With the NFL Draft a little less than two weeks away, now is a perfect time to take a look at the player with the most local ties in the upcoming draft. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was the most dominant defensive player to sport a College of the Canyons football jersey since Isaac Sopoaga. In 2007, Pierre-Paul earned First Team All-American accolades and led the most dominant defense in COC history with 14 sacks. After a year at Fort Scott Community College, Pierre-Paul transferred to the University of South Florida, where he earned First Team All-BIG EAST in his first season at the BCS (formerly Division I) level.
His dominance at every level of the college football landscape has Pierre-Paul being considered as high as the fourth pick in the upcoming draft. If he was selected in the first round, he would be only the second player in the modern NFL era with Santa Clarita ties to do so (Kyle Boller, 19th pick in 2003 to Baltimore). The highest player with COC ties to be drafted was J.J. Arrington in 2005, whom Arizona selected with the 44th pick of the draft.
Lets take a look at some of the possibilities for Pierre-Paul in the upcoming draft.
4th pick – Washington Redskins:
Why it might happen – The Redskins have valued prospects with unlimited upside and huge athleticism over the years. Just last year, the team drafted fellow defensive end Brian Orakpo. Orakpo was considered by many to be the most physically gifted prospect in the draft, and the gamble paid off for Washington. Orakpo went to the Pro Bowl, and it was the rookie and not high-profile, overpaid free agent Albert Haynesworth who made the immediate impact on the ‘Skins defense. If Pierre-Paul lined up opposite of Orakpo, he would get to do battle with the opposing teams right tackles, who are generally less adapt to stopping elite pass rushers. Adding Pierre-Paul to a defense with Orakpo and Haynesworth would give new head coach Mike Shanahan the scariest group of athletes on a defensive line in football.
Why it might not happen – New defensive coordinator Jim Haslett plans on implementing a 3-4 defense. While some scouts feel Pierre-Paul’s athleticism would serve well as a rush type linebacker in a 3-4, he has zero experience standing up. Furthermore, the Redskins just made a move for a franchise quarterback in Donovan McNabb, and the team desperately needs a left tackle to protect their newest investment.
6th pick/14th pick – Seattle Seahawks:
Why it might happen – The Seahawks pass rush was abysmal last season. The team could really use a athlete like Pierre-Paul to pressure opposing quarterbacks, especially in the newfound pass happy NFC West. New coach Pete Carroll made his money at Southern Cal by putting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, allowing his secondary to play in a man scheme and use their athleticism to make plays. While I don’t think he is an option for a team with this many holes at 6, if Pierre-Paul drops to 14, Seattle with have to look long and hard at a player who could be the best on the board.
Why it might not happen – Seattle has so many holes it’s scary. For a team that was in the Super Bowl just a few years back, the team needs to completely re-work its offense, and most of its defense too. There are just so many what ifs. What if Jimmy Clausen falls to 14? What if CJ Spiller is still on the board? What about Dez Bryant? Or Bryan Bulaga? What if Derrick Morgan just happens to fall? A lot of this will be tied in with what the Seahawks do at 6. But my guy says they have too much to fix, and while Pierre-Paul certainly has upside, he is anything but a lock, especially on a team with no other difference makers up front.
7th pick – Cleveland Browns:
Why it might happen – Cleveland is so far from competing, new football Gestapo Mike Holmgren might take a swing for the fences. Browns fans can’t remember the last time they had someone who could get in the backfield on a regular basis. Kamerion Wimbley was a mess, and finally was sent packing. Shaun Rogers just got busted for trying to carry a loaded gun onto an airplane. The team needs a playmaker up front.
Why it might not happen – Did I mention the team is terrible? I get the feeling Holmgren will trade down and try to get more picks. They need to get stronger up front, on both sides of the ball. They need a playmaker at receiver. They need a quarterback to build around. They need a speedster at running back. They need 4 new corners, 2 new safeties, and an entire new linebacker corps. The Gestapo will know this.
8th pick – Oakland Raiders:
Why it might happen – Al Davis.
Oh, you wanted an explanation? How about this one. Pierre-Paul was a freak at the combine. He measured in at 6-5, 270 and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds. He registered a 31.5 inch vertical jump, and benched the 225 lb bar 19 times. When was the last time Al Davis passed on someone with measurements like that?
