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2010 NFL Draft Sleepers – Offense by Lloyd Vance

April 22, 2010 2 comments

Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards is one of Sports Journey’s Sleepers for the 2010 NFL Draft

Though the majority of players taken in the NFL Draft usually come from BCS schools – in the 2009 NFL Draft little over 72% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences.— everyone is enamored with finding a “sleeper”.  Every year around draft time, whether it is friends or on the radio, everyone wants me to identify a “superstar in waiting” that no one is talking about.

Well everyone…I am here to tell you that there are no longer any true “sleepers” in the NFL Draft process.  Trust me — if you have talent, NFL teams with their gaggle of scouts, assistant coaches, GM’s, and others scouring football fields everywhere will find you.  Now smaller school players are even making it easier for NFL teams to scout them by creating recruiting type videos for YouTube and other media outlets.

Some “Diamonds in the Rough” prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft on the offensive side of the ball:

QB Tim Hiller, Western Michigan – This big (6-5, 230) strong armed passer has been touted by some scouts as a better pro prospect than fellow MAC passer Dan Lefevour (Central Michigan).  Hiller is definitely a pocket passer in the mold of Drew Bledsloe, so he will need O-line protection as he learns the NFL game.

QB Ryan Perrilloux, Jacksonville State — Former LSU quarterback (dismissed in 2008) resurrected his career at JSU and became one of the best players in the Ohio Valley Conference.  Perrilloux (6-3, 223) had a great senior year finishing with passing numbers: 138-of-236, 58%, 2,345 yards, 23 TDs, and 2 INTs plus 98 rushes for 443 yards and 8 TDs. The one-time MVP of the SEC championship game showed great arm strength and touch at the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game.

QB/WR Kellen Lewis, Valdosta State – This former University of Indiana quarterback resurfaced for his senior year at Valdosta State after being dismissed.  In 3 years at IU, Lewis was on his way to being one of the conference’s best dual-threat quarterbacks — joined Antwaan Randle El as the only IU quarterback to produce over 6000 passing yards, 40 passing TDs, and 8,000 yards in total offense for their career.  In his one year at VSU, Lewis produced passing numbers: 232-372, 62.4%, 2514 yards, 14 TDs and 9 INTs along with 485 yards and 9 TDs rushing.  Also has experience as a receiver from IU.

QB John Skelton, Fordham – A former under the radar quarterback, who is getting attention on team’s draft boards due to his rocket arm.  Reminds some scouts of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when he entered the NFL.  Skelton is tall (6’4) and has great instincts, but he will need to work on his accuracy especially on mid-range throws.  Likes to go for the big play and sometimes gets burned by interception-happy DB’s.

QB/WR Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State – After his breakout performance in a 2008 upset of Michigan, everyone can never forget Edwards.  This two-time 1-AA Player of the Year is lacks ideal pro quarterback size (5’11, 185), but he is a playmaker and a “winner”.  Edwards leaves ASU as their most decorated athlete having won two National Championships and outstanding numbers (over 14,000 total yards and 74 TDs – passing and rushing).  It will be interesting to see if Edwards gets a legitimate shot as a quarterback in the NFL or will he have to transition to receiver or kick returner or be just a Wildcat.   If Edwards does have to transition to another position he has the athleticism as he is a legitimate 4.4 in the forty guy.

RB Joique Bell, Wayne State – Outside of Fresno’s Ryan Matthews, Bell is the premier big back (6’1, 223) in this year’s NFL draft.  At Wayne State, Bell rushed for almost 7,000 yards while piling up 88 TDs in four years.  Has a chance to be a great short yard and goal-line back in the mold of the Titans’ LenDale White.  The only concern with Bell is that right now he looks like a plodder as he ran a 4.68 in the forty at the NFL Combine.

RB James Starks, Buffalo – Another big back (6’2, 218) that should be able to help on the next level.  Though a shoulder injury caused Starks to miss the 2009 season, there is still a “buzz” about him.  A versatile back who also has experience as a quarterback and defensive back, Starks had a stellar 2008 season (1333 rushing yards with 16 TDs rushing and 52 catches for 361 yards and 1 TD) when he led his team to the conference championship.  The former Niagara Falls HS quarterback ran well at the NFL Combine and showed good fluidity in drills.  In three years at Buffalo, Starks set school records for rushing yards (3,140) and touchdowns (34).

RB LaMarcus Coker, Hampton – Began his college football career at the University of Tennessee where he contributed including a 42-yard touchdown run in the 2006 Outback Bowl against Penn State. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s leading rusher last season totaled 1,027 rushing yards with six touchdowns. Coker (5-10, 195) participated in the East Coast Bowl, where he ran the 40 for scouts in 4.28 seconds. Also caught a 33-yard TD pass in the HBCU Bowl All-Star Game and finished with a game-high 82 yards receiving on three catches.

WR Chris Bell, Norfolk State — A big receiver prospect, who originally started out at Penn State then transferred after an off the field incident.  Bell (6’2, 211) had a very good NFL Combine where he was timed at 4.47  seconds in the 40-yard dash (tied for 11th among receivers), put up 15 reps in the bench press, broad jumped 9-9 and ran a the 3-cone drill in 6.76 seconds.   In 2009, Bell had 51 catches for 958 yards and 13 touchdowns in a breakout junior season at Norfolk State.

WR Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green – Reminds a lot of Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin as he is not the biggest (6’0, 212) or the fastest (4.65), but he produces big-time.  In 2009, Barnes set an NCAA record by catching 155 passes for 1770 yards and 19 TDs – also had two other touchdowns rushing.  After converting from the quarterback position, Barnes put up 298 catches for 3,299 yards and 30 TDs in only two seasons as a full-time receiver.  Had a very good East-West Shrine game and is being looked at as a slot receiver and potential Wildcat at the next level.

WR Kyle Williams, Arizona State – Surprisingly the son of Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams has flown under the radar this draft season.  Williams was Arizona State’s leading receiver last year with 57 catches for 815 yards and 8 TDs.  Though some are viewing the form Sun Devil as only a punt returner due to his size (5’9/185), I believe that Williams should have an impact as a receiver too.

WR Ali Villanueva, Army – A huge developmental player who could wind-up as a blocking tight end or as an offensive tackle.  If you can believe it, Villanueva (6′9/277) was Army’s leading receiver in all categories for the 2009 season.  Had a solid East-West Shrine Game, but there are concerns about his military commitment and where to play him.

ATH Joseph Wielgat, Western Illinois – This rugby player has drawn the eye of NFL scouts after performing very well at his school’s Pro Day.  Wieglat, who projects to be an H-Back or TE at the next level, weighed-in at a solid 6-6 1/8 and 243 while running 4.66 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

OG/OT Vladimir Ducasse, UMass — After a solid Senior Bowl week, this native of Haiti showed that he has the size (6-5, 330) and strength to play at the next level.  Has experience as a 1-AA left tackle, but seems ideally suited to play offensive guard at the next level.  Has long arms and a good punch at the snap, but is still developing as a player.

OT Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale — A Division II offensive lineman who is shooting up a lot of team’s draft boards.  Veldheer fit right in at the NFL Combine running in the 4.9 range and looking comfortable in drills.  Seems to have better footwork and mechanics than most small-school O-linemen.

OT Tony Washington, Abilene Christian — A highly recruited player in the state of Texas who ended up at a smaller school after some off the field issues.  Washington is a long offensive lineman (6’6, 311) with the potential to be a bookend at the next level.  Has very good feet and athleticism.  Answered every team’s questions about his past at the NFL Combine, but it will be interesting to see which team takes a shot on him.

OT James Williams, Harvard – That’s right… even Harvard has a potential NFL caliber O-lineman.  Trying to follow in the footsteps of Ross Tucker (Princeton), Williams (6-5, 295, 5.20) is a big, smart, and athletic lineman from the Ivy League.  Though he is not a road-grader, Williams is getting scouts’ attention due to his long arms, good feet, and sound blocking techniques.  Looks like a very good pro right tackle prospect. 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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2010 NFL Draft Sleepers – Defense by Lloyd Vance

Central Florida safety Michael Greco is one of Sports Journey’s Sleepers for the 2010 NFL Draft

Though the majority of players taken in the NFL Draft usually come from BCS schools – in the 2009 NFL Draft little over 72% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences.— everyone is enamored with finding a “sleeper”.  Every year around draft time, whether it is friends or on the radio, everyone wants me to identify a “superstar in waiting” that no one is talking about.

Well everyone…I am here to tell you that there are no longer any true “sleepers” in the NFL Draft process.  Trust me — if you have talent, NFL teams with their gaggle of scouts, assistant coaches, GM’s, and others scouring football fields everywhere will find you.  Now smaller school players are even making it easier for NFL teams to scout them by creating recruiting type videos for YouTube and other media outlets.

Some “Diamonds in the Rough” prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball: 

DE/OLB Arthur Moats, James Madison — A high-motor smaller (6’0, 246) pass rusher who was dominant at the FCS level.  Moats led JMU with 90 tackles, 11 sacks  and 23 tackles for loss (led all of FCS).  The 2009 Buck Buchanan Award as the FCS division’s best defender, Moats is a tenacious pass rusher who should be a good 3-4 OLB at the next level.

DE Austen Lane, Murray State – A small school two-way defensive end that combines size (6-7, 270) and quickness (4.65).  Lane was dominant at the FCS level as he was unblockable at times.  Has long arms that help him bat-down passes and block kicks (4 career blocked kicks.  A good run stuffer, who is also a double-digit sack guy.

DE Christian Anthony, Grambling State — An incredibly gifted defensive end that reminds some of former Alabama A&M and Indianapolis Colts star Robert Mathis.  Anthony (6-4, 246) finished fourth in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award and was voted the 2009 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year.  The Birmingham, Alabama native led the SWAC in solo tackles (55) and finished with 76 tackles overall.  Anthony also contributed 8 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries and five interceptions (returning 2 for touchdowns).

OLB/DE Junior Galette, Stillman — A defensive end and who looks like an NFL outside linebacker candidate, Galette (6-2, 255) transferred from Temple for his senior season at Stillman. A high-motor player, Galette led the SIAC with 9.5 sacks and also ranked 3rd in conference for tackles for losses (17.5 for minus 100 yards). In just 9 games, he recorded 56 tackles including 37 solo stops. Also had 12 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles plus blocked a field goal.  Had a strong 2010 NFL Combine where he was timed at 4.63 in the forty.

OLB/DE Marcus Crump, St. Augustine’s — A lanky high energy pass rusher that reminds me of a young Jason Taylor.  Crump (6-6, 240) finished the 2009 season second in the CIAA in sacks (10) and 3rd in tackles for loss (15). The All-CIAA defensive end also ranked in DII in those respective categories 7th in sacks and 25th in tackles for loss.

DT Callahan Bright, Shaw – After a circuitous college with stops at Florida State, prep school, and junior college, this former highly recruited high school prospect found a home at DII school Shaw.  Bright (6-2, 315) is a cat-quick defensive lineman who also plays with great strength.  Bright had a decent season by DII DT standards, posting 48 tackles including 7.5 for loss.  Likened to Eagles DT Broderick Bunkley.

OLB/DE  Jeremy Maddox, Alabama A — An explosive pass rusher with a good first step.  Reminds me of Kansas City Chiefs sack man Tamba Hali.  Maddox (6-0, 244) was a two-time All-SWAC selection and finalist for the Buchanan Award.  Just knows how to get to the passer as shown by his 12 sacks (2nd in FCS).

OLB/DE  Adrian Tracy, William & Mary – A very dominant small school pass rusher that was unstoppable the last 2 years  as he produced 22 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss.  Tracy (6-3, 242) reminds some NFL scouts of Philadelphia Eagles sack man Trent Cole as he has a quick first step and is tenacious rushing the passer.

DT Sean Lissemore, William & Mary – After an impressive Pro Day(4.82 in 40-yd, 7.57 in the 3-cone drill, and 26 reps of 225), everyone has their eye on this penetrating defensive tackle.  Lissemore (6-3, 297) reminds some of former Bucs D-lineman Chris Hovan as he is strong and quick.   The former W&M star was first team all-conference honors finishing 66 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and two interceptions in 2009. Also played well in the Texas vs. Nation All-Star Game versus bigger competition.

CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana (PA) – His first name means “Born on Sunday.” A very good small school corner that looks like a perfect Cover-2 player.  Owusu-Ansah (6-1, 195, 4.50) has the size and speed that NFL defensive coordinators are looking for.  Was impressive at the DII level as he dominated despite recovering from a shoulder injury.  A very good corner, but it is his special team’s play that NFL teams really like — scored 9 TDs in his career on returns, including four on punts and three on kickoffs. Owusu-Ansah holds school records for punt return yards (788), punt return average (11.4) and kickoff return yards (1,282).

CB Patrick Stoudamire, Western Illinois – Probably the top non-D1 defensive prospect in the 2010 draft.  Stoudamire (5-10, 200, 4.42) definitely has ability that is close to top corners Joe Haden (Florida) and Kyle Wilson (Boise State).  With good size, speed, and agility, this small school player has the instincts to be a very good cover corner.  Is very good at recovering and also breaking on the football.

