Amidst the hazy state of the league, the NFL Draft will go on.
If recent years and television ratings are any judge, this year's annual selection meeting will go down as the most widely anticipated ever. Despite the current lockout, or perhaps partly because of the current labor situations, fans are flocking to the draft in record numbers.
The following slideshow takes an in-depth look at the 100 players that grade out highest in my evaluation. These rankings do not indicate where the athletes will be selected on draft weekend, but rather where I personally value them. It is still just March and there will undoubtedly be some movement from top-to-bottom by late April.
Be sure to take this early look at the rankings that will accompany me to Radio City Music Hall this year.
A.J. Green - #2
1. Patrick Peterson – Cornerback – LSU*
Only twice in the past twenty years could one make the argument for a Defensive Back as the class’ top prospect. Those players: Charles Woodson and Sean Taylor, both possessed rare physical ability and ball skills. In the 2011 draft, Peterson may have the special talent worthy of a Top 3 selection. His combination of size (6’0" ¼ 219 lbs.) and athleticism is unheard of at his position.
He displays the feet, hips and speed (4.34) to run with anyone down the field at the next level. Additionally, he is active in supporting the run and can really hit. Though he is an unbelievable Cornerback prospect, there is no reason to believe he could not excel wherever a coach puts him. Projection: Top 5 Pick
2. A.J. Green – Wide Receiver – Georgia*
Although his college production never soared through the roof, Green was the best all-around player in the nation at his position for the past two seasons. Very few NFL receivers are able to move as smoothly and fluidly at his size (6’3" ½ 211 lbs.) His catching radius is unbelievable and he will come down with the ball if it is thrown in his zip code.
He has improved his route-running greatly over his collegiate career, turning weakness into strength. As a deep threat, there are not many like him. Speed, leaping ability and the ability to beat the jam make him one of the best vertical threats in years. The bust factor with him is minimal and he will be a tremendous pro. Projected: Top 10 Pick
Nick Fairley - (#3)
3. Nick Fairley – Defensive Tackle – Auburn
Prior to this season, there may have been some Tigers fans that were unfamiliar with Fairley. He quickly became a household name this year by taking over big games and putting Quarterbacks on their backs. A player so mean and nasty in the trenches he could be considered a throwback, but his quickness inside is something that is very much 21st-century.
Few interior linemen get after the passer like he does and even fewer leave their stamp on the game to his extent. He plays with explosiveness, power and at times, too much emotion for his own good. His intelligence and on-field discipline may be a concern for some teams, indicating a small draft day slip is possible. The best schematic fit to suit his talents would be at 3-Tech in a 4-3, but he may draw looks at 5-Tech from teams using a hybrid 3-4. Projection: Top 10 Pick
4. Marcell Dareus – Defensive Tackle – Alabama
After really bursting onto the scene in the 2009-10 BCS Championship Game, Dareus carried over his success to this season. The year started sluggish for him, as he was suspended two games for receiving benefits from an agent. Upon returning to the field, he flashed the dominance we had seen late in the year before. With a stout build, light feet and upper-body power, he became one of the most disruptive defenders in the conference.
At the NFL Combine he shocked some with a startling display of athleticism for a player carrying almost 320 pounds (6’3" 319 lbs.) His game is that of a one-gap penetrator, though he has proven his versatility through college. There will be interest from 3-4 teams running a hybrid scheme, but he likely fits best in a 4-3 scheme at 3-Tech. Projection: Top 5 Pick
Julio Jones (#5)
5. Julio Jones – Wide Receiver – Alabama
Before the Combine, it seemed as if many had their doubts about Jones. It is safe to say he put some of those doubts to rest after measuring in at 6’2" ¾ 220 lbs., posting an incredible broad jump (11’2”), and blazing a sub-4.4 40. Though his physical tools have been evident since high school, many were not sold until they saw him with their own eyes in Indianapolis.
He is the total package with size, speed, superb body control and dynamic ability after the catch. There are viable concerns over the consistency of his hands and durability, but he is extremely tough. As one of the few receivers in the class that blocks downfield, his game seems pro-ready. The sky is the limit and he should develop into an offense’s primary target quickly. Projection: Top 15 Pick
6. Robert Quinn – Defensive End/Outside Linebacker – North Carolina
Had he played in 2010, there is a chance that Quinn could top this list. Few in this class stack up to him as a pass-rusher, where he is at his best. He fires out of his stance, displaying surprising burst for a player his size (6’4" 265 lbs.) He has excellent natural pass-rushing ability, as he shows the ability to dip his shoulder, bend at the waist and control leverage on the edge.
In the NFL, he will need to work on his strength, hands and add to his overall mass. His best schematic fit may come in a 4-3 as a Right End, but he has the athleticism and ability in space to receive very high consideration from 3-4 teams at Outside Linebacker. Projection: Top 15 Pick
Justin Houston - (#7)
7. Justin Houston – Defensive End/Outside Linebacker – Georgia
It may come as a shock for some to see Houston graded this highly on my board. What is more surprising is the lack of attention and publicity he has received after proving himself to be the SEC’s most versatile pass-rusher in 2010. He lived in the backfield this season for the Bulldogs; flashing the ability to create havoc as a down lineman or standing up.
