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Hollywood’s NFL Draft Spectacular

With the 2011 NFL Draft less than three weeks away, we thought it was about time for Murdoc and Hollywood’s resident draft expert to break down a few things. That resident draft expert, of course, is yours truly. Just a warning: this is gonna be a long one. I’m going Bill Simmons-style with this post.

The Lockout

Alright, first things first. The vast majority of football fans are not pleased with the current state of the NFL. After weeks of so-called negotiations, the league entered a lockout, leaving the current offseason and the 2011-2012 season in doubt. Although this year’s draft will still occur as scheduled, the lockout has sent a ripple effect throughout the league. First, no trades or free agent transactions can be made as long as the league is in a lockout. In fact, players that were going to become free agents after this season (such as Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson) now won’t become free agents until the lockout ends. Second, players are not allowed to train or practice at team facilities. Third, no drug testing can occur during the lockout period–in other words, as long as players can come up negative once testing is reinstated, they can use all of the illicit and performance-enhancing drugs they want.

But the biggest problem I have with the lockout is the effect that will have on the draft. The standoff between the NFL and the NFLPA has spread to the incoming draft prospects, and has turned what is one of the biggest moments of any NFL player’s career into a game of political maneuvering. While the NFLPA maintains that whether or not a prospect attends the draft is their choice, various representatives have stated on multiple occasions that not attending the draft would force the league to realize that it is nothing without its players. Essentially, the disagreement between the NFL and NFLPA is forcing these prospects to choose sides, and playing games with what is a very real moment in their football careers. The excitement of being drafted, receiving a phone call from a team rep, and standing on stage with the league commissioner is something every aspiring football player dreams of, and should not be taken for granted by a business dispute.

The Vikings’ Needs

Let’s be honest. Last year’s Vikings team was so atrocious, and their season so forgettable, that when I think of recent Vikings games I find myself going back to the 12-4 Vikings team from two seasons ago just to find any bright spots. While I wouldn’t say the Vikings are rebuilding, there are clearly a few large question marks at several spots on the team roster. First, we’ll run through the Vikings’ positional needs, then a few potential options for their first couple of picks.

Biggest Needs: Defensive Tackle/Defensive End, Cornerback/Safety, Quarterback

Other Needs: Offensive Guard, Wide Receiver

1st Round Pick (#12 overall): This is a tough one. I don’t think the Vikes will go QB here, just because the two big names, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, will almost certainly be off the board. The remaining top QB prospects, Locker, Mallett, and Ponder, would be too much of a reach at this point. Of course, the Vikings could always trade down in the round and take one of those prospects in the 20’s, instead of at 12. I’m just not sure I see it happening. Instead, I see the Vikes addressing the glaring need on their defensive line with pick number twelve. Pat Williams will likely leave in free agency, as will Ray Edwards. Kevin Williams and Jared Allen are still solid for the most part, but showed their age a bit last year. The likely pick: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. The potential surprise pick: Jake Locker, QB, Washington. I could also see the Vikes trading down and taking a cornerback like Jimmy Smith or Brandon Harris late in the first round.

2nd Round Pick (#43 overall): This all hinges on whether the Vikings do take a risk and grab Locker in the first round. If so, the second round pick shifts to a defensive player. But if the Vikes go ahead with a lineman or defensive back, I think they take a good long look at the next tier of QBs with #43. It’s possible, but highly unlikely, that Locker or Ryan Mallett could pull a Jimmy Clausen and go into a draft day freefall, falling right into the Vikings’ lap in the second round. But realistically, I see the Vikings choosing from Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick. Out of those three, Ponder seems like the most logical option.

Hollywood’s Top Five Draft Prospects

Here are my top five favorite prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft. I chose these five based on some combination of the following: talent, upside, and–of course, given my name–flash and showmanship. The links attached to each name will direct you to a video of each player’s highlights.

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Peterson is one of the most exciting defensive draft prospects I’ve seen in a while. He is smart, agile, and physical. His skills in the secondary would allow him to step in and instantly contribute on any squad. He could also be a threat on special teams, as a kick/punt returner.

Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Every year I pick one rookie wide receiver who I think is going to burst onto the scene in their first year. Two years ago, I picked Percy Harvin. Last year, it was Dez Bryant. This year, I’m going with Julio Jones. This guy is huge, and has the speed and strength to beat d-backs in the secondary on every play. Not to mention, he had a solid combine on a broken foot. My early pick for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: Harris is probably one of the best defenders in man coverage in this year’s rookie class. He is an absolute ballhawk, and his ability to stay with the ball and play tight coverage give him huge upside. He has great instincts and awareness, and should be a nightmare for opposing WRs for years to come. Plus, he’s a Miami Hurricane–so that gives him a ton of bonus points right there.

Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Locker is a stud. He has a great arm, has good awareness in the pocket, and is surprisingly mobile when he needs to be. Questions remain about his inconsistencies in his college career and his passing accuracy, but Locker’s size, strength, agility, and potential make him one of the better prospects in the draft.

Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M: We are going to be hearing this guy’s name a ton in the years following the draft. Miller is huge, but he plays with the quickness and vision of a small cornerback. His ability to get into the backfield and make sacks and tackles for loss is nothing short of impressive. Miller is one of those rare talents that doesn’t come around too often, and should provide an instant impact for whatever team drafts him. My pick for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

There you have it, folks. This has been Hollywood’s NFL Draft Spectacular. Feel free to post comments with your thoughts on this year’s draft. Look for a podcast in the coming weeks, too.



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