2011 NFL Draft: Ranking the Top 40 Prospects for the Minnesota Vikings on Day 3

Rob SirplessContributor IApril 18, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Ranking the Top 40 Prospects for the Minnesota Vikings on Day 3

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    Tyrod Taylor, Viginia TechMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The talent that abounds throughout an entire draft is incredible.

    Seventh round selection Peyton Hillis had a great year a season ago. An un-drafted free agent named Brent Grimes of the Falcons made the pro bowl. And superstar receiver Brandon Marshall was a seventh round pick for the Broncos once upon a time.

    Anyone who tells you that cannon fodder is all that the later rounds produce doesn’t know football. Vikings legend John Randall was un-drafted. The great Minnesota linebacker Ed McDaniel was a fifth round selection.

    The dudes abide if you know where to look.

    The things that separate first through third round players from mid to late round players are size, school level (competition) and injury.

    Over the next few slides I will show you players who are facing these obstacles but could prove to be amazing stars in the NFL once they are given a chance.

    What leads a player to have more success than he might have had can be attributed to what system he gets in. Let’s discuss the Vikings offensive and defensive systems quickly to give you an understanding of how I chose these players out of all the others.

    The Offense:

    New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave likes to run a variation of the old west coast offense. His quarterback needs to be accurate, his receivers fast and his tight ends tall.

    You will notice I don’t include popular tight end DJ Williams. Why? He doesn’t fit what Musgrave will be looking for due to his short height. There are a handful of tall receivers listed but that isn’t a must in this offense, a little man can have just as much success.

    The Defense:

    The Vikings run a Tampa Two zone defense under coordinator Fred Pagac.

    In this defense less emphasis is placed on man to man coverage (shutdown corners). The team relies heavily on a defensive front four that applies pressure. The defensive backs hold down a zone and need to be quick, they are not always required to face away from the opposing QB unless the pressure from the front four fails.

    The linebackers are responsible for a zone in coverage and for the “gaps”, the spaces between linemen that running backs try to go through. Linebackers in this system are required to tackle well and hit gaps quickly before the running back gets through and into open space, so size on linebackers isn’t a must either, though a fast big man is always preferred.

    Now the Vikings will need a receiver regardless of what happens with Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian. Both players are prone to injury and could be gone by next season.

    Linebacker is an area where Ben Leber’s slowness hurt the team against the running game a season ago, as did the slow and ineffective Madieu Williams at safety. Finding a strong tackler with good coverage skills and speed will be high on the priority list.

    And finding the accurate quarterback will be very necessary.

    These are just a few of the particulars. Overall the Vikings can be expected to go after every position except running back.

    So to give all of you an idea of who the team may be targeting, and some information if they pick one of these guys, I spent the last week preparing this list.

    Offensive linemen have no statistics and therefore I can’t really help you out. Overviews basically say the same thing about every guy, so there wasn't much point in listing them.

    Anyway, without further ado! The top 40 prospects to know about, five from each position, so you are better informed about late round draft picks.

40. Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina

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    Dwayne Harris (17)

    2010 stats: 101 receptions, 1,123 yards, 10 touchdowns and an 11.1 yard per catch average.
    4-year career: 268 receptions, 3,002 yards and 20 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-0 205lbs.

    This is a guy who would team well with Percy Harvin. He reminds me of DeSean Jackson, a bit undersized, but able to make big plays down the field. Fun note, he returned 3 kickoffs for touchdowns in 2009.

    Projection Round: 5th.

39. Terrance Tolliver, WR, LSU

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    Terrance Tolliver, LSU

    2010 stats: 41 receptions, 579 yards, 5 touchdowns and a 14.9 yard per catch average.
    4-year career: 126 receptions, 1,820 yards and 12 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-5 203lbs.

    Tolliver is a decent pass catcher. The upside for him is how tall he is. Using him in the end zone would create mismatches and result in a lot of touchdowns.

    Projection Rounds: 5th and 6th.

38. Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego State

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    Vincent Brown (80)Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 69 receptions, 1,352 yards, 10 touchdowns and a 19.6 yard per catch average.
    4-year career stats: 209 receptions, 3,110 yards and 23 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-1 195lbs.

