Thursday, January 15, 2009

Did Brandon Gibson Miss the NFL Gravy Train?

As Art Thiel of the now-dying Seattle P-I surmised recently, "Hindsight is always perfect, and speculation is always easy." While I am not so sure about speculation being easy, I agree on the hindsight part. Almost anyone can look at something that has happened, then gone back in their minds to declare "Yeah, you know I should have done THAT a little differently." We all do it - big and small, young and old, and we do it almost every day.

So, naturally it's human nature to look at Brandon Gibson's senior year and wonder - did he make the right decision? Could Gibson have blown his shot at big NFL money? Or, did a less-than-stellar senior year not really impact his 2009 NFL draft standing??



Now we have news that Gibson will head to the Senior Bowl. This is an excellent chance for him to show his abilities in front of NFL coaches and executives who will closely scrutinize every prospect on both rosters. Per the article:
The Senior Bowl is perhaps college football's premier pre-draft event, annually featuring the nation's best senior football stars and top NFL draft prospects on teams coached by NFL coaching staffs. Senior Bowl practices and weekly festivities are attended by more than 800 general managers, head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts and other front-office personnel from all 32 NFL teams.
Other than the combine, there won't be a better shot to show what he can do, against other hungry, prospective draft picks.

But to look forward, we must look back. First of all, let's look at Gibson's 2007 season.

Catches: 67
Yards: 1180
Average: 17.6 per catch
TD: 9
Yards per game: 107.3

Add in that he was first-team All-Pac-10 while leading the conference in yards per game, and finishing #2 to Arizona's Mike Thomas in TD's and catches per game.

Pretty impressive. Even while sharing the stage with a 70-catch WR in Michael Bumpus, and a 50+ catch tight end in Jed Collins, Gibson was still the brightest star. Now obviously it helped things having the guy throwing you the ball as an experienced, smart, senior QB who was breaking a lot of school records in the process. But Gibson was as good as any WR on the west coast in 2007.

As everyone knows, Gibson flirted with the NFL evaluation committee after that breakout '07 season, but based on the feedback, it wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement for his NFL stock. While the exact round has never been revealed, we have heard it was anywhere between a late 3rd-round pick to a late 5th rounder, likely dependent on the progress of his individual workouts in pre-draft situations.

Now, a lot of us wouldn't scoff at being a mid-round NFL draft choice. You get a contract, you get a signing bonus of some kind, but to go a step further? Unlike undrafted free agents, as a draft pick you get every opportunity to make an NFL club! Today's GM's go to great lengths to get value from their picks. If that means the player makes the club and is inactive, whether they are on the practice squad, or even if the GM trades them to another club for future considerations, they will do everything they can to get value. And Brandon Gibson would have had value in the league this year.

The other side to it is what are the immediate needs of the player? Are they in serious financial straits, where they must leap for whatever money they can get at the time? Or maybe they are an uninterested member of the student body who is counting down the days to get the hell outta Pullman. In either case, if the player is going to be drafted, then it makes sense to go for it, even if you are a second-rounder or a second day NFL draft choice.

But as we know, Gibson came back. We hailed it as a big "get" for Paul Wulff, maybe his biggest recruit of his first season.

But then 2008 happened:

Catches: 57 (in 13 games, two more than 2007)
Yards: 673
Average: 11.8 per catch
TD: 2
Yards per game: 51.8

Not as impressive is it? Well, OK, it IS impressive to an extent. Especially when you consider the woeful QB and offensive line situations that completely hammered the progress and ideals of what the offense COULD have been in '08. Heck, it got so bad the team had to reduce the offensive playbook by more than 50%. But it's not hard to argue that Gibson's 2008 was night and day different compared to 2007, and it's not even close.

All that said, one might assume Gibson's NFL draft stock is in some serious trouble. Believe it or not, he's hanging in there.

DraftCountdown.com: Mid-round pick. Gibson clocks in at 6-1, 202, running a 4.55 40-time. Strengths include decent height and bulk, good route runner, excellent hands, technically sound. Weaknesses are a lack of great speed or quickness and lacking a real burst who doesn't get a lot of separation. Lacks a huge amount of upside.

