Saturday, April 28, 2012 7:38 pm
Toon, Miller face big challenges in NFL
By BARRY WILNERAP Pro Football Writer
Toon, the son of former New York Jets standout Al Toon, was selected in the fourth round of Saturday's draft by the Saints. He can be comforted about going to play with Drew Brees in New Orleans, but Toon recognizes he will be compared to his father - just as he was at Wisconsin.
"My dad was a great football player," Nick Toon said of Al, who retired prematurely because of concussions. "I don't think anyone would debate that. To go to the same school and play the same position, I think is a challenge. At the same time, I think that the expectations of that challenge follow you to anywhere you are playing football."
That would be the Big Easy, no easy chore if the expectations are he will immediately replace Robert Meachem, who left as a free agent.
"No. 1, I think he has a great pedigree," interim coach Joe Vitt said. "He's a polished route-runner, can catch the ball outside the framework of his body and can make the big play."
Just like his dad did with the Jets from 1985-92.
"He has been a great sounding board for me throughout my career and my entire life," Nick Toon said. "He has been a great blueprint (for me) as a football player. He is just a good person and a good leader."
Miller stayed home in Miami and had two more years of eligibility with the Hurricanes when he chose to enter the draft. So who traded up to grab him?
Miami jumped six slots in a move with San Francisco to get Miller, one of the faster running backs in this crop and also a kick return prospect. It's difficult enough dealing with being a college player where you grew up. Now he is a pro there.
"I was upset at first," he said after waiting more than 36 hours to hear his name announced. "But now I'm happy with where I'm at. To be in my hometown, to get a chance to play for a Super Bowl, that's always a great thing. I'm just ready to put the team on the map."
Miller rushed for 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
Wide receivers and more trades were trendy on the final day of the draft, which ended when Indianapolis selected North Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnisch as Mr. Irrelevant - 252 picks after taking Andrew Luck to open the proceedings.
Hours earlier, Chris Givens was taken by St. Louis to open the fourth round. Givens also can help the Rams in the return game. He had some injury issues at Wake Forest, but had 1,330 yards on 83 receptions in 2011.
"Yesterday was a little frustrating and a little humbling at the same time," Givens said of not going on Friday. "I really felt like they liked me a lot and I thought they were going to get me and then they got Brian Quick (to begin Round 2), and then I thought OK, well, they're not going to get me anymore. Then today I was pleasantly surprised."
Cleveland, desperate for offensive playmakers, might have added one in Miami Hurricanes receiver Travis Benjamin, and Carolina went for Arkansas wideout Joe Adams, all in the first nine selections Saturday. There were eight wide receivers chosen in the round, including Toon.
Another three wideouts were chosen in the fifth round, four in the sixth and five in the seventh for a total of 33.
San Francisco received Miami's pick in the fourth round and two sixth-rounders, one this year and one in 2013, in the Miller deal. After 18 trades on the first two days of the draft, there were three in the first few minutes Saturday and four in Round 4, followed by eight more in the next round. Altogether, 27 trades were made.
Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins, projected by many to go late in the first round or early in the second, lasted until No. 102, when the Redskins took him. Of course, Washington selected Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III second overall to be its franchise quarterback..
"I was trying to forecast which teams would be looking at a quarterback and I didn't see the Redskins thinking along those lines, but coach Shanahan's words to me were that he couldn't pass me up," Cousins said.
Another Robert Griffin from Baylor was selected - a tackle who went to the Jets at No, 203.He calls himself RG2 and Big Griff.
"He is like a brother," Griffin said of the quarterback . "We have the same name, but didn't treat each other any differently. It was an everyday thing, but I was the one putting my hand in the dirt and he was the one putting his hand on the ball and throwing the rock. I felt I had to do a little extra just for him because we have the same name."
Linebacker Nigel Bradham became the first Florida State player chosen, going No. 105 overall to Buffalo. College powers Texas and Florida waited until deep in the fourth round to have someone selected: Gators defensive tackle Jaye Howard to Seattle at No. 114, and Longhorns linebacker Keenan Robinson at No. 119 to Washington.
Houston, which was ranked 18th to finish the season, had no players selected.
Tight end, generally considered a weak spot in this year's crop - only three were taken through the first two days - became popular in the fourth round, with five going. But only one was drafted in the fifth.
Randy Bullock of Texas A&M was the first placekicker taken, at No. 161 overall by Houston. The All-American kicker, Bullock won the Lou Groza award, connecting on 25 of 29 field-goal attempts in 2011.
Players undrafted include record-setting quarterbacks Kellen Moore of Boise State and Case Keenum of Houston.