Authored by Abu Mara - 30th April, 2007 - 8:32 pm
The NFL draft is the time of year when football fans everywhere covet the next Champ Bailey or LaDainian Tomlinson, while crossing their fingers they don?t crap out and get the next Ryan Leaf or Ki-Jana Carter.
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With free-agency dollars reaching astronomical highs and because of a hard salary cap, the NFL draft has taken on added importance. For football fans the annual NFL two-day extravaganza signals a new beginning, where the right personal move could propel a team on the cusp of greatness towards a championship run. Or where the wrong move could cripple a franchise and leave it floundering in futility for years to come. Here are some of this year's NFL draft stars, sleepers and busts.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
Johnson is clearly the best player in this years draft. At 6-5, 239 pounds and 4.3 speed, Johnson is a physical marvel that possesses the rare combine of prototypical size with freakish athletic ability. Johnson is a smooth route runner that has the ability to go over the middle and make the tough catches in traffic look routine. Scouts would really have to nit pick to find something wrong with the star receiver from Georgia Tech, who averaged 16.4 yards per catch and nine touchdowns in his collegiate three seasons. Johnson is a once in a generation type player who is destined for stardom in the NFL.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
Peterson is an Eric Dickerson clone. Peterson possesses the power to pound out the tough yards, yet has enough speed and vision to break the big run. Peterson averaged 5.4 yards per carry, while scoring 41 touchdowns over a stellar college career. The only concern scouts may have with Peterson is durability. The 6 foot-1 217 pound Peterson?s upright and violent running style has caused him to miss parts of 2005 and 2006 seasons with ankle and shoulder injuries. Baring injury Peterson should be a first-rate running back in the NFL for the next 10 years.
JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU
Russell is a rocket-armed quarterback, which has some comparing his arm strength to John Elway. The 6 foot-5, 256 pound Russell is a unique combination size and strength that is unseen to the NFL. Russell is the classic pocket quarterback, but for his size Russell is surprisingly nimble on his feet. Over his four-year college career the red shirt Junior completed 60 percent of his passes, while throwing for 6,625 yards and 52 touchdowns. Russell?s size, strength and mobility could present an interesting quandary for NFL defensive backs, when defenses force Russell out of the pocket. Russell?s detractors will point out his questionable decision-making and lack of consistency. But Russell supporters will point out that he played in the SEC, which widely regarded as the best college football conference. Russell is the best quarterback in this year?s draft. But, what team and what supporting cast that team can put around Russell will ultimately determine Russell?s success.
Laron Landry, S, LSU
Landry is a cross between Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. With enough speed to adequately play pass coverage, Landry excels at run support. Landry boasts the speed to make plays sideline to sideline against the run. The versatile Landry, a four-year starter at LSU, possesses enough size, agility and ball skills to match up with the NFL?s new aged tight ends. The one knock on Landry is his lack of ideal size. At 213 pounds some NFL executives wonder if Landry?s lack of size will result in injury, due to the hurtle collisions that accrue at the safety position. Any team that drafts Landry will get a safety that has the potential to be a game-changing player, which is difficult to find in the NFL.
Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin
After Calvin Johnson, Thomas is the safest pick in this year?s draft. At a glance the 6 foot-6, 311 pound Thomas looks like your typical taut road-grading left tackle. But Thomas, a former blocking tight end, possesses unordinary athleticism for an offensive lineman. His combination of speed, power and proper technique makes Thomas the quintessential Left tackle. You can sharpie-in Thomas as a starting left tackle in the NFL for the next 10 years.
Patrick Willis, MLB, Mississippi
Willis is a tackling automaton that arrives at the point of impact with bad intentions. Like other projected stars in this year draft, Willis in a freakish athlete that possesses enough speed to pursue would be ball carriers sideline to sideline. Some scouts worry about whether Willis? smallish frame, at 6 foot -1 242 pounds, can withstand the pounding of an NFL middle linebacker. For a middle linebacker Willis is a little light. But at The University Of Mississippi his size didn?t stop him from racking up 265 tackles in his last two seasons, as a starter, and it shouldn?t stop him from making tackles in the NFL either.
David Harris, MLB, Michigan
Harris is a throwback middle linebacker who is a relentless run stuffing maven, with a propensity for forcing fumbles. At 6 foot-2, 250 pounds, Harris the ideal height and weight for the middle linebacker position. Harris has a nose for the ball. In his two years as a starter at the University of Michigan, Harris tallied 191 tackles, 18 of which were for losses and forced three fumbles. Harris?s detractors will say he has poor ball skills and at times plays a little stiff. But, in today?s, NFL middle linebackers are rarely on the field on third down or known passing downs, so Harris?s shortcomings should not be a deterrent for any team in need of a middle linebacker.
Brandon Meriweather, S, Miami
Meriweather has first-round talent, but there are question about his character and ability to stay healthy. Meriweather is the next safety produced by the University of Miami pro football assembly line, which has already produced NFL safeties like Ed Reed and Sean Taylor. At 5 foot-10, 195 pounds some NFL executives think Meriweather may lack the ideal size for an NFL safety, but his versatility could present excellent value for teams in the second-round.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Ohio State
Some NFL scouts have nearly the same grade on Gonzalez as they do for projected top 20 pick Dwayne Jarrett. In the NFL Gonzalez would be the perfect complementary receiver for a team in need of a No.2 or 3 receiver. With more speed and better rout running than Jarrett, Gonzalez may prove to be a better value early in the second round.
Paul Williams, WR, Fresno State
At 6 foot-1, 205 pounds Williams possesses ideal size for NFL receiver. Williams has enough speed and athleticism to become a reliable No.2 receiver in the NFL, but failed to meet his potential on the collegiate level. Scouts question Williams? desire and ability to stay healthy for a full season, after a knee and a nagging hip injury cost him parts of his 2006 season. Williams is the ultimate boom or bust draft pick, he could be a middle to late round steal or turn out to be a player that never plays up to his ability.
Eric Weddle, S, Utah
Chris Henry, RB, Arizona
Ben Patrick, TE, Delaware
Dallas Baker, WR, Florida
Alan Branch, DT, Michigan
Branch is merely a run-stuffing defensive tackle, nothing more and nothing less. Teams picking in the top 10 are in need of impact players, and Branch is merely a defensive tackle that eats up space and blocks. Scouts are already questioning Branch?s fitness and desire, after showing up to Michigan pro-day noticeably overweight. Branch has great size at 6 foot-5, 307 pounds and above average athleticism for his size, but does not warrant a top 10 pick.
Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC
Jarrett is a glorified No. 2 receiver who benefited from being supported by an all-star cast at USC. Jarrett does not possess the speed or quickness that is needed to become a No.1 receiver in the NFL. Jarrett has great size at 6 foot-4, 219 pounds and outstanding ability to make the difficult catches, both in traffic and in the air. But, on the NFL level Jarrett is projected to be No.2 receiver, which doesn?t deserve a top 20 selection.