2008 NFL Draft Watch

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.

· After having a standout junior season where he amassed 82 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, three interceptions, and a sack, Arizona State safety Josh Barrett struggled with numerous injuries (sore shoulder, pectoral muscle injury, bruised sternum, ankle and knee sprains, and quadriceps contusion) this season that kept him out of the starting lineup and limited his production. Even with being in and out of the lineup all season, Barrett still managed 38 tackles, four for a loss, one interception, and a sack. After scouting Barrett during the 2006 season, he reminded me of former Miami Hurricanes and Washington Redskins great; the late Sean Taylor. The 6-foot-3, 233-pound Barrett has great size, good speed, and excellent instincts. Entering the season, I considered Barrett to be a mid-to-late first round selection, but after an injury-riddled senior season, he's likely to be a late second- to early third-round pick. Barrett has a chance to escalate his draft stock during offseason workouts. He has to show NFL scouts that he's fully healthy, and if he has a solid workout at the Combine, he may be able to regain his first round status.

· An intriguing prospect scouts will be interested in seeing this offseason is Eastern Michigan defensive end Jason Jones. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound versatile defensive lineman has played inside and outside during his collegiate career for the Eagles. He's a hardworking defender who excels at making plays behind the line of scrimmage. In 2006, he finished fifth nationally in tackles for a loss with 18.5, and this season he eclipsed last year's total in that category collecting 19.5. He has outstanding speed (4.65-second 40-time) for a player of his size and is a force off the edge. In addition to his 19.5 TFL, Jones recorded 70 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Jones can play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense at the next level and has the athleticism to play at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He's a prospect who will receive rave reviews this offseason and will build on his mid-round draft status.

Michigan OT Jake Long
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

· Drafting an offensive tackle with a top-ten selection has been a reoccurring theme for years. But it's a high risk, low reward proposition. The 2008 draft will have a few highly touted tackles available: Michigan's Jake Long, Boston College's Gosder Cherilus, and USC's Sam Baker — not to mention the potential infusion of underclassmen such as Boise State's Ryan Clady and Mississippi's Michael Oher. A solid offensive line is vital to an offense's success, but I feel that you can always acquire offensive line talent beyond the first round. Sure, drafting an elite lineman sounds like a quick fix to a woeful rushing or passing attack, but if you're drafting high in the first round, your team is probably in need of an impact player. Offensive tackles are not impact players, therefore, waiting until the second or third round to address a need on the offensive lline makes sense. Since 2000, there have been nine offensive tackles taken in the top ten and only two were selected to the Pro Bowl  — Chris Samuels went to three, and Levi Jones was an alternate in 2006.

· I've been disappointed with the play of Penn State junior cornerback Justin King this season. King is mentioned among the best at his position, but as much as he's hyped, his play this season didn't come as advertised. He has the intangibles to be a great player, but he lacks focus. King draws the opposition's best receiver and struggled against the likes of Indiana's James Hardy, Illinois' Arrelious Benn, Ohio State's Brian Robiskie, and Michigan State's Devin Thomas this season. If King forgoes his senior season, he'll likely be a mid-second-round pick, but I hope King's coach, Joe Paterno, stresses the importance of him returning to school for his senior season to improve his draft stock for 2009.

· About six weeks ago, I said to keep an eye on Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound former Pittsburgh transfer is rising up draft boards. He has all the tools to become a starting quarterback at the next level, and on Saturday he put his talents on display. Flacco led the Blue Hens to a 20–17 victory over Southern Illinois, placing Delaware in the national championship game against Appalachian State. He completed 21-of-38 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco is a player who will draw a lot of interest this offseason and has an opportunity to be a late first-, early second-day draft pick.

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.

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