Category:NFL Draft
Posted on: October 13, 2009 9:09 pm

Tuesday night football boasts legit NFL DE

A rare Tuesday night game on ESPN2 tonight features one of the more intriguing defensive end prospects throughout the country, with Arkansas State's 6-5, 284 pound Alex Carrington , who earned Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, getting an opportunity to showcase himself to NFL scouts.

While Carrington hasn't posted much this season in terms of numbers (11 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack), last year he was an absolute terror -- posting 19 tackles for loss and finishing only one shy of the conference record with 11.5 sacks.

Carrington isn't just a product of poor competition. He gave Iowa tackles Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway plenty of trouble two weeks ago, serving as a primary reason why the Hawkeyes narrowly escaped with a narrow 24-21 victory. His one sack of the season came against Nebraska.

With scouts treasuring the few early days of the week in which they get to spend with family, there may not be a lot of NFL representatives at tonight's game against UL-Monroe. Based on the number of calls I've received today about Carrington, however, I can assure you many of them are recording this game on their own while enjoying some family time...

A strong game tonight and Carrington will be a consideration for next week's Draft Slant.
Posted on: October 10, 2009 11:06 pm

Bad call, worse throw by Tebow gives LSU a chance

With five minutes to go in the game, up 13-3 and in position to either force LSU to use their timeouts or run potentially even run out the clock with the way they've been running the ball, the Florida Gators stunning elected to throw downfield.

What made the play call worse was a terrible decision by Tim Tebow, throwing an impromptu deep out to receiver Cooper Riley, who, in reading single man to man coverage, went deep. The result was an easy interception by Jai Eugene that gives LSU life.

Correctly characterized by the ABC announcerns as a bad call and a worse decision by Tebow, the play doesn't appear likely to be enough, as the Tigers have been unable to contain Florida's pass rush all evening long.

Should Florida win this game as it appears they will, this play will soon be forgotten by the majority of the fans who viewed it. However, this is precisely the type of moment in which scouts look for in judging quarterbacks. Considering his recovery from the concussion two weeks ago, it wouldn't be entirely fair to judge Tebow on this play. NFL scouts, however, aren't always fair and Tebow's stock will undoubtedly suffer on some boards because of this play.

Posted on: October 10, 2009 9:09 pm

Florida-LSU living up to the hype thus far

The physical battle in the trenches and the spectacular speed of Florida's skill position players against LSU's second level defenders have overtaken Tim Tebow as the primary areas to watch in this game.

Tebow, of course, is going to get all of the attention, but LSU's secondary is doing a great job so far of limiting his throwing options downfield and Florida is understandably hesitant to begin pounding the ball inside with their typically successful quarterback draws.

Two early mismatches thus far could prove key to deciding the winner of this game.

Junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap has the speed to beat left tackle Ciron Black off the edge and certainly has the burst to beat the Tigers' interior linemen, as he's been shuffled inside on mutliple occasions. This position versatility from the 6-6, 280 pound Dunlap not only will provide the Gators with a decided edge up front in the passing game, it could potentially boost his stock with NFL scouts. The risk, however, in moving Dunlap inside, is negating his burst and allowing LSU's shorter interior linemen opportunities to get into his chest and drive Dunlap off the ball.

Not surprisingly considering how evenly matched these teams are, the other mismatch is in LSU's favor. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell,'s top rated prospect at the position, has been able to shake off tight coverage to already have 3 catches for 37 yards in this contest. Blessed with a similar combination of size, strength and run-after-catch ability as former Tiger Dwayne Bowe, LaFell has already made some big plays in this game, including a spectacular catch on 3rd down. A better throw by Jordan Jefferson would have given the Tigers a first down. LaFell, however, snatched the back half of the ball and if not for tight coverage by the Gators, easily would picked up the yardage.

Posted on: October 10, 2009 4:01 pm

Okung battles, beats Big 12 sack leader Miller

One of the reasons I was particularly intrigued with Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung's play today was that he'd be matched up with speed rusher Von Miller, the Big 12's leading pass rusher this season.

