I don't remember an NFL Draft in my year's of watching it that saw the first six picks be such a good fit for those individual teams that selected them.
Jake Long to the Dolphins. Perfect. The Fish haven't had a dominant left tackle since the days of Richmond Webb. Chris Long will terrorize from the corner for the blitz-heavy Rams defense under Jim Haslett, all inside a noisy dome. Matt Ryan, questionable as the No.1 overall pick, but not as the third overall to a Falcons team in desperate need of a new beginning. Run DMC to Al's Raiders- everyone saw this coming for months. Glenn Dorsey, an XL version of Warren Sapp, takes a fortuitous fall into Herm's hands, possibly adding a few more seasons of employment to the beleaguered head man's stay in K.C.. And the Jets get pass-rush demon Vernon Gholston to terrorize Tom Brady for the rest of his career. The top six teams could call it a day at that point, but many of them, most notably the Chiefs, went on to have a great 48 hours.
When they say "teams fall in love with a guy"...we saw that play out in front of our eyes with Jacksonville's desperate scramble up to take Florida DE Derrick Harvey, giving up a king's ransom of picks to grab him at No.8. But I think it will pay off and it was appropriate. Jacksonville is very close to serious Super Bowl contention, and who knows if they had a better pass rush, they might have knocked off New England in last year's closely contested playoff game. After seeing the Giants derail the Pats perfection pursuit with a prolific pass rush (sorry, couldn't resist) the Jags, like all the other AFC contenders, will be copying that game plan. Their second round selection of bookend speed-rusher Quentin Groves was the exclamation point to their Draft plan. They were playing with house money the rest of the Draft.
Matt Millen, of all people, came off looking like a competent NFL executive in this Draft. Who knew? I loved his first round pick of the angry, smash-mouth tackle from BC, Gosder Cherilus. Talk about restoring the roar. This kid will committ felonies against opposing defenses for four quarters. Jordon Dizon, the second round pick, is a tackling Energizer bunny.
Carolina really addressed needs with RB Jonathan Stewart at 13 and OT Jeff Otah at the 19 spot. Both player’s help protect creaky Jake Delhomme in different ways.
It seemed like most teams had their Draft A game going strong, executing crisp moves, trading up and down to get the exact guy they were looking for, everyone working in unison, until Tennessee bonked with the 24th overall pick, taking RB Chris Johnson from East Carolina. What?! the guy will be a part-time back in the pro's and this team already has a slew of running backs. And btw, don't they have a Chris Johnson clone from last year's Draft, down to the long braided hair and impressive forty time? His name is Chris Henry, and the Titans drafted him last year because he ran fast at the Combine. So instead of getting Vince Young a WR which he desperately needs, you add yet another RB partial running back to the fold, with your first round pick no less. That was the first oops moment of this Draft.
Another bone I have to pick with this Draft, is watching the overhyped USC guys get taken well before they should (this excludes Sedrick Ellis-who is a beast and will be an impact player in the league). Lawrence Jackson at No. 28 to Seattle is a mistake. This guy is the classic, all-sizzle, no steak Trojan product that the Pete Carroll infomercial turns out at an increasing rate. Sam Baker at 21 to Atlanta is a joke. I spoke with people on the inside of the Trojan community last season and the consensus was how Baker was one of Pete's guys and therefore would always be the cover shot of all the media vehicles, always get the primetime coverage but on the field was easily beaten to the inside and is by no means a football guy, that he has little passion for the game. He should have fallen to the third round, not a guy like Dan Connor from Penn State, who will be Dan Morgan, sans the concussion problem, for the Panthers. That Baker reach will prove to be a stumble for the new Dimitroff regime in Atlanta. Chilo Rachal, a guard at the top of the second round? This guy better be the next coming of John Hannah. Terrell Thomas at the end of the 2nd Round to the Giants was another reach. He's got some skills, but the guys was injured for a good part of his Trojan career and did not sport a body of work worthy of a second round selection. John David Booty going to the Vikings in the 5th Round was appropriate, because he is a serviceable player, and may just be good enough to beat out a struggling Tarvaris Jackson. I envision a younger version of ex-Vikings game-manager QB Brad Johnson.
Matt Forte - great pick by the Bears. He'll supplant Cedric Benson as the starter by mid-season, if not sooner.
Brian Brohm - I really liked this selection by Green Bay toward the end of the second round. Healthy competition for unproven incumbent Aaron Rodgers, and a possible starter two years from now.
