View Full Version : PFW Top 10 RB, TE, WR prospects

03-22-2010, 10:06 PM
1. RB-RS C.J. Spiller
Clemson senior
Ht: 5-10 5/8 | Wt: 196| Sp: 4.31 | Arm: 30 1/2 | Hand: 10 1/8

Spiller was fourth in the ACC with 1,212 rushing yards last season.

(Douglas Jones-US Presswire)


Notes: First name is Clifford. Has a daughter. A Parade All-American as a senior in high school, he was a three-time all-state performer as a Florida prep. Also lettered in basketball and track, winning the state 100-meter (10.42 seconds) and 200-meter championships. Also won the 100 dash at the national Golden West Meet in 2006. As a true freshman in ’06, appeared in all 13 games (started in a two-back look against Florida Atlantic) and carried 129 times for 938 yards (7.3-yard average) with 10 touchdowns and 19 catches for 210 yards (11.1) with two TDs. Also returned 13 kickoffs for 234 yards (18.0) and 11 punts for 33 yards (3.0). Citing homesickness, nearly transferred after his freshman season, but remained to start 5-of-13 games in ’07. Totaled 145-768-3 (5.3) rushing and 34-271-2 (8.0) receiving in addition to returning kickoffs 19-547 (28.8), including two touchdowns, and punts 16-137 (8.6). In ’08, played 12 games (started in a two-back look against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl) and rushed 116-629-7 (5.4) with 34-436-3 (12.8) receiving. Also threw a 15-yard TD pass against Virginia and returned kickoffs 19-516-1 (27.2), and punts 18-189-0 (10.5). Played with pain after hurting his right foot against North Carolina State then pulled his left hamstring against Wake Forest and sat out against Georgia Tech. After splitting carries with Cleveland Browns ’09 seventh-rounder James Davis for three seasons, Spiller was the featured back in ’09. Started 12-of-14 games - returned the opening kickoff for a TD against Middle Tennessee but hyperventilated and did not start the first offensive series, and yielded a start against South Carolina when he was dealing with stomach pain and again returned the opening kickoff for a TD. Despite battling a right turf toe injury all season and being forced out of the Middle Tennessee and Boston College contests with a hamstring injury, piled up 216-1,212-12 (5.6) rushing, 36-503-4 (14.0) receiving, 23-755-4 (32.8) on kickoff returns and 8-210-1 (26.3) on punt returns. Also tossed a TD pass against North Carolina State. The first player in ACC history to post a season with 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving, Spiller’s 2,680 all-purpose yards broke a 41-year-old conference record. His career total (7,588) ranks second in Division I history. Scored a TD in every game as a senior and of his 51 career scores, 21 were 50 yards or longer. Along with Reggie Bush(notes), is the only player in NCAA history to record 3,000 yards rushing, 1,500 kickoff return yards, 1,000 receiving yards and 500 punt return yards. His mark of seven career kickoff return TDs is an NCAA record (eight combined kickoff and punt return scores is tied for the all-time mark). Also was a three-time All-American for Clemson’s track team, where he posted career-best times of 10.22 seconds and 6.58 seconds in the 100 meters and 60 meters, respectively. Team captain. Graduated in 31?2 years.

Positives: Dynamite playmaker with rare field speed - is rarely caught from behind. Can string moves together, jump out of his cleats and accelerate to top-end speed in a blink. Exceptional lateral agility and top-end burst to take the corner. Exceptional vision - sets up runs and once he finds a crease, he is a gone. Sees cut-back lanes and shows great balance to kick through arm tackles and string moves together. Extremely elusive in the open field with outstanding gear change. Terrific vision and traffic burst in the return game with rare return production. Has soft hands, tracks the ball well over his shoulder and catches in stride. Consistently separates on wheel routes. Played hurt most of his senior season and will play through injuries. Got more than 20 touches per game as a senior and has shown he can handle a heavy workload.

Negatives: Does not have the bulk or power to consistently run inside or carry a workload between the tackles. Is not a workhorse and will not grind down a defense. Consistently has been nagged by sprinter-type injuries - hamstring, turf toe and injuries that come from cutting at high speeds. Not a strong blocker and can be overpowered by defenders. Has not taken well to hard coaching.

Summary: A dynamite game-breaker who has shown he can impact the game in any phase - as a runner, receiver or returner - and has special, “wow”-type talent. Instantly can upgrade the horsepower of any offense and supercharge a special-teams unit with game-breaking return talent. Has shown the unique ability to dominate at the college level, leaving tacklers grasping for air in his tracks, and is every bit as explosive as Reggie Bush and Marshall Faulk(notes). Would be discussed as a top-five talent had Bush lived up to expectations, but the lessened value of the RB position could drop Spiller’s stock.

NFL projection: Top-15 pick.

2. RB Ryan Mathews
Fresno State junior
Ht: 5-11 5/8 | Wt: 218 | Sp: 4.46 | Arm: 31 | Hand: 9 1/4

Notes: Played running back, quarterback and linebacker in high school. Was one of the top backs in California as a senior, amassing 3,396 rushing yards and 44 touchdowns. As a true freshman in 2007, played in 11 games (one start) and led the team in rushing with 145 carries for 866 yards (6.0-yard average) and 14 touchdowns. Sprained an ankle against Utah State, which cost him the Hawaii contest, and did not play in the bowl game after tearing a muscle near his collarbone. Got off to a good start in ’08, ranking amongst the top rushers in the country through four games, before injuries curtailed his production, as he managed to start 4-of-8 games played (Rutgers, Wisconsin, Toledo and Utah State) and run 113-606-6 (5.4) with eight receptions for 146 yards (18.2) and two TDs. Suffered nerve damage to the back of his knee against UCLA, causing him to miss five contests. Broke out in ’09 when he led the nation in rushing (150.7 yards per game). Started 11-of-12 games played, piling up 276-1,808-19 (6.6) with 11-122-0 (11.1) receiving. Sustained a concussion against Nevada and did not play against Louisiana Tech. Mathews’ 39 career TDs is the highest total in school history.

Positives: Has a compact, solid build. Good contact balance and run strength to break tackles and pick up yardage after contact - more than half of his yardage in three games charted came after the initial hit. Shows vision and patience to hit holes as they open. Wastes little movement - plants hard and runs downhill. Nice cut-back ability. Has a feel for when to bounce outside and shows a short-area burst to function in the clear. Good stiff-arm. Natural hands catcher. Shows a willingness to initiate contact as a blocker. Good on-field temperament and playing demeanor. Strong short-yardage runner and red-zone production. Showed well against better competition - see Boise State and Wisconsin. Good stamina. Played in a pro-style offense. Outstanding production. Worked out superbly at Combine.

Negatives: Has been beat up throughout his career and struggled to stay healthy for a full season and durability needs to be considered. Lacks elite top-end speed to go the distance. Can be hung up in holes and struggle to fit through small creases, running a bit tall. Was seldom used in the passing game and will need to improve in pass protection and show more awareness seeing the blitz. Could take some time to grasp a new playbook.

Summary: A tough, downhill runner who owns a unique distinction in this draft as a back capable of playing every down. He distinguished himself as a junior and has the vision, strength and tackle-breaking ability to become a workhorse-type back.

NFL projection: Top-40 pick.

3. RB-KR Jahvid Best
California junior
Ht: 5-10 1/8 | Wt: 199 | Sp: 4.36 | Arm: 31 3/4 | Hand: 9

Notes: Also starred in track as a prep, winning gold in the 200 meters at the 2005 Junior Olympics and capturing the California state championship in the 100 meters (10.31 seconds) as a senior. Parade All-American who rushed for 6,428 yards with 91 touchdowns in his career. As a true freshman in ’07, backed up Seattle Seahawks 2008 seventh-rounder Justin Forsett(notes) and carried 29 times for 221 yards (7.6-yard average) with two touchdowns with 13 catches for 74 yards (5.7) and a touchdown in 10 games. On special teams, returned 15 kickoffs for 405 yards (27.0) and notched 12 tackles as a “gunner.” Did not play the last three games of the season (hip). Ranked third nationally in rushing (131.7 yards per game) in ’08, when he started 10-of-12 games played, toting 194-1,580-15 (8.1) and catching 27-246-1 (9.1). Also returned kickoffs 16-421 (26.3) to lead the league. Scored 10 touchdowns of at least 20 yards, seven of which went more than 60 yards. Yielded a start in the season opener against Michigan State to Shane Vereen, then dislocated his left elbow against Colorado State. Returned two weeks later against Arizona but bruised his left foot and did not start against UCLA. Sat out ’09 spring practice after undergoing January surgeries to tighten the elbow ligament and relieve irritation created by an extra bone on the outside of his foot. Missed time during fall camp while nursing a bone bruise in his left big toe. In the fall, started 8-of-9 games played - Vereen started against Minnesota, attempting a pass on the first play - and rushed 141-867-12 (6.1) with 22-213-4 (9.7) receiving. Suffered concussions in consecutive games against Arizona State and Oregon State that sidelined him the final four games of the season.

Positives: Outstanding top-end speed - can fly and has explosive big-play ability. Presses the line and scoots through holes. Possesses an extra gear to go the distance and kick it into overdrive. Consistently ripped off long runs throughout his career. Terrific vision and cut-back ability - knows how to set up runs and can weave through traffic and pop out of a crowd. Very instinctive runner. Highly competitive. Sacrifices his body when he smells the goal line. Runs good routes. Very good hands - can track the ball over his shoulder and make difficult catches.

Negatives: Is small-boned and lacks girth to withstand heavy contact. Durability is a big concern - has been injured every year and knocked out of the lineup when he was asked to carry more of the offense. Lacks power and lower-body strength and is not built to churn out tough yardage between the tackles - is easily swallowed and likes to bounce outside. Was shut down against USC, with 95 rushing yards in three games. Is too underpowered in pass protection and is easily ragdolled and discarded.

Summary: A very quick, shifty, multi-purpose back with big-play capability, Best is capable of splitting wide and mismatching linebackers and safeties and would be an exceptional complement to a bigger, power back. Needs to get stronger and improve as a blocker but should contribute immediately as a dynamic, change-of-pace back and kickoff returner. Durability and pass-protection limitations could keep him out of the first round.

