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: March 27, 2011 1:50 pm
Over the past week, I've spoken to representatives of nearly a third of the league's teams in an effort to nail down which 32 players will hear their name called out during the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
At this point, there appears to be some consensus on roughly 25 players as first round picks. There are another 15, however, vying for those final eight spots.
We all know that Washington quarterback Jake Locker and Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith are among those players on the bubble. But there are several other players who have generated significantly less buzz but who are quietly earning serious first round consideration from some clubs.
Here are five surprising names you could wind up hearing on April 28.
(Players are listed alphabetically)
DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina : There are still plenty of teams who remain nervous about Austin's intangibles, but of the five listed here, the former UNC defensive tackle is the most talented football player. Teams are as willing to gamble on size and athleticism on the defensive line as any position in football (other than perhaps QB). If the anticipated early run on defensive linemen transpires, don't be surprised if a 4-3 team drafting in the mid 20s to low 30s gambles on Austin's upside.
QB Andy Dalton, TCU : I know of plenty of teams who grade Dalton as a late 2nd to mid 3rd round pick, but most believe he'll come off the board sooner than that. The belief among many, in fact, is that Dalton will be off the board by the mid portion of the second frame. That could push a team like Seattle to take him at No. 25 or for another club to trade back into the late portion of the first round to secure his services, similar to how Detroit traded up (with the Vikings) last year to nab running back Jahvid Best.
OC Rodney Hudson, Florida State : Florida's Mike Pouncey is getting most of the attention of draft fans and what little remains is generally being dedicated to Baylor's Danny Watkins -- at least when it comes to interior offensive linemen as possible first round picks. There do appear to be clubs with contingency plans involving Hudson, however. The former Seminole is an exceptionally safe player capable of contributing immediately.
OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona : After a rather ho-hum senior season at defensive end for the Wildcats, Reed's stock skyrocketed with a strong Senior Bowl and Combine. Add to this the fact that roughly half of the league's teams are now running a 3-4 base and this outside linebacker prospect is getting a lot of late first round attention.
DE Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh : Sheard is smaller than teams would like as a 4-3 defensive end and perhaps not quite as smooth an athlete as teams would like as a 3-4 rush linebacker. That said, I've spoken to representatives of clubs operating both alignments that feel that he could wind up a pretty solid player in either front due to Sheard's natural pass rush skills, surprising strength and high-revving motor.
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 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
Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:22 pm
It has been reported elsewhere that Monday's practices for the East-West Shrine game were cancelled. Though the conditions were certainly less than ideal, practices did, in fact, go on. NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Chad Reuter is in Orlando and contributed this report.
East-West Shrine Game report
by Chad Reuter
Monday, January 17, 2011
Mother Nature wreaked havoc on the first day of East-West Shrine Game practices. With thunderstorms rolling through north central Florida all morning, Shrine Game officials decided to move the afternoon practices into the Rosen Plaza Grand Ballroom.
Yes, I said "ballroom"--players running around an empty room with sconces on the wall and mirrors and chandeliers on the ceiling. And no, we were not scouting player for future appearances on "Dancing with the Stars".
Interceptions were made off the wall. Plants got knocked over in the area outside the ballroom when one-on-one pass rush drills were going on.
It was climate-controlled and the green-and-salmon carpeting could be considered as an "artificial turf." The Senior Bowl, held in Mobile, Alabama, has had to do similar things because of weather, it is still less-than-ideal conditions for evaluating talent.
Still, there were a few players that piqued scouts' interest with their physique, effort, and footwork .
UNC defensive tackle Marvin Austin is the player with the most to gain (or lose) with his efforts here. He's not suited up all year due to his suspension for NCAA infractions and violation of team rules. So far, he's looked quick off the snap and strong. Right guards Bryant Browning (Ohio State) and Randall Hunt (Illinois) stood up to him in pass protection fine, but it won't be surprising if Austin starts to dominate when the practices head outside.
Austin's East squad teammate, Lehigh tackle/guard prospect Will Rackley pancaked high-motor and low-bulk Richmond defensive tackle Martin Parker and handled ultra-productive UCF defensive end/linebacker Bruce Miller on the edge. Rackley did get coaching, however, keeping his head up during a drive-blocking drill. "If you're looking at the ground, you're doing it wrong!" his coach bellowed.
Parker exacted revenge for his earlier play against Missouri State tackle/guard David Arkin, getting under his pads to get the "B" gap on one play, then bull rushing Arkin into the quarterback on the next.
