Friday, April 25, 2008

A Bit Drafty

There'll be no battle for number one on the NFL Draft Board this year, as the Miami Dolphins already reached an agreement with Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long. Long, a terrific player by any standard, only underscores just how far the concept of an offensive lineman has come. About three weeks ago I finished reading The Blind Side, a terrific book from Michael Lewis (author of a Girouard favorite, Moneyball) which weaves a dual narrative over how football evolved first with the Bill Walsh innovations of offense, countered by the emergence of freakishly skilled defensive players like Lawrence Taylor, countered once more by the rising trend of the best overall athlete on the field being the man at left tackle - the man protecting the blindside. The flipside of the story is the incredible and jaw-dropping tale of Michael Oher, a current junior at Ole Miss who by all accounts could be in Long's position a year from now. Highly recommend the book.

For the Irish, there will be no high-wire act involving one of their departed seniors in New York this Saturday, since nobody's expected to have a repeat of the Brady Quinn Experience, and certainly none of them will be shacking up in the green room. Not that they won't land on their feet, however. The projections from a small sampling of the mock drafters:

DT Trevor Laws
Denver, 11th pick, 2nd Round (42nd Overall) - Scott Wright,  NFLDraftCountdown.com, Rob Tribbet, WarRoom Report, & DraftTek.com
Atlanta, 17th pick, 2nd Round (48th Overall) - Frank Coyle, Rivals.com
New Orleans, 9th pick, 2nd Round (40th Overall) - Rob Rang, CBSSportsLine.com
TE John Carlson
Green Bay, 25th pick, 2nd Round (57th Overall) - Wright, Tribbet, & DraftTek
Carolina, 12th pick, 2nd Round (43rd Overall) - Coyle
Atlanta, 17th pick, 2nd Round (48th Overall) - Rang
S Tom Zbikowski
Philadelphia, 17th pick, 3rd Round (80th Overall) - DraftTek
Jacksonville, 26th pick, 3rd Round (89th Overall) - Wright
Cincinnati, 34th pick, 3rd Round (98th Overall) - Coyle
C John Sullivan
Kansas City, 6th pick, 4th Round (105th Overall) - DraftTek
Of course, no draft analysis would be complete without Todd McShay, who basically locks himself in a film room for four months and still manages to routinely get things completely wrong. He agreed with fellow draftniks that Carlson would be going at #56 to the Packers (PLEASE let it happen) and also saw Trevor getting scooped up by the Colts late in the second round (such a pick would no doubt put a smile on the face of our resident Indy fan, Mike D). McShay also slotted Joe Brockington as a 7th round pick by the Cowboys, #235 overall. One mock I saw even had Trevor going in the first round to Jacksonville, and after the senior year he had to endure, nobody would deserve the honor of being a first-rounder more. For his part, #98 is a combination of nervous and excited: his personal thoughts on the draft can be found over at the blog he started just after the New Year.

Laws also got some love from SI's Dr. Z, Paul Zimmerman, who placed him in the coveted "Post-Round 1 Steals" Category:
George Connor, Ziggy Czarobzki, Frank Varrichione - great run-stopping Fighting Irish tackles of the past. OK, so Laws is not a speed rusher, but just try to run on him.
It looks like a consensus has formed around Trevor and John Carlson as sure second-round, day one picks, while Zibby and Sullivan will likely be gone early on Sunday (if not taken as a reach pick in Round 2 - that's doubtful at best, though). There'll probably be a spot somewhere as an undrafted free agent to let Travis Thomas prove himself, and their may even be a tryout waiting for other graduated Domers Dwight Stephenson, Geoff Price, JJ Jansen & Brockington. Nobody (from Notre Dame, at least) figures to be involved in anything resembling last year's high drama in the green room, but whether you're certain to get taken or praying for a chance to be Mr. Irrelevant, the draft can be pretty nerve racking. The Chicago Tribune checked up on all four Irish prospects:
"It's pretty terrible for us that they decided to make the third round Sunday," Laws said with a laugh. "I'm just hoping that I can get my name called Saturday so I don't have to sleep another night not knowing where I'm going to spend the next few years of life.

"Going into the off-season, my goal was to go in the third round. Now that I had a great off-season, there's definitely a chance for me to do better than that. Being a 'tweener' on those two days it's like, 'Aw, why do you have to do me like that?' "

Laws, actually, seems to be the only one planning to tune into the proceedings in New York, though at a low volume.

Zbikowski plans to spend Saturday with friends after what he lamented was "the longest week of my life." Carlson already has instituted the television ban. Sullivan has his own distraction set: Ripping up the floors and painting the walls at his brother's new condo in Greenwich, Conn.

"Some good old manual labor to keep your mind off of [other] things," Sullivan said.
I'm with Joe Thomas - I'd rather be going fishing. Good luck in the draft tomorrow boys - we'll be rooting you on.

Updated: Zibby on ESPN talking past, present, & future.

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