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)

2009 HBCU All-American Team

Explosive Florida A&M kick returner Leroy Vann is one of several 2009 HBCU All-American team members that NFL scouts have their eyes on

This year the talent level at HBCU’s is exemplary and you can expect to hear some of the names listed on our 2009 HBCU All-American team 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.

RB: William Ford, South Carolina State (5-11, 185, Sr., Travelers Rest, S.C.)  — The MEAC’s and Bulldog’s 2009 leading rusher this season produced 1,010 rushing yards while averaging 5.3 yards per carry with 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.  Ford 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 totaled 1,027 rushing yards with six touchdowns. Participated in the East Coast Bowl, where he ran the 40 for scouts in 4.28. Also caught a 33-yard TD pass in the HBCU Bowl All-Star Game and finishing with a game-high 82 yards receiving on three catches.

OL: Robert Okeafor, Florida A&M, (6-4, 295, Sr., Jacksonville, Fl)

OL: Xavier Manuel, Alabama A&M (6-1, 307, Sr., Vineger Bend, Ala.)

OL: Steve Brazzle, Florida A&M (6-3, 332, Sr., Coatesville, PA)

OL: Michael Steven, Tuskegee (6-5, 380, Sr., Montgomery, Ala.)

OL: Ramon Harewood, Morehouse (6-6, 355, Sr., Barbados)

OL: Dennis Conley, Hampton (6-4, 303, Sr. Suffolk, Va.) 

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) Stewart led the SWAC with 81 catches for 1,028 yards and 11 touchdowns.  This big physical receiver, 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 has been chosen to play 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 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 and Jacoby Jones (Houston Texans/Lane). 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.

DEFENSE

DL: 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). 

DL: 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 has been invited to the 2010 NFL Combine.

DL: 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.

DL:  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.

LB: 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.

LB: 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.

LB: Brandon Peguese, Hampton (6-1, 235, Jr., Greensboro, NC) – This high-energy junior outside linebacker and transfer from South Florida led the MEAC in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (16).

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: Jason House, Southern, (6-0, 190, R-Jr., Laurel, Miss) – Named as a 3rd team All-American and All-SWAC, this sticky fingered safety led the SWAC and NCAA (FCS) with 10 interceptions and 230 yards in returns in 2009.  This gifted track athlete and wide receiver turned defensive back also return one of his picks for a touchdown.

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

PK: Ari Johnson, Grambling State, (5-11, 180, Fr., Corona, Calif.) – Only a freshman, Johnson led the SWAC and all of HBCU football by scoring an amazing 90 points.  The GSU strong-legged kicker made 18 for 23 field goals attempted and converted 36 extra points plus had 46.0 yards per punt average.

P: Jahmal Blanchard, Hampton (6-3, 182, Sr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) — 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 hard-to-believe 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, finished his college career as the FCS record holder for career returns for scores (11 overall with 8 punts and 3 kickoffs).  The speedster, who many are comparing with Bears former Pro Bowl player Devin Hester, had 6 return touchdowns (3 punts and 3 kickoffs) this season.  And finished 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. Vann recently said of his stellar play for a smaller player, “I wasn’t the average size they were looking for. But I think it’s more than size. You’ve got to have no fear. You’ve got to play with heart.”

HONORABLE MENTION

OFFENSE

QB – Curtis Pulley, Florida A&M (Transferred from Kentucky); Dennis Brown, Norfolk State; K.J. Black. Prairie View A&M; AJ McKenna, Albany State; Tim Buckley, Alcorn State

RB – Ulysses Banks, Alabama A&M; Quinn Porter, Stillman; Ramon McElrathbey, Howard; Donald Babers, Prairie View A&M; Demetric Johnson, Albany State; Devan James, Morgan State; Frank Warren, Grambling State

OL – Revay Smith, Grambling State; Joseph Ephrem, Albany State; Johnny Culbreath, South Carolina State; Ryan Cave, Hampton; Nick Royal, Hampton; Colin Cordell, Fort Valley State; Gabriel Manns, N.C. Central; Edawn Coughman, Shaw; Dylan Stivers, Elizabeth City State

WR – Oliver “Tre” Young, South Carolina State; Damon McDaniel, Hampton; Chris Bell, Norfolk State; Antoin Mitchell, Tuskegee; Robert Holland, Chowan; Thomas Harris, Alabama A&M

TE – Jonathan Hannah, Texas Southern; Warren Matthews, Southern; Lamont Bryant, Morgan State

Defense

DL – Justin Lawrence, Morgan State; Sam Washington, Jackson State; Rashad Hunt, Texas Southern; Brandon Fortune, Virginia State; Malcolm Jenkins, Elizabeth City State; Dexter Jackson, Bethune-Cookman; Tyrell Henderson, Kentucky State

