(Photo by David Kindervater)
By Lloyd Vance, BIGPLAY Football “Draft Guru” / Sr. NFL Writer
(Philadelphia, Pa) — Now that the biggest “non on the field” NFL event is done for this year and 252 players know their destinations, it is time for myself and other talent evaluators to recap the action and then take a well deserved rest.
The 2008 NFL Draft definitely had a ton of buzz, hype, and excitement as Radio City Music Hall was electric when the event kicked off at 3 PM on Saturday – BTW: Loved the later start time. The later start time and new format seemed to invigorate the teams to move swifter as on Day 1 the first round took only 3 hours, 30 minutes, which was almost half the time of last year’s draft (6 hours, 8 minutes) and almost equaled the record of the 1990 draft (3 hours, 24 minutes).
This year’s event seemed to be the NFL’s biggest production outside of the Super Bowl as over 450 media members — not including the gaggle of ESPN and NFL Network personnel — covered the event including an impressive 13 of the top 20 newspapers were represented along with television outlets (ABC News, CBS News and CNN), international media (England and Japan), and non-sports media (Forbes, the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal).
Overall, the event was timely on both days and teams seemed willing to listen to all offers before making their selection(s) easily within the allotted time (1st Rd – 10 Minutes, 2nd Rd – 7 Minutes, and Round 3 – 7 was 5 Minutes). The NFL got the invited list of players right as no one went fishing rather than attending and all six invited players (Jake Long – Dolphins, Chris Long – Rams, Matt Ryan – Falcons, Glenn Dorsey – Chiefs, and Vernon Gholston – Jets) were able to leave the “Green Room” without enduring the Aaron Rodgers treatment. The 2008 NFL Draft class may not have had the high-profile flash of the 2006 group (Matinee Superstars including Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Vince Young, and many others), but this year’s class is definitely a solid group especially at Offensive Tackle (8 selected in first round) and Cornerback (30 players selected overall).
Tidbits from this year’s draft included:
Big Conferences Reign 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. A little over 70% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences. The SEC and PAC 10 had the most players drafted overall with 34, followed by the ACC (33), Big 12 (29), Big Ten (28), Big East (19), Conference USA (11), Mid-American (9), Western Athletic (8), and Mountain West (7).
USC had too much talent not to win it all in ’07, right?? – For the entire 2007 college football season analysts talked of the enormous amount of talent on the USC Trojans’ squad, but the group underachieved settling for an 11-2 record and a dominating Rose Bowl win. Well the Trojans did bring home the title of most players selected with 10 players including first rounders DT Sedrick Ellis (selected by Saints), LB Keith Rivers (selected by Bengals), OT Sam Baker (selected by Falcons), and DE Lawrence Jackson (selected by Seahawks) . The talent laden Virginia Tech Hokies had eight players selected and 2007 BCS Champion LSU had six players selected. Surprisingly FCS level Champion Appalachian State had two players selected, which was more than traditional college football powers Maryland (1); Syracuse, Stanford, Washington, and Alabama (all had no selections).
The “Slash” Effect – It is hard to believe, but it has been over 13 years since Steelers 2nd Round Draftee QB Kordell Stewart became “Slash” in 1995 as a multiple threat – multi position player in Chan Gailey’s Super Bowl Bound Pittsburgh offense. Teams have since tried to find the next “Slash” with Developmental quarterback types. This year not surprisingly the Steelers, who drafted college quarterbacks Stewart, Antwaan Randle El, and Hines Ward in the past, may have found their next Slash with the selection of Oregon Dual-Threat quarterback Dennis Dixon in the 5th round.
Rookies Better Watch Their Pockets – With rookie guaranteed money reaching $30 Million dollars (Jake Long got from the Dolphins a 5-year, 57.75 Million Deal w/ 30 Million guaranteed), a rookie salary cap is in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s vocabulary. The Commish said in a recent interview, “I’m a big fan of the rookie salary cap also. 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, and to the kind of money that’s being guaranteed for rookies that have not played – there’s still a question of whether they can play at the NFL level. That’s something that I don’t think is appropriate, and I think it’s one of the things that we’ve already outlined with the union that we want to discuss and reevaluate it.”
