Wood adapts; scouts react Ex-Card is likely first-day pick By C. L. Brown • firstname.lastname@example.org • April 19, 2009 Post a Comment Recommend (2)Print this pageE-mail this articleShare Del.icio.usFacebookDiggRedditNewsvineBuzz up!TwitterEric Wood endeared himself to University of Louisville football fans with his consistency, making 49 consecutive starts at center. He's endeared himself to NFL scouts with his versatility, showing he can play any spot on the line. Wood is projected to go on the first day of the NFL draft on Saturday. "A lot of people are saying center, guard, possibly even right tackle -- it all changes depending on who you talk to," said Wood, who took a break in his training to watch the Cardinals' Red-White spring game on Friday. "I'm 6-foot-4 with 34-inch arms. For a lot of people, that's tackle characteristics." New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, speaking at the NFL combine in February, said Wood's ability to adjust to other positions could help him get on the field faster as a rookie. "That versatility is important, especially that first year when a player may be on the gameday rosters but not a starter," Payton said. "If he can handle center and guard, chances are he's going to be lineman six or lineman seven because he has versatility." Wood, a Cincinnati native, was recruited to U of L as a tackle by then-coach Bobby Petrino. And though he made his mark while evolving into one of the nation's best centers, his NFL draft stock boomed during the one opportunity he had to play guard. Senior Bowl organizers originally hesitated to add Wood to the roster for the January game in Mobile, Ala., because they figured he would only play center. The event gives seniors a chance to play for NFL coaches in front of talent evaluators. Wood, who was a finalist for the Remington Trophy for the nation's best center, hounded them for a chance to play guard. He ended up on the South team coached by Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio. "It was an interesting deal because they didn't know how many other centers they were going to take, and they wanted people that would play other positions," Wood said. It wasn't just a position change that helped Wood. It was his performance against a top-rated defensive tackle that raised eyebrows. Wood and Boston College defensive tackle B. J. Raji -- projected as a top-15 pick -- went head-to-head during the game. "We'd been training together, and that night I did pretty well against him," Wood said. "It paid off for me in the long run." NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock ranked Wood the second-best center available after Oregon's Max Unger. If Wood is picked in the first two rounds, it will be the highest a Cards offensive linemen has been picked since the New England Patriots selected Bruce Armstrong No. 23 in the 1987 draft. "It's been a dream of mine," Wood said. "It'll be a lot of hard work paying off. The fact that it's going to come true next week is amazing." C.L. Brown can be reached at (502) 582-4044.