2008 NFL Draft Breakdown
With the 2008 NFL Draft coming up before we know it, it’s time to take a position by position look at some of the players that will hear their names called early, and a few little-knowns that stand to make a huge impact on the next level.
Quarterbacks - 2008 NFL Draft
Three quarterbacks should be drafted in the top 15, and it’s pretty difficult to say which order they’ll go in, because all three are ready and capable of being franchise QBs.
So take your pick. There’s Boston College’s Matt Ryan, Louisville’s Brian Brohm, and Kentucky’s Andre’ Woodson, who all have the tools to be starting in the NFL come September.
Brohm flirted with leaving school after the 2006 season, when he could have very well been the first overall pick last April, but decided to come back. He had a huge senior season, but his team struggled to a 6-6 record, instead of being a contender in the Big East and nationally like they were expected to be.
Now, he’ll be competing with Ryan (who is now projected as the #1 QB by many draft services) and Woodson to be the first signal-caller off of the board, which means one of them will end up in Atlanta (#3 or 4), one in Baltimore (#8), and the other in Chicago (#14), more than likely.
Running Backs - 2008 NFL Draft
The running back class is pretty deep, but since it’s not a need position for a lot of teams, there are going to be some really, really good backs who drop into the third round.
Eight junior backs decided to enter the draft early, and leading the way, of course, is Arkansas’ Darren McFadden, Mr. Do It All - running, receiving, returning, and even throwing. McFadden, the two-time Heisman runner-up, will be the first back taken. D-MC’s backfield mate, Felix Jones, also entered early and projects as a late first-rounder. He’s lightning fast and has the ability to cut on a dime and turn a short run into a 70-yard touchdown.
Behind him, Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart, a 5’11, 235 pound combination of size, strength, and blazing speed, looks like the second back off of the board.
Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall declared for the draft after a monster junior season saw him become the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year.
There are two 2,000 yard rushers in the bunch, in Central Florida’s Kevin Smith, who ran for 2,567 yards in ‘07, and Rutgers’ bowling ball of a back, Ray Rice, who ran for 2,012. They aren’t the only 2,000 yard rushers in the draft, as Tulane senior Matt Forte ran for over 2,100 yards this past season.
The other two juniors to declare are Texas’ Jamaal Charles (1,619 yards, 18 TD in ‘07) and West Virginia’s Steve Slaton. Slaton was a Heisman candidate and high first-rounder entering his junior season, but his numbers fell, and he could wind up dropping.
In all of the talk about the talented juniors, it might be easy to forget about Michigan’s Mike Hart. Hart decided to come back for his senior season, which allowed him to go over the 5,000 yard mark, but thanks to all of the juniors declaring, he’ll fall to the third round or so, more than likely.
One guy to watch out for is East Carolina’s Chris Johnson. Johnson runs a 4.2 40, and has become a pretty hot prospect after compiling nearly 3,000 all-purpose yards in 2007 (1,423 rushing, 528 receiving, 1,009 kick return) and 24 touchdowns (17 rush, 6 receiving, 1 return).
Wide Receivers - 2008 NFL Draft
This might be one of the deepest classes of receivers in draft history.
You’ve got your speed - Cal’s DeSean Jackson, Michigan’s Mario Manningham, Florida’s Andre Caldwell, Houston’s Donnie Avery, and Louisville’s Harry Douglas.
Then, you’ve got your size - Indiana’s James Hardy (6’7), Texas’ Limas Sweed (6’5), Oklahoma State’s Adarius Bowman (6’4), and Oklahoma’s Malcolm Kelly (6’4).
There’s also the SEC’s all-time leader in receptions, Vanderbilt’s Earl Bennett, and another talented SEC receiver in LSU’s Early Doucet.
One other guy to watch out for is Michigan State’s Devin Thomas, who had 79 catches for 1,260 yards and eight scores for the Spartans, and also was one of the top kick returners in the country with a 29.1 yards per return average.
Jackson is likely to be the first receiver taken, probably in the middle of the first round. Kelly, who is considered as the most athletic receiver in the draft, should also go in the first round. After that, it’s a toss-up, though Manningham and Hardy could end up in the first round as well.
The rest of those guys should be off of the board in the second and third round, and for someone like Douglas or Thomas to fall to the third round would be a huge steal for the team that gets them.
