The top 15
Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart attempts to become only the second player to win back-to-back Heisman Trophies this fall. So he's the player all of college football will be watching in 2005.
But the player the NFL has its eye on is Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway, who enters the college season as the top-rated prospect for the 2006 draft. Auburn offensive tackle Marcus McNeill is also rated above Leinart by the slimmest of margins by NFL scouting combines.
Greenway became a starter in 2003 and finished second in the Big Ten in tackles with 132. He followed that up with 113 tackles in 2004 on the way to All-Big Ten acclaim.
Playing alongside Greenway at Iowa is another All-Big Ten linebacker and top-15 draft prospect, linebacker Abdul Hodge. He finished first in the Big Ten in tackles in 2003 with 141 and led the team again in 2004 with 114.
But Greenway is bigger (6-2, 243) than Hodge (6-0, 231) and therefore viewed as a better pro prospect. A preseason look at the Top 15 players on the 2006 draft board:
Player Pos. School Ht. Wt.
1. Chad Greenway OLB Iowa 6-2 243
2. Marcus McNeill OT Auburn 6-7 ? 332
3. Matt Leinart QB Southern Cal 6-4 224
4. Jimmy Williams CB Virginia Tech 6-0 190
5. Leon Washington HB Florida St 5-7 ? 210
6. Eric Winston OT Miami-F 6-6 310
7. A.J. Hawk OLB Ohio State 6-1 243
8. Davin Joseph G Oklahoma 6-2 ? 315
9. Mathias Kiwanuka DE Boston Coll 6-5 ? 258
10. Jason Allen FS Tennessee 6-2 200
11. Abdul Hodge MLB Iowa 6-0 231
12. Johnathan Lewis DT Virginia Tech 6-0 ? 308
13. Roger McIntosh OLB Miami-F 6-2 235
14. Max Jean-Gilles G Georgia 6-4 358
15. Rodrique Wright DT Texas 6-4 ? 306
One of the most spirited competitions this fall for postseason honors will be at center in the Big Ten. The three top center prospects for the 2006 draft play there: Nick Mangold of Ohio State, Greg Eslinger of Minnesota and Donovan Raiola of Wisconsin. Raiola is the younger brother of Dominic Raiola, an All-America center at Nebraska in 2000 and a second-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 2001.
Rimington Award winner David Baas of Michigan, the best center in the Big Ten a year ago, was the 33rd overall pick of the 2005 draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
The top 15 offensive line prospects heading into the 2005 college season:
Pos., Player School Ht. Wt.
T Marcus McNeill Auburn 6-7 ? 332
T Eric Winston Miami 6-6 310
G Davin Joseph Oklahoma 6-2 ? 315
G Max Jean-Gilles Georgia 6-4 358
G Charles Spencer Pittsburgh 6-4 ? 330
T Jeremy Trueblood Boston College 6-8 319
C Nick Mangold Ohio State 6-3 ? 296
T D'Brickshaw Ferguson Virginia Tech 6-5 294
T Jami Hightower Texas A&M 6-3 ? 364
C Greg Eslinger Minnesota 6-2 285
T Jonathan Scott Texas 6-6 307
T Daryn Colledge Boise State 6-3 ? 295
T Albert Toeaina Tennessee 6-5 350
G Adam Stenavich Michigan 6-3 ? 315
C Donovan Raiola Wisconsin 6-2 297
There's always a premium on pass rushers on draft day, and heading into the fall Boston College's Mathias Kiwanuka is rated the top defensive end prospect for the 2006 draft. He led the Big East in sacks (11 ? ) and tackles for losses (25 ? ) last season on his way to claiming the conference's defensive player of the year honors.
Kiwanuka had 11 ? sacks in 2003 and has 28 in his career at Boston College, two short of the school record. Had Kiwanuka skipped his senior season to enter the 2005 draft, he probably would have been a first-round pick. By staying, he almost assures himself of a top-10 selection ? if he can stay healthy.
Jonathan Lewis of Virginia Tech is the top-rated prospect at tackle. At 308 pounds, he has the bulk to play the run. He also has quick feet (five sacks in 2004). Ironically, with BC's move to the ACC, Kiwanuka and Lewis will be playing in the same conference this season. The top 15 defensive line prospects in the 2006 draft:
Player Pos. Ht. Wt.
Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College E 6-5 ? 258
Jonathan Lewis, Virginia Tech T 6-0 ? 308
Rodrique Wright, Texas T 6-4 ? 306
Darryl Tapp, Virginia Tech E 6-1 266
Kamerion Wimbley, Florida State E 6-3 ? 240
Claude Wroten, LSU T 6-1 ? 295
Gabriel Watson, Michigan NT 6-3 ? 335
Eric Henderson, Georgia Tech E 6-2 262
Loren Howard, Northwestern E 6-3 305
Brodrick Bunkley, Florida State NT 6-2 286
Victor Adeyanju, Indiana E 6-4 265
Orien Harris, Miami T 6-2 299
Moe Thompson, South Carolina E 6-3 270
Tamba Hali, Penn State E 6-1 ? 265
Julian Jenkins, Stanford E 6-3 ? 270
The Woody Hayes influence on Michigan football ? three yards and a cloud of dust ? ended with the retirement of Bo Schembechler in 1989. The Wolverines are now quite comfortable throwing the football.
For the second consecutive year, Michigan has the top-rated wide receiver in the NFL draft. Last year, it was Biletnikoff Award winner Braylon Edwards, the third overall pick of the 2005 draft by the Cleveland Browns. This year, it's Jason Avant. He started opposite Edwards the last two years and caught 85 passes for 1,219 yards and five touchdowns. He's a two-time second-team All-Big Ten pick on the field and a two-time all-academic Big Ten off the field.Look down this list and you'll see a familiar name at an unfamiliar position; the NFL projects Missouri quarterback Brad Smith at wideout. The top 15 wide receiver prospects for the 2006 draft:
Player School Ht. Wt.
Jason Avant Michigan 6-1 210
Sinorice Moss Miami-Fla. 5-8 185
Travis Wilson Oklahoma 6-2 215
Skyler Green LSU 5-9 197
Jonathon Orr Wisconsin 6-1 ? 193
Brandon Williams Wisconsin 5-9 174
David Anderson Colo. St. 5-9 ? 194
Gavin Boothe Tarleton St. 6-1 210
Mike Hass Oregon St. 6-0 209
Martin Nance Miami-Ohio 6-3 ? 212
Brad Smith Missouri 6-2 209
Todd Watkins BYU 6-2 ? 182
Miles Austin Monmouth, NJ 6-2 228
Nichiren Flowers Nevada 6-1 ? 204
Jermaine Jamison Fresno St. 6-2 201
Recent Big Ten quarterbacks Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Kyle Orton start in the NFL, and Brady and Brees were Pro Bowlers in 2004. The upgrade in arms has forced Big Ten schools to upgrade its caliber of pass defenders.
Michigan cornerback Marlin Jackson was a first-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2005, and he could be joined in the round by two more Big Ten corners in 2006. Ironically, both play at Penn State and fit the big-corner mold the NFL covets. Heading into this fall, Anwar Phillips and Alan Zemaitis rank among the top-five cornerback prospects for the 2006 draft. Phillips and Zemaitis started on the NCAA's sixth-ranked pass defense in 2004.
Zemaitis has been a two-time second-team All-Big Ten selection and is on the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik, Nagurski and Thorpe defensive awards. Both players have six career interceptions. Here's a list of the top 15 cornerbacks for the 2006 NFL draft:
Cornerback School Ht. Wt.
Jimmy Williams Virginia Tech 6-0 190
Anwar Phillips Penn State 6-0 190
Tye Hill Clemson 5-9 179
Alan Zemaitis Penn State 6-2 205
Demario Minter Georgia 5-11 198
Kelly Jennings Miami (Fla.) 5-11 180
Tim Jennings Georgia 5-8 182
Will Blackmon Boston College 5-11 ? 191
Darrell Hunter Miami (Ohio) 5-11 ? 211
Josh Lay Pittsburgh 6-0 195
Chijioke Onyenegecha Oklahoma 6-1 200
Brett Bell Wisconsin 6-0 189
Cedric Griffin Texas 6-0 190
Justin Wyatt Southern Cal 5-9 184
Gerrick McPhearson Maryland 5-10 194