No Receivers Taken in First Round, but They Made a Comeback – After not having a receiver selected in the first round, this group proved it had good depth with 35 receivers taken in the draft, proving that the NFL is a “passing” league. Surprisingly speedy, unheralded Donnie Avery of Houston was selected by the Rams before Devin Thomas (Redskins – 2nd Rd), James Hardy (Bills – 2nd Rd), DeSean Jackson (Eagles – 2nd Rd, Malcolm Kelly (Redskins – 4th Rd) and others. The rest of the positional breakdown goes as follows: CB (30), RB (27), DE (24), OT (23), LB (22), DT (18), and QB (13).
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 2008 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 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 (Day 2). 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.
Dallas Cowboys – Many people have called GM/Owner Jerry Jones a “meddler” in the past, but the deep-pocketed owner and his staff had a pretty good draft. On Day 1 they grabbed homerun threat running back Felix Jones from Arkansas (1st Rd), South Florida cover corner Mike Jenkins (1st Rd) and athletic former basketball player TE Martellus Bennett in the second round. Then the ‘Boys draft staff grabbed sleeper running back Georgia Tech Tashard Choice (4th) and Boise State heady cornerback Orlando Scandrick plus jettisoned Parcells’ players Anthony Fassano and Akin Ayodele.
Miami Dolphins – Made sure that No. 1 player Jake Long was signed, sealed, and delivered instead of being a training camp holding out. Got their quarterback of the future in Jake Long’s teammate quarterback Chad Henne and Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling in the 2nd Round. They also traded RB Lorenzo Booker to the Eagles for a fourth round pick, and grabbed Parcells favorites former Cowboys LB Akin Ayodele and TE Anthony Fassano (for only a 4th round pick) all in Day 1. They were also frugal in Day 2 grabbing Hampton DT Kendall Langford (3rd Rd) and Toledo RB Jalen Parmele (6th Rd). Also look for a deal by training camp moving disgruntled DE Jason Taylor elsewhere — There were rumblings that the Jaguars were after him, but nothing happened…Maybe the Eagles will be interested.
Kansas City – An unbelievable draft for a GM (Carl Peterson) and Head Coach (Herman Edwards) on the hot seat. On Day 1 they selected three guys with first round grades in DT Glenn Dorsey, OT Branden Albert, and CB Brandon Flowers. With nine picks on Day 2, they grabbed other big school blue chippers Texas RB Jamaal Charles (3rd Rd), Tennessee big TE Brad Cottam (3rd Rd), North Carolina State DB DaJuan Morgan (3rd Rd), Missouri WR Will Franklin (4th Rd) and small school top prospect from Grand Valley State CB Brandon Carr.
Pittsburgh Steelers – The “blue collar” tough team followed their philosophy by grabbing big school performers Illinois workhorse running back Rashard Mendenhall (1st Rd), Texas receiver Limas Sweed (2nd Rd), future 3-4 pass rusher UCLA’s Bruce Davis (3rd Rd), big Texas offensive tackle Tony Hill (4th Rd) and almost heisman winner Oregon QB Dennis Dixon (5th Rd). Look for Mendenhall to make the Cowboys, Panthers, and Raiders think twice on passing him up for other backs. I also cannot wait to see the trick plays they will use with Dixon.
Patriots – Everyone wanted to talk about their aging linebackers and leaky secondary going into the draft, so it was only natural that Belichick’s boys responded. Led by draft phenom VP of Personnel Scott Pioli, the Patriots grabbed three linebackers (Tennessee’s Jerrod Mayo in the 1st Rd, Michigan’s Shawn Crable in the 3rd Rd, and Nebraska’s Bo Ruud in the 6th Rd) and two cornerbacks (Colorado’s Terrence Wheatley in the 2nd Rd and Auburn’s Jonathan Wilhite in the 4th Rd). Plus they grabbed developmental quarterback type San Diego State’s Kevin O’Connell (3rd Rd) and their own “David Tyree” clone in UCLA special teamer Matthew Slater (5th Rd).
Colts – Their draft started at the 2007 NFL Draft when they moved up to grab rookie of the year candidate Offensive Tackle Tony Ugoh. The move to grab Ugoh caused them not to have a first rounder, but GM Bill Polian and Head Coach Tony Dungy went to work. They grabbed athletic versatile Arizona State O-lineman Mike Pollak (2nd Rd), Georgia Tech OLB Phillip Wheeler (3rd Rd), Georgia pass rushing OLB Marcus Howard (5th Rd), and I love the selection of tough football player all-time Michigan rusher RB Mike Hart in the 6th round.
