With Draft Day Weekend just around the corner we thought we would take a look at some of the prospects out there from a fantasy perspective. Every year, there seems to be more and more guys that are coming out of college and making an immediate impact on the NFL and in Fantasyland. Who will be this year’s Matt Ryan? Matt Forte? Steve Slaton? Eddie Royal? DeSean Jackson? Donnie Avery?
Let’s take a look at some of the prospects by position.
Most agree that this year’s crop of quarterbacks probably won’t produce a Matt Ryan that can step in and make an immediate impact. That certainly won’t be the case next year though. As far as the 2009 Draft goes, here are the guys you should watch for on Draft Day.
Matthew Stafford: 6’ 3’ 235 Junior – Georgia
UPSIDE: Stafford has a very powerful arm, arguably the strongest in the country last season. He has good size, good leadership skill and athleticism, with a good pocket presence. His poise and mental toughness are qualities needed at the next level. The Bulldogs play a “pro-style” offense in the tough SEC, which always bodes well for QBs looking to take the next step.
DOWNSIDE: His drawbacks come mainly in his decision-making process and his inability to throw accurately on the run. He also tends to have “happy feet” and doesn’t have much speed. That was evident by his 4.81 40 time, which was just the 25th best of all of the QBs at this years combine. Many think he should have gone back for his senior year to work on these deficiencies, but his stock would be nowhere near as high next year.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Lions.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: If Culpepper and Lions struggle early, Stafford will get his shot, but it won’t be pretty. A quick look at the schedule shows the Lions will be hard pressed to win three games all season.
Mark Sanchez: 6’ 3” 225 Junior – USC
UPSIDE: Sanchez is a very intelligent QB who is physically gifted and has a knack for reading defenses. His drop back is smooth and seemingly effortless, and he sets up in the pocket quickly. His delivery is very smooth, and he displays a soft touch with his short, underneath passes. He’s very precise on his mid-range throws, and he possesses a great touch on his deep, vertical throws. Growing up in the USC system has allowed him to gain a great deal of confidence and mental toughness, which is crucial to making it at the next level.
DOWNSIDE: Sanchez does not have the most powerful arm out there and that has certainly caught the eye of the scouts. As much as growing up in the USC system has helped him, it may also hinder him. If Sanchez is not surrounded by the same level of talent he has been accustom to at USC, he may struggle somewhat in the NFL.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: If Sanchez goes to Seattle he will hold a clipboard for QB Matt Hasselbeck for as long as Hasselbeck can remain healthy and will train to be his successor. If he lands in San Fran or Denver, he has a very good shot at starting sooner rather than later.
Josh Freeman: 6’ 6” 250 Junior – Kansas State
UPSIDE: Freeman is a monster at 6’ 6”, and of the three listed here, he could be the one who has the best shot at success, but it probably won’t happen for a couple of years. His size and powerful arm are trademarks for making it at the next level. He sets well and is comfortable in the pocket and has the ability to make passes of any length.
DOWNSIDE: Freeman is more of a work in progress than a polished, finished project. He needs some work on his release/accuracy, footwork and overall speed. His decision-making hasn’t always been the best, but that’s something that can certainly be coached into him.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Jets, Jaguars, Buccaneers.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: As with most junior QBs coming out early, Freeman will be hard pressed to make an immediate impact. If the Jags grab him, he will most certainly fall in behind QB David Garrard for most, if not all of 2009. On the other hand, if the Jets or Bucs grab him, he is in line to start much sooner rather than later.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Pat White (West Virginia), Rhett Bomar (Sam Houston State), Graham Harrell (Texas Tech), Mike Reilly (Central Washington).
This year’s crop of RBs will be hard pressed to equal the success that so many in the class of 2008 enjoyed last season. There is however some big names out there who come into the draft with big expectations. This is especially true with more teams recognizing the need to have two equally talented RBs in the fold. Let’s review our top four.
Knowshon Moreno: 5’ 11” 210 Sophomore – Georgia
UPSIDE: Moreno, like Stafford, is another Bulldog who has decided to make the jump to the NFL without finishing his college career. He is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. His elusiveness, toughness, vision and his ability to make great cuts set him up well for success in the NFL. Moreno has soft hands and can make plays as a receiver out of the backfield. Get him the ball and watch out!
