Scout.com NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber gives you the quick hits on the emerging stars from the college ranks who could help your favorite NFL team next year.
When LSU DT Glenn Dorsey limped off the field in the first half against
Auburn on Saturday night, I'm sure everyone in the Bayou held a collective
breath. But when he emerged back onto the field after suffering a hamstring
injury, the stadium erupted and so did Dorsey. He showed a great burst off the
line and got instant penetration up the middle. He was dominating at the line of
scrimmage, until late in the third quarter, when he took a nasty looking cut
block to his right knee from Auburn's offensive guard Chaz Ramsey. Ramsey's
cheap shot on Dorsey looked so bad that the announcers commented on it being a
possible ACL or MCL injury and were hopeful he'd be okay. It appears everything
is fine with Dorsey and it was just a mild sprain. Dorsey would have been a
top-ten draft pick in last year's draft and is a lock to be a top five selection
this year. With that said, you never want to see an impact player of his caliber
suffer a career altering injury due to an unnecessary occurrence.
Oregon's junior juggernaut Jonathan Stewart may be the best running back
in the country. At 5-foot-11, 230-pounds, Stewart has a unique blend of size,
speed, and athleticism. He has excellent hands and is elusive in the open field.
He's a versatile player who not only can be a featured running back, but he's
also an outstanding kick returner; Stewart is averaging 29.8 yards a return.
He's the complete package and he displayed his talents this past weekend against
Washington. Stewart had a career game against the Huskies, rushing for 251 yards
on 32 carries and two touchdowns. After his career game this past weekend,
Stewart has 131 carries for 940 yards and seven touchdowns. If he decides to
forego his final year of eligibility and enter next April's draft, one fortunate
team will be rewarded by his potential.
James Hardy (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
I'm very intrigued with Indiana receiver James Hardy. I've mentioned his
name a couple of times before in regards to teams looking for a deep threat, but
this past weekend against Penn State, Hardy proved to me that he's developing
each week. He's an exceptional deep threat who makes a majority of his catches
on the outside, but he showed toughness going over the middle against a tough
Nittany Lions defense. At 6-foot-7, 220-pounds, Hardy is an intimidating
specimen who has his way with most defensive backs, and he showed what he could
do against one of the better cover corners in the nation, PSU's Justin King.
Hardy flashed his 4.4-40 jets over the middle, vertically, and out-jumped
defenders on his way to 14 receptions for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Only a
junior, if Hardy enters the draft, I don't know if there is a more promising
receiver in the country.
Kentucky tight end senior Jacob Tamme is one of the unsung heroes for the
Wildcats this season. He doesn't post gaudy numbers -- 28 receptions for 304
yards and a touchdown -- but he's a consistent receiver for quarterback Andre Woodson. He gets off the line well and runs smooth routes. He has soft, reliable
hands and uses his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame as an advantage. He has to improve
his blocking technique, but he's an early second day selection with a bright
South Florida is having a magical year despite suffering its first loss of
the season this past weekend to Rutgers, 30-27. But it's a former USF player
who's shining bright, Bethune-Cookman linebacker Ronnie McCullough. McCullough,
who transferred from USF to Bethune-Cookman following his sophomore season in
2005, is quietly having an outstanding senior campaign. He's a quick,
instinctive player that possesses great awareness and has a nose for the ball.
At 6-foot-1, 230-pounds, he's a bit undersized for a middle linebacker, but he
plays with a lot of passion and is always in position to make a play. This past
weekend, in the Wildcats 14-9 loss to Winston-Salem State, McCullough recorded
20 tackles. In six games he's played in, including the 20 tackles he had against
Winston-Salem, McCullough has racked up 83 total tackles (29 solo, 54 assisted),
11 for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. A major reason for McCullough's departure from
South Florida was due playing time and having USF linebacker Ben Moffitt ahead
of him on the depth chart. With a good showing during offseason workouts,
McCullough will rise up draft boards.
It'll be interesting to see what West Virginia running back Steve Slaton
decides to do at season's end. Slaton has had a very good season thus far (135
carries for 752 yards and 10 touchdowns), but struggled in the Mountaineers two
previous games -- against South Florida and Syracuse -- leading up to this past
weekend's contest against Mississippi State. Against South Florida and Syracuse,
Slaton averaged just 14 carries for 61.5 yards and no touchdowns. But he got
back on track against a Bulldog defense that's allowed 155 yards on the ground
this season, and had 23 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown. If Slaton decides
to enter the 2008 draft, he's a sure mid-to-late first-round selection.
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.