Welcome to the second installment of the All-Sickness Draft Team. Last year, this was but a mere throw-in to my single post-draft piece. The Sickness has come a long way in its first year, and people seemed to enjoy discussing the 2010 Team, so I decided to expand it this year into its own post, complete with my always-rudimentary analysis. You’re welcome.
No real ground rules. These are just my favorite picks in the draft, with value and need factored in. To some degree, I had hoped to focus on the “diamond in the rough” trait here, but it just wasn’t that easy. I thought almost every team had a totally sane, reasonable draft, and more than usual had really good ones. It appears the rest of the NFL is catching up with the Steelers, Patriots, Packers, and Eagles (and of course, its fans) and really starting to pay attention to what they’re doing in the draft. So many fantastic players were available later than they would be in most years that the All-Sickness team is a little top-heavy in 2011. So be it. Our guys are our guys.
So, with no further ado…the 2011 All-Sickness Draft Team. Comment when ready.
QB- JAKE LOCKER, Tennessee Titans (#8 overall); RYAN MALLETT, New England Patriots (#74)
I made it no secret that Locker was my favorite of the 2011 QB’s, and I think he falls into an absolutely perfect situation in Tennessee. Chris Palmer is going to find everything in Jake Locker that he found lacking in David Carr and Tim Couch, and the Titans faithful are about to be far more happy than even the ones who already are think they are. (Wait for it…)
And look, there are things to like about all these guys. Cam Newton is a ridiculous talent and seems to me to have the requisite work ethic. I think Gabbert landed in a beautiful spot to succeed. If Christian Ponder can play in the NFL, he ought to be able to in Minnesota while handing off regularly to Mr. Peterson. I think Andy Dalton has that football acumen and gutsiness to become one of the better QB’s in the league. Colin Kaepernick is maybe the best athlete of the group and will learn from Jim Harbaugh (and, apparently, Andrew Luck…awkwaaaaard…). But you already know the numbers game, don’t you? Half of them aren’t going to make it, and at least a couple are going to fail in spectacular fashion.
I think Mallett three distinct advantages. First, I think his college system prepared him more than most of his peers for the intellectual rigors of the NFL. Bobby Petrino’s system is complex and gives the quarterback a great deal of responsibility for pre-snap reads. So Mallett comes in at least somewhat pre-conditioned to learn a pro offense.
Second, he has absolutely no hope of playing anytime soon unless someone blows another assignment on the BoneCrusher. In fact, despite the popular scenario, I harbor serious doubts as to whether he ever takes over from Tom Brady as the Patriots starter. #12 confirmed as much immediately after the Patriots snagged Mallett, saying “I’m here for another ten years.” Maybe he was exaggerating, but I choose not to estimate that particular individual. At any rate, Mallett will have the opportunity to learn how one of the great professional quarterbacks, in the truest sense of that phrase, goes about his business on a day-to-day basis. While I’m often in favor of playing the young, talented QB’s, (1) it’s obviously a moot point given Brady’s existence, and (2) I think Mallett will benefit immensely from an eyes-and-ears-open, mouth shut buffer period.
Finally, he’s going to have to work just to stay employed in New England. Now, I personally have no reason to believe Mallett doesn’t possess the necessary work ethic in the first place. But if you think the Hoodie would hesitate to cut a third round quarterback who wasn’t cutting it, well…you and I think differently.
As a side note, it had to be cool to be Greg McElroy, who became the second Crimson Tide signal caller to be drafted by the New York Jets. The first? Joe Willie Namath.
RB- MARK INGRAM, New Orleans Saints (#28); JACQUIZZ RODGERS, Atlanta Falcons (#145)
I also loved Taiwan Jones to the Raiders, but Mark Ingram to the Saints is absolutely beautiful. If you’ve been following along you know I’m a sucker for Sabanized prospects, and Ingram was his rock-pounder for the Crimson Tide. We’ve been making the Emmitt Smith comparison longer than most. The vision, balance and footwork in the hole are unmistakably NFL-ready. I actually think he could be the rare 3-down back in today’s game, were Sean Peyton so inclined.
Rodgers is one of my favorite PAC Ten Players of the past ten years. More powerful than his size would indicate and much faster in pads than his combine 40, Rodgers is going to own that change-of-pace role within a week of camp opening. Whenever that happens. A fantastic receiver out of the backfield. With the additions of Julio Jones and ‘Quizz, Atlanta has joined the ranks of the elite, pick-your-poison NFL offenses.
WR- GREG LITTLE, Cleveland Browns (#59); LEONARD HANKERSON, Washington Redskins (#79).
