DRAFT 2007: Profiles of the top players by position Print
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Friday, 27 April 2007 12:11
NFL Headline News

 NEW YORK (AP) -Notable defensive and special teams players in the NFL draft, grouped by projected NFL positions. All are seniors unless noted.
DEFENSIVE ENDS
Position outlook: Despite the numbers, the class is kind of weak, with only a few top prospects and some projects. Defensive ends who can pressure the passer and change the game are always at a premium, but a lot of players who shine in workouts at the position can later struggle in real games.

GAINES ADAMS, 6-5, 260, Clemson: Quick and dangerous as an end rusher, he also has shown a knack for batting down passes with his agility and leaping ability. Has good escape moves if he doesn't beat his man with speed or explosiveness. Could fill out some. He's agile and can change directions quickly, though he doesn't shed blocks as often as he should. He can be stood up by blockers, and sometimes gets out of control emotionally. Could be a better tackler.
JAMAAL ANDERSON, junior, 6-6, 279, Arkansas: An excellent prospect when he plays with the proper amount of aggression. He reads plays well and can run down ballcarriers on running plays. His Achilles' heel is his speed off the snap, which is not that good.
JARVIS MOSS, junior, 6-6, 251, Florida: A talented, nimble athlete who needs to add some bulk and learn to use his hands better to keep linemen at bay. More of a finesse rusher than a power one. His height and quickness help him tip passes.
CHARLES JOHNSON, junior, 6-2, 272, Georgia: A compact brute whose forte is shoving linemen into the backfield rather than beating them around the corner. Long arms are an asset, as is his initial quickness. Good pursuer on runs, but knows how to stay at home.
ADAM CARRIKER, 6-6, 292, Nebraska: Kind of an in-between player whose bulk could serve him well as an interior tackle or a power end in a 3-4 system. Has good habits, using his arms and hands well, but his lack of speed and agility are liabilities against the pass rush. Can get drawn in by play-action.
- LAMARR WOODLEY, 6-2, 269, Michigan: Has played outside LB, and could see time there in the NFL. Strength and fundamentals help make up for his less-than-ideal size, but massive linemen can engulf him.
- IKAIKA ALAMA-FRANCIS, 6-5, 250, Hawaii: Raw, but athletically freakish. A former basketball player who switched to football four years ago, his potential is a long way off.
- RAY MCDONALD, 6-3, 281, Florida: Another 'tweener with the strength and athleticism to play tackle or end; he played both in college.
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DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Position outlook: NFL DTs need to do more than just clog up the middle. The elite ones are the kind who can occupy two blockers, freeing their teammates to wreak havoc, or pressure the QB themselves. The latter trait is especially valuable, which is part of the reason Amobi Okoye has received such accolades.

ALAN BRANCH, junior, 6-6, 331, Michigan: Mountainous and violent, he can occupy two blockers and free up teammates. He could trade some bulk for quickness, but he's not sluggish by any means. Strong push off the snap can overwhelm blockers, but he could improve his repertoire of pass-rush moves. Is effective sitting back against the running game. Has played NT, DT and DE, in the 3-4 and the 4-3, but would probably fit best in a two-gap scheme. Some scouts questioned his desire.
AMOBI OKOYE, 6-foot-1, 300, Louisville: A rare teenager in the NFL draft, Okoye moved from Nigeria to Alabama at age 12. He has his degree and would be the youngest player ever drafted. Like Branch, shows ability to overwhelm blockers. Very athletic and quick off the snap, but how much will that be affected if (and when) he adds size. His eight sacks were outstanding for a DT. Not likely to dominate right away, but shows the potential to become the eventual top DT from this draft.
TANK (DEMARCUS) TYLER, 6-2, 323, N.C. State: Quick off the ball, he has an expansive repertoire of moves to beat linemen and make plays in the backfield as well as at the line on runs in his direction. Smart player who rarely misreads a play or gets taken in by misdirection.
- PAUL SOLIAI, 6-4, 334, Utah: A former offensive lineman who is more of a run-stuffer than a pass-rusher, but should be able to collapse the pocket. Should continue improving.
- MARCUS THOMAS, 6-3, 296, Florida: Trouble in all sorts of ways. He can wreak havoc with linemen, stuff runs and chase down ballcarriers. He also failed tests for marijuana - twice. Has apologized in part during interviews.
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LINEBACKERS
Position Outlook: Linebackers have to do it all in the NFL. The beast who blows up running plays also has to be able to blitz and drop into coverage, sometimes deep. Patrick Willis is a nice talent, but after him, most of the players both inside and out project as solid professionals, but not quite future superstars.

