Tag:SEC
Posted on: February 9, 2011 8:44 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2011 8:54 pm
 

Why these hyped 5 didn't make my Top 32 (or 42)

Today we released my initial Top 32 "Big Board" as part of NFLDraftScout.com's expanded coverage of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Though I was asked to only list 32 players, I thought it important to list the next 10 prospects who just missed the cut, which, of course, also highlights those who did not make the list.

There are some awfully good football players out there that didn't make my list. The following five are the ones I expect fans will be the most surprised by. This post is designed to explain why those players didn't make my list.

Players are listed alphabetically.

Jon Baldin, WR, Pittsburgh: If the buzz in the scouting community is accurate and Baldwin does dazzle scouts at the Combine with breathtaking speed at 6-5, 230 pounds he'll be moving up a lot of boards. Not mine, though. I don't care how fast he runs in a straight-line, I see a prospect who lacks the flexibility and balance to create explosion out of his breaks and isn't nearly as physical a receiver as his size would indicate either.

Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: Houston was a dominant force in the SEC this season, earning First-Team honors with 67 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He has experience as a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 rush linebacker. However, I believe he's a more explosive rusher with his hand in the ground than he is standing up and I haven't seen enough fluidity in his drops to make me believe he's anything more than a one-trick pass rusher. I believe he is one of the more overrated prospects in the draft to this point.

Drake Nevis, DT, LSU: I listed Nevis as a player who missed an opportunity in this recent post-all-star game wrap-up because I really believe he could have made himself some money by going to the Senior Bowl. As I  noted in that article, Nevis' ability to collapse the pocket made him the SEC's best defensive lineman not named Nick Fairley. Still, at only 6-1, 285 pounds, he's a rotational player. Not many teams can justify taking a rotational player in the first round, so I think there is a very real possibility he slips out. I'd take him in the second round if I can a 4-3 defense and needed a penetrating three-technique, but not until halfway through the round.

Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech: There is a lot I like about Williams. In fact, there are elements to his game that I believe translate better to the NFL than Illinois' Mikel LeShoure, who I rated as the 33rd best prospect. However, the struggles with durability concern me as Williams is 5-11, 205 pounds. In a class with as much middle round talent at RB as this one, I believe it drops the value of good, but not special backs like Williams.

Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois:
Of the five listed here, Wilson was the closest to making my list. In fact, I currently have him as the 43rd best prospect and a solid 2nd round pick. Like most NFL teams, I struggle with stamping a first round grade on inside linebackers. Wilson is the class of the position, however, and could creep up my board if he works out and interviews well. I believe he has the upside to ultimately be a better player in the NFL than he was in college.




Posted on: January 13, 2011 9:59 pm
 

Newton's upside could result in a Top 10 pick

Heisman Trophy winner and national champion Cam Newton made the announcement Thursday we all knew was coming -- he's forgoing his senior season at Auburn and declaring early for the 2011 NFL Draft.

Newton is entering the draft at the perfect time. With the success of Michael Vick this season (as well as rookie Tim Tebow), there is increasing evidence that a multi-purpose threat like Newton can be successful in the NFL. Furthermore, the poise he demonstrated both on and off the field this season has impressed scouts.

With Newton, however, it is best to temper our expectations of what he can do immediately at the pro level.

Newton's dominant junior campaign in Gus Malzahn's offense does not mean that he'll take the NFL world by storm. Quite the opposite is possible, in fact.

Like virtually every quarterback playing in today's college football, Newton will have to make significant adjustments to the complexities of the NFL game. The beauty of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's spread option offense is that it simplified Newton's reads. For most plays the quarterback only had to make one or two checks. If his options were covered up, he simply ran the football. He did most of this out of the shotgun.

In the NFL, he'll be asked to drop back from center more often, make multiple reads before and after the snap and won't have the luxury of simply running half of the time. Essentially, he'll be forced to make twice as many decisions in half the time. 

The BCS Championship game perfectly encapsulated the positives and negatives of Newton's game.

On the one hand, it was clear that Newton had a long ways to go in reading defenses and in his footwork. He was badly fooled by some of Oregon's coverages, resulting in a 1st quarter interception. Of even greater concern is that Newton failed to set his feet on many of his simplest throws, diminishing his accuracy as critical moments -- such as on the 4th and goal flutter ball that died in front of fullback Eric Smith.

