Michael Kranzler: Pining for a Posthumous Pick
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A.J. Smith had the right idea at the top of the draft, using his first four selections to patch up glaring holes in the backfield and secondary. It was his final pick, the seventh-round selection of Corey Clark, which missed the mark. Clark was a classic need pick, when the final stanza should be all about value.
The player the Chargers should have tabbed if former Kentucky linebacker Wesley Woodyard. San Diego definitely had him on its radar, as Woodyard confirmed to SDBoltReport.com that he met with the Chargers at both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine.
Woodyard was a tackling machine in college, piling up at least 100 tackles in each of his last three seasons and leading the SEC in that category as a junior and senior. Much of his success is due to his blazing speed, as evidenced by his 4.51 time in the 40-yard dash.
What caused Woodyard to fall into the ranks of the undrafted is that he's without a true position. He is small (6 foot, 216 lbs.) for a linebacker and inexperienced in coverage for a safety.
But no matter where he lines up, Woodyard is a football player.
"I'm a natural-born leader and a kid who loves football," Woodyard told SDBoltReport.com in an exclusive pre-draft interview. "I'm going to make the team no matter what position they put me in."
Whether deployed as a linebacker in passing situations or as an in-the-box safety, Woodyard would have worked his way into San Diego's defensive rotation. He also would have strengthened the Chargers' special teams, which are already amongst the League's best.
For contenders such as the Chargers, it is always better to draft players than projects. Woodyard is all football player and it's a shame San Diego passed him up.
With their final pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Chargers would have done well to posthumously select Heath Benedict out of Newberry College in the seventh round. He was a legitimate draft option for the Bolts until he died in his home on March 26, 2008.
The autopsy showed him to be a victim of an abnormality known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (more commonly known as an enlarged heart), an often unnoticed ailment that has killed many high school and college athletes and ended the careers of countless others.
For those who detect this irregularity in time, nearly all athletic activities are off-limits for the rest of their lives. However, staying inactive is far better than the alternative.
Heath Benedict was a promising prospect who began his career at Tennessee before transferring to Newberry. He was loved on campus and in his community, and was dominant on the field. The first Division II player since 2004 to play in the Senior Bowl, Benedict had the look of a future pro.
Given the chance to re-draft one player, I would have taken Benedict over Clark with the 234th pick. With the signing of L.J. Shelton, Clark looks to be bound for the practice squad, while drafting Benedict could have been a feel-good story for his grieving family and community.
The Chargers should take a page out of the Tampa Bay Lightning's book, as they drafted a hockey player with the same condition as a symbolic gesture, despite the fact that he can never even skate again.
Heath Benedict dedicated his life towards being drafted into the NFL. He deserved to have that be part of his everlasting legacy.
Readers Chime In
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