The 2011 NFL Draft is finally upon us, and as Chad mentioned earlier, this is a bit of a down year for Virginia, as the Cavaliers do not appear to have a true first-round contender. The 2010 Draft saw Chris Cook go as the No. 2 pick of the second round; in 2009, Eugene Monroe went as the overall No. 8 pick; in 2008, Chris Long went as the overall No. 2. Overall, the Hoos, despite not having the greatest on-the-field success, has had a pretty good connection to the NFL (undoubtedly due in no small part to former head coach Al Groh's NFL ties).
Cornerback Ras-I Dowling is this year's leading NFL Draft candidate for the Wahoos. A collegiate career that suggested a very promising senior year was set back significantly due to recurring injuries in his knee, ankle and hamstring. As we are mere hours away from the Draft, we thought we'd check in around the internet to see what the "experts" are saying about Dowling's chances.
SB Nation's own Mocking the Draft includes Dowling in their Final Top 200 rankings, coming in at 64th overall. Their mock draft, which involved each of SB Nation's NFL sites making the picks, had Michael Bean of Behind the Steel Curtain selecting Dowling in the second round as the No. 63 overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bean expressed concerns over Dowling's durability, but complimented his size, speed, athleticism, toughness and character.
CBS Senior Analyst Chat Reuter, in his 4/27/11 mock-up, has Dowling coming in at No. 40 overall to the Dallas Cowboys, calling him a "potential bargain pick."
Ricky Dimon of FF Toolbox has Dowling as the 44th overall pick, heading to Detroit, saying that "The Lions are in desperate need of a cornerback. Dowling is a good second-tier option if they don't go with one of the CB stars in round one." In TheHuddleReport.com's mock draft competition, which pits various media and draft experts against each other to see who is the most accurate each year, Ricky was the 2008 champion.
NFL Draft 101 has Dowling in their final mock of the season as the 13th pick in the second round (45th overall) by the San Francisco 49ers. Like Bean, they compliment his size, strength and coverage ability, but again express concerns over his proneness to injury.
This is, of course, just a sampling of what's out there. It appears that most folks have Dowling going in the middle of the second round, but I have yet to come across any mock having him in the first round. Stay tuned to StreakingtheLawn as we cover the 2011 NFL Draft.
The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft starts at 8 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, April 28th and SB Nation has everything you need to prepare for it - NFL mock drafts, draft projections, scouting reports, the NFL draft order and more. Check it all out at SB Nation's NFL Draft Hub and our NFL Draft blog Mocking the Draft.