Holmes is top WR prospectBy Todd McShay
It must seem entirely too early to discuss next year's NFL draft. After all, the 2005 draft wrapped up just one week ago. But don't tell that to NFL scouts, who already have begun measuring, timing, prodding and poking senior prospects on campuses across the country. At this very moment, all 32 NFL personnel departments are collecting as much data as possible in an attempt to compile an initial list of legitimate draft prospects.
Not to be outdone, our scouts offer a preseason look ahead at the 2006 NFL draft landscape. The following list is broken down by position, with top-junior prospects included. Brief analysis on the top-five prospects at each position is also provided.
1. Matt Leinart, USC
Southpaw is a big, accurate quarterback with exceptional leadership skills and poise. Lacks ideal arm strength and athleticism. Shoulder injury is a concern. How will he respond without coordinator Norm Chow?
2. Chris Leak*, Florida
Has the size, arm strength and athletic ability but lacks the consistency, mechanics and toughness. Can new coach Urban Meyer refine him?
3. Omar Jacobs*, Bowling Green
Exploded onto the national scene as a first-year starter in 2004, when he threw for 4,002 yards and rushed for 300 more. Is unpolished but possesses all the physical tools to make it in the NFL.
4. Charlie Whitehurst, Clemson
A strong-armed quarterback with lots of upside, but must rebound after an embarrassing campaign as a junior in 2004.
5. Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo
A tough quarterback with adequate size and arm strength. Efficient but most of his throws are underneath. Is he a product of the system?
Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M; Brad Smith, Missouri; Brodie Croyle, Alabama; Darrel Hackney, UAB; Vince Young*, Texas; Tyler Palko*, Pittsburgh; Drew Tate*, Iowa; Josh Betts, Miami-Ohio; Kellen Clemens, Oregon; Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt; Joel Klatt, Colorado; Paul Pinegar, Fresno State; Kyle Smith, Youngstown State.
Whenever he decides to come out, Reggie Bush will be high on every team's draft board.
1. Reggie Bush*, USC
His 2,330 total yards were good for fifth in the nation in 2004. The complete package, Bush can run, catch and return. He'll be a top-10 pick if he leaves school early.
2. DeAngelo Williams, Memphis
Injury in the GMAC Bowl played a part in Williams' decision to return to Memphis for senior season. If he recovers fully, Williams should be a first-round selection.
3. Laurence Maroney, Minnesota
Rushed for 1,348 yards while splitting carries with Marion Barber III in 2004. With Barber III off to the NFL, Maroney should explode as the Gophers' primary ball carrier in 2005.
4. Leon Washington, Florida State
Size and durability concerns will hurt Washington's draft stock, but his quickness, versatility and speed give him a good chance to come off the board on day one.
5. Michael Bush*, Louisville
With Lionel Gates and Eric Shelton moving on to the NFL, Bush should shine as the Cardinals' premier back in 2005.
Joseph Addai, LSU; DonTrell Moore, New Mexico; Josh Allen, Maryland; Mike Bell, Arizona; Wali Lundy, Virginia; Gerald Riggs, Jr., Tennessee; P.J. Daniels, Georgia Tech; LenDale White*, USC; Justin Vincent, LSU; Selvin Young, Texas; Herchel Dennis, USC; Lonta Hobbs, TCU; Damien Rhodes, Syracuse; Clark Green, Kansas; Shermar Bracey, Arkansas State; P.J. Pope, Bowling Green; Anthony Evans, Houston; Sam Maldonado, Maryland.
Matt Bernstein , Wisconsin; Quadtrine Hill , Miami-Fla.; Brian Leonard*, Rutgers; J.D. Runnels, Oklahoma; B.J. Dean, Florida State; Rashon Powers-Neal, Notre Dame; Kevin Steltz, LSU.
1. Santonio Holmes, Ohio State
He won't have huge numbers in the run-heavy Ohio State offensive scheme, but adequate size, blazing speed and exceptional playmaking skills make Holmes the elite receiver in the 2006 draft class at this point.
2. Derek Hagan, Arizona State
A big receiver with great hands and route-running skills. He lacks elite speed but is quick and fluid. If he can come anywhere near his 83-catch performance in 2004, Hagan will solidify a spot in the first round of next year's draft.
3. Martin Nance, Miami-Ohio
A big receiver with above-average speed for his size. If he can stay healthy as a senior, Nance could emerge as a late-first-round prospect in the 2006 draft.
