With a record 39 non-seniors drafted in the 2008 NFL draft, the 2009 senior class lacks depth at the top of the draft. With eight junior running backs and six junior wide receivers drafted after last season, those positions seem to be lacking the most talent – at this point. However, help is on the way in the form of a talented junior class that will boost position rankings across the board.
With offensive tackles always at a premium at the top of a draft, NFL teams picking early will be focused keenly on Ole Miss' Michael Oher and Virginia's Eugene Monroe. Oher is a little more physical and powerful at the point of attack. Monroe is more of a finesse guy in the mold of former Virginia left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. South Carolina's Jamon Meredith, Ohio State's Alex Boone and Baylor's Jason Smith are athletic tackles who should find their way into the late portion of the first round or early stages of the second round. There is good depth in the senior class with players such as Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt and Oregon's Fenuki Tupou. A guy to keep an eye on is Illinois' Xavier Fulton; this is only his second season playing left tackle, but he has some of the best feet in the country and will only get better with time. He's a possible big-time riser at draft time.
There is only an adequate class of senior defensive tackles in 2009, led by Michigan plugger Terrance Taylor. He's considered a borderline first-rounder at this point. Three-technique tackles Ziggy Hood (Missouri), Peria Jerry (Ole Miss) and Fili Moala (USC) look like second- or third-round picks at this stage, but Hood has been playing at a high level and looks to be moving up draft boards. A trio of junior tackles from the SEC have NFL scouts buzzing. Georgia's Geno Atkins, Auburn's Sen'Derrick Marks and LSU's Ricky Jean-Francois are explosive, quick-twitch linemen who make a living getting off the ball and into opponents' backfields. That trio adds a lot of talent to the top end of the class, and each is considered a first-round prospect.
There is a sprinkle of everything in this year's tight end class. Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew and Missouri's Chase Coffman are well-balanced tight ends. They can block and get downfield, and both get late first-/early second-round grades. Pass receiving options include Wisconsin's Travis Beckum, Ball State's Darius Hill and Southern Miss' Shawn Nelson. Boston College's Ryan Purvis and Maryland's Dan Gronkowski are the most physical blockers of the group and both feature soft hands and quickness in the underneath passing game. Oklahoma junior Jermaine Gresham is by far the head of the class. Gresham features a great blend of size (6-6/262) and speed, (4.7) making him possibly the best tight end prospect since Vernon Davis in 2006.
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