Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top 50: Post-Combine

LAST UPDATED: 4/20 @ 9:15 AM
-Scouting Reports added for:
#13 Hakeem Nicks
#14 Brian Cushing
#15 Knowshon Moreno

I'm in the process of putting together write-ups on each of these players, and will be done with as many as I can by April 25 (Draft Day). For the NFL Comparisons I'm putting 2 players that they're similar to, or a "cross" between because you can't really compare 1 player to 1 other player very accurately. Please remember these rankings are not where I project these players will be picked, but it is according to how good I think they should be in the NFL.

1. Aaron Curry, LB/Wake Forest
Measurables: 6'2" 254; 4.56; 25 reps
2008 Stats: 105 tackles; 16 TFL; 3 FR

Pros: He's a great all-around linebacker, could fit any number of schemes (best as a 4-3 OLB but could also be 4-3 MLB, 3-4 OLB or 3-4 ILB) and is the safest pick in the draft in my opinion. Excellent size, speed, and strength, and it shows up on the field. Solid in coverage and very good vs. the run, would improve a defense greatly from Day 1. I've been a fan of his since his unheralded sophomore year (go to archives and look at 2007-08 players to watch) and he has proved me right consistently.

Cons: He could probably improve his quickness and might not be able to stay with some shiftier RB's in coverage, but he doesn't show a whole lot of weaknesses.

Outlook: He could go anywhere from #1 to the Lions (although this isn't very likely w/the Julian Peterson trade) to #5 to the Browns, it appears unlikely to me that he'll fall out of the top 5, and is a virtual lock to stay in the top 10.

NFL Comparison: Patrick Willis/Marcus Washington

Current Grade: 9.78

2. Michael Crabtree*, WR/ Texas Tech

Measurables: 6'1" 215
2008 Stats: 93 rec; 1,135 yards; 18 TD

Pros: He's a tremendous natural hands catcher with great body control and instincts when the ball is in the air. He gains yards after contact and can go over the middle with the best of 'em. A playmaking wideout that can get open and make plays on the ball. Possesses good natural strength and can physically overpower most DB's.

Cons: His top-end speed is questionable, and he won't be a big time deep threat at the next level. The foot injury that prevented him from running a 40 isn't doing him any favors. Will he struggle to get open in an NFL offense against quicker CB's?

Outlook: There is no way I'd pass on him if I were the Rams at #2 or the Seahawks at #4, but if he for some reason falls it shouldn't be too far as the Bengals (#6), Raiders (#7), and Jaguars (#8) all appear to be in the market for a WR.

NFL Comparison: Larry Fitzgerald/Roy E. Williams

Current Grade: 9.55

3. Everette Brown*, LB/DE/Florida St
Measurables: 6'2" 256; 4.73; 26 reps
2008 Stats: 36 tackles; 21.5 TFL; 13.5 sacks; 4 FF

Pros: He's one of the most naturally gifted and instinctive pass rushers coming out of college that I've seen in a long time. Shows great potential as a possible 3-4 OLB and has the athleticism in space that could help him dropping into coverage. He also has the frame to put on more weight if a 4-3 team would like him to stay at end. Explosive off the edge with very good technique and leverage.

Cons: He might take a little time to develop at either position, and isn't quite the physical freak that DeMarcus Ware or Shawne Merriman are. Not great vs. the run as a DE but can hold his own. If it didn't work out at LB he might be relegated to situational pass rusher duty, but that seems unlikely to me.

Outlook: He'll probably be off the board toward the end of the top 10, but most people don't have him ranked near as high as I do and he could go to a mid-to-late 1st team that runs a 3-4 (Pats @ 23?). Right now Green Bay @ #9 or San Francisco @ #10 seem like the most logical destinations.

NFL Comparison: LaMarr Woodley/Derrick Burgess

Current Grade: 9.49

4. Brian Orakpo, LB/DE/Texas

Measurables: 6'3" 263; 4.70; 31 reps
2008 Stats: 42 tackles; 19 TFL; 11.5 sacks; 4 FF

Pros: He's a physical freak of nature, and a productive pass rusher. He has Merriman-like potential as a 3-4 LB but could also be kept at DE with his strength and frame. He can dominate the point of attack and has a very powerful upper body, good closing and straight line speed. Turned heads at the combine and improved his stock greatly.

