Rating the Drafts

  • By John Antonik
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  • January 21, 2013 03:47 PM
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One of the things we readers get with CNN’s new sports partnership with Bleacher Report is access to different writers (The SI guys may refer to them as fans posing as writers, by the way).

So instead of Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, we can now read the pro football opinions of guys like Matt Miller, Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft lead writer whose stuff has been featured on Madden 13, ESPN.com, Sirius/XM, NFL.com and other outlets, according to his biography.

I stumbled across Matt’s work this morning while scanning the news on CNN’s website: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1484192-matt-millers-2013-nfl-draft-big-board

What Matt came up with today are his top 100 players for this year’s NFL draft. Keep in mind, the Senior Bowl and the Super Bowl have yet to be played, and the NFL Combine is still a month away, so this list is a wee bit premature, but I did find it interesting nonetheless.

That is because Miller had three Mountaineer players in his top 100 – quarterback Geno Smith at No. 7, wide receiver Tavon Austin at No. 28 and wide receiver Stedman Bailey at No. 73.

If these rankings hold up, that means Geno and Tavon will both go in the first round and Stedman will be gone by the third round.

The last time West Virginia had three players go in the top 75, you might ask?

That would be 2000 when tight end Anthony Becht was taken near the bottom of the first round by the Jets at No. 27, wide receiver Jerry Porter went No. 47 in the second round to the Raiders and linebacker Barrett Green was taken three spots later by the Detroit Lions at No. 50.

Incidentally, quarterback Marc Bulger didn’t go until the sixth round that year when he was taken by the New Orleans Saints. All four of those guys went on to enjoy productive pro careers.

That draft class and this one do have one thing in common – both were coming off disappointing seasons (West Virginia was only 4-7 in 1999 and this year’s team finished 7-6).

Can the 2013 draft class stack up to some of the best classes in WVU history? Well, it depends.

For overall depth, the answer is no. West Virginia’s 1999 draft class featured five players in the top 100, headlined by cornerback Charles Fisher, who was taken by Cincinnati with the second pick in the second round and No. 33 overall (Fisher tragically tore up his knee in his very first pro game and never saw the field again). Defensive tackle John Thornton (No. 52), offensive tackle Solomon Page (No. 55), linebacker Gary Stills (No. 75) and running back Amos Zereoue (No. 95) were all selected on the first day.

In 1990, the Mountaineers had three high picks in linebacker Renaldo Turnbull (No. 14), wide receiver Reggie Rembert (No. 28) and defensive tackle Mike Fox (No. 51).

The 1958 draft class, with linebacker Chuck Howley (No. 8), fullback Larry Krutko (No. 19) and guard Joe Nicely (No. 34), had three guys taken in the top 35 when there were only 12 teams in the league.

But those classes pale in comparison to the 1956 draft when five Mountaineers were picked in the top 50. That is still the best draft group in school history coming off of one of the best teams in school history (1955). Fullback Joe Marconi went No. 9 to the Los Angeles Rams, offensive guard Bruce Bosley was taken No. 12 by the San Francisco 49ers, linebacker Sam Huff was picked 25th by the New York Giants, quarterback Fred Wyant was taken five spots later by the Washington Redskins and running back Bobby Moss was the 48th player selected by the Cleveland Browns.

Marconi and Bosley went on to earn all-pro status and Huff is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Wyant spent one year with the Redskins, played briefly in Canada and became a long-time NFL official while Moss chose the service instead of pro football, although his Mountaineer teammates were convinced that he could have made it in the league because of his great speed.

Nevertheless, that’s an awful high bar for this year’s group to reach.

Stay tuned.

Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History now available in bookstores. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.