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: February 15, 2012 2:59 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 3:02 pm
While Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins boosted their stock with strong efforts at the Senior Bowl, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill remains the most talented senior quarterback in the land and is likely to be the first one drafted.
Some believe Tannehill's obvious talent will be enough to land him in the first round, joining redshirt juniors Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as top 32 picks. Others, including myself, are having a harder time envisioning a quarterback who just 19 collegiate starts at the position as being a first round pick. While I don't include him in my mock draft, I do believe he's among the top 32 talents in this draft.
Regardless of where he is ultimately drafted, Tannehill will have to first prove his health, as he underwent surgery recently to repair a broken foot suffered during passing drills at IMG Football Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The injury kept him out of the Senior Bowl and while ESPN's Pat Yasinkas is reporting that Tannehill is now out of the protective boot he was in, Tannehill won't be ready to work out for scouts at the Combine or Texas A&M's scheduled Pro Day March 7.
Yasinkas reports that Tannehill is planning to have a Pro Day "in late March" and asked the Aggie quarterback about his recovery timetable.
“We’ll come back and push it pretty hard,’’ Tannehill said. “I’m thinking I should be getting close to 100 percent by right after the combine and we’ll really jump into the on-field stuff then to make up for the time I missed and get ready for pro day.’’
Posted on: January 29, 2012 12:22 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2012 1:15 pm
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 24, 2012 8:21 am
Edited on: January 25, 2012 1:58 pm
MOBILE, Ala. -- Making a strong first impression at the Senior Bowl can send a player's stock skyrocketing and boost his rookie contract by millions of dollars.
Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins and California wide receiver Marvin Jones can't start writing checks just yet but if they continue the sparkling efforts turned in Monday during the North Team practices they could prove to be two of the big winners from this year's Senior Bowl.
Cousins out-shined Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Boise State's Kellen Moore by attacking all levels of a talented North defense. His experience in a pro-style offense was obvious as he made quick decisions, showed accuracy short, middle and deep and thread the needle through tight spaces. Whereas his teammates struggled to find a rhythm with their new receiving corps, Cousins was hitting on all cylinders, spreading the ball all over the field and hitting his backs, tight ends and receivers on a variety of routes.
Like Cousins, Jones entered the Senior Bowl with significantly less hype that others at his position. Jones, who measured in at a shade under 6-2 and 200 pounds during the morning weigh-ins, was quick off the snap, showed burst out of his breaks to gain separation and the speed to slip past cornerbacks for big plays. He caught everything thrown his way, showing the hand strength to gather in passes thrown slightly off-target as well as the vision to track deep balls over his shoulder.
Jones wasn't the only wideout to make eye-popping plays on the day, though he was the most consistent.
A few uncharacteristic drops from Appalachian State's Brian Quick late in Monday's practice dampened an otherwise strong initial showing from the FCS All-American. Quick, who measured in at a chiseled 6-3 (and a 1/2) and 222 pounds Monday morning was the early star among receivers. Though not sudden off the line of scrimmage, his long-strides help him to quickly eat up the cushion and he showed terrific hand-eye coordination making several impressive catches out of some poor throws. Quick, in fact, arguably made the catch of the day when he snatched a quick out thrown high and wide by Moore. Quick used every bit of his height and long arms to pull the ball down while dragging both feet in bounds to secure the catch.
It took some strong catches from Jones, Quick and a few other North receivers to get Moore on track. The Boise State All-American appeared every bit as un-athletic as scouts feared when he measured in at a touch under 6-0 (5'11 and 3/4) and 191 pounds during the weigh-in. Worse, concerns about his arm strength appeared to be legitimate when he struggled connecting with his receivers on simple quick outs to open practice. As practice went on, however, Moore seemed to settle in and the accuracy and touch he demonstrated in throwing a staggering 142 touchdowns against just 28 interceptions during his record-breaking career with the Broncos were again on display. Moore is especially effective throwing down the seam, showing excellent touch to settle passes in over the linebacker and in front of the safety to slot receivers and tight ends.
Russell Wilson clearly has the arm strength to make NFL throws but was surprisingly tentative in his first Senior Bowl practice. Too often he stood flat-footed in the pocket and surveyed the field looking for easy completions. He attacked holes when he saw them, rifling in passes through tight coverage but also stared down his receivers on occasion and was nearly picked off a few times.
