It is always fascinating to watch the NFL Draft unfold as the pros go through their own evaluation process.
Perhaps the most amazing thing that I heard Thursday night came from NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who relayed something that Butch Davis told him. On the heels of Jonathan Cooper going No. 9 overall, Mayock pointed out that the Tar Heel guard was the 33rd first-rounder that Davis had recruited during his 10 years as a college head coach (at Miami and UNC). That number would swell to 34 when DT Sly Williams was picked later in the first round.
Technically, Davis' claim would be that he recruited and/or coached 34 first-rounders over those 10 years. If you split hairs (and hey, it's the Internet; that's what we tend to do), Davis probably gets credited for recruiting 28 of those players.
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We'll subtract his first four No. 1s from his days at Miami: Ray Lewis, Yatil Green, Kenard Lang and Kenny Holmes, since they were already in the program when Davis came back to Miami from the NFL to rebuild that program. We'll also subtract Kentwan Balmer and Hakeem Nicks from his tab at UNC since they were already there, too.
Still, it's remarkable what Davis did as a recruiter. And, yes, I know it's not hard to raise some eyebrows given the hot water that Davis' staff got into at UNC, especially his top assistant, John Blake.
For comparison sake, in Nick Saban's last dozen years as a college head coach (at Alabama and at LSU), 22 of his recruits have gone on to become first-round picks.
The bulk of Davis' bounty came from his six seasons at Miami. More impressively, much of his work came while battling through NCAA sanctions that he inherited. In many cases, Davis' staff wasn't beating out other powerhouses for blue-chippers; they were finding guys that few others were really onto.
Davis might add to his first-round total depending on how some of his UNC guys keep developing. OT James Hurst, DE Kareem Martin and CB Tim Scott all are coming off strong 2012 seasons and are on the NFL's radar.
Perhaps the only thing even more amazing than his work as a recruiter is this key stat: In Davis' 10 seasons as a head coach with all of that talent, he only had one year in which he had double-digit wins and finished in the top 12 (2000).
The following are all of the first-rounders that Davis produced as a head coach:
Miami: Ray Lewis (LB), Yatil Green (WR), Kenard Lang (DE), Kenny Holmes (DE), Duane Starks (CB), Edgerrin James (RB), Bubba Franks (TE), Dan Morgan (LB), Damion Lewis (DT), Santana Moss (WR), Reggie Wayne (WR), Bryant McKinnie (OT), Jeremy Shockey (TE), Phillip Buchannon (CB), Ed Reed (S), Mike Rumph (CB), Andre Johnson (WR), Jerome McDougle (DE, Willis McGahee (RB), William Joseph (DT), Sean Taylor (S), Kellen Winslow (TE), Jonathan Vilma (LB), D.J. Williams (LB), Vernon Carey (OT), Vince Wilfork (DT), Antrel Rolle (CB) and Kelly Jennings (CB).
North Carolina: Kentwan Balmer (DT), Hakeem Nicks (WR), Robert Quinn (DE), Quinton Coples (DE), Jonathan Cooper (OG) and Sly Williams (DT).
Here are more first-round nuggets that caught my eye from Day One:
* I'm not shocked that Manti Te'o didn't get picked in the first round. As I reported after the Combine, there were a lot of NFL coaches and personnel folks not wowed by him.
"Good player... solid... very instinctive... not truly elite ... he's a two-down player ... he's not a 'match-up' player," were the comments. "Based on all those awards he won in college and all the hype he got you'd think he had Patrick Willis talent; he doesn't."
Anyone who watched the BCS title game can obviously say I told you so, but it's still pretty jaw-dropping to see the man who won more individual awards than anyone in the history of college football (Te'o won the Lott, Maxwell, Bednarik, Walter Camp, Nagurski, Butkus, Lombardi and the Senior CLASS Award, as well as finishing second in the Heisman) not go in the first 32 picks of what everyone called one of the weakest drafts in history.
