Posted on: January 6, 2011 1:02 pm

James Rodgers granted med RS = Jacquizz staying?

Oregon State senior wideout James Rodgers was granted a medical redshirt for the 2010 season and will return to the Beavers next year , according to the school's official website.

Rodgers suffered a gruesome knee injury while being tackled in the endzone against Arizona October 2. Rodgers had caught a 56-yard touchdown pass - but an OSU penalty nullified the score.

Rodgers, the older brother of Beavers' junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers, has been a bit overshadowed by his sibling during their respective college careers, but is a legitimate NFL talent, in his own right.

Though certainly shorter than scouts would prefer (5-7), James' versatility and toughness as a receiver and returner make him a very similar prospect to former Hawaii and Texas standouts' Davone Bess and Quan Cosby -- two undrafted free agents who have carved out careers with the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals.

Despite the lack the height, scouts don't have to look hard to find either of the Rodgers brothers on tape. James already is Oregon State's career all-purpose leader with 5,784 yards, based largely on his record-breaking 2009 season. As a junior, Rodgers set OSU's single game (303 yards against Oregon) and single season (2,328) all-purpose yardage records records. Futhermore, he broke the Beavers' single season record for most receptions in 2009 with 91 grabs for 1,034 yards and nine scores earning First Team all conference honors.

James' return to the Beavers is likely to fuel speculation that Jacquizz will return for his senior season. It is hardly a secret in the scouting community that Rodgers - like most savvy and talented underclassmen technically draft eligible -- has explored his draft options, but the diminutive runner has adamantly denied reports that he's leaving early .

Posted on: January 4, 2011 12:14 am

Luck proves well worth the hype

Andrew Luck proved every bit worth all of his hype with a dazzling performance in a 40-12 win over Virginia Tech Monday night in the Orange Bowl.

Luck completed 18 of 23 passes for 287 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

In this day of gaudy statistics, Luck's performance might appear hardly the stuff of legend, I know.

But if you didn't watch him last night... well, then, you missed out.

Because Luck's statistics in this game simply don't do him justice.

Now to be fair, Stanford is far from a one-man show. The Cardinal dominated a proud Hokie defense on the ground, rushing for a staggering 247 yards and two scores. In doing so, Virginia Tech was unquestionably more vulnerable to Luck's passing. The Stanford defense was just as impressive holding the Hokies to only one touchdown in the game and that was on a remarkable individual play by Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor (who played well in a losing effort).

At times, the Monday Night Football announcing crew of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski bordered on hyperbole when describing Luck. He wasn't perfect on the night, despite their words describing his play. His second touchdown, for example, Luck threw a deep ball down the middle that floated, forcing wideout Coby Fleener to pause before catching the ball and crossing the goal line. It was enough to beat the Hokies deep on one play, but may very well have been intercepted against a quality NFL defense. Luck was, nonetheless, lauded for his great throw by the MNF crew.

On Luck's interception, he led receiver Ryan Whalen a step too far, allowing for Hokie cornerback Jayron Hosley to accelerate past Whalen and make an impressive pick. Luck made another questionable throw in the third quarter, attempting to dumping off a short pass amid pressure that was nearly intercepted.

Luck, however - as he's done in virtually every game the past two years - was simply staggering with his accuracy throughout much of this game. He fired the slant, threw with touch down the seam and made arguably his two most impressive throws while rolling to his right and attacking the sideline. He was at his best in the second half, completing 9 of his 10 attempts.

In a previous article for NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com I pointed out that Luck was the best prospect I'd ever graded - at any position .

For those that read my material last year, you might recall how high I was on Ndamukong Suh. If you missed Luck tonight, but happened to see Suh destroy Colt McCoy and the Longhorns to the tune of 12 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in the Big 12 Championship game, that should give you an idea as to how well Luck played tonight against the Hokies.

He was a man amongst boys, at times, proving every bit worth the hype and the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft should he choose to be.
Posted on: December 30, 2010 7:40 pm

Longhorn CB to leave Austin

True junior cornerback Aaron Williams has decided to leave school a year early to enter the 2011 NFL Draft.

In separate statements, Williams and head coach Mack Brown made all of the obligatory respectful remarks about how much they will miss each other. It has also been revealed Williams received a first/second round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, which was expected given his 6-1, 195-pound frame and extensive starting experience.

Williams is not only similar to former 'Horns Cedric Griffin and Aaron Ross, both top 50 picks, but also to Colorado's Jimmy Smith, one of the top senior corners in this year's draft. Teams looking for taller corners who can handle large NFL receivers outside and support the run will take a hard look at Smith and Williams.

However, the difference between being a first and second round pick may have slipped through Williams' hands throughout the season. He was named second-team All-Big 12 after breaking up 12 passes this fall, but several of those PBUs were catchable passes. Another year in Austin with more consistent playmaking could have pushed his draft stock into the top 15 overall selections.

