My NFL Scouting career began in 1995 with the Carolina Panthers, after spending four years coaching at the University of Washington under legendary Coach Don James.  While I brought the work ethic, passion and the ability to identify talent, I learned the NFL scouting business from some very knowledgeable personnel men.  They called themselves dinosaurs during my interview process. The two men that hired me at Carolina were Pro Football Hall of Famers Bill Polian and the late Mike McCormick.  Several others had a profound imprint on my career as well, the late Coach Bill Walsh and Dom Anile who was the College Director at Carolina.  Both taught me the art of scouting and evaluating talent at the college and professional levels of competition.

Throughout the years in the league you naturally acquire some very close friends (Kevin Colbert, Ozzie Newsome, Jerry Reese and Rod Graves) and respect their work from afar.  I was also blessed to have worked alongside senior scouts (Milt Davis, Red Cochran Jr. and C.O. Barcato) who helped shape me into a top flight area scout, which propelled me to a Director of College Scouting opportunity within five years.

In the War room I quickly learned the art of stacking players by position with a horizontal comparison, Top 5 By Position exercise helps in building a draft board and completing that process.

When building a NFL roster, some say “build it up the middle.” Others say start on either offense or defense edge. But based on what I’ve learned throughout my 15 years in the NFL, 11 of those as a front-office executive, you start with a quarterback first. Without a franchise quarterback, you’re not very good. With a good QB, your chances of winning your division and making it deep into the playoffs increase tenfold.

The other positions of importance when developing a NFL roster are in this order: OT (offensive tackle), specifically a left tackle to protect the quarterback’s blind side; DE/DPR (defensive end/designated pass rusher), to rush and attack the opponent’s quarterback with consistent pressure off the edge; a MLB (middle linebacker) who controls the middle of the defense; a CB (cornerback) with man coverage skills to lock down receivers; and, lastly, a RB (running back) who can carry the load for 16 games (plus postseason) to help grind the clock and shorten the game.

In today’s world of the NFL, the landscape has changed and continues to evolve. Offenses have moved from a run-first mentality to a pass-happy aerial attack like in years past, when Jim Kelly and the K-Gun earned four straight Super Bowl berths under Coach Marv Levy and GM Bill Polian it included multiple-receiver sets and formations. College football is developing quarterbacks to thrive in a spread, or one-back offenses with the quarterback in the shotgun formation a high percentage of the game (see 2012 Super Bowl). And, as seen last year, the read option is here to stay as long as the college game keeps producing quarterbacks who have the positional attributes as a combination passer and runner.

With the influx of multiple-receiver formations, the NFL has seen the 3-4 defense come back from extinction. While a few NFL clubs stayed pat, several teams have recently started the transition or migration away from the 4-3 defense in order to apply more pressure on the pocket with athletic outside linebackers who are versatile enough to rush the passer and play in space. They boast awareness of both ball and receiver vs. multiple-receiver formations.

Below is my 2016 Top 5 By Position.  I also added ‘other top prospects’ that I enjoyed evaluating.

 

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks
1.  Jared Goff – California
2.  Carson Wentz – North Dakota State
3.  Paxton Lynch – Memphis
4.  Connor Cook – Michigan State
5.  Dak Prescott – Mississippi St

Other top prospects
1.  Christian Hackenberg – Penn State
2.  Kevin Hogan – Stanford
3.  Cardale Jones – Ohio State
4.  Jeff Driscoll – Louisiana Tech
5.  Joshua Woodrum – Liberty
6.  Jake Coker – Alabama

 

Running Backs
1.  Ezekial Elliott – Ohio State
2.  Kenneth Dixon – Louisiana Tech
3.  Derrick Henry – Alabama
4.  C.J. Prosise – Notre Dame
5.  Kevin Taylor – Florida

Other top prospects
1.  Alex Collins – Arkansas
2.  Devontae Booker – Utah
3.  Paul Perkins – UCLA
4.  Keith Marshall – Georgia
5.  Jordan Howard – Indiana
6.  Kenyan Drake – Alabama
7.  Daniel Lasco – California
8.  Darius Jackson – Eastern Michigan
9.  Jhurell Pressley – New Mexico
10.  Brandon Wilds – South Carolina

