NFL Draft 2011: Ranking the Top 10 Offensive Hopefuls in the Big Ten
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Labor strife or not, the NFL draft is still scheduled to take place beginning April 28th.
As we get closer to the draft, things have began to crystallize as to where players might go.
Here is a look at the potential top 10 offensive hopefuls out of the Big Ten (Nebraksa not yet included):
1. OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
The Skinny: Wisconsin has built quite a reputation for churning out offensive linemen, and Carimi fits the profile nicely.
Widely regarded as the top offensive tackle in this year's draft, he is the quintessential power blocker that Wisconsin has been known for and can drive people off the ball.
He should fit in nicely almost immediately with a pro-style running attack.
Where some analysts disagree is how well suited Carimi will be able to pass-protect due to the holes in his technique and short stature.
He is the only offensive player projected in the first round and could pan out to be a perennial Pro-Bowler.
2. RB Mikel LeShoure, Illinois
The Skinny: Leshoure has the size to take a beating in the NFL. He is a good between-the-tackle power runner that should be able to get the tough yards when needed, yet break one when given the chance.
He could get immediate playing time as a third-down and short-yardage back.
He does have off-the-field issues in his past and has disappeared somewhat against elite teams in college.
If he continues to get better at he next level, he could be a steal in the second round.
3. TE Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin
The Skinny: Kendricks has shown a propensity for making big plays with his combination of size, body control and hands.
He closely resembles the type of productive tight ends that prosper in the NFL because of his ability to go up and catch the ball in traffic and very good run-blocking skills.
The knock on Kendricks is that he does not have the breakaway speed that some of the elite tight ends in the NFL possess.
There will be a place for him probably somewhere in the second round because of his all-around game.
4. OT James Brewer, Indiana
The Skinny: James Brewer is a mountain of a man and was one of the best pass-protecting offensive tackles in the Big Ten when on the field.
The problem has been that he has been riddled with injuries during his career and can only boast 21 starts at Indiana.
His size and ability to pass protect should be enough for an NFL team to try to find a diamond in the rough in the middle rounds, more than likely in the third or later.
5. QB Ricky Stanzi, Iowa
The Skinny: Stanzi has gotten better every year at Iowa and even entered some of the Heisman talk last year.
He is an unquestioned leader and has a fearless ability to stand in the pocket under and deliver in the clutch.
His draft status would be higher if he did not have a history of trying to do too much and throw the ball to the other team.
Stanzi could surprise and go higher, but most analysts have him pegged right around the fourth round.
6. OG John Moffitt, Wisconsin
The Skinny: Did we mention that Wisconsin can churn out offensive linemen?
When you put in the tape, it is obvious that Moffitt has great footwork, technique and quickness at the line to open holes for any running back.
The biggest pause for some NFL teams, however, is his well-below-average speed to be able and pull block and match up against the more athletic defensive linemen that he will see at the next level.
He could go higher because of his accolades, but looks like a fourth-round or later guy at this point.
7. RB John Clay, Wisconsin
The Skinny: Perhaps it is fitting that John Clay laced them up for Wisconsin, because he is built out of the same cloth as Ron Dayne.
Clay is a big back that has a punishing style of running with a sneaky quickness about him. He could run through and over elite college teams and has the size to more than hold his own against NFL talent as well.
As with a lot of running backs with the same running style, there is a concern with the beating he takes, and it showed with some time on the sidelines in college.
The history of injuries is enough to project him somewhere around the fifth round.
8. WR Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State
The Skinny: Though Sanzenbacher doesn't have elite speed, he still finds a way to get open.
He has a great set of hands and fits the bill as the possession receiver many NFL teams often need to catch the tough pass over the middle to move the chains.
Sanzenbacher has also shown an uncanny work ethic.
He won't be seen as the most athletic guy available at the wide out position and will probably go in the fifth round or later.
9. WR Derrell Johnoson-Koulianos, Iowa
The Skinny: Koulianos has above-average speed and has shown the ability to run excellent routes. He was an unquestioned big playmaker for Iowa and the No. 1 target of Ricky Stanzi.
He probably doesn't have a future as a No. 1, but could make a solid No. 2 or 3 receiver on an NFL roster.
He has recently struggled with off-the-field issues and could drop further, but grades out in the fifth round as it stands today.
10. OG Julian Vandervelde, Iowa
The Skinny: Our last of the top 10 offensive hopefuls concludes with yet another offensive linemen in Julian Vandervelde of Iowa.
Vandervelde has good size at just over 300 pounds. He has shown that he has the toughness and desire to handle what the NFL has to offer.
He rarely came off the field at Iowa and has a solid base to work with as both a pass- and run-blocker.
His upside may not be there with other offensive linemen in this draft, but he could make for a more than serviceable every game starter in the NFL for years to come.
If so, teams would be more than happy to snag him in the sixth round.
Only three weeks to go. Stay tuned for the top 10 Big Ten defensive hopefuls coming in the next few days.
Follow Phil Harrison on Twitter @peharrison
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