Lombardi's draft takes

The dream of four first-round picks in the NFL Draft didn't come to fruition for Stanford football. But a couple of picks in the first round and a pair in the second isn't anything to scoff at either.

There was never a legitimate debate regarding Andrew Luck and the first overall selection of the 2012 Draft. The media did everything in its power to create a controversy centered around Robert Griffin III, but it was disingenuous: the Stanford man was a lock for Indianapolis. A scout even told The Bootleg staff writer Wyndam Makowsky, the KZSU sideline reporter from my football play-by-play days (2007-2010), that Luck would have been the first overall pick had he been able to enter the 2010 draft two years ago, the one immediately following his redshirt freshman season. As Stanford followers and NFL executives know, Luck's spot at the top was never in question.

So, from a Stanford perpective, the draft's most intriguing element was the re-pairing of Luck with tight end Coby Fleener, who the Colts selected with their second-round pick. With the way that tight ends have recently dominated all high levels of football (see the Trees at Stanford or Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in New England), it was surprising that Fleener fell unselected through most of the first round. To me, it was shocking when Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers opted for Big Ten receiver A.J. Jenkins instead of the Cardinal physical specimen.

Harbaugh was a primary instigator of the tight end revolution, after all. During his Stanford tenure he recruited tight ends, including Fleener, like there was no tomorrow. Last week, though, the prospect of Coby lining up opposite Vernon Davis at Candlestick Park was tantalizing and potentially terrorizing, but the 49ers passed on it.

Thus, Luck will retain one of his favorite toys in his next chapter at Lucas Oil Stadium, and Fleener will benefit from a dart-throwing quarterback who will be able to take advantage of his size (something that wouldn't be guaranteed if the hit-and-miss Alex Smith was throwing him balls). Up until now, I had refrained from purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket. Now, though, it looks like it's time to give in. The Indianapolis Luck-to-Fleener connection will be something special to watch.

Luck's roommate Griff Whalen will also join the Colts as an undrafted free agent. That's three in the 2012 Stanford-Indianapolis pipeline. Now, all that Jim Irsay has to do to ensure glory for his franchise is hire one more Cardinal talent for the Colts' broadcast booth (wink, wink).

While Fleener will fit perfectly with Luck in Indianapolis, it's hard to imagine a better spot for beastly guard David DeCastro than Pittsburgh. The Steelers are the NFL's blue-collar team, so an original member of the Tunnel Workers' Union that paved the way to Toby Gerhart's 2009 candidacy shouldn't skip a beat in Steel Town. Watching DeCastro slip through much of the first round was certainly disconcerting, but it was a need-based issue and certainly not a slight on the guard's abilities. In the end, the Steelers got the best NFL Draft value out of their 24th pick, stealing a player who was rated as high as No. 6 in the class.

I've already messaged DeCastro to make sure that he knows about Primanti's, the famous Pittsburgh sandwich shop that stuffs french fries and coleslaw inside its subs. The man will eat well, and he's close to a lock to produce at an All-Pro NFL level immediately, barring injury.

Jonathan Martin's drop to Miami in the second round (42nd overall) was disappointing, although it wasn't particularly surprising after he only pumped out 20 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press. The good news is that Martin, who protected Andrew Luck's blindside so masterfully, will likely start immediately for the Dolphins.

Immediately following the draft, Harbaugh turned his attention to former Stanford players who were not picked. Chris Owusu signed a contract with San Francisco. His concussion problems may prevent him from ever playing again, but keep in mind that Owusu's 4.31 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was the fastest for any wide receiver in the 2012 Draft. With that kind of speed, some team was bound to give him a shot. The 49ers also inked Matt Masifilo and Michael Thomas, while Johnson Bademosi is going to Cleveland. Delano Howell is headed to Buffalo and Jeremy Stewart is going to Philadelphia.

Stanford's heralded teams are beginning to populate the NFL with quality players. Now, it's David Shaw's turn to maintain the momentum.


About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link. For Stanford baseball insights, follow David on Twitter at davidmlombardi.


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