I don't think that the NFL draft and making an NFL roster is the only way to measure a college football team or a college football program.
There are very good and very effective college players who -- for whatever reason -- are not cut out for the NFL.
I also don't think that producing NFL level talent is meaningress when assessing a program either. It may not be the be all and end all, but I don't think it's too far afield to suggest that the teams consistently producing pro football players are the best teams, by and large.
I was watching the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday on television. One of my kids is a big Jags fan because he followed Maurice Jones-Drew to the NFL. He also likes Marcedes Lewis, of course. And now, he's a fan of the whole team and he likes Fred Taylor and David Garrard and the whole squad.
While we were watching the game, he asked me what other UCLA running backs were in the NFL. (He might have asked because the Jags were momentarily losing and he was looking around for another team. He did put on his MoJoDrew jersey at halftime and Jax ended up beating the Broncos in Denver, so the search for a new team never got going).
The thing is, I couldn't think of a single UCLA running back in the league right now, other than Jones-Drew. That doesn't mean there aren't any -- is DeShaun Foster playing anywhere? -- but it probably means that none of them are getting any significant minutes.
Furthermore, who are the UCLA quarterbacks in the league or for that matter the UCLA wide receivers in the league? Okay, Matthew Slater is on the Patriots, but I really consider him more of a special teams star and he might be playing defense for them anyway.
So, are there any UCLA skill position guys in the NFL other than Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis? If there are, are any making an impact? I mean, I'm not talking about Drew Olson playing for some practice squad, if he even is playing for a practice squad (and Matt Moore doesn't count). I'm talking about guys who get consistent hand offs or balls thrown their way or who are on the two-deep at quarterback.
As far as I can tell, only the two Jaquars are serious impact players in the NFL.
It's a little different on the defensive side of the ball. Depending what game I watch, I'm always hearing UCLA guys called on defense. Ricky Manning, Jr. had a sack yesterday (I was watching the highlights, I think he's with the Rams.) Chris Horton is starting. Jarrad Page was playing for the Chiefs last gime I watched the Chiefs. Brandon Chillar gets his name called. Travis Kirscke is with Pittsburgh, I'm pretty sure. (As an aside, NFL Sunday Ticket is great, but watching parts of ten different games can lead the names to start running together.)
Instead of using google to find a couple of guys I neglected to mention, consider this:
What does it say about our program that so few of our skill position players are impact players in the NFL?
Even if there are a couple of guys I'm not thinking of, is it safe to say that UCLA is not consistenly producing NFL skill players -- which is another way of saying that UCLA has not really had elite runners, catchers or throwers in recent seasons.
Our star receivers and runners have been at best marginal pros, with a few exceptions that include the two Jags and DeShaun Foster.
Is there something to be gleaned from this observation? Maybe, maybe not.
I realize some will come back to what I wrote at the top, that NFL success is not the definition of a great college player.
But while I accept that, I'd still argue that UCLA has not recently recruited the best of the best athletes at the skill positions and that those we have recruited have not taken their game to the NFL level under the tutelage of our past coaches.
Let's look at this team.
Are there any skill position players who you see making an impact in the NFL?
With all due respect, no way Kevin Craft looks like a pro quarterback. He's the only qb we really use, so I can't say that any of the others has NFL potential and the one guy you'd have thought would have that potential -- Ben Olson -- has never shown he's that kind of quarterback.
At running back, well I'm no scout but I really don't see Khalil Bell or any of those guys tearing up the league. Aundre Dean does have a great reputation and has been hurt, so maybe he does, but he hasn't shown anything yet.
At receiver, Terrence Austin has been our best guy. He might be a pro, maybe, but I think he's a kick returner before he's a starting receiver. Taylor Embree is playing well, but he's very young -- let's be generous and say he has a chance, but nothing definite. Marcus Everett is coming back hopefully soon, but he doesn't seem much different than all the other receivers we've had here who were semi-pros at best.
(I have to say, I thought Logan Paulsen might have pro potential, but he needed to show it this year -- we'll find out next year, most likely).
Finally,and while I don't want to take this in a whole new direction -- who were the last few offensive lineman from UCLA to make an impact in the pros? Maybe there are some that I'm not thinking of, but I'm just not hearing their names called on Sundays.
What think you all of this phenomenon or lack thereof?