The NFL.com's Mike Mayock posted his top 32 prospects in April's draft, and it's always interesting to get a second look outside of how ESPN's analysts see the current field. There's not a ton of variance, but they're a bit different.a
Side note: I'm not the first to say it, but I find it incredibly selfish of the players association to ask these players to bypass the draft as a protest to the owners. I don't think it would be that productive, and from a college perspective, it would be unfortunate for the fans, too.
Anyway, that's my two cents. Here's where Mayock ranks the Big 12 stars, and this is a draft board of the best prospects available, not a mock draft where Mayock thinks they'll go.
No. 2: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Mayock: He's a special guy off the edge and reminds me an awful lot of Demarcus Ware that way. However, he's not as big, so therefore won't generate quite as much power.
My take: No surprise there. Miller's size and speed combo could make him a rare talent in the NFL, and everything he's done in the draft prep, from the Senior Bowl to the combine to his pro day leaves little doubt about his athleticism. He just has to do it once he's drafted.
No. 5: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Mayock: He's my No. 1 quarterback. He comes out of a spread offense, and his footwork needs to improve, but he has all the rest. He's athletic, has a big arm, loves the game of football, has anticipation to throw into small windows, and the accuracy to back it up. He could be the first guy off the board.
My take: Gabbert's head might be a bigger asset than even his arm, and he's done a nice job of convincing NFL types he's capable of mastering an NFL system. His list of question marks, which can be pretty long especially for quarterbacks, seems pretty short.
No. 14: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
Mayock: This young man has so much potential, it's scary. Put the 2009 game tape on against Russell Okung and Danny Watkins and you'll get a better view of what he can do. He played through a lot of pain last season.
My take: Potential is the word you'll hear most with Smith, and though I don't blame him for leaving as a first-round pick, he could have become maybe even a top 5 pick with another year in school to fill out, refine his technique and get another year of experience after he missed a big chunk of 2010 with a broken bone in his leg.
No. 26: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Mayock: He didn't run well at the combine and I didn't think he looked particularly great, but I've been struggling all along with whether he's my No. 3 corner or my top safety. Every time I look at this kid, I think you could drop him on the slot, or he could also play free safety. One thing I do know, he makes plays.
My take: Moving him to safety is an interesting idea. He'd have an advantage in speed immediately, but as primarily a nickel back during his career, playing a regular safety spot could be a transition that requires a couple seasons before he can be a serviceable NFL player. It seems like Williams could contribute immediately at corner, but if a team sees longterm potential elsewhere, they might pull the trigger. All part of what makes the draft a fascinating exercise.
No. 29: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
Mayock: He's one of the biggest risers in this draft class. There aren't many 334-pound defensive tackles in the league that have the movement skills of this kid. He's had some off-the-field issues, but I don't think a guy his size and with his movement skills gets out of the first round.
My take: Mayock's on top of this one. The production wasn't there in college, and you're not drafting a Gerald McCoy or a Ndamukong Suh, but any NFL team that takes Taylor (and I agree, it'll be in the first round) doesn't believe they're doing so. He didn't quite say as much, but Taylor's stock is almost entirely based on his size, which he does use well. But the production will have to follow eventually for him to have a lengthy career in the NFL.