As the Combine draws ever near, head scout Brent Sobleski steps up to the plate and reveals his version of the NFL draft’s top 30 prospects for 2010.
Take a quick journey through the inner recesses of his addled mind. One which may or may not adhere to the masses.
As always rankings are subject to change, particularly when everyone is required to watch prospects run around in shorts and tshirts in Indianapolis.
1. Marcell Dareus, DE Alabama – A bull along the defensive line who is a handful for any opponent. His talents suggest scheme versatility. Dareus has been productive for three years, plus he has the best technique among his defensive line mates.
2. Nick Fairley, DT Auburn – A tailor-made 3-technique with the most explosive first step among his contemporaries. His one year of production for the Tigers is hard to top.
3. A.J. Green, WR Alabama – The top receiving prospect to enter the professional ranks since Detroit’s Calvin Johnson.
4. Tyron Smith, OT USC – Smith is a dancing bear at right tackle with a nasty attitude. His recent weight gain, putting him over 300 pounds, makes the USC product a legit top prospect.
5. Aldon Smith, DE Missouri – If not for injury, Smith would not even be questioned as a top ten prospect due to his length and athleticism.
6. Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska – Hip flexibility is the top indicator of an exceptional cover corner. Amukamara has the best hips of the bunch.
7. Patrick Peterson, CB LSU – A world-class athlete who will ‘wow’ with workouts and has top playmaking ability, whether he stays at cornerback or moves to safety.
8. Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue – Kerrigan is absolutely relentless as a pass rusher and provides top production (57 tackles for loss, 33.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles in his career) and better technique off the edge.
9. J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin – Watt possesses a rare size/production combination leaving Madison at 6-6 292 pounds and 21 tackles for loss in 2010.
10. Mark Ingram, RB Alabama – Great feet in and out of the hole makes Ingram the draft’s only top notch workhorse.
11. Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson – Elite talent does not trump the disappearing acts seen on film while watching Bowers.
12. Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri – A former top high school prospect who has posted an impressive career for Mizzou, although his pocket presence is somewhat suspect.
13. Akeem Ayers, LB UCLA – The best sideline-to-sideline linebacker in the nation, who doubles his value by being able to put his hand in the dirt to rush the passer.
14. Brandon Harris, CB Miami – Somewhat of a rocky junior campaign does not overlook the natural ability Harris possesses covering on the island and in the slot.
15. Drake Nevis, DT LSU – Despite being listed at a mere 6-2 and 285 pounds, Nevis was one of the most disruptive defensive forces in the nation during the 2010 campaign.
16. Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina – Number one overall ability succumbs to a year away from the gridiron due to a lackadaisical attitude.
17. Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State – A recent elbow injury has Heyward plummeting, but his strength and versatility on the field make him a top 20 talent after he heals and works out just prior to the draft.
18. Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin – His junior tape indicates he is a pro-ready pass protector at the left tackle position. His senior season showed he was much stronger as a run blocker after adding weight.
19. Muhammad Wilkerson, DE Temple – The MAC’s best player the last two years is an ideal two-gap end.
20. Nate Solder, OT Colorado – A mess from a technical standpoint, Solder has the ideal size required of the left tackle position while showing enough improvement as a senior to warrant a first round selection.
21. Cam Newton, QB Auburn – Unbelievable athletic talent and an once-in-a-lifetime junior season does not overlook Newton’s lack of consistency throwing with accuracy and anticipation.
22. Cameron Jordan, DE California – After a fantastic Senior Bowl week, Jordan began to fly up boards. He is quick off the snap but can be found on the ground too often during Cal’s games.
23. Justin Houston, LB Georgia – A 34 outside linebacker who displayed ideal rush skills, was better against the run than indicated, and experienced in the system.
24. Aaron Williams, CB Texas – Among a triumvirate of talented corners at Texas, Williams was the most well-rounded and the best pure cover man of the lot.
25. Julio Jones, WR Alabama – Physical ability and work ethic go a long way, unless that is accompanied by a tendency to drop the football.
26. Corey Luiget, DT Illinois – Fantastic feet for a legitimate 300-pounder, but he does need to work on his hand play.
27. Christian Ballard, DE Iowa – Scheme diverse defender who did plenty of the dirty work among Iowa’s vaunted defensive line.
28. Torrey Smith, WR Maryland – An explosive straight line target who can blow the top off defenses.
29. Von Miller, LB Texas A&M – Impressive pass rusher who lacks versatility in his repertoire, plus struggles at the point of attack.
30. Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas – Mallett possesses wonderful natural ability but was plagued by poor decision making throughout his Razorback career.