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2009 NFL Draft - Top 50 Players, No. 1 to 25
Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry
Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 24, 2009


From the college football perspective, who are the top 50 players in the draft? Here are prospects 1 through 25.

2009 NFL Draft Position Rankings

Top 50 - No. 1 through 25
 

- 2009 NFL Rankings
Quarterbacks
| Running Backs | Fullbacks | Receivers | Tight Ends
Centers | Guards | Off. Tackles | Def. Ends | Def. Tackles
Inside LBs | Outside LBs | Cornerbacks | Safeties
| Kickers

- Top 50 Prospects - No. 26 to 50

1. Aaron Curry, LB Wake Forest  6-2, 250
A nearly perfect prospect, he’s strong, insanely fast and athletic for his size, smart, and willing to run through a wall to make a play. He’ll have to learn how to become a blitzer and he needs to learn more how to play in the backfield. That’s easily correctable. He spent the early part of his career adding weight after coming to Wake Forest looking like a safety, and he helped make form a strong defense as the captain and eventual Butkus Award winner. There’s almost no real knock on him with a near-perfect combination of size, toughness, leadership, work ethic and character. He’s the type of all-around versatile linebacker who’ll do a little of everything and has almost no bust potential outside of a fluke injury.
CFN Projection: Top Five Overall

2. Jason Smith, OT Baylor 6-4, 309
One of the hottest prospects since the end of the season, Smith went from being a first rounder to a sure-thing, top five type of pick after doing everything right in post-season workouts and the Combine. The former tight end is a fantastic athlete who has gotten better and better the more he’s been scrutinized. Not only is he extremely smart, but he has a nasty streak to the point of being over-competitive (re: cocky … but not necessarily in a bad way). While he needs work on his technique to be ready at a pro level, there’s nothing that can’t be tweaked a little bit and he’s more than willing to work on being the best he can be. There’s no real knock on him that should send up any sort of red flag, and the sky’s the limit on how good he can become. There’s a limitless upside.
CFN Projection: First Round, Top Five Overall


3, Brian Orakpo, DE/LB Texas  6-3, 260
Either a 4-3 speed rusher or an outside linebacker in a 3-4, wherever he lines up he’ll get into the backfield on a regular basis. Extremely strong, he’s a freak of nature in the weight room and workouts with a jaw-dropping performance at the Combine. He has busted his tail to get bigger, stronger, and better since he first came to Austin. There are some durability concerns, but last year’s injury that limited him late in the season was a fluke. There’s a consistency question and there’s a huge concern about his motor, but when he’s on, he’s unstoppable. The other possible question is where to put him. He’s not really a linebacker and will probably be at his best with a hand on the ground. However, there’s no concern about how he handles himself against big tackles. Line him up, turn him loose, and let him wreak havoc as a devastating game-changer of a pass rusher.
CFN Projection: First Round


4. Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia 6-2, 225 (Jr.)
Everyone knew he was going to be a pro out of high school, and he didn’t disappoint. While he failed to lead Georgia to a national title, and didn’t even get the Dawgs to the SEC championship game, Stafford showed off the arm strength and the talent from day one to make everyone assume he was going to become a NFL starter in the very near future. While he’s not the biggest passer around, NFL types tend to like the tall, 6-4ish bombers, he has an arm that can throw a pea through a brick wall. He can make all the throws and he has the character and makeup to handle the pressure of being a franchise savior. Extremely smart, he’ll be ahead of the curve when it comes to reading defenses after a little bit of time. Now he needs to be more consistent and he’ll need elite coaching to work on his accuracy. His problems are fixable, but the big issue hanging out there is why Georgia didn’t do more with Stafford under center. The Dawgs were fine, but Stafford didn’t take the program to another level. While he won’t have a Matt Ryan-like first season, he’ll end up being the better player over time.
CFN Projection: First Round, First Pick Overall

