I had the opportunity to ask Tye Burger over at SB Nation's Kansas State blog, Bring on the Cats, some questions about Saints sixth round draft pick Tavon Rooks. He provided some insightful answers to my questions below. Sincere thanks to him for taking the time to share his knowledge.
What the heck do you think Saints coaches saw in Rooks to draft him when most people, including Rooks himself, thought he'd go undrafted?
Good question. When someone who starts at a major-conference football program, which means he presumably has both ability and confidence, doesn't think he'll be drafted, that's kind of a surprise. The somewhat humorous response is that clearly New Orelans' front office sees something in K-State players generally, considering that they signed Darren Sproles a few years ago and picked up Rooks, Ty Zimmerman and John Hubert either through the draft or free agency.
Though it was a bit of a surprise he was drafted, Rooks isn't wholly uncredentialed. He was the No. 23 junior college player in the nation before transferring to K-State. In 2012, he started 10 of K-State's 13 games for a team that won the Big 12 Conference. He was honorable mention all-Big 12 in 2012 and 2013. Rooks didn't get a lot of attention for several reasons: he plays offensive line, nobody who isn't an NFL scout has any idea how to evaluate offensive linemen, and he played opposite the much more heralded Cornelius Lucas. The real surprise to me isn't that Rooks was drafted, it's that Lucas wasn't drafted.
Rooks played for 3 junior colleges before landing at Kansas State. What's up with all the moving around?
Not sure. Rooks' back story isn't especially familiar to me. Recruiting isn't followed as closely at K-State as it is at some other schools, because K-State is rarely in the mix for top-tier high school talent. And while Rooks was considered a solid junior college prospect, especially as a pass blocker, he didn't stand out among the 2012 recruiting class. Just from reading what he said in his interview for the Saints' team site, it sounds like he just started out going to school at a local community college, before transferring out to California to play football. He ended up at Navarro, which is a powerhouse junior college program in Texas. In short, it sounds like the transfers were a function of opportunity, not trouble or grades.
What will Rooks need to improve on at the next level?
He's not especially big, so he could stand to put on more good weight. His recruiting profile listed him at 270 lbs., and his final K-State profile lists him at 280. That's a solid addition for two years in K-State's strength program, but there's probably some question about how much more weight his frame will allow.
Fundamentally, Rooks is pretty solid. K-State prizes length and mobility in its linemen, and Rooks is a shining example of that. He's 6'6" with long arms and decent feet. He started almost every game for two years under Bill Snyder and Charlie Dickey, on K-State teams with an abundance of offensive linemen who will at least have a chance to play at the next level.
Rooks was prone to jumping early, racking up five false start penalties in 13 games last year. He was only called for holding once, but the Big 12 isn't exactly a hotbed of defensive line talent. It will be interesting to see if Rooks can add some weight and remain mobile enough to deal with NFL defensive linemen.
Does Rooks have any significant injury history that you are aware of?
None. He started 23 or 26 games at K-State. The only three he didn't start were the first three of his career, on a team that won a conference title.
There is very little info about Rooks on the internet. He's almost a mystery, not even a Twitter account. What is Tavon's reputation off the field?
He has zero reputation off the field, which is a good thing. Rooks made zero waves in Manhattan other than playing right tackle at better than replacement level. There was never any drama over grades and he was never arrested.
Any fun, random facts about Tavon you can share?
Similar to the last question, nothing. I'm not aware of him ever being interviewed by any of the local media.