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Tuesday, December 19

Top Heisman vote-getters and the NFL

Over the years, winning the Heisman Trophy hasn't always guaranteed success in the NFL. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to look at the future pro potential of the top Heisman finishers.

Chris Weinke
QB Chris Weinke and Florida State will face Oklahoma for the national championship.

Chris Weinke: At 6-foot-4 and 233 pounds, Weinke sees the field when he drops back in the pocket and has shown the ability this season to better avoid the initial pass rusher. He's not going to beat you with his legs, but he can bide just enough time to allow his third and fourth options in the progression to break open late. His arm strength is more than adequate, with improvement in footwork and fundamentals evident this season. And by dropping his weight from 250 to 233 pounds over the last year, he even seemed to become a more accurate passer.

By returning for his senior campaign, Weinke elevated his pro grade considerably. Last year, he may have dropped in to the fourth or fifth round. Now, though, he may hear his name called as early as Round 2. And guess what? There are even those who believe he could possibly get drafted late in the first round.

Josh Heupel: Throughout the 2000 season, I've always viewed Heupel as a left-handed version of former Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, but with more mobility. While Heupel is an impressive field general who operates at his best in clutch situations, the questionable arm strength creates some doubt about how effective he can be in the NFL. I expected Wuerffel to be an undrafted free agent, yet he was selected in Round 4 by the Saints and Mike Ditka. Even though Heupel has more mobility, I would still view him as a late-rounder or undrafted free agent.

Drew Brees: While he posted huge numbers in Joe Tiller's sophisticated passing scheme, Brees will have to prove during combine/individual workouts that he isn't just a product of Tiller's system. That's where he'll have to show he has the arm strength to get the job done as a starting QB in any pro attack. Also keep in mind, Brees measures out at just under 6-foot-1. For now, Brees is still a wild card to be picked in the first round.

If his workouts are impressive, he could land in the mid-first round area. If questions arise about his ability to throw into the wind in the various NFL stadiums where weather is a factor, you could see him drop into the late first or early-mid second round. By the way, as far as my ratings are concerned, Brees won't carry as high a grade as Chad Pennington did last year, and Pennington still dropped to the Jets at No. 18.

LaDainian Tomlinson: Ran wild for Dennis Franchione over the last two years, so you definitely can't argue with his productivity. The compact 5-foot-10, 220-pounder also shows breakaway speed, outstanding balance in traffic and the strength to bust tackles. You also have to factor in heavily that he accomplished those eye-catching rushing totals despite being a marked man every week.

The concern with Tomlinson is that he benefited from TCU's option attack and was also not utilized heavily as a pass-receiving option out of the backfield. After all is said and done, he could end up being the second or third running back taken on draft day. However, in my ratings, he won't even be close to Ole Miss's Deuce McAllister, who I feel is by far the elite senior prospect available in the draft.

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