Last year I was the first person to introduce to the readers at Scout.com the names of cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Michael Jenkins, who became the 11th and 25th choices in the 2008 player draft respectively. Both had enormous physical skills, speed, quickness and man cover skills. Unusual for the corner position, both also showed excellent hands and as a bonus, both showed excellent punt and kick return skills.
I would like for the readers to think I exhibited special evaluation skills, but the truth be known, even with just one exposure and no conversation with professional liaisons for the respective schools, team scouts, or viewing them live or in a practice situation, it was actually easy to see that both of these young men were very special football players.
Being a talent scout is not only exalting the talents of players like the aforementioned corners. Almost as important is bringing to your club's attention to potentially undesirable traits or factors in prospects that could ultimately effect your product on the field.
In spite of his weight room strength numbers, straight line speed and Freddie Dean-like production numbers, I just didn't see what most internet scouts and at least one club (Jets) saw in Ohio State underclassman defensive end Vernon Gholston. He had very tight hips, showed virtually no pass rush refinement, counter skills and his backside effort was quite frankly non-existent.
After viewing Senior Bowl practices, I also had a difficult time believing that record-setting quarterbacks Andre Woodson or Colt Brennan had any real chance of becoming successful frontline professional quarterbacks.
For the past three months I have patiently waited for the so-called "experts" on the numerous websites, talk shows and in print media to recognize the enormous talents of the University of Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers.
Prior to the start of the 2008 season, the little-known Ayers had started just two games for the Vols and was unranked by either scouting combine prior to the start of the season. Based on my exposure, it's hard to imagine him slipping through the cracks. The Clio, South Carolina product is as talented a player I have seen at the position in quite some time.I felt his get-off quickness was close to rare, while his ability to get upfield, trim the edge, counter and close to the ball were also pretty special. Robert's backside effort, overall play speed, ability to retrace his steps and playing range were first rate, along with his ability to play on his feet. Providing there are no character, mental, or medical concerns with this player, I see no reason why you he won't be a mid-to-late first round selection in this year's player draft.
By the same token, I don't consider Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson another Vernon Gholston, but I have to tell you, his pre-season ranking by the scouting combine as the Nation's top rated overall prospect is completely without merit. The top-rated defensive end for, seemingly, every draft prognosticator, Johnson possesses good length, is a high effort guy and some impressive physical tools, but overall I didn't think he got off blocks effectively nor did he make enough quality football plays.
Time will tell which of these player's careers will flourish at the professional level, but if I were making the selection on draft day and needed help at the defensive end position, there is no question as to which direction I would take.