Besides that stop at Geno's or Pat's, Zach Ertz had much to digest
this past weekend.
At one moment, his former coach Jim Harbaugh had a chance to pick
him again, this time to the 49ers (that story would have written
itself, considering San Francisco legend Brent Jones has been Ertz's
longtime mentor). But one blink later, the Quack Attack's own Chip Kelly -- of all coaches -- selected him instead. Fast forward a
few hours, and Ertz found himself three time zones away, munching on
his first Philly cheese steak sandwich in the City of Brotherly
Love. Yet another snap of the finger brought the former Stanford
tight end 2,500 miles back across country, where he celebrated
his Eagles selection with fellow Farm Boys like nothing had
happened except for possibly the greatest 48-hour whirlwind of his
"I couldn't be happier to be going to play for Coach Kelly and the
Eagles," Ertz said. "My mom and dad were both born in Pennsylvania,
so it feels like this very cool circle of life. I can't stop
thinking about how the Pac-12 gave me my start, and now I will be
able to keep playing for a coach that I respected since I started at
The frenzied cross-country bounce has since settled down, but it's
still difficult to fathom that we now live in a world where Kelly
coaches Ertz while Jim Harbaugh coaches LaMichael James and Pete Carroll instructs Richard Sherman. Those players all ripped the
hearts out of their current coaches' bodies at different college
football points in the past. Now, they've become some of their most cherished
Embrace the beautiful dichotomy of college football and the NFL, one
that serves as breeding grounds for several surreal combinations.
The NFL Draft is the definite moment at which these two gridiron
worlds intersect, so it's sure to foster fireworks that overload the
senses: How about David Shaw interviewing Jim Harbaugh on national television?
The Thomas Take
A good amount was tough to process this past weekend, but not much
was more surprising than Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas' omission
from all seven rounds of picks. The Cardinal stalwart signed as an
undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints shortly after the
conclusion of Saturday's proceedings, and one has to believe that
he's bringing a heck of a bargain to the Big Easy.
After forgoing last season's NFL Draft to return to school for his
fifth year, Thomas was even more productive than he was in his
Sporting News All-America 2011 campaign. He racked up 71 total
tackles -- 19 more than his previous year's total -- and held
relatively steady at 14.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks despite Stanford's
marked improvement in defensive depth, a potential stat-killer.
Perhaps more significantly, Thomas layered about 10 more pounds of
muscle onto his sturdy frame before the season, and that commitment
further entrenched him as one of the premiere physical rocks of
perhaps the nation's best defense.
The fact that 224 selections came and passed without mention of
Thomas this past weekend is perplexing. The 4.91 40-yard dash time
he posted at the NFL Combine was the slowest of all outside
linebackers at the event, but, then again, the 40-yard dash has
little to do with Thomas' style of play on the football field.
"He plays faster than his 40 time," Shaw said about another one of his players this weekend, and those words apply to Thomas as well. "And that's all that
If Thomas ever gets into a situation on the gridiron during which he
has to sprint 40 yards on a line, in fact, it's safe to say
something has already gone horribly wrong for the defense. He has
separated himself not by his Usain Bolt impression, but rather with
his superior instincts and fundamentally excellent physicality.
Thomas possesses an uncommon skillset, and it's surprising that
professional teams didn't value it more considering the fact they're
selecting players for such an inherently violent game.
Big-time NFL Draft emphasis is placed on how well players work out
off the field. In the context of teams' desire to select players
with maximum potential, there is some legitimacy to that mentality.
But Stanford strength and conditioning guru Shannon Turley would be
the first to tell you that many of the NFL Combine's most popular
metrics don't come close to gauging the rigors and demands of actual
game play. In a sport that requires unnatural, courageous tendencies
to succeed in and around the trenches -- a hunger for
physical contact -- there's a spot for rugged warriors like Chase
Teams may have been hoping for Tom Brady-like revelations late in
this year's Draft while they surpassed Stanford's No. 44, but he'll
bring a solid football player's approach, one that is more rare than
it seems, to the next level.
Elsewhere: Tight End U
Besides Ertz, tight end Levine Toilolo and running back Stepfan Taylor were the only other two Stanford players drafted. Toilolo's
selection in the fourth round to the Atlanta Falcons (where the
legendary Tony Gonzalez is likely entering his final season before
retirement) ensured that the 2013 season will feature seven Stanford
products as tight ends in the NFL. No other school boasts more than
five. The Cardinal, meanwhile, will parade Toilolo, Ertz, Coby
Fleener, Jim Dray, Konrad Reuland, Evan Moore, and Alex Smith around
on Sundays next year.
Of course, the Falcons love Toilolo's size, and there's no question
they're intrigued by his in-line blocking ability. Harbaugh once
considered using the 6-foot-8 behemoth as an offensive tackle, and
any development Toilolo sees in the context of his catching
abilities down the road has the potential to create a lethal red
zone weapon in the Georgia Dome.
Meanwhile, Taylor will bring his versatile skill-set to the Desert,
where Arizona is in desperate need of a running game revamp. The
Cardinals chose Taylor in the fifth round to help rehaul a dismal
ground attack that averaged only 3.4 yards per carry (75.3 yards per
game) last season. University of Phoenix Stadium may be the perfect
proving grounds for Stepfan Taylor: Adrian Peterson has gobbled up
his predecessor Toby Gerhart's playing time in Minnesota, and we
know that certainly won't happen in Arizona.
Former linebacker Alex Debniak will move to fullback after signing
with Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers, while cornerback Terrence Brown
-- the only Cardinal player who passed up remaining eligibility to enter the Draft and went unselected -- signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Wide receiver/punt
returner Drew Terrell reported that he's headed to a Kansas City Chiefs rookie minicamp on Twitter. Fellow receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson is headed to the Indianapolis Colts, where he'll join Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Griff Whalen, and Pep Hamilton.
Defensive tackle Terrence Stephens will participate in a Jacksonville Jaguars rookie minicamp this coming weekend.
Padric Scott, a defensive tackle in Stanford's 2008 recruiting class that transferred to Florida A&M, has ended up a Cardinal anyway. He signed as an undrafted free agent with Arizona after powering up 39 bench press repetitions at his pro day.
Remember: Stanford led all colleges with nine rookies on NFL rosters at the end of 2012. The 2013 count likely won't be as high, but several surprises may still loom.
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
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