Carolina football’s big weekend…

I don’t plan on being in the habit of posting on football, even when the season starts, but it is difficult to ignore this past weekend’s NFL draft, one that Carolina knew a year and a half ago would be historic for the program. It took a roundabout way of arriving, and it looked much different than originally anticipated, but we did have our weekend in the sun leading the nation with nine draftees to set a school record and get pundits talking again about just how talented our 2010 team was.

The immediately obvious answer to how a team with nine players drafted never won more than 8 games is that three of the first four did not play a down this season, but it isn’t the best. For one, three straight bowl appearances with eight wins is a major accomplishment for this program that matches our historic concentration of NFL prospects. Secondly, the balance of our nine picks (five on defense, four on offense) does not accurately reflect the dynamic of our team. The past three seasons will always be marked by a nationally elite defense coupled unfortunately with a mediocre offense. If the scandal that sidelined most of our star defensive players had never happened, it is possible that we would have been top ten in the country or higher, but it is also possible that our offense provided a ceiling for this team that couldn’t be eclipsed.

The decision by the Houston Texans to draft T.J. Yates in the fifth round today glosses over the wide gap between our defense and our offense in a way that borders on insanity. T.J. Yates is not a fifth round quarterback. He isn’t even worth a look as an undrafted free agent. But he is tall with a strong arm and gained attention as Carolina entered the top 25 during his career thanks largely to our defense. To anticipate objections to the harshness: I’m not hating on T.J. – he did some great things at Carolina – but a mediocre to good QB in the ACC doesn’t get to play in the NFL. The other bizarre pick from our offense was the selection of Ryan Taylor by the Packers. Taylor was so far off the draft board Mel Kiper hadn’t ranked him among available TE’s or bothered to give him a grade, and the Packers chose him above undrafted but injury prone Zach Pianalto.

What this weekend’s draft might have looked like if a) these two exceptionally strange picks did not occur and b) our defense stars were never sidelined by scandal and maintained their draft stock of spring 2010:

From the defense alone, Quinn is a top three pick, Austin goes in the first round, and in addition to Carter, Sturdivant, and Searcy, NFL teams also select Kendric Burney, Deunta Williams, and Charles Brown. All but Searcy were at one time ranked in Todd McShay’s Top 40.

That would have left our count at a more appropriate balance of 8 for the defense and two for the offense, three if Pianalto is selected as he should have been. This demonstrates two points about our season and the draft: that this NFL draft could have been even bigger for the Heels and remains a missed opportunity, and that our offense may never have been good enough to realize the potential of the D.

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