INSIDE LINEBACKER
age, though his technique needs work and his ball skills aren't great. Despite toughness, injuries have been a concern. Great intangibles.
JUSTIN DURANT, 6-1, 235, Hampton: His drive and instincts help make up for his small size. He'll probably wind up in a 4-3 system, where his speed, tackling ability and aggression are best suited. Shows skill in pass coverage.
DAVID HARRIS, 6-2, 239, Michigan: Reads plays instantly and wraps up well when he meets the ballcarrier. Does his best work between the tackles, where he is a consistent menace. Lack of athleticism means he's not great in pass coverage, and could struggle if asked to cover elite TEs.
- ZAK DEOSSIE, 6-5, 250, Brown: It seems as if every draft has to have at least one highly regarded Ivy Leaguer. DeOssie is big, fast and the son of a former NFL linebacker, Steve DeOssie. Needs to improve consistency and strength.
- H.B. BLADES, 5-11, 237, Pittsburgh: Another son of an NFL player, H.B. is the offspring of safety Bennie Blades. His instincts and strength help make up for his lack of height.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
an the pass, though his speed and agility give him good range to go against RBs and TEs. He could play inside as well in the NFL.
LAWRENCE TIMMONS, junior, 6-3, 232, Florida State: Great natural talent who reads plays well and executes against the run and pass. Should be able to cover TEs well. His main negatives are his inconsistent technique and his less-than-quick burst off the snap, but his savvy and athleticism usually make up for these.
JON BEASON, junior, 6-0, 236, Miami: Motivated, hard-working player whose aggressiveness can get him into trouble. His speed and athleticism serve him well, but he needs to improve his coverage awareness and stop biting on play-fakes so often. Better at avoiding blockers than shedding them.
- RUFUS ALEXANDER, 6-1, 227, Oklahoma: Fast and smart player who delivers hard hits to ballcarriers, blockers, quarterbacks and anyone else in his way. Speed and size make him more of a weakside player, though.
- STEWART BRADLEY, 6-4, 256, Nebraska: Smooth athlete who uses consistent technique, but isn't a big playmaker. Some durability issues.
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DEFENSIVE BACKS
Position Outlook: In the pass-first NFL, defensive backs are always a popular choice, and large numbers are frequently taken. But the ones who pan out often are the ones who work hardest off the field to maximize their considerable natural talent. At safety, there's a bit of a talent dropoff after Reggie Nelson and LaRon Landry, but cornerback should be a deep position without any potential big stars.