* More than 20 percent of the first round were guys who came from the junior college ranks with Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson joining Oklahoma's Lane Johnson, Utah's Star Lotulelei, Houston's D.J. Hayden, Missouri's Sheldon Richardson, UNC's Sylvester Williams and Oregon's Kyle Long. One college assistant told me late Thursday night to expect many more junior college products to become first rounders in the future with stiffer NCAA academic requirements already in the works, meaning more gifted athletes will not qualify out of high school.
* Favorite bargain first rounder: the Bengals landing Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert at No. 21. The guy has great ball skills. He played on an ND team with suspect QB play and average wideouts last season and still proved to be a difference-maker despite all of the defensive attention. Eifert goes up for passes like he's 6-10 and runs like he's 6-2. Andy Dalton should be elated.
* Like everyone else, I was stunned to see FSU QB EJ Manuel go to the Bills at No. 16. Manuel has great size, good athleticism and is very bright. Is he accurate enough to become a star? We'll see. One thing that I heard from a good source was that it was a challenge for him running the offense knowing he had a few receivers whom he just couldn't trust in the offense running their routes and executing their assignments. Stuff like that shouldn't be as much of an issue for him at the next level.
* In Bama OG Chance Warmack, I think the Titans got themselves a guy who'll be a rock for their organization for the next decade. So does Joe Pendry, the former Crimson Tide O-line coach, who told me the explosive Warmack reminds him of [nine-time Pro-Bowler] Ruben Brown, a player whom he coached in the NFL.
* Speaking of Warmack, he became the sixth top-10 pick that Alabama has had in the previous three seasons. Nick Saban is in the midst of a jaw-dropping run. Since 2009, the Crimson Tide has had 14 first rounders -- doubling the next highest SEC team (Florida) and surpassing the Big Ten teams combined (13), according to Jon Solomon of al.com. Bama's five-year run, as impressive as it is, still falls well short of Miami's 20 first rounders from 2000-04.
* The first-rounder that I think was the biggest reach? I'll say BYU's Ziggy Ansah, who only had 4.5 sacks in his entire college career. I love Ansah's backstory, but he's not even a one-year wonder. He's a Combine/Workout wonder. The Cougars' D did have a great player on it in 2012 but that guy, play-making LB Kyle Van Noy, comes out in next year's draft.
* The Mike Sherman era in College Station might not be fondly remembered by the Aggie fans, but the old NFL line coach had a good eye for talent. Luke Joeckel is the first of what might prove to be three first-round OTs that Sherman recruited at A&M in the 2010 signing class with Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi in the pipeline.
* Stat of the Day: Oklahoma's Lane Johnson is the third former Texas high school QB from the 2008 recruiting class to become a top-five pick (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III). Johnson, of course, did it as 300-pound offensive tackle. Johnson is actually the fourth top-20 pick from the former Texas high school QBs in that recruiting class if you include Kendall Wright, the Titans' No. 20 pick last year. He played QB and CB at Pittsburg (Texas) High.
* Stat of the Day, Take II: Ohio State's 2008 recruiting class is the school's first since 1999 to produce zero first-round NFL draft picks, notes Marcus Hartman. And it wasn't for lack of expectations or hype. That '08 class had four five-star guys according to Rivals (Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Mike Brewster). It also had nine other four-star recruits.
* The story of Eric Fisher is another reason why Tennessee Vols fans should be very excited about their future with Butch Jones, especially as it relates to unearthing talent, as I pointed out a few weeks ago.
* Six guys who didn't go in the first round whom I expect will make a Pro Bowl at some point in their NFL careers: QB Geno Smith, WVU; WR Robert Woods, USC; CB Johnthan Banks, Miss. State; WR Justin Hunter, Tenn., WR Quinton Patton, La. Tech and LB Jamie Collins, So. Miss.
* From the "What a difference a decade makes" file: The 2003 first round had eight Pac-10 players, six from the Big Ten, six from the Big 12 and only three from SEC. On Thursday night, the SEC -- after having run off eight BCS titles since the '03 draft -- tied an ACC record with 12 first rounders, including five guys from the SEC West going in the top 11 picks. Overall, the ACC had six No. 1s, the Pac-12 had five, the Big 12 had three and the Big Ten had one.