Ahh, draft season. The combine has come to a close and the draft is growing ever nearer. This is my post-combine evaluation of the offensive talent in this year's draft. That's right, I have spent more time watching guys run around in spandex than I should ever admit to.
For each position I am going to break down the depth of the position, the top prospect (the guy with the most potential), the sure thing (safest pick), the sleeper pick (guy that is being a little overlooked), the super sleeper (guy that might come out of no-where to have a good career) and the do not touch player.
QB Class: Poor
Top Prospect: Mark Sanchez, USC
I think he has the potential to be a really good starter in the league. He is a terrific decision maker, the most important thing at this position. The knock on him is his lack of experience, but he's a fourth year redshirt junior and pretty mature. Great presence in a room and one of the most charismatic and best leaders you will see- probably the second most important thing at his position.
Sure Thing: There is no such thing in this draft
Sanchez is the closest to it but this draft is just too thin at this position to call anyone a sure thing.
Sleeper: Curtis Painter, Purdue
He's a Purdue guy with prototypical size for a QB. Had an off the charts JR season but showed a big drop off as a SR. For his career he is a 60% passer with a decent arm. I'm not sure he's the QB you want in a tight spot. That's the biggest concern.
Super Sleeper: Mike Reilly, Central Washington
Has all the tools. Started career at Washington State but transferred. In a weak QB class he may turn out to be the best player when all is said and done. He has a 64% completion percentage for his college career and a 2.38 to 1 TD/INT ratio. The takeaway- GOOD DECISION MAKER. That is not something that you will be able to say about many others in this draft.
Do Not Touch: Matt Stafford, Georgia
It's undeniable that this kid can throw a football. Jeff George and Ryan Leaf could throw a football. Do you know what Ryan Leaf, Jeff George, Matt Stafford, and countless others have in common? They all had huge arms and low completion percentages (under 60%) in college.
Matt Stafford has not shown the consistent decision making that is required of an NFL QB, especially not at the top spot in the draft. If you're drafting this guy in the top five you might as well take that 35 million or so that you will be giving him and set it on fire.
RB Class: Average
Top Prospect: Beanie Wells, Ohio State
The NFL has been trending towards big, powerful runners paired with a speedy guy in 2 RB systems. Wells has all the measurables and looks great on tape. His 40 time is respectable for a big guy and you don't see him getting caught from behind much on the field. Obvious durability issues but if he can share the load with someone, he can be a very effective back.
Sure Thing: Donald Brown, UConn
Very productive back. He performed much better than expected at the combine. He is never going to be your superstar Adrian Peterson type guy, but he is going to be productive. Very hard worker; good off the field guy. I could see him making a few Pro Bowls over the course of his career, if he goes to the right team.
Sleeper: Shonn Green, Iowa
Talk about productive, this guy has been the face of the Iowa football program for the past two seasons. 40 time is disappointing, but I chalk that up to a poor performance. His on field speed is much better than this time shows. Remember Jerry Rice ran a 4.7 at the combine, but for his first 15 seasons no one could catch him. This bad time is a good thing for teams looking to get a quality back early on day two.
Super Sleeper: Ian Johnson, Boise State
Second fastest and third strongest back at the combine. I'm not a big combine numbers guy but his on- the-field performance backs these numbers up. His performance declined over the past two seasons, largely due to changes in the offense; about which he never complained.
Great character guy, very mature. Has the potential to be a three or four time Pro Bowl guy. Will be a steal if you can get him as a mid-late round pick, although his combine performance may move him more toward the middle rounds.
Do Not Touch: Rashad Jennings, Liberty
Had a very good combine and looks good on paper. Teams will be tempted to take him in early to mid rounds because of his measurables, but he is a late round guy. He played at Liberty and is an unproven commodity. You shouldn't pick a guy like this before the sixth round.
WR Class: Deep
Top Prospect: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Although the stress fracture in his foot cut his combine short, I still see him as the top guy. If you watched one Texas Tech game this year you'd know why. He jumps off the screen whenever you see him play. Has terrific hands and the best instincts you will see.
He has a unique ability to feel spaces in the defense and sense the defenders' location. He wins every battle with defensive backs for contested balls. Appears to be much less of a head case than most receivers and appears to be a really good kid.
Sure Thing: Brian Robiske, Ohio State
Consistent receiver even with sketchy QB play in college. He ran well enough at the combine and has the size to make him viable in the NFL. He also caught everything in his time zone at the combine. His father is an NFL coach and his route running shows it, probably the most polished route runner at the combine. Very mature kid and by all accounts will be a good influence in the locker room. He will be a very good, if not great receiver for a long time at the next level.
