The 2006 NFL Draft will soon be here and one thing that we know is that we really don't know how the draft will unfold. While Southern California running back Reggie Bush is cemented in the top overall spot, it remains to be seen how the remaining top picks will conclude. Rumors are rampantly floating right now, but they always do this time of year. Allegedly, several teams are expected to trade up while other teams are looking to move down for cap reasons or additional picks. With quarterback Drew Brees recently signing with the New Orleans Saints, everyone has had to erase their mock drafts and start all over again. Even with the Dallas Cowboys signing the enigmatic and often controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens, this upcoming draft still figures to have just as many exciting twists, turns and as much drama. If the offseason free agency
signings haven't provided you with as much excitement as you would like, just wait until after Reggie Bush is selected first overall by the Houston Texans.
One thing we do know is that this draft features one of the deepest pools of talent at the tight end position. Over the past few seasons we have seen the importance of having a pass-receiving threat that can work the middle of the field. While every team figures to look long and hard for the next Antonio Gates at tight end, there are some very talented prospects at the wide receiver position in this draft as well. This could severely impact the number of wide receivers chosen in the early part of the draft.
Many sports columnists and draft prognosticators are listing Ohio State wide receiver Santonio Holmes as the top-rated pass catcher in the college ranks coming out this year. Some of the other top prospects include wide receivers Chad Jackson (Florida), Derek Hagan (Arizona State) and Sinorice Moss (Miami, Fla.)
One name that you will hear announced on the first day is wide receiver Maurice Stovall (Notre Dame). The soon-to-be rookie has been projected to be selected anywhere from as high as the first round and as low as the third round.
Endless teams have gambled in the draft in recent years trying to find the next Randy Moss, and most of them have failed. While comparisons to someone of Moss' accomplishments and talent should not be made yet, that doesn't stop the scouts from analyzing as much as they can about the top prospects.
Coming from a university traditionally rich in emphasizing the running game, Stovall struggled as a freshman with only 18 receptions. He turned in a solid sophomore season with 22 receptions but only had 21 receptions in his junior season. However, he exploded onto the scene his senior season with 69 receptions, 1,149 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 16.7 yards per catch. In one game alone he had 14 catches for 207 yards and four touchdowns against Brigham Young. Stovall credited the main difference to his new head coach Charlie Weis and coaching staff that convinced him to stay after practice to work on his technique with him.
Ironically, many believe that the ties coach Weis has to the New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick could lead to the Patriots selecting Stovall. Even more ironic, if Stovall is drafted by New England he could eventually be the replacement for wide receiver David Givens who also went to Notre Dame and recently signed with the Tennessee Titans.
One of his biggest strengths is that he is able of being coached and accepts constructive criticism well. To the average NFL fan that doesn't amount to much, but it makes a world of difference to coaches, teammates and especially rookies in general.
Obviously, his lanky size and deceptive speed should lead to mismatch problems for opposing defenses even at the NFL level. He knows how to use his body well in traffic and when leaping for the jump ball or deep bomb.
Stovall has drawn comparison in size and style to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. His consistency in his effort every play is a result of his outstanding stamina, and he is not the type to take plays off. His ability to lock onto defenders and take them out of the play with his blocking is one of his most attractive skills. While he is a willing blocker, he is just as willing to go over the middle and shows no hesitation in taking a big hit. Stovall possesses excellent hands, leadership, character (no off-field issues) and can either go deep or take a short pass for a long gain at any time.
The biggest concern with Stovall that he will work on immediately is his route running. When not directly involved in the game he has a tendency to lose his focus and concentration, which has led to some dropped passes. The big receiver needs to learn to catch better when in full stride and work on getting better separation from fast defensive backs in the NFL.
Stovall's overall speed is good, but his acceleration must get better for him to see significant playing time in his rookie season. His consistency and production will have to improve before he gets onto the field, especially if he plays the possession receiver role. Coming in as a rookie will be a big adjustment as he works on developing his technique and possibly playing special teams. Stovall will need to play in an environment conducive to his skills like the West Coast offense he played in at Notre Dame.
As previously stated, Stovall could be drafted anywhere from the first round to the third round. The second round is far more likely, and the Patriots could be an ideal home.
While he is not the next Randy Moss, Stovall is still one of the more promising prospects in what many have labeled as an average wide receiver class. The safe bet is that he will be selected during the middle of the second round.
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