A bittersweet day for Miami Hurricane fans as the concept of the NFL Draft has definitely lost its luster the past few years. But before going into that, a hearty congrats to Jimmy Graham, Darryl Sharpton, Jason Fox and Dedrick Epps, all of which are headed to the next level.
Graham was taken first (third round to New Orleans – 95th overall), followed by Sharpton (fourth round to Houston – 102nd overall), Fox (fourth round to Detroit – 128th overall) and Epps (seventh round to San Diego – 235th overall).
Available Canes not taken were Javarris James, Sam Shields, AJ Trump, Eric Moncur, Joe Joseph, Tervaris Johnson and Randy Phillips. Some of which have since signed on as free agents. (James to Indy… Shields to Green Bay… Trump to Pittsburgh… Joseph to Houston… Johnson to Kansas City.)
As much as I want to turn this into a rant – building a case for why Miami football has fallen into the lurch it’s in, I’ll avert the temptation to ‘go there’. The proof is in the war room; where Hurricanes haven’t been in the tips of many GMs tongues in a while.
Four Canes drafted in 2010 is the most since five Canes went in 2007. Three went in 2008, with Kenny Phillips the last Miami first rounder. In 2009, back up linebacker Spencer Adkins was UM’s only pick; a sixth rounder. The last time a lone Cane was drafted? Cornerback Gene Coleman in 1980.
2009 proved to be the draft day low, just as 2007 was where Miami football, as we know it, bottomed out. Many gripe about that 5-7 start for Randy Shannon, on the heels of a 7-6 run that got Larry Coker fired. The new guy did worse than the old guy. Some couldn’t get past that, but looking back Shannon lost out on three first rounders – Brandon Meriweather, Jon Beason and Greg Olsen – two of which have become Pro Bowl caliber players.
Addition by subtraction is part of the recipe when rebuilding, seeing players from yesteryear moving on while young, hungrier players awaited their turn. Four years back, Miami lacked the depth to replace superstars. These days the Canes are stockpiling the stars of tomorrow, the old regime now completely fazed out.
A program that’s seen twenty-six first rounders since the millennium eventually got to a point where this year’s first Cane off the board was a former-basketball-player-turned-tight-end with one year playing experience. That’s not a knock on Graham in the least. It’s simply proof how far a once mighty program has fallen, not to mention how easy a thirteen-year streak can be taken for granted.
Miami has a sure-fire first rounder in Allen Bailey next spring, while some others could play their way into a higher spot. One is a far cry from the six first round Canes seen in 2004 – but every journey starts with that initial step.
The on-the-mend Canes of the late 90s started with one. After a 9-3 season in 1998, Edgerrin James was the fourth pick of the 1999 NFL Draft. A year later Daniel “Bubba” Franks went number fourteen to Green Bay.
The Canes rolled to 11-1 in 2000 and sent four first rounders to the league months later – Dan Morgan, Damione Lewis, Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne. (It would’ve possibly sent two more had Ed Reed and Bryant McKinnie declared, as they were ready to before Butch Davis asked them to stay and win a title… before himself bolting.)
Five first rounders in 2002, four in 2003, a half dozen in 2004 and back to one in 2005. One in 2006. Three in 2007. One in 2008 (fittingly the final pick of the first round). None in 2009 or 2010.
Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas had 29 total players drafted this year; ten in the first round. For those keeping score, that’s two national champions and two runner ups.
Even more telling, the Sooners went from title game front runner to 8-5 after losing future first rounders Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham front runners.
Merriweather, Beason and Olson may not have been as valuable as a Heisman-winning quarterback, but it helps justify a 7-6 to 5-7 slide in that Coker to Shannon transition. Though once a ‘gimmie’, first round talent is nothing to take for granted.
Congrats to the four drafted Canes, as well as the five who signed free agent contracts. This is your moment. Make the most of it.
The corner has been turned and after last year’s draft day snoozer, Miami took one step closer to relevancy. Next spring a new first round streak begins.