NFL draft nears finish as labor dispute rolls on
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – One fourth-round draft pick won’t be ready to run until August. Another wasn’t ready to talk to his new team because he was in the middle of his graduation ceremony.
Those were the least of the complications Saturday at the NFL draft, which resumed on its third and final day at Radio City Music Hall against a backdrop of a restored lockout. Right now, no one is sure when clubs will be ready to let any players walk back in to team headquarters.
“With the lockout, there’s so much uncertainty,” said tight end Kyle Rudolph, a second-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings. “I’m just focused on getting myself in the best shape as possible and being ready whenever we are allowed to” show up.
The Carolina Panthers opened the fourth round by selecting West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound Hogan not only has checkered past of off-field issues, but he’s recovering from ligament surgery on his left knee. Hogan won’t be able to begin running full speed until August.
“My knee is ahead of schedule,” he insisted. “It’s getting stronger and getting used to doing things.”
The Panthers, who chose quarterback Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick to open the draft Thursday night and added a pair of defensive tackles Friday, are hoping Hogan recovers and stays out of trouble to bolster a secondary in need of depth.
The Seattle Seahawks went next and picked Mississippi State linebacker K.J. Wright. General manager John Schneider gave Wright a call in Starkville and was puzzled why the player had so little to say. Well, it turns out Wright was just about to receive his diploma at his graduation ceremony.
“As soon as I got off the phone, two minutes later I had to go up there and walk across the stage,” Wright said.
With a wacky three days of drafting near an end, this was the first full day that players were locked out again after a brief respite Friday. That night, however, an appeals court decision allowed the league to reinstate the lockout that had been lifted earlier in the week.
But the draft carried on because it is protected under the old collective bargaining agreement, which expired March 11. Dan Lauria, who stars as Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi in the Broadway show “Lombardi,” ended the sixth round by making the Packers’ pick – Arizona linebacker Ricky Elmore.
The Arizona Cardinals, trying to improve their pass rush, selected Texas linebacker Sam Acho in the fourth round. The 6-1, 257-pounder was recently honored with a $25,000 scholarship as the nation’s top scholar athlete.
Acho’s parents emigrated from Nigeria, and each summer he returns to the country with his father and brother on a medical mission.
Cecil Shorts, a wide receiver from powerhouse Mount Union, became the first Division III player chosen when he went to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 17th pick in the fourth round.
Two picks later, another Matthews joined the NFL when Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews was picked by the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s the brother of Packers All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews and the first Oregon player chosen in this draft. The Eagles are well aware of Clay Matthews – they had a hard time handling him last year.
“Clay had some success against them,” Casey Matthews said. “At the conclusion of my visit when I was out there, Coach (Andy) Reid said, ‘Tell your brother we’re gonna get him next year with you on the team.’ And I told Clay that. I don’t think they have the Packers on the schedule, but hopefully we get them in the playoffs.”
Minutes later, the Eagles made Nebraska All-American Alex Henery the first kicker taken with the 23rd pick of the fourth round. Henery hit 18-of-19 field goal attempts (10-of-11 from 40 yards or longer) and all 54 extra points last season. He also punts.
Eagles longtime kicker David Akers is a free agent, but the team has placed a transition tag on him and would have a chance to retain him.
The Cleveland Browns, with a pick from Atlanta, chose Stanford fullback Owen Marecic, a two-way player who also played linebacker. He won the inaugural Paul Hornung Award that goes to the nation’s most versatile player.
“He’s a tough kid,” Hornung said of the 6-0, 246-pound Marecic, who ran for five touchdowns and had two interceptions last season for Orange Bowl champion Stanford.
In a 13-second span against Notre Dame in 2010, he scored on a 1-yard TD plunge and then returned an interception 20 yards for another score.
The Browns plan to use him on offense, but special teams might work, too.
“Hopefully I can find big ways to contribute on special teams, which is a little bit of defense in itself,” Marecic said.
The Washington Redskins were wheeling and dealing again Saturday after collecting 10 picks for rounds 4-7 by the end of Friday night. They made a five-pick swap with the Houston Texans and took Nebraska running back Roy Helu Jr. early in the fourth round.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has a knack for finding productive running backs. Maybe he’s got another in Helu, who ran for 1,245 yards last season.
“History is proof for itself, all the running backs and the offensive lineman that have worked under him and the success that they’ve had,” Helu said.
Three quarterbacks were taken in the fifth round, bringing the total to 10 through 163 picks. The Kansas City Chiefs went for Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi, the Texans took North Carolina’s T.J. Yates and the Chicago Bears picked Idaho’s Nathan Enderle.
The Baltimore Ravens went for a quarterback in the sixth round, picking Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor, who had a 34-8 record as a starter. Last season, he was voted ACC player of the year after throwing for 2,743 yards and 24 touchdowns with five interceptions.