Tag:kenrick Ellis
Posted on: March 14, 2011 2:08 pm

Rising Above the Competition

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.

The scout's answer was quite surprising to me: "my GM said, 'I'm not taking a wideout from Hofstra." 

That sort of thinking is wasn't necessarily prevalent throughout the league at that time, and certainly his two 1,000-yard seasons the past two years has made teams more willing to overlook a player's level of competition if they see enough raw talent to select them high in the draft.

As I've often said (and heard said by others): "either a guy can play or he can't play."

Despite some administrators' biases, the first round every draft since at least 1976 included a player from outside the traditional Bowl Championship Series conferences (using current alignments, and including Notre Dame).

Since 2000, 2.6 players from non-BCS schools (including all lower divisions) have snuck into the first, including four in last year's draft: RB Ryan Matthews (Fresno State, #12, San Diego), OG Mike Iupati (Idaho, #17, San Francisco), CB Kyle Wilson (Boise State, #29, New York Jets), DE/OLB Jerry Hughes (TCU, #31, Indianapolis).

This year, however, may more closely resemble the 2009 class, where only one player from the "have-nots" of college football made it into the initial stanza (DE/OLB Larry English, Northern Illinois, #16, San Diego). Even in that year, however, six non-BCS conference prospects were selected in the second round: very close to the 6.3 average for 2001-2010 period.

As for players from outside the Football Bowl Subdivison like Colston, most drafts over the last decade did not include a first-round pick from "small schools" but one or two are picked in the second round.

The addition of TCU to the Big East and Utah to the Pac-10 over the next couple of seasons will change the regularity of intrusion by talented players from lesser-hyped programs in the top two rounds (8.9 average from 2001-2001)--but for now, expect this year's group to hover around the recent average.

I'll be watching for the following prospects to be picked early:

Possible first/easy second round picks:

1. DL Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple)
The junior played well for the Owls, then excelled at the Combine (4.96 40, 27 reps, 4.59 short shuttle). Teams looking for a five-technique in the late first could snap him up.

2. OL Marcus Cannon (TCU)
Cannon could be the surprise first round pick if power-blocking teams like Pittsburgh or Philadelphia feel strongly he fits their system as a guard or tackle--and don't want to wait until the late second to bring him in.

Solid second round picks:

3. WR Jerrel Jernigan (Troy)
Though he measured in a shade under 5-9, 185 pounds, Jernigan's quickness, toughness over the middle, and return ability give him an excellent shot to be a second-round pick.

4. CB Davon House (New Mexico State)
Teamed with Kyle Wilson on the 2009 All-WAC first team, and was named all-conference again in 2010. Though he isn't quite the player Wilson was in college, measuring over six-foot, 200-pounds with a 4.44 40 cemented his spot in the second round.

5. OL Ben Ijalana (Villanova)
If Ijalana were not dealing with a sports hernia, people would be discussing the versatile player (who is more athletic than former UMass Vlad Ducasse, last year's second round pick of the Jets) more frequently as a top 64 selection.

6. DL Kenrick Ellis (Hampton)
Another massive athlete with very good athleticism, Ellis' past may prevent him from going as high as his talent indicates--but 3-4 teams looking for an athletic 340-pounder who could play on the nose and at five-technique should jump on his talent in the mid-to-late second.

Possible second rounders:

7. QB Andy Dalton (TCU)
Dalton's excellent win-loss record and solid character could earn him a spot in the second round, but his lack of size and arm strength could make him available to teams early in the third--not unlike Colt McCoy last spring.

8. CB Brandon Burton (Utah)
Burton did not rip up the Combine, but he has enough size, speed, change of direction ability and toughness to be selected by New England, Pittsburgh or Chicago late in the second.

9. OLB Dontay Moch (Nevada)
We all knew Moch's 4.4 speed would show itself at the Combine, but he will take time to translate to the linebacker position at the next level. Unless Raiders owner Al Davis loves Moch's speed enough to pick him early in the second or the Colts, Seahawks, or another team fine with a 6-1 3/8, 248-pound rush end takes a shot late in the second, teams may wait until the third to see if he can develop.

Could be outside looking in:

10. WR Titus Young (Boise State)
Since the player to which Young is most often compared, Philadelphia Eagles star receiver DeSean Jackson, fell into the second round due to off-field concerns, Young's own issues and slightly-less explosive game could land him in the third.

11. QB Colin Kaepernick (Nevada)
Athleticism and arm strength aren't questions; longish pitcher delivery, need to clean up footwork, and thin frame are. He could sneak into the second round because of the need for QBs, but often fans and media overestimate teams' willingness to use a valued second on a player not likely to be ready to contribute for two or three years.