Cons: He isn't especially quick or fluid in open space, and a transition to LB could take some time that many aren't willing to give to top 10 picks. A little inconsistent over his career and can disappear at times. He reminds me of Vernon Gholston, the Jets #6 pick last year that had a very disappointing rookie season.

Outlook: He's likely to go #5 to Cleveland, but if he slips by them he shouldn't get past Green Bay @ #9. Most have him ranked higher than Everette Brown, he will probably be the 2nd defensive player off the board after an extremely strong showing at the combine.

NFL Comparison: Shawne Merriman/Vernon Gholston

Current Grade: 9.39

5. Jason Smith, OT/Baylor
Measurables: 6'5" 309; 5.22; 33 reps; 33.6" arms

Pros: Most agree he has the most potential of all the OT's in this draft, highly athletic guy with excellent feet and solid strength. Has all the tools to be a franchise LT, possesses a mean streak and finishes plays. He really passed up the other prospects at the combine.

Cons: He's not a physically dominating guy in the run game, and needs to work on using proper technique and leverage. He probably isn't the most NFL ready of the top 4 OT's and may need to sit a year or spend one at RT.

Outlook: He has a real shot of going #1 to the Lions if they pass on Stafford, if not the Rams @#2 look to be interested in an OT, as do the the Seahawks @#4, Bengals @#6, Raiders @#7, and Jaguars @#8. It is between Smith and Eugene Monroe to be the top OT taken, and both are all but locks in the Top 10.

NFL Comparison: Chris Samuels/Marvel Smith

Current Grade: 9.32

6. B.J. Raji, DT/Boston College
Measurables: 6'2" 337; 5.12; 33 reps
2008 Stats: 42 tackles; 14 TFL; 7.5 sacks

Pros: He's versatile, has the size/strength to clog up running lanes as a NT and the quickness to penetrate the backfield as a 4-3 DT. Probably helped himself more than anyone at the Senior Bowl and followed that up with a strong combine performance.

Cons: He might have to watch his weight once he's in the league, and he lacks the prototypical height and length of a DT. Won't really bat down many passes and may struggle against bigger linemen with longer arms. I'm not concerned about the rumor of the failed drug test for marijuana, even if it was true.

Outlook: The highest he'll go would probably be to the Browns @ #5 or Bengals @#6, the Jaguars may be interested @#8 and I doubt he would make it past the Broncos @#12.

NFL Comparison: Shaun Rogers/Ryan Pickett

Current Grade: 9.25

7. Darrius Heyward-Bey*, WR/Maryland
Measurables: 6'2" 210; 4.30; 16 reps
2008 Stats: 42 rec; 609 yards; 5 TD

Pros: He has prototypical size, unbelievable straight line & deep speed, long arms and soft hands. His potential is undeniable, and he has a good chance of becoming a top flight, Pro Bowl deep threat.

Cons: He wasn't as productive as his talent would suggest, but that has more to do with the Terps QB's than it does with him. Not real physical over the middle or blocking and needs to sharpen his routes.

Outlook: He helped himself with an amazing combine and could go as high as #8 to the Jaguars, the Jets may be interested @#17 and he shouldn't make it past the Ravens @#26. He may take a couple years of refinement but his potential is through the roof.

NFL Comparison: Andre Johnson/Troy Williamson

Current Grade: 9.19

8. Rey Maualuga, ILB/USC
Measurables: 6'2" 249; 4.81; 23 reps
2008 Stats: 79 tackles; 2.5 TFL; 2 INT

Pros: He is a devastating hitter and violently explodes through the ballcarrier. Would come in and help a team's run defense significantly on day 1. Great size and overall strength, plays with amazing intensity on every down.

Cons: He will never be a great guy in coverage, and may just be a 2-down MLB because he cannot stay with fast running backs. Lacks speed and isn't a great overall athlete.

Outlook: He should go to a team looking to boost their run D immediately. Cincinnati and Oakland at #6 and #7 would probably be a stretch but he would fill a need in either town, right now Denver @#12 looks like the best fit but he could slip after struggling at the combine.

