Individual talent needs individual evaluations. Despite that initial premise, NFL teams often make comparisons of incoming talent to those already in the league to set expectations while grounding potential into NFL reality.
So who does this year's crop invoke the most resemblance?
The last top-10 cornerback selection with similar size to the LSU product was Baltimore's Chris McAlister, but McAlister ran 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash and didn't have the ball skills of Peterson. The closest current comparison — as a cornerback and overall athlete — is current Cromartie. Peterson is a much better tackler than Cromartie.
This may make some Browns' fans cringe, but the Georgia product is very similar to the team's former No. 3 overall selection, Edwards. Only, Green has consistent hands. The two are identically the same size. Both are 4.5 40-yard dash receivers with a knack to get open. Both can make the spectacular catch with ease. In college, both came out of pro systems and, at times, carried their offenses.
When watching Quinn, when he was actually on the field, the first thing that is readily apparent is his first step and how smooth he bends the edge. When that is factored in, adding Quinn's body type and the possibility of becoming a 3-4 outside linebacker, Abraham comes to mind.
Auburn's masher is a pure 3-technique and dominated in stretches like Harris did in college and the pros. The defensive tackles are similar in size and possess fantastic and dominant first step ability. Harris had injury concerns, while Fairley has off field issues. Either a team gets a Pro Bowler or a bust with both talents.
Vanden Bosch is the immediate comparison. They are very similar physically. They also push everyone around them to be better. Both have motors that simply do not stop. Kerrigan should able to give a team a certain amount of solid production each and every year for 10 years just like Vanden Bosch.
Maybe an odd comparison here, but Smith popped to mind. Both were highly productive as juniors before declaring early, and whatever team selected them will expect top sack production that may never come. They're both big and naturally talented, but lack an elite first step. As a result, it's not out of the equation that Bowers will put on a little weight and become a 5-technique in a 3-4 defense late in his career like Smith.
Two potential players could best describe Mallett. If Good Mallett becomes more consistent in the professional ranks, he could have a career similar to Bledsoe, as both are massive statuesque signal callers with great natural throwing ability. If it's Bad Mallett, and he throws key interceptions at crucial times, then the league may be looking at another Anderson.
It may be both damning and flattering to invoke the name Terrell Owens. Both receivers are immensely talented with raw physical ability that is off the charts. Jones will also drop an easy catch now and again much like Owens, who has usually been near the top of that unfortunate list. Owens will always be a diva, but it's hard to look past the natural tools that are very similar to that of Jones.
Ferguson is the obvious choice. Smith has had to develop quickly to add to his 280-290 pound frame that is similar to the weight Ferugson played at in college. Yet it's hard to deny the fantastic athleticism both presented from day one.
Who? Dareus is a rare combination of size, power, and athletic ability relative to his girth. Much of his career at Alabama, he has dominated doing the little things, which make defensive tackles great. So, a direct comparison was difficult. Brown came to mind because they are built similarly. Brown is tremendously powerful in small areas, and he never got credit for anchoring the Titans' defensive line when Albert Haynesworth was tearing up the league.
A late riser in the process, Taylor really changed his body which resulted in much better play as a senior. He is now a solid 337 pounds. He has a nice first step, but doesn't necessarily work well laterally down the line. Brace is 330 pounds and played the same exact way during his career at Boston College. Now he is playing for a 3-4 based defense, where Taylor is being projected to land.
The first thing anyone notices regarding Smith is how long, lean, and athletic he is off the edge. Edwards has a very similar body type, but both are stronger at the point of attack than expected. Plus, Smith is being looked at as a potential 3-4 outside linebacker, but he may be better served as a pure 4-3 end like Edwards.
It's nearly impossible to make a direct comparison to Newton. He is a unique talent. Roethlisberger seems the most likely comparison because both are more natural throwers instead of rhythm NFL passers. Also, both tend to make the best of bad situations because of their mobility and toughness to tackle. Although, it can easily be argued that Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman is a the more apt correlation.
Both are pretty boys who don't produce on the biggest stage, right? That may be a little crass, but Gabbert and Romo are streaky passers who can be very good when they are clicking. Also, both can quickly make plays with their feet, as they are better athletes than most expect. Plus, particularly early in Romo's career, they need to grow out of spread systems and move away from the desire to bail out of the pocket early.
Amukamara may be a little underappreciated because he isn't flashy. What he is as a prospect that is well coached, physical, and shows good hips. Hall was very similar coming out of Michigan. His technique was stellar and teams tended to stay away from both as upperclassmen.
Versatility is the key with Jordan. He has the ability and skill set to be a 3-4 defensive end, a 4-3 defensive end, or a 4-3 defensive tackle. Dockett was a dominant defensive tackle in college but found his niche in the NFL as a 3-4 end, and there is no reason to believe he couldn't do all of the things mentioned earlier. Both have similar size numbers, and both really came on strong at the Senior Bowl where they dominated before entering the league. Dockett is a little more explosive, while Jordan is a little more polished.
Miller is another prospect who is hard to match because of his speed, flexibility, and athleticism off the edge as a pass rusher. His talents have invoked the name of the late, great Derrick Thomas. As we stick with more contemporary comparisons, another former Big 12 product, Orakpo, was more similar than originally thought. Orakpo moved from end to linebacker in the pro's and contributed immediately. He is only about seven to eight pounds heavier than Miller, and both explode to the quarterback and they close the gap on their pass rush.
Many around the league expect Heyward to step in immediately and become a consummate professional. He'll step in and become a starter from day one, doing all the dirty work and doing it proudly, particularly as a potential 5-technique in a 3-4 based system. Smith fits said description to a tee. As a result, neither truly receives the recognition as the talented football players they are.
Both Watt and Warren are tall defensive ends with some legitimate size. Watt is being described as a prototype 5-technique. Warren currently plays that same position for the Patriots. Both are good enough athletes to play all over the defensive line. In fact, Warren did just that at Texas A&M. Plus, both are be characterized as "late risers" as the draft process hashed itself out.
Some running backs can blow your socks off with outstanding physical talents (size or speed), and then there are running backs that can simply run the football with vision and produce for a long time. Both Ingram and Jones fit in the latter. Neither will continue to rip off large chucks, but they'll get you four or five yards every time they touch the football. Why? Because they are tough and have great feet in and out of the hole.