LB – Brandon Jackson, North Carolina A&T; Julius Wilkerson, South Carolina State; David Erby, South Carolina State; Marcos Esquivel, Fayetteville State; Julio Sanchez, Hampton; Cliff Exama, Grambling State; Andrew Eggleton, West Virginia State

DB – Rechard Johnson, Alabama State; Michael Higgins, Mississippi Valley State; Kevin Thornton, Arkansas—Pine Bluff; Malcolm Palmer, Jackson State; Markee Hamlin, South Carolina State; Francis Adjei, Delaware State; Roderick Williams, Alcorn State; Phillip Adams, South Carolina St; Antwan Allen, Savannah State; Kerry Hoskins  Jackson State; Ryan Rich  Jackson State; Curtis Thomas  Texas Southern

PK –  Jeremy Licea, Alabama A&M; Justin Castellat , Norfolk State; Austin Turner, Fayetteville State; Blake Erickson, South Carolina State; Trevor Scott, Florida A&M;

P – Carlos Reyes, Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Chance Wilson, Alabama A&M

PR/KR – An’Thon Harris, Fort Valley State; Justin Wright, Alabama State; De’Markus Washington, Texas Southern; Charles Hawkins, Southern University 

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

2008 Philadelphia Eagles All Inclusive NFL Draft Preview (Part 1)

By Lloyd Vance, BIGPLAY Football, Senior NFL Writer and Draft Analyst

2007 Season Overview

Going into the 2008 NFL Draft, the Birds are coming off a head-scratching roller coaster up and down season where they finished 8-8.  “Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda” sums up the theme of the 2007 season, which ended with another unfulfilling journey and no parade for die-hard Eagles fans.  Storylines were plentiful in 2007 with Andy Reid battling family issues, Donovan McNabb coming back from his third season-ending injury, and the cutting of Jeremiah Trotter in training camp to name just a few of the subplots.  But from the start of the season something seemed to be a miss as the team started out 0-2 with a terrible opening game loss to the Packers namely due to the inability of the Eagles return players securing the ball and a Monday Night home opening loss to the Redskins.  After such a bad start where the team had so far not lived up to everyone’s prediction of another NFC East crown.  Donovan McNabb, who clearly was struggling to recover from a 2006 season ending knee injury, had an earlier taped controversial interview air on HBO causing a firestorm leading up to their week three home game.  With the environment around the team and the quarterback swirling, McNabb and the team went out and put forth a Herculean effort torching the Detroit Lions for 56 points and 536 total yards.  All seemed well, but in another bad “Prime Time” loss the Birds were throttled by the Giants 16-3 as McNabb threw for only 76 yards mainly due from the fact he was running for his life as he was sacked 12 times.  Six of the sacks were credited to Osi Umenyiora who dominated first-time starter and injury replacement offensive tackle Winston Justice for most of them.  With the gut-wrenching loss, the Eagles entered the quarter marker and their bye with a disappointing 1-3 record.  Their record at that point seemed unbelievable given that they look to be much more prepared going into the season.

After a bye week where the Eagles got some time off, they fattened up on the lowly New York Jets.  The win setup a home game versus the defending NFC champion Chicago Bears with a strong chance of getting to .500 for the season and building momentum.  This game truly typified a 2007 season where the Eagles would continually get “close”, but fall short in the end.  All day the Eagles moved the ball up and down the field producing 334 yards with 123 yards rushing.  However the yards only amounted to 16 points mostly coming on David Akers field goals.  With the game on the line the Eagles pinned the Bears at their own three-yard line with 1:52 on the clock.  I won’t go through the unpalatable state of events that followed ending with journeyman Brian Griese throwing a touchdown pass to Mushin Muhammad giving the Bears an improbable 19-16 win.  I don’t care what anyone says, I believe the Eagles season was over after that game.  They were now 2-4 and trailed the 6-0 Cowboys badly in their division and you could see a strong level of discontent in “Eagles Nation”. 

With 10 games left the Eagles tried to rally winning three out of their next four contests  improving to 5-6 heading into a pivotal “Mission Impossible” type game against the undefeated Patriots, who were running rough shot over the entire NFL on their way to a 16-0 regular season record – crazily the Birds were a 24 point underdog going into the game.  Without starting quarterback Donovan McNabb (sprained ankle), backup AJ Feeley performed admirably putting up 345 yards and three touchdowns with one costly interception in the 31-28 loss.  The loss teased Eagles fans as they were close enough to taste victory, but in the end it was still a heart ripping loss.  After two more close losses to Seahawks and Giants, the Eagles were sitting at 5-8 with three games left and no playoff chances.  I know fans that I talked to were saying one thing “Lose, so we can have a top 10 pick”.  Their cries didn’t reach the team as to their credit, the Eagles kept fighting beating the Cowboys in Dallas (remember Westbrook cementing the game by falling down at the goal line), going on the road again this time throttling the equally inconsistent New Orleans Saints and completing the slate with a ho-hum home win over the young Buffalo Bills.

