Interview with SI and’s Tony Pauline


Tony Pauline is a well-respected reporter and analyst for the NFL, and NFL Mocks had the opportunity to interview him before the 2011 NFL Draft. Tony covered topics including Danny Watkins, the Broncos’ quarterback situation, and he has a surprise top five picks.

We asked Pauline whether or not he thinks Danny Watkins’ age will affect his draft stock, he had an interesting response:

“I don’t think so. It’s not a heavy guard year this year, and he has the versatility to play tackle or guard. Plus, the fact that linemen can hang around for years, I don’t think it affects him very much.

Staying on the topic of interior offensive linemen, I asked Tony what he thought of Mike Pouncey being talked about as a potential first round pick.

“My thoughts [on that] are–it’s insane. People are projecting him to go in the middle of the first because of his brother, and he is definitely not his brother. [Maurkice] is a much better athlete, better on his feet, better blocking in motion–Mike is stronger at the point, but is more restricted in the ability to be effective in his own blocking system. As far as [playing] center, I think it’s a long way away. He can’t get away with the mistakes he did at Florida in the NFL.”

One guy that people have been painting with a negative brush right now is Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Bowers’ pro day drew mixed reviews, and there are also some major concerns over his knee. I asked Tony what he’s been hearing about Bowers, and the potential that he might slide:

“It’s all relative to what you feel ‘slide’ means. Top three picks is not going to happen. He could slide to six, seven, eight, but he’s not falling to the middle of the first round. He had a minor knee injury, and knee injuries heal. Nick Fairley has a shoulder injury, and the two have similar situations. People talk about Bowers’ 40 times not being good, but his shuttle times and three-cone’s were good.”

Tony also put out a report that the Denver Broncos were interested in drafting a quarterback, and he opined that they would look to draft one with their first of two second round picks, and mentioned Colin Kaepernick specifically. I asked him for some clarification on what he’s heard about the Broncos’ quarterback situation, and if Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow were in danger of being traded.

“I don’t know that either will not be with the team. You know, you look back at the San Diego Chargers drafting Philip Rivers with Drew Brees still on the roster, and they kept both guys around, so it’s possible that the Broncos would draft a quarterback and keep the other two on the roster as well. It doesn’t mean they will unload one of the other guys. I’ve heard all along that Tebow’s just not an ‘Elway guy’. You have a new guy calling the shots, a new coach–[Tebow’s] not a [John] Fox guy either. There is a lot to like about Tebow, but was trading up to get him necessary?”

With all the skepticism surrounding Tim Tebow and his ability to transition to the NFL, I question why teams are looking at Newton as the top overall pick in the draft and not Tebow. After all, both came from spread offenses, and both have similar athleticism. Both have strong arms, but Tebow was able to sustain the type of production you saw from Newton last year for three straight years, and Tebow has none of the character concerns. So what gives?

“Newton is the top quarterback on most draft boards, but it’s certainly not a guarantee that he will be the number one pick. I haven’t read that, and I don’t know that Carolina has made up their mind. Newton’s arm strength is lightyears ahead of Tebow’s, and he also doesn’t have the wacky release that Tebow had.”

While I disagree about the arm strength comment, I will grant that Newton doesn’t have a ‘wacky’ release like Tebow did, but Tebow had excellent deep ball accuracy while that was a big area of weakness for Newton. So if Newton isn’t going first, who is?

Right now, Marcel Dareus is going number one. Peterson will go number two (to Denver), Buffalo would be ‘stuck’ with either Von Miller or [Blaine] Gabbert, right now I think it would be Gabbert. Then Newton to Cincinnati, and Miller to Arizona.

It should be noted, Pauline told me he does not believe in mock drafts, so these projections are likely based on what he is hearing right now.

Here are some more notes from my interview with Pauline:

  • Christian Ballard from Iowa could get drafted higher than he’s being projected. Scheme versatile. He’s one guy that will probably get drafted a lot higher than people think. Carimi could end up going higher than people think. A lot depends what happens with the lawsuit. Free agency possibility could put more emphasis on tackles in the draft. Carimi is moving up boards. NFL ready guy. Andy Dalton—don’t necessarily agree with it, but there are a lot of teams that like.
  • There could be a team looking to trade down Jets/Steelers, team that needs a QB could look to move up into that later part of the first round.
  • Tight end is hands down the weakest position in the draft. Guy like Lance Kendricks could be overdrafted significantly. Quickly followed by safety.
  • Nick Fairley will be a top ten pick. I think what happens at this point in the year. Too many people who don’t follow the draft year round. Follow when Super Bowl ends. The shoulder is not a major injury, guy that’s not really a strong player—if you draft a guy with a shoulder injury and the lockout persists might not see him for a while.
  • Prince Amukamara will be underdrafted. Top ten talent, not as good an athlete as PP, more polished CB. Really good ball skills. Paralysis by overanalysis. Stepped up to the plate the last two years. Does get beat deep at times.

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