Tag:Virginia Tech
Posted on: October 1, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: October 1, 2011 12:03 pm
 

Mano-a-Mano, Week Five

In addition to the five players NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang mentioned in his weekly preview, you may want take a look at these ten one-on-one 2012 NFL Draft prospect match-ups (plus a few more worth an honorable mention) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.

Because players move around based on different formations, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.

All times Eastern.

1. Michigan State DT *Jerel Worthy at Ohio State C Mike Brewster
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN

Scouts hoped that the flashes of talent Worthy showed in his first two seasons portended a break-out 2011 junior year. However, he failed to make an impact in his only game against a BCS-quality team (Notre Dame). Worthy's first step can challenge Brewster, who also needs a big performance for scouts to consider him worthy of a pick in the top half of the draft. But the key for both players comes after initial contact; Worthy will be looking to shed to close on ballcarriers, while Brewster tries to mirror and extend  in order to protect freshman quarterback Braxton Miller when he's in the pocket, as well as when he takes off to utilize his fleet feet.

2. Auburn LT A.J. Greene/RT Brandon Mosley at South Carolina Defensive Ends
3:30 pm, CBS

Mosley started off the year as the Tigers' left tackle, but was replaced by Greene and moved back to the right tackle spot at which he excelled in 2010. Both players will have significant challenges taking on an extremely talented defensive end group for the Gamecocks. They could match up pretty well against 6-foot-7 ends junior Devin Taylor and freshman Jadeveon Clowney, who rely on strength and length to make plays rather than elite speed to turn the corner. Greene will also face end/tackle/linebacker prospect Melvin Ingram, who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Ingram will attempt an outside rush vs. Greene, but can also take the inside lane -- he'll also move to tackle in passing situations to use his patented spin move.

3. Nebraska DT Jared Crick at Wisconsin C *Peter Konz
8:00 pm, ABC

There are several one-on-one match-ups worth watching when the Cornhuskers take on the Badgers in a prime-time battle of top-ten teams. Scouts will most closely be watching any time Crick, a two-time All-Big 12 pick, and Konz meet in the middle. The Badgers' junior could be the top center selected if he decides to declare due to his mobility (despite having to snap the ball, he pulls outside in front of runs quite often). But Crick's relentless pressure will force Konz and redshirt sophomore left guard Travis Frederick to play through the whistle whether he bull rushes or loops inside or outside into the backfield. Showing a strong anchor vs. Crick in addition to that athleticism at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds could expedite his entrance into the NFL. Other battles in the trenches scouts will be watching: Wisconsin junior LT Ricky Wagner vs Nebraska DE Cameron Meredith, Wisconsin RG Kevin Zeitler vs. Nebraska junior DT Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska LT Jermarcus Hardwick vs. Wisconsin DEs Louis Nzegwu.

4. Arkansas Wide Receivers va. Texas A&M Coryell Judie/Terrence Frederick (in Arlington)
12:00 pm, ESPN

The Aggies missed Judie in their loss to Oklahoma State last week, as their top corner was out due to a hamstring injury. But even if he's healthy, the Razorbacks face even a bigger challenge with Razorbacks junior quarterback Tyler Wilson throwing to four NFL prospects. Two have great size with Cobi Hamilton and Greg Childs measuring at around 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, and the others sub-4.4 speed in Joe Adams and Jarius Wright. Neither Judie or Frederick hit the six-foot mark, so any time they can outfight Hamilton or Childs (who is still not fully back from a 2010 knee injury) for the ball would be a plus for scouts. NFL defensive coordinators looking at either Aggies corner as a nickel or dime player inside would also like to see them effectively trail Adams or Wright. Consistent hands and yards after the catch are what the Hogs' receivers need to separate themselves not only from A&M defenders, but the overload of mid-round receiving prospects available in this draft. 

5. Alabama LG *Chance Warmack at Florida DT Jaye Howard
8:00 pm, CBS

Reigning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week Howard is easy to spot - he wears jersey number six despite lining up in the trenches. He has a chance to creep up draft boards with a strong performance against Warmack, who anchors quite well against bull rushes with natural bend and great length for the position. (Also watch how well he blocks on the move.) Howard moves like a linebacker even though he tipped the scales at over 300 pounds over the summer, but needs to improve his hand usage and show multiple pass rush moves to beat Warmack (and senior center William Vlachos, sophomore right guard Anthony Steen) and chase A.J. McCarron and junior Heisman candidate running back Trent Richardson.