I could go on and on and mention guys like Alabama’s D.J. Hall, Kansas State’s Jordy Nelson, and Coastal Carolina’s Jerome Simpson, a small-school star who could be the next Marques Colston, though he’ll go much, much higher than Colston (7 th rounder in 2006) did, potentially as high as the third round.
Offensive Line - 2008 NFL Draft
Michigan tackle Jake Long is the top offensive lineman on the board, and is widely projected to be the second pick in the draft, going to the St. Louis Rams.
USC’s Sam Baker, Boise State’s Ryan Clady, and Pittsburgh’s Jeff Otah will all be drafted in the first round, and Vanderbilt’s Chris Williams could be as well. Otah hasn’t been playing organized football for very long, and also played basketball in junior college, but his 6’6, 340 pound frame will make GMs drool.
Defensive Line - 2008 NFL Draft
LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is widely considered the likely first pick in April, though with a new regime in control in Miami, that could be up for debate right now.
Virginia’s Chris Long is also one of the top overall prospects on the board, and if his last name sounds familiar, it is. He’s the son of former Oakland Raiders star/Hall of Famer/FOX analyst Howie Long, and the last name isn’t the only thing he shares with his dad. Just like his dad, he shares that same love for hunting down quarterbacks, as shown by his 14 sacks in 2007.
But, there are several other talented ends behind him, in Miami’s Calais Campbell, who measures in at 6’8, 280 pounds, Ohio State’s Vernon Gholston (14 sacks - an OSU school record), Florida’s Derrick Harvey, and Auburn’s Quentin Groves.
Groves clocks in at 4.4 in the 40, so offensive linemen can’t have a misstep, or much less blink, otherwise they’ll be watching him blow by and sack their quarterback. He, Harvey, and Gholston could wind up at linebacker in the NFL.
A couple of guys who currently project as late first-round/early second-round picks are USC’s Lawrence Jackson and Clemson’s Phillip Merling.
Jackson had 10.5 sacks in 2007, and 30.5 in four seasons for the Trojans, and Merling had 17.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, and 21 QB hurries in ‘07, which made it easy for him to decide to leave Clemson a year early. He’s projected as a second-rounder right now, but I think he’ll move up into the bottom of the first round between now and April.
Behind Dorsey, the #2 tackle is USC’s Sedrick Ellis, a two-time first-team All-American and the 2007 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
North Carolina’s Kentwan Balmer isn’t as highly touted as Dorsey or Ellis, but is both in both stopping the run and rushing the passer.
Linebacker - 2008 NFL Draft
The top inside linebacker is Penn State’s Dan Connor, who followed former teammate Paul Posluszny as the winner of the Bednarik Award and will follow the current Buffalo Bills starter as a first-round pick in April.
USC’s Keith Rivers is the top outside linebacker, and should wind up in the top 15. Virginia Tech’s Xavier Adibi and LSU’s Ali Highsmith are also potential first-round picks as well.
Maryland’s Erin Henderson, like Long, has the bloodlines. His brother E.J. was a star ‘backer several years ago at Maryland, and won the 2002 Butkus Award before being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, with whom he has become one of the league’s top linebackers.
Remember this name: Beau Bell. Bell didn’t play for a good team at UNLV, but he put up big numbers and was the Mountain West’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. He and Henderson should go somewhere in the second round.
Defensive Back - 2008 NFL Draft
As many as six cornerbacks could be drafted in the first round, led by 2007 Thorpe Award winner Antoine Cason of Arizona and South Florida‘s Mike Jenkins.
Two of the six are from the Big 12, in Kansas’ Aqib Talib, who might be the best shutdown corner in the draft, and Oklahoma’s Reggie Smith, who could play either corner or safety on the next level.
The other two might not be as well-known as the other four, but their talent isn’t a secret to scouts. Tennessee State’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Troy’s Leodis McKelvin are not only great at frustrating opposing receivers, but both are excellent kick returners as well.
There’s only one safety that looks to go in the first round, and he might be the first defensive back taken. Miami’s Kenny Phillips is widely projected as a top 10 pick, and is the latest in a long line of great defensive backs to come out of that program, including the late Sean Taylor.
A couple of guys to look out for in the future, even if they fall somewhere in the second or third round, are Tracy Porter (CB, Indiana) and Quintin Demps (FS, UTEP), who have real hands for the pigskin. Demps picked off five passes this season and returned two 100 yards for scores, and he picked off 17 passes in four seasons for the Miners. Porter, who runs a 4.3 40, picked off six passes this past season and 16 in his four-year career
by Eddie Griffin
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