April 18, 2010

Roundtable: Sure things and likely busts

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask members of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport. This week, we'll have two roundtables, one Saturday and one today.

The first round of the NFL draft is Thursday, and as such, we have a four-part question today. Which offensive player in this draft is a guy you're certain will be a star? Which highly touted offensive prospect is most likely to be a bust? Which defensive player in this draft is a guy you're certain will be a star? Which highly touted defensive prospect is most likely to be a bust?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Can you ever really be certain a player will attain stardom? Remember the incredibly hyped Tony Mandarich? I do feel strongly about Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, who I think was the best offensive player in college football last year. He has good speed and great power, which he demonstrated by rushing for 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns. Gerhart won't be a first-round selection, but I think whoever drafts him will get a steal and he'll be an excellent player for several seasons. I'm not as optimistic about Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams. He didn't strike me as having a particularly strong season. I'm not saying he won't be a solid pro, but he's projected as an early first-round pick and that comes with tremendous expectations. I'm skeptical whether he can meet them. Few are more qualified to judge defensive backs than Monte Kiffin, and he lauded the abilities of Tennessee safety Eric Berry. That's good enough for me. Berry hits like a linebacker and has a knack for making big plays as a ballhawk. He's patterned his game after Ed Reed, and I think he could play safety at a similar level. Some have suggested Berry could be moved to cornerback. In that case, he'll be a great cornerback. While I'm bullish on Berry, I'm not putting much stock in Alabama's overweight defensive tackle, Terrence Cody. He seemed to take plays off and wasn't always dominant against college linemen. I think he won't be as great a factor when facing more effective pro linemen.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
Give me Oklahoma State T Russell Okung. He's a terrific athlete with nimble feet who also possesses strength and power. I can't help but be reminded of Orlando Pace. Whomever picks Okung can insert him at left tackle immediately and watch him thrive for the next decade or so. When I see Clemson RB C.J. Spiller, I see Reggie Bush. That isn't all bad, but Bush hasn't come close to justifying being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 draft. He is a role player who isn't even the best running back on the Saints, a luxury item who isn't worth what he's paid or where he was picked. Spiller's build and style mirror Bush. Does a team really need to spend a high pick on a role player who I don't think will be an every-down back? Meet the next Warren Sapp, Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy. He is the perfect "three" technique tackle who has a tremendous up-field burst. McCoy is a load to handle because of his strength, and he shows a knack for quickly diagnosing plays. He rarely was blocked one-on-one in college. To top it all off, reports indicate that he's also a good person. Beware of Alabama NT Terrence Cody. No doubt, he was productive in college. Who can forget his two blocked field goals vs. Tennessee? Cody is a frightening combination of size, quickness and strength. But he has battled weight issues. That's a huge red flag. Will he keep his weight under control? And will he play hard and with passion on a consistent basis once he gets a massive paycheck?

David Fox's answer:
I can't wait to see what an NFL team does with Clemson's C.J. Spiller. Reggie Bush probably won't live up to his hype out of college, but he's still a dangerous weapon as a runner and receiver. DeSean Jackson is another one of those multi-purpose weapons, too. Spiller fits into that same mold, but he might be able to shoulder the load of being a starting tailback better than Bush can. As for potential bust, I'm worried about Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis. I thought he was a sure-fire star after his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he didn't appear to be entirely focused as a junior. He was suspended on two occasions and demoted at one point. That looks like someone who thought he was on his way to the NFL a year before the fact. That's enough to give me some doubts. There's a reason Oklahoma tackle Gerald McCoy is on top of some draft boards. I loved Ndamukong Suh and Eric Berry as college players, but McCoy might be the safest of the top defensive prospects. Suh is great, but you never know how NFL coaches will utilize his skills. Given Oklahoma's good history with defensive tackles, I'd go with McCoy. As for the bust, I should go with USF end Jason Pierre-Paul, but I'm going to take USC safety Taylor Mays. He sure looks the part of a can't-miss prospect, but don't forget that this guy had only two interceptions the final three years of his college career.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
If I were convinced Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant can avoid off-field issues, I'd pick him as the sure-fire star. Instead, I'm going with Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham. His season-ending injury suffered last summer gives me a bit of pause, but then I remember how good he was in 2007 and '08. He's a tight end who can get down the field and run away from safeties. I think he can be a 50-catch guy as a rookie and be an All-Pro by his third season. I also think the bust factor is high for Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell. I get it: He's freak athlete for his size. Alas, he never was dominating on the field -- you know, where it matters. If he's picked in the first round, I think an NFL team will be regretting it two or three years from now. Defensively, I think Michigan end/outside linebacker Brandon Graham will become a big-timer. He lacks height and isn't a great athlete, but he's physical, aggressive and an extremely hard worker. For the right team, he will blossom into a force. As for a defensive bust, I'm going with USF end Jason Pierre-Paul. As with Campbell, his athleticism is off the charts. But there are issues, namely that he has played just one season of major-college football (he was a junior college transfer) and he's a one-trick pony -- he can rush the passer but not much else. To me, he's another Vernon Gholston.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I don't know whether Clemson's C.J. Spiller can be an every-down back in the NFL, but I'm convinced he will emerge as a big-play performer wherever he ends up. Spiller and Reggie Bush are the only players in college football history to compile 3,000 rushing yards, 1,000 receiving yards, 1,500 yards in kickoff returns and 500 yards in punt returns. I believe he can be even better than Bush at the pro level. Spiller likely would become one of the NFL's top return men as soon as he arrived in the league. Though he might not have the size to carry the ball 25 to 30 times per game, he should be durable enough to handle at least 15 touches per game. I don't have nearly as much faith in Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell, who could get taken in the first round after showing a remarkable combination of size and strength at the Combine. I can't overlook the fact that Campbell failed to even earn honorable mention last season when the ACC released its all-conference selections. Campbell's physical gifts make him worth a gamble in the second or third round, but he shouldn't be selected in the first round. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy should have long and successful NFL careers, but recent history suggests defensive tackles need some time to develop into star players. Tennessee safety Eric Berry has a better chance of delivering an instant impact and emerging as a star performer in short order. Suh produced the best 2009 season of any college player, but Berry performed at an elite level each of his three seasons at Tennessee. You could make the argument that Berry was the nation's best player regardless of position over the past two seasons. I like each of the players equally, but I give Berry the edge because he's playing a position where it's easier to make the transition from college to the NFL. On the other hand, I'm not as convinced about Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody. Sure, he has the size to mature into the type of run-stuffing lineman who can stay in the league for a decade. But he also could have a short stay in the NFL if he doesn't keep his weight in check. Cody has the type of boom-or-bust potential that will make him a huge gamble for whatever team ends up taking him.



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