6. North Carolina WR Dwight Jones at East Carolina CB Emanuel Davis
8:00 pm, CBS College Sports Network

NFL scouts thought Davis could be one of the tough but wiry non-BCS cornerbacks typically landing in the third round of each draft. He had two interceptions and nine pass break-ups last year for the Pirates, but missed the opener for disciplinary reasons and hasn't made many big plays yet this fall. He'll give up about six inches in height to Jones, who will try to use his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame on slants and go over the top of Davis if matched up downfield. Davis is not a contact-shy cover corner, but must do more than throw his shoulder into Jones if lined up well off the line to prevent big plays, or else the Tar Heels' big receiver will shed the tackle and eat off a chunk of yards.

7. Clemson NT Brandon Thompson at Virginia Tech RG Jaymes Brooks
6:00 pm, ESPN2

Two 4-0 teams meet in Blacksburg in a potential preview of the ACC Championship Game. Thompson and Brooks are two of their more unheralded players, but NFL scouts will match their battles very closely. Both are stout players, each listed at about 6-foot-2, 310 pounds. Thompson has the athleticism advantage over Brooks, showing the quickness off the snap and hustle to pressure redshirt quarterback sophomore Logan Thomas. The 2010 second-team right guard must not only prove himself agile enough to mirror Thompson in pass protection, but also seal him off to create running lanes for junior RB David Wilson. Brooks will disappoint scouts if he leans on sophomore center Andrew Miller to stop Thompson from disrupting plays.

8. Mississippi State DT *Fletcher Cox at Georgia C Ben Jones
12:00 pm, Fox Sports South/ESPN3.com

Jones is a sturdy four-year starter who is expected to take the same role at the next level but he should not overlook Cox, who flashed athleticism, length and some pop against Auburn and LSU. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Cox isn't making a ton of plays yet (1.5 tackles for loss, no sacks), but scouts noticed his ability to penetrate in those early games -- especially when he planted LSU left guard T-Bob Hebert in the backfield early in the second half of that contest. Jones will, therefore, need to maximize his athleticism when facing Cox, as well as coordinate the young guards playing on either side.

9. Northwestern DE Vincent Browne at Illinois LT Jeff Allen
12:00 pm, ESPN2

Allen is a four-year starter and 2010 honorable-mention All-Big Ten pick, and his Fighting Illini have gotten off to a 4-0 start this season. Northwestern is the fifth straight team to visit Champaign this fall, but Browne won't be bringing a dish to pass. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder has just one sack this year, after bringing down the quarterback seven times in 2010. Scouts have concerns about both players' agility on the edge, so if Allen keep Browne from making his typical hustle plays or if Browne can beat Allen off the snap, they may force NFL teams to re-evaluate them.

10. Nevada ILB James-Michael Johnson at Boise State RB Doug Martin
2:30 pm, Versus

I don't include a lot of running back vs. linebacker match-ups in these articles because the battle in the trenches should not be ignored. But Martin really hasn't had a big game yet this season; scouts know he can use his low center of gravity and quick feet to run through tackles if holes are made available to him, but it would be helpful to his draft stock if he proved the elusiveness and vision to make something out of nothing. Johnson is a very intriguing 4-3 Mike linebacker that deserves more pub. His length and athleticism allow him to cover some ground, even outside the tackles. NFL scouts will take notice if he manages to defeat Boise linemen blocks with strong hands, instincts, and speed to keep Martin from reaching the 100-yard mark that has eluded him so far this year.

 

Honorable Mention:
Washington CB *Desmond Trufant at Utah WR *DeVonte Christopher, 7:00 pm FSN
Bowling Green WR Kamar Jorden at West Virginia CB Keith Tandy, 3:30 pm MASN/ESPN3.com
Northwestern CB Jordan Mabin at Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins, 12:00 pm, ESPN2
North Carolina CB Charles Brown at East Carolina WR Lance Lewis, 8:00 pm, CBS College Sports Network
Kent State CB Josh Pleasant at Ohio University WR LaVon Brazill, 2:00 pm, None


--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter -- find him on Twitter @ChadReuter   

