True gold can often be found, the type of players that build dynasties, in the later rounds, day two of the NFL Draft.
Super Bowl teams, and even perennial playoff teams are littered with starters who were drafted in rounds three through seven. In fact, over half of the NFL starters at quarterback were drafted outside the first round.
Good teams draft for need in the later rounds; Great teams draft great players in the later rounds.
I’d argue that Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the NFL, both physically and mentally.
However, even I’m not enough of an apologist to deny the impact of his teammates on his personal and team’s success.
Robert Mathis is a fifth- round pick, Ryan Diem is a fourth-round pick, Cato June was a sixth-round pick, Jason David was a fourth-round pick, Brandon Stokley was a fourth-round pick, and Gary Brackett, Nick Harper, Dominic Rhodes, Jeff Saturday, and Ben Utecht were undrafted.
Bill Polian has hit on just about every early round pick, but without the contributions from players in later rounds, and players off the street, the Colts would probably still be ring-less in the Manning era.
Tim Ruskell has done a poor job of drafting in the first round. Chris Spencer, Kelly Jennings and Lawrence Jackson have been passed up for Roddy White, Heath Miller, Logan Mankins and Mathias Kiwanuka in recent years, who were drafted in the first round after the Seahawks picked late in the round in recent years.
The 2007, when the Seahawks didn’t have a first round pick as a result of the Deion Branch trade, they’d have had the opportunity to draft Ben Grubbs, Greg Olsen or Anthony Gonzalez.
All three would likely be filling a need on the Seahawks roster right now, and the Seahawks could have drafted a receiver like Eddie Royal or DeSean Jackson last season, or a running back like Matt Forte rather than drafting John Carlson.
Because there are so many prospects in later rounds, I’m going to highlight a few picks I’d like to see the Seahawks take a look at.
It is my opinion that the Seahawks will need a new starting quarterback in the next three years. Matt Hasselbeck looked like a shell of his former self last year, and has injury concerns that will follow him into 2009.
I also believe that the Seahawks, in not drafting a groom-able QB in the past few seasons, have done themselves a disservice by not giving Seneca Wallace enough time with the ball in his hands.
I was frustrated when the Seahawks twice passed on Trent Edwards in 2007. I felt he was the third best prospect in the 2007 draft and could turn out to be the best pro.
As it sits, he’d be nearing the end of his rookie contract with Matt Hasselbeck still on the books, but think of this.
In 2007, the Falcons, once lead by Mike Vick, traded Matt Schaub, and unproven third round pick, to the Texans for essentially two second-round picks in 2007 and 2008. The Falcons drafted Justin Blalock, their starting left guard with their newly acquired pick in 2007, and used the other pick in part, two pick up Sam Baker, their starting left tackle.
The Seahawks should look to draft a QB who they feel could start in three years.
Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State
Bomar has seemingly shed the demons from his days at Oklahoma. Its not as though the guy had a drug problem, but certainly a tarnished image after violating NCAA rules.
He’s got all the physical tools by anyone’s measure, and near-prototypical size. Bomar set multiple offensive records at Sam Houston State.
Understand that my knowledge of the FCS is far from thorough, I tend to worry how a 56 percent completion rate at Sam Houston State translates into a professional WCO against professional defenses.
Pat White, West Virginia
Is White a quarterback or receiver? After a Senior Bowl MVP performance, I’m convinced someone will give him a shot under center. While his legs may liken him to Seneca Wallace, he’s an inch taller and a more accomplished passer than Wallace.
White has been accurate throughout his college career, failing to complete 65 percent of his passes in only one season, his freshman season.
I think that if White is given time he could be a future starter in a WCO. He may be worth a look in the fourth or fifth round, though some have him being drafted long before then.
Cullen Harper, Clemson
Harper and the next quarterback, were once projected as first round picks. However, since being benched in each QB’s respective senior season, their stock has dropped exponentially.
Harper has a strong arm, and can fit balls into tight spaces. He’s a little over 6’2” according to his Senior Bowl measurements, which should be tall enough for most teams to consider him.
Harper has an awkward, inconsistent release at times. He’s prone to winding up on long passes, not uncommon, but it was the eventual dagger in Byron Leftwich’s heart in Jacksonville.
Curtis Painter, Purdue
Painter, as previously stated, was benched his senior season. Kyle Orton was benched at Purdue also, and he’s turned into a decent NFL quarterback.