4. Greg Lee*, Pittsburgh
Lee had a breakout season as a sophomore in 2004, when he finished sixth in the nation with 1,297 receiving yards. Another season like that and it will be awfully tempting to take off for the NFL.
5. Andre Caldwell*, Florida
Caldwell didn't get as many touches as he should have in 2004, but he is clearly the premier prospect in what shapes up as a deep stable of Gators' receivers. He lacks ideal size, but his speed and run-after-catch ability make him awfully intriguing.
Jason Avant, Michigan; Mike Hass, Oregon State; Skyler Green, LSU; Jarrett Hicks*, Texas Tech; Jovon Bouknight, Wyoming; Ben Obomanu, Auburn; Maurice Stovall, Notre Dame; Travis Wilson, Oklahoma; Steve Smith*, USC; Steve Breaston*, Michigan; Jayson Swain*, Tennessee; Rhema McKnight, Notre Dame; Jason Hill*, Washington State; Greg Jennings, Western Michigan; Todd Watkins, BYU; Demetrius Williams, Oregon; Ryan Moore*, Miami-FL; Clinton Soloman, Iowa; Chad Jackson*, Florida; Erik Davis, Vanderbilt; Michael Robinson, Penn State; Maurice Avery, Memphis; Jared Ellerson, Minnesota; James Banks, Tennessee.
1. Marcedes Lewis, UCLA
Lewis might have been the first tight end taken in the 2005 draft. If he continues to improve his bulk and strength, he could be a top-20 pick in 2006.
2. Leonard Pope*, Georgia
Pope is inexperienced and somewhat raw, but his exceptional combination of size and athletic ability makes him a possible first-round selection if he elects to leave school after his junior season.
3. Matt Herian, Nebraska
Herian lacks ideal size and needs to rebound from the injury that plagued him in 2004, but he's a tough blocker and reliable receiver with a knack for getting open. However, it should be noted he has missed all of spring practice and there even are rumblings he could redshirt next fall and return to the field in 2006.
4. Joe Newton*, Oregon State
Lacks elite athleticism and speed, but a big target with soft hands.
5. Dominique Byrd, USC
A dynamic playmaker with the potential to develop into a stretch-the-seam type H-back in the NFL. Can he make the grades and stay on the field in 2005?
Anthony Fasano*, Notre Dame; Vernon Davis*, Maryland; Tim Day, Oregon; Joel Klopfenstein, Colorado; T.J. Williams, N.C. State; Tim Massaquoi, Michigan; David Jones, LSU; Daniel Coates*, BYU; Jeff King, Virginia Tech; Cooper Wallace, Auburn; Josh Bailey, West Virginia; Ryan Hamby, Ohio State; Troy Bienemann, Washington State; Troy Hicks, Arkansas; David Thomas, Texas; Adam Watson, San Diego State.
1. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia
An elite prospect who likely would have been a top-five pick in 2005. He has exceptional feet, balance and technique. Once considered undersized, the 6-6 prospect has now bulked up to 305 pounds.
2. Eric Winston, Miami-Fla.
Winston has an outstanding combination of size, feet and strength. If he fully recovers from injury, Winston should be a top-15 draft pick.
3. Jonathan Scott, Texas
A monstrous prospect with all the physical tools of a first-rounder. As a senior in 2005, he must improve his technique and become more physical.
4. Marcus McNeil, Auburn
Coming off his best season as a junior in 2004. A right tackle prospect with decent feet, great size and strength.
5. Jeremy Trueblood, Boston College
Another efficient tough guy in a long line of Boston College offensive linemen. Trueblood lacks ideal athletic ability, but his frame is impressive at 6-8, 315 pounds.
Andrew Whitworth, LSU; Winston Justice*, USC; Justin Blaylock, Texas; Adam Stenavich, Michigan; Mike Otto*, Purdue; Taitusi Lutui, USC; Arron Sears*, Tennessee; Rob Sims, Ohio State; Jami Hightower, Texas A&M; Zach Strief, Northwestern; Travis Leffew, Louisville; Try Stallings, Ole Miss; Jabari Levey, South Carolina; Daryn Colledge, Boise State; Marl LeVoir, Notre Dame; Randy Hand, Florida; Troy Reddick, Auburn; Stephon Heyer, Maryland; Tavarus Washington, Florida.
1. Davin Joseph, Oklahoma
The Sooners had three senior starters (Jammal Brown, Wes Sims and Vince Carter) who stole the attention last season, but the film shows that Joseph was the best of the bunch. If he can build on last season, Joseph will be the first interior offensive lineman to come off the board in 2006.
