The NFL Draft is fast approaching, but first prospects must go through the NFL Scouting Combine and their individual pro days, not to mention private workouts with teams that may be interested in their services. There's a long way to go before April 28 gets here, but draft boards are already beginning to take shape. A lot can, and probably will, change between now and the first round of the draft, but here's what we currently think of the top ten players at each position.
Be sure to check out our 2011 NFL Combine coverage as we are putting out daily Risers & Fallers as they workout. Also, checkout our 2011 NFL Draft Prospect Player Profile Page where we are adding new potential high round draft player profiles every day to the database. That’s also where you will find our latest NFL Mock Draft in our series Mock 3.0. Check back as our 2011 NFL Mock Draft 4.0 will be out on Thursday March 4, after the Combine results have been digested.
TOP 10 QB's
1. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada Wolf Pack - What do you call a quarterback with 4.4 speed and a rocket arm who makes all of the throws and goes through progressions? We call him the #1 quarterback Prospect
2. Cam Newton, Auburn Tigers- The quickest assessment is to say that he could be Ben Roethlisberger with better speed.
3. Jake Locker, Washington Huskies- Needs to increase his accuracy from inside the pocket. Top play action quarterback in the draft.
4. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri Tigers- We aren't as high on Gabbert as most. He has to tighten up his technique and learn to look for the second option.
5. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas Razorbacks- Great arm strength and accuracy, but a lot of questions surrounding his game play is last two minutes of games.
6. Andy Dalton, TCU Horned Frogs - He doesn't WOW you. He can make the throws and reads defenses well. Better than advertised.
7. Christian Ponder, Florida State Seminoles- Has all of the tools, but way too inconsistent. Needs to improve accuracy.
8. Ricky Stanzi, Iowa Hawkeyes - His growth from last year to this year was amazing. Looks most comfortable when dropping back from center.
9. Nathan Enderlie, Idaho Vandals- He has the prototypical NFL quarterback size, but at Idaho he didn't play the top competition so the NFL will be an even bigger adjustment than it normal.
10. Pat Devlin, Delaware Fighting Blue Hens- Because he went to Delaware, he's compared to Joe Flacco a lot, but they're not close to the same player.
TOP 10 RB's
1. Mikel Leshoure, Illinois Fighting Illini- Leshoure and the next guy on this list, Mark Ingram, are essentially 1A and 1B on our top ten list.
2. Mark Ingram, Alabama Crimson Tide- Both Ingram and Leshoure possess a good combination of size and speed, and are featured back material at the next level.
3. Daniel Thomas, Kansas State Wildcats- Two big seasons in a row: 1,265 yards, 5.1-yard average, 11 touchdowns in 2009; 1,585 yards, 5.3-yard average 19 touchdowns in 2010.
4. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech Hokies- Injury concerns in 2010 after breakout 2009 campaign.
5. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma Sooners- Murray has been a major part of the Sooners ground game since his freshman season and promises to be a tough runner at the next level.
6. Da'Rel Scott, Maryland Terrapins- Productive in 2008, but injuries slowed him in 2009. Good combo of size and speed.
7. Jordan Todman, Connecticut Huskies- Todman burst onto the national landscape in 2010 with 1,695 yards and 14 touchdowns as he led the Huskies to the Fiesta Bowl where he put up 121 yards against Oklahoma.
8. Shane Vereen, California Golden Bears- Emerged from Jahvid Best's shadow in '09, didn't disappoint in 2010 with a productive year.
9. Delone Carter, Syracuse Orange- Carter was a major reason for the Orange's 6-2 start. He finished with 1,233 yards including 198 yards in a wild Pinstripe Bowl win over Kansas State.
10. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State Beavers- Shifty back that could be picked in a higher round because of his game-breaking ability.
TOP 10 WR's
1. AJ Green, Georgia Bulldogs - He's quite simply the best receiver to come out in years. An instant star from day one.
2. Julio Jones, Alabama Crimson Tide- He's closer to AJ Green than most would imagine. He's a starter from day one.
3. Leonard Hankerson, Miami Hurricanes - The most underrated wide receiver in this year's draft. Hankerson runs solid routes and allows no ball to get by him.
4. Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh Panthers- A rare combination of 6'5 height with a huge vertical, will open teams' eyes at the Combine.
5. Titus Young, Boise State Broncos- Compared mostly to DeSean Jackson. Speed guy that can run good enough routes.
6. Torrey Smith, Maryland Terrapins- Another physical freak of nature. If he puts out the 40 time that he says he's capable of, Smith will crack top five.
7. Jerrel Jernigan, Troy Trojans- We fully expect Jerrel to run the quickest 40 time at the combine. He's not just a speed guy, though.
8. Tandon Doss, Indiana Hoosiers- Huge sleeper in this year's class. Doss has the speed of the little guys, but comes in at 6'2. Could surprise in 2011.
