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Tag:Illinois
Posted on: April 18, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Seattle Seahawks Draft Preview

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
   2010 record: 7-9, first place NFC West
 
2011 draft rundown
   Eight total picks -- 25th overall (1st round), 57 (2nd), 99 (4th), 156 (5th), 157 (5th), 173 (6th), 209 (7th), 242 (7th)
 
Top needs
   Offensive Line -- With 10 different starting offensive line combinations last year, coach Pete Carroll said improving the talent up front remains a priority this offseason. The only player guaranteed to return to his starting role of a year ago is left tackle Russell Okung, who flashed the ability to be a standout player during his ten games last season. Former starting guard Max Unger could slide over to center , if the Seahawks elect to allow free agent Chris Spencer leave. Right tackle Sean Locklear is also a free agent who may play elsewhere in 2011.
   Quarterback -- Former Pro Bowler Matt Hasselbeck is 35 and expected to test the free agent waters. Both he and the team have expressed interest in his finishing his career in Seattle, though it is unknown if the team is willing to spend big dollars on an aging quarterback when the club is clearly rebuilding. The Seahawks paid dearly for backup Charlie Whitehurst in an off-season trade last year, but the veteran showed little during his limited opportunities. Regardless of how the Seahawks feel about Whitehurst, adding a young quarterback to groom for the future is a priority. 
   Defensive Line -- The Seahawks' defensive line played surprisingly well early last season, but the unit's lack of ideal depth was exposed when injuries to starting defensive end Red Bryant and defensive tackles Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane occurred. Mebane is a free agent and was surprisingly only given a third round tender by the club.
   Cornerback -- The Seahawks gave up 31 touchdowns through the air last season, tied for third-worst in the league, and allowed an average of 250 passing yards during last year's regular season, 25th overall. Veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant turns 31 this year, he struggled with injuries for a second straight season in 2010 and is due to make $5.8 million in base salary this season. Seattle's other starting corner from last season, Kelly Jennings, is a free agent this year.
 
First-round focus
   25th overall
   -- With holes throughout their roster and a stated goal from head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider to improve along both lines, the Seahawks have plenty of options at No. 25, which could lead them to trade down. The team is likely to strongly consider any of the top offensive or defensive linemen available, with defensive tackles Corey Liuget and Phil Taylor especially attractive considering the precarious status of Brandon Mebane. Cornerback Jimmy Smith is also an intriguing option considering that the 6-2, 210 pound Colorado star is a perfect schematic fit for Carroll's press coverage scheme. Depth along the offensive line is good enough in the 2011 draft that the Seahawks may be able to get away with waiting until the middle rounds before addressing this concern -- though the OL might just be the team's biggest need. Quarterback is also a critical need and the team may feel free pressured to nab one of the top West Coast Offense quarterbacks like TCU's Andy Dalton or Florida State's Christian Ponder with their first round pick. Neither is likely to be available when the Seahawks draft in the second round.
 
Five names on the Falcons' board
   CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
   OT Nate Solder, Colorado
   DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
   DT Phil Taylor, Baylor
  QB Andy Dalton, TCU

Posted on: April 17, 2011 6:00 pm
 

New York Giants Draft Preview

NEW YORK GIANTS
   2010 record: 10-6, second place NFC East
 
2011 draft rundown
   Eight total picks -- 19th overall, 52 (2nd Round), 83 (3rd), 117 (4th), 185 (6th), 198 (6th), 202 (6th), 221 (7th)
 
Top needs
   Center -- Starter Shaun O'Hara is aging and ailing, as is backup Rich Seubert. Both are rehabbing surgeries and may not be available for the start of training camp.
   Defensive Tackle -- Starter Barry Cofield is coming off a strong season and could be tempted by a big free agent contract. Though the Giants selected DT Linval Joseph in the second round, they may need more depth with veteran Rocky Bernard turning 32 by the time next season begins.
   Linebacker -- The Giants have struggled to fill this role with recent draft picks and with the team not likely to re-sign free agents Wilkinson, Keith Bulluck, and Chase Blackburn, New York will probably add another linebacker to their mix for depth, and hope that Sintim is ready for a full-time role in 2011.
   Safety -- Deon Grant will be an unrestricted free agent, and has, in the past, stated a desire to be a starter again. Meanwhile last year's third-round pick, Chad Jones, is not expected to be ready to play in 2011 as he continues his rehab from serious injuries suffered in a car accident last June. With the Giants not tendering their other safety, Michael Johnson, a former sixth-round pick, this position becomes very thin if Grant departs.
 
