Talk about taking the wind out of my sails.
It's around this time each year that I sit down and write out a prediction article regarding Scouts Inc.'s Top 32 draft prospect ranking—a list that typically debuts the Tuesday before Labor Day Weekend. Some years, my predictions have been pretty, well, decent (2010 and 2011 come to mind); other years, not so much (last season's ranking, which I'll further address later on in this article). Regardless of accuracy, I always have a blast trying to get inside the heads of Scouts Inc.'s brain while trying to predict the 32 players featured on its debut draft ranking.
Well, there won't be a prediction post this year, because Scouts Inc. went all Wal-Mart-Christmas-display-in-September on me and debuted its list a good three weeks. Heathens!
That means no smart-alecky prediction post this year from yours truly; no jokes regarding Johnny Manziel's chances of becoming the first draft prospect to land a grade of 100 from Scouts (we all know they aren't above doing such a thing); no "remember when Jeff Fuller appeared on this list in 2011?" comments. Nope, none of that. I can't even provide you guys with complete analysis regarding the guys who did make the Top 32 cut, and that's because Scouts Inc. has already updated its initial ranking on one occasion ... and changed up about two-thirds of the list in the process. Unbelievable. These guys are killing me.
Fortunately for some us, I do have a partial recollection of the guys who did make the initial list—I just can't recall where they were all ranked. If you can look past that small detail, we might be able to salvage this thing after all.
As a result of Scouts' rug-pulling shenanigans, this article will be a composite piece in that we'll take a look at some of the guys on the initial Top 32 list, as well as the ones who landed on the "updated" (see: amended) ranking. Could be fun, no?
1) Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina
2) Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville
File these two rankings in the "Wow? Really? Water is wet?" category. Both players are expected to dominate in 2013, and it's very, very, very likely that Clowney will finish this season with a Scouts Inc. grade of 98 or better (me thinks he'll get the 99, because Scouts Inc. has a reputation for messing itself over franchise-making pass-rushers). Bridgewater, meanwhile, is the best quarterback in a pretty strong position class, and has the goods to be the No. 1 player selected next spring (provided it's a quarterback-needy time holding the selection). I don't know why, but I am real excited to watch Louisville play this season.
Old habits die hard, eh?
3) Louis Nix, DT Notre Dame
4) Marqise Lee, WR USC
5) Cyrus Kouandjio, OT Alabama
Where to begin with all of this? First off, Scouts Inc. was foaming at the mouth over Nix's play last season, so it isn't surprising to see him at No. 3 on this list. Lee, however, while deserving of such a high spot (he's the best wide receiver in the country ... and everyone knows it), is a frustrating selection in that he'll almost certainly be picked apart by Scouts later this season because of his height. Ah, I can see it now:
"Lee lacks No. 1 wideout height; ability to produce in the red zone is in question."
After witnessing what Justin Blackmon went through two years ago, it'll be a miracle if Lee is still in the top five on this list come January. Then again, Lee's better than Blackmon (I said it), so game on.
As for Kouandjio's ranking, I am torn—he's one of the three-best tackles in this year's draft class, but he A) isn't the best of the three, and B) shouldn't be anywhere in the top 10 of this list. Not right now, at least. He is good enough to be the first tackle selected next spring, but let's see how he handles the absence of Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker first. Baby steps, Scouts Inc. Baby steps ...
Of course, Kouandjio's leapfrogging a handful of prospects en route to the No. 5 slot on this list reminds me of Bama guard Chance Warmack's debut at the No. 2 spot on Scouts' Top 32 for 2013 list. And he wasn't even the first guard selected last April. No. 2 overall my prospect, my a**!
Now you see them, now you don't (or you didn't see them, and now you do)
Tajh Boyd, QB Clemson
7) Brett Hundley, QB UCLA
9) Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
There must be some kind of rule where quarterbacks aren't allowed to move up or down this list; rather, they simply appear or disappear into thin air. Case in point: Clemson's Tajh Boyd, who went from top five (if I remember correctly) to unranked. We're talking about a guy who could be the second quarterback selected next spring. Did he suffer an injury that I am currently unaware of? If not, there's no reason for his absence on the Top 32 list. Anyone who doubts that statement should go back and watch video of Boyd and receiver DeAndre Hopkins carving up LSU's defense in the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Tasty.
UCLA's Brett Hundley is now ranked No. 7 after failing to make the initial list. Not sure how he pulled that off, but it isn't surprising if you follow any of the Scouts Inc. dudes on Twitter. They speak of Hundley the way I speak of Jimmy John's "Vito" sandwich: lots of superlatives, lots of drooling. Can't say Scouts is completely off-base with its Hundley fandom, though. He's the real deal—so much so that people actually have expectations for UCLA this season. When was the last time a statement like that was true? I can tell you it was prior to the 2000s.
Kevin and Duke can vouch for me in terms of this next topic, as we were all beside ourselves upon realizing that Johnny Manziel had managed to worm his way into the top 10 of a very, very loaded (try to keep the jokes to yourselves, please) draft class. There's no debating that Manziel's a special football player, and certainly a guy who can play at the next level (at what capacity? That's a different story entirely). But No. 9? Are you people kidding me?
Well, Manziel's stay on the Top 32 list was a short one, as he's nowhere to be found on the amended ranking. Was the NCAA's most recent investigation into Manziel the reason for Scouts Inc. giving him the Jack Abramoff treatment? I think so.
Wtf are these people thinking?
9) Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M
17) Taylor Lewan, OT Michigan
I can't confirm Matthews' original ranking, but I am fairly certain it was No. 6 ... and that spot had me complaining. This is the best offensive tackle in the country we're talking about here. Scouts just got done force-feeding us Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson, and yet Jake Matthews (who will be just as good as those two ... and possibly even better, in my opinion) is No. 9? And he's already been downgraded once?
As for Lewan, the No. 17 ranking is borderline criminal. This guy would've beaten out Lane Johnson for the third-best tackle spot in last April's draft, and he's the best offensive tackle in a conference where money left tackles basically grow on trees. Hell, he might even give Matthews a run for his money this season.
For what it's worth, I also believe Lewan's a step above Kouandjio at this point ... so if anyone can explain to me why the former is ranked 17th and the latter is holding it down at No. 5, please do so.
We'll call this a mulligan ... sort of
10) Aaron Lynch, DE South Florida
Ha! This ranking cracks me up, and not because Lynch isn't worthy of a top 10 spot on this list—he's an absolute animal, and Notre Dame sure could've used him in the BCS Championship Game. Rather, it's because I am fairly certain Lynch was initially somewhere around the No. 27 spot on it. How he made the 17-spot jump in one week is anyone's guess, but I will say that No. 10 is the ranking that is closer to reality. Before he got all homesick on the Irish, Lynch was viewed as arguably a top five draft selection. And now he gets to go to work for the Bulls. Keep an eye on this one—he's got a lot of Jason Pierre-Paul in his game (and no, that's not because JPP's a USF alum).
Well, that concludes the first third of Scouts Inc.'s list. We'll get back at it tomorrow with part two.