|DRAFT 2008: Profiles of the top players by position|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 16 April 2008 16:54|
Position outlook: One of the NFL positions where raw ability can best be shaped, this spot frequently sees some head-scratching picks on draft day, when players with great measurables or workout performances are taken early. There's some real value here this year.
CHRIS LONG, 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, Virginia: A versatile prospect at the position who could be a three-down player due to his array of pass-rush moves and nose for the football. Strong and athletic enough to fight off blocks, his one weak spot is a lack of edge-rush speed. Still, his quickness and anticipation usually are enough for him to overwhelm all but the most massive OLs.
-Vernon Gholston, 6-4, 258, junior, Ohio State: Has the speed to get upfield and past blockers in a hurry, but is less effective against the run. Raw, with plenty of potential to become a top speed rusher or linebacker.
-Derrick Harvey, 6-5, 252, junior, Florida: Quick to read and react, he could be a linebacker project. Either way, he shows excellent acceleration and speed, as well as football IQ.
-Phillip Merling, 6-5, 272, Clemson: Excellent at back-side pursuit, as well as blowing linemen back. Has the proverbial good motor. Struggles when blockers can get into his pads.
-Calais Campbell, 6-8, 282, Miami: Nimble and quick, especially for his size. Quick to react, especially to screens and flares.
-Quentin Groves, 6-3, 250, Auburn: Explosive quickness that could make him a star, but lack of size means he's a tweener project. Potential is there.
Position outlook: A decent amount of talent, though teams tend to draft this position based on scheme, so one team's must-have player could be way down another team's board.
GLENN DORSEY, 6-2, 316, LSU: Explosive and violent, he makes up for lack of size with his strength and energy. Astonishingly quick off the ball, and strong. Quick to diagnose plays and find the ball. Demands attention from blockers, but production could be limited. Also some durability issues.
-Sedrick Ellis, 6-1, 305, Southern Cal: Sudden off the ball, he can disrupt plays before they develop. Good at sniffing out the ball and pursuing. Probably not ideal for a two-gap scheme.
-Pat Sims, 6-2, 310, Auburn: Relentless and tough, he sometimes gets out of position or confused by misdirection. Shoots into backfield and uses hands well, but footwork is lacking.
-Andre Fluellen, 6-2, 285, Florida State: Penetration is his forte, as befitting an undersized but strong prospect. Needs to work on stuff like pad level, hands, and adding as much strength as he can.
-Marcus Harrison, 6-3, 310, Arkansas: Lots of potential, especially as a run-stuffer, but lots of issues, too. Questions regarding durability, desire and some off-field stuff.
-Kentwan Balmer, 6-5, 298: Good off the snap, and shows impressive ability when the effort is there. Possible underachiever, though, or could just be a project.
Position outlook: Modern NFL linebackers need to do it all. They're graded on play versus the run, pass coverage and blitzing ability. LBs that are versatile are a great use of scarce roster spaces, and highly valued.
-Curtis Lofton, 6-0, 238, junior, Oklahoma: Great instincts and ability to read the play, he's a hard-hitter who can shed blocks to reach the ball carrier. Lacks elite speed, but his quick reads help give him a jump anyway. Hits hard, but sometimes leaves his feet. Not a great blitzer.
-Dan Connor, 6-3, 233, Penn State: Seems best suited to being a stay-at-home type, as he's more quick than fast, and is not a sideline-to-sideline pursuer. Takes on and defeats lead blockers well. Might struggle in coverage.
-Tavares Gooden, 6-1, 233, Miami: Can drop into coverage or close on ball carriers quickly, but he doesn't turn fast enough to make him a top coverage option. Good tackler, but can be fooled by misdirection.
-Beau Bell, 6-2, 248, UNLV: Strong, powerful player who picks up plays and accelerates to the ball carrier quickly. Can be washed out when blockers get into his pads. Doesn't change direction well.
-Keith Rivers, 6-3, 235, Southern Cal: Excellent athletic ability, but sometimes can get neutralized, especially in traffic. Persistent effort. Shows promise in pass coverage.
-Jerod Mayo, 6-1, 242, Tennessee: Smart and agile athlete who shows good ability to change direction and stay with RBs and TEs in coverage, as well as avoid blockers. Not great in tight spaces, so his blitzing ability is limited to edge rushes.
-Xavier Adibi, 6-2, 220, Virginia Tech: Athletic ability can only make up so much for his lack of size, but his speed makes him an asset in pass coverage. Struggles to shed blockers.
-Jordon Dizon, 6-0, 228, Colorado: Plays with passion and verve, dodging blockers and reading plays well. Drops into coverage well and can stay with RBs. Size will always be a drawback.
Position outlook: A good lock-down cornerback is hard to find, though this year less than others, with several potential stars available. The safety position is less stocked.
MIKE JENKINS, 6-0, 200, South Florida: Has the speed to stay with anyone and the strength to play good press coverage. He's the top CB in the draft, though he needs to improve tackling, especially in run support, as well as ability to read routes.
-Leodis McKelvin, 5-11, 190, Troy: Elite returner, who shows willingness, if not ability, in run support. Agile and quick. Standout kick returner.
-Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 6-2, 182, Tennessee State: Hard worker with good game instincts and the athletic ability to stick with WRs or close on the ball. Technique is raw.
-Brandon Flowers, 5-10, 189, junior, Virginia Tech: Confident, aggressive player with an excellent skill set. Works hard, plays hard, but can occasionally get reckless and overpursue.
-Aqib Talib, 6-1, 202, Kansas: Great athleticism and ball skills, he has the ability to see time at WR, not to mention in the return game. Needs to improve footwork and technique. Has some off-field issues.
KENNY PHILLIPS, 6-2, 208, junior, Miami: Good speed and ability to read plays. Makes plays in the running game and in coverage, though isn't great in man coverage. A playmaker.
-DaJuan Morgan, 6-0, 205, junior, N.C. State: Like a lesser Phillips, but only just. Plenty of talent here, especially on special teams. Dislocated a hip in high school.
-Tyrell Johnson, 6-0, 207, Arkansas State: Good feel for the ball, as well as agility and tackling skills. Prone to overpursuit. Best with the play in front of him.
-Thomas DeCoud, 6-2, 196, California: Can play any DB position, can make big hits and does better against the run than the pass, where he's prone to backfield peeking. Good kick blocker.
Taylor Melhaff, 5-10, 185, Wisconsin: Left-footer who never had a kick blocked in college. Has shown good concentration in tough spots. Former QB.
Durant Brooks, 6-0, 204, Georgia Tech: Excellent leg strength and hang time, he watches film to gauge returners' tendencies. Getting better with placement, though it's still a work in progress. Holds on kicks.