Seven rounds passed by this weekend, and for the first time in nearly 30 years, no California Golden Bears were taken in the NFL draft.
#Cal goes without an NFL Draft selection for the first time since 1986.— Mike Vernon (@M_Vernon) May 2, 2015
There's a reason we've been pretty mum on our draft coverage. There wasn't much to cover. The only player who had a chance to be picked was Chris Harper, and he was unfortunately caught within a swath of solid wide receivers. Harper did find a spot with the New England Patriot, and it seems like the perfect fit. He's an under-the-radar type player who won't demand a huge salary, but can be a good spot receiver who works his way into the rotation and continues to make significant contributions.
The big question is why?
2013 happened. For one, Cal football 2014 was a team in rapid transition. The 2013 team was chock full of early defections, transfers, and NFL declarations. Not many players ended up getting drafted, but players like Richard Rodgers and Khairi Fortt did manage to get selected and a few others drifted around the waiver wire. That's a bit more significant than the talent pool that Sonny Dykes had to work with last year, particularly on the defensive end.
So the 2014 squad was a relatively young team. There weren't many seniors on this squad, and only Harper ended up exploring early entrance. Michael Lowe was the only significant senior who was really taking a look at the draft. Cal's best players from last season are all returning starters for this season, which should mean that the streak lasts only one year before things normalize.
The system argument. One of the consequences of Air Raid systems is the skepticism that surrounds many of the offensive players that excel in it. Players tend to produce and rack up huge numbers in it running very specific routes. That makes them very dangerous in college but questionable based on their responsibilities in the pros. This is one of the reasons Harper probably struggled to distinguish himself--he was very successful in Cal's scheme, but so were a bunch of other wide receivers. With everyone playing well, it's hard to figure out who is actually the most ready in terms of knowing the NFL wide receiver tree.
Contrast this to the pro-style Jeff Tedford offense and defenses he implemented. The schemes were of an NFL level complexity, so most teams were more likely to take on any Cal player who came out and performed well within those systems because they would be ready to come in and be true professionals. And most of them did succeed, as you can probably see by their performances every Sunday.
The jury is still out on whether the Tony Franklin System is conducive to elite talent making the most of their abilities. We'll get a better sense after the 2015 season, when the entire offensive roster of skill talent moves on to test whether they're ready to be pros.
Recruiting calamity: Almost all of the talent from our recruiting classes from three to four years ago have washed out or moved on. Transfers, defections, injuries, retirements, the Cal football squad of the early 2010s have seen all the possible turmoil they could possibly see. The 2012 recruiting class has been pretty solid, but the 2013 recruiting class came off of dramatic regime change and the 2014 class was not the greatest after a terrible, terrible season of football. 2015 promises more talent of an elite level, but that still means we're going to have to wait awhile before we start churning out talent like we once did.
So right now we've entered a dry patch of Cal talent as the program readjusts and re-calibrates to where they need to be. But expect this to be the bottom of the curve. It won't be long before we're trending up again.
What do you think about no Cal players being picked in the draft? Is it an anomaly or a sign of things to come? Let us know in the comments!