12. OLB Chris Carter (Fresno State)
His exceptional Combine (4.58 40, 27 reps, 6.88 3-cone) and production for the Bulldogs could make him a late second-round pick. Carter's tape does not portend great consistency, however, so a top 64 slot is no sure thing.

--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Chad Reuter

Posted on: February 13, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 3:17 pm

Interviews most underrated component of Combine

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.
  • Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
  • Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
  • Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
  • Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
  • A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
  • Greg Little, WR, North Carolina
  • Jake Locker, QB, Washington
  • Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
  • Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
  • Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
  • Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh
  • Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
  • Tyron Smith, OT, USC
  • Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
  • Titus Young, WR, Boise State

Posted on: February 5, 2011 6:03 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2011 6:04 pm

NFLPA Game Review

It was a civil war of sorts, as "Texas" and "Nation" squads faced off in the first NFL Player Association Game this afternoon on CBS College Sports Network, a new reincarnation of the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Challenge.

The first thing to know about college football all-star games is that evaluating talent purely off of that tape is fallacious. Players and coaches have one game to put together a game plan, and participants are rotated in and out throughout the contest so getting a rhythm or significant statistics is very difficult. 

Scouting talent while sitting at the Super Bowl media hotel is also difficult--however, there were some plays and players that caught my eye.

The most talented prospect in this game wasn't difficult to discover, even when watching in a public place; Nation DT Kenrick Ellis (South Carolina/Hampton) was continually putting pressure on Texas squad interior offensive linemen to push the pocket, plug up a lane against the run, or hustle to the ball outside the tackles. The 6-5, 336-pound tackle also forced a bad snap by otherwise stellar center Tim Barnes (Missouri) in the red zone in the fourth quarter, leading to a missed field goal.  

The game's MVP, Northwest Missouri State defensive end Roberto Davis, ended up in the backfield regularly in practice before making a sack and forcing a fumble on the day. A late add who scouts didn't really take notice of, even when at the NWMS campus, his ability to get under the pads of taller tackles, driving them in the backfield, will make teams go back to the tape.

Two other Texas defensive linemen made their stamp on the game late, Eddie Jones (Texas) and Jerrell Powe (Ole Miss) combining to stuff a fourth-and-goal run to seal the victory. Jones has a nice combination or speed and strength to be a strong-side 3-4 linebacker or 4-3 defensive end in the right system. Powe did not dominate in this game as many though he could, but he did make himself known by getting into the backfield when not facing double teams (which wasn't often). 

Both Ellis and Powe could be very high picks because of their size and relative athletic ability, but both also have issues (Powe-age, pass rush ability; Ellis-suspension from South Carolina) that could make them bargains in the second or third rounds in the Kris Jenkins mold.

Two intriguing quarterbacks, Josh Portis (California-PA) and Taylor Potts (Texas Tech) played well on the day. Portis used his legs to move the ball on a couple of occasions and a strong arm to hit short and intermediate routes. He and fellow Combine invitee WR Stephen Burton (West Texas A&M) had one of the best plays of the game; a perfectly-thrown deep ball down the right sideline which Burton caught while fighting off a corner. He was a bit erratic as the game progressed, but flashed the ability to originally took him to Florida and Maryland (the double-transfer will need to address his jumping colleges with scouts). 

Potts was named the game's Offensive MVP after going 9-for-15 for 107 yards and a touchdown; his practice week was the best of all quarterbacks, as well. And though his elusiveness in the pocket is significantly less impressive than Portis', his NFL size, fair arm, usually-tight spiral and accurate intermediate throws may make a team think he is worth a late-round selection.

One group of players difficult to evaluate in practices are linebackers because they don't get a chance to tackle. Tressor Baptiste (Texas A&M Kingsville),  Brian Duncan (Texas Tech), Adrian Moten (Maryland), and OLB Spencer Paysinger (Oregon) also quick enough to wrap up receivers and running backs in the backfield or towards either sideline. Baptiste and Paysinger were especially active, always appearing to be around the ball. 

Another player who made an impression in practice this week was Texas cornerback Josh Gatlin (North Dakota State), who had a nice high-point interception in the red zone on an underthrown pass. He also displayed nice press ability on the line, like he did in practice, but struggled to stay with receivers when playing off or in trail coverage.  Miscommunication with S ChrisProsinski (Wyoming) allowed a big play down the seam from QB Jeff Van Camp (Florida Atlantic) to WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (Iowa) near the end of the game. DJK stepped up with some plays today, especially on that late drive to give his team a chance to win, after an average week of practice.

