NFL Draft Watch: Show Some Love

Get the latest news on some of the emerging stars and players that are eligible for the 2009 draft. Some of the players are solidifying their status, while others are falling.'s NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber profiles prospects who may interest your favorite team.

On Saturday, we were reminded that football is just a game, and the individuals who participate put their well being on the line every week. Ball State wide receiver Dante Love, who led the nation in yards receiving per game (144.3) entering the Cardinals game against Indiana this past weekend, was left motionless on the field after he was hit in the helmet by Hoosiers cornerback Chris Adkins during the first half and will likely never play football again. Love, after being on the ground for 15 minutes, was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field. He was immediately taken to nearby Bloomington Hospital, than transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Love underwent a five-hour surgery to stabilize a cervical spinal fracture and a spinal cord injury. Prior to this incident, Love would have been a third or fourth round draft pick next April. I hope everyone who reads this article keeps Love and his family in their prayers; stay strong No. 86.

Harrell is one of the best quarterbacks in the country that nobody wants to recognize, because of the system he plays in.
Sam Greenwood/Getty

In the pass happy offense that Texas Tech operates, it’s easy to say that the system allows for the quarterback to be successful, and over the years, Graham Harrell has outshined the offense and exceeded expectations. Although Harrell does not have the strongest arm, he is usually one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the nation, starting strong and posting consistent numbers throughout the seasons. This year he had a good opening game against Eastern Washington where he completed 74.1-percent of his passes, while throwing for 536 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. But, he followed it up with a disastrous game against Nevada where he completed a career-low 41.3-percent of his passes, while throwing a touchdown and two interceptions, and he didn’t surpass the 300-yard mark for the first time since November of 2006. Texas Tech defeated Nevada 35 – 19 in their Week 2 matchup, despite Harrell’s forgettable day, but that performance has been a wake up call. In the Red Raiders last two games, including Saturday’s performance where he completed 79.4-percent of his passes for 322 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, Harrell has completed 72-percent (58-of-82) of his passes for 740 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions. With Texas Tech now 4 – 0 and ranked 10th in the country, Harrell, if he can post similar numbers to what he has in the past, should get consideration as a third round pick next April.

Michigan State’s senior strong safety Otis Wiley has quietly emerged as a top defensive prospect in the country over the last two seasons. Wiley, a talented three-year starter, has been very productive since he’s been with the Spartans, and this year he’s off to a fast start. Entering Saturday’s game against Notre Dame, Wiley had 15 tackles and two interceptions. After a decisive 23 – 7 victory over the Irish, Wiley made a huge impact and added five tackles and two more interceptions to that total. Last season, while sharing time with Travis Keys, Wiley finished the year with 49 tackles and four interceptions. This season, he’s on pace to record over 60 tackles and at least eight interceptions. If he finishes the year with those kinds of numbers, Wiley, who will have to contend with a great safety draft class, has a chance to be an early Day Two selection.

Prior to the season, I interviewed Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper, and during that interview I asked him about his decision making. His response was, “That’s one part of my game where I believe I manage the game very well. I think I make great decisions, and I don’t force the ball.” Harper made great decisions last year and threw 27 touchdowns and only six interceptions, but this season has been a different story. Through the first four games, Harper has already thrown four interceptions to just three touchdowns and hasn’t looked comfortable at all. It’s possible that Harper is feeling pressure to perform and is trying to do too much. Clemson entered the season as the favorites to win the ACC and contend for a National Championship, which would catapult Harper to the front of the class and a lock as a first round pick. But even though Clemson is 3 – 1 and is still in contention for a BCS game, Harper’s play in Clemson’s 54 – 0 rout over South Carolina State was alarming. He threw two first quarter interceptions and was erratic in the early going. After those turnovers, Clemson turned to the running game and took the ball out of Harper’s hands. Harper’s stock is falling right now, and for him to regain his status as one of the top quarterbacks in the country, he will have to regain his 2007 form.

Georgia Tech’s star defensive end Michael Johnson has all the physical tools to be a dominant pass rusher at the next level. But physical tools and potential only take you so far, and eventually you have produce on the field to truly live up to the hype. Many analysts, including myself, anointed Johnson as one of the top defenders in the country and a potential top-ten pick in next year’s draft. But to this point, Johnson hasn’t made the impact many expected, and despite being double-teamed and chipped on many downs, he’s been a disappointment. Entering Saturday’s game against Mississippi State, Johnson had just six tackles and half a sack in three games; not the kind of production you expect from a top prospect. But in Georgia Tech’s dominant 38 – 7 defeat over Mississippi State, Johnson earned his first full sack of the season. In his three years at Georgia Tech, Johnson has never recorded more than five sacks in a season, and for him to be considered a dominant pass rusher, he’s going to have to show more consistency and not rely solely on others’ perception of his potential.

Thanks to all the underclassmen at the running back position who entered the 2008 NFL Draft, this year’s senior class isn’t very strong. There are a few outstanding senior running backs in college football, and they’re Michigan State’s Javon Ringer, Clemson’s James Davis and Tennessee’s Arian Foster. After those three, the talent drops off considerably. In addition to the top seniors in the nation, there are also a few top underclassmen: Ohio State’s Chris “Beanie” Wells, Clemson’s C.J. Spiller and a name that everyone should remember, Connecticut’s Donald Brown. Brown has been a workhorse thus far for the Huskies and has been brilliant in the team’s first four games. In Connecticut’s comeback 31 – 28 victory over Baylor, Brown rushed for 150 yards on 34 carries and two touchdowns. Including his fine performance against Baylor, Brown has rushed for 716 yards on 113 carries and 10 touchdowns in Connecticut’s first four games. In two of the four contests, Brown had back-to-back 200-yard performances against Temple and Virginia. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Brown is only a junior, and if he continues this production throughout the rest of the season and remains healthy, he could emerge as a potential Day One pick in the ’09 draft if he declares.

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. Steuber’s features are published across the network and on If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at:

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