The 2010 NFL draft provides teams one of the deepest classes in the last several years. Here is a look at each position:
With one definite first-round pick in Mike Iupati and another borderline late first, early second in Maurkice Pouncey, this class is relatively thin beyond that. I understand the buzz surrounding Iupati, but playing the types of teams the Idaho Vandals do regularly has given me reservations about buying all-in this early.
The second and third rounds should also see Jon Asamoah (Illinois) and John Jerry (Ole Miss) drafted at some point.
11. Inside Linebacker
Rolando McClain is the only surefire top 20 pick from this class. Donald Butler (Washington) has come on as of late, but beyond him, and to a certain extent Brandon Spikes (Florida) and Sean Lee (Penn State), the drop-off is drastic. Pat Angerer (Iowa) is an old-school kind of player and Jamar Chaney (Mississippi State) could provide mid-round value.
Both free and strong safety positions are included here because I don’t believe the difference between the two and, say, inside versus outside linebacker, is comparable.
Two main reasons influencing this ranking are:
1. It’s top-heavy with the unusually-talented Eric Berry No. 1 followed by a distant second and third place ranking of Taylor Mays and Nate Allen (South Florida).
2. Earl Thomas is closer to Berry than many believe, but I project his best position in the pros at corner.
If they didn’t have the likely No. 1 overall pick (Sam Bradford) in the group, it’s possible this position would anchor the rankings. Jimmy Clausen has near flawless mechanics but lacks decision-making savvy. Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow have too many question marks. Dan LeFevour should be the third quarterback taken, actually. Tony Pike (Cincinnati) provides decent value in the third round.
8. Running Back
While Spiller is pretty much the unanimous selection as the best running back, I believe Ryan Matthews will have a better NFL career. There isn’t much variety the rest of the way as the other backs are basically a third-down scat back (Jahvid Best) type or a big, slow bruising ball-carrier (Toby Gerhart, Jonathan Dwyer, LaGerrette Blount, and Anthony Dixon).
Joe McKnight is a decent prospect for a full-time gig but he didn’t show it in Southern California.
7. Tight End
Jermaine Gresham could have been the top pick from his position taken last year had he not returned only to miss the season after a serious injury.
Miami’s Jimmy Graham is the most intriguing of the bunch but he’s still raw on the football field after playing for the Hurricanes on the hardwood.
Rob Gronkowski has the size and skill set to flourish in the NFL but, like Gresham, he also has a history of injuries. Aaron Hernandez (Florida) and Dennis Pitta (BYU) might fit best as a chain-moving slot receiver instead. Dorin Dickerson (Pitt), Tony Moeaki (Iowa), and Anthony McCoy (USC) add blocking toughness for whatever they lack elsewhere.
Ed Dickson (Oregon) might be the best athlete of them all and could provide considerable upside in the fourth round.
6. Defensive End
The first thing that stands out from this group is the absence of perhaps the most productive college ends, Brandon Graham and Jerry Hughes (TCU). Both players, I believe, would succeed most as 3-4 outside linebackers at the next level.
Beyond those two, Derrick Morgan has the highest ceiling and the remaining prospects have at least one thing working against them.
• Jason Pierre-Paul (South Florida) lacks experience.
• Carlos Dunlap (Florida) might be too immature.
• Everson Griffen’s (USC) motor seems to need a major tune-up.
• Greg Hardy (Ole Miss) lacks consistency.
In fact, the two most intriguing prospects might be from the smallest schools. Alex Carrington (Arkansas State) has an NFL-ready frame and Austen Lane (Murray State) is explosive off the snap but needs to add strength.
Brandon Lang (Troy) is also a tantalizing prospect in the mid-rounds.
5. Wide Receiver
Dez Bryant heads this class as the most complete package but Golden Tate is more exciting with tailor-made running back moves, blazing speed, and precise routes.
Damian Williams (USC) has terrific hands and Demaryius Thomas (Georgia Tech) is incredibly athletic and is the best blocker downfield. Arrellious Benn was underused for the Fighting Illini because of quarterback deficiencies.
Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati) can stretch the field in a hurry. LSU’s Brandon LeFall was thought to be a first round pick but fell off a bit last year but there’s no doubt he has talent. Jordan Shipley (Texas), Taylor Price (Ohio), and Dexter McCluster could work well out of the slot as possession receivers.
There are a handful of prospects that could be instant red zone threats. Most notably among them are Carlton Mitchell (South Carolina), Dezmon Briscoe (Kansas), Danario Alexander (Missouri), and Mike Williams (Syracuse).
A couple mid-to-late round receivers that could offer tremendous value are Eric Decker (Minnesota), Blair White (Michigan State), and Jeremy Williams (Tulane).