2. Max-Jean Gilles, Georgia
The Massive mauler made the wise decision to return for his senior season. Needs to stay in shape and continue to improve his feet.
3. Mike Jones*, Iowa
Jones will be a three-year starter and he's already drawing comparisons to Robert Gallery. At 6-4, 304 pounds, however, Jones will likely play inside in the NFL.
4. Aaron Lips, Louisiana Tech
Unheralded guard prospect with good size (6-5, 309) and impressive feet. Is better in pass protection than he is as a run blocker.
5. Mark Setterstrom, Minnesota
Lacks ideal size, but is tough, quick and efficient. Would fit best on a team that emphasizes athleticism over size and strength, such as the Broncos or Colts.
John Simonitis, Pittsburgh; Ryan Harris*, Notre Dame; Nate Livings, LSU; Lance Butler, Florida; Ryan O'Callaghan, Cal; Matt Lemtz, Michigan; Toby Bullock, Marshall; Paul Soliai, Utah; Tyler Reed, Penn State; Jason Spitz, Louisville; Tony Tella, Miami-FL.
1. Greg Eslinger, Minnesota
Clearly the top center prospect in the 2006 draft class. He still needs to improve his bulk, but his feet, intelligence, technique and athleticism are unparalleled at this position in college football.
2. Mike Degory, Florida
Has great size, toughness, intelligence and strength but lacks elite athletic ability, which is why he projects as a second-round prospect in 2006.
3. Kyle Young*, Fresno State
Will be a third-year starter as a junior in 2005. Has great size, adequate feet and mauling qualities in the running game.
4. Donovan Raiola, Wisconsin
Will anchor a line that loses four starters to the NFL. In typical Wisconsin fashion, Raiola is a tough-guy with good technique and strength. If he can bulk up and improve his consistency in pass protection, he has a chance to be a day-one draft pick in 2006.
5. Ryan Cook, New Mexico
Cook is a little bit of a sleeper. He will be a third-year starter as a senior in 2005 and his massive frame (6-7, 339) makes him an intriguing NFL prospect, either at center or tackle.
Nick Mangold, Ohio State; David Castillo, Florida State; Bob Morton, Notre Dame; Chris Morris, Michigan State; Pat Ross, Boston College.
1. Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College
Finished tied for fifth nationally with 11.5 sacks as a junior in 2004. If he continues to get bigger and stronger, Kiwanuka could be a top-10 pick in 2006.
2. Loren Howard, Northwestern
Had trouble staying healthy in 2004, but is primed for a bounce-back season as a senior. Rare combination of size and athleticism makes him first-round material.
3. Mario Williams*, NC State
A fast-rising junior with a great frame (6-7, 265) and above average athletic ability. If he has a strong 2005 campaign, it could be off to the NFL.
4. Eric Henderson, Georgia Tech
Injuries hampered Henderson in 2004, but he's a big-time prospect with the athletic ability, strength and instincts to have a huge season as a senior.
5. Baraka Atkins, Miami-FL
Has a good blend of size and speed. Led the Hurricanes with five sacks in 2004, but has yet to reach his full potential.
Manny Lawson, N.C State; Manase Hopoi, Washington; Javon Nanton, Miami-Fla.; Parys Haralson, Tennessee; Mitchell Crossley, Bowling Green; Darryl Tapp, Virginia Tech; Frostee Rucker, USC; Moe Thompson, South Carolina; Devan Long, Oregon; Patrick Massey, Michigan; James Wyche, Syracuse; Kyle Morgon, UCLA; Mike Williams, Texas; Leon Moore, UNLV;
1. Rodrique Wright, Texas
Failed to live up to the hype in 2004, but has the physical tools to bust out as a senior next season. If he can improve his technique and motor, Wright can be the first DT off the board in 2006.
2. Gabe Watson, Michigan
Massive DT/NT prospect had a breakout season in 2004 and should only continue to improve with more experience as a senior. Could be a high selection for a team in search of a 3-4 nose tackle in next year's draft.
3. Orien Harris, Miami-Fla.
Has first-round tools but disappeared as a junior last season. At a crossroads right now; needs to recharge the motor and improve his technique as a senior.
4. Haloti Ngata, Oregon
Considered leaving after his junior season, but made the wise decision to return to Eugene, Ore., in 2005. Has a great combo of size, strength and quickness, but needs to improve his technique and recognition skills.