NFL Comparison: E.J. Henderson/Earl Holmes

Current Grade: 9.11

9. Michael Oher, OT/Ole Miss
Measurables: 6'5" 309; 5.34; 21 reps; 33.4" arms

Pros: He's a big guy that bends well and can absolutely dominate at times. Although you may hear differently, I believe he had a very impressive Senior Bowl week and played with aggressiveness. Solid athlete on the field, can slide well and moves with fluidity at the second level.

Cons: I think the combine really hurt him, as his bench was average at best, 40 was below average, and his arms measured shorter than the other top tackles. Some have questioned his intelligence and learning curve, and he can be a little inconsistent during games. He did not play up to his talent consistently during his senior season.

Outlook: In my eyes he was a lock for the top 10 before the combine, but now it's not so certain. One thing going for him is the amount of teams in the top half of the 1st looking for a quality young LT. He might need to take some time at OG (he played there his freshman year) and develop into a starter at Left Tackle someday. As far as teams go, the Bengals and Raiders might be too high but I don't think he'll get past the Eagles @#21.

NFL Comparison: Vernon Carey/Levi Brown

Current Grade: 9.09

10. Eugene Monroe, OT/Virginia
Measurables: 6'5" 309; 5.18; 23 reps; 33.7" arms

Pros: He's a big, long LT prospect with the frame to add more weight. He's a good athlete and can block at the second level easily. One of the most NFL ready tackles in the draft, specializes in pass protection and slides very well.

Cons: He can be inconsistent at times, doesn't always show great aggressiveness and won't finish every play. His combine workout wasn't what some expected, he could improve his overall strength & run blocking.

Outlook: There is still a chance he could go to the Lions at #1, the Rams and Seahawks might be interested as well. I doubt he gets past the Jaguars @#8, most have him ranked as the 2nd best OT prospect behind Baylor's Jason Smith. Depending on which team he goes to, he could be a day 1 starter at LT.

NFL Comparison: Ryan Harris/Jammal Brown

Current Grade: 9.05

11. Jeremy Maclin*, WR/Missouri
Measurables: 6'0" 198; 4.46
2008 Stats: 102 rec; 1,260 yards; 13 TD

Pros: He's a playmaker and his acceleration is second to none. Very productive in college, both as a returner and #1 receiver. Runs with excellent vision in the open field and makes efficient cuts, has game-changing potential.

Cons: He played in a spread offense, so it will be interesting to see how his routes translate to the NFL. Not a real big guy, didn't run as well as many thought he would at the combine. Will probably have trouble going over the middle at the next level.
Outlook: The Jaguars should take a look at him @#8, he could go to the Jets @#17 and may even slip to the Ravens @#26 but a guy with his talent shouldn't slip out of the first round. I think he could contribute right away on special teams but may take a year or two before he becomes a player in the passing game.

NFL Comparison: Roddy White/Ted Ginn Jr

Current Grade: 9.03

12. Mark Sanchez*, QB/USC
Measurables: 6'3" 227; 4.92
2008 Stats: 3,207 yards; 65.8%; 34 TD 10 INT

Pros: He's a solid athlete and can throw very well on the run. His performance in the Rose Bowl against Penn State was unbelievable, really showed he has the arm to make every throw. He definitely has the potential to develop into a good starter if he's developed properly.

Cons: Inexperience is the biggest knock against him, and he doesn't have the same rocket arm that Stafford does. Isn't really a prototype pocket passer in terms of size and he may need to take some time on the bench before he's ready to start.

Outlook: The highest he could go would probably be to the Seahawks at #4, but that appears unlikely. The best fit right now looks like the 49ers @#10, and if he doesn't go there he could slip to the Jets @#17. He will probably need some time to develop and would fit best in a West-Coast scheme but has all the tools to be a productive QB somewhere down the road.

NFL Comparison: Tony Romo/Trent Edwards

Current Grade: 8.92

13. Hakeem Nicks*, WR/North Carolina
Measurables: 6'1" 212; 4.51
2008 Stats: 68 rec; 1,222 yards; 12 TD

Pros: He's a big, strong possession receiver with great hands, overall athleticism and body control. Reminds me a lot of Anquan Boldin, who has been doing very good for himself. Nicks is a playmaker that had an excellent postseason. Has the strength to physically dominate most DB's. Excellent run after the catch, very hard to bring down.

