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: "I'd hate to be a team in need of a quarterback. The best two in this draft might end up being from Memphis and North Dakota State and that ought to scare the (expletive) out of you. It takes some courage to turn that card in." -- NFC scout
The skinny: Any time a general manager takes a quarterback early in the first round, he's putting his job on the line, no matter where the player comes from. It might be a lot easier to pull the trigger on a QB from a marquee program who has played on a big stage before, but certainly this scout knows that there are plenty of examples of QBs from top programs that were picked early and went bust (JaMarcus Russell, anyone?). We've seen QBs from small schools come off the board early and go on to great success (Ben Roethlisberger, Phil Simms, Terry Bradshaw).
As for the two QBs he's referring to, North Dakota State's Carson Wentz will get a chance to prove himself against tougher competition at the Reese's Senior Bowl in January. Memphis' Paxton Lynch is a junior and has not revealed his intentions for the 2016 NFL Draft. As an underclassman, he has until a Jan. 18 deadline to make a decision on early draft entry. Both QBs are impressive talents. Our colleague Gil Brandt sees plenty to like in Wentz's game, and we saw the qualities of a top QB prospect when we took an up-close look at Lynch last month.
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The scoop: "I got into an argument with another scout about Ezekiel Elliott complaining after they lost to Michigan State. The other guy thought it showed selfishness and I just thought it showed his competitiveness. That Michigan game showed I was right. I think he will be a really safe pick. He's a stud." -- NFC area scout on the Ohio State RB
The skinny: Elliott questioned the coaching staff and its inability to get him more than 12 carries in a loss to Michigan State, which turned many off. Afterwards, he apologized and there were obviously no hard feelings as Elliott toted a season-high 30 carries for 214 yards a week later against Michigan. Elliott has announced his intention to enter the 2016 NFL draft and with his combination of size, play speed and tackle-breaking ability, he's a top talent among running backs in the college game.
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The scoop: NFL evaluators are mixed on Penn State DE Carl Nassib. Some believe he is a Day 1 impact starter, while others feel his numbers far exceed his ability.
The skinny: Nassib, a senior, has been very impressive this season, and he's being recognized for his performance with postseason accolades. He has good burst and uses his length to separate from blocks. It's not hard to see why evaluators would be bullish on his NFL potential. He's risen from walk-on to star, and he leads the FBS with 15.5 sacks.