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New York Giants 2008 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Running Backs

by KWALL for BigBlueInteractive.com

WIDE RECEIVERS

The Giants could use a young WR with Toomer nearing the end and Moss a big question mark entering his 3rd year.  It’s a good draft year to be in the market for a WR.  A lot of draft previews mentioned 6-7 first rounders at this position.  I don’t see it that way.  Maybe two first round WRs.  There could be a surprise WR picked at the bottom of round 1 in Houston’s speedy WR Donnie Avery.  Avery could be WR#3 and a first round pick.  I think this strength of this class is in round 2.  Not many sure fire first rounders or #1 WR types but a lot of guys who will be productive in the NFL as complimentary #2s.

Devin Thomas, Michigan State
(6’2”, 215lbs, 40: 4.40, 20: 2.50, 10: 1.47, Vertical: 28”, Broad: 10’6”, SS: 4.26, 3 Cone: 7.15)
Excellent size and a burner in a straight line.  A weapon after the catch.  Hard runner for a WR.  Breaks tackles and busts longs plays.  Used extensively on reverses.  Caught a lot of screens and quick hitters.  With only 1 year of D1 ball, some question if he has all of the NFL routes down at this time.  The top kicker returner in college football.  Broke the conference record in 07 for return yards.  His offensive coordinator said he works hard as a blocker.  Coach called him “one of the best students he ever had in terms of self study…A team guy”.  33” vertical at proday.  He’ll be gone before the Giants pick.

Limas Sweed, Texas
( 6’4”, 215lbs, 40: 4.48, 20: 2.62, 10: 1.54, Vert: 35”)
Excellent size.  Ripped.  According to NFL Network ran an electronically timed 4.47 with 38” vertical at his proday.  Made a lot of game-changing plays in college.  Outstanding leaper and high points the ball.  Adjusts to badly thrown balls.  Big year in 06 (1 TD every 3.8 catches).  Entered senior year as top WR in country.  Injured wrist early had a negative impact on Sr yr.  Wasn’t healthy all yr.  Went to SR Bowl against the advice of his doctor.  Had a good day of practice but left early because of the wrist.  Still learning but a guy with a lot of upside entering the NFL.  Considered a very hard worker according to his college coaches.  Texas WR coach said, “He’s physical at the line and hard top jam.  He’s not like other tall WR who have trouble getting off the press.  He has really good feet and strength and he’ll compete really hard…”  Probably go in the 20-30 range.  He could be in our range at the bottom of round 1.  Makes a lot of sense for the Giants as a guy who can eventually replace Toomer.  Late round 1.

Andre Caldwell, Florida
(6’, 204lbs, 40: 4.35, 20: 2.53, 10: 1.47, Vert: 33”, Broad: 10’4”, SS: 4.11, 3 Cone: 6.75)
Highly touted out of HS.  Up and down college career.  Injuries a factor at Florida but still finished as their career leader in receptions.  Injured in 06.  Got on a nice roll in 07 (30 catches for 380 yards and 4 TDs in a 4 game stretch in SEC).  Caught a lot short stuff in Florida offense and showed good YAC skills.  Thick lower body helps him break tackles.  Plenty of strength to handle press in the NFL.  Not the kind of routes he’ll run in the NFL.  However, showed good route running skills at Sr Bowl.  Sr Bowl week helped.  During practices, Caldwell beat the top CBs deep with double moves and pure speed.  Outstanding overall workout at combine.  I like him more than most.  In a year without a clearcut #1 WR, Caldwell has a shot to be the top WR in this class.  Would be a 2nd round steal for the Giants.  Could go much higher.  Possibly as high as WR #3 at the bottom of round 1.

Desean Jackson, California
(5’10”, 169lbs, 40: 4.35, 20: 2.52, 10: 1.53, Broad: 10’)
PAC 10 coaches compare his explosiveness to Reggie Bush.  Rare change of directions skills and burst allows him to get wide open.  Hand catcher.  A major threat after the catch.  Outstanding on short stuff but can also haul in the long ball.  Made plenty of college defenders look silly with a variety of open field moves.  Worked with Jerry Rice this offseason.  Jackson hands and routes impressed Rice.  Game changing punt returns (6 TDS at CAL).  If he was bigger he’s a top 10 pick.  Size is an issue.  Weighed under 170lbs.  At his size, very few succeed in the NFL.  While Jackson has the hands, quickness, and speed of CAR WR Steve Smith he falls far short of Smith’s competitiveness and physical style.  The big question with Jackson is “how will he handle press coverage in the NFL?”  Can he beat it and become more than a slot WR in the NFL?  These questions will push him out of round one.  Homerun return ability add value and should keep him in the 30-40 range.

