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Friday, April 11, 2008

Mayock Identifies "Best, Riser, & Sleeper"

Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News, NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock's "Best, Riser, & Sleeper" at each offensive position:

QUARTERBACK

The Best

Matt Ryan, Boston College

6-4 3/4, 228

40 time: 4.89

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "To me, he's as close to a sure bet as you're going to get because of his intangibles, toughness and leadership. He could go as high as one or as low as eight. He threw a lot of interceptions, but they were more a result of the fact that he didn't have one wide receiver that will get into an NFL camp. They beat Virginia Tech and Clemson last season when they had no right beating either solely because Ryan willed them to win."

The Riser

Joe Flacco, Delaware

6-6 1/2, 236

40 time: 4.84

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "He has the biggest arm in the draft. Some people think 5 years from now, he'll be the best quarterback out of this class. He's sneaky athletic. He runs well, moves well. He looks a little like [Ben] Roethlisberger in the pocket. But the biggest thing he's going to have to work on at the next level is his footwork in the pocket. He's basically never been under center before."

The Sleeper

Paul Smith, Tulsa

6-1, 208

40 time: 4.95

Projected round: 7-free agency

Mayock: "If there's anybody in this draft class who down the road could be a Jeff Garcia, this is the kid. He's the son of a high school coach. He's one of those smart, tough, instinctive kids that's going to hang around, and someday he could be something. He's got an average arm. He can make the throws, but struggles to make that big-arm throw like the deep comeback to the far sideline. But he's got great touch and accuracy."

RUNNING BACK

The Best

Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois

5-10, 225

40 time: 4.41

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "He's the prototype three-down back. He's a 225-pounder who ran in the 4.4s at the scouting combine. Huge production his senior year. He can stick his foot in the ground and make people miss. He catches the ball well. I think he's got everything it takes to play at an elite level in the NFL. He'll go somewhere between 10 and 15."

The Riser

Jamaal Charles, Texas

5-11, 200

40 time: 4.38

Projected round: 2

Mayock: "He's one of the most explosive and quick running backs I've seen in a while. He needs to play in a two-back system. And he puts the ball on the ground too much. But in a league where playmakers are coveted, this kid's not going to last very long in the second round."

The Sleeper

Tim Hightower, Richmond

6-foot, 226

40 time: 4.70

Projected round: 5-6

Mayock: "He's a big, tough, physical, downhill runner. Was a team captain. Has a good work ethic. Had over 1,900 yards as a senior and caught 32 passes. I think he'll go somewhere in the fifth or sixth round."

WIDE RECEIVER

The Best

Devin Thomas, Michigan State

6-2, 215

40-time: 4.40

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "An explosive athlete. Runs a 4.4 and is probably the best run-after-catch guy in the draft. Has kickoff-return capabilities. Flip side is that he's a 1-year wonder. Had six catches as a sophomore, then 79 last year. And if you put the Iowa tape on, I counted seven drops in that game. I didn't give any WR in the draft a first-round grade. But this kid probably will go in the first because he's so explosive."

The Riser

Jordy Nelson, Kansas State

6-2 1/2, 217

40 time: 4.51

Projected round: 2

Mayock: "This kid is a wonderful athlete. Led the nation in receptions even though he's only been playing the position since '05. The knock against him was that he can't run. But he went up against Aqib Talib when they played Kansas and ran away from him. He's raw, but he's instinctive. He's a big, strong, physical kid. He gets off press coverage just because of his strength."

The Sleeper

Davone Bess, Hawaii

5-10, 194

40 time: 4.76

Projected round: 6-7

Mayock: "He caught 108 passes last year, but fell off the face of the NFL earth at the combine when he only ran a 4.76. He's quicker than he is fast. Has an explosive lower body. Can return punts. Somebody's going to get him late in the draft and get real value. Because he can play."

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Best

Jake Long, Michigan

6-7, 313

40 time: 5.22

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "He's a Pro Bowl right tackle. But if they put him on the left side, he'll struggle with elite speed. Any team in the league could plug him in on the right side Day 1 and he'll perform admirably for them. But he just doesn't have the feet of a guy like Joe Thomas last year, and he's going to get drafted in the same range."

The Riser

Brandon Albert, Virginia

6-5 1/2, 309

40 time: 5.17

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "He's the seventh-best player on my board. He's been a guard his whole career, but whoever drafts him probably is going to move him to left tackle. There's a huge buzz about this guy. I think he's going to be the best left tackle in the entire draft 5 years from now. Great feet, 35-inch arms."

The Sleeper

Jeremy Zuttah, Rutgers

6-3 1/2, 303

40 time: 4.99

Projected round: 3

Mayock: "He was a tackle in college, but just isn't long enough to play outside in the pros. He opened eyes with his performance at the combine. Somebody is going to take him and kick him inside to either center or guard, and I think he'll be a starter in the league. I like him at center. I think he's big enough to anchor, athletic enough to pull and smart enough to make the [blocking] calls."

TIGHT END

The Best

Dustin Keller, Purdue

6-2, 242

40 time: 4.55

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "He's kind of what the tight end position is becoming in college. He's a former wide receiver who bulked up to 242 pounds. But what he is is a vertical threat. He's not going to block anybody. He's really athletic, but you've got to use him the right way. He's not an inline blocker. He's an H-back or a slot guy. He's a mismatch on linebackers and safeties. And he's going to make plays."

The Riser

Martellus Bennett, Texas A&M

6-6, 259

40 time: 4.68

Projected round: 2-3

Mayock: "He almost declared for the NBA draft out of high school. He's a basketball player with just tremendous athletic ability. People look at his frame and body and athletic ability and go, 'Wow, what could he be?' There are questions about his work ethic and how badly he wants it. But you look at the kid and you just want to believe he's going to be the next Antonio Gates."

The Sleeper

Tom Santi, Virginia

6-3 1/2, 250

40 time: 4.80

Projected round: 5-6

Mayock: "One of the smartest players in the country. Won the ACC scholar-athlete award. Doesn't make any mistakes. Just a solid, all-around tight end. Catches the ball. Blocks. He'll be a core special-teams player. He's not going to be a vertical threat that's going to catch 80 balls. But he's going to make your team and he's going to play for 10 years."

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