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Day 1 Difference Makers: DT part 3

NPLB Day 1 Difference Makers: DT

A Bird's eye view of April

In this edition of Day 1 Difference Makers we will look at what in the past would have been considered the backend of the Day 1 class: 3rd rounders.

As most of you know, ESPN, in a fit of staggering genius found a way to make almost as much money on advertising on day 2 of the draft as they traditionally do on day 1, namely, they have moved part of day 1 into day 2. The 3rd round will no longer be the final event of day 1 drafting, and instead will open the days activities on the second day. On a side note it will be interesting to see about Denver's typical draft day philosphy of taking a flyer in the fourth round after they have had all night and the next morning to debate and analyze the prospects who have fallen that far. Instead they will be presented with the opportunity to evaluate a much smaller grouping of 1st and 2nd round players who have fallen to the third round...we'll see if they find a way to take advantage.

Despite ESPN's decleration, the NPLB has decided that we will go ahead and review the third round of the NFL, and treat those players as being still worthy of being called first day prospects.

It's the least we can do.

This is not an attempt to grade past draft classes. This is an attempt to reasonably assess the potential of certain prospects to have a decisive impact within their first two years. The following is a look at what some of 2008's top prospects have in common with recent first day prospects and picks at various positions, starting at DT. With any luck, perhaps Denver will be able to land one or more of these "Difference Makers."

Late Second Round Through the Third Round: Get 'em While They're Hot!

2008 Dre Moore

2008 Red Bryant

2008 Trevor Laws

2008 Demario Pressley

The Last Time This Happened...

The order that the players are presented in above, at this time is their predicted draft order, with Trevor Laws of Notre Dame showing a tendency to rise among the prospects. These four players are projected anywhere from the late second round to the early fourth, and it comprises the smallest allotment of first day depth seen since 2005 when only Atiyyah Ellison was projected and eventually taken in the third, along with Sione Pouha who jumped up the boards after being ranked in the seventh round only to be taken at 24 in round 3 by the Jets.

By contrast, 2006 saw no fewer than 8 players projected into this group, same with 2007. In both 2006 and 2007 this greater number of 'tweeners' translated on draft day to some vastly different results in actual picks, with 2006 standing out in particular. Fully 7 of the 8 picks in 2006 not only didn't go in round three, but most didn't go in rounds four or five either. And the lone one that actually went in the third round was Dusty Dvoracek, taken by the Bears. 2007 was not quite that severe with Turk McBride actually going late in the second and the longest dropper only slipping to the top of the fifth.

When compared with 2005, the 2008 class overall looks promising in terms of value, as in 2005, most of those players that were ranked out of the 1st-2nd rounds were taken there anyways.

2005 all over again, So What?

Well, first off, the fact that not a lot of players have managed to overload the front end of the draft indicates that rewards should be waiting just outside of the first round. Make no mistake that the value is there, but Draft chips can fall in many ways, and this class looks to duplicate what the top end of 2005 did so well: contribute quickly.

But for that to happen, like Babineaux going earlier than expected and Patterson jumping up the boards, some teams are going to have to be willing to grab their guy early, and this years DT class is a good example of not waiting too long to make your move.

  • Dre Moore: This guy is Round One physically and round four mentally. Its not his build, or his quickness, or his upper body strength, or his straight-line speed or even his ability to daignose a play, which has steadily increased with his exposure to the game (He got involved in football later than most). It is the baffling fact that for all of these skills, he simply isn't the sum of his parts. I do the math and it adds up to a solid player, but what I see on the field is inconsistency and someone who you never know who is going to show up. Bottom line is that he is a better athlete than a football player, and the word you'll hear most in conjunction with this athlete is 'upside'.
  • Red Bryant: Stops the run. Stops the run. Stops the run. You are more than likely a Broncos fan. As a Broncos fan all you need to know about Bryant is that he stops the run. Want more? How about his leadership? That might be important to a Broncos team filled with youth across the defensive line. He was named a captain as a freshman. Was considered to be the most important player for the Aggies, as they held opponents to 73 rushing ypg with him and allowed 229 rushing ypg without him due to a knee injury. Oh, right. A knee injury. I guess you need to know that too.
  • Trevor Laws: Fan favorite with some recent great exposure at the Senior Bowl. Now, his stock was rising prior to the Senior Bowl, so this isn't a passing fancy on the part of scouts. In fact, I think the Laws fans should be pretty happy with where he is sitting right now, and really the only thing you could ask for is that both he and Bryant displace Moore at the top of this group. Why is he moving? #1: Effort. The guy has a nonstop motor. #2: Knack for being around the ball. #3: Consistency, game in and game out he finds ways to contribute. #4 Hands. He definitely has some of the best use of hands in the draft. This all adds up to: Smart. He has some physical gifts (speed, good hands, good feet), but he doesn't rely on them, and at the pro-level, it is going to be his technique and attitude that seperate him from the pack.
  • Demario Pressley: You might remember this guy from the inordinately talented NC State line that featured Mario Williams, John McCargo, Tank Tyler and Manny Lawson. He was considered one of the top athletes in that group, and he is definitley a capable run stuffer. If any of these guys fall on the boards, and chances are that one of them will, it will be Pressley. You'll hear about injuries and athletic potential, but pay more attention to any news that he has developed an ability to rush the passer. Because until he can do that, Day 2 is probably the best he can hope for.
Give Me Something To Believe In

