Update (4/30): Ryan Mallett was selected by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Update (4/28): The first round is complete, and Ryan Mallett was not selected in the first 32 picks. Four quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder) were selected in the first round.
What’s going on in Fayetteville tonight? Who knows, exactly? I’ll tell you one thing that is definitely going on tonight – the 2011 NFL Draft. Around this time of year in Arkansas, there’s not a whole lot of hoopla going on in terms of first round draft picks. Sure, a few years ago we had the DMac and Felix Jones hype train to jump on. But aside from that, Arkansas hasn’t had that many players drafted in the first round over the past decade (to be exact, six over the past 10 years and only three over the past five years).
Now that Ryan Mallett is in the mix, will that number increase after tonight’s first round?
When Mallett said that he was going to come back after the 2009 season, a lot of fans, coaches and media predicted that would change. Going into last season, Mallett was being heralded as one of the elite quarterbacks, if not picks, in college football. And he proved to be one of the elite by putting up improved numbers over his already-impressive 2009 campaign:
Those gaudy numbers had Arkansas’ offense flying high once again and Mallett led the Razorbacks into their first BCS bowl. But, over the course of the 2010 season, Mallett’s draft stock took a small tumble. Even though Ryan can make throws that many others can’t, there were two costly forced throws that hurt the Razorbacks late in a game — and perhaps ultimately cost them the win (see the Alabama and Ohio State games).
Since the season’s end, Mallett’s stock has continued to fluctuate. At the first day of the NFL Combine, Mallett couldn’t escape reporters’ questions of drug use. But even after such a negative showing in the press room, Mallett turned heads on the field by doing what he does best, throwing the football. Later, at Arkansas’ Pro Day, Mallett continued to show off his amazing arm — if not his horrendous 40 yard dash time. As evidenced by his rushing prowess at Arkansas, we all know that Mallett isn’t going to hurt you with his running.
In recent weeks, Mallett has been (impressive) on Jon Gruden’s QB Camp and apparently his admission of drug use might now work in his favor. It also didn’t hurt when Arkansas Head Coach Bobby Petrino defended Mallett’s “off-field issues” and lauded him as a leader.
When it comes down to it, Ryan Mallett’s passing statistics and football IQ have never been in question. It’s his pressured decision-making and off-field choices that have been.
Many analysts have Mallett currently ranked as the 5th, or 6th, best QB prospect in the draft and most have him falling out of the first round. Word is that Mallett isn’t traveling to New York for the draft, which could mean his draft stock has definitely fallen out of the first round.
As much as I want Mallett to go in the first round, I’m afraid that a lot of teams aren’t willing to risk a first round pick on him. He’s a sure thing when it comes to throwing the ball. But is he mobile enough in the extremely fast NFL to make his mark? With the right protection and offensive scheming, Mallett has the tools to be a great quarterback in the NFL.
There are a few teams that could select a quarterback early in this year’s draft — the Buffalo Bills, the San Francisco 49ers, the Tennessee Titans, the Arizona Cardinals, the Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings.
My prediction is that unless someone gambles on him in the mid-first round (ahem, Miami Dolphins), I think Mallett will go in the second round. Possibly falling all the way to the Vikings and the 43rd pick overall.
In either case, I think that whoever drafts Ryan Mallett will be a lucky team and we’ll be able to enjoy him in the NFL for a long while.
Good luck, Mr. Mallett! Woo Pig Sooie!