Updated: Dec. 15, 2005, 4:31 PM ET
Big Board readies for bowl seasonBy Mel Kiper Jr.
Special to ESPN Insider
There are a few minor changes to the Big Board this week, although nothing really significant. The big moves on the board will begin to occur once the high-profile juniors make their decisions about returning to college for another season or enter the 2006 NFL draft.
Remember: the upcoming bowl games, which begin Tuesday, represent the final opportunity for the top juniors to showcase their skills with their pads on. Underclassmen are not eligible to play in any of the postseason all-star games.
Make sure you keep a close eye on the top-five position boards for both the juniors and seniors because I update these ratings every week. Obviously, at the this time of the year, this is reflective of what I see on film when studying players that particular week.
My entire Big Board:
1. Matt Leinart, QB, USC (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) | previous rank: same
His arm strength has improved since last season, and he is throwing the ball even better. Leinart might not have repeated as the Heisman Trophy winner, but he makes plays when he has to. He should remain at the top of the draft board.
2. A.J. Hawk, LB, Ohio State (6-1½, 242) | previous rank: same
The top defensive player in the senior class. An instinctive player and a sure tackler, he knows which angles to take to the ball and finds his way through traffic very well.
3. DeMeco Ryans, OLB, Alabama (6-1½, 235) | previous rank: same
Leader of the Crimson Tide defense. Has impressed in the Tide's biggest games this season. Tide defense did all it could to try to keep undefeated season alive.
Randy Litzinger/Icon SMI
Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson might be the first offensive lineman taken in the draft.4. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, OT, Virginia (6-5½, 295) | previous rank: same
Came back from a knee injury and still remains the top offensive lineman on the board.
5. Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State (6-3, 267) | previous rank: same
Has been at the top of his game all year. Hali is the best player on one of the best defenses in the country. A natural pass-rusher who has been fun to watch all season.
6. Jimmy Williams, CB, Virginia Tech (6-2½, 207) | previous rank: same
Gives the Hokies a shutdown cornerback who can lock up the opposing team's top receiver. He eliminates one side of the field. A former safety who moved to corner before the 2004 season.
7. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis (5-9, 215) | previous rank: same
Third in the nation in rushing yards per game, despite not playing behind one of the best offensive lines. Could very well be a top-10 pick.
8. Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, Boston College (6-5½, 260) | previous rank: 9
Came back from an injury against Virginia earlier this season. A tremendous talent who needs to polish his pass-rushing skills.
9. Michael Huff, DB, Texas (6-1, 205) | previous rank: 10
Athletic and instinctive, he has shown the versatility to play cornerback or safety at the next level.
10. Orien Harris, DT, Miami (6-3, 307) | previous rank: 11
Blessed with a ton of talent, Harris has bounced back from a subpar junior campaign. He has maximized his ability on a consistent basis in 2005.
11. Chad Greenway, LB, Iowa (6-2½, 244) | previous rank: 8
Has become one of the nation's top-flight linebackers the past two years. A smart player with great physical skills, Greenway knows how to find the ball and can go all over the field to get to it.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler has moved from 21st to 12th in the last three weeks.12. Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt (6-3¼, 227) | previous rank: 16
Second-best senior QB on the board behind Matt Leinart. Has the potential to be a first-round pick, depending on how he performs in the Senior Bowl and individual workouts.
13. Derek Hagan, WR, Arizona State (6-1½, 203) | previous rank: 12
A precise route-runner who will come into the NFL in 2006 with a great understanding of what is expected to be an immediate contributor.
14. Thomas Howard, LB, UTEP (6-2½, 233) | previous rank: 13
Has come a long way since his days as a walk-on defensive back. UTEP's best defensive player, Howard is a gifted athlete with 4.4 speed who covers the field from sideline to sideline.
15. Sinorice Moss, WR, Miami (5-8½ 183) | previous rank: 14
Can turn a short completion into a coast-to-coast TD. Not great size, but Moss has great speed and should excel at the next level.
16. Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State (6-2½ 305) | previous rank: 15
Combines strength with quickness and a relentless approach. A very effective pass-rusher for an interior lineman.
17. Claude Wroten, DT, LSU (6-2, 293) | previous rank: same
Solid and reliable, Wroten has given LSU consistent play throughout the season.
18. Jason Spitz, G/C, Louisville (6-3½ 307) | previous rank: 21
Versatile player who will have a long career at the next level. Strongest player on Louisville's roster.
19. Anthony Smith, DB, Syracuse (6-1, 194) | previous rank: same
Real playmaker on a team that struggled in 2005. Combines excellent cover skills with a rugged, hard-nosed approach. Smith is not only a quality free safety but also has made a dramatic impact on special teams throughout his impressive stay in the Big East.
