Posted on: December 1, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 3:44 pm
NFL teams have been impressed thus far with the development of the class of 2011's quarterbacks. Cam Newton has already emerged as one of the league's most exciting players and Andy Dalton has the Bengals in the thick of the playoff hunt. Though wins and big plays have been tougher to come by for Christian Ponder (Vikings) and Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars) thus far, each have shown flashes.
The relative success of his young peers bodes well for the Houston Texans and their rookie quarterback, T.J. Yates.
Yates, graded as a sixth round pick last year by NFLDraftScout.com, was the Texans' 5th round pick (No. 152 overall).
A year earlier, the idea of Yates being drafted at all would have been considered a long shot.
As a junior Yates completed barely 60% of his passes and threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns on the season (14) despite being surrounded by a lot of NFL talent, including current Cleveland Browns' rookie Greg Little and rising 2012 prospect Dwight Jones, among others.
Yates, however, showed remarkable poise a year later during the scandal that eventually led to year-long suspensions of Little, defensive tackle Marvin Austin and defensive end Robert Quinn, among others.
While everything around him was crumbling, Yates developed into a legitimate pro prospect, completing 66.% of his passes for 3,418 yards and a 19-9 touchdown to interception ratio. For his improvement, Yates was named an honorable mention All-ACC pick and helped lead the Tar Heels to a dramatic double overtime victory over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.
When Yates entered last Sunday's game against the Jaguars, he did so with the same poise and leadership he'd demonstrated while at UNC. The moment wasn't too big for him -- a testament to the calm he's gained as a three-year starter while at UNC.
Certainly there are other quarterbacks with greater talent. Yates, in fact, will be playing opposite one this week in Atlanta's Matt Ryan. Like Ryan, however, Yates is more than the sum of his parts. While he doesn't have a howizter or great mobility, he's already a savvy enough player to spread the ball out to Houston's playmakers and manage a game.
For the AFC-South leading Texans, that may be all he has to do to help them reach the playoffs.
Posted on: June 20, 2011 1:38 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 6:17 pm
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Posted on: May 7, 2011 12:28 pm
Over the next two weeks I will be 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.
The 2011 wide receiver class was a unique one. While all of the attention was understandably heaped upon A.J. Green and Julio Jones, the so-called second tier talent of this group intrigued me. There wasn't a great deal of pure speed available in this class, but the number of elusive returners, tough slot receivers and big, physical possession wideouts made it a underrated strength of the 2011 draft. It will be interesting to see how many of these college stars prove to emerge as true No. 1 targets in the NFL. While I have some reservations about how many will be able to do precisely that, I am confident that a number of them will make immediate and lasting impacts at the pro level.
Earlier this week I broken down the quarterbacks and running back fits.
Dwayne Harris, Dallas Cowboys: Quite frankly, I wasn't as high on the Cowboys' draft as many, but I did love the value of Harris in the sixth round. In Harris, I see the same type of toughness, wiggle and secure hands that I saw in Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby (now with the Cincinnati Bengals) and Davone Bess (Miami Dolphins) when they starred in college. Considering the talent outside in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, Harris could slide right into the slot and prove a steal.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: Let's be clear. I thought Atlanta paid too much to acquire Jones. With that said, it is easy to see why they made their aggressive trade, as Jones is the most physically-prepared receiver to make an immediate impact in this draft and is an ideal fit for Atlanta's offense due to his size, strength, and run-blocking. He is not as fast on the field as his 4.34 second time at the Combine might suggest, but at 6-3, 220 pounds, he is tough to bring down in the open field. Considering the other weapons the Falcons possess, he'll rarely see double coverage early in his career, meaning that Jones will often be only one broken tackle away from big plays.
Greg Little, Cleveland Browns: Little and Jones will forever be linked due to the fact that Cleveland used one of the picks they received from the Falcons to select a similarly built (6-3, 231) and skilled wideout 52 picks later than Atlanta selected Jones. Like Jones, Little uses his extraordinary combination of size, strength, underrated speed (4.53) and body control to be effective. A former running back, Little's RAC skills could result in plenty of big plays in Cleveland. He is one of the few wideouts in this class who I believe could ultimately emerge as a true No. 1 target. It will be interesting to compare in a few years to take a look back and see what kind of value the Browns got with Little at No. 59 compared to what the Falcons got out of Jones at No. 7.
Greg Salas, St. Louis Rams: I could have just as easily listed the first wide receiver the Rams selected in 2011 -- former Boise State star Austin Pettis (No. 78 overall) -- as an ideal schematic fit, but with Salas taken 34 spots later, he could ultimately prove the better value. Each are tall, well-built possession receivers whose game is built on precise route-running and soft, reliable hands -- precisely the type of wideouts Sam Bradford so desperately needed last year.
Titus Young, Detroit Lions: Young was hyped by some draft analysts as the No. 3 receiver in this class, but inconsistent route-running, hands, toughness and slim build (5-11, 174) kept him as my No. 7 rated wideout (No. 6 by NFLDraftScout.com). There is no denying, however, that Young fits in well schematically with the Lions, who needed a big play threat opposite Calvin Johnson and to take advantage of Matt Stafford's amazing arm.