As much as I liked the top two wide receivers in the draft, I felt like these two were the best values in the draft. Little is an athletic freak who can be as good as he wants to be. The Browns had him with a board grade similar to Green and Jones, and were thrilled to get him late 2nd. It may take a little time (Little missed 2010, getting caught up in the Carolina Agent Extravaganza), but I firmly believe my Browns scored huge here. Hankerson is another guy I just happened to like. His size and playmaking ability after the catch are going to fit in nicely in Shanahan’s offense.
TE- VIRGIL GREEN, Denver Broncos (#204)
The #NFLDraft Sickness Twitter List was very much on board with Virgil Green. Clearly one of the better all-around TE’s available, Green should get a chance to play early in Denver, and in an offense that is now featuring the tight end rather thoroughly in New England, for example. The TE is becoming a premiere position, as enormous fast athletes find that scoring touchdowns pays at least as well as sacking the quarterback. I liked several of the rookie TE’s from a value and fit perspective, though DJ Williams of Arkansas, one of my favorites, ended up behind Finley and Quarless in Green Bay. Have fun with that, big fella. Jordan Cameron, from USC, was the subject of numerous texts from my SC fans telling me my Browns got the best in the draft. I’ll withhold judgment.
OT- GABE CARIMI, Chicago Bears (#29); MARCUS GILBERT, Pittsburgh Steelers (#63)
The Bears still should have followed Carimi with four more offensive linemen, but they added a decade-long starter at tackle who might someday be ready for the blind side. Gilbert is a typical Pittsburgh selection- smart, capable, ready. And he will join his former Gator teammate, Maurkice Pouncey. On the offensive line, familiarity breeds not contempt but chemistry.
OG- WILL RACKLEY, Jacksonville Jaguars (#76); MARCUS CANNON, New England Patriots (#138)
Rackley is the third fantastic O-lineman the Jags have grabbed early the past couple of drafts, to go with bookend tackles Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe. Our man from Lehigh is a road grader and would have gone much earlier if only it said “Michigan” next to his name. Cannon found himself diagnosed with cancer as part of the draft process, and we here at the Sickness are rooting for this massive, strong guard prospect out of TCU for reasons that go well beyond football and hit VERY close to home.
C- STEFAN WISNIEWSKI, Oakland Raiders (#48)
He may actually play guard, but we’ll see. Pouncey’s not a center in my book, either. And for Wisniewski to fall with the Raiders is beautiful stuff.
DE- CAMERON JORDAN, New Orleans Saints (#24); DA’QUAN BOWERS, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#51)
The Saints and Bucs both benefitted in this draft from the ridiculous top-end depth among the defensive line prospects. Cameron Jordan was a top 10 pick as far as I was concerned, and now that he’ll be lined up opposite Will Smith with Cedrick Ellis and Anthony Hargrove in the middle he’ll be making plays constantly. Bowers was regularly discussed as the number 1 overall pick just a few months ago. Suddenly people don’t trust his knee and he plummeted, but the Bucs now have four first-round worthy players along its D-Line with Bowers, Gerald McCoy, Brian Price and Adrian Clayborn. Nasty, nasty, nasty in an NFC South that was built on that trait.
DT- MARCEL DAREUS, Buffalo Bills (#3); NICK FAIRLEY, Detroit Lions (#13)
Dareus was my #1 overall player and I applaud Buffalo for doing the sensible thing. This year. Meanwhile, Detroit becomes unblockable up front with Fairley, 2010 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh and Kyle VandenBosch, among others. I hope the NFC North squads have properly backed up their pretty little quarterbacks, on whom they are spending a preposterous amount of money.
ILB- MASON FOSTER, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#84); KELVIN SHEPPARD, Buffalo Bills (#68)
I think both win starting jobs right away and will both be considered steals of this draft in a year or two.
OLB- AKEEM AYERS, Tennessee Titans (#39); CHRIS CARTER, Pittsburgh Steelers (#162) Stunning, I know. The Steelers ended up with another potential superstar pass rushing 3-4 OLB. Carter was someone I wanted my Browns to take for three or four rounds, as Sickness Draft weekenders can attest. Ayers, a fellow Bruin, will fit in nicely in Tennessee with college teammate Alterraun Verner.
CB- PRINCE AMUKAMARA, New York Giants (#19); JIMMY SMITH, Baltimore Ravens (#27)
Again, I’d prefer not to have such a focus on the first-rounders. This piece is intended to display my depth of knowledge about the draft as superior among non-experts. Alas, the draft allowed two fantastic steals to happen at a vital, premiere position. I think Amukamara and Smith both landed with perfect fits from a schematic perspective. And Smith might be the best corner in this draft, bar none. He’ll take over as the leader of the secondary when Ed Reed decides he’s done for real.
S- RAHIM MOORE, Denver Broncos (#45); MARCUS GILCHRIST, San Diego Chargers (#50)
Moore joins a long line of hard-hitting, playmaking Broncos safeties; Gilchrist was one of my two or three favorite DB’s in the draft and should start immediately in an underrated Chargers D.