Edwards Stepping It Up

When Ray Edwards came to his first training camp, he had something to prove -- believing his problems with his college coaching staff that forced him to come out early cost him a lot of money and respect. A year later, he's in camp looking to make his mark in the NFL as one of the top up and coming DEs in the league.

Probably the most positive talk around Vikings training camp thus far has been surrounding Ray Edwards. Taken in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, head coach Brad Childress, who has espoused player conduct and reputation as keys to the draft process, seemed to go off that board with Edwards.

It was believed that, had Edwards remained at Purdue another season, he likely would have been a first-round pick this season. But he left a year early after being demoted from his starting job with the Boilermakers because of a dispute with coaches. For many teams, that was a red flag.

The fourth round of any draft is usually a clearing house for the problem children of the college game. Teams will finish three rounds and re-assess their draft boards. There will be players that are given first-round or second-round grades on athleticism, but red flags of some kind drop them down the list. When given time to reformulate the thought process, suddenly the risk involved with a Day 2 pick has little to no bearing. It won't make or break the franchise if that player is a bust.

When Mike Tice was questioned by media following the selection of Onterrio Smith in the fourth round of the 2003 draft, he was asked how could a running back rated as the No. 2 RB in the draft by savant Mel Kiper have dropped to the fourth round? Tice touched his index finger to his thumb and gave the international symbol for a guy smoking a joint. Smith had red flags that belied his talent. When he played, he was a value as a fourth round pick. But his red flags caught up with him.

Edwards came to the NFL with something of a chip on his shoulder. He felt justified in his disagreement with the coaching staff at Purdue and realized he probably cost himself millions of dollars by coming out a year early rather than returning to the program. But, he's starting to make up for it now.

Unlike Smith, Edwards has been a model teammate and has both local and national media pointing to him as being a sleeper breakout star of 2007. With Erasmus James still on the mend, Edwards has his chance to make an impact that will leave his imprint on the Vikings defense. With the need for a better pass rush, Edwards looks to be the best shot at providing that and no longer allowing quarterbacks to pick apart the Cover-2 because they are afforded so much time to wait for routes to develop.

For every fourth-round bust, there are players like Edwards who fell for reasons other than their football ability. He has a chance to be a new star in a revamped Vikings defense and is clearly a player to keep an eye on during the preseason, because he has been given the starting job for now and, if he lives up to the expectations being lauded his way, he may never give it up.

* Heading into today, Adrian Peterson has missed practice sessions at training camp.
* Billy McMullen will add his name to the list of wide receivers battling for not just playing time but roster spots. McMullen was activated from the non-football injury list Tuesday.
* For most of training camp, Tarvaris Jackson hasn't shown a lot of consistency with the deep ball. While he dropped a couple of passes in a trash can from 40 yards in a drill, he has been overthrowing receivers by five yards consistently on bomb routes.
* From the "C'mon, Make a Decision Department" comes this: New Raiders coach Lane Kiffin's first official head coach controversy is who is his starting quarterback – Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown or Andrew Walter. His answer? All three! While he said he knows what direction he's going, he doesn't feel obligated to tip his hand. Besides, when JaMarcus Russell finally signs, it likely won't matter if he named all three starters in mid-August.

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