But for the poor plays that every armchair quarterback watching the game saw Monday night, scouts couldn't help but acknowledge his rare blend of size, arm strength and mobility. Newton showed the ability to fire the ball down the sideline to shred Cover-2. He repeatedly bought time in the pocket with his mobility. And when he left the pocket, he was a load to bring down, carrying defenders on multiple occasions for first downs.

Clearly Newton needs time to develop before he can be expected to lead an NFL team. In terms of pro-readiness, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Washington's Jake Locker, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and even lesser prospects like Florida State's Christian Ponder and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi rank ahead of him.

As we've seen on so many occasions in the NFL, however, the draft is all about upside.

And in the eyes of most scouts, there isn't a quarterback in this draft who can match's Newton in that category.

If Newton is able to alleviate teams' concerns about his so-called character red-flags, he could enjoy a steady rise up the board, perhaps winding up as the first or second quarterback selected in 2011. With QB-needy teams like the Panthers, Bills, Cardinals, 49ers, Titans and Redskins all drafting in the top ten, it isn't difficult to imagine one of these clubs rolling the dice on his potential.

His rise could be very similar to the one that saw Vince Young bump Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart in 2006.

Remember, they too, were considered more pro-ready, at the time.

Posted on: January 13, 2011 12:37 pm
 

South Carolina DE turns down E-W Shrine Game

South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews is turning down an opportunity to play in the East-West Shrine, contrary to the fact that the game and its organizers' official website have indicated that he had accepted their invitation and will play.

According to the website GamecocksOnline.com, Matthews was flattered to be invited to the all-star game but felt that focusing on his academics and preparing for workouts at the Combine and his Pro Day were more important. 

While some might question the competitive fire of any player giving up an opportunity to play in front of scouts in a venue such as the East-West Shrine game, Matthews is known as a hard-working, blue collar player. His 47 career starts, in fact, broke the South Carolina record.

Mathews earned Second Team All-SEC honors as a senior with 44 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in 2010. His four forced fumbles led South Carolina and ranked second in the SEC. He was at his best in South Carolina's final game, a 26-17 loss to Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on December 31. Matthews posted six tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble in the contest.

NFLDraftScout.com rates the 6-4, 268 pound Matthews as a 4th-5th round pick and the No. 16 DE in a talented senior class.

Posted on: January 11, 2011 8:47 am
Edited on: January 11, 2011 12:54 pm
 

'Fairley' dominant game won't push DT to No. 1

For those who have watched Auburn's Nick Fairley dominate the competition all year long, last night's performance against Oregon in the BCS Championship game was no surprise. Even the comparisons to the Detroit's Pro Bowl rookie Ndamukong Suh used by ESPN announcer Kirk Herbstreit had been used before.

The reality is, however, many had not seen Fairley play until last night's game -- including some NFL general managers.

The 6-5, 299 pound Fairley was his typically disruptive self, posting five tackles, including three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Oregon tried beating with with traps, double-teams and having QB Darron Thomas "read" him in an effort to slow down the big fella and nothing worked consistently.

The All-American finished his junior season with an eye-popping 60 tackles including nearly half of them behind the line of scrimmage (24 for a loss of 106 yards) and 11.5 sacks.

And yet for as dominant as Fairley was last night, he isn't likely to have moved himself into position to be taken with the first overall pick.

Why? There are two reasons.

For one, scouts are rightfully afraid that he is a bit of a one year wonder. Fairley did little to stand out in his first season at Auburn after transferring from Copiah-Lincoln Junior College in Mississippi. Starting two of 13 games, Fairley posted 28 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss.

There is no denying Fairley's talent - I've had scouts tell me he's the most gifted player in the country - but few teams have been willing to gamble a high first round pick on a "one year wonder" at defensive tackle since some high profile busts of similar players in the early part of the decade. The Browns (Gerard Warren), Jets (Dewayne Robertson) and Saints (Johnathan Sullivan)  each devoted top six picks to flashy SEC defensive tackles whose stock was based largely off of one dominant season and that tantalizing thought of "upside."

More importantly, Fairley is simply a poor fit for the 3-4 defense Carolina may incorporate if they do hire San Diego's defensive coordinator Ron Rivera as is being widely reported.

