22 Days Until The Draft: 3 Players Who Will Go Earlier Than You Think
Just over three weeks until the 2012 NFL Draft and if you’re like me, you’re probably finishing up the touches on your draft board (or spreadsheet). Before you finish up your rankings though, here are 3 prospects who will probably go before you expect them to:
1. Shea McClellin – DE/OLB – Boise State – Tony Pauline already tipped a lot of folks off about McClellin’s first day chances and I am expecting the versatile edge player to come off the board before the Patriots make their 2nd selection (31st overall). The spread of sub-package heavy defenses – many teams play sub upwards of 65% of the time – make versatile pass rushers like McClellin a hot commodity. However, the reason he will go higher than you expect is not his ability to get to the QB but his ability to drop into coverage that he displayed at the Senior Bowl. With “move” tight ends becoming an increasing trend in NFL offenses, defensive coordinators will love McClellin’s coverage potential. He’s not the most experienced coverage LB, and he definitely needs some technique refinement, but he flashes good hips and footwork. He will draw comparisons to a lot of edge players (both past and present) but the guy he reminds me a bit of is Tedy Bruschi. Like the former Patriots LB, McClellin is a guy who can line up all over the field but will probably start his career as a situational edge player – playing both standing up and with his hand down. Also similar to Bruschi, I see McClellin as a long-term “tweener” between ILB and OLB in a 3-4 alignment whose college passrushing will never quite translate to the pros. He’ll probably top out around 5-6 sacks but be immensely valuable as a jack of all trades in a team’s front 7.
2. Doug Martin – RB – Boise State – McClellin’s teammate at college, Martin is the 2nd back on my board. That’s not to say he has the 2nd highest (behind Trent Richardson) upside. Martin doesn’t strike me as a truly elite back who will rack up All Pro or Pro Bowl appearances. However, what he lacks in flash and ceiling he makes up for in versatility and completeness. No other back, outside of Richardson, has as well rounded of a skill set as Martin. Unlike some other 2nd tier RB’s, Martin has good hands out of the backfield and can hold up in pass protection. Similarly, while other 2nd tier RB’s might have better 40 yard times, Martin’s vision is amongst the best in this class. While a late 1st round pick is probably too rich for a back like Martin, it wouldn’t surprise me if some team trades up from the early 2nd round to get him. Worst case scenario, I don’t see him getting past the early stages of round 2.
3. Marvin Jones – WR – Cal – This year’s draft is positively loaded with 2nd tier WR’s. There could be a nearly unprecedented number of receivers come off the board in rounds 2 and 3. One guy who is getting lost in the shuffle a bit is Marvin Jones. He’s not the best physical specimen, a bit wiry in frame, but he has an excellent (and underrated) NFL skill set. He comes from a pro style offense and has can run option routes – something many young receivers need time to learn. His hands are amongst the best in the draft and he runs fairly clean routes, coming in and out of his breaks with the crispness needed to separate from NFL defenders. He isn’t without flaws obviously, and his lack of strength could really hurt his chances of playing on the outside in the NFL. However, as a slot receiver or in a spread style offense, he could be a dangerous threat on short passes and quick slants. He’s not afraid to take a shot over the middle and can hang on the ball even after a big hit. He also has the speed to slip get behind a defense if they don’t jam him at the line. A team like the Patriots or Packers would probably love to grab Jones in round 3, but he will be gone by the time the end of that round comes along. I expect him to be a top 75 pick who could go as early as late round 2.