Monday, March 17, 2008

NFL Draft Watch Part 2

We are just over a month away from the NFL draft, and while it appears Chris Williams has all but locked up a top-20 selection, Earl Bennett is still a big question on draft day.

I questioned why he declared for the NFL draft after a very solid class of juniors (Kelly, Manningham, Jackson, etc.) declared themselves, especially after taking a step back from last year's campaign. He looked like a third to fourth round pick until the Combine, where an excellent performance (particularly his 4.48 40-time) fueled speculation that he could be a late first or early second round pick.

However, the depth of receivers and the fact few teams have a glaring need at the position over others could drop Bennett to the back of the second round or even the third. It will probably take a very good pro day to solidify his status as a second rounder, and some of the other receivers having poor pro days to move him into first round consideration.

The problem is he simply doesn't have the size of Limas Sweed and James Hardy, or the speed of DeSean Jackson to make him stand out in the eyes of teams looking for an immediate impact at wideout.

As it stands, Jackson is the only likely top 15 pick, however, as I mentioned in a previous post many teams in the 11-20 range need both a receiver and offensive lineman, and could opt for either one. The Bills, Broncos, Bears, Eagles, Buccaneers, Redskins, Cowboys (2 picks), Titans, 49ers will all consider wideouts in the first round.

The Titans and Cowboys are almost locks to grab one, and there will be anywhere from three to six taken in the first round. Jackson, Sweed, Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas, and Hardy are the top choices, which leaves room for maybe one more.

Bennett has to prove the Combine wasn't a fluke, because even though he runs routes and catches balls better than anyone else in the draft, teams still aren't sold that he can create separation from pro cornerbacks. Mario Manningham seriously hurt his draft stock with a 4.60 40-time, Andre Caldwell has had an injury history, and Early Doucet has similar tools to Bennett with half the resume.

Therefore, Bennett could conceivably be the sixth receiver drafted, and assuming he doesn't go in the first round, there are several teams who could call his name early in the second. The Rams and Jets have desperate needs at the position and will definitely consider him. The Chiefs need a receiver, and if the Niners don't grab one in the first round, they will take one with the 39th overall pick.

After that, all those mid-round teams who passed on a receiver in the first round will get their second chance for one, so I find it hard to see him falling farther than that.

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