NFL Draft 2011: 7 Final Questions (and a Few Answers)

Paul BrassardContributor IApril 28, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: 7 Final Questions (and a Few Answers)

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27:  Cam Newton looks on during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    NFL draft rumors are flying fast and furious with just about two hours left to the 2011 draft. 

    From Cam Newton's potential to be a franchise QB, Nick Fairley's rise and fall as the potential first overall pick, and potential trades, here are seven questions I've been thinking about in the last 24 hours. 

Does Cam Newton Possess the Single-Minded Focus to Become a Franchise QB?

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Cameron Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigersc reacts with his team against the Oregon Ducks during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Chri
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    It seems more and more likely that Carolina thinks so. 

    Sports Illustrated’s Peter King quoted Newton back in February as saying “I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.''  Carolina has to be hoping that the entertainer/icon portion of his lifestyle will take a distant back seat to the film-studying NFL starting QB wannabe. 

    If substance trumps style in the Newton camp, look for a huge NFL career (think Ben Roethlisberger with far more speed, or Michael Vick with DE size) if style trumps substance look for Carolina’s franchise to be setback in five years (think JaMarcus Russell).

What Happened to Nick Fairley?

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28:  Defensive lineman Nick Fairley of Auburn looks on during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Fairley was once considered a candidate for the first overall selection. 

    Fairley was a five-time SEC Defensive Player of the Week last season before being named AP’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year and winning the Lombardi award.  Concerns over his relatively short track record and perhaps character issues have driven down his draft stock (at least in the eyes of draft pundits).  I’ve seen projections leaving him outside of the top 15. 

    That would be shocking to me. 

    Tennessee picking eighth is a popular choice as a possible destination for Fairley.  Could he slide as far as the Cowboys selecting ninth?  I say if he makes it past the Titans he becomes the ninth pick.  Whether the Cowboys select him or trade down I don’t believe he makes it past No. 9.

Will Jake Locker’s Inaccuracy Be Overlooked by Potential NFL Suitors?

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    TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Washington Huskies drops back to pass during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Huskies 4
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Locker has had accuracy issues in Washington and just watching him in a skills competition showed flashes of inconsistency. 

    But Locker has a “big arm” and we’ve all seen NFL exec’s fall in love with those “prototype” bodies.  For my money, Locker is not a first-round talent.

Who Is Aldon Smith?

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    COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 23: Aldon Smith #85 of the Missouri Tigers in action against the Oklahoma Sooners at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Columbia, Missouri.  The Tigers beat the Sooners 36-27.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Image
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    And why is no one talking about him?

    I’m just asking because in a year with so much hype surrounding fellow DE and OLB prospects Smith seems to have taken a distant backseat in terms of press, yet may be selected before any of the other higher profile prospects.

How Many Players Will the Patriots Pick in the First Round?

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the sideline during the second quarter of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2009 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by
    Elsa/Getty Images

    New England holds the rights to the 17th and 28th picks in the first round as well as multiple picks in the  second and third rounds as well.  

    Is this the year the Patriots cash in their chips and use all the picks they’ve been stockpiling?

    No. 

    Look for Bill Belichick and company to restock themselves for the 2012 draft, a draft that they currently only own five picks in.  For the critics who suggest that players, not picks, win championships keep in mind that the Patriots have selected eight times in the first and second rounds of the previous two drafts (McCourty, Gronkowski, Cunningham, Spikes, Chung, Brace, Butler, Vollmer). 

    Belichick and his staff have done a shrewd job of giving the Patriots the best of both worlds, lots of prime picks coupled with a sound investment in future drafts.

Who Will Make the First Surprise Pick of the 2011 Draft?

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 25:  Missouri Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert answers questions during a media session at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 25, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    I’m thinking that it may happen early, real early. 

    Think an early trade at the fourth, fifth or sixth pick as someone (Washington, Miami, or even a long-shot like Seattle, or Oakland) get in front of San Francisco and select Blaine Gabbert.

Who Will Be the Most Surprising Player to Drop out of the 1st Round?

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    SEATTLE - OCTOBER 30:  Quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Washington Huskies is tackled by Chase Thomas #44 of the Stanford Cardinal on October 30, 2010 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Locker is a candidate and could help ignite a frenzy of activity Friday among teams that have early second round picks.  Watch as clubs jostle for position to pick up QB’s who may have slid out of round one (Locker, Ponder, Mallett). 

    However don’t be surprised if someone pulls the trigger on Locker late in the first, if that’s the case then one of the highly touted DE's (Clayborn, Heyward, or perhaps even Bowers) could be the man.