Sunday, April 26, 2015

Toast of the K-Town

By the time I remembered it was already after I had posted my preview of the 2014 NFL Draft (the post titled "Know Your Muck"), and the damage was already done - I forgot the music. How can I have a final jeopardy and not play the music? Please forgive me for being such an idiot. I won't make the same mistake twice. So after you read the final jeopardy answer that leads off this year's draft preview, you may, if you like, click on the link beneath it and listen to that familiar little 30-second tune while you try to come up with the right question.

There is no long, three-section quiz this year; we go straight to final jeopardy.
The category: The NFL Draft.
And the answer is ....... They are the only pair of high school teammates ever to both be selected in the 1st round of the draft in the same year.
Good luck ..... http://www.hark.com/clips/sfpbhcvhzh-jeopardy-theme

Actually the correct question depends on when you are reading this. If you're one of the early birds who are viewing this before the draft, then there is no correct question. It has never happened before. Not yet. But come the end of the 1st round this Thursday night there's a very good chance history will be made.

A hint is located in the photo of the map above. And those of you who are not too geographically challenged will recognize that the star is not pointing to Chicago or Milwaukee but rather to about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee - right where you will find the city of Kenosha.
My last two draft previews featured players from Rock Hill in South Carolina and Muck City in Florida - areas that can be considered football factories for the large number of good players they produce. Well, Kenosha usually ain't in the same class as those two; but this year (and only this year) Kenosha (population 99,218 and about 6 miles north of the Illinois-Wisconsin border) is not taking a back seat to anyone. I checked Wikipedia, and according to their list of famous people from Kenosha nobody from K-Town has made an impact in the NFL for at least the last 55 years. But all indications are that's fixing to change, as a couple of guys who played their HS ball together at Kenosha Bradford are expected to be 1st round selections in the 2015 NFL Draft.

"Who are Trae Waynes and Melvin Gordon?" is what I'm hoping will be the correct question to that final jeopardy answer. After stellar sophomore and junior seasons in college in 2013 and 2014, Waynes (left photo below), the former Michigan State cornerback, and Gordon (right photo below), the former Wisconsin running back, plan to be stellar on Sundays this fall and for many more falls after that.





















Before going any further, let's make sure you get it right. You can say that Waynes and Gordon were teammates in HS, but don't say they went to the same school - because they didn't. Gordon is a member of Bradford's class of 2011, but Waynes attended and graduated from Kenosha Harborside Academy. Since Harborside doesn't have a football team, Waynes was allowed to suit up for Bradford (about 2 miles away) and join forces with Gordon. They did not win any state championships (Bradford lost to the eventual champion in the playoffs in 2009 and 2010) before going their separate ways to college. 

Thanks partly to the Big 10 conference recently becoming a 14-team behemoth, Gordon and Waynes never were on the field against each other during their 4 years in college. MSU faced UW twice in 2011, but that was the year they both redshirted. They were both in uniform for the teams' 2012 meeting, but Gordon had no carries - and Waynes no tackles - in the Spartans' 16-13 win at Madison. And then the last two years - the two years in which Waynes recorded 6 INT, 13 PBU, and nearly 100 tackles and Gordon rushed for over 4,000 yards - the two teams did not play each other.

Not a highly rated recruit coming out of HS, Waynes improved so much while at Michigan State that he earned all-America honors in 2014 and has become the top rated CB prospect in this year's draft. Blessed with blazing speed (4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and taller (6-foot even) than most CBs, Trae certainly has the physical tools to continue being successful at the next level. But I'm just a football fan, not an expert or scout. So if you need to know exactly why Waynes is rated the best CB available in the draft, I encourage you to click on this link for an analysis done by Bob Sturm on the Dallas Morning News website (be patient; it loads slowly, but it's OK once the two 30-second ads finish): http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/2015/03/2015-nfl-draft-profile-trae-waynes-cb-michigan-state.html/

In today's pass-happy NFL it is often said you cannot have enough good corners. Some teams need more of them than others, but every team is looking to improve themselves at this position. So Waynes literally could be drafted by any team - it wouldn't be a surprise whichever team it is. What will be a surprise - and a disappointment - is if he's not one of the first dozen players players picked.

