By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
We are about to head into a turbulent time in the NFL Draft landscape where we judge prospects on rumors, film and measureables (if that’s even a word). It can be tough to gauge whether a prospect is actually worth the selection they are projected to be picked at. Sometimes the perceived value of two similarly talented prospects diverges to the point where they are slotted to go a full three rounds apart.
Whether its a blazing 40 time or a bad week in interviews we can overreact easily. That’s not to say its all for not and it certainly makes for interesting debates. Kind of like now. The following is a list of pairs where two prospects with similar skill sets, but differences in reputation and therefore value, are compared. I actually prefer all the prospects with a lower grade in this exercise, but the subject is fully open to debate.
WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida St.
Role: Possession receiver with the skills to be a #1 WR
Why Evans?: The 6’4 Evans has been a beast for two years in the SEC and shows better concentration than Benjamin overall.
Value Difference: 10 to 25 picks
The Case for Benjamin: Both players are power forwards in pads, but in terms of raw athleticism Benjamin trumps Evans. The Seminole is roughly an inch taller, about 10 pounds heavier and likely a step faster. Not only that but Benjamin is an explosive leaper and excels at high pointing the ball outside his frame. His catch radius is so massive its almost impossible to overthrow him in a jump ball scenario.
Evans is similarly gifted and is definitely more sure handed, coming down with almost every tough catch. Benjamin really struggles with drops and that’s the clear reason for the difference in their projected range. But with similar skill sets, and more pure potential on the side of Benjamin, why not trade back and pick up a 3rd rounder for a similar (and maybe better) prospect?
WR Jared Abbrederis
WR Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
Role: Undersized but gritty slot receiver with reliable hands
Why Abbrederis?: The Badger has the clear edge is size, at least height wise, and that might give him a little more ability to play roles other than a pure slot receiver. Abbrederis fights for the ball and is surprisingly effective in jump ball situations, plus has been healthier over the course of his career.
Value Difference: Around 70 picks, or roughly 2 rounds
The Case for Campanaro: Both receivers are undersized and play with a chip on their shoulder. Abbrederis is a former walk on trying to prove he’s NFL material and Campanaro is a competitive guy who’s been told he’s too short and not durable enough. The speed factor is about equal between the two and both are underrated athletes. Campanaro is more of an injury concern having had missed significant portions of his Wake career. That is certainly cornering and why the Badger is a safer prospect to some.
Campanaro is obviously shorter, so the edge in bulk is less important. All in all the two guys are very much the same player when healthy, and I actually prefer Campanaro. We’ve seen that as a slot receiver size isn’t much of a factor if you have a capable quarterback. Wes Welker, Santonio Holmes, Laveranues Coles, Santana Moss and Steve Smith (both Carolina’s and the now retired “other” Steve Smith) have all been successful slot receivers well under 6’0. Campanaro just seems to be a smoother and more natural athlete but the main advantage in value is the full two round difference.
WR Robert Herron, Wyoming
WR Josh Huff, Oregon
Role: Speedy slot receiver who can take the top off the defense.
Why Herron?: Herron is quite possibly the fastest pure receiver in this draft class (excluding De’Anthony Thomas) and has built a reputation of being a dynamic playmaker.
Value Difference: 20-25 picks
The Case for Huff: This comparison would have been even more enticing prior to the Senior Bowl but even with a great week in Mobile, Herron is still considered the superior prospect. I’m not here to say that’s inaccurate, but is he really a full 20+ picks better? When you sit back at look at drafts, its evident that these microscopic looks are oversight. If a player is a “keeper” who cares if you took him early. That being said, Huff brings similar speed and is a bigger and more durable receiver. Both players might have been overlooked. Herron playing for Wyoming and Huff being overshadowed by Marcus Mariota, De’Anthony Thomas and the blurry speed of the Oregon offense. Herron is explosive, but Huff is still underrated and could even be the better prospect.
S Ed Reynolds, Stanford
S Ty Zimmerman, Kansas St.
Role: Tough safety with great instincts and intangibles but limited coverage ability.
Why Reynolds?: Part of a terrific Stanford defense Reynolds gets some spill over credit but is still a tremendous player. His ball skills and to some extent burst are two things you could point to as advantages Reynolds has over Zimmerman. Reynolds also has a longer frame and is a better overall athlete.
Value Difference: Huge range, anywhere from 20 to 150 plus picks
The Case for Zimmerman: Zimmerman is an accomplished defender and team leader who compares favorably to Reynolds in most aspects. Both are disciplined in reading plays and anticipating where things are going demonstrating the football instincts you look for in a safety. Their deficiencies are also very similar, namely their lack of coverage skills. Some sources have Reynolds as a Top 100 prospect while others place him well below that projection. The fact is this, Zimmerman can be had at a significantly lower price with very similar skills.