The Best Available in the NFL Draft: Nos. 10-1

By John Harris
March 19, 2011

The Best Available in the NFL Draft: Nos. 10-1

10. Blaine Gabbert

Missouri QB
Size: 6'6" 235 lbs.

What I Like
Quick release, outstandingly quick release... strong arm... great mechanics... rhythm thrower... when he's in rhythm, look out, he's brilliant... can make every throw on the field... tough as can be... took some shots this year that he got back up from and continued to play... probably a better athlete than we give him credit.

What I Don't
When rhythm is disrupted, he's an average quarterback... at the next level, that happens on nearly every play... hasn't taken a snap under center in years... feet are good but has to learn this simple concept of taking the snap from center... some of Missouri's passing scheme won't be applicable at the next level (bubble screens and horizontal throws).

Conclusion
My gut tells me that Gabbert is a safer option than Cam Newton, but his ceiling is lower than Newton's. I'm completely spooked by his inability to adapt to throwing out of rhythm. Throughout his career, he was incredibly accurate on short, quick throws on time, but when he's forced to hold the football, he was, well, not nearly as productive. He'll go higher than his ranking. I do love his toughness and his cannon; however, when he gets some heat or has to make plays on the run, he's just not a great quarterback. How do you balance the two? Not completely sure.

9. Julio Jones

Alabama WR
Size: 6'4" 215

What I Like
Strong and physical receiver... proved this year he can be a catch and run receiver as well as a physical every down receiver across the middle... very productive in his final year at Alabama (saved his best for last)... can snatch the ball out of the air... acrobatic catches he makes look easy... will block his butt off... catches the ball across the middle and will absorb hits... will get separation with strength at the line of scrimmage against press man... doesn't appear to be a prima donna... ran 4.39 with a busted up foot (WOW!) at the Combine.

What I Don't
Can he get separation in off man or trail coverage... hands can be inconsistent... route running can always use some work... wasn't part of pass first offense, so he must adapt to NFL routes and concepts, which could take some time... how long will his recovery from the foot injury take... will there be any lingering effects from the foot injury in August and September.

Conclusion
I had him rated much lower prior to the season because he hadn't been near as productive as I expected him - SEC corners shut him down frequently. However, this year he was phenomenal. Jones proved he was ready to make the jump to the next level. I still think he can be mechanical at times and isn't as fluid as A.J Green, the only receiver in front of him. But, he'll do the little things, i.e block on run plays, to be a complete football player.

8. Cam Newton

Auburn QB
Size: 6'5½" 250 lbs.

What I Like
Better mechanically than most tall/big quarterbacks... accurate... makes good decisions... can throw the deep ball well... good vision when he scrambles to keep his eyes on field... players answer to him... good leader... solid release, not lightning quick, but much quicker than others in this draft... never truly faced any team that stopped him on the field... incredibly slippery and can escape the pocket.

What I Don't
Will he stay in the pocket... will he train himself to keep his eyes downfield when he's scrambling... is he coachable... can he learn to succeed in an NFL offense... simplistic offense at Auburn with one or two reads... he's not taken snaps under center during his college career... the off the field baggage – MUST do plenty of due diligence on Newton... is he higher maintenance than he's worth... a lot more questions for him than others in the top ten.

Conclusion
His one-year at Auburn was as dominant as any QB's first, and only, year has ever been in the history of college football. Quite simply, at his best, he changes games. At his worst, he'll be an uncoachable, prima donna pointing the finger at everyone else when he doesn't succeed. Does that scare the heck out of me? Heck yes, but I think he's closer to reaching his ceiling than hitting the floor. The off-the-field issues are enough to send any other player to the undrafted rookie free agent scrap heap, but he has unquestioned #1 draft pick talent. If a team is going to select him, it has to get his dad out of the mix and surround him with a great support system, especially early in his career.

7. Da'Quan Bowers

Clemson DE
Size: 6'5" 275 lbs.

What I Like
Lost 20 pounds from 2009 to 2010 to regain his quickness and burst... impressive strength at the point of attack... can play the run and the pass equally well... could transition to 3-4 DE with another 5 to 10 pounds... could play 5 technique in 3-4... consistently productive... pursues like a beast from the backside... motor is typically running high... smart and introspective... rebounded from an incredibly difficult year (off the field – two deaths and a knee injury) to have best year at Clemson.

