NFL Draft Top Prospects by Position
NEW YORK (AP) — Notable offensive players in the NFL draft, grouped by projected NFL positions:
Position Outlook: There’s no easy choice here for teams looking for the franchise QB. Injuries and coaching systems in college all cause plenty of drawbacks.
—Sam Bradford, 6-foot-4, 236 pounds, Oklahoma, junior: His well-known shoulder injury may not keep him from being the first QB taken. Or first player selected overall. Very accurate on the kinds of short and medium throws currently in fashion. Quick release, but not totally over the top. Occasionally will hold ball too long.
—Jimmy Clausen, 6-3, 222, Notre Dame, junior: Three-year starter in a pro-style system with a quick delivery, but less than ideal deep ball arm strength.
—Colt McCoy, 6-1, 216, Texas: Good decision maker with a less than elite arm. Excellent short-pass accuracy, but deep balls need work. Nimble on his feet. A leader and a winner.
—Tim Tebow, 6-3, 236, Florida: A central question of the 2010 NFL draft: which team is willing to take Florida’s linebacker-sized, power-running quarterback with the slow release and lack of experience in a pro-style system? No questions about his leadership.
—Tony Pike, 6-6, 223, Cincinnati: Prototypical size, lit it up in college, what’s not to like? Well, one reason he’s so good on short passing is that was the system at Cincinnati. Plenty of injury history, too.
Position Outlook: There’s not a flawless prospect in the bunch, but many have much to recommend them. Spiller and Best were highlight-reel staples, McKnight and Mathews reliable bell-cows, and Tate had a strong combine.
—C.J. Spiller, 5-11, 196, Clemson: Spiller is more of a game-breaker than a workhorse type of back. Lack of size means he won’t be grinding out 30-carry games in December, but rare speed and acceleration should make him a threat to score any time he gets the ball.
—Ryan Mathews, 6-0, 218, Fresno State, junior: Productive, hard runner with a good burst through the hole. Not experienced in passing game and durability is a bit of a concern. A possible future workhorse. Led nation in rushing per game, 150.7 yards.
—Jahvid Best, 5-10, 199, California, junior: Near-weekly highlight producer, unfortunately including a concussion in November. A major threat due to absurd acceleration and speed; not a grinder. Concussion history is always a concern, of course.
—Joe McKnight, 5-11, 198, Southern Cal, junior: Elusive, but shows some good power for his size. Good vision and patience. Injuries and bulk are concerns.
—Ben Tate, 5-11, 220, Auburn: Tough, one-cut bowling ball type willing to lower the shoulder into helpless defenders. Not an outside runner.
Position outlook: A thin group this year means second-round talent might start coming off the board early for teams who have taken care of defensive needs.
—Dez Bryant, 6-2, 225, Oklahoma State, junior: Physically gifted, with all the size and speed position requires. Maturity issues will give teams pause. Missed 10 games in 2009 for lying to NCAA.
—Demaryius Thomas, 6-3, 244, Georgia Tech, junior: Good size, speed and athletic ability, but routes are a bit of a mess. Nice hands and ability to make plays on the ball. Scored well on Wonderlic.
—Golden Tate, 5-10, 199, Notre Dame, junior: Excellent route runner and playmaker who lacks elite size or speed. Good hands.
—Arrelious Benn, 6-1, 219, Illinois, junior: Big and fast, he needs some coaching on routes. Good hands, excellent after-catch skills.
—Dezmon Briscoe, 6-2, 207, Kansas: Inconsistent, but the hands and size are there. Good after the catch, despite lack of serious speed.
Position outlook: The lack of options for elite pass catchers will push tight ends into the arms of hard-up teams earlier than otherwise might have happened.
—Jermaine Gresham, 6-5, 261, Oklahoma, junior: October surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee is the biggest concern for Gresham, an elite prospect with the speed to stretch defenses. Blocking is a work in progress.
—Aaron Hernandez, 6-2, 245, Florida: Good hands and body control in passing game, along with nice speed. A touch undersized, and blocking seems more suited for H-back.
—Dennis Pitta, 6-4, 245, BYU: A receiving tight end with nice athleticism and good route running. Not experienced as a down blocker at all. Also is 25 years old.
