Top 10 prospects for 2011

With the 2010 NFL Draft wrapped up, it’s time to turn our attention to 2011 and take a look at some of the top prospects for next season. This week, I’ll be doing a six-part series identifying my top 100 senior prospects. Remember this is only a preliminary look. Here are my prospects ranked 1-10.

1. QB Jake Locker, Washington (6-3, 226)
A favorite of the National Football Post who spent most of the 2009 season ranked at the top the NFP’s Super 30. He’s a tough, strong-armed kid who can make all the throws as well as create with his feet once he breaks containment. I expect him to continue maturing in the intricacies of the pass game next season under Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian and make a legit run for the top overall spot in 2011. The only real concern I have is whether Locker fully loves the game of football or sees himself playing baseball at the next level.

2. DL Cameron Heyward, Ohio State (6-5, 288)
There isn’t much this guy can’t do. He’s strong enough to anchor at the point of attack as both a 3-4 or 4-3 DE and also possesses the get-off burst to shoot gaps and penetrate inside. He will likely end up being on just about every team’s draft board and looks like a potential blue-chip defensive lineman in any scheme.

3. DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa (6-3, 282)
Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy were the two most dominant defensive linemen I saw on tape last year. However, I could easily make the case that No. 3 was Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn. He’s not an explosive, quick-twitch edge rusher, but the guy plays with tremendous power, knows how to use his long arms and powerful hands to shed blocks and has a great feel for both the run and pass game. Projects as a very good three-down lineman in the NFL.

4. OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin (6-7, 325)
Carimi is a tall, long-armed offensive tackle who showcases a real mean streak in the run game and impressive overall range and athleticism vs. the pass. He still needs to tighten up his overall footwork off the edge as he has a tendency to get a bit overextended on his kick-slide, but the tools are there for him to be the top offensive tackle off the board next April.

5. OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M (6-2, 240)
You can say what you want about his size, but Miller was one of the most natural pass rushers I saw on tape last season. He not only was able to consistently fire off the edge and cleanly reach the corner, he also was so sudden and fluid even at top speed that he would routinely sidestep blocks and accelerate toward the quarterback. Looks like potential impact-caliber pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

6. FS Deunta Williams, North Carolina (6-2, 210)
A great looking safety prospect who exhibits impressive range and power vs. both the run and pass game. However, it’s his fluidity, balance and change-of-direction skills for a safety of his size that have me so intrigued. Williams still has a tendency to gamble at times and will take himself out of some plays, but as a senior I really expect him to showcase more discipline in the deep half and mature into one of the nation’s top ball-hawks.

7. CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska (6-1, 200)
He’s tall, he’s long, and most impressive of all, he has the body control to consistently win in press coverage. Amukamara looks natural getting his hands on receivers, re-routing them off the line and making it extremely tough for them to get into their routes. He has the size/strength to handle the bigger receivers he faces in the Big 12, plus the coordination/balance to also cleanly get out of his breaks and flip his hips vs. off man. Possesses a game tailor-made for the NFL

8. DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina (6-3, 305)
From a physical standpoint, this guy has it all. He’s a natural bender with a thick base who’s tough to move off the ball. Plus, he possesses a good first step for his size with the range to run sideline to sideline and track the football. However, he simply has not put it all together yet. He has yet to learn how to use his hands properly to consistently disengage from blocks and hasn’t become a legitimate big-time playmaker inside. He did come back for his senior season, so obviously Austin wants to make sure he’s as NFL-ready as he can be. It will be interesting to see how he develops from a technical standpoint this offseason.

9. NT Jerrell Powe, Ole Miss (6-2, 340)
I know this might be a little high for Powe, but I honestly think he projects as one of the best pure nose tackles in the class. He possesses a skill set similar to that of former Boston College standout B.J. Raji as he’s tough to move off the ball and showcases impressive athleticism for his size. Ultimately, I think he could be someone you might build your defense around inside at the next level.

10. DL Allen Bailey, Miami (6-4, 288)
After watching tape of Bailey in 2009, the guy flashes downright dominant ability. He’s explosive off the ball, is extremely powerful and strong for his size and has the kind of length to consistently fight his way off blocks. However, he’s still learning the position and hasn’t quite put it all together matching his technique with his physical ability. Nevertheless, he was productive in ’09, and if he continues to work hard and develop, the sky really is the limit for an athlete of his caliber.

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