Posted on: February 26, 2012 12:19 pm
While the media isn't allowed in to view most of the workouts at the Scouting Combine, a select group of media members were invited in Sunday morning to watch the quarterbacks and receivers' positional drills.
With NFLDraftScout.com's top-four rated quarterbacks -- Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler -- either unwilling or unable to throw at the Combine, it was the pass-catchers rather than the passers who stole the show. This fact is all the more interesting considering that the highest regarded player at the position struggled to live up to his lofty billing.
Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon entered the week as NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated wide receiver and viewed as a potential top five prospect but a rather ho-hum performance Sunday morning may put his perch at the top in peril.
Blackmon demonstrated the strong hands and body control Sunday that he'd used to earn back to back Biletnikof awards as the nation's top wideout but it appeared that he was limited by the hamstring injury he'd cited as the reason he wouldn't be running the 40-yard dash this week. Blackmon had to gather himself a bit when cutting and never showed the top-end speed scouts would expect of an elite prospect. The key will be how much improvement Blackmon shows when he works out for scouts at his March 7 Pro Day. If he shows improved burst during the workout on the Oklahoma State campus, scouts will likely chalk up his Combine workout as an example of a player simply being limited by injury. If he isn't more impressive, however, Baylor's Kendall Wright and Notre Dame's Michael Floyd are very much in the race to be the first receiver selected in the 2012 draft.
Floyd certainly helped his cause by running the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds (unofficially) at 6-3, 220 pounds and showing excellent hands, flexibility, and surprisingly precise routes. Whether it was drifting across the middle during the gauntlet drill, dropping his hips on quick comeback routes or showing the ability to track the ball over either shoulder deep, Floyd consistently plucked the ball out of air, quickly secured it and got upfield in one fluid motion.
Perhaps the surprise star among receivers, however, was Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill. Possessing a similarly freakish combination of size and speed as his Yellow Jacket predecessor Demaryius Thomas, the 6-4, 215 pound Hill was credited with a blistering 4.30 time in the 40-yard (unofficial) and showed the sticky hands and excellent body control he'd flashed as a big play specialist in Georgia Tech's triple-option offense. If there was a concern about Hill's workout it would be that he seemed a bit stiff when re-directing. His quick acceleration and top-end speed, however, were every bit as obvious with the ball in his hands as they were when he was running the 40-yard dash.
Of the quarterbacks throwing in the morning session, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins was clearly the most polished. While he does not possess a cannon for an arm, Cousins showed enough zip and excellent accuracy on the deep out and was particularly accurate on the post-corner route -- a throw many view as the most difficult asked of quarterbacks during the Combine workout. Cousins does the little things well. While other passers struggled with their footwork and release point, Cousins' has a clean set-up and delivery and consistently stared down the middle as he dropped back, mimicking the form he'd use during a game to look off the safety before turning to fire passes to the outside. Considering his four years starting experience, two years as a captain and experience in a pro-style offense, don't be surprised if Cousins enjoys a late rise up draft boards very similar to the one Andy Dalton enjoyed a year ago.
Two relatively unheralded quarterbacks also took advantage of the big stage to turn some heads. Southern Mississippi's Austin Davis and Richmond's Aaron Corp each showed enough arm strength and accuracy to prove that they belonged. Davis' touch on the deep ball was particularly impressive.
On the flipside, Arizona's Nick Foles and Houston's Case Keenum struggled. Each were erratic with their accuracy, especially on longer routes. Foles has good enough tape to withstand the disappointing workout. Keenum, short and sporting a 3/4 release, may have an uphill climb ahead of him to get drafted despite a sparkling collegiate career.
Posted on: December 3, 2011 11:54 am
Each weekend I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.
Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.
QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor*: The fact that RGIII has shot up to No. 15 in my latest Big Board tells you that I am on board with his projection to the NFL. That said, Griffin will be facing a tough test against the Longhorns, who boast the top pass defense in the Big 12. Texas put a damper on Texas A&M Ryan Tannehill's stock last week. Can they do the same to Griffin this time? The matchup is especially interesting considering that Griffin may still be feeling some of the lingering effects of a concussion suffered last week against Texas Tech. A big game here could vault Griffin even higher up scouts' draft boards and make him an obvious finalist for the Heisman Trophy. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be broadcast by ABC.
