Sliding stars, offensive linemen dominate third round

Earlier in the week I wrote that the second round of the NFL draft is the place to find good bargains on players with first-round grades, and the same could be said about the third round. No fewer than 10 players in my third-round projection had first-round grades heading into last season or have the talent level of a first-rounder but have dropped down the board because of various factors.

Leading the way among that group is LSU cornerback Corey Webster, who had a top-15 overall grade entering the 2004 season but slipped steadily throughout the year due to nagging injuries that affected his closing speed. The same goes for Florida linebacker Channing Crowder. Just a few weeks ago Crowder was on my Big Board of the top 25 overall prospects and a part of my first-round projection, but concerns over knee and arch injuries have pushed him down the board as well.

Other projected third-rounders who fit into that category include Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton (injury), Florida State wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe (injury), Georgia wide receiver Fred Gibson (hands/size) and West Virginia wideout Chris Henry (run-ins with coaches). Orton, Gibson and Stanford tight end Alex Smith all made appearances on the Big Board at some point since the beginning of last season.

Overall, the offensive line leads all positions with 11 players (including two tight ends) projected to come off the board in the third round. Nine defensive backs make the list along with five defensive linemen, five wide receivers, three linebackers, two quarterbacks and two running backs.