Posted on: March 12, 2011 10:02 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2011 5:01 pm
Proving the intrigue developing around an underrated senior class of prospects from the University of Arizona, 29 NFL teams were represented at the Wildcats' Pro Day, Saturday.
Typically, Pro Days are reserved for the normal work week. But with the buzz being created by Brooks Reed and his fellow pass rushers, Ricky Elmore and De'Aundre Reed, who were also invited to the Combine, plenty of NFL personnel men showed up Saturday.
It was a senior not invited to the Combine, however, who best took advantage of the opportunity to workout in front of NFL personnel, however.
Running back Nic Grigsby was clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash by one league source I spoke to following Saturday's workout. The scout also noted that the 5-11, 199 pound Grigsby had a 43" vertical jump, which would have led all Combine participants this year.
Grigsby's athleticism does translate onto the football field. His lateral agility and explosiveness have made him a big play threat for the Wildcats throughout his career. Unfortunately, his thin build caused him to struggle with injuries throughout his career, as well. In fact, he played only one full season with the Wildcats, earning Honorable Mention all-conference honors in 2008 with 1,153 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Since his breakout sophomore season, Grigsby finished with 567 and 569 yards each of the past two years, respectively.
Considering that Reed enjoyed one of the Combine's best overall performances , it wasn't surprising to hear that he elected to sit on his numbers from Indianapolis. He did, however, perform defensive line and linebacker drills in front of scouts and coaches, Saturday, including Jacksonville defensive line coach Joe Cullen and Cleveland linebackers coach Bill Davis.
Considering the hype he's getting as a potential late first round pick, Reed's production at Arizona wasn't staggering. In starting all 13 games for the Wildcats, Reed registered 47 tackles and ten tackles for loss. He only had 6.5 sacks, however. That said, a strong Senior Bowl and an impressive workout that provided evidence that he might be able to handle the transition to outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme has his stock soaring.
According to a source close to him, Reed has already scheduled private workouts with the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills -- each of whom, of course, run the 3-4.
The 6-4, 255 pound Elmore was clocked at 4.80 in the 40-yard dash on Saturday. Elmore led the Wildcats with 11 sacks last season as a defensive end. While his time in the 40-yard dash was better today than at the Combine (4.88-5.0 on his two attempts), teams are still going to have a tough time moving him to outside linebacker at that speed. His best bet might be to remain as a 4-3 defensive end.
Posted on: February 24, 2011 10:30 am
The Combine is, of course, about the prospects weighing in, taking medicals, doing interviews and working out.
Posted on: December 13, 2010 1:31 pm
NFLDraftScout.com analyst Chris Steuber highlights the "race" to have the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft with a breakdown of the Panthers, Bills and Bengals are facing.
The Panthers, at 1-11, are the favorite to finish with the worst record, as they could find it difficult to win another game this season. Their home matchup this weekend against the 4-9 Arizona Cardinals could decide things, as the Panthers face the Steelers and Falcons to close out the year.
It would be unfair to rookie Jimmy Clausen for the Panthers to invest another high round selection at quarterback this soon. Statistically, he's been terrible this season (51.3 completion percentage, 1 TD/7 INTs), but there have been flashes of the arm strength, toughness, accuracy and leadership necessary to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL.
Again, giving up on their 2010 second round pick after only 10 starts (assuming he starts the final three games this season) it would be unfair to Clausen. However, the Panthers can't be focused on what is fair for any individual player. They have to do what is best for their franchise - and that would be drafting Luck, should the redshirt sophomore elect to leave Stanford with two years of collegiate eligibility remaining.
Should Luck not come out, the Panthers would find themselves with a much tougher decision. Carolina is a team with plenty of holes, so the Panthers would be wise to investigate trade the pick. As well all know by now, however, the financial obligations of the No. 1 overall pick make it very difficult to trade out of the top spot.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, should they have to go in another direction because Luck returns to school, their holes in personnel don't necessarily match up well with talent likely to be available. The Panthers would love to find an elite defensive lineman in this draft -- and there are some good ones -- but none as sure as Ndamukong Suh last year. The team could use some reinforcements along the offensive line -- but many scouts believe that there won't be an offensive tackle worthy of a Top 15 pick in this draft, much less No. 1. Besides, left tackle Jordan Gross is among the better all-around left tackles in the league. He's not Carolina's problem.
