2011 NFL Draft: Top 25 Underclassmen Who Should Declare Early
As a featured columnist for the Washington Redskins, I have seen a lot of positions and players that are really needed in the NFL.
Doing research on this subject can be quite intense, especially with so much great talent playing college football today. I took a look at the CBSsports.com draft prospects for some guidance in how some of the out-of-market players are looking for next spring.
I hope you enjoy my slideshow and please feel free to comment!
25. Luther Ambrose, WR, Louisiana-Monroe
The NFL is quickly, forgive the pun, getting faster and faster.
Those teams that are looking for a viable return man may want to take a look at Ambrose.
Ambrose ran a 10.22 in the 100 meter dash—that was third overall in the NCAA.
A team looking for someone to run a Wildcat scheme would benefit from Ambrose because he can catch the ball, run the ball and return the ball.
So why is he not a first-round selection?
No disrespect meant here, but Louisiana-Monroe is not exactly known for producing the best NFL talent, and Ambrose has been known to lose his concentration when wide open.
24. Jeffery Demps, RB, Florida Gators
Demps is another speed specialist who is exceptional in the return game.
He is regarded as one of the fastest men in the NCAA. Demps set the junior record for the 100 meter dash with a legal mark of 10.01.
I am sure any NFL team would benefit from speed like Demps has.
23. Chris Galippo, LB, USC
I am not sure what happened with Galippo this year. He did not play in three games this season but his total number of tackle dropped by nearly 40.
Galippo showed all the signs of top-level talent in 2009 and was coming into his own as a producer for the USC defense. This season will not get him drafted very high and he may elect to stay at USC so he can position himself better this year, but I still think he is a draftable linebacker if he elects to join this year.
22. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Jones is having a great junior season, with over 1,000 yards receiving.
Jones also has great size at 6'4".
A team looking for a wideout that is a big target who can fight for the ball at the highest level may want to take a look at Jones.
21. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Griffin is the model of consistency.
Check his quarterback rating here. He has played three seasons with Baylor and his rating has only changed by two points!
Griffin's size is a little short for the ideal quarterback but a short quarterback does not necessarily mean that he cannot win. Ask Drew Brees.
20. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
Rudolph is a 6'6" junior top-five prospect tight end.
He has 90 catches and over 1,000 yards receiving in his career with Notre Dame.
For teams with an aging tight end (Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Atlanta), a big receiving tight end with talent may be high on their priority list.
19. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley is a 6'5", 285-pound defensive lineman that has been a terror on SEC quarterbacks this season.
He is coming off a season where he had 55 tackles and 11 sacks with an interception.
If a team is looking for a good pass rushing defensive lineman, then look no further.
18. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Green almost surpassed all his best stats this season and he missed the first four games.
He has never caught for an average of less than 15.0 yards per catch in a season.
Another big target that could become draft-worthy, Green stands 6'4". That gives a team like the Redskins or Carolina a reliable possession receiver for those tough completions.
17. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Floyd becomes the second member of the Fighting Irish to make this list.
Floyd had a breakout season in 2010; he would have passed 1,000 yards receiving had he not missed the Navy game.
Floyd is another big target receiver, 6'3", who can fight for the ball up high and is a definite target inside the opponent's 20.
16. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Gabbert is a big-armed quarterback that has a tendancy to overthrow some of his targets. He is very much a Donovan McNabb-style quarterback. Some have even compared him to Philip Rivers.
One good thing to note about Gabbert is that he has size and is still mobile. Games in which Gabbert has gotten his legs involved instead of just his arm are usually ones that work out better for Missouri in the end.
Gabbert had large shoes to fill when Chase Daniel left for his nonexistent NFL career, but I predict Gabbert will fare much better than his predecessor.
15. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
Moore is part of a UCLA secondary that was predicted to be one of the best in the conference before the season began.
Moore's 69 tackles are a huge jump from his past two years of service but his interception total fell off the map this year.
He appears to have all the intangibles a solid NFL safety needs, though.
Good hip rotation.
Ability to close on the ball.
He has been known to catch a few badly thrown balls as well, but this season that stat has not been very productive.
14. Nate Potter, OL, Boise State
One of the highest ranked lineman prospects of the 2011 draft, Potter will have to show he can muster the strength to handle NFL-caliber players during the combine.
The WAC is not the best conference for someone trying to break into the NFL with both feet running, but Potter has simply destroyed all competition thrown his way.
13. Jamie Harper, RB, Clemson
This is a big gamble putting Harper here, but he did show some very nice things this season taking over the hole left by C.J. Spiller.
He averages over four yards per carry and has six touchdowns.
I'm going to go out on a bigger limb and say Harper is like Brian Westbrook.
He can also catch the ball out of the backfield. He had over 300 yards receiving.
The bigger surprise and most impressive stat?
Not one fumble.
12. Jared Crick, DL, Nebraska
Ok, so Ndamukong Suh leaves for the NFL. What in the world are the Cornhuskers to do?
Just let Crick be Crick.
His production hardly slipped a beat between 2009 and 2010. There is only one sack difference in totals and a minus-10 in the tackles department between years.