Cons: His separation speed will be tested at the next level, he didn't always appear to be running routes 100% at UNC and took a few plays off per game. Not the quickest guy around, might have some weight fluctuations.

Outlook: He could go to the Vikings, Ravens, or Titans near the end of the 1st, and wherever he goes he has the playmaking ability at WR to make an impact soon.

NFL Comparison: Chris Chambers/Anquan Boldin

Current Rating: 8.90

14. Brian Cushing, OLB/USC

Measurables: 6'3" 243; 4.74; 30 reps
2008 Stats: 73 tackles; 10.5 TFL; 3 sacks

Pros: He's a big, strong, athletic guy that plays with tenacity and toughness. A versatile player that could contribute at multiple positions in different defensive schemes, a reliable tackler and is solid in coverage.

Cons: He's had some injury problems in college and durability would be a concern. Sometimes he takes very aggressive angles to the ballcarrier and ends up missing out on the play altogether.

Outlook: He should definitely be a first round pick, and could improve a defense right away as either a 3-4 ILB or 4-3 OLB. Some teams that might be interested are the Saints @#14, Texans @#15, and I doubt he'll make it past the Falcons @#24.

NFL Comparison: Nick Barnett/Ben Leber

Current Grade: 8.83

15. Knowshon Moreno*, RB/Georgia
Measurables: 5'11" 217; 4.63; 25 reps
2008 Stats: 1,400 yards; 5.6 average; 16 TD

Pros: He's a strong back, and runs with good pad level but his biggest strengths would have to be his lateral mobility and vision. He rarely gets stopped for losses and can find holes in the defense before they're even open. Solid all around player and a hard worker, excellent overall athlete.

Cons: He ran a below average 40 time, but straight line speed was never considered a strength of his. Might not ever be a star and his breakaway speed isn't amazing but he makes plays and should be a good starter in the league.

Outlook: There are rumors about the Bengals falling in love with him but a more realistic scenario would be to the Texans, Chargers, or even Broncos. He might start out on the bench but has the talent to be a playmaker in the league.

NFL Comparison: LaDainian Tomlinson/Marshawn Lynch

Current Rating: 8.81

16. Matthew Stafford*, QB/Georgia

Measurables: 6'2" 225; 4.81
2008 Stats: 3,459 yards; 61.0%; 25 TD 10 INT

17. Michael Johnson, DE/Georgia Tech

Measurables: 6'7" 266; 4.75; 28 reps
2008 Stats: 43 tackles; 15 TFL; 7 sacks; 2 FF

18. Percy Harvin*, WR/Florida

Measurables: 5'11" 192; 4.41; 19 reps
2008 Stats: 40 rec; 644 yards; 7 TD; 660 rushing yards; 10 TD

19. Connor Barwin, DE/LB/Cincinnati

Measurables: 6'4" 256; 4.66; 21 reps
2008 Stats: 53 tackles; 16 TFL; 11 sacks

20. Malcolm Jenkins, DB/Ohio St

Measurables: 6'0" 204; 4.51; 15 reps
2008 Stats: 57 tackles; 9 PD; 3 INT; 3FF

21. Jamon Meredith, OL/South Carolina

Measurables: 6'5" 304; 5.03; 31 reps; 34.4" arms

21. Knowshon Moreno*, RB/Georgia
Measurables: 5'11" 217; 4.63; 25 reps
2008 Stats: 1,400 yards; 5.6 average; 16 TD

22. Beanie Wells*, RB/Ohio St
Measurables: 6'1" 235; 4.59; 25 reps
2008 Stats: 1,197 yards; 5.8 average; 8 TD

23. Peria Jerry, DT/Ole Miss

Measurables: 6'2" 299; 4.98; 28 reps
2008 Stats: 49 tackles; 18 TFL; 7 sacks; 2 FF

24. Aaron Maybin*, LB/DE/Penn St

Measurables: 6'4" 249; 4.78; 22 reps
2008 Stats: 49 tackles; 20 TFL; 12 sacks; 3 FF