Now Williams will join NFL teams in waiting for other top junior corners like LSU's Patrick Peterson, Florida's Janoris Jenkins, Miami (Fl) Brandon Harris, and Virginia's Chase Minnifield, to see how he stacks up in this year's class.

--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter

Posted on: October 1, 2010 10:50 pm

Five prospects I'll be focusing on Saturday

Each week, in preparation for Draft Slant and the handing out of my weekly awards for Prospect of the Week and Diamond in the Rough, I list five prospects on the blog that I'll be focusing on.

This week is no different -- though with such a huge slate of games -- I can go back to my customary role of focusing on just senior players, rather than dabbling with some underclassmen last week.

Because I'm spending the entire day scouting, I typically don't post more than once or twice on the blog on Saturdays. I do, however, invite you to scout "alongside" me by following me on Twitter.

Without any further adieu, here are this week's big five senior prospects:

CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia: Dowling entered the year as one of NFLDraftScout.com's top 32 seniors and I yet I elected not to include him in my recent mock draft . The reason is that Dowling has been hobbled by a nagging hamstring injury and was only able to see his first playing time of the season last week against Virginia Military Institute. Dowling was not his typically dominant self, getting beaten deep on a long pass, as well as getting flagged for pass interference. And that was against VMI. Don't put it past Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder and his aggressive head coach Jimbo Fisher to test Dowling early. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.

RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma: Murray has earned NFLDraftScout.com's top grade among senior running backs, but if he is to legitimize his standing as a potential first round pick, this is the type of game where he'll need to show up big. This game may lack the sizzle of Red River Rivalries of the past, but even with Mack Brown's Longhorns struggle offensively, they typically play stout defense -- and this year's squad looks no different. Murray's ability to break outside for long gains, as well as his reliable hands out of the backfield, should make him the focus of the Texas defensive game plan, not stopping the Sooner passing game. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.

OT Marcus Gilbert, Florida: Florida linemate Mike Pouncey has generated most of the buzz (both good and bad) thus far this season, but Gilbert's play in this SEC Championship rematch against Alabama could play a key role in determining the winner. Gilbert, the Gators' right tackle, will be matched up against talented junior Marcell Dareus. Dareus struggled last week against Arkansas with a sprained ankle, but is a legitimate first round talent when healthy. If Gilbert (6-5, 320) is able to handle Dareus, the Gators chances of moving the ball against this talented Crimson Tide defense grow significantly. This game begins at 8 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

QB Jake Locker, Washington:
Admittedly I could justify putting Locker on here every weekend but I'm betting that you're just as curious as I am as to how he performs in this, his first game since the Nebraska debacle. Locker doesn't have to win this game to right the ship in terms of his own slipping draft grade. He does, however, have to show improved accuracy and decision-making against a Trojan team looking for revenge. Remember, it was Locker and the Huskies' upset over the Trojans last year that some say led to the "fall of Troy." With the Huskies desperate to prove that the Nebraska game was a fluke and USC just as desperate to prove they remain among the Pac-10's elite, this game has all of the drama, but so much less of the hype of the day's monster showdowns. This game begins at 8 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN2.

DT/NG Sione Pua, Stanford: The young and dynamic skill position prospects in the Oregon-Stanford will get all of the attention and rightfully so. Pua, however, is one of the draft's more underrated run stuffers. If he can control the middle of the line of scrimmage and force Oregon running back LaMichael James outside, the Cardinal could force young Duck quarterback Darron Thomas to beat them. The last two defenses that were as physical as Stanford's gave the Ducks plenty of trouble -- Arizona State gave Oregon quite a scare last week and Ohio State beat the Ducks in the Rose Bowl. The winner of this game, I believe, becomes the odds on favorite to represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl this year.  This game begins at 8 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.
Posted on: August 24, 2010 3:36 pm

5 Most Disappointing Rookies So Far

There are lots of opinions out there as to which rookies will have an immediate impact this year. The popularity of fantasy football puts most of the attention on skill position players, but hardcore fans are just as interested in offensive linemen or safeties (or any other position) giving their favorite teams immediate and significant playing time.

I've featured several higher round picks like C.J. Spiller , Bryan Bulaga and Brandon Spikes already as players I fully expected to stand out as rookies and, at least in the preseason, have done so. 

I've also listed 10 players drafted in the 3rd round or later who have impressed as rookies.

The following five players make up the exact opposite story. They are five well-hyped prospects who have thus struggled to acclimate to the NFL.

QB Colt McCoy, Cleveland: McCoy was recently among a list of eight players characterized by Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer as "need[ing] good showings in the last two games to make the roster." McCoy, in two games, has only completed 5 of 12 passes for 25 yards. He's thrown two interceptions and taken two sacks.

RB Toby Gerhart, Minnesota: The Vikings were hopeful that Gerhart would win the 3rd down role behind Adrian Peterson. Gerhart's inconsistent hands and route-running is a concern. So too is the lack of foot quickness he's shown so far. Gerhart can help this team as a short-yardage specialist, but that may be it.

