Ahhhh. Feels good, doesn't it? It's December and college football's regular season is over. The NFL regular season is winding down, and now we can finally start some serious talk about the NFL Draft.
The pool of prospects this year look like the strongest group we have seen in a long time. Franchise type quarterbacks in Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Georgia's Matthew Stafford; game-breaking tailbacks in Ohio State's Chris Wells and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno; stud linebacker's in Ohio State's James Laurinaitis and Southern California's Rey Maualuga; and lockdown corners in Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins and Illinois defensive back Vontae Davis.
And that's just the beginning.
Let's take a look at the Top 15 prospects available:
What an amazing season this kid has had. The first team All-American, threw 48 touchdowns this year against six interceptions. He led his Sooners to a 11-1 record, a Big 12 championship and a berth in the national championship game.
At 6'4'', 218 lbs, Bradford has the NFL size to go along with a big time arm. His accuracy has been amazing, completing nearly 70 percent of his throws. His 84 TD's in his career and only 14 interceptions are a further example he possesses exactly what NFL GM's are looking for: A quarterback who can find his own guys more than he can find the opponent.
Beanie Wells is a man. And you know what I mean by that. Just like Herschel Walker was a man, and just like Randy Moss was a man.
Doesn't matter who he is playing, Wells is always the best player on the field. The guy has a stiff arm move that should be illegal, and not a defender in the country looks forward to 25 carries by Wells.
At 6'1'' and 235 lbs, Wells is battering ram with breakaway speed. Just ask Michigan, or LSU. He had touchdown runs of more than 50 yards against both of them. The junior averaged almost six yards per carry behind a suspect line, and if he could of avoided the injury bug would have a legitimate shot at the Heisman Trophy.
This mountain of a man is the premeire offensive lineman in college football. At 6'4'' and 330 lbs, Smith is a prototypical NFL left tackle, and that's exactly where he will be for the next ten years. Smith impressive quickness for a man his size is evidence he has the tools it takes to hang with the elite speed rushers in the NFL.
Jenkins is up this high on my list not only because of his impressive play at corner for the Buckeyes, but also because I believe the Thorpe Award winner would make an incredible free safety in the NFL.
Jenkins (6'1'', 200lbs) ball instincts are unmatched in college football, and although he doesn't have 4.3 speed (probably closer to 4.5) his awareness and instincts keep him from getting beat deep. A move to FS might be in his future, but any team would do well to keep this senior All-American at strongside corner.
A difference maker. Michael Crabtree is just that. The 6'3'', 214 lbs, sophomore has dominated the Big 12 and college football since his first game. As a freshman Crabtree won the Biletnikoff Award as the nations top receiver, and repeated the feat by winning the trophy again this year. He set NCAA freshman records for receptions (134), yards (1,962) and touchdowns (22). Enough said.
The guy is just scary. He is what we call a ball hawk. A player who is always around the ball, in on almost every play and making his impact felt in every game. The 6'2'', 260 lbs, senior was recently named the winner of the Chuck Bednarik Award as college football's top defensive player. The YouTube sensation is the face of a defense with numerous future NFL players, and is another stud linebacker from USC.
The defenition of a player who greatly benefited from a senior season. While Curry was most certainly a good linebacker a year ago, he has sky rocketed up draft boards due to a spectacular senior season and a superior blend of size (6'2'', 250 lbs) and speed. Just as good in pass coverage as he is against the run, the Butkus Award winner will make one NFL team very happy come April. As a reference, think Vernon Gholston with more experience at outside linebacker.
The All Big Ten performer is probably more of a true corner than Malcolm Jenkins, able to play man just as well as zone. He's got good size at 6'0'', 203 lbs, and is adept at playing the line of scrimmage, something of a necessity in todays NFL. Named an Asociated Press Third Team All-American, Davis had only two interceptions this year but that is because teams refused to throw his way.
The second team All-American is a stud left tackle. At 6'6'', 315 lbs, Monroe has been impressing scouts since 2007, when he did not allow a sack all season. At only 315 lbs, he could put on some more weight if he wanted to, but I wonder how it would affect his quickness in pass protection. Projected as a solid NFL starter.
I want you to really digest this fact: James Laurinaitis is one of two three-time All-Americans in the history of college football. The senior, captain linebacker led one of the best defenses in the college football over the last three seasons, compiling 357 tackles behind a mediocre defensive line. The Butkus and Nagurski Award winner will be a solid, if unflashy (is that a word?) middle linebacker.
The junior signal caller lost some ground on the rest of the draft-eligible quarterbacks during the season, as Sam Bradford has passed him and Mark Sanchez is closing the gap. Still, the 6'3'', 230 lbs QB has a cannon for an arm, giving him the ability to make any throw he wants to. Stafford is nimble enough to move around in the pocket and avoid the pass rush, and during the 2008 season improved on his ability to recognize the blitz and make the necessary adjustments. He could use a season or two on the bench learning behind a veteran. Lets hope he gets that chance.
Maybin has the most risk of anyone on this list, but he could very well also have the most upside. Maybin is a special athlete, with an ability to rush the passer and cover backs in space. He may make the move to outside linebacker in the NFL, a move that would be easy for Maybin and one I believe would be beneficial for his skill set. At his size, I am just not very confident in his ability to make an impact at defensive end in the NFL.
The 6'5'', 320 lbs, senior is another prospect I feel would benefit from a position change. Oher is a fine collegiate left tackle, and I'm sure he would do just fine at LT as a pro. But he does not have the quick feet needed to stay in front of the speed rushers in the NFL. A move to guard would be great for Oher, as he is a punishing run blocker who has a powerful base and gets great leverage on his blocks.
A true game breaker at the wide receiver position. I believe he would really benefit by landing on a team that would put him in the slot. The 6'1'', 200 lbs receiver can hold his own on the outside, but would be an absolute nightmare for a nickelback or linebacker to cover. Maclin, who is six-points-waiting-to-happen as a returner, has all the tools to succeed in the NFL.
The 2007 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, and 2008 1st Team All-Big 12 performer did not disappoint during his sophomore season. The 6'4'', 295 lbs, defensive tackle had 6.5 sacks this season to go along with 10 tackles for loss. Not bad when you consider he was double teamed on every snap. He has a great combination of speed and power, with a unique ability to recognize the run and chase down a running back.