Pro Football Prospectus 2008 Forecasts

For YOUR California Golden Bears.  In addition, I have no idea how big we are or if I'm infringing copyright laws by copying excerpts relating to our favorite players, but don't be surprised if this entire post disappears without warning.

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Kyle Boller: 281/478, 2605 yards, 11 TDs, 20 INTs; 36 rushes, 130 yards, 3 rushing TDs

Boller has been making incremental progress as a quarterback; by the time he's 35, he might be a pretty good starter for someone.  It doesn't look like it's going to happen in Baltimore, however, where in five years Boller has gone from being the next big thing to being the seat warmer for the new big thing, Joe Flacco.  Boller still has the physical tools to be a good player, but he is a robotic decision-maker who struggles in the red zone where quick decisions are necessary.  Boller has received a majority of the snaps in minicamp and is the favorite to be the Week 1 starter, but he's going to have to pull a Drew Brees-style breakout to hold onto the job past midseason.

Hmm.  "Robotic decision-maker"...where have I heard that before...

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Aaron Rodgers: 307/497, 3729 yards, 25 TDs, 13 INTs; 34 rushes, 79 yards, 1 rushing TD

Note: published before the pre-Brett Favre drama

As of May minicamp, Rodgers was the unquestioned starter for the Packers.  The coaching staff told him the job was his, and he got minicamp votes-of-confidence from important superdelegates such as Donald Driver.  At some point in the preseason, he'll have a so-so game, Brian Brohm will throw a touchdown against some fourth-stringers, and trumpets will sound everywhere from Deadspin to Around the Horn.  But Rodgers will open the season as the starter, and KUBIAK is certain he'll be pretty darn good.  He's a good quarterback in a great situation, and he won't have to look over his shoulder in 2008.

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J.J. Arrington: 58 rushes, 195 yards, 1 TD; 24 receptions, 192 yards, 0 receiving TDs

A second-round choice in 2005, Arrington had trouble learning Denny Green's offense and then completely lost his confidence by running into the brick wall of the Cards' offensive line.  Now, he remains the only Cardinals runner with speed, but it seems late in the day for Arrington to seriously challenge Edgerrin James, despite an improving Arizona line and Ken Whisenhunt's more run-friendly scheme.  Arrington got some opportunities as a receiver last season, with 15 catches in the final six games, and he does have some kickoff return ability.  Still, a legit third-down back needs to average more than three yards per carry.

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Marshawn Lynch: 330 rushes, 1438 yards, 9 TDs; 23 receptions, 229 yards, 1 receiving TD

Lynch caught 34 passes in his final season at Cal but just 18 as a rookie.  He has fine hands and open field moves, so he deserves a larger role in the passing game; coordinator Turk Schronert plans to get him more involved.  Lynch was awful in the red zone last season: 44 rushes, 77 yards, -26.5% DVOA.  He has a powerful running style and sometimes dragged defenders into the end zone with him, so his lack of red zone production was more a symptom of the Bills' offense than a cause.  Opponents didn't have to worry about a quality possession receiver or tight end in the red zone, and Lee Evans can't catch a bomb from the 10-yard line, so defenders could really key on Lynch.  That problem should improve modestly this year.

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Adimchinobe Echemandu: no stats projected

Echemandu was with the Texas last year, and his highlight was a 10-carry, 62-yard performance against San Diego.  It wasn't good enough to keep him in Houston, and it's hard to see how Echemandu will stick on a Raiders team with a much deeper set of running backs.

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Justin Forsett: no stats projected

Tulane's Matt Forte put up the best performance of any running back in the Senior Bowl, but Cal's Forsett impressed as well.  He's been living under the radar despite 1,546 rushing yards and Marshawn Lynch's successor in 2007.  At five foot eight and 194 pounds, he's a little thin in the lower body to apply for true "Pocket Hercules" status, but like Maurice Jones-Drew, he can contribute as a returner and change-of-pace back.

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Byron Storer: no stats projected

Only 226 pounds, Storer is one of the smallest fullbacks you'll ever see.  He started three games late last year, catching two passes for three yards.  He is one of four fullbacks going into Tampa Bay's training camp hoping to replace Mike Alstott.

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DeSean Jackson: 28 receptions, 398 yards, 2 TDs

The Eagles picked up Jackson even after they traded out of the first round.  It was an interesting move because Jackson is everything the Eagles don't normally look for in receivers.  Jackson's a speed merchant who doesn't block, runs mediocre routes, and could be the best athlete on the team.  Of course, for all that ability, he only averaged 11.7 yards per catch at Cal last year.  Jackson's not likely to help all that much this year, but he should be an upgrade over Correll Buckhalter as a return man immediately, and should at least provide the Eagles with an option to keep opposing safeties honest against Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown.  On the other hand, it's also worth noting that the best wide receiver to be produced by a Jeff Tedford-led offense is Samie Parker.  Maybe that's the real Tedford curse.

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Lavelle Hawkins: no stats projected

Hawkins was a reach in the fourth round.  He's a good athlete with the potential to be a good kick returner at this level, but he's not a great athlete like a Chris Johnson or a James Hardy.  He barely started in college despite transferring twice, was unimpressive at the scouting combine, and by all accounts, runs awful routes.  That's not exactly what Vince Young needs.  As far as famous people from Stockton, California go, he's a ways behind Stephen Malkmus and the Diaz brothers when it comes to brilliance in their respective fields.  If he was a quarterback, we'd make superfluous references to him being rattled by the rush.

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Tony Gonzalez: 72 catches, 848 yards, 6 TDs

So is this the year that Gonzalez starts to decline?  We have been predicting a decline for years, but he just put up the second highest catch total of his career.  No precedent exists for such amazing performance for a 32-year old tight end, so we will keep predicting a decline.  One year we will be right, but Gonzalez should remain productive as Dwayne Bowe develops and attracts defensive attention.  Of note for fantasy players is that Gonzalez is no longer a top red zone threat , averaging only four touchdowns per year over the past three seasons.  The Chiefs still throw him the ball inside the 20 (a team high 17 targets last season), but he caught just five of the passes and doesn't post up defenders as easily as he once did.  Gonzalez's decline as a fantasy tight end should not obscure the fact that he remains the most complete tight end in the AFC and a much better blocker than Antonio Gates.

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Craig Stevens: no stats projected

This third-round pick out of California was considered one of the best blocking tight ends in college football, and the Titans liked his maturity and overall game, although his lack of speed is a concern.

Obviously, there appear to be some inaccuracies or things to quibble with in the notes here; Stevens wasn't knocked for a lack of speed, I think.  Just hands of stone.  And I didn't know that Hawkins was noted for awful route running, I thought that was DeSean.  Could be wrong though!

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