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Identifying potential gems and flops in the draft

Posted: Wednesday April 26, 2006 9:40AM; Updated: Wednesday April 26, 2006 1:09PM
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With a cannon for an arm and impeccable mechanics,  Alabama's Brodie Croyle has the makings of a solid NFL quarterback.
With a cannon for an arm and impeccable mechanics, Alabama's Brodie Croyle has the makings of a solid NFL quarterback.
Bob Rosato/SI
• DR. Z:  Final first-round mock draft
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All across the NFL, coaches, general managers and scouts have been sitting in front of their computers this week, eagerly anticipating the release of my fourth annual NFL draft overrated/underrated column. Why, just this week I got yet another call from eternally grateful Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren.

"Thanks again, Stewart, for the tip on Lofa Tatupu, your underrated linebacker prospect last year. As you know, he had a pretty good rookie year for us."

My pleasure, Mike. Though may I recommend that you and your colleagues try tuning into to a couple of USC games next time.

Wait ... the phone's ringing again. Well, hello Marvin Lewis. "What can I say, Stewart. You were right about Chris Henry. For a third-round pick, he sure added a lot to our offense." No problem, Marvin. And I'm sure West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez would like to thank you for taking that head case off his hands.

Yep, last year's  overrated/underrated column was right on. Darren Sproles underrated? Check. Fabian Washington overrated? Check. In fact I bet this is another congratulatory call coming in now... Oh crap, it's Bears coach Lovie Smith. "You know I'm never going to let you live down that Tommie Harris/overrated bit two years ago."

Yeah, yeah, I know. Eli Manning still calls to taunt me every two weeks as well. What can I say, some years pan out better than others.

But I've got a good feeling about 2006.


Overrated: Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt
Let me start by saying I do think the pride of the Commodores could well be a solid NFL quarterback. Considering he spent much of his career running from unblocked pass-rushers and throwing to third-rate SEC receivers (until last season, when freshman stud Earl Bennett came on the scene), Cutler's accomplishments at Vandy -- 3,073 yards, 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a senior -- were nothing short of remarkable. But the mere fact that many among the NFL cognoscenti are even thinking about taking Cutler ahead of the most dangerous quarterback to come through the college ranks in years (hint: rhymes with "rinse tongue") makes Cutler overrated -- and raises serious questions about how some of these scouts themselves would perform on the Wonderlic.

Underrated: Brodie Croyle, Alabama
Considering how much emphasis the NFL puts on arm strength, you'd think they'd be falling all over themselves for this guy. Croyle has a gun (just ask the Florida secondary). His mechanics are impeccable and his natural leadership abilities had a great deal to do with the Tide jumping out to a 9-0 start last season. I'm sure his substantial injury history (he underwent shoulder and ACL surgeries while in Tuscaloosa) is helping to knock him down the pecking order, but the fifth-year senior was a picture of health last season when he completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,499 yards, 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. This, despite the fact he played behind a horrendous offensive line that allowed 39 sacks and had to work with a largely unreliable receiving corps after Tyrone Prothro went down with a broken leg.