Political activist Ralph Nader suggests the elimination of athletic scholarships.....Iowa WR Marvin McNutt out for spring practice due to shoulder injury.....Jim Tressel suspended for five games officially due to role in 'TatooGate'.....Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd arrested on DUI.....


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Diamonds in the Rough - 2010 NFL Draft

I know as a rule of thumb, I try not to talk too much about the NFL draft here. But, I changed direction a bit and focused some more on the draft, since there's nothing else to talk about. So, who are some of the top draft sleepers in the 2010 NFL Draft?

1. John Skelton - QB Fordham (Cardinals, Round 5, Pick 24)

Skelton, oddly enough a recruit coming out of El Paso, Texas finding a home in the Northeast, definitely has all the physical tools. A cannon of an arm, a 6'5 height, and a frame of roughly 240 pounds, Skelton was a man amongst boys playing mid-major FCS football at Fordham. And that would have to be the source of the skepticism.

FCS recruits are always treated with a dose of reservations about the competition level. Oftentimes, this could be worth an entire round's worth of teams passing up on a given player. Skelton threw for only 26 TDs and 10 picks while playing against teams like Bryant and Holy Cross during his senior year, but the biggest drawback outside of the competition level is probably going to be his footwork. Skelton is obviously a project-type QB, but which QB isn't in this draft? Even Sam Bradford isn't proven playing behind what basically became an NFL offensive line while at Oklahoma and played with NFL receivers in TE Jermaine Greshma, Iglesias, Broyles, and having Murray come out of the backfield. McCoy is coming off of shoulder issues. Tebow has to re-work his throwing motion. LeFevour has fundamental issues passing. Kafka isn't a great thrower. So among his peers, I think working with Skelton won't be all that different than the other QBs taken. He'll have ample opportunities in the Desert working with some great offensive weapons if Matt Leinart doesn't pan out.

2. Stevenson Sylvester - LB Utah (Steelers, Round 5, Pick 35)

Sylvester has potential. Being a little undersized, Sylvester did see some windows of opportunity close in the NFL. Being 6'2 and 231 pounds at Utah wasn't so much a disadvantage as his 'tweener measure allowed him to be quick enough to play TEs and receivers while at the same time being bulky enough to be effective up the middle stopping the run. This could be a problem in the NFL, however.

I trust that Mike Tomlin knows how to use Sylvester. Sylvester will be the source of pressure coming off of the edge and he fits the scheme pretty well. "Aggressive" is a good word that sums up what Sylvester wants to do and how the Steelers think he can find a role in the defense. Sylvester would be perfect on special blitz packages where getting to the QB quickly will be crucial. Ultimately, I think Sylvester could be very effective and find a niche in the NFL as a pass rushing linebacker. He's not going to turn into Ray Lewis or anything, but Sylvester has good value as a late 5th rounder.

3. Riley Cooper - WR Florida (Eagles, Round 5, Pick 28)

I was going to talk about some other receivers who got left out of the draft picture entirely such as Blair White (who could be very effective on short yardage situations), Seyi Ajirotutu, Freddie Barnes, Danario Alexander (this one stunned me), and Shay Hodge who would all be pretty great as slot threats or decoys, but Cooper being drafted in the 5th round should fit this role pretty well for the Eagles.

Looking to equip Kevin Kolb with some more weapons on a team that has historically had issues at receiver (up until 2009 with Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, and Jason Avant), the Eagles have built up quite a repertoire of receiving talent. Cooper can be sneakily good as the 4th, or possibly 5th option behind Hank Baskett, target in the passing game. With 4.5 speed, he's fast enough to play at this level and I think his biggest asset could be concentration when the ball is in the air. He's also a terrific route runner and while he hasn't exactly found ways to get separation against top flight talent all of the time, I think he can get some better coaching in the pros regarding that. Another developmental guy, but in two or three seasons, he could become one of the big focuses of the offense, especially with the attention being paid to the #1 and #2 guys at WR.

4. Ciron Black - OT LSU (Undrafted)

Um, excuse me? Ciron Black was projected in some mock drafts to go as high as the latter portion of the 2nd round. I figured Black would have been a mid-5th rounder at worst. Some LSU fans were a little disenfranchised with Black's effort and that may have possibly caught the attention of the scouts, but you've got an athlete to work with in Black!

Black has a pretty big frame and while he's not very fast, he's all about taking up space and adding bulk and strength to a line that may need it. He's tall at 6'5 and happens to weigh close to 320 pounds. I think teams did shy away from him due to his being overweight and occasionally taking plays off at LSU this year, but I think you could coach that out of him. At least spend a 7th round draft pick on the guy. He was very good once upon a time and could have just had a down year by his standards. I was even looking at the NFL's official Web site where one staff writer compiled a list of the best undrafted free agents, and Black didn't even make the offensive lineman list. Okay, so what, are we just going to pretend this guy doesn't exist? Geez!

