INDIANAPOLIS — With the top 300-plus NFL Draft prospects here this week to be probed and prodded for strengths and weaknesses during the combine, those ratings by everybody with a vested interest will be on hold.
It is somewhat like a challenge in an NFL game. Opinions and perspectives will be under further review this week. After getting results of each player’s physical, medical, and character tests, most lists will be rearranged regardless of the usual claims that watching players in games is the best or only gauge to consider.
Of necessity, teams, scouts and the media already have their tentative, early ratings as a starting point.
Here is an analysis of NFLDraftScout’s Top-64 players going into the combine, much of which will certainly be under further review this week (Overall rating/positional rating, player, position, height, weight, estimated 40-year time and projected draft round):
1/1. *Leonard Williams, DT, Southern Cal, 6-5, 298, 4.88, 1 Williams is an artist who exhibits works on campus that he calls Artletics. On the field his best creation is himself as “Big Cat,” whose raw athleticism, agility and strength is destructive from any position on any defensive line configuration. At tackle in 2012 he was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman Player of the Year. At end in 2013 he had 74 tackles, 13.5 for a loss, despite a shoulder injury that kept him out of one game and less than full strength in most others. After off-season surgery, he still showed lingering effects last season, but that didn’t prevent scouts from comparing him to Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay, overall No. 3, 2010), Kevin Williams (Seattle, Minnesota, overall No. 9, 2003) and even J. J. Watt, Houston’s 2014 Defensive Player of the Year. He should be a terror in the NFL playing in a base 3-4 alignment as a five-technique end. Williams says he may skip the combine’s bench press as he continues to strengthen his shoulder.
2/1. *Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State, 6-4, 232, 4.86, 1 This big, tough, strong-armed quarterback displayed enough physical ability as a freshman in 2013 to win a national championship, a Heisman Trophy and rave notices from scouts on his pro potential. Despite a drop-off in efficiency in the 2014 season, he opted to enter the draft. Going into the combine, NFL teams are not that worried about his playing potential, although they note his trouble deciphering underneath coverage and the increase his TD-INT ratio from 40/10 in 2013 to 25/18 last season. Of more concern is the league’s rapidly-evolving, personal conduct policy and commissioner Roger Goodell’s shoot, ready, aim approach to punitive judgment. So Winston’s personal life is more important than his marvelous on-field abilities for teams wondering if he can be the face of a franchise. The concerns are that same face may also pose for a police mug shot considering Winston’s history includes a controversial sexual assault claim, multiple charges of petty theft and shouting obnoxious vulgarities in public. Winston has a natural, take-charge swagger and the self-confidence to succeed in the NFL on the field — if he can avoid trouble off of it.
3/1. *Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska, 6-6, 245, 4.76, 1 Here is a raw athlete who needs to be coached up and beefed to play up to his potential in the NFL and validate his own lofty self-appraisal. A defensive end at Nebraska, Gregory’s intensity, agility and sizzling closing speed scream he could be that coveted pass-rushing edge player that NFL quarterbacks hate. Growing up with parents in the military and on the move, Gregory was well-prepared for a vagabond football career that kind of goes full circle when he takes part in the NFL combine. He starred at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind., just outside of Indianapolis, where he promises to put on a shocking display of talent at the combine that starts Feb. 18. When he left high school, Gregory didn’t qualify academically after committing to Purdue and settled on Arizona Western JC, where he was impressive in 2011. He spent 2012 recovering from a broken leg and improving his GPA so he was able to choose among several top colleges and in 2013 made 66, 19 for a loss, and 10.5 sacks for Nebraska. His 2014 season was productive, but marred by multiple injuries (knee, ankle, head), a recurring theme that teams need consider. But in his own online posts, Gregory vows he “will turn a lot of heads” at the combine and “I think I’m worthy of the No. 1 pick.”
4/1. *Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama, 6-1, 210, 4.52, 1 Not as big or fast as some prospects, Cooper is consistently productive because he is just too clever to cover, best evidenced by a startling ability to separate himself from frustrated, would-be defenders. His formula for disappearing from defensive backs includes rare balance, intuition and precise cuts punctuated by an explosive, see-you later move. His dazzling talent became nationally-known after his 2011 high school season in the Under Amour All-America game when he scored on a 75-yard touchdown catch and a 93-yard punt return. In 2012, his 59 catches for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns erased Julio Jones’ freshman records. In 2013 he was slowed by injuries and defenses keyed to stop him. But last season a healthy Cooper set school and SEC records with 124 receptions and placed No. 2 in SEC history with 1,727 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns. While statistics aren’t always an accurate gauge, in Cooper’s case they are. Some scouts liken his play to Marvin Harrison, the prolific former Indianapolis Colts receiver and two time finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
5/2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon, 6-4, 215, 4.52, 1 Mariota was masterful in Oregon’s run-option, spread offense, which accentuated his raw athletic abilities to run and throw, often at the same time. Even conceding that his arm strength is NFL caliber (not counting a current shoulder problem), Mariota’s evaluations are burdened by a stark lack of success by similarly gifted quarterbacks who rewrote college record books, but were unable to transfer that talent to the pro game. The most consistently effective quarterbacks in the NFL include Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and even Andrew Luck — none of whom graduated from a primarily run/option college offense. Those college stars are still inconsistent or unfulfilled promises in the NFL — Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, and the most infamous example, Tim Tebow. Like Mariota, all but Kaepernick won a Heisman Trophy. But that obviously doesn’t pave the road to NFL success. Like them, Mariota’s has not proven he can process the game, go through his progressions, from within the pocket. Add the word “yet” and that is why some team will make him a high pick after being enamored with his impressive athleticism and spotless personal demeanor. And there is this — Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly recruited and coached Mariota at Oregon and brought his college-based concepts to the NFL.
6/1. Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa, 6-5, 320, 4.93, 1 The only thing scouts agree about on Scherff is that he is the most NFL-ready offensive lineman in the draft. The debate is whether he should use his broad-shoulders and toughness at guard, where he played as a freshman, or show his excellent technique at tackle, where he lined up on the left side the rest of his college career and was named consensus All-American and earned the Outland Trophy last season as the best college lineman. Those who believe he belongs inside are probably concerned that he doesn’t have quick footwork required against the NFL’s outside pass rushers, an issue not helped a broken fibula and dislocated ankle as a sophomore. Scherff first nurtured confusion about where to play him way back at Dennison (Iowa) High School where his football career included 1,200 yards passing as a sophomore; 200 yards and five touchdowns receiving as a junior and then, playing both sides of the line, led the team in tackling and blocking. Scherff also starred in baseball, tennis and was the state shot put champion as a sophomore. So at least the NFL has narrowed it down to one sport.