There are a couple more articles on Trae that I'd like you to read (links below). In both the first one, from USA Today, and the second, from the Detroit Free Press, he describes his friendship with Gordon and how exciting it will be being picked in the same draft as Gordon.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/nfl/draft/2015/03/30/michigan-state-cornerback-trae-waynes-melvin-gordon/70682036/

http://www.freep.com/story/sports/nfl/lions/2015/02/22/nfl-combine-trae-waynes-michigan-state/23834811/

We know Waynes will be picked in the 1st round, but what about Gordon? Will he go in the 1st round too, or will he have to wait until Friday to hear his named called? Well, every mock draft I've seen has Melvin being picked in round 1 also, but ......

There are a lot of people who are of the opinion that you should never draft a running back in the 1st round. One of those is Sports Illustrated's Peter King; and in his analysis (link below) he argues that no one should pick Gordon in the 1st round. But I say that while teams with great QBs can succeed without great RBs, the majority of teams don't have great QBs; and the better the RB you have, the better the chance your offense will be successful. The second link below is to the video of some of Gordon's performance at the Combine in late February.

http://mmqb.si.com/2015/02/24/melvin-gordon-nfl-draft-film-breakdown/

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-combine/0ap3000000478130/2015-Combine-workout-Melvin-Gordon

King doesn't believe Gordon is good enough at catching the ball to be drafted in the 1st round. But for real, Wisconsin hasn't exactly had a sophisticated pass offense any time lately. It wasn't because they didn't think Melvin couldn't catch that was why they hardly ever threw to him. Once training camp starts I believe the team that drafts him will find that he can catch just fine.

Another knock against Gordon is that he's a Wisconsin RB. And as we all know several RBs that have had great seasons for the Badgers in the past have gone on to the NFL and done next to nothing. But Melvin's got too much talent not to succeed. We'll have to wait and see, but I'll bet the team that drafts him will end up very satisfied with the production they get from him the the years ahead. As for which team that will be ..... well, the Chargers, Cardinals, Ravens, and Cowboys are the teams most likely to take a RB in round 1. And after one of them picks Todd Gurley, I expect one of the others to make Gordon the second RB selected in the 1st round. 

There are a couple more articles about Gordon I'd like you to read. The first link below is his profile on NFL.com and includes links to a couple of videos of him at the Combine. And below that is a story in the Chicago Tribune from last December after he was voted the Big 10 MVP. It focuses on Melvin's family and how disappointed he is that his father can only enjoy his success from behind bars. But I'll always be thankful that before he landed in prison, Melvin's dad convinced his son to attend Wisconsin instead of Iowa.

http://www.nfl.com/draft/2015/profiles/melvin-gordon?id=2552469

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/ct-melvin-gordon-tribune-silver-football-spt-1212-20141211-column.html#page=1

As fate would have it, the draft - after being held in NYC for many consecutive years - has moved to Chicago for this year. And that's almost perfect for Waynes and Gordon (together at Wisconsin pro day on Mar. 11 in photo on left). With Kenosha only about 70 minutes away, a large contingent of family and friends will be able to join them in person at the draft. I surely hope they'll all be celebrating Thursday the first pair of HS teammates to be selected in the 1st round of the same draft and won't have to come back on Friday.
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WHAT BROWN CAN DO FOR YOU

In the annual dreaded mock draft on the Bengals.com website message board (in which all of the Bengals' picks are players with dreads) the author - who goes by the handle "bfine32" - has this to say of this year's 1st round choice: "Although Malcom's dreads are small, his game is not." Well, only for now are Malcom Brown's dreads small. It will only be a couple more seasons before we'll be able to easily see them outside his helmet. But bfine be right about the game of the outstanding former Texas Longhorns defensive tackle. And the team that drafts him - very likely in the 1st round - will soon find out that the best thing Brown can do for them is be a disruptive force in the backfield of opposing offenses.

