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NFL Draft Day 1: Five Top QBs, Late-Round RBs, The Best CB Prospect Ever?

LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson is the No. 1 player in the 2011 draft, but is he the best CB prospect ever? (Photo by Associated Press)

In just a few hours, one of the most anticipated days of year will commence. The NFL draft annually draws interest, 7.2 million people watched Day 1 in 2010, but this year’s draft carries a whole new importance.

Unlike in previous years, teams don’t have the luxury of adding veteran free agents to their roster before the draft. Teams are now in a tough predicament. They have to attempt to fill their needs with rookies. Gone is the advantage of trading for Corey Dillon in 2004 (thus filling the running back need), and then drafting Vince Wilfork over a guy like Steven Jackson or Kevin Jones.

The whole draft complexity and team makeup will severely change because of this factor. But, we’re not just talking about signing players, but also losing guys as well.

For example, let’s say the Patriots don’t draft an offensive tackle before the weekend is over. In doing so, they would have full intention on keeping Matt Light, but if Light decides to leave when (or if) free agency rolls around the corner, then the Patriots are left without a replacement at tackle. This is a situation that normally would have allowed New England to know of Light’s status before the draft.

This situation alone will make for an interesting draft weekend.

Newton, Gabbert, Mallett, Dalton, Locker — OH MY!

The last two drafts had a total of five quarterbacks selected in the first round, tonight we may match that number. However, not one quarterback from this group stands out, which makes this so intriguing.

There are countless questions about the attitudes of both SEC quarterbacks Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett. One has an ego that stands larger than his own stature (6-5, 248), which is saying something, along with other off-the-field question marks. While the other, Mallett, is viewed as an “immature thug” by some. One lacks experience and accuracy, but the other has a cannon NFL-ready arm.

Meanwhile Blaine Gabbert, who has passed for 6,822 yards at Missouri, is a product of a spread system. A system that created Chase Daniel, and his 101 touchdown passes and 12,000 plus passing yards, into a superstar — to presently a backup with little shot at ever playing in New Orleans. But, hey Daniel was short…right?

Jake Locker is the classic definition of an underachiever. Plus, the guy had a horrible senior season. Does a quarterback who completed fewer than 10 passes in not one, two, but three games in a season deserve to be a first rounder? How about Andy Dalton, who went from a mid-round selection to potential first rounder seemingly overnight. Dalton’s critics point to the lack of competition he faced while with TCU.

With all of this said, teams will still reach for these guys. Ten teams have a gaping quarterback need, seven of them are in the top 10 alone. Carolina looks locked into Newton. Carson Palmer isn’t happy in Cincinnatti, Buffalo needs everything, John Skelton’s not the answer in Arizona, Rex Grossman in Washington? Vince Young in Tennessee?

Come Friday morning we could be talking about how five quarterbacks were drafted in Round 1. The sad thing? All of them combined aren’t half the quarterback Stanford’s Andrew Luck is.

Calling all running backs! Anyone?

Teams like the Patriots are sitting pretty, if they decide to go down the running back path. For the first time in a while the running back crop is relatively weak, so New England could land the top back at either 17 or 28. On top of that a lot of teams really aren’t in the need for a running back. As odd as five quarterbacks in round one may be, one first round running back is even crazier.

Mark Ingram, who should be going around the top 12, instead has been seen as falling to No. 28 or 33 to the Patriots in some mock drafts. Illinois back Mikel Leshoure is still unknown to some — don’t ask why. All Leshoure did at Illinois was rush for 1,697 yards on the ground last season. But, people will tell you that his lack of explosiveness will hinder him in the NFL. Those same people will say the same about Ingram.

Both backs are solid and should be the top two prospects off the board, but neither has drawn interest from teams in the top 15. Like the wide receiver class experienced in 2006, with Santonio Holmes being the lone first rounder, this running back class will be on the outside looking in Thursday.

Patrick Peterson: The Best Ever?

Built like a linebacker. Speed like a wide receiver. Agility like a running back. Cover skills like a corner. That’s LSU’s Patrick Peterson.

There has never been a more physically imposing cornerback to hit the NFL draft circles. Peterson is the consensus No. 1 player in the NFL Draft, yet he won’t be picked No. 1 overall. Why? I don’t know. Peterson eliminates opposing receivers, is physical in run support, and will be one of the most electrifying return men in the NFL.

And Peterson knows it too. Jim Corbett, of the USA Today, tweeted this about the Florida native.

LSU CB Patrick Peterson asked if he wants his own island a la Jets CB Darrelle Revis: “I don’t want an island. I want to have a universe.”

Which ever team Peterson is drafted by will get a top notch prospect. With the drive, skills and attitude Peterson could — COULD — be before long the best cornerback in the NFL.

Follow me on Twitter: @M_Marcantonio

About Matthew Marcantonio - @M_Marcantonio

Matthew Marcantonio is the Patriots and college football editor at Sports of Boston. Marcantonio has contributed for two newspapers; the Sentinel & Enterprise (Leominster, Mass) and The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La) and held internships with The Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

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6 comments for “NFL Draft Day 1: Five Top QBs, Late-Round RBs, The Best CB Prospect Ever?”

  1. This year’s draft is potentially meaningless. At this point, the rookie players are free to negotiate with any team they want. If the owners act collectively (collude) to prevent a rookie from marketing his service to any team, then they will be liable for an antitrust violation. Under antitrust law, the draft can only exist when it is agreed to by a union organized by a vote of a majority of the players. Since there is no longer a player’s union that can agree to the draft, it violates antitrust law. I am much more interested in seeing which rookie is the first to challenge the draft.

    Posted by Alan | April 28, 2011, 2:37 pm
  2. This draft was approved by the NFLPA when the last CBA was signed. Holding the draft does not violate antitrust law.

    If you’re so sure it does, will you provide a legal citation?

    Posted by Mitch Dickson | April 28, 2011, 2:53 pm
  3. The owners choose to opt out of the CBA, causing it to expire on March 11, the same day the players voted to disband the union and the owner’s locked out the players. As the US District Court has already determined, the NFL therefore no longer enjoys an exemption from the antitrust law. See Memorandum and Order dated 4/25/2011, Brady, et. al., v. NFL, et. al., D. Minn, Civil No. 11-639.

    Posted by Alan | April 28, 2011, 4:18 pm
  4. P.S. See also American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League, 56 U.S. __ (2010); Smith v. Pro Football, Inc., 593 F.2d 1173 (1978); Kapp v. National Football League, 390 F.Supp. 73 (1974)

    Posted by Alan | April 28, 2011, 4:39 pm
  5. I’m aware of the current case, I was asking specifically for a citation to how this violates antitrust law.

    I’m also aware the owners chose to opt out of the CBA and that it expired in March. This draft though was agreed upon when the last CBA was signed. I have seen nothing regarding the NFL losing its antitrust exemption.

    Posted by Mitch Dickson | April 28, 2011, 5:24 pm
  6. > I have seen nothing regarding the NFL losing its antitrust exemption.

    Then you have not read the Memorandum and Order of 4/25/2011

    Posted by Alan | April 28, 2011, 11:03 pm

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