University of Maryland offensive tackle Jared Gaither officially applied for entry to the NFL’s supplemental draft on Thursday. Gaither is a rare physical specimen who is estimated at 6-8 ½, 350 pounds with a 5.32 forty time. He will generate plenty of interest form NFL scouts between now and the July 12 lottery, including a close examination by the Vikings.
There’s a reason he’s in the supplemental draft, and that will put him under thorough scrutiny from Vikings scouts. His reason for choosing the supplemental route was that he was ruled academically ineligible earlier this month.
Gaither will join Georgia cornerback Paul Oliver, Nebraska offensive lineman Chris Patrick and Morgan State defensive tackle Robert Armstrong as players in the supplemental draft. There are still a couple other players deliberating about whether to also apply for the “special circumstances” draft by the NFL.
A first-round talent, Gaither has possibilities as a developmental-type prospect for the Vikings at right tackle, where Ryan Cook and Marcus Johnson are currently competing for the starting position. Both Cook and Johnson are also capable of playing other positions, so any interest by the team in Gaither does not necessarily reflect on them.
It’s unlikely the Vikings would burn a future first-round pick on Gaither, but the fact that they’re sitting with an extra pick in the third-round of next year’s draft certainly givens VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman added flexibility. It’s also worth noting that the current slotting order would be the same as it was in April’s draft, for the Vikings that’s No. 7.
Gaither was declared academically ineligible two weeks ago and, after much consideration, decided the NFL was his best career option.
“It's a decision he's put a lot of thought into,” Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen said. “He's expressed a desire to get his degree, but I think the opportunity to make a living and the chance to be successful at the next level was a deciding factor. We wish him the best of luck and hope he achieves success in the NFL and in life.”
The 6-foot-9, 350-pound Gaither played in 23 of 24 games, including 17 starts, in his two seasons with the Terrapins. He started nine games at right tackle last season and eight at left tackle in 2005 when he replaced Stephon Heyer, who missed the year with a knee injury.
Gaither is massive yet athletic with surprisingly quick feet. He’s been a solid pass protector and has the ability to play left tackle at the professional level. In 2005, Gaither did not give up a sack in his 11 starts.
“This was a decision I came to after sitting down with my family and reviewing my academic situation," Gaither told the Associated Press. “I felt my best option now was to enter the Supplement Draft, though I would like to come back and get my degree.”
Gaither is three years removed from high school, so he is eligible for the NFL Supplemental Draft. He played one season (2004) at Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) before entering Maryland. He was initially recruited by Maryland as a tight end and legitimately ran a pair of 4.75 forties at the prep combine.
How Gaither performs in workouts for pro scouts will likely determine where he goes in the supplemental draft, but if he does well he could easily go in the first three rounds.
Among the other supplemental prospects, Oliver is a solid cornerback who is best known for shutting down Lions’ top pick Calvin Johnson in their matchup last season, but his forty times were average when he worked out for pro scouts and appeared a bit out of shape.
Patrick is expected to get a sniff from someone in the middle-to-late rounds. He played left tackle at Nebraska but projects inside to guard most likely for the NFL.
Armstrong is a big, physical defensive tackle who flashes pro ability but has a pretty limited track record.