It was Malcom's (that's that correct spelling - Malcom, not Malcolm) 15 TFL - a huge total for a DT - in 2014 that earned him all-America honors as well as a selection as a finalist for the Outland Trophy. And it's his incredible quickness for someone who weighs 320 pounds that allows him to get so many tackles in the backfield. You can catch of glimpse of how easily he moves in the video (first link below) of his performance at the Combine. Below that the second link is his NFL.com profile.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-combine/0ap3000000479652/2015-Combine-workout-Malcom-Brown

http://www.nfl.com/draft/2015/profiles/malcom-brown?id=2552483

DTs often are not big stats guys (some defensive schemes prevent them from racking up a bunch of tackles), but Malcom (photo on left from Texas' pro day on Mar. 24) always has been. His 4 TFL in one game last season (Week 2 against BYU) were more than many DTs have in a whole season. The profile on Brown done by the Saints blog "Big Easy Believer" (link below) includes a highlight video from that game and also includes all of Malcom's career stats, which confirm that he's been a star at every level he's played. And all systems are go for him to continue to be a star in the seasons ahead.

http://bigeasybeliever.com/2015/04/09/texas-dt-malcom-brown-would-be-perfect-pick-for-saints/

The author of that article wants the Saints to draft Brown, but I think he'll already be taken by the time the Saints use their second pick in the 1st round (the one they got from the Seahawks in the trade for Jimmy Graham). The Detroit Lions, picking 23rd, lost a great DT in free agency a few weeks ago and no doubt have their eyes on Brown too. I'd be very surprised if he's still available beyond their pick.
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BEAST MODE JR.

Will the real Next Beast Mode please stand up.

Against the grain of what normally happens with running backs, Seattle Seahawks star RB Marshawn Lynch seems to only be getting better as he approaches age 30. During his 5 seasons with the Seahawks (after 3 years with the Buffalo Bills before that) Lynch - aka "Beast Mode" - has put himself in the conversation for best RB in the league. And when someone has become that successful, the search begins for the next player just like him. Well, I doubt we'll ever see anyone exactly like Lynch; but there are a couple of very talented RBs available in the draft this year who are somewhat similar to Lynch and thus are in the running to be called the next Beast Mode.

The writer of the article (link below) from the Emerald City Swagger blog says that Jay Ajayi (photo on right) reminds him of Lynch. I can understand that, because the 6-0, 220 pounder from Boise State does break a lot of tackles (like Lynch) and gets the most out of almost every play (like Lynch). But Ajayi's not as shifty a runner as Marshawn.

http://emeraldcityswagger.com/2015/04/16/jay-ajayi-boise-state-seattle-seahawks-draft-profile/

Also, if you like, you can get another analysis of Ajayi from the Steelers Depot blog (first link below), which includes videos of some of his highlights from the 2014 season. And the link below that is to a feature Boise TV station KIVI did on him before the start of last season.

http://steelersdepot.com/2015/02/2015-nfl-draft-player-profiles-boise-state-rb-jay-ajayi/

http://www.scrippsmedia.com/kivitv/news/sports/Ajayis-journey-270414491.html

Unlike Melvin Gordon, Ajayi has already proven he's reliable at catching the ball. And whether it's running after the catch or running after taking the handoff, Jay has the talent that should allow him to make a whole lot of money in the years ahead. Probably not a 1st round pick, Ajayi likely will be one of the first players taken on the 2nd day of the draft on Friday night. I'd love to see the Atlanta Falcons pick him with their pick early in round 2. Either that, or it also would be OK if the Jacksonville Jaguars pick him before then.

The other RB who is similar to Beast Mode just happens to be the best RB available in the draft. But actually I think (as does the writer of the profile on SI.com) former Georgia star Todd Gurley is more like another great NFL RB, Adrian Peterson, with the ability to outrun you as well as run you over. But the profiles of Gurley both in a Yahoo! Sports article (first link below) and in Lindy's draft magazine say Gurley reminds them of Lynch. Whatever. Whether it's Lynch or Peterson, both SI (second link below) and Yahoo! agree that not only is Todd the best RB available in the draft, he's arguably the best player at any position available.

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/greg-cosell-s-nfl-draft-preview--todd-gurley-may-be-best-prospect-in-class-180456535.html

http://www.si.com/nfl/2015/04/13/nfl-draft-rankings-si-64-todd-gurley-georgia

As mentioned in the SI profile, we can only wonder what Gurley would have done if he had played a full season in 2014; but I have a pretty good guess: he would have won the Heisman Trophy, and we'd be talking about him being selected right near the beginning of the draft instead of wondering which team will take him late in round 1. Potentially so good a player is Gurley that he's still expected to be the first RB picked despite suffering a torn ACL knee injury last November. Listen, I'm as big a Melvin Gordon as anyone; but you'd be crazy to pick him ahead of Gurley. God willing, Todd will recover fully from his injury; and if he does, NFL fans are going to be in for a real treat in the upcoming seasons.














