Big 12: 2012 NFL draft

You saw him beat up on Big East quarterbacks the last two years, so you know what West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin can do when he is playing at his best.

And yet, Irvin turned out to be the biggest draft-day surprise Thursday, when Seattle took him with the No. 15 overall pick, eliciting a chorus of "Who?" among the uninitiated. Most experts had pegged another Big East player -- Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones -- to go to the Seahawks.

[+] EnlargeBruce Irvin
Randy Litzinger/Icon SMIFormer West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin was only one of two players with Big East ties selected in Thursday's first round of the NFL draft.
Jones did eventually go in the first round, at No. 21 to the New England Patriots. They were the only two players with Big East ties selected on the first day of the draft, which turns out to be more than most everybody expected. A few months ago, most wondered whether the Big East would even have one player taken in the first round.

A few months ago, most had Irvin pegged as a second or third-round pick. Scratch that. A mere 24 hours ago, most had Irvin pegged as a second or third-round pick. His measurables are undeniable. He can run like a cheetah, as he proved at the NFL combine with his blazing 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. He can take down quarterbacks like a possessed man-child, as evidence by his 23 sacks in two years with the Mountaineers.

The Seahawks called him the best pure pass-rusher available in the draft, which is why they made him the first defensive end selected Thursday night. So why all the shock? The doubters? The haters?

For one, Irvin is a raw talent, having only played two years on the highest level in college football. He played in a defensive formation that nobody uses in the NFL. He struggled on non-passing downs, so much so that West Virginia took him out of the starting lineup after five games so he could return to his duties as a pass-rush specialist.

Listen to him when he says, "I've heard I'm a one-trick pony. But the crazy thing is I got 23 sacks in two years and I've never been coached. If I get a little coaching, just imagine what I can do."

He has a background that no doubt scared some teams off, when in fact, they probably should have taken a much harder look to see how the adversity he overcame built his character and gave him an unparalleled work ethic. Irvin could very well be homeless in Atlanta today, had he not accepted help and made the conscious decision to change his life. There are many others who have failed given the same opportunities.

Granted, Irvin did not help his situation when he was arrested last month and charged with destruction of property and disorderly conduct. Those charges have since been dropped. Was it a reminder to some teams to throw up a red flag?

That hardly matters now. Seattle coach Pete Carroll is fully aware of what Irvin has gone through, having recruited him out of Mt. San Antonio Junior College while still coaching USC. Most of all, he is fully aware of the incredible potential Irvin has to fill a need that the Seahawks sorely need.

Coaches often say players succeed or fail in the NFL based on the organization that drafts them, and whether or not they have NFL coaches who believe in them. Drafting Irvin so high is a huge risk. But every team takes a risk of some kind in the NFL draft, so that should not make this pick any more shocking than Miami drafting a quarterback who went 7-6 last year at perennial underachiever Texas A&M.

Drafting is all about projecting, same as in recruiting. There is no complete player in the draft. Every pick is a guess. Seattle is guessing Irvin will be worth the risk.

The spotlight is firmly on Irvin and the Seahawks now. He has the potential to be great. Now in addition to learning a new system and accepting the coaching, he will have to deal with expectations that come with being a first-round pick. Folks will want him to live up to some preconceived notion of what first-round picks should do. If Irvin is as ferocious rushing the passer in the NFL as he was in college, I believe he will not only meet those expectations.

He will exceed them.

Thoughts on the NFL draft first round

April, 27, 2012
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Good to see a handful of Big 12 names called in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night.