Mike Pollack - probably the top head-scratcher of the Draft, Colts take Pollack, a center, and plan to play him at guard, in the second round?! this was bizarre and it got more weird when they started stockpiling the position in the later rounds with center Steve Justice (Wake Forest) in the sixth and center Jamey Richard (Buffalo), who they may also try at guard. I trust Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday didn't enjoy this past weekend too much.
Jeremy Zuttah - Arguably the biggest beneficiary of this year's pre-Draft process, when his senior season began, Zuttah was a 5th to 7th Rd/PFA type projection and fellow Scarlet Knight linemate Pedro Sosa was the 3rd to 5th Round guy due in part to a better NFL body frame. Sosa gets hurt toward the end of the season, re-injures himself at the East West Shrine game which effectively kayoed his chance at the remaining pre-Draft events, knocking him out of the Draft entirely ( I had not seen if he signed a free agent contract at the time of this publication). Zuttah was the complete opposite. Home runs at every turn. Strong East-West Shrine performance, surprisingly good measureables from the Combine and flawless chalk-talk sessions and NFL team interviews all conspired to elevate Zuttah to a third round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Beau Bell - The Browns traded up 18 spots to grab Bell, whom they coveted since scouting his UNLV teammate CB Eric Wright the year before, after Bell slipped from a certain 2nd Round projection after injuring his knee in the Senior Bowl which sidelined him from training, resulting in a deceptively slow forty time (4.9) and vertical leap (28), scaring enough teams away to have him fall to Cleveland, who didn’t own a pick before the fourth round in the Draft because of last year’s draft-day trades to land Brady Quinn in the latter part of the first round in 2007.
Bell (6-1, 248) has a chance to be featured in one of those “Draft Day Steals” shows you see on NFL Network these days years from now, as his college game film shows a Tasmanian devil in pursuit of the ball from sideline-to-sideline and a perfect ILB for the Browns 3-4 defense with enough lead in his pencil to knock opposing offensive guards backwards on running plays.
Anthony Collins – Becomes the poster boy for “the dark side of declaring early”. The junior offensive tackle left school early only to drop to the 13th pick of the fourth round where his name was called by the Cincinnati Bengals. This kid stays for his senior year at Kansas and with another year to polish his game, is very likely to be a first round pick in 2009. He did Limony Snicket proud with this series of unfortunate draft day events.
Round 5 happenings - Jason Shirley (6-5, 329) from Fresno State went to the Bengals with the 10th pick of the fifth round and when I say this guy’s a force of nature there’s no exaggeration whatsoever. Like the computerized version of the recent Hulk movie, he’s built like that. A brief clip I saw of him at the East-West Shrine practices showed him swatting away interior offensive lineman like King Kong disposing of red baron fighter planes. His character issues (drunk driving) were a factor in him dropping to the fifth round, but he has first round physical ability. If he can keep on the straight and narrow, the Bengals will have the steal of the Draft. Carl Nicks made me look like a genius after featuring him in the “Fallers” section of a pre-Draft Risers/Fallers article I wrote for the Huddle. The Nebraska OT fell from his brief late 1st early 2nd round projection to the bottom of the fifth, taken with the 29th pick of the fifth round by New Orleans. Can’t get arrested a few weeks before the Draft, Carl. Again, huge upside and has wonderful, God-given talent to produce a meaningful NFL career after this hard-knocks lesson. RB Marcus Thomas (San Diego) and OLB Alvin “Ace” Bowen (Buffalo) were both projected to go in the fifth round back in June of 2007 by NFL scouting bureaus BLESTO and National and both players made it through the long and winding pre-Draft road to fifth round selections in the 2008 Draft. Nice work fella’s.
Round 6 - The place where falling quarterbacks came to rest, with both Colt Brennan (Redskins) and Andre Woodson (Giants) experiencing disappointment on a grand scale. This development confirms that Brennan’s success at Hawaii is viewed as a by-product of the run-n-shoot hybrid that he orchestrated and Woodson’s low Wonderlic score and accuracy issues laid to waste to a record-setting collegiate resume. The Raiders like long-sleeved DE’s hence the selection of little-known University of Buffalo DE Trevor Scott. Surprise pick award has to go to the Bengals selection of Villanova’s TE Matt Sherry with the last pick of the sixth round. Very little press on this guy prior to the Draft.
Round 7 - The vast majority of seventh round picks end up not making the roster of the team that selected them. Here’s my list of those 2008 seventh rounder’s that will. DE Brian Johnston (KC), WR Steve Johnson (Buffalo), OT Brandon Keith (Arizona), FB Peyton Hillis (Denver)- this guy is too talented to fall to the seventh, RB Cory Boyd (TB), WR Mario Urrutia (CIN) and WR Marcus Monk (CHI).