TE Orson Charles, Georgia*: At 6-3, 242 pounds Charles doesn't possess the traditional size scouts are looking for at tight end. However, his agility, speed and reliable hands make him one of the country's most dangerous receivers at the position and he's a much stouter blocker than you might expect. I've ranked him as the top tight end in the country for much of the season, though strong play by Stanford senior Coby Fleener and a couple of other underclassmen make the position one of the year's most competitive. LSU is in the position they are largely due to their extraordinary collection of talent in their defensive backfield. They haven't faced many combinations of quarterback (Aaron Murray) and receiver talent as what Georgia brings. If Georgia is to pull off the upset, Charles will have to have a strong game. This game begins at 4:00 pm ET and will be televised by CBS.
Posted on: September 30, 2010 1:40 pm
In this week's issue of Draft Slant, I list a handful of breakout prospects that scouts had graded as either late round or free agents in the preseason, but through the first month of the college season have greatly exceeded expectations and are rising fast.
Without giving away the identities of the players, themselves, I can tell you that the players listed come from a variety of conferences from the SEC to the WAC.
While that article is reserved for our premium subscribers, I thought I'd list a group of five players whose stock is going in the exact opposite direction over the first month of the season.
Players are listed alphabetically.
RB Mario Fannin, Auburn: I touted Fannin as much as anyone heading into the season as a potential breakout star and while I still maintain that he has talent, there is no denying that he's again struggling this year with the issues (injuries, fumbles) that had sidetracked him in the past. Part of a rotation for the Tigers, Fannin had seven touches for 79 yards and two touchdowns in the opener againt Arkansas State. Since, however, the Auburn coaching staff has apparently lost faith in his ability to get the tough yards and hold on to the football, as he has accumulated only eight touches for 28 total yards (and no scores) since.
QB Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: Despite earning preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year accolades, scouts had plenty of concerns about Johnson's pro prospects before the season have even begun. Now, after an ugly four interception game against the likes of Florida International, scouts are even more concerned that Johnson, while talented, simply lacks the accuracy and football IQ to handle the adjustment to the NFL. Once considered a potential Top 50 prospect, Johnson now appears destined for the 5th or 6th round... at best.
QB Jake Locker, Washington: There are a great many jumping off Jake Locker's bandwagon after a disastrous performance against the Cornhuskers two weeks ago. In reality, Locker was struggling with accuracy and the reading of defenses in the two previous games (BYU, Syracuse, as well). Locker's No. 1 status has always been a projection that would come true IF he made similar gains under Steve Sarkisian that he made in his first year under the former USC quarterback coach. So far, Locker hasn't made those gains. Some scouts, in fact, wonder if he's regressed. Locker remains in the hunt to be the first senior QB off the board (and thus a potential high first round selection), but the time has come to stop making excuses for him. In his second year of this offense and his fourth as a starting quarterback, Locker needs to show better recognition and accuracy if he is going to be successful in the NFL.
NG Jerrell Powe, Mississippi: As proof of what a roller coaster ride scouting can be, Powe would have made my list of the "safer" prospects heading into this season. He was a standout, even dominant performer, at times times last year. This season, however, Powe has struggled mightily. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that Ole Miss rotates their defensive linemen. Some also may be due to the fact that he's playing this season as much as 60 pounds lighter than he's played in the past. Either way, the explosive power and consistency Powe had shown last year simply hasn't been there in the Rebels' first four games.
WR Terrance Toliver, LSU: Toliver was viewed by many as the top senior receiving prospect in the country heading into the season. He certainly was touted as a potential future high round pick as a prep star. Unfortunately, Toliver and the LSU offense, as a whole, has struggled this season. Toliver has only 11 catches through the first four games for 96 yards. The 6-4, 206 pounder with reported 4.4 speed has yet to catch a touchdown this season.
One could make the argument that the host of players suspended or injured so far this season should also be included on this list. I have too much respect for our readers to take the easy way out and list the likes of North Carolina's DT Marvin Austin, FS Deunta Williams, WR Greg Little, South Carolina TE Wesley Saunders, West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan (all suspended for one or more games) or injured players like Houston QB Case Keenum, etc. and the like among this list. With serious off-field or health questions, they are certainly falling -- or at least on the cusp of falling -- in the eyes of scouts. However, the players I listed above are falling because they simply aren't producing on the field to the level scouts expected heading into the 2010 season.
