'09 NFL draft: Top WR-TE prospects
Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin could both be gone by 10th pick
Rutgers WR Kenny Britt's size has him shooting up draft boards
All-around game makes Brandon Pettigrew the top tight end available
With the NFL combine set to begin this week in Indianapolis, SI.com's Bucky Brooks, a former scout, is ranking the top 2009 draft prospects by position group. The lists were compiled through a series of conversations with scouts and game-tape evaluations. The schedule will be as follows:
1. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech: The mercurial talent has dominated the college game the past two seasons. Blessed with outstanding athleticism and exceptional hands, Crabtree has made the improbable catch look routine. Though he remains an unpolished route runner, his keen understanding of how to use his body to create space gives him an opportunity to make an instant impact as a rookie. As the top player in the draft, Crabtree is sure to come off the board within the first five selections.
2. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri: The electrifying all-purpose playmaker terrorized Big 12 opponents throughout his two-year career, and he enters the draft as the college game's most explosive offensive weapon. Featured as a runner/receiver in the Tigers' spread offense, Maclin averaged an astonishing 10.9 yards per touch during his career and scored 28 touchdowns. Additionally, Maclin added five scores on kick and punt returns while amassing more than 5,600 all-purpose yards in two seasons. With such a diverse set of skills, scouts envision Maclin impacting the game in multiple phases.
3. Percy Harvin, Florida: The Gators' do-it-all slot receiver is a multi-purpose threat who has been one of college football most dynamic playmakers the past three seasons. As a speed demon with exceptional burst and acceleration, Harvin is outstanding with the ball in his hands, and specializes in turning short passes into big gains. Though Harvin has tallied 133 receptions in his career, he is viewed as unrefined due to his lack of experience running pro-style routes. In fact, some scouts view Harvin as a Reggie Bush-like playmaker who eventually makes his mark in the league as a third down running back. Regardless of position, scouts are in agreement that Harvin is a potential impact player who should hear his name called in the first round.
4. Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina: The ACC's leading receiver may be the most polished receiver in this year's draft class. A superb route runner with exceptional athleticism and hands, Nicks routinely found ways to get open. Although Nicks' 40 time will play a big part in determining his value as a potential first rounder, his outstanding ball skills and awareness should make him an enticing selection for a team in desperate need of a top receiving threat.
5. Kenny Britt, Rutgers: Britt is a matchup nightmare due to his size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and athleticism. The Scarlet Knights' leading receiver dominated Big East opponents on the way to amassing 14 100-yard games in his career. Though he isn't a speed merchant on the perimeter, he'll be an ideal target in the red zone. With bigger receivers currently the rage within the league, look for a team to pluck Britt off the board early in the second round.
6. Darius Heyward-Bey, Maryland: The Terps' dynamic playmaker averaged over 15 yards per catch during his career, and finished with 13 receiving touchdowns. As a long strider, Heyward-Bey has the ability to stretch the field. Though Heyward-Bey is raw and unrefined as a route runner, scouts are intrigued by his athleticism and envision him blossoming into an explosive vertical weapon as a pro.
7. Brandon Tate, North Carolina: The Tar Heels' all-purpose weapon was considered a first-round possibility prior to suffering his season-ending knee injury during the middle of the season. Tate had shown dramatic improvement as a receiver and was such a force as a returner that scouts were beginning to view him as a potential impact player in two phases. Though his ACL injury will drop his stock with some teams, Tate won't be an afterthought in the draft due to his explosiveness and big-play potential.
8. Derrick Williams, Penn State: The diminutive talent is an intriguing receiver/return specialist who opened some eyes with a solid week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Williams has a knack for turning short passes into big gains. Though his size will prevent him from making solid contributions as a full-time receiver, his outstanding return skills (18.5 yard punt return average with three career touchdowns) makes him an interesting prospect for teams in desperate need of a boost in the kicking game.