Posted on: July 26, 2011 12:49 pm

Ten impactful UDFA signings thus far

Over the past 16 hours or so I've watched as veteran NFL reporters all over the country have taken to undrafted free agency with a feeding frenzy to try to capture the excitement that the scouts and fans all feel now that football is back.

As such, we're seeing undrafted free agents from Goofball State that have very limited chance at actually making an NFL roster being celebrated as if they were a team's first round pick. The reality is that many of the players being signed and celebrated today won't last long.

There are plenty of exceptions, however. These are the ten impactful free agent signings as I see them this morning.

NGs Ian Williams/Sealver Siliga -- 49ers: With incumbent starter Aubrayo Franklin likely to leave via free agency, the 49ers had a hole up front. Williams and Siliga were the two best interior run stuffers available in my opinion. In adding both of them, San Francisco helped themselves at this position as much as could be expected at this early point in the process.

WR Dane Sanzenbacher -- Bears: Sanzenbacher wasn't my highest rated WR available in undrafted free agency (Terrance Toliver was -- he reportedly signed with Houston), but he is a perfect fit for a Mike Martz offense due to his sharp route-running, toughness and reliable hands. Sanzenbacher can make this team and he'll do so by becoming one of Jay Cutler's favorite targets.

QB Adam Weber -- Broncos: Signing Weber almost surely means that the Broncos are going to attempt to move veteran Kyle Orton. I know that Weber was being looked at by a number of teams. He doesn't possess the ideal measureables as he's shorter and owns less of an arm than some talents available, but he's a gutty gunslinger who I could see sticking.

DE Brandon Bair -- Chiefs: I've been quite critical of several of the Chiefs' decisions with their 2011 draft class, but I love the signing of Bair as a developmental defensive end for their 3-4 scheme. Physically and mentally tough, he'll fit right in with this club.

TE Mike McNeill -- Colts: Colts fans saw how relatively easy it was for Indianapolis to continue to feature their athletic tight ends even after losing Dallas Clark to injury because Jacob Tamme is a receiver hybrid with good hands and athleticism. McNeill is cut from the same cloth.

RB Graig Cooper -- Eagles: It isn't that I think Cooper is going to wrestle away significant playing time from LeSean McCoy any time soon, but Cooper (when healthy) has shown starting caliber traits. Cooper is one of several nice signings by Philadelphia.

WRs Kerry Taylor/Tori Gurley -- Packers: The Packers are likely to get some competition for the rights to James Jones and love to push their incumbent receivers with young talent. Taylor and Gurley are each talented players who struggled with injury and inconsistency throuhgout their respective careers but could surprise.

LB Jeff Tarpinian -- Patriots: I spoke to several teams in the days preceding the draft that thought Tarpinian could go as high as the fifth round due to the relative lack of talent at linebacker in this class. Injuries pushed him to free agency. The Patriots could get rewarded for this gamble.

DE Pierre Allen -- Seahawks: Allen was viewed as a 4th-5th round pick by NFLDraftScout.com for much of the pre-draft process, but a nagging hamstring injury kept him from running prior to the draft. As such, he slipped into free agency. Seattle has a myriad of needs, but few loom larger than along the defensive line. Allen could be the crown jewel of what appears to be one of the better free agent classes in the league. 

RB John Clay -- Steelers: A perfect schematic fit, the bruising Clay would give the Steelers the interior power runner that they've often featured in Pittsburgh. If he's motivated (and he certainly should be), Clay could add a degree of size and physicality to this running game.

Posted on: June 14, 2011 6:24 pm

Rosenhaus will earn his $ if Pryor goes 1st round

Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor made his first public appearance after leaving the Buckeyes today, flanked by superagent Drew Rosenhaus.

Quite frankly, I didn't find the short press conference to be particularly interesting and had hoped to ignore it completely, until Rosenhaus described his newest client as a player he expects to be a "first round pick."

Now, don't get me wrong. Rosenhaus is simply doing his job as an advocate for his client, but whatever respect I may have had for Rosenhaus' talent evaluation just went out the window.

Pryor has proven himself to be a quality collegiate quarterback, but hasn't demonstrated the accuracy, understanding or technique needed to be a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL. He is a 3rd string developmental quarterback at best. He's got a littany of off-field issues that NFL teams will have very little time in which to investigate. I've spoken to several NFL teams about him and have found it difficult to find anyone willing to stick up for him. There is a similar sentiment surrounding Pryor as there was last April when I, after consulting with league sources, predicted that Ryan Mallett would slip into the third round based largely off of questions about his character and ability to lead an NFL franchise.

Drew and his brother Jason Rosenhaus have built their agency into one of the most successful in the industry. They've done a terrific job of getting their clients good deals and are often credited with helping boost the stock of some of their clients with their creative and effective use of the media.

Some characterized Rosenhaus' ability to manipulate the media (and, by extension the NFL) as genius when it came to pumping up the stock of Willis McGahee, among others.

If Rosenhaus is able to convince a team to use a first round pick from the 2011 supplemental draft on Pryor it will be his most impressive feat, yet.