The two best players (other than Luck) could be fellow underclassmen Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green. Peterson is as good of a cornerback prospect as I've ever seen, but plays at one of the few positions where Carolina already has some talent. Green is a future Pro Bowl regular, but the team has already invested heavily at the position and likely will find the idea of giving another young receiver No. 1 overall type money unpalatable.
Carolina fans have had little to celebrate this season. Perhaps if they and their team gets "Luck"y, there will be a silver lining around this dark cloud.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 2:12 pm
Just as this past weekend proved to be a very difficult one in determing the senior Prospect of the Week, Sunday's slate of NFL games featured several noteworthy performances from rookies.
No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford played very well in leading the Rams to their fourth win of the season and sole possession of second place in the very winnable NFC West division. Bradford completed a career high 78.1% of his passes for 191 and two touchdowns (against zero interceptions) to beat Carolina.
Kansas City safety Eric Berry, my reigning Defensive Rookie of the Week, was even more impressive Sunday against the Bills than he was against the Jaguars on October 24. Berry posted a career-high 10 tackles and his 4th quarter interception ended a potentially game-winning drive by the Bills in the 4th quarter. The Chiefs, 5-2 and atop the AFC West, won in overtime.
Tampa wideout Mike Williams caught four passes for 105 yards, including an impressive 47-yard touchdown in an exciting 38-35 come from behind win over the Arizona Cardinals.
In the end, however, the continued dominance of Detroit's Ndamukong Suh and resurgence of former Oregon standout LaGarrette Blount stole the show.
Suh, who earned Prospect of the Week honors earlier in the year, may have enjoyed his greatest NFL game so far Sunday in Detroit's win over the Washington Redskins. Suh recorded five tackles, including two tackles for loss, two sacks and returned a fumble 17 yards for his first NFL touchdown. Suh now has 6.5 sacks through seven games. His mark ties him for 8th in the NFL and leads all defensive tackles.
Blount rushed for 120 yards and two scores -- including the game-winner -- against the Cardinals. The bruising runner showcased the power and surprisingly nimble feet that had earned him high grades from NFL scouts prior to the infamous meltdown in which he punched a Boise State player and was suspended from the Oregon football team.
Posted on: October 6, 2010 1:54 pm
In our rush to judge the "winners" and "losers" in the trading of former Pro Bowlers Randy Moss and Marshawn Lynch, it is important to realize the impact they'd had so far for the Vikings and Bills, respectively.
Through four games with the Patriots, Randy Moss had continued the big play ways that will one day send him to the Hall of Fame, catching three touchdowns, but those scores came amidst shockingly poor numbers, overall: nine catches for 139 yards.
Through four games with the Bills, Marshawn Lynch had rushed for 164 yards on 34 attempts and caught one pass for seven yards. He had one fumble and zero touchdowns.
This isn't to suggest that Moss and Lynch won't make immediate impacts for their new clubs. There is no denying that the pieces are in place for Moss and Lynch to each make immediate impacts for the Vikings and Seahawks.
However, give the Patriots and Bills credit for recognizing that these two players were not significantly impacting their win totals this season and were not part of either teams' long-term plans. Rather than allow the situation to spiral out of control (like the Chargers have done with WR Vincent Jackson or the 49ers did with S Michael Lewis), each team got valuable draft picks in return.
Some will argue that the Patriots must be looking to the future by trading such a valuable deep threat as Randy Moss. Clearly the team doesn't expect to win now. I'd argue that with slot receivers Wes Welker and Julian Edelman and rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski controlling the middle, Tom Brady at the helm and the big play potential of Brandon Tate outside, the Patriots' passing offense will be just fine this season.
Brandon Tate isn't just guy who is good at returning kicks. Remember, this is the receiver who started over Hakeem Nicks and Greg Little (who I believe is the most physically gifted senior WR in the country) at North Carolina.
And with the third round pick they got from the Vikings, the Patriots now have two picks in the first, second, third and fourth rounds of the 2011 draft. Doesn't it seem like New England has multiple Top 100 picks every year? And, as such, they're always reloading and never rebuilding? Exactly.
