We've had a couple weeks now to digest the draft, and the Colts have now finished both its Rookie Camp, as well as the full team Mini-Camp, and BBS has done a great job keeping us updated on all the goings-on from the weekend. I thought I'd take a look at how in the world Mike Hart dropped as far as he did, luckily, right into the Colts lap at the end of the 6th Round. The main reason, I believe, is that every GM in the league, save the very best, are always interested in finding "the hidden gem" of the draft.
I was reading through a Sports Illustrated from a couple weeks ago, and the back cover article by Selena Roberts was on a guy named Drew Boylhart, who is a contributor on The Huddle Report, which specializes in the draft. His quote at the end of the article is spot on. He says:
"I'm very surprised - and annoyed - at the number of small-college players picked ahead of good talent from larger schools. It's almost as if scouts are saying, 'I can find this sleeper pick' and trying to make a name for themselves. Such b.s."
This quote has Mike Hart's name all over it. He is Michigan's all time leading rusher with over 5000 yards rushing, was a 4 year starter, and was UM's vocal leader, on and off the field. He also was passed by multiple times by different teams who drafted RBs in the 5th and 6th round from much smaller schools. Here's a list:
- Timothy Hightower - Richmond, 149 overall to Arizona: ESPN thought he'd be a late round or undrafted pick, yet he goes halfway through Round 5. Only started 20/35 games, averaging 4.7 yards/carry (less than Hart's 5.0 for his career).
- Marcus Thomas - UTEP, 166 overall to San Diego: Scout had him rated as the #30 RB in the draft class, and he was the 14th one picked. I see Hart being very comparable to Michael Turner, who just left the Chargers. A.J. Smith trying to show off his "genius" with this one, as it doesn't look very good.
- Xavier Omon - NW Missouri St., 179 overall to Buffalo: Offensive Player of the Year in DII, and the first RB to run for 1500 yards in each of his 4 years. I can't argue with this pick too much. He may end up being very good.
Two of these picks seem like the GM is trying to find the "hidden gem", rather than taking the proven back, Hart. This phenomenon is not limited to RB. Take Tennessee's pick of William Hayes, DE from Winston Salem St., with pick 103 in the 4th Round. While watching the draft on the NFL Network, they had absolutely no information on this guy, and they traded up to draft him in the 4th round. Jeff Fisher was interviewed later on, and he said, paraphrasing here, that some other team called him afterward and told him they were going to take Hayes in the next round. I can't remember the team, but I'm thinking it was either the Chiefs or the Saints. I'm wondering if he wasn't trying to save face with his fans, since clearly they could have gotten this guy much later in the draft.
I'm clearly not saying that taking a guy from a big school is much better than taking a guy from a small school. There are clearly some great NFL players that come from small schools. Mathis and Bethea are two examples from the Colts. They were taken in the later rounds, and turned out to be Pro Bowl players. I would only say this occurs in the 5, 6, and 7th rounds. You don't see too many teams taking chances on guys earlier than that, so if a player is taken from a small school, chances are they could have played at a big time school. However, there are many times that teams take flyers on the small school guys, and pass on proven players that have played against top level competition in college. Take T.J Houshmanzedah for example. He was a 7th round pick from Oregon State, the same year his OSU teammate Chad Johnson was drafted in the 2nd Round. Here's a list of small school WRs taken before Houshmanzadeh in 2001 (All in the 5th Round):
|Alex Bannister||Eastern Kentucky||140||Seahawks|
|Scotty Anderson||Grambling State||148||Lions|
|Onome Ojo||California - Davis||153||Saints|
|Darnieren McCants||Delaware State||154||Redskins|
|Eddie Berlin||Northern Iowa||159||Titans|
|Jonathan Carter||Troy State||162||Giants|
I've only heard of one of these guys: McCants. Teams were trying to find the "gem", when they could have had a proven WR, who ended up being an All-Pro player. I hope Mike Hart ends up being for the Colts what Houshmanzadeh is for the Bengals.