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Posted: Wednesday April 22, 2009 12:01PM; Updated: Wednesday April 22, 2009 6:04PM
Don Banks Don Banks >
INSIDE THE NFL

Snap Judgments: LSU's Jackson shoots up boards; Harvin slipping

Story Highlights

Defensive ends/pass rushers always go earlier than expected

Eugene Monroe's knee not an issue for teams with high picks

Deja vu for the Ravens, Lions make a joke and more draft nuggets

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Tyson Jackson had 4.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss last season at LSU.
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Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we approach T-minus 72 hours and counting until the NFL draft...

• Strange as it might sound at this late date, I talked to two club executives Tuesday who said it's not out of the question that LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson cracks the top five. That's right, the top five. Both No. 3 Kansas City and No. 5 Cleveland were mentioned as teams that conceivably could pull the trigger on a prospect who is widely considered the best 3-4 end in the draft.

It does make some sense in that the Chiefs and Browns are 3-4 defensive formation teams, and K.C.'s Scott Pioli and Cleveland's Eric Mangini came out of a Patriots system that says you always value defensive linemen above almost any other position in the draft. But Jackson in the top five might still be a little rich in terms of his draft grade, and teams are always hesitant to select someone in that ultra-pricey neighborhood and overpay for a pick that smacks of being a reach.

• With Jackson in mind, one rule of thumb in the NFL draft that always bears repeating in the late stages of the evaluation process is that there are defensive linemen/pass rushers who perennially get pushed higher than maybe they were first projected. Jackson, Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers and Northern Illinois defensive end-linebacker Larry English are all likely to come off the board earlier than most expected for much of the scouting season.

Just this week, I've heard all three names mentioned as potential top 12 picks, with No. 9 Green Bay perhaps targeting English. All three of those names being called in the top 12 is probably a long shot, but it speaks to the reality that quality defensive linemen are always in short supply and subject to early round runs.

• While I've heard of at least two teams that flunked Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe on their physicals at the combine, there doesn't seem to be any teams at the top of the draft that have big concerns about the condition of his left knee.

Monroe dislocated his knee as a sophomore in college, and some teams have concerns about him potentially developing a disorder called OCD in the area of the knee cap. It's a situation where bone fragments break off from the knee joint surface and interfere with normal knee function, while causing knee pain and swelling. In some cases it can lead to a degenerative case of knee arthritis and require surgery.

In fairness to Monroe, NFL team doctors can make distinctly different evaluations after examining the same prospect for the same medical issue at the combine, and it's not uncommon for some teams to fail a player on his physical while others have him sail through. I talked to at least five teams about their medical assessment of Monroe, and the majority said his left knee passed their physicals.

The No. 2 Rams are still considering Monroe along with Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith, and from what I know, Smith might have the slimmest possible edge. But in any scenario, it's hard to imagine Monroe getting past more than two of those tackle-needy teams in the second half of the top 10, where the No. 6 Bengals, No. 7 Raiders, No. 8 Jaguars, No. 9 Packers and No. 10 49ers all could use help.

• Here's the key distinction that NFL club executives make between a player who fails a drug test in college versus failing the drug test that's administered at the NFL Scouting Combine in February: Failing the combine test means the team that drafts you does so knowing you're already enrolled in the league's drug program and you're one more strike away from a possible suspension. That's a pretty big red flag for any club that takes commissioner Roger Goodell's low-to-no tolerance approach seriously.

Having a history of failing drug tests in college won't get you smiled upon by NFL personnel decision-makers, but you're not half-way to a suspension at the start of your rookie season either. As one club executive told me this week: "Maybe that shouldn't make a big difference, but in reality it does when considering a player with those kind of question marks on his record.''

One NFL general manager this week said: "It's really as much of an intelligence test as a drug test. If you're dumb enough to test positive at the combine, do we really want to invest in the future of a player like that? That's what it comes down to.''

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