Our analysts are constantly talking to NFL and college sources about players in the college game. In this space each week, they will share some of what NFL folks are discussing in their circles.
The scoop: "Ezekiel Elliott is one of my favorite players in the draft. No risk, high reward." -- AFC executive on the Ohio State RB
The skinny: Running back is traditionally not considered a safe position, so it's unusual to hear an evaluator use that term in describing a rusher. Elliott has indicated he intends to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, and the "safe" label certain applies to him. He was very impressive in the Buckeyes' Fiesta Bowl win last week, including in the passing game, whether he was catching the ball or blocking.
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The scoop: An NFC player personnel director says when he watches Christian Hackenberg, he wants to buy in so badly. The executive says the Penn State QB has everything -- size, arm, presence and commitment (he noted that Hackenberg kept his commitment to Penn State after the school was hit with sanctions on the heels of the Jerry Sandusky scandal). However, the personnel director says Hackenberg's footwork and accuracy are a concern, pointing out that QBs rarely become more accurate in the NFL. "This will be a very difficult evaluation for me," he said.
The skinny: An AFC scout told us in November that he was skeptical about Hackenberg's chances of turning his accuracy issues around. The QB announced after Penn State's bowl loss that he intends to enter the 2016 draft, and he'll be one of the most intriguing prospects to follow through the evaluation process. There's plenty to like about Hackenberg as a prospect, and also plenty to question.
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The scoop: "What bothers me about Clark is that he was so much better against weaker competition than he was against better talent. I like him, but not like everyone is hyping him up." -- NFC scout on UCLA DT Kenny Clark
The skinny: Clark is a slightly undersized nose tackle who has plenty of power in his compact frame. Clark's high-school wrestling background provided him tools that fit perfectly into what is asked of him along the defensive line and his 5.5 sacks this season proved that his bull rush could get home, as well. Typically, undersized interior linemen that aren't great pass rushers have limitations on their draft stock, but Clark's biggest strength is the way he handles the run. Teams that a run a 4-3 defense and are looking for a nose tackle who can eat space and make plays will like what Clark brings to the table.