CORNERBACK
LEON HALL, 5-11, 193, Michigan: A hard-working and instinctive defender who might eventually wind up at free safety. He's got a great work ethic and is fluid in coverage, both backpedaling and turning to follow. He also has good reaction and ball skills, setting a school record for pass deflections. Needs to improve in press coverage. He's savvy on the field, but sometimes gives receivers a bit too much of a cushion. Can contribute against the run.
AARON ROSS, 6-1, 192, Texas: Savvy corner who reads plays well and can come from almost out of nowhere to make a play on the ball. Great hands, too. He doesn't attack the run with great relish, which is probably his only weakness, and a correctable one at that.
TANARD JACKSON, 6-0, 192, Syracuse: Talented athlete with long arms and the speed to compete with any WR. Turns and runs without losing speed and can make hard tackles, though sometimes he could use better form, especially against the run. His ball skills need some work.
DAYMEION HUGHES, 5-10, 192, California: Interception machine in college with exceptional instincts. Physical, yet fluid in his hip turn, he's tough to shake in man coverage, and reads the QB well in zone coverage. Rarely fooled.
- ERIC WRIGHT, junior, 5-11, 190, UNLV: A fleet, athletic player who can mix it up in press coverage. Nose for the ball. Needs to improve his technique.
- DARELLE REVIS, junior, 6-0, 197, Pittsburgh: Talented, quick, hard-hitting corner whose footwork is a mess. Punt-return threat.
- MARCUS MCCAULEY, 6-1, 200, Fresno State: Instinctive athlete who can do it all, but fails to do so with any consistency. Had rough senior season.
- CHRIS HOUSTON, junior, 5-11, 185, Arkansas: Raw player who drew attention at workouts. Unreached potential.
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SAFETY
REGGIE NELSON, junior, 6-0, 193, Florida: Violent, aggressive player who loves to hit, Nelson often finds himself around the ball. Very instinctive on the field, he's also got the speed and burst to play center field as a free safety, especially in a cover-2 or cover-3 scheme. Needs work on wrapping up rather than trying to knock down ballcarriers. Will sometimes play the ball when playing the man is called for. Not great against the run. Could stand to add some bulk, but his speed and athleticism serve him well.
LARON LANDRY, 6-0, 213, LSU: Landry is similar to Michigan's Hall in that he could be used as a kind of hybrid player. He's a free safety prospect who could thrive in man coverage, particularly over slot receivers and elite TEs. Against the run, he's quick and loves contact. Doesn't often get caught out of place by misdirection. Should be an immediate contributor on special teams.
BRANDON MERIWEATHER, 5-11, 192, Miami: Smart, heads-up player who is tough to fool with misdirection and tough for TEs to shake in coverage. Has the grace of a cornerback when playing the deep ball. Was a central figure in the brawl between Miami and Florida International, but also issued an apology without university prompting. Can play both positions as well as nickel.
AARON ROUSE, 6-4, 225, Virginia Tech: Quick break and good closing speed mean he's frequently around the ball. Plays well against the run, and doesn't get fooled by play-action. Has good ball skills and although he's not a hard hitter, he tackles well. High character.
- MICHAEL GRIFFIN, 6-0, 195, Texas: Lots of athletic ability here, but he is a step behind on field smarts. Struggles in coverage and, occasionally, with wrapping up. Aggressive and willing, especially against the run.
- KEVIN PAYNE, 6-0, 216, Louisiana-Monroe: Savvy player who makes plays on the ball and makes sure tackles. His acceleration and eye for the QB keep him competitive in the passing game, although he'll probably just stick to handling TEs. Not great against the run.
- ERIC WEDDLE, 5-11, 200, Utah: Versatile playmaker who will see action on special teams. Played at CB (as well as QB and RB at times). He also holds on kicks and covers and returns punts. Makes good plays on balls in the air, though he probably will only cover TEs in NFL.
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SPECIALISTS
Position Outlook: Few teams draft such specialized players because replacement-level kickers and punters are easy to find as free agents. That said, in the risk-averse NFL, having a reliable or versatile player is certainly an asset. Those are the ones worth a second-day pick.

KICKER
MASON CROSBY, 6-1, 214, Colorado: Likely to be the only kicker drafted, Crosby's leg strength and accuracy are impressive. He sent 70 percent of kickoffs for touchbacks, and although his home field is at altitude, he has a 58-yarder at Miami to his credit, too. His senior year stats look ugly at first, but he made 17 of 19 kicks inside 50 yards. Has made almost all of his late-game kicks, save for two from beyond 60 yards.
- JUSTIN MEDLOCK, UCLA: 6-0, 201, Powerful leg, but gets erratic at distance. Struggles with hang time on kickoffs. Character could be an issue.
PUNTER
DANIEL SEPULVEDA, Baylor: Booming leg strength and hang time are assets, as is experience holding on extra points and, yes, even his speed (for fakes.) Tore knee ligaments before last season and had reconstructive knee surgery. Played linebacker in high school.
- ADAM PODLESH, 5-11, 202, Maryland: Speedy, especially by punter standards, he's got a strong leg. Not great at pinning teams inside the 20, but can flip a field or run a key fake. Was a sprinter on his high school track team.
END PROFILES
 

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