They came, they saw, they drafted

Stateside is gearing up for the biggest day on the NFL off-season calendar, with the draft imminent. Kevin Beirne looks at the class of 2011 The off-season for an NFL fan can be a difficult time. With the actual season lasting less than five months, the NFL is a hypothetical league more often than not. With the threat of a lockout in 2011 seeming more and more likely every day, it is not an easy time for the average gridiron fan.Fortunately, April offers a small reminder of what we are missing. The NFL Draft is, in its own right, an institution. The three-day event, where dynasties are built and legends are born, takes place this year in its usual location, New York, from the 28th to the 30th of April.This year, the main story of the draft is the hype surrounding the Heisman Trophy winner – Auburn’s inspirational quarterback, Cam Newton. He looks set to be taken first overall by the Carolina Panthers, a franchise in dire need of a leader.Newton carried the normally irrelevant Auburn to the BCS National Championship game this year, where they overcame Oregon 22-19. Newton’s play this season means he is still regarded by most as the best quarterback in the draft.Physically, he is impressive. Standing at 6’ 5” and weighing almost 250 lbs, his size is prototypical and his speed is far above the average for an NFL quarterback. His arm strength is huge.However, he is sometimes lacking in accuracy and could end up falling into a very familiar category of quarterbacks that are perfect for the collegiate game, but lacking in the abilities and attitude necessary to excel at the highest level. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to a pro-style offence.Newton comes into the NFL already carrying the weight of expectation on his shoulders. His raw abilities cannot be questioned, but it remains to be seen if he can truly become an elite passer of the ball. It is because of this, that he resembles Vince Young more so than Peyton Manning.On the defensive side, the hottest prospect is arguably LSU’s Patrick Peterson. Some are saying that he could be the first cornerback to ever be taken first overall. However don’t be surprised to see him land somewhere outside of Carolina.The furthest he should slide is to the San Francisco 49ers at number 7, who badly need a big-play defensive back, but any team in the top 10 would definitely consider him. He has the athleticism and size to play safety or cornerback. He could be relied upon to play on an island from his very first snap – he is that talented.Peterson, however, is not perfect. He has a tendency to bite on pump-fakes and double moves. He could have trouble against an elite receiver like Andre Johnson or Reggie Wayne. He is similar in height, but over 20lbs heavier than the New York Jets’ All-Star corner Darrelle Revis. Whether or not he can match Revis’ impact on the NFL remains to be seen.The class of 2011 looks promising, so hopefully there will be a league for them to play in next season.