Posted on: February 4, 2012 1:50 pm
 

Diamonds in the rough emerging in film study

Over the past few weeks, my fellow NFLDraftScout.com analyst Dane Brugler and I have been working around the clock to finish up the 300+ player profiles we'll be offering here and for Lindy's NFL Draft Magazine. 

While that time has left me unable to keep up the blog with the frequency I would have liked it has opened my eyes to a few lower rated prospects that haven't been receiving the attention their play warrants.

Here are the names of five prospects whose play forced me to re-evaluate where we've been ranking them... 

QB Brock Osweiler, Arizona State: I was disappointed to see Osweiler leave after his junior season as he remains a raw prospect. However, he possesses a strong, accurate arm and much better athleticism than most would reasonably expect given his huge frame (6-7, 240). There has been so much talk about which quarterback is likely to follow up Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin. For my money, that player has been (and remains) Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill. But in the race to follow Tannehill, Osweiler has the physical skill-set to lead ahead of next group, including Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, the two most impressive quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl. 

CB Ryan Steed, Furman: With a very strong week in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, Steed has been receiving a great deal of positive attention lately. I went back to his junior (as well as senior) film to make sure that the consistency I saw there matched up to his play against lesser competition. Steed is athletic, instinctive and possesses very good ball skills. If he runs in the 4.4s as I expect, he's not just a top 75 guy he might push the Alfonzo Dennard, Leonard Johnson and Stephon Gilmores of the world for a run as a late first round candidate. 

DL/LB Brett Roy, Nevada: Roy played out of position for the Wolfpack, lining up at defensive tackle despite weighing in the 260-270 pound area throughout his career. He has a toned, well-distributed build that isn't going to be able to handle adding the 30+ pounds of "good" weight most teams require at defensive tackle in the NFL. He does, however, show the instincts, lateral agility, vision and open field tackling skills to potentially make the conversion to linebacker for 3-4 clubs. Roy plays to the whistle. I watched him pursue Boise State RB Doug Martin 50+ yards downfield, demonstrating the never-say-die mentality that could help him a roster spot and time to develop.

TE Cory Harkey, UCLA: The traditional tight end is quickly being replaced by hybrid receivers but there are still spots available for blocking specialists. That is precisely what Harkey provides. Harkey caught just one pass as a senior, despite starting all 14 games for the Bruins. He shows the size (6-4, 262), strength, tenacity and technique teams are looking for as an in-line blocker, however, and was invited to the Combine despite his less than impressive catch total...

TE Andrew Szczerba, Penn State: The previous four players I mentioned were all among the players who made the initial invitation list to the Combine. Szczerba did not make this list, though after scouting him in person at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, I believe he has the size, soft hands and blocking skills to warrant a closer look. Szczerba lacks straight-line speed and after missing the entire 2010 season after undergoing back surgery, is a huge medical question mark. In my opinion, these questions, coupled with the 6-5, 265 pound Szczerba starting all 13 games for the Nittany Lions in 2011, simply provide all the more reason why teams should get a chance to look him over in Indianapolis.  
         

Posted on: February 1, 2012 9:43 am
 

NFL: No plans to sell fans tickets to Combine

With the NFL continually finding new ways to market itself and the insatiable appetite fans have for all things football it has been theorized by many that it is only a matter of time before the league begins selling tickets to the annual Scouting Combine. 

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello informed the media at the Super Bowl, however, that he knows of no plan to this citing crowd noise as a deterrent. 

Only recently has the NFL allowed anyone other than league personnel into the workouts. Media has generally been asked to remain in a different part of the building away from the workouts. With NFL Network cameras being allowed to record some of the action in recent years, a few select members of the media have been allowed to come in and watch the quarterbacks throw to wide receivers in recent years.

I have been fortunate enough to be among those allowed in for several of these workouts. I can tell you from experience that the inside of the stadium during these workouts is quite different from that of a game or even practice. While the players and a few coaches/scouts are down on the field, league personnel is generally scattered throughout the lower level seats and suites. The place is eerily quiet other than the occasional shouts of encouragement from players to each other. 
 
The 2012 Scouting Combine will be held in Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis during the final week of Feburary.  The initial list of players invited to attend the workout can be found here. National Football Scouting, the organization that puts on the Combine, has not yet released the final invitation list, which includes underclassmen and perhaps a few other seniors who piqued the interest of scouts during recent all-star games. 


 

Posted on: January 31, 2012 3:45 pm
 

Ex-Iowa RB Coker transferring to Stony Brook

Blessed with a well-coached offensive line and a pro-style offensive attack that features the run, the Iowa Hawkeyes seemingly always have a strong running attack under Kirk Ferentz.

