ElongatedHorn has an excellent draft preview concerning Longhorns here, and I will add on some of my thoughts on the upcoming draft as well, including some discussions on non-UT players. I will not make up a mock draft, since I never found the things very useful and this is a college blog anyway, but I'd like to comment on the draft a bit, if only because there are several Big 12 players at the top of the draft. I have papers to write, but this is a nice break from that.
As is popular during during the draft process, pundits spend a lot of time splitting hairs between players that are perceived to be relatively close in either position or draft status. Last year, people discussed Stafford vs. Sanchez, Stafford vs. Jason Smith or Aaron Curry, Orakpo vs. Maybin, etc. I'd like to weigh in on some present ones here.
Ndamukong Suh vs. Gerald McCoy
Several draft geeks, including those at ESPN, have McCoy ever so slightly ahead of Suh in their overall rankings. While I think McCoy is a fine player, I have to disagree; in fact, I thought Suh so distanced himself from McCoy during the 2009 season that I was surprised that some people ranked McCoy higher.
I wrote this elsewhere explaining why:
There are several reasons why I think so. First of all, I believe Suh to be the overall better athlete; perhaps it is true that McCoy is quicker (never noticed that when I saw them play), but even so, Suh's combination of quickness and strength is impressive. One play sticks out to me, which I mention in my preview of Nebraska's defense here: Against Oklahoma, Suh bull-rushed Jarvis Jones, who was pushed backwards like he was wearing skates, and then simply shoved Jones into Landry Jones, causing an incomplete pass. He made it look so easy tossing around a fellow huge football player, and my first reaction was to laugh at Oklahoma. Unfortunately, my second was, "Oh my God, our interior line may have to try to block that guy." There were other "Wow" moments for me when watching Suh, including one play where he snatched an interception out of the air against Missouri. I do not have any such "Wow" moments watching McCoy.
I agree that Suh-mania got out of control just because he had a monster game against us, but I felt this way well before the Big 12 championship game. Also, Nickel Rover over at Barking Carnival compiled some interesting season statistics of Suh and McCoy, also throwing in Texas' own Lamarr Houston in for comparison.
Gerald McCoy: 34 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 2 PBU, 9 QBH, FR, FF
Lamarr Houston: 68 tackles, 22 TFL, 8 sacks, 4 PBU, 28 QB, 2 FR
Ndamukong Suh: 85 tackles, 24 TFL, 12 sacks, 1 INT, 10 PBU, 26 QBH, FF, 3 blocked kicks
I'm not in any way saying that raw numbers should settle this debate by themselves, but since Suh and McCoy are already ranked so closely together, it is a big point in Suh's favor. Not only is Suh well ahead of McCoy in this department, McCoy is comfortably behind Lamarr Houston. The popular response to this is that McCoy and Suh were employed a bit differently in college, which is true. Of course, I believe that point backfires, because McCoy played more as a pure 3-technique while Suh was expected to take on double teams more often in the middle, which should make us expect that McCoy would have the monster numbers instead. I would also argue that McCoy had an overall better supporting cast, although both defenses were very good. Nebraska heavily relied on Suh to do what they wanted, which allowed them to go into a base dime defense against Texas.
In a nutshell, I'm no scouting expert, but I'd take Suh in a heartbeat. It does depend a bit on scheme; since McCoy is seen as the pure 3-tech DT, perhaps Tampa Bay may have him rated higher than McCoy since that want the second coming of Warren Sapp. However, all things being equal, Suh would be my choice. We here at Texas, at least, know whom we would rather not face again given the choice.
Ndamukong Suh vs. Sam Bradford
This is virtually pointless because it seems pretty certain that the Rams will take Bradford (bless his heart), but I'll talk about it anyway. I actually like Bradford better than both Sanchez and Stafford last year because I think he is more accurate and smarter than both. There is that legitimate concern on how he handles pressure, but other than that, his arm strength is enough and his accuracy is what teams want. That being said, I would go with Suh as the #1 pick. The Rams have very little in place on offense to help Bradford out except Steven Jackson, and despite him being a Sooner, I like the guy and I want him to succeed in the NFL, not get pummeled into submission. Go here for a good case for the Rams to go DT instead of QB.
Eric Berry vs. Earl Thomas
Mark Mayock, among others, has Earl Thomas ranked above Eric Berry, and not without good reason; I will agree that Thomas' ball skills and instincts are slightly ahead of Berry's. Nonetheless, I can't go with him here even though Thomas is a Horn and one of my favorite players from last year. If Thomas was 6'1 and weighed a little more, I'd put him at the top, but Berry has prototypical NFL size, speed, agility, and versatility. If I had a choice, I'd take Berry at this point, especially if my defense was pretty bare. But we're splitting hairs here and I am confident that Earl Thomas is going to be a good one.
Jimmy Clausen vs. Sam Bradford
I'm in Bradford's camp here, and not because Clausen looks like the stereotypical arrogant pretty-boy from Notre Dame. I think Clausen is a good prospect, but there's really nothing that I would call elite. He doesn't have elite size, athleticism, arm-strength, or accuracy. He is still pretty accurate and he is well-coached, but I have a higher view of Bradford's accuracy and acumen than Clausen's. There's no telling who will eventually become better, obviously, but right now, I think you have to take Bradford.