Posted on: June 4, 2011 4:45 pm

Scout: Terrelle Pryor a mid-round pick at best

There has been a great deal of speculation that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor would make the jump to the NFL via the July supplemental draft, but I spoke with two NFL sources in the past few days that believe Pryor would be making a mistake in doing so.

One source characterized Pryor as a "mid-round pick at best" if he were to enter the supplemental draft. Both sources questioned whether the Buckeye passer had the poise and accuracy to be successful in the NFL.

Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that both sources had reservations about the 6-6, 235 pound Pryor's ability to make the transition from quarterback to wide receiver or any other position in the NFL. Pryor was characterized as a "basketball player playing football" and one whose lack of maturity could make it difficult for him to find a niche in the pro game despite his obviously unique combination of size and athleticism.

Pryor, of course, was suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season after it was discovered that he and several teammates had received free tattoos in exchange for memorabilia gained from playing at Ohio State.

Pryor is currently rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 senior quarterback prospect and a 2nd-3rd round value. The NFL sources were considerably lower on him, however, and weren't shy with their concerns.

Said one scout, “He [Pryor] is a nice college player playing in a system that caters to his strengths. He’s a basketball player playing football, though, when it comes to the NFL. He’s not a quarterback. He doesn’t have the makeup, the release or the accuracy for it. And he isn’t one of those guys that you can make into another position. He’s going to run well and people are going to get excited about him, but he isn’t a football player. What you’ve seen at Ohio State – on the field and off – is what you get with him.”

I sent in the initial article to my editors today and expect to see the finished product on NFLDraftScout.com on Monday.

Posted on: May 25, 2011 12:45 pm
Edited on: May 25, 2011 12:46 pm

ND coach Kelly issues star WR Floyd a challenge

Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd is a talented player that head coach Brian Kelly would no doubt love to feature in 2011.

Unless, Floyd is willing to focus his attention on becoming a better player, rather than partying, however, Kelly sounds willing to look elsewhere for big plays in the passing game -- at least according to Eric Hansen's report in the South Bend Tribune. 

Hansen quotes Kelly as saying,
“We’re looking at Mike [Floyd] as an ‘all in or not’ situation.”  “In other words, he’s changing his life or he’s not. If he changes the way he’s lived his life, he’ll play every game for us. If he doesn’t, he won’t play one down here at Notre Dame. “He is at that level. This is not, ‘I’m going to slap you on the hand and sit you for two games’ — because I don’t want to read about him in a year, where it says, ‘Ex-Notre Dame player arrested for X-Y-Z.’ That will be a failing on my part if that happens.”

Further in the article, Kelly explains some of the steps that Floyd has taken to earn back his position on the team.

“He had a number of things he had to take care of, and he’s checking off the boxes,” Kelly said. “But he’s got a number that are still out there.

“One that he did get past this spring was his academics. He had to have a specific GPA, and he did. He’s got some community service stuff he’s still got to do for Res Life. He’s got court coming up on June 7, and he’s got to pass that.”

Floyd’s attorney, William Stanley, said Floyd is expected to plead guilty at his next court date. He is facing an A-level misdemeanor charge for the alleged offense, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in the St. Joseph County Jail and a $5,000 fine.

“There’s no gray area anymore,” Kelly said. “There just can’t be. Too many times it’s been, ‘I’ll change.’ Look, you’re parenting a young man whose close to being a teenager. As much as it hurts to say, ‘He’s done at Notre Dame,’ if he doesn’t change his life, he’s done at Notre Dame. he’s not going to play here.

“Having said this, I’m very optimistic. I’m not going to paint a bleak picture. He’s done some things, that I can’t get into relative to changing his life, in which reports back from professionals are really optimistic. But he’s got to handle all these things before we start thinking about playing in the fall.”

Floyd, already Notre Dame's career leader in touchdown catches (28) and ranking second in school history in catches (171) and third in receiving yards (2,539), has been had three alcohol-related run-ins since signing with the Irish in 2008.

Floyd's latest arrest (March 20) was for suspicion of a DUI and generated plenty of speculation that he'd be kicked off the team. According to Hansen, Floyd was arrested with a blood-alcohol content of 0.19%. Indiana's legal limit is 0.08.

Floyd strongly considered leaving Notre Dame after his junior season for the 2011 NFL Draft. The team and Sun Bowl MVP likely would have been a second round pick. Should he elect to participate in this summer's Supplemental Draft, he'd likely fall a round or two further.

To keep even this grade, he'll need to resurrect his image - which may or may not occur at Notre Dame.

Posted on: April 30, 2011 4:03 am

Best Available By Position

Scouts will tell you they earn their money on the final day of the draft.

Sometimes it's less about finding that small-school gem or underutilized player from a larger program and more about taking chances on talented players with character, injury or consistency issues.

The Buccaneers found a fourth-round bargain last year in receiver Mike Williams, as did New England in tight end Aaron Hernandez, both of whom had second-round talent but fell because of character concerns.

Iowa's Christian Ballard may be the best available talent on the board due to a positive drug test at the scouting combine and inconsistent play on the field, while injury issues took Eastern Washington speed back Taiwan Jones (always seemingly nicked up) and Indiana teammates tackle James Brewer (foot) and receiver Tandon Doss (groins) out of the running for the top 97 selections.

