Saturday, April 24, 2010
McCoy, Mays among best draft bargains
By Jeffri Chadiha
If this year's NFL draft taught us one thing, it's that this year's class really was as deep as many suspected. Many projected first-round prospects wound up becoming middle-round selections. Several early entrants with highly touted reputations learned how competitive the current job market is for newcomers to the league.
And by the time the entire event ended on Saturday afternoon, it was hard to imagine any team feeling as if they didn't get plenty of bang for the bucks they're about to spend after this weekend.
In fact, here are 10 players who turned into the biggest bargains in Rounds 2 through 7:
1. Colt McCoy, QB, Cleveland Browns: He had to wait until the third round to find a team, but McCoy can now use that experience as added motivation. For all the knocks about his lack of arm strength, he has great leadership ability and a long history as a winner. He'll fit in well with the West Coast offense. He won't be daunted by the possibility of playing early (since he started at Texas as a freshman). And he'll have a better chance to win over Browns fans now that he's not coming to town with a $20 million bonus in his bank account.
2. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Carolina Panthers: So the verdict is in -- Clausen wasn't good enough to be a first-round pick after all. What he does have going for him are the same things that people hyped in the first place. He spent his college career at Notre Dame under the tutelage of long-time NFL coach Charlie Weis (who's now the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator). He has all the physical tools to be a top quarterback in the league. On top of all that, he's going to a team that already has a strong running game and a big-time receiver (Steve Smith). Clausen may not have liked where he was selected. But he'd be crazy not to be excited about where he's going.
3. Taylor Mays, S, San Francisco 49ers: Talk about having a chip on your shoulder. Mays hadn't been in the NFL more than a day before he lashed out at his former coach at USC, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, for not drafting him in the first round. You can't blame Carroll because Texas safety Earl Thomas was a better prospect than Mays. But for a tough, physical specimen like Mays, winding up in the second round will give him plenty of incentive to prove himself on the next level.
4. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati Bengals: There's just something about the Bengals and their attraction to troubled athletes. Dunlap could've been a first-round pick if his character wasn't such an issue at Florida (he was suspended for the SEC championship game after police arrested him for drunken driving prior to the contest). Now he'll get the chance to be a second-round steal if he can avoid those problems in the NFL. Sure, it could be a challenge for a player on a team that has had a recent history of locker-room headaches. But Dunlap's size (6-foot-6, 275) and athleticism made him worth the gamble.
5. Sergio Kindle, OLB, Baltimore Ravens: Kindle was another player who was hyped as a first-round prospect until durability issues dropped him into the second round. In the long run, he might be happier about the way things turned out. Kindle is a perfect fit in the Ravens' 3-4 defense and his pass-rushing skills should make him a dangerous threat off the edge. He'll also get to learn from veteran defenders like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. In other words, don't be surprised if Kindle becomes a star later in his career.
6. Damian Williams, WR, Tennessee Titans: Williams was talented enough to be gone before the Titans selected him in the third round, so there had to be some serious celebrating in Nashville. This former USC star is a smooth route-runner with a penchant for the big play. He'll also get to team up with last year's first-round pick, wide receiver Kenny Britt, in an offense that needed more game-breakers on the outside. Critics can knock Williams for his lack of elite speed, but he'll be fast enough to be a difference-maker in the Tennessee offense.
7. Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As good a receiver as Arrelious Benn (the Bucs' second-round pick) is, Williams has the potential to be even better. He has the size (6-foot-2, 221 pounds), body control and playmaking ability teams covet in receivers these days. The question now is whether Williams can grow up and be a pro. He landed in the fourth round because an assortment of off-the-field issues led him to quit the team at Syracuse. If the Bucs can help him overcome that baggage, they will be more than happy with their return on this investment.
8. Perrish Cox, CB, Denver Broncos: Many people rated Cox, a former Oklahoma State star, as one of the five best prospects at his position. Now he gets the chance to be one of the biggest steals of this class. Despite some off-the-field questions, Cox has great instincts for the position and he also has strong return skills (he scored on four kick returns and two punt returns during his college career). By the time his career ends, he may have plenty of people wondering why he didn't go higher than the fifth round.
9. Bruce Campbell, OT, Oakland Raiders: As much as people laugh about the recent draft history of the Raiders, they made a smart move by taking Campbell in the fourth round. Despite his raw skills, he has the potential to grow into a top-tier offensive tackle if handled properly. He's got all the necessary requirements -- a 6-foot-6, 310-pound frame, long arms and nimble feet -- and the question will be whether the Raiders coaches can maximize that ability. Sure, the chuckling that last statement will create is predictable. But if Campbell turns into a solid player after being a Day 3 selection, Raiders owner Al Davis will have plenty of reasons to smile.
10. Everson Griffen, DE, Minnesota Vikings: If Griffen didn't get the message about his maturity issues, he surely has to get it now. He has first-round ability but a questionable attitude turned him into a fourth-round selection. The upside is that he'll have a chance to learn how top-flight defensive linemen -- specifically, the Vikings' Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Pat Williams -- succeed in the NFL. If Griffen pays attention to them and the disappointment he just received during the draft, he could become the stud many people expected him to be at USC.
Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.