With all of the information available in the press, over the internet, in periodicals and on both television and radio, it is not a particularly difficult task for any draft enthusiast, writer — or for that matter a polar bear — to put together a credible prediction as to which players will be selected in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft.
When I began my career with the Chicago Bears back in 1972, the late Carl Marasco and his brother Pete were the first to publish their list of the top players available in the upcoming draft. Carl went on to work with the Bears while Pete, an attorney, briefly worked in the CFL and later in personnel for the Jets.
They were quickly followed by Palmer Hughes, a former New York school teacher, the late Joel Buchsbaum, a reclusive former dietitian who died suddenly back in 2002, and Jerry Jones, a real life pharmacist who published "The Drugstore List."
The most well known of this new breed of internet scouts is ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., a likeable, fast-talking individual who was once described by veteran Bengals scout Bill Tobin as being about as qualified as his mailman to evaluate football talent. I'm sure it was an embarrassing moment for Mel, but in the end he had the last laugh, by today commanding a salary that may well be four to five times greater then the top professional scouts in the game. I'm not certain he knows the difference between "cloud coverage" and the barometric pressure outside his suburban Baltimore home, but as long as those checks clear on the first and fifteenth and the fans are satisfied, what does it matter?
Today there are literally hundred of these scouting wannabes hocking their publications online, on the newsstands or in associations with the major sports networks. Virtually none have ever done the necessary grunt work of viewing countless hours of film, attending practices, questioning coaches, trainers, interviewing players and —after the season — physically, mentally, and physiologically testing these athletes. And yet many of these draftniks are actually referred to by many media sources as experts.
Penn State QB Anthony Morelli sprints away from a Michigan State defender.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
No, I'm afraid the real experts are actually people like Jerry Shay, Alonzo Highsmith, Phil Neri, Steve Verderosa, Marty Barrett, Dick Daniels, Jerry Hardaway, Tom Modrak, Dave Razzano and the countless other overworked, under-appreciated scouts toiling in relative obscurity for teams throughout the country.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to come in contact with some amateur draft enthusiasts who literally blew me away with their knowledge and instincts for evaluating football talent. The best of these was without question former Emmy-winning actor Bradford Dillman. Dillman, who became a fixture in the 49ers draft room during their glory years, took his film down-time hobby to another level, and over the years actually became a confidant of Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh.
That being said, other draftniks have had an impact on the pro game. Back in 2002, after four corners were drafted in the first round, two Rams officials asked me if I would have any problem drafting Travis Fisher, a relatively unknown corner from Central Florida originally slotted as a third-round selection with our second-round pick. I told them I didn't think he would be available on our third selection and if we truly wanted him, we needed to draft him a round sooner.
Over the years I have seen numerous occasions where scouts and coaches have disagreed with potential selections, but the answer I received regarding Fisher was truly one for the ages. He said (while holding a stack of seventy-five to a hundred sheets of paper), "Tom, I have read your reports, viewed his touch tape, and compared his workout numbers to all of the other corners in this year's draft. But the problem I have with taking him is that his name does not appear in any of these mock drafts as a potential second-round selection." Fortunately, Mike Martz still had the final say in all personnel matters and pulled the trigger on Fisher, who started for five seasons with the Rams before signing with the Detroit Lions as a free agent in 2007
So next week, I will join the legion of experts and offer my assessment on the first round. But I thought before doing so, I would first go out on a limb and give my opinion on who might be selected in this year's seventh round.
A former scouting colleague — without even viewing my selections — has wagered me a steak dinner at a restaurant of my choice — that I won't be able to name two of the 45 potential seventh-round selections. And for each correct prediction over two, he has promised an additional steak dinner.
For the record, in my first attempt in 2007 I was able to hit on twelve seventh-round selections — a far cry from the twenty-eight of thirty-two first-round hits. But if I can duplicate that effort, it would be good enough to keep me on the free-meal gravy train for a very long time.
