This year's top steals in the NFL Draft:
Siler made a questionable decision to leave school early after partially tearing knee ligaments last season. Despite his ability to play and workout through the injury, however, teams red-flagged Siler's knee. Some clubs, in fact, felt that the inside linebacker would have to undergo surgery before seeing the field again and took him completely off their board. When 100 percent, Siler is a difference-maker in the middle. His strength at the point of attack and combination of speed and lateral agility makes him effective on interior and exterior running plays.
A broken leg in the season opener and subsequent surgery ended his Cardinals career. After the first surgery to stabilize the injury failed to heal properly, Bush again went under the knife in February. A letter by noted surgeon, Dr. James Andrews characterizing Bush's healing as "99% healed" calmed concerns about his recovery. When healthy, Bush has the tantalizing combination of strength, agility and vision that has led to comparisons to Jerome Bettis and projections as a first-round pick.
Quinn was in the unfortunate position of being a quarterback in a first round where many teams simply didn't want to use their top pick on that position. With Cleveland, protected by an improved offensive line and running game, Quinn will get the opportunity to compete for playing time immediately. Unlike JaMarcus Russell, selected 21 picks earlier, Quinn enters the league ready to contribute immediately. Quinn's leadership, accuracy, and toughness will make him a quality starter in the NFL, and a rare value in the late first round.
A shockingly poor 4.74-second 40-yard dash at the Combine cost Hughes millions. Though his time improved to a 4.56 during the Cal Pro Day, the damage had been done. There is no denying that Hughes lacks downfield speed, but his instincts and competitiveness at the position make him one of the draft's better big-play corners. Drafted into the perfect scenario with the Colts, Hughes will be protected with deep coverage in the Tampa-2 scheme, allowing him to break on the ball with the reckless abandon that made him a star in the Pac-10.
Smith's stock plunged after a poor performance in the National Championship game and continued to drop as he struggled with consistency at the Senior Bowl and in workouts. Pessimists will point out Smith's late-season struggles, as well as his obvious physical limitations at 6-0, 215 pounds. As he realized he was falling down the board, Smith became increasingly frustrated and turned off scouts with a bit of an attitude in interviews and private workouts. Quietly, this competitive fire actually intrigued some teams. Drafted into the perfect scenario at Baltimore, Smith can learn how to harness his natural abilities under the guidance of Steve McNair.
Alexander's lack of size and strength at the point of attack led to his fall. The 6-1, 227 pound Alexander has the speed to make plays on the move and seems particularly well suited to Minnesota's scheme. His struggles in disengaging from blocks will be lessened with the presence of stout defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams in front of him.