It's never too early to be thinking about the talent your favorite team needs to add next season through the NFL Draft. 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.
I was starting to doubt DeSean Jackson's ability as a receiver. He was
struggling to get off the line of scrimmage and wasn't posting numbers you'd
like to see out of a No. 1 receiver (17 receptions for 151 yards and no
touchdowns in Cal's first four games). But his performance against Oregon on
Saturday opened my eyes. Jackson caught 11 passes for 161 yards and two
touchdowns. He's a dynamic player that excels as a return specialist,
but it was nice to see him finally put it together as a receiver. Prior to
the Oregon game, Jackson's best receiving day was when he caught four passes
for 45 yards against Tennessee during Week 1.
Kentucky's Andre Woodson is off to a phenomenal start. He's led the No. 8
Wildcats to a 5-0 record and has elevated his draft status as one of the top
two quarterbacks in the nation. Woodson has completed 112-of-167 passes for
1,309 yards, 16 touchdowns and an interception so far. His accuracy, poise, and
decision-making are the best in college football and will only get better as
the season progresses. Woodson faces a tough South Carolina team -- ranked 11th in
the country -- this weekend. But without their leading defender Jasper Brinkley
(torn ligament in right knee), Woodson's job just got a little easier.
All the talk in Louisville surrounds quarterback Brian Brohm, but what about
his favorite target Harry Douglas? Douglas is an outstanding speed receiver who
runs great routes and has sure hands. He doesn't possess great size (5-foot-11,
170-pounds), but he gets a quick release off the line and is deceptively strong.
Douglas is off to a tremendous start this season, hauling in 38 receptions for
679 yards and five touchdowns. He sat out this past weekend's game against NC
State due to an injury he suffered against Syracuse. In the game against
Syracuse, as well as the prior game against Kentucky, Douglas amassed more than 200
receiving yards. He had 223 yards on 13 receptions against
Kentucky and 205 yards on 12 receptions against Syracuse.
Sixth-ranked South Florida, who's been a surprise this season with a 4-0 record,
features some great talent on the defensive side of the ball. Sophomores George Selvie (28 tackles, 16.5 for loss, and 9.5 sacks) and Nate Allen (30 tackles and
three interceptions) have distinguished themselves as two of the top players in
the country who have lined themselves up for major play
in the 2009 NFL Draft. As for the 2008 draft eligible-players on the South Florida
defense, middle linebacker Ben Moffitt (Sr.), linebacker Tyrone McKenzie (Jr.),
cornerback Trae Williams (Sr.), cornerback Mike Jenkins (Sr.), and defensive end
Woody George (Sr.) are all likely to be drafted next
Michigan State has two dynamic running backs that form college football's
version of "Thunder and Lightning." But Jehuu Caulcrick
(Thunder) and Javon Ringer (Lightning) have been a quiet storm thus far. Caulcrick (6-foot, 255-pounds) is
a big, physical back who's excellent in short-yardage situations. He makes
quick cutbacks in a small area and is able to wiggle his way through traffic. A
hard runner, Caulcrick flashes good burst, easily breaks tackles, and picks up a lot of yardage
after initial contact. Ringer (5-foot-9,
200-pounds) is a shifty back who's an explosive playmaker running and receiving
the ball. He sets up defenders well and makes them miss; he's a huge open-field
threat. This past weekend, Michigan State nearly upset No. 5 Wisconsin, but lost 37-34. Caulcrick and Ringer played a huge role in the near-upset. Ringer finished
with 10 carries for 145 yards, along with seven receptions for 88 yards -- a
total of 223 yards of total offense. Caulcrick also played well. He had 17
carries for 77 yards and two first quarter touchdowns. Caulcrick, a senior, is
likely to be a mid-round selection next April, but he has to improve his
receiving ability to improve his draft status. Ringer is only a junior, and it
remains to be seen if he'll declare for the draft. Another year of seasoning at
the collegiate level should make him a top-rated running back for the 2009 draft.
A lot of people were down on Michigan when they got off to an 0-2 start,
which included one of the most shocking defeats in NCAA history when they lost
to Appalachian State. But don't discredit running back Mike Hart. He's a
complete back who has all the tools to be an elite player at the next level. He's
carried the Wolverines on his back while they've reeled off three straight
wins. During Michigan's win-streak -- one that consisted of victories over Notre Dame, Penn State and
Northwestern -- Hart averaged 36 carries for 146 yards and more than one touchdown
Another Wolverine's stock has been on the decline in recent weeks.
Quarterback Chad Henne, who was mentioned as a top quarterback entering the year
but struggled in the first two games of the season, missed the last two weeks
with a leg injury. Henne returned to the lineup against Northwestern and had a
strong showing, completing 18-of-27 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns.
It's important for the Michigan quarterback to continue his progression from
that game and take it
through the rest of the season. He's competing with a talented crop of
quarterbacks that includes Brian Brohm, Andre Woodson, Colt Brennan, Matt Ryan,
and John David Booty. During Henne's early-season struggles and his recent leg
injury, many of those quarterbacks have distanced themselves from him.
The Miami Hurricanes (4-1) have had a good season thus far, and a lot of
their success is credited to their defense. This past weekend against Duke,
6-foot-8, 280-pound junior Calais Campbell recorded eight tackles, 3.5 for a
loss, and 2.5 sacks against the Blue Devils. Campbell, who's the best defensive
end in the country, is a gifted athlete who can take a game over. He's quick
around the edge and makes plays in the backfield. Another stalwart on the
Hurricanes defense is senior linebacker Tavares Gooden. Gooden is an athletic,
instinctive linebacker who's leads the Hurricanes in
tackles (48) and displays great playmaking ability. Against Duke, Gooden
recorded 14 tackles and recovered a fumble. If Campbell enters next April's
NFL Draft, he's a sure top-ten selection, while Gooden -- if he continues his strong
development -- is a solid third-round selection.
I wonder why Illinois star linebacker J. Leman doesn't get more publicity? All
he does is make plays. He's not the best athlete, but he plays with great
passion. He's a determined player who's instinctive and has excellent
awareness. He's not going to stand out going sideline-to-sideline, but he has
great lateral movement and positions himself well to make plays. Through five
games, the Fighting Illini linebacker has 59 total tackles (five for a loss), 1.5 sacks, an
and a forced fumble. In his team's upset victory over Penn State on
Saturday, Leman collected 10 tackles and an interception. In a strong
draft-eligible class of linebackers, Leman has to be considered among the elite.
Two players whose draft stock is plummeting are TCU's defensive end Tommy Blake and Florida's wide receiver Andre Caldwell. Blake had a controversial
offseason and is now missing time in-season. Blake took a medical leave of
absence and will miss at least one more game for the Horned Frogs. This is the
second time Blake has left the team this season for undisclosed reasons, and
this has put his professional future up in the air. Caldwell, who suffered an
MCL sprain against Troy in Week 2, returns to action this week just in time for
the Gators' big game against LSU. He's not 100 percent, but appears ready to
give it a go against the No. 1 team in the nation. Caldwell's performance this
week will answer questions regarding the highly-touted receiver.
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.