Top 5 most NFL-ready draft prospects for 2011

It’s difficult to gauge whether or not a prospect is NFL-ready heading into the draft because we have no idea where he’ll end up. I may like Ryan Mallett as a prospect, but if his best fit is in a vertical offense and he winds up in the West Coast, well then he might not pan out. And that’s not my fault if he doesn’t. It’s your fault, NFL Team.

But based on their physical skills and strengths as they apply to the next level, here are the top 5 most NFL-ready prospects in my eyes.

1. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Hands down, Green is the most NFL-ready prospect in this year’s draft. What I like most about him is his body control and balance. When he runs routes, he’s fluid getting out of his breaks and he uses his quickness to separate from coverage. He could stand to be more physical at the line of scrimmage and when the ball is in the air, but that’s not to suggest he doesn’t have great leaping ability or he doesn’t locate the ball well (because he does). He also catches passes away from his body, is good about getting up field after he secures the catch and he uses his hips incredibly well (an important trait that all players must have at the next level).
Best Fit: Cincinnati or Cleveland. Both teams run a version of the West Coast Offense, which relies on receivers to run a lot of horizontal routes (think sideline to sideline) and force defenses to stretch itself across the field. I would love to see Green wind up with the Browns because I think he would fit in well with the receivers they already have on the roster (i.e. Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Chansi Stuckey and Brian Robiskie) and he would give Colt McCoy a true No. 1. But if the Bengals release Chad Ochocinco, I could see them pulling the trigger on Green at No. 4.

2. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
What impresses me most about Peterson is that he’s a massive corner but he’s fluid in his movements. He’s 6-1 and 220 pounds but the guy is incredibly fluid when he gets in and out of his breaks. He doesn’t have the best footwork and somebody will have to work on his tackling, but he has a good first step and he can run with receivers vertically. He’s truly an impressive specimen given his size and athleticism. Big corners just can’t run as well as Peterson can.
Best Fit: One would think that the Tampa-2 would be a great fit for Peterson given his size, but he’s not an aggressive tackler so I would love to see what he could do in a 3-4 under new Cowboys’ DC Rob Ryan. The problem is I don’t know if he’ll fall all the way to the ninth pick in the first round. The Cardinals may snatch him at No. 5 and pair him with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

3. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
There are many pundits who believe Alabama’s Marcell Dareus is the best defensive tackle in the draft. But if he’s motivated and focused, Fariley could dominant in a one-gap system tomorrow. (I also worry about Dareus’ potenital weight issues.) Fairley has all the physical tools to be a dominant player at the next level; he’s got a thick lower have but for a guy his size, he also moves well. He’s powerful, explosive at the point of attack and doesn’t waste any movement while gaining leverage on offensive linemen. The problem is that his work ethic has come into question. He can be lazy, often disappearing for stretches at a time during games and he wasn’t on anyone’s radar until he became draft eligible. Hopefully he isn’t another top-10 talent that steals money and winds up bouncing around from team-to-team until finally falling out of the league in six years.
Best Fit: The Panthers. Ron Rivera is a creative coach and a true motivator, which is something Fairley might need if he’s to reach his full potenital. Rivera has had success with both 4-3 and 3-4 fronts and would probably play to Fairley’s strengths. But will Carolina bypass a franchise quarterback at No. 1 to take a defensive tackle with questionable drive and motivation habits?

4. Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Like the top two guys on this list, what impresses me most about Miller is his hips. He’s fluid and has superb quickness, so he’s not just a rush linebacker. He’s quick enough to drop off in a zone and he displays good awareness off the snap. He gets a little upright at times, isn’t overly powerful and as you can see from the video below, sometimes he runs himself out of plays. But while Miller will need to polish his game once he reaches the NFL, he has the ability to be a productive pass rusher in a 3-4 scheme.
Best Fit: I mocked Miller to the Browns, who play a 3-4 and therefore would be a fit. But if the Cardinals decide to go with a veteran quarterback instead of drafting a future signal caller at No. 5, I could see Miller winding up in Arizona. Joey Porter is 34 years old and might not be back, which means the Cardinals will have an immediate need for an edge rusher in their 3-4 scheme.

5. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
This is a great defensive draft and seeing as how the running back class is thin this year, nobody seems to be talking about Ingram. But talk about a big guy with good vision, instincts and footwork. He’s drawing comparisons to Emmitt Smith, which I think are spot on. His physical skills don’t blow you away and therefore, isn’t the prospect that Adrian Peterson or Darren McFadden were when they come out of college. But Ingram is effective running between the tackles and has a rare combination of size and fluidity. He’s not someone that will bowl a defender over, but he’s a powerful inside runner and can make guys miss at the second level.
Best Fit: Miami. There’s a good chance that both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have played their final downs for the Dolphins, making running back the team’s most pressing need. Ingram, whose father actually played for the Fish in 1993-1994, is the best RB in this year’s draft.

Comment Starter: Who’s the most NFL-ready prospect in your eyes?

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