Building depth through the late rounds is what allows teams to survive injuries to the starters picked in the top 100 over the last handful of drafts. Along with Williams and Hernandez, 10n other fourth-to-seventh round picks started at least half of his team's games in 2010, and many others look as though they will be contributors for quite some time.

The "best of the rest" still waiting to hear their names called at the Radio City Music Hall lectern are listed below by position. Each position is given a grade based on the talent available to teams as they make their decisions on whom to take a chance on late in the proceedings.

Grade: Above-Average

It was expected that Iowa's Ricky Stanzi would be the eighth quarterback selected in this draft, but most thought he would hear his name called in the third round. Though his arm strength is average and decision-making is questionable, he has enough size, athleticism and upside to be taken fairly early Saturday. Look for a lot of quarterbacks to be picked in the late rounds, both because there are a lot of intriguing late-round finds available this year and because teams will not be able to sign them to free agent contracts after the draft as in years past because of the lockout.

1. Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) 6-4/223/4.87/4
2. Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech) 6-1/217/4.47/4-5
3. Greg McElroy (Alabama) 6-2/220/4.84/5
4. Pat Devlin (Delaware) 6-3/225/4.81/5-6
5. T.J. Yates (North Carolina) 6-3/219/5.06/6
6. Adam Froman (Louisville) 6-4/220/4.56/6-7
7. Nathan Enderle (Idaho) 6-4/240/5.12/6-7
8. Taylor Potts (Texas Tech) 6-4/218/5.00/6-7
9. Josh Portis (California (PA)) 6-3/211/4.59/7
10. Scott Tolzien (Wisconsin) 6-2/212/4.92/7
11. Adam Weber (Minnesota) 6-1/209/4.73/7
12. Jerrod Johnson (Texas A&M) 6-5/251/4.75/7

Running Backs
Grade: Above-Average

The depth of this year's class of running backs, primarily due to a dozen draftable underclassmen, will be felt on Saturday. It would not have been surprising if three of the backs listed below would have been picked in the third round, but teams knew there was enough talent available in the later rounds that they could attack other roster holes in the top 97 selections. A couple of starters and several regular contributors will come out of the group listed below.

1. Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State) 5-07/199/4.46/4
2. *Taiwan Jones (Eastern Washington) 6-0/196/4.35/4
3. *Jordan Todman (Connecticut) 5-09/203/4.40/4-5
4. Bilal Powell (Louisville) 5-11/207/4.54/4-5
5. *Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State) 5-06/196/4.59/4-5
6. Delone Carter (Syracuse) 5-09/222/4.54/5
7. Roy Helu (Nebraska) 6-0/219/4.40/5
8. *Jamie Harper (Clemson) 5-11/233/4.53/5-6
9. *Dion Lewis (Pittsburgh) 5-07/193/4.56/5-6
10. Johnny White (North Carolina) 5-10/209/4.50/6
11. Derrick Locke (Kentucky) 5-08/188/4.37/6-7
12. Da'Rel Scott (Maryland) 5-11/211/4.40/6-7
13. Evan Royster (Penn State) 6-0/212/4.65/7
14. Anthony Allen (Georgia Tech) 6-1/228/4.56/7
15. Noel Devine (West Virginia) 5-08/179/4.45/7
16. Mario Fannin (Auburn) 5-10/231/4.37/7
17. Allen Bradford (Southern Cal) 5-11/242/4.53/7
18. Damien Berry (Miami) 5-10/211/4.58/7
19. Chad Spann (Northern Illinois) 5-08/201/4.52/7
20. Brandon Saine (Ohio State) 5-11/220/4.40/7

Grade: Average

Owen Marecic, Henry Hynoski and Shaun Chapas are the true fullbacks in this draft, but Clay and Havili might have the best chance of being drafted early because of their versatility. NFL fullbacks need to be receivers and runners more than blow-up blockers in most systems, and both of those players have those type of skills.

1. Charles Clay (Tulsa) 6-3/245/4.69/4
2. Stanley Havili (Southern Cal) 6-0/227/4.64/4-5
3. Owen Marecic (Stanford) 6-1/248/4.87/5
4. Anthony Sherman (Connecticut) 5-10/242/4.74/5-6
5. *Henry Hynoski (Pittsburgh) 6-0/257/5.06/6-7
6. Shaun Chapas (Georgia) 6-2/247/4.87/7
7. Preston Dial (Alabama) 6-2/238/4.83/7

Wide Receivers
Grade: Above-Average

A late run at the cornerback position crowded out talented players like Edmond Gates, Greg Salas and Denarius Moore, while mediocre senior seasons hurt Niles Paul, Dwayne Harris, Terrance Toliver and Ronald Johnson. Tandon Doss' groin injuries concerned scouts, as well. But in the fourth, fifth or sixth round, teams will find a slew of future No. 2 and 3 receivers that help build depth. Returners like Paul, Harris, Jeremy Kerley and Cecil Shorts have a chance to make an impact on special teams while they learn the intricacies of the NFL passing game.

