Four of my friends who are NFL scouts (or personnel people) agreed to give me their top twenty players at this point of the off-season process leading up to the draft. They represent four different teams.
I will keep each of their identities confidential as you can imagine that their respective teams wouldn’t appreciate their participation in this endeavor. All I asked from them was that they give me their personal top twenty and why they like them. I weighed all four lists and put them in the appropriate order.
This list is not the order that I think they will be drafted, it is simply four men who get paid to do this for a living and who they think are the best twenty. I will also post early in the week something that we have never had before. We will have a list of the top three players at all positions other than the special teams.
I will also have them all give me a mock first round draft for each team, as the draft gets closer. Obviously they know other teams better than any of us, so I have asked each for their mock draft and why they think each team does what. As with this list, I will weigh each of their picks and see if there is consensus on what they think. I will (as similar to this list) post at least one of their comments about each pick.
One scout had an interesting take last year that I want to share with all of you about the draft process. He said, “The way we draft is what do we need and who on the board at the time we pick fits a need the best. For example, Calvin Johnson was the best player in the draft on our board last year but had we been Detroit we wouldn’t have taken him. With the huge needs at offensive tackle and middle backer, we would have taken Joe Thomas or Patrick Willis. Both had Pro Bowl seasons. Now some pundits would have said those guys would have been too high of picks for the money (and we would have tried trading down) but would the Lions have been better off with either those two than Calvin? I sure think so. We draft (and have been successful) at picking guys that meet needs with priority given to lineman if we have a need there. I based my list on who best fits needs.”
Here are some interesting stats about the list. All four scouts say that they place a high importance on a pure franchise QB (of which none listed any QB as a top notch franchise pick such as Peyton Manning) and on offensive and defensive lines. Cornerback was also a position of high value. Something I learned was that offensive tackles, defensive tackles, defensive ends and cornerbacks all had a higher point of value (other than a sure fire franchise QB) to all four of our contributors.
Although I may not agree with this list, but over the years we have posted them, they have been extremely accurate and correct. I thank each of the men in advance.
Here is how the top twenty broke down as far as position.
Defensive Line 7
Offensive Line 4
Defensive Back 1
Running Back 1
Line Backer 3
Wide Receiver 3
Tight End 1
- Jason Smith OT Baylor Scouts Take: “Smith has all of the tools and the most upside of any of the prospects. He is strong, smart and is void of any off-field issues that could hinder a team with such a high pick.”
- Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest Scouts Take: “Curry is a football player. He can play any of the LB spots in a 3-4 or a 4-3. He has character and a love for the game. We only rank Smith higher based on OT as a bigger position than a LB.”
- Eugene Monroe OT Virginia Scouts Take: “Monroe is a football player. We love everything about him. In fairness to the young man the only thing that separates him from Smith is that Smith has a little better upside, but still a safe and great pick.”
- Brian Orakpo DE Texas Scouts Take: “Orakpo is a great athlete who is very fast. Will he take to the coaching of the NFL that he didn’t get at Texas or will he be like a Shaun Rogers and even Roy Williams who have all the talent, but aren’t the most coachable? We think his motor is great and in interviews comes off as very teachable and hungry.”
- Andre Smith OT Alabama Scouts Take: “This young man is the most talented player in the draft. Without the off field issues that plague him he would CLEARLY be the best player in the draft. Again, without the off-field issues he would be clearly better than Thomas (Joe of the Browns) and Long (Jake) of the Dolphins. He has so many questions, but he has so much talent that you can’t logically rate him any lower than fifth.”
- Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma State Scouts Take: “This youngster is nothing short of a stud. We haven’t looked at a TE this high in sometime. He has all of the tools to be one of the greatest with an upside that matches Smith at OT. We have even looked at ways to move up. He is a star who loves the game and practice. We looked hard at his off-field demeanor and are convinced he is a great kid.”
- Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech Scouts Take: “He has all the tools. Reminds us a lot of Calvin Johnson. Some questions about size, but the tapes don’t lie and there isn’t another receiver in this class that is in his.”
- Aaron Maybin DE PSU Scouts Take: “The only negative on this kid is his size. He loves the game of football and all aspects including working out and practice. His speed is what separates him. He will flourish in an NFL strength and conditioning system.”
