By JUSTIN VANFULPEN
1. DE Greg Hardy, Ole Miss – Hardy’s career at Ole Miss has been anything but normal. This past winter there was much speculation that he would enter his name into the 2009 NFL Draft, but Hardy ultimately made the decision to return for his senior season. Last season he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot during preseason practice that required surgery, causing him to miss the team’s first three games. In 2007 he was suspended for two games for violating team rules.
If Hardy can remain healthy, he can be a dominant pass rusher. He possesses all of the qualities a team could want in a defensive end—he has good size at 6-4 265, a great first step when he is rushing the passer, and is solid against the run. One scout I talked to told me that Hardy would have been the best 4-3 defensive end in this past April’s draft if he had declared.
2. CB Trevard Lindley, Kentucky – In Lindley, you have a one of the most polished cornerbacks in the college game—a defensive back with the ability to take away half the field. Not only does he have great speed and anticipation, he also has the size to go with it, standing right around 6 feet tall. Last season Lindley was honored as a second-team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation.
He is not as thick as Malcolm Jenkins (Lindley is only around 180 pounds), who was the first cornerback drafted (#14 overall to the Saints) in this year’s draft, but Lindley has better speed, agility, and ball skills than Jenkins.
3. WR Brandon LaFell, LSU – LaFell declared for this year’s NFL draft, but changed his mind in the 72-hour period allowed for underclassmen and will return to LSU for his senior season. LaFell was a first team All-SEC selection in 2008, and in three years with the LSU he has 118 career receptions for 1,725 yards and 14 touchdowns.
LaFell is a big receiver (6-3, 210 pounds) with good speed, but he needs to be more consistent in his route running to become an elite wide receiver. If LaFell works on his ability to get in and out of breaks more smoothly instead of coasting on his natural athletic ability, he could be a top-notch wide receiver.
4. ILB Brandon Spikes, Florida – Spikes possesses good size and range for an inside linebacker, and has the ability to go sideline to sideline to make a play. Spikes has a great football IQ—he has the ability to diagnose plays, anticipate where the ball is going, and takes great angles when pursing the ball carrier. He is not great in coverage, but can do it if he is asked to.
Spikes had a better season in his sophomore year than he did last year, but he’s a productive player who can make game changing plays at the middle linebacker spot. That’s a hard-to-find quality, which is why Spikes will be drafted early if he keeps playing up to his potential
5. DT Terrence Cody, Alabama – They call him “Mount Cody”, and does that nickname ever fit—the big man is huge at 6-5, 365 pounds. Last season was Cody’s first at Alabama after arriving from Gulf Coast Community College, and he missed two games with a sprained MCL.
Cody has good agility for a man of his size and has the ability to play as a 3-4 nose tackle or a 4-3 defensive tackle. He is similar to B.J. Raji who was drafted 9th overall by the Green Bay Packers in this year’s draft, but Cody is bigger and I think better when all is said and done…but only if he keeps his weight in check.
6. OT Ciron Black, LSU – LSU is happy that Black decided to come back for his senior season because there were thoughts that he was going to leave early and if he did, he may have been a first-round pick. Black has great size at 6-5 320, and shows terrific quickness and agility with good balance. He has a powerful initial punch and has exceptional range to pull and get to the second level.
With a good senior season and more consistency, you might see Black rise to the level that Jason Smith (#2 overall pick by the Rams) did in this year’s draft. Smith is a better overall athlete then Black, but I think Black could actually have a better NFL career.
7. OLB Antonio Coleman, Auburn – Last season Coleman had 46 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks. Expect his production this season to go up from there. Coleman is a talented player who projects to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. His best asset is his ability to rush the passer, but he is an all-around athlete that can drop in coverage and produce against the run.
There was some talk about Coleman coming out early, but he wisely ended up staying for his senior season. If he can put it all together this season, he could be a first-round pick in next year’s draft as more teams make the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Outside linebackers are premier players in that defense.
8. DT Geno Atkins, Georgia – Atkins is a lot smaller than Cody of Alabama, but he makes up for that lack of size with speed and quickness. He is a Tampa Two type of defensive tackle—a good athlete with the ability to make plays up and down the line of scrimmage.
Atkins has a good motor and fires off the ball with the ability to penetrate and wreak havoc in the backfield. He is a hard worker and shows the ability to shed blocks. I think this will be a good season, one that will see him move up teams’ draft boards and wind up being a late first-round selection in 2010.
9. QB Tim Tebow, Florida – Everyone knows Tebow’s story—he is a great player and an even better person. He’s won multiple awards, including the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, and will be a favorite to win it again this season. His team has won two national titles and they will also be favored to win it again this season.
But the question is—how good of a NFL quarterback will Tim Tebow be? Everyone has an opinion on that, and those opinions vary to say the least. Tebow is coming from the spread offense, which is a huge negative for him. Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell didn’t get drafted or sign as a free-agent, and I think everyone would agree Harrell is a better pure passer then Tebow. True, Tebow is bigger, stronger, and a better overall athlete than Harrell, but the question marks are the same. I like Tebow and think he can play in the NFL, but I don’t think he is a lock first-round pick and a lot more evaluation is needed. That evaluation will come at the NFL combine, his Pro Day, and any All-Star games he participates in.
10. CB Javier Arenas, Alabama – Arenas is not only a good cornerback, he’s a great return man, one who returned three punts for touchdowns last season. He has the ability to score every time he touches the ball, and has great speed and elusiveness as a returner.
As a cornerback he has good ball skills, but stands only 5-9. He does make up for the lack of height somewhat with his bulk, tipping the scales at almost 200 pounds. He isn’t a shutdown corner but he can effectively cover man-to-man and is solid in zone coverage. He is also able to support in run defense and come off the edge on the blitz, but what makes Arenas so special is his game-changing ability in the return game.
Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media
Saturday, May 30, 2009
By JUSTIN VANFULPEN