Preview 2009 ... Top 200
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The Top 200 Players
Top Ten |
Here are the 200 best players going into the 2009
season. This has nothing to do with pro potential
and these aren't the 200 best pro prospects (that's
a completely different list). These are the stars
for this year and they should be the difference
makers who'll define the season.
11. DE Jerry Hughes, Sr. TCU
The 6-3, 257-pound senior came to TCU as a star high school running back who was moved to the defensive line right away and spent a few years learning. He was good two years ago making 29 tackles and a sack, and then KABOOM. He worked his tail off to harness his speed and athleticism into a dynamo of a pass rusher making 15 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions to go along with 52 tackles. He was in the midst of an All-America season after a good first half of the year, and then he had his national breakout game with four sacks and several other hurries in the domination of BYU. Even when he was held in check, like he was for the most part against Boise State, when the defense needed a big play late, Hughes blew into the backfield and came up with a sack. Way too fast for almost every college offensive tackle, he'll require double and triple teaming that'll open things up for everyone else.
12. DE George Selvie, Sr., South Florida
Rather than test the NFL, Selvie opted to return to Tampa for one more year. The defensive coaches have yet to stop celebrating. One of the fiercest pass rushers in America, he commands constant double-teams and is capable of blowing up the other team's gameplan. At 6-4 and 250 pounds, he has long arms and the sudden burst off the snap to completely embarrass his man. His numbers did free-fall last year to 43 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. Nagging injuries and a ridiculous amount of attention were factors in the decline in production.
13. RB Jahvid Best, Jr., California
Cal has become a factory for NFL backs, sending four players to the pros in just the last six drafts. Best is next in line. One of the most explosive athletes in America and a Heisman contender, he burst out of the shadows of Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett in 2008. In an All-Pac-10 campaign, he rushed for a league-high 1,580 yards, caught 27 passes, and finished No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yards. A true gamebreaker in the Reggie Bush mold, the 5-10, 195-pounder is one of those rare offensive stars, who can change a game with one play and must be accounted for at all times.
14. DE Greg Hardy, Sr., Ole Miss
Technically, Hardy isn't a returning starter, he didn't get a start last season, but the 6-4, 265-pounder is one of the nation's best returning players and one of the best pass rushers. Formerly a part of the Rebel basketball team, he's a phenomenal athlete with tremendous speed off the edge and good toughness against the run. He didn't come up with the huge season expected after being in the doghouse early on and having injury problems. Even in his limited time, he made 8.5 sacks with five in the final three regular season games, an interception, and 18 tackles. He's trying to get over offseason foot surgery that kept him out of spring ball, but when he's right, he's a special playmaker who'll require constant double and triple teams.
15. RB C.J. Spiller, Sr., Clemson
The 5-11, 195-pound senior C.J. Spiller finally
has the feature role all to himself. After going back and forth
on whether to turn pro early, he decided to return and pursue
some of his individual, personal, and team goals. The NFL Draft
will be there next April, as will a fat first-day signing bonus.
The author of 12 school records, including all-purpose yards,
he’s one of the most versatile game-breakers in the country.
Despite starting just seven games in three years, he’s rushed
for 2,335 yards, caught 87 passes, and scored 30 touchdowns,
including seven of at least 80 yards. With his speed and
acceleration, you can forget about catching him once he gets
16. RB Jonathan Dwyer, Jr., Georgia Tech
Sometimes a player is a hand-in-glove fit with a
system. Junior Jonathan Dwyer and the option is just such a marriage. The reigning
ACC Player of the Year, he emerged as one of the
nation’s premier backs, rushing for 1,395 yards and
a dozen scores on only 200 carries and catching
eight balls for 209 yards and another score. The
B-back, or feature runner in this offense, he’s
already built for a career at the next level,
combining the punishing skills of a fullback with
the 4.4 jets and cutback ability of a much smaller
tailback. With enough carries and support up front,
he’s a legitimate Heisman contender.
