Gil Brandt's Pre-Combine Rankings: Offense

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Here's a breakdown by position of the key offensive players who will be at this year's NFL Scouting Combine at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. We are also listing the top players at each position and players you might not know a lot about prior to the workouts.

Each player is listed with a number that he will wear at the workouts so you can follow them during the live coverage on NFL Network. You can check below for the schedule of events.

The combine is one of the rare win-win situations the NFL offers. The teams go and check out every player at the invite-only workouts ... one-stop shopping for the draft. But for the players that go, it's even more valuable because they can show off what they can do in workouts for all the decision-makers (head coaches, general managers, personnel directors and owners) from all 32 teams. It's the biggest job fair any college prospect could ever imagine having. And every player could "move up" the draft boards thanks to their workouts.

Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams, for example, ran and did the field drills and ended up being the second and fifth overall selections in the 2005 NFL Draft. Both ended up starting for Miami and Tampa Bay, respectively, and Williams was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Two other players that had complete workouts were Matt Jones and Fabian Washington. Both greatly enhanced their draft status in Indianapolis with great workouts and both became first-round picks.

These rankings can and will change after the combine because of the physical aspects (players could have health or injury problems) and the workouts (i.e. a player might run faster than had been expected). In 2004, Robert Gallery had a complete workout at the combine and was the second player drafted that year. He will end up making over $25 million in the next five years. In 2003, players like Terence Newman, Marcus Trufant and Jordan Gross all had complete workouts and ended up being drafted in the top 11 of the first round with signing bonuses totaling nearly $30 million ($29,896,501 to be exact).

NOTE: This new combine track (field turf) is fast -- great for running very good times. After all, this is the surface the Colts and two of their players, Marvin Harrison and Dwight Freeney, have told combine organizers that they consider very fast.

The NFL's 32 teams aren't the only ones that want to know scouting combine invitees better. You do as well, and the media hears your pleas. Newspapers, magazines, television stations and radio stations representing a record 24 states, as well as Mexico, have already been credentialed to inform you what is happening at the combine. Last year we had 256 credentialed media. This year, we have already surpassed that number with a week to go before it begins.

Jeff Foster is the person that is responsible for organizing this whole extravaganza, and he does an unbelievably great job.

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QUARTERBACKS -- 25 PLAYERS INVITED

First players likely to be picked (listed alphabetically):

  1. Brodie Croyle, Alabama (No. 3)
  1. Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt (No. 4)
  1. Omar Jacobs, Bowling Green (No. 9)
  1. Matt Leinart, Southern Cal (No. 10)
  1. Reggie McNeil, Texas A&M (No. 13)
  1. Charlie Whitehurst, Clemson (No. 24)
  1. Vince Young, Texas (No. 25)

Wild card: Kellen Clemens, Oregon (No. 2). Clemens broke his left ankle on Oct. 22 against Arizona, but he was having an outstanding season prior to the injury. Most likely, he will be a physically unable to perform (PUP) player to start the season, but he is worth a pick. Clemens could be good in the right system.

More names to know:

D.J. Shockley, Georgia (No. 20)

Eric Meyer, Eastern Wash. (No. 14)

Quick Hits

In 2005, 23 QBs were invited to the combine and 12 were drafted. Three of them started games -- Alex Smith, Kyle Orton, Charlie Frye. Two QBs were drafted without having attended the combine, one of them being Matt Cassel, a career backup at USC that threw two TDs for New England.

Charlie Whitehurst's father, David, was drafted in the eighth round by Green Bay in 1977 and played seven seasons with the Packers (1977-83).

In the last 13 years of the combine, 150 QBs have been invited and 87 have been drafted. At the same time, 16 that were invited to the combine have been drafted. And Ben Roethlisberger, the third QB chosen in the 2004 draft, became the youngest signal-caller ever to win a Super Bowl.

