2011 NFL Draft: Five First Round Surprises

If you’re a fellow draft nerd like myself, you figured that there would be plenty of surprises in the first round on Thursday night. Here are five that caught me off guard.

1. The Falcons trade two drafts worth of picks for Julio Jones.
The fact that the Falcons traded into the top 10 wasn’t surprising. There were pre-draft reports that suggested they would do just that. The fact that they traded 72 picks in order to climb up in order to take him…wow. Make no mistake: Julio Jones is a stud and he’s going to look real good in an offense that already consists of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. But a first, second and a fourth this year, plus a first and a fourth next year is a TON to give up for one player. But hey, GM Thomas Dimitroff knows he has a Super Bowl-caliber roster and he just added an impact player. The loss to the Packers in the playoffs last year proved just how badly the Falcons needed a deep threat that could stretch the defense. Jones fills that need instantly; he just better pan out.

2. Titans take Jake Locker at No. 8.
With Vince Young heading out of town, everyone knew a quarterback was an option for Tennessee at No. 8. But the fact that they passed on Blaine Gabbert, who was arguably the better QB prospect, for Jake Locker was a surprise that not many people saw coming. That said, had Locker came out last year he would have probably be the No. 1 overall pick. But since he struggled as a senior at Washington, draft observers thought he would go in the late first round, or possibly even slip into the second. The Titans obviously were incredibly high on him and he’s going to bring a lot of excitement to Tennessee – at least initially. But consider this: if Locker doesn’t pan out and Gabbert does, not only will it set the Titans back, but Gabbert (whom Tennessee’s AFC South rivals the Jaguars traded up to take at No. 10) could wind up haunting them for years.

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Scouting Combine Winners: 10 Players that Improved their Draft Stock

It’s dangerous to put too much stock in combine workouts.

The 40-yard dash may measure straight-line speed but it won’t tell you if a running back has great vision or instincts. The bench press might be a good indication of how strong a player is, but people with long arms tend to struggle with the exercise and isn’t having long arms one of the qualities that scouts look for in an offensive tackle prospect?

That said: Forget what I just wrote. The combine numbers mean everything, which makes this post so worth your time. Listen to me, I’m not one of those idiots who sets up an article by telling you how combine numbers mean nothing and then compiles a list of prospects that improved their draft stocks based off their combine numbers. That would just be foolish and counterproductive.

Below are 10 prospects that may have improved their draft stock with their performance at the combine this week. I know there were more than just 10, so feel free to share whom you thought raised their stock in the comments section below (which is way more productive than calling me a flippin’ moron for not listing a player, and then smugly asking, “Did you even watch football last year?” which is one of my all-time favorite comments from readers).

Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
I’d be shocked if Miller weren’t selected in the top 6 after running a 4.53 forty at the combine. He was unofficially clocked at 4.46 and I don’t see him getting past Cleveland at No. 6. (I actually think he won’t get past Arizona at No. 5, but if the Cardinals take a quarterback I could see the Browns nabbing him at No. 6.) Miller put on nearly 10 pounds since the Senior Bowl and is already drawing comparisons to DeMarcus Ware. He’s the most NFL-ready pass rusher in the draft.

Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Everybody is loving themselves some Christian Ponder right now. After displaying great accuracy and decent arm strength over the weekend, some believe Ponder may now go in the first round. I think that’s a stretch but I wouldn’t be shocked if he went to the Bengals at the top of the second round. He’s viewed as the best West Coast Offense quarterback in the draft and may have been the signal caller that improved his draft stock the most this week.

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