By John Harris
March 1, 2014
The 2014 NFL Combine is in the books, and at the end of the four day underwear -- errr, performance gear -- extravaganza, most of the nation is still talking about the two players we were all talking about heading in to Indianapolis: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel and South Carolina uber-edge player Jadeveon Clowney.
Sitting in Houston, it’s only natural to see the comparison of this draft to the one that took place eight years ago. The Texans had the first pick. A polarizing homeboy Texas QB was at the top of the board, alongside a freak of nature from the Carolinas. Not sure who plays the Reggie Bush role in the 2014 NFL Draft (Teddy Bridgewater? Dri Archer?), but even without the former USC star, the similarities are appropriate. All of which got me thinking back to what I thought about that draft as it happened.
On Draft Day Saturday 2006, I live blogged for each and every pick of the first three rounds. I love to look back and grade my analysis, no matter whether I knocked it out of the park or missed horribly, like a Scott Norwood Super Bowl game winning wide right shank. Predictably, there were some hits and some misses. If nothing else, it takes our minds off the Manziel-Clowney rhetoric. Well, for a little while anyway.
Working backwards, I had this to say about Jacksonville’s selection in the second round of former UCLA RB Maurice Drew. If you’re wondering, “Who?” it’s M.J.D. Oh, yeah, him.
"He might be short, but everything else about Maurice Drew is first round pure bread stud. He's quicker than a hiccup, catches the ball out of the backfield and embarrasses guys on punt returns.
"He's so perfect behind Fred Taylor, even if he doesn't get to ride the adult rides at Busch Gardens. He's just a wonderful football player who will be so valuable in Jacksonville as a second back candidate behind Taylor. Add in his return game abilities and hands out of the backfield, and the Jags got another value pick."
Not bad, no? Well, the Buccaneers selected former Boston College star Jeremy Trueblood one pick before Drew (ouch). I didn’t agree with it.
I hate to say that the Tampa Bay personnel department has dropped the ball, but Trueblood isn't worthy of a second round selection. If you don't believe me, just pop in the Virginia Tech film from this past year when Darryl Tapp took him out behind the woodshed.
At 6'9", he's massive, but he doesn't have the power to get the movement at that position like he should. He envelopes guys on run downs and that style won't work in the NFL, instead of driving them and loses his feet on pass protection. I think that Trueblood could've been had at the end of third or early second day. Not here.
Trueblood started 86 games in the NFL, but was average at best, a liability at worst. A few picks earlier, the Bears took some guy named Hester from Miami.
But, from a return game perspective, the Bears just got the best one in the game (when healthy), including Reggie Bush. Hester has the ability to blow a game wide open with his breakneck speed and burst on kickoff and punt returns.
I’d say Devin Hester lived up to the “best return guy in the game” label well for the past eight years. A few picks earlier, I got a little excited about a Vince Young (more on him later)-LenDale White combination in Tennessee. Doh.
OH MY GOSH! Vince Young and LenDale White? Holy cow.
Now a Texan, Danieal Manning went in the second round to the Bears.
Small school player with big time skills. Incredible athlete and I like his size 6' and 205. He'll have the biggest adjustment to the NFL after a career at Abilene Christian.
Furthermore, he has some technique work to do, as he dominated the action at the lower level, but adding a play making threat in the Bears secondary was needed. Manning will be a factor on special teams right away and he's probably going to be a situational player until he's fully ready to step into one of the starting safety spots.
Thinking back, I was surprised that I liked Chad Jackson, but the “eye in the sky” … okay, that doesn’t quite work for this, but it was right there in black and white. I liked this pick and I’m ashamed.
But, he's athletic with the ball in the air and Tom Brady will love having a downfield receiver who will take some defenders out of the middle of the field. Another good move for the Pats.
Yeah, but in theory, I was rig…okay, you’re right, I was just flat wrong. I loved the Texans top of the second round selection of DeMeco Ryans and hit on the assessment. The second paragraph? Uh, not so much.
Tremendously versatile. Plays well in pass coverage, but is much better on blitz downs. Physical, good tackler. He's a smart kid, character guy and a solid player to find in the second round. Might need to play in space more at his size, but I think this guy steps in early and plays right away.
Texans go defense, defense, instead of offense, offense in the first two rounds - I guess the adage that you win championships with defense is still valid.
Ditto for the Steelers selection of Santonio Holmes.
Oh man, you're going to let the World Champions pick up the best pure WR in the draft to replace Antwaan Randle-El? Wow. I like this pick for so many reasons.
