One of the hallmark parts of draft profiles in the NFL are pro comparisons, given out to suggest an idea of who a current prospect looks like, plays like, or potentially could be in the future.
While some of the pro comparisons out there could be a bit much – such as comparing any player to a Hall of Famer or current star – there are certain comps that make sense and could be used as a guideline for understanding where a prospect could one day end up.
Today, we will focus on finding pro comparisons for the top D2 prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft class: Nathan Shepherd, Alex Cappa, and Desmond Harrison. Each of these three prospects are pretty much locked in to being selected on day two or three of the draft, so it is time to dive further into studying these stars.
Shepherd is more in the mold of today's defensive tackle, being able to contribute as a pass rusher as well as stuff the run. While not the most revered interior lineman in this class, he does match up favorably to some of the bigger names to come out in a few years.
While mockdraftable.com evaluates that Shepherd compares best with former DT Antonio Johnson (2008-13), I feel the real comparison for the former FHSU star is former second round pick out of Mississippi State, Chris Jones.
Shepherd and Jones share one trait that makes them comparable outside the numbers: ability to get to the quarterback. While Shepherd has not shown refined skills in that department yet, neither did Jones when he decided to declare early from Miss State.
The measurables are also closely related – except for height – that Shepherd could very well end up as a player much like Jones, and rumors have indicated that the Chiefs are very high on the Canadian born prospect to possibly team up behind their rising defensive star.
Alex Cappa, OL — Humboldt State
After his measurements at the NFL Combine, Cappa is now being viewed as a likely guard prospect instead of tackle due to his lack of arm length required by most teams. But in truth, he is more than likely a swing lineman who could line up outside or inside based on his skills in run blocking and movement with protecting the quarterback.
So who does this bring to mind when finding a pro comparison? Current Packers lineman Bryan Bulaga (Iowa) is one of the top comparisons for Cappa, based on the idea that they are both big maulers who can move people around along the line even though they are inconsistent athletes.
Bulaga was a first round pick in 2010 so that is definitely a difference between the two, but the skills to play left tackle but arguably fitting better at guard are what bring these two together. Measurables are pretty close in most categories, and they each have the same hand size and close 20-yard shuttle times.
The NFL careers may not be the same when all is said and done, but Cappa and Bulaga are a case study to see if the former Humboldt star could handle himself at left tackle in the league, or if he truly is a guard.
Desmond Harrison, OL — West Georgia
Pro Comparison: Guy Whimper, Retired
Harrison is the truer left tackle of this D2 class, resembling a great athlete who can move well in pass protection while having the strength to ward off defenders. The issue sending Harrison down boards are off-field related after being dismissed from Texas and ending up with UWG.
His best comp among pro players is former tackle Guy Whimper, another athletic lineman who served as a backup for the majority of his career, also working into a starting role for a couple of seasons with the Jaguars.
Unfortunately Harrison did not do any of the measurement drills at the Combine, so we don't have much to work with. But like Whimper, he ran a sub-five second 40-yard dash, a rarity among offensive linemen. The height between each player is just an inch off, and both are on the lighter side for tackles, especially Harrison who needs to pack on about 15 more pounds to his frame.
At this point in the Draft process, the former West Georgia standout is seen as a project, and Whimper was as well coming out of East Carolina. But if Harrison can have the lengthy career Whimper did from 2006-13, then I think that would be a win for the D2 standout.