What I Don't
Doesn't have the sudden burst off the snap like some other pass rushers... doesn't possess a litany of pass rush moves to get free... weak core, been working on it throughout the off-season... knee injury was the second of the past two years (although this last one was just a scope, it's kept him from working out 100% throughout the off-season leading up to this draft).

Conclusion
Bowers truly impacts the game on the edge more than any other player in this draft, against the run AND the pass. He only played two years and some change at Clemson, dealing with a knee injury as a sophomore, so he's still somewhat a work in progress. However, his best football is still ahead of him. With the versatility to play in both a 3-4 and a 4-3, he'll be attractive for sure. However, I do think when he's faced decent tackles, he hasn't been able to beat them off the edge as you'd expect. Trust me, I really like Da'Quan Bowers, overall, but I think he lacks a little bit of the explosiveness Dareus, Quinn, Miller, and Fairley possess.

6. Nick Fairley

Auburn DT
Size: 6'3" 297 lbs.

What I Like
Can get vertical as 3 technique quickly... sudden burst off the snap... plays with leverage... plays exceptionally well against the double team... splits the double with a quick shoulder turn and redirect back to square... pushes interior pocket better than any other pass rusher in this class... does more with blazing quickness... has long arms and gets separation... sniffs out screens and draws.

What I Don't
Not tremendous with his hands stacking and shedding... can and will take plays off... question of whether he's a one year wonder... some consider him dirty... still raw... technique is still work in progress... burst can come and go with his conditioning... scouts are floating the “JUCO kid" label on him (see my note below).

Conclusion
He'll impact the game immediately from the 3-technique position. He can beat singles, doubles and is quick enough to beat zone blocking centers. Fairley is completely and totally disruptive. I'm a bit worried about whether he will get “comfortable" when he gets paid. His work ethic was questioned a little bit in his first year at Auburn, but if light is on, and stays on, forget it.

As a side note on Fairley, I've heard a few media types quote scouts that call him “JUCO kid". I know what that means, but I spent some good quality time with him at the Rotary Lombardi Award events and really liked him. So, he might have some JUCO kid in him, but there's a fun loving, Warren Sapp type kid inside of him who loves to play this game, too. He was very engaging and his smile lit up the room.

5. Von Miller

Texas A&M OLB
Size: 6'2" 237

What I Like
Speed... speed... speed... burst off the snap is ridiculous... tremendous leader on and off the field... best pure pass rusher in this draft... the prototypical 3-4 OLB... can drop into coverage and make plays (although it takes away from his best asset – the ability to rush the quarterback)... makes plays all over the field... pursues inside out with some venom... slips blocks out in space... NOT just a combine/workout warrior.

What I Don't
Probably isn't a great prospect playing 4-3 Will linebacker, so he's probably limited to 3-4 teams... still solid, but fits the 3-4 OLB position so much better... needs work on a couple of pet moves rushing the quarterback... needs some improvement using his hands... tight ends give him some trouble against the run, especially those with some size.

Conclusion
NFL teams will pay an exorbitant fee for the ability to rush the quarterback. No player will get to the quarterback quicker and more disruptively than Miller, including the players listed in front of him on my top players available listing. Playing the Joker position at A&M this past year, Miller adapted quickly to the rigors of the 3-4, even proving he can drop into coverage when necessary. That being said, if an NFL team drafts this cat to drop in coverage, everyone should be fired. Rush the quarterback is the mantra for NFL teams for a reason; Miller is the reason why.

4. Robert Quinn

North Carolina DE/OLB
Size: 6'4" 267 lbs.

What I Like
Scary athlete... speed, quickness are off the charts for a guy his size... can win high, blowing past tackle with speed rush and arm under... strong at point of attack... will be a factor against the run... great feet with the ability to redirect to pursue or change his pass rush angle... doesn't stay blocked and plays to the whistle... you can tell he's well coached and coachable, watching him play zone read runs away from him and how disciplined he is playing that on the backside.