Why it might not happen – Bruce Campbell. The Maryland offensive tackle was even more freakish at the combine. The Raiders also have Richard Seymour at end. Pierre-Paul’s agent should be calling the Raiders every day to remind them of those things. If theres one thing the Black Hole has engulfed of late, it’s been the careers of first round picks. (see Michael Huff, JaMarcus Russell, Robert Gallery, Darius Heyward-Bey, etc…).
10th pick – Jacksonville Jaguars:
Why it might happen – The Jaguars have never really had a dominant pass rusher. Reggie Hayward was a nice player in his day, but that day has come and gone. The Jags have only dreamed of an athlete like Jason Pierre-Paul coming off the edge, terrorizing the likes of Matt Schaub and that one guy, ugh whats his name? Oh, Peyton Manning. Jacksonville has never had a guy who could present the type of mismatches that Pierre-Paul could bring, and while John Henderson is a shell of himself, he still could eat up enough space to give Pierre-Paul some one-on-one chances.
Why it might not happen – At some point, the Jags need a quarterback. If Clausen is on the board, the Jags need to consider him. They also need to consider Dez Bryant, Joe Haden, and Rolando McClain. The team would also have to consider Derrick Morgan, the consensus top defensive end, if he’s available. This team is interesting. If they feel like one impact player on defense could put them back in the conversation with Indianapolis, Houston and Tennessee, than either Haden or Pierre-Paul will be the pick. If they want to blow up and start over, say hello to Clausen if he’s there.
12th pick – Miami Dolphins:
Why it might happen – Several top draft experts seem to think this is the landing spot for Pierre-Paul. Bill Parcells took a chance on DeMarcus Ware in Dallas, when Ware was a raw defensive end with no linebacker experience, coming from a smaller school (Troy). Physically, the two players actually compare quite similarly. The Dolphins need to find some pass-rush help, and the signing of Karlos Dansby eliminates McClain from the conversation. The Dolphins also cut loose Joey Porter, and are poised to lose Jason Taylor as well. If Parcells and head coach Tony Sparano really think they can transform Pierre-Paul, this could be his new home. And hey, it’s right down the street from South Florida’s campus.
Why it might not happen – The Dolphins might not believe Pierre-Paul can handle a stand-up role. While the Miami linebackers don’t drop into coverage too much, thanks to the additions of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith last year in the draft, Pierre-Paul has never been asked to drop back. Further, he’s never shown an ability to be a true force against the run. If your Bill Parcells, do you really want to use a mid-first round pick on a player who might only be valuable on 3rd down?
15th pick – New York Giants:
Why it might happen – I never thought I’d say this, but the New York Giants have serious problems getting to the quarterback. Osi Umenyiora was hampered by injuries the last two years, and is a shell of his old self. Justin Tuck has struggled being “the guy” and the interior lineman are suspect at best. Three years ago, the Giants wreaked havoc on opposing teams. They need to get back to those days soon, or it could be a long year for the G-Men.
Why it might not happen – The Giants top priority should be the defensive line, but it’s the tackles that really need to be upgraded. The Giants could also take a chance on Rolando McClain if he is available, but I don’t think he fits the system very well. Tom Coughlin is a pretty straightforward coach too, and Pierre-Paul might clash with the Giants head coach.
16th Pick – Tennessee Titans:
Why it might happen – The Titans have lacked a dominant rushing force off the edge since Jevon Kearse’s first stint with the team. With Kyle Vanden Bosch gone, the Titans really need to add depth and talent at the defensive end position. The team also doesn’t have many holes. Other than wide receiver, the team has some solid talent at every position on the field. And the Titans have had several opportunities to address their need at receiver early in the draft in recent years, and have elected to go in a different direction. I don’t think there is any way Pierre-Paul falls past the Titans.
Why it might not happen – Jeff Fisher and the Titans could decide Dez Bryant is too valuable, if still available, to pass up at this point. I would be surprised if the Titans went with Bryant, especially since they could grab a receiver in the second round who could probably be productive in the teams run first, run often system. There are simply no defensive ends with Pierre-Paul’s potential that will fall to the middle of the second round.
That does it. I don’t think there is a chance the Pierre-Paul will get past the Titans. If he does, things could get interesting. San Francisco (17), Atlanta (19), and New England (22) would all have to take a serious look. No matter what happens, it’s going to be fun watching the draft day saga that will unfold around the former Cougar star.