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Under-the-radar draft replacements

Updated: April 30, 2012, 12:00 PM ET
By Travis Haney

WACO, Texas -- Enough already about Robert Griffin III and the impact his loss will have on the Baylor Bears football program. That's ground traveled and tread by now. What about the guy who snapped the ball to Griffin the past two seasons?

Bears coach Art Briles' eyes widen when Philip Blake's name comes up in conversation.

"That's right," Briles says, nodding. "The center, Philip Blake ... that's like a quarterback in our offense."

So, although most would know and note who the second overall pick in this past weekend's draft was, they likely missed Blake -- the Bears' "other QB" -- going to the Denver Broncos in the fourth round.

That was also the story at Stanford, where Andrew Luck was -- and is -- the obvious headline grabber, but three players key to his and the Cardinal's success went in the next 41 picks. Luck has all the tools, sure, but his college career was enhanced by right guard David DeCastro (pick No. 24), tight end/safety blanket Coby Fleener (No. 34, joining him in Indianapolis) and left tackle Jonathan Martin (No. 42).

Fleener caught 10 of Luck's 37 touchdowns in 2011, four more than any other teammate. DeCastro and Martin were staples in the old-school system just as much as Luck; they had started a combined 76 of 78 possible games the past three seasons. They were also the anchors of an O-line that paved the way for a rushing attack that averaged 5.29 yards per carry, good for 13th in the nation last season. (Baylor ranked one spot better, with 5.32 yards a pop.)

Fifth-year senior Sam Schwartzstein, at center, becomes the rock for the Cardinal line. David Yankey (6-foot-5, 302 pounds) and Kevin Danser (6-6, 288) had promising and somewhat surprising springs, but there's still time to sort out who will fill the canyons left by Martin and DeCastro.

Back to Blake. The bad news: In a sense, he is almost impossible to replace -- primarily because he was the center equivalent of Brandon Weeden. Blake, a Canadian who had a nomadic odyssey to Waco, will be 27 years old in the fall.

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