He is an extremely explosive athlete and plays with a lot of power. Like Quinn, he is a natural pass-rusher that uses a quick first step to gain position before dipping his shoulder and rounding the edge. Playing in space is not a real strength of his, but he shows good awareness on the field. Both 4-3 and 3-4 teams will be in the hunt, but he looks to fit best at Right End in a Tampa-2 or Cover-2 front. Projection: Top 20 Pick
8. Prince Amukamara – Cornerback – Nebraska
In the shadow of Patrick Peterson lies a corner that many believe to be the better player right now. That, of course, would be Amukamara. With terrific size (6’0" 206 lbs.), athletic ability and physicality, he is viewed as another Top 10 prospect in the upcoming draft class. His ability to run, tackle and cover at the position will be valued highly.
There were mixed reviews about the quality of his NFL Combine performance, though for the most part, he looked very good in drills. He may not have had top production this past year, but that came as a result of teams throwing away from his side of the field. It seems likely that Cornerback is the position he will play at the next level. Projection: Top 15 Pick
Da'Quan Bowers (#10)
9. Von Miller – Outside Linebacker – Texas A&M
The class’ most dynamic and explosive pass-rusher will likely come off the board sooner rather than later in April. Miller is an eye-popping athlete with big-league size (6’2" ¾ 246 lbs.) and speed (4.53 40-dash) His instincts are good but he will need to improve his ability to sift through traffic and make plays in the run game.
In college, he played as a rush-backer primarily and that is the role that will allow him to be most successful in the NFL. He will surely draw the attention of 3-4 teams very high in the draft, but some 4-3 teams could also be in the mix with the hopes of playing him on the weak side. Projection: Top 10 Pick
10. Da’Quan Bowers – Defensive End – Clemson
Once considered a lock for the first five selections, Bowers’ inability to workout in front of NFL personnel due to injury is worrisome at this point. On the field, he is a complete end who can rush the passer and impact the running game. He possesses excellent physical ability, with size (6’3" ½ 280 lbs.) and shocking closing speed.
Though he lacks great variety in his pass-rush, he shows great awareness, the ability to shed blocks and speed to turn the corner. The best fit for his style of play is at Left End in a 4-3, but he may draw consideration at 5-Tech with the rise of hybrid 3-4 schemes. Durability concerns loom and he may be looking at a slight fall on draft day. Projection: Top 15 Pick
Cameron Newton - (#11)
11. Cameron Newton – Quarterback – Auburn
The most widely discussed, or rather, debated prospect in the 2011 class. There is little doubt that Newton was the most valuable player in college football last season and Offensive Coordinators could be drooling over his potential. He is a rare physical specimen for this position with excellent size (6’5" 244 lbs.) and athletic ability.
It is unlikely that he could put a large stamp on the game as a runner, but his ability to escape the pocket is valued. There are no questions about the strength of his arm, but his mechanics require attention and his accuracy will need work. Maturity and intelligence will be determining factors in where he goes on draft day, as he will need to sell one team on his character. Projection: Top 10 Pick
12. Cameron Jordan – Defensive End – California
Not many players could pull off quietly being a top prospect, but Jordan has managed to do just that thus far. There may not have been a more disruptive or dominant force at the Senior Bowl, where he appeared to be a man among boys. He was able to carry his momentum over and put together an extremely impressive Combine workout.
His speed (4.71) and explosiveness can be defined fairly as rare for his size (6’4" ½ 287 lbs.) Defensive scheme will not limit his options at the next level, as he fits well at Right End in most 4-3 systems and 5-Tech in a three-man front. Projection: Top 15 Pick
Mark Ingram - (#13)
13. Mark Ingram – Running Back – Alabama
The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner was hobbled with injuries this season, but still showed the talent that allowed him to collect serious hardware the year prior. Ingram possesses a rare combination of vision, burst and balance. This is the kind of skill-set that, if he stays healthy, could allow him to enter the upper-echelon of NFL backs.
He lacks breakaway speed, but accelerates through the hole, gets yards after contact and is tough to bring down due to a low center of gravity. His receiving ability out of the backfield is above average and he has gotten reps for the Tide as a pass-blocker. There is not a more complete or pro-ready Running Back in the draft; but he will likely fall down the board due to relatively low demand and the depth of the class. Projection: Top 32 Pick
14. J.J. Watt – Defensive End – Wisconsin
An interesting 5-Tech or Right End prospect that burst on to the NFL Draft scene with a very productive year and an eye-popping Combine performance. Few college ends inhabited the backfield last year as much as Watt, who easily forced his way through the line of scrimmage with speed, explosiveness and strength. It is obvious that he has rare athletic ability to accompany tremendous size (6’5" ½ 290 lbs.)
His stock has been on the rise since dominating big games for the Badgers such as the Rose Bowl and upset of Ohio State. One year of production could scare some teams high in the draft, but he will not be falling far. The versatility he potentially brings to the table is something that cannot be ignored; both 3-4 and 4-3 teams alike will value him highly. Projection: Top 15 Pick
Gabe Carimi - (#15)
15. Gabe Carimi – Offensive Tackle – Wisconsin
The winner of the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best lineman, could be the first Tackle in his class to come in and make an impact. At any level of competition, Carimi will be an effective run-blocker. He plays with a nasty temperament, good upper-body power and possesses a strong leg drive.
There have been concerns about his agility and foot quickness throughout the pre-draft process, but he has helped diminish those with stellar performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. Some will prefer to move the road-grader to Right Tackle to reduce pass-blocking responsibilities, but he will get looks on the left if he falls on draft day. Projection: Top 25 Pick
16. Tyron Smith – Offensive Tackle – USC
No Offensive Tackle in this class looks the part quite as much as Smith does, with long arms, growth potential and excellent natural athleticism. Despite the credit he gets for his upside as a pass-blocker, he has no experience playing the left side at the collegiate level.
