Thursday’s first round of the 2011 NFL Draft might not have meant much to the current crop of Kansas University football players waiting to see if they’ll get a shot to play pro ball, but it did mean something to a handful of former Jayhawks who used to call Memorial Stadium home.
With Rounds 2 and 3 slated for tonight, it’s unlikely that Day 2 will be any more relevant for guys like Chris Harris, Brad Thorson, Jake Laptad and Johnathan Wilson. Their day is coming. And it’s Saturday. That’s the day those guys — along with a couple others — will find out if they’re late-round picks or free agent pick-ups.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a quick look at what Thursday’s action means for the few Jayhawks already in the NFL.
Up first, Cincinnati.
The Bengals addressed a huge need at wide receiver by taking Georgia stud A.J. Green with the No. 4 pick. Cincy is expected to lose two high-profile wideouts in Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco this offseason so Green was the no-brainer pick.
The Bengals have been known for their explosive offense lately and even though it’s uncertain who will be under center for the Bengals in 2011, the fact that they continue to emphasize offense should be taken as a good sign for offensive tackle Anthony Collins, the Bengals’ former Jayhawk who is packed with potential but has yet to make a serious splash in the NFL.
Bottom line: If the Bengals want to get Green the ball, they have to protect their quarterback. Collins’ value remains in tact.
Next up, was Atlanta, two picks later.
The Falcons traded with Cleveland to slide into the sixth spot in the draft, where they took Julio Jones, the dynamic play-making wide receiver from Alabama. My first thought here was that the Falcons moving up to take a receiver was not good news for former Jayhawk Kerry Meier, whom Atlanta drafted in the fifth round last year.
After thinking about it for a while, though, the opposite is actually true. This is great news for Meier. Let’s face it, he was never going to be the Falcons’ No. 2 receiver. He’s a slot guy, a possession receiver, a No. 3 at best. If he can come back healthy and continue to progress at the rate he was before the injury, Meier could slide into that No. 3 or No. 4 role. When he does, the field will be littered with dangerous weapons in Roddy White, Jones and Tony Gonzalez. That should give the sure-handed Meier plenty of room to work.
Bottom line: Atlanta’s offense got a whole lot more dangerous with this move and it did so without hurting Meier’s place with the team.
Next came San Francisco in the No. 7 spot. The Golden Gate area is the current home to 11-year pro Moran Norris, a fullback with the 49ers, who carried the ball plenty during his days at Kansas.
The 49ers went defense here in the form of Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith. There’s talk that the pick was made as part of an upcoming trade that would send Smith to Philly for Eagles QB Kevin Kolb.
Bottom line: Norris won’t be affected much by this pick. If the Niners keep Smith, then Norris will have to get used to the idea of playing with a Tiger on his team. If they don’t, and Kolb comes in to take over under center, that can only help the San Francisco offense.
Miami came in at No. 15 and the Dolphins’ pick of offensive lineman Mike Pouncey shouldn’t have any impact of former KU linebacker Mike Rivera’s quest to make the Dolphins’ active roster.
Bottom line: Rivera’s in exactly the same boat today that he was in when he woke up on Thursday.
The Chargers, which feature two former Jayhawks on their roster in safety Darrrell Stuckey and linebacker James Holt picked 18th and they added Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget.
Adding a presence up front should only help Stuckey and Holt’s performance. In Holt’s case, Liuget’s ability to occupy blockers should allow him more free runs at the quarterback. In Stuckey’s case, a better pass rush always means a better pass defense. Think more balls thrown quicker than QBs would like and more chances for the second-year safety to make plays.
Bottom line: With the offense in good shape, the Chargers continue to retool their defense, without touching the secondary or linebacker position. Good news for Holt and Stuckey.
The last pick in the first round that was of interest to former Jayhawks came from Tampa Bay at No. 20. The Bucs added Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn and Clayborn’s size, strength and nasty streak should make him a starter from Day 1.
That’s good news for former KU cornerback Aqib Talib, provided Talib remains with Tampa next season. Talib’s recent run-in with the law has him in serious trouble and there are rumors out there that the Bucs are ready to release him. Time will tell on that one, but if Talib’s back patrolling the Tampa secondary next season, he and Clayborn will be friends.
Tampa Bay also has former KU receiver Dezmon Briscoe on its roster, but I think it goes without saying that adding a DE does nothing to hurt or help the stock of one of Tampa’s wide receivers.
Bottom line: Clayborn makes this team better, which is something both former Jayhawks can get behind.
That’s it for our review of Round 1 and how it affects the former Jayhawks in the NFL.
In case you missed it, here’s a look at our draft preview that spells out which Jayhawks from the 2010 season are hoping to land with an NFL team by the end of the weekend.