Long Ball's Top 5 Hits

I was asked by RKO to put together a list of my "Top 5 Hits & Top 5 Misses" as a Fanshot, but after reviewing the data I felt like some explanations might be in order; therefore, I am submitting it as a Fanpost (and don’t worry Hambone, there will be enough meat to satisfy you LOL!)

The guidelines I established for this post are not to include 1st round selections on the Hits (naturally, they will be included on the Misses, LOL!) and concentrate on later round selections and even UDFA’s if I had them listed as "dark horses". If I mention a 2nd or 3rd round selection, there will probably be a "story" as to why they are included. We’ll travel through the past 4 Drafts, starting chronologically and then prepare a final ranking.

In 2009, one of my "pet cats" on the Big Uglies series was Wisconsin’s Kraig Urbik, who was drafted in the 3rd round by Pittsburgh. An interesting note on his selection was that Pittsburgh drafted him with the 79th selection . . . I had him ranked 85th overall and the next highest ranking for Urbik was by NFL Draft Scout, who had him ranked 100th. Urbik was released by Pittsburgh and Buffalo signed him, where he now starts at ROG for the Bills.

While Rodger Saffold was a 2nd round draft choice of the Rams in 2010, if you’ll go back through Google and check, most pundits had him as a mid-to-late round draft choice and "poo-poo’ed" his chances of making it in the NFL coming out of Indiana. I was one of his proponents from early on and he now starts at LOT for the Rams.

However, my "pet cat" of that year was Joe Hawley, who I graded as a center but also an OG prospect . . . Atlanta took him in the 4th round and has him as a 3 position back-up.

Now in 2011 is where I begin to crow . . . Jason Pinkston played LOT for University of Pittsburgh, but I graded him early on as an OG. To pull data from my 2011 "Big Uglies" series:

Jason Pinkston of Pittsburgh may have one of the most devastating punches old Long Ball has ever seen – I watched him protect the Panther flank with the fury of an "old school" blocking approach, exploding into his opponent with his entire body, recoiling with short choppy steps and launching into him again, maintaining an excellent anchor. This technique had OG written all over it, as tackles glide nowadays and utilize reach advantage. When 38 of your 41 starts are at LOT for a Division 1 school, you know you’ve got a "Dancing Bear" – and if a prospect has played DT, the aggression and tenacity formulates a winner.

An attribute that all coaches love is a strong work ethic – during the Senior Bowl practices, Pinkston asked the coaches to put in extra time helping him improve his footwork. On pulling plays, he was quick and efficient with his steps allowing him to get down the line quickly. He is not smooth at getting to the next level, but at OG that will be downplayed – he will either have a DT head up against a 4-3 or an ILB head up against a 3-4. Pinkston exhibits an excellent awareness in pass protection, a trait that will serve him well as guards are expected to help out, both inside and outside.

Now to pull a Paul Harvey "here’s the rest of the story", Pinkston moved into LOG starting position his rookie year, after being drafted in the 5th round, and is entrenched in one of the best young OL’s in the NFL.

Derek Newton, out of tiny Arkansas State was one of my "dark horses" in the 2011 "Big Uglies" series (as I scouted a number of Sun Belt Conference games). Houston took a "flyer" on him in the 7th round (due, no doubt, to my scouting report) and the young man made a name for himself, serving as the "swing-tackle" ready to play on game-day and forced the issue, as the coaching staff made him a starter. Here’s my grade and analysis on the young man from my Big Uglies series of 2011:

Derek Newton of Arkansas State (6’6", 305 lbs) was an outstanding lineman in Sun Belt Conference play. If he catches on with a team, he might be one of those progressive success stories of Practice Squad to Back-up to ROT to LOT, with the benefit of good coaching because he has good footwork.

Here’s one all Cowboy fans should enjoy . . . there was this UDFA that Dallas took a flyer on and despite injuries during his first 2 years, he has potential at both center and guard. Yep, we’re talking about Kevin "Killer" Kowalski . . . my notes on him prior to the 2011 Draft:

OK Long Ball, how are you going to come up with a dark horse center when you ranked a guy from Slippery Rock? Well, let’s "rocket" over to Toledo and take a gander at Kevin Kowalksi – I’m not promising an All-Pro career here, but I sure was tickled to see him running downfield full blast during Senior Bowl practices to take down a defender and pounce on top of him LOL!

