Call me nerdy, but the NFL Draft is one of my favorite events involving the great sport of football. For three days each year, my eyes stay glued to the television, my computer screen, and my phone to make sure that I see each draft pick and analysis. To be honest, I don't know why. Perhaps I enjoy comparing my research and observations of the best college players in the country to those of the professional scouts. Maybe it's because I've witnessed first-hand the talent of several prospects from the time they were in high school through their final performances in bowl games, and I want to see where to continue watching their careers. A lot of Friday nights and Saturdays have been spent watching these athletes, and seeing them make it at the professional level is my return on investment I guess you could say. And better still, I'm a sucker for the story lines behind the draft picks (i.e. - the Michael Oher's who overcame harsh childhoods to become overnight millionaires or the Heisman trophy winners who were over-hyped in college yet become free agents). It's more than a professional gambling hall where you win some and lose some. It's the end of one journey and the beginning of another for these young men.
The following is a list of all the former Bulldogs drafted this past weekend along with where I had them pegged to go, where they actually went, and my prediction/analysis.
- MY PICK: 6TH TO CLEVELAND
- ACTUAL PICK: 17TH TO PITTSBURGH
Granted, I made my draft predictions back in March. But still, I didn't think the medical history would scare that many teams into letting Mel Kiper's previous "Number 1 on the Big Board" prospect slip by. He was cleared to play by a top notch medical staff, and his chances of his spinal injury repeating itself are about as good as a running back tearing up their knee. It's football folks, there's always a chance. The Steelers boldly proclaimed before the Draft that they would not let him get by, and they stood by their word. Honestly, there isn't a whole lot that Jones needs to improve on in his game. He possesses great lateral movement and speed for an OLB, and he's deceptively strong. But in the pros, the offensive linemen are bigger and faster too, so he'll have to step it up a notch. He immediately is a contender to start in James Harrison's vacated outside linebacker spot, and if he adapts as quickly as he did when he transferred to Georgia, he'll be a star very soon.
- MY PICK: 19TH TO NEW YORK (GIANTS)
- ACTUAL PICK: 30TH TO ST. LOUIS
I wasn't entirely disappointed with his sliding a little as he didn't help himself in the off-season (no DUIs over the summer please kids). The fact that he still went in the first round is a testament to his talent, and Lord only knows the Rams need it. Many analysts are projecting him to start right away, and teamed with James Laurinaitis, he'll be a force to be reckoned with. He'll need to become a more natural linebacker to succeed in the pros, but he has the physical tools to do it. Keeping his nose clean off the field will hopefully not be a tall order for him. I'd like to see Tree become another Thomas Davis in the pros instead of an Odell Thurman. St. Louis quietly had a solid draft, and could sneak up on their division if their young picks mature quickly.
- MY PICK: 1ST ROUND, 24TH TO INDIANAPOLIS
- ACTUAL PICK: 82ND TO NEW ORLEANS
Okay, so I went out on a limb here with my prediction and didn't come through. I wasn't alone in thinking that Jenkins had some 1st Round talent, but realistically, he's a much safer pick in the 3rd round. Jenkins can provide the talent and impact of a 1st rounder without having to get as much guaranteed money. He didn't have quite the impact in 2012 that he did in 2011, but performed well at the combine and pro day. The biggest concern regarding him is which John Jenkins the Saints will get. On one hand, there's the strong and shifty rock who can clog up the line of scrimmage and also pressure the quarterback at times. On the other hand, there's the hefty and tired man-child who sometimes disappeared for several plays. He has shown that he can adapt to higher levels of competition, but how quickly can he do it?
- MY PICK: 3RD ROUND, 75TH TO NEW ORLEANS
- ACTUAL PICK: 84TH TO CINCINNATI
Boy I almost nailed this one. The Saints really wanted a safety in this draft, but they opted to grab one early with Kenny Vaccaro out of Texas. I had a Dawg going in Round 3 to New Orleans (see Jenkins above), and I had Williams going just 9 picks earlier. But hey, when in doubt over where a Georgia Bulldog will go in the Draft, it's always safe to bet on Cincinnati. Marvin Lewis and the Bengals love their Dawgs (7 on the current active roster!) and Williams fits their mold with his talent and leadership ability. The safety position is pretty much an open competition right now, and his work ethic should earn him some serious playing time. He needs to get a little looser and fly around more (he plays more like a fast linebacker), and his coverage skills could use some polishing. But still, there's something to be said for spending a lot of time in the film room and constantly challenging yourself like he does. I'm really looking forward to seeing how his future progresses.