DOWNSIDE: Moreno was a bit of a disappointment at both the Combine and his Pro Day but was said to have bulked up by ten pounds prior to the events. That may explain his relatively slow 40 time of just 4.60. His biggest drawback is his lack of blocking ability, and he needs to work on his overall power.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Saints, Chargers, Eagles.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: The Saints need to fill the void created by the departure of Deuce McAllister and the questions surrounding Reggie Bush being able to stay healthy. Moreno would step in and make an immediate impact if the Saints grab him with the 14th overall pick. If he lands in with the Chargers or Eagles, his impact will be lessened considerably, as he will be vying for touches with LaDanian Tomlinson or Brian Westbrook. If his 40 times are a real concern, he may fall all the way to the Cardinals in the 31st spot. Whoever gets him is getting a back that will be a star for many years.
Chris “Beanie” Wells: 6’ 1” 237 Junior – Ohio State
UPSIDE: Wells is a guy who is loaded with physical attributes. He is a big back with tremendous power and acceleration. His vision and shifty moves coupled with a stiff strong-arm ability enable him to pick up the tough yards in the trenches. He is a workhorse (when healthy) and can take over a game with his pounding, physical presence.
DOWNSIDE: Many are questioning if the team that takes Wells is buying damaged goods. That is one of just a very few question marks that is keeping Wells from being the first RB selected in this year’s draft. He played in just nine games last season, and wasn’t 100% for most of them. Wells is not a very good receiver out of the backfield, as is evident by his minuscule 15 catches in his three seasons at OSU.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Saints, Chargers, Browns.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: Wells would have the same impact as Moreno if he is taken by the Saints or Chargers. The Browns need help across the board in the draft but could surprise everyone by selecting the hometown hero with the 5th overall selection. He would see immediate playing time along with aging RB Jamal Lewis. This move would certainly energize the few Cleveland faithful left out there. If any team can get Wells catching more balls out of the backfield (and if he stays healthy), he will be an impact running back for many years to come.
LeSean McCoy: 5’ 11” 210 Sophomore – Pittsburgh
UPSIDE: McCoy is one of the most well rounded backs in this year’s crop. His versatility, agility, elusiveness, and great vision help make McCoy a dynamic runner. Because he is so shifty, defenders need both arms to bring this guy down. McCoy had back-to-back 30-plus receptions in his two years at Pitt. He knows how to find the end zone, as is evident by his 21 touchdowns last season.
DOWNSIDE: McCoy needs to be shifty and agile because he lacks the power and size that is prototypical of the average NFL RB. Some teams have soured on McCoy after his Combine results but, in fairness, he was battling the flu at the time. He was able to manage a 4.50 in the 40 at his Pro Day workout. McCoy also needs to learn how to protect the pigskin better, as fumbles have been a problem for him in the past.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Eagles, Patriots, Cardinals.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: McCoy would come in as the heir apparent in Philly but would not see all that much action without an injury to Westbrook. The Patriots seem close to giving up on Laurence Maroney, and McCoy would fit in nicely with RB Sammy Morris. The Cardinals are going to need someone who can step in and replace RB Edgerrine James soon. McCoy and RB Tim Hightower would make a pretty dynamic duo a year down the road in 2010.
Donald Brown: 5’ 10” 208 Junior – Connecticut
UPSIDE: Through the Combine and Pro Days, Brown has been moving up steadily in the rankings. Many cast him as the closest player to LT2 in this year’s draft. His balance and elusive style help him avoid hits, and he has great hands. He’s built close to the ground, has good power, and when he does get hit, he can break tackles. Playing at a school that is known more for basketball than football, Brown comes into the draft as a bit of a sleeper. Should he go in the first round, he would be the first Husky to ever do so. No UConn football player has ever been drafted higher than the third round, though the school is likely to have multiple players drafted on Day 1 in 2009.