    Another small receiver but just as exciting. Brown had a 90 yard touchdown catch in his senior season. If the Vikings are worried about not having a long ball threat they won’t need to if they take this guy.

    Projection Round: 6th.

37. Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii

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    Greg Salas, HawaiiKent Nishimura/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 119 receptions, 1,889 yards, 14 touchdowns and a 15.9 yard per catch average.
    4-year career: 285 receptions, 4,345 yards and 26 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-2 210lbs.

    This is my favorite out of all the receivers. Salas is the best combination of size and numbers. What is even more assuring is that in 2009 he had over 100 receptions and 1,590 yards. Consistency not a question at this point. The price to get him is just awesome.

    Projection Round: 6th.

36. Denarius Moore, WR, Tennessee

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    Denarius Moore, TennesseeAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 47 receptions, 981 yards, 9 touchdowns and a 20.9 yard per catch average.
    4-year career: 113 receptions, 2,004 yards and 18 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-1 194lbs.

    Moore is an explosive player as you can see. His low catch numbers could be a result of the quarterback or system at Tennessee. Or perhaps the reason his stock is low is due to his inconsistency.

    Projection Round: 7th.

35. Virgil Green, TE, Nevada

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    Virgil Green, Nevada

    2010 stats: 35 receptions, 515 yards and 5 touchdowns.
    3-year career stats: 71 receptions, 911 yards and 11 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-3 239lbs.

    Green is just barely tall enough to warrant consideration for the Vikings. His consistent improvement over each season in college might be enough to get him picked up before the last day ends.

    Projection Round: 5th.

34. Rob Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic

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    Rob Housler, Florida AtlanticSam Greenwood/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 39 receptions, 629 yards and 4 touchdowns.
    4-year career: 78 receptions, 1,228 yards and 8 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-5 215lbs.

    Housler is ideally sized to play in Musgrave’s offense. He is light and fast enough to move down the field for passes, and tall enough to tower over safeties. He didn’t play much in his first two seasons but did have a handoff touchdown in his second year of 68 yards, so he’s shifty. This is a solid value mid-round pickup.

    Projection Rounds: 4th and 5th.

33. Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee

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    Luke Stocker, TennesseeKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 39 receptions, 417 yards and 2 touchdowns.
    4-year career: 85 receptions, 956 yards and 8 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-6 253lbs.

    Stocker is the brute force Musgrave is looking for in a tight end. If his tape shows that he can be more productive in the red zone he will go early on.

    Projection Rounds: 3rd and 4th.

32. Mike McNeill, TE, Nebraska

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    Mike McneillOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2010stats: 21 receptions, 346 yards and 1 touchdown.
    4-year career: 82 receptions, 1,072 yards and 11 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-4 235lbs.

    McNeill’s senior season is to blame for his low draft stock as he saw himself get hurt during the year. But as you can see his career numbers show a much better player. The Vikings may pursue him late and could be rewarded handsomely in the future. (Think long-term development).

    Projection Round: 7th.

31. Andre Smith, TE, Virginia Tech

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    Andre Smith (88)

    2010 stats: 20 receptions, 195 yards and 5 touchdowns.
    4-year career: 39 receptions, 438 yards and 7 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-5 272lbs.

    Smith could almost be a lineman with his hefty frame. The Vikings will be looking at him with their last pick or might even try to grab him in free agency. His injuries caused him to miss quite a few games in college, but his nose for the end zone could make him a late final day addition.

    Projection Round: 7th.

30. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC

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    Jurrell Casey, USCChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 67 tackles and 5 sacks.
    3-year career: 133 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 9 sacks.
    6-1 300lbs.

    Casey put up modest numbers for a defensive tackle during his stay at USC. His sack total is enough to warrant some interest in round four at the earliest. The problem with Casey is his size, there is nothing there to show he can dominate at the next level.

    Projection Round: 5th.

29. Jerrell Powe, NT, Mississippi

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    Jerrell Powe, Ole MissKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 27 tackles and 3 sacks.
    3-year career: 68 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 6 sacks.
    6-2 320lbs.

    Unlike Casey, Powe has ideal size for a run stuffing defensive tackle. But he just hasn’t shown a lot of production to go with that size. The Vikings could use him in short yardage goal line situations.

    Projection Round: 6th.

