Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Manning to Manningham?

A new hat’s been thrown into the Colts’ top pick ring. Of all people, Mario Manningham WR Michigan (5116, 181, 4.59c/4.42pd) told Sirius Radio that he enjoyed some time with the Colts representatives. The reasons that’s surprising is that it would be a shock if Manningham was still available when the Colts’ first pick arrives at No. 59, and that few observers would agree that wideout is the Colts’ most pressing need.

But there are a few mitigating factors involved here. The first is that the Colts actually do need another wide receiver. The team plays three-wide more often than any team in the league. And while they have three awesome receivers in Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, (1) Harrison is on his last legs. Gonzalez appears good enough to fill his shoes, but that leaves an open spot that has been a sore point for the team since Brandon Stokely broke down. (2) Roy Hall is on the roster, but any contributions from him other than special-teams tackles would surprise me; he’s certainly not ready to play a starter’s number of snaps in the NFL.

And Manningham, who some rated as the top wide receiver in this draft some months ago, has fallen on some hard times. Or at least has done some things that have affected his draft status negatively. The first was when he ran a 4.59 forty at the combine. Manningham’s a small guy whose specialty in college was running away from people — it was important that he recorded a good time and he didn’t. Of course, he later ran a 4.42 at his pro day, but scouts won’t forget his combine times and the discrepancy begs the question: If he can’t get it up for the combine, what does he need to be motivated?

Then he admitted to failing at least two marijuana tests in college. Now it’s not Coltplay’s place (or desire) to start a debate on marijuana use or legality, but in pure football terms, it doesn’t seem to be a huge deal. Marijuana is common to the point of ubiquity on college campuses and the overwhelming majority of players associated with its use have shown no ill effects. (3) Look at Warren Sapp. He was considered if not the first pick in the 1995 draft, then no worse than third. A rumor — just a rumor, mind you — connected him to weed and he fell to No. 12 and a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Some of the “clean” players drafted before him? Ki-Jana Carter, Michael (not Brian) Westbrook, Mike Mamula and JJ Stokes. To put it in purely pragmatic terms, his admission of a few puffs doesn’t worry me as much as his combine 40.

As a player, there’s a lot to like about Manningham. He runs excellent, precise routes, has superb hands and rare concentration. He played much bigger than his size in college, but some scouts believe he won’t be able to muscle his way around the pros like he did in college. Still, it’s hard to argue with his 72-1,174-12 receiving as a senior.

I don’t think the Colts will have to worry about whether to pick Manningham or not, because it’s very unlikely he’ll be available when they’re up. But if he is still around, he may just be too hard to pass up.

Of course, the team looked at some other guys as well:

Joe Mays ILB North Dakota State (5110, 245, 4.87) is constantly compared to London Fletcher-Baker, the Redskins’ outstanding middle linebacker who is about the same size as Mays, has a similar playing style and also attended a small school. Like Fletcher-Baker, Mays pursues from sideline-to-sideline, is an effective wrap-up tackler and a pretty good blitzer. In the Texas vs. the Nation game, he always appeared to be around the ball, and showed how effective he is at shedding blocks and distributing jarring hits. His feet always seem to be moving and he’s almost impossible to knock down. But Mays is not Fletcher-Baker’s equal in pass coverage and would be unlikely to compete for a starting job in the NFL unless he improves in that area. Even if he doesn’t, he would probably stick as a spot starter, key backup and special-teams contributor. Most wil disagree, but I think it’ll take a sixth- maybe even a fifth-round pick to get him.

Shawn McMakin G Hofstra (6030, 287, e5.25) is yet another Hofstra player they like. This one is a greatly undersized, but smart and athletic lineman. He played left tackle as a senior simply because he was the team’s best pass-protecter, but would shift back to his more natural guard position in the pros. An all-around good kid, McMakin plans to be a lawyer if the NFL doesn’t pan out.

In other news, the Seahawks signed former Colts punter Reggie Hodges. I always thought Hodges was NFL quality and am glad he’s getting a chance to compete against someone other than Hunter Smith.

1. All first-round picks, too.
2. Yes, yes, Dallas Clark has been very effective in his spot — and he was split wide or in the slot on far more plays last year than he played tight end — but then who would play tight end now that Ben Utecht is gone?
3. Before you bring up Ricky Williams, I’d posit that smoking weed is among the least of his mental/emotional/character problems.

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