EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Gosselin will resurrect the college scouting reports for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed draft prospects. Over the next several weeks we’ll review some of the first-time eligible players for the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. First up is DeMarcus Ware, who went to Pro Bowls with the Cowboys and won a Super Bowl with the Broncos.
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Ware grew up in Auburn, Ala., and wanted to play in the SEC for his hometown Tigers but lacked the size at the time to compete at that level. So Ware went down the road to Troy and filled out physically. He started three years at Troy and was named the Sunbelt Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 when he collected 10 ½ sacks. Ware then measured 6-4, 251 pounds at the combine, ran a 4.56 40, bench-pressed 225 pounds 27 times and posted a vertical jump of 38 ½ inches. There was a debate throughout the draft process as to who was the better pass rusher and draft prospect, Ware or Maryland’s Shawne Merriman. Gosselin placed Ware at 12 in his Top 100 and Merriman at 17. The Dallas Cowboys selected Ware with the 11th overall choice and the San Diego Chargers claimed Merriman on the next pick.
Here are comments on Ware from 13 talent evaluators leading up to his 2005 NFL draft:
Scout: No. 2 pass rusher with more upside than (Shawne) Merriman. Freaky. Size doesn’t worry us. Jevon Kearse played end at 248. He’d be a defensive end for us. He’s the most flexible pass rusher in the draft.
Assistant coach: Can play either with his hand on the ground or standing up. Good kid, like his athletic ability.
Defensive coordinator: Love him. Great first step. Looked good in linebacker drills at the combine, dropping and catching. Raw as hell but is only going to get better.
Defensive coordinator II: A waste of time at linebacker. Just put his hand down and let him go.
Personnel director: Maximum value if he can play both up and down. Not a pure defensive end, just a pass rusher.
Personnel director II: Natural pass-rush instincts with a great first step. Explosively fast and strong.
Personnel director III: Not a drop guy, just a pass-rushing defensive end.
Head coach: My favorite guy in this draft.
Head coach II: Best pass rusher in this draft.
Head coach III: The No. 3 guy on our board. Love him. He’s Derrick Thomas. He’s not as athletic but he has the long arms and scissoring ability.
Head coach IV: We have the same grade on both Merriman and Ware…but Ware is the best pass rusher in this draft. Reminds me of Derrick Thomas.
General manager: Best pass rusher in the draft. Top 10. Great take-off, gets off blocks.
General manager II: Love everything about him but I wish he did more on tape. I’ll give him the Troy discount, just like the Southern Miss discount. They are blue-light specials – they get better.
HALL OF FAME RESUME: Merriman had the better start to his career, winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2005 with his 10 sacks and going to the Pro Bowl. But Ware played longer, better and finished stronger. Ware collected eight sacks as a rookie but hit double figures in his second season (11 ½) and was voted to the first of seven consecutive Pro Bowls. He hit double figures in sacks all seven of those seasons, leading the NFL in both 2008 with 20 sacks and 2010 with 15 ½. Ware became a salary-cap casualty with the Cowboys in 2014 and signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos. He collected 10 sacks that year and went to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons in Denver, helping the Broncos win a Super Bowl with the NFL’s top-rated defense in 2015. He retired after the 2016 season with 138 ½ career sacks, which places him 11th on the all-time list with one more than Hall of Famer Richard Dent and one fewer than Hall of Famer Jason Taylor. Ware also forced 35 fumbles, recovered eight and scored three defensive touchdowns in his career.