CB/KR LeRoy Vann, Florida A — This former walk-on was arguably the most explosive player in all of college football (FCS or BCS).  Vann (5-9, 179) who was featured in Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s SportsCenter, finishing his college career as the FCS record holder for career returns for scores (11  overall with 8 punts and 3 kickoffs).  An elusive returner, who many are comparing to a slower version of Bears former Pro Bowl player Devin Hester, this season had 6 return touchdowns (3 punts and 3 kickoffs). While finishing with eye-popping numbers: 28 punts for 462 yards (16.5-yard average) and 3 TDs plus 38 kickoffs for 1,121 yards (29.5-yard average) and 3 TDs.  Vann – 1st team All-American selection in FCS — finished his stellar college career as the fifth player in FCS history to record over 1,000 yards on both kickoff and punt returns.  He also impressed scouts by being named the MVP of the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game after returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown.

S Michael Greco, Central Florida – A former quarterback who has drawn comparisons to John Lynch when he entered the NFL.  Greco (6-3, 217, 4.40) didn’t convert to DB until late in his college career, but he is a smart tough player.  In 2009, the former UCF signal caller  finished with 45 tackles and  broke up 4 passes in only 7 starts.  Greco continued his rise up draft boards with a solid Pro Day — ran under 4.40 seconds in the 40-yd, jumped 41.5 inches vertically and banged out 22 reps of 225-lbs.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Sports Journey – 2010 NFL Draft Mock v2.0 by Lloyd Vance

Michigan pass rusher Brandon Graham is one of several high profile prospects featured in Sports Journey‘s 2010 NFL Draft Mock v2.0

The NFL Draft is an ever-changing entity due to trades (McNabb), veteran cuts (Flozell Adams), and prospect workouts (Sam Bradford).  So with an abundance draft related tidbits coming in daily, I thought it was time to do version 2.0 of my 2010 NFL Draft  Mock.

1)  St. Louis Rams – QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

    2009 Record: 1-15 | Needs: QB, CB, OLB, WR

After a workout for the ages on March 29th, there is no doubt that the Rams will begin their rebuilding by selecting Bradford.  In his Pro Day workout, the former 2008 Heisman winner displayed footwork, size (6’5, 236), poise, and arm strength that solidified his spot as the 2010 NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick. Bradford will be the franchise’s first quarterback to be selected in the first round since 1967—9 of the last 12 first overall picks have been quarterbacks.  The NCAA’s all-time leader in passing efficiency is an accurate, intelligent, and athletic passer plus he averaged an incredible 9.41 yards-per-attempt, had a TD-to-INT ratio of 88-16 in his career, and don’t forget he threw 50 TDs in 2008.  While there are some shoulder concerns (ACL joint), Bradford clearly looks recovered from his October surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews.  With the Rams recently cutting veteran Marc Bulger, look for Bradford to be a Day 1 starter for the Rams with A.J. Feeley and Keith Null serving as his backups.    I wonder if Bradford’s agent, CAA’s Tom Condon,  and the Rams will have a deal already in place when the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reads the pick.  Look for the former Oklahoma star to get a deal similar if not better than last year’s No.1 overall pick, Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford, who’s deal was 6-years, $72 million and $41.7 million guaranteed.

2) Detroit Lions – DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

    2009 Record: 2-14 | Needs: OT, DL, CB, S

Some expected Detroit to go O-line, but they recently traded for up-and-coming offensive guard Rob Sims from the Seattle Seahawks.  Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew address a defense that allowed an NFL-high 494 points in 2009 by selecting Suh with the second overall pick.  Suh had one of the best years of any college defensive tackle in NCAA history as he produced 85 tackles, a NCAA leading 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. The decorated award-winner (Lombardi, Bednarik, Willis, and first team All American) also had 10 passes defensed, 28 QB hurries, 1 INT and three blocked kicks.  The cat-quick and strong defensive lineman possibly played his best game in Nebraska’s near upset of the Texas in the Big 12 Championship game, finishing with 4.5 sacks.  By adding Suh, the Lions defense will be able to apply the pressure needed to produce more sacks and turnovers.

3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma

     2009 Record: 3-13 | Needs: DL, WR, CB, S

Raheem Morris’ defensive unit was plagued by big plays and coverage lapses throughout the 2009 season.  With an eye on finding a “Warren Sapp” penetrating defensive tackle for their Cover-2 scheme, the Bucs will select Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy (6’4/297) to re-build their defense around.  The 2008 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year produced 16.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, despite constant double teams.  Look for the fourth-year junior to collapse the pocket with his cat-quick moves, helping improving linebacker Barrett Ruud to make more game-changing plays.  McCoy will instantly bring some teeth to a Bucs’ defense that ranked 32nd in the NFL against the run.

4) Washington Redskins – OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

    2009 Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, OG, S, QB

After trading for veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb, more than ever the Redskins must find a way to help their offensive line.  Last year the O-line allowed 46 sacks then OT Chris Samuels retired and OG Randy Thomas was released.  Redskins’ new braintrust of head coach Mike Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen grab the 2010 NFL Draft’s first O-lineman by selecting big bookend tackle Russell Okung to protect McNabb.  The 2009 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year and first-team All-American allowed just one sack and two QB pressures last year.  Running behind Okung, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing in all four of his seasons as a starter.  The former Oklahoma State star has good “pop” at the snap, good feet, and long arms.  By selecting Okung and starting him Day 1, the Redskins will finally be able to fix an offensive line that was in shambles in 2009.

5) Kansas City Chiefs – OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa

2009 Record: 4-12 | Needs: S, WR, LB, DL

Some are saying that the Chiefs may flirt with the idea of selecting quarterback Jimmy Clausen or safety Eric Berry, but I believe, head coach Todd Haley and general manager Scott Pioli like what they have in young starter Matt Cassell.  With many spots still to fill, Kansas City selects 2nd rated offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga from Iowa and move former first rounder Branden Albert back to his natural guard position.  Though there is some concern over Bulaga (6’6/315) missing three games in 2009 due to a thyroid condition, he was the most dominant blocker in the Big Ten — named conference’s 2009 Offensive Lineman of the Year. This converted tight end has drawn comparisons to Browns former first rounder and Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas for his good feet and pass-blocking technique.   Plus Pioli knows Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz very well and would love to get one of his hard-nose players.

6) Seattle Seahawks – Safety Eric Berry, Tennessee

     2009 Record: 5-11 | Needs: OT, DE, OG, WR

Former USC college guru Pete Carroll and new GM John Schneider have already started turning over their roster – several players moved including OG Rob Sims.  Though some folks are expecting a quarterback of the future or a stud receiver or a penetrating defensive lineman, the Seahawks get their John Lynch type safety for their new Cover-2 scheme by selecting Tennessee safety Eric Berry. Though his numbers were a bit down in ’09, Berry took his game to a new level working with former Volunteers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, a veteran NFL teacher of the Cover-2 defense.  The 2009 Jim Thorpe award winner as the nation’s best defensive back, Berry will definitely help in over the top coverage as well as in box.  Expect the centerfielder to help in the nickel, dime, and on special teams as he has a “Can Do” attitude that will help a Seahawks defense that allowed 330 points last year.  Look for the Seahawks to continue filling some of their other needs, namely their O-line, later in the first round when they select at the No. 14 spot.

7) Cleveland Browns – CB Joe Haden, Florida

     2009 Record: 5-11 | Needs: QB, OT, DE, S

Though football czar Mike Holmgren says he doesn’t need a quarterback in the first round, you never know.  However I will take Holmgren at his word and the Browns pass on Clausen in favor of giving veteran Jake Delhomme another shot.  Holmgren and new GM Tom Heckert decide that fixing a defense that allowed 375 points in 2009 is more pressing – too many big plays.  The Browns grab another defensive back to add to holdover Eric Wright and veteran pickup Sheldon Brown by selecting Florida cover corner Joe Haden (5’11, 190).  Even though some people are wondering about Haden’s speed – ran a 4.57 at the NFL Combine, but recently was timed at high 4.3/low 4.4 range Florida’s Pro Day – there is no doubt that he is the best cover corner in this draft.  Some are comparing him to Jets Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis, but we will see on that comparison.

8) Oakland Raiders – WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State

     2009 Record: 5-11 | Needs: WR, OT, DE, S

After passing on Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin last year, the Raiders select the best receiver in this year’s draft, Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant.  This pick doesn’t make much sense with the Raiders having more pressing needs, but this is Oakland that we are talking about.  Raiders’ owner Al Davis loves to make a splash and grabbing the emerging Bryant could be another piece for comebacking quarterback JaMarcus Russell.   The former Oklahoma State star should immediately help lift an offense that only scored 197 points (31st in NFL) and 17 touchdowns (tied for 32nd) last year.  Bryant missed all but three games in 2009 after being suspended by the NCAA for inappropriate interaction with former NFL great Deion Sanders, but there is no denying his ability – recently had a solid Pro Day running in the high 4.4 /4.5 range and catch the ball well.  Drawing comparisons to Houston Texan Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson, Bryant also combines size and speed.  All anyone needs to do is look at his outstanding 2008 numbers of 87 catches for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns, plus an average of 17.9 yards per punt return with 2 TDs to see his game-changing ability. 

9) Buffalo Bills – QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame

     2009 Record: 6-10 | Needs: OT, QB, WR, DE

The braintrust of new head coach Chan Gailey and GM Buddy Nix decide that their current quarterbacks (Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick) are not the answer.  The Bills have no choice as Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen falls in their lap.  Playing in a “pro style” offense – a huge plus for any college QB — Clausen from 2007 to 2009 improved greatly under the tutelage of Charlie Weis.  The junior-eligible is tough (played through a toe injury in 2009), accurate (68% completion percentage last year), and is a leader.  However even though Clausen sported an outstanding 28 to 4 touchdown-to-interception ratio last year, some evaluators  wonder about him not producing a lot of signature “big” wins during his starting tenure at ND, his arm strength, and rumored cocky attitude. 

10) Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech

       2009 Record: 7-9 | Needs: DE, S, QB, OG

There is no doubt that the Jags need help rushing the passer as they produced an NFL-low 14 sacks in 2009.  With head coach Jack Del Rio on the hot seat, Jacksonville cannot afford a selection of another under-achieving pass rusher.  So Jaguars’ GM Gene Smith tries to finally find an anchor defensive end for Del Rio’s defense by selecting Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan (6’4, 272).  Morgan was the ACC‘s Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference with 12.5 sacks plus he added 18.5 tackles for loss.  The junior eligible should be helped by the presence of veterans DT John Henderson and free agent signee Aaron Kampman while pushing former first rounder Derrick Harvey, who has been a disappointment to say the least.

11) Denver Broncos (from Chicago) – ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama

2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: DT, DE, LB, S

Already head coach Josh McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders have been busy this offseason acquiring players including former Browns QB Brady Quinn and a gaggle of defensive linemen (NT Jammal Williams, DE Jarvis Green, and DT Justin Bannan).  With an eye on improving a defense that allowed 324 points in 2009, the Broncos select Alabama LB Rolando McClain (6’3, 258) to replace the recently cut Andra Davis. The Butkus Award winner is a classic instinctive inside linebacker, who is a tackling machine – 2009 stats: 105 TKLs, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 2 INTs.  McClain seems to have overcome red flags — an eye-gouging incident (against Georgia running back Washaun Ealey) and a hamstring pull at NFL Combine – to be the first linebacker off the board. Look for the 2009 consensus All-American to help right away in the Broncos 3-4 scheme playing behind huge nose tackles Williams and 2nd-year pro Ronnie Fields.   

12) Miami Dolphins – DE/OLB Jason Paul-Pierre, South Florida

       2009 Record: 7-9 | Needs: LB, WR, OL, TE

One thing is for certain, we know Dolphins top executive Bill Parcells likes to have tough aggressive linebackers.  With veteran Joey Porter being cut and free agent Jason Taylor shopping himself around , the Dolphins will add the best pass rushing outside linebacker in the 2010 NFL Draft by selecting South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul (6’5, 270).  Though a bit raw (only one year in D-1), Paul-Pierre is an awesome athlete that reminds many of a young Jevon Kearse down to an 81-inch wingspan and 10-3/8 hands.  The much-traveled JUCO transfer started at College of the Canyons then transferred to Fort Scott Community College before settling-in at South Florida. The first-team All-Big East performer led his team in tackles for loss (16.5) and sacks (6.5) plus Pierre-Paul blocked a kick and returned an interception for a touchdown.  At the NFL Combine, Pierre-Paul looked fast (4.67 in the forty), explosive, and fluid in drills.

13) S.F. 49ers – OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma

       2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: OLB, S, OL, QB

Armed with two first round picks, expect the resurgent Niners to rebuild their offensive and defensive lines.  Head coach Mike Singletary shores up his pass protection by selecting athletic Oklahoma offensive tackle Trent Williams (6’4 ½, 314) to replace OT Tony Pashos (Cleveland Browns).  A 40-game starter at OU with experience at both left and right tackle, Williams earned first-team All-Big 12 honors the last two years. Look for Williams to take his place as a solid right tackle (34 ¼-inch arms) in offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye’s unit.  Adapt at pass and run blocking, Williams showed great athleticism at the NFL Combine, where he ran the second fastest forty (4.88) and fifth best short-shuttle time (4.63) of any offensive lineman. 

14) Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) – OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland

       2009 Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, DE, OG, WR

After having taken a defensive player earlier, expect the Seahawks to find a protector for 35-year quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.  The Seahawks attempt to replace future Hall of Famer Walter Jones, who retired, by selecting Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell (6’6, 314).  An incredibly athletic left tackle prospect with extremely long arms (36 ¼-inches), Campbell was the talk of the NFL Combine after running an offensive lineman best 4.85 forty, pounded out 34 reps on the 225 lb bench, jumped 32 inches vertically and displaying awesome feet in drills.  Though there are concerns with Campbell only having 17 college starts, he should be able to help out right away on runs and screen passes.

15) New York Giants – safety Taylor Mays, USC

       2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: CB, S, DT, LB

I know the G-Men already signed versatile former Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle during free agency, but more is needed in their Back 4.  The Giants routinely gave-up big plays down the field — allowed more than 40 points five times in 2009.  With uncertainty around former first rounder  Kenny Phillips returning to full strength from a bad foot injury, the Giants select USC defensive back Taylor Mays.  This big (6’3, 220) hard-hitting safety can really fly as shown by his forty time at this year’s NFL Combine — some unofficial hand-times had him at 4.24seconds, but “officially” his time was 4.43 seconds, which is still unbelievable for a safety.  Mays should easily replace recently cut safety CC Brown and also contribute on special teams and in nickel coverage.  Look for the former USC standout to improve on his angles to the ball and making more game-changing plays — caused just two takeaways as a senior (1 INT and 1 fumble recovery).

16) Tennessee Titans – DE Everson Griffen, USC

       2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: DE, OT, CB, C

Season one without DT Albert Haynesworth produced an 8-8 record and a defense that allowed a whopping 402 points.  To make matters worse for Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher, veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch signed with the Lions.  In order to rebuild the Titans once feared defense, look for them to select USC DE Everson Griffen (6’4, 274).  The All-PAC 10 performer is a solid two-way defensive end, who finished his collegiate career with 18 sacks and 22 tackles for loss.  Griffen really shined at the NFL Combine, where he ran an impressive 4.66 forty and put up 32 reps of 225 pounds.  Also looked like the real deal at USC’s Pro Day as he ripped through every drill and displayed great balance.

17) S.F. 49ers (from Carolina) – OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas

       2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: OLB, S, OL, QB

After securing their offensive line with their first selection (No. 13), look for Niners’ head coach Mike Singletary and new personnel chief Trent Baalke to improve a defense that had problems at times.  Former first rounder Manny Lawson has been a huge disappointment so the Niners try to fortify their defense to contend with the explosive Arizona Cardinals by selecting Texas outside linebacker Sergio Kindle (6’4, 255).  The 3rd-team All-American played a variety of roles for the Longhorns including rush linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle and special teams.  Kindle led Texas with 22 tackles for loss and quarterback hurries. Though Kindle is smallish for a true NFL defensive end, with his knack for rushing the passer he is a natural fit for the Niners’ “Elephant” position (half OLB and half DE). 

18. Pittsburgh Steelers – OG Mike Iupati, Idaho

       2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: OL, RB, CB, DL

The Steelers sure up the interior of their offensive line in hopes of returning to a run-first offense by selecting the draft’s best interior offensive lineman, Mike Iupati.  The big (6’5, 325) All-American from Idaho was one of the most impressive lineman at this year’s Senior Bowl. Some have said that Iupati could play on the outside as he has 35-inch arms, good footwork, and balance but he is a dominator on the inside.  By adding Iupati, the Steelers can run the ball with more authority between the tackles – leading rusher Rashard Mendenhall had a quiet 1,108 rushing yards in 2009 — and finally replacing the huge hole left by the defection of Pro Bowl player Alana Faneca (NY Jets) a couple years ago.

19) Atlanta Falcons – DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida

       2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: S, LB, OL, DE

The Falcons have had a hole at the defensive end position since Patrick Kearney left years ago for the Seattle Seahawks.  Yes, veteran John Abraham has gotten to the quarterback however the Falcons need to give the often-injured defensive end some help and get stronger at the point of attack.  Also with an eye on pushing underachiever and former first round pick DE Jamaal Anderson, Atlanta selects Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap.  Though some are saying Dunlap, a top-ten talent, is falling on some team’s draft boards due to some off the field issues and an off-and-on motor, I still believe fiery head coach Mike Smith will give him another shot.  The former All-SEC defensive end is compared to 2010 free agent big fish Julius Peppers in that he is big (6’6, 290) and explosive when motivated.  Last season, Dunlap had nine sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, which were down from his 2008 numbers.  But there is no denying the upside of this former Gators sack man as shown by his 2 sacks in the Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati.

20) Houston Texans – RB CJ Spiller, Clemson

       2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: OL, RB, TE, S

With the status of current running back Steve Slaton (neck) in jeopardy, Texans’ head coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith add another burner to their indoor track team by selecting Clemson speedster CJ Spiller (5’11/196).  At the NFL Combine, Spiller looked like the next “Reggie Bush” homerun threat type of player.  He showed breakaway speed with a 4.37-second forty – some unofficially timed him at 4.27 seconds – and great hands catching the ball.  Spiller is an explosive player as shown in 2009 season where he had 31 carries of 10+ yards and eight receptions for 20 yards or more plus contributed an NCAA-leading five TDs on returns. Look for Spiller (5.6 yards per carry average and 36 catches) to help out immediately on kickoffs and he should compete with Slaton and 2nd-year back Arian Foster for carries. As for any concerns regarding Spiller’s durability, he never missed a game in college due to injury.

21) Cincinnati Bengals – safety Earl Thomas, Texas

       2009 Record: 10-6 | Needs: OL, DE, TE, S

Even though the Bengals were able to get turnovers from their emerging cornerback tandem of Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall, their defense was pushed around by the NY Jets in their playoff loss.  With an eye on getting tougher on defense, head coach Marvin Lewis will select Texas safety Earl Thomas (5’10, 197).  Though the Bengals re-signed veteran Roy Williams to a one-year deal, Thomas will bring speed and coverage to Lewis’ defense.  He played strong safety at Texas, but he has “centerfielder” in the pros written all over him.  In 2009, Thomas finished second in the nation with eight interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.  The former Longhorns star also is a very physical player too as shown by his five fumbles the last two seasons.

22) N.E. Patriots – OLB Brandon Graham, Michigan

       2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, CB, TE, RB

The Patriots seem to have targeted the linebacker position as one of the areas that needs an upgrade this off-season as they will probably cut under-achiever Adalius Thomas and future Hall of Famer Junior Seau finally retired.  The continued overhaul of Belichick’s prized unit will continue with the Patriots selecting Michigan’s Brandon Graham.  A “LaMarr Woodley” clone, Graham is a pure 3-4 rush linebacker.  Though a bit small at 6’1, 263 pounds, the former Wolverine has a knack for getting to the quarterback — second all time in Wolverines history in tackles for loss and sacks.  At this year’s Senior Bowl, Graham was the MVP of the game producing 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, five tackles with three of them for loss.  “He’s a football player,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of Graham after the game. “You know, tweener, whatever — he’s a football player.”   With 3 second-round picks expect Belichick to possibly take a run at “winner” Tim Tebow in the second round.

23) Green Bay Packers – CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State

       2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: CB, OL, DE, S,

After a shootout 51-45 overtime playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals, you have to think that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson should be thinking defense.  Yes, the Packers finished the regular season right near the top in every defensive category, but one of the key areas on the Packers’ defense that will need to be looked at is cornerback.  Even though veterans Charles Woodson (2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year) and Al Harris (35) have been one of the best combos for years, the Packers need to get younger in coverage.  The Packers select solid Boise State corner Kyle Wilson (5’10/190).  A 4-year starter, Wilson is great at both press and zone coverage and has great hands as shown by his 8 INTs over the last two years – returned two for TDs as a senior.   An academic All-WAC, Wilson is also smart and tough (never missed a game due to injury).  Plus he is an explosive punt returner and is willing to play on special teams.

24) Philadelphia Eagles – center Maurkice Pouncey, Florida

       2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: DE, OL, LB, S

In starting the post-Donovan McNabb era, the Birds will need to face the cold hard fact that the Dallas Cowboys dominated them by a margin of 58-14 in their last two games (Week 17 and in the Wild Card round).  Though many are saying that the team’s first pick should go to fixing some of their holes on defense (DE, S, and LB), I believe Reid reverts to old form and selects an O-lineman.  There is no denying that the Cowboys’ D-line manhandled them, especially NT Jay Ratliff so the interior line must be addressed.  In trying to get better upfront, the Eagles select emerging Florida O-lineman Maurkice Pouncey.  The junior-eligible was the 2009 Rimington Award winner as the best pivot in college football and should be able to contribute right away.  Pouncey, who has started at offensive guard and center at Florida, is very smart, has very good feet, and plays with great leverage.  The All-SEC pick would be a great insurance policy against veteran Jamaal Jackson’s knee injury.  The upside with Pouncey is that he is only 20 years old and should mature while learning from veterans like Todd Herramins.

25. Baltimore Ravens – CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State

       2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, TE, CB, S

After another successful season, the Ravens knew they had a need at receiver so they made the big move of trading for Anquan Boldin.  By fixing up their receiver position, the Ravens can now concentrate on other area of need, their secondary.  Even though John Harbaugh’s unit produced a (+10) in turnover ratio, injuries to veteran safety Ed Reed, CB Fabian Washington (ACL) and rookie CB Lardarius Webb (ACL) were huge down the stretch.  Look for the Ravens to find Reed some help by selecting Florida State cover corner Patrick Robinson.  Robinson’s stock fell last season due to inconsistency, which was mostly due to teams throwing to the other side.  But the former FSU star rebounded by having a solid Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.  Robinson will end the Seminoles two-year absence from the first round.

26. Arizona Cardinals – DE Jared Odrick, Penn State

2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, DL, OL, CB

 Offensively, Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves have already started to replenish with signings like QB Derek Anderson.  But a defense that allowed 45 points in the playoffs to the Packers and gave-up an average of 20 points per game in the regular season needs to get better.  Grabbing a linebacker to replace Dansby is an option (Missouri’s Sean Witherspoon), but I believe the Cardinals will select solid Penn State two-way defensive end Jared Odrick (6’5, 305).  This high-motor versatile defensive lineman is perfect for the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense.  The rangy 300-pounder had a great Senior Bowl week and has a quick first step.  Odrick is a pocket collasper, who was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.  Look for the former Penn State star to join up-and-coming DE Calais Campbell in making the Cardinals tougher upfront. 

27) Dallas Cowboys – OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers

       2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: OL, CB, S, WR

In what has been a relatively quiet offseason for the Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones recently decided it was time to move-on from veterans OT Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin.  If a safety like Taylor Mays falls to the Cowboys, they may pull the trigger.  But I expect them to grab one of the many offensive tackles that carry a first round grade.  With OT Doug Free obviously not the answer…Dallas gave up 6 sacks in playoff loss to the Vikings including a sack/fumble recovery by Jared Allen against Free.  With an eye on protecting quarterback Tony Romo better, the Cowboys will select Rutgers road grader Anthony Davis – an impressive 32 starts in college — to replace Adams.  A developing player, Davis didn’t have the best combine (only 21 reps of 225 pounds and ran a 5.2 or 5.3 forty) or Pro Day, but he does have a huge upside.  The former All-Big East player is a natural right tack with good size (6’6, 325) and 34-inch arms.  Davis (21) will be able to open holes for RB’s Barber, Jones, and Choice while also keeping Romo upright.

28) San Diego Chargers – RB Ryan Matthews, Fresno State

       2009 Record: 13-3 | Needs: DT, RB, CB, LB

Chargers head coach Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith made the tough decisions of releasing veterans RB LaDainian Tomlinson. So look for Turner and Smith to sure-up their ground game — Tomlinson and Michael Bennett gone leaving only Darren Sproles — by selecting physical every down back Ryan Matthews.  2009’s number-two rusher in NCAA football (276 carries for 1,808 rushing yards and 19 TDs) is a big (6’0, 218) runner that also has very good speed.  He recently ran a 4.45 forty at the NFL Combine and is known to not be afraid to run the ball up the middle.  Matthews can also do some things out of the “Wildcat” as he is a former high school quarterback and the Chargers should love his ability to carry the mail – in 2009 had eight games with 20 or more rushing attempts.

29) New York Jets – DT Dan Williams, Tennessee

       2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: S, WR, LB, OL

Expect brash head coach Rex Ryan and GM Mike Tannebaum to stay aggressive in keeping their team in the playoff hunt.  Though I believe the Jets will probably sit back and see what falls in their lap – possibly a safety to replace the recently traded Kerry Rhodes (Cardinals) – I believe Ryan will not pass up the chance to improve his No. 1 ranked defense.  With Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kris Jenkins getting older, the NY Jets look for some help for him in NT Dan Williams (6’3, 327).  The NFL-ready Williams is a big strong defensive lineman that is great at the point of attack.  A four-starter after redshirting in 2005, the former Volunteer is well schooled on pro techniques having played under former veteran NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.  At the NFL Combine, Williams produced solid numbers 5.17 in the forty and 27 reps of 225 pounds.