1. Edmond Gates (Abilene Christian) 6-0/192/4.31/4
2. Greg Salas (Hawaii) 6-1/210/4.53/4
3. *Tandon Doss (Indiana) 6-2/201/4.62/4
4. Denarius Moore (Tennessee) 6-0/194/4.43/4-5
5. Niles Paul (Nebraska) 6-1/224/4.45/4-5
6. Dwayne Harris (East Carolina) 5-10/203/4.53/5
7. Jeremy Kerley (TCU) 5-10/189/4.56/5
8. Terrance Toliver (LSU) 6-4/212/4.52/5-6
9. Ronald Johnson (Southern Cal) 5-11/199/4.46/5-6
10. Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State) 5-11/182/4.56/5-6
11. Cecil Shorts III (Mount Union) 6-0/205/4.50/6
12. Stephen Burton (West Texas AM) 6-1/221/4.50/6
13. Ryan Whalen (Stanford) 6-1/202/4.53/6
14. *Darvin Adams (Auburn) 6-2/190/4.56/6-7
15. Ricardo Lockette (Fort Valley State) 6-2/211/4.34/6-7
16. Jeff Maehl (Oregon) 6-1/190/4.56/6-7
17. Aldrick Robinson (Southern Methodist) 5-10/184/4.35/6-7
18. Andre Holmes (Hillsdale) 6-4/210/4.51/6-7
19. Armon Binns (Cincinnati) 6-3/209/4.50/7
20. Kris Durham (Georgia) 6-5/216/4.46/7
21. Demario Ballard (Western Oregon) 6-6/219/4.50/7
22. Courtney Smith (South Alabama) 6-4/223/4.65/7
23. Chris Matthews (Kentucky) 6-5/218/4.57/7
24. Marshall Williams (Wake Forest) 6-1/188/4.56/7
25. Lestar Jean (Florida Atlantic) 6-3/215/4.61/7
26. Jimmy Young (TCU) 6-0/204/4.50/7
27. Jock Sanders (West Virginia) 5-06/181/4.50/7
28. *DeAndre Brown (Southern Miss) 6-6/233/4.59/7
29. Kealoha Pilares (Hawaii) 5-10/199/4.42/7

Tight Ends
Grade: Below-Average

Scouts considered this one of the weaker tight end classes in recent memory, and the fact only two went in the top 97 picks (Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph and Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks) backed up that claim. I believe two of the top four still on the board will make major contributions as rookies.

1. Luke Stocker (Tennessee) 6-5/258/4.68/4
2. Jordan Cameron (Southern Cal) 6-5/254/4.53/4
3. D.J. Williams (Arkansas) 6-2/245/4.59/4-5
4. Virgil Green (Nevada) 6-3/249/4.54/5
5. Julius Thomas (Portland State) 6-5/246/4.64/5-6
6. Andre Smith (Virginia Tech) 6-4/270/4.80/6
7. Lee Smith (Marshall) 6-6/266/4.94/6
8. Schuylar Oordt (Northern Iowa) 6-6/261/4.63/6-7
9. Collin Franklin (Iowa State) 6-6/256/4.72/7
10. Weslye Saunders (South Carolina) 6-5/267/4.96/7
11. Zach Pianalto (North Carolina) 6-3/256/4.78/7
12. Daniel Hardy (Idaho) 6-4/249/4.78/7
13. Ryan Taylor (North Carolina) 6-4/254/4.79/7

Offensive Tackles
Grades: Below-Average

It was clear from the start of the all-star season that teams looking for an immediate starter at tackle needed to jump on them in the top 40 picks. Even the four tackles picked in the second and third round have significant issues, and may not have been top 100 picks in deeper drafts. Derek Newton and Byron Stingly have some upside, however, as do small-schoolers David Mims, Johnny Culbreath and Trevis Turner; two of those talented but raw prospects will be thrown into the mix as rookies, just like 2010 seventh-round right tackle J'Marcus Webb was for the Bears last fall.

1. Jason Pinkston (Pittsburgh) 6-3/317/5.39/4
2. James Brewer (Indiana) 6-6/323/5.21/4
3. Lee Ziemba (Auburn) 6-6/317/5.50/4-5
4. DeMarcus Love (Arkansas) 6-4/315/5.18/5
5. Derek Newton (Arkansas State) 6-5/311/5.00/5
6. Byron Stingily (Louisville) 6-5/313/4.96/5-6
7. Marcus Cannon (TCU) 6-5/358/5.26/5-6
8. Chris Hairston (Clemson) 6-6/326/5.38/6
9. Derek Hall (Stanford) 6-4/308/5.56/6-7
10. David Mims (Virginia Union) 6-8/331/5.35/6-7
11. Willie Smith (East Carolina) 6-5/310/5.40/7
12. D.J. Young (Michigan State) 6-5/307/5.18/7
13. Johnny Culbreath (South Carolina State) 6-5/322/5.04/7
14. Byron Bell (New Mexico) 6-5/339/5.40/7
15. Trevis Turner (Abilene Christian) 6-7/333/5.40/7
16. Kevin Hughes (Southeast Louisiana) 6-4/302/5.31/7
17. Josh Davis (Georgia) 6-7/313/5.50/7

Offensive Guards
Grade: Average

Clint Boling and Stephen Schilling both have the talent to be long-time NFL players, but lacked the athleticism and consistent tape to be considered top 100 caliber at a position where teams find a lot of starters in the middle rounds. Expect those two, along with two or three others, to receive significant playing time in 2011 and beyond.