DOWNSIDE: Brown’s main drawback is that he is not a good blocker. That however is something that is very common with a lot of big name college backs, and it can be taught. He also needs to work on his overall field vision to make the most yards he can with each carry.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Colts, Eagles, Cardinals.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: The recent loss of RB Dominic Rhodes by the Colts to the Bills may force them to take Brown with their 27th pick if he is still on the board. The Colts need a back they can use with RB Joseph Addai in their RB-by-committee situation. Addai hasn’t played a full season since 2006, making the need even a bit more pressing.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Shonn Greene (Iowa), Andre Brown (NC State), Javon Ringer (Michigan State), Cedric Peerman (Virginia).
Not a single wide receiver went in the first round of the 2008 Draft, but that will change this year. In fact, there’s a chance that four or five could go off the board very early. This is due to the talent available and the amount of teams that are in need of help at the position.
Michael Crabtree: 6’ 2” 208 Sophomore – Texas Tech
UPSIDE: The pass-happy Red Raiders made Crabtree a star in his two years with the program. His 231 catches along with 3,127 receiving yards and 41 TDs over that time are eye-popping stats. Crabtree has great hands and shows great concentration in making catches in traffic. His size and toughness make him a good red zone weapon. He is physical and explosive, with the ability to stretch the field. He shows great body control and is able to haul in errant passes that come his way. Crabtree is a game-changing player and showed it with his game winning TD catch against Texas in 2008.
DOWNSIDE: A lingering foot injury has many questioning if Crabtree is damaged goods. He had successful surgery in March, and it’s expected that his rehab will take ten weeks. Crabtree has also been knocked somewhat for his sloppy route running skills. There is also talk that he is a “prima donna” type guy who is too flashy and immature to step up to the next level.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Browns, Raiders, Chiefs.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: Crabtree will be a Week One starter no matter where he lands. The Browns are looking to unload WR Braylon Edwards (to the Giants?), and Crabtree would be his most likely replacement. Raiders owner Al Davis is infatuated with Crabtree and may trade up to get him. All of these could be moot points if the Chiefs ignore their need at LB and T and grab Crabtree, who many consider to be the best player in this year’s draft.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 6’ 2” 206 Junior – Maryland
UPSIDE: Heyward-Bey ran the fastest 40 at the combine at 4.30, and his stock is rising quickly. He was also in the top ten of each drill he participated in. He will be an instant deep threat for whoever lands him and is great at tracking down anything thrown his way. His speed and elusive running after the catch make him a game changing playmaker.
DOWNSIDE: Heyward-Bey needs to polish his route-running skills somewhat and not rely solely on his speed. Like all speed guys, some have questioned his toughness and willingness to make plays over the middle in traffic. His numbers weren’t all that eye-popping in his three years as a Terrapin, but that had more to do with the guys throwing him the ball and the system he played in than anything else.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Raiders, Vikings, Ravens.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: If the Raiders don’t trade up to get Crabtree, look for them take Heyward-Bey or Jeremy Maclin. If the Raiders decide on Maclin, the next most likely suitors for Heyward-Bey would the Vikings or the Ravens. He will be a starter in Week One no matter where he lands.
Jeremy Maclin: 6’ 1” 200 Sophomore – Missouri
UPSIDE: Maclin posted an amazing 5,609 all-purpose yards in just 28 games at Missouri. He’s a major weapon as a downfield threat and is very elusive after he catches the ball. His speed, quick release, concentration and soft hands have NFL teams raving about him. His versatility as a receiver, kick returner and a guy who can run the end around add to his overall demand.
DOWNSIDE: As with almost every receiver coming out of college, Maclin needs more polish on his route running ability and the way he reads defenses. He may need to bulk up a bit and he has had some fumbling problems in the past. Of course, when you touch the ball as many times as he has, fumbles are bound to happen.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Raiders, Chiefs, Jaguars.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: Much like Crabtree and Heyward-Bey, Maclin will also be a Week One starter in the NFL. If the Raiders don’t land Crabtree, they may see Maclin as the next best thing. The Chiefs need help to protect QB Matt Cassel but may ignore that need to get him another weapon on offense. The Jaguars are desperate for a WR and may take Maclin in the eight spot if he’s available. The Jags just signed UFA WR Torry Holt, so their need at WR lessens some, but they are still desperate at the position.