NFLDraftScout.com: They seem to like him here, projected as a possible 3rd or 4th round pick.

ConsensusDraftServices.com: They like him less than NFL draft scout, and project him as a 5th rounder.

FFToolbox.com: They still like him too. While not projected to go in the first two rounds, they do have him at #99 in their top-100 prospects. That's good for a 3rd round pick or maybe early 4th.

But again, you can't base EVERYTHING on his senior year. NFL execs will look at the full body of work, but, the workouts and interviews will matter much, much more.

One could look at Jason Hill and see an example of how it went. Faced with the same decision, you may remember Hill decided to come back to school in 2006 after a huge 2005 season.


But 2006 didn't live up to his expectations. His catches dropped from 62 in 2005 to just 41 in 2006. Plus, he suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain with three games left in the year, and likewise, the team's offensive production fell off in a big way after losing Hill (and also Bumpus, although Bump managed to play in the Apple Cup). Losing the big-play ability of Hill was just too much to overcome and the team ran out of gas. But on the bright side, Hill busted his butt in off-season workouts, and showed just what HE could do at the Senior Bowl.



Hill also wowed many with his combine numbers. He ran a fantastic 4.32 40-time at the NFL combine, good for #2 among all WR's in the draft. Hill was taken in the 3rd round by San Fran, but struggled big-time in 2007, recording just one catch for the entire year. But 2008 was a different story, hauling in 30 balls and a couple of scores. While not a superstar by any measure, he is a player who is certainly on the rise. But if anything, Hill lays out the blueprint for success for Gibson - bust your behind in the Senior Bowl, have some great workouts and interviews, and a lost senior year will be forgotten.

So what do YOU think? Does Gibson have a chance to pull a Jason Hill? Or did he blow it by coming back his senior year?

That's it for today. ENJOY YOUR THURSDAY, and GO COUGS!





7 comments:

Popeye said...

Good work. I hope he can be Hill. But you are correct on the workouts. They are tons bigger than what numbers a plyaer puts up. it is like that every year.

Here is what I dont understand. remember 2005? Brink, Jerome, Hill, Bumpus, Gibson all either on NFL teams or will be in the league when Brandon gets picked. And that 2005 team won 3 games. What a terrible coaching job.

Atlantacoug said...

Ah, yes. But I also recall that Defense was almost as bad as this years. We would score 40 but give up 45. Our offense would score in 4 plays and have 20 minutes time of possesion all game. That year hurt badly because I knew we had talent but could not put it together.

Chris said...

Two Words: Devard Darling.

Leaving early did him a lot of good.

Chris '04
Pullman, WA

Anonymous said...

I am going to working at the Senior Bowl. I will try and get you some good pics.

Charlie said...

Hopefully he doesn't feel like he needs to undo a season of "sub-par" play by doing too much at the Senior Bowl. That is a recipe for drops. We saw it this season when he felt had to take the team on his shoulders.

I'm pulling for him big time. Hopefully they go to him and he gets a couple of touches early.

Sedihawk said...

I am sure pulling for him too! I am a big fan of Gibson. All accounts are that he's a class act all the way. There was an article at the end of the year where he said he didn't regret staying. I just hope the down year didn't hurt his stock. It's all going to be about the workouts and senior bowl now.

By the way, you watch Hill in that youtube video and in some past WSU highlights, man, what a playmaker. It's easy to forget how good he really was. Even though he only played the WR spot for 3 years he still is one of the most prolific TD makers ever in Pac-10 WR history (just about tied with Dwayne Jarrett I believe?). As BH pointed out to me earlier today, Hill was purely a special teamer in '03 and didn't even really play the position until '04, but so the guy scored something like 35 TD's in only three years.

Anonymous, would love to see some Senior bowl pics!

KentCoug said...

Darling was never coming back, there was no choice to be made there. His family needed the money so he left. Not a good comparison at all to Hill or Gibson.