Which Mountain West player from this past year will have the most successful NFL career? We probably can’t answer that, but we can tell who we think it will be.
This is one of my favorite weekends of the year. The NFL Draft, the gathering of team officials and scouts that used to be all but invisible. Now it extends to 24/7 coverage the two months prior to the first name being selected and you can watch every second on either ESPN or the NFL Network.
Personally, I think it’s just because the good folks of America would rather discuss their NFL team’s draft than post-season hockey or basketball. At least the majority arguably think this way.
This year is one of those that you wish your team wasn’t anywhere near the top. There’s no Peyton Manning, there’s no Adrian Peterson and there’s no guarantee that your team will be any better in the fall.
What there is however, is the promise of quite a few busts. I’ll lay out my opinions, then you can sound off with the comment section of you’d like. Who was your team’s worst draft choice ever? The best? Your favorite? Lay ‘em all down.
First off, living in the footprint of the Mountain West Conference, the vast majority of folks who read this will either be Wyoming, Utah or BYU fans. Yes, there are those Utah State fans out there, and heaven knows I like USU to a degree seeing as how both my parent graduated from Logan, but I’m Brown & Gold through and through. One could even argue that USU has as many relevant draft choices in the last five years than any MWC school (Chris Cooley and Kevin Curtis to name a couple), but that’s where I’m going to leave it. By the way, that’s hard for me since Cooley is arguably my favorite player.
For now, let’s look at some conference studs who should hear their name called this weekend.
Paul Kruger OLB (Utah) – Kruger is one of those guys who’s likely to be going higher because he fits the buzz words of this particular draft. He’s been used as a linebacker, but can also put his hand down and play as a down lineman, and the term “hybrid” and “3-4″ defense have never been hotter than they are right now. Kruger is going to have a solid NFL career by all indications, and draft gurus have him slated to go anywhere in the early to mid 2nd round. That’s pretty darn good money right there folks. A big season capped off with his defense stifling Alabama in a BCS game helped his stock too. He’s likely to be the first MWC guy off the list.
Sean Smith S (Utah) – First off, just how many unrelated Smiths can we have at Utah? Doesn’t it seem there’s been a prominent player named Smith at the U for about 20 years now? He may not be the first guy selected from the MWC, then again, he might, but I think he’s going to have the best career, and he could have a monster rookie season. A converted wide receiver, Smith is listed at 6′ 3 1/2″ as a safety, who also played some corner in Salt Lake City. If he’s got legitimate speed to do this in the NFL, he’s going to be a very rich man. What receiver out there is 6′ 3″ with 4.4 speed to match him? One now has Trent Edwards throwing to him in Buffalo, and the other shot himself in the leg while wearing sweatpants in a “trendy” nightclub. By the way, just how trendy can the place be if they let him in wearing sweatpants and a loaded gun? I think Smith is listed to go in the middle of the 2nd round, but dont’ be surprised if a team gets antsy and moves up to take him.
Jason Philips ILB (TCU) – Not surprising, TCU sends a couple of guys to the league about every year. Philips is a guy who didn’t start drawing attention until later in the season. At least by the media. He should go anywhere in the 4th to 5th round and should be starting in a couple of years on the right team.
Austin Collie WR (BYU) – No program complains louder when a player decides to “spurn” the Y and bolt to the pros. I’ve heard plenty of dye-in-the-wool Cougar fans rip on Collie over the last few months for his decision to go pro after his junior year. Yes, I’d want him back too, anytime you lose your best receiver in a prominently aerial assault, he’s going to be missed. Here’s where I see his point. He wasn’t going to be any better if he came back. Yes, a bit selfish not taking another year for the team when you consider the Y starts off with Oklahoma and Florida State. But if they lose either one of those games, the BCS path is likely busted, and that will be by September 12. Collie is tough, has a knack for the ball, but is not nearly as fast as BYU fans like to think he is. And as for the numbers, Wyoming’s Marcus Harris had three consecutive seasons that were better, and collected the Biletnikoff Trophy. Where did he get selected? Detroit in the 7th round. Collie is faster than Harris, but if he goes anywhere before the 5th round, I’ll be shocked. Teams like Seattle, Philly, Buffalo and the Steelers all have had success with BYU players, so that might be a place to start.