28. Ian Williams, NT, Notre Dame

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    Ian Williams, Notre DameJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Stature: 6-2 305lbs.

    Williams played one year in 2008 recording 39 tackles. The upside and physical potential of Williams has helped him crawl into draft conversation. One team will take a chance on his potential, could be Minnesota.

    Projection Rounds 6th and 7th.

27. Chris Neild, DT, West Virginia

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    Chris Neild, West Virginia

    2010 stats: 35 tackles and 3 sacks.
    4-year career: 130 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 6 sacks.

    Stature: 6-2 301lbs.

    Neild won honors two years in a row despite not putting up impressive numbers. He was the most feared player on the defensive line at West Virginia and was double and triple teamed often. His defense ranked number 1 in their conference.

    Projection Round: 6th.

26. Cedric Thornton, DT, Southern Arkansas

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    Cedric Thornton, Southern Arkansas

    2010stats:  52 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
    4-year career: 185 tackles, 44 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
    Stature: 6-3 309lbs.

    Thornton is going to be a solid rotational lineman. His rushing skills are not bad but not impressive enough to warrant starter conversation. He can also play on the end due to his speed and stoutness against the run. He reminds me of Lance Johnstone for those of you who remember him.

    Projection Round: 7th.

25. Pierre Allen, DE, Nebraska

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    Pierre Allen, NebraskaSean Gardner/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 64 tackles and 3 sacks.
    4-year career: 181 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 13 sacks.
    Stature: 6-5 265lbs.

    Allen has pretty good size, if he could pack on more muscle to his frame without losing speed that would help his bull rush. He didn’t put up great sack totals for a defensive end though.

    Projection Rounds: 5th and 6th.

24. Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh

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    Greg Romeus (91)Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Romeus was limited to two games in 2010.
    4-year career: 142 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 19 sacks. (8 sacks in 2009).
    Stature: 6-6 270lbs.

    Romeus interests me the most out of the later round defensive ends. He is very tall and could add more bulk to resemble JJ Watt. His numbers from 2008 and 2009 are impressive. Romeus is worth a shot to develop.

    Projection Round: 4th.

23. Cliff Matthews, DE, South Carolina

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    Cliff Matthews, South CarolinaKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 39 tackles, 6 sacks and 1 forced fumble.
    4-year career: 142 tackles, 16 sacks and 1 forced fumble.
    Stature: 6-4 268lbs.

    Matthews would be a worthy member of the Vikings rotation indeed. His durability is a concern, but if he’s moving in and out as a sub he should put together good seasons like 2010. Worth a draft pick.

    Projection Rounds: 6th and 7th.

22. Ryan Winterswyk, DE, Boise State

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    Ryan Winterswy (98)Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 43 tackles and 2 sacks.
    4-year career: 167 tackles, 20 sacks (9 sacks in 2009) and 1 interception.
    Stature: 6-4 263lbs.

    If Winterswyk had carried his 2009 success into the 2010 season we might be looking at a second round grade. But he did not handle his increased workload and attention from offenses with ease. To get him in the fifth round would be good value, wait until the sixth and you’ve got a solid draft pick.

    Projection Rounds: 5th and 6th.

21. Bruce Miller, DE, UCF

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    Bruce Miller, UCFAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 56 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 9 sacks.
    4-year career: 197 tackles, 36 sacks (13 sacks in 2009), 3 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions (2 touchdowns).
    Stature: 6-2 255lbs.

    Miller is incredibly undersized to play defensive end. Of course Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are smaller ends and do alright. If Miller could add ten pounds in muscle to his frame and maintain his quickness his numbers could translate to the pro level. I’m very interested in this kid and would like to see his name called to Minnesota. He makes plays, no question.

    Projection Round: 5th.

20. Ross Homan, LB, Ohio State

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    Ross Homan (51)Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    2010stats: 73 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 sack and 1 interception.
    5-year career: 288 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 7 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-0 22lbs.

    Looking more like a hefty safety than a linebacker here. Homan is, however, the kind of linebacker the Vikings like in their Tampa Two defense. Great in coverage, hits the gaps for tackles and is mostly non existent at rushing the passer. He would be a possible starter from the late rounds.

    Projection Round: 5th.