NFL projection: Top-50 pick.

4. RB Joe McKnight
USC junior
Ht: 5-11 3/8 | Wt: 198 | Sp: 4.44 | Arm: 31 3/4 | Hand: 9 1/8

Notes: Has a son. Brother, Jonathan, will be a freshman at Arizona this fall. Joe was a Parade and USA Today All-American and the consensus No. 1 RB recruit in the nation coming out of Louisiana prep powerhouse John Curtis, where he won three state titles. Originally a high school cornerback, McKnight also played basketball and excelled in track, winning the state’s 100-meter competition as a junior and posting a career-best mark of 10.4 seconds in the 100 meters. His recruitment - part of which was detailed in a book entitled “Meat Market” - was a source of national attention and controversy, and McKnight experienced backlash (from LSU faithful, in particular) after taking his allegiances outside of SEC territory. McKnight was viewed as the heir apparent to Heisman Trophy winner and 2006 Saints No. 2 overall pick Reggie Bush. As a true freshman in ’07, missed time during fall camp (stretched knee ligament) before sharing carries with Chauncey Washington(notes) and Stafon Johnson and serving as the team’s primary punt returner. Rushed 94 times for 540 yards (5.7-yard average) and three touchdowns with 23 receptions for 203 yards (8.8) and one TD in 13 games (started the Rose Bowl against Illinois). Also returned 19 punts for 160 yards (8.4). Dislocated four toes on his left foot in the bowl game and sat out ’08 spring practice. Hurt a couple fingers midway through fall camp when a dorm door accidentally closed on his right hand, then hyperextended his right elbow later in the month, but was ready for the opener. Did not receive as many carries as Johnson and C.J. Gable in ’08, but played 11 games (started against Oregon State) and produced 89-659-2 (7.4) on the ground, 21-193-1 (9.2) receiving and 9-53-0 (5.9) returning punts. Was forced out of the Ohio State contest (migraine) and did not play against Washington or Washington State because of turf toe (left foot) that also flared up against Stanford and Penn State. In ’09, started 11-of-12 games played and totaled 164-1,014-8 (6.2) rushing and 22-146-0 (6.6) receiving. Added 4-41-0 (10.2) on punt returns and 2-50-0 (25.0) on kickoff returns. Dealt with the flu and migraines prior to the Washington contest, then sprained his left ankle in the loss. Bruised his left thigh against UCLA. Was held out of the Emerald Bowl against Boston College amidst a compliance investigation prompted by alleged use of a sport utility vehicle owned by a Santa Monica businessman.

Joe McKnight

(Rick Scuteri/US Presswire)

Positives: Good versatility - has run, catch and return skills. Very athletic. Has quick feet, good agility and short-area burst. Jets through creases with good speed to the perimeter. Very good peripheral vision - sees the cutback and runs to daylight. Outstanding gear change. Creative, elusive runner - can string moves together, make quick, lateral cuts and sidestep the first defender. Accelerates into routes and catches naturally. Can line up detached and is creative after the catch. Has punt-return experience.

Negatives: Lacks bulk and run strength and does not pick up many yards after contact (barely 20 percent charted against Ohio State, Stanford and Oregon). Runs with too much finesse. Is not built to run between the tackles - too narrow-framed with thin legs. Average leg drive - not powerful to bust through tackles. Flags the ball and had ball-security issues. Not stout to anchor in pass protection. Durability is a concern - has been nicked up despite splitting carries and underachieved much of his career.

Summary: Fluid, agile, instinctive runner with versatility to contribute out of the backfield on swings, screens and draws, as well as line up at receiver and return kicks.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

5. RB-WR-RS Dexter McCluster
Mississippi senior
Ht: 5-8 3/4 | Wt: 172 | Sp: 4.53 | Arm: 29 1/4 | Hand: 8 3/8

Notes: Also played basketball and ran track as a Florida prep. Rushed for 2,490 yards and 39 touchdowns as a senior. As a true freshman in 2006, started five of the first six games at flanker and managed 15 receptions for 232 yards (15.5-yard average) and one touchdown. Added eight rushes for 68 yards (8.5) and a TD and 13 kickoff returns for 274 yards (21.1) before sustaining a season-ending concussion/stinger on the opening kickoff against Vanderbilt. Was kept out of contact drills until the following fall camp when he fractured a bone in his left shoulder. Returned four games into the ’07 season, starting 3-of-8 games played and catching 27-326-2 (12.1) with 6-63-0 (10.5) rushing, 6-100 (16.7) on kickoff returns and six punt returns for 29 yards (4.8). With head coach Houston Nutt taking over in ’08, McCluster started 8-of-13 games - four in the slot when the Rebels opened in three- or four-receiver sets, two at flanker (Memphis, Texas Tech), one at split end (South Carolina) and one at halfback (LSU). Totaled 44-625-1 (14.2) receiving with a team-leading 109-655-6 (6.0) on the ground. Utilized as a quarterback in the “Wild Rebel” formation, McCluster also attempted five passes, completing zero and tossing two interceptions. Was plagued by costly fumbles, including one at the goal line against Vanderbilt and one deep in South Carolina territory. Dealt with the Swine Flu in early September ’09 but started 12-of-13 games played - nine at flanker and four at running back - and totaled 181-1,169-8 (6.5) rushing, 44-520-3 (11.8) receiving and 2-28 (14.0) on punt returns. Also tossed a 27-yard TD pass. Dressed but was given a day off against Northern Arizona to rest his legs. Team captain.

Positives: Pound-for-pound one of the toughest players in the draft. Has shown he can take and deliver big hits. Standout competitor - plays bigger than his size. Runs hard and can shake his way out of tackles with surprising run strength - carved up Tennessee’s defense. Has explosive big-play ability with terrific quickness, agility and balance to shake and blow by defenders. Has “Wildcat” capabilities - having taken direct snaps. Reliable catcher. Can accelerate in the blink of an eye and shows the ability to separate at the top of his routes. Willing, pesky blocker. Very good all-purpose production. Has a passion for the game and plays with energy.

Negatives: Has very small hands with a narrow frame and very marginal overall size. Has a history of shoulder injuries that could invite closer medical scrutiny. Has very minimal career return production, with only two punt returns the past two seasons, and must prove that he can handle adjusting to the ball and securing kicks. Shows some hip tightness as a route runner and can do a better job reading coverages and settling into zones. Lacks the girth and mass desired to be hold up running inside and to be effective blocking.

Summary: A diminutive, big-play maker whose receiving skills really stood out at the Senior Bowl and left NFL brass excited about his potential as an instant contributor at slot receiver. However, he showed the second half of the season that he could be every bit as effective in the backfield, possessing elite burst and acceleration to become a game changer as a dynamic, complementary back. Brings additional value as a return specialist, and his ability to contribute readily at three positions could enhance his draft stock.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

6. RB Montario Hardesty
Tennessee senior
Ht: 5-11 3/4 | Wt: 225 | Sp: 4.52 | Arm: 31 | Hand: 9 1/2

Notes: Also ran track as a prep, posting personal bests of 10.36 seconds in the 100 meters and 21.65 in the 200 meters. Played two games as a freshman in 2005 before suffering a season-ending torn right ACL against Mississippi (was granted a medical hardship). Ran six times for 18 yards (3.0-yard average) and zero touchdowns. Underwent minor surgery on his left knee in May ’06. Returned to start 5-of-13 games in the fall, rushing 107-384-4 (3.6) with six receptions for 54 yards (9.0) and zero TDs. Carried 89-373-3 (4.2) and caught 3-25-0 (8.3) in 10 games in ’07. Sustained a high right ankle sprain in the season opener against California before trying to play hurt against Southern Miss (two carries) and sitting out the next two contests. Also did not play against Alabama (coach’s decision) and LSU (ankle). Sustained a stress fracture in his left foot during ’08 spring practice, an injury that nagged him throughout the season. Toted 76-271-6 (3.6) and caught 4-24-0 (6.0) in 11 games (started against Vanderbilt). Did not play against Wyoming (foot). Became the featured back in ’09 and started all 13 games, rushing 282-1,345-13 (4.8) with 25-302-1 (12.1) receiving. Suffered a right shoulder subluxation in practice leading up to the Ohio contest, then had his right knee drained the next week. Team captain.

Positives: Has a strong, muscular build. Runs behind his pads, bounces off tacklers and picks up a lot of yardage after contact (nearly 70 percent of his output in three games charted). Flashes some power and an efficient spin move. Sees the cutback and can pick and slide. Is agile for his size. Adjusts well to the thrown ball and anticipates throwing windows. Made big strides playing in a pro-style offense. Has shown he will battle through injuries and play with pain. Competes hard and is very hardworking. Vertical jump of 41 inches was the best among running backs at the Combine.

Negatives: Takes time to build speed and lacks top-end speed, burst and acceleration to take the corner. Not agile or elusive. Gears down to change direction and does not rip off a lot of big runs. Can spin too much and get stuck in his tracks. Tends to body the ball. Durability issues have clouded his career.

Summary: Emerged as a senior under Lane Kiffin, but Hardesty has yet to prove that he can sustain success or that he can be a premiere back in the NFL. Injury history is concerning and could limit him to a complementary bruiser role, where he could be efficient between the tackles.

NFL projection: Mid-round pick.

7. RB-FB Toby Gerhart
Stanford senior
Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 231 | Sp: 4.56 | Arm: 32 | Hand: 9 5/8

Notes: Father, Todd (Toby’s high school coach), played fullback at Cal State Fullerton and briefly in the USFL; younger brother, Garth, is a center for Arizona State. Toby was a multi-sport prep star who also lettered three times in basketball and was rated amongst the Top 50 high school prospects by Baseball America coming out of high school. A Parade All-American and California’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Gerhart finished his prep career with 9,662 rushing yards. As a true freshman in 2006, saw action in all 12 games (started against UCLA) and carried 106 times for 375 yards (3.5-yard average) with zero touchdowns. Added 15 receptions for 124 yards (8.3) and zero touchdowns. Toted 12-140-1 (11.7) against San Jose State in ’07 before tearing the PCL in his left knee and missing the rest of the season. Returned in ’08 and started 10-of-12 games, breaking Tommy Vardell’s single-season rushing record by carrying 210-1,136-15 (5.4) with 13-114-0 (8.8) receiving. Yielded the Opening Day start to Anthony Kimble and suffered a mild concussion against Washington (did not start the following week against Notre Dame). Also strained his right hamstring against Oregon. In ’09, won the Doak Walker Award (nation’s top RB) and was the Heisman runner-up after amassing 343-1,871-28 (5.5) on the ground with 11-157-0 (14.3) receiving in 13 games (all starts). Sprained an ankle against Arizona. Gained more than 200 yards per game against ranked opponents. Team captain who played three seasons as an outfielder on the Cardinal baseball team (missed part of his freshman season with a broken right forearm), and passed on another year of eligibility to enter the draft.

