Florida and Miami had a combined 15 draft picks for a combined 14 wins on the field. Georgia Tech had 11 wins on the field, but just three draft picks. So can we please acknowledge Paul Johnson is a helluva coach?
Soapbox aside, Tech had a small haul in this years' draft. Shaq Mason went to the Patriots with the 131st pick in the fourth round, Deandre Smelter went to the 49er's with the 132nd pick in the fourth round and Darren Waller went to the Ravens with the 204th pick in the sixth round.
Oh, the irony. The team running a "high school" option offense sees two wide receivers go to the NFL. More appropriately, Mason goes in a valuable spot after all the road-paving he did for Tech's top ranked rushing offense. But the 2014 squad was more than a couple of receivers and a guard. There were other potential Yellow Jacket prospects who could now have a shot at making it in the league now that team's are calling up the UDFAs.
Here are the Yellow Jackets who have been given offers:
Zack Laskey - St. Louis Rams
However, the question begs: where does Laskey fit in to the Rams' plans? They already have a healthy stable of running backs that includes Tre Mason, Benjamin Cunningham, Isaiah Pead and now the top back in the Draft, Todd Gurley. It's arguably the deepest rotation in the NFL, so how can Laskey distinguish himself amongst that pack of studs?
For starters, advanced stats say he should be okay. Speed score, a measure by football outsiders used to project success by college running backs in the NFL, favors Laskey. Scores range from 80-120, with 100 being the average. Check out how Laskey stacked up against some notable names who ran the 40 at the combine:
|Round, Pick||Running Back||Speed Score|
|1, 15th||Melvin Gordon||103.39|
|2, 36th||T.J. Yeldon||100.07|
|2, 54th||Ameer Abdullah||93.97|
|3, 77th||Duke Johnson||97.45|
|5, 149th||Jay Ajayi||101.33|
As you can see, Laskey is right on par with some of the better names in the draft. So why did he fall? Injury was probably a big concern. Perhaps him playing a role where he never had to make reads in a line hampered his stock. He's too small to play fullback, a position dying slowly in the NFL nowadays anyway. Whatever the case maybe Laskey has his shot, and one way or another he'll have a tough task of distinguishing himself amongst the Rams house of running backs.
Synjyn Days - Dallas Cowboys
This signing makes a little more sense and plays to the advantage of former Yellow Jacket Synjyn Days. The Cowboys only have four running backs on their active roster, the most notable being Darren McFadden and noted underwear thief Joseph Randle. This gives Days a great chance to make an impact for the Cowboys in the preseason.
Going back to speed scores, Days graded out at 100.11. Not as good as his running mate Laskey, but still better than other noted prospects like Duke Johnson, Ameer Abdullah and T.J. Yeldon. Days, like Laskey, probably suffered in the eyes of scouts by playing in a non-traditional rushing offense. Of the 19 Yellow Jackets currently playing the NFL, there isn't a single Paul Johnson running back in the mix.
Of all the ones who have come and gone, you'd have to think Days and Laskey would be two good candidates to crack the list. Days especially with the lack of running back depth on the Cowboys roster, and since the Cowboys used the run to set up most of their offense last season you'd think they would like to make running back a priority to develop during camps.
Even though Days has one real year of production at the collegiate level, it certainly didn't detour the Cowboys from giving him a call. Days is in a great spot here, and it would seem hard not to see him on the Cowboys roster come September.
Isaiah Johnson - Detroit Lions
Detroit seemed to focus more on offense during the draft, but did manage to pick up a couple of corners in Quandre Diggs and Alex Carter. However there were no safeties drafted by the Lions, leaving room here for Isaiah Johnson to go in and make an impact at the position.
The Lions are already established with starters at safety with veteran's Glover Quinn and James Ihedigbo, who together were one of the best safety duos in the league in 2014. A positive for Johnson is there is no real depth behind these two, leaving room for Johnson to compete immediately at the start of the preseason. Nate Ness is a career journeyman, while Isa Abdul-Quddus and Don Carey have seen their playing time reduce significantly over the past couple of seasons.
Another good thing for secondary guys is there's always room to show your stuff on special teams. NFL teams are always looking for guys who can be disciplined in kickoff coverage and making sound tackles in space. If there's one thing Johnson can do, it's be physical. I think that's where Johnson will have to make his bread in the preseason, and I think he's more than capable of doing so for the Lions.
Quayshawn Nealy - Seattle Seahakws
This one happened in the wee hours of the night, and we're just fortunate I was up late watching the Mayweather fight to see this pop up on my news feed. Quayshawn Nealy was the last of our potential Yellow Jacket prospects to get picked up, and according to the Idaho Statesman he was also one of the last calls for the Seahawks. This means FTRS was seven for seven on our Georgia Tech NFL prospects (boom).
But enough grandstanding, let's get to where Nealy fits into the Seahawks picture. He wasn't the only linebacker picked up by Seattle, as Montana State's Alex Singleton and Wisconsin's Brendan Kelly are now in competition with an already solid linebacking score for Seattle.
K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner are already well established as starting linebackers for the Seahawks. They're playoff veterans and Wright was the MVP of the Super Bowl for goodness sakes. But similar to Detroit's safety situation for Johnson, there is room to add depth for Seattle and Nealy. Mike Zimmer, Mike Taylor and Kevin Pierre-Louis are not sure things, despite being young, and it was well publicized during the Draft Seattle was not picking up Bruce Irvin's 5th year option.
Like Johnson, Nealy can show his stuff by contributing on special teams. Pete Carroll loves versatility in his defense, and Nealy brings this to the table with his ability to play weak side in a 4-3 scheme and a nickel in a 4-2-5 set.
Are there any other Tech players who you think should have been picked up or drafted?