...and all we have to show for it is a lousy Music City Bowl trophy and 0-4 record versus NC State.
After seeing four Tar Heels taken in the first three rounds, five other former UNC players were picked on Saturday. In probably the biggest shock of the day, UNC only had one defensive back taken and it was neither of the two players everyone assumed would be drafted. S Da'Norris Searcy was taken in the fourth round at 100th overall by Buffalo.
In the fifth round, two players who, a year ago, were both at a crossroads heading into their senior seasons, were taken in the NFL Draft. RB Johnny White was taken 133rd overall Buffalo joining Searcy in upstate New York. White was an afterthought last spring with Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston tabbed for most of the carries heading into the 2010 season. Then came the NCAA scandal which forced both Draughn and Houston to miss games opening the door for White. The senior was impressive until a broken clavicle in the FSU game sidelined him for the season. Likewise QB T.J. Yates watched Bryn Renner impress the world in the 2010 spring game and faced a growing sentiment he should no longer start. Yates responded by being "the guy" on a team in turmoil leading the offense with multiple 400 yard passing games and being solid in almost every facet of his game. The Houston Texans tabbed Yates at 152nd overall, something that would have been unheard this time last year. In both cases, I have no idea whether it will pan out but it is great two stand-up guys are getting a shot.
LB Quan Sturdivant's marijuana arrest last summer and a nagging hamstring injury was obviously enough to give NFL teams pause. Sturdivant slipped all the way to the sixth round where Arizona made him the 171st pick. And yes, if you had Yates going before Sturdivant I recommend buying a lottery ticket. TE Ryan Taylor rounded out UNC's record setting day going 218th to Green Bay.
The biggest surprise of the NFL Draft from a UNC perspective was who was missing among the 254 picks. Deunta Williams and Kendric Burney were both expected to be picked but at the end of the day are undoubtedly wondering what their next step will be. In Williams' case, I imagine the inability to workout and the broken ankle scared enough teams off they were unwilling to risk a pick. As for Burney, it is a tad more mysterious. Based on the combine Burney was seen as undersized and there were concerns about his ability to be physical with bigger receivers. Burney's 40-yard times were in the 4.7 range is a tad on the slow side for a corner. Still, I agree with Joe Giglio on this one. Of the 53 defensive backs taken in this draft, Burney or Williams isn't among them? The real tough part of this for Burney, Williams and other undrafted players is the lockout which was reinstated by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday. That means none of these players can be picked up by a team right now and start the process of fighting for a roster spot. On one hand this might work out better for Williams who needs another month to be ready to play. For Burney(and Williams too) it is total uncertainty. Needless to say the past nine months have been really crappy for both of these guys. You can only hope it gets better soon.
Even though UNC was not able to fully reap the benefits of having a boatload of NFL Draft picks, the true upside of today for the Tar Heel program is the recruiting pitch. The safest bet you can make right now is Butch Davis and his coaches will use the phrase "nine NFL Draft picks" until they are blue in the face. UNC tied USC for most picks in the draft which I also imagine will be mentioned with some regularity on the recruiting trail. Overall the past few days were good for the UNC football program. At some point I really hope we see some good days like this on the field in the near future.