VaughtersThe 2015 NFL Draft is more than eleven months away but scouting for the event has begun in earnest. The leagues major scouting organizations are scheduled to disperse rankings to member teams in the next few weeks and we’ll learn the hot names from the senior class in the scouting community.

One name making the rounds in scouting circles is Stanford Cardinal senior linebacker James Vaughters.

Starting 14 games on the outside of Stanford’s 3-4 alignment, Vaughters posted 36 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 4 sacks last season. As a sophomore in 2012 he started four games at inside linebacker, posting 26 tackles.

Average production numbers would not lend one to believe Vaughters a reasonably high pick in 2015, but scouts disagree and here’s why.

One film Vaughters possesses the underlying ability to be a big time prospect. He’s an athletic defender who shows terrific agility and little stiffness in his game. Standing up over tackle as well as occasionally coming out of a three point stance, he’s quick off the edge, possesses a fluid change of direction and Vaughters is almost never off his feet. He’s a leverage defender who consistently gets underneath blockers and holds the point of attack, working his hands to come free.

The few times on film he dropped off the line to play in space Vaughters easily flipped his hips and quickly moved in reverse. While he doesn’t show blinding speed, Vaughters swiftly moves to every direction of the field and wastes little motion.

His true measurements from junior timing day (he’s listed at 6-feet/2-inches, 254-pounds on the Stanford roster) will be sought out and Vaughters must elevate his game this fall, making more plays on the ball.

Yet area scouts stamp him as a third rounder based on athleticism alone. And with Trent Murphy now playing on Sunday’s, expect ever expanding opportunities for Vaughters in 2014.

When talking of the top defensive prospects out of the PAC 12 from the senior class Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB/Oregon), Danny Shelton (DT/Washington), Eric Kendricks (LB/UCLA), Jordan Richards (S/Stanford) are the first to be mentioned. Vaughters could enter the conversation as we move through the ’14 campaign.