 

Fullbacks
1.  Soma Vainuku – USC
2.  Dan Vitale – Northwestern
3.  Glenn Gronkowski – Kansas St
4.  Trayion Durham – Kent State

 

 

Wide Recivers
1.  Corey Coleman – Baylor
2.  Laquon Treadwell – Mississippi
3.  Josh Doctson – TCU
4.  Will Fuller – Notre Dame
5.  Tyler Boyd – Pittsburgh

 

Other top prospects

1.  Aaron Burbridge – Michigan State

2.  Sterling Shepard – Oklahoma
3.  Pharoh Cooper – South Carolina
4.  Jordan Payton – UCLA
5.  Michael Thomas – Ohio State
6.  Malcolm Mitchell – Georgia
7.  Tajae Sharpe – Umass
8.  Jalin Marshall – Ohio State
9.  Braxton Miller – Ohio State
10. Paul McRoberts – SE Missouri St
11.  Devon Cajuste – Stanford
12.  Geronimo Allison – Illinois
13.  Trevor Davis – California
14.  Keyarris Garrett – Tulsa
15.  Ricardo Lewis – Auburn
16.  Mekale McKay – Cincinnati
17.  Chris Moore – Cincinnati
18.  Dom Williams – Washington State
19.  Bryce Treggs – California
20.  Michael Thomas – Southern Mississippi
21.  Alonzo Russell – Toledo
22.  Jordan William-Lambert – Ball State
23.  Devin Fuller – UCLA
24.  Jaydon Mickens – Washington
25.  Maxwell McCaffrey – Duke
26.  Devon Price – Ohio Northern
Tight Ends
1.  Nick Vannett – Ohio State
2.  Austin Hooper – Stanford
3.  Hunter Henry – Arkansas
4.  Thomas Duarte – UCLA
5.  Tyler Higbee – Western Kentucky
Other top prospects
1.  Jerell Adams – South Carolina
2.  Temarrick Hemingway – South Carolina State
3.  Beau Sandland – Montana State
4.  David Morgan – San Antonio – Texas
5.  Ben Braunecker – Harvard

 

 

Offensive (Interior) Line
1.  C  Ryan Kelly – Alabama
2.  OG  Kevin Garnett – Stanford
3.  C  Christian Westerman – Arizona State
4.  OG  Avery Young – Auburn
5.  OG  Vadal Alexander – LSU

Other top prospects
1.  C  Nick Martin – Notre Dame
2.  OG  Cody Whitehair – Kansas State
3.  OG  Denver Kirkland – Arkansas
4.  OG  Rees Odhiambo – Boise State
5.  C   Max Tuerk – USC
6.  C  Kyle Friend – Temple
7.  OG  Darrell Greene – San Diego State
8.  OG  Clay Debord – Eastern Washington
9.  OG  Donovan Williams – Louisiana Lafayette

 

Offensive Tackles
1.  Laremy Tunsil – Mississippi
2.  Ronnie Stanley – Notre Dame
3.  Jack Conklin – Michigan State
4.  Jason Spriggs – Indiana
5.  Taylor Decker – Ohio State
Other top prospects
1.  Germain Ifedi – Texas A&M
2.  LaRaven Clark – Texas Tech
3.  Brandon Shell – South Carolina
4.  Shon Coleman – Auburn
5.  Dominique Robertson – West Georgia
6.  Pearce Slater – San Diego State

 

Defense

Corners
1.  Jalen Ramsey – Florida State
2.  Mackensie Alexander – Clemson
3. William Jackson III – Houston
4.  Vernon Hargreaves – Florida
5.  Kendall Fuller – Virginia Tech

