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2011 NFL Draft : Biggest First Round Gambles

JW NixSenior Writer IIApril 20, 2011

2011 NFL Draft : Biggest First Round Gambles

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    The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft approaches and is full of questions and head-scratchers.

    Every year there is a team that makes questionable picks, but this year has perhaps more than any other in recent memory because of the mediocre talent available. 

    Here are some of this year's possible first round draft picks that deserve the most scrutiny.

Cam Newton

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    Basically a one-year wonder who ran a very simple offense in college. There are questions on how he will do taking direct snaps and if he can handle the verbiage of NFL playbooks.

    Yet his size, strength, and athleticism are much too good to ignore. While some worry he will follow in the sorry footprints of JaMarcus Russell, many think he has the grit and determination to be special.

Da'Quan Bowers

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    Once touted as possibly the first pick in the draft, recent knee issues could have him near the end of the first round now. He is first round material with an All-Pro skill set, but knees can end hopes fast.

    The gamble is if his knee holds up in the trenches.

Jake Locker

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    People like his leadership and will to win. Yet his arm has shown to be erratic at best in some post-draft events.

    Taking him in the first round is a gamble that could set a franchise back a decade, but this can be said with every quarterback in the 2011 draft class because none are considered "can't miss" prospects.

Blaine Gabbert

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    Gabbert gets called an "athletic Drew Bledsoe," but can he work under center? The problem with all of these spread offenses in college is that they really don't get players NFL-ready.

    While many scouts rate him highest amongst the quarterbacks in the draft, he has a lot of work to do. Besides an erratic deep ball, he needs to work on touch passes and tends to force balls because he relies on his arm too much.

    But he has excellent mobility, which can cover up mistakes at times. He might be the first quarterback drafted, but the only question is how his work goes while training. He could be a Pro Bowler or just an average player—it is up to him.

Ryan Mallett

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    Some scouts think Mallett's recent dip in stock is a smoke screen and he will in fact go in the first round. You can't teach 6'7", 250 lbs., nor the excellent arm Mallett has.

    Yet his alleged character issues are said to scare some teams off. He needs to improve his footwork, and he isn't that athletic. But he is a leader with a huge desire to win.

    He is the most pro-ready QB of the top prospects. Mallett could have a special career ahead and be the steal of the draft. Yet there is the risk he never realizes his potential because of his supposed lack of maturity.

Julio Jones

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    He is fierce, and not the blabber-mouthed softhead many NFL WR's are. So you know he is a quality guy in the locker room.

    His issue is if he will spend most of his time in the trainers room, because he has shown himself to be injury-prone thus far. He is nursing yet another injury right now,

    Jones could be a go-to guy who carries an offense, but he also could be a guy who spends a few years on the I.R., takes the money, then fades away and is quickly forgotten. A big gamble to take in the first round.

Robert Quinn

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    He has a ton of ability and has been flying up the boards recently. Yet his character issues and history of a brain tumor could scare teams off.

Danny Watkins

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    The old Canadian fireman has been getting a lot of press lately, and he will be a solid guard in the NFL. But do will a team waste a first pick on a guy who could just be good and is going to have a shorter career because of his age?

Nate Solder

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    A converted tight end, he is athletic and will provide good pass protection. He just isn't going to pancake anyone and can be bull-rushed.

    In a pass-happy scheme, he works well. But he really needs to improve his footwork, then his strength. He would is a second-round talent who has slipped into the first because of the mediocrity of the overall talent.

Muhammad Wilkerson

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    This former basketball player has size and athleticism. He is good at stopping the run and might have good pass rushing abilities with a little work.

    Some scouts worry he does not possess enough of a mean streak and his first step is not very explosive. Though he is listed as a defensive tackle, many feel defensive end in the 3-4 is his calling.

    Wilkerson's level of competition wasn't elite usually, but he has excellent size. Still, the deepest position in the 2011 draft is the run stuffing defensive tackle. Does he go in the first or slip past guys like Stephen Paea, Phil Taylor, Cam Heyward, and even Marvin Austin?

Mark Ingram

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    Ingram has a Heisman Trophy and national championship ring in his possession. But there are concerns about his knee, not good if you are a running back who works best between the tackles.

    He isn't a big back to begin with, so a bad wheel could scare teams off and put him in the second round.

Brooks Reed

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    Some are trying to call Reed a Clay Matthews III clone. Those are the guys throwing his name in the first round as well.

    But other scouts do not like his lack of burst, closing speed, and propensity to get swallowed up by strong blockers. They tab him in the third to sixth rounds.

Derek Sherrod

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    Sherrod is a mixed bag of scouting reports. Some love his size, others lament his lack of desire. A hit or miss prospect who could slip into the second round.

Marvin Austin

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    The wild-card of the draft. Many love his skills and think he could be the steal of the draft. They love his size and quickness, as well as agility. A team could grab him in round one.

    The character issues scare other teams off. He also has a habit of playing too high and has moments where he doesn't seem aware of where the ball is. Some worry about his work ethic and note how he struggles to shed double teams.

    Drafting him early is a gamble, but it could pay off big.

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