The NFL Draft has concluded. As it turned out, Tamba Hali was the only Nittany Lion drafted on Day One. Five others were selected in Rounds Four through Seven. The remaining six undrafted players will have to see if they can make deals as free agents.
Hali is in a good situation, having been picked #20 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. Theirs is a defense that has come a long way from the sieve it had been, but needs a few pieces to become formidable enough to get the Chiefs into the playoffs. A decent pass rush has been one of the missing pieces. Hali has the skills and determination to assuage that weakness, and he is a wonderful human being, too. Perhaps some of his qualities will rub off on his new teammate, former PSU—and now Pro Bowl—running back Larry Johnson, the perennial whiner.
A slew of Penn State players were chosen in the fourth round: Michael Robinson (#100 overall), to the San Francisco 49ers; Calvin Lowry (#102), to the Tennessee Titans; and Alan Zemaitis (#122), to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Robinson’s pick is enigmatic. The 49ers are a team that needed to draft well as they are trying to put a team together. Robinson is a project, and the 49ers do not have time to develop players. They need immediate help. Last year, they drafted QB Alex Smith #1 overall, and he’s not going anywhere. So don’t expect to see M-Rob playing QB in the City by the Bay. Wide receiver and kick returns would be a better bet. Still, whichever position he plays in the NFL will require a lot of work. There is no question about Robinson’s athletic ability: he is big and relatively fast. While it should be interesting to see how he fits in the NFL, there are more questions than answers. In particular, will the 49ers have the patience to develop him?
I will just love to watch Calvin Lowry returning punts for the Titans. (The scouting report on Lowry actually said that he was a reasonably good punt returner.) The Titans are rebuilding their team, and Texas QB Vince Young will be the centerpiece of that reconstruction. Young will take a while to develop and acclimate to the NFL system, which won’t happen in the first year. So, how will Lowry contribute while Young is learning the ropes? This Turkey thinks that Lowry will be an excellent special teams contributor who can help right away.
Alan Zemaitis landed in my backyard, which makes me happy. I had seen him as a great fit for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but I wondered if they would see it the same way in a draft laden with cornerbacks. The Bucs have two Pro-Bowl cornerbacks in Brian Kelly and Ronde Barber, but both have been around a long time and are now in their 30s. Tampa Bay is the quintessential Cover Two system, to which Zemaitis’ experience is ideally suited. (Nobody ever played the Sandusky soft zone better, even if Jerry had departed before Zemaitis arrived.) This Turkey believes that old soldier Monte Kiffin, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator and chief architect of the “Tampa Cover-2,” will be pleased with Zemaitis as a hard working player and as a man of great character.
In later rounds, Tyler Reed was chosen in the sixth round by the Chicago Bears, while Ethan Kilmer ended his hopes of becoming “Mr. Irrelevant” quickly, by being chosen first in the seventh round by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Remaining undrafted were Lavon Chisley, Chris Harrel, Matthew Rice, Scott Paxson, Anwar Phillips, and Isaac Smolko. Phillips is the only surprise among these, but his scouting sheet included his character problems, so it wasn’t a big surprise. Chisley also, with his history of academic incompetence and criminal prosecution, doesn’t surprise me. They might be able to cut free agent deals, though. They’d fit in well with the Oakland Raiders. To the rest of the undrafted Nittany Lions, this Turkey wishes good luck. Some might find their way into the NFL.
My favorite Virginia Tech screw-up, Marcus Vick, was not drafted. Speaking of character flags, Marcus has had one since Betsy Ross’ time. I am happy to see that the NFL thinks of Vick the same way I do.
I suppose the Nittany Lions did as well as could be expected, although I really thought Zemaitis would go on Day One. We didn’t compare well with our rivals Ohio State and Florida State in terms of draft placements. Nine Buckeyes were selected, five in the first round, while the Seminoles sent eight to the NFL, four in the first round.
A couple of FSU/OSU picks will help the Steelers, if I may digress to my favorite NFL team for a moment. My Steelers needed a replacement for the departed Antawan Randle El, who will be playing for the Washington Redskins this year. They got their replacement in two parts: WR Santonio Holmes of OSU and ace punt returner Willie Reid of FSU. You all remember Reid’s work in the Orange Bowl, no doubt. He is a talented and slippery punt returner. Randle El’s performance in that capacity was a major contribution to the Steelers’ Super Bowl success and Reid should fill his punt returning shoes quite well.
We sure did better than last year, when no Nittany Lions were drafted at all. (See NFL Draft Grumble: Rock Bottom?) Hali, in fact, was the first PSU player selected in the first round since 2003, when Larry Johnson was drafted. Will we ever be able to perform like Florida State and Ohio State in the draft? Does it matter? This Turkey says that it is one big thing that recruits consider, so, yes, it matters.
The Turkey will keep track of ex-PSU players’ performances in the NFL throughout the regular season and the playoffs.