Toe to Toe: Hodes versus Schmidley (Hodes)
Best Available Player: Glenn Dorsey, DT Louisiana State University. While Schmidley will certainly make a compelling case for Darren McFadden, a man sure to turn beast in the NFL, we should not be blinded by skill positions. Too often, we build up our conceptions of quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers because of the glamour associated with them. Then what of defensive tackles? Dorsey was the bedrock of LSU's national title team, a role he can easily play for a bevy of professional teams in the not-too-distant future. I'll concede that his biggest concern is his ability to stay healthy, but durability should not factor into a discussion of the best available player, especially with regard to the NFL. In a league where any player is susceptible to career-ending injuries on any given play, the best you can do is draft based on ability and let fate run its course.
Sleeper: Felix Jones, RB Arkanasas. He won't be mentioned in any discussion of best available players, he won't be invited to attend the actual draft and he won't receive nearly as much money as his superstar Razorback teammate. But make no mistake -- Felix Jones will be a force in the National Football League. While McFadden received all the hype, Jones was able to quietly fly under the radar as Arkansas' number two back. Of course, flying under the radar is all relative when you're averaging 8.7 yards per carry. Teams will question his ability to be a feature back. Where are the teams questioning McFadden's ability to play Batman without his Robin? This situation is eerily comparable to Reggie Bush and Lendale White in 2006. Bush had all the hype, but Lendale has had the more productive early career. Don't be surprised if the Razorback tandem follows a similar path. Or better yet, don't be surprised if both backs become studs in the NFL. They're that good.
Most Overrated: Matt Ryan, QB Boston College. Remember our little discussion of skill-position players? I'd like to present you with Matt Ryan, the quarterback playing the role of "we need a quarterback to be good in this draft, so let's go with this guy." No draft could be complete without an elite quarterback, a role that has unfairly been placed on Ryan's shoulders by the Mike Mayocks of the world. Sex sells, and in the NFL, that means quarterbacks. What's so special about Ryan anyway? NFL.com compares him favorably to Matt Schaub. Really? You want me to hype the next Matt Schaub? The problem isn't Ryan or Schaub. If Ryan does turn into Matt Schaub in the pros, then he should have a long and productive career. The problem is that very few elite quarterbacks seem to be coming around these days, but even as the position lags in quality, the media needs to build up the position for financial gain. Don't be upset if your team grabs Ryan, just hope it isn't too high.
Team To Watch: New York Jets. The non-Super Bowl winning residents of the Meadowlands are facing an enormous draft. Few teams have been as active in the off-season. And no team has as much pressure to remain relevant in its own media market. Last season, the Jets blew their opportunity to have the second-overall pick by winning their season finale. Still, sitting at number six in a loaded front-end of the draft, the Jets will make their most-decisive pick since Keyshawn Johnson. A successful draft will go a long way in pulling out from behind the Giants' shadow. And if all goes according to plan, look for the Jets to be the better team by the time the two teams move into their new stadiums.
Biggest Storyline: New England getting stripped of the 31st pick. Remember Spygate? You can be sure that the 18-1 Patriots do. And on draft day, they'll feel the incident's strongest reverberations when their allotted slot is passed over. They may have traded into the first-round, but don't think Spygate won't reemerge as a major story on Saturday. If the league would put New England on the clock with the 31st pick for ten minutes only to have the commissioner come out to announce that New England forfeits the pick, now that would be something to watch.