The draft’s top specialists

It’s easy to overlook special teams on draft day, but you have to remember that special teams make up one-third of the game, and there are several prospects in this year’s class who have the ability to come in and upgrade an NFL team’s return/kicking game. Here’s a look at some of the nation’s top special team prospects.

Return men

Trindon Holliday, LSU (5-5, 166)

Blessed with legit 4.2 speed, Holliday has the ability to take it the distance every time he gets his hands on the football. He’s dynamic in the open field and has the kind of second gear to outpace defenders to the edge. Admittedly, he’s undersized and isn’t polished in any other area of the game, but his ability to change field position on a dime could get him selected in the later portions of the draft.

Brandon Banks, Kansas State (5-7, 149)

Banks is rail thin and lacks ideal girth, but this former track star averaged more than 28 yards on kickoff returns the past two seasons and ran five back for touchdowns. He showcases an impressive second gear in the open field, but it’s his wiggle and short-area quickness that allow him to make a man miss and explode into daylight. Plus, he’s a lot more savvy and natural as a receiver than any other return specialist on this list and has some upside as a slot guy.

LeRoy Vann, Florida A&M (5-9, 177)

Vann isn’t the biggest or fastest (4.59 40 time) athlete in this year’s draft, but the guy has a natural feel for the return game and knows how to produce with the ball in his hands. He had 11 special teams touchdowns in his career to go along with over 1,000 yards each as a kickoff and punt return man. Again, he lacks ideal physical attributes, but he simply knows how to get the job done in the return game.


Zoltan Mesko, Michigan (6-5, 240)

A strong, well-built athlete who averaged nearly 45 yards per punt last year and will likely be the first punter taken in 2010 because of his consistent leg.

Robert Malone, Fresno State (6-2, 235)

Averaged more than 45 yards per punt last season and definitely has the leg to make an NFL roster. He just needs to show it on a more consistent basis.


Leigh Tiffin, Alabama (6-1, 209)

A veteran place-kicker who has been one of the more reliable players at his position over the past three years.

Hunter Lawrence, Texas (5-11, 184)

Lawrence was 24/27 on field goals last season and has shown the ability to hit from deep with the game on the line. Would be the guy I would target if I needed a kicker.

Long snappers

Clint Gresham, TCU (6-3, 236)

A seasoned long snapper who’s accurate and gets the ball to his target quickly. He should carve out a nice niche for himself in the NFL for 10-plus years.

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