Crick is the kind of guy you want playing defensive line. He is 6'6" and 285 lbs.
He has good overall instincts and can get after the quarterback.
11. Da'Quan Bowers, DL, Clemson
He plays in the ACC.
He got 16 sacks this season along with 61 tackles so far.
He has the size (6'4" 280 lbs) to play end or tackle.
He reminds me a lot of Trent Cole of the Philadelphia Eagles. About the same size and overall abilities, plus Trent Cole is having a pretty good year so far.
10. Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
Fresh off an ACC title game appearance against Florida State, Ryan Williams makes this list as we crack into the top 10.
A redshirt sophomore, Williams saw much of his production drop this season, partially due to missing four straight games but also because Virginia Tech was running a three-back system.
Virginia Tech is extremely deep at the running back position but Ryan Williams is regarded as the most complete back that mixes speed and power very well.
9. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Is it Luck or just skill?
Which is the one that helps propel a man who completes 56.3 percent of his passes one season, to 70.2 the next?
As Stanford's leader, Luck led them to a 11-1 record and No. 4 in BCS rankings.
His quarterback rating is outstanding.
His touchdown to interception ratio is 4:1.
Oh, I forgot to mention that he is very light on his feet and can take off for a big run, including a couple of 50-plus-yarders throughout the season.
8. Marcel Dareus, DL, Alabama
At 6'4", 306 lbs., Dareus is a beast.
He is the anchor of the Crimson Tide defensive line and is being double-teamed nearly every down. Since he is double-teamed so much, his stats do not show how much he does well.
He can wrap up a running back with ease.
He creates penetration to collapse a pocket and can also plug a hole by himself.
All of these things will lead to a very fine NFL career.
7. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
So the Broncos finally lost one huh?
The always controversial blue turf super team's field general is Kellen Moore.
I recall watching the Virginia Tech game and one of the announcers was praising Moore for his poise and keeping cool under pressure. The announcer said that if there was one quarterback he could pick to lead a fourth-quarter comeback it would be Kellen Moore.
Strong words, but Moore came through against the Hokies and many other teams throughout the 2010 season.
He completed an outstanding 71 percent of his passes with a quarterback rating of 185.04.
Sick numbers, just sick.
Sadly, even with all the controversy, like the BCS many will look at the strength of the teams Boise State played and Moore will drop in value slightly, but look out NFL. He's coming.
6. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Pryor really blossomed into a good quarterback for Ohio State this season.
He led them to a No. 6 ranking in the BCS final standings right behind Wisconsin, which is the only team Ohio State lost to this year.
The Buckeye should be proud of the year he had because he showed he can be an accurate, mobile quarterback, which a few people had begun to question.
5. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Possibly the second coming of LaRon Landry?
Some have compared him to Charles Woodson.
Either way, Peterson is in really good company.
He has excellent ball hawking skills, good hip rotation and can make a very quick break on the ball. His overall ability is, in a word, fantastic.
Although he is not officially ranked among the cornerbacks on CBSsports.com, comparing his talent to the rich field of others, I would rank him among the top 50 players available for the draft.
4. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
The reigning Heisman trophy winner is considered the number one running back for 2012 by CBSsports.com, if he decides not to declare after this season.
Ingram became the third sophomore in a row to win the Heisman for his great performance during the 2009 Alabama championship season.
Despite missing the first two games of the season and seeing his overall rushing yards nearly cut in half, Ingram still managed to find the end zone 11 times this year.
His ball security is what sets him apart in my mind. He has 560 carries in his college career. Not a single fumble, according to ESPN.com statistics.
3. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
A pure linebacker talent out of UCLA, Ayers is bound for NFL success.
Good size (6'4", 255 lbs.) makes him ideal to play either linebacker or defensive end in the NFL.
His consistent play is amazing. It does not seem to matter how an offense plays against him, he comes up with the same results day in and day out.
Ayers thrives in a run-stopping position. He can rush the quarterback but he is more suited for stopping the run and mixing it up in the trenches.
2. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
If I am running an NFL team that has a pocket-passing style of offense, Ryan Mallet is my pick.
Mallet is not the most mobile quarterback in the country but he can throw the football.
A 66.5 completion percentage is a true testament to how well Mallett can throw the ball. He increased that percentage almost 11 points from the year before.
His 40-yard dash time was 5.12. He will need to work on his speed to compete in the NFL with most defensive lineman running the 40 in the upper fours. Aside from that Mallett is the complete package.
He has great vision, good throwing motion and is very good at reading a zone defense.
1. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
If you have never heard this name before then you have not been watching college football at all this season.
Newton is every bit as good as Vince Young and then some.
One thing Newton can do well is throw the deep ball accurately—watch this!
It is pretty apparent that Newton works best in big-game situations because he had his personal best game ever against South Carolina in the SEC title game.
There has been some controversy that has surrounded him all season, but he has been declared eligible to play by the NCAA. His draft stock could not possibly be higher and he is ranked the No. 1 overall quarterback prospect for 2012 according to CBSsports.com.