NFL executives have spent countless hours the past year evaluating and trying to figure out what kind of player each NFL draft prospect has the ability to turn into. The National Football Post breaks down the skill sets of some of the nation's top college prospects and matches them with a comparable NFL player.
Prospect: QB Mark Sanchez, USC
NFL player: Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks (from Boston College)
Sanchez's intelligence, accuracy and anticipation skills remind me a lot of the quarterback he might eventually replace if he's drafted by Seattle.
Prospect: QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia
NFL player: Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (from Vanderbilt)
Stafford's strong arm, risk-taking and toughness look an awful lot like Cutler. However, if he doesn't become more careful with the ball, he could also end up like former first-round QB Patrick Ramsey.
Prospect: QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State
NFL player: JaMarcus Russell, Oakland Raiders (from LSU)
Freeman's physical skill set and arm strength are second to none in this year's class, but his lack of accuracy and inability to throw to open receivers could hinder him throughout his career.
Prospect: RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
NFL player: Carnell Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Auburn)
Moreno's instincts, vision and toughness between the tackles remind me a lot of Williams coming out. Hopefully, Moreno can avoid the injury bug.
Prospect: RB Chris Wells, Ohio State
NFL player: RB Larry Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs (from Penn State)
Wells possesses a rare athletic skill set for a guy his size, but like Johnson, I worry about his toughness and overall competitiveness at the next level.
Prospect: RB Donald Brown, Connecticut
NFL player: RB Justin Fargas, Raiders (from USC)
Brown's first step and willingness to run through a wall is second to none, but he runs too upright at times and, like Fargas, could be susceptible to big hits at the next level.
Prospect: WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
NFL player: WR Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals (from Florida State)
Crabtree possesses a bit more straight-line speed than Boldin, but both players rely on their toughness and body control to make plays on all levels of the field.
Prospect: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland
NFL player: WR Ashley Lelie, Raiders (from Hawaii)
Heyward-Bey's inability to run routes and suspect competitiveness remind me of Lelie. Besides an occasional big play, I don't see much consistency in Heyward-Bey's play in the NFL.
Prospect: TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State
NFL player: TE Bubba Franks, New York Jets (from Miami)
Pettigrew's ability to enhance a team's run and pass game definitely draws the comparison to a young Franks.
Prospect: TE James Casey, Rice
NFL player: Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins (from Utah State)
Casey will never be a true NFL tight end, but he's simply too gifted a receiver not to get on the field. I see a role for him similar to that of Cooley.
Prospect: OT Michael Oher, Mississippi
NFL player: Chris Samuels, Washington Redskins (from Alabama)
Oher lacks ideal instincts and technique, but he may have the athleticism and power to get away with it at the next level.
Prospect: OT Andre Smith, Alabama
NFL player: Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles (from Arkansas)
Smith is a powerful in-line blocker, and his frame, length and body control remind me a lot of Peters on the outside. At the same time, Eagles OG Shawn Andrews also is a legit NFL comparison.
Prospect: OT Eben Britton, Arizona
NFL player: Eric Winston, Houston Texans (from Miami)
Britton is a technician on the outside, but his lack of length may force him into more of a right tackle role, much like RT Winston.
Prospect: C Max Unger, Oregon
NFL player: Ben Hamilton, Denver Broncos (from Minnesota)
Hamilton was the central cog in the Broncos' zone-blocking scheme for years because of his body control and athleticism – a skill set possessed by current center prospect Unger.
Prospect: DE Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech
NFL player: Jason Taylor, free agent (from Akron)
Sure, Johnson isn't the most physical run defender, but he's going to make his way in the NFL getting after the passer. He's an explosive, long, angular defender who reminds me of a young Taylor.
Prospect: DE Tyson Jackson, LSU
NFL player: Shaun Ellis, Jets (from Tennessee)
Jackson has the ability to be stout at the point of attack, shed blocks on the outside and kick inside on third downs. He's never going to be a speed rusher, but, like Ellis, he has the suddenness and power to make plays all over the line of scrimmage.
Prospect: DE Aaron Maybin, Penn State
NFL player: Kamerion Wimbley, Cleveland Browns (from Florida State)
Maybin is an explosive, long-armed pass rusher who has the first step to get after the quarterback. He displays better instincts than Wimbley but possesses a similar frame and skill set.
Prospect: DT B.J. Raji, Boston College
NFL player: Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots (from Miami)
Raji plays with natural leverage and has the girth and power to be physical at the point of attack. He does a nice job eating up blockers and has the versatility to play inside in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
Prospect: OLB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
NFL player: Takeo Spikes, San Francisco 49ers (from Auburn)
Curry's power, fluidity and closing speed aren't matched by many NFL linebackers and remind me of a young Spikes.
Prospect: ILB James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
NFL player: Paul Posluszny, Buffalo Bills (from Penn State)
Laurinaitis relies on his instincts, technique and passion to make plays sideline to sideline, much like former Big Ten standout Posluszny
Prospect: OLB Clay Matthews, USC
NFL player: Mike Vrabel, Kansas City Chiefs (from Ohio State)
Matthews is an instinctive, high-motor player who possesses the ability to play on third down and will likely to fill a role similar to Vrabel in a 3-4 scheme.
Prospect: CB Sean Smith, Utah
NFL player: Bobby Taylor, retired (from Notre Dame)
It's Smith's length, ball skills and range that make him ideally suited to become a press corner at the next level. He looks to be cut from the same mold as former Eagles CB Taylor.
Prospect: CB/FS Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
NFL player: Antrel Rolle, Cardinals (from Miami)
I don't think Jenkins has the speed to run with NFL receivers down the field, so a position change to FS looks like the best option for him at the next level.
The National Football Post (www.nationalfootballpost.com) is a unique and premier online source of insight about all sides of football featuring professionals with experience in all facets of the NFL.
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