Thursday, January 11, 2007

Gonzo's Gone. . . zo

Per The Ozone, who presumably has someone at Anthony Gonzalez's press conference, Gonzo is passing up his final year of eligibility and declaring for the draft. Ted Ginn is expected to announce before long that he's also entering the draft, but Gonzo's officially headed to the draft.

It's not a major surprise. While Ginn was the better athlete and a good receiver in his own right, Gonzo was the best receiver on the team this season. We'd all hoped he'd stay out of a love for college life or a desire to not end his collegiate career on such a down note, but he and Antonio Pittman are probably the two most NFL-ready juniors on the roster.

Initially, my concern, for both Gonzo and Ginn (assuming he goes), was that they might be underestimating the depth of the receiver class this year. Jeff Samardzija, Calvin Johnson, and Dwayne Jarrett could all easily be drafted before either OSU receiver. With excellent workouts, Robert Meachem from Tennessee and Sidney Rice from South Carolina are two other juniors that could give Gonzo and Ginn some competition. Is it worth leaving school early to be the fourth or fifth wide receiver drafted?

Last year, it certainly wasn't. Santonio Holmes was the only wide receiver drafted in the first round. But if you look at other drafts, their decisions make more sense. Six wide receivers went in the first round in 2005 and seven went in 2004. So in reality, both guys would likely be taking first round money by leaving early, and that's something that's worth doing, especially when they could end up hurting their draft stock by staying and working with a new quarterback. Gonzo (and presumably Ginn) made the safe choice, and probably the smart choice.

But where does this leave Ohio State for 2007? In a rather nebulous cloud of receiving mystery and potential. Brian Robiskie will move to number one receiver, up from rough number 3.5 receiver. He was pretty good this season, but there wasn't a whole lot asked of him. All he had to do was capitalize on openings created by Ginn and Gonzo. How will he respond to the dramatically increased attention?

Opposite him will likely be Brian Hartline, who was the fourth or fifth receiver this past season. He looked pretty decent over the course of the season, but as the fourth or fifth option, it's tough to look bad, unless you're helping the defense make tackles or running the wrong way with the ball or something. He came in as a pretty highly-touted recruit, so we'll get to see what has become of that potential.

But we'll save the in-depth looks at the receiving corps for much later. For now, good look to Gonzo and (again, presumably) Ginn in the draft, and good luck to the Brians that will be replacing them.

Update: There's an AP article with some more information on Gonzo leaving. The biggest piece of new info from it is that an NFL committee told him that he would be a second-round pick. Interesting that he decided that the risks inherent in returning for another year outweighed the benefits (chief among them: a degree and a better contract if he improved his stock to first-round status). Not necessarily a wrong decision by him; who are we to tell him what's best for him? But interesting. The question is: did he just want to make the safe play and head to the NFL, or does he suspect something about next year's offense that the rest of us might not?

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