Marshall: A Look at the NFL Draft

Columnist Phillip Marshall, the 2006 Alabama Sportswriter of the Year, features a look at the draft and the Auburn baseball Tigers.

Noted in passing...

It's kind of like a bigger, gaudier version of college football signing day.

The NFL draft has become as much show-biz as football. The announcement of every team's pick is awaited breathlessly, then picked apart by self-proclaimed experts on national television.

Just as being a five-star recruit doesn't guarantee success in college, being a high draft pick doesn't guarantee success in the NFL. Some players who were afterthoughts in draft coverage will end up being stars. Some who were lauded as the next great this or that will be busts.

But there is one very big difference between draft day and signing day. Being a high draft pick guarantees becoming wealthy. Jermarcus Russell grew up in modest circumstances in Mobile. When he signs with the Oakland Raiders, he will immediately have more money than he should ever be able to spend. And that will be before he ever takes a snap in an NFL game.

Former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn will be wealthy, too, when he signs with the Browns, but not as wealthy as he expected to be before he slid from the top 10 spot he expected to late in the first round.

One of the more amusing sights in watching the coverage was the ESPN analysts trying to cover their tracks after they assured us all that the Dolphins would take Quinn at No. 9.

It's always amazing to me that Mel Kiper and friends seem to truly believe they have a better grasp on things than the coaches, scouts and officials who have spent the past year evaluating and re-evaluating players...

Will Herring works out at Auburn's Pro Day.

A lot of college football players could learn a lesson from former Auburn linebacker Will Herring. At the end of last season, Herring didn't seem to stand much of a chance at being drafted. He was a "tweener," not quite an NFL linebacker and not quite an NFL safety.

But he made it his mission to show NFL teams he could be an asset. He even learned how to be a deep snapper and, I am told, a good one. He might not ever be an every-down player, but he certainly could be a terrific special teams player. With 45-man rosters, NFL teams are always in need of players who can do a lot of things.

The Seattle Seahawks took notice of Herring's versatility and drafted him in the fifth round...

It came as no surprise that the Southeastern Conference had more players drafted than any other league. Truly, the debate about which conference is strongest top to bottom has already been settled. It's no contest...

If Auburn's baseball team is to find its way to postseason play, there is no more margin for error. With nine games left in the regular season, the Tigers have to win at least six of them. There's no guarantee even that will be enough. To be certain of playing, they probably need to win seven.

That's a tall order. The Tigers go to Mississippi State next weekend, return home to play No. 1 Vanderbilt and close the regular season at Kentucky. They either have to beat each of those teams twice or get some wriggle room by sweeping one of them.

For there to be any realistic chance of that happening, ace starter Paul Burnside needs to return from his injury. It would help if Josh Donaldson and Mike Bianucci would finally find the hitting strokes they had last season.

Paul Burnside

Regardless, this really should be the last season that baseball is such a struggle. The Tigers' lineup is dominated by freshmen. Another terrific recruiting class is on its way.

Tom Slater took over the program in the summer of 2004. With his two recruiting classes, he has significantly upgraded the talent level. Next season will be the first in which he has an entire team that he recruited...

There could be another national championship in the near future for Auburn. The men's track team is ranked No. 2 in the nation and is a threat to win it all, just as the women did last year.

Ralph Spry has patiently built a national power at Auburn...

Until next time...

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