2010 NFL Draft Review

It was “Christmas in April” as teams selected top players at the 2010 NFL Draft

Now that the biggest “non on the field” NFL event is done for this year and 255 players know their destinations, it is time for myself and other talent evaluators to recap the action and then take a well deserved rest.  But before we move onto a short break then OTA’s, let’s take a look back at what transpired at the 2010 NFL Draft.

The 2010 NFL Draft , themed “The Grand Crossroads of Hope”, definitely had a ton of buzz, hype, and excitement as Radio City Music Hall was electric when the new 3-Day event kicked off at 7:30 PM on Thursday. The new 3-day format (Round 1 on April 22, Rounds 2-3 on April 23, and Rounds 4-7 on April 24), including a Prime Time start on a weekday night, seemed to invigorate the teams to move swifter and look for trades as the first round took only 3 hours, 25 minutes. The opening round on Thursday also drew ratings that were 30% higher than last year plus beat out the NBA and NHL playoffs head-to-head.

It seems NFL fans viewing on television also liked the new format as ESPN reported that 3.7 million viewers watched Thursday-Saturday, which was up 27% from last year.  I know the great numbers will also made the league and commissioner Roger Goodell, who is thinking about more innovations for future drafts including having the 3-day event in multiple cities so more fans can access it, very happy too.

Some other new wrinkles outside of the new format were guest announces like Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees (the Saints 1st round pick), Make-A-Wish recipient Zachary Hatfield (the Steelers first pick), and Texas head coach Mack Brown (former Longhorns QB Colt McCoy’s selection in the 3rd round by the Cleveland Browns.  Plus Goodell bear-hugging several appreciative first rounders — you know Pete Rozelle wouldn’t have been doing that.  And lastly a Hollywood red carpet entry for the draftees hosted by NFL Network’s Deion “Prime Time” Sanders.

Other tidbits from this year’s draft included:

Big Conferences Reigning Supreme – NFL teams are looking for successful players from big conferences in the draft, because players are being taught pro techniques at these college and universities. Almost 75% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences. The SEC had the most players drafted overall with 49, followed by the Big Ten (34), ACC (31), Big 12 (30), PAC 10 (28), Big East (18), Mountain West (13), Conference USA (7), Mid-American (5), and Western Athletic (5)

Stay in School – The NFL is making a concerted effort to draft seniors in the draft and it shows.  There were only 46 underclassmen drafted compared to 209 seniors.  Some say older players need less coaching, but yet 17 underclassmen went in the first round including first overall pick St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford.

Florida had too much talent not to win it all in ’09, right?? – For the entire 2009 college football season, analysts talked of the enormous amount of talent on the Florida Gators’ squad.  But the group underachieved settling for a 13-1 record and a dominating Sugar Bowl win over Cincinnati.  Well the Gators did bring home the title of most players selected with 9 players including first rounders CB Joe Haden (selected by the Cleveland Browns at #7), C/OG Maurkice Pouncey (selected by the Steelers at #18), and QB Tim Tebow (selected by the Broncos at #25).  Surprisingly Colonial Athletic Conference schools William & Mary and James Madison each had two players selected, which was more than traditional college football schools Arkansas (1), Texas A&M (1), Texas Tech (1), and Michigan State (1).

Tebow steals the show – Everyone knew that the Rams were selecting Sam Bradford with the first overall pick, but who would be the second quarterback taken in the first round.  While everyone assumed that Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen would be the logical pick, he fell out of the first round.  To a lot of people’s surprise the second quarterback to come off the board was much-maligned college football “winner” Tim Tebow.  After raising his stock from the depths of a pretty ugly Senior Bowl week, Tebow wowed NFL teams with his Pro Day workout, interviewing skills and every intangible that you could name.  Florida’s Superman also improved his throwing motion by working with several quarterback coaches and the NFL noticed as the Denver Broncos traded up to the draft’s 25th spot to grab Tebow — Denver sent 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks to Baltimore (Nos. 43, 70 & 114) and the Broncos also received the No. 119 pick in the deal. It will be interesting to see if Tebow is given the opportunity to compete with holdovers Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn or he will be a team “leader” by holding a clipboard and running the scout team.  “Like everybody, he will be competing for a job,” Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels said.  “I don’t care if a guy is a rookie. If he’s earned the job, he’ll play. That goes for any position. But I’ll say this, he has a long way to go to get there. But he is starting the process.” An interesting subplot to Tebow’s selection is that his Broncos’ jersey (No. 15) is already a best-seller on NFL.com.

Lots of Trades – Teams were more than willing to trade up or down, which continued an offseason filled with player movement.  There were 33 trades – NFL record is 34 set in 2008 – during this year’s draft, which definitely can be attributed to the new 3-day format and more time between rounds 1 and 2. 

Tight Ends Galore – After the success of Pro Bowl tight ends like the Colts’ Dallas Clark, Chargers’ Antonio Gates, and Cowboys’ Jason Witten every team is looking for athletic players that can dominate the middle of the field.  This year more than ever GM’s seemed to understand that you need not one, but two quality tight ends as 19 were drafted. Here is the breakdown of the 2010 NFL Draft by position:  Defensive Backs (52, but half were Safeties and the other half CB’s),  Linebackers (35), Receivers (30), Defensive End (28), Tight Ends (19), Running Backs (15), Defensive Tackle (20), Offensive Tackles (19), Quarterbacks (13), Guards (12), Centers (7), Punter (3), Kick Returners (2), Kicker (zero), and Long Snapper (zero)

Clausen gets hit in the wallet – Another player that was probably glad he didn’t come to New York was Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen.  Opinions in NFL circles varied about  the former ND passer, but he landed in a great situation as the Carolina Panthers rescued him in the 2nd round with the 48th overall selection – should compete right away with holdover Matt Moore.  However in going from a “perceived” Top 10 pick to the 2nd round, Clausen lost some money that he will need to make-up.  CNBC’s Darren Rovell estimates that Clausen lost about $2.6 million by not being selected where some slated him — ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. projected him to go in the Top 10. Last year’s 48th pick, Bears DB Darcel McBath, signed for about $2 million guaranteed and earned $1.9 million in salary in 2009.

Ghee probably wished that he had stayed home — Wake Forest cornerback Brandon Ghee and Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston were the last two players from the 17 invitees to New York that were selected. However even in disappoint, Ghee (selected in the 3rd round by the Bengals) was given the honor of Goodell announcing the pick and giving words of encouragement to the youngster while posing for pictures. 

Draft Report Card

I don’t like to give “Letter Grades”, because as I always like to say, “It takes 2 to 3 years to evaluate a draft”. That being said, some teams definitely did seem to strengthen their teams in the 2010 NFL Draft. The teams that did well seemed to follow a blueprint that I believe has worked in the past for teams like recent Super Champs the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and the New York Giants:

  • Go for Larger School Players (BCS Level Players) in the 1st three rounds.
  • Judge the total player (Interview, Practice Habits, All Star Game, Combine, Pro Day, “Character”, and most importantly Game Film).
  • “Football Players” in the 4th round and higher. Players that may not have all the measurables, but who can provide quality depth by helping on special teams or playing multiple positions.
  • Always consider your team’s needs with picks (Use the draft to replenish and build to establish the cornerstone of your team).

Remember no “blueprint” is bulletproof, so regardless of how much homework is done before the draft, most talent evaluator’s will have just as many Charles Rogers, Freddie Mitchell, Mike Mamula, Akilli Smith, and Tim Couch (All High 1st Round Busts) type picks on their resume as Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, and Seth Joyner (All late round finds) type picks. The draft process is a roll of the dice, but the aforementioned group always seems to do just a little bit better than others.