20. Dwayne Slay, FS, Texas Tech (6-3½, 210) | previous rank: 22
A very physical and hard-hitting safety, Slay led the Red Raiders in tackles and set a Big 12 record with eight forced fumbles.
21. Ryan O'Callaghan, OT, California (6-6½, 340) | previous rank: 23
Depending on who comes out early, O'Callaghan could end up being the highest-rated right tackle prospect in the draft. Prototype right tackle at the next level. Very tough; he played through a broken wrist for most of 2004 and battled through a concussion in '05.
22. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Louisville (6-0, 256) | previous rank: 24
Feared and disruptive sack artist. Has at least two sacks in five games this season and leads the nation with 20 sacks. Reminds me of Colts DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
23. Max Jean-Gilles, G, Georgia (6-4, 350) | previous rank: 25
One of the best guards in the country, Jean-Gilles had a solid outing against a great LSU defensive line in the SEC title game.
24. Marcedes Lewis, TE, UCLA (6-6, 258) | previous rank: 18
Has legit 4.5 speed and a perfect frame for the position. Leads the Bruins in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
25. Kyle Williams, DT, LSU (6-1½, 294) | previous rank: 20
Consistent and productive, he gets overshadowed at times by teammate Claude Wroten, who lines up next to him on the defensive line. Williams never disappears from the action.
Mel's Top 5 Juniors
1. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
2. Vince Young, Texas
3. Drew Stanton, Michigan State
4. Omar Jacobs, Bowling Green
5. Jordan Palmer, UTEP
5a. Marcus Vick, Virginia Tech
5b. Drew Tate, Iowa
1. Reggie Bush, USC
2. Laurence Maroney, Minnesota
3. LenDale White, USC
4. Michael Bush, Louisville
5. Kenny Irons, Auburn
5a. Maurice Drew, UCLA
5b. Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin
5c. Kenneth Darby, Alabama
1. Santonio Holmes, Ohio State
2. Jeff Samardzija, Notre Dame
3. Jason Hill, Washington State
4. Chad Jackson, Florida
5. Cory Rodgers, TCU
5a. Courtney Taylor, Auburn
5b. Jarrett Hicks, Texas Tech
5c. Steve Smith, USC
5d. Greg Lee, Pittsburgh
1. Vernon Davis, Maryland
2. Leonard Pope, Georgia
3. Anthony Fasano, Notre Dame
4. Clark Harris, Rutgers
5. Martrez Milner, Georgia
5a. Matt Spaeth, Minnesota 5b. Chris Hopkins, Toledo
1. Winston Justice (RT), USC
2. Joe Thomas (LT), Wisconsin
3. Levi Brown (LT), Penn State
4. Justin Blalock (RT), Texas
5. Kyle Young, Fresno St. (C)
5a. Doug Free (LT), Northern Illinois
5b. Manuel Ramirez (RG), Texas Tech
1. Mario Williams (DE), NC State
2. Gaines Adams, (DE), Clemson
3. Haloti Ngata (DT), Oregon
4. Kareem Brown (DT), Miami
5. Quentin Moses (DE), Georgia
5a. Ray Edwards (DE), Purdue
5b. Adam Carriker (DE), Nebraska
5c. Dan Bazuin (DE), Central Michigan
5d. Jay Moore (DE), Nebraska
1. Paul Posluszny, Penn State
2. Patrick Willis, Ole Miss
3. Ernie Sims, Florida State
4. Ahmad Brooks, Virginia
5. Oscar Lua, USC
5a. Rufus Alexander, Oklahoma
5b. H.B. Blades, Pittsburgh
5c. Kai Parham, Virginia
5d. Anthony Waters, Clemson
5e. Justin Durant, Hampton
1. LaRon Landry, LSU
2. Darnell Bing, USC
3. Antonio Cromartie, Florida State (injured)
4. Ashton Youboty, Ohio St.
5. Johnathan Joseph, South Carolina
5a. Brandon Meriweather, Miami
5b. Michael Griffin, Texas
5c. Danieal Manning, Abilene Christian
5d. Bernard Pollard, Purdue
5e. Richard Marshall, Fresno St.
5f. Donte Whitner, Ohio St.
5g. Eric Weddle, Utah
5h. Devin Hester, Miami
1. Mason Crosby, Colorado
2. Justin Medlock, UCLA
3. Mike Barrow, Idaho
4. Brandon Pace, Virginia Tech
5. Andrew Wellock, Eastern Michigan
5a. Kyle Schlicher, Iowa
5b. John Deraney, NC State
1. Daniel Sepulveda, Baylor
2. Adam Graessle, Pittsburgh
3. Brandon Fields, Michigan St.
4. Adam Podlesh, Maryland
5. Michael Gibson, Memphis