AFC South: 2014 NFL draft

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some day-after draft thoughts on the Titans' newest quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, and newest running back, Bishop Sankey.

Mettenberger
Don’t overestimate Mettenberger at the start: The Titans clearly wanted to add a big, pocket passer to their stable of unproven quarterbacks. But sixth-rounder Zach Mettenberger doesn’t roll into Nashville as a fix-it-now quarterback. Coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasized that the starting job remains Jake Locker’s. Mettenberger arrives with questions about a knee just four months removed from reconstructive ACL surgery as well as with reports of a back issue and a failed drug test at the combine.

If Locker is healthy, I expect he will start and veteran Charlie Whitehurst will be the game-day backup. The guy who would come off the bench for an injured Locker needs to have enough experience to play without having practiced, and that will be Whitehurst, not Mettenberger. If Locker is out for an extended time and Mettenberger has progressed, then it’s possible the Titans would install the rookie with a week to plan a game for him and get him ready for it.

Sankey can shine: Most Titans fans aren’t particularly well versed on the Pac-12, and geographically that’s understandable. They saw plenty of Tre Mason with Auburn and at least some of Carlos Hyde with Ohio State while they saw far less of Bishop Sankey in Washington. Mason was a great college back, but Auburn ran all kinds of misdirection stuff that got him into space, the sort of space it’s hard to create by scheme in the NFL. Hyde is a power guy, and the Titans view Shonn Greene as their power guy.

Tennessee wanted a well-rounded back who can do everything required of a three-down player. Sankey compares to Giovani Bernard of the Bengals, and he looked like a really good player in Cincinnati as a rookie. Greene and Dexter McCluster are going to get work for the Titans. But I’ll predict that out of the committee it’ll be Sankey who qualifies as the lead back and winds up with the most touches.
INDIANAPOLIS – There’s always somebody in class who has to end up with the lowest grade. You know the student everybody snickers at because he didn’t get as good of a grade as the rest of his classmates.

For the Indianapolis Colts that’s them when it comes to grading their 2014 draft class. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. dished out his grades for the draftInsider and the Colts are the bottom of the list. Kiper gave the Colts a league-worst D-plus.

The Colts entered the draft with needs at safety, guard, linebacker and receiver. They addressed receiver in the third round by selecting Mississippi’s Donte Moncrief. The Colts drafted linebacker Andrew Jackson from Western Kentucky in the sixth round and Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort, a second-round pick, played tackle with the Buckeyes but will likely slide to guard in the NFL.

The Colts, who were without a first-round pick, did not touch their most glaring need – safety – in the draft.

"There’s a small handful of guys in this draft that we felt like we could go get, it just didn’t happen," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "But it was not a deep safety class and if there was a safety we liked, we would have took one."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars had an exceptional draft.

That's according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who had the Jaguars as one of five teams that earned an "A" for their work from Thursday-SaturdayInsider. San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Houston and St. Louis were the other teams.

Kiper based his grades on three criteria:

How much overall talent did a team add based on board position?

How effectively did they address key personnel needs?

How efficient were they in maneuvering on the draft board?

Kiper wasn't thrilled with the value of quarterback Blake Bortles at No. 3, but he did like the Jaguars addressing their need at receiver with Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in the second round. Even if Bortles doesn't play in 2014 -- which is the plan, according to GM David Caldwell -- those two players will help an offense that averaged just 15.4 points per game last season.

Kiper also likes Telvin Smith, an undersized linebacker whom he compares to Tampa Bay's Lavonte David, and the selection of cornerback Aaron Colvin, a second-round talent who dropped to the fourth because he tore his right ACL during Senior Bowl practices.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Defensive end Jonathan Newsome doesn't hide behind his checkered past. He knows he made mistakes, the kind that caused him to transfer from Ohio State to Ball State, a mid-major college in the Mid-American Conference. Newsome owned up to those mistakes during a conference call moments after the Indianapolis Colts made him the No. 166 overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft on Saturday.

