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Jay Glazer and Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com are citing multiple sources reporting that Georgia OLB Justin Houston and Iowa DE Christian Ballard tested positive for marijuana at the combine in February. 

Both individuals are widely considered talents worthy of selection in the second to third round of Thursdays NFL Draft.  Houston is probable to land in the early to mid second round and Ballard will fall somewhere in the late second to early third round. 

In recent years, failed drug tests don’t necessarily equate to a plummet in draft position.  B.J. Raji reportedly failed a drug test at the 2009 combine and went #9 overall.  While some could argue Raji was a top five pick in that draft at #9 he did alright for himself.  It is becoming widely accepted in the NFL that a small portion of NFL locker rooms are filled with marijuana users.  What is concerning for teams is questions about intelligence if a player fails a drug test they know is coming.

I don’t know how much this affects Houston or Ballard’s draft stock but my guess is not a whole lot.  Houston still is questionable to make the transition to 3-4 OLB and probably will land in the middle of the second round.  Ballard has always been considered a late second round pick and may fall into the early portion of round three.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson granted the injunction that was requested by the players, thus lifting the NFL lockout for the time being.  

The NFL promptly appealed the ruling and will await word from a St. Louis Circuit Court.  The appeal could take an indefinite period of time, so the league is seeking a ‘stay’ in lifting the lockout, which would effectively delay Judge Nelson’s ruling on lifting the lockout.  If the league is granted the ‘stay’ the lockout would remain in effect until the appeal is resolved.

The NFL is in a “Wild West” state as of April 26, 2011 and it could get real interesting right before the NFL Draft on Thursday.  If the NFL fails to be granted a ‘stay,’ free agency and trades could be beginning as the NFL Draft is taking place.  While most assume the NFL will revert back to 2010 rules, with no salary cap, no salary floor, and six years to unrestricted free agency, no one really knows at this point. 

The time is ticking for the NFL to make some major decisions and it could make for an even more interesting NFL Draft.

This list is a comprehensive list of the top 100 players drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft.  This is not a player rankings or Big Board list, rather a list of the top 100 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft.  These picks will be submitted to The Huddle Report for scoring with the hopes of taking the top prize…pride.  Here’s the list broken down by position:

QB (8)

Cameron Newton, Auburn

Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

Christian Ponder, FSU

Jake Locker, Washington

Andy Dalton, TCU

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas

Colin Kaepernick, Nevada

Ricky Stanzi, Iowa

RB (7)

Mark Ingram, Alabama

Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech

Mikel Leshoure, Illinois

Taiwan Jones, Eastern Washington

Daniel Thomas, Kansas St.

Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma St.

Shane Vereen, California

WR (10)

A.J. Green, Georgia

Julio Jones, Alabama

Titus Young, Boise St.

Greg Little, North Carolina

Randall Cobb, Kentucky

Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh

Leonard Hankerson, Miami

Jerrel Jernigan, Troy

Edmond Gates, Abilene Christian

Tandon Doss, Indiana

TE (3)

Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame

Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin

Luke Stocker, Tennessee

T (11)

Tyron Smith, USC

Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

Nate Solder, Colorado

Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

Derek Sherrod, Mississippi St.

Marcus Gilbert, Florida

James Carpenter, Alabama

Benjamin Ijalana, Villanova

Orlando Franklin, Miami

Jah Reid, UCF

James Brewer, Indiana

G/C (7)

Mike Pouncey, Florida

Danny Watkins, Baylor

Marcus Cannon, TCU

Stefan Wisniewski, Penn St.

Rodney Hudson, FSU

Clint Boling, Georgia

John Moffitt, Wisconsin

DE (15)

Robert Quinn, North Carolina

Cameron Jordan, Cal

Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson

J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

Aldon Smith, Missouri

Muhammed Wilkerson, Temple

Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

Cameron Heyward, Ohio St.

Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh

Brooks Reed, Arizona

Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

Justin Houston, Georgia

Allen Bailey, Miami

Sam Acho, Texas

Dontay Moch, Nevada

DT (10)

Marcell Dareus, Alabama

Nick Fairley, Auburn

Corey Liuget, Illinois

Marvin Austin, North Carolina

Phil Taylor, Baylor

Stephen Paea, Oregon St.

Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson

Kenrick Ellis, Hampton

Drake Nevis, LSU

Jerrell Powe, Mississippi.