7/2. Danny Shelton, DT, Washington, 6-2, 343, 5.16, 1 This massive man looks as wide as he does tall (or short at under 6-foot-2). Every square inch of that square body is tough — his legs, arms and especially those rock-hard and lead-heavy hands. Hitch that mass to a great motor and you have a constant terror for offensive linemen. Although he collected 9.5 sacks among his 89 tackles last season, Shelton is more of plugger than a pass rusher. Still, surprisingly quick feet and persistence help him collect far more tackles in pursuit than one might expect. Shelton’s toughness goes beyond muscle and bone and to his core after coping with tragedy as a high school senior when he saw two older brothers shot to death.
8/2. *Shane Ray, DE, Missouri, 6-3, 245, 4.54, 1 Ray has the ability to become a star at the Indianapolis combine workouts. Considered the most dangerous edge rusher in this draft, Ray has an explosive first step and a variety of moves — including a devastating spin — and then finishes with great closing speed. That helped him total 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss last season, only his first as a full time starter. His quick ascent reflects his willingness to study films. Although already an ideal DRE for a 4-3 defense, Ray has ample ability to become even more dangerous as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. Ray’s on-field awareness, and overall athleticism are evident in his impressive ability to detect and destroy screen passes. His father, Wendell, was a fifth-round draftee by Minnesota (1981).
9/1. *Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida, 6-2, 261, 4.78, 1 Fowler looks better in game films than he probably will in workouts and the combine. He is effective at several positions on the defensive front and played right or left end (in 3-4 or 4-3), outside linebacker and even nose tackle in a nickel defense. He was able to play all those positions thanks to an impressive array of skills that compensate for the lack of sensational speed, strength or length. His effectiveness is based on quick feet, fluid athleticism and a motor reminiscent of the Energizer Bunny without the pink fur and sun glasses. His versatility offers flexibility when situation substitution is needed. While he lacks true read and react quickness, Fowler recognizes situations and is especially disciplined setting an edge. Fowler is a classic example of a player whose productivity exceeds expectations that are based only on measureable abilities.
10/2. *Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford, 6-7, 312, 5.28, 1 Although it is fashionable in football to seek tight ends on the basketball court, Peat is proof that experience on the hard-court helps develop the great footwork necessary to be a pass-blocking offensive tackle. The quick feet that helped lead Corona del Sol high school to a Division 1 Arizona State basketball championship, served Peat well at Stanford’s left tackle spot, where he won Morris Trophy last season as the best lineman in the Pac-12, per votes by opposing players. Although some scouts may quibble about Peat’s lack of a mean streak or toughness, they will rave about that agile footwork and ability to slide and glide into the face of pass rushers who have evil intentions regarding the most important player on the field, the quarterback. When he is drafted in the first round, Peat will have bragging rights at home where his father, Todd, was only an 11th round pick as an offensive lineman out of Northern Illinois in 1987 and played a total of seven years for the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals and Los Angeles Raiders.
11/1. *Landon Collins, SS, Alabama, 6-0, 222, 4.53, 1 Collins’ first exposure to national attention was when he announced on an ESPNU broadcast during a prep all-star game that he selected Alabama over LSU. The disapproving reaction of his mother, April Justin, lit up social media. Regardless, he was the No. 1 ranked prep safety then and is now the top ranked safety in the draft. Collins played both strong and free in college, but is much more effective using his aggression as an attacker than he is in coverage. Collins is long and strong enough to deal with tight ends and battle them for the ball, but not fluid or fast enough to handle clever little slot receivers. His aggressive nature belies Collins when he overreacts to play-action or is looked off by a quarterback. But scouts said the same thing about a guy named Ronnie Lott out of USC in 1981 and he managed to overcome it. To be clear, that is just an example, not a comparison.
12/2. Kevin White, WR, West Virginia, 6-3, 210, 4.49, 1 In a class heavy with good wide receivers, White will be closely scrutinized at the combine in Indianapolis, especially for his time running 40 yards. There is no question about his size, an imposing 6-foot-3, or sure hands that caught 109 catches for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014. But it was constantly noted that White’s speed was something less than elite and his college success was based on out-jumping rather than out-running defenders. It will be different in the NFL, the story goes. Still, White’s best trait is an ability to high-point a pass and out-muscle a defender for the ball, a major plus in any end zone, college or pro. And, keeping Jerry Rice’s mid 4.5-second 40-yard clocking in mind, White’s timed speed may be moot. More subtle is how he remains in constant control while running, able to make a coordinated attack on the ball when others might be caught off-stride. Go ahead, measure that.
13/3. La’el Collins, OT, LSU, 6-5, 308, 5.12, 1 Here is a mean-spirited offensive lineman with potential to play right tackle or either guard position in the NFL, but does not have the pass-blocking ability needed to be a left tackle. On running plays, Collins can launch his broad, muscular frame straight forward with alarming quickness, then engage the strength of his lower body and massive hands (10 3/4 inches) to steer defenders out of harm’s way. Although he can get to the next level, he is not nimble enough to be an effective open-field blocker. Collins is improving as a pass blocker, but too much aggression and not enough balance make him susceptible to both speed rushers and end/tackle games that require patience he does not have. Like most good linemen, Collins studies and understands what he sees on film and will eventually mature enough to respond correctly on the field.
14/4. T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh, 6-5, 307, 5.14, 1 At this point, Clemmings’ ratings as a pro prospect are based almost entirely on projection, not production. Per his mother’s wishes, Clemmings didn’t play football (foosball) until his junior year in high school. That was enough to earn a scholarship at Pittsburgh, although as a defensive end. He moved to the offensive line for the first time near the end of the 2012 season. Clemmings can be impressive on most of the individual steps required at tackle, but he has not yet learned the whole dance. He has a broad build and the pre-requisite long arms (34 7/8th inches) and nimble feet expected at left tackle. He is still in mid-learning curve as a pass blocker, which was obvious when he was victimized at the Senior Bowl practices by moves and countermoves that left him lunging the wrong way.