Newsome started his college career with the Buckeyes but transferred because he was "living it up a little bit too much" at Ohio State. He missed spring practice in 2011 because of academic problems.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Newsome
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhColts prospect Jonathan Newsome hopes to follow in the footsteps of pass-rusher Robert Mathis.
"I was young and I was dumb, honestly," Newsome said. "Young and dumb and making dumb decisions as far as my academics, and I lost trust in my coaches. Before I had stayed there and tried to dig myself out of a hole that was so deep. I'd rather go get a fresh start at Ball State, where I had some former high school teammates that were playing there and a good supporting staff. That was the reason I left. I just needed a fresh start."

New school, same troubles for Newsome.

He was suspended two games at Ball State after being arrested in August 2012 for marijuana possession when a bag containing marijuana was found in his wallet. He was also held on a warrant after an incident in November 2011 when he and a teammate were accused of shoplifting.

"My mother's always been supportive of me," Newsome said. "Even when I did mess up, she was always there for me. And my head coach from high school, coach [Ted] Ginn [Sr.], was always there in my corner. When I messed up, he got me back right, got my focus back right and all my priorities straight.

"There were times when there was doubt, but ultimately, I was mentally tough enough to overcome all that stuff, and now I'm just sitting here and I'm an Indianapolis Colt. I can't even explain how crazy that story is, to go from almost getting kicked out of school to being an NFL draft pick, graduate. Everything's looking up and I'm going to continue with this success. I don't plan on having any more bumps in the road."

The Colts did thorough research on Newsome, and, just like he was with the media Saturday, he was just as honest to team officials when he met with them.

"If you lie, you’re dead to us," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said.

Newsome had 116 tackles (26 for a loss) and 16.5 sacks in his two seasons at Ball State.

"The tape doesn’t lie," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "It’s out there and the guy is a football junkie. It’s his whole life, and he’s a four core special-teams guy, and he embraces that. He loves that. It’s hard. As you guys know, it’s hard to find pass-rushers, and the way our league’s going, you can never have enough of them, so we feel great. As the board was getting plucked away, we were sweating bullets."

Former Colts general manager and current ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian said Newsome has "Robert Mathis-like ability."

"I think that’s a good comparison," Newsome said. "We ran multiple fronts at Ball State. We ran 4-3, we ran 3-4, we ran a lot of nickel. When we ran 3-4, I was an outside linebacker. I stood up a lot. When we ran a 4-3, I stood up on the edge. I can do all that stuff."

Mathis, like Newsome, came out of a small school -- Alabama A&M -- and he's turned in what should be a Hall of Fame career. Mathis has 111 career sacks.

"I’m going to be his little brother. He doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to be like his little brother," Newsome said. "I’m going to learn from [him]. I watched him all last year. We have similar builds.

"I can’t wait to learn from him. He led the league in sacks last year. That’s what I love to do -- sack the quarterback. Why not learn from the best?"
INDIANAPOLIS -- The assumption heading into the draft was that the Indianapolis Colts would use one of their five picks on a safety.

Seventeen safeties were picked during the three-day draft. None of them were selected by the Colts.

"There’s a small handful of guys in this draft that we felt like we could go get, it just didn’t happen," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "But it was not a deep safety class and if there was a safety we liked, we would have took one."

So as of now, in-house players Delano Howell, Sergio Brown, Corey Lynch and Colt Anderson, who have combined to start 22 games, are the stop candidates to man the starting safety spot opposite of LaRon Landry next season. Longtime Colts safety Antoine Bethea signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March.

"You don’t just because of need go reach and try to grab and fill a need when the value’s not there," coach Chuck Pagano said. "I feel good about the guys that are here and I think at the end of the day, we bolstered our front seven with acquiring D’Qwell Jackson and Art Jones and the two defensive players we picked up. The better that front seven is, the more pressure you can put on the passer, it certainly helps the back end. We’ll be fine."

Houston Texans draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
5/10/14
10:46
PM ET
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

HOUSTON -- A wrap-up of the Houston Texans' draft. Click here for a full list of Texans draftees.