His physicality as a run-blocker is a cause for concern, though that part of his game could improve as he bulks up. In the NFL he will be picked to protect he blind side, where he says he would prefer to play. He could be over-drafted based on pure physical ability and upside, but he has the potential to be groomed into a Pro-Bowl player. Projection: Top 20 Pick
Ryan Mallett - (#17)
17. Ryan Kerrigan – Defensive End – Purdue
A relentless pass-rusher that was without doubt, the most game-altering defensive force in the Big Ten this past year. He may be a bit stiff in the hips and uncomfortable maneuvering in space, but no one will out-work Kerrigan on the field. Simply put, he is a pest—a menace. No Offensive Tackle wants to match up against him because of a sustained effort every play.
He flashes good closing speed in pursuit and dips his shoulder to gain leverage rushing from the edge. There may not be tremendous variety in his game, but because he is a good run-defender and pass-rusher, there is the capability to be a three-down player. Though there is some chatter of him moving to Linebacker in the 3-4, I imagine a 4-3 team will scoop him up to play end earlier than anyone would consider him standing up: Projection: Top 32 Pick
18. Ryan Mallett – Quarterback – Arkansas
Few prospects have drawn as much criticism in this class as Mallett. I am not sure he completely deserves his reputation, which has some people bringing up the name Ryan Leaf. His competitiveness is evident on the field, his football IQ is high and he displays command of the huddle. Though he is not particularly well spoken, he may be the most NFL-ready of the bunch.
He is a comfortable pocket passer with excellent size (6’6" ¾ 253 lbs), a rocket arm, good field vision and he is capable of making every throw. If you ask for mobility at the position, he is obviously not your guy. His decision-making has been a question, but as a whole there is more good than bad. There is a chance he could fall on draft day but will not drop too far. Projection: Late 1st-Mid 2nd
Cameron Heyward - (#19)
19. Cameron Heyward – Defensive End/Defensive Tackle – Ohio State
A player that flashed dominance in big games for the Buckeyes. Too often Heyward’s motor ran hot and cold this past year, but he continued to save his best for when his team needed the most. He has a very large frame at 6’4" ½ 294 lbs.; thick build with long arms. For his size, he has shown impressive athleticism and explosiveness at times.
In the NFL he projects as a run-stopping 5-Tech that could fit inside if drafted by a 4-3 team. So far since he has not been able to work out for scouts and NFL personnel, there has been chatter of him dropping out of the top round. I am not sure I buy this talk, however, as he is one of the class’ best fits as a two-gap end in a 3-4 scheme. Projection: Top 32 Pick
20. Anthony Castonzo – Offensive Tackle – Boston College
Another in a long line of Boston College offensive linemen making the transition to the NFL. Castonzo has the size (6’7" 311 lbs.), length and natural athleticism to continue to play Left Tackle at the next level. He is a solid pass-blocking prospect with decent feet, long arms and good technique.
Improvement is needed as a run-blocker, where he does not play physically enough to push defenders around. There will occasionally be a struggle when he is matched-up against raw speed. Since his position is in high demand he could be off the board sooner rather than later. Projection: Top 25 Pick
Kyle Rudolph - (#22)
21. Jimmy Smith – Cornerback – Colorado
Extremely talented man corner that is not as far behind Peterson and Amukamara as some believe. A difference between Smith and the others, however, would be his character and injury concerns. Teams seem to be questioning his attitude and background. Still, there is no denying his incredible physical ability.
He is a tall (6’2" ¼ 211 lbs.), long-limbed corner that can run with any receiver. That combination, in today’s NFL, is valued very highly. His feet need a bit of work and his technique will need to improve, but he has the talent to develop into a top corner in the league. Projected: Top 25 Pick
22. Kyle Rudolph – Tight End – Notre Dame
If he were in a draft class before last season’s, he would almost surely have been talked about as a rare physical specimen. The Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski and Bengals’ Jermaine Gresham showed that a Tight End with that kind of size and athletic ability can be successful early.
Rudolph has prototypical size (6’6" 259 lbs.), soft hands and the speed to stretch the field. Like few players his size, he is a threat after the catch. He has also proven to be an effective and willing blocker. His complete game and red-zone ability will get him on the field right away. Projection: Late 1st-Early 2nd
Adrian Clayborn - (#24)
23. Adrian Clayborn – Defensive End – Iowa
After an All-American caliber 2009 campaign, expectations could not have been higher for the Hawkeye end. Unfortunately, Clayborn battled double-teams all year and was unable to make much of an impact rushing the passer. His relentlessness and power were still very much visible, but he did not appear overly quick to make up for a lack of length.
There is some doubt as to whether he can be an impact pass-rusher at the next level, after a measly Sack total of four in 2010. Still, he is an effective run-stopper and can play three downs. He fits at Left or Right End in a 4-3 scheme and may be ale to move inside to 3-Tech on third down. Projection: Late 1st-Mid 2nd
24. Mike Pouncey – Offensive Guard/Center – Florida
Despite a conversion to Center that was rocky at times, Pouncey is still an excellent and versatile interior lineman prospect. He is not quite as powerful or athletic as his brother, Maurkice, but the two are similar players and not too far apart physically. Through his college career he has shown the ability to engage and generate movement on the front.