Toby Gerhart

(Ben Liebenberg/US Presswire)

Positives: Very good inside run vision - patiently follows his blockers and instinctively finds lanes. Can kick through arm tackles and run through contact and push the pile. Runs with determination. Good run balance - can rumble through creases with a strong stiff-arm and fight for extra yardage. Willing blocker. Played in a pro-style offense. Very smart and has exceptional character. Exceptional work ethic. Loves to compete. Very productive - and production has improved every year. Has the size and strength to become a good blocker.

Negatives: Takes time to get rolling downhill. Too tight-hipped with marginal elusiveness to make defenders miss. Has a tendency to run upright and does not sink his hips easily - can be stopped in his tracks. Average lateral quickness. Not creative. Lacks home-run finishing speed. Has been used heavily, taken a lot of hits and durability has been an issue, as he still wears a left knee brace that limits his range of motion and creates a hobble-and-bobble running style. Has been dinged up heavily and injuries can be expected to pile up if he is featured as a runner. Shows some difficulty adjusting to the ball as a receiver and has little receiving production. Very raw blocker.

Summary: A college tailback trapped in a fullback’s body, Gerhart is a well-built bulldozer with the strength, determination and competitiveness to wear down college defenses, but he most ideally would be suited for a more limited role as a West Coast fullback in the pros, where he could preserve his body and contribute in single-back sets and as a short-yardage and nickel rusher. Could be drafted more highly than he grades out because he gives decision-makers comfort knowing exactly what they are getting.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

8. RB Ben Tate
Auburn senior
Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 220 | Sp: 4.43 | Arm: 31 1/4 | Hand: 9

Notes: Set Maryland state records for career total yards (6,123) and rushing yards (5,920), winning Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a senior. Redshirted in 2005. Joined the Auburn program as a 17-year-old and saw action in nine games in ’06, carrying 54 times for 392 yards (7.3-yard average) with three touchdowns. With Brad Lester suspended to start the ’07 season, Tate led the Tigers by starting 7-of-13 games and toting 202-903-8 (4.5) and catching 16 balls for 144 yards (9.0) and zero TDs. Played in all 12 games in ’08 (started against Tennessee, Vanderbilt) and rushed 159-664-3 (4.2) with 15-90-0 (6.0) receiving. Suffered a thigh bruise against Vanderbilt and tweaked a hamstring against Arkansas. A featured back in first-year offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s spread offense in ’09, Tate started 10-of-13 games and rushed 263-1,362-10 (5.2) with 20-105-0 (5.2) receiving. Also returned five kickoffs for 139 yards (27.8). Was benched for the first quarter against Mississippi State (“coach’s decision”) and yielded starts to Mario Fannin against Ole Miss and Furman.

Positives: Passes the eyeball test with a solid frame with good musculature. Runs hard and attacks the line. Has good run instincts and balance. Good straight-line speed and shows a burst to get to and through the line. Can take a hit and keep churning. Gashes defenses for chunks of yardage. Solid hands.

Negatives: Tight-hipped and struggles to make defenders miss. Not patient and gears down to cut - has limited creativity. Likes to bounce outside. Not a pile-driver and can do a better job finishing runs. Will make some easy drops and creates little after the catch. Breaks stride to catch the ball and is not natural absorbing it. Has a tendency to flag the ball. Has an inflated opinion of his ability and needs to learn what it means to work.

Summary: Racked up a lot of yardage behind an average offensive line and has the power and run skills to develop into a solid, complementary backup.

NFL projection: Third- to fourth-round pick.

9. RB-FB Jonathan Dwyer
Georgia Tech junior
Ht: 5-11 1/4 | Wt: 229 | Sp: 4.66 | Arm: 31 | Hand: 8 5/8

Notes: Parade All-American who also excelled in track. As a true freshman in 2007, backed up Dallas Cowboys ’08 fifth-rounder Tashard Choice(notes) and rushed 82 times for 436 yards (5.3-yard average) with nine touchdowns while catching two balls for 17 yards (8.5) and zero touchdowns in 13 games played. Added 14 kickoff returns for 306 yards (21.9). In ’08, became the primary “B-back” in first-year head coach Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense. Was the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year after leading the league in rushing (107.3 yards per game) - started all 13 games and totaled 200-1,395-12 (7.0) on the ground, 8-209-1 (26.1) receiving and 8-171 (21.4) on kickoff returns. Did not play the second half against Miami (bruised left knee). Tweaked a hip flexor in August ’09 before starting all 14 games and rushing 235-1,395-14 (5.9) with 5-37-0 (7.4) receiving. Suffered a stinger against Miami (Fla.).

Positives: Has outstanding girth and overall mass with big, powerful thighs and a thick trunk. Nice inside run vision. Quick-footed to make subtle moves in tight quarters and sidestep tacklers in the hole veering and weaving. Has deceptive, competitive speed - repeatedly broke long runs against top competition. Good one-cut ability for a big back. Flashes a stiff-arm and spin move and shows the ability to snag the ball (despite seldom being used in the receiving game). Good durability. Vocal on-field leader. Turns 21 years old in late July and has a lot of tread left on his tires. Played well in big games.

Negatives: Had a soft, pudgy-looking body as a junior after bulking up. Too one-dimensional - limited in pass protection and is not an accomplished catcher, seldom being used in the receiving game with 15 career catches. Tight-hipped. Not quick-footed or sudden and does not elude tacklers - more of a weaver with no shake ability and does not string moves together. Lacks top-end speed to break away and does not finish runs, too easily getting turned in the hole. Needs to be more careful handling the ball on exchanges (two fumbles in four games viewed on tape). Played in an offense featuring very wide splits and production is padded from the scheme. Weight has ballooned in the past.

Summary: Difficult to evaluate in a triple-option offense where he often was utilized like a fullback, Dwyer appeared too heavy and tight-hipped as a junior and much of his production could be attributed to Paul Johnson’s proven college scheme. Dwyer will need to prove he can keep his weight in check and produce in a more traditional offense. Would be best running downhill in a stretch-zone scheme similar to that in Buffalo, Seattle or Green Bay. Could prove to be a solid value pick if he sheds the weight that slowed him as a junior and re-gains a step.

NFL projection: Third- to fourth-round pick.

10. RB Anthony Dixon
Mississippi State senior
Ht: 6-0 3/4 | Wt: 233 | Sp: 4.68 | Arm: 32 5/8 | Hand: 9 3/4

Notes: Younger brother, Rashun, is currently in the Oakland Athletics minor-league system. Anthony, who missed most of his sophomore season with a broken collarbone, also played baseball as a prep before committing to then-head coach Sylvester Croom. Missed time during ’06 fall camp (ankle), but started 5-of-12 games, carrying 169 times for 668 yards (4.0-yard average) and nine touchdowns with four receptions for 42 yards (10.5) and no touchdowns. Broke the little finger on his left hand leading up to the Auburn contest and had it surgically repaired (a pin and four screws were inserted) without missing game action. In ’07, started 12-of-13 games and set a single-season school record for attempts by toting 287-1,066-14 (3.7) with 14-167-2 (11.9) receiving. His 16 total touchdowns tied a school mark. After looking to bounce too many runs outside (Croom wanted the RB to use his size between the tackles) and making inflammatory remarks in the media, Dixon was benched and temporarily barred from speaking to the media. In ’08, started all 12 games and rushed 197-869-7 (4.4) while snagging 20-117-2 (5.9) out of the backfield. Was cited in July ’09 for DUI, careless driving and no proof of liability insurance after driving along the side of a Starkville road, according to the arrest report. Served a one-game suspension to open the season, then started all 11 games played in ’09 and rushed 257-1,391-12 (5.4) with 18-123-0 (6.8) receiving in first-year head coach Dan Mullen’s offensive system. Is the Bulldogs’ all-time leading rusher (3,994 yards) and his 42 career rushing TDs is a school record. Team captain.

Positives: Has exceptional size with well-distributed mass. Good competitive speed. Is surprisingly light and nimble on his feet for his size and can dodge the first tackler. Shows nice agility - can get skinny through the hole, make sharp cuts and step over arm tackles. Understands angles and follows his blocks. Runs with outstanding balance and keeps his feet through traffic. Excellent run strength - will lower his shoulder, churn his legs and carry defenders for additional yardage. Usually falls forward. Shows very good awareness sliding over and picking up the blitz. Very good hands and concentration. Outstanding career production.

Negatives: A bit high-cut with build-up speed and might struggle turning the corner at the next level. Only knows one speed and lacks true finishing speed. Tries to be too creative for a big back and can get caught trying to tip-toe out of tackles. Lacks upper-body strength. Runs slightly upright and will be susceptible to big hits. Immature and needs to be coddled. Is not assignment-sound and could do a better job focusing and more consistently securing the ball. Character needs to be evaluated more closely. Weight has tended to fluctuate. Needs to learn what it means to work and how to be a pro.

Summary: A light-footed, big back who responded well to the new arrival of Dan Mullen and his coaching staff, Dixon had his best season as a senior despite working with a marginal supporting cast. Has potential to emerge as a starter in a stretch-zone running game if he can mature and learn to prepare like a pro.

NFL projection: Mid-round pick.

