When teams select a player in the draft, they aren't getting what that player will become. They're getting a range of outcomes. That's where projections come in.
ESPN's NFL draft projections take Scouts Inc. grades, incorporate testing from the scouting combine, then translate the data into probabilities of career-path buckets -- Pro Bowl caliber, starting caliber, bench/special-teams player, replacement level or nonfactor -- for the player's first three seasons in the league, all relative to the player's position. Positional value is not factored in: a tight end might have a higher chance to reach a Pro Bowl level of play, but that doesn't necessarily mean his projection is more valuable than, for instance, a quarterback with a lower chance to reach the same level. Full methodology can be found here.
These projections can help decision-makers in two ways. First, providing these range of outcomes can aid in choices surrounding trades and positional value (e.g., if the Jets trade down from No. 3 to No. 10, how much less likely are they to land a Pro Bowl-caliber player than if they stood pat and took Quinnen Williams?). In addition, a model like this can reveal players who might be overlooked or overrated and could be worth a second look.
Here are the six prospects who our model thinks are most likely to reach a Pro Bowl-caliber level of play in their first three seasons. The comps to past NFL draft picks are based only on combine measurements for similarly graded players.
1. Devin White, ILB, LSU
Pro Bowl-caliber chance: 70 percent
Athleticism comp: Mychal Kendricks
White ranks off the charts here when compared to every other prospect in this class. Luke Kuechly is the only other inside linebacker in our data set -- which goes back to 2006 -- whose projection would have compared to White's.
White's Scouts Inc. grade of 94 is one of the best in the class, but that isn't the only reason his projection is so strong. It's also because of his absurd athleticism. His 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine is the fastest time of any inside linebacker since at least 2006, and speed is an incredible asset in today's NFL.
Statistically, that speed also showed up in college as a blitzer: White recorded pressure on 24.5 percent of his pass rushes, which ranked second only to Allen among prospects with at least 100 pass rushes.