When it comes to projecting how today's prospects will perform at the next level, it can be helpful to consider which pro players they resemble. As yet another crop of rising stars prepares for the NFL Scouting Combine, I thought I'd match up five key prospects with the NFL veterans whose careers might best illustrate their potential.
Note: The measurables of the NFL players listed below (height, weight and speed) were pulled either from NFL Scouting Combine data or their pro days results. The measurables of the current draft prospects are estimates from scouting sources.
Tale of the tape: Quarterback, Texas A&M, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, 4.55-second 40-yard dash.
It's tough to come up with a perfect comparison for Manziel. His build and frame are similar to that of Jeff Garcia. His smooth, effortless running style reminds me a little bit of Michael Vick (although Vick in his prime was more explosive). His scrambling ability has elicited more than a few comparisons to Doug Flutie. However, I decided to go with Tony Romo. The Cowboys' signal-caller is bigger, but he and Manziel have similar skill sets and styles of play.
As passers, neither Manziel nor Romo have elite arm strength, but both can generate enough velocity to make every throw on the passing tree. Also, they can deliver the ball accurately from a variety of platforms and arm angles. They both have outstanding pocket awareness and the ability to escape the free rusher. They excel at extending plays and delivering accurate throws while on the move, to both the right and left sides of the field.
The biggest difference between the two lies in Manziel's ability to take off and pick up chunk yardage as a runner.
Tale of the tape:Defensive end, South Carolina, 6-6, 274, 4.5 40.
The word "freak" gets thrown around quite often in the scouting community. Sometimes it's warranted, sometimes it's misused, but when it comes to Clowney and Williams, it's a very accurate descriptor. Both guys have a rare combination of height, length, power and explosiveness. Both guys took some flak for taking plays off in their final collegiate seasons, but both guys ultimately put together enough dominant performances to quiet their critics.
Williams was selected No. 1 overall by the Houston Texans in the 2006 NFL Draft, chosen ahead of several marquee skill position players, including a prolific dual-threat quarterback from the Houston area in Vince Young. It's very possible that this year, the Texans could make a similar move with the first overall pick in the draft, once again selecting a dominant defender instead of an accomplished signal-caller with strong Texas ties (Manziel).
Tale of the tape: Linebacker, Buffalo, 6-2 5/8, 245, 4.65 40.
Mack is one of my favorite players in this draft class. He offers a relentless motor, explosive get-off and violent hands, three of the same qualities I noticed in Clay Matthews when I scouted him at USC. Matthews is more fluid and has an easier time bending the edge, but he and Mack are both ideal fits as 3-4 outside linebackers. Their physical measurables are almost identical. Matthews produced 10 sacks in his rookie campaign, a total that Mack is plenty capable of matching in his inaugural season.
Tale of the tape:Wide receiver, Texas A&M, 6-5, 225, 4.55 40.
Jeffery and the taller Evans both play an "above the rim" brand of football. Scouts refer to jump-ball situations, in which the receiver and cornerback both have a 50 percent chance of making a play, as 50-50 balls. With these two guys, though, the more appropriate breakdown might be 90-10. They have an incredible ability to time their jumps, high-point the football and secure the catch. Their combination of concentration and catch radius makes them elite red-zone weapons.
Tale of the tape:Wide receiver, LSU, 6-1, 195, 4.68 40.
Tough. Dependable. Clutch. Those are three words often used to describe Boldin -- and I noticed the same three words on my notepad after studying Landry. I see a lot of similarities between these two players. Boldin didn't run a fast 40-yard dash (in fact, the time I listed above is from his pro day; he actually ran slower at the combine), and I've been told by scouting buddies that Landry won't test well, either.
While these guys might lack timed speed, they have the quickness and route-running savvy to create separation from their opponents. Both players have very strong hands, and they attack the ball in the air. These are also two physical runners who are difficult to bring down after the catch. Landry might drop out of the first round, but he's equipped to have a big rookie season. Sound familiar?