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April 25, 2009

College football roundtable: NFL draft edition

At the College Football Roundtable, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

Today's question: The first and second rounds of the NFL draft are today. Which player would you take first at the following positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
At quarterback I would go with Georgia's Matthew Stafford because of his rocket arm. He didn't have a tremendous year last season, but he also was playing behind a makeshift line; plus, the best receiver he ever had at Georgia was A.J. Green, a true freshman last season. Ohio State's Chris Wells is my top running back; he has great power and speed, and he had big games against good defensive teams. I don't know how any receiver could go ahead of Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree. He's big, fast enough, has great hands and was tremendously productive even facing constant double teams. Maybe I'm way off-base, but I'm not bailing on Alabama's Andre Smith at tackle. Sure, he didn't test well and he got out of shape. But I wouldn't let his recent terrible lapse in judgment overshadow that he was a dominant lineman for three years. Everyone is high on Wake Forest's Aaron Curry at linebacker, and I can't debate that. I also like USC's Rey Maualuga, but would take Curry first. Other cornerbacks may be rated higher than Illinois' Vontae Davis, but I keep remembering how he caught USC's Joe McKnight from behind in the 2008 Rose Bowl. He obviously has great speed, which is essential at that position.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
At quarterback, I like the moxie, athletic ability and passion of USC's Mark Sanchez. And he has won some big games playing on a grand stage in a major media market. This guy is ready and able to be a star in the NFL. At running back, you can have flash and dash. I'll take Iowa meat-grinder Shonn Greene. He's a physical, between-the-tackles runner who can carry a big load and wear down defenses. Give me Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree at wide receiver. He's big, strong and tough, and he catches everything that comes his way. At offensive tackle, first it was D'Brickashaw Ferguson, then Branden Albert and now Eugene Monroe. Virginia's Al Groh knows how to produce athletic offensive linemen who play with a mean streak. Monroe's refined pass-blocking skills will make him an instant hit. At linebacker, it has to be Wake Forest's Aaron Curry, whose combination of speed, size and strength makes him that rare elite linebacker who never has to come off the field. And any player from Wake is humble, smart and hard-working, traits every coach loves. Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis may be a bit of a head case, but no other corner can match his physical gifts. Shut-down corners with his size and speed are rare commodities.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I would take USC's Mark Sanchez at quarterback. While Georgia's Matthew Stafford has better physical tools, I think Stafford always is going to be somewhat of a tease in that his production never will match his physical skills. I think Sanchez needs to sit and learn for a season, but I think he will be a big-time NFL quarterback by the time he's in his fourth season. At running back, I like Georgia's Knowshon Moreno. I think his receiving ability puts him a cut above the other backs available, and I think he could make a big impact as a rookie with the right team and I mean a Chris Johnson-like impact. At wide receiver, I want a game-breaker, and I think Florida's Percy Harvin can be just that. Granted, there are injury issues and, evidently, some off-field problems, but all I know is when he was on the field for a team that won two national titles in his three seasons, he was a threat to score on every play. At offensive tackle, I'm tempted to go with Alabama's Andre Smith. But I'm not sure Smith can be a great left tackle instead, he may have to play on the right side, or even at guard and if I'm picking the first tackle, I want it to be someone who can be great on the left side. I would take the other Smith, Baylor's Jason Smith. He's a good athlete, and while he's still relatively raw at the position, he can be plugged in on the left side for a team and remain there for a decade. At linebacker, I like USC's Rey Maualuga. He can run, and he arrives in a nasty mood once he gets there; plus, he has been extremely well-coached in college. Finally, at cornerback, I would take Connecticut's Darius Butler by a narrow margin over Illinois' Vontae Davis. Butler learned from UConn coach Randy Edsall, a former NFL defensive coach. Butler has great technique, good size and like most former Florida high school players can run.

Steve Megargee's answer:
My top pick in a weak quarterback class would be Georgia's Matthew Stafford. While Stafford didn't quite live up to the sky-high expectations that accompanied his arrival at Georgia, his three years of experience as a starter give him the edge over USC's Mark Sanchez. My top running back would be Ohio State's Chris Wells, who seems like a steal if he falls into the latter part of the first round. I still think Wells could have won the Heisman last season if he hadn't been hurt early in the year. Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree is a no-brainer as the top receiver. There's a chance Missouri's Jeremy Maclin might get drafted earlier because of his special-teams skills and Crabtree's foot injury, but Crabtree left no doubt the past two seasons that he was the best wide receiver in the country. The only question is whether he can make the same kind of early impact that Calvin Johnson made with the Detroit Lions. Offensive tackle is a tough one because I thought Alabama's Andre Smith and Ole Miss' Michael Oher were the best at their position last season. NFL scouts have Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe ranked higher, at least in part because of off-field issues involving Smith and Oher. I still think Smith would be a steal if he falls out of the top 10, and I also think Oher would be a nice fit for any team drafting outside the top 10. I think Wake Forest's Aaron Curry and USC's Rey Maualuga are the top linebackers. Maualuga may have more big-play potential, but he also can get overaggressive at times. That's why I'd give the edge to Curry, who offers more consistency. Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins' perceived lack of speed has caused him to move to the late first round in many mock drafts. There are questions about whether he might have to move to safety in the NFL. All I know about him is that he was one of the two or three best cornerbacks in the nation each of the past two years. I'd love to have him on my team, though I also like the potential of Wake Forest's Alphonso Smith and Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore.



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