Why so low?

Jason Witten was drafted in round three and Tully Banta-Cain went mid-way through the seventh frame, while neither Torrin Tucker nor Robert Johnson ever heard their names called at all. What happened last weekend to all these highly ranked prospects? Slowly but surely the stories are coming out and here's what we've heard on just a few.

According to sources, the Indianapolis Colts were all set to draft Tennessee tight end Jason Witten in round one - that was until Colts owner Robert Irsay Jr. stated that they wanted more of a pass-catching threat to go along with Peyton Manning; hence the choice of Dallas Clark with the 24th slot and the tumbling of Witten into the third round. What else led to Witten's fall?

Early in the process we heard scouts were not enamored with the big tight end's play in 2002 and, while he had solid games in the Citrus Bowl and earlier against Alabama, many were disappointed in his performance against some of the better competitors UT faced, such as the Miami Hurricanes. But the third round?

After Clark was taken in the first, Houston made Bennie Joppru the next tight end selected, feeling he is a better blocker than Witten. Philadelphia then selected the player they've been long known to covet - LJ Smith of Rutgers - leading to Witten's free fall.

As for Tully Banta-Cain, he went several rounds later than expected. Team sources informed the TFY Draft Preview that an off-the-field incident early in Banta-Cain's career led to his drop. So scant was the transgression that the source of the information was the former staff at Cal, but it was severe enough to land him in the last round. The Patriots firmly believe this incident was a one-time affair in the past. The team feels they got a steal, especially with his projection to outside linebacker in the three-four, and we wholeheartedly agree.

Many, including ourselves, had Torrin Tucker rated as the draft's top guard and thought his versatility to play tackle would make him a high first day pick, but the big lineman fell out of the draft and just recently signed with the Cowboys. Why?

One scout we spoke with said Tucker is a hot head (remember our coverage from the Senior Bowl where we pointed out on several occasions that Tucker came to blows with Nick Eason in practice) and, even worse, he is a player that takes downs off, as we pointed out last July. His ability/inability to discipline himself or take to coaching had many worried.

What about another player from the south.... Robert Johnson? The gambit runs far and wide when getting opinions as to why the Auburn tight end slid. Injuries suffered the past two seasons were brought up as was the fact that Johnson entered the draft too early and should've stayed in school. One scout was blunt, saying Johnson "gives half-hearted efforts and just isn't that good."

Lastly, Antwoine Sanders had some pressing off-field issues in the past, which were part and parcel to his fall.

Whatever may be the case, these are talented players with the skills to be productive at the next level if things work out.

Tony Pauline
TFY Draft Preview

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