4. Which player’s character concern worries you the most? And who of the guys with “questionable” character are you least worried about?
ROB: Ryan Mallett was said by one scout to “think he’s Eminem”. There are different ways to react to this thought. The immediate reaction I had was to take him off my board completely. And, then the conspiracy theorist kicked in and I thought, what if a team was just trying to knock him down another teams’ board? The NFL Draft is all about smokescreens. Watch this interview of Ryan Mallett from the combine provided by CBS Sports (click here) . Of course it’s only a short video with some very scripted answers in front of the media, but you can still attempt to read his mannerisms. I can’t speak of Mallett’s alleged drug use because I don’t think anyone but the 32 NFL Teams and people close to Mallett has the answers. But I think the way Mallett tried to quickly move past the questions about drug use rather than addressing them upfront and honestly is alarming and makes me really worry about his future. No matter how impressive he may be as a prospect, I wouldn’t touch him at all.??Someone who did use the combine to properly address his character concerns was Colorado Cornerback Jimmy Smith. In his interview from the combine (click here) he takes time out his interview to specifically address his past. While he doesn’t want to get into specifics, he does admit to making “young mistakes” that we know was a failed drug test. I think it obviously depends on what the drug he took, but Teams are understanding of a college environment and can get past a players past if they feel comfortable that he has matured. I personally love his confidence and like his mentality and think that the way he addressed his issues at the combine will help his draft stock tremendously.
RYAN: Rob, I’m going to be a little all over the place here, so stay with me. I personally disagree with your ideas on Ryan Mallett’s character. While he does not articulate particularly well, he showed intelligence in the way he ran Bobby Petrino’s complex offense at Arkansas. His Wonderlic (26) was nothing subpar and I have confidence in his football IQ. Though a bit emotional, I love his competitive nature and it is easy to see that teammates rally around him. He gets a hard time because of that thick Southern accent and the overall way he carries himself, but he has obviously matured a whole lot since his days at Michigan. As with Mallett, I think North Carolina Wide Receiver Greg Little is receiving a bit too much bad press. Though he sat out the entire 2010 season for receiving improper benefits, he acknowledges his mistakes, expresses remorse, and is now looking forward to the NFL. In interviews I have come away impressed by his speaking ability and intelligence does not seem to be a concern (click here). His character does not worry me all too much and I believe he will be a steal for the team that nabs him in the Third Round.
Now, moving on to a couple prospects that do scare me a bit more, we have a couple Defensive Tackles: Auburn’s Nick Fairley and North Carolina’s Marvin Austin. Like everyone else that closely follows SEC football, it pleased me to see someone play with the ferocity and intensity of Fairley. Unfortunately, Quarterbacks are huge financial investments in the NFL and are protected accordingly by the league’s rules. His on-field discipline is certainly worrisome, as he seems to lack control over his emotions. What is more concerning, however, is his lax approach to practice and conditioning. As a guy with a JuCo background, there are serious doubts about his intelligence, and there is reason to believe he is simply not prepared for the rigorous demands of being a professional. Austin, on the other hand, has been described by many as a “punk.” He is a player that just does not seem to grasp the importance of maintaining a positive self-image. Like Little, he was another of the Tarheels that missed the 2010 season due to suspension. Though he is an athletic wonder for his size, I worry he may lack the maturity needed to put it together on the field. I wouldn’t touch him in the Top 100 picks personally, but it only takes one team to fall in love.
5. Who would you take to be your franchise QB, Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert?
RYAN: This may be the easiest question of the bunch for me, as I would take Cam Newton every time over Gabbert without hesitation. The Heisman Trophy itself does not point to NFL success, but it is indicative of the best player in college football. Without doubt, Newton was just that. In leading his Tigers to a National Championship, he showed he would do whatever it took to dominate opposing defenses and win games. Everyone knows about his phenomenal physical tools, the excellent size (6’5 244) and rare athletic ability. What few people fail to acknowledge is his success playing through adversity in 2010. As a player that faced heavy scrutiny in the media, Newton had to overcome a lot of distractions to produce the way he did. His ability to improve every week, learn on the fly, and remain focused through turmoil, is encouraging for the team hoping to develop him into a franchise passer.
