DR--Gosselin's Top 10/ Risers/Fallers
Five on the rise coming out of the combine:
1. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
CB, Tennessee State
The NFL doesn't get excited too often about small-college products. But Rodgers-Cromartie is a cousin of Antonio Cromartie, who was a recent first-round draft pick and led the NFL in interceptions in 2007. Dominique looks rail thin, but he weighed a surprising 184 pounds at the combine and lit up the workout, running a 4.33 40-yard dash and topping all cornerbacks with a 38½-inch vertical jump.
2. Offensive tackles
This class of blockers starts with Jake Long but doesn't end there. Ryan Clady (Montana), Jeff Otah (Pitt), Gosder Cherilus (Boston College) and Brandon Albert (Virginia) all jumped out at Indianapolis. Teams will be drafting wide-bodied tackles with the potential to become starters through seven rounds. "This is the best group of offensive tackles I've seen," said Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert, who has spent 24 years in the NFL.
The NFL thought the 2007 class of cornerbacks was fast with eight running in the 4.3s at the combine. This year there were 13, led by the 4.31s of Penn State's Justin King and Connecticut's Tyvon Branch. In all, 22 players at the combine ran 40s under 4.4, led by the 4.24 of East Carolina running back Chris Johnson. Georgia defensive end Marcus Howard ran a 4.47, as did Georgia Tech linebacker Gary Guyton.
4. DeSean Jackson
Jackson was among the speedsters turning in a 40 time in the 4.3s. He's on the draft board as a wideout, but his speed will also make him attractive to teams in need of a kick returner. Jackson set a Pac-10 record with six career punt returns for touchdowns and also returned a kickoff for a score. Jackson caught 162 career passes.
5. Joe Flacco
Flacco has the strongest arm in this draft. He started his career at Pitt before transferring to Delaware, so he has major-college skill. He has touch and accuracy to go with his arm strength. Flacco completed 63 percent of his passes in 2007 with only five interceptions.
Five on the decline coming out of the combine:
1. Wolverine skill
Running back Mike Hart and wide receiver Mario Manningham were both two-time All-Big Ten selections who were yardage and point machines for Michigan. Hart became the school's all-time leading rusher. Manningham averaged 16.4 yards per career catch with 27 touchdowns. But Hart ran a 4.67 40 at Indianapolis and Manningham a 4.59. They lack the speed to be playmakers in the NFL that they were in college.
2. Ali Highsmith
Highsmith is an instinctive player, leading the national champions in tackles last season. He's undersized at 5-11, 230 pounds, so the NFL envisioned him as a nickel linebacker. That is, until he ran that 4.96 40 at the combine. A lack of size and speed is a bad draft-day combination.
LSU's Ali Highsmith was one of several disappointments at linebacker. Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Curtis Lofton of Oklahoma ran a 4.77 40, and All-Pac-10er Spencer Larsen ran a 4.9. There were three linebackers selected in the first round in 2007. There may not be that many in 2008.
4. Calais Campbell
Campbell is a giant (6-8, 290) for the end position with pass-rush skill. He collected sacks in seven consecutive games in 2006 and posted 19 in his career. Campbell decided to skip his senior season to turn pro, but he cost himself some money with his 5-second 40 at the combine. He may wind up inside at tackle in the NFL in pass-rush situations, as the New York Giants used Justin Tuck.
5. Josh Johnson
QB, San Diego
The NFL really wanted to embrace this long shot. He played non-scholarship, Division III football at San Diego – not San Diego State – and put up incredible numbers there. Johnson completed 68 percent of his passes as a senior with 43 touchdowns and only one interception. He threw for 73 TDs and had only 15 interceptions in 1,065 career passes. But Johnson was erratic at the combine throwing to bigger, faster receivers than he had in college. He struggled to throw spirals.
Rick Gosselin ranks the top 10 players on the draft board coming out of the scouting combine.
1. Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
There's no clear-cut first overall choice for the $65 million that looms at the top of the NFL draft. But someone has to be selected there. The Miami Dolphins need a quarterback, and the position is worthy of that type of money.
2. Darren McFadden, HB, Arkansas
The rookie performance of Adrian Peterson will drive McFadden's stock up. The NFL let the best running back in the 2007 draft slide to seventh, and Peterson wound up winning NFL Rookie of the Year honors with his league-runner-up 1,341 yards.
3. Chris Long, DE, Virginia
His father Howie played the same position and has been enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame. Chris finished third in the NCAA in sacks with 14 last season, and the Cavaliers retired his jersey number in his final home game.
4. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
The most decorated player in this draft, Dorsey won the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski and Lott Awards in 2007 for the national champion Tigers. He's 6-1, 297 pounds and provides a push up the middle with his seven sacks in 2007.
5. Jake Long, OT, Michigan
A four-year starter, Long started his first two seasons on the right side and his last two seasons on the left. The two-time All-America allowed only two sacks in his career. Long also was penalized just once in 2007 for a false start.
6. Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State
It was Gholston who had the one sack against Long in 2007. It was one of many for Gholston, who broke Mike Vrabel's school season record with 14 sacks. Gholston skipped his senior season to become a potential top-10 pick in this draft.
7. Sedrick Ellis, DT, Southern California
Ellis replaced Mike Patterson at nose tackle in 2005 after Patterson became a first-round NFL draft pick. Ellis is bigger and better than Patterson, winning the Morris Trophy the last two years as the top defensive lineman in the Pac-10.
8. Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
If Harvey could have come out after his sophomore season in 2006 when he had 11 sacks, he would have. But the NFL makes underclassmen wait until they've spent three years on campus. So Harvey enters the 2008 draft coming off an 8½-sack season.
9. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
The fourth underclassman listed in this top 10, Mendenhall leaves Illinois as the Big Ten's most valuable player. He set school season records with his 1,681 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. He also caught 59 career passes.
10. Keith Rivers, LB, Southern California
Ellis and Rivers played quietly in the shadows of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Dwayne Jarrett in recent seasons. Now the defense starts showing up on the draft board with Ellis, Rivers, Lawrence Jackson and Terrell Thomas.