The 2010 draft class is already shaping up to be extremely strong along the defensive front. Three of NFLDraftScout.com's top six ranked players and more than a third of our top 32 senior prospects overall toil in the defensive trenches. On the flip side, the elite of the class is again light at the skill positions.
|Taylor Mays draws comparisons to former USC secondary legends. (Getty Images)|
Last summer NFLDraftScout.com correctly forecast 22 of the top 64 players selected on the first day in the 2009 draft, topping National (20) and BLESTO (19). Our preseason No. 1 overall senior prospect, Mississippi offensive tackle Michael Oher, was ultimately selected by Baltimore with the 23rd overall pick.
While taking this year's National and BLESTO lists and our conversations with scouts across the country into consideration, our rankings ultimately are based on what matters most -- the film.
1. DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: Possessing a rare combination of physicality and athleticism, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Suh was the first lineman to lead the Huskers in tackles since 1973. Suh dominated the line of scrimmage as a junior, posting 76 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks and showcased his big-play ability with two interceptions (both of which he returned for touchdowns) and a touchdown reception while playing fullback. Learn how to pronounce it now (En-dom-ah-ken Soo), before everyone else realizes Suh is just short for superstar.
2. OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma: The presence of Phil Loadholt allowed the Sooners to keep Williams at right tackle early in his career, but the 6-5, 310-pounder will move to the glamorous blind-side position in 2010 with Loadholt now with the Minnesota Vikings. Blessed with size, balance and quick feet, Williams has the physical tools necessary to remain at this position in the NFL.
3. DE Greg Hardy, Mississippi: Hardy's reputation for taking snaps off and for having a quirky personality might be a concern for some, but there is no denying his ability to wreak havoc in the opposition's backfield. The 6-4, 260-pound Hardy lacks great explosiveness off the snap, but generates good speed off the edge and is much more physical and active with his hands than most give him credit for.
4. TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma: A matchup nightmare for defenses due to his size and agility, Gresham might be the most dominant pass-catcher in the country. His soft hands, reliable routes and ability to attack defenses down the seam are the separating factors that make Oklahoma's offense so tough to defend.
5. FS Taylor Mays, Southern California: At 6-3, 230 pounds with the straight-line speed that has led head coach Pete Carroll to call him the fastest player on the USC roster, it's easy to see why many have invoked the names of legendary Trojans safeties Ronnie Lott, Dennis Smith, Mark Carrier and Troy Polamalu when describing Mays' impact.
6. DT Arthur Jones, Syracuse: Dominating the Big East to the tune of 31.5 career tackles for loss, Jones will earn a top 20 grade next spring if he can prove he has recovered from the torn pectoral he suffered in February.
7. WR Brandon LaFell, LSU: A virtual clone of former LSU standout Dwayne Bowe, LaFell uses his 6-3, 210-pound frame to generate separation and to break free from defenders in the open field to gain yardage after the catch.
8. LB Brandon Spikes, Florida: Big, instinctive and physical enough to man the inside linebacker position for the Gators, Spikes flashes the athleticism and pass-rush ability to project outside for some teams at the next level.
9. RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson: Spiller's dynamic elusiveness, straight-line speed and versatility as a runner, receiver and return specialist are reminiscent of Reggie Bush as a Trojan.
10. QB Colt McCoy, Texas: A more polished passer than Tim Tebow (76.7 completion percentage last season) and nearly as mobile, the baby-faced Colt could prove a thoroughbred in the race to be the first senior quarterback selected in 2010.
11. OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State: A starter for 34 consecutive games, the first-team All-Big 12 pick has the size (6-6, 305) and athleticism to man the left tackle position in the NFL for a decade.
12. QB Tim Tebow, Florida: He will need to show significant improvement as a passer in 2009 to warrant this high of a ranking, but the 6-3, 235-pounder has the arm, poise and work ethic critical for success at the NFL level.
13. NG Terrence Cody, Alabama: At 6-5 and 368 pounds, Cody can dominate the point of attack, but some worry that he'll need to be part of a rotation to enjoy success in the NFL.
14. OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri: Among the nation's most productive defenders last season (149 tackles, five sacks, three INTs), Witherspoon's final NFL grade will be influenced by how well he transitions from the Tigers' hybrid 4-2-5 scheme last year to their version of the Tampa-Two 4-3 alignment this fall.
Who is the top senior prospect in the Class of 2010?
Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh
Oklahoma OT Trent Williams
Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy
Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham
Southern Cal S Taylor Mays
We're missing somebody
Total Votes: 4,592
15. CB Syd'Quan Thompson, California: Thompson has been a starter every game of his career. His straight-line speed, agility, reliable open-field tackling and natural return skills would be earning significantly more attention from the national media if he played in the Big Ten or SEC.
16. OT Selvish Capers, West Virginia: A former tight end, Caper uses his long arms and efficient footwork to help him protect the edge against speed rushers, as well as control defenders at the second level in the running game.
17. DE Corey Wootton, Northwestern: Voted first-team all-conference by the coaches, Wootton finished with 42 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 10 sacks last season, though few out of Big Ten country know his name. A torn ACL suffered in the Alamo Bowl is the only reason Wootton isn't ranked higher.
18. FS Darrell Stuckey, Kansas: Mays and Tennessee junior Eric Berry might get all the hype, but Stuckey -- the Jayhawks' lone first-team all-Big 12 selection last year with 98 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, seven passes broken up, five INTs and two forced fumbles -- is a potential first-round candidate in his own right.
19. WR Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati: A record-breaking big-play artist as a receiver (11 TDs and 15.8 yards per reception) and kick returner (27.6 average, two TDs), the 6-0, 187-pound Gilyard was nearly unstoppable last year, posting seven 100-yard receiving games, including four to close out the year.
20. RB Charles Scott, LSU: Despite most defenses opting to stack the line of scrimmage due to LSU's unreliable passing game last year, the 5-11, 232-pound Scott emerged with a Marion Barber-like brand of physicality, rushing for 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns.
21. CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State: Robinson enters his senior campaign with appearances in 33 games, but only 13 career starts. With seven career INTs, including six in 2007, however, he has shown a flair for the dramatic and the athleticism necessary for the next level.
22. DE Brandon Graham, Michigan: Like former Wolverine LaMarr Woodley, Graham's instincts and physicality make up for his lack of size (6-1, 270 pounds) and helped him finish second in the country last season with 20 of his career-high 46 tackles coming behind the line of scrimmage.
23. OLB Ricky Sapp, Clemson: A partially torn ACL last season robbed Sapp of his trademark explosiveness, but the 6-4, 245-pound defensive end has the size and talent to explode this season and vault to the top of the OLB rankings.
24. DT Jared Odrick, Penn State: While pass rushers Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans earned most of the headlines, the 6-5, 309-pound Odrick proved to be a dominating presence in the interior in 2008, earning first-team accolades from the Big Ten coaches.
25. OLB Justin Cole, San Jose State: Athletic, disciplined and a reliable open-field tackler, the relatively unknown Cole earned second-team all-WAC honors as a first-year starter and, if he polishes his fundamentals, could ultimately be drafted higher than more hyped DE/OLB hybrids from bigger conferences.
26. OT Ciron Black, LSU: The 6-5, 325-pound left tackle considered leaving school after earning a second-round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee last year. Black will project to right tackle or perhaps guard for some teams.
27. DE Brandon Lang, Troy: An intriguing combination of former Troy stars DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora, the 6-4, 256-pound Lang isn't explosive off the edge or an athlete in Ware's class, but is a natural pass rusher with a feel for lanes, good hand technique and a high football IQ.
28. DT D'Anthony Smith, Louisiana Tech: A four-year starter yet virtually unknown outside the WAC, the 6-2, 300-pound Smith racked up a staggering 65 tackles, including five sacks last year while alternating between a 3-4 nose guard and the under-tackle position in the 4-3.
29. CB Trevard Lindley, Kentucky: Blessed with good speed, better quickness and long arms, Lindley has earned All-American accolades after each of the past two seasons and led the SEC with 15 passes defended in 2008.
30. FB/TE Garrett Graham, Wisconsin: While former Badgers star Travis Beckum got all the attention, Graham emerged as the team leader in receptions (40) and touchdown grabs (five) last season. At 6-3, 245 pounds, Graham is a potential H-back candidate in the Chris Cooley mold.
31. OT Sam Young, Notre Dame: The first Irish offensive lineman to start the opening game of his freshman season since 1973, the 6-8, 330-pound Young looks like a future standout at right tackle in the NFL.
32. OLB Jerry Hughes, TCU: The nation's leading pass rusher last year with an eye-popping 17 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles, the 6-2, 257-pound Hughes could be forced to make the transition to outside linebacker from his defensive end position, but appears to have the athleticism to do so.
Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.