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2009's Top 32 NFL Prospects
USC LB Rey Maualuga
USC LB Rey Maualuga
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 17, 2008


With the NFL early entry signing period coming to a close, the spotlight is on the top pro prospects for the 2009 draft. There are some superstars, like USC LB Rey Maualuga, who will certainly be a top pick, but it should be a down year for top skill players. Check out 32 of the best pro prospects to watch out for.

2009 NFL Draft

Projected First Round

The way too early look at the top pro prospects coming back


By Pete Fiutak 

-
The 2008 NFL Early Entries & Projections
- The 2007 Early Entries and what happened to them
- Looking Back: Preview 2007 Top Pro Prospects 1 to 32
- Looking Back: Preview 2007 Top Pro Prospects 33 to 64

Either they chose to come back for their senior seasons, will be ready as juniors, or will come out of the blue, with the time to file for early entry over, here's an early look at 32 of the best pro prospects for the 2008 college football season.

NOTE: There are still a few players that could enter into this mix over the next day or so as the early entrants are finalized. This could quickly change.

1. Tim Tebow, QB Florida (Jr.)
Think Alex Smith with talent. Tebow seems like the type who'll want to stay for all four years, but 2009 projects to be among the worst quarterback drafts in a long, long time making the bulldozing lefty a hot prospect. He has the size, the passing accuracy, the mobility, and the makeup to become a franchise-shaper.

Some of the top pro prospects for the 2009 draft at each position

Quarterbacks
1. Tim Tebow, Florida (Jr.)
2. Matthew Stafford, Georgia (Jr.)
3. Nate Davis, Ball State (Jr.)
4. Cullen Harper, Clemson
5. Curtis Painter, Purdue

Running Backs

1. Beanie Wells, OSU (Jr.)
2. C.J. Spiller, Clemson (Jr.)
3. Marlon Lucky, Nebraska
4. P.J. Hill, Wisconsin (Jr.)
5. Arian Foster, Tennessee

Wide Receivers

1. D. Heyward-Bey, Mary. (Jr.)
2. Percy Harvin, Florida (Jr.)
3. Brandon Gibson, Wash. St.
4. Brian Robiskie, OSU
5. Greg Carr, Florida State

Tight Ends

1. Cornelius Ingram, Florida
2. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin
3. Brandon Pettigrew, Ok. St.
4. Chase Coffman, Missouri
5. Bear Pascoe, Fresno State

Offensive Tackles

1. Andre Smith, Bama (Jr.)
2. Michael Oher, Ole Miss
3. Ciron Black, LSU (Jr.)
4. Alex Boone, Ohio State
5. Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma

Offensive Guards/Centers
1. Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
2. Herman Johnson, LSU
3. Alex Mack, California
4. Jeremy Perry, Oregon State
5. Cedric Dockery, Texas

Defensive Ends
1. Tyson Jackson, LSU
2. George Selvie, USF (Jr.)
3. Greg Hardy, Ole Miss (Jr.)
4. Greg Middleton, Indiana (Jr.)
5. Michael Johnson, Ga Tech

Defensive Tackles
1. Fili Moala, USC*
2. Sen'Derrick Marks, Aub. (Jr.)
3. Dorrell Scott, Clemson
4. George Hypolite, Colorado
5. Terrance Taylor, Michigan
6. Demonte Bolden, Tenn.

*Moala is still likely to go pro in 2008.


Linebackers
1. Rey Maualuga, USC
2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
3. Brian Cushing, USC
4. Marcus Freeman, Ohio State
5. Sean Lee, Penn State

Safeties
1. Taylor Mays, USC (Jr.)
2. Myron Rolle, Fla. State (Jr.)
3. Courtney Greene, Rutgers
4. Michael Hamlin, Clemson
5. Nic Harris, Oklahoma

Cornerbacks
1. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
2. Mike Mickens, Cincinnati
3. Vontae Davis, Illinois (Jr.)
4. Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest
5. Jairus Byrd, Oregon (Jr.)