17. LB Sean Weatherspoon, Sr. Missouri
If Weatherspoon isn't the best linebacker in college football, he's in the discussion. Steady, consistent, and with huge hitting ability, he followed up a 130-tackle season with 155 stops, five sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions. At 6-2 and 245 pounds, the senior is a big weakside defender who's a guided missile when he gets a bead on a ball-carrier and has unlimited range in both pass coverage and against the run. A first-team All-Big 12 star and Bednarik Award semifinalist, he's the unquestioned leader and star of a young but talented defense that will funnel everything his way. Not just a highlight reel playmaker, "Spoon" brings it game in and game out making 20 tackles against Buffalo and 17 against Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl. While he's not needed as a pass rusher, he can get to the quarterback and provide pressure when he has to.
18. DE Jason Worilds, Jr., Virginia Tech
will be the 6-2, 240-pound junior to remain the pass-rushing
tornado he was a year ago to help out a rebuilding
Hokie line. In his first season as a
full-timer, he went postal on opposing tackles,
turning 62 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, eight
sacks, and 21 pressures into All-ACC honors. A
sub-4.5 blur coming around the edge, he’s beginning
to look like the second coming of former Hokie great
19. DE/LB Sergio Kindle, Sr. Texas
Who's going to get the honor of trying to replace pass rushing terror Brian Orakpo? Kindle, a linebacker by trade, will move into a pass rushing Buck role after dominating last season on the strongside. The 6-4, 255-pound All-America candidate will still see time at linebacker, and he'll likely go back and forth between the two roles, and when he's on the line, he'll have one job and one job only: kill the quarterback. He made 50 tackles and nine sacks last year, with 13 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries, and he showed he could handle the task up front starting two games late last year when Orakpo went down. He has just enough size to hold up and devastating closing speed when he gets into the backfield.
20. TE Jermaine Gresham, Sr. Oklahoma
The 6-6, 258-pound senior would've gone in the first round in the 2008 NFL Draft and will almost certainly be the first tight end off the board next year with his phenomenal combination of size, speed, and hands. He caught 66 passes for 950 yards with a team-leading 14 touchdowns, highlighted by a nine-catch, 158-yard, two score day against Oklahoma State. Steadier than he was two years ago, he'll now be a sure-thing All-American and Bradford's No. 1 target. Blocking-wise, he's fine, but he's hardly special. His money will be made as a receiver. There was a slight incident revolving an arrest after an unpaid ticket for not wearing a safety belt, but that's cleared up.
21. DT Brian Price, Jr., UCLA
The unrivaled star of the entire UCLA program is the 6-2, 295-pound junior, one of the premier defensive tackles in America. An All-Pac-10 first teamer and a candidate to leave early for the NFL draft, he's on the verge of out growing the college game. Explosive off the snap and strong at the point of attack, he 35 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks, huge numbers for an inside lineman. Even more important, he plays with the determination of an underclassmen trying to win a spot on the two-deep.
22. CB Trevard Lindley, Sr., Kentucky
If Lindley isn't the best corner in the 2010 NFL Draft, he'll be in the running. After turning down a chance to leave early and be a top 50 pick, he's in a salary drive with a chance to make a ton of money with one more big season. The 6-0, 179-pounder is a great tackler for his size with 157 career stops, but his real talent shines through when the ball is in the air with a school record 34 career broken up passes with nine interceptions. Teams have figured out that he needs to be avoided, but he still finds ways to make things happen making every play that comes his way. The one thing he's missing is blazing speed. He's quick and can handle himself well against the SEC's faster receivers, but he's around a 4.5 runner instead of the sub-4.4 blazer that the NFL likes in its top corners.
23. WR Julio Jones, Soph., Alabama
Jones came to Bama last year as the sure-thing, no question top recruit, only ranking nationally behind Terrelle Pryor. Now he's just playing out the string before going off to the NFL. The 6-4, 210-pounder didn't disappoint as a true freshman leading the team with 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns averaging 15.9 yards per grab. He was explosive and consistent, but for all the great things he did and all the great performances, like a five-catch, 124-yard day against Florida in the SEC title game, he didn't catch a touchdown pass over the final nine games of the year. That's just an aberration. Alabama's Mr. Football of 2007 is big, physical, and has track star speed being named the Alabama Track and Field Athlete of the Year two years ago.
24. DT Terrence Cody, Sr., Alabama
Cody should be in the NFL right now, and he could be a top 20 pick next year if he gets in better shape. "Mount Cody" is on his way getting down from 380 pounds to around 365 and he should be a sure-thing All-America performer if he can stay healthy. Last year's superstar JUCO transfer is a rock of a tackle and is a true anchor on the nose, finishing his first year with 34 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. It's not about stats for Cody; it's about being impossible to run around him. He's the main reason the run defense is so strong.
