Monday, April 30, 2007

Buckeyes in the NFL Draft: Ginn soars, Smith falls

The 2007 NFL Draft was held this past weekend in New York. As usual, the annual event was filled with plenty of drama and hype that was induced primarily as a result of Mel Kiper talking about any given player's "long length" and "fast speed." Of course, there were plenty of Ohio State players that nervously anticipated their name to be called, including the current holder of the Heisman trophy, one Troy Smith.

First Round, 9th Pick
Ted Ginn Jr., Miami Dolphins
The speedster at wide receiver was long considered the best pro prospect to come out of Ohio State in this year's draft. What wasn't expected, however, was that he would be taken in the top ten of the draft. When the pick was made, head Dolphins coach Cam Cameron was met with a plethora of jeers from the Dolphins faithful that were gathered at the team training facility. Quite simply, everyone this side of Nick Saban expected the Dolphins to do what they considered was the logical thing and draft Brady Quinn. After all, Daunte Culpepper's days are about dumb, and you don't see too many people anxiously awaiting the beginning of the Cleo Lemon era in Miami.

So where does Ginn fit in on the Dolphins? Well, with the praise that coach Cameron was giving Ginn's speed and return ability after they selected him, one would have to imagine that he is already a lock as the team's #1 returner. Chances are, he will be a Devin Hester-like player this year, with his only true impact coming on special teams. However, one thing he does have that is different from Hester is NFL caliber ability at wide receiver, it just may take a year or so for him to completely adapt offensively. Due to the losses of Randy McMichael and Wes Welker, the Dolphins are not very deep at receiver, so Ginn will get his chances to make plays early and often. Chances are, if he doesn't get those chances, the pressure from the ownership and fanbase will launch him up the depth chart, just so everyone sees if he was really worth drafting over Brady Quinn.

First Round, 32nd Pick
Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis Colts
This was another surprising pick on the Colts' part. After losing Cato June, Jason David, Nick Harper, Mike Doss, and Montae Reagor, the Colts decided it was best to add another arsenal to Peyton Manning's repetoire. Anthony Gonzalez adds yet another nonexistant ego to Marvin Harrison and the passing game, an absolute rarity nowadays. Giving Gonzalez the chance to learn under Marvin Harrison for the next few years should greatly contribute to his development. Not to mention, he has a pretty good quarterback throwing to him also.

So where does Gonzalez fit in on the Colts? In all likelihood, Gonzalez will be given the task of replacing Brandon Stokely as the slot receiver on the offense. Considering that Gonzo was one of the premier slot receivers in the entire country last season, the transition should be easier for him than others. His speed and route running ability should help him adapt to the game at the next level, and he could progress to one of the team's top receivers if age ever decides to catch up with Marvin Harrison. As for next season, he should be a solid contributer, probably getting somewhere around 30-40 catches as he gets acclimated with the system and fights off some other guys for the slot receiver spot.

Third Round, 98th Pick
Quinn Pitcock, Indianapolis Colts
Honestly, I do not understand why so many draft analysts are not that high on Pitcock. He was the second best defensive tackle in the Big 10 last year, behind only Alan Branch, and he backs up his performance on the field with solid "measurables" (Height, weight, 40-time, etc.). His 40 time at the combine was the third fastest of all defensive tackles, and he has a good 15 pounds on the two guys that were faster than him (For what it's worth, each of those players were drafted ahead of Pitcock as well, so 40-times do have to matter somewhat for defensive linemen). Regardless, I think Pitcock will turn a lot of heads throughout the duration of his career in Indianapolis.

So where does Pitcock fit in on the Colts? If he works hard during training camp, Pitcock has an exceptional chance to make an impact early and often for the Colts. It's no secret that the Colts had one of the worst run defenses in the entire league last season, and stopping the run just so happens to be Pitcock's forte. He probably won't start over the much more experienced Anthony "Booger" McFarland and Raheem Brock, but he can very easily rise to the #2 spot on the depth chart before it's all said and done next season. There isn't a whole lot of depth on the interior of the Colts line, either, so it's kind of surprising that they didn't take a defensive tackle earlier in the draft.

Fourth Round, 107th Pick
Antonio Pittman, New Orleans Saints
Antonio Pittman was widely considered to be one of the top running backs in the third tier of backs behind Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. However, when draft weekend rolled around, the oft-injured Kenny Irons, the workout warrior Chris Henry, the constantly overrated Lorenzo Booker, the pea sized Garrett Wolfe, and the currently injured Michael Bush all heard their names called before Pittman did. The biggest concern surrounding Pittman at the next level is his durability, as most doubt his ability to get 20-25 carries a game. But outside of that, he is a real solid overall player. He is a fast, aggressive runner that is capable of breaking tackles. Considering teams that draft running backs in the middle rounds are usually looking for guys to spell the team's premier back, taking Pittman makes a lot more sense than going with larger risk guys such as Garrett Wolfe or Michael Bush.

