NFL Draft 2011: Mario Harvey and Round 5 Sleepers
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(This is the continuation of a series that refuses to abide by the Mel Kiper/Todd McShay exclusivity approach to the draft and is examining possible talent that won’t be taken in round one of the 2011 NFL Draft starting tonight at 8pm EST on ESPN. So far, I’ve covered rounds two, three and four and will continue until Saturday looking at rounds six and seven.)
As the fifth round begins and the draft sinks deeper and deeper into respective team's “big boards,” the various patterns become clearer. Many of the basic needs for a team stocked with a normal amount of draft picks are filled already.
At this point, the general goal for remaining draft picks is to be able to contribute to a team in some way, shape or form. That could mean a special teams player, or possibly someone with a specialized skill set (like kick returner).
Conversely, there is also the appeal of someone who can fulfill many different roles (a linebacker who can play inside or outside, or a lineman who can play at tackle or guard for example).
Yet the continued theme of later rounds has always been this: solid fifth round picks who become starters emerge from situations where their talent was obscured to most scouts. (And sometimes even the scouts who like them still don’t realize the extent of their find).
Look at players like Michael Turner (drafted in the fifth by San Diego), or Dwight Freeney’s partner in crime, Robert Mathis, in Indianapolis.
Both of those players (who any NFL team would covet), were left till the fifth round for a reason. Turner was considered too slow and Mathis too small.
Trust me when I say there are guys like that in this year’s draft.
Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford
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As Bill Parcells pointed out two nights ago in his ESPN draft special with Mike Tirico (which was awesome by the way), the fullback position has been a dying breed for the last few decades. Ever since the tailback emerged as the focal point of the running game, fullbacks have become ever more overshadowed.
That said, lead blockers are still a necessity in the day and age where margins of victory are decided many times on key fourth and goals or critical situations where an offense only needs one yard (sometimes less).
Owen Marecic is the man you want lead-blocking in those moments. He’s often been described as an "old school" player because he played both fullback and linebacker at various points for Stanford.
Probably the best thing Marecic has going for him is his competiveness. He’s never left wanting when called upon to initiate contact, even if he’s a little smaller than the ideal man in his position.
Nevertheless, he would be a great pick at this point because you know, at the very least, Marecic will work harder than the next man.
Korey Linsdey, CB, Southern Illinois
Korey Lindsey, CB, Southern Illinois
Covering the third/slot receivers has become a serious priority in the NFL. People like Wes Welker and Austin Collie are starters who relish playing inside against a defense’s Nickel cornerback. In response, defenses are trying to get deeper at the cornerback position.
Taking Southern Illinois standout Korey Lindsey would be a smart pick by any team in the fifth round. Though not blessed with exceptional quickness, Lindsey has proven he can cover the other team’s best receiver on a consistent basis as a three year college starter.
He was also only the third Saluki to be named a first team All-American in consecutive seasons (2008 and 2009). This stemmed not from natural talent, but hard work.
In fact, the thing that most scouts agree with is his ability to make intelligent reads and be better prepared for the game than his opposition. That’s the kind of man you want if your defense is playing Peyton Manning, because you know Peyton picks on rookies.
Mario Harvey, ILB/OLB, Marshall
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Harvey is one of my favorites in this fifth-round group. First of all, he’s rated extremely low by ESPN (a 30 out of 100) and doesn’t even warrant a scouting report on their draft site. Motivation is never a problem for people who are discounted like that (and there are always good players who get this same treatment).
Second, he’s supposedly an “inside” linebacker who recorded 8.5 sacks last season and 17.5 tackles for losses. That intrigued me, so I watched some highlights. He was employed mostly as an inside backer, but was employed as an outside linebackers and even a defensive end occasionally at Marshall (and showed competence in every position).
The thing that I personally enjoyed most though was his impressive special teams work. Even when he missed a tackle, he recovered and made the tackle before any of his teammates could. He hustles (like when he had 21 tackles against Tulane and was Conference Defensive Player of the Week) and can hit.
Greg Romeus, DE, Pitt
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Romeus will be invariably discounted from an earlier draft position because of his injury problems in 2010. After a back problem kept him out of the early season, an ACL tear sunk him for the remainder of his senior season.
Now, obviously there's a chance he may not recover fully from the injuries, but just for a second consider his makeup as a player. Romeus was never a player who was a one-dimensional speed-rusher. His game is more balanced than that.
In fact some of his best ratings are as a run-stopper (a rarely talked about quality from the defensive end position). He's a smart player who uses a blend of power and quickness.
Historically, teams who take a shot on an injury concern player don't end up empty-handed. Romeus will know that he has a lot to prove. Sometimes, that's the kind of spark a rookie needs to be successful at the next level.
Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College
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People will throw around various words and descriptions in football (and sports as a whole) like "courageous," "brave" and "heroic." These terms are probably used a little too flippantly when they are, at the end of the day, descriptions for people who are only playing a game.
Mark Herzlich, on the other hand, completely defines these attributes (though he might shy away from such labels). The BC linebacker was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma (a form of cancer) in May 2009.
Thankfully, Herzlich was one of the lucky ones who seems to have survived the bout with disease and was declared cancer-free last year.
He returned to the football field and resumed his role as a team leader, chalking up tackles and displaying an innate football intelligence that has me thinking he could contribute in the NFL.
It's always an asset to have someone on your team who truly savors life every single day. And it helps when they can hit like Herzlich.