PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 08: Mohamed Sanu #6 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights intercepts the ball intended for Ryan Griffin #94 of the Connecticut Huskies at Rutgers Stadium on the final play the clinch their victory on October 8, 2010 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Rutgers defeated UConn 27-24. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Last week's NFL Draft is in the books, and in a small upset, Mohamed Sanu was the only Rutgers player drafted. Not only that but as a third round pick, Sanu fell a round later than most pre-draft projections had him pegged. That happened for any number of reasons. Running a slow time in the 40-yard dash at the pro combine in Indianapolis didn't help, but more so in that it reinforced what NFL teams had been seeing on film, and was reflected in his average yardage per catch last year. Sanu is a possession receiver. He may have been the best possession receiver available this year, and NFL teams may not properly value possession receivers, but the book on him was written.
Even though Mohamed was as close to a sure thing as was available in the draft, NFL teams like the Rams and Jets preferred to gamble on more high-risk, high-reward prospects, while other teams like the Giants simply needed more of a vertical threat. The latter is fine; the former more-questionable to say the least. While it is unfortunate that he fell so far into Friday, Cincinnati as as close to an ideal situation as he will find for ideal playing time. A.J. Green is established as the clearcut #1 star receiver, but after that it is a series of question marks, with Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell leaving for free agency. Jordan Shipley is an interesting slot receiver, but is coming off a bad injury. Brandon Tate is a burner who hasn't been the same after his own gruesome setback. There are a few other lower-profile names in the mix, but Sanu could well be a slight favorite to start opening day as a rookie. That really would be something, pairing Sanu and Brian Leonard as the league's most dependable third down combination. The Bengals really are putting Andy Dalton into a great position to succeed.
More surprising than Sanu falling was that it took Justin Francis until today to join up with the Patriots. That's nuts. Raw tackle statistics be damned, Francis was the team's best defender last year. He was just as good as NFL draftees Derek Wolfe and Kendall Reyes, although those two certainly have better NFL bodies. Francis will have to slim down into a defensive end, and that has proven to be a liability with projecting other undersized Greg Schiano defenders into the league in the past. The good news however is that Francis is joining up with another recent Scarlet Knight standout in Alex Silvestro in New England, where the mad scientist Bill Belichick will be able to utilize their talent hat so many other teams are overlooking. Breaking through the depth chart won't be easy, as the Pats really focused on upgrading their defense in the draft. Francis is a good bit to stick around if healthy though, with the only lingering question being why Greg Schiano didn't push harder for Tampa to pick Francis late. Trust me Pats fans, this guy could be a gem and a real find as a potential contributor down the road.
Tampa did however grab Desmond Wynn at guard, who will be a nice developmental prospect to groom on the practice squad for a year or two. Wynn is still relatively raw, and Schiano saw Wynn's performance at left tackle in the Pinstripe Bowl against Iowa State first hand. Wynn was phenomenal, terrific even in the bowl, which left even the coaching staff wondering with the benefit of hindsight whether he should have been playing the position earlier. Des actually did get a look at tackle as a junior, but ended up moving back to guard after a few untimely injuries got in the way of the experiment. The Bucs found their current starting left tackle Donald Penn as a developmental UDFA a few years back, and that certainly would represent the ideal, best-case scenario for Wynn. At this point, you just have to hope to catch on as rotational depth in a year or two. Have to be on the roster to get a chance if and when it ever does come up. There won't be much playing time available in the short run, with right tackle the only real weakness on their offensive line currently.
The Super Bowl Champion New York Football Giants cut Brandon Jacobs after the season, thinning their tailback depth considerably. They still have Ahmad Bradshaw as an entrenched starter, but went a bit against their recent history of finding diamonds in the rough in drafting a college star in Virginia Tech speedster David Wilson. In time, he could be their new Tiki Barber. Wilson won't get the tough yards in between the trenches though, and for that, the Giants might just have gone back to their recent script in signing Joe Martinek. Martinek has an ideal size/speed combination, which the Giants really seem to value at the position, figuring that their coaching staff and a superior offensive line (well, in theory!) can handle the rest. Andre Brown is hypothetically a power back, but he's always injured and really isn't any good anyway, so Martinek's primary competition for a roster spot will probably come down to D.J. Ware and Da'Rel Scott (that really athletic back from Maryland who could never stop fumbling.)
Tackle Desmond Stapleton battled through a disappointing senior campaign, falling from the team's undisputed best lineman as a junior to a backup as a senior, while his linemates around him were in the midst of a drastic turnaround. Stapleton only started part of the year as a senior. Fortunately, he was still able to follow in his big brother Darnell's footsteps with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Darnell, a standout two-year starter at center who was very underrated in helping key Ray Rice, rose from an undrafted free agent with the Steelers to starting in the Super Bowl in a very short time span. It's really a shame that he was soon out of the league due to a reoccuring injury. Everything was seemingly in place for Darnell to be the next Shaun O'Hara and sticking around for a good while.
As of now, there have not been additional reports of any other departing seniors signing on with NFL teams or with any other leagues like the CFL. That is something else to keep an eye on in the coming summer months. Come on Coach Schiano, the very least you could do is give a few spare camp spots to your old charges. (There are reports that Tim Brown will be at Tampa's upcoming rookie minicamp, and Ron Girault just signed recently.)