Were the flood-threatened Noah to be reincarnated as an NFL talent scout, he would have little trouble filling his ark, two-by-two, of course, on draft day this year.
Especially if he wanted to stock up on quality wide receiver prospects.
"He would have enough guys to run [patterns] for 40 days and 40 nights, right?" said Southern California wideout Steve Smith, who with former Trojans teammate Dwayne Jarrett figures to continue his career at the professional level. "From what I could see at the combine, there are a lot of good receivers, some of them from the same programs. It's like the scouts are getting a 'two-fer' or something."
Actually, there are no two-for-one sales in the draft, but league scouts definitely could have contracted a case of double vision in evaluating wide receivers. There have been draft classes in the past that have featured two or more solid wide receiver prospects from the same school. But this year's talent pool -- with Smith and Jarrett, the Ohio State tandem of Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez, and Dwayne Bowe and Buster Davis of LSU -- has at least three pairs with both players likely to be chosen by the end of the second round.
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Dwayne Jarrett is one of two USC WRs who should be off the board by the end of Round 2.
All six of the wide receivers from the three high-profile programs should be starters early in their NFL careers, a few of them perhaps as rookies. Most of the six credit the competitive environment in which they played in college for preparing them for life at the next level of the game.
"When you've got to work hard every day just to be the best [wide receiver] on your team, let alone one of the best in the draft, that naturally makes you a better player," said Bowe, whose strength and size help compensate for modest speed. "There is a certain degree of pride involved. One guy battling another. And I think, when we all move outside our own teams, and we're trying to be king of the mountain and not just the king of the hill in our own backyard, it carries over. No one wants to be a second banana. That's just the nature of the beast at the position."
In some cases with the wide receivers this year, the scouts certainly have identified one of the prospects as the lead player and the other as No. 2 wideout. That's clearly the case with the Ohio State and LSU duets, although the continuing physical travails of Ginn, who still is rehabilitating from the foot sprain suffered in the BCS national championship game, have left some questions about his viability as a top-15 choice. There is still some debate, though, between the merits of the Southern California pair.
Jarrett has not run well in workouts and, although he is a bona fide playmaker, his lack of top-end speed has left scouts divided on where he fits into the talent pool at the position. Smith doesn't possess the kind of monstrous size that Jarrett does and isn't a burner either, but is impressive with his short-area quickness.
The one common denominator, Smith emphasized, is that he and Jarrett are NFL-ready, two guys who have shared the spotlight and split the receiving distribution at a big-time program.
"That whole 'me or him' thing has toughened us both," Smith said. "No matter which of us goes when or where, we're both going to be OK. And part of that is having played so much together and gotten attention both individually and as a pair."
Here are a dozen non-wide receiver tandems who will garner attention:
Safeties Laron Landry and Jesse Daniels (LSU)
: It would be rare for a safety to be the first defensive player off the board, but there are strong indications now that several teams have Landry as the top-rated prospect on defense. He has the kind of hybrid skills and ability to move out and cover receivers in the slot that have become increasingly coveted at the position. Daniels is more an in-the-box safety with limited range. He is a three-year starter who often played hurt, is a bit undersized, but should still be a second-day pick.
Guards Ben Grubbs and Tim Duckworth (Auburn):
The only question about Grubbs, who might be the highest-rated guard on everyone's board, is whether his recent ascent will get him into the first round. Teams are historically reluctant to use a first-round selection on a guard, but Grubbs, a superb athlete who developed as a power-blocker in 2006, seems like the real deal. Watch the tape of Grubbs' performance against LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who would have been a first-round prospect had he entered this year's draft, and you'll be convinced. Duckworth is a former defensive lineman who also has played offensive tackle. He is limited athletically and has suffered some injuries, but still projects as a fourth- or fifth-round pick.
Defensive ends Adam Carriker and Jay Moore (Nebraska):
Teams love Carriker's versatility and the fact he appears capable of starting in a 4-3 or 3-4 front. You just don't see many ends anymore, and certainly not in this year's draft, who weigh close to 300 pounds. Sturdy enough to anchor at the point of attack, Carriker also flashes some upfield skills and is a lot more flexible than scouts originally thought. He could be off the board by the middle of the first round. Moore is kind of an in-between player who often seems like he should play outside linebacker in a 3-4, but he might not be athletic enough for that spot. He did have three sacks in the Senior Bowl, where he was the defensive most valuable player, and that helped his stock. He's a likely middle-round choice.