There have been few SEC lineman to make as large an impact as he has the past couple seasons. His woes at Center came from very correctable errors and teams needing help at the position will surely look him at closely. Expect him to come off the board late in the First Round. Projection: Late 1st-Early 2nd
25. Blaine Gabbert – Quarterback – Missouri
There is probably no conceivable way that he falls out of the draft’s first fifteen picks, but I would not take Gabbert there. In short, he is a top prospect with all the tools both physically and mentally. He possesses NFL size (6’4" ½ 234 lbs.), a big-league arm and is very capable of getting out of the pocket.
Unfortunately, his judgment in leaving the pocket has been a serious concern thus far in his career. His accuracy is average, but was far from exceptional despite a Quarterback-friendly spread offense at Missouri. Intangibly he is a guy that seems to get it; he demonstrates a good football IQ and has said the right things. It is possible he goes as high as the Top 5 overall. Projection: Top 10 Pick
26. Martez Wilson – Outside Linebacker – Illinois
Before the 2010 season, many had forgotten about this physical specimen and once-heralded recruit. Wilson took his game to a new level this season as he began to translate all that speed and power to the field. There are many at his position that would kill to have his unique blend of size (6’3" ¾ 250 lbs.) and speed (4.49).
His instincts are questionable and his ability to play on an island is still a concern. The best schematic fit for him may be outside as a rush-backer in a 3-4 or perhaps a strong-side backer in a 4-3. After his Combine performance, it is hard to envision him falling out of the First Round. Projection: Top 25 Pick
Brooks Reed - (#28)
27. Nate Solder – Offensive Tackle – Colorado
Few players at his position possess the athleticism that Solder does. Though he does not show it consistently on the field, he has incredibly light feet for his size (6’8" ¼ 319 lbs.) and can move extremely well. His long arms and agility could make him a premier pass-blocker.
He will surely need to add bulk to his frame in the NFL, as he looks more like a Tight End. His technique will need work and he is going to have to learn to use his strength better on the field. Still, his physical tools are undeniable and a team will take a shot at this potential Left Tackle early. Projection: Top 32 Pick
28. Brooks Reed – Outside Linebacker – Arizona
One of the biggest risers of the pre-draft process. He was a college Defensive End that will almost certainly be drafted to play Outside Linebacker at the next level. Reed’s stock got a lift at the Senior Bowl where he displayed his athleticism, quickness and relentless motor.
That momentum only built after a tremendous workout at the NFL Combine, where he measured in at 6’2" ½ 260 lbs. and looked good in drills. He shows the ability in space and the explosiveness to be an effective pass-rusher outside. He may go earlier than expected on draft day and will likely be looked at an early starter. Projection: Late 1st-Early 2nd
Mason Foster - (#30)
29. Ryan Williams – Running Back – Virginia Tech
An incredibly productive back in 2009 that took a step back this season due to a hamstring injury. Durability will be the primary concern teams will have about Williams. He is a terrific slashing Running Back with great vision and burst, a deadly combination at the next level.
His running style is physical and he finishes his runs. There were only a few elite backs more productive than he was during his Freshman season. Because he has only one year of college tape, he may be seen as a bit of a risk. A team will get lucky to land him if gets out of the Top 50. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
30. Mason Foster – Outside Linebacker – Washington
Underrated prospect that appears more likely to wind up falling to the Third Round than being selected in the first. Foster is a backer with terrific instincts and enough physical ability to carry over his college success to the NFL. He is a great tackler with sufficient speed to cover the field.
In 2010, he was one of the nation’s most productive tacklers and was consistently a force on the Huskies’ defense. He projects outside in a 4-3 scheme at weak-side linebacker or could potentially fit inside in a 3-4. Will be a steal for a team in the Second Round. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
Phil Taylor - (#31)
31. Phil Taylor – Nose Tackle – Baylor
Enormous interior lineman with incredibly light feet. Taylor is massive (6’3 ¼ 334), very athletic, and without doubt the class’ best Nose Tackle prospect. His stock began rising at the Senior Bowl, where he proved himself to be extremely disruptive.
The NFL Combine also added to his cause, as he was able to show impressive athleticism and power. His character will be a concern for some teams, but the red flags that once existed seem to be gone for the most part. It would not be a surprise to see him go as high as the Top 20 in the upcoming draft. Projection: Top 32 Pick
32. Derek Sherrod – Offensive Tackle – Mississippi State
Experienced starter at Left Tackle in the SEC with an NFL frame and enough athleticism. Sherrod was a good college pass-blocker possessing long arms (35 ½”), decent feet and was a solid technician for the Tackle position.
