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Feb. 28, 2006

Posted: Tuesday February 28, 2006 4:04PM; Updated: Tuesday February 28, 2006 4:04PM
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Want to argue about the NFL? Let's go ...

Don't Discount The College System

John Biever/SI

Though there are exceptions, three general rules have been established in recent years for the NFL Draft.

1. Never pick a Florida receiver.
2. Never take a Penn State running back.
3. Never draft a Jeff Tedford-trained quarterback.

In each case, there's a valid reason. Gator receivers looked better than they were because of Steve Spurrier's offense. Nittany Lion running backs were running through holes the size of the Grand Canyon (Larry Johnson still is running through those holes in Kansas City, and that's the only reason he's succeeded). I'm not sure why Tedford QBs (Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, David Carr, Trent Dilfer and Kyle Boller) have all been overrated, but I suspect it's because he's coached in conferences that don't allow defense.

SI.com's Don Banks proposed adding a new rule: Never take a Texas Longhorn in the top 10. With Vince Young and Michael Huff projected to go very high, this is a big issue for teams about to make a major investment in the former 'Horns. While there have been some decent Longhorns selected below the top 10 of late -- Shaun Rogers, Chris Simms, Derrick Johnson -- the Texas guys at the top of the draft have been nothing but trouble.

I was surprised how much resistance Banks' theory received here at SI.com, because many people believe individual players need to be judged as individuals. But unlike baseball, everything an individual player does on a football field depends on the team around him. In the right situation, mediocre players will look great in college and great players look average. It's up to the team to figure out when it's the system more than the player. One way to help determine that is by looking at past drafts.

There has been something wrong with many of the elite players coming out of Texas. On the flip side, there was a period where Miami Hurricanes were underrated by NFL personnel evaluators and kept falling farther than they should have in the draft.

I'm not saying Young and Huff don't deserve to be top-10 picks. I just think teams should consider their Texas pedigree as one of the many factors they consider before making a huge investment at the top of the first round.

I'd love to hear what you think and if you have any theories as to why some schools seem to produce better pros or if that is simply a myth.

-- Andrew Perloff (4:30 p.m.)

Would this team theory apply to all USC players, since they are all pretty good and make their there counterparts much better and therefore are overrated as individuals? I think that's the case. And for the record, Jay Cutler will be the best QB from this draft and LenDale White will be the Best RB. Mark my words.
-- Alex Gordon , Vancouver, Wash.

A few USC products look like slight disappointments -- Mike Williams and Keary Colbert come to mind -- but Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu and Lofa Tatupu are pretty impressive.
-- AP

I'm may have to concur on the Florida and Penn State assumptions, but Tedford's quarterbacks have all gone to pathetic teams, except for Trent Dilfer a couple of those years and he, uh, won a Super Bowl ...
-- Bruce Scott , Los Angeles

Ya, Dilfer was a real steal for the Bucs at No. 6 back in 1994. We're trying to figure out if players are good draft prospects. Not if they have the potential to be a decent journeyman who won a Super Bowl because of a great defense.
-- AP

I agree that you shouldn't take a PSU rb, but i disagree that LJ is only doing what he's doing because of his line in K.C. He has a chip on his shoulder and is a mean, mean dude. I can almost guarantee he will be successful wherever he goes.
-- Eric , New York

I strongly disagree. The Chiefs' running back spot is just like the Broncos. Anyone could run there.
-- AP

Along with the Florida recievers rule, shouldn't you add in Florida's quarterbacks, they don't exactly tear it up in the NFL either. (Don't tell me Rex Grossman, I am a Bears fan and he looks like a flop.)
-- Aaron , St. Louis

Given that Penn State has produced running backs such as Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, Lenny Moore, Curt Warner and now, Larry Johnson, I'd say Penn State stacks up with almost any school for turning out NFL backs. Yes, there have been recent draft disappointments (i.e Curtis Enis) but Ki-Jana Carter's career was cut short by injuries not lack of talent. Also keep in mind that Penn State has produced solid running backs such as Richie Anderson and Gary Brown (in the 90's) who have had solid NFL careers. So, lay off with cheap shots at Penn State, Mr. Perloff, and look at the facts!
-- Doug Shelton , Los Angeles

Dude, seriously. Are you really going to say that Larry Johnson only succeeded because of the line? He was the best RB in the league the second half of the season. He was flat running over guys. He could have played for the Jets and rushed for 2,000 yards in a full season.
-- Grant , Kansas City, Mo.

I know I'm in the minority on Larry Johnson, but I still feel he benefited from the same system that made Priest Holmes and even Derrick Blaylock look so good. Johnson would have gotten killed on the Jets in 2005. Jim Brown would have looked average in that offense. The opposing defensive lines spent more time in the Jets' backfield than Curtis Martin did.
-- AP

Banks's analysis is flawed, as evidenced by how he has to stretch for gripes against Benson (I like the fact that he threw in the injury as an afterthought), Roy Williams, and Davis. Obviously, Ricky has had issues, but prior to that he was a marquee RB.
-- Homer Horan , Bethesda, Md.