03-24-2010, 01:53 AM
1. TE Jermaine Gresham
Oklahoma junior
Ht: 6-5 1/4 | Wt: 261 | Sp: 4.68 | Arm: 34 3/4 | Hand: 9 5/8


Notes: Also a standout on the hardwood as a prep - appeared to be on the basketball fast track until high school when a coaching mentor convinced him a football future was brighter. His maternal mother moved to Texas in 1997, but he desired to remain in his Oklahoma hometown with his father. While in middle school, was taken in by a teacher and his counselor wife who sought to remove Gresham from a dangerous neighborhood. Jermaine considers the couple guardians and regards them as his other family. Played receiver until arriving at OU, where he started 2-of-14 games as a true freshman in 2006, making eight catches for 161 yards (20.1-yard average) with a touchdown. Started 3-of-14 games in ’07, as OU boasted depth at the position, and caught 37-518-11 (14.0). In ’08, started all 14 games and hauled in 66-950-14 (14.4), setting single-season school marks for yards and touchdowns by a tight end. Arrested in April ’09 on an outstanding warrant issued after he failed to pay a February seatbelt citation and neglected to appear before authorities to set a court date. Missed the ’09 season - underwent surgery on his right knee after a preseason scope revealed torn cartilage. Team captain.

Positives: Very athletic, fluid mover with quick, explosive hands. Possesses the speed to threaten the seam and make plays down the field. Good ball skills - plucks the ball outside his frame and takes it away from defenders in a crowd. Consistently mismatches linebackers and safeties and developed into a go-to guy. Has good positional instincts - gets into his routes quickly, settles into zones and keeps working to uncover. Strong and competitive runner after the catch. Solid in-line blocker - can set the edge, lock out, sustain and seal off defenders. Has a 35-inch vertical jump. Had been very durable at Oklahoma prior to missing last season. Mentally tough. Has an outstanding work ethic.

Negatives: Takes long strides and is not explosive or sudden out of his breaks. Tends to drift at the top of his stems. Shows some lower-body tightness and has difficulty adjusting to the low ball. Not overly elusive after the catch. Is not a dominating in-line blocker and can be outleveraged against better competition. Makes some concentration drops. Could take some time to master the nuances of an NFL playbook.

Summary: May require an adjustment period after missing a season of football and would be best matched with a patient TE coach, but possesses all the physical ability to become a very solid starter in the pros, capable of contributing on every down, and has great upside to develop.

NFL projection: First-round pick.

2. TE Rob Gronkowski
Arizona junior
Ht: 6-6 1/4 | Wt: 264 | Sp: 4.75e | Arm: 34 1/4 | Hand: 10 3/4

Notes: Father, Gordon, was a three-year offensive guard at Syracuse; brother, Dan, played tight end at Maryland and is with the Detroit Lions; brother, Chris, played fullback for the Wildcats and exhausted his eligibility last fall. Rob was a highly recruited tight end-defensive end who also starred in basketball, averaging 21 points and 18 rebounds as a senior. As a true freshman in 2007, started 9-of-12 games and tallied 28 receptions for 525 yards (18.8-yard average) and six touchdowns. In ’08, started 9-of-10 games played and caught 47-672-10 (14.3), despite missing the first three games of the season (strep throat, mononucleosis). After missing most of ’09 fall camp and the first three games due to back pain, underwent season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk and nerve damage.

Positives: Has soft, natural hands with pluck-and-snatch ability and adjusts easily to the ball. Very good size and in-line strength to sustain and control defenders. Very efficient blocking in space - delivers crackback blocks with authority. Runs his feet on contact and flashes some power. Can engage defenders and aggressively works to get positioning and finish blocks. Good versatility - flexes wide, motions and aligns in line. Can beat the jam with strength and get into his routes quickly. Competes for the ball in traffic. Has NFL bloodlines. Has a lot of upside.

Negatives: Has build-up speed and struggles to separate or shake defenders with route savvy. Not a fluid route runner and appears a bit mechanical at the top of his stems. Not a creative runner after the catch. Has a sense of entitlement and thinks he has arrived already. Not a dominating blocker and at times looks disinterested. Injury history must be carefully evaluated given the seriousness of the injury.

Summary: Has never played a full season and durability concerns could hinder his draft status. However, if he proves he can stay healthy and focused, he has the physical tools to develop into a top-tier, all-around tight end.

NFL projection: Top-50 pick.

3. TE Dennis Pitta
BYU senior
Ht: 6-4 1/2 | Wt: 245 | Sp: 4.69 | Arm: 32 1/4 | Hand: 10

Notes: Married. Father, Dennis Sr., played linebacker at California (1968-69). As a prep, Dennis Jr. played receiver and cornerback in addition to earning three letters in track and basketball. Greyshirted in 2003, joining the program as a 190-pound preferred walk-on in 2004. Saw action in 11 games and caught 17 passes for 176 yards (10.4-yard average) with two touchdowns. Did not play for two seasons while serving a two-year LDS mission in the Dominican Republic. Returned to start 6-of-13 games in ’07, pacing Mountain West Conference tight ends with 59-813-5 (13.8). In ’08, hauled in 83-1,083-6 (13.1) in 13 games (11 starts). Yielded the start against UNLV to Andrew George and did not start against Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl after sustaining a sprained right MCL against Air Force. Started all 13 games in ’09 and pulled in 62-829-8 (13.4), becoming BYU’s all-time receptions leader. Team captain. Will be a 25-year-old rookie.

Positives: Very natural, soft-handed catcher with outstanding ball skills - makes very good adjustments on balls thrown above his head, to the back shoulder or poorly placed. Accelerates and maintains speed through the catch and is very quick to get upfield - does not gather to catch. Secures the ball in traffic. Outstanding career production. Consistently uncovers with route savvy. Works hard at his craft and carries himself like a pro. Willing, competitive blocker. Stood out blocking in goal-line scrimmages at the East-West Shrine Game practices and caught everything in sight, even when defenders were grossly interfering with him. Worked out very well at the Combine, registering TE-bests of 4.17 seconds in the short shuttle and 6.72 in the three-cone drill. Also bench-pressed 225 pounds 27 times.

Negatives: Not an explosive athlete with elite speed to make plays downfield or string moves together after the catch. Is not elusive with the ball in his hands. Does not consistently finish blocks. Has not regularly faced top competition in the Mountain West. Overaged.

Summary: A good functional football player who performed very well in every phase at the Combine and only confirmed what shows up on tape, as he caught everything thrown his way, adjusted to the ball very well in drills and made it look easy. Is not the most athletically gifted talent in this year’s TE class, but could potentially turn out to be the most solid pro with few notable shortcomings.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

4. TE/H-Back Aaron Hernandez
Florida junior
Ht: 6-2 3/8 | Wt: 245 | Sp: 4.6e | Arm: 32 1/4 | Hand: 9 3/4

Notes: Late father, Dennis, lettered as a defensive back at Connecticut in 1976, and brother, D.J. (quarterback/receiver), was a team captain for the Huskies (2004-07). Nicknamed “Chico” by teammates because of his Puerto Rican ethnicity. Lost his father suddenly in January ’06 after complications from a hernia surgery. Aaron also lettered in basketball as a prep. Was a Parade All-American and Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year after racking up 67 receptions for 1,807 yards (27.0-yard average) and 24 touchdowns while amassing 12 sacks as a defensive end. Established a national record for receiving yards per game (180.7). As a true freshman in 2007, played in all 13 games, including three starts, and totaled 9-151-2 (16.8). Was thrust into an increased role in ’08 following the season-ending injury to Cornelius Ingram(notes) in August. Started 11-of-13 games and caught 34-381-5 (11.2). Did not play in the season opener, as head coach Urban Meyer (a father figure to Hernandez) told the media only that the tight end was “not ready to play.” Won the Mackey Award in ’09 after starting 13-of-14 games (gave way to four receivers against Florida International) and leading the country in catches by a TE, pacing Gators receivers with 68-850-5 (12.5). Dealt with the flu leading up to the Kentucky contest.

Positives: Very good athlete. Has outstanding hands and can make the difficult, acrobatic, one-handed grab. Catches the ball without breaking stride. Competes for the ball in a crowd. Can take a hit and maintain his balance. Sets up defenders with stems and nods and shows some savvy as a route runner. Has a knack for finding holes in coverage. Outstanding open-field run vision to create additional yardage after the catch. Very good production. Has been very durable.

Negatives: Is seldom used as an in-line blocker in an offense that does not feature a true tight end. Lacks bulk and functional strength. Does not play physical and brings little value as a blocker. Has not run a full route tree. Struggles to sink his hips and separate against tight man coverage. Not strong or powerful after the catch. Has some concentration lapses and will double-catch balls. Character will require closer scrutiny.

Summary: Emerged as Tim Tebow’s go-to receiver as a junior and could be very effective in a situational type of role in the pros where he could line up in the slot and create on the move but does not bring much value as a blocker and must prove that he can stay focused. Ideally suited for a finesse, H-back role.

NFL projection: Second-round pick.

5. TE Ed Dickson
Oregon senior
Ht: 6-4 1/4 | Wt: 249 | Sp: 4.64 | Arm: 33 | Hand: 9 3/4

Ed Dickson

(Don Ryan/AP Photo)

Notes: Prep tight end-linebacker who also played basketball. Redshirted in 2005. Moved to defensive end during ’06 fall camp due to injuries at the position. Saw action in all 13 games, playing DE, TE, WR and special teams. Made 10 tackles (seven on special teams) and caught four balls for 45 yards (11.3-yard average) and zero touchdowns. Returned to offense for the Ducks’ last four games. Started all 13 games at tight end in ’07, setting a school single-season receptions record for the position by snagging 43-453-3 (10.5). In ’08, started all 13 games and tallied 35-508-3 (14.5) with three rushes for 18 yards (6.0). Started all 13 games for the third year in a row in ’09, catching 42-551-6 (13.1).

Positives: Is very quick into his routes. Plucks the ball easily out of the air. Adjusts easily to the ball and has a wide-ranging catching radius. Has reliable hands. Very good lateral agility to sift through open windows and turn upfield quickly after the catch. Makes some difficult, acrobatic grabs look easy. Very fluid movement skills. Has flashed some playmaking ability. Effective blocking on the move. Improved work ethic. Has been very durable and not missed any time to injury throughout his career. Competitively jumped to his feet and finished the gauntlet drill at the Combine after tripping.