Scatter-shooting through 2011 . . .
OK, Dark Horse Time: I’m going to throw out names of nose tackle prospects to listen for later in the draft (although with the number of teams switching to the 3-4 alignment, it may be earlier than I anticipated): Chris Neild (6’2", 313) of West Virginia.

Neild was a 7th round draft choice for Washington and is their back-up NT and currently on IR.

As for 4-3 DT "dark horse" prospects, keep an eye on Cedric Thornton (6’4", 295) from Southern Arkansas . . .

Mr. Thornton, who was an UDFA, is now the back-up DT for Philadelphia.

Flash forward to the 2012 Draft . . . I had Bobby Massie from Old Miss as one of my "dark horses", but more for my projection of his ability to eventually play LOT instead of his college position of ROT.

But now I want to jump to my "Dark Horse" category . . . two players who I believe could be solid starters at LOT after 2-3 years. The first prospect is Bobby Massie of Ole Miss (6’6", 316 lbs) . . . now before I hear "Long Ball, that ain’t fair – he’s highly ranked!" Yep, but he’s "highly ranked" at his college position (ROT) . . . and he helped Ole Miss lead the SEC in fewest sacks allowed. Some scouts have Massie as a right tackle only or moving inside to guard, but with his athleticism (and a couple years of NFL coaching), he might have the potential to move over to the blind side.

I had a 4th round grade on him as a LOT prospect and a little higher at ROT . . . well, Arizona took him with their 4th round pick and he stepped right into the starting ROT position his rookie season.

James Brown from Troy University reminded me a bit of Pinkston (from the 2011 Draft) and I was hoping to nail 2 in a row . . .

How many of you remember my projection of LOT Jason Pinkston from Pittsburgh as an OG last year? Well, that seemed to work out pretty well for the Cleveland Browns, as Pinkston took over at LOG for the injured Eric Steinbach and started every game his rookie season. He was one of my favorites . . . and now here’s another one: Troy University’s LOT James Brown, about the same size as Jason (6’4", 306 lbs) and has that same footwork that will translate inside.

He ended up signing with Chicago as an UDFA, made the roster and was in a back-up role as a rookie.

Tom Compton was one of my pet cats out of South Dakota . . .

My second dark horse is from all the way up in little old South Dakota: Tom Compton (6’5", 314 lbs). A 6th round investment might net an NFL team a solid developmental project . . . Compton stood out in game tape, albeit against lesser competition.

I had a 6th round grade on the young man and the Redskins took him in the 6th. He started out on the PS, but worked his way onto the roster for the last 4 games of the regular season.

Some of you may remember a couple of my "pet cat" DE’s from last year: Derek Wolfe of Cincinnati and Malik Jackson of Tennessee.

Most of the time you see high school defensive linemen shifting over to the offensive side . . . it’s not very often that a 3-star offensive tackle moves to the defensive line, but that’s exactly what Derek Wolfe (6’5", 295 lbs) did after committing to Cincinnati.

Ol’ Long Ball has a "pet cat" in this group (just because he’s too well known to be a "dark horse") . . . Malik Jackson (6’5", 284 lbs) of Tennessee was listed at 267 lbs during the year (as a result, we had him graded at DE43), but when he showed up at the Combine, he weighed in at a solid 284. Well, while I was going back and re-grading his games as a potential DE34, he shows up at the Tennessee Pro Day with 6 more lbs of muscle added to his long frame and still displayed excellent athleticism during the DL drills run by the Saints’ coaching staff.

Well, they ended up on the same team . . . Denver drafted Wolfe in the 1st and he starts at DE and then drafted Jackson in the 5th . . . and he backs up Wolfe!

I don’t know if you remember me stating that the NT class was not very deep and I had to search for prospects . . .

I’m going to throw out 4 names of nose tackle prospects to listen for later in the draft (although with the number of teams switching to the 3-4 alignment, it may be earlier than I anticipate): Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (6’3", 334) of Kent State, Chigbo Anunoby (6’4", 324 lbs) of Morehouse College, Damon Harrison (6’2", 340) of William Penn and Charles Deas (6’3", 316) of Shaw College.

Well, 3 out of the 4 made teams as UDFA’s: Ishmaa’ily Kitchen from Kent State is a back-up with Cleveland, Chigbo Anunoby from Morehouse College is on Washington’s PS and Damon Harrison from William Penn is a back-up NT for the Jets.

So, let’s rank them . . .

1. Jason Pinkston
2. Derek Newton
3. Kraig Urbik
4. Bobby Massie
5. Tom Compton

The next post may take awhile as I have to own up to my "boo-boos"!

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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