WINNERS

Oakland Raiders – After being the butt of several years of NFL jokes, the Raiders had one of their best drafts in a long time.  Their stellar effort started with the selection of highly rated middle linebacker Rolando McClain from Alabama then improved their defense more by adding Texas stout defensive tackle Lamarr Houston. Al Davis also didn’t forget about an O-line that needed much improvement by adding small-school star Jared Veldheer (Hillsdale) and NFL Combine phenom Bruce Campbell from Maryland.  Of course, they also grabbed the draft’s fastest player in Clemson WR/KR Jacoby Ford too. And the cherry on top of the sundae was the Raiders trading a 2012 fourth round selection to the Washington Redskins for quarterback Jason Campbell.  The addition of Campbell also should spell the end of the JaMarcus Russell era in Oakland, which will be addition by subtraction.

Detroit Lions – What is not to like about the Lions grabbing my number #1 player in Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh with the 2nd overall pick.  Suh is a dominating presence that should help a defense that allowed almost 500 points in 2009.  Lions GM Mark Mayhew then grabbed one of the draft’s versatile playmakers by trading up at the end of the first round to select Cal speedster Jahvid Best, who should become quarterback Matthew Stafford’s Reggie Bush.  After their stellar first day haul, Detroit added physical Iowa CB Amari Spievey, tough Miami (FL) OT Jason Fox and “Mr. Irrelevant” Weber State receiver Tim Toone, who they are hoping is the NFL’s next Wes Welker.

San Francisco 49ers – After their O-line allowed 40 + sacks in 2009, the Niners knew they had to get better upfront to have a chance to win the NFC West.  With their two first-round picks (11th and 17th overall) they fortified their O-line with picks of developing offensive tackle Anthony Davis (Rutgers) and rock solid offensive guard Mike Iupati (Idaho). These additions should help RB Frank Gore run harder and protect quarterback Alex Smith who is trying to rebound into a franchise passer.  Later on, Mike Singletary added USC safety Taylor Mays, who brings an instant grudge against the Seahawks and their head coach Pete Carroll.  The Niners also added tough Penn State LB Navorro Bowman and scrappy smaller Arizona State receiver Kyle Williams.

Baltimore Ravens – I am not going to lie to you, after the Ravens traded out of the first round… I thought they were crazy.  But Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome had something up his sleeve as he added defensive impact players in the second round with the selection of Texas OLB Sergio Kindle and Alabama anchor nose tackle Terrence Cody.  Kindle is an explosive athletic pass rusher, who should compliment fellow linebackers Terrelle Suggs and Ray Lewis very well.  And Cody should team with Haloti Ngata to form one of the biggest defensive middles in the NFL, so I dare anyone to try and run on them.   Also to help aging tight end Todd Heap (53 rec, 593 yards, and  6 TDs), Newsome added young speedy pass-catchers  Ed Dickson (Pitt)  and Dennis Pitta (BYU).

Others I thought did a nice job Thursday – Saturday were the Bucs, Patriots, Eagles, Rams, Dolphins, and Seahawks

HEAD SCRATCHERS, BUT I WOULDN’T CALL THEM “LOSERS”

Jacksonville Jaguars – You would have thought a coach on the Hot Seat like Jack Del Rio would have had more urgency in his picks.  The Jags pulled the 2010 NFL Draft’s biggest shocker by pick Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall selection even though he carried a 2nd or 3rd round grade.  Then can you tell me who any of their remaining picks are – DT D’Anthony Smith,, Louisiana Tech; LB Larry Hart, Central Arkansas; DE Austen Lane, Murray State; RB Deji Karim, Southern Illinois; and WR/KR Scotty McGee, James Madison.   Lastly how could the Jags not select a quarterback when starter David Garrard is struggling of late.

Others I thought would have given low grades to, if I believed in them were Bears (didn’t pick until the 75th overall selection) and Buffalo Bill (only took one offensive lineman in the 5th round…wasn’t that their biggest need).

Best Value Selections

RB Jahvid Best (late first round by the Lions)

QB Jimmy Clausen (2nd Rd, 48th overall pick by the Panthers)

QB/WR Armanti Edwards (3rd, 89th overall by the Panthers)

safety Myron Rolle (6th Rd by the Titans)

Picks with Bust Potential

1st rd, #22 —  Denver Broncos – Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech

2nd rd, #54 — Cincinnati Bengals – Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida

3rd rd, # 72 —  Buffalo Bills – Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas State

The 8th Round Begins for Some Players

Every year thousands of players are left heartbroken as “Mr. Irrelevant” — 2010′s version was Weber State WR Tim Toone who was picked 255th by the Detroit Lions — is selected thus ending their dreams of being selected in the NFL Draft.  Sure being drafted is an honor, but there have been many outstanding undrafted players including: Broncos great receiver Rod Smith, former Eagles tough strong safety the late Andre Waters, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and many others.  The great thing for undrafted players is that they can now choose their landing spot in the NFL and possibly enhance their chances by finding a good roster situation before signing.

Some 2010 undrafted players to keep an eye on in training camp are

Grambling State DE Christian Anthony

Bowling Green WR Freddie Barnes (signed as a UDFA by the Chicago Bears)

Norfolk State WR Chris Bell

Wayne State RB Joique Bell (Buffalo Bills)

LSU OG Ciron Black (Steelers)

Oregon RB LaGarrette Blount (Tennessee Titans)

UCLA LB Kyle Bosworth (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Shaw DT Callahan Bright

West Virginia QB Jarrett Brown (SF 49ers)

Penn State QB Daryll Clark (Washington Redskins)

Hampton RB LaMarcus Coker

St. Augustine’s OLB/DE Marcus Crump

Stillman OLB/DE Junior Galette (Saints)

Central Florida safety Michael Greco

Western Michigan QB Tim Hiller (Indianapolis Colts)

USC RB Stafon Johnson (Tennessee Titans)

Valdosta State QB/WR Kellen Lewis

Alabama A&M OLB/DE Jeremy Maddox

Jacksonville State QB Ryan Perrilloux, (Tryout with Minnesota Vikings)

Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Western Illinois CB Patrick Stoudamire (SF 49ers)

Florida A&M CB/KR LeRoy Vann (SF 49ers)

Army WR/TE Ali Villanueva

Penn State CB A.J. Wallace (Miami Dolphins)

Abilene Christian OT Tony Washington

Western Illinois TE Joseph Wielgat

Harvard OT James Williams

Lloyd’s Leftovers:

Haynesworth stays put – Even though disgruntled players like Redskins QB Jason Campbell (to Raiders), NY Jets RB Leon Washington (to Seahawks) and Titans RB LenDale White (to Seahawks) were traded during the 2010 NFL Draft.  Surprisingly Redskins unhappy DT Albert Haynesworth was not traded over the draft’s 3 days.  I guess money (signed in ’09 for 7 years, $100 Million Contract w/ $41 Million guaranteed and was paid a $21 million bonus on April 1st ) got in the way of any deal for the sulking defensive tackle, who is ill-fitted for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s new 3-4 scheme.   Now Haynesworth, who was 2009 free agency’s Big Fish, and new Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan will need to work out some kind of relationship.  Other veterans that were rumored to be traded but stayed put were Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick, Buffalo Bills RB Marshawn Lynch (probably will be cut), Jacksonville Jaguars DT John Henderson (cut after draft) and New England Patriots LB Addalius Thomas (cut after the draft).