1. Clint Boling (Georgia) 6-5/308/5.28/4
2. Stephen Schilling (Michigan) 6-4/308/5.18/4-5
3. David Arkin (Missouri State) 6-5/300/5.31/5
4. Zach Hurd (Connecticut) 6-7/316/5.28/5-6
5. Andrew Jackson (Fresno State) 6-5/299/5.27/6
6. Keith Williams (Nebraska) 6-4/318/5.28/6-7
7. Maurice Hurt (Florida) 6-3/318/5.39/6-7
8. Ray Dominguez (Arkansas) 6-4/334/5.45/7
9. Caleb Schlauderaff (Utah) 6-4/305/5.18/7
10. Daniel Kilgore (Appalachian State) 6-3/308/5.28/7
11. Justin Boren (Ohio State) 6-3/309/5.40/7
12. Julian Vandervelde (Iowa) 6-2/301/5.12/7

Grade: Average

No one expected more than a couple of pivot men (Florida's Mike Pouncey, Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski) to be picked Thursday or Friday night. There are a couple of future starters in this group, however, because of their toughness or athleticism inside.

1. Kris O'Dowd (Southern Cal) 6-4/304/5.12/4
2. Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock) 6-4/306/5.18/4-5
3. Jason Kelce (Cincinnati) 6-3/280/4.89/5-6
4. Zane Taylor (Utah) 6-3/309/5.52/6
5. Tim Barnes (Missouri) 6-4/300/5.17/6-7
6. Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU) 6-2/300/5.32/6-7
7. Alex Linnenkohl (Oregon State) 6-2/304/5.36/7
8. Zach Williams (Washington State) 6-3/309/5.18/7
9. Ryan Bartholomew (Syracuse) 6-1/302/4.93/7
10. Kevin Kowalski (Toledo) 6-3/300/5.05/7

Defensive Ends
Grade: Below-Average

Ballard's positive drug test and inconsistent film caused him to drop out of the top 100 despite his excellent athleticism and potential. He could be a Ray Edwards-type steal in the fourth round for a team willing to take a reasonable chance on his talent. The rest of this group looks like two-down players or wave pass rushers, even if some (Ugo Chinasa, Eddie Jones, Cheta Ozougwu) end up moving to linebacker.

1. Christian Ballard (Iowa) 6-4/283/4.75/4
2. Pernell McPhee (Mississippi State) 6-3/278/4.91/4
3. Pierre Allen (Nebraska) 6-4/273/4.78/4
4. Greg Romeus (Pittsburgh) 6-5/264/4.79/4-5
5. Ugo Chinasa (Oklahoma State) 6-5/264/4.63/4-5
6. Cliff Matthews (South Carolina) 6-4/257/4.81/5
7. Brandon Bair (Oregon) 6-6/276/4.92/5-6
8. Ricky Elmore (Arizona) 6-5/255/4.88/6
9. Jeremy Beal (Oklahoma) 6-2/262/5.14/6-7
10. Markus White (Florida State) 6-4/266/4.86/6-7
11. Eddie Jones (Texas) 6-2/258/4.75/7
12. Ryan Winterswyk (Boise State) 6-4/268/4.96/7
13. Lazarius Levingston (LSU) 6-4/292/4.93/7
14. Cheta Ozougwu (Rice) 6-2/247/4.84/7
15. Marc Schiechl (Colorado School of Mines) 6-2/252/4.67/7

Defensive Tackles
Grade: Above-Average

The strength of this group early on allowed some talented players to fall into the fourth round. Jerrell Powe and Ian Williams shouldn't last long on the board because they are very intriguing nose tackle prospects, while Cedric Thornton, Lawrence Guy and Martin Parker will make their impact as pass rushers in the right system. Chris Neild, Sealver Siliga and Anthony Gray will play as rookies on the nose, making this as strong a group as you could expect to see on a draft Saturday.

1. Jerrell Powe (Mississippi) 6-2/335/5.25/4
2. Ian Williams (Notre Dame) 6-1/319/5.21/4
3. Cedric Thornton (Southern Arkansas) 6-3/309/5.25/4-5
4. *Lawrence Guy (Arizona State) 6-4/305/4.96/5
5. Martin Parker (Richmond) 6-2/303/4.95/5
8. Chris Neild (West Virginia) 6-2/319/5.06/5-6
6. Ollie Ogbu (Penn State) 6-1/298/4.85/6
7. David Carter (UCLA) 6-5/297/5.05/6
9. *Sealver Siliga (Utah) 6-2/305/5.38/6-7
10. Corbin Bryant (Northwestern) 6-3/297/5.10/7
11. Anthony Gray (Southern Miss) 5-11/330/5.18/7
12. John Graves (Virginia Tech) 6-3/286/5.09/7
13. Zach Clayton (Auburn) 6-2/299/4.85/7

Inside Linebackers
Grade: Below-Average

The fact that late risers like Georgia's Akeem Dent and North Carolina State's Nate Irving went higher than expected Friday night, in addition to some teams projecting many of these players as outside 'backers, makes it clear how weak this class really is. Colin McCarthy, Quin Sturdivant, Greg Jones and Jeff Tarpinian all have a chance to stay inside at the next level in a Tampa-2 or similar system where size is less important than speed to handle coverage in the middle of the field. Teams looking for a 4-3 thumper won't find much here from which to choose.

