In the 2007 NFL Draft, 10 teams passed on a talented Middle Linebacker from Ole Miss named Patrick Willis. Out of those teams, only 1 currently has a Pro Bowl Linebacker on their team (DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans). While fellow draft picks such as OT Joe Thomas and RB Adrian Peterson also had star-studded seasons, Willis' rookie campaign was the stuff of future legends.
Willis finished the 2007 campaign with an NFL-leading 174 total tackles, along with 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 5 passes deflected. He earned Rookie of the Week honors 4 times, GMC Defensive Player of the Week twice, NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and First Team All-Pro by the Associated Press. He was the only rookie in the NFL to make the AP All-Pro squad and the first Defensive Rookie from the 49ers to make the Pro Bowl since Ronnie Lott in 1981.
And we all know how good Lott became.
So what do we have in store for Willis' in his sophomore year?
Q: Having this entire off-season to train and focus on this defense, how much better can Patrick Willis be in 2008?http://49ers.com/pressbox/news_detail.php?PRKey=4282§ion=PR%20News
Willis: A lot better. I believe that I’m working on a higher game than I played at last year. Last year was more just instincts. This year, I’m out there being the guy who says, “hey this is coming,” and I am able to see something before it happens. Last year it was just reaction and going off of my instincts. I have my laptop at home and I watch games from last year and I find so many things I could have done so much better. I see some stuff where I think I looked horrible out there, and so there is a lot of room for improvement. Also, I feel good. It’s always different when you are playing games, but my body feels good and I’m ready.
If this is any indication, I expect to see a lot more of the All-Pro #52 in 2008, and look forward to seeing many more reasons why 10 teams should never have passed on this great young player.