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RUNNING BACKS -- 29 PLAYERS INVITED

*(24 halfbacks, 5 fullbacks) *

First players likely to be picked (listed alphabetically):

  1. Joseph Addai, LSU (No. 1)
  1. Reggie Bush, Southern Cal (No. 2)
  1. Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin (No. 5)
  1. Maurice Drew, UCLA (No. 7)
  1. Andre Hall, South Florida (No. 10)
  1. Laurence Maroney, Minnesota (No. 17)
  1. Leon Washington, Florida State (No. 26)
  1. LenDale White, Southern Cal (No. 27)
  1. DeAngelo Williams, Memphis (No. 29)

Wild card: Taurean Henderson, Texas Tech (No. 13). Third-down, long-yardage back who caught 303 passes and rushed for 3,248 yards. Possible kick returner. Has a burst to make the play.

More names to know:

P.J. Daniels, Georgia Tech (No. 8)

DonTrell Moore, New Mexico (No. 19)

Jerious Norwood, Mississippi State (No. 20)

Quick Hits

In 2004, 35 running backs were invited to the combine and 23 were drafted. In addition, two running backs who weren't invited to Indy were drafted.

Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in 2005, and Reggie Bush were teammates at Helix High School in San Diego.

If Reggie Bush becomes the No. 1 overall pick, it would be the first time in NFL draft history that two players from the same high school were picked No. 1 in back-to-back years.

Twenty-three running backs have been selected No. 1 overall in draft history, but only two since 1981 -- Ki-Jana Carter in 1995 and Bo Jackson in 1986.

In 1938, back when there were only 10 teams, nine running backs were drafted in the first round, including Colorado's Byron "Whizzer" White. He led the league in rushing in his rookie season with Pittsburgh, which took White with the fourth overall pick. White was a Rhodes Scholar, and he took 1939 off to study at Oxford. He returned to the NFL with Detroit in 1940 and led the NFL in rushing again. He played one more season before leaving football to serve as an intelligence officer for the U.S. Navy in World War II.

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WIDE RECEIVERS -- 40 PLAYERS INVITED

*First players likely to be picked (listed alphabetically): *

  1. Jason Avant, Michigan (No. 4)
  1. Derek Hagan, Arizona State (No. 15)
  1. Santonio Holmes, Ohio State (No. 19)
  1. Chad Jackson, Florida (No. 20)
  1. Sinorice Moss, Miami (Fla.) (No. 26)
  1. Maurice Stovall, Notre Dame (No. 34)
  1. Brandon Williams, Wisconsin (No. 38)
  1. Demetrius Williams, Oregon (No. 39)
  1. Travis Wilson, Oklahoma (No. 40)

More names to know:

Hank Baskett, New Mexico (No. 5)

Mike Hass, Oregon State (No. 17)

Greg Lee, Pittsburgh (No. 23)

Martin Nance, Miami (Ohio) (No. 27)

Jonathan Orr, Wisconsin (No. 29)

Wild cards: Jeremy Bloom, Colorado (No. 8) and

Skyler Green, LSU (No. 13).

Both players have ability to return kicks and be a No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver.

Quick Hits

In 2005, 42 wide receivers were invited to the combine and 28 were drafted. In addition, three wide receivers not invited to Indy were drafted.

Six wide receivers have been selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft. None of them are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Since 1965, only two wide receivers have been selected No. 1 overall -- Irving Fryar in 1984, and Keyshawn Johnson in 1996.

Todd Watkins (BYU) was a teammate of Alex Smith and Reggie Bush at Helix High School in San Diego. He was only the second person in school history to earn letters in four sports in one school year (football, soccer, track, volleyball).

In the past 10 drafts, 45 wide receivers have been drafted in the first round.

TIGHT ENDS -- 21 PLAYERS INVITED

First players likely to be picked (listed alphabetically):

  1. Dominique Byrd, Southern Cal (No. 2)
  1. Vernon Davis, Maryland (No. 5)
  1. Tim Day, Oregon (No. 6)
  1. Anthony Fasano, Notre Dame (No. 7)
  1. Joe Klopfenstein, Colorado (No. 11)
  1. Mercedes Lewis, UCLA (No. 12)
  1. Leonard Pope, Georgia (No. 16)
  1. David Thomas, Texas (No. 19)

More names to know:

Charles Davis, Purdue (No. 4)

Garrett Mills, Tulsa (No. 14)

Cooper Wallace, Auburn (No. 20)

T.J. Williams, N.C. State (No. 21)

Quick Hits

In 2004, 14 tight ends were invited to the combine and eight were drafted. In addition, two tight ends not invited to Indy were drafted.