RB Laurence Maroney was my guy coming out of Minnesota. This assessment was awesome … for like a year or two. Then, pffffffftttttttt, nothing.
Oh boy. Oh boy, I just got chills. Why does it seem that the Patriots just know what they're doing in the draft? I knew that he was the number two back in the draft and the man crush that I have on him is highly evident. It is the dreads, you know.
Yeah, I actually mentioned his dreads. I’m an idiot. Okay, carrying on. After watching Hard Knocks, I know I wasn’t the only one hoping Bobby Carpenter would pan out for the Cowboys.
I didn't think that Carpenter would go this high - apparently, the Cowboys couldn't find a trade down partner.
However, don't think that means that the Cowboys didn't get value with Carpenter. He's a big (nearly 260 pounds), run stuffing outside backer who could be in the mold of Jerry Porter from Pittsburgh.
(Cringing as I continue...) Really?!? Let’s see if I can hit on one. Many honestly thought Jason Allen would be a star at cornerback. Nick Saban did in the first of his only two drafts for the Miami Dolphins. I didn’t. See?
Sorry ... in all seriousness, as a safety, I think that he can be a player. I do not, repeat do not, like him as a cover corner - too much clutching and grabbing and not a great deal of recovery speed.
Harris - 1, Saban - 0. The Baltimore Ravens selected a perennial All-Pro, Haloti Ngata, who answered all of the “if” questions emphatically. One interesting piece to read was my comment that Ray Lewis was making noise about leaving Baltimore. I don’t remember that all that much, but I wrote it and it’s on the Internet, so it has to be true, right?
Right spot, different team - this is exactly where we projected Ngata, the hulking defensive tackle from Oregon. He can tie up as many blockers as he wants to, and it frees up linebacker Ray Lewis, who has made some noise about leaving Baltimore lately. I don't think that he wants to leave with this kid coming to Baltimore.
He didn’t and the two would dominate together for eight years. Just prior to Ngata’s selection, the two picks were QB. Jay Cutler went to Denver at No. 11.
There's some work to do for the first first round selection from Vanderbilt since 1986 - Cutler. His mechanics are not as solid as Matt Leinart, but he makes up for that with just pure play making ability.
It’s right. His mechanics were never on par with Leinart’s. Eight years later, Cutler still has mechanical issues. So, if you’re thinking, “Well, NFL coaches will just fix all of (insert name of 2014 Draft prospect here)’s issues,” I present to you one Jay Cutler. (Speaking of Leinart, he went at No. 10 to Arizona.)
It's about time. I did have a feeling that Leinart would drop in this draft, so it's not a real surprise that he did go to #10 (even though, arguably, he would've been the number one pick in 2005).
You've seen him play so often, that it's hard to tell you what he can and/or can't do, but let's start with him being a winner. Similar to Vince Young, this guy knows how to win. He's a leader and the Cardinals will eventually rally around him. Arm strength is overrated in my eyes. I think that the arm that he has is sufficient, and as guys get older, they get stronger and can improve their arm strength. What do you think Tom Brady did in his first two years at New England? That's why he was a sixth round pick.
Leinart does throw the ball fairly well on the move, and he's moving into a situation where he won't have to carry this offense. He can let 'Quan, Larry and the Edge take the brunt of the action. He just has to manage the game. Leinart couldn't have been given a better situation. And, if there's a classier professional in this game, it's Kurt Warner, who'll help and assist Leinart every day.
Or Warner can just take over in 2008 and lead the Cardinals to the only Super Bowl in the organization’s history. Not sure I was way off on the assessment, but I wanted to puke when I saw the “winner” comment.
Throughout the 2014 Combine, the NFL Network flashed back repeatedly to the first year it showed the Combine on NFL Network. That was 2006. Vernon Davis put on a show during that Combine and continues to do so in San Francisco.
The phrase "Freak of Nature" is used probably way too often, but that's what this guy is. It fits Davis like a glove. Everyone and their brother were wowed by what he did at the combine, but if you watched him these past two seasons, you already knew.
He's a vertical threat. He's 6'4" and 254 pounds and can get down the seam as well as any receiver that you'll find in this draft. I think that he can get open in so many different areas on the field and that creates so many opportunities for himself and for Niner QB Alex Smith, who might be the happiest person on the West Coast this morning. Davis does tend to catch the ball with his body, but he also has made some tremendous one hand catches as he did against North Carolina. But, it was against Virginia when he really showed what he was all about. He caught a 15- to 20-short corner route, got plastered by a UVA defensive back, fought it off and then beat everyone into the end zone. It was one of those plays you really came out of your seat and said "Wow!" There aren't many people on this earth that can do what he does. He does have some work to do on his in-line blocking skills, but what he can do in the passing game surpasses any deficiencies in his blocking skills.
