By Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com,
February 18, 2008
The 2008 NFL Draft holds intrigue like no other in recent history. Never has there been a draft with less certainly at the top -- with no established prospect having asserted himself as the elite talent in the draft. The Miami Dolphins are thought to be considering as many as five different players with the first overall pick, as well as strongly entertaining the idea of trading down. The annual Player Combine in Indianapolis -- with its unrivaled access to prospects, coaches, and front office personnel -- has developed into an even greater spectacle than the draft, itself.
Every self-respecting sports website now features at least a few mock drafts. At NFLDraftScout.com, however, we're not only projecting draft day surprises -- but the surprises set to occur next week during the Combine. Ten With The Most To Gain:
* Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College: May elect to postpone his workout until BC's Pro Day, but has a chance to show his competitive fire and answer questions about his arm strength in Indianapolis.
* Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas: Two-time All-American may only have to prove speed to jump to the top of a convoluted cornerback class.
* Quentin Groves, DE/OLB, Auburn: Robbed of his trademark burst off the edge this season due to three dislocated toes, Groves could shock with his speed at 250 pounds.
* Pat Sims, DT, Auburn: If he can answer teams' questions about his leaving Auburn in 2005, Sims has the athleticism and strength to cement a first round grade.
* DaJuan Morgan, S, NC State: Explosive player on film who may be able to transfer his athleticism into workouts and jump significantly up the board.
* Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware: Scouts know his arm strength is among the draft's elite -- if he can prove his accuracy in front of hundreds of scouts, he'll capitalize on his hype.
* Justin King, CB, Penn State: King should have remained in school for his senior season as he struggled with consistency in 2008. Still, viewed as one of the more dynamic athletes in the draft, King could ride a great workout into a high round choice.
* Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech: Could move into first round consideration if can showcase the athleticism that has earned comparisons to former Hokie star DeAngelo Hall.
* Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon: Has an opportunity to jump out of the considerable shadow cast by Darren McFadden and Rashard Mendenhall with an impressive workout.
* Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina: Expected to workout well and could really jump up the board if he can convince scouts he's past the inconsistency that marred his early career. Ten With The Most to Lose:
* Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas: Needs to workout well and answer scouts' questions about his maturity and off-field decision-making to warrant a high first round choice.
* Andre Woodson, QB, Kentucky: Struggled with accuracy at the Senior Bowl - but has an opportunity to erase doubts if he proves his accuracy in Indianapolis.
* Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii: Has to overcome a tendency to overthrow and silence critics of his arm strength, and instead focus on the accuracy that characterized his brilliant career. Could do everything right on the field, but falter when teams question his maturity off the field.
* Beau Bell, ILB, UNLV: Expected to workout well, and after a disappointing showing in Mobile, it is imperative that he does so.
* DeSean Jackson, WR, California: Needs to catch the ball cleanly and prove that the speed he showed throughout his career is his and not a reflection of shoddy Pac-10 defensive backs -- as some of his critics have theorized.
* Heath Benedict, OL, Newberry: See Beau Bell.
* Tommy Blake, DE, TCU: Needs to answer scouts' questions about his bizarre senior season -- a year in which he left the team twice for personal reasons and returned 30 pounds overweight.
* Martin Rucker, TE, Missouri: Struggles in changing direction while at the Senior Bowl may have exposed a lack of fluidity. Should Rucker not workout well, any momentum he'll have built through his strong career at Mizzou will have been lost.
* Kenny Phillips, S, Miami: Entered the draft after his junior season amid considerable acclaim, but needs to workout well to secure his position as the elite safety prospect.
* Tavares Gooden, ILB, Miami: Has to answer questions about his hip after it was red-flagged at the Senior Bowl, forcing game officials to pull him out of the contest. Ten Who Will Surprise:
* Limas Sweed, WR, Texas: Regardless of Sweed's wrist and ability to make plays against strong coverage, his athleticism is not questioned. Sweed is expected to shatter the 4.55 forty times NFL scouts have previously estimated for him.
* Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina: With all of the attention heaped upon the talented junior runners, Johnson is expected to light up the Indianapolis track and secure his position as the elite senior runner.
* Charles Godfrey, CB, Iowa: Those outside of Big Ten country don't know much about Godfrey, but they'll be looking for more information when he turns in a blazing forty time this week.
* Dexter Jackson, WR, Appalachian State: After strong performances at both the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, Jackson could continue to build momentum with an impressive Combine performance.
* Chad Henne, QB, Michigan: Call this one a hunch -- with no defenders rushing in to fluster him, Henne's rocket arm and rare accuracy could lead to a late rise up the board ala John Beck last year.
* John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame: Known more for his prowess as a blocker than a receiving specialist, Carlson could show surprising straight-line speed in workouts.
* Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State: Other underclass receivers are getting more hype, but Thomas flashes rare burst at 6-2, 215 pounds and could enjoy a big jump up the board with a strong workout.
* Peyton Hillis, FB, Arkansas: Not many fullbacks are used as their team's punt returner -- especially teams boasting speed like Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
* Branden Albert, OG, Virginia: Rarely do guards jump up with strong workouts, but Albert has unique burst for a 6-6, 315+ pounder and is a high character player who'll help himself in interviews.
* JerMichael Finley, TE, Texas: How this 6-5, 245 pound athlete only received a 4th round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee is beyond comprehension. Watch for a strong workout and for Finley to challenge the second round. Ten Whose Anticipated Workout Struggles Scouts Should Ignore:
* Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona: Cason may lack an elite forty time, but his toughness and instincts make him one of the safer cornerback prospects of this draft class.
* Owen Schmitt, FB, West Virginia: Schmidt could struggle in this environment, but his versatility and toughness make him a future NFL starter.
* Craig Steltz, S, LSU: Arguably the most dependable safety on this list as a senior.
* Dwight Lowery, CB, San Jose State: Proved that you don't need elite speed to be a playmaker -- There are questions about his speed, but with 13 interceptions in only 25 games here, Lowery can track the ball and make game-changing plays.
* Jamie Silva, S, Boston College: As spectacular as Matt Ryan was for the Golden Eagles offensively, Silva was nearly his equal on the defensive side of the ball.
* Jacob Hester, RB, LSU: He may not run fast enough to be considered a running back by every team, but Hester's reliable short yardage running makes him a quality second day talent.
* Kevin Smith, RB, Central Florida: Some feel Smith is going to surprise with forty times in the 4.4s… With his burst and vision, even a slower time shouldn't dissuade scouts too much from taking a chance on him.
* Terrell Thomas, CB, USC: Thomas, like Cason and Lowery mentioned previously, may lack the elite forty time, but his dependable play leads some to believe he could make the transition back to safety.
* Jordy Nelson, WR, Kansas: Nelson could prove much faster than his estimated 4.55 forty time, but if he does struggle to post a significantly better time, scouts should focus more on his reliable route-running and hands than imposing workout numbers.
* Jordan Dizon, LB, Colorado: Lacking the speed and build scouts are looking for, expect Dizon to struggle in workouts and drop on draft day -- but the former Buffalo star reads the action as well as any linebacker in the country and will surprise at the next level.
Sat, Feb 23 - Offense, Special Teams: Tight End, Center, Guard, Tackle, K, P, LS
Sun, Feb 24 - Offense: Quarterback, Runningback, Fullback, Wide Receiver
Mon, Feb 25 - Defense: Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Inside Linebacker, Outside Linebacker
Tues, Feb 26 - Defense: Cornerback, Free Safety, Strong Safety
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