The NFL Draft is a funny thing, especially on its second day.
Former Cal Poly football players Courtney Brown and Kyle Shotwell found that out first hand Sunday.
Brown, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound cornerback who ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash last month, expected to be taken as early as the fifth round. He wound up going in the seventh to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 212 overall, the second pick of the seventh round.
Shotwell, a 6-1, 237-pound linebacker, expected to go late Sunday after winning the Buck Buchanan Award in 2006 as the top defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). He went undrafted, but soon after signed a three-year, free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders.
Despite the unpredictable outcomes both players experienced Sunday, they were relieved that the draft process was finally over. Both will likely be in respective NFL mini-camps less than a week from today.
“I didn’t see my name,” said Brown, who spent the weekend with his family in Oakland. “I was up in my room and I got the phone call, one of the coaches was on the phone. I talked to Jerry Jones for a little bit. A couple minutes later my mom started screaming downstairs. They’re still excited. It was a good feeling to get it over with.”
Shotwell spent Sunday with his family in Goleta.
“Everyone wants to get drafted,” he said. “Fortunately, I feel like I’m in a situation where (the Raiders) didn’t draft any linebackers. I feel like that’s almost better. I feel like I’m in a good situation where I can make the team. I got to choose where I can go and made an informed decision.”
Brown’s agent, Michael R. Hoffman, said Sunday in a phone interview that Dallas should be a nice fit for his client. The Cowboys are trying to improve upon a pass defense that ranked 24th in the NFL last season.
“It’s a great situation for (Brown) at this point,” Hoffman said. “That’s a position where (the Cowboys) need some depth.”
Hoffman said Brown’s performance at San Jose State’s Pro Day on March 6, when he ran the 4.32-second 40, was pivotal.
“It was critical,” Hoffman said. “Coming from Cal Poly and not getting invited to the combine, Courtney’s worked so hard and gone from someone that wasn’t really on the radar to getting on people’s radar.”
“I think that was one of the biggest things that helped me out this year,” Brown said of San Jose State’s Pro Day. “My senior season wasn’t hyped up the way my junior year was.”
Brown set a I-AA school record with seven interceptions in 2005 before the vast majority of opponents threw away from him in 2006.
Shotwell’s agent, Ryan Tollner, said Sunday in a phone interview that the opportunity to make a 53-man roster – or at least stick as a practice-squad player – was more important than the length of contract offered to his client.
“The term of the contract really isn’t relevant,” Tollner said. “It’s the best opportunity to make the team. In the Raiders’ case, they did not draft a linebacker. Kyle has a great opportunity to compete at weakside linebacker. Kyle’s going to be a particular asset to play special teams.”
Tollner said he felt Shotwell should have been drafted, but that there was nothing more the latter could have done.
“In my opinion, he certainly deserved to be drafted,” Tollner said. “That’s the nature of the draft. They pick you and you need to be a perfect fit for them. A lot just has to do with the scouting process. Kyle did everything he could do. The key here with the draft is (that it’s) just the starting line. I think Kyle’s got a real great future in the NFL.”
The Raiders’ current starting weakside linebacker is Thomas Howard, a second-round steal in 2006 who was second on the team with 110 tackles in his rookie year. Despite a 2-14 season, he was part of an Oakland defense that ranked third in the NFL in fewest yards allowed in 2006.
Shotwell will likely have to compete with former USC safety Darnell Bing – a fourth-round pick in 2006 – for the backup spot to Howard.
Brown may have to compete with fellow seventh-round cornerback Alan Ball of Illinois – the 237th overall pick – for a roster spot. Teams usually carry six to seven cornerbacks on their active rosters.
The Cowboys’ depth chart at cornerback includes Terence Newman, Anthony Henry, Aaron Glenn, Nathan Jones, Jacques Reeves and Quincy Butler, according to the team’s Web site Sunday.
Shotwell said playing for a California team was part of the equation.
“I wanted to stay close to home,” he said. “I’m the one (rookie) linebacker they’re bringing in. You make your mark on special teams anyway. I’m going to try to be one of the best 53.”
Shotwell had 280 tackles and 12 sacks in his final two seasons as Cal Poly’s middle linebacker. He also had 88 tackles as a sophomore in the whip position on the outside.
Shotwell also rung up seven tackles (five solo) in January’s East-West Shrine Game, at which he was voted the week’s Pat Tillman Inspirational Award winner by the game’s coaching staff, which included Don Shula, Dan Reeves and Mike Singletary.
In the Buchanan Award voting, Shotwell won the honor with 23 first-place votes.
Hampton middle linebacker Justin Durant received one first-place vote.
So how did Durant, a player with the same height (6-1) and 40 time (4.5) and similar weight (235) to Shotwell go in the second round with the 48th overall pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars?
Aside from Durant, two I-AA linebackers were selected – Portland State’s Adam Hayward (sixth round to Tampa Bay) and Elon’s Chad Nkang (seventh to Jacksonville).
“I get an opportunity to make them pay,” Shotwell said. “That’s the great thing. I get a shot to go out there and say, ‘you should have drafted me.’ My attitude is, I’m going to be one of the best 53 on the team. We’ll take it from there. My job is to make the Oakland Raiders ball club.”
Brown said he became worried as the draft continued into the seventh round and he was still on the board.
“Started to get stressed toward the end,” Brown said. “We thought we were going to go in the fifth round. Not a lot of corners were drafted that first day.”
Shotwell shared Brown’s sense of surprise, but feels it could work out for the better.
“I was really surprised (Brown) dropped that far,” Shotwell said. “The Cowboys are definitely getting a steal with him in the seventh round.”