By Justin Higdon
The third week in February is always important for football fans. Later this week, the NFL Scouting Combine will kickoff as over 300 former college players will flock to Indianapolis for the most important job interviews of their lives. But football fans aren’t the only ones celebrating this week. Today, millions of Americans are at home relaxing and taking advantage of Presidents Day – the last federal holiday on the calendar until late May. When football and patriotism come together for this one winter week, what you get is a list of NFL Draft prospects with a presidential flavor.
Johnny Adams CB Michigan State – The only prospect this season who shares his first and last name with a former president, Adams will be in attendance at the combine later this week. The three-time All Big Ten cornerback closed out his college career with 11 interceptions and 24 pass break ups. Adams has a slim build and he is not a speed demon. He is most likely ticketed for a role covering slot receivers. A strong 40 time may improve his stock a bit, but he will likely be selected in the fifth to seventh round this April.
Michael Buchanan DE Illinois – The Illinois pass rusher shares a surname with James Buchanan, the nation’s only bachelor president to date. Michael will be at the combine this week after an up and down performance at the Senior Bowl last month. He needs to add strength and be more consistent with his first step, but when he’s on Buchanan shows high-end athletic ability and the potential to disrupt the pocket on at least a situational basis. Buchanan is expected to come off the board sometime on the draft’s second day.
Duron Carter WR Ohio State/Coffeyville C.C./Alabama/Florida Atlantic – In a span equivalent to Jimmy Carter’s lone term in the White House, Duron – the son of new Hall of Fame inductee Cris Carter – was connected to four schools including two of the premiere programs in the country. Rather than exhaust his college eligibility at Florida Atlantic next season, Carter opted to throw his hat into the ring and enter the draft. He was not invited to the combine, and has limited game tape, so he’s an extreme long shot to be drafted in April. Carter will have a chance to impress NFL personnel types (if any are still interested) at his pro day in March.
Michael Ford RB LSU – Like the nation’s only appointed president, Gerald Ford, Michael served an abbreviated, three-year term. Ford’s entry into the 2013 draft was a bit of a surprise after logging just 71 carries as a junior, but rather than waste away on the bench he opted to try his luck with the pro game. Ford averaged nearly six yards per carry rushing the ball for the Bayou Bengals, and showed glimpses as a kick return man. But with so many talented backs in the draft, the odds of being selected are stacked against him. Still, Ford did receive an invitation to Indy, and will get his opportunity to impress later this week.
Mark Harrison WR Rutgers – Harrison shares his last name with two former presidents, William Henry and Benjamin; and, like his namesakes, he’s been easy to overlook. The big receiver had a huge sophomore season for the Scarlet Knights in 2010, but was lost in the shuffle a bit over the past two years. Harrison averaged over 16 yards per catch during his college career, but projects as more of a possession receiver and red zone threat. He’ll have a chance to impress in Indianapolis this week, and should end up as a late day three draft pick.
Mark Jackson G Glenville State – Jackson transferred from Illinois to play for the Glenville State Pioneers. Fitting, considering he shares a last name with pioneer/president Andrew Jackson (bear with me here). At 24 years old, Mark is one of the older prospects in the draft this year. The massive guard has received an invitation to the combine and is expected to be a late round selection this April.
D.C. Jefferson TE Rutgers – Jefferson shares a last name with the nation’s third president and a first name with the nation’s capital, making him one of the most patriotic names on this list. Originally recruited as a quarterback, Jefferson largely stagnated in an offense that never found a way to utilize his considerable athletic ability. Jefferson caught only 47 passes and scored just two touchdowns in four years with the Scarlet Knights. With limited game tape, the draft season can be crucial for a player like Jefferson. He made the trip to St. Petersburg last month for the Shrine Game and flashed some of his potential, and he will have an opportunity to impress teams further this week at the combine.
Earl Watford G James Madison – The only player on this list to attend a school named after a president, Watford was invited to both the Shrine Game and the combine. In St. Pete, Watford weighed in at an even 300. At that size he won’t be a fit for every NFL team. At the combine this week, Watford will get an opportunity to prove that he is athletic enough to handle an NFL zone blocking scheme. With a solid performance he should be able to work his way into the sixth or seventh round of the draft.
Cornelius Washington DE Georgia – Washington’s inclusion on this list should be self-explanatory. The talented defender followed up a quiet 2012 season by impressing many of those in attendance at the Senior Bowl. Washington showed a combination of power and speed that was more reminiscent of his junior year at Georgia than his senior campaign. Washington appears to possess high-end athletic traits, so he should continue to impress in Indy this week. Despite a relative lack of production in college, NFL teams have to be intrigued by Washington’s potential to get pressure on the quarterback. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him come off the board some time on the draft’s second day.
Tyler Wilson QB Arkansas – The former Razorback signal-caller is the only player on this list who’s first and last name are presidential surnames. After battling through a trying senior year, Wilson was one of the more consistent performers among quarterbacks during Senior Bowl practices in Mobile. Wilson is generally admired for his toughness, and has shown adequate arm strength throughout his college career. However, some teams may be concerned with his small hands, fearing it could cause his passes to flutter and/or lead to fumbles. Still, Wilson is one of the top quarterback prospects in the draft class and should come off the board on day two at the latest.
Five more presidential prospects: Lane Johnson OT Oklahoma, D.J. Monroe WR Texas, Xavier Nixon OT Florida, Ray Polk FS Colorado, Jamar Taylor CB Boise State