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May 2, 2011

What they're saying: NFL Draft

We spent days, weeks and in my case months listening to draft gurus and experts talk about the draft, and in particular, we looked for what they said about players from Mississippi State. Now, those players have been drafted, holes have been filled and dreams have been realized by four former Bulldogs.

And now that they have a home in the NFL, we can find out what their new coaches think about their new Bulldogs. We'll start with Derek Sherrod, who went to the Green Bay Packers with the 32nd overall pick, the last of the first round, and Pernell McPhee, who went to the Baltimore Ravens with 165th overall pick in the fifth round, again the final pick of the round.

An odd note on these two guys: the NFL lockout was (sort of) lifted when the Packers selected Sherrod Thursday, so they were able to give him their playbook. The lockout was, for lack of a better word, reinstated Friday night, meaning that players selected Saturday were not able to receive playbooks from their teams. So Sherrod got his, but McPhee, KJ Wright and Chris White were not able to get theirs.

Derek Sherrod

The Packers' offensive line has been problematic the last few years, though it improved when they drafted right tackle Brian Bulaga in the first round last year. The aging and oft under-performing Chad Clifton has been anchoring the left tackle spot. Sherrod will likely start the season as a backup, and potentially at every spot on the line except center, but he is the heir apparent to Clifton, and that could happen sooner than later if Clifton struggles or is inconsistent.

Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson on Sherrod: "We think it's a really good value to get a big man that late in the first round we feel like can come in and help us. Where he's gonna play I don't know, but I know this - you can never have too many big men. The more run-blockers and the more pass-blockers we have, the better we'll do."

"We think he has a chance to be a complete player. He played against good competition for three, four years.

"If you can get quality big men, I think you always kind of lean that way, particularly if you're picking late in the first round."

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin: "We'll figure out all those pieces, how it fits together. We'll get to know him better and validate the things we saw on tape once we get him here."

Is Sherrod going to play left or right tackle? "That's really something with Derek we'll continue to talk about it," Philbin said. "It's a common practice, as you know. We've drafted a number of tackles coming out of college and they all don't just line up and play tackle. Really the conversations, we've been focused more on the left side right now, and that's something we'll continue to talk about as a staff."

Pernell McPhee

Surprisingly, McPhee fell all the way to the tail end of the fifth round, while some draft prognosticators had predicted he could go as high as the second round. However, McPhee ended up in a great situation with the Baltimore Ravens. He'll be able to ease his way into the lineup of one of the nastiest defenses in the league, with a staff proven to be good at developing defensive players. I've not seen it said anywhere, but I get the impression the Ravens may see McPhee as a Terrell Suggs-lite, Baltimore's stud pass rushing end/linebacker.

General Manager Ozzie Newsome on McPhee: "Anytime you can find someone that has an ability to rush the passer, he brings value to us."

Director of player personnel Eric DeCosta: "We think he can get bigger to be more of a 3-4 end. What we like about him is he's relentless, plays very hard. We had a chance to see him down at the Senior Bowl, and there were stretches when he had his way with some of the better tackles in the draft. We just like his motor, his mentality. He can rush the passer. We think this is a kid who has a lot of upside."

"[He] was a very successful pass rusher at JC … which is attractive to us as well. We think this is a kid who has a lot of upside and who can get a lot better."

Now, I came across a blog from the Baltimore Sun (http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/blog/2011/05/ravens_to_look_for_pass_rusher_when_free_agency_begins.html) which seems to indicate the Ravens were trying to get a different defensive end and missed out on him just before their two compensatory picks (which can't be traded) to end the fifth round, so they drafted McPhee instead. Here's an excerpt:

"If we could get the opportunity to put ourselves in the position to get someone else, we would probably be looking at it very seriously," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said after the draft.

In the first round, the Ravens chose cornerback Jimmy Smith, one of the most highly rated players on their board, over such sack producers as Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers (15.5 sacks last season), Ohio State's Cam Heyward (10 sacks last two seasons) and Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson (9.5 sacks last season).

"If there would have been someone that we thought could have come in and been a productive rusher for us, then we would have definitely drafted them," Newsome said. "We tried to draft a couple of them, but they got picked. One got picked one pick before us, two picks before us."

Their only instance in the first five rounds where a pass rusher was taken within two picks of the Ravens was the fifth round.

Fresno State's Chris Carter (11 sacks) was selected by the Steelers at No. 162, two picks before the Ravens' compensatory picks (Nos. 164 and 165). Because they were compensatory, the Ravens couldn't have traded up in that round to get Carter. He probably was the Ravens' targeted player because, if you remember, the Ravens used up the entire clock for the 164th pick.

With the 165th pick, the Ravens did draft defensive end Pernell McPhee, who had seven sacks in two seasons at Mississippi State after having 33 in two years of junior college."


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