Posted on: April 25, 2011 1:45 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 7:41 pm
The public relations digs from both sides in the labor dispute have hit full tilt since the lockout began, with neither side wanting to miss an opportunity to win additional public sentiment.
You can almost feel the NFL and the players looking at the invisible pendulumn swinging and just waiting for an opportunity to push gravity in their favor.
The NFLPA immediately retreated amid strong backlash when word leaked out that the union would encourage prospects invited to the draft to skip the event at Radio City Music Hall and instead attend union-sponsored events in NYC.
Sensing the momentum, the NFL is going to squeeze every ounce of PR juice out of the door opened by the NFLPA's slip up. The league announced that a record 25 prospects have accepted invitations to attend Thursday night's first round festivities in primetime.
That's not including several who were invited but have chosen to stay home to watch the first round with their families, including quarterbacks Jake Locker and Colin Kaepernick. But it does include a host of players considered fringe first-round prospects by NFLDraftScout.com.
It could make for an uncomfortable scene late in the stanza as 5-6 prospects will likely be sitting in the "green room" as commentators discuss what a great value they'll make 24 hours later. Among those could be Kentucky WR Randall Cobb, UCLA S Rahim Moore, Baylor NT Phil Taylor, Baylor OL Danny Watkins and Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams. And a few others could slide into the category as the night wears on.
Boston College LB Mark Herzlich will also be in attendance, but the cancer survivor has an inspirational story and isn't expected to be selected until at least the middle rounds (he's projected as a sixth-round value by NFLDraftScout.com.
Update: The NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported that Herzlich will be announced with the others and take part in a group photo, but then will be allowed to stay as long as he likes or leave to be with friends and family. That's a sensible approach for a compelling prospect who likely won't hear his name called until Saturday - if at all.
--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:12 pm
As I've noted previously, the most important element of the Scouting Combine to NFL teams lies with the medical testing and interviews.
The most entertaining part of the Combine, however, is of course, the athletic drills. The 40-yard dash, in particularly, has taken on a life of its own as the Combine's preeminent drill.
Ask five NFL scouts to predict who will be the fastest player in Indianapolis this year and you might get five different names. Rather than just identify one or five prospects who could turn in blazing times, I thought I'd give you my pick for each position.
Disagree? Perhaps in the greatest example of how big the NFL Combine has become, you can literally put your money where your mouth is and make prop bets through Bodog.com.
QB: Jake Locker, Washington -- I'm picking a bit of an upset from the start. Cam Newton is considered the favorite by most to the fastest and perhaps he'll prove he is. I expect each of them to run in the 4.5 range.
RB: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech -- It is too bad that Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones is still recovering from a broken bone, as I would have loved to have picked the D-II star to shock the world here. The world will have to wait for his Pro Day. If Williams runs the 4.4 or better time I expect, he could make a push for the late first round, just like former Cal star Jahvid Best did last year.
WR: Ricardo Lockett, Fort Valley State -- Despite the fact that he's a D-II prospect, Lockett's explosive speed at 6-3, 212 pounds makes him a well known commodity to many scouts. Lockette has publicly said he hopes to challenge Chris Johnson's 4.24 second time from 2008. Abilene Christian's Edmund Gates, Troy's Jerrel Jernigan, Boise State's Titus Young and Maryland's Torrey Smith can also fly, making wide receiver the year's most competitive group.
TE: Virgil Green, Nevada -- If anyone might have wondered why the Wolfpack lost only one game last year, you can point to the spectacular athleticism of Green, OLB Moch and, of course, QB Colin Kaepernick. Green could wind up in the 4.5s at 6-4 and 250 pounds.
OL: Nate Solder, Colorado -- USC's Tyron Smith is a spectacular athlete, but so too is Solder. There are some who believe he'll produce results similar to the ones that pushed former Central Michigan star Joe Staley into the first round. Staley was credited with a 4.78 second time in the 40 at 6-6, 306 pounds.
DL: Robert Quinn, North Carolina -- With nearly a full year to prepare for these workouts, as well as jaw-dropping athleticism to begin with, Quinn is going to be impressive. Perhaps that's why I listed him as my No. 5 overall prospect in the 2011 draft and have argued for months that he's a more explosive pass rusher than Da'Quan Bowers.
LB: Dontay Moch, Nevada -- Moch stunned scouts last spring when he was clocked in at 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash. I'm not so sure he can match that time on Indianapolis' notoriously slow track, but he should lap the field in a relatively weak year for linebackers.
CB: Demarcus Van Dyke, Miami -- LSU's Patrick Peterson told the media that his goal in the 40-yard dash was in the 4.2s. Van Dyke might actually accomplish this rare feat.
S: Rahim Moore, UCLA -- I'm not as high on Moore as many are, but there is no denying his pure athleticism. He could be one of the few safeties in this class that can break the 4.50 mark.
Posted on: February 20, 2011 6:43 pm
Between today and 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.
