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October 5, 2005

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The parallels between college football and the NFL are amazing.

When NFL teams draft a certain type of player, all of a sudden it becomes the rage for the colleges to seek out similar type players in the high school rankings. And looking at the updated Rivals250 released today, it becomes even clearer that the similarities are frightening.

With more college and pro teams using a wide-open passing attack there were 30 receivers drafted in the first 250 picks by the NFL. The updated Rivals250 list includes 29 receivers, highlighted by a strong group of Southern receivers.

Twelve of the 28 players from the receiver position are from the Southeast region and the top receiver from the area is Tim Hawthorne of Homewood, Ala. The 6-foot-2, 199-pounder is a strong route runner and has great hands. He's also joined on the 250 by fellow Alabama receivers Jared White of Mobile Williamson and Terrell Zachery of Wadley, Ala. Zachery is already committed to Auburn.

It's also apparent by looking at the draft and at the Rivals250 that college and pro teams put a premium on offensive linemen - especially at the tackle position.

NFL teams drafted 48 offensive linemen through the first 250 picks of last year's draft and the updated ranking from Rivals.com has 38 offensive linemen on it. Offensive tackle - like the NFL - produced the highest number of players on the offensive line list with 19.

The tackle spot is littered with good players from all over the country and places like Florida, Ohio and Texas are common stop for recruiters. But then again players like Micah Kia from Hawaii, Eric Olsen from New York, D.J. Jones from Nebraska and Bruce Campbell from Connecticut show you how deep the talent pool for tackles is all over the nation.

Cornerbacks are also at a premium looking both at the Rivals250 and at recent draft results. The NFL took 28 cornerbacks in last year's draft and the Rivals250 list has 22 players ranked among the nation's elite. Also keep in mind that several of the 21 players listed at athlete could play at the cornerback position, so that number could easily climb once all of these prospects reach the next level.

Notre Dame commitment Darrin Walls is the only five-star cornerback, but the position is extremely strong at the top with two-way California star Jamere Holland, A.J. Wallace of Maryland and Steve Brown out of Indiana all ranked as players that are 6.0 on the Rivals rating scale. Emerging cornerbacks Ryan Hill of Florida and Shareece Wright of California are also very solid prospects that could climb higher in the future.

Defensive linemen are also a priority for both NFL and college programs. The NFL took 40 defensive linemen in last year's draft, and Rivals.com has placed 47 defensive linemen on the top 250 list. The defensive end position produced both more players in the draft and on the ranking, but the gap between the tackle spot was only three players in the Rivals.com ranking.

The tackle spot is especially talented at the top of the ranking with Gerald McCoy at No. 10 overall in the nation, followed closely by Al Woods at No. 14, Jared Odrick at No. 31 and Adam Patterson at No. 40. Odrick is a player that could eventually work his way to a five-star candidate by the end of the season and one Big 12 college coach compared Patterson to former Oklahoma great Tommie Harris.

Right behind those spots in total numbers in both the draft and the Rivals250 were linebackers. Last year the NFL took 30 linebackers - 17 outside and 13 inside - in the draft and Rivals.com has ranked 17 outside linebackers and 11 inside linebackers in the top 250 list.

Sergio Kindle of Dallas Woodrow Wilson and Allen Bradford of Colton, Calif., headline the linebacker class, but guys like Craig Stevens of Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln and Mark Johnson of Los Angeles Dorsey continue to move quickly up the charts.

Running backs are also popular with college and NFL teams. Twenty four players were drafted at the position and Rivals.com put 28 rushers - including all-purpose backs, running backs and fullbacks - on the list. The running back spot is especially deep with players ranked outside the top five at the position like Cordera Eason, Mon Williams and Chris Brown that could play for virtually anybody in the country.

NFL teams took 14 quarterbacks in the first 250 picks last year and Rivals.com's ranking mirrors that number in the ranking. The dual-threat quarterback position isn't extremely deep this year and is headlined by guys like Tim Tebow and Demetrius Jones. But there is a solid group of pro-style quarterbacks that could end up playing in the NFL. Guys like Kevin Riley and Chris Smelley aren't always mentioned when talking about the top signal-callers but they stand up against anybody else in the nation when it comes to talent.


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