2011 NFL Draft: 10 Prospects You Should Root for on Draft Day
Many fans follow the draft hoping for the best players and the best fits to fall to their teams. Talent, "sexiness" as a prospect, and what fans feel a team needs are what many NFL followers look for in their teams' draft picks.
But outside of rooting for your favorite team to grab Julio Jones or Da'Qaun Bowers, there are some prospects who have high character, underdog roles, or who have overcome injuries. They are feel good stories and guys who, if they succeed in the NFL, should be ideal role models for now and in the future for the NFL.
JJ Watt, Defensive End, Wisconsin
A former Central Michigan Chippewa, Watt decided that the best opportunity for him as a football player would be to leave Central Michigan and walk on at a bigger football school, Wisconsin.
It was a bold move going from scholarship athlete to unfunded practice-squad player, but Watt proved that he made the right decision. Watt went from borderline-roster player to the team's top NFL Draft prospect in just two years, and he has proved that work ethic can lead to success.
Sam Acho, Defensive End, Texas
An extremely bright, smart, well-educated, upstanding person, Sam Acho is clearly going to succeed in life regardless of whether it's on the field, as a coach, in someway related to football, or in any other venture he decides to embark on.
Acho has 3-4 outside linebacker rushing ability in the NFL and I think he has the football IQ and quickness to play in the NFL as a starter, but I'll be sure to follow Acho whether he sticks in the NFL or not.
Brandon Fusco, Center, Slippery Rock
It's always fun for fans to latch on the small-school prospect bandwagon because almost everyone loves to root for the little guy. However, some small-school NFL Draft prospects end up at those little schools because of red flags for teams. But I can't speak for other non-character concerning small-school prospects,
I have met the quick-learning, humble center prospect out of small Slippery Rock University named Brandon Fusco, who may not only be high in the small-school ranking, but among the best three or four at his position in this draft.
Greg Romeus, Defensive End, Pittsburgh
Romeus likely could have been a top 20 pick had he declared for the draft last year, but he returned to Pittsburgh to both finish his college education and further boost his draft stock for this year's draft.
But after two major injuries in the preseason and shortly after his return, teams are now very concerned with his potential longevity as an NFL prospect. A prototypical 4-3 defensive end in body shape, Romeus is still a hard working, humble prospect who deserves to get healthy and get his shot as an NFL prospect.
Bruce Carter, Outside Linebacker, North Carolina
With the North Carolina football program being in a state of turmoil this year with many suspensions handed out, a player who got lost in the transition for many is outside linebacker Bruce Carter. He showed first-round athletic ability in the past, but suffered a major knee injury early in the season and was out for the whole year.
So far, reports are that he should make a recovery and be ready for the early-to-middle part of his rookie year. Not a character issue at all unlike many of the suspended North Carolina Tar Heels, this humble talent could be worth the risk on draft day.
Graig Cooper, Running Back, Miami (Fla.)
He was one of the best prospects coming out of high school and hyped as the next great Miami running back. However, after a devastating knee injury that left significant damage and limited his potential as a runner for the future, Cooper's NFL dreams were put on hold as he took over a year away from the game to recover.
While he's no longer a highly-coveted prospect, his rehab has gone about as well as it could have, and despite having an injury that could have ended his football career, he still has a very good chance to get drafted.
Mark Herzlich, Outside Linebacker, Boston College
Surviving cancer treatment is something no one who has never gone through it can ever full grasp on its struggles and how it impacts the mind and body combined. However, it's almost inconceivable to not only recover from the cancer that Mark Herzlich had, but also to return to play a spot at a very high level after only a little over a year.
Herzlich steadily got better, more in shape, and back into the football groove over the course of the season, and though he still isn't back to his pre-cancer treatment level, it's hard to not root for your team to pick him in the middle or late in draft.
Danny Watkins, Offensive Guard, Baylor
Watkins slowly moved up draft boards this year, as he went from a raw, out-of-place left tackle to a quick-footed, athletic guard or right tackle prospect who now is likely to be picked in the top 40. A former firefighter, Watkins started football later than most NFL Draft prospects and will be the oldest potential draft pick in this draft.
Still a humble, well-spoken, hard-working talent, Watkins optimizes on and off the field, as a football and non-football prospect who teams and fans embrace once they succeed in the NFL.
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada and Greg McElroy, Alabama
I've put these two prospects together because they both have qualities that actually did impact my scouting report. Greg McElroy, a finalist for a Rhodes scholarship, has better football skills and football IQ than he gets credit for.
When I spoke with him in Mobile, Alabama, he was always working with the fans, signing autographs, and still making time to talk to everyone who wanted a piece of him, as well as NFL teams. He's got media-favorite written all over him if he ever becomes a starter in the NFL.
Colin Kaepernick is being looked at as a first-round quarterback, but much of that isn't because of his NFL readiness. I've gotten a chance to talk to every quarterback in my top 10 except Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton (neither of whom I've heard have top-notch intangibles), and there isn't another quarterback who has his type of contagious personality, leadership ability, humbleness yet confidence, and willingness to learn and be coachable that Kaepernick has.
He'll need a lot of work in the NFL. Based on his on-the-field ability, he is probably a second or third-round prospect, but if you believe in the "it" factor in quarterbacks, I'm pretty sure Colin Kaepernick has "it."