still a little suspect.
In the last couple months, Charles Brown has been slotted in anywhere between 25 and 45 on various “big boards” put together by pundits and draft experts.
Originally a tight end, Brown was converted to tackle due to his unique combo of size (6’6”, 303 lbs.) and great quickness. He did well, earning All-Pac 10 honors as a senior.
However, left tackle is, as I mentioned in the previous slide, the most demanding position in the NFL, and with only two seasons as a starter under his belt, Brown may not be as “pro-ready” as others.
He’s a great developmental prospect, but projects—especially ones at immensely deep positions—don’t always get drafted in the first round.
Right now, NFL Draft Scout has him ranked as the No. 32 overall prospect and No. 5 OT, while McShay has Brown going at No. 24 to the Eagles.
Time (or Thursday) will tell, but Brown could very well find himself going very early on Friday instead.
Like Brown, Tate is rated toward the bottom of the first round (No. 31/No. 2 WR overall) and has been a fringe player for much of the offseason.
The thing with Tate, however, is that while WR isn’t a particularly deep position, his skill set at said spot doesn’t translate into a “No. 1” guy.
Sure, he’s fast (he ran a 4.42 40 at the combine), but he’s only 5’10” and he’s not “quick” off the line.
And yes, he runs excellent routes and will make tough grabs, but he tends to use his body too much at times and can be caught from behind easily enough.
In short, he’s a possession receiver in a speedster’s body...and possession receivers (in any body) don’t usually go in the first round, at least not on purpose.
Tate would fit in well on a lot of teams: Baltimore could use a complement to Anquan Boldin, Arizona could use someone to replace him, and the Broncos really need anyone.
But in a draft where the rest of the top prospects are all 6'1" or better and have fairly similar speed, a guy like Tate could easily slip into the second round.
I know, I know..myself and the team of Eagles FCs picked Dunlap at No. 24 in the FC Mock Draft.
But that was before they traded for Darryl Tapp, before Dunlap’s stock started dropping, and before Everson Griffen and Tyson Alualu became the latest rage.
Dunlap has all the tools; he’s a 6’6”, 280-pound lineman who runs a 4.6 and is a great pass rusher.
But when his Pro Day numbers didn’t come out much better than his Combine totals, that old critique of “he gets to one level and stays there” came rushing back.
Add that into his December DUI—which will haunt him forever—and the questions about his character and desire seem to outweigh his positives.
Both Griffen and Alualu have moved into McShay’s latest mock, and Dunlap isn’t with them.
At this point, I wouldn’t be the only one who would be surprised if Dunlap still hears his name called on Thursday night.
Jahvid Best has the potential to be the perfect “lightning” back in any rotation. He has huge big play potential, can help teams immensely in the return game, and ran a ridiculous 4.34 40 at the combine.
He’s ranked as the No. 39 overall prospect by NFL Draft Scout, and many feel he could sneak into the first round—especially if the Texans select Fresno State’s Ryan Mathews at No. 20.
I, however, don’t think so.
Forget Best’s durability concerns, even the ones related to concussions. And forget that someone will draft CJ Spiller early, even if running back isn’t their biggest need, because Spiller is that dynamic.
There are two teams for whom running back is even close to the top priority: Houston and San Diego. Both have another immediate pressing need (CB and NT, respectively), but have been rumored to be looking at backs as of late.
So what’s the problem? Well, it’s that both teams already have that “lightning” back.
Houston really, really, REALLY needs a corner, but if they do go running back, it will be a bigger one to complement and/or replace Steve Slaton. That’s Mathews, who goes 6’, 218 lbs. but isn’t that much “slower” than Best.
As for the Chargers, they already have Darren Sproles. If Mathews is available (and they think a guy like Terrence Cody will be there at No. 40), they’ll take him.
If he’s not, they’re much more likely to reach for a Cody or Cam Thomas than they are a back similar to the one they have—one who might also be there at No. 40.
Best has first round-type talent, but lack of need will get him more than anything else.
Brian Price is another “fringe” prospect whose value fluctuates wildly. NFLDS has him as the No. 34 overall talent, but various mocks have had him going anywhere from No. 8 to in the 40s.
He’s a good talent, and would be a great fit as a weak-side DT in a 4-3 defense.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what will knock him out of Round One.
Not many 4-3 teams are even left, and the ones that are around either don’t need a tackle or have a pick high enough to get Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy.
Beyond them, the other “second tier” prospects fit in better with the late-round teams than Price does.
Tennessee’s Dan Williams and Alabama’s Terrence Cody are better pure noses in the 3-4, Penn State’s Jared Odrick is bigger, faster, and more versatile than Price, and late riser Linval Joseph from East Carolina is a tweener who could get a look in a 3-4 at the nose as well.
Whoever gets Price will be getting a strong, explosive player, but they should be able to get him on Friday.
Thomas is considered to be the second or third-best receiver in the draft. NFLDS has him listed at No. 35 overall, and mocks have him anywhere from mid-first to early-second (McShay has him No. 25 to Baltimore).
There’s no doubt that he’s very talented, and at 6’3” with 4.52 speed, he fits that prototypical receiver mold on paper.
