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Posted: Wednesday April 23, 2008 10:52AM; Updated: Wednesday April 23, 2008 1:20PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >

Educated guess: College expert takes stab at predicting prospects

Story Highlights
  • Matt Ryan, DeSean Jackson, Vernon Gholston among overrated
  • Kevin Smith, James Hardy, Antoine Cason among underrated
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NFL Draft 2008
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Regular readers of my College Football Mailbag know well my feelings about the NFL draft process. I even devoted an entire chapter of a book to mocking the charade. Rather than rehash all that here, I'd rather call to your attention two recent quotes I found particularly amusing:

"Are you kidding me? It's not like we play the games in shorts."
-- A major college assistant, speaking to me about the NFL's absurd overemphasis on combines and 40 times.

"Half [of mock drafts] are put together by NFL writers who watched two Notre Dame games at the airport bar and the second half of the Sugar Bowl."
-- Dan Patrick in last week's Sports Illustrated.

My annual overrated/underrated list is based almost entirely on me reading the aforementioned mock drafts and projections and thinking to myself: "Are you serious? Are they really talking about the same guy I watched in college?"

The answer, of course, is no. In most cases they're talking about a guy the scouts watched in a combine drill and downgraded because he "doesn't use his hands properly at the point of attack." (Try using that phrase in an every-day conversation.)


Overrated: Matt Ryan, Boston College

To be clear: Ryan definitely sold me as a future pro last season, particularly with his improbable game-winning throws at Virginia Tech and Clemson. I realize he's the best QB in this draft and I realize there will always be teams at the top of the list that need a quarterback, but potential top-three pick? Really? That's putting a lot of undue pressure on a guy who ranked 61st in the country in pass efficiency last season and threw 19 interceptions.

The ideal situation for him would be to go late in the first round to a team that doesn't need him to play right away. Instead, he's going to land with the Falcons or some other team that views him as its franchise quarterback. Ask Jay Cutler how that's working out.

Underrated: Chad Henne, Michigan

I feel like Henne isn't getting his proper due because of what appears to be a disappointing senior season. He threw for 1,938 yards. What people don't realize is Henne played the second half of the season with so much pain in his shoulder he couldn't practice during the week. The trainers would shoot him up before the games.

The real Henne is the guy who threw for 373 yards against Florida in the Capital One Bowl, the guy who got overshadowed by John David Booty in the 2007 Rose Bowl but himself completed one NFL-caliber throw after another. He's a good, solid player with a fantastic arm, and he was a four-year starter at Michigan, a place that's seen its share of future pro QBs. If I had to take a first-round QB, he would be it.

Running back

Overrated: Jamaal Charles, Texas

Charles was phenomenal over the second half of last season, averaging more than 179 yards over his last five games, but that was really the first time we'd seen any true consistency out of him. Last year was his first as the feature guy -- after sharing carries his first two seasons -- and he struggled for much of the it. Therefore, he really could have used another year in school.

Charles is a guy that got by mostly on his blazing speed. To me, he's still a very raw running back who will need some time and serious nurturing to mature into a complete back. There was a better chance of that happening in Austin than in an NFL tailback stable.

Underrated: Kevin Smith, Central Florida

The guy ran for 2,567 yards last season. Let me repeat that: 2,567 yards. Yet he's buried way down the list of running backs in this draft. How? You want to say he piled up those numbers against weak Conference USA opponents? What about 217 yards against NC State and 149 against Texas?

But more important ... have you watched the guy? He's got some unbelievable moves. From's scouting profile: "Weaves his way through the inside, finding the openings on the field, makes defenders miss, and quickly gets through the cut-back lanes." Projection: early third round. That makes sense.

Wide receiver

Overrated: DeSean Jackson, Cal

You know how the wide-receiver position tends to attract an inordinate share of head cases? Here's your next one: Only Jackson won't be anywhere near as productive as a Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson. Heck, he wasn't overly productive in college last season, ranking 88th nationally among receivers with 65 catches for 762 yards.

Believe me, there's nothing more electrifying than watching Jackson break a punt return, and that's the one area where I'm sure he'll be a standout at the next level. But with Jackson a projected first-rounder, I would presume the team that drafts him is expecting him to become a 1,000-yard receiver as well. Minus a complete attitude transformation by Jackson, I don't see it happening

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