NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein has started pumping out his annual NFL Draft profiles, wherein he provides an overview of most incoming players, together with an analysis which includes a summary of the player’s strengths, weaknesses, a bottom-line conclusion and, in many cases, a pro comparison.
Few (if any) football resources regularly systematize the process of summarizing and comparing players in this way, so I’m always particularly interested in who Lance sees in whom. His comparisons are only the musings of a solitary, mortal man, so read them as if they were flattering text messages from an unknown number.
Curiously yet suspiciously.
Below and in descending order of popularity, I’ve referred to the 9 most commonly mocked players to the New Orleans Saints in 2017, per SB Nation’s Adam Stites (handy pie chart here). There’s a whole 15% other category included, but I ain’t go no time to for dat! I’ve linked each player mocked to the Saints to their NFL.com profile and quoted the comparison and bottom-line summaries for each, per Lance Zierlein.
21.2% - Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Bottom-Line: Foster is a vicious hitter with elite playmaking range and an ability to toggle between 225 and 240 pounds. Athleticism gives him cover ability that former teammate Reggie Ragland never possessed. Has Pro Bowl potential as a 3-4 inside linebacker or a 4-3 weak-side linebacker, but concerns over his medical history could be a consideration, according to some teams.
12.1% - Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Bottom-Line: Explosive defender who combines strength, quickness, and a muscle-car motor to drive him around the field making play after play. Has the hands and feet to be a quick-win specialist and the size to fit as a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive end who can reduce inside for pass-rush downs. He has all the athletic traits to become a high-impact player and possesses more than enough skill and talent to believe he will continue to elevate his game as a pro. Thomas has the potential to become the best defender from this draft class and a future all-pro.
9.1% - Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Bottom-Line: "Inconsistent" has been the buzzword that has followed Charlton since coming to Michigan, but he began the process of shaking it during his senior season. Charlton is an ascending prospect with the size, length, athleticism and pass-rushing potential that NFL general managers dream of. What you see today might not be what you get. While his production coming out of college will be modest, he could become a substantially better player as a pro if he's committed to the weight room and willing to absorb coaching. High-impact defensive end with all-pro potential is his ceiling. His floor is solid starter.
9.1% - Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Bottom-Line: Strong edge presence with NFL-caliber hand usage and play strength. Barnett is one of the most productive defensive linemen to come out of the SEC in quite some time despite lacking the length and twitch that teams usually look for off the edge. His awareness and play traits should keep him near the action and he has the talent to step into a starting base end spot right away. There could be coordinators who view him as an early down, outside backer in a 3-4 with the ability to put his hand in the ground on sub packages.
9.1% - Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Bottom-Line: Tabor has terrific size and quickness, but it will be interesting to see how he times in the forty. While he has some lapses in judgement and awareness in coverage, his nine career interceptions didn't happen by accident. He is a pure cover corner with the ability to pattern match around the field, but don't expect him to be a plus tackler in run support. He has the traits of a first-round cornerback, but some teams may be put off by some of his annoyances.
6.1% - Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Bottom-Line: Average-sized, one-year starter with explosive athleticism and a loaded tool box. He has the feet, hips and agility to be a lockdown cornerback and the ball skills to make teams pay for looking in his direction. His lack of experience could show up early, but he has the confidence and competitive nature that should help him overcome those issues. He has the ability to become a Pro Bowl cornerback early in his career.
6.1% - Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Bottom-Line: Jones is a "casino cornerback" who has the ball skills and instincts to tilt the odds in his favor when quarterbacks look his way. His toughness and desire to make plays on the ball is remarkably similar to his friend and off-season workout buddy, Marcus Peters. Jones has lockdown corner talent but will have to prove he can add muscle without sacrificing speed. His football character and play traits should make him a long-time starter with Pro Bowl potential.
6.1% - Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
Bottom-Line: Full-time starter for better part of four years and one of the premier mirror-and-match cornerbacks in the game. Has the feet, athleticism and instincts for prolonged coverage responsibilities and his twitch will always have him near the throw. Best suited for all forms of man coverage. Should compete as special teams performer. Lacks run-support physicality to be an every-down corner, but he's talented enough to challenge for slot duties right away.
6.1% - Tim Williams, LB, Alabama
Bottom-Line: Alabama has the type of talent and scheme on defense that can make life much easier for everyone along the front seven, but Williams has explosiveness and pass-rush talent to create his own havoc as a pass rusher regardless of what is around him. Scouts say he is lighter than his listed weight and needs to prove he can play with increased toughness in order to reach his potential. Williams' career might be as a pass-rush specialist, but he's talented enough at that endeavor to become a dangerous rush linebacker in the NFL.