The following are my current rankings for each player by position. Obviously, this list will not be finalized until after the Combine and individual workouts, but it should give you an idea of where each player's status is at this point in time. It should also be pointed out that these rankings are Seahawk-specific, meaning that I'm rating them in the order that they would fit into Seattle's offense or defense. Also, I'm not ranking players that the ‘Hawks are probably not targeting on Day 1 (i.e., QB's, P, K). Those positions will be ranked in my final installment.
**Bold indicates first round grade
Unlike many other positions, RB is practically universal in terms of what each NFL team is looking for. While there are different offensive schemes and strategies, either you can run, or you can't. Every team would love a 5-11, 235-pound running back that runs legit 4.4's, has both power and agility, can catch the ball and block and can stay healthy all year. However, finding a running back that can do all that is extremely rare, so many teams choose to employ two or three running backs that serve a role and they use the ‘running back by Committee' approach to get it done (see the Pittsburgh Steelers or Carolina Panthers). When you find one that can do it all, you've struck gold.
This year's class has solid talent and depth and teams should be able to find solid running backs in the third and fourth rounds. Bush is virtually a lock for the 1st overall pick and Williams, White and Maroney will all be gone by the end of round one. Drew, Hall, Norwood and Washington are solid in the passing game and Addai and Calhoun are solid all-around backs.
1. Reggie Bush, USC
2. DeAngelo Williams, Memphis
3. LenDale White, USC
4. Laurence Maroney, Minnesota
5. Maurice Drew, UCLA
6. Andre Hall, South Florida
7. Joseph Addai, LSU
8. Jerious Norwood, Mississippi State
9. Leon Washington, Florida State
10. Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin
The progression of the WR position has recently seen a change. Finding a big, physical receiver was in vogue recently. Round one of recent drafts usually contained three or four wide receivers that were above 6-2, 200 pounds as each NFL team tried to find their own version of Terrell Owens. Receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams and Andre Johnson fit the mold of the new NFL wideout and teams gobbled them up. But when 5-9 receivers like Steve Smith and Santana Moss blew up this year, most teams started to look at the position a little differently. Look at the NFL's receiving leaders this year: seven of the top 10 are 6-1 and under. Big, physical receivers will always have there place in the NFL, but as long as you can separate from defensive backs and catch the ball, scouts won't be knocking wideouts for lack of size like they used to.
The NFL's recent rule change regarding defensive backs (the Patriot rule) has also been a factor. Because defensive backs aren't given as much freedom with contact anymore, receivers don't need to be as physical as long as they can get open and catch the ball. The Seahawks own Darrell Jackson is a perfect example of that. D-Jack has average size, speed and agility, but he's constantly open and is productive.
This year's wideout class is the worst I've seen in quite a while; talent and depth are lacking. It doesn't contain the 6-3, 210-pound type that we've seen so much recently, and there's only one (Sinorice Moss) that is in the mold of Steve Smith. Right now, only Holmes is earning a round one grade, but Moss and Jackson are both borderline round one guys right now.
1. Santonio Holmes, Ohio State
2. Sinorice Moss, Miami
3. Chad Jackson, Florida
4. Derek Hagan, Arizona State
5. Maurice Stovall, Notre Dame
6. Mike Hass, Oregon State
7. Travis Wilson, Oklahoma
8. Jason Avant, Michigan
9. Todd Watkins, BYU
10. Demetrius Williams, Oregon
Only recently have tight ends become a hot item again. Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez set the standard for what a tight end can do and, like every year, every team in the NFL tried to emulate what they saw. Teams began taking tight ends earlier than they had ever before as we saw players like Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow, Jr. go in the first half of Round one.
However, most of today's star tight ends get their accolades from catching the ball and usually aren't good blockers for two reasons; one, because they're undersized, and two, the team wants them downfield catching passes, not blocking. Finding players who do a great job blocking and receiving, like Atlanta's Alge Crumpler, are hard to find, so teams usually carry a tight end that can be a factor in the passing game and one that's primarily a blocker. Pittsburgh struck gold last year when they selected Heath Miller in the first round. He's equally good at blocking and catching the ball and was a big factor in their successful season last year.
