April 8, 1999
Berkeley - With the NFL draft on the horizon (April 17-18), several Cal players are in the mix as possible choices for NFL teams.
Four Cal players stand very solid chances of being drafted, with safety Marquis Smith being the most likely highest pick. Smith is rated the No. 4 safety in the draft by Pro Football Weekly, while draft guru Mel Kiper ranks him the No. 9 safety. Both rate him far ahead of first team All-Pac-10 safety Larry Atkins of UCLA.
In the rankings compiled by Frank Coyle of CBS Sportsline, Smith is rated the No. 55 overall prospect, a ranking that would place him as a late second round draft choice.
Smith, who had a recent workout in San Diego for several pro teams, said he expected to go somewhere in the second round, although "there's a slight chance I could sneak up late into the first round." He said, "You never know with the draft and a lot of teams play some mind games with you about how much they like you. The teams that seem to have the most interest are Denver, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Philadelphia, but again, you never know what they are really thinking."
The San Diego workout earlier this week, along with Texas' Ricky Williams and Colorado's Darren Hall, saw him slightly pull a hamstring. He did that near the end of a 40-yard run and then he fell into a young man who was situated at the end of the running area. In trying to avoid the young man, he sprained his ankle. "It's no big deal, I just tweaked my hammy and the sprained ankle should be fine in a week or so," said Smith. "Besides the pros had all seen me run a 4.3 during my workout in Berkeley, so speed isn't really a question.
"I'm ready for the process to be over and to start playing football," said Smith. "They all are saying 'he's a great athlete with great speed, but can he cover?'. My feeling is that they can't find any film with me getting beat, so I don't know where that judgment is coming from. I ready to get into a pro camp and show what I can do.
Other Cal players in Coyle's rankings are defensive end John McLaughlin as the No. 157 prospect (fifth round), wide receiver Dameane Douglas as the No. 170 prospect (sixth round) and John Welbourn as the No. 179 prospect (sixth round).
Douglas believes he could go as high as the second round, but he's like the other Cal athletes who have attracted a lot of interest and could go much higher than the supposed draft expert's projections.
Douglas is ranked the No. 19 wide receiver in the draft by Pro Football Weekly (with only Arizona's Jeremy McDaniel at No. 18 ranked ahead of him from the Pac-10. Welbourn is ranked the No. 12 offensive guard (although he played tackle at Cal), with only Washington's Tony Coats (at No. 11) in the league listed ahead of him. McLaughlin is rated the No. 20 defensive end by the same publication, although some teams believe he'll play at outside linebacker in the pros.