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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Adrian McPherson's Stock Is Rising -- Fast!

I've blogged about him before, as recently as several weeks ago. He's had quite a journey, one that took him from being one of the most heralded HS athletes in Florida history to one of the biggest disappointments, not because of what he couldn't do on the field, but what he couldn't do off of it -- which was stay out of trouble. Having read up on Adrian McPherson (including the excellent article in the recent edition of ESPN The Magazine) I am convinced that he's far from being another Lawrence Phillips. It strikes me that McPherson was an immature kid who did some bad things, for which he has paid his dues.

I first wrote about McPherson when I read he was tearing up the Arena Football League, where he was playing in exile, his version of the Isle of Elba, because he had nowhere else to go. His college options were limited, and former NFL QB Steve DeBerg took a chance on him and he ended up with the Indiana Firebirds. He excelled there, and, in so doing, he emerged as a prime NFL prospect. Fortunately for McPherson, who had begun to emerge from one of the deepest circles of a young athlete's hell, he is eligible for this year's NFL draft.

And that's where life gets interesting.

First, he acquitted himself well in the Arena League. Second, he dedicated himself into getting into great shape. Third, he found an agent who is well known to the NFL, Leigh Steinberg. Most players select their agents; to a certain extent, Steinberg selects the players he wants to work with. It speaks volumes that Steinberg is working with McPherson. McPherson recently worked out for a bunch of NFL scouts, and, according to the Miami Herald, wowed them.

Absolutely wowed them. He didn't draw comparisons to the average hypotethical second-string NFL quarterback, the guy who holds the clipboards, looks well-pressed and sometimes moonlights as the holder for extra points and field goals. He drew comparisons to John Elway.

None of the other QBs in that draft have drawn comparisons to John Huarte or John Reeves, let alone John Elway. And many teams could use a top-notch QB.

Matt Leinart, the USC QB, would have been the #1 pick in the draft had he elected to leave USC. But because he didn't, all GMs are in a pickle. The consensus is that no player in the draft is worthy of the #1 slot and the huge contract that goes with it. Which means that even QB-starved teams like the 49ers aren't psyched about the two most highly rated QBs in the draft -- Alex Smith of Utah and Aaron Rogers of Cal, neither of whom seem to have captured the imagination of the scouts as being future superstars. (In Rogers' case, he suffers from the Tedford Stigma, as thus far the disciples of Cal Coach Jeff Tedford, including Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith and Kyle Boller, haven't had better than average NFL careers).

Which leads us back to Adrian McPherson. Read the article I linked to. Remember how players' stock can rise and fall on the eve of NFL drafts. Warren Sapp's stock fell, as did that of Randy Moss, on the eve of the draft because of character issues. Mike Mamula's rose dramatically because of his workout heroics, and Dwight Freeney's rose because, among other things, ESPN Radio's Mike Golic talked him up tremendously in the weeks leading up the draft. Projected as a late first-round pick, Freeney ended up being taken at #11, and the Colts are grateful that they did so. Neither Mamula nor Freeney, of course, had the history that McPherson has.

So the big question for those in NFL front offices is that history. Is it just history, destined forever to remain in McPherson's rear-view mirror, or is it condemned to repeat itself?

Something tells me that you don't want to be the GM who passed on Adrian McPherson.

Even in the first round.

That buzz you hear is the talk over McPherson intensifying. That buzz you hear is the sound of McPherson rising in the NFL draft pecking order.

Perhaps all the way into the first round.

You're an NFL GM. Your scouts tell you about this amazing QB talent, a kid out of the Arena Football League, or about some good if not great QBs out of Top 15 programs. The former got a record when in college; the latter two set records. The former is the one who everyone is talking about; the latter two are the ones everyone is talked out about.

Who do you choose?

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