Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Baker's Dozen - My Personal Big Board

One of the things I love to do is read stuff by Mel Kiper (ESPN) and Todd McShay from Scouts, Inc. and follow their ever changing big boards leading up to the draft.

It's always interesting to see who they feel is rising or falling. With each pro day and individual workout, evaluations are taking place by scouts and personnel people. A one second difference in a 40 time could be millions lost to a player. And right there is Mel, Todd, Gary Horton (War Room) or someone to sort it out.

Since I'm such an opinionated SOB, I thought I'd chime in with my own big board. I call it the Baker's Dozen. The 13 best players - regardless of position - I would choose from if I had the call in an NFL war room.

These rankings are based on football ability, not just 40 times or vertical leaps or any of that jazz. While it's important to be fast, strong and athletic - it's also critical to evaluate players by a sometimes forgotten part of the process - CAN HE PLAY FOOTBALL EXCEPTIONALLY WELL!

Enough talk. Here for your entertainment and education - The Baker's Dozen Big Board:

1. Mario Williams, DE, NC State - This kid is more freaky than the Freak - Jevon Kearse. He's 6-7, 285 pounds of pure athleticism. His workouts at the combine, including a 4.6 in the 40, clinched the deal. Should be a top five selection. In my humble opinion, the player with the most promise in this draft.

2. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, OT, Virginia - Has size, lateral quickness and mean streak to be a dominate left tackle for many years to come. Needs to get stronger but that will come. This is a guy you build your franchise around.

3. A.J. Hawk, OLB, Ohio State - Has a non-stop motor and is a tackling machine. His 4.5 in the 40 had scouts drooling and solidified him as the best linebacker in the Class of 2006.

4. Matt Leinart, QB, USC - Good size (6-4, 224) and excellent leadership abilities. Prototype drop-back passer that will have a long, all-pro career. A definite franchise QB. Arm strength in question, but how can you argue about a guy that was 45-2 has a starter and won two national championships in three seasons.

5. Reggie Bush, RB, USC - Comes right out of the Marshall Faulk and Thurman Thomas school of all-purpose backs. Excellent vision, cut-back ability and speed. Has the potential to be a 1,000 yard rusher and receiver before he finishes his career.

6. Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland - Wowed scouts at combine with best workout numbers ever for a tight end. Ran 4.38 in the 40, had a 40-inch vertical and a 10-8 broad jump. Excellent hands and bulk (254 pounds), but struggles sometimes with blocking. A tad undersized at 6-3, but he will cause havoc for defenses.

7. Michael Huff, S, Texas - Has everything you could want in a safety - size (200 pounds), speed (4.45) and he's a nasty tackler with a nose for the football. Can also play corner, making him even more valuable. A solid player.

8. Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon - Will be an excellent two-gap run stuffer, but needs to develop more stamina. Awesome size (6-4, 338) and strength. Has a tendency to play high but is thick and powerful. Just what you need from a run bashing tackle.

9. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis - A lot like Bush. Has nice vision, quickness and initial burst. Decent cutting skills and very compact and muscular. Decent hands and a good leader on and off the field. Lack of size (5-8, 200) and injury problems in high school and college could be red flags for some teams.

10. Chad Greenway, OLB, Iowa - Awesome size for an outside backer (6-2, 243) and excellent speed (4.5). Is relentless in his pursuit of the ballcarrier. Goes sideline to sideline to make plays and uses his hands well. Needs a little work in his coverage skills, but should step in and be a starter right away.

11. Jimmy Williams, CB, Virginia Tech - The best shut down corner in the draft. Good size (6-2, 205) and closing speed. Williams is strong and used to play safety so he can help in run support. Decent leaping ability and soft hands.

12. DeMeco Ryans, OLB, Alabama - Has a motor that never stops. Powerful tackler and excellent pass rusher. Good leadership skills and solid work ethic. Only liability could be lack of speed (4.7) compared to other pro linebackers.

13. Winston Justice, OT, USC - This guy has some baggage which could hurt his draft stock. On the field he has the potential to be an elite tackle from the left or right side. Good height and has the body type to add more bulk. Good balance and fluid feet. Sat out season and has been arrested twice on misdemeanors.

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