May 6, 2008

2009 NFL Draft could several Red Raiders selected

The 2008 NFL draft was an extremely quiet one for the Texas Tech football program. Only inside receiver Danny Amendola was seen as a possible draftee, and he ultimately signed a free agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

The 2009 draft, on the other hand, promises to be far more interesting for followers of Red Raider football. Multiple players will be drafted, and it's entirely possible that a few could hear their name called very early. The following Red Raiders are most likely to receive the NFL summons.

THE SURE THINGS:

Michael Crabtree (WR): Barring extreme misfortune, the current Biletnikoff Award-holder will be Tech's first first round draft selection since defensive lineman Gabe Rivera, who was tabbed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opening round of the 1983 draft. If Crabtree does indeed go in the first round, he will have broken a 26-year first round dry spell for the Tech program.

And there's every reason to believe Crabtree will do the deed. At six-foot-three and 210 pounds he's got the size NFL coaches covet. His hands are exceptional. Crabtree's football speed is beyond reproach. And most important, Crabtree's running skills are almost unprecedented for a wide receiver. The instant the ball meets Crabtree's hands he is making a move and heading upfield, giving defenders no time to react. His vision is superior, which allows him to see running lanes rapidly and make proper cuts. Crabtree also has tremendous balance and lower body strength, which ensure that arm tackles will barely slow him down. In short, Crabtree is a destructive force with the ball in his hands. The projection here is that he goes in the mid to late first round.

Graham Harrell (QB): The man responsible for getting the ball to Crabtree is not quite the prospect that Crabtree is, but he's a considerable talent nevertheless. Harrell has adequate size for a professional quarterback, but is not as thick as the scouts would like. He is an incredibly accurate passer, however, has good mechanics, and is highly intelligent. Harrell also has matured mentally over the last few years and has developed good leadership skills. His arm is not first round material, but it is good enough to make practically every throw on the field effectively. And that's good enough to cut the mustard at the next level. Harrell reputedly has decent wheels, but is almost entirely unwilling to use them. Of some concern is his tendency to get balls tipped at the line of scrimmage. Do his passes come out low, or is he shorter than the advertised six-foot-two? Regardless, look for Harrell to go late in the third round.

Louis Vasquez (OL): The Tech program has produced a plethora of fine offensive linemen in the Mike Leach era (Manny Ramirez, E. J. Whitley, Dylan Gandy, Daniel Loper), and Vasquez could be the best of the bunch. The bulk of his college experience has been at guard, but at six-foot-six and 335 pounds, he has ideal size to play the tackle position as well. That size, combined with the versatility Leach cultivates in his offensive linemen ensure that Vasquez will be drafted.

As a player, Vasquez is all about technique and consistency. So sound is Vasquez's technique that it is almost impossible for college linemen to beat him on the pass rush. Rarely does Vasquez blow a block. He has the strength to drive block effectively, but owing to Tech's pass offense, this is something he will have to demonstrate at the next level. Vasquez looks to go early in the fourth round.


GOOD BETS:

Darcel McBath (FS): McBath has not been an extraordinarily productive player, but he has excellent measureables and the NFL is all about measureables. Specifically, McBath has tremendous speed. As far as safeties go, McBath's velocity reminds one of Darryl Williams, a Miami (Fla.) prospect who was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the 1992 draft. Indeed, such are McBath's speed and coverage skills that he could actually project as a corner in the NFL.

More negatively, McBath does not bring a great deal of physicality and explosion to the table. He rarely delivers a heavy blow unless a receiver is completely exposed coming across the middle.

The projection: early sixth round.

Rylan Reed (OT): This mountainous tackle could well be the strongest player available in next year's draft. His bench press numbers (565 maximum) are phenomenal. And at six-foot-seven Reed has the ideal frame and wingspan to pass protect at the next level. Reed is also an accomplished baseball player who started his college football career as a tight end prospect so you know he has some athleticism. Additionally, Reed is tough as a Nocona boot and as ornery as an Ozona rattlesnake. That's a good package.

But Reed will be 26 years old when the draft rolls around. That's about four years older than most of the other players who will be selected. Thus, by the time that Reed comes into his own at the NFL level, his body could be beyond its prime. Reed also sustained a serious ankle injury during the 2008 Gator Bowl, and it remains to be seen if he can regain full mobility and avoid recurrence of the injury.

The projection: mid sixth round.


THE QUESTION MARKS:

L. A. Reed (SS): This former wideout is making the difficult transition to safety for his senior year. He has the body, the athleticism and the mean streak to make a fine safety. Reed also hits like a ton of lead and is a sound tackler. In other words, he looks and acts the part of a NFL safety, but will he be able to master the position quickly enough to make an impression on the scouts? The answer to that question will determine whether or not Reed hears his name in the NFL draft.

Shannon Woods (RB): If anything, Woods is more of a long shot than L.A. Reed. Although he has many skins on the wall as a running back, Woods' history of transgression will raise huge questions in the eyes of the scouts. A talent such as Michael Crabtree could overcome such questions. A more marginal one like Woods may not be able to. Then there is the question of whether or not Woods will be able to get on the field very much during his senior year. The competition in the Tech backfield will be fierce. If, however, Woods can regain his old starting position, he has the ability to make the scouts take notice. He is a quick, instinctive runner who is able to slither for extra yardage in heavy traffic. Woods is also a good receiver and pass protector. He is probably too slight to be an every-down back in the NFL, but could be a contributor in third down situations and on special teams.

Anthony Hines (S): Were it not for frequent injuries and mishaps, Hines would be a fairly high profile NFL prospect. He's got ideal size to play strong safety at the next level and is capable of delivering punishing hits. Hines is also extremely fluid in space and has a nose for the football. Hence, he can cover like a free safety. If he can regain his health and keep it the entirety of his senior year, look for him to sneak into the later rounds of the draft.

McKinner Dixon (DE): This defensive end will blossom into a major sack artist. The only question is when. And whenever he does, the NFL scouts will be on his trail. Dixon has a blistering burst off the line of scrimmage and a variety of moves to get to the quarterback. He also has the speed to run plays down from behind and the strength to stand in against the run. Dixon probably needs to get to 265 pounds to be an elite prospect and must stop taking plays off, but the makings of a very good professional defensive end are definitely there.

Brandon Sesay (DE): Sheer speculation here because the JUCO transfer has yet to play a down of D-1 football. Nevertheless, Sesay has prototype measurables and was virtually unblockable at the JUCO level. If he can transfer his considerable promise to the fields of the Big 12, he will immediately appear on NFL radars.


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