Defensive tackles Justin Harrell and Turk McBride (Tennessee)
: Not many duos in this draft have risen in tandem the way the former Vols interior defenders have recently. Although some teams still aren't certain about McBride's best position in the NFL, where he could play end in a 3-4 front, he has skyrocketed and might have worked his way now into the second round. A top backup most of his career, he is just a one-year starter, but coaches and scouts love his motor and he has added bulk this spring. Harrell has a thick medical dossier, and played in only three games as a senior, but he is strong inside and surprisingly fluid. Harrell can play on the nose or in a three-technique look. He could sneak into the bottom of the first round based on some teams' needs, but is more likely a second-rounder.
Guards Justin Blalock and Kasey Studdard (Texas):
One of the top offensive linemen in the draft, Blalock has played some at tackle, but probably projects best to guard in the NFL, even if he lacks some innate toughness. A powerful in-line blocker with natural strength and pretty good feet, Blalock is durable and surprisingly athletic, and will be chosen in the latter part of the first round or early in the second. Studdard isn't as physically gifted as his former Longhorns teammate, but he's a tough guy whose father Dave played offensive tackle in the NFL, and he'll be a second-day choice.
Defensive ends Tim Crowder and Brian Robison (Texas):
More a leverage player than an explosive, upfield defender, Crowder nonetheless demonstrated surprising athleticism at the Senior Bowl and combine, and showed that he might be able to play some as a 3-4 linebacker. He sometimes plays a little too much by the book, and appears stiff and robotic, but when he cuts it loose, he can be a playmaker, one who probably will be chosen in the second round. Robison doesn't have Crowder's size, but is a lot quicker, and definitely could factor into a 3-4 scheme.
Outside linebackers Paul Posluszny and Tim Shaw (Penn State):
There might not be a more debated player in this draft than Posluszny, who could go as high as the middle of the first round or tumble into the second. The guy was the subject of so much hype entering his senior season that it became nearly impossible for him to live up to his press clippings. He is an instinctive defender and diagnostician who moves well to the ball, but his lack of size (6-1 5/8, 238) sometimes gets him buried, and there are still questions about his best position at the NFL level. He seemed best playing the weakside spot in college, before moving inside in 2006, but he might not be quick enough to play in space in the pro game. Shaw is a former running back who tests in combine-type drills better than he plays, but who demonstrates nice heart and should be taken in the middle rounds.
Cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Tarell Brown (Texas):
Off-field problems, including a misdemeanor charge for possession of marijuana and a more serious firearms possession charge, could hurt Brown's stock. Plus, he played with a broken foot as a senior and struggled at times in man coverages. An undersized but feisty corner, he could slide into the late rounds and maybe even off the boards of some clubs. Ross will have no such problems. He is an instinctive athlete, a terrific natural ballhawk who really moves well to the football and can play every style of coverage. Ross is also a standout punt returner. He'll be no worse than a second-round pick.
Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Quentin Moses (Georgia):
They are sliding on draft boards, but both figure to be first-day selections. Moses entered his senior season as the nation's top-rated end, actually the highest-rated defensive lineman in some analyses, but suffered through a lackadaisical 2006 campaign. After collecting 11½ sacks in 2005, he posted only 4½ last season, and went six games without a sack. He is not very competitive and appeared out of shape at the combine. Johnson had a far more productive 2006 season, with 9½ sacks, and is built thicker than his teammate. He is inconsistent, though, and often struggles to disengage against bigger tackles. Only an average athlete, Johnson has to have his motor running high to be effective. The glut of naturally explosive rush-ends in this draft won't help his stock, but he still could be a second-round choice.
Defensive tackles Ray McDonald and Marcus Thomas (Florida):
There is some question about whether McDonald's size will allow him to play inside in the NFL, but he compensates with a quick first step and is a tremendous hand-fighter, so most teams project him as a tackle. He needs to take on blocks a little better, rather than moving down the line and trying to locate a weak spot to penetrate, but should be a solid pro and likely second-round choice. Thomas has great natural size, strength and athleticism, but he was dismissed from the team in 2006, and so character issues will be a factor. There is no denying his talent, but teams might not be willing to risk a first-day choice on him.
Running backs Michael Bush and Kolby Smith (Louisville):
Were he healthy, Bush probably would be a first-round choice. But he suffered a broken lower right leg in the 2006 opener, recently underwent a second surgery to insert a new rod in the leg, and has been unable to work out for scouts. Although he runs with a little too much finesse for a back his size, some team (Atlanta?) might invest a first-day choice on him. Smith rushed for nearly 900 yards after replacing the injured Bush last season. He is not an especially physical inside runner, but he has some skills and could be a backup.
Safeties Josh Gattis and Patrick Ghee (Wake Forest):
Both of the Deacons' secondary standouts possess NFL-level size and good enough physical tools to play at the next level. Gattis is the better athlete of the two, an interior defender with good range and instincts, and Ghee seems most productive when aligned closer to the line of scrimmage. They are good hitters, intelligent players and should be middle-round selections.