15/2. Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson, 6-2, 235, 4.58, 1 Beasley doesn’t pass the eyeball test until the ball is snapped and he shows the surprising up-field moves that netted 33 quarterback sacks and elicited comparisons to the NFL’s Von Miller. But before that snap, Beasley looks too slight to be an effective defensive player on the front seven. His frame does not appear sturdy enough to pile on more muscle to create even the illusion of an every-down defender. However, in an NFL era ever more conducive to quarterbacks bloating their passing stats, the cry for anti-air attack weaponry is loud. So even if Beasley is a one-trick pony, his one trick is prized. He leverages a blink-quick first step into an effective array of pass rushes. If a blocker steps out to take on the up-field rush, Beasley darts inside. Or vice versa. Although he seems to have abilities to play sideline-to-sideline, Beasley appears lost doing something other than chasing down somebody in the backfield.
16/3. DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville, 6-3, 209, 4.48, 1 This tall and talented receiver plays with swagger and dares defensive backs to challenge him. In 2013, Parker was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s primary target and tied a school record with a dozen touchdown catches. After missing six games with a foot injury in 2014, Parker caught 43 passes for 855 yards, a gaudy average of 19.9 yards per grab and 142.5 yards per game. He lit up FSU’s supposedly talented secondary with eight catches for 214 yards. Parker’s wingspan offers a target 80 inches across with big, soft hands to finish the job. Wait, there’s more. Scouts say he is still refining his craft as a route-runner and his tough-minded approach should help jump-start his pro career. Although Parker does not explode off the line, his long-striding style of running makes him deceptively fast at top speed. He is also a load after the catch and doesn’t go down easily.
17/3. Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky, 6-4, 267, 4.63, 1 For the team looking for an athletic, versatile, productive, consistent player, this Bud’s for you. Dupree, a respected leader on and off the field who answers to the simple nickname Bud, leaves Kentucky after mauling offenses with 247 tackles, four forced fumbles, five passes defensed and a total of 23.5 sacks that is second best in school history. His overall athletic ability was obvious in high school, where he was better known for his play at tight end and a basketball star who led Irwinton’s Wilkinson County High to a Class A Georgia State championship. When he funneled all his energy into one sport at Kentucky, Dupree became a special player whose varied abilities should be valuable in the NFL, where he can be a dangerous pass rusher and even drop into coverage. He has quick feet and hands and is best at eluding, rather than confronting, blockers. Dupree added 15 pounds of muscle in college and can use even more to help improve his ability to disengage.
18/3. *Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington, 6-2, 231, 4.56, 1 There is little doubt that Thompson can play, but the question some NFL team must answer is — where? Size-wise, he looks like a safety, which may be where he is projected, but Thompson made a lot of big plays from outside linebacker in college and in 2014 showed talent as a running back. Thompson’s dynamic athleticism and great football IQ were obvious at Sacramento’s Grant High School, where he was rated the No. 1 prep safety in the country following a senior season in which he rushed for 1,134 yards and 15 touchdowns (down from 1,882, 25 TDs as junior), passed for 839 yards (eight TDs), totaled 54 tackles and even punted. He was already drafted once, by the MLB Boston Red Sox, and played in the Gulf Coast League in 2012, but Thompson could be a major-league hit in the NFL. After scoring four of his six 2014 touchdowns on defense, including a 100-yard fumble return, Thompson won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player.
19/1. *Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State, 6-1, 183, 4.53, 1 The son of track star parents — Ron and Erin Waynes — Trae was born to be fast, which became obvious at Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wis. He had the fastest time in 40 yards (4.37 seconds) at the 2010 Midwest Ultimate 100 Camp and won the 60- and 220-yard dashes that same year at the county championships. As a defensive back, however, his ability to handle man coverage is more impressive than his speed, some of which apparently didn’t transfer from track to the football field. Instead, his instincts and length make him the boss in most one-on-one situations. Scouts rave that Waynes is menacing in press and cover-two assignments and should be an asset against the NFL’s tall and talented receivers. But, going into the combine at Indianapolis, it seems ironic that his final draft grade may hinge on how fast he is against the clock in 40 yards.
20/3. *Malcom Brown, DT, Texas, 6-4, 320, 5.24, 1 For an NFL team seeking a durable defensive lineman with experience, maturity and size, Brown checks all the boxes. He began playing organized football at seven years old, so Brown was quite the veteran defensive lineman at Brenham (Texas) High when he was named prep All-America and then played in the 2012 Under Armour All American game. At Texas, Brown played in all 13 games as a freshman and became a dominant starter all 26 games as a junior and senior, finishing 2014 with 64 tackles, including 14 for loss and 6.5 sacks. Not to confuse experience with maturity, Brown shows plenty of the latter as a husband and responsible parent for two daughters. But this big daddy’s best asset on the field is size as he easily fills out that broad, 6-foot-4 frame with 320 pounds of muscle that serves him well as a stout run-stopper. Although he has quick feet, Brown lacks the agility necessary to be a constant pass-rush threat. Still his resume’ as a 4-3 defensive end and nose tackle and end in a 3-4 should help him get a job offer early in this draft.
21/1. *Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin, 6-1, 207, 4.52, 1 After Montee Ball and James White, Gordon is Wisconsin’s latest and greatest running back contribution to pro football. In 2014, he showed agility and acceleration reminiscent of former temporary Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and a jump cut that would make LaDainian Tomlinson proud while bursting for 2,587 yards rushing, only 42 yards short of Barry Sanders’ FBS record 2,628 yards (Oklahoma State, 1988). Scout sources say he ran 40 yards in the low 4.4-second range last spring. Gordon doesn’t have the power to push many piles, is still refining the art of receiving and may need to readjust his compass to true north more quickly in the NFL, where dancing should be limited to the end zone. But his natural abilities still make him a home-run threat whenever he touches the ball, such as those 17 runs of more than 40 yards last year. Gordon is the odds-on favorite to renew faith, or at least interest, in the once-glamorous running back position.
