Comparing a player to another player is often referred to as an "apples to oranges" approach. But similarities evident in analyzing prospects allow for forecasting what kind of player a prospect might ultimately become.
Here's a look at how 10 draft-eligible prospects for the 2011 draft compare to the top 10 picks (in sequential order) from the '10 draft:
QB Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) compared to Sam Bradford
|UNC's Marvin Austin, the premier DT for the upcoming draft, is physically and athletically similar to Ndamukong Suh. (Getty Images)|
Comparing Arkansas junior Ryan Mallett, who had a solid sophomore season completing 55.8 percent of his passes for 3,627 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions, to Bradford is somewhat unfair. Mallett hasn't shown the accuracy or athleticism that Bradford displayed at Oklahoma. But physically, Mallett and Bradford are comparable and they possess strong arms that translate to the next level. Both have dealt with injuries: Bradford hurt his shoulder twice during his junior campaign, which required surgery, and Mallett, who is currently NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated junior QB, broke his foot this offseason and had surgery.
The biggest difference between the two players is that Bradford was capable of running the spread offense, where the installation of the spread was a major factor in why Mallett -- who admits he lacks speed -- decided to transfer from Michigan to Arkansas when coach Rich Rodriguez took over in Ann Arbor.
DT Marvin Austin (North Carolina) compared to Ndamukong Suh
Suh was the most dominant interior presence in NCAA history. Former Ohio State standout Dan Wilkinson was outstanding, but even "Big Daddy," who was the No. 1 pick in the 1994 draft, didn't enter the league with as much hype as Suh. As a two-year starter for the Huskers, Suh generated an insane stat line during that period and recorded 161 tackles, 43 for a loss and 19.5 sacks.
Just as Suh was the top senior defensive tackle in the nation last year, North Carolina's Austin is the premier DT this year. At 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, Austin is similar to Suh physically, and athletically he's just as gifted. But, where the two separate is the penetration they gain in the trenches with their strength and technique. Suh uses his hands very well and has unbelievable strength. Austin is strong and has good upper-body strength, but must improve his hand placement and overall technique.
Last year, as a junior, Austin had his best year statistically for the Tar Heels when he registered 42 tackles, six for a loss, and four sacks. Those numbers are a far cry from what Suh produced during his junior and senior years. And, with a pending suspension looming for allegedly taking extra benefits from an agent, it's uncertain if Austin will even be allowed to suit up in '10. Austin's draft stock has taken a hit, but it's hard to ignore his talent.
DT Jared Crick (Nebraska) compared to Gerald McCoy
If it weren't for Suh, McCoy would have had a much larger spotlight on him leading up to the 2010 draft. But in possibly the deepest DT class in draft history, McCoy, who amassed 32 tackles, 15.5 for a loss, and six sacks in 2009 for Oklahoma, had to play second fiddle. The same can be said for NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2-rated junior, DT Nebraska's Jared Crick.
As a sophomore, Crick burst on the scene with Suh by his side and totaled 73 tackles, 15 for a loss, and 9.5 sacks. There are analysts who want to compare Crick to Suh because they come from the same system, possess similar attributes and posted astronomical numbers, but they're different in their play. Crick is a finesse player who works more like an end. Suh also has those traits, but is more dominant inside. McCoy uses his burst and technique to gain the advantage inside, and while he's strong, he doesn't overwhelm opponents with brute strength. The same can be said about Crick.
McCoy and Crick are excellent complementary players who are borderline cornerstone defenders, but in reality, they thrive when there is talent around them.
OT Nate Solder (Colorado) compared to Trent Williams
The offensive tackle position is a premium position in the NFL, and the more versatile a tackle, the more attractive he is to a prospective employer -- just ask Trent Williams. Entering the draft process, Williams was widely considered the No. 2-rated senior available with Oklahoma State's Russell Okung being the consensus No. 1. There were plenty of concerns surrounding Williams' attitude, consistency and maturity. But, after he ran a 4.88 40, tested well during drills and workouts and answered all of the questions that teams asked, the Washington Redskins felt comfortable selecting him with the fourth overall pick and making him the first tackle off the board.
Entering the '10 season, Solder is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2-rated senior OT with Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi in the top spot. But, just like Williams, Solder is more intriguing given his athleticism and upside at the position. A converted tight end, Solder, who is listed at 6-8, 302, is still developing physically and has improved his technique in each of the last two years. During his time at Colorado, Solder has also been clocked in the 40 at 4.8, and with a solid senior season and a strong offseason, his value could soar as Williams' did.
S Rahim Moore (UCLA) compared to Eric Berry
It's not very often you see a safety control the pace of a game from both a physical and playmaking standpoint. Berry is a special case and is the best safety to enter the NFL in a decade. And, by saying that, it's unthinkable that within a year's time that another safety could rival his skills. It may be a stretch, but Moore is on the right track, and with another productive year, the comparisons to Berry will gain steam.
