Ones to Watch
Posted 12/28 by Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
The Ones 2 Watch is where we look at the top 15 Draft Eligible collegiate players
in the country. Each week we will break down 5 QBs, 5 RBs, & 5 WRs. The
following players could very well end up in our top 15 for 2007. Let's take
a look forward and see who are some of the players that could develop into household
John David Booty, USC Trojans - A rash of QB injuries pushed
him into the ones to watch this year. He'll clearly be in the top five college
QBs going into next year and earn his spot in this column. Booty did not flash
top notch tools in 2006, but he did show grit and excellent intangibles, coming
up clutch and often playing his best late in close games. He will lose his starting
WRs (Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett), but the next generation of Trojan wideouts
is just as talented.
NFL Prospects: John David could crack the 2008 first round with an outstanding
2007. His performance this year established him as a solid 3rd or 4th round
QB at worst.
Erik Ainge, Tennessee Volunteers - Danny's nephew got his career
back on track with a solid 2006 before banging up his ankle against South Carolina,
which rendered him ineffective and mostly unavailable for key losses against
LSU and Arkansas. Erik's smarts and accuracy has poised him to make a big run
up the draft board with a good 2007. He might lose his go-to guy, junior WR
Robert Meachem, to the draft.
NFL Prospects: Ainge is currently on the edge of the first day, but
his height and efficiency will should push him as high as the 2nd round if he
can stay healthy and effective in 2007.
Sam Keller, Nebraska Cornhuskers - Remember me? Keller abruptly
left Arizona State when Rudy Carpenter was named the starter ahead of him right
before the season started. He's a big tough QB with a strong arm, and he could
vault back into national prominence with a strong 2007. He might be a forgotten
man right now, but remember that this kid lit up a tough LSU defense for 461
yards and four scores in 2005.
NFL Prospects: Keller would currently be a second day pick because of
the year off, but he's got the physical attributes of a first day QB and is
one of top candidates to rocket up draft boards in 2007.
Matt Ryan, Boston College Eagles - The BC MVP and All-ACC QB
broke out this year with steady, efficient play. Ryan led the Eagles to a 9-3
record by spreading the ball around and consistently making good decisions.
He will be without head coach Tom O'Brien in 2007, who accepted the open position
at conference rival NC State.
NFL Prospects: Ryan has ideal NFL QB height but needs to bulk up a bit.
His main asset is his heady play, but his arm and athleticism are also above
average and he should be 3rd-4th pick even if he plateaus at his 2006 level
of play in 2007.
Brian Brohm, Louisville Cardinals - Brohm has given strong indications
that he will return to Louisville in 2007, but the possibility still exists
that he could change his mind and enter the draft. He returned to his normal
level of excellence once he shook off the rust from a thumb injury on his throwing
hand, but not before he faltered in a showdown at Rutgers that cost the Cardinals
a shot at the national championship.
NFL Prospects: Brohm is a clear first round pick and borderline franchise
QB. If he returns to school, stays healthy, and shows better instincts under
pressure, he could be the #1 overall pick in 2008.
Colt Brennan, Hawaii Warriors - 373 completions in 515 attempts.
4,990 passing yards. 53 passing touchdowns. These are Brennan's 2006 numbers,
not his career numbers. He is mulling over entering the 2007 draft, and it's
unlikely that his draft stock will get any higher. He would be one of the top
2 or 3 returning Senior QBs if he does opt to come back for one more go at the
NFL Prospects: Brennan is slight, but he has been running a complex
offense coached by former NFL QB June Jones, who is Brennan's biggest fan. Jones
lofty comparisons to Jim Kelly and Warren Moon may be hyperbole, but he would
still be a first day pick if he comes out this year.
Steve Slaton, West Virginia Mountaineers - Anyone who has watched
WVU this year already knows about Slaton. He might be the fastest RB in the
country, and he showed tremendous receiving skills in the Backyard Brawl against
bitter rival Pittsburgh. The 2007 Heisman looks like a two man race between
him and Darren McFadden right now.
NFL Prospects: He's a bit smaller than you want a blue chip NFL RB prospect
to be, but his wheels, work ethic, vision, and change of direction are all elite.
