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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 19, 2001

NFL draft preview
Michael Vick: Best quarterback or best athlete?

By Curtis Murayama
Advertiser Sports Editor

His coach says he has "Michael Jordan-like qualities."

 •  Coming up tomorrow

Advertiser sports editor Curtis Murayama predicts the first-round picks.

Murayama talks about his predictions on the Bobby Curran radio show, around 7:30 a.m., on KCCN (1420 AM).

His possible future coach says he doesn't want to be the "Portland Trail Blazers of the NFL," referring to the NBA team that passed up selecting Jordan.

Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick sounds like a player destined for stardom.

He is a player with unlimited potential, but limited experience.

Vick will likely be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, which will be Saturday and Sunday.

The San Diego Chargers hold the No. 1 pick. And by signing 38-year-old veteran quarterback Doug Flutie, the Chargers have adroitly put themselves in the position of not having to rush Vick's development should they draft him.

Even Vick admitted, "I'm not ready right now."

The consensus is he isn't.

Vick, 20, has played just 21college games, including games against non-powerhouses Temple, Rutgers and James Madison.

He's struggled against teams such as Syracuse and Boston College. During one four-game stretch last fall, Vick committed seven turnovers.

He completed just 177 passes in his two-year career. Hawai'i's Tim Chang completed 245 in one season.

So why all the hoopla about Vick?

It's his athletic package that he'll bring to the league; one that the NFL has never seen.

Vick, though not particularly big at 6 feet and 213 pounds, bench-presses 320 pounds, squats 515 and has a vertical leap of 38 inches, numbers NFL brass can't ignore.

But what wows scouts most is his elusiveness and speed. According to Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, Vick covers the 40-yard dash in "4.2-something," speed not seen in an NFL quarterback.

Chris Landry, an NFL scout for more than 10 years and now a scouting consultant, said Vick is "a great runner with a cannon for an arm and the ability to make something happen on every play."

That was evident during the national championship game against Florida State two seasons ago.

Vick rushed for 97 yards and accounted for 322 of the Hokies' 503 yards in the loss.

"He's a fabulously gifted athlete, bar none," said John Dorsey, a Green Bay Packers scout. "When you go up against team speed like Florida State and make six defenders miss on one run, that's pretty impressive."

Recalled Florida State coach Bobby Bowden: "We played a lot of people but we never had one guy make the impact he made against us. What a great one."

Brian Gardner, a 49ers scout for the past six years, says Vick "is a tremendous athlete. He has a strong arm; he's athletic; he's mobile; he's tough. He's all the things that you look for in that position — except experience."

Therein lies Vick's only drawback.

"The key thing is what kind of passer is Michael Vick?" said Bruce Kebric, scout for the Oakland Raiders. "Is he a passer? Can he develop into a passer? I don't know. You have to be a passer in the National Football League."

Beamer hopes the team that drafts Vick won't force-feed him into the starting lineup.

"He's the most talented player I've ever been around," said Beamer, 54. "Hopefully, the team he goes to in pro football won't put him in there before he's ready. You can hurt a guy when you do that. We didn't do that at Tech, we redshirted him because we didn't think he was ready to play at that level. I'm hopeful that the people at the next level will do the same thing."

San Diego Chargers coach Mike Riley isn't one of the skeptics.

"This guy is for real. I don't have any more questions. I'd love to have the opportunity to coach him."

Looks like he will.

Rating the draft

"I'd say it's about average, maybe a little above average," said Jerry Shay, director of college scouting for the New York Giants. "Overall, this draft is pretty heavy in defensive linemen, which is a rare thing."

Kebric thinks the receiving corps is deep. "There could be probably at least six receivers go in the first round."

Heading that group are Michigan's David Terrell, North Carolina State's Koren Robinson, Clemson's Rod Gardner and Miami of Florida's Santana Moss.

Hawai'i's finest

Former St. Louis School and Nebraska standout Dominic Raiola should be the first player with Hawai'i ties drafted this year.

The 6-2, 307-pounder is the top-rated center in the draft. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who authors the NFL Draft Report, ranks Raiola as the 53rd-best player overall. Another draft report rates Raiola No. 25 overall.

With 31 picks in each round, that could put Raiola in the low first or middle second round.

But that's no guarantee. Another St. Louis alum, Olin Kreutz, also was the top-rated center and had a similar rating when he came out in 1998. But he was drafted in the third round (64th overall).

Another player with Hawai'i ties who should be drafted is former Farrington High standout Mario Fatafehi, a 6-1, 297-pound defensive tackle for Kansas State.

"I like him. He's good. He should go in the second or third round," Kebric said.

The University of Hawai'i had three players drafted last year (offensive tackle Adrian Klemm, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich and offensive tackle Kaulana Noa). This year, one — at most — could be drafted.

Offensive lineman Kynan Forney, a 6-2, 313-pounder, carries a seventh-round grade. Kiper ranks him the 10th best guard.

No UH player has ever been selected in the first round of the NFL draft.