Now that I'm back to campaigning for a frontrunner this Heisman column isn't as fun. I don't even particularly like watching Tobt Gerhart but I do think he is the difference between Stanford being a legit program again and going back to the bad old days of two years ago. When they upset USC with a 40+ point line. Nowadays the line didn't even make it to 20. That's the Toby Gerhart effect. Even though he's gone after this year, the program will be fine because Andrew Luck is an awesome QB. Gerhart has allowed a cover under which Luck could develop. But it's boring watching Gerhart wear people out. He's a Ron Dayne style back (not a prediction of future/NFL prediction, I think Gerhart will be fine in the league if he goes that route), not a Marshall Faulk type. Oh, well. I'm going to add my NFL thoughts for all the candidates this week. More than usual.
1.) Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford - He's done what Jimmy Clausen couldn't do. He's come through huge in his big moments. I like watching Stanford in spite of Gerhart but Gerhart is the obvious centerpiece of this year. 2 years from now the program will be a Top 5 fixture riding off momentum that started this year with Touchdown Tommy II. Too bad Stanford doesn't get the hyped up games because I think everyone who watches Mark Ingram and thinks, "Wow, that guy's awesome," would watch TTII and think, "Wow, this team wins almost entirely because of this guy." I call him Touchdown Tommy II and I compared him to Ron Dayne up above but I really think he's more in the mold of Brandon Jacobs. Hopefully he won't be as brittle as Jacobs is. I could see him creep into the end of the first round but he's got a second/third round look to him. The Raiders have 3 good RBs that can't stay healthy and they have way too much $ wrapped up in Run DMC to justify another high-round back but doesn't this guy just fit them somehow? I mean, he's a perfect, classic overreach for the Raiders. He's even a Bay Area star already. If he's there for their second pick, I bet the Raiders take him. And then he'll decide to pursue baseball.
2.) Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama - I guess his biggest games are ahead of him. If he can keep the Tide on the straight and narrow vs. Auburn it sets up a massive game in the SEC championship on every level. And Tebow is definitely still in the running for the award based on that game, too. I try to cancel out the noise of what I read and just focus on what I see and I always feel a little bit iffy on Ingram. The only game all year where I though he was really pulling the team along was the LSU game. This 'Bama team is the archetype of a great 'Bama team: the defense carries along the offense. It just so happens that the offense is actually good in its own right for once (at least it's for once in my lifetime). Ingram is a good player that I don't trust much in the pros to be a difference maker. He's Willis McGahee post-OSU cheapshot. Still a legit first-rounder but not a consistent All-Pro. Probably the first RB taken in the draft. Trent Richardson is like Willis McGahee from before the OSU cheapshot but he's a freshman and has gotten fewer and fewer carries as the Ingram-For-Heisman campaign has picked up speed.
3.) Tim Tebow, QB, Florida - Tebow looks a lot better as the year goes on but he is a college-only passer at this point. He's a god in the state of Florida, particularly his hometown of Jacksonville but it's a bad idea for the Jaguars to take Tebow in the first round. How did the Jaguars idiot owner put his front-office guys in a position where they are pissing off the fans by not picking Tebow in the top 10 next April? This kid is a total project. You see how Vince Young is finally an effective QB in the league now after years of bumbling? Tebow is that far away from contributing. He's similar to Vince Young in his skills and talents, maybe a little tougher mentally, definitely shorter. Tebow can be a good QB but it's a long ways off. Someone will take him way too high, maybe in the first round, but this guy belongs in the fourth round. He would fit in well with the Dolphins. I'd love to see him and Pat White running some kind of crazy 2 QB system.
4.) Case Keenum, QB, Houston - He's fallen off the face of the hype after losing last week but he's a great player and should be the top QB in the draft next year. He's got eligibility remaining but he should strike now while the iron is hot. He's wearing David Klingler's jersey # and should do what Klingler failed to do: leave early. People will tell him to finish his education but he can afford to do that later. Great arm, great makeup, good decision-making, decent mobility, spectacular footwork. His only weakness is a tendency to hold onto the ball too long but that can be corrected. Take the money and run, Case. Should be a top 5 pick but a lot of that depends on team evaluations. I like him better than Sam Bradford (too skinny and fragile) and Ryan Mallet (great arm but he's terrible underneath, don't be surprised if he starts getting compared to Jeff George and Jamarcus Russell by agents that don't rep him, a.k.a. "ESPN sources"). Colt McCoy is a joke as an NFL prospect, Jevan Snead is a terrible decision-maker and Jimmy Clausen is not ready for the league yet.
5.) Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple - My favorite freshman in the country. I put him on the list over Ryan Mathews because I think Ryan Mathews will sit out the last two games of the season. I hope Ryan Mathews sits out. He shouldn't be in there getting beaten up. Pierce is a freshman and, thus, two years from being draft eligible. When he is eligible he will probably be a much bigger name nationally than he is right now. This is a frenchise type back in the making. Great size, good speed, amazing playmaker. He's as good right now as Mark Ingram. Temple is on the verge of the Top 25 and that has never come close to happening since I can remember. It's hard to project from this far out but I wouldn't be surprised if this guy ends up going #1 overall someday. Out of this ridiculously stacked freshman class of RBs I like him a lot better than Dion Lewis and Ryan Williams, a little better than Trent Richardson.
Everybody else is off the list. Ryan Mathews (RB, Fresno State) should be a second or third round steal. Don't be even a little surprised if he starts right away as a rookie. He's a junior so he could come back and hope to pick up some of the hype he should already have but I bet he gets a high grade on the NFL's scouting metric (which projects something like 55 first round picks) and he's gone. Noel Devine (RB, West Virginia) could do the same thing but he'll get an unrealistically low grade due to his size and will probably return to school. I like Devine a little more than Steve Slaton, his West Va predecessor, as a pro. Kellen Moore (QB, Boise State) is seeing some projections as a Heisman frontrunner going into next year but I don't like him much as a pro prospect. Golden Tate (WR, Notre Dame) is a mid-rounder that could produce early. I don't trust him as an early rounder but he could be great. WRs are hard to predict unless they're Randy Moss or Andre Johnson. Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame) is a first round talent who needs to mature desparately. He should come back next year and play for whoever the Irish bring in. He could use some coaching and I get the impression Charlie Weis doesn't even try to do that with him. Andy Dalton (QB, TCU) should get some love going into next season and might see some publicitiy this year if TCU wins out. He's efficient and has a strong arm. He won't come out this year but could be a first-rounder when he does come out. I didn't write about Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska) or Terrence Cody (DT, Alabama) yet? Suh is an obvious top 5 pick. Could easily and without second-guessing go #1 overall. He reminds me a lot of Richard Seymour the more I watch him. He can play anywhere on the line and seems like a relatively safe pick. Mount Cody is totally one-dimensional but it is a dimension that 28 out of 32 teams in the NFL would kill for. The other teams would do something slightly less nefarious but still illegal to acquire it. Cody is a middle-of-the-line destroyer. He will go in the late first round and then become a cause celebre wherever he ends up. He's William Perry Pt. II: The Much Better Defensive Player. That's it, I've gotta make some pancakes and go to work.