25. WR Arrelious Benn, Jr., Illinois
Illinois was able to beat out Notre Dame and Florida State for the services of Benn few years ago in one of the nation's hottest recruiting battles, and he's been worth it. The 6-2, 220-pound junior has good size, tremendous toughness, and tremendous playmaking ability averaging 15.7 yards per grab while running for 101 yards and two scores. The team's second-leading wide receiver caught 21 passes, while Benn led the team with 67 grabs for 1,055 yards and three touchdowns. Quick enough to be used on punt returns, he uses that same ability to be able to start and stop on a dime when he gets the ball in his hands as a receiver. While he has been widely accepted that he has 4.33 speed, he's likely going to be around 4.45 when he's at the Combine in Indianapolis next April. Whatever he's at, he's plenty fast on the field.
26. QB Jevan Snead, Jr., Ole Miss
Snead bolted for Ole Miss, waited through his transfer time, and came out roaring with 26 touchdown passes and 2,762 yards passing, completing 56% of his throws, while running for 87 yards and three scores. Mobile and good in the pocket, he can do it all, and at 6-3 and 215 pounds, he has just enough size to make the pro scouts sit up and take notice. While he threw 13 interceptions, six of them came in an early two-game span against Samford and Vanderbilt. For the most part, he was calm, cool, and steady throughout the year, spreading out his seven other picks in seven games, and he finished up with a flourish. Now that he knows what he's doing, he's expected to be the star and the leader of the loaded team.
27. LB Navorro Bowman, Jr., Penn State
All Bowman did after being suspended from spring ball last year was step into the starting lineup in game three and finish with a team-leading 106 tackles with four sacks, five broken up passes, and 16.5 tackles for loss. The fastest of the linebacker options, the 6-1, 230-pounder was a Maryland Defensive Player of the Year in high school, and he has lived up to his potential and then some. He'll be used in a variety of ways working both as a pass rusher and a run stopper as he'll once again get to use his unlimited range to make things happen all over the field.
28. LB Greg Jones, Jr., Michigan State
It's time for Jones to become a bigger star. One of the nation's best linebackers, the 6-1, 222-pound junior led the team with 127 tackles last year with two sacks and 14 tackles for loss seeing time on the strongside and in the middle. He wasn't expected to become a terror in the backfield, but that's what he was as he used his great speed and range to make tackles all over the place. Now he's in for a huge junior season after being one of the stars on the defense for the last two seasons. While he doesn't do much against the pass, that won't be his job in the middle after moving over from the outside. He'll make every play he can chase down.
29. LB Rolando McClain, Jr., Alabama
A steadying force in the linebacking corps in the beginning of last year, the 6-4, 249-pound junior turned out to be a special all-star leading the team with 95 tackles with three sacks and 12 tackles for loss in the middle. Very tough, very fast, and one of the team's surest tacklers, he has started to live up to his immense prep hype and now should be on the short list all All-America linebackers. Not only is he tough against the run, and with great range, but he's solid when the ball is in the air with eight broken up passes.
30. QB Dan LeFevour, Sr., Central Michigan
One of the best quarterbacks in college football over the last three years, LeFevour is due for a huge senior season after fighting through ticky-tack injuries, mostly to his ankle, throughout last year. He led the team in rushing, again, with 592 yards and six scores, but he tore off 1,122 yards and 19 touchdowns two years ago. He threw for 3,652 yards and 27 scores in 2007, and while he completed 67% of his throws, he only threw for 2,784 yards with 21 touchdowns. On the plus side, he was more careful with the ball throwing just six picks with two of them coming against Purdue. At 6-3 and 223 pounds, he has NFL size, he's a good leader and a proven winner who carries his team as much as any quarterback in America not named McCoy or Tebow, and he has the right attitude. He'll sling it around and get into shootouts with anyone, and he'll pop up time after time despite taking too many big shots. This is salary drive time. He's on the radar of the NFL scouts, but he needs to have a special final campaign to avoid being an afterthought like Ball State's Nate Davis was in the 2008 draft.
The Top 200 Players
Top Ten |