(Independent scout and draft expert Josh Liskiewitz will contribute regularly to RoarReport.com in the days, weeks and months leading up to the annual NFL draft. To determine Josh's street cred, check his bio beneath the article -- Thanks, Ed.)
Positioning prospects on a draft board isn’t as simple as ranking them from 1 to X. Just because the board has a “top 32” doesn’t mean that 32 players have first round grades. This is part one of my first round draft board, which will be comprised of 26 prospects this year (neither of the previous two classes had more than 20, so this is clearly a deep class at the top of the draft). These six players are what I classify as “Elite” prospects, or players that are expected to play at a Pro Bowl level early in their careers.
1. Da’Quan Bowers DE Clemson
Think slightly less explosive but higher motored version of Julius Peppers
. Bowers has it all, and fits in any defense. In a 3-4 he would be an outstanding 5-technique DE, and in a 4-3 he’s not only an elite LDE against the run, but a potentially dominant 3-technique DT rushing the passer. He has a rare combination of size, strength, quickness and hand usage, and will make an immediate impact at the next level.
Green’s play at Georgia has clearly set him apart from the rest of the wide receivers in this class, even Alabama
’s Julio Jones who was considered by some a better prospect than Green heading into their college careers. For such a tall, long player he is very quick and agile in and out of his breaks, also possessing the deep speed to consistently stretch the field. He has elite ball skills, as he is very consistent catching the ball and can outplay any defender for the ball in the air.
Some members of the media may be late catching on to Cameron Jordan, but the NFL has been well aware of Jordan’s senior year dominance, which carried over to Senior Bowl week last month. He is a very similar player to Bowers, as he has great size, strength, quickness and versatility. Jordan will be an elite run stopper, and has the hands and instincts to be an excellent pass rusher as well.
Few corners have Peterson’s combination of size and athleticism. He has the physicality in his game to be dominant in press coverage, and the explosiveness to break effectively in man off and zone situations. He is also an amazing return man, which increases his value even further as a rookie. He has all the physical tools to be one of the best shut down corners in the game, and will only get better as he becomes more consistent with his technique.
Down in Mobile a media person actually told me he was concerned with Fairley’s “attitude” on the field, referencing his personal fouls. While no team wants the penalties, I can’t imagine a pro team that doesn’t covet his level of nastiness on the interior line. Fairley simply took over multiple games this year, as he was often unblockable because of his explosiveness off the ball, and he has the hand usage and technique to control double teams. He can play either DT position in the 4-3 defense, and would also excel at DE in the 3-4 schemes.
Miller has always been considered an elite pass rusher by 3-4 teams, but he really helped himself by proving throughout Senior Bowl Week that he has the athleticism and instincts to drop into coverage if asked to play in the 4-3. He is a top notch athlete with the explosiveness and agility to consistently threaten the QB, and he has the range and aggressiveness to make plays from sideline to sideline against both the run and pass. He can play either weak or strong side linebacker in the 4-3, but expect him to go in the top 10 to a 3-4 team looking for a difference maker at pass rushing OLB
Josh Liskiewitz has been an independent scout for four years, the last two with GM Jr as a college scout. He is a self professed "film junkie," watching upwards of 50 hours of film per week year round on hundreds of NFL prospects. He credits Russ Lande, former NFL scout and founder and president of GM Jr Scouting LLC, with aiding in the development of his foundation in scouting and unique perspective on football.