What I Don't
Needs to be better with his hands, shedding blockers... doesn't really have any pass rush moves at all... has a little dip and rip and that's it... if that doesn't work, he can't get free without using his blazing speed... needs to be in better condition (especially so after missing all of 2010 season)... medicals/health with his past headache problems could be issue worth serious investigation.

Conclusion
He's the kind of guy who can take over a football game at the DE position, pure and simple. A team must do its due diligence on a guy who sat out all of last season. No player had more impressive 2009 tape than Quinn. He pops off the screen on nearly every play, WHEN he's got the motor up at full throttle. He has the chance to be a Jevon Kearse-type off the edge. Mark my words, had Quinn played in 2010, he'd be the #1 pick in the 2011 draft.

3. Patrick Peterson

LSU CB
Size: 6'1" 221 lbs.

What I Like
Tough and physical... "Florida" corner... extremely confident in his skills... high football IQ... loves to play... competes in man coverage... in 2009, he matched cuts on receivers extremely well... shut down Julio Jones in 2009... can be a tremendous cover two, rolled up corner, if necessary... good tackler in space with his size... can change games on returns... in press man, he's extremely difficult to beat... against Julio Jones in 2010 in press, he really shut him down... fluid hip turn after his backpedal.

What I Don't
Didn't have a dominant year in coverage... seemed to be a half-step slower in the second half of the season than he was in 2009... in '09, he put the corner on lockdown... this year, though, he wasn't as good in coverage... slower in his breaks on the ball... teams didn't fear throwing his way in 2010... against Julio Jones in off-man coverage, Jones had success, unlike 2009.

Conclusion
Peterson is the best and most complete secondary player in this draft. He's smart with a high football IQ. He plays better press man than off man coverage, but could be a solid cover two corner if necessary. He's got that versatility. He's great in the return game, that is, if a team decides to use him in that capacity. He's not a shadow in off coverage, but he'll hurt teams if they choose to test him, even at the next level.

2. Marcell Dareus

Alabama DT/DE
Size: 6'3" 305

What I Like
Lower body strength/"trunk" is quite impressive... quick feet and great with his hands... played this season hurt until the Capital One Bowl, and he dominated it, completely dominated it... more sudden off the ball than you'd expect... can play the 5 technique or the 3 technique... plays angry.

What I Don't
Decision making off the field – got to do your due diligence to make sure it's not a deal-killer (I don't think it's an issue, but you have to make sure he can't be “swayed" by hangers-on and “new" people he meets once he has money)... versatility makes him a tremendous prospect, but I don't like him as much as a 3 technique... tends to play a little too high when he's inside.

Conclusion
3-4 teams love guys who can be a 5 technique at 300+ pounds, who can move the way Dareus can. He's as quick as any 3-4 DE prospect in this draft from point A to point B; he has the ability to beat tackles inside or out on pass rush. In the Capital One Bowl, Michigan State tackles couldn't even touch him. All in all, he's a more dominant Ziggy Hood (now with the Steelers), with more versatility.

1. AJ Green

Georgia WR
Size: 6'4" 205 lb.

What I Like
Hands are ridiculous... route running is good and improving... wiry and stronger than he appears... goes across the middle with confidence... can be deep threat & catch-and-run weapon... there isn't one area on the field he can't “defeat" a DB... Red zone demon (Note: The Catch against Colorado)... tremendous body control... former basketball player who knows how to utilize his body to catch the football... has subtle push off move ala Michael Irvin to get open.

What I Don't
Can he defeat press man consistently... concentration can wean a bit... blocking on the perimeter... did have suspension for dealing with an agent (not a red flag unless other off the field issues arise)... not thought to be quite the athlete Alabama's Julio Jones is.

Conclusion
He's the most explosive offensive football player in the draft. Keep in mind, I said football player. He's got great athleticism, but it's how well he plays football that grabs your attention. I know that might sound strange, but I'm trying to draw the distinction between his ability to dominate a game unlike any other player on the offensive side of the ball and having the athleticism and potential to do it down the road. He'll do it now, not later as others may do. QBs can get him the ball anywhere on the field; furthermore, assets in college translate well to the next level (unlike some receivers).

Comment

Scouting Dept.

Allen Robinson
Overall Rank: #65

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