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe Texans selected who they consider the best athlete in this year's draft in Jadeveon Clowney.
Best move: The Texans' selection of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was a no-brainer. Contrary to pre-draft rumblings, they didn't give Clowney advance warning they would be selecting him first overall. He even got nervous as the minutes ticked down while the Texans were on the clock. They waited until three minutes remained in their time to call him and tell him the news. Clowney's ability, both physically and mentally, made him the right pick for the Texans. They'll make him an outside linebacker, which will be a transition, but will use him in a lot of different ways. They needed outside pass-rush help, and, regardless of need, Clowney was the best player they could have taken.

Riskiest move: The Texans didn't take many risks. They stuck to their board, almost stubbornly so, and stayed with players who fit the description of what they've sought. They didn't take any players with character risks. They did take two players whose injury histories might have impacted where they were drafted in Alfred Blue and Jeoffrey Pagan, so I suppose those constitute the biggest risks. Blue tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in 2012 after starting the season as LSU's starting running back ahead of Jeremy Hill, who was drafted in the second round. Pagan had shoulder surgery, which prevented him from being able to work out at the combine. His combine experience was more about the medical evaluation, but he feels he could have raised his stock by showing what he could do athletically.

Most surprising move: It was a bit of a surprise the Texans waited until the fourth round to take a quarterback. General manager Rick Smith acknowledged at the end of Friday's Rounds 1 and 2 that there was still another need they hadn't addressed. Three quarterbacks went in the first round -- Blake Bortles third to Jacksonville, Johnny Manziel 22nd to Cleveland and Teddy Bridgewater 32nd to Minnesota. Two more, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo, went in the second round, and none went in the third round. The Texans had Tom Savage graded in the fourth round and took him there.

File it away: The Texans got bigger on defense. At 6-foot-5, 266 pounds, Clowney is bigger than any outside linebacker currently on their roster. Louis Nix III, the Notre Dame nose tackle the Texans traded up to get, is 6-foot-2, 331 pounds, making him one of the heaviest players on defense. Pagan is 6-foot-3, 310 pounds. Safety Lonnie Ballentine, "Mr. Irrelevant," is the tallest safety the Texans have at 6-foot-3. The Texans staff will be molding some of these guys' bodies to what they're looking for, but they have a good starting point with most of them. Smith said after the draft the Texans got bigger and tougher. It was a goal of theirs, and it's something to monitor as the offseason melds into the season. How will that added size and toughness translate onto the field?
HOUSTON -- Bill O'Brien doesn't believe in ceilings.

He used to. Then a doctor got furious once when the Texans head coach, just a father of a young boy with a rare neurological disorder to this doctor, kept asking him about the ceiling for his son. Now he's learned: ceilings only exist when you let them.

It's something O'Brien carries into his coaching.

"In my opinion, nobody has a ceiling," O'Brien said. "There’s no ceiling. You create your own ceiling by talking about ceilings. I don’t think you ever talk about that here. Ever. We teach the guy. We want the guy to get better every day. We try to do what’s best for the player with how we teach him, the situations that we put him in."

He shared that story in response to a question about Tom Savage's ceiling. The quarterback talked openly Saturday about the things he has to learn, having played a disjointed football career interrupted by transfers, with a brief construction gig tossed in. Savage was the Texans' fourth-round pick on the draft's final day, and one of 10 draft picks the Texans made this week.

The Texans entered the draft seeming to need a quarterback badly, then took four players before addressing the position. Taking Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick was a no-brainer. But guard Xavier Su'a-Filo and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz both came in ranges where quarterbacks could have gone. Defensive tackle Louis Nix is a special case -- a guy the Texans had rated much higher, who fell to the 83rd overall pick.

"One thing that I felt about the quarterback position is there’s three guys here right now that we enjoy working with that have played in the NFL with Ryan (Fitzpatrick), Case (Keenum) and T.J. (Yates)," O'Brien said. "We have a lot of respect for those guys. We have respect for how they've bought into what we’re doing. We have respect for how they’ve learned and how they’ve gone out there those last few days of practice and tried to get better every day. ...We have three guys we can work with that are willing to learn, and if somebody happened to fall to a place we can draft him, then that’s what we would do. That’s what we did with Tom Savage."

The Texans had a fourth-round grade on Savage, which is not typically a round in which you find starters. It's not impossible, of course, but usually teams look to Rounds 1 through 3 to find starters. Their own lack of panic about the position (and panic can be harmful in a draft room) had them stick calmly to their board, trade up only if someone fell.

