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Sports

July 23, 2006

Florida flop or phenom? Pats rookie receiver Jackson immediately under spotlight

(Continued)

Of course, that was half-speed, with no defenders looking to knock his block off.

The speed won't be a question, as Jackson sizzled in offseason workouts, blazing the 40-yard dash in 4.29 seconds.

But how he handles live defense will only be found right now in Jackson's heart and then later this week when practice opens.

Finally, Jackson must answer to the rapidly tumbling reputation of Florida receivers.

Of those other nine Gator draftees in the last decade, only Seattle's Darrell Jackson has hinted at stardom, fighting off a case of the drops to post a pair of 1,000-yard receiving seasons for the reigning NFC champs.

The names Reidel Anthony, Travis Taylor, Jabar Gaffney, Jacquez Green and others have done in many a fan's fantasy team over the past few years, let alone emaciate their team's chances by severely underachieving.

"What makes me different is I'm a guy that works hard," said Jackson, who also happens to be bigger in stature than most of his predecessors. "You can talk to all of my old coaches. They will tell you that I'm a hard worker. I have great character, and I am willing to do what it takes to go out there and win."

Ex-Gators drop the ball

New England Patriots second-round choice Chad Jackson is the 10th University of Florida receiver to be taken in the top three rounds of the NFL Draft since 1997.

The impact of the first nine has been minimal. With training camp opening in Foxboro this week, all eyes will be on Jackson, especially if leading pass-catcher Deion Branch holds out as expected. Here's a look at the Florida receivers and how they have fared:

Year%Round%Overall pick%Player%Team%Comment

1997%1%7%Ike Hilliard%NY Giants%Still in NFL with Tampa after 10 workman-like seasons in NY; 28 career TD catches; best season 72 catches for 996 yards in 1999; averages 45-545 for career.

1997%1%16%Reidel Anthony%Tampa%Career high of 51 catches for 708 yards and 7 TDs in 1998; four-year pro; hasn't played an NFL game since 2001.

1998%2%34%Jacquez Green%Tampa%five-season career ended in 2002; never eclipsed 800 yard receiving mark; seven total touchdowns.

1999%3%93%Travis McGriff%Denver%The biggest bust in the bunch; five catches in three pro seasons; tasted end zone once; out of football by 2002.

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