First-round focus
   19th overall
   -- Following the season, general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin each made it clear that injuries to starters and a lack of depth at key positions were the culprits for a disappointing season. The Giants were hit hardest by injury at center and along the defensive line, making these two areas a focus in the first round. Florida center Mike Pouncey would make a lot of sense due to his size, toughness, and durability. He also possesses the charismatic personality to handle the pressures of playing in New York. Under Reese, the Giants have been extraordinarily aggressive in re-stocking talent along the defensive line and may elect to take advantage of this year's bounty of run-stuffers and pass-rushers likely to be available at the No. 19 pick. Safety and linebacker, while clear concerns, simply don't offer the quality of prospects to consider so early. Those looking for a darkhorse candidate for the Giants might want to key on Alabama running back Mark Ingram. Not only would the son of former Giants' standout wide receiver be a popular selection with fans, his consistency, toughness and ball-security would be a welcome addition to a backfield that didn't always boast their characteristics with incumbent starters Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
 
Five names on the Falcons' board
   C Mike Pouncey, Florida
   OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
   DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
   DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
   RB Mark Ingram, Alabama


Posted on: March 24, 2011 12:41 pm
 

Don't sleep on First Rd DTs after Dareus, Fairley

Many in the media have lauded this year's defensive end class as one of the best in recent years.

While that may be true, I'd argue that the defensive tackle group is not only more talented at the top, it is deeper as well.

Like last year, when attention on the defensive tackles centered around the top two players Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, this crop of run-stuffers is largely described elsewhere as Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley and a bunch of other guys.

Those other guys may not wind up as top ten picks like Dareus and Fairley, but draft fans may wind up surprised by how high the next three defensive tackles could go.

I've spoken to representatives of teams operating out of the 4-3 and 3-4 that see the next three defensive tackles -- Illinois' Corey Liuget , Baylor's Phil Taylo r and Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson -- as all potential Top 20 picks.

To put that in perspective, the last time there were five defensive tackles drafted within the Top 20 was ten years. Teams can only hope this year's crop winds up as good as 2001, when Richard Seymour (No. 6, Marcus Stroud (No. 13) and Casey Hampton (No. 19) began their standout careers. Unfortunately, the first defensive tackle in 2001 -- Gerard Warren -- was the most disappointing of the group, especially considering his high draft selection. Damione Lewis (No. 12) never panned out for the Rams, either.

I've written before about the raving reviews I've heard of Liuget . As a classic penetrating three-technique defensive tackle, he could hear his name called as early as No. 14 to the St. Louis Rams. I'd be surprised to see him get past the trio of Philadelphia, New Orleans and Seattle with picks No. 23-25.

Unlike Liuget, who could play in the 3-4, but projects best inside in a four-man front, Taylor is more scheme versatile. He's the unquestioned top nose guard prospect in this draft at 6-4, 337 pounds, but has the rare athleticism at that size to also split gaps and remain at defensive tackle. Most teams operating out of the 3-4 alignment will tell you that the toughest part of fielding a 3-4 defense is finding a nose guard. That fact could boost Taylor's stock much higher than most believe. The Washington Redskins at No. 10 and Houston Texans at No. 11 could be intrigued by Taylor's ability to immediately improve their interior run defense. I'd be surprised to see Taylor fall out of the first round with the Jets at No. 30 in need of reinforcements behind oft-injured NG Kris Jenkins.

Like Taylor, Wilkerson is scheme-versatile. He's also position-versatile, having starred at defensive tackle at Temple and having the long frame (6-5, 305) and strength (27 reps) to handle the conversion outside as a five-technique defensive end. Wilkerson had the widest wingspan (85 1/4") of all the defensive tackles measured at the Combine and second among all defensive linemen (Oklahoma State DE Ugo Chinasa measured 86 1/8").

