Sneak peek at this year’s rookie class

Just got off a long conference call with our guys Greg Cosell and Adam Caplan and went over most of the rookies in this class. Adam’s been at the Senior Bowl and Combine, as has Greg, and Greg’s broken a lot of these guys down on film. He still is, but he’s seen most of the guys.

We’re using their info and analysis as the foundation of this year’s rookie content, along with opinions from Tony Pauline from, so rather than rush to put up rankings and analysis in March, which is meaningless to most, we’re taking our time to make sure we have these players scouted correctly.

Of course a lot of the real analysis for 2009 will be catered to the teams these players get drafted by, but here are some initial thoughts that will wind up being the foundations of our scouting of these players. If a skill player is truly worth mentioning, he’s mentioned below.


  • Matthew Stafford is clearly the best prospect at this position this year, and it’s not really close. He has all the necessary throwing tools to be high-end NFL QB, including a strong arm and timing and anticipation. The Lions would be insane to pass on him. He’s the guy to get this year in a keeper league.
  • Mark Sanchez is limited as a passer, and he’s a timing/rhythm guy who probably needs to be in a west coast system. He has a better than average arm, but not great. He may eventually be decent, but he may struggle and have a so-so career.
  • Josh Freeman has tremendous tools, but he’s raw and unrefined. Sanchez is probably a safer choice, but Freeman has more upside. Kind of a Jason Campbell type player.
  • Brian Hoyer of Michigan State is the only other guy worth mentioning right now. He knows how to play the position, is smart, but he has limited arm strength.

Running Backs

  • At his best, Chris Wells is the best back in the draft. But you don’t see at his best often enough, and he doesn’t run consistently to his weight and is not a consistent physical runner. He has bust potential because of his consistency.
  • Knowshon Moreno will be a tough call. He has really good quickness, balance, and vision. He’s a between the tackles type, but he doesn’t have a lot of speed on the outside. He’s herky-jerky. He’s tough, but not powerful. He’s a really good football player, but he might not be more than a complementary back.
  • This years draft features a lot of quality players who are borderline lead backs and great complementary backs. Brown could be the best of that bunch.

    This year's draft features a lot of quality players who are borderline lead backs and great complementary backs. Brown could be the best of that bunch.

    Donald Brown may be the sleeper at the position. He has great lateral agility, is explosive, and he makes people miss. He’s very smooth and makes it look easy. On the downside, he may not be big enough to be a feature back in a running offense. He’ll start or be a significant player as a rookie.

  • LeSean McCoy is more lateral than Brown, but more of a complimentary back. He runs upright. He will run tough, but not strong/powerful enough to be a ┬ámeaningful player.
  • Andre Brown is a legit sleeper. He had a great Senior Bowl week. He’s shifty for his size and is tough and willing to be physical. He never became a dominant back, but he’s got the skills to be one. He’s a second-round type, who could turn out to be like Matt Forte last year. On the downside, he doe shave a lengthy injury history.
  • Shonn Green is methodical and deliberate. Nothing special about him. Not physical enough for his size. Michael Turner lite, but doesn’t run exactly like him.
  • Rashad Jennings – He’s built like Derrick Ward and if he an play quick and fast enough in the NFL, might be a starter some day.

Wide Receivers

  • Michael Crabtree may not be truly special, but he’s very good. Not explosive, but smooth and fluid and good after the catch. He attacks the ball, and understands route running. But he won’t run by good NFL corners. He’s about in between Boldin and Fitzgerald. The real upside, however, is he becomes Fitzgerald.
  • Jeremy Maclin looks really good. Fluid and explosive. Played inside at Missouri, caught a ton of balls in traffic. Rare that you see that across-the-middle ability in college from an elite prospect. Catches with his hands. Physical, tough, terrific with the catch. Potentially better than Crabtree because he’s more of an explosive athlete but can also make tough catches and get hit. Crabtree will get all the headlines, but this is the guy to get if you’re looking to snag a possible star who is a little below the radar, at least compared to Crabtree.

