Posted on: November 5, 2010 9:59 pm
Each week I list the five prospects that I'll be focusing on. 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.
Those interested in scouting "alongside" me can follow me on Twitter @RobRang.
Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.
WR Julio Jones, Alabama : For some, the one on one showdown between Randy Moss and Darrelle Revis was the best wide receiver-cornerback battle of the year. For me, this is the matchup I've been waiting to see. Jones and Peterson each played well in their matchup last year. Jones may have had the more impressive statistics (four catches for 102 yards, including a 73 yard touchdown), but none of these grabs came against Peterson, who finished with three tackles and three passes broken up despite battling cramps. The fact that I have Peterson going No. 2 overall in my first round mock draft (higher than any cornerback has ever gone) gives you an ideal as to how high the LSU corner ranks on my board. That said, I'm higher than most on Jones, as well. He isn't as polished as some of the other highly touted wideouts due to Alabama's reliance on the running game, but I've seen improvements in his route-running this season and I love the size, strength and toughness he brings to the position. The toughest adjustment most collegiate receivers have to make when going to the NFL is handling the added physicality of the pro grame. I characterized Hakeen Nicks (over the more highly touted Crabtree, Maclin, Harvin, etc.) as the rookie wideout likeliest to have the greatest immediate impact two years ago due to his physicality and body control. I see a similiar skill set in Jones. This game will be televised by CBS and will begin at 3:30 pm EST.
QB Andy Dalton, TCU : The fact that No. 3 TCU is heading to No. 5 Utah for a game with legitimate BCS implications and yet only minimal television coverage is precisely what is wrong with the inequity of today's college football system. If this were a showdown among two undefeated teams in an automatic qualifier conference like the Big Ten, ACC or SEC this would unquestionably be the biggest game of the weekend. Instead, only those of us fortunate enough to have CBS' College Sports channel will get to watch what could be an instant classic. TCU has based a great deal of their success over the years on their defense, but if they are to win this game, Dalton will have to play well. He didn't last year in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State. This game is particularly interesting for Dalton due to the fact that his favorite receiver, senior Jeremy Kerley will often be covered by Utah junior cornerback Brandon Burton -- one of the best, if underrated young corners in the country. This game will be televised by CBS College Sports and will begin at 3:30 pm EST.
SS Shiloh Keo, Idaho: Some questioned our sanity when NFLDraftScout.com rated former Vandal guard Mike Iupati as a potential first round pick before last season even began. Their safety, Shiloh Keo also popped off the tape and began this year among our top five prospects at the position. Like many of you, I haven't seen much of Keo thus far this season. That is because I've been waiting to see him in coverage against a dynamic offense. With Colin Kaepernick and the No. 3 nationally rated Nevada offense coming to town, Keo will have the opportunity to answer questions about his coverage skills. This game won't get mentioned by many, but in terms of a player's stock, few games will be bigger than this one is for Keo. This game will be televised by televised by ESPN and will begin at 5:00 pm EST.
OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA: At 6-4, 254 pounds, Bruins' junior outside linebacker Akeem Ayers is as gifted an outside linebacker prospect as there is in the entire country. The Bruins have struggled with consistency this season, but Ayers has been one of the few bright spots. His numbers (45 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks) aren't eye-popping, but scouts love his versatility and upside. I'm very interested to see how Ayers performs against Oregon State this weekend. The Beavers may lack the big play offense of their arch rival Ducks, but their pro-style offense and the excellent running of junior back Jacquizz Rodgers will be a truer test of Ayers' talents. This game will be televised by Versus and will begin at 7:00 pm EST.
QB Nick Foles, Arizona: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will get all of the hype leading up to this contest and for good reason. However, I've spoken to NFL scouts that are very intrigued with Foles, as well. Foles, a junior, was leading the Pac-10 in passing yards per game before sustaining the knee injury that kept him sidelined for the past two weeks. Like most quarterbacks operating out of the spread offense, most of Foles' passes are in the short to intermediate range -- precisely the areas that Stanford's 3-4 defense is designed to counter. If Arizona is going to beat Stanford this week, Foles will have to play well and he may have to attack downfield. How he performs in that test may determine if he is a legitimate top 50 prospect or just another product of the spread offense. This game will be televised by ABC/ESPN and will begin at 8:00 pm EST.
Posted on: October 11, 2010 1:07 pm
The University of North Carolina Tar Heel football program received a huge blow Monday morning with the news that All-ACC defensive tackle Marvin Austin had been kicked off the team and that defensive end Robert Quinn and wide receiver Greg Little were each "permanently suspended."
Considering that the trio had missed all five games to start the season, the news wasn't completely unexpected. However, those close to the NCAA program had held out hope that each would get onto the field at some point this season. Now it appears unlikely that any of them will ever play another snap of college football.
Their unavailability has led to a disappointing 3-2 start to the season in Chapel Hill after being pronounced a darkhorse NCAA title contender by some over the summer.
