The Best Available in the NFL Draft: Nos. 20-11

By John Harris
March 18, 2011

20. Mikel Leshoure

Illinois RB
Size: 6' 227 lbs.

What I Like
Beast running downhill... not fancy... has a little wiggle... power runner... patient... willing to stay behind his blocks... one cut runner... decisive after planting his foot in the ground and getting up field... good vision... in spread formations, he can see backside running lanes... has good long speed for a large running back.

What I Don't
Could be perceived by some to be a one year wonder (although he did average over 6 yards a carry as a sophomore)... didn't dominate for his whole career... piled up big yardage against some of the worst run defenses in college football... doesn't have exceptional 2nd level burst like Ingram.

In a draft that doesn't have an Adrian Peterson or a Darren McFadden, LeShoure is an adequeate mid-to-late first round prospect. He can fit a zone scheme or a power scheme equally well, but I worry that he doesn't have a ton of burst out of the gates. He's decisive to the hole, but in the NFL, I worry that he might not have enough explosiveness to get to the second level effectively, when necessary.

19. Anthony Castonzo

Boston College LT
Size: 6'7" 311 lbs.

What I Like
Has the arm length to get extension in the passing game... former tight end with light feet for a left tackle... swung over to guard during Senior Bowl and held his own... best when he's in space... solid technique, following in the mode of former Boston College linemen... good setup in pass protection.

What I Don't
Tends to lose contact after first strike in run game... can be mechanical off the ball in the run game... seems to lumber at times... not as smooth moving out in space as he is in pass protection... waist bender, which gives him problems (especially when he faced Robert Quinn in 2009)... don't think he's got the build and strength to stay at guard.

Castonzo does things well. There isn't one thing he does exceedingly well, but there isn't one thing in which he excels. He has work to do, as with the entire draft class, in pass protection, especially redirecting on inside moves. But, he's only played tackle for a few years and he has some really good football ahead of him. He'll eventually be a left tackle in this league, but if he starts on the right side for a team that focuses more on the passing game, he can succeed at that spot.

18. Akeem Ayers

Size: 6'3" 255 lbs.

What I Like
Not sure that there was another player who played more positions this season... put his hand on the ground to rush the passer... played inside linebacker... played stand up at the line of scrimmage... played a 4-3 outside backer off the LOS... physical... will come up and put a hat on you and make you like it... drops in coverage and is a factor; he's not just a guy dropping—he'll make plays... good pass rusher with nice rip under move to get loose... good change of direction.

What I Don't
Misses more tackles in space than I like to see... question about what he does best and what position to play him... not as fast off the edge for 3-4 OLB... can be overaggressive at times... needs a bit of work “finishing" his shed off of single blocks of tight ends... he locks his arms out, but sometimes can't shed run blocking tight end... glacially slow in the 40 yard dash.

I really like Ayers and have for the past couple of years. He showed a ton of versatility this season, but he's a ball player. He's always around the ball, whether it's dropping in coverage or rushing the QB. He explodes to the football and has speed to pursue from the inside out. Some don't like him because they don't know how to project him to the next level, but UCLA knew how to use him – in as many ways as possible. He didn't work out well at the Combine, but he plays much faster than his 40-time, that much I know.

17. Corey Liuget

Illinois DT
Size: 6'2" 298 lbs.

What I Like
Quick as a cat... makes plays down the line in pursuit... extremely difficult to zone off when playing a 3 technique... is doing to demand a double inside on run downs... strong at the point of attack... good upper body strength... good hand placement and stacks and sheds well... upfield explosiveness is lightning quick... a Miami guy... thick trunk... when he plays with good pad level, he's a nightmare to move.

What I Don't
Consistency is a question... doesn't handle double teams well... has tendency when he gets tired to play too high... sometimes fires upfield without regard for blocking positioning... play recognition isn't a strong suit... at the Combine, he had trouble staying on his feet.

He fits a 4-3 3-technique to a T. He plays with anger, which when controlled and channeled, is the perfect mentality (a mindset that is desperately needed here in Houston). But, when he cranks up the motor, I didn't see anyone block him effectively one-on-one, even the best in the Big Ten.

16. Tyron Smith

Size: 6'5" 307 lbs.

What I Like
Keeps his base on pass protection... smooth moving athlete... could be a fit for a power running scheme or a zone blocking scheme... has the ability to slide up and down, redirecting well... great feet... will be physical and plays with adequate pad level... in pass protection, he does a solid job locking his arms out and keeping separation... incredibly long arms to get separation.

What I Don't
Played the right side this year at USC... has skill set to play left, but why didn't he... when faced against a stout DE, he got his comeuppance (in other words, Cal's Cameron Jordan beat him repeatedly, demanding help from other OL)... in run game he's adequate but doesn't stand out... he played the season at 287 pounds (added pounds to 307, but how does that weight gain affect his play)... injury at the combine needs to be reviewed.

I just honestly can't make a case for any of the other star tackles in this draft class to be ahead of Smith. I do think that his best football is in front of him, but I worry about the fact that he wasn't on the left side at USC. The other thing that concerns me is the fact that Smith often struggled with “stars", guys like Cameron Jordan from Cal. However, his athletic gifts are impressive and his feet and ability to move are paramount to his success.

15. Ryan Kerrigan

Purdue DE/OLB
Size: 6'4" 255 lbs.

What I Like
Burst off the snap... WOW... gets upfield in a hurry... relentless motor... pursues from the backside all day long... has the ability to close quickly on the quarterback or the ball carrier... love the way he plays... never quits... speed from the backside of a play is impressive... not content just getting the sack, wants to jar the ball loose... with two way go, he is very good beating tackles inside... has some pass rush moves (spin and inside rip move)... exceptional hand placement on pass rush.

