The NFL Draft has been around – in one form or another – since 1936. We’ve come a long way since the Eagles drafted backer Jay Berwanger (and let’s not even talk about the Giants drafting of that year’s Mr. Irrelevant – Holy Cross guard Phil Flanagan) and it’s fair to say the analysis of college players has become more sophisticated in the subsequent 74 years. However, truthfully, the analysis of college players entering the draft has grown more in the past 24 years than in the previous 50.
Even some of the 1st round picks in 1986 – Jon Hand (Colts – 4th overall), Keith Byers (Eagles – 1oth Overall), John L. Williams (Seahawks – 15th overall), Tim Green (Falcons – 17th Overall), Mike Haight (Jets – 22nd overall) all might have slid if given today’s level of analysis.
Because of that, we’re not often surprised anymore when a player is picked in the 1st round. We might be surprised which team picked the player, but we’re not often surprised that the player went somewhere in the 1st. Sure, the 49ers made a few scratch their head with their late 1st round pick on Virginia Tech (and future NFL bust) QB Jim Druckenmiller, but the 49ers were drunk on success, drunk on dirty dealings with mobsters and literally drunk on a potent mix of Maui Rum and Hashish developed by a gay hairdresser named Salvador from the Mission district.
In 2006, the Bills – who have been almost certainly one of the 5 (if not 3) worst drafting and strategic teams in the league for the past 10 years – surprised everyone by pulling the trigger at number 8 for Ohio State cornerback Donte Whitner – who most had rated as a late first and even possible 2nd round pick. They weren’t done, later trading into the first round for slow-footed, round shouldered N.C. State defensive tackle John McCargo – a player who they almost certainly could have drafted in the 2nd round had they just stayed in their position and whom some prognosticators didn’t think would leave the board until the 3rd round. Ex-Bills coach Marv Levy, at the time in his 70’s, was making those calls for the Bills back then but Buffalo has come to its senses by bringing in younger blood and hiring 70-year-old Buddy Nix to call the shots this year.
Whitner’s actually turned out to be a very good player; McCargo not so much. However, a true analysis of the Whitner pick still yields it a poor choice. Not because Whitner can’t play – but rather because the Bills almost certainly could have traded out of that pick, still drafted Whitner in the mid-first, and collected extra draft choices (or even a proven player) in exchange.
In fact, I would say that I really thought at that time Levy’s mismanagement of the Bills’ draft that year would really mark the end of an era. The last time a team would go into the draft seemingly so unaware of the intracicies of draft position and the understanding of value of players. And then, I heard this last year.
“With their 2nd pick in 2009 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select, safety from Ohio University – Mike Mitchell.”
Upon hearing this, announcers from ESPN to NFL Network responded one of four ways:
- They chuckled
- They scratched their head
- They said “Who’s that?”
- They exposed themselves to the first woman who passed them by
Okay, I told a white lie, Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t an NFL draft commentator last year. He was unavailable as he was exposing himself to a teenager at an outlet mall outside of Akron.
Still, Mitchell was a guy who no one – I mean no one – had on their board at that time. He was a guy who most people ranked – if they had him ranked at all – as anything from a 6th round pick to a non-draftee. Even though Rich Eisen of the NFL Network would later state that the Chicago Bears would have drafted Mitchell a few picks later based on his impressive pro day, the truth is that there was a chance the Raiders could have drafted Mitchell – or someone else who will almost certainly have as strong a career – at least 4 rounds later. While nagging injuries made it hard to judge Mitchell’s rookie season, just like the Bills pick of Whitner in the first round, whether or not a player pans out can’t be used a the sole barometer of a successful pick.
It’s hard to judge which safety might be overdrafted in this year’s draft, but you could make a case that in many people’s eyes the safest picks in this year’s draft – the anti-Mike Mitchell’s if you will – are safeties Eric Berry from Tennessee and Earl Thomas from Texas.
Everyone loves Berry. I haven’t seen this much affection lauded on one person since Sully landed that plane in the Hudson and his vert isn’t half as high as the 43″ Berry catapulted to at the combines. Berry seemed to excel in Monte Kiffin’s risk-taking Tennessee Volunteer Defense last year, showing the ability to hit and cover, sneak close to the line to anticipate the run and also pick of errand tosses in the cover 2 with aplomb.
Texas’ Earl Thomas actually ran slightly faster (4.44 to 4.47) and lifted slightly more (21 reps vs. 19) than Berry at the combine. An inch shorter and a few pounds lighter than Berry, Thomas also learned some humility playing against spread offenses in the Big 12 that threw up the ball more times than a bulimic teenage girl who just returned home from an All-You Can Eat Chinese Buffet. The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock insists that Thomas actually sees and anticipates the ball better than Berry, but that’s sort of like saying Sativa Rose is a better fisherwoman than Keri Sable – at the end of the day they’ve both still got to make out with one another.
As much as folks think Berry and Thomas are sure things, the chorus for USC’s Taylor Mays has been equally consistent. Nice kid, all the physicals but inconsistent. Bad hip rotation. Doesn’t always react well. In short, he just doesn’t seem to have “it.” (In BK’s case, “it” can be a turkey sub done the Jersey Mike way and since he moved from Hollywood to Eagle Rock – he also no longer has “it”).