And to be sure, it wasn't just the distraction of the investigation into these and other UNC players that led to the Tar Heels' poor start. Austin, Quinn and Little were the Tar Heels three best players. Each was considered a potential first round pick, with Austin and Quinn earning potential top ten grades.
At first glance, Austin's being kicked off the team entirely would seem likelier to adversely affect his potential NFL draft stock than the suspensions penalties handed down for Quinn and Little.
That isn't necessarily the case, however, at least according to a few high-ranking NFL sources.
Unlike Austin and Little, who are each seniors, Quinn is a junior and thus is potentially eligible to return to the collegiate field next year. Though Quinn, like Little, was "permanently suspended" by the NCAA, with an extra year he has the time to appeal the ruling should he be so inclined.
Whether Quinn attempts to play college football again is another question. He certainly looked like a future high first round pick as a sophomore, finishing second to Georgia Tech first round (Tennessee) defensive end Derrick Morgan in the voting for the ACC Defensive Player of the Year after notching 52 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. His tape is so good, in fact, Quinn would "surely" make the first round in this upcoming draft, I'm told, assuming he clears NFL questions at the Combine.
Being kicked off the team entirely, Austin finds himself in a similar situation to former Oklahoma State wideout Dez Bryant last year. Bryant played well in three games last year prior to being suspended for the rest of the 2010 season and was an All-American in 2009. Austin, of course, hasn't played this year, but earned Second-Team All-ACC honors as a junior. Bryant received less than stellar reviews from Oklahoma State coaches following his suspension. Austin is likely to get similar reviews from the UNC coaching staff when interviewed by NFL scouts.
Nonetheless, Bryant's film, pre-draft workouts and his answers to NFL decision-makers questions were sincere enough, apparently, that the Cowboys drafted him in the first round. While Austin no doubt would rather be playing alongside his former UNC teammates, with months to prepare for the Combine workouts and interviews, strong tape and the value of quality defensive linemen as high as ever, the former Second Team All-ACC pick still has a good shot at making the first round.
Much of the fallout regarding this morning's news will center upon North Carolina's defensive linemen, but the greater impact -- at least in terms of draft day -- may be felt by Little. A former running back, Little flashed spectacular body control and hands in his first full season at wide receiver last year, leading the team with 62 receptions for 724 yards and five touchdowns. The strong play of former UNC receivers Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate in the NFL this season only seem to heighten Little's intrigue to scouts.
That said, Little appeared last year to be far from a finished product. Scouts can hope that he made strides over the off-season, but with no tape on him this year to prove it, teams will have a hard time believing he could make an immediate impact in the NFL. That likely means he drops out of the top two rounds and with the expected influx of junior receivers A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Jon Baldwin and several others, Little -- despite real talent and an ideal NFL frame (6-2, 214) could struggle to recoup his falling stock.
Posted on: October 10, 2010 10:39 pm
Many of the most interesting NFL and NCAA games over the weekend featured spectacular individual efforts from some of today's best and most athletic pass-catchers.
Unfortunately, there were also some tough injuries to good young pass-catchers that ultimately could take some of the polish from their position-mates' great performances.
In the NFL, standout games from the Giants' Hakeem Nicks (12 receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans), the Chargers' Malcolm Floyd (eight catches for 213 yards and a score against the Raiders), the Cowboys' Miles Austin (nine receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown against the Titans) and the Broncos' Brandon Lloyd (five catches for 135 yards and two scores against Baltimore) put an exclamation point to a Saturday full of big plays by some of the nation's best young receiver prospects.
Among the highligths, was South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery catching seven passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns to help the Gamecocks upset Alabama. LSU's Terrance Toliver -- who needed a strong game to save his falling stock -- responded with a six-catch, 111 yard, two touchdown (including the game-winner with six seconds left) to beat the Gators. Eighteen year-old true freshman Robert Woods was even more productive in USC's loss to Stanford, hauling in 12 passes for 224 yards and three scores.
That was the good news. The bad -- and we won't know just how bad we're talking until Monday's MRIs -- could prove just as newsworthy.
For all of the spectacular plays made by pass-catchers over the weekend, there were troubling injuries to some of the NFL's most intriguing breakout stars and college football's best senior prospects.
St. Louis' Mark Bradley, who had developed a quick rapport with rookie Sam Bradley, was carted off the field in Detroit after sustaining a knee injury that is expected to knock him out for the season. Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, an emerging superstar, went down with what the Packers' official site is characterizing as a "hamstring ligament" injury, but certainly looked bad. Denver first round pick Demaryius Thomas was sidelined with head and neck injuries after a big hit against Baltimore. Peyton Mannings' newest toy, undrafted free agent Blair White, also suffered neck injuries in the Colts' win over the Chiefs. In each case, the young breakout players never returned to the game after sustaining their injury.