Unfortunately, rarely during Ferentz's recent tenure have his running backs been able to remain as the starter for more than a season. Not since the days of Albert Young (who left in 2007) have the Hawkeyes have enjoyed any real continuity at running back. Each of the past five seasons, in fact, Iowa has had a different player lead the team in either rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns or both. 

The turnover will continue in 2012 due to the fact that Iowa's leading incumbent rusher Marcus Coker will be taking his talents to FCS powerhouse Stony Brook. 

Coker, who led the Hawkeyes with 1,384 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011, was suspended from the team prior to the Insight Bowl matchup against Oklahoma. The reason for his suspension and subsequent surprise releasal from his scholarship by Iowa entirely hasn't been made public other than that his actions constituted a violation of the university's Student Athlete's Code of Conduct. Coker was investigated after a woman claimed he sexually assaulted her in October but played during the investigation and was never formally charged of any crime. 

Despite only one season as a fulltime starter for the Hawkeyes, Coker had already established himself as a potential pro prospect. Coker, in fact, ranked No. 6 on NFLDraftScout.com's 2014 RB rankings. 

Listed by Iowa at 6-0, 230 pounds, Coker is a physical back with good vision and surprising burst for a player of his size. Coker is on pace to graduate and, according to Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore, was very interested in his new university's academics as well as athletics. 

That said, a spectacular junior campaign could force Coker to consider leaving his new school early should the NFL come calling. Though it was injury and not an investigation that prompted another former Iowa running back -- Jewel Hampton -- to transfer to Southern Illinois a year ago, he too sounded like a player willing to spend two seasons with his new program rather than making the attempted jump to the pros. 

Instead, after rushing for 1,121 yards and a conference-leading 21 touchdowns this season, Hampton headed off to the NFL

Just as they did with Hampton at Southern Illinois, scouts will certainly be keeping an eye on Coker at Stony Brook, whether it be for the 2013 or 2014 draft.   

Posted on: January 29, 2012 12:22 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2012 1:15 pm
 

WRs steal the thunder, boost stock in Senior Bowl

As usual, the quarterbacks generated most of the hype throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl. But during the game Saturday it was their receivers who stole the spotlight as the North defeated the South, 23-13.

Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams shrugged off a fumble in the first quarter to catch six passes for 116 yards for the South, demonstrating the elusiveness and pure speed that helped him return four punts for touchdowns this season, earning the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year award. For his efforts Adams was named the Senior Bowl's "Outstanding Player" for the South squad.

Arizona's Juron Criner, also of the South, was quiet early in the game but connected with college teammate, quarterback Nick Foles, to the tune of four catches for 50 yards and the South's only touchdown, a 20-yarder with 12:55 left in the game. Criner finished with six catches for 77 yards.

Those receivers managed to stand out despite lackluster play by the quarterbacks. Just as he was throughout the week of practice, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, for the North, was the most impressive quarterback in the game.

He completed only five of 11 passes overall, with a touchdown and an interception. However, that one touchdown pass, a 41-yarder to Arizona State's Gerrell Robinson with 11:44 left in the third quarter, gave the North a 23-13 lead and enough cushion to hold on for a victory.

MVP honors for the game went to North running back Isaiah Pead, who was also Offensive Player of the Year for Cincinnati in the Big East. In the game, Pead collected 31 on the ground and 98 yards on punt two punt returns, including a 60-yarder that was the highlight of the first half.

Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, the most consistent of the South team's quarterbacks throughout the practice week was the worst of the six passers Saturday, completing nearly as many passes to the defense (two interceptions) as he did to South receivers (five completions) for just 56 yards.

Other Senior Bowl standouts:

--Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Undeniably the most talented player in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, Coples continued his dominant week of practice with an MVP-caliber performance in the game. Coples, a shade under 6-6 and 281 pounds, was a consistent threat off the edge and used his long arms and obvious upper body strength to rag-doll pass blockers on his way to the quarterback. Perhaps the most impressive play of the game from Coples, however, came as a run defender. He shook off a block from Iowa State right tackle Kelechi Osemele and with one arm stopped the momentum of running back Isaiah Pead and threw him to the ground for a two-yard loss on 3rd and goal. If Coples played with the same intensity throughout his senior season that he did throughout the week in Mobile, he might have been the easy choice as the top defensive prospect in the 2012 draft.

--Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati: The game's MVP was easily the most explosive running back in this. He demonstrated his unique straight-line speed and agility by accelerating through holes and making defenders miss as a running back and punt returner.  Despite taking on return duties late in his senior season, Pead showed good vision and courage in attacking seams as he averaged 49 yards on the two opportunities. He demonstrated not only athleticism, but also the willingness to cut back inside against the grain and finish his runs.

--Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Despite playing with a little less consistency that scouts would like, the 6-7, 323 pound Adams impressed throughout the week of practice with his ability to maintain squarely in front of speed rushers and play with a reliable base against bull rushes. Adams played with much better consistency Saturday, controlling his opponent throughout the contest and distancing himself as the elite offensive line prospect in the Senior Bowl.  Adams surrendered a sack in the 3rd quarter to Alabama's Courtney Upshaw but held up well initially to my top-rated senior prospect and only allowed the coverage sack on Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson after protecting for several seconds.

--Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: While Martin wasn't able to break free for the splashy plays that his North teammate Pead did, it was the former Bronco running back who was the best running back in Mobile throughout the week of practice and he followed that up with an impressive game. Martin showed good burst to and through the hole, as well as the vision and acceleration to gain yardage in chunks as a running back and kick returner. Having impressed scouts with his obvious dedication to the weight room by sporting a chiseled physique during Monday's weigh-in, Martin showcased that his attention to details isn't just limited to lifting weights. He provided excellent effort blocking downfield on a 41-yard touchdown catch by Robinson.

--Bobby Wagner, ILB, Utah State: Like Martin, Wagner initially caught the attention of NFL scouts by showcasing a powerful build on his 6-0, 241 pound frame during Monday's weigh-in. With defenders asked not to take ball-carriers to the ground throughout the week of practice, Wagner wasn't able to wow scouts with what he does best -- tackle -- until the game. He certainly did on Saturday, anticipating and closing quickly on ball-carriers and then wrapping up cleanly to tie with South Carolina safety Antonio Allen to lead the game with seven tackles. Wagner also proved his playmaking ability, recording  a tackle for loss and an interception of Weeden in the first quarter.

For much more Senior Bowl content from NFLDraftScout.com, click here.
Posted on: January 28, 2012 1:35 pm
 

Senior Bowl All-Practice Teams

The Senior Bowl is scheduled to begin at 4 pm eastern time and you can bet there will be plenty of NFL scouts who will be watching the game. 

Not nearly as many will be watching the game, itself, however, as took in the practices throughout the week. Quite frankly, the Senior Bowl is like any other all-star game in football or other sport, the players participating in it are largely decided based on popularity rather than talent. 

It remains to be seen which players will help their stock during the game, itself. 
 
Here are the players from the offensive units on the North and South squads making my All-Practice Team.

QB: Kirk Cousins, Michigan State -- Accurate, poised and athletic, Cousins could enjoy a late Andy Dalton-like rise up draft boards this spring.
RB: Doug Martin, Boise State -- Quick, powerful and performing well as a pass blocker and receiver, Martin's strong week places thrusts him into the conversation to be the No. 2 running back drafted behind Alabama's Trent Richardson.
FB: Brad Smelley, Alabama -- Is more of an H-back than a traditional human pile-driving lead blocker. Reliable hands. Consistent effort.
TE: Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette -- Athletic receiver hybrid that some teams will envision as a poor man's Jimmy Graham.
WR: Marvin Jones, California -- May have boosted his stock more than any other player this week. Good size, routes and caught everything.
WR: Joe Adams, Arkansas -- Narrowly beat out Arizona's Juron Criner but speed kills... and Adams certainly has speed.
OT: Mike Adams, Ohio State -- More inconsistent than I'd like but was able to handle some of the game's best due to his length, athleticism.
OG: Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin -- Again, a bit inconsistent but mostly during one on one drills. During scrimmages, Zeitler played well.
OC: Ben Jones, Georgia -- Not flashy, but a tough matchup for the South's defensive tackles all week long.
OG: Tony Bergstrom, Utah -- Got beat early on but improved throughout the week. Solid performance from a player many were unfamiliar with.
OT: Mitchell Schwartz, California -- Like Bergstrom, struggled a bit early but improved throughout the week. Even saw some time inside at OC when injuries forced the North squad to shufle their linemen. Projects best as a RT.

