1. Patrick Peterson
2. AJ Green
3. Von Miller
4. Marcell Dareus
5. Julio Jones

If you look at draft analyst big boards around the internet you will likely see a big board that looks a little bit like the one above. I am even guilty of having those five players in my own big board rankings (although slightly different). But there are two problems with big boards that we see online.

The first problem is that the 'best prospects' are often the prospects that will get drafted early. This makes some sense because the best players should go earlier, but big boards naturally weed out players with little positional value (kickers, fullbacks, guards, etc. get screwed).

The second issue is that we as analysts rarely look at the whole prospect to see which ones are best. Sure AJ Green is the best receiving prospect in the class and some think he compares to many great NFL receivers. But is Julio Jones the better overall prospect because of his blocking abilities? In this article I will dive in to just a few of the little things to find out who the best five prospects are.

1) Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

I hate having to start off the argument with a guy that is the best in normal big boards, but Peterson has been very good, and it (like the likes of Eric Berry and Ndamukong Suh) has been obvious for years. If Peterson were plugged into an NFL offense tomorrow I do truly believe that he would be a top-15 CB in the league instantly. This may be a little high or a little low for some, but he actually does have some minor flaws.

Peterson's technique is actually not that good from an NFL standards level. Peterson often has to out-athlete the better receivers that he faces, and he sometimes is caught biting or trying for the big play which hurts him. He isn't very good in zone coverage, and his run support skills need some help, and his very low wonderlic score confirms to me that he might not have the brain capacity to naturally learn to fix himself and become one of the top-5 corners in the league. Some will argue that the wonderilic means nothing, but a guy that struggles in technique, zone coverage and run support who has a low wonderlic is a small flag for me.

With all of his flaws, there is no doubt that Peterson is the best natural prospect in the draft. The team that takes him could throw him in without much training and he could possibly still be the best player on the defense. He also has the potential to be one of the best corners in the league instantly if he can learn to tune a few things.

2) Julio Jones, WR, Alabama


As a receiver with upside AJ Green is the best prospect since Megatron a few years ago. Green has flashed pieces that show that he is the next Larry Fitzgerald, but he also has flashed pieces that show he is the next Charles Rogers. I will talk a little more about Green later on though.

As a whole complete prospect, Julio Jones might be the best overall player in the draft. He has top-10 skills and upside in receiving, and that has shown throughout his college career. The main difference that you must look at is in his blocking skills. Jones is a near-elite blocker as a receiver which (like all blocking) doesn't get talked about enough. If somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of all offensive plays require a receiver to block in some form, then having a top notch blocker is necessary. Jones is a great receiver with great blocking skills and I think that it is enough to put him over the top in terms of prospect analysis.

I do see why Green is often rated above Jones though. Jones has a little less production, a few more injury concerns, and a little less receiving upside. Jones also has shown that his ball skills aren't perfect, but Jones also has shown that he has the capability to possibly learn and tune them. Overall Julio Jones might not have as high of upside as AJ Green, but he also has a much lower chance of busting compared to Green.

3) Alex Henery, K/P, Nebraska

No that is not a typo, I really do have a kicker on the list, but Henery is the real deal. Some people will say that punters and kickers don't matter, but I would argue that they are the 3rd or 4th most valuable assets on a team. The best teams in the league, and the Super Bowl champions often have consistent punters and kickers. Defense wins championships, but field goals often decide playoff games. The Kicker is valuable.

Henery made 261 out of 270 total FG's and XP's in college, and six of his misses were from field goals over 50-yards. So on a scale of kicks he was expected to kick, he hit 261/264 (98.9%). Oh, and did I forget to say that he also might be the best punter in the draft too? Henery averaged a fantastic 42.2 yards per punt in college (147 punts), and probably could add five more yards to each punt should a team take the FG pressure off of him.

Henery missed six kicks from 50+ yards, but he did go 5 for 11, with a career high of 57 yards, so he does have a strong leg on him. He is able to make just about any kick that you would ever need, and he has shown no major signs of wear or tear throughout. Henery could go as high as the 3rd round, because he truly is that good.

4) AJ Green, WR, Georgia

When I put AJ Green here at 4th I mean no disrespect at all. As a receiving prospect he is by far the best we have seen in a few years, but there are certain things not to like about Green. First of all Green is not bulky enough to be a great NFL receiver. Adding bulk will make him a much better receiver in terms of power, ability and health, but also because one of his most glaring weaknesses is in blocking. Green is not a player that can block well, so he is essentially useless for 25-50 percent of plays (rushing plays that require blockers).

The second thing that bothers me with Green is his attitude. I don't want to single him out for his suspension, but it did often feel like there was something slightly off with him in some games. I don't think it was him taking the game off, but it did feel like at times he realized that he was double teamed and he just didn't fight that extra bit to help win games.

Finally is the comparison test. I have often heard him get called the next Larry Fitzgerald and I am ok with that comparison, but in most ways he actually compares best to Charles Rogers. Both receivers as prospects were too slender for their own good, had a few off the field issues, and sometimes didn't fight for that extra little bit. Their size and lack of bulk also led to injuries (Charles Rogers had two broken collarbones and AJ Green has had minor shoulder injuries of his own).

There is no doubt that AJ Green is packed full of potential, but I also think that his bust potential is much higher to Julio Jones which does scare me some. Green likely will be the first receiver taken, but if Julio Jones gets taken by a team that prefers a very good blocking receiver (maybe a WCO team) then I might understand the move.


5) Marcell Dareus, DT, NT, DE/DT, Alabama

The one thing that I cannot stress enough to some fans learning the game is to understand players and their potential in different defenses. I personally learn more and more every single day about the tiny things, but some need to know what to expect out of some players. If you are looking at a guy like Marcell Dareus for your 3-4 defense, you can expect him to either be a defensive end that will stuff the rushers while also forcing offensive linemen to block them while rush linebackers rush the passer. You could also plug him in at NT (in some light weight schemes) to stuff the holes in the middle while also pushing the pocket into the passer. Finally for the 4-3 defense you have to realize that he is going to fit only the 4-3 NT role in which case he will not be an elite pass rusher.

Marcell Dareus will never get you 6-10 sacks a season like Ndamukong Suh can, but it doesn't mean that he isn't worthy of a top-5 pick. Dareus is more of a run stuffer that is able to collapse the pocket. So while he doesn't rack up the stats, he does force offensive lines to stop Dareus which will in turn force the other pass rushers into the pocket easier.

Overall Dareus is a very good prospect. He does have some pass rushing moves, and he does have a good array of run stopping moves. He has very good speed for his bulk which makes him very versatile, and while he does have a few concerns throughout he is a pretty safe pick to take. I actually would much rather see him become an elite 3-4 player, but he likely won't get past Denver.


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Some may wonder why I left Von Miller off of the list. While I do believe Von Miller has become a very good overall prospect, I do think it is unfair to view him as a safe, can't miss guy. There wasn't a single person that went into the 2010 college season that said "Von Miller will get consideration to be the 2nd or 3rd overall pick. AJ Green, Julio Jones, Marcell Dareus, and Patrick Peterson all were on the list, but not Miller.

I personally hate buying into a prospect significantly because of what happened either in the Senior Bowl, at the combine, or at a pro day. Von Miller looked like a top-15 pick in the regular season, but there were few times where I saw an elite 3-4 rush linebacker, despite the fact that he actually played in the 3-4 defense in (part of) college. Miller was injured, and I have no problem with a 3-4 team taking him early, but I don't think that he is a can't miss guy. Miller also wouldn't be a top-20 pick at 4-3 LB if it weren't for the absurd stock from some GMs.