In the end three straight wins to end the regular season to finish 8-8 is “ok”.  Some say that winning at the end of one season is a springboard into the next, example the Packers won six straight at end of ’06 and in ’07 they had a 13 win season.  But I subscribe to the school that every season is different and teams really do start with a clean slate each year.  I have heard by some that the Eagles were a play/game away here or there and that this team was as good as the eventual Super Bowl Champion Giants and the rest of the NFC.  I liked the play of RB Brian Westbrook (1st Pro Bowl Selection and established an Eagles record for combined yards with 2104), WR Kevin Curtis (Scrappy receiver had over 1,100 yards w/ 8 TD’s), and DE Trent Cole (Brought the wood on his way to his first Pro Bowl with 12.5 sacks). But the cold hard reality is that this team needs more quality depth and playmakers to be a “real” Super Bowl contender.  Sure they could have squeaked into the playoffs in ’07, but who could they have beaten averaging less than 20 points in most games and not producing turnovers (-8). 

This off-season is essential for the Eagles to understand that their “philosophy” needs to be changed and that they can no longer live on their Super Bowl from 2004.  They are now a team that has missed the playoffs in two out of the last three years while their division rivals have gotten younger and you hate to say it better — All three NFC East teams except the Eagles made the playoffs in ‘07.  I am not saying drastic measures need to happen, but urgency is omnipotent.  The Eagles started their off-season with a bang by signing high-profile free agent Asante Samuel and bringing in quality role players Chris Clemmons, Dan Klecko, and Kris Wilson.  But we all know as Donovan McNabb goes, so will the Eagles.  After being on the hot seat all season, McNabb finished with good numbers (19 TDS, 7 INT, 3,324 yards passing, 89.9 rating, 9 fumbles (5 lost), 236 yards rushing) and fans should be encouraged by his play in the final three games of the season.  But everyone looking at this team including McNabb is asking “Do the Eagles Have Enough Playmakers?”.  With free agency basically over the team has said “yes” we are okay with our current roster – myself and many others would debate that thinking.  Unless something enormous happens between now and the draft (i.e. Chad Johnson talks his way out of Cincinnati or Roy Williams finally gets traded by Detroit) then Tom Heckert and Andy Reid will look first to the draft to find players.  That thinking is all well and good, but the Eagles need to also “play” their younger players.  They only need to look up the turnpike at how the 2007 Super Bowl Champion Giants for the blueprint on drafting and playing rookies.  The G-Men showed that draft picks can have an immediate impact with all eight of their draftees “The Little Giants” making the team and contributing throughout the season, playoffs, and into the Super Bowl. 

The Eagles found a nice building block for the future in ’07 draftee linebacker Stewart Bradley (3rd Pick), but they need more.  The Eagles will have several options in the draft armed with 11 picks including #19 in the first round, their own selections in rounds 2 through 6, Cleveland 6th rd pick (Center Hank Fraley trade), and Seattle’s 7th rd pick (Fullback Josh Parry trade) plus three supplemental picks (one in the fourth round and two in the sixth round).  The key item to watch in the draft will be how the Eagles cash in the very big “bargaining chip” of disgruntled cornerback and former 1st Rd pick Lito Sheppard, I expect them to at the least equal the 2nd and 5th round selections that the Falcons received from the Raiders for CB DeAngelo Hall.

 

2007 Record with Breakdown

 8-8 Overall Record, Finished 4th in the NFC East and missed the playoffs

5-3 record on the road

3-5 record at home

3-1 vs. the AFC

5-7 vs. the NFC

2-4 in   Division

 

Key Stats and Rankings

Offense

336 Points Scored, (Ranked 17th in the NFL)

42%  – 3rd Downs Converted (Tied for 7th in the NFL)

30:56 in Time of Possession (9th Ranked in the NFL)

27 Giveaways, 15 INT’s, 12 Fumbles Lost (19th Ranked in the NFL)

49 Sacks Allowed (28th Ranked in the NFL)

45% in redzone percentage with 23 TDs in 51 chances (24th Ranked in the NFL)

 

Defense

300 Points Allowed, (Ranked 9th in the NFL)

19 Takeaways, 11 INT’s, 8 Fumbles Recovered (30th Ranked in the NFL)

1533 Rushing Yards, 96 yards per game (7th Ranked in the NFL)

37 Sacks (9th Ranked in the NFL)

No Defensive Touchdowns

 

