2009 NFL Draft Prospects: The Standouts and Sleepers READ MORE: NFL, NFL Draft by joshsanchez more posts by author 1313 Draft season is heating up, and I know you are all anxious to see who will be the newest member sporting your favorite teams jersey. There are many ways to go about finding out about various prospects: you can watch YouTube! highlights, check out ESPN or the NFL Network, and some of you even may spend the money on random draft magazines. I am here to save you all the trouble, and money, and I am going to highlight my number one prospect and number one sleeper at each position. Quarterback: Top Rated: Mark Sanchez, Southern Cal Everyone knows who Mark Sanchez is. He is yet another Southern Cal player who is making headlines and being one of the most talked about prospects in the upcoming draft. Many people will have Matthew Stafford as their top rated quarterback, but I see that something special in Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has unbelievable leadership and the intangibles that make NFL scouts and coaches drool. Those of you who watched the combine saw Mark’s leadership first hand. After every drill the quarterback group would gravitate towards him, and he would pal around with everyone making them feel comfortable. This is exactly what I want the attitude of my franchise QB to be. Sleeper: Jason Boltus, Hartwick Who? Yes, Boltus is not a household name, but he is one of the most productive quarterbacks in NCAA history. Boltus is a Division III standout who was invited to the NFL combine. One of the many awards Boltus has rung in is the Melberger Award, which is the Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Boltus may not be able to make an immediate impact on an NFL roster, but he is definitely someone to keep an eye out for. Running Back: Top Rated: Knowshon Moreno, Georgia Moreno was a standout in the SEC, and he is one of the more versatile backs in this year’s draft. With exceptional hands and quickness, Moreno has drawn comparisons to Philadelphia Eagle star, Brian Westbrook. If your team is looking for a dynamic runner with big play ability, Moreno is your guy. Sleeper: Kory Sheets, Purdue Kory Sheets doesn’t get the recognition he deserves because he was hidden in Purdue’s pass happy offense. Sheets showed up big in the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Combine, where he ran one of the fastest times among the running backs. The one thing that makes Sheets standout is his incredible ability when it comes to pass protection. With his experience in Purdue’s system, he has developed a great understanding of blitz pick up, and he has superb hands out of the backfield. Fullback: Top Rated: Quinn Johnson, Louisiana State Johnson is another one of those guys who lit it up during the Senior Bowl. Johnson is a tough guy, who will put seek contact and lay a punishing hit to free up a hole. On top of his toughness, Johnson also has surprisingly reliable hands. He is willing to run out in the flat and catch a pass to help move the chains. He gets one of the best compliments you can ask for… he’s a straight up football player. Sleeper: Chris Ogbonnaya, Texas Ogbonnaya reminds me a lot of Baltimore’s Le’Ron McClain. Ogbonnaya will be a lead blocker, but he can also carry the load if you need him to. I expect him to be well-rounded player who will contribute in the blocking, rushing, and passing game. Wide Receiver: Top Rated: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech Everyone knows Michael Crabtree. He is one of the most productive receivers in recent years and he has the intelligence you want. Crabtree is far and away the best route runner in this year’s crop of receivers, and he is a strong guy who will make a play after the catch. The best thing Crabtree did for his draft stock was decide to get the surgery on his foot now. He will be ready for training camps and there is no reason he can’t contribute immediately. Sleeper: Deon Butler, Penn State Butler is a speed demon. Not only does Butler bring the much needed ability to stretch the field; he also has very reliable hands. Butler has burst onto the scene after his performance at the College All-Star Challenge, and I don’t expect him to look back any time soon. Tight End: Top Rated: Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State Brandon Pettigrew is probably the most complete tight end to enter the draft in the last five years. Nowadays, you get the tight ends who aren’t willing blockers… the guys who are just jacked up wide receivers. Pettigrew has no hesitation when it comes to blocking, and he can also contribute in the passing game. Don’t be fooled by his lack of production in college, Pettigrew is an exceptional talent and is poised to be an NFL star in the mold of Jason Witten. Sleeper: Cornelius Ingram, Florida Ingram very well could have been a first rounder if it wasn’t for his injury in the offseason. A very athletic player with tremendous hands, Ingram will be a perfect H-Back or slot TE for a team who utilizes the passing game. Offensive Line: Top Rated: Jason Smith, Baylor Jason Smith needs to improve on his run blocking, but there is no doubt that this guy is an elite pass protector. Every NFL team would love to have a guy as athletic and skilled as Smith to play their left tackle position. A former tight end, Smith will be able to get to the next level and lead a charge down field on screens and running plays. I expect big things from the Baylor Bear. Top Rated: Eric Wood, Louisville Eric Wood can play center or both guard positions, and that will absolutely help him earn a spot on a NFL roster. Wood is very well-rounded and loves to attack the next level and put a hat on the linebackers. A very intelligent player, Sleeper: Fenuki Tupou, Oregon Tupou is a brute. He would be a great right tackle with his size and speed, but it is also possible he may have to make the transition to guard at the next level. Sleeper: Edwin Williams, Maryland Those of you who saw my interview with Edwin Williams know that he has his head on straight. He is very grounded and wants to prove more than anything that he has what it takes. When a player comes into the league with this kind of fire and passion, it is kind of hard to say that he won’t succeed. 