PFW draft analyst held his second conference call with national media on Wednesday and answered questions about the upcoming NFL draft. Here is an excerpt of some of Nolan's responses.
Q: I'm curious about the stretch-the-field type of receivers — Torrey Smith, Titus Young and Edmund Gates. Where do they stack up in this draft and what round do you think that a team like the Dolphins should project to get one at, to get a guy at good value?
Nawrocki: I think they could get looked at as early as early in the second [round]. With Torrey Smith, the tape isn't there to support drafting him that highly. His hands are inconsistent, and I don't see the playmaking ability after the catch. I think teams generally are looking somewhere in the third round for that X receiver that can flat-out fly and take the top off a defense. Even if he can just serve as a decoy, it can benefit a passing game greatly. You look at Ted Ginn last year, he was claimed for a fifth-round pick and he was selected in the top 10 three or four years prior. Those guys tend to get overdrafted year in and year out. Darrius Heyward-Bey I think is another. There's a chance Smith will even push up into the first. Speed is hard to find at the receiver position, so those guys tend to get overdrafted.
Q: How much of a can't-miss project do you believe Patrick Peterson is?
Nawrocki: The only major concern is the mental part of the game — the tendency to freelance. There are some issues there with his back to the ball. Everything else, that size — it's so rare to find a player with his size that can run the way he can and can also bring an electrifying element to the return game. I think he's definitely going to fit into the top 10. He just works so hard; I think teams are going to feel comfortable knowing what they're getting. I think he'll be able to overcome his limitations and really grow in an NFL system.
Q: You had Cam Newton to the Redskins in your last mock. Are you still projecting that? If the Redskins decide to go defense there in the first round, what quarterbacks on the second-tier, maybe early second round, do you think would be a good fit for Mike Shanahan and Washington?
Nawrocki: I would say Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder, both. They are similar in some ways to Brian Griese. They know where and when to go with the ball. They fit soundly into that West Coast offense. I think that's what [the Redskins are] really looking for — a guy they can trust to make the right decisions. I don't know if they'll go that way. Early on, I could see Cam landing in either Buffalo or Cincinnati. I think he's still in play in both places. I don't see him getting out of the top 10. Where he lands, I think is still to be determined. Those teams are still going through the interview process, bringing him through and trying to figure things out. There are a lot of questions there. If you look historically, I think the Bengals have tended to ignore many of the character issues. They are a team that would be more likely to roll the dice than a team like the Bills.
Q: How far do you think the knee is going to hurt (Da'Quan) Bowers? How far do you see him falling?
Nawrocki: It's difficult to say because medical evaluations differ so greatly across the board. I think you've got to find a team in that first round that's got both a need and has got a clean bill of health on him. At this point, he has yet to go through the Combine reevaluation for a medical assessment. Without that information, it's difficult to truly gauge how far it could push him down. I've gotten word from two teams who have already failed him. The big concern is whether or not he will need microfracture surgery. If he does, it's an issue that's going to weigh heavily into his draft status. We've seen guys like Chris Canty, in years past, grade out as late-first-round talents and slide all the way to the fourth for medical reasons. I'm not going to say Bowers is going to fall that far, but it wouldn't be a shocker if he wound up lasting until late in the first round after the way he worked out at his pro day.
Q: Do you think the issue with quarterback with the Panthers is a philosophical one, or is it just the fact they don't like the prospects in this year's draft, or is it a combination of both of those?
Nawrocki: To me, it's a combination. At the first overall pick, you've got to feel very comfortable with what you're getting and feel like there is a franchise quarterback there. In this draft, in my opinion, there isn't a true franchise quarterback. I think the Carolina Panthers see it the same way. I'd be very surprised if they decided to go with a quarterback. That's not to say they couldn't. Once they finish their evaluation of Cam Newton and get done researching all the background into his character, meeting with him and figuring everything out, I'd be very surprised if they wound up going with either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert. I think Marty Hurney would like people to believe he's going to take a quarterback. In a perfect scenario, I think he would like to trade down a couple spots and pick up that second-rounder that he's missing. I just don't see anyone coming up and taking it. If you look at the history of the Bengals and the Cardinals, both of them tend to stand put. Ralph Wilson (of the Bills) is not one to move up and throw a lot of extra money around either. I just have a hard time believing any of those teams will come up, and I don't think there are many others within striking distance to close that gap. I think Marty's going to be forced to stay put and I think he's going to have to select one of those position players.