We've reached that magical fourth week of the preseason where we can ignore the back-up and jabronie-dominated August finales and instead turn attention to the Scouts Inc. Top 32 of the college season. And now that I've had a chance to evaluate the list for 2013, let me just say one thing: these guys never disappoint when it comes to there things:
1) Overvaluing defensive tackle prospects
2) Undervaluing and incorrectly evaluating receiver prospects
3) Overlooking quarterbacks under the height of 6'3" (which is supposedly the "optimum height" for an NFL quarterback
Now, I'll give Scouts Inc. a little bit of credit when it comes to that third criticism. Their top-ranked quarterback (and No. 1 overall prospect) this season is a hair below 6'2". For a scouting group that routinely dismisses top quarterback talent that doesn't meet their height requirement (Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Robert Griffin III have all suffered from the "below-average size" grade), going with a non-flamethrower-equipped, 6'1 7/8" quarterback is a big deal. The only other time I can remember Scouts Inc. falling in love with an "undersized" quarterback was 2009, when Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez were virtual golden boys on the Top 32 list.
Speaking of shorty USC quarterbacks, we have one on the top of this list.1) Matt Barkley, QB USC
I really thought Scouts Inc. was going to dismiss Barkley for the reasons listed above, but it wasn't to be. Despite coming in at an estimated 6'1 7/8 (the first time I've seen him listed under 6'2", by the way), Barkley's pinpoint accuracy, polished footwork, feel for the moment and thorough grasp of the pro-style offense were enough to vault to the No. 1 spot on the Top 32 of 2013. And I couldn't agree more.
2) Chance Warmack, G Alabama
Few people value offensive line prospects more than me, but throwing up a guard at the No. 2 spot on this list is asinine--especially when you have a cluster of exceptional pass-rushers, receivers, defensive tackles and defensive backs in the mix. Of the three "WTF?" moments I had while reading this list, Warmack's inclusion was the most mind-numbing. Great prospect, but not even close to the next two players on this list.
3) David Amerson, CB North Carolina State
Amerson should've been ranked No. 2, but give credit to Scouts Inc. for at least getting him into the top three on this list. Amerson's a rare talent at corner, and he has the big body, smooth backpedal and fierce ball skills NFL scouts crave. If the Dolphins have a high pick next spring, Amerson could very well be their guy. No complaints here.
4) Barkevious Mingo, DE LSU
I get why Scouts has Mingo ranked this high--he's a tall and absurdly agile defensive end--but I would've preferred to see a more polished pass-rusher like Sam Montgomery at this spot. Also, Mingo will be a no-brainer candidate for conversion to outside linebacker in the NFL. I try not to set impossibly high standards when it comes to college prospects, but Mingo, on tape, plays faster than Von Miller did at Texas A&M. That's fast ... really, really fast.
5) Johnathan Jenkins, DT Georgia
You mean to tell me Star Lotulelei isn't the first defensive tackle on this list!? That's crazy, but not overly surprising when you consider that Jenkins is a 360-pound nose tackle who moves like a cat. I probably should've mentioned that Scouts Inc. loves them some hog nosetackles (and yet I overlooked that detail myself last week while detailing this list). Jenkins will almost certainly be the premier 0-technique clogger prospect in this draft, but No. 5 on this list feels a wee bit high for him.
6) Star Lotulelei, DT Utah
I have a hard time understanding how in the hell the second coming of Haloti Ngata could only get to the sixth spot on this list, but it's Scouts after all ... so yeah. Don't be surprised if Lotulelei is No. 2 on this list come December. He's the definition of a scheme-diverse defensive line prospect with neck-craning upside.
7) Justin Hunter, WR Tennessee
Cue "WTF?" moment No. 2. There's just no way I'd rank Robert Woods and Keenan Allen behind a receiver who tore his ACL last season. Hunter, when healthy, is a lanky, dangerous receiver prospect. But until I know his knee is ready to go, he doesn't even crack my top four for receivers in this draft class. No offense, Vols fans.
8) Sylvester Williams, DT North Carolina
Again with the defensive tackle talent. Hard to argue Williams at this spot, though. He has a nice blend of size, power and quickness, and he's almost as good a pass-rusher as he is a run killer.
9) Manti Te'o, ILB Notre Dame
Yep, couldn't agree more with the inclusion of Te'o at this spot. He's a classic middle linebacker and should be even better this season. To put all of this in perspective, I had Te'o ranked considerably higher than Luke Kuechly at this time last year. He's the total package at linebacker, and it's honestly a pleasure to watch him play the position.
10) Jonathan Cooper, G North Carolina
I have Cooper ranked as the best offensive lineman in this class, but didn't think he'd crack the top 10. Nevertheless, I can't argue with his inclusion at this spot. Good move by Scouts.
11) Logan Thomas, QB Virginia Tech
I had a feeling Scouts would slot Thomas somewhere in this vicinity. Looks like they've gotten over their fear of Cam Newton-esque prospects. The big knock on Thomas is his inability to take over late and win games. I won't comment on that, since the Dolphins just used the No. 8 pick on a guy with the same problem. Still, not a huge fan of Thomas at this point. Doesn't mean that'll be the case come next spring, though.
12) Jonathan Hankins, DT Ohio State
Scouts just cannot help themselves when it comes to run-killing nose tackles. Hankins is a top 20 talent, but he'll need to up his game as a pass-rusher if he wants to close the gap (no pun intended) between himself and Georgia's Johnathan Jenkins.
13) Marcus Lattimore, RB South Carolina
Running back is an endangered species on the top 32 this year (as opposed to last year, which had Trent Richardson, Lamar Miller, David Wilson and Doug Martin), but Lattimore is very much worthy of the No. 13 spot on this list. Still, I can't bitch about Hunter's knee injury and then give Lattimore a pass on the same issue. He'll need to convince scouts that he's sans knee problems if he wants to land in the top 20 next spring.