Negatives: Lacks bulk and is underpowered against the jam. Limited in-line blocking power and experience. Will require some time to adapt to an NFL playbook and to learn how to read NFL coverages.

Summary: Is best split wide working against air and could become a pass-catching weapon detached from the line if he can assimilate to a pro-style offense. The ability to grasp a more complex, demanding playbook will define his career.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

6. H-Back Dorin Dickerson
Pittsburgh senior
Ht: 6-1 3/8 | Wt: 226 | Sp: 4.47 | Arm: 34 | Hand: 9 3/4

Notes: Father, Randy, played college basketball at Kansas State and Lock Haven. Dorin also played basketball and competed in track as a prep. Partially tore the ACL and fractured the ankle on his right leg in June before reporting to college, then sprained his left ankle three days into fall camp. Began his career as a receiver/kickoff returner in 2006, catching one pass for five yards (5.0-yard average) without a touchdown, rushing three times for 25 yards (8.3) and a score and posting four kickoff returns for 24 yards (6.0) in eight games. Bulked up and backed up at strong-side linebacker in ’07, appearing in all 12 games and tallying 15 tackles, one-half for loss and zero sacks with a pass breakup while returning kickoffs 4-56 (14.0). At tight end in ’08, played in 13 games (started against Iowa and Syracuse) and caught 13-174-2 (13.4) with 2-25-0 (12.5) on the ground. Broke out in ’09, starting 9-of-13 games played and hauling in 49-529-10 (10.8).
Positives: Has a very athletic build with defined muscle, long arms and a frame to bulk up. Outstanding straight-line speed. Tracks the ball over his shoulder and adjusts well to the ball. Catches the ball in stride and has strong hands. Shows vision, run instincts and some tackle-breaking ability with the ball in his hands. Outstanding leaping ability - had a Combine-best 431?2-inch vertical jump. Versatile - aligned flexed wide in the slot, in the wing, in line and motioned. Good work habits.

Negatives: Not a savvy route runner - does not get in and out of breaks cleanly. Not crafty and struggles to separate from safeties in man coverage (see Cincinnati). A bit straight-linish with average hip flexibility. Not a fiery competitor. Disinterested blocker - lacks functional strength and girth to be an effective in-line blocker. Does not adjust well to the low ball. Not elusive with the ball in his hands. Struggled to shake man coverage at the Senior Bowl when he attended as a receiver.

Summary: Found a home at H-back as a senior after being shuttled between positions his first three years and has shown big-time flashes of potential. Possesses the vertical speed to stretch the seam and athletic ability to mismatch linebackers on crossing routes. Exceptional Combine performance and rare top-end speed will enhance value but is still raw as a route runner and will need to be used on simple routes where he does not have to make sharp cuts to be most effective. Has ability to factor situationally immediately.

NFL projection: Third- to fourth-round pick.

7. TE Anthony McCoy
USC senior
Ht: 6-4 1/2 | Wt: 259 | Sp: 4.77 | Arm: 34 | Hand: 10 3/8

Notes: Also played basketball as a prep, in addition to playing receiver, tight end, and defensive line on the football field. Had his left shoulder operated on in January 2006. At USC in the fall, saw limited action in four games. A pulled hamstring midway through the season sidelined him until the bowl game. Missed most of ensuing spring practice with a sprained ankle before appearing in all 13 games in ’07 and recording two receptions for 18 yards (9.0-yard average) with a touchdown. Stepped into the lineup in ’08 and started all 13 games, pulling in 22-256-1 (11.6). Missed time during ’09 spring practice due to academics and a pulled hamstring, but started 9-of-10 games played in the fall and pulled in 22-457-1 (20.8). Sprained his right ankle against Oregon State and did not play against Oregon and Arizona State (did not start in first game back against Stanford). Also was academically ineligible for the Emerald Bowl against Boston College.

Positives: Quick-twitch athlete with very good leaping ability. Shows a sudden burst off the line, and the acceleration to separate vs. man coverage. Makes some difficult, acrobatic grabs - can jump and snare the high throw and adjust to the underthrown ball. Has a wide catching radius. Shows the run strength to break tackles after the catch and the agility to make sharp cuts in the open field. Possesses the upper-body strength to lock out and control linebackers. A consistent blocker.
Negatives: Hands tends to go wide of the target and too easily is disengaged. Long strider - can struggle breaking down and sinking his hips in his routes. Will also get knocked off balance when pressed on underneath routes. Very marginal production, especially in the red zone. Lacks concentration and focus. Did not look natural catching the ball at the Combine, letting the ball into his body, double-clutching, bobbling and weaving off the line in the gauntlet drill.

Summary: Has all the physical tools to develop into an NFL starter, but his production and output never matched his talent in college, and he still must prove that he can avoid the underachiever label.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

8. TE Tony Moeaki
Iowa senior
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 245 | Sp: 4.71 | Arm: 33 1/4 | Hand: 10 1/8

Notes: Last name is pronounced “MO-ee-AH-kee.” Parents were born in Tonga, but Tony grew up in suburban Chicago. Also lettered in basketball and tennis as a prep. Appeared in all 12 games in 2005, catching eight passes for 112 yards (14.0-yard average) and no touchdowns. In ’06, was the second TE behind Chargers 2007 fourth-rounder Scott Chandler(notes). Snagged 11-140-3 (12.7) in 13 games played and was the starter heading into ’07. Sprained his shoulder in the spring before producing 14-170-3 (12.1) in four games (all starts) in ’07, but suffered a broken wrist and dislocated elbow on his left arm against Wisconsin. Underwent a pair of surgeries (was granted a medical hardship) and sat out ’08 spring practice. Returned for fall camp, but broke his left foot and underwent another surgery. Missed the first two games, but managed to play nine (one start) in ’08. Hauled in 13-144-1 (11.1), but came back too fast from injury, which led to calf and hamstring problems that kept him out of two more games. Also sustained concussions against Iowa State and Illinois. A second foot surgery was needed in the spring of ’09. Started all 10 games in which he played in ’09, catching 30-387-4 (12.9). Sustained a high ankle sprain in the season opener against Northern Iowa that sidelined him for three games. Team captain.

Positives: Good athletic ability and body control. Enough speed to get down the field and threaten the seam. Has natural receiving skills. Soft hands. Can catch outside his frame. Concentrates in traffic and shows nice hand-eye coordination. Tracks the ball well in the air and adjusts easily. Reliable short-to-intermediate receiver. Played in a pro-style offense and rarely came off the field.

Negatives: Lacks girth. Not a polished route runner - is too easily knocked off course and lacks burst to separate out of breaks. Many receptions are contested. Not overly elusive after the catch. Not a physical blocker. Is injury-prone and durability is a major concern - missed 15 games his last three years while dealing with wrist, elbow, foot, ankle, calf, hamstring and head injuries. Marginal career production.

Summary: Really came on as a senior and graded out like a second-round talent when he was healthy, flashing big-time receiving skills and the ability to function as a blocker. However, the inability to stay healthy for a full season is very concerning, and his injury history could push down his draft value. Would be best suited in a situational/backup-type role where he could take limited reps and preserve his body.

NFL projection: Third- to fourth-round pick.

9. H-Back/FB Clay Harbor
Missouri State
Ht: 6-2 5/8 | Wt: 252 | Sp: 4.69 | Arm: 32 5/8 | Hand: 9 1/2

Notes: Brother, Cory, was a defensive lineman for MSU (2005-08). Clay also lettered four times each inbasketball and track as a prep. Redshirted in 2005. Played in 10 games in ’06, starting two, and made six receptions for 73 yards (12.2-yard average) and a touchdown. Started all 11 games in ’07, catching 45-647-3 (14.4). Started all 11 games in ’08 and snagged 40-457-2 (11.4) despite spraining his right ankle against Western Illinois. Started all 11 games for the third consecutive season in ’09, when he hauled in 59-729-4 (12.4), becoming the school’s career receptions leader (150). Team captain.

Positives: Well built with good musculature. Very light on his feet and has the speed to threaten the seam. Consistent mismatch for linebackers. Catches the ball cleanly when he is uncontested. Excellent football intelligence - quick study. Has a 40-inch vertical jump. Bench-pressed a TE-best 30 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine, and interviewed very well. Has competed on every special team.

Negatives: Has faced marginal competition. Raw in-line blocker - comes off the ball too upright, does not drive into defenders and is still figuring out how to translate his strength to the field. Not overly tough or physical. Average elusiveness and creativity after the catch. Has some concentration drops and will break stride to secure the ball.

Summary: A very athletic converted receiver who made a small mint at the Texas vs. the Nation all-star game and at the Combine when he showed he could stack up with better competition, outperforming most tight ends in workouts. Still must prove that he can adapt to the pro level, but clearly has the athletic ability and upside to develop as an H-back.

NFL projection: Fourth- to fifth-round pick.

10. TE Jimmy Graham
Miami (Fla.) senior
Ht: 6-6 1/4 | Wt: 260 | Sp: 4.53 | Arm: 35 | Hand: 10 5/8

Jimmy Graham

(Dale Zanine/US Presswire)

Notes: Was abandoned by his birth mother before being adopted at age 15. Played basketball, tennis and baseball as a prep (only played football as a freshman). Was recruited as a basketball player and played four years, finishing his career ranked eighth in Miami history with 104 blocked shots. After exhausting basketball eligibility, was recruited to join the football team in the spring of 2009 and played 13 games (one start), catching 17 passes for 213 yards (12.5-yard average) and five touchdowns.

Positives: Has a very athletic frame with extremely long arms and big, strong hands. Tremendous size potential - has a frame to bulk up. Can stretch the field vertically and threaten the seam. Presents matchup problems in the red zone with terrific leaping ability. High-points the football. Plays with passion. Showed signs of improvement throughout the season and caught the ball very naturally in the gauntlet drill at the Combine, making it look easy. Has a 38½-inch vertical jump.

Negatives: Very raw and undisciplined in his route running - drifts into zone coverage and has not yet learned how to diagnose coverages. Not quick into his routes and struggles slipping defenders against press coverage. Does not show a second gear to separate vertically. Does not use his hands or lock out his arms consistently as a blocker. Lacks power in his punch. Has only one year of football experience.