30) Minnesota Vikings – CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers

       2009 Record: 12-4 | Needs: S, CB, OL, RB

With all indications pointing to grandfather quarterback Brett Favre coming back in 2010, expect the Vikings to add pieces in the draft that can push them over the top.  My expectation is that head coach Brad Childress and GM Rick Spielman will concentrate on bringing in defensive help as  the Vikes were often in high scoring  games and allowed 321 points (ranked 10th in the NFL).  Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will get some help for Pro Bowl corner Antoine Winfield by selecting Rutgers’ corner Devin McCourty (5’11, 193).  An All-Big East selection in 2009, McCourty can help a team in a variety of ways.  He can play man-to-man or Cover 2, is a very good tackler (80 in ’09), and has good hands (6 INTs in career and broke-up 10 passes).  McCourty also is a major special teams guys as he averaged 25.1 yards per kickoff return with a touchdown in ’09 and blocked seven kicks in his career.

31)  Indianapolis Colts – OT Charles Brown, USC

2009 Record: 14-2 | Needs: OL, LB, CB, S

The options will be plentiful for Colts head coach Jim Caldwell and GM Bill Polian as they look to improve last year’s Super Bowl runner-up.  One of the Colts’ major problems in their Super Bowl loss to the Saints was their offensive line.  Too often QB Peyton Manning was rushed on his attempts and other than Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday this unit has to play better everywhere.  The Colts grab USC emerging offensive tackle Charles Brown (6’5, 303).  A converted tight end, Brown is a very athletic big man with good feet and long arms (35 1/4-inches) that help him as a pass blocker.   At USC, Brown was the cornerstone of Pete Carroll’s O-line and he should immediately push Colts under-achiever Charles Johnson for playing time.  With Manning playing behind a patchwork line in 2009, he still won his record setting 4th NFL MVP award.  So imagine what he will be able to do with Brown taking care of his blindside. 

32) New Orleans Saints – LB Sean Witherspoon, Missouri

2009 Record: 13-3 | Needs: LB, DE, S, OL

The Super Bowl Champion Saints are in a state of flux on their defense.  Already this offseason has seen LB Scott Fujita (Browns) and defensive end Charles Grant leave the team.  Saints head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis look to fix a defense allowed 341 points and replace Fujita by selecting versatile Missouri linebacker Sean Witherspoon (6’1, 239).  The former All Big 12 pick can play all three linebacker positions (SAM, MIKE, and WILL) and was very productive in college — 376 tackles, three forced fumbles, four interceptions in the past three seasons.  Witherspoon has great intangibles including leadership, a nose for the ball, and coverage skills (three interceptions in 2008, two of which were returned for touchdowns with one more INT in ’09).  He will be a great fit playing next to Jonathan Vilma in Gregg Williams’ defensive unit. 

Teams not owning a first round pick

Carolina Panthers – 2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: DT, LB, QB, WR

For the second year in a row, the Carolina Panthers will not have a first round draft pick.  This year’s pick went to the San Francisco 49ers in a deal where the Niners traded their second round pick (No. 43 overall) in 2009 to Carolina for their 2010 first rounder.  The Panthers used the pick to take DE Everett Brown, but I am sure after an 8-8 campaign, they wish they had it back.  Carolina this offseason has been getting rid of veterans like QB Jake Delhomme, DT Damione Lewis, DE Julius Peppers, FB Brad Hoover, and others.  So expect them to be active in getting younger players that can contribute right away.  Carolina’s first pick will be in the second round (No. 48 overall) and you can expect them to be looking for D-line and linebacker help.

Chicago Bears – 2009 Record: 7-9 | Needs: WR, OL, DT, S

The Bears traded away their first round pick in the much ballyhooed acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler.  The Broncos gladly took the pick and after a 7-9 season last year, you know that Chicago probably would like to have the pick back.  Though Cutler performed well at times, he also threw 26 interceptions.  With head coach Lovie Smith on the hot seat,  look for the Bears to add more help for Cutler (WR,O-line) and their retooling defense (CB, S, DL) when they first pick in the 3rd round (No. 75 overall).

The Best of the rest:  Alabama NT Terrence Cody; Cal RB Jahvid Best; Notre Dame WR Golden Tate; Georgia Tech WR Demaryious Thomas; TCU DE Jerry Hughes; Florida LB Brandon Spikes; UCLA DL Bruce Davis; Texas QB Colt McCoy; Florida QB Tim Tebow and Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gersham

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Sports Journey – 2010 NFL Draft Prospects List v2.0 by Lloyd Vance

Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell is one of the players featured in Sports Journey’s 2010 NFL Draft Prospects list version 2.0

The NFL Draft is an ever-changing entity due to trades (McNabb), veteran cuts (Flozell Adams), and prospect workouts (Sam Bradford).  So here  is an updated version of my 2010 NFL Draft top prospects by position list (as of April 2010)

 Quarterbacks

1) Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, Jr

2) Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame, Jr

3) Colt McCoy, Texas, Sr

4a) Jarrett Brown, West Virginia, Sr

4b) Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan, Sr

5a) Bryant Lee, Southern, Sr

5b) Tim Tebow, Florida, Sr

 

Running backs

1) C. J. Spiller, Clemson, Sr

2) Jahvid Best, Cal, Jr

3) Ryan Matthews, Fresno State, Sr

4a)  Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech , Jr

4b)  Joe McKnight, USC , Jr

5a) Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss, Sr

5b) LeGarrett Blount, Oregon , Sr

 

Wide Receivers

1) Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State , Jr

2) Demaryious Thomas , Georgia Tech

3) Golden Tate, Notre Dame , Jr

4a) Arrelious Benn , Illinois

4b) Mardy Gilyard , Cincinnati , Sr

5a) Taylor Price, Ohio, Sr

5b) Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green, Sr

 

Tight Ends

1) Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma, Jr

2) Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, Jr

3) Dennis Pitta, BYU, Sr

4) Jimmy Graham, Miami (FL), Sr

5a) Aaron Hernandez, Florida, Jr

5b)  Anthony McCoy, USC, Sr

 

Centers

1) Maurkice Pouncey, Florida , Jr

2) J.D. Walton, Baylor,  Sr

3) Matt Tennant, Boston College , Sr

4a) John Estes, Hawaii , Sr

4b) Erik Cook, New Mexico , Sr

5a) Eric Olsen, Notre Dame , Sr

5b) Steve Brazzle, Florida A&M , Sr

 

Guards

1) Mike Lupati, Idaho , Sr

2) Mike Johnson, Alabama, Sr

3) Mike Petrus, Arkansas, Sr

4a) Jon Asamoah, Illinois, Sr

4b) Rodger Saffold, Indiana, Sr

5a) Ciron Black , LSU, Sr

 

Offensive Tackles

1) Russell Okung, Oklahoma State, Sr

2) Bryan Bulaga, Iowa , Jr

3) Trent Williams , Oklahoma , Sr

4a) Bruce Campbell, Maryland, Jr

4b) Anthony Davis , Rutgers , Jr

5a) Charles Brown , USC, Sr

5b) Vladimir Ducasse, Uconn , Sr

 

Defensive Ends

1) Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech , Jr

2) Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida , Jr

3) Everson Griffin , USC , Jr

4a) Brandon Graham , Michigan , Sr

4b) Jared Odrick, Penn State , Sr

5a) Carlos Dunlap, Florida , Jr

5b) Jerry Hughes , TCU, Sr

 

Defensive Tackles

1) Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska , Sr

2) Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma , Jr

3) Dan Williams , Tennessee , Sr

4) Terrance Cody, Alabama , Sr

5a) Geno Atkins, Georgia, Sr

5b) Lamarr Houston, Texas, Sr

 

Inside Linebackers

1) Rolando McClain, Alabama, Jr

2) Brandon Spikes, Florida, Sr

3) Sean Lee, Penn State, Sr

4) Pat Angerer, Iowa , Sr

5a) Darryl Sharpton, Miami (FL), Sr

5b) Mike McLaughlin, Boston College, Sr

 

Outside Linebackers

1) Sergio Kindle , Texas, Sr

2) Sean Weatherspoon , Missouri, Sr

3) Daryl Washington, TCU, Sr

4a) George Selvie, South Florida , Sr

4b) Eric Norwood , South Carolina , Sr

5a) Koa Misi ,Utah, Sr

5b) Junior Galette, Stillman , Sr

 

Cornerbacks

1) Joe Haden, Florida , Jr

2) Kyle Wilson, Boise State , Sr

3) Patrick Robinson , Florida State, Sr

4a) Devin McCourty, Rutgers, Sr

4b) Perrish Cox , Oklahoma State, Sr

5a) Chris Cook, Virginia, Sr

5b) Syd’Quan Thompson, Cal, Sr

 

Safeties

1) Eric Berry, Tennessee, Jr

2) Taylor Mays, USC, Sr

3) Earl Thomas, Texas, Sr

4a) Larry Asante, Nebraska, Sr

4b) Chad Jones, LSU, Jr

5a) Reshad Jones, Georgia, Jr

5b) Myron Rolle, FSU, Sr

 

Kickers

1)  Aaron Pettrey, Ohio State, Sr

2) Leigh Tiffin, Alabama, Sr

3)  Hunter Lawrence, Texas , Sr

4)  Dustin Keys, Virginia Tech, Sr

5a) Josh Aruco, Arkansas State , Sr

5b) Brett Swenson, Michigan State , Sr

 

Punters

1) Matt Dodge, East Carolina, Sr

2) Brent Bowden, Virginia Tech, Sr

3) Robert Malone, Fresno State, Sr

4) Zoltan Mesko, Michigan, Sr

5a) Jahmal Blanchard, Hampton, Sr

5b) Scott Ravanesi, Southern Illinois, Sr

 

Returners

1)  Trindon Holliday, LSU, Sr

2) Brandon James, Florida, Sr

3)  Jacoby Ford, Clemson, Sr

4) Javier Arenas, Alabama, Sr

5) Leroy Vann, Florida A&M, Sr

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Bradford sizzles at Oklahoma’s Pro Day by Lloyd Vance

Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford appears to have solidified his first overall pick status after an awesome display at his school’s Pro Day

Last night on my weekly radio showLloyd Vance’s Insider Football, NFL.com writer Gil Brandt spoke strongly of Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford.  He said, “In a quarterback-driven league, Bradford should be the first pick”. 

And the former Heisman Trophy winner sent Brandt and everyone else in the NFL even further into orbit by putting on an awesome display at Oklahoma’s Pro Day — see Gil’s report here.  With over 200 on-lookers including a contingent of six St. Louis Rams evaluators in attendance, Bradford made every throw imaginable in a 50-pass scripted workout showing great footwork and arm strength.

Clearly the former Oklahoma star has put his shoulder injuries (ACL joint surgery) from 2009 behind him.  Bradford’s quick recovery can be attributed to the great work – once again – of Dr. James Andrews and some solid preparation work by this year’s top quarterback at a Florida based facility including working with former NFL quarterback coach Terry Shea.  Bradford who measured-in at 6’5, 236 looked strong physically and appeared ready to answer any NFL “durability” questions.

I would be shocked if the St. Louis Rams, who are trying to reinvent themselves, did not take Bradford – 50 TDs in ’08 and incredible 9.41 yards-per-attempt with a TD-to-INT ratio of 88-16 in his career —  with the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.  Remember the Rams passed on Matt Ryan in 2008 and Mark Sanchez in 2009, but don’t expect them to make the same mistake. 

So it appears Bradford will be another piece in the Rams’ young nucleus that includes DE Chris Long, OT Jason Smith, RB Steven Jackson, WR Donnie Avery and others.  It would take a blockbuster offer from another team for the Rams to not hold onto the No. 1 overall selection and use it on Bradford. 

I wonder when the negotiations will start – remember last year first overall pick, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford,  received a 6 year, $72 Million w/ 41 Million guaranteed deal.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Sports Journey 2010 NFL Draft – Mock v1.0 by Lloyd Vance

March 19, 2010 2 comments

USC speedy safety Taylor Mays is one of several prospects featured in Sports Journey’s 2010 NFL Draft – Mock v1.0

 Unlike many draft prognosticators who seem to just make their picks out of thin air, I like to wait until after the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and letting Free Agency play out before making my picks.  In my opinion you cannot do a true “mock” until after these events, because only then you can get a good sense of how NFL talent evaluators are viewing prospects and have accurate team needs.

1)  St. Louis Rams – QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

    2009 Record: 1-15 | Needs: QB, CB, OLB, WR

 In head coach Steve Spagnuolo’s first season, the Rams did take some positive steps.  Unfortunately not many of the Rams’ moves in 2009 equated to wins.  With an eye on building from the team’s young nucleus including DE Chris Long, OT Jason Smith, RB Steven Jackson, WR Donnie Avery and others, expect the Rams’ to hold onto and use the first overall pick.   After flirting with the idea of selecting another D-lineman in the first round, Rams GM Bill Devaney will decide a franchise quarterback is needed.  The Rams select Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, making him the franchise’s first quarterback to be selected in the first round since 1967.  The NCAA’s all-time leader in passing efficiency is an accurate, intelligent, and athletic passer plus he averaged an incredible 9.41 yards-per-attempt and a TD-to-INT ratio of 88-16 in his career.  While there are some shoulder concerns, the former 2008 Heisman winner looks recovered from an October surgery and he weighed in at a solid 6’4, 236 at the NFL Combine.  Look for under-achiever Marc Bulger to be cut and for the recently signed A.J. Feeley to give the rookie some training camp competition. 