14) Sam Montgomery, DE LSU
This is waaaaaaay too low for Montgomery, who brings plenty of strength, polish and springiness to the defensive end position. He's a bit undersized at 245 pounds, but he has the frame and height to play defensive end in the NFL. Arguably my favorite prospect in this draft (though Amerson, Johnthan Banks and Woods might have something to say about that).
15) Jarvis Jones, OLB Georgia
Wow. I thought Scouts would have Jones in the top five. Rather, he's slotted where I would've put him. Jones is an relentless, overwhelming-yet-undersized pass-rusher, and his coverage ability is better than advertised.
16) Corey Lemonier, DE Auburn
Interesting. Lemonier's a powerful defensive end prospect, but I didn't think he'd crack the top 32. The amount of SEC-based defensive ends on this list is staggering.
17) Brennan Williams, OT North Carolina
And we have our first offensive tackle on the list. Williams is a finesse blocker with a nice blend of technique, size and smarts. I have him ranked as the No. 2 offensive tackle in this class.
18) Keenan Allen, WR California
No, no, no, no, no. This is far too low for a receiver of Allen's caliber. He's a bigger, smarter and more athletic version of Michael Floyd, and he'll have plenty of opportunities to pound lumps on Pac-12 defensive backs this season. Justin Hunter probably has more upside, but Allen is the bigger playmaker.
19) Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas
Nice! Vaccaro has been an under-the-radar safety prospect as of late, but he's got the size, speed and instincts to play centerfield at an elite level in the NFL. His skill set reminds me a bit of former Longhorn Earl Thomas (yeah, the guy we passed on two years ago), but Vaccaro is bigger, stronger and much more capable of blowing up receivers who venture over the middle.
20) Alec Ogletree, ILB Georgia
I actually kind of appreciate seeing Ogletree at this spot. He's an underrated inside linebacker with good size and excellent speed for the position. Kind of a hot-and-cold talent right now, but he'll wow plenty of scouts this season with the natural, complete aspect of his game.
21) Marquess Wilson, WR Washington State
Right on, Scouts. I figured Marquess Wilson would fly under the radar through most of this season, so it's nice to see him getting some face time right off the bat. Wilson has good speed, length and flawless hands, and few are better at going upstairs to catch the ball. A true No. 1 playmaker who belongs in the first round next April.
22) Desmond Trufant, CB Washington
Trufant is my pick to click this season. He's an excellent technician with good speed and adequate size, and he should have no problem jumping into a man-coverage scheme at the next level.
23) Shawn Williams, S Georgia
It's surprising to Williams ranked ahead of an outstanding talent like LSU's Eric Reid, but I'll roll with it. Williams displays rare instincts at the position, and he has the talent and size to be a top 15 pick next spring.
24) Landry Jones, QB Oklahoma
Here we go again. I feel like this rank might be a sort of courtesy to Jones before his numbers this season are murdered by Oklahoma's tendency to use Tebow-like Blake Bell in the red zone. I love Jones' arm strength and accuracy (when his mechanics aren't in the toilet like they were last fall), but his intelligence and comfort level in the pocket in 2012 will be the deciding factor in whether he's a first rounder or third rounder.
25) Brandon Jenkins, OLB Florida State
For those of you unaware, Jenkins is the definition of a 3-4 outside linebacker (he's already near 260 pounds). He also has impressive speed and excels at using his hands at the line of scrimmage. His decision to stay in school last winter was a good one, though he'll compete with some serious pass-rushing talent next offseason.
26) William Gholston, DE Michigan State
Bloodlines can do wonders for one's draft stock--just ask Clay Matthews and Mike Pouncey. Here's an example of bloodlines working against a prospect. William is the cousin of 2008 bust Vernon Gholston, and though he might actually the best pure 4-3 defensive end in this class, he'll need a strong 2012 campaign if he wants to prove that he's not a stinker draft pick waiting to happen. I like this guy, though, and think his talent warrants a spot on the Scouts list.
27) Bennie Logan, DT LSU
Wow. I like Logan, but didn't think he'd crack the top 32. Yet another example of Scouts overdosing on college DTs, though Logan should be able to vault his draft status while playing alongside Mingo and Montgomery this season. Logan's appeal is that he could be a very, very good 3-technique in the NFL.
28) Dallas Thomas, OT Tennessee
Here's the No. 1 offensive tackle on my list, although he'll need to improve his overall technique this season if he wants to vault to the top of the 2013 offensive tackle class. Still, I would've had him in the 18-22 range.
29) Kawann Short, DT Purdue
Short could be more of a 4-3-suited defensive tackle at the next level, though I'd like to see him shed a few pounds if that's the case. Short is very quick off the snap and has a devastating arsenal of pass-rush moves. Now he just needs to put it all together this season.
30) Johnthan Banks, CB Mississippi State
Banks is the kind of corner prospect who will grow on you. He's long, athletic and has a nose for the ball, and he's probably the best run-killing corner in this draft.
31) Luke Joeckyl, OT Texas A&M
Joeckyl's a powerful offensive line prospect, and he boasts some of the best measurables of any offensive lineman available in this draft. The Aggies' other tackle prospect, Jake Matthews, isn't too shabby, either.
32) Robert Woods, WR USC
"WTF?" moment No. 3 is the fact that Woods--heretofore known as Greg Jennings 2.0--barely scratched this list. Woods, in my mind, is the best and most consistent receiver in this class. He doesn't have the length of Hunter or the build of Allen, but he's the best route-runner on the list and has the speed to do major damage after the catch.