As we approach the end of the week leading up to the NFL Draft, we look back at the previous NFL Drafts and how they've worked out for the Cal Players drafted, and their respective teams. After a monstrous 2005 year that saw 5 Cal players taken in the draft, 2006 would prove to be a more quiet year. In place of the Heisman candidates and 1st round picks were the late rounders who exemplified the quiet yet solid strength of the Cal program for the last number of years--the offensive linemen. All 3 players who were drafted that year were O-line guys, and we take a look to see how things have worked out.
3. (136) New England (from Oakland) - Ryan O'Callaghan, OT
Ryan O'Callaghan was rated one of the best right tackles going into the year's draft. And for good reason. He started in 35 games in the course of his 4 years with the Cal program, was an All-Pac10 First Team selection, Morris Award Winner, oh and helped pave the way for a 1000 yard rusher in all of his seasons.
O'Callaghan's experience at the collegiate level and durability has served him well, as he contributed immediately with the Patriots when they picked him up in the 5th round of the draft. O'Callaghan played in 11 games as a rookie, starting in 6 of them. He helped the Patriots net 1,969 yards rushing, and more visibly, helped protect Tom Brady do what he did best--
--star in VISA Commercials.
You probably heard O'Callaghan's name called a bit more often this past season, 1) because the Patriots were the media darling because of their 18 (and 1 baby) record, and 2) played in 15 games that year. Granted, he spent most of his time in a reserve role and on special teams, but still played fairly significantly this past year. He even lined up as a tight end on a few plays. I don't think he'll be trying to click-clack like Vernon Davis anytime soon, but it's safe to say that as long as he stay healthy, O'Callaghan has a pretty bright future ahead of him with a solid franchise.
32. (201) Pittsburgh Steelers - Marvin Philip, C
Before Alex Mack, there was Marvin Philip, Cal's All-American center and the anchor of the offensive line. Although undersized for the center position at 6'1, Philip more than made up for his lack of size with good strength, leverage and technique.
Scouts recognized that while Philip wasn't necessarily the most athletic center, his grittiness and skill at his position would at have scouts looking in his direction.
The Pittsburgh Steelers pickup up Philip in the seventh round, where Philip made the active roster, but in a 3rd-string center role. Philip would only see snaps during the preseason, and because many teams don't usually hold more than 2 quarterbacks, let alone centers, on their active rosters, was waived in December of 2007.
The Browns immediately picked him up to provide depth at the center position behind Hank Fraley. Interestingly, the Green Bay Packers were also interesting in picking up Philip, but the Browns got the first choice because of their worse record. Huh. I for one would have been interested in seeing Rodgers take snaps behind Philip again in a few years, just for old times sake.
40. (248) Buffalo (Compensatory) - Aaron Merz, G
Aaron Merz was the last of the three Cal O-line men who would get picked up in the draft. Merz went from walk-on to second-team All Conference player. At the end of his senior season, Merz was given Cal's Ken Cotton Award as the team's most courageous player, as an inspiration to the rest of his team.
Aaron Merz is also a smart dude. Why? First off, he was a fellow Sociology major at Cal. Didn't see him in any of my classes though. Secondly, the guy reportedly scored an impressive 39 on the Wonderlic exam. That's 33 points better than another young NFL Player:
With the Bills, Merz was moved to a backup center role and didn't see any playing time as he was inactive for the 2006 season. 2007 didn't look any better for Merz as tore the left labrum in his left shoulder and would miss the preseason, and eventually the rest of the season. He was eventually released in February, and is currently a free agent.
Please, someone just pick the guy up. I'm getting depressed writing up on all these former Cal players who are getting rocked by injuries in the pros before they end up hanging it up. Just goes to show you how tough it is to make it in the big league. Hopefully Merz can get signed and get some playing time somewhere else.
Alright, the 5th and final part of this series wraps up tomorrow as I recap last year's 2007 draft and the goodness that followed.