5. Eugene Monroe, OT Virginia 6-5, 309
A superstar high school prospect and a big-time get for Virginia, he didn’t disappoint. While Jason Smith might have the best all-around combination of skills and potential, Monroe is the most ready to start right now. He played in a pro style offense and showed he could play to the level needed. When he needed to blast over a defender for the running game, he did it. When he needed to match up with a speed rusher, he did it. Great at the Combine looking polished and smooth, there’s little work needing to be done on his technique. The main concern is a nagging knee problem that could be an off-and-on issue over the course of his career. The only other question mark is whether or not he has the desire to be a killer, but that has been a bit overblown. He’s just not a screamer, get-in-your-face type of player. He simply goes out and does his job.
CFN Projection: First Round

6. B.J. Raji, DT Boston College  6-2, 335
Whether or not the drug charges are true (Raji’s agent denies any wrongdoing or a reported positive test), Raji is the biggest brick wall in the draft. A true anchor, he’s extremely strong, relatively athletic for his size, and doesn’t get pushed around. Needing to keep his weight in check, he needs to get in better overall shape to be able to handle a 16-game season and a full NFL game. Forget about much production as an interior pass rusher or too many plays in the backfield, but he doesn’t stay blocked for two long and will hold up well with everything funneled to him. It’ll be his job to sit in the middle of the line, swallow up two blockers, and let everyone else work around him.
CFN Projection: First Round

7. Brian Cushing, LB USC 6-3, 245
Rey Maualuga got all the glory, but Cushing might be the better pro. While he ran a disappointing 4.64 at the Combine, he was one of the quickest players in the agility drills and came up with a lineman-like 30 reps on the bench. He plays even faster than he times with great range and an easy ability to blow past blockers. The big concern is a ticky-tack injury history that kept him from being a big-name college superstar. He’s also not all that strong in pass coverage and, despite his strength, needs to be on the outside. There’s no questioning his heart or his desire, but he could be unreliable. He’ll be a killer for around ten games a year, but will be dinged up/out for a few games a year.
CFN Projection: First Round

8. Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia 5-10, 217 (Jr.)
Moreno just has the look of a franchise back. He’s not the fastest back around, but he has enough functional speed to bust off big runs when he gets a little room. He’s not the biggest runner, but there’s no questioning his power or his toughness. There might not be any one thing he does better than anyone else at an NFL level, but he does everything well including block, catch, run with patience and hold on to the ball. Ultra-competitive, he’ll do everything he can to become a big-time back and he’ll be the type who wants the ball in his hands in every situation. The only question mark will be durability for his size. Is he a slower Clinton Portis with the ability to handle the pounding, or will he be Cadillac Williams and do big things before getting banged up? He’s worth it. He’ll carry an offense for a few years.
CFN Projection: First Round

9. Michael Oher, OT Ole Miss 6-5, 310
There’s absolutely no question that from the neck down, with a year in a pro weight room and with a little bit of work, he has perennial Pro Bowl written all over him. But from the neck up … well, from the neck down he’s a great physical talent. There’s a major concern about his desire to be the best in the game and there’s a bigger concern that he could struggle to handle everything that goes with being a franchise-caliber tackle who’s supposed to stick on a left side for the next decade. He needs the right coaching staff and a mentor who’s willing to provide a bit of a push, but to be fair, he was groomed by one of the best in the business, former Ole Miss head coach and current Tennessee assistant, Ed Orgeron. Orgeron isn’t exactly known for being soft and is peerless when it comes to line development. It might take a little while, but Oher will be solid as long as he’s able to overcome adversity quickly and easily.
CFN Projection: First Round

10. Jeremy Maclin, WR Missouri 6-1, 210 (3rd year Soph.)
Does he have the ability to stay healthy and get more physical? While he’s tough, he played through an ankle injury, he’s mostly been a finesse target who’s been great on the move and in space. He has the hands, he has the top-end speed, and he has the return ability to become an instant impact playmaker in a variety of ways. It’s his speed that sets him apart with an extra gear when he gets going. How fast is he? He tore off a “disappointing” 4.4 at the Combine even though he had a dinged up leg. When he’s right, he’ll be a No. 1 receiver and a big-time playmaker, but he can’t be counted on for a full 16-game season.
CFN Projection: First Round

