Underclassmen WRs among top 2011 NFL Draft offensive prospects
With college football kicking off this weekend, here's a look at the top offensive prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft. For a look at the top defensive prospects, click here. (*denotes underclassman)
Andrew Luck*/Stanford: He moved into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman last season and has the attention of NFL decision-makers. He has the size, arm strength and quarterback intelligence, making him the most NFL-ready of all the draft-eligible quarterback prospects.
Jake Locker/Washington: Locker made the courageous decision of bypassing last April's draft, opting to return for his senior campaign. He's a tremendous athlete who also has the option to pursue a career in major league baseball. Locker has grown at the quarterback position and is developing into a complete passer with a total game.
Ryan Mallett*/Arkansas: He took the SEC by storm last season after transferring from Michigan. He's a statuesque pocket passer with incredible arm strength. Mallett's upside is unlimited yet the junior is far from polished. His accuracy is questionable and his penchant for throwing interceptions disconcerting.
Christian Ponder/Florida State: He lacks the great physical skills of the other top quarterback prospects but makes up for it with smart play. He was making big strides with his game before a shoulder injury sidelined him late in the year.
Jerrod Johnson/Texas A&M: His natural abilities and arm strength rank as the best in the senior class. He gets the ball into the tight spots with a flick of his wrist and can make all the passes. Johnson's throwing mechanics leave a lot to be desired as does his decision making. He can make a big leap up draft boards if he pulls it together this season, otherwise scouts will label him as a developmental prospect.
• UNDERRATED -- Kelly Page*/Ball State: The Mid-American Conference has a long history of putting quality quarterbacks into the NFL and Page is next to carry that torch. He's a poised pocket passer with the arm strength necessary to lead an NFL team.
• OVERRATED -- Blaine Gabbert*/Missouri: Gabbert has the size, stature and arm strength NFL scouts look for in a starter. And though the junior offers a large upside, his mechanics and accuracy need work before he will be anywhere near NFL ready.
Mark Ingram*/Alabama: The Heisman Trophy winner is not just the best player in college football but far and away the top running back. He's strong enough to carry the ball on the inside yet also possesses the speed to run around tackle. Ingram's skills catching the ball out of the backfield are also highly rated.
Ryan Williams*/Virginia Tech: He awed scouts with his play as a redshirt freshman last season and enters his sophomore campaign with high expectations. He's elusive and creates his own yardage, making defenders miss at the line of scrimmage or in the open field. Still, he must continue to develop his game.
Evan Royster/Penn State: He made the wise choice to return to Penn State for his senior season, where he'll be the focal point of the offense. He's a one-speed/one-cut runner with limited upside, but he can contribute in the NFL.
Kendall Hunter/Oklahoma State: Hunter struggled with injuries last season and didn't capitalize on his terrific 2008 campaign. His playing style is similar to Detroit Lions first-round pick Jahvid Best. Hunter is incredibly elusive and a threat catching the ball.
• UNDERRATED -- Mario Fannin/Auburn: He comes off an uninspired junior season after what was a tremendous sophomore campaign. He's a big-bodied ballcarrier who runs well and has been lethal as a pass catcher at Auburn. If he improves on prior form, Fannin could be the first senior running back selected in the draft.
• OVERRATED -- DeMarco Murray/Oklahoma: He was rated as the top senior running back by NFL scouting services yet he's primarily a straight line runner who has trouble staying healthy.
A.J. Green*/Georgia: Green has been a game-breaking receiver from the day he stepped on the field as a true freshman. He has the speed to stretch the field, goes over the middle for the difficult reception and does the little things well. Green could end up as a top 10 pick next April if he enters the draft.
Michael Floyd*/Notre Dame: This game-controlling receiver is lethal in the red zone and should flourish under new head coach Brian Kelly. He'sanother underclassman wideout who will be a first-round pick if he opts for next April's draft.
Jonathan Baldwin*/Pittsburgh: The Panthers have a history of developing quality wideouts and scouts will tell you Baldwin is the program's best receiver prospect since Larry Fitzgerald.
Julio Jones*/Alabama: He has flashed dominance for the Tide since his freshman season, using his impressive combination of size and speed. While Jones offers a huge upside, he must start to play at a high level for 60 minutes.
Niles Paul/Nebraska: Paul, rated as the best senior receiver in the land, offers good size and surprising quickness and speed. He does the little things well and has the potential to develop into a No. 2 wideout at the next level.
• UNDERRATED -- Lance Kendricks/Wisconsin: He's one of the most underappreciated tight ends in the nation. He's a natural pass catcher with the ability to get downfield and create mismatches in the secondary on a consistent basis.
• OVERRATED -- Greg Little/North Carolina: NFL scouts gave Little a second-round grade but he's an unspectacular receiver with marginal size and speed. His skills lends one to believe he'll be, at best, a third receiver on the NFL level.
Nate Potter*/T/Boise State: Potter has been nothing less than sensational since his redshirt freshman season. He has the size, footwork and athletic skill to hold down the left tackle position in the NFL. He will show his versatility by selflessly moving from left tackle to guard this season. He's the best prospect in the Boise program since Ryan Clady.
Gabe Carimi/T/Wisconsin: He's a tall, smart lineman who uses all his assets to protect the passer. He showed a bit of inconsistency last season yet offers starting potential at the next level.
Marcel Jones*/OL/Nebraska: This immense physical talent has the ability to hold down several spots on the offensive line. He's a powerful athlete and easily annihilates opponents at the point of attack. Although he lacks the polish of Potter and Carimi, he has a higher upside.
Marcus Gilbert/T/Florida: The Gators agile right tackle has the skills to also be used on the left side. He's strong at the point, moves well on his feet and shows ability in all areas of the game.
Stefen Wisniewski/C/Penn State: The nephew of eight-time Pro-Bowl pick Steve Wisniewski is slightly undersized but tough as nails and plays with a high degree of intelligence.
Rodney Hudson/G/Florida State: Hudson is well thought of in scouting circles and many feel he has potential at guard and center. He's a prototypical zone blocking lineman who moves well on his feet and excels while blocking in motion.
Jason Pinkston/T/Pittsburgh: This terrific pass-blocking left tackle makes good use of angles and body positioning to protect his quarterback. He offers a nice upside but has been labeled as a player who gets by on natural skill rather than putting in the necessary work.
Michael Pouncey/G/Florida: Twin brother to Maurkice Pouncey, the Pittsburgh Steelers first-round choice in April's draft, Michael has similar strength, even if he's not as athletic as his brother.
• UNDERRATED -- Jake Olson/T/Central Michigan: Olson started last season as a redshirt freshman and was dominant all year. He's a powerful tackle with the ability to get bigger and stronger. The sky is the limit for this exciting prospect.
• OVERRATED -- Anthony Castonzo/T/Boston College: Castonzo was graded as the No. 1 senior tackle by NFL scouts and many consider him to be a top-eight pick in April's draft, yet Castonzo shows no "wow" factor to his game. He's not nearly as athletic as Trent Williams, the fourth pick in April's draft, nor as dominant as Russell Okung, who was selected two slots later.
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.