22/2. *Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia, 6-1, 226, 4.52, 1 Gurley is a big back with a fearless, in-your-face style that is similar to Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch’s Beast Mode. Gurley was on track to be a top-10 draft pick until Nov. 15, 2014 when he tore the ACL in his left knee, which was surgically repaired Nov. 26 and the ETA for a return to combat approximately the time of his 21st birthday on August 3. Gurley was a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, but that disappeared even before the ACL injury when, on October 9, he was suspended indefinitely — which turned into four games — for accepting $3,000 to autograph memorabilia. In his first game back, Gurley blew out the ACL, leaving his yards rushing for the year at an ominous total of 911. More red flags: Gurley missed three games with an ankle injury in 2013 and after his departure last season, his replacement, Nick Chubb, was so productive that some scouts wonder if Georgia’s offensive line should get more credit.
23/4. *Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma, 6-6, 334, 5.34, 1 Phillips is a huge — very huge — gamble who can be a bad man on the football field, and define that any way you want. This enormous athlete shows great strength, quick feet, violent hands and the ability to drop low and use up two blockers almost with ease. But just as often, Phillips gave little or no effort in college, probably the most obvious concern on his resume. So the NFL team that takes Phillips will do so on his projection, not production. A four- and five-star recruit out of Circle High School in Towanda, Kansas, Phillips had a slow start at Oklahoma. He redshirted in 2011 and served as a backup in 2012. He became a starter in 2013, but after four games required surgery for multiple problems with his back. So, not counting the 68 tackles and eight sacks he had as a high-school senior, Phillips’ only decent year was 2014 when he managed 39 tackles, seven for a loss and two sacks. He seems to have the athletic ability to become a big, big star in the underwear Olympics part of the combine. But teams will focus more on his character in interviews and medical reports on that surgically-repaired back.
24/5. *Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami, 6-5, 324, 5.26, 1 The only real concern about Flowers is the possibility of any lingering effects from a knee injury last season, although he showed his already well-known toughness and dedication by missing only one game following a so-called minor surgical procedure. Otherwise, he knows how to use his humongous frame to block for both the pass and the run. He shows excellent football instincts as a pass protector with experience on the left side, but at his core Flowers is mean-spirited mauler who loves to out-muscle defenders until the whistle stops blowing. If doctors give Flowers clearance, some teams may be willing to call his name in the middle of the first round.
25/4. *Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri/Oklahoma, 6-5, 225, 4.49, 1 Make no mistake, it is his own fault that Green-Beckham’s roller-coaster life is in its current precarious position. Born in St. Louis as Dorial Green, the third of six children from his single mother, Charmelle Green, he never knew his biological father, whose genetic contribution is nevertheless obvious (see size, 6-foot-5, 225 pounds). After several foster homes, Green spent three years with John Beckham, a football coach at Hillcrest High (Springfield, Mo.), and his wife Tracy. In 2009, the Beckhams officially adopted Dorial and his younger brother Darnell (who is being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, reportedly in remission). Dorial flourished in football as a two-time USA Today prep All-America and USA Today Player of the Year after a mind-boggling senior season — 119 receptions, 2,233 yards, 24 touchdowns. At Missouri, his size, speed and production warranted a top-10 NFL draft pick. But he has two arrests for possession of marijuana and an accusation last April of pushing a female down some stairs, for which the school released him. With an NCAA investigation pending, Green-Green transferred to Oklahoma, but never played there. He entered the draft where teams must now reconcile his abilities against the NFL’s increasing diligence against abhorrent off-field behavior, especially domestic violence.
26/6. Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State, 6-5, 308, 5.16, 1-2 Erving expands the definition of versatility. After redshirting in 2010 with back problems and doing fairly well as a defensive lineman in 2011, Ervin found his calling in the spring of 2012. He was moved to offensive tackle because the team needed somebody to protect quarterback EJ Manuel’s blind side, which Erving did surprisingly well. After earning numerous honors in 2013 protecting quarterback Jameis Winston, Erving considered the draft but returned for one more season, and one more position when he was needed as a center in a November comeback victory over Miami. Erving is above average in most areas, but has potential to be his quarterback’s keeper in the NFL.
27/5. *Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State, 6-3, 215, 4.55, 1-2 Aptly named, Strong is almost animalistic in how he pursues a football. He shows exceptional hand-eye coordination that maximizes his long arms and huge hands. Add to that intense focus and an ability to snag the ball regardless of its trajectory or defensive traffic and this is a receiver with mad ball skills. Academically ineligible for most colleges after high school, Strong sat out the 2011 season then grabbed footballs and attention at Pierce Junior College in 2012 (67 catches, 1,268 yards, 15 touchdowns). He improved each year at Arizona State with 75 catches, 1,122 yards, seven scores in 2013 and 82 receptions for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Strong’s father, John Rankin, was a standout basketball player at Drexel, but died of leukemia when Jaelen was only nine.
28/6. Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn, 6-2, 213, 4.36, 1-2 Coates is gifted with a combination of size, speed and muscularity rarely packaged in one wide receiver. He uses all that to simplify the game into a footrace toward the horizon, using his goodbye speed to scorch defenses by just running straight down the field until there is only himself and the ball, assuming the quarterback can reach him. That worked great in Auburn’s run-based offense in 2013 when Coates converted 42 catches into 902 yards (21.5 per grab) and seven touchdowns. Playing on a sore knee last season he added 34 catches for 741 yards (21.8 per catch) as he continued to make football look like a simple footrace. That should make Coates a highlight in the 40-yard dash at the Indianapolis combine. But while straight line speed is a great asset, pro scouts would like to know if he can master other nuances of the game.
29/2. *Marcus Peters, CB, Washington, 6-0, 198, 4.52, 1-2 With his father, Michael, a long-time assistant and now head coach at Oakland’s McClymonds High and hometown idol Marshawn Lynch as a close friend, Peters is a natural on the football field and plays like he grew up in the game. Trouble is, he obviously hasn’t grown up emotionally and after several incidents was dismissed from the Washington football team in November by coach Chris Peterson, who admits Peters isn’t malicious and wished him well. It was a sad ending to a college career that screamed first-round draft pick as Peters had five interceptions in 2013 and three more playing sporadically last year. But he had repeated clashes with the coaching staff and multiple suspensions. His his overall disrespectful demeanor led to his being dismissed. If Peters expects to show his outstanding coverage and even return ability in the NFL, he must convince scouts and coaches he at least is trying to mature.