2) Detroit Lions – DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

    2009 Record: 2-14 | Needs: OT, DL, CB, S

After securing their franchise quarterback in the 2009 NFL Draft, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew should probably be looking for a bodyguard for young quarterback Matthew Stafford.  But the Lions also need to address a defense that allowed an NFL-high 494 points in 2009.  The Lions will pick the best defensive player in the draft by selecting Suh with the second overall pick.  Suh had one of the best years of any college defensive tackle in NCAA history as he produced 85 tackles, a NCAA leading 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. The decorated award-winner (Lombardi, Bednarik, Willis, and first team All American) also had 10 passes defensed, 28 QB hurries, 1 INT and three blocked kicks.  The cat-quick and strong defensive lineman possibly played his best game in Nebraska’s near upset of the Texas in the Big 12 Championship game, finishing with 4.5 sacks.  By adding Suh, the Lions defense will be able to apply the pressure needed to produce more sacks and turnovers.

3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Safety Eric Berry, Tennessee

2009 Record: 3-13 | Needs: S, WR, CB, DE

Bucs young head coach Raheem Morris’ defensive unit was plagued by big plays and coverage lapses throughout the 2009 season.  With an eye on replacing aging veteran Rhonde Barber and getting a John Lynch type safety for his Cover-2 scheme, look for Morris to select Tennessee “complete” safety Eric Berry. Though his numbers were a bit down in ’09, Berry took his game to a new level working with former Volunteers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, a veteran NFL teacher of the Cover-2 defense.  The 2009 Jim Thorpe award winner as the nation’s best defensive back, Berry will definitely help in over the top coverage as well as in box.  Expect the centerfielder to help in the nickel, dime, and on special teams as he has a “Can Do” attitude that will help the Bucs’ defense – ranked 32nd in the NFL against the run.

4) Washington Redskins – OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

    2009 Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, OG, S, QB

The Redskins have strong needs along on their offensive line as OT Chris Samuels retired and OG Randy Thomas was released.  Redskins’ new braintrust of head coach Mike Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen will grab the 2010 NFL Draft’s first O-lineman by selecting big bookend tackle Russell Okung to protect returning quarterback Jason Campbell.  The 2009 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year and first-team All-American allowed just one sack and two QB pressures last year.  Running behind Okung, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing in all four of his seasons as a starter.  The former Oklahoma State star has good “pop” at the snap, good feet, and long arms.  By selecting Okung and starting him Day 1, the Redskins will finally be able to fix an offensive line that was in shambles in 2009.

5) Kansas City Chiefs – OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa

     2009 Record: 4-12 | Needs: S, WR, LB, DL

After a slow season where the “Belichick” way took some time to work, head coach Todd Haley and general manager Scott Pioli will go into the 2010 NFL Draft looking to continue remolding the Chiefs.  Much of the 2009 season was spent by Haley and Pioli sorting out who wanted to stay in KC and now they seem to have a solid nucleus with players like quarterback Matt Cassell, LB Mike Vrabel, and running back Jamaal Charles.  Even so, Kansas City has many spots still to fill and one of them lies on the offensive line.  With former first round pick Brandon Albert struggling on the outside, the Chiefs will select 2nd rated offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga from Iowa and move Albert back to his natural guard position.  Though there is some concern over Bulaga (6’6/315) missing three games in 2009 due to a thyroid condition, he was the most dominant blocker in the Big Ten — named conference’s 2009 Offensive Lineman of the Year. This converted tight end has drawn comparisons to Browns former first rounder and Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas for his good feet and pass-blocking technique.

6) Seattle Seahawks – DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma

     2009 Record: 5-11 | Needs: OT, DE, OG, WR

The Jim Mora Jr era lasted one measly season and now the Seahawks are trying to rebuild under former USC college guru Pete Carroll.  Already Carroll and new GM John Schneider have begun making changes as DE Darryl Tapp, WR Nate Burelson, QB Seneca Wallace and others have been moved off the roster.  Options will be plentiful for the rebuilding Seahawks as they will try to start Carroll’s first season in Seattle on the right foot. Carroll will need to figure out if a quarterback of the future, a stud receiver, or a penetrating defensive lineman should go in this spot.  Luckily the Seahawks have a second first round selection at No. 14, so expect Carroll to take the best player available.  After a surprising wait, the Seahawks select Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy (6’4/297) to build their new defense around.  The 2008 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, will play the role of “Warren Sapp” in the Seahawks new Tampa-2 scheme.  McCoy produced 16.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, despite constant double teams.  Look for the a fourth-year junior to collapse the pocket with his cat-quick moves, helping former 2009 first rounder LB Aaron Curry to make more game-changing plays.

7) Cleveland Browns – QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame

     2009 Record: 5-11 | Needs: QB, OT, DE, S

At the end of the 2009 season, you knew the winds of change were blowing around the Browns.  New football czar Mike Holmgren quickly came into the picture to bring some consistency and change to an organization that has not been in the playoffs since 2002.  Already there have been people coming in (GM Tom Heckertt, LB Scott Fujita, QB Jake Delhomme, and others) plus some house cleaning (DT Corey Williams, QB Brady Quinn, and others).  So I believe the Browns will want to rebuild around the most important position on the field, the quarterback.  In a bit of irony, Cleveland will hitch their franchise to their second quarterback from Notre Dame in the last 3 years when they select Jimmy Clausen.  Playing in a “pro style” offense – a huge plus for any college QB — Clausen from 2007 to 2009 improved greatly under the tutelage of Charlie Weis.  The junior-eligible is tough (played through a toe injury in 2009), accurate (68% completion percentage last year), and is a leader.  However even though Clausen sported an outstanding 28 to 4 touchdown-to-interception ratio last year, some evaluators  wonder about him not producing a lot of signature “big” wins during his starting tenure at ND, his arm strength, and rumored cocky attitude.  The Browns will have Delhomme to keep the seat warm, then look for Clausen to begin working with young receivers Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi.

8) Oakland Raiders – WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State

     2009 Record: 5-11 | Needs: WR, OT, DE, S

Another year and there are even more question marks with the Raiders.  The top of the past couple of drafts have not yielded much, so expect Raiders owner Al Davis to be looking to make a splash.  With Davis always looking for game-breaking skills, don’t expect a “boring” and somewhat logical pick of an offensive lineman.  Raiders head coach Tom Cable needs a No. 1 receiver to push disappointing 2009 first rounder Darius Heyward-Bey and to help strong-armed quarterback JaMarcus Russell.  After passing on Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin last year, the Raiders select the best receiver in this year’s draft, Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant.  The former Oklahoma State star should immediately help lift an offense that only scored 197 points (31st in NFL) and 17 touchdowns (tied for 32nd) last year.  Bryant missed all but three games in 2009 after being suspended by the NCAA for inappropriate interaction with former NFL great Deion Sanders, but there is no denying his ability.  Drawing comparisons to Houston Texan Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson, Bryant also combines size and speed.  All anyone needs to do is look at his outstanding 2008 numbers of 87 catches for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns, plus an average of 17.9 yards per punt return with 2 TDs to see his game-changing ability.  In 2008, Bryant was the Big 12’s Special Teams Player of the Year and a first team All-American.   With a line-up that includes Bryant, RB Darren McFadden, Heyward-Bey, WR Louis Murphy and TE Zach Miller, Russell should not have any more excuses why he is not succeeding.

9) Buffalo Bills – NT Terrence Cody, Alabama

     2009 Record: 6-10 | Needs: OT, QB, WR, DE

It seems in the Top 10 of the 2010 NFL Draft, there are several teams that are rebuilding with a new regime and the Buffalo Bills are no different.  The braintrust of new head coach Chan Gailey and GM Buddy Nix have been brought in to light a spark under Ralph Wilson’s team.  After selecting some quality rookies in 2009 like OG Eric Wood and safety Jairus Byrd, the Bills will be looking for more Day 1 starters in the 2010 NFL Draft.  With both “franchise” quarterbacks and the draft’s top receiver already off the board, look for the Bills to get stronger on either their offensive or defensive line.  With the Bills implementing a 3-4 scheme on defense, a big physical two-gap nose tackle is needed to keep O-linemen off past draft picks Aaron Maybin and Paul Posluzny.  The Bills select Alabama NT Terrence “Mount” Cody.  The cornerstone and fire hydrant of the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide defense is a rare behemoth athlete.  The two-time consensus All-American usually plays at 6’4/340 — weighed 370 at Senior Bowl and 354 at NFL Combine – and can move like a much smaller man.  Though his senior stats of six tackles for loss and no sacks will not “wow” anyone, Cody much like former mammoth nose tackle Ted Washington has value a the important gap controller in a 3-4 scheme.

10) Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech

       2009 Record: 7-9 | Needs: DE, S, QB, OG

There is no doubt that the Jags need help rushing the passer as they produced an NFL-low 14 sacks in 2009.  With head coach Jack Del Rio being given probably his last chance calling the shots, Jacksonville cannot afford a selection of another under-achieving pass rusher.  So the Jags will select Georgia Tech 4-3 end Derrick Morgan (6’4, 272), who is a solid every down player.  Morgan was the ACC ‘s Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference with 12.5 sacks plus he added 18.5 tackles for loss.  The junior eligible should be helped by the presence of veterans DT John Henderson and free agent signee Aaron Kampman while pushing former first rounder Derrick Harvey, who has been a disappointment to say the least.  Also if Jags owner Wayne Weaver still wants to grab Florida superman and Jacksonville “homeboy” QB Tim Tebow, he should be available in the second or third round.

11) Denver Broncos (from Chicago) – ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama

       2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: DT, DE, LB, S

After a fast start, the Broncos in head coach Josh McDaniels’ first season sputtered down the stretch to miss the playoffs — 4-game losing streak to end the season.  However having the Bears’ high draft selection, will allow Denver to explore their options in the first round.  The Broncos also may choose to add a second first round selection by trading disgruntled receiver Brandon Marshall.  Already McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders have been busy this offseason acquiring former Browns QB Brady Quinn and a gaggle of defensive linemen (NT Jammal Williams, DE Jarvis Green, and DT Justin Bannan).  With an eye on improving a defense that allowed 324 points in 2009, the Broncos select Alabama LB Rolando McClain (6’3, 258).  The Butkus Award winner is a classic instinctive inside linebacker, who is a tackling machine – 2009 stats: 105 TKLs, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 2 INTs.  Look for the 2009 consensus All-American and the other Broncos  linebackers (DJ Williams and Elvis Dumervil) to be all over the field playing behind a D-line led by Jamal Williams and 2nd-year pro Ronnie Fields.   Some red-flags that have come up about McClain are an eye-gouging incident (against Georgia running back Washaun Ealey) and a hamstring pull (didn’t work out at the NFL Combine), but those should not affect his draft status.

12) Miami Dolphins – DE/OLB Jason Paul-Pierre, South Florida

       2009 Record: 7-9 | Needs: LB, WR, OL, TE

One thing is for certain, we know Dolphins top executive Bill Parcells likes to have tough aggressive linebackers.  With veteran Joey Porter being cut and the uncertainty surrounding Jason Taylor, the Dolphins will add the best pass rushing outside linebacker in the 2010 NFL Draft by selecting South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul (6’5, 270).  Though a bit raw (only one year in D-1), Paul-Pierre is an awesome athlete that reminds many of a young Jevon Kearse down to an 81-inch wingspan and 10-3/8 hands.  The much-traveled JUCO transfer started at College of the Canyons then transferred to Fort Scott Community College before settling-in at South Florida. The first-team All-Big East performer led his team in tackles for loss (16.5) and sacks (6.5) plus Pierre-Paul blocked a kick and returned an interception for a touchdown.  At the NFL Combine, Pierre-Paul looked fast (4.67 in the forty), explosive, and fluid in drills.

13) S.F. 49ers – OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma

       2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: OLB, S, OL, QB

Armed with two first round picks, expect the resurgent Niners to build-up their offensive and defensive lines.  On offense, San Francisco head coach Mike Singletary thinks that he is already set at running back (Frank Gore), quarterback (Alex Smith), tight end (Vernon Davis), and receiver (Michael Crabtree).  But the Niners still need to sure up their pass protection and find a replacement for OT Tony Pashos, who departed for the Cleveland Browns.  With several options on the O-line available, expect the Niners to grab the best blocker on the board.  The Niners select athletic Oklahoma offensive tackle Trent Williams (6’4 ½, 314).  A 40-game starter at OU with experience at both left and right tackle, Williams earned first-team All-Big 12 honors the last two years. Look for Williams to take his place as a solid right tackle (34 ¼-inch arms) in offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye’s unit.  Adapt at pass and run blocking, Williams showed great athleticism at the NFL Combine, where he ran the second fastest forty (4.88) and fifth best short-shuttle time (4.63) of any offensive lineman. 

14) Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) – OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland

       2009 Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, DE, OG, WR

Unless this pick is traded for Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall or one of the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks, expect Seattle to build up front.  After having taken a D-lineman earlier, expect the Seahawks to find an athletic protector for injury-prone 35-year quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.  The Seahawks will attempt to replace future Hall of Famer Walter Jones, who retired, by selecting Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell (6’6, 314).  An incredibly athletic left tackle prospect with extremely long arms (36 ¼-inches), Campbell was the talk of the NFL Combine after running an offensive lineman best 4.85 forty, pounded out 34 reps on the 225 lb bench, jumped 32 inches vertically and displayed awesome feet in drills.  Though there are concerns with Campbell only having 17 college starts, he should be able to help out right away on runs and screen passes.  Having already retained emerging center Chris Spencer this offseason, he and Campbell should form a great cornerstone for Carroll’s balanced offense.

15) New York Giants – CB Joe Haden, Florida

       2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: CB, S, DT, LB

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was “redder” than ever after the Giants started 5-0 only to limp home losing 8 of their last 11 games.  For the second straight year, the G-Men routinely had problems containing big plays down the field — allowed more than 40 points five times in 2009.  Already in hopes of improving their back four, the Giants have added versatile former Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle during free agency.  But more help other than safety Kenny Phillips returning from a foot injury is needed.  The Giants grab a partner for former first rounder Aaron Ross by selecting Florida cover corner Joe Haden (5’11, 190).  Even though some people are wondering about Haden’s speed – ran a 4.57 at the NFL Combine, but recently was timed at high 4.3/low 4.4 range Florida’s Pro Day – there is no doubt that he is the best cover corner in this draft and can easily replace free agent Kevin Dockery for the Giants.  Some are comparing him to Darrelle Revis as Haden led Florida in solo tackles, interceptions, and pass breakups. Showed his pro ability in the Gators’ 51-24 rout of Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl as Haden shutdown top receiver prospect Mardy Gilyard yardage wise (only 41 receiving yards on 7 catches).

16) Tennessee Titans – DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida

       2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: DE, OT, CB, C

Season one without DT Albert Haynesworth produced an 8-8 record and a defense that allowed a whopping 402 points.  To make matters worse for Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher, veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch signed with the Lions plus all indications are that Tennessee and DE Jevon Kearse will also be parting ways.  In order to rebuild the Titans once feared defense, look for them to select Florida pass rusher Carlos Dunlap.  Though some are saying Dunlap, a top-ten talent, is falling on some team’s draft boards due to some off the field issues and an off-and-on motor, I still believe Fisher will give him another shot.  The former All-SEC defensive end is compared to 2010 free agent big fish Julius Peppers in that he is big (6’6, 290) and explosive when motivated.  Last season, Dunlap had nine sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, which were down from his 2008 numbers.  But there is no denying the upside of this former Gators sack man as shown by his 2 sacks in the Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati.

17) S.F. 49ers (from Carolina) – OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas

       2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: OLB, S, OL, QB

The Niners may be tempted to take a homerun threat like running back CJ Spiller to compliment Frank Gore, but a better pass rush is needed.  After securing their offensive line with their first selection (No. 13), look for the Niners to go back to head coach Mike Singletary’s heart which is an attacking defense.  Former first rounder Manny Lawson has been a huge disappointment so the Niners try to fortify their defense to contend with the explosive Arizona Cardinals by selecting Texas outside linebacker Sergio Kindle (6’4, 255).  The 3rd-team All-American played a variety of roles for the Longhorns including rush linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle and special teams.  Kindle led Texas with 22 tackles for loss and quarterback hurries. Though Kindle is smallish for a true NFL defensive end, with his knack for rushing the passer he is a natural fit for the Niners’ “Elephant” position (half OLB and half DE). 

18. Pittsburgh Steelers – center Maurkice Pouncey, Florida

       2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: OL, RB, CB, DL

For a change the Steelers are not picking at the end of the draft after an up-and-down 2009 campaign that saw them lose important games to the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns.  After an offseason where Pittsburgh has re-signed their own quality players or brought in veteran free agents, they will have options in the draft.  I believe that the Steelers will look to sure up the interior of their offensive line, since the unit has struggled at times since Pro Bowl offensive guard Alan Faneca left in free agency.  The Steelers continue their excellence at the center position by taking Florida emerging O-lineman Maurkice Pouncey.  The junior-eligible  was the 2009 Rimington Award winner as the best pivot in college football and should be able to contribute right away.  Pouncey has started at offensive guard and center at Florida and has very good feet.  Playing with great leverage, the All-SEC pivot will help RB Rashard Mendenhall find holes that were not there in 2009.  The upside with Pouncey is that he is only 20 years old and he should mature while learning from veteran Justin Hartwig.

19) Atlanta Falcons – OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers

       2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: S, LB, OL, DE

The Falcons in Year 2 of head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan were a little too inconsistent to return to the playoffs.  One of the key factors in the Falcons losing games in 2009 was that Ryan had trouble staying in the line-up.  With an eye on protecting the franchise quarterback better, the Falcons will select Rutgers road grader Anthony Davis – with an impressive 32 starts in college — to be a bookend to former first rounder Sam Baker.  A developing player, Davis didn’t have the best combine (only 21 reps of 225 pounds and ran a 5.2 or 5.3 forty), but he does have a huge upside.  The former All-Big East player is a natural right tackle with good size (6’6, 325) and 34-inch arms.  Davis (21) will be able to open holes for RB Michael Turner while also keeping Ryan upright.

20) Houston Texans – RB CJ Spiller, Clemson

       2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: OL, RB, TE, S

In 2006, everyone was all over the Texans for not taking home run threat Reggie Bush with the first overall pick.  However in hindsight , the Texans did make a great pick in selecting DE Mario Williams who is the anchor of their developing defense.  With the status of current running back Steve Slaton (neck) in jeopardy, Texans’ head coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith will look to add another burner to their indoor track by selecting Clemson speedster CJ Spiller (5’11/196).  At the NFL Combine, Spiller looked like the next “Reggie Bush” homerun threat type of player.  He showed breakaway speed with a 4.37-second forty – some unofficially timed him at 4.27 seconds – and great hands catching the ball.  Spiller is an explosive player as shown in 2009 season where he had 31 carries of 10+ yards and eight receptions for 20 yards or more plus contributed an NCAA-leading five TDs on returns. Look for Spiller (5.6 yards per carry average and 36 catches) to help out immediately on kickoffs and he should compete with Slaton and 2nd-year back Arian Foster for carries. As for any concerns regarding Spiller’s durability, he never missed a game in college due to injury.

21) Cincinnati Bengals – safety Earl Thomas, Texas

       2009 Record: 10-6 | Needs: OL, DE, TE, S

The Bengals rebounded to surprisingly win the AFC North division with a 10-6 record — second playoff appearance in the last 19 seasons.  On offense, the Bengals found a running game with a rejuvenated Cedric Benson plus quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Chad Ochocinco were healthy again.  However even though the Bengals were able to get turnovers from their emerging cornerback tandem of Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall their defense was pushed around by the NY Jets in their playoff loss.  With an eye on getting tougher on defense, head coach Marvin Lewis will select Texas safety Earl Thomas (5’10, 197).  Though the Bengals re-signed veteran Roy Williams to a one-year deal, Thomas will bring speed and coverage to Lewis’ defense.  He played strong safety at Texas, but he has “centerfielder” in the pros written all over him.  In 2009, Thomas finished second in the nation with eight interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.  The former Longhorns star also is a very physical player too as shown by his five fumbles the last two seasons.

22) N.E. Patriots – OLB Brandon Graham, Michigan

       2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, CB, TE, RB

In watching the Patriots lopsided playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens it was obvious that even though the Patriots won the AFC East, they still were a little old at key positions, especially on defense.  With an eye on getting younger, in the 2009 NFL Draft, head coach Bill Belichick grabbed up-and-coming players CB Darius Butler and safety Patrick Chung, but more is needed.  The Patriots seem to have targeted the linebacker position as one of the areas that needs an upgrade this off-season as they will probably cut under-achiever Adalius Thomas and future Hall of Famer Junior Seau finally retired.  The continued overhaul of Belichick’s prized unit will continue with the Patriots selecting Michigan’s Brandon Graham.  A “LaMarr Woodley” clone, Graham is a pure 3-4 rush linebacker.  Though a bit small at 6’1, 263 pounds, the former Wolverine has a knack for getting to the quarterback — second all time in Wolverines history in tackles for loss and sacks.  At this year’s Senior Bowl, Graham was the MVP of the game producing 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and five tackles with three of them for loss.  “He’s a football player,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of Graham after the game. “You know, tweener, whatever — he’s a football player.”   With 3 second-round picks expect Belichick to address other areas on his offense and defense then.

23) Green Bay Packers – CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State

       2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: CB, OL, DE, S,

After a shootout 51-45 overtime playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals, you have to think that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson should be thinking defense.  Yes, the Packers finished the regular season right near the top in every defensive category, but there are still areas of need.  One of the key areas on the Packers’ defense that will need to be looked at is cornerback.  Even though veterans Charles Woodson (2009 Defensive MVP) and Al Harris have been one of the best combos for years, the Packers need to get younger in coverage.  The Packers select solid Boise State corner Kyle Wilson (5’10/190).  A 4-year starter, Wilson was one of the stars of this year’s Senior Bowl and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock could not say enough great things about him.  Wilson is great at both press and zone coverage and has great hands as shown by his 8 INTs the last two years – returned two for TDs as a senior.   An academic All-WAC, Wilson is also smart and tough (never missed a game due to injury).  Plus he is an explosive punt returner and is willing to play on special teams.

24) Philadelphia Eagles – OG Mike Iupati, Idaho

       2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: DE, OL, LB, S

The Eagles in 2009 did make the playoffs and won 10+ regular season games again under head coach Andy Reid.  But the Birds also need to face the cold hard fact that the Dallas Cowboys dominated them by a margin of 58-14 in their last two games (Week 17 and in the Wild Card round).  Though many are saying that the team’s first pick should go to fixing some of the holes on the Eagles’ defense.  I believe that Philadelphia will put in the tape from their playoffs loss and see the Cowboys’ D-line dominating, especially NT Jay Ratliff.  With the thought of getting better upfront, Reid reverts to form and selects one of the draft’s best interior offensive lineman, Mike Iupati.  The big (6’5, 325) All-American from Idaho was one of the most impressive lineman at this year’s Senior Bowl. Some have said that Iupati could play on the outside as he has 35-inch arms, good footwork, and balance.  By adding Iupati, the Eagles should be covered if center Jamal Jackson is slow to heal from his knee injury and 2009 free agency pick-up Stacy Andrews continues to struggle.

25. Baltimore Ravens – safety Taylor Mays, USC

       2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, TE, CB, S

After another successful season, the Ravens knew they had a need at receiver so they made the big move of trading for Anquan Boldin.  By fixing up their receiver position, the Ravens can now concentrate on other areas of need in the draft.  I think one of the Ravens biggest weaknesses in 2009 was their secondary.  Even though John Harbaugh’s unit produced a (+10) in turnover ratio, injuries to veteran safety Ed Reed and rookie CB Lardarius Webb (ACL) were huge down the stretch.  Look for the Ravens to find Reed’s eventual replacement by selecting defensive back Taylor Mays from USC.  This big (6’3, 220) hard-hitting safety can really fly as shown by his forty time at this year’s NFL Combine — some unofficial hand-times had him at 4.24seconds, but “officially” his time was 4.43 seconds, which is still unbelievable for a safety.  Mays should learn on special teams and in nickel coverage as he should have one of the best teachers around in future Hall of Famer Reed.  Also playing behind veterans LB Ray Lewis, NT Haloti Ngata, and OLB Terrell Suggs, will help the former USC standout in coverage and making more game-changing plays — caused just two takeaways as a senior (1 INT and 1 fumble recovery).

26. Arizona Cardinals – DE Jared Odrick, Penn State

2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, DL, OL, CB

After winning the NFC West for the second year in a row, the Cardinals are definitely in a state of flux.  Already this offseason has seen quarterback Kurt Warner retire, safety Antrel Rolle cut, LB Karlos Dansby leaving in free agency to the Dolphins and receiver Anquan Boldin being traded away.  Offensively, Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves have already started to replenish with signings like QB Derek Anderson.  But a defense that allowed 45 points in the playoffs to the Packers and letting-up an average of 20 points per game in the regular season, needs to get better.  Grabbing a linebacker to replace Dansby is an option, but I believe the Cardinals will select solid Penn State two-way defensive end Jared Odrick (6’5, 305).  This high-motor versatile defensive lineman is perfect for the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense.  The rangy 300-pounder had a great Senior Bowl week and has a quick first step.  Odrick is a pocket collasper, who was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.  Look for the former Penn State star join up-and-coming DE Calais Campbell in making the Cardinals tougher upfront.  Also by selecting Odrick, Arizona could possibly trade disgruntled DE Darnell Dockett.