Posted on: October 1, 2011 9:20 am
 

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: This is the second consecutive week that I listed Tannehill as part of this series. Last week, it was a tale of two halves for the senior quarterback and his Aggies. In the first half against Oklahoma State, Tannehill looked every bit like the first round quarterback (and A&M the top ten team) I expected. Everything fell apart in the second half, however, as Tannehill threw three interceptions at home and the Cowboys came back for the big conference win. I am not ready to give up on Tannehill quite yet, especially when two of his three interceptions appeared to be the result of poorly executed route-running. With one loss already on their record, Texas A&M must win the rest to have a chance at the type of season they were hoping for. Arkansas, like Oklahoma State, relies more on their own offense rather than a stifling defense to win games. They are athletic, however, and playing at home. They're also smarting after their own conference loss (to Alabama). The mental toughness or weakness that Tannehill demonstrates in this game will go a long way in determining whether scouts believe he has the leadership skills necessary to be the face of an NFL franchise.  This game begins at noon ET and will be televised by ESPN.

CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech: 
After leading the entire country last year with nine interceptions, junior cornerback Jayron Hosley has picked up right where he left off, snaring two picks already this season. This week he'll be asked to help shut down a Clemson offense that has been equally impressive. Clemson's sophomore quarterback Tahj Boyd and freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins earned All-ACC quarterback and receiver honors for their play after each of the past two games. Boyd leads the ACC in total yards, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Watkins has caught 14 passes for 296 yards and four touchdowns... in just the past two games. Hosley possesses the quick feet, balance and speed to put an end to the Tigers' offense fireworks but will need to play with greater consistency than he has throughout much of his young career. A strong performance in this game could push Hosley onto my Top 32 Big(ger) Board.  This game begins at 6:00 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN2.

ILB Donta Hightower, Alabama: Not surprisingly, there are a host of future NFL players that I and pro scouts will be focusing on in this key SEC showdown between Alabama and Florida. One could make the argument that Hightower, while one of the best, also is facing the toughest task this week as he'll be asked to slow down the Gators' speedy due of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, each of whom rank in the top ten in the SEC in rushing. Demps has been particularly explosive, averaging a stunning 9.4 yards per carry. Hightower is beginning to play with the same speed and explosiveness that was evident early in his career before a major knee injury suffered two years ago robbed him of some of his playmaking abilities. Big enough that some teams envision him as a future defensive end, the 6-4, 260 pound Hightower certainly has the bulk teams want, but his agility and open-field tackling skills will be put to the test in this one. With so much NFL talent on the field, this is the game I am most looking forward to scouting, Saturday.  This game begins at 8:00 ET and will be televised by CBS.

WR Nick Toon, Wisconsin: As impressive as the talent level is in the Alabama-Florida game, there certainly isn't much of a dropoff in this first squaring off of Wisconsin and Nebraska as members of the Big Ten. Some believe this game will be replayed in a few months as each team looks poised to make a run to the Big Ten championship game. If that is to be the case, I cannot wait for the individual battle that is going to take place between Toon and Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, my top-rated senior cornerback in the country. Nick, the son of former New York Jets' great Al Toon, is blessed with a similar combination of size, speed and playmaking ability as his father but has been racked with inconsistency throughout his career. Dennard is finally healthy after missing the first three games with a muscle strain. In terms of one on one battles, it doesn't get any better than this... This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised by ABC. 

SS Tony Dye, UCLA: Like many a UCLA Bruin before him, Dye entered his senior season rated by many scouts among the better safety prospects in the country. However, with Rahim Moore leaving early for the NFL (second round pick by Denver), Dye hasn't yet been able to step up his level of play. The lights likely won't get much better this season for Dye than they will Saturday night against Andrew Luck. With a strong performance in this one, Dye can help his own slipping stock and perhaps give the Bruins a chance against the most well-rounded offense in the country. This game begins at 10:30 pm ET and will be televised by FOX Sports.

p.s. At the request of some diehard draft fans, I'm also including the QBs to watch this weekend. They are:

Matt Barkley, USC hosting Nick Foles, Arizona. 3:30 pm ET on Fox Sports.*
Kyle Cousins, Michigan State visiting Ohio State. 3:30 pm ET on ABC/ESPN

*As well as Tannehill, mentioned above.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 10:23 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 10:25 pm
 

Mano-a-Mano, Week Four

In addition to the five players NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang mentioned in his weekly preview, you may want take a look at these nine  one-on-one 2012 NFL Draft prospect match-ups (plus a few more receiving honorable mention) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.