9. Greg Little, North Carolina Tar Heels- Inconsistent quarterback play in college kept him from being a big name prospect.
10. Randall Cobb, Kentucky Wildcats- Some like him at running back, but we see him more in a Dexter McCluster type role.
TOP 10 TE's
1. Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame- Rudolph got hurt halfway through the 2010 season, marking the second season in a row that Rudolph got hurt and had to miss games, so durability could be a concern.
2. Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin Badgers- Had three or more receptions in nine of the 12 games in which he played last season.
3. D.J. Williams, Arkansas Razorbacks- Good receiving tight end. Shade under 700 yards receiving in 2008; 627 yards as a senior in 2010. He is also a great blocker in the running game.
4. Luke Stocker, Tennessee Volunteers- Good size at 6'5, 255 lbs. Will be a nice target in the red zone.
5. Weslye Saunders, South Carolina Gamecocks- Dismissed from team after a scandal surrounding impermissible benefits from an agent. Great tight end who was considered a top prospect before his dismissal.
6. Rob Housler, Florida Atlantic Owls- Put on weight and now looks like a good blocker/receiver prospect in the NFL.
7. Mike McNeill, Nebraska Cornhuskers- Could be an H-back type of guy who can play out of the slot position.
8. Cameron Graham, Louisville Cardinals- A tough player with nice hands who could be an effective weapon in the short- to mid-range passing game.
9. Zack Pianalto, North Carolina Tar Heels- Had 30 receptions for 311 receiving yards (led the team) before going down with a fractured fibula in the October 16 game at Virginia last season.
10. Kyle Adams, Purdue Boilermakers- Has good size at 6'4, 250 lbs. Nice, soft hands. Pit Bull Award recipient for his intensity during spring practice last year.
TOP 10 OT's
1. Nate Solder, Colorado Buffaloes- Solid prospect that will get even better, as he's relatively fresh at the tackle position. Used to play tight end, which is why he has good feet.
2. Tyron Smith, USC Trojans- Questions about his weight. He's supposed to bulk up from 280 pounds to low 300s.
3. Anthony Castonzo, Boston College Eagles- The most consistent of all of the tackles. If you base it on what they are today, he would be #1.
4. Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State Bulldogs- We really like his all around game. He may actually move higher up the board with a solid combine.
5. Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin Badgers- Could possibly play left tackle in the NFL, but we like him more on the right side.
6. James Carpenter, Alabama Crimson Tide- There are some flaws to his game but he shows flashes of brilliance. If he has a combine as solid as Senior Bowl week, he could easily move into the top five.
7. Benjamin Ijalana, Villanova Wildcats- Shows the talent to be a tackle, but if he slides a team would be wise to play him on the interior.
8. Joseph Barksdale, LSU Tigers- Joseph has shown flashes of brilliance, but will occasionally follow it up with a brutally bad play.
9. Chris Hairston, Clemson Tigers- Hairston is a solid tackle that didn't let anyone past him at the Shrine game.
10. Marcus Cannon, TCU Horned Frogs- Very talented with good feet especially for his size (350). Has succeeded on the left and right at TCU.
TOP 10 G/C's
1. Danny Watkins, Baylor Bears- 26-years-old and just recently picked up the game of football. As talented as he is, he is still wet behind the ears and can develop into a Pro Bowler.
2. Mike Pouncey, Florida Gators- He's being ranked #1 by most due to the success of his brother. He isn't Maurkice, but he is talented.
3. Rodney Hudson, Florida State Seminoles- Teams would like to see him add more weight, but he's a brick wall regardless.
4. Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State Nittany Lions- Size and strength are limiting him now. Great blocker but concerns when facing the NFL size linemen.
5. John Moffitt, Wisconsin Badgers- Has a mean streak and treats defenders like someone trying to harm his family. Doesn't allow anyone through.
6. Jake Kirkpatrick, TCU Horned Frogs- Just like his teammate at TCU, Marcus Cannon, they were a fortress for Andy Dalton.
7. Kristofer O'Dowd, USC Trojans- Will only play as a center, but he'll be a solid one in the league for years to come. Can you say Pete Carroll?
8. Tim Barnes, Missouri Tigers- Gets into good form early and anchors down, but has some bad technique giving up ground.
9. Brandon Fusco, Slippery Rock- Small school guy that has to prove that he can perform against the best talent in the world.
10. Chase Beeler, Stanford Cardinal- One of the biggest things Andrew Luck might regret about going back to Stanford, missing Beeler's protection.
TOP 10 DE's
1. Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson Tigers- The best player in this year's draft. He projects best as a 4-3 end, but could play 3-4 outside linebacker, too.
2. Robert Quinn, North Carolina Tar Heels- Sat out entire 2010 season after it was revealed he accepted gifts from an agent. A dynamic pass rusher best used as a 4-3 end.
