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 Charles Robinson Top 10 players 
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Post Charles Robinson Top 10 players
Who's No. 1?

By Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports
February 23, 2005

INDIANAPOLIS ? There's no Eli Manning. No Carson Palmer. There isn't even a David Carr.

The last time the NFL draft's No. 1 pick entered February as such a fluid commodity, the Cleveland Browns ended up taking defensive end Courtney Brown over linebacker LaVar Arrington. Such monumental draft flubs are made in April, but not until after months of sometimes fruitless dissection ? which begin this week at the NFL's annual combine for college talent.

The No. 1 pick isn't the sole spot up for grabs this season, either. Indeed, there are multiple debates raging entering this week's orgy of stopwatches and medical charts. Scouts have yet to find a consensus on several likely top-10 picks, whether it's sorting out the best between muddled pairs of quarterbacks (Alex Smith vs. Aaron Rodgers), wide receivers (Braylon Edwards vs. Mike Williams) and cornerbacks (Adam Jones vs. Antrel Rolle), or pinning down the franchise player in a trio of running backs (Cedric Benson, Ronnie Brown or Carnell Williams).

The debates and fluctuations begin in earnest. For now, here's our preliminary top-10 list, which will be updated leading up to the April 23-24 draft. Keep in mind, this list is not a predicted draft order.

TOP 10 PROSPECTS

1. Braylon Edwards, wide receiver, Michigan
People will bring up former Wolverines receiver David Terrell as a cautionary tale, but we're told it's a bad comparison.

There are a lot of things scouts like about Edwards ? he's big (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) and fast, and he showed commitment to Michigan by staying in school for his senior season when he could have been a first-round pick last year. The move paid off, with his stock steadily rising right into the top five.

The more people see of him, the more they seem to love him. The chief concern is dropped passes, something that he improved upon during his final year at Michigan. He's a likely top-five selection with a shot at being taken No. 1 overall.

2. Cedric Benson, running back, Texas
He's built like a cinder block (5-10, 223) and put up great numbers over his four years with the Longhorns. He's well-rounded as a runner and pass-catcher, but he's not going to make a lot of gigantic plays like, say, LaDainian Tomlinson. Beyond that, you don't hear many resounding negatives about him, which is strange for how picky teams get about running backs.

The speed is an issue, and he's not really all fire-and-brimstone in the leadership department. But he's still considered the best back in a healthy year at his position. Benson is a top-10 lock with a shot at No. 1.

3. Alex Smith, quarterback, Utah
Like Rodgers, he's light (210 pounds) but has the height (6-4) working in his favor. Unlike Rodgers, he didn't get a ton of exposure before this season. That's not to suggest scouts didn't know about him, but it's fair to say teams are anxiously awaiting his workouts to sharpen their reports.

He's picked up buzz from the analysts as the favorite for the No. 1 overall pick, but that still could change when teams start measuring his arm strength and accuracy on long throws. His ability to take off and run in college was a plus (631 yards and 10 touchdowns) but with his build, NFL teams won't want him doing that on their level.

Still, he's got the ability to move around and operated in a somewhat complex offense in college, so only his arm strength could knock him out of the top three.

4. Ronnie Brown, running back, Auburn
Like Benson, he's big (5-11, 230) and expected to be a more complete running back by both catching and receiving. Unlike Benson, he has another gear when he gets into the open field, and some think that ability could make him a more consistent big-play threat. Brown didn't carry a full workload at Auburn, either, splitting time with Carnell Williams.

Some question whether Brown has the ability to turn on a dime behind the line of scrimmage if his hole closes off or whether he can consistently make defenders whiff in one-on-one situations. We heard at least one comparison to Detroit's Kevin Jones.

5. Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, Cal
He'll be this year's "throwing motion" guy. People will talk about whether he's too "jerky" or "mechanical" and speculate whether that will need to be fixed. But like the criticisms about Philip Rivers last season, it probably won't hurt Rodgers in the long run.

What might be weighed against him is his stature (6-2, 210), considering most teams still value the 6-4, 220-pound prototype. Whatever the case, Rodgers is expected to show adequate arm strength and accuracy in his workouts and stay in the top-10 mix, though the No. 1 spot might be a slight stretch.

6. Derrick Johnson, outside linebacker, Texas
He's still thin (6-3, 232), but one scout we spoke to thinks he will be able to push his weight to the 240s without a loss of his exceptional speed. There has been some criticism of his ability to take on blockers, but that could be something solved with added weight and strength.

Even with guys like Antrel Rolle and Adam Jones, Johnson is widely considered the best defensive player in the draft, especially given his room to grow. He's a top-10 lock, but with the draft being so top heavy in offense, it will be hard for him to get into the top five.