Overall

83 Penalties for 649 yards (12th ranked in the NFL)

-8 in Turnover Ratio (25th ranked in the NFL)

 

Offense

                    

                            PASSING                            RUSHING                   TOTALYARDS  

                        CMP   ATT   YD    YPA   TD   INT             ATT     YD    YPA    TD    

                         350     577 3755      6.0   24    15         421   1974     4.7     12    5729

NFL Rank                         7      10       16   12    11           20         8       2      16       6

 

Defense

                         PASSING                                              RUSHING                        TOTAL YARDS

                         CMP   ATT     YD     YPA   TD INT       ATT     YD      YPA   TD                     

                      312      539     3067    6.0   16  11        403    1533    3.8    10       4982

NFL Rank                     17        18        14   2  30           8         7        8        9       10 

Pro Bowlers: Shawn Andrews (OG), Brian Westbrook (RB) and Trent Cole (DE) – Alternate

 

Stat Leaders 

 Passing

              Att  Cmp   %     Yds  TD  Int 

McNabb 291 473    61.5   3324 19   7

Feeley      59 103     57.3     681   5   8

Kolb         One game played with no passes attempted and 3 rushes for -2 yards

 

Rushing

                   Att   Yds    Avg  TD  Long 

Westbrook 278 1333    4.8    7    36 

Buckhalter   62   313    5.0    4    30

Hunt            10  16       1.6    1     4

 

Receiving

                   Rec  Yards  Avg  TD  Long 

Westbrook   90     771    8.6    5    57t

K. Curtis      77    1110  14.4    6   75t

R. Brown     61      780  12.8    4    45

J. Avant       23      267  11.6    2    31

L. Smith       22      236  10.7    1   26

 

Tackles

Gaither            102  (69 Solo, 0 Sacks)

T. Spikes          86   (64 Solo, 1 Sack)

Cole                   69  (49 Solo, 12.5 Sacks)

S. Brown           68  (61 Solo, 0 Sacks)

Patterson          66  (50 Solo, 4 Sacks)

 

Interceptions

S. Brown             3

Sheppard            2

Dawkins              1

Gaither                1

 

Sacks

 Cole             12.5

J. Thomas      5

Patterson       4

Kearse           3.5

Bunkley          3  

 

Player Movement

IN 

LB Rocky Boiman, formerly of Indianapolis Colts: Signed a 1-year deal with the terms unreleased.  The former Notre Dame player is a high-character guy who can fill in at outside linebacker (good in coverage) and excels on special teams.  The twenty-eight year old was originally drafted in the 4th round in 2002 by the Titans. Won a Super Bowl ring in ’06 with the Colts. Will wear number # 50

WR/KR Brandon “Bam” Childress, formerly of New England Patriots: Signed 2-year deal with the terms unreleased.  The twenty-six year old is a very fast player, who has battled injuries throughout his career.  Signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State in 2005.  Has spent time on and off the Patriots roster in ’05 and ’06 while catching five passes for 39 yards in his career.  Will be called on to play special teams and  return kicks for the Eagles.  Will wear number # 11

DE Chris Clemons, formerly of Oakland Raiders: Signed a 5-year deal with the terms unreleased.  The twenty-six year old comes to the Eagles as a player on the accession as he produced 8 sacks in a limited role for the Raiders (only on the field for 37% of defensive plays).  Will be called on to be a situational pass rusher in the defensive end unit.  Will wear number # 91

FB Dan Klecko, formerly of Indianapolis Colts: Signed a 2-year deal with the terms unreleased.  The former Temple University player is a tough football player who will attempt to make the permanent switch from defensive lineman to full-time fullback.  The twenty-seven year old was originally drafted in the 4th round in 2003 by the Patriots. Has played for two of the best organizations in football in the Patriots and Colts winning Super Bowl rings in ’03, ’04, and ’06. Expect to see a lot of him on special teams and blocking at the goal line. Will wear number # 49

 

CB Asante Samuel, formerly of New England Patriots: Signed a 6-year deal for 57.14 million with 20 million in guarantees.  The twenty-seven year-old cover corner is another player coming over from the Patriots.  Entering his sixth season, the Pro Bowl corner has 22 interceptions in 75 career regular-season games.  The former Central Florida player had six interceptions last year and I know you remember the two against the Eagles including one returned to the house in the Pats victory last season. Originally drafted in the 4th round in 2003 by the Patriots and won Super Bowl rings in ’03 and ’04. Will wear number # 22