The “U” has an increase in players selected – Though the University of Miami (Fla.) did not get a first round pick for the second year in a row — in 2009 the school’s 15-year first round streak ended.  The school that invented “swagger” did have four players drafted led by emerging tight end Jimmy Graham (3rd Rd by the Saints).  Other Hurricanes coming to the NFL are LB Daryl Sharpton (4th Rd by the Texans), OT Jason Fox (4th Rd by the Lions), and TE Dedrick Epps (7th Rd by the Chargers).

Rookies Better Watch Their Pockets – With rookie guaranteed money reaching $40 Million dollars after the 2009 NFL Draft and 2010 NFL Draft first overall pick Sam Bradford expecting to get over that mark, fans can expect a rookie salary cap as part of the upcoming CBA.  Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a recent interview about a possible rookie cap, “I’m a big fan of the rookie salary cap… I think that it is very much in the best interest of our veteran players, being able to be rewarded for what they achieve on the NFL field.”  I know veterans will be happier after the 2011 NFL Draft, because then rookies will have to earn big dollars due paying their dues on the field.

Players drafted for their “Wildcat” potential – We all know the NFL is a copycat league, so it was not surprising that the 2010 NFL Draft saw some players drafted for “versatility” reasons. Appalachian State’s Armanti Edwards (3rd round by the Panthers), University of Buffalo’s James Starks (6th round by the Packers) and UAB’s Joe Webb (6th round by the Vikings) were selected by their respective teams with the hope that they could be the next Joshua Cribbs (The Do-Everything Browns’ KR/WR/Wildcat QB).  It will also be interesting to see if Broncos first round pick Florida QB Tim Tebow (25th overall) will be asked to be a “pure” quarterback or if he will help out of the Wildcat formation too.  Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels said of Tebow, “He’s a quarterback. That’s all he’s going to do.”

What No Quarterback?? – Incredibly quarterback strapped teams the Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers did not select a quarterback of the future.  Overall there were 15 quarterbacks taken – including  Appalachian State’s Armanti Edwards (Carolina) and UAB’s Joe Webb (Vikings) who are probably conversion candidates – with two in the first round (Sam Bradford at No. 1 by St. Louis and Tim Tebow at No. 25 by Denver).  Maybe a team looking for a quarterback can call the Oakland Raiders who traded for former Redskins passer Jason Campbell to go along Kyle Boller, Bruce Gradkowski, JaMarcus Russell, and Charlie Frye who were already on their roster.

No love for HBCU players – Throughout NFL history, players from historically black college and universities (HBCU’s) have starred in the league (Walter Payton, Ernie Ladd, and Doug Williams to name a few). But this year there were only two HBCU standouts that were drafted: Morehouse OT Ramon Harewood (Ravens – 6th Round) and South Carolina State DB Phillip Adams (SF 49ers – 7th Rd).  It was the lowest number of HBCU players taken since 2004 when Southern DB Lenny Williams (252nd overall) and Hampton DE Isaac Hilton (253rd) were 7th round selections.  I guess Hampton RB LaMarcus Coker, Stillman DE Junior Gallette, Florida A&M QB Curtis Pulley and others will have to go the undrafted free agent route or to the CFL or the Arena Football League.

A Brief Look at the ’11 Draft – It is never too early for some player research for the 2011 NFL Draft including:  Washington QB Jake Locker, North Carolina DT Marvin Austin, Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, Alabama RB Mark Ingram, West Virginia RB/KR Noel Devine, Penn State RB Evan Royster and many others.  But we have 11+ months to bring you information and draft news about these guys.

That is it for 2010 NFL Draft and may all the league’s teams be enriched going into the 2010 season.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Draft – Day 1 Review

Players like 1st overall pick QB Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams) were all smiles as Day 1 of the NFL Draft took center stage

The 75th rendition of the NFL Draft, titled “The Grand Crossroads of Hope” took center stage of the sports world on April 22nd.  Hope sprung eternal from Oakland to New England as the NFL’s annual “Christmas in April” event arrived and for the first time it was in “Prime Time” on a weekday. 

The crowd made up of fans from every team imaginable with a large group of NY Jets fans packed venerable Radio City Music Hall to cheer or second-guess their teams.  As in years past the anticipation of the moment was not totally there as it was a foregone conclusion that Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford was the first overall pick — 10 out of 13 years that a quarterback went first overall. 

Bradford, the NFL’s newest million dollar quarterback, was all smiles as he and his family strolled to center stage greeted by Commissioner Goodell.  Who could blame the Bradford contingent for basking in the moment as the former Heisman Trophy winner will soon be getting a contract with over $41 Million guaranteed. 

The pace of the first round of the NFL Draft was brisk taking 3 hours, 25 Minutes which was 2 minutes slower than last year’s almost record 3 hours, 23 minutes mark.

Some tidbits from Day 1 included:

Oklahoma in the House – Led by Bradford, the Sooners garnered three of the first four picks in the 2010 NFL Draft.  Bradford went No. 1 to the Rams, DT Gerald McCoy went 3rd to the Bucs, and OT Trent Williams went 4th overall to the Washington Redskins.  The Big 12 also had a big night with 9 first rounders including the top four players.

Rip, Rip – That was the sound of mine and everyone’s Mock Drafts.  No one can predict what will happen on Day 1 of the NFL Draft especially in the first round.  It was fun for a little while seeing that I got the first three picks dead right.  But with the trading going on later, unpredictability ruled the day.  In the end I had 5 out of 32 picks, if you give me the Chargers taking Ryan Matthews, just not at the No. 28. 

First Surprise – A mild surprise was the Redskins selecting Williams at the 4th overall spot, but he is a better fit for Mike Shanahan’s new power running game than Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung.  The biggest shock had to be the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Cal DT Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall pick.  The quick D-lineman wasn’t even listed as a first round pick on several team’s draft boards.

Biggest Reach – Alualu was one big “reach”.  But the two biggest reaches of the first round were the Chargers trading up to No. 12 to take RB Ryan Matthews – probably would have been there later.  And the Eagles trading up to select Michigan DE Brendan Graham when players like Jason Paul-Pierre and Earl Thomas were available.

Best Value Pick – The NY Giants brought the Radio City Music Hall crowd to their feet by patiently waiting and getting South Florida DE Jason Paul-Pierre.  The very athletic freakish defensive end will join Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka to form one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.

Panic Move – This has to go to the Chargers, who got worried that someone was going to steal RB Ryan Matthews, who they had ear-marked to replace LaDainian Tomlinson.  San Diego scrambled to make a trade with the Dolphins to get to the No. 12 overall spot, by following for someone’s smokescreen.  The Chargers sent Miami their first-rounder (No. 28), a second-rounder (40) and a fourth-rounder (126), as well as linebacker Tim Dobbins. The Chargers also got 4th Rd (110) and 6th Rd (173) picks.

Picks Ready to Play Day 1 – Redskins OT Trent Williams and Detroit Lions DT Ndamukong Suh

Last in the Green Room – It had to be agonizing for Wake Forest cornerback Brandon Ghee and Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston to watch 15 other guys walk out the Green Room as they just sat there.  You have to give Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen credit for not attending.

Perenial Powers stuck on the sidelines – USC, Miami and Notre Dame had zero first round selections while Oklahoma (3), Florida (3), Tennessee (2), Rutgers (2), Alabama (2), Oklahoma State (2), and Georgia Tech (2) led the way.  Even Fresno State, Boise State and Idaho had first rounders.

