2008 NFL Draft Watch
RB Dantrell Savage (AP/Sue Ogrocki)
By Chris Steuber
NFL Draft Analyst, Scout.com
Posted Oct 16, 2007
Scout.com NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber gives you the quick hits on the emerging stars from the college ranks who could help your favorite NFL team next year.
Since returning from a groin injury he suffered against Georgia
in the Cowboys' season opener, Oklahoma State
running back Dantrell Savage
, has been incredible. At 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, Savage is a fast, elusive runner with game-breaking ability, but has been considered a situational player. However, since his return four weeks ago against Texas Tech
, Savage has shown he can be an every down back. In OSU's last four games, including his 212-yard performance this past weekend against Nebraska, Savage has carried the ball 86 times for 567 yards and two touchdowns. That's an average of 21.5 carries for 142 yards a game over that span. The senior tailback is making a name for himself and climbing up draft boards with his explosive play.
San Jose State
cornerback Dwight Lowery
was having a down year this season as he entered this past weekend's game against Hawaii
with only one interception. He emerged on the scene last year -- his first season at San Jose State -- and finished the season with nine interceptions. But against Hawaii last Friday night, Lowery displayed his tremendous talent during a nationally televised game. He finished with 13 tackles and an interception, which he returned for a 24-yard touchdown. He also played a major role on special teams against the Warriors, fielding two punts for 109 yards, including one that resulted in an 86-yard touchdown. Lowery's resurgence against Hawaii will give him confidence as the season moves forward and his draft stock begins to climb once again.
A big decision will be made by Missouri
tight end Chase Coffman
at the end of this season. Coffman, who I believe is the best tight end in the country, currently shares the offensive load with another highly-touted tight end, senior Martin Rucker
. Coffman is having an outstanding season so far with 34 receptions for 341 yards and three touchdowns. This past weekend in the Tigers' 41-31 loss to Oklahoma
, he caught 10 passes for 102 yards. Coffman has excellent hands, strength, and athleticism. He runs crisp routes and makes plays after the catch. The Tigers line up in a lot of two tight end sets, but when Rucker leaves at the end of the season, the majority of Chase Daniels' throws will be directed towards Coffman next year. Coffman may decide to enter the draft based on his production and upside, or he may want to have a season at Missouri where he's the go-to-guy and can post outstanding numbers. Decisions, decisions …
defensive end Chris Long
is exceptional. He's improved his pass rushing this season and has recorded eight sacks in seven games with five remaining. Last season, Long had just 4.5 sacks, but totaled 57 tackles, 9.5 for a loss. He's continued his dominance against the run this season, recording 40 stops, 9.5 for a loss. He can stop the run, drop in coverage, and be a sack artist for a team at the next level. The son of Hall of Fame DE Howie Long is a hard working, productive, all-around defender who is a sure top-ten selection next April.
A small-school quarterback to keep an eye on is Division 1-AA University of San Diego standout senior Josh Johnson
. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Johnson has excellent size and speed (4.5 forty-time) and possesses a strong, accurate arm. He's a great athlete who can make plays on the run and keep defenses honest with his game-breaking ability. The No. 1 ranked Toreros are 6-0 so far this season, and Johnson has been the catalyst for their success. He's completed 75 percent of his passes and has thrown 23 touchdowns and no interceptions. He's also rushed for 420 yards on 38 attempts and a touchdown. In this past weekend's game against Drake, Johnson torched the secondary as he completed 15-of-23 passes for 305 yards and five touchdowns. He's a player who's going to post outstanding results at the NFL Scouting Combine and who has a chance to be a first-day selection.
I wonder if Tom Zbikowski still believes going back to Notre Dame
for a fifth year was the best idea? Zbikowski didn't have as productive of a 2006 season as he did in 2005 and decided to stay in school for another year. He finished with 79 tackles in 2006, eight more than the season before, but he went from five interceptions to none. He dropped from averaging 14 yards per punt return in 2005 to averaging 9 yards per return last season. He went from scoring four touchdowns in '05 to scoring one the following year. Through seven games this season, he has 41 tackles, one interception, and a sack. As a return man he's averaging 10.3 yards per return and no touchdowns. Notre Dame is 1-6 this season -- the worst start in their history -- so I'm sure this isn't the way Zbikowski planned on finishing his collegiate career. How will his play and the Irish's disastrous season impact Zbikowski's professional future? He's still a hard-nosed defender with excellent skills who can impact a game defensively and on special teams. But if he had decided to enter the draft after his junior season, he was a likely late first- or early second-round selection. At this point, he's a late second- to early third-round draft pick.
The success the seventh-ranked Oregon
Ducks are having this season is largely attributed to the play of quarterback Dennis Dixon
. Dixon, who was a fifth-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves last season, spent this past summer playing minor league baseball. He's now leading the Ducks to a potential national championship and has been spectacular. His versatility and ability to take over a game is reminiscent of Vince Young
and the way he led Texas
to a national championship in 2006. Dixon has a quick release and outstanding speed that enable him to elude defenders and make plays with his feet. He's an accurate passer who has a lot of poise in the pocket and will wait until the last minute to scramble and try to pick up yards with his feet. He's completed over 70 percent of his passes, completing 118-of-168 for 1,525 yards, 15 touchdowns, and just two interceptions through six games. Dixon's mechanics need some work, and that will improve with coaching at the next level. But if he continues to develop and produce numbers as he has at the halfway point, he's a solid second-round selection for a team looking to develop a franchise quarterback.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his NFL draft analysis on the web and on the radio since 1999.