|01-10-2007, 10:53 AM||#1|
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Rising and Falling
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By John Murphy, Yahoo! Sports
January 9, 2007
The season's college football finale between Ohio State and Florida might have been for the Bowl Championship Series title and the No. 1 ranking, but the Sugar Bowl supplied NFL general managers like Indianapolis' Bill Polian, Cleveland's Phil Savage and Tampa Bay's Bruce Allen with the best selection of future NFL talent to evaluate.
Now that the bowl season is over, here is a quick look at how some of the players either have stepped forward to the front of the draft line or taken a few steps back.
JaMarcus Russell, quarterback, LSU – The junior's first completion against Notre Dame, a 31-yard corner route to Early Doucet, showed exactly why NFL personnel departments could have some sleepless nights when deciding who is the draft's best long-range quarterback prospect. Russell displayed good poise and patience, waiting for Doucet to break open and putting just enough air under the ball to allow his receiver to out-jump a pair of defenders and come down with the ball. Russell came back on the next drive to show great velocity and accuracy when he stood tall in the pocket to find an open receiver between two defenders for his second passing touchdown. Earlier in the same drive, he took the snap from the shotgun, gave a quick look to his first read downfield and then tucked the ball and made a huge gain up the middle of the field. The one skill that Russell does very well for a young quarterback is that he keeps his eyes downfield at all times, both when reading through his progressions or when on the move. Most young signal callers will drop their eyes or focus on just one read when flushed from the pocket. That asset could allow Russell to be the first quarterback taken and start earlier than expected – if he chooses to pass up his final year of eligibility.
Joe Thomas, offensive tackle, Wisconsin – The senior played his way back from a major knee injury last year to contend for one of the draft's first 10 picks. He has the ideal combination of size, strength and footwork to remain at left tackle in the pros. At times, he has gotten out of position against some bull rushers, but he has the wingspan to redirect most pass rushers. Thomas should increase his success at the next level if he can learn to create more impact off the ball, as his initial punch sometimes misses its intended target and gives more of a glancing blow.
Marshawn Lynch, running back, California – The junior opted to skip his final year of eligibility and immediately jumps to head of this class. He could even capture the No. 1 spot in the running back class regardless of who else enters the draft. He has a tremendous combination of speed, vision, cutting ability and hands out of the backfield which even has drawn some early comparisons to NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. Lynch has had a few issues with durability, but he will need to increase his work habits in order to capitalize on his natural ability and skill level. He could go as high as the top five but no later than halfway through Round 1.
Glenn Dorsey, defensive tackle, LSU – The junior has increased his potential draft day value in either of the next two drafts thanks to a superb second half of the season. He is a perfect fit for a one-gap, attacking-style defensive scheme, combining great quickness off the ball with a just-under 6-foot-2 frame that allows him to gain the upper hand on leverage. Dorsey also possesses superior strength at the point of attack. Despite the lack of ideal height, he has a wide upper body and longer arms than many his size. He will remind most NFL and draft fans of Brodrick Bunkley in terms of how quickly he could rise into becoming a formidable first-rounder should he declare early.
Reggie Nelson, defensive back, Florida and Ted Ginn Jr. , wide receiver/returner, Ohio State – Monday's BCS title game featured a pair of juniors who immediately could impact the draft if they decide to declare by the Monday deadline. Nelson has shown the keen ability to come up with the big play in nearly every game, and some also could see him as a possible Cover 2 cornerback in the right system. Ginn has superior speed, quickness and athleticism, but as great as he has been on offense and special teams, he has mentioned quite a few times that he would like to play cornerback at some point in his career. Ginn is a rare athlete who could be a top-10 choice if he opts to declare, but he now is hampered by a sprained ankle that knocked him out in the first half of the title game.
Brady Quinn, quarterback, Notre Dame – The senior had one of the most productive four years in recent memory for the Irish, but the lasting memory for NFL scouts will not be of Quinn's 95 career touchdown passes. His less-than-stellar performance against a top-rated LSU defensive unit that featured several NFL prospects will stand out in talent evaluators' eyes. Quinn rushed some of his early throws in the Sugar Bowl loss to LSU, even skipping one ball behind the intended receiver and having miscommunication on an out route when the receiver still was headed up field. He never was able to revive Notre Dame's late first-half offensive spark, throwing a pair of interceptions and looking a few times at a loss after one of many three-and-out series. Next up for Quinn is the Senior Bowl, where the practice sessions will be scrutinized by several observers who believe his overall arm strength might come into question. Some still see him as more of a product of Charlie Weis' system than a pure franchise quarterback.
Troy Smith, quarterback, Ohio State – The senior had a banner season right up to his final contest. He won the Heisman Trophy and led the Buckeyes past Michigan and into the BCS title game. However, Monday night showed why some scouts vary on whether he is a future franchise quarterback or a very valuable backup. He has said all the right things and carried himself with much more maturity than in earlier years, but he was unable to motivate his offensive teammates to pick up the pace after Ginn's injury. With Ohio State's ground attack halted and pressure increased from both sides, Smith often was flushed from the pocket and failed to keep his eyes downfield. He skipped or overthrew several balls and could not find his check-down receiver against a Florida defense that was using a variety of coverage schemes. Smith still is a highly productive quarterback in a class that goes from big-time prospects to "the rest of the pack" very quickly. The luster from the Heisman wore off Monday night, but he will have a chance to rebound in two weeks at the Senior Bowl.
Adrian Peterson, running back, Oklahoma – The junior returned from a collarbone injury, but outside of his long touchdown in overtime, he did not dominate the Fiesta Bowl as he did in previous contests during his career. He got off to a bit of a slow start against Boise State but seemed to warm up in the second half, using his punishing style to shake off several Broncos defenders. Peterson has yet to make his final decision public, but he is expected to declare sometime next week. Scouts have concerns about his durability, and even though he has made some plays as a receiver, he does not have great natural hands out of the backfield.
Quentin Moses, defensive end, Georgia – The senior entered the season as a potential high-to-mid first-round choice, but he has been overshadowed and even potentially eclipsed by junior teammate Charles Johnson, who has made himself eligible for the draft. Johnson led the Bulldogs in sacks, while Moses, who was forced to face constant double teams, struggled to make plays at times. Moses has better size and experience than Johnson, but they'll end up getting drafted much closer to each other than most experts would ever have expected.
|01-10-2007, 12:20 PM||#2|
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|01-10-2007, 08:40 PM||#4|
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