Comparing the Top 2013 NFL Draft Prospects to Their Pro Counterparts

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterSeptember 18, 2012

Comparing the Top 2013 NFL Draft Prospects to Their Pro Counterparts

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    It's never easy to compare college players to a professional counterpart, but sometimes that is the best way to describe what a college prospect can do or where they can be with the right coaching and development.

    Is Logan Thomas the next Cam Newton? Is there a Von Miller clone in Jarvis Jones?

    The top prospects at each position may not have a picture-perfect NFL comparison, but here is the player they most closely resemble and why.

Quarterback: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

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    Pro Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Big, strong, impossible to tackle with just one man and maybe a bit prone to bad decisions, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas is a junior Ben Roethlisberger.

    Much like Big Ben during his days at Miami (Ohio), Thomas is a raw, athletic phenom playing quarterback. Thomas, a former tight end recruit, is more than built like Roethlisberger. The two gun-slingers are known for their penchant to escape tacklers and make plays with their feet. 

    Thomas is not yet an elite quarterback prospect, and his play in 2012 has been spotty at best, but his potential makes him the top quarterback prospect. Much like Ben, Thomas may not be the first quarterback drafted, but he has a great chance to become a long-term, high-quality starter in the NFL.

Running Back: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

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    Pro Comparison: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

    When you watch Marcus Lattimore shedding tacklers with his big frame and high knees, it's easy to instantly flash back to Adrian Peterson during his days as an Oklahoma Sooner.

    Lattimore has battled a knee injury that has reduced his speed in 2012, but before the injury, the two were nearly mirror images of each other. Lattimore is a bit thicker, but their tall running style and ability to absorb hits and keep moving forward make the two power backs very similar when grading their overall styles.

Fullback: Trey Millard, Oklahoma

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    Pro Comparison: James Casey, Houston Texans

    The fullback position is a dying breed in the NFL, unless you are versatile enough to offer incentive elsewhere. James Casey is that player for the Houston Texans, and Trey Millard is next in line.

    The Oklahoma Sooners fullback is a runner, receiver and improving blocker. You will see him in motion before the snap, moving around to find the best matchup. Like Casey or even a Delanie Walker (San Francisco), Millard isn't a typical blocking fullback. He's much more, and that's why he's our No. 1-ranked player at the position.

Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen, Cal

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    Pro Comparison: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

    Maybe you don't see the connection between Jordy Nelson and Keenan Allen at first glance, but it's there.

    Both Nelson and Allen make their living as run-after-catch type wide receivers. Both can be used anywhere on the field as a matchup problem for the defense. Both are great at finding the end zone.

    Nelson has become an elite NFL receiver, but those who saw him at Kansas State will remember a wild playmaker who tore apart Big 12 defenses with his speed and open-field moves. Allen is like that—but better.

Tight End: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame

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    Pro Comparison: Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins

    There is no Rob Gronkowski clone in this year's draft class, but the team who selects Tyler Eifert will be happy with the all-around talent he brings to the field.

    Eifert has spent part of his college career flexed out into the slot as a wide receiver, which sets him ahead of many college tight ends, as he's a better route runner and has a better understanding of the passing game. We're starting to see more of Eifert as a blocker, and while he's not quite NFL-level yet, the potential is there.

    Where does Eifert project in the NFL? Very similar to an Anthony Fasano-type player. Big, great in the red zone and a plus blocker when asked to move and take angles to spring the run game.

Offensive Tackle: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

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    Pro Comparison: Nate Solder, New England Patriots

    The 2013 draft class is loaded with talented offensive tackles, but Luke Joeckel is the best by a long shot. 

    What makes Joeckel so talented is his ability to move his feet to keep up with edge rushers and to get to the second level in the run game. It was expected that Joeckel would struggle with elite pass-rushers in the SEC, but so far, that hasn't been an issue.

    Nate Solder was a very similar player at Colorado, but on a less-recognized scale. Solder surprised most as the second tackle drafted in 2011. Joeckel will surprise no one when his name is called early in the first round.

Offensive Guard: Chance Warmack, Alabama

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    Pro Comparison: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens

    One of my favorite players to watch on any given Sunday is Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda. The way he fires off the ball, the way he controls his man in pass protection—everything Yanda does is textbook.

    Watching Chance Warmack, you get the same feeling.

    Warmack has overshadowed D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones on the Alabama offensive line—no easy task considering Jones is a heavily decorated lineman. What makes Warmack so great? He's a freak of an athlete, and his quickness sparks a mean streak of blocking. Be it in pass protection or a run play, Warmack dominates his space. 

Center: Khaled Holmes, USC

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    Pro Comparison: Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers

    Polished. That's one word you'll hear and see thrown around a lot when it comes to USC football prospects. Trojans players leave college ready for the next level. Coming out of Lane Kiffin's scheme gives players, especially those on offense, a nice head start to the NFL.

    Khaled Holmes is the top center in this year's class, and he closely resembles another former USC center—Ryan Kalil. 