So where does Pittman fit in on the Saints? Pittman was not drafted to be the type of running back that would carry the load on any given offense, and considering that he'll be the third option out of the backfield on this Saints team, he won't have to. He should expect to be the team's third running back behind Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush, and chances are, he won't see a lot of snaps this season. However, Deuce has been a bit injury prone over the years, and he'll be 29 at the end of next season, meaning his days as a Saint could be numbered. If Pittman is still around when Deuce is no longer on the team, he could see a significant number of carries with Reggie Bush also sporting some durability concerns himself.

Fifth Round, 138th Pick
Jay Richardson, Oakland Raiders
Oakland can be a black hole for young talent, and I'm not talking about the stadium there, either. When people think of Oakland Raider football, they think of overpaid troublemakers that have terrible work ethic. It won't be an easy situation for Richardson to blossom out of, considering he also has to battle his way up a decent depth chart (contrary to popular belief, Oakland actually was good at defense this past year). Richardson lacks the speed of today's prototypical end, and his pass rushing skills have left much to be desired.

So where does Richardson fit in on the Raiders? Chances are, the Raiders drafted Richardson solely because he still has quite a bit of upside as an athlete. He has the chance to be a consistent run-stopping defensive end in the near future if he puts his mind to it and continues to work hard. However, as I mentioned earlier, Oakland isn't exactly an ideal place for developing young talent, so the odds are against him. His size and potential makes him a very intriguing prospect, and could see some situational duty as a rookie.

Fifth Round, 169th Pick
Roy Hall, Indianapolis Colts
Roy Hall was the third and final Buckeye drafted by the Colts this weekend. However, Hall was drafted much more based on potential rather than pedigree. Hall was injured in the early part of the 2006 season, and when he came back, got lost behind Robiskie in the Wide Receiver shuffle. At the end of the season, chances were good that Roy Hall would get picked up as an undrafted free agent, and never see the field for much of his career. Then came Ohio State's Pro Day. On a day when all eyes were on Troy Smith and Ted Ginn, Hall stole the show -- and saved his career -- by running a 4.41 40 yard dash. This caught the eyes of scouts all around the league, and suddenly, Hall went from a guy lucky to be drafted, to an early second day pick. With 4.4 speed and size (6'3" 238 lbs), Hall is a Scout's dream. However, Hall was a Scout's dream coming out of high school, too, and that didn't exactly work out like it was planned.

So where does Hall fit in on the Colts? Hall is going to be a project player his first couple years in the league. The Colts very well may want him to bulk up and move him to tight end, or they could keep him at receiver. His upside will definitely keep the Colts interested in him long enough for him to get his licks in the pre-season, but he may not see much time when it counts during his rookie season. Even if he does turn into the next Marques Colston, he still has to outperform his college teammate Anthony Gonzalez, and considering he wasn't able to do that in college, chances are good he won't be able to in the pros, either.

Fifth Round, 174th Pick
Troy Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Troy Smith was the only reason I bothered to turn on the draft on Sunday. I watched just about every pick up until the Ravens selected him, and then I got up and did something with my day directly afterwards. Perhaps there has been no second day selection more eagerly awaited than Troy Smith. After all, it's not often that guys that win the Heisman trophy in a landslide fall all the way to the fourth round, but in today's world of combines and 40 times, actual playing ability is pretty far down on most scouts' priority lists. Regardless, this won't be the first time in his life that Troy Smith will have to overcome odds. Considering the kid was orphaned as a child, given the last scholarship offer, recruited as an "athlete," began his collegiate career returning kicks, got suspended, fought his way back on the field, completely rebuilt his image, beat Michigan three times in a row, and completely beat up pretty boy Brady Quinn on the field as well as on the Heisman front, this should be pretty easy for Troy.

So where does Smith fit in on the Ravens? Troy probably won't play much as a rookie. He'll be behind both Steve McNair and Kyle Boller, and will only play in garbage time, or if one of those two guys gets hurt. However, Boller's contract is up at the end of the year, so this draft selection very well may signal Boller's last season as a Raven. Next year will also be Steve McNair's 13th in the NFL, and no quarterback in league history is as famous as McNair for playing through injuries, so one would have to imagine that his days are numbered as well (Chris Mortensen estimated that McNair only has two good years left in him, a fair prediction). Then, Smith will get his shot at beginning his quest towards league domination once again. Troy is in a very favorable situation in Baltimore. He gets to sit and learn his rookie year, then will be a backup in his second season, learning from a player that is very similar to him as far as playing style is concerned in Steve McNair. Maybe this late selection will be a blessing in disguise for Troy, I guess we'll find out in a couple of years.

Sixth Round, 198th Pick
Doug Datish, Atlanta Falcons
Last, but not least, Datish was the final Buckeye to be drafted this year. One of the team's captains, it was Datish's job to replace Nick Mangold on the offensive line in 2006, not an easy task by any means. However, Datish did a very serviceable job as the anchor of the offensive line, being one of the most consistent blockers on the team all season long.

So where does Datish fit in on the Falcons? Datish played just about every position on the offensive line during his tenure as a Buckeye, but will most likely stick to the three interior positions while he is in the pros. He's a very athletic lineman, something which has become a very trendy pick in the NFL over the past few years, so he could climb up the depth chart relatively fast as a rookie. Much of the Falcons offensive line is inexperienced as well, which means he should get every opportunity to play as a rookie, even if it's not in a starting role.

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