27) Dallas Cowboys – WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame

       2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: OL, CB, S, WR

The NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys have talent everywhere on their roster, so they could go a variety of directions (O-line, Secondary??), but I believe owner and GM Jerry Jones will get quarterback Tony Romo another weapon to play with.  Though former special teamer Miles Austin emerged in 2009, the Cowboys still have a big hole at the receiver position.  Holdover Roy Williams has not lived up to expectations – gave up a ton to get him and he is nowhere near former Number #1 receiver Terrell Owens – and the rest of the receivers seem to be “just” guys.    With a mindset of scoring more in the new “pass-first” NFL, look for the Cowboys to grab receiver Golden Tate from Notre Dame.  Tate has been compared to Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith in that he is a little undersized (5’11,195), but has “Take It to the House”  vertical skills  — his 2009 numbers were 93 catches for 1,496 yards, and 15 TDs.   The junior-eligible has great run-after-catch ability that should help Romo on crossing routes plus also open things up for Austin and TE Jason Witten. The learning curve for Tate should be that high as he already in a pro-style offense under former head coach Charlie Weis.  At this year’s combine, Tate showed his game-breaking speed by running  an official 4.42 in the forty.

28) San Diego Chargers – RB Ryan Matthews, Fresno State

       2009 Record: 13-3 | Needs: DT, RB, CB, LB

The Chargers’ 2009 season had so much promise entering the playoffs –11-game winning streak – but things quickly changed as the NY Jets took care of business by knocking them out of the postseason.  With an eye on improving their team for the future, head coach Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith made the tough decisions of releasing veterans RB LaDainian Tomlinson and NT Jamal Williams.  Look for Turner and Smith to sure-up their ground game — Tomlinson and Michael Bennett gone leaving only Darren Sproles — by selecting physical every down back Ryan Matthews.  The number two rusher in NCAA football (276 carries for 1,808 rushing yards and 19 TDs) is a  big (6’0, 218) runner that also has very good speed.  He recently ran a 4.45 forty at the NFL Combine and is known to not be afraid to run the ball up the middle.  Matthews can also do some things out of the “Wildcat” as he is a former high school quarterback and the Chargers should love his ability to carry the mail – in 2009 had eight games with 20 or more rushing attempts.

29) New York Jets – DT Dan Williams, Tennessee

       2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: S, WR, LB, OL

After a great year where the J-E-T-S jumped from the NFL’s crowded middle to surprise division winners, the Bengals and Chargers, in the playoffs.  Expect brash new head coach Rex Ryan and GM Mike Tannebaum to stay aggressive in keeping their team in the playoff hunt.  Though I believe the Jets will probably sit back and see what falls in their lap – possibly a safety to replace the recently traded Kerry Rhodes (Cardinals) – I believe Ryan will not pass up the chance to improve his No. 1 ranked defense.  With Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kris Jenkins getting older, the NY Jets look for some help for him in NT Dan Williams (6’3, 327).  The NFL-ready Williams is a big strong defensive lineman that is great at the point of attack.  A four-starter after redshirting in 2005, the former Volunteer is well schooled on pro techniques having played under former veteran NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.  At the NFL Combine, Williams produced solid numbers 5.17 in the forty and 27 reps of 225 pounds.

30) Minnesota Vikings – CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers

       2009 Record: 12-4 | Needs: S, CB, OL, RB

The Vikings were an overtime field goal away from playing in the Super Bowl, so they will be looking to the draft to put them a step closer to the big game.  With all indications pointing to quarterback Brett Favre coming back in 2010, expect the Vikings to add pieces in the draft that can push them over the top.  My expectation is that head coach Brad Childress and GM Rick Spielman will concentrate on bringing in defensive help as too often in 2009, the Vikes were in higher scoring  games – allowed 321 points to rank 10th in the NFL.  I believe that the Vikings will look to improve their secondary, because when Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield was injured , defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s unit struggled.  Look for the Vikings to grab rising corner Devin McCourty (5’11, 193) from Rutgers.  An All-Big East selection in 2009, McCourty can help a team in a variety of ways.  He can play man-to-man or Cover 2, is a very good tackler (80 Tkls in ’09), and has good hands (6 INTs in career and broke-up 10 passes).  McCourty also is a major special teams guys as he  averaged 25.1 yards per kickoff return with a touchdown in ’09 and blocked seven kicks in his career. In a pre-draft conference call NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said of the 3-year starter, “(McCourty) might be the best special teams value in the draft in addition to being a potential starting corner.  He’s a gunner and a jammer, he’s a return guy. I think he could fit in quickly in the nickel package. He’s a very, very physical defensive back. Most people have him in the second round but he could be a legitimate late one [first-round pick].” Has a twin brother, Jason, who plays for the Tennessee Titans.

31)  Indianapolis Colts – OT Charles Brown, USC

       2009 Record: 14-2 | Needs: OL, LB, CB, S

The options will be plentiful for Colts head coach Jim Caldwell and GM Bill Polian as they look to improve last year’s Super Bowl runner-up.  Even though Indy won an NFL leading 14 games, there are still are areas that need improvement.  I believe one of the Colts’ major problems in their Super Bowl loss to the Saints was their offensive line.  Too often QB Peyton Manning was rushed on his attempts and other than Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday this unit has to play better everywhere.  The Colts grab USC emerging offensive tackle Charles Brown (6’5, 303).  A converted tight end, Brown is a very athletic big man with good feet and long arms (35 1/4-inches) that help him as a pass blocker.   At USC, Brown was the cornerstone of Pete Carroll’s O-line and he should immediately push Colts under-achiever Charles Johnson for playing time.  Even with Manning playing behind a patchwork line in 2009, he still won his record setting 4th NFL MVP award.  So imagine what he will be able to do with Brown taking care of his blindside.

32) New Orleans Saints – DE Everson Griffen, USC

       2009 Record: 13-3 | Needs: LB, DE, S, OL

The Saints shocked the world by winning Super Bowl XLIV against the Colts.  Saints head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis proved to be miracle workers as they lifted their team to new heights.  On offense, there is an embarrassment of skill players and a very good offensive line surrounding QB Drew Brees, so you have to think that the Saints will look for defensive help in the draft – allowed 341 points.  With intentions of moving on from  underachieving free agent DE Charles Grant and pushing holdover Will Smith, the Saints will select  USC DE Everson Griffen (6’4, 274).  The All-PAC 10 performer is a solid two-way defensive end, who finished his collegiate career with 18 sacks and 22 tackles for loss.  Griffen really shined at the NFL Combine, where he ran an impressive 4.66 forty and put up 32 reps of 225 pounds.

Teams not owning a first round pick

Carolina Panthers – 2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: DT, LB, QB, WR

For the second year in a row, the Carolina Panthers will not have a first round draft pick.  This year’s pick went to the San Francisco 49ers in a deal where the Niners traded their second round pick (No. 43 overall) in 2009 to Carolina for their 2010 first rounder.  The Panthers used the pick to take DE Everett Brown, but I am sure after an 8-8 campaign, they wish they had it back.  Carolina this offseason has been getting rid of veterans like QB Jake Delhomme, DT Damione Lewis, DE Julius Peppers, FB Brad Hoover, and others.  So expect them to be active in getting younger players that can contribute right away.  Carolina’s first pick will be at No. 16 of the second round and you can expect them to be looking for D-line and linebacker help.

Chicago Bears – 2009 Record: 7-9 | Needs: WR, OL, DT, S

The Bears traded away their first round pick in the much ballyhooed acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler.  The Broncos gladly took the pick and after an 7-9 season last year, you know that Chicago probably would like to have the pick back.  Though Cutler performed well at times, he also threw 26 interceptions.  With head coach Lovie Smith on the hot seat,  look for the Bears to add more help for Cutler (WR,O-line) and their retooling defense (CB, S, DL) when they first pick in the 3rd round (11th pick of that round).

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Combine Review by Lloyd Vance

Florida QB Tim Tebow didn’t throw, but he was one of several NFL hopefuls that made a good impression at the 2010 NFL Combine

The 2010 NFL Combine is now in the books with 327 invitees, over 600 NFL talent evaluators, and over 400 credentialed members of the media heading home.  The combine is the only week where the NFL epicenter revolves around players working out in t-shirts and shorts –now track suites—with cattle numbers stamped on them.  We all know that game footage matters more than any other evaluation tool to teams as they move toward the  2010 NFL Draft on April 22, but the NFL Combine has become a phenomenon unto it’s self.  Now major sports media outlets are providing instant breaking news on potential NFL prospect’s forty times.

There are four major steps of the post college football / pre NFL Draft process — Bowl Game, All-Star Games especially the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and Pro Day/Private workout – that are vital for building a powerful resume for the upcoming NFL Draft.  Even though the overall draft process never totally gets every little thing about a prospect correct, especially whether a player will be a front-line contributor in 2 to 3 years.

“It’s an inexact science, if you can call it a science” said Colts General Manager Bill Polian during a combine interview.  However with signing bonuses and draft positions changing on the merits of a good or bad forty time, the NFL Combine has become a must-see event for league talent evaluators and fans — NFL Network had over 25 hours of Live Coverage and the Philadelphia Eagles sent a contingent of 47 people to Indy.

Prospects and their agents also seem to understand the importance of the NFL Combine — 66% of all positional players selected at the 2008 NFL Draft participated in the combine.  More than half of this year’s NFL Combine participants attended “cheat-sheet” preparation camps in place like California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas.  Practice made perfect, as several players were familiar enough with the drills to produce noteworthy results from this year’s event.  

Now that the weighing, timing, questioning, reviewing of injuries and backgrounds of the invitees is over and before we move onto Pro Days, here are some of my observations, news, and notes from the 2010 NFL Combine.

High Participation – With over 600 NFL talent evaluators traveling to Indianapolis, the combine was the one place where all NFL talent evaluators converged on one place for a week just to look exclusively at prospects.  Even though it seems every top quarterback including Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Jimmy Clausen chose to not participate in almost every on-field drill, most players wanted to work out. The 2010 NFL Combine continued the trend of high participation by invitees that has grown with the past five drafts.  It was reported that close to 95% of the 327 invitees took part in some portion of the combine process (drills and/or interviewing). The major reason for the high volume of participants forgoing the sidelines, including potential first overall pick Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh, is money. 

By waiting for their Pro Day, a prospect has a good chance of raising a red flag that could cost them millions — Top 10 picks are expected to receive $30 Million dollar signing bonuses.  With dollars fresh in their mind, potential Top 10 picks Oklahoma State OT Russell Okung, Tennessee safety Eric Berry, Oklahoma OT Trent Williams, Rutgers OT Anthony Davis, Suh and others all showed their stuff at Lucas Oil Stadium to the liking of the NFL personnel evaluators.  However the event didn’t go by without some high profile guys like Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford (interviewed, but didn’t throw as he wanted to work with his own receivers), Oklahoma State receiver Dez White (Interviewed only), Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen (interviewed, but is nursing a toe injury), and others forgoing some or all drills while waiting for their Pro Days.

Event Risers – These players increased their value in the 2010 NFL Combine.

Maryland OT Bruce Campbell – Scouts were buzzing about the performance of the big (6-7, 310) and athletic offensive tackle.  Campbell was officially timed at 4.85 in the 40 (the best time of any lineman – first reported as a 4.77), pounded out 34 reps on the 225 lb bench and jumped 32 inches vertically. Though there are concerns with Campbell only having 17 college starts, he probably was this week’s biggest winner. The junior-eligible road grader now looks like he has joined Russell Okung (Oklahoma State), Bryan Bulaga (Iowa), Anthony Davis (Rutgers) and Trent Williams (Oklahoma) as first round offensive tackle picks in the upcoming draft. Of this year’s offensive tackles, a personnel director for an NFC team said, “Five are slam-dunk firsts.  You’ve got some potential studs there.”

Florida QB Tim Tebow – College football’s most talked about prospect didn’t throw in Indy, but he was impressive in other areas.  Tebow (6’3, 245) showed great leadership, a “Can Do” attitude, and maturity in interviews.  Then on the field, he displayed athleticism that could equate to a position switch to H-Back or as a Wildcat QB, if needed.  The former Heisman winner ran the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds, vertically jumped 38.5 inches ( tied combine quarterback record set by Josh McCown), and led all quarterbacks in the three-cone drill (6.66 seconds), the 20-yard shuttle (4.17 seconds) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.27 seconds). So now the waiting game starts until Florida’s Pro Day on March 17th to see if working with former NFL coach Zeke Bratkowski has helped Tebow’s footwork, delivery, and other requisite quarterback skills.  I still think Super Timmy is a 3rd round pick.

Alabama DL Terrence Cody – This year’s prototypical 3-4 defense two-gap run-stuffing nose tackle showed his commitment to playing in the NFL.  Cody weighed in at 354 pounds, which is closer to his target weight of 340 than the 370 giggly pounds that he showed up at the Senior Bowl.  Moved well in drills and now looks to be a mid first-round pick. With five of the top seven defenses in the league last season playing the 3-4  — New York Jets (first), Green Bay (second), Baltimore (third), Pittsburgh (fifth) and Denver (seventh) – expect Cody to be real popular in this year’s draft.

