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Assessing the Pac-10 In The NFL Draft After Round One

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Washington's Jake Locker, shown working against Oregon St. last October, was the highest pick of Pac-10 players in this year's NFL draft, going #8 overall to Tennessee.

<em>(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)</em>
Washington's Jake Locker, shown working against Oregon St. last October, was the highest pick of Pac-10 players in this year's NFL draft, going #8 overall to Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)

Three Pac-10 players were taken Thursday night in the first round of the NFL draft, led by Washington QB Jake Locker, who went eighth overall to the Tennessee Titans.

Right behind was USC OT Tyron Smith, who was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the ninth choice. California DE Cameron Jordan rounded out day one, going to the New Orleans Saints with the 24th. overall pick.

Smith was right about on target with various projections, and I agreed with both the gurus and the Cowboys in their assessments.

Locker surprised some going that high, but recall he was a top 5 projected pick a year ago had he come out early. I wasn't surprised, given the Titans need a quarterback of the future, and he appears to be a good fit there. I wasn't uncomfortable with the pick at all, as it makes sense to lock up a player you think is your guy, even if it's a few picks, but not a whole round, early.

Jordan was a mixed bag as far as expectations went. Many had him higher, based on an impressive set of individual tools, while others, myself included, thought he could be a 2nd/3rd round pick. Having seen him, and seen how an Oregon St. offensive line many felt wasn't up to par managed to manage him, I see Jordan as a "fit" player, one whose' success, and draft status, varies with the needs and plans of a given team.

The Saints and Jordan are a good fit for each other, though, and no one should be unhappy about how this one played out.

Today should see a lot more action involving Pac-10, and other west coast, players, as the second and third rounds unfolded.

Initially, I expected a number of players to go here, Oregon St.'s Stephen Paea included, to fall here. What did surprise me was to have a record number of defensive linemen taken in the first round AND that list did not include either Paea OR Arizona DE Brooks Reed. Neither of those developments by themselves are so surprising, but in combination, they seem to be at odds.

That neither of the UCLA top prospects, safety Rahim Moore and LB Akeem Ayers surfaced on day one came as a mild surprise to me as well, figuring at least one would impress someone enough as a physical specimen to get selected.

That that didn't happen isn't of great concern on any level, however, as there was a discernable slant toward players from farther east, which is understandable. While scouts look everywhere, there are still more of them operating from east of the Mississippi, and they see more of those players more often. So they are more sure of what they are getting, and that's not an unreasonable thing when investing a first round pick.

Today should see several picks of relatively great value involving Pac-10 (and even Boise St.) products. Broncos WR Titus Young, as well as Paea, Reed, Ayers, Washington LB Mason Foster, and USC DT Jurrell Casey probably will know who their next employer is by tonight.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com