TE/FB Kris Wilson, formerly of Kansas City Chiefs: Signed a 3-year deal with the terms unreleased.  The twenty-six year-old H-Back type tight end is not known for his in-line blocking, but he has solid receiving skills.  The former University of Pittsburgh player has good hands and is a willing blocker.  After spending time behind Tony Gonzalez, he will get his chance to push LJ Smith.  Has 42 receptions and 4 TDs in his career with a high of 24 catches in ’07 with the Chiefs. Originally was drafted in the 2nd Rd by the Chiefs in 2004. Will wear number # 88

 

OUT

LB Takeo Spikes (Unsigned as of the Draft) – Former 2-time Pro Bowl player never really seemed recovered enough from past injuries to make the impact plays needed by the Eagles linebacker unit.  Produced 86 tackles, but only 1 sack and no fumble recoveries or interceptions.

– DE Jevon Kearse (Signed by the Tennessee Titans) – Had his best year as an Eagle in 2004 finishing with 8 sacks, but never produced double-digit sacks for the Birds.  His sack numbers have dwindled every year since his rookie year high (14.5) and his bothersome knee may cause his career to be in jeopardy.

– DT Ian Scott (Unsigned as of the Draft) – Was supposed to be in the defensive line rotation after coming over from the Bears, but injured his knee in training camp and spent the year on injured reserve.

– CB William James (Signed by Buffalo) – The former New York Giant never really embraced the nickel role after losing a non-battle with Sheldon Brown for the 2nd corner spot.  Struggled and was eventually passed by youngster Joselio Hanson.

– FB Thomas Tapeh (Signed by Minnesota) – Former 5th round pick in 2004 never really excelled as a true fullback.  Was more of a ‘tweener and a hip injury in ’04 slowed him.  Will be remembered for being called on to catch a swing pass on a crucial 4th and goal versus the Saints in an ’06 playoff game.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS NOT RE-SIGNED

KR/RB Reno Mahe – A utility player and a favorite of Andy Reid.  Every year it seems that Mahe will not make the roster, but he shows up like a bad penny.  The quality punt “catcher” filled the role after the Eagles week one fiasco, but more game-breaking skills in the return game are needed.  His ’07 numbers were 31 punt returns for 249 yards (8.0 ypr) with a long of 32 yards. 

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

– CB Joselio Hanson – A developing nickel corner that has paid his dues on the practice squad and in NFL Europe.  Filled in well when Lito Sheppard has been injured.  I think his best spot will be as a fourth defensive and helping on special teams.

– S/KR JR Reed – One of the better stories of the ’07 season was the return of the popular hard-hitting safety.  Though not as explosive as in the past, Reed filled in nicely when injuries struck the safety positions.  Of course everyone will remember his gaffe of muffing a punt return against the Packers in week one, but he should be a solid contributor on special teams again.

 

Philadelphia Eagles – 2008 Schedule

PRESEASON

Week 1: Friday, August 8               at Pittsburgh        7:30 pm   ETN/6ABC

Week 2: Thursday, August 14        Carolina               8:00 pm   FOX

Week 3: Friday, August 22             at New England   7:30 pm   ETN/6ABC

Week 4: Thursday, August 28        NY Jets                6:30 pm   ETN/6ABC

 

REGULAR SEASON                                   

Sunday, September 7               St. Louis               1:00 pm   FOX     

Monday, September 15            at Dallas                8:30 pm   ESPN

Sunday, September 21             Pittsburgh             4:15 pm   CBS

Sunday, September 28             at Chicago            8:15 pm   NBC

Sunday, October 5                   Washington           1:00 pm   FOX

Sunday, October 12                 at San Francisco   4:15 pm   FOX

Sunday, October 19                 BYE

Sunday, October 26                 Atlanta                  1:00 pm   FOX

Sunday, November 2               at Seattle              4:15 pm   FOX

Sunday, November 9               NY Giants             8:15 pm   NBC

Sunday, November 16              at Cincinnati        1:00 pm   FOX

Sunday, November 23              at Baltimore         1:00 pm   FOX

Thursday, November 27           Arizona                 8:00 pm  NFL Network

Sunday, December 7                at NY Giants        1:00 pm   FOX

Monday, December 15             Cleveland              8:30 pm  ESPN

Sunday, December 21              at Washington      1:00 pm   FOX

Sunday, December 28              Dallas                   1:00 pm   FOX

(All times are EST with every game simulcast on WYSP (94.1 FM) and WIP (610 AM)

 

2008 Eagles Draft Picks

1st Rd   19th overall

2nd Rd   49th overall

3rd Rd    80th overall

4th Rd    115th overall

4th Rd   131st overall (Compensatory Pick)

5th Rd   152nd overall

6th Rd   184th overall

6th Rd   191st overall  – (From Cleveland – Hank Fraley Trade)

6th Rd   200th overall (Compensatory Pick)

6th Rd   203rd overall (Compensatory Pick)

7th Rd   230th overall (From Seattle – Josh Parry Trade).

