Four of my friends who are NFL scouts (or personnel people) annually agree 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.
The list reflects several changes from their previous lists (from when the season ended) because of pro days, combine and individual workouts and interviews.
As I do each year, 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 (or they 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. We will also have a mock draft based on their projections on Wednesday.
It will be different in that I will ask them all give me a mock first round draft for each team. 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 have posted at least one of their comments about each prospect in italics.
One scout had an interesting take 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, 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 (rookie) 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 of 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, but all think Bradford has a franchise value) and on offensive and defensive line. 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.
Here is how the top twenty prospects broke down as far as position.
- Defensive Line 6
- Offensive Line 6
- Defensive Back 4
- Running Back 1
- Linebacker 2
- Quarterback 1
Here is the list:
- Ndamukong Suh DT Nebraska Suh is a once in a generation talent. His ability to play both the run and the pass, along with a high motor that doesn’t take off plays makes him clearly the number one choice. “We see Suh as the most complete DT to come out for as long as I have been looking at prospects. Money will not change him and he has all the tools and the conditioning to play every down.”
- Sam Bradford QB OU Sam is accurate and mobile and is a student of the game. He does an excellent job of learning the game and will give great effort off the field as well as on it. Can make all the throws and is 100% healthy. “Sam is far and away the only QB we have rated worthy of a first round pick. That doesn’t mean some others won’t grow into that, but he is the most ready right now. We have him as better than Ryan from Atlanta.”
- Gerald McCoy DT OU McCoy has a high motor like Suh and enjoys the game and playing it. “We really like McCoy, we thought he was a step below Suh in that Suh does all parts of the game well. McCoy can do them all, and do them well also, just not at the constant level of Suh.”
- Trent Williams OT OU Two of our four scouts had Williams as their number one OL. The other two had him at number two. He is big and strong like Jake Long and athletic like D’Brickashaw Ferguson. “We rated him as our #1 OL for one reason. The more he plays and against high level competition he dominates. When you interview him you know that he has his head on right and is the kind of guy that has no flaws and you can select him and he solidifies your tackle spot for ten years.”
- Russell Okung OT OK State A big solid tackle that reminds a lot of guys of J. Ogden. This big bruiser is a road grader that can shut down DEs and OLBs that attack. “Okung was better on our board because Williams is a zone type lineman. Okung is a power tackle and will start from the first game in that scheme.”
- Eric Berry DB Tennessee Berry shined in the Monte Kiffin pro defense for one year and should step in and play immediately. “Berry is a big hit or a big miss. If he cannot let the money take his hunger he can play for years as a top-level star. The only question on Berry is IF.”
- Joe Haden CB Florida Haden has all the size and strength and looks like a chiseled machine. Combined with the speed, he has pro bowl written all over him. “Haden has everything. The tangibles and the intangibles. He has been so good that his technique is the only thing that leaves something to be desired.”
- Bryan Bulaga OT Iowa Bryan comes ready for the NFL like Jake Long. He is the most athletic of the OT prospects. He is a converted TE, which tells us that under the tutelage of a good NFL OL coach his upside is even better. “We really see Bulaga as a Jake Long. Some see him as a right tackle, but they said the same about Long. We saw Long for exactly what he turned out to be and Bulaga is the same. We would love to see him on the board when we pick, but we aren’t holding our breath.”
- Jason Pierre-Paul DE South Florida With a huge upside this raw prospect shows flashes of pro bowl brilliance. A great character young man with a strong work ethic that money won’t taint, have him rated this high. Pure unadulterated raw talent. “We were not sure on JPP until we interviewed him. We walked away thinking what a great kid and the film reminded us that he was a very good player.”
- Sergio Kindle DE/OLB Texas Pure explosion is the best way of breaking down Kindle’s game. He played as a hand in the dirt DE, but would play standing up as an OLB in a 3-4. “We liked Kindle’s ability to play with his hand up and down. He is so strong and explosive and is ready to play and contribute immediately.”
- Anthony Davis OT Rutgers Davis could be the best of the OT prospects in this class. He has displayed a lot of off field issues that have caused great concern. When the 2010 season opens he will be only 20. “On pure talent and upside I don’t think there is anyone better. He is young so you have to at least take that into consideration with him. We interviewed him and did a lot of back checking and think he would be fine. Because of his red flags he could drop and nothing would make us happier. We won’t move up for him, but would gladly take him where we are.”
- Earl Thomas S Texas Not a big hitter, but a safety who can play the ball and get interceptions. He is young, but he is very talented. He isn’t the biggest safety, but has the tools and talents. “Earl won’t step up and make a monster hit so he has to fit a system that doesn’t require that of a safety. He will find the ball and intercept it and make plays.”
- Dan Williams DT Tennessee He is a big man at almost 340, but he can play the DT in a 3-4 or a 4-3 and that versatility makes him even more valuable. He is very strong and athletic. “He is a very good tackle, but clearly not a Suh or McCoy for one reason. His conditioning isn’t as great as those two. If he gets in better shape he could be as good as both. What impresses us is that he is so athletic.”
- Derrick Morgan DE Georgia Tech This three down player can at times on film almost appear to tip toe through defenders. He plays with a relentless motor and will benefit from one on one blocking until he can prove to NFL offensive coordinators that he is worthy of a double team. “The thing that really sticks out to us is that he plays. He doesn’t take plays off and you don’t have to take him off the field. He just keeps going and has a great attitude.”
- Rolando McClain LB Alabama McClain is used to an NFL system having played for Saban. He is smart, athletic and powerful. He makes others better with the way he plays and leads. “We see him as a Patrick Willis type player who only lacks Willis as a pass defender. We think he will continue to get better in passing situations, but we love what he brings to the table.”
- C.J. Spiller RB Clemson This back can do it all. Literally everything the NFL asks of a RB. The only question is that he has suffered injuries. If he can stay healthy the sky is the limit. “Based on talent this draft is Spiller and everyone else. If he hadn’t struggled with injuries he is the kind of back you would move up for. If health isn’t a concern whoever gets him will be thankful.”
- Maurkice Pouncey C Florida This center reminds a lot of people of Mike Webster the Steelers long time star. He has an amazing football IQ and talent. Has no issues with talent or character. “If Pouncey had the size to play OT he would be the consensus number one pick with a higher upside even over Suh. A great talent that you can’t find anything wrong with his game. Only an interior lineman, but he is the real deal. The only discussion you can have is that he will have to adjust to making line calls in the pro set from the spread.”
- Brandon Graham DE Michigan Graham has a high motor and a great skill set. He can demolish lineman and has a nose for the QB. He has short arms, but made #8 Bryan Bulaga look silly. “Graham isn’t great against the run and that hurts him. He will have to develop that, but he is relentless and there aren’t concerns about work ethic.”
- Mike Iupati G Idaho Big athletic and with a mean streak that inflicts fear on his opponents Iupati is a star. He can pull and for a 330-pound man he makes it look easy. “Iupati make playing the guard position look easy. There aren’t a lot of guards who are worth the money that a first round pick gets paid, but without a doubt he does. There isn’t a chance he doesn’t get picked in the first round. We have him and Suh as both can’t miss prospects.”
- Kyle Wilson CB Boise Wilson plays corner and can step up and play the run with the best of them. So many corners are afraid to mix it up. Not Wilson. He is fast and strong and can return kickoffs. “Wilson’s nose for stepping up in the run really sets him apart to us. He can struggle playing the ball in the air, but that is a rare thing and he will play right away for the team that picks him. He is very coachable so we think the ball issues are only a short term concern.”