Ryan Chartrand

NFL Draft picks are not like bubblegum.

They don’t just come and go for cheap prices before being disposed of with little care or concern.

In fact, NFL teams – all except Washington – hold them close to their chests in a death grip akin to a wild animal protecting its young.

But in the jungle known as the National Football League, guess what?

Here is little, old Cal Poly with a player drafted in each of the last three years. Linebacker Jordan Beck (2005) and defensive end Chris Gocong (2006) were third-round selections and cornerback Courtney Brown (2007) a seventh-rounder.

For a Division I-AA school (forget the Football Championship Subdivision title), this is impressive. It’s more than some I-A schools can say.

Sure, we are yet to see a Cal Poly product become a Pro Bowler.

But since the Rich Ellerson era began in 2001, there are already signs of players making an impact in the NFL.

On their respective teams’ Web sites one day after the draft, Beck was listed as the Atlanta Falcons’ starting middle linebacker and Gocong the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting strong side linebacker.

Former Cal Poly cornerback David “Doc” Richardson, who signed an undrafted deal with Jacksonville in 2004, was converted to free safety at the next level and played in nine regular-season games from 2004-05. He is now in NFL Europe.

Here are some other thoughts as the aftershock from draft weekend begins to subside:

So what about that school of thought, that it is better to go undrafted than selected late?

Hard to say.

You could ask that question, though, of Priest Holmes, Kurt Warner, Adam Vinatieri, Tony Romo, Jeff Garcia, Rod Smith, Jake Delhomme, Jeff Saturday, Matt Lepsis, Willie Parker, Mack Strong or Antonio Gates. They all went undrafted.

And as hard as it is to guess what’s going through the heads of NFL executives on draft weekend, one thing can be said for Kyle Shotwell, Cal Poly’s Buck Buchanan Award-winning linebacker who went undrafted before signing a three-year free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

Shotwell was not the only college star to go undrafted. Others included Florida quarterback Chris Leak, Notre Dame running back Darius Walker and receiver Rhema McKnight, Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky, Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko, Texas running back Selvin Young, Tennessee fullback Cory Anderson, New Hampshire receiver David Ball and two Great West Football Conference standouts – UC Davis offensive tackle Elliot Vallejo and North Dakota State safety Craig Dahl.

Book it now – more than one player on that list will be on an NFL roster come Week 1.

Thank goodness for Day 2.

That’s what many small-school prospects had to be saying after watching only two I-AA players go on the first day.

Fifteen I-AA players, though, were taken on the second day, including Brown.

In Brown’s case, going in the seventh round to a Dallas team desperate for depth at corner is a good thing.

It is a misconception that players taken in the seventh round are doomed to be cut.

Tom Nalen, Donald Driver, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Marques Colston were all taken in the seventh round.

When people talk about the 11th hour, they’re not kidding.

Saturday’s three rounds lasted 11 hours, 4 minutes – the longest first day in NFL Draft history.

Personally, I don’t mind watching all 11 hours. It’s like a great party that goes until 6 in the morning. You don’t plan for it. It just happens, so enjoy it.

In all fairness to casual fans, the first round could have the time between picks condensed from 15 to 10 minutes.

But then they could make it eight rounds instead of seven, right?

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