Because players move around based on different formations, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.

All times Eastern.

1. Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward at South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery, 7:00 pm, ESPN2

Hayward faces the same size issue every 5-foot-10, 185-pound college corner does when lining up across from the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Jeffery. But if South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia underthrows or stares down Jeffery while Hayward is in off-coverage (two things Garcia is prone to do), Vandy's next NFL zone/nickel corner will add to his total of ten career interceptions.

2. Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon at Texas A&M Coryell Judie, 3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Although Blackmon doesn't have quite the same size advantage over Judie that Jeffery has over Hayward, Blackmon's thick build, strong hands, and tough running make him no less a threat. Judie and A&M's other senior corner, Terrence Frederick, won't back down and Judie has the ball skills to make Cowboys' 28 year-old passer, Brandon Weeden, rue any poor throws. Hopefully Judie, Frederick, and their coaches watched how Weeden and Blackmon tore apart Nebraska's strong secondary last year with verticals when they did not challenge him physically.

3. Georgia LT Cordy Glenn at Ole Miss DE Kentrell Lockett/Wayne Dorsey, 11:00 am, SEC Network

Another week, another test for Glenn, a 6-foot-5, 350-pound behemoth who is trying to prove to scouts he can stay at tackle in the NFL. He seems to be improving in his lateral agility when protecting sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray's blind side, but Ole Miss' senior DE duo of Lockett and Dorsey won't give him any favors with their length and tenacity on the edge. Dorsey already has two sacks this year, and though Lockett doesn't have a tackle for loss yet, he's slowly working his way back from a knee injury that caused him miss the 2010 season.

4. Florida Atlantic DE Kevin Cyrille at Auburn RT Brandon Mosley, 7:00 pm, Fox Sports South

This could be a break-out game for Cyrille, a 6-4, 275-pound strong-side end, has not receiver a lot of pub as of yet. His production isn't remarkable (6 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 0.5 sack), but he has the NFL body and armspan to test Mosley -- whose move to left tackle was scrapped after the opener.

5. Virginia Tech RT Blake DeChristopher at Marshall DE Vinny Curry, 3:30 pm CBS Sports Network

Scouts know all about Curry, the pre-season favorite for Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year honors. His strength at the point of attack and hustle allow him to chase quarterbacks and corral running backs before they get into the open field. DeChristopher could use a strong performance against Curry whether Marshall's star lines up at five-technique (where he could play in the NFL with a few more pounds) or outside. Curry doesn't have the elite speed off the edge to turn the corner, but DeChristopher must cut off the inside lane to prevent Curry from bulling past him to reach big sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas.

6. LSU RT Alex Hurst at West Virginia DE/OLB Bruce Irvin, 8:00 pm, ABC

Watching the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Irvin take on a massive right tackle like the junior Hurst (6-6, 340) is almost laughable, but that's the job WVU coaches have given him in their 3-3-5 alignment. He has one sack on the year but three TFLs, and is playing a more well-rounded game. Hurst's athleticism will be tested, as well Irvin's stamina and hustle as the game wears on.

7. Louisiana-Lafayette CB Dwight Bentley at Florida International WR T.Y. Hilton, 6:00 pm, ESPN3.com

Two Sun Belt players? Absolutely. Hilton got himself on the national radar with a huge game against Louisville two weeks ago (seven catches, 201 yards with 74, 83-yard TDs). Bentley had three pass break-ups against Oklahoma State in 2010 then picked off OSU twice in this year's season opener. Both are destined to play inside at the next level as sub 5-11, 185-pounders, but expect them to be two of the three or four SBC players likely to be drafted this year.

8. South Dakota LT Tom Compton at Wisconsin DE Louis Nzegwu, 3:30 pm, Big Ten Network

Nzegwu hasn't stood out quite as much as some thought going into the year, but he still has two sacks for the Badgers. Compton's one of the top small-school prospects in this class, but the 6-foot-5, 320-pound must prove he can handle FBS speed to be a mid-round prospect. 

9. Missouri TE Michael Egnew at Oklahoma OLB Travis Lewis, 8:00 pm, FX

Egnew has just six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown in three games, a far cry from the 29 for 257 in the first three games of the 2010 season. He'll need to separate from Lewis and any other linebackers or defensive back the Sooners put on him to get targeted more regularly by sophomore quarterback James Franklin.

