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, Charles Davis and Lance Zierlein share some of what NFL folks are discussing in their circles.
The scoop: The best combo defensive end in college football is Joey Bosa. That was the consensus opinion of three NFL scouts who attended the Big Ten Championship last Saturday. The scouts agree that Bosa does everything required of the position equally well -- plays the run and rushes the passer, and there appear to be no concerns about his motor.
The skinny: Bosa is an all-out, full-throttle type of player who is always around the action. There's a lot to like. Some have compared him to J.J. Watt, but he is not in the same class as Watt. Then again, who is? Bosa has great pedigree with NFL bloodlines.
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The scoop: "Heavy run teams should like him. You know he'll be well-coached coming out of Wisconsin, and he does not mind being physical." -- NFL scout on Wisconsin RT Rob Havenstein
The skinny: Havenstein, a massive right tackle at 6-foot-8 and 333 pounds, has started 41 consecutive games for the Badgers. He reported to Wisconsin at 380 pounds and has steadily whittled his weight down. He's in the same mold as Phil Loadholt and Aaron Gibson, but not really comparable to those two players. He's very long and has some quickness to him, more than you would expect.
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The scoop: "He has freakish size, but he's an average athlete and still so raw. He has good strength and violence at the point, but he's an average rusher who wins with length and not speed. I see him as a 4-3 left end who needs a lot of work. I'm not the only scout who feels this way either." -- AFC South scout on Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman
The skinny: This sentiment seems to run contrary to some of the growing thoughts in media circles concerning Oakman's draft stock. While players get drafted early on freakish traits and pure projection all the time (see Dion Jordan), the issue for Oakman could be that he doesn't have the desired edge presence and athleticism as a pass rusher. Rush ends are the ones who come off the board the earliest -- not power ends.
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The scoop: "(Michigan State coach Mark) Dantonio is playing him at cornerback because he thinks he is legit at the position and as good as Chris Gamble, who played both ways when Dantonio was at Ohio State." - NFC East scout on WR Tony Lippett
The skinny: Dantonio was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State from 2001-2003 and saw Gamble first-hand. Lippett's receiving production skyrocketed this season; he averaged 18.7 yards per catch with 11 touchdowns. The interesting wrinkle has come late in the season as Dantonio has asked Lippett to play on both sides of the ball for the first time since Lippett's freshman season. As a cornerback, Lippett was targeted eight times for just 13 yards and three passes defensed. Scouts are excited to watch Lippett play both receiver and cornerback at the Senior Bowl practices, but they still see him as a wide receiver in the NFL.
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The scoop: "Quietly, he's had an excellent year. He bears watching." -- NFL scout on Wisconsin CB Darius Hillary
The skinny: Sojourn Shelton entered the season as the Badgers' top returning corner, but it has been Hillary who has been the most consistent and dependable in 2014. Hillary has had some hiccups along the way, but everyone that plays corner does. He understands his role well and accepts challenges. He also relishes the opportunity to defend the No. 1 wide receiver on the other team. His play in 2014 earned him a second-team all-Big Ten selection by the coaches. He's a redshirt junior who would benefit from another season at Wisconsin.
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The scoop: "I wasn't all that high on him when I watched him the first time, but he's really starting to grow on me. He has a chance to be a really high pick." -- NFC executive on Kentucky DE Alvin "Bud" Dupree
The skinny: Dupree and Clemson's Vic Beasley are considered the top two senior pass rushers. Dupree had contemplated entering the draft last season but honored a commitment to coach Mark Stoops and Kentucky by returning. The decision certainly didn't hurt him. He's a freakish athlete who should only help himself at the Senior Bowl and combine over the next few months. And if he does, he has a chance of landing in the top half of the first round.
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The scoop: "He's the best-kept secret on the West Coast." -- NFC scout on Washington State WR Vince Mayle
The skinny: The scout went on to say that Mayle is one of the biggest risers on draft boards following a strong senior season. The 6-3, 219-pound receiver caught 106 passes for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns as the designated playmaker in Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense. Mayle is a big, physical pass catcher with strong hands and impressive ball skills. Although he is a raw, unpolished route runner, he has many of the physical traits NFL teams covet in developmental prospects. If placed in the right environment with a "teacher" as his position, Mayle could grow from a special teams player to a solid contributor on offense early in his career.