You'd probably have to go back to 1997 to find a draft like this one. That's the year Peyton Manning eschewed the prospect of going to the Jets first overall to play for Bill Parcells and returned for his senior year at Tennessee. One quarterback (shaky Jim Druckenmiller, 26th) picked in round one. Two backs (Warrick Dunn 12th and Antowain Smith 23rd) in round one, and four receivers in the first: Ike Hilliard seventh, Yatil Green 15th, Reidel Anthony 16th and Rae Carruth 27th. Yikes! What a horrible draft for point-producers. One star, Dunn, out of seven first-rounders.
That could repeat this year. It's likely Alabama's Eddie Lacy will be the only running back taken in round one. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson leads the muddled pack at wide receiver, but how sure can you really be of junior-college transfers who play one year of major-college football, which is Patterson's profile?
The quarterbacks are a total mish-mosh at this point. One GM interested in acquiring a quarterback this offseason told me over the weekend, "I expect more attention on the quarterbacks throwing this year than on any other single thing at the Combine.'' Some think Geno Smith of West Virginia will go first overall to quarterback-needy Kansas City; one personnel man who studied all the top quarterbacks for a team in need of one last fall told me, "There's not one quarterback, including Smith, I would take in the first round."
Two points about that. If you need a quarterback, you can talk brave in February, but when reality sets in around draft day, and you haven't picked up a quarterback in free agency, all of a sudden the zits on Smith, Matt Barkley and other others don't seem as bad. And we're nine and a half weeks from round one. There's no way that Andy Reid and John Dorsey, the coach and GM for Kansas City, know what they're doing now. They need time to investigate and to watch tape on the eight or 10 quarterbacks.
But in some ways, 2013 should be a catchup year for the other positions. Opening day 2013 could feature 12 starting quarterbacks drafted in 2011 and '12; that's far, far above the norm in a game that values veteran arms at the position.
Now for a couple of notes about players at the Combine.
Alec Ogletree. The underclass inside linebacker from Georgia would be a clear top-10 pick with a clean resume. But he was suspended the first four games of last season for failing an offseason drug test, and then came the news Saturday night, via ProFootballTalk.com, that Ogletree recently was pinched for driving while intoxicated.
Ogletree and agent Pat Dye were smart to come out and beat the police blotter to the punch. As for the damage done by the arrest, Ogletree, who is a speed demon for an inside player, the kind of player who, if right, would be a perfect fit as a rare three-down inside linebacker for any team, has to convince teams they shouldn't be worried about a player who has tested positive, been suspended, and gotten a DWI in the span of about nine months.
Some GM is going to stake his reputation on Ogletree in the first round, most likely. Which GM? It would have to be a secure one. Green Bay's Ted Thompson or de facto GM Bill Belichick of the Patriots or Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome, all down near the bottom of the round.
Manti Te'o. The Notre Dame linebacker has spent a lot of time practicing football and practicing what he's going to say to teams. His last game, against Alabama, was a nightmare (he was awful, and overpowered), and then the whole fake girlfriend story came up, making him a national story and, in some quarters, a national joke. It won't matter much how he works out in Indianapolis. What will matter are the 15-minute interviews he'll have in formal evening sessions with teams, and in less formal settings, seeing coaches and personnel people at the stadium and around his hotel.
No men have more on the line, off the field, at the Scouting Combine than Ogletree and Te'o.
Finally, three players I'll be watching at the Combine, three with question marks and debatable upsides:
1. Quarterback Sean Renfree, Duke. No one's talking about him, but he completed 70 percent of his throws in six of 12 games for David Cutcliffe last fall, was a comeback specialist, and has the pedigree in a good pro-style offense to play early. Could he be more than a late-round flyer, this year's Ryan Lindley? We'll see.
2. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, Florida State. A 6-2 cornerback in a league demanding cover guys who can play on islands more and more? Scouts want to see if Rhodes, who is a heady player with good bump skills at the line of scrimmage, has the speed to stay with fast wideouts. If so, he'll be a top-half-of-the-first-round player.
3. Running back Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina. After his devastating dislocated knee and torn knee ligaments in October, Lattimore, considered a certain first-rounder before the injury, is still in recovery mode. His surgeon, James Andrews, told Lattimore recently that he's going to shock the world. "I hear he's working out great,'' said Mayock. Lattimore believes he'll be healthy enough to start the 2013 NFL season. Is he's a fourth-round minefield pick? Or might some team desperate for a back go for him a round earlier -- or even late in the second round?
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