5. LeKevin Smith, Nebraska
Last-minute decision to return to school should pay off. Smith lacks elite size but has the quickness, toughness and strength to become an impact interior defensive lineman in the NFL. He has experience as a DT and NT, as well as in a one-gap and two-gap scheme.
Manuel Wright*, USC; Claude Wroten, LSU; Gerald Anderson, Georgia; Jesse Mahelona, Tennessee; Dusty Dvoracek, Oklahoma; Anthony Montgomery, Minnesota; Kyle Williams, LSU; Johnny Jolly, Texas A&M; Barry Cofield, Northwestern; Mark Losli, Minnesota; Montavious Stanley, Louisville; Kedric Golston, Georgia; Jonathan Lewis, Virginia Tech;
1. Ahmad Brooks*, Virginia
Brooks is my preseason top-rated defensive prospect. He has all the physical tools and has been terrifically coached by former NFL linebacker guru Al Groh. Brooks should be a top-five selection in the 2006 draft.
2. A.J. Hawk, Ohio State
Hawk could probably play inside or weak-side linebacker in the NFL. He is one of the most instinctive and toughest linebackers in college football. Questions regarding his speed were also answered when scouts timed his 40-yard dash in the 4.5s during his spring workout on campus.
3. Abdul Hodge, Iowa
A complete prospect with size, strength, athleticism, instincts and tackling skills. Projects as a top-five linebacker in the 2006 class.
4. D'Qwell Jackson, Maryland
Jackson emerged as an elite collegiate linebacker as a sophomore in 2003, and didn't disappoint with 124 tackles as a junior last season. Undersized, he might need to move outside in the NFL, but if he continues to improve on his production as a senior, Jackson should be a shoo-in as a day one pick in next year's draft.
5. Freddie Roach, Alabama
Roach lacks ideal speed and athletic ability, but he's instinctive and tough versus the run. He projects as either an inside linebacker or strong-side linebacker in the NFL, likely as a late-day one draft selection.
Roger McIntosh, Miami-Fla.; Anthony Schlegel, Ohio State; Kai Parham*, Virginia; Kevin Simon, Tennessee; Aaron Harris, Texas; Chad Anderson, Kentucky; Ray Henderson, Boston College; Leon Williams, Miami-Fla.; Gabe Toomey, Kansas; Anthony Jordan, Toledo; Ricardo Hurley, South Carolina;
Chad Greenway is a natural run stopper with the potential to be an effective pass rusher.Outside linebackers
1. Chad Greenway, Iowa
He lacks ideal bulk and is more effective working forward and laterally than he is turning and running in coverage. However, Greenway is strong and physical versus the run. He can take on blocks and shows great instincts in run support. He also has the speed to be an effective pass rusher at the next level.
2. Ernie Sims*, Florida State
Sims is an ornery defender with a mean streak unmatched in college football right now. He needs to add bulk to his frame in order to project as a linebacker in the NFL, which is why there's a good chance the 2005 season won't be his last in Tallahassee.
3. H.B. Blades*, Pittsburgh
Another in the long line of Blades with NFL tools. H.B. led the Panthers with 108 tackles last season and will be back to wreak havoc as a junior in 2005. He lacks ideal height (5-11), but is well-built (245 pounds) and athletic. He also hits like a truck.
4. LaMarr Woodley*, Michigan
A DE/OLB tweener who would fit best as a rush linebacker in the NFL. Coming off a huge sophomore season with 16 tackles for loss. If he can improve on that production in 2005, the NFL might call his name.
5. Will Derting, Washington State
Overachiever with versatility. He has experience inside and outside. Has the recognition skills, quickness and toughness to develop into a starting MLB in the NFL. Also has the instincts and burst to provide pass rush help.
Paul Posluszny*, Penn State; DeMeco Ryans, Alabama; Spencer Havner, UCLA; Omar Gaither, Tennessee; Terna Nande, Miami-Ohio; Dustin Williams, Kentucky; A.J. Nicholson, Florida State; Pierre Woods, Michigan; Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State; Travis Williams, Auburn; Gerris Wilkerson, Georgia Tech; Cameron Vaughn, LSU; Nick Reid, Kansas; Dennis Burke, Middle Tennessee State; Lance Laury, South Carolina; Dallas Sartz, USC; John Saldi, Texas Tech; Brandon Johnson, Louisville; Derrick White, Georgia; Kellen Pruitt, Syracuse;
1. Antonio Cromartie*, Florida State
Cromartie has better speed and athleticism than former teammate Bryant McFadden, who was selected by the Steelers in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft. Cromartie has such good athleticism, speed and ball skills (4 INTs in 2004), the 'Noles are giving him some reps at wide receiver during spring ball.
2. Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech
Williams was overshadowed by senior secondary-mates Vincent Fuller and Eric Green last season, but he clearly was the most talented of the group and finished with a team-high five interceptions. Williams will get his due respect in 2005 when opposing quarterbacks avoid him like the plague. Williams has the potential to develop into a shutdown cover corner in the NFL, which is why he projects as a first-round draft pick in 2006.
3. Devin Hester*, Miami-Fla.
One of the most explosive and versatile weapons in college football. He led the Hurricanes in interceptions and also returned three punts and one kickoff for touchdowns in 2004.
4. William Blackmon, Boston College
Blackmon has explosive speed and is one of the most impressive all-around athletes in the 2006 draft class. He has spent most of his collegiate days at cornerback and as a return specialist, but there's a good chance that Blackmon moves full time to the wide receiver position in 2005.
5. Darrell Hunter, Miami-Ohio
Hunter is flying under the radar right now and is not likely to get picked on much as a senior in 2005, with Alphonso Hodge's moving on to the NFL. However, Hunter racked up six interceptions over the course of the last two seasons and is known as the fastest player in his program's history, as he was clocked at 4.29 in the 40-yard dash.
Kelly Jennings, Miami-FL; Charlie Peprah, Alabama; Alan Zemaitis, Penn State; Tye Hill, Clemson; Chikioke Onyenegeecha, Oklahoma; Leon Hall*, Michigan; Cedric Griffen, Texas; Ashton Youboty*, Ohio State; Donnie McClesky, Cal; Eric Bassey, Oklahoma; Leroy Smith, Florida State; Harrison Smith, Cal; Travis Johnson, Ole Miss; Josh Lay, Pittsburgh; Calvin Washington, Missouri; Shannon James, Massachusetts; Jacob Elimimian, San Diego State; Jovon Johnson, Iowa; Willie Smith, Marshall; Antwan Allen, Iowa;
1. LaRon Landry*, LSU
Landry wasted little time transitioning to the collegiate level, as he took over as a full-time starter during his true freshman season in 2003 and became a vital cog on a Tigers' defense that led the team to a BCS national title. Landry is a versatile playmaker with above average range in coverage and exceptional strength and tackling skills in run support. Should he elect to leave school after the 2005 season, Landry will likely be the first safety drafted in 2006.
2. Darnell Bing, USC*
Bing is a standout safety prospect with the versatility to play in the box and deep down the middle in the NFL. He has excellent size and fills hard in run support. What he lacks in terms of top-end speed he makes up for with instincts and ball skills in coverage.
3. Jason Allen, Tennessee
Allen reversed his decision to turn pro at the eleventh hour. While he would have been a day-one selection, his stock should only rise with another year at the collegiate level. Allen is athletic and tough, but the DC/FS tweener needs to become more consistent in his reads and as an open-field tackler.
4. Michael Huff, Texas
Huff benefited from his 2004 move from cornerback to safety, where he is able to mask his lack of elite hip fluidity, while highlighting his instincts and toughness. If Huff continues to thrive at the safety position as a senior, he'll solidify a spot on day one of next year's draft.
5. Nate Salley, Ohio State
Salley is a centerfielder-type free safety with adequate size, good range and developing ball skills. If he can become more consistent as an open-field tackler in 2005, Salley's chances of getting drafted on the first day of next year's draft will be good.
Greg Threat, Miami-Fla.; Greg Blue, Georgia; Donte Whinter*, Ohio State; Kedrick Alexander, Tulsa; Wesley Smith, Memphis; Jahmile Addae, West Virginia; Marcus Demps, San Diego State; Jerrad Page, UCLA; Daniel Bullocks, Nebraska; Jamaal Fudge, Clemson; Cam Hall, Boise State; Will Gulley, Houston; Darren Williams, Mississippi State (X); Jaxson Appel, Texas A&M; Mike Lorello, West Virginia; Roman Harper, Alabama; Kelvin Robinson, Ole Miss;
Connor Hughes, Virginia; Mason Crosby, Colorado; Ben Jones, Purdue; Todd Peagram, Texas A&M;
Tom Malone, USC; Ryan Plackemeier, Wake Forest; Brandon Fields, Michigan State; Joel Stelly, Louisiana-Monroe; Daniel Sepulveda, Baylor;
Scouts, Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN Insider.
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