Donnie Avery, Houston
(5’11”, 192lbs, 40: 4.43, 20: 2.58, 10: 1.50, Bench: 16)
Fastest WR in draft.  Plays fast too.  According to his agent, “people at the Senior Bowl told him that he might be the fastest player who has ever played in the game.”   Teams will overlook a lot of weaknesses and holes for a guy with this kind of speed.  Very productive in 07 with 90+ catches for 1400+ yards.  Only ran a few routes in Houston’s spread offense (9 route, screens, crosses).  Looked explosive out of his break running slants in one on ones at the Senior Bowl.  Hands are questionable.  PFW called him a “down the field basket catcher”.  Despite the holes, he’ll go early because of the rare speed.  He’s got a 2nd gear to get behind the fastest DBs in the league.  The NFL loves speed early in the draft.  Proday note: He ran 3.91 short shuttle and a 6.30 in the 3 cone.  Look for Avery in early round 2.  Could come off the board as high as WR#3.  Could sneak into the bottom of round 1 to the Giants.

James Hardy, Indiana
(6’5”, 217lbs, 40: 4.45, 20: 2.58, 10: 1.56, Bench: 18, Vert: 31.5”, Broad: 10’5”, SS: 4.20, 3 Cone: 6.84)
Developed into the type of player I expected from WR Marcus Monk at Arkansas in 07.  6’6” with 4.4 speed presents matchup issues for any NFL DB.  Can get deep and out-jump defenders.  Can make a QB look good.  Scored 26 TDs the past 2 seasons despite below average QB play.  Matched up vs CB King from Penn St and caught 14 passes (24 targets).  Followed up the Penn State game with a bomb vs Wisconsin.  Really struggled vs Wisconsin CB Ikegwuonu.  Had problems with CB Davis from Illinios.  And last college game in Bowl vs Oklahoma St was not a good one.  Several drops.  Caught very few balls despite 17 passes going his way.  First round talent with some consistency issues.  Physical CBs controlled him in college.  Off the field problems could be a bigger issue in this draft.  Round 1 talent.  His combine workout was exceptional.  Very fast shuttles for such a tall player.  37” vertical at proday.  Off the field stuff may drop him a round or more.

Jordy Nelson, Kansas State
(6’3”, 217lbs, 40: 4.51, 20: 2.59, 10: 1.50, Vert:31”, Broad: 10’3”,  SS: 4.35, 3 Cone: 7.03)
Walk-on at Kansas State to one of the most productive college WRs of the past 10 yrs.  Averaged 10+ catches a game in 07.  He finished the 07 seasons with 122 receptions for 1600+yards with 11TDs.  Played his best vs the top teams (Texas, Kansas, Auburn, Oklahoma State).  Lacks elite timed speed but has a burst off the line.  Plus size/strength.  Can work the middle from the slot and get YAC.  Not the traditional YAC burner.  He’s got some wiggle.  Nelson gets tacklers off balance and runs through arm tackles.  Consistently got deep on top CBs.  Burned Kansas CB Talib for a 70+ yard TD and pulled away.  Did it all year at Kansas St.  Did it again at Sr Bowl.  Very impressive week of practice vs SR Bowl CBs.  Some return experience but won’t do a lot of it in the NFL.  T.J. Houshmandzadeh type with better size/speed.  Crowded WR class in the rd 2-3 group may push him to Giants at bottom of rd 3.

Early Doucet, LSU
(6’, 209lbs, no Combine workout)
#1 WR in the country out of high school.  A lot of draft guys, such as Mike Mayock, considered him the #1 WR in the 08 draft before the workouts.  Ran close to 4.6 at proday.  That 40 time along with a 4.5+ SS and slow 3 cone eliminates any chance for Doucet as the #1 WR.  He’s out of round 1.  Very good hands.  Runs with power and breaks tackles.  Willing down field blocker.  LSU coaches said he was the top playmaker at LSU in 06 (over Bowe and Craig Davis).  He was their guy on 3rd downs.  Senior Bowl week was a very good one for Doucet.  Consistently showed the ability to separate vs top CB talent.  Late round 2.

Jerome Simpson, Coastal Carolina
(6’2”, 200lbs, 40: 4.42, 20: 2.57, 10: 1.47, Vert: 37.5”, Broad: 11’4”, SS: 4.52, 3 Cone: 7.08)
Outstanding overall workout for a bigger WR minus the SS (shuttle was slower than 40).  Also a high jumper in college.  Better in 06 when he had a  QB (NFL backup QB Thigpen).  16 TDs in 06.  Long arms.  Massive hands at 10.75”. Huge catching radius.  Knows how to use leaping ability and huge hands to high point the ball in traffic.  According to PFW, Simpson “can catch a BB in the dark.”  Very intriguing late round 2/early 3 prospect.