USC safety Taylor Mays – Consistently some evaluators have pegged the big (6’3, 220) hard-hitting safety as a possible weakside linebacker.  But Mays showed by his blazing forty and in drills that he is a legitimate threat to Eric Berry’s number one safety spot.  Some unofficial hand-times had Mays at 4.24seconds, which would have tied Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson’s record.  But “officially” his time was 4.43 seconds, which is still unbelievable for a safety.  Now some evaluators are saying the former USC standout is a surefire Top 10 pick.  However on film, Mays still looks to be a little deficient in coverage and he only caused just two takeaways as a senior (1 INT and 1 fumble recovery).

 Notre Dame WR Golden Tate – Looks to be this year’s version of Philadelphia Eagles burner DeSean Jackson.  The Fightin’ Irish playmaker ran a 4.42 in the 40, pumped out 17 reps and leapt 40.5 inches vertically.  Though not the biggest guy (5’10, 199), Tate looks to be one of this year’s climbers at the receiver position.  Over half the teams requested to interview him and most left impressed with his demeanor.  Something Tate will need to work on going into his Pro Day on March 23rd is his catching.  In the “Gauntlet Drill”, he had some struggles — allowed too many passes to get into his body and dropped more than a few passes.

California RB Jahvid Best – Going into the Combine, every team wanted to make sure that the former Cal star was durable and versatile enough to be a feature back in the NFL.  Best answered questions immediately by measuring in at 5-10 1/8 and 199 pounds.  Then the former California state champ in the 100 meters showed that he had put a back injury and concussion (missed 4 games) behind him by clocking a 4.35 in the forty and moving well in drills.  Will need to continue his momentum on his Pro Day as every team loves his 7.3 yards per carry average from his college career.

Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford – Incredibly by only weighing in and interviewing, the former Heisman winner may have vaulted himself into the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.  The St. Louis Rams, who own the top pick, liked his size (6’4, 236) and answers during meetings. Bradford came off poised and personable with the media too and veteran Rams beat writer Howard Balzer said of him via Twitter, “He has ‘it’”.   Now it appears that the draft’s top two defensive tackles, Suh and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy, have some company at the top.  Bradford said of his opportunity, “I think everybody dreams about being Number #1. Through this process, I’m preparing myself. I’m gonna show those teams everything I have. But at the end of the day, it’s up to them. So I’m really not worried about what I can’t control.”

Indiana University (Pa) cornerback Akwasi Owusu-Ansah – The small school prospect showed that he could compete with the top corners in the draft.  Owusu-Ansah showed the speed (4.47, third best corner time) and smooth hips in drills that evaluators were looking for in coverage corners.  Look for him to be taken early on the second day of the draft (2nd and 3rd rounds). 

Wake Forest CB Brandon Ghee – Moved up to possibly a second round pick by recording an official 4.45-second forty (2nd fastest among all defensive backs).  Also showed good movement in drills plus broad jumped 10′7 and did 15 reps on the bench press.

Others deserving players mention:  Tennessee safety Eric Berry (despite the buzz around Mays, still was the best overall safety in Indy as he clocked a 4.47-second forty and looked like a corner in coverage drills); Norfolk State WR Chris Bell (HBCU standout showed good size (6-2 1/8, 211) and hands in receiver drills); Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski (showed that he had recovered from a back injury that kept him out of the 2009 season); Ohio receiver Taylor Price (ran a blazing 4.41 in the forty and showed good hands in drills); Pittsburgh TE Dorin Dickerson (explosive player, who can play fullback or tight end in college, was timed in 4.40 and jumped 43.5 inches vertically); Arkansas OL Mitch Petrus  (tied combine record with 45 reps of 225 pounds); Georgia DL Jeff Owens (showed good explosion in drills and banged out 44 reps); Fresno State RB Ryan Mathews (looked like a prototypical power back at 5-11, 218 plus ran well in drills)

Event Maintainers – These players were solid and did not hurt their value at the 2010 NFL Combine.

Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh – Even though he entered the combine with a bull’s eye, Suh was not intimidated by the process.  He was solid in drills and showed his strength by producing 32 reps.  Despite all the buzz around Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, Suh made an impression in the interview process too. As is the norm this time of the year, as everyone was saying that the Rams liked Bradford as their No. 1, ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli reported different.  He said that Rams scouts were becoming increasingly convinced that Suh is the best player in the draft. In Rams head coach Steve Spanuolo’s scheme, Suh would play the “three technique” defensive tackle spot next to run stuffer Cliff Ryan.

Clemson WR Jacoby Ford – After a solid Senior Bowl, Ford came to Indy looking to stay on the radar of NFL teams.  He did just that and more as the former Clemson track star produced the fastest time at the combine with a 4.28-second forty. The 5-8 5/8, 181 pounder also drew comparisons to veteran Panthers receiver Steve Smith by catching the ball well in the passing drills and showing a good burst in and out of his cuts.  Look for this potential 2nd or 3rd rounder to be a great returner and slot receiver at the next level.

Clemson RB C.J. Spiller – Looked like the next “Reggie Bush” homerun threat type of player.  Weighed-in at 5-11, 196 pounds plus showed breakaway speed with a 4.37-second forty – some unofficially timed him at 4.27 seconds.  Right now Spiller looks like the first running back to come off the board and teams love his explosiveness — in 2009 had 31 carries of 10+ yards and eight receptions for 20 yards or more plus contributed five TDs on returns. As for worrying that Spiller may have some of Bush’s durability concerns, he never missed a game in college due to injury.

West Virginia QB Jarrett Brown – After a solid Senior Bowl, Brown continued to step out of the shadow of former WVU teammate Pat White, who was a second round pick by the Dolphins in 2009.  Brown ran the forty in 4.54 seconds and showed good zip on his passes in drills.  Brown will need to perform well on his Pro Day for him to solidify his position as a good 3rd or 4th round developmental pick.

Ole Miss RB/WR/KR Dexter McCluster – The former Ole Miss running back maintained the level from his strong Senior Bowl week.  McCluster is a true game-breaker as shown by his 37.5 vertical jump and superior agility in pass catching drills.

Virginia CB Chris Cook – Had a strong Senior Bowl week, where he was physical in drills, so he wanted to show again in Indy that he was a high corner prospect.  Cook showed the speed (4.46 seconds in the forty) and explosiveness (best broad jump of 11′0″) that a tall (6’1) corner needs. Had good footwork in drills, but needs to work on his strength as he only produced seven reps on the bench press.

Florida State safety Myron Rolle – Continued to show leadership and maturity in interviews after everyone was abuzz regarding his alleged treatment earlier by the Tampa Bay Bucs.  Reportedly during a 45-minute interview before the Senior Bowl with members of the Buccaneers’ staff, one member of the staff was said to have asked Rolle, “What it felt like to desert his team last season”.  Rolle also looked to be in great shape (6’2, 215) after being away at Oxford, England (Rhodes Scholar).  The aspiring doctor still has to change some hard core football people’s minds about his commitment to play in the NFL, but to me some team will give him a shot.  As crazy as it sounds, Rolle still has to finish a 10,000-word thesis and take his final exams in June before reporting to any NFL training camp in July.

Stanford RB Toby Gerhart – The former two-sport star (supposedly gave-up baseball) showed that he has the ability to play running back in the NFL.  Though he didn’t run the forty, Gerhart (6-0, 231) displayed explosiveness by producing a 38-inch vertical jump.  The 2009 Pac Ten Player of the Year and Heisman runner-up (1,871 rushing yards in 2009) also showed his agility in the shuttle runs.  Looks like he can be a power back at the next level.

Event Crashers – These were players that we believe hurt their value at the 2010 NFL Combine and will need to make up ground going into the draft.

Florida Joe Haden – Going into the Combine, the Gators sticky corner was considered a can’t miss first round shutdown corner.  Some were even saying the name “Darrelle Revis” in comparisons to Haden.  But a pedestrian forty time of4.57 seconds has put doubt in some evaluators’ minds.  We will have to see if Haden can rebound by the Gators’ Pro Day on March 17th in the Swamp.  To me, I still believe the film doesn’t lie about Haden and he is very good player, who is more than a Rhonde Barber zone corner.

Michigan CB Donovan Warren – Unfortunately, the combine showed that Warren may have difficulty as a man-to-man corner.  Warren recorded unofficial forty times of 4.65 and 4.68 seconds, which raised a red flag in the minds of evaluators.  Still could be a valuable special teams and nickel player due to his good size and physicality.  You know Warren wants a better showing at Michigan’s Pro Day on March 12th.

 Alabama CB Javier Arenas – The smallish corner from the National Champions, unfortunately tweaked his right hamstring so bad running his first forty that his combine was quickly over. Arenas will need to heal quickly as Alabama’s Pro Day is on March 10th.

Michigan DE Brandon Graham – After being named Senior Bowl MVP, Graham came to the combine with comparisons to former Michigan teammate LaMarr Woodley — now a Pro Bowl outside linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Unfortunately after posting a pair of 4.69-second forties (10th among D-linemen), Graham pulled up lame with a hamstring injury and had to shut it down.  However expect the former All Big Ten player to get a look as a 3-4 linebacker after he put up 31 reps on the bench.  Hopefully by Michigan’s Pro Day on March 12th, he will be able to further impress NFL talent evaluators.

Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer – Still considered one of the bigger backs in the 2010 NFL Draft.  Unfortunately, Dwyer (5-11 1/4, 229) looked like a plodder as he ran in the 4.7 range and did not look as fluid as Spiller, Best, Matthews, and other backs.

Arkansas State DE Alex Carrington — Lost out as several pass rushing prospects passed him after he had to shut it down after twisting his ankle.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

Speed was back at Lucas Oil stadium – There were 27 players who ran sub-4.5 forties at Lucas Oil including this year’s champion Clemson WR Jacoby Ford who ran an official 4.28 second time.  Ford blazed past other speedsters LSU returner Trindon Holliday (4.34), Cal RB Jahvid Best (4.35) and Clemson teammate CJ Spiller (4.37) to win this year’s college football version of the fastest man.   Also with everyone from NFL Network to team officials leaking times (i.e. USC safety Taylor ran an unofficial 4.19 second forty according to his former coach and Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll), remember the only times that count are the three official times clocked by National Football Scouting (two electronic and one handheld). Anyway I think people put too much emphasis on the forty anyway as one draft evaluator said at the event, “Larry Fitzgerald ran more than 4.6 when he went through the draft process and I don’t hear too many people now talking about what he ran Pre-Draft”

Back courageously returns to the bench – Miraculously, USC running back Stafon Johnson was back participating in the bench-press. Unfortunately way back in September, Johnson (5’11, 214) was hurt while bench pressing when the bar slipped from his hands and crushed his neck and larynx. The former USC star underwent seven hours of emergency throat surgery.  Five months later, he showed some real “guts” here at the combine by putting up 13 reps .

Podium time for the Coaches and GM’s – For the third year in a row, the combine had a full slate of GM’s and coaches holding their own press conferences at the event.  The media could go from hearing new Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan (first real appearance for his new organization) to new Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey to Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid to Rams GM Bill Devaney without missing a beat.  Though you know the evaluators are smoke-screening this time of the year, it is always good to get some insight.

The ‘Wildcat’ is still loose in the NFL – Though the number of teams running “Wildcat” plays last season was less than in 2008, there is still a strong presence of the formation in the NFL.  So in a copy-cat fashion, Lucas Oil Stadium was abuzz looking for players who could run the “Wildcat” formation.  Evaluators were asking running backs and receivers whether they had been a high school quarterback (ex. Fresno State RB Ryan Matthews and Buffalo RB James Starks).  Plus mobile throwers like Florida’s Tim Tebow, Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards, and Penn State QB Darryl Clark were definitely looked at as potential future Wildcat signal-callers. 

What You Benching?? – I would love to see a 225-pound bench pressing contest head-to-head of this year’s champ Arkansas OG Mitch Petrus (45 reps – tied NFL Combine Record of former Ohio State DE Mike Kudla) and current NFL strongman Eagles defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (44 reps back in 2006).  Of course we would need loud mouth Arizona Cardinals Strength and Conditioning Coach John Lott as the moderator – “Come on Meat, HUP, HUP!!”

Who needs the Combine?? – Some players that I still believe will be on the NFL’s radar even though they were not invited to the NFL Combine are Bowling Green WR Freddie Barnes, Alabama-Birmingham QB Joe Webb, Grambling State DE Christian Anthony, Auburn CB Walter McFadden, Utah S Robert Johnson and Army WR/TE Ali Villanueva.

How Awesome is NFL Network!! – Again NFL Network brought the combine to the masses by providing the aforementioned 25 Hours of original programming of the event and all 327 hopefuls.  I could listen to draftnik Mike Mayock all day as he breaks down all of the players.  Mayock can rattle off an NFL prospect’s bio, college football honors, and combine times/numbers/figures before you can say, “Jack Spratt” (Sorry Mel and Todd, but this guy is the best).  By the way, Mayock kept saying during combine broadcasts that this is the deepest draft for defensive players he’s seen in nearly 10 years.

The official workout results of the top performers at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine are now posted at http://www.nfl.com/combine/top-performers

That is a wrap and Sports Journey will definitely be there next year to cover the Combine, which is now a major happening as seen by the over 400 credentials handed out this year.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)