Unlike at quarterback, where Ryan Mallett fit all of these characteristics, I see a potential diamond in the rough at running back with the most to gain (or lose) at the Combine. Hawaii's Alex Green is a senior with no known off-field or medical issues and certainly lacks the name recognition of some of this year's top backs, but I like his combination of size (6-0, 220), burst and hands out of the backfield.
The 2011 class of running backs is a very solid group. There is only one surefire first round pick in my opinion -- Alabama's Mark Ingram -- and two others I see as possibly sneaking into the top 32 (Illinois' Mikel LeShoure and Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams). Because either LeShoure and Williams could leap into the first round conversation with a dynamic showing in Indianapolis, I strongly considered listing them here. I believe entirely too much draft analysis is spent on the top 40-50 players, however. Real scouting begins in the middle rounds and extends into free agency, which is one of the reasons why I'll be watching Green closely.
Consider these three facts.
1. There were 12 running backs selected in the 2010 draft.
2. NFLDraftScout.com currently rates 27 running backs as potential draft picks in 2011.
3. Green is rated 20th and a 6th-7th round pick.
As a junior college transfer playing for the most geographically remote team in the country, scouts haven't seen a lot of Green despite the fact that he led the country with a gaudy 8.2 yards per carry this season. Now, before you dismiss his numbers as a product of the Warriors' dynamic offense, recall that Hawaii's spread attack is pass-heavy, inflating the numbers of their quarterbacks and wideouts, but deflating the production of their running backs. In fact, since former head coach June Jones implemented Hawaii's spread offense in 1999, Green is the first back to ever surpass the 1,000 yard mark. Hawaii's historical struggles running the football go back even further. They haven't seen a 1,000 yard runner in nearly 20 years (1992). Green rushed for 1,199 yards this season.
Scouts were impressed with Green's build and burst at the East-West Shrine Game. Ultimately, however, to remain at running back and not be thrown upon that heap of "oversized running" fullbacks, Green will need to perform well this week in athletic drills. He's been estimated to run in the mid 4.6s. If he runs that slow in Indianapolis, he'd better get used to the idea of blocking -- and that is if a team gives him a shot as a utility fullback.
If, however, he can run in the low 4.5s and show some explosiveness in the jumps and shuttle drills, he'll reinforce the positive impressions he made in Orlando.
I argued that the Combine could prove very important for Ryan Mallett. How he performs in drills and interviews could dictate whether he's a first or third round pick.
The week could be even more important for Green. If he performs well, I could see him being drafted as high as the middle rounds. A poor performance, however, could see him slip right on out of the draft entirely.
Posted on: February 9, 2011 8:44 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2011 8:54 pm
Today we released my initial Top 32 "Big Board" as part of NFLDraftScout.com's expanded coverage of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Though I was asked to only list 32 players, I thought it important to list the next 10 prospects who just missed the cut, which, of course, also highlights those who did not make the list.
There are some awfully good football players out there that didn't make my list. The following five are the ones I expect fans will be the most surprised by. This post is designed to explain why those players didn't make my list.
Players are listed alphabetically.
Jon Baldin, WR, Pittsburgh: If the buzz in the scouting community is accurate and Baldwin does dazzle scouts at the Combine with breathtaking speed at 6-5, 230 pounds he'll be moving up a lot of boards. Not mine, though. I don't care how fast he runs in a straight-line, I see a prospect who lacks the flexibility and balance to create explosion out of his breaks and isn't nearly as physical a receiver as his size would indicate either.
Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: Houston was a dominant force in the SEC this season, earning First-Team honors with 67 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He has experience as a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 rush linebacker. However, I believe he's a more explosive rusher with his hand in the ground than he is standing up and I haven't seen enough fluidity in his drops to make me believe he's anything more than a one-trick pass rusher. I believe he is one of the more overrated prospects in the draft to this point.
Drake Nevis, DT, LSU: I listed Nevis as a player who missed an opportunity in this recent post-all-star game wrap-up because I really believe he could have made himself some money by going to the Senior Bowl. As I noted in that article, Nevis' ability to collapse the pocket made him the SEC's best defensive lineman not named Nick Fairley. Still, at only 6-1, 285 pounds, he's a rotational player. Not many teams can justify taking a rotational player in the first round, so I think there is a very real possibility he slips out. I'd take him in the second round if I can a 4-3 defense and needed a penetrating three-technique, but not until halfway through the round.
Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech: There is a lot I like about Williams. In fact, there are elements to his game that I believe translate better to the NFL than Illinois' Mikel LeShoure, who I rated as the 33rd best prospect. However, the struggles with durability concern me as Williams is 5-11, 205 pounds. In a class with as much middle round talent at RB as this one, I believe it drops the value of good, but not special backs like Williams.
Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois: Of the five listed here, Wilson was the closest to making my list. In fact, I currently have him as the 43rd best prospect and a solid 2nd round pick. Like most NFL teams, I struggle with stamping a first round grade on inside linebackers. Wilson is the class of the position, however, and could creep up my board if he works out and interviews well. I believe he has the upside to ultimately be a better player in the NFL than he was in college.
Posted on: January 11, 2011 1:58 pm
The University of Illinois' Mikel LeShoure announced today that he'll be joining Alabama's Mark Ingram, Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams, and Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, among many others as underclassmen running backs heading early to the NFL.
