Get the scoop on some of the emerging stars from the college ranks that your favorite NFL team could be scouting right now. NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber fills you in.
Middle linebackers are not usually a high priority in the first round, and
not many have been selected in the top-ten in recent year, but Ohio State's
James Laurinaitis is a deserving candidate of top-ten status. The last middle
linebacker to be selected in the top-ten was Brian Urlacher, who was the Chicago Bears' first-round pick, ninth overall, in 2000. Laurinaitis, who's only a
junior, has had a great season. This past weekend against Wisconsin he showed
the nation how good he really is. In the Buckeyes' 38-17 win over the Badgers,
Laurinaitis struck for 19 tackles, two for a loss, recovered a fumble and
collected a sack. Through 10 games this season, Laurinaitis has 85 total
tackles, 7.5 for a loss, five sacks, and two interceptions. If he declares for
the draft, a franchise will be receiving a cornerstone defender who is an
immediate impact player.
Hampton's Kendall Langford is an intriguing defensive end who has a lot of
potential to be a great sack artist. But after a dominant 2006, where he
recorded eight sacks, Langford has only totaled 2.5 this season. At 6-foot-6,
294 pounds, Langford has tremendous size as a rush end, and has the physical
tools to defend the run. He makes a lot of plays in the backfield, and his 8.5
tackles for a loss this season (51 total tackles) say a lot about his ability to
get around the edge. Langford was considered to be a first-day selection before
this season, but it now seems likely he'll drop into Day Two and be a late
Oregon's Dennis Dixon Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
The Heisman forecast has been cloudy up until this week, but after a
spectacular weekend of football, two players have emerged as the clear favorites
-- Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon.
McFadden had 35 carries for a video game-like 323 yards and three touchdowns and
threw a 23-yard touchdown pass against South Carolina on Saturday night. Dixon
also had a tremendous day, as his Ducks defeated sixth-ranked Arizona State this
past weekend. Dixon completed 13-of-22 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns
and rushed for 59 yards on 11 carries. McFadden, if he decides to enter next
April's draft, is a top ten selection. But what about Dixon? Dixon's rapid rise
to stardom in the collegiate ranks has many comparing him to Vince Young. With
an impressive offseason and continued growth as a quarterback, Dixon may be a
late first-round pick.
Rice wide receiver Jarett Dillard, who last season emerged on the scene
with 91 receptions for 1,247 yards and 21 touchdowns, has had a disappointing
season so far. At 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Dillard isn't the biggest receiver, but
he has great speed, sure hands and can make acrobatic catches. Entering this
weekend's game against UTEP, Dillard only amassed 40 receptions for 585 yards
and seven touchdowns, but he was due for a breakout game. Dillard was
outstanding against the Miners on Saturday as he caught 11 passes for 168 yards
and two touchdowns. It's nice to see Dillard break out of his season-long slump,
but his draft stock has taken a hit and gone from a possible first-day selection
to a mid-round pick.
The potential talent available in the 2008 draft at the running back
position is one of the best I've ever seen. The juniors who may forego their
senior season and enter the draft will make or break the running back class of
'08. Players like Darren McFadden (Arkansas), Jonathan Stewart (Oregon), Steve Slaton (West Virginia), Rashard Mendenhall (Illinois), Javon Ringer (Michigan State), Ray Rice (Rutgers), Felix Jones (Arkansas), Kevin Smith (UCF), Jamaal Charles (Texas), James Davis (Clemson), Ian Johnson (Boise State), and Arian Foster (Tennessee) have a major decision to make at season's end. Two or three
of these players will benefit by declaring for the draft, but it remains to be
seen how many of these underclassmen will decide to go pro.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.