The NFL Draft is now a little under twelve hours from starting, giving head coaches and general managers across the league a small margin of time to decide on which particular players they want to bring into their organization. While drafts, especially first rounds, over the years have been remembered for the big surprises and zany trades, it appears that the 2012 draft has the potential to top those that had preceded it, as the only sure bets that can be made are that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and that Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III will be heading to the nation's capital to play for the Washington Redskins. Let's key in on what we should expect from tonight's draft:
Most Overrated: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. It's not that I think Tannehill will be a Rylan Leaf-like bust in the NFL, but I just don't see any reason in him being a top ten selection, which it appears he will be. If I were interested in Tannehill, I would ideally select the QB from College Station in the mid-to-late first round due to the fact that he never really proved that he could maintain a game for four quarters while at Texas A&M (the Aggies blew numerous double digit leads in 2011, which resulted in a 7-6 record and a fired head coach). While the struggles of a quarterback in college don't always necessarily mean complete correlation in the NFL, it is enough to make me wait on putting Tannehill alongside the likes of Luck and Griffin.
Most Underrated: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. Robert Griffin's right-hand man at Baylor, Wright is a receiver that has the speed (ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at the Combine) and the ability to make plays over and over (just check out any of his highlight videos on YouTube, like this one) that could make him one of the top receivers in the game. While his size is a bit of a concern (Wright is 5'10” and weighs 190 lbs, a bit undersized for the position), I see Dante Hall-like moves in Wright, which is definitely a compliment.
Franchise Piece: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. What is there not to like about Andrew Luck: he's big, has a strong arm, and has the intelligence to make the smart throws that can help any quarterback get the job on Sunday. The son of former Oilers quarterback Oliver Luck, my gut feeling is that Luck will have the Indianapolis Colts in playoff contention annually starting in about three years.
Bust Material: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. It's always hard to predict a bust, and this case is no different. Claiborne did a tremendous job during his time as a Bayou Bengal, but covering receivers from teams like Ole Miss and Mississippi State can possibly skew your abilities. I would definitely not be shocked if Claiborne makes it into the short list of quality cornerbacks in the NFL, but something tells me that the man that reportedly made a 4 out of 50 on the Wonderlic Test has a chance to be a dud.
Team Looking to Sell: Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are now in year three of the Leslie Frazier era, which means that the team should start seeing significant results fast. However, the team is more than just one piece away from being a contender, which naturally means that the team needs to wheel and deal to move down and gain more valuable picks. While a deal hasn't been struck yet, my expectations are that the Buccaneers call Minnesota's bluff, swapping first round picks and giving the Vikings their second round pick in 2012 and a third round pick in 2013 in order to allow Tampa Bay to take Trent Richardson from Alabama.
Team Looking to Buy: Cleveland Browns. Believe it or not, the Cleveland Browns have a chance to be big-time winners in the NFL Draft. Yes, the Browns—the team that drafted Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, and Brady Quinn—could pull in some noteworthy players if they successfully maneuver themselves up to get a player that they are in love with. The key to Cleveland's chances lie in their 22nd pick, which the team obtained from the Atlanta Falcons in the Julio Jones trade last year. If the Browns find someone they really like but don't want to use the #4 pick on, I could see them shipping off the 22nd pick along with several others and maybe even a current player or two to move up. If Cleveland was to make such a move, my guess would be it would result in the team jumping up to the #7 pick in order to grab Ryan Tannehill, a quarterback that the team is rumored to be interested in.
Most Important Top 10 Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars. Don't look now, Jaguars fans, but your team is in serious danger of being shipped west to Los Angeles; that is, unless the team finds a way to reel in a big-name with their 7th overall pick in order to garner some interest from a fanbase that really only has Maurice Jones-Drew to hang their hats on. I hate to be so pessimestic, especially when a team's future is at stake, but I honestly don't see a way the Jags make some a monumental move that the attendance jumps significantly, meaning that the rumblings concerning L.A. won't be going away any time soon.
Rookie of the Year: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. It's common knowledge that running backs are a dime a dozen in the NFL, but Richardson has all the intangibles to be an immediate starter and star with whatever team is smart enough to select him. Richardson, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy race behind Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck, may have missed out on being just the second Crimson Tide player to bring home the stiff-arming statue, but his abilities make it clear that he won't make a habit out of going home empty-handed.
And now for the finale that is my projected top ten picks. I must warn everyone that these are doomed to fail, not only because I'm not a draft expert but also because the draft is truly unpredictable. Nevertheless, here's a look at how I see the top ten picks in tonight's draft playing out:
J-HILL's PROJECTED TOP 10
1. Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2. Redskins – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
3. Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (via trade with Vikings)
4. Browns – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
5. Vikings – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (via trade with Buccaneers)
6. Rams – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
7. Jaguars – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
8. Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
9. Panthers – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
10. Bills – Matt Kahlil, OT, USC