I can buy a very specific argument -- e.g. no Tedford QB or Penn State running back. A QB coach or team ground game is a much more proximate cause in determining athlete success than an entire program is. Over years of drafts, you expect to see some random distributions of busts, and sometimes the random nature means that four-to-five top picks in a row from one school can fail. To take your logic seriously, I guess the team with the 11th pick should take Vince, since Top 10 UT picks have floundered while non-top 10 Texas picks have flourished. That makes a lot of sense.
-- Phillip Blackburn , Dallas

Another rule: Don't draft Wisconsin RBs high. Rule is comparable to the Penn State factor in that anyone can run through holes that are as big as a truck. Case in point: Ron Dayne, Micheal Bennentt, Anthony Davis. I'm saying this as a Badgers fan too.
-- Charles , Middleton, Wisc.

Instead of a "don't" what about a "do?" Do draft Auburn RBs. Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Rudi Johnson, Tony Richardson, Fred Beasley and the one and only Bo Jackson. I really could go on and on. Auburn is Running Back U.
-- Hudge , Atlanta

I totally agree. Texas players are soft. As are Oklahoma players. Comes from playing in the Big XII. Here's another rule: players from UGA will ALWAYS be undervalued in the draft. UGA has more Super Bowl MVPs than any other school (three). They have a littany of defensive and offensive standouts currently in the NFL, many of them picked after the first round. If you pick a player out of UGA, accepting a few exceptions (Quincy Carter), you can't go wrong. Look for DJ Shockley and David Greene both to be starters in this league within five years.
-- Matthew , Gainesville, Ga.

Don't forget about the Ohio State linebackers. I dont recall Chris Spielman and Andy Katzenmoyer having stellar NFL careers
-- Austin , Columbus, Ohio

Don't forget about the Ohio State linebackers. I don't recall Chris Spielman and Andy Katzenmoyer having stellar NFL careers
-- Austin , Columbus, Ohio

So Larry Johnson is only good because of a good line? So by that logic than I guess that Emmitt Smith was only good because of his line also? Sounds like excuses to me. I'm not a Penn State fan either. I'm a 'Horns fan and I know this: none of the guys that Don Banks just mentioned is even close to the level of football player as Vince Young.
-- Andrew , Dallas

Thank you. I've been saying Smith has been overrated for years. Of course, I'm a life-long Eagles fan, so I can't help but be bias. And I agree with you on Young.
-- AP

How about discussing some of the most underrated college systems? Take Purdue. In recent years, they've sent the likes of Drew Brees and Roosevelt Colvin to the NFL, among others, including 40 percent of New England's offensive line (Brandon Gorin and Matt Light). There are many schools like this that produce quality athletes but get little notice because the programs aren't winning MNCs and/or their players aren't as self-promoting.
-- Mike , Chicago

How about discussing some of the most underrated college systems? Take Purdue. In recent years, they've sent the likes of Drew Brees and Roosevelt Colvin to the NFL, among others, including 40 percent of New England's offensive line (Brandon Gorin and Matt Light). There are many schools like this that produce quality athletes but get little notice because the programs aren't winning MNCs and/or their players aren't as self-promoting.
-- Mike , Chicago

I whole-heartedly agree that players are a product of the system. For instance Jason White and the Sooners from the '03 season ... he was an average quarterback surrounded by college all-stars that made him look awesome. He turned out to be nothing in the pros. The rule you propose about Texas is accurate based on history and I don't think Vince Young will turn out to be the Michael Vick (or better) that everyone expects. He cashed in on an outstanding performance and average defense in a big game. But I'm also not sure there's a such thing as a "sure pick" in the draft. It's more like a lottery even for players like the USC crew everyone is raving about.
-- Justin , Denver

The sample size on any of these items is so small that it's ridiculous to divine rules based on it. But thank you for repeating all the old saws anyway.
-- Steve S , Colorado Springs, Colo.

First off, I don't know what "old saws" means. Secondly, obviously you can't look at a college over too many years because almost every school turns over their coaching staffs. But I think there's a reason so many NFL scouts mob Miami Hurricanes workouts. Certain colleges attract and develop future pros better than others.
-- AP

This theory applies to any previously no-namer in the top 15 (i.e. Troy Williamson). You don't take a player who looked good at the combine. This year it is Jay Cutler. Ready for this: Best QB is Leinart and best RB is Laurence Maroney of Minnesota.
-- Ben , Mukwonago, Wisc.

I think the NFL personnel types have learned to downplay those combine numbers a little bit after that Mike Mamula era, when a player could shuttle run his way into the top 10. But I do agree combine numbers are dangerous. It seems like savvy clubs are more interested in the combine interview sessions these days.
-- AP

How about any player ever coached by Rick Neuheisel? Name one that has had success in the NFL.
-- Tyler , Seattle

It may be a little early to draw conclusions about the high draft picks coming out of Texas. It's hard to blame injuries on a college program. And as for Roy Williams, he should be exempt because he's having to catch balls thrown by a 'Tedford-trained quarterback!'
-- Tyler , Raleigh, N.C.

Brilliant point. The Lions should have known that could never work.
-- AP

I don't understand how one can say that Texas players are bust just because of a couple of bad apples. You spoke of Roy Williams -- last I checked you need a QB to throw the ball to a WR. Ricky was the rushing champion three years ago. Jammer is the No. 1 CB on a playoff-caliber team that relies on him and his counterpart to do their job so that they can send those intricate blitzs that confused the best QB in the nfl. Once Cedric Benson can get on the field you'll see how good this kid really is. Keep talking trash about Longhorns and they'll keep being consistent in an age where it is lacking.
-- Jason , Houston