Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NFL Draft Thoughts

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

What makes practical sense or what makes common sense?

These are the decisions I'm glad I don't have to make as the NFL Draft will find new homes for this years crop of collegiate players.

For the Detroit Lions, at least they selected their quarterback last year when they landed Matthew Stafford with their top pick. Thus, far, the former Georgia Bulldog is showing excellent potential and has a strong upside providing he gets a good supporting cast.

Past experiences indicate the Lions won't be taking a wide receiver in the opening round anytime soon. The selections of Charles Rogers and Mike Williams were just a couple of the major reasons Matt Millen has returned to the broadcasting booth and is unlikely to return to an NFL front office anytime soon.

Last year, Stafford received over $40 Million in guaranteed money.

Will the St. Louis Rams pay a defensive player over $40 Million or will they take the plunge into the signal caller market and draft Oklahoma's Sam Bradford with the top pick? Is a player who is coming off major shoulder surgery, worth over $50 Million in guaranteed money? They might not have any choice since they released former starting quarterback Marc Bulger.

But if this makes the Rams feel any better, past Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winners have done well in the pros.

Former Sooners & Detroit Lions running backs Steve Owens and Billy Sims, both Heisman Trophy winners, had short and sweet careers before knee injuries ended them prematurely. In today's modern medicine, they would have played longer.

Owens was the Lions No.1 draft choice in the 1970 draft, 19 overall and was the first running back in franchise history, to ever rush for over 1,000 yards. He played four seasons for Detroit and participated in one Pro Bowl.

Sims was the top player selected in the 1980 draft by the Lions, rushed for 5,106 yards and played in three Pro Bowls.

If the Lions want to take another Oklahoma play maker, then Gerald McCoy would be a great choice.

But Detroit has also had good luck with past Nebraska Cornhuskers as well. If the Lions select Ndamukong Suh, then fans should remember linebacker Jimmy Williams and fullback Cory Schlesinger, who had good careers wearing the Honolulu Blue & Silver.

Williams played in Detroit from 1982-1990 and the Lions drafted him in the first round, No.15 overall. It's guys like Schlesinger, who will give you a reason to watch the draft in the later rounds. This three time Pro Bowl alternate was drafted in the sixth round, 192 overall and played for the Lions from 1995-2006.

Speaking of Owens and Schlesinger, if the Lions are looking to upgrade the running back position, Stanford's Toby Gerhart is a rare white runner with an abundance of talent that if he's not taken in the first round, will be on a mission to prove his critics wrong that passed on him. The 6-0, 231 pounder had 343 carries for 1,871 yards and 27 touchdowns for the Cardinal in 2009.

How can I forget about Florida's Tim Tebow? This guy has won two national championships and is a Heisman Trophy. Yet his draft status is in question because of his throwing mechanics.

It's any one's guess where he'll wind up or whether he plays quarterback in the NFL. In a league where there is a need for good quarterbacks, my best bets for him are Jacksonville, Buffalo or New England.

He'd sell tickets in Jacksonville and Buffalo and could eventually start in both places. I'd say he'll start quicker in Buffalo because there is a bigger need. The hiring of new Head Coach Chan Gailey, a noted offensive coach, could speed up his learning curve.

In 2003, the Buffalo Bills gambled on injured Miami Hurricanes running back Willis McGahee, by drafting him in the first round with the 23 overall pick, then waited until 2004 until he made his NFL debut. He went on and played three seasons for the Bills before moving on to the Baltimore Ravens. Tebow is also from the State of Florida so I see no reason why history won't repeat itself.

Back in 1975, the Lions drafted former Michigan Wolverines quarterback Dennis Franklin, who was known as "Michigan's First Black Quarterback" in the sixth round and converted him into a wide receiver. A 30-2-1 record at Michigan wasn't good enough to unseat Lions quarterbacks Greg Landry and Bill Munson. I'll bet that the Lions wish they could make that decision again especially with the quarterbacks that would follow after Landry and Munson's departure. We all know that was a bad move and the Lions fans know it.

Those that think that moving the left-handed Tebow to the wide receiver position without giving him a chance to develop and compete for a starting quarterback spot down the line would be making a huge mistake.

In New England, Tebow could develop under former former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady and wouldn't be rushed into action. As I mentioned before, Tebow would be a good fit in Buffalo and you can rest assure that Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly would love to help Tebow refine his skills. As for Jacksonville, David Garrard is the starter but if Owner Wayne Weaver has his way, he'd be the mentor until Tebow develops.

In 1981, the Miami Dolphins drafted Jim "Crash" Jensen in the 11 round, 291 overall out of Boston University. He played for the Dolphins from 1981-1992 as a wide receiver, running back and was the third string emergency signal caller behind Hall of Famer Dan Marino. He made the team because he impressed Dolphins Coach Don Shula with his hard-nosed play on special teams.

If a team drafts Tebow, they're getting a player with a great work ethic, excellent character, who is the last player you'd see that would have off the field problems. He's a proven winner in every sense of the word.

In the wake of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's problems, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made an example out of him by suspending him 4-6 games for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

Tebow is a white quarterback, who won't embarrass himself representing the shield. How ironic would it be if he landed in Pittsburgh.

But the Jensen/Tebow comparison could be a valid one not only because of skin color but they both could be viewed as versatile performers or hybrid players.

In this draft, I'll also be curious to see where Texas & Notre Dame quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen land.

Will this be the year where the Florida Atlantic University Owls finally have a player drafted? Their best prospects include quarterback Rusty Smith, who threw for over 10,000 career yards and tight end Jason Harmon (6-2, 216), who bounced back from a severe knee injury and had a productive senior season in 2009. Harmon's a good blocker but also has fine hands and can gain yards after the catch.

But with all the offensive moves Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew is making, he can only hope that either Suh & McCoy can become the latest version of Mario Williams (Houston Texans), who was the defensive end selected ahead of New Orleans running back Reggie Bush.

Bush may have his championship ring but he earned it with a great team.

Williams, who played at North Carolina State, and wasn't a glamour pick, has been to two Pro Bowls since he was the No.1 pick in the 2006 draft. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in another year. Williams has been a good anchor for the Houston defense.

We all know that Lions Coach Jim Schwartz built a good defense as the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Now he's looking to duplicate that success in Detroit.

Is there another Lee Roy Selmon, the defensive end, who was the first pick in the 1976 draft by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also out of Oklahoma out here? All Selmon did was play eight seasons and in six Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

As the Lions look for sleepers later in the draft and collect late round selections, are there any Jensen's and Schlesinger's available? On Saturday, Mayhew & Schwartz will have a chance to find these pieces of the puzzle in rounds 4-7.

This figures to be one of the most interesting drafts in recent history with all of the story lines out there.

Scott Morganroth's blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com and he can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.


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