 

Team Needs

1.  OT – The O-line was solid in ’07 pushing Westbrook well over 1,000 yards and quarterback McNabb was able to finish the season.  But there are some definite areas of concern with the unit.  Too many sacks were allowed 49 (Finished ranked 28th in the NFL) and bookend offensive tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas are 34 and 33 respectively.  There is a need for one or possibly two players to be chosen as future successors to the aging veterans.  Third year player Winston Justice has done little, so he is a big question mark and Todd Herramins looks like a better fit as swing player.  The Birds need to draft a young offensive tackle to team with Pro Bowl Guard Shawn Andrews for the future. This position is stacked in this draft, so I could at least two O-Linemen selected by the Eagles.

2.      Kick Returner – In today’s NFL most teams place an importance on having a game-changing homerun threat at the kick return position, I am not sure that the Eagles agree with the majority as “ball security” is paramount to them.  Since veteran return man Brian Mitchell left town, the Eagles have struggled to find an explosive and ball secure returner.  The Birds finished near the bottom in the NFL in field position (29.08 yard line for a ranking of 25th) and they have not had a kickoff return (since 2001) or punt return (since 2003) for a touchdown in some time, so this position must addressed.  They can longer afford to throw just any player into this position and I won’t bring up the Green Bay game again. The Eagles should use a mid round pick (4th or 5th round) solely dedicated to this area.

3.   Safety – Need to bring in a player with pedigree to eventually replace stellar free safety Brian Dawkins (35 in November). With Dawkins and SS Sean Considine always seeming to be battling injuries a younger guy to throw in the mix is needed.  Quinton Mikell is a good fill-in and special teams guy, but he is not a long range answer.  Must improve in deep coverage and in creating turnovers.  Will need to dig for a replacement in the draft as this position is not deep this year.

4.  DE  – The Eagles got heat from a variety of players (37 sacks), but other than Pro Bowl player Trent Cole (12.5) no one came close to double digits.  The addition of Chris Clemons will help, but more playmakers are needed.  All the Eagles have to do is look in their division at the pressure (league leading 53 sacks) that the Super Bowl champion Giants’ front four caused leading to turnovers and wins.  The effort of Juqua Parker (formerly Thomas) is good, but with an unknown in second-year player Victor Abiamiri, the team cutting ties with Kearse and underachievers Darren Howard and former first round pick Jerome McDougle fighting for their Eagles careers, another young two way DE that can rush the passer is needed.

5.  WR – So you want a receiver Philly fans to finally fill the void or is it a canyon that has existed since the departure of — The initials that we dare not say —  T.O.   Sure we can all hear Andy Reid’s 9-year common retort –uh, uh, [Throat Clear], “We are okay with our receivers”.  But 16 receiving touchdowns from your entire receiving corps when Patriots receiver Randy Moss had 23 touchdowns by himself, says it all.  Kevin Curtis was scrappy (77 catches for 1110 yards, 14.4 yards per catch, and 6 TDs), but he is better suited for the slot.  Fourth year receiver Reggie Brown in my opinion has not lived up to his second round selection and after him you have a bunch of “guys” in Hank Baskett, Jason Avant, Greg Lewis, and the other receivers. Need to find a receiver who can start out on special teams helping in returning kicks and possibly growing into something.  There are good second round and mid-round level players at this position, so you could see one or two players (speed w/ 4.4 speed and a big 6’4 plus) selected.

 6.  CB – With the signing of Asante Samuel this unit got a much needed upgrade, but in signing the NFL’s number one defensive free agent, the Eagles opened a can of worms with Lito Sheppard.  We all know Sheppard will not make it to training camp, so it is necessary to find a corner in the draft that can be groomed as Sheldon Brown’s eventual replacement.  After Rod Hood left free agency before the ’07 season, a big hole was left in the Eagles secondary.  Will James was a disappointment and slot receivers had good games versus the Eagles.  With so many team going to four and five receiver sets, the Birds need a quality backup, who can also play on special teams and possibly help in the return game.  With the great depth in the ’08 draft at this position there is no reason that two players can’t be selected.

