2011 NFL Draft: Rick Gosselin Releases His Top Five At Each Position

As any of you who read my "scouting the scouts" post know, the draftnik I value most is Rick "Goose" Gosselin, the NFL beat writer for the Dallas Morning News.  Each year he publishes a list of his top 100 players and, over the past decade or so, it has cohered more closely to the top 100 players actually selected than similar lists by other scouting types. The primary reason for this is that he doesn't watch film or grade players himself; rather, he has connections to every NFL war-room, and has built up a lot of trust over his many years on the job. His stuff is a synthesis of what all teams are doing, so he's unlikely to give away any one team's rankings--and, by extension, their possible draft strategy. Consequently, he gets real information from teams, with less subterfuge and smokescreen than they give other pundits.

Gosselin has just released his list of the top five players at each position (all of his stuff is subscription content). What this means is that the NFL has essentially just released its consensus list of the top five at each positions. Obviously, the players are not guaranteed to come off the board in exactly this order--some team will like the third-rated guard more than the first-rated guard, for example--but it does give us tremendous insight into how the league - and not just media scouting types - are ranking this year's class.

So, what does the league think of the players at the Cowboy's positions of greatest need and interest? I've included them below; there are some interesting developments.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

1. Tyron Smith, Southern Cal (6-5, 307)
2. Nate Solder, Colorado (6-8, 319)
3. Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (6-7, 311)
4. Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin (6-7, 314)
5. Derrick Sherrod, Mississippi State (6-5, 321)

No real shockers, just a couple of thoughts: its not just Cowboys fans who see Tyron Smith as the top tackle. And, interestingly, Nate Solder, rather than Anthony Castonzo, nabs the second slot.  

Check out which players man the Goose's top spots at other positions after the jump...

GUARD

1. Danny Watkins, Baylor (6-3, 310)
2. Marcus Cannon, TCU (6-5, 358)
3. William Rackley, Lehigh (6-3, 309)
4. Clint Boling, Georgia (6-4½, 308)
5. John Moffitt, Wisconsin (6-4, 319)

No surprise here insofar as the top slot goes. But Gosselin's rankings seem to indicate that the NFL sees TCU's Cannon as a guard rather than a tackle, where he has been located in most O-line discussions. The late-rising Rackley--a Valley Ranch invitee--comes in third.  

CENTER

1. Mike Pouncey, Florida (6-5, 303)
2. Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State (6-3, 313)
3. Rodney Hudson, Florida State (6-2, 299)
4. Brandon Fusco, Slippery Rock (6-4, 306)
5. Jason Kelce, Cincinnati (6-2½, 280)

One of the reasons Rackley finishes third at guard is because Pouncey is slotted at center, indicating a majority of teams envision him at the pivot. But how large a majority?
 
DEFENSIVE END

1. Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson (6-3, 280)
2. Robert Quinn, North Carolina (6-4, 265)
3. J.J. Watt, Wisconsin (6-5, 290)
4. Aldon Smith, Missouri (6-4, 263)
5. Cameron Jordan, Cal (6-4, 287)

A couple of interesting developments: Aldon Smith is slotted at DE rather than 3-4 OLB, where a lot of pundits have placed him. And Cam Jordan, who started draft season (after his standout Senior Bowl week) as the top strong-side end, seems to have dropped a bit. This may be because some draft folk--Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly, for example--don't see him as a five-technique guy, even though he played 3-4 end at Cal.
 
CORNERBACK

1. Patrick Peterson, LSU (6-0, 219)
2. Prince Amukamara, Nebraska (6-0, 206)
3. Jimmy Smith, Colorado (6-2, 211)
4. Aaron Williams, Texas (5-11½, 204)
5. Ras-I Dowling, Virginia (6-1, 198)

 The interesting development here is the absence of Miami's Brandon Harris. The question is why: size issues? Closing speed? The fact that he's probably more of a cover-two style CB?

SAFETY

1. Rahim Moore, UCLA (5-11½, 202)
2. Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple (5-11½, 198)
3. Quinton Carter, Oklahoma (6-0½, 208)
4. Tyler Sash, Iowa (6-0, 211)
5. Chris Conte, Cal (6-2, 197)

As expected, not exactly a scintillating bunch. I think some teams with needs at safety are going to draft bigger corners who tackle well and give them a shot at safety--especially at FS.  As Longball indicated in a recent draft mailbag post, one likely conversion prospect is Texas' Aaron Williams. Does the Cowboys interest in Williams (they watched him closely at the Longhorn's pro day) suggest that they might feel this way too?

Because Gosselin gets his stuff directly from teams, he tends to dispense information fairly late in the process. So, as draft season progresses, I'll keep my eyes peeled for more gold from the Goose--and, of course, we'll give you all the inside dope when he releases his top 100 a day or two before the draft.

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