Of the North's receivers, Ohio State's Devier Posey provided the biggest challenge to a talented defensive backfield that included Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard, graded by some scouts entering the year among the nation's elite senior prospects at any position. Posey's speed allowed him to slip past Dennard as well as Iowa State's Leonard Johnson and Boston College's Donnie Fletcher but too often Posey simply dropped the ball when his quarterbacks didn't place it perfectly. Posey struggled adjusting to passes slightly behind and had a couple of big play opportunities simply bounce to the ground because he allowed passes to get into his pads rather than catching the ball with his hands.
The concern was the exact opposite for his Big Ten rival Marvin McNutt from the Iowa Hawkeyes. McNutt has excellent size (6'2 1/2, 212 pounds), strength, hands and route-running to be a possession receiver in the NFL but didn't show much in terms of elusiveness or the speed to turn short and intermediate passes into big plays. He is a savvy route-runner, however, who was consistently open despite aggressive coverage from defensive backs.
It wasn't a standout practice for any of the North's defensive backs. Dennard showed his characteristic physicality in challenging big and small receivers, alike, but also proved vulnerable to double-moves, getting beaten over the top by Jones and McNutt, alike.
Oklahoma's Jamell Fleming and Cal Poly's Asa Jackson had their moments, each demonstrating a quick, low backpedal and good burst back to the ball.
Scouts will want to see improvement from Fletcher and Penn State's D'Anton Lynn. Each struggled to keep up with the North's receivers, showing average change of direction and speed. Fletcher was turned around on several occasions early in practice before the North's quarterbacks and receivers turned their attention to Lynn. The former Nittany Lion was victimized by Cousins and Wilson often as practice wore, perhaps an indication of their comfort with his limited playing speed and awareness after having played against him in the Big Ten.
Extra Notes: The Monday morning weigh-in put the spotlight on a couple of under-the-radar prospects scouts will no doubt be keeping an eye on this week. Quick looked every bit the part of a standout NFL receiver with his impressive measurables, as did Utah State inside linebacker Bobby Wagner (6'0, 241), Boise State running back Doug Martin (5'09, 219) and Michigan defensive lineman Mike Martin (6'1, 307). Though the Martins are not related, one wouldn't know it by their compact, heavily muscled builds... Clemson defensive end Andre Branch was among those who may have been caught in the bad weather that kept several from getting into Mobile as planned. NFL officials informed scouts that Branch would be participating this week but that he was not in Mobile for Monday morning's weigh-in... Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead got an opportunity to field punts late in Monday's practice, showing the concentration to catch the ball in traffic as well as the burst, elusiveness and vision you'd expect from the all-conference running back. Pead was rarely used in this capacity while with the Bearcats but turned some heads with his few opportunities Monday... Boise State's Shea McClellin (6-3, 248) lined up at defensive end for the Broncos but practiced at outside linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings' staff Monday. He showed good footwork in the bag drills early...
Category: NFL Draft
Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:24 pm
Each Friday 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.
ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State: The Kansas State Wildcats are one of the better stories so far this season, but I do not believe they have the talent to compete with an Oklahoma team that must be smarting after their upset loss last week against Texas Tech. One of the few Wildcats that has flashed NFL-caliber talent this season is junior linebacker, Arthur Brown, a transfer from Miami. At 6-1, 225, Brown lacks the bulk most teams are looking for at inside linebacker, but his athleticism and closing speed could intrigue 4-3 teams looking for a weakside prospect. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN.
Posted on: September 17, 2011 10:25 am
Each week my fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter has agreed to provide for NFLDraftScout.com/CBSSports.com a listing of his Five On The Spot, as well as the following Five Matchups to Watch.
Chad can also be followed on Twitter @ChadReuter. He and I often comment on the day's games as the action occurs. Should you want to scout "alongside" either of us, simply follow us there.
