My next picks play different positions but look like they have some things in common. Every player, no matter what their skill-level or plan for development is when the reach campus, has an opportunity to grow and add value to the roster. Both my picks have taken their intangibles and bought in to coaching.
The fantasy pick is still a valuable asset at his position in the NFL while my reality pick is coming into his junior season with intentions of one day being the same.
Let's take a look after the jump.
Fantasy Draft 8th Pick (Position & Player): Cornerback | Cedric Griffin
With my 8th pick in the draft I select Cedric Griffin. He's yet another guy who made progress year-after-year and peaked at the right time. With height, arm length, and overall size being assets you can only recruit, he only needed to buy into instruction and develop proper fundamentals to become an overwhelming presence for WRs he faced.
Cedric's ability to use his length and strength in coverage is what made him special. He was very effective in press coverage as he had the eye discipline and technique enabling him to redirect receivers as well as control them and get off blocks. This quickly developed as his greatest asset but what I like most about him is that he didn't stop there.
Lazy management, whether it's a team or a company, often prefers to only maximize people's strengths, as opposed to also addressing their weaknesses. As an elite cornerback, you have to have it all. What I appreciate about Coach Akina is that he puts tremendous pressure on his players to be complete DBs. Cedric is an object lesson.
After Cedric proved he was a strong in press coverage. Coach Akina challenged him to play off the line of scrimmage more. You put limits on your defense when you're strong in one area but a liability in others. Cedric begin to develop and turn playing off of receivers into another strength. This allowed the defense to run a wider variety of both zone and man schemes because Cedric had the full skillset to disguise and execute coverage.
People often talk to me about my coverage of Reggie Bush insisting I had an interception (I've given up telling them otherwise) but whether I was there or not, Cedric was there to clean him up. He had a strong desire to impose pain on ball carriers.
Nice catch. Don't forget to pick up your helmet.
After starting his final 38 games at Texas, Cedric finished as well-rounded, physical presence in the secondary with 86 tackles, 15 PBUs, and two forced fumbles. I can't forget the blocked punt he had against the Aggies in College Station that year. While I wish there were a way to clone the skills and production Cedric brought to the team, I merely hope our guys experience similar growth this year. With Duane Akina's track record, it's truly up to them to get it done.
Reality Draft 8th Pick (Position & Player): Defensive Tackle | Chris Whaley
I can't go another pick without selecting a defensive tackle. With the 8th pick I've drafted Chris Whaley. I can't get enough of players who are more athletic than they need to be for their position. Brian Orakpo and Lamarr Houston are the only other players I've seen effectively add 50+ pounds to their frame and still look like action figures. Chris is no different and I believe he has the natural advantages and tools to follow those guys' paths in terms of on-field production.
While defensive backs need to have great eyes and feet, effective defensive lineman need great hands and feet. Likewise, there are going to be players who naturally have phenomenal footwork but need to be coached up in the other areas. Chris has always been a guy whose footwork was never in question. Having the most agile feet and athleticism on the defensive line allows him to move laterally and play effectively against the teams in the BIG XII who zone block in the running game (there are several). It's simply something that cannot be coached. But, his footwork would mean nothing if he hadn't experienced the development in his hand placement.
That overall functional strength Whaley has built along with his hand placement has made the difference in his production. Great hands are important because defensive lineman need to control the blocker on contact. Many young defensive linemen have issues breaking high school habits of colliding with their head and shoulders first then engaging their hands to separate. This essentially sets the up for failure as offensive lineman pretty much figuratively become boogers they can't seem to flick off their finger. Fortunately for Whaley, he didn't really have any bad habits to break. And as a guy who started off on the defensive line much lighter than he is now at 290 lbs, he needed great hand placement or he'd be demolished.
With great fundamental hand placement and athletic feet, I think he'll be a difference-maker anchoring the line this year. You never know how players will turn out when they transition but for Chris it seems as if it's the perfect confluence of his athletic ability and his receptivity to soaking up fundamentals in hand placement. This combination gives him the diverse skill set and presence we'll need to perform well in this year's Big XII.
Ninth Draft pick(s) coming soon...