Summary: A converted standout power forward on the Hurricanes’ hoops squad who is still very raw and learning how to play the game, Graham showed gradual improvement in his first year on the gridiron and there is no denying his upside. Solid Senior Bowl performance and exceptional Combine workout could enhance his draft stock. Still might require several years before he figures it out and adapts to the speed of the game, but has a very high ceiling and really could blossom with good coaching.

NFL projection: Mid-round pick.

03-24-2010, 09:36 AM
1. WR-PR Dez Bryant
Oklahoma State junior
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 225 | Sp: 4.5e | Arm: 34 | Hand: 9 3/4


Notes: Parade All-American whose tenuous academic standing scared off some schools until late in the process. Committed to Oklahoma State in large part because of its early interest and assistant coach Gunter Brewer’s association with Randy Moss(notes) (Brewer coached Moss at Marshall). Bryant was born to a teenage mother who had three children by age 18 and sold drugs to get by (she spent 18 months in jail when Dez was 8). Endured an unstable upbringing and was placed in special education classes as a high school freshman because of a learning disability. It was around that time when he left his mother and moved in with his father (who is nearly 30 years older than his mother) and stepmother. In October of 2008, Bryant’s high school coach told the New York Times, “I’ve taken him to probably six or seven different places he called home. It wasn’t an ideal family situation. He was from trailer to trailer and house to house.” Combative and stubborn during his high school years, Bryant was kicked out of the house and moved in with his girlfriend at the time before qualifying academically. Played in 12 games (three starts) as a true freshman in ’07, catching 43 balls for 622 yards (14.5-yard average) and six touchdowns with two punt returns for 15 yards (7.5) and zero TDs. Was suspended for the Florida Atlantic contest for being late to team meetings. Started all 13 games at the flanker spot in ’08, racking up 87-1,480-19 (17.0) receiving (113.9 yards per game) and 17-305-2 (17.9) on punt returns. Also returned four kickoffs for 100 yards (25.0). Took a shot under the chin on the first series against Missouri but returned after being checked for concussion symptoms. Piled up 13-167-1 against Oregon in the Holiday Bowl before incurring a small ligament tear in his left knee and having worn a brace to play through it. Had the knee surgically repaired in January ’09 and did not participate in spring practice. In the fall, saw action in three games - managed 17-323-4 (19.0) receiving, 3-111-1 (37.0) returning punts and 2-43 (21.5) returning kickoffs before the NCAA imposed a season-long suspension for lying about his relationship with Deion Sanders, who was under suspicion of courting Bryant as a potential client for agent Eugene Parker.

Positives: Exceptionally competitive gamer. Attacks the ball in the air with very strong hands and very long arms to sky over defensive backs, highpoint the ball and pluck it out of the air. Catches in stride and immediately turns into a running back, sifting through traffic and creating after the catch - very good run vision and instincts. Does not go down easily. Can bend and sink into his routes and adjusts well to the low ball. Can make the acrobatic circus catch and one-handed snags and will lay out parallel to the ground and sacrifice his body to haul it in. Tracks the deep ball extremely well. Outstanding hand-eye coordination and body control. Will cross the middle and has shown he can take a hit. Has a feel for coverage and keeps working to uncover.

Negatives: Is not a crafty route runner. Will make some concentration drops. Not overly elusive after the catch. Too naïve and immature. Many big gains came on improvised, broken plays in a simplified offense, and he may require an adjustment period to an NFL offense. Missed most of his last season after making questionable decisions and is too easily influenced and too much of a follower. Needs to learn what it means to be a pro and become more accountable. Too unreliable and does not show enough respect for the game.

Summary: A terrific game-day competitor with immaturity issues that could sidetrack a brilliant career if he does not learn that he will not be able to get by on his natural talent alone at the pro level. Appeared heavier and less agile as a junior than he did early in his career and showed up at the Combine at a bulked-up 225 pounds and did not work out. Proved he could be a difference maker from Day One in college and has the physical traits to become a dominating, No. 1 receiver if he figures out the meaning of hard work.

NFL projection: Top-15 pick.

2. WR Demaryius Thomas
Georgia Tech junior
Ht: 6-3 1/4 | Wt: 224 | Sp: 4.5e | Arm: 33 | Hand: 10 1/2
Notes: Also ran track and played on a state championship basketball team as a prep. Committed to then-head coach Chan Gailey and redshirted in 2006. Played in all 13 games in ’07, starting nine, and recorded 35 receptions for 558 yards (15.9-yard average) and four touchdowns. In ’08, was the primary receiver in head coach Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense, starting all 12 games in which he played. Totaled 39-627-3 (16.1) with two rushes for 29 yards (14.5). Did not play against Virginia Tech (concussion). Started all 14 games in ’09, producing 46-1,154-8 (25.1). Broke his left foot in February and required surgery.

Positives: Looks the part - outstanding size with length and well-proportioned muscle. Large, strong hands. Terrific body control. Adjusts very well to the ball in the air. Understands how to use size to his advantage - posts up defenders and wins in the air. Has soft hands to pluck the ball. Catches in stride and shows run strength to bust through arm and ankle tackles. Brandishes a stiff-arm (see Georgia). Can be a physical blocker.

Negatives: Inconsistent hands and concentration - drops too many balls. Played in a run-oriented offense and was not asked to execute a full route tree. Lacks elite top-end speed, acceleration and agility. Takes long strides and runs upright, limiting his transitional quickness. Is not sudden or elusive with the ball in his hands. Not an exceptional leaper. Feasted on single coverage. Should be a better blocker for his size than he shows - inconsistent effort.

Summary: A big, strong, long-armed, outside-the-numbers “X” receiver who emerged from a triple-option offense featuring a limited route tree and has shown a propensity for drops. Was clocking in the high 4.3s prior to breaking his foot but does not separate consistently, and his ceiling could be as a No. 2 in the pros.

NFL projection: Top-40 pick.

3. WR-RS Golden Tate
Notre Dame junior
Ht: 5-10 1/4 | Wt: 199 | Sp: 4.48 | Arm: 30 1/2 | Hand: 9 1/4

Notes: Father, Golden Tate Jr., was a receiver at Tennessee State and a 1984 Colts draft pick; younger brother, Wesley, is a running back at Vanderbilt. Golden III was a running back (also lined up at receiver), kick returner, punter and occasional cornerback. Also excelled in baseball (was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 42nd round of the 2007 MLB draft) and competed in track as a prep. Senior baseball season was cut short by a thumb injury, and he hurt his hamstring at the state track championships. As a true freshman in 2007, played in all 12 games (started against UCLA and USC) and recorded six receptions for 131 yards (21.8-yard average) and one touchdown. Returned 15 kickoffs for 326 yards (21.7). Broke out in ’08, playing the “X” receiver opposite Michael Floyd, and led the Irish in all-purpose yards (1,754), receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns (11). Started 8-of-13 games (yielded to Duval Kamara in non-starts) and hauled in 58-1,080-10 (18.6). Also rushed five times for 37 yards (7.4) and one touchdown and returned kickoffs 26-521 (20.0). Posted the most productive postseason performance by a receiver in school history by piling up 6-177-3 (29.5) against Hawaii in the Hawaii bowl. Won the Biletnikoff Award after having the best receiving season in ND history in ’09, amassing 93-1,496-15 (16.1) in 12 games (all starts). Racked up 1,915 all-purpose yards, including 25-186-2 (7.4) rushing, 12-171-1 (14.2) in punt returns and 3-62 (20.7) on kickoffs. Doubled as a center fielder for the baseball team - played a half in the ’09 Blue-Gold spring football game, then went 4-for-9 in a baseball doubleheader.

Positives: Very competitive and confident - plays with a swagger. Quick-footed. Fights for the ball in the air and has extremely strong hands to highpoint the football. Outstanding concentration. Superb downfield ball skills - tracks and adjusts to the flight of the ball with good body control. Has a knack for uncovering. Good run balance and tackle-breaking ability. Comes from a pro-style offense. Versatile - returned kicks and punts and took snaps out of the “Wildcat” formation (see Purdue). Outstanding production - 15 career 100-yard games.

Negatives: Lacks ideal size with a bad body and tight hips. Short stepper lacks top-end speed (can be tracked down from behind). Needs to improve his functional strength. Inconsistent initial burst and line release - still learning to use his hands to fend off the jam and is too easily hemmed (see USC). Route running is a work in progress - can do a better job getting in and out of breaks. Lets balls into his chest and drops some catchable passes. Average blocker. Talks too much. Long-term durability could be an issue given his playing style - does not shy away from contact.

Summary: A compactly built, superproductive slot receiver trapped in a running back’s body, Tate emerged from a pro-style system and could not be stopped even after facing increased attention as a junior. Still raw, Tate must show he can beat press coverage and could struggle to duplicate his perimeter success in the pros. But he does offer strong hands, competitiveness, versatility and playmaking ability to contribute readily.

NFL projection: Top-50 pick.

4. WR-RS Arrelious Benn
Illinois junior
Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 219 | Sp: 4.58 | Arm: 32 1/4 | Hand: 9 3/8

Arrelious Benn

(Jerry Lai/US Presswire)

Notes: Nicknamed “Rejus.” Parade All-American who also won Washington D.C.’s Gatorade Player of the Year Award. In ’07, started 12-of-13 games (gave way to a two-TE set against Western Illinois) in the slot despite battling a right shoulder injury all season. Originally dislocated his right shoulder during fall camp and was knocked out of the Wisconsin contest after aggravating the injury. Sustained a concussion against Ohio State. Posted 54 receptions for 676 yards (12.5-yard average) with two touchdowns in ’07. Also rushed 32 times for 158 yards (4.9) with zero TDs and returned 10 kickoffs for 280 yards (28.0), including a 90-yard TD against Penn State. Started all 12 games in ’08 and caught 67-1,055-3 (15.7) with 23-101-2 (4.4) rushing, 20-398 (19.9) on kickoff returns and 15 punt returns for 114 yards (7.6). Was cited by university police in September for driving on a suspended license. Led the team in receiving for the third straight year in ’09 when he started 11-of-12 games and snagged 38-490-2 (12.9) with 7-23-1 (3.3) rushing and 12-318 (26.5) on kickoff returns. Dealt with a sprained ankle most of the season (originally sustained in the season opener against Missouri). Non-start came against Michigan State after suffering a mild concussion on the opening kickoff. Team captain who does not eat red meat or fried food.