11. Aaron Maybin, LB/DE Penn State  6-3, 250 (3rd year Soph.)
A true-tweener, he’s a defensive end who’ll likely be morphed into a hybrid player and likely an outside linebacker. Lightning fast off the ball, at least during the season, he blows around a corner effortlessly and with a burst that most tackles won’t be able to handle. Extremely tough, he’s able to take on big blockers and come back for more even when he doesn’t win a battle. However, he needs to get stronger and there’s a huge, glaring concern that he might slow down with the added bulk. He put on weight too quickly after the season and was far slower than expected in workouts. If you’re going by how he played at around 230 pounds, he’s stunning. If you’re going by what he might become once he learns to play bigger, there’s a potential problem. He needs time before he becomes the player he should be, but there is a big-time upside. But he’s not a sure-thing, safe pick and there’s told-you-so bust potential.
CFN Projection: First Round

12. Chris Wells, RB Ohio State 6-1, 235 (Jr.)
Based on pure talent, size, speed, and skills, Beanie’s the best back in the draft. However, he has major durability questions and despite showing good character and saying all the right things, there’s a question mark about how much he really wants to be a superstar. Is he going to be the run-through-a-brick-wall type like Knowshon Moreno? He’s such a rare talent that he’s worth all the risks. It’s not a stretch to say that from day one only Adrian Peterson will have the better combination of size and home run hitting ability. When Beanie’s on, he’ll barrel over everything in his path and will take over games. But when he’s not into the big game, he won’t fight for the hard yards and could disappear at times. The other problem is his blocking ability … there isn’t much. He has to be developed as a receiver and needs to prove he wants to hit someone, but if he doesn’t have to be a No. 1 back who carries the entire workload, he should be terrific.
CFN Projection: First Round

13. Rey Maualuga, LB USC  6-2, 249
A Yeah, But player. Yeah, he’s not fast, but he always seems to be around the ball. Yeah, he’s a bit smaller than originally thought, but his peerless hitting ability and toughness more than makes up for it. Yeah, he doesn’t have the best range, instincts, or quickness in pass coverage, but the guy is a flat-out football player. Yeah, he had a rocky career at times at USC when it came to off-the-field issues (many stemming from the loss of his father), but he was the unquestioned leader of a phenomenal defense. A big-time playmaker for the inside, and the inside only, he’ll run through a wall to succeed and become an NFL star. While he was a bit overrated because his highlight reel hits overshadowed times when he was merely average, and he had a phenomenal supporting cast around him, he should be able to step in and start right away as long as he’s next to some athletic, playmaking running mates.
CFN Projection: First Round

14. Everette Brown, LB/DE Florida State  6-1, 255 (Jr.)
Is he big enough? He has the athleticism to seamlessly transition into an outside linebacker in any system, but his moved and his pass rushing technique are so strong and so polished that he’s far more intriguing as a lightning-fast end. However, he’s not all that tall and he doesn’t have much room to get too much bigger, so this might be it. While he’s not a big-time run stopper, and the jury is out on whether or not he could become an all-around playmaker at linebacker, he’ll work to make himself better and has the character to try to become the best he can be. If nothing else, he’ll be a fun pass rushing toy for a defensive coordinator to play with.
CFN Projection: First Round

15. Eben Britton, OT Arizona  6-6, 310 (Jr.)
It all depends on what you want out of him. If you’re looking for a left tackle to protect a quarterback’s blind side, there are going to be problems. He was fine in college, but he’s not athletic enough to be a consistent pass blocker against the faster pass rushers. In the pros, he’ll be tried out at left tackle, but he’ll have a long, solid career on the right side. Being labeled as a right-side-only tackle is the kiss of death, but it might not be a bad thing here. Britton is a very smart, very tough blocker who doesn’t make mistakes; his problems will come from simply not being an elite enough athlete. In a perfect world, there’s no reason to mess with it. Put him on the right side and sleep well for the next decade. When needed, put him on the left from time to time and he’ll be more than serviceable as long as it’s not for a full season.
CFN Projection: First Round