EDIT - Rivera played and coached extensively out of the 4-3 alignment during his time with the Bears (player and coach) and Eagles before becoming the Chargers defensive coordinator --

Fairley's best attribute -- his explosive burst upfield - makes him a prototypical fit as a three-technique defensive tackle in the 4-3 alignment -- just as he was being used last night (and all year long) by Auburn. His long arms make it possible that he could make the transition to the 3-4, but it would be a waste of his talents to put him at defensive end in the odd man front, especially considering that the "money" man in this alignment is at nose guard. Fairley, for as dominant as he is, is special due to his quickness, not extraordinary strength -- a requirement to play the zero technique in the 3-4.

Of course, with Carolina expected to strongly pursue any trade offers out of the No. 1 pick, a teaming built around the 4-3 and willing to gamble on Fairley's upside could still make him the No. 1 pick.

As always, for the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com.

Posted on: January 9, 2011 11:47 pm
 

Florida's Janoris Jenkins returning for Sr year?

If the twitter account registered to a "janoris jenkins" from Gainesville, Fl is, in fact owned by the Gator junior cornerback, then his tweet Sunday afternoon will have Florida fans happy and NFL teams needing help in the secondary disappointed.

The account - @jenkz1 - registered a message at approximately 5:30 pm EST Sunday that simply said "Gator Nation I'm back....."

Since the message, speculation has been rampant that Jenkins was indeed successfully "recruited" back to Florida by new head coach Will Muschamp.
According to an anonymous source quoted by Justin Wells of a Florida Gators website, Swamp247.com , Jenkins made the decision based on several factors, including the torn labrum that kept him out of the Gators' Outback Bowl victory over Penn State and a lower than expected grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.

Wells' source claims that Jenkins received a "2nd/3rd round grade."

I have Jenkins as a first round prospect and have spoken to NFL scouts who graded Jenkins as such, as well.

While Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck's decision was certainly the more impactful move, Jenkins' is the bigger surprise. Having spoken to members close to the Florida program over the past few weeks, Jenkins was widely considered "long gone."

Jenkins played in 13 games for the Gators in 2010, registering 44 tackles, six tackles for loss, eight passes broken up and three interceptions (including 68 return yards and one touchdown) in earning Second Team All-SEC honors by league coaches.
Posted on: January 8, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: January 8, 2011 12:39 pm
 

Last game for Pitt/UK Jrs Baldwin, Lewis, Cobb?

Though the BBVA Compass Bowl may not rival the Cotton or Sugar Bowl in terms of notoriety, there are certainly some future NFL prospects to keep an eye on this morning.

There is plenty of senior talent to watch. Pitt boasts the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in pass rusher Jabaal Sheard and one of the better offensive linemen that no one seems to be talking about in left tackle Jason Pinkston. Kentucky's talent is largely on the offensive side of the football. Senior running back Derrick Locke is a 5-08, 190 dynamo capable of beating teams with his speed and elusiveness as a runner and receiver.

For both teams, however, the greater talent lies with their underclassmen -- the top three of which are reportedly strongly considering making today's bowl game their final collegiate contest.

Pitt WR Jon Baldwin told NFLDraftScout.com's Chris Steuber weeks ago that he was going to go pro . Though he's since retracted his statement, scouts fully expect the 6-5, 230 pound athletic phenom to indeed leave Pitt early for a chance at the NFL. Baldwin hasn't been as spectacular this season (52 catches for 810 yards and 5 TDs) as he was in a breakout 2009 campaign (57-1,111-8) but much of this has to do with the Panthers incorporating a new quarterback (Tino Sunseri) who was unable to develop the same rapport with the playmaking Baldwin as Bill Stull did a year ago.

The more surprising news out of Pitt is that redshirt sophomore Dion Lewis is also considering leaving early. On the one hand, it is difficult to fault Lewis - or any running back, for that matter - for wanting to get paid as soon as possible for the wear and tear they'll absorb running the football, but Lewis, like Baldwin, is coming off a disappointing season.

The 5-08, 195 pound Lewis earned All-American honors as a redshirt freshman in 2009, rushing for an eye-popping 1,799 yards and 17 TDs. This year, however, he found the sledding much tougher, rushing for "only" 956 yards and 12 touchdowns through the regular season. Lewis should be able to run all over a Wildcat defense that ranks 79th in the country, giving up 170.31 yards a game, however, extending his strong finish to the year.