7. Adam Jones, cornerback, West Virginia
He's fast and athletic, but also small (5-10, 190). There's bound to be a spirited argument between Antrel Rolle and Jones because each seems to lack a certain trait the other possesses.

Jones showed he could rough up players in college, but there is some worry he might be a player like Jamar Fletcher, whose size limitations have hampered his transition to the NFL. The plus for Jones is that he's athletic enough to stick with any receiver, even the big ones.

The only question is what happens when the ball gets there, and he's matched up with a player like Houston's Andre Johnson. He's a lock to be in the top 10, unless he times out poorly in the 40-yard dash.

8. Antrel Rolle, cornerback, Miami
He's starting to look like one of the guys who will draw the most disagreements. He drew raves from one scout we talked to late in the season, not to mention a handful of Miami products in the NFL who worked out alongside Rolle in the summer.

The big question seems to be speed, though when we asked Jets receiver (and former Hurricane) Santana Moss about Rolle earlier this year, the first words that came out of his mouth were "He's fast."

Apparently some are skeptical, and Rolle's stock will depend on dispelling that. He is a fringe top-10 guy right now, and could solidify himself in that mix or fall later into the first round depending on his 40-yard dash times.

9. Carnell Williams, running back, Auburn
He's not big (5-10, 205) and that becomes a serious concern when you consider two of his seasons at Auburn ended with an injury. But he's oozing with talent, and the reality is that if he were 20 pounds heavier and maintained his current level of play, he'd make a strong push to be No. 1.

Even for his lack of size, he's a tough man to bring down and has proven speed. But the durability questions and lack of developed receiving skills put him on the fringe of the top 10.

10. Mike Williams, wide receiver, USC
He's got a ready-built body (6-4, 230) for the NFL, but that size might be a negative if he can't improve his speed. A scout we talked to said if he can post even one time in the 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash, he could leap into the draft's top three or four.

While some have criticized Williams for using his size advantage too much to overmatch opponents, others think he has the room to adjust and play a more disciplined game once he faces more cornerbacks that can handle his size. The year away from football, after he failed to gain entry into the draft last season along with Maurice Clarett, is a large concern especially given the time it takes receivers to make an impact in the NFL.

Williams is on solid top-10 footing and is more likely to move up than down. He could make the biggest leap of all the elite players attending this week's combine.


February 25th, 2005, 2:10 am
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My thoughts...

I have the exact same players in my top 10, just in different order. I believe that Charles and I have identified the 10 best players. In no particular order, here they are...

Aaron Rodgers
Alex Smith
Cedric Benson
Carnell Williams
Ronnie Brown
Braylon Edwards
Mike Williams
Derrick Johnson
Antrel Rolle
Pac-Man Jones

I think it is safe to say, that those are the 10 sure-fire prospects in this draft, that are high on their respected positions, and don't carry a lot of baggage.

So, again, I need to tie this into the Lions. We won't be selecting QB, RB, or WR in the first, so you can eliminate the first 7 people on that list.

Then you have Johnson, Rolle, and Jones, all players at positions where we are loaded with contracts. Corner- Bly, Bryant, Smith, possibly Cash and Goodman... Outside LB- Bailey, Lehman, Curry, Lewis, and Davis

So that's the dilemma the Lions face... they aren't going to get value at their selection that will fill a need.

That's why they need to trade the pick.


February 25th, 2005, 2:18 am
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Good top tens.


February 25th, 2005, 9:32 am
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I agree that the top ten listed are just that, the top ten available in this draft. For teams running a 3-4, Marcus Spears may be in the mix as well. However, at number 10 the only player listed in that top ten that the Lions would consider keeping is Johnson. He could be used as a MLB (he played there early in his Texas career), and would be groomed as Holmes eventual replacement, be it this year or next. But I still feel that should Derrick drop to number 10 the Lions will get offers for him they can't resist.

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February 25th, 2005, 4:14 pm
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If Johnson falls to number 10 I would grab him, but I think he will be gone before the Lions pick. I dont think you canhave too many athletic linebackers in todays NFL. There are too many teams who look for the linebacker on runningback match up. Having Lehman, Bailey, and Johnson sounds good to me. However, as I mentioned before I doubt Johnson will be there.

If Edwards or Mike Williams are available at 10 I think the Lions phones will be ringing with the Chargers on the other end.


February 25th, 2005, 6:36 pm
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Mel Kiper also has 9 of the 10 listed in top 10. The only player he really disagrees on is Rolle who he had at #21.

For arguement sake let's suppose that those are the first 9 players to go in the draft. The Lions don't need any of them QB, RB, WR, OLB, CB, so it actually works in their favor. They will get the top DL, OL, TE or S instead.

And if one of those guys does slip out of the top 9 some team could come looking to trade up for him.