Mario Manningham, Michigan
(6’, 181lbs, 40: 4.59, 20: 2.64, 10: 1.50, Bench: 16, Vert: 32”, Broad: 9’9”, SS: 4.27, 3 Cone: 7.34)
Smooth runner.  Quick out of his cuts.  Very good hands.  21 starts in 06 and 07 produced 21 TDs.  Too thin.  Needs some strength.  NFL DBs will pound him.  Not as physical as he should be.  Runs out of bounds in front of first down marker.  Combine workout dropped him out of any rd 1 consideration.  Ran better at proday.  Interviews have been a major negative and probably dropped him further.  Late round 2/early 3.

Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt
(5’11”, 209lbs, 40: 4.48, 20: 2.56, 10: 1.47, Bench: 15, Vert: 26”, Broad: 9’2”, SS: 4.22, 3 Cone: 7.15)
Good timed speed in the 4.50 range but plays faster.  Very good quickness.  Gets out of breaks fast and separates.  Excellent hands.  Battles hard for the ball.  Known as an exceptional route runner and a hard worker in practice.  After Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler went to the NFL he was left without a QB.  Numbers suffered the past 2 years with sloppy QB play.  He still finished his career as the all-time leader in receptions in the SEC.  32” vertical at proday.  Late round 2.

Marcus Monk, Arkansas
(6’4”, 222lbs, 40: 4.56, 20: 2.68, 10: 1.60, Bench: 9, Vert: 34.5”, Broad: 9’11”, SS: 4.30, 3 Cone: 7.08)
Very smart kid.  Graduated #1 in his class in HS.  A TD machine at Arkansas.  He never played with much of a passer in college.  Used long arms and size to take bad throws away from defenders.  Looked like a future first rounder as a true frosh.  #2 in tough SEC conference in TD catches as a true frosh.  Also played basketball at Arkansas.  11 TDs in 06.  Injured prior to 07 season.  Knee required two surgeries and he rarely saw the field.  Draft value has taken a huge hit because of the knee.  From possible first round to possible free agent in 1 yr.  Still not 100% at combine.  At proday ran in the 4.4s with 36” vertical.  Giants should have a lot of interest with Monk.  If the knees drop him to the bottom of round 4 the Giants should be all over this pick.  He may need a year, but he has WR#1 skills.  Injured knee may keep him out of round 3.  Rd 4.

Dexter Jackson, Appalachian State
(5’10”, 182lbs, 40: 4.33, 20: 2.53, 10: 1.50, Vert: 29.5”, Broad: 10’2”, SS: 4.38, 3 Cone: 6.81)
Track guy (100 and 200) and this speed carries over to the football field.  Ran past Michigan defenders on slants and reverses showed he belonged.  Just exploded on the field in that game.  Shot out of a cannon on the slant for a TD.  Probably moved up several rounds in post season.  He dominated the competition at the Shrine practices (“He’s been very impressive to me,” Shrine HC Dick Vermeil told NFL Network.  “He has a chance to be one of those kids who can make big plays.”)  Moved on to Sr Bowl and impressed again.  Ran right past the top CB in the draft Cromartie on some deep balls in the SR Bowl practices.  Return skills are a plus.  Size may limit him in the NFL.  It will certainly affect his draft value.  I’d like to see Jackson on the Giants with the 3rd round pick.  We need a big play threat.  We need some matchup problems for a defense and Jackson would give us that especially from the slot.  Not sure he’ll be there at the bottom of rd 3.  My guess is early rd 3.

Eddie Royal, Virginia Tech
(5’10”, 184lbs, 40: 4.39, 20: 2.53, 10: 1.46, Bench: 24, Vert: 36”, Broad: 10’4”, SS: 4.34, 3 Cone: 7.07)
Durability is a red flag.  A few nagging injuries limited his time at Viginia Tech.  Because of injuries only averaged around 30 catches/year.  His play at Senior Bowl moved him up.  Impressed everybody at the SR Bowl with his hands and deep speed.  He can get deep on anybody.  Very fast in and out of his cuts.  One of the top return guys in this draft.  Similar to Dexter Jackson as an undersized slot WR/return guy with explosive moves.  Late round 3.

