2011 NFL Draft: Prince Amukamara, Christian Ponder Among First-Round Surprises
There are always surprises in the NFL Draft, but this year's first round was as wild as ever. Whether it be players tumbling down the draft boards or teams reaching for prospects, there were plenty of eye openers in the first 32 picks of this year's draft.
With teams not being able to sign free agents yet, and no real indication of when that might start to happen, that left the draft as the only way for a team to address their needs. That's why it was predicted that things could get a little bit crazy, but not even the best draft experts could have predicted how things went down.
Let's take a look at the biggest shockers from the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
5. Prince Amukamara Falls to the Giants at No. 19
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The last mock drafts put out by Todd McShay and Mel Kiper both had Prince Amukamara going at 20th overall to Tampa Bay, so this may not initially seem like a huge surprise that he would go No. 19. However, Amukamara is a consensus top 10 talent in this draft so the fact that he slid is strange, whether it was predicted to happen or not.
In the last few days, some concerns came out about the fact that Amukamara has shorter than ideal arms for a cornerback, making him slightly more susceptible to getting beaten by bigger wide receivers. To me this appears to be a classic case of teams over analyzing a prospect who has been on their radar for too long.
Are the short arms of Amukamara something to worry about? Possibly. Should they outweigh the fact that Prince has the best corner instincts in the draft along with elite measurables for the position? Not at all.
Prince Amukamara has been on the radar of NFL teams as a first-round talent since about this time last year. Given all that time to look at a prospect, scouts can sometimes look so hard for flaws that they forget why they liked the player in the first place. This was bad news in terms of Amukamara's draft stock, but it was great news for the New York Giants.
In the long run, this might actually be better for Prince Amukamara as well. While his signing bonus certainly took a hit, his career may have gotten a boost. In general, going to a successful franchise can often make the transition from college star to impact player in the NFL a little bit easier.
4. Blaine Gabbert Goes No. 10 to Jacksonville
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First of all, let me say I think Blaine Gabbert is a good pick for Jacksonville, especially if they let him sit for a year behind David Garrard. However, the entire situation leading up to Gabbert's selection was rather strange.
Some experts thought it was possible that Gabbert would go as high as the fourth pick to the Bengals (if the Bengals accepted the fact that Carson Palmer's not coming back). However, the Bengals passed in favor of A.J. Green, a pick that is very hard to argue with.
If Gabbert did not go to Cincy, it was seemingly unanimously accepted that if he slipped to the 49ers at No. 7, that San Francisco would be tripping over themselves rushing to the podium to announce that they had selected the Missouri QB. However, the Niners passed as well in favor of a different Missouri Tiger, defensive end Aldon Smith. Unlike the Bengals passing on Gabbert, this selection was significantly less defensible.
Then, things got really strange. The Tennessee Titans, selecting at No. 8, needed a quarterback and theoretically should have been thrilled to death that one of the top two quarterbacks in the draft fell into their laps. So the Titans did what they needed to do and took a quarterback . . . but it wasn't Gabbert. The Titans reached for Jake Locker who many people thought was not going to be drafted until the 25th pick.
The fact that the Jaguars wanted to trade up to take Blaine Gabbert with the tenth pick was not all that surprising and Gabbert really did not slide that far. The fact that the 49ers passed on Gabbert and the Titans selected Jack Locker, making Gabbert the third quarterback taken... Now that made for a shocking situation.
3. Cameron Jordan Slips to the Saints at No. 24
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As of late this afternoon, there were rumors floating around that the New England Patriots would package both of their first-round picks in a trade with the Cowboys to move up to the ninth spot. The reason? It was thought that the Patriots would have to move into the top 10 picks to ensure they could get the player they coveted, Cameron Jordan.
Apparently those rumors were wrong on two fronts. Apparently the Patriots did not covet Jordan (they selected Nate Solder despite Jordan being available), and a team that did want to draft Jordan, the Saints, did not have to move into the top 10 picks to make sure they got him (he was selected 24th overall).
Such is the nature of rumors pertaining to the NFL Draft; they're usually wrong. Still, even in the experts' final mock drafts, Cam Jordan was expected to go much closer to the middle of Round 1, instead of the end of it.
The Saints should be thrilled with the way things worked out though. Cam Jordan was considered the ninth best prospect in the entire draft according to ESPN. No matter how you spin it, New Orleans got an absolute steal in drafting Jordan at No. 24.
2. Da'Quan Bowers Is Left out of the First Round
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The injury concerns about Da'Quan Bowers are no secret at all. That being said, I'm not sure anyone actually thought that at the end of the first round, Bowers would not have heard his name called. With as far as he has already fallen, it is hard to say when someone will finally pull the trigger on the former Clemson Tiger.
What is shocking about Bowers getting shut out of the first round is the fact that only a couple months ago, this was a guy getting discussed as someone who could be taken by the Carolina Panthers with the No. 1 overall pick. Bowers peaked as high as the second pick in Mel Kiper's various versions of mock drafts.
Even though everyone expected him to fall, as recently as a couple weeks ago he was still expected to go in the top half of the first round. At no point did Bowers ever fall out of the first-round projections made by Mel Kiper or Todd McShay.
For as talented as Da'Quan Bowers is, you would have to think that sometime at the beginning of the second round, the reward of Bowers working out would have to outweigh the injury risks he carries with him. Look for him to go early on Day 2, but do not be surprised if his free fall lasts longer than anyone expects; after all, it already has.
1. Minnesota Vikings Reach for Christian Ponder at No. 12
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If you read my column on potential sleepers, you know that I am a big fan of Christian Ponder. However, judging by the fact that I saw him as a sleeper, you should also know that I never even considered that Ponder would be drafted as high as he was. I can take comfort in the fact that I was not alone.
Christian Ponder was seen pretty uniformly as a very good second-round option at the quarterback position. There was not a mock draft that I looked at (and I looked at a LOT of them) that had Ponder going in the first round. There were questions about Ponder's height (about an inch shorter than teams would have liked) and more serious concerns about his durability.
Apparently none of these issues concerned the Vikings enough to deter them from picking Ponder at 12th overall. Mosts analysts seem to think that Minnesota panicked after seeing Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert fly off the board right before their eyes. I think there might be something else to it though.
Depending on who you ask, either Ryan Mallett or Christian Ponder was considered the most NFL ready quarterbacks available this year. Both come out of pro style offenses in college, meaning the adjustment to the NFL should be less painful. Looking at the Vikings' quarterback situation heading into next season, it makes sense that they would want someone who could take over their offense right away.
It may just have been a case of the Minnesota Vikings valuing Christian Ponder more highly than most people did. Whether or not their evaluations of Ponder were correct remains up for debate, but we probably will not have to wait too long for the answer as it appears Ponder could be the starter in Minnesota from Day 1.