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Tag:Chris Conte
Posted on: May 16, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: May 19, 2011 5:12 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Safety

Over the last two weeks I have been highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

Here are the links for the other positions:
The 2011 safety class was as poor as I've seen it in 12 years of professional scouting. Much of this has to do with the fact that the 2010 safety crop was as good as I've ever seen it -- and was highly fortified by underclassmen, leaving the cupboard very bare this year. As expected, UCLA's Rahim Moore was the first safety selected, but even he wasn't drafted until No. 45 overall -- and some view him as a possible cornerback in the NFL.

Just like there were at every position, however, there was talent to be found in 2011.
Players are listed in alphabetical order.

Quality Fits:

Chris Conte, Chicago Bears: Conte played cornerback for the first three years of his career at Cal, so when he made the switch to free safety as a senior, he flew a bit under the radar for most. However, while Moore earned most of the attention in the Pac-10, Conte was the more reliable tackler and coverage defender despite his limited experience. The Bears have experimented with undersized safeties for years under Lovie Smith, but in the 6-2, 197 pound Conte, they get a rangy centerfielder with a legitimate combination of size and speed. The learning curve will be steep considering his lack of experience at the position, but Conte will prove a starting caliber free safety early in his NFL career.

Shiloh Keo, Houston Texans: I have my reservations about how well Keo will be able to cover NFL speed, but the primary issue in the Houston secondary the past few seasons hasn't been speed -- it has been a lack of instincts and reliable open-field tackling. In these areas, Keo ranks among the elite safeties in the entire 2011 draft. Keo's initial impact will almost certainly be felt on special teams - where he could prove to be a demon. A playmaking punt returner in college, watch for Keo to make the adjustment to special teams coverage, rather than returning. One might argue that in the fifth round, the Texans should have been looking for a future starter (which I don't know that Keo will ever become), but at pick No. 144, there were few players more guaranteed to make a more immediate impact on special teams, so I see the pick as having good value.

Mark LeGree, Seattle Seahawks: LeGree, a free safety at Appalachian State, could be asked to play a hybrid safety in Pete Carroll's scheme as the Seahawks used the No. 14 overall pick last year on another free safety -- Earl Thomas -- and loved his playmaking skills as a rookie. LeGree, who intercepted 22 passes and was a three-time All-American at Appalachian State, has similar ball skills as Thomas and good speed. He could play the deep middle and free up Thomas to attack the line of scrimmage as the Steelers do with Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu. Like Keo, LeGree simply offered too much value in the fifth round (No. 156 overall) to fall further.

Questionable Fit:

Chris Prosinski, Jacksonville Jaguars: It is perhaps a little unfair to characterize Prosinski as a questionable fit considering how badly the Jaguars needed help at safety and the former Wyoming standout's unique athleticism. A three-year starter for the Cowboys, it was a bit of a surprise when Prosinski wasn't invited to the Combine considering his high level of play and the relative weakness of the position. He answered all questions about his athleticism at his Pro Day when he registered a 4.39 40, 39 1/2-inch vertical, 4.28 short shuttle, and 11-foot-2-inch broad jump. That said, I do have some concerns about his ability to transition to the NFL. Jaguars' general manager Gene Smith might be the NFL's most aggressive draft-day talent evaluator. This pick might turn out well like some of his past selections, but in my conversations with other teams' scouts, this was viewed as a legitimate reach.





Posted on: April 29, 2011 3:57 pm
 

Five who could crash 2nd round

My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter just listed a detailed breakdown of NFLDraftScout.com's top prospects still on the board.

I've been speaking to representatives from teams this morning to try and identify a few under-the-radar players who could "crash" the second round and wind up surprise top 64 picks.

Here are a few to keep in mind:

Hawaii WR Greg Salas -- Physical receiver who is a reliable route-runner and hands-catcher. Surprisingly dropped some balls at the Senior Bowl, as he was clearly pressing. Excellent tape, however. Versatile. Can line up outside and in the slot.

Miami CB Demarcus Van Dyke -- He's 6-1 and was timed (hand-held) at 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. He isn't the most physical corner in the world, but the talent is there.

Wisconsin OG John Moffitt -- USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith was the only OL to get drafted among first 14 picks. The next 18 picks saw seven offensive linemen get picked. Tough, physical, reliable linemen don't slip on draft day; they rise. 

