In what was considered one of the deepest drafts in years, the National Football Post takes a look at some potential impact-caliber prospects from round two:
RB Montario Hardesty, Cleveland Browns
Not only was Hardesty one of my favorite picks of the draft, I honestly think he has as good a shot as any being offensive rookie of the year in 2010. I made the case in March that I considered him the better overall running back prospect compared to Fresno State’s Ryan Mathews, and although both players will be productive rookies, I think Hardesty’s game is better tailored to the next level. In addition to running with power and toughness inside, he showcases the body control/balance to make defenders miss behind the line and is a more patient runner. I think his skill set is a perfect fit for a cold-weather team like Cleveland, and since the Browns don’t have much of an every-down back on their roster, I expect Hardesty to come in and carry the load from day one.
OG Vladimir Ducasse, New York Jets
We know the physical skill set is there for this guy to be one of the better guards in the NFL. He’s powerful, fluid, displays nice overall bend in his lower half and can drive defenders off the football. The only question is: How quickly until he’s ready? My answer: The season opener. When watching Ducasse at this year’s Senior Bowl, it was amazing how quickly he adjusted to the speed of the game despite struggling early in the week at guard and tackle vs. any kind of inside move. As the week went on, however, we saw him get comfortable and trust his skill set, which resulted in an impressive game at left tackle. He isn’t going to play the blind side in the pros, but the point is, there was a lot of improvement from this guy in only one week. If given an opportunity to submerge himself in some good NFL coaching – which he’ll be getting from Bill Callahan -- the sky’s the limit for this kid.
OLB Jason Worilds, Pittsburgh Steelers
I said all along that Worilds possesses, in my opinion, the most explosive first step of any defensive linemen in the class and has the ability to consistently reach the edge in the pass game. However, what really stand out to me are Worilds’ balance and fluidity when asked to stand up and change directions either as a pass rusher or in space. He’s a perfect fit for the Steelers as a stand-up rush linebacker and has the ability to come in and be an instant impact guy from day one. Pittsburgh needed to get some youth behind OLB James Harrison, and because of Worilds’ explosion off the snap, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will likely find a way to get this guy on the field in 2010 and maximize his skill set as a sack artist down the line.
RB Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs
How could I leave McCluster off this list? He’s dynamic in the open field, can catch the ball in the pass game and is simply going to be a mismatch nightmare in the NFL. Plus, he’s a well-spoken, endearing young man who has a real passion for the game and is a willing worker. Now, is McCluster going to come in and be a 1,000-yard wideout or running back? No. But much like Percy Harvin carved out a niche for himself last season in Minnesota, I expect the same from McCluster. Look for him to line up in the backfield, split out in the slot and also help out on special teams in both the kick and punt return game. He’ll add a much needed big-play element to the Chiefs’ offense/special teams and will be worth more in the long run than the second-round pick they used to get him.
WR Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There isn’t much talent in the Tampa Bay wide receiving corps, so an NFL-ready specimen like Benn can have an instant impact. He’s a big, physically gifted kid who showcases the body control and suddenness to separate for himself underneath and create after the catch. He runs with impressive power and balance for a guy his size and is an absolute bear to bring down in the open field. He also does a great job using his big frame and coordination to adjust to the football and should be one of the more productive wideouts in the rookie class.
SS T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns
Many viewed Ward as a reach in the second round, but the “experts” who said that never saw him on tape. I’ll admit he wasn’t the biggest or fastest safety still on the board at the time, and compared to Taylor Mays, his name definitely wasn’t as well known. However, as I wrote during the college football season following the Oregon-USC matchup, “Ward is simply the more naturally instinctive football player – compared to Mays -- and I think he will definitely, in the long run, end up being the much better overall NFL player.”
Ward does a great job recognizing his run/pass keys, is fluid when asked to redirect in space and possesses the balance to consistently make plays on the ball. Although he’s a bit undersized, he loves to tackle and throw his body around at the line of scrimmage and definitely has the ability to play as a three-down safety in the NFL. That’s more than I can say for Mays.
Others worth noting:
Jimmy Clausen, Carolina Panthers
Nate Allen, Philadelphia Eagles
Jermaine Cunningham, New England Patriots
Brandon Spikes, New England Patriots
Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals
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