Monday, April 22, 2013

First Rock

No, this is not a post about what happened in Massachusetts way back in 1620. And it's not about the planet Mercury either. Instead, I thought I'd lead off my preview of the 2013 NFL draft with the first rock of football. You'll find it in the state of South Carolina.

Honestly, up until 4 years ago, when I included a photo of Stephon Gilmore in dread gallery 45 (the DG I did featuring National Signing Day '09), I had never heard of Rock Hill before. And up until I went to Wikipedia and Google Maps last week, I wouldn't have been able to tell you that it's located in the northern part of South Carolina, about 25 miles southwest of Charlotte. But make no mistake, of all the cities and towns with "rock" as part of their name, Rock Hill is first when it comes to football.

Although not nearly as prolific at producing talent as the Muck City area in Florida, Rock Hill nevertheless has sent more than its fair share to the NFL for a city as small as it is (population a bit above 66,000, according to the 2010 census). 1st round draft picks Ben Watson (Patriots '04) and Johnathan Joseph (Bengals '06) are two of the dozen players from Rock Hill to have made it to the NFL.

In recent years the Rock's stars have been growing dreads. Gilmore (left photo below), who won the South Carolina Mr. Football award in 2008 before starring for the University of South Carolina the next three years, was the 1st round pick of the Buffalo Bills last year. Next year, Jadeveon Clowney (right photo below), briefly a teammate of Gilmore both at South Pointe High School as well as with the Gamecocks, not only will be a 1st round pick, he's likely to be the 1st pick of the 1st round. But what about this year? Well, before the end of round 1 this Thursday night, one of the names you'll likely hear called is that of none other than Cordarrelle Patterson, Rock Hill Northwestern High class of 2009.

Unlike Gilmore and Clowney, Patterson left the state for college, first to a prep school in North Carolina for a year then to a junior college in Kansas for two years before putting on quite a show in a Tennessee Volunteers uniform in 2012. Thanks to their 1-7 finish in the SEC East, Tennessee games weren't often the SEC's featured telecast on CBS on Saturday afternoons. But whether the games were in the national spotlight or not, Patterson was pretty much a human highlight reel every week - a reel that would have looked even better if the (now former) UT coaching staff hadn't been so preoccupied with stifling everyone's dreads.
Patterson, as you already know if you've seen him play, is what you call an equal opportunity runner; that is, he gives everybody on the defense the opportunity to tackle him. With his ability to easily make defenders miss - either by faking them out, breaking tackles, or just plain outrunning them - Cordarrelle frequently goes sideline to sideline while trying to make a big play every time he touches the ball. Once the ball is in his hands, he truly is a threat to take it to the house.

The key phrase there, of course, is once the ball is in his hands. Indeed the reason why he won't be picked early in the 1st round of the draft and that a lot of people think he eventually will be a bust is that it's questionable that the team that selects him will be able to get the ball in his hands often enough. Even Cordarrelle admits that what he needs the most improvement in is "route running and reading coverages." Indeed, if you can't get open, you're pretty much useless as a WR.

Patterson no doubt has his shortcomings; but it's too tempting to pass up a player with his ability and his potential. Some team will take a chance on him with their pick in the 1st round. They'll be getting a Pro Bowl caliber kick returner with the hopes they can help him become a Pro Bowl WR as well ..... The first link below is a profile on Patterson from Bleacher Report, including a video of some of his top highlights from last season. Below that is a link to an interesting article singing Patterson's praises from the Akron Beacon Journal. 

For these players with dreads, it's not whether or not they will be drafted, only whether they'll be picked on the first night or the second night of the draft.
  • G Jonathan Cooper - North Carolina
  • WR DeAndre Hopkins - Clemson
  • WR Cordarrelle Patterson - Tennessee
  • WR Markus Wheaton - Oregon State
  • RB Andre Ellington - Clemson
  • RB Eddie Lacy - Alabama
  • DT John Jenkins - Georgia
  • LB Khaseem Greene - Rutgers
  • LB Jarvis Jones - Georgia
  • LB Sio Moore - Connecticut
  • CB Desmond Trufant - Washington
  • S Johnathan Cyprien - FIU
  • S D.J. Swearinger - South Carolina
  • S Phillip Thomas - Fresno State
Of the 10 players I put in this category in last year's preview, all 10 went in the top 80 picks, with 7 taken in the 1st round, 2 in the 2nd round, and 1 in the 3rd round.