March 1st, 2005, 12:45 am
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Robinson updated his list post combine Rolle dropped off his list also and was replaced by the player I would strongly consider at #10:

1. Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn (6-foot, 233 pounds)
He dominated the combine talk after running a 40-yard dash in the low 4.4-second range. Some scouts clocked him in the 4.3s. For a player his size, that was stunning. He also went through drills and looked sharp. One of the most impressive aspects was that Brown decided to run at all. Teams think he loves competition, and they like his friendly rivalry with fellow Auburn backfield mate Carnell Williams. With his speed and ability to catch the ball, Brown is a complete back who appears to have a little more zip than Texas' Cedric Benson.

2. Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan (6-3, 211)
It was hard to downgrade Edwards a spot, especially since he didn't run or go through drills, but he checked in about an inch shorter than expected. However, his hands measured out as some of the largest among the receiving group, and two teams said he interviewed well. Now everyone is waiting to see how he works out on Michigan's pro day.

3. Cedric Benson, RB, Texas (5-11, 222)
Hindsight is cruel, but the reality is Benson made a mistake by not running or working out. He stood idle while Brown, Williams and J.J. Arrington wowed teams. He'll have to run in the low 4.4s on his pro day if he's going to keep pace with Brown. And now that Williams has added bulk, there is a possibility he could threaten Benson's stature too. A lot can happen in the next six weeks.

4. Alex Smith, QB, Utah (6-4, 217)
While he might have gone into the combine as a slight favorite over Cal's Aaron Rodgers, the two leave as almost interchangeable players. Despite all of the talk of Smith's speed, many scouts clocked his 4.75 in the 40 as being slower than Rodgers. While the San Francisco 49ers seem to favor Rodgers at this point, the true dividing line between the two will come when each goes through passing drills at their respective pro days.

5. Aaron Rodgers, QB, California (6-2, 223)
The throwing motion concerns still persist, but Rodgers had a couple of pleasant surprises in store for teams. Despite concerns about his size, he measured in at his exact listed height and weighed a little heavier (but in a good way) than some teams expected. Then Rodgers predicted he would run a sub-4.8 in the 40, much to the skepticism of critics. A few teams had him clocked from 4.71 to 4.78. He seemed to have a little bit of a cocky streak to him in interviews, which was taken as a positive.

6. Derrick Johnson, OLB, Texas (6-3, 242)
He weighed in a little larger than some expected, and now scouts are waiting to see how it affects his speed ? though they don't think it will. Johnson still is the No. 1 defensive player on the boards for most teams. However, he seems to be getting washed out by some teams switching to a 3-4 defense and looking for linebackers who can morph back and forth between linebacker and defensive end.

7. Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn (5-11, 217)
He's another running back who responded to his criticisms with great results. Scouts said he needed to get bigger, so Williams added 12 pounds of muscle over his playing weight from last season. When teams wondered how that would affect his speed, Williams went out and ran a 4.45 in the 40, then scored high on agility drills. He still needs to develop his pass-catching abilities, but Williams scored big by showing teams he could bulk up to carry the load as a No. 1 rusher.

8. Adam Jones, CB, West Virginia (5-10, 187)
It was predictable, but plenty of teams seem to be leaning to Jones as the top defensive back because of his ability to stick to receivers. Even though there's still some healthy disagreement over Jones and Miami cornerback Antrel Rolle, Jones has the speed and ability to mirror receivers. Jones is a bit small, but the size of cornerbacks is becoming less relevant now. People aren't looking for big physical players, and that only makes Jones and his 4.4 speed look more attractive.

9. Mike Williams, WR, Southern California (6-4, 229)
There was some talk that teams were unhappy with his 40-yard dash times (4.59 to 4.62), but it sounds suspiciously like lies. Williams is looking more and more like the player teams in the top 10 pretend to blow off ? when they actually love him. While scouts would still like to see him get down to the low 220s, they like the way he uses his body and think he could be the biggest playmaker in this draft. He upset a lot people when he said he wasn't going to work out, but regained some respect when he changed his mind at the last minute and decided to run.

10. Alex Barron, OL, Florida Sate (6-8, 320)
He had the massive body everyone was looking at, and most were impressed with his lack of fat. Though Barron did not run, he went through limited drills and opened some eyes with his performance on the leg press. His arms measured out as the longest of any player at the combine. The one criticism of Barron is that he doesn't seem to have a mean streak. Depending on his pro-day workout, he could easily lock himself into the top 10 picks of the draft.


March 1st, 2005, 8:31 pm
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No way Antrel Rolle isn't a top 10 prospect. I don't care about how quick he is. This guy has dominated everyone he has faced his entire college career. Adam Jones has done the opposite.


March 1st, 2005, 11:56 pm
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