16. Malcolm Jenkins, CB Ohio State  6-0, 204
He has everything but speed. With good size and toughness, he’s terrific against bigger receivers ad has no problems being physical, even though he doesn’t show great weight room strength. For his size he has phenomenal quickness, coming up with a Combine best time (for the corners) in the cone drill and one of the best in the shuttle. However, he came up with a glacier-slow 4.54 in the 40 exposing his lack of pure deep speed. While he’ll be started out at corner, and will be more than fine, he could really shine down the road with a few years of experience and a move to free safety. For now, he won’t be asked to deal with too many blazers and will likely have to try to erase the bigger targets. But for where he’s picked and the money he’ll make, he needs to be a No. 1 corner and that just might not be in him.
CFN Projection: First Round

17. Larry English, LB Northern Illinois (DE)  6-2, 255
He’s the type of player that no one’s quite sure exactly what to do with, but everyone wants him. He’s not big enough to be a regular defensive end and he’s not fast enough to be a star outside linebacker, but he could flourish in a 3-4 linebacker role or as a 4-3 end if he’s asked to become a pass rusher. With a full-tilt motor, he needed to be double and triple teamed on every play after he grew into a star at NIU, and while his numbers might not have been great, he needed so much attention that he earned MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors two years in a row. More than fine whenever he went against the better talents, he was fine in Senior Bowl practices, he shouldn’t have a problem going from the MAC to the NFL.
CFN Projection: Second Round 

18. Percy Harvin, WR Florida 5-11, 195 (Jr.)
A smaller, better running version of Jeremy Maclin, Harvin was an elite playmaker when he was able to stay on the field. Oh sure, Tim Tebow had the speech and has been the signature star, but Florida doesn’t win the SEC title or the national title without Harvin. While he’s not all that big, he’s strong, well-built, and tough. However, he gets hurt way too often to be a top target to build a passing game around. He’ll have to be a complementary weapon who’ll do a little of everything for an offense, and he’ll likely be tried out and used as a returner. A top offensive coordinator will drool at the possibilities, and there will be some big games when Harvin explodes, but he’ll have a tough time being consistent and he’s not going to stay healthy.
CFN Projection: First Round

19. Clint Sintim, LB Virginia  6-3, 250
He made himself into a top pro prospect. A good player early in his career, he took things to another level once it was salary-drive time and showed he could become a good pass rusher. Able to be used like a smallish defensive end, and able to move inside if absolutely needed, he’s a versatile all-around playmaker who should grow into a nice pass rusher and a good starter. Without a blazing burst and with a lack of speed he’s not going to be an elite sack artist, but he should be a great piece of the puzzle and ultra-valuable because of his versatility.
CFN Projection: Second Round 

20. Phil Loadholt, OT Oklahoma 6-7, 335
Loadholt is a classic case of a prospect getting a little negative momentum and then seeing it steamroll. It’s like scouts are looking for the problems in his game rather than focus on what he is and the good things that he did. No, he’s not the most nimble of tackles, but he proved he could keep up and thrive in the OU up-tempo offense and did a great job of keeping Sam Bradford upright. The positive is his size … he’s huge, and not in a doughy sort of way. He’s tall, long, and fantastic at getting his arms extended and punching defenders just enough to give the quarterback the extra half-click needed. Yes, he has problems against the fastest of speed rushers, but it’s not like he doesn’t win his share of battles. He might be pigeonholed as a right side blocker because his lack of foot quickness, but he’ll be better than expected on the left.
CFN Projection: Second Round

21. Mark Sanchez, QB USC (Jr.) 6-2, 227
One of the toughest calls of the draft, Sanchez isn’t the talent that Carson Palmer was coming out of USC, and he appears to be more fired up about being a great quarterback, rather than a big star, than Matt Leinart. The big knock is his lack of playing experience having only been the main man for roughly a year and a half. The other knock is that he hasn’t faced a whole bunch of adversity playing with all the talent around him at USC. The Trojans weren’t nearly as talented when Palmer was under center, and Leinart had proved himself in national championships (even in the loss to Texas) and in tight battles against Notre Dame and Fresno State. Sanchez was fine, but nothing special despite a tremendous performance against Penn State in the Rose Bowl. To be a star in the NFL, he’ll have to be a gym rat and they’re going to have to kick him out of the weight room. He needs to get bigger, stronger, and faster; he’s not an elite athlete in any way. On the plus side, he has a good enough NFL arm to make all the throws, he’s used to competition, and again, he appears to be the type of prospect who wants to make himself better and will do all the dirty work needed.
CFN Projection: First Round    

22. Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech 6-1, 215 (3rd year Soph.)
Everyone has fallen in love with Crabtree because of his size, desire, and his tremendous production at Texas Tech. However, there are major warning signs that he might not be the be-all-end-all No. 1 target. For one, he’s not as big as expected. Considered to be in the same category as Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, and Andre Johnson, top receivers who went in the top three overall, Crabtree isn’t nearly as tall and he’s nowhere near as fast. And then there’s the foot issue. No one is considering for a second that there’s anything strange about the injury, the timing couldn’t be better. He’s not a 4.4 runner, and he’s more likely around a devastatingly stock-dropping 4.6. Is that for sure? No way, but it’s asking a lot to draft a wide receiver in the top 10 without knowing if he can run. He needs to get the ball in a quick-hitting passing attack and on the move. Randy Moss he’s not; he’s not going to get deep on any NFL starting cornerback. Ultra-competitive, he’s the type who’ll want to make himself better and he’s the one true No. 1 type of receiver in the draft. All the doubters out there and all the question marks are a major positive. It’ll all light a fire under him that could carry into an extremely productive pro career in the right offense.
CFN Projection: First Round

23. Peria Jerry, DT Ole Miss  6-1, 295
Jerry is either the star of the draft and a sure-thing Pro Bowl performer for the next ten years, or he’s a mega-bust waiting to happen who’ll never be 100% healthy. The talent in undeniable with tremendous quickness across the line and into the backfield, and he’s a hard worker who’ll try to become a cornerstone of a front wall, but he’ll be 25 when he starts his career, isn’t anchor-strong, and he’ll struggle to stay healthy, He had a variety of little bangs and bruises throughout his career that turned out to be limiting for stretches. When he’s on the field he’ll be an instant-impact performer who’ll do a little of everything well, but he’s a piece of the puzzle and not necessarily the tackle you can count on game-in-and-game-out for a full year.
CFN Projection: First Round

24. William Beatty, OT Connecticut 6-6, 308
On of the high-rising prospects since the end of the season, his athleticism has been eye-opening and he’s done a great job of bulking up. He still has room to add more weight and still not lose a step. He moves well from side to side and he did a great job against top pass rushers, even though Connecticut didn’t exactly wing it around. If he gets the right coach who can light a fire under him and keep him motivated, he could be special. He wouldn’t be a great fit on a power running offense, even though he did a great job of run blocking in college, and would be stronger in a West Coast type of attack where he’s able to get on the move. He’ll need to get the motor running at full-tilt all the time, but with his combination of size and quickness, he’ll be worth the risk.
CFN Projection: Second Round

25. Josh Freeman, QB Kansas State 6-6, 240 (Jr.)
There a some teams out there hoping to steal the former Wildcat star late in the first round, but there might be some jockeying from some teams to move up. Thrown to the wolves as a true freshman, Freeman handled himself well in a tough situation. He didn’t have a defense to help him out and the talent level around him was above-average at best, outside of WR Jordy Nelson. He has the size, a little bit of mobility, and a huge arm, and he looks the part. Now he needs coaching. Still a work in progress, he needs to be more consistent and he needs to work on his mechanics with rep after rep after rep. At the next level he’ll have to learn how to get rid of the ball far faster; he took way too many hits at KSU. However, he always kept going on despite playing behind bad O lines and he rarely appeared shell-shocked. It’s going to take a few years, but he should be great on a team that has a good veteran who’s willing to be his mentor.
CFN Projection: First Round  

- Top 50 Prospects - No. 26 to 50