The 2010 NFL Draft has concluded, and UCLA has once again carved its niche in the professional ranks as several Bruins leave college for the bigger, stronger, faster, and lucrative National Football League.
As UCLA climbs towards the top of the Pac-10 Conference, one shouldn't be surprised that more Bruins are better-equipped for the intensity and brutality at the next level than in previous years. Let's take a look at who got drafted, who signed rookie free agent contracts, and who was invited to camp for a tryout:
All-America defensive tackle Brian Price was chosen by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the third selection in the second round, getting drafted 35th overall. Playing alongside fellow rookie and top-three pick Gerald McCoy, Price has found himself in an advantageous position to flourish as the two highly-touted draftees wreak havoc on opposing offensive linemen for the next several years.
Tampa Bay’s front office yearns to restore respect to their much-maligned run defense, which ranked dead last in the NFL in 2009, allowing 4.8 yards per rush. Price has looked up to former Tampa Bay great Warren Sapp as one of his primary role models since he was a kid, and will now have an opportunity to break Sapp's team records.
Former defensive captain Alterraun Verner is now a member of the Tennessee Titans after he was chosen as the sixth pick of the fourth round (No. 104 overall).
The Titans traded up in the round to make the pick, and Verner should get a chance to challenge Jason McCourty for a starting cornerback spot opposite Pro Bowler Cortland Finnegan, and shore up a Tennessee pass defense that ranked 31st in the league in 2009 after yielding a whopping 31 passing touchdowns.
After some intrepid lobbying by his agent and support from his fans, wide receiver/kick returner Terrence Austin heard his name announced by Commissioner Goodell in the seventh round.
Austin, who ranked second all-time in career all-purpose yards at UCLA, was the 12th pick of the seventh round (No. 219 overall) by the Washington Redskins. Perhaps other athletes' representatives should follow suit at future pro days with a similar strategy.
At UCLA’s Pro Day, Austin’s agent distributed DVDs to all scouts in attendance, and Austin’s family and friends showed up en masse to rowdily cheer him whenever he made a play in drills.
Austin has a chance to start opposite veteran burner Santana Moss, and will have to compete with recently-signed NFL vets Joey Galloway and Bobby Wade for playing time.
Tight end Logan Paulsen may join Austin in the nation’s capital after Paulsen signed a rookie free agent deal with the Washington Redskins. Although the ‘Skins are fairly stocked at TE with Pro Bowler Chris Cooley and offensively gifted Fred Davis, Cooley was injured for a large chunk of 2009, and Davis excels more in the passing game than blocking.
Perhaps Paulsen can make a name for himself in the Redskins’ rotation if he plays his cards right and blocks well in summer training camp.
Running back Chane Moline will remain on the west coast after he signed a RFA contract with the Oakland Raiders. Although the Raider passing game is in transition what with the signing of former Redskin quarterback Jason Campbell, the running game has been fairly reliable in recent years.
Moline delivers both size and an ability to carry the ball after he started at tailback for the Bruins during the latter stages of 2009. Regardless, he is expected to play strictly fullback for Al Davis.
Linebacker Kyle Bosworth has signed a similar deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and will begin his NFL career under the tutelage of former linebacker great Jack Del Rio.
The Jags had the 27th-ranked passing defense in the league last year, and could stand to benefit from Kyle’s intensity...assuming he makes the team. If he does land on the Week One roster, Bosworth may face his own flesh and blood on the opposite sideline in…
...Korey, who signed a free agent deal of his own with the Denver Broncos.
Denver is scheduled to face the Jags in their first game on Sunday, Sept. 12, and if both players make their respective teams, this matchup could make for an interesting case of sibling rivalry after the Brothers Bosworth had been teammates throughout high school and college.
The Broncos could stand to improve their front seven, and Bosworth makes a nice addition to their linebacker corps if he can persevere through the rigors of NFL training camp first.
Linebacker Reggie Carter is now a member of the Seattle Seahawks after agreeing to a RFA deal. Carter will join fellow LBs Aaron Curry and a healthy Lofa Tatupu in the Pacific Northwest next season.
Not only does Carter have the talent to make the team that ranked 24th in total defense last season, but new Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll is quite familiar with Carter's skill-set back from when they faced each other during their respective Pac-10 days.
Tight end/fullback Ryan Moya has a scheduled tryout with the Cleveland Browns, and Bruin Nation surely wishes him luck in hopes he sticks with the squad at least through the summer. The Browns don’t currently have Pro Bowl talent at tight end, and Moya could find a home in Cleveland if he stays healthy and focused.
Offensive guard Nick Ekbatani has received an invitation from the St. Louis Rams, a team that ranked 28th in passing offense and allowed 44 quarterback sacks in 2009.
If Ekbatani can play as well at he did in Westwood, he could serve as part of the Ram renaissance (“Ramaissance”, anyone? Anyone?) protecting No. 1 overall pick and supposed franchise savior Sam Bradford.
Now that we've covered the former Bruins who have garnered anything ranging from interest to millions of dollars from the NFL in 2010, let's take a peek towards next year at some outstanding UCLA footballers who could make an impact at the professional ranks...
Jones emerged as a starter at defensive end last season, and posted four sacks and 11 tackles-for-loss in 2009. While last year’s stats might not jump off the page, he has made tremendous strides during the recent offseason, and looks like he’ll be the Bruins’ primary pass-rushing specialist in 2010.
As his speed and instincts will provide a valuable asset to the UCLA defense, Jones will continue to serve as a disruptive force in opposing backfields. Pac-10 offensive tackles would be well-served to keep an eye on Datone this fall.
“King Kai” has developed into the best field goal kicker in college football, and could be drafted as early as the second or third round next year by an NFL team that was one missed field goal away from a glorious season.
Not only was Forbath a consensus All-America and the 2009 Lou Groza Award winner, but he has an amazingly powerful yet accurate leg that regularly drills field goals from as far away as 57 yards.
Moore is one of the premier returning safeties in the nation. Having attained All-American honors a year ago, he intercepted 10 passes in 2009 to lead the nation. After an outstanding sophomore campaign in which he picked off more passes than any college football player since 1993, he enters his junior year as the foundation of the Bruin defensive backfield.
Although Rahim is still just a junior, he already possesses great size, speed and instincts for the position, and may have a difficult decision to make in terms of returning for his senior year versus going pro after this season concludes.
The talented junior possesses All-American-caliber big-play ability and speed that will likely attract a smattering of NFL scouts to UCLA’s 2011 Pro Day. Last year, the strong-side linebacker demonstrated his athleticism and acute awareness with two interceptions returned for touchdowns inside the opponent’s three-yard line (pictured), and scored a third TD on a fumble return.
One of the top returning outside linebackers in the nation, Ayers will likely be an All-Pac-10 player this year, and possibly a legitimate talent in the professional ranks down the road.