|1-208||Miami||Joshua Johnson||QB||San Diego|
|Is a good athlete, and although a long-term project, is certainly worth the gamble in round number seven.|
|Top prep defensive line prospect with strong hands, athletic ability and pop, but has never played to his potential.|
|3-210||Kansas City||Anthony Morelli||QB||Penn St|
|Has top-round physical skills, but his career has been characterized by inconsistencies.|
|4-211||NY Jets||Matt Caddell||WR||Alabama|
|Impressed me with his play in '07. Is a smart, workman-like player with good hands and more speed than advertised.|
|5-212||Atlanta||Jason Jones||DE||E. Michigan|
|Former TE who was moved to DT in '06. Flashed during Senior Bowl workouts. Falcons like his playing character.|
|6-213||Oakland||Alex Hall||DE||St. Augustine|
|Potential high reward project. Last Raider from this school was pass rush specialist Isaac Lassiter.|
|7-214||San Francisco||Thomas Williams||MLB||USC|
|Steady inside backer and special teams player who should add depth to the 49ers defensive unit.|
|Smart and experienced player who has played both corner and safety. Good special teams potential|
|9-216||Detroit||Chad Simpson||RB||Morgan St.|
|Undersized South Florida transfer who showed run skills, speed, strength and balance. Might have some return potential.|
|10-217||St. Louis||Pierre Garcon||WR||Mount Union|
|Small-college star with the physical qualities, speed, hands and return skills you look for in a third or fourth receiver.|
|11-218||New Orleans||Jeremy Geathers||DE||UNLV|
|The Saints drafted his dad with their first selection and twenty-four years later they select Jeremy with their last.|
|12-219||Buffalo||Hilee Taylor||DE||N. Carolina|
|Special-situation, undersized nickel rusher with speed and a closing burst. Must improve a good deal versus the run.|
|13-220||Denver||Marcus Smith||WR||New Mexico|
|Built like a RB and was productive in the under zones. Lacks top speed and red zone production was marginal.|
|14-221||Carolina||William Hayes||DE||Winston-Salem St.|
|Impressive from an athletic standpoint. Could well be the class of this season's seventh-round. prospects.|
|No disputing his numbers, but has a questionable arm and lots of mechanical things that will need to be fixed.|
|Texans look for Kegler to provide depth for what is fast becoming one of the league's top defenses.|
|Young nickel rusher. You have to love his intensity, range and ability to rush the passer.|
|18-225||Arizona||Husain Abdullah||S||Washington St.|
|Brother of Broncos' Hamza. An experienced hand who should add depth while contributing on special teams quickly.|
|19-226||Oakland||Steve Korte||RB||LSU (Former)|
|Has virtually no playing production, but may be one of the most impressive athletes in this year's draft.|
|Is both a smart and experienced hand who was particularly effective in pass coverage.|
|21-228||Washington||Ervin Baldwin||DE||Michigan St.|
|I love this undersized, potential nickel rusher's energy, effort and ability as a speed rusher.|
|22-229||Tennessee||Devin Clark||OG||New Mexico|
|College tackle who appears better-suited to play inside. A mass guy who can bend his knees and get movement.|
|23-230||Philadelphia||Larry Grant||LB||Ohio St.|
|A top JC LB prospect who never lived up to his advanced billing at Ohio State, but has shown the athletic ability to develop.|
|Far better athlete then player at this stage, but one should not give up on big people too quickly.|
|The Falcons like his size and potential as an inside receiver and special team player.|
|A former TE who has only been a one-year starter at guard. Lacks strength, but the Seahawks like his athletic ability and intangibles.|
|27-234||San Diego||Dennis Keyes||S||UCLA|
|Doesn't have top speed, but the Chargers like his size, savvy, range, playing experience and ball skills.|
|28-235||Dallas||Johnny Dingle||DE||West Virginia|
|Undersized, one-dimensional player (pass rusher), who is going to have to improve run defending skills to have a chance.|
|Undersized guy who doesn't have top speed, but is tough, instinctive and aware. Has really matured as a college athlete.|
|30-237||Green Bay||Darrell Strong||TE||Pittsburgh|
|Prep QB and WR. Has excellent size and athletic skills, but has never been a full-time regular. Improved blocker and receiver in '07.|
|31-238||New England||Eric Young||OG||Tennessee|
|Big man who has all the athletic ability and size you look for. Is developmental in terms of playing skills.|
|32-239||Kansas City||Jason Rivers||WR||Hawaii|
|Has been highly productive, but his lack of vertical speed has always been a limiting factor.|
|The heart and soul of UCLA's defense the past three season, the Ravens like his run-stopping and special teams potential.|
|Carolina||Duane Brown||OT||Virginia Tech|
|Big, athletic prospect with good feet and body balance who will need to improve his core strength and finishing skills.|
|Washington||Kevin Robinson||WR||Utah St|
|One of the top kick and punt returners in the country. Robinson lacks top speed but has a chance to factor as a fourth or fifth WR.|
|Might still be a year away from returning from a serious knee injury, but has too much size and speed not to consider here.|
|Has moved around a lot, but may have found a home as a developing pass rusher. Bengals like this local's upside.|
|Starting QB as a freshman who, although lacking in practical playing experience, the Dolphins like due to his intelligence and athletic ability.|
|3-4 backer prospect who played hard and fast. Doesn't have the hips and/or change of direction skills to project to linebacker.|
|Is small in stature, but rare speed, quickness and return potential enhance his overall playing potential.|
|Is undersized, but is another player with quickness and range. Bears like his hand use and playing leverage.|
|Washington||Kevin O'Connell||QB||San Diego St.|
|The Redskins feel this athletic big man over time can transform from strong arm thrower into a polished passer.|
|Top JC player recruit in the country has the size and athletic ability , but has never shown either the maturity and or consistency.|
|Buffalo||Xavier Carter||WR||LSU (Former)|
|The third fastest man ever at 200 meters. Top prep player who was used primarily as a kickoff return man as a freshman and sophomore.|
|St. Louis||Vince Gliatta||S||Youngstown St.|
|Mr Irrelevant. A former QB and Penn State transfer who showed playing savvy, instincts and toughness.|