Plenty of Trades – Teams were aggressive as they moved quickly to grab their guy.  There were seven trades in the first round including the Denver Broncos, who traded back twice,  then hustled back up to select QB Tim Tebow with the 25th overall pick (from the Ravens).

  • San Francisco swapped picks with Denver, so they could moving up two spots to draft Rutgers OT Anthony Davis. The Broncos also got a fourth-rounder (No. 113), then sent the No. 13 pick to the Eagles.
  • San Diego traded up 16 spots to draft Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews, at No. 12. The Chargers sent Miami their first-rounder (No. 28), a second-rounder (40) and a fourth-rounder (126), as well as linebacker Tim Dobbins. The Chargers also got fourth-round (110) and sixth-round (173) picks.
  • The Denver Broncos sent their first-round pick at No. 13 to the Philadelphia Eagles, who took Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham. In exchange, the Broncos got the No. 24 pick and the Eagles’ two third-round picks (Nos. 70 & 87).
  • The Denver Broncos traded with the New England Patriots to select Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas at No. 22. The Pats picked up the Broncos’ No. 24 pick (via Philadelphia) and No. 113 picks in exchange.
  • The Dallas Cowboys picked up the No. 24 pick from New England to take Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant. The Patriots got the No. 27 and No. 70 picks in exchange, and used the No. 27 pick on Rutgers CB Devin McCourtney. Dallas also got New England’s fourth-round pick (No. 119).
  • The Broncos traded for the No. 25 pick from the Baltimore Ravens, which they used to draft Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Denver sends 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks to Baltimore (Nos. 43, 70 & 114). The Broncos also received the No. 119 pick in the deal.
  • The Lions sent 2nd, 4th, and 7th round picks (Nos. 34, 100 & 214) to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for the No. 30 pick and the No. 128 pick. The Lions used the No. 30 pick to take Cal RB Jahvid Best.

Liked:  Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees announcing the Saints pick; The Make A Wish Kid announcing the Steelers first pick; NFL Network’s coverage; The New England Patriots stockpiling picks; and the appreciative attitude of the draftees.

Didn’t Like:  What was up with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell bearhugging every pick it seemed (you know Pete Rozelle wouldn’t have been doing that); The Red Carpet treatment for the picks (too much for the youngsters before they have earned their stripes); Detroit Lions draftee Jahvid Best lingering on the phone while everyone waited; and people downing the Oakland Raiders even though the pick of LB Rolando McClain was very “solid” at the 8th spot.

Potential 1st round Superstar Player – KC Chiefs safety Eric Berry a the 5th spot

Potential 1st round Bust Player – Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham at the 21st spot

Best Players still available after the first round

Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen

USC S Taylor Mays

Alabama DT Terrence Cody

Wake Forest CB Brandon Ghee

Texas DT Lamarr Houston

Maryland OT Bruce Campbell

USC DE Everson Griffen

Notre Dame WR Golden Tate

UCLA DL Bruce Davis

Texas QB Colt McCoy

Texas LB Sergio Kindle

TCU LB Darryl Washington

Florida DE Carlos Dunlap

Day 1 Winners — Lions, Chiefs, Niners, Patriots and Packers

Day 1 Head Scratchers – Ravens (traded out of first round), Chargers, Jaguars, and Bills

That’s a Wrap, see you tomorrow for Rounds 2 and 3

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Draft Preview by Lloyd Vance

photo by David Kindervater

Radio City Music Hall will be electric for the start of the 2010 NFL Draft at 7:30 PM on April 22nd

Happy Draft Day!!! It will be Christmas in April as optimism and hope abound for all 32 NFL franchises and their fans as the 75th NFL Draft takes center stage on the sports calendar.  Sure the NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, first month of baseball, and any number of sporting events are also occurring, but fans around the globe are most interested in the NFL Draft.  The new 3-day event, which will take place from the largest city in the United States at the venerable showbiz palace Radio City Music Hall, is so grandiose that it will be in “Prime Time” starting on Thursday for the first time. 

With all the hoopla around the NFL Draft, one has to wonder was there this much fanfare on February 8th, 1936.  That was the date the brainchild of league legend Bert Bell took flight as the first NFL Draft was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia – A much quieter event where players like Tuffy Leemans were selected and didn’t know about it until receiving correspondence from the league.  The 1936 NFL draft was only a tiny ripple compared to the ocean’s worth of hype and expectation surrounding the 2010 NFL Draft. 

The whole thing is a “Can’t Miss Event” causing jersey-clad fans to line the streets of Manhattan for over 12 hours just for the chance to sit in the balcony of Radio City Music Hall with millions more watching on television.   However there is no need to worry about the NFL Draft television viewers as their extended 3-day couch time will include quality time with their favorite “draft guy” (NFL Network’s Mike Mayock or ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr).   As the seconds tick down on the clock, households in every NFL city will ponder questions like “Is my team trading up”, “Will they go for a need pick or the proverbial best player on the board”, “What are the stats on my team’s first round pick”, “Is that linebacker from my alma mater still available”, and many others. Continue reading

The NFL Suspends Roethlisberger for Six Games

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger received a 6-game suspension from the NFL for conduct detrimental to the league

After less than one week of thinking it over, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided it was time to give his decision regarding any suspension of troubled Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  Goodell informed the Steelers and Roethlisberger that the star quarterback would be suspended for the first six games to start the 2010 NFL Season without pay for conduct detrimental to the NFL in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. A six-game suspension would cost Big Ben $2.841M in base salary or $473,529 per game.

Much like when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was suspended to start the 2009 season, Roethlisberger’s suspension can be shortened — to 4 games — if he meets certain terms set forth by the NFL and the Steelers.  First and foremost, the league wants Big Ben to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals then he must also hit others parameters set worth by the NFL and Steelers to even be considered for his suspension to be reviewed.

One of the biggest caveats that Goodell also placed on Roethlisberger is that Steelers’ star will not be able to attend any team off-season activity until he has completed the medical evaluation. The Commission said the rehabilitation of Big Ben was a two-step approach designed to hold him, “accountable for his conduct and provide him an opportunity to change his behaviour and establish himself as a responsible individual.”

I think after reading the Milledgeville 572-page investigative report, that Goodell and the Rooney Family were disgusted and had no other choice than to “justifiably” put Roethlisberger on the self for what appears to be habitual behavior.  In his letter to Roethlisberger, Goodell wrote “The personal conduct policy makes clear that I may impose discipline ‘even where the conduct does not result in conviction of a crime’ as, for example, where the conduct ‘imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person’.

The understandably heated Goodell wrote further, “As the District Attorney concluded, the extensive investigatory record shows that you contributed to the irresponsible consumption of alcohol by purchasing (or facilitating the purchase of) alcoholic beverages for underage college students, at least some of whom were likely already intoxicated. There is no question that the excessive consumption of alcohol that evening put the students and yourself at risk. The personal-conduct policy also states that discipline is appropriate for conduct that ‘undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players.’ By any measure, your conduct satisfies that standard.”

Goodell closed his letter to Roethlisberger by writing, “Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare…In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.”

I fully support Goodell’s and the Steelers’ decision as Pittsburgh is one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises and a large majority of their fanbase is angered by the actions of one of the stars from their two recent Super Bowl winning squads.  Much like Vick’s case, Goodell will personally be involved in the review of Roethlisberger’s progress. 

