Over the next few weeks, talent evaluators will head to various spots for meetings held by the NFL scouting services.
The initial spring grades, based mostly on prospects' height, weight and 40-times have been updated with stats, medical reports, on-campus visits, interviews and other information squeezed out of college campuses.
It is the second phase in a process that will later include postseason all-star games, the NFL Combine, Pro Day workouts and finally individual private visits by all 32 teams.
Each team has a unique way of collecting data, recording scores or grades and developing their draft board. Soon there will be a prospect or two on each draft board as general managers around the league prepare for April's draft.
• Central Florida junior running back Kevin Smith is now just 180 yards behind the single-season record for rushing yards held by Barry Sanders. Smith plans to ask the NFL Advisory Committee for an evaluation of his current draft grade. He has impressed scouts with his consistency, long gains and ability to be a work horse (he could finish the season with 450 carries). Smith is pondering whether to make a run at next year's Heisman Trophy or turn pro. He could earn a first-round grade now, but some scouts wonder if he has the bulk to handle the pounding of the NFL. Scouts estimate his 40-time in the 4.55 range and some feel he is not a complete back in terms of receiving and blocking. Smith will likely to enter the draft with a first-round grade. Another collegiate season with 400-plus carries could actually hurt his stock.
• Oklahoma junior wide receiver Malcolm Kelly could use his recent high-profile outings to bolster his draft grade. He could be the first or second receiver selected. Kelly is a speedster with a long stride and the dexterity to glide past defenders while the ball is in the air. He has the hand-eye coordination to see the ball at its highest point while not having to slow down or alter his stride. His vertical speed and big-play ability would make him one of the top skill position prospects in next year's draft. Kelly has not yet decided to enter the draft.
• California running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins and safety Thomas DeCoud have been invited to the Senior Bowl.
• Clark-Atlanta defensive end Curtis Johnson has been invited to the East-West Shrine Game. He will also take reps at outside linebacker, the position most scouts believe he will play in the NFL.
• Coastal Carolina wide receiver Jerome Simpson has been invited to the East-West Shrine Game.
• Colorado linebacker Jordon Dizon has been invited to the Senior Bowl. He has also been invited to the Hula Bowl. Cornerback Terrence Wheatley has been invited to the Senior Bowl.
• Houston wide receiver Donnie Avery has been invited to the Senior Bowl.
• Minnesota safety Dominique Barber, wide receiver Ernie Wheelright and running back Amir Pinnix have been invited to the Hula Bowl.
• Notre Dame defensive lineman Trevor Laws and safety Tom Zbikowski have been invited to the Senior Bowl. Center John Sullivan and tight end John Carlson will also participate.
• Oregon offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz has been invited to the East-West Shrine Game.
• Toledo offensive lineman John Greco has been invited to the East-West Shrine Game.
• Tulane running back Matt Forte' has been invited to the Senior Bowl.
• USC has confirmed that seven Trojans have been invited to the Senior Bowl – quarterback John David Booty, running back Chauncey Washington, tight end Fred Davis, offensive tackle Sam Baker, defensive end Lawrence Jackson, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and outside linebacker Keith Rivers. Offensive guard Drew Radovich has been invited to the East-West Shrine Game.
• Utah State offensive lineman Shawn Murphy has been invited to the East-West Shrine Game. He is the son of former Atlanta Braves star outfielder Dale Murphy.
• Vanderbilt inside linebacker Jonathan Goff has been invited to the East-West Shrine Game.
• Virginia Tech has confirmed that defensive lineman Chris Ellis and outside linebacker Xavier Adibi have been invited to the Senior Bowl. Inside linebacker Vince Hall and safety D.J. Parker have been invited to the East-West Shrine Game. Offensive tackle Duane Brown, inside linebacker Vince Hall and wide receivers Josh Morgan and Eddie Royal have been invited to the Hula Bowl.
• Yale defensive lineman Brandt Hollander has been invited to the Hula Bowl.
• Catawba (N.C.) senior quarterback Brad Roach has been invited the Cactus Bowl, the Division II all-star game. The game will be played in Kingsville, Texas on Jan. 11.
• West Liberty State junior cornerback Darren Banks, a Marshall transfer, might inquire about his NFL grade after recording a nation-leading 13 interceptions. He has 28 career picks. Banks is said to have a near 40-inch vertical leap to go along with 4.4 range speed.
• Chadron State senior running back Danny Woodhead, Abilene Christian junior running back Bernard Scott and Delta State senior linebacker Michael Eubanks are the finalists for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the Division II Heisman. The winner will be announced Dec. 14.
• Newberry's Heath Benedict, Grand Valley State's Brandon Barnes, Slippery Rock's Mike Butterworth, Nebraska-Omaha's Ben Hochstein, Mesa State College's Kurt Kissner, Henderson State's Kurt Kutscher, California (Pa. 's) Tim McCutcheon and Abilene Christian's Nathan Young are the finalists for the Gene Upshaw Award, given to the top Division II lineman.
Arkansas junior running back Darren McFadden and Louisville senior quarterback Brian Brohm are the favorites to be the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft. But Miami, New England (from San Francisco), the New York Jets, St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons hold the top five picks.
So while McFadden, if he declares, and Brohm are the most talented skill-position players on the board, a trade among the top two or three choices could be in the offing. Miami and New England have quarterbacks, and although there have been questions about the durability of Laurence Maroney, the Patriots could likely package that pick in order to secure a later top-10 choice as well as a 2009 first-round pick.
• The Dolphins currently have rookie QB John Beck and a young running back in Ronnie Brown, so unless the Jets hit the clock with the chance to add this year's version of Adrian Peterson, it is possible that the Falcons and former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino could wind up with Brohm.