19. K.J. Wright, LB, Mississippi State

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    K.J. Wright (34)Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 93 tackles, 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble.
    4-year career: 254 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 8 sacks.
    Stature: 6-4 250lbs.

    Wright is more ideally sized for the next level. His lack of interceptions as a starting linebacker for three seasons hurt his draft stock. But he is a solid tackler and will make a contribution right away on special teams.

    Projection Round: 4th.

18. Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut

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    Lawrence Wilson (8)Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 123 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception and 1 touchdown.
    4-year career: 438 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 5 interceptions and 3 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-1 226lbs.

    This is personally my favorite linebacker in the whole draft. Sure he is undersized and will struggle against big blockers. But he just makes plays wherever he goes no matter what. Only had one season in college with less than 113 tackles. This kid can play! A late round gem, get him!

    Projection Round: 5th.

17. Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College

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    Mark Herzlich, Boston CollegeElsa/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 65 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 4 interceptions.
    5-year career (missed 2009 due to cancer): 314 tackles, 7 forced fumbles, 11 interceptions and 2 touchdowns.
    Stature: 6-4 238lbs.

    This guy battled through cancer and missed 2009, his 2010 return campaign was weak by his standards, which should say something about his high potential. This guy lit up the field in his first three seasons. If he returns to that form the Vikings could have the next Brian Urlacher on their hands. Teams are concerned his cancer may return. With E.J. Henderson exiting his prime now would be a good time to think about a dominant replacement.

    Projection Rounds: 4th and 5th.

16. Mario Harvey, LB, Marshall

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    Mario Harvey (30)Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 144 tackles, 9 sacks and 1 forced fumble.
    4-year career: 421 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 1 interception.
    Stature: 6-0 250lbs.

    Once again a players lack of size has hurt his draft stock. Harvey also isn’t as flashy as the first couple of linebackers listed, he doesn’t force as many turnovers. But since his freshman season in college he never had less than 108 tackles in a year. This guy is a solid run stuffer and would fit very well in the Tampa Two zone.

    Projection Round: 6th.

15. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

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    Brandon Burton (27)Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 51 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 2 interceptions.
    3-year career: 97 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 3 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-0 187lbs.

    Burton has pretty good size for a corner. If he shows he is fast enough to play against the top receivers he could be a solid outside corner. If not he may be moving to safety.

    Projection Round: 4th.

14. Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State

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    Curtis Marsh, Utah State

    2010 stats: 45 tackles and 2 interceptions.
    2-year career: 77 tackles and 3 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-1 193lbs.

    Marsh also has great size to play outside cornerback. His lack of interceptions hurt his draft stock but he is a sound tackler which is a pre-requisite to the Vikings zone defense.

    Projection Round: 4th.

13. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado

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    Jalil Brown (23)Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 43 tackles and 3 interceptions.
    4-year career: 137 tackles and 6 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-1 205lbs.

    Brown is easily my favorite of all the corners in the mid-rounds. His size is ideal and his ball handling skills are very impressive. He could take on any receiver in his zone and has the skills to make a turnover.

    Projection Round: 5th.

12. Rashad Carmichael, CB, Virginia Tech

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    Rashad Carmichael (21)

    2010 stats: 40 tackles, 4 interceptions and 1 touchdown.
    4-year career (2 as starter): 114 tackles, 10 interceptions and 2 touchdowns.
    Stature: 5-11 186lbs.

    Carmichael reminds me of Redskins great Darrell Green. He is smaller but has a nose for the ball in coverage. Using him at any corner spot would be acceptable. His penalties don’t rack up because he naturally finds the ball in the air.

    Projection Round: 5th.

11. Chykie Brown, CB, Texas

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    Chykie Brown, TexasBob Levey/Getty Images

    2009 stats: 44 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 2 interceptions.
    4-year career: 97 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.
    Stature: 6-0 194lbs.

    Brown missed most of his 2010 season, his 2009 season is a better indicator of what he could be. He flies around and doesn’t just tackle, he tries to take the ball every time.

    Projection Round: 6th.    

10. Ahmad Black, S, Florida

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    Ahmad Black (35)Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 109 tackles, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 5 interceptions and 1 touchdown.
    4-year career: 227 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 13 interceptions and 3 touchdowns.
    Stature: 5-9 190lbs.

