When Andrew Luck (aaaargh, I said it) decided to return to school the 2011 NFL draft changed dramatically, there was no longer a consensus #1 overall pick. In reality, all this did was make the 2011 draft like any other, a total crap shoot. It is an extreme rarity that there is a lock for #1 overall before any pro-days and before the combine, but Luck (aargh!) was the kind of prospect that commanded the first overall selection, sight unseen about what he would do at the combine.
I know we're all prognosticating now about what the Panthers could do, should do and what we'd like them to do... but today I'm going to look back at the top five picks, from the past five years and how mocks projected that back in January of their respective years. This isn't a very easy task because most websites have pulled their mocks down, but thankfully SI.com have left up Don Banks' mocks from draft's past. Sure, it isn't perfect... but it will give us a good idea of how much can change from January to April.
2006- Don Banks Mock Draft #1 (1/27/06)
#4: D'Brikashaw Ferguson- Jets (Actually #4)
- In 2006 Banks correctly mocked two of the top five back in January, but regardless he was off on the #2 pick by a large margin and had Williams go at #5 overall.
2007- Don Banks Mock Draft #1 (1/26/07)
#1: Jamarcus Russell- Raiders (Actually #1)
#4: Calvin Johnson- Bucs (Actually #2)
#5: Gaines Adams- Cards (Actually #4)
- In 2007 Banks has the players right (aside from the huge drop in Brady Quinn's stock) but other than that the order was mixed up a lot.
2008- This mock is not archived for some reason. But here is Mel Kiper's from January that year, same principal applies.
#3: Matt Ryan- Falcons (Actually #3)
#4: Darren McFadden- Raiders (Actually #4)
- Kiper was almost right on the money other than getting the #1 and #5 flip-flopped. This is a curious draft because in January of 2008 Dorsey was as highly valued as Nick Fairley is now, and the same vaulted comparisons were being made.
2009- Don Banks Mock Draft #1 (1/22/09)
#1: Jason Smith- Lions (Actually #6)
#2: Eugene Monroe- Rams (Actually #8)
#3: Matthew Stafford- Chiefs (Actually #1)
#5: Malcolm Jenkins- Browns (Actually #14)
- If there was a draft that was a better analog for 2011, I don't know what it is. 2009 was very much a guessing game like this year will be. Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson, Aaron Curry and Mark Sanchez moved from #21, not in 1st round, #8 and #10 respectively into all being top 5 picks. This draft should show us just how much guys can rise and fall from January to April.
2010- Don Banks Mock Draft #1 (1/26/10)
#1: Ndamukong Suh- Rams (Actually #2)
#2: Gerald McCoy- Lions (Actually #3)
#3: Eric Berry- Bucs (Actually #5)
#5: Russell Okung- Chiefs (Actually #6)
- Again, Banks came very close to the final players but not the draft order with Bradford improving to #1 overall.
Where do we stand in 2011? Nobody really knows. What we see is that unless 2011 is extremely close to 2009 the top 5 as they're standing now will probably shake out to be the top 5.
For what it's worth... here are Todd McShay and Scouts Inc. current top 10 grades. The grades are very close together this year, so it should be a fascinating draft.