Top 5 on offense: Sanchez still ahead of Stafford

National Football Post
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This week, the National Football Post will break down and dissect position rankings among the nation's top prospects. Now that pro days are all but over, NFL evaluators are putting the final touches on their position rankings and big boards. We start our last major phase of rankings on the offensive side of the ball and take a look at the top five players at each position followed by our analysis of each group.


Josh Freeman

(Jonathan Brownfield/US Presswire)

1. Mark Sanchez, USC (6-2, 227)
2. Matthew Stafford, Georgia (6-2, 225)
3. Josh Freeman, Kansas State (6-6, 248)
4. Pat White, West Virginia (6-0, 197)
5. Stephen McGee, Texas A&M (6-3, 225)

Sanchez remains No. 1 at the quarterback position due largely to his combination of accuracy, anticipation skills and ability to decipher defenses quickly. He does need some time to develop but should adapt quickly to the NFL. At Nos. 2 and 3, Stafford and Freeman have the type of physical skill sets NFL executives love, although both also have some inconsistencies to their games. Stafford needs to learn to make quicker decisions from the pocket, and Freeman has questions concerning his accuracy and ability to throw to open receivers. White and McGee may offer the most upside of anyone in the QB class. White possesses rare athletic tools, but given concerns about his size and natural passing skills, a "Wildcat" quarterback role may be the best fit for him at the next level. McGee has as much untapped potential as any QB in the class and reminds some scouts of Patriots backup QB Kevin O'Connell. He has a rare blend of physical and athletic attributes and could develop into a capable starter.

Running backs
1. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (5-11, 217)
2. Chris Wells, Ohio State (6-1, 235)
3. Shonn Greene, Iowa (5-11, 227)
4. Donald Brown, Connecticut (5-10, 210)
5. LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh (5-11, 204)

I still give a slight edge to Moreno over Wells at this point, simply because Moreno is a much more instinctive runner. His vision, toughness and ability to make people miss are rare, and that's the main reason he still holds the No. 1 overall spot. The same can be said for the third running back on my board, Greene. He did not display great speed during his postseason workouts, but his 4.55-second 40 at the Iowa pro day is enough for me. Greene possesses smooth footwork and body control for his size and is an absolute load to bring down. He's the kind of guy who can wear down opposing front sevens and will get stronger as the game goes on. Brown comes in at No. 4, and as you can see, we're not as high on him as most scouts, partly because of his impatient running style. He does not run with the same type of vision as the three backs ranked ahead of him and reminds me a bit of Raiders RB Justin Fargas. Rounding out the top five is McCoy, who possesses an intriguing athletic skill set with impressive body control in space. He's a big-play threat, but we just don't see the type of consistency between the tackles that we see from the top-rated runners in this class.

1. Quinn Johnson, LSU (6-1, 246)
2. Conredge Collins, Pittsburgh (5-11, 224)
3. Tony Fiammetta, Syracuse (6-0, 245)
4. Brannan Southerland, Georgia (6-0, 242)
5. David Johnson, Arkansas State (6-2, 260)

The trio of Quinn Johnson, Collins and Fiammetta all look like starting-caliber fullbacks at the next level and should be picked some time during the mid-to-late portions of the draft. All three have the capability to be solid lead blockers and possess the athleticism to help out in the pass game and catch balls out of the backfield. Southerland had an injury-plagued senior year, but based on his junior tape, he warrants a grade similar to the three listed above him. If he can get back to his junior form, he also possesses starting ability. Finally, David Johnson displays a rare combination of size and athleticism for the fullback position and does a great job creating mismatches in the pass game. He has the frame to develop into a strong lead blocker and has as much upside as anyone in the group.

Wide receivers
1. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (6-2, 215)
2. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (6-0, 198)
3. Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina (6-1, 212)
4. Percy Harvin, Florida (5-11, 192)
5. Kenny Britt, Rutgers (6-3, 218)

Crabtree remains at the top of the position rankings but is being pushed hard by Maclin. Maclin did not run as well as many thought he would this postseason, but he has looked terrific during position drills and simply plays faster than he times. His ability to explode out of his breaks is second to none in this year's class, and he has the most upside of any receiver in the draft. In the third slot is Nicks, a polished route runner who showcases the type of physicality NFL executives love. He exhibits impressive short-area quickness, and even though he doesn't have elite deep speed, he has a consistent burst out of his breaks. Harvin is ranked No. 4 because of his ability to line up all over the offense and create plays after the catch. However, I don't know how productive he'll be on the outside, and he may be forced to play strictly in the slot. Britt gets the nod over Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 5 simply because Britt is a much more polished and instinctive wideout. Heyward-Bey is a gifted straight-line athlete, but we have trouble seeing him separate from NFL corners at the next level. Britt is a tough kid with good ball skills who has the body control, hands and physicality to be successful working the middle of the field.


