Leftover thoughts from USF pro day
Sorry not to get something up here sooner on USF's pro day Thursday afternoon -- juggling Bulls duties with advance coverage of this weekend's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, so I'm bouncing back and forth more than usual. A few quick thoughts from Thursday's big day:
-- The one team we've heard a lot about on Terrell McClain is the New England Patriots, and Thursday validated that, with Bill Belichick as one of two head coaches in attendance (with Chicago's Lovie Smith) and talking at length with USF coach Skip Holtz throughout the workouts. Belichick came over to specifically watch McClain (as well as ends Craig Marshall and David Bedford) as Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli ran them through position drills. The Patriots have McClain's first private workout on Wednesday as well.
What's curious for me is where the Patriots might try to get McClain if they want him -- New England has a pair of first-rounders at No. 17 and 28, then the first pick of the second round at No. 33, then the last pick at No. 60, as well as two third-rounders. With six picks in the top 100, New England has ample picks to deal up or down actively, and McClain right now projects to go somewhere between their second-rounders.
McClain wanted to lower his 40-yard time from his combine number (officially 5.02 and 5.04 seconds), and he did that, saying he was timed at 4.84 with the wind at his back. There was a hard wind coming directly across the soccer field where the sprints were held, once in each direction -- I cannot imagine running into that wind with my professional future hinging on a tenth of a second.
-- I can't overstate how important Thursday was for everyone else in USF's draft class after McClain, simply because this year, unlike any past year, there's a huge dropoff if a player isn't drafted. In past years, if a player went in the seventh (final) round, you'd often hear that it'd be better to not get drafted and be able to pick an ideal situation to sign as a rookie free agent. Seventh-rounders, after all, are hardly locks to make regular-season rosters. But with the lockout, NFL teams won't be able to sign undrafted free agents until the labor problems are resolved -- that means from April until potentially August or later, that's a ton of undrafted players who aren't in minicamps, aren't learning playbooks, aren't working out under team supervision. Suddenly, there's a huge premium to being drafted -- a seventh-rounder has a four-month or longer head start on an undrafted rookie in terms of coaches being aware of them as a potential guy to make the final cut.
-- I think the most intriguing draft prospect after McClain is linebacker Jacquian Williams, who started only one year at USF but continues to show a tempting combination of speed and physique. He's put on weight since his playing days, but still had a good showing in his 40 on Thursday. No team seemed to have more personnel at USF than the Bears, and they'll bring Williams in for a private workout in two weeks. I was told that Lovie Smith is kicking himself for not drafting cornerback Jerome Murphy last year -- Chicago didn't have a pick until the 75th overall selection, and Murphy was gone at pick No. 65. Murphy said he had a one-on-one dinner with Smith in town and thought the Bears might pick him. So keep an eye on Chicago late in the draft. ...
-- Great to see a lot of familiar faces from recent years who stopped by to cheer on the current draft hopefuls -- Mike Jenkins, Jerome Murphy, Carlton Mitchell, Trae Williams, Richard Clebert and more. A lot of the guys are in Tampa during the lockout, and you forget quickly how long some have been out of school. The four-year seniors working out Thursday were freshmen when Jenkins and Williams played, and with the changes in coaching staff, there's only a few assistants to connect them to their playing days after this season.
-- A bit ironic that two locals who worked out with the Bulls on Thursday were receivers once thought to be transferring in to play at USF. Back in 2007, South Carolina's O.J. Murdock said he was coming to USF, but he wound up bouncing around small schools and finishing at Fort Hays State, alongside former Bulls receiver Ed Alcin. Last spring, USF thought it had a solid senior transfer in N.C. State's Donald Bowens, but he couldn't get into grad school and settled for Terry Bowden's program at North Alabama. Watching him again Thursday, I think Bowens' veteran presence at receiver could have really helped the Bulls last season.
-- USF's official site did a great job of posting video clips of interviews with the draft hopefuls -- there's 10 of them for you to see here.
-- Yes, someone with more free time than I have has mocked out a full seven-round NFL draft ... for 2012. Yes, it's ludicrous, but Draftsite.com has USF defensive tackle Keith McCaskill going in the sixth round as the Bulls' only draft pick. It's really nothing more than a list of the top 250 or so players for next year -- you can't anticipate draft order or teams' positional needs a year in advance. But barring surprises, 2012 should be a down year for USF in the draft, even more so than this year. That same site, by the way, has McClain in the fifth round next month.