Beat The Draft

Let the shopping spree commence. This year's NFL Draft supports a multitude of hits, some minor secrets, and some serious potential for draft day steals. Have a look at my compendium of Sure Things, Hunches, Sleepers, and Expected Busts.

Draft Day is upon us.

Armchair GMs across the nation rejoice! Like many of you, I've been rifling through scouting reports in April for years, relishing the opportunity to prove that the most astute eye for football talent on the planet – is me. It's my little secret. I grin like a Cheshire cat, armed with my compendium of knowledge that bests that of all the NFL technicians whose access to enormous libraries of footage and actual athlete interaction – is pure folly. Ah, for I know better than them. Just as you and I make better decisions than coach on Sundays. Right?

As Bill Parcells once lamented, "If they want us to cook the meal, they oughta let us shop for the groceries". This Saturday marks the latest Green Light Special. And I am prepared. The commissioner is at the podium:

"The Next-In-A-Long-Line-Of-Draftniks is now on the clock"

The most interesting thing happening in this draft is… Phillip Rivers.

In my opinion, this is the star QB of the group. He's got the ‘separation effect'. That being, the difference between a guy that has a lot of talent, and the guy that will win games for you because he's also an inherent winner. He's the difference between Dan Marino and Drew Bledsoe. Teams have been trying to avoid that truth because they're afraid of the fact he's a little different than the "architecturally drawn-up QB" they want to exist for them. Or – they've been real quiet about how much they love the guy, cuz they don't want anyone else to steal their little secret (you know the feeling, yes?).

This week, teams can't hold their water any longer.  A few weeks ago it became apparent that Rivers will not drop past the Steelers. But now, we're hearing the Browns are in love with him. And San Diego has rumors for weeks about trading down, and that if they do – Rivers is who they're trading down for. Which would have to be before the Browns at #7 then, right? And this puts both them AND the Steelers in a panic, cuz they've already decided on their man (which is sort of a bad idea on Draft Day). Baiting, switching, clamoring…Phillip Rivers. He's not slipping through the cracks. Teams now know their secret weapon is not as secret as they had hoped.

As a matter of fact, I believe the entire NFL knows that Phillip Rivers is the best QB on the board, and if one of them should go #1, it's him. But he won't. Because he isn't "safe" at #1. And the NFL is afraid of you more than you think. But I'm not.

Which is why I'm telling you right now that Eli Manning is nowhere near deserving of the #1 pick in this draft. In my opinion, he's hardly worth a 1st rounder. How very brash of me? I'm telling it as I see it. Rather than the way I can "safely" see it (which is the benefit of being an inconsequential fan with no money at risk).

Another wild card in this draft has the eye of many a HawkFan. They say, "Miami LB Jonathan Vilma is the next Ray Lewis and the answer in the middle". 

What we need to understand is that there is no "next Ray Lewis". There is no "next Joe Montana". There is no "next Steve Largent". We must resist trying to measure a player by another player. I know it's tempting, but can you tell me, right now, a great NFL player who's the mirror image of another great NFL player – in the entire history of the NFL? It doesn't happen. No one is going to enter the league with comparisons to Ray Lewis (or Bernie Kosar for that matter. Rivers is better, and bigger) – and become that image. Vilma is Vilma. He'll BE Jonathan Vilma. Hopefully, that means he's a great player. But he isn't Ray Lewis. I don't see him EVER having that kind of size. He'll never have the strength and explosion up the middle that Ray Lewis has… though I believe he will be an excellent player because he does have the most important player quotient required for my measurements: desire. As well as the skills required to bank on that desire.

But let's try to curb our (irrational) enthusiasm, and look at these players on a purely individual basis. We can only look at what they appear to be now. And what they may become with 2-3 years NFL tutoring and competition under their belt. Does this prospect have the physical attributes, athleticism, and the inner desire to succeed in the NFL?

With those qualifications in mind, here's a look at my personal preferences:

The Sure Thing

(Can't-miss guys, unless your name is Andre Wadsworth):

WR Larry Fitzgerald - Appears to be a sure thing WR. Size, speed, and natural WR skills. Is not a blow past you guy, but the enormity of his talents make that a negligible requirement. Barring a catastrophic injury, the team that lands this player will never regret it.

S Sean Taylor – Who doesn't like this guy? He has no weakness. Big time player, big time school, big time production. Big time NFL IMPACT safety.

OT Robert Gallery - Huge and athletic. Scary quick. Legs may have questionable cement – which draws concerns to Tony Mandarich. On the other hand he could replicate Nick Lachey (not the next Lachey but likely will experience that kind of success).

DE Kenechi Udeze - Fundamentally sound player. Quite athletic. Will always make the play when it's there, and will give the effort when it isn't. Shows flash ability from the edge. I really like this guy. He's the only DE in this class I feel has the skills and tenacity to consistently threaten from the edge (as opposed to many opinions). Improved on stats each year (3).