30/5. *Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State, 6-3, 320, 5.28, 1-2 Goldman appears to be a natural disaster for offenses when he lines up his broad, 320-pound body on the inside. But he had to settle for serving time as an end in 2013 on a talent-laden defense that ranked first in the nation, yielding only 12.1 points per game. The experience served him well and may have improved his quickness and range. As a tackle, Goldman’s powerful legs and lower body allow him to collapse the pocket and prevent quarterbacks from stepping up. Although he was suspended for the Bethune-Cookman game in 2013 for violating team rules he is not considered a problem player.
31/3. Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami (Ohio), 5-11, 193, 4.52, 1-2 A football and basketball star out of Wilmington High School in Ohio, Rollins was a four-year starter at point guard for the Redhawks hard-court team where his 214 steals are second best in school history. But he suspected he might not have a future in the NBA and decided last year to try and get some steals in football as a defensive back. Rollins went from zero to hero in a single season and was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year after finishing with 72 tackles and a conference high seven interceptions, good for third in the nation. NFLDraftScout.com’s Dane Brugler notes the obvious, saying Rollins is “very raw technically and still learning trends and tendencies at the position. Unpolished recognition skills and needs to better anticipate route concepts and how to leverage the field.”
32/7. *Devin Funchess, WR/TE, Michigan, 6-5, 230, 4.63, 1-2 After earning freshman All-America honors as a tight end in 2012, then winning the Big-Ten Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year Award in 2013, one might think he was made for that position. In reality, Funchess was more of a hybrid much of his sophomore year and in 2014 he moved outside full time and donned the No. 1 jersey famously worn by previous star wideouts at Michigan, including Anthony Carter and Braylon Edwards. He did the jersey proud, catching 62 passes for 733 yards and four touchdowns and finished with at least one reception in 24 straight games, tied for the ninth-longest streak in school history. Funchess uses his length and great flexibility to get to the ball, but despite history as a tight end he is a bit lean and should put on some muscle before doing battle in the NFL.
33/4. *P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State, 6-0, 196, 4.48, 1-2 A feisty character who talks the talk and backs it up. He might become an outstanding coverage corner in the NFL if he keeps his hands to himself and avoids downfield penalties. As a true freshman in 2012, Williams collected 14 tackles in 14 games, then added 35 tackles and three interceptions as a sophomore. But his big moment was in the 2014 BCS National Championship game when he had seven tackles and an interception and was named Defensive MVP. Williams played through early hamstring problems early last season, but still showed his aggressiveness as a sure tackler and was named first-team All-ACC. Williams can help immediately on special teams, both in coverage and as a returner, a skill he showed way back as a sophomore at Ocala’s Vangard High School when he averaged 33.8 yards per runback with four touchdowns.
34/4. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA, 6-4, 266, 4.79, 1-2 Although his statistics aren’t startling, Odighizuwa can be as difficult to block as it is to pronounce his name, which goes something like this: “Oh-wah-MAH-bay Oh-DIGGY-zoo-wah.” After missing 2013 due to two hip surgeries, his return to action in 2014 was impressive as he was named team co-captain and tied for the team lead with 11.5 tackles for a loss. He showed his versatility as a tough edge player in the Bruins’ versatile 3-4 defense and was especially impressive neutralizing blockers. By far the biggest concern is his health. Odighizuwa had surgery on his left hip after the 2012 season, sat out spring ball in 2013 only to require a second surgery, this time on his right hip.
35/1. *Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota, 6-4, 250, 4.85, 1-2 After only 25 games, Williams declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore. He caught 61 passes for 986 yards (an average of 16.2 per catch) and 13 touchdowns. Last season he was named the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year and voted All-Big Ten First Team by the coaches and media. Williams is effective creating separation and shows supreme confidence — and results — going after the ball in any situation. His father, Brian, also played at Minnesota as a center and was an 18th overall pick by the New York Giants (1989-1999). His mother, Rochelle, played volleyball at Minnesota and his grandfather was a Notre Dame quarterback and drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1959.
36/4. *Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia, 6-4, 235, 4.73, 1-2 Versatile athlete at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, where he spent his senior year playing quarterback, running back and wide receiver on offense while accounting for 1,146 total yards and 20 touchdowns as well as being a star on defense. He switched to defense at Virginia as an outside linebacker/defensive end in a multiple 3-4 scheme. He became a starter as a sophomore and in the last two seasons used his hyper-active style to compile career stats that include 36.5 tackles for a loss, including 17.5 sacks.
37/7. Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State, 6-6, 309, 5.27, 1-2 This big boy’s unusual athleticism might best be reflected when he does back flips and freestyle tricks skiing, a sport in which he won the USSA titles in the Far West Division for his age group in the slalom, and giant slalom. In football, Sambrailo helped turn around the sagging football program at St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High in the little seaside town of Watsonville (Calif.). He was a three-year team captain, played offensive tackle, defensive end, defensive tackle, tight end and placekicker for the Sharks, who advanced to the CIF north Division II playoffs in both 2008 and 2009. Oh yes, he also played soccer and as a junior made second-team all-conference as a kicker in football. At Colorado State, he continued to impress with his overall athleticism as a key blocker in a prolific offense. He has the footwork and agility to be an NFL tackle but may be moved to guard.
38/5. *Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon, 6-7, 296, 4.97, 1-2 After serving as a solid, sometimes sensational, defensive lineman since his freshman season, Armstead decided to play for pay after his junior season. Even among large athletes, this is one imposing man whose combination of height, weight, muscle, long arms and big hands are so impressive he might be seen as a caricature of what a coach wants to see in a defensive end. He excels against the run and is improving quickly as a pass rusher, where he has quickness off the line and his nimble footwork reflects his background in basketball, which he also played as a college freshman.
39/6. Carl Davis, DT, Iowa, 6-5, 321, 5.12, 1-2 Davis has the type of deep-rooted, natural ballast that makes him almost impossible to move. In fact, he might be more menacing if he would uproot all that power and expand his field of influence. He has strong hands that he uses well to control blockers, but needs to remember to stop wrestling, disengage and go after whoever has the ball. Some scouts feel he could be more effective if he had a nastier attitude, but that may be a hard sell to those blockers he pounded into the ground. Although he finished with only 34 tackles and two sacks last year, his impact goes well beyond those statistics. He dislocated his kneecap during his redshirt freshman year and underwent knee surgery in the spring of 2012.