1. Colin McCarthy (Miami) 6-1/238/4.59/4
2. Quan Sturdivant (North Carolina) 6-1/241/4.63/4
3. Casey Matthews (Oregon) 6-1/231/4.79/4-5
4. Greg Jones (Michigan State) 6-0/242/4.75/4-5
5. Chris White (Mississippi State) 6-3/240/4.74/5
6. Mario Harvey (Marshall) 5-11/257/4.46/5-6
7. Mike Mohamed (California) 6-3/239/4.65/6
8. Jeff Tarpinian (Iowa) 6-2/235/4.56/6-7
9. Josh Bynes (Auburn) 6-1/240/4.80/7
10. Nick Bellore (Central Michigan) 6-1/245/4.84/7

Outside Linebackers
Grade: Average

Though the linebacker class in general is below average, the fact that potential 3-4 rush 'backers Sam Acho and Chris Carter are still on the board makes this section of the draft at least average at the top. K.J. Wright could fit inside or outside in the 3-4, while Ross Homan, Lawrence Wilson and Brian Rolle are all chasers who also have a chance to start if the opportunity arises due to their athleticism and instincts. With late-round finds Adrian Moten, Jabara Williams, Markell Carter and D.J. Smith available, there could be some surprises popping up from this list within a couple of years.

1. Sam Acho (Texas) 6-2/262/4.67/4
2. K.J. Wright (Mississippi State) 6-3/246/4.75/4
3. Chris Carter (Fresno State) 6-1/248/4.58/4
4. Ross Homan (Ohio State) 6-1/240/4.66/4-5
5. Lawrence Wilson (Connecticut) 6-1/229/4.71/5
6. Brian Rolle (Ohio State) 5-10/229/4.53/5
7. Adrian Moten (Maryland) 6-2/228/4.53/5-6
8. Doug Hogue (Syracuse) 6-3/235/4.62/5-6
9. Mark Herzlich (Boston College) 6-4/244/4.91/5-6
10. J.T. Thomas (West Virginia) 6-1/241/4.65/6
11. Jabara Williams (Stephen F Austin) 6-2/228/4.60/6-7
12. Jeremiha Hunter (Iowa) 6-1/239/4.77/6-7
13. Markell Carter (Central Arkansas) 6-4/252/4.76/6-7
14. Bruce Miller (Central Florida) 6-1/254/4.81/7
15. Scott Lutrus (Connecticut) 6-2/241/4.68/7
16. *Thomas Keiser (Stanford) 6-3/261/4.87/7
17. Quentin Davie (Northwestern) 6-4/232/4.72/7
18. D.J. Smith (Appalachian State) 5-11/239/4.75/7

Grade: Above-Average

The run on cornerbacks late in the third round may continue into the fourth, as the top seven prospects below all have a strong chance to be at least valued nickel backs early in their careers. The rest of the group all has a chance to contribute on special teams, or more, if they can improve their technique, step up their games after coming from small schools or prove they have gotten past maturity issues.

1. Davon House (New Mexico State) 6-1/200/4.44/4
2. Chimdi Chekwa (Ohio State) 6-0/191/4.38/4
3. Jalil Brown (Colorado) 6-1/204/4.52/4
4. *Brandon Burton (Utah) 6-0/190/4.50/4-5
5. Rashad Carmichael (Virginia Tech) 5-10/192/4.53/4-5
6. Brandon Hogan (West Virginia) 5-10/192/4.43/4-5
7. Chykie Brown (Texas) 5-11/190/4.49/5
8. Buster Skrine (Tennessee-Chattanooga) 5-10/186/4.37/5
9. Cortez Allen (Citadel) 6-1/197/4.50/5-6
10. Anthony Gaitor (Florida International) 5-10/177/4.48/5-6
11. Richard Sherman (Stanford) 6-3/195/4.54/6
12. Ryan Jones (Northwest Missouri State) 5-11/198/4.48/6
13. Chris L. Rucker (Michigan State) 6-1/195/4.55/6-7
14. Byron Maxwell (Clemson) 6-0/202/4.43/6-7
15. Kendric Burney (North Carolina) 5-09/186/4.71/7
16. Justin Rogers (Richmond) 5-11/180/4.45/7
17. Josh Thomas (Buffalo) 5-10/191/4.46/7
18. Loyce Means (Houston) 5-10/177/4.47/7

Grade: Below-Average

The safety class joins tight ends as being considered the least talented groups in the draft. Tyler Sash and Quinton Carter could have easily gone in the third round, however, and Ahmad Black is one of the more instinctive players in the draft despite his lack of size and speed. Look for at least two of the top eight players listed here to start as rookies in 2011 - because teams often find out some of the players without great physical attributes become leaders in training camp.