His on-field demeanor is a little lax; he lacks a mean streak and he does not get as much push in the run game as you would expect. There could be some doubts about him playing on the left side, which could lead to a slide on draft day. Projection: Late 1st-2nd Round
Jake Locker - (34th)
33. Mikel LeShoure – Running Back – Illinois
A big back with surprisingly quick feet and wiggle in the hole. LeShoure has the look of a future feature Running Back in the NFL despite a lack of home-run speed. He is not likely to take long runs to the house, but he does a nice job picking up extra yards after contact and shows nice burst. To develop into a star player at the next level, he will have to be more willing to put his shoulder down and play physically. Projection: Late 1st-Mid 2nd
34. Jake Locker – Quarterback – Washington
One of the more publicized stories of the 2010 pre-draft process was Locker’s decision to stay in school for his Senior season. Though he definitely did not get worse as a player, it is fair to say he was unable to live up to lofty expectations set for him. As a prospect he has good size, terrific intangibles and impressive throwing mechanics. His consistency and accuracy has been frustrating for fans and scouts alike. Projection: Late 1st-Early 2nd
35. Corey Liuget – Defensive Tackle – Illinois
Explosive interior lineman with a squatty build and impressive quickness. Though he lacks great size, Liuget was a very disruptive player this past season for the Illini. On the field, he displays good feet and power, but he’ll need to improve his technique and consistency. He fits the prototypical penetrating 3-Tech role and will likely only draw attention from 4-3 teams. Projection: Late 1st-Mid 2nd
Greg Little - (#36)
36. Greg Little – Wide Receiver – North Carolina
After having not played in 2010, Little arrived at the NFL Combine with a chip on his shoulder. In Indianapolis he showed off a terrific combination of size, speed and the large catching radius that was evidenced by his play in 2009. He has the talent to be a starting receiver and a better pro than college player. Though he has some character concerns, he comes across as down-to-Earth and well-spoken in interviews. Projection: Mid 2nd-3rd Round
37. Brandon Harris – Cornerback – Miami
Undersized but extremely fluid cover corner should offer great value to the team that drafts him, likely in the early portions of the Second Round. Harris possesses some of the best feet in this class and is clean is his backpedal. He also has the hips to quickly turn and run with receivers downfield. Size will be a concern for matchups against bigger players, but he will be able to run with just about anyone. Projection: Late 1st-Mid 2nd
38. Akeem Ayers – Outside Linebacker – UCLA
Athletic, rangy backer that may lack the instincts to take on a role requiring a great deal of responsibility. Ayers has NFL size and shows the ability to move cleanly and fluidly in space, but he could make improvements as a tackler. An interesting fit would be at 3-4 Outside Linebacker where he’d be able to use his explosiveness to rush the passer most of the time. Projection: Late 1st-Early 2nd
Jabaal Sheard - (#39)
39. Jabaal Sheard – Defensive End/Outside Linebacker – Pittsburgh
Flying under the radar right now, Sheard may be one of the best players being overlooked by most of the general public. With impressive athleticism and an array of pass-rushing moves, it is possible that he becomes an impact player early on in his career. There are some that think that he could move to Linebacker if he needed to, though I think he fits best in a 4-3 Right End spot. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
40. Leonard Hankerson – Wide Receiver – Miami
Big (6’1" ½ 209 lb.) receiver enjoyed a very productive Senior campaign. Hankerson was among the standouts of the Senior Bowl week, where he showed the ability to get open and find the soft spots in coverage. He may have shocked some with his timed speed at the Combine (4.43) but he does not necessarily play up to that. He will need to improve catching the ball consistently, but generally has the ability to make a play on almost any ball. Projection: Late 1st-2nd Round
41. Shane Vereen – Running Back – California
Underrated runner who possesses the quickness and burst to find success early in the NFL. Vereen has ideal size for the position (5’10" ¼ 210 lbs.) and is one of this class’ better athletes. He will be an asset for a team on third down as a receiver out of the backfield and pass-blocker. He must prove he can run with more grit and physicality if he wants to be a feature back at the next level. Projection: Early 2nd-Mid 3rd
Randall Cobb - (#43)
42. Titus Young – Wide Receiver – Boise State
Productive and dynamic WAC receiver who routinely made big plays for the Broncos over his collegiate career. Young showed at the Senior Bowl that he could stand out, regardless of his level of competition. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in quickness and speed. He is a very smooth athlete with fairly reliable hands and good route-running ability. There is a chance he could fall due to a small frame and attitude concerns. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
43. Randall Cobb – Wide Receiver – Kentucky
Extremely versatile utility player has bounced around during his time at Kentucky, but he found a home as an extremely productive receiver this season. Cobb may lack size, but he possesses the quickness and speed to turn short passes into long gains. He will attract teams in need of a slot receiver or kick returner, but he may have the potential to develop into a solid flanker and secondary option. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
44. Stephen Paea – Defensive Tackle – Oregon State
A top prospect entering the season that has been nicked up and battled double-teams throughout his 2010 campaign. Paea has elite upper body strength but is more of a one-gap penetrator than he is a nose. He has a stout build and plays low. Despite injuries, he is one of this class’ best 3-Tech prospects and he will surely draw interest from 4-3 teams needing help inside. Projection: Second Round
Aldon Smith - (#46)
45. Danny Watkins – Offensive Guard – Baylor
