Where Did NFL Draft Experts Have Top Prospects Ranked Before Last Season?

Brandon HolsteinFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2013

Where Did NFL Draft Experts Have Top Prospects Ranked Before Last Season?

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    A lot can change over the course of a college football season.

    Just ask NFL draft prospects like Matt Barkley and Manti Te'o, who just six short months ago were considered the top prospects at their positions and first-round locks. 

    Flash forward to today, and not only are both of these two prospects no longer considered the top players at their positions, but some would hesitate to even call them prospects worthy of first-round consideration.

    Expert opinion on a player's overall value can sometimes change at the drop of a hat. In this exercise we consult scouting rankings from early September 2012 and look to how accurately three prominent NFL draft writers will fare when it comes to making projections for the upcoming event.

    Below is the list of experts and links to their respective big boards used to conduct this comparison.

     

    Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN (Subscription Required)

    Todd McShay, ESPN (Subscription Required)

    Matt Miller, Bleacher Report

Honorable Mentions

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    QB Matt Barkley, USC

    • Mel Kiper, Jr.: No. 1 overall
    • Todd McShay: No. 1 overall
    • Matt Miller: No. 10 overall

     

    OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan:

    • Mel Kiper, Jr.: NR
    • Todd McShay: NR
    • Matt Miller: No. 185 overall

     

    OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma:

    • Mel Kiper, Jr.: NR
    • Todd McShay: NR
    • Matt Miller: NR

     

    DE/LB Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, BYU:

    • Mel Kiper, Jr.: NR
    • Todd McShay: NR
    • Matt Miller: NR

     

    DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida

    • Mel Kiper, Jr.: NR
    • Todd McShay: NR
    • Matt Miller: No. 76 overall

     

    LB Manti Teo', Notre Dame

    • Mel Kiper, Jr.: No. 8 overall
    • Todd McShay: No. 8 overall
    • Matt Miller: No. 18 overall

10) LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia

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    Mel Kiper, Jr.: No. 2 overall

    Todd McShay: No. 4 overall

    Matt Miller: No. 3 overall

     

    Analysis: Every so often NFL draft experts will actually agree, and in this case they all did when it came to Jarvis Jones' draft stock early last fall.

    Here, Kiper was the highest and McShay the lowest on Jones, however there's really not much to comment on considering all three were within one or two ratings of each other. 

    Fast forward to today and Jones' stock is certainly not where it once was or where he would like it to be. Although his career production in the SEC has been great the past two years, lingering questions about his spinal stenosis and arm length has teams weary as to whether Jones has already peaked as a pass-rusher. 

    Due to these concerns, many teams have likely moved Jones down at least 10 spots from his initial positioning at the start of the 2012 college football season. 

    Disappointing for Jones, yes. However, he remains a first-round prospect due to the premium NFL teams place on players who can get after the quarterback.

    And these are qualities that Jones certainly has, but there is now some risk associated with the player who was once considered an elite prospect, a cant miss-type player.

9) DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State

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    Mel Kiper Jr.: NR

    Todd McShay: NR

    Matt Miller: No. 24 Overall

     

    Analysis: Only one of our three evaluators had Bjoern Werner ranked in the top 25 at the beginning of the year. This is understandable—but also somewhat shocking, considering the progression Werner showed throughout his sophomore year and early on in his junior season. 

    In fact, Bleacher Report's very own Matt Miller was the only one last September to rank the talented pass-rusher, and an updated look at both Kiper and McShay's recent big boards show little has changed in their opinion of Werner since that time.

    Look, Werner is certainly not the most athletic pass-rusher, that much I get.

    However, the tape does show that Werner may be the most proficient and technically sound of the bunch and quite capable of making an impact early on.

    Certainly that should count for something, and Kiper especially seems to be missing the bigger picture in this specific case.

    Not giving him a top-25 ranking is an oversight if I’ve ever seen one.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


8) LB/DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU

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    Mel Kiper, Jr.: No. 3 overall

    Todd McShay: No. 3 overall

    Matt Miller: No. 12 overall

     

    Analysis: If everything went to plan and worked out the way it was supposed to, Barkevious Mingo would be the No. 1 overall pick.

    However, this surely was and is not the case.

    In a year in which he was supposed to dominate, Mingo managed to produce a meager 4.5 sacks—drastically underperforming and failing to live up to his overall talent and natural ability.

    Clearly both Kiper and McShay were buying into the early-season hype surrounding Mingo, but history has shown us that athletic specimens are not always all their cracked up to be. 

    It takes more than potential to warrant a high draft pick, and Mingo, up to this point, has not consistently taken full advantage of his God-given abilities.

    Putting him at No. 12 overall does a good job of balancing the risk versus reward involved, while also taking into account the level of upside associated with a player of Mingo's unique capabilities. 

    Point goes to Miller.

7) G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

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    Mel Kiper, Jr.: NR

    Todd McShay: No. 13 overall

    Matt Miller: No. 63 overall

     

    Analysis: It's important to remember that Kiper limits his board to the top 25 overall, so while he may not have ranked Jonathan Cooper in this instance, that doesn't necessarily mean he didn't consider him a top-30 prospect to begin the season.

    McShay on the other hand nailed this one by ranking him No. 13 overall way back in September, which arguably could be too low depending on how much you value the position Cooper plays.

    Nevertheless, McShay does deserve kudos for this projection, as Cooper has established himself as a borderline elite player capable of cracking the top 10 overall.

