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NFL invites nine rookie prospects to draft


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The NFL's draft-day production is growing.

Nine of the top prospects are heading to New York City for the April 25 selection process, a source told FOXSports.com. The list includes three tackles (Baylor's Jason Smith, Virginia's Eugene Monroe and Mississippi's Michael Oher), two quarterbacks (Georgia's Matthew Stafford and Kansas State's Josh Freeman), two linebackers (Wake Forest's Aaron Curry and Southern Cal's Brian Cushing), Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo.

The nine players invited marks the NFL's highest total since the 1996 draft. The names will be officially announced Monday.

The expanded field will bring more star power to Draft Central at Radio City Music Hall. It also may provide a more compelling telecast if one of the invitees slides into the later part of the first round a la quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers in recent years.

Stafford has drawn strong interest from Detroit with the No. 1 overall pick. At No. 2, St. Louis is in the market for a left tackle after recently releasing Orlando Pace. After that, projections get much cloudier with Kansas City having multiple needs it could address at No. 3.

The biggest surprises on the invite list are Freeman and Cushing, although the draft stock of both players has risen considerably this offseason. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound Freeman turned pro after throwing for almost 3,000 yards and scoring 34 touchdowns (20 passing, 14 running) as a junior. Freeman and Southern Cal's Mark Sanchez are considered the two top quarterback prospects behind Stafford.

Cushing is one of three USC linebackers who could get drafted in the first round, which would be an NFL-first from the same school. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound Cushing was a second-team All-America selection last season by the Associated Press after notching 73 tackles (including 10.5 for losses). USC linebackers Ray Maualuga and Clay Matthews also are drawing heavy NFL interest.

Top prospects who won't be in attendance include Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji, Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and Florida State defensive end Everette Brown.

The NFL invited six prospects to last year's draft. Those players — tackle Jake Long (Miami), defensive end Chris Long (St. Louis), quarterback Matt Ryan (Atlanta), running back Darren McFadden (Oakland), defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (Kansas City) and outside linebacker Vernon Gholston (New York Jets) — were all chosen with the first six picks.

The NFL has moved the start of the draft ahead one hour from last year to 4 p.m. EST on April 25. The first two rounds will be conducted that day. The remaining five rounds will be held on April 26.

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Two thoughts:

1. Does this mean Josh Freeman s rated higher than Mark Sanchez by the personnel guys, since they are the ones voting on who goes.

2. Cushing and Oher must be rated slightly higher than the draft websites would lead you to believe.

Mark Sanchez turned them down..... Sanchez wants to be with his family ( A ESPN cam probably be at his crib tho)

Cushing will go top 15........

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