by Jeff West
September 6, 2004
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    It's never too early to start researching players for fantasy football.  A well-prepared owner can stay a step ahead of the competition.  For those of you who can't get enough football, remember that the college football regular season has already begun.  Some promising NFL prospects were on display in the USC-Virginia Tech game last week.  Here is a list of some other players, by position, that merit attention throughout the fall and winter and may end up on your fantasy roster for the 2005 season...  

Quarterbacks The QB crop for 2005 isn't going to be too deep.  There may only be one or two first rounders in the batch.  The top QB this year is junior Matt Leinart of Southern Cal.  He is working with inexperienced receivers, so we'll get a true sense of just how good he is.  David Greene of Georgia is a poised senior who has a great team to showcase his talents.  Andrew Walter, Arizona State, was a top prospect a year ago, but a disappointing junior season encouraged him to return to raise his stock as a senior.  Dan Orlovsky of Connecticut is a big QB with a ton of talent, but he isn't as polished as an NFL prospect should be.  Purdue's Kyle Orton has the potential; he just needs to demonstrate some consistency.  A couple of QBs with a lot of experience, but weak competition are Charlie Frye of Akron and Gino Guidugli of Cincinnati.  

Running Backs 2004 was a weak year for RBs, but 2005 looks to be much better.  Maurice Clarett will be able to enter the draft, but his layoff will hurt his stock some.  Auburn's Carnell "Cadillac" Williams appears to be the best back in college football, but he has to overcome the injury-prone label.  Also at Auburn is Ronnie Brown who filled in marvelously when the Cadillac was in for repairs.  Wrapping up the Auburn theme is Brandon Jacobs who transferred to Division I-AA Southern Illinois.  Jacobs is a monster at 6'4" and 255 pounds.  Cedric Benson carries the hopes of the Texas Longhorns and should be a first rounder with a good senior season.  Miami's Frank Gore needs to stay healthy all season, or his stock will seriously plummet.  Walter Reyes of Syracuse is a smallish, but plays big.  T.  A.  McLendon an NC State junior, is an outstanding player who needs to stay out of trouble.  Another junior, Marion Barber of Minnesota is easily the Big Ten's best rusher.  

Wide Receivers 2004 was considered to be the hallmark year for wideouts, leaving the 2005 draft class paling in comparison.  However, there are plenty of good prospects to watch.  Mike Williams was denied a chance to enter the NFL and also to return to the Southern Cal football team, but he will still be the top prospect because of his playmaking abilities.  Braylon Edwards of Michigan toyed with the idea of entering the draft in 2004, but wisely decided to return for his senior year.  Oklahoma's Mark Clayton is one of the best WRs, however his size (5'11") will keep him from being a top pick.  A couple juniors to watch are Martin Nance from Miami of Ohio and Chris Henry of West Virginia.  Craphonso Thorpe of Florida State and Fred Gibson of Georgia are a couple of big time WRs who need to stay healthy.  J.  R.  Russell is an exciting WR who has Louisville excited for this fall.  

Tight Ends Tight ends are getting more and more recognition in the NFL, although there are only a few real prospects in the 2005 draft class.  Junior Heath Miller of Virginia is the consensus top TE and is an outstanding pass receiver who shows solid blocking abilities as well.  The top senior might be Brian Casey, a juco transfer at Kansas State.  Keep an eye on the resurgent Toledo program that features TE Andrew Clarke.  Kevin Everett is yet another solid prospect to come from Miami (Fla.  ).  Finally, Stanford's Alex Smith is the complete package at TE, though he lacks ideal NFL size.  

Defensive Ends The 2004 draft class was a bit light on quality DEs, many of them being on the smaller side, more suited for LB in the NFL.  The 2005 class features David Pollack, one of the hardest working players in football.  There are two DEs who are well-suited to play a 3-4 defense in Marcus Spears of LSU and Chris Canty of Virginia.  A junior that had an outstanding 2003 season and has everyone watching to see if he can repeat those efforts is Boston College's Mathias Kiwanuka.  Oklahoma's Dan Cody is an exciting player with outstanding speed and athleticism, yet currently lacks the bulk to stand up to the run in the NFL.  Adell Duckett of Texas Tech is an outstanding player who could be a first-round pick with a solid year.  Iowa's Matt Roth is another player who fits the tweener mold, but can get after the passer as good as anyone.  

Defensive Tackles There were some very solid DTs entering the league in the 2004 draft and 2005 looks to be a much weaker year at this position.  Leading the group is a potential top five pick in Texas junior Rodrique Wright, a monster at the point of attack.  The top senior prospect is Anttaj Hawthorne from Wisconsin.  Hawthorne is an athletic tackle who could stand to gain some strength.  Anthony Bryant of Alabama might be the best combination of size and raw strength, however he lacks any semblance of speed.  Florida State's Travis Johnson is an outstanding prospect, however he is yet another of those collegiate Floridians who cannot seem to stay on the right side of the law.  Marcus Jasmin, Texas A&M, has a lot of ability, but has been inconsistent and injury prone.  Shaun Cody can play inside or outside and has great athletic ability for his size.  

Inside Linebackers Yet another weak year at the inside linebacker position for the draft.  The top 2005 prospect comes from a small school.  Kirk Morrison of San Diego State has ideal size and athleticism.  Lance Mitchell of Oklahoma had an ACL injury in 2003, so he will have to show he is fully recovered from it.  If he is, Mitchell is a potential first-rounder.  Washington junior Will Derting plays hard, but will likely need off-season surgery for a wrist dislocation suffered prior to this season.  Notre Dame's Mike Goolsby is a solid player, but is coming off a collarbone injury.  Small-school prospect Boomer Grigsby of Illinois State plays all over the field.  

Outside Linebackers This is another weak year at OLB.  However, Derrick Johnson of Texas has the makings of a future NFL stud.  His great size, speed, and instincts will make him a top pick in 2005.  Michael Boley of Southern Miss has 4.  5 speed and is a playmaker.  Tennessee's Kevin Burnett appears recovered from a 2002 knee injury and a good senior year will launch him up the draft boards.  Virginia's Ahmad Harris is a sophomore in 2004, but will be three years removed from high school and could enter under the same circumstances as Larry Fitzgerald did.  Temple's football program is barely clinging to life, however star Rian Wallace will look to put the Owls back on the map.  

Cornerbacks Every year there seem to be a number of quality corners entering the NFL, and 2005 will be no different.  Miami Hurricane Antrell Rolle will lead the group with his outstanding speed and instincts.  Michigan's Marlin Jackson nearly entered the 2004 draft, but will play one more season of collegiate ball to help his draft stock.  Clemson junior Justin Miller had eight INTs as a freshman and is a dangerous PR/KR as well.  Corey Webster of LSU might be the best shutdown corner in the country.  Carlos Rogers of Auburn is a tall lanky CB who is a playmaker.  

Safeties 2005 looks to be another year of poor depth at the safety position for the draft.  There are some solid prospects, but the quality drops off quickly after the first few.  Leading the pack is Donte Nicholson of Oklahoma.  He had an outstanding junior season and should shine on a great Sooner defense in 2004.  UNLV's Jamaal Brimmer has very few weaknesses and should register a solid 2004 season.  Another small school DB is Central Florida's Atari Bigby.  He is a big play producer in a small package.  The state of Georgia boasts two of the top prospects in Bulldog Thomas Jones and Yellow Jacket James Butler.  A sophomore who will be three years out of high school and bears watching is Southern Cal prospect Darnell Bing.  

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