3. Cameron Jordan, California Golden Bears- One of our favorite players in this year's draft. He just keeps climbing draft boards. Great swim move.
4. Aldon Smith, Missouri Tigers- Agile, quick, high-motor guy. Only a redshirt sophomore in 2010, so his NFL team will look to develop his raw athleticism.
5. Adrian Clayborn, Iowa Hawkeyes- A real warrior on the line of scrimmage. Great strength to play the 3-4 defensive end spot, but could be used as a 4-3 tackle where he could create an interior pass rush.
6. Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue Boilermakers- Mentioned as a 3-4 outside linebacker prospect, but we like him best as a 4-3 end. Recorded 13 sacks in 2010 after recording 12 in 2009 and seven in 2008. Very consistent as a productive pass rusher.
7. J.J. Watt, Wisconsin Badgers- Could be one of several defensive ends taken in the first round. An option at end in either 4-3 or 3-4 alignments.
8. Sam Acho, Texas Longhorns- Won the Wuerffel Trophy and Campbell Trophy, two awards given to athletes who combine athletic ability with academic success and community service.
9. Cameron Heyward, Ohio State Buckeyes- Stock fell last season, as many considered him a potential top ten pick before the season. Could slide into the second round.
10. Greg Romeus, Pittsburgh Panthers- Missed most of last season due to a back injury and later knee injury. Recorded four, seven and eight sacks in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively. Considered first rounder before injuries.
TOP 10 DT's
1. Nick Fairley, Auburn Tigers- Just a nightmare to block. Could also play the 3-4 end spot.
2. Marcell Dareus, Alabama Crimson Tide- If not for Fairley, Dareus could be a top five pick. Still possibility, but picks six to ten seem more likely.
3. Corey Liuget, Illinois Fighting Illini- A bit of a sleeper as a potential mid-first rounder. Projects best as a 4-3 tackle who could emerge as a very good interior pass rusher.
4. Phil Taylor, Baylor Bears- The top nose tackle prospect in this year's draft at 337 pounds.
5. Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple Owls- A trendy pick to a team like the Jets at the bottom of the first round. Ten sacks in 2010 and six in 2009. Can get after the passer. Would play defensive end in a 3-4 alignment.
6. Stephen Paea, Oregon State Beavers- Six sacks in 2010. Great strength makes him an excellent bull rusher.
7. Jurrell Casey, USC Trojans- A run stuffer at 6'1, 305 lbs. Finished with 59 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2009; 67 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2010.
8. Marvin Austin, North Carolina Tar Heels- Missed the 2010 season as a result of the agent/impermissible benefits scandal that rocked UNC. Considered a potential top five pick heading into the 2010 season.
9. Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson Tigers- An athletic tackle with good strength and explosion out of his stance. Lots of upside.
10. Sione Fua, Stanford Cardinal- Great power and strength. Could possibly play nose tackle in a 3-4 alignment.
TOP 10 OLB's
1. Von Miller, Texas A&M Aggies- Arguably the best pass rusher in the entire draft class. Led the nation in sacks as a junior in 2009 with 17. Recorded 11 sacks in 2010.
2. Akeem Ayers, UCLA Bruins- Will hit the weight room in the NFL to get stronger, but otherwise an excellent prospect with tremendous upside as a pass rusher.
3. Aldon Smith, Missouri Tigers- Smith is also listed as a defensive end in our top ten position rankings. He would be effective in either role. Eleven sacks in 2009, six in 2010.
4. Justin Houston, Georgia Bulldogs- A fast-riser in this year's draft, Houston is a fantastic pass rusher that would excel in a 3-4 alignment.
5. Bruce Carter, North Carolina Tar Heels- Consistently productive in Chapel Hill over the last three years.
6. Sam Acho, Texas Longhorns- Another defensive end in a 4-3 alignment and outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. On both our outside linebacker and defensive end top ten lists.
7. Dontay Moch, Nevada Wolf Pack- A bit of a sleeper prospect, Moch is making the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. Simply amazing speed. Reportedly ran 4.08 and 4.18 last year at junior day.
8. Brooks Reed, Arizona Wildcats- A player whose stock is on the rise. Will practice with both the defensive linemen and linebackers at the Combine.
9. Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma Sooners- Great pass rusher. Recorded seven sacks in 2008, 11 in 2009 and nine in 2010.
10. Ryan Winterswyk, Boise State Broncos- Played defensive end for the Broncos, but could be an effective 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.
TOP 10 ILB's
1. Martez Wilson, Illinois Fighting Illini- Finished 2010 with 112 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. A possible late-first round pick, but will likely come off the board in the second round.
