Evan Silva

NFL Draft Preview

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Draft 2011: Combine Preview

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Colorado LT Nate Solder

Solder has on record a 4.88 forty time and 32-inch vertical, both outstanding measurables for a 6'8/314-pound tackle. He also has seven percent body fat. Possessing nearly 35-inch arms, Solder will be the most athletic, physically imposing lineman at this year's Combine.

Missouri DE Aldon Smith

With a pterodactyl-like wingspan, Smith has drawn comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul, Simeon Rice, and Jevon Kearse as a freakishly built pass rusher. "If his arms are under 35 inches," recently wrote Wes Bunting of the National Football Post, "I'll come away shocked." Smith could also threaten the 4.4s at 6'5/260.

Deep Quarterback Class

Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, and Jake Locker are the draft's highest-profile quarterbacks, but the position runs deep. Ryan Mallett (Arkansas), Christian Ponder (Florida State), and Andy Dalton (TCU) are day-two prospects, while Colin Kaepernick (Nevada) and Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) have risen swiftly since standout Senior Bowl weeks. Whereas the NFL has averaged 5.2 QBs drafted in the first three rounds over the last decade, as many as eight look likely to go in those frames this year. Other signal callers likely to be selected in April: Greg McElroy (Alabama), Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech), and Pat Devlin (Delaware). And all of them will be in Indianapolis.

QBs capable of helping themselves at the Combine include Kaepernick and Locker with big arms and sub-4.5 wheels, and Ponder, Stanzi, and Dalton with short to intermediate accuracy in throwing drills. Mallett must interview well, because he's been red flagged for an array of off-field and leadership concerns, including alleged drug use. Already highly rated, Gabbert and Newton may elect against throwing for scouts.

UPDATE: I've updated the latest on each top-eight quarterback's intentions over at Profootballtalk.com. Gabbert and Ponder are the most notable QBs not expected to throw. Newton, Kaepernick, and Locker will do everything in Indianapolis.

Speed to Burn

Abilene Christian WR Edmund Gates

Gates is Todd McShay's pick to run the fastest forty at the Combine, and the D-II product was timed in the low 4.4s as a college junior. The cousin of Bengals tailback Bernard Scott, Gates also boasts plenty of "game speed," graduating with an 18.26 career yards-per-catch average.

New Mexico State CB Davon House

If House is fully recovered from the ankle injury that prevented him from practicing all last season, he'll be a sleeper for the best forty among defensive backs. A burner with ball skills, the lithe, 6'0/182-pound four-year starter intercepted 11 career passes, returning three of them to the House.

Maryland WR Torrey Smith

Smith has also been mentioned by McShay as a likely star in straight-line speed drills, and his prediction is backed up by Mike Mayock. "He's a guy that's going to run 4.35 or 4.38," said Mayock, calling Smith "a guy that flies." Smith twice reset the ACC single-season kickoff return yardage record on top of being a first-team all-conference wideout.

Miami CB Demarcus Van Dyke

Van Dyke lost his starting job as a senior, but that doesn't mean he can't run. "D.V.D." doubled as a track star for the Canes, and training mate Torrey Smith predicts Van Dyke will run the fastest forty at the Combine. "I'm fast, but not 4.2 fast," tweeted Smith recently. "That's moving."

Troy WR Jerrel Jernigan

Jernigan averaged "only" 11.94 career yards per reception playing the slot in Troy's spread offense, but his highlight reels reveal an absolute speed demon. Percy Harvin-like in terms of versatility, Jernigan averaged 23.58 yards per kick return, 8.27 on punts, and 6.28 career yards per carry.

Something to Prove

Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara

Amukamara is widely considered the second best corner in the draft, but Bunting is beating the drum for a move to free safety. The senior's straight-line speed has been a topic of debate since Amukamara was torched for 157 yards and two TDs on five receptions by Oklahoma State third-year sophomore Justin Blackmon last October.

Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure

Leshoure's career 6.03 yards-per-carry average is the most impressive in this year's draft class, but there's plenty of evaluation work to do on the one-year starter. How athletic is he? What's his forty time? Leshoure has drawn comparisons ranging from LeGarrette Blount to Ryan Mathews.

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn

Clayborn racked up 20 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks as a junior, only to fall to 7.0 and 3.5, respectively, as a senior. What happened? Did Clayborn "play to not get injured," as at least one scout has suggested? The St. Louis native needs to exhibit explosiveness in Combine drills.

North Carolina WR Greg Little

Like so many members of the Tar Heels' 2010 roster, Little was suspended for the entire season after accepting gifts from a sports agent. Entering the draft with only 13 starts and 969 receiving yards on his college resume, Little must interview well and show he's been staying in shape.

Michigan State LB Greg Jones

Four-year starter. Two-time first-team All American. Third most tackles in Michigan State history. 46.5 career tackles for loss. 16.5 sacks. Jones is one of the most decorated college players eligible for the draft, but questions about his speed and down-to-down effort are prevalent.

Georgia DE/LB Justin Houston

Houston demonstrated incredible off-the-edge burst as a 4-3 pass rusher at Georgia, but draftniks are wary of his ability to translate those traits into a 3-4 defense. Houston needs to show well in coverage drills at the Combine, as well as an explosive "get off" from a two-point stance.

Clemson SS DeAndre McDaniel

McDaniel's 15 career picks rank impressively high among draft-eligible defensive backs, but the converted linebacker's cover skills have come under fire. In addition to exhibiting straight-line speed, it's up to McDaniel to show he can back pedal and fluidly flip his hips in the speed-turn drill.

LSU DT Drake Nevis

How big is he? Nevis was listed at 6'2/285 by LSU, but some contend that the three-technique prospect will report to Indy shorter and lighter. Though Nevis was one of the nation's top interior pass rushers last season, the weigh-in will be his tallest hurdle toward earning a day-two grade.

Louisville RB Bilal Powell

You wouldn't know Powell faces scrutiny about his speed by glancing at his 6.14 yards-per-carry average as a senior, but the bruising power back is not considered a homerun hitter. Powell also presents "one-year wonder" concerns. He wasn't anywhere near the NFL draft radar before 2010.

Penn State RB Evan Royster

Royster enjoyed a productive career in Happy Valley, but ranks 30th on Bunting's running back big board, behind the likes of Navy QB Ricky Dobbs. Not helping Royster are the failures of fellow PSU backs Tony Hunt, Curtis Enis, Ki-Jana Carter, and Blair Thomas over the past few decades.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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