2007: This class doesn't offer much hope, but it is very early for this type of group. Of the suspected 3rd rounders only Tank Tyler, Brandon Mebane, Quinn Pitcock and Hay Alford actually went that early. Tyler was inconsistent at best with the Chefs, Mebane has been part of a NT rotation in Seattle, though he has a long ways to go, Pitcock looks solid in Indianapolis this year replacing the injured Mcfarland and Alford was last seen sacking Patriots QB Tom Brady in the SuperBowl. Don't let that confuse you however, as that was his only sack and his only tackle all season. Even a blind squirrel can find a nut. The group as a whole shows upside, especially Pitcock and Alford, and Mebane could definitely hold his own in Seattle. The highest rated of the group, Tank Tyler, has 'bust' written all over him, and wouldn't you just know that something like that would happen to the Chefs?

2006: This is the group I am really looking to to find some similarities that could have a big payout for Denver in 2009. The list of prospects in this group was long: Gabe Watson, Montavious Stanley, Orien Harris, Oshinowo Babatunde, Rodrique Wright, Barry Cofield, Jonathon Lewis, and Dusty Dvoracek.

The list of actual third rounders is short: Dusty Dvoracek. Dvoracek played well in Chicago, rotating in at NT without much dropoff between him and high-priced FA Darwin Walker. When Walker went down Dvoracek went in did fine, but lost the end of his season to a torn ACL. And the rest of the prospects-to-be in 2006? Well, imagine for asecond a group of 5 or 6 defensive linemen. Imagine them wearing, oh, I don't know, maybe...Blue and Orange. Now imagine these defensive linemen getting pushed around, A LOT, maybe getting double teamed and not being able to do anything about it, also imagine them getting waived and signed to the practice squad and then getting waived again and geting resigned to the practice squad, or even to another teams practice squad... Yeah. Something like that. Except Cofield, who has been solid on the Giants defensive line. But does anyone doubt that he isn't surrounded by some of the best DL talent in the league right now?

Definiteley a disappointing 2006 class of DTs. Makes one wrinkle one's nose in fact, and yell, "Waiter, I say, be a chap and bring me an '05 DT and take away this bland and tasteless '06."

2005: Well, I could address the fact that only two players went in the third, and no players went in the second in 05, but then you might mistake that to mean that the back-end of the top half was weak.

Not so.

In fact, the late second, early third round talent projected for 2005 actually went in the first round and more importantly, they have all become big pieces of their teams puzzles. Left out of that group so far have been Sione Pouha and Atiyyah Ellison. Pouha suffered through injuries and weight problems in Jets camp (those were his knocks against him in the draft as well) and hasn't contributed like the Jets hoped he would. Ellison has also done little more than nothing, moving from team to teams practice squad. The GMs did a good job in this year seperating the wheat from the chaffe.

What Does It All Mean?

Well, this years DT class looks a lot like the class of 05 in many ways, not the least of which is the similarity in number of prospects slated to go early. For whatever reason, the last two years when draft gurus around the nation filled up the big boards with DT prospects, most of those prospects fell flat. When the scope has been limited, and more long term focus applied, rather than the whim of the moment, the classes have seemed to fare much better. Maybe that says something about life.

Regardless, all signs point towards the best of today's group of DTs getting sniped early, with the bust or two of the group being allowed to no doubt slide into oblivion. I look for Bryant and Laws to go much sooner than expected, and if Denver is eyeing either of these run stuffers, they are going to have to find a trade partner in the first round, to acquire more picks and hopefully a second rounder.

Because these guys won't last.