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and the guy isn't even a sportswriter-
Beyond the Pyramids
And the Lord created the pyramid measurements. One shall measure the height. One shall measure the weight. And one shall measure the speed in the 40 yard dash. Upon these three walls shall all decisions be made. And you shall pay attention to only those three, for within them is the secret to the NFL Draft.
Okay, so those words aren't in the Bible. But they might as well be, considering how much time, talk, attention and effort is put into mentioning a draft prospect's 'pyramid numbers'. Height, weight and speed are, taken together, supposed to be the magic formula for determining how well a player will do in the NFL.
While it's certainly a good starting point, the pyramid is certainly not the end of evaluating a player. There are dozens of body parts and performances by which players can be evaluated, from wingspan to vertical leap to big toe diameter. Teams even take a shot at measuring intelligence, although they use a test (the Wonderlic) that's notoriously awful at translating into gridiron smarts.
Unfortunately, there's no IQ test for draft pundits. Too many gurus and journalists stop their evaluations at the pyramid. That's what leads to atrocious mistakes like Rien Long being touted as a first round prospect and ESPN's commentators puzzling over Steven Jackson's plummet last year. And anybody who states a 40 yard dash time as being somehow important in evaluating an offensive tackle should be sued for punditry malpractice. The only time an offensive tackle needs to run that far is during the halftime jog to the locker room.
Luckily, team evaluators are more thorough. That's how the Colts figured Dwight Freeney was worth their 12th pick in the 2003 draft, despite his lack of stature. Tony Dungy and company valued his explosiveness (measured by 10 yard dash and broad jump) over his height. Likewise, the Miami Dolphins were so enamored with Chris Chambers' 42ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? vertical leap that they were willing to overlook his mediocre 40-yard-dash times and take him with a second round pick.
With all that in mind, here are five prospects with 'hidden' measurables that make them special. Then I talk about two top-ranked athletes, each with his own red flag furiously waving at scouts. In each case, it might just be big and red enough to knock the player out of the first round.
Mark BradleyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂOklahoma, Wide ReceiverÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂEver since the advent of Randy Moss, everyone wants a tall and fast receiver. And college programs have obliged, steadily knocking out a handful of Moss clones in each of the last four drafts. But there's another type of NFL receiver that are smaller and slower who excel because of their route-running skills and other athletic abilities. Mark Clayton, the Oklahoma superstar will join their ranks this season. But his team-mate, Mark Bradley, could also be a successful wideout in the pros. While Bradley doesn't have the statistics that some of his peers can brag about, he does have a special skill: a vertical jump of 39.5 inches. That's second only to Georgia's Reggie Brown, another high-riser and potential first rounder. Bradley too could edge into the first round. He's not freakishly tall at 6'1ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?, but the extra inches in his vertical makes up for that.
Alex SmithÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂStanford, Tight EndÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂIf receiving were all there were to being a tight end, then drafting them would be easy. But NFL tight ends act more like a 6th lineman than a third wideout. When they do catch the ball, a wicked hit is almost sure to come, which means that durability is important. Most college ends that compete in the draft don't get to test their ability to take a pro hit or to hone their blocking skills, so the best drafting strategy is to take a good receiver that shows some athletic potential for the other two talents. And there's one good predictor of both: strength. And Alex Smith, an excellent receiver for a bad team, is strong. He bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times consecutively at the combine. That's more than most of the 300 pound lineman in the draft. It's the kind of strength you need to play the toughest position in the NFL, while also being able to absorb the kind of punishment that tight ends must endure.
Alex HaynesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂCentral Florida, Running BackÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â2005 is a running back draft. As many as 20 of them could make an NFL roster by September. Most of them are big names from big schools. But one that could surprise some team's fans in the second round (as they thumb through their draft guides, cursing under their breath) is Alex Haynes. And it's because of his hands. His big hands. 10.25 inch hands, to be exact. That's about an inch larger than the average hand-size of an NFL running back. And one inch matters. It's much easier to fumble when your hands have trouble wrapping around the ball. Haynes will have no such problem. Add to that a spectacular, if unheralded, college career and a not-too-bad 4.5 40-yard-dash, and you have a very good NFL player.
Ben WilkersonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂLSU, CenterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂSpeaking of hands, few have ones larger than Ben Wilkerson's. But Wilkerson has something else that every center needs: wingspan. His arm, from fingertip to shoulder, is 35 inches long. Only Alex Barron, the Florida State offensive tackle, spreads farther. Wilkerson was a top prospect coming into the 2004 season, but has since been overshadowed by other, healthier pivots. The knock against him is that he still hasn't been able to work out for teams because of a nagging knee injury suffered at the end of last season. All that means is that some team will be able to pick up a first round talent with a late pick.
Vincent JacksonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂNorthern Colorado, Wide ReceiverÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂWhile Matt Jones gets all the press as this season's ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“most intriguingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? player, Vincent Jackson is triggering the curiosity of just as many scouts. At 6'5ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? and 240 pounds, he doesn't fit the wide receiver mould, but he's too fast to be an average tight end. So why isn't he being considered for the first round? Because he went to a school that most NFL personnel officials assume is somewhere north of Siberia. And why should that matter? Forget the aphorisms about 'level of competition'. It's because scouts assume that anybody that would go to Northern Colorado is just plumb stupid. That's usually why great athletes go to no-name schools. But Jackson clearly doesn't qualify for that generalization: he scored a 33 on the Wonderlic test, higher than any other receiver. The Wonderlic doesn't tell us much, besides confirming that punters tend to be too smart to play a position where you actually have to get hit. But Jackson's score tells us enough about his mental abilities to believe that he can handle an NFL playbook, unlike some of his small-school peers.
Carnell WilliamsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂThe Cadillac might have wheels, but his hands present a problem. At 8.25 inches, his hands equal the size of mighty-might Darren Sproles' hands. Few statistics have more of a predictive ability than hand size, which has a high correlation to fumbleitis (think Ricky Williams). Thus you can expect Carnell, about whom there used to be a buzz about being the first player taken in this draft, to take a slippery slide down many teams' draft boards as they take his hands into account.
Aaron RodgersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂWatching somebody take the three cone drill--a measure of agility, balance and nimblenessÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âyou'll see a resemblance to the frantic scatting of a quarterback in a broken pocket. Thus the fact that Aaron Rodgers ran his cone drill in 7.39 seconds must be furrowing the brow of many a scout. His strong point, after all, is supposed to be his elusiveness. But with that score, he'll look like a camel with arthritis to NFL defensive linemen. The combine results might have been a fluke, but you can bet that every team is watching tapes of Golden Bear pocket breakdowns to determine if Rodgers really is more snake than snake oil.
Worth The Read
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Vince Jackson would be very intriguing in the 3rd round. If he\'s that good a prospect, I\'d want to meet with him and consider the 2nd round.
Alex Smith--interesting candidate, not sure if this coaching staff can use a TE well enough to merit taking one in the first 3 rounds.
Wilkerson--can\'t have too many good linemen. The local angle won\'t hurt either. Roll the dice and see if he drops to round 4?
By the way--LKelley
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[Edited on 7/4/2005 by BrooksMustGo]
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