2010 NFL Draft: 20 Players Worth Reaching for in First Two Rounds
The 2010 NFL Draft has its fair share of prospects who, for one reason or another, have seen their mock draft projections fluctuate considerably.
Maybe it's a lack of prototypical size or the fact they're coming from a non-traditional powerhouse conference.
It could also be hesitations about a past injury, or even character concerns.
Here are 20 players, with predictions about where they deserve to be selected as well as a brief analysis of each.
20. Brandon Graham—Michigan (DE / 6-2 / 268)
Graham was a terror in the Big Ten and gave a sneak peek to other conferences after his MVP-showing at the Senior Bowl. He would instantly upgrade a teams’ ability, or lack thereof, to generate a consistent pass-rush.
Graham might be a bit undersized by NFL standards, but he’s the epitome of explosiveness. With his gym-rat, high-motor characteristics, any NFL defensive coordinator will be thrilled to add a player of Graham’s caliber.
19. Ryan Matthews — Fresno State (RB / 6-0 / 220)
After leading the nation in rushing last year, it was hard to imagine there was much more Matthews could do to improve his stock.
He did just that at the combine by showing off an incredible combination of strength and speed.
Perhaps the one knock was questions about his receiving skills but he proved at the combine his hands are not a reason to be concerned.
Matthews can run effectively between the tackles or bouncing it outside if need be. His toughness and work ethic can’t be taught and in my opinion, he’s the best pure running back in this draft—including C.J. Spiller.
18. Jahvid Best — California (RB / 5-10 / 200)
Round: Late 1st – Early 2nd
If it wasn’t for a scary injury last season, Best would be projected much higher than the late-second, early-third projections most mock drafts have him at.
Injury concerns prevent Best from being a surefire first-rounder but his explosiveness and receiving ability should be enough to overcome that.
17. Vladimir Ducasse — Massachusetts (OT / 6-5 / 335)
Besides having one of the more intriguing side stories in this crop of prospects, the Haiti native might be one of the most versatile, too.
Size and strength of his magnitude are rare and the fact Ducasse didn’t begin playing football until his junior year of high school makes him an interesting risk-reward selection in late April.
Ducasse can play multiple positions on the line immediately and he could provide depth at tackle, or start at guard while he gains another year of coaching.
16. Terrence Cody — Alabama (DT / 6-4 / 350)
The former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer anchored Alabama’s defensive line and prevented any opposing running back from gaining 100 yards in a game.
Cody’s impact rarely shows up in the box score but he allows his teammates considerable room to roam the field and make plays. He’s a perfect fit to plug the middle of the line for a 3-4 defense and his size alone is enough to demand at least two blockers on every play.
The biggest concern about him is conditioning, but his losing weight before the combine was an encouraging sign to his suitors.
15. Jonathan Dwyer — Georgia Tech (RB / 5-11 / 230)
Posting a 4.64 at the combine meant Dwyer could have potentially fallen out of the second, let alone first-round.
However, he rebounded by running a 4.51 at Georgia Tech’s pro day. The 2008 ACC Player of the Year proved durability and consistency characteristics by rushing for 1,395 yards the last two seasons.
Dwyer is an extremely tough, in-between the tackles type of runner who simply shuns would-be arm tacklers and is a reliable blocker. He plays through injuries and has soft-enough hands to be an every-down running back.
14. Brandon Spikes — Florida (ILB / 6-3 / 250)
No other player has seen his pre-draft projections vary more wildly than Spikes has. Despite the infamous eye-gouging incident, the former Gators player is an intimidating force and reminds me of a poor man’s Patrick Willis but not too far behind the 49ers star linebacker as some might think.
He projects at the next level more as a 3-4 linebacker, and his size and ferociousness will suit him well in Crennel’s defense. Spikes is a smart, aggressive linebacker who might not be around once the Chiefs pick again in the second round.
13. Jerry Hughes — TCU (DE / 6-2 / 255)
Round: Early 2nd
Coaches are enamored with the playmaking potential of this former high school running back. Scouts think he projects to linebacker after lining up as a defensive end for the Horned Frogs because of his exceptional speed.
Hughes can line up as a 3-4 linebacker or a pass-rushing specialist in a traditional 4-3 base. He’s anchored one of the nation’s best defenses the last two seasons and he’s an explosive tackler who will add instant disruption to offensive coordinators game plans on blitz packages. But he’s also fast enough to drop back in coverage when need be.
12. Morgan Burnett — Georgia Tech (S / 6-2 / 210)
Despite knocks against his technique, Burnett is an aggressive tackling machine. He’s a muscled-up prospect who played more of a rover position for the Yellow Jackets but could actually play either safety position or even cornerback in certain packages because of his outstanding athleticism and nice hands evidenced by 14 career interceptions.
11. Corey Wootton — Northwestern (DE / 6-7 / 270)
At 6'7", Wootton is a run-stopper first with the physical skill-set to be a dynamo pass-rusher. With the right coaching, he could be one of the better value picks in the 2010 draft.
His size and skills are attractive to both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. Wootton has no character issues and will become one of the top players from this draft once he’s able to spend some time under an NFL-caliber defensive line coach.
