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. Lance Zierlein shares some of what NFL folks are discussing in draft rooms throughout the league.



The scoop: "Amari is super athletic, very fluid and highly skilled as a route runner and hands catcher. Because of his reserved demeanor and similar ability, I compared him to Marvin Harrison during the season." -- Former NFL GM and current Reese's Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage on Alabama WR Amari Cooper

The skinny: Cooper won't dazzle you with blazing speed or elite size and strength, but, like Harrison, he's a complete receiver who runs excellent routes and has the ability to produce against any coverage. Don't expect him to dominate NFL safeties like he did in college, but he'll help improve a team's passing game quickly as a consistent target on short to intermediate routes and continue to flash game-changing ability downfield.

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The scoop: "You can't overthink this one. It doesn't matter how raw he is because he's got freakish qualities that are rare for men his size. I think he has a chance to be as good as Kevin Williams. That's his comp." -- NFC Director of Scouting on USC DL Leonard Williams

The skinny: Williams wins with physical tools over skills and still has a lot to learn about technique and being a consistent pass rusher. He hasn't learned to set up offensive linemen or string together pass-rush moves yet. But as several experts such as this NFC scout will attest, he has the look and feel of the biggest, strongest kid on the playground. He's still very raw and doesn't always play up to his ability, but with coaching and more experience, he should be able to hone those physical skills and become a regular Pro Bowler, and perhaps even more.

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The scoop: "He's an early-round player without any question, but you don't have to dig around very deep or very long to realize that his personal character is going to be a major issue for some teams. My grade will be two rounds later than just the talent grade. It has to be factored in." -- AFC West regional scout on TCU LB Paul Dawson

The skinny: Dawson was extremely productive for the Horned Frogs, averaging a tackle every 5.3 snaps and winning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, but scouts are very concerned about his personal character and commitment to the game. He was a handful while at TCU, and while this scout says he has knocked Dawson down two rounds from his talent grade, a few other teams are likely to be turned off from him completely. Still, his talent is undeniable. He's athletic and tough, plays hard and has outstanding instincts. Said one NFC national scout: "I'll make sure he stays alive in our building because he's that good."

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The scoop: "I have a little higher grade on Perryman than I probably should, but we like thumpers and badasses inside, and he's both." -- AFC director of scouting on Miami LB Denzel Perryman

The skinny: Scouts love Perryman's physical, angry playing style -- he's a burly, stout, old-school linebacker who wants to hit the ball carrier. As one AFC regional scout notes, "He's the type of guy you like having on your team because he brings toughness to practice." He's more of an early-down linebacker who can make plays against the run but will struggle when isolated in coverage, which limits his ceiling, but he can be a highly productive player in the NFL. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah projects Perryman as the No. 30 pick in the first round, to the Green Bay Packers.

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The scoop: "He has the body type and length to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 front, but there is no reason to move him from the nose. If he gets that motor going, he could be a dominant pro." -- AFC North scout on Oklahoma DL Jordan Phillips

The skinny: At 6-foot-6, 334 pounds, Phillips has a massive frame and long arms, but also has the athleticism and nimble feet of a much lighter player. Some scouts consider him a flash player who can dominate but then disappear for stretches. If he can play with a more consistent motor, he has Pro Bowl potential as a run-stuffer, especially in a 3-4 defense. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks currently rates Phillips as the draft's fifth-best defensive tackle prospect.

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The scoop: "He's not going to run fast, but it won't matter because any team who drafts him is going to have a plan for him. When he has a quarterback who can throw him open, his speed won't matter much. I love him." -- NFC West scout on Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong

The skinny: No one aspect of Strong is awe-inspiring, but scouts love the entirety of his game and where it's headed. Corners don't fear his speed -- he's a long-strider who takes a while to build speed, and he rarely gets separation deep against man-to-man coverage -- but his strength, size and ability to catch contested throws will be coveted by some teams. Think Dwayne Bowe.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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