National Football League
January 8, 2008
Draft King Analysis
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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Congratulations are in order for LSU, which captured the BCS Title in New Orleans with an impressive win over Ohio State. With it being a battle of two teams stacked with impact players who are likely to play NFL ball, it created some interesting matchups.
Ohio State RB Chris Wells' touchdown run impressed me to no end. I forced the people I was watching the game with to endure me rewinding the play 3-4 times to see how it broke down. LSU stacked the line, bringing two OLBs on a blitz (along with a front four push) and then sending three more guys to seal the line. Seeing it play out in slow-motion was fascinating; Wells made a great cut to the right, either sensing that second wave of LSU players or simply making a instinctively correct guess. He then proceeded to outrun All-American safety Craig Steltz to make it into the end zone.
Also for OSU, James Laurinaitis showed great sideline-to-sideline speed in pursuing plays from the middle LB spot. What is interesting to me is how Ohio State has a junior on all three levels of defense who could each be an NFL first-round pick: DE Vernon Gholston, LB James Laurinaitis, and CB Malcolm Jenkins. That group has lost in the BCS Title game in consecutive years, and it will be interesting to see how many of the trio go pro in 2008.
|Malcolm Jenkins could be the first CB selected in the 2008 NFL Draft. (Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMI)
LSU is amazingly deep at RB. To point, Charles Scott is a talented sophomore who is in the rotation at running back for LSU, and when he had his chance, he took it. Scott stiff-arming Malcolm Jenkins en route to a big gain was an eye-opening moment; Jenkins is arguably the favorite to be the first CB taken in the draft if he enters the draft.
On the flip side, Chris Wells gave a similar stiff-arm earlier in the game to LSU CB Chevis Jackson, knocking him away in shocking fashion. Jackson gained revenge later with an impressive interception, but seeing so many talented players match up was a real treat for me. Every now and then you'll get a good matchup of future pros on the college level, like Oklahoma CB Reggie Smith vs. Texas WR Limas Sweed, but to have so many matchups take place in the BCS Title game made it all the more special.
Eligible players have until one week from today (January 15) to apply for early entry into the NFL Draft. It's not exactly a lot of time for the BCS Title game participants to mull over their options, but those are the rules. At least it's not like the WNBA. Last year, Candace Parker had literally a scant few hours to decide if she wanted to return to Tennessee (where she had just won a championship) or make herself eligible for the WNBA Draft, which took place less than 48 hours after the women's championship game.
|Rashard Mendenhall is heading to the NFL. (Mark Cowan/Icon SMI)|
In other words, the stay-or-go decision for BCS Title participants is tight, but it could be much worse.
Last month I spotlighted eight junior RBs who I consider to be potential day one picks (remember that day one now consists of just rounds one and two.) Four of the eight are leaving early: Ray Rice (word on him just came out today), Rashard Mendenhall, Jamaal Charles, and Kevin Smith. The decision of those guys, in particular Smith (who initially said he would return to UCF), may have an impact on Steve Slaton's decision to return to WVU. Slaton has a week to change his mind, but he appears to be heading back to Morgantown for 2008.
Rice's 280 yard, 4 TD rushing performance in the International Bowl was mostly buried due to happening in the midst of the NFL's Wild Card Weekend, but it's hard to say what he'd be able to do to change his draft status by coming back to school. He'll always have the "small" tag, even with his world-class ability, and returning to Rutgers would have meant putting even more miles on his body as far as the grind that the Rutgers offense has demanded from him.
Of the remaining three, McFadden appears a lock to declare early. At this point there is no word from Jonathan Stewart, but he blew up on USF in the Sun Bowl and would be entering the pros on a high note. The lone remaining consideration of the eight is Felix Jones, who new Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has already met with. If Jones returns to Arkansas (and McFadden doesn't), I figure it'll be a battle between him and Chris Wells for the top RB spot in the 2009 Draft.
With this year being relatively thin at the tight end position, there are some junior TEs who are making the jump to the NFL. USC tight end Fred Davis is the favorite to be the first tight end taken, possibly in the top 20 of the draft, but there are other contenders who will be in the mix from the junior class. They include Texas A&M's Martellus Bennett, Florida's Cornelius Ingrim, and Texas' Jermichael Finley.
Finley, technically a redshirt sophomore, was an odd name to see in the list, not only because of the history of players returning for their senior year under Mack Brown (before this year, the only one he lost early to the NFL was Vince Young), but because he's not projected to go any earlier than the third round. But Finley is married and has a two-year-old child, which I imagine played a role in his decision to head to the NFL.