Were they right?

That's impossible to tell right now. But trusting your work and the months of work by scouts and assistant coaches is a critical part of this process. Being right is also important, but that judgment has to come later.

It has to come after coaches have had the opportunity to maximize what they get out of various players. Once they hit their ceilings, actually, let's call them their peaks, that's when judging this draft class will make sense.

Indianapolis Colts draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
5/10/14
7:59
PM ET
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


INDIANAPOLIS -- A wrap-up of the Indianapolis Colts' draft. Click here for a full list of the Colts' draftees.

[+] EnlargeDonte Moncrief
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesThe Colts are banking on Donte Moncrief to evolve into a standout wide receiver for seasons to come.
Best move: The Colts started to prepare for life after receiver Reggie Wayne when they selected Donte Moncrief out of Mississippi in the third round. He's an all-around receiver who isn't afraid to throw a block if necessary. Moncrief left school early and is still a raw player, but he's not expected to come right in and contribute. It's all about the future with him. The Colts are set at the top three receiver spots with Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks. But Wayne and Nicks will be free agents in 2015. Wayne is closer to retirement than playing another five or six years. There are not many receivers better in the league whom Moncrief can learn from than Wayne.

Riskiest move: The Colts went into the draft with question marks at safety. They left the draft with the same question marks. The Colts are looking for a starter to play alongside LaRon Landry after Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco in March. It hurt the Colts that they did not have a first-round pick, because Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward was selected by the 49ers at the end of the opening round. Mel Kiper Jr. said Ward was the best cover safety in the draft. Now the Colts are left with Delano Howell, Sergio Brown, Corey Lynch and Colt Anderson as in-house candidates to start at safety -- unless they sign a free agent at that position.

Most surprising move: Linebacker Andrew Jackson in the sixth round. Jackson played at Western Kentucky, where he didn't even make first-team All-Sun Belt Conference. Jackson made the second team after recording 95 tackles last season. The Colts had more pressing needs -- safety -- than adding another linebacker to the roster. The Seattle Seahawks selected free safety Eric Pinkins five picks after the Colts in the sixth round. Who knows if Pinkins will pan out, but the Colts could have selected him to see if he has what it takes to play safety in the league. Now the Colts could end up going with guys currently on their roster to compete for the starting job.

File it away: Selecting Moncrief means the race for one of the final receiver spots will be competitive between Griff Whalen, Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill. The Colts could end up releasing at least two of them depending on how many receivers they want to keep on the roster next season. The Colts selected Brazill in the sixth round in 2012. Whalen has bounced around on and off the practice squad. Rogers likely has the inside track on making the roster over Brazill and Whalen. The Colts have high hopes for him because of his speed and size at receiver. His biggest issue is avoiding trouble off the field.
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A wrap-up of the Jacksonville Jaguars' draft. Click here for a full list of Jaguars draftees.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonThe Jacksonville Jaguars added much-needed depth at the receiver position, drafting Marqise Lee in the second round.
Best move: Wide receiver is one of the Jaguars' biggest needs because of the uncertainty surrounding Justin Blackmon. They quickly snatched up Southern California's Marqise Lee when it came time for the Jaguars' first pick in the second round (39th overall). Lee is a first-round talent who slipped because his production dipped significantly in 2013 because of an early-season knee injury and inconsistent quarterback play. He's a big-play receiver (29 career touchdown catches) with good speed and elusiveness, but he also worked the middle of the field at USC. After Blackmon was lost for the second half of the season, the Jaguars had only Cecil Shorts as an outside playmaker and he was bothered by a sports hernia over the final month. Lee was one of the most dangerous players in the country as a sophomore in 2012, catching 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Riskiest move: Taking a quarterback high in the first round is always a risk unless you're able to nab a sure thing such as Andrew Luck, so the Jaguars' selection of Central Florida's Blake Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick qualifies. He has ideal size (6-foot-5, 232 pounds), a strong arm and good athleticism and mobility, but he needs seasoning and time to develop. The Jaguars' plan isn't to put him on the field in 2014 but instead have him ready for 2015. There's no guarantee that he will be ready, however, or if he can be the elite quarterback the Jaguars desperately need. Missing on Blaine Gabbert in 2011 hurt the franchise for years. Bortles is the make-or-break pick for the David Caldwell/Gus Bradley regime.