5. Joique Bell - RB Wayne State (Undrafted)

Here was a surprise. Bell had garnered the attention of NFL scouts during his senior season at Wayne State, leading the GLIAC and all of D2 in rushing yards. He averaged over 6 yards a touch and also wasn't too bad out of the backfield. Unfortunately, his speed has become an issue. He's a compact, bowling ball type of RB who isn't going to run past anybody, but in one 40 drill he timed at 4.8. That's not good, but he was able to beat that previously with a 4.6 time (still not impressive).

The problem is that isn't what Bell is designed to do. He's not meant to be Barry Sanders and break out into the open field for a 50 yard spurt. Bell, even though he is just a tad little, has the body built for 3rd and short when you need a quick burst up the middle. Bell is a grinder. He also has an attitude I think that means he's ready to go. Bell had a tough time accepting the fact that scouts were dissing his ability and seems ready to prove them wrong. It'll be interesting to see who he signs with and how he's used.

6. Vladimiar Ducasse - OT UMass (Jets, Round 2, Pick 29)

I'd like to see Ducasse do well. Just note that Ducasse was picked in the 2nd round, but he still has his detractors. What I'm trying to figure out is how Ducasse is supposedly so much less of a sure thing than Mike Iupati of Idaho. They each have fundamentals that are a bit shaky as of right now, but I think Ducasse has more to work with and generally played better in college (at least what I've seen of him).

Ducasse has to be put on the inside first, even though he's originally listed as an OT. He's not quite agile enough and he doesn't have good enough hands to start on the perimeter of an NFL offensive line, at least so far. However, Ducasse's girth can allow him to be a factor at this level. I like the pick the Jets made. Make no mistake about it, he needs some tampering with his form before he can reach his potential, but when he does, I think we're talking about a Pro Bowler here. Easily the best FCS offensive lineman in this year's class.

7. Barry Church - S Toledo (Undrafted)

Another head scratcher. Church was one of the top safeties in college football for quite some time. Church's biggest attribute seems to be his tackling ability. As an all-MAC safety, Church has been racking up the hits throughout his career, even finishing nationally ranked in the top 100 for his last two years. His most active year in interceptions was his freshman year, but he still maintained a good presence in the defensive backfield for the Rockets.

Again, the issue was speed. Church measured a 4.7 time in the 40 yard dash at the NFL combine, but topped it with a 4.62 in the Toledo pro day. He certainly does need to get faster somehow in order to be an NFL starter, because the NFL certainly isn't the MAC. However, I think his instincs at the safety position could potentially outweigh any physical problems. Church was one of the more smart defensive backs I saw in the non-BCS ranks and as a four year starter, you can't top his game experience. During the combine's defensive back drills, Berry showed good promise on the skill portion. I think it would be a mistake to write off Church just yet, even though he is a longshot to turn into an NFL factor.

8. Syd'Quan Thompson - CB Cal (Broncos, Round 7, Pick 18)

Syd'Quan Thompson was arguably one of the best cornerbacks in college football once upon a time. Thompson had a very good career at Cal starting for a number of years. One of his biggest drawbacks was the fact that he limped into the Combine with an injured hamstring which meant he wasn't able to run the 40 yard dash. He did run it at the pro day, but it didn't wow anybody. That hamstring issue is still an issue, so a lot of teams didn't bother. Being 5'9 also didn't work to his advantage as NFL teams put a lot of emphasis on size at the corner spot.

But will the gamble pay off for the Broncos? It really is tough to say. From what I've seen from Thompson, I think he's really solid in coverage. I don't think he could someday become good enough to be a consistent starter in the league, but in the 7th round, it's certainly worth a gamble. He has proven himself to be one of the best Pac-10 corners for quite some time so there's potential. As long as that hamstring can get healthy, he can add some valuable depth on the bench if needed.

Eight More With Potential:

1. Blair White - Michigan State WR (Undrafted)
2. Harry Coleman - LSU LB (Undrafted)
3. Jarrett Brown - West Virginia QB (Undrafted)
4. Joe Webb - UAB QB/All-Purpose (Vikings, Round 6, Pick 30)
5. Danario Alexander - Missouri WR (Undrafted)
6. Dezmon Briscoe - Kansas WR (Bengals, Round 6, Pick 22)
7. Clint Gresham - TCU Long Snapper (Undrafted)
8. D'Anthony Smith - Louisiana Tech DT (Eagles, Round 3, Pick 10)

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