What I Don't
Not sure where he fits best... can play both 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB, but can he hold up against the run in a 4-3 and can he drop into coverage at all in 3-4... was used to either rush the quarterback or play the run, never used in coverage... if a taekle gets his hands on him, he's finished in the run game... must learn to shed with his hands.

If Kerrigan can prove that he can drop into coverage at all, just show the smallest bit of ability, he'll be a steal at OLB for a 3-4 team. He's an adept pass rusher with a handful of moves, but holy cow, he's got some burst off the snap. He's strong with his hands, quick with his feet and he never quits. Those guys are typically successful at the next level. With the ability to play 3-4 OLB and 4-3 DE, his value is higher now than in past years.

14. Cameron Jordan

Cal DE
Size: 6'4" 287 lbs.

What I Like
His dad is a Brown University football graduate like myself (no bias though)... can play both inside and outside... great leverage... plays low to the ground... extremely difficult to block against the run even though he probably gives up 20 to 25 pounds against a guard, center or tackle... quick feet... so quick he uses a spin move to get free against the run... smart, tough and physical – what a heck of a combination... excellent hand placement... good initial strike.

What I Don't
Hard to determine where he'll excel, in a 3-4 or in a 4-3... doesn't have a ton of burst off the ball... not exceptional off the edge in pass rush... if a technique sound tackle gets hands on him, he has a hard time getting off the block... needs work with his hands.

Versatility is a key for Jordan, as he can play inside or outside, equally well, similar to his former teammate Tyson Alualu. I worry how he'll hold up against the run if he stays inside in a 4-3, but I worry that he won't be a dominant factor in the pass rush off the edge as a 3-4 DE. However, there aren't many 3-4 DE with his set of assets. But, I think he can be a solid 4-3 DE on the strongside or left side. He's smart and comes from NFL stock, so he'll understand the “professional" aspect of the game. He'll be a starter with potential to make a couple of Pro Bowls down the road. He sort of reminds me of a poor man's Richard Seymour.

13. J.J. Watt

Wisconsin DE
Size: 6'6" 292 lbs.

What I Like
Relentless in everything he does... uses his hands extremely well to get free against the run or the pass... uses bull rush to his advantage, but has excellent pass rush ability for a 292 pounder... will not quit and demands blocking him until the whistle blows... very difficult to pin him on the edge... strong and quick on the edge... plays both standup and with his hand on the ground... can play either 3-4 DE or 4-3 DE and there aren't many of those players in this year's draft class... moved around on the line during the season to find advantageous matchup.

What I Don't
Is he a one year wonder (I'll answer that, no)... can he play a 4-3 DE and still be disruptive coming off the edge... doesn't have the explosive first step teams crave from a pass rusher... doesn't redirect as well as other 4-3 DE when required.

Every time I saw Watt on tape, he stood out. Even when I went to watch another prospect, I found myself focused on what he was doing on the field. He claims his redshirt year was huge to allow him to mature and mature he has for the Badgers. He's versatile and finds a way to make big plays during a game, from a number of different “positions" on the field. He'll be a solid starter for the next 10 to 12 years in the league, whether that's at 3-4 DE or 4-3 DE.

12. Mark Ingram

Alabama RB
Size: 5'11" 225 lbs.

What I Like
Runs angry... runs downhill... pure power... incredible vision... nose for the endzone... great hands out of the backfield... has great balance... will punish defenders... doesn't turn the ball over... smart and tough... compact size makes him difficult for secondary members to tackle...strong on cutback runs... can make you miss in space, but has power to run defenders over... will be great in pass protection.

What I Don't
Has been injury prone... not an explosively “fast" runner... first step burst isn't an asset... does most of his best work with blunt trauma... will take a pounding at the next level... doesn't have great speed to get to the edge or run away from defensive backs.

With better overall speed, Ingram would be a top five prospect. I know there are some who don't have Ingram projected to go high in this draft, most have him around the 20 range or so. This is one of the most productive and complete backs with next level aspirations. If the only major question on him is his speed, who cares? He has adequate burst to the hole and he has the power, vision and balance to always pick up additional yardage after contact. I'm not sure I “buy" the knocks on him to make him a late first rounder. However, someone is going to make a mistake and let Ingram fall in the draft to a playoff team in the 20s and he'll make them pay.

11. Aldon Smith

Missouri DE/OLB
Size: 6'5" 260 lbs.

What I Like
Long... his length is the first thing that stands out... most importantly, he knows how to use his length to get separation from TE and T... good feet with agility... good initial strike/pop... understands how to use his hands... has “pull and rip under" move to get loose against the run/pass... once he's free from OL, he closes as fast on a QB as any pass rusher in this draft... his game is length and hands – great hand placement with long arms.

What I Don't
Doesn't destroy blockers at the point of attack... doesn't have great burst off the line of scrimmage... will stand straight up on his pass rush... when he transitions inside, he rarely gets loose unless he's stunting and slanting... off the edge he'll struggle as a 4-3 DE against the run... won't beat tackles consistently with speed on high rush, doesn't have that speed/burst... broken leg slowed him considerably in 2010.

He was better as a freshman in 2009, in large part because he was set back in 2010 with a broken leg, which he recovered from to play second half of the year. He whipped left tackles all year long in 2009 (note his success against Colorado's Nate Solder), but struggled a bit doing that in 2010. When fully recovered, he will be a guy who can play both DE in 4-3 or 3-4 OLB.

Photo: BadgerNation


Scouting Dept.

Kain Colter
Overall Rank: #181

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