With four of the top six rankings belonging to the defensive side of the ball, 2010 will be a great opportunity to level any disparity from No. 1 to 32.
There isn’t any prospect that is unquestionably an instant lockdown corner in the NFL but it’s extremely solid with about 15 players in the top 100 overall.
Joe Haden has bounced back from a disastrous combine showing and should be the first or second player chosen from this group. Since I placed Earl Thomas (Texas) in this group, he has the potential to succeed Haden in the first round.
Devin McCourty (Rutgers) Kyle Wilson (Boise State), and Patrick Robinson (Florida State) play with a swagger and add value as double-duty performers in the return game.
Kareem Jackson (Alabama) and Chris Cook (Virginia) have both seen their stock rise in the weeks leading up to the draft. Perrish Cox plays a physical game and can hit like a safety. Brandon Ghee (Wake Forest), Dominique Franks (Oklahoma), and Donovan Warren (Michigan) were ranked higher last year but there’s a reason each player was often talked about on College Game Day many times throughout their career.
Amari Spievey (Iowa) should have probably waited until next year, but he has the tools to develop into a solid No. 2 cornerback early in his career.
Jerome Murphy (South Florida) and Myron Lewis (Vanderbilt) will add playmaking and toughness in the fourth or fifth rounds.
Finally, what the smaller corners lack in height (Javier Arenas and Syd’Quan Thompson) they compensate for with speed and confidence.
3. Offensive Tackle
Nationally, Russell Okung is the top-rate tackle but Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga might have the more remarkable career.
Trent Williams (Oklahoma) has worked hard to climb up the rankings recently and Anthony Davis (Rutgers) can be dominant as a run-blocker. Rounding out the upper tier are Bruce Campbell (Maryland) and Charles Brown (USC).
Indiana’s Rodger Saffold has created a little hype and could move into the second round. Interestingly enough, the two players with as much upside as Okung or Bulaga are small-school standouts Vladimir Ducasse (Massachusetts) and the D-II big man, Jared Veldheer (Hillsdale).
2. Defensive Tackle
Anytime two of the top five—potentially top three—come from the same position, it’s hard not to rank highly.
However, when there’s a potential for seven defensive tackles to be selected in each of the first two rounds there’s no question this position is one of the deepest of its kind in a long time.
Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy are highly acclaimed. Contrary to this ranking though, I’m not convinced McCoy is nearly as good as his surrounding hype. His lack of production is suspicious, regardless of assignment or scheme.
Beyond those two, Dan Williams (Tennessee) is a mountain of a man that flew up the rankings shortly before the draft. Brian Price (UCLA) is shorter than normal, but he’s a human ball of momentum that’s equally productive on running and passing downs. Jared Odrick (Penn State) plays with an aggressiveness that will wear his opponent down throughout the game.
Lamarr Houston (Texas) is a team-first player who doesn’t give up. Terrence Cody (Alabama) is impossible to block by only one lineman so his recent weight loss is promising. Tyson Alualu (California) reminds me of last year’s pick from Notre Dame, Trevor Laws, with his motor and pursuit.
From the third round on, there’s a handful of defensive tackles that were at one time considered to be picked in the first two rounds. Arthur Jones (Syracuse) was mentioned in the same sentence as Price and McCoy until a series of injuries held him back.
Cam Thomas (UNC) is a lane-filler and Geno Atkins (Georgia) uses his lack of size (6'1" 290 pounds) to his advantage from a leverage standpoint.
Two small-school prospects teams will grab near the fourth or fifth rounds are Linval Joseph (East Carolina) and D’Anthony Smith (Louisiana Tech).
1. Outside Linebacker
NFL Draft experts seem to have come to a consensus on the top two positions in the draft with both offensive and defensive tackle in either order.
It’s hard to disagree with that but two players I moved into the outside linebacker grouping helped tip the scales. Brandon Graham and Jerry Hughes are disruptive, high-motor backfield wrecking machines but their size (comparisons to Elvis Dumervil and Dwight Freeney notwithstanding) likely indicates a move to the linebacker corps, preferably in a 3-4 defense.
The top two 4-3 prospects are Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri) and Sergio Kindle (Texas)—each of who could go in the top 32.
Hughes' TCU teammate, Darryl Washington, is also a fine prospect who should go near the end of round two.
There are six or seven other players who should all be picked before the third round ends Friday night. Among them are; Koa Misi (Utah), Eric Norwood (South Carolina), Jason Worilds (Virginia Tech), Ricky Sapp (Clemson), Navorro Bowman (Penn State), and Thaddeus Gibson (Ohio State).
That’s some serious talent and depth.