Last August, we presented our preseason look at the top five players at each position. We now update that list and see how time has treated our original selections. A few of the underclassmen we thought might come out early did not, while others did unexpectedly, and one brought suit against the NFL resulting in a federal judge ruling that the League’s prohibition on most underclassmen from entering the draft violates antitrust law. You know, the typical stuff.
Some of the biggest changes between last summer’s list and this one are at the linebacker positions. In an effort to stay truer to the Texans’ point of view, we’ve added more edge-rushing ‘tweener types.
August: J.P. Losman, Eli Manning, Cody Pickett, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Walter
February: Losman, Manning, Pickett, Philip Rivers, Roethlisberger
Manning and Roethlisberger are the class of the group; both will be posing with #1 jerseys next to Paul Tagliabue during the first hour of the draft. After an impressive Senior Bowl performance, Rivers is challenging Losman for the third spot on the board. Pickett is in the next tier, along with several other quarterbacks. Walter opted to stay at Arizona State for his senior year.
August: Clarence Farmer, Steven Jackson, Greg Jones, Kevin Jones, Carnell Williams
February: Maurice Clarett, Jackson, G. Jones, K. Jones, Chris Perry
Jackson remains the most-coveted runner in the draft. Clarett’s talent earns him a spot on this list despite the fact that he has not played in a year and brings off-the-field baggage, but it would not be surprising to see him slide on draft day after teams take a harder look at him. Perry put up great numbers as a senior. Despite rumors that he was coming out early, Williams will be in Auburn again next fall. Farmer got himself kicked off the Arizona team in October.
August: Lee Evans, Michael Jenkins, Reggie Williams, Roy Williams, Rashaun Woods
February: Michael Clayton, Larry Fitzgerald, Jenkins, Reggie Williams, Roy Williams
Receiver is the deepest position in this draft. Stopwatch speed is the only question about Fitzgerald, who figures to go in the first three picks. Clayton is yet another big, fast wideout. The talented underclassmen pushed seniors Evans and Woods out of the top five.
August: Jeff Dugan, Ben Troupe, Ben Utecht, Ben Watson, Kellen Winslow
February: Chris Cooley, Troupe, Utecht, Watson, Winslow
Winslow is a downfield receiving threat who should eventually be a better pro than his former teammate Jeremy Shockey. Troupe is in that same mold – an athlete capable of creating mismatches with his combination of size and speed. Cooley could be a tight end or an H-back.
August: Shawn Andrews, Vernon Carey, Nat Dorsey, Robert Gallery, Max Starks
February: Andrews, Carey, Dorsey, Gallery, Jacob Rogers
Either Andrews or Gallery will be the first offensive lineman taken, with Gallery getting the edge because of his experience at the crucial left tackle position. Dorsey and Rogers also play that spot, while Carey may be best suited for guard.
August: Tommie Harris, DeMarco McNeil, Randy Starks, Marcus Tubbs, Vince Wilfork
February: Harris, Marquise Hill, Starks, Kenechi Udeze, Wilfork
Harris is the top D-lineman on everyone’s board. Udeze had a field day wreaking havoc in the Rose Bowl. Hill can do everything that is asked of a 3-4 end and has the frame to get even bigger. Starks also projects to end and has the tools to become a great one. Wilfork is the only nose tackle in the group.
August: Rod Davis, Lance Mitchell, Dontarrious Thomas, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams
February: Karlos Dansby, Teddy Lehman, Thomas, Vilma, Williams
Dansby and Lehman appear to fit the 3-4 defense better as inside linebackers rather than outside as originally projected. They may not look like the prototype inside ‘backers, but they have the speed to make things happen from sideline to sideline. Mitchell missed the season with a knee injury and is staying at Oklahoma for another season.
August: Karlos Dansby, Isaac Hilton, Derrick Johnson, Teddy Lehman, Will Smith
February: Nathaniel Adibi, Roderick Green, Hilton, Travis LaBoy, Shaun Phillips
A big shakeup here, but more due to the way we looked at the position than anything else. Smith is an excellent prospect but looks more like a 4-3 end than a 3-4 linebacker. Small-school prospects Hilton (Hampton) and Green (Central Missouri State) have the tools to fit the ‘tweener profile. LaBoy is intense and can disrupt off the edge. Phillips can put heat on the quarterback. Johnson stayed in school.
August: Chris Gamble, DeAngelo Hall, Marlin Jackson, Derrick Strait, Nathan Vasher
February: Gamble, Hall, Will Poole, Dunta Robinson, Strait
Gamble has great ability but is still a little rough around the edges. Poole is coming off a great senior season. Robinson is a physical corner who has also seen action as a safety. Jackson surprised many observers when he announced that he would be staying at Michigan for another year.
August: Brandon Everage, Dexter Reid, Stuart Schweigert, Sean Taylor, Matt Ware
February: Reid, Schweigert, Jason Shivers, Taylor, Ware
Like his teammate Winslow among the tight ends, Taylor is head and shoulders above the other safeties. Ware may actually belong with the cornerbacks, since that is most likely where he will get his first look in the NFL, but could play safety as well. Schweigert played up to expectation as a senior. Shivers is a big hitter. Steven Jackson Home