Vikings second-round tight end Kyle Rudolph was the only draft pick from Notre Dame, which put his school in the same company with relative football unknowns. Plus, one player is sticking with his plan to play in the UFL, black colleges aren't producing NFL players as much as they used to, and many more notes, including a team that could be interested in Ray Edwards if he is unrestricted.
Noted football factories Bethel (defensive lineman Michael Jasper), California, Pa. (cornerback Tommie Campbell), Florida A&M (Holcomb), Hampton (Ellis), Lehigh (guard Will Rackley), Montana (safety Jimmy Wilson), Montana State (offensive lineman Michael Person), Mount Union (wide receiver Cecil Shorts), Portland State (tight end Julius Thomas), Tennessee-Chattanooga (cornerback Buster Skrine), The Citadel (cornerback Cortez Allen), Slippery Rock (center Brandon Fusco
), and Yale (fullback Shane Bannon), each had as many players drafted last weekend as powerhouse Notre Dame
(tight end Kyle Rudolph
One undrafted player who does figure to sign with the UFL, although not an underclass prospect, is former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson
. The top overall pick in the UFL draft earlier this week, Johnson was rendered ineffective by a shoulder problem as a junior and then lost his starting job as a senior.
"He has to prove to people he's healthy again, and the only way to do that is play, and they're the only game in town right now," agent Jimmy Sexton said.
Johnson was chosen by the Hartford Colonials, coached by Jerry Glanville, and the team doesn't really have an established starter right now. Glanville said that 2010 starter, Josh McCown
, "couldn't" give him an answer about returning for the coming season, and so he had to move in a different direction. Sources close to McCown told The Sports Xchange that the much-traveled quarterback prefers to gauge his NFL opportunities. The standard UFL contract calls for a salary of $5,000 per game, but it's believed that starting quarterbacks can earn as much as $12,500 per outing. Players can make an additional $5,000 for qualifying for the championship game, and $6,000 for winning the title. The experience might be beneficial for Johnson, who is adamant about wanting to play quarterback.
A few scouts told The Sports Xchange that Johnson might have had a better chance of being drafted had he not been so insistent about playing quarterback. The onetime Aggies standout was 6-feet-5 1/8 and 251 pounds at the combine, and ran a 4.80 time, and some felt he could perhaps make a team's practice squad as an H-back candidate. Blackout:
In most pursuits, "doubling up" on something, increasing the numbers by 100 percent, would be viewed as a positive situation. That wasn't necessarily the case, however, with the NFL draft and the selection of prospects from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) last weekend. Of the 254 players chosen, four were from HBCU programs: defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis
(Hampton, by the New York Jets, third round), offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath (South Carolina State, by Detroit, seventh round), defensive tackle Frank Kearse (Alabama A&M, by Miami, seventh round), and cornerback Curtis Holcomb (Florida A&M, by San Francisco, seventh round). It marked twice the number of HBCU players selected in 2010, when the two-player class represented the lowest ever in the era of the common draft, but was still a modest amount.
"It's not like we've quit going to those schools, but they've just stopped (producing) 'draftable' players," one prominent AFC general manager said. "There are a lot of reasons, but the numbers don't lie."
The Sports Xchange has detailed some of the factors in the past - the impact of integration at the major football schools, recruiting, economics, level of coaching, among them - and the situation isn't likely to improve anytime soon. This marked the 11th year in a row that the HCBU schools had single-digit prospects selected, and the eighth time in that period that there were five or fewer. The last time the HBCU programs had more than eight players chosen was 2000, when there were 13. In the 11 drafts since then, only 51 players from HBCU schools were chosen, and 24 of those were in the sixth or seventh rounds. There's been only one first-rounder, Arizona corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
(Tennessee State, 2008), in that period, and just 14 players taken in the first three rounds.
