As I look at my draft board, I'm going to enjoy the next couple picks because after that it gets pretty tough. In both my fantasy and reality drafts, my first picks have focused on a skilled pass rusher and very skilled, do-it-all DBs. Both picks were made looking at a combination of need in the conference and talent in the position.
With my third draft picks I have selected players who I would lose sleep over if I even tried to justify putting another player in front of them. They play completely different positions but one is the best player I've seen in his position at Texas while the other has an early start on the track to being one of the most skilled corners Duane Akina has developed.
Fantasy Draft 3rd Pick (Position & Player): Linebacker | Derrick Johnson
Let me make this clear... I could have easily made the case to make DJ the 1st pick in this draft. The value of both the Safety and the Defensive End position in today's Big XII conference is so high I was forced to look elsewhere initially but I simply couldn't wait any longer to draft this guy.
Very few players come out of high school at the linebacker position ranked as one of the best in the country and live up to the hype by contributing meaningfully as a true freshman and then go on to start and dominate the remainder of the games during their career. DJ may be the most dynamic defensive player with whom I played with while at Texas. He was simply a game changer. He wasn't a guy who just racked up tackles either. When he got to the point of attack he was one of the best at forcing fumbles and creating opportunities for the offense to get the ball back. We have not seen a player with his level of production or stature since he left campus. At 6'4", 240 lbs he affected the game in so many ways. He leads all horns historically in TFLs (65) and is also fourth all-time in solo tackles (280) at Texas. But he also found a way to influence the passing game with the UT linebacker record for PBUs (30) and interceptions (9).
In the same 2004 Red River Shootout game where I praised Huff's production, DJ racked up 16 tackles, an interception, and a tackle for loss. Oh yea, he had a forced fumble too. He and Huff's production alone make it seem as if they were the only two on the field. DJ was simply a monster.
As I look back, we can talk about several accomplished players in the Mack Brown era at different positions that could justifiably be argued as possibly the best ever at Texas. There's a long line of DBs, DEs, and DTs that are potential picks but Derrick Johnson is a linebacker I'd argue we hadn't seen anything like on campus before he arrived and we definitely haven't seen anyone come close since he departed. Damn, it'd be nice to have him on the bus this year.
Reality Draft 3rd Pick (Position & Player): Defensive Back | Carrington Byndom
We've been fortunate to have a long lineage of production at the DB position that has set very high standards for what we consider serviceable. With the third pick of my reality draft, I'm taking a player who is likely to be the next star at the position. Thus far, Carrington Byndom has been a cornerback, but I wouldn't be shocked if coach Akina uses him all over the place before he leaves campus. The kid just gets it. In addition to his physical gifts (length) and his positional skillset, he is very advance psychologically, demonstrating great maturity at a very early age. CB is a position that puts a premium on poise. I call him "Keep calm and cover." I never have to worry about him getting too high or low. He shows up and usually shuts down.
In the same game where Kenny Voudini made Ryan Swopes disappear, Byndom had a pretty damn good showing when in pure man-to-man coverage with Jeff Fuller. Fuller's biggest plays were in zone coverage when there was miscommunication throughout the defense. Byndom also baits Ryan Tannehill into throwing a pick and taking it in for 6 greatly needed points. If you watch ANY film on Byndom, you'll see that he is instinctual and decisive in coverage and run support. When he recognizes run he gets there and finishes. When the ball is in the air, he truly understands that it's okay for him to make a play on it, not just secure the tackle.
This year his talent, experience, and leadership will be key to the defense's production. As a "field corner" (one who plays to the wide side of the field, opposite the hash where the ball is aligned), you must be very sound physically and mentally. On the wide side of the field WRs have so much more room with which to work and therefore several routes become options. Byndom, with detailed training from Coach Akina, has become skilled in understanding how opposing offenses look to out-leverage the CBs to the field. You never want to guess at this position, but with understanding the down and distance, offense's formations, and WRs alignment, he's gained confidence in eliminating certain route options which give him a healthy knowledge of what to anticipate.
Some consider Byndom underrated considering Kenny Vacarro's production at safety and having a freshman All-American at the other corner position. But, I believe in a league where things will be unpredictable, Byndom gives me unwavering confidence there will be a WR in each game we will not have to be concerned about.
You know the drill by now. Any of you scouts disagree with my third round pick as the GM?
Fourth Draft pick(s) coming soon...