Sleeper: Tiquan Underwood, Rutgers
Has good speed and decent hands. This is another guy that just stood out when I watched him play. His teammate Kenny Britt will be drafted way ahead of him, but I see Underwood being a more explosive pro player. Had a big drop off in production as a senior but I still like him. I see him as a really good number two on a team with a good number one possession receiver.
Super Sleeper: Mike Wallace, Ole Miss
All the information I could find on this guy said he was a white journalist born in 1918. That being said, there may be some performance enhancement issues with him in the future. Seriously though, he looked really fast at the combine and caught the ball well. He had respectable production on a team with first year starter at QB. He looks like he has the potential to be a good pro and play a long productive career.
Do Not Touch: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland
Did not have the production in a pretty weak conference to go as high as he probably will. Used mostly speed as opposed to good wide receiver skills to get the production he did have. He's just not polished enough to be taken as a top 5 receiver. He could develop into a good player but he needs some time to do that.
OT Class: Average
Top Prospect: Jason Smith, Baylor
He is what you want to see in a tackle. He impressed during his interview sessions and showed that he has the physical skills during the combine as well. Loves to finish blocks and shows that tenacity on game film.
Sure Thing: Eugene Monroe, Virginia
Very smart guy that was good enough to keep Branden Albert at guard in college. He is a "solid" player. He might not knock your socks off when you see him play but he will be a good player in the league for a long time. Needs to get stronger to get to be an elite left tackle.
Sleeper: Eben Britton, Arizona
I'm not positive he qualifies as a "sleeper" but that’s what I'm going with. He has the prototypical size that you want at tackle. Looked pretty dominant in the PAC 10 and I think that will translate to the next level. I wouldn't look for him to be pro-bowl caliber right away, but he'll get there eventually.
Super Sleeper: Joel Bell, Furman
Small school guy that was very dominant against FCS talent. Has a huge frame with plenty of room to grow. He tested out well at the combine. Well traveled and mature guy. Didn't even start playing football until 2001. Give this guy a couple of years with a good offensive line coach and he could be special.
Do Not Touch: Andre Smith, Alabama
In the first round anyway. You can't pay an immature kid the kind of money that he would garner at the top of the draft. He clearly has elite talent and might be worth taking a chance on in the second round or later if you have a team with a good veteran leaders surrounding him on offense.
Top Prospect: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
Very big for a guard but sufficiently agile. Started at Oklahoma since his sophomore year and was well decorated. The great thing about Robinson is his versatility, he will probably start his NFL career at LG but could be moved to the outside with continued development.
He is a good finisher with a bit of a mean streak. Has the potential to make a lot of Pro Bowls at the next level. FYI: He is Smokey Robinson's great nephew, or something like that.
Sure Thing: Andy Levitre, Oregon State
Tackle in college that will be moving inside. Very consistent throughout his career and is just an all around sound kid. Not real impressive physically, but is good enough to be a really good guard in the NFL for a long time.
Sleeper: Herman Johnson, LSU
Slimmed down to 364 for the combine. His realistic playing weight will be 375 or higher. Needless to say, if this guy gets his body on you, you're not getting away. I usually don't like huge players, but there is something about this guy.
With the trend towards even more pass-heavy offenses in the NFL, it will be useful to have a guard that can go one on one with a defensive tackle. Not to mention, he will freaking break people in half on running plays.
Super Sleeper: Lyndon Murtha, Nebraska
Tested out as the most athletic lineman at the combine. He has the athletic ability of an NFL tight end. Played both tackle positions at Nebraska but I think he'll move to guard in the NFL. If this guy reaches his potential, he could be an absolute stud guard.
Do Not Touch: NA
I am declining to pick one for guard. Instead I want to mention G Roger Allen for no other reason than he played at Missouri Western, my Alma Mater. Go Griffs!
Center Class: Good
Top Prospect: Max Unger, Oregon
Definitely the consensus top center in the draft. He was a freshman All-American at left tackle and all Pac-10 left tackle as a sophomore. Switched to center as a junior and continued his dominance at that position. Great size and athleticism for a center. Centers don't usually go very high, but this guy has enough value and versatility to be taken on the first day.
Sure Thing: Max Unger, Oregon
Sleeper: AQ Shipley, Penn State
This guy plays hard all the time. He has the kind of heart and brains to be an elite center in the NFL for a long time.
Well, these are my opinions but I wouldn't make any bets on them. If I'm as good as most general managers in the NFL I missed on only 75 percent of them.