College stars undervalued in draft
Colt McCoy, college's all-time winningest QB, has a little Peyton Manning in him
Mardy Gilyard is not high on draft boards, despite being an all-around playmaker
Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer is undersized, but reminds some of Chad Greenway
Knowing I cover college football and watch most of the nation's top players annually, people often ask me, "How do you think [Player X] will do in the NFL?"
My answer is: I don't have the foggiest idea.
The NFL draft is a maddening ritual for those of us with a greater affinity for the collegiate brand because the player rankings and evaluations, in many cases, bear little resemblance to said players' performance in college. For instance, while the top of every mock draft right now consists of a former Heisman winner (Sam Bradford) and three consensus All-Americas (Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Eric Berry), the latter part of the first round includes guys like USC defensive end Everson Griffen, a much-touted recruit but mostly a career underachiever who had a few big games.
There was a time when I would have railed on the NFL types for once again putting combine data ahead of game production, for elevating a largely undecorated college player over any number of more acclaimed players. But here's the thing: I'm often wrong.
Whatever the NFL is looking for, clearly I'm incapable of identifying it. So you will hear no righteous indignation from me over Todd McShay's dire prognosis for Tim Tebow's pro aspirations or bewilderment over the fact some NFL team may draft Jonathan Crompton this weekend (as baffling as that may be to anyone who watched a Tennessee game during the past two years.)
The best I can do is offer my endorsement for a few undervalued college stars who I thoroughly enjoyed watching the past few years. I find it hard to believe these guys wouldn't make some team very happy if selected higher than they're currently projected.
Let's go with one at each position.
Quarterback: Colt McCoy, Texas
Most projections have the sport's all-time winningest quarterback and two-time Heisman finalist going in the second or third round. I can understand why scouts prefer the taller, more prototypically-sized Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen (cough, bust, cough), but there's very little discrepancy in terms of McCoy's actual passing ability. The guy can make every throw, he's smart, mobile and incredibly accurate. I've always thought he had a little bit of Peyton Manning in him in regards to his preparation and the way he makes checks at the line. I'm not saying he's going to be a Hall of Famer, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he winds up having a very solid career.
Running back: Toby Gerhart, Stanford
Mainly because he's a rare, white running back, it took until about halfway through last season for most people outside the Pac-10 to realize Gerhart was more than just a glorified fullback. On the contrary, he's a fast, durable, every-down tailback who ran for 1,871 yards and nearly won the Heisman. It's no surprise, therefore, that he began the draft process facing similar skepticism. But SI.com's Don Banks interviewed several NFL decision-makers who came to much the same realization the more they saw of him. "I see no fullback,'' said one GM. "I see a running back." Banks' mini-survey found Gerhart to carry a consensus second-round grade. Hopefully one of those interviewed will be confident enough to pull the trigger.
Wide receiver: Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
I don't know what more the guy could have done to show he's a lethal all-around playmaker in the mold of DeSean Jackson. I still vividly remember a game at Oklahoma his junior year in which Gilyard racked up 365 all-purpose yards against a team that wound up playing for the national championship. Last year he had one highlight after another in the Bearcats' 12-0 regular season, most notably in their BCS-clinching win over Pittsburgh, during which Gilyard broke a 99-yard kickoff return and made a 68-yard touchdown catch. Despite all this, McShay has 15 other receivers ranked ahead of Gilyard, including the likes of Taylor Price (Ohio) and Andre Roberts (The Citadel). I think Gilyard could be a sure-fire No. 2 or 3 receiver and a great return man.
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