Today we released my initial Top 32 "Big Board" as part of NFLDraftScout.com's expanded coverage of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Though I was asked to only list 32 players, I thought it important to list the next 10 prospects who just missed the cut, which, of course, also highlights those who did not make the list.
There are some awfully good football players out there that didn't make my list. The following five are the ones I expect fans will be the most surprised by. This post is designed to explain why those players didn't make my list.
Players are listed alphabetically.
Jon Baldin, WR, Pittsburgh: If the buzz in the scouting community is accurate and Baldwin does dazzle scouts at the Combine with breathtaking speed at 6-5, 230 pounds he'll be moving up a lot of boards. Not mine, though. I don't care how fast he runs in a straight-line, I see a prospect who lacks the flexibility and balance to create explosion out of his breaks and isn't nearly as physical a receiver as his size would indicate either.
Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: Houston was a dominant force in the SEC this season, earning First-Team honors with 67 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He has experience as a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 rush linebacker. However, I believe he's a more explosive rusher with his hand in the ground than he is standing up and I haven't seen enough fluidity in his drops to make me believe he's anything more than a one-trick pass rusher. I believe he is one of the more overrated prospects in the draft to this point.
Drake Nevis, DT, LSU: I listed Nevis as a player who missed an opportunity in this recent post-all-star game wrap-up because I really believe he could have made himself some money by going to the Senior Bowl. As I noted in that article, Nevis' ability to collapse the pocket made him the SEC's best defensive lineman not named Nick Fairley. Still, at only 6-1, 285 pounds, he's a rotational player. Not many teams can justify taking a rotational player in the first round, so I think there is a very real possibility he slips out. I'd take him in the second round if I can a 4-3 defense and needed a penetrating three-technique, but not until halfway through the round.
Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech: There is a lot I like about Williams. In fact, there are elements to his game that I believe translate better to the NFL than Illinois' Mikel LeShoure, who I rated as the 33rd best prospect. However, the struggles with durability concern me as Williams is 5-11, 205 pounds. In a class with as much middle round talent at RB as this one, I believe it drops the value of good, but not special backs like Williams.
Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois: Of the five listed here, Wilson was the closest to making my list. In fact, I currently have him as the 43rd best prospect and a solid 2nd round pick. Like most NFL teams, I struggle with stamping a first round grade on inside linebackers. Wilson is the class of the position, however, and could creep up my board if he works out and interviews well. I believe he has the upside to ultimately be a better player in the NFL than he was in college.