April 26, 2010
There wasn't much drama over the weekend for Oregon's LeGarrette Blount, whose draft prospects were essentially dashed when he unloaded on Boise State's Byron Hout on national television last September. Blount sat through three days of the annual meat market without hearing his name called, eventually spurning San Francisco to sign with Tennessee as a free agent on Sunday.
Not all of the names below will be so lucky; some may catch on with a team and go on to great careers despite the league's apparent doubts. But they are the most notable names that failed to come off the board in the draft, and mostly stand to show yet again that -- in a world where such luminaries as John Skelton (QB, Fordham) and Timothy Toone (WR, Weber State) are considered more valuable than name-brand college stars like Daryll Clark and Danario Alexander -- success on one level and success at the other are very, very different things:
Too soon. Of the 53 underclassmen certified for "special" draft eligibility, 47 were drafted. Six were not:
• Kevin Basped, DE, Nevada. Second-team All-WAC pick had 19.5 sacks the last two years, but was still treated like a second-team All-WAC pick.
• • Shawnbrey McNeal, RB, SMU. One-time Miami signee had over 1,500 all-purpose yards in one year in June Jones' run-and-shoot attack, but too small (5'9", 194) for serious NFL consideration.
• Jerell Norton, CB, Arkansas. Balked at an extra year of eligibility, even though he hadn't returned to the regular starting lineup (due to injury) since a solid sophomore campaign in 2007.
• Dennis Rogan, DB, Tennessee. Two-year starter at safety and cornerback had no buzz, but did have a young son to consider.
• Jevan Snead, QB, Ole Miss. Once-hyped Texas transfer's decision to come out early was met with confusion, for obvious reasons: His disappointing turn last fall as the nation's most-intercepted passer overrode scouts' gleaming assessments of his size, arm strength and mechanics.
• Donovan Warren, CB, Michigan. Former five-star recruit started 35 of 37 games in his career and was a first-team All-Big Ten pick as a junior, but couldn't overcome persistent injuries, iffy size or his role on two of the worst Wolverine defenses ever fielded the last two years.
Your numbers are no good here. Record-breakers and other stat sheet gods whose quantifiable success couldn't get their foot in the door:
• Danario Alexander, WR, Missouri. All-American led the nation with 1,781 yards, third-highest total of the last decade, but reportedly couldn't pass a physical after his fourth knee surgery in less than two years in February.
• Brandon Banks, WR/KR, Kansas State. Former JUCO transfer returned five kickoffs for touchdowns in two years and led the Big 12 in all-purpose yards last fall. Undersized, though, and put up disappointing numbers at the combine.
• Freddie Barnes, WR, Bowling Green. Converted quarterback set a single-season record with 155 catches in '09 -- just shy of 12 per game, with 19 touchdowns -- but brought little to the table in terms of obvious size or speed.
• Damion Fletcher, RB, Southern Miss. Too-small, too-slow back was never on NFL radars despite going over 1,000 yards for the fourth straight season and passing Herschel Walker and LaDainian Tomlinson into eighth place on the career rushing list in his final game.
• Matt Grothe, QB, South Florida. If the Big East's career leader in total yards hadn't been done in by an ACL tear as a senior, he probably would have been by his sub-six-foot height and steady interception total -- 14 picks all three years from 2006-08.
• Brandon James, KR, Florida. If his diminutive height wasn't reason enough to pass on the SEC's career leader in total return yards, concern over a foot fracture that kept him out of his final game at UF might have been. (Tennessee fans twitch again.)
Passing Interest. Prominent quarterbacks you will likely never hear from again:
• Jarrett Brown, West Virginia. Bigger, stronger-armed senior threw more often than Pat White, but not as successfully, and didn't approach his predecessor's success as a runner.
• Daryll Clark, Penn State. Went 22-4 with a conference championship in two years as a starter, and was first-team All-Big Ten by coaches and media both years.
• Joe Cox, Georgia. "Ginger Ninja" waited his turn behind Matt Stafford and finished his only full season in the lineup as the SEC's top-rated passer in conference games.
• Max Hall, BYU. Typical Cougar slinger was 32-7 as a starter and led the Mountain West with at least 3,500 yards and 25 touchdowns in each of the last three seasons.
• Thaddeus Lewis, Duke. Four-year starter led the ACC in passing yards as a senior, leaving as the Devils' career passing leader in attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns and total offense.
• Ryan Perrilloux, Jacksonville State. Top-ranked quarterback prospect turned infamous LSU reject has already signed with the Vikings as a free agent, passing up his destiny in Oakland or Cincinnati.