Five Matchups to Watch:
1. Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins vs. Notre Dame Passing Defense
Cousins' eyes probably looked the size of saucers as he watched the film of Michigan beating Notre Dame's secondary for big play after big play last week. He has the set of fine senior receivers (B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, Keith Nichol) and tight ends (Brian Linthicum, Garrett Celek) to run rough-shod over the Irish defense in a similar manner unless Irish corners Robert Blanton and Gary Gray proves themselves more capable of playing the ball in the air.
NFL teams know Cousins is able to make throws from the picket, command a huddle, and possesses the agility to bootleg and make short to intermediate throws on the run. His arm strength has never been his greatest asset, however, so this contest gives him a chance to prove he is willing and able to test cornerbacks down the field with well-placed throws to the sideline when his receivers have the one-on-one match-up they desire.
2. Pittsburgh DE Brandon Lindsey vs. Iowa RT Markus Zusevics
Lindsey was part of a strong triumvirate of defensive ends in Pittsburgh the past couple of seasons, at least when Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus were healthy. He now stands alone on the strong side, and in this game faces against an underratedly tough and athletic Zusevics.
Lindsey had lined up on the weak side before Sheard headed off to Cleveland in the second round of last year's draft, but the presence of future NFL starting left tackle Riley Reiff will probably keep him battling Zusevics most of the game. Riding Lindsey around the pocket and protecting the inside rush lane will show scouts Zusevics has the potential to be reliable in pass pro at the next level, while Lindsey's strength against the run answers critics' questions about his ability to play on early downs against NFL linemen.
3. Auburn LT Brandon Mosley vs. Clemson DE Andre Branch
Mosley is a former junior college defensive end and tight end who stepped into the starting right tackle spot during the Tigers' BCS championship season last year. Now on the left side, he'll face an explosive group of Clemson defensive ends led by senior Branch.
Although Mosley is quite athletic for his 6-foot-5, 305 pound build, but he'll need to be quick and fluid in his lateral movement and prove his anchor against the surprisingly strong bull rush of Branch and true freshman Corey Crawford (who looks like he could live up to wearing former Clemson star end Da'Quan Bowers' number 93 jersey) if he wants to show scouts he could stay on the blind side in the NFL.
4. Temple LG Derek Dennis vs. Penn State DTs Devon Still/Jordan Hill
Last season Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson opened eyes with his performance against the Nittany Lions, eventually leading him to declare for the draft and be selected in the first round by the New York Jets. Though not likely to be picked that high, Dennis could be the Owl whose draft stock climbs after facing talented Big Ten prospects.
His thick frame, brute strength and fair short-area quickness matches up well against both the highly-regarded, athletic Devon Still and the less-heralded but active and strong junior Jordan Hill. If Dennis can stop the advances of the Still and Hill combination early in the game, the 6-foot-3, 328-pound left guard should be able to wear them down as the contest progresses, just as Alabama's line did last weekend. Temple's tough junior running back, Bernard Pierce, will take advantage of the space Dennis can create.
5. Florida International WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Central Florida CB Josh Robinson
This battle may be a bit under the college football radar, but Hilton's seven-catch, 201-yard, two-score Friday night performance against Louisville last week did get him in the national spotlight. Robinson's talent has also been clear to scouts since he picked off six passes as a true freshman for the Golden Knights in 2009. Now a junior, he faces his strongest test yet in Hilton.
FIU will undoubtedly move their star playmaker around to try and find openings in the UCF defense. But any time Robinson lines up across from Hilton, scouts will watch whether the corner has the speed to trail the receiver effectively as well as fight for the ball or close quickly to dislodge it from Hilton's hands.
Ohio State C Mike Brewster vs. Miami (Fla.) DTs Marcus Forston/Micanor Regis
Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish vs. Wisconsin CB Antonio Fenelus
Stanford WR Chris Owusu vs. Arizona CB Trevin Wade
Arkansas RT Grant Freeman vs. Troy DE Johnathan Massaquoi
Washington RB Chris Polk vs. Nebraska Front Seven
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Andre Branch, Auburn, Brandon Lindsey, Brandon Mosley, Central Florida, Chad Reuter, Clemson, Derek Dennis, Devon Still, Florida International, Iowa, Jordan Hill, Josh Robinson, Kirk Cousins, Markus Zusevics, Michigan State, NFLDraftScout.com, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rob Rang, T.Y. Hilton, Temple