I'd like to throw out some thoughts on the prospects for this senior class and any juniors who may choose to enter. Obviously, the scouting combine and the player's offseason preparation are crucial, but let's draw some rough sketches and try to project where they offer value.
Comments: Chris Ogbonnaya can point to production (323 RU, 435 RE 6 TD through 9 games) and a high level understanding of the game that will be appealing to a NFL coach. Great hands. Selfless blocker. His obvious downside is the lack of a definable role in a NFL offense - he can't play FB, he's not talented enough to be a feature back, and as a 3rd down back he doesn't provide a gamebreaking upside. He'll be a tough-to-cut free agent. Aaron Lewis is a classic tweener who would need to make his move at DE in a 4-3, a position he's a step slow for at the NFL level. Ryan Palmer isn't the prototype the NFL is looking for right now, but he'll get into a training camp as FA. Bobino can't play NFL LB, but he might consider recasting himself as a blocking FB (see Boomer Grigsby, Chiefs).
A year ago, I would have said no way. Quan is a 5-10 possession receiver with solid quickness and poor speed. Now, I'm not so sure. Quan's hands are in the top 1% of college football and his aggression, reliability, intelligence, and maturity make him a potentially useful role player. Quan will need to drop a little weight and show enough at the combine to get himself in the late second day mix. He also needs to go to the right team: he's a slot in a 3 or 4 WR set offense, preferably with a dominant receiver drawing coverage. Put him in a traditional 2 WR set, he'll be slaughtered. Projection: Undrafted to late 5th round.
Cedric may be a better NFL prospect than college player - our very own Matt Stafford of OL play. He has a great body, solid athletic ability, and he'll pass all of the eyeball tests. Very solid in pass protection. He's capable of long stretches of quality play. However, NFL teams will be less than impressed with his "do just enough" attitude and his lack of assertiveness. Does he love fooball? Does he even like it? He needs to put together some film that proves it. Projection: Undrafted to 5th round.
I wouldn't be shocked to see Melton have a NFL career. This is all about upside. A year and half ago, he couldn't even line up in his stance. Now he's a very solid major college DE with a NFL body and a raw skill set. He's fully capable of going to the combine and measuring out at 6'2 280 with a 4.75 40. He has got a story to tell - now he needs to sell it with his play down the stretch. Projection: Undrafted to 5th
Roy doesn't have prototypical size (he'll measure out at 6-1 or less) and he's not going to be a pass rushing force taking a gap at the NFL level, but what he does have is man strength, leverage, and a hell of an ability to stuff a center into a backfield. I think he's a NFL nose in the 3-4 or a 1 tech in a 4-3. He'll plug the run and create for others. I think a team like Baltimore or Pittsburgh would be an excellent fit for him. Projection: 4th to 3rd
A future millionaire, obviously. He's a complete player against the run and pass, plays hard, possesses freakish strength, and has above average speed and quickness (for NFL). Although he doesn't have ideal DE size for a NFL 4-3, he's strong enough to hold up on the weakside. I think he is best suited to thrive as an OLB in the 3-4 playing the Joey Porter role. Orakpo's athletic enough to do it and matching him up against a back or TE on blitz downs is cruel and unusual to opposing offenses. Projection: 1st round (middle)
Juniors or 6th year eligible
I'd put his chances at going pro around 75-80%. Getting him to stay would be dependent on our ability to sell him on the long term financial benefits that he would reap with more experience and more polish as an all-around LB. I suspect he's willing to play for $650,00 though. He'd test out well at the combine and teams would be intrigued by his athletic ability and a very high motor. On the downside, Kindle has no real traditional LBing skills as a 4-3 backer. Right now he's just a really athletic guy with a narrow chase the QB mandate. Given that, I think we have another player that projects well to the 3-4 OLB spot. RC Slocum would have loved coaching our defense. Projection: 2nd to 4th
There's a chance here. He'll put out feelers. Jordan has the ability to play in the league and his injury history might suggest that this is a prudent course of action - I don't see another year significantly elevating his draft status as his positive attributes are largely maxed out. He'd want to have to return to college because it's fun and he feels good about his health. Shipley has good speed (he's a 4.48 combine guy), but the strength of his game is quickness and intelligence. Indy would love him. Projection: 4th to 5th