I really like the approach that Goodell and the Steelers took in Roethlisberger’s situation.  In the past the Commissioner set precedents with players like Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and Michael Vick via the player misconduct policy, so he had to come down hard on Roethlisberger and he did.  Fortunately for Roethlisberger, the punishment comes without any charges from the legal community, but it is time for him to heed the words of the Georgia D.A that told him to “Grow Up”.

So where does everyone go from here.  Well… the Steelers are “listening” to offers for Big Ben going into the draft and they have also signed veteran Byron Leftwich through 2011.  Clearly there will need some fence-mending from Roethlisberger with the team and I believe the Steelers will give him, the proverbial, “One Last Strike”.  I don’t believe any team, not even the dysfunctional Oakland Raiders, is ready to take on Big Ben and the problems that he brings right now.  It would take a blockbuster deal for any team to bite and I don’t see that happening.

As for Roethlisberger, it is time for him to understand that playing in the NFL is not a right, but a privilege and if he doesn’t watch it, he can easily become a forgotten footnote – just ask Pacman Jones. 

We will see by September, if Big Ben decides that football is his first priority.  But this story or the salacious details around it are not going away anytime soon.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Draft Sleepers – Defense

Central Florida safety Michael Greco is one of Taking It to the House’s Sleepers for the 2010 NFL Draft

Though the majority of players taken in the NFL Draft usually come from BCS schools – in the 2009 NFL Draft little over 72% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences.— everyone is enamored with finding a “sleeper”.  Every year around draft time, whether it is friends or on the radio, everyone wants me to identify a “superstar in waiting” that no one is talking about.

Well everyone…I am here to tell you that there are no longer any true “sleepers” in the NFL Draft process.  Trust me — if you have talent, NFL teams with their gaggle of scouts, assistant coaches, GM’s, and others scouring football fields everywhere will find you.  Now smaller school players are even making it easier for NFL teams to scout them by creating recruiting type videos for YouTube and other media outlets.

Some “Diamonds in the Rough” prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball: 

DE/OLB Arthur Moats, James Madison — A high-motor smaller (6’0, 246) pass rusher who was dominant at the FCS level.  Moats led JMU with 90 tackles, 11 sacks  and 23 tackles for loss (led all of FCS).  The 2009 Buck Buchanan Award as the FCS division’s best defender, Moats is a tenacious pass rusher who should be a good 3-4 OLB at the next level.

DE Austen Lane, Murray State – A small school two-way defensive end that combines size (6-7, 270) and quickness (4.65).  Lane was dominant at the FCS level as he was unblockable at times.  Has long arms that help him bat-down passes and block kicks (4 career blocked kicks.  A good run stuffer, who is also a double-digit sack guy.

DE Christian Anthony, Grambling State — An incredibly gifted defensive end that reminds some of former Alabama A&M and Indianapolis Colts star Robert Mathis.  Anthony (6-4, 246) finished fourth in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award and was voted the 2009 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year.  The Birmingham, Alabama native led the SWAC in solo tackles (55) and finished with 76 tackles overall.  Anthony also contributed 8 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries and five interceptions (returning 2 for touchdowns).

OLB/DE Junior Galette, Stillman — A defensive end and who looks like an NFL outside linebacker candidate, Galette (6-2, 255) transferred from Temple for his senior season at Stillman. A high-motor player, Galette led the SIAC with 9.5 sacks and also ranked 3rd in conference for tackles for losses (17.5 for minus 100 yards). In just 9 games, he recorded 56 tackles including 37 solo stops. Also had 12 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles plus blocked a field goal.  Had a strong 2010 NFL Combine where he was timed at 4.63 in the forty.

OLB/DE Marcus Crump, St. Augustine’s — A lanky high energy pass rusher that reminds me of a young Jason Taylor.  Crump (6-6, 240) finished the 2009 season second in the CIAA in sacks (10) and 3rd in tackles for loss (15). The All-CIAA defensive end also ranked in DII in those respective categories 7th in sacks and 25th in tackles for loss.

DT Callahan Bright, Shaw – After a circuitous college with stops at Florida State, prep school, and junior college, this former highly recruited high school prospect found a home at DII school Shaw.  Bright (6-2, 315) is a cat-quick defensive lineman who also plays with great strength.  Bright had a decent season by DII DT standards, posting 48 tackles including 7.5 for loss.  Likened to Eagles DT Broderick Bunkley.

OLB/DE  Jeremy Maddox, Alabama A&M — An explosive pass rusher with a good first step.  Reminds me of Kansas City Chiefs sack man Tamba Hali.  Maddox (6-0, 244) was a two-time All-SWAC selection and finalist for the Buchanan Award.  Just knows how to get to the passer as shown by his 12 sacks (2nd in FCS).

OLB/DE  Adrian Tracy, William & Mary – A very dominant small school pass rusher that was unstoppable the last 2 years  as he produced 22 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss.  Tracy (6-3, 242) reminds some NFL scouts of Philadelphia Eagles sack man Trent Cole as he has a quick first step and is tenacious rushing the passer.

DT Sean Lissemore, William & Mary – After an impressive Pro Day(4.82 in 40-yd, 7.57 in the 3-cone drill, and 26 reps of 225), everyone has their eye on this penetrating defensive tackle.  Lissemore (6-3, 297) reminds some of former Bucs D-lineman Chris Hovan as he is strong and quick.   The former W&M star was first team all-conference honors finishing 66 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and two interceptions in 2009. Also played well in the Texas vs. Nation All-Star Game versus bigger competition.

CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana (PA) – His first name means “Born on Sunday.” A very good small school corner that looks like a perfect Cover-2 player.  Owusu-Ansah (6-1, 195, 4.50) has the size and speed that NFL defensive coordinators are looking for.  Was impressive at the DII level as he dominated despite recovering from a shoulder injury.  A very good corner, but it is his special team’s play that NFL teams really like — scored 9 TDs in his career on returns, including four on punts and three on kickoffs. Owusu-Ansah holds school records for punt return yards (788), punt return average (11.4) and kickoff return yards (1,282).

CB Patrick Stoudamire, Western Illinois – Probably the top non-D1 defensive prospect in the 2010 draft.  Stoudamire (5-10, 200, 4.42) definitely has ability that is close to top corners Joe Haden (Florida) and Kyle Wilson (Boise State).  With good size, speed, and agility, this small school player has the instincts to be a very good cover corner.  Is very good at recovering and also breaking on the football.

CB/KR LeRoy Vann, Florida A&M — This former walk-on was arguably the most explosive player in all of college football (FCS or BCS).  Vann (5-9, 179) who was featured in Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s SportsCenter, finishing his college career as the FCS record holder for career returns for scores (11  overall with 8 punts and 3 kickoffs).  An elusive returner, who many are comparing to a slower version of Bears former Pro Bowl player Devin Hester, this season had 6 return touchdowns (3 punts and 3 kickoffs). While finishing with eye-popping numbers: 28 punts for 462 yards (16.5-yard average) and 3 TDs plus 38 kickoffs for 1,121 yards (29.5-yard average) and 3 TDs.  Vann – 1st team All-American selection in FCS — finished his stellar college career as the fifth player in FCS history to record over 1,000 yards on both kickoff and punt returns.  He also impressed scouts by being named the MVP of the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game after returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown.