"You just feel like you have to work harder, but, if you do, they'll find you," said Holcomb, the first player drafted from FAMU since 2000. "But it's not easy." Ellis, in fact, was the lone player chosen from an HBCU school among the top 200 picks. And, the fact is, Ellis would not have been at Hampton were he not dismissed from the South Carolina program for off-field indiscretions. Said Ellis: "I'll always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me (at Hampton) to play there. I won't forget that."
Seems that increasingly, though, the league has forgotten about the HBCU schools. Punts:
Ravens officials concede the team took a chance on drafting talented but troubled cornerback Jimmy Smith
in the first round. They are confident, though, that the team's veteran makeup, and the locker room presence of established elder statesmen like Lewis and others will benefit the rookie cornerback.
The Raiders certainly embrace the "need for speed" axiom: The choice of Miami cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke in the third round made it three straight years in which Oakland has taken the player who clocked the fastest 40-yard time at the combine. Van Dyke covered 40 yards in 4.28 seconds. In 2009, the Raiders picked wide receiver Jacoby Ford (4.22), and in 2008, the first-round selection was wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.25).
The selection of defensive tackle Marvin Austin in the second round, potentially one of the draft's biggest steals, could prompt the New York Giants to consider offers for five-year veteran Barry Cofield. It remains to be seen just what Cofield's free agency status will be, pending a resolution of the CBA, but he was not all that happy when the team tendered him as a restricted free agent. Remember, the Giants had a trade all but completed with New Orleans last year, but Cofield foiled the deal when he balked at the contract the Saints were offering.
Washington chose a league-high 12 players last weekend, the franchise's most picks since taking 12 in 1985, when the draft was 12 rounds. In the 17 seven-round drafts 1994-2010, Washington chose five or fewer prospects four times. They picked seven or more players just seven times.
Congratulations to longtime buddy and player agent Joe Linta, named this week as head football coach at Linden Hall, a private school in Connecticut. Linta is a former coach who initially made his mark in the agent business by charging players an hourly rate, rather than a percentage, and has quietly become one of the NFL's top representatives. Coaches and scouts have gained a great appreciation for Linta's eye for talent, and his recommendation, based in large part on his coaching background.
Congratulations, too, to good buddy Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, for his selection as the McCann Award winner by the Pro Football Writers. McGinn, who has covered the Packers for 32 years, has long been the best and most diligent beat writer in the country.
Grabbed by Jacksonville in the fourth round, Shorts was the highest Division II player taken since Tennessee drafted Wisconsin-Stout cornerback Tony Beckham in 2002, also in the fourth round.
It was noted in this space several weeks ago that Fox would make a big push to land potential Carolina unrestricted free agent Charles Johnson, who registered 11 1/2 sacks at left end in 2010. But with the choice of Von Miller with the second overall pick in the first round last week, that seems less likely. Miller will probably play the strong-side spot in Fox's 4-3, but the Broncos seem satisfied with the undersized pair of Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers, both linebackers in the 3-4, at end. Fox, who has had success in the past in getting solid production from undersized ends, is focusing in on improving a pass rush that generated only 23 sacks in 2010.
While the Broncos seem to have cooled on the potential pursuit of Johnson, don't rule out the Atlanta Falcons if the CBA permits the four-year veteran to become an unrestricted player. Last week, The Sports Xchange identified Minnesota veteran Ray Edwards as the defender Atlanta had tabbed as its most preferred free agent target - provided, again, that Edwards is unrestricted - but Johnson is the Falcons' fall-back guy at left end.
Tampa Bay has no plans for future knee surgery to address the knee problems of second-round pick and possible draft steal Da'Quan Bowers. But some Bucs officials feel that the former Clemson standout defensive end will be used more as a situational rusher, than an every-down player, as a rookie.
With the switch back to a 4-3 in 2010, a lot of NFL observers are curious to see just how the Cleveland Browns use first-rounder Phil Taylor, the former Baylor behemoth a lot of scouts felt was best suited to the 3-4 nose tackle spot. The Browns, however, feel that Taylor and incumbent nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin will transition well to the 4-3 and provide solid inside push.
The last word: "Hey, he deserved every bit of it." – Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick, on the death of Osama bin Laden