No tight end ever has been drafted No. 1 overall. The highest picks were Ron Kramer (Green Bay, No. 4 in 1957) and Mike Ditka (Chicago, No. 5 in 1961).

Since 1998, 146 tight ends have been invited to the combine and 86 have been drafted.

Three tight ends on NFL rosters in 2005 never played a game of college football. Denver's Wesley Duke (Mercer), San Diego's Antonio Gates (Kent State) and Detroit's Marcus Pollard (Bradley) all were basketball players.

Five tight ends led their teams in receiving in 2005. In addition, Philadelphia's L.J. Smith tied for his team's lead.

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OFFENSIVE LINEMEN -- 50 PLAYERS INVITED

*(24 tackles, 16 guards, 10 centers)

First players likely to be picked (listed alphabetically): *

  1. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia (No. 11)
  1. Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia (No. 12)
  1. Davin Joseph, Oklahoma (No. 13)
  1. Winston Justice, Southern Cal (No. 14)
  1. Nick Mangold, Ohio State (No. 17)
  1. Marcus McNeill, Auburn (No. 20)
  1. Jonathan Scott, Texas (No. 33)
  1. Charles Spencer, Pittsburgh (No. 37)
  1. Jeremy Trueblood, Boston College (No. 45)
  1. Eric Winston, Miami (Fla.) (No. 50)

Wild card: Pat McQuistan, Weber State (No. 21). From a Division I-AA program, McQuistan is a guy with long arms, big hands and is very strong. He could be a surprise choice, much like Logan Mankins was last year for New England. But McQuistan won't go in the first round like Mankins did.

More names to know:

Kevin Boothe, Cornell (No. 1)

Greg Eslinger, Minnesota (No. 9)

Jahri Evans, Bloomsburg (No. 10)

Taitusi Lutui, Southern Cal (No. 16)

Fred Matua, Southern Cal (No. 19)

Quick Hits

In 2005, 62 offensive linemen were invited to the combine and 46 were drafted. Three others got drafted that weren't invited to Indy.

Logan Mankins (first round -- NE), Michael Roos (second round -- TEN), Jammal Brown (first round -- NO), Khalif Barnes (second round -- JAC), Nick Kaczur (third round -- NE), Rob Petitti (sixth round -- DAL), Alex Barron (first round -- STL), and Dan Buenning (fourth round -- TB) were just some of the offensive linemen that started at least eight games and played well. Mankins received one vote for Rookie of the Year.

Buenning and Mankins started all 16 games and both of their teams made the playoffs.

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KICKERS/PUNTERS/DEEP SNAPPERS

*(11 kickers, 3 deep snappers)

First players likely to be picked (listed alphabetically): *

  1. Josh Huston, Ohio State (No. 02)
  1. John Torp, Colorado (No. 10)
  1. Steve Weatherford, Illinois (No. 11)

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WANT TO GET IN THE COMBINE?

For years, I've been part of the NFL combine, and I can tell you it's an interesting time because this is the first chance to see the rookie class of 2006. But for the second time ever, fans will be able to check out the workouts for themselves via NFL Network's live coverage.

Starting at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, Feb. 23, and Friday, Feb. 24, you will be able to watch the press conferences that take place those two days for two hours. From Feb. 25-28, you will be able to watch three hours daily of live workouts -- the 40-yard dash and position drills.

In addition, NFL Total Access will be on the scene with news, analysis and interviews, featuring host Rich Eisen and Playbook analyst Butch Davis. If you are a fantasy football player, this is a must-watch event. I think you will really enjoy this special program.

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