What did I think? Glad you asked.
  • No surprises in the top two picks, which have both been essentially in the can for weeks. A nice touch by Robert Griffin III with the Redskins socks, but the slogan seemed a little cheesy. Cheesy or not, it's true. Griffin and 31 other gifted athletes caught their dreams on Thursday night. Congratulations to all. Reaching this point isn't easy, even for the most physically gifted players.
  • Well, it looked like Justin Blackmon would catch passes from one former Big 12 rival quarterback (Sam Bradford, St. Louis), but instead, he may do it for another. Former Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert gets a much-needed target, but he'll have to re-earn his job after an awful rookie season. St. Louis seemed like a better fit for Blackmon, rather than the Jaguars, but Blackmon's a true game-changer in my book. I think he'll have an effect wherever he goes.
  • Miami got its man in Ryan Tannehill. For as much talk as his inflated draft stock has gotten in the past few weeks, this looked pretty likely. Now, we'll see him in action. Like most others, I love Tannehill's upside. With some experience, he could be great. But he needs time. He wasn't outstanding in college, and he's obviously inexperienced at the quarterback position. There are zero questions from me about his physical skills, but I like the chances for his decision-making -- which had major, major issues in 2011 -- to improve if he gets lots of practice reps rather than being thrown in the fire immediately.
  • Sheesh, WVU. Y'all got on me for saying you wouldn't have a first-rounder in this post, but it was mostly a throwaway phrase, not a prediction. Most places I'd read had Bruce Irvin as a second- or third-rounder. I obviously didn't see him play much, and don't really have any thoughts on his play. But it's not like I was knocking it, either. I don't exactly keep track of the draft stock of players I never really saw play. Sorry about that. When it's things I'm truly covering, I pay attention. Well, most of the time, anyway. Or something. Either way, my mistake on that one.
  • What a great spot in Tennessee for Kendall Wright. I'm not sure I could ever see him carrying an NFL offense, but Wright's good enough to work underneath and stretch the field. I don't buy him much as a game-breaker against No. 1 corners all season, but in a supporting role? Huge, huge pickup for the Titans. As he matures, he may just prove himself as a true No. 1 receiver. His size is the biggest question for me, but he's got great hands and great speed. I just might draft Wright as a late-round sleeper in my fantasy draft next fall.
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  • Huge congrats to Brandon Weeden, too. The guy deserved it. There's no question in my mind he's a first-round talent and a guy who could be a star at the next level. Not many people gave him a chance to be a first-round pick, but I think the more teams saw of him on and off the field, the more they fell in love with him. It's not hard to see why. The age issue probably would have made me wait until the second round to take him, but if he succeeds, nobody will care. Props to Weeden for handling the age issue so well the past two years. Dude's been asked about it no less than 50,000 times, and he always seemed to handle it with grace. Not sure I could do that. I don't know what his career holds, and it's going to be difficult in Cleveland without many offensive weapons around him, but he's a smart, good decision maker with a humongous arm. That's plenty enough to make an impact.

Video: Projecting prospects, including RG3

April, 26, 2012
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Tom Luginbill talks about how Trent Richardson, Courtney Upshaw and Robert Griffin III were rated coming out of high school.

Video: Robert Griffin III on E:60

April, 26, 2012
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Heisman Trophy winner and presumptive second-overall pick Robert Griffin III sits down with E:60's Rachel Nichols before the NFL draft. RG3 comes to New York City on the cusp of the next great step in an already storied list of accomplishments.

Video: Andrew Luck, RG3 in 5 years

April, 23, 2012
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Bill Polian discusses what people will be saying about Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in five years.

Video: Todd McShay on RG3, Luck

April, 20, 2012
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Todd McShay goes inside the highlight to take a look at Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, the likely top two picks in the NFL draft.

Four from Big 12 among 26 to attend draft

April, 13, 2012
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A record 26 players were invited to attend this month's draft in New York City; four from the Big 12 will be making the trip, which is filled with various events in the days leading up to the draft, which begins April 26.
All four should be gone by the end of the first round, and it'll be exciting to see where each lands. (Except RG3. He's going to Washington.)

I'll be watching. I suspect plenty of you will be, too.

Gruden's QB Camp: RG3 and read option

April, 5, 2012
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Jon Gruden and Robert Griffin III go over the read option at Baylor and whether that will work in the NFL.
Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles hasn't been heard from much since tearing his ACL in November, weeks after setting the FBS record for career receptions.

That's especially been true as the pass-catcher has been unable to work out for NFL scouts, leaving Broyles in danger of being overlooked in favor of numerous other receivers who lacked his production.

