Category:NFL Draft
Posted on: December 12, 2009 4:49 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2009 6:42 pm

Need football? Montana-App State scout-worthy

With the Heisman Trohy presentation the only major college football action of the day, fans can still get their Saturday fix with the Montana-Appalachian State Division I semi-final playoff game today televised on ESPN at 4:00 pm EST.

I'd recommend watching this game strictly for entertainment value as these two offenses will keep the scoreboard lit up and this level, unlike certain others that will remain nameless, have done the right thing and instituted a playoff system to award a true champion.

NFL scouts, however, are watching this game because of the talent in it, as well, however.

In fact, Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards and Montana wide receiver/punt returner Marc Mariani have the featured Diamond in the Rough prospects from our last two issues of Draft Slant, respectively. Montana free safety Shann Schillinger and offensive tackle Levi Horn are seniors scouts have their eyes on.

Edwards, 5-11, 185 pounds, lacks the size scouts want at quarterback, obviously, but is an absolute playmaker as a run and pass threat. He has plenty of arm strength, and as I noted in last week's Slant, he makes some legitimate NFL throws. He's a very similar talent as former WVU quarterback Pat White, who the Dolphins used a second round pick on last April.

Mariani, 6-0, 185, has legitimate downfield speed and agility to earn looks from NFL teams, but like Edwards, Mariani is a better football player than size/speed athlete. This kid runs terrific routes and has very good hands.

Few players at this level have earned more individual honors as Edwards and Mariani. If you get a chance to check out this game, you'll quickly see why...

Posted on: December 7, 2009 6:22 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2009 6:25 pm

No surprise -- Clausen, Tate, Briscoe leave early

The news that Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate and Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe have elected to come out after their junior seasons and head to the NFL is not at all surprising. Each is gifted enough athletically to warrant at least second round consideration and, more importantly, none have a head coach in place to try to convince them to return for their senior season.

In fact, as I pointed out in last week's issue of Draft Slant , you can expect more -- perhaps a record-breaking number -- of underclassmen to come out early. There are several reasons to expect such a large exodus.
  • If no new agreement is made in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, as is widely expected, we can expect that the new one will contain a rookie cap. NFL owners have long grumbled (publicly and privately) that too much money is being spent on unproven rookies. Agents are telling underclassmen that if they want the big rookie contract they'll need to leave now -- and in some examples, they're right.
  • As has been widely reported, the NFL has had an ongoing battle with many of college football's BCS conferences and companies XOS Technologies and DVSports, two companies that digitalize the teams' game film from these conferences. The SEC, Big 12 and Pac-10 are among the conferences that have not yet provided NFL scouts with film. Underclassmen have until mid January to decide if they want to leave school early. Unless an agreement is made soon, NFL scouts simply won't have enough time to grade junior (and redshirt sophomore) film. Therefore, the NFL Advisory Committee, as we've come to know it, may not be able to exist properly. Players with marginal pro grades, but inflated media hype, may come out soon only to fall stunningly far on draft day.
  • Finally, the high profile injuries of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and Jermaine Greshman is certain to push out some players. Some, for example, will make the argument that a player like Cal junior running back Jahvid Best should go for the "guaranteed" money now, rather than return for his senior season. One more concussion, some would argue, could ruin his chances for a Top 100 grade.
Expect to see as strong an influx of underclassmen entering the 2010 NFL Draft as we've ever seen... an influx that should make this a uniquely talented class.

Posted on: December 6, 2009 2:43 am

Few saw it, but Locker as good as anyone today

There were several dominant individual performances across the college football landscape Saturday -- Ndamukong Suh's 12 tackles, 7 TFL, 4.5 sacks, Mardy Gilyard's 374 all-purpose yards and 2 TDs, CJ Spiller's 233 rushing yards and 4 TDs and Mark Ingram's 113 rushing yards and 3 TDs chief among them.

With each coming on a national stage, the efforts will almost surely earn the recognition they deserve.

With no BCS bowls on the line and only regional television coverage, few had the opportunity to watch Cal-Washington. Few outside of the Berkeley and Seattle campuses likely would have turned these games on over the Big 12 or ACC Championships anyway. Hell, I'll admit it, there were moments when I, too, thought I was crazy for not tuning in to the monster games of the day rather than recording them. 

However, with the hype surrounding Locker's upcoming decision on whether to return for his senior season or leave early for the NFL increasing dramatically, I wanted to watch him in person. And so, on the biggest day of the "regular" season, I trusted the DVD players to cover the championship games and went to scout the only player I feel should warrant consideration over Suh and (potentially) Oklahoma junior DT Gerald McCoy for the NFL draft.

While I've certainly acknowledged Locker's upside in the past, I've also questioned his consistency and readiness for the NFL. One dominant performance does not prove he's either consistent or ready, his performance, however, was indeed dominant on this day...

