Positional overviews: Ranking the prospects at each position

  • By NFL.com
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NFL.com takes a look at the best available players at each position heading into the NFL Draft with its positional overview series.

Quarterbacks

QB starter potential beyond Round 1

Steve Wyche: Besides the news that quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton were involved in two of the biggest NFL trades this offseason, both were starters who beat the odds as mid- to late-round picks. To boot, Cassel will take the starting job in Kansas City from incumbent Tyler Thigpen, who was a seventh-round selection in 2007. Therein lies the reason why teams don't stop drafting quarterbacks after the first or second round. It's why Pat White, John Parker Wilson, Rhett Bomar and Tom Brandstater will be chosen after the surefire first-rounders. More ...

» Draft discussion: Pick QB No. 1? | Mayock's top five | Photos


Running backs/fullbacks

Tandem backfields open things up

Bucky Brooks: The NFL has long held the reputation of being a copycat league, and the draft often reacts to the trends that emerge from the previous year. When looking at the running back position, the trend that will be copied is the extensive use of a running back tandem. More teams have found that splitting the workload among multiple backs has proven to be a successful strategy. Scouts are rushing to identify rushers capable of enhancing their teams' running back rotations. In looking at the 2009 draft class, it is a group devoid of top headliners but littered with quality backs. More ...

» Draft discussion: Do RBs have first-round value? | Mayock's top five | Photos


Tight ends

Pettigrew should go early

Bucky Brooks: Pettigrew is a versatile tight end with all-around skills that translate well to the pros. Though he lacks elite speed, Pettigrew shines as a receiver due to his exceptional hands and ball skills. As a big target over the middle of the field, Pettigrew should thrive as a "move the chains" playmaker in the passing game. Additionally, he possesses the blocking skills that are a tough find at the position. Pettigrew's status has taken a tumble since his disappointing showing at the combine, but his overall ability is too good to ignore in the first round. More ...

» Mayock's top five | Photos


Wide receivers

Class loaded with big WRs

Bucky Brooks: If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Pro Bowl wide receivers Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald should be honored by the events set to take place on draft day. Fueled by Johnson and Fitzgerald's success, teams are looking to stock their rosters with pass catchers who have the requisite size and athleticism to dominate on the edge. Of the eight receivers on Pro Bowl rosters, six measured more than 6 feet in height, including all four starters. A glance at the top 10 receivers in terms of yards last season reflects the same trend. More ...

» Draft discussion: Finding the right fit | Mayock's top five | Photos


Guards

No first-round value?

Steve Wyche: Oklahoma's Duke Robinson is widely considered the best player at his position, the type of anchor who could play in the NFL for more than 10 years and be a force for a run-first team that needs some interior push. Yet, he's a guard, a position devalued like the other up-the-gut spots: center, middle/inside linebacker and safety. No guard is projected to be chosen in the first round, although Robinson could sneak in late, possibly to the Steelers with the No. 32 pick. Last season, USC's Chilo Rachal was the first guard drafted, taken 39th overall by the San Francisco 49ers. More ...

» Mayock's top five | Photos


Centers

Deep group at center

Steve Wyche: Typically, teams in any sport say the key to success is being strong through the middle. Yet, in pro football, it's the edge players on defense and the skill players on offense who make the money and the highlights, in large part because of the grunt work done by the interior worker bees. This year's center class, highlighted by California's Alex Mack, is a deep and talented group. They'll receive playing time, as teams throughout the league need depth at center because so many players currently starting at the position are getting old. More ...

» Mayock's top five | Photos


Offensive tackles

Talent aplenty at OT

Steve Wyche: The desire for premium offensive tackles was thought to have peaked last season, when eight were selected in the first round. Yet, unlike most things in the NFL, the demand remains abundant. As many as seven offensive tackles could be taken in the first round. There are trends in the NFL, and there are trends in the NFL. Finding a solid offensive tackle, especially on the left side, is now almost as prestigious as landing a franchise quarterback. Without the tackles to keep pass rushers off quarterbacks, star passers wouldn't have much to offer. More ...

» Draft discussion: Curious case of Andre Smith | Mayock's top five | Photos


Defensive linemen

Thin crop in defensive trenches

Steve Wyche: The evolution of the defensive end in the NFL seems to have led us to a position that is impossible to define. There are the in-vogue hybrid defensive ends, which can line up in 4-3 fronts and play the orthodox way. Then again, they could also drop back into coverage or play off the ball as an outside linebacker, often times in a 3-4 scheme. There are the situational pass-rushing ends and the two-down, run-stopping ends. And in a 3-4 front, ends are primarily tackle-sized road blocks designed to hold blockers off heat-seeking linebackers. More ...

» Draft discussion: Reach for a DL? | Mayock's top five | Photos


Hybrid defensive ends/linebackers

Premium on hybrids?

Bucky Brooks: What do DeMarcus Ware, Joey Porter and James Harrison have in common? Well, besides being among the league leaders in sacks, each was a collegiate defensive end who transitioned into an NFL hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. Hybrids, who are best described as players who possess the pass-rush skills of a defensive end and the cover ability of an outside linebacker, have grown in popularity because more teams are using a 3-4 base defense. The Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens have been 3-4 disciples for years. More ...

» Draft discussion: Premium on hybrids? | Mayock's top five | Photos


Linebackers

Questions abound at ILB

Steve Wyche: USC's Rey Maualuga and Ohio State's James Laurinaitis are considered the only possible first-round inside/middle linebacker prospects, and both could be among the latter half of the first 32 picks. The odd part is that Maualuga and Laurinaitis were considered two of the best players in college football and definitely two of the best linebackers in the nation the past two years. Their talent and playmaking ability isn't being devalued, but the position is. The top linebackers in the NFL today mainly play on the outside. More ...

» Draft discussion: Immediate impact at ILB? | Mayock's top five | Photos


Cornerbacks

Size or production more important?

Bucky Brooks: Does size really matter? That is what scouts are pondering after taking a look at the cornerbacks from the 2009 draft class. With the league increasingly becoming a big man's game on the edges, teams are looking to identify pass defenders with the requisite size and athleticism. By pro standards, big corners are best described as cornerbacks who measure 5-foot-11 or taller. They are coveted because they possess the height and length to hold their own in jump-ball situations, and also have the size to be effective as run defenders. More ...

» Draft discussion: CB/S Jenkins' value | Mayock's top five | Photos


Safeties

Versatility becoming a must

Steve Wyche: The big plays and big hits by safeties Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Adrian Wilson and Bob Sanders have brought the safety position back into the spotlight. For years, safety was considered an afterthought and teams didn't feel the need to use high first-round picks on the position. Some teams refused to use any first-round pick on a safety. Conventional wisdom said that a brutish-but-coverage-liability-type strong safety could be found in later rounds, as could a free safety, typically a fleet, cerebral ball hawk. More ...

» Mayock's top five | Photos


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