As it usually is, the highest rated players at the postion are known for their receiving ability. Davis is absolutely awesome and should go in the top 15. Pope, Lewis and Byrd should start coming off the board late in round. Fasano, Klopfenstein and Day should be selected on day one of the draft.
1. Vernon Davis, Maryland
2. Leonard Pope, Georgia
3. Mercedes Lewis, UCLA
4. Dominique Byrd, USC
5. Anthony Fasano, Notre Dame
6. Joe Klopfenstein, Colorado
7. Tim Day, Oregon
8. David Thomas, Texas
9. Owen Daniels, Wisconsin
10. Charles Davis, Purdue
If you could clone an elite offensive tackle, you'd want to get hold of Walter Jones' DNA. With his 6-5, 320-pound size, excellent strength and the feet of a ballerina, he's the premier offensive tackle. While run-blocking is important when grading an offensive lineman, there's definitely a premium put on pass-protection, even at the expense of run-blocking. Recent first round picks Chris Samuels, Bryant McKinnie and Jordan Gross were all highly regarded offensive tackles entering the NFL and they were all weaker in the running game vs. pass-protection. However, because their #1 job is keeping highly paid quarterbacks off their backs, most teams will still pull the trigger on a tackle that's a little weaker in the running game.
Offensive tackles that have the kind of athleticism and skill of Jones are franchise players and are usually taken within the first few picks of the draft. Ferguson is this type of player and he's a lock to be off the board by the fifth pick. Justice and McNeil are solid players and are receiving round one grades, but aren't even close to Ferguson. Trueblood has solid potential, as does College. Winston needs to get healthy and his teammate, Butler, could be a nice project for someone.
1. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia
2. Winston Justice, USC
3. Marcus McNeil, Auburn
4. Jeremy Trueblood, Boston College
5. Eric Winston, Miami
6. Daryn College, Boise State
7. Rashad Butler, Miami
8. Ryan O'Callahan, Cal
9. Jonathan Scott, Texas
10. Andrew Whitworth, LSU (G)
Because they usually have less ground to cover in pass-protection, Guards aren't graded so hard on their athleticism. Having solid athleticism is definitely a bonus and usually determines who's elite and who's not, but strength and their ability to maintain blocks against huge defensive tackles is a bigger priority. Teams that pull their guards more often will definitely look at a player's athleticism and agility, but for the most part, guards are viewed as interchangeable (wrongly, I believe) and secondary to offensive tackles. Because of this, they're rarely are selected in round one, especially compared to offensive tackles. Most guards selected in Round one played offensive tackle in college, like New England's Logan Mankins (2005), Miami's Vernon Carey (2004) and Pittsburgh's Kendall Simmons (2002).
This year's class is decent. Jean-Gilles is earning round one grades and depending on who you talk to, so is Lutui. Spencer and Sims should be day one guys, also. Overall depth is average and you can expect many of the offensive tackles in this class to switch to guard at some point.
1. Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia
2. Deuce Lutui, USC
3. Charles Spencer, Pitt
4. Rob Sims, Ohio State
5. Fred Matua, USC
On most teams, the center is the player in charge of the offensive line's calls and audibles. Because of this, centers not only have to deal with 300 pound defensive tackles and blitzing linebackers, they also have to posses intelligence and leadership skills. Miscommunication is often the culprit of giving up a sack, so it's important that each team's center knows which audibles to call and when to call them. Like guards, centers don't have the area to cover that players on the outside do, but they must have the strength and power to push the pile forward and enough athleticism to get to the second tier of the defense.
The Seahawks spent a round one selection on Chris Spencer last year in hopes that he'd be this type of center. Mangold is at the top of this year's class and is earning second round grades. Eslinger and Spitz should be gone by the end of day one.
1. Nick Mangold, Ohio State
2. Greg Eslinger, Minnesota
3. Jason Spitz, Louisville
Depending on what kind of defensive scheme you run, defensive ends usually come in two types. 4-3 defensive ends are usually in the 260-285 pound range and are the primary players responsible for bringing down the opposition's quarterback. Elite players are usually quick off the ball, and extremely athletic. 3-4 defensive ends are usually much bigger, around 280-300 pounds and are much stronger than their 4-3 counterparts. This isn't to say that 3-4 DE's aren't athletic or quick, it's just that their role is different. Outside linebackers are usually the sack-artists in a 3-4 defense and the defensive ends make sure that they come free by tying up offensive lineman.