  • Kenny Britt is not an explosive downfield receiver, but he’s physical and tough, and willing to go across the middle. He looks like a solid prospect, but he has some inconsistencies, struggles with press, plays upright, etc.

  • Percy Harvin will likely be a 1st -rounder because he can score. He’s fluid and very laterally explosive. More like a Torry Holt or Isaac Bruce, not a big man.

  • Darrius Heyward-Bey is a tremendous downfield receiver who jumps off the page with his explosiveness in the vertical game, but he’s not as laterally good. He caught the ball well but he has some route-running issues.

  • Brian Robiskie is a professional route-runner right now. Knows how to find voids in zones, smooth route runner but not quick. Solid possession type, can play right away similar to Anthony Gonzalez.

There are some other decent prospects we’ll get into later, but these guys are “the” guys to look at for this position.

Tight Ends

Brandon Pettigrew is the only multi-dimensional TE in the top few in the draft. NFL starter. Good line of scrimmage blocker. Not great speed, but enough to be a good receiver, not elite. He won’t dictate matchups. Comparisons to Zach Miller seem fair.

Chase Coffman is a really, really good receiver. Didn’t show his blocking because he didn’t line up on the LOS. But he can do it and he blocks with tenacity. Moves like Jason Witten or a Dallas Clark. He can block, so he could be an NFL starter. He’s tall, almost 6-6.

Travis Beckum moves very well, looks like a WR, doesn’t look like a TE running routes. But you can’t line him up on the line of scrimmage very often, so he’s a movement guy.

Shawn Nelson is built like a WR. Smooth and fluid, not explosive. Long strider.

James Casey is an unbelievable athlete, but needs to learn to block. He played 7 positions in college.

Finally, this look like a good draft for tackles, with as many as 5-6 starting LTs available, so there will be some OLs getting better

Category: Fantasy Football

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10 Responses

  1. Tony says:

    I love Brown outta UCONN. He fits that mold of guys who come from unheralded programs and perform early in the NFL. As always the situation these guys get drafted into has alot to do with who gets opportunities but Brown could be great for fantasy teams in 2009

  2. Rich Smith says:

    it appears you think this draft is pretty much a bust. Stafford is good but top RB, WR, and TE appear to be only average in your opinion. True?

  3. John Hansen says:

    Stafford looks like an elite guy, so that’s good. The problem with the RBs is there are a good number of good ones, but only 1-2 who will likely be true featured backs. Of course, 1-2 others could surprise; you don’t really know until they put the pads on. WR is deep but not a lot of studs, maybe 2. TE is decent.

    It’s not a bad class all in all. Not great, but not bad.

  4. Sean says:

    No mention of Jared Cook?

  5. John Hansen says:

    We haven’t fully scouted him out yet (Cook). We’re not ones to read up on what everyone else says about these players, so we’ll have the skinny on him soon.

  6. Chris R. says:

    Great list and I agree outside of your assessment of Rashad Jennings, seems your selling him a bit short…He’s built more like Steven Jackson then Derrick Ward, his stock has rose all the way to early 2nd, and he could be a guy like Andre Brown who could be a 20 carry back for a team.

    I am very high on Brown and Jennings, two big backs with good speed that will get over shadowed because as many as 6 WR’s could go first round.

  7. Chris R. says:

    Also very surprising there was no mention of Hakeem Nicks, who many believe will be the best WR from this class…I like Robiske and all, but he doesn’t have the potential that Nicks does, he really has an understanding of the WR position and he ran every pro route in that UNC offense.

  8. Steve A. says:

    I think Chris Wells and Rashad Jennings are the only two 3-down backs in this draft. The other guys just haven’t shown they can handle the load.

    It’s my belief that if Jennings had stayed at Pitt, he would be the #2 RB in this class.

  9. John Hansen says:

    I haven’t seen many other lists, but I think we’ll have Jennings higher than most. Nicks is I believe #7 right now on our list, but these guys are interchangeable, especially when they go to their teams. Should have the whole rookie report up late this afternoon.

  10. FootballGuy says:

    At Pro Football Weekly, Jennings is not listed in the top ten.

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