Although Notre Dame senior Brady Quinn spent the entire 2006 season as the top quarterback in the country, LSU junior JaMarcus Russell has now moved ahead of Quinn on my Top 25 Big Board.
Simply put, Russell’s body of work was better than Quinn’s. Russell’s overall performance in big games against elite competition was better than that of Quinn’s. Head-to-head in the Sugar Bowl, Russell looked better against Notre Dame than Quinn did against LSU.
The NFL combine starts this week in Indianapolis, so you can expect more movement and changes on the Big Board and my first-round projections after the combine and individual workouts take place.
1. Calvin Johnson*, WR, Georgia Tech (6-4, 225) | previous: Same
He’s not only a tremendous athlete, but he’s a hard worker and very team oriented. Based on the needs of the Raiders and Lions, Johnson might not be the No. 1 overall pick, but he won’t fall out of the top five.
2. Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin (6-6½, 313) | previous: Same
Huge, quick and athletic with a long wingspan.
3. Adrian Peterson*, RB, Oklahoma (6-1½, 218) | previous: Same
The most talented running back in the draft with an excellent burst to the outside for his size. The concern with Peterson is his durability.
4. JaMarcus Russell*, QB, LSU (6-6, 260) | previous: 5
Big, strong signal caller with a powerful arm, and his decision-making improved significantly in 2006.
5. Jamaal Anderson*, DE, Arkansas (6-5, 270) | previous: 6
A gifted athlete who is coming off an exceptional 2006 season. Anderson is a complete player, equally solid against the run and as a pass rusher.
6. LaRon Landry, DB, LSU (6-1½, 205) | previous: 11
Four-year starter who has proven to be Mr. Reliable throughout his career.
7. Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville (6-1½, 298) | previous: 9
A four-year veteran, and he is only 19 years old. Okoye is quick and explosive and goes all-out on every play. He is not only good at eating up space but also gets good penetration into the backfield.
8. Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson (6-4½, 260) | previous: 10
Flashes dominating ability with his athleticism and quickness. Adams led the Tigers with 10½ sacks and 15½ tackles for loss.
9. Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame (6-3½, 225) | previous: 4
Poised, smart and at his best in pressure situations. Quinn did throw two interceptions in the Sugar Bowl after throwing just one INT in his previous eight games.
10. Ted Ginn Jr.*, WR, Ohio State (5-11, 175) | previous: 8
Takes a backseat to no one in the speed department, brings a big-play dimension to the wide receiver position and also the return game.
11. Lawrence Timmons*, LB, Florida St. (6-2¼, 233) | previous: 19
Moves right to the top of a very subpar linebacking group, particularly from the senior class. Timmons’ production and consistency from game to game are what jumps out at you.
12. Levi Brown, OT, Penn St. (6-4½, 325) | previous: Same
Steady and reliable at protecting the quarterback’s blind side.
13. Charles Johnson*, DE, Georgia (6-2, 280) | previous: Same
Not only gifted from a pure talent standpoint, but he also has the work ethic to match. Johnson is active, alert and extremely productive.
14. Dwayne Jarrett*, WR, USC (6-4, 210) | previous: Same
Has the size and natural receiving skills to create mismatches against smaller cornerbacks. Jarrett also has better quickness out of his break than people give him credit for.
15. Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska (6-6, 298) | previous: Same
You don’t see many defensive ends carrying 300 pounds who can move as well as Carriker.
16. Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU (6-2, 217) | previous: 18
Big and productive, Bowe runs excellent routes and has the toughness to catch the ball in traffic.
17. Reggie Nelson*, S, Florida (5-11½ 198) | previous: 16
Outstanding player who can hit like a safety and excel in coverage like a cornerback. That unique combination makes him a highly regarded prospect.
18. Craig Davis, LSU, WR, LSU (6-1¼, 200) | previous: Unranked
Possesses outstanding speed (4.35 40-yard dash) to go along with his size. Davis was steady and reliable for most of his career, then took his game to a new level late in the season.
19. Leon Hall, CB, Michigan (5-11, 193) | previous: 17
Tough customer who also shows very good anticipation and awareness in coverage.
20. Alan Branch*, DT, Michigan (6-5½, 328) | previous: 7
Huge and athletic, Branch is a true space eater along the interior. Once his technique improves, watch out!
21. Sidney Rice*, WR, South Carolina (6-3, 200) | previous: Same
An angular wide-out with a nice burst out of his break and above-average hands. The key for Rice will be how well he runs at the combine workouts.
22. Aaron Ross, CB, Texas (6-0½, 196) | previous: Same
An instinctive tackler who has excellent ball skills. Ross led the Longhorns in 2006 with six interceptions and broke up 19 passes. He also finished third on the team in tackles with 80.
23. Marshawn Lynch*, RB, California (5-11, 224) | previous: 25
Complete big back, right on the heels of Adrian Peterson when it comes to who will be the top RB in the draft.
24. Arron Sears, OL, Tennessee (6-4, 320) | previous: Unranked
He played both guard and tackle in college and will give a team some versatility along the offensive line.
25. Robert Meachem*, WR, Tennessee (6-2½, 210) | previous: 20
Came through with a number of highlight-film plays in 2006. If he runs well at the combine, Meachem could elevate his status in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Anthony Spencer, DE, Purdue (6-2½, 261) | previous: 23
He became a much more effective pass rusher in 2006 for the Boilermakers. The key at the next level will be his athleticism and versatility, because I project he’ll be an ideal outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Tim Crowder, DE, Texas (6-3¼, 273) | previous: 24
Consistent and reliable in his career, but became more of a playmaker for the Longhorns in 2006.