Monday, April 28, 2008

A look back at the 2008 NFL Draft

All in all, it was a successful weekend for the Vanderbilt football progam as three former Commodores were drafted, the most in seven years. Offensive tackle Chris Williams (No. 14 overall) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (No. 70) find themselves in great situations in Chicago, while the New York Giants got a steal in the fifth round when they drafted linebacker Jonathan Goff.

Note that coaches and GMs could not say enough about the character and intellgience of all three of these guys, which is a credit to Bobby Johnson and the rest of the VU coaching staff.

In addition, The Nashville City Paper reports that defensive tackle Theo Horrocks has signed a free-agent contract with the Jackonsville, while outside linebackers Marcus Buggs and Curtis Gatewood, offensive linemen Brian Stamper and Josh Eames are also expected to get picked up this week. Gatewood would be an interesting addition for the New England Patriots, who play a 3-4 defense, as draft expert Tom Casale speculates.

With that said, here's the latest surrounding Vanderbilt's most recent NFL Draft picks:


In need of left tackle, Bears pick Williams (Tennessean)
-Williams was the third of seven offensive tackles drafted in the first round and comes to Chicago expecting to start right away
"I don't know much about their roster, but I'm assuming they needed a left tackle and that's why they drafted me," Williams said. "I think I'm going into a great situation, a complete team for the most part. I'm going to go in and fill a need for them, hope to get in and win a lot of games."

-Chicago coach Lovie Smith visited Williams in Nashville and said he was impressed with his talent and character.
"He's played at a high level in the SEC for a long time at the left tackle position, which he'll play for us," Smith said. "That was a need we had going into the draft, and I'll just say that I didn't go out to a lot of places, but I went out to Vanderbilt hoping that he could fill that spot for us some day.
"He's a serious player. He's a newlywed. … He comes from a great family where education has been stressed. Chris is pretty driven to be one of the better players to play the position. He has high expectations for the type of play that we'll get from him, and I think we'll get that. What I saw was just a solid player who had direction and knew where he wanted to go."

Bears snare VU's Williams (Nashville City Paper)
-Williams said the Denver Broncos will regret not taking him with the 12th pick.
"They'll know why they should have taken me down the road," he said. "I'll enjoy beating the Broncos every time we play them."

-The talkative Williams was at a loss for words afterwards.
"I can't even describe it. I'm about speechless," Williams said. "And you know me, I don't get speechless too often. I'm just extremely ecstatic. It's like a dream come true."

Bears fill No. 1 need (
-Chicago GM Jerry Angelo loves Williams as not only an athlete, but a person.
“All the things you want to hear about a player intangibly, Chris has,” he said.
“We feel like we know him as well as you can know a player,” Angelo added. “Everybody … felt very good about him and what he brings to our football team. You’re going to find he’s very gregarious in terms of his personality, very intelligent and very passionate about football.”

Dedication pays for late bloomer (Sun Times)
-Williams is 70 pounds heavier than he was when arrived at Vanderbilt, a testiment to just how hard he has worked.
''The kid is just a great story,'' said Williams' high school coach, Dale Weiner. ''He just got better and better and better.''

Williams was best possible pick (Sun Times)
-"Here is a guy who can be the cornerstone of the Bears' line for the next eight seasons," writes Matt Bowman. "A good offensive tackle is hard to come by in this league. If you can find one who can stick around for a while, go about his business, and make your running game better, why not draft him?"

Grading the Bears 2008 Draft (Bleacher Report)
Williams' grade: A
Earl Bennett's grade: A-


Gamble pays off for Bennett (Nashville City Paper)
-Brett Hait is exactly right. Bennett's decision to enter the NFL Draft after his junior season was definitely the right move. His lifelong dream of playing in the NFL is now a reality.
“Everything worked out good,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets with anything I did.”

-Bennett said he had nothing left to prove. And he didn't.
“Any time you come back, you have to face double teams, and there’s the quarterback situation at Vanderbilt,” he said. “I didn’t feel I had anything left to showcase.”

Bennett compares to Hines Ward -- sort of (Chicago Tribune)
-Chicago had him rated high on their board, ahead of many of the receivers who went in the second round
''We see him as having starter talent,'' college scouting director Greg Gabriel said. ''Whether he becomes a starter as a rookie, that remains to be seen.''

-Bennett can relate to the Bears' quarterback struggles
"He's done it without having a strong quarterback the last two years,'' Gabriel said.

Bears get Bennett in third round (Chicago Sun-Times)
-Bennett has no problem being labeled as a slot receiver
"I played out wide, too," he said. "But being labeled as a slot receiver, I like playing the slot. My coach always said you've got to be tough to play in the slot, because there are a lot of physical men in there, especially in that linebacker position."

Well-received pick for Bears (Daily Herald)
-Bennett received high praise from Gabriel
"If you watch the tape, he comes up big every game," Gabriel said. "He was their go-to guy. Everybody knew that was who they were going to throw to, yet he still came up with big catches."

Bears start Day 2 with wide receiver (Chicago Tribune)
-Bennett impressed Chicago offensive coordinator Ron Turner
"I like Earl a lot," Turner said. "He has great quickness. He's a really good route runner. ... He's good right after the catch [and] he will go up and catch the ball and battle for it and catch it in a crowd."

-Bennett was praised for his character and intelligence
"We will give him an opportunity, obviously, to come in and compete right away," Turner said. "He's a very intelligent young man, so he shouldn't have any trouble picking things up."

Hey Bears, meet your competition (Chicago Tribune)
-Bennett will force Brandon Lloyd to stand out in training camp considering wide receivers Marty Booker, Mark Bradley, Devin Hester and Rashied Davis are already locks to make the roster.

Chicago Bears press release


NFL Draft: Who Won and Who Lost (Bleacher Report)
-This site says the Giants were the biggest winners in the 2008 draft, citing their fifth-round selection as a reason why.
"One of the more underrated picks by Jerry Reese in 2008 had to be Vandy's Jonathan Goff, With Kawika Mitchell's departure, New York had become very thin at inside linebacker. Goff is very tough, strong, and hard working.
He should be the starter from Day One next season if he can beat out former backup Gerris Wilkinson for the job. Goff may not be an every-down starter, but he and Wilkinson will fill the void left by Mitchell on the interior of the Giants' defense."

Reese's take on Giants' draft (
-GM Jerry Reese expects Goff to contribute on special teams early on
"We think he is a middle linebacker; very productive; very smart," he said. "He can play on all of the special teams. That is a common theme with us - - got to play on all of the special teams; a young kid to bring into the fold, start developing some as a backup middle linebacker. He is smart."

Giants go for IQ with fifth-round pick (NY Daily News)
-Goff joins NY linebackers Antonio Pierce, Danny Clark, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chase Blackburn, Zak DeOssie, and Gerris Wilkinson.

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