Shawn Nelson

(Bob Smith/US Presswire)

Tight ends
1. Shawn Nelson, Southern Miss (6-5, 240)
2. Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State (6-6, 263)
3. Jared Cook, South Carolina (6-5, 246)
4. James Casey, Rice (6-3, 246)
5. Chase Coffman, Missouri (6-6, 244)

Nelson leads the way in the tight end rankings because of his ability to not only create plays down the seam, but also his upside as a blocker. He possesses long arms and a much stronger frame for which he's given credit. He should develop into a productive all-around tight end at the next level. Pettigrew ranks second because he's also an ideal receiving/blocking combo tight end, although he isn't the same kind of vertical threat Nelson is down the field. The top vertical threat in the group is Cook, who will do most of his damage as a receiver because his blocking skills are still a work in progress. No. 4 Casey might possess some of the best ball skills of any player in this year's draft. He has the ability to fill a variety of roles and looks like an ideal H-back. Coffman has seen his stock slip in recent weeks because of his inability to work out. However, he's a tough kid with great hands and ball skills. He showcases the willingness and power to be a successful blocker and rounds out one of the most talented tight end groups in years.

Offensive tackles
1. Eugene Monroe, Virginia (6-5, 309)
2. Jason Smith, Baylor (6-5, 309)
3. Andre Smith, Alabama (6-4, 332)
4. Eben Britton, Arizona (6-6, 309)
5. Michael Oher, Mississippi (6-5, 309)

Watching tape of Monroe, it looks as though the game comes too easily to him. He moves and redirects with such balance that it would be an injustice if we didn't rank him as the nation's top tackle. Jason Smith is a close second because of his pure athleticism, but he still needs to develop from a technical standpoint. Ranked third is Andre Smith, who might be the most physically gifted of any offensive lineman prospect, but his character concerns have raised red flags around the NFL. He's the strongest run blocker in the tackle class and might be best served playing right tackle or moving inside to guard. He reminds me so much of Eagles guard Shawn Andrews. Britton moves up to No. 4 because of his footwork, fluidity and overall technique. He's a guy who would be rated much higher if it wasn't for his lack of length. However, on tape he doesn't appear to play short-armed and has a chance to develop into a very good offensive tackle on either the right or left side. Rounding out the top five is Oher, who has the skill set to match any tackle prospect in this draft. However, his lack of instincts is a big concern for the left tackle position. His learning troubles are well documented, and the fact that the mistakes he made on Monday at the Senior Bowl were the same ones he made later in the week had to raise some red flags. Oher might be a bit slow to develop and may be best-suited for the right side.

Offensive guards
1. Duke Robinson, Oklahoma (6-5, 329)
2. Herman Johnson, LSU (6-7, 356)
3. Andy Levitre, Oregon State (6-3, 305)
4. Trevor Canfield, Cincinnati (6-5, 307)
5. T.J. Lang, Eastern Michigan (6-4, 316)

The guard class is led by two road-graders up front in Robinson and Johnson. Both possess rare size and strength for the position and are ideal fits in a power-run scheme. Coming in just behind them is Levitre, who, unlike Robinson and Johnson, relies on his athleticism and technique inside. He's a former left tackle who showcases impressive body control and is one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the draft. Ranked fourth is Canfield, a nasty, long-armed guard with good pop as an in-line blocker and athleticism in the pass game. He consistently plays with a mean streak and should develop into a starter very early in his career. Lang has been flying up draft boards of late after a very impressive showing at the Texas vs. the Nation Bowl. He has the feet and athleticism of a left tackle and combines those two with a flexible, strong base. He's still being viewed as a tackle prospect, but we feel his best chance for optimal success at the next level would be inside at guard.

1. Alex Mack, California (6-4, 307)
2. Max Unger, Oregon (6-5, 309)
3. Eric Wood, Louisville (6-4, 310)
4. Antoine Caldwell, Alabama (6-3, 309)
5. Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas (6-4, 301)

In what's considered one of the best center classes in years, I expect all five to come off the board in the first three rounds. Mack is a tough, blue-collar lineman who plays with a mean streak and is considered the best in the group. He displays excellent base strength and should start very early in his NFL career. Unger grades out very closely to Mack but is considered more of an athletic, finesse blocker. Unger relies on his length, footwork and lateral mobility in pass protection and does a nice job understanding angles and sealing run lanes inside. He's an ideal zone-blocking scheme lineman who should come off the board early in Round 2. Wood is a nasty, try-hard center who possesses the versatility to line up all over the interior of the offensive line. He isn't as fluid or comfortable in space as Mack or Unger, but once he gets his hands on you, he's tough to shed. No. 4 Caldwell has flown under the radar lately but has the potential to start very early in his career. Luigs rounds out the group and is an instinctive lineman with good feet and body control inside. He doesn't play physical at the point of attack and may be a bit scheme-limited, but he has the athletic skill set to warrant a third-round selection.

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