WR Armanti Edwards, Carolina: Edwards has flashed for the Panthers, but he's shown just how tough it is to switch from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver. He's had issues at receiver and punt returner and may require a "redshirt" year.

WR Golden Tate, Seattle: The 2009 Biletnikof winner, Tate has been a star in training camp, but in the games -- where he's needed to run crisper routes -- he's struggled to demonstrate the same playmaking ability. Tate will be fine. He's too talented not to, but he has only three catches for 13 yards in two games so far.

RB Joe McKnight, New York Jets: I remember when McKnight signed with USC out of the state of Louisiana as one of the most hyped prep prospects in the country. He never showed the agility and balance of Reggie Bush -- the guy he was signed to replace -- at USC though, at times, he received similar hype. McKnight is a terrific athlete, but I haven't seen the toughness out of him so far to think the Jets can keep him on the field much this year.

Posted on: April 23, 2010 11:38 am

Red-flagged medicals led to Kindle, Brown's slips

While Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and USC safety Taylor Mays slipping out of the first round will generate much more attention, the two players I was more surprised to see slip out are receiving considerably less fanfare.

Texas pass rusher Sergio Kindle was being graded by some clubs as the best 3-4 rush linebacker in this class. I've spoken to teams who operate out of a 4-3 alignment that were convinced he could hold up as a defensive end in their scheme, as well, and had given him a first round grade.

Similarly, USC left tackle Charles Brown had been rising up draft boards. Brown had turned down the opportunity to play in the Senior Bowl due in part to the assurances he'd been receiving from teams that he was already a first round lock. The former tight end has the footwork that teams want in a blindside pass protector and had gained considerable strength and tenacity as a senior, his second season as the Trojan's left tackle after taking over for former All-American and first round pick, Sam Baker.

So what gives?

I'm told some teams had red-flagged each player for previous injuries.

Kindle has had multiple knee injuries in the past, drawing an equivalent of a "D" (on a typical A-F) scale grade for at least one team. It also didn't help that teams were concerned about off-field decision-making with Kindle, as he was arrested for a DUI in 2007 and ran his car into a Austin, Texas apartment while text messaging in 2009.

Brown missed no games over his two starting seasons with the Trojans, but his back was red-flagged by some clubs.

Sources were "a little bit" surprised to see both slip out of the first and acknowledged that each "should go quick" on Friday.

Posted on: March 31, 2010 6:44 pm

McCoy completes 55/55 passes at Pro Day

There are two primary reasons why Colt McCoy completed a staggering 70% of his passes in 2009.

For one, the Texas offense was primarily asked him to throw short to intermediate routes.

Secondly, McCoy is simply an accurate passer who throws a very catchable ball.

McCoy's passing prowess was on display in Austin today as scouts from 30 different teams were on hand to see him throw. McCoy, of course, had been unable to throw at the Combine or participate in any of the post-season all-star games due to the shoulder injury he suffered in the National Championship game.

According to scouts in attendance, McCoy threw the ball with better zip than expected, popping receivers' hands on crossing routes. His deep balls had a tendency to sail a bit, but because his passes are thrown with such tight spirals, their trajectory is easy for receivers to track and collect. He completed all 55 of his passes, throwing to former teammates Jordan Shipley, Nate Jones and Quan Cosby, as well as former Texas standout Brian Carter. Texas offensive coordinator scripted the workout, which featured McCoy taking snaps from center, doing play-action and attempting more long passes than he was typically asked to throw with the Longhorns.

Scouts on hand were impressed with McCoy's workout and felt that he solidified his stock as an early to mid second round choice.

---- I noted in a previous blog posting that Jordan Shipley was enjoying a strong Pro Day performance. He shaved a full tenth of a second off his 40-yard dash time from the Combine by running a 4.53 in Austin and also recorded a 36.5" vertical jump. 

Posted on: March 31, 2010 2:34 pm

Early results from Texas Pro Day

Many of the big names that I saw at Oklahoma continued their Pro Day trek yesterday to Lufkin, Texas to see Dez Bryant and now are on hand in Austin to watch the Longhorns' draft-eligible prospects. There are 30 teams total present.

All eyes will be on Colt McCoy, though he is still throwing for scouts, according to a source on the scene.

The early winners of the day are safety Earl Thomas, who was clocked in the mid 4.3s and wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who was timed in the mid 4.5s.

Thomas has looked very fluid in drills, according to the source, and is gaining momentum as a candidate to switch to cornerback in the NFL.

Shipley's times are especially important, as he was surprisingly disappointing at the Combine. He had a couple of uncharacteristic drops and was clocked at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Pass rusher Sergio Kindle, a potential first round prospect, elected not to run the 40-yard, but his fluidity in linebacker drills earned rave reviews from scouts on hand. Kindle, 6-3, 249 pounds, also worked out as a defensive lineman.
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