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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Evaluation period brings wildly varying evaluations

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I love the two months leading up to the NFL Draft.

It's when scouts, coaches, personnel directors and general managers all offer opinions on players. And I mean honest assessments, not the sugarcoated kind you see with their names linked to them. The real ones come anonymously, without linking a name to them.

Getting honest player evaluations from the men making the decisions, men I greatly respect by the way, can lead to a real varying of opinions.

That's the great thing about the draft. We think we know, but do we really know? It's no different for the decision-makers. How else can we explain all the draft busts?

A personnel man can put in hours of film work, come up with an evaluation, feel strongly about his belief, and then draft a guy who is a knucklehead who won't work. Then it all goes to waste, and all they hear is that dreaded word -- bust.

Over the course of working on my draft stuff the past couple of months, I've talked to a lot of evaluators that I respect to get their opinions on players. What amazed me was how different some of these evaluations were.

One guy might love a player. The other might hate him.

One might think a guy is a turd. The other might think he's just immature.

One might think a guy has a lollipop for an arm. The other might think he can make all the throws.

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So with a couple days to go before the draft, I thought I would offer some of those opinions on some of the higher-profile profile players.

Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

NFC assistant coach: "I like the kid. He was fun. I asked him things and he answered me. He admitted he needed to get stronger. But I like him. You hear all this stuff about him, but it's overblown. He isn't a bad kid."

NFC general manager: "He's not as strong as me and you. He is thin up top. Have you seen his body? And then there's the attitude. I wouldn't gamble on that kind of kid."

Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert

AFC personnel director: "When I look at him, I don't see what all the hype is about. He's just OK. I think people are forcing him up the board."

NFC head coach: "He's good. But he isn't Sam Bradford good. He does a lot of good things, but where's the production? You want more from a high pick. I like him, but not as much as some others."

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton

NFC head coach: "I don't think he's very good on the board. I think he will struggle with the NFL offenses. And he's not accurate. That's a concern. Look at his passes. They don't seem to hit the receiver in stride."

NFC personnel director: "All that stuff about his off-the-field problems and lack of leadership has been way overblown. When you talk to the coaches at Auburn, they tell you his teammates loved the guy. He's a leader. They follow him. I think some of that bad stuff is coming from Florida. They're putting it out there."

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet

NFC coach: "If I were coaching him I wouldn't be comfortable going to bed at night. I'd be too worried about him. Yes, he has the arm. Yes, he looks the part. But I just wouldn't feel comfortable about him running my team."

NFC general manager: "He's the most NFL ready of all the quarterbacks. You put on the tape and you can see that. His arm is perfect for our league. But I will say that you better have a good line in front of him to protect him. Or you will have problems. He can't move."

Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara

NFC scout: "He might be the cleanest player in this draft. Good kid. Good player. Will be a good NFL corner."

AFC coach: I think he's better than Patrick Peterson. I know that's different than what some would say, but I really think he's better. He can really cover."

Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith

NFC assistant coach: "He doesn't like contact. He's got some great speed off the edge, but when you watch the tape, he isn't great against the run. Kind of reminds me of Simeon Rice late in his career the way he seems to have a dislike for contact at times."

AFC personnel director: "He has some real pass-rush ability. He is explosive. He isn't great in the run game, but he will help your pass rush."

Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith

NFC coach: "Best pure cover player in the entire draft. That includes the two top guys. He's like Dale Carter used to be for the Chiefs. If you look past some off-the-field issues, he's got the ability to be a Pro Bowl player."

AFC coach: "That guy has problems, too many for us. He had all sorts of issues at Colorado. You have to wonder if he will stay out of trouble in our league when he gets the money."

Florida center Mike Pouncey

NFC coach: "He's being helped along by his brother's success. He's good. But he isn't as good as his brother."

NFC personnel director: "I think he's just as athletic as his brother. I'm not sure he's a center, but I think he can be a Pro Bowl-type guard."

Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder

NFC coach: "I love the way he handles things at the line of scrimmage. He's smart. He really gives off the type of demeanor you want in a quarterback. His teammates seem to rally around him."

AFC personnel director: "I love Ponder's smarts, but I worry about his arm. He made some bad throws, even when his arm was healthy. He looks more like a third-round pick in any other draft."


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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