With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on Thursday, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done.
We continue our series with Georgia receiver A.J. Green, regarded by most as the best receiver prospect in this draft class. In three seasons and 31 games with the Bulldogs, Green caught 158 passes for 2,542 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also ran the ball seven times for 105 yards. From his true freshman year, Green dominated to an unusual degree, grabbing 56 receptions for 963 yards and eight touchdowns.
He never had a 1,000-yard season for Georgia, just missing out due to injury and suspension - he missed the first four games of the 2010 season after he sold his Independence Bowl jersey to an agent. So he had to "make do" with 49 catches for 771 yards and nine touchdowns in his junior year. Based on his game tape, it won't be too tough to extrapolate Green's what-ifs to NFL potential.
Pros: Displays a ridiculous vertical leap in tight coverage to grab passes, especially in the end zone. Can bring the ball in one-handed, even with a defender trying to disrupt him, an ability that makes him play even "taller." Excellent straight-line speed and he cuts very well; hard to match on slants and posts. Tracks the ball in stride from full speed and keeps his eye on the ball to make the tough over-the-shoulder catch.
Extends his hands to grab the pass and brings the ball to his chest quickly as he's turning to get upfield. Has no qualms about going over the middle and into a defender's area; will lay out on these plays if necessary. Plays through contact and looks to get upfield even when he's wrapped up. Sits in zone very well and can glide past defenders to extend the play. Shows a burst to productivity on receiver screens. Not afraid to be physical; will get a stiff-arm out and fight for extra yards. Has an excellent concept of routes.
Cons: Not an especially strong player; at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, he could probably gain 10 pounds without losing any of his downfield speed. Can't generally just blast by cornerbacks at the line, though he does have an array of moves to get past press coverage. His ability to break past more physical corners displaying aggressive moves and tight coverage at the line may be a slight concern at the next level.
Conclusion: Green has already been compared to Randy Moss(notes) in some quarters, and while that's a bit extreme, it's true that he possesses a rare combination of skills that should see him succeeding very quickly at the NFL level. With his ability to jump, get downfield as much with agility as speed, and use his hands to snatch the ball in the tightest spaces, another comparison comes to mind - especially if Green gains a few pounds. Green isn't nearly as physical as Johnson, but many of the attributes line up well enough to make him a sure top-five pick.
More Shutdown 40
40 -- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State | #39 - Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
| #38 - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | #37 - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | #36 -- Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami | #35 -- Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor | #34 - Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State | #33 -- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State | #32 - Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida | #31 - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado | #30 - Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame | #29 - Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois | #28 - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State | #27 - Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA | #26 - Brandon Harris, CB, Miami | #25 - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin | #24 -- Jake Locker, QB, Washington| #23 -- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado| #22 - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin | #21 - Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois| #20 - Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State | #19 - Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland | #18 - Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue | #17 - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama | #16 - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa | #15 - Tyron Smith, OT, USC | #14 - Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri | #13 - Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College | #12 - Cam Newton, QB, Auburn| #11 -- Cameron Jordan, DL, Cal| #10 - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri | #9 - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama | #8 - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska | #7 - Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama | #6 -- Robert Quinn, DE. North Carolina | #5 - Von Miller, OLB, Texas A & M