Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yale products on NFL radar

Not since Nate Lawrie was drafted by Tampa Bay in the sixth round of the 2004 NFL draft has a Yale player heard his name called on draft day.

That could all change on Saturday as fullback/h-back Shane Bannon, tight end Chris Blohm and defensive end Tom McCarthy have drawn interest from NFL squads.

Bannon ran the 40 in 4.69 seconds in front of NFL scouts last month and was right in that range both at Yale's pro day and when he worked out for agent Joe Linta. Now Linta believes there's a very good chance that Bannon will be drafted on Saturday on the final day of the draft.

"He had a great workout. Then I got his highlight film and there was no question he was a draft pick. In my opinion, he is better in my opinion than the kid from Stanford, Owen Marecic. At that point I started calling around like a crazy person. A lot of the teams called me back right away."

Linta estimated that 14 teams have expressed an interest in Bannon.

"He is the No. 1 guy in the country in terms of combination of size and speed," Linta said. "That is the most compelling thing. He is 25-30 pounds heavier than a lot of the fullbacks and he is at least a tenth or two tenths (in the 40) faster than all of them. If we have free agency Saturday night in case Shane doesn't get drafted, I can guarantee you - I'll give you $100,000 - that he will sign, it is lock."

That's not bad for a player who was pondering skipping the 2010 season to allow his ailing shoulder to recover.

Bannon was able to get a clean bill of health and became a key component on Yale's offense as the starting fullback. Although he did not carry the ball, he did catch 13 passes and opened up the holes so Yale's top three rushers (Alex Thomas, Mordecai Cargill and Deon Randall) combined to average 4.6 yards per carry.

When the season ended, Bannon worked out diligently with Blohm, Adam Money and Sean Williams and now the dream of playing in the NFL is close to becoming a reality.

"I think going into my junior year was the first time Coach (Tom) Williams had mentioned that he thought I had the ability to play at the next level," Bannon said. "I think from there, the shoulder (injury) put me back a little bit not really being sure if I was going to have to redshirt or not. This year, not missing any time, not missing any practice it was great. My doctors did a great job on my shoulder and I didn't have any issues, never second guessed it. This season I felt like I developed myself and put enough on film to put me in a pretty good position to try to get to the next level.

"I think it is great, especially that I have had somebody to work out with. Blohmer, Money and Sean Williams to work out with has been great. It is really easy to lose focus through this whole thing because it is such a long process, you work 12 weeks, you have a 12-week workout regiment. It has been even harder since pro day with individual team workouts, doing extra conditioning under our strength coach. It has been awesome."

McCarthy graduated in December so he has been working out in New Jersey. Like Bannon, he got bigger and faster since the end of the season. At the Fordham pro day, McCarthy put on a show. At Yale pro day, he only did selected drills but still when the event ended, the New England Patriots scout on site asked McCarthy for his contact information. McCarthy has worked out for about 10 teams and 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive ends who run 4.7 40-yard dashes tend to draw interest from NFL teams and that is the case with McCarthy.

"Teams have called me in the past few days to verify my contact information for draft day so I take that as a good sign," McCarthy said.

McCarthy was drawing interest from Division III schools before Yale began recruiting McCarthy. Now he is perhaps only a couple days from possibly hearing his name called in the NFL draft,

"I think I am going to be pretty anxious that day," McCarthy said. "If I get drafted, it will be in one of the later rounds. I will be sitting around all day playing the waiting game. I am sure I will be looking at the clock and I am sure it will be going by pretty slowly.

"I can't even begin to imagine what that will be like. I won't be able to say for sure what that will be like until if it happens I guess. obviously I'll be very excited at the opportunity to play in the NFL but other than that, it is something I won't know until it happens."

Blohm, a native of San Francisco, worked out for the San Francisco 49ers recently. It doesn't hurt that the 49ers have 12 picks in the draft, more than another other team.

"His best chance (of being drafted) would be the 49ers in the sense that they were the last team to see him in person," said John J. Perez, who is representing Blohm and former Yale defensive back Adam Money.

"He has done everything we have asked him to do. His film is very strong. He is a very consistent player, a steady blocker. That is his strength, he is a prototype NFL kind of blocking tight end. I think he has better than average, above average receiving skills when they put him through the workouts and watch the film. He had limited opportunities in the Yale offense but he catches the ball when it is thrown to him. I think he fits that role as a blocking tight end, No. 2 tight end in the red zone. There are teams who are looking for those guys. Jacksonville, a run-orientated team, New York Giants, the Patriots play with multiple tight ends, Miami Dolphins are looking for a tight end. Teams that are communicating with the (Yale football) office and us are teams that are in need of tight ends and specifically blocking tight ends. It is going to be the right fit for him and nobody really knows what is going to happen.

"If this was a normal year, i would say that he is an undrafted rookie free agent but with this year what we hear is maybe teams will start reaching in that seventh round and try to collect extra picks to kind of dip into those rookie free agent guys and try to gobble them up in the seventh round because they just don't know whether they can offer them contracts after the draft. There could be a surprise for Chris. It would be a great surprise for him, his family and Yale. I think most likely if everything is normal, he is a guy after the draft."

At the request of the Yale coaching staff, Perez was asked to look at Money and liked what he saw.

"There has been a last minute rush (of interest in Money)," Perez said. "From Adam's pro day there was a buzz with him as well in terms of the numbers he put up, the speed numbers, quickness. We reviewed the film, liked him, met with him and represent him too. He is more of a long shot but you never know."

The NFL draft begins on Thursday with the first round. The second and third rounds will be held on Friday with rounds 4-7 on Saturday.

If more than one former Bulldog is taken, it would be the first time that has happened since Eric Johnson and Than Merrill were taken on consecutive picks in the 2001 draft. Three Yale products have not been taken in the same draft since 1982.

"I think there is a great chance that all three could be drafted and at the very least, two of the three will be drafted," said Yale coach Tom Williams, who was an assistant coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars before coming to Yale.

"I will be as anxious as they are. I will definitely be watching. The NFL draft is something I get drawn into so I will be watching and I will certainly be keeping in touch with those kids and keeping my fingers crossed that it will work out the way they want it to."

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