Rising up the board: NFL-Prospects on offense

As college football's regular season officially comes to an end, it is time to consider the prospects that have raised their draft stock since August. Many are household names to college football and draft fans, yet the list also includes many unknowns. We start with the prospects on offense.

QUARTERBACKS

No quarterback has watched his stock soar up boards faster than Jason Campbell of Auburn. Known as a good athlete with a fine arm, Campbell significantly improved his reads and accuracy in 2004. The fact he led his team to an undefeated season does not hurt either. In addition, while there is room for improvement a good Senior Bowl and combine from Campbell could push him into the draft's first day.

Akron's Charlie Frye has also impressed scouts this year. Making positive plays all season; Frye reduced mistakes and improved his decision-making. He must learn to play within himself but like Campbell, a good post-season will have a positive effect and move Frye into the top sixty selections of the draft.

Originally considered a draft afterthought last summer, Brock Berlin is now being given late round consideration after a solid senior campaign. Though he tailed off at seasons end, scouts think the light may have finally gone on and Berlin is beginning to realize his potential.

RUNNING BACKS/FULLBACKS

Many scouts feel Cedric Benson of Texas has top three potential in next April's draft, especially after his brilliant senior campaign. There is another process of thought in scouting circles however stating Benson is a character risk and not worthy of being chosen before the 20th selection. How will it play out? Benson would benefit from playing in January's Senior Bowl and proving the ability to "conform" with league standards. Regardless, the Longhorn's big back has greatly improved his draft stock with after a terrific year.

After initially attending Ohio State under the glare of intense expectations then transferring to Maryland and experiencing three underachieving seasons, Sam Maldonado has picked up his game and has scouts believing. A terrific combination of size and speed, Maldonado went from draft afterthought to a potential fifth round pick after his showing in 2004.

Cal's J.J. Arrington has moved into middle round consideration with his spectacular senior season. A tiny ball carrier, Arrington's explosion has teams considering him as a change-of-pace runner for the next level.

One fullback that has scouts intrigued is Miami's Talib Humphrey. A terrific athlete with great size/speed numbers and upside, many feel he has been underutilized in the Hurricane's offense and the sky is the limit once he receives more playing time.

WIDE OUTS/TIGHT ENDS

Georgia wide out Reggie Brown has made a big move up draft boards and now sits as a potential first day pick. While scouts are not enamored with his size/speed numbers and debate whether or not he could hold down the job as a number two receiver in the NFL, they like the way Brown has progressed as well as the consistency he displayed this year.

Florida State's Chauncey Stovall has stepped up big this season. A former junior college transfer, Stovall helped out as Craphonso Thorpe struggled returning from his leg injury a year ago. Stovall's production has been outstanding and if he runs well for the stopwatch in February (4.55 range) he is headed into the draft's first day.

One player that stood out for South Carolina is Troy Williamson. A big play wide out with solid size, Williamson averaged almost 20-yards per reception and totaled more touchdowns then all other USC receivers combined. The question is whether Williamson leaves for the draft after the mayhem that took place at the end of the season. Before Steve Spurrier's arrival in Columbia, Williamson was ready to pack his bags for the NFL but is now reportedly rethinking that option, as he will be a beneficiary of the new passing game the Gamecocks will install.

With so many terrific NFL-prospects on the Sooner roster it is easy to understand how a few may slip through the cracks. One that may not is receiver Mark Bradley, a senior getting a lot of play from NFL-scouts. Down the two-deep last spring, Bradley has displayed outstanding athleticism as well as big play ability as a senior and as a result moved himself into the middle rounds next April.

Small school product Vincent Jackson of Northern Colorado is another garnering a lot of attention from scouts. And while some projects the big-bodied receiver to tight end, sources have told us if he runs well at the combine (4.50 range) he is likely to be a first day selection.

At tight end Miami's Kevin Everett is highly thought of in the scouting community and many feel he is underutilized in the Hurricane offense. A terrific athlete, Everett is another whose post-season workouts will dictate whether or not he ends up in the first day. He will be invited to the Senior Bowl; whether or not he shows up is a different story as UM coaches advise many of their prospects to stay away from Mobile in January.

Northern Iowa's Andy Thorn is a sleeper prospect on the rise. Creating mismatches in the defensive secondary, Thorn is a nice sized tight end that runs well and makes the reception down the field. His game has been compared favorably to that of Jeremy Shockey and Thorn offers good upside for the next level.

Yale has another very good pass catching tight end prospect in Alex Faherty. Considered a "move tight end" by NFL-scouts, Faherty's game perfectly suits the west coast offense.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Junior D'Brickashaw Ferguson has improved his draft stock more than any other offensive tackle in the country. Virginia's blind-side protector, Ferguson is a terrific athlete with outstanding size. Though he must physically mature and improve his run blocking strength, Ferguson will battle for the top spot at tackle if he enters next April's draft.

Center Jason Brown is the top prospect at his position based on several factors. The injury to Ben Wilkerson of LSU created a void at the top of the center list but to his credit Brown has been dominant as a senior and deservedly moved to the head of the class. Considered a fringe first day pick coming into the season, Brown is now looking like a top 45 selection.

Michael Roos of Eastern Washington is the top small school blocker. An athletic left tackle that only started playing on the offensive line three seasons ago, Roos was given an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game this January after his dominant performance as a senior. With a void of players at the tackle spot Roos is now being given consideration as a top 75 choice.

One name to remember is Lambuth's Stefan Rodgers, considered by many this year's version of Stacey Andrews. An exceptional athlete, Rodgers spent two years on the schools basketball team and three seasons playing tight end before moving his 6-foot 6-inch/300-pound frame to left tackle this season. More than a dozen teams have visited Lambuth to watch Rodgers and the list of franchises who've made multiple visits to scout him include Buffalo, Houston, Kansas City and Tennessee. There is a good chance Rodgers will be invited to the combine and while many may initially scratch their heads once the list comes out, they could be the talking about Rodgers a lot in March if he holds true to his athletic reputation.


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