One of my favorite scouting websites is Optimumscouting.com. They do terrific work. They are not your usual draft web-site either. They have strong opinions and are comfortable ranking players different than your average run-of-the-mill site.
1). How’d you get into what it is you do?
As a evaluator, it really sparked from an interest in the game early in my life. But things seemed to get more exciting, meaningful, and beneficial when a few agents and pro teams started surprisingly taking interest in my work. It spawned into working with pro league teams, sports professionals, and now All-Star games as well as provide unique, in-depth information for the site, OptimumScouting.com.
2). Do you think Brandon Weeden would be a guranteed first round pick if not for his age, and how much should his age matter?
From my perspective, his age shouldn’t matter all that much. While he’s 28 going on 29 years old now, he doesn’t have the long history of wear and tear on his body from football like other aged quarterbacks. So while I think age has something to do with it (especially when GMs, who generally are more reactionary and focus on basic things) get involved. To me, he’s worth a 1st round pick regardless, and a combination of his age as well as his concerns (pocket presence, spread offense, etc.) are concerning for teams.
3). You have Courtney Upshaw very high on your board, what do you like about him and does that mean you don’t think his big criticisms are justified?
When I look at first round talents, I need to see a guy that has developed the nuances of the game and has shown more than just flashes or situational ability. Upshaw is a developed inside and outside rusher, he’s unbelievably powerful in his rushes, he get sink low and drive with his legs as well as any rusher in the past few years of the draft. His size and lack of top closing speed are concerns, but neither outweigh his NFL-ready impact and the fact he’s a developed rusher combined with a physical specimen.
4). Jayron Hosley is another big time favorite of yours, what do you see in him that has him ranked 18th on your big board (which does not include QB for readers unfamiliar with the big board)?
Another guy, similar to Upshaw, who’s polished in areas that actually matter in the NFL. I’m not a big stat guy at all, rarely use them when talking about a prospect. But it’s a combination for how consistent he’s been in intercepting passes combined with HOW he’s been able to do it. He has the best reaction skills, best ball skills, and best vision in coverage of any cornerback in this class, plus he finishes open field tackles. He could be a dominating zone cornerback in the NFL.
5). What is the strongest position in the draft?
It seems pretty clear that this receiver corps is very deep, but people need to realize that it’s more full of adequate #2 and slot receivers, not the dominating guys like AJ Green, Julio Jones, or even Jonathan Baldwin. There could be as many as 40 receivers drafted this year, but don’t bank on any being Top 10 receivers in the NFL. I also think the cornerback position is loaded too, with 13-15 cornerbacks having potential outside starting ability.
6). What about the weakest?
The linebacker class as a whole is concerning. Both Luke Kuechly and Dont’a Hightower got fringe 1st round grades from us, and outside of Upshaw on the outside, there isn’t a clear cut, solid linebackers in this draft. I like Sean Spence, Lavonte David, and Nigel Bradham a lot, and the inside linebacker class has some depth late, but overall, there could be under 4 starters from this class at linebacker unless many guys land in ideal schemes.
7). Who is a player you think could fall much further than people expect like Prince Amukamara, or Dez Bryant, Jimmy Clausen players who fell like that?
The draft is so hard to predict, but I wouldn’t be shocked if many of the top receivers fell on draft day. With this class being fairly deep as I said before along with the value being more in the top of the second, guys like Kendall Wright, Stephen Hill, and Alshon Jeffery may not hear their names called in round one unless a team truly falls in love with their ability. But as we’ve seen every year, expect the unexpected. Maybe Ryan Tannehill is the next Brady Quinn?
8). The best “small school” prospects are?
I won’t delve into Janoris Jenkins, Brian Quick, or Amini Silatolu because all three seem to be well-known and in the Top 50 mix. However, I think BJ Coleman could be a developmental quarterback with everything teams love/need in a young quarterback and worthy of a 3rd round pick. Also, Ryan Steed (Furman), Micah Pellerin (Hampton), and Asa Jackson (Cal Poly) don’t get nearly as much attention as Jenkins, Josh Norman, or Trumaine Johnson as small schooler cornerbacks but all six could be starters in the NFL, with Steed and Pellerin being 2, 3 on our small school cornerback board. Finally, Adrian Hamilton of Prairie View A&M and Ryan Davis of Bethune Cookman could be impact pass rushers.
9) Who are some of your overrated players?
I’ve never really been a fan of Ohio State OT Mike Adams (plays soft, over-finesse), Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill (lacks great route quickness that will stunt route tree development), Virginia Tech RB David Wilson (not patient in the hole), LSU DT Michael Brockers (over-rated athlete, relies on size too much), and Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus (ceiling only as a 3rd down rusher, if that) are a few highly viewed prospects that we do not have high grades on.
10). Anything else to add?
Don’t assume poor character on a prospect without either speaking too him, learning the actual facts, and keeping an open mind. Now that the “draft community” has started to gain national media attention, what people in fairly high places say/write about can be taken seriously by NFL teams. I’ve had the privilege to talk to many high/not high character guys over the past 3-4 years, and I know that it’s unfair to base brief reports on how a guy ACTUALLY is. Imagine yourself as an NFL prospect. Think what you’ve done between ages 18-22, and then realize that these guys have an unbelievable amount on pressure on them and are being scrutinize by both future employers and thousands of media.