NFL Draft: Well-known names go in third round
By Barry Wilner
NEW YORK ó After threatening Barry Sanders’ single-season rushing record in college, Kevin Smith now can concentrate ó or at least dream about ó Sanders’ marks with the Detroit Lions.
The Central Florida running back and nation’s leading rusher in 2007 was chosen atop the third round of the NFL draft Sunday. The Lions even traded up two spots with Miami for the privilege of beginning the second day by grabbing Smith.
Last season, Smith rushed for 2,567 yards and scored 29 touchdowns. Sanders’ set the single-season record with 2,628 in 1988, when he won the Heisman Trophy. He went on to a Hall of Fame career over the next decade with the Lions.
Detroit will settle for a semblance of that from Smith, who left the Conference USA school as a junior after first saying he would return to college.
“I never thought of myself as chasing Barry Sanders. He’s a legend,” Smith said. “My numbers might have been close, but I was just thrilled to be close to someone like that. Now I get to play in the same organization, which is a dream come true.”
Other third-rounders looking to prove themselves in the NFL will be defensive back Chevis Jackson (Atlanta), running back Jacob Hester (San Diego) and receiver Early Doucet (Arizona), all from national champion LSU. Hester could fill the role of LaDainian Tomlinson’s stand-in previously held by Michael Turner, now with the Falcons, and the Cardinals need another wideout after losing Bryant Johnson to San Francisco.
Texas running back Jamaal Charles was chosen by Kansas City and West Virginia RB Steve Slaton was taken by Houston. The Giants took Michigan’s big-play receiver, Mario Manningham, who could be groomed to eventually replace former Wolverine Amani Toomer.
New England chose San Diego State quarterback Kevin O’Connell, causing one pundit to remark: “Is this the end of the Tom Brady era?”
Southern California quarterback John David Booty was the second selection in the fifth round, by Minnesota after the Vikings made an in-division deal with Green Bay. The Packers already had their QB of the future: Brian Brohm, chosen in the second round on Saturday, yet chose Matt Flynn of LSU in the seventh.
Tennessee passer Erik Ainge went to the Jets at No. 162 overall, six spots after Oregon’s Dennis Dixon was taken by Pittsburgh.
Michigan star runner Mike Hart slipped all the way to 202nd overall, to Indianapolis.
“I never questioned myself,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do because it’s out of my hands at that point. I was just hoping I got picked up somewhere and go and try to prove myself again.”
In all, the two days and seven rounds ó the first two rounds featured shortened time frames for picks ó took 14 hours, 26 minutes. David Vobora, a defensive back/linebacker from Idaho was the final selection.