NFL Draft: The WVU View

With the NFL draft and the first wave of free agent signings now complete, we examine West Virginia's players heading for their shot at pro football careers.

West Virginia had six players viewed as draftable, or at least as NFL prospects, and all six will be in camps soon to begin their pursuit of a pro career. In this roundup, we examine the team each is going to, how the pick or signing met pre-draft needs, and include observations on why they were picked (or passed over) in the selection process.

Mario Alford

Alford lasted longer than we projected, going in the seventh round (#238 overall) to the Cincinnati Bengals. However, as is sometimes the case for later round picks, the drop might work out to his advantage.

Prior to the draft, receiver was a need for Cincinnati, which suffered a rash of injuries to its pass catching corps down the stretch last year. Despite that, Alford was the Bengals' sole receiving pick, giving him a chance to stand out in rookie and early camps. Cincinnati is also familiar with the West Virginia program, having selected and signed several Mountaineers over the years, including Chris Henry, John Thornton, Robert Sands, Adam Jones, Will Clarke and Reggie Rembert, among others. That won't help Alford make the team, but it probably contributed to his selection in the first place.

Alford will have to battle a pair of free-agent signees at the receiver position, and with eight other receivers on the pre-camp roster, he certainly doesn't have a guaranteed spot. He'll have to showcase his big play ability to finalize his place on the roster.


Mark Glowinski

Glowinski fulfilled our view of him as a somewhat undervalued mid-round selection, and the Seattle Seahawks agreed by making him a fourth round selection (#134 overall). Like Alford, he's going to a place that needs his services, as the Seahawks needed offensive lineman to replace departing center Max Unger and fill gaps among backups. Unfortunately, his path to a roster spot isn't quite as clear, as San Diego State lineman Terry Poole was picked one round ahead of him.

That certainly won't faze Glowinski, a grinder who accepts all challenges head-on. However, it also sets up a training camp battle that will be interesting to watch, as both will be working to show they are the top dog in the draft class. Interestingly enough, Glowinski was rated more highly than Poole by some evaluators. The Seahawks will let both compete at all three line positions, so the chance is there for the Mountaineer alum to carve out a spot for himself. With 13 other linemen on the roster heading into the summer, there will be a good deal of competition to overcome.


Shaquille Riddick

Riddick was something of a surprise, being picked in the fifth round (#158 overall) despite being a clear tweener in NFL terms. At 245 pounds, he's not big enough to be an NFL defensive end, and he didn't have the chance to show his pass coverage skills on the college level. However, the Cardinals, with a clear need for linebackers, made Riddick their second pick to fill a spot on the second level of the defense.

Along with second-round pick Markus Golden, who is expected to be a strongside backer, the Cardinals see Riddick as a bookend to him on the weakside. They, like Mountaineer fans, saw his pass rush skills, and believe they can develop him into an all-around defender while taking advantage of his primary talents, much as the Seattle Seahawks have done with Bruce Irvin. Up and down their draft, the Cardinals took what was perceived to be some chances on players that still have development work to do, but if it pays off they could well come out looking like very smart selectors.

There will be more players on the list at crowded mini-camps for Riddick to contend with, including a pair of free agent linebacker signees and nine other linebackers. The roster is fairly young, but it's clear from Arizona's comments that they are willing to invest time in their picks to allow them to develop. That's great news for Riddick, who can lean on his primary skills as a rusher while working on other parts of his game.


Dreamius Smith

Smith was part of a massive 21-player free agent post-draft signing spree by the San Diego Chargers, which included one other running back -- Ball State's Jahwan Edwards. Oh, and the Bolts also spent a first-round pick on Melvin Gordon, so that's one spot in the backfield that won't be available for the Mountaineer product.

To make this roster, Smith must be more consistent than he was at West Virginia. He can't stutter or dance in the hole, and has to get behind his pads and plow into the pile to maximize gains. He's also going to have to block effectively and establish himself as a counterpoint to Gordon -- something that might be difficult to do.

Past that duo, there are two other running backs on the roster, so Smith might only have to beat out one player in order to get a spot. It all shapes up as a battle between Edwards and Smith, so it's vital that he hit the ground running and use every chance he has to earn notice from the Chargers' coaching staff.


Quinton Spain

Spain certainly wasn't a bust at West Virginia, but he didn't quite meet the expectations held for him out of high school. Despite very nimble feet and good mobility, he had to move inside to guard for his final year at West Virginia, and that might have hurt him in the eyes of NFL evaluators. Still, he will get his chance as a free agent with Tennessee. It's of import to note that in 2013, 38% of the players who were on an NFL active roster for at least one game were not drafted, so that path to a career is still there for the big lineman.

At Tennessee, he will face a crowded roster that includes some 13 linemen, as well as another free agent signee. The Titans did need some help at tackle in the draft, so Spain's ability to show that he can handle the demands of the exterior line position could go a long way in determining whether or not he sticks with a team that has to upgrade its pass protection in order to make a playoff run.


Kevin White

The easiest pick to asses is again last -- at least alphabetically. Kevin White's first round selection (#7 overall) came as a surprise to no one, and he'll have every chance to be on the squad this year. Only a flameout of massive proportions would prevent that, and given White's work ethic and improvement path over his time at WVU, it's impossible to imagine that happening.

The biggest challenge White might face is scrutiny and pressure from media and fans. As the heir apparent to Brandon Marshall, White will be expected -- fairly or unfairly -- to step in and be a productive NFL passcatcher right off the bat. That's the price that is paid by top level picks, and it's one that he will face immediately.

Judging from the way White interacted with the media at West Virginia, the call from here is that he is equipped to handle that pressure well. Still, the tough fans of Chicago and never-blink media of the Windy City will be ready to pounce if he's not good from the get-go.


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