Our scouts have been tracking the top NFL prospects since last summer, evaluating their in-season performances both on film and in person, comparing notes with NFL personnel experts and scouting the Shrine and Las Vegas all-star games. Individual scouting reports from that legwork can be found in DraftTracker.
Now that the draft pool has stabilized and the draft order has been established, here's our first crack at mapping out the first round. We'll be scouting the Senior Bowl, the Indianapolis combine and various individual workouts, as well as zeroing in on NFL teams' ever-changing needs to make sure our projections remain accurate and realistic.
* = underclassman
2005 NFL draft, projected first round
1. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
Aaron Rodgers* | QB | California
Neither Rodgers nor Alex Smith is a good value at the No. 1 overall spot. With so many needs, the 49ers would be best served to trade down in return for some extra Day One picks. If, however, they get stuck picking at No. 1 and if the new coaching staff decides that Tim Rattay is not the future, the organization will have another tough decision to make between Rodgers and Smith. As it stands right now, Rodgers grades out slightly ahead of Smith. Rodgers lacks ideal height, but he has terrific arm strength, good accuracy and above-average athleticism.