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Random Thoughts from the 2010 NFL Draft

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With the long search for Mr. Irrelevant finally having come to a close, a few thoughts on the 2010 NFL Draft:

  • With seven players selected overall, including two picks in the top 20, this is clearly the best draft class Alabama has produced in many years. Aside from the fact that Alabama players look to be a staple in the NFL Draft in coming years -- no less than five rising juniors are legitimate first round picks in 2011 (Ingram, Jones, Hightower, Dareus, and Barron) -- the benefits of such a showing need no real explanation. Above and beyond anything else, the majority of the elite prep talent coming out of the high school ranks wants to go to a program that they feel will be a stepping stone for them to the NFL, and having productive draft days like we had this weekend only further lays the groundwork for keeping the elite talent coming to Tuscaloosa.
  • Not that I would have expected anyone at UA to criticize Terrence Cody given all he has accomplished the past two years, but even so the fact that Cody was drafted by Ozzie Newsome tells you that he likely received a glowing endorsement from Nick Saban and company. Aside from those currently working within the Alabama football program, there is probably not a single person in the world with a more detailed knowledge of Alabama football than Newsome, and if there would have been any concerns whatsoever with Cody, there is no way he would have used a second round selection on him, especially given that Cody plays at a position that is already a strength for the Ravens. 
  • Consider this... two years ago Alabama did not have a single player drafted while LSU had four first round draft picks. Fast forward two years later, Alabama has its strongest draft in years while LSU's six-year streak of first round picks comes to an end, with the Bayou Bengals not even having a single selection until the middle of the third round. How the times have changed.
  • Speaking of LSU, the 2010 Draft only further showcases the glaring deficiencies LSU has had in recent years in developing raw talent. Chad Jones looked like a guaranteed first round draft pick in his true freshman year in 2007, and Al Woods was supposedly the heir apparent to Glenn Dorsey. Ciron Black, who went undrafted yesterday, looked like another sure-fire first round draft pick at times in his LSU career. Clearly the Bayou Bengals fortunes have been hurt the past couple of years by their struggles at the quarterback position, but to lay the blame for all of their struggles the past two years solely on the shoulders of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson is largely misplacing the blame. Issues at quarterback have clearly hurt them, mind you, but just as harmful to their efforts has been an almost complete lack of ability at the other 21 positions to develop massive amounts of raw talent into high-end, productive football players who perform at that level on a consistent basis.
  • As happy as the Oklahoma fans probably were at seeing so many of their players drafted, I imagine they also had to have a sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs. Consider this... Oklahoma had seven players selected overall, including four first round picks and three of the top four players selected overall. And with all of that talent, they sputtered to an 8-5 finish and a narrow win in the Sun Bowl. Obviously the injury gods ruined their season, and as a result 2009 will probably always be the year that could have been. With all due respect to the Longhorns, I have no real doubt that if Bradford and Gresham would have remained healthy all year, we would have played the Sooners in Pasadena, and probably would have needed to play at a much higher level to walk away with the crystal ball.
  • Speaking of injuries, you always hear people referring to the risk of coming back for another year of college football, saying that if you get you will dramatically harm your draft status. Yet in the 2010 draft, Sam Bradford went number one overall after suffering a season-ending injury to his throwing shoulder. Likewise, Jermaine Gresham went in the top 20 to the Bengals, as a hybrid tight end / wide receiver who relies on his speed and athleticism, despite missing all of the 2009 season after having knee surgery (and this comes after him tearing his ACL playing basketball in high school). Moreover, Rob Gronkowski, a pass receiving specialist at tight end, missed the entire 2009 season with a back injury, and still went in the top of the second round to the New England Patriots. I think it shows that, as long as the NFL thinks you can play and will be healthy moving forward, they really couldn't care less about whether or not you had a major injury at the collegiate level.
  • While Lane Kiffin spent much of his brief stint at Tennessee poor-mouthing the talent of his squad, notice that the Volunteers had six players drafted, including three in the first 60 picks. The Vols may have been razor thin in terms of depth, but those guys probably had a lot more talent than Kiffin ever wanted to admit.
  • Do the Kansas City Chiefs love SEC players or what? After spending their first round pick on an SEC player in 2007 (Dwayne Bowe), 2008 (Glenn Dorsey), and 2009 (Tyson Jackson), the Chiefs had three picks in the top 50 in the 2010 NFL Draft, and they spent all three on SEC players. With all of the major college football conferences looking to expand, perhaps we could just convince them to give up on the AFC West for the SEC West?
