Posted on: March 27, 2011 1:50 pm

Five quietly creeping into 1st round conversation

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 23, 2011 11:12 pm

Who'll Run Fastest? My position by position take

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.

I didn't make any bets. If I had, these would have been my picks.

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: January 19, 2011 1:33 pm

NFL officially recognizes 56 underclassmen

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.

  • Adams, Darvin, WR,  Auburn
  • Austin, Marvin, DT. North Carolina
  • Ayers, Akeem , OLB, UCLA
  • Baldwin, Jon, WR, Pittsburgh
  • Bowers, Da'Quan, DE, Clemson
  • Brown, DeAndre, WR, Southern Mississippi
  • Burton, Brandon, DB, Utah
  • Casey, Jurrell, DT, Southern California
  • Clay, John, RB, Wisconsin
  • Claytor, Nick, T, Georgia Tech
  • Cobb, Randall, WR, Kentucky
  • Dareus, Marcell, DE, Alabama
  • Doss, Tandon, WR, Indiana
  • Evans, Darren, RB, Virginia Tech
  • Fairley, Nick, DT, Auburn
  • Gabbert, Blaine, QB, Missouri
  • Green, A.J., WR. Georgia
  • Gurley, Tori, WR, South Carolina
  • Guy, Lawrence, DT, Arizona State
  • Hamler, Jamel, WR, Fresno State
  • Harper, Jamie, RB, Clemson
  • Harris, Brandon, DB, Miami  
  • Hill, Will, DB, Florida
  • Houston, Justin, LB, Georgia
  • Hynoski, Henry, RB, Pittsburgh
  • Ingram, Mark, RB, Alabama
  • Jones, Julio, WR, Alabama
  • Keiser, Thomas, LB, Stanford
  • Leshoure, Mikel, RB, Illinois
  • Lewis, Dion, RB, Pittsburgh
  • Lewis, Javes, DB, Oregon
  • Little, Greg, WR, North Carolina
  • Liuget, Corey, DT, Illinois
  • Mallett, Ryan, QB, Arkansas
  • Moore, Rahim, DB, UCLA
  • Newton, Cam, QB, Auburn
  • Parr, Zane, DE, Virginia
  • Peterson, Patrick, DB, Louisiana State
  • Quinn, Robert, DE, North Carolina
  • Ridley, Stevan, RB, Louisiana State
  • Rodgers, Jacquizz, RB, Oregon State
  • Rudolph, Kyle, TE, Notre Dame
  • Sands, Robert, DB, West Virginia
  • Sash, Tyler, DB, Iowa
  • Siliga, Sealver, DT, Utah
  • Smith, Aldon, DE, Missouri
  • Smith, Torrey, WR, Maryland  
  • Smith, Tyron, T, Southern California  
  • Tarrant, Jerrard, DB, Georgia Tech
  • Todman, Jordan, RB, Connecticut
  • Vereen, Shane, RB, California
  • Watt, J.J., DE, Wisconsin
  • Wilkerson, Muhammad, DT, Temple
  • Williams, Aaron, DB, Texas
  • Williams, Ryan, RB, Virginia Tech
  • Wilson, Martez, LB, Illinois
As always, for the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com
Posted on: January 17, 2011 2:43 pm

East-West Measuring Day provides some highlights

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.

  • Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle measured in at 6-4 (6042) and 242 pounds. Opinions are mixed with Enderle, but scouts certainly like his frame.
  • Scouts knew that Fresno defensive end Chris Carter would have to make the transition to outside linebacker to be successful in the NFL, but it was reinforced Monday with Carter just barely breaking the 6-1 (6011) mark. Carter weighed in at 245.5 pounds. While the height may be a concern for some, Carter has much longer arms than most his height. His arm length (32 3/4") and wingspan (79 1/8") are comparable to prospects standing up to 6-5.
  • Two of my favorite Diamond in the Rough prospects measured in as scouts had hoped. Former highly touted prep prospect OJ Murdock, who left South Carolina and winded up at Fort Hays State measured in a shade under 5-11 5105) and 194.5 pounds. Murdock pops of tape and could prove one to watch this week as a receiver on the West team. On the East squad is Mount Union's Cecil Shorts, who measured in just under 6-0 at 5117 and a rock-solid 200 pounds. Shorts has often been compared to another former Mount Union standout -- Indianapolis Colts' starting wideout Pierre Garcon.
  • Former North Carolina Tar Heel defensive tackle Marvin Austin - who I highlighted yesterday as an All-star with everything on the line - measured in at 6-2 (6021), 312 pounds.
Chad will be covering much more in his Monday wrap-up article, including more observations from the weigh-in and the teams unique Monday practices.
As always, for the best in NFL draft coverage, check out NFLDraftScout.com .
Posted on: September 1, 2010 8:27 pm

