Harrell, Meachem go in 1st

All of those NFL experts who projected Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem and defensive tackle Justin Harrell would be first-round picks in the 2007 draft were correct. They just got the order wrong.

Harrell was selected by the Green Bay Packers with pick No. 16 in Round 1. Meachem, the more heralded of the two, was taken by the New Orleans Saints with pick 27.

Justin Harrell, a 6-4, 302-pounder from Martin, tore the bicep in his left arm in Game 2 vs. Air Force last fall but suited up and started the following Saturday against Florida. He underwent surgery shortly thereafter and missed the final 10 games of his senior season. In the three games he played Harrell recorded 3 tackles and 4 assists, with one tackle for loss and one quarterback hurry.

The Packers obviously put considerable stock in Harrell's junior year, when he was tabbed second-team All-SEC. In 11 games that fall he recorded 21 tackles, 18 assists and 7.5 tackles for loss (including 2.5 sacks). He batted down five passes, forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes, returning one seven yards for a touchdown.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper called Harrell "a 300-pounder with great athleticism," adding: "Where would he have gone had he been healthy all year? Probably in the top 10."

Meachem, a 6-2, 212-pounder from Tulsa, set a UT record with 1,298 receiving yards as a junior last fall. He joins a Saints team that already has two high-profile weapons in 2005 Heisman winner Reggie Bush and Marques Colston, a seventh-round pick in 2006 who led all NFL rookies in receptions last season.

Kiper called Meachem "a guy that plays well in the big games" and noted that, thanks to Erik Ainge's improvement at quarterback last fall, Meachem "emerged as a big-time player and certainly a prospect a lot of teams from the middle of the first round on have had their eye on."

Harrell and Meachem were among a host of SEC players chosen in Round 1.

LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell went No. 1 to Oakland. Tiger safety LaRon Landry went No. 6 to Washington. Defensive end Jamaal Anderson of Arkansas went No. 8 to Atlanta. Linebacker Patrick Willis of Ole Miss was tabbed by San Francisco with pick No. 11. Florida defensive end Jarvis Moss was taken by Denver with No. 17, one pick behind Harrell. Florida safety Reggie Nelson was selected by Jacksonville with pick 21. LSU receiver Dwayne Bowe was taken by Kansas City with pick 23. Auburn guard Ben Grubbs went to Baltimore with pick 29 and LSU receiver Craig Davis to San Diego with pick 30.

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