25. Andre Smith*, OT/Alabama

Measurables: 6'4" 332; 5.28; 19 reps; 35.3" arms

26. Brandon Pettigrew, TE/Oklahoma St

27. Ron Brace, NT/Boston College

28. Lawrence Sidbury, DE/LB/Richmond

29. Eben Britton*, OT/Arizona

30. Alphonso Smith, CB/Wake Forest

31. Vontae Davis*, CB/Illinois

32. Fili Moala, DT/USC

33. Josh Freeman*, QB/Kansas St

34. Shonn Greene*, RB/Iowa

35. Antoine Caldwell, C/Alabama

36. Louis Delmas, S/Western Michigan

37. D.J. Moore*, CB/Vanderbilt

38. James Casey*, TE/Rice

39. Jarron Gilbert, DE/DT/San Jose St

40. Kenny Britt*, WR/Rutgers

41. Sean Smith*, DB/Utah

42. LeSean McCoy*, RB/Pittsburgh

43. Clay Matthews, OLB/USC

44. Ziggy Hood, DT/Missouri

45. Jared Cook*, TE/South Carolina

46. Shawn Nelson, TE/Southern Miss

47. Patrick Chung, S/Oregon

48. Robert Ayers, DE/Tennessee

49. Rhett Bomar, QB/Oklahoma

50. Brian Robiskie, WR/Ohio St

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Player Interview: Josh Vaughan

Josh Vaughan is a very productive and versatile RB from last year's FCS champions Richmond Spiders. He patiently waited behind current Arizona Cardinal Tim Hightower for 3 years and it paid off in the end. He's a similar type of player, being around the same size and running with the same hard nosed style. He has a very good chance to get picked up on day 2 of the draft.

Career Highlights:
79-yd TD reception vs. Maine (2005)
91 carries; 569 yds; 5 TD (2006)
109 carries; 723 yds; 9 TD (2007)
132 yds and 2 TD vs. William & Mary (2007)
Game-Winning TD in 5-OT game @ Delaware (2007)
354 carries; 1,884 yds; 20 TD (2008)
240 yards; 2 TD @ Hofstra (2008)
133 yards; 3 TD vs. Appalachian St in FCS Quarterfinals (2008)
162 yards; TD vs. Montana in FCS Championship (2008)
1st team All-CAA (2008)

"I’m a big back who has good speed, agility, and versatility"
              -Josh Vaughan

JP: What is your current height/weight, 40 time and 225 bench reps?

JV: 6 feet, 230 and 40 probably 4.6ish range right now. I can get 25 reps.

JP: How are you getting physically prepared for the draft?

JV: Right now I’m just training down in Florida, just getting away from all the distractions back home so I can just be focused on bettering myself for my Pro Day.

JP: Are there any players in the NFL you would compare yourself to, or model your game after?

JV: Not off the top of my head, I liked how Fred Taylor runs, and Frank Gore. They’re pretty versatile and I like their running style.

JP: What do you feel are your strengths as a player?

JV: My ability to break tackles, I’m smart, like I know what’s going on on the field, and versatility I believe, being able to run and catch and block.

JP: What area of your game do you think could use the most improvement?

JV: Pass Pro.

JP: Are you happy you waited it out at Richmond behind Tim Hightower?

JV: I believe so, everything happens for a reason. Tim helped pave the way for a guy like me, the 1-AA guys.

JP: Who is the best defensive player you’ve ever faced?

JV: Clint Sintim, he’s a first or second round pick this year in the draft.

JP: Who are some of your teammates that you think have a shot of playing at the next level?

JV: Lawrence Sidbury, Sherman Logan, hopefully all the guys that graduate this year have a shot. All of us started and contributed to our team’s success a lot, so any of us that left school this year should get a chance.

JP: What is the greatest moment of your athletic career?

JV: Probably us winning the national championship this year.

JP: What’s your favorite NFL team?

JV: The Redskins.

JP: What do you like to do in your free time?

JV: Just basically relax, I’m kind of a video game guy, so you know, play video games, and just sleep really.

JP: Why should a team take you on April 25th/26th?

JV: Because I’m a big back who has good speed, agility, and versatility. You have a person who’s going to work hard and do anything to get on the field and contribute.