logoby Greg Doyle

In this week’s College Scout we’re going to do something a bit different and look at some of the top Juniors around the country who’ll be on TV this weekend. All these players should at least be a possibility to enter next year’s draft and, if not, will be top prospects in the 2009 NFL Draft. So, let’s glance around the country and see who to watch among the Juniors this weekend.

LSU DE Tyson Jackson (#93): You can tell Jackson is a great athlete just by watching him for a play or two. He stands out among other players. Big, yet agile. He’ll face off against Alabama this weekend (5:00 PM CBS). Kirk Herbstreit calls him a “defensive freak” and that is pretty apt. He is just one of those guys – you wonder how he can be so big, yet so athletic and smooth and fast. If he comes out, I have no doubt he’ll test great and race up the draft boards, probably ending up in the top 10 overall. Despite all the gifts, he does only have half a sack this year, which makes you wonder. But he also has 5 quarterback hurries and has batted down countless passes. Perhaps the lackluster stats is one reason he should come out. But the talent is immense and if he finishes strong for LSU, we just may see him in next April’s draft.
Arkansas RB Darren McFadden (#5): Possibly the most talented running back in the country, McFadden’s talents will be on display against South Carolina (8:00 PM ESPN2). McFadden is the total combination of size and speed, power and shiftiness. He checks in at a tall 6’2″ and 215 lbs. He runs around, over and past people. His weaknesses would be blocking and pass receiving, but his running ability makes him a top 5 pick easily if he comes out.

Florida DE Derrick Harvey (#91): Another athletic freak who checks in at 6’4″ 262, perfect size for the Patriots to convert to 3-4 outside linebacker. Named Defensive MVP of the National Championship game last year. Had 11 sacks as a Sophomore and has 6.5 so far this year. Harvey has the speed and athletic ability to convert to linebacker, but one thing that might discourage the Patriots is they drafted and attempted to convert a Florida defensive end – Jeremey Mincey – to linebacker last year and that failed. There was too much difference between the Patriots’ system and Florida’s, and he lacked the ability to adapt. Of course Harvey is far more talented than Mincey and the Patriots will likely take a good long look at him.

Purdue QB Curtis Painter (#12): A big, strong QB with all the tools but who has been mildly disappointing in 2007. He’ll face off at Penn State this week (12:00 Noon ESPN). Still, his statistics are gaudy and would be a high pick if he came out. The hunch is he’ll likely stay in, be a Heisman candidate next year and possibly elevate himself to the very top of the draft in 2009.

Kansas CB Aqib Talib (#3): Possibly the best cornerback in the country, he’ll face off against Nebraska this week. (12:30 PM Fox Sports Networks) This 6’2″ 205 lb. corner has the talent to be a Pro Bowl NFL corner. He was on everyone’s pre-season All-American lists and he hasn’t disappointed for the undefeated Jayhawks this year. If he comes out, this is someone the Patriots will be very, very interested in with the pick they got from the 49ers. Names Randy Moss as his favorite athlete. Has 3 interceptions and 9 pass breakups this year. Picked off 6 and had an amazing 22 pass breakups last year despite playing in only 10 games (was suspended for 2).

Nebraska RB Marlon Lucky (#20): A highly recruited running back out of high school, his production has been good, but not great. As mentioned above, he’ll be facing off against Kansas this week. Has had a good year with close to 900 yards. He may come out after this season, particularly if head coach Bill Callahan gets fired. Lucky has the benefit to a team drafting him of having played in a NFL-style passing attack and he has been productive in that area as well. This year alone he already has 55 catches. He is a complete back who has some speed. Not real powerful, but shifty enough that he doesn’t need to be. Could be good in a one-back offense that spreads it out a lot. Would fit that role with the Patriots.

California WR DeSean Jackson (#1): A game-breaking receiver who has a knack of getting way behind coverage downfield, this speedster will be lining up in a big game against Arizona State today (6:30 PM ESPN). Tall enough at 6 feet, but a bit undersized at only 172 lbs. Also an electrifying punt returner who returned 4 for touchdowns last year and has 1 this year as well. His yards per catch as a receiver is way down this year and that is a bit of a concern. Jackson is a speedy guy with good hands who has beaten college corners purely on speed. It remains to be seen if he can beat press coverage and be physical enough in the NFL. His awesome punt return ability, however, makes him a unique talent that will be closely scrutinized if he decides to come out for this draft.