With the 2011 NFL Draft now only days away, scouting departments throughout the league are locking themselves in their film and meeting rooms to fine tune their draft boards.
I am doing the same.
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With "news" daily of another prospect being dinged due to medical or character concerns, it would be easy to make drastic changes to the board. Resisting the temptation to move players because of what I hear is critical to success. I've been taught to grade players on what I see.
Anyone can recognize talent. I'm most interested in identifying players who, with that talent, have the maturity, intelligence and work ethic to become NFL stars. The Big Board is my ranking of the players available, regardless of position. If I was building a team from scratch with only the current draft class to choose from, this is the order in which I would select them.
1. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU:A standout corner with the ability to impact the game as a returner, Peterson is the best player in the draft.
2. Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M: A pass-rushing phenom, Miller will compete for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
3. Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama: Strong, stout and quick, Dareus enhances his physical skills with work ethic and toughness. He's one of the sure prospects in this draft.
4. AJ Green, WR, Georgia: Sure, Julio Jones overshadowed Green at the Combine. But put on the tape -- Green's size, body control and hands are reminiscent of a young Larry Fitzgerald -- and Green is faster.
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6. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Big, physical and fast, Amukamara is not only an elite prospect, he's also among the most dedicated players in the draft.
7. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina: The most explosive pass rusher in the draft, Quinn is capable of becoming a star off the edge for either a 4-3 or 3-4 team.
8. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Jones' combine workout was as surprising as it was impressive. That said, the 4.3 speed he demonstrated in Indianapolis was never evident on the field for the Crimson Tide.
9. Cameron Jordan, DE, California: Showed everyone at Senior Bowl (and confirmed at the Combine) what I've been saying for months -- Jordan is arguably the most versatile defensive lineman in a class blessed with a lot of them.
10. JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin: At 6-5, 290 pounds, Watt has the perfect blend of size and strength (34 reps of 225 pounds) to star as a 3-4 defensive end. He then demonstrated much better overall athleticism at the Combine to reassure teams that he could remain outside in the 4-3.
11. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: Athletic, intelligent and durable, Castonzo is this year's safest offensive tackle. He might never make a Pro Bowl, but could lock down the blind side for a decade.
12. Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida: With size, strength and the athleticism to block at the second level, Pouncey's ability to stand out against SEC competition make him an easy first-round pick.
13. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: Proved the rare agility and straight-line speed at the combine that has led some to label him as the most talented player in the draft. I have concerns about his maturity and work ethic once he gets a multimillion-dollar contract.
14. Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Despite the fact that he led the nation with 15½ sacks, Bowers doesn't boast great quick-twitch explosiveness, as his disappointing Pro Day workout proved. He's slipping on draft boards because of concerns about his knee. Bowers won't be a dominant NFL pass rusher.
15. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Size, arm strength, good accuracy and a quick release, Gabbert has all of the tools to be a top-five pick. I have too many concerns about his deep accuracy to rate him higher than the sure-fire stars of this draft.
16. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: He can be a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 linebacker and his burst, agility and hustle make him one of the best bets in the draft.
17. Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal: In terms of pure talent, Smith is this year's best offensive tackle, but his experience is on the right side, his future lies on the left and scouts have questioned his maturity. Teams also have voiced medical concerns.
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19. Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: He has an explosive burst, good flexibility and the upper-body strength to compete immediately. Liuget is a classic three-technique defensive tackle who is earning grades closer to Dareus and Fairley from some teams than many realize.
20. Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: Smith's burst off the snap and long arms are two elite physical characteristics that could make him a star pass rusher in the NFL. With only moderate lateral agility and flexibility, he's probably only a defensive end -- and doesn't fit as an outside linebacker for most teams -- which limits interest.
21. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: A road grader with enough size and reach for pass protection, Carimi would be best if moved to right tackle in the NFL.
22. Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor: Don't let his marginal tests at the combine or the fact that he's 26 years old distract from the fact that Watkins is the toughest, nastiest interior lineman in this class. He might not be drafted in the first round, but will one day be viewed as a steal if he doesn't.
23. Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: I'm higher on Sherrod than most and view him as an ideal swing tackle capable of stepping in immediately and well worth first-round pick.
24. Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: A top-20 talent athletically but concerns about his health and transfer from Penn State could push him down the board.
25. QB Jake Locker, Washington: One impressive 30-minute throwing session at the Combine does not erase four years of inaccurate passing, but it does provide evidence that Locker might be capable of improving his accuracy with better technique.
26. Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple: Position-flexible and scheme-versatile, Wilkerson might be considered a top 20 lock had he played in the Big Ten or SEC rather than the MAC.
27. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: Ayers boosted his stock with scouts by reassuring them that the athleticism they'd seen on tape was no figment of their imagination. Ayers needed a vastly improved workout at UCLA's Pro Day March 29 after a disappointing Combine -- and he produced.
28. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: Solder's weak base and moderate strength are concerns, but his rare size (6-8, 314), athleticism and flexibility make him an ideal left tackle prospect.
29. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Smith proved that he has legitimate speed (4.42) and agility with a prototype 6-2, 211-pound frame to remain at cornerback in the NFL. However, his moderate ball skills and significant character red-flags could push him out of the first round.
30. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Like Bowers and Tyron Smith, medical concerns might be enough to drop Clayborn significantly lower than his play indicates he should be drafted. He'll be a steal if he falls to the second round.
31. Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State: Ponder is shorter (6-feet-2) and more injury-prone than I'd prefer, but the grittiness he's shown in coming back from two arm surgeries to win Senior Bowl MVP honors and upstage more naturally gifted quarterbacks at the Combine is admirable. His short- to intermediate-level accuracy, mobility and intelligence make him the ideal fit in the West Coast offense.
32. Aaron Williams, CB/FS, Texas: Williams needed a strong workout to ease concerns scouts raised about his fluidity and straight-line speed after a disappointing workout. I believe Williams can play press corner in the NFL, but wouldn't be surprised to see him moved to safety.
33. Rodney Hudson, C, Florida State: Shorter than preferred, but the tape doesn't lie. Hudson earned the Jacobs' Blocking Trophy as the ACC's top blocker as a junior and senior because he combines great quickness and technique with underrated power.
34. Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: A dominant Sugar Bowl against Arkansas boosted Heyward's stock, but the reality is he'll provide very little as a pass rusher in the NFL. He's a safe bet as a five-technique and if teams are convinced his elbow is recovering on schedule, could sneak into the late first round.
35. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: I was saying it before it became cliche: Mallett has the best arm in the draft in the draft. It's his head and feet I don't trust enough to give him a first-round grade.
36. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois: A big back (6-0, 232) with power and acceleration, Leshoure could prove a better player in the NFL than he was in college. Considering that he rushed for 1,697 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, that's saying something.
37. James Carpenter, OT, Alabama: Capable of starting early in his career at right tackle, inside at either guard position or even sliding over to left tackle -- where he played for the Tide -- in a pinch, Carpenter is one of the safer players at an important position thanks to his versatility and toughness.
38. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh: Possessing enough quickness to get the corner, a strong bull rush to push the pocket and the tenacity to make plays after his initial move is handled, Sheard is the last of this year's "safe" defensive ends.
39. WR Torrey Smith, Maryland: Possessing a rare combination of size (6-1, 204) and pure speed (4.41), Smith's ability to impact the game as a vertical threat and kick returner makes him my No. 3 rated wideout. He's raw as a route-runner and receiver compared to some rated lower on my last.
40. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: The epitome of the "bull in a china shop," label, Paea's power can ruin plays before they have a chance to begin. He doesn't possess the vision and agility to make enough plays outside of the tackle box to warrant a first-round pick.
41. Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky: Mr. Versatility for the Wildcats, Cobb's quickness, soft hands and willingness to go over the middle make him the year's top slot receiver.
42. Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (Fla.): Athletic and competitive, Harris possesses a lot of the traits I look for in a cornerback, but too often was beaten at the critical moment despite being in good position to make the play, including by Notre Dame's Michael Floyd in the Sun Bowl.
43. Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU: At 6-5, 358, Cannon doesn't fit every offense, but he's a potentially dominant right tackle in a drive-blocking scheme.
44. Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina: Undeniably a first-round talent, there was too many me-first characteristics to his game even before his season-long suspension. I'd be willing to take a gamble on him in the mid-second round, but not earlier.
45. Andy Dalton, QB, TCU: Dalton's instincts, quick released and good accuracy from the short to intermediate areas make him a perfect fit in the West Coast offense, which is based on horizontal passing and wouldn't expose his lack of ideal arm strength.
46. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame: At 6-6, 259, Rudolph has the size I'd want in an all-around tight end. He's the best at the position this year, but his production was enhanced by Notre Dame's offense and his struggles with durability are concerns.
47. Justin Houston, DE, Georgia: I'm not as high on Houston as others. He does flash a terrific burst off the snap as a traditional defensive end, but I question his ability to hold up against the run and don't believe he has the instincts to be effective in coverage.
48. Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia: Dowling entered the 2010 season as a top-20 pick, but suffered through a disastrous senior campaign full of leg injuries. Assuming he gets a clean bill of health, he'll be drafted in the second round and prove to be a steal.
49. Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy: With elusiveness and the electric speed to turn routine plays into long touchdowns, Jernigan -- not Boise State's Titus Young -- will prove the best of the second-tier receivers in this class.
50. Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech: When healthy, Williams shows the vision, burst and agility to be a star in a zone-blocking offense. There is some Clinton Portis in Williams' all-around game.
Rob Rang is Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.