Top 20 NFL Draft picks matched with their NFL counterparts

By Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 26, 2016 at 3:09 PM
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Hey, rookie, where have I seen you before?

NFL talent evaluators praise the combine because it affords the opportunity to compare players side by side in a controlled environment. Teams leave Indianapolis with gigs of data, from medical evaluations to bench-press repetitions, 40-yard dash times and this week's hottest topic, hand size.

In generating final scouting reports, teams can define the ceiling and floor of a prospect by using past and present players as a relative barometer.

For example, North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, the No. 10 overall prospect in rankings, has been compared to Cam Newton and Andrew Luck, the first overall picks in the 2011 and 2012 drafts.

"For one to be compared to anybody in the NFL is obviously quite an honor," Wentz said. "Those guys have already proven themselves. We're all just college kids coming out trying to make a name for ourself. So those comparisons ... everyone is going to throw their comparisons out there." is throwing them out there. Here are pro comparisons for our top 20 players in the 2016 NFL Draft:

1. DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State: Jared Allen (retired).

The former Chiefs, Vikings, Bears and Panthers pass rusher was relentless, played with a chip on his shoulder and retired this month ninth on the all-time sacks list. Bosa is a good athlete who consistently wins at the line of scrimmage.

2. OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss: Trent Williams, Redskins.

An impressive athlete who looked more like a power forward here Thursday, Tunsil's easy flexibility and agility add up to a 10-year career at left tackle.

3. FS Jalen Ramsey, Florida State: Tyrann Mathieu, Cardinals.

Is he a safety? Cornerback? Yes. Much like Mathieu, Ramsey has the versatility and range to start and star at either spot. FSU used him in both roles.

4. QB Jared Goff, Cal: Matt Ryan, Falcons.

Worries about Ryan's durability and lack of size were not entirely unfounded. Goff does not have the pure pro-style background but appears naturally suited to be the face of a franchise given a strong enough supporting cast.

5. LB Myles Jack, UCLA: NaVorro Bowman, 49ers.

Pre-injury, Jack could make a claim to being the best athlete in the draft. Not as physical or rugged as Bowman (dinged coming out of Penn State with a 4.7 40 and character questions), but Jack flies around the field and does have the big-play flair to be an instant star.

6. WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss: Michael Crabtree, Raiders.

Crabtree came out of Texas Tech with questions about his injury history (foot surgery), and Treadwell had a leg injury in 2014 many believed would be career-ending. Big, physical receivers who attack the ball without blinding speed or a second gear.

7. OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets.

Ferguson (6-6, 312) had almost the exact same body type and massive wingspan in 2006 and is the only player in that draft to play in every game of his NFL career. Stanley needs technique work, but could be a stable pillar in the pros.

8. DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon: Calais Campbell, Cardinals.

He's 6-7, 290, a hair shy of Campbell when he entered the NFL in 2008 at 6-8, 290. Naturally, questions about leverage will be persistent until Buckner shows he can unglue from blockers with a massive wingspan and fluid movements.

9. DT A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama: Michael Brockers, Rams.

Robinson's mother carried his birth certificate to junior football games because Robinson dwarfed his peers. He's still standing out because of his versatility and can be a three-down NFL defender in any scheme.

10. QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers.

The 11th overall pick in the 2004 draft, Roethlisberger and Wentz took very similar paths to the NFL from lower-level programs after being passed over on the recruiting trail. Wentz is lighter at 6-5, 237, but mobility inside and out of the pocket and solid arm strength and velocity keep him in the top-10 conversation.

11. CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson: Josh Norman, Panthers.

To-the-moon confidence levels and anticipation make them lock-down cover men.

12. RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State: Edgerrin James (retired).

Rookie running backs tend to be developed at a slow pace while they learn pro blocking schemes. James, coming out of Miami (Fla.), was a top-five pick due to "blue" grades as a runner, receiver and blocker. Elliott can do it all, too.

13. DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson: Pernell McPhee, Bears.

McPhee is a self-described enforcer who doesn't match the prototype on paper but was highly productive.

14. CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida: Joe Haden, Browns.

Haden was dinged for a 4.6 40 at his pro day. Last year's injury-plagued season notwithstanding, Haden has excelled with instincts and toughness in the NFL.

15. DT Andrew Billings, Baylor: Sen'Derrick Marks, Jaguars.

Strong and stout, Billings had 30 career tackles for loss. Most impressive, he broke a 22-year-old power-lifting record held by former Olympian and current WWE talent Mark Henry (2,010 total pounds, including 805 squat, 500 bench, 705 dead lift).

16. ILB Reggie Ragland, Alabama: David Harris, Jets.

Ragland is 12 pounds lighter at the combine than he was at the Senior Bowl in January, clearly hoping to show he's more than a two-down thumper. The 32-year-old Harris

17. LB Darron Lee, Ohio State: Thomas Davis, Panthers.

Davis was a college safety and speed is his game. Lee fits the move toward hybrid defenders and is one of few three-down linebackers available.

18. DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss: Marcus Stroud (retired).

Stroud was massive at 6-6, 310, and was the 13th overall pick in 2001. Nkemdiche has similar natural talent in a smaller package - Stroud was stronger, Nkemdiche more athletic -- but off-field concerns might keep him waiting to be drafted until the late 20s or as long as No. 40.

19. OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State: Jared Velheer, Cardinals.

Velheer, 28, is 6-8, 320 and Decker is 6-7, 315. A possible guard to start his NFL career, Decker might also be used at right tackle until he acclimates to a pro-style offense after developing in Urban Meyer's system.

20. DE-OLB Noah Spence, E. Kentucky: Jason Babin (retired).

The 27th overall pick in 2004 of the Houston Texans who played for the Eagles and Jaguars, Babin was a college defensive end converted to the edge. Spence is the best natural pass rusher in the draft.

--Jeff Reynolds (@reynoldsjd) is managing editor of The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL and the draft since 2001.

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