Who will your favorite team turn to in April to address talent shortages at key positions? Get the quick hits that will keep you on top of emerging talent that could help your team from Scout.com NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber.
Arkansas features two of the top running backs in the country: Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The two of them together bring back memories of Auburn's dynamic duo of Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. While they starred at Auburn, Williams was the featured back, while Brown was the situational change of pace power back. Interestingly enough, it was Brown (second overall) that was selected as the top running back in the 2005 draft and not Williams (fifth overall). A major factor in why Brown was selected before Williams was the question of durability. Williams received the majority of the carries and many wondered if his best days were behind him, while Brown showed a lot of promise and had fresh legs. McFadden and Jones are both juniors and the two are incredibly gifted players. McFadden is by far the featured back at Arkansas while Jones is the situational runner who receives half the workload. This past weekend, as the Razorbacks hosted Chattanooga, Jones outperformed McFadden by rushing for 141 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns while McFadden had 122 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. Through five games this season, Jones has only carried the ball 60 times, but for an astounding 631 yards (10.5 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. He's also caught seven passes for 70 yards. Meanwhile, McFadden has 130 carries for 779 yards and seven touchdowns while catching seven passes for 56 yards. In their three seasons at Arkansas, their career numbers are fascinating. McFadden has 590 carries for 3,539 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and 32 touchdowns, while Jones has 313 carries for 2,425 yards (7.7 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns. So the question is, if you had a choice between the two in next April's draft, who would you select first?
Indiana cornerback Tracy Porter has great size (5 foot 11, 190 pounds) and tremendous speed (4.4 forty-time). A top-rated senior defensive back, he's already recorded 36 tackles (three for a loss), three interceptions and a sack so far. But he may be the most explosive punt returner in the nation as well. Porter is a former track star who participated in track at Indiana before committing to football full-time. He's used his elite track speed as a weapon on the football field and has turned in an eye-popping 18.6 yards per return this season. Last Saturday against Minnesota, Porter returned a punt for a personal season-best 71-yards to set up a touchdown that gave the Hoosiers a commanding 27-14 lead. Indiana eventually defeated Minnesota 40-20, but it was Porter's return that turned the momentum in their favor. A quality prospect who fits well with a pro team in need of secondary depth, Porter will also attract attention with his game-breaking ability as a return specialist.
It's time to recognize Jordy Nelson as one of the premier wide receivers in the country. The 6-foot-2, 217-pound Nelson is a tremendous receiver who runs smooth routes and flashes great hands. He's a player who can change a game on any play, and somebody a quarterback can trust to make a tough catch. Despite Kansas State's loss to Kansas this past week, Nelson had an excellent game against one of the premier cover corners in the country, Aqib Talib. He had 10 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown, and is solidifying himself as a first-day selection in next April's draft.
Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan has taken his game to another level this season. He's always had great poise and leadership qualities, but his offensive outbreak this season has been quite a surprise. Ryan has led the fourth-ranked Eagles to a 6-0 record and has already tied his touchdown total of 15 from last season. At this point, he's a lock to be a first-round selection and will challenge Brian Brohm and Andre Woodson as the first quarterback selected in the draft.
Kentucky's emergence this season is easily recognized by the development of quarterback Andre Woodson. But it isn't just Woodson's progress that has the Wildcats ranked 17th in the country -- running back Rafael Little has also sparked Kentucky's offense. The little-known player is a complete, all-purpose back with great speed, quickness and vision. A threat out of the backfield as a receiver, Little shows patience waiting for his blockers to set up in front of him. Through six games he has 107 carries for 682 yards, three rushing touchdowns and 14 receptions for 115 yards. Little has the entire package and is destined to be a first-day pick.
Is your favorite team going to be in the market for a physical defensive back who defends the run well and makes plays in the secondary? Look no further than Division 1-AA Bethune-Cookman safety Bobbie Williams. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Williams is a versatile defensive back who can play cornerback or safety at the next level. An athletic defender with excellent ball skills, he possesses great sideline-to-sideline range and is a sure tackler. Williams has good instincts and a great burst to the ball. In six games with the Wildcats so far this season Williams has 45 tackles (two for a loss), and one interception. A promising prospect, Williams is a solid third-round pick.
Texas wide receiver Limas Sweed, who's considered to be one of the top receivers in the country, will undergo season-ending wrist surgery this week. Sweed's wrist has been giving him problems since the summer and he hasn't been the same since. The 6-foot-5, 219-pound receiver had a breakout year last season for the Longhorns, catching 46 passes for 801 yards and 12 touchdowns. But he's struggled this season and has only amassed 19 receptions for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Considering that he's a projected first-round pick, this injury may affect Sweed's draft status depending on his recovery and availability to workout in the offseason.
A member of the Pro
Football Writers of America and the Football
Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has
provided his NFL draft analysis on the web and on the radio since 1999.