Holmes, Maroney heading to draft
By Todd McShay
As the NFL regular season has concluded, and with the college bowl games winding down, the 2006 draft will begin to command a great deal of attention. Although the official list of declared underclassmen will not be made available by the league until a few days after the Jan. 15 deadline, plenty of players are making their intentions known. With the order at the top of the draft now virtually set, the picture is beginning to clear up slightly.
[font=Helvetica]News and Notes[/font]
• The Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers will execute a coin flip to break a tie for picks No. 6 and 7 in this year's NFL draft.
• Miami junior Devin Hester has reportedly decided to forgo his senior season in order to make himself available for the 2006 NFL draft. Hester has served numerous roles for the Hurricanes, including as a return specialist, wide receiver, running back and cornerback. Hester was demoted as the team's nickel cover corner because of ineffective play this season, but continued to show explosiveness in the return game, as well as on offense late in the season.
Hester will improve his draft stock if he can verify his 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash at this year's NFL combine. However, his lack of a true position on offense or defense will cause him to slip on draft day -- possibly as far as the third round.
• Others who have announced their decision to depart for the NFL in the last several days include N.C. State DE Mario Williams, Maryland TE Vernon Davis and Minnesota RB Laurence Maroney. All three are expected to come off the 2006 draft board in the first round.
• I am being told by a source close to the Florida program that WR Chad Jackson and RB DeShawn Wynn are both leaning heavily toward returning to Gainesville in 2006, rather than entering into this year's NFL draft. In both cases, the decision would be prudent. Jackson began his junior season in strong fashion, but sputtered when the Gators got into the meat of their SEC schedule. Wynn, on the other hand, lost his starting job to freshmen running backs Kestahn Moore and Markus Manson and will need to bounce back as a senior in order to regain his potential Day 1 draft status in 2007.
• Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn is expected to announce his decision to return to school for his senior season within the next few days. Quinn would likely be a top-10 pick and the second quarterback taken behind USC's Matt Leinart, should he make a last-minute decision to bolt for the NFL. However, if Quinn can continue to develop under coach Charlie Weis' tutelage in 2006, he could emerge as the first overall pick in 2007, especially if Texas QB Vince Young makes the decision to depart following this year's Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, Quinn's teammate, TE Anthony Fasano, is reportedly leaning in the other direction and is a projected early second-round selection in the 2006 class.
• Wisconsin junior Joe Thomas left Monday's Capital One Bowl (vs. Auburn) early with what looked to be a knee injury. Thomas is a highly rated offensive tackle prospect who was reportedly leaning toward leaving school early for the 2006 draft, but ironically suffered the injury while subbing in as a defensive tackle along the Badgers' injury-riddled defensive line. Should the injury be serious, it could force Thomas to return to Madison for the 2006 season.
[font=Helvetica]Young and Restless[/font]
The following is an unofficial list of those third-year prospects who have made their intentions to leave for the NFL public, and a projection of what round they would most be selected at this point. They are all members of the junior class, with the exception of South Carolina RB Demetris Summers, who is a member of the sophomore class. DE Mario Williams, N.C. State -- First
TE Vernon Davis, Maryland -- First
RB Laurence Maroney, Minnesota -- First
DE Ray Edwards, Purdue -- Second
RS/DC/WR Devin Hester, Miami -- Second or Third
DS Bernard Pollard, Purdue -- Second or Third
OT Willie Hall, Middle Tennessee State -- Sixth or Seventh
RB Demetris Summers, South Carolina -- Seventh or Free Agent
DE Michael Williams, Texas College -- Free Agent
WR Santonio Holmes, Ohio State -- First
TE Leonard Pope, Georgia -- First or Second
WR Greg Lee, Pittsburgh -- Second or Third
CB Danieal Manning, Abilene Christian -- Sixth or Seventh