—Rob Gronkowski, 6-6, 264, Arizona, junior: Big, tons of athleticism, good hands — and he’s an able blocker. Health concerns could cause teams to take a pass after he missed 2009 and three games in 2008.
Position Outlook: One of the few deep positions on the offensive side of the ball, there may not be an easy early pick such as a Joe Thomas or Jason Smith, but there are plenty of strong prospects.
—Russell Okung, 6-5, 307, Oklahoma State, junior: Big and long-armed, he’s nimble on his feet and shows the always appreciated “mean streak” in running game.
—Anthony Davis, 6-5, 323, Rutgers, junior: Mammoth but nimble. Yep, he looks like a left tackle, though Davis may be a notch below some of the elite LT prospects in years past, it’s not a very big notch. Weight issues.
—Bryan Bulaga, 6-5, 314, Iowa, junior: Comes from a program that always seems to have OLs ready to play in NFL. Lack of truly elite physical qualities means speed rushers can be troublesome at times.
—Trent Williams, 6-5, 315, Oklahoma: Projects as an RT, especially in the run game, where he can be a bulldozer. Might have to add some size.
—Mike Iupati, 6-5, 331, Idaho, junior: Huge interior line prospect with strength and some agility. Not all that fast, and English is not native language. Key to college program’s improvement.
—Maurkice Pouncey, Florida, 6-4, 304, junior: Quick out of his center’s crouch despite his size; can also play guard. Sharp feel for the game. Had labrum surgery before last season.
—Bruce Campbell, 6-6, 314, Maryland, junior: Physical specimen of an LT prospect whose biggest drawback is a demonstrated lack of durability. Tools and technique will tempt some team into making a move, and had excellent workouts.
—Rodger Saffold, 6-4, 316, Indiana: Three-year starter at left tackle, but may need to move inside. Smooth in pass protection, needs to work on pulling and other run techniques.
Position outlook: With passing now the preferred way to move the ball, teams need to stop it any way they can. One way is with the sort of pass rushers who force changes in offensive game plans.
—Derrick Morgan, 6-3, 266, Georgia Tech, junior: Smart, 4-3 style end who can stop the run and be a crafty pass rusher. May not work out as an OLB in a 3-4.
—Jason Pierre-Paul, 6-5, 270, South Florida, junior: A bit tall for a DE, he might be stood up easily by blockers. Better at pursuit than holding the point against the run. Nice burst off the ball on pass rush. Just one season of major college ball after two JUCO years.
—Brandon Graham, 6-1, 268, Michigan: Despite lack of ideal height, Graham’s a disruptive force with nice speed off the edge and good athleticism and field smarts.
—Everson Griffen, 6-3, 273, Southern Cal, junior: Fast for such a big guy, he’s quick off the snap, but does his best work in confined areas.
—Carlos Dunlap, 6-6, 277, Florida, junior: Can play in either scheme due to combination of size and speed. Motivation a concern, as is a DUI arrest.
Position outlook: Getting to the QB isn’t just a job for ends. Teams that can draw double teams in the middle are a step ahead — and it doesn’t hurt to be able to stuff the run, either.
—Ndamukong Suh, 6-4, 307, Nebraska: Could fit in either a 3-4 or 4-3, thanks to sun-blotting size and plenty of quickness and strength. Projects as both a pass rusher and a run disrupter. Slight injury history.
—Gerald McCoy, 6-4, 295, Oklahoma, junior: A great fit in a 4-3, where he can wreak havoc with his speed and athleticism. A potential nightmare for blockers in years to come.
—Jared Odrick, 6-5, 304, Penn State: Has ability to play either front, but needs some coaching in pass rush.
— D’Anthony Smith, 6-2, 304, Louisiana Tech: Big and athletic, not what you want to hear if it’s your job to block him. He’s also durable and athletic, but can be pushed around versus the run.
—Brian Price, 6-1, 303, UCLA, junior: Powerful, but a bit short. Good pass rush moves, but not great in pursuit or moving side to side.
—Tyson Alualu, 6-3, 295, California: A tweener, perhaps, for a DE. He’s got hands and pass-rush moves, but size leaves him between 3-4 and 4-3 desirability.