7.  RB – For the second year in a row Brian Westbrook showed he is a premier back in the NFL as he finally made the Pro Bowl. He broke the Eagles record for combine receiving and rushing yards, but one has to ask at 28 years old can the mercurial back continue carrying the load essentially by himself.  I definitely think 368 touches not including his occasional punt return is enough.  With the new trend in the NFL being the use of a tandem in the backfield (Giants, Saints, and Jaguars), the Eagles need to find a partner for Westbrook.  Correll Buckhalter has been a good story the last couple of years coming back from his knee troubles to average a hearty 5.0 ypc in ‘07, but he is always a play away from injury and he is also approaching thirty.  With Tony Hunt firmly in Reid’s doghouse due to his blocking and Ryan Moats looking like he is ready to move on a younger back is needed. If ever there was a draft to pick a running back the 2008 NFL draft is it.  There are several high producing running backs coming out including several that have kick return experience.

 8.  TE – It was evident by the Eagles woes in the redzone that McNabb’s favorite targets needed some assistance going into the ’08 season.  Injuries limited LJ Smith to only 10 games, 22 catches, and one touchdown.  The Eagles used the franchise tag on Smith, but the Eagles may need to start thinking about a replacement.  The possible emergence of ’07 training camp sensation Brent Celek and the addition of Kris Wilson will help, but I would like to see a tight end added in the draft that can push Matt Schobel.  The preference is for a blocking type that can also contribute on special teams.  There are a couple of tight ends in the draft, but with so many teams running spread offenses in college, blocking is not a strong point for many in the draft class.

 9.  LB – Even with the release of Spikes and moving Stewart Bradley into the starting lineup at middle linebacker more is needed.  The entire linebacking unit only had 3 sacks and 2 interceptions.  The NFL is now built on hybrid players and schemes at the LB area.  4-3 teams often incorporate 3-4 schemes and pass rushing based on the talent at LB.  The Eagles biggest problem is the aforementioned game-changing plays, but coverage is also a concern as teams like to run play action and screens on them.  Need to select another linebacker to help Rocky Boiman on special teams.

 10.  Kicker – I know a lot of Eagles fans are saying, “Wait a minute we have automatic Akers”.  The automatic part may have been the case in the past, but the former Pro Bowl kicker is approaching 34 and in 2007 he was 24 for 32 overall while making only 2 for 10 from beyond 40 including an alarming 1 for 6 between 40 to 49 yards. With his leg appearing to be not as strong since his ’05 hamstring injury, the Eagles should bring in a younger guy to push him. My suggestion would be a late round pick, an undrafted free agent, or possibly inquiring about Rams extra kicker and Chiefs ’07 draftee Justin Medlock.  The left footed kicker flamed out in Kansas City, but he had a made field goal percentage of 85.7 in college.

Little Known 2008 NFL Draft Hopefuls: But Don’t Call Them Sleepers

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Every year around draft time I am asked whether it is by friends or on the radio to identify a “sleeper”.  Well everyone I am here to tell you that there are no longer true “sleepers” in the NFL Draft process.  Trust me, if you have talent the NFL will find you with their gaggle of scouts, assistant coaches, GM’s, and others scanning the country for players.  With the emergence of small school guys like Eagles RB Brian Westbrook (Villanova), Ravens DB David Pittman (Northwestern State), Colts DB Antoine Bethea (Howard), and many others the NFL finds players everywhere.  The entire NFL you can say is now taking a page from the old Pittsburgh Steelers scouting department from the ’70s where super scout Bill Nunn found several diamonds in the rough (John Stallworth, Mel Blount, and others) throughout the country that turned into major contributors to their dynasty.Some “if you build it, they will come” prospects to watch include:

  • San Diego QB Josh Johnson – The Oakland, California native is from the University of San Diego and not the bigger San Diego State. But Johnson (6’3, 215) is extremely well known going into the draft after a senior season where he tossed a school record 43 touchdowns (only 1 INT) while ranking first in the nation in total offense (4,040 yards) and broke the NCAA record for passing efficiency (176.7).  His post season has been even more noteworthy as he was the MVP at the East-West Shrine game and ran an eye-popping 4.55 seconds in the forty at the Combine.  At the Combine after his blazing time he was hurt by back spasms that affected his throwing, but at his March Pro Day workout he got redemption.  In front of about 20 NFL team evaluators including head coaches Norv Turner of San Diego and Carolina’s John Fox, Johnson threw the ball much better than he did at the combine hitting almost all of his throws in stride.
  • Delaware RB/KR Omar Cuff  – After a stellar senior season including rushing for an amazing 7 touchdowns versus William & Mary watch for this stick of dynamite in the NFL.  Cuff  (5-9 7/8, 195) amassed 4,363 rushing yards and a school-record 73 total touchdowns as Blue Hen and at his recent Pro Day he ran the forty in 4.55 seconds, had a 34-inch vertical jump, 10-foot, 1-inch long jump, 4.12 short shuttle, 6.86 cone drill, and 16 reps at 225.
  • HBCU’s have notoriously been fertile grounds for the NFL and this year is no different.  Everyone knows about Tennessee State’s Domique Rodgers-Cromartie after the Senior Bowl.  But a new HBCU prospect announced his presence this week at Alabama’s Pro Day.  Little known Stillman College CB/KR Brian Witherspoon (5-10 3/8, 178) stole the show from his SEC counterparts. Witherspoon, who is also an All-American sprinter posted numbers of a 4.33 seconds forty, 40 inch vertical,  4.36 seconds in the short shuttle, and a cone drill of 6.86 seconds. Witherspoon is a fluid athlete with good change of direction and looked very good in corner and return drills.  His times in the forty and cone drill would have placed him with the Troy State potential top 15 pick Leodis McKelvin’s combine numbers. 

