I was surprised that Hawaii's Colt Brennan, Louisville's Brian Brohm and Mario Urrutia, and LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey didn't declare for the draft a year early. There wound up being 40 early entrants. Here's my top ten. I'll follow up with a rundown of the other 30 early next week.
1. Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson
Ht/Wt: 6-2/218 Current Grade: top-ten pick Projected Forty: high 4.3s 2006 Stats: 1012 YDS RUS (5.4 YPC), 12 TDs; 10 REC, 136 YDS, 1 TD
Most feel Peterson's durability is a major question mark, but his injuries were on the fluky side. In 2005 he missed four games with an ankle sprain (an injury that didn't cause him much trouble before or since) and last year he sat out seven with a broken collarbone suffered on an end-zone dive. He's still a raw receiver, but Peterson's open-field elusiveness, speed, size, and power will make him an instant two-down star as a rookie. New Browns OC Rob Chudzinski, a former assistant in San Diego, knows the advantages of an elite running game and it's difficult to see Peterson slipping past Cleveland (No. 3 or 4, pending a coin toss). His upside is the best in the draft, to me better than JaMarcus Russell because Russell relies on a supporting cast.
He's the draft's top pure athlete and a model citizen on top of it. Johnson can separate from double coverage, has proven durable, and has a tremendous work ethic. He'll drop the occasional "catchable" pass, but dominates when focused, and normally is. Johnson has hands and speed like Larry Fitzgerald, but better size. The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner shouldn't fall past Tampa at 3 or 4, though I'll be rooting for him to because I'd like to see Maurice Stovall to get more run in '07.
Comparison: post-2005 Andre Johnson
3. Louisville RB Michael Bush
Ht/Wt: 6-3/247 Current Grade: late first round Projected Forty: low 4.6s 2005 Stats: 1143 YDS RUS (5.6 YPC), 23 TDs, 21 REC, 253 YDS, 1 TD
Bush broke his leg as a senior and was in line for a medical redshirt but had little left to prove after scoring 24 times in 2005 and adding three TDs in Week 1 of 2006. A punisher, Bush won't outrun NFL secondaries but is a pro-ready receiver (he's known to have split out wide for Bobby Petrino) with patience and quickness to turn the corner into an NFL second level. Recruited to Louisville as a quarterback, Bush's natural athleticism for his size is remarkable. The leg injury temporarily damaged his stock, but should be in the rear view once teams see him at the Combine and his pro day. If all goes well, his college coach is likely to give Bush a long look at No. 10.
In college, Jarrett was nearly as dominating as Johnson, but doesn't have the same type of speed. He also has bit of a wrap sheet, as Jarrett was handcuffed during an LAPD run-in prior to 2006, though not arrested, and briefly declared ineligible for his alleged involvement in a house funded by Matt Leinart's dad. But Jarrett's hands are arguably better than Johnson's, he'll make just as many acrobatic catches, and is a superbly fluid athlete. If Jarrett didn't have some questions about his character, he'd seem a lock for the Vikings at No. 7.
Opinions of Anderson currently vary, possibly because there's not enough tape on him to warrant a solid stance. Nominated to the McDonald's All-American game for high school hoops, Anderson only started one full year for the Razorbacks, but was simply tremendous, and gained steam as the season progressed, eating Wisconsin QB John Stocco for lunch in the Capitol One Bowl with 2.5 sacks. Despite only being granted a second-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, it's unlikely he'll fall out of the top 15 if he times in the 4.6s or low 4.7s at the Combine. Some say Anderson could play end in a 3-4. It's hard to see him falling past San Francisco at No. 11.
Russell's stock skyrocketed at the Sugar Bowl against a miserable Notre Dame defense. But his arm (some say Russell is capable of launching the football the length of the field), athleticism, and size make him a unique talent. His skill set is better than what those normally seek in a "prototypical" QB prospect. Russell, who shared a home with famed blues musician Fats Domino during Hurricane Katrina, also has good character and is well spoken. Most think he'll go to Oakland at No. 1, and it's hard to disagree at this stage the draft process. I personally am wary due to Russell's history of shoulder issues and reliance on three first-day wideouts (Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, and Early Doucet) at LSU.
I'm scratching my head at how low others are ranking Rice. To me, he is the draft's biggest sleeper, and I feel weird calling him that considering Rice's production in college football's fastest-paced conference with year-long questions at quarterback. Rice is a tremendously acrobatic pass catcher who hauls in everything with his hands. There is no body involved. He's a humble person and NFL-ready red-zone star. Rice needs to add some bulk and possibly clean up his routes, but he's a natural playmaker. Some will question his speed and history of minor injuries. I'm not letting that bother me and will target Rice in my dynasty league.
Granted Branch was constantly double-teamed by opposing offensive lines, but I usually like to see better production from a top-five prospect. When Branch had Gabe Watson next to him in the 2005 Alamo Bowl, he racked up five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. But sophomore Terrance Taylor was beside Branch last year and he took some plays off, while at other times owning games for stretches. He'd probably also need to drop about 20 pounds to be considered a 3-4 end prospect. For now he's a nose tackle, and a player I think will be good, not great. Washington would be an acceptable fit at No. 6, although he might be more deserving of a mid first-round selection, in my opinion.
Comparison: Marcus Stroud
9. Ohio State WR/PR Ted Ginn Jr.
Ht/Wt: 6-0/180 Current Grade: first-round pick Projected Forty: high 4.2s 2006 Stats: 59 REC, 781 YDS (13.2 YPC), 9 TDs
Ginn is probably the draft's fastest player and a threat to score every time he gets the ball. He won nationals as a hurdler his junior and senior years in high school. Ginn lined up at QB, RB, KR, PR, and DB at OSU. He will immediately solve his NFL team's return problems. I don't think he'll be an instant No. 2 because his hands and routes are still raw from all the other stuff he's been doing, and he needs to bulk up. Focusing on being a receiver will be key for Ginn, and the Rams at No. 13 would make a great fit. St. Louis' return units have long been among the league's worst. Catching 1,000 balls-a-day with Torry Holt in the offseason would get him ready for the slot and ease the loss of Kevin Curtis. He'd be Isaac Bruce's eventual replacement. I'd keep my fantasy expectations low until 2008.
Comparison: Devin Hester in 2007, eventually Lee Evans
10. Pittsburgh CB Darrelle Revis
Ht/Wt: 6-0/200 Current Grade: late first round Projected Forty: low 4.5s 2006 Stats: 39 TCK, 4 TFL, 2 INT, 4 PASS DEF
Both of Revis' interceptions were returned for touchdowns, a testament to his "playing speed." Revis might not run a 4.4 at the Combine but he'll play like he did. He also has prototypical size and ball skills, and can bring back an occasional punt. Because of Revis' lack of long speed, he may have trouble with the Lee Evanses of the world, and might be better in a defensive system that allows corners to "match up" rather than staying on the left or right. But he's instant starting material. The Bills may consider him at No. 12, especially if they can't find a viable free-agent replacement for Nate Clements.
Comparison: Chris McAlister
Notably Left Off: Florida State LB Lawrence Timmons, California RB Marshawn Lynch, Florida LB Brandon Siler, Ohio State WR Anthony Gonzalez, Tennessee WR Robert Meachem, Ohio State RB Antonio Pittman