1. RB-RS C.J. Spiller
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., 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. 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. 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 (7,58 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
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
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. 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.
(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
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.. 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. 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
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. 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
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. 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.
(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
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.. 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. 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.