Feb 25, 2008
Now that the skill players have worked out at the combine, it’s time to take an early look at this year’s draft class. I will be getting more and more information on this year’s class in the coming weeks from people who know more about this group than I do, but here are some early thoughts.
Generally, this looks like a damn good group, perhaps a great one. There are 3-4 legit NFL starters at quarterback, and the running back position looks loaded, and especially fast. Wideout looks only decent for stars, but it’s really deep, and there are a couple of 1st round talents here. At TE, it doesn’t look like a very good group at this point, save for Dustin Keller, who may now be considered the consensus #1 TE after USC’s Fred Davis had a downer combine catching the ball.
Starting at QB, Boston College’s Matt Ryan looks to me like a very safe pick for an NFL team, yet I also think he has a little bit of upside. He may not have the intangibles of a Ben Roethlisberger, but his tools compare favorably to Big Ben’s, and I think he might be a little more skilled. If the Dolphins don’t believe in John Beck, they should take Ryan. Louisville’s Brian Brohm helped himself with an impressive workout. He ran and jumped well, and he showed great accuracy. A guy who’s from my neck of the woods, and who played near me at Delaware, Joe Flacco, is really starting to create a buzz. Flacco has some issues, such as inferior competition in college, but he’s huge at 6-6 and he has a big, big arm. He’s not afraid to stare down the gun barrel, and he could be a Derek Anderson-type player. My friend Adam Caplan is cozying up to Flacco in a big, big way, and he definitely has a NSC on him. Michigan’s Chad Henne showed himself well, so he is in the mix as one of the top QBs in this draft. Kentucky’s Andre’ Woodson wasn’t able to run with a hamstring injury, and might have slipped to 5th on the pecking order.
At RB, it’s going to be a very interesting field this year because it’s a very talented one. Arkansas RB Darren McFadden’s workout was incredibly buzz-worthy. McFadden ran a blistering 4.3 40-yard dash, and excelled by jumping 10 feet, 8 inches in the broad jump and 33 in the vertical jump, so his measurables were off the charts. McFadden’s ripped, so it’s easy to assume he’ll be a complete beast, but I’m not so sure. Remember a lesson learned in 2007: We need “football players.” Based on what I’ve seen and heard, I’m leaning more toward the camp that believes he’ll be more of a puzzle-piece a la Reggie Bush (I’m not comparing their games) than a workhorse lead and true featured back like Adrian Peterson. In some ways, his issues remind me of Julius Jones. He seems to go down too easy, and he doesn’t make the unblocked defender miss often enough. I’m reminded of how everyone just had to rank Bush #1 at the position heading into the draft and in his rookie season based on his homerun ability and upside, yet we’ve seen a guy like Joseph Addai have a much better NFL career. That said it makes a ton of sense for the Cowboys to take him and pair him with Marion Barber.
I’m personally more intrigued by Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart and Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall. These two guys are big backs (especially Stewart), yet they also ran very well. These guys are big, have good power, and they also have good speed. They are good receivers, too, so if you’re looking for potential featured backs, these two guys are the guys to look at. They both, by the way, had a very good showing at the combine. The rest of the draft class at this position looks pretty good, but the values of the remaining players will hinge greatly on where they are drafted. East Carolina’s Chris Johnson grabbed plenty of headlines by running a sparkling 4.24 40, but consider a guy like Jerious Norwood when projecting him to the NFL. Norwood’s not big and strong enough to carry the load, so Johnson will need to land in a perfect situation if he’s to emerge as a serious force. Most likely, Tulane’s Matt Forte, Texas’ Jamaal Charles and maybe even Rutgers’ Ray Rice, Arkansas’ Felix Jones, and Michigan’s Mike Hart will be better NFL prospects. I’m particularly intrigued by Rice, and not because he’s from my state’s university. I though he looked very good before tweaking his hamstring at the combine, and while he’s small at 5-9, 197, I look at Rice and I definitely see a “football player.” He is tough as hell, and he’s a natural and very instinctive runner. I would be very surprised if he didn’t find a way to eventually make a big impact in the NFL.
At receiver, this is a difficult class to evaluate to me. Everyone will be talking about
The incredible 40 time logged in by Dexter Jackson, but he’s only 5-9, and he went to Appalachian State. Texas’ Limas Sweed and Indiana’s James Hardy (a former hoops player) have excellent size/height yet also ran very well in the 4.4s. Oklahoma’s Malcolm Kelly and LSU’s Early Doucet are considered top prospects, but they did not participate in the combine. Michigan’s Mario Manningham is a big name in this draft and he was very productive in college, but he ran a poor 40 due at least in part to a poor start technique-wise. Some other players making noise at the combine and looking to be early picks include Virginia Tech’s Eddie Royal, Florida’s Andre Caldwell, Missouri’s Will Franklin, and Michigan State’s Devin Thomas, all of which ran good times in the 40 at the combine.
As I said, it’s really early, and players will rise and fall from now until the draft, and then there will be a lot of movement in terms of the rankings for 2008 and beyond once they are drafted. But if you’re looking for a quick snapshot of this year’s draft, this is it. I’ve probably covered about 75% of the key skill players, but also note that there will always some guys who aren’t considered tops at their position but who will rise up draft boards as the draft draws near.
Again, this looks like a very good draft class, so it’s going to be a run 7-8 weeks leading up to the draft, and a great NFL draft itself.