Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati
The 6-1, 187 pound playmaker started the pre-Draft process with a late 3rd round grade based on his junior season game tape and after a sensational senior campaign that now has NFL talent evaluators salivating and drawing comparisons to the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson, Gilyard now has serious 1st-round buzz surrounding him as he heads into the Sugar Bowl to face Florida. Thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles DeSean Jackson’s meteoric rise, Gilyard won’t have to endure the pre-Draft whispers that the second year WR out of Cal heard about his slight frame as Jackson uses his explosiveness to become an increasingly bigger star on the NFL stage with each passing week. Scouts are always looking for players who “jump out on film” and Gilyard has been downright dominant this season, highlighted by his game-breaking ability executing a hostile takeover of the Big East Championship-deciding game against Pitt. Gilyard turned snowy Heinz Field in Pittsburgh into his one-man big-playapalooza, returning a kickoff 99 yards for a score to narrow Pitts lead to 31-17 right before halftime, then a 66-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter brought the Bearcats to within a touchdown, 31-24. All told, his single game heroics totaled 374 yards (118 in receiving yards and a school-record 256 return yards) on 12 touches and three touchdowns. The Sugar Bowl against the highly athletic and fast Florida Gators defense will be another valuable venue for Gilyard to showcase his wheels for scouts one more time before the Senior Bowl.
Danario Alexander, WR, Missouri
Alexander, fighting back from several knee injuries became a true impact player and leader for the Tigers offense in 2009, improving his preseason Draft projection from the 5th round to the 3rd round with a senior campaign of 107 catches for 1,644 yards (a school record for single season total receiving yards) and 13 touchdowns. The first team All Big 12 honoree measured a legit 6-4 for scouts in the Spring and is equipped with long arms and a lengthy stride that rapidly eats up ground on defensive backs trying to cover him. Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel does not hesitate to compare Alexander to former Mizzou receiving great and Eagles 2009 1st round pick Jeremy Maclin, citing his consistency and outstanding production, especially in critical games. The 2nd team All-American has one more college game remaining to pad his stats, squaring off against Navy in the Texas Bowl on December 31st before ending up in either the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine game.
Taylor Price, WR, Ohio
One of the biggest risers for the 2010 Draft, for any position, Price began the pre-Draft evaluation process with a 7th round grade from NFL scouts in the Spring, but his verified 40-yard dash in the Summer was in the 4.3s and that sparked a steady stream of scouts to Ohio University to take a closer look and the senior from Hilliard, Ohio did not disappoint. Its not so much his stats (52 catches for 735 yards and five touchdowns) but how he moves and plays the game that has wowed scouts, garnering comments like “big upside, if he runs fast he could go as high as the second round…he’s smooth as sh**” and “I like him, good player and good kid. I have him high on our list”. The MAC school product will run routes against a weak Marshall secondary in the Little Caesars Bowl before heading to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where he is expected to solidify and perhaps push his Draft stock even higher at the important All-Star event.
Marcus Easley, WR, Connecticut
The former walk-on who had a whopping total of five career catches entering this season has come on like gangbusters in his senior year, catching a touchdown pass in all seven of UConn’s Big East games this season and noticeably upgrading the street free agent rating that NFL scouts gave him last Spring to making himself a mid-to-late round consideration after also producing a verified sub 4.4 forty-yard dash in the Huskies Pro Day last March. The fifth-year senior has worked hard for years to grow into his verified 6-2, 200 pound frame and produced 44 receptions for 853 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009 and has the PapaJohns.com Bowl against South Carolina on January 2nd before kicking off his pre-Draft process by participating in the Texas Versus the Nation all-star game in early February.
Anthony McCoy, TE, USC
McCoy received a top 5th round grade early on from NFL talent evaluators and the 6-5, 250 pound athlete has consistently moved that grade northward to where it now rests between the late 2nd to early 3rd round neighborhood. As the Trojans third-leading receiver with 22 receptions for 457 yards and a touchdown, McCoy has proved to be a crucial safety valve for true freshman QB Matt Barkley, but more importantly for NFL scouts, its McCoy’s crisp route-running, strength at the POA (point of attack), reliable hands and ability to separate from his defender running downfield that has them moving the senior up their draft boards.
Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU
Pitta’s highly productive body of work as a BYU Cougar was noticeably discounted with a Spring grade from NFL scouts of “bottom 7th round” after they measured the senior at a height of 6-4.5 and a weight of 246 with an estimated forty yard dash time of 4.75. The evaluation had all the trimmings of the classic “try hard guy” label often given to over-achieving, less athletic players but Pitta’s play in his final season in Provo (the leading receiver for BYU with 62 catches for 829 yards and eight touchdowns) has made the NFL revisit their initial evaluation and the recent Senior Bowl invitee now has whispers of the 4th round surrounding his name. Highly intelligent, tremendous hands and disciplined route-running with the willingness and ability to make the tough catches over the middle, the recently-married Pitta, like many BYU products, will bring a maturity and play-now element to whatever NFL teams drafts him, much like what we are seeing from former BYU receiver Austin Collie, a 4th round pick of the Colts in the 2009 Draft, who has already established himself in his rookie season as a clutch outlet for Peyton Manning.
Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota
Decker, a two sport star and top prospect for Major League Baseball, started his senior season with a top 4th round projection and through eight games had compiled 50 catches for 758 yards (15.2 avg.) and five touchdowns before succumbing to a season-ending left foot sprain that looks serious enough to derail him from taking advantage of his invitation to the Senior Bowl in late January and will limit the 6-3, 207 pound senior to only having the Pro Day at the University of Minnesota to work out for scouts. Being limited to little or no activity at the Indianapolis Combine will hurt Decker’s stock, but fortunately the record-setting receiver used his abbreviated season to impress the scouts enough with his speed, route-running, leadership and ability to make big plays when his team needed them to mitigate the expected drop in his Draft standing, keeping him in the 3rd to 4th round conversation after rising to late 1st round consideration based on his play in October.
Naaman Roosevelt, WR, Buffalo
After a breakout season in 2008 that saw Roosevelt haul in 104 receptions for 1,402 yards (13.5 avg.) and 13 touchdowns in 2008 during the University of Buffalo’s school-best campaign, NFL scouts gave the 6-0, 185 pound senior a 7th round grade in the Spring of 2009 after running his forty-yard dash in the high 4.6s, not impressive for a receiver. The departure of QB Drew Willy was not kind to the Buffalo offense and the team suffered through a 5-7 season with the resulting fallout doing collateral damage to Roosevelt’s production, a reduced from 2008, but still respectable 70 catches for 954 and nine scores. Roosevelt did earn an East-West Shrine invitation to provide more opportunity to help improve his Draft standing, but he will be hurt by the additional underclassmen that will declare at the WR position, most likely keeping him in the late rounds/ priority free agent stratosphere.
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Gresham, a lock to be a mid-first round choice had he come out for the 2009 Draft as a junior, is now likely to suffer a similar fate as his teammate QB Sam Bradford who also chose to come back this season and suffered a season-ending injury in the opener against Brigham Young. The 6-6, 261 pound playmaker didn’t even make it to the season opener, suffering a season-ending knee injury in Summer training camp, immediately launching a five month rehab process that he hopes will result in him being healthy enough to start his pre-Draft training in January. The expected drop of Gresham from the mid-1st round to the late first round, while still keeping him in the high-rent district of the Draft, does result in a projected loss of around $6 million dollars in guaranteed money.
Michael Hoomanawanui, WR, Illinois
Played in eight games, starting five and dealing with numerous injuries, the Illinois senior finished the year with a scant 10 catches for 114 yards and no scores. The 6-3, 270 pound tight end was given a bottom 4th round grade before the season and the collapse of QB Juice Williams and the Illinois offense combined with his underwhelming play and surprising weakness at the point of attack has definitely had a negative impact, dropping him into the free agent ranks and putting him behind the proverbial eight ball when the pre-Draft series of events begin.
Potential Underclassmen considering declaring for the 2010 Draft
Dwayne Harris, East Carolina (6-0, 205) …79 receptions for 914 yards and six touchdowns
Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech (6-3, 229)… 46 catches for 1,154 yards (25.1 avg.) and eight touchdowns
Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (6-3, 200)…84 receptions for 1,337 and nine touchdowns *announced intention to leave early for the NFL
Arrelious Benn, Illinois (6-2, 200)…38 catches for 490 yards and two touchdowns *announced intention to leave early for the NFL
Damian Williams (6-1, 195)…70 receptions for 1,010 yards and six scores. 24 punt returns for 340 yards and two touchdowns
Rob Gronkowski, Arizona…season-ending back injury this year has not dampened the opinion of NFL scouts who are enamored of the 6-6, 265 pound junior’s freakish athleticism and flexibility
Aaron Hernandez, Florida (6-2, 256)… 59 catches for 739 yards (12.5 avg) and four touchdowns
Zack Pianalto, UNC (6-4, 260)… 33 receptions for 334 yards and one touchdown
D.J. Williams, Arkansas (6-2, 251)… 31 catches for 399 yards and three touchdowns