The most exciting prospect to watch in this game is clearly Kentucky wideout Randall Cobb, perhaps the most versatile player in the country. He leads the SEC with 2,192 all-purpose yards and has scored touchdowns in nearly every form imaginable this year -- as a runner, receiver, passer and returner. The 5-11, 190 pound Cobb's versatility is reminiscent of the Jets' Brad Smith and the Steelers' Antwaan Randle El. Should Cobb elect to come out this season, he'd likely get a bit lost in the shuffle of all the prototypical 6-3, 210 pound wideouts likely to be available, but if he slipped into the late second or third round, could prove a huge steal.

As spectacular as Cobb is, however, he faces a tough opponent in this Pittsburgh defense. Former head coach Dave Wannstedt and former defensive coordinator Phil Bennett (serving as interim head coach in this game) have done a great job defensively with this team. The Panthers ranked 9th in the nation in total defense this season.

This game begins at 12:00 pm EST and will be televised on ESPN.

As always, for the very best in NFL draft coverage, the place to go is N FLDraftScout.com.
 

Posted on: January 7, 2011 7:32 pm
 

Peterson vs. Fuller worth price of admission

LSU junior Patrick Peterson, who I currently project to be the first cornerback to ever be the No. 1 overall pick in an NFL Draft , is one half of a spectacular individual matchup that makes for must-watch scouting in tonight's Cotton Bowl.

Unless you are a fan of Big 12 football, you may not know Jeff Fuller, but he's quietly ascended among the top ten wide receiver prospects potentially available for the 2011 draft.

The 6-3, 215 pound Fuller is the Aggies' Von Miller on offense -- a superstar that must be accounted for on every single snap. Having caught nine, seven and 12 touchdowns over his three seasons in former Green Bay Packers' head coach Mike Sherman's pro-style offense, Fuller is a proven commodity capable of taking over games.

Peterson is such a rare combination of size, agility and straight-line speed that there isn't a receiver in the college football who I believe can consistently get open against him. If Peterson doesn't bring his "A" game against Texas A&M, however, Fuller can make some big plays on him  -- especially if junior quarterback Ryan Tannehill gets time in the pocket.

As T.O. might say, get your popcorn ready. Tonight's showdown between Peterson (who I believe to be the best player in college football) and Fuller (among my favorite sleeper candidates to sneak into the first round) should be among the elite individual matchups of the entire bowl season.

Should you want to scout these two (and the rest of the Cotton Bowl) "alongside" me, feel free to check out my posts on Twitter tonight.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 6:37 pm
 

Mallett vs. Buckeye secondary intriguing matchup

Playing the day after Stanford's Andrew Luck torched a supremely talented Virginia Tech secondary for 287 yards and four touchdowns, Arkansas junior Ryan Mallett may have his hands full matching that type of production against the Buckeyes.

Mallett has actually been even more statistically impressive in 2010 than Luck -- throwing for more yards and touchdowns during the regular season -- a function of his own talents as well as those of his head coach Bobby Petrino.

Petrino's high octane power spread offense has taken the SEC by storm, ranking second behind only Auburn in scoring offense (scoring an average of 37.3 points per game) and leading the conference with 338.4 passing yards per game -- a 64.2 yard advantage over Kentucky.

Those outside of Big Ten country may be surprised to learn that the Buckeyes' success this season has every bit as much to do with their defense as it does with Terrelle Pryor and their highly publicized offense.

Ohio State, in fact, is allowing only 156.25 passing yards a game and has recorded 2.5 times as many interceptions (18) as touchdowns through the air (seven).

Ultimately, scouts don't care how many yards (or touchdowns, for that matter) Mallett throws against Ohio State. Scouts recall the production that Brian Brohm and Stefan LeFors enjoyed at the University of Louisville under Petrino's tutelage.

Rather, scouts will be looking for ball placement -- a skill in which Mallett has proven talented, but not extraordinarily so. Mallett's accuracy is generally good when he's comfortable in the pocket, but scouts want to see if it nosedives when he's forced to move his feet as it did earlier in the year against Alabama.

Luck's accuracy -- in the pocket and on the move -- was his most impressive feat last night against the Hokies.

If Mallett can match Luck's success, he could join him as an elite prospect.

If he continues to struggle in this area, however, scouts may have no choice but to question if today's ultra-aggressive defenses won't further expose him in the NFL.

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