Lawson, White figure to be first-round picks
There are several players, overshadowed by college teammates at their positions, who also have emerged as solid NFL prospects.
If you are a regular viewer of the ABC series "Lost" (shameless plug for another Disney-owned network), you know all about "The Others," the mysterious and menacing but rarely seen cutthroats who inhabit part of what certainly must be the world's biggest uncharted island.
When it comes to identifying NFL draft prospects, league scouts know all about "The Others" as well, although they don't necessarily have to use dynamite to open steel-tight hatches or punch in a numerical computer code every 108 minutes to unearth them. Just pop in a videotape to assess the collegiate accomplishments of some high-profile prospect, it seems, and one of "The Others" quickly emerges as a candidate, too.
No machete handiwork or mucking through the jungle required.
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In recent drafts, "The Others" have crept increasingly into the talent pool. Since 2000, there have been 34 players from the same school and the same position chosen in the same year. Six of the pairings were first-round choices: defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud of Georgia in 2001; Miami wide receivers Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne in 2001; Miami corners Phillip Buchanon and Mike Rumph in 2002; Tennessee defensive tackles John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth in 2002; Miami linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams in 2004; and Auburn running backs Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown in 2005.
This year's lottery, though, includes more than the normal allotment of "The Others," and certainly more in the high rounds. In many cases involving prospects from the same college program and who play the same position, the 2006 draft demonstrates that being the second-most recognized player at a university (or a particular position) doesn't always mean being viewed as a second-rate talent.
Some of the draft pool's second bananas in 2006 are clearly first-round prospects. Throughout the two-day proceedings this weekend, there is likely to be lots of double dipping.
"I think that with the way I played, [scouts] would have found me even if I wasn't teamed up with a guy like Mario," said Lawson, one of the few hybrid edge players in the draft inventory. "But having him on the field, with NFL people coming to see him even if he was only a junior, it sure didn't hurt any, did it? I mean, being called the 'other' [defensive end], yeah, maybe it got old at times. But he's a great player, and I think I'm pretty good, too, and I feel like we'll both have good professional careers."
The same can be said for many of the other players, beyond the obvious ones who everyone seems to know, in this draft. So here's a look at a dozen of "The Others" (maybe as many as there really are on the "Lost" island, for all we know) who aren't quite as prominent:
• Texas cornerback/safety Cedric Griffin
• Southern California guard Fred Matua
Not as big or as talented as running mate Taitusi Lutui and will probably go about a round later than the Trojans' other outstanding interior lineman. Matua is a tough, blue-collar blocker but flashed surprising athleticism at the USC pro day workouts, and that likely earned him a spot among the first-day picks. He's the kind of in-line blocker a team will get at a modest price, and he should develop into a solid player in time.
• LSU defensive tackle Kyle Williams
The irony for Williams is that he now may be selected higher than his more formidable teammate, Claude Wroten, who is sliding badly because of character issues, including reports of an alleged positive marijuana test at the scouting combine workouts. Williams can't stack up athletically to Wroten, but he is tough, competitive and deceptively quick, and plays with a big motor. He also proved surprisingly adept at blocking kicks. Williams won't pass the "eyeball test" for a lot of teams, but he's the kind of guy you want on your team and should be a first-day selection.
• Florida State outside linebacker A.J. Nicholson
Has more size and plays with nearly as much energy and intensity as Seminoles first-round prospect Ernie Sims. But some teams deem him a character risk because of two alcohol-related arrests, and one other serious off-field allegation, and either dropped him on their boards or removed him entirely. Minus the red flags, Nicholson is a promising player, a guy who never was as productive as he should have been, but a very good athlete.
• Penn State cornerback Anwar Phillips
The draft stock of better-known Nittany Lions cornerback Alan Zemaitis has slipped because of poor 40-yard times and subpar workouts in general, but he's still a very good football player. So is Phillips, who doesn't run very well, but has pretty nice size and is a very aware defender, especially in zone coverages. Because of his speed limitations, it's probable that Phillips will have to move inside to safety at the next level.
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While USC's Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart are surefire first-round picks in the NFL draft, one of the key players who kept them safe and opened holes for them in defensive lines must wait. Deuce Lutui, a one-time nearly 400-pound lineman knows all about overcoming adversity and creating your own good fortune. His story
Sunday morning on Outside The Lines.(ESPN, 9:30 a.m. ET/6:30 a.m. PT).
• Ohio State linebacker Anthony Schlegel
How does a guy even get noticed playing on the same unit as Hawk and Carpenter, who both will be taken in the first round? It's not easy, but Schlegel, who transferred to OSU from the Air Force Academy, managed to catch scouts' eyes and should be a middle- to late-round pick. He's a bit short-armed and doesn't possess much range, but is a workaholic, and a gritty defender against the inside run.
• Georgia cornerback Tim Jennings
Lack of size (5-foot-7¾, 185 pounds) is always going to be an issue for the munchkin-like Jennings. But his blazing speed (in the high 4.3s), scrappiness and man-to-man cover skills could earn him a career as a nickel cornerback. If he had the size of fellow Bulldogs cornerback DeMario Minter, he'd be a very high pick. As it is, some team will get itself a feisty, technically sound defensive back in the middle rounds.
• Wisconsin wide receiver Jonathan Orr
Teammate Brandon Williams has terrific deep speed, big-play skills and return ability. But Orr is no slouch, either. He's got the kind of size (6-2 1/8, 198 pounds) the scouts like and has surprised some teams with his 40-yard times, consistently in the mid-4.4s. He had eight touchdowns each as a freshman and a senior, and averaged an impressive 17.6 yards per catch those years, but inexplicably only started two games combined in his sophomore and junior seasons. He's got sufficient talent to make some team's roster and his stock has improved over the past month.
• Miami offensive tackle Rashad Butler
Was forced to replace more heralded teammate Eric Winston at left tackle for eight games in 2004 when the latter went down with a knee injury, then moved back to the right side for the '05 season. The irony is, given his size and quick feet, he might be better suited to the left side in the long run. He has a long frame, at 6-4½, but will need to get his weight up from 293 pounds. He's had some nice workouts and may have moved himself into position to be a first-day pick.
• Purdue defensive end Rob Ninkovich
He actually beat out his more highly regarded but occasionally underachieving teammate, Ray Edwards, for the starting job halfway through last season. Has played some at linebacker, so he is probably best suited to a 3-4 team. One drawback, however, is that Ninkovich might lack the kind of quickness necessary to play in a two-point stance. He's got a big heart, though, and should make some team's roster as a middle-round pick.
• Ohio State safety Tyler Everett
Has a similarly stout physique to that of likely Buckeyes first-round safety Donte Whitner, but doesn't play as fast as his teammate and struggles to disengage from blocks at times. Was forced to play cornerback in 2005 but his most natural position certainly is at safety and he is most productive playing close to the line of scrimmage.
• Tennessee defensive tackle Tony McDaniel
Mammoth size (6-6¼, 317 pounds) and raw potential might give him more long-term upside than Vols standout tackle Jesse Mahelona, who seems to be a little overhyped by some scouts. Has some off-field issues but this is one big, powerful guy who, with the right coaching, could become a player.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .