An afterthought in the draft, Woodson out to disprove doubters

NEW YORK -- Tom Brady was drafted eight years ago at pick No. 199.

Andre Woodson went to the Giants on Sunday afternoon at pick No. 198.

Similarities exist in these sixth-round picks. Both are quarterbacks with big arms. Both possess superior football intelligence. Both found their college production relatively ignored.

And the major common element: Too many teams passed on these two snappy passers.

I am not saying that Woodson is Brady.

I am saying that Woodson was certainly not deserving of being the 12th quarterback taken in this draft. He deserved much more.

And I believe he will become the best quarterback in this draft.

Oh, he might sit awhile behind Eli Manning, who is just getting started, with a Super Bowl championship in only his fourth pro season.

But the Giants have a splendid backup they can groom for their own enjoyment or a commodity they could use for prime trade value. They have a quarterback who when he gains opportunities in preseason games or as a sub in real games will turn heads.

I see a star quarterback here.

"You can use late picks to develop quarterbacks, and with Eli here, we have an unusual chance to do that," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "His value was too good to pass up in the sixth round. He played at the highest level against major competition in the Southeastern Conference. We love his production."

How about 40 TD passes and 11 interceptions last season? How about 71 TDs and 18 interceptions over the last two seasons? How about a stretch of 153 passes during his career without an interception? And then another such streak -- the NCAA record -- of 325 after that? How about leading Kentucky to consecutive bowl-game victories for the first time in 56 years?

How about doing all of that in a conference that produced the most players (35) in this draft?

That is Woodson.

Scouts thought he threw with an ugly, worrisome hitch in their pre-draft studies. But Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown practiced his unit against Woodson, against that "hitch" for four years.

"This is a very, very sharp, smart quarterback," Brown said. "He has excellent touch. He reads coverages extremely well. He can get you into the right play. He is one of the better quarterbacks I've seen in the college game in the last couple of years. He compares in style to Jason Campbell of the Redskins. But Andre is going to make his own mark in that league."

Woodson was reached via telephone at his home in Lexington on Sunday night.

"I was at my mom's house watching the draft and about midway through the fifth round I got in my car and drove the hour and a half or so back to school," Woodson said. "I was feeling pretty low. I came in and turned on the draft again and within about five minutes, they called my name. And just like that, I'm a Giant.

"Obviously, it was a long draft. It was draining. I thought I would go midway in the second round or no later than the fourth round. I don't know what teams saw in my game that they did not take me. But I've got a great opportunity with the Super Bowl champions to work with a great coaching staff and with great quarterbacks, including Eli. Sure, I think a lot of teams blew it. They missed on a good quarterback. I definitely plan on proving that."

Just like Brady, Woodson hopes.

With a journey that despite the fall, at least, begins one pick, one step shorter than Brady's.

Fancy feet

The passing game, particularly spread offenses, continue to evolve as a primary NFL staple.

And this draft was a read-react exercise in matching fancy feet with fancy feet. Thirty-one cornerbacks were selected with 14 chosen in the first three rounds.

But receivers remained the leaders in the chase. Thirty-five receivers were chosen overall with 15 in the first three rounds.

Receivers ranked first in most popular position selected. Cornerbacks ranked second.

Memorable shoes filled

When the Denver Broncos lost Darrent Williams, who was murdered two New Year's nights ago, they have since searched for a difference-maker in the kick return game.

Virginia Tech's Eddie Royal should be the answer.

Royal was selected in the second round by the Broncos and plans on giving the team a huge lift in the return game. Denver coach Mike Shanahan is counting on that.

"Every time he touches the ball he thinks he has the ability to make a big play and score," Shanahan said. "That's what you're looking for."

Royal added: "I definitely feel I can come in and be that guy."

Another bonus: Shanahan says Royal was "the best wide receiver vs. bump coverage in the draft."

Slaton lands in Houston

I thought West Virginia running back Steve Slaton was among the quickest, most impressive backs at getting to the edge and turning the corner in the draft.

Many personnel experts before the draft told me otherwise.

They felt his game was too one-dimensional -- an edge guy only -- and that he would not duplicate his collegiate success on the pro level because defenses match his speed much more than college ones.

But that was not the Texans' assessment. They simply saw a playmaker.

They remembered the player who rushed for 204 yards vs. Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl, the second-best total ever in a BCS bowl game.

It is an excellent fit for Slaton. Houston coach Gary Kubiak will utilize Slaton often as a third-down, change-of-pace back, as a pass catcher and in other special situations.

Slaton will shine.

Top division, top conference

The AFC East -- especially New England, Miami and the Jets -- had the top drafts in the AFC. The NFC East -- riding strong drafts from Dallas, the Giants and Washington -- was tops in the NFC. Give the AFC a slight edge over the NFC in overall quality selections.

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