- Robert Ayers DE Tennessee Scouts take: “This is a kid whose out of season workouts and play impressed us and moved him up the board. He hasn’t played a lot of football, and he is raw. He can play the game of football and totally took responsibility for some off-field and maturity issues early in his career. His interviews and checking him out really helped as he has a proven track record of setting himself right.”
- Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia Scout Take: “Superb vision and balance and an ability to make good plays. Unlike his QB Stafford, he played better against better competition and will add bulk. He doesn’t have the injury fears of Wells and is the best all around and NFL ready RB in the draft.”
- Everett Brown DE Florida State Scouts Take: “Super character, super athlete and speed. Hasn’t played a lot of football at DE, but is explosive and can flat out rush the QB. Not as advanced as Ayers, but three years in they will be mirror images of each other.”
- Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri Scouts Take: “Not as talented as Crabtree, but he is an incredible athlete and has talent. Where as Crabtree will go anywhere to catch a football, he can hear the footsteps over the middle. That one attribute separates him from being good and great like Crabtree.”
- Tyson Jackson DE LSU Scouts Take: “ He is the best rush defender of any of them, but struggles with the rush. He is brutal at the point of attack and strong, so he can grow into more. His rush skills alone warrant him this high, but he is somewhat of a project.”
- BJ Raji DT Boston College Scouts Take: “He has a lot of mass and at times can be an immovable object. The problem is that he will be going against guys most of the time on the OL that have those same skills and are more mobile. I will look forward to seeing your list because I doubt others have him as low as we do, but for all the talent there are some issues.”
- Malcolm Jenkins DB Ohio State Scouts Take: “Jenkins is a rare talent that can play CB or S. Probably better suited for a CB in a Tampa Two type scheme, but still the best skills of any of the DB’s and with a versatility that can play dual spots he is invaluable. Because of his size, he can match up with the Calvin Johnsons and the bigger body receivers in short areas.”
- Michael Oher OT Mississippi Scouts Take: “Another OT with great skills. Some concern off of the field until you really look at him and do your research. He has all the talents and skills and is a well developed young man. The only issue is the depth of his desire to play and get better. He is simply way too talented to go too far down the draft and we would gladly snap him up anywhere post 15.”
- Brian Cushing LB USC Scouts Take: “Great instincts, motor, and plays heads up. Great at the point of attack and is able to shed blockers well. He is almost too much of a muscle builder and it affects his movements. Some concern off-field, but will be a good pro football player.”
- Rey Maualuga LB USC Scouts Take: “Dominant player when he wants to be. He can also take off plays and that hurts him in being rated any higher. He has such a high motor that at times gets overzealous and will miss plays by over pursuing. Great raw talent and is a good locker room guy. Off-field concerns for us however.”
- Peria Jerry DT Mississippi Scouts Take: “Can puncture the line, create turmoil and move in all directions well. He is married with kids and has his head on straight. Not a physical specimen so will have to adapt to that part of the NFL. If he were a committed gym rat with the physique of some others he would be a top five guy. He isn’t, but seems to be willing to do so. In the NFL he won’t be able to automatically overpower and out-speed guys so that is the only issues with his game.”
- Percy Harvin WR Florida Scouts Take: “He is a rare athlete who can catch, do kickoffs and punt returns. He has speed that simply can’t be overlooked and has good hands. He is a risk and we have some concerns away from the field. With that said this is the NFL and we have a tendency to overlook some issues with that much talent. Some at least, just maybe not us.”
Most people will notice that there are no QB’s in the top twenty according to these four gentlemen. Last year they only had one listed and he did well: Matt Ryan. I asked them to let me know why none of the QB’s made there top twenty, specifically Stafford and Sanchez and I selected one each for them.
Matt Stafford QB Georgia Scouts Take: “Stafford sure looks the part, but when you watch him he took steps back against better competition. With Ryan last year you saw that the guys around him struggled against better teams, but he didn’t. Stafford takes a step back and although he looks the part, so did Joey Harrington.”
Mark Sanchez QB USC Scouts Take: “We like Sanchez better than Stafford. He has all the tools and although we still don’t see him as a first round guy, we think he has much more upside over Stafford. At SC he was always on the field with superior talent. Can he make the reads and plays when he is on the field with essentially equal talent? Won’t be able to force throws against better competition.”