And the defensive players

DE: Quinton Coples, North Carolina -- Unquestionably the most talented player in this game. Has been unblockable, at times.
DT: Mike Martin, Michigan -- Possesses great strength in the hole and a relentless that coaches will love.
DT: Kendall Reyes, Connecticut -- Possesses a better combination of athleticism and strength than some of the more hyped DTs in attendance.
DE: Courtney Upshaw, Alabama -- Solidified his ranking as my No. 1 rated senior prospect in the 2012 draft. Powerful, versatile, instinctive.
OLB: Shea McClellin, Boise State -- Saw a lot of time at weakside linebacker and really impressed... not just me, but scouts, Mike Singletary...
ILB: Audie Cole, NC State -- The biggest ILB here and moved as well as most of the smaller ones.
OLB: Lavonte David, Nebraska -- So fluid that some teams will look at him as a SS convert. Athletic, instinctive and a terrific open-field tackler.
CB: Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama -- Beaten on occasion, but his agility, speed make him the elite senior cornerback in the 2012 draft.
S: George Iloka, Boise State -- Big, athletic and instinctive. Made an impressive interception Tuesday...
S: Antonio Allen, South Carolina -- Demonstrated some fluidity as well as a willingness to make some big hits.
CB: Dwight Bentley, Louisiana Lafayette -- Few players helped themselves more than this late addition. Proved he belonged.          
           

Posted on: January 27, 2012 8:10 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 8:20 pm
 

Report: Datko ends redshirt pursuit; NFL eligible

Florida State's Andrew Datko entered his senior season among the most highly touted offensive tackle prospects in the country. 

Unfortunately, the Seminoles preseason All-ACC left tackle's 2011 season ended after just four games due to lingering shoulder issues. Datko pursued gaining another year of eligibility with a medical redshirt but was not among the list of several NFL-caliber players initially granted an extra season from the ACC.

According to editor-in-chief John Crist of NoleDigest.com, Datko has elected to end his pursut of a medical redshirt, has signed with agent Drew Rosenhaus and is preparing for the 2012 draft. He's currently rated as the No. 11 offensive tackle for the 2012 draft and the 118th rated prospect, overall by NFLDraftScout.com. Datko was one of two highly athletic tackles to star for the Seminoles over the past four seasons. While he started at left tackle, Zebrie Sanders was the Seminoles' right tackle. Sanders flipped over to the left side and played well once Datko's senior campaign finished early.

The 6-6, 321 pound Datko will obviously have to answer questions about the health of his shoulders but when 100% has proven himself to be a very effective blocker for the Seminoles. Big and athletic, Datko started 40 games for Florida State, all of them at left tackle. The shoulder injury limited his play in 2011 but Datko allowed just three combined sacks in his previous two seasons with the Seminoles despite facing an impressive array of pass rushers in the ACC. Of concern to scouts, however, is that the injury isn't new. As Datko explains in this video he was essentially playing with "just one shoulder" in 2010 and had expected to be fully healthy in 2011. 

The opinion of team doctors will ultimately play a critical role in where (or if) Datko is selected in the 2012 draft.


Posted on: January 26, 2012 1:30 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 1:45 pm
 

South Team's CBs stealing the show at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, ALA -- With the NFL evolving into a predominantly passing league, cornerbacks are in high demand and have become one of the premier positions at the next level. With that said, the senior class boasts some intriuging talent at the cornerback position and several of those rising talents can be found on the South squad at the Senior Bowl.

North Alabama (and former Florida Gator) cornerback Janoris Jenkins has put to rest any debate as to who is the most talented senior cornerback in this year's group with his performance in practice this week. He is a fluid athlete with very light feet and swivel hips to turn and run downfield, but also shows the closing burst and physical nature to attack what's in front of him. At practice on Wednesday, Jenkins showed impeccable timing and explosion to plant, drive and blow up the play, knocking the ball and North Carolina receiver Dwight Jones to the ground in one of the drills.

At times his lack of size and length will show in man coverage (only 5-93/4" tall), but he has a natural feel for the position that NFL teams covet. Now obviously there are several off-field questions regarding Jenkins as a prospect, which will ultimately affect his draft stock. However based on pure talent and football ability, Jenkins is a top-10 prospect and should be the top senior cornerback off the board.

Georgia's Brandon Boykin also stood out at Wednesday's practice, flashing his elite-level quickness and athleticism. However, what was most encouraging to see was his aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage, getting physical with receivers off the snap and working hard to make them as uncomfortable as possible. Boykin was a bit grabby at times and needs to stay disciplined or he'll attract penalties at the next level, but it was a positive sign that scouts wanted to see with the former Bulldog speedster.

Small school cornerback Ryan Steed out of Furman has shown he belongs here this week, competing at a high level in every drill. His inexperience will show at times as he still needs to develop his instincts and read/react ability, but he has shown the smooth athleticism to play the position in the NFL. Steed looked natural in his transition, turning and running with receivers downfield with smooth flexibility. He needs some work before he's ready to cover pro receivers, but he has looked promising this week

And perhaps the biggest riser among senior cornerbacks is Dwight Bentley out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He has a lean, wiry build at 5-10 and 176 pounds, but has hasn't backed down at all, staying physical and competing with bigger, stronger receivers. Bentley is obviously most comfortable playing in off-coverage where he can rely on his athleticism, but that hasn't stopped him from putting his hands on receivers just enough keep them from separating. After an inconsistent senior campaign, Bentley needed a strong week here and he has exceeded expectations so far.

