By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Players from smaller schools are always seeking a storybook ending to their NFL Draft experience.
People should be rooting a little extra this week that Tennessee-Chattanooga cornerback Darryl "Buster" Skrine will enjoy one.
The Cleveland Browns' selection of Skrine in the fifth round of the draft on Saturday comes in the aftermath of this week's outbreak of tornadoes and powerful storms in the Chattanooga area and throughout Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and other southern states. Nearly 350 people have died from the second-most deadly storm cluster in United States history.
Skrine (pronounced SCREEN) was picked sixth in the fifth round (No. 137 overall) and was the Mocs' first draft selection in 10 years.
In a week in which life's priorities were reaffirmed, Skrine's selection provides a little bit of a silver lining to football fans who saw scary skies in the region.
"Buster was chosen because of the hard work he put in to get himself ready to play at that level," Chattanooga head coach Russ Huesman said. "He is an unbelievable kid who deserves a chance because of his work ethic. I am very proud of him and am fully confident that he will make the team and be on a roster in the fall."
The 5-foot-10, 186-pound Skrine, from Woodstock, Georgia, was a two-time first-team honoree in the Southern Conference and made 29 starts in 42 career games. He had five career interceptions, including one with eight pass breakups as a senior last season.
He makes up for a lack of size with surprising strength and a 35-inch vertical leap. But it was his sizzling times at the NFL Combine that made his stock rise among scouts. He posted an unofficial clocking of 4.29 seconds in the 40- yard dash and had the fastest official time in the 60-yard shuttle at 10.75. He also was second in the 20-yard shuttle at 3.90 and second in the three cone drill at 6.44. SI.com called him the "fastest man from the 2011 combine."
The city of Chattanooga lost the host rights to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game after the 2009 season, but this past season Skrine helped the Mocs to a second straight winning record and their most Southern Conference victories (five) since 1985 -- all the while fan interest was up considerably.
The region needed a pick-me-up on Saturday. Skrine helped provide a small one.
KEEPING UP WITH JONES
Juniors from FCS don't often declare for the NFL Draft and Eastern Washington running back/kickoff returner Taiwan Jones fell a little further than many mock drafts had him going, but the Oakland Raiders scooping him up in the fourth round -- No. 125 overall -- could be an ideal fit for him.
Jones grew up a San Francisco 49ers fan, but he's still staying home, having lived in Antioch, California -- about 40 miles east of Oakland.
The breakaway runner, whom many rival coaches described as one of the best backs in FCS history, will return kicks for the Raiders and should work his way into the running back situation, which features Darren McFadden. The Raiders might lose Michael Bush later this year.
The 6-foot, 197-pound Jones broke his left foot in December during Eastern Washington's playoff run to the FCS title, but at his April 14 pro day he tested exceptionally well, including a 40-yard dash time of 4.33 seconds.
"He's just one of those players that can break it at any time, and that makes it tough on a defense," EWU head coach Beau Baldwin said. "He's a playmaker and you better know where he is on every single snap. And even then, he's hard to stop."
Jones ranked second in FCS in both rushing yards (145.2 per game) and all- purpose yards (201.8) this past season. He is Eastern's second-highest draft choice ever, following Tennessee Titans left tackle Michael Roos, who went in the second round as the 41st selection overall of the 2005 draft.
BIG MEN RULE
As expected, linemen highlighted the FCS draft class. The big boys filled the first four selections and there were eight linemen (six offensive, two defensive) selected overall.
Two-time first-team All-America tackle Ben Ijalana of Villanova was the first to come off the board, going to the Indianapolis Colts in the second round as the 49th selection overall.
"Ben might be the best offensive lineman that has ever played at Villanova," Villanova head coach Andy Talley said. "He will be an outstanding professional who will continue to get better. He has the physical tools and mental approach to be a top-notch NFL lineman."
