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Sunday, April 18, 2004



[ WARRIOR FOOTBALL ]


Sopoaga, LaBoy expected
to go by fourth


Isaac Sopoaga hopes to make a mockery of mock drafts when the real thing happens next weekend.

The Hawaii defensive tackle does not appear among many prognosticators' guesses for the first 32 picks for the NFL Draft. But that doesn't mean he won't sneak into the first round.

"Isaac's a solid second-round guy, and it wouldn't surprise me if he got picked a little earlier," an NFL scout said. "As far as talent in the measurables, it's all there. He's a first-round talent. He's unbelievably strong, powerful and fast."

But the same scout, who requested anonymity, said Sopoaga (6-foot-3, 318 pounds) is raw, and that could hold a team back from choosing him in the first round.

Hawaii defensive end Travis LaBoy (6-3, 253) will likely be chosen on the first day (Saturday, rounds one through three) of the draft.

There are predictions that have Sopoaga going as late as the third round and LaBoy in the fourth, including that of The Sporting News.

"It's a real inexact science, but I'd say both are first-day guys," said Kenny Zuckerman, the agent for both players. "Isaac has a real strong shot to go in the second round, and a slight chance to go in the first. Travis will probably go somewhere in the second to third round. The stock for both has been going up as we come closer to the draft."

Zuckerman knows the timing is important because players can peak too early in the draft hype. Last year, Hawaii offensive lineman Vince Manuwai was touted as a probable first-round pick by draft guru Mel Kiper months before the draft. But Manuwai's stock dropped as the actual event approached, and he was picked in the third round.

Sopoaga was a relative unknown until the Senior Bowl, where he showed well in one-on-one drills, and then the NFL combine, where he bench-pressed 225 pounds 42 times. Since then, he has continued to impress coaches and scouts in personal interviews and workouts, Zuckerman said.

"Kansas City, New England and San Francisco are real interested. He had excellent visits," Zuckerman said.

The 49ers were reportedly trying to work a deal yesterday that would give them Philadelphia's first-round pick (No. 28). The Chiefs are 30th, and the Patriots have the 32nd, and last pick of the first round.

LaBoy is drawing lots of attention from the Ravens, Titans, Texans, Steelers and 49ers, Zuckerman said.

"They all really like him a lot," Zuckerman said. "As we get closer to the draft, teams go back and look at the film and see the production of Travis. They see a guy who's really active, with an exceptionally quick first step who makes big plays."

LaBoy's talent is unquestioned, the scout said. But teams are wary of a player who was often injured during his college career, and missed his last game because of academic issues.

"We have to ask ourselves, 'Are we going to be able to have this guy around?,' " the scout said. " 'Will it affect our team regarding character?' "

Caught in the breeze: Sopoaga will be in Honolulu with friends and relatives for the draft. ... LaBoy will be at his home in San Rafael, Calif. ... Some pundits consider Arizona linebacker Joe Siofele (Saint Louis School) a sleeper who could be chosen in the late rounds. Siofele's value is augmented by his long-snapping skills and experience at defensive end. ... UH cornerback Kelvin Millhouse and receiver Jeremiah Cockheran are also potential late-round picks, but at this point are more likely to be picked up as free agents. ... Hawaii defensive end Kevin Jackson may get a free-agent look as an outside linebacker.

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