Coming off of a 49-tackle, 10-interception sophomore campaign, Moore, who's currently the No. 1-rated junior free safety by NFLDraftScout.com, exceeded Berry's tremendous sophomore interception total of seven, but has to improve his tackling and be more aggressive at the line of scrimmage. If he continues his ball-hawking ways, there's a strong possibility that Moore could end up being a top 15 selection this year or next.
OT Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) compared to Russell Okung
Viewed as the safest and top-rated OT prospect in the '10 draft, Okung fell to the sixth pick when the Redskins decided to draft for upside with Williams rather than go for the so-called "sure thing." A solid leader and a gifted athlete, Okung has all of the intangibles necessary to be an immediate starter in the NFL, and is expected to take over at left tackle for the Seattle Seahawks, replacing future Hall of Famer Walter Jones, who retired this offseason.
Just as Okung was last year, Carimi is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior OT prospect for the 2011 draft. At 6-foot-7, 322 pounds, Carimi is bigger than Okung, but is just as athletic and technically sound. Where Carimi separates from Okung is as a run blocker -- that area was a struggle for Okung. Scouts believe that Carimi could be as good as former Wisconsin star and current Cleveland Browns All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas. Consistency is an issue with Carimi, and if he can put it all together, he should be the first tackle selected in 2011.
CB Patrick Peterson (LSU) compared to Joe Haden
As good as Haden was as a junior for Florida last season when he recorded 68 tackles, five for a loss, three sacks and four interceptions, there was more buzz about his disappointing 4.52 40-time at the combine. If that time stood, it could have hurt his draft stock, but in the end, it proved to be an anomaly. Haden redeemed himself at Florida's Pro Day a month later and improved his time to a 4.43. He was the consensus No. 1 cornerback and the best cover corner entering the draft and was ultimately selected as such by the Browns with the seventh overall pick.
Peterson is NFLDraftScout.com's No. 1-rated junior cornerback entering the 2010 season. He is coming off of a promising sophomore campaign during which he had 52 tackles, two interceptions and defended 15 passes successfully. At 6-1, 212, Peterson has elite skills and speed (laser-timed at 4.37 in the 40 during the spring), and is expected to take the next step in his development. The preseason favorite and the scouts' darling at the cornerback position is Nebraska senior Prince Amukamara. But if Peterson decides to declare for the NFL when the season concludes, the talk about Amukamara will subside in favor of Peterson, and just like Haden, he will be the top corner taken.
LB Don'ta Hightower (Alabama) compares to Rolando McClain
One of the most common comparisons to make is those between teammates, and in the case of Hightower and McClain it's an easy parallel because they present nearly identical attributes and measurables. McClain decided to forego his senior campaign and enter the 2010 draft after he recorded 105 tackles, 14.5 for a loss, four sacks and two interceptions.
With McClain no longer patrolling the middle for Alabama, the 6-foot-4, 258-pound Hightower will take over and has already caught the attention of scouts. Currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 1-rated junior inside linebacker, Hightower played in just four games, starting all four, and had 16 tackles, four for a loss, and a sack. He's a prospect to keep an eye on this season.
RB DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma) compared to C.J. Spiller
Speed kills in the NFL, and that's the reason the running-back rich Buffalo Bills decided to select Spiller with the ninth pick in the 2010 draft. It wasn't a position of need with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch on the roster. With Spiller's multi-dimensional skills, he can impact a game on the ground, through the air and on special teams. During his four-year career at Clemson, Spiller showed patience and was a true team player as he shared the spotlight with another star runner, former Clemson and current Cleveland Brown James Davis. Spiller didn't become a featured back until last season for the Tigers, and he will be forced into a situational role once again.
Speaking of situational roles, NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2-rated senior RB, DeMarco Murray, has shared the load with former Sooners stars Allen Patrick and Chris Brown since he arrived in Norman. Injuries have plagued Murray's career so far. Through three years as a collegian, Murray has yet to surpass 200 carries in a season. As similar as they are in all aspects of the game, the biggest difference between the two is their elusiveness; Spiller has track star speed and joystick agility.
DL Christian Ballard (Iowa) compared to Tyson Alualu
It was a shock when the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted former Cal DT Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall pick. He was considered to be a top-40 selection, and by no means did anyone anticipate him being a top-10 pick. It only takes one team to like you, and Alualu found that out first hand. Alualu is a solid player who generated 65 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, and 7.5 sacks last season, and gives the Jaguars options on the defensive line.
A player who will remind scouts of Alualu is NFLDraftScout.com's seventh-rated senior DT, Iowa's Christian Ballard. Entering his third-year as a starter for the Hawkeyes, Ballard, who has played DE and DT during his career, is coming off a solid junior year. He posted 54 tackles, nine for a loss, and 5.5 sacks. In an effort to ramp up the comparison between the two even more, as a junior in 2008, Alualu had 62 tackles, 11 for a loss, and six sacks.