The University of Miami has produced 13 first-round draft picks in the last three drafts, including Andre Johnson, Houston’s choice with the third overall selection last year. Evidently the Texans agree with the general consensus that the flow of talent from the Hurricane pipeline will not exactly be slowing down this year, as the team was very well represented at the Miami’s recent pro day. Texan Offensive Coordinator Chris Palmer told Omar Kelly of the Florida Sun-Sentinel that the Hurricanes had more first-rounders working out “than we have in Houston right now.”
We asked Kelly to make his second annual stop in The War Room to discuss this year’s crop of Miami prospects.
HPF: Very few safeties are considered impact players, as shown by the small number drafted at the top of the first round over the years. What makes Sean Taylor worthy of that elite status?
Kelly: Sean is a rare athlete. He’s big, fast, instinctive, and I think his strongest attribute that’s being overlooked is his ability to lay the wood as a hitter. In my mind he’s the definition of a can’t-miss prospect. I would say he’s just as much of a sure thing than Andre Johnson was.
HPF: Some questions have been raised over the past several months about how coachable Taylor is. Recently, Profootballtalk.com quoted an anonymous NFL source who described Taylor at Miami’s pro day as "listless" and seeming to show a sense of entitlement of being a high pick. How would you describe Taylor’s overall attitude, and his pro day performance?
Kelly: From what I heard from an unbiased source was that Taylor and Kellen Winslow were the stars of Miami’s pro day, and its been my personal feeling that there’s typically a lot of mud slinging going on from various organizations who try to get a prospect’s stock to drop enough to affect the draft so it benefits their organization. Taylor was hurt during pro day but most teams say he still put together a good enough performance. I’m sure his individual team workouts will indicate whether that anonymous source is worthy of the title “source,” but the one thing people have to realize is that film doesn’t lie and no one outside of Larry Fitzgerald dominated college football the way that Sean Taylor did.
HPF: Winslow is another player whose head has been questioned at times. What kind of guy is he?
Kelly: Kellen is a kid with a super ego. That’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. He was raised to think he’s the greatest by his parents, who wanted to instill a strong sense of self in him, so it’s hard to knock him for his attitude. He’s a hard worker, a quick learner, and despite contrary opinion he’s a team player and a guy who generally wants everyone to like him. He’s not a knucklehead like some of the athletes who come through the program, but of all the Miami players that are in the draft I’d say he’s the most high maintenance.
HPF: How does he compare with his predecessor at Miami, Jeremy Shockey?
Kelly: The coaches say he’s got better hands, is about as fast, but exiting the program Shockey was a better blocker. However, Kellen has made strides. I think Kellen has the frame to get bigger and he’ll certainly handle the spotlight better than Shockey has because he’s not as controversial and has experience being under the spotlight.
HPF: What are DT Vince Wilfork’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Kelly: His greatest strength is his quickness. He’s so quick off the line that it’s hard to stop him with one man. Plus, no matter how big he gets he’s still going to be effective because he was dominating the college game at 350 pounds. Now the problem is he was undisciplined with his eating habits in college but I’m optimistic that with an NFL salary he can get a personal chef and weight clauses in his contract will help him stay motivated to keep his weight down to around the 320 pounds. The one thing I will predict is that he’ll without a doubt be better than William Joseph because he possesses the typical UM drive.
HPF: How do you think he would project to playing nose tackle in a 3-4 defense?
Kelly: I think Vince will be better in the 3-4 because he’s not a great run stuffer. He’s more of a space eater who is effective in the pass rush. In a 4-3 he’ll eventually demand a double team, which will generally free up an end. I think Wilfork will be most effective playing for a blitzing team because he’s good at correcting other people’s mistakes.
HPF: D.J. Williams has been tagged a "work in progress" who is still learning the finer points of the linebacker position. How would you rate his development over the past couple seasons, and how high is his upside?
Kelly: D.J. has shown steady improvement at linebacker but I don’t think the light bulb has turned on yet, and I’m not sure if he’ll ever be anything more than an average linebacker in the NFL. He’s got all the tools to be dominant but it takes him a split second longer to react to something that Jonathan Vilma will pick up quickly. Now, the problem with D.J. is that he’s becoming constantly compared to Vilma, who is probably the most cerebral linebacker to come out since only God knows when. So maybe D.J.’s labeled a player who’s not instinctive because of who he’s next to. Only time will tell.