S Michael Greco, Central Florida – A former quarterback who has drawn comparisons to John Lynch when he entered the NFL.  Greco (6-3, 217, 4.40) didn’t convert to DB until late in his college career, but he is a smart tough player.  In 2009, the former UCF signal caller  finished with 45 tackles and  broke up 4 passes in only 7 starts.  Greco continued his rise up draft boards with a solid Pro Day — ran under 4.40 seconds in the 40-yd, jumped 41.5 inches vertically and banged out 22 reps of 225-lbs.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Draft Sleepers – Offense

Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards is one of Taking It to the House’s Sleepers for the 2010 NFL Draft

Though the majority of players taken in the NFL Draft usually come from BCS schools – in the 2009 NFL Draft little over 72% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences.— everyone is enamored with finding a “sleeper”.  Every year around draft time, whether it is friends or on the radio, everyone wants me to identify a “superstar in waiting” that no one is talking about.

Well everyone…I am here to tell you that there are no longer any true “sleepers” in the NFL Draft process.  Trust me — if you have talent, NFL teams with their gaggle of scouts, assistant coaches, GM’s, and others scouring football fields everywhere will find you.  Now smaller school players are even making it easier for NFL teams to scout them by creating recruiting type videos for YouTube and other media outlets.

Some “Diamonds in the Rough” prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft on the offensive side of the ball:

QB Tim Hiller, Western Michigan – This big (6-5, 230) strong armed passer has been touted by some scouts as a better pro prospect than fellow MAC passer Dan Lefevour (Central Michigan).  Hiller is definitely a pocket passer in the mold of Drew Bledsloe, so he will need O-line protection as he learns the NFL game.

QB Ryan Perrilloux, Jacksonville State — Former LSU quarterback (dismissed in 2008) resurrected his career at JSU and became one of the best players in the Ohio Valley Conference.  Perrilloux (6-3, 223) had a great senior year finishing with passing numbers: 138-of-236, 58%, 2,345 yards, 23 TDs, and 2 INTs plus 98 rushes for 443 yards and 8 TDs. The one-time MVP of the SEC championship game showed great arm strength and touch at the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game.

QB/WR Kellen Lewis, Valdosta State – This former University of Indiana quarterback resurfaced for his senior year at Valdosta State after being dismissed.  In 3 years at IU, Lewis was on his way to being one of the conference’s best dual-threat quarterbacks — joined Antwaan Randle El as the only IU quarterback to produce over 6000 passing yards, 40 passing TDs, and 8,000 yards in total offense for their career.  In his one year at VSU, Lewis produced passing numbers: 232-372, 62.4%, 2514 yards, 14 TDs and 9 INTs along with 485 yards and 9 TDs rushing.  Also has experience as a receiver from IU.

QB John Skelton, Fordham – A former under the radar quarterback, who is getting attention on team’s draft boards due to his rocket arm.  Reminds some scouts of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when he entered the NFL.  Skelton is tall (6’4) and has great instincts, but he will need to work on his accuracy especially on mid-range throws.  Likes to go for the big play and sometimes gets burned by interception-happy DB’s.

QB/WR Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State – After his breakout performance in a 2008 upset of Michigan, everyone can never forget Edwards.  This two-time 1-AA Player of the Year is lacks ideal pro quarterback size (5’11, 185), but he is a playmaker and a “winner”.  Edwards leaves ASU as their most decorated athlete having won two National Championships and outstanding numbers (over 10,000 total yards and 74 TDs – passing and rushing).  It will be interesting to see if Edwards gets a legitimate shot as a quarterback in the NFL or will he have to transition to receiver or kick returner or be just a Wildcat.   If Edwards does have to transition to another position he has the athleticism as he is a legitimate 4.4 in the forty guy.

RB Joique Bell, Wayne State – Outside of Fresno’s Ryan Matthews, Bell is the premier big back (6’1, 223) in this year’s NFL draft.  At Wayne State, Bell rushed for almost 7,000 yards while piling up 88 TDs in four years.  Has a chance to be a great short yard and goal-line back in the mold of the Titans’ LenDale White.  The only concern with Bell is that right now he looks like a plodder as he ran a 4.68 in the forty at the NFL Combine.

RB James Starks, Buffalo – Another big back (6’2, 218) that should be able to help on the next level.  Though a shoulder injury caused Starks to miss the 2009 season, there is still a “buzz” about him.  A versatile back who also has experience as a quarterback and defensive back, Starks had a stellar 2008 season (1333 rushing yards with 16 TDs rushing and 52 catches for 361 yards and 1 TD) when he led his team to the conference championship.  The former Niagara Falls HS quarterback ran well at the NFL Combine and showed good fluidity in drills.  In three years at Buffalo, Starks set school records for rushing yards (3,140) and touchdowns (34).

RB LaMarcus Coker, Hampton — Began his college football career at the University of Tennessee where he contributed including a 42-yard touchdown run in the 2006 Outback Bowl against Penn State. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s leading rusher last season totaled 1,027 rushing yards with six touchdowns. Coker (5-10, 195) participated in the East Coast Bowl, where he ran the 40 for scouts in 4.28 seconds. Also caught a 33-yard TD pass in the HBCU Bowl All-Star Game and finished with a game-high 82 yards receiving on three catches.

WR Chris Bell, Norfolk State — A big receiver prospect, who originally started out at Penn State then transferred after an off the field incident.  Bell (6’2, 211) had a very good NFL Combine where he was timed at 4.47  seconds in the 40-yard dash (tied for 11th among receivers), put up 15 reps in the bench press, broad jumped 9-9 and ran a the 3-cone drill in 6.76 seconds.   In 2009, Bell had 51 catches for 958 yards and 13 touchdowns in a breakout junior season at Norfolk State.

WR Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green – Reminds a lot of Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin as he is not the biggest (6’0, 212) or the fastest (4.65), but he produces big-time.  In 2009, Barnes set an NCAA record by catching 155 passes for 1770 yards and 19 TDs – also had two other touchdowns rushing.  After converting from the quarterback position, Barnes put up 298 catches for 3,299 yards and 30 TDs in only two seasons as a full-time receiver.  Had a very good East-West Shrine game and is being looked at as a slot receiver and potential Wildcat at the next level.

WR Kyle Williams, Arizona State – Surprisingly the son of Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams has flown under the radar this draft season.  Williams was Arizona State’s leading receiver last year with 57 catches for 815 yards and 8 TDs.  Though some are viewing the form Sun Devil as only a punt returner due to his size (5’9/185), I believe that Williams should have an impact as a receiver too.

WR Ali Villanueva, Army – A huge developmental player who could wind-up as a blocking tight end or as an offensive tackle.  If you can believe it, Villanueva (6’9/277) was Army’s leading receiver in all categories for the 2009 season.  Had a solid East-West Shrine Game, but there are concerns about his military commitment and where to play him.

ATH Joseph Wielgat, Western Illinois – This rugby player has drawn the eye of NFL scouts after performing very well at his school’s Pro Day.  Wieglat, who projects to be an H-Back or TE at the next level, weighed-in at a solid 6-6 1/8 and 243 while running 4.66 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

OG/OT Vladimir Ducasse, UMass — After a solid Senior Bowl week, this native of Haiti showed that he has the size (6-5, 330) and strength to play at the next level.  Has experience as a 1-AA left tackle, but seems ideally suited to play offensive guard at the next level.  Has long arms and a good punch at the snap, but is still developing as a player.

OT Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale — A Division II offensive lineman who is shooting up a lot of team’s draft boards.  Veldheer fit right in at the NFL Combine running in the 4.9 range and looking comfortable in drills.  Seems to have better footwork and mechanics than most small-school O-linemen.

