2011 NFL Draft: These 5 Blue Chip Prospects Are Locks For The Top 10
With the 2010 college football season over and only the most pointless bowl games left, it’s now time for the true fun of the college season to begin - the 2011 NFL Draft. Even with all the uncertainty surrounding the NFL labor situation, this year’s NFL draft looks to be loaded with talent.
Every draft has what scouts refer to as “blue chippers,” prospects who are the cream of their respective draft crop. These are potential franchise changing prospects. For instance the blue chippers for the 2010 Draft were Ndamukong Suh, Sam Bradford, Eric Berry, Gerald McCoy and Russell Okung.
The 2011 Draft is no different, and depending on whether or not these prospects decide to declare, there are potentially five blue chip prospects in the upcoming draft. These are players who are all but assured of going in the top 10 of that year's draft because they have the potential to be franchise players.
Every single one of these players is an underclassman and as such none of these players have announced whether or not they will go pro. If it does indeed look like a lockout will happen, I wouldn’t be surprised if some if not most of these players would return for their senior or redshirt junior seasons.
Also take into account that even if a labor agreement is reached that agreement will surely include language to curtail the massive payments to rookie players. The days of $40 million plus guaranteed contracts going to rookies is over.
However, should these five players decide to declare, regardless of trades or what teams are picking, they are guaranteed to be picked in the top 10.
In no particular order…
*I do work for the NFL Draft Bible as a draft analyst, but visit NFLDraftbible.com for comprehensive coverage of the 2011 NFL Draft.
1. Robert Quinn, Defensive End, Junior, North Carolina
First off, even if there is a looming lockout Quinn will declare no matter what. This is because he has lost his college eligibility in the massive North Carolina scandal this year that involved inconsistencies with grades and contact with agents.
Quinn also did not play a down of college football last year, missing every single game. So how is he still on this list?
Because 6’4, 260 pound pass rushers who run a sub 4.4, have a non-stop motor and are three-time state wrestling champions do not come along very often. Quinn is just a freak athlete, his hips are fluid, his burst sudden and violent and he has long arms and fantastic balance.
And Quinn’s motor cannot be understated; it’s rare to see a player as athletic as Quinn play with such constant fire.
Quinn might be the best 3-4 outside linebacker prospect since DeMarcus Ware was drafted 10th overall by the Dallas Cowboys in 2005. However if a 4-3 team drafted him he also has the potential to be a dominant right end.
I believe Quinn to be the most talented pure pass rusher to come out college since Dwight Freeney came of Syracuse in 2002.
However, it must be said that Quinn comes with another red flag aside from missing his junior season. In high school Quinn had to have surgery to remove a brain tumor, and the surgery was not minor. Quinn must prove that he is healthy in pre-draft doctor examinations to justify his draft position.
2. Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Red-Shirt Sophomore, Stanford
Luck will be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft should he decide to come out and survives his bowl game healthy. The only reason Luck wouldn’t come out is a lockout looked to be a sure reality.
So why is Luck guaranteed such lofty draft status if he comes out?
Simply put, Luck is a coaches dream.
What makes Luck truly special is his understanding of how to play mistake-free football. The ball leaves his hands quickly and in rhythm with the offense, often neutralizing a defense’s pass rush. Also Luck rarely forces the issue with the ball, so his interception numbers are tiny because he rarely throws into bad coverage.
And it is my belief that despite his somewhat side arm delivery at times, Luck has the fastest release since Dan Marino. That also helps Luck with his ability to keep his turnovers so low.
Physically Luck has everything you want in an NFL quarterback; a strong arm, great size, good strength, accuracy, smooth hips, nice scrambling ability and feet as light as feathers.
Luck‘s arm strength is more Eli Manning than Jay Cutler, but that is still plenty of arm. Luck will be able to make every throw in the NFL, including the all-important back shoulder fade.
Luck is a franchise quarterback; any team that drafts him will immediately get a shot in the arm and a positive direction for their future. That is why he will be the No. 1 pick should he decide to declare.
3. A.J. Green, Wide Receiver, Junior, Georgia
Green is the best wide receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson went second overall to the Detroit Lions in 2007. The best compliment I can give to Green is that he is a poor-man’s Randy Moss, and I mean that as a compliment.
Moss is the most athletically gifted wide receiver to ever play in the NFL, and to be mentioned in the same breath as him is a big compliment.