Posted on: September 22, 2010 1:57 pm
Though the season is only a few weeks in, we know that there are plenty of ravenous NFL draft fans out there.
Posted on: July 12, 2010 12:40 pm
Each year the Mannings (Archie and sons Petyon, Eli and Cooper) hold their Manning Passing Academy for high school and collegiate "skill position" football players. Though running backs, wide receivers and tight ends are also invited to the camp, the quarterbacks always receive the most attention.
For the fifth consecutive year this year's camp was held on the Nicholls State University campus; the former home of the New Orleans Saints' training camp. This is the 14th year the Mannings have been holding their camp.
This year the collegiate quarterbacks invited read like a Who's Who of the game. Washington's Jake Locker was invited, but couldn't attend. Miami's Jacory Harris, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor were other high profile passers also unable to participate.
Among the more high profile players who did participate, however, included:
Jordan Jefferson - LSU
Jerrod Johnson - Texas A&M
Colin Kaepernick - Nevada
Case Keenum - Houston
Andrew Luck - Stanford
Greg McElroy - Alabama
Kellen Moore - Boise State
Christian Ponder - Florida State
Taylor Potts - Texas Tech
Matt Simms - Tennessee
Nathan Stanley - Mississippi
Brandon Weeden - Oklahoma State
Tyler Wolfe - Northwestern State (La.)
T.J. Yates - North Carolina
Much of the clinic is open to the public. According to sources in attendance, Stanford redshirt sophomore Andrew Luck is clearly the most gifted of the group. He showed a strong NFL-caliber arm and the accuracy to attack all levels of the field. Luck recently went on the record stating that he planned to graduate from Stanford before pursuing professional football.
Another young talent, Tennessee's Matt Simms (son of Phil, brother of Chris) also impressed, I'm told.
Kaepernick surprised some with his velocity. The 6-6, 220 pound Wolfpack quarterback is well known for his production (20 TDs/6 INTs, as well as 1,183 rushing yards, 16 TDs last year), but is viewed by many scouts as a product of coach Chris Ault's "pistol" offense.
FSU's Christian Ponder, who tied with Locker for the highest QB grade given by National scouts, was characterized as being good, but not spectacular. In Ponder's defense, he underwent shoulder surgery in the off-season and may have been still working out some of the kinks.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Alabama, Andrew Luck, Archie Manning, Arkansas, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Case Keenum, Chris Simms, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Eli Manning, Florida State, Greg McElroy, Houston, Jacory Harris, Jake Locker, Jerrod Johnson, Jordan Jefferson, Kellen Moore, LSU, Matt Simms, Miami, Mississippi, Nathan Stanley, Nevada, Nicholls State University, North Carolina, Northwestern State, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Peyton Manning, Phil Simms, Ryan Mallett, Stanford, T.J. Yates, Taylor Potts, Tennessee, Terrelle Pryor, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tyler Wolfe, Washington
Posted on: November 14, 2009 7:37 pm
With Houston quarterback Case Keenum's ridiculous production (4,192 yards and a 31-6 TD/INT ratio), I can understand how some have latched on to the talented Houston passer as a potential Heisman contender -- especially considering the perception that this year's Heisman is a wide open race.
In reality, however, the staggering numbers put forth by Graham Harrell, Colt Brennan, and other spread quarterbacks has proven that while production is enough to spark conversation, it isn't enough to actually take home the hardware.
Keenum's production has been especially overstated this season. The loss to Central Florida today -- Houston's second loss to a Conference USA opponent -- may be enough to knock Houston out of the Conference USA championship and further underscores how at least some of Keenum's production is based on the Cougar's spread offense and the lack of pass defenses they've faced this season.
In ten games this season, Keenum and the Cougars have faced one team currently ranked in the top 50 in the NCAA in pass defense -- Mississippi State, which ranks 40th.
I've steadily maintained that the best player in the country -- Nebraska DT Ndamokung Suh -- should be the prohibitive favorite for the Heisman Trophy. However, considering that only once in the celebrated history of the award has a defender actually won the award (Charles Woodson), I'm realistic enough to know that Suh isn't even likely to be invited as a finalist.
Clemson's CJ Spiller, however, should be generating more buzz than he has, as should Stanford's Toby Gerhart.
With Reggie Bush (2005) the only non-quarterback Heisman winner of the decade , however, it is clear that voters only care about the flashy quarterbacks.
Therefore, this remains Colt McCoy's Heisman to lose.