Saturday, March 01, 2008

2008 NFL Draft: Impact Underclassmen

Darren McFadden

Credit: Pictopia

Now that everyone has seen the positional rankings, we take a look at underclassmen in this draft that should have the biggest impact for their teams in 2008. Last year, we saw 14 underclassmen go in the first round. This year could yield a similar amount. Below are 10 underclassmen that should add the most value.

Darren McFadden, RB – Arkansas
Arguably the top player in the draft, many have already referred to McFadden as “the Adrian Peterson of the 2008 Draft”. He benefits, somewhat, from Peterson’s performance last season. However, the 6’1” 211 pound back helped himself immensely when he ran an unofficial 4.27 forty at the combines (official time: 4.33). There has been talk of the Cowboys trading up to the #1 pick to land the talented back. Look for McFadden to be the feature back regardless of where he ends up.

Vernon Gholston, DE – Ohio State
Already ranked just below Chris Long atop the DEs in this draft, Gholston did everything he could at the combines to solidify his status. At 6’3” 266 pounds, he ran a sub 4.7 forty and turned heads by doing 37 reps on the bench press. Gholston is both strong enough to handle every-down duties as a 4-3 DE, and has enough speed to come off the edge in the 3-4 defense. He could go as high as the 2nd overall pick, but don’t expect him to drop past the Jets at 6.

Ryan Clady, OT – Boise State
Athletic offensive linemen seem to be catching on these days, and Clady is as athletic as they come at his position in the draft. Teams using zone-blocking schemes should be salivating over the possibility of landing him. Depending on how early Jake Long goes, Clady could find himself taken as early as the 5th pick with Kansas City. However, if he’s available, look for Denver to take a hard look at 12, as Clady fills that Broncos lineman mold.

Kenny Phillips, S – Miami
How can you go wrong with a great Miami safety? He’s right there with names like Blades, Reed, Taylor and Merriweather. He is what I like to call an upper-middle class Sean Taylor. They play similar styles, though Taylor was the billionaire’s version. Phillips stepped into the starting lineup as a true freshman amassing 34 starts in his college career. Hard to say where he projects in the first round, but Denver has the biggest need at that position.

Jonathan Stewart, RB – Oregon
Stewart vaulted himself into the #2 RB spot behind Darren McFadden with his eye-opening workouts at the combines. At 5’10” 235 pounds, he put up a 4.48 time in the forty, did 28 bench press reps and had a 36 in vertical leap. Stewart has the makings of being an explosive option out of the backfield. If he’s sitting there at 15 or 16, expect the Lions or Cardinals to pull the trigger and bring in their new feature back.

Malcolm Kelly, WR – Oklahoma
Due to his great size and athletic ability, Malcolm Kelly projects as the top WR in this draft. His near 6’4” stature and sticky hands make him a prototypical possession and red-zone receiver. Teams running the West Coast Offense will all be watching him closely on draft day. He should have many eyes on him at the Ohio State Pro Day, as he chose not to workout at the Combines. Look for him to fall no further than the Eagles at 19 or the Redskins at 21.

Phillip Merling, DE – Clemson
Merling may have hurt himself with his poor showing at the Combine. However, those who have seen him on the field know that he is an explosive player who benefits from his high-motor play. He is an every-down DE who is also excellent against the run. While he may not project as a top 15 pick anymore, he will make some team very happy for taking a chance on him.

Branden Albert, OG – Virginia
While he projects as a guard, Albert can play either tackle spot in a pinch. He’s an athletic guard who would fit right into a zone-blocking scheme. If it wasn’t for his projection at guard, he would probably be a top15 pick. Wherever he lands, look for Albert to be a day 1 starter. Look for the Pittsburgh Steelers to take a long look when it’s their turn to pick at 23.

DeSean Jackson, WR – California
Jackson is another player who is hard to peg in this draft. Ted Ginn Jr. comes to mind when thinking of a comparison. While he is smallish (5’9” 169 lbs), he is probably the top playmaker in this draft. A team drafting Jackson cannot expect a #1 receiver, but what they can expect is a home-run hitter who stretches the field. As a return man he can deliver a knock out punch much like Devin Hester. He shouldn’t drop out of the first round, and look for Dallas to consider him with one of their late 1st rounders if they don’t trade up.

Derrick Harvey, DE – Florida
Regardless of his big numbers at the Combine (271 lbs, 4.83 forty), Harvey should still rank high on NFL charts. He’s a proven pass rusher and run stopper. Look for him to redeem himself on the Florida Pro Day. However, the one positive that Harvey took away from the Combine is that he tied for 2nd among DEs in the bench press, putting up 31 reps. The Jaguars at 26 might be the furthest he would last in the 1st round.

Check back tomorrow morning for the Sleeper Picks of the 2008 NFL Draft.


Anonymous said...

Good list,what's with Hampton producing so much the last few years?

Wouldn't reall cal Flacco a sleeper. Every pro scout know's who this guy is. Good job, again.

Armin said...

Funny thing is, Hampton usually produces undersized DEs that can get after the QB in no time. However now it's a 3-4 style DE that's getting attention.

Their other DE (another 3-4 guy), Marcus Dixon, could go in this draft too (despite not showing well at the combines).

Regarding Flacco, I could have easily named my list "Small School Prospects". However, most of the average fans probably don't know a ton about Flacco.

Albinoswordfish said...

I heard Phillip Merling from Clemson could slip because of his Hernia problem. So I think Phillip Merling could fall all the way to the second round. But he definitely has top 10 potential and think he will be a steal to whoever can get him.