New York—Good morning friends. Your humble correspondent is in NYC today to work the NFL Draft for the CBS College Sports Network. We’ll have coverage of the entire first round tonight and will do something a little different by looking at the draft from both the pro and the college perspective. It should be fun so please tune us in.
Before I move on to today’s topic I want you to know that I caught up with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive after yesterday’s post on whether or not the conference should be proactive rather than reactive to possible Big Ten expansion. The commissioner was very candid in saying that the SEC is not going be passive if the Big Ten blows up the college football landscape by going to 16 teams.
“We will be proactive,” said Slive. “We will do our due diligence and determine the right course of action for our conference.”
Read into that what you will. I think it means that everything is on the table. Big Ten commish Jim Delany told reporters in Scottsdale, Ariz. (site of the annual BCS meetings) that his plans for expansion are not as far along as media reports have suggested. So it is not a question of “if” but “when.” So other commissioners (Big East, ACC to name two) have to start making contingency plans in case they lose teams. We will be talking about this subject a lot more, to be sure.
But first, let’s have some fun.
Here are 10 Southern players I’m keeping my eye on for the next two days while working the draft. The order has nothing to do with how high they will be picked, but my curiosity factor about what team picks them. Feel free to add your own names to this list:
1. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee: A once in a generation defensive back who will be a great pro. Had 12 interceptions his first two years and people just quit throwing in his direction. I’ve seen a bunch of drafts that have him going to Cleveland with the No. 7 pick. But I wonder if Kansas City will surprise us and take him at No. 5?
2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida: The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner. A great, great college player whose talents may or may not translate to the NFL level. There has been speculation that Jacksonville would take him at No. 10. I can’t see it. But New England has three picks (44, 47, 53) in the second round. Florida coach Urban Meyer and Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick are tight.
3. Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech: I think Seattle and new coach Pete Carroll may take Morgan at No. 6 because Morgan is perfect for the 4-3 defense that Carroll runs. Seattle may gamble and hope Morgan is still there when the Seahawks pick again at No. 14. Morgan is a helluva football player.
4. C.J. Spiller, RB/KR, Clemson: This guy put up a ton of stats at Clemson but here is the most impressive: Over his career Spiller had 21 touchdown plays of 50 yards or more. Jacksonville needs to excite the fan base and sell tickets. They can’t take Tebow at No. 10 but they could take Spiller.
5. Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama: I saw McClain start his first college football game in 2007 and I saw him play his last against Texas in the BCS championship game. Along with Al Wilson of Tennessee (1998), McClain was one of the toughest, most disciplined leaders I’ve seen among defensive players. The team that drafts this guy will instantly transform its defense into something faster and more athletic. He is a no-nonsense guy who is skipping the glitz of New York to watch the draft on TV with his family.
6. Demaryius “Bay Bay” Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech: Everybody is talking about Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant as the best receiver in the draft. But Thomas is the guy you want if a want a pro who acts like a pro. He’s big. He strong. He makes plays. He averaged 25.09 yards on 46 catches.
7. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida: A lot of teams like Pouncey because he looks like a guy who could play in the NFL for a dozen years. He can play guard or center which is why, if he’s still on the board when Falcons choose at No. 19, they have to consider him. I think Pittsburgh beats Atlanta to the punch and takes him at No. 18.
8. Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee: Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer told me the other day that Williams came to Knoxville as a project who was on the pudgy side. Not anymore. Williams flourished in his one year under Monte Kiffin. He could be the third defensive tackle picked.
9. Joe Haden, CB, Florida: When the Gators were tinkering with the idea of using Haden for some snaps at quarterback last season (they didn’t do it), I went back and looked up his high school stats (he is a native of Fort Washington, Md.). They were staggering as he set a Maryland public high school record with 7,731 career passing yards. This guy is just an incredible athlete and was the best lock down corner in the SEC. A bunch of mock drafts have him going to the 49ers at No. 13. That sounds about right.
10. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida: This guy has intrigued me ever since I visited Skip Holtz, the new coach at USF. George Selvie was an All-America defensive end at South Florida and got all the pub. But Holtz told me he was blown away by Pierre-Paul when he started looking at tape. I think Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan and Michigan’s Brandon Graham are better prospects at defensive end but we’ll see. Somebody is going to fall in love with his athleticism because this guy is a freak (6-6, 275) in the most positive sense of the word.
Here are a bunch of other guys I’m watching from Southern schools. I had to leave a lot of good ones out. Please add to the list.
Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech: I’m not sure exactly what the NFL boys want in a running back but I have to believe that Dwyer has it. Good size. Good speed.
Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee: I was very impressed with the way Hardesty blocked out all the distractions at Tennessee and had a great senior season.
Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama: It’s got to be a 3-4 team but there are a lot more of them now in the NFL. I can’t believe this guy is going to fall to the second round.
Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida: This guy’s stock has been falling since he was suspended right before the SEC championship game (alcohol related).
Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida: What Tebow was to the Florida offense this guy was to the defense.
Dexter McCluster, RB, Ole Miss: The Rebels finally wised up and started giving this guy the ball last season. He’s small (5-8, 175) but he can make plays.
Riley Cooper, WR, Florida: Good athlete who knows how to run routes and get open. He became Tebow’s Go-To guy for most of the 2009 season.
Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina: Nobody will miss a player more in 2010 than the Gamecocks will miss Norwood (29 career sacks).
Rennie Curran, LB, Georgia: Could have used one more year in college. He’s small but Curran is an absolute tackling machine.
Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama: If he had listened to Nick Saban and returned to Tuscaloosa Jackson would have been an All-America player in 2010 and a first-round pick in 2011. He still may go in the first round.
Trevard Lindley, CB, Kentucky: A native of Hiram, I have always liked Lindley as a play maker and a lock down corner. There are a bunch of DBs ahead of him on my board.
Jevan Snead, QB, Ole Miss: This time last year he was projected as a possible first-round pick because of his arm. But he struggled in 2009 and decided to leave school early. Don’t think he’ll be picked in the first two rounds.
Jonathan Crompton, QB, Tennessee: I read and hear some NFL teams like his arm. That may be true but he still has a long way to go as a decision maker.
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