Most surprising move: Considering the Jaguars are dealing with a player who has violated the league's substance-abuse policy multiple times (Blackmon), it was interesting that they drafted linebacker Telvin Smith in the fifth round (144th overall) because he failed a drug test at the NFL combine. Smith was forthcoming about the incident, calling it a dumb mistake and saying he told Bradley and Caldwell that he had learned his lesson and it won't happen again. Caldwell said they examined Smith's background pretty intensely and told him this is his opportunity to make up for his mistake. Smith is an intriguing prospect because he fit as a nickel linebacker as someone who can cover backs and tight ends. He needs to get bigger -- he's only 218 pounds at 6-foot-3 -- but he significantly upgrades the speed on defense.

File it away: Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin suffered a torn right ACL on the second day of Senior Bowl practices, but the little time he was on the field was enough to intrigue the Jaguars, who coached the South team, and they took him in the fourth round (114th overall). However, he's probably not going to be cleared for full contact until later in training camp and will begin the season on the PUP list. Caldwell said he's planning on Colvin getting on the field in the second half of the season, though how much depends on his grasp of the defense. He fits the Jaguars' profile for defensive backs (6-0, 192), although his arms are a bit shorter than they'd like (31 inches). He should be the eventual starter opposite Dwayne Gratz, most likely in 2015 because Alan Ball's contract expires following the 2014 season.
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A wrap-up of the Tennessee Titans' draft. Click here for a full list of Titans draftees.

[+] EnlargeBishop Sankey
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesRunning back Bishop Sankey figures to have a lead role in the Titans' backfield.
Best move: It’s a new day for the Titans' offensive backfield, and second-round pick Bishop Sankey will likely be the lead character in a committee of three. Shonn Greene will get some short-yardage work and Dexter McCluster will catch passes, and Tennessee might plan to feature them more on some Sundays. But Sankey is a versatile back who can run inside, run outside, break away, catch passes and pass protect. There were a lot of good backs in this draft, and the position has been devalued. But I've got no qualms with taking the first back off the board at No. 54, and if he pans out, it will rank as a perfectly fine value.

Riskiest move: Fourth-round defensive tackle DaQuan Jones might be of influence in the pass rush. But the Titans failed to add a young outside linebacker or defensive end who can contribute to the edge rush. The Titans are counting, then, on the new scheme, position changes for Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan, and the addition of Shaun Phillips to produce far more outside pressure on quarterbacks than they got last season. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey accounted for 10.5 of the team’s 36 sacks last season. Edge pass-rusher could be the team’s top need come free agency and the draft in 2015, considering Morgan and Akeem Ayers aren’t under contract, and Wimbley and Phillips are over 30.

Most surprising move: We knew offensive tackle was a first-round possibility. Taylor Lewan received strong reviews as the No. 11 pick from two general managers of other teams. Plenty of fans are horrified that the Titans didn’t address something that ranked as a more immediate need. But the aging Michael Roos has slipped as a run blocker and is a year away from free agency, and this move ensures an easy transition no matter when it occurs. Lewan joins the team facing three misdemeanor charges resulting from a campus fight and was alleged to have threatened to rape a classmate. He passed all the Titans' checks, however, and the odds are high they have hit on a quality player at a key position.

File it away: The addition of LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger in the sixth round seems like a low-risk, high-reward move. His arrival doesn’t open the starting quarterback job for competition, and something unexpected would have to happen for Jake Locker to lose his spot as the starting quarterback, coach Ken Whisenhunt said. Mettenberger is the big, strong-armed pocket-passer in Whisenhunt’s preferred style. The influence of former NFL coach Cam Cameron as LSU’s offensive coordinator was significant in Mettenberger’s final season. Can he position himself as an alternative to Locker if Locker fails or gets hurt again? Can he be in line to be the team’s quarterback in 2015 if Locker’s chance comes to an end? Those are the biggest questions awaiting him in his rookie season.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In a conference call just after he was drafted in the sixth round Saturday by the Tennessee Titans, quarterback Zach Mettenberger said if rookie camp started in 20 minutes he'd be ready.