However, not a lot of teams need receivers, and even McShay has admitted that that there’s a big drop-off in talent level from Dez Bryant to Thomas.
Denver could use a receiver, but if they can get ILB Rolando McClain at No. 11, they will. That shunts Bryant down to possibly No. 18 (Pittsburgh), No. 22 (New England), or No. 25/26 (Baltimore/Arizona).
Pittsburgh needs interior linemen and corners, and could get quite a good one at No. 18. New England needs defense, and Arizona needs a rush linebacker.
If all this comes to fruition, then unless a team like Cincinnati pulls a surprise and grabs Bryant (as in McShay’s mock), he might not even go until the end of the round.
If that happens, Thomas won’t have a chance of cracking the Top 32.
“JPP” is another curious case. His talent has had him as high as a top 10 overall talent at times, and while he’s only No. 23 according to NFLDS right now, McShay has him going No. 10 to Jacksonville in the latest mock.
Here’s why I think he could slip: that dreaded “project” label.
Pierre-Paul had a tough combine, and NFLDS’ Rob Rang notes on JPP’s draft profile that multiple scouts say he’s a year away from contributing because he doesn’t seem to understand basic football principles.
Now, when you consider that he didn’t start playing football until junior year of high school (inexperience, aka lack of football IQ) and had to go the Juco route before coming to USF (lack of book smarts?), that doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
But again, projects, especially at deep positions, can sometimes slip.
He’s a hell of a pass rusher, but one-dimensional players are situational at best in the NFL—and they’re definitely not first-rounders. If enough teams have concerns about his readiness, run defense, technique, or strength, he could slip.
Given that the draft is full of 3-4 rush linebackers and guys like Everson Griffen and Tyson Alualu are moving up the actual DE board, JPP could become a victim of the seemingly obvious “the further he falls, the less he fits in” conundrum.
A few days ago, I had Robinson on my list of players who were making a late surge for first-round consideration.
Now, playing Devil’s advocate, let me tell you why he won’t get there: Eric Berry and Earl Thomas.
If Sam Bradford goes No. 1 overall, Berry could slip to the Browns at No. 7; as good as he is, Kansas City and Seattle can fill a much bigger need elsewhere.
If that happens, Florida CB Joe Haden could slip to Miami at No. 12, San Francisco at No. 13, Pittsburgh at No. 18, or even down to Houston at No. 20.
The further he falls, the less likely a Thursday appearance becomes for Robinson.
Kyle Wilson and Devin McCourty are better prospects, and the Packers reportedly are high on Kareem Jackson.
Now, onto Thomas.
He’s listed as a corner, many teams see him as a safety, and he’s a wild card either way.
He could go anywhere from No. 10 to No. 20, although I doubt that he’d get past Houston either way.
But as I mentioned earlier, the Texans could pull a swerve and select Ryan Mathews. I don’t think they will unless both Haden and Wilson are gone, but they could feel secure thinking they can get Virginia’s Chris Cook or someone who slips at No. 51.
It might take six corners going in the first round to get Robinson in there, and the lower the first ones go, the harder that reality becomes. Philly, Green Bay, and Baltimore all could go there, but again, it all depends on prospect value.
Of the six big CBs I’ve named, scouts think Robinson has the chance to be the biggest “bust”, so he could very easily slip to the early-second.
I love that photo...it's like the Boogeyman was photoshopped into Kellen Moore's promo poster photo.
Anyway, Todd McShay has Jerry Hughes going No. 12 to Miami, NFLDS has him as the No. 29 overall prospect, and all signs point to Hughes comfortably going somewhere on Thursday.
But I need to make a point here, and Hughes is my unfortunate victim. Even more sadly, that point has nothing to do with Hughes’ talent—it’s simply history.
Almost every year, some team in the middle of the round panics and either trades up to get a guy they want or reaches for a guy that only they value that high...and it throws a monkey wrench into everything.
That’s bound to happen when someone over-drafts the top guy at a thin position. But in a draft where so many other spots are insanely deep, that problem could be exacerbated and get a good player lost in the shuffle.
In 2010, that scenario could happen because of the extreme dearth of 4-3 outside linebackers.
Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon (outside, No. 27 overall) is the best in the class. TCU’s Daryl Washington is No. 43, and is the only other OLB in the Top 100 prospects who isn’t either a project or a converted end better suited to the 3-4.
Weatherspoon should, in all reality, go anywhere from maybe No. 19 to No. 32; the Falcons are high on him, while the Saints would likely snatch him if he dropped to the end of the round.
But depending on what happens in the first few hours, it’s very likely that a team like the Giants—who are desperate for help at every LB spot—could panic and take him at No. 15.
If that happens, you could see 4-3 teams go after secondary needs, letting players at other thin positions (Dez Bryant or Jared Odrick?) continue to drop and end up falling into the lap of a team who would love to have them.
That’s how good players at deep positions end up falling into round two.
Hughes is the third or fourth best 3-4 rush linebacker-type in the draft, depending on who you ask. But if a handful of over-drafts allow 3-4 teams to fill other needs in the middle of the round, poor Jerry might get bumped out of the big money.