What a surprising evening we had last night! Two Pac10 players were taken in the NFL's first round, both of which were Cal players! First, Jacksonville shocked the world by taking defensive player Tyson Alualu. SBN site Big Cat Country already has a few posts up. They had some measured thoughts. They had a scouting report on him. They were even kind enough to answer a few questions about Tyson Alualu and his role at Jacksonville for us:
What they say is true, apparently, about the starter in front of Alualu, John Henderson, being shopped. Jacksonville clearly believes in Alualu, no matter what the media may say. Go Jaguars! After the jump, we have an extensive interview with Pride Of Detroit, SBN's Lion blog regarding Jahvid Best. Join me there as we Go Bears, Go Jaguars, and Go Lions!
Before we discuss Alualu some more, let's take a look at what Detroit fans are saying about Jahvid Best. They definitely are looking at the pick through the prism of the trade necessary to get him. So, it is not just "Oh, we got Jahvid Best," but more "Oh, we got Jahvid Best, but what did we have to give up?"
30th overall pick and select Jahvid Best
128th overall pick (Minnesota's fourth-rounder)
34th overall pick (Detroit's second-rounder)
100th overall pick (Detroit's fourth-rounder)
214th overall pick (Originally Cleveland's seventh-rounder)
My initial reaction to this move is that I'm a little surprised the Lions decided to trade up (with Minnesota, no less). Then again, it's obvious who the best player available was on the Lions' draft board. They obviously wanted to make sure they got Jahvid Best, and basically they gave up a seventh-round pick and 28 spots in the fourth-round for him. None of the teams in front of Detroit were a threat to take a running back (Minnesota has Adrian Peterson, Indianapolis has Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, New Orleans has Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, and St. Louis has Steven Jackson), but the Lions must have felt that another team was going to trade up and take him.
We also had a great interview with Pride Of Detroit:
I was not surprised that the Lions picked Best (after all, I predicted that in the SB Nation mock draft), but the fact that Detroit traded up to the 30th pick from the 34th overall selection was unexpected. None of the teams picking in front of the Lions had a need at running back, but I guess the Lions felt like it was possible for another team to make a move to take Best. Some rumblings suggest Seattle was getting ready to do just that, which probably explains the trade up.
2. Who did you anticipate Detroit would take, if it was not Best? Why did you believe Detroit would take this player instead of Best?
The general expectation by the time we got to the 30th pick was for the first round to come to a close and for the Lions to start making their plans for the 34th selection, which will be the second pick on Friday night. Lots of fans were hoping Kyle Wilson would drop that far, but the Jets crushed those dreams by drafting him with the 29th pick. There's no doubt that Taylor Mays and Sergio Kindle were a couple of hot names, but Best would have been right at the top of the list had the Lions not traded up and if he was still there on Friday.
I guess to answer your question, there was no consensus about a certain player when Best was taken. The reason for that is because we all figured we could discuss the 34th pick all day Friday in the lead up to the second round. Nobody saw a trade coming, though, especially not for Best, who we all assumed would be there at No. 34.
3. Given Best's character and leadership quality, what are the fans' expectations for him on and off the field?
Since the pick just happened on Thursday night fans haven't had much time to research him, but the early returns are that we expect Best to be an all-purpose type of back on the field and be yet another leader on an offense filled with them.
4. What position do you anticipate Best will play at Detroit?
Best does not seem like an every-down type of back, but when he is on the field the key is to get him the ball, as I'm sure you all know. With the Lions, Best is going to be a player that gets a decent amount of touches running the ball and quite a few in the passing game as well. Matthew Stafford has a lot of targets in this offense now (Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, etc.), and I think Best will be another great one out of the backfield.
5. What other players will Best have to beat out to have a starting job with Detroit?
This is the most interesting question, because the Lions' running back situation is really up in the air. Kevin Smith tore up his ACL near the end of last season, which is why the Lions had such a pressing need for a back. Nobody is really sure if Smith will be return to full health in time for the 2010 season, and even if he does nobody is really sure if he will be effective. That is really what it comes down to for the starting running back job. If Smith is healthy and able to play well despite his nasty injury last season, then I'd put my money on him being the starter and Best serving as a nice complement to him. If Smith is not healthy in time, though, I'd say it's Best's job to lose.
6. Any final thoughts about Detroit and Best you'd like to tell his collegiate fans?
Best is now the third former California player to join the Lions, with the other two being Nick Harris and Zack Follett, who was drafted just last year. Follett was talking up Best quite a bit in recent weeks and mentioned him on his Facebook page shortly after Ndamukong Suh was picked. I'm sure he is absolutely thrilled that his former teammate will be joining him in Detroit, and with Ernie Sims being shipped out earlier this week, there's a good chance all three Cal players could be starters in 2010.
Now that we have seen what the fans at the other SBN sites have to say, let's see what the media is saying. Many thanks to NorCalNick for organizing these links.
- Alualu had glowing words for the coaching staff. After being part of Cal's 2005 recruiting class, he didn't come to Cal right away, staying in Hawaii to await the birth of his daughter. Even though Alualu was going through a major transition in his life, Alualu and the coaching staff never lost faith in each other.
- "All the coaches have been great supporters of me," said Alualu. "I've gotten a lot of text messages from Coach (Tedford) saying job well done. I talked to my d-line coach (Tosh Lupoi). I had to call him, he's such a great help to me...I look at him as my bigger brother, he way saying that he knew I deserved it with all the work that I put in and the kind of person I am and good things happen to (good) people that 's what he told me. I just give God the glory, I'm just happy. I've met these coaches and a lot of people that helped me get to t he position I am now."
- Alualu's choice is another feather of the cap for Lupoi, who in a period of months has helped Cal land one of the top recruiting classes in the country, watched one of his pupils become the third defensive lineman chosen in the draft, and now hits the summer recruiting trail with an even more formidable set of credentials.