Plus, my wife is a fan - he's an art major, so we're all on board in the Harris household.
Green Bay selected A.J. Hawk one pick before Davis, which, as I write, I can’t help but think what Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers would’ve done with Davis the last eight years. Regardless, I was a huge Hawk fan at Ohio State, with one exception.
One thing that stood out watching him this year was that in the first few series of downs, he seemed to be feeling out the offensive scheme.
Slow to react has been something that has plagued Hawk, even though he’s had an adequate career in Green Bay. Two picks earlier at No. 3 Tennessee drafted Vince Young -- another winner comment. Yuck. Most of it’s dead on. The forecasting into the future? Uh, not so much.
Vince Young is a winner. Before you think about him as a quarterback. Or, even as a football player. He's a winner. He was the driving force last summer with summer workouts - putting up on the board "If you want to beat Ohio State, meet me at 8PM on the field". He took the reins of that Texas team and led them to a 13-0 record and a national championship. Young has holes as a QB, let's not fool ourselves, but perhaps not the same holes that most people think about. He doesn't get passes knocked down, but his accuracy on key throws - deep digs, balls in the hole against cover two and down the seam - will need some work. But, his escapability from the pocket allows him to keep his eyes downfield and find receivers - not just to make yardage on scrambles. And, if he does run from the pocket, you better bring all you've got to try to tackle him. He's a solid 225 and tackling him isn't how I'd like to spend my lovely Sunday afternoon. Give him the playbook that he wants to use - combine his skills into Norm Chow's knowledge of the game and the Titans could be scary in a year or two. Billy Volek will perhaps take the ball this year, if Steve McNair isn't around (and don't discount how valuable drafting Young is to McNair, VY's mentor), then it's going to be Vince Young's ball and his team in 2007 and beyond.
Granted, I wasn’t as high on VY as others in Houston, but reading the assessment, man, we put a lot of stock in the “all he does is win” category. He was on the right trajectory, then he took his shirt off for pictures on the Internet and Jeff Fisher used that against him. Well, that’s the story I’m sticking with, at least for the sake of all my Longhorn fans out there.
Many at the time knew how much I liked Bush. Reggie Bush. COME ON, people. Anyhow, looking back at what I wrote, I was pretty much on point, just glad I didn’t guarantee a decade of Pro Bowls.
Great hands out of the backfield. He can play any receiver position, along with being a feature back. His ability to play in the slot takes his value to another level
Bush has had a solid career, but a hair (or two) short of what many of us projected.
Days prior to the draft, news broke that Bush took thousands of dollars and a house for his parents, among other things, from two marketers/agents/middlemen in San Diego. When I saw that news, I just knew it had the chance of giving Houston some pause at the top of the draft.
The brass will argue that it never had an impact. Whether it did or didn’t, when it was announced that Mario Williams had reached an agreement with the Texans as the number one pick in the draft, it was a shock. I remember hearing the news on sports radio in North Carolina driving home on a Thursday afternoon and I about drove off the road. February of that year, I wrote a scouting report for Mario.
physical specimen…motor is a question…can he play hard 65 plays a game?...dominant pass rusher…can beat one, two and even three blockers when his effort is at its peak…4.66 speed for a nearly 300 pounder…quickness and burst off the edge is outstanding…talented, but raw…stronger against the run than most due to his size…tends to play tall when getting off of run blocks…’peeks’ into the backfield when run to his side…has to learn to let his technique take him to the ball…pursues quickly when motivated…not afraid to put his hat on ball carrier… closing speed to the QB is phenomenal…length is evident…strength is evident…so explosive off of the ball…has to learn to redirect against bootleg and waggle…will dominate with his physical skills early… but, must dominate while he ‘learns’ how to develop his pass rush acumen…speed and quickness will register sacks, but teams will figure out how to deal with those two aspects…how does he develop the rest of his ‘game’?...versatile…could play 3-4 DE or be a three down 4-3 DE…best value of any defensive player in this draft…perhaps as much value as Reggie Bush…young kid who arrived early at NC State, and is leaving early from State.
I finished well, huh? Or started well. Whatever. I don’t think I’ll be live blogging during the 2014 NFL Draft; that was waaaaay too much work. Twitter’s a whole lot easier, ya know? Either way, it’ll be fun to look back eight years from now when Baylor QB Johnny Baugh and Clemson star DE Barkevious Peppers are vying for the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Here’s hoping the Houston Texans won’t be making that first pick ever again.