Two weeks before the draft and five months after injuring the knee, Broyles will give scouts a chance to see what he can do with a workout on April 12, according to The Sports Xchange.

"I'm feeling confident and I feel great," Broyles told the site. "I can't give you a percentage, it's not 100 percent but the left leg is getting closer to being as strong as the right leg."

The fluky, non-contact injury left Broyles in tears and OU's receiving corps in shambles as the Sooners lost two of their final three games in the regular season. Broyles has become a likely sixth-round selection after being seen as a possible second- or third-round pick before the injury.

"My dream has always been to play in the NFL, not be a first-round draft pick, just to be a pick," Broyles said. "It's not about where you get picked. It's not about how much money you make. It's about how much you save. I've heard that a lot. I'm on my saving kick already."

Broyles' feel for space was unrivaled in the Big 12 last season and was the biggest reason for his production, but Broyles looked the part of speedster at times, too. It'll be interesting to see what he can do this soon, and if he can help his stock with the very late workout.

The 5-foot-10, 192-pounder is undersized for the position, but it's hard to imagine he won't land in an NFL camp and earn a living as a slot receiver at the next level. Here's hoping he's at least healthy enough to get a fair shot.

On The Clock: Justin Blackmon

March, 28, 2012
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The On The Clock roundtable looks at former Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, one of the most explosive players in this year's NFL draft.

On the clock: Robert Griffin III

March, 28, 2012
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The On The Clock roundtable debate is what Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner, can bring to electrify the NFL.

Video: RG3 or Andrew Luck?

March, 22, 2012
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Merril Hoge breaks down Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III to see who he would take if he were the Indianapolis Colts drafting the top overall pick.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III put on a show at his pro day on Wednesday, but today is Andrew Luck's turn at Stanford.

ESPN Insider/numbers guru KC Joyner will take the leap Insider on what's a somewhat tentative debate .

Should RG3 go No. 1 ahead of Luck, the man most assumed for the past year would be the top pick in the 2012 NFL draft?

Joyner says yes, and provides 10 reasons why. You'll need Insider to see the full story, but here's a quick look at some of his most compelling reasons.
Some have argued that the reason Griffin III had better downfield numbers is because he was able to throw to Kendall Wright, a speed merchant whom Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both have listed as a late first-rounder in their most recent mock drafts.

The issue in taking this tack is that Griffin III actually had better vertical numbers when throwing to someone other than Wright last year.

RG3's vertical numbers on passes to Wright: 45 targets, 693 yards, 15.4 vertical YPA (VYPA)

RG3's vertical numbers on passes to other players: 70 targets, 1,146 yards, 16.4 VYPA

Luck was the exact opposite in that his vertical totals dropped off dramatically when not throwing to his best vertical target (tight end Coby Fleener):

Luck's vertical numbers on passes to Fleener: 29 targets, 533 yards, 18.4 VYPA

Luck's vertical numbers on passes to other players: 99 vertical targets, 1,167 yards, 11.8 VYPA

Interesting stuff. Personally, I think whichever NFL teams select them will be pretty happy with both guys. The physical skills are there, but for me, what gives confidence to both selections is their minds.

Both are great combinations of brilliance and hard work, and good decision-making (on and off the field) can help ease the transition for any player.

One other reason Joyner likes Griffin? The rest of the Big 12.
Last year RG3 faced three teams that ranked in the top 30 in the FBS in passer rating allowed in 2011, and two of those teams (the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma State Cowboys) had exceptionally strong starting cornerback batteries.

By contrast, Luck faced only one team (the Utah Utes) that ranked in the top 30 in passer rating allowed last year.

What do you think? Any buyers? Should the Colts take the Heisman winner over Luck?
WACO, Texas -- Heisman winner Robert Griffin III earned accolades for his performance at the podium at last month's NFL combine, but he elected not to throw until his pro day at Baylor.