OT Tony Washington, Abilene Christian — A highly recruited player in the state of Texas who ended up at a smaller school after some off the field issues.  Washington is a long offensive lineman (6’6, 311) with the potential to be a bookend at the next level.  Has very good feet and athleticism.  Answered every team’s questions about his past at the NFL Combine, but it will be interesting to see which team takes a shot on him.

OT James Williams, Harvard – That’s right… even Harvard has a potential NFL caliber O-lineman.  Trying to follow in the footsteps of Ross Tucker (Princeton), Williams (6-5, 295, 5.20) is a big, smart, and athletic lineman from the Ivy League.  Though he is not a road-grader, Williams is getting scouts’ attention due to his long arms, good feet, and sound blocking techniques.  Looks like a very good pro right tackle prospect. 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Draft – HBCU Prospects

Norfolk State WR Chris Bell is one of several HBCU standouts who are hoping to here their name called at the upcoming 2010 NFL Draft

The excellence of the HBCU brand of football was recently celebrated with the opening of the Black College Football Hall of Fame this past February in Atlanta, Georgia and it is not surprising considering that HBCU’s have notoriously been fertile grounds for the National Football League. In fact there were over 60 former HBCU football players making impacts on NFL rosters during the 2009 NFL Season. 

Super Scouts/Architects Bill Nunn (’70s Pittsburgh Steelers) and Lloyd Wells (’60s Kansas Chiefs) were masters of mining “Diamonds in the Rough” at HBCU’s in helping to build Super Bowl winning teams in the past and the pipeline continues today with players like Houston Texans receiver Jacoby Jones from Lane. 

This year the talent level at HBCU’s is exemplary and you can expect to hear more than a few HBCU players’ names called at the upcoming 2010 NFL Draft. 

OFFENSE

QB Bryant Lee, Southern (6-3, 205, Sr., Boutte, LA) – A finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which is awarded to the top player in the FCS.  Lee was named the 2009 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year after posting passing numbers: 158-of-250 (63%), 2,039 yards passing, 19 passing touchdowns and  7 interceptions with 166 yards rushing and 5 TDs. Finished the 2009 season ranked 10th nationally in passing efficiency and 17th in total offense. Lee is the all-time passing leader at Southern with 7,654 yards.  Had probably his best game of the season in a 34-24 win over Alabama State, where he threw for a season-high 384 yards and four touchdowns. Threw at least two touchdown passes in seven-of-nine games this season.

QB Curtis Pulley, Florida A&M (6-4, 200, r-Sr., Hopkinsville, Ky.) – A former highly recruited high school prospect who started out at the University of Kentucky.  Pulley led the MEAC in total offense with 2,705 yards in 2009 and beat teams in a variety of ways.  This athletic dual-threat quarterback wowed NFL scouts last season with his strong arm (137-of-226, 60%, 1824 yards and 12 TDs) and legs (rushed for 881 yards on 122 carries and 6 TDs). Pulley was a finalist for the Walter Payton award after earning five MEAC Offensive Player of the Week awards.

RB William Ford, South Carolina State (5-11, 185, Sr., Travelers Rest, S.C.)  — The MEAC’s and Bulldog’s 2009 leading rusher finished with 1,010 rushing yards while averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 8 TDs.  Ford also is the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher with 4,650 career rushing yards, surpassing the mark of Hampton’s Alonzo Coleman (4,648) set in 2006.  The former tough Bulldogs runner finished 8th in voting for the Walter Payton Award.

RB LaMarcus Coker, Hampton (5-10, 195, Sr., Nashville, TN) — Began his college football career at the University of Tennessee where he contributed including a 42-yard touchdown run in the 2006 Outback Bowl against Penn State. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s leading rusher last season totaled 1,027 rushing yards with six touchdowns. Participated in the East Coast Bowl, where he ran the 40 for scouts in 4.28 seconds. Also caught a 33-yard TD pass in the HBCU Bowl All-Star Game and finished with a game-high 82 yards receiving on three catches.

OL Robert Okeafor, Florida A&M, (6-4, 295, Sr., Jacksonville, Fl) – Another great offensive lineman from FAMU.  Okeafor is a battler who has great feet and is a strong leader.

OL Xavier Manuel, Alabama A&M (6-1, 307, Sr., Vineger Bend, Ala.) – A tough interior lineman that is a smart player.

OL Steve Brazzle, Florida A&M (6-3, 332, Sr., Coatesville, PA) – A bigger center who can make all the calls at the line of scrimmage.  Brazzle also has the good feet and plays with very good leverage plus he can help out at guard too.

OL Ramon Harewood, Morehouse (6-6, 355, Sr., Barbados) – A big offensive tackle who is still learning the game, but has a huge upside. 

OL Dennis Conley, Hampton (6-4, 303, Sr. Suffolk, Va.) – A solid offensive lineman, but still has room to grow.  Has a good punch at the snap and should be a hard worker at the next level.

TE Tony Cotton, Langston, (6-1, 210, Sr., Kellyville, Ok.)  — An emerging tight end, who has good field-stretching ability.  An All-CSFL for the second straight season, Cotton led all HBCU tight ends in receiving yards (601) via only 35 receptions for an incredible 17 yards per catch average.  The Langston versatile pass catcher also contributed 5 touchdowns.

WR Juamorris Stewart, Southern (6-3, 195, Sr., Baton Rouge, La) This big physical receiver led the SWAC with 81 catches for 1,028 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009.  Stewart, who was quarterback Bryant Lee’s favorite target, finished his distinguished career at Southern as the school’s all-time leader with 201 receptions for 2,668 career receiving yards and 25 touchdowns.  The FCS All-American played in the 4th annual Texas vs. the Nation all-star challenge football game. 

WR Thomas Harris, Alabama A&M (5-11, 172, Sr., Alexander City, AL ) — A big-play receiver with solid speed (4.57), Harris along with Stewart and Bell look to be prime candidates to join a growing list of HBCU receivers making an impact in the NFL including Donald Driver (GB Packers/Alcorn State). Harris has great hands and is very good in open space after making the catch. Finished with 2009 receiving numbers: 56 catches for 808 yards, 14.4 ypc, and 7 touchdowns plus averaged over 26 yards per kickoff return.   Harris broke Arena Football legend Barry Wagner’s Alabama A&M school record for receptions.

WR Chris Bell, Norfolk State (6-2, 211, Jr., Norfolk, Va) – A big receiver prospect, who originally started out at Penn State then transferred after an off the field incident.  Bell had a very good NFL Combine where he was timed at 4.47  seconds in the 40-yard dash (tied for 11th among receivers), put up 15 reps in the bench press, broad jumped 9-9 and ran a the 3-cone drill in 6.76 seconds.   In 2009, Bell had 51 catches for 958 yards and 13 touchdowns in a breakout junior season at Norfolk State.

WR E.J. Morton-Green, Morgan State (6-4, 215) – A big physical receiver, who is getting some attention around the NFL.  Morton-Green has recently had several “recruiting” visits with NFL teams and is viewed as player with a lot of upside.  This developmental type receiver caught 24 passes for 324 yards last season.

WR Oliver “Tre” Young, South Carolina State (6-1, 180, Sr., Charleston, S.C) – Whenever South Carolina State, the 2009 HBCU champs, needed a big play, Young was their guy.  This big-play receiver led the MEAC in catches (65) and receiving yards (995) in 2009 while setting school career records for receiving yards (2,064) and catches (128).

