Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2008 NFL Draft Stock Watch, Part 3: Sliders

Equally apparent as the top “risers” of Senior Bowl week were the top “sliders.” Although my initial post used ten sources, the Frank Coyle article dealt only with risers, so there were only nine articles that mentioned sliders. Unfortunately for Colt Brennan he received nine mentions.

For me Brennan isn't a “stock down” guy: I already had him clear of my top ten quaterbacks. And that's in a QB class that's less than stellar. I'm actually surprised he had received mid-round grades from online draftniks and sports radio gurus, as well as anonymous scouts quoted in news articles, going into Senior Bowl week.

One of my favorite QBs of all-time, Bernie Kosar, had a funky side arm delivery, but he could get the job done with timing and vision and wiles. That rhythm in the face of pressure, that quickness in reading the field, and that seemingly innate sense of the pocket and where the play is: those are things I didn't see when I watched Brennan at Hawaii against one of the weakest schedules in the nation. He seems like a real cool dude, an amiable young man. It would be a great story if he could make it and become a star in the NFL. But I don't see it happening. I hope I'm wrong.

Right behind Brennan was Andre Woodson with eight “slider” mentions. A good performance could have catapulted Woodson into the first round; instead, he must now look ahead to the combine and hope to put on a show there to assure himself a place in at least the second round. How bad did Woodson look at times in Mobile last week? I thought he was most comparable to Byron Leftwich—in Atlanta. Ouch.

Adarius Bowman and Dejuan Tribble were the only other two players who were pretty much universally panned for their Senior Bowl practices. Bowman had problems fighting the ball all week, but he also flashed the potential that had him rated by many as one of the top wide outs in the draft. He'll get a chance to redeem himself at the combine. I'm surprised Tribble didn't get more mentions given how often he seemed to get burned. One thing about Tribble, though, is that he does have a nose for the ball. He's only 5'8.5," which is about four inches short of prototypical safety height; but with 9.5" hands, a definite toughness, and Bob Sanders as precedent, maybe he can take that nose for the ball and make himself a career at safety.

And here are my top five sliders, limiting it to the players who received two or fewer mentions by the sources of my initial post.

1. Erik Ainge, QB, Tennessee
Ainge is going to remain one of my pet cats of the 2008 draft, but he didn't show as well as I thought he would. I still think he'll be a good pro, but he really is going to need some time to develop. I guess this makes sense, since the player he seems most comparable to is Derek Anderson. With Brennan and Woodson struggling in the eyes of scouts, Ainge missed a chance to capitalize and dramatically improve his draft stock. And while he led the South team to victory in the game's final drive, he was less than spectacular in doing so, and the drive was kept alive by a couple of awful calls by the refs (who probably had the worst day of anyone on the field last Saturday).

2. Cody Wallace, C, Texas A&M
Whenever I saw him, Wallace struggled to hold his ground. Although he reportedly got off to a good start last week, he had his worst day on Wednesday, the most important day of the week. The spot of top-rated center in the draft was up for grabs and Wallace failed to seize it.

3. Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina
Going into the Senior Bowl I didn't have Johnson rated nearly high as just about everyone else online, placing him as the tenth running back and not even feeling really good about that. It's true his week was cut short with a shoulder injury, but even before that he didn't really stand out—and it's easier for a speedy back to stand out at such an event than it is for a player from any other position. Given his size, durability is going to be an issue for Johnson, and so even getting dinged up last week has to be taken at least somewhat as a negative.

4. Kory Lichtensteiger, C, Bowling Green
Since Bowling Green is a team I didn't get to watch at all last year, I had Lichtensteiger rated just from information gathered online. I thought he might be the second or third center in the draft. It looks like that thought was way off. Lichtensteiger had one of the roughest weeks of any lineman at the Senior Bowl. And while he wasn't a top-rated player to begin with, in a relatively week class of interior lineman he could have moved up with a solid showing.

5. Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
Writing for, TFY Draft Preview's Tony Pauline was the only one of the sources used in my "stock watch" consensus that mentioned Cherilus as a slider. College Football News even mentioned a player who was “hot” and not “not.” But Cherilus looked more “not” than not “not” to me. It was basically the same way I felt watching him at Boston College this past season. His measureables are off the charts, and he has the skill set, but he just doesn't seem to put it all together. Maybe I'm a harsher critic of his play because of all his physical talent: I expect to see him dominate and he doesn't. He can shut down his guy, but he doesn't do it consistently. He's probably still a first-round draft choice, and he could be an All-Pro someday. But I don't know that I'd place that bet.

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