Currently his mechanics are a little iffy, his footwork is very raw and his throwing mechanics inconsistent in general. Additionally, he is behind the eight-ball in terms of understanding reads, having come from a college spread offense. His talent is undeniable, however. For his size, it is shocking that he can move the way he does and his elusiveness in the pocket is a tremendous asset. He possesses a very strong arm, throws with excellent velocity, and made a number of “wow” throws during his short collegiate career. His accuracy, though often criticized, is better on the field than he is given credit for. It is clear he needs repetition and experience, but he has already made strides in this area. I believe he should be the first overall pick to Carolina and at the worst will not fall past Cincinnati at 4.
Blaine Gabbert, on the other hand, is a prospect I feel has gotten far too much hype in relation to the player he was in college. I see the size and the impressive athleticism. I can acknowledge the guy seems to have a very high football IQ and is great in chalk talk. The word I keep using to describe his draft stock, however, is “manufactured.” Never in college was he a dominator or a player that received positive buzz in the media; but upon declaring, many fell all over him. These days I am even hearing him being described as the “safe” pick among Quarterbacks. To me, he has undeniable similarities to former busts: David Carr, Brady Quinn, Alex Smith, and even Joey Harrington. The caveat, of course, is that all of those players were special in college. I think he has the look of a player that will be rushed on to the field at the next level and wind up falling back on bad habits. In college, that bad habit was a lack of comfort and poise in the pocket. My concern is that he will not be mentally tough enough to handle failure and grow as a player. He will surely come off the board in the Top 5, with Buffalo being the best fit at 3; but if you ask me: buyer beware.
ROB: Well, if you’ve read thus far you can probably tell that I’m not the biggest fan of Gabbert. Not that I think Cam Newton is the best QB prospect I’ve ever seen either, but I like what he brings to the table a lot more. I think he really loves the game and, although he expresses it in a strange way, really wants to be an icon for the NFL. Newton was scrutinized for telling reporters he wanted to be an “entertainer and an icon” but I think he just wants to be a role model for the NFL, which is an entertainment business. As a prospect, Newton’s a lot more accurate than he’s given credit for, and he has a very compact throwing motion with freakish athletic ability. His footwork is his only major issue.??Now, I understand the fascination with Gabbert, to a point. When you look at him, he’s got everything you look for. He’s very smart, with great size, mobility, arm strength and pretty good accuracy. What more could you want, right? Unfortunately he just doesn’t look like an NFL QB on tape. A complete lack of pocket presence and inconsistent use of his scrambling ability are very evident. Newton looks much more ready to adapt to the NFL game, as long as he has the necessary work ethic.
6. Which Offensive Tackle in the 2011 class grades out most highly?
RYAN: There are a few that I have closely ranked, but give me Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin. No Offensive Line this past college football season was more formidable than the Badgers’, led by the Outland Trophy winner, Carimi. The first thing that stands out when you see him play is his enormous mass (6’7 315) and long arms. Though he could do a better job engaging, he shows good anchor strength and upper body power. He can generate movement in the run game, but he must improve his consistency there. At the Combine and Senior Bowl, he flashed the athleticism to block at the second level and to pass block effectively in the NFL. His feet are pretty light for his size, but he has to improve his reaction to the snap at the next level to handle speedier edge rushers. Teams will love his competitiveness on the field and his work-ethic off it. There is a notion that Carimi may be better off on the right side in the NFL, where he would be less likely to face his opponents’ quickest pass-rusher. I would not grade him as an elite prospect by any means, but he should offer value to a team in the 15-25 range. On draft day, I expect him to draw consideration as early as 13 (Detroit) and he should not last beyond the Philadelphia Eagles’ pick at 23.
ROB: I have my top two Offensive Tackles, Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod, rated extremely similarly (numbers 14 and 17 on my board, respectively). Even though I do have Carimi rated higher overall as a prospect, I think Sherrod definitely has more potential to be the “franchise Left Tackle” that people are always looking for. Sherrod is the prototypical 6’5″ offensive tackle with long arms (35 3/8″) and good athleticism that teams covet. One thing that could hold him back is can he handle the mental aspect of being a LT in the NFL? He gave up on some plays earlier than he should have and needs to sustain his blocks better, but overall I think he will end up being the best Left Tackle from this draft class.