HEAD SCRATCHERS, BUT I WOULDN’T CALL THEM “LOSERS”
Houston Texans – The Texans appeared to make the biggest reach of the first round as they grabbed Virginia Tech Offensive Tackle Duane Brown after all of the glamour tackles were gone – There were a record 8 offensive tackles taken in the first round. I did like the long-armed athletic tackle a lot, but he clearly was a 2nd or 3rd round player at best. The Texans didn’t pick again until the third round when GM Rick Smith recovered by taking solid players West Virginia RB/KR Steve Slaton and Eastern Kentucky CB Antwaun Molden. They also added special teams linebacker Virginia Tech’s Xavier Adibi in the fourth round.
Seattle Seahawks – If I did give out letter grades, the Hawks would need a special note to their parents. After taking over the draft reins from Head Coach Mike Holmgren, I expected more from GM Tim Ruskell. The Seahawks reached badly for USC DE Lawrence Jackson in the first and then selected unathletic Notre Dame TE John Carlson in the second round. Both players are projects in my opinion and they will need time to develop. Also wasted picks on potential undrafted free agent specialists long snapper Tyler Schmitt from San Diego State (6th Rd) and kicker Brandon Coutu from Georgia (7th Rd). However I will give the Seahawks props for taking Mohawk wearing bad-ass fullback Owen Schmitt from West Virginia (5th Rd).
Atlanta Falcons – Sure they got the new face of their franchise in golden boy quarterback Boston College Matt Ryan (3rd Overall). But they reached badly for bad senior year USC offensive tackle Sam Baker (21st Overall) and smallish Oklahoma MLB Curtis Lofton (2nd). On Day 2 even Mel Kiper couldn’t’ even tell you a little about most of their group. However the one player in the second half of their draft I did like Louisville receiver Harry Douglas, who is good in the redzone.
Detroit Lions – The “Millen” Man March to fire beleaguered GM Matt Millen just got bigger as the Lions seemed to have nary a plan in the draft. After passing on the chance to move up to draft Virginia OG/OT Branden Albert, the Lions reached for right tackle candidate Gosder Cherilus. I don’t see Cherilus being ready to play anytime soon. They also reached for Colorado MLB Jordan Dizon too soon in the second and got too catch up in Central Florida running back Kevin Smith’s numbers from college by selecting him with the first pick of Day 2. Smith should be a good contributor, but I don’t think he is a future game-breaker nor was he the 64th best player in the draft. Also what are you doing with disgruntled receiver Roy Williams. The Lions did do something right by exciting the crowd by selecting Army S Caleb Campbell in the 7th (see Lloyd’s Leftovers).
Baltimore Ravens – I thought they did a good overall job, but trading up to grab Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco with the 18th pick was too much — Ravens dealt the first-round choice they received from the Jags (26) along with the 89th overall selection and a sixth-rounder to Houston for the No. 18 pick. GM Ozzie Newsome rebounded nicely taking Rutgers RB Ray Rice, (2nd Rd), LB Tavares Gooden (3rd Rd), Notre Dame Safety Tom Zbikowski (3rd Rd) and UTEP OG Oneil Cousins (3rd Rd).
Cleveland Browns – All of Phil Savage’s wheeling and dealing left the Browns with only five picks and none until the fourth round. They do have DT Shawn Rogers (Lions) and DT Corey Williams (Packers) to show for it, but they needed more. However I did like the pick of athletic Missouri tight end Martin Rucker (4th Rd).
Tennessee – Only one receiver, c’mon doesn’t V.Y deserve more than Cal’s Lavelle Hawkins in the 5th Rd. And did they really need speedy East Carolina running back Chris Johnson in the first round when they already had Chris Henry on their roster.
Players Not Selected
Every year thousands of players are left heartbroken as “Mr. Irrelevant” (2008’s version was Idaho LB David Vobora picked 252nd by the St. Louis Rams) 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 2008 undrafted players to keep an eye on in training camp are
- My ultimate sleeper for the 2008 NFL Draft Georgia Southern jack-of-all-trades QB/KR/WR Jayson Foster (Signed w/ Dolphins)
- Maryland junior eligible linebacker Erin Henderson (signed w/ Vikings and will play with his brother EJ)
- Houston receiver Anthony Aldridge (signed w/ Broncos)
- Chaldron State record-setting RB Danny Woodhead (signed w/ Jets)
- Wes Welker clone Texas Tech receiver Danny Amendola (signed w/ Cowboys)
- Speedy Stillman CB Brian Witherspoon (signed w/ Jaguars)
- File Your Papers – In a move that signaled “Please turn in your retirement papers”, the Packers drafted second rated quarterback on my board Brian Brohm to be Aaron Rodgers backup. I know Brett Favre, who surprisingly is on the ’09 Madden cover, wants to leave the door up, but Packers GM Ted Thompson slammed it shut. The Packers also placed Favre on the “Retired” list this week and hopefully the old graybeard gets the hint. However No. 4 better be careful in retirement as we all know about the Madden jinx.
