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The Value of Targeting Athletes in the NFL Draft

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This will be more of an interactive post for HH today. I was struck by a particular player in the NFC last night, while staring at stat sheets and numbers. Every year, athletic attributes and physical measurables get the spotlight at the NFL Combine. The question inevitably becomes, "So a guy can jump out of the stadium, run past people like they are standing still and artfully navigate coned courses...how much does this really matter?"

Workout warriors flame out of the league constantly. We know that a guy who looked like a stud at the Combine will get to the NFL and do nothing.

The player I was fixated on was Julius Peppers. I had just seen a highlight reel of his NFL exploits and as always when I see that guy play, I was blown away by his athletic ability. Then I remembered that this guy was not only the Lombardi Award winner as the nation's best collegiate lineman in 2001, but was also a Chuck Bednarik Award winner as the nation's top defensive player. THEN I remembered that not only was he a stud on the football field, but he also walked on and contributed to a Final Four team at the University of North Carolina. Sick.

As a loyal fan of the Terrapins, I remember how nasty he was on the basketball floor. I can't imagine playing basketball against a guy who was the nation's best lineman. It just seems dirty and unfair.

So this all leads me to ask you guys: Who is the best athlete in the NFL Draft in 2011 and should the Redskins put an emphasis on this kind of raw athleticism in the draft? Is it a luxury or is it implied that at #10, you are automatically getting a guy with elite athletic ability? If I am not mistaken, the decision to pick Trent Williams over Russell Okung was at least partially about athleticism, although we may all agree that you'd be splitting hairs, as both players played well when healthy in 2010.

For my part, I don't see a guy like Von Miller lasting all the way to #10, but the more I see him on tape and at the Combine, the more I would love to have his athleticism in our 3-4 set. Every year it seems a few teams will reach for an "athlete", even if that reach occurs in the middle to late rounds.

Let the Julio Jones comments section begin! (Don't think I don't know what you are all thinking.)