Malcom Kelly, Oklahoma
(6’4”, 224lbs)
How important are the measurables for NFL Draft prospects?  Watch what happens to Kelly on draft weekend.  He was considered the #1 WR in the draft before the proday.  Workout was not up to par for a top ranked WR prospect.  Making matters worse for Kelly was his hissy fit and about the slower track.  Kelly ran again at a private workout for 3 teams (NYG, CLE, GB).  He ran 4.65 on a faster surface.  That doesn’t help him.  Kelly is a big guy at 225lbs with strong hands and a lot of TDs in college.  That’s the good news.  My question entering the draft is “What distinguishes Kelly from a guy like USC WR Mike Williams?”  Kelly is slower than Williams (4.56).  Williams had better shuttle times.  Kelly had a much lower vertical (32 vs 39).  Kelly falls far short of the production Williams put up at USC.  We all know what happened to Williams in the NFL.  Kelly enters this draft with a lot of bust potential.  He isn’t the #1 WR in the draft.  Not a first rounder.  With 4.7 speed, I can’t see a team drafting him in rd 2.  He won with size in college (a lot of guys do).  He struggled to separate vs college CBs.  His strong hands allowed him to make plays in traffic.  In the NFL, windows are much tighter and the competition is better.  He’ll face a big jump in speed and talent every week.  Rarely does his skill set thrive in the NFL.  For me, way too much risk for a round 1 or round 2 player.  Proday: 6’ 3 7/8”, 224lbs, 40: 4.75 and 4.68, Vertical: 32”, Broad: 9’9″, SS: 4.24, 3 cone: 7.05.  I see him as a rd 3 guy.

Harry Douglas, Louisville
(5’11”, 176lbs, 40: 4.51, 20: 2.58, 10: 1.53, Vert: 31”, Broad: 10’, SS: 4.12, 3 Cone: 6.57)
This a guy I’ve been very high on since 06 after watching him tear up the Big East.  All the talk was about the other Louisville WR Urrutia but I always preferred the quicker Douglas as an NFL prospect.  Made a lot of big plays for Lousiville.  Goes over the middle.  Ran a lot of slants, crosses, and posts.  Very good after the catch.  More quick than fast.  Fastest 3 cone at combine this year.  Very small hands but he usually does a nice job of securing the ball with his hands on throws away from his body.  Occasionally body catches over the middle.  Mixed reviews at SR Bowl.  Route running was criticized during the week of practice but hands impressed.  Early rd 4.

Arman Shields, Richmond
(6’1”, 194lbs, 40: 4.37, 20: 2.51, 10: 1.51, Bench: 19, Vert: 37.5”, Broad: 10’8”, SS: 3.96, 3 Cone: 6.67)
Only 1 game in 07 before knee injury.  In his only game of 07 Shields finished the day with 12 receptions for 107 vs. Vanderbilt.  A combine star.  Perhaps the best workout of any WR at the combine.  3.96 in short was fastest for any player.  6.67 3 cone was 2nd fastest behind Harry Douglas.  No all star invite hurts.  A ton of athletic upside.  Private workouts and health check will determine his draft slot.  Redskins have shown a lot of interest in him.  Definitely a guy to watch for on day 2.

Lavelle Hawkins, California
(5’11”, 187lbs, 40: 4.57, 20: 2.64, 10: 1.50, Bench: 14, Broad:  9’9”)
Impressed me vs USC in 07.  Made some athletic plays vs USC’s top athletes.  Stepped up with Desean Jackson was injured.  Has return experience.  A lot of talk about this player at SR Bowl.  Very tough cover.  Smaller WR with quickness and good moves.  Consistently beat coverage at SR Bowl.  Ran precise routes and caught everything.  Didn’t put up the combine numbers he needed to keep the post season buzz going.  Slightly undersized but a solid mid round prospect.  A guy I really like.  I feel he’ll start in the NFL as a reliable #2.  A Bobby Engram type.  Maybe rd 4.

Paul Hubbard, Wisconsin
(6’3”, 221lbs, 40: 4.49, 20: 2.61, 10: 1.57, Vert: 29.5”, Broad: 10’6”)
Sprinter and high jumper.  Several big plays at WR in 06.  High YPC.  Had a good day vs Arkansas CB Chris Houston to end 06 season.  Big game vs Michigan in 07.  Injured knee and missed 7 games in 07.  He’s got the hands of a track guy.  Too many drops mixed in with some highlight reel grabs.  Only a 29” vertical at combine was an obvious error for this All American triple jumper.  Vertical was over 39” at proday.  Bottom line he’s a great athlete with ideal size but needs plenty of work as a WR.  Middle of day 2 prospect.

Mario Urrutia, Louisville
(6’5”, 232lbs, 40: 4.59, 20: 2.65, 10: 1.53, Vert: 30”, Broad:  9’7”, SS: 4.44, 3 Cone: 7.07)
Another guy Kiper hyped as a first round talent.  Nothing more than an Ernest Wilford type.  Long but slow.  Couldn’t separate in college.  Lacks sudden moves.  He should bulk up and move to TE.  If he did he could be a player.  Late round project.

