Get the scoop on some of the emerging stars from the college ranks that your favorite NFL team could be scouting right now. NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber fills you in.
This past weekend you had a chance to see the talent Texas running back Jamaal Charles possesses. A former track star, Charles torched the Nebraska defense for 290 yards on 33 carries and three touchdowns. Prior to Saturday's game against the Huskers, Charles averaged just 14 carries for 65 yards and one touchdown in Texas' previous five games. Charles is a speedy, elusive runner who is still developing his skills as a featured back. He's only a junior, and he has a lot of talent and a world of potential, but he's still an inconsistent performer who will benefit from staying in school another year.
Having a playmaker at the linebacker position is becoming a necessity and an element that's high in demand. But finding a linebacker that can impact the game emotionally and play well against the run and the pass, like Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman, is a hard thing to accomplish. Meet Nevada's Ezra Butler. After studying Butler this season and last season, I'm convinced that he's a player who has the potential to be like Merriman. At 6-foot-2, 252 pounds, Butler has great size. He runs a 4.48 in the 40, and is as instinctive as any linebacker in college football. So far this season, Butler has amassed 43 tackles, six for a loss, one sack and two interceptions. If he has a great showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, he could sneak into the first round.
Colt Brennan AP Photo/Isaac Brekken
Hawaii's Colt Brennan appears to be fully recovered from his severely sprained right ankle injury. He completed 29-of-46 passes for 425 yards, six touchdowns, and an interception against New Mexico State on Saturday night. Brennan suffered the injury the day before Hawaii played UNLV. Brennan played well against the Rebels, but he missed the following week's game against Charleston Southern to rest his ankle. However, the week off didn't do much for him. In the Warriors ensuing three games, he completed 93-of-149 passes for 1,133 yards, eight touchdowns, and nine interceptions. His performance against New Mexico State gets him back in the Heisman race and in the mind of scouts as one of the top quarterbacks in the country.
Kentucky's Heisman hopeful QB Andre Woodson usually looks for Keenan Burton as his big-play threat, but with Burton slowed by an ankle injury, senior Steve Johnson has emerged on the scene. Johnson has been the perfect compliment to Burton this season and with his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame, he has great size, speed, and athleticism to be a dangerous vertical threat. In Kentucky's loss to Mississippi State last Saturday, Johnson had three receptions for 69 yards and two touchdowns. In the Wildcats' two previous games -- against LSU and Florida -- Johnson averaged seven receptions for 131 yards. A former JUCO transfer, Johnson's game has developed rapidly in Kentucky's offensive system, and if he shines during the offseason, his draft stock will also be on the rise.
A second-day quarterback to keep an eye on for next year's draft is Delaware's Joe Flacco. At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, Flacco has prototypical size and the intangibles it takes to be a starting quarterback at the next level. He delivers the ball with great accuracy and shows nice touch leading receivers in stride. He's not a mobile quarterback, but moves well laterally to escape the pocket and make throws on the run. He's had a good season for the Blue Hens so far (completing over 72 percent of his passes for 2,408 yards, 13 touchdowns, and three interceptions) and really shined against Navy this past weekend. Flacco completed 30-of-41 passes for 434 yards and four touchdowns. If your team is looking to develop a quarterback for the future, Flacco has a lot of tools to work with.
There was some bad news this past weekend, and it involved another top quarterback in the nation, Nebraska's Sam Keller. Keller, who's played well of late, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Texas on Saturday. The injury occurred late in the fourth quarter when Keller stayed in the pocket until the last second and fired an incomplete pass intended for Nate Swift. Texas' DE Eddie Jones delivered the hit that ended Keller's collegiate career. It's unknown how severe the injury is, but it's another blemish on Keller's injury record, and it may affect his draft status next April if he's unable to work out during the offseason.
A member of the Pro
Football Writers of America and the Football
Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has
provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft
prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.