The 2010 NFL Draft has its fair share of prospects that light up stopwatches and scouts’ interest. While a few are surefire first- or second-round picks, others will settle for undrafted free-agent status.
As Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson broke the 40-yard dash record at the combine and proceeded to become one of the NFL’s marquee players, teams are looking for their own version of 2009's leading rusher.
However, many of these prospects fit the prototypical boom-or-bust mold. Whether it’s a serious lack of size or character concerns, a couple of these guys are big-time sleepers capable of playing at the next level
Mays has been allegedly timed with Chris Johnson-esque speed at 4.25. Don’t forget, that’s according to former USC Coach Pete Carroll’s stopwatch. If I took Carroll at his word—which I don’t—then Mays would appear on the first slide, not second to last on the list.
The Vols all-everything defensive back is mentioned in the same breath as the Ed Reeds and Bob Sanders of the world. By all accounts he’s earned the hype. Upper-echelon speed paired with a linebacker’s hitting ability and a receiver’s mentality means Berry is a potential top-three draft pick.
McFadden was a second-team All-SEC performer and despite a lack of hype surrounding the fleet of foot cornerback, he’s still a decent NFL prospect. He’s worth keeping an eye on in the final rounds of the draft. McFadden picked off two passes against Northwestern—including a 100-yard return—in the 2009 Outback Bowl. McFadden and the next player on this list are two of the better risk-reward prospects among this Top 10 list.
Being named to the First-Team All-MEAC list is a nice accomplishment, but not one that usually indicates a player’s name being called in the first seven rounds. But Coker is different because he did face—and excelled against—stiffer competition in the SEC before Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer suspended him for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He’s an undeniable talent and one of the top sleepers in the 2010 draft. (Note: If the over-under of college kids who’ve smoked pot is set at 51%, the over will cash in on almost every campus. Coker’s problem is he was a repeat offender.)
Add three inches and about 20 pounds to his frame and the explosive, play-making receiver/running back would likely be a top 15 pick instead of the second or third-round projections. Regardless, McCluster is a serious threat to score every time he touches the ball. Outstanding postseason performances in the Cotton Bowl and Senior Bowl only helped his cause.
One of the safest prospects in the 2010 draft is also one of the most exciting. Spiller will be the top running back to hear Roger Goodell call his name in late April. He looks like he’s shot out a cannon when the ball is in his hands. Spiller is a very elusive receiver out of the backfield and willingly fulfills his assignments when asked to block. To top things off, he’s a hard-worker both on and off the field (ACC All-Academic honoree).
Ford and teammate C.J. Spiller afforded Tigers offensive coordinator Billy Napier the luxury of utilizing one of the most explosive pair of weapons in the nation. Several scouts have expressed concerns about his ability and size as indications his future role to that of a niche player. But Spiller caught everything in sight at the Senior Bowl and showed a fearlessness going over the middle to quell those doubters.
Another player that bolstered his status with a strong week of practices, culminating with a nice showing at the Senior Bowl. Perhaps the most telling sign of Price’s future is how his level of play spiked when surrounded by better talent, most notably at quarterback. Decent size, shifty, tough, and blazing fast are traits NFL teams would love to have at wide receiver.
One of coach Les Miles' important weapons was the blazing speed and versatility of Holliday. He’s also one of the fastest members of the Tigers track team. Holliday is noticeably shorter than everyone else on the field, but has enough bulk to warrant more appearances beyond special-teams duties. NFL teams utilizing the Wildcat formation may strongly consider him where his lack of height could be used as an advantage. His ability to dart in and out of the smallest of creases while defenders struggle to locate him—let alone attempt a tackle—could give opponents fits.
**UPDATE** Holliday ran a 4.34 at the combine
Roster limits often require players to play more than one position. A team willing to take a chance on a player who looks like a high school underclassman, but can absolutely fly, may consider Banks to return kicks. His five career kick-return touchdowns set a Big 12 record and are only two behind the NCAA record. An offseason arrest in December will discourage many teams, though. If Banks can find a way to put on at least 15 pounds without sacrificing his speed, he may hear his name called in the last two rounds.