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Published: April 8, 2016 at 11:57 a.m.
Updated: April 8, 2016 at 12:18 p.m.

2016 NFL Draft's most polarizing prospects

Scouting NFL draft prospects is a highly subjective exercise. If you ask five scouts what they thought about a player's performance in any given game, you might hear five different answers.

Over time, a consensus usually emerges regarding where prospects are ranked. But there are always a few players that cause particularly intense debates among draftniks and in team draft rooms between scouts, general managers and coaches.

These six intriguing players fall into that category.

6 Photos Total

  • Cook is a tough competitor who led the Spartans to 34 victories (a school record). Opinions are split, however, regarding his ability to lead his team.  He was never voted a team captain at MSU, and opinions are also split about whether that really matters. There's also not a consensus on whether he has the arm strength and accuracy to effectively lead a pro offense. Whether he'll be selected late in the first (Broncos?), the second (Jets? Rams? Cardinals?), or maybe even the third (Cowboys?) is unclear. Remember that teams had second-round grades on former Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins, and he wasn't picked until the fourth round. 6

    Aaron M. Sprecher / Associated Press

    Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

    Cook is a tough competitor who led the Spartans to 34 victories (a school record). Opinions are split, however, regarding his ability to lead his team. He was never voted a team captain at MSU, and opinions are also split about whether that really matters. There's also not a consensus on whether he has the arm strength and accuracy to effectively lead a pro offense. Whether he'll be selected late in the first (Broncos?), the second (Jets? Rams? Cardinals?), or maybe even the third (Cowboys?) is unclear. Remember that teams had second-round grades on former Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins, and he wasn't picked until the fourth round.

  • At the end of last season, Dodd commanded respect with his play, but NFL teams don't ignore the rest of a player's career, even if they end with a bang. He recorded just 21 total tackles before 2015, which has led some to question whether he's a "one-year wonder." His role on Sundays is a bit cloudy, as well. Is he an explosive enough pass rusher to challenge veteran right tackles? If not, most teams will deem it unnecessary to use an early first-round pick to secure his services. Others believe his combination of strength and rush ability are worth a selection in that rarified air, especially in an average defensive end class. 5

    Matthew Emmons / USA Today Sports

    Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

    At the end of last season, Dodd commanded respect with his play, but NFL teams don't ignore the rest of a player's career, even if they end with a bang. He recorded just 21 total tackles before 2015, which has led some to question whether he's a "one-year wonder." His role on Sundays is a bit cloudy, as well. Is he an explosive enough pass rusher to challenge veteran right tackles? If not, most teams will deem it unnecessary to use an early first-round pick to secure his services. Others believe his combination of strength and rush ability are worth a selection in that rarified air, especially in an average defensive end class.

  • Fuller's evaluations are all over the board. At times, he's described as a tough-minded outside corner who's able to shut down top receivers. Then you'll read that he's a bit stiff and best off playing free safety due to his physicality. He gets credit from some for attempting to play through his torn right meniscus last season, but others wonder if that injury will affect his ability to change directions as a cornerback. The bottom line is that Fuller is likely to be a good player in the NFL, whether at corner or safety, but whether he will be a late pick in Round 1 or a Day 2 pick (Rounds 2-3) is up in the air. 4

    Peter Casey / USA Today Sports

    Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

    Fuller's evaluations are all over the board. At times, he's described as a tough-minded outside corner who's able to shut down top receivers. Then you'll read that he's a bit stiff and best off playing free safety due to his physicality. He gets credit from some for attempting to play through his torn right meniscus last season, but others wonder if that injury will affect his ability to change directions as a cornerback. The bottom line is that Fuller is likely to be a good player in the NFL, whether at corner or safety, but whether he will be a late pick in Round 1 or a Day 2 pick (Rounds 2-3) is up in the air.

  • I won't be at all surprised if Jones ends up being a top-15 pick. He's a beast off the ball and presents the sort of length and athleticism to be a force up front. But there are also teams that will put a second-round grade on Cox (like fellow defensive linemen Ra'Shede Hageman in 2014 and Kawann Short the prior year) due to his inconsistency during his time in Starkville. 3

    Matt Bush / USA Today Sports

    Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State

    I won't be at all surprised if Jones ends up being a top-15 pick. He's a beast off the ball and presents the sort of length and athleticism to be a force up front. But there are also teams that will put a second-round grade on Cox (like fellow defensive linemen Ra'Shede Hageman in 2014 and Kawann Short the prior year) due to his inconsistency during his time in Starkville.

  • Nkemdiche's <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000639016/article/nkemdiche-explains-hotelwindow-fall-says-tunsil-was-present" target="new">off-field issues</a> and on-field inconsistency feed into his potential to fall anywhere from the mid-first round to the early second round or later. There are enough questions about his consistency that some teams won't grade him as a first-round pick. His explosiveness is easy to see on game film, and some coaches will undoubtedly feel like they can get the best out of him. But grades are all over the board on Nkemdiche, so no one really knows when he'll go. 2

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

    Nkemdiche's off-field issues and on-field inconsistency feed into his potential to fall anywhere from the mid-first round to the early second round or later. There are enough questions about his consistency that some teams won't grade him as a first-round pick. His explosiveness is easy to see on game film, and some coaches will undoubtedly feel like they can get the best out of him. But grades are all over the board on Nkemdiche, so no one really knows when he'll go.

  • Despite showing great talent as an edge rusher at Ohio State, Eastern Kentucky, and the Senior Bowl, there isn't a consensus on Spence's value. There is a "'tweener" argument among scouts, especially for teams that like a bit more size in their 4-3 ends. But there are off-field concerns with Spence, who was banned from the Big Ten for failed drug tests. In a draft where pass rushers are lacking, some teams will consider him a top-15 value. However, risk-averse teams might not be interested in him. 1

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky

    Despite showing great talent as an edge rusher at Ohio State, Eastern Kentucky, and the Senior Bowl, there isn't a consensus on Spence's value. There is a "'tweener" argument among scouts, especially for teams that like a bit more size in their 4-3 ends. But there are off-field concerns with Spence, who was banned from the Big Ten for failed drug tests. In a draft where pass rushers are lacking, some teams will consider him a top-15 value. However, risk-averse teams might not be interested in him.