The NFL draft is upon us once again. It’s a half-hour away and already the first two picks are known. Meanwhile, the Turkey sits in bated anticipation of great Penn State coups.
The first two picks, by the Dolphins and the Rams, were dealt for in advance, so no great suspense there. Offensive tackle Jake Long of Michigan went to Miami as #1 overall pick, while St. Louis gained the services of Virginia defensive end Chris Long (son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long) at #2.
With regard to Penn State’s output, this will not be a banner year year. Your Turkey foresees no first-rounders. The draft eligible players are linebacker Dan Connor, cornerback Justin King, running back Rod Kinlaw, the now exonerated running back Austin Scott, and, of course, bringing up the rear, much maligned quarterback Anthony Morelli.
Is it my imagination or does it seem that the NFL is regarding Nittany Lions pretty lightly these days? One thing that concerns me is that there seem to be a lot of serious rookie year injuries of highly picked Penn State players. If the PSU strength and conditioning program is perceived as deficient, for example, players might slip down in the draft because of the gamble involved. There is indeed a history of early exits or unrealized expectations due to injuries: Courtney Brown, Ki-Jana Carter, Curtis Enis, and LaVar Arrington, to name a few. We won’t know whether Paul Posluszny’s leg will ever be the same, but it is too soon to tell.
Connor stands the best chance of being a first-rounder, although early second round seems more likely to this Turkey. Linebackers Keith Rivers of USC and Jerod Mayo of Tennessee are more highly regarded. Nevertheless, many NFL scouts think that Connor has the brains and the brawn to exceed the capability of his predecessor, Paul Posluszny.
Justin King hurt himself with his performance on the field in 2007. The vaunted Nittany Lion “shutdown corner” didn’t shut too much down. It was apparent at the end of the season that opposing offenses were targeting his side of the field. We heard excuses about secret neck injuries and such, but no one knows for certain what King’s problem was. King will be a project for whichever team chooses him. He’s got the speed, as he demonstrated at the Scouting Combine, but his usefulness against the big, speedy, bump-and-run NFL receivers is as yet untested. Look for King to be a late second or early third rounder, at best.
Kinlaw and Scott are potential late rounders at best. Scott’s off-field woes hurt him, as does his dancing behind the LOS, which would get him killed in the NFL. Kinlaw is a no-nonsense runner, but this draft class is loaded with running backs.
Now, we come to Morelli. He’s the only one of the PSU players in the draft with three flags next to his name. Flags are negative indicators. Connor and Scott, for example, got the “character” flag for being involved in off-field incidents. Morelli earned his “character” flag for taunting Michigan fans during the Penn State loss in The Big House. Morelli also got a “mental” flag, which equates to “does not learn and retain the system.” Finally, he is the proud recipient of the “speed” flag, which means he lacks ideal speed for his position. With all this going for him, he really needs his dad to make excuses for him, which I’m sure NFL teams will buy into. Yeah, right! Morelli might wind up an undrafted free agent, although he has talked to a couple of teams, most notably the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The big quarterback derby this year surrounds Matt Ryan of Boston College. Both Atlanta and Baltimore are in serious need of a QB who can step in quickly, in the wake of the departures of Michael Vick and Steve McNair. Chad Henne, who started all four years at Michigan, is probably going to go in the second round, as Ryan and Joe Flacco of Delaware should be snapped up in the first—unless, of course, someone grabs Morelli. (OK. Just kidding.)
The Turkey will return with some more commentary right after Dan Connor is selected.