Since he was still recovering from his injury, Gurley could only be a spectator at both the Combine (left photo above) and at Georgia's pro day (right photo above) on Mar.18. But if it takes the 9 months to recover that the SI profile suggests, he should be ready to play by the middle of August; so it's not out of the question he could be in uniform on opening day (Sept.13 this year). Earlier I mentioned I was hoping the Falcons would pick Ajayi in the 2nd round. But what I'd really love is to see Gurley in a Falcons uniform for all of his NFL career. The Falcons need a pass rusher in the worst way though and are likely to pick one with their first selection (8th overall). So they're going to have to somehow obtain another pick in the 1st round if they want Gurley too.
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CERTAIN TO BE DRAFTED

There will need to be an investigation if any of these players with dreads is not drafted by the end of the 3rd round on Friday night.


OT T.J. Clemmings - Pittsburgh
G A.J. Cann - South Carolina
WR Sammie Coates - Auburn
WR Breshad Perriman - UCF
WR Kevin White - West Virginia
RB Jay Ajayi - Boise State
RB Melvin Gordon - Wisconsin
RB Todd Gurley - Georgia
DE Alvin "Bud" Dupree - Kentucky
DE Mario Edwards - Florida State
DT Malcom Brown - Texas
LB Vic Beasley - Clemson
LB Shaq Thompson - Washington
CB Jalen Collins - LSU
CB Ronald Darby (photo on right) - Florida State
CB Trae Waynes - Michigan State



I lost a lot of credibility last year when not only did one the players I had in this category not get drafted in the first 3 rounds, he didn't get drafted at all. I'm talking about Antonio Richardson. I also was incorrect on Martavis Bryant (actually it was all the teams that were incorrect on Bryant), who wasn't selected until round 4, and Cyril Richardson (round 5).
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TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES

It's still going to be a bit longer before we arrive in the 23rd century - the time in which the old TV show Star Trek was set. So we don't yet have the benefit that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock did of using computers to accurately determine whether or not someone is telling the truth. Nor are we on a parallel planet Earth - as they were in the old TV show Sliders, where in one episode you could tell every time someone wasn't telling the truth because the collar everyone was wearing around their necks would give off a sharp jolt of pain to anyone who didn't. Here today, on this Earth, you have no idea if what comes out of a person's mouth is the truth. You just have to take their word for it. We took Josh Shaw's word for it last August. But shortly after we did, he went through a couple of the worst days of his life.

Maybe you don't remember the name Josh Shaw; but you probably do remember hearing the story of the USC football player that jumped off a 3rd floor balcony to save his drowning nephew, only to find out a couple of days later that story belonged in the "Fiction" section of the library. Well, Shaw was that player; and because he didn't want to deal with the truth, he lied and got the consequences instead. Hopefully those consequences won't end up being too severe; but they definitely messed up his senior season. If Josh can be believed three months after that night, then this (an article in the LA Times) is what really happened and why he thought he needed to lie about it:
http://www.latimes.com/sports/usc/la-sp-josh-shaw-plaschke-20141113-column.html#page=1

It's fascinating to hear him say, "It gets harder and harder to keep up with lie after lie after lie .... but I was still lying." After he finally fessed up, Shaw no doubt was feeling a great deal of relief, but he ended up being suspended until only 2 games were remaining in the regular season. And the result of that, which he mentions in a Sports Illustrated article (link below) done in January while he was at the Senior Bowl, was that he had no chance to become a better player and improve his draft stock.
http://www.si.com/nfl/2015/01/22/josh-shaw-usc-trojans-nfl-draft#

Fortunately for Josh, he was able to participate in the East-West Shrine game, the Senior Bowl, and the Combine, and was able to show all the teams he's versatile enough to play both cornerback and safety and that he's still talented enough to be drafted. But like it says in the article, you wonder what all the teams will make of his couple of days of lying. Will they trust him enough to draft him as early as the 3rd round? Possibly, but usually only the biggest stars get the benefit of the doubt; and Shaw isn't that big of a star. For Josh's sake I hope I'm wrong, but it looks like he'll be waiting until Saturday to hear his name called.
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CHRIS CONLEY - COMBINE CONUNDRUM

