Teammates turned draft competitors

Teammates are suddenly competing as the draft approaches, with several tandems – like Wisconsin linemen Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz – directly in contest for scouts' attention.

There is some chance, albeit it not a surefire one, that Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler could actually be chosen in the draft next week ahead of Badgers' teammate and interior offensive lineman Peter Konz. And if he isn't, that doesn't make Zeitler a second banana or second fiddle.

In fact, Zeitler seems to have ascended to the consensus No. 2 spot among prospects at guard, behind Stanford's David DeCastro, as the position continues to increase in importance the past several years.

Konz is the top-rated center candidate, but some scouts feel he can line up at guard as well. The talent evaluators who suggest that Zeitler might perhaps play quicker than Konz, maybe even have a better career in the league, are, indeed, in the minority. But they do exist.

"He's more," one veteran NFC scout emphasized to The Sports Xchange, "than just the 'other guy,' you know?"

There are, for sure, some relative "equals" from the same team and at the same position in the 2012 draft.

DE Andre Branch
Jeremy Brevard/US Presswire

Choosing between DeCastro and Stanford teammate and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin might be a matter of need as much as preference. In the past few weeks, the stock of Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower seems to have risen, while that of fellow Crimson Tide 'backer Courtney Upshaw probably has slipped, but both are likely first-rounders.

And it might be tough to choose between versatile Clemson defensive line partners Brandon Thompson and Andre Branch.

One team that worked both players out recently had them at virtually the same spot on their draft board, a rarity.

The NFL draft hasn't quite become the pursuit of a latter-day Noah's Ark-type social experiment. Prospects don't often come two-by-two, but it is notable that, since 2000, there have been roughly 40 pairs of players chosen in the same year, from the same college program, and at the same position.

A few cases in the past dozen years or so -- linebackers Kamerion Wimbley and Ernie Sims (Florida State, 2006), defensive tackles John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth (Tennessee, 2002), defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten (LSU, 2006), defensive backs Cedric Griffin and Michael Huff (Texas, 2006), defensive backs Tim Jennings and DeMario Minter (Georgia, 2006), among them -- the lesser-known of the two prospects has had a more productive career than the more conspicuous candidate.

That probably won't be the case with many players in this year's draft.

There are, however some intriguing "second" draftable players -- which is to say college teammates who warrant slightly less adoration from talent evaluators -- on boards across the league.

These aren't guys who were suddenly discovered by NFL scouts by accident -- something that seems to happen only at the college level and not nearly as often as recruiters claim -- while they were reviewing video of the more high-profile player.

In most cases, they are solid prospects on their own merits. And in most cases, being the second player chosen from a school at the same position doesn't make a prospect second-rate. Just because a player is the second most recognized player at a school doesn't mean clubs will be second-guessed for selecting him.

Here are a few examples of notable "other" players who will merit consideration:

WR Joe Adams
Tim Heitman/US Presswire

Arkansas WRs Joe Adams and Jarius Wright
The trio of Adams, Greg Childs and Wright is likely graded pretty close together by scouts, probably in the fourth or fifth round for all three, but Adams' return ability might afford him an edge over his Razorbacks' teammates. Adams returned four punts for touchdowns in 2011. Plus, Childs is coming off an injury. All three ran fairly disappointing times, Childs is still rated slight higher than the other two by most NFL scouts, but not by much. Wright has good feel for the passing game.

LSU cornerback Ron Brooks
Primarily a nickel cornerback who played in the slot but, because of injuries, learned all of the defensive back positions for the Tigers. He' isn't Morris Claiborne, but he'll make somebody's roster. Recruited as a wide receiver, and has excellent body control and blistering speed (ran 4.37 at the combine). Will hit, but he's probably not physical or solidly built enough to be a safety. Knows where the end zone is, as exemplified by having returned all three career interceptions for scores. An excellent "gunner" on the kick coverage units.

Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford
Isn't nearly as flashy as teammate Sean McClellin, who projects more to a 3-4 rush linebacker in the NFL, and lacks his explosive first step into the backfield. Is actually a bit too stiff at times. But Crawford is pretty stout versus the run, will flash occasional closing speed on the rush, and has some versatility. He's a big motor guy who will give an honest day's effort every time out and could get into the middle rounds, with some people warming to him the past week or so.

Florida State offensive tackle Andrew Datko
Started 40 games for the Seminoles in his career, but a shoulder problem limited him to four appearances in 2011, and his injury and range of motion concerns might always be a red flag. But there are a few personnel people who insist that, when he's physically whole, Datko is every bit as good a prospect as FSU teammate Zebrie Sanders. And those same scouts feel he has better feet for the left side. Very bright and has made a very good impression during his interviews.

Iowa offensive guard Adam Gettis
Only a one-year starter at right guard, but played consistently enough to get a look. He isn't even close to Hawkeyes' mate Riley Reiff, and, if he's drafted, will likely be at the opposite end of the lottery. Size is a problem (293 pounds), and he lacks the length for really bulking up without hindering his mobility. But he can mirror people on the rush and might be an eighth lineman or developmental type for a team that features a zone blocking scheme.

C Ben Jones
Dale Zanine/US Presswire

Cincinnati defensive tackle John Hughes
Not as quick or powerful as his Bearcats' bookend tackle partner, Derek Wolfe, and is probably limited to two-down work. But if he's recovered from persistent hamstring problems, is solid enough to squeeze into the late rounds and perhaps be a No. 4 tackle.

Georgia center Ben Jones
A four-year starter for the Bulldogs, lacks the size, strength and versatility of Georgia line mate Cordy Glenn, but is very durable, and plenty bright. Has some physical limitations, like lack of anchor size, and may not be stout enough to move to guard. But knows how to call line switches against various fronts, is very dependable on the shotgun snap, and uses his hands well to compensate for a lack of real power.

Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis
Shares a surname with fellow Sooners' outside 'backer Ronnell Lewis, not nearly as well regarded, but straight-line speed and ability to project inside in some schemes could get him drafted. Has trouble getting through the trash and directly to the ball, but can run and wrap.

Alabama defensive back DeQuan Menzie
Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick are a step above, and will be off the board by the middle of the second round (perhaps even the end of the first). Menzie is smart with excellent football instincts, like seemingly all Crimson Tide players, and has lined up both inside and outside. Lacks speed (in the mid-4.6 range), but plays with technique and awareness. Might be able to line up at free safety, especially if he adds some bulk, and should help quickly on special teams. Probably a low middle-round pick.

Wake Forest safety Cyhl Quarles
His running mate, Josh Bush, might have enough versatility to play some nickel cornerback, and Quarles almost certainly is limited to a safety spot. Most likely, because of questionable instincts, strong safety. His size (6-feet-1 1/2, 213 pounds) and speed (4.62) could get him drafted, he can start off on special teams, and perhaps in time improve his consistency and recognition skills.

Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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