Honorable Mention

Kansas State ILB Arthur Brown at Miami RBs Lamar Miller/Mike James, 3:30 pm ESPNU
LSU WR Rueben Randle at West Virginia CB Keith Tandy, 8:00 pm, ABC
Cal Poly CB Asa Jackson at Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish, TBA
Florida RB Chris Rainey at Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan, 7:00 pm, ESPN


--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter, follow Chad on Twitter @ChadReuter   

Posted on: July 11, 2011 10:42 am
Edited on: July 12, 2011 4:40 pm
 

UGA RB Caleb King opts for Supplemental

University of Georgia running back Caleb King -- once an extremely highly-touted prospect -- will petition the NFL for eligibility into this summer's supplemental draft rather than transfer to a lower division school, according to Seth Emerson's "Bulldogs Blog" of the Ledger-Enquirer.

Emerson cites a person close to King and expects King to make a more formal announcement regarding his decision soon.

King was ruled academically ineligible last week and had been known in scouting circles to be considering making this move. However, after three mostly disappointing seasons on the field for the Bulldogs, he might have been better off showcasing his skills at a lower level. Each of the past two seasons King had been unable to secure the starting tailback job, recording 1,024 yards and nine touchdowns in 10 starts (18 games).

King signed with Georgia rated by recruiting websites as high as the No. 3 prep running back in the country. The 5-11, 219-pounder was often compared to Georgia great Herschel Walker, but saw his game appearances shrink from 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2008 to 10 in 2009 and eight last year.

His most impressive statistical season came in 2009 when he rushed for 594 yards and seven touchdowns, including two fourth-quarter touchdowns against Auburn (see video below) that helped the Bulldogs beat the Tigers.

As you can see in the video, King has some talent. He has good burst to and through the hole and the lateral agility to elude defenders. What you appear to see on the video below -- but, unfortunately, you rarely see on actual game tape -- is the ability to seperate from defenders. King doesn't have top-end speed. He struggles to get to the edge and is too often caught from behind. Considering he has the size scouts are looking for, however, and is a nice interior runner who is a physical player in pass protection, he does have enough talent to warrant a late-round selection (6th-7th round).

According to Evan Silva of ProFootballTalk.com, King received a 1.60 from BLESTO Scouting and a 4.9 from National Football Scouting. These scores, according to the report, equate to a 6th round and priority free agent grades from the two respective scouting organizations.

Ultimately, teams are likely to struggle with the fact that King wasn't able to ever truly make his mark at Georgia despite multiple opportunities. While he was expected to once again share the load this year, King was in prime position for significant playing time with Washaun Easley, the Bulldogs' leading rusher last year having left the school in May following two suspensions for misbehavior off the field.

King has also struggled with off-field problems. He was not allowed to participate in Georgia's stunning Liberty Bowl loss to Central Florida last year after skipping five academic meetings. He was suspended for two regular-season games earlier in the year for failing to appear in court to deal with a speeding ticket.

While talented enough for teams to consider using a draft pick on, King has his work cut out for him if he is going to be able to convince a club he has the work ethic and maturity worthy of a selection in the supplemental draft (whenever that should come) when there are several other similarly-gifted backs who will be available for signing as undrafted free agents. Teams will ask themselves why give up a pick for King when they could sign Auburn's Mario Fannin, Miami's Graig Cooper or Virginia Tech's Darren Evans (among others).

Despite the talent to be rated higher, King's unreliability is concerning enough that he is currently NFLDraftScout.com's 30th rated running back of the 2012 draft class.





Posted on: April 25, 2011 1:45 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 7:41 pm
 

NFL's PR play will create awkward draft viewing

The public relations digs from both sides in the labor dispute have hit full tilt since the lockout began, with neither side wanting to miss an opportunity to win additional public sentiment.

You can almost feel the NFL and the players looking at the invisible pendulumn swinging and just waiting for an opportunity to push gravity in their favor.

The NFLPA immediately retreated amid strong backlash when word leaked out that the union would encourage prospects invited to the draft to skip the event at Radio City Music Hall and instead attend union-sponsored events in NYC.

Sensing the momentum, the NFL is going to squeeze every ounce of PR juice out of the door opened by the NFLPA's slip up. The league announced that a record 25 prospects have accepted invitations to attend Thursday night's first round festivities in primetime.