For each position in Lindy's 2013 draft magazine they list one player they consider a "small school stud." The player they list at the defensive end position just happens to have dreads. He's David Bass, a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder from the same St.Louis area high school as the hip hop star Nelly. Lindy's got the small school part right - Bass played his college career at Missouri Western, a Division 2 school. But as for the stud part? He certainly was one against D-2 competition, finishing his career with a school record 40.5 sacks along with an impressive (for a D-lineman) 5 INT. But will he be a stud on Sundays? Well, I've looked at three different rankings of all the prospects, and they all have Bass being selected in round 5. Not lacking confidence, Bass considers himself just as good as the DEs that played in D-1. If that's true, then being a 5th rounder would make him a small school steal. So you think you're that good, David? Well, as you say in Missouri, show me.

The first link below is a get-to-know-you piece on Bass done by NFL Draft Zone last October. And below that is a story from about 7 weeks ago in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, just before his pro day.


Another DE expected to be selected on Day 3 of the draft - one not quite as talented as Bass at rushing the passer - has created a dilemma over the past year or so. I'm talking about South Carolina's Devin Taylor. Throughout his first three seasons with the Gamecocks you sensed that at some point he was going to start growing dreads; but he never did. Then just when I had given up hope, he showed up at spring practice last year looking like this ....

..... And I was like ... red dreads, nice. But where's the rest of them? With Taylor sporting only partial dreads, I was reluctant to welcome him into the house. So I just ignored him last season, waiting to see if he would change to a different look (which he had done in the past) or (hopefully) add dreads to the rest of his head. Well, as we all know, ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. And now 13 months later, with Devin now looking like this (photo below from his pro day three weeks ago), it seems the partial dreads are here to stay.
Of course, there's already a couple of NFL players with partial dreads - Dashon Goldson and Darnell Dockett - but they didn't start out with partial dreads like Taylor. But since I still consider Goldson and Dockett as having dreads, I guess I have no choice but to welcome Taylor to the house too. But for real, partial dreads is a look I don't think I'm ever going to approve of. If you like, click on the link below for a video feature on Taylor from last November on the Gamecocks website.

Devin certainly did not dominate during his college career, although there are those who think he should have. One report I read said that he has the ability to play much better than he has. Well, if that's true, now would be a good time to start doing it; otherwise his pro career will be a brief one.

These players with dreads don't have to worry about watching the first day of the draft. And probably (for most of them) not the second day either. But come Saturday, during rounds 4-7, they can expect to hear their names called.
  • G/OT Dallas Thomas - Tennessee
  • OT Xavier Nixon - Florida
  • OT Brennan Williams - North Carolina
  • WR Cobi Hamilton - Arkansas
  • WR Denard Robinson - Michigan
  • WR Ace Sanders - South Carolina
  • DE David Bass - Missouri Western
  • DE Lavar Edwards - LSU
  • DE Montori Hughes - Tennessee-Martin
  • DE Devin Taylor - South Carolina
  • DT Josh Boyd - Mississippi State
  • CB Adrian Bushell - Louisville
  • CB Terry Hawthorne - Illinois
  • CB Nickell Robey - USC
  • CB B.W. Webb - William & Mary
  • S Robert Lester - Alabama
  • S Shamarko Thomas - Syracuse
  • S J.J. Wilcox - Georgia Southern
In my preview last year, only 10 of the 13 players I had in this category were drafted (oops!). I missed on Vontaze Burfict (but shouldn't have), Aaron Henry, and Dwight Jones.


No doubt you've heard me (and probably a lot of other people) refer to a DB getting burned as a figure of speech on plays where he loses (badly) the one-on-one matchup against the player he's assigned to cover. Well, there's one DB who might be drafted next weekend for whom getting burned isn't a figure of speech. It was the real deal.

Credit goes to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for bringing this story to my attention. Sure I've heard of Josh Johnson before. He's another one of the players featured in DG45. But until I saw the article, I had no idea that he had be burned seriously as a child - not by fire but by water - in an accident at his home. So seriously that his career as an athlete was in jeopardy before it even got started. He still has the burn marks to prove it, noticeable whenever he takes his shirt off.

