Posted on: May 9, 2011 4:41 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.
After several strong years in a row for offensive tackles, the 2011 crop was lacking in elite talent -- at least when it comes to blindside protectors. The strength of the 2011 class lay on the opposite side, as many of the top blockers -- while left tackles in college -- will be asked to switch to the strongside in the NFL. This is likely to be the case with virtually all of this year's top tackles, including the first one selected (Tyron Smith) and the most celebrated offensive tackle of the class (four-year starter Gabe Carimi, the reigning Outland Trophy winner).
With Mike Pouncey and Danny Watkins each top 23 picks, some have mislabeled the 2011 crop of interior linemen as a very good one. In reality, the depth inside was worse than outside this year.
There are, however, plenty of intriguing schematic fits for this year's class.
This is the last of the Finding the Fit breakdowns for offensive prospects. Earlier, I broken down the quarterbacks , running backs , wide receivers and tight end fits.
Players are listed alphabetically.
James Carpenter, Seattle Seahawks: Many were surprised to see Carpenter make the first round, though I was not . Carpenter had been steadily rising up draft boards following a quietly impressive week at the Senior Bowl in which he demonstrated the athleticism, versatility and toughness to "plug and play" at any of the four exterior positions. Some pegged quarterback as the Seahawks' greatest need, but considering the fact that the Seahawks received zero or negative yardage on a staggering 26% of their runs last season, upgrading their offensive line was clearly a focus. Carpenter isn't flashy, but he's the physical road-grading right tackle the Seahawks have been missing for years.
Anthony Castonzo, Indianapolis Colts: The knock on Castonzo was he wasn't as physical as some teams would prefer. Though he's made massive gains in the weight and strength department in his four seasons at Boston College (after starting as a 260 pound RT), he is still not the intimidator in the running game that most OL coaches are looking for. Castonzo does, however, possess good lateral agility, long arms and the dedication to play well immediately. For a team needing immediate help up front to keep Peyton Manning upright, Castonzo was the ideal fit. Castonzo, in fact, was the best fit for the Colts among any of the eight offensive linemen drafted in the first round.
Marcus Gilbert, Pittsburgh Steelers: As I mentioned previously, I had forecasted the Steelers taking an underrated and athletic left tackle from the SEC in Carpenter in the first round. With Carpenter off the board, the Steelers built their defensive line instead with Ohio State's Cameron Heyward at No. 31 overall, but found a similar blocker in Florida's Gilbert at No. 63. At 6-6, 330 pounds, Gilbert is bigger than Carpenter (and more ideal for Pittsburgh's preference for extra large blockers) and yet plays with a similar brand of physicality and toughness. He's capable of competing immediately for playing time at either left or right tackle.
Rodney Hudson, Kansas City Chiefs: A two-time winner of the Jacobs' Blocking Trophy as the best offensive lineman in the ACC, Hudson's consistency and athleticism are unquestioned. At only 6-2, 299 pounds (he played closer to 280 at Florida State), Hudson lacks the girth most teams prefer and will almost surely be asked to switch from his customary left guard position to center by the Chiefs. Kansas City operates out of a zone-blocking scheme, however, that places a premium on athleticism over mass in its offensive linemen. Furthermore, head coach Todd Haley prefers smaller, quicker offensive linemen, as well. I'm not as high on Kansas City's draft as some appear to be. Hudson is a significant exception, however. I believe he'll prove a Pro Bowler one day.
Andrew Jackson, Atlanta Falcons: Just as Hudson was an ideal match for the Chiefs due to his quick feet, "The President" is an intriguing fit for the power-based Atlanta attack. Jackson isn't a nimble athlete, but his size (6-5, 299), strength and tenacity could make him a pleasant late round (7th round, No. 210 overall) surprise for a Falcons team potentially in need of reinforcements up front with guards Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock scheduled for free agency. Jackson would have gone a few rounds higher had he not lost most of his senior season to a nagging ankle injury.
Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys: There is no denying Smith's athletic upside. If there is a tackle in this class who could wind up being a perennial Pro Bowler a few years from now, Smith is the favorite. That said, due to his athleticism, Smith's best position in the NFL will ultimately be on the left side -- a position he never played while at USC. Jerry Jones would like to believe his Cowboys were only a player or two away from legitimate Super Bowl contention... and perhaps he's right. Smith, however, is likelier to struggle as a rookie than star, making him an questionable choice for a team largely built to win now.
Posted on: April 15, 2011 1:22 pm
For most fans of the NFL draft, it is simply human nature to focus on the best players. These, of course, are the headliners that typically are drafted highest and thus, are expected to make the most immediate and lasting impact in the NFL.
Scouts, however, are very well aware of the fact that the big names will only constitute the first 32 or 64 picks of the 254 players selected this year.
