One of my in-season responsibilities for Rotoworld was writing my Last Minute Decisions article every Saturday. I also tracked the ticker for NFL news throughout those days, but since there wasn't much, I allotted myself time to watch plenty of college football, keep notes, and hear Mike Mayock's post-game player assessments.
I did play a little high school football. My driver's license says I'm 6-4/230. I could've run about a five flat, and a year ago I was benching 225 twelve times. I graduated from Marquette University (we had club football). I chew Kodiak while I write. I'm far from a scout, but for the next 3.5 months I'll provide you my opinions drawn from the information I've gathered regarding the futures of prospective NFL draftees. Underclassmen have until Monday to make their decisions. When they're in, we'll start mocking and doing the fun stuff. For now, let's recap the all-important BCS Bowls.
BCS Championship Game
Florida 41, Ohio State 14
What this game showed is that OSU's Troy Smith (4-14-35-0-1, 10-20) is not first-round material. Faced with heavy pressure and minus top receiver Ted Ginn, who was out after returning the opening kick 93 yards for a touchdown and spraining his foot during the celebration, Smith's shortcoming (height) was exposed. Listed at a generous 6-1, the usually unflappable senior tried to duck under the heat and got sloppy, wasn't careful in his reads, and played without confidence. Smith's stock had been surging before the game, but he'll need to rebound at the Senior Bowl and Combine to guarantee himself a first-day selection.
Junior wideout Anthony Gonzalez, who opted for the pros Thursday, capped his year with a clunker (2-11), but remains a sure-fire first-day pick. Junior scatback Antonio Pittman (10-62-1, 1-11) sparkled on an 18-yard score but didn't get enough touches due to an anemic offense. Fifth-year WR Roy Hall, a 6-3/240-pounder who fell on the depth chart this season, didn't catch a pass and looks like a free agent. The junior Ginn's future is still undecided.
Defensively, and the Buckeyes were playing a lot of defense, senior tackle and possible late first-rounder Quinn Pitcock (three tackles, one for a loss) was held in check, while linemate David Patterson (four tackles) couldn't apply pressure. Tall, rangy senior end Jay Richardson didn't make a solo stop. Late-round safety prospect Brandon Mitchell (nine tackles, one for a loss) was the most productive of OSU's potential 2007 defensive draftees.
For Florida, senior Chris Leak's (25-36-213-1-0, 3-17) decision-making was flawless and he looked like a tailback, potentially his NFL position, on a 14-yard run. Leak benefited from the Buckeyes' failure to react to his assortment of touch and underneath throws. His NFL stock is on the slight climb, but he'll likely end up as another Tee Martin or Marques Tuiasosopo. Leak's toughness and size (6-0/207) are major question marks if he hopes to be an NFL quarterback.
It was a typical effort from shifty 238-pound RB DeShawn Wynn (19-69-1), who has a young Corey Dillon in him somewhere but lacks any consistency. Senior wideout Dallas Baker (4-23-1), who will likely join Wynn on the draft's second day, was an effective third-down and red-zone target, while junior Andre Caldwell (2-6-1) didn't maintain his late-season hot streak as Urban Meyer focused on a short passing attack.
The Gators have dandy defenders. Speedy underclass ends Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey both notched multiple sacks and third-year sophomore LB Brandon Siler (4 stops, 1 TFL) continued his solid year, allowing Jack Tatum award-winning safety Reggie Nelson (1 tackle) to stay in centerfield. Siler is currently gauging his status with the Draft Advisory Committee. Moss and Nelson could both be first-round picks. Senior weak-side prospect Earl Everett, who made a helmetless tackle in unrelenting pursuit of Smith, should shoot up the board when scouts get his measurements.
USC 32, Michigan 18
Many believed Michigan deserved another shot at Ohio State (after the Wolverines lost 42-39 in November), which is why this score was a small surprise. USC was coming off a let-down loss to UCLA. One interesting development is that several big names on both sides will return for their final seasons. USC: QB John David Booty, LT Sam Baker, DE Lawrence Jackson, WLB Keith Rivers, DT Sedrick Ellis. Michigan: LT Jake Long, RB Mike Hart, OLB Shawn Crable, QB Chad Henne, DE Tim Jamison.
