"The No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft is:" (Insert guess here).
Cam Newton, Patrick Peterson and Marcell Dareus are all viable names, but this year's draft will provide some intrigue.
The NFL lockout and unresolved collective bargaining agreement (CBA) can and will alter the teams' draft philosophies.
In the past, clubs like the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers have all found that taking the wrong quarterback with the top pick can prove extremely costly.
With the wage scale increasing to unfounded heights last year—Sam Bradford collected $50 million-plus guaranteed—teams have been forced into paying fortunes to unproven players, in an investment that their franchise is then stuck with for several years.
With the NFL lockout lifted by Judge Susan Nelson and stayed by the NFL, one thing that both sides do agree on is a lower rookie wage scale, which will reduce the amounts that high-profile players are guaranteed to make.
Could this mean teams will draft the skill position players higher than usual, realizing they'll not have to invest top dollar in these athletes and be held hostage for years by their enormous contracts?
I truly believe the answer is yes.
Unfortunately, the key positions of quarterback and running back just don't have quite the luster of previous years.
Which teams, however, will be smart enough to take advantage of this yet undetermined, unwritten rule?
It will be no surprise if we see some of the lesser organizations—Bengals and Raiders, for instance—make the same dumb mistakes, while the likes of the Patriots and Colts continue to make smarter moves.
Might we also see teams focus their drafts more on need, as opposed to "best player available," as a result of no free agency?
Could there be more or less trades between teams moving up or down the draft order?
I would think less, since teams will now be "paying" less for the players to begin with.
That being said, trading a first-round pick for a couple of second-rounders and a third can always be beneficial—a team can always be rewarded by gaining more picks by giving up just one.
Then again, a team desperate for a top player in the first round might just trade some twos and threes to move up and get another slice at some first-round action.
The Cincinnati Bengals, for example, appear to need both a quarterback and a receiver. Of course, they may feel they can hold out until free agency for a Kolb or a Bulger, or for current QB Palmer.
Cam Newton may be one fantastic specimen and an all-around athletic quarterback, but Jon Gruden's Quarterback Camp completely exposed his lack of football knowledge.
Newton doesn't understand how to speak the football language and was dumbfounded when put on the spot.
That bothers me more than anything.
As an NFL QB, you'll be asked to assess a play or moment on the field and determine what everyone else on the field is doing in an instant. It will take a minimum two years before he has any chance of being successful at learning an NFL teams' playbook and schemes.
Jake Locker, on the other hand, did a fantastic job in his interview with Gruden—mapping out plays, routes and displaying solid overall football knowledge and an understanding of the game. It goes to show that he has and will continue to be, at the very least, a great and valuable student of the game.
So, with the 2011 NFL draft looming this Thursday, it will be interesting to see what tactics or modes of philosophy are employed by the different organizations.
Everyone's curiosity is peaking—we want to see where and when the high-profile names like Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett, Jake Locker, Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley and Patrick Peterson, arguably the best player overall, will go.
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