Thursday's NFL Draft Notebook

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    Thursday's NFL Draft Notebook

    LB Darry Beckwith (Getty Images) By Ed Thompson Senior NFL Analyst
    Posted Apr 23, 2009's Ed Thompson has updates on six more NFL Draft prospects, including LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith and Boston College defensive tackle BJ Raji.

    Former LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith has drawn some serious interest from the Atlanta Falcons. He had a formal interview with the team at the Combine, conducted a personal workout for them, and also visited them in Atlanta. At the Combine, one of the other teams that Beckwith had a formal interview with was the Houston Texans. And while he enjoyed them all, he said that meeting Falcons owner Arthur Blank was one of the highlights of his trip to Indianapolis.

    "He's a great owner and a great guy," he said. "I think that was one interview where I was little bit star-struck."

    When you consider that Beckwith is a somewhat quiet, ever-courteous and humble player, you might be a bit surprised to learn that one of the NFL players he admires the most is a somewhat brash individual who loves the spotlight--Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

    "He's a guy who has been in the game a long time, yet he still has the same intensity that he brought the first year he was playing. He's a guy who makes everybody around him better," Beckwith explained.

    Among his many talents, the 6-foot-1, 234-pound inside linebacker is very confident in his ability to defend the pass at the next level.

    "I have the ability to cover tight ends one-on-one and running backs out of the backfield," he said. I also have the ability to run down the seam with a slot receiver, and I think that's a big asset to my game."

    This weekend, the former Tiger learns where he'll begin his pro football career. And no matter where he lands, Beckwith is confident that he'll be an asset to his new team.

    "Whoever drafts me is going to get a great football player and a great person, someone who is going to bring a lot of energy to the field and to the franchise," he said. "They'll have no worries about me on or off the field. I'm a humble and very likable guy in the locker room who they can keep around for a long time."


    Buffalo QB Drew Willy working against the Penn State defense in 2007.
    AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

    An NFL team is going to add Buffalo quarterback Drew Willy to their roster by the end of the weekend. And while some fans may not be familiar with him, the record-setting quarterback who set the pace as the Bulls won their first MAC championship in 2008, undoubtedly impressed plenty of NFL talent evaluators with his leadership skills and confidence.

    "I just think I'm a winner, I'm a competitor. I know what it takes to win, what it takes to get the guys around me better, and I know who to get the ball to," he said during a phone interview. "I just think my competitive nature, my willingness to go after the win, wanting to have the ball in my hands at the end of the game in any big situation--that's what sets me apart."

    The 6-foot-3, 215-pound signal-caller obviously can't wait to start his NFL adventure.

    "I'm going to be a sponge and try to learn as much as I can at all times. I'm going to be one of those guys who is going to be around the facility all the time watching film, getting better, getting stronger, faster and working out with my teammates, building that bond," he said.

    Willy finished his career at Buffalo with 8,748 passing yards, 52 touchdowns through the air and 30 interceptions. At his Pro Day, the quarterback coaches from the Buffalo Bills and the Carolina Panthers did some board work with him to gain more insight on his level of football knowledge and decision-making skills. The Colts, Saints, Falcons, Browns, and Eagles have also shown interest in him.


    Oklahoma's Brandon Walker made the jump from junior college to three-year starter for the Sooners without missing a beat.

    "I don't think the leap from junior college to Division I was that big of a deal," he told "I think the part that was most difficult for me was changing from tackle to guard when I got to Oklahoma, because I played tackle my whole career from high school into junior college."

    The Browns, Jets, Falcons and Rams have all worked out the 6-foot-3, 306-pound lineman and have seen how he's able to use his long arms effectively in pass protection to keep would-be attackers away from his quarterback. But his attitude and his consistency are two other attributes that are going to help him get noticed as teams set their draft boards this week.

    "Football is all about 'want to,' you really have to want to play the game to be successful at it, and I love to play this game," he said. "I try to treat every play like it's the first play in the first game of the season. That's why I've had so much success in my consistency.

    "I'm a hard worker who always has a positive attitude, the kind of guy who always has a smile on his face, who is always trying to push my teammates by saying something positive."

    Walker's versatility is also going to help his stock this weekend.

    "I can play center or guard. I played guard all three years here, but I was also the backup center," he said. "I got a lot of reps at center in practice."


    Ohio State wide receiver Brian Hartline told that he's a player who's going to bring plenty of emotion to the NFL team that adds him to their roster.

    "First and foremost, I'm a good guy on and off the field. I love to compete and I hate to lose," he said. "I guess sometimes people can think you wear your heart on your sleeve a little too much, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I hate to lose.

    The reliable pass catcher pulled-in 90 balls for 1,429 yards and 12 touchdowns as a Buckeye. He also returned 24 punts for 251 yards and a score.

    "I think I catch the ball really well and run good routes," he said. "I'm a guy who can play in the slot or as a wide receiver, which I think is pretty valuable in the NFL.


    I asked Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji how his friends would describe him to me as a person.

    "I think they would say I'm a good person, one that they can trust," he said during an exclusive interview. "Once I show people that they can trust me, they open up to me.

    Boston College DT B.J. Raji
    Boston College Athletics

    "They would probably say that I'm a laid-back kind of guy who likes to have fun. I'm the kind of guy who respects everybody, and I expect it in return."

    The tenacious lineman had to battle his way through plenty of double-teams in 2008, but it didn't keep him from posting some impressive results with 42 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks.

    "You've got to play with some patience and execute the defense to the best of your ability," he explained. "You have to have confidence in the players around you and not try to do too much."

    For Raji, there is a single, driving force that keeps him committed to being the best defensive lineman he can be for his team.

    "To be honest, the favorite part of football for me is winning, to be able to win on a consistent basis with the people you worked out with during the off-season," he said. "I can remember there being times when I had one of my best games and we didn't win. Other times, I didn't play so well and we won the game, and I felt a lot better after those games."

    Raji is expected to be one of the top players selected in this year's NFL Draft. He's visited Detroit, Washington, Tampa Bay, the New York Jets, New Orleans and San Francisco. He's also worked out for the Denver Broncos.


    Eron Riley was a player who was definitely under the radar until he reportedly ran the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day in 4.27 seconds and 4.36 seconds. And he further raised the eyebrows of scouts and coaches when he logged a 40-inch vertical jump.

    "I really wanted to prove that I could run that fast, because I don't think scouts felt that I had top end speed," Riley said during a phone interview.

    The Duke wide receiver certainly has the physical size to play in the NFL at 6-foot-3, 206 pounds. And with his speed, he's likely to get an opportunity to make an NFL roster in a training camp this year. The Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, New York Giants and the Tennessee Titans are among the teams that have shown interest in him.

    "I think my size and my speed are going to give me the opportunity to make some big plays at the next level," he said. "I think I also demonstrated my toughness. I tore a ligament in my thumb and I played through that injury the whole season."

    Riley believes he can put his skills to work right off the bat to the benefit of an NFL club on their special teams units.

    "I was a gunner and a jammer the last two years," he said. "I really enjoy it because you're out there one-on-one or one-on-two, and I like being in the spotlight, using my speed to run down there and make a play for the team."

    Click here for more coverage of your favorite NFL team.

    A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews

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