DeForest Buckner, Quenton Nelson, Malik Hooker Among PFF’s Top Draft Prospects Ever

Pro Football Focus started scouting NFL Draft prospects in 2015, and three current Indianapolis Colts players made the top 50 prospects they've scouted in that time.
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We are currently at peak NFL Draft preparation time as workouts and pro days ramp up.

The NFL world is compiling lists and poring over data to figure out which players might make a name for themselves in the league.

However, this time of year also conjures nostalgia for past drafts and some of the outstanding players that have already been scouted.

Recently, Pro Football Focus looked back at the top 50 players that they've scouted in their six years of doing so, and three Indianapolis Colts players landed on the list.

20. DI DEFOREST BUCKNER, OREGON
Buckner not only produced for Oregon, but he did so on an unreal workload — he played 1,894 snaps over his final two seasons for the Ducks. We've only seen eight 900-plus-snap seasons from an interior defender in our seven years of grading college football. Buckner has two of them.

Buckner has been highly regarded around the NFL since his days at Oregon.

Over his final two seasons in Eugene, Buckner racked up 164 tackles (30 for loss) and 14.5 sacks. 

The San Francisco 49ers made him the seventh overall pick in 2016, and then Colts general manager Chris Ballard uncharacteristically traded the 13th overall pick in the 2020 draft to acquire him from the 49ers.

Ballard's faith in Buckner paid off handsomely as the first-year Colt was often the defense's most impactful player, leading them to a No. 8 ranking after yielding just 332.1 yards per game.

25. IOL QUENTON NELSON, NOTRE DAME
This one is about positional value. It’s going to take a lot for us to put a guard higher than Nelson and his 92.2 overall grade from 2017. He was about as clean as it gets on the offensive line, earning an 85.0-plus overall grade in each of his three years as a starter.

This was a no-brainer. Guards aren't always very heralded, but after allowing just three sacks in his first three years in the NFL, Nelson changes people's perception of what the position can be.

At Notre Dame, Nelson allowed just 27 total pressures over three seasons and routinely put defensive linemen on their back. The Colts then made him the sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Those who thought "Big Q" wouldn't be able to bully players like that in the NFL were proven wrong as Nelson is the rare example of an interior offensive lineman who could have a highlight tape of all the signature blocks he's compiled.

Nelson and legendary Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders are the only players in NFL history to be named First-Team All-Pro in each of their first three seasons.

50. S MALIK HOOKER, OHIO STATE
Hooker was a one-year wonder who was easy to fall in love with. He notched seven picks in his lone season of 2016, many of which came in highlight-reel fashion. Hooker looked like the prototypical deep safety, but that never quite came to fruition. He managed to come down with only seven picks over his four seasons with the Colts as injuries derailed multiple seasons.

It was easy to see what Hooker brought to the table at Ohio State as his ball-hawking skills had some people comparing him to the likes of Ed Reed.

In his one season starting with the Buckeyes, Hooker looked like he could make plays all over the place, notching 5.5 tackles for loss and seven interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns.

Hooker was considered a top-10 lock in the 2017 draft but slipped to the Colts at No. 15.

Although a pair of offseason surgeries prevented him from fully participating in offseason workouts and training camp, Hooker grabbed an interception in each of his first three starts with the Colts.

From there, it's been a mix of injuries, peaks, and valleys for Hooker's pro career. His season ended prematurely in 2017 due to a torn ACL, and a torn Achilles ended his season in 2020 just two games in.

Now a free agent, it's quite possible that Hooker will be looking for a new team in 2021.


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