Percy Harvin: 5’ 11” 181 Junior – Florida
UPSIDE: Harvin is a downfield threat with excellent speed who can play on offense and special teams. His running ability and yards after the catch are what has gotten him to this level in the draft. Harvin can be a game-breaker with quick first step and his ability to get good body position against defenders.
DOWNSIDE: Size and durability are the two most commons knocks on Harvin. He has also played in a spread offense his entire college career and will need a versatile, imaginative offensive coordinator at the next level to take full advantage of his talent. Oh, and there’s the recent drug test that showed marijuana in his system. Not a good start to your NFL career.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Vikings, Colts.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: The Vikings need a speed demon like Harvin to take some pressure off RB Adrian Peterson. The Colts need to replace WR Marvin Harrison. Of the four listed here, Harvin is the one with the most question marks around him, both professionally and personally.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina), Kenny Britt (Rutgers), Brain Robiskie (Ohio State), Ramses Barden (Cal Poly).
The 2009 crop is not a very strong class of tight ends. With the position being one that is ever evolving, almost hybrid, the few that do get drafted in the early rounds will step in and make an immediate impact.
Brandon Pettigrew: 6’ 5” 257 Senior – Oklahoma State
UPSIDE: Pettigrew is the consensus #1 pick at the tight end position, and he’s the complete package. He has great blocking ability to go along with his size, reliable hands and great concentration. His lateral movement on the line is excellent and, when he comes off the line, he has a quick first step and sets up a big target for his QB.
DOWNSIDE: There aren’t too many knocks against this guy. The few that do come up are his downfield speed and his overall durability. He has also had a couple of misdemeanor brushes with the law and played undisciplined at times during his career at Oklahoma State.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Eagles, Falcons, Cardinals.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: The loss of TE L.J. Smith may force the Eagles to take Pettigrew with the 21st pick. The late season/playoff emergence of TE Brent Celek does lessen the need somewhat, and if RB Moreno is still on the board, the Eagles will let Pettigrew slide. The Falcons are in desperate need of a playmaking TE for second-year QB Matt Ryan. If he does fall to them, the Falcons will be hard pressed to pass with the 24st pick. If they do, Pettigrew comes off the board and goes to the Cardinals with the 31st pick.
Jared Cook: 6’ 5” 242 Junior – South Carolina
UPSIDE: Cook was the fastest TE at the Combine and ran the 40 in 4.50. He has great size, a good release off the line and a knack for finding open space over the middle. He posses a quick second gea,r which makes him dangerous after the catch. Cook made more than his fair share of highlight-reel, acrobatic catches during his career at South Carolina.
DOWNSIDE: Cook’s route-running skills need some work, but that is teachable at the next level. Teams will be more concerned about his blocking ability than anything else. Steve Spurrier-coached TEs are not asked to block a lot, and that was certainly the case with Cook during his career South Carolina.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Falcons, Cardinals.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: After Pettigrew goes off the board in the first round, don’t expect another TE to be taken until the second round. Cook could fall to the Falcons or Cardinals with the 55th and 63rd picks respectively in the second round. With both teams having such a glaring need at the TE position, Cook has a very good chance of making an immediate impact in 2009.
Shawn Nelson: 6’ 5” 238 Southern Miss – Senior
UPSIDE: Nelson is a gifted athlete who is equally adept at catching passes and blocking. He runs solid routes, and has soft hands and good concentration. He shows great body position, which allows him catch anything thrown his way.
DOWNSIDE: Nelson blocks well when he’s asked to and has very good technique. That being said, he does need to bulk up some if he’s to be an effective blocker at the NFL level.
POSSIBLE 2009 TEAMS: Bills.
CHANCES FOR IMPACT: The Bills are another team in desperate need of a TE, but they have much more pressing needs elsewhere. Nelson could fall to them with the 72nd pick. With Terrell Owens and Lee Evans lined up outside, the Bills would be a great fit for Nelson.
OTHERS TO WATCH: James Casey (Rice), Chase Coffman (Missouri), Travis Beckum (Wisconsin), Cornelius Ingram (Florida).
Enjoy the Draft Weekend everybody! Let’s get it on!
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