April 20, 2010

With the NFL draft two days away, several players continue to gain momentum while others are heading in the opposite direction. Here's the final look at who's rising and who's sliding heading into Thursday's first round. (Click on prospects' names for full profiles.)

Maurkice Pouncey/OL/Florida: Pouncey is benefiting from a number of variables. League coaches who've broken down his film love his skill and feel Pouncey is the only NFL-ready center in this draft. Many are also of the opinion that Pouncey has the versatility to effectively handle the guard position at the next level. Steve Everitt was the last center to break into the top half of round one as the Cleveland Browns selected him with the 14th pick in 1993. Pouncey could be selected as early as the 11th selection Thursday.

Ryan Mathews/RB/Fresno State: Mathews is widely viewed as the most complete ball carrier in this draft. He has the power to run inside, the speed to turn the corner and the skills to be an effective receiver. Most have Mathews earmarked to be selected by the San Diego Chargers at No. 28, yet he may not make it past Houston in the 20th slot.

Arrelious Benn/WR/Illinois: Benn was one of the higher rated junior prospects entering the '09 season but struggled through the campaign with assorted ailments. Scouts questioned his speed but Benn answered that concern by running the 40 in 4.4 seconds at his pro day. His pass-catching skills are a known commodity, and with the speed he's displayed at workouts the past month, Benn could slide into the late part of round one.

Linval Joseph/DL/East Carolina: Joseph's rise up boards since the combine has been nothing short of meteoric. He's looked upon as a solid football player and an outstanding athlete at 328 pounds. Joseph holds an incredible amount of upside and scouts think his best football is a year or two away. He is a solid top 45 selection and has the interest of almost two dozen teams.

Kareem Jackson/CB/Alabama: Jackson is another prospect teams want for his potential. His physical skills are on a par with any of the top cornerbacks in this draft and Jackson just needs a bit of time to perfect his technique. He could hear his name called at the end of round one Thursday evening.

Tyson Aluala/DL/California: Aluala is getting long looks as both a two-gap end as well as a conventional tackle in a traditional four-man front. His versatility, high character and non-stop motor has Aluala knocking on the door in the late part of round one.

Rodger Saffold/OT/Indiana: NFL coaches are realizing what scouting staffs have been telling them all along -- Saffold is a tremendous pass-blocking offensive lineman. The left tackle position offers a lot of talent at the start of the draft but quickly thins out after the top five prospects. Saffold is likely to be grabbed early in round two, if not sooner, by a team wanting to assure themselves a starting blind side protector.

Jon Asamoah/G/Illinois: The shoulder injury Asamoah suffered during Senior Bowl week prevented the big offensive guard from performing in front of NFL scouts for almost two and a half months. His pro-day workout April 8 allowed Asamoah to display the athleticism scouts were unsure he possessed. He's improved his stock at least a half-round and will be drafted during the top part of round two.

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim/DE-OLB/Washington: Te'o-Nesheim has gone unnoticed by outsiders yet NFL teams have fallen in love with the senior. He was a relentless pass rusher in college and NFL coaches like the versatility he offers standing up over tackle at linebacker or with his hand on the ground as a defensive end. Te'o-Nesheim was initially rated as a late-round choice but could now end up being selected as early as the third frame.

Al Woods/DL/LSU: Woods had minimal production at LSU, yet scouts love his size (6-3½, 310 pounds) and athleticism. Teams feel Woods can start and this has pushed him into the third round.

Major Wright/S/Florida: Though Wright comes off a somewhat disappointing season, Florida coaches have given NFL teams glowing recommendations of their former safety. They feel Wright will quickly revert to his 2008 playing form, when he was considered a top-rated prospect.

John Skelton/QB/Fordham: The consensus is Skelton has the strongest arm of any quarterback in this draft. His pocket stature and physical skills are intriguing. NFL teams understand Skelton needs a lot of work on his game but feel the sky is the limit once the small school passer receives big league coaching. Skelton, rated by many as a late-round prospect, could jump into the middle frames on Saturday.

Dez Bryant/WR/Oklahoma State: Bryant's woes have been well chronicled and he's falling down draft boards, but just how far he drops is anyone's guess. His lack of maturity has concerned a number of teams as several franchises have removed Bryant's name from their draft board. Bryant may be fortunate to hear his name called during the last 10 picks of the initial frame.

Brandon Spikes/LB/Florida: Considered a potential first-round pick during the season, Spikes has watched his draft stock tumble. The inability to break five seconds in the 40 coupled with his unwillingness to run at every given opportunity prior to the draft has sent up red flags. Some feel Spikes is a good football player who does not test well. Most agree he will not be selected before the third round.

Bruce Campbell/T/Maryland: Campbell wowed people with his incredible workout at the combine and many, including this writer, moved him into the top part of round one. That has changed as teams are concerned about his injury history, attitude and arrogance. With the tackle position being so strong at the top, someone is bound to slide. As of now, Campbell is that someone.

Brian Price/DT/UCLA: Price didn't perform well at the combine or at his pro-day workout. His motor and competitiveness has also come under scrutiny from scouts. Price was once considered a lock to be taken in the first round, yet he has slid almost 20 slots the past two months.

Syd'Quan Thompson/CB/California: Thompson was a terrific player in college but scouts always questioned his speed. He has struggled with an injured hamstring since January and hasn't performed at full health for NFL teams. With the speed question still lingering, Thompson, who was given a second-round grade at one point, is unlikely to be drafted prior to the fourth round.

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