That position and scheme versatility, coupled with his impressive production at Temple (70 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks) could see Wilkerson drafted as high as the Patriots' No. 17 overall pick. The fact that Wilkerson's production came against questionable competition in the MAC could be enough to push him into the mid or late 20s, but I'd be surprised if the Steelers or Packers with the final two picks of the first round, respectively, didn't pounce on his upside should he fall into their laps, respectively.


Posted on: March 21, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 2:15 pm
 

ND WR Floyd arrested; Supp. Draft not an option?

The future of Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd's career is uncertain following an arrest early Sunday morning by campus police on a charge of drinking and driving, according to a report from Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune.

Floyd surprised many by announcing he would return for his senior season, but now his ability to play for the Irish in 2011 is in serious doubt. This is Floyd's second arrest since signing with Notre Dame. He was previously arrested for underage drinking in his hometown of Saint Paul, Minn.

As Hansen notes in his article, Notre Dame's athletic department does not investigate or determine the extent of any suspension handed down to their athletes. The Office of Residence Life makes these calls. Its prior track record suggests that Floyd could be suspended for the entire 2011 season due to this being his second offense.

Should Floyd be suspended for the season, his options could be limited. Transferring to another school is a possibility, though he'd have to transfer to a lower level university to be eligible to play this season. He is currently the No. 3-rated prospect overall for the 2012 draft by NFLDraftScout.com, and the top-rated wide receiver.

The NFL's Supplemental Draft has often been used as a sanctuary for prospects whose grades or other off-field issues have impacted their collegiate eligibility. Since Floyd missed the deadline for underclassmen to declare for April's draft, this would normally be an option he could consider. Last year, two players -- BYU running back Harvey Unga and Illinois' defensive tackle Joshua Brent-Price -- were each selected in the seventh round of the Supplemental Draft.

Floyd may have picked the worst possible time to be forced into considering the Supplemental Draft, however... since there may not be one.

Like everything else other than April's draft, the Supplemental Draft could be at the mercy of labor negotiations between the NFL owners and its players.

One high-ranking NFL source wasn't sure if the Supplemental Draft was part of the NFL's calendar at this point, adding that he "[didn't] think the league office even knows [that] right now."

A call to the league office for further comment and/or confirmation was not immediately returned.

The 6-3, 225-pound Floyd caught 79 passes for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He was especially impressive matched up against Miami cornerback Brandon Harris - a potential first-round pick this year - in Notre Dame's Sun Bowl victory against the Hurricanes. In that contest, Floyd caught six passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns.


Posted on: March 16, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 12:15 am
 

Liuget stars, Wilson struggles at Illini Pro Day

Having been given a 3rd round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee and posting a rather ho-hum workout at the Combine, Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget was a player some scouts perceived to be a little bit overrated, considering the fact that he's been featured in many first round mock drafts.

With representatives from nearly every NFL franchise on hand for his Pro Day, however, Liuget turned in a workout that one long-time scout characterized as "one of the best workouts I've ever seen from a defensive lineman."

Liuget, 6-2 and 303 pounds, didn't run, jump or lift at the workout, but demonstrated great explosiveness, hip flexibility and quick feet during defensive line drills conducted by Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, according to the scout.

"A lot of [team representatives] went to this workout to see what kind of shape [Liuget] was in. He answered that in the workout. I'm not sure the kid broke a sweat. He had [Marinelli] working, not the other way around. I'm telling you, it was an impressive workout."

Also impressing scouts on hand was running back Mikel LeShoure. Weighing in at 232 pounds, LeShoure demonstrated very quick feet and soft hands catching passes. Like Liuget, LeShoure did not do any of the measureable drills Wednesday.

As good as his teammates workouts were -- and considering that he looked fantastic in the measureable drills at the Combine -- expectations were high for linebacker Martez Wilson.

Unfortunately, those expectations were dashed when Wilson struggled in positional drills, run by the Bengals' Jeff FitzGerald.

