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We Hardly Knew Ye: Colt Brennan Debates Coming Out of School, Closet

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Oh, SMQ keeds, he keeds. Enjoy but ignore the headlines, folks: rest assured, our prolific buddy Colt's an old school, Barnett Era Colorado playa from way back.

On the field or off: Colt Brennan always scores.
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But Monday was the deadline for filing papers for early entry to the NFL Draft, which gives us - save a Colt Brennan or two, still considering a withdrawal before Wednesday's deadline for, uh, withdrawal - an essentially complete list of our premature jumpers, whom we will miss dearly and mostly forget immediately on the college fields.

SMQ's been looking wistfully at a few of the bigger names en route out over the last two weeks, but offers one final, multi-tiered assessment of these carefully-considered decisions. You might notice SMQ is conservative here, generally favoring a return to school unless you're a sure thing in the top half of the first round or have some other compelling reason to think another year in college won't do you much good. Accordingly, players are in these categories at his discretion, and not so much the multitide of draft "experts" that filled in a few of the transitional gaps:

Obviously. Easy first-rounder talents and likely instant contributors/stars.

• Alan Branch, DT, Michigan: Huge (6-6, 315) and an athletic, overpowering anchor in the middle of the nation's top-ranked run defense. Penetrates, occupies two blockers, disrupts and redirects plays, etc. Occasionally strong pass rush but not many sacks. And...

Alabama artists would have sold half a million reproductions of this by now, Michigan. What would Henry Ford say? Get your big blue lowbrow mass marketing asses in gear.
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• Dwayne Jarrett, WR, Southern Cal: Not going to improve much on just OK speed, but tall (6-5, 215) and able to get up over much shorter corners for jump balls and big plays. Excellent hands, caught 41 touchdowns in three years.

• Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech: Bigger, faster version of Jarrett with even slightly better body control, though possibly less consistent hands on routine plays. Too spectacular to mind that he disappeared for whole halves, which wasn't much his fault. Seems to be pretty smart, good attitude, work ethic, etc. No idea how precise his routes are, but he's in everyone's top five, so that's probably not much of an issue.

• Marshawn Lynch, RB, California: Complete back: size/power, speed, versatility as a pass catcher/return man, consistenct production. Seemed to be just part of the explosive whole at Cal and shared a lot of carries, but could probably take on more.

• Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma: Best pure running back in terms of power, vision and speed, but had multiple injuries and didn't catch very many passes. Instant workhorse.

Might as Well
Not necessarily an immediate impact pro talent, but little chance to improve on production or draft stock with another year.

• Jon Abbate, LB, Wake Forest: Short (5-11, 245) and doubtfully very fast, but diagnoses plays well, has a no-nonsense mullet and couldn't conceivably prove much by leading Wake in tackles for the fourth straight year.  

Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas: Had enormous numbers last year, and not all against Utah State and Vanderbilt. Had 10 tackles for loss in 2005.

• Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Ohio State: A smart, technical assassin with reputedly great speed, though he ran mostly complimentary routes to Ted Ginn's deep stuff (OSU actually didn't throw deep much on pure speed routes - long pass of the season was 58 yards). Never took over a game or did anything wildly improbable like the receivers above him and also lacks their size (6 3/16, 195); just consistent when called upon. Already graduated.

• Zach Miller, TE, Arizona State: Has 56, 38 and 50 catches in three years. Anything to escape the coming leadership of Dennis Erickson over the People's Republic.

Reggie Nelson, DB, Florida: Hard to remind oneself the Perpetuator of Fear was only in his first season as a starter, which may account for some teams' inadvised forays into his area of the field. Which was, er, pretty much the whole field. SMQ would include him in the first group if Nelson was considered top 12 or so by the draftniks, but he's not - yet. Not likely to come close to six interceptions against very wary passers again after an offseason of hype. Also has family concerns (two kids, mom just passed away).

• Greg Olsen, TE, Miami: Physical clone of Miller with fewer catches in a less pass-oriented offense. Or at least a less effective pass-oriented offense, which usually had Olsen running short stuff off play-action for easy third down conversions and the like. Improved his production every season after transferring from Notre Dame.

• Antonio Pittman, RB, Ohio State: Not great speed, but quick (see flailing Reggie Nelson on TD run vs. Florida), topped 1,000 yards and five per carry two straight years and broke a few long runs. Risked losing more carries and possibly the lead role to Chris Wells next year along with more attention from defenses facing a new quarterback and receivers.

• Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh: Ran both his interceptions and that one punt against West Virginia back for touchdowns. Actually a pretty good corner SMQ probably shouldn't hold his breath over falling to wherever the Saints wind up picking at the end of the first round.

• Gary Russell, RB, Late of Minnesota: Ran for 1,000 yards as a backup to Laurence Maroney. Apparently not in school at all in the fall.

• Brandon Siler, LB, Florida: Three-year starter whose production was slowly but steadily on the rise. May not have the bulk (6-2, 235) of a typical pro middle linebacker, but it may not matter.

• Ryan Smith, CB, Florida: Saved Florida by locking down a stray corner position after transferring from Utah. Wound up with 7 picks and 43 total tackles, meaning he was tested pretty regularly. Can't do anything about his size (5-9 23/26, 165). Already graduated.

• Luke Smith-Anderson, TE, Idaho: Could belong with the no-names except that he's played six years already due to injuries. In Idaho.

Dennis Erickson goes, Luke Smith-Anderson goes. End of story.
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• Ramonce Taylor, RB/WR, Late of Texas: Brings strong sense of humor and lung power to locker room; no problem springing for post-practice snacks. Sticks up for teammates in a jam. Versatile and fast, but largely an unknown commodity with, yes, character issues.

• Lawrence Timmons, LB, Florida State: All-ACC type, good size, good athleticism, good production. None of it great.

