Fast Forward: Getting Offensive About the 2011 NFL Draft

David BartonContributor IApril 26, 2010

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 17: Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram #22 warms up prior to the start of the Alabama spring game at Bryant Denny Stadium on April 17, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
Dave Martin/Getty Images

It's very early to look at the 2011 NFL draft class, as injuries, scheme changes and outside influences can affect the development of talented prospects.

Based on the early looks, next year figures to be another deep draft class.

The defensive line position will be very deep again with an abundance of playmakers. The quarterback class is much improved with as many as three going in the top half of the draft.

Here is a look at the top offensive skill position players.


1.) Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Most have never seen him play a game because of his team's poor exposure in the pacific northwest. However Jake has a very unusual physical skill set, a tremendous arm with superb mechanics and outstanding speed to create plays with his feet.

Had he declared for the 2010 NFL draft as a junior, he stood a very good chance of being selected first overall.

Like Sam Bradford, he runs the risk of injury in returning for his senior season, but he should benefit from another year of tutelage under Steve Sarkisian. 

Locker has the toughness, competitiveness and intelligence to become a franchise quarterback. He has huge upside and potentially could be the most coveted passer to enter the draft since John Elway.

2.) Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas (Jr.)
The Michigan transfer is considered a future franchise quarterback at the next level. A pocket passer with rare arm strength to make all the throws.

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Mallett has drawn comparisons to Joe Flacco with a bazooka for an arm. He may not be very nimble when he’s forced outside the pocket, however he's not afraid to climb the ladder and deliver the pass.

The 6’6" signal caller has great feel for the rush and a quick release, which makes him difficult to sack.

He's a redshirt junior. Should he have the year he's slated to have, he'll leave early.

He needs to put more muscle on his frame. He has some improvement to make before being a finished product, nevertheless big, big upside.

3.) Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (R-Soph)
Andrew comes from a pedigree of football players. His father played for West Virginia before the Houston Oilers drafted him.

Luck is a strong armed quarterback that will need to prove he can operate when his best weapon is taken away in Toby Gerhart. Pac-10 defenses will pin their ears back to get to the young star who excelled as a redshirt freshman.

Luck has two excellent targets to throw to in Chris Owusu and Ryan Whalen. They dazzled the West Coast together.

Luck has great footwork for a young quarterback to go with superb mechanics. He comes out of a pro-style attack, coached by a former NFL quarteback in Jim Harbaugh.

On the radar guys: (Blain Gabbert, Missouri) (Nick Foles, Arizona) (Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M) (Christian Ponder, Florida State) (Case Keenum, Houston) (Kellen Moore, Boise State)

Compared to last years crop of quarterbacks this class is much stronger.

Running Backs

1.)Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (Jr.)
Last season's Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram has the size and skills scouts love. At 5-10, and 215 lbs, he looks the part of an NFL running back.

He doesn't have game changing speed, but rarely is caught from behind when in the open field.

That is not where he does his damage though. Ingram gets a great percentage of his yards after contact, refusing to go down with elite leg drive and posted at least a hundred yards in all his games.

He possesses great field vision and awareness allowing him to find the hole. His nimble feet let him maneuver in heavy traffic and shows great cutback ability.

His only weaknes is he's not a proven pass protector in blitz pickup situations.

2.)Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech(R-Soph)
A redshirt freshman in 2009. Through twelve games Ryan rushed for 1,538 yards on 268 carries and scored 19 touchdowns.

Williams rushed for 150 or more yards in five of his first seven college games, helping him become ACC Rookie of the Week five times.

One of the more distinctive characteristics of his running style is a run-to-daylight instinct, which can be very unpredictable. At times, he's truly improvisational.

3.) Evan Royster, RB, Penn State
Evan Royster will return for his senior campaign, instead of opting for the NFL draft.

He'll  become Penn State's career rushing leader at some point in 2010.

The three year starter should become the focal point of the offense this season with a first year starter at quarterback.

Royster is a complete back that can catch the ball, pick up blitzes and plays in a pro-style attack. Royster is able to read defenses and hit the open hole suddenly. He's a shifty runner who is a threat to score at any time.