That's not including several who were invited but have chosen to stay home to watch the first round with their families, including quarterbacks Jake Locker and Colin Kaepernick. But it does include a host of players considered fringe first-round prospects by NFLDraftScout.com.

It could make for an uncomfortable scene late in the stanza as 5-6 prospects will likely be sitting in the "green room" as commentators discuss what a great value they'll make 24 hours later. Among those could be Kentucky WR Randall Cobb, UCLA S Rahim Moore, Baylor NT Phil Taylor, Baylor OL Danny Watkins and Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams. And a few others could slide into the category as the night wears on.

Boston College LB Mark Herzlich will also be in attendance, but the cancer survivor has an inspirational story and isn't expected to be selected until at least the middle rounds (he's projected as a sixth-round value by NFLDraftScout.com.

Update: The NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported that Herzlich will be announced with the others and take part in a group photo, but then will be allowed to stay as long as he likes or leave to be with friends and family. That's a sensible approach for a compelling prospect who likely won't hear his name called until Saturday - if at all.

--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:12 pm
 

Who'll Run Fastest? My position by position take

As I've noted previously, the most important element of the Scouting Combine to NFL teams lies with the medical testing and interviews.

The most entertaining part of the Combine, however, is of course, the athletic drills. The 40-yard dash, in particularly, has taken on a life of its own as the Combine's preeminent drill.

Ask five NFL scouts to predict who will be the fastest player in Indianapolis this year and you might get five different names. Rather than just identify one or five prospects who could turn in blazing times, I thought I'd give you my pick for each position.

Disagree? Perhaps in the greatest example of how big the NFL Combine has become, you can literally put your money where your mouth is and make prop bets through Bodog.com.

I didn't make any bets. If I had, these would have been my picks.

QB: Jake Locker, Washington -- I'm picking a bit of an upset from the start. Cam Newton is considered the favorite by most to the fastest and perhaps he'll prove he is. I expect each of them to run in the 4.5 range.

RB: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech -- It is too bad that Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones is still recovering from a broken bone, as I would have loved to have picked the D-II star to shock the world here. The world will have to wait for his Pro Day. If Williams runs the 4.4 or better time I expect, he could make a push for the late first round, just like former Cal star Jahvid Best did last year.

WR: Ricardo Lockett, Fort Valley State -- Despite the fact that he's a D-II prospect, Lockett's explosive speed at 6-3, 212 pounds makes him a well known commodity to many scouts. Lockette has publicly said he hopes to challenge Chris Johnson's 4.24 second time from 2008. Abilene Christian's Edmund Gates, Troy's Jerrel Jernigan, Boise State's Titus Young and Maryland's Torrey Smith can also fly, making wide receiver the year's most competitive group.

TE: Virgil Green, Nevada -- If anyone might have wondered why the Wolfpack lost only one game last year, you can point to the spectacular athleticism of Green, OLB Moch and, of course, QB Colin Kaepernick. Green could wind up in the 4.5s at 6-4 and 250 pounds.

OL: Nate Solder, Colorado -- USC's Tyron Smith is a spectacular athlete, but so too is Solder. There are some who believe he'll produce results similar to the ones that pushed former Central Michigan star Joe Staley into the first round. Staley was credited with a 4.78 second time in the 40 at 6-6, 306 pounds.

DL: Robert Quinn, North Carolina -- With nearly a full year to prepare for these workouts, as well as jaw-dropping athleticism to begin with, Quinn is going to be impressive. Perhaps that's why I listed him as my No. 5 overall prospect in the 2011 draft and have argued for months that he's a more explosive pass rusher than Da'Quan Bowers.

LB: Dontay Moch, Nevada -- Moch stunned scouts last spring when he was clocked in at 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash. I'm not so sure he can match that time on Indianapolis' notoriously slow track, but he should lap the field in a relatively weak year for linebackers.

CB: Demarcus Van Dyke, Miami -- LSU's Patrick Peterson told the media that his goal in the 40-yard dash was in the 4.2s. Van Dyke might actually accomplish this rare feat.

S: Rahim Moore, UCLA -- I'm not as high on Moore as many are, but there is no denying his pure athleticism. He could be one of the few safeties in this class that can break the 4.50 mark.

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: 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.




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