2011 NFL Draft: Power Ranking The Top 25 Skill Players
The 2011 NFL Draft still is months away.
But it doesn't stop the Todd McShays and Mel Kipers of the world from ranking, debating and writing out the big boards about who goes where.
A lot has changed since the beginning of the season, especially in regards to the skill positions. Some of the more hyped players at the beginning of the season have dropped somewhat, leading to a change at the top of most draft boards.
So with that in mind, here are the top-25 skill position players (should they declare themselves eligible) for NFL Draft 2011.
25. Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
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Williams broke onto the scene in 2009 and was fifth in the nation in rushing. His 2010 was decimated by injuries as he struggled to get on track, however, he did show flashes of what made him a hot prospect last year when he ran for 142 yards against Miami.
He's a big, hard runner with pretty good speed and an ability to turn the corner. There's nothing suggesting he'll declare, and he probably won't. But his specs are alluring.
24. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
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There was a recent report that Rodgers would declare for the 2011 Draft recently, but the Oregon State running back said he hadn't made a decision yet. If he does decide to go, many scouts will be scared away by his size and diminutive stature, but then be drawn right back in by his speed, shiftiness and versatility as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield.
"Quizz" is dynamic in open space, and might be a Reggie Bush-type at the next level.
23. Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
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Lewis is projected by WalterFootball.com to be a top-20 pick should he decide to declare. He's a redshirt junior with one year of eligibility left, but with his size and ability to find the ball both on the ground (300-plus career tackles) and in the air (eight career picks), he would be a solid linebacker at the next level.
22. Bruce Carter, LB, North Carolina
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Carter is a physical specimen at the outside linebacker position, as he has great sideline-to-sideline speed and can contribute in both zone and man coverage.
There are questions about his character due to his involvement in the fateful party in Miami that involved an agent, but he still played this season and should be a top pick.
21. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech
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Taylor was somewhat off the draft radar for most of his career. He was dangerous as a runner out of the backfield, but had struggled with inconsistency in the passing game.
However, in his senior year, he broke out as a passer by completing 60 percent of his passes, throwing for 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He might not be a quarterback at the next level, but he could contribute in a way similar to NY Jets' Brad Smith.
20. DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
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Like Rodgers, size is an issue. The bigger problem with Murray has been finding consistency in college and staying on the field, as he's been dogged by injuries.
Murray is a dangerous player when he is on the field, because of his speed in open space and his ability to hit the second level. He'll be drafted, and like Rodgers, expect him to fill a Reggie Bush situational back/returner role at the next level.
19. Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
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Out of all the quarterbacks that put up ridiculous numbers at Florida State, none of them really panned out in the NFL. Ponder is a big quarterback who's strong, accurate and can move out of the pocket when needed to. He's really been helped by being around former coordinator and current head coach Jimbo Fisher.
18. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
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Rudolph has slipped this year after being near the top of many draft boards last year, but he's still the best tight end prospect in the draft. He has a big frame, good speed and pretty good hands for a tight end, plus he's strong as a pass and run blocker. His skill set is similar to that of Vernon Davis, although he is not as fast or as explosive.
17. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
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Floyd doesn't have fantastic speed, but he has great hands and fantastic leaping ability. His ability to go up and catch balls thrown to him makes him extremely dangerous, especially in the red zone.
His stock has dropped a little, not because of his play, but because of the depth of the receivers in the top end of the draft. He could be a steal on the second day of the draft.
16. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
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A big, tall receiver who does what big, tall receivers are supposed to do. He uses his frame to shield defenders and then uses his hands to make catches. He has great leaping ability and has a knack for finding the soft spot of zone defenses. As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of great receivers in the draft who have similar specs, but he could be a steal.
15. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
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Broyles is a little low on draft boards because of his size, and he doesn't have the greatest hands. But Broyles is very good at getting open, and then once he has the ball, being able to make moves to get upfield and get important yards after the catch.
He's also very dangerous in the open field as a kick and punt returner. He doesn't have the greatest speed, which probably wouldn't make him a DeSean Jackson, but he could be a very dangerous slot receiver.
14. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn
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His body type is almost a combination of Daunte Culpepper and Ben Roethlisberger, and his game is very similar to them. He is very mobile out of the pocket and a dangerous in the open field when he decides to run. Newton is a much better passer than most might think, especially throwing downfield and putting the ball where it needs to be, although he'll be facing much tougher secondaries in the NFL.
13. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
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Moore's one of two Bruin defenders on the list. He's a first-team All Pac-10 safety this year, and was an All-American last year, who's versatile enough to play both safety and cornerback. He possesses decent size for a NFL safety, and has the leadership qualities to stabilize a defense.
Moore is a good tackler and also a ballhawk (he had 10 interceptions in 2009). He's still undecided on whether or not he will declare for the draft, but if he does, he'll be a first-round pick.
12. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
If that interception isn't a good reason for why all the draft boards are projecting Ayers high, then I don't know what is.
He's a phenomenal athlete and can move extremely well all over the field. As a linebacker, he's had four sacks in each of the last two seasons to go with six interceptions as well—including the amazing play against Oregon. He's a good build for a linebacker and extremely fast. He's undecided right now, but like Moore, he'll go early if he declares.
11. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
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NFL Scouts are drooling over Jones. He's a big body with fantastic breakaway speed, which is hard for any cornerback in college to cover, especially when he uses his body to shield the ball from a defensive back.
Jones has good hands, although he tends to catch the ball with his body sometimes. He's a deep threat who can beat DBs on go and post routes, and he has also returned punts in Tuscaloosa. He hasn't declared yet, but he'll be a first round pick if he does.
10. Von Miller, LB/DE, Texas A&M
Miller has explosive speed to fill the hole for a linebacker and plays downhill. Like in this clip, Miller will sometimes line up as a rush-end at the line of scrimmage as the "Joker" in A&M's scheme and put enormous pressure on the quarterback.
The 2010 Butkus Award winner has 9.5 sacks this season for the surprising Cotton Bowl-bound Aggies, and has the versatility to be a pass rusher on the line in a normal 4-3 scheme, or a rushing linebacker off the end in a 3-4 makes him very attractive.
9. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Another gifted receiver from Oklahoma State, Blackmon's a big kid who has good vertical leap and very good hands. He catches everything out in front of him, just how it's taught.
Blackmon is not afraid to use his frame and be physical running routes, as he proved here against one of the best draft prospects in the country in Nebraska's Prince Amukamara. Like Dez Bryant, he has character issues that could raise a red flag, but the talent and tools are there.
8. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
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This time last year Locker was a top-10 pick, possibly the No. 1 pick in the draft and the best quarterback available.
Now two quarterbacks have passed him and he's dropping on draft boards.
He's still a high-end prospect as a quarterback who delivers the ball quickly and is a heck of an athlete. However, Locker hasn't exploded this year like experts said he would. He'll still be a top pick, but he won't be the No. 1 pick like he might've been last year.
7. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
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Like Williams, the Heisman Trophy winner was slowed by injuries, and the emergence of Trent Richardson has limited Ingram. But, Ingram is still the best running back in the draft.
He's a big, physical back with deceptive speed and elusiveness. He's hard to tackle and can help control the pace of the game by wearing down a defense. Without a doubt, he'll be the first running back taken in this year's draft.
6. Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida
There haven't been distinct comparisons made to Asante Samuel, but Jenkins ability to jump a route and make an interception have to remind you of Samuel a little. Although, to be fair, Jenkins plays more coverage than Samuel.
Jenkins has fantastic speed and is good enough to stay with the receiver and read a quarterback. Florida has produced NFL cornerbacks that have gone on to the pros and Jenkins looks like another one.
5. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
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Back in July, Sports Illustrated did a roundup about the top draft prospects in 2011 and Amukamara was right at the top of the list.
He has pretty nice size and speed for a cornerback, which has caused quarterbacks to avoid the shutdown corner. He's usually matched up against some of the best receivers in the conference (Blackmon, Broyles), and has done pretty well. He's regarded by many as a top pick.
4. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
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It wasn't long ago that Mallett was a highly-touted recruit who struggled, and there were rumblings about how good he was.
But that was in 2007 when he was a freshman at Michigan.
Since transferring to Arkansas, Mallett's shown his potential and has risen to at least a first round pick in the draft. We'll have to see whether he or Locker are taken first, but Mallett is the much better (and much more dangerous) passer at this stage.
3. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
A.J. Green is the best receiver and might be the best player in the draft. I know it's not exactly going out on a limb, but it's hard to argue otherwise with plays like the one above.
Green is big, lanky, can leap right out of a building and has amazing hands. He's not afraid to go over the middle and his athleticism makes him a desirable target in the red zone, or on corner routes to the back of the end zone. Character issues aside, whoever drafts Green is getting a star.
2. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
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Peterson is blessed with blazing speed, which is a must for a good NFL cornerback and makes him versatile as a return man as well, should his team decide to use him as such.
He's also improving and working as a better cover man, but working against Julio Jones and A.J. Green all the time will do that to a player. He's developing better instincts in coverage and is not afraid to make plays on a ball. He's definitely a top-five pick.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
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As hot a prospect as Locker was last year, that's how much scouts and analysts love Luck now. He's been deemed NFL-ready right now.
He delivers balls where they need to be, has a great pocket presence, doesn't make bad decisions and is accurate. He knows when to bail and he knows when to take off. When Luck does run, he has the speed and mobility to make a big play with his legs, a la John Elway early in his career.
Of course that's just a long way of saying this: No. 1 overall pick.