Friday, March 25, 2011

Amateur Draftniks Point of View – Part II

By Hayden Flanders
So this is getting out of hand.  The NFL season is on the brink of collapse, and the labor impasse, looks…well…impassable at this point, with the players union no longer a union, and several players filing antitrust lawsuits against the NFL, and the owners locking out the players.  Things have just gone downhill since, with the players refusing to go back to the negotiating table after rejecting a last-minute proposal by the owners.  Both sides pointing fingers, blaming each other for this mess...Not thinking about the people who may very well be hurt the most by this labor lock-up…Us fans.

We all wait all offseason for our next glimpse at our beloved NFL teams, and then watch with anticipation, excitement, and sometimes even pain, as our teams fight and scratch their way toward the Super Bowl, what has been the most-watched championship event in sports for the past 3 years.  At least the NFL is doing one thing…Continuing on with the NFL Draft, even though the teams cannot sign their respective selections until the labor deal is done.

But anyways, I’m sick of the “labor problems” in the NFL. What I’m interested in now is the NFL Draft, and I’ve already written one piece on two players who peak my interest.  This time, things are going to be a LITTLE different.

There are several players that will be selected this year, over 200 to be exact.  Several get more hype than others, and a couple of them…straight up do NOT deserve that hype.  Many of you will disagree with me on these two players, but these are my personal opinions.

First off, the money pick, Auburn Quarterback Cam Newton.  Yes he won a title, yes he won a Heisman, “But he did them both in ONE season as a starter!!” . . . and your point is?  Newton, while physically imposing, and athletically-gifted as he is, has some serious issues with his game, Number One being his attitude.  Word has spread that he’s not so much of a team player, and tended to change calls in the huddle to plays he felt were more to his liking, and that he is what the NFL likes to call a “head-case” someone who thinks they’re MUCH better than they really are.

Think of current Tennessee Titans, and former Texas Longhorns Quarterback Vince Young.   Athletic, big, strong, but guess what? He just doesn’t have the head on his shoulders to succeed at the level needed in the NFL.  He has been said to not be willing to practice, and not willing to focus, and just does not really TRY, and Newton has started to come across as THAT EXACT sort of player.  Which that, to me, says he just will NOT succeed in the NFL.  Quality backup? Maybe. Starter? NO!

Next up, and this one is a much easier one to say, is Washington Huskies Quarterback, Jake Locker.  Last season, he was being touted as the “2011 #1 Overall Pick!” but after this past season…things have changed…drastically.  Locker was coached by Quarterback Guru Steve Sarkisian, who is the current head coach of Washington, and his play was PHENOMENAL to say the least in 2009, but in 2010, he regressed to a VERY bad point.

At the end of this season, he was still being touted as a 1st round pick, just no longer #1 overall…but now, he’s slipped to most analysts guessing somewhere between late 2nd round although the way to early-to-mid 3rd round!  Even then, I think that’s a bit steep for the likes of Locker.  In my eyes, in the games I’ve watched of him (and yes fellow Husker fans, I have watched more than the 2 Husker-Huskies games), He is a TERRIBLE passer.  He can run, that is for sure.  But his passing leaves MUCH to be desired.  He has a BAD tendency to stare down his receiver that he’s gunning for, which causes him to throw more INT’s then he normally would, because his eyes are leading the defenders to the ball.  His pocket presence, while somewhat-good, is Not NFL quality.  He is willing to turn it up and run, but more often than not, I saw Locker force a bad pass that should not have been thrown.

Granted, I was willing to give Locker another chance, with the All-Star games, the NFL Combine, and the Washington Huskies Pro Days all coming up for him to showcase his talents to NFL scouts…But my 2nd chance blew by the wayside, as Locker showed off a less-than-spectacular performance in not one, not two, but all three of his chances.  The only thing keeping him afloat is the fact that there are SO many Quarterback-needy teams in the NFL this draft season, so at least one will take a flier on the former Washington Husky.

Now while I believe those two are busts-waiting-to-happen, I have one quarterback who I believe is VASTLY underrated.  That quarterback is Florida State 5th year senior, Christian Ponder.  Ponders biggest knock on him is the fact that he has had multiple surgeries on his throwing arm, which people said has decreased his arm strength, which, to begin with, was never spectacular.  While it may have decreased it SOME, He has shown, now that he’s healthy, he has PLENTY of arm strength.

Ponder has shown INCREDIBLE accuracy, being able to float deep balls over the defenders, and hit his receivers in-stride, and his short-to-medium range passes are even better, he has the anticipation, and ability to read the routes, and feel the passes that he can “throw the receiver open” , in other words, if the receive isn’t really OPEN to be thrown to, if a defender is in the area, Ponder is so accurate that he can throw the ball to a point where ONLY the receiver has any chance at it, therefore, “throwing him open.”
While not the fastest quarterback of this draft class, he has speed, and quickness.  Those two skills are good enough that he CAN, and will challenge the edge of defenses if he needs to take off and run.  He, however, is NOT a Run-First Quarterback, he is a passer.

While a good runner, his pocket presence leaves a bit to be desired, but that can be coached up in the NFL.  While it may take some work, I believe Ponder can, and will, be a Legitimate NFL Starter somewhere (personally hoping my Miami Dolphins either take him at the 15th pick of the 1st round, or trade down to a lower pick in the 1st round, pick up an early-to-mid 2nd round pick to replace the 2nd round pick given to Denver in the Brandon Marshall trade last draft, and pick up Ponder there if he’s still available.)

Well I hope you all enjoyed this “amateur” draftniks take on a few more players.  I’m not done writing about them yet, the draft is Not until April 28th, and so I have a few more stories up my sleeve, including one about all the Husker Draft-hopefuls!

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