At 6’4” Painter has prototypical size, a strong, accurate arm, and a very quick release. On physical skills alone Painter is among this year’s elite quarterbacks.
However, Painter does some things that will drive Offensive Coordinators crazy. He throws off his back foot regularly, throws into coverage regularly, and while he’s been successful at times in college, he’ll be punished for those mistakes in the pros.
If Painter’s given three years on the bench, time to digest a playbook and adopt the WCO philosophy, I’ll boldly state that I think he’ll be the third best quarterback in this draft, presuming Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez both succeed. Painter will likely fall to the later rounds.
Recent years have turned up interesting results from drafting running backs. With guys like Michael Turner, Brandon Jacobs, and Chris Johnson all excelling coming from small colleges, it seems that teams may be shifting their focus at the running-back position.
What seems to be becoming more important isn’t ability of the running back, but how much pounding he’s taken throughout his collegiate career.
Those players, who came from Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, and East Carolina respectively, all played in small conferences where theoretically, linebackers and safeties were smaller and slower, d-lineman were less athletic, and generally, defenses were less punishing.
Looking into the later rounds of the draft, and as I stated in the second-round outlook, the Seahawks should be looking for an element of the running game that they don’t have.
While T.J. Duckett was a decent red zone back last season, he was far from a ball-control back you’d hope to find in any successful team’s repertoire.
There are a few of these guys that could be available in the later rounds.
Rashad Jennings, Liberty University
Watch Rashad Jennings. I can’t figure out how to describe his running style. The best description that I can give is that he runs like Vladimir Guerrero swings a bat.
Allow me to qualify that. Jennings is doesn’t do anything that makes you say “Wow, what a smooth cutback,” or “Man, a nice, fundamentally sound stiff-arm,” or “What a well executed screen,” instead, perhaps by way of lesser competition you’re left saying “God, that guy’s big,” and “Damn, that guy’s fast,” and “Geez, he’s strong.”
Rashad Jennings played at Division 1-AA Liberty and helped the team to a 2007 national championship. He’s a powerful runner, and will punish opposing defenses in the NFL.
Andre Brown, N.C. State
Brown is another big back, as all the backs I describe will be. He’s a load to take down, often requiring gang tackles to bring him down. He’s fairly nimble for his size, and catches balls that aren’t simply dump off passes or swing passes.
Brown was part of a three-headed running attack at N.C. State that included Russell Wilson, the team’s quarterback.
The most impressive thing to me, when looking at Brown’s stats, is that he averaged 4.4 YPC, despite having a long run of 22 yards. That may not seem impressive, but the Seahawks should be coveting a guy who can power ahead for two or three yards when necessary, and not lose ground.
Brown also caught 29 balls, and had an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl by most accounts.
Herb Donaldson, Western Illinois
I don’t know what’s in the water in Illinois, but in recent years we could see productive backs come from Illinois (Rashard Mendenhall), Turner, and Jacobs. Keep an eye on Illinois State’s recruiting classes.
Herb Donaldson is built like LaDainian Tomlinson. He’s another player, much like Jennings, who is hard to project at the pro level because of the level of competition that he faced, but he is simply faster than everyone on the field.
I think he could have a surprising combine, but at 5’11”, 225lbs.; he’s a compact load and with the right coaching and system could be a productive back in the NFL.
Perhaps I should explain one of the main reasons I was so frustrated with the Deion Branch trade.
Branch is an under-sized receiver with decent hands, runs pretty good routes, and has OK speed. That is certainly a combination for a productive receiver, but first-round pick worthy?
I get frustrated with the undue praise bestowed upon “Super Bowl MVPs,” and the increased value this puts on them. The NFL is simply not a game of mutually exclusive equations.
While Branch had perhaps the best game of any Patriot in the Super Bowl, that doesn’t mean that he’s the best player on the roster. It may mean that the team wouldn’t have won the game without him, but it doesn’t mean that were he put on the Cleveland Browns they’d be a lock for February football.
I’ve referred to Branch, cynically, as “Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch” since he became a Seahawk, perhaps as a mental reminder of why Ben Grubbs isn’t helping the Seahawks anchor the left side of the offensive line.
