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Tag:Ryan Mathews
Posted on: April 15, 2011 1:22 pm
 

OT, RB depth underrated strengths of 2011 class

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...
Posted on: December 18, 2010 11:58 am
 

Who to watch in today's 4 games

There are four college football games today and each one of them offers NFL talent.

In the FCS Semi-final game to determine who will move on and play No. 1 Eastern Washington in the national championship, Georgia Southern travels to Delaware.

The Delaware Blue Hens feature NFLDraftScout.com's No. 3 rated senior quarterback, Pat Devlin . Devlin impressed me last week with his poise, mobility and accuracy. His arm strength has been questioned by scouts I've spoken to and there is no denying that the Blue Hens' spread offense makes it difficult to gauge just how much zip he has. That said, Devlin had enough to thread passes through tight windows and loft deep balls down the seam and sidelines last weekend against New Hampshire.

Devlin, a Penn State transfer, would be a great addition to a senior all-star game, such as the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine Game.

Besides the FCS playoff game, however, the FBS bowl games, of course, begin today.

In the New Mexico Bowl between BYU and UTEP, I'm most looking forward to scouting Cougar LT Matt Reynolds . Reynolds is only a junior, but he's started three seasons with the Cougars and projects well to the pro game at 6-6 and 322 pounds.

In the Humanitarian Bowl pitting Fresno State against Northern Illinois, I'm most interested in how three FSU Bulldogs perform. Pass rushing phenom Chris Carter has been able to parlay his speed off the edge into the WAC Defensive Player of the Year, but at 6-2, 240, he'll need to show the agility to handle coverage responsibilities as an outside linebacker.

Offensive guard Andrew Jackson has been a standout for the Bulldogs throughout much of his career. His drive-blocking was an underrated component of Chargers' first round pick Ryan Mathews' success last year. Jackson has struggled with foot injuries this year, however. He should be as healthy as he's been all year long for this game.

Finally, the Bulldogs' Ryan Colburn has his final chance to impress in a Bulldog uniform. Colburn, 6-3, 230 pounds, has all of the physical skills scouts look for in a developmental quarterback, but despite his solid numbers (61.8% completion rate for 2,529 yards and a 21-9 TD to INT ratio), he's been prone to critical mistakes in the past. A strong final game, however, could be enough to get him into a senior all-star game and provide just enough intrigue that scouts will want him as a potential UFA.

In a classic case of burying the lead story, Troy's spectacular receiver/returner Jerrel Jernigan is the highest rated prospect in this post and playing today. The 5-09, 190 pounder is NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 rated senior WR and he's already accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl. The playmaker with legitimate 4.3 speed will help Troy take on Ohio in the New Orleans Bowl tonight.

You can read more about the prospects to watch in the upcoming bowl games by clicking this link.

As always, remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here.


Posted on: December 16, 2010 7:10 pm
 

Ole Miss' Bolden among young RBs checking stock

The annual migration of junior and redshirt sophomore running backs to the NFL may begin with Mississippi's Brandon Bolden, who according to this report from Kyle Veazey of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, has requested a grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.

Bolden flashed on tape last year as a complimentary option behind Dexter McCluster. This season Bolden emerged as the Rebels'best running back, rushing for 976 yards and 14 touchdowns for an offense that struggled with consistency. Despite his production, some will be surprised that Bolden is looking into his pro grade. He certainly hasn't generated the hype of a Mark Ingram or LaMichael James.

Just because Bolden requested his grade does not mean, of course, that he'll elect to leave school early. While the 5-11, 225 pound Bolden has a combination of agility, speed and power to translate well at the NFL level and has proven successful against top SEC competition, pro teams are going to be as hesitant as ever to invest high round picks in running backs when two undrafted free agents -- the Bucs' LeGarrette Blount and the Saints' Chris Ivory -- have been more impressive this season than any of the other rookie runners, including first rounders C.J. Spiller (Bills), Ryan Mathews (Chargers) and Jahvid Best (Lions).