Though he will be 27 years old by the time he steps on an NFL field, Watkins is a budding football player who has only begun to reach his potential. With good size, decent athleticism and a nasty temperament on the field, he should be able to quickly come in and claim a starting spot. He played Tackle in college but looks to fit best inside at Guard in the pros. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
46. Aldon Smith – Defensive End – Missouri
Long, rangy end prospect with good hands and a devastating inside move. Smith may never return to the explosive player he was before a fractured fibula in 2010; however, he has shown the ability to be an effective player and pass-rusher. He may lack the speed and burst to threaten the edge, but he excels rotating inside. Many have overblown his athleticism and it’s unlikely that he will draw the attention on draft day like once-thought. Projection: Late 1st-2nd Round
47. Drake Nevis – Defensive Tackle – LSU
Undersized but athletically gifted true 3-Tech prospect that is a typical one-gap penetrator. Few draw attention to how productive Nevis was in 2010 for the Tigers. He shows exceptional quickness and explosiveness but may lack the height and bulk necessary to attract any interest from 3-4 teams. Projection: Mid 2nd-Mid 3rd
Clint Boling - (#49)
48. Christian Ballard – Defensive End/Defensive Tackle – Iowa
Extremely versatile Big Ten Lineman who seemed to play his best against top competition. Ballard possesses a rare combination of size, strength and athleticism. He is likely to attract interest from 4-3 teams at 3-Tech and from teams operating traditional or hybrid 3-4 schemes. His versatility and physical tools will not allow him to get far on draft day. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
49. Clint Boling – Offensive Guard/Offensive Tackle – Georgia
Very experienced and versatile blocker from the SEC, who projects at either Guard or Right Tackle at the next level. He has good size (6’4" ½ 310 lbs.), decent hands, power and looks to have the ability to start in the NFL for a long time. He appears to be a good enough athlete with the technique and discipline needed to step into the lineup on day one. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
50. Quan Sturdivant – Middle Linebacker – North Carolina
Instinctual backer that does a nice job finding the ball and wrapping up to tackle. Sturdivant is an underrated pro prospect that should develop into a sold starter for years. He may lack elite size and speed, but he makes up for it with a great feel for the game and good discipline. Projection: Late 2nd-Mid 3rd
Jonathan Baldwin - (#53)
51. Muhammed Wilkerson – Defensive End/Defensive Tackle – Temple
A versatile 5-Tech prospect with excellent size and impressive natural athleticism. Wilkerson was an extremely productive player in the MAC and looks to have the talent to carry over his success. He plays with the quickness and explosion to also draw interest from 4-3 teams at 3-Tech. Projection: Late 1st-Early 3rd
52. Ben Ijalana – Offensive Tackle/Offensive Guard – Villanova
FCS Tackle that easily dominated his level of competition. Though he possesses the size, strength and athleticism to be a terrific pro, some question his temperament. If he learns to play with a little more fire, Ijalana could become a very solid starter at Guard or perhaps Right Tackle. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
53. Jonathan Baldwin – Wide Receiver – Pittsburgh
One of this class’ best vertical threats must learn how to diversify his game and improve his route-running before he can be effective at the next level. Baldwin has a rare combination of size, speed and leaping ability. Despite immense physical ability, he lacks short-area quickness and could struggle with creating separation in the NFL. Projection: Late 1st-2nd Round
Rahim Moore - (#54)
54. Rahim Moore – Free Safety – UCLA
In a barren Safety class, Moore and his 2009 campaign take the cake. He has shown the ability to be effective as a ball-hawk but must learn to minimize his mistakes. Not many in this class match his size and coverage ability, so it is possible he comes off the board earlier than his tape would indicate: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
55. Torrey Smith – Wide Receiver – Maryland
Physically-gifted receiver with some elusiveness and breakaway speed after the catch. Smith is also big enough to threaten on routes down the field and in traffic. His hands could be a subject of concern as they measured as some of the smallest at the Combine. He will need to be coached up as a route-runner but could be molded into a good starter in a few years. Projection: Second Round
56. Ras-I Dowling – Cornerback – Virginia
Injuries derailed a once-promising college career for this ACC corner. Unfortunately, the injury bug followed Dowling to the NFL Combine, where he sustained an ankle injury running the 40. Though he has great size, length and good feet, it’s possible durability concerns push him down the board. Projection: Mid 2nd-3rd Round
Luke Stocker - (#57)
57. Luke Stocker – Tight End – Tennessee
A complete, three-down Tight End that will likely slip on draft day due to a lack of demand at the position around the league. Stocker has shown the ability to be both a legitimate receiving threat and a good blocker. Though he is more of a security blanket type than a game-breaker, his soft hands and size may come in handy in the red-zone. Projection: Mid 2nd-Mid 3rd
58. Orlando Franklin – Offensive Guard/Offensive Tackle – Miami
After having started primarily at Left Tackle recently, it appears as if Franklin’s best fit at the next level will be inside, at Guard. He possesses great size for any line position, broad with long arms and he has good enough feet & hands to play early. It is possible that some teams could look at him as a Right Tackle. Projection: Mid 2nd-Early 3rd
59. Colin McCarthy – Inside Linebacker – Miami
Talented football player with good instincts and ability in space. McCarthy is a player who really helped himself with a good showing in Mobile and at the NFL Combine. Expect steady improvement from this athletic, smart and relentless backer. He should be able to step in and start inside or outside in most 4-3 schemes. Projection: Mid 2nd-Mid 3rd
Kelvin Sheppard - (#60)
60. Kelvin Sheppard – Inside Linebacker – LSU
