Some guys like blonds, some like brunettes. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Evaluating potential NFL prospects is no different. If you ask for an opinion on one player, you’re likely to get different answers from different people.
Here’s my list of five prospects I’m head over heels about compared to others and not afraid to admit it:
RB Jahvid Best, California
I know a lot of people still like Jahvid Best as a running back at the next level, but in my opinion he’s the best (no pun intended) overall running back in the entire draft. He not only has the type of explosion, lateral quickness and burst to create in the open field, much like Clemson standout C.J. Spiller, but I also think Best is more effective between the tackles and seems much more instinctive and comfortable when asked to run inside. I love the short-area quickness and vision he demonstrates in tight areas, and if it wasn’t for a late-season concussion that forced him to miss the final four games of the year, I think we’d be talking about Best, not Spiller, as the draft’s most dynamic weapon. He might be a bit undersized, but remember, he does have a compact build at 5-10, 200 pounds, and because of his natural pad level, he should be able to hold up just fine in the NFL -- as long as he keeps his feet on the ground. Without a doubt, he’s my favorite back in this year’s class.
WR Marcus Easley, Connecticut
I’ll admit that coming into the year I didn’t even know who this guy was. However, after watching only one game of him, my initial impression was: This is one of the only senior wideouts in the country who has the ability to start on the outside in the NFL. He doesn’t have a ton of experience and is still developing as a route runner, but his explosion off the line and suddenness in and out of his breaks consistently allow him separate on all levels of the field. Plus, he showcases a real savvy about his game for a guy who hasn’t played much and does a nice job slightly widening his angles off the line when asked to set up corners and using his balance and body control to explode away from corners when asked to change directions. There are a lot of receivers in this year’s class who have much more recognizable names than Easley, but check back with me in three years. I have a feeling it will be the quiet, hard-working Easley who will have a much more productive NFL game.
DL Clifton Geathers, South Carolina
While doing my homework on Geathers when he first declared for the draft, it was his size alone (6-8, 299) that instantly had me intrigued. Then, after watching him on tape, I thought that, although he struggles to consistently play with his base down, he showcased enough natural flexibility, power and body control to at least make me think he could play as an effective base end at the next level. However, after watching him at the combine, where he moved with more grace, balance and ease than higher rated prospects like Carlos Dunlap and Willie Young, I really started to warm up to the guy. Geathers has nearly 38-inch arms, over 11-inch hands and jumped 36 inches on his vertical – all unreal numbers. Pair that with the consistent need/over-drafting of potential five-technique defensive ends, and Geathers should get plenty of play on draft day. Is he NFL-ready? No, but his combination of body control and length, plus his ability to beat blocks in both the run and pass game, gives him quite a ceiling for a prospect at a position that’s tough to come by in the NFL.
OLB Aaron Morgan, Louisiana-Monroe
It’s tough to always get a good read on small-school prospects like Morgan. However, for a guy who’s only 6-4, 242 pounds to play defensive end on a three-man line at Louisiana-Monroe and produce week in and week out vs. the best competition on the schedule, now that says something. Morgan finished the season with 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks and 52 total tackles, which included a five-tackle, two-TFL, one-sack performance vs. Texas and a seven-tackle, two-sack game vs. Arizona State. Morgan isn’t the most explosive of pass rushers, but he does a great job being violent with his hands and uses his long arms and short-area quickness to consistently sidestep blocks off the edge. Plus, he has shown the kind of balance and fluidity in space to make you think he could at least hold his own at the next level when asked to drop into coverage. I’ll admit he isn’t a guy I see holding up vs. the run game as an every-down end in the NFL, but I do think he’s violent and sudden enough off the edge as a pass rusher to make his way onto the field as a 3-4 OLB.
CB Rafael Priest, TCU
Priest was one of my favorite cornerbacks whom I got a chance to evaluate this season, but a foot injury he’s been unable to shake cost him a shot at playing in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl and has kept him from running this draft season. However, what you get with Priest is an undersized, yet pesky corner who looks very comfortable sitting into his back-pedal, keeping his feet under him and cleanly redirecting and closing on the football. Now, he isn’t the most technically sound or physical guy off the line when asked to press, but he finds a way to get his hands on receivers and fight his way into their bodies. At 5-10, 182 pounds, Priest needs to add some girth to his frame, but he’s a prospect who certainly has the toughness, body control and balance to redirect and close on the ball in off or press man coverage and at worst should find a home as a slot guy in the NFL.
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