Nation corner Vince Cuff also had some ups and downs in the game. He has the speed to stay with any receiver, and made an excellent leap in the air to knock down a pass. But he was five feet from the receiver during the play instead of on his hip pocket, forcing him to make the leap to get the ball--something scouts will notice on tape. Cuff also displayed toughness in the run game by cutting down FB Robert Hughes (Notre Dame) inside the hashes and tackling receivers immediately after the catch. His lack of size (5-10, 177), however, prevented him from making key tackles or staying with more physical receivers. 

Though explosive plays were at a minimum in this contest, Nation receiver Jock Sanders (West Virginia) and Texas running back Chad Spann (Northern Illinois) each made fans say "wow" with an exciting run. Former North Carolina QB T.J. Yates stepped up in the pocket to find Sanders over the middle in the third quarter, then the diminutive 5-6 receiver made a lot of yardage on his own with spectacular cuts and elusiveness through traffic. Spann showed great balance on a play later on, putting his hand on the turf after getting hit to stay upright and lower his shoulder to pound a would-be tackler after getting a chunk of yards.

Unfortunately, Nation WR Kris Durham (Georgia) and Texas WR Ricardo Lockette (Fort Valley State) aided in the game's lack of offense by starting the game with dropping passes. This was not surprising given their propensity to do so during practice. Another receiver with troubles holding onto the ball this week, UCF WR Jamar Newsome, got popped by his own guy (and some help from opposing CB Kevin Rutland from Missouri) to fumble a kickoff in the first half. All three receivers made good catches later, however, to earn back from respect from scouts.

Nation QB Nathan Enderle (Idaho) did little to help his stock in this game today, coming up short on intermediate and deep throws, and struggling to make any throw on the run. A mid-round prospect to start the year, a rough season and underwhelming NFLPA Game week give him only a slight chance to be drafted. 

Another Combine participant, Texas guard Isaiah Thompson (Houston), also struggled mightily--as he did in practice. Defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye (South Carolina) used quickness and violent hands to run by Thompson early and often, and Ellis pushed aside Thompson later to get to unimpressive QB Ryan Colburn (Fresno State) later on.

Reading through this summary review of the NFLPA Game, you'll notice that in most cases, players perform in games as they did during practice week. This is an axiom coaches have followed as long as the game has been played. 

So although NFL scouts do not rely solely on an all-star game tape to evaluate a player, they typically aren't surprised by the game's flow or outcome.

Posted on: October 4, 2010 6:29 pm

Hampton's massive Ellis wins Diamond in the Rough

Each Monday I provide a breakdown of my senior college Player/Prospect of the Week and my Diamond in the Rough (small school prospect of the week).

Last week's Diamond in the Rough , Troy wideout/returner Jerrel Jernigan was among the first players to earn a Senior Bowl invitation .

This week's recipient -- Hampton defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis -- could be among the next players who get a pass from the organizers of the Mobile, Alabama all-star game... especially if they pop in the film of Ellis against Howard (September 11) or Delaware State this past Thursday evening.

Ellis wasn't quite as dominant against the Hornets last week as he was against the Bison. Ellis was recognized as the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week for his September 11 efforts. In that contest, Ellis, who measures in at 6-5 340 pounds, was credited with an eye-popping 16 tackles (seven solos), 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Against the Hornets Thursday night, Ellis "only" registered eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

Ellis is surprisingly athletic and well proportioned considering his massive frame. Against the pass, Ellis shows a quick burst off the snap and can rock the guard back onto his heels from his defensive tackle position. He relies mostly on his natural tools, but does possess some pass rush technique, showing a good rip and dip to get under the arm and past his opponent, as well as a quick swim move (which wasn't as effective). As one might expect, Ellis doesn't have the closing speed to be a consistent rush threat, but he was often able to get past the right guard when single blocked Thursday and was an intimidator who often forced hurried throws. Ellis locates the football quickly and pursues laterally and downfield with passion.

With his size, Ellis has obvious potential as a run-stuffer. At times, his quickness and strength was too much for his opponent. Early in the second quarter (12:35), for example, Ellis exploded off the snap, locked out the guard, discarded him easily and made the play at the line of scrimmage. On other occasions, Ellis struggled with leverage, allowing smaller and weaker linemen to get into his pads and push him back onto his heels. Despite his bulk and strength, Ellis' inability to keep his pad level low raises concerns about how well he'd fit inside as a nose guard -- at least until he plays with better technique.

What was obivous, however, is that Ellis was a man among boys Thursday night.

Hampton's strong play isn't unexpected. He impressed early on as a member of Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks, but off-field troubles led to suspensions and ultimately a transfer. Scouts had hoped that he'd matured, but he was again suspended for the first game of this season, which means his first game of the year was his DPOY performance against Howard.

Scouts know Ellis can play. He's proven that. There is some concern that his best efforts have come in the first game back from his suspension and the game that earned ESPN coverage. Scouts would like to Ellis play with more consistency and make better choices off the field.

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