College stud to draft-day dud
Teams pass on wide receivers in first round
By Dave Goldberg
NEW YORK — The NFL’s 32 teams finally seemed to learn a lesson long known to those who have dedicated their lives to scouting: first-round wide receivers fail more than players at any other position, including quarterback.
So they didn’t select any in the first round, waiting until the second to take 10 wideouts.
And, as usual, the real thing made something of a mockery of mock drafting.
Which is why, of course, they call them "mocks."
Even on Sunday, a couple of guys who were considered first-round picks in early mock drafts and a few later ones — Dan Connor and Mario Manningham — became dreaded "second-day" choices. Although to be fair, they made it into the third round, which until this year, when the NFL started the first round three hours later, would have been "first day."
Connor, the Penn State linebacker who was still slotted late in the first round in a number of late mock drafts, was chosen in the third round by Carolina, 74th overall. Not 27th to 31st, where some folks thought he would go; he was as high as the middle of the first round early.
Manningham went 95th overall to the New York Giants.
Connor’s purported flaws are on the field. "Not good in space," Gil Brandt, the longtime Dallas personnel director and now a consultant to the league said a couple of weeks before the draft, presenting not necessarily his opinion but the consensus of a lot of scouts .
That translates to a one-down or two-down linebacker, a guy you don’t want on the field in a passing situation. In other words, a good, hard-nosed player from Linebacker U but not someone worth using a first-round pick on.
Manningham is another story.
There’s little question he’s talented, although his 40-yard-dash times in shorts were a little slower than most scouts expected. But he had all sorts of predraft problems, at one point "confessing" he fibbed during the scouting combine when he said he’d never smoked marijuana.
There’s also the matter of a reported score of six on the Wonderlic test. Six out of a possible 50.
But the Giants consider Manningham a bargain on talent alone, which makes him a potential successor to fellow Michigan Wolverines receiver Amani Toomer, who will be 34 on Sept. 8. And a young talent who can augment Plaxico Burress, Toomer and youngsters Steve Smith and Sinorice Moss, second-round picks the last two years.
"Talentwise, I think the guy could have gone in the first row," said general manager Jerry Reese, "row," being draftspeak for round.
"But at this point at the bottom of the third row for us, we think this is a guy that has great value. And again we did our homework on him. We have a couple of different testing agencies, physiological testing and stuff that we did with him. We are satisfied that he will be OK. And obviously when he comes in, probably kind of like Ahmad, we will bring him in and say, ’Look, this is what it is going to be and we expect you to do that.’ And hopefully he will do that."
"Ahmad" is Ahmad Bradshaw, the running back the Giants took with the 250th pick last year after he had off-field problems at Marshall. He wasn’t rated as high as Manningham talentwise, although without those troubles, he probably would have been a third- or fourth-rounder. All Bradshaw did was alternate at running back with Brandon Jacobs during New York’s improbable run through the playoffs to a Super Bowl upset over New England.
He also stayed out of trouble.
So Manningham was probably a "no-lose" pick for Reese, who was a perfect 8-for-8 last year in his first draft as GM, with seven of the rookies contributing a lot to a Super Bowl winner.