OTHER PROSPECT NOTES:

WR Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M: Senior Bowl practices this week have been an extension of Fuller's 2011 season and unfortunately that's not a good thing. He looks the part with a tall, strong build and surprising quickness and athleticism (looks like a basketball player on the field), but his hands and concentration continue to let him down. Fuller will make a nice catch, but follow it up with two poor drops. In the NFL, it doesn't matter how big or fast you are at receiver if you can't complete the reception.

TE Brad Smelley, Alabama: Every year, 'Bama seems to be well-represented at the Senior Bowl, due to their talented program, but also because of the proximity to Mobile. Some Alabama players deserve to participate in this game, while others arguably may not, but Smelley has shown he belongs here. Through three days of practice, it could be argued that no pass-catcher has been more consistent than the Tide H-back who has shown vacuum-hands all week. He isn't explosive in any way, but he plays hard and fast at all times and has earned a draftable grade.

OT Levi Brown, Troy: An under-the-radar player, Brown has had a tough time so far this week, but has shown steady progression after being moved inside to guard at practice. He looks natural in his movements with very good foot quickness and lateral agility, but he is unpolished with his hand placement and overall technique. After playing left tackle at Troy, Brown will need to strengthen his base and lower body in order to anchor as an interior blocker.

OT Jeff Allen, Illinois: Another collegiate left tackle who was moved inside to guard, Allen looked much more comfortable in tight quarters. He doesn't extend his arms or use his hands as effectively as he should, often allowing rushers into his body, but he holds his own at the point of attack. His weight also looks a bit sloppy, especially in his midsection, which is disappointing from a college left tackle. With Allen, it doesn't always look pretty, but he seems to get the job done.

LB Lavonte David, Nebraska: One of the more impressive players so far this week has been Lavonte David, the tackling machine from Lincoln. However where he has been most impressive is his drops, showing fluid hips and above average footwork for a linebacker when asked to turn and run. David isn't the most physically imposing at 6-0 1/2" and 225 pounds, but he is a sure-tackler with the first step quickness and natural instincts needed for the position. For David, it's not a question about "ability", but rather a question of "where does he fit?"

RB Terrance Ganaway, Baylor: At 5-11 and 241 pounds, Ganaway has the bruising size and natural power to work well between the tackles. But if he hopes to see playing time at the next level, he must improve his blocking. Ganaway has struggled in practice this week in pass protection drills, showing poor habits and inexperience. He routinely drops his helmet and leaves his feet, allowing pass rushers to brush by him and get to the pocket.

  The preceding report was written by NFLDraftScout.com analyst Dane Brugler. He can be followed on Twitter @dpbrugler

Posted on: January 25, 2012 6:29 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 6:36 pm
 

Arizona WR Criner quieting critics at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala -- Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner saw his stock slip before his senior season even began amid concerns about family and personal health issues. 

While those issues will still need to be investigated fully by NFL teams, the playmaking skills that he demonstrated throughout an record-breaking career with the Wildcats have helped him stand out this week for the South Team at the Senior Bowl.    

Though I still have reservations about Criner's straight-line speed, he's shown enough in that category to eat up the cushion against off-man coverage supplied by a cornerback group for the South that is as strong as any position playing in the 2012 Senior Bowl. Criner runs precise routes and has excellent body control to adjust to the ball while it is in flight. He demonstrated this in beating North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins, my 21st overall rated prospect in the 2012 draft on a deep ball midway through Wednesday's practice.    

Criner's ability to track the ball and make big plays haven't ever been the question. After all, he caught 75 passes for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns in just 12 games as a senior and this was a drop-off from the year before when he earned All-American honors with 82 catches for 1,233 yards and 11 scores. Though he certainly doesn't possess the big play speed of Arkansas' Joe Adams or Houston's Patrick Edwards, he's frankly been a more reliable target this week than either of the other two big possession receivers NFLDraftScout.com currently rates ahead of him -- North Carolina's Dwight Jones and Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller.
      
I spoke to a high-ranking team official who recently met with Criner to get a better gauge as to the level of concern he, personally, had with Criner's off-field issues.

"I'm not concerned at all," the official said. "That stuff was overblown by the media. The coaches there [Arizona] say he is a good kid.  He's gone through some tough stuff but I don't know of anything that would cause his stock to be impacted by it."

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