These past two weeks, we have been hearing about 2011 draft prospects and how they have helped and or hurt their draft status. Todd McShay and Mel Kiper have put of their "big boards" and now, all we do is wait.
We've heard about who everyone wants to see, and who everyone expects to succeed. But who will really shine?
As the Senior Bowl is a mere hours away, we finally get to see the answer to our questions. I have compiled a list of those players who fans can't wait to see play and those who might be dark-horse candidates.
Before I get started however (and before the next slide), I have a bit of a disclaimer: some of the "star" players aren't my opinion, just those who have been talked about all week.
This is why I posted the disclaimer.
Jake Locker has been a discussion piece by himself the past two years. Will he leave early? Did he hurt himself by staying in school? Is he good enough to be an NFL quarterback? The list goes on. In fact, he's been the main piece of discussion throughout Senior Bowl practices. The problem is trying to figure out whom to believe.
Todd McShay, who seems to love Locker, has said that he has only helped his draft stock. Meanwhile, a draft analyst for Scouts.com has said Locker hurt his draft status. As you can see, they differ in opinion quite a bit.
They do seem to agree that Locker has a strong arm but seems to lack some fundamental footwork. That, however, is the only thing they agree on.
Like it or not, Locker has been a great college player and a phenomenal athlete. However, he seems like a work in progress to me. It feels like he wont go off the board until mid-first round. It would do him well to go to a team with an established QB and sit behind him for a while.
Von Miller has been the talk of the town here recently. He has burst onto the scene with his outstanding work at linebacker and has even taken snaps at defensive end.
He is a 6'3" 243 lb monster and will either be a strongside linebacker in the 4-3 or play a pass-rush LB in the 3-4 akin to Brian Orakpo or Clay Matthews.
All the sources agree that he has done nothing but help his draft stock this week, and from seeing him play the few times I have, I have been impressed as well.
He plays with great speed and is violent at the point of attack. I can't wait to see him on Sundays! Hopefully my Redskins will pick this guy up...well, a guy can hope, right?
Anyway, I see him coming off the board late Day 2.
This guy is a physical monster. He runs hard and has great vision in the hole. He may be the next big thing out of Oklahoma.
All sources I have read have lauded Murry for his effort this week. That being said, however...I've not seen very much about him. Todd McShay mentioned on Monday about how well he was doing and then Tuesday I saw a report on Scouts.com about him...that's it. Well, that's what personal opinion is about, right?
This year as really been a breakout year for him. He ran for 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns in an offense that has been known to pass the ball more than run it. He had four 100+ yard games (one going for 200+) this season and never fumbled the ball once-according to ESPN.com.
With Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech having a down year this year, I can see him being the second running back taken off the board, with the most likely scenario being a third-round pick. Maybe to a team like Miami or the Giants, who need RB upgrades.
Nate Solder is this year's projected No. 1 Offensive lineman pick. He is 6'8" and 314 lbs, and probably a distant cousin to the Hulk. He is probably the one player that has lived up to his lofty expectations at Senior Bowl practice.
He's quick, strong and has gone against the best pass rushers the Big 12 has had to offer in his four years. I would be very surprised if he slipped anywhere below the 10th overall pick. Teams like Seattle and Dallas really need some help up front.
While I'm not exactly a fan of the "U" (self-admitted Hokies fan here), they have somehow produced great NFL talent over the past 5 years without producing great results on the field. I have to say that I'm happy that Sam Shields didn't play the position he played for more than one year, but moving on.
Leonard Hankerson is next in line to become the next big thing out of Miami. He has done nothing but impress these past few days and has moved up from the 3-4 round range to early to mid-second round.
There are a host of teams that need talent upgrades at receiver. Washington needs a complement to speedster Anthony Armstrong and the aging Santana Moss and teams like St. Louis need...well, something. They need at least something.
Ok, so after admitting what I did last slide, this may seem a little biased. Hear me out, though.
When he came to Virginia Tech, the secondary coach told him he was going to be a backup the rest of his career. Well, guess not. After becoming the starting field corner in 2009, he has snagged 9 interceptions including one during a Thursday night game against Georgia Tech that sealed the game. He is the second fastest on the team, running an average of a 4.3 40 and is around 5'10".
While the Hokies defense struggled this year, Rashad "Roc" Carmichael has all the intangibles that NFL scouts are looking for. He was a huge factor in the Hokies' turnaround after an atrocious 0-2 start. His leadership, speed and skill all amount to a decent draft pick.
However, he missed a couple games this season with an ankle injury and re-injured his ankle on Wednesday after picking off two passes in practice. A few sources have said that it isn't serious, but put him on the probable list for Saturday. Look for a third- or fourth-round pick.
We all know, or at least pretend to know, about Notre Dame's Tight End Kyle Rudolph...but not many people outside of Knoxville know about this guy. However, over the past few weeks this guy's name has popped up quite a bit.
He's surprised a lot of people with his hands and his crazy ability to block. And while the Volunteer's success (or lack there of) might not reflect his talent, it's definitely there.
While he might not exactly be a "dark-horse," per se...he definitely would be a steal for any NFL team that decides to take him. Being the second TE in the class, I'd probably put him as a Day 2 pick.
Just remember that this is just opinion. I'm not a draft expert and I don't pretend to be one. However, I think that you'll see a great show out of most of these players and I expect these guys to contend for some playing time or even starting positions on NFL teams.