Snap Judgments (cont.)
Posted: Sunday February 25, 2007 6:23PM; Updated: Monday February 26, 2007 12:19AM
The talent scouts are all looking for any of the flaws they might have missed in Williams' game two years ago, making sure they don't make the same mistake and slap a top-10 grade on Jarrett by reputation and collegiate production alone. Do that kind of thing enough, and that's how certain cautionary stereotypes develop about players at a certain position from a certain school, i.e., beware of Penn State running backs and Florida receivers.
Thomas, considered the clear-cut top-ranked offensive tackle in this year's draft, dealt with the same thing this week. He was asked repeatedly to distinguish himself from Gallery, the one-time Iowa offensive tackle who went second overall to Oakland in 2004, and then quickly made everyone who slapped that can't-miss label on him look silly with his struggles.
"I'm a different player than Robert Gallery,'' said Thomas, who many project to go second overall, just as Gallery did, to the Lions. "I think I'm a very technically sound offensive tackle. I think I have a great work ethic. I think I study really hard, study my opponent hard, and I think I'm a pretty athletic offensive lineman, too.''
Thomas is probably exactly right and he may quickly prove his worth upon entering the league. But at the Combine, the burden of proof is largely on the player. As strange as it sounds, it's kind of like guilty until proven innocent. Nobody ever said it was all that fair. But in Indy, that's just the way the evaluation game works.
We wrote Saturday about Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson's freakish package of size, speed and strength, and how he's widely considered the best prospect in this year's draft. Johnson didn't do anything but cement that status by running a blazing 4.35 in his 40-yard dash on Sunday, which remarkably enough was only the third fastest time in his receiver grouping.
Anywhere in the 4.3 range qualifies you as a burner, and there were five 4.3's in Johnson's receiving Group 4. Kansas State Yamon Figurs ripped off a 4.3 -- one of the fastest Combine 40s since Deion Sanders hung up his record 4.25 in 1989 -- and Jason Hill of Washington State posted a 4.32, dramatically helping his draft status.
Johnson said Saturday he wasn't going to run his 40 at the Combine, but apparently he changed his mind and made a somewhat impulsive decision to go for it on Sunday. He even needed to borrow shoes from East Carolina quarterback James Pinkney in order to run. Imagine how fast he might be in his own shoes?
From Johnson's point of view, that was one costly Friday morning coin flip that decided Cleveland had the No. 3 pick and Tampa Bay the No. 4 selection. The Bucs covet the Georgia Tech receiver, while the top three teams, Oakland, Detroit and Cleveland, are well stocked at his position and aren't likely to take him.
Had the Bucs won the toss and taken Johnson at No. 3 as expected, the higher draft slot would have been worth a minimum of a couple extra million dollars in his rookie contract.
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