On the radar guys: (Daniel Thomas, Kansas State) (Jamie Harper, Clemson) (John Clay, Wisconsin) (Demarco Murray, Oklahoma) (Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech) (Montell Harris, Boston College)

Compared to last years crop, on par with the 2010 class with a decisive number one, and a heap of 1st to 2nd round talent to follow.

Wide Receivers

1.) A.J. Green, Georgia (Jr.)
Green was a force as a freshmen in 2008 exploding onto the scene snagging 56 balls, 963 yards and eight TDs. He followed it up with a superb sophomore year. He totaled  53 catches, 808 yards and six scores. 

Despite losing offensive firepower with the early departures of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno and missing three games due to injury, Green still showed the ability to make NFL catches.

At 6′4″ and 208 pounds, he has the size and ability to be a true No. 1 receiver.

Green's a tremendous leaper with sticky hands. He's able to go up and catch the jump ball and hangs onto the ball when going over the middle.

Green has elite body control and suddenness in his route running, and elite timing grabbing the ball at it's highest point.

2.) Julio Jones, Alabama (Jr.)
Julio was as highly touted as one can be coming out of high school and hasn't disappointed. Although he has not dominated in college like SEC counterpart, A.J. Green, he was an intregal part in Alabama's national title run.

At 6'4" and 211 pounds, Jones is a big, physical receiver who has the tools to immediately contribute in the NFL.

He rewrote the Crimson Tide's record books as a freshman posting 58 catches, 924 yards and four TDs. He was hampered by injuries his sophomore season struggling to post 43 catches, 596 yards and four TDs.

A long-limbed, rangy, highly competitive receiver who possesses big time talent.

3.) Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh (Jr.)
Baldwin is a raw athletic freak who has a very high ceiling. He explodes off the line with a great first step and Has very good control of his 6'6" body. Baldwin has excellent jumping ability and is capable of making acrobatic grabs.

He has the size and strength to rip the ball away from defenders. Baldwin is a great blocker as well utilizing his big body. He rarely misses an assignment.

He makes jump balls with ease, catching the ball at it's highest point.

He averages close to twenty yards a catch, and has a knack for the big play.

He must improve his route running.

On the radar guys: (Austin Pettis, Boise State) (Michael Floyd, Notre Dame) (DeVier Posey, Ohio State) (Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma) (Chris Owusu, Stanford) (Deandre Brown, Southern Miss) (Greg Little,North Carolina) (Terrence Tolliver, LSU)

Compared to last years crop, this young group of receivers is much more top heavy with as many as five could go first round.

Tight Ends

1.) Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Rudolph is tall and thin right now at 6'6" and 235 pounds, but has the frame to add good weight. He has the ability to add 15-20 pounds in a few years and still maintain is speed, quickness and athleticism.

Rudolph releases off the line quick and smooth, runs well and has soft hands. He displays excellent concentration enabling him to make the tough catch over the middle.

Rudolph can be motioned out wide to create mismatches and is a complete blocker.

He's not a great route runner and needs to improve in that area.

He'll get ample chances in Brian Kelly's pass happy offense.

2.) Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin (Jr.)
Lendricks will see a rise in production in 2010 with Garrett Graham now playing for Houston.

 Kendricks is a typical Wisconsin tight end, a tall and lean receiver who creates mismatches. He can block well for his size but might need to bulk up more to sustain his in-line blocking.

He is best suited for an H-Back role at the next level.

3.) D.J. Williams, Arkansas
Williams has the size, strength and playing speed to be a force in the NFL.

He is very productive having 98 receptions in only two starting seasons. Williams caught 32 passes for 411 yards and three touchdowns last year.

He rarely goes down on first contact, has soft hands and a quick release.

He needs to improve on blocking and is only 6'2".

On the radar guys: (Weslye Saunders, South Carolina) (Luke Stocker, Tennessee) (Mike McNeill, Nebraska)

Compared to last years crop, 2011 tight ends are not nearly as deep but there is talent overall, a top heavy class.

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