Louie Sakoda K/P (Utah) – Kickers just don’t go very high in the draft as a rule. The only time that happens is when Al Davis is calling the shots, and you know how well that’s worked out over the last 25 years. Sakoda is valuable because of his versatility. If you can have one guy who can be a world class punter and a kicker, it frees up another roster spot for a position that’s not so lucky. I think Sakoda is on a lot of people’s radar, it will just be a matter of what round. I’m saying the sixth, but a team like Washington who struggles in both areas might look at him earlier.
Devin Moore RB (Wyoming) – Well, this is the main reason I’m writing this. Devin Moore is considered by nearly all Wyoming fans, to be a tragic circumstance. He’s been listed anywhere from 4.27 t0 4.35 in speed. (His pro day was 4.33) He bench presses 225 an amazing 29 times for his 190 pound frame, and he’s got zero, absolutely zero character flaws. His problem? He played on a team with the least amount of offensive creativity in the country his senior season. Despite not having a quarterback average more than 150 yards a game and nine guys keying on him last season, he led the MWC in rushing with a staggering 5.2 yards per carry. Can you imagine if he had one more year with Dave Christensen’s Mizzou offense being implemented? Moore is surprisingly tough, lightning quick (no pun intended) and will do anything to make the team. I see Moore as a slightly larger Darrin Sproles. Moore has touchdowns rushing, receiving, in the punt return and kick return avenues and would probably make the transition to special teams quickly if requested. In short, I know my goggles are thick, but I think a team will get a steal with Devin Moore. That being said, if he goes before the 6th round, it would be a pleasant surprise. However, guys like Derrick Martin and John Wendling have gone in the 6th round in recent years and stuck with their teams, I expect Moore to extend the trend.
Well, those are some players I’ll be watching over the weekend, but here’s my mock draft for the first few picks. Why we do these things, I’ll never know. One trade will absolutely wreck the whole deal, so I’ll incorporate what I think should happen. In a world where Ryan Leaf is considered a lock, nobody really knows what they’re doing all the time.
1- Detroit – Matthew Stafford (Georgia) - Who they should pick – Jason Smith (Baylor) – The Lions are not going to be in the playoffs next year, and Stafford has only started 16 games in his college career. By the way, underclassmen selected at the QB position over the last 15 years include Alex Smith, Jamarcus Russell, Akili Smith, Cade McKnown, Tim Couch and Heath Shuler. In fact, I dare you to find the last underclassman who came out in the last 20 years in the first round and didn’t bust. I’m sure there’s somebody, but it’s rare. Smith would help solidify the line and the Lions can look for a QB next year, but what do I know.
2- St. Lous Rams – Jason Smith (Baylor) - Who they should pick – Smith. This guy has great character if you’ve ever read his journey to Baylor, and if you’re going to play in St. Louis, that would be a definite plus right now. He’ll replace Orlando Pace, who’s now in Chicago downing deep-dish pizza.
3- Kansas City – Aaron Curry (Wake Forest) – Who they should pick – Trade down. The Chiefs have arguably improved more than anyone in the off season. They have Dwane Bowe and now Matt Cassell. They go their defensive lineman last year in the first round and they just traded Tony Gonzales for a second round pick. Look for KC to trade down for more picks and perhaps have three in the second round where new GM Scott Pioli has an eye for talent.
4- Seattle – Mark Sanchez (USC) – Who they should pick – Trade down. The ‘Hawks know they have some leverage with this pick. Teams from Washington, to Denver, to San Fran are interested in Sanchez. Seattle could get some great draft picks to simply move down into the middle of the first round which is likely where they want to be anyway. They could use a new running game, Perhaps selecting Knowshon Mereno with the 10th pick after trading with the 49er’s would be in order.
Cleveland – Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech) – Who they should pick – Jim Brown. Even Mr. Brown in his current advanced state has to be tougher than half this team. With Donte Stallworth likely heading for more trouble after killing a man with his car, Crabtree would be a great selection . . . . if they geniuses in Cleveland will stop trying to trade Braylen Edwards.
Well folks, enjoy the draft, and let me know what you think. Here’s to hoping Devin Moore winds up a Washington Redskin.