TIGHT ENDS

I was very surprised to see the Giants spending time with TEs at the 08 Senior Bowl.  And now with all of the Shockey trade talk we may need one.  Not a strong year for TE talent.  Maybe two playmakers will enter the NFL at this position.  One guy with a world of potential is Michigan State TE Kellen Davis.  The other is an explosive blown up WR in Dustin Keller.

Kellen Davis, Michigan State
(6’6.5”, 262lbs, 40: 4.58, 20: 2.62, 10: 1.53, Bench: 22, Vert: 28”, Broad:  9’10”, SS: 4.38, 3 Cone: 7.25)
Huge but very smooth.  Has the movement skills of an elite NFL TE prospect.  Fast with sharp cuts on his breaks.  Long arms.  Snatches the ball and quickly turns up field.  Caught everything at the Senior Bowl.  Will be a legitimate deep threat in the NFL.  Also, a tough in-line blocker.  Gave Michigan State a boost on the defensive line.  Came in on pass rush downs.  Some scouts said they feel he can play DE in the NFL.  Davis has the most upside of any TE in this class.  Questionable work ethic has been mentioned.  His lack of desire would be the only thing holding him back.  He’s got All Pro type physical skills.  Without any surefire top 50 TEs in this draft, Davis is my #1 guy.  If Giants traded Shockey he would be my choice to replace him.  Giants spent time with two TEs at the Senior Bowl.  Kellen Davis was one of them.  Mid to late round 2.

Dustin Keller, Purdue
(6’2”, 242lbs, 40: 4.53, 20: 2.65, 10: 1.62, Bench: 26, Vert: 38”, Broad: 10’11”, SS: 4.12, 3 Cone: 6.88)
Undersized but extremely explosive.  Cuts on a dime.  Excellent leaper.  Makes tough catches and runs hard.  Won’t help at the LOS with his blocking.  Needs to be on the move or in the slot.  Would thrive if used like Colts TE Dallas Clark.  Although he lacks size, I believe he’ll be the first TE off the board.  Somebody will use a mid 2nd to grab this guy and create some mismatches.  Mid round 2.

Martellus Bennett, Texas A&M
(6’6”, 260lbs, 40: 4.68, 20: 2.67, 10: 1.53, Bench: 18, Vert: 34”, Broad:  9’10”, SS: 4.53, 3 Cone: 7.64)
Former basketball player (declared for 05 NBA draft).  Bennett is the top 2 way threat at TE in this draft.  A real force in the run game.  Hard working and effective blocker.  As a blocker, he averaged 5 knockdowns/game in 07.  Also a guy who can make plays in the pass game.  Only average speed for a #1 TE in the NFL but very good hands.  He can make catches in traffic.  “He’s tall, fast, athletic, and he’s got good hands,” said C.O. Brocato, the Tennessee Titans national director of college scouting.  “In time, he’s going to be a very good player, and he’s got a chance to be a great player.  Let me put it like this: He’s got all the tools.”  Late round 2.

Fred Davis, USC
(6’3”, 255lbs, no Combine workout)
Highly ranked high school WR (top 5 in the nation).  Added weight and moved to TE.  The receiving skills are evident.  You can see he was a former WR.  Quick and a fluid runner.  Smooth catcher.  Very productive in 07.  Davis stepped up for USC after they lost most of the WR talent to the 07 draft.  Lacks ideal height.  Blocking is a negative.  Proday numbers didn’t help his draft value.  Respected draft and mock guru Rick Gosselin still has him as a round 1 player.  I don’t see it.  There is absolutely no chance Davis goes round 1.  His lack of height and explosive speed will drop him.  He also has some questions with his off the field crowd.  Proday numbers: 4 .68 40, 33-inch vertical jump, 9-foot, 8-inch long jump, 4.68 short shuttle, 7.36 cone drill.  That isn’t the stuff of a round 1 TE.  Davis could be out of day one.  Early round 3.

Martin Rucker, Missouri
(6’5”, 255lbs, no Combine workout)
This is the other TE the Giants spent time with at the Senior Bowl.  Athletic pass catcher.  Highly productive in 07 (80+ catches and 8 TDs).  Caught an extremely high % of passes his way (close to 80% completion rate).  Dangerous after the catch.  Blocking needs work.  Ran 4.71 at proday with a  37” vertical.  I don’t think he makes it to the Giants in round 3.  Early round 3.