Impact of suspension on Austin's draft stock

Dez Bryant proved last year that a player could get suspended for the entire season and yet still remain a first round pick.

North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin hasn't been suspended for the year. But, even if he was, he's talented enough -- and defensive tackle is a valuable enough position -- that he could pull off a similar feat.

As it stands now, is important to note that while Austin's suspension was characterized as "indefinite," to this point UNC has only publicly committed to keeping him out against this weekend's opener at LSU.

"This decision is not a result of the ongoing NCAA review, " says Davis. "Marvin has violated team rules and has neglected his responsibilities to the team."

Whatever Austin did to draw the ire of Davis (perhaps posting on his Facebook? ), it may not be close to the amount of trouble he's already in with the NCAA.

Austin, of course, and his teammate, wide receiver Greg Little, are widely believed to be at the center of the NCAA's investigation into college football players receiving improper benefits from sports agents.

Austin considered entering the draft last year. He finished the 2009 season with 42 tackles, six tackles for loss and four sacks. He earned Second-Team All-ACC honors despite only starting 11 of 13 games for the Tar Heels. Austin features rare burst for a 6-3, 310 pounder. Had he left last year, he could have made the first round despite the fact that scouts thought he played with inconsistent effort. His grade, according to scouts last January, was very similar to the one given to former UCLA star Brian Price.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Price with the third pick of the second round (No. 35 overall) last April.

On film, Austin is arguably the top three-technique senior prospect in the country and well worth a first round grade.

Regardless of how long his suspension(s) ultimately last, Austin will have to answer some tough questions by NFL teams. If his answers are sincere enough, his upside is likely enough to persuade some NFL team he's worth a pick in the top 32.

Posted on: August 26, 2010 10:59 am
Edited on: August 26, 2010 11:11 am

Locker shows class with Touchdowns For Kids

Sometimes in my effort to get our readers the very best information on what makes a collegiate player a potentially exciting NFL prospect I have a tendency to focus on their physical abilities or potential to improve if placed in a different scheme.

In doing so, I sometimes miss out on opportunities to show the personality of the players in my interviews. CBS will soon be featuring an interview I did with North Carolina outside linebacker Bruce Carter, for example.

I focus much of the article on Carter's elite physical skills, the talent surrounding him at North Carolina and the NCAA investigation currently swirling around the Tar Heels.

I also asked Carter to break down his talented teammates as NFL prospects , but with that likely to make the article so unbearably long that many readers wouldn't finish it, I elected to save the part that shows some of his personality for the blog.

Similarly, I focused on Washington QB Jake Locker's surprising (at least to some) decision to return for his senior year rather than take the guaranteed money the NFL was offering him, as well as the improvements he's made in this recent feature article .

One element that unfortunately didn't make the cut in the article was Locker's passion for children and his work through UW's Touchdowns For Kids charity.

I asked Jake about his role in the charity work and what the program was all about following practice earlier this week. Here are his comments, as well as a link so that you can contribute , if you'd like.

"Our football team partnered with [Seattle's] Children's Hospital as a way to raise money for sick kids and their families." Locker said. "People can donate a flat amount or they can donate X amount per touchdown. So, every time we [UW football] score a touchdown, money is raised for medical treatment, travel expenses, whatever the kids and their families need. I'm honored just to be part of the program."

Again, the link to the University of Washington's Touchdowns for Kids is right here.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com