Needless, senseless, tragic. Some of the words that best describe my feelings regarding the passing of Sean Taylor. We all only know too well the emotions of the Washington Redskins and their fans at this moment with our own loss of Darrent Williams. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and teammates.
And now, Maurice Clarett. Clarett’s much maligned career at Ohio State has been well documented and I won’t go there, only to state that we were fully aware of what had transpired over his brief stint with the Buckeyes. What I will say is that this organization knows RB’s and has proven that enough without having to be questioned on the ability to do so.
Clarett had burst on the scene in ’02 as a 1st team All-Big 10 selection and Freshman of the Year, while helping the Buckeyes to a National Championship win over Miami. He had 1,237 yards rushing, averaged 5.6 yds per carry and he tallied 16 TDs on the ground. He caught 12 balls for 104 yards and 2 scores to supplement his rushing statistics. He had the size, vision, instincts and patience that had added up to success for others in our system. The staff sat down with him at the Combine and listened to his explanations regarding his past, as well as sought personal input from many who had dealt with Maurice, not only at OSU but in high school as well. I think we all found him to be engaging, intelligent and contrite, while fully aware that there were character issues that would have to be handled correctly in order to maximize his potential. However, we did not leave Indy with the sole intent of taking Maurice Clarett.
Denver was faced with selecting from the last position in the 3rd round (#101), awarded as a compensatory pick from the NFL and therefore not to be traded. Not scheduled to pick again until the 6th, we felt that this would be a good place to grab someone on our board that had slipped for whatever reason (medical, character, measurables, etc…). The same philosophy used in the pursuit of Marcus Thomas (DT, Florida) this past draft. There were a few players that were deemed “clean” to take at that selection, but they had already fallen off the board prior to the end of the round.
Two that we felt certainly had the physical ability, but anchored with side problems, were Maurice and Chris Canty (DE, Virginia) of the Cowboys. Canty had suffered an offseason eye injury (detached retina) that had not yet been cleared by our doctors. Clarett seemed young, hungry and ready to make up ground with a run-oriented team. The type of player you could take time to develop and on top of that, his agents were willing to negotiate a deal that would be incentive laden and have no signing bonus.
There was considerable discussion over the course of our five minutes, but ultimately we felt the upside to be bigger than any negatives that might come with the pick (fully aware of boom or bust). That’s really what the draft is all about, weighing the positive and negative aspects of a player’s ability to eventually reach his full potential. It was all there for the taking. A tremendous opportunity that he, and only he, chose not to seize.
As I look at who we passed at the position, the only player that jumps out on the second day is Marion Barber III. Barber has shown productive ability with the Cowboys for sure, but was laden with his own past physical problems and deemed too high a medical risk (longevity issues) for us to take at the time. And yes, we were fully aware of his Minnesota background. So much so that Coach Shanahan had coached his father for the Gophers in ’79.
There are a number of RB’s still active in the League from the ’05 draft, including Brandon Jacobs (NYG) and Darren Sproles (San Diego), neither of which met the past profile for what we look for at the position. Hindsight certainly is 20/20. But I’m not sure that I “see” a single player picked between our selection of Clarett and our next selection of Chris Myers (current OC starter) in the 6th round that would have made much of a major difference at this point in our ’07 season.
Many of you have brought up (on multiple occasions) the displeasure of “misses” on players drafted on the second day. Did you know that there are currently more college free agents active in the NFL than the combined total of all 5th, 6th and 7th round selections of the NFL draft and that those players on average have a higher playtime percentage than their counterparts in those three rounds?
There are certainly many other avenues to acquire talent and that’s the direction I’ll be headed, but I think I’ll touch a bit on my own philosophy and overall observations of the draft in my next entry.
P.S. – Based on the average of eleven mock draft sources, Tim Crowder was a projected 2nd round, 60th pick. But who’s counting?