While he fared well in pre-draft workouts, he's still just over four months removed from ACL reconstruction surgery.

He's feeling good and is confident he can get into the mix immediately. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Mettenberger looks close but will need to be assessed by the Titans' medical staff when he arrives Monday in Nashville.

ESPN.com's resident physical therapist Stephania Bell said the player could well be advised by the team to slow things down.

"Given that surgery was in January, Mettenberger's knee is still healing," she said. "While he certainly performed well at pro day and may feel like he's 100 percent, it's important to remember there is still biological healing of that new ligament taking place inside the knee. For the long-term health of his knee, it's in his best interest to follow the rehab progression the Titans set forth from here."

The Titans have rookie minicamp Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

If Mettenberger passes a physical after he gets here, there won't be a chance to put him on the physically unable to perform list if he's not ready for the more rigorous training camp that starts in late July.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A new quarterback to go with Jake Locker, Charlie Whitehurst and Tyler Wilson for the Tennessee Titans didn’t arrive until the 178th pick in the draft.

LSU signal-caller Zach Mettenberger looks to be a value in the sixth round. Tennessee dealt picks 186 and 228 in the seventh round to Washington for the pick with which they grabbed Mettenberger, the draft’s 10th quarterback.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt quickly said Locker still rates as the Titans' guy and only unexpected circumstances would change the team's starting quarterback.

Mettenberger
Mettenberger fits what is regarded as the Whisenhunt mold: He's a big, strong-armed pocket guy. But he’s not super accurate and he’s not mobile.

He also has an off-field history, pleading guilty in 2010 to two counts of sexual battery for grabbing a woman's private parts at a bar. Per ESPN's scouting report, “He agreed to, and completed, a strict and detailed 24-month probation as part of his punishment.”

That ended his career at Georgia and he moved on to LSU.

Now he’s coming off a torn ACL and provided a diluted urine sample for a scouting combine drug test, which is typically regarded as a failed test.

Former NFL head coach and coordinator Cam Cameron was his offensive coordinator at LSU last season, and Mettenberger made solid strides in his game.

While late-round quarterbacks very rarely pan out, at this point in the draft, Mettenberger is definitely worth a shot.

Locker is no sure thing, and Charlie Whitehurst is very much a backup. If Locker holds him off, Mettenberger can still position himself to have a chance to start in 2015.

And even if Locker is clearly the starter at the start of the season -- as I expect he will be -- he has a big injury history and odds are the Titans will need to play a second quarterback at some point.
HOUSTON -- The words Tom Savage used to describe himself when he transferred away from Rutgers weren't kind.

"I was just a young 19-year-old bitter kid who thought I was entitled to some things," Savage said.

But his journey through three different colleges and one alternate career forced him to grow up.

[+] EnlargeTom Savage
AP Photo/Gerry BroomePitt's Tom Savage was sacked 43 times last season, more than any other FBS quarterback.
"I went to Rutgers as a high recruit, played early and kind of got sucked into the hype," Savage said. "I played well, but I think I became a little complacent with it and I think the best thing for me was to face adversity at a young age and to go through this whole journey because it humbles you and it makes you mature as a man."

He began at Rutgers in 2009, and was a freshman All-American. He played four games his sophomore year before losing his job during an injury. That taught him another lesson:

"I'll never get hurt," Savage said. "The only way I'm coming out of that game is if my leg is hanging off. Because this a performance-based game and if you give someone else a chance to perform over you then they're going to take your job."

That is when the entitlement set in. Savage decided he needed to leave and find opportunity elsewhere. He hoped that would come at Arizona, but had to sit out the year because of NCAA guidelines. Then the coaching staff was fired midseason and Savage relocated again.

He wanted to return to Rutgers, but the NCAA blocked that move. So Pittsburgh was the final stop.

Before he returned to football, though, Savage dabbled in a different career.

"I was out of school for the spring and my dad wasn’t going to let me sit around, and I didn’t really have a school to go to, there were no real options," Savage said. "And I started doing construction work with my dad and it was tough. I know what I don’t want to do after football and that’s work construction, because it was brutal on me."