The injury front could prove equally bad if the early reports across the college landscape are correct. Oregon State's James Rodgers and Cecil Shorts III of Mount Union each went down Saturday with injuries. Rodgers, rated by NFLDraftScout.com as a potential 3rd round pick prior to injury, suffered an ugly injury to his left knee as he scored a touchdown against Arizona. Even worse for Beaver fans, Rodgers' score was called back due to a penalty.
Few fans have heard of Shorts III, but scouts certainly know of him. He was viewed by some as the elite "small school" prospect entering the year and caught 100 passes for 1,736 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. Shorts III was held out of the second half of undefeated OAC power Mount Union's 28-14 victory over Marietta after sustaining an injury on punt return in the second quarter.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Alabama, Alshon Jeffery, Blair White, Brandon Lloyd, Cecil Shorts III, Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, Denver Broncos, Green Bay, Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts, James Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, LSU, Malcolm Floyd, Mark Bradley, Miles Austin, Mount Union, New York Giants, Oregon State, Peyton Manning, Robert Woods, South Carolina, St. Louis Rams, Stanford, Terrance Toliver, USC
Posted on: October 6, 2010 1:54 pm
In our rush to judge the "winners" and "losers" in the trading of former Pro Bowlers Randy Moss and Marshawn Lynch, it is important to realize the impact they'd had so far for the Vikings and Bills, respectively.
Through four games with the Patriots, Randy Moss had continued the big play ways that will one day send him to the Hall of Fame, catching three touchdowns, but those scores came amidst shockingly poor numbers, overall: nine catches for 139 yards.
Through four games with the Bills, Marshawn Lynch had rushed for 164 yards on 34 attempts and caught one pass for seven yards. He had one fumble and zero touchdowns.
This isn't to suggest that Moss and Lynch won't make immediate impacts for their new clubs. There is no denying that the pieces are in place for Moss and Lynch to each make immediate impacts for the Vikings and Seahawks.
However, give the Patriots and Bills credit for recognizing that these two players were not significantly impacting their win totals this season and were not part of either teams' long-term plans. Rather than allow the situation to spiral out of control (like the Chargers have done with WR Vincent Jackson or the 49ers did with S Michael Lewis), each team got valuable draft picks in return.
Some will argue that the Patriots must be looking to the future by trading such a valuable deep threat as Randy Moss. Clearly the team doesn't expect to win now. I'd argue that with slot receivers Wes Welker and Julian Edelman and rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski controlling the middle, Tom Brady at the helm and the big play potential of Brandon Tate outside, the Patriots' passing offense will be just fine this season.
Brandon Tate isn't just guy who is good at returning kicks. Remember, this is the receiver who started over Hakeem Nicks and Greg Little (who I believe is the most physically gifted senior WR in the country) at North Carolina.
And with the third round pick they got from the Vikings, the Patriots now have two picks in the first, second, third and fourth rounds of the 2011 draft. Doesn't it seem like New England has multiple Top 100 picks every year? And, as such, they're always reloading and never rebuilding? Exactly.
And the Bills, having used their 2010 first round pick on C.J. Spiller, clearly have other concerns than running back. Considering that they might be the least talented football team in the NFL, acquiring extra picks makes sense -- especially if they scratch out a few wins and have to potentially package them in order to move up to draft their quarterback of the future.
I expect the Vikings and Seahawks to enjoy the spoils of their trades early on. But the NFL isn't just about winning now. It is about winning long term. The Patriots have done that better than any team in the league. The Bills are wise to begin practicing some of the same strategies.
Posted on: April 25, 2009 7:18 pm
For one of the few times in recent memory, the Giants took a player than filled an immediate need in UNC receiver Hakeem Nicks. Though I had him slipping into the 2nd round in my mock draft, I'm quite high on Nicks, who I believe has the hands, toughness and and body control to make an immediate impact.
The Titans, who also could use help at receiver, are up. Rather than take a receiver, however, don't be surprised if they address their depth concerns on the defensive side of the ball.
A. Ziggy Hood, DT, Missouri
B. James Laurinaitis, OLB, Ohio State
C. Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
D. Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
E. Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
F. Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
The best player on the board is Maualuga, but he's slipping due to character concerns. I rationalized that the Titans may take Percy Harvin in my mock draft because they've been more willing than most clubs to overlook character concerns.
Posted on: March 24, 2009 5:10 pm
Hakeem Nicks measured in at a shade under 6-1, 212 pounds at the Combine, but weighed 14 pounds more last week at North Carolina's Pro Day.
As a guy who is known to pack on a pound or two, myself, adding an average of a pound every two days generally requires putting in some serious time at the buffet line.
Players in the past have spoken about how traveling through several private workouts in the two months between the Combine and the draft, itself, can wreak havoc on their bodies. Many of the players have found it difficult to find time to workout and eat with an eye towards nutrition when skipping across the country. With Nicks, however, that hasn't been the problem. The hamstring injury that kept him out of the many of the drills at the Combine, left him unable to workout as much as he'd like...
Considering the number of talented receivers fighting to make the first round, the rapid weight gain by Nicks will not go unnoticed by NFL scouts and could lead to a drop out of the top 32...