    Like Kalil, Holmes has the prototypical size and strength for the job. He's a short-armed, stocky technician who won't blow scouts away with measurables, but when you plug in the tape, he's the field general teams love from the center position.

Defensive End: Sam Montgomery, LSU

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    Pro Comparison: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers

    You never want to make comparisons too lofty—the prospect should at least have a chance to live up to expectations. In the case of Sam Montgomery, there may not be a comparison too high for him to obtain.

    The LSU pass-rusher gets overlooked some because of Barkevious Mingo, but don't let the catchy name fool you; Montgomery is the better all-around player and the better NFL prospect. 

    Much like Aldon Smith, Montgomery projects best as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, but he's versatile enough to play with his hand in the dirt on passing downs. Montgomery has the tools to be a force early. Watch him bend the edge to shut down a quarterback each Saturday, and you'll see why he's a top-five prospect for the 2013 class.

Defensive Tackle: Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State

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    Pro Comparison: Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills

    When the season began, we had Star Lotulelei ranked as the top defensive tackle. Johnathan Hankins has taken that spot as his own with exceptional play through three weeks.

    Hankins' ability to shoot through the offensive line is becoming a must-see for college football fans and draftniks. A man his size shouldn't move as quickly as he does, but Hankins is consistently breaking through the line and making plays—even when double-teamed, which is happening more and more.

    If watching Hankins gives you flashbacks to Marcell Dareus doing the same for the Alabama Crimson Tide, don't worry, we feel the same.

Outside Linebacker: Jarvis Jones, Georgia

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    Pro Comparison: Von Miller, Denver Broncos

    As an evaluator, you never want to compare guys to Tom Brady. The more glorified the player, the less you want to draw comparisons to him. Von Miller is entering that level. Comparing a college player to Miller sets the bar exceptionally high, and fans will remember if a player enters the league with 12-sack comparisons.

    If any player in college football could be compared to one of those pedestal-type prospects, it's Georgia's Jarvis Jones.

    Jones went on a tear in 2011, giving SEC offenses headaches each week. He's at it again in 2012, fueling a Georgia defense that's been lights-out so far. Jones, like Miller, is able to make plays as a stand-up pass-rusher or as a defensive end. 

    No matter where he plays in the NFL, Jones is sure to draw instant comparisons to Miller.

Inside Linebacker: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

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    Pro Comparison: Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots

    Finding an inside linebacker prospect who is versatile enough to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme at a high level is rare. Finding one who can also play outside linebacker in both schemes is pretty crazy. Manti Te'o is that player, and Jerod Mayo was too.

    Te'o lines up as the mike linebacker in the Notre Dame defense, but he's displayed the quickness and vision to line up as an outside linebacker and make plays. In Te'o, you see the quick hips needed to play in coverage—especially zone—and the eyes to read the quarterback.

    Mayo was and is very similar as a linebacker. The Patriots have used him as an inside and outside linebacker, and that versatility has made him one of the top all-around linebackers in the NFL. Te'o has the same upside.

Cornerback: David Amerson, North Carolina State

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    Pro Comparison: Nnamdi Asomugha, Philadelphia Eagles

    He has the size, the length and the knack for making big plays. When you're watching David Amerson, it's easy to picture Nnamdi Asomugha in a North Carolina State jersey.

    Amerson has struggled slightly this year, but he's still the top cornerback in the country. Picking off quarterbacks 13 times in 2011 will do that. Amerson is still feared—and rightfully so.

    Amerson, like Asomugha, is at his best in a press scheme where he can play the ball and come up to the receiver. Both players use their size and length well when they're able to break on the ball—as evidenced by Amerson's high interception totals.

Free Safety: Eric Reid, LSU

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    Pro Comparison: Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers

    A free safety must be able to cover in man situations, drop back in a deep zone and come up to play the run. Few players can do all three well. Eric Weddle does it the best of anyone in the NFL. Eric Reid is his counterpart at the college level.

    Reid is making a reputation as a fierce hitter and ball hawk. He's someone who can come up to rattle wide receivers with a big shot, but Reid is equally dangerous when breaking back at the snap to pick off the ball. Reid is feared, and as a defensive back, that's the best compliment you can receive.

    Reid and Weddle are two players from the same mold, and Reid has the potential to challenge Weddle's reign as the NFL's best free safety.

Strong Safety: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

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    Pro Comparison: Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs

    Eric Berry hasn't made the huge impact most projected for him due to injury, but you can see the talent when he's on the field. Berry's ability to close on the ball makes him a threat all over the field. Turn on a Texas Longhorns football game, and you'll see Kenny Vaccaro doing the same.

    Vaccaro is becoming a big-play safety for the Texas defense, and in his senior season, he has established himself as the top strong safety in the nation. Vaccaro's range—his ability to find the football and get to it in a hurry—is in a class by itself. 

    Vaccaro may not have Berry's raw speed, but Berry was never the hitter that Vaccaro is. The playmaking ability, however, is spot on.