2. Tyson Jackson, DE LSU
Call this a bit of an out-on-a-limb projection considering Jackson probably would've been a second rounder if he came out early. At 6-5 and 290 pounds, he's an end who's built like a tackle, but he has to come up with a better year to grow into an elite of the elite pick. No, he's not a speed rusher, but JaMarcus Russell wasn't a Vince Young-like runner, either. In other words, sometimes, the freak of nature specimen aspect overshadows everything else.

3. Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB Ohio State (Jr.)
With size, breakaway speed, and toughness between the tackles, Beanie is a do-it-all back who can be a 25-carry NFL franchise builder. With the talent coming back on the Buckeye line, only injuries will keep Wells from being deep in the hunt for the Heisman.

4. Rey Maualuga, LB USC
In a strange way, Maualuga might have been the top linebacker taken in the 2008 draft, but he might have been the least ready of all the top prospects. He can move, he can hit, and, well, he can really, really hit. He's a top inside defender to potentially build a defense around.

5. James Laurinaitis, LB Ohio State
There's no doubt he would've been a top 15, maybe top ten pick had he come out early. It'll be interesting to see if there's a little bit of a backlash considering how much great press he's received over the last few years, or if he'll turn into A.J. Hawk as far as national respect. He can put up big numbers, but he has to be better against the pass and not make so many plays ten yards down the field against the run.

6. Andre Smith, OT Alabama (Jr.)
He was almost everyone's No. 1 high school recruit in 2006 and he proved to be up to the hype. 6-5, 350-pound tackles who can move and can handle speed rushers are extremely rare.

7. Malcolm Jenkins, CB Ohio State
He likely would've been the first corner taken in the 2008 draft with a combination of safety size and blazing speed. Better against big or fast receivers, he has to prove in his senior year that he can lock down against the small, quick types. Tackling isn't an issue.

8. Michael Oher, OT Ole Miss
He declared himself eligible for the 2008 NFL draft after being projected as a mid-first to early second round choice, and he almost certainly would've gone in the top 20. By returning, he'll solidify himself as one of the top picks and possibly the first offensive lineman taken if he can improve on his all-around technique. He's good now, but he could use the seasoning even with 34 games of starting experience.

9. George Selvie, DE South Florida (Jr.)
The pass rushing terror has to bulk up a bit, be more consistent, and be even bigger in the big games. He has to use this year to prove he can dominate no matter who's blocking him and no matter what the situation is. He can't disappear as often as he did at times late in 2007.

10. Greg Hardy, DE Ole Miss (Jr.)
An unstoppable pass rushing machine who ripped apart Alabama and came up with two sacks against LSU, but off-the-field issues kept him out of a key game against Auburn. He still needs polish on his technique and he still needs to show he can be the main man with the spotlight on, but the former basketball player has the tools to be a terror at the next level.

11. C.J. Spiller, RB Clemson (Jr.)
With James Davis out of the picture, the Tiger running game will be all about the one-time super-recruit who has shown flashes of greatness over his first two seasons. While he's not huge, he has great pop and breakaway speed once he gets through the line.

12. Ciron Black, OT LSU (Jr.)
Black got a little bit of all-star recognition in 2007, but he should be on everyone's radar going into 2008. He made a name for himself as a freshman protecting JaMarcus Russell, and now he's ready to shoot up the draft charts with his size and feet.

13. Brian Cushing, LB USC
Injuries kept him from having a huge 2007, but with his all-around game and his potential to be effective in any scheme at any outside position, he'll be a lock to be a top 30 pick. He won't have the "wow" factor of Rey Maulaluga or James Laurinaitis, but the NFL scouts will love him.

14. Taylor Mays, S USC (Jr.)

At 6-4 and 225 pounds, Mays hits like a linebacker and is as fast as any Trojan. He's been a playmaker from day one, especially against the run, and now he has to show he can do a bit more when the ball is in the air to solidify a spot in the top 20. 


15. Duke Robinson, OG Oklahoma
A big, pounding run blocker who has helped make the OU running game go as much as the star backs plowing behind him. Consistency is a bit of an issue and pass protection will definitely be worked on in his senior year. His run blocking alone should make him one of the first linemen taken.

16. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Maryland (Jr.)
Fast, fast, fast. At 6-2 and likely to be a solid 210 by 2009 draft time, and with the best wheels in the draft, or at least in the top five overall, he'll have all the measurables to go along with the polish from another year.

17. Greg Middleton, DE Indiana (Jr.)
The nation's sack leader with 16, getting to the quarterback isn't a problem. At 270 pounds, his size makes him a dangerous all-around defender who can play in a 3-4 or a 4-3.

18. Myron Rolle, S Florida State (Jr.)
This might be way too low. The prototype of an NFL safety, he's one of the nation's most intimidating hitters with great size and strength. He needs to make a few more plays with the ball in the air and has to be more of a difference maker, but all the tools are there.

19. Percy Harvin, WR Florida (Jr.)
He might not be a pure wide receiver at an NFL level, but he's an elite playmaker no matter how he gets the ball in his hands. No, he's not going to be a No. 1 target for anyone, but he'll be a fun toy for some creative offensive coordinator to play with.

20. Marcus Freeman, LB Ohio State
He overcame an knee injury early in his career to be a top tackler next to James Laurinaitis. At 245 pounds, he has the size to play inside, but he's an outside defender at the next level with the speed and quickness to get into the backfield on a regular basis.

21. Alex Boone, OT Ohio State
Boone could've been gone after this year and would've been a top 50 pick, and now he's almost certain to go in the first round.
The 6-8, 325-pound star of the line has the feet to stay with the speed defenders and the size to dominate in the ground game.

22. Sean Lee, LB Penn State
The next in line after Paul Pozluszny and Dan Connor, Lee might be more versatile than Connor and more athletic then Poz. He's a natural outside defender who should see more time in the middle this year, but he'll probably move back out at the next level.

23. Herman Johnson, G LSU 
As long as the weight is kept in check, and he's around 330 to 340 and doesn't balloon back up to around 370, he'll be among the first linemen taken. A crushing run blocker, he has surprising athleticism for a player of his size.

24. Cornelius Ingram, TE Florida
Is he a big wide receiver or a small tight end? That was enough of a question to reverse and earlier decision and come back for his senior year. If he can bulk up a bit and if he can continue to grow as a receiver, after catching 34 passes for 508 yards and seven scores, he'll be a dangerous weapon.

25. Phil Loadholt, OT Oklahoma
On sheer size, Loadholt will warrant late-first round consideration. If he times well and shows good agility at the Combines, he could move into the top 15.

26. Mike Mickens, CB Cincinnati
The raw speed makes him an intriguing prospect, but size might be a problem at 6-0 and around 165 pounds. Even with his slight frame, he's a tough tackler who's not afraid to throw his body around.

27. Travis Beckum, TE Wisconsin
There's no questioning his route running ability, his speed, or his receiving skills, but he needed to come back to hit the weights, get bigger, and become a better blocker on the line.

28. Vontae Davis, CB Illinois (Jr.)
The rare blow-him-up hitting corner, Davis hits like a ton of bricks, and while his coverage skills still need improving, he has the athleticism to go along with the tackling ability to grow into an intriguing pick.

29. Sen'Derrick Marks, DT Auburn (Jr.)
While he's not a huge run stuffer, he's an ultra-athletic interior pass rusher who should be the best of a projected lousy lot of defensive tackles. This might end up being way, way too low if he turns into the star of the Tiger front line like he's supposed to.

30. Alex Mack, C California
Centers don't exactly fly off the board in the first 50 picks, but Mack should be the exception. He's quick on the move, tough against the best of tackles in pass protection, and a fantastic leader, he has it all. With his size and strength, he could play any position on the line with a little bit of work.

31. Darry Beckwith, LB LSU
A star recruit a few years ago, Beckwith played up to expectations proving he could play inside or out. With 230-pound size and versatility, he should fit in with just about any scheme.

32. Brandon Spikes, LB Florida (Jr.)
This might be way too low as he has top 15 potential if he has a big junior year. At 6-3 and 241 pounds, he has good size, sideline-to-sideline range, and excellent strength with the physical ability of a defensive end.

 










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