LB (11)

Von Miller, Texas A&M

Akeem Ayers, UCLA

Bruce Carter, North Carolina

Mason Foster, Washington

Chris Carter, Fresno St.

Martez Wilson, Illinois

Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina

Casey Matthews, Oregon

K.J. Wright, Mississippi St.

Ross Homan, Ohio State

CB (14)

Patrick Peterson, LSU

Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

Jimmy Smith, Colorado

Ras I-Dowling, Virginia

Aaron Williams, Texas

Brandon Harris, Miami

Curtis Brown, Texas

Davon House, New Mexico St.

Curtis Marsh, Utah St.

Chimdi Chekwa, OSU

Brandon Burton, Utah

Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson

Johnny Patrick, Louisville

Chris Culliver, South Carolina

S (4)

Rahim Moore, UCLA

Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple

Quinton Carter, Oklahoma

Tyler Sash, Iowa

The St. Petersburg Times is reporting that Aqib Talib is “all but gone” after the lockout has ended.  They are suggesting the only reason Talib is a Buccaneer is the lockout. 

Talib’s career has been stained by off-the-field incidents.  It started with a fight at the rookie symposium and continued with incidents of punching a teammate and cab driver.  The latest incident has him facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after allegedly “pistol whipping” his sisters’ better half. 

The only question I care to think about in this situation is:  Does this alter Tampa’s draft strategy at all? 

Tampa is left with an aging Ronde Barber and unproven corners in Myron Lewis and E.J. Biggers.  Will Tampa Bay think about pulling the trigger (tongue in cheek) on a corner in the first round despite a gaping hole at defensive end?  After all the starters at DE are Kyle Moore and Michael Bennett with Tim Crowder providing depth.  Don’t know who they are…don’t feel bad, neither does 99.9% of anyone else reading this article.

So does Tampa look at a Jimmy Smith-type at 20 or do they trade up for Prince.  Both of these scenarios are unlikely given Smith’s off field issues and other needs that don’t warrant giving up selections.  More likely, the Bucs will look to the second round and hope that Ras I-Dowling, Brandon Harris, Aaron Williams or even Curtis Brown are available with 51. 

Tampa is undoubtedly a team on the rise with some young talent.  However, they need some major upgrades on defense and losing one of the best young, talented corners in the NFL will not help this need.

Updated Mock Draft – April 24, 2011

Posted by Brad On April - 24 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

NFL’s Future updates their mock draft with five days remaining until the 2011 NFL Draft.  Check out all the changes to the mock draft here.  Also, keep checking back all week leading up to the NFL Draft for changes to the mock draft.  On Thursday morning, NFL’s Future will release it’s final mock draft so be sure to check us out then.

In Remembrance of Pat Tillman

Posted by Brad On April - 22 - 20111 COMMENT

Seven years ago today America lost a true American hero, Pat Tillman.  The former Arizona Cardinal put his playing career and paycheck aside to serve the American people.  I am positive that Pat Tillman is currently looking down on the NFL landscape and shaking his head at his former peers and the owners to which he devoted his services in an effort to entertain the fans.

As the NFL and its players sit to mediate a billion dollars we are reminded that football is still just a game.  Tillman’s sacrifice to leave millions of dollars on the table to serve his country needs to live on through generations.  And hopefully, live on with current and future players. 

In a day and age where we are frequently left discussing off the field indiscretions we remember a man who devoted his life to serving others and put aside his own self-interest.  Pat Tillman lived life the way we all should.  And I promise you on this fateful day seven years ago Tillman was welcomed into the heavens with open arms.

As a father, Pat Tillman is the kind of kid you want your child to grow up to be like.  I don’t know Pat Tillman’s family personally but I am quite positive they are celebrating a life lived to the fullest on this tragic anniversary. 

If anyone is interested, go to www.pattillmanfoundation.org to support an honorable dedication to an honorable human being.  The Pat Tillman foundation provides resources and educational scholarship support to veterans, active service members, and their dependents.

On Thursday morning, Cleveland Browns G.M. Tom Heckert held a press conference to speak about the upcoming NFL Draft.

Much like his days in Philadelphia it is clear that Heckert still abides by the best player available principle.  He mentions this fact several times throughout the coarse of the interview and says the Browns are in a good position as an organization heading into next Thursday’s NFL Draft.  Here is the transcript from Thursday’s press conference:

- Dont assume the Browns are going to go offense with the 6th pick

- We’re going to try to stick to our philosophy of taking the best player available.  We are in a better position than some  teams.