As such, they're dedicating much of their attention to the lower rated prospects... and what they've been discovering is the unusual depth at offensive tackle and running back in this year's class.
By now, everyone knows the elite offensive tackles. Anthony Castonzo, Tyron Smith, Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod and Nate Solder are all expected to be first round picks . The depth behind the "fabulous five" is worth mentioning too.
Teams are quite high on the toughness and consistency of Alabama's James Carpenter and Miami's Orlando Franklin. With a little fine-tuning, TCU's Marcus Cannon, Indiana's James Brewer and Florida's Marcus Gilbert could surprise. Though level of competition questions abound, no one dominated their opponents as consistently as Villanova's Ben Ijalana throughout his respective career. There are a lot of teams very high on the long-term upside of lower level FBS prospects Derek Newton (Arkansas State), Jah Reid (Central Florida), Willie Smith (East Carolina), Byron Stingily (Louisville) and Byron Bell (New Mexico).
Running backs offer similar depth.
I highlighted three of the "sleeper" running backs that I really like in this video with CBS' Lauren Shehadi. Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones and Hawaii's Alex Green are only a few of the backs not getting a lot of media attention that I feel will ultimately surprise. I'm also particularly high on Clemson's Jamie Harper, Louisville's Bilal Powell and Miami's Graig Cooper, though NFLDraftScout.com currently rates all three as Day three picks or, in the case of Cooper, even a potentially undrafted player.
Last year we saw two undrafted free agents lead all rookie running backs in rushing yards. Tampa found their star in former Oregon Duck LaGarrette Blount and New Orleans found a true diamond in the rough in former Tiffin Dragon (and Washington State Cougar) Chris Ivory. The three running backs drafted in the first round -- CJ Spiller (Buffalo), Ryan Matthews (San Diego) and Jahvid Best (Detroit) were all relative disappointments as rookies.
Considering the underrated talent of this year's RB class, don't be surprised if a Day Three find winds up competing for the league's rookie rushing title again in 2011...
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Alex Green, Ben Ijalana, Bilal Powell, Buccaneers, Bucs, Byron Bell, Byron Stingily, Chris Ivory, CJ Spiller, Derek Newton, Graig Cooper, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jah Reid, Jahvid Best, James Brewer, James Carpenter, Jamie Harper, LaGarrette Blount, Marcus Cannon, Marcus Gilbert, NFLDraftScout.com, Orlando Franklin, OT, RB, Ryan Mathews, Saints, Taiwan Jones, Willie Smith
Posted on: January 25, 2011 9:17 am
Edited on: January 25, 2011 9:18 am
Super-agent Drew Rosenhaus has a style which makes many people inside and outside of the NFL dislike him. But after the Senior Bowl's South practice yesterday, where watched clients OT Marcus Gilbert (Florida) and ILB Colin McCarthy (Miami, FL), he showed class that his critics would find hard to believe unless they saw it for themselves.
Walking off the Fairhope Stadium field while on his phone (like most agents, Rosenhaus spends most of his life with a phone to his ear), a burly man yelled towards him for an autograph. He pointed to his phone, and continued to walk away to get away from the crowd so he could hear the conversation. The man once again yelled quite loudly at Rosenhaus, saying "my son is a big fan, why won't you take a picture with him?"
Many agents, players or coaches may have continued walking given the rude nature of the father. However, Rosenhaus asked the person on the other side of the line to hold and walked back to the young man waiting for the picture. He smiled, took the picture, and the father thanked him with a enthusiastic handshake.
Posted on: October 11, 2010 8:00 pm
LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis was a one-man wrecking crew Saturday night against the Florida Gators.
Though his teammate, senior wide receiver Terrance Toliver has earned much of the attention for his standout performance (six catches for 111 yards and two TDs, including the game-winner with six seconds left), Nevis was arguably the bigger thorn in the side for the Gators. Certainly considering the fact that the Gators feature one of the SEC's best and most experienced offensive lines, Nevis' ability to dominate the action early and force Florida to alter their game plan deserves special acknowledgement.
Nevis, moved all over the defensive line, finished with seven tackles (all solos), including 4.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. As I explain in the profile below, he very nearly was credited with a safety in the opening moments of the game, as well.
Player of the Week, along with The Diamond in the Rough (small school prospect), used to be features of Draft Slant . This PDF file can be purchased as an individual issue or one can purchase the entire year (16 issues).
We thought that the Player of the Week and Diamond in the Rough deserved more acknowledgement, however, and thus, every Monday, I'll post my picks for each award.