The later rounds are where teams find guys like this, and while I don’t hate Branch as a person, or a player, I feel that the money he commanded and the pick sacrificed for him, from day one, was bound to be a poor value.
With that stated, there are a few receivers I’d like to see on the Seahawks depth chart, regardless of whether they’re behind Michael Crabtree or Juaquin Iglesias.
Brandon Gibson, Washington State
Gibson, by most accounts, is enormously athletic. While I don’t think that’s a prerequisite for greatness in the NFL, finding a great athlete later in the draft is certainly a positive for a team drafting him.
Obviously, with local ties, Gibson could become a fan-favorite very quickly, and would have the entire population east of the Cascades buying his jersey.
Gibson has potential to be a great slot option during his first few years, creating mismatches against nickel backs and linebackers, and perhaps, in time, develop into a productive starter.
Derrick Williams, Penn State
Williams could sneak into the second round. Despite very little production, the speedy Williams has pretty high potential, though he could face a steep learning curve. He’s built like an ideal WCO receiver, small and compact and explosive enough.
Last season, the Bucs drafted Dexter Jackson, who impressed with his 40 time at the combine; however, he was relegated to kick returns in the seven games he played in.
Williams would be an excellent value in the fourth and fifth rounds; I doubt he’ll last that long.
Ramses Barden, Cal Poly
6’6”, 227lbs. Those are imposing numbers. Barden played in Div. 1-AA, and once again, he simply looks like a man amongst boys. He’s physical, but nearly all the routes you see him run are vertical.
Barden would be a major project, and there haven’t been a ton of receivers taller than about 6’3” to have great success in the NFL.
The Seahawks have been missing something since allowing Joe Jurevicius to leave in free agency, and while Barden probably wouldn’t fill that void for a while, he’s an extremely interesting prospect.
Jarett Dillard, Rice
Oh Jarett Dillard, remember that guy? We’ll scream “production is production” until we’re blue in the face, or until the guy producing (4,000+ rec. yards, 60 tds) is 5’11” 178lbs.
Dillard’s draft stock is perhaps the most reliant on his 40 time. Many feel that he’ll run in the mid 4.4’s or low 4.5’s, while others have him in the high 4.3’s. What they’re all missing, in my opinion, is that he runs very good routes, and catches the ball in traffic.
Dillard claims to have a 42” vertical. I personally doubt it, but the combine should reveal the truth.
The Seahawks have truly struggled to replace Steve Hutchinson. While its hard to justify spending that kind of money on an interior lineman, his importance has been made only more obvious in his absence.
Mike Wahle and Rob Sims have both been serviceable when healthy, but the duo hasn’t been able to reignite the potent running game the team had in 2005.
Part of the Giants success in recent years at the running back position has to be credited to their offensive line, as the team can seemingly throw anybody in the backfield and run the ball straight ahead.
Herman Johnson, G, LSU
Johnson is likely a pipe dream, even in the third round, but were he to fall, the Seahawks would have to draft him, even if they took Oher in the first round.
Johnson is 6’7” 380+ lbs, and actually moves well considering his size. He’ll be able to physically dominate from the first day of training camp.
One of the major question marks surround Johnson are the same as what did in Aaron Gibson. Will Johnson be able to control his weight?
Jonathan Luigs, C, Arkansas
In many years, Luigs would have been the best center prospect around. Many are projecting that Luigs goes in the first two rounds, however, there hasn’t been three centers taken in the first three rounds of a draft since 1989.
The Seahawks need to either replace Chris Spencer, or at least light a fire under him to perform, as the team has seen an obvious drop off at the position since Robbie Tobeck retired.
Antoine Caldwell, C, Alabama
Another center in a good draft for offensive linemen. While Alex Mack and Max Unger are getting most the fan-fare, Caldwell was named to the AP All-American first team.
Caldwell helped the Crimson Tide come close to winning a national championship.
Fenuki Tupou, OT, Oregon
Guard or Tackle? Tupou has the size to play tackle, and probably will find himself on the right side if he chooses to do so. He can also play some guard, and could be available later in the draft.
Ryan Delrosal, OT, Dixie State
In 2008 I was very high on Heath Benedict. Unfortunately, shortly before the draft, the Newberry product was found dead, dying of an apparent enlarged heart.
Ryan Delrosal isn’t nearly the prospect that Benedict was, but is extremely athletic and has the size to play in the NFL.