Other top prospects
1.  Eli Apple – Ohio State
2.  Zach Sanchez – Oklahoma
3.  Artie Burns – Miami
4.  Deandre Houston-Carson  – William & Mary
5.  Sean Davis – Maryland
6.  Cyrus Jones – Alabama
7.  Deandre Elliott – Colorado St
8.  Xavien Howard – Baylor
9.  Briean Boddy-Calhoun  – Minnesota
10.  Prince Charles Iworah – Western Kentucky
11.  James Bradberry – Samford
12.  Makinton Dorleant – Northern Iowa
13.  Josh Atkinson – Azusa Pacific
14.  Donte Deayon – Boise State

 

Defensive Backs
1.  Vonn Bell – Ohio State
2.  Keanu Neal – Florida
3.  Su’a Cravens – USC
4.  Karl Joseph – West Virginia
5.  Miles Killebrew – Southern Utah

Other top prospects
1.  Darin Thompson
2.  Kimlon Dillon – West Virginia
3.  Deon Bush – Miami
4.  Jalen Mills – LSU
5.  Jayron Kearse – Clemson
6.  T.J. Greem – Clemson
7.  William Parks – Arizona
8.  Tyvis Powell – Ohio State
9.  Alvin Stamps – Kentucky
10.  Christian Marqui – Mid Western State
11.  Sharrod Neasman-Glover  – Florida Atlantic
Linebackers
1.  Jaylon Smith – Note Dame
2.  Myles Jack – UCLA
3.  Leonard Floyd – Georgia
4.  Noah Spence – Eastern Kentucky
5.  Reggie Ragland – Alabama
Other  top prospects
1.  Darren Lee – Ohio State
2.  Kyler Fackrell – Utah St
3.  Yannick Ngakouse – Maryland
4.  Nicholas Kwiatkoski – West Virginia
5.  Antonio Morrison – Florida
6.  Deion Jones – LSU
7.  Jatavis Brown – Akron
8.  Scooby Wright – Arizona
9.  Elandon Roberts – Houston
10. Tyler Matakevich – Temple
11.  Kentrell Brothers – Missouri
12.  Reggie Northrup – Florida State
13.  Luke Rhodes – William & Mary
14.  Victor Ochi – Stoney Brook
15.  Akil Blount – Florida A&M
16.  Meijcaireon “Myke” Tavarres – Incarnate Word

 

Defensive (Interior) Line
1.  A’Shawn Robinson – Alabama
2.  Sheldon Rankins – Louisville
3.  Robert Nkemdiche – Mississippi
4.  Jarran Reed – Alabama
5.  Vernon Butler – Louisiana Tech
Other top prospects
1.  Jonathan Bullard – Florida
2.  Austin Johnson – Penn State
3.  Chris Jones – Mississippi St
4.  Maliek Collins – Nebraska
5.  Adam Gotsis – Georgia Tech
6.  Jihad Ward – Illinois
7.  Quinton Jefferson – Maryland
8.  Aldolphus Washington – Ohio State
9.  Luther Maddy – Virginia Tech
10.  Kyle Peko – Oregon State
11.  Destiny Vaeao – Washington State
12.  Antwaun Woods – USC
13.  Javon Hargrave – South Carolina State
14.  Greg Milhouse – Campbell

Defensive Ends
1.  DeForest Buckner – Oregon
2.  Joey Bosa – Ohio State
3.  Shaq Lawson – Clemson
4.  Emmanuel Ogbah – Oklahoma State
5.  Kevin Dodd – Clemson

 

Other top prospects
1.  Carl Nassib – Penn State
2.  Bronson Kaufusi – BYU
3.  Matt Judon – Grand Valley
4.  Shawn Oakman – Baylor
5.  Charles Tapper – Oklahoma
6.  Ufomiba Kamalu – Miami
7.  Farrington Huguenin – Kentucky
8.  Shilique Calhoun – Michigan State
9.  Jason Fanaika – Utah
Return Specialist
1.  Corey Coleman – Baylor (Combo)
2.  Cyrus Jones – Alabama (Combo)
3.  Tyler Boyd – Pittsburgh (Combo)
4.  Kenyan Drake – Alabama (Kick-off Return)
5.  Bralon Addison – Oregon (Punt Return)

 

Athlete
1.  Trevone Boykin – TCU