Once again I thank you for your feedback. There were some outstanding points made and some questions brought up that deserve discussion. What I hope to do over the next few entries is to get you caught up on where we’re at, describe some of the thought processes that brought us to this point and then move forward with where we might take the team in the future. I’d like to set a “baseline” so to speak and I do feel a lot of your inquiries will be answered as we move ahead. So just have a little patience, but keep bringing me your thoughts.
Georgia Bulldog George Foster was selected with our first round pick in ’03. Foster was the perfect combination of size, speed and length (6’5” 330 lbs 5.03 40 yd dash, freakish numbers for the position) and had been a 2-year starter for the Bulldogs in the SEC. We were looking to replace Ephraim Salaam and felt firm that we could do just that with the selection of Foster. However, remember no OL has come into our system as a rookie and started right away (1st round through FA). NFL.com and Street and Smith’s both saw George as a first-round pick and Kiper, ESPN and FOX all projected him in the second prior to our own selection.
There are currently 7 OTs left active in the NFL from the ’03 draft. Kwame Harris, Jon Stinchcomb, David Diehl and Scott Kooistra remain with their original clubs. Harris has been the subject of frequent trade talks, Stinchcomb (Foster’s teammate at Georgia) started for the first time in ’06, Diehl and Kooistra were deemed outside of the parameters for the OT position in Denver. George started 45 games, including the ’05 AFC championship game, and participated on 3 playoff teams.
As stats go for offensive tackles, he was credited with giving up 13.5 sacks and 3 holds over that time period. To put things in perspective, Gary Zimmerman gave up 18.5 sacks and 5 holds his last 3 seasons with the Broncos, which included Super Bowl XXXII. Foster was subsequently traded along with Tatum Bell to Detroit for DC Dre’ Bly and a late draft choice.
The emergence of Erik Pears as a step-in for the injured Matt Lepsis in ’06 gave us an option to deal George for another player of need (DC Dre’ Bly). With the money invested in Lepsis and the quality of play we received from Pears (along with his emerging upside), it became apparent that we wouldn’t resign Foster for what it would require in ’08. Why not get something of value rather than eventually let him go through free agency?
Terry Pierce was picked up in the 2nd round the same year. Pierce had helped lead Kansas State to a Holiday Bowl appearance and was a first team All- Big 12 and second team All- American selection. He was considered one of the premier LBs in the nation and projected as a first-round pick by Fox Sports and 2nd round pick by PFW, ESPN and Kiper.
With both Ian Gold and Al Wilson approaching free agency, it was felt that Wilson would be the more difficult player to resign to a contract extension. Pierce was selected with the thought of moving him inside, Gold would be resigned to remain on the outside/weakside. Gold went down that season with an ACL and the decision was then made to retain Wilson. Pierce was tried on the outside, but his more natural play had always come from the inside. He never quite caught on to the perimeter of the defense and was eventually let go. It was more a case of playing out of position and not having the physical tools (specifically speed) to do so. This is a specific case of where production did not outweigh measurables.
Four LBs selected after Pierce remain in the League & only 3 with their original team. Gerald Hayes with Arizona started for the first time in ’06. Bradie James of Dallas has shown to be a productive starter for the Cowboys, while Matt Wilhelm has more of a backup role with the Chargers.
2004’s Darius Watts in the 2nd round was a reach and I admit that. Watts had the kind of measurables and quickness that Coach Shanahan has looked for in past WRs. He was thought to be more of a mid-round selection and probably would have been there had we been a bit more patient. The pressure for him to produce might have been a bit less as a result. The staff felt that the need to upgrade the position out weighed the time necessary to develop Watts and he was subsequently released.
I’m going to finish up with past draft questions on the next entry, so until then.