Top six picks feel like they've something to prove

NEW YORK -- Everywhere the six players invited here traveled, they were reminded of the NFL draft's central theme: BELIEVE IN NOW.

To do that, the players requested something in return:

"BELIEVE IN ME."

And they got it. All six. The league has been inviting a handful of the top players to the draft for the past 21 years. This was the first time the entire group of invitees was selected, from the top, in consecutive order.

It was not the order many draft gurus or fans expected. Not the order the players expected. Not the order the teams drafting in the top six expected.

On a handful of team draft boards, however, the order in talent analysis went this way: Dorsey, McFadden, Jake Long, Chris Long, Ryan, Gholston.

There was not a player here among the six who failed to tell me after his selection that he should have been the first player chosen. The honor went to Jake Long, but the others insisted that the Miami Dolphins made a mistake in passing on each of them.

They said it with conviction.

They said they have something to prove.

So do the five teams that passed on Gholston. The four that passed on Dorsey. The three on McFadden. The two on Ryan. The lone one on Chris Long.

"You could always go higher, you could always go lower, but I know there is not a player here in this group who looks kindly to being passed over," Dorsey said. "And I know every time they play the team that passed them over, it's going to be a special game. I know it will be for me in those cases. I think what you're going to see is each one in this group of six go out and earn more respect. And it's not going to be with a lot of talk. It's going to be with a lot of work."

Ryan added: "In every practice, every down, every pass, every game, I am going to work to prove that I was a great pick at No. 3, that I could have been the first pick in this draft and that I am deserving of every chance I get and every cent I earn."

I felt like running an out pattern and catching a pass from Ryan right after that delivery. What a package of intensity and focus.

The same can be said about all five players here who were not the No. 1 pick.

Gholston won his share against Jake Long in their Ohio State-Michigan battles and could not understand why Long was five picks (and the top overall pick) better than him. But he said he plans on blowing up that mistake twice a year, every year, when the Jets meet the Dolphins in their divisional games.

I believe the biggest mistake was made on McFadden.

A mistake made by Miami, St. Louis and Atlanta.

I believe he will be every bit as good as Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who slipped to the seventh spot in last year's draft but won rookie of the year honors.

In fact, I believe McFadden will be better than Peterson. Over the course of their careers, better in explosion. Better in gaining yards. Better in scoring touchdowns.

Now, that is something to prove.

"I feel like I should have been at the very top," McFadden said. "But I'll take where I am now and hope to finish at the top, anyway. I want to come in on this level and make a big impact right away, and I think I can. I want to leave my mark on the pro game like I did on the college game. "

He said teams go for what they need. He said they just do not realize now how much they needed him.

The Dolphins certainly needed an anchor on their offensive line, the type Jake Long provides. The Rams needed a dynamic interior lineman to complement prior drafts and Chris Long does that. The Falcons needed Matt Ryan and a makeover at quarterback desperately. They have it.

But I believe McFadden will be one of the most dynamic players in this league for a long time. Jerry Rice dynamic. Barry Sanders dynamic. Devin Hester dynamic.

We learned on draft day that he played much of his senior season with severe rib injuries and wore a flak jacket in games. It helped contribute to his fumbling, he believes. He is not a fumbler, he said.

Something more to prove.

It is tricky, Dorsey said, this draft analysis, this thinking about one guy being better than another guy and projecting who will do what. Dorsey said he outplayed Chris Long last season and Dorsey believes he has the hardware -- the Outland, Butkus and various other awards along with the national championship trophy -- to prove it.

But Chris Long soared to the No. 2 spot in the draft not only because of his talent, Long said, but also because he has plenty of experience at handling situations when there is plenty to prove.

"I've dealt every day of my life with my dad's career, the comparisons to him, with people wanting me to live up to him," Long said of his father, Howie. "I just put that stuff out of my head, I don't even hear it after awhile -- I just turn my ears off. I know how to prove my value once I get to St. Louis. It's working every day. It's grinding every day. I'm a worker. I'm a grinder. "

With something to prove. Like his five peers.

"I start with this is not an achievement." Chris Long said. "Just an opportunity."

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