Big Ten a real bust in bowls, but draft will be different

Published: Saturday, Jan. 10 2009 9:32 a.m. MST

In the Chargers' wild-card round playoff game, Sproles had 28 touches from scrimmage and 328 all-purpose yards. Why couldn't he do that on a regular basis?

Sproles is 5 feet 6 inches and he's listed, probably generously, at 181 pounds.

That's why.

An NFC general manager compared him to Mack Herron, the 5-5, 170-pound running back who played for the Patriots and Falcons in the early 1970s.

"He could start a game, maybe two or three," the GM said. "But to play him as a starter for a whole season? I don't see it."

The most touches from scrimmage Sproles had before last week all season was 16, and he averaged 5.6 per game in the regular season.

An AFC personnel director said Sproles should be capable of about 15 touches per game plus punt returns.

"He will wear down with more than that, and it will take his effectiveness away," he said.

The NFC general manager would be more concerned about Sproles' durability than his effectiveness.

Here is what Colts President Bill Polian thinks:

"Without question he is one of the best performers in the league - a dynamo and a home run hitter. But that pounding week in and week out as an every-down back? No, simply because he won't hold up.

"Here's what happens with running backs in this league. The combination of carries against these brutally physical and fast defenses, and blitz pickup . . . wears them down, hurts them. It physically takes the life out of them, their legs."

Scout talk

Except for the all-star games, the bowl season is complete. The draft stock of a number of players has moved as a result. Here are some of the players who NFL scouts are talking about.

The player who might have helped himself more than anyone was North Carolina junior wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who subsequently has declared for the draft. Nicks had 217 yards and three touchdowns against West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Nicks, who made some great catches and reminded one scout of Hines Ward, might have secured a spot in the first round with his effort.

Two other receivers who also might have moved into Round 1 were Rutgers junior Kenny Britt and Ohio State senior Brian Robiskie. The 6-foot-4-inch Britt applied for the draft after his 119-yard receiving performance in the PapaJohn's.com Bowl. Robiskie, whose productivity was limited this season because of factors beyond his control, had 116 receiving yards in the Fiesta Bowl.

Robiskie's teammate Beanie Wells had an interesting bowl game as well. One scout said Wells "looked like an absolute beast on a big stage" while running for 106 yards. But another said his concerns about Wells' durability were heightened after he missed most of the second half with a concussion.

An injury to Northwestern defensive lineman Corey Wooten in the Alamo Bowl could influence his draft status. After injuring his knee, the junior might want to think twice about applying for the draft. If Wooten can't work out for scouts before the draft, his stock would suffer.

Donald Brown's performance in the International Bowl helped convince the Connecticut junior he was ready for the NFL. He said he was coming out after rushing for 261 yards. One scout said Brown might have moved up to the end of the first round.

One of Brown's opponents in the International Bowl also might have moved up, as Buffalo QB Drew Willy performed well. And Sugar Bowl MVP Brian Johnson helped himself with 336 passing yards in Utah's upset of Alabama. Neither player is expected to be picked higher than the fifth round, however.

TCU linebacker Jason Phillips showed he was healthy again in the Poinsettia Bowl, moving himself into second-round territory.

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