WR Reggie Williams - The forgotten receiver. In any other draft this guy would be getting enormous press. I have no doubt he's the real deal. Skills, competitive spirit, enormous hands. If he falls as far as the Niners, and they pass? We can all breathe a huge sigh of relief. Otherwise he's going to kill us twice a year just to say "Hi".

TE Kellen Winslow Jr. - Can't miss guy who has everything you want in a TE (including strength, speed, and suitable blocking). But you're talking about a TE. Top 15, but not top 10. Just because you're a sure thing doesn't mean you should go Top 10. Position matters.

RB Kevin Jones – All of this I'm hearing about between the tackles concerns is absolute hogwash. This guy will assess the read and hit what's there hard, slipping a tackle or 2 in the process (Emmitt style). This is not a one dimensional outside runner. He's a multi-dimensional stud that is going to kill defenses in the NFL. You better learn to respect him. Period.

OG Vernon Carey - A can't miss OG in the mold of Steve Hutchinson. More of a mauler than Hutch, but has the same complete skills. Can also play OT.

Here's a list of players that qualify my respect, with a premium on Seahawk positions of need (Pros estimated Rd in parenthesis):

I've Got a Hunch
(Guys that shouldn't be slipping through the cracks, but are)

DT Randy Starks, Maryland
6-3 ½, 314, 4.95, 27bench
Quietly dropping down boards in the final weeks (which generally marks a player you can count on. They tend to forget about those for the special toys). This guy seems to be the best of the highly ranked DT prospects. Has an overall game that simply lacks complete dominance on a play to play basis (and who does that?). Has the skills. Has the parameters. Certainly worth a flyer from pick 17 on…

DT Chad Lavalais, LSU (2)
6-2 ¼, 302, 5.04, 17BP
Personal favorite! An absolute piranha. I love the guy. You can look right here for the ignition on the LSU defense. He's going to kill people for not being drafted earlier. That bench number scares me, but there isn't someone in his face trying to cross him on a bar. The best player you all passed in the 1st Rd of the 2004 Draft. Mark it down.

DT DeMarco McNeil, Auburn (3)
6-1 ½, 307, 5.34, 21BP
Very active inside penetrator. Athletic, leverage, effort, agility, recognition. Height a minor concern. And I could care less if a +300lb DT runs a slow 40. How fast does he knock a guy over?

ILB Daryl Smith, Georgia Tech (2)
6-1 ½, 234, 4.6, 24BP, 7.25cone
Generally solid, instinctive, active playmaker. With questionable lower body strength and deep cover speed. Failing absolute perfection, I see this guy as a fearless middle man who you'll never look to supplant. He's been shooting up my instincts chart hard this final week (which historically marks a winner for me).

ILB Teddy Lehman, OK (2)
6-1 5/8, 240, 4.55, 26BP, 6.91cone (38 Wonderlic!)
Physical, mean, attacks the line, instinctive. Team leader. Great credentials but disappointed coaches at the Senior Bowl (which is totally inconsistent with his documented abilities). You could question his athletic skills, but his 3-cone is ½ sec better than the athletically respected Dansby. Somehow things have been very quiet for Teddy Lehman. For a player of his talent, overlooked on Draft Day often translates to solid success in the NFL. (I'd prefer Lehman inside to Vilma).

ILB Bryan Hickman, Oregon St (5)
6 ¾, 228, 4.62, 26bench, 7.01cone
Classic LB skills. Consistently improving numbers. Has breakout player possibilities. Needs more cement.

ILB Lewis Moore, Pitt (4)
6-1 ½, 240, 4.68
As opposed to many of the other MLBs, there are no concerns about the roots on this guy. Smack-up solid. Alert, instinctive, and cranking the motor. Sheds inside, with lateral ability as well. Not the best hips, nor the speed to go sideline to sideline, but does have capable zone skills. Certainly worth a look in Rd3. (TK/TFL/Sacks: 137/11/5 from 94/8/1 junior yr at OLB).

ILB Demorrio Williams, Neb (3)
6-1, 232, 4.51, 16BP, 7.02cone
Intense, relentless, reactionary skills. Smooth in coverage. Added 10lb to satisfy bulk concerns. Still, bench indicates a lack of strength (that can be fixed). Tremendous production as a Senior (128/21/11 vs. 92/6/1 as a Junior). Looks to me like a real player! You can't convince me there's a good reason to ignore this player in the 2nd round with his consensus skills, production, and size.

S Etric Pruitt, Southern Miss. (3)
6-0, 196, 4.61, 15BP, 6.92cone, (41 vertical!)
Tremendous field awareness. Fills hard, sheds, tackling skills, heat seeking closing skills, timing, ball skills, recognition. What else is there? Size. I think he's got enough. Mark him down as a steal. (Numbers: jr- 139/6int/13knockdowns; sr- 132/3/10. Gimme!)