In the third round, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Lehigh offensive guard Will Rackley (76th) and the New York Jets grabbed Hampton nose tackle Kenrick Ellis (94th). The Dallas Cowboys took Missouri State offensive guard David Arkin (110th) in the fourth round.
Overall, seventh-round compensatory picks Jimmy Wilson of Montana (Miami Dolphins), Mike Person of Montana State (San Francisco 49ers) and Curtis Holcomb (49ers) brought the number of FCS draft selections to 21, up from 19 a year ago.
Five selections were on The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS All-America first team last season: Ijalana; Arkin; Person; and two Appalachian State teammates, strong safety Mark LeGree (Seattle Seahawks, fifth round) and inside linebacker D.J. Smith (Green Bay Packers, sixth round).
2011 FCS DRAFT CHOICES
Indianapolis Colts (2nd round, 49th selection overall) - Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova, 6-4, 317
Jacksonville Jaguars (3rd, 76) - Will Rackley, OG, Lehigh, 6-3, 309
New York Jets (3rd, 94) - Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton, 6-5, 346
Dallas Cowboys (4th, 110) - David Arkin, OG, Missouri State, 6-5, 300
Oakland Raiders (4th, 125) - Taiwan Jones, RB/KR, Eastern Washington, 6-0, 194
Pittsburgh Steelers (4th, 128) - Cortez Allen, CB, The Citadel, 6-1, 197
Denver Broncos (4th, 129) - Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State, 6-5, 246
Cleveland Browns (5th, 137) - Buster Skrine, CB, Chattanooga, 5-10, 186
Seattle Seahawks (5th, 156) - Mark Legree, SS, Appalachian State, 6-0, 210
San Francisco 49ers (5th, 163) - Daniel Kilgore, C, Appalachian State, 6-3, 308
Green Bay Packers (6th, 186) - D.J. Smith, ILB, Appalachian State, 5-11, 239
New England Patriots (6th, 194) - Markell Carter, OLB, Central Arkansas, 6-4, 250
Buffalo Bills (7th, 206) - Justin Rogers, CB, Richmond, 5-11, 180
Cincinnati Bengals (7th, 207) - Korey Lindsey-Woods, CB, 5-11, 188
Detroit Lions (7th, 209) - Johnny Culbreath, OT, South Carolina State, 6-5, 322
Kansas City Chiefs (7th, 223) - Shane Bannon, FB, Yale, 6-2, 255
St. Louis Rams (7th, 228) - Jabara Williams, OLB, 6-2, 228
Miami Dolphins (7th, 231) - Frank Kearse, DT, Alabama A&M, 6-4, 315
Miami Dolphins (7th, 235) - Jimmy Wilson, SS, Montana, 5-11, 185
San Francisco 49ers (7th, 239) - Mike Person, OT, Montana State, 6-5, 299
San Francisco 49ers (7th, 250) - Curtis Holcomb, CB, Florida A&M, 5-10, 192
Risers - Allen, Smith, Carter, the unheralded Bannon (13 carries and 16 receptions in his Yale career), Wilson and Holcomb
Fallers - Jones, Lindsey-Woods and two surprise undrafted players, Richmond defensive tackle Martin Parker and Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
Undrafted players will remain in an uncertain situation because of the NFL's troubled labor situation. Rookie and free agent training camps won't be taking place in the coming weeks as they usually do, so teams won't be signing players immediately to join their rosters.
There are many excellent undrafted players from the FCS, including Parker; the Delaware triumvirate of Devlin, strong safety Anthony Bratton and free safety Anthony Walters; Northern Iowa tight end Schuylar Oordt; North Dakota State cornerback Josh Gatlin; Southeastern Louisiana guard Kevin Hughes; Wofford strong safety Tommy Irvin; and Fordham strong safety Isaiah Abdul-Quddus.
Some undrafted free agents could get their name called Monday night when the five-team United Football League holds a 50-play draft.
The CFL will hold its draft on Sunday, May 8.