After wrapping up a decent but certainly not spectacular 36-catches-for-657-yards senior season for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2014, WR Chris Conley did not rank very high on the list of receivers available in the draft. In fact, he didn't rank at all in Lindy's draft magazine, which has 29 WRs rated. NFL teams likely were planning to draft him very late in the draft, if at all. But everything changed on Feb. 21 when Conley blew up those plans. That was the day the WRs had their workouts at the Combine, and the day Conley's amazing performance there shocked coaches, scouts, and heck, probably a lot of Georgia fans too when he ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.35 seconds. He then proceeded to record a 45-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot, 7-inch broad jump - numbers that rank among the best ever by a WR in the history of the Combine. Here is the video of his performance.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-combine/0ap3000000478707/2015-Combine-workout-Chris-Conley

A show like that instantly put teams into a conundrum. The 6-2, 210-pound Conley had career stats of 117 catches for 1,938 yards and 20 TD. Not bad numbers; but with the athletic ability he had just displayed, teams wondered why he hadn't done more while at Georgia. Players with his kind of physical talent are usually stars. More importantly they wondered, will he be able to turn his talent into production on the field on Sundays? Or will he turn out to be just another workout warrior? At the very least  Conley has shown he has the speed to succeed.

The profile NFL.com did of him (link below) gives him a 5.62 rating, which is in the "chance to become starter" category.

http://www.nfl.com/draft/2015/profiles/chris-conley?id=2552652

After they were reduced at the Combine, Chris' dreads made a much better showing at Georgia's pro day (photo on right) on Mar. 18. Confined inside his helmet the last two seasons at Georgia, those dreads will be long enough to be seen outside his helmet as early as next season, a season that has an excellent chance to be in an NFL stadium near you. Conley might hear his name called on Friday night, and no later than early on Saturday.
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LIKELY TO BE DRAFTED

Most of these players with dreads figure to have to wait until Saturday (rounds 4-7) before they are drafted, but they all figure to hear their names called at some point in the draft.


OT Laurence Gibson - Virginia Tech
OT Tyrus Thompson - Oklahoma
WR Chris Conley - Georgia
RB Matt Jones - Florida
RB Terrence Magee - LSU
DE Za'Darius Smith - Kentucky
DT Rakeem Nunez- Roches (photo on right) - Southern Mississippi
DT Xavier Williams - Northern Iowa
LB Markus Golden - Missouri
LB Lorenzo Mauldin - Louisville
LB Ramik Wilson - Georgia
CB Alex Carter - Stanford
CB Steven Nelson - Oregon State
CB Josh Shaw - USC
S Clayton Geathers - UCF
S Anthony Harris - Virginia


Last year only 11 of the 15 players I had in this category got drafted. All of the teams passed on Isaiah Crowell (what were they thinking?), Marcel Jensen, Craig Loston (now an ex-dread), and Victor Hampton. The earliest drafted were Dezmen Southward, Khyri Thornton, Will Clarke, and Dri Archer - all in the 3rd round and all of whom didn't do a whole lot as rookies.
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CHICAGO HOPE (TAKE TWO)

Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, Jabari Parker, Tony Allen, Patrick Beverley, Will Bynum, Nazr Mohammed. And joining the group next year - Jahlil Okafor. Yes, you could almost have a whole NBA team (and a pretty good one too) made up entirely of players who played their HS ball in the Chicago Public League. Unfortunately though and as I mentioned in last year's preview Public League talent is lacking in both quantity and quality when it comes to the NFL. Even though there are three times as many jobs in the NFL as in the NBA, the list isn't nearly as illustrious .....

Kelvin Hayden has been around for a while. So has Joe Mays. Jeff Allen's career got off to a good start (although he missed last season due to injury). Jason Avant has played 9 years and scored 13 TD. After 3 years bouncing on and off practice squads, Robert Hughes finally played his first full season in 2014. None of them are stars. Heck, unless they play for your favorite team, you might not have ever heard of them.

