Point 1: When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way.
That line from the 1961 movie classic, West Side Story, popped into my head a couple of months ago in the media room at the Combine as I listened to new Jets head coach Rex Ryan talk about the type of players he wanted on his football team.
"Plays like a Jet. That's going to mean something," he said from the podium. "Physical, tough, passionate-type people. That's what we're looking for."
Ryan backed up those words with his draft-weekend selections. The team wheeled-and-dealed to to grab USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in Round 1 and Iowa running back Shonn Greene with their next pick in the third round. Then they used their remaining pick, a sixth-round selection, to snag Nebraska offensive guard Matt Slauson.
Sanchez is the kind of quarterback who should adopt the old Troggs' tune, Wild Thing, as his theme song. A high-spirited maverick of a quarterback, Sanchez has a fearless and fun attitude on the football field that is contagious. Greene is a hard-working and powerful runner who welcomes contact from would-be tacklers. Slauson eagerly lined up at right guard and both tackle positions for the Huskers, using his physical strength, his 6-foot-5, 313-pound body and a woke-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-bed attitude while battling his opponents.
In the early stages of his head-coaching career, Ryan is showing that he plans to walk his talk.
Point 2: The Miami Dolphins stood tall against the masses this past weekend, and pro football fans everywhere should be grateful.
In the second round of the NFL Draft, the Dolphins sent their card to the podium with the name of former West Virginia quarterback Pat White on it. And it evidently didn't have an asterisk or any other notation that indicated that the multi-talented signal-caller was being drafted as a wide receiver or a return specialist.
With his sights set on continuing his career as a quarterback, the polite and humble young man repeatedly answered the same question throughout the pre-draft period about switching positions while being compared to Antwaan Randle-El—the former Indiana quarterback who switched to wide receiver after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft.
"I am still working to be a quarterback, and until somebody tells me 'no', I am going to continue to," White reiterated at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
Draft prognosticators, fans and the media continued to pass judgment over the last few months, speculating that White was undersized and couldn't see past the taller linemen at the pro level, questioning his accuracy and even going so far as to say that he needed to face the reality of the situation and start focusing on running routes during workouts to avoid seeing his draft stock drop.
QB Pat White at the Senior Bowl
AP Photo/Chip English
I wasn't one of them. In fact, back in mid-March when I broke the news that the New England Patriots were conducting a private workout with White, I suggested that he could be in the mix to compete with backup Kevin O'Connell for the No. 2 spot behind Tom Brady.
It was a notion that many of my brethren in the media—and even more fans—saw as ludicrous at the time. So I'd be fibbing if I didn't admit that I felt a bit vindicated when respected talent evaluators such as Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano validated White's potential to play quarterback in the NFL.
During a draft weekend press conference, Ireland made it clear that White would be added to the quarterback depth chart along with second-year veteran Chad Henne behind starter Chad Pennington.
"They're going to be competing for the position,'' Ireland said.
White confirmed that statement during our phone conversation on Sunday afternoon.
"They're going to give me a shot at the quarterback position. They said they didn't draft me as a receiver, they drafted me as a quarterback," he said. "And that's something that I've prayed for. So I'm excited and ready to get to work."
The Dolphins put an exclamation point on Ireland's statement on Monday when they released backup quarterback John Beck to thin out their depth chart.
If White is eventually able to be as successful with in Miami as he was at West Virginia, NFL fans are in for a real treat. And they should thank the Dolphins for giving everyone the opportunity to watch Pat White play the quarterback position.
"Hopefully, I just bring excitement," he said. "I'm going to bring a hard-working mentality and good attitude. I love winning, so that's something I'm coming to do."
Point 3: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Six picks into the first round, the Cincinnati Bengals picked Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith, rewarding a young man who has plenty of growing up to do with millions of dollars. But that's nothing new for the Bengals, who have thrown millions away on other players who have ended up being arrested, suspended, or who have become a major distraction to the team's success over the past few years.
There's no denying Smith's talent on the field if you look at his film. And he may basically be a good person with a good heart. But if you've been paying attention, you have to have at least some concern over what's going on between his ears. And Cincinnati has already had more than its fair share of players with questionable traits that have backfired, scuttling the team's ability to be consistently successful.
