Editor's note: NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein is constantly talking to NFL and college sources about players in the college game. In this space each week, Zierlein will share some of what NFL folks are discussing in their circles. This week, he shares what he's hearing about one of the draft's best defensive prospects, a top CB whose stock has fallen due to injury and a potential offensive weapon whose NFL role is in question.
The scoop: "I've studied the top cornerbacks coming out and he's the best I've seen. He's so athletic that he can just post up under the receiver's chin and shadow him all over the field. And he's tough, too. He'll be one of the top cornerbacks in the league pretty quickly." -- Pro personnel director for AFC team on Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore
The skinny: Lattimore is my top-rated cornerback in this draft, and there's a noticeable dropoff before you run into the second-highest-rated cornerback on my board (Alabama's Marlon Humphrey). Lattimore's ability to mirror and match with athletic footwork and smooth body control is what makes him so tough to shake for receivers. Am I ready to say he will be one of the "top cornerbacks in the league pretty quickly"? That is a fairly aggressive prediction for a player who has one year of starting experience, but I do think it could happen by his third season.
* * *
The scoop: Washington cornerback Sidney Jones tore his Achilles during his pro day workout last month and is rehabbing. There are personnel men who seem to be split on what the injury will do to his draft stock. Some see him landing anywhere from late in the first round to early in Round 2 (pick 24-42), while others believe he could tumble into the third round.
The skinny: A team's opinion on where Jones should land will likely be tied directly to their opinion of the success rate for coming back from such an injury. He does play a position that requires suddenness and explosive changes of direction, which could stress the Achilles. Jones is a "casino cornerback" with the instincts and ball skills to flip the odds against receivers he is covering; therefore, if a cornerback-needy team gets the go-ahead from its medical staff, I'd guess they will take Jones inside the first 50 picks.
* * *
The scoop: "It's kind of like with Jalin Marshall last year. How do you use him? He's not a running back and his routes and hands really aren't that good. Marshall went undrafted. Samuel is a better athlete, but they are about the same size and give you the same concerns with how to use them." -- Regional scout for AFC team on Ohio State's Curtis Samuel
The skinny: It's time to say it: I'm not on #TeamCurtis, although many other media members appear to be more enamored with him. I can see the tremendous athleticism and potential that everyone else sees, but I'm concerned about finding the right fit for him. I've spoken with teams who like him, but they have varying opinions about playing him at wide receiver or running back. Ultimately, I see him as a hybrid talent like Reggie Bush who needs to get his touches from a variety of locations on the field.
There is nothing wrong with that, but those players aren't often coveted in the first round. I could see Samuel going in the second round, but I also think it's imperative that he is paired with the right play-caller who has a good plan for how to use him.