HPF: Vilma seems to have answered the questions about whether he has the athletic ability to match his smarts and instincts. How do you think he would fit as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense?
Kelly: I’ve heard that a 3-4 scheme would be the best fit for him because it would hide his shortcomings and allow him to use his strength to his advantage. But Vilma has the athletic ability to become the next Dan Morgan. Miami’s entire defense was built around him, which is a huge compliment for a player that came into the program as a nobody. The thing about Vilma is he perseveres, and I’m sure no matter what he’s up against in the NFL he’ll rise to the top. Plus, he’ll be a model citizen in the community.
HPF: Is Vernon Carey strictly a guard in the NFL, or could he also play tackle?
Kelly: I think Vernon has the potential to be an okay guard in the NFL, but I think he can turn into a good tackle. If you ask NFL scouts who look at his film from this year and last year they will tell you there’s no comparison – he played better at right tackle. At tackle he was mauling people while at guard he had flashes here and there, but wasn’t dominant.
HPF: Who among Miami’s "big six" prospects (Winslow, Carey, Wilfork, Vilma, Williams, Taylor) do you think will have the greatest immediate impact in the NFL, and who do you think will be the best four or five years down the road?
Kelly: In my opinion, I think Kellen Winslow will make the greatest immediate impact because I think some offense-starved team like Cleveland will center their offense around him and force-feed him Pro Bowl numbers like Shockey put up his first season. Sean Taylor is my pick for someone who will have the biggest impact down the road. I think he has the potential to be a 10-year Pro Bowl player because he’s got the best combination of drive, personal hunger, and athletic ability.
HPF: How would you rate the pro potential of Miami’s other potential draftees, such as RB Jarrett Payton, WRs Kevin Beard and Jason Geathers, OT Carlos Joseph, S Maurice Sikes, and CB Alfonso Marshall?
Kelly: I think Al Marshall can be the next Leonard Myers. He has speed and is coming along ability-wise, but was a little inconsistent on the college level. However, with the right coaching he could be a late-round gem.
Jason Geathers is probably the player with the most untapped potential because he’s considered a poor man’s Andre Johnson athletically. He has size, strength, speed, but sometimes I question his football IQ. I think he will make a better 3rd down running back and special teams player than anything else, but he’s going to need two years to learn and grow.
Carlos Joseph will be in the NFL, and he’ll make a good backup. I just don’t know if he has the work ethic to be a starter in the league.
Jarrett Payton has potential to be a good backup. He’s just scratching the surface of what he can be because he’s been behind so many great backs. I don’t think he can be a featured back because he’s not very durable. He’s best when fresh because he’s a physical inside runner.
Kevin Beard is a smart player who suffered last season because of poor play at the quarterback position. I don’t really know what his potential is however, but his coaches say he’s a notch below what Reggie Wayne was when he left the program.
Linebacker Darrell McClover, who started this year for UM, will make a good blitzing linebacker because he’s strong and a brutal hitter, but he’s a project.
And finally, Maurice Sikes is a player I think teams should invest a late round pick in because he’s one of the smartest players I’ve been around. He was overshadowed by Taylor, but Mo can hold his own. He makes plays. He was usually the second guy to most tackles, and wasn’t far behind.
Assuming Joseph is drafted somewhere before the fifth round, out of all those players Sikes and Al Marshall would be the ones I’d use a seventh round pick on. Although I will say Geathers could very well turn out to be a Pro Bowler if put in the right situation and given time to grow.
HPF: Did the Texans’ contingent at the Hurricane pro day seem especially interested in any player(s) in particular?
Kelly: Sean Taylor. Big time! Don’t be surprised if they trade up to get him. From what I understand Andre Johnson’s work ethic has sold that organization on Miami players, and it
would not surprise me if more than one Hurricane wound up playing for Houston considering the Texans had virtually their whole staff down there scouting prospects. If you look at the history of UM’s drafted players, very few are busts.
Omar Kelly has been with the Florida Sun-Sentinel for five years and has covered the Miami Hurricanes for the last three seasons. Previously, he covered the NBA’s Miami Heat and has also covered Florida State for other Florida papers. We thank him once again for his time and his insight.
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