Tuesday, April 27, 2010

the rookie cavaliers

To be clear, that's "Cavaliers that are now rookies in the NFL." Yes, once again it's time to see how the NFL draft went from a purely UVA perspective. This is a much shorter exercise than last year, when we had enough matriculation to the NFL that I had to split it up into draftees and non-draftees. This year, not so much. Maybe that has something to do with 3-9.

Anyway, here are the guys you'll be pulling for to make an NFL roster this year:

Chris Cook - 34th overall to the Vikings

The Vikings picked Cook with the selection they got from the Lions for trading out of the first round - really only a four-pick drop. The UVA fan in me is thrilled - Cook is going to a team bound and determined to upgrade a shaky cornerback position. The Lions fan in me is really pleased to finally have what looks like a really dangerous running back (the Lions took Cal's Jahvid Best with the pick acquired from the Vikings.)

But the combination UVA and Lions fan in me thinks the whole thing sucks. As a Lions fan, see, I can't stand the Vikings - maybe not as strongly as a Packers fan would hate them, but still; and I hate to see a Cavalier drafted by them, it's almost as bad as being drafted by Green Bay or Dallas. Not only that, but they used the pick the Lions gave them, and the Lions really, really need a cornerback too. (They picked one up in the third round instead.) And for the coup de grace: drafting Best gave the Lions the RB depth they needed to cut Cedric Peerman loose. So it's like a double no-Hoos whammy for the Lions.

But, Cook. As the Vikings' highest pick, he's something of a mini-star already in the Twin Cities and will no doubt be scrutinized come fall camp. He wasn't the Vikings' first choice, though; that was going to be Patrick Robinson, who got snagged two picks ahead of them. Minnesota needs cornerbacks badly enough that they decided to take the next one on their board instead of going with the best-player-available approach.

The situation there is really shaky. Cedric Griffin is the best they got, and they're not sure he'll be available for the start of the season. Everyone else was horribly unproductive last season, and the Vikings went out and signed a bunch of other guys before the draft (read: flung poo against the wall to find out what sticks) to try and shore up the position and be able to print up a depth chart and still look at themselves in the mirror. With Griffin probably out for training camp, Cook will have every chance to strut his stuff. Except for maybe the Lions, he'd have had a hard time finding a better situation.

Will Barker - Cowboys UFA

Ugh, I hate the Cowboys, but there's no denying former Cavaliers have had their share of success in Dallas. Both John Phillips and Kevin Ogletree caught on with the Cowboys last year, hauling in seven passes each, and they're joined this offseason by Connor Hughes, providing some warm-body depth at placekicker.

Barker ended up on a team that's more or less without a left tackle, but unfortunately I really have my doubts that Barker's suited for the left side. If he's a tackle, he's a right tackle, and Dallas has more depth on that side. Still, they didn't pick up a lineman til the sixth round and haven't been real active on the FA market for linemen either, so Barker's got as good a chance as any to impress his way onto the roster. As ever, UFA's face a long uphill climb to a steady paycheck and the odds are stacked against them, so when I say he's got a decent chance, that's definitely relative.

Nate Collins - Giants UFA

Another place with a nice contingent of Cavaliers; Collins will join Chris Canty and Clint Sintim on the Giants' defense. There isn't much room, though. Canty is an expensive investment that the Giants want to get some use out of after he was hurt much of last year, and so the depth chart at DT will get a little clogged. They drafted another defensive tackle in the second round as well. Overall, the Giants need more production than they've been getting out of the middle of their D-line, but there's enough depth there - especially high-priced depth - that it'll likely take an injury or something else unforeseen for Collins to crack the roster.

Mikell Simpson - Bengals UFA

Simpson's his small size - seriously, he looks like he's going to break every time he's tackled - make it a difficult battle no matter where he goes. Plus, he's not the only UFA RB the Bengals signed, and guess what else: Cincinnati picked up some familiar competition from the Lions. (Peerman, for the slow on the uptake.) The Bengals have no competition for the starting tailback job and some pretty well-established backups - they're basically looking for one last guy to fill out the back end of the roster, and Simpson's going to find it extremely difficult not to be one of the first cuts.

Rashawn Jackson - Panthers UFA

Guh. Carolina has a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams and some backups they really like in Tyrell Sutton and Mike Goodson. If Jackson is going to make the Panthers' roster it'll probably be as a pure fullback, and a backup at that as Tony Fiammetta has been groomed for the starting job. Unlike Simpson, Jackson also has the size to make a mark on special teams, and in order to make the roster, this is where he'll probably have to expend a lot of effort.

Working in his favor, Fox Sports called him the second-best undrafted free agent, and compared him to Jason Snelling, who's done a terrific job carving himself a niche with Atlanta. The comparison is no accident - Jackson has a very similar skill set, looks a lot like Snelling on the field, and minus the medical year off, followed a very similar career path at UVA. Eerie similarities. Let's hope the parallels can continue; if Jackson catches on with Carolina, it'll likely be right from the Snelling blueprint.

Vic Hall - Bears UFA

Hall's pro recruitment probably reminded him a lot of his college recruitment. Defense? Offense? Different teams had different ideas. For the Bears, it'll be offense, at least at first - slot receiver. Right in Devin Hester's wheelhouse. The Bears also have Rashied Davis as a backup there, and if Hall ends up as a slot and KR, those two at least will be in front of him. His versatility makes it tough to figure his chances of making the roster, but it also greatly improves them, and don't be surprised if he does land on his feet somewhere. Might not necessarily be the Bears, and it could be anywhere on the field - kick returner, gunner, cornerback, slot. The practice squad is also a distinct possibility - thanks to his athleticism, probably a greater possibility than any of the other UFA's listed here since he can be asked to portray various opposing burners as a scout teamer. That kind of sucks, but in the end there's a reason Hall was one of Groh's favorites and I can't see him being completely shunted aside when all's said and done.

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