The day for NFL scouts, GMs and coaches to see it up close and in person has arrived. Or, at least, it will on Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AdidasRG3 will get his chance Wednesday to show off for NFL scouts, GMs and coaches at Baylor's pro day.
"It’ll probably be the biggest pro day Baylor’s had in awhile," Griffin said on Monday after arriving to campus to take in his former team's spring practice.

Now, when would Baylor have ever had a bigger pro day?

"Well, I didn’t want to say that," Griffin said with a laugh.

Make no mistake, it's the biggest ever. Around 130 media members were credentialed for Wednesday's event, and 60-80 more NFL personnel are expected to arrive. That number was trimmed from around 120 after the Washington Redskins traded up to No. 2 with intentions to select Griffin.

"We’ll see what happens," Griffin said of his future destination. "Either way, if it’s Indy or Washington or whatever happens in the draft, I’ll be excited to play for that team."

The Bears had originally planned to allow fans to attend, and expected around 1,000 to show up and watch Griffin go throw a scripted set of throws, but that plan was scrapped.

Several networks, including ESPN, will broadcast the pro day live. The Big 12 Blog will be on hand, too. It's not only about Griffin throwing, though.

"We’re trying to show [NFL teams] we’ve got two really good running backs in Terrance Ganaway and Isaac Williams. Kendall [Wright]’s going to show off and do his thing and run great routes," Griffin said. "We’ve got a couple older guys coming back in Ernest Smith and Krys Buerck. They’re looking forward to a shot at the NFL, so I’m trying to help, help everybody out, not just show what I can do. Tape doesn’t lie, so I don’t have to prove anything at pro day, it’s about going out and having fun and helping those guys be successful, so we’re looking forward to it."

Griffin's spent the past two-plus months training in Arizona for Wednesday, and explained some of what Wednesday's workout can prove to NFL teams that want to see more than just his extensive, impressive game tape.

"The routes are all different in different systems, but they give you that generic NFL route tree and they want you to go run that and show them, 'Hey, I can run the basics, now teach me everything else,'" Griffin said. "So, just matching the drops to those throws, because they’re not what anybody does in the college level, no matter whether they’re in a pro system or in a spread system.

"I don’t think I’ve ever seen a quarterback go seven [steps], plant and throw -- throw an out route at the college level. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a spread or in a pro style at college. It’s still a different game and I’m excited to go play that game."

He'll get his chance this fall, but even with an adidas endorsement deal, Griffin isn't showing off any newfound cash just yet.

He hasn't made any car or house purchases, and doesn't have any plans to change that just right now.

"Not at all," he said. "I’m still broke."

RG3, Blackmon moving up draft boards

March, 16, 2012
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Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay released their respective updated draft boards after a few pro days across the landscape, and here's where the Big 12 talents landed.

McShay writesInsider:


No. 2: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (last week: 3)
Griffin's ridiculous 4.41-second 40-yard dash and impressive interview sessions at the combine pushed him into the No. 2 spot on the board. The Washington Redskins paid a huge price -- first-round picks in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and a second-rounder in 2012 -- to the St. Louis Rams to move into the No. 2 overall pick, and it's all but a certainty they will select Griffin.

Griffin also moved from No. 3 to No. 2 on Kiper's board Insider.

Justin Blackmon moved up from No. 8 to No. 6 on McShay's board.

"Blackmon ran the 40 in the 4.5-second range at his recent pro day, and with that speed plus his route-running, hands and physical style, he is the clear-cut No. 1 wideout on the board," McShay wrote.

Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill fell from No. 13 to No. 17, however.

"Surgery on a broken foot has prevented Tannehill from working out to this point, so his pro day will be important for his final evaluation," McShay wrote. "His physical tools are impressive and he is raw as a quarterback, but his potential is intriguing and could make him a top-10 pick."

Kendall Wright also fell from No. 22 to No. 25 on McShay's board, but moved to No. 23 from No. 24 on Kiper's board.

"He lost a little ground when his combine performance was average but ran well at his pro day," Kiper wrote. "I think the tape will win out. Wright plays fast in pads, beats people deep and has good hands. He can be the second receiver off the board."

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