It all contributed to a maturation process that Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien noticed when he visited with Savage during his pro day. O'Brien appreciated the maturity he saw in Savage when they had a chance to sit down and talk.

This is a pick who is an unfinished product. His accuracy wasn't great last season -- according to ESPN Stats and Info, Savage's off-target percentage of 24.7 was the highest among the top 10 FBS quarterback prospects. (Though he was also sacked 43 times last season, more than any other FBS quarterback.)

But he has another quality that is important for a rookie quarterback -- he knows he has a lot to learn and is eager to learn it. Too many young quarterbacks think they have all the answers.

"Obviously I have a lot to learn," Savage said. "I went 1,024 days without playing football. I played one year at Pitt and I learned a lot from coach Chryst there. But I think I have a lot to improve, and I'm excited to just get in there and start working."
INDIANAPOLIS – As much as some may not want to believe it, the clock is ticking on what should end up being a Hall-of-Fame career for Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.

That's why the Colts have to start preparing for life after Wayne once he finally decides to stop making impressive one-handed grabs.

The Colts took a step in doing that when they selected Mississippi receiver Donte Moncrief in the third round.

"We have to always (prepare for not having Wayne), but at the same time he was one of the highest-rated guys on our board," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "He’s a guy that’s done a lot at a high level and he’s still young. He’s still got some things to learn."

Moncrief, who left school early, had 59 catches for 938 yards and six touchdowns last season at Mississippi.

The 20-year-old Moncrief doesn’t have the pressure to contribute right away because the Colts are set at the top three receiver spots with Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks.

"The Colts offense, they spread the ball around," Moncrief said. "The locker room will be great. They have a quarterback in Andrew Luck that you can trust."

The Colts are intrigued by Moncrief’s size -- 6-2, 220 pounds -- and his desire to be an all-around receiver.

"Football is his life and we’re anxious to get him here and see his big body moving around because he can separate," Grigson said. "We just felt like what was almost a fourth-round pick was tremendous value at that spot."
INDIANAPOLIS – Offensive tackle? Or is he a guard? No, wait, he’s a center, right?

Don’t go trying to figure out what position Indianapolis Colts second round pick Jack Mewhort plays because the answer is unknown at the moment.

Mewhort, the No. 59 overall pick Friday, has played all those positions at some point between high school and at Ohio State, and the Colts like him because of his versatility along the line.

"We’ll get him in here and it’ll figure itself out, but we’ll find him a spot to start at then let him go to work," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He’s a dang good football player. He’s big, he’s tough, he’s smart, he loves football, fits our culture, fits our environment. He’s a horseshoe guy.

"What I live, he’s got nasty, he’s tough and you’ve got to have that on the offensive line."

What about you, Jack, what position do you envision playing in the NFL?

"I’m the type of guy that you point me in the direction and I’ll figure it out and I’ll go play it," he said. "I’m not sure I’ve got a specific position pegged down right now, but I know and I’m confident that I can excel at different ones along the offensive line."

Guard may end up being the position Mewhort gets the majority of his snaps because the Colts are set at tackle with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus.

The goal is to have flexibility along the offensive line for the Colts. Mewhort played guard and tackle during the Senior Bowl.

The Colts were one of two teams to lose at least three offensive linemen that played at least 300 snaps without signing a player during free agency, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Indianapolis signed center Phil Costa, but he surprised many by deciding to retire last month.

"It’s so tough in this league to have continuity on the offensive line because of so many injuries," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "Position flex is what separates if you look at some of the teams that go deep in to the playoffs every year, they have tremendous position flex and versatility on their offensive line.

"To do that, you need smart guys that know how to play the game and Jack’s one of those guys."

The ultimate goal is to make sure Mewhort and the rest of the offensive linemen protect their franchise player, quarterback Andrew Luck, better. Luck has been sacked 73 times in two seasons. Sometimes you wonder how he manages to consistently pull himself off the ground after taking all those hits.

"I think that as long as he’s healthy and upright, and he’s got great protection, and he’s got enough weapons surrounding him, we’ll probably be here for a long time," Pagano said.

SPONSORED HEADLINES