6) LB/DE Dion Jordan, Oregon

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    Mel Kiper, Jr.: NR

    Todd McShay: NR

    Matt Miller: No. 79 overall

     

    Analysis: Again, it's hard to draw lines as to where Kiper and McShay may have had Dion Jordan ranked, but at the very least we know that neither considered him a top 25 or top 32 overall talent to begin last season.

    The same can be said of Miller, who had Jordan ranked as the 79th best overall prospect, putting him in the third-round range from an evaluation standpoint. 

    Therefore, it appears that all three of our evaluators may have missed the boat somewhat on a player considered to be one of the most athletic and versatile defenders available.

    Miller deserves credit and recognition for going above and beyond, while providing a much longer and extensive list than his counterparts, but it goes without say that nobody really wins on this specific occasion. 

    Clearly Jordan has established himself as a top-10 talent and is destined to go as high as No. 2 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, proving why sometimes even the best-known prognosticators can be somewhat off when it comes to early-season predictions.

5) QB Geno Smith, West Virginia

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    Mel Kiper, Jr.: NR

    Todd McShay: No. 30 overall

    Matt Miller: No. 29 overall

     

    Analysis: Coming into the season every one of our evaluators had Matt Barkley as the No. 1 overall quarterback prospect available. 

    Geno Smith? Well, only two of our evaluators (McShay and Miller) thought enough of him to warrant a top 30 grade. 

    As for Kiper, he could have conceivably ranked Smith in that top-30 range.

    (Since Kiper's model only goes up to 25—and being that there are 32 teams in the NFL—why not expand your rankings to include seven additional prospects? Certainly it would only help his cause in identifying players who deserve first-round consideration.)

    Smith has clearly established himself as the top quarterback prospect in this class, however whether he is a true franchise quarterback is still up in the air.

    Nevertheless, props go out to both McShay and Miller for pegging Smith as a first-round prospect way back in September.

    Something not every talent evaluator can honestly say. 

4) CB Dee Milliner, Alabama

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    Mel Kiper, Jr.: No. 23 overall

    Todd McShay: No. 12 overall

    Matt Miller: No. 14 overall

     

    Analysis: One of the few prospects on this list who was ranked by each of our evaluators to begin the season, Dee Milliner has certainly lived up to expectations and even exceeded them, thanks to his very refined overall game and impressive performances against marquee talent this past season.

    One thing worth noting here is that McShay ranked Milliner as the top cornerback in September, whereas Miller listed North Carolina State's David Amerson as his top corner entering the 2012 campaign. 

    That being said, the difference is rather minute considering that the projections of the two evaluators had Milliner separated by just two spots.

    Kiper, on the other hand, ranked Milliner much lower than his two fellow experts, positioning him about 10 spots or so below McShay and Miller’s projections.

    The other noticeable aspect of Kiper's rankings?

    Not only did he have Milliner rated lower than did Miller and McShay, he also ranked the Alabama corner behind Amerson and Florida State's Xavier Rhodes—two corners whom Milliner certainly surpassed in 2012.

3) G Chance Warmack, Alabama

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    Mel Kiper, Jr.: No. 6 overall

    Todd McShay: No. 2 overall

    Matt Miller: No. 21 overall

     

    Analysis: Who says guards can't be considered elite prospects prior to the season?

    Both Kiper and McShay clearly thought so of Chance Warmack, and even though Miller's ranking was lagging somewhat behind, his rating of No. 21 overall is still respectable, albeit a tad bit low.

    The ESPN duo was clearly a step ahead when it came to identifying Warmack as one of the elite prospects in this draft and a rare guard worthy of a top-10 ranking.

    Not often do you see one guard prospect, let alone two receive early season recognition, making Warmack and Cooper more of an exception to the rule than anything else.

    The only question now is whether we will see two guards get drafted in the top 10 overall, an occurrence that would mark the first time in NFL draft history.

2) DT Star Lotulelei, Utah

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    Mel Kiper, Jr.: No. 7 overall

    Todd McShay: No. 6 overall

    Matt Miller: No. 4 overall

     

    Analysis: The NFL draft stock of Star Lotulelei has played somewhat like a carousel over the past few months.

    First it was up—as you can see by our experts’ predictions above—then it was somewhat down after his combine medical turned up some red flags in regards to his heart.

    Now, after receiving positive medical reviews and clearance from doctors, Lotulelei's stock appears to be back to normal (via USA Today).

    All three of our evaluators correctly identified the former Utah star as an elite prospect at the beginning the season, and honestly he's well deserving of that ranking, despite all that's happened over the past two months.

    I'd personally be shocked to not hear his name called at some point in the top 10.

    His talent is far too great not to be selected early.

1) Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

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    Mel Kiper, Jr.: No. 10 overall

    Todd McShay: No 24 overall

    Matt Miller: No. 17 overall

     

    Analysis: The No. 1 overall prospect on a lot of boards today, Luke Joeckel was not always as highly sought after as he now is.

    In fact, Kiper was the only one in our group to give Joeckel a top-10 ranking prior to the season. However, both McShay and Miller were not far behind with overall rankings of No. 24 and No. 17 respectfully.

    Nonetheless, if this example shows anything, it's that the NFL draft is essentially is, and will always be, a process.

    Oftentimes, even the experts fail to get an evaluation right the first time, which makes it all the more important to learn from and fix your mistakes as soon as possible.

    Some of our experts do a better of this than others, but ultimately all we really have now are simple predictions, which is what makes the NFL draft so unique.

    It takes a few years to truly figure out who was right and who was wrong, and by that time most will have forgotten about the 2013 NFL draft altogether.