Commentary

Top skill-position underclassmen are headed to the 2009 NFL draft

Todd McShay's latest Draft Buzz takes an updated look at the underclassmen who have declared for the draft and breaks down those who are still undecided.

Originally Published: January 9, 2009
By Todd McShay | Scouts Inc.

Draft Buzz Extra
How are things shaking down for the top underclassmen on defense? Todd McShay offers his take. Draft Buzz Extra Insider
The exodus of college underclassmen to the NFL has begun and some big names have already declared their intentions to enter the draft. Two of Scouts Inc.'s top five quarterback prospects are making the leap, along with four of the top five running backs on our board.

Plenty of other big names are also in the mix at other positions and many more are expected to move to the next level. Here's Scouts Inc.'s updated underclass report card, including players who have declared and are returning to school, and those who are still on the fence:

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford, Georgia (6-2½, 235) | Grade: 94
Biggest asset: Elite arm strength
Biggest concern: Inconsistency
Status: Declared

Nate Davis, Ball State (6-1¾, 217) | Grade: 85
Biggest asset: Playmaker
Biggest concern: Lacks ideal size
Status: Declared

[+] EnlargeJosh Freeman
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesSize and a strong arm are the biggest assets Josh Freeman has.
Josh Freeman, Kansas State (6-5½, 238) | Grade: 83
Biggest asset: Size and arm strength
Biggest concern: Erratic accuracy/decisions
Status: Declared

Mark Sanchez, USC (6-2½, 225) | Grade: 95
Biggest asset: Natural tools (arm strength, quick release, footwork)
Biggest concern: Durability
Status: Declared

Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (6-3½, 218 pounds) | Grade: 96
Biggest asset: Accuracy as a passer
Biggest concern: Making transition from a shotgun-based offense with an excellent supporting cast
Status: Returning

Running backs

Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (5-10¾, 207) | Grade: 94
Biggest asset: Instincts/competitiveness
Biggest concern: Only adequate top-end speed
Status: Declared

Chris Wells, Ohio State (6-1, 235) | Grade: 91
Biggest asset: North-south runner with excellent vision and burst
Biggest concern: Toughness/durability
Status: Declared

LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh (5-11, 205) | Grade: 91
Biggest asset: Big-play threat with versatility
Biggest concern: Not a power back
Status: On the fence, despite reports he is returning

Donald Brown, Connecticut (5-10, 210) | Grade: 85
Biggest asset: North-south runner with excellent vision and burst
Biggest concern: Toughness/durability
Status: Declared

Shonn Greene, Iowa (5-10¾, 233) | Grade: 82
Biggest asset: Center of gravity
Biggest concern: Lacks elusiveness
Status: Declared

P.J. Hill, Wisconsin (5-11, 227) | Grade: 60
Biggest asset: Inside running skills
Biggest concern: Durability
Status: Declared

C.J. Spiller, Clemson (5-11¼, 190) | Grade: 87
Biggest asset: Home run hitter as runner, receiver and return man
Biggest concern: Marginal size/durability
Status: Likely leaving, although the hiring of Dabo Swinney as head coach increases his chances of returning

Wide receivers

[+] EnlargeMichael Crabtree
Tim Heitman/US PresswireIs Michael Crabtree really upset with $15 million guaranteed?
Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (6-2½, 208) | Grade: 98
Biggest asset: Playmaker
Biggest concern: Not a burner
Status: Declared

Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (6-0⅝, 198) | Grade: 94
Biggest asset: Speed
Biggest concern: Unpolished route runner
Status: Declared

Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina (6-1, 210) | Grade: 88
Biggest asset: Strength/physicality
Biggest concern: Whether he can stretch the field vertically in the NFL
Status: Declared

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland (6-1⅞, 203) | Grade: 87
Biggest asset: Vertical speed
Biggest concern: Inconsistent effort and hands
Status: Declared

Kenny Britt, Rutgers (6-4, 215) | Grade: 83
Biggest asset: Big, physical target
Biggest concern: Prima donna
Status: Declared

Brandon LaFell, LSU (6-3, 212) | Grade: 82
Biggest asset: Athleticism for his size
Biggest concern: History of drops (although much-improved in 2008)
Status: Declared

Percy Harvin, Florida (5-10¾, 187) | Grade: 91
Biggest asset: Versatile big-play weapon
Biggest concern: Durability
Status: Declared

Tight ends

Jared Cook, South Carolina (6-5, 243) | Grade: 84
Biggest asset: Natural pass-catcher
Biggest concern: Marginal blocker
Status: Declared

James Casey, Rice (6-4, 235) | Grade: 70
Biggest asset: Pass-catching instincts
Biggest concern: Marginal size
Status: Declared

Andrew Davie, Arkansas (6-5, 265) | Grade: 35
Biggest asset: Size/athleticism combo
Biggest concern: Inexperience/age combo
Status: Declared

Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma (6-5, 266) | Grade: 94
Biggest asset: Complete skill set (size, athleticism, strength, instincts)
Biggest concern: Occasional drops
Status: Returning

Offensive line

Andre Smith, OT, Alabama (6-4⅞, 341) | Grade: 98
Biggest asset: Overpowering at the point of attack
Biggest concern: Mirror-and-slide skills are good for size but not elite
Status: Declared

Eben Britton, OT, Arizona (6-5½, 310) | Grade: 82
Biggest asset: Agility and body control
Biggest concern: Unpolished and lacks explosiveness
Status: Declared

Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State (6-5¼, 303) | Grade: 92
Biggest asset: Natural feet
Biggest concern: Lacks bulk/power
Status: Uncertain

Ciron Black, OT, LSU (6-5, 325) | Grade: 86
Biggest asset: Good initial quickness for size
Biggest concern: Struggles to redirect
Status: Returning

Todd McShay is the director of college football scouting for Scouts Inc. He has been evaluating prospects for the NFL draft since 1998.