Jon Baldwin, Kansas City Chiefs: Considering the success that Scott Pioli had in helping build the Patriots' dynasty as well as the successful renovation of the Chiefs, it might be seen as almost blasphemous to knock one of his first round picks. And yet, here I am doing it. I understand the Chiefs' need to add a secondary receiver to take pressure off of Dwayne Bowe and certainly acknowledge Baldwin's extraordinary combination of size (6-4, 228), speed (4.49), explosiveness (42" vertical jump led all Combine WRs), but quite frankly, on tape Baldwin isn't the sum of his parts. He isn't as physical as his size would suggest, nor as fast as he timed. Baldwin struggled against press coverage in college and will only face more of it in the NFL. He is blessed with a great deal of natural talent and Todd Haley has shown the ability to coax such talent from surly receivers throughout his career. There is no denying, however, that Baldwin was a significant gamble at No. 26 overall.
Posted on: February 26, 2011 5:47 pm
Talent evaluators who have done the tape on defensive ends Robert Quinn and Da'Quan Bowers know that the former Tar Heel is the more explosive of the two pass rushers.
Posted on: February 25, 2011 11:44 am
Having been suspended for the entire 2010 season and not selected to play in any of the post-season all-star games, North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little needs a strong showing at the Combine to refresh the memories of NFL scouts of who he is -- both on and off the field.
Posted on: February 21, 2011 8:00 pm
Up until the beginning of the NFL Combine Thursday, I'm going to list one player per position who I see as having the most riding on their performance. That means multiple updates each day, so keep tuning in.
You'll see a couple of overriding themes with the players I select. Many are underclassmen - as many of them have more to prove to scouts - and many are players with either off-field or medical concerns. This was the case with my quarterback of choice, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett , but not the case with senior running back Alex Green of Hawaii .
North Carolina wideout Greg Little is not an underclassmen, but, after being suspended for his entire senior season, his 2009 tape is the last scouts have seen of him.
As three NFL scouts told me last week, Little has a lot riding on his performance both on and off the "field" this week at the Combine. He looked like a prospect who was ready to come into his own as the 2009 season ended. In his final game as a Tar Heel, Little caught seven passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns against Pitt in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. He also rushed once for another 31 yards. Little performance stole the spotlight from the Panthers' big play receiver Jon Baldwin, who was limited to only three catches for 31 yards in the game.
The 6-2, 220 pound former running back demonstrated rare body control and sticky hands in that contest. His vision, agility, power and acceleration after the catch make him one of the more intriguing YAC receivers in this draft.
Pure speed is a significant concern for Little, however, and considering his suspension, so to are character questions. If Little is able to run in the mid to low 4.5s or faster, he'll boost his stock with teams -- at least athletically. Most important to his final draft standing, Little will need to be open and honest about his role in the UNC scandal.
This year's receiver crop features a lot of talent expected to be drafted in the 2nd-4th rounds. At present time, NFLDraftScout.com rates Little as a 3rd-4th round pick and the 13th best receiver. With a strong performance in drills and interviews, Little could push himself as high as the late second round.
Little, like Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn, has had a lot of time to prepare for the Combine. Scouts won't be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. If he isn't prepared and suffers through a poor showing in drills, interviews or both -- and Little could see his stock plummet into the final two rounds of the draft.
Posted on: February 13, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 3:17 pm
The workouts get all of the attention and savvy NFL draft followers know that the medical grades are actually the most important part of the Combine.
One critical piece of the Combine pie that gets very little exposure is the player interview process.
In the past, the interviews teams get with players have only earned attention when something bizarre occurs -- like last year when the Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland asked then-Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant about his mother's ... uhhh... profession.
In reality, however, this is an integral part of the Combine.
Teams are attempting to learn through a 15 minute interview if the young man sitting opposite them is one of the rare individuals who will actually work harder after signing a multi-million dollar contract.
When I visited Athletes Performance for an article two years ago on the process high-ranking athletes go through in Combine preparation, everyone there was willing to talk about the revolutionary techniques in exercise, nutrition and rehabilitation. Few, however, talk about the significant coaching that players go through to prepare for interviews.
Based on polling various scouts throughout the league, here are 15 high profile players who have as much riding on their interviews with teams as they do the other more hyped components of the Combine.
Players are listed alphabetically.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: A.J. Green, Arkansas, Auburn, Auburn, Baylor, Boise State, Cam Newton, Colorado, Combine, Georgia, Greg Little, Hampton, Jabaal Sheard, Jake Locker, Jimmy Smith, Jon Baldwin, Kenrick Ellis, Marvin Austin, NFL, Nick Fairley, North Carolina, North Carolina, North Carolina, Phil Taylor, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, QB, Robert Quinn, Ryan Mallett, Southern Cal, Titus Young, Tyron Smith, USC, Washington
Posted on: January 19, 2011 1:33 pm
The NFL just released the names of the 56 underclassmen granted special eligibility to join the senior class in the player pool for the 2011 draft.
Three North Carolina players who were suspended for the entire 2010 season are included on the list. One other player who had not previously been mentioned as having declared early is Oregon defensive back Javes Lewis, a part-time starter for the Ducks who isn't likely to be drafted.
The list of alphabetized names is provided below.
As always, for the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com