- Disgruntled Veterans Stay Put – For all the talk that veteran players, especially disgruntled pass catchers Bengals Chad Johnson (reportedly turned down a first and third round pick from the Redskins), Lions Roy Williams, Cardinals Anquan Boldin and Giants Jeremy Shockey would be moved this weekend there were only two minor deals that netted 4th round picks for the trading teams. The Raiders gave up on former 2005 first round pick cornerback Fabian Washington sending him to the Ravens for a 4th Rd pick and the Dolphins with an already crowded backfield sent ’07 third round selection running back Lorenzo Booker to the Eagles for a fourth rounder too. So I guess Dolphins DE Jason Taylor, Eagles CB Lito Sheppard, and the aforementioned pass catchers better report to post draft mini-camps… My guess is more than a few of them will continue to draw lines in the sand and not be in attendance.
- Hey Roger, Where was the Big Public Scolding of the Patriots for Spygate – With a deal in place for Patriots alleged former tape man Matt Walsh to tell all to the NFL on May 13th. Where was the big announcement/scolding to the world about how the Patriots organization forfeited their first round pick at #31 for “spygate”. I guess the NFL wants this whole situation to go away, but I don’t think some fans — many of them at Radio City yelled “Cheaters” when the Pats picked — or Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter will let them.
- Look Out Dallas Gentleman’s Clubs – From the “Take Him, Because We Don’t Want Him” book, the NFL formally approved Tennessee’s trade of suspended cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Dallas gave the Titans a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft and a sixth-rounder next year – To no one’s surprise the Cowboys have a clause that states they would get back a fourth-rounder in 2009 if Pacman isn’t reinstated or a fifth-rounder if he returns then gets punished again. Now let’s see if heavy-handed Commissioner Roger Goodell lets him back before training camp or ever. I won’t even discuss how Pacman and former Hampton “character” issue/recently signed undrafted free agent DE/OLB Marcus Dixon need to stay away from the 58 strip clubs in the Dallas/Forth Worth area.
- Lions Get a Soldier – The biggest star of a rather quiet and uneventful second day of the draft was Army SS Caleb Campbell. With the crowd chanting “Ca-leb Camp-bell!” and “U-S-A!” over and over as the humble Army cadet got a step closer to having his dream of playing in the NFL filled when he was selected by the Lions in the 7th Rd — He also will not have to go to Iraq as well. Campbell will be the first Army football player to benefit from a new policy allowing athletes with a chance to play professionally to complete their service by serving as recruiters and in the reserves. Campbell said “I’m very fortunate,” “Without the Army and the academy … I wouldn’t be able to do this. BTW: The last Army cadet to be drafted was quarterback Ronnie McAda drafted as Mr. Irrelevant by the Green Packers in 1997.
- What No Quarterback?? – Incredibly quarterback strapped teams the Bears, Chiefs, Lions, and Panthers did not select one. Maybe they can get one from the quarterback laden Buccaneers (selected San Diego University’s Josh Johnson in the 5th Rd despite having five other quarterbacks on their roster) or Packers (Selected Louisville’s Brian Brohm in the 4th Rd and LSU’s Matt Flynn in the 7th Rd to keep Brett Favre stand-in Aaron Rodgers company)
- A Brief Look at the ’09 Draft – It is never to early for some research for the 2009 NFL Draft including: Ohio State quartet CB Malcolm Jenkins, RB Beanie Wells, LB Jim “the Animal” Laurinaitis, and offensive tackle Alex Boone; LSU pass rusher Tyson Jackson, Virginia Tech DB Victor Harris, West Virginia speedster quarterback QB Pat White, and my ultimate sleeper Virginia Union quarterback Lamar Little. But we have 11+ months to bring you information and draft news about these guys.
That is it for 2008 Draft and may all the teams be enriched going into the 2008 season. You can check out my first round pick by pick analysis at http://www.emqb.com/nfl-draft-2008-first-round-recap/#more-1645.
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