And that's what bothers me about the pick. With only one offensive tackle off the board when the Bengals made their selection, why not choose one of the other top offensive tackles who has displayed a more consistent work ethic and maturity like Virginia's Eugene Monroe?
Smith abruptly left the Combine without telling anyone. Then he had a less-than-stellar Pro Day performance that included just 19 bench press reps, but was later quoted as saying, "I think I did an outstanding job."
Actually, he appeared to be woefully unprepared for two major talent auditions that would help determine if he would put millions of dollars into his bank account this year. That should have been a major red flag to NFL teams, including the Bengals.
His new agent, Rick Smith, recently talked about how the lineman rebounded from the Combine and Pro Day situations, telling CNBC that, "It started with team officials understanding the fact that he responds well to the type of discipline that Nick Saban gave him at Alabama. And he doesn't do as well when he's off on his own. They knew that when he was in a structured, disciplined environment, he would be a star."
The fact that Andre Smith's agent acknowledged that his client requires what amounts to a form of babysitting should send shivers down the spine of the Bengals organization, who will end up paying the former Crimson Tide player millions of dollars for that privilege.
Point 4: While the spotlight has been on Matthew Stafford the last few days, he might not be the Lions top rookie by the end of the 2008 season.
I've already gone on record describing Stafford as a future clone of Carolina's Jake Delhomme—a steady, reliable quarterback who will definitely help his team win games and who may even help them flirt with playoff success from time to time. But unless I miss the mark on him, I don't see him as the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. And I think it will take Stafford, just like any rookie quarterback, a couple of seasons to get into that groove.
Former Penn State WR Derrick Williams
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The player Detroit drafted who should provide some immediate spark as a rookie is former Penn State wide receiver Derrick Williams. He'll likely to land the slot-receiver role as a rookie, and he has the ability to bring fans to their feet when he returns punts and kickoffs.
"I'm going to try to bring some excitement and helped the team out with momentum," he said Monday night during a phone interview. "Momentum plays a role in how the game flows when someone makes a big play on special teams."
Unfortunately for the versatile playmaker, some less-knowledgeable folks have taken a ho-hum attitude about his selection, pointing out that he ran his 40-yard dash at the Combine in the 4.65-second range. Williams had been suffering from a bout of the flu during Combine week, but his competitive juices were flowing as he watched others competing, so he tried to run, despite advice to the contrary from his agent and family.
"I was sick as a dog at the Combine and I know I made a mistake by running," he said. "At my Pro Day I ran a 4.37, and I've historically run a 4.4-flat. So they've definitely got some speed with me."
Williams is clearly excited about the possibility of lining up in the slot between Calvin Johnson and another Nittany Lions receiver, Bryant Johnson.
"With two great receivers on the outside, if I get an opportunity to be a part of that receiver corps, I can see myself creating matchups where I can make some catches and run," he said.
Point 5: Norfolk State cornerback Don Carey wins the award for the funniest NFL Draft story of 2009.
The 5-foot-11, 192-pound defensive back worked out for the Pittsburgh Steelers twice and had an official visit with the team. He also had visits with the Dolphins and the Seahawks, and their interest seemed sincere, but the Steelers were so impressed by Carey that they had returned for a second workout just a few days prior to the Draft.
Everyone on his father's side of the family is from Pittsburgh, and the anticipation that a member of their family would be wearing the black and gold continued to build. Close to 60 family members showed up for the family's Draft Weekend gathering, many of them waiving their Terrible Towels, proudly wearing Steelers team jerseys and hats that they've worn for years.
In the beginning moments of the sixth-round, the phone rings. The anticipation builds to a feverish pitch as Carey learns that he's been drafted ... by the Cleveland Browns, a divisional arch-rival.
So how did his family react?
"They told me, we hope you have a good game, but that you lose—and don't hurt nobody," Carey said with a laugh.
Carey captured the moment well in a message that he sent out through Twitter shortly after our talk.
"Terrible towel $15. Polamalu Jersey $65. Season tickets $3,000. The look on his face when his son gets drafted by the Browns... Priceless!!!"
Point 6: This year, Jacksonville won't finish in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards.
The team's previously-feared rushing attack dropped to 1,774 yards of production behind an inconsistent, patchwork offensive line that had been decimated by injuries in 2008. Jacksonville had rolled for 2,391 yards in 2007, second-best in the NFL.