Miller, a 6-3, 240 pound junior who projects best as an outside linebacker at the next level, has posted 9 sacks over his first four games, ranking among the elite totals across the entire country.

At nearly 70 pounds more than Miller, I expected Okung to struggle with the Aggies' speed. He did. Okung lacks the elite explosiveness off the snap that typifies most offensive tackles drafted in the top ten. He does, howeve, compensate well with a deep kick-step, long arms and good balance to re-direct.

On this day Miller beat Okung to the outside on several occasions and occasionally was able to catch the big man leaning outside and spinning back inside to generate pressures. However, at the end of the day, Okung kept his passer's jersey clean, not allowing a sack to Miller and limiting him to only a handful of tackles (4 thus far).

As one would expect from a tackle with this kind of size advantage, Okung consistently knocked opponents (Miller and others) off the ball. Okung has been unfairly characterized as a finesse blocker perhaps because of the backlash that comes from Oklahoma State's spread offense. In reality, he is quite physical at the point of attack, using his hands well to engage the defender and generating good push. Again, his lack of elite athleticism shows up when blocking on the move, but while a bit of a plodder, Okung keeps his feet and tracked secondary level defenders effectively. On many of the Cowboys' best running plays, Okung had released to the second level and eliminated the linebacker, often pancaking them.

Okung may not have the unique athletiticism of a Jason Smith or Michael Oher, but he's the most impressive senior offensive tackle I've scouted this year. I feel confident in our high to mid first round grade on him.

Posted on: October 10, 2009 12:58 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2009 1:32 pm

Oklahoma State OT Okung in the crosshairs

There are a litany of intriguing games to scout on this morning, but after watching and being disappointed with Oklahoma left tackle Trent Williams, I am anxious to review his fellow Big 12 linemate, Russell Okung , almost universally rated as the elite offensive tackle of the 2010 draft class. The 6-5, 305 pounder earned First Team Big 12 honors last season -- not a feat to be looked over considering the presence of Jason Smith, Phil Loadholt and Williams.

Okung and Oklahoma State are playing at Texas A&M this morning. While I'll be keeping tabs on prospects from several other games throughout the morning, I'll be focusing on the prospects in this contest, especially Okung, for the early slate of games.

If noteworthy, Okung is a likely candidate for mention in this week's Draft Slant.

The current issue, on sale here , featured USC tight end Anthony McCoy as the Player of the Week, Western Illinois cornerback Patrick Stoudamire, Jr. as the diamond in the rough and eight other prospects that caught my eye.

Those eight include:

Oklahoma OT Trent Williams
Georgia DT Jeff Owens
South Florida FS Nate Allen
Notre Dame OT Sam Young
Boston College C Matt Tennant
Louisiana Tech DT D'Anthony Smith
Auburn RB Ben Tate
Tennessee RB Montario Hardesty

Posted on: October 9, 2009 12:35 am
Edited on: October 9, 2009 12:51 am

Ticky-Tack Personal Fouls on Suh

Unlike Missouri linebacker Sean Witherspoon, who I explained in a previous post I've been less than impressed with tonight, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has been dominant.

He's used explosive strength to consistently push the pocket, sustained effort to track down carriers from behind and a blend of nastiness and intensity that might make him the most feared defensive tackle in the country. Suh doesn't just tackle the ball-carrier, he grabs them, twists them and rips them to the ground. I watched him do this to Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor a few weeks ago and he did the same to Missouri passer Blaine Gabbert. He's also again shown his trademark recognition of the pass, getting his hands up to intercept Gabbard in the third quarter. His pick was arguably the play that turned this game around for a Nebraska.

On a negative note, Suh has been flagged for two costly personal fouls. Both, however, I'd argue were pretty ticky-tack calls that shouldn't drop Suh's ranking with scouts whatsoever.

Suh was flagged for hands to the face on the first penalty. Battling a double-team, Suh's hands initially hit the blocker in the chest. As the players battled, his hands slid up into the throat and face mask of the offensive lineman. Suh's hands were high for approximately one second in real time. Technically, this certainly is a penalty. This penalty, however, could be called on most plays, however, and is especially likely to occur on rainy nights such as this one.

