September 02, 2009

The college season kicks off this week and with it another year of scouting NFL prospects begins. Offensive tackle and wide receiver are the deepest positions on the scoring side of the ball. There's also talent at quarterback and running back. Here are the top NFL prospects at each position on offense as we head into the 2009 season. Top defensive prospects will be on on Thursday. (*Denotes underclassmen)

Sam Bradford*/Oklahoma: The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner rates as the top NFL prospect at quarterback. Bradford's football intelligence, accuracy and ability to lead an offense projects well to the next level. He's expected to enter the 2010 draft and will be one of the first half dozen players selected.

Jevan Snead*/Mississippi: Snead does not get the same notoriety as his SEC foe Tim Tebow, yet NFL scouts grade the Ole Miss signal caller higher. His rifle arm and accuracy has pro teams enthused. Snead displayed terrific wherewithal and a command of the offense last season, his first as full-time starter on the college level.

Tim Tebow/Florida: Tebow is a true field general and highly thought of in the scouting community. He offers a great combination of physical and mental skills, besides the toughness and leadership he's shown the past three seasons. He'll need a complete overhaul of his mechanics, yet Tebow comes with a high upside for the team willing to be patient with him.

Jake Locker*/Washington: Locker resembles Tebow in many ways as the Huskies quarterback grades out well in the areas of physical skill and football intangibles. He's very rough around the edges and needs a revamp of his throwing fundamentals. Locker, recently selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 10th round of the MLB draft, has all the necessary tools to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Jimmy Clausen*/Notre Dame: Clausen has the size, arm strength and pocket stature NFL teams want behind center. His decision-making has been suspect but scouts are hoping for a good year from the junior, who returns to South Bend with his top targets at his disposal.

UNDERRATED: John Skelton/Fordham: The small school passer is drawing comparisons to Joe Flacco, the former first-round pick lighting it up in Baltimore. Skelton is similar in size and stature to Flacco, which has scouts excited.

OVERRATED: Colt McCoy/Texas: McCoy is a tremendous leader and a class citizen. He lacks the physical skills to be a starter in the NFL and is viewed by most scouts as a backup signal caller.

Jonathan Dwyer*/Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets' primary back offers tremendous size and power. He pounds opponents on the inside and occasionally breaks the long run. Dwyer is a top-20 selection and likely the first back selected if he opts for the draft next April.

Charles Scott/LSU: Scott is another grinder between the tackles and can make defenders miss in the open field. He did a terrific job last season against some of the better defenses in the nation. Scott is another first-round prospect and a potential feature runner in the NFL.

Jahvid Best*/California: Best is not as large as the top-rated runners yet faster and much more elusive. He excels as a pass catcher out of the backfield.

Kendall Hunter*/Oklahoma State: Hunter's another elusive running back who gives opponents fits with the variety of ways he produces handling the ball. He's not a player for every NFL team but reminds scouts of Leon Washington from the New York Jets.

LaGarrette Blount/Oregon: Blount came to Oregon with lots of potential, which he has flashed on occasion. He'll be given the chance to prove he's capable of handling the load this season, and if successful the result will be an upswing in his draft stock.

UNDERRATED: Mario Fannin/Auburn: Fannin often gets lost in the shuffle at Auburn, a program which always produces running backs by the bushel. He's shown himself to be a big, dominant ball-carrier that runs over opponents on the inside or beats them around the corner. Fannin has the potential to be a big time NFL prospect if he pulls the pieces together.

OVERRATED: C.J. Spiller/Clemson: NFL scouting services rate Spiller as the number one senior ball-carrier in the nation. He's an incredibly quick runner with the ability to create yardage then run to daylight. Spiller is also known as a soft football player and a back that prefers to run east/west rather then take it up the field. His timid style of play will turn off a lot of general managers next April.

Dez Bryant*/WR/Oklahoma State: Bryant is a large, physical, game controlling receiver in the mold of Calvin Johnson. He offers all the skills necessary to be a No. 1 wideout in the NFL and will be an early draft choice if he leaves for the NFL next April.

Damian Williams*/WR/USC: The Trojans game breaker offers home run hitting speed and is a threat to take it all the way any time he handles the ball. He led USC in receiving last season, his first with the program. Williams will be the latest in the long line of first round receivers produced by the USC program.

Jermaine Gresham/TE/Oklahoma: Gresham stands head and shoulders above any tight end in the nation. He offers tremendous size and speed, a combination he uses to create mismatches in the secondary on a regular basis. Gresham has first round talent and improved consistency catching the ball this season could push him into the top 12 selections of the draft.

Arrelious Benn*/WR/Illinois: Benn is a prototypical possession receiver with reliable hands and a consistent game. He lacks the speed to be an early first round choice yet has the makings to be a solid No. 1 in the NFL.

Brandon LaFell/WR/LSU: The Tigers top wideout came close to entering last April's draft after putting together one of LSU's most productive seasons ever in '08. LaFell is a natural pass catcher with a graceful game and reliable hands. He offers potential in a variety of NFL offensive systems and could end up in the first round next year.

Chris McGaha/WR/Arizona State: McGaha is a sleeper heading into the season in part because he was injured during much of the '08 campaign. He's a natural pass catcher with good size and deceptive speed. McGaha is also as tough as they come which will endear him to coaches on the NFL level.

UNDERRATED: Jacoby Ford/WR/Clemson: Ford is a consistent pass catcher who always makes positive plays. He's the type of prospect who has the makings of a solid No. 2 receiver in the NFL.

OVERRATED: Garrett Graham/TE/Wisconsin: The Badgers senior is rated by some as the second best tight end in the nation yet has never stood out in college nor displayed any outstanding single skill to his game.

Trent Williams/T/Oklahoma: Williams was the best blocker on a Sooners line loaded with talent last season. He's a fluid athlete strong enough to maul defenders. Williams has potential at both tackle spots, which makes him very attractive to NFL teams.

Russell Okung/T/Oklahoma State: Okung could be the most complete tackle in the nation. He's a dominant run blocker who also displays great skill in pass protection. NFL scouting services undervalued Okung and handed him a third round grade over the summer yet don't be surprised if he lands in the middle of the first frame next April.

Anthony Davis*/T/Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights left tackle is the nation's premiere blind side protector. He possesses outstanding footwork and the ability to handle quick, athletic defensive ends on the college level. Davis is another tackle prospect with first round potential.

Matt Tennant/C/Boston College: Tennant enters the scouting process as one of the most dominant centers from the senior class in a long time. He annihilates opponents at the line of scrimmage or on the move. Tennant has been likened to a more powerful version of former Boston College lineman Chris Snee, now with the New York Giants.

Bryan Bulaga*/T/Iowa: Bulaga is a strong, run blocking lineman that adequately handles the left tackle duties at Iowa. He plays with a nasty attitude, working hard until the whistle blows, and offers a good degree of upside potential.

Selvish Capers/T/West Virginia: Capers is another athletic tackle prospect with the ability to play on the left or right side. He's a large specimen who'll only get better as he physically matures.

UNDERRATED: Vladimir Ducasse/T/UMass: Ducasse enters the '09 season as possibly the nations top small school prospect. He's been the starter at left tackle for the Minuteman since his sophomore campaign and has all the tools to be a first team player in the NFL.

OVERRATED: Ciron Black/T/LSU: Black has received a lot of positive press the past few seasons yet his reputation exceeds his skills on the football field. He lacks the balance and footwork needed to handle the left tackle duties on the NFL level and Black does not possess the strength to move to the right side.

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