East team receivers had some issues with consistency catching passes today. Perry Baker (slight at six-foot, 167 pounds) from Fairmont State show real quickness and hands to extend on high throws from Tyrod Taylor. He dropped other very catchable passes, however. Another small school receiver, Cecil Shorts III from Division III runner-up Mount Union, did not make the same adjustment on a high throw that Baker did, but redeemed himself on the next practice rep by displaying his quick feet and snatching a heater thrown behind him.
Big six-foot-three, 211-pound receiver Terrance Tolliver also had a couple of drops, a problem plaguing him throughout his career at LSU. Lesser-known Florida Atlantic Lester Jean, with nearly identical measurement, showed better feet on comeback route and more consistent hands than Tolliver.
In the West practice, head coach Wade Phillips did not even have his players wear helmets like Dan Reeves' squad did in the earlier session. They still ran nearly all of the same drills as the East team.
Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson is in a similar position as Austin, as he needs to prove himself after his mid-season benching in favor of Ryan Tannehill -- who took the team to a BCS bowl. Johnson an impressive receiver build at 6-5, 250 pounds with 35 inch arms--not unlike current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Webb. But long delivery is an issue and his 9.5-inch hands are only average for quarterbacks, and a couple of his wobbly throws today verified that this could also be a problem for him down the road.
LSU offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale is one of the most impressive looking athletes at this game. He measured six-foot-five, 336 pounds (about 20 pounds over his listed weight) with 35.5-inch arms. At times he used his athleticism and length to seal the edge and get out in front of plays run to his side--whether at left or right tackle.
But the inconsistency that cost him an invite to the Senior Bowl also appeared today. Boise State Ryan Winterswyk looked stronger and quicker on a couple of snaps until Barksdale used his length to carry Winterswyk around the pocket and into a crowd of scouts lined up behind the play.
Another impressive athlete on the West squad is Southern Cal tight end Jordan Cameron. The former basketball Trojan player looked very smooth and displayed solid hands, as he had during the season in his limited opportunities. I thought Jimmy Graham really helped himself at the Senior Bowl last year, an the six-foot-five, 245 pound (and growing) receiving tight end might be heading that direction, as well.
Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch was extremely productive as a pass rusher in college (42 tackles for loss, 15 sacks), but projects as a linebacker at the next level (checked in at only six-foot-one, 229 pounds in the morning's weigh-in). The athleticism he displayed in limited opportunities at linebacker for the Wolf Packer was evident again today. He looked like a defensive back during flip-your-hip drills and was very quick dropping into coverage during team scrimmages. He also took coaching well during practice.
-One of the biggest stories (literally) of the Monday morning weigh-in was Canadian college player Martin O'Donnell. He came just one-eighth inch short of six-foot-ten. Though raw playing both left and right tackle, he gave good enough effort to potentially get a training camp invite this summer. He also displayed some skills as a long snapper.
-Despite Tolliver's issues catching passes, his 10 inch hands were the biggest among the receivers; yet Fairmont's six-foot Perry Baker had the longest arms at 33.5 inches.
-UCF right tackle Jah Reid measured six-foot-seven, 325-pound body with 34-inch arms but looks like he could get to 350 pounds without losing a lot of mobility. He's a player to watch this week.
-Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle stood just five-foot-nine and five-eighths and 227 pounds to be the smallest second-level defender here this week. Iowa State safety David Sims also came in just north of five-foot-nine, while Boise State safety Jeron Johnson eclipsed five-foot-ten, which was no given in scouts' eyes.
-Former Penn State and recent Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin beat the six-foot-three mark scouts hoped he would, while Virginia Tech passer Tyrod Taylor measured nearly six-foot-one, better than most NFL folks here expected.
-Running back Alex Green from Hawaii was one of the few players who weighed significantly less than listed. He looked all of 230 pound during the season, but has dropped about ten pounds, presumably to get a bit quicker (which he appeared to be in practice).
Chad's daily practice reports from the Shrine Game will be available either here on the blog or as feature stories accessible from the main page. Either way, for the best in NFL Draft coverage, check out NFLDraftScout.com .
Posted on: January 17, 2011 2:43 pm
As you'd expect, with the East-West Shrine Game kicking off this weekend, NFLDraftScout.com is in Orlando to catch all of the action.
Senior Analyst Chad Reuter will be checking in with daily practice reports.
First, however, was this morning's weigh-in. A few notable results.
As always, for the best in NFL draft coverage, check out NFLDraftScout.com .