Saturday’s 2007 National Football League Draft was rich with intrigue and excitement. For Orlando sports fans, however, it also served as a barometer of the type of talent on display at the Capital One and Champs Sports Bowls, respectively.
In the first round of this year’s draft, 10 of the 32 players selected were from teams which played in one of the two Orlando bowl games in the last three years. Each of the draft’s top four selections and six of the top 10 overall had suited up at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium since 2004.
The draft’s top overall selection, LSU’s JaMarcus Russell, played in the 2005 Capital One Bowl, going 12-of-15 for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns in unsuccessfully trying to lead the Tigers from behind against Iowa. Russell was selected by the Oakland Raiders. The Lions selected WR Calvin Johnson with the next selection, he of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets who came out victorious in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl. The third overall pick of the draft was a player with the most recent – and memorable – history in Orlando.
Joe Thomas of Wisconsin was injured at the Capital One Bowl of 2006, but returned to have a stellar senior season and play in the bowl again in 2007. Thomas was the highest-drafted lineman and the third overall selection by the Cleveland Browns.
In the first round overall, 23-of-32 players selected were from schools with conference ties to the Capital One and Champs Sports Bowls. Of the 255 players selected in the draft overall, 104 came from schools from conferences aligned with the two bowls. As further proof that the top talent is on display in Orlando during bowl season, those three conferences – the SEC (41), Big Ten (32) and ACC (31) – produced the most NFL draftees of all the conferences this year.