Positives: Has an NFL body and looks the part with very good size and musculature and good play strength. Physical. Deceptive speed and acceleration. Can take a hit and maintain possession. Shows vision and burst after the catch - can power through arm tackles and sidestep tacklers. Strong blocker. Shows some burst as a kick returner and can open up his stride in space and go the distance. Tough, confident and competitive. Has a pro mentality and takes care of his body. Works at his craft. Has a 37-inch vertical jump and tied for a WR-best 20 reps in the 225-pound bench-press test at the Combine.

Negatives: Comes off the ball too upright and is not a vertical threat. Shows some tightness in his hips and ankles. Lets too many balls into his body and does not always appear confident in his hands. Still developing as a route runner and lacks polish to get out of his breaks cleanly without gearing down. Breaks stride to catch. Mistimes jumps and does not attack the ball in the air or win jump balls. Lacks the foot speed and agility to beat NFL defensive backs in man coverage.

Summary: Production dropped off considerably and was underutilized as a junior when Illinois struggled through a coordinator change and poor QB play. Is a body catcher and needs refinement as a route runner, but his combination of size, strength and run-after-catch ability should allow him to make an impact as a “Wildcat” runner, kick returner and complementary receiver, with potential to develop into a solid pro in a West Coast offense.

NFL projection: Top-40 pick.

5. WR-PR Damian Williams
USC junior
Ht: 6-0 5/8 | Wt: 197 | Sp: 4.54 | Arm: 31 3/4 | Hand: 9 1/4
Notes: Prepped at Springdale (Ark.) High, where he was part of an undefeated state championship team which finished his senior season ranked No. 2 nationally. Racked up 63 receptions for 1,495 yards (23.7-yard average) and 24 touchdowns with 31 carries for 463 yards (14.9) and 12 touchdowns in head coach Gus Malzahn’s spread offense. Also returned kicks and played defensive back. Signed - along with three Springdale teammates, including QB Mitch Mustain, a lifelong friend - with Arkansas, where then-head coach Houston Nutt had hired Malzahn as the team’s offensive coordinator. As a true freshman in 2006, Williams started 5-of-13 games at flanker and caught 19-235-2 (12.4). In mid-December, Williams’ parents were among a group that arranged a meeting with athletic director Frank Broyles in which concerns were expressed regarding the direction of the Razorbacks’ offense. Ultimately, Williams transferred to USC and sat out the ’07 season per NCAA rules, though he suffered a torn labrum at the beginning of spring practice and had both shoulders operated on. Was the Trojans’ leading receiver in ’08, starting 9-of-13 games at flanker and hauling in 58-869-9 (15.0) with 4-43-0 (10.8) on the ground. Started 11-of-12 games played at flanker in ’09 and hauled in 70-1,010-6 (14.4). Also returned punts 24-340 (14.2), including TDs against California and Oregon State. Did not start against Oregon (strained glute/hamstring), then sustained a high right ankle sprain against Arizona State and sat out the Stanford contest. Team captain.

Positives: Deceptively fast long-strider with smooth, fluid movement skills. Nice hips. Soft, reliable hands to snatch the ball out of the air (see Ohio State). Good agility to shake free off the line of scrimmage. Shows polish as a route runner. Consistently creates after the catch - shows good run instincts (see Arizona State), elusiveness and surprising balance. Nice stop-and-go quickness. Good concentration - tracks the ball well and plays bigger than his size in traffic. Good field awareness. Confident and competitive. Well respected by teammates and coaches. Very solid punt returner.

Negatives: Has a slim, wiry build with thin legs. Needs more time in the weight room and could stand to improve functional strength. Lacks elite top-end speed to separate vertically. Lets balls into his body. Durability could be an issue - body type might make it difficult to stay healthy.

Summary: Thin-framed, leggy long-strider with reliable hands, advanced route running and slick creativity after the catch and as a punt returner. Played at an elite program and consistently made plays and showed up in big games. Would fit best as a flanker in a West Coast system.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

6. WR Eric Decker
Minnesota senior
Ht: 6-3 1/8 | Wt: 217 | Sp: 4.55e | Arm: 31 | Hand: 9 1/8

Notes: Also played basketball and baseball as a prep. Redshirted in 2005. Played in all 13 games in ’06, starting against Temple and Penn State, and recorded 26 receptions for 378 yards (14.5-yard average) with three touchdowns. Also completed a 22-yard pass. In ’07, started all 12 games and totaled 67-909-9 (13.6). Added three rushes for 22 yards (7.3) and zero TDs with four punt returns for 28 yards (7.0). Also tossed a 20-yard TD pass. Reportedly punched opposing CB Jack Ikegwuonu(notes) in the groin during the Wisconsin contest. In ’08, started all 11 games played and hauled in 84-1,074-7 (12.8) with 11-87-1 (7.9) rushing. Sustained a concussion against Indiana, sprained his left shoulder in the first half at Illinois (finished the game) and sustained a left high ankle sprain against Northwestern that hampered him against Michigan and sidelined him for the Wisconsin contest. Had his left knee scoped prior to the Insight Bowl against Kansas. Started all eight games played in ’09 - posted 50-758-5 (15.2) before suffering a Lisfranc sprain (torn ligament) in his left foot against Ohio State and undergoing season-ending surgery. A left-handed outfielder on the diamond, Decker played baseball in ’07 and ’08 - was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 39th round of the ’08 MLB draft. Was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 27th round of the ’09 draft. Two-time team captain.

Positives: Outstanding size with well-muscled frame. Gets into routes quickly and runs with tempo and balance and knows how to set up defensive backs. Sinks his hips and gets in and out of breaks cleanly. Keeps working to uncover and shows good field awareness. Shows good body control and soft hands - catches naturally and can pluck outside his frame. Great concentration and toughness to catch in traffic and take a hit (see California). Looks athletic and shows run strength after the catch - can shake the first tackler and spin off contact. Confident and competitive - rises to competition. Tough and will play through pain. Competitive downfield stalk blocker - finishes blocks.

Negatives: Has short arms. Is not a blazer and lacks top-end speed to stretch the field or pull away. Short-strider - not explosive. Average hand strength - drops some balls that he should catch. Not a crisp route runner - does not show burst at the top of his routes and can do a better job working back to the ball. Inconsistent blocker. Durability needs to be examined closely with a litany of injuries piling up the past two years and his long-torsoed body showing signs of breaking down.

Summary: Was really emerging as a receiver before a serious foot injury cut short his senior season. Inability to run before the draft could drop his stock, but Decker is a smooth-moving, inside receiver with the size, competitiveness and enough foot quickness to become a dependable No. 3 in a West Coast system.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

7. WR Riley Cooper
Florida senior
Ht: 6-3 3/8 | Wt: 222 | Sp: 4.52 | Arm: 32 5/8 | Hand: 10 3/8

Riley Cooper

(Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire)

Notes: Father, Larry, played baseball at Oklahoma State. Riley was rated the 11th-best high school baseball prospect (outfielder) in the country by Baseball America. Considered a first-round baseball talent coming out of Clearwater (Fla.) Central Catholic, Cooper made it known to scouts that his intention was to accept a football scholarship from Florida. The Philadelphia Phillies tabbed him in the 15th round of the 2006 MLB draft, but were unable to dissuade him from attending Florida. Had a decorated prep football career, starring as a receiver, safety and return man. Suffered a separated left shoulder in a playoff loss his junior season and had his senior baseball season cut short by an off-the-field incident. Was charged with criminal mischief in March ’06 after punching a car window. According to the report, the car’s driver claimed to be leaving a party and attempting a U-turn when a group of people stopped to ask if he knew someone, at which time Cooper’s arm went through his passenger window. He drove off, and police found Cooper at the hospital. Cooper’s father contended Riley’s action was a “defensive move,” a reaction to nearly being hit by the driver who failed to see the group in his blind spot. Ultimately charges were dropped, but Cooper came away with a deep cut on his right (throwing) arm that required plastic surgery. As a true freshman in 2006, played in 13 games and tallied four receptions for 92 yards with three touchdowns against Western Carolina. Also made four tackles as a gunner and forced a fumble, despite dealing with sesamoiditis (inflammation of the sesamoid bones) in both feet. In ’07, played in 10 games, starting against Tennessee and Auburn, and managed 8-182-3 (22.8-yard average). Sprained his left ankle against the Vols and was limited the next three weeks. Broke his pinky finger early in the Kentucky game, had two screws surgically inserted and missed two contests plus the Capital One Bowl against Michigan. Joined the baseball team in ’08. In the fall, started 12-of-14 games, producing 18-261-3 (14.5). Charged with misdemeanor resisting an officer and failure to comply with a police or fire department in February ’09 when he was cited by campus police for not getting out of the way of a moving car upon police orders. Case was dismissed. Did not participate in ’09 spring practice while with the UF baseball team and played summer ball for the second year in a row. Had fluid drained from his knee in April. Was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 25th round of the ’09 MLB draft. In the fall, was the Gators’ top receiver, reeling in 51-961-9 (18.8) in 14 games (all starts). Suffered a hip-pointer against Arkansas.

Positives: Outstanding size with a tall, well-proportioned build and among the largest hands of receivers at the Combine. Shows strength at the line to fend off the jam. Naturally athletic with deceptive top-end speed - threatens DBs with long strides. Good hands and body control to adjust to the ball. Tracks the ball very well over his shoulder and can snag it out of the air. Is tough and willing to work the middle of the field. Shows awareness throttling down in throwing windows. Willing, aggressive blocker - latches on and sustains. Intense, tough, competitive tone setter. Has experience as a “gunner.” Caught the ball very well at the Combine.

Negatives: Not sudden getting into routes and lacks top-end acceleration. Drifts into his routes. Is a bit straight-linish. Not elusive after the catch or very strong on contact. Could use more time in the weight room. Did not play in a pro-style offense and was not asked to run a full route tree. Just a one-year producer. Only recently committed to football full time and will have to answer some maturity questions.