• Darius Walker, RB, Notre Dame: Productive within pro-style offense and caught a ton of passes. Looked faster against LSU than any other point in his college career and is apparently faster than generally given credit for. Hard to see him putting up better numbers as the lone returning skill starter than in either of his last two years, and even harder to see it mattering in draft contexts.

• Dwayne Wright, RB, Fresno State: Tough back SMQ saw a couple times early this season and with whom he was sufficiently impressed, though it should be stressed he was running through Nevada and SMQ was weeping tears of loneliness. The lone bright spot on a dismal FSU team. Has been around out there forever after transferring from Washington State, running for 1,000 in `03, missing all of `04 and `05 with injuries and then running for 1,000 again last year. So hardly a spring chicken, as far as early entries go.

Another Year Couldn't Hurt
Unless you actually get hurt, that is. Otherwise, hard to necessarily argue with the talent/production in every case, but the questions, they linger.

• Jon Beason, LB, Miami: Led Miami in tackles but apparently not regarded as much of a prospect at outside linebacker. Short (6-0, 230).

• Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii: Skinny, poor comparison to pros in terms of offensive system and especially competition. Not generally among the top quarterback prospects in any of the many online analyses, so essentially a surprise early exit despite eyeball-scorching stats and the prestigious inaugural Maxwell Pundit award. Arm strength? Still may not be coming out, apparently.

• Michael Bush, RB, Louisville: Great numbers as a junior (23 touchdowns), and is a very good pass-catcher, but split time his first two seasons and most importantly is coming off a major, season-long injury.

• Stanley Doughty, DT, South Carolina: Short but massive (6-1, 331), though also slow (5.3 40 according to this) and didn't contribute a sack last year. Statistically, regressed from his sophomore season, but stats aren't a primary concern or indicator for defensive tackles. What is of concern: USC allowed 135 yards rushing per SEC game along with 181 to Clemson, 290 to Wofford (on 61 carries, for the record) and 135 in the bowl game.

• C.J. Gaddis, DB, Clemson: SMQ watched Clemson several times this year: Gaddis isn't a very good tackler, and not just because he was the guy who got slammed by Calvin Johnson the one time Johnson touched the ball against the Tigers in October. Overall. Nothing stands out here.

• Ted Ginn Jr., WR/KR, Ohio State: The teammate-induced ankle injury probably won't hurt his status much, and TV types had him pegged with good workouts as the number two receiver behind Johnson. There have always been questions about his size and route-running, though. Obviously very fast, but like his teammate, never did anything show-stopping as a wideout.

• Chris Houston, CB, Arkansas: Better tackler than Gaddis, knocked down a lot of passes (13 defended, 3 intercepted), but that's also a sign of a lot of balls thrown his way. More aggressive than C.J., but just OK in terms of projecting.

• Charles Johnson, DE, Georgia: Only comes in around 225, so more likely to be converted into a linebacker. [Completely wrong. He's a very position-appropriate 275. - Ed.] Was a pretty good Freeney-esque rusher (9.5 sacks) and swatted down ten passes.

• Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee: Broke through by showing up in every game (at least four catches in each of 13 last year) after an inconsistent first couple seasons. Caught more passes for far more yards and doubled his touchdowns from 2004 and -05 combined, which he's not going to do again, but still isn't among the draft's elite receivers.

• Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida: Great championship game, great size and athleticism. Just hadn't played a lot before this season and had some injury/illness issues (weird staph infection in his leg, never remedied under Zook). Tall but not very bulky (6-4, 252) when it comes to holding up against the run.

• Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina: Only played for two years (was redshirted as a freshman because of injury). Very skinny, not very physical. Maybe not as fast as you might think, either, depending on what you think. Great, fluid athlete who did generally play well against good opponents without a great passer.

• JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU: Absolutely rocketing up the boards because of his arm strength and his torching Notre Dame, both of which could be signs of irrational exuberance: Russell threw three interceptions at Florida and at Tennessee, as well one in the Sugar Bowl, and his only other 300-yard game was against Mississippi State. His team only scored a field goal at Auburn. He made a big leap as a junior from his sophomore year and would be the Heisman favorite if he returned, but the NFL is a pretty huge leap itself.

• Danny Ware, RB, Georgia: Never lived up to enormous freshman promise because of injuries and most of all a crowded backfield. Couldn't get the lion's share of carries at Georgia, so why should he on an NFL roster?

• Eric Wright, CB, UNLV: USC transfer only started one season for the Rebels, who 113th in pass efficiency defense, and made one interception.

One-year Wonder, aka the Jonathan Sullivan Rule
Beware of relatively anonymous guys whose stock soars after a big junior season.

• Brandon Jackson, RB, Nebraska: Picked up a little steam as the season wore on and was a decent pass-catcher, but his numbers came against Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Colorado; against Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Auburn - other than the screen pass for touchdown against Texas - the going was significantly rougher. Split a lot of carries.

Not that every NFL player was a college star, but these random, ordinary or completely unheard-of guys are going...for the hell of it?

• Keenan Carter, DT, Virginia: Career line here. Good luck, dude.

• Chris Henry, RB, Arizona: Led the Wildcats in rushing. The Wildcats finished 110th in rushing. Came on late in the season, but still wound up with 3.5 per carry. Though the NFL is duly impressed with good efforts against Oregon and Stanford, SMQ is sure.

• Rory Johnson, LB, Ole Miss: SMQ lives in Mississippi and had never heard of this guy, who was second on the Rebels to Patrick Willis in tackles in his first year out of junior college. That's a distant second, and a lot of assists in there.

• Maurice Price, WR, Charleston Southern: Caught 100 balls and had big games against the Citadel and Virginia Military. Not exactly Marques Colston at 6-1, 189.