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The Curious Case of Davone Bess

I almost called this post “The Curious Case of Kevin Boss”, but Bess is more current. You may know him as the Dolphins’ best possession receiver down the stretch; he’s also the guy who caught a touchdown pass against the Baltimore Ravens (no mean feat) in Week 7 on a cute little combo route. He might very well do it again this weekend. Bess finished the regular season 49th in DYAR, which isn’t bad for a rookie in an offense that features tight ends as well as any in the league – Bess’ DYAR is the highest among ‘Fins receivers. (Conversely, Koren Robinson led the Seahawks in DYAR at 68th; he was the only starter above league average). Bess came on strong late, catching 54 passes total and enjoying the second most prolific undrafted rookie season in catches in NFL history (Wayne Chrebet topped him with 66 catches in 1995). He’s a smallish guy who isn’t afraid to go inside.

I have two fundamental issues with Tim Ruskell’s draft strategy. The first, which is his desire to have “ready-made” players at every position, leads to things like taking David Greene in the third round due to a love for the Quarterback Wins stat (argh). I’ll touch more on this subject later in the pre-draft process. My second – and most vociferous – opposition to Ruskell’s M.O. has to do with his bias against small schools. Granted, Hawaii isn’t exactly Towson State as far as being on the radar, but there are players like Bess and Kevin Boss who should have been on the Seahawks’ radar far more than they were. Why were they not? A small-school bias that is very, very real.

There’s no doubt that John Carlson was the prize of Ruskell’s 2008 draft, but what about Kevin Boss? The best blocking tight end in the league came out of Western Oregon in 2007 and was snapped up in the fifth round by new Giants GM Jerry Reese, who hit jackpot after jackpot in his rookie season with guys like Boss and Ahmad Bradshaw from Marshall. When he spoke at the 2008 Combine just a few weeks after New York’s Super Bowl win, Reese discussed the importance of the Combine in evaluating players from smaller schools. The importance of thinking outside the box. That the key to winning in the draft is the ability to project undersold players in later rounds. As he said, the second day is where you earn your salary.

I look at this year’s bowl games, and sort out what I think the priorities might be, and I feel a frustration in the knowledge that there are certain players who probably won’t get a look from this organization because they didn’t go to Georgia or Auburn.  And given the rebuild that I believe Ruskell’s in for, I think that’s a major miscalculation.