Philadelphia Eagles scout Daniel Jeremiah was, for an all-too-brief moment, one of us. He analyzed the draft, authored blogs about players, recorded podcasts and populated the Twittersphere.
Before being called back to the majors (he had previously worked for the Browns and Ravens), Jeremiah shared a lot of insight with the public. One such morsel was how he graded Utah defensive tackle Paul Soliai coming out of the 2007 NFL Draft.
According to Jeremiah, he was one of the rawest players he had ever seen.
Former Dolphins General Manager Randy Mueller took on Soliai in the fourth round of that draft, and there was a rumor at the time that the war room was so happy that he had fallen to their pick that they broke out in a small measure of applause.
When Soliai failed to log much playing time as a rookie on a dismal 1-15 football team, that applause started to look silly. But when Soliai capped off an excellent 2010 season that saw the team so desperate to keep him that they placed a $12.5 million franchise tag on him, that applause started to look understated.
There is a trick to being a "raw" player. Technically speaking, I am quite positive Daniel Jeremiah had seen a wide assortment of football players who showed less grasp of the nuances of the sport than Soliai had as a converted offensive tackle turned nose guard in the Utah Utes' defense. That dangerous "p" word, potential, goes hand-in-hand with being a player who is characterized as "raw."
In Soliai's case, he was 6'4" and 344 lbs., yet ran a 5.02-second 40-yard dash at his pro day (5.10 at the combine), had a 30.5" vertical, 8'7" broad jump, ran his shuttle drill in 4.53 seconds and had a best cone drill time of 7.66 seconds. Those numbers are off the charts for a 350-lbs player. He added to those numbers by taking part in timed pass rush drills at the combine and timing amongst the best defensive line players in the measure. All of the handful of players who timed faster were around 100 lbs. lighter that Soliai.
That's the reason he was such a big "project" player coming out of that draft. As an offensive tackle convert, he was raw in technique (and in work ethic), but he had athletic ability coming out of his ears.
Today, he's a Pro Bowler.
Let's take a look at some players from this year's draft who are similarly raw but talented project players.