One fourth-round draft pick won’t be ready to run until August. Another wasn’t ready to talk to his new team because he was in the middle of his graduation ceremony.
Those were the least of the complications Saturday at the NFL draft, which completed its three-day run at Radio City Music Hall against a backdrop of a restored lockout. Right now, no one is sure when clubs will be ready to let any players walk back in to team headquarters.
”With the lockout, there’s so much uncertainty,” said tight end Kyle Rudolph, a second-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings. ”I’m just focused on getting myself in the best shape as possible and being ready whenever we are allowed to” show up.
A total of 254 players were selected over seven rounds. But only a few lucky first-rounders were able to pick up playbooks Friday during a brief time when the lockout was lifted.
The Carolina Panthers opened the fourth round by selecting West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan. The 5-foot-10, 192-pounder not only has off-field issues, but he’s recovering from ligament surgery on his left knee. Hogan won’t be able to begin running full speed until August.
”My knee is ahead of schedule,” he insisted. ”It’s getting stronger and getting used to doing things.”
The Panthers, who chose quarterback Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick to open the draft Thursday night and added a pair of defensive tackles Friday, are hoping Hogan recovers and stays out of trouble to bolster a secondary in need of depth.
The Seattle Seahawks went next and picked Mississippi State linebacker K.J. Wright. General manager John Schneider gave Wright a call in Starkville and was puzzled why the player had so little to say. Well, it turns out Wright was just about to receive his diploma at his graduation ceremony.
”As soon as I got off the phone, two minutes later I had to go up there and walk across the stage,” Wright said.
Day 3 of the draft was the first full day that players were locked out again after a brief respite Friday. That night, however, an appeals court decision allowed the league to reinstate the lockout that had been lifted earlier in the week.
But the draft carried on because it is protected under the old collective bargaining agreement, which expired March 11.
Dan Lauria, who stars as Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi in the Broadway show ”Lombardi,” ended the sixth round by making the Packers’ pick — Arizona linebacker Ricky Elmore.
The draft concluded with the Houston Texans picking Rice linebacker Cheta Ozougwu. As the final pick, he will be honored as ”Mr. Irrelevant,” a weeklong celebration in Newport Beach, Calif., that began in 1976.
The Arizona Cardinals, trying to improve their pass rush, selected Texas linebacker Sam Acho in the fourth round. The 6-1, 257-pounder in December won the Campbell Trophy and a $25,000 scholarship given by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame as the nation’s top scholar athlete.
Acho’s parents emigrated from Nigeria, and each summer he returns to the country with his father and brother on a medical mission.
Another Matthews joined the NFL when Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews was picked by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 19th pick in the fourth round. He’s the brother of Packers All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews. The Eagles are well aware of Clay Matthews – they had a hard time handling him last year.
”Clay had some success against them,” Casey Matthews said. ”At the conclusion of my visit when I was out there, Coach (Andy) Reid said, ‘Tell your brother we’re going to get him next year with you on the team.’ And I told Clay that. I don’t think they have the Packers on the schedule, but hopefully we get them in the playoffs.”
Minutes later, the Eagles made Nebraska All-American Alex Henery the first kicker taken with the 23rd pick of the fourth round. Henery hit 18-of-19 field goal attempts (10-of-11 from 40 yards or longer) and all 54 extra points last season. He also punts.
Eagles longtime kicker David Akers is a free agent, but the team has placed a transition tag on him and would have a chance to retain him.
The Cleveland Browns, with a pick from Atlanta, chose Stanford fullback Owen Marecic, a two-way player who also played linebacker. He won the inaugural Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player.
The 6-0, 246-pound Marecic ran for five touchdowns and had two interceptions last season. In a 13-second span against Notre Dame in 2010, he scored on a 1-yard TD plunge and returned an interception 20 yards for a score.
The Browns plan to use him on offense, but special teams might work, too.
”Hopefully I can find big ways to contribute on special teams, which is a little bit of defense in itself,” Marecic said.
The Washington Redskins were wheeling and dealing again Saturday after collecting 10 picks for rounds 4-7 by the end of Friday night. They made a five-pick swap with the Texans and took Nebraska running back Roy Helu Jr. early in the fourth round.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has a knack for finding productive running backs. Maybe he’s got another in Helu, who ran for 1,245 yards last season.
”History is proof for itself, all the running backs and the offensive lineman that have worked under him and the success that they’ve had,” Helu said.
Three quarterbacks were taken in the fifth round – the Kansas City Chiefs went for Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi, the Texans took North Carolina’s T.J. Yates and the Chicago Bears picked Idaho’s Nathan Enderle.
The Baltimore Ravens went for Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the sixth round. He had a 34-8 record as a starter and last season was voted ACC player of the year after throwing for 2,743 yards and 24 touchdowns with five interceptions.
The 12th and last quarterback picked in the draft was Alabama’s Greg McElroy, taken by the New York Jets in the seventh round — No. 208 overall.
One notable player who went undrafted was Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, who was diagnosed with cancer after being chosen ACC player of the year in 2008. He missed the 2009 season, was declared cancer free and played last season.