Other HBCU players to watch for include: Clark Atlanta University DE/LB Curtis Johnson  (6-3, 255), Bethune Cookman DB Bobbie Williams (6-0, 214), Jackson State WR Jaymar Johnson (5-11, 180, 4.41), Delaware State WR Shaheer McBride (6-1, 199, 4.50), Hampton University DE Kendall Langford (6-5, 294, 5.03), South Carolina State OL James Lee (6-4, 303, 5.30), Bethune Cookman LB Ronnie McCollough (5-11, 225, 4.65), Tennessee State DE Shawn Richardson (6-4, 299, 5.12), and Tuskegee University DB Johnathan Harris (5-10, 185, 4.44)

  • Every year there are former quarterbacks making their mark in the NFL at other positions — Think Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl return man Joshua Cribbs. This year UTEP QB/WR Lorne Sam (6’3, 215) is my number one conversion candidate. The jack-of-all-trades player transferred from Florida State looking to get noticed and he did producing numbers in 2007 of 12-19 for 144 yards w/ 2 TDs passing, 60 rushes for 339 yards w/ 3 TDs, and 42 catches for 589 yards (14.0 ypc) and 1 TD receiving. He followed his season up by shining at the combine catching the ball well in drills, posting 23 reps at 225 pounds (great for a receiver), and running a 4.55 in the forty. Another conversion candidate is the 2007 Walter Payton award winner from Georgia Southern QB/WR/KR Jayson Foster (6′, 170). Despite his smallish size this mighty mite is explosive, elusive, speedy, and went for over 1,000 yards passing and rushing in 2007.
  • TE Antonio Smith, Michigan State: The big tight end prospect (6-7, 260) is one of the most interesting stories this draft season. With the emergence of former basketball player Antonio Gates in the NFL, Smith is the latest former hardwood player trying to make the jump to the NFL at the surprising age of 32. The brother of current Cleveland Browns defensive end Robaire Smith certainly looked the part of an NFL tight end posting good numbers at Michigan State’s Pro Day with times 5.19 and 5.14 in the 40, a 32½-inch vertical jump, 9-foot, 7-inch long jump, and 18 reps in the bench press.

Sleeper Quick Hitters

— Virginia Tech OT Duane Brown – Everyone knows about Jake Long and Boise State’s Clady, but Brown (6’5, 310) should get noticed by the scouts.  He is a big tough and some say mean O-lineman that will fight you to the whistle.   He has a good punch coming off the ball, good footwork, and large wingspan.

— Eastern Kentucky OT Sean Dumford (6’5, 302) was impressive at Kentucky’s Pro Day outshining his SEC brethren by running a respectable 5.15 in the forty and posting 27 reps pressing 225 pounds.

— Washburn tall corner Cary Williams (6-1, 187) made the radar at the University of Kansas Pro Day producing a 4.43 forty, 32½-inch vertical jump, 4.34 short shuttle, 6.94 cone drill, 8 reps in the bench press, and looking smooth in drills.

— Weber State O-lineman David Hale (6-5 5/8, 310) followed up a solid combing by producing a 29-inch vertical jump, 4.63 short shuttle, 7.51 cone drill, and 25 reps at his Pro Day.

— Grand Valley State CB Brandon Carr (6-0, 207) ran the forty in 4.43, had a 35-inch vertical jump, 10-foot, 4-inch long jump, 4.19 short shuttle, 6.80 cone drill, and ran well in drills at his workout.

— Chadron State RB Danny Woodhead (5-7 ½. 197) showed the big boys that he is ready by ripping it up at the Nebraska Pro Day. The record-setting small-school player  ran the forty in 4.38 seconds, had a 38-inch vertical jump, 10-foot, 1-inch long jump, 4.20 short shuttle, 7.03 cone drill, and 20 reps of 225.