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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.

The scoop: "Hearing that he is leaning toward returning to school for the 2015 season. (It would be a) good decision, as another year of fundamentals, film and playing experience will really benefit him." -- NFC North scout on Michigan State QB Connor Cook

The skinny: Cook made it pretty clear last month that he wants to return for another season at Michigan State, but also indicated that he could be swayed to come out if projections say he's a lock to go in the first round. Given the demand at the position, the possibility that he receives a first-round projection can't be ruled out, even though the conversation of the top QBs in college football tends to start and end with Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. A tough decision might await Cook, but he could position himself as the No. 1 QB prospect in the game next year if he returns for another season.

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The scoop: "He plays with intelligence and passion. Plus, he runs well for a big ILB who thumps. Kiko Alonso is a good comparison for him." -- AFC West scout on UCLA LB Eric Kendricks

The skinny: We like the comparison to Alonso, who found immediate success in the NFL and also played his college ball in the Pac-12 (Oregon). Kendricks, a senior, was projected as a second-round pick earlier this season in his Reese's Senior Bowl prospect profile. Alonso, and Kendricks' older brother, Mychal, went in the second round. After leading the Bruins in tackles in each of the past two seasons, he's well-positioned to do so again, recording a team-leading 114 stops through 10 games. His versatility and athleticism at linebacker make him a great fit for today's NFL.

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The scoop: "He returned from an early-season injury and has been better than ever. A better prospect than (former Iowa first-round OTs) Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff. Top-15 potential." -- NFC East director of scouting on Iowa OT Brandon Scherff

The skinny: It's no surprise to hear high praise for Scherff. Before the season, NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt said Scherff could go No. 1 overall in next year's draft. If NFL teams agree he's a better prospect than Bulaga and Reiff, Scherff should go no later than the top 20 or so picks (Bulaga and Reiff were both picked 23rd overall). It's been an interesting season for OT prospects. While Scherff has overcome reported knee surgery to maintain his place as arguably the top offensive tackle in college football, Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi appears to be heading in the opposite direction. Some viewed him more favorably than Scherff as a prospect entering the year, but one scout has a fourth-round grade on Ogbuehi, and the scout said that might even be a generous projection for the Aggies senior. Ogbuehi was moved from left tackle back to his old spot at right tackle last week. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said the move had nothing to do with any struggles by Ogbuehi. Scouts might not agree. Of course, these aren't the only two OT prospects to keep an eye on.

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The scoop: "(Marcus) Mariota reminds me of Colin Kaepernick, not the arm talent, but athletically and the way he improvises. Love the poise and composure. Not a great fit for a traditional pro-style offense, but a team willing to build around his game will see him as a dynamic talent." -- NFC scout on the Oregon QB

The skinny: This is the Mariota NFL comp that won't die, even though some of us here at CFB 24/7 think it should. We've also consistently heard that his game isn't a perfect fit for traditional NFL offenses, and that a team will have to be willing to cater its offense to him. What that means, largely, is that the team that drafts him needs to be willing to let him use his legs to make plays, because his running ability is a big part of what makes him such a special talent. At least one NFL GM sees an ideal NFL match for Mariota in Philadelphia.

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The scoop: "He has increased and improved his physicality as a linebacker. He has an amazing nose for the ball, but a run-heavy team might like him better as a RB. He's talented and growing in that spot as his time on offense has increased. A natural runner." -- AFC South personnel director on Washington LB/RB Shaq Thompson

The skinny: One thing's for sure -- it will be better for the longevity of Thompson's career to be a playmaking outside linebacker at the next level. He's one of the top defenders in college football and we liken him favorably to Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Ryan Shazier, who, like Thompson, had the look of a rocked-up safety during his college career. There's little doubt, though, that Thompson's two-way ability adds to his value in the minds of NFL scouts. Thompson, a junior, leads the Huskies in rushing with 456 yards on 61 carries (7.5 average) and has scored six touchdowns (four defensively) this season. One scout compared him to a bigger version of Bucs star LB Lavonte David and projected Thompson to be drafted no later than the second round.

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The scoop: "It's not a great year for cornerbacks, but I really like Kevin Johnson. He's got some height and plenty of burst. He will test really well." -- AFC scout on the Wake Forest cornerback

The skinny: While other top cornerback prospects have encountered turmoil this season, Johnson continues to emerge as one of the most intriguing talents at the position. Marcus Peters and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu have been regarded as the nation's top corner prospects, but Peters at least had a red flag raised last week when he was dismissed from the Washington football team, and Ekpre-Olomu has seen his stock sink a bit as he's dealt with injuries this season. Johnson, however, starred last week, making a pick, fumble recovery and tackle for loss in a 34-20 loss to Clemson that likely would have been more lopsided if not for his play. Johnson (6-foot-1) lacks size at 175 pounds, but he's a playmaker with excellent cover skills.

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The scoop: "Senquez Golson is going to be a good nickel at the next level. He lacks the size to hold up on the outside, but he's got great instincts and ball skills." -- AFC scout on the Ole Miss cornerback

The skinny: Indeed, Golson is smallish at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, and we've seen him display those ball skills in big moments this season. Golson is second only to Louisville's Gerod Holliman (13) in interceptions with nine, including the pick that sealed the Rebels' win over Alabama earlier this season.

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