We're 10 days away from the NFL draft, and the evaluation process is mostly complete. Teams are just getting their board together. This week I'll be providing various top 10 lists. Today's list consists of the "best pure football players."
Obviously, I could put Jadeveon Clowney on the list, and other top prospects, but that's not what this list is about. It's not the 10 best players in the draft. This is a list of 10 guys you can just put on the field, and expect production. There might not be a true position for some of these players, but all you need to do is put them on the field, and they'll make plays. Guys that can play, and succeed in multiple roles.
10. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
I'm a big fan of Moses, and think he belongs in the 1st round. He's a guy that when you watch, it certainly isn't always pretty. Moses isn't going to wow you with natural athleticism, he plays high, and isn't great in space. The thing with Moses is that he finds ways to win. He takes the right angle, and executes his assignments. Moses can play both tackle positions and I expect him to develop and become a better pro.
9. Devonta Freeman
Much has been made about the dying breed of an every down running back in the NFL. You can make a strong argument for Freeman as the top running back in the class. He runs hard, catches the ball well out of the backfield, and most importantly, is the best pass protector in the class. Freeman likely won't go early in the draft after running a 4.58, but he's a guy that I fully expect to out produce where he's expected to be drafted.
8. Josh Huff
Huff actually reminds me a lot of Randall Cobb. He has the speed to get/win vertical, he can catch the ball in traffic, and can win at the top of his routes. Because of this, once he's in a more pro style offense I can see him becoming a highly productive receiver in the NFL. When I watch Huff, I see a lot of untapped potential that should surface once he's in a more refined role. He blocks like he's 6'5 240, you can't help but appreciate him there. You can't teach his speed.
7. Lamarcus Joyner
While he might not be as fluid an athlete, or impactful as the Honey Badger, the comparison certainly holds weight. Joyner is likely a safety on base downs, and slides into the nickel on passing downs. He has the same feel for the game as Mathieu, and is always playing the game at 100 miles an hour. Joyner is always around the ball, and has a knack for making the big play, whether it's a sack fumble, or an interception. I don't see this changing at the next level. Joyner is the definition of a "pure football player."
6. Darqueze Dennard
Dennard looks even better on the coaches tape. I was expecting him to get beat by the way the media talks about him and how his "draft stock" was falling, but I didn't see it. Dennard is a guy that just understands the game. I think he'll surprise at the next level how well he plays off coverage. He's best suited at the line of scrimmage, where he can disrupt the receiver, but is by no means limited there. I don't see his grabbiness as that big of an issue. I believe Dennard is smart enough and will adjust as needed at the next level.
5. Scott Crichton
If you need help along the defensive front, Crichton is your guy. He can play the strong side defensive end, the weak-side defensive end, can slide in to defensive tackle on passing downs, or even give you valuable snaps as a nose tackle. His versatility is pretty impressive when you think about it. The 6'3 273 pound defensive end won't wow you with athleticism, and some have questioned his true position at the next level. Players like Crichton, you just put on the field, and say "go get the quarterback", and he will, from anywhere. He'll likely go in the 2nd round, but don't be surprised if he out produces some edge players that go ahead of him.
4. Aaron Donald
It's incredible the rise Donald has had throughout the draft process. Viewed as a mid second rounder before the Senior Bowl, and as of today many believe he's a lock to go in the top 10. That's what happens when you disregard his "undersized" 6'1 285 pound frame, and watch him play football. In fact, if you told me you believed Donald was the most dominant, disruptive player in college football in 2013, I would probably agree with you. He's dominated everywhere he has gone, and it's hard to imagine that stops in the NFL.
3. Jason Verrett
I charted every route against Verrett using a 6 game sample, and boy was I impressed. Because measurables matter, Verrett will go lower than a guy with the size, like Justin Gilbert. From a pure football standpoint, it's hard to find a player pound for pound better than Verrett. I do have issues with his strength at the catch point, but Verrett's ability to react to the play, athleticism, and awareness are all off the charts. Even if he was limited to a slot corner, which I don't believe he is, that has significant value in today's NFL. Even as a rookie, he has the skill set to succeed right away.
2. C.J. Mosley
It's unfortunate that he has durability concerns, and the "played at Alabama" stigma might be used against him, because C.J. Mosley is truly one of the best pure football players in the draft. So many small things he does that you appreciate, like running his feet on contact, or not overrunning plays. There's a lot of Lavonte David to his game. Mosley is going to be a great player provided he can stay healthy due to his ability in coverage, and work through the trash in the run game. I've seen nothing to think Mosley won't be disruptive at the next level.
1. Jimmie Ward
"He's only 5'11 193 pounds. He only did 9 reps on the bench." Blah, blah blah. I've seen Ward compared to Weddle, and can certainly see that. You want a football player. A guy who makes plays. That's Ward. He's everywhere when you watch Northern Illinois. He played a lot of slot corner, he is more than capable of playing the single high safety role, and like Weddle, he'll make plays in the box as a run defender. He ran a 4.45, jumped over 37 inches, and both of those show up on tape. You could make a good argument that Ward is the top safety in the class, i would have a hard time disagreeing. There's no doubt in my mind Ward is the best "pure football player" in the draft.