With the NFL Draft right around the corner, here are some pre-draft predictions. There are four categories that a player can fall in at each position. Today, the focus is on the offensive prospects.
Here are the categories:
Shot Caller - The best in class.
Fast Faller - The player who's falling down the draft board.
Prospective Baller - The sleeper of the class, a player who has something to prove or has the chance to emerge as a quality starter.
Crystal Baller – The player, three years from now, who becomes the most productive in each class.
Players such as Darren McFadden, Jake Long and Branden Albert are obviously their class’ “Shot Callers,” but what about Devin Thomas, Andre Woodson and Kevin Smith; are they their position’s "Crystal Baller" or "Fast Faller?"
Shot Caller: Brian Brohm, Louisville
Don’t believe all the hype about Matt Ryan being the best QB in this year’s draft. Brohm is the best, most polished QB in this draft class and will prove that he’s worthy of being this year’s QB shot caller.
Kentucky QB Andre Woodson has been a disappointment this offseason and finds himself falling in the draft.
AP Photo/Ed Reinke
Fast Faller: Andre Woodson, Kentucky
A disappointing off-season has hurt Woodson more than any player in the draft. Once considered to be a first round selection, Woodson has fallen out of favor with many scouts due to his mechanical release and shaky decision-making. Look for Woodson to be a mid-to-late second round pick.
Prospective Baller: Colt Brennan, Hawaii
Wherever Brennan goes there’s always controversy and questions that follow. He’s one of the most intriguing QBs in this class; whether it’s positive or negative, Brennan always draws a crowd. With the news of a torn labrum in his hip, Brennan may fall a bit in the draft, but he’s a confident player who will prove to the teams that passed him up that they made a mistake.
Crystal Baller: Chad Henne, Michigan
Henne is a signal caller with a high degree of intelligence, and he understands what it takes to win football games. He’s a student of the game and commands respect in the huddle. He has a strong arm, great touch and all the intangibles you need that will lead him to be the most productive QB from this class.
Shot Caller: Darren McFadden, Arkansas
McFadden is the best pure athlete in this draft and has an opportunity to have an impact in the NFL similar to Adrian Peterson. McFadden has a unique blend of size and speed, but there are questions about his character that has some teams wary of him. But his potential is limitless, and if he ends up in the right offense, defensive coordinators will have to game plan around him.
Fast Faller: Steve Slaton, West Virginia
After a tremendous sophomore campaign where he rushed for 1,744 yards and 16 touchdowns, Slaton struggled this past season yardage wise, with just 1,051 yards. But he did get into the endzone 17 times, and that was encouraging. Scoring touchdowns has never been a problem for Slaton, as he’s recorded 50 touchdowns in three seasons, but the lack of explosion and production this past season has teams worried.
Prospective Baller: Jalen Parmele, Toledo
A very productive player at Toledo, Parmele has shown impressive measurables this off-season and has elevated his draft status with a great showing at the Scouting Combine. Parmele ran a 4.47 in the 40 at the Scouting Combine and improved his vertical jump from 34.5 at the Combine to 41.5 at his Pro Day. Parmele has the potential to be a starting RB in the NFL.
Crystal Baller: Kevin Smith, UCF
Say what you want about Kevin Smith and the questions regarding his straight-line speed, but the former UCF standout has all the tools to be a great runner at the next level. Smith rushed for 2,567 yards and 29 touchdowns this past season, and he has some tread on his wheels (905 carries in three seasons), but he has great ability and will be the most productive runner out of this class in three years.
Arkansas FB Peyton Hillis offers a team versatility at the next level.
AP Photo/April L. Brown
Shot Caller: Peyton Hillis, Arkansas
Hillis’ versatility makes him an attractive prospect for many teams in the NFL. The fullback position isn’t what it used to be in the past, but Hillis’ game is reminiscent of former Patriots and Eagles FB Kevin Turner. Hillis has good hands, speed and can line up at FB or TE. He will also be a valuable player on special teams.
Fast Faller: Brandon McAnderson, Kansas
McAnderson is a big, physical runner with quick feet who was productive last season as a first-year starter at RB, but doesn’t have the top-end speed to be a featured back at the next level. He ran a disappointing 4.91 in the 40 at the Kansas Pro Day and only had 21 reps of 225 pounds. He’s not an effective blocker and doesn’t have good hands.
Prospective Baller: Carl Stewart, Auburn
A tweener who’s an explosive athlete, Stewart has exceptional measurables. He has solid hands, good speed and a great work ethic. He’s a character guy who gives maximum effort on the field. In the right situation, Stewart could find a key role in an offense and be productive.
Crystal Baller: Jacob Hester, LSU
Hester is a player that every team in the NFL would love to have on their roster. He plays the game with a lot of passion and fights hard for every yard he gains. He was a standout this off-season at the Senior Bowl and showed that he can run the ball between the tackles and also cover on special teams. He will be a valuable player for many years at the next level.
Shot Caller: Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma
Even though Malcolm Kelly hasn’t worked out for Scouts this off-season and won’t until he holds his private workout on April 9th, he’s still the most talented WR in the draft. He has the size, skill and tools required to play the WR position at the next level. He just has to show that he’s healthy and perform well at this Pro Day to solidify his draft status.
Fast Faller: Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State
Off the field problems and lackluster performances this off-season have made scouts and NFL personnel wary of Bowman. He has a lot of talent, but with teams looking for character guys who are quality players, a player like Bowman scares teams and is dropping off draft boards.
