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Monday, April 25, 2005

(Unique) Reflections on the NFL Draft

You can get the usual reflections from one of the many mainstream media outlets. Kudos to ESPN's Insider for an outstanding job on the draft. If you want details, subscribe and go there; it's good stuff.

Here are my reflections:

1. There were many players who were projected as getting drafted but who did not. Two that I'd look for big things from are Tennessee T Michael Munoz, Hall of Famer Anthony's son, and Lehigh TE Adam Bergen. The former has had to deal with injury problems; the latter didn't play at a school with a high enough profile to get even the consideration that Colorado State's Joel Dreessen, perhaps the second best TE in the draft after UVA's Health Miller, did (6th round). I saw Bergen play in college; he's a hammer. Others to look out for are your friendly neighborhood kickers and punters, most of whom don't get drafted. Also undrafted were onetime Heisman winner Jason White, the Oklahoma QB, and Michigan DB Ernest Shazor. Click here for's brief take on White and other undrafted free agents.

2. For former Cowboy honcho Gil Brandt's take on the top undrafted free agents, click here.

3. I posted earlier about the Philadelphia Eagles' potential draft picks, and I got it wrong. Click here for the list of their picks. I thought they'd go for O-line help earlier in the draft, and they could have had Khalif Barnes, the T from Oregon, who slid all the way to #52. They passed on him. I thought they'd go to beef up their tackle spots because their tackles are past 30 (shades of Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent at CB a few years ago) and because LT Tra Thomas reportedly has a bad knee. While Jon Runyan is advanced in age for the Eagles, he did restructure his contract, so that fact aligns well with the Eagle's overall goal of outstanding salary cap management. Still, you can't fool Father Time, and only time will tell whether a) by not drafting an elite-rated player for the OL, the Eagles made a mistake or b) whether their later-round selections prove to be star linemen (one, BYU guard Scott Young, was rated as the 63rd prospect overall by Mel Kiper, Jr., so perhaps the Eagles got a steal here with a fifth-round pick).

That said, all pundits thought the Eagles excelled on draft day, building depth at defensive line, running back, wide receiver, safety, linebacker and offensive line. As with any other sport, let's see who shows up and can really play. All teams are giddy with their picks on draft day, and seldom do people write about their drafts in retrospect three years later to see how players panned out. That said, the Eagles do look like they re-loaded over the weekend.

They sent messages, too, that the game is a business. They drafted a d-lineman in the first round, in part because their tackles overall didn't play better than above average for the entire season. Also, veteran DL Hollis Thomas demanded a trade, and Corey Simon isn't happy with the franchise tag. Again, re-loading. Ditto for RB, where the Eagles were thin last year, where Correll Buckhalter is recovering from a knee injury that cost him to miss all of last year, and where Brian Westbrook is reluctant to sign a long-term deal. Again, good business, building for the future. Lastly, they drafted a prime-time WR in Reggie Brown a) because of Freddie Mitchell's unhappiness and b) more importantly, because it's hard to figure out what T.O. will do. Can they really replace either Westbrook or Owens quickly? No. Can they build for the future and have good succession planning? Absolutely.

Andy Reid refused to engage reporters on the issue of whether he was sendnig certain players a message. Call it what you want, but what any good drafter does is not to get sentimental or vindictive. Succession planning is at the core of good businesses.

4. It strikes me that year after year New England's draft grades out as puzzling or middling. Which just goes to show you that, as I blogged earlier, Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick have figured out something that others have not. True, it looks like Bill Parsells accomplished two things yesterday -- building for now and building for the long-term. His draft is supposed to pan out; he had lots of high picks. If it doesn't, the Cowboys will have to go in a different direction. If Dallas does, well, everyone will say that it was supposed to. No one expects much out of the team drafting last in the first round, at least in terms of getting players in the draft. And that makes New England's recent perennial accomplishments all the more amazing.

5. Finally, I don't know what they were smoking in Detroit, but if they can get either Joey Harrington or Jeff Garcia any protection, what team can boast finer targets than Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, and Mike Williams? Even an undrafted free agent from the NAIA champion could find those guys -- if properly protected.

All in all, a fun weekend. Which kid from William Penn, Saginaw Valley State, Temple, Harvard or Texas A&M Kingsbury will make a name for himself? Which backup QB from USC could be a star? Which front-liners from the elite five conferences will continue to improve, and which ones will demonstrate that they peaked in college. Was Maurice Clarett taken too early by running back-rich Denver (third round)? Was Adrian McPherson a bargain in the fifth round going to New Orleans?

We'll know soon enough, or, in some cases, not for at least three more years.


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