Player of the Week - October 9, 2010
DT Drake Nevis 6-1 / 285 / 5.04 -- opponent: Florida
Scouts who had never seen Nevis play were given a treat by the LSU defensive tackle early in the Florida contest. He showed exactly what he is and is not in the Gators first offensive possession. When he times the snap count right, Nevis has explosive burst through the hole. An experienced and talented Gator offensive line, (including highly touted OL Mike Pouncey), was unable to cope with Nevis speed on back to back plays during the Gators second and third plays from scrimmage. With the Gators backed up at their own endzone, Nevis exploded through, nearly sacking QB John Brantley for a safety and forced fumble. Nevis left hand inadvertently caught Brandtley s face mask, however, and so the Gators caught a break. The next play, Nevis again broke through the line, shrugged off a block from LT Marcus Gilbert and stopped RB Emmanuel Moody for a loss of one. The next play, however, showed why scouts can t fall in love with Nevis. Late off the snap and thus caught too high by 6-5 OG Carl Johnson, Nevis was popped, lifted and pounded into the turf for a classic pancake block. Again late off the snap on the next play, Nevis attempts a spin move against Johnson and is stoned. Nevis burst gave the Gators problems all night long, helping him accumulate an eye-popping seven tackles, including 4.5 for loss, a sack and the forced fumble. Nevis burst inside reminds me of former Georgia Bulldog Geno Atkins who has flashed as a rookie 4th round pick for the Bengals this year. Nevis lined up directly on the nose (0-technique), as well as in the gaps and man-up on the guards. He doesn t have the power to hold up consistently, but his quickness off the snap makes him an nice option as a gap-splitting under-tackle for the 4-3 alignment.
Posted on: October 11, 2010 7:03 pm
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Posted on: October 1, 2010 10:50 pm
Each week, in preparation for Draft Slant and the handing out of my weekly awards for Prospect of the Week and Diamond in the Rough, I list five prospects on the blog that I'll be focusing on.
This week is no different -- though with such a huge slate of games -- I can go back to my customary role of focusing on just senior players, rather than dabbling with some underclassmen last week.
Because I'm spending the entire day scouting, I typically don't post more than once or twice on the blog on Saturdays. I do, however, invite you to scout "alongside" me by following me on Twitter.
Without any further adieu, here are this week's big five senior prospects:
CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia: Dowling entered the year as one of NFLDraftScout.com's top 32 seniors and I yet I elected not to include him in my recent mock draft . The reason is that Dowling has been hobbled by a nagging hamstring injury and was only able to see his first playing time of the season last week against Virginia Military Institute. Dowling was not his typically dominant self, getting beaten deep on a long pass, as well as getting flagged for pass interference. And that was against VMI. Don't put it past Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder and his aggressive head coach Jimbo Fisher to test Dowling early. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.
RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma: Murray has earned NFLDraftScout.com's top grade among senior running backs, but if he is to legitimize his standing as a potential first round pick, this is the type of game where he'll need to show up big. This game may lack the sizzle of Red River Rivalries of the past, but even with Mack Brown's Longhorns struggle offensively, they typically play stout defense -- and this year's squad looks no different. Murray's ability to break outside for long gains, as well as his reliable hands out of the backfield, should make him the focus of the Texas defensive game plan, not stopping the Sooner passing game. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.
OT Marcus Gilbert, Florida: Florida linemate Mike Pouncey has generated most of the buzz (both good and bad) thus far this season, but Gilbert's play in this SEC Championship rematch against Alabama could play a key role in determining the winner. Gilbert, the Gators' right tackle, will be matched up against talented junior Marcell Dareus. Dareus struggled last week against Arkansas with a sprained ankle, but is a legitimate first round talent when healthy. If Gilbert (6-5, 320) is able to handle Dareus, the Gators chances of moving the ball against this talented Crimson Tide defense grow significantly. This game begins at 8 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.
QB Jake Locker, Washington: Admittedly I could justify putting Locker on here every weekend but I'm betting that you're just as curious as I am as to how he performs in this, his first game since the Nebraska debacle. Locker doesn't have to win this game to right the ship in terms of his own slipping draft grade. He does, however, have to show improved accuracy and decision-making against a Trojan team looking for revenge. Remember, it was Locker and the Huskies' upset over the Trojans last year that some say led to the "fall of Troy." With the Huskies desperate to prove that the Nebraska game was a fluke and USC just as desperate to prove they remain among the Pac-10's elite, this game has all of the drama, but so much less of the hype of the day's monster showdowns. This game begins at 8 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN2.
DT/NG Sione Pua, Stanford: The young and dynamic skill position prospects in the Oregon-Stanford will get all of the attention and rightfully so. Pua, however, is one of the draft's more underrated run stuffers. If he can control the middle of the line of scrimmage and force Oregon running back LaMichael James outside, the Cardinal could force young Duck quarterback Darron Thomas to beat them. The last two defenses that were as physical as Stanford's gave the Ducks plenty of trouble -- Arizona State gave Oregon quite a scare last week and Ohio State beat the Ducks in the Rose Bowl. The winner of this game, I believe, becomes the odds on favorite to represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl this year. This game begins at 8 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.