OT Eben Britton at the Combine
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
So the Jaguars grabbed a pair of top-notch offensive tackles with their first two selections. Both of them should be able to step in right away and help the Jaguars re-establish their reputation as a team that can dominate a game with their rushing attack. With the selection of Virginia's Eugene Monroe in the first round and Arizona's Eben Britton in the second round, Jacksonville acquired two hard-working linemen with a passion for mixing it up in the trenches.
"With the number of tackles in the first round, I could have never said that we could have a chance to get both of these players in the first 39 picks but it worked out that way," Jacksonville General Manager Gene Smith told the media over the weekend.
Britton, who has experience at every position on the offensive line except center, told me during a phone interview that he's ready to help Jacksonville restore its reputation as a team that can run over opponents.
"I'm going to go in and compete for a starting spot—wherever that is on the offensive line, it doesn't matter to me," he said. "I'm going to put a lot of blood, sweat and tears on that field on Sundays."
The candid and confident 6-foot-6, 309-pound lineman knows that it will take plenty of dedication to crack the starting lineup as a rookie, but he's up to the challenge.
"I'm going to earn every single dollar they pay me, that's for damn sure. And I'm going to make that team that much better, so I'm excited about it," he said.
The Jaguars also added rookie Rashad Jennings to their running back depth chart to infuse more talent into their running game. With Fred Taylor now in New England, the 6-foot-1, 231-pound rookie could emerge as Jones-Drew's new running-mate despite slipping into the seventh round last weekend, a huge bargain for the Jaguars. Jennings, who rushed for 1,500 yards during his senior year at Liberty University, shows a good burst through holes and also after he makes catches out of the backfield.
Point 7: Proving once again that the NFL Draft is an inexact science, Ohio's Michael Mitchell was this year's Phoenix pick.
After suffering through a 4-8 season at Ohio, safety Michael Mitchell needed to rise out of the ashes like the mythological bird, the Phoenix, before he could soar to new heights.
And boy, did he ever.
Mitchell and I talked two months ago and he was clearly befuddled over being snubbed by the NFL Combine selection process and by his status as an under-the-radar prospect who many prognosticators projected as a late-round selection at best. But on Saturday, to the shock of practically every draft pundit and members of the NFL media community, the Oakland Raiders added Mitchell to their roster in the second round with the 47th pick overall.
At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, the former Bobcats defensive back had startled NFL scouts with a Pro Day workout that included 21 bench press reps, a vertical jump of 37.5 inches, and a pair of sub-4.5-second 40-yard dashes. And when teams started to review more film, they saw a fast-to-the-ball safety who really packs a wallop when he hits people, forcing their legs to fly out from under them as he lowers his shoulder into their chest. He made 62 tackles during his senior year, forced a pair of fumbles and picked-off three passes.
"I looked at the day as, 'finally here's my chance.' I just wanted to get in a room with guys like William Moore, Mike Hamlin and Louis Delmas and compete with those guys. But since I didn't get to do that, my Pro Day was my chance to show that I could," he said.
Mitchell worked out for the Chicago Bears, who stayed in close contact with him following his Pro Day, and for the Bengals during their local Pro Day for area athletes. And he had official visits with the Indianapolis Colts, the Cleveland Browns, the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers.
"I would be lying if I said that I knew I was going to get drafted on the first day, but my agent, Brian Hamilton of Plan B Sports told me I had a good chance," Mitchell said during a phone call Monday night. "He called me at about pick 44 or 45 and told me that Chicago had just called and to stay close to the phone, that he thought I was about to be a Bear."
But before Chicago had an opportunity to make their move, Oakland stepped up to make their second-round pick.
"Pick 47 rolls around and my phone rings, and it's Oakland, and they said that they were going to draft me. Once I got off the phone with Coach Cable, we went nuts, I went running down the street barefoot, just screaming. It was a really good time."
Mitchell's agent also told him that the Cleveland Browns had led him to believe that they were targeting the physical defender early in the draft.
At 6-foot-1, the hard-hitting safety will have the most imposing physical frame out of all of the defensive backs in the Raiders secondary.
"I'm going to go in there anywhere between 215 to 220. I'll be a really good size, I'm going to be strong, I'm going to be ready to help them win games," he said.
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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Or contact him by email through this link.