As every season begins, so does the buying of a whole new crop of rookies that drive product sales. Unlike baseball, rookies on the field drive every product with no exception, and it has everything to do with potential impact right out of the gate. Whereas in baseball, prospects need time, sometimes years, in the minor leagues before debuting, football rookies can produce from day one. In addition, due to league protocols, every product must feature a certain percentage of rookie content, which means that no product goes untouched.
This year, much like last year, defense is going to dominate the first round. Some mocks are predicting up to 15 defensive lineman going in the first round, a figure that would be a record for the modern draft era. Players like Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara are also thrown into the mix, and you can guess the rest. This leaves a very small window for offensive position players, but that is what makes this time of year so much fun. Anything can happen.
With that, I want to discuss more of an updated potential guide for each offensive skill player, just so you dont go running to eBay and buy just because some guy was drafted top 5. All of the following guys will have TONS of cards, something that could be a reason to hold off a little from the initial spike of value post-draft.
Cam Newton (Projected Top 5)
In all honesty, Newton could go #1 to Carolina, but most draft gurus dont see him falling past Buffalo at 3. Either way its a relative black hole for him, Buffalo worse than Carolina. Both teams are absolutely terrible, with no strength on the offensive line or at receiver. Carolina at least has Steve Smith for now, but who knows. If Carolina takes him he is going to have to sit behind Clausen for a while until the seasoning takes effect. What happens if Clausen all of a sudden turns it on? With a wage scale likely coming, teams may be much more willing to sit on a guy they didnt have to burn 50 mil guaranteed on. In Buffalo, its even worse, if not only because so few people collect Buffalo players. I warned early last year that CJ Spiller was a terrible bet, and yet, collectors still bought in at greater than 100 bucks before the season started. To see that Newton is almost double that price now, its a huge risk I wouldnt want to take until I saw he was going to produce like Bradford did last year.
Blaine Gabbert (Projected Top 5)
I like Gabbert a lot more than Newton, but he has shown some softness in decision making during high pressure games. He has a great arm and seems to be the most NFL ready, but again, he could end up in Buffalo. If not, he could fall to Arizona (almost as bad) San Fran (a little better) or Tennessee (a little better). Regardless, Gabbert should have a better initial start with a few more weapons to play with if he is drafted later, but that doesnt mean his success will be amazing right off the bat. The good thing is, his values are at similar levels to the more 2nd round guys like Locker and Mallett right now, mainly because of his notoriety. If I had the choice between buying Newton and Gabbert right now, I would buy Gabbert unless I was selling before the season starts.
Jake Locker (Projected Top 40)
Locker is one of those guys that definitely hurt himself by going back to school. Considering that he could have been the number 1 pick last year, he should have come out. Andrew Luck has chosen a similar path, and I just dont see it working out for him, especially when there is no benefit from going back. Locker has some eyes on him at the beginning of Rd 1 with the Vikings, but its unlikely that they will take him there. He wont fall past them in the second round, with some bottom first round teams definitely taking a look too. Locker has notoriety at UW, which means he has value regardless of draft position, but if he ends up in MN, his value will spike because of all the Vikings collectors out there. He also has Harvin and possibly Rice to throw to, which will be a huge plus with him handing the ball off to Peterson 30 times a game. If he ends up in one of the other early team’s hands, watch out. His accuracy dropped in his senior season because of the caliber of guys he was playing with, it will only be worse in the NFL. Team is a big factor for him, BOTTOM LINE.
Mark Ingram (Projected Top 32)
Like every possible top RB draft pick, Ingram is subject to the Peterson effect. Basically, because the RBs have the most potential to contribute big numbers off the bat like Peterson did in 2007, collectors over-value their worth. Eventually more of the RBs turn out like Kevin Smith or Knowshon Moreno, rather than the prototypical Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson. Ingram has some knee issues, but definitely could produce if he gets on a late round team. I know the higher he goes in any round, the less potential he will have, so watch the draft before you buy. Some of the RBs can produce regardless of the team they are on, Tomlinson being a great example, but I dont think Ingram is that guy.
Mikel LeShoure (Projected Top 40)
I think LeShoure may be the steal of this draft, but recent auctions are showing that I am not the only one who thinks this about him. LeShoure looked great in college, and could easily be the next Rashard Mendenhall if he ends up on a team like New England who uses their running game like a freight train rather than a means of production. He wont go far into the second round, if he falls that far at all, and I expect that many of the guys that bought up the RBs last year will latch on quickly if he goes late in round 1.
AJ Green (Projected top 10)
I like Green a lot. I like him better than I liked Demaryius Thomas last year and I definitely like him better than many of the other WR prospects in this draft. The problem is he is more than likely going to end up in Cleveland, which means his production may not be as big as it could have been had he ended up in a more passing centric team. With Kenny Britt having major arrest issues in Tennessee, he could end up there, but odds are he goes top 5. I would caution against buying non-Vikings, Steelers or Cowboys receivers in general, but Green could explode. His values are high right now, so wait until they come down before buying in.
Ryan Mallett (Projected Top 64)
Before having some character issues pop up, Mallett was a top QB prospect for 2011. Huge arm, huge accuracy, and great numbers. The problem is that there are rumors of all sorts of crazy shit from drugs to other character questions. Mallett should go before the end of Rd 2, and a lot of collectors are already prospecting his cards just because his numbers on the field show a good propensity to do well where ever he ends up. I think he would be a good fit in a lot of situations, and would love if the Vikings took a chance, but I would say that right now his values are so high that I wouldnt touch them with a ten foot pole attached to another ten foot pole. I want to see production out of him before buying anything.
Julio Jones (Projected Top 15)
After Green and Jones, the WR crop is minimally worth anyone’s time in the first few rounds. Jones is good enough to be the top guy in the draft, but Im not sure how many teams have him ahead of Green on their boards. Like with any pick, the later he goes the better his production, but that is only if there isnt a clear #1 on that team to begin with. I dont think he will fall past #15, just due to talent alone, but who knows. His values are above Green’s right now because of where he went to school, but if he ends up on a crappy team, watch out! Again, dont overpay because he will have tons more out there, and WRs rarely do very well past their rookie seasons in terms of value.
Players to check out NOW:
Andy Dalton – QB, TCU: Getting comparisons to Aaron Rodgers with a smaller arm. Could be a great buy at prices like this.
Robert Quinn – DE, UNC: I know he is a DE, but this guy has incredible potential. His autos are dirt cheap and if he goes to the right team he could be dominant. This leads to unusual value for a defensive player.
Ryan Williams – RB, VT: Williams’ values are still under the radar, but could end up being a huge pickup if he goes late in the second round. Some collectors are already catching on, but I would go now before you see where he goes.
Titus Young – WR, Boise St: Titus Young’s autos are incredibly cheap right now, but he could go in the back of the second round. He will be a #2, but if he ends up with Mike Williams stats, his value could jump. At these prices, he is worth the risk.
DeMarco Murray – RB, OU: I think Murray is a third round pick, but he could get some significant playing time if he goes early in the round or even late in the second. If he jumps up to the second round, these prices will seem great.