Slaton seems like a sure first round pick in 2008 if he decides to come out.
Jamaal Charles, Texas Longhorns - Jamaal did not live up to the
high expectations set by his sensational 2005 freshman season. His YPC and TDs
dropped significantly while he split time with senior Selvin Young in the backfield.
He also did not have the luxury of facing defenses preoccupied with Vince Young
anymore. 2007 means the departure of his competition in the backfield and a
chance for the speed merchant to seize the feature back role.
NFL Prospects: Charles has top end speed, and nifty change of direction
skills. He also runs very hard for a speed back. He's unlucky to be in the same
RB class as McFadden and Slaton, but that shouldn't stop him from being a first
day pick if he decides to enter the draft in 2008.
Mike Hart, Michigan Wolverines - No RB was more dependable than
Mike Hart this year. He enjoyed a healthy 2006 that was a big part of the Wolverines
return to prominence. Hart won't impress you with blazing speed or dazzling
moves, but he sees the hole and hits the hole with the best of them. Hart seems
likely to return to Michigan for his senior season.
NFL Prospects: Hart lacks the measurables to break into the first round,
but he'll be a steady backup at worst, and a quality runner in a zone blocking
scheme at best.
Antonio Pittman, Ohio State Buckeyes - Pittman capped off a great
2006 with a pivotal 56 yard TD run against Michigan. He ran strong and practiced
outstanding ball security all year, scoring in 11 out of the Buckeyes 12 games.
Pittman could take over as the marquee player in the Ohio State offense if he
returns, but he could also have to split time with Chris Wells.
NFL Prospects: Pittman combines Hart's solid dependability with more
speed and rugged running and should be a first day pick as an RB if he comes
out this year.
Mario Manningham, Michigan Wolverines - Mario was looking unstoppable
before hurting his knee vs. Michigan State - posting eight (yes 8) touchdowns
in the four games leading up tearing his meniscus and MCL. Manningham will likely
be joined by Chad Henne and Mike Hart in 2007 to attempt to get the Wolverines
over the hump and into the national championship game.
NFL Prospects: Manningham is not remarkably tall or big or fast, but
that doesn't stop him from getting open at will. He looks like a surefire first
round pick in 2008 if he returns to pre-injury form.
Jaison Williams, Oregon Ducks - The massive (6'5" 240 lbs)
wideout led the Pac-10 in receptions this year. Only a "minor" back
fracture derailed Williams breakout season, topping 100 yards five times in
ten games. He has established himself as the go-to guy in the passing offense
and should become a household name across college football.
NFL Prospects: Williams could be a mold-breaking WR if his 4.6 speed
proves to be enough to stay at the position, or a lethal receiving TE if he
can learn the art of inline blocking.
Limas Sweed, Texas Longhorns - Its hard to tell Sweed apart from
Dwayne Jarrett standing on the sidelines, but his play was wildly inconsistent
on the field. He was one of the best WRs in the country at going up for a jumpball,
but ran sloppy routes and struggled with drops.
NFL Prospects: Sweed has an ideal frame for an NFL WR but he will be
considered only an intriguing project if he doesn't step up his level of play
Sidney Rice, South Carolina Gamecocks - Rice stated unequivocally
that he was returning to South Carolina for his junior year, but we'll believe
it when we see it. He often disappeared against top competition, but really
stepped up his game when Blake Mitchell returned as the starting QB. Rice also
added to his career highlight reel with some sensational physical plays.
NFL Prospects: Rice would probably be the 4th or 5th WR chosen if he
comes out this year, but a return to South Carolina would give him a shot to
be a top 10 pick and first WR off the board in 2008. He'll be taken with the
expectation of being a future starter.
Robert Meachem, Tennessee Volunteers - Meachem is the most likely
WR on this list to go into the 2007 draft. He has requested an NFL draft grade
from the advisory committee. All year, when Tennessee needed a big play, Meachem
came up with it. His clutch play earned him first team SEC and third team All-American
NFL Prospects: Meachem would have a strong chance of being a first round
pick in April and should get a good enough grade from the advisory committee
to justify leaving Knoxville.