Draft position on the line for some top prospects at the Combine

INDIANAPOLIS — As the NFL Scouting Combine continues, so does the uncertainty at the top of the draft.

Only two players can bet the mortgage on being picked no lower than No. 3—defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma. But here is a look at five other elite prospects who could go in the top five or fall out of the top 10:

Eric Berry is motivated to prove the doubters wrong.
Eric Berry is motivated to prove the doubters wrong.

Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

Working for him: He is an impact safety, a playmaker with the potential to be like an Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu. The Buccaneers should consider Berry with the No. 3 pick, and though he left college early he was coached well at Tennessee. After all, Berry’s defensive coordinator last season was former Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

"Monte told me I’d be a fool to come back (to Tennessee)," Berry said. "He made me so much of a better player."

Working against him: Some general managers say a top-five pick is too high for any safety, and no safety has been drafted so high since Sean Taylor went No. 5 to the Redskins in 2004.

"A lot of people don’t even have me in the top 10, which is very motivating to me," Berry said.

Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

Working for him: The more NFL people see him, the more they like him. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has a close relationship with Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, who holds the No. 5 pick and is desperate for an offensive tackle.

Working against him: There are plenty of quality offensive tackles to choose from in the 2010 draft.

Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

Working for him: No player is more valuable than a franchise quarterback, and only two ’10 quarterbacks are first-round material—Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Clausen. If the Rams make the bold move to take Bradford with the No. 1 pick, the Redskins might be coerced into taking Clausen at No. 4.

Clausen also played in pro-style offense at Notre Dame and was coached by Charlie Weis, a successful NFL offensive coordinator.

"He’s a great quarterback coach," Clausen said of Weis. "He’s probably the smartest coach I’ve ever been around."

Working against him: Clausen did not throw at the Combine as he continues to recover from toe surgery, and some personnel men and scouts wonder about his leadership skills. A lackluster pro day performance April 9 could drop him out of the top 10.

"I don’t think he’s as polished or as accurate as Bradford," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "I think it’s a little high for Jimmy Clausen at No. 4, given the questions regarding leadership and some of those intangibles."

Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

Working for him: Left tackles always are coveted, and he has tremendous upside because of his size and athletic ability. He could get consideration from the Chiefs at No. 5.

"My athleticism helps me get out of a lot of situations," Davis said. "If I step the wrong way, it helps me get back into position."

Working against him: Davis’ Combine workout was not overly impressive, and the tackle position is one of the deepest in the draft. If Bulaga, Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung, Oklahoma’s Trent Williams or Maryland’s Bruce Campbell are drafted ahead of Davis, it could push him out of the top 10.

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida

Working for him: Pass rushers are a commodity, and the Buccaneers (No. 3 pick) have a need for someone with Pierre-Paul’s ability.

Working against him: He is athletic, but he also is unpolished. Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik might consider Pierre-Paul too much of a risk at No. 3. And if either Suh or McCoy drops to No. 3, the Buccaneers would not hesitate to take either.

This story appears in March 1’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today for free.

Clifton Brown covers the NFL for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

INDIANAPOLIS — As the NFL Scouting Combine continues, so does the uncertainty at the top of the draft.

Only two players can bet the mortgage on being picked no lower than No. 3—defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma. But here is a look at five other elite prospects who could go in the top five or fall out of the top 10:

Eric Berry is motivated to prove the doubters wrong.
Eric Berry is motivated to prove the doubters wrong.

Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

Working for him: He is an impact safety, a playmaker with the potential to be like an Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu. The Buccaneers should consider Berry with the No. 3 pick, and though he left college early he was coached well at Tennessee. After all, Berry’s defensive coordinator last season was former Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

"Monte told me I’d be a fool to come back (to Tennessee)," Berry said. "He made me so much of a better player."

Working against him: Some general managers say a top-five pick is too high for any safety, and no safety has been drafted so high since Sean Taylor went No. 5 to the Redskins in 2004.

"A lot of people don’t even have me in the top 10, which is very motivating to me," Berry said.

Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

Working for him: The more NFL people see him, the more they like him. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has a close relationship with Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, who holds the No. 5 pick and is desperate for an offensive tackle.

Working against him: There are plenty of quality offensive tackles to choose from in the 2010 draft.

Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

Working for him: No player is more valuable than a franchise quarterback, and only two ’10 quarterbacks are first-round material—Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Clausen. If the Rams make the bold move to take Bradford with the No. 1 pick, the Redskins might be coerced into taking Clausen at No. 4.

Clausen also played in pro-style offense at Notre Dame and was coached by Charlie Weis, a successful NFL offensive coordinator.

"He’s a great quarterback coach," Clausen said of Weis. "He’s probably the smartest coach I’ve ever been around."

Working against him: Clausen did not throw at the Combine as he continues to recover from toe surgery, and some personnel men and scouts wonder about his leadership skills. A lackluster pro day performance April 9 could drop him out of the top 10.

"I don’t think he’s as polished or as accurate as Bradford," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "I think it’s a little high for Jimmy Clausen at No. 4, given the questions regarding leadership and some of those intangibles."

Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

Working for him: Left tackles always are coveted, and he has tremendous upside because of his size and athletic ability. He could get consideration from the Chiefs at No. 5.

"My athleticism helps me get out of a lot of situations," Davis said. "If I step the wrong way, it helps me get back into position."

Working against him: Davis’ Combine workout was not overly impressive, and the tackle position is one of the deepest in the draft. If Bulaga, Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung, Oklahoma’s Trent Williams or Maryland’s Bruce Campbell are drafted ahead of Davis, it could push him out of the top 10.

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida

Working for him: Pass rushers are a commodity, and the Buccaneers (No. 3 pick) have a need for someone with Pierre-Paul’s ability.

Working against him: He is athletic, but he also is unpolished. Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik might consider Pierre-Paul too much of a risk at No. 3. And if either Suh or McCoy drops to No. 3, the Buccaneers would not hesitate to take either.

This story appears in March 1’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today for free.

Clifton Brown covers the NFL for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

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