For being such a tall player, Green has truly rare and elite quick twitch athleticism. It is like he has dynamite in his hips, allowing truly rare explosion and lateral agility. Green can make Randy Moss like impossibly difficult catches while also being capable of Santana Moss like moves in the open field.
Green truly has an enormous pass catch radius; so long as a quarterback gets the ball in a 10 foot vicinity of Green more often than not he will make the catch. It’s wide receivers like this who make bad quarterbacks look good.
Green has engaged in truly epic battles with fellow blue chip prospect Patrick Peterson, and Green has more than held his own. That in itself has answered a lot of questions that I had about Green’s thin frame, and whether or not he needs to add muscle or not.
Now it must be said that I believe that Green is not as fast as a lot of people think, I wouldn’t even be shocked if he timed his 40 yard dash in the 4.5 range, but that wont stop him from being a truly lethal scheme busting No. 1 NFL wide receiver.
From the moment A.J. Green steps onto an NFL field he will draw a safety over the top of him at all times, and that kind of attention can open up an entire offense’s playbook and make life easier on everyone, most importantly the quarterback’s.
4. Da’Quan Bowers, Defensive End, Junior, Clemson
Coming into this year’s college season, no player sparked more debate amongst NFL Draft scouts and analysts as Bowers. His play against the run his first two years at Clemson were fantastic, but his pass rushing was abysmal. Not only was he not sacking the quarterback, he wasn’t generating any pressure.
And this was a kid that many people called the “Next Bruce Smith” when he first got to Clemson.
Some scouts saw his lack of pass rushing production and had him a second or third round pick, and others, like me, understand you can’t teach talent and had him graded as a first round prospect.
And boy is Bowers loaded with talent. Standing at 6'4 and about 280 pounds Bowers is cut like a granite sculpture. He is just packed with strong muscle, which combined with his fantastic speed and burst gives him an almost endless athletic package.
Bowers also has excellent natural athletic talent for run stuffing due to his incredibly strong legs and giant bubble butt. When Bowers plays with proper technique, he can be an immovable object in the run game.
Now after a huge junior campaign, all those questions about Bowers abilities rushing the passer are concerns of the past.
Bowers has been a nightmare of a pass rusher this season, generating 16 sacks and over 20 tackles of a loss. And the way Bowers has gotten those sacks is very impressive because he has done it from almost every position in the front seven. Standing off the edge, three point inside, three point outside, standing up the gut.
And he has shown a much better understanding of leverage and technique in his pass rush.
Bowers has almost endless schematic and positional versatility, he can play either 4-3 defensive end position and rush from the defensive tackle position, I think he could play as a Bruce Smith type 3-4 end or even as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Bowers has rare potential, he has the ability to develop into a defensive player who can single handily take over and win a game for his team. Guys like that are rare, which is why Bowers has blue chip written all over him.
5. Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, Junior, LSU
Patrick Peterson has a chance to be the highest drafted cornerback since Shawn Springs was drafted third overall by the Seattle Seahawks in 1997. Peterson might be the most physically talented secondary prospect since the late great Sean Taylor was drafted fifth overall by the Washington Redskins in 2004.
To put that in perspective, I believe Taylor was the most physically talented safety to ever play the game of football.
Peterson’s athletic skill set almost seems like it should be an oxymoron. He is gigantic, standing 6’1 and over 215 pounds but runs a sub 4.4 40-yard dash, and has the hips and light feet of a dancer.
It’s like some crazy NFL general manager went to some mad scientist with hair samples from Deion Sanders and Nnamdi Asomugha and told him to create a hybrid being from the two.
Peterson is like the Andre Johnson of cornerbacks. He can out-muscle you, out quick you and out fast you. He can lay a devastating jam at the line of scrimmage against players like Larry Fitzgerald with his Spider-Man long arms and has the speed and hips to handle speedsters like the Carolina Panther’s Steve Smith.
And did I mention that he loves to play the run? Peterson is so good against the run it’s like having a safety lined up over a wide receiver. Offenses quickly learn that running sweeps, tosses or screens to Peterson’s side of the field are not a good idea.
And to top all of this off Peterson is a devastating kick and punt returner. He has Joshua Cribbs potential in this regard, a total game changer.
Any team that drafts Peterson is getting an elite player who can help them control two out of the three phases of the game. That is why Peterson is a blue chip prospect, and that is why he is a lock for the top 10.