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Around the League: Pre-draft visits don't foreshadow first-round picks

The SportsXchange

Pre-draft visits with teams, over which some of the media obsesses, may be important, but of the 32 first-rounders in the 2012 lottery, only 15 visited prior to the draft with the franchises that chose them. Only one of the final 10 players chosen in the opening round met before the draft with the club that selected him.

--The aforementioned Christian Thompson (SC State), who dined this spring with Ravens' free safety Ed Reed, to soak up some of his wisdom, could end up being the backup to the eight-time Pro Bowl defender. Thompson has good size (6-0 1/2, 211), speed (4.47) and range, and the Ravens are in need of depth. The team lost a pair of safeties in free agency, including the versatile Tom Zbikowski, and Reed and fellow starter Bernard Pollard are each in their final contract years.

00Tampa Bay continues to add defensive tackle help, on Thursday signing unrestricted free agent Gary Gibson, a former starter in St, Louis, and the Bucs certainly have made an effort to bolster an inside position ravaged the past two seasons by injuries to Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. The Bucs' first- and second-round choices, respectively, in 2010, McCoy and Price were supposed to cement the position for the long haul. Because of injuries, though, the two have combined for only 33 of a potential 64 starts in two seasons. The Bucs already had Roy Miller, who started 16 games in 2010, and has filled in admirably the past two years. They added former first-round pick Amobi Okoye, released by Chicago in the offseason, but with 59 career starts. And now Gibson, who started 16 games two years ago, is on board. Certainly, the Bucs have been diligent about addressing the position.

--While the Bucs keep adding tackles, defensive interior players continue to wait for the phone to ring. Among the tackles released during the offseason who have garnered little interest are Albert Haynesworth, Anthony Adams, Fred Robbins and Remi Ayodele. All want to play in 2012.

--Odds are that cornerback Drew Coleman, released by Jacksonville on Thursday after only one season with the team, will re-join the Jets, for whom he played previously. But New York has some competition for Coleman, who has developed into a very good slot corner and blitzer off the edge. Likewise, there is early interest by several teams in nine-year veteran corner Drayton Florence, released by Buffalo on Thursday night. Florence has started 10 or more games in six of his nine seasons.

--On the subject of corners, Atlanta, which added Asante Samuel the day before the draft began, will use Dunta Robinson more as a slot corner than in the past. In three-corner situations, Samuel and Brent Grimes will play outside, with Robinson moving inside.

--Arizona will give fourth-round draft choice Bobby Massie, the offensive tackle from Mississippi what one coach termed "a very, very fair shot" to win a starting job on its suspect offensive line. Massie was considered at worst a mid-second round pick before the draft, but slipped badly. The Falcons thought long and hard about choosing Massie in the third round, but opted instead for a guy from a smaller school in Mississippi, Lester Holmes of Southern Mississippi.

--WR Stephen Hill, by the way, is expected to be an immediate starter for the Jets, perhaps even before first-round defensive end Quinton Coples. New York sorely needs the vertical dimension the former Georgia Tech star offers.

Last weekend's draft included seven quarterbacks chosen in the first three rounds, including four in the first round, for the second year in a row. But there were only three quarterbacks tabbed in the final three rounds, the fewest since 1998, and, to some personnel directors, that was an indication of how the position has become so inflated by need.

--Seattle doesn't plan to install a very ambitious rollout package designed for draft choice Russell Wilson, whose lack of physical dimension (5-feet-10 5/8, 204 pounds) scared off some potential suitors. Coach Pete Carroll claimed that Wilson had just four passes deflected at the line of scrimmage in 2011, and worked principally from the pocket. There are skeptics in the league, though, that wonder about the vision hurdles that Wilson will face.
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