Nobody really knows just where or if Maurice Clarett will be drafted.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BAZETTA TWP. -- In the middle of Maurice Clarett's private workout with NFL scouts on Thursday at Farmer Jim's indoor soccer complex, Bill Shunkwiler, a part-time scout with the Indianapolis Colts, conducted an impromptu poll among reporters about Clarett's draft prospects.
"If you were drafting today, where would you take him?" Shunkwiler asked.
After getting answers ranging from the third round to the sixth, Shunkwiler smiled.
"See? It's tough," he said. "And you won't lose your job if you're wrong."
Stock has plummeted
After looking like a sure-fire first round pick as a freshman running back at Ohio State in 2002, Clarett's stock has plummeted over the past two years. The drop can be attributed to off-the-field issues, a poor performance at the NFL combine in February and, of course, the fact that he hasn't played college football since leading the Buckeyes to a Fiesta Bowl victory in January, 2003.
"How do you know how someone will turn out?" said Shunkwiler, a former football coach at Warren Harding who was also once Bob Knight's football coach at Orrville High. "If you look at some NFL players and look at their combine times, you say, 'This guy can't play.' But you don't know. You can't judge by just times."
Draft deep in running backs
Scouts agree April's NFL draft is deep for running backs. Auburn teammates Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, along with Texas running back Cedric Benson, could be taken in the first 10 picks.
Most draft experts expect Clarett to be a second-day pick -- fourth round or later -- when selections are made April 23-24 in New York. But it's hard to say. Some team could fall in love with his potential.
"Like I said, it's a crapshoot," Shunkwiler said.
Scouts from at least seven other teams attended Thursday's workout, but only Shunkwiler was willing to talk extensively.
Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon declined an interview. Bengals running back coach Jim Anderson was brief, saying only that "every time you work out, you help yourself."
Expect lower rounds
Clarett's agents repeatedly said they think the former Buckeye running back will be selected lower than he should be and that their focus is on minicamp, not the draft.
But they're also willing to do whatever possible to help his draft prospects.
"Today is March 31st and everyone knows our number," said agent Josh Luchs. "If you want to come work him out, he's available."
Of course, there is one other issue Clarett may have to deal with. His failed attempt to enter the draft early last April may have consequences with some NFL players, who might not look too kindly on Clarett trying to take one of their jobs early.
"You never know if a seven, eight year veteran might try to take a crack at him," Shunkwiler said, smiling. "Not that someone would ever try to do something like that."