The inexact science of scouting leads to surprising twists and turns on draft day, as teams view prospects in different lights. While some teams see a player as a potential Pro Bowl-caliber talent, others may view the same prospect as a perennial back up on their respective team.
Risers and fallers
Although beauty remains in the eye of the beholder, here is a look at the prospects from the 2009 draft that are likely to be overvalued and undervalued on various draft boards throughout the league:
Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State: The former Wildcat has tantalized scouts with his outstanding physical tools. As a strong-armed pocket passer, Freeman has the ability to make all of the throws required in a pro offense. However, his accuracy is inconsistent and he has been plagued by the turnover bug throughout his career (34 career interceptions). Furthermore, Freeman compiled a 14-18 record in 32 career starts, and didn't raise the level of his teammates' play with his leadership skills. Although his physical gifts warrant a first-round grade, he enters the league as a high risk/high reward prospect based on his play at Kansas State.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland: The speedster has shot up draft boards after clocking the fastest 40-time (4.30) at the combine. But teams should be wary of drafting Heyward-Bey with the expectation of the former Terrapin developing into a No. 1 receiver. Heyward-Bey is strictly a vertical route runner who excels as a deep threat in the passing game. While his speed is a coveted asset, Heyward-Bey has the potential to flame out in an offensive system that doesn't suit his skill set.
Clay Matthews, OLB, Southern California: The former walk-on has turned a productive senior season into a potential first-round selection. Matthews has captivated scouts with his relentless motor, versatility and special teams ability. However, he is a one-year starter who played on a star-studded defense at USC. There is some skepticism about whether the overachiever can duplicate his senior production (4.5 sacks, nine tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries) on the next level.
Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee: The Vols' 2008 sack leader has ascended up draft boards after an impressive showing as a senior. Ayers displayed surprising quickness and athleticism while crashing off the edge. With his size and speed, scouts view him as a legitimate edge player in a 4-3. However, Ayers' dismal production during his first three seasons in Knoxville makes him worthy of carrying the "one-year wonder" tag.
Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss: The former Rebel is expected to come off the board within the top fifteen selections due to his potential to develop into a franchise left tackle. Oher's length and athleticism entices scouts, but many worry about his about his lack of strength and lateral movement skills. He is not as smooth as the top tier of tackles (Baylor's Jason Smith, Virginia's Eugene Monroe and Alabama's Andre Smith), and could struggle against elite pass rushers on Sundays. Though Oher is worthy of first-round consideration, he may never live up to the hype of his draft status.
Connor Barwin, DE/OLB, Cincinnati: The Big East sack leader is a versatile athlete with outstanding movement skills. Though he spent only one season at defensive end, Barwin shows a natural feel for rushing off the edge and flashes an exceptional closing burst while chasing quarterbacks. As a former two-sport athlete with experience at multiple positions (he spent his first three seasons at tight end), Barwin has the potential to be a dynamic player as a pro.
Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut: The underappreciated runner from Connecticut has flown under the radar, despite rushing for 2,083 yards as a junior. As an elusive runner with exceptional balance and burst, Brown has a knack for finding creases in the middle of the defense. Though he lacks the prototypical size to be a feature back, he has all of the tools to be a productive workhorse on the next level.
Clint Sintim, OLB, Virginia: The former Cavalier enters the league as an experienced veteran of the 3-4. While Sintim lacks the sizzle of other rush linebackers on the board, he quietly tallied 11 sacks during his senior season, and possesses the kind of versatility to be an effective outside 3-4 linebacker in a hybrid scheme. With 48 starts in Al Groh's 3-4, Sintim is the most "pro-ready" hybrid prospect on the board.
Jamon Meredith, OG/OT, South Carolina: Scouts laud the former Gamecock for his football IQ and multi-position flexibility. Meredith has effectively manned both tackle spots and the left guard position during his tenure at South Carolina. As a "jack of all trades" with superior instincts, intelligence and awareness, Meredith is poised to enjoy a solid pro career at guard or tackle.
Stephen McGee, QB, Texas A&M: The ultra-athletic thrower from Texas A&M is garnering a lot of interest due to his outstanding physical tools. McGee recorded the second-fastest 40 time among quarterbacks at the combine (4.66), and displayed tremendous NFL potential while directing a pro-style offense during the East-West Shrine Game. Although he started only three games in 2008 due to an injury (suffered a torn labrum early in the season), McGee has flashed big-time ability at times during his career, and is likely to be a surprising mid-round pick during draft weekend.