In last year's preview I wrote of another Public Leaguer that I hoped would make it to the NFL. But Keith Lewis' 2014 season was disappointing to say the least. First (and worst) of all - and I don't remember if it was shortly before or shortly after the draft - he cut of his dreads. Then after not being drafted and signing as a free agent with the Buccaneers, he was cut at the end of the preseason. Next he played in something called the FXFL before ending the season on the roster of the N.Y. Jets. He appeared in 0 NFL games as a rookie.

This year there is another NFL prospect from the CPL. And not only is E.J. Bibbs a Chicago hope, he's also the latest tight-end-with-dreads hope. Bibbs (Bogan HS class of 2011) (photo above) had 45 catches for 382 yards and 8 TD for Iowa State in 2014 and was named the Cyclones' team MVP. He's not overly fast or strong, and he'll need to improve if he's planning on playing in the NFL for a living. Bibbs had surgery on his knee both before and after last season and, according to a Des Moines Register article (first link below) from a month ago, considers himself completely healthy now. So maybe we haven't seen him at his best yet. If you like, you can click on the other two links, which are to his profile on NFL.com and a recent article in the Chicago Sun Times.

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/sports/college/iowa-state/randy-peterson/2015/03/24/iowa-state-cyclones-football-ej-bibbs-nfl-pro-day-randy-peterson/70400618/

http://www.nfl.com/draft/2015/profiles/e.j.-bibbs?id=2552398

http://chicago.suntimes.com/bears-football/7/71/533298/bogans-e-j-bibbs-among-locals-draft-te-class

Both mom and dad are policemen. No chance he was going to be a knucklehead, huh?
I checked 6 different sets of prospect rankings, and one of them has E.J. possibly being drafted as early as round 4. But most of them have him going in round 7 or not at all. The 5.0 grade assigned to him by NFL.com puts him in the "50-50 chance to make NFL roster" category. The article from the D.M. Register suggests a move to fullback may be in his future. David Johnson, now with the San Diego Chargers is an example of someone who played TE in college but now often lines up as a FB. But Bibbs doesn't care. TE, FB, whatever the position, he just wants a chance to make somebody's team.
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SMALL SCHOOL STUD (?)

For the longest time I was wondering if I was going to find anybody to put in this section for this year's preview. But then a couple of weeks ago, while going down the list of prospects on NFL.com, I clicked on the name of Tory Slater. "He has dreads!" was my first reaction. And then when I noticed they had him projected as a 6th or 7th round pick, I knew I had found this year's SSS. A WR in high school, Slater, who played his entire college career for West Georgia, has now grown to 290 pounds; so he's a very quick defensive lineman. You can find out more about Slater by clicking on his profile by NFL.com (first link below) and on a brief interview (second link) on the Draft Diamonds website. The third link is to a video of his highlights from last season (be sure to stay tuned to the very end). 

http://www.nfl.com/draft/2015/profiles/tory-slater?id=2553339

http://nfldraftdiamonds.com/draft-diamonds-prospect-interview-tory-slater-dl-university-of-west-georgia/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVdd_LCbxh8


You may have noticed the question mark next to the title of this section. It's there because you have to wonder if Tory really is a stud. 16 players for West Georgia earned all-Gulf South Conference honors last season, but Slater was not one of them. You often hear scouts refer to a player as a "one-year wonder." Well, Slater wasn't even that. He's more like a half-year wonder. He had 1 sack as a freshman in 2011, 1 sack as a sophomore, 1 sack as a junior, and 1 sack through the first 9 games of his senior season. And then, all of a sudden, BOOM! - 9 sacks in the Wolves' final 6 games of the season, which included their incredible playoff run where they won on the road 3 weeks in a row before losing (on the road) 10-7 in the Division 2 semifinals. I don't know how it happened, but Tory suddenly turned into a monster. Maybe that's a good thing, because it indicates a player improving, someone who hasn't reached his potential yet.


NFL teams certainly are intrigued; and it's no secret the 2-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks are one of the teams that like him. But it remains to be seen if they - or anyone else - like him enough to spend a draft choice on him. The two photos above are of Slater from during and after UWG's 20-17 1st-round playoff victory at Tuskegee. 2014 was West Georgia's 30th season as a member of Division 2, and that was their first ever playoff victory in football. You could barely see Tory's dreads with his helmet on last season. Let's hope we'll be able to watch them get longer on Sundays this fall and for several more years after that.

