Impact Offensive Players in the NFL Draft
by Trevor Whenham - 3/18/2010
The NFL Draft is the single most over-hyped, over-analyzed, borderline obnoxious event there is. It's now a constant three-month process where players can go from off the radar to the top of the heap and back without ever playing a game. It's unquestionably important as a way for teams to reload and rebuild, but the impact isn't nearly as significant as the media makes it seem.
If you believed what you read then every first rounder is going to be a hall of famer, and is going to lift their team to the Super Bowl in his first year. There are some aspects of the Draft that we just can't ignore as bettors. The most significant, and the one we will focus on here, is the renewed faith in youngsters on the offensive side of the ball.
It used to be that an offensive player was eased into things slowly. Recently, though, we've seen more and more guys being relied upon significantly from the start. Mark Sanchez this past year joins guys like Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan and players who have led their team early and enjoyed success doing it.
It's not just quarterbacks, either - Michael Crabtree changed his team for the better as soon as he finally joined the team, and running backs often make a difference right away. Bettors need to be aware of the guys who could have an immediate impact so that they can have an accurate sense of what a team is and what it has to offer. Here's a look at five potential impact offensive players in this year's strong draft that could make waves right away:
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma - It goes without saying that the impact Bradford can have will depend significantly on where he winds up. We know that he's likely to go early, though, and that he is sure to land on a team that has QB issues, so he's likely to get his shot. I'm confident that Bradford can be effective in a high-pressure situation with little preparation because we have already seen him do it once. In his first season of play at Oklahoma he wasn't supposed to start, but injuries forced him to and he never looked back. It's a shame that last year was lost, but what did we learn from him before then? He has a solid arm, he can move when he needs to, he's smart, and he knows how to win. Bradford is just a player, and it's hard not to be impressed by him. He's going to be a keeper (and 10 times the player that Jimmy Clausen will ever be).
C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson - I have watched Clemson play a handful of times over the last two years. Each time it's like I am watching a different player in the Spiller uniform. That's not because he isn't consistent, but because he is so versatile and dangerous that he can do whatever needs to be done. He can run it right up the middle if he needs to. He can deke and dive and make guys miss. He's a very dangerous receiving threat. He can return threatens. The guy can do anything, and that makes it easier for a coaching staff to find some way for him to be useful right away. What stands out most when you watch the guy is that he's a smart football player who can adjust on the fly when the situation calls for it. Smart and running back are not often found in the same sentence.
Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State - Like Bradford, Bryant is coming off of a lost season. Despite that, what I like most about Bryant is his proven performance in high-pressure situations. He's no Darrius Heyward-Bey. He was absolutely monstrous - almost unstoppable - in Oklahoma State's big 2008 season, and is the single biggest reason why they accomplished all they did. He's good sized, physical, fast, and has hands made of glue. He gets better and better the further he gets away from the quarterback. If he lands in a good spot with a QB who can get him the ball then he has a real shot to make an impact right away, and to really accomplish something by the time his career is done. He is dramatically better than any other receiver available.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech - A good receiver is an explosive receiver, and Thomas has the ability to go from idle to full speed in a step to lose a DB. He's a big boy, and he isn't afraid to use his size to his advantage - even if he has to get into the gutter to do so. What's most impressive about his game, though, is that's he's a home run threat. He can look absolutely invisible for long stretches and then suddenly get wide open for a long bomb. It's not a rare occurrence, either - he had receptions of 50 yards or more in nine of his 13 games. If Thomas lands in a system with a coordinator who likes to gamble and go vertical then he could really make some noise.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State - Mathews isn't one of those guys that leaps off the film - he runs higher than he should, and he's not super fast. The more you watch him, though, the more you have to like him. He doesn't do anything fancy - he just runs. He has one of the most devastating stiff arms I have seen, and he is big enough to use it to brush defenders aside surprisingly often. He's very difficult to get down as well - he blows through weak tackles, and when most guys would be down he is able to through down a hand to catch his balance and ready another charge. He'll be an easy guy to plug into a running game because all he needs is a line that will give him some room.
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