FOOTBALL

NFL Draft: Timing, in more ways than one, hurt UA picks

2012-04-30T00:00:00Z 2012-10-06T14:00:39Z NFL Draft: Timing, in more ways than one, hurt UA picksRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 30, 2012 12:00 am  • 

One year and one day ago, Nick Foles was being touted as a future first-round pick. Juron Criner was the Pac-12's top returning wide receiver, and Trevin Wade was viewed as a project, but a projectable one.

So it's no wonder that the 2012 NFL draft ended Sunday with a tinge of disappointment. The three Arizona Wildcats picked during the three-day, seven-round celebration of haircuts and handshakes were taken well below their projected slots, their stocks marred by a disappointing 2011 season and an exhaustive evaluation process.

The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Foles, the Arizona Wildcats' all-time leading passer, with their third-round selection. Criner was taken in the fifth round by the Raiders, and Wade - once projected as a third-round pick- was a seventh-round selection of the Browns.

"It was just like when I was trying to get into college. The exact same," Wade told the Star on Sunday. "When Cleveland came in at the end, it reminded me of when Arizona offered (a scholarship) three days before signing day."

This year's draft taught the Wildcats - and us - three things:

1. Sometimes, body type trumps body of work. The modern NFL is a game for elite athletes, workout monsters and projectable players. Simply performing at the college level is no longer enough.

Foles, the nation's fifth-leading passer as a UA senior, slipped all the way to the third round following a run on athletic quarterbacks. Boise State's Kellen Moore, college football's all-time wins leader as a quarterback, wasn't even drafted; ditto for Houston star Case Keenum.

NFL teams instead gravitated to dual-threat quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III (No. 2 overall, Redskins) and Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill (No. 8 overall, Dolphins), a pair of converted baseball players (Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson) and a onetime basketball recruit (Arizona State's Brock Osweiler).

Foles told reporters Saturday that he's faster than he seems.

"I'm not a Mike Vick," he said, "but I'm able to extend plays with my feet."

2. Measurables matter. Just ask Foles, whose 5.14-second 40-yard dash time caused his draft stock to slip. Or Criner, who lacked the explosiveness possessed by most first- and second-round players. Wade refused to run his 40 at Arizona's pro day in March, and reportedly turned off a handful of scouts.

Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict was burdened by considerable baggage, none worse than his inability to run a proper 40, and wasn't drafted at all.

3. Records reflect. Fair or not, players from winning teams traditionally get drafted higher than those who played for losers.

In Thursday's first round, 29 of the 32 players selected played for teams with winning records, and six of them - Alabama's Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont'a Hightower and LSU's Morris Claiborne and Michael Brockers - were on the field for the BCS National Championship game.

The three who didn't play for a winner were Boston College's Luke Kuechly, Memphis' Dontari Poe and Syracuse's Chandler Jones. A winning record wouldn't have made Foles and Criner faster, or Wade taller. But national exposure can make a ton of difference on draft day.

"Of course, it's all about winning," Wade said. "I'm sure if we went 13-0 and won a national championship, we probably would have had 10 guys drafted. The USCs, the Alabamas, the Texases, they always have the kinds of players that get drafted. It's hard to get (your name) out there when you're losing."

DRAFTING THE PAC-12

This year's NFL draft picks, by program. (First-round selections in bold):

• Cal: 6 (Mychal Kendricks, Mitchell Schwartz, Bryan Anger, Marvin Jones, D.J. Campbell, Trevor Guyton)

• Stanford: 4 (Andrew Luck, David DeCastro, Coby Fleener, Jonathan Martin)

• Oregon: 4 (LaMichael James, Josh Kaddu, Mark Asper, David Paulson)

• Arizona: 3 (Nick Foles, Juron Criner, Trevin Wade)

• USC: 3 (Matt Kalil, Nick Perry, Rhett Ellison)

• Arizona State: 2 (Brock Osweiler, Omar Bolden)

• Colorado: 2 (Ryan Miller, Toney Clemons)

• Washington: 2 (Alameda Ta'amu, Senio Kelemete)

• Oregon State: 1 (Brandon Hardin)

• Utah: 1 (Tony Bergstrom)

• UCLA: None

• Washington State: None

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