This fact may cause NFL teams to push running backs down the board, but don't expect it to slow down the exodus of underclassmen runners. In fact, with a relatively weak class of seniors, some league insiders believe we could see several young running backs enter the 2011 draft.

Rumors are swirling around Ingram, Illinois' Mikel LeShoure, Cal's Shane Vereen, Oregon State's JacQuizz Rodgers, UCONN's Jordan Todman, and Clemson's Jamie Harper as junior backs who may make the jump. Even some lesser known junior runners like Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones are looking into their options.

Redshirt sophomore like James, Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams and Washington's Chris Polk are also expected to request grades.

The reason behind their moves is simple. Running backs absorb so much punishment that they're wise to begin earning money for their production as soon as possible.

As is always the case, any underclassmen considering making the jump to the pros should only do so after first consulting with the NFL Advisory Committee.

As always, remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here.

Posted on: May 3, 2010 6:01 pm
 

Five biggest gambles of the draft

Considering the money and time invested, every draft selection ever made is, by definition, a gamble.

However, there are always a group of picks made each year that surprise me with their brazen and obvious risk. These are the picks that either earn general managers and scouting directors the admiration of fans and foes, alike, or result in unemployment.

These are the five moves that I thought were the boldest gambles of the 2010 draft.

  1. Denver's trading up to get Tim Tebow: You knew this would be on the list, but I believe it belongs No. 1 for reasons you may not have considered. The gamble isn't just that Tebow is, in the opinion of most, at least a year away from contributing. If you've followed my blog at all you know that I've argued for three years now that Tim Tebow could be a successful NFL quarterback and warranted second round consideration. I acknowledge that Tebow is a gamble in himself, but to trade up so aggressively to get him -- the Broncos gave up 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks (OLB Sergio Kindle, TE Ed Dickson and TE Dennis Pitta) to Baltimore makes the selection significantly more brazen. Add to this fact that by drafting two wide receivers coming off foot injuries (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker) in the first three rounds to package with Tebow, the team may not get much out of the early round picks in 2010. It is in this way where I really believe Denver's pick of Tebow was especially gutsy (some might say foolish), as the Broncos received stunningly little from their top picks of the 2009 draft, as well. The team got 19 tackles (and no sacks) from first round pass rusher Robert Ayers and 14 tackles (no INTs) from second round cornerback Alphonso Smith. By the time some of Josh McDaniels' talents start to contribute, the Denver head coach may be standing in the unemployment line. This team needed immediate contributors and they, instead, gambled on potential.  
  2. Carolina trading up to make QB Armanti Edwards a WR: Like the Tebow pick, I'm not as surprised with the fact that Carolina drafted Edwards or that he is being asked to convert to receiver or even that he went in the third round (despite NFLDraftScout.com ranking him as a 5th round pick). I'm stunned that Carolina was so aggressive in trading up to get him. The Panthers traded their 2nd round pick (to the Patriots) next year for the right to draft Edwards in the third round (No. 89 overall). Using what amounts to two top 100 picks on a project just seems like too much gamble for a team with as many holes as Carolina. 
  3. Tyson Alualu at 10: I don't consider this to be the gamble that many others, apparently do. Sure, I get that Alualu was a reach at No. 10. He likely would have been on the board in the early 20s. Sources throughout the league tell me the Jags actively worked the phone attempting to trade back out of this pick as they knew taking Alualu this high would invite criticism. When they weren't able to get a decent deal, they stayed put and took their guy. I like Alualu's game and feel that his underrated athleticism, incredible work ethic and position versatility made him one of the safer picks in the draft. While I don't believe Alualu will ever be a superstar, I do believe he'll prove a quality starter in the NFL for ten years or so. Despite what I think, the perception is certainly that GM Gene Smith and the Jaguars reached. If Alualu is a disappointinment -- even if just at first -- Smith could be on the hot seat.   
  4. Dallas/Buffalo/Kansas City ignoring OTs: In Dez Bryant, CJ Spiller and Eric Berry, respectively, I believe the Cowboys, Bills and Chiefs may have three of the most impactful rookies from the 2010 draft. However, the cost of ignoring offensive tackle in the first, second, third and fourth rounds may come back to bite these clubs. All three teams have significant questions at offensive tackle and considering how talented this year' crop was at the position, I'm stunned these clubs didn't make adding help upfront more of a priority. 
  5. San Diego trading up to get Ryan Mathews: I believe Ryan Mathews is the best all-around back in this draft and that his skill-set perfectly fits what was missing in the San Diego offense last season. That said, in making the biggest jump in the first round (trading up from No. 28 to No. 12), the Chargers are investing an awful lot in a running back that was unable to stay healthy during any of his three seasons at Fresno State. San Diego general manager AJ Smith is one of the league's gutsiest on draft day and this could pay off big, but this deal is like doubling down on 12 in black jack. It only looks brilliant if it works out. 