There was no question after USC receiver Dwayne Jarrett's performance (11-205-2) that he had to leave school, whether Keyshawn Johnson thought so or not. Jarrett dominated, but keep in mind that he drew Morgan Trent in primary coverage, not senior Leon Hall. Trent, a junior, will stay in school. All Hall needs to solidify his first-round status is a 4.4 forty at February's Combine. Jarrett needs a 4.4 to justify a top-ten pick.
For USC, first-day center Ryan Kalil and Baker gave Booty plenty of time to find Jarrett and senior Steve Smith (7-108-1), who faced Hall. That Smith, a speed-possession type, fared well in that matchup bodes well for his Day One status. Baker shut down Michigan's right-end rotation of Rondell Biggs (0 tackles) and Jamison (3 stops), though LaMarr Woodley (three tackles, sack) remained his disruptive self on the other side. Kalil helped hold early entrant Alan Branch, 2007's top defensive tackle, to two solo stops.
Michigan's Steve Breaston (7-115-1) had a career day, but brings modest upside as a fourth receiver. Breaston has a big name but will be a Day Two pick only because he's a threat on returns. The Southern Cal defense otherwise did an excellent job, with Rivers (nine tackles), two-down MLB Oscar Lua (five tackles), and strong-side senior Dallas Sartz (four stops, sack) stepping up. Ellis (six tackles, two for a loss, sack, pass breakup) was a monster.
A name to watch is 3-4 inside linebacker prospect David Harris, whose eight tackles marked just another day at the office. Harris, a late-bloomer who didn't start until 2005, could vault into the first round with the proper measurements. Speedy undecided safety Jamar Adams and senior OLB Prescott Burgess are also both first-day material for Michigan.
Louisiana State 41, Notre Dame 14
Irish scatback Darius Walker couldn't have declared at a better time. Walker (22-128, 2-30) was easily Notre Dame's most effective weapon against the Tigers. Like Brady Quinn, however, Walker seems like a system player. His vision, all-down skills, and ability to thrive after one cut make Walker a nice fit for a zone-blocking scheme.
Quinn (15-35-148-2-2) couldn't hit open receivers against LSU and word is he may fall out of the top 20 in April. The Heisman runner-up didn't keep first-day receiver Rhema McKnight (3-22) involved as he tried to pick apart the Jonathan Zenon-Jeff Samardzija matchup on the other end. Samardzija (8-59-1), who shouldn't fall past the second round, was often overthrown. Intriguing senior TE John Carlson (1-13) wasn't a factor.
LSU early entrant JaMarcus Russell (21-34-332-2-1, 5-16-1) is shooting up media-based draft boards after torching a miserable Irish secondary. Russell faced minimal pressure from ND but did show he can perform on center stage. 6-3 wideout Dwayne Bowe (5-78-1) falls from the Michael Clayton tree, while fellow senior Craig Davis' (4-50) well-rounded game will get him first-day consideration and Early Doucet (8-115), an undecided junior, is a Nate Burleson-like speed merchant. Senior tailback Justin Vincent (12-71-1) was never the same after Nick Saban left.
Notre Dame has no elite defensive prospects, as was again evident against the Tigers. Boxer/safety Tom Zbikowski (ten tackles) was solid but failed to make as many big plays in his senior season and looks like a third-round pick. I learned Friday morning that he and Carlson have applied for another year of school. Senior Derek Landri (0 tackles) might crack the top 100 as a one-gap tackle. Few players in the nation were as disappointing in 2006 as DE Victor Abiamiri (one tackle), whose stock has dropped possibly to the end of the first day.
LSU safety LaRon Landy (six tackles, INT) and interior tackle Glenn Dorsey (five stops) were both productive as usual against the Irish. Landry, a hard-hitting senior, is regarded as the draft's top defensive back, while Dorsey, despite being undersized (6-2/299), has first-round potential if he leaves early. He's expected to. Safety Jesse Daniels (one tackle), DE Chase Pittman (one tackle), and nickel Daniel Francis (five stops) sport late-round tags.
Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42
Behind the trickery, there were a few premier prospects on the field in this one. Sooners junior RB Adrian Peterson (20-77-2, 2-9) is near certain to be a top-five pick if he declares. After missing the last seven games with a broken collarbone suffered on an end-zone dive, Peterson returned to play on most downs and found a late-game rhythm. Chalk up another poop-brown mistake if Cleveland lets him fall to No. 5.
The best Boise has to offer comes in the form of third-year sophomores Ian Johnson and left tackle Ryan Clady. Johnson (24-100-1, 2-4) finished second among Division-I running backs in rushing and looks like a third-down specialist in a year or two. Clady already is considered first-day material but has yet to make his decision public.
Broncos quarterback Jared Zabransky (19-29-262-3-1, 9-8) is an athletic project whose Fiesta performance could merit him a late-round look. He seems like a Stefan LeFors. All three of his fifth-year senior wideouts: Legedu Naanee (7-90), Jerard Rabb (4-79-1), and Drisan James (3-96-2), who pitched the ball to Rabb on the hook-and-ladder, are borderline draftable.
Paul Thompson found himself in a tough, though not foreign, spot as the Sooners' quarterback this season after Rhett Bomar was dismissed from school. The 6-4 Thompson (19-32-233-2-3, 7-6) struggled with accuracy in the game and will probably be a free-agent receiver. Three Oklahoma defensive ends, Larry Birdine (two tackles, sack), Calvin Thibodeaux (two tackles), and C.J. Ah You (two stops) have long-range upside but struggled in their final seasons and grade out late.
Louisville 24, Wake Forest 13
The Demon Deacons came into this one as 10.5-point dogs, but a defense led by fast-rising junior ILB Jon Abbate helped them at least keep the game boring. Abbate, who will enter the draft, racked up 13 tackles, sacked Brian Brohm, and recovered a fumble. At least one expert believes Abbate can be the next Zach Thomas. Wake senior safeties Josh Gattis and Patrick Ghee both notched nine stops and offer some special-teams potential. There are no draftable Wake Forest offensive players other than versatile tackle Steve Vallos, who will kick to guard in the NFL. Vallos was snubbed for a Combine invite.
No, the skill players were playing in white and Cardinal red. Brohm (24-34-311-0-0) dazzled against a strong collegiate defense and positioned his underclassmen backs for scores. Senior halfback Kolby Smith (16-82, 2-34) gave way to youngsters Anthony Allen and Brock Bolen near the goal, but ran effectively. Smith might crack Day One with a superior Combine, while the still-undecided Brohm brings a first-round arm and intangibles after showing improved late-season escapability.
Explosive wideouts Harry Douglas (10-165) and Mario Urrutia (5-44) are both underclassmen. Douglas has smartly chosen to remain a Cardinal, while Urrutia, a third-year sophomore, is undecided. Urrutia's routes and game speed are under scrutiny, but the same was once true of Plaxico Burress. I expect both Urrutia and Brohm to leave after Bobby Petrino took the Falcons' job.
One name that will gain steam soon is that of 19-year-old senior DT Amobi Okoye. Okoye, who has been likened to Warren Sapp, dominated at the Orange Bowl, finishing with six tackles, including two sacks of Wake freshman quarterback Riley Skinner. Second-day Louisville defenders include weak-side linebacker Nate Harris (seven tackles), corner William Gay (five stops, INT, forced fumble), and SLB Abe Brown (six tackles, four for a loss).
Sidelined for the game was Michael Bush, who officially declared for the draft earlier this week. Reports have Bush still walking with a limp while recovering from a broken leg. This could be a major concern for Bush, who should be a first-round selection if healthy by the Combine. The 247-pound man child scored 23 times in 2005.
Some good analysis in here, although I don't necessarily agree that Dwayne Jarrett is a top 10 pick with his bowl performance or that Brady Quinn drops out of the top 20 with his.