Former Boston College DT B.J. Raji Could be First Defensive Tackle Selected in NFL Draft
INDIANAPOLIS – As B.J. Raji sees it, he's at his best when he's being true to himself.
So, before games? What's his routine?
No crazy speeches, he said.
No violent displays of emotions.
Just a little music. And time to himself.
"Actually, the best way I play football is to try to be myself," said Raji, a defensive tackle from Boston College who many analysts believe will be among the first players selected in the 2009 NFL Draft, which will be held April 25-26 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
"So, I'm calm before games, listen to my music. I don't make it all crazy, because that's how it is in real life. I play my best when I'm myself."
"A little rap, a little R&B – depending on how I'm feeling," Raji said. "I kind of go with what I'm feeling that particular day. I might listen to a little more laid-back music.
"If that's what I'm feeling, that's what I go with."
Whatever he's going with, it has worked.
Raji (6-feet-1, 335 pounds), is widely projected to be not only the first defensive tackle selected on Saturday, but one of the top players selected overall. He has been projected as high as No. 4 overall to the Seattle Seahawks in some mock drafts.
Few analysts project him slipping past the Denver Broncos at No. 12.
Raji, considered a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle with unusual quickness and athleticism for his size, also is considered the premier defensive tackle in a class analysts believe is thinner than usual at his position. He generally is considered the top tackle, with Peria Jerry of Ole Miss and Evander "Ziggy" Hood also considered first-round selections, according to many draft analysts.
"He's a force – no question about that," former Boston College Head Coach Jeff Jagodzinski, now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive coordinator, told the Boston Globe last fall.
How much of a force?
As a senior, Raji registered seven sacks – a relatively high number for an interior defensive lineman, and started all 13 games at right tackle.
How much of a force?
He was named All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team and also was a first-team All-America selection by the NFL Draft ReHe was a Rivals.com second-team All-American and an Associated Press third-team All-America selection.
Raji said he admires not only Tommie Harris of the Chicago Bears, but Washington Redskins and former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth as well.
"I don't want to say my style's like him (Haynesworth)," he said. "I kind of play my own game, but there are certain things I take from him."
Raji, who played four seasons at BC, missed the 2007 season after the NCAA declared he was not making "satisfactory" progress toward graduation. He mistakenly took two classes during the summer of 2007 rather than three, and had to sit out the fall.
"It wasn't a GPA issue, it was a credit issue," Raji told the Globe last fall.
The missed year didn't hurt Raji's draft status, and that's something about which as of the NFL Scouting Combine in February Raji was trying not to worry.
"I get so many texts when (draft analysts) Todd McShay and all of those guys get on ESPN – I get so many texts and calls," Raji said. "I don't pay too much attention to it. I know those guys are experts or whatever, but they really have no say when it comes to draft day. I kind of watch that over the years, so I'm not trying to get my hopes up too much."
And Raji knows from history an analyst's opinion means little on draft day.
"That happens every year," he said. "I can't really think of a particular example, but you see guys fall, guys who are supposed to be Top 10 picks. They go from that to the end of the first. I'm not going to put down anybody. It's none of my business, but it happens every year.
"I'm sure it happens. I'm not really worried about that. I feel my film speaks for itself. I feel my Senior Bowl week spoke for itself, so hopefully, (for) the decision-makers it's a good thing.
"Everybody's entitled to their own opinion."
Raji said being a defensive tackle, there was little he could do at the Combine, or in the weeks since, to improve his draft status. Athleticism is one thing, he said, but once the season and the Senior Bowl – the times he could show his ability on the field – ended, Raji said his time for improving his stock had, too.
"If I didn't show that to them in the Senior Bowl and my film, then here I'm not going to show them," Raji said at the Combine in February. "This is a different format – a lot of medical things, a lot of T-Shirts and shorts. Not really much contact. Obviously, you're moving through different drills, but this is not the time to show you can get to the quarterback."
And what of that team that decides he can get to the quarterback? What kind of a player will that team get? What kind of person?
"I think they'll get an overall defensive tackle who can do both – get to the quarterback, stop the run – a team leader by example, a good guy on and off the field," he said.
BREAKING DOWN THE 2009 NFL DRAFT'S TOP DEFENSIVE TACKLES
The defensive tackle group in the 2009 NFL Draft is a group that many analysts believe includes two or three first-round selections, with the top-rated player of the group widely considered B.J. Raji of Boston College. Peria Jerry of Ole Miss and Evander "Ziggy" Hood of Missouri are also generally considered first- or early-second round selections.
ON THE COLTS' ROSTER
Raheem Brock, eighth season, Temple; Keyunta Dawson, third season, Texas Tech; Eric Foster, second season, Rutgers; Antonio Johnson, third season, Mississippi State; Daniel Muir, third season, Kent State.
THE LAST FIVE
The last five defensive tackles drafted by the Colts . . .
2007: Quinn Pitcock, third round, Ohio State.
2005: Vincent Burns, third round, Kentucky.
2002: David Pugh, sixth round, Virginia Tech.
2002: Larry Tripplett, second round, Washington.
2000: Josh Williams, fourth round, Michigan.
THIS YEAR'S DRAFT
An alphabetical list of 20 defensive tackles to be selected in the 2009 NFL Draft . . .
Ron Brace, Boston College, 6-3, 330
Jarron Gilbert, San Jose St., 6-5, 290
Ra'Shon Harris, Oregon, 6-4, 300
Sammie Hill, Stillman, 6-4, 330
Evander "Ziggy" Hood, Missouri, 6-3, 300
Corvey Irvin, Georgia, 6-3, 300
Ricky Jean-Francois, LSU, 6-3, 295
Peria Jerry, Ole Miss, 6-2, 300
Terrance Knighton, Temple, 6-3, 320
Alex Magee, Purdue, 6-3, 300
Sen'Derrick Marks, Auburn, 6-2, 305
Roy Miller, Texas, 6-2, 310
Khalif Mitchell, East Carolina, 6-5, 320
Fili Moala, USC, 6-4, 305
Myron Pryor, Kentucky, 6-0, 320
B.J. Raji, Boston College, 6-1, 335
Darryl Richard, Georgia Tech, 6-2, 305
Dorell Scott, Clemson, 6-3, 310
Terrance Taylor, Michigan, 6-1, 305
Vance Walker, Georgia Tech, 6-2, 305