- Da’Quan Bowers knee is fine and the Browns doctors have examined it and he’s ok.

- Not much difference between A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

- We have six guys we are happy with and we’re going to get a good football player.

- Robert Quinn’s year off doesn’t make him too much of a risk.

- Patrick Peterson is a very good football player.  He’s a rare athlete.

- We like Tony Pashos.  If he comes back (healthy), we think Tony will be our right tackle.

- QB is not one of our top needs.

- We feel better about certain positions than most of the fans do.  We are not looking at it as we have to get this position.

- The fact that Julio Jones ran on a broken foot at the Combine shows how tough he is.

- It’s probably unlikely that the Browns will trade up but I have talked to some teams ahead of us.

- Mohammed Massoquoi and Brian Robiskie will get the ball more in the West Coast offense.  We do like our guys.

- On Patrick Peterson:  You’re in the nickel 60% of the time.  You need three corners or they’ll find the one.

- Think it’s great that our offensive players are heading to Texas to work out with Colt McCoy.

In summarizing the presser, my gut feeling is that if Patrick Peterson is on the board, he is Cleveland’s pick.  If he’s not available, they will look to take one of the receivers.  Here’s how I think Cleveland’s draft board looks when discussing the 6 guys they really like:

Marcell Dareus

Patrick Peterson

A.J. Green

Julio Jones

Von Miller

Robert Quinn

The only caveat in this draft board is that I am not sure that Heckert and Holmgren don’t value Jones more than Green because of their offensive system.  The only reason Von Miller is 5th on their board is because of fit also.  This is just my hunch but I think we could see one of the best young secondaries in Cleveland Browns stadium come September.

On Wednesday afternoon NFL’s Future took part in the TXN Sports/Big Lead Sports NFL Draft conference call.  The call featured NFL expert analysts Cris Collingsworth, Boomer Esiason, and Howie Long.  Phil Simms was slated to be on the call but was caught up in a previous engagement in Europe and never joined the call. 

In the roughly 45 minute call Boomer, Cris, and Howie addressed mostly questions about the current hot topics in the draft:  Cam Newton, quarterbacks in general, Mark Ingram, and the defensive line prospects.  Here is a transcription of my notes for the call:

On Cam Newton:

Boomer: “I have known him since the 7th grade.” “Needs to go to a defense first organization.”  “Carolina needs someone to excite the fan base and Cam Newton can do just that.”

Howie:  “Cam presents tangible problems for a defense.”  “You can’t teach what he has and what he doesn’t have can be taught.”  Later in the call Howie threw out a Josh Freeman comparison with Cam.

Cris:  “Never called plays or made adjustments at Auburn.”  “Got a number from the sideline and then referred to his wristband for the play.”  “If I had to take a QB in the top 10, I would take Gabbert.  Wouldn’t take any if I didn’t have to.” 

On what Arizona does at QB:

Cris:  “This draft is unique in that you’re going into in blindly because of no free agency period before the draft.”  “Forces the hands of teams in need of a quarterback.”

Howie:  “Arizona is a quarterback away from contending.”  “System has to be right for Donovan (McNabb) to be successful.”

On challenges of going from spread offense to NFL system:

Cris:  “Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Mallett are better prospects than Cam Newton.”

Howie:  “Agree, Ryan Mallett is most prepared.”

Boomer:  “Game exclusively passing game and QB is most important position, always has been.”  “Big question is do they have the mental capabilities.”  “Environment has to be right.  With no support staff around a young QB will lead to failure.”

On what Cincinnati should do given the Carson Palmer saga and should they take Gabbert if he’s there:

Boomer:  “Carson has absolutely checked out of the Cincinnati hotel and I don’t blame him.” “Gabbert would be a great fit but will have to be better than advertised to make up for the lack of weapons.”

Cris:  “Think Cincinnati is praying for Carolina to take Newton and Buffalo not to take Gabbert.” “If this happens don’t see how Cincinnati could pass on Gabbert.” “Draft gets interesting if Carolina passes on Newton and I’m not totally convinced that can’t happen.”