So why do some people still project Mays as a late first? Simply because of his physicals – 6’3″, 203lbs., 4.43 40, 24 reps, 41″ vert, 10 1/2″ broad. I haven’t seen numbers that impressive since Carl’s Junior introduced the $6 Burger. Too good to be true, I thought. Then I ate one. I quickly learned – it was too good to be true. The burger was dry, lacked a kick and – interestingly enough just like Mays – the $6 burger had very poor hip movement. At some point you’ve got to deliver it on the field and I wouldn’t spend a 1st or 2nd on a guy who I think will spend most of his career on specials.
Mays is the highest rated Free Safety in the draft but I like Florida’s Major Wright more despite the fact his physicals are less impressive than Mays. Watch Florida games vs. SC games last year and you’ll hear Wright’s name called more than Mays. You”ll also hear Tim Tebow’s name mentioned more than Wright’s too which is why he also probably thinks he’s a douche. I’m not saying Wright’s going to be a great player either, but it seems as if he’s just as likely to perform at the next level as Mays.
Virginia Tech’s Kam Chancellor is a big ol’ hot dog on a stick weighing in at over 230lbs. in a 6’3″ frame that rumbled to a less than impressive 4.62 40 at the combines. But he reminds me of ex-Cincinnati Bengal Pro Bowl safety David Fulcher, a 6-3, 236lbs. safety from Arizona State who wound up in 3 Pro Bowls. He played an almost hybrid Safety/Linebacker position and in the right system Chancellor could find a home. One thing that’s guaranteed – that 4.62 means he won’t be drafted by the Raiders.
“Best pick of the draft,” BK cooed after the St. Louis Rams drafted Arizona State’s Adam Archuleta with the 20th pick of the first round in 2001. High praise considering this was a draft that had already seen LaDanian Tomlinson and Richard Seymour be drafted 5th and 6th respectively and would later include reigning Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees. But BK is not a man of the future, he’s a man of the present and in Archuleta he saw what he envisioned former overrated Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn could become – better instincts, better work ethic, equally legendary SuperStars performances and a marriage to an actress who would reject right wing political ideology. But Archuleta would not turn out to be much of a player and to this day BK is still befuddled by his lack of success. “Yeah, I don’t know what happened there,” responded BK while scratching his diminishing hair line, “He had it all right there.” And that’s why you want to be careful when trying to interpret the complicated mathematical equations spat out by the BK-o-Meter.
TOP 12 SAFETIES
Eric Berry, Tennessee
I’d like to buck the trend here, but can find no reason too. Berry’s deserves to be the #1 safety on the board.
Earl Thomas, Texas
I like Thomas just like everyone else does as well. I would consider ranking him higher than Berry except his randomly placed tattoos on his torso sinks his BK-o-Meter
Major Wright, Florida
The NFL executive who drafts Mr. Wright will have majored in “Good Picks,” unlike Major Write who basically majored in eligibility.
Nate Allen, South Florida
Didn’t run at the combines, but he’s a good player who grades out well with his DDI and BK-o-Meter and should go in the 2nd.
Reshad Jones, Georgia
Like L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge – too often underestimated. He can get things done when it counts. Unlike LaBonge, he’s a much better football player.
Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech
Did I mention that David Fulcher was one of my favorite non-Giant players of all time. His DDI is through the roof and the BK-o-Meter keeps him in the Top 3 rounds.
Taylor Mays, USC
Mays will be gone by the 10th pick in the 2nd round at the latest and he’s not a bad player but despite all that physical skill I see no real upside for him making it in the league. Plus his BK-o-Meter is off the charts and that’s always something to be alarmed about.
Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech
Supposedly Burnett is flying up the board and some even have him going in the late 2nd based on his Pro Day. But if I’m wrapping Mays, how can I rate Burnett ahead of him. BK-o-Meter also rising, but that could be because BK left his meter in the sun.
T.J. Ward, Oregon
Huge fan of Oregon. Not so much the University itself or the players it produces, but of the state itself. Nice beaches, great food, clean air – you can’t beat it. On an unrelated note, T.J. Ward is a strong safety probably going in the 3rd or 4th round of the draft.
Harry Coleman, LSU
It would be nice to see a guy with a straight forward name like Harry Coleman make it in this league at the safety spot even though his DDI and BK-o-Meter remain neutral. Still, it’s better than that of…
Chad Jones, LSU
How can you be 6’2 and over 200 lbs. and only pull off 9 reps at the combine. He’s the anti-Taylor Mays. The performance wasn’t bad but I don’t care if you’re arm falls off, you cannot be over 6 foot and over 200 lbs and only pull off 9 reps at the combines. Literally – it’s scientifically impossible. Stephen Hawking’s next book is going to focus on this.
Larry Assante, Nebraska
There’s no real good reason Assante should rate this low considering he was a key part to a really strong Cornhusker D last year. But his 40 time was slow for a safety (4.62) and I couldn’t come up with any witty Armand Assante comparisons for him.
BK LUCKY NUMBER 13
Myron Rolle, Florida State
BK was a fan of Antrelle Rolle when he was drafted in the Top 10 a few years back and is now a bigger fan ever since he signed with the G-Men in the off-season. He also used to love Turkey Roll sandwiches as a kid. His mom, often times right before leaving the house to assess a hot property in Oakbridge, would often make him “Turkey Rolley Sammy’s” and BK would cry back in glee “I love my Rolly” and his mom would say “and I love you” and BK would say “then why won’t you respect my relationship choices” and it would just get ugly from there and all of this bittersweet nostalgia has obscured the fact that Rolle’s 40 time is slower than the opening scene of every John Cassavette movie ever made.