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Who the hell will they draft 2008: Appalachia State S Corey Lynch

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This is the second to last Who the hell will they draft 2008 feature I plan to do. When we first started this, waaaaaaaay back in February, I talked about doing profiles of several Hoosier state college prospects, like Cliff Avril and Trevor Laws. I also listed Indiana WR James Hardy in the mix of Hoosier prospects I thought the Colts could draft at #59, but the more I read about him the more I think the Colts will pass. Hardy has characters issues (beat his girlfriend in 2006), runs bad routes, and is slow. I have a hard time imagining the Colts using their first pick in 2008 on a guy like this. So, I opted to do a profile of Dustin Keller, much to MasterRWayne’s annoyance. Hey, what can I say? Purdue makes better football players than IU. The results are undeniable.

With this profile, we shift away from Hoosier state prospects and from Division 1 NCAA football entirely and focus on a guy that many think is one of the best defensive backs in this draft: Appalachia State’s Corey Lynch.

All of you know who Corey Lynch is. If you don’t, trust me when I say "you know Corey Lynch." We all remember seeing the video of the opening game of Michigan’s 2007 college football season, featuring a Wolverines team with National Championship dreams get smacked around by Division 1AA Appalachia State. We all remember the video of the end of the game, with Appalachia State blocking a Michigan FG and returning it for a TD.

The guy who blocked that kick and then returned it for a TD (the play we all saw looped on TV for weeks) was FS Corey Lynch.

That one play summed up Corey Lynch’s college career. It seemed that in game, after game, after game Corey Lynch was always around the football, generating turnovers as a DB or as a special teams player. Surprisingly, despite a gaggle of highlight reels available on YouTube, there are very few written scouting reports on Lynch. New Era Scouting doesn’t seem to have anything on Lynch, and Lynch was not invited to the NFL Combine. NFL Draft Countdown has their standard evaluation of Lynch, and one has to like what is written about him:

Nice size and bulk...Aggressive with a great motor...Very smart with good instincts and awareness...Ballhawk with great hands...Is tough and physical...Supports the run...Hard worker and team leader with top intangibles...Fantastic special teamer.
It is the last part I am salivating over. Remember, one of the big needs the Colts so desperately want in the draft is a special teams ace. This is a guy who can make a difference covering punts and kicks, or give you that OMG! Turnover you need to get back in a game on special teams. Hell, I’d just settle for someone who can actually TACKLE SOMEONE, or stay disciplined in their lanes. With Lynch, who are getting that and so much more.

What is also special about Lynch is he isn’t "just" a great special teamer. That is what he’s known for, but few know this guy can actually play FS very well. Lynch picked 25 interceptions during his career and set an NCAA record for pass breakups. Lynch is also a bone-crushing hitter, able to jar the football lose and jump on it. Whether it is special teams or defense, Lynch just seems to have that special something that certain players have when it comes to generating turnovers. Bob Sanders has it. So does Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. But Mathis aside, Freeney and Sanders were high draft picks. With Lynch, you don’t see many draft gurus talking about him. The people who ARE talking about him are scouts, like former Rams scout Tom Marino who came on TheSportsGuru’s podcast and gushed over Lynch.

So, Lynch is nationally famous, known to scouts, and had a tremendous college career. Why is he not considered a high draft prospect? He went to a small school. Yes, I agree. It’s a stupid reason not to draft him higher. From an article by Ron Grillo at the Rocky Mount Telegram:

[The Michigan game] was the physically most demanding game [Lynch] ever played.

"It's the first game. It's hot. It's 90 degrees. It wasn't just a football game. It was the one you really wanted."

His calves started cramping in the third quarter, and by the fourth period cramping had spread entirely to both legs.

Touchdown or no touchdown it was a near miraculous play and deserved far more recognition.

"I scooped one up and returned it for a touchdown against the Citadel last year," he said. "I have good ball skills. I have 25 interceptions and the NCAA record for pass breakups."

Does he ever.

Strangely, one of the knocks against the three-time All-American who started 55 of the 56 games in his career for the three-time National Champs, is that he's not athletic enough to play in the NFL.

"It's that small-school burden," he laughs.

When I read negatives about Lynch, the "small school" thing is the one that pops out always. Funny, I seem to remember Pro Bowl FS Antoine Bethea attending Howard, a small school. Meanwhile, draft busts like Lawrence Phillips attended big college programs like Nebraska. The whole "small school" thing is just a silliness. As Bill Polian says about kids who play at small schools: "If you can play, we'll find you."

The other negatives focus on how Lynch is bad in man coverage and might lack good speed. I really don’t know of any safety that is good in man coverage. If he is, he shouldn’t play safety, but corner back. What Lynch is good at is playing in space and covering zones. That kinda sounds like Lynch might be good at playing in a (say it with me now) COVER 2 DEFENSE. The Colts have an excellent DB coach in Alan Williams, who likely would have become the defensive coordinator if Ron Meeks had gotten the Redskins job (which he should have over Ron Zorn). Williams took special teamer TJ Rushing, who was drafted solely to return punts and kicks, and developed him into a very solid nickel corner. Williams could do the same thing with Lynch, developing him into a good Cover 2 safety.

Williams is projected as a late rounder, perhaps late 6th or 7th round. The Colts have four picks in the 6th round, and if Corey Lynch is still there with one of their picks, I hope to hell they take him. Whatever his limitations, Lynch is a football player with that special something that great football players have. He gets to the football quick and makes HUGE plays. Of all the safeties in this draft, he is the only one I hope Indy takes. The Colts are very deep at safety, but Lynch offers so much more than just playing one position.

He’s a special player with difference maker written all over him.

[UPDATE] An Appalachia State fan blog called has some great stuff on Corey Lynch. Also, CBS Sportsline offers the best analysis of Lynch, by far.