2. Greg Jones, Michigan State Spartans- Extremely productive for the Spartans. Recorded 127 tackles as a sophomore, 153 tackles as a junior and 105 tackles as a senior. One sack this season after recording nine in 2009.
3. Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina Tar Heels- Missed several games in the middle of the 2010 season with a hamstring injury, but returned strong, posting 61 tackles for the seasons. Had five or more tackles in every game in which he played last season including 12-tackle performances.
4. Colin McCarthy, Miami Hurricanes- Played first three seasons at outside linebacker for the 'Canes before moving to the middle. Continues a tradition of talented middle linebackers in Coral Gables.
5. Kelvin Sheppard, LSU Tigers- Five forced fumbles in his career. Productive in the middle for the Tigers, recording 118 tackles as a senior with four sacks.
6. Nate Irving, North Carolina State Wolfpack- Named a 2010 All-American by Scout.com and Sports Illustrated. A nice presence in the middle that can cover the field from one side to the other.
7. Casey Matthews, Oregon Ducks- Will join his brother, Clay, in the NFL to continue a family tradition of professional football players that goes back to his grandfather.
8. Josh Bynes, Auburn Tigers- A leader on the Tigers defense. Led the team with 73 tackles last season and 104 the season before. Great motor.
9. Orie Lemon, Oklahoma State Cowboys- Productive over the last two seasons. 133 tackles in 2010.
10. Akeem Dent, Georgia Bulldogs- Plays until the whistle, great work ethic and a good leader. All good attributes for a man in the middle.
TOP 10 CB's
1. Patrick Peterson, LSU Tigers- The prototype of an elite NFL cornerback. Height, bulk, speed, and physicality.
2. Brandon Harris, Miami Hurricanes- Physical against the run and great coverage skills in man coverage.
3. Jimmy Smith, Colorado Buffaloes- Needs to become more physical and get lower on tackles. Best man-to-man coverage corner in the draft and jumps routes well.
4. Aaron Williams, Texas Longhorns- The best talent out of the big three cornerbacks from Texas. Some consistency questions surround him.
5. Davon House, New Mexico State Aggies- We love this kid's game. Plays well against the run, pass, and is a solid tackler. Could move higher after combine.
6. Brandon Burton, Utah Utes- Impressive on film shutting down Pitt's standout wide receiver, Jonathan Baldwin.
7. Kendric Burney, North Carolina Tar Heels- Has to become more consistent. Shows his ability to be a top cornerback, but looks awful on the next play.
8. Ras-I Dowling, Virginia Cavaliers- Big, physical corner that can abuse receivers at the line. Has to cut out mental mistakes.
9. Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech Hokies- Another talented cornerback in the long line of talented Virginia Tech corners (Deangleo Hall, Brandon Flowers, etc).
10. Curtis Brown, Texas Longhorns- Concerned about him being one of those players that looked better because of who they played with.
TOP 10 S's
1. Prince Amukamara, Nebraska Cornhuskers- For every one thing that we don't like about Prince as a cornerback, there are two things that we like about him as a safety.
2. Rahim Moore, UCLA Bruins- With the heighten awareness of helmet-to-helmet hits, ball hawking safeties are now at a premium.
3. DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson Tigers- Real physical but has also proven that he can make the play on the ball with 10 interceptions in 2009.
4. Quinton Carter, Oklahoma Sooners- Big hitter that loses value due to the new helmet to helmet hits that will force teams to shy away.
5. Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple Owls- His awareness is what jumps out on tape to me. He knows where to be and when/how to get there.
6. Deunta Williams, North Carolina Tar Heels- Deunta always seems to be around the ball, similar to how Deangelo Hall plays as a cornerback.
7. Ahmad Black, Florida Gators- He has all of the tools, but his size is the major concern. It shouldn't keep him from falling too far, though, because of his considerable talents.
8. Richard Sherman, Stanford Cardinal- Like Amukamara, most people like him as a corner, but we feel his play makes him a better safety prospect.
9. Robert Sands, West Virginia Mountaineers- It's hard not to like a safety with 6'4 size, but he has to show he can be more fluid with that length.
10. Jeron Johnson, Boise State Broncos- Jeron has great awareness at the safety position. He plays the secondary like a middle linebacker in the middle of the field.
Danny Hobrock, a sports journalist covering NCAA Football and MLB is the editor of our college football content. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. You may email Danny directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ DannyHobrock
Jayson Braddock appears on Sports Radio 790 AM in Houston, TX, every Thursday morning at 11:19 am CST as the football insider on the Dylan Gwinn show. He's a graduate of the Sports Management World Wide Football GM & Scouting Course and has been mentored by former NFL player / executive John Wooten and Sporting News.com NFL Draft Expert Russ Lande. His work is mostly appreciated by die-hard fans interested in every little detail about their team and not just watered down mainstream talk. - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports7910.com. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ JaysonBraddock
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