Jermichael Finley, Texas
(6’5”, 245lbs, 40: 4.82, 20: 2.79, 10: 1.65, Bench: 20, Vert: 27.5”, Broad,: 9’10”, SS: 4.38, 3 Cone: 7.15)
Early entry with 2 years of eligibility left got a 4th round grade from the NFL Advisory board.  Probably should have went back to school for a year.  Limited starting experience (only 16 games).  Good receiving threat in college.  Can get up and make tough catches.  Looked very athletic in 07.  Combine wasn’t what I expected especially the 40 time.  Like teammate Marcus Griffin, Finley drastically improved 40 time at proday (mid 4.6).  The proday 40 time is more in line with the way he plays.  Rd 4.

Brad Cottam, Tennessee
(6’7.5”, 270lbs, 40: 4.63, 20: 2.61, 10: 1.57, Bench: 24, Vert: 33”)
Timed speed at combine was a surprise.  Doesn’t play up to low 4.6 speed.  Doesn’t show a burst to separate.  Massive TE.  Very strong in line blocker.  Doesn’t threaten deep with speed.  He has good hands.  Shows the ability to hang onto the ball in traffic.  At his size he should be a red zone option.  A #2 TE prospect.  Rd 4.

Tom Santi, Virginia
(6’4”, 252lbs, 40: 4.80, 20: 2.75, 10: 1.65, Bench: 14, Vert: 36”, Broad: 10’2”, SS: 4.27, 3 Cone: 7.08)
Good athlete for the position.  He works hard as a pass catcher and a blocker.  Makes tough catches up high.  He’ll make some team happy as a late round #2 TE.  Rd 6-7.

RUNNING BACKS

This RB position in the 08 draft is loaded.  It got a huge boost from the juniors such as McFadden, Mendenhall, and Rice.  It goes 12 deep with the type of guys who should be top 50 picks.  I can’t recall any position in any recent draft with as much talent between 1-12.  The one knock I have on many of the players is they come from a spread offense.  That kind of offense distorts a RBs numbers.  The bottom line is many of these guys ran through holes they will not see in the NFL.  In this offense it’s very tough to measure a RB’s vision.  That’s a very important aspect when evaluating a RB prospect.  Can the player see a hole develop, make a quick decision, and hit it hard?   It is tough to evaluate in the spread offenses with all of these misdirection plays.

Darren McFadden, Arkansas
(6’1”, 211lbs, 40: 4.33, 20: 2.53, 10: 1.50, Vert: 33”, Broad: 10’8”)
Everybody’s #1 RB (except Mike Mayock who prefers Mendenhall).  Some compare him to Adrian Peterson but he lacks Peterson’s  toughness and power running inside.  Peterson is a multi dimensional beast.  McFadden is not on Peterson’s level as an all around back or prospect.  Coming from a spread offense adds risk to any RB prospect.  That’s true in McFadden’s case.  He’s also a fumbler (15  during 07 season).  Runs upright.  He’ll take some big shots in the NFL.  Can he handle it?  Mayock’s biggest beef with McFadden is his legs stop on contact.  That he’s easy to bring down.  He does have legit speed but so did Reggie Bush.  Outstanding football player and prospect but I wouldn’t take him in the top 10 especially in a draft with this kind of talent at the position.  RB#1 off the board.  Top 10.  Could go to the Raiders in top 5.  That would be another draft mistake by Oakland.  They already have a stud RB with 4.3 speed in Justin Fargas.

Ray Rice, Rutgers
(5’8”, 199lbs, 40: 4.42, 20: 2.52, 10: 1.47, Bench: 23, Vert: 31.5”, Broad: 9’11”, SS: 4.20, 3 Cone: 6.65)
Ray Rice from Rutgers as the #2 back in this class?  I’m sure many will dismiss it as my Rutgers bias.  Partially true.  However, didn’t this guy run for 2,000 yards last season?  Plenty to like about him as an NFL prospect.  I think it starts with his vision.  It’s this trait that could make Rice the best NFL back in this group.  The bottom line is nobody can question it.  He sees the holes and he this them with authority and quickness.  While he may not be the top back, I know he’ll come with some of the best draft value of any player.  Rice comes with a long list of the traits you look for in a top back.  Strength.  Power. Production.  Inside running.  Excellent vision.  Can bounce it outside.  Can make guys miss in a phone booth.  Can be your workhorse.  Durable.  Very good timed speed.  Elite change of direction.  Very strong lower body.  Doesn’t take big shots.  Bounces off tacklers.  Gets yards after contact.  Always falls forward.  High character guy.  Comes from an NFL running offense.  There’s more.  He’s got more upside entering the NFL.  Not a guy who already peaked.  He’ll be a weapon on screens and dumpoffs in the NFL.  Rutgers didn’t use him enough in this area.  The only negative and you hear it everywhere is his size.  That’s weak.  It isn’t strength or power.  It’s his height.  He’s short.  That isn’t a problem.  It works for Maurice Jones Drew.  Another negative, but I think he answered it at the combine, was his speed.  Mayock mentioned he’s “seen him get run down on the college level.”  Yeah sure.  PIT CB Darrell Revis (4.3 speed) ran him down after about 30 carries and 200 yards.  Late in the 4th quarter, as Rice was winning the game with a long run, Revis caught him after Rice avoided another DB and ran towards Revis.  That’s it.  Maybe some guys would have scored.  Not many would have been in there after 30+ carries.  Outside of this run, and I’ve seen just about every one, he hasn’t been run down in the open field.  The guy is as close to can’t miss RB as you’ll see.  And he may go in round 3?  That will be the steal of this draft.  If I needed a RB I’d take him at the bottom of round 1.  I forgot one thing.  Giants fans on BBI know how much the Giants value the 3 cone drill.  Rice ripped up the 3 cone.  He had the fastest 3 cone of any RB in the past 10 years at the combine.  The guy he beat?  The Giants Ahmad Bradhsaw who currently has the 2nd fastest 3 cone of the past 10 yrs.  Improved vertical to 39.5”at proday.  Rice will play a very long time and immediately help your team win football games.

