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Sources Tell Us: What we're hearing about top NFL prospects


Our analysts are constantly talking to their NFL and college sources about players in the college game. In this space each week, Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks and Charles Davis share some of what NFL folks are discussing in their circles.

Sources Tell Us: Sept. 4 | Sept. 10 | Sept. 17 | Sept. 24 | Oct. 1 | Oct. 8 | Oct. 15 | Oct. 23

The scoop: "You always worry about motor with defensive linemen, but I have zero concerns about Leonard Williams' motor. When I watch Leonard Williams play, I see Richard Seymour." -- AFC scout

The skinny: This is the same observation Jeremiah made last week about USC's defensive end. Jeremiah believes Williams could be a dominant 5-technique defensive end in the NFL. He certainly has the size and length like Seymour to line up over offensive tackles and compete at a very high level.

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The scoop: The size concerns that plagued Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel will also be an issue for scouts with Notre Dame QB Everett Golson (listed at 6-foot-1 but likely shorter), but a coach familiar with both players believes Golson has better physical tools. According to the coach who has tutored both players in the past, Golson is a better athlete with a stronger arm. The coach thinks Golson is capable of making all the deep throws to the boundary (comeback, deep outs and fades), while also fitting the ball into tight windows between the hashes.

The skinny: Golson is receiving pro coaching every day at Notre Dame and playing a scheme that features several concepts that are also used on Sundays. With several of those concepts featuring full-field reads, he should be better prepared for the NFL than Manziel. Because of his readiness, he might even have a chance to start as a rookie, something Manziel can't yet say.

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The scoop: "Kevin White is an easy one to grade. This year's tape is fantastic and they love him at West Virginia. He has a great work ethic and everyone vouches for his off-field character." -- AFC executive

The skinny: The West Virginia receiver has come on this season and is considered one of the elite wide receivers in the country. He ranks second in the FBS in receptions (72), third in receiving yards (1,047), and his eight receiving touchdowns place him in a tie for sixth. With a clean background, he should be considered a lock for the first round.

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The scoop: USC WR Nelson Agholor reminds an NFC scout of a young Reggie Wayne in the way he runs routes and gets in and out of cuts. One concern the scout expressed about Agholor was field awareness. He stepped out of bounds a yard short of the first-down marker on 4th-and-2 late in the fourth quarter against Utah. It would have sealed the game for USC had he stayed inbounds. Also, earlier in the game on a third-down pass he didn't run a route deep enough and he caught the ball a yard short of the first down.

The skinny: The comparison to Wayne is apt. Agholor has really worked to make the transition from playing running back in high school to becoming a top-flight wideout in college. The field awareness issues are part of the learning process. Those are things that can be cleaned up. USC loves his work ethic and thinks he's going to keep getting better.

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The scoop: "Shane Ray is at least the equal of Kony Ealy, if not a better prospect." -- NFL scout.

The skinny: Ray and Markus Golden were backups at Missouri last year to Ealy (second-round pick of the Panthers) and Michael Sam (SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year). Some NFL scouts consider Mizzou's current defensive ends an upgrade. Ray's stock has arguably shot up higher than any other player this season. He's gone from a prospect with a second-day grade to one who could land in the top 10.

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The scoop: "The more I study Lorenzo Mauldin, the more I like him. He isn't a rare athlete but he's got some explosiveness and he has that knack as a pass rusher." -- AFC executive

The skinny: Mauldin teamed up with Marcus Smith last year at Louisville to form one of the most dominant defensive end duos in the country. Like Smith, who was picked in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles, Mauldin underwent an offseason position switch to linebacker after the Cardinals went to a 3-4 defense. It hasn't slowed down his production. He has six sacks through eight games and 11.5 tackles for loss. He'll have a chance to showcase his skills on Thursday when Louisville plays No. 2 Florida State on national TV.

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The scoop: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett has enjoyed tremendous success this season, but some observers wonder if Urban Meyer's system truly develops quarterbacks for the NFL. One QB coach pointed out that Meyer's quarterbacks have been "good athletes, winners and competitive," but they haven't been given an NFL curriculum. Thus, it takes them a long time to transition to the NFL game. As an example, the quarterback coach pointed to the lengthy acclimation to the pro game by Alex Smith, who was coached by Meyer at Utah. He also suggested that Braxton Miller could struggle adjusting to the pro game like Tim Tebow -- another Meyer protege -- did.

The skinny: Given the skills needed to thrive as a quarterback in today's NFL, it will be interesting to see if more blue-chip recruits consider those factors when weighing the possibility of joining the Buckeyes down the road. In the meantime, Miller and Barrett have time left in Columbus to prove their doubters wrong.

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The scoop: "Nate Orchard is best suited to play outside linebacker at the next level. He's not a true defensive end." -- NFC personnel director

The skinny: Orchard had always been a down defensive end, but Utah is giving him opportunities to play standing up this season. His production (6.5 career sacks entering the year, 11 already this season) will garner looks from NFL teams. Scouts we're hearing from seem pretty lukewarm on his NFL potential. He's been compared to Michael Sam, who had seven sacks in his first three seasons at Missouri before compiling 11.5 as a senior.

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