· The 2008 NFL Draft class has the potential to be the most elite running
back class ever assembled — that is if the top underclassmen declare.
University of Central Florida standout Kevin Smith, who's one of the nation's
spectacular underclassmen, has an opportunity to surpass Oklahoma State legend
Barry Sanders in the record books. On Saturday, Smith had 39 carries for 284
yards and four touchdowns against Tulsa, which brought his season rushing total
to 2,448 yards on 415 carries and 29 touchdowns. He's just 180 yards behind
Sanders with one game remaining; UCF's appearance in this year's Liberty Bowl.
When an underclassman at the running back position produces record-breaking
numbers, it's almost certain he'll enter the draft. But nothing is certain that
Smith will forego his senior season and be lured away by NFL millions. However,
if he's tempted to test his skills at the next level, he's a mid-to-late first-round selection.
· Hawaii is known for its high-powered offense, but no one talks about their
defense. The Warriors have two outstanding junior linebackers, Adam Leonard and
Solomon Elimimian. At 6-foot, 218 pounds, Elimimian is an undersized outside
linebacker who's a tackling machine. He's a rangy player who reads the action
well and attacks the opposition. He has 127 tackles (65 solo, 62 assisted), 10.5
for a loss, and 1.5 sacks this season. But Leonard, who stands at 6-foot,
236-pounds is an even more impressive prospect. He's a tremendously skilled
all-around player who's instinctive against the run and shows great awareness in
coverage. He has 100 tackles (50 solo, 50 assisted), 12.0 for a loss, two sacks,
and four interceptions. Elimimian and Leonard have promising futures, but should
return to Hawaii for their senior seasons.
· Oklahoma junior middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has been a consistent force all season
for the Sooners. At 6-foot, 238 pounds, Lofton has emerged as a playmaking
linebacker who has the ability to change the pace of a game. He immediately
reads the action, takes good angles in pursuit and wraps up the opposition. He
plays with a high motor and positions himself well to make a play. He drops well
in coverage and has good ball skills. Lofton played a huge role in the Big 12
Championship Game on Saturday night, finishing with nine tackles, three for a loss, an
interception, and a sack as the Sooners knocked off top- ranked Missouri 38 –17. Lofton plays at middle linebacker for the
his future at the next level resides at the weakside linebacker position. Even
though Lofton had 142 tackles, 9.5 for a loss, a sack, and three interceptions
in 13 games this season, he should stay in school for his senior season and
improve his draft stock for the 2009 draft.
· A player that had really improved his game this season is UCLA FS Dennis Keyes. Keyes has ideal size, standing at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, for a free safety
at the next level. He takes good angles in coverage and uses his size to muscle-up the opposition. He has a good burst and has improved his run defense and
tackling technique. Keyes led the Bruins in tackles this season with 106 (68
solo, 38 assisted), four of which went for a loss. In addition to his improved
tackling, Keyes improved his coverage skills, and it has paid off this season
with his three interceptions. In his last three games, Keyes amassed 36 tackles
and an interception, including his 19-tackle performance against the Trojans
this past weekend. Keyes is a mid-to-late round selection, unless he improves
his forty-time during the offseason.
· Everyone is looking for the next Devin Hester, a playmaker whot can strike
fear in the opposition on special teams. One player that has gone under the
radar in the WAC, but has produced impressive numbers, is Utah State
senior Kevin Robinson. The 6-foot, 200-pound Robinson is a threat on special
teams anytime he touches the ball. He's fielded 20 punts for 378 yards (18.9 YPR)
and a touchdown, as well as returning 43 kickoffs for 1,260 yards (29.3 YPR) and
three touchdowns. Robinson also led the Aggies in receiving with 55 receptions
for 640 yards and five touchdowns. He's not a burner like Hester, but he has a
unique blend of good speed (4.48, 40-time), sure hands, quick feet, and excellent
vision that makes him a dynamic player who'll receive fifth- to sixth-round
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.