Eastern Washington RB Taiwan Jones -- There are plenty of questions about Jones' durability, ball security and level of competition, but the junior is the most electric open-field runner in the draft. Someone will reach to get lightning in a bottle.

California FS Chris Conte -- Overshadowed in the Pac-10 by UCLA's Rahim Moore, but some teams view Conte as the better prospect. Former cornerback who proved to be a reliable open field tackler. Viewed as an ascending talent.
Posted on: December 27, 2010 4:30 pm
 

All-star games improving selection process

Having attended senior all-star games such as the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and Hula Bowl since 2001, I'm typically very impressed with the scouting departments in charge of locating the talent for these contests. There was a time not too long ago when I'd attend a senior all-star game and see prospects whose production was very obviously a result of their scheme or their invitations just as obviously due to playing on a high profile team.

As technology improves, however, their talent scouts have become even better at recognizing gaudy statistics as an indicator of talent, but not necessarily as the end-all, be-all way to find diamond in the rough prospects.

Take Hawaii wideout Greg Salas as an example. Salas caught 106 passes for 1,590 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior, earning All-WAC recognition and even some Biletnikof Award hype. Like many Warrior receivers before him, his production is enhanced by Hawaii's dynamic offense.

Still, whenever I speak to scouts about underrated prospects, Salas' name comes up. He once again was statistically dominant in 2010. In fact, Salas led the FBS with 1,675 receiving yards this season and has an eye-popping 4,345 yards over his career. More important that stats, however, is Salas' size (6-2, 210) and underrated combination of speed and elusiveness. I've spoken to teams who rate Salas among the top three senior wideouts in the draft -- as I'm sure has the Senior Bowl -- who invited Salas to their game back in October.

Arizona pass rusher Brooks Reed is another example. At 6-3, 262 pounds he doesn't have the bulk to remain at defensive end -- which in the past may have, in itself, been enough to keep him from earning a post-season invite to an all-star game. With half of the NFL playing the 3-4 scheme, there will be no shortage of teams looking at Reed as a rush linebacker. I'm not sure I agree with the comparisons some insiders had made between Reed and Packers' star Clay Matthews, Jr. but I do believe Reed's burst, hands and tenacity are enough to make him effective off the edge in the NFL. The senior all-star game -- in this case the Senior Bowl -- is doing its job of providing prospects an opportunity to demonstrate what they can do. 

Each year, however, there are a few prospects who slide under the radar that I believe should get the attention of the all-star game's talent evaluators. It is entirely possible that any and all of these (and other) all-star games are considering these prospects. However, with the bowl games increasingly turning towards technology (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to release their rosters, the invitation process is much more transparent than in the past.

Here are three prospects that I have not yet seen be recognized with an invitation to the primary senior all-star games venues. I believe if they are, they'll impress there.

TCU OT Marcus Cannon : I listed Cannon a few days ago as one of the combatants in the five individual matchups I'm most looking forward to scouting during the bowl games. It remains to be seen how often Wisconsin elects to line up their star defensive lineman JJ Watt against Cannon. If they're wise, they'll pick their spots carefully. At 6-5, 350 pounds Cannon's athleticism is jaw-dropping. Andy Dalton gets most of the attention for TCU, but in terms of pro prospects, Cannon is the Horned Frogs' top talent... and folks, it ain't even close.

California FS Chris Conte : In a weak year for senior safeties, Conte's size (6-3, 212) and athleticism stand out. We all know that NFL teams love to move collegiate offensive tackles inside to guard. I feel that just as natural a transition can be made in moving big collegiate corners (who can tackle in space) to the safety position. Conte has already done it, earning First Team Pac-10 honors in his first full year at free safety this season after backing up at corner throughout his career.

New Mexico OT Byron Bell : NFL and all-star game scouts alike may be a little late in noticing Bell due to the fact that he entered this season characterized by New Mexico as a redshirt junior. The NCAA, however, ruled against his request that his 2007 season be ruled a medical hardship, meaning that Bell's career with the Lobos is over. At 6-5, 325 pounds Bell has surprising lateral agility and flexibility and will soon be flying up boards. Remember how shocked we all were when the Minnesota Vikings took former Lobo Ryan Cook in the second round in 2006? With an invitation to an all-star game, I believe Bell could make a similar leap.

For the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check back frequently at NFLDraftScout.com or by simply clicking here.

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