I recently updated the Top 32 list for the 2009 NFL Draft. The following highlights the changes and the reasoning behind them:
DE Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech-The Yellow Jackets’ defensive lineman has a build and athletic ability that is reminiscent of Jevon Kearse or Jason Taylor. The problem was his on-field production never matched the talent level. Johnson is making his senior season his best by far (12 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 4 batted passes). His presence is definitely being felt by opposing offenses despite attracting a lot of attention from blockers.
LB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest-We have not seen a senior having a better season (77 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 1 interception) than this do-everything playmaker. This is why Curry is our new number 1 senior prospect (previously it was USC’s Rey Maualuga). The Demon Deacon outside linebacker runs like a safety, only he is 250 pounds. His production is outstanding and you have to nitpick to find faults in his play.
CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest- Ohio State cornerback, Malcolm Jenkins, is bigger and faster than Smith. However, Smith is as good a ball-hawk at corner (19 career interceptions and 48 passes broken up) that we have seen in some time. The Wake Forest corner has fantastic instincts and plays with a swagger that he backs up.
TE Travis Beckum, Wisconsin-The Badgers’ tight end is still high on our list, but a broken leg pushes him down.
LB Brian Cushing, USC-Cushing is having a productive year (54 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 4 passes broken up) and is a big part of a tough Trojans defense. However, when you study Cushing on film he is more of a finesse defender. He will need a stout defensive line to let him use his instincts and run around in the NFL. This drops him a bit along with concerns as to how well his body will hold up going against bigger and faster players.
New To The Top 32:
DT B.J. Raji, Boston College-He has clogged the middle consistently for BC and displayed the quickness to penetrate (4 sacks and 7 tackles for loss).
LB Clint Sintim, Virginia-The emotional team leader is capping off his college career with a stand-out senior campaign. Sintim makes disruptive plays (11 sacks, 13 tackles for loss) and his intensity is something every NFL team is looking for.
S Rashad Johnson, Alabama-His 3 interceptions in Alabama’s big road win against LSU says it all. Johnson has been terrific all season. The Alabama safety’s smart, active play against the run and pass has really stood out.
DT Vance Walker, Georgia Tech-The under-rated Walker plays hard and is having a good year (33 tackles, 3 sacks and a safety). His ability to penetrate and chase down ball carriers to the outside has caught our attention.
DE Cody Brown, Connecticut-The Huskies’ defensive end is a prime candidate to be converted into a rush 3-4 outside linebacker in the pros. Brown is an excellent basketball player and overall athlete. His play this season (7 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) and last is attracting the interest of pro teams.
Dropped From Top 32:
OT Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma- A massive left tackle who will struggle against pass rushers with speed. His best pro position may be at right tackle or even inside at guard where he can maul defenders.
DT Terrance Taylor, Michigan- Taylor has been decent, but certainly has not stepped up his game like many expected.
DE Matt Shaughnessy, Wisconsin- His play (31 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 3 sacks) has picked up of late, but he started the season slowly. Shaughnessy had a family tragedy to deal with that had to effect his focus. He gives consistent effort and has some pass rush tools.
DT Alex Magee, Purdue- A solid performer (28 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks) who moves well.