The scout, who works for a team unlikely to select a linebacker in the first half of the draft, didn't pull any punches.

"Everyone left that workout disappointed with [Wilson]. His footwork was bad, his hands were bad, even his countenance was bad. The other kids were having fun and seemed to enjoy the competition. He didn't look like he wanted to be there," the scout said. 

"It wasn't a good workout for him - but one more indicative of how he actually plays. He looked great in the measureables at the Combine and everyone was talking about him, but he's not a very instinctive player so that speed doesn't translate onto the field."

While most of the attention was heaped upon Illinois' three stars, a few unheralded players caught the eyes of scouts.

Cornerback Travon Bellamy (5-11 3/4, 198 pounds) was timed at 4.52 in the 40-yard dash and looked "dynamite" in the shuttle drills and position workout. 

Defensive end Clay Nurse checked in at 6-2 (3/8) and 261 pounds and was slower than scouts would like at 4.95-5.0 in the 40-yard dash, but looked very good in defensive line drills.

There were several decision-makers at the workout, including Jets' head coach Rex Ryan. Also present were Chicago Bears' Director of Player Personnel Tim Ruskell, New England Patriots' Director of Pro Personnel Jason Licht and New York Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. The St. Louis Rams were strongly represented with three scouts attending the workout, including Director of College Scouting John Mancini.

 


Posted on: February 23, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2011 12:58 pm
 

Combine Countdown -- Illinois ILB Martez Wilson

Continuing my week-long feature on prospects at each position that have more on the line at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine than most, I present Illinois junior inside linebacker Martez Wilson.

Wilson is NFLDraftScout.com's top rated inside linebacker for the 2011 draft. A highly touted prep star, he signed with Illinois with much fanfare, but until the 2010 season had been considered a bit of a disappointment. Wilson's production shot up in his junior season, however. He went from recording 73 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in his first starting season to 112 stops, 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He also contributed three forced fumbles, an interception and a blocked kick, earning First-Team All-Big Ten accolades.

At an estimated 6-4, 250 pounds, Wilson certainly possesses the prototypical size to man the inside linebacker position in the NFL. Athletic enough to beat the back to the sideline as a true 4-3 Mike and physical enough to take on blockers as a 3-4 ILB, Wilson is one of a scant few in this year's relatively weak class capable of starring in either scheme.  Some teams even feel that Wilson has the natural pass rush skills and agility in coverage to warrant developing as an outside linebacker in either scheme.

For all of his obvious assets, however, Wilson has a lot riding on his Combine performance. Certainly scouts want to see if the burst and agility seen on tape is replicated in workouts.

More importantly, teams need to investigate the neck injury which sidelined Wilson for all but the opener of the 2009 season. Wilson registered nine tackles against Missouri, but suffered a herniated disk and was granted a medical redshirt. Considering the collisions he'll face as an NFL linebacker, pro teams' medical staffs aren't going to necessarily give Wilson medical clearance just because Illinois' did.

Teams are also going to want to talk to Wilson regarding his sudden jump in production. Is he a player coming into his own or is he motivated by the big NFL contract? Teams will attempt to find the answer to all of these questions this week in Indianapolis.

Should Wilson pass the medical, interview and athletic questions this week, he has a chance to slip into the late first round. Wilson's value could be enhanced simply because he is viewed by many clubs as the clear-cut top rated ILB. The drop to Michigan State's Greg Jones and North Carolina's Quan Sturdivant (NFLDraftScout.com's next two highest rated ILBs) is significant. Also significant is the fact that Wilson has the experience to play inside or out. He played outside for the Illini in 2008 before making the switch to the middle for his abbreviated 2009 campaign, as well as this past season.

Though inside linbebackers have traditionally dropped a bit on draft day, the Oakland Raiders made former Alabama star Rolando McClain the No. 8 overall pick last year. There have been eight inside linebackers drafted in the first round since the 2000 draft.
Posted on: February 20, 2011 6:43 pm
 

Combine Countdown -- Hawaii RB Alex Green

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: January 11, 2011 1:58 pm
 

LeShoure added to big class of underclassmen RBs

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