Tory Slater. If you see the name scrolling across the bottom of your TV screen Saturday afternoon, you won't have to ask, "Who?" You already know who.
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MAYBE THEY'LL BE DRAFTED

For the vast majority of these players with dreads, their draft will begin immediately when round 7 ends - when they officially become undrafted free agents and can pick and sign with the teams of their choosing. But a few of them will be lucky enough to hear their names called before the end of round 7. (I say lucky because draft choices get larger signing bonuses than undrafted players.)

OT Quinterrius Eatmon - South Florida
OT Fabbians Ebbele - Arizona
OT Terry Poole (top photo on right) - San Diego State
G Leon Brown - Alabama
TE E.J. Bibbs - Iowa State
WR Kaelin Clay - Utah
WR Geremy Davis - Connecticut
WR Deontay Greenberry - Houston
WR Malcome Kennedy - Texas A&M
WR Bradley Marquez - Texas Tech
WR Lucky Whitehead - FAU
RB Breon Allen - East Carolina
RB Prince-Tyson Gulley - Syracuse
RB Dee Hart (bottom photo on right) - Colorado State
RB Gus Johnson - Stephen F. Austin
DE Tavaris Barnes - Clemson
DE Ryan Delaire - Towson
DE Terrell Hartsfield - Cincinnati
DT Bryon Bennett - Mississippi
DT Tyeler Davison - Fresno State
DT Brandon Ivory - Alabama
DT Darius Philon - Arkansas
DT Lexington Smith - Northern Colorado
DT Tory Slater - West Georgia
DT Jordan Williams - Tennessee
LB Neiron Ball - Florida
LB Isiah Corbett - Southeastern Louisiana
LB A.J. Johnson - Tennessee
LB D.J. Lynch - Bowling Green
LB Michael Orakpo - Texas State
CB Stoney Burns - Bethel
CB Chris Dunkley - South Florida
CB Thomas Finnie - Bethune-Cookman
CB Jimmy Jean - UAB
CB Cortney Lester - Buffalo
CB Bobby McCain - Memphis
CB Jonathan McKnight - Arizona
CB Trovon Reed - Auburn
CB Denzel Rice - Coastal Carolina
CB Darryl Roberts - Marshall
CB Tye Smith - Towson
CB Corey Trim - Louisiana-Lafayette
CB Brison Williams - South  Carolina
S Corey Cooper - Nebraska
S Matthias Farley - Notre Dame
S Jordan Haden - Toledo
S Quentin Hayes - Oklahoma
S Demarkus Perkins - FIU
S Floyd Raven - Texas A&M
S Derrick Wells - Minnesota

Last year 4 of the 21 players I put in this category got drafted - Shaquille Richardson in the 5th round, Brandon Dixon in the 6th, and Tevin Reese and Ken Bishop in round 7. Of the 17 who were not drafted, 7 appeared in regular season games last season - Nic Jacobs, Isaiah Burse, Senorise Perry, Denico Autry, Marcus Williams, Pierre Warren, and ex-dread Darrin Reaves. 
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This promises to be the best draft yet for players with dreads. One mock draft I saw had an incredible 12 players with dreads being selected in the 1st round. I don't think there'll be that many, but there's a good chance we'll see a record number of players with dreads taken - both in round 1 and overall. Who will get the honor of being the first player with dreads picked? I'd have to say Kevin White and Vic Beasley are the favorites. Trae Waynes has an outside chance. I'd call Bud Dupree and Todd Gurley longshots. Whoever goes first, there'll be several more to follow. Watching the 1st round on Thursday night is going to be must-see TV for me.

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  UPDATED ON 5/2/2015                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                                           
I hate being inaccurate, so I have to include this update. It has just come to my attention (see article on
the link below) that Melvin Gordon and Trae Waynes ARE NOT the first pair of HS teammates to 
be selected in the 1st round in the same year. There was an article I read from nola.com from two years ago that said that it had never been done before, but it has. Obviously you can't believe everything you read on the internet, and obviously I didn't research this thoroughly enough. Sorry for giving you the incorrect info.                 
                                                                                                                                                           
       http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000488383/printable/prep-teammates-who-could-be-taken-in-2015-nfl-draft
                                                                                                                                                          
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