A greater deal of attention this week will be paid to the first mock draft of the season, but as I always say, don't forget about the actual player rankings. The mock draft is a blend of need and value, but the Big Board, and the overall player rankings that I publish every year, are the key to knowing how well I think teams are creating value during the actual draft. This week, we also have some new players.
The biggest jump comes again from a Missouri player. Blaine Gabbert got a big bump when he opted to declare, and now Missouri OLB Aldon Smith has gotten a similar one. A raw talent, he could play either OLB or DE at the next level, and teams will fall in love with his athleticism and potential. But he's not the only new player on the Board, so check it out. As always, juniors and draft-eligible sophomores are noted with an asterisk.
Analysis: Fairley simply dominated his final showcase game for scouts. A force all season, while often not 100 percent; a perfect fit for a 4-3 interior. Last week: No. 1
Analysis: The most gifted pure pass-rusher on the Board, Bowers has followed through on his talent. An ideal 4-3 DE, but he has a chance as a 3-4 edge. Last week: No. 2
Analysis: Allays any speed fears with improved route-running, and speed is fine. Green has worked hard to become a complete WR. Last week: No. 3
Analysis: An extraordinary athlete, Peterson doesn't just have safety size, he'd measure up to a lot of RBs. Great special-teams returner as well. Last week: No. 4
Analysis: A solid penetrator; pass-rush skills trump run-stopping performance thus far, which is a reason I can see him becoming a solid 3-4 DE. Last week: No. 5