On the wealth of defensive lineman in the draft.  Who’s the best?:

Cris:  “Von Miller is the most talented guy in the draft.” “Marcell Dareus is so versatile but lacks the killer instinct.”  “Nick Fairley makes you nervous off the field but a Warren Sapp, Howie Long-type.” “Love Cameron Jordan, he can play so many positions.”

Howie:  “Marvin Austin is an extraordinary talent, a classic three technique.” “If Marvin puts his mind to it he could be the best among the group.” “There are no Ndamukong Suh’s in this draft, but if I had to pick between Fairley and Dareus, I’m going Dareus.” “Robert Quinn has a great ability to dip and turn the corner with speed, he could be a steal.”

Boomer:  “Von Miller is a difference maker, he jumps off the screen with his quickness and strength.” “Patrick Peterson is the best defensive player in the draft.”

On hearing that six quarterbacks could be taken in the first round:

Boomer:  “Teams are looking for the next Brady.”

Howie:  “There aren’t any Sam Bradford’s out there right now.  There may be one in middle school right now.”  “I think teams are going to reach for quarterbacks and tackles in the first round.”

On Mark Ingram’s eventual landing spot:

Boomer:  “No disrespect to Mark Ingram, but the RB position has been de-emphasized in the NFL.”  “Going to RB by committee approach.”  “ Could see Ingram going late in round one.”

Howie:  “I think New England will be a good fit for Mark Ingram.”

On A.J. Green and Julio Jones:

Cris:  “I haven’t talked with anyone who likes Julio Jones better than A.J. Green.  Green is phenomenal.  Everything you could possibly want.” 

Boomer:  “Worry about A.J. Green’s top end speed at the next level.” “Can’t miss guy, though.” “Julio Jones is tough, big, physical but needs to catch the ball more consistently.”

Howie:  “Don’t like either one and hope they drop to the Rams.”

Ryan Mallett can’t catch a break.  But I guess as the old saying goes we create our breaks.

In a report from Brad Biggs of NationalFootballPost.com former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett failed to show up for a scheduled meeting with the Carolina Panthers in early April.

According to the report, multiple sources claimed Mallett was seen out on the town late following a dinner with team officials.  With questions about his leadership, character, drug abuse haunting him during every step in the draft process this is another step in the wrong direction.

Mallett’s inability to capitalize on his enormous physical gifts, strong workouts, and recent buzz in a positive direction are leading me to believe he won’t be able to handle the day in and day out stress of being an NFL quarterback. 

For every step Mallett takes in the right direction with the court of public opinion he takes two back.  This news of him missing a scheduled meeting with the first team in the draft is a significant step backwards.  I can’t see a team in the first round taking a chance on Mallett.

UPDATE:  Mallett’s agent has since released a statement, stating Mallett was ill but was in bed by 10-10:30 and up all night with nausea.  Carolina officials have also released a statement that Mallett met with team officials on the night of the 8th and Mallett called a team representative in the morning to explain he was up all night with nausea.  Carolina team officials advised Mallett to stay in bed until the nausea cleared and he was taken to the airport by Carolina representatives.

Peter King’s First Mock Draft

Posted by Brad On April - 20 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

SI.com writer Peter King has made a healthy living from his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column.  King is one of the most “plugged in” reporters in the game.  King routinely breaks stories and included inside information in his column.  For this reason, his mock draft is of particular importance when it’s released. 

You can find King’s mock draft by following this link and check out some major surprises.  King obviously is high on TCU quarterback, Andy Dalton.  King suggests he should go as high as eight to Tennessee and has him going fifteen to Miami.  Here are some other interesting highlights in his mock:

King’s top five starts out predictably with Newton, Dareus, and Miller…and then comes the first twist.  He has Cincinnati taking Blaine Gabbert, definitely not out of the question and one most mock drafters have labored over.  But he has Arizona taking A.J. Green?  Like I said King is “plugged in” and knows his stuff but that would surprise me with Patrick Peterson and Robert Quinn on the board. 

Some other highlights are a trade between the Texans and 49ers with the Texans moving ahead of Tennessee to select Patrick Peterson.  The Dolphins going with Andy Dalton over the more highly talked about prospects, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett.  This one is of particular interest because I have a feeling if and it’s a big if, the Dolphins go with a QB, they will go with Dalton.  A lot scouts are high on Dalton and he could surprise come eight days from now.  Then at the bottom of the first round he has Tennessee jumping back into the first to select Christian Ponder.

I could go on about King’s mock but check it out yourself.

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