Once again, we are joined by draftcountdown.com's Scott Wright for this week's five draft questions.
Click here if you missed last week's post. Scott talked about the Senior Bowl and outlined some of the players the Eagles could be looking at. He will be answering five questions for MTC every week until the draft. Feel free to e-mail me if there's something specific you'd like answered.
Q: Is Georgia's Matthew Stafford far and away the No. 1 quarterback, or is there someone out there who could possibly rise to the top? How does he compare to Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco from last year?
A: In my opinion Matthew Stafford is far and away the No. 1 quarterback in this draft and while there are some who prefer Mark Sanchez, they are in the minority. Not only does Stafford have all the physical tools you look for, including one of the strongest arms in football, but he also earns high marks in the intangibles department and has been a three-year starter in the SEC. The top four quarterback prospects I have ever graded are Peyton Manning, Brady Quinn, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, and while Stafford isn't quite in that class, he's just a notch below. I have Stafford rated as the best player in this draft, regardless of position, and he is a legitimate No. 1 overall pick.
Stafford isn't as polished as Matt Ryan was coming out (few are), but he has better physical tools, more upside and is also almost three years younger. He's also considered to be a much better prospect than Joe Flacco was last year.
Q: Who are the top tight ends on your board? In your most recent mock draft, you had the Eagles taking Jared Cook in the second round. Tell us a little about him.
A: The only tight end who carries a first-round grade this year is Brandon Pettigrew from Oklahoma St., who could be an option for Philadelphia at No. 21 if he lasts that long. He isn't a dynamic receiving threat like Kellen Winslow or Vernon Davis, but he is a very good all-around tight end who can contribute as both a pass-catcher and blocker. After Pettigrew, there is a group of six tight ends who are all known more for their receiving skills and should be taken in the second, third or fourth round, with the order still to be determined by the Scouting Combine and Pro Day workouts. They are Jared Cook of South Carolina, Shawn Nelson of Southern Miss, Chase Coffman of Missouri, Cornelius Ingram of Florida, James Casey of Rice and Travis Beckum of Wisconsin. Cook in particular is a very intriguing prospect. He actually began his college career as a wide receiver and if he works out as well as expected (4.4's at 6-6 and 242 pounds?), his stock could soar. Nelson really helped himself with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl while Ingram is a wild card because he missed his entire senior season with a knee injury. Most feel that overall tight end is one of the strongest positions in this draft.
Q: Is there a player in the first round who you think stands out in terms of a guy teams might be willing to trade up for?
A: I always caution that trades are really hard to consummate these days because those second- and third-round picks are just so valuable that most teams aren't willing to pay the price to move up. With that said there are a handful of prospects who could elicit trade offers on Draft Day and at the top of the list are two quarterbacks: Sanchez and Josh Freeman. When it comes to quarterbacks there aren't many exciting options available on the free agent market this year, and after you get past the top three in the draft, the talent level really drops off. I don't foresee Sanchez getting out of the top 10 overall, and I think Freeman will wind up going in the top 25, but don't be surprised if teams like the 49ers, Jets, Bears, Buccaneers or Vikings get aggressive in their pursuit of a young signal-caller. The bottom line is if teams miss out on Stafford, Sanchez and Freeman, they probably won't come out of this draft with a starting-caliber quarterback, and they know it.
Q: The combine starts next week. How much stock do teams put in that event?
A: I know it's popular to say the Scouting Combine is overrated and rave about how 40-times don't matter, but the bottom line is they do matter. Do some go overboard and put too much of an emphasis on workout numbers at times? Absolutely. However, as I always say, I'll take my receiver who runs a 4.4 against your corner who runs a 4.6 every day of the week. The Scouting Combine is simply another piece of the puzzle and a way for teams to gather the information they need to make the best decisions possible on Draft Day. A fast or slow 40-time shouldn't overshadow four years of game film, but there is a reason the NFL spends all that money to bring hundreds of prospects to Indianapolis for an entire week. It's actually pretty rare for a player to make a quantum leap up draft boards based solely on what he did in Indy, but the Combine is a valuable tool in the evaluation process. An overlooked aspect of the Scouting Combine is the interviews, and in many cases how well a prospect performs in meetings with NFL coaches and decision-makers can have more of an impact on their stock than anything they do on the field that week.
Q: Is there an NFL player that Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree compares to? Do you think he can make an instant impact in the NFL?
A: Larry Fitzgerald. Andre Johnson. Terrell Owens. Brandon Marshall. I know those are some big names, but those are the types of comparisons Crabtree is drawing. The big question mark with him right now is his speed and ability to separate, but other than that, he appears to be the total package. Size, hands, ball skills, body control, ability to run after the catch, etc. Most consider Crabtree to be one of the premier prospects in this draft and a top five overall pick, but worst-case he won't get past the Oakland Raiders at No. 7. As far as instant impact goes, it usually takes wideouts two or three years to adjust to the NFL, but Crabtree has as good of a chance to defy those odds as anyone.