Posted on: March 16, 2010 4:54 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2010 11:28 am
 

Jets, Rams schedule visits with RB Mathews

The belief among league insiders is that future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson signed with the New York Jets over the Minnesota Vikings because he thought he'd be able to get more carries playing with Shonn Greene than Adrian Peterson.

Sound thinking, probably.

However, the Jets might have another running back to add to the backfield if their choice of private visits is any indication.

Fresno State's Ryan Mathews told me the Jets and St. Louis Rams have invited him to come to their facilities for private meeting. Mathews told me this during our interview for his next journal entry for NFLDraftScout.com's Path to the Draft series.

Rams fans and running back Steven Jackson might be surprised by the news, as well.

Mathews also informed me that he'll be working out at tomorrow's Fresno State Pro Day despite the fact that he turned heads during the Combine with an impressive all-around performance. Mathews, who weighed in at 5-11, 219 pounds, was clocked at 4.45 in the 40-yard dash.

Mathews led the nation with an average of 150.67 yards per game in 2009.

NFLDraftScout.com rates him as the second best running back in the 2010 draft (behind Clemson's CJ Spiller) and a first round prospect.

I projected him to be selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 28th overall pick in my most recent mock draft.

Posted on: February 22, 2010 9:09 pm
 

LT's release clears the way for AJ to target a RB

I consider the Chargers' AJ Smith to be one of the better talent evaluators in the NFL. He is willing to take a risk in the first round -- see DE Luis Castillo and CB Antonio Cromartie as examples -- but often gets immediate returns with his picks.

He isn't, however, the most difficult to predict.

The Chargers, like an increasing number of teams, have seemingly put aside the mantra of always taking the "best available player" to instead look to fill immediate needs in the first round.

Consider this past April. Smith needed a pass rusher, as the Chargers, mostly due to the injury to Shawne Merriman, dropped from 5th in the league in sacks in 2007 (42) to 31st a year later. Smith selected pass rush specialist Larry English out of Northern Illinois, converting the former defensive end to a rush linebacker.

With questionable depth at cornerback and safety a year earlier, rival scouts weren't surprised to see the Chargers select versatile defender Antoine Cason in the first round.

A year earlier, with a clear need for a receiver, Smith took LSU's Craig "Buster" Davis in the first round.

Though Davis hasn't panned out as expected, Smith's strategy has generally been very effective and a key component to the Chargers' ascension to the top of the AFC West.

The release of LaDainian Tomlinson opens up a huge hole at running back for the Chargers.

This team, of course, is clearly built around quarterback Philip Rivers and the passing game. Darren Sproles has the speed and elusiveness needed to star in this offense and the team has a suitable big back in Jacob Hester for the tough yardage. Still, a workhorse back -- to be used much like the Saints used Pierre Thomas -- is a definite need for this club.

Considering the talent likely to be available when the Chargers are on the clock at No. 28, don't be surprised at all when AJ Smith takes his pick between Fresno State's Ryan Mathews or Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer.

After all... they'd fill a need.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com