“It’s not like there’s a huge pass-rush specialist that everybody is salivating over. They can be cornerstones of a franchise, but fans just don’t get fired up about the big boys.”
Because of the perceived lack of game-changing star power at the top, there has been very little chatter about teams attempting to trade up, like there was last year, when Luck and Griffin went 1-2, and any team with a need at quarterback was expected by their fan base to come up with creative trade proposals. If anything, teams are looking to trade down, since there is lower-round value to be found.
Across the board, it’s a weaker skill group. There might not be a running back taken in the first round; the highest-rated wide receiver, Tavon Austin of West Virginia, isn’t expected to go until the mid-teens, unless a team selecting higher feels it can’t pass up his penchant for big plays. But even that is a risk, Evans said.
“Most people have Tavon Austin as their No. 1 [wide receiver], and this guy is a 5-8, 174-pound football player. And this is the star of the wide receiver class?” Evans said. “Despite his big-play potential, give me one player in our business that at 5-8, 174, has done anything productive consistently.”
It’s clear what this draft doesn’t have. It’s also clear what it does. So get ready to hear a steady stream of linemen getting called to the podium Thursday night, and a whole bunch of pancake-block highlights being shown on the telecast.
“When you’re talking about offensive linemen, if they’re top-10 guys, they could have 10- or 15-year careers, and you still might not ever hear their names,” Kanell said. “They might make three or four Pro Bowls, but they’re offensive linemen, and you just don’t talk about them a lot.”
Draft candidates at a glance: Specialists
|Very good leg and placement (43.3-yard average). Standout kickoff specialist as well (68 of 89 were touchbacks), so adds value.|
|Dustin Hopkins||K||Florida State||6-2||184||4.70||6-7|
|Set NCAA scoring record for kickers (466 points). Hit 25 of 30 field goal attempts, with long of 56 yards. Not great long accuracy. Kicks off well.|
|Huge range, and he’s accurate from deep (17 of 22 from over 40 yards). Three-step kicker (three blocked last season). Will need two steps in pros.|
|Quinn Sharp||P||Oklahoma State||6-1||193||4.75||6-7|
|Rare triple threat: field goals, kickoffs, and punts. Raw in all areas. Projects as a punter (46.3-yard average). Attitude is a bit questionable.|
|Ryan Allen||P||Louisiana Tech||6-1||231||5.00||6-7|
|Won Ray Guy Award as top college punter two years with averages of 46.1 and 48.0 yards. Left-footed three-step punter; will have to be shortened to two in NFL.|
|Only snapper invited to the combine. Brother Jake was 2009 pick by Patriots and cut in 2010. Played for four other teams.|
— COMPILED BY GREG A. BEDARD
Michael Whitmer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.