- MY PICK: 5TH ROUND, 154TH TO CAROLINA
- ACTUAL PICK: 134TH TO KANSAS CITY
So close once again! Right round, wrong team. Corner wasn't really an area of need for K.C., but then again they really didn't hit on several positions where they need help. Commings will step into an environment where he can learn as a backup and make his bones on special teams before seeing extended playing time. Can he succeed? Yes. Physically he's the ideal size for a corner in the pros.: fairly tall, rangy, and tough. He could be faster, but his cover skills are solid. Will he succeed? Eh, it's hard to tell. His career was defined by several big plays followed by stretches where he'd be pretty quiet. Hopefully he's matured a little too. If he can keep his head on right and learn the schemes, Commings could surprise as a pro.
- MY PICK: 4TH ROUND, 101ST TO CLEVELAND
- ACTUAL PICK: 161ST TO DENVER
I admit that I overshot this one just a little. However, I still think he'll make a decent pro, and was worthy of a 4th round pick. Was King the best receiver in the Draft? Nope. Was he the best receiver in school history? Definitely not. Was he consistent, did he improve throughout his career, and does he have the physical tools necessary to succeed? I vote yes. He'll need to polish up a little as a route runner, and could be a little more physical at the line of scrimmage. But overall, his speed and good hands could help him break into a receiver rotation in the Broncos' pass happy offense. When Peyton Manning's your QB, it's pretty easy to look good right?
- MY PICK: 3RD ROUND, 64TH TO JACKSONVILLE
- ACTUAL PICK: 188 TO CHICAGO
So much for impressing the scouts pre-draft and climbing up the boards right? This guy turned heads as he flew through the combine and pro day workouts, and some analysts predicted he could climb as high as the 2nd Round. In fact, he was Number 1 on Mel Kiper's Big Board from about the middle of the 3rd round on. I'm still scratching my head that so many teams let him fall so hard. But then again, if he hadn't impressed so much after his career was over, he would've gone in the 6th round anyway I think. In a way, these teams might just have exemplified my long held belief that performance matters more than intangibles. I'm still disappointed that he fell so far, but perhaps it was for the best. Physically, Washington is a freak that could one day start for daaaaaaaa Bears. But as we saw throughout his 4 years, it didn't always translate to the field. He'll need to find whichever position suits him best (DE or OLB), and he'll have to work his butt off to keep that momentum he developed in postseason workouts going. However, I think he's up to the task.
- MY PICK: 4TH ROUND, 100TH ARIZONA
- ACTUAL PICK: 191ST TO WASHINGTON
If he had had the same caliber season in 2012 that he had in 2011, Rambo would have easily been a 2nd to 3rd round pick. However, failed drug tests and rather inconsistent play a top pick does not make. Talent wised, Washington might have gotten a steal here. His ball hawking skills are superb, even if he got a little cocky with them at times last year, and he's not afraid to get physical. Rambo still needs to get a little stronger, and he needs to study film more instead of relying purely on instinct. Still, t I think the Redskins got an athlete who has truly seen the error of his ways, and has dedicated himself to proving his worth. They need someone to step up at safety badly, and he steps into an ideal situation where he can show off his skills while absorbing more knowledge.
Kwame Geathers - San Diego - I had him going in the 7th round to San Francisco, but that was mainly because of his size. He'll really have to work hard to make the roster, but it's not like the Chargers are oozing with talent on the line. There's a chance.
Marlon Brown - Houston - I had him signing with Baltimore, but there is actually a decent opportunity for him to make the Texans roster. Andre Johnson is the only Wide Receiver returning with any real talent after they let Kevin Walter go. They like to use their Tight Ends a lot, but a tall WR with good hands could be very useful.
Abry Jones - Jacksonville - Even if I had him going to Green Bay, my outlook for him remains the same. He's a good kid who was unfortunate to get hurt like he did, and his work ethic may help him out. He's an average defensive lineman at best, so he'll have to work hard not to get overlooked.
Branden Smith - Tampa Bay - I pegged him to be picked up by the hometown Falcons purely because of his speed. Instead, he wound up with division rival Tampa Bay. I don't see him make a roster unless he somehow learns how to be a corner or consistent returner, something he didn't do in Athens (sorry for the harshness but 5 Star recruits eventually get their act together).
Mike Gilliard - St. Louis - I didn't see him landing with a team since he doesn't really stand out physically and his 2012 season was atrocious. Maybe he'll get his head in the game for the Rams. Who knows? Short and sweet yes, but I'm still kind of angry about last season after he had and incredible 2011 campaign.
Christian Robinson - St. Louis - Wow, three Bulldog Linebackers going to the Rams. Impressive. I didn't have Robinson signing anywhere originally, but I'm glad to see it. He was always touted as one of the best leaders on the team, despite the fact that his play was average. Great kid, and I wish him all the best of luck.
Congratulations to all of these young men and good luck to them as they embark on this journey in the professional world. Hopefully, their time wearing the Red and Black has prepared them for the roles and challenges that lay ahead. After all, we breed the best in Georgia because we are the best. Go Dawgs!