Teams that create enough pressure from their front-four can keep additional defenders in coverage, creating more turnovers and ultimately getting the offense off the field. For this reason, defensive ends will always be a premium in the NFL. Defensive ends like Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers and Jason Taylor can alter an offense's game plan and give their defense tremendous flexibility.
But at times the ability to rush the passer comes at the price of defending the run. Many of the NFL's elite pass-rushers are undersized and can't hold the point-of-attack, allowing running lanes to open up on their side of the field. When you've found a defensive end that can rush the passer and play the run equally well, you've got a franchise player.
The 2006 class has talent and depth at defensive end. Williams is an amazing athlete and will be gone by the fifth overall pick. Hali and Kiwanuka are also getting round one grades. 3-4 teams will be interested in Tapp, Lawson, Wimbley and Dumervil because they could also be outside linebackers in their defenses, but could also play defensive end in a 4-3.
1. Mario Williams, N.C. State
2. Tamba Hali, Penn State
3. Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College
4. Daryl Tapp, Virginia Tech
5. Manny Lawson, N.C. State
6. Kamerion Wimbley, Florida State
7. Elvis Dumvervil, Louisville
8. Ray Edwards, Purdue
9. Stanley McClover, Auburn
10. James Wyche, Syracuse
Again, they type of defense will dictate what kind of defensive tackle you want. 3-4 teams line their defensive tackle (or nose guard) over the center and he has to be big enough to handle double-teams that he'll encounter almost every play. Most 3-4 defensive tackles are in the 330 pound range and have tremendous lower body strength. Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton is a prototype 3-4 defensive tackle and is a good example of what every 3-4 team would like to have.
Teams running a 4-3 have two defensive tackles lined over the guards, and they can come in a number of types. Some 4-3 defensive tackles weigh in excess of 330 pounds and specialize in stuffing the run and controlling the line-of-scrimmage by occupying blockers. They are usually responsible for maintaining two gaps on the defensive line and, in turn, are called two-gap defensive tackles. Some weigh 285-300 pounds and are quick, penetrating defensive tackles (also called three-technique, or one-gap defensive tackles) that use quickness and athleticism to slip by blockers and get upfield. Many 4-3 teams pair a one-gap defensive tackle with a two-gap defensive tackle and let them feed off of each other. Seattle's Marcus Tubbs and Rocky Bernard are a perfect example of this. Bernard is the penetrating defensive tackle and Tubbs is usually occupying blockers. A few elite players can do both. Carolina's Kris Jenkins, Detroit's Shaun Rogers and Jacksonville's Marcus Stroud are great examples of defensive tackles that have the size to plug running lanes, but the quickness to get to the quarterback.
This year's DT class has a mix of both kinds of defensive tackles. Ngata can do both, which is why he'll be a top 15 pick. Bunkley, Harris and Wroten are one-gap defensive tackles and should be gone by the middle of the second round. Watson and Wright have the size to be solid two-gap players, but both need to be more consistent.
1. Haloti Ngata, Oregon
2. Broderick Bunkley, Florida State
3. Orien Harris, Miami
4. Claude Wroten, LSU
5. Gabe Watson, Michigan
6. Rodrique Wright, Texas
7. Jonathan Lewis, Virginia Tech
8. Kyle Williams, LSU
9. Dusty Dvorecek, Oklahoma
10. Jesse Mahelona, Tennessee
Whether you're running a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, your inside linebacker(s) are generally responsible for stuffing the run. Because they constantly get pounded on by offensive lineman, inside linebackers are ideally above 240 pounds and have to posses the strength necessary to stack blockers, shed them and tackle the ball carrier. There are exceptions to the rule, however. Miami's Zach Thomas and the Seahawks' own Lofa Tatupu are great examples of undersized inside linebackers that make an impact. Generally, teams that have successful undersized linebackers also have solid defensive linemen up front that keep offensive lineman tied up so they can make tackles.