Jonathon Stewart, Oregon
(5’10”, 235lbs, 40: 4.46, 20: 2.54, 10: 1.46, Bench: 28, Vert: 36.5”, Broad: 10’8”)
Young prospect.  Just turned 21.  Strong runner.  Gets behind his pads and runs over tacklers.  All around back who can beat you with speed or power.  Can run inside and out.  Good hands.  A little stiff but similar to Miami RB Ronnie Brown.  Round 1.  Top 20.

Chris Johnson, East Carolina
(5’11”, 200lbs, 40: 4.24, 20: 2.41, 10: 1.40, Vert: 35”, Broad: 10’10”)
This guy is my surprise pick for the Giants in round 1.  Johnson brings a lot to the table.  Perhaps the most explosive player in college football in 07.  Had some of the biggest games of the year down the stretch.  Over 400 total yards in bowl game vs Boise State.  Looks like he plays at another speed in the open field.  Explodes out of cuts and runs past guys who think they have the angle.  Receiver-type hands.  Some talk he may be a better WR prospect.  I see him as a situational #2 RB.  Use him like the Saints use Reggie Bush.  Throw him dumpoffs and screens.  Put him in the slot and get him on some wheel routes vs S or LBs.  With the Giants he can play on the same field with Jacobs or Bradshaw.  Move him around.  Put him in the slot.  He’s the biggest matchup nightmare in this draft.  Is that enough for pick #31?  There’s more to his game.  Johnson is an electrifying return man.  Return skills alone are worth a high pick.  He’s going to step on a field in the NFL and win games with special teams play.  He’s a field position impact player.  Giants could use another player who gives a defense matchup problems.  Johnson will do that for them.  I think he’ll go late round 1.  Hopefully to the NY Giants.

Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois
(5’10”, 225lbs, 40: 4.41, 20: 2.56, 10: 1.53, Bench: 26, Vert: 33.5”, Broad: 9’9”, SS: 4.18)
Although Mendenhall is another spread offense back, I would take him over Chris Johnson if I needed a true #1 RB.  Very strong and poweful.  Excellent speed for a 220lbs RB.  Looked very impressive against the fast USC defense in the Rose Bowl.  Showed speed and power while making some big 2nd half plays to keep his team close for a while.  Although he only produced for 1 year, he’s another outstanding RB prospect.  Shouldn’t get out of the first round.  He’ll go #3 in this draft after McFadden and Stewart.

Jamaal Charles, Texas
(5’11”, 200lbs, (40: 4.38, 20: 2.53, 10: 1.46, Vert: 30.5”, Broad: 10’2”, SS: 4.22, 3 Cone:6.80)
All American sprinter in 60 and 100.  Early entry.  Another explosive open field runner.  Sticks his foot in the ground and explodes out of his cuts.  Highly productive in 07.  1600+ yards and 18 TDs.  Lit up Nebraska for 290 yards including 200+ in the 4th quarter.  Some questions about his ability to handle a full load as a #1 NFL RB.  Needs more strength.  Also had some fumbling problems.  However, NFL draft game is about speed especially in rounds 1 and 2.  He’ll go early.   Late round 1.

