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The NFL Draft and the Big 12 - Checking In

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The following is a piece by a new contributor here at the Ralphie Report, SoCalBeachBum. He's going to be checking in from time to time with updates about the Big 12 Conference and College Football in general. Make sure and give him a warm welcome. - Woodrow

Trekkie conventions, Comic-Con, George Lucas worshippers and Hobbit heads. Pretty much anything dealing with Battlestar Galactica.

The five official pillars of nerddom.

I've dabbled in each, excluding Battlestar, I have limits. For years I've flirted with my inner dork but never was able to fully embrace any single geekiverse.

That all changed about six years ago when I became a card-carrying member of Mel's Minions, Mike's Multitude and Todd's Team; I became an NFL Draft nut. As the weather heats up and the Draft inches closer, I turn up the temp on my Draft fever. Around late March I start slicking my hair back and loading it up with can after can of Aquanet, talking "Kwata-backs" and diagramming my "Big Board" ala my Draft hero Mel Kiper. Early April I'll break down tape and throw out some Mike Mayockian terms to confused friends and family, commenting on people with "tight hips" and argue the value of "knee" vs. "waist benders." Finally, I'll formulate another top 10 to directly rival my own Big Board and argue with myself just like the real Todd McShay as he fearlessly takes on Kiper each week.

In all seriousness the NFL Draft has become a tremendous ratings coup for the best league in all of pro sports. This past weekend the Draft officially moved into midterm status with the kickoff of the NFL Combine. It's the ultimate dream for diehards of the pro and college game to follow the players they've cheered, the ones their team may draft, and the ones that played for rivals that mercifully have finally left. Bench pressing, 3-cone drills, vertical jumps and the all-important 40 yard dash -what's not to love? Follow it all up with full coverage from the NFL Network and daily updates by Mel and Todd on Sportscenter and I'm a happy guy. Second only to the actual Draft, where I shut out the world for two straight days of Kiper.

This year the Big 12 is looking to make a major splash with numerous potential 1st Round and Top 10 picks.

Here are some of my impressions of the weekend and the Big 12 Conference's marquee guys at this point. Obviously all of this is subject to change with Pro Days, free agency, potential trades, injuries, etc. I'll be updating with more Big 12 guys, including the Buffs' George Hypolite, as the Draft gets closer.

Michael Crabtree WR (Texas Tech): Obviously much has been made of his stress fracture, blah, blah, blah. Bottom line: Crabtree is the most gifted wideout to enter the league since Calvin Johnson and his numbers are even better than Johnson's. Sort of reminds me of the huge deal made about Adrian Peterson's pre-draft injuries and I think the Vikings still feel alright about that selection. I'm not saying Crabtree will have a Peterson-like impact, wide receivers rarely do, but he's a definite future number one option and at least a solid second or third the day he enters an NFL camp.

Originally he was supposedly going to run at his Pro Day on March 26 but it sounds like he's changed his tune and will end up having the surgery. The dude's tape and resume speaks for itself and if he has surgery now, he can be ready for camp. In my humble opinion he's the best player in the Draft this year, who cares what he clocks in at?

Early Verdict: Top 5 Pick

Brian Orakpo DE/LB (Texas): Speaking of freaks, this guy is the next Shawne Merriman or DeMarcus Ware. Watching him at Texas, I was amazed at his speed off the edge. Combine that with his size and strength (31 reps at 225lbs) and he could be a great edge player in a 3-4 scheme. He did pull a hammy during some of the drills but he was flashing the ability that makes him a future candidate to play in space. He'll be up there with Wake Forest's Aaron Curry and Penn State's Aaron Maybin as one of the top potential hybrid guys in the Draft. He should go in the Top 10 and if he slips for some reason that team is getting a real steal.

Early Verdict: Pick 8-15

See the rest after the jump...

Jeremy Maclin WR/PR/KR (Mizzou): Maclin also got hurt during the workouts and had an MRI on his knee. It was nothing too serious, because he participated in some drills after the injury, but he missed a chance to really steal the show with Crabtree out. While his 4.4 40yd dash is nothing to sneeze at, scouts were sort of expecting something in the 4.3 range, which if he would have managed, he could have vastly improved his stock and been a Top 5 candidate. He also looked a little tight catching the football as well but his ypg and return ability should make up for it. He just didn't really help himself as much as he could have.

Early Verdict: Pick 7-15

Jason Smith OT (Baylor): Another guy who could have benefited greatly from the absence of another rival (the bonehead of boneheads: Alabama's Andre Smith) wasn't able to capitalize. Mayock has him as potentially the number one OT but he didn't look like it. He's a mammoth guy with great athleticism, but the former TE has some work to do on his punch as a run blocker. He reminds me of Boise State's Ryan Clady, who was taken in the first round by the Denver Broncos, and had a really nice rookie year. There are some very talented OT's in this year's draft and he is one of the best but he'll probably go behind Virginia's Eugene Monroe and Mr. Miscommunication himself, Andre Smith.

Early Verdict: Pick 10-20

Brandon Pettigrew TE (Oklahoma State): Heading into the combine he was considered the #1 TE in the Draft but South Carolina's Jared Cook stole his thunder, who clocked in around the 4.5 range. Pettigrew's 40 times were in the 4.8 range, so he demonstrated he won't be able to stretch the field vertically, which hurts him. He did look great catching the football however, and will still be a late first rounder.

Early Verdict: Pick 21-32

Biggest Riser: Lydon Murtha OT (Nebraska): Murtha tested very well, running the fastest 40 for the OL and testing well in some of the other agility drills. It never hurts to have the fastest 40 time in any group and Murtha's size and strength will also turn some heads. He probably moved into the mid 2nd round to early 3rd and if there's an early run on OT's he could sneak up a little higher.

Biggest Dropper: Phil Loadholt OT (Oklahoma): Loadholt's size at 6'8" 360+ could provide a lot of shade on a sunny day but his lateral movement leaves something to be desired. He looked a few steps slower when compared to some of the elite OT's, a group that he was once thought to be a part of. He won't be a LT in the league, which hurts his draft potential, but he could potentially make a nice RT or a mammoth OG.