1. *Tyler Sash (Iowa) 6-0/211/4.62/4
2. Quinton Carter (Oklahoma) 6-1/208/4.57/4
3. Da'Norris Searcy (North Carolina) 5-11/223/4.55/4
4. Ahmad Black (Florida) 5-10/184/4.70/4
5. DeAndre McDaniel (Clemson) 6-0/217/4.63/4-5
6. *Robert Sands (West Virginia) 6-4/217/4.53/4-5
7. Deunta Williams (North Carolina) 6-2/205/4.53/5
8. *Jerrard Tarrant (Georgia Tech) 6-0/204/4.57/5
9. Jeron Johnson (Boise State) 5-10/212/4.51/5
10. Jermale Hines (Ohio State) 6-1/219/4.61/5-6
11. Joe Lefeged (Rutgers) 6-0/210/4.42/6
12. Shiloh Keo (Idaho) 5-11/219/4.74/6
13. Mark LeGree (Appalachian State) 6-0/210/4.49/6-7
13. Eric Hagg (Nebraska) 6-1/209/4.62/6-7
14. Mistral Raymond (South Florida) 6-1/194/4.62/6-7
15. Chris Prosinski (Wyoming) 6-1/201/4.42/7
16. *Will Hill (Florida) 6-1/202/4.64/7
17. Mana Silva (Hawaii) 6-1/206/4.44/7
18. DeJon Gomes (Nebraska) 6-0/208/4.50/7

Grade: Below-Average

The lockout may hurt these players more than anyone, as teams may decide to grab another quarterback or regular position player instead of having to bid against other teams in the free-agent frenzy coming down the pike when football begins in earnest. Alex Henery should be drafted fairly high because of his leg strength and accuracy from distance, but it's possible he could be the only one selected.

1. Alex Henery (Nebraska) 6-2/177/4.87/4-5
2. Kai Forbath (UCLA) 5-11/197/4.78/6-7
3. Chas Henry (Florida) 6-3/219/4.85/6-7
4. Ryan Donahue (Iowa) 6-2/193/4.90/6-7
5. Josh Jasper (LSU) 5-10/174/5.06/7
6. Dan Bailey (Oklahoma State) 6-0/193/4.92/7
7. Jake Rogers (Cincinnati) 6-2/213/5.06/7
8. Danny Aiken (Virginia) 6-5/244/5.09/7
9. Reid Forrest (Washington State) 6-0/189/4.71/7
10. Matt Bosher (Miami) 6-1/208/4.78/7

Chad Reuter is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com.

Category: NFL Draft
Tags: NFL, NFL Draft
Posted on: April 28, 2011 12:46 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2011 12:47 pm

Late rumblings: Fairley in play for Broncos?

While there is plenty of attention in Denver to the fact the Broncos will transition back to a 4-3 alignment under new coach John Fox, the club is perhaps even more concerned with identifying a defender who can make what one club executive termed "a really big difference" on third down.

As reported late Wednesday by ESPN, the Broncos still have four players under consideration for the No. 2 overall choice - defensive linemen Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley, linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Patrick Peterson - and not surprisingly all four are guys who can influence a game on third down. The Broncos remain somewhat puzzled by how they could best utilize Miller, the best pass-rusher in the draft, but Fox has said he will not hesitate use former 3-4 linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers at end in his 4-3, so perhaps size doesn't matter as much as upfield burst to him.

Don't discount Fairley, who some Denver scouts feel is a better third-down defender than is Dareus.

Hot-lanta: It's not in the intrinsic DNA of Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff to make a huge jump in the first round - although his New England background has prepared him well for wheeling and dealing - but there definitely is something to the rumor instigated by Peter King of S.I. that the Falcons are thinking about a major deal for a shot at wide receivers A.J. Green or Julio Jones.

While the rationale of some who saw the Falcons dismantled by Green Bay in the playoffs is that Atlanta must address its defense - either with a left end, linebacker or a cornerback - the game equally demonstrated to team officials the need for a more explosive receiver than Michael Jenkins to pair with Roddy White. Despite a faster 40-yard time, the feeling around the NFL is that Jones isn't quite the playmaker that Green is.

Not that this has any bearing on the Atlanta draft, but locals have been very vocal that the Falcons need to make an effort to somehow land Green, whose exploits at Georgia are well known to Falcons patrons.

No deal: Old buddy Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wasted little time on Wednesday dismissing a rumor that the Steelers were trying hard to trade up in the first round for Florida guard Mike Pouncey, and reunite him with twin brother Maurkice Pouncey, the club's Pro Bowl center. Bouchette termed the rumor, "a fantasy," and after talking with a couple team officials, we couldn't agree more. The draft stock of "the other" Pouncey is ascending, and while it's true the Steelers love him, they can't deal high enough to land him without undermining a lottery in which the club has to address several needs. Given the draft value points chart that many franchises use, Pittsburgh would probably have to surrender first-, second-, and third-round choices for a shot at Pouncey, who could go off the board right around the middle of the first round, and that historically isn't how the Steelers do business.

