* The top prospect is Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. His performance in the Big 12 title game was good enough to make him a Heisman finalist. Suh had 4.5 sacks in that game and manhandled the Texas offensive line all night long. He literally looked like a man amongst boys. Suh is 6-4, 305. He can play tackle in the 4-3 defense. Teams that use the 3-4 can look at Suh as either a nose tackle or defensive end. Suh is one of those prospects who is so good that all 32 teams will want him. He's the kind of player you build a defense around.
* The quarterback situation looked great back in July, but is very muddy at this point. Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Jimmy Clausen are the big three names. You can make an argument for each player. Bradford is the biggest of the trio and is the best athlete. McCoy is the only 4-year starter and is the biggest winner of the group. Clausen played in a pro system and had the best season. I don't think any of the trio is good enough to go first overall.
I think Bradford will be the first quarterback taken. He hurt his shoulder this year and missed most of the season, but teams saw him play great football in 2007 and 2008. McCoy and Clausen are similar prospects. Some teams will prefer McCoy because of his experience and the fact he's got better mobility. Other teams will like Clausen because of his ability to be a vertical passer and the fact he should be more NFL-ready, having played for former NFL assistant Charlie Weis. All three quarterbacks will probably go in the first round.
* One trend that will be interesting to follow is how teams adjust values on players with known concussion issues. This has never been a major topic in the past. If a college player had serious problems over the course of his career teams might take note of it, but it just isn't something that was generally considered. Concussions are now the hot topic in all of football.
Running back Jahvid Best is arguably the top prospect at his position. He got hurt in a recent game when diving for a touchdown. Best landed awkwardly, hurt his neck and suffered a concussion. He then missed the last few games. Best could have been a top ten pick prior to the injury. I'm curious to see how that injury will affect his draft value. He's not the only player, but is the most notable. This is unknown territory for the NFL.
* Washington quarterback Jake Locker has announced that he will pass on the draft and stay in school for his senior season. Many people think he's flat out dumb for doing this, but I love the decision. Locker just finished his junior season. He stayed healthy all year and set several personal records. He's definitely a player on the rise. If he were to come out, Locker would almost certainly be a first round pick and he would have a solid chance to go as high as the top ten, instantly making him a multi-millionaire.
I don't think Locker is ready for the NFL. He is a naturally talented player with great potential. In the past he had success based on sheer talent. That works great in high school and is okay in college, but not at the next level. You must be an effective, consistent passer to play pro football. This season Locker started to look more like a quarterback than just an athlete. He thrived under new coach Steve Sarkisian. I think staying will better prepare him for the NFL. Sarkisian developed multiple quarterback prospects when he was at USC. He can teach Locker and really hone his game. Locker could end up being the top choice in the 2011 draft.
Locker does take a risk by staying. He could get injured. He could have a disastrous season. Both situations would lower his value. Next year there could be quarterbacks that are better than him in the draft class. If so, that pushes him down the rankings and affects the kind of initial contract he gets.
Here's the way I look at his situation. If Locker simply wants the money, go to the NFL. If he wants the best chance at having a successful pro career, stay in school. Who are the top quarterbacks in the NFL right now? Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Phillip Rivers are guys who stand out above the crowd. What do all of them have in common? They stayed in school for four years. Quarterbacks need to get as much college experience as possible to be ready for pro football.
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