"They told me that they were interested, but I never thought they would pick me in the top ten," Alualu said. "I thought they would definitely trade down if they wanted me, but I'm just blessed to be here, to be a part of the Jaguars family now."
The Cal football program had its best draft day of the last 10 years as both Alualu and 30th overall pick Jahvid Best were selected in the first round-the first time that the Bears have had two first-round picks in over a decade.
In arguably the biggest shock of the day, Alualu became the third defensive lineman selected and the highest Cal draftee since Andre Carter went to the San Francisco 49ers seventh overall in 2001. It is safe to say that nobody saw the pick coming-including Alualu himself.
"Everyone was saying I would go in the late first or the early second, so we came in thinking second round," he said. "We were more prepared for (Friday)."
No need to give a lot of space to the remaining negativity. Let’s just say that the early returns from the Jaguars’ fan base isn’t a collective "Whoo-whoo," but a "Who?" after Jacksonville used the No. 10 overall pick on California defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, a player not even projected as a first-rounder in most mock drafts.
You can bet there’s a lot of Jaguars’ season-ticket holders, after hearing Alualu’s name called out Thursday at 8:39 p.m., throwing up their hands. Not just because Jacksonville didn’t select hometown hero Tim Tebow, but for using a top-10 pick on a Pac-10 lineman that probably won’t compel fans to rush to the ticket window.
What he brings: When you watch Alualu on film the first thing that pops out at you is his hands. He's very active and explosive and if an offensive linemen is able to lock on to him he has the upper-body strength to quickly shed. While he doesn't have great initial quickness he can beat blockers to the point of attack and penetrate, and there's also a lot to like both in pursuit and rushing the passer.
How he fits: Jacksonville was last in the NFL in sacks last year and even though the Jags signed Aaron Kampman to play the position he likes, 4-3 defensive end, it was not enough. Backups Montavious Stanley and Atiyyah Ellison will be moved out of the defensive tackle rotation, allowing Alualu to spell John Henderson and Terrance Knighton. The Jags definitely needed help on the defensive front and Alualu was a good pick in that sense.
GM Gene Smith was not afraid to stray from convention last year, though he waited until the second and third rounds, where he did well in selecting Eben Britton, Terrance Knighton and Derek Cox. All those guys are on track to be long-term contributors.
Write-ups make Alualu sound like a quality leader with the sort of personality Smith likes.
He may need to be just that to match or surpass the expectations the Jaguars just created for him.
The first real schocker of the draft comes with the Jags' pick of Alualu, a projected three-technique defensive tackle who was not anticipated to go until late in the first round at the earliest. Alualu is relentless and great with his hands, but unexpectedly picking him this high will open Gene Smith and the Jacksonville front office to a boatload of criticism if Alualu does not produce right away.
Best, 5-foot-10 and 199 pounds, ran for 867 yards and 12 touchdowns last season before he was knocked out with a concussion on Nov. 7. He missed the final four games.
He ran for 2,668 yards and 29 touchdowns in his three years at Cal.
Best fills a need because Kevin Smith is recovering from major knee surgery, but he is also coming off an injury.
An anonymous scout, saying he talked to Best, said, "Yeah, he's worried about it. Plus, he has a muscle going down from his neck to his leg that bothers him. He's coming in all beat up.''
"My agents were afraid, but I wasn't really worried about that too much because, wasn't it a blog or something like that?'' Best said. "Anyway, I wasn't too worried, I knew it wasn't true. I knew the truth would come out eventually that I'm fine and I'm ready to play.''
While Best says he will play wherever he goes, the focus really is on leaving Cal Berkeley. Best made the decision to "go pro" after his junior year last season.
"I'm gonna miss my relationships with my players and coaches. My running back group, I love those guys. It's gonna be hard leavin' em. And also my running backs coach (Cal Assistant Head Coach / Running Backs, Ron Gould). He's one of the best coaches I've had my whole life. He's like a father figure to me. But that's what I'm gonna miss the most."
What he brings: Best has just as much quickness and explosiveness as C.J. Spiller but durability issues caused him to slide down the board. The thing you really like about Best is his lateral movement and ability to accelerate through cuts. He also has great vision to bounce it to the outside along with home run speed. If he can remain healthy Best could make a substantial impact on the Lions? offense.
How he fits: Kevin Smith is coming off reconstructive knee surgery and averaged only 3.4 yards per carry before going down. The offense was without big plays in the running game and that is what Best brings to the table. Maurice Morris and Aaron Brown both performed admirably in place of Smith but neither has the quickness, agility or explosion Best brings to the table. This is a very good value pick.
Schwartz noted fairly that "they helped us out, [but] we helped them out." But if Best makes the impact the Lions believe he will, the Vikings might one day wonder if they should have taken another offer. (Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said the Vikings heard from several other possible trade partners.)
"This was a player that we had a lot of really good feelings for and a guy that we had a plan for exactly how we're going to use him on offense," Schwartz said. "I was hoping for two things in this draft. One was to get him. ... But if we didn't get him, [I was hoping] that he didn't go to Green Bay or Minnesota or Chicago and have to defend against a guy like that twice a year."
The Lions do business in division with the Vikings in order to take the explosive, multi-purpose threat from Cal. Best is undersized and his durability has been rightly questioned. When healthy, he is very similar to C.J. Spiller in terms of his big-play ability as a runner, pass-catcher and returner. He'll split time with Kevin Smith in the Lions backfield and likely be their third-down back immediately.
That is what the fans of Jacksonville and Detroit and the media think of the selections. What do you Cal fans think? Good moves? Bad moves? Was Detroit's trade prudent? Did Jacksonville reach? Tell us what you think! GO BEARS!