April 27, 2010

Caroline's Tiger Pause: NFL 2010 Draft Review

Photo Credit: Ben Liebenberg / NFL.com

I was so very happy to see our beloved CJ Spiller taken in the top 10 of the NFL draft. There were a lot of rumors swirling about where CJ would end up but only one draft analyst even mentioned Buffalo. Buffalo came as a surprise to everyone but Spiller who said that since his visit to Buffalo a few weeks ago he had a feeling that was where he was going to land. Spiller went on to say “I’m very excited that they made the decision. It’s one that they will never regret”. And all Tiger fans can certainly agree with that statement - the only thing that surpasses CJ’s talent on the field is his character off of the field.

Many analysts believed that Seattle was definitely going to take Spiller with their second pick (#14) in the first round. Some thought they might have even pulled the trigger with their 1st pick (#6). Jon Gruden, ESPN analyst and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach thought that Seattle was crazy to bypass Spiller. He said that Spiller was by far the most talented player in the draft this year and would absolutely be the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. It is also believed by most that the Jacksonville Jaguars would have taken him with the #10 pick, but Buffalo made a quick decision — their plan all along was to take Spiller if he was available.

The NFL, in general, usually goes after need first. Running back was not a glaring need for the Bills, especially compared to some of their more obvious weaknesses. But Buffalo knew what we have always known, CJ Spiller was too special to pass up. General Manager Buddy Nix said “He is a playmaker. A guy that creates field position and scores points and he is exciting. We need some excitement, somebody that can make a big play and create things on their own. We are void of big playmakers. We have good players, but a guy that has this kind of world class speed can help us in so many ways. We have returners, but this guy is going to be in the mix. He is a guy that can get you field position, you can throw it to him or you can hand it to him. There are a lot of things he can do. I am excited about giving a guy like this to Chan Gailey to see what he can do with him. He will use him in a lot of different spots and be creative in ways to get him the ball. I told you guys last time we met, need is important, but it had to be a guy that we thought was the player that could come in here and start immediately. Not to say some of those guys couldn’t, maybe they could. We also think we have a chance to get that position filled later on in the draft and to be honest with you there is only one Spiller.”

And I don’t think that it hurt that the Bills new head coach is Chan Gailey who saw first-hand what CJ Spiller is capable of when he was the head coach at Georgia Tech. I know many fans feel that Buffalo was not the best case scenario for CJ, but there are some real positives to the situation. First of all, CJ is going to be a star anywhere. Secondly, CJ has the potential to be the face of the franchise from a much earlier point than would have been possible at most NFL teams. The general manager said himself that they are a team that is void of big play makers — they are going to use CJ in a variety of ways to get him the ball and get him in the end zone.

In addition to being a first round draft pick, CJ has also signed endorsement deals with Adidas and Subway. The Adidas deal “is one of the biggest shoe deals for an NFL Draft prospect since Reggie Bush's deal a few years back," said Mikhail, President of Creative Sports International. "The deal will feature a national print campaign, as well as a national commercial."

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and his wife Kathleen joined CJ Spiller and his family in New York at the draft and did not leave without first purchasing Buffalo Bills merchandise for the whole family. Spiller moved out of his apartment in Clemson last weekend and returned to Lake Butler, Florida; Swinney said it was like seeing a son leave home. All of Tiger Nation will eagerly follow CJ’s pro career, and I think there will be a surprising number of Buffalo Bills jerseys in South Carolina. CJ is a living legend and without question one of the greatest Tigers in history. Buffalo has no idea how truly lucky they are.

Clemson had a total of 8 former tigers to sign with pro teams. Jacoby Ford was chosen in the 4th round by the Oakland Raiders. I believe he could be one of the great steals of the draft. We all know how special Jacoby is - and though he may be on the small side for NFL receivers, there is certainly no one who can catch him.

Ricky Sapp is another Tiger who went later than expected. Sapp was actually named as one of the top steals of the NFL draft by USA Today. He was drafted in the 5th round by the Philadelphia Eagles. Crezdon Butler was also taken in the 5th round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kavell Conner was drafted in the 7th round by the Indianapolis Colts.

In addition to the five that were drafted at least 3 Tigers have signed on as undrafted free agents. Michael Palmer signed with the Atlanta Falcons, Thomas Austin signed with the Minnesota Vikings, and Chris Chancellor signed with the Cleveland Browns.

Congratulations to all of these former Tigers - we look forward to watching you all play on Sundays!

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