Position outlook: One of the few thin defensive positions in this draft, there’s still a couple gems for teams that choose wisely for their scheme and personnel.
—Rolando McClain, 6-3, 254, Alabama, junior: Has great ability, and leadership ability. His toughness and strength serve him well against the run and on blitzes, but man coverage may be a liability. Smart player who can read route progressions well in zone coverage.
—Brandon Spikes, 6-3, 249, Florida: Strong and intense, he’s an excellent run stopper who needs to show more as a blitzer. Can make plays in coverage, despite lack of elite speed.
—Sean Lee, 6-2, 236, Penn State: Good size, and quick reads help him overcome lack of top-end speed and agility that may hamper him in man coverage. Injury concerns after missing 2008 due to torn knee ligaments.
—Sean Weatherspoon, 6-1, 239, Missouri: Sharp player versus both run and pass, his combination of speed and size helps him defend against either. Not always quick to diagnose, however.
—Sergio Kindle, 6-3, 250, Texas: Played two years at DE for Longhorns, but projects as an OLB in a 3-4. Perhaps best suited to blitzes and run pursuit.
—Ricky Sapp, 6-4, 252, Clemson: Edge rusher who could also be a DE, especially if he can get some bulk on that frame without losing any of his excellent athleticism.
—Jerry Hughes, 6-2, 255, TCU: Nimble and quick, he played DE in college, so pass coverage will need work. Had nice combine. Accomplished pass rusher.
—Dekoda Watson, 6-1, 240, Florida State: Fast, versatile player with experience playing inside and outside. Good instincts, but technique needs refinement.
Position outlook: Want to win games in the NFL? Stop other teams’ passing attacks. That starts here, with a few excellent prospects in Joe Haden, Earl Thomas and Eric Berry.
—Joe Haden, 5-11, 193, Florida, junior: Smooth, fluid runner with excellent ball skills. Good but not great in run support. Can return kicks.
—Kyle Wilson, 5-10, 194, Boise State: Great field vision in secondary and on punt returns. Plenty of athleticism, but not a lot of size.
—Devin McCourty, 5-11, 193, Rutgers: Savvy player with good balance and strong work ethic. Ball skills could be better.
—Kareem Jackson, 5-10, 196 Alabama, junior: Cerebral player with skills to hang with speedy WRs. Confident and aggressive, gets to the ball. Some issues with durability and occasional overaggressiveness. Might fit nicely in a cover-2.
—Jerome Murphy, 6-0, 196, South Florida: Solid, aggressive cornerback whose style may fit a cover-2 better. Two-year starter.
—Donovan Warren, 5-11, 193, Michigan, junior: Versatile defensive back who can play at the corner or safety, he’s not a pure speedster, island-type cover cornerback. Excellent in run support.
—Patrick Robinson, 5-11, 190, Florida State: Good pure speed and aggressiveness for a cover-2 scheme, but not particularly quick. Raw technique.
—Eric Berry, 6-0, 211, Tennessee, junior: Hard, physical player who seems to see what’s happening on the field before anyone else does. Smart player with good leadership abilities. Had shoulder surgery after 2008 season.
—Earl Thomas, 5-10, 208, Texas, junior: Fast and willing to fill holes in the running game; size and strength may be drawbacks in the NFL. Might work out as a cornerback.
—Taylor Mays, 6-3, 230, Southern Cal: Plenty of physical tools, but doesn’t always take proper angles and can be overaggressive, which will lead to whiffs.
—Morgan Burnett, 6-1, 209, Georgia Tech: Plenty of tools, and good instincts for the game in coverage and versus run, but lacks consistency.
Nate Allen, 6-0, 207, South Florida: Big and athletic, he needs to work on pursuit angles, ball skills and tackling.
—Leigh Tiffin, 6-1, 209, Alabama: Made 86 percent of field goals, including some pressure kicks. Might not be a kickoffs guy, but shows 50-yard range and accuracy to boot.
—Zoltan Mesko, 6-4, 204, Michigan: Four-year starter with a 44.5-yard average in 2009. Excellent at dropping ball inside the 20. Big and athletic, he’s carried on fakes, too.