And the Bills, having used their 2010 first round pick on C.J. Spiller, clearly have other concerns than running back. Considering that they might be the least talented football team in the NFL, acquiring extra picks makes sense -- especially if they scratch out a few wins and have to potentially package them in order to move up to draft their quarterback of the future.
I expect the Vikings and Seahawks to enjoy the spoils of their trades early on. But the NFL isn't just about winning now. It is about winning long term. The Patriots have done that better than any team in the league. The Bills are wise to begin practicing some of the same strategies.
Posted on: September 28, 2010 2:07 pm
Each Tuesday I'll list two first year players -- one on offense, one from the defense -- as my official NFLDraftScout.com's Rookies of the Week.
Various rookies enjoyed strong performances in Week Three. On offense, it was tough to look past Sam Bradford's first career win (over the Redskins), the continued stellar play of Kansas City tight end Tony Moeaki (who I've listed as a finalist each of the first three weeks!) and Indianapolis receiver Blair White an undrafted free agent who was signed from the practice squad due to injuries and responded with three catches for 27 yards and his first NFL touchdown.
In the end, however, the versatility and explosiveness of Buffalo rookie C.J. Spiller won out.
Spiller, playing behind veterans Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, didn't get many carries. In fact, he only rushed four times (for 29 yards) against the Patriots. The versatility he showed while starring at Clemson, however, was very much on display against New England, however, as he caught three passes for 10 yards and a touchdown and returned a kick 95 yards for another score. Spiller's ability to make impact plays were one of the reasons that the Bills were able to remain surprisingly competitive against New England, which won 38-30.
It wasn't a particularly strong week for rookies on the defensive side of the ball. Two defensive backs I had high hopes for entering the week -- Bucs' safety Cody Grimm and Broncos' cornerback Perrish Cox -- were torched for touchdowns. Sean Weatherspoon led the Falcons with seven tackles, but other highly touted 2010 linebackers Brandon Spikes (one tackle) and Rolando McClain (four tackles) weren't as statistically relevant nor able to make any big plays in close games.
Big plays, however, was exactly what Seattle free safety Earl Thomas made for the Seahawks, Sunday afternoon in a 27-20 win over the favored San Diego Chargers.
Thomas recorded six tackles, but it was his two interceptions over Pro Bowler Phillip Rivers that helped prove the difference in this game. Thomas' second interception came with only seconds left on the clock and the Chargers in position to tie the score. Thomas read the eyes of Rivers, cut in front of receiver Legedu Naanee and swiped the ball, putting a disappointing end (for San Diego, at least) to Rivers' career-high 455 yard passing day.
Posted on: August 19, 2010 11:28 pm
Every year there are a few rookies whose immediate impacts in the NFL are utterly predictable.
This year, one of those players is Buffalo's C.J. Spiller.
I've taken a lot of heat for my pre-draft comparisons of Spiller to Titans star Chris Johnson. While I certainly won't compare Buffalo's offensive line to the one that Johnson ran behind last year for his 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, the similarities between the 5-11, 191 pound Johnson and the 5'11, 196 pound Spiller are just too damn striking for me to back down on them now.
Like Johnson, Spiller's game lies in his vision, lateral agility and pure, unadulterated speed. At less than 200 pounds, neither back possesses the power to consistently taken and discard NFL tacklers, but both players have such agility (and underrated leg drive) that they're often able to change the tackle dynamic at the last possible second. Rather than take on tacklers head on, they're able to give one final juke or acceleration to turn direct hits into arm tackles. And like Johnson, Spiller is plenty strong enough to run through arm tackles.
The undersized Johnson used this style to make it through last season unscathed despite a staggering 408 touches. I believe Spiller can do the same for Buffalo. He certainly showed off his underrated strength and determination in tonight's game against the defending AFC champion Colts.
Spiller's best play was his 31-yard touchdown scamper on just his second touch of the game. On the play, Spiller made three very solid NFL starters -- defensive end Robert Mathis, cornerback Jacob Lacey and free safety Antoine Bethea -- look silly in trying to tackle him. Spiller ran through an arm tackle by Mathis and appeared to be going straight up the middle for another few yards. His vision and balance took over, as he cut back outside, slipping by a lunging Lacey to streak down the sideline. Bethea is one of the better tackling free safeties in the league, but in attempting to cut off Spiller, he committed to the sideline, allowing Spiller to cut back inside this time for the touchdown.