Trent Williams vs. Russell Okung
Maybe I was being biased or blind, but I was left with the impression that Trent Williams' season was kind of a disappointment. In fact, I thought his draft stock was damaged much like Loadholt's was, although not to that degree. Next thing I know, Williams is being argued as the best tackle in the draft and lauded for his "versatility."
Williams isn't a bad player and he is a pretty athletic for his size, and he was without a doubt the best lineman on Oklahoma's disappointing offensive line. That being said, I ceased being overly worried about him by the time of the RRS, confident that our ends could take the edge against him. The fact that he got moved around so much isn't necessarily a good thing, because while Stoops may have trusted him more to make line calls at center, it is strange to take your best lineman off the most important position on the line. I like Okung here because he is a physical guy that can move pretty well in space, and he uses his hands well.
In order to project the success of pass rushers, there is a very interesting formula from Football Outsiders called Sack SEER. This formula has Jerry Hughes ranked as the best pass rushing prospect of the class and Sergio Kindle as the 5th, mostly due to Kindle's disappointing shuttle time. I recommend reading it because it's pretty interesting, even though I am always wary of relying on raw numbers too much. It is worth pointing out that the formula ranks Jason-Pierre Paul extremely low, which is not surprising since he fits the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect.
As the draft approaches, I feel like I'm hearing crazier things about Tebow. There was an article by NFL.com writer Vic Carucci that argued that the Bills should take Tebow at #9. Gregg Easterbrook, a guy I like to read, recently reiterated that he believes Tebow is first round material. I wrote a cordial email to Easterbrook stating why I disagreed, and he admitted I had a point.
I'm not a Tebow-hater (just a hater of Tebow coverage... there's a difference). Still, I can't see how it is rational to take him in the first round right now. The most common comparison Tebow gets (and a comparison Easterbrook makes) is that with Vince Young. Vince Young was a mobile QB coming into the NFL with mechanical throwing issues, but he was a winner and a leader. That sounds a lot like Tebow, but on closer inspection, the similarities really break down. For starters, VY is simply a far superior athlete. Tebow is a very good athlete, as evidenced by his impressive vertical jump and better than expected 40 time, but Vince Young is considered an elite athlete for his size. Tebow wasn't even that big of a threat to break off huge runs in college; what makes teams think he can do that in the NFL? Secondly, Vince Young's throwing issues were much different and ultimately not so bad that teams were willing to work with it. Not only have sidewinders found some success in the NFL, Vince Young is both tall enough to get away with it and also has a compact, quick release. Tebow's issues cause a slow, looping motion that increases the likelihood of fumbles and fails to get the ball out quickly. It's bad enough that Tebow (wisely) decided to completely change how he throws the football. Vince Young's non-traditional motion ultimately became a non-issue, as people correctly pointed out his need to work on accuracy and footwork instead. Even Vince Young-hater Merrill Hoge thought his side-arm motion wasn't a big deal because he had such a quick release. (Did I just agree with Merrill Hoge? Moving on...) For Tebow, not only does he have to work on accuracy and footwork himself, he has to try to change how he naturally throws.
I'm not a purist that thinks that anything that deviates from fundamentals will fail, but Tebow's problems are pretty substantial. An example I gave to Easterbrook was this: Reggie Miller in the NBA had an unorthodox shooting motion, but at the end of the day, it was fine because he shot the ball high and had a quick release. If Miller had some sort of slow, underhanded technique (that I promise you I've seen in some pickup basketball games), he would have failed even if he was deadly accurate that way. Such a shot would hardly have the chance to even get off in the NBA. The problem is not so much the mere fact that the motion is different but the kind of results it brings out, and for Tebow, it causes a glacially slow movement.
So here's what we have with Tebow. He doesn't have elite arm strength, he has accuracy issues and issues reading progressions, he's not an elite athlete, and he is trying to change how he throws a football. And some are arguing that he should go #9. Eh? I like the guy and I agree that he's a hard worker and a leader, but the draft is about picking players based on reasonable projection. As I hinted in my previous post on the draft, even if a guy like Tebow becomes a superstar at the next level, it is not legitimate to go back and claim that he should have been the #1 pick purely on result. From the information now, there is no reason to take him in the first round. I'd much rather take Colt McCoy in the second or late first round than take a first round swing on Tebow, a guy that might even need a position change in the near future.
Obligatory Roommate Mention
I'll agree with Elongated Horn that Shipley is being underrated by many, and I think he can have great production on a good passing team. I'd love for him to somewhere like Indianapolis, although they don't need him with Anthony Gonzalez returning and Austin Collie. Still, my dream for him is to go to an elite passing team that can take full advantage of his abilities. So while I'd love to finally see him play with Vince Young, I'd rather him not go there because that description does not fit the Tennessee Titans.
As far as Colt, I think going into the first round might be a slight reach, but a West Coast offense team that nabs him in the second can be a good fit. Colt is going to need some good receivers, but I am optimistic about Colt's chances in the NFL.
Anyway, the draft is tomorrow, so grab some popcorn and wait for Thomas and Kindle to get off the board, and maybe even Colt as well. Big 12 players that are projected or possible first rounders: Bradford, Suh, McCoy (DT), Thomas, Williams, Okung, Kindle, Bryant, Gresham, McCoy (QB). Of those, Bradford, Suh, Gerald McCoy, Williams, and Okung are projected top ten picks, with Thomas possibly sneaking in as well. I'm not a guy that's big on conference pride, but that's not bad at all.