Worth a wager
(Not a sure thing, but I'll take that gamble)

DT Igor Olshansky (3 but rapidly climbing)
6-5 ½, 315, 4.97 (7.62 cone)
Size, intensity, and strength are all paramount to this player's credo. Which should make him very coachable (Wonderlic of 29 as well). The concern is his current football knowledge (may have troubles locating the ball) – but he appears to be dedicated, with a wealth of talent. As opposed to Sopoaga, this guy could really deliver huge benefits… words like relentless are always golden to my eyes. We're all pulling for Igor on day 2. He may go much earlier.

DE Bo Schobel, TCU (3)
6-5, 271, 4.83 (6.94 cone)
Relentless, eager, tough pass-rusher. Owns an assortment of moves. Solid tackler with improving Run D skills. Needs cement.

DT Tim Anderson, Ohio St (4)
6-3 ½, 302, 5.01
Dedicated effort player that earns respect. Intense, fiery, technically sound, revved up yet disciplined. Below average athletically.           

DE Dave Ball, UCLA (5)
6-5 ¼, 274, 4.99
Flashes brilliance, intensity. Had the numbers (jr- 15TFL/12Sacks; sr- 21/17). Not terribly athletic, lacks quickness. I've seen this guy erupt for sudden plays that make you wonder, "where the hell did that come from?" Doesn't dominate, but will catch your eye anyway. That says something to me.

S Rashad Washington, Kansas St. (4)
6-2, 223, 4.57, 14BP, 7.06cone
A real sleeper. Certain asset in coverage, and fills the run lanes with confidence. However, doesn't pop – he drags (with that size he should be destroying people at the line). Still learning the position but has all the skills and solid numbers to boot. Watch for this guy from Rd3 forward (worth a 2 IMO). Enormous upside with very little risk.

S Gabril Wilson, Tenn (6)
6-1, 190, 4.41, 14BP, 6.33cone!!
Fierce at the line. Great range (4.41). A little stiff in the hips in coverage (though his cone drill shows phenomenal agility). Needs more tutoring, but has the make up and athletic skills to be a real asset. You can't pass on that potential in Rd4!

OG Justin Smiley, Alabama (2)
6-3, 296, 4.99
Slight lower body but a real student of the game. Proficient at angles, pulling, trapping. Very much a Niner OG who can do it on the move. Tough and tenacious. Great value in Round 2.

QB Matt Schaub, Virginia (3)
This guy has a better chance than some think. Could end up being a very serviceable starter. Favorable skills and I like his chances. Comes down to ability to read a defense, and he does possess a high IQ.

WR Rashaun Woods
, Oklahoma St (2)
6-2, 202, 4.51, 39vert
With guys like this in the draft getting no press, this truly is a barnstorm of WRs. Phenomenal character guy who has put up enormous numbers. Reports say his smarts are unparalleled and he possesses stellar body control.

WR Keary Colbert, USC (3)
6-0 ¾, 207, 4.43
Sure, he plays alongside flypaper WR Mike Williams, so he's getting an easier D. All I know is every time the guy got the ball he was electric. Shows natural hands, fluid and elusive RAC, pure athleticism and a general playmaking machine. A fantastic compliment receiver (I love Michael Clayton, but Colbert may actually be better).

RB Chris Perry, Mich (2)
Apparently overlooked player that was very impressive for the Wolverines. Perhaps Biakabatuka comparisons are hurting him.  A fine all around RB who deserves a shot as a starter. Vision, suddenness, cutting ability, and toughness.

Fools' Gold
(Busts. Or players valued far higher than they'll ever deliver on)

QB Eli Manning – I think it's ridiculous to consider this guy #1. It's blasphemy to me (your last name doesn't make you a player). Maybe I saw all his "bad days".

OT Shawn Andrews - Just a big ol' bowling ball. There is such a thing as too much size. We've seen this before. He's the next in line to eat his way out of the world's best buffet. 

CB Chris Gamble - Not impressed. If he didn't go to Ohio St, and play several positions, we wouldn't be discussing him in the 1st round. I personally saw him get burned several times by average college receivers. Should NOT be taken in the 1st round.

And the guy that I think matches us, our needs, our selection spot, and my contentment:
DT Randy Starks

The pick I secretly desire:
RB Kevin Jones

Overall, I think this is a very strong draft that not only has at least 23 legitimate starters, but also extends quality depth well into the 3rd round (perhaps 4th). The abundance of WRs has really enhanced the value of the other positions. There's a cluster of players that drop off from the premier talent, but hold steady as similar caliber players for quite a stretch.

We may end up with more talent than we know what to do with.


G. Scott Jones is a regular contributor to Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send feedback to him at Top Stories