(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 two 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 five players are what I classify as “Top 15” caliber prospects, or players that are expected to start immediately and eventually play close to a pro bowl level.
*** Edited 2/17/2011
(While I have broken down extensive film on over 200 prospects, I still have several key players yet to grade that are generally considered at least day two prospects, namely the players from Illinois and Missouri. Last week, I had my first opportunity to scout Illinois DT Corey Liuget (6-2 300), and he clearly belongs amongst the top prospects in this year’s class. In the games I graded he was dominant against both the run and pass, as he is was consistently explosive off the ball while at the same time showing excellent hand usage and natural power. For now I am ranking him as the No. 9 overall prospect (and No. 2 DT) in this year’s draft class, which makes him a tier 2 or “top 15” caliber prospect.
I am also moving Illinois RB Mikel LeShoure (6-0 230) onto the list at No. 26 overall, making him a late first round value. He has ideal NFL bulk for the position, and has an excellent combination of power and quickness. He is currently my No. 2 rated RB, behind Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech and just ahead of Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State. Alabama RB Mark Ingram comes in at No. 4, and grades out as an early second-round prospect.
In the near future I hope to get a better grasp on the skill sets of Alabama DL Marcell Dareus and the two highly regarded Missouri prospects, QB Blaine Gabbert and DE/OLB Aldon Smith. For now I am giving them all second round values, but expect to see all of them included in the majority of my first round mocks.)
Quinn has two major questions marks to his game in the eyes of scouts; first, what kind of shape is he in after being suspended his entire junior year at UNC by the NCAA, and second, can he play with his hand down at the next level or is he a better fit at OLB in a 3-4? Sophomore film suggests that he is more than capable of playing in either defense, as he is an explosive edge rusher who has better strength at the point of attack than some give him credit for. If he learns to play with more consistent hand usage and leverage, he could develop into one of the top sack artists in the game.
Smith has the build of a safety but the speed and athleticism of a top level corner 4 inches shorter than him. He is physical in press coverage and has the loose hips needed to flip on the break without losing ground on his man. He also displays the burst needed to break on the ball when in off or zone coverage. While he didn’t impress statistically in college, much of this can be attributed to how infrequent teams tested him, opting to attack teammate Jalil Brown
, who is himself a solid mid-round prospect. He isn’t overly aggressive against the run, but is still very consistent making the tackle on runs to his side. He may have the most upside of any defensive back this year, and could become the kind of corner that changes games simply by eliminating his side of the field.
9a. Corey Liuget DT Illinois 6-2 300
Last week, I had my first opportunity Liuget and he clearly belongs amongst the top prospects in this year’s class. In the games I graded he was dominant against both the run and pass, as he is was consistently explosive off the ball while at the same time showing excellent hand usage and natural power.
9b. Anthony Castonzo OT Boston College 6-7 1/8 305
While heading into the 2010 college season it didn’t appear that this class would have a true franchise caliber left tackle, Castonzo has emerged as that guy in the 2011 draft. He has prototypical size; bulk, and length, and clearly possesses the athleticism and footwork needed to consistently shut down the edge. What may be most impressive about Castonzo’s skill set is his competitiveness, as he fights to the whistle on every snap, and is quick to recover even when beaten to the edge off the snap or knocked backward with an aggressive first punch. Left tackles are always at a premium, thus don’t expect him to come off the board any later than #13 to Detroit on April 28.
For his size Amukamara is silky smooth in transition and very consistent in his technique, but he seems to lack the true deep speed and explosiveness of a top NFL corner, and like New Orleans’ Malcolm Jenkins
, may translate better at safety. While this could cause him to drop on some teams’ draft boards, he will still be coveted on others, as his instincts, ball skills, and outstanding ability in run support could eventually make him one of the best in the NFL at safety.
While Jones clearly isn’t on the same level as Georgia
’s AJ Green, he is an excellent prospect in his own right and has the physical skills to be a top level X receiver in the NFL. His huge frame and ball skills make him a very difficult task to defend with 1 on 1 coverage, and he has enough speed to break off long runs once in the open field. The reason he isn’t considered an “elite” prospect is because he isn’t able to consistently get out of his breaks cleanly and create separation naturally. He must also become a more competitive blocker, as well as show more consistent focus with the ball in the air, as he drops too many easy balls. If he can improve in these areas, he could become one of the top receivers in the NFL.
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.