Posted on: May 7, 2011 12:28 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.
The 2011 wide receiver class was a unique one. While all of the attention was understandably heaped upon A.J. Green and Julio Jones, the so-called second tier talent of this group intrigued me. There wasn't a great deal of pure speed available in this class, but the number of elusive returners, tough slot receivers and big, physical possession wideouts made it a underrated strength of the 2011 draft. It will be interesting to see how many of these college stars prove to emerge as true No. 1 targets in the NFL. While I have some reservations about how many will be able to do precisely that, I am confident that a number of them will make immediate and lasting impacts at the pro level.
Earlier this week I broken down the quarterbacks and running back fits.
Dwayne Harris, Dallas Cowboys: Quite frankly, I wasn't as high on the Cowboys' draft as many, but I did love the value of Harris in the sixth round. In Harris, I see the same type of toughness, wiggle and secure hands that I saw in Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby (now with the Cincinnati Bengals) and Davone Bess (Miami Dolphins) when they starred in college. Considering the talent outside in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, Harris could slide right into the slot and prove a steal.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: Let's be clear. I thought Atlanta paid too much to acquire Jones. With that said, it is easy to see why they made their aggressive trade, as Jones is the most physically-prepared receiver to make an immediate impact in this draft and is an ideal fit for Atlanta's offense due to his size, strength, and run-blocking. He is not as fast on the field as his 4.34 second time at the Combine might suggest, but at 6-3, 220 pounds, he is tough to bring down in the open field. Considering the other weapons the Falcons possess, he'll rarely see double coverage early in his career, meaning that Jones will often be only one broken tackle away from big plays.
Greg Little, Cleveland Browns: Little and Jones will forever be linked due to the fact that Cleveland used one of the picks they received from the Falcons to select a similarly built (6-3, 231) and skilled wideout 52 picks later than Atlanta selected Jones. Like Jones, Little uses his extraordinary combination of size, strength, underrated speed (4.53) and body control to be effective. A former running back, Little's RAC skills could result in plenty of big plays in Cleveland. He is one of the few wideouts in this class who I believe could ultimately emerge as a true No. 1 target. It will be interesting to compare in a few years to take a look back and see what kind of value the Browns got with Little at No. 59 compared to what the Falcons got out of Jones at No. 7.
Greg Salas, St. Louis Rams: I could have just as easily listed the first wide receiver the Rams selected in 2011 -- former Boise State star Austin Pettis (No. 78 overall) -- as an ideal schematic fit, but with Salas taken 34 spots later, he could ultimately prove the better value. Each are tall, well-built possession receivers whose game is built on precise route-running and soft, reliable hands -- precisely the type of wideouts Sam Bradford so desperately needed last year.
Titus Young, Detroit Lions: Young was hyped by some draft analysts as the No. 3 receiver in this class, but inconsistent route-running, hands, toughness and slim build (5-11, 174) kept him as my No. 7 rated wideout (No. 6 by NFLDraftScout.com). There is no denying, however, that Young fits in well schematically with the Lions, who needed a big play threat opposite Calvin Johnson and to take advantage of Matt Stafford's amazing arm.
Jon Baldwin, Kansas City Chiefs: Considering the success that Scott Pioli had in helping build the Patriots' dynasty as well as the successful renovation of the Chiefs, it might be seen as almost blasphemous to knock one of his first round picks. And yet, here I am doing it. I understand the Chiefs' need to add a secondary receiver to take pressure off of Dwayne Bowe and certainly acknowledge Baldwin's extraordinary combination of size (6-4, 228), speed (4.49), explosiveness (42" vertical jump led all Combine WRs), but quite frankly, on tape Baldwin isn't the sum of his parts. He isn't as physical as his size would suggest, nor as fast as he timed. Baldwin struggled against press coverage in college and will only face more of it in the NFL. He is blessed with a great deal of natural talent and Todd Haley has shown the ability to coax such talent from surly receivers throughout his career. There is no denying, however, that Baldwin was a significant gamble at No. 26 overall.
Posted on: March 14, 2011 2:08 pm
After the 2006 draft, I spoke with a college scouting director about why receiver Marques Colston fell to the seventh round of that year's event. Colston did have surgeries on both shoulders, but had a great week at the East-West Shrine Game and worked out very well at the Combine--I figured he would be a fourth or fifth round selection.
Could be outside looking in:
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: December 10, 2010 12:14 pm
With the FBS regular season coming to a close many scouts are finally getting a break from the road. As such, I've been able to catch up with them and get the names of some of the country's hottest rising prospects.
I have several other contacts that I'll be speaking with this weekend and want to do some film work, myself, before finalizing the article.
Here are two players, however, that numerous scouts have touted highly over just the past 24 hours who, because they play in the West, I'm familiar with already.
I've previously mentioned Arizona pass rusher Brooks Reed as a player rising up draft boards, but after speaking to scouts this week it is clear that I've still been underrating him. Reed's statistics are good (44 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks) but his production would be even gaudier if he operated as a strongside linebacker, as 4-3 teams are projecting him to be at the pro level. Reed, 6-3 and 262 pounds, earned First Team All Pac-10 honors this year lining up as a defensive end for the Wildcats. He's shown the ability to rush the passer from the stand-up position, as well as from the three-point stance.
There are two elements to Reed's game that scouts are particularly intrigued by -- his nonstop motor and surprising fluidity. Many "undersized" collegiate defensive ends lack the flexibility to make the transition to a true outside linebacker role. This is precisely the area where scouts believe Reed will impress, as his agility and short area burst are expected to make him one of most impressive athletes during workouts.
Utah State cornerback Curtis Marsh is another example of a player skyrocketing up draft boards. A former running back, the 6-1, 195 pound Marsh entered the season barely a blip on scouts' radar. He's steadily risen up charts this season, however, finishing second in the WAC with 15 passes broken up and improving game by game.
Marsh was particularly impressive in the season finale against Boise State's Titus Young, a wideout that some scouts believe is the No. 1 senior at the position and certainly among the nation's fastest. Marsh helped limit Young to four receptions for a season-low 34 yards.
Scouts tell me that strong performances from Reed and Marsh in post-season all-star games could ultimately push both into the Top 100.
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.