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: "Best cover corner prospect I've seen in the last 14 years." -- NFC East scout on Washington CB Marcus Peters
The skinny: Going back 14 years takes us to Champ Bailey, the 12-time Pro Bowl player who retired from the NFL last month. There's no doubt Peters has talent, but off the field there are major concerns. Peters was suspended and later dismissed from the Huskies football team after multiple incidents of "arguing" with members of the Huskies coaching staff. The veteran scout said he witnessed one argument escalate into much more; Peters grabbed the assistant coach by the throat and started choking him, the scout reported. Peters will have a lot to answer for between now and the draft. Bucky Brooks wrote after the dismissal that he didn't believe character issues would be a problem for Peters.
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The skinny: The comparison of Ray to Suggs is high praise, but worthy praise as well. While Missouri has been the home of "try hard" defensive ends like Kony Ealy, Michael Sam and now Markus Golden, Ray can win with explosiveness and athleticism more frequently than the aforementioned ends. Evaluators love Ray's play demeanor and his ability to win around the corner or with inside moves while still being able to handle himself against the run. Ray, a junior contemplating entering the 2015 draft, led the SEC in sacks this season with 14.
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The scoop: While many believe Alabama's Amari Cooper would be the top receiver prospect if he came out early this year -- which his offensive coordinator thinks will be the case -- several NFL scouts don't believe he would have been ranked as the top pass catcher in the 2014 draft. Scouts tell us Cooper would have been ranked behind Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. -- receivers who went in the top 12 picks of the 2014 draft -- based on his overall upside.
The skinny: Cooper is certainly an intriguing prospect capable of being a Day 1 starter in the NFL, but he is not a talent capable of revolutionizing the position when he enters the league. The scouts' opinions here appear in line with those NFL Media reporter Albert Breer spoke with recently, saying Cooper lacks a "wow" factor.
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The scoop: "I think this is shaping up to be a very good crop of running backs. A guy I really like is (Miami's) Duke Johnson. He's got great quickness, and he runs with surprising power." -- AFC executive
The skinny: Johnson also has skills as a receiver out of the backfield, adding to his resume something many backs can't when they enter the pros, and making him more valuable in the process. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks wrote last month that Johnson could end up being a better pro prospect than some of the bigger names expected to be in this year's draft. Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville compared Johnson's style to Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, the way he can accelerate through a hole and change direction. Miami's all-time leader in all-purpose (5,343) and rushing (3,387) yards, Johnson says it's "50-50" whether he will declare early for the draft, although many believe it's a fait accompli. He plans on announcing his decision Dec. 28, the day after the Hurricanes' bowl game with South Carolina.
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The scoop: "Landon Collins is a good player, but he's not elite. I have some concerns about his range and ability to match up in man coverage. I love his physicality and toughness." -- AFC executive
The skinny: Physicality, drive and toughness have never been weaknesses for Collins, a five-star recruit and the No. 1 safety in the 2012 class. The "he's not elite" comment and questions about his range are a bit surprising as Collins was recently lauded by an NFL scout as the best Alabama safety in the last several years, better than former first-round picks Mark Barron (No. 7 overall by Tampa Bay in 2012) and HaHa Clinton-Dix (No. 21 by Green Bay in 2014). Collins says he will wait until after the College Football Playoff to announce his NFL draft intentions, but his mother says she expects her son to go pro.
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The scoop: "When I watch LSU on tape, two juniors stand out to me: (DE Danielle) Hunter and (DB Jalen) Mills. Both guys have excellent length and athleticism. Big upside for them." -- NFC executive
The skinny: Some have compared Hunter to Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2013. He is a physical specimen who looks more like a tight end than a defensive end. His career sack total is low (4.5) for a pass rusher but the impact he has on the field goes well beyond quarterback takedowns. Put on the Kentucky tape from earlier this season as evidence. He knocked down three passes and was all over the field. There have been some reports he is considering going back to LSU for his senior season. Mills switched from cornerback to free safety this season, with mixed reviews. Bigger issues, however, might be off the field. He pled not guilty to a simple-battery charge, and faces a court date later next month.
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The scoop: "He really scares me because he has major talent, but I also wonder if he's on his best behavior because it's a contract year for him. What happens when he signs his contract?" - NFC West scout on Washington DT Danny Shelton
The skinny: Shelton posted rare sack numbers this year as an interior rusher and is an outstanding athlete for a man his size. Scouts, however, are concerned with Shelton's personality and work ethic. More than one scout has said the previous coaching staff at Washington had issues with Shelton's surliness and selfishness. Shelton's weight has to be monitored in the pros, and he could stand to play with more consistent power, but big nose tackles who can cave pockets and pursue running backs from sideline to sideline are rare. Shelton's tape will ultimately tell the tale, but if there are worries about his character or work ethic, it could cost him spots in the draft.