The 2008 NFL Draft was very interesting, and full of intrigue. Teams had to plan a little different this year and if you remember my article “Defense Wins Championships” I wrote the following at the conclusion: “The 2008 NFL Draft must deliver us a young leader on defense, and a future all-pro offensive tackle. In addition to this, we need someone to re-teach our defense how to tackle, and a leader that can lead by example.” The Chiefs did exactly that. So, they planned well and had a bit of luck on their side.
As a matter of fact, planning was more important this year than any other year because of the action taken by the NFL to cut the time between picks. The first round had been cut from 15 minutes, to 10 minutes. The allocated time to pick for round two and on had also been cut from 10 minutes, to 7 minutes. This put more pressure on all NFL teams to be better prepared for their selections during the draft.
Who remembers the debacle that occurred during the 2003 NFL draft with Byron Leftwich of Marshall? That’s when the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars had the Minnesota Vikings on the telephone, with both teams trying to make a trade to move up so they could pick Leftwich. Neither team (Baltimore and Jacksonville) was able to strike a deal with Minnesota, but the negotiations went on for so long that Minnesota’s 15-minute time limit expired, and as a result, Jacksonville picked ahead of the Vikings, and was able to select Leftwich without having to give anything up.
This year’s draft wasn’t as chaotic as that, but it had its’ own issues to deal with. To commence, the draft started three hours later than scheduled. Also, the first player in this year’s draft, Jake Long of the University of Michigan, was drafted the day before the actual draft! Furthermore, there were 35 Wide Receivers drafted overall, however there were none drafted in the first round. Also, of the first 12 players selected, ONLY three were offensive players. In addition to this, a total of 13 quarterbacks were drafted, 23 running backs, 26 offensive tackles, 24 defensive ends, 30 linebackers, and 30 cornerbacks. In short, 117 defensive players were drafted, and 132 offensive players were drafted, and only three special teams’ players were drafted. And Mr. Irrelevant (the last person selected) for the 2008 draft was David Voboro, OLB, of Idaho. He was the 252nd selection in this year’s draft. Moreover, there were a total of 34 trades amongst NFL teams during this year’s event.
It has already been established that the Kansas City Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers had the best grade in this year’s draft. There was a lot of young talent in this year’s draft. The young boys are not only taking over our society, they are also taking over the NFL. Just ask Brett Favre. After all, football is a kid’s sport. This 2008 draft class has the potential of being a great class like the 1981, 1984, 1996 or the 2004 draft classes. Those draft classes have names like Ray Lewis, Keyshawn Johnson, John Elway, Dan Marino, and Larry Johnson attached to them. So, I chose 25 players that I watched in college, or have studied (including some film) that I believe will be noticeable this football season. I call this my “sleeper” list. A sleeper is a player that is under the radar, and may not be considered an elite player. The following is ONLY five of my list of 25 rookies chosen from this year’s draft. The remaining 20 players on my “sleeper” list will appear periodically. I will begin with a list of juniors entering the NFL.
1) Kevin Smith, RB, Central Florida, 6’1″, 211 lbs., Junior, drafted (3rd Round – 1st Pick) by the Detroit Lions. Barry Sanders part II, Smith led the nation is scoring (180 pts.) and rushing yards (2,567). He has great moves, and great vision. Hopefully, he can bring a rushing attack back to Detroit. Speaking of Barry Sanders, Smith almost broke his single-season rushing record of 2,628 yards set in 1988, while Sanders was at Oklahoma State. He may not come out as strong as Adrian Peterson did last year, but give him time and let’s see how good he becomes.
2) Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas, 6’1″, 210 lbs., 4.4 in 40 yard dash, Junior, drafted (1st Round – 22nd Pick) by the Dallas Cowboys. The 2004 Tulsa World All-State Running Back, and backup to Darren McFadden, has been the subject of a heated debate including running back, Rashard Mendenhall. He rushed for 1,162 yards last year. Jones will go well with Marian Barber III and provide that 1-2 punch that the NFL has embraced to wear down defenses. With the offensive line of the Cowboys, I expect big things from Felix Jones.
3) Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois, 5’11″, 225 lbs., Junior, drafted (1st Round – 23rd Pick) by the Pittsburgh Steelers. We are grateful that nothing happened to Rashard when he was robbed in Chicago this week. We may not have gotten the opportunity to see his best talent. He rushed for 1,681 yards last year. And this year, Willie Parker has already welcomed his new teammate to Pittsburgh, and is ready to introduce him to the rest of the NFL world.
4) Kenny Phillips, FS, Miami (The “U”), 6’2″, 212 lbs., Junior, drafted (1st Round – 32nd Pick), drafted by the New York Giants. Phillips reminds me of Ed Reed without the big numbers. He’s not is Sean Taylor’s class, but has the potential to be one of the best safeties in the NFL. His instincts and awareness are outstanding, and his range is fantastic. I am looking forward to some big hits from Phillips this season.
5) Will Franklin, WR, Missouri, 6’2″, 214 lbs., 4.3 in 40 yard dash, Senior, drafted (Round 4 – 6th Pick) by the Kansas City Chiefs. Nephew or former Cincinnati Bengal, Darnay Scott, his 143 receptions and 2,125 yards ranks 4th in Mizzou history. He has no problem going across the middle, and has good speed. Lord knows that the Chiefs need as many receivers as they can get. I hope that he performs well throughout his career.