'07 NFL Draft: Weekend in Review

The fourth weekend of college football was capped off with exciting finishes and games which could impact the national title. Several top-name NFL prospects turned in brilliant performances while other next level players not as well known also looked good.

Calvin Johnson keeps chugging along and will be one of the first three picks in next April's draft.  The big junior is believed to have already made up his mind and will leave for the NFL after this season.  Johnson turned in another outstanding performance this week against a Virginia secondary which offers several solid pro-prospects.  Totaling six receptions for 165-receiving yards and two scores, questions still linger about how fast the 230-pounds Johnson really is.  Yet one cannot help but be impressed by his 16.4-yard per reception average this season.

Even in a tough last second loss to North Carolina State, scouts were once again impressed with Boston College offensive lineman Josh Beekman.  The athletic blocker continues to look effective at both guard and center.  Beekman's versatility is pushing him into the draft's top 75 selections.

How dominant has the Wolverine defense been?  In four games opponents have accumulated just 74-yards rushing.  Michigan surrendered just 12-yards on the ground to Wisconsin last Saturday.

Several Wolverine defenders have stood out including some lesser known prospects. Defensive tackle Alan Branch has been a dominant force in the middle of the Wolverine line, commanding double teams yet still collapsing the pocket.  Branch's ability to occupy blockers and stuff the run has allowed linebacker David Harris seek out ball-carriers.  Applying pressure off the edge is Lamarr Woodley and Rondell Biggs.  

Just a junior, Branch is cementing a first round grade for himself should he enter the draft.  Woodley is not far behind as he'll be chosen in the middle part of day one.  Harris, who rededicated himself to football this season, has moved into the middle rounds.  Biggs could be a steal in the late frames.

And though the Badger offense could not run the ball the passing game was effective as was left tackle Joe Thomas.  Still showing some rust and not fully recovered from the surgery to repair a knee ligament he tore last January, Thomas was effective all day protecting the blind side.  Regardless of the stats Thomas also looked solid run blocking, not one of his strong suits.

Everyone is always looking for sleepers in the draft.  Here's a name to remember; Anthony Spencer, the defensive end from Purdue.  Offering solid size (6'2"/265-pounds) and terrific speed (4.62) Spencer has been a pass rushing demon this season, totaling five sacks in the teams four games.  He could slide into the late part of day one for a defense which runs a one-gap system similar to that of the Indianapolis Colts.

While most in the media concentrate on Michael Bush and Brian Brohm of Louisville, scouts are ecstatic about the play of another Cardinal. Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye has been dominant up front all season for Louisville.  Constantly double teamed, Okoye shows athleticism to make plays laterally as well as up the field.  Already a first day pick, Okoye could be headed into the draft's initial 45 selections.

Cal's Marshawn Lynch is off and running this season.  Lynch posted 124-yards rushing against Arizona State on Saturday, raising his season average to 112-yards per game in '05.  Lynch, a junior likely to enter the draft, sits behind Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson as the second running back on draft boards.

Keep an eye on Samuel Smith, the tight end from Florida International.  Underrated in scouting circles, Smith is a natural pass catcher who could be used as a move tight end in the NFL.  To date Smith has totaled 23-receptions for 267 receiving yards in four games.

Sidney Rice of South Carolina has his game back on track.  After totaling just five receptions during the initial two contests of the season, Rice more than tripled that number in the next two games.  He comes off a monster game against Florida Atlantic totaling nine receptions for 161-receiving yards and an incredible five touchdowns.  Three of the Gamecocks next four opponents include Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee; defenses which all have solid NFL prospects at cornerback.  If Rice continues this pace he is likely to leave for the draft and will be a first round choice.

Arizona State receiver Terry Richardson could not back up his words.  After promising to become a bigger part of the offense the week leading up to the Pac Ten opener against Cal, Richardson responded with just two receptions.  Originally considered a fringe middle round choice, Richardson must quickly kick it into gear or he will be left undrafted next April.

Kenneth Darby continues to struggle.  The big senior ball carrier from Alabama with outstanding size/speed numbers posted just 64-yards on 26 carries in the Tides overtime loss to Arkansas.  Darby, considered a fringe first round pick, has yet to total more than 80-yards in any single game this season.

Another potential first round pick, Notre Dame defensive end Victor Abiamiri, has played uninspired football thus far in 2006.  While opponents have focused on the pass rushing terror, making his life difficult, Abiamiri has been invisible for most of the season.

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