40/5. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon, 5-09, 195, 4.46, 1-2 After showing first-round talent since his freshman season, Ekpre-Olumu’s projections as a pro prospect were thrown into turmoil in December when he tragically blew out his knee (torn ACL) in practice. This soon after surgery it is probably too early for doctors to determine if, how and when he will return to action so it is difficult to predict how high or low he might be drafted. Recent history says standout players with such an injury can fall to the third or fourth round. Just before the injury, Ekpre-Olumu was considered one of the top cornerbacks in the country and was a semifinalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Jim Thorpe and Bednarik awards. He was second on the team in pass breakups (6) and interceptions (2) as opponents learned to stay away from him.
41/3. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA, 6-3, 227, 4.64, 2 In a draft that some believe is the worst in years at quarterback, Hundley is the “other” guy when discussions begin, and often end, with opinions on Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Regardless, Hundley is a big, athletic, dual-threat quarterback who was a recruiting coup by the Bruins after he earned a five-star rating at Chandler High School (Arizona) with 2,348 yards and 20 touchdowns passing and 856 yards with nine more touchdowns rushing. After redshirting in 2011, Hundley looked like all that as he threw for a UCLA record 3,740 yards with 29 touchdowns against only nine interceptions as the Bruins finished atop the Pac 12 South. Hundley finished his career with 11,713 yards passing, 75 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. Despite the statistical success, scouts feel he has not improved in college and still lacks poise in the pocket. Those same scouts watched San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick struggle in 2014 for the same reason, which further hurt Hundley’s draft stock.
42/5. Nate Orchard, OLB, Utah, 6-3, 252, 4.76, 2 Orchard has a high-rev motor and can fire off the line in a blink as a pass rusher whose long strides surprise quarterbacks with a sudden impact. That helped him total 18.5 sacks in 2014 and he finished his career with an impressive stat on an important trait that is often overlooked, forced fumbles. His eight forced fumbles is tied for second in team history. Orchard was a Ted Hendricks Award and Morris Award winner, but his biggest prizes are his wife, the former Maegen Webber, and their daughter, Katherine Mae, whose full name is Nap’aa Lilo Fakahafua Orchard in respect for his birth mother, Ana Fakahafua.
43/6. *Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU, 6-6, 240, 4.68, 2 Hunter declared for the draft with a year of eligibility left, but probably could have benefitted by staying in college where he could improve his pass rush. Hunter does a solid job against the run by leveraging his unusual length, something that becomes a liability for some. Rob Rang’s analysis says Hunter “looks more like a tight end than a traditional pass rusher, with broad shoulders, very long arms and plenty of room for additional muscle. His exciting combination of length, balance, awareness and agility helped him make plays against the run and pass.” Rang red-flags Hunter’s inconsistent get-off, which is one of the things he could have worked on with another year at LSU.
44/6. Paul Dawson, OLB, TCU, 6-2, 230, 4.76, 2 A former high school wide receiver, Dawson begged to play defense at Trinity Valley Community College, explaining “I’m the type of dude who has a high motor. I couldn’t just wait for the quarterback to sit there and be like, ‘Throw me the ball.'” It was the right move. At TCU, Dawson was the 2014 Big 12 Coach’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was the only player in the nation with at least 100 tackles (128), five sacks and four interceptions. He totaled 18.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, five pass breakups and five quarterback hurries. Dawson is probably limited to playing outside linebacker in a predominately 4-3 scheme, but has those fast feet from his days as a wide receiver and relies on them to slip around blocks, rather than physically taking them on.
45/1. A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina, 6-3, 311, 5.18, 2 This brutish bull of a man, or bullish brute of a man if you prefer, was a cornerstone on the South Carolina front line and played in all but one game since his redshirt freshman year in 2011. By last season he was the unquestioned leader of the offensive line and was named first-team All-America by The Sporting News, ESPN.com and CBS Sports. His 51 starts are the second most in school history behind only T.J. Johnson’s 53. In structure and attitude, Cann is best suited for sheer power and should not be expected to waste all that power in a zone-blocking scheme that requires more footwork than force. Still, he does need to improve his ability to play on the run to round out his game.
46/8. Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State, 6-0, 190, 4.38, 2 It is appropriate that Smith is best known by college football fans for his dramatic, one-handed catch two years ago in the season opener vs. Miami (Ohio). It was no fluke. Smith has been more of a big-play threat than consistent pass catcher for the Buckeyes in his career and is one of the most dangerous vertical threats in the country, averaging 27.2 yards per reception, second only to Miami’s Phillip Dorsett. Still, Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com says Smith is a “frustrating prospect because he shows the striding speed to stretch the field, but (has) inconsistent tracking skills, which makes him late to adjust and leads to focus drops. Aside from go routes downfield, he is unproven as a route-runner. His speed is mostly straight-line and his lean frame looks near maxed out.” Sounds like Smith should have a match race in 40 yards at the Indianapolis combine against Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates (see No. 28).
47/3. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska, 5-8, 198, 4.48, 2 Here is an athlete with phenomenal running ability, agility, acceleration and instincts and a leader in the locker room and the community. But the medics must take a close look at Abdullah during the combine in Indianapolis. He seemed to overcome a sprained left MCL against Purdue when, after a bye week, he appeared limited but played through the pain against Wisconsin and for the rest of the season. He still finished with his third consecutive 1,000-yard season rushing, this time 1,611 yards to follow up his 1,690 in 2013. Abdullah finished his career with 4,588 yards rushing, second only to Mike Rozier’s NU record of 4,780 yards. But that prolific college production may cut both ways for an NFL team looking to make a sound investment. Abdullah is not a large back and there is a price to pay for playing in all 53 of his college games. Along with his 886 touches as a rusher or receiver, he also returned 61 kickoffs and 31 punts. And all that is not even considering those final two high school seasons in which he rushed for almost 3,000 yards.
