Draft gets interesting after Luck, RG3

Quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor meet during the 2012 NFL...

Quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor meet during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

John Kryk, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:19 PM ET

If the NFL's Scouting Combine is the "Underwear Olympics," the NFL entry draft has become the Summer Olympics on human growth hormones.

And no one even has to pee in a bottle.

In the U.S., the NFL draft now is one of the most hyped and hotly anticipated events on the entire sports calendar.

Its move last year to prime time for the two of the three days has further raised the draft's status.

There's now even a Hollywood-style red carpet walk-in outside Radio City Music Hall, in the heart of Manhattan.

Round 1 selections will be made this coming Thursday night. Rounds 2 and 3 go Friday night, and Rounds 4-7 go Saturday afternoon and early evening.

"It's mind-boggling for me where this thing is going," Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's top draft analyst said last week. "I'm amazed at the interest in this draft, and all things NFL."

There are two draft-centric reasons for the added interest this year. First, because of the rock-star buzz surrounding the unquestioned top two prospects — quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III — and, second, because no two prognosticators can agree on what the hell might happen in the rest of the Top 10.

The Indianapolis Colts have the No. 1 overall selection, and it's practically a certainty they'll take Luck, the Stanford standout.

Just as likely, the Washington Redskins next will take Griffin — the Heisman Trophy winning dual-threat star from Baylor University.

After that is where this draft will get interesting.

Just about every team in the league, it seems, is looking for a tall, speedy wide receiver who can stretch a defence and open things up. Similarly, every team in the now pass-crazy league can use a new top-notch cover corner.

While there is an over-abundance of the former, there is a paucity of the latter. There are only three first-round corners in most experts' estimations: Morris Claiborne of LSU, Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama and Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina. All three could go in the first 12 picks.

Similarly, almost every team is looking to upgrade its pass rush because, as Bills GM Buddy Nix said last week, they'd prefer that the quarterback launches his throws from his back. There are so many quality defensive ends or outside linebackers that 10 could go before the third round.

At running back, Trent Richardson of Alabama is a Top 5 lock by most lights and the best RB to come out of college since Adrian Peterson in 2008.

After Luck and Griffin, only one more QB is a first-round certainty, and that's Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M. Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State or even Kirk Cousins of Michigan State might sneak in.

Regardless of position, teams are loathe to "overdraft" any player. That is, to take a player earlier in the draft than they believe his talent warrants.

But it happens — every year, on all three days. Often, that is a big mistake.

"Need," former Ravens head coach Brian Billick said so aptly last month, "is a terrible evaluator."

BAMA AND THE NFL DRAFT

If anyone ever doubted that University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban can spot talent, recruit talent, and develop that talent, watch the NFL draft on Thursday night.

Five of his players from last fall might be selected in the first round. That would be one shy of the record held by Miami-Florida in 2004.

The wave of Crimson Tide stars pegged for the first round are:
• RB Trent Richardson (Top 5, likely);
• CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Top 15, likely);
• S Mark Barron (Top 15, likely);
• LB Dont'a Hightower
• LB Courtney Upshaw

That's four defenders from last year's NCAA champion Crimson Tide.

How does Saban do it? Well, we'll just leave the issue of talent procurement for another day. But the man sure can develop those defenders, however he acquires so many good ones.

One thing he does in practice is send in fresh scout-team wideouts after every play.

"We used to get mad at him," Kirkpatrick said in February at the scouting combine. "We'd be out there, kind of tired. So you'd give up one or two (touchdowns), but they were just preparing you for the game."

And the NFL.


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