U of Texas defensive ends Brian Orakpo looks like the real deal. I like his get off quickness, playing range, hand use and close to the football. He also showed the ability to stack and restrict the outside run lane. LSU's Tyson Jackson is a big sucker who really impressed, but I see him as more of a tackle in a three-four look than an outside player in a 4-3 scheme. Although I really don't see him as a top round selection I do see him as a solid first day player. Tennessee Robert Ayers might be the best outside pass rusher I saw all year. His get off quicks were second to none and I predict by draft time Robert will be high on every club's draft board and runs like a quarter horse. He has got an absolute ton of athletic skills and play making ability. For now I see him as a bottom of the first top of the second selection. Oh and by the way, remember you heard it first on scout.com! Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech was very much a disappointment to me. In his first year as a fulltime starter, I felt he had a particularly tough time getting off blocks. He has a basketball player look to him and is probably going to be a good test athlete, but based on his play, I would say he's a very long way from playing winning football in the NFL. Rated the number one player in the country last spring by the combines, I'd be very surprised if anyone would consider drafting him in either of the first or second rounds based on his rather pedestrian 2008 season. I kept waiting for him to just flat out turn it loose, but at games end, all I could ever think of was the title of a song made famous by the late and great Peggy Lee; Is That All There Is?
Boston College B.J. Raji is a big wide body who really impressed me with his quickness, strength and running ability for a big man. What really surprised me was his impressive inside power pass rushing skills. I thought he was far more than a space occupier inside, and has a chance of becoming a valuable addition with any club in the league next season. He's probably not a number one, but due to a lack of depth at the position, he has a real chance to factor as a high second round selection. Ole Miss nose tackle Jerry Peria really came on to have an excellent senior season after starting the season less than 100% physically. He's a load inside and also showed impressive initial quickness, good hand use and outside the tackle box playing range. Like Raji, Peria is a borderline top round prospect, who with a strong post season an Senior Bowl has a real chance of getting there.
Inside linebackers James Laurinaitis of Ohio State, USC Rey Maualuga and outside backer extraordinaire Aaron Curry of Wake Forest are sure fire top round selections. Laurinaitis is a big man with adequate athletic ability, but when they blow the whistle there is certainly nothing ordinary about his play. Curry looks like the heavyweight champion of the world and is in every sense of the word a playmaker. I like USC's Brian Cushing's size, running ability and his play in 2008, but he's missed a good deal of time during his career and I would want to see more of him before making a final decision on this player, but at this time, I really don't think I see top round playing skills. Virginia's Clint Sintim is really an awfully good player, who I believe when all is said and done will be a borderline top selection. Darry Beckwith of LSU and Dannell Ellerbe of the University of Georgia were two highly rated players entering the year, who although look the part physically and appear to run extremely well, neither got me particularly excited with their play during the 2008 season. I don't see the take on and shed ability you look for and their football instincts were far too inconsistent to my way of thinking.
Malcolm Jenkins has it all and is the only senior corner I would consider drafting with a first selection. He's a special athlete and football player and I would be very surprised if he were not a starter right out of the box next season. I really do like Alphonso Smith's of Wake Forest cover skills, competitiveness, instincts and effectiveness on special teams, but at 5' 8 ¾" he's just too short to consider with a first round selection. Mike Mickens, of Cincinnati was inconsistent in his play and I just don't see the gear changes. Based on what I've see, I would consider him to be a "prospect" with late first day or top of the second day draft potential. I'd like to see a little more of Victor Harris of Virginia Tech. He's a good football player, but I wonder if he has the juice to run with the race horses in the league (NFL) today. Darius Butler of the University of Connecticut is a nice looking athlete with very good straight speed, but I also thought he may have been a tad stiff in the hips.
At the safety position William Moore is in a class by himself. I'd take him in a Missouri minute and never look back. I'm not sure he has top speed, but I'm very sure he is an outstanding football player. Patrick Chung is a good player who fills the lane aggressively. Again I'd like to see more of him before making a final decision, but based on my limited exposure, I see Patrick more as a second to third pick than a top round selection. I also have a feeling that while developing his skills early, he's going to be hell on wheel as a special teams player.
A number of both punters and place kickers had excellent seasons in 2008, but gang, I haven't seen anyone in over three decades who I believe was worthy of top round consideration.