DEFENSE

DE Christian Anthony, Grambling State (6-4, 246, Sr., Birmingham, Ala.)  — An incredibly gifted defensive end that reminds some of former Alabama A&M and Indianapolis Colts star Robert Mathis.  Finished fourth in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award and was voted the 2009 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year.  The Birmingham, Alabama native led the SWAC in solo tackles (55) and finished with 76 tackles overall.  Anthony also contributed 8 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries and five interceptions (returning 2 for touchdowns). 

DE/OLB  Junior Galette, Stillman (6-2, 255, Sr., Spring Valley, N.Y) — A defensive end and NFL outside linebacker candidate, Galette transferred from Temple for his senior season at Stillman. A high-motor player, Galette led the SIAC with 9.5 sacks and also ranked 3rd in conference for tackles for losses (17.5 for minus 100 yards). In just 9 games, he recorded 56 tackles including 37 solo stops. Also had 12 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles plus blocked a field goal.  Galette is clearly on the pros radar as he was recently timed at 4.63 in the forty and was one of two HBCU players invited to the 2010 NFL Combine.

DE/OLB  Marcus Crump, St. Augustine’s, (6-6, 240, Sr., Pittsboro, N.C) – A lanky high energy pass rusher that reminds me of a young Jason Taylor.  Crump ended the 2009 season finishing 2nd in the CIAA in sacks (10) and 3rd in tackles for loss (15). The All-CIAA defensive end also ranked in the FCS in those respective categories – 7th in sacks and 25th in tackles for loss.

DE/OLB Jeremy Maddox, Alabama A&M, (6-0, 244, Sr., Grand Bay, Ala) – An explosive pass rusher with a good first step.  Reminds me of Kansas City Chiefs’ sack man Tamba Hali.  Maddox, a two-time All-SWAC selection and finalist for the Buchanan Award, finished second in the FCS with 12 sacks.

DT Callahan Bright, Shaw (6-2, 315, Sr.) – After a circuitous college career with stops at Florida State, prep school, and junior college, this former highly recruited high school prospect found a home at DII school Shaw.  Bright is a cat-quick defensive lineman who also plays with great strength.  Some scouts I have talked say that if Bright can overcome his past character issues that he could be a player similar to the Eagles Broderick Bunkley.  Posted 48 tackles including 7.5 for loss last season and reportedly run under 4.95 seconds for the 40-yard dash.

ILB George Howard, Morgan State (6-1, 245, Sr., Chesapeake, Va.) – A tough inside linebacker that has a nose for the ball.  Howard, an All MEAC first teamer, led the conference with 130 tackles (73 solo and 57 assisted) and also contributed 1 sack.

ILB Adrian Hardy, Alabama State (6-2, 197, Sr., Selma, Ala.)  — This outstanding senior linebacker finished with 104 tackles this season to lead the SWAC. Also led the league with 9.5 stops per game and ranked him 34th in the FCS. Posted five double-digit tackle performances this season including a career best 17 tackles against Tuskegee. The strong pro prospect also contributed 10.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and a team-best five interceptions in 2009.

LB Marcus Jamison, Jackson State (6-1, 235, Sr., Brooksville, MS) – This All-SWAC pick finished with 56 tackles, six tackles for loss and a forced fumble.  Participated in the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game.

DB  Anthony Beck, Prairie View A&M, (5-11, 175, Sr., Channelview, Tex.) — A four-year starter at safety, Beck capped off an impressive career at Prairie View by leading his team to their first ever league championship.  Produced 3 INTs and 48 tackles in 2009.  The Houston native holds the school record for interceptions returned for touchdowns (3) in addition to picking off 11 passes for his career.  Also was named All-SWAC for the 2nd straight season and participated in the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game.

DB Quintez Smith, Shaw, (6-1, 195, Sr., Dublin, Ga.) – Was named as a NCAA Division II All-American after producing 9 INTs which led the football division and tied the all-time DII record – returned 4 INTs for touchdowns. Finished the season with 49 tackles and scored two other touchdowns on fumble returns. Also had a very good performance in the East Coast bowl.

DB T.J. McCord, Grambling (6-1, 195, Sr., Mobile, AL) – A tough free safety who is good in coverage and will also come-up to lay the lumber.  McCord produced numbers of 52 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 INTs (returned one for a touchdown), 8 pass break-ups, and 1 fumble recovery.

DB Antwane Cox, Bethune-Cookman (6-0, 180, Sr., Miami, FL) – Transferred from South Florida a couple years ago and had an immediate impact.  An All-MEAC first teamer, Cox produced 50 tackles, 2 INTs, 11 pass break-ups, and 1 fumble recovery.   

DB Terrell Whitehead, Norfolk State (6-2, 200, Sr., Virginia Beach, Va.) — Whitehead was named First Team All-MEAC for the third straight year.  Also was named as a First Team FCS All-American by the AP and Walter Camp Football Foundation.  Finished the 2009 season with 70 tackles, 5 INTs (led MEAC), four pass break-ups, three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Ended his collegiate career as the FCS active leader in career interceptions with 18.

Special Teams

P Jahmal Blanchard, Hampton (6-3, 182, Sr., Fort Lauderdale, Fl) — A three-time All-MEAC selection, Blanchard ranked third in the nation in punting with an amazing average of 43.9 yards per punt. Selected 3rd Team FCS All-American by the AP

KR LeRoy Vann, Florida A&M (5-9, 179, Sr., Tampa, Fl) — This former walk-on was arguably the most explosive player in all of college football (FCS or BCS).  Vann, who was featured in Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s SportsCenter, finishing his college career as the FCS record holder for career returns for scores (11  overall with 8 punts and 3 kickoffs).  This elusive returner, who many are comparing with Bears former Pro Bowl player Devin Hester, this season had 6 return touchdowns (3 punts and 3 kickoffs). While finishing with eye-popping numbers: 28 punts for 462 yards (16.5-yard average) and 3 TDs plus 38 kickoffs for 1,121 yards (29.5-yard average) and 3 TDs.  Vann – 1st team All-American selection in FCS — finished his stellar college career as the fifth player in FCS history to record over 1,000 yards on both kickoff and punt returns.  He also impressed scouts by being named the MVP of the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game after returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown.

Other to watch

QB K.J. Black, Prairie View A&M

QB AJ McKenna, Albany State

RB Ulysses Banks, Alabama A&M

RB  Quinn Porter, Stillman

OL Revay Smith, Grambling State

OL Nick Royal, Hampton

WR Oliver “Tre” Young, South Carolina State

WR Robert Holland, Chowan

TE  Jonathan Hannah, Texas Southern

TE Warren Matthews, Southern

DL Justin Lawrence, Morgan State

DL Sam Washington, Jackson State

LB Hurley Hemphill, Virginia Union

LB Kellen Woodard, Tennessee State

DB Rechard Johnson, Alabama State

DB  Michael Higgins, Mississippi Valley State

 DB Kevin Thornton, Arkansas—Pine Bluff

DB Malcolm Palmer, Jackson State

DB Markee Hamlin, South Carolina State

 DB Francis Adjei, Delaware State

DB Roderick Williams, Alcorn State

 DB Phillip Adams, South Carolina St

 DB Antwan Allen, Savannah State

DB Curtis Thomas  Texas Southern

PR/KR Wright, Alabama State

PR/KR An’Thon Harris, Fort Valley State

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)