2009 NFL Draft Prospects: The Standouts and Sleepers READ MORE: NFL, NFL Draft by joshsanchez more posts by author 1313 Defensive End: Top Rated: Brian Orakpo, Texas Brian Orakpo is a beast of a player. He is a freak athlete and a gym rat with the physique that makes your eyes pop. Orakpo is the most naturally gifted pass rusher in this year’s draft, and is a top ten lock. Orakpo is a “tweener” as well which helps his value due to his ability to play either 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker. Sleeper: David Veikune, Hawaii Veikune is an explosive edge rusher that really caught my eye the week of the Senior Bowl. Snap after snap, Veikune was beating the offensive tackle of the edge and showing great burst and a wide variety of pass rushing moves. He is a very strong guy who will never give up on a play, one of the best motors in this year’s class. Defensive Tackle: Top Rated: BJ Raji, Boston College We all know who BJ Raji is. The Boston College standout who can do it all is a top 5 lock. He can step in immediately and help teams generate pressure up the gut of the offense, or he can stay and hold his position. With great lower body strength and the ability to anchor and hold position, Raji is capable of playing in the 3-4 as a nose tackle. Sleeper: Ricky Jean-Francois, Louisiana State Whether it will be at defensive end in a 3-4 or defensive tackle in a 4-3, Jean-Francois is a guy who you can plug in and he will generate a pass rush. He has all of the potential in the world, but hasn’t had much time to show it. He redshirted as a freshman and then due to academic issues, he missed most of his sophomore year. Last season, Francois continued to show his ability and decided to enter the NFL Draft a year early. While this is a mistake for him financially, it will be a gift for someone in the middle rounds of the draft. If Rick Jean-Francois would have stayed that one extra season, he would have been a first round pick. Outside Linebacker: Top Rated: Aaron Curry, Wake Forest Aaron Curry is the best player in this draft. He is a versatile linebacker with the speed and toughness to excel in any scheme and in any situation. There is no way Aaron Curry should make it out of the first three picks, and if he does, a team just had a future All-Pro fall into their laps. If there is one thing Curry needs to improve on it would be his pass rushing skills, but other than that it is hard to find a weakness in his game. Sleeper: Kaluka Maiava, Southern Cal Yet another USC linebacker, Maiava was the most impressive of the bunch for the Trojans in the Rose Bowl. Maiava showcased his strength at the NFL Combine putting up an impressive 30 reps, which was tied for the most by any linebacker. Maiava may get overlooked due to his height (5’11), but I would not be surprised if his NFL career is every bit as successful as the other USC linebackers. Inside Linebacker: Top Rated: Rey Maualuga, Southern Cal Maualuga is not afraid to punish the ball carrier. Maualuga is not that great in space, but he is very effective attacking the line of scrimmage and making the tackle. The reason so many teams have fallen in love with Maualuga is his rare physicality coming out of college. His body is pro ready; as is his mindset. Maualuga is a perfect fit as an inside linebacker for the 3-4, and with the growing trend of teams switching to that scheme, Maualuga’s skill set will be in high demand. Sleeper: Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh McKillop is one of the most productive linebackers in all of college football. McKillop’s greatest asset is his intelligence. You will be hard pressed to find another linebacker in this draft as instinctive as he is. The Big East Defensive Player of the Year is a high character guy who will be great value in the third or fourth rounds. I know one thing, I want McKillop on my team, he is a tackling machine and an intelligent player… how can that not help? Cornerback: Top Rated: Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest Most people would have Malcolm Jenkins or Vontae Davis in this position, but I have seen no one with the ball skills of Alphonso Smith. To borrow a line from Mike Mayock, “If Alphonso was 2 inches taller; he would be a top ten pick.” Smith has incredible change of direction ability and as I said earlier, ball skills like no other. Sleeper: Mark Parson, Ohio Mark Parson is hands down the best man to man corner in the draft. Parson has a great combination of strength and speed. It is rare that you find a player coming out of college with the natural coverage ability that Parson has. This is a big compliment: If any corner in this draft can achieve “shutdown corner” status, I believe Mark Parson will be that man. Safety: Top Rated: Louis Delmas, Western Michigan Louis Delmas is the most physical safety to enter the draft in recent memory. He is a ball-hawk in every sense of the word, and he is always looking to lay the wood on a receiver. Delmas’ only major downfall is his over aggressiveness. At times he can take himself out of the play or be caught out of position for a big gain, but most of the time though you will see Delmas locate the ball, and launch himself in the right direction to make a big play. Delmas also is very helpful in run support. The way he flies in on the line of scrimmage is reminiscent of Bob Sanders. Sleeper: C.J. Spillman, Marshall If you know who CJ Spillman is I am very proud of you. He is an extremely under the radar guy who is very strong and an exceptional tackler. In 2007 he racked up 131 tackles and forced three fumbles, this guy is no slouch in the open field and he could contribute a lot as an in the box safety. While Spillman is physical and has the tackling technique, he needs to improve his game when it comes to coverage, and with that he could find himself doing well in the NFL.