    Anyone who follows my writing knows how much I like Black. He plays bigger than he is, he’s short but tough like Percy Harvin and does a great job of finding the ball and stealing it. Black has seen his stock drop because of his size, but will be just fine playing in the Tampa Two zone.

    Projection Rounds: 4th and 5th.

9. Shiloh Keo, S, Idaho

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    Shiloh Keo, IdahoKevin Terrell/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 61 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 3 interceptions.
    5-year career: 357 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 11 interceptions.
    Stature: 5-11 216lbs.

    Keo has excellent ball skills and is stout against the run. His size and speed are his main weaknesses. Picking him up late in the draft would definitely help the Vikings secondary.

    Projection Round: 6th.

8. Robert Sands, S, West Virginia

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    Robert Sands, CALJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    2010stats: 46 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception.
    4-year career: 110 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 6 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-5 221lbs.

    Sands has a huge frame. He is built like a number one receiver and would be a great enforcer in the defensive backfield. No mismatches against this guy in the end zone whether it’s a tight end or receiver. Open field speed is a concern though.

    Projection Rounds: 5th and 6th.

7. Jaiquawn Jarrett, S, Temple

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    Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple

    2010 stats: 72 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 2 interceptions.
    4-year career: 292 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 9 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-2 202lbs.

    Jarrett is an aggressive tackler and decent in coverage. It is difficult to mismatch against him thanks to his nice size. He has had success turning the ball over but isn’t known for it.

    Projection Round: 7th.

6. Deunta Williams, S, North Carolina

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    Deunta Williams, North CarolinaElsa/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 50 tackles and 1 forced fumble.
    4-year career: 188 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 12 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-2 210lbs.

    Williams improved with consistency over his four years at NCU. He can play aggressively and gets the ball when he has a chance to. The Vikings would be fortunate to pick Williams up late in the draft.

    Projection Round: 7th.

5. Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa

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    Ricky Stanzi, IowaChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    2010stats: 157.63 passer rating, 3,004 yards and 25 touchdowns.
    4-year career: 7,377 yards, 56 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-4 230lbs.

    Stanzi is certainly very capable. He was a consistent winner while at Iowa. The knock has been his weak arm strength. During the Combine he couldn’t hit receivers in stride on a continual basis and his game tape shows the same problem.

    Projection Rounds: 4th and 5th.

4. T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina

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    T.J. Yates, North CarolinaStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 145.46 passer rating, 3,418 yards and 19 touchdowns.
    4-year career: 9,377 yards, 58 touchdowns and 46 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-4 220lbs.

    Yates as you can see struggles with consistency and with protecting the ball. His 46 picks all but erase his 58 touchdowns. This guy could become a decent game manager once he learns a system.

    Projection Rounds: 6th and 7th.

3. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech

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    Tyrod Taylor, Virginia TechMarc Serota/Getty Images

    2010stats: 154.80 passer rating, 2,743 yards and 24 touchdowns.
    4-year career: 7,017 yards, 44 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-1 210lbs.

    Taylor has some very impressive numbers. He is known as a running quarterback and recently has drawn comparisons to Michael Vick. But Taylor is already an accomplished passer and never threw more than 7 picks in a single season. Very short for a quarterback though.

    Projection Round: 6th.

2. Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho

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    Nathan Enderle, IdahoKevin Terrell/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 123.43 passer rating, 3,314 yards and 22 touchdowns.
    4-year career: 10,084 yards, 74 touchdowns and 60 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-5 233lbs.

    Enderle has everything it takes to be a good quarterback. A strong arm, great size and confidence. Unfortunately he gives up too many sacks and is having as many passes caught by defenders as his receivers.

    Projection Round: 7th.

1. Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama

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    Greg McElroy, AlabamaMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 168.98 passer rating, 2,987 yards and 20 touchdowns.
    4-year career (2 as starter): 5,601 yards, 39 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
    Stature: 6-3 225lbs.

    If anyone from this years quarterback class is going to be the next Tom Brady it is McElroy. He isn’t considered elite athletically and will go in the late rounds. But is he ever smart and knows how to handle the ball and offense. If McElroy can improve his strength he may appear in the NFL somewhere as a starter sooner than later.

    Projection Round: 6th.