After spending nearly a month in the hospital, Josh recovered over time; and now, after a solid college career at Purdue, it's time to see if he's good enough to play on Sundays. The thing working against him the most is his lack of speed. A poor time in the 40 at the Combine caused his draft stock to drop; and although he ran better at his pro day, it's likely he won't be picked until the end of the draft, if at all. Here's hoping he makes it in the NFL. His slowly-growing dreads are finally long enough to start becoming visible outside the helmet. It'd be a shame if his career came to an end now ..... The first link below is to the article in the MJS. The one below that is about his pro day from the Purdue Exponent.


Brandon Sharpe (#91 in photo) and Shamarko Thomas were honored one right after the other on Senior Day at Syracuse last November, most likely because their names are close alphabetically. But it's fitting that the two were side-by-side moments before going out and dealing Louisville their first defeat of the season, because they had been close more than just alphabetically during their years at Syracuse - close enough, in fact, that you might think they were brothers.

I was searching the Syracuse Post Standard website trying to find a photo of Sharpe while working on my all-America with dreads team; but instead I found this wonderful story about Thomas and him and all the adversity they have overcome since their paths first crossed in a Virginia Beach high school. Indeed before they met, many more people than not would have bet neither one of them would have even made it to college, let alone stay for four years and graduate. But they got the help they needed and, most importantly, never gave up. And as a result, it's possible they both could be beginning careers in the NFL next season. If you haven't seen the article, please click on the link below. It's well worth the time.

Thomas is the more likely of the two to be drafted next weekend. In fact, he made quite an impression at the Combine - but probably not in the way he planned. Thomas provided a much needed and humorous (at least I thought it was funny) break in the monotony when he stumbled and fell head first to the ground just after finishing his 40-yard dash. Take a look: ..... Ouch!

Sharmarko blamed his reduced dreads for causing him to fall because he immediately untangled them and had them hanging loose for his 2nd attempt in the 40 a few minutes later. Perhaps he thought nobody would recognize him as the one who fell the first time, lol. Here's his 2nd attempt, along with a look at some of his other activities at the Combine:

There is no rule that says if you draft Thomas, you have to take Sharpe too. But Sharpe and Sharmarko are meant to be together. So maybe it's better if nobody drafts Sharpe next weekend. That way he could sign as a free agent with the team that selects Thomas. Best wishes to you both.


With 32 teams in the league, you have 32 different draft boards, some of them drastically different. So when you get near the end of the draft, some players that most teams don't have on their boards will get drafted by the one team that actually likes them. The following players with dreads fall into that category - they may or may not be selected, depending on whether there's a team out there that likes them enough.
  • G Travis Bond - North Carolina
  • C Patrick Lewis - Texas A&M
  • OT Rogers Gaines - Tennessee State
  • OT LaAdrian Waddle - Texas Tech
  • OT Jason Weaver - Southern Mississippi
  • TE Justice Cunningham - South Carolina
  • WR Marlon Brown - Georgia
  • WR Josh Jarboe - Arkansas State
  • QB/TE MarQueis Gray - Minnesota
  • RB Kenny Miles - South Carolina
  • DE Darrington Sentimore - Tennessee
  • DE Brandon Sharpe - Syracuse
  • DE Walter Stewart - Cincinnati
  • DE Tourek Williams - FIU
  • DT Nick Williams - Samford
  • LB Jayson DiManche - Southern Illinois
  • LB Shaq Wilson - South Carolina
  • CB Josh Johnson - Purdue
  • CB Mo Lee - Utah
  • CB Demetrius McCray - Appalachian State
  • S Jahleel Addae - Central Michigan
  • S Ray Ray Armstrong - Miami (Florida)/Faulkner (*)
  • S Kemal Ishmael - UCF
  • S Daimion Stafford - Nebraska
  • S Darnell Taylor - Sam Houston State
  • S Vaughn Telemaque - Miami (Florida)
(*) Armstrong was dismissed from the team at Miami before the start of the season. He transferred to Faulkner, an NAIA school, but was declared ineligible there too, so he did not play last season.

I had 25 players in this category last year, but three of them turned out to be ex-dreads. Of the 22 who kept their dreads, 7 were drafted and a total of 12 appeared in at least one regular season game. The earliest drafted were 4th rounders Travis Benjamin, Keshawn Martin, Jerron McMillian, and Christian Thompson.


OK. Coming up (soon, hopefully) we're going to switch gears. I'll finally do my annual baseball dread gallery.

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