The 'other' No. 1s
Andrew Luck has ruined the race to be the top pick; these guys could've been
To put in perspective how comical the Andrew Luck storyline is, remember that at this time last year there was zero question about who the No. 1 pick would be. If Luck wanted to come out, he'd be taken No. 1. It was that simple. You can ask any number of scouting directors for NFL teams and they'll tell you the same. We're talking three games into Cam Newton's season, before Von Miller was considered a top-10 talent, before people even knew who Nick Fairley was. So much will change during a normal season, but Luck has been excluded.
That said, if Luck weren't around, there would actually be some serious competition for the No. 1 pick. Think about it. In a normal year, we're searching for that potential No. 1 right now. So let's pretend for a moment that Luck is out of the picture, or that he decides (technically, he could) that he wanted to stay at Stanford for one more year. Here are the guys we'd be talking about.
1. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina Tar Heels
Why: He's your prototypical elite pass-rushing defensive end, and GMs crave the effect these guys can have on the game. He has quickness, athleticism, incredibly long arms and regularly schools offensive tackles on his way to the quarterback. These guys can go No. 1 overall. Ask Mario Williams (and Reggie Bush).
Why not: I don't see the off-the-charts power-speed combo we saw in Julius Peppers, and that's what you want at No. 1. In April, it will be 10 years since the Houston Texans passed on Peppers and took David Carr at No. 1. Peppers went No. 2. Coples could as well.
To read Mel's full list of the "other" No. 1 picks, you must be an ESPN Insider.