DE/OLB Jovan Belcher, despite being undrafted, made the rounds before the draft. He visited with the Bengals and Ravens before the selection meeting and was undoubtedly on plenty of team's radars once the 7th round of the draft ended.
The 6'2", 235 pound Belcher, who played at the University of Maine, was the 2008 Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year. RB Tim Hightower, a 2008 5th round pick by the Arizona Cardinals, also played in the CAA. Throw in the Ravens first round pick last year Joe Flacco and the CAA isn't looking too shabby as of late.
It's tough to blame scouts for not making it out to see Belcher.
Due to its remote location and lack of high-class facilities, UMaine is at a recruiting disadvantage, unlike most of the southern schools. Most top players in the Northeast don't even consider the Orono campus as an option, so coach Jack Cosgrove and his staff are faced with finding players who get overlooked, with Belcher being a prime example.
The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder didn't attract much interest out of high school and was more known for his prowess on the mat. He was a three-time All-American wrestler at West Babylon Senior High School in West Babylon, N.Y.
In an interesting twist of CAA fate, Belcher even sacked former Kansas City Chiefs undrafted free agent prospect QB Ricky Santos four times in the final game of his junior season. Santos played in the CAA at New Hampshire.
Jovan was a four-year starter at the University of Maine, playing outside linebacker his first two years before switching to defensive end.
As a freshman and sophomore, Belcher anchored a solid linebacking corps, and after the graduation of All-American Matt King, he moved to defensive end to take advantage of his speed. It was a move that was difficult at first, but the 2008 CAA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year was willing to embrace the role.
"A football rule [is] you never really want to put your hand on the ground," Belcher said. "You always want to be standing up. [The transition] took a while because I jumped right into it, but I got more comfortable as the season went on."
Again, we see that consistent theme of versatility that the players Scott Pioli and Todd Haley have been selecting. The ability to play at least two positions, inside or outside.There is no way that Belcher plays defensive end at the NFL level but that ability to play with your hands down or standing up is something that the Chiefs' brass likes to see.
Belcher's speciality if you will is his pass rushing ability. He's quick and goes all out on every play. NFL Draft Countdown breaks him down some more:
Strengths: Good athleticism...More quick than fast with a burst...Real tough and physical...Powerful tackler...Excellent pass rusher...Durable...Team leader...Versatile...Good work ethic...Has nice special teams potential.
Weaknesses: 'Tweener who may not have a true position...Did not play against top competition...Poor timed speed...Stiff...Too aggressive at times...Raw coverage skills...Still needs to get stronger...Questionable awareness.
And there is that tweener label that gets a lot of guys into trouble, especially when they're transitioning from defensive end in college to a linebacker position. And Belcher will never be able to knock that criticism of the competition level he played against. Simply put, most Colonial Athletic Association guys don't play at the NFL level.
If you really want to get into Belcher's measureables, check out these clips of his workouts during his pro day.
Heading in to his senior season last year, Belcher was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan award (He came in second in the voting), named after the great Chief and given to the best defensive player in Division I-AA (Now the FCS). Yale LB Bobby Abare, who was at the Chiefs' rookie mini-camp this past weekend, was also a finalist for the award. DE Jared Allen won the award in 2003 while at Idaho St.
Like virtually every undrafted free agent, Belcher is going to first have to make his name on special teams if he's going to be a long time member of the Kansas City Chiefs roster. He lined up at inside linebacker this past weekend at the Chiefs rookie mini-camp.
I actually like Belcher's chances of making the team as a special teams player. His on the field attitude - reckless to a certain degree, aggressive - seems to be the perfect special teams fit. In fact, special teams play is what Belcher has had in mind for his NFL career for a while:
“My biggest thing was I wanted to play as many special teams as I could so the NFL scouts could see that I could be versatile,” Belcher said.
Jovan Belcher is the first undrafted free agent of the Chiefs who I'm going to predict makes the team's practice squad.