• Todd Reesing, Kansas. Noted scholar, patriot and puppy lover smashed every Jayhawk passing record over three years and led the best season in school history in 2007, but will likely become an average-sized grad student rather than try to convince teams to take a flyer on a scrappy, 5'10" free agent.
• Riley Skinner, Wake Forest. Four-year starter led the Deacons to an incredible ACC championship as a redshirt freshman, beat Florida State three years in a row, flashed his junk for the world and helped keep Wake respectable for longer than anyone could have predicted five years ago.
• Bill Stull, Pittsburgh. Made a dramatic leap as a senior to bring home first-team All-Big East honors for taking the Panthers within seconds of a conference title/BCS bid.
• Juice Williams, Illinois. Even his own teammates are publicly dissing him these days, but Juice did lead the Illini to the Rose Bowl in 2007 and blew the rest of the Big Ten away in terms of total yards as a junior before the whole "getting benched" thing last fall.
Star Power. Twelve former members of Rivals' top 50 as high school recruits finished their college eligibility, but couldn't maintain the scouts' favor:
• Toney Baker, RB, N.C. State. Rivals' No. 5 running back (No. 39 overall) in 2005 had three healthy seasons (2005-06, 2009) and led the Pack in rushing twice, but never emerged as the clear No. 1 back.
• Luthur Brown, LB, USC. There was plenty of competition at SC, of course, but Rivals' No. 3 inside linebacker (No. 32 overall) in '05 never cracked the starting lineup.
• Jeff Byers, OL, USC. The top-ranked center -- by some services, the top-ranked player at any position -- out of high school, Byers suffered through a series of injuries and did well to hold down a job at left guard the last two years.
• Dan Doering, OL, Iowa. Once a five-star tackle prospect, injuries -- his and his teammates' -- kept Doering shuffling in an out of the Hawkeyes' lineup for most of his career, usually at guard.
• DeMarcus Granger, DL, Oklahoma. No. 1 defensive tackle prospect in 2005 spent most of 2007-08 as a starter, but was consistently slowed by injuries and eventually denied a fifth season last year.
• Will Harris, DB, USC. Hyped '05 safety prospect finally emerged as a full-time starter as a fifth-year senior, on the worst defense of Pete Carroll's Trojan tenure.
• Micah Johnson, LB, Kentucky. Wildcats' top homegrown prospect since Tim Couch was a first-team All-SEC pick in 2008 but not even an honorable mention last year despite leading UK with 105 tackles.
• Stafon Johnson, RB, USC. The feel-good story of the draft after his recovery from a gruesome weight-lifting accident last September in time to play in January's Senior Bowl and attend the combine, but teams' hearts obviously weren't warmed enough to overcome their lingering concerns.
• Rico McCoy, LB, Tennessee. Undersized tackle machine out of Washington, D.C. started every game the last three years and was twice a second-team all-conference pick (in 2007 and 2009), but didn't even earn a combine invite because of his 6'0", 220-pound frame.
• Robert Rose, DL, Ohio State. Rivals' No. 1 strongside defensive end in 2006 played early but remained in Jim Tressel's doghouse, endured multiple suspensions and never started.
• A.J. Wallace, CB, Penn State. Five-star, No. 1 corner prospect in 2006 contributed immediately but didn't start until last season, when he led the Lions with three interceptions in an otherwise unremarkable campaign.
Acknowledged, acknowledged. Other notable snubs:
• Ciron Black, OL, LSU. Started a school-record 53 straight games, including every game of the Tigers' 2007 BCS championship season, leaving as a first-team All-SEC pick and winner of the Jacobs Trophy as the league's best blocker.
• Chris Brown, RB, Oklahoma. Led Sooners in rushing each of the last two years, with 1,200 yards and 20 touchdowns for one of the most prolific offenses in recent memory in 2008.
• Brandon Carter, OL, Texas Tech. Wildly tattooed, spike-haired behemoth was key member of outstanding Raider line on the best team in school history in 2007, and a tireless crusader for alternative fashion in an overwhelmingly conservative sport.
• Joe Pawelek, LB, Baylor. Tackle machine started 46 straight games with more than 400 career stops and All-Big 12 nods three years in a row, including a first-team selection in 2008.
• Malcolm Sheppard, DL, Arkansas. First-team All-SEC pick with 16 tackles for loss in 2008, finishing with 36 TFLs over the last three years.
• Adam Ulatoski, OL, Texas. Started 43 games over four years, with All-Big 12 (and a few scattered All-American) notices over the last two years as Colt McCoy's main protector at left tackle.
• Mick Williams, DL, Pittsburgh. Big East Defensive Player of the Year was a force on the interior (15 TFLs, three forced fumbles) for a line that led the nation in sacks without any single, consistently dominant pass rusher.
As always, godspeed, gentlemen.