NFL scouts eyeing many Michigan, Ohio State players
Posted: Friday November 17, 2006 1:02PM; Updated: Friday November 17, 2006 3:24PM
Michigan's Leon Hall (29) is considered by many to be the best cornerback in college football.
By Tony Pauline, Special to SI.com
The eyes of the college football world and many folks from the NFL will be focused on Columbus, Ohio, for the Michigan-Ohio State showdown. This game not only holds national championship implications, but will also showcase the prospects of many players who will impact the NFL Draft. Almost a dozen draft-eligible players on the field Saturday presently hold first-day grades. Here's the breakdown:
Leon Hall/CB/Sr: Cornerbacks are a high priority on draft day and Hall sits at the head of the class at the position. He has improved every facet of his game and regularly shuts down opponents. Hall's match-up against the Buckeye's Ted Ginn Jr. could be one for the ages.
Alan Branch/DT/Jr: In a year void of talent at the defensive-tackle position, Branch stands head and shoulders above all the rest. A dominant lineman, he has potential as a conventional tackle or as a defensive end in a 3-4 alignment. Should Branch enter the draft, he is top-10 material.
Jake Long/OT/Jr: Another underclassman with a big decision to make, Long is considered by some in the scouting community as the nation's top tackle prospect. A mammoth blocker who devastates the opposition, he also possesses the footwork and agility necessary to hold down the coveted blind-side tackle position. If Long heads for the NFL, he too could break into the initial 10 selections.
LaMarr Woodley/DE-OLB/Sr: A force up front, Woodley has given opposing coordinators nightmares all season. While he lacks the classic size/speed numbers (6-foot-1/270 pounds/4.75 seconds), Woodley has proven himself to be a terrific football player. Likely to be selected in the middle of the first round, he projects nicely as an outside linebacker for a 3-4 defense.
David Harris/LB/Sr: The leader of Michigan's No. 1 ranked defense, Harris has been a tackling machine all season. He entered the season with durability concerns, so staying healthy this year has been a major plus for him. He should be the second inside/middle linebacker chosen in the draft, somewhere at the start of Round 3.
Chad Henne/QB/Jr: A strong-armed quarterback with the physical skills to play at the next level, Henne is slowly developing into a complete passer. He is first-day material in the future.
Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr. likely won't last past the first half of the first round next April.
Ted Ginn Jr./WR/Jr: A world-class sprinter who translates his track speed onto the football field, Ginn Jr. is a game-impacting receiver and return specialist. Though he needs to improve the details of his game, Ginn is expected to enter the draft and be one of the first dozen selections.
Troy Smith/QB/Sr: The frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, Smith's marvelous season has helped significantly improve his draft stock. Maturing on the field as a signal-caller and off the field as an individual, Smith has the skills to develop into an NFL starter. Several teams are turned off by his height, barely six-feet-even, yet Smith has moved himself into the early part of Round 2.
Quinn Pitcock/DL/Sr: Another senior in the midst of a career season, Pitcock has been unstoppable in 2006. Stout defending the run, he has added the dimension of being a disruptive pass rusher this year. Graded as a marginal first day selection at season's start, Pitcock now sits as a top-45 choice.
Doug Datish/C/Sr: The former left tackle moved to the pivot this season and has become one of the nation's top centers. Though not as dominant or polished as Nick Mangold, the former Buckeye selected in the first round of last April's draft, Datish has established himself as a top-75 selection.
Antonio Pittman/RB/Jr: Slightly undersized at 5-10 and 190 pounds, Pittman is an elusive runner who does an outstanding job catching the ball out of the backfield. His versatility would be attractive to a west coast offense in the third round.
Anthony Gonzalez/WR/Jr: Another Buckeye speedster, Gonzalez is a fine combination of athleticism and football smarts. A terrific red-zone target, Gonzalez grades as a first-day choice if he enters the draft.
Sometimes running the Mularkey offense makes me feel like I'm in a prison.