With final draft meetings having kicked off in nearly every NFL city and draft boards being crystallized, PFW takes a look at five of the top risers and five of the top sliders in this year's draft, based on extensive feedback from NFL executives setting their boards.
• QB Mark Sanchez, USC Not all evaluators are convinced Sanchez is a franchise-type quarterback, especially when they go back and study the tape more closely, where questions arise regarding Sanchez's deep accuracy and frequency to toss loose wobblers. Beyond 20 yards, scouts say his accuracy diminishes greatly, where he charted 0-for-8 in one game, but he receives high praise for his placement and ability to throw well out in front of his receivers, and his pro-day opened the eyes of brass selecting in the top 10. The Seahawks have shown increased interest in the passer, and it's conceivable he is selected in the top five. With the Lions keying in on Georgia QB Matthew Stafford, the value of the QB position will increase.
• WR Mohamed Massaquoi, Georgia Massaquoi may never be a true No. 1 receiver, but there are rarely many in a draft. Massaquoi has shown he can be a solid complementary target, possessing great size and a good work ethic. He is a four-year producer who has overcome some confidence issues he suffered through earlier in his career and, in a draft that is expected to see a run on receivers, will begin warranting serious attention earlier than might have been expected.
• C Eric Wood, Louisville Smart, strong, tough and showing surprising agility that was not as evident on tape as it was at the combine, Wood has climbed to the top of the draft board at his position for run-first, smash-mouth offensive lines, and his ability to line up at guard or center and contribute immediately anywhere inside could even give him a shot to be drafted in the first round.
• TE Richard Quinn, North Carolina Even in a strong TE class, it's not easy to find many hand-in-the-dirt, physical, on-the-line tight ends such as Quinn. He shows the ability to dominate as a base blocker and is a very close second to Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew as a complete all-around tight end. Although Quinn initially graded as a middle-round talent because of his lack of production in the receiving game, NFL evaluators have opened their eyes as to why he did not factor as a pass catcher, with three very solid NFL receiving targets on the flanks. Several teams have positioned him as high as the second round on their draft boards.
• MLB Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh Somewhat similar to Raiders 2005 third-rounder Kirk Morrison, McKillop looked out of place at the Senior Bowl, but when it came time to play in the game, he flipped the switch and showed up all over the field. A competitive gamer with good football intelligence and great intangibles, McKillop is more highly graded on some draft boards than some of the other big-name linebackers in this draft who are destined to be drafted in the first round. McKillop could potentially last until the third round, perhaps even the fourth, but he has grown on evaluators and slowly begun climbing up draft boards.
• DE Everette Brown, Florida State (Jr.) With nearly half of the league moving to at least some variation of a 3-4 front, Brown's value has begun to diminish, as he was not asked to drop much in college and showed too much stiffness in reverse at his pro-day workout to project as a rush linebacker. With limited strength to stop the run, he fits best as an up-the-field, fly-at-the-snap, open-side edge rusher for a one-gap, attacking 4-3 defense. The "one-dimensional" label some evaluators have affixed to him has pushed him down as far as the fourth round for some teams. He could still easily be drafted in the first, considering the premium placed on being able to the rush passer, but he may fall to the second.
• DE Larry English, Northern Illinois Once also in the discussion as a 3-4 rush linebacker, English did not show the athletic ability or explosiveness in positional drills at his pro-day workout to convince evaluators he could easily project to the position and is more likely to be drafted as a 4-3 end.
• OT Eben Britton, Arizona (Jr.) Much like Sam Baker a year ago, Britton has short arms and is not viewed by teams as an elite athlete who will be able to handle the left side. A run on tackles could still potentially bring Britton off the board in the first round in the Nos. 18-25 range where Baker and Jeff Backus both were drafted. However, the team that drafts him will likely be reaching for a huge position of need, not drafting for value, which some evaluators say is somewhere in the third or fourth round for Britton – in the same area where Eric Winston and Jon Runyan were drafted.
• WR Derrick Williams, Penn State Grading out as highly as a return specialist as he does as a receiver, Williams has seen his value enhanced because of his ability to factor in two of three phases of the game, but average showings in the 40 have raised new questions about how well his speed will translate to the pro game. Once regarded as a borderline first-round talent, Williams could easily slide to the third round.
• CB Sean Smith, Utah Quickly, name a cornerback in the NFL who has been successful and who stood taller than 6-foot-3? Some may have been able to get away with it in a different era, but in the modern age where cornerbacks are often forced to match up with the elite quickness of a Steve Smith, Wes Welker or Greg Jennings, leggy cornerbacks do not possess enough transitional quickness to be effective. Questions about Smith's maturity have also concerned teams. A number of teams have already eliminated Smith from consideration because he does not fit their schemes, with limited ability in man-off coverage. Many others have him positioned in the fourth round, with an expectation of him potentially competing for a backup job.
If you would like to read more about the players who are about to enter the April 25-26 NFL draft, Pro Football Weekly has the publication that fits the bill – the 2009 Draft Preview book, available now at www.pfwstore.com. The 180-page 2009 Draft Preview book contains detailed scouting reports on nearly 500 prospects. You'll also get our rankings of more than 1,000 draft prospects.