  • And speaking of SEC players taken in former drafts, the Raiders trade for Jason Campbell -- one of their many alarmingly rational moves of the draft weekend -- probably marks the end of the JaMarcus Russell era in Oakland and likely solidifies his status as the great NFL Draft bust of all time. Campbell is now the starter in Oakland, Russell will be asked to take a massive pay cut (which he has already vehemently dismissed the notion of doing), and thus will probably be cut sometime in the coming weeks. Give Al Davis some credit here (and yes that felt really weird to type). Drafting Russell was a terrible idea, but cutting bait with a former #1 overall pick just three years on is something that many other owners and general managers didn't have the guts to do, even though it was clear it was the move that needed to be made. To the best of my knowledge, Russell's tenure with the team that drafted him will be the shortest of any number one overall pick in NFL Draft history since the merger some four decades ago (not counting the John Elway holdout from the Baltimore Colts).
  • How much does Jimmy Clausen have to loathe the Donovan McNabb trade? If that trade doesn't go through, the Redskins are still looking for a quarterback and probably takes the Notre Dame product at #4 overall, with a contract in the neighborhood of 35-40 million dollars guaranteed. Instead, the Redskins get McNabb, then choose to shore up the offensive line, and Clausen tumbles into the middle of the second round. And, suddenly, tens of millions of dollars disappear from his bank account. Ouch.
  • This time of year we usually hear people complaining about how the NFL community overemphasizes the importance of the 40-yard dash. Interestingly enough, however, this year we have the case of Joe Haden. The Florida cornerback had a standout career in Gainesville, but ran somewhere in the neighborhood of 4.60 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Nevertheless, Haden still went seventh overall to the Cleveland Browns, and will probably receive a contract guaranteeing him approximately 25 million dollars. That is not to say, of course, that 40-yard dash times do not have an impact on final evaluations, but I do think it gives at least some indication that the NFL community doesn't put as high of a value on a 40-yard time as some may think.
  • Consider this... the New England Patriots are in the middle of the second round and needing to upgrade their ability to rush the passer off the edge. Carlos Dunlap and other talented defensive ends / edge rush linebacker prospects remain on the board. You're Bill Belichick sitting in the Patriots war room, what do you do? Instead of taking Carlos Dunlap, you trade down with the Tennessee Titans, and then when you go to pick at #53, you pass on Dunlap and take his teammate Jermaine Cunningham (also a defensive end). Think about that for a moment. With as close as Belichick's connections are to Urban Meyer, I tend to think he knew exactly what he was doing with that series of moves.
  • Remember back about four months ago when Joe McKnight entered the NFL Draft after Land Rover-gate? Well, to no one's surprise, McKnight was not exactly highly-coveted by NFL franchises. He was ultimately chosen in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Jets after they decided to send Leon Washington to Seattle. He'll get a few hundred thousand guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus and will then make the league minimum for the next few years, probably netting him a standard of living probably on par with what he was getting at Southern Cal. So why did he leave early when he clearly needed one showout season to raise his draft status? It seems pretty clear to me why... he may have lost his eligibility with a further investigation (or at least have been suspended for several games), and he knew that USC was probably unlikely to be bowl eligible in 2010 anyway. With all of that in mind, fourth round draft grade or not, there was really no reason to stick around in Los Angeles.
  • Six Penn State players were selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, and in their spring game neither of the two main contenders for the starting quarterback job played particularly well. Good news.
  • The most surprising development from the 2010 NFL Draft? The fact that Aaron Hernandez fell into the middle of the fourth round before being picked by the Patriots at #113 overall. We literally have not faced a single skill position player the past two years that has given us more headaches than Hernandez, and it wasn't just us either... there wasn't anyone that Florida ran across that could really limit him. Given the success of the hybrid tight ends / wide receivers in the NFL the past few years, I was shocked that he fell that far. Patriot fans were absolutely elated to get Hernandez this deep in the draft, and it's not hard to see why.
  • Only time will tell with what will happen with Tim Tebow as an NFL quarterback, but I will say that he will have to play at a very high level to justify his selection. Aside from the massive amount of money he will command for being a first round quarterback, the Broncos are already pretty strong at the quarterback position with Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn (Orton was 12th in the NFL last year in DYAR, and while Quinn struggled in Cleveland he is still probably one of the league's top back-ups and still could develop into a solid quarterback). Given that strength, spending a first round draft choice on a long-term development project is a very high price, especially for an organization with one playoff win in the previous eleven seasons and zero playoff appearances since 2005. Again, I'm not saying one way or the other what he will ultimately do in the NFL, my point is only that he will have to play at a very high level to justify that selection.