Prospective Baller: Will Franklin, Missouri
Franklin is a good receiver with great speed and reliable hands. He has a lot of skills and can beat you on intermediate routes or vertically. He's a strong, physical receiver who doesn't shy away from contact. He offers a team at the next level a quality No. 2 receiver.
Crystal Baller: Devin Thomas, Michigan State
Thomas is an intriguing athletic wide receiver with a lot of upside. He's still learning the game and performed extremely well during his lone season as a starting WR. He's not a polished receiver yet, but he's close, and his ability to get vertical and catch the ball consistently excites scouts.
Shot Caller: Dustin Keller, Purdue
The most consistent tight end over the last two seasons at the collegiate level, Dustin Keller displayed his attributes this off-season and wowed scouts with a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash. He also showed tremendous athleticism and strength at the Scouting Combine and is rapidly rising up the draft boards.
Missouri TE Martin Rucker has the tools to be a great player, but has struggled this offseason.
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images
Fast Faller: Martin Rucker, Missouri
An accomplished tight end at Missouri, Rucker was slowed by a hamstring injury that he suffered at the Senior Bowl, which didn’t allow him to participate at the Scouting Combine or Missouri’s Pro Day. Recently, Rucker ran a 4.71 in the 40, and had a 37-inch vertical. But he has to catch the ball consistently and run better routes.
Prospective Baller: Gary Barnidge, Louisville
This past season, Barnidge had 53 catches for 655 yards and seven touchdowns and has performed well this off-season. He ran a 4.61, 40 at the Scouting Combine and proved to scouts that he can be a valuable weapon in an offense. Barnidge is a talented tight end with receiver-like qualities.
Crystal Baller: John Carlson, Notre Dame
After a disappointing Scouting Combine performance where he ran a 4.88 in the 40, Carlson rebounded at his Pro Day and showed the attributes scouts expected. At his Pro Day he featured a chiseled body and an improved 4.72 40-time that has put Carlson back on the map as one of the top-three TEs available. Carlson’s all around game translates well to the next level and in the right offense, he will be a featured weapon.
Shot Caller: Jake Long, Michigan
Long is hands down the best OT in the draft and has the opportunity to have the same kind of impact Joe Thomas had last season with the Cleveland Browns. There are questions about whether Long is better suited to play LT or RT, but wherever he plays he will start immediately.
Fast Faller: Carl Nicks, Nebraska
Nicks is a raw OT with a lot of great qualities, but lacks the lateral quickness that will help him against quicker defenders. He’s not a technician and relies too much on his physical strength. He wears down as the game goes on and has to improve his conditioning to be a quality player at the next level.
Prospective Baller: Jeremy Zuttah, Rutgers
Zuttah is a versatile lineman who can play inside or outside on the O-Line. He’s a tremendous athlete who has great agility and displayed his attributes favorably at the Scouting Combine. He moves well inside and can handle speed rushers off the edge. He has a lot of upside and is a promising prospect.
Crystal Baller: Chris Williams, Vanderbilt
Williams is a finesse lineman with great technique and movement. He’s not the most physical player, but he gets by with his athleticism. If he ends up in the right offense where he’s surrounded by good veterans, Williams will have a chance to learn and develop into the best OT in this class.
Shot Caller: Branden Albert, Virginia
Albert is a great athlete who can play inside or outside. He’s quick off the snap and has the athleticism to get to the second level to help a rushing attack. He has good technique, but has to bend his knees consistently and play with more leverage. He translates well to play tackle, but the team who drafts Albert will get a quality interior lineman.
Northern Iowa Chad Rinehart has the size, but lacks the speed and will struggle in the NFL.
AP Photo/Dave Martin
Fast Faller: Chad Rinehart, Northern Iowa
Rinehart has been a disappointment this off-season and hasn’t shown the explosion scouts want to see out of a lineman. He has nice size, but he has to get stronger and play with more leverage. He doesn’t have that initial quickness you look for in a lineman, and he isn’t much of an athlete.
Prospective Baller: Mike Gibson, California
Gibson is a maximum effort, hard-nosed player who mauls the opposition. He only played two seasons at Cal; he’s a former JUCO transfer who has experience playing right and left tackle. He translates best to guard at the next level and played well this off-season in front of scouts.
Crystal Baller: Donald Thomas, Connecticut
Thomas is a promising interior presence who has great upside. He has a great athletic build and moves extremely well inside. He has to become more consistent and work on his technique, but with more experience he’ll become a dominant interior force.
Shot Caller: Mike Pollak, Arizona State
Pollak is the best center in an average class. He’s intelligent and plays with great technique. He has strong hands and generates a push up the middle. He doesn’t have great strength and can get overwhelmed by bigger defenders, but he has a solid base and holds his own in the trenches.
Fast Faller: Cody Wallace, Texas A&M
Wallace was a high effort player who got away with limited athleticism in college, but he will struggle at the next level if he doesn’t improve his lateral mobility inside. He didn’t impress at the Scouting Combine and displayed little explosion against defenders.
Prospective Baller: Adam Spieker, Missouri
Spieker was a four-year starter at Missouri and plays with a mean streak. He doesn’t do anything outstanding, but he’s a good player who plays with a great degree of intelligence. He’s a hard worker and has a chance to develop into a quality rotation lineman at the next level.
Crystal Baller: Fernando Velasco, Georgia
Velasco is an instinctive lineman who’s versatile and has experience playing guard and center. He’s an aggressive lineman – not a technician – who delivers a quick, strong punch. He has great leadership qualities, works well with his teammates and has the makings of a starting center at the next level for a number of years.
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.