For a team as weak in so many other positions as the Bills are, they are very talented and deep at running back. Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch have each proven themselves to be legitimate starting backs.
With each sidelined, however, don't be surprised when Spiller's big plays force the Bills to keep him on the field.
Prior to the 2008 draft, I had one veteran NFL scout characterize Johnson's running ability as "video game-like."
Check out Spiller's touchdown run against the Colts here . Now you tell me -- doesn't that look like a video game?
Posted on: August 2, 2010 9:23 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2010 11:59 am
Despite lots of talk heading into the start of training camps about potential rookie holdouts, 29 of the league's 32 first round picks have signed contracts with their NFL teams in this, the first week of August.
The three remaining -- No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh, No. 6 overall pick Russell Okung and No. 9 overall pick C.J. Spiller -- were the three most celebrated senior players at their respective positions in all of college football last season. Obviously, the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills, respectively, want their first round picks in camp as soon as possible. Each are expected to be immediate impact starters for their clubs.
Suh and Spiller are the two more celebrated players and no doubt will generate more of the media attention. The Lions and Suh's agents -- Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker -- are thought to be relatively close to a deal which could put NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated 2010 prospect in Detroit by the end of the week.
Spiller, represented by agent Gary Wichard, however, could be in for a longer holdout. The reigning ACC Player of the Year seemed resigned to that possibility by indicating in a chat with fans at The Sporting News that he was going to "... let my agent handle all of that. We're not going to rush. We're going to make sure we cross our T's and dot our I's, however long the process takes. I just have to be patient. I can't get antsy about the situation. I've talked to a lot of veteran guys. My teammates aren't concerned about me holding out. They know that I want to be there, but at the end of the day it's a business. You have to do what's best for your family. It was good to get that support from veteran guys already — before negotiations have heated up."
It is Okung, however, whose holdout could prove to be the story.
Like Spiller, Okung's contract talks have appeared to hit a significant snag. ProFootballTalk.com reported yesterday that a deal between the Seahawks and Okung's agent Peter Schaeffer is "not even close." Seattle Times beat writer Danny O'Neil noted that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll labeled his projected starting left tackle's absence as a "concern for him every day."
Suh and Spiller are readier to make an immediate impact. Suh is such a dominant player that I expect him to standout at defensive tackle as a rookie -- a truly rare feat. Spiller, due to his electricity and the relative "ease" of rookie running backs enjoying success in the NFL, projects as one of the league's surest highlight reel additions from the 2010 draft.
Okung, however, is being asked to play the position some believe is second only to quarterback in terms of difficulty adjusting from the NCAA to NFL. With the notable exceptions of Joe Thomas, Ryan Clady and Jake Long, few rookie left tackles have been able to come into the NFL and play well immediately.
I personally attended and scouted some of Okung's first practices as a member of the Seattle Seahawks during June OTAs. While Okung's length and strength were obvious, it was also clear that the former All-American still had a ways to go before understanding the intricacies of Alex Gibbs' vaunted zone-blocking scheme.
Okung is in charge of protecting the blindside of a soon-to-be 35-year old Matt Hasselbeck. If that wasn't enough pressure, he's being asked to replace Walter Jones -- the best player in team history.
The Seahawks certainly won't admit it publicly, but they know they need to get Okung in the fold. With Okung out, the Seahawks have former fourth-round pick Ray Willis, a natural right tackle, starting on the left side. When Willis was given Monday's practice off to rest, veteran guard Mansfield Wrotto, another former fourth round pick, was given the nod. Neither Willis nor Wrotto have demonstrated to this point the ability to consistently hold a starting position in the league. Both, due to marginal agility, are potential liabilities in Gibbs' system -- at any position -- much less the critical left tackle spot.
In a new offense with new coaches, the Seahawks could struggle to protect Matt Hasselbeck even with Okung starting. They're in a potentially dire situation without him.
It doesn't get any simpler for the Seahawks than this -- the more games Matt Hasselbeck starts for the Seahawks this season, the greater chance Pete Carroll has of improving on Seattle's 5-11 record last year. Until Okung signs, however, neither Hasselbeck remaining healthy nor the Seahawks improving in the win column seems likely.