The second penalty was significantly more argumentative. On the play Suh sacked Gabbert, but was flagged for a horse-collar tackle. Suh grabbed the back of Gabbert's jersey (near the letters of his name) with his right arm, and twisting him as he does in many of his tackles, his left arm snaked around to the front and grabbed the front of the passer's jersey. His hand seemed to stop at the top of the numbers, but was close enough to the top-front of Gabbard's shoulder pads that he was called for the penalty.

On both occassions, Suh's ferocity and intensity -- two of the elements that NFL scouts like most -- "earned" him penalty flags on this night.

For those just focusing on the box score, his penalties might loom large. I'd recommend looking at his other numbers (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 INT despite consistent double-teaming) to appreciate his greater impact on this contest.

Posted on: October 9, 2009 12:09 am

Holes in Witherspoon's game concerning

Missouri linebacker Sean Witherspoon has made some eye-popping hits tonight against Nebraska. He's also read some stretches plays beautifully, showing the upfield burst to beat blockers to the point of attack and make tackles for loss.

However, the concerns I mentioned in the earlier post about his struggles in disengaging from blocks continue to be a problem. To compound the issue, Witherspoon relies so much on his admittedly impressive straight-line speed, that he too often over-runs plays, allowing shiftier runners opportunities for cutbacks.

Witherspoon's great athleticism makes him an intriguing prospect. However, too often I see him disappear for long stretches before making a spashy hit that earns attention from television announcers. I suspect that most NFL scouts watching this game, however, have been less impressed with his play.
Posted on: October 8, 2009 9:06 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2009 12:52 am

Dominance tonight expected of Suh, Witherspoon

Many mid-major teams have taken advantage of the nationally televised Thursday night games in an effort to boost their image with fans and recruits. Tonight's game on ESPN features two Big 12 powers in Nebraska and Missouri, including two of the most high-profile defenders in the country.

Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (#93) is's top-rated senior overall. How anyone can not be rating him as the elite senior prospect I don't know, as he has been dominant this season, plays a value position and has the work ethic and athleticism necessary in making an immediate impact at the next level. In fact, fellow senior analyst Chad Reuter and I have spoken of the fairly significant drop-off from #1 Suh to "everyone else" after him. As he did last season, Suh is leading the Cornhuskers in tackles (26) and has chipped in 6 tackles for loss and 2 sacks, as well. One of the aspects I like most about him is that he's a heady, intense player who isn't satisfied with just rushing the passer or clogging running lanes. When he can't get to the quarterback, he gets his hands in the air. Suh leads the team with 6 pass breakups. I featured him as our Player of the Week following his last nationally televised action (against Virginia Tech) and expect him to be similarly dominant tonight, though Missouri's focus on the passing game may limit his tackles at the point of attack. Expect to see him active in pursuit and creating some pressure up the middle.

Missouri has a potential first round prospect of their own in linebacker Sean Witherspoon (#12). I'm admittedly not as high on Witherspoon as others seem to be. There is no arguing with his production. He led the Big 12 in tackles last season with a gaudy 155 total stops and proved to be a force as a pass rusher (5 sacks) and in coverage (8 passes broken up, 3 INTS -- 2 of which he returned for TDs). So, what's not to like? Despite his impressive frame (6'1, 245 pounds), Witherspoon almost relies on his agility to defeat blocks. I'd like to see him take on more blockers, shed and make the play in the hole, rather than chase the ball-carrier down. Of course, as some have argued with me in the past, similar concerns were the primary reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to find outside linebacker Derrick Brooks with the 28th pick of the 1995 draft. Against Nebraska's offense, Witherspoon should enjoy a strong game. He certainly has the speed to make some impressive plays in coverage, is a big hitter, and will have opportunities to impress scouts like me who have questioned his willingness to take on blockers. This may not be Tom Osbourne's Nebraska, but Witherspoon and the rest of the Tigers will still have to respect this running game.

It should make for a highly interesting game for fans and scouts, alike, to watch. The game begans at 9 pm EST on ESPN.

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