3-4 outside linebackers are generally bigger then they're 4-3 counterparts – usually above 250 pounds – and are the primary pass rushers for the defense. 4-3 outside linebackers usually aren't physically different than inside linebackers, but they have to match up with tight ends and sometimes slot receivers in man-defense, making athleticism a necessity. Both inside linebackers and outside linebackers are responsible for getting depth in zone coverage, especially in the cover-two schemes that have become so popular.
2006's linebacker class is easily the best in quite some time. Hawk is a top-five pick and Greenway won't last past 15th overall. Ryans, Carpenter, Jackson and Howard are all earning round one grades. Sims is a borderline round one guy and McIntosh, Nicholson and Hodge should all be gone by the end of round two.
1. A.J. Hawk, Ohio State (OLB)
2. Chad Greenway, Iowa (OLB)
3. Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State (OLB)
4. D'Qwell Jackson, Maryland (ILB/OLB)
5. Demeco Ryans, Alabama (OLB)
6. Thomas Howard, UTEP (OLB)
7. Ernie Sims, Florida State (OLB)
8. Rocky McIntosh, Miami (OLB)
9. A.J. Nicholson, Florida State (OLB)
10. Abdul Hodge, Iowa (ILB)
Every team wants to have a 6-1, 200 cornerback that can cover the opposition's best receiver, excel in both man and zone schemes and lay the wood vs. the run, but that caliber of player is extremely hard to find. Add to that the fact that the recent contact rule changes have made the old adage of "shutdown corner" a thing of the past.
The vast implementation of the cover-two defense has also redefined what scouts are looking for in a corner. In a cover-two system cornerbacks have to be reliable tacklers, play well in space and have an idea of what an offense is trying to do to them. Teams employing more of a pressure defense that primarily uses man defense will emphasize speed, quickness and athleticism. When you find a player that can play both equally well, like Denver's Champ Bailey or Baltimore's Chris McAllister, you've found a cornerstone to your defense.
Williams should be a top-15 pick and Hill and Youbouty shouldn't be on the board longer than the end of round one. There's a traffic jam after the top three, but Cromatrie, who is coming off ACL surgery, is leading the pack. Joseph, Miner, Webb and Phillips could all be second round picks and beyond.
1. Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech
2. Tye Hill, Clemson
3. Ashton Youboty, Ohio State
4. Jonathan Joseph, South Carolina
5. Anthony Cromartie, Florida State
6. Demario Minter, Georgia
7. Dee Webb, Florida
8. Kelly Jennings, Miami
9. Anwar Phillips, Penn State
10. Alan Zemaitis, Penn State
The safety position has transformed itself from having two distinct types, a free safety that specializes in deep coverage and a strong safety that plays near the line-of-scrimmage in an effort to stop the run, to more of an interchangeable pairing that can do both. Strong safeties generally have a bigger role as run-stuffers, but because the NFL is throwing more often than they ever have, they can't afford to lack the coverage skills they used to. Strong safeties can still be a factor near the line-of-scrimmage, as Pittsburgh's Troy Palamalu has shown, but they MUST be able to cover.
Overall, safeties have to have coverage ability, especially deep, and be solid tacklers because they're usually the last line of defense. While free and strong safeties are evolving into more of a universal position, a player's size and speed often dictate which position they'll play. Bigger, more physical safeties will generally play near the line of scrimmage, while quicker, faster players will play deep. If you can get a player like Baltimore's Ed Reed or Washington's Sean Taylor than can do both, consider yourself extremely lucky.
This year's class features Huff, who should be a top-15 pick. Simpson and Bing will fight for the next spot, and are earning round one grades. The rest will be Day one guys and are very solid.
1. Michael Huff, Texas (FS)
2. Ko Simpson, South Carolina (FS)
3. Darnell Bing, USC (SS)
4. Anthony Smith, Syracuse (FS)
5. Daniel Bullocks, Nebraska (FS)
6. Cedric Griffin, Texas (CB/FS)
7. Greg Blue, Georgia (SS)
8. Alan Zemaitis, Penn State (CS/FS)
9. Bernard Pollard, Purdue (SS)
10. Donte Whitner, Ohio State (FS)
As usual, any questions or comments can be sent to email@example.com. Thanks for taking the time to write in.
2006 Draft: Position Rankings
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