Summary: A dual-sport standout who waited his turn in a talented offense, Cooper possesses the hands, competitiveness and blocking ability highly valued by coaches. A faster-than-quick, West Coast receiving prospect with an intriguing size-speed ratio. Has upside and special-teams ability.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

8. WR-RS Andre Roberts
The Citadel senior
Ht: 5-10 7/8 | Wt: 195 | Sp: 4.46 | Arm: 31 1/2 | Hand: 9 1/2

Notes: Also excelled in track as a prep. As a true freshman in 2006, played in all 11 games, starting two (Furman, Virginia Military Institute) at the “X” receiver, and recorded 35 receptions for 557 yards (15.9-yard average) with five touchdowns. Also rushed four times for 43 yards (10.8) with zero touchdowns and returned 18 punts for 193 yards (10.7). Started all 11 games at the “X” receiver in ’07, hauling in 78-1,060-10 (13.6) and returning punts 26-288 (11.1). Also ran track for the Bulldogs in ’07. Started all 12 games in ’08 at the “X” receiver and racked up 95-1,334-14 (14.0) receiving, 24-94-1 (3.9) rushing and was Football Championship Series’ top punt returner with 24-461 (19.2), including three TDs. Also completed a pass for 15 yards. In ’09, started all 11 games at the “X” and totaled 77-792-8 (10.3) receiving and 12-77-0 (6.4) on the ground. Added 14-217 (15.5) on punt returns and 3-66 (22.0) on kickoffs. Two-time elected team captain.

Positives: Very good short-area acceleration. Shows savvy as a route runner - creates separation with double moves. Recognizes coverages and works to the quarterback when plays break down. Good concentration - goes over the middle to catch in traffic areas and tracks the deep ball well. Plays bigger than his size. Confident - plays with a swagger. Coachable. Has a passion for the game. Elusive punt returner with good vision and traffic burst. Has shown well against top competition (Clemson ’08, North Carolina ’09) and shined at the Senior Bowl. Durable. Clocked very well in the shuttle and three-cone drills at the Combine, showing terrific agility.

Negatives: Did not consistently face top competition. Is not exceptionally explosive off the line and lacks elite, top-end vertical speed to consistently separate deep. Can be late adjusting to poorly thrown balls and struggles catching on contact. Not a physical blocker.

Summary: Bulked up nearly 20 pounds since last spring without losing much agility and shows good strength for his size. Is not an elite athlete but takes pride in his craft, will work to get better and has a skill set to succeed as a slot receiver and punt returner. Solid performance against better competition at the Senior Bowl and a strong Combine showing could elevate his draft stock. Has a lot of upside.

NFL projection: Third- to fourth-round pick.

9. WR-KR Mardy Gilyard
Cincinnati senior
Ht: 5-11 7/8 | Wt: 187 | Sp: 4.61 | Arm: 32 1/4 | Hand: 9 1/8

Notes: High school running back who also competed in basketball and track and field as a prep, though he was academically ineligible as a sophomore. Was recruited to Cincinnati as a cornerback by then-head coach Mark Dantonio’s staff. As a true freshman in 2005, appeared in eight games and recorded seven tackles with eight kickoff returns for 176 yards (22.0-yard average). After the season, he was accused of plagiarism, failed a class and lost his scholarship. Gilyard denies cheating. Unable to afford tuition and housing, he worked four jobs and slept in a car for four months. Ineligible in ’06, he played semi-professional ball with the Kings (Ohio) Comets during the summer of ’07, though he did not accept money and was not punished because he was not enrolled in school at the time. Head coach Brian Kelly(notes) restored his scholarship, and Gilyard returned to play 12 games in ’07, starting the first seven contests (eight total) and tallying 36 receptions for 536 yards (14.9) with three touchdowns. Also returned kickoffs 7-206 (29.4) and punts 6-57 (9.5). Added two blocked punts. Missed the Syracuse contest with an undisclosed injury. Underwent Lasik eye surgery in the offseason. Started 11-of-14 games in ’08, hauling in 81-1,276-11 (15.8) with 36-994-2 (27.6) on kickoff returns. Started all 13 games in ’09, catching 87-1,191-11 (13.7) and rushing 5-16-1 (3.2). Returned kickoffs 42-1,281-2 (30.5) and punts 16-202-1 (12.6).

Positives: Naturally athletic with fluid movement skills. Quick-footed and agile. Makes plays and racks up yards after the catch. Can extend outside his frame and is not afraid to expose his body to make a play. Good concentration to track the deep ball. Shows natural run-after-catch skills and is dangerous in the open field - can stop and start, string moves together and make defenders miss one-on-one. Slippery. Excellent run vision - sees the cutback. Very good quickness, burst and vision as a returner. Gives effort as a stalk blocker. Showed up in big games. Confident.

Negatives: Slender, wiry build with thin ankles. Needs more time in the weight room - lacks functional strength to fend off the jam and can be subdued by physical press coverage. Lacks elite top-end speed. Is still developing as a route runner. Inconsistent hands - body-catches too often and drops more balls than he should. Did not play in a pro-style offense. Character needs to be scrutinized.

Summary: A former high school running back who overcame considerable personal adversity to reach this point, Gilyard lacks desirable speed to threaten off the line, but is a smooth-moving slot receiver with run-after-catch skills and return ability that adds to his value. Plays faster than he times and is still learning the nuances of the position.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

10. WR Brandon LaFell
LSU senior
Ht: 6-2 1/2 | Wt: 211 | Sp: 4.63 | Arm: 32 3/4 | Hand: 8 3/4

Notes: High school receiver and defensive back who also returned punts and played point guard for the basketball team. Redshirted in 2005. Saw action in 11 games (started against Alabama when the Tigers opened in a four-receiver set) in ’06 and caught five passes for 140 yards (28.0-yard average) with two touchdowns. Hurt his ribs against Florida and sat out the next two contests (Kentucky, Fresno State). Played in all 14 games for the national-champion Tigers and started nine times while playing the “X” receiver in ’07. Recorded 50-656-4 (13.1) and added an 18-yard rushing TD. In ’08, started 11-of-13 games at the “X” receiver and tallied 63-929-8 (14.7). Played the “Z” receiver in ’09, starting all 13 games and hauling in 57-792-11 (13.9). Rushed 5-13-0 (2.6).

Positives: Looks the part - good size, strength and body length. Is loose-hipped and moves smoothly with a fluid stride. Can power off the line. Good balance and body control. Demonstrates nice posture as a route runner - uses deft nods to set up defensive backs and gets in and out of breaks cleanly. Can snatch balls outside his frame. Nice boundary awareness. Factors in the run game as a physical, stalk blocker and will seek kill shots on unsuspecting defenders - good finisher. Durable.

Negatives: Has very small hands and has been too inconsistent catching the ball throughout his career with concentration lapses showing too frequently. Drops too many balls. Is not a blazer - lacks ideal top-end speed to create separation vertically. Has a diva attitude that could rub veterans the wrong way. Does not hide frustration when the ball doesn’t come his way and has a prima donna attitude. Was contained by Florida and Alabama, and he will struggle to separate vs. physical bump-and-run coverage. Had a marginal Combine workout and interviews, dropping several balls in the gauntlet drills.

Summary: Was hampered by inconsistent QB play in college, but has the size and run strength to create matchup problems working as a flanker if he can overcome a case of the drops. Boom-or-bust candidate with concerning personality traits and frustrating on-field inconsistency coming from a program whose recent WR products have tended to disappoint in the pros.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick

04-19-2010, 02:43 AM
Cowher began building around Ben when he drafted Ben I know some of you still believe (gay slur)'s sob story of Bill resenting Ben but when you actually follow the events of the team since his drafting, it simply is proven to be completely baseless and totally out of context.

Going into the draft, Ben wasn't expected to last. Most mocks and experts thought Ben would go first over Rivers. Cowher thought Rivers was the better QB based on his playing in Norm Chow's offense for years at NC State. He ran multiple wide formations all the time and threw for over 4000 yards in college in back to back years I beleve. I saw many of his games and felt he'd be a great pick. I expected Ben to go before also. See Curtain Call, wrong again. This time, I was much happier to be wrong as I didn't see as much of Ben but did see his bowl game and was very impressed. Threw for crazy yards in the first half I believe.

So, a quarterback is taken, and what does Bill do the following year, for a QB he doesn't want and resents? He drafts him a first round tight end.

Then, the following year, they decide to let Ben take it to the next level. What does Bill do for the quarerback he doesn't want and resents? He spends his first round pick and two other to move up for a wide receiver.

Then, Ben is handed the keys to the castle and what's he do? Ignores his coach and owner's requests and rides a motorcycle, the fastest production bike at that, and rides without a helmet. We all know the rest.

Now, you numbnuts are trying to say he was a fool for allowing so many plays in the playbook? That he should have left the offense alone as he was a defensive and special teams coach? Well, he did just that. He allowed each coordinator to add to the plabook and also use the wisdom of his previous coaches if they so chose. Cowher doesn't call the plays come gameday or set up the offensive gameplan. Whisenhunt and Grimm did this. Cowher left it alone 99% of the time. Seems pretty smart to me and I am sure every coach learned from the previous coach.

Cowher told them what he wanted. He left them to design how to achieve it.

So, the next time you want to blast Cowher for his personell moves, you should keep in mind that he constantly learned from his mistakes, and fixed them. Ben is the solution most Steelers fans knew was the link to the fifth ring.

Now, I see Cowher in interviews and he seems relaxed, at peace and rested. No doubt he was burned out. He built a team and finally had his trophy that he promised to Mr. Rooney. Heck, he even worked with the Rooney's to help find someone to carry out his plan.

Tomlin is being handed a brass ring. All he has to do is continue it and tweak it. The plan and personell for a lot of the offense is in place.

What does Tomlin do? Hires Peyton Mannings former QB coach as OC, hire a former QB known for getting rid of the ball as QB coach and keeps the defensive coordinator in place.

I'd say the Rooney's listened to Cowher and stayed with the plan or Tomlin is a genius? I'd expect a few more coaches to change as positions and contracts expire but his first staff is quite experienced and impressive.

....all for a Quarterback Bill didn't want and resented
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