48/1. Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA, 6-0, 230, 4.68, 2 An all around athlete at Fresno High (California), where he played linebacker, quarterback, running back, kicker and punter, Kendricks is the top rated inside linebacker in this draft after a consistently productive college career. Kendricks capped off his spectacular stay at UCLA by earning the Butkus Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy in 2014 when he led the country with 101 solo tackles among 149 total stops despite a nagging hamstring problem. Making an argument for nature over nurture, Eric again shows off the Kendricks genetics previously exhibited by brother Mychal, a former Cal linebacker now with the Philadelphia Eagles, and their father, Marvin, a star running back at UCLA who played in the CFL. Like Mychal, Eric has that rare read-and-react instinct necessary to be a great inside linebacker. Eric may be the most aggressive player in the family, yet the traits that may make him one of the best in the NFL are the fluid athleticism and quickness that allow him to be in position to make all those plays.
49/7. Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State, 6-2, 288, 4.96, 2 Bennett is a hyperactive defensive tackle with range, quickness and the mental discipline one might expect from somebody whose parents both graduated from West Point. Bennett capped a complete, four-year career with 35 tackles and six sacks in 2014 to follow up a 2013 season in which he collected 44 tackles, 11.5 for a loss and 7.5 sacks. Although he lacks great strength to throw blockers aside, Bennett relies on quick, decisive moves to slide between opponents and persistence that gives him range to do damage even when the play doesn’t come his way. Bennett missed four games in 2012 with a groin injury, otherwise his opponents took more of a beating than he did.
50/2. Laken Tomlinson, OG, Duke, 6-3, 323, 5.23, 2 Tomlinson, born in Jamaica, relocated to the U.S. when he was 10 and didn’t play football until he was a freshman at Lane Technical High School in Chicago. He picked up the game so well that Duke recruited him as both an offensive and defensive lineman and waited to see how he turned out. After some adjustment, he started and starred at right guard in 52 games over the last four years and was a three-time All-ACC first-team selection. He appears to be perfectly constructed for an NFL guard with thick hips and a broad upper body that is difficult to neutralize. But he seems a bit robotic at times and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to taking on more athletic defenders in the NFL.
51/9. *Nelson Agholor, WR, Southern Cal, 6-1, 190, 4.49, 2 Although he was born in Nigeria where his father, Felix, was a soccer player, Agholor was already a dazzling football player as a junior at Berkeley Prep in Tampa, Fla., when he rushed for 1,440 yards, added 323 yards on returns and grabbed three interceptions. As a high-school senior, he demanded the attention of college recruiters with his dynamic play at running back (1,983 yards rushing, 28 touchdowns), wide receiver (10 catches, 117 yards, two TDs), cornerback (three interceptions) and punt returner (8 at 32 yards per). So it was hardly surprising that he was one of the most exciting receivers and returners in a career at USC that included 178 catches for 2,572 yards with 20 touchdowns and 36 punt returns for 548 yards and a school record four scores. Agholor is a fierce competitor with excellent work habits in the weight and film rooms and takes his role as a team leader seriously.
52/4. *Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State, 6-0, 216, 4.54, 2 Born in London to Nigerian parents, Ajayi moved to the U.S. in 2000 and was an outstanding soccer player recruited by the Nigerian National team. But when the family moved to Texas, he showed serious talent at Frisco Liberty High School in both track and football of the American type. He was recruited by Boise State where he had a tough time in 2011 when he tore an ACL as a redshirt freshman and was arrested for stealing sweatpants. Time has healed and matured Ajayi and in 2014 he set school records for rushing yards (1,823), carries (347), all-purpose yardage (2,358), rushing touchdowns (28) and 100-yard rushing performances (10). He obviously benefitted from his days playing soccer as he runs with great balance at all times and can explode in any direction at any time. Although he added weight to his soccer body, Ajayi can use even more muscle up top and in his legs to avoid easy takedowns. For a guy who grew up depending on his feet, Ajayi is surprisingly effective as a receiver where he shows exceptional hand-eye coordination.
53/8. Daryl Williams, OT, Oklahoma, 6-5, 334, 5.23, 2 Although Williams’ thick body and initial quickness are impressive, he doesn’t really show the elite footwork necessary to cope with pass rushers in the NFL. After being exposed by speedy defenders at the Senior Bowl workouts, there was talk among scouts who feel Williams may be a more reliable guard in the NFL. Certainly his natural mass, great strength and powerful drive blocking would be definite assets on the inside. Still, Williams has a great understanding of pass protection although he sometimes can’t transfer his film study to the field, where he is sometimes mesmerized by simple line stunts.
54/2. Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami, 5-11, 244, 4.72, 2 Perryman was a playmaker from the first day he suited up until he ended his career last season by being named to the coaches’ first-team All-ACC. He showed versatility along the way, moving outside as a junior (108 tackles, five for a loss) then inside last season (110 tackles, 9.5 for a loss). Although he is undersized, he measures very close to the same as Wisconsin’s Chris Borland, a third-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers who collected 108 tackles as a rookie last season. While that sounds like a great precedent, Perryman is not really a frenetic, hyperactive tackling machine like Borland. Perryman is more of a deliberate, focused defensive quarterback who reads plays well and uses a combination of quickness and good angles to get in on plays and is an efficient open-field tackler.
55/7. *Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State, 6-3, 294, 4.88, 2 Since his first start in the 2012 ACC championship game when he replaced an injured Tank Carradine at right end, Edwards demonstrated an impressive combination of athleticism, strength and instincts that enabled him to be a force both as an edge-setter against the run, and a power rusher who can threaten the pocket inside or out against the pass. Per analysis, Edward “utilizes long arms and strong hands to keep blockers out of his frame, and does a good job of maintaining vision, awareness and patience when engaged with taller opponents,” but adds that “Edwards will need to improve in his snap count anticipation. … and he’s frequently the last lineman off the ball.” Edwards, who had 23 tackles and three sacks last season, is a Jr., in the sense that his father of the same name was a cornerback at FSU and in the NFL.
56/5. *Duke Johnson, RB, Miami, 5-09, 206, 4.42, 2 Johnson created high expectations early when he came out of Miami Norland High as the No. 1 rated running back prospect and was being compared to the fleet Chris Johnson, who was then known for his 2,000-yard season for the Tennessee Titans (although he will be a free agent after a disappointing season with the New York Jets). Duke didn’t disappoint at Miami when he finally stayed healthy last season, playing in all 13 games as he rushed for 1,652 yards and emerged as a receiving threat out of the backfield leading the league in all-purpose yards with 2,073, averaging 7.4 yards every time he touched the ball. That gave him some redemption after a 2013 season in which injuries allowed him to play only eight games, although he averaged 174.1 all-purpose yards per before an ankle injury ended his season. After his family lived out of a car for a while with his mother, Cassandra Mitchell, Johnson is driven to become a provider.
