Offensive positions looking strong
Things are looking good for teams needing impact offensive players in the 2011 NFL draft.
The quarterback class looks strong at the top, plenty of running backs grade out in the early rounds and the talent atop the wide receiver list is impressive. And although the 2011 tight end class looks a bit thin at this point, the offensive linemen offer plenty of talent at tackle.
Here's a look at Scouts Inc.'s preseason cheat sheets for each offensive position group, which contain the top three prospects in a variety of position-specific categories, all draftable prospects at each position, last year's first- and second-rounders and three-year draft trends.
We could see three quarterbacks off the board in the top half of the first round, and Jake Locker and Andrew Luck are separated by the thinnest of margins at the top of the class. There's plenty of depth, too, which could mean as many as eight quarterbacks taken in the first four rounds.
Underclassman and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram headlines this year's group of draft-eligible running backs, which currently has six players with second-round grades or better. It's also a versatile class with plenty of speed, power and receiving ability to go around.
This could end up being one of the top position groups in the draft if all top underclassmen leave school early. There is a big gap between top wideout A.J. Green and the rest of the field, but there are big names further down the board. If the second tier of talent steps up, there will be plenty of talent to go around on draft day.
As you might expect, potential NFL left tackles dominate the top of the offensive-line board entering the college season. Nate Solder leads the pack at tackle, but watch out for a pair of centers who could get into the first-round discussion.
Todd McShay is the director of college football scouting for Scouts Inc. He has been evaluating prospects for the NFL draft since 1998. Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl also contributed to this report.