Taking a chance: Supplemental draft preview

The Packers reportedly are interested in former Florida State DT Clifton Dickson during today's supplemental draft. Eleven players are available, but making a pick carries significant risk.

It's draft day, but where's Mel Kiper and his hair?

The NFL's annual supplemental draft is today (Thursday), and according to Scout.com's Tony Pauline and Adam Caplan, the Packers are "considering using a late-round pick" on former Florida State defensive tackle Clifton Dickson.

Before getting into detail, here's how the supplemental draft works.

Teams select in a process sort of like the NBA draft lottery. Teams that won six or fewer games last season get the most ping-pong balls, the non-playoff teams that won more than six games get the next-most balls, and the playoff teams get the fewest balls.

The Packers, at 8-8 last season, fall into that middle group.

Each team will e-mail the league to tell it if it's interested in a player (or players) and what round pick it would like to use on that player. If four teams express interest in selecting a player like Dickson in, say, the fourth round, the team that obtained the best draft position in the "lottery" wins the rights to that player.

Selecting a player in, say, the fourth round will cost that team a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft, so there's risk. Especially considering the red-flag players who often make themselves available for the supplemental draft. Oftentimes, it's because they've lost their academic eligibility, and rather than try to get their grades back up, they bolt for the NFL. Others were kicked off the team for breaking team rules and getting into trouble with the law.

Adding to the risk, supplemental picks must be paid out of this year's set-in-stone rookie salary pool. Finally, those players missed the entire offseason program, so they'll be well behind mentally.

According to research by the Sun-Sentinel of Orlando, Fla., 34 players have been taken in supplemental drafts since 1977. Nine never played in a regular-season game and 16 never started. Only five played in at least 100 games.

Among those selected in previous years are some big-time players: Bernie Kosar and Cris Carter, for instance. Others, like Brian Bosworth and Steve Walsh, have been huge busts. The Packers selected offensive lineman Mike Wahle in the second round of the 1998 supplemental draft.

There are 11 players available in today's draft. The only ones who may garner interest are Dickson, Georgia cornerback Paul Oliver, Maryland offensive tackle Jared Gaither and Nebraska offensive lineman Chris Patrick.

Dickson flashed plenty of promise at Florida State as a sophomore, recording six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2004 playing behind Broderick Bunkley. He missed the 2005 season due to academic problems, was arrested in January 2006 and charged with burglary and possession of marijuana, then transferred to Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College in an attempt to get his grades up. He's just shy of 6-foot-4 and weighs 320, and has run the 40 in 5.10 seconds. According to the Scout.com report, Dickson flashed impressive footwork and stamina in the muggy Florida heat.

Gaither perhaps will be the first player selected based on potential. At 6-foot-8 3/4 and 324 pounds, he's a big man with tremendous athleticism. He was a better basketball player than football player in high school. He started 17 games at left or right tackle for Maryland, but was suspended twice last season for breaking team rules, then was ruled academically ineligible. Scout.com says Gaither has "first-round talent with late-round work ethic and intellect."

Oliver, a cornerback from Georgia, opened eyes by holding Calvin Johnson — the Georgia Tech star selected by Detroit with the second overall pick — to two catches last season. The all-SEC defender, however, ran a 40-yard dash in a horrible 4.62 seconds at his workout. He's leaving Georgia after being ruled academically ineligible.

Patrick, an offensive tackle, isn't leaving Nebraska over academic or legal problems. In fact, he earned academic honors. The 6-4 5/8, 298-pounder has short arms and is undersized but has much better strength than Gaither (32 reps in the 225-pound bench press compared to 17) and started his final 14 games for the Huskers.

The others: Robert Armstrong, defensive tackle, Morgan State; RoShawn Marshall, cornerback, Central Missouri; Eric McCain, receiver, Glendale (Ariz.) Community College; Donta Moore, linebacker, Connecticut; Brian Soi, defensive tackle, Utah State; Aaron Turner, offensive lineman, East Central (Okla.); and Mark Washington, defensive tackle/linebacker, Texas State.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

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