Monday, April 17, 2000
by Will Stewart, HokieCentral.com
NFL Draft Recap
It was a good news/bad news weekend for Hokies in the NFL draft, with five Tech players being picked in the seven-round draft. But some noteworthy Hokies were left out of the mix, and one who left early, Shyrone Stith, gave his doubters great fodder for debate when he wasn't picked until the 7th round.
For former Hokie players and their fans, it was a weekend of high drama. Tech lost a lot of seniors and even two juniors, so the Hokies had a large number of players available for the draft. But beyond the sheer number of pro prospects from Tech, the draft was spiced up by other levels of intrigue:
Well, the weekend is over, and so is the soap opera. Let's see how it shook out.
There were five Hokies drafted. That's as many as arch-rival Miami (5 players), and more than Virginia (4), Syracuse (2), and WVU (4). Here's a quick rundown of the Hokies who were drafted and where they went:
Engelberger: Engelberger's position of #35 overall (early second round) was a little disappointing, because he was expected to go mid-late first round. And on a personal note, it disappointed me, because I'm tired of seeing Hokie players go to San Francisco. I've got nothing specific against SF, but it seems that an inordinate number of Tech players have landed there in the last few years, and none of them have flourished: Tyronne Drakeford, Jim Druckenmiller, Pierson Prioleau, and now Engelberger. And for you trivia buffs, former Hokie Damien Russell also played for San Francisco, thought I don't know enough about his career there to comment on whether or not he "flourished."
Charlton: Ike's early departure from Tech was early only in football terms. In academic terms, he left with a diploma, so he wasn't really early. At #52, he was drafted right about where the experts expected him to go.
One disturbing note about Charlton, though: a Lynchburg News and Advance article on Sunday made passing mention that Charlton felt the Tech coaches had undermined his draft status by telling pro scouts he wasn't ready for the NFL. I think that was probably just a misunderstanding between Ike and the coaches, who typically have great relationships with the Tech players, but a little nugget like that has the capability to sit around for a long time, being brought up occasionally by those who aren't friendly to the Hokies, where it can do a lot of harm to Tech in recruiting and other areas.
Moore: third round? Not bad, for a down lineman who will be converted to linebacker, much like former Tech All-American Cornell Brown. Moore's third-round selection is much earlier than Cornell's draft position of 6th round, 194th overall.
More interesting to me is the fact that Moore went right before the University of Miami's Nate Webster, a first-team All Big East linebacker. So the pros would rather have an inexperienced Moore at linebacker than the famous Miami thug Webster. Hmmm, it appears that at the NFL scouting combine, they must not have tested sucker-punching, eye-gouging, and crotch-grabbing, because if they did, Webster would have been a top-5 draft pick.
I know, I know, that was too easyÖ
On another personal note ... sigh. I have been a life-long Dolphins fan, and my enjoyment of Tech great Bruce Smith's pro career was ruined by the fact that he played for the Dolphin's arch-rival, the Buffalo Bills. And now Corey is drafted by the Bills! Maybe now that I don't follow the Dolphins all that closely, I can watch Corey and enjoy his career. I hope so.
Midget: I have to be honest, I never would have pegged Midget for getting drafted at all. Although he was a good cornerback his senior year, he struggled in years prior to that, and at 5-11, 183 pounds, I didn't really consider him to be big enough for the NFL. But I never said I knew a lot about football, and it's a little scary to consider that the Hokies just lost two cornerbacks who were both NFL draft picks. Remember that next season.
Stith: last, but certainly not least, the case of Shyrone Stith. By late Sunday night, a search on the message board on the name "Stith" returned dozens of matches from the last two days alone. Shyrone went in the seventh round, at #243, a scant 11 positions away from dead last.
So the debate will rage for a while about whether or not Shyrone "made a mistake," but more importantly, the questions have arisen (believe me, they're in my email in-box) about whether or not Shyrone was fed a line of bull by an overzealous agent about his draft prospects.
Did Shyrone come out too early? From a football standpoint, the answer is an unequivocal "yes." Not one person close to Tech football, from Frank Beamer to Bill Roth, will tell you anything other than Shyrone made a mistake, when it comes to his football skills. One more year of seasoning, and Shyrone could have worked on his weaknesses, the most glaring of which is his pass-receiving ability. Plus, he could have had one more year to get bigger and faster in strength coach Mike Gentry's system.
Having said that, a young man's decision of whether or not to turn pro early hinges on way more than just his football skills. Not knowing Shyrone personally, I have no idea what other pressures he faces in his life, and I'm betting that at least 98% of you out there don't know, either. I do know that he has a young son to support, and a mother that works two janitorial jobs, and facing that, even the NFL minimum salary (what is it, $150,000 per year?) looks mighty sweet, and spells relief M-O-N-E-Y.
It's also really easy to blame the agents. Are there a lot of scumbag agents? Sure, but there are a lot of honorable men in the profession, too, and also a lot of them who wouldn't risk their professional reputation by trying to "sell" a team a kid who's not ready. And, with our heads filled with images of Jerry Maguire's Bob Sugar, it's awfully easy to blame the collective anonymous "agents." They are, after all, (gasp!) lawyers.
But no one put a gun to Shyrone's head. He made his own decision. And although we look at his seventh-round status and proclaim that he made a "mistake" coming out early, maybe it's true that things are working out just fine for Shyrone, and he and his family will have the money they need. Hey, how many 5-7 running backs who aren't particularly good pass receivers and run a 4.6 forty-yard dash at the combine are fortunate enough to have a shot at a pro career? Not many. Shyrone has his foot in the door, and the rest is up to him.
The Ones Who Didnít Make It
The Hokies had seven more players on the board who didnít get drafted. Here they are, in alphabetical order by last name:
Carl Bradley: somewhat of a surprise that he didn't get drafted. He's an experienced player who's a great run-stopper. Perhaps, at his Tech media guide weight of 288, he's not quite big enough to be considered a top defensive tackle prospect? That's reaching, but I can't think of another reason why big Carl didn't get drafted.
Shayne Graham: no surprise. Most kickers go the free agent route.
Ricky Hall: also no surprise. Not particularly a speed-burner, Hall had a good senior year, but not an NFL quality senior year.
Michael Hawkes: not a big surprise, could have gone either way. Hawkes is one of those underappreciated players, and the draft treated him that way. He'll have a good chance with the free agent route, and might even make it, a la former Tech LB Mike Johnson, who went on to become a Pro Bowler (that's NFL Pro Bowler, not PBA pro bowler).
Keith Short: no surprise. Short is not perceived as an NFL-quality lineman, despite having good size and being a second team All Big East pick. He'll have to prove himself via the free agent route.
Jamel Smith: see Michael Hawkes.
Nathaniel Williams: see Carl Bradley. Williams is listed at 275, so maybe the pros think he needs more beef. Start eating more cheeseburgers, Nathaniel. 15-20 pounds is easy to put on, trust me.
Overall, it was about what you would expect: some Hokies were pleased with the outcome, others were not, but the fact that five Tech players were drafted befits a team that played for the national championship. I didn't have time to look over all of the results for all of the schools (who does?), but few schools had more than five players selected (FSU was a notable exception, with seven, but SEC champ Alabama only had three).
And as long as a few more years go by without Michael Vick being someone's draft pick, I'll be happy.