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Posted: Tuesday April 21, 2009 12:54PM; Updated: Tuesday April 21, 2009 3:13PM

NFL draft's late-rising prospects

Story Highlights

Quarterback Stephen McGee could be picked in round four

Polished WR Mohamed Massaquoi making noise in round two

Size, lack of speed continues to hurt Pittsburgh RB LeSean McCoy

By Tony Pauline, Special to SI.com, TFYDraft.com

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QB Stephen McGee has risen up draft boards after solid post-season performances, including at the East-West Shrine game.
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Prognosticators have their opinion on the players who are rising and falling in the draft, but what about people inside the league? Here is a list of players NFL decision makers expect to be drafted much earlier than anyone is presently predicting, as well as a few who are likely to be surprise sliders.

Rising

Stephen McGee/QB/Texas A&M: McGee played for two seasons in Dennis Franchione's option offense at A&M before struggling with injury as a senior. He was one of the better quarterbacks at the combine and displayed the natural passing skills necessary to play at the next level. Considered a late-round pick in the months leading up to the draft, McGee has made a big surge the past six weeks and could end up being chosen in round four.

Andre Brown/RB/North Carolina State: Brown continued the momentum of a fine '08 campaign with a terrific performance at the Senior Bowl. He ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds during the combine after tipping the scale at 225 pounds. Brown's biggest nemesis has been injuries, but NFL teams love his raw talent. He could sneak into the draft's initial 40 selections.

Mohamed Massaquoi/WR/Georgia: Massaquoi was considered a late-round pick coming into the season, but has made a gradual move north through the rounds. The Georgia product is polished in all aspects of his game, and scouts love Massaquoi's aggressive nature and downfield blocking. He is getting serious consideration from several teams starting in the middle of round two.

Phil Loadholt/OT/Oklahoma: Loadholt is leaving a strong final impression on NFL decision-makers heading towards the weekend. Scouts love the potential of the 332-pound blocker. There is a real possibility Loadholt could sneak into the late part of the first round.

Jamon Meredith/OL/South Carolina: Meredith was handed a potential first-round grade coming into the season yet struggled as a senior with injury and a position change. He was one of the most athletic offensive linemen at the combine. Several teams rank the former college tackle as the draft's number one guard.

T.J. Lang/OL/Eastern Michigan: Lang, one of the true sleepers on the offensive line, is causing a buzz. He made official visits to almost a dozen franchises and was forced to turn down requests to meet even more teams due to his busy schedule. Lang can play either guard or tackle and will be the first non-combine player drafted this weekend, possibly as early as the second round.

Tyson Jackson/DL/LSU: Jackson has shown flashes of brilliance the past three years. The ability to be used at three positions on the defensive line coupled with his tremendous upside has most believing Jackson could end up being chosen in the top half of round one.

Robert Ayers/DE/Tennessee: He lacks the classic size for defensive end but his ability to rush the passer as well as defend the run has catapulted him up draft boards. The versatility to be used in different defensive systems has also endeared Ayers to NFL general managers. He could end up in the bottom third of round one.

Evander Hood/DT/Missouri: Hood's stock keeps moving north as he continues to exceed expectations. His fine performance at the Senior Bowl was topped by an even better showing at the combine. Team's love his versatility as Hood can play tackle or end. Most feel he is a lock to be a first-round choice at this point.

Clay Matthews/OLB/USC: Matthews has made a meteoric rise up draft boards. He was a defensive reserve coming into the season but is now poised to be a top 20 choice. Matthews could end up being selected before Trojan teammates Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, a thought most never considered three months ago.

Tyrone McKenzie/OLB/South Florida: McKenzie is one of the few three down linebackers in this draft. He is a solid run defender who has the skills necessary to be kept on the field during passing downs. His versatility has people believing McKenzie could be a top 75 choice.

Darius Butler/CB/Connecticut: Butler is considered very much an unfinished product at cornerback but his size, speed and athleticism are too great to pass up for NFL teams who feel they can mold him into a starter. Butler has a real chance to jump into the late part of round one.

Ryan Mouton/CB/Hawaii: Mouton is a terrific package of speed and athleticism and a player with a huge amount of upside potential. Several teams are not enamored with the class of cornerbacks available to them this weekend and are ready to roll the dice on Mouton somewhere in round three.

Sliding

LeSean McCoy/RB/Pittsburgh: McCoy was a terrific back at Pittsburgh, but his skills may not necessarily translate well to the next level. He's a small back who runs pedestrian times in the 40. He was considered a potential first rounder immediately after declaring for the draft, but is likely to slide into the second half of round two.

Eben Britton/OT/Arizona: Most teams are unsure if he can handle the left tackle spot in the NFL. He was an adequate run blocker in college and would need time transitioning to right tackle. Branded as a first round choice two months ago, Brandon may slide out of the draft's top 45 picks.

 
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