Big, instinctual inside backer that took his game to another level this year. Sheppard has NFL size and above-average athleticism to go along with a good knowledge of the game and energetic on-field demeanor. There was a lot of chatter and good press surrounding him at the Senior Bowl practices this year. He will fit best inside in a 3-4 scheme. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
61. Stefen Wisniewski – Center/Offensive Guard – Penn State
Though he played out of position this year at Guard, Wisniewski showed what makes him one of this year's top interior linemen. He has a solid base, good technique and enough athleticism to pull and block in space. Teams will surely like his experience and intangibles as a three-year starter in the Big Ten. Projection: Late 2nd-Mid 3rd
62. Edmond Gates – Wide Receiver – Abilene Christian
Extremely smooth athlete with tremendous speed and quickness. He could be a better prospect than former teammate Johnny Knox. Gates catches the ball cleanly and possesses home-run speed. He may lack size, but he could excel in the slot or as a flanker in an NFL offense. Projection: Mid 2nd-Early 3rd
Kendall Hunter (#64)
63. Aaron Williams – Free Safety/Cornerback – Texas
College corner may be a better fit at Safety at the next level. He took his lumps this year as a Junior, but Williams still showed the talent and physicality to be a serious NFL prospect. He is a versatile defensive back prospect with solid explosiveness and speed, but not quite enough fluidity in his hips or backpedal to run with receivers right away. Projection: Mid 2nd-Early 3rd
64. Kendall Hunter – Running Back – Oklahoma State
Small, compact runner that is able to find holes and explode through the line for 10+ yards at a time. Hunter is a very shifty runner and can be surprisingly tough, but at 5’7" ¼ 199 lbs., he’s unlikely to be carrying the load any time soon. He is not so different from Ray Rice coming out of Rutgers and should be able to come in and make a team’s running game better from day one. Projection: Mid 2nd-3rd Round
Christian Ponder - (#68)
65. Curtis Brown – Cornerback – Texas
Very fluid cover corner who is an explosive athlete with leaping ability, good feet and ball skills. Character and size are a couple concerns, but Brown is one of the most gifted man-corners that this class has to offer. Projection: Mid 2nd-Mid 3rd
66. Lance Kendricks – Tight End – Wisconsin
Athletic pass-catching Tight End in the Dustin Keller mold. Kendricks may not be quite the same athlete, but he has good hands, speed and works hard as a blocker. Projection: Late 2nd-3rd Round
67. DeMarco Murray – Running Back – Oklahoma
Dynamic, versatile back that has the potential to be a big difference-maker in the NFL if he can stay healthy. Murray has size, speed, agility, burst and great receiving ability; but he could afford to run with more physicality and fight for extra yards. Projection: Late 2nd-3rd Round
68. Christian Ponder – Quarterback – Florida State
Quarterback prospect on the rise is accurate with great intangibles but lacks arm strength and comes with injury concerns. Ponder is mechanically sound and a good athlete, a team will likely take him a round too early. Projection: Early 2nd-Early 3rd
Sam Acho - (#71)
69. John Moffitt – Offensive Guard – Wisconsin
Big, mauling interior lineman in the typical Badgers mold. Moffitt has the size, adequate athleticism and nastiness to be one of the best run-blockers to come from this class. Projection: Early 3rd-Mid 4th
70. Marcus Gilchrist – Free Safety/Cornerback – Clemson
In a Safety class in which speed, versatility and fluidity are far from abundant, Gilchrist shows the ability to ability to play anywhere in the defensive backfield and on special teams. He may come off the board earlier than many expect. Projection: Mid 2nd-Early 4th
71. Sam Acho – Outside Linebacker – Texas
A defensive lineman destined to move to a stand-up role in the NFL. Acho lacks size and strength to play on the line, but he shows potential as a pass-rusher and has impressed when asked to move in space. Projection: Mid 2nd-3rd Round
72. Greg Romeus – Defensive End – Pittsburgh
A bit of a forgotten man in this draft class, Romeus was one of the most productive ends in the Big East the two seasons before injuring his back and missing the season. He has size, length and athleticism to indicate there’s plenty of potential left. Projection: Late 3rd-4th Round
Bruce Carter - (#73)
73. Bruce Carter – Outside Linebacker – North Carolina
Had he been a bit more productive and stayed healthy this season, there are some that feel Carter could have been a first round pick. He does not appear to have the greatest instincts but is the complete package physically with size and speed. Projection: Early 3rd-Early 4th
74. Rodney Hudson – Center/Offensive Guard – Florida State
Though he may need to play in a zone blocking scheme to excel at Guard, Hudson appears too talented not to make an impact at the next level. He projects as an early starter at Center or Left Guard demonstrating great technique, footwork and balance on the field. Projection: Late 2nd-Early 4th
75. Jerel Jernigan – Wide Receiver – Troy
Dynamic slot receiver that has been the best do-it-all player in the Sun Belt Conference for the past few years. He may lack height, but he is an explosive athlete with burst and speed. Jernigan should step into a slot and special teams role early. Projection: Mid 2nd-3rd Round
76. Deunta Williams – Free Safety – North Carolina
Injuries ruined the season of this ACC standout and he will be unable to workout before April’s NFL Draft. Williams is one of the few in this Safety class that, when healthy, has the instincts and physical ability to be an impact starter. He has the look of a day-three bargain entering the league with a chip on his shoulder. Projection: Late 3rd-Early 5th
Jordan Todman - (#78)
77. Marcus Cannon – Offensive Guard/Offensive Tackle – TCU
Enormous lineman that may lack the footwork to play outside at Offensive Tackle at the next level. If he learns to use his strength better, Cannon has a lot of upside as a mauling Guard. He is a good athlete for his size, but he could afford to trim down. Projection: Mid 2nd-Mid 3rd
78. Jordan Todman – Running Back – Connecticut
Undersized, slashing back that had an extremely productive year rushing in the Big East. Todman has good feet and some speed, but may lack the power and toughness to be more than a rotational back in the NFL. Projection: Late 2nd-Early 4th