Trade mart
: We're still uncertain if all the smoke about trading up or down in the first round will amount to much fire, but expect a lot of later deals, team officials and player agents have suggested. If the league still has a moratorium against signing undrafted free agents, teams will be looking to land additional sixth- and seventh-round choices, and select players that might otherwise have been considered as priority free agents instead of gambling they'll be able to sign them.

: If Miller is not available at the fifth overall pick, it will still be a bit of an upset if Arizona chooses a quarterback with the choice. Some people feel that, in such a scenario, the Cardinals will try hard to bail out of the pick, while others have suggested the club will opt for a wide receiver to complement Larry Fitzgerald. ... The No. 5 and No. 6 picks (Cleveland) definitely are in play if the prospects the two teams have targeted are off the board. ... A lot of people in the league feel the Cardinals already have an understanding with pending free agent quarterback Marc Bulger. The Cardinals would have liked to sign Bulger last year, and coach Ken Whisenhunt lobbied for a deal, but Arizona had already agreed with Derek Anderson and management didn't see a way to bring in two veterans. ... Statistical oddity I: Dimitroff, who along with coach Mike Smith has resurrected the Falcons in three years, has exercised 26 draft choices, but has never taken a Big 10 player. In fact, the last Big 10 player chosen by Atlanta was Ohio State center Doug Datish, a sixth-rounder in 2007, when current team president Rich McKay was still running the Falcons' drafts. ... Statistical oddity II: Dallas has now gone 29 straight drafts without choosing an offensive lineman in the first round. The Cowboys selected Missouri tackle Howard Richards with their top pick in 1981. ... There aren't likely to be many players who "jump" a round - who move up from, say, the second to the first stanza, but there are a few guys who seem to have picked up some steam in the last day or two, and could go perhaps a half-round sooner than expected. Two such players, among others, are wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan (Troy) and corner Marcus Gilchrist (Clemson). 

--Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange 


Posted on: April 27, 2011 7:28 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 7:29 pm

Late assessments on the "other" QBs

This year’s draft might be rifer with quarterback quandaries than any lottery in recent memory.

In fact, quarterback might be the one position that commands as many disparate opinions as defensive end – where scouts seem to be in agreement that eight or nine could be taken in the first round, but are all over the board in terms of an order -- maybe even more.

And here are a few late assessments from scouts on the quarterbacks not named Newton or Gabbert:

   --There remain serious questions about the arm strength of Andy Dalton of TCU, especially on deep balls, and passes thrown outside the numbers. Dalton possesses leadership skills that some deem off the charts, and has the most college starts of any of the top-ranked quarterbacks, but his measurable attributes are fairly average.

   --While he has just pedestrian speed, and there are concerns over off-field rumors, Ryan Mallett of Arkansas times the fastest in taking the snap under center and getting rid of the ball.

   --Washington’s Jake Locker was a guy who ran too much early in 2010, but was impressive later in the season in identifying second and third options in the passing game.

   --Christian Ponder probably throws to the “right receiver,” with very nice touch but suspect arm strength, more than any of the quarterback prospects.

--Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange

Posted on: April 27, 2011 2:59 pm

Houston's stock was slipping before drug test

ATLANTA -- Even before the Tuesday report that Justin Houston had failed a drug test at the combine two months ago, the draft stock of the University of Georgia defensive end/outside linebacker was sliding precipitously.
How far?
Personnel directors or general managers for two teams told The Sports Xchange that they now have Houston graded on their boards as a third-round selection. Several other teams confirmed that they rank the former Bulldogs star, once regarded as a strong prospect for the bottom half of the first round, as a second-rounder.
NFLDraftScout.com has Houston rated as the fifth-best outside linebacker prospect and No. 55 overall.
"But even before (the drug report), we didn't have a first-round grade on him," said one NFC personnel chief. "So it's going to be interesting now to see if that hurts him even more. Our big thing is, 'What is he, an end or a linebacker?' I think that a lot of teams are saying the same thing. ... And you've got so many ends, you know?"
Although he is one of only 10 players in this year's draft pool who registered 10 or more sacks in 2010, Houston appears to be a prospect with a lot of questions. There have been, according to scouts, some concerns about his effort at times. But even more perplexing for teams is the debate about whether he is best suited to play end in a 4-3 front or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
At 6-feet-2 7/8 and 270 pounds, scouts seem to wonder if Houston is stout enough to hang in against the run. And while his 4.62-second 40-yard dash time appears plenty fast enough, and there is no denying Houston's explosiveness off the edge, his ability to defend versus the pass has raised skepticism. Said one area scout: "He seems fluid moving forward, but not dropping off. I know people can say that you can teach a guy to cover, but look at his linebacker drills, and you're not sure."
Houston, 22, had 56 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and 44 quarterback hurries for Georgia in 2010, playing principally as a standup end in the team's new 3-4 alignment. For his career, he notched 110 tackles and 19 sacks.
In 2009, Houston was suspended by UGA coach Mark Richt for two games, allegedly for violating the program's substance abuse policy.
Foxsports.com reported Tuesday that Houston tested positive for marijuana in the drug screening that accompanied the February combine. Several NFL teams, and two sources close to Houston, confirmed the report.

--Len Pasquarelli, Senior NFL Writer, The Sports Xchange

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