Gone west: Southern stars benefit Chiefs, 49ers

Southern schools are doing themselves proud when it comes to stockpiling the NFL with prime talent come each April’s draft. The 2007 haul was particularly impressive, even with a couple of amazingly underwhelming first-year performances.

The Kansas City Chiefs dipped into the SEC well last year and were rewarded with a huge rookie season from Dwayne Bowe, formerly of the LSU Tigers. Rookie wide receivers normally have a substantial learning curve (more on that in a minute), yet Bowe hauled in 70 catches for just shy of 1,000 yards (995, to be exact) and five scores. This, despite having to catch most of those passes from second-year quarterback Brodie Croyle, who was operating behind a below-average offensive line and without the threat of Larry Johnson to move the sticks. Bowe’s 6-foot-2 frame has filled out to 225 pounds while he has actually picked up a fraction of speed. He continues to be a very good downfield blocker and has the mental make-up of a veteran. He’s KC’s No. 1 receiver and should be for years to come.

Obviously the Chiefs had no reluctance mining the SEC for more talent in this year’s draft, taking Bowe’s former college teammate Glenn Dorsey with the fifth overall selection and he immediately became the starter at one of the defensive tackle spots. TE Brad Cottam was one of the team’s third-round selections and he’ll serve an apprenticeship under Tony Gonzalez for the next couple of seasons, while also seeing time in two-tight sets.

KC didn’t shy away from ACC talent, either, as four of the team’s picks came from the conference, including guard Brandon Albert from Virginia a mere 10 picks behind Dorsey. He and fellow ACC alum Brandon Flowers (CB, Virginia Tech) are slated to start on Opening Day, as well.


San Francisco also did well looking south in 2007’s draft, getting NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Patrick Willis from Ole Miss. The former Rebel played like a 6-1, 240-pound ball of anger, totaling a mind-numbing 174 tackles in his first year. The Niners went defense with their top pick this year, too, getting D-tackle Kentwan Balmer from North Carolina and the pride of Weldon, N.C., is already penciled in at the nose for San Fran. He could be joined in the lineup by Josh Morgan, a flyer from Virginia Tech who could take one of the starting wide receiver spots from Jurassic Isaac Bruce.

One team that shied away from the SEC was the team that got burned the worst last year. That’d be the New Orleans Saints, whose first-round selection of Tennessee wideout Robert Meachem couldn’t have produced less of a return – Meachem wasn’t active for a single game all season, as he showed up overweight and then got injured. The Saints’ best bet for some southern love in this year’s draft is DeMario Pressley, the huge defensive lineman from NC State that the team tabbed with its fifth-round selection.

Oliver can be heard on 790 The Zone’s “Afternoon Saloon” weekdays from 4-7 p.m. and can be reached at king@790thezone.com.



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