79. K.J. Wright – Outside Linebacker – Mississippi State
Tall backer may not have the best hips, but was experienced and productive in the SEC. Wright had a nice week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile and was solid at the NFL Combine; he could go higher than expected due to high demand in a weak class. Projection: Late 2nd-3rd Round
80. Chykie Brown – Cornerback – Texas
Athletic corner who looks the part of an NFL corner but needs to correct tackling issues to have a chance at a starting spot. Could go earlier than he should due to demand for the position. Projection: Late 2nd-Early 4th
Allen Bailey - (#82)
81. Colin Kaepernick – Quarterback – Nevada
Big (6’4" 5/8 233 lbs.), athletic, rocket-armed passer that enjoyed a very productive career in the WAC. Mechanical flaws and learning curve may keep him from the field early, but a team will look at him as a project. Projection: Mid 2nd-Mid 3rd
82. Allen Bailey – Defensive End – Miami
Workout warrior never played up to the weight-room numbers while at Miami. With some NFL coaching, it is hard to deny his upside. Not overly quick off the snap and will likely be a Left End in a 4-3 scheme. Projection: Early 3rd-Early 4th
83. Delone Carter – Running Back – Syracuse
Compact, shifty runner with some potential behind a big, physical offensive line if he can stay healthy. Could be a steal for a team with a spot open in their Running Back rotation. Projection: Mid 3rd-4th Round
84. Will Rackley – Offensive Guard – Lehigh
Small-school college tackle will likely move inside at the next level. Has good size, athleticism, and feet for an Offensive Guard. He shows a mean streak and dominated his level of competition. Projection: Early 3rd-Early 4th
Greg Salas - (#85)
85. Greg Salas – Wide Receiver – Hawaii
Possession receiver from a fluky offense, but it is tough to ignore his unbelievable production. Has good size (6’1" 210 lbs.), hands and finds soft spots in defenses. Could make a solid #3 and slot receiver. Projection: Mid 3rd-4th Round
86. Quinton Carter – Free Safety – Oklahoma
Though he might have been the best Safety in college football this past year, it’s expected that Carter will fall a bit due to a lack of speed. He plays a bit high, but is effective in coverage with good ball skills and in run support. Projection: Early 3rd-Early 4th
87. Jarvis Jenkins – Defensive Tackle/Defensive End - Clemson
Big, strong lineman with the dimensions to draw attention from 4-3 teams as a 1-Tech and 3-4 teams at 5-Tech. He had a nice showing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. Projection: Early 3rd-Mid 4th
88. James Carpenter – Offensive Guard/Offensive Tackle – Alabama
Experienced SEC offensive lineman played Left and Right Tackle primarily in college; however, he likely fits better inside in the NFL. A bit slow-footed but he is a player with size, ability and versatility. Projection: Late 2nd-Mid 4th
Marvin Austin - (#90)
89. Tyler Sash – Strong Safety – Iowa
Though he did not have quite the season some expected following his excellent Sophomore campaign, Sash is still a very good football player. He has size, instincts, ball skills, some agility and adequate speed for the next level. Could be a starter relatively early on in his career. Projection: Early 3rd-Early 4th
90. Marvin Austin – Defensive Tackle – North Carolina
On paper, Austin looks like a prototypical Defensive Tackle with great size (6’1" 5/8 309 lbs.) and incredible natural athleticism for the position. Unfortunately, he’s got a lot of work to do on and off the field. He may be too risky to warrant a Top 75 pick. Projection: Early 3rd-4th Round
91. Denarius Moore – Wide Receiver – Tennessee
It is not often you can say a big-play receiver prospect from the SEC is flying under the radar. Moore creates separation with his speed and quickness; he appears to be one of the best flankers in this class. Projection: Mid 3rd-Mid 4th
92. Curtis Marsh – Cornerback – Utah State
A long-limbed corner with fluidity and speed. Marsh may not have played against the highest competition in the nation, but he has the talent and physical ability to make it at the next level. Projection: Late 2nd-Early 4th
Johnny Patrick - (#95)
93. Kenrick Ellis – Nose Tackle/Defensive Tackle – Hampton
This massive, small-school nose prospect shows startling agility and natural athleticism for his size. His technique is raw, but he had a powerful base, an enormous frame and surprisingly light feet. Projection: Early 3rd-4th Round
94. Ronald Johnson – Wide Receiver – USC
A smooth athlete with good speed and ability after the catch. Johnson is not particularly physical or tough, but he is a pretty good route-runner. He will be able to find a role early on in his career. Projection: Mid 3rd-Early 4th
95. Johnny Patrick – Cornerback – Louisville
This Big East corner may have been the conference’s best in 2010 and he looks to be capable of contributing at the next level. Has NFL size and is a smooth athlete, but he will need time to develop before being thrust in a big role. Projection: Early 3rd-4th Round
96. Jaiquawn Jarrett – Free Safety – Temple
One of the more underrated Safety prospects in this class, Jarrett is a bit of an unknown playing in the MAC. Very productive player that holds his own in coverage and against the run. Projection: Mid 3rd-4th Round
Ricky Stanzi - (#100)
97. Jurrell Casey – Defensive Tackle – USC
Undersized 3-Tech prospect may be able to fill a spot in a rotation this season. Fits the Tampa-2 mold as a penetrator, but he may have limited upside. Projection: Early 3rd-Mid 4th
98. Davon House – Cornerback – New Mexico State
Big corner (6’0 ½ 204) with speed and potential. He’s a bit stiff in the hips and high in his backpedal, but he had a good Senior season. It’s possible that teams could look to move him to Free Safety. Projection: Early 3rd-4th Round
99. Jerrell Powe – Nose Tackle – Mississippi
Did not look like the same player this season after a dominant 2009 campaign. Still, stout, powerfully built Nose Tackle prospect has some upside at the next level. Projection: Early 3rd-4th Round
100. Ricky Stanzi – Quarterback – Iowa
Experienced pocket passer has NFL size and good intangibles. He lacks the strong arm or raw athleticism to go high, but he could help a team out down the road. Projection: Mid 3rd-Early 5th