As much as NFL coaches and scouts scour tape looking for the physical strengths and shortcomings of draft prospects, they face an entirely different plane of evaluation when it comes to things like psyche, mental toughness and leadership. It's intangibles like those that can make a big difference in a player's career, and in the rare player that embodies those traits best, it can make a difference in an entire locker room. Here are five 2015 NFL Draft prospects who, in their own unique ways, should bring strong intangibles to the teams that draft them.
While there are questions about Winston's off-field maturity, there is no question about his on-field leadership capability. His former Seminoles teammates swear by his commanding presence, likeability, and knack for making big plays at key moments. True enough, the same could have been said about Johnny Manziel at this time a year ago, and off-field issues have undercut Manziel's opportunity for a leadership role. But as long as Winston sticks to football, players at the next level should rally behind him just as they did in college.
NFL fit:Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Why not the team expected to take Winston No. 1 overall? A successful rookie year for Winston would bring some needed and newfound identity to the Bucs' offense.
Cooper is the very definition of a leader by example. Unlike the gregarious Winston, the Alabama wide receiver made himself into the player teammates wanted to emulate without saying much of anything. Instead, Cooper not only showed them how it's done on the playing field, he set the standard for commitment on the practice field and in the film room as well. Once surrounded by more maturity and a business-like approach, Cooper will probably be more comfortable in a pro locker room than he was in a college one.
NFL fit:Oakland Raiders. From an intangibles standpoint, the Raiders could use a laser-focused example setter like Cooper on what will be a young team.
Kendricks won the Lott Impact Trophy, named for Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, which weighs personal character and integrity as much as athletic performance. A four-year starter for the Bruins, Kendricks proved to be the consummate leader of the UCLA defense along with being one of the top linebackers in the country. His understanding of the game and inspirational presence helped make defenders around him better.
NFL fit:New York Giants. Kendricks is a Tom Coughlin kind of player -- tough, no-nonsense, with a team-first attitude. Considering the Giants' needs at linebacker, Kendricks is an easy choice.
You won't find a more well-rounded person than the former Cornhuskers running back, who was named a team captain, was on the All-Big Ten Academic team, and was a weight-room warrior to boot. He volunteers at local schools, visits local hospitals, and was revered in the Cornhuskers' locker room. An AFC scout told College Football 24/7 at the Senior Bowl in January: "He's a pro's pro already."
NFL fit:Miami Dolphins. Whether Knowshon Moreno moves on in free agency or not, Dolphins starter Lamar Miller could use a little help and Abdullah -- though he lacks the size to be an every-down back -- could be just the answer in a support role.
The two-time Trojans team captain brought an increasingly vocal presence to his leadership over the course of his USC career. Originally recruited by Pete Carroll, Pullard stayed with the program rather than transferring when Carroll left for the Seattle Seahawks, and helped hold the team together through the midseason ouster of former coach Lane Kiffin. Off the field, Pullard set the right example, as well. Among other impressive points on his resume, he went to Haiti on a home-building mission for the needy in 2012.
NFL fit:Washington Redskins. Pullard brings a knack for playing the pass effectively, a trait Washington could use given it allowed third-down conversions at a 43 percent clip last year.