February 29, 2004
Advocating a South Beach Diet
by Keith Weiland
Forgive Dom Capers if he begins to endorse a strict intake from Miami in the draft day war room. Offseason trips to South Florida are more than a boondoggle for the Texan head coach. It’s hard work.
Oh sure. The mere mention of a trip to Miami conjures images of white sandy beaches, sizzling nightlife, and well, superfine hotties, but the self-proclaimed “Sun and Fun Capital of the World” is also home to the most plentiful first round NFL talent of recent years.
The 2004 draft will mark the tenth consecutive season that the Miami Hurricanes’ football program has produced a first round selection. That run is amazing enough, but this year’s class may be the most prolific one yet, with six players becoming viable candidates to be selected within the first 32 picks.
On Saturday, Miami was the site of perhaps the most anticipated of the post-combine individual workout days. Capers was there, and so what if he lets the rhythm get him witnessing Hurricane prospects race through a gauntlet of drills, evoking the thumping of footsteps, the pumping of iron, and the bumping of pulses. There were some great first rounders on display before him.
At the front of this Miami conga line for the Texans has to be safety Sean Taylor. Standing in at over 6’ 2” and weighing 228 pounds, Taylor possesses linebacker size with the abilities of a game-changing defensive back. Explosive, as measured by his 35” vertical and 4.5 speed, Taylor is poised to make a difference this fall for some lucky team. Capers might have been daydreaming yesterday hoping it would be his.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork might also make an immediate impact in the league. His Saturday workout highlighted his brute strength, as he lifted the bar 36 times. Wilfork ran a shuttle time of 4.50 seconds, implying the necessary initial quickness for getting proper leverage on NFL guards and centers. His weigh-in topped off at a healthy 323 pounds, which should ensure that he’s taken in the top half of the first round.
The Texans likely have little interest in tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr., but their paths might cross on draft day if he’s still on the board when Houston is on the clock. Winslow might just be the most talked about tight end recruit ever. Coming off a somewhat less-than-expected 2003 season stat-wise, Winslow performed like a total package on Saturday. Just a shade under 6’4” and 250 pounds, Winslow ripped off a 4.5 forty and 24 reps of 225 pounds.
Miami’s pound machine at linebacker will also contend for mid- to late-first round selections. D.J. Williams and Jonathan Vilma, both a little under 6’1”, ran terrific shuttle times on Saturday (4.05 and 4.2, respectively). Vilma, with a mark of 6.67 seconds, actually out-performed Williams in the 3-cone drill by 0.04 seconds.
Lastly, offensive lineman Vernon Carey tried to push his way to the end of the first round with his individual workout results. He measured taller and lighter than anticipated (6’4 3/8” and 335 pounds). His time trials sagged somewhat (5.33 forty and 5.0 shuttle), but they underestimate his overall talent. Carey’s 30 lifts highlight his strength in creating rushing lanes and in keeping pass rushers at bay.
With wide receiver Andre Johnson already reeled in from the Hurricanes, Capers should know first-hand that a second helping in the first round from this South Beach program will keep the Texans from going hungry on Sundays.
1st Round Hurricanes Since 1995 2003 Wide Receiver Andre Johnson 3 Defensive End Jerome McDougle 15 Running Back Willis McGahee 23 Def. Tackle William Joseph 25 2002 Left Tackle Bryant McKinnie 7 Tight End Jeremy Shockey 14 Cornerback Phillip Buchanon 17 Safety Ed Reed 24 Cornerback Mike Rumph 27 2001 Linebacker Dan Morgan 11 Def. Tackle Damione Lewis 12 Wide Receiver Santana Moss 16 Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne 30 2000 Tight End Bubba Franks 14 1999 Running Back Edgerrin James 4 1998 Cornerback Duane Starks 10 1997 Wide Receiver Yatil Green 15 Defensive End Kenard Lang 17 Defensive End Kenny Holmes 18 1996 Linebacker Ray Lewis 26 1995 Def. Tackle Warren Sapp 12
Top Ten List updated 3/6/2004
With the combine finished and free agency underway, only the remaining individual workouts will alter NFL draft boards.
(* indicates underclassman)
1. Robert Gallery, LT, Iowa. 6’7″ 323. Gallery is the real deal as a left tackle prospect. If he’s somehow available when the Texans pick, they should waste no time getting this card up to Tags.
2. Vince Wilfork*, DT, Miami. 6’2″ 323. A double-team waiting to happen in the NFL. Nice quickness for a big man. Maybe too big? Nah, just wait until he gets into an NFL weight training program.
3. Sean Taylor*, FS, Miami. 6’3″ 228. Arguably the best athlete in the entire draft, assuming he declares. Taylor is the type who has enough athletic ability to make an immediate impact, too.
4. Randy Starks*, DT (DE), Maryland. 6’3″ 314. Plays smaller than he’s listed, but that’s a back-handed compliment to his pass rush ability. Another athletic freak, he can stuff the run and tackle too.
5. Tommie Harris*, DT (DE), Oklahoma. 6’3″ 296. Harris would make for a fearsome end in a 3-4 system. Plenty strong to take multiple blockers, he has the necessary quickness to rush the passer.
6. DeAngelo Hall*, CB, Virginia Tech. 5’11” 201. Speed kills, and Hall has plenty of it. If allowed, he could be a back-breaker on returns as well. Hall’s athleticism overshadows his great cover skills.
7. Chris Gamble*, CB, Ohio State. 6’2″ 180. An instinctive player who could just as easily be a big-time star as he could be a big-time bust. Raw and easily fooled, Gamble’s still worth the, um, gamble.
8. Will Smith, DE (OLB), Ohio State. 6’3″ 275. A great pass rusher who should be able to make the switch to OLB in the 3-4. Can take the best angles, stand up the runner, and drop into coverage.
9. Karlos Dansby, OLB, Auburn. 6’5″ 230. Rangy athlete who tops a decent list of linebackers in this draft. If selected by the Texans, might he push Kailee Wong to the inside?
10. Jonathan Vilma, ILB, Miami. 6’1″ 225. Vilma noses out teammate D.J. Williams in my book, as he is a complete, though undersized, linebacker capable of thriving next to Jamie Sharper in the Texans’ 3-4.
Keith Weiland endorses a steady diet of pigskin.