LeShoure is the 11th underclassmen running back to declare early so far. He'll compete with former Hokies' star Williams to be the second running back drafted after Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.
So far, the running backs who have declared early include: Wisconsin's John Clay, Virginia Tech's Darren Evans, Ingram, Clemson's Jamie Harper, Pitt fullbakc Henry Hynoski, LeShoure, Pitt's Dion Lewis, Rodgers, Connecticut's Jordan Todman, Cal's Shane Vereen and Williams.
The early defections are hardly a surprise. While scouts generally encourage prospects to return for their senior seasons, there is an understanding that for running backs the same rules don't apply due to the fact that they absorb so much punishment.
Scouts also aren't surprised by the early defections because this year's senior class of running backs is one of the weakest positional groups in the country. In speaking to scouts over the past few weeks, only a trio of Big 12 runners -- Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray, Kansas State's Daniel Thomas and Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter were characterized as "possible" Top 64 picks. None were viewed as "locks" for the first two rounds.
LeShoure is coming off a spectacular junior season in which he rushed for a school record 1,687 rushing yards and 17 TDs. He was at his best in Illinois' Texas Bowl victory over Baylor, rushing for a Texas Bowl record 187 yards and three touchdowns, earning MVP accolades.
As always for the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com.
Posted on: December 16, 2010 7:10 pm
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: September 6, 2010 12:52 pm
Tonight's "Monday Night Football" matchup between Boise State and Virginia Tech is a fascinating one for many reasons.
The most obvious is the national title implications. If the perenial BCS busting Broncos beat the Hokies on the east coast (game is playing played at Fed Ex in Landover, Md) they'll be in position to not only return to a BCS game (would be the third in five years under HC Chris Peterson), they would rank as one of the favorites in the race to the national title game. The stakes are just as high, of course, for the Hokies (No. 10) would leap up the polls with a win over Boise -- rated No. 3 in the country.
Secondary is the Heisman race in which the Hokies' sophomore running back Ryan Williams and Broncos' junior quarterback Kellen Moore are legitimate players. Williams ran for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, breaking the ACC freshman records. Moore, 26-1 as a starter, threw for a video game-like 39 touchdowns to only three interceptions last year.
And of course, for scouting, the big game atmosphere only makes the game that much better of an opportunity to see how these young players will react to the pressure.
NFLDraftScout.com has a long-standing policy of not grading underclassmen, but obviously I'll be keeping an eye on Williams, Moore and the rest of the talented young players in this game. For now, however, I'm focused on the seniors.
For tonight's game, the senior prospects I'll be scouting are:
QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech, 6-1/216/4.55 : Taylor's mobility and strong arm certainly make him an intriguing Wildcat option. If he is to improve his grade as a regular dropback passer, he'll need to show improved accuracy and recognition of the defense.
CB Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech, 5-10/182/4.38 : Seemingly every year the Hokies have a top-rated defensive back. Carmichael just missed the cut of my Top 10 ACC Seniors article. He certainly deserved the consideration. Blessed with great speed and agility, he led the Hokies with six interceptions last year.
DT John Graves, Virginia Tech, 6-3/285/4.90: Graves flashed last year despite battling through a nagging ankle injury. Healthy for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Tennessee, Graves beat up a talented Vol offensive line for three tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack. He also forced and recovered a fumble. One of the ways of disrupting Boise QB Kellen Moore's timing is to attack the middle. Graves' ability to push the pocket could have a big impact on which team wins tonight.
WR Austin Pettis, Boise State, 6-3/201/4.61: Pettis lacks elite speed, but he is a consistent route-runner and further, is able to use his size to generate separation. Most importantly to this offense, he has reliable of hands as any receiver I've scouted this summer. He caught 63 passes for 816 yards and 14 TDs in only 12 games last year.
WR Titus Young, Boise State, 6-0/170/4.48: The more dynamic athlete of Boise's senior receivers. Young earned First-Team All-WAC honors last year at wide receiver and kick returner. Scouts would like to see more route-running and hands-catching consistency out of Young.
DE Ryan Winterswyk, Boise State, 6-4/298/4.76: The Broncos have featured legitimate NFL talent at nearly every position at one time or another during Boise State's rise to national prominence. Rarely, however, have they boasted a defensive lineman worthy of sincere NFL scouting. (In fact, the last Bronco DL drafted was Kimo von Oelhoffen in 1994 .) They appear to have one in Winterswyk (pronounced winter-Swike). Winterswyk has earned First Team All-WAC honors after each of the past two years. Last year he posted 41 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks. The Hokies are blessed to have QB Taylor's mobility, as they lost standout left tackle Ed Wang to the NFL and have been hit with injuries at the position this summer. Like Graves, for all of the pregrame the skill position talent will earn for this game, Winterswyk could play a significant role tonight.
SS Jeron Johnson, Boise State, 5-10/195/4.53: Johnson has led the Broncos in tackles each of the past two seasons. If he's going to convince NFL scouts that he can hold up inside at that size, he'll likely have to do it again.