Comparing prospects and pros: Who do they play like?

Posted Mar 2, 2016

NFL Draft experts compare 2016 prospects to NFL players

Among the 332 prospects gathered at the NFL Scouting Combine this past week in Indianapolis, there was the next Pro Bowler, the next All-Pro, the next Super Bowl MVP, and maybe even the next Hall of Famer.

The trick of it all is identifying that player.

As personnel departments sift through their reports in hopes of drafting that “next” playmaker when the NFL Draft commences on April 28, rounded up NFL comparisons for some of the top prospects in this year’s class.

Here is what the draft experts are saying:


NFL comparison: NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers (Class of 2010)

“Upper echelon explosiveness with the desire, speed and aggression to find his way into play after play. While UCLA asked Jack to do a little bit of everything, an NFL team is more likely to simplify his tasks and set him into attack mode to maximize his outstanding physical traits. If he bounces back from the knee injury, Jack could become a high-­end talent early on in his career.” -- NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein


NFL comparison: Whitney Mercilus, Houston Texans (Class of 2012)

“Like Whitney Mercilus, Noah Spence has the ability to win against one-on-one. If you slide the line away from him, this guy is really going to make a lot of plays.” -- former NFL defensive back and current NFL Media analyst Solomon Wilcots

NFL comparison: Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (Class of 2010)

“I know other people I’ve talked to actually see [Bears wide receiver] Alshon Jeffery with him, but look at how Treadwell uses his body, plays off the bump, goes over the defensive back, and takes the football from him. One of the things we wanted to see was his speed, and you see the same thing here with Demaryius Thomas using his body, using his positioning, making big boy catches and then taking it and turning the ball up-field. So that’s one of the things I like about him.” -- NFL Media analyst Charles Davis


NFL comparison: Courtney Upshaw, Baltimore Ravens (Class of 2012)

“I think he’ll be a better pass rusher in the NFL than Courtney Upshaw, but both of these guys are extremely physical, extremely tough. When Courtney Upshaw was at Alabama, he was a guy who set a hard edge and you knew what you were going to get every single time out -- great effort and great power.

“The one thing with Shaq Lawson that isn’t talked about enough is this guy is incredibly instinctive and smart. Good luck trying to run reverses on him or trick plays -- he sniffs it out like that. So he’s a very smart player. I think Courtney Upshaw was smart, strong at the point of attack in terms of setting the edge, and I think Shaq Lawson is another run-stuffing type guy. He’s tough on finesse tackles with his run-stuffing as well. So there are similarities between Courtney Upshaw and Shaw Lawson, but Lawson a much better pass rusher. And that’s why he will be drafted much higher than Courtney Upshaw was.” -- Zierlein


NFL comparison: Edgerrin James, retired 11-year NFL veteran (Class of 1999)

“Elite, three­down running back who has the ability to excel in every facet of the game. Elliott has rare combination of size, athleticism, pass-catching and blocking skills and his competitive nature is always bubbling on the surface. While he’s had to handle a heavy workload over the last two seasons, Elliot should still come out of the gates as one of the most productive young running backs in the league.” -- Zierlein


NFL comparison: Desmond Trufant, Atlanta Falcons (Class of 2013)

“They talk a lot. I can tell you that they will never stop talking the entire game. When I watched Desmond Trufant at the Senior Bowl a couple years ago, that guy was challenging everyone. The thing about Desmond is he’s a very, very, highly competitive guy, and that’s what Mackensie Alexander is. He’s a very competitive guy.” -- Zierlein


NFL comparison: Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys (Class of 2013)

“Highly productive receiver with good height but in need of more functional mass for the NFL game. Doctson must prove he can play against press coverage if he is to reach his potential, but his ability to go up and win when the ball is in the air will endear him to quarterbacks.” - Zierlein


NFL comparison: Jon Runyan, retired 14-year NFL veteran (Class of 1996)

“I’m going old school; I’m going Jon Runyan because both of them are nasty and both of them are physical. Jack Conklin will come at you and then turn the block out, creating larger running lanes. That’s phone booth blocking. It’s not easy to get guys who can widen the running lanes; that’s what he can do.” - Zierlein


NFL comparison: Grady Jarret, Atlanta Falcons (Class of 2015)

“Everything about Rankins game screams winning football player. He has been extremely productive as a bull­rusher and edge rusher and he can hold the point of attack or play in gaps. Rankins is a ball of power with rare foot quickness, a great motor and outstanding feel for his position. With so many teams playing in sub­packages now, I would expect both 4-3 and 3-4 teams to consider him for an interior spot despite his shorter stature.” -- Zierlein


NFL comparison: Sean Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (Class of 2009)

“Press ­cover corner with disruptive length to fluster receivers and the makeup speed/leaping ability to stymie downfield attacks. Ramsey made more plays on the ball from the slot last year, but his ability to jam and trail receivers limited playmaking opportunities this year. Ramsey has All-Pro potential and traits, but could use a little more bravado and attitude play in and play out.” -- Zierlein