We knew heading into the draft that this would likely be one of the poorest showings for Cal in recent history. Predictably, we only had two players drafted, which is relatively low compared to recent years. Still, we've got a handful of Bears who will get their chance during this offseason to make it onto an NFL roster and we'll be cheering for them all the way.
The first Cal player drafted was TE Richard Rodgers, who was taken late in the 3rd round with the 98th overall pick by the Green Bay Packers. Cal-to-Cal and Rodgers-to-Rodgers, here we come!
Another Rodgers from Cal in Green Bay, sweet.— Aaron Rodgers (@AaronRodgers12) May 10, 2014
Though Coach Sonny Dykes's offense has essentially eliminated Rodgers's natural position—which played a role in his decision to leave Cal early—it presented a unique benefit as NFL teams could scout Rodgers's play as part of Coach Jeff Tedford's pro-style offense to gauge his blocking ability and watch him in the Bear Raid to evaluate his ball skills.
"He is capable of blocking," Packers tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said. "Once he gets a chance to compete. We ask our tight ends to do everything. I think he's perfectly capable of doing that."
But Fontenot also said the Packers see Rodgers as a pass-catching weapon in their offense.
"He has really good hands, catches the football and he's a detailed route-runner," Fontenot said. "His understanding of schemes and concepts, he really understands the game."
The analysts at WalterFootball gave this pick only a C+ because of the "mixed reviews" for the tight end, but think he will be in competition for a starting role at an important position. Yahoo's Shutdown Corner also identified Rodgers as the weakest pick by the Packers (although they don't seem fully educated on him as they're unaware as to why his weight changed so much in college), so let's hope he'll prove them all wrong.
The Packers fans over at ACME Packing Company are a little torn about this pick. Some are a little unhappy and "confused" by the move, but there are others who see some promise in taking Rodgers.
On Day Three of the draft, LB Khairi Fortt was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the 126th pick in the 4th round.
Fortt joined the Bears as a transfer from Penn State following the Sandusky scandal, spending two seasons in Berkeley, although one of them was a medical-redshirt year. His time at these programs—and getting picked in the draft later than he expected—has taught Fortt how to survive adversity, which will likely be a huge asset as he fights for playing time on special teams or on defense.
When he interviewed with the Saints, they skipped all the off-topic questions about his past and his transfer, which is what the other teams focused on. The Saints dove right into talk about Xs and Os and assessing's Fortt ability to work in their 3-4 defense.
[The Saints] brought me in, had me sit down and went over like 10 to 15 plays that they do on defense and they had me write them up on a sheet of paper. That was pretty mind-boggling because they were asking me pretty wild questions while I was doing it. I didn't have really any clue they were going to pick me after that because they didn't have that much contact with me. They were impressed with how well I analyzed the plays that they threw up and I quickly assessed them and wrote them down.
As a high-school player, Fortt was interested in Cal. Although he ultimately decided not to come to Berkeley due to the distance from home, he took an official visit as a senior and was hosted by DE Cameron Jordan, who will now be his teammate in New Orleans.
WalterFootball gives the Saints a B for the pick, noting that Fortt can not only fill a glaring need in their defense, but might even become a starter in 2015.
Our SBN brethren over at Canal St. Chronicles reiterate the need for good LBs, but consider him to be an "unknown," with plenty of comments asking who he is or if he was even at the Combine. (Do you even lift, bro?) Fortunately, we've got one correspondent on scene who's well-versed in Golden Bear.
Undrafted free agents and more
One of the reliable spots on our defense in 2013 was DL Deandre Coleman. Coleman has the body of an NFL-lineman, but never had the breakout season that Cal fans were crossing our fingers for. Nonetheless, Coleman was scooped up by the Jacksonville Jaguars where he'll be joining DL Tyson Alualu.
Deandre Coleman has signed with the jaguars... Teams will be very very sorry. 6'5 315 pds of athletic man.— Cleodis Floyd (@lawyerboycle) May 11, 2014
Coleman played a 3-4 DE and 4-3 DT while suited up in the blue and gold and the Jags have used Alualu as both DT and DE, so there's no indication yet of how Coleman will be used. With Coleman's addition, the Jaguars now have four Bears (Coleman, Alualu, FB Will Ta'ufo'ou, and P Bryan Anger). Go Jaguars?
Among an embarrassing secondary, CB Kameron Jackson developed into a highlight and a shut-down corner, prompting him to leave Cal early to go pro. Ultimately undrafted, Jackson will get his big opportunity with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts picked up five DBs as UDFAs because Indianapolis is thin in the secondary, so Jackson will have a lot of competition if he wants to make the roster by the upcoming season.
Moving onto special teams, we've got the automatic K Vincenzo D'Amato. Not quite on a roster yet, D'Amato was invited to an official tryout where, if his leg impresses, he can earn a job with Rodgers and Rodgers. The Packers previously tested Giorgio Tavecchio (D'Amato's predecessor at Cal) and had Tavecchio compete with Mason Crosby, so it's possible they're still looking for Crosby's replacement if a clear upgrade presents oneself.
Note, the following are unofficial updates that have yet to be confirmed.
DE Chris McCain has announced on Instagram that he is "headed to" Miami. This is some coincidence as he previously identified as hoping to join them. Needless to say, there's no word if he'll be used as a LB or DE.
Similar to Coleman's story, his fellow interior lineman, DT Viliami Moala, never fully lived up to his potential (as a five-star recruit in Moala's case), but was a reliable player for the defense in 2013. Moala is said to be joining the Ravens. He would have a lot of competition as the Ravens drafted defensive tackles in the 2nd and 4th rounds.
Congrats to my homie Big Vei Moala getting picked up by the Ravens 1 Love Uce @Bigcalibear55— 5 Star ⭐ Coach T TMP (@CoachTIhs) May 11, 2014
Lastly, we have one more Bear-Bear reunion of sorts. RB Brendan Bigelow may be headed down to Tampa Bay where he'll reunite with CB Marc Anthony and, more importantly, get another chance to work for Coach Jeff Tedford. If true, let's hope Tedford has developed some new methods of getting the ball into Bigelow's hands (and keep it there).
Bigelow to the Bucs! Reunited with Coach Tedford #GoBears— #CalGang (@CalGang) May 11, 2014
With Doug Martin likely to be the feature back for the offense, Bigelow will likely get a few looks as a return specialist. Tedford could also throw in Bigelow as a change of pace when swinging for a home run against a worn-down defense.