57/3. *Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Mississippi State, 6-4, 249, 4.58, 2 A two-way starter at Rosa Fort High School (Tunica, Miss.), McKinney was a prolific quarterback who accounted for 2,036 total yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior. Still, high school coaches knew linebacker was his best position and selected him to play defense in the North/South All-Star game. After redshirting one year at Mississippi State, McKinney left no doubts what position he should play when his 102 tackles at inside linebacker were the second highest total in the nation for a freshman. Coaches are impressed with McKinney’s football character and intelligence and he is a natural leader on the field. He should be more versatile than many inside linebackers with measurable athletic ability that includes a 40-yard time in the mid 4.5-second range and a 34-inch vertical jump. Although that speed and range gets him within reach of a lot of plays, he needs to learn to use his hands to fend off blockers and finish more plays.
58/1. Reese Dismukes, C, Auburn, 6-3, 295, 5.27, 2 Listed as the nation’s top center prospect coming out of Spanish Fort High School in Alabama, Dismukes quickly lived up to those rave notices at Auburn and almost jumped into the 2014 NFL draft. He returned to improve his technique, but he still had trouble coping with powerful nose tackles, which showed up as late as the Senior Bowl workouts. But he definitely has the drive and ability to project as a second-round pick in this draft and should soon be using those strong, albeit small, hands to snap the ball as a starting center in the NFL. The obvious reason for his trouble with big nose tackles is that, at 295 pounds, he is actually small for a center these days, as are his 8 1/4-inch hands.
59/2. Clive Walford, TE, Miami, 6-4, 254, 4.87, 2 After showing constant improvement while playing 37 consecutive games at Miami, Walford injured his knee in the 2014 regular-season finale against Pitt. He underwent surgery and, somewhat surprisingly, took part in the Senior Bowl in January. Still, teams will be especially interested in his medical report from the combine. Despite the injury, Walford’s final season was his most productive as he used his huge hands (10.5 inches) and long arms (34 inches) to catch 44 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. Walford, a star basketball player in high school, improved year after year in college and last season played faster and with more confidence as a receiver. He also matured into a team leader and is now engaged and raising a son.
60/6. *Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana, 6-0, 210, 4.59, 2 Coleman displayed athleticism to spare at Oak Forest High School where he spread the wealth as a dynamic running back, wide receiver, cornerback, kick and punt returner and was a champion long-jumper (23-feet, 0.25 inches). Not bad for a kid born three months early and given only a 20 percent chance to live. Coleman is a rare combination of wild athletic ability and religious leader who is so solidly grounded his nickname is Rock. As a junior at Indiana last year, Coleman became the 18th player in FBS history to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a single season (2,036) and his 7.5 average per carry is the fifth-highest among those 18 2k rushers. Except for lacking impressive power and a problem with fumbling, Coleman is exceptional at all tasks required of a running back. Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com compares Coleman to Dallas Cowboys star DeMarco Murray in terms of body type, running style, toughness and home-run ability.
61/1. Cody Prewitt, FS, Mississippi, 6-2, 212, 4.59, 2 Prewitt is a muscular athlete with a substantial frame and long arms (33 inches), although his hands are surprisingly small (8 7/8 inches). After playing some strong safety his freshman year at Mississippi, Prewitt found a home at free safety where he started all 13 games as a sophomore and was second on the team with 80 tackles and defensed six passes. As a junior, he garnered All-America honors in 2013 with 71 tackles, 13 passes defensed and a SEC-best six interceptions. Last season, he totaled 64 tackles, five passes defensed and three interceptions and was a first-team All-SEC selection for the second straight year. Prewitt is an aggressive, but reliable tackler who can come up with one of the ESPN highlight hits.
62/8. *Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State, 6-4, 298, 5.02, 2 Before becoming a success story at football and earning a degree in criminal justice, Cooper had to overcome a significant learning disability that was diagnosed when he was in the ninth grade at Tacoma’s Wilson High School. It was a traumatic discovery that impacted not only Xavier, but befuddled parents who both had Masters degrees, school teachers and coaches in high school and Washington State. In fact, even his amazing ascent to stardom as a football player takes a back seat to how he overcame an inability that almost led to his dropping out of school, where he was placed in classes he didn’t want to attend. Football became the one thing that encouraged him to stay engaged and by his junior year he was attracting attention from Pac-12 schools. He was so far behind academically, however, it appeared junior college would be his only option until Washington State assistant coach Mike Levenseller arranged a so-called grayshirt year that allowed Cooper to delay his enrollment so he could catch up in class, then begin college in 2011. The rest was just football, which he obviously handled well enough to be projected as a second-round draft pick.
63/10. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke, 5-08, 174, 4.53, 2 Crowder uses a little of this and a little of that and a whole lot of old fashioned hard work to get more production than expected. He maintains great conditioning, although this is with a body that is only 5-foot-8, 170-something pounds with short arms (30 1/4 inches), small hands (8 3/8 inches) and rather average speed (mid 4.5 seconds for 40 yards) for a productive wide receiver and returner. Last year, he caught 85 passes for 1,044 yards and six touchdowns after a stunning 2013 campaign in which he grabbed 108 passes — an ACC single-season record — for 1,360 yards and eight scores. Crowder is considered a gamer who redid the school record book because he plays better than he measures, so he isn’t expected to do anything shocking at the combine in Indianapolis.
64/6. D’Joun (DJ) Smith, CB, Florida Atlantic, 5-10, 189, 4.52, 2 Despite getting lost in the ratings among Miami’s many high-school stars, Smith made an impression at Florida Atlanta as a true freshman starter. Although he was not overly productive as a senior last season, Smith already had the attention of pro scouts in 2013 when he was among the NCAA leaders with 20 passes defensed and seven interceptions. Smith is quicker than fast and has intriguing man coverage skills. One scout told NFLDraftScout.com that Smith “shines in two areas … essential for the league: the ability to function at a high level after making mistakes and the talent to turn into a wide receiver and play the ball when it’s in his orbit.”
Courtesy: Frank Cooney | NFL Draft Scout