10. Toby Gerhart — Stanford (RB / 6-0 / 231)
Gerhart is a tremendous athlete and was even considered as one of the best MLB prospects just a few years ago. He has excellent balance and vision and is extremely intelligent which will allow him to pick up an NFL offense quicker than his counterparts.
I think his game resembles Mike Alstott or even the college version of fellow Stanford alum, Tommy Vardell....and yes, it's because they're white.
9. Jared Veldheer – Hillsdale (DII) (OT / 6-8 / 315)
One of the best all-around athletes in this group of offensive lineman hails from one of the smallest schools.
I had the pleasure of catching one of Veldheer’s games this past fall when the Chargers took on Wayne State University.
The Grand Rapids, Mich., native stands out wherever he goes whether it’s against the 21 other players on the football field or among the small throng of students at Hillsdale College—with an enrollment of approximately 1,300 students.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cleveland Browns "reach" for Veldheer.
His performance at the combine only solidified what a small group of NFL execs—including Hillsdale alum and Cleveland Browns General Manager, Tom Heckert.
8. Taylor Price — Ohio (WR / 6-1 / 205)
Round: Late 1st – Early 2nd
A nice showing at the Senior Bowl started with an excellent week of practices. With all due respect to his Bobcats teammates, it was a telling sign once he was surrounded by better talent, most notably at quarterback. He’s wiry strong and uses his decent size to adjust to poorly thrown balls.
Price is a shifty, tough, and very fast receiver (4.35 – 4.40) with the skill-set to start immediately at the slot position or quite possibly as a No. 2 receiver.
7. Tyson Alualu — California (DT / 6-3 / 295)
Before the combine, Alualu was already known for his active, nonstop motor. He only helped himself further by running a 4.87 forty in front of coaches and scouts.
He reminds me of the Eagles 2008 second round pick, Trevor Laws, but with more upside. Whatever team selects Alualu will instantly add an energetic, disruptive force in the trenches with the ability to jumpstart a stagnant pass-rush.
6. Alex Carrington — Arkansas State (DE / 6-5 / 287)
Carrington passes the eyeball test with more conviction than the majority of prospects in the 2010 NFL draft. He looks like he can line up at almost any position on the field.
He’s a seriously muscled-up prospect who draws comparisons to Larry English, another small-school recent draft pick.
Carrington has all of the physical tools to succeed and provide first-round value if ends up in the right system.
Somebody at his size capable of running in the 4.7 range is beyond impressive.
5. Koa Misi — Utah (DE-LB / 6-3 / 250)
You won’t find better intangibles with any other prospect besides Misi. Utah’s best defensive player is making the switch from defensive end to outside linebacker and his performances at the combine, Senior Bowl and most recently at his pro day prove he’s right on track.
Misi gives 110 percent effort every play and his leadership traits to make him a future captain in the NFL.
4. Dan LeFevour — Central Michigan (QB / 6-3 / 230)
After a remarkable career in Mount Pleasant, LeFevour finds himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2010 NFL Draft. But most mock drafts don't have him going in the first two rounds.
The Downers Grove, Ill., native is the only player in NCAA history to pass for 12,000 yards and rush for 2,500 more in his career. He was voted the Vern Smith Leadership award (conference player of the year). A host of other records and awards, including All-Academic, decorates his illustrious reign over the Mid-American conference.
He finished his career with a stat line that reads more like a video-game (Passing: 102 TDs to 36 INTs and Rushing: 2,948 YDs, 47 TDs) and possesses sought-after intangibles like toughness and intelligence, with a strong command of the huddle and locker-room.
Watching him play a handful of games the last few years, I question many of the scouting reports that cite average arm-strength and accuracy. He puts enough zip on his passes to make all the throws in the NFL and has very good, if not great, touch and precision.
3. Montario Hardesty — Tennessee (RB / 6-0 / 225)
Once Hardesty is earning NFL money, he might want to send a sizable cash gift to former Vols coach Lane Kiffin. It wasn’t until Kiffin took over for Phillip Fulmer that Hardesty was given a chance to shine.
Rushing for over 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns in a division such as the SEC is impressive enough. When you add in the two-time captain’s work ethic, demeanor and an eagerness to be coached-up it’s the perfect recipe for an every-down NFL back as early as his rookie year.
He has deceptive speed and is rarely brought down by one defender.
2. Dorin Dickerson — Pittsburgh (TE-WR / 6-2 / 230)
This is probably one of the more surprising players on this list but Dickerson’s display of speed (4.4) at the combine has moved him up to a probably third-round selection—but worthy of going in the second.
He is extremely versatile and has experience at tight end, wide receiver, H-back and even linebacker. Dickerson’s former college coach, Dave Wannstedt, thinks his best position in the pros is tight end, but I could see him excelling in the slot.
1. Jimmy Graham — Miami (Fla.) (TE / 6-6 / 260)
Graham, a former Hurricanes basketball player for Frank Haith, is one of the more intriguing prospects in the NFL draft and might be the biggest reach on this list according to many.
It’s safe to say his dream became a reality as he’s one of the fastest-rising tight-end prospects in the nation. With Graham’s speed, (4.53), size, athleticism, 39-inch vertical and passion to learn, many teams will target him simply on his measurable chart alone.
Descriptions of his game being “fluid” are impressive considering he hadn’t even played organized football since his freshman year—of high school.