And the NFL general managers who happened to be sitting only a few seats away from me in the Washington press box saw the same thing.

Locker is the most naturally gifted quarterback in the country. On a day when the most hyped senior quarterbacks -- Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow and Tony Pike -- threw for a collective TD to INT ratio of 4-7, Locker was spectacular. In this era of spread offenses, we've come to expect efficiency and gaudy statistics from highly touted passers. However, what made Jake Locker's 19 of 23 performance for 248 yards and 3 passing touchdowns (as well as 14 rushes for 77 yards and 2 TDs) was the variety of passes he completed. Imagine the throw and Locker made it tonight: the prototypical deep out from the opposite hash (check), the quick slant against man coverage (check), the tricky sluggo (check), hitting the tight end down the seam (check), wheel route to the outside (check), pure go-route (check).

I, and most NFL scouts I've spoken with, would like to see Locker return for his senior season. If he returns, I anticipate he'll enter next season as my highest rated prospect for the 2011 draft.

If the win over Cal was, indeed, Locker's final game for the Huskies, it was eerily similar in its efficiency and dominance as the one put forth last year by Mark Sanchez in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. That performance, of course, was key to Sanchez's dramatic rise up draft boards and ultimately to being the #5 overall choice --  similar to where I expect Locker to end up whenever he should make himself eligible for the draft.
Posted on: December 5, 2009 12:16 pm

Pike's performance against Pitt critical

Senior quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy earn most of the media attention and there are NFL scouts I've spoken to who believe one of them will be the first senior passer selected in the 2010 draft.

There are, however, a signficant number of scouts who feel Cincinnati's Tony Pike is the best senior prospect at the position.

To warrant this praise, he'll need to be impressive today in the snow, on the road at Pitt.

The undefeated Bearcats have not faced a defensive line like this one before. Pittsburgh's ability to rush four and still generate pressure on the pocket will force Pike to read the coverage quicker, meaning he may not be able to take as much advantage of deep threat Mardy Gilyard. Pike will need to show great poise for the favored Bearcats to pull out this win.

Posted on: December 4, 2009 2:04 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2009 2:05 pm

Ducks Won, but Beavers' Trio Helped Stock

A day after the biggest Civil War since Robert E. Lee and the NFL draft world is still buzzing about the performances of several of the Oregon-Oregon State prospects. The ironic thing is that three of the four earning the most attention post-game from scouts came from the Beavers, who, in case you missed it, were on the losing end of the 37-33 classic for the right to represent the Pac-10 against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

Quarterback Sean Canfield was as advertised. While the Ducks' pass rush and the frenzied home crowd proved too much for his offensive line in the 4th quarter, Canfield was poised in the pocket and accurate to all levels of the field. He threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. He was particularly impressive in the closing seconds of the first half in leading OSU to a go-ahead touchdown and in the first drive of the 3rd quarter to extend the lead. His deep-out on Oregon State's 4th and 15 that ended the Beavers' last offensive possession was slightly underthrown, but a catchable ball correctly placed down and out and away from the defender.

Junior wideout James Rodgers (who was unable to come up with Canfield's 4th down pass) stole the show from his more hyped brother, super-sophomore running back Jacquizz, for much of the night. Though certainly shorter than scouts would like at an estimated 5-7, Rodgers, like his younger brother, plays with impressive strength and toughness. His vision, instincts and leaping ability helped him accumulate an eye-popping 10 catches for 139 yards and the go-ahead score seconds before halftime.

Though skill position players often generate the most attention, kudos to the ESPN broadcast crew for highlighting the dominant play inside by Beavers junior defensive tackle Stephen Paea. Paea (pronounced Pie-uh) posted an impressive statline (4.5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles), but was even more impressive than his stats would indicate. His quickness, low center of gravity and explosive upper body strength made him a consistent threat inside. He's a likely first round pick, barring injury, should he enter the draft after this season or return to Corvalis for 2010.

Tight end Ed Dickson and safety TJ Ward will be drafted higher, but running back LaGarrette Blount was the Duck who helped his stock the most last night. Earning his first playing time since being reinstated following the infamous sucker-punch against Boise State, Blount showed the relatively quick feet, straight-line speed and bullish power scouts had seen flashes of last year when he led the Pac-10 in rushing touchdowns (17) despite not starting a single game (behind senior Jeremiah Johnson). Blount will have to convince scouts that he can maintain his composure to have any chance at the NFL, but Oregon head coach Chip Kelly showed his faith in Blount by inserting him into the lineup in the 3rd quarter. Blount's entry into the game seemed to rejuventate the Ducks, who outscored the Beavers 17-3 from then on.

