Friday, May 4, 2012
Take 2: Thoughts on the draft
By Kevin Gemmell and Ted Miller
The 2012 NFL draft provided few surprises -- for about the first 10 minutes. After that, it was a slew of slips and falls that left many Pac-12 coaches and fans with a serious case of dry, itchy scalp.
When your Pac-12 bloggers got together this week in Arizona and started brainstorming ideas for this week's Take 2, the NFL draft was an obvious choice. We both agreed that the biggest surprise was that Washington running back Chris Polk was not drafted. No debate, no Take 2. So instead this week we decided to just toss out our thoughts on two more players who went undrafted.
Ted Miller: It's an NFL tradition to underrate Oregon defensive backs, then hand them starting jobs -- see Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Walter Thurmond, etc. So I am not shocked that former Ducks safety Eddie Pleasant didn't get drafted.
What will shock me is if he doesn't have an NFL career, whether that's with the Houston Texans, who signed him to a free agent contract, or not. I will admit that I vacillated between Pleasant and a more celebrated Pac-12 safety here: Stanford's Delano Howell. But I tapped Pleasant because I think he's a more consistent tackler and because, well, he played in the secondary at Oregon, which is an underrated NFL pipeline (and will continue to be so).
Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict had a very poor NFL combine and did not get drafted.
Pleasant is not huge -- 5-11, 211 pounds -- and he's not hugely fast -- 4.63 40. But the main gripe on him was his struggles in pass coverage in space. Part of that likely is him only converting from linebacker -- where he started in 2009 after being a top reserve as a redshirt freshman in 2008 -- two years ago. In 2010, a lot of his struggles seem to come because he didn't exactly know what he was doing -- or feel comfortable doing it. His improvement in 2011 was notable because it suggested more is ahead. Finally, Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, despite having plenty of physically talented candidates, has spent the entire spring wringing his hands -- as only Aliotti can wring his hands -- over how difficult it will be to replace Pleasant. When Aliotti speaks, I listen. For edification as well as amusement. Pleasant is going to be playing football a lot longer than a lot of safeties who did get drafted. You can count on that.
Kevin Gemmell: The NFL is filled with stories of redemption. Sadly, my spidey senses tingle to the tune that Vontaze Burfict isn’t going to be one of them.
Still, I’m mildly surprised that no one decided to take a flyer on him in the later rounds. It wouldn’t have been the first time players with sketchy reputations/head cases/drug histories were admitted to the NFL fraternity via the draft. As one colleague said this week, NFL teams would draft an axe murderer if they thought he could help them.
After all, Warren Sapp took a little slide in the draft after he admitted to marijuana use pre-draft -- but still ended up in the first round. Luis Castillo was a first-rounder despite admitting to using androstenedione before the combine to recover from an elbow injury. Even Maurice Clarett found his way to Denver in the third round.
Sapp went on to have a very successful career, Castillo is still in the league with the team that drafted him and Clarett, well, he never played a down in the NFL. It goes to show that all it takes is one general manager to roll the dice.
The point is that Burfict must have been so unbelievably toxic that any potential he has as a linebacker was superseded by his shortcomings (pick one: physical, mental, emotional etc.)
Burfict’s reputation proceeded him before ASU's season began -- but he was perceived as such a talent that most had no problem projecting him as a first-round pick; then a second-rounder; then a third-day pick before most eventually predicted he wouldn't be drafted at all. Mob stoolies in cement shoes don’t sink that fast.
Maybe this is the wake-up call he needed. Burfict is an easy target for one-liners, but he’s also still in the infancy of his adult life. The Bengals signed him to a zero-risk, free-agent contract. Maybe a veteran will take him under his wing and show him how to start manning up, because right now Burfict is the biggest joke of the draft. But when you really peel back the layers of his downfall, it’s not all that funny.