By Mel Kiper Jr.
Special to ESPN.com
The names at the top of my Big Board have remained pretty much the same the first month of the season, although one player who dropped out of the top 10 is Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton. This week, there are three new players on the board and two who have resurfaced despite being out with season-ending injuries.
Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard, NC State defensive tackle DeMarcus "Tank" Tyler and Cal cornerback Daymeion Hughes are newcomers, while Tennessee DT Justin Harrell and Louisville running back Michael Bush are back on the board.
Ray Rice might have stolen the spotlight at Rutgers, and for good reason; however, Leonard is the best fullback in the senior class who is going to be a versatile weapon next year in the NFL. Tyler was a one-man wrecking crew in the Wolfpack's much-needed win over Boston College, and Hughes had two second-quarter interceptions -- and almost had a third -- against Arizona State.
Harrell and Bush are back on the Big Board for different reasons. Harrell was performing like a player who was going to be a first-round pick before he went down for the season with a torn biceps muscle. As for Bush, if his rehabilitation from a broken leg goes well, his all-around skills will make him a highly regarded prospect in the 2007 NFL draft.
Last year, Tennessee defensive back Jason Allen was a fixture on the Big Board before he suffered a season-ending hip injury in the middle of the season. His rehab went well and returned to be the 16th overall pick in the draft. Florida State's Antonio Cromartie missed the entire 2005 season with a knee injury, but found himself going 19th overall to the Chargers.
1. Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame (6-3Â½, 225) | previous: Same
Poised, smart and at his best in pressure situations. Strong comeback against Michigan State, but still has not played consistent for four quarters.
2. Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin (6-6Â½, 313) | previous: Same
Huge, quick and athletic with a long wingspan.
3. Quentin Moses, DE, Georgia (6-4, 254) | previous: 5
Mature, hard working and explosive off the edge.
4.Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson (6-4Â½, 260) | previous: 7
Flashes dominating ability with his athleticism and quickness.
5. Kenny Irons, RB, Auburn (5-10Â½, 199) | previous: 3
Deceptively strong with great vision and balance.
6. Levi Brown, OT, Penn St. (6-4Â½, 325) | previous: Same
Steady and reliable at protecting the quarterback's blind side.
7. Marcus McCauley, CB, Fresno St. (6-0Â½, 200) | previous: 8
He has the size and speed (4.33 40-yard dash) with outstanding coverage technique.
8. Leon Hall, CB, Michigan (5-11, 193) | previous: 10
Tough customer who also shows very good anticipation and awareness in coverage.
9. Quinn Pitcock, DT, Ohio St. (6-3, 297) | previous: 18
Run-stuffing dynamo who does a great job of clogging the interior.
10. LaRon Landry, DB, LSU (6-1Â½, 205) | previous: 12
Four-year starter who has proven to be Mr. Reliable throughout his career.
11. Drew Stanton, QB, Michigan St. (6-3, 232) | previous: 4
Desire to win is unmatched. Stanton brings every intangible you want at the QB position. Made several bad decisions late in loss to Notre Dame.
12. Jeff Samardzija, WR, Notre Dame (6-4Â½, 215) | previous: 9
Super hands and concentration with outstanding speed-to-size ratio.
13. Tom Zbikowski, S, Notre Dame (5-11Â½, 212) | previous: 15
An aggressive ball hawk who brings a swagger to the Irish's defense. A true play-maker who also excels as a punt returner.
14. Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska (6-6, 298) | previous: 17
You just don't see many defensive ends carrying 300 pounds who can move as well as Carriker.
15. Ryan Harris, OT, Notre Dame (6-4Â½, 297) | previous: 14
Light on his feet with a defensive mentality. Harris neutralizes quick outside pass rushers.
16. Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi (6-2, 235) | previous: 20
Tackling machine with great football sense and diagnostic ability.
17. Aaron Rouse, S, Virginia Tech (6-4, 218) | previous: 21
Incredible physical specimen with rare computer numbers.
18. Brian Leonard, Rutgers, (6-1, 239) | previous: Unranked
Jim O'Connor/US Presswire
Brian Leonard and Ray Rice make up one of the nation's most formidable backfields.
He will presnet the NFL with a tremendous amount of versatility, either as a traditional fullback or he could operate as an H-Back.
19. DeMarcus "Tank" Taylor, DT, NC State (6-2Â¼, 310) | previous: Unranked
Extremely quick and very powerful. A player on the rise, Taylor was a one-man wrecking crew in last week's win over Boston College.
20. Daymeion Hughes, CB, California (6-0, 187) | previous: Unranked
Big-play cornerback for the Golden Bears. Finished strong in 2005 and it has carried over to this season. Hughes has five INT in four games.
21. Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn St. (6-1Â½, 235) | previous: 19
A productive and consistent player who studies and prepares as thoroughly as anybody.
22. Kyle Young, C, Fresno State (6-5, 339) | previous: Same
Experienced anchor on the Bulldogs offensive line. Great physical skills and extremely durable. (Young has made 42 straight starts.)
23. Buster Davis, LB, Florida State (5-10, 242) | previous: 13
Rock-solid player who is off to a phenomenal start. A shorter version of Ray Lewis.
24. Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee (6-4 Â¼, 302) | previous: Unranked
Prior to going down with a season-ending injury (torn biceps), Harrell was performing at the level you would expect from a first-round draft pick.
25. Michael Bush, RB, Louisville (6-2, 250) | previous: Unranked
He carried a first-round grade before breaking his leg in the first game of the season. If his rehabilitation goes well, Bush will be an intriguing prospect for next April's draft.
Justin Blalock, OT, Texas (6-3Â½, 333) | previous: 11
Intelligent, very strong and very athletic.
Brandon Meriweather, DB, Miami (6-0, 192) | previous: 20
Not physically imposing, but he's an active player whose productivity has been off the charts.
LaMarr Woodley, DE, Michigan (6-1Â½, 269) | previous: 23
Combination DE/OLB with a hustling approach and disruptive capabilities.
Tim Crowder, DE, Texas (6-3Â¼, 273) | previous: 24
Consistent and reliable in his career, but has become more of a playmaker for the Longhorns in 2006.
Marcus Thomas, DT, Florida (6-2Â½, 288) | previous: 25
Quick as a cat and very athletic interior lineman who is able to neutralize a double team. His indefinite suspension is the reason he is at the bottom of the board.