Posted on: December 1, 2009 8:45 pm

Dunlap's "stunning" DUI = draft-day slide?

News of Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap's DUI Tuesday morning swept through the country today, leaving everyone, including NFL scouts, almost speechless.

Some made the comparison to Andre Smith's suspension for dealing with an agent nearly a year ago that kept him out of the Sugar Bowl. Another just characterized the move as "unbelievably dumb." All agreed that his draft stock would slide due to this terrible mistake. Ranked by some in the media as the #1 overall prospect at times this season, it now seems possible that Dunlap could slip out of the top ten... or even further due to this mistake.

Perhaps the best way to describe Dunlap's move was made his own head coach, Urban Meyer, who characterized the news as

"Carlos obviously made a very poor decision," Meyer said. "I have not spoke to him or his family yet. He's not going to play. But I want to visit with him and his family first and go from there."

Though Dunlap is only a junior, scouts widely expected him to leave school after this season. The 6-6, 290 Dunlap has 35 tackles on the season and leads the Gators with 7 sacks despite often being double-teamed. He burst onto the scene as a sophomore, registering 39 tackles and 9.5 sacks and earning Defensive MVP honors in last year's BCS Championship. His unique combination of size, strength and athleticism had earned comparisons to former #1 overall picks Mario Williams and Julius Peppers. Scouts had been especially impressed with Dunlap's upside, as he, unlike many of the lanky pass rushers of recent years, had the strength to hold up at the point in the running game and used his long arms to knock down passes (8) and kicks (4)... 
What a shame that during the week of what may prove to be the true National Championship game, one of the contest's most talented players made a horrendous decision and has, rightfully so, been suspended indefinitely.

Posted on: December 1, 2009 2:11 pm

Bowden, Weis could impact draft

With Charlie Weis' firing and Bobby Bowden's reported retirement, NFL scouts expect highly rated underclassmen from Notre Dame and Florida State to even more strongly consider leaving school early for the pros.

Speculation is rampant throughout the league that Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen will enter the 2010 draft and his favorite wide receiver, Golden Tate, is likely to leave, as well.

Clausen is widely considered the most NFL-ready quarterback in the country due to his blend of physical talents, experience in a pro-style offense under Weis, and three years as a starter. If Clausen does indeed leave, it would be hard for any new Notre Dame coach to convince Tate that his stock would improve in 2010. His numbers would almost certainly go down with a new quarterback and potentially new offense and regardless of when he leaves Notre Dame, he'll be the same size, which is the most obvious drawback for the receiver -- perhaps generally listed at 5-11, 195 poinds by the Irish.

Perhaps the most intriguing development, however, could occur with the Seminoles and quarterback Christian Ponder. Like Clausen, Ponder has multiple years of starting experience in a pro-style offense and has showcased the big and accurate arm scouts are looking for. Just as importantly, he's shown a great deal of improvement throughout his career. The shoulder injury that ended Ponder's season prematurely will be healed in time for pre-draft workouts, which has prompted some scouts to float his name as a potential "surprise" early declaration.

One would presume that the relationship already in place with offensive coordinator and expected new coach Jimbo Fisher will keep Ponder in Tallahassee for his senior campaign. However, considering the relative dearth of senior talent at quarterback and the potential salary loss for rookies following this draft, the FSU quarterback is one scouts may be pondering before anyone thought...

Posted on: November 28, 2009 11:12 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2009 11:54 pm

LSU wins game, but loses LaFell?

LSU won an overtime thriller against a gutty Arkansas team, but may have lost the best senior receiver in the country in doing so.

One play before LSU kicker Josh Jasper hit the 36-yard field goal that would ultimately be the game-winner, LaFell dropped to one knee to try to make the catch of a poor pass from Jordan Jefferson. With his left knee bent behind him, LaFell was hit on his right side by Arkansas linebacker Jerry Franklin. The hit hyperextended LaFell's left knee, causing him to lie on his back for several moments in obvious pain. LaFell was able to walk off the field under his own power, but he had Tiger medical staff on either side of him in support and he was limping badly. With the game ending so soon after LaFell's injury, no news about the actual extent of LaFell's injury is likely to be released until Sunday, at the earliest.

The 6-3, 205 pound receiver had been highlighted as's Player of the Week after LSU's loss to Ole Miss last Saturday. There are few receivers of his size with the quick feet and feel for tight quarters to be used outside and in the slot. This versatility, along with his great strength after the catch, has made him one of the more highly touted receivers in the country over the past two seasons. 

Despite a largely inconsistent offense around him, LaFell has been a headliner. He leads the Tigers with 52 receptions for 703 yards and is tied for the SEC-lead with 10 touchdowns. LaFell caught 4 passes for 68 yards and a score against Arkansas, Saturday.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or