Kevin Smith, Central Florida
(6’1”, 217lbs, 40: 4.53, 20: 2.63, 10: 1.56, Vert: 32”, Broad: 10’, SS: 4.49, 3 Cone: 6.74)
Lightly recruited out of high school with only 2 D1 offers (Akron and Central Florida).  Immediate impact for the Central Florida program.  A workhorse for over 3 seasons for Central Florida.  450 carries with 2500+ yards during 07 season.  Some knocks because of the competition in Conference USA.  Outside the conference Smith struggled vs South Florida, Pittsburgh, and Florida.  He stepped up against Texas for a very big game(150,2TDs).  In his defense his Central Florida teams were overmatched up front in these games.  Positives include vision, durability, and cut back skills.  PFW compares him to former Vikings RB Robert Smith.  In a deep RB class he could drop to round 3.  Any team will be happy with this player in round 3.  Don’t be surprised if he steps in as a rookie and runs for 1200 yards.

Matt Forte, Tulane
(6’1.5”, 217lbs, 40: 4.44, 20: 2.55, 10: 1.49, Bench: 23, Vert: 33”, Broad: 9’10”, SS: 4.23, 3 Cone: 6.84)
Burst onto the NFL radar with a very strong game against LSU’s tough defense.  He gave LSU all they could handle for 3 quarters.  Finished year with 2K+ yards and 23 TDs.  Went to Senior Bowl and impressed the scouts again.  Taller back.  High cut.  Compared to Dorsey Levens.  Late round 2.

Thomas Brown, Georgia
(5’9”, 204lbs, 40: 4.51, 20: 2.60, 10:1.50, Bench: 25, Vert: 36”, Broad: 10’8”, 3 Cone: 7.17)
This is a player I like.  He’s going to be a mid round steals for some lucky team.  Any Giant fan who appreciates Bradshaw would like this guy.  Strong with quick feet and he’s got that angry running style like Bradshaw.  Tough between the tackles.  Runs hard and breaks tackles.  Speed to hit some long ones too.  Maybe not an every down back.  Injuries held him back in college so durability is a concern.  If he stays healthy, I’m convinced this guy will be a player in the NFL.  I just don’t want to see him in the NFC East.  I’ll take Brown in mid rounds over Felix Jones in the top 50.  Rd 3.

Felix Jones, Arkansas
(5’10”, 207lbs, 40: 4.44, 20: 2.59, 10: 1.46, Vert: 33.5”, Broad: 10’4”, SS: 4.19, 3 Cone: 6.90)
This guy is projected to go too high in the draft.  I keep seeing top 25 to Dallas.  I’d like to see Dallas make that first round mistake for a part time RB from a spread offense.  Only 280 carries the past 2 seasons.  Mostly misdirection stuff.  Most of his big runs are outside through huge lanes.  You don’t see him getting tough yards between the tackles.  You see a lot of wide open runs where Jones isn’t touched on the first 2 levels.  Very little production in the pass game.  At combine failed to live up to his advertised speed.  A lot of questions entering the draft.  Seems like a situational type back but not the game changer of Chris Johnson to justify a rd 1 pick.  He should be out of the top 50.

Steve Slaton, West Virginia
(5’9”, 197lbs, 40: 4.45, 20: 2.62, 10: 1.57, Bench: 19, Vert: 33.5”, Broad:  9’10”)
Highly productive spread offense RB and returner.  Lost some of his appeal with a down 07 season.  He seemed more explosive in 06.  Inside running and vision are a huge question marks entering the NFL.  At this point, not considered a #1 RB type prospect.  His hands are a plus.  A move to WR has been mentioned.  He’s going to help some team.  He can give you some matchup advantages and hit some big plays in the NFL.  Combine fell short of his goal of 4.3 40s and 40” vertical.  Rd 3-4.

Justin Forsett, California
(5’8”, 194lbs, no Combine workout)
If you like what Thomas Brown brings, you have to like Forsett’s skills as well.  He’ll get knocked because of his height but he doesn’t play small.  Hard worker in the weight room and in practice.  Low center of gravity.  Strong and thick lower body.  Runs hard between the tackles.  Has some wiggle in the open field.  Massive hands.  He can catch and make plays in space.  Passed a big test for me with his performance against USC (160+ yards and a TD in a close game).  Proday numbers were disappointing.  It will drop him.  I’m not sure where he’ll go in this draft as a shorter back with 4.6 speed but this guy will make it in the NFL.

Chauncey Washington, USC
(5’11”, 215lbs, no Combine workout)
Ran in the 4.4s at USC proday.  Strong north-south inside runner with surprising timed speed.  Doesn’t make guys miss.  Not a lot of wiggle in the open field.  Very slow shuttles (3 cone: 7.53, SS: 4.50+) verify his struggles to quickly change directions.  At Senior Bowl practices, he lined up at FB.  They moved him in the slot and showed quick feet in routes and good hands.  If he stays healthy, a guy who should be a better pro than college player.  A big mid round back with some versatility and starting potential.  Also can chip in as a kick returner.

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