Tag:Christian Ponder
Posted on: January 23, 2011 6:00 pm
 

QBs, OTs ones to watch in Mobile

NFL scouts, front office executives and coaches are heading to Mobile, Alabama today to scout every one of the prospects in the 2011 Senior Bowl.

Much of their attention, however, will be focused on two positions -- quarterback and offensive tackle.

As two of the premium positions in today's NFL, quarterback and offensive tackle are typically among the areas to focus on. The 2011 class is especially competitive at these positions, however, making the battles between the top-rated passers and blockers all the more intriguing.

Consider that while Washington quarterback Jake Locker remains a likely first round prospect, I've spoken to scouts whose teams currently rank other seniors just as highly. For some teams, a strong week by TCU's Andy Dalton or Iowa's Ricky Stanzi could vault them ahead of Locker.

The "second tier" quarterback talent available in this draft, in fact, is one of the year's hidden strengths. Considering the risk I see in Locker, Auburn's Cam Newton and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, it might prove wiser for teams with quarterback needs to look elsewhere in the first round and grab a Dalton or Stanzi (or Devlin, Ponder, Enderle) a frame or two later.

The competition is perhaps even more intense at offensive tackle. Having spoken to representatives from four clubs in the past two weeks about the tackle class, I've yet to find any consensus as to the order they will (or should) be drafted.

If there is a "favorite" it is probably Colorado's Nate Solder. I, however, have serious reservations about his technique, especially against speed rushers. He's expected to work out very, very well and therefore build some momentum as the draft approaches, but he certainly has flaws.

Unfortunately, for teams needing tackles, so too do the other top rated tackles. Boston College's Anthony Castonzo lacks the bulk most teams prefer. He may be the best pass blocking left tackle in the draft, but he's struggled to generate movement in the running game. Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi is the opposite. He can dominate as a drive blocker, but gets too high in pass protection and doesn't have the footwork, in my opinion, to remain on the left side in the NFL. I've rated Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod as the top tackle throughout much of the year, but his wide shoulder, narrow hip makes him top-heavy and therefore inherently vulnerable to bull rushes and good double-moves. He, too, might be best served as a right tackle. USC junior Tyron Smith has the feet and wingspan teams want in a left tackle, but he's quite raw and remains a projection, having played right tackle throughout his abbreviated career with the Trojans.

The beauty of any all-star game is that strong performances there can impact player rankings. 

For this year's Senior Bowl, the rankings of senior prospects - especially at quarterback and offensive tackle -- could wind up completely re-shuffled.
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: December 23, 2010 1:11 pm
 

Bowl standouts so far

We've only just begun the bowl season and yet already there have been several noteworthy performances from NFL hopefuls. Here is a quick run down of five prospects who have caught my eye with their impressive play.

OT Matt Reynolds, BYU --
The junior left tackle may lack the elite athleticism to remain at the blindside position in the NFL, but his balance, lateral agility and strong upper body impressed me Saturday in the Cougars' win over UTEP. At 6-6 and 322 pounds I love his size and toughness as a right tackle and feel he projects just as well inside at guard. That versatility and Reynolds' durability (started all 39 games of his career) should make him a top 50 pick should he elect to leave early, as expected. Reynolds is expected to leave BYU early as he, like many BYU players, is an older prospect having served two years on a LDS mission.

RB Chad Spann, Northern Illinois --
Fresno State entered the Humanitarian Bowl with all the hype, but it was Spann and the Huskies who dominated this contest. Spann, 5-08 and a 198 pounds, showcased better power than you'd expect for a back of his size. His vision, elusiveness and acceleration are, of course, the characteristics that scouts expect from him. The combination resulted in 95 yards (a 6.3 yard average) and two touchdowns against an athletic Bulldog defense.

CB Johnny Patrick, Louisville --
I've been impressed enough with Patrick this season that I've highlighted him on the blog on numerous occasions , including earlier this week . After reviewing Patrick's performance against Southern Miss in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl again, I can't help but mention him again as he's been as good as any corner I've scouted in this early bowl season. Patrick boasts quick feet, loose hips, physicality against the run and a swagger about him that I feel will help him translate his game quickly to the NFL. He did surrender an early touchdown against Southern Miss (good coverage, but got turned around on a jump ball and was late in locating the very accurate pass), but showed off his competitiveness with a blocked kick, forced fumble, tackle for loss and pass broken up.

WR Austin Pettis, Boise State -- Matched up for much of the night against Utah's talented corner Brandon Burton, Pettis showed off his combination of size, route-running and reliable hands to catch 12 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Pettis should have had another score, but had the ball stripped away from him at the one yard line by Utah safety Brian Blechen. Burton provided tough, physical coverage on several of Pettis' receptions but the Boise star's 6-3, 201 pound frame and strong hands helped him snatch the ball out of the air and protect it from Burton's attempts to knock it free.

QB Pat Devlin, Delaware
-- Ok, so Devlin's Blue Hens aren't part of the FBS and the bowl system, but I've been impressed enough with the former Penn State quarterback's mobility inside the pocket, poise under pressure and accuracy to all levels that he deserves mentioning here. I've spoken to several teams regarding Devlin and there are a number of clubs who feel he could jump ahead of Florida State's Christian Ponder as the No. 2 senior quarterback (behind Washington's Jake Locker) if he is as impressive in a senior all-star game capacity.

I mention Devlin for another reason. Unlike the others on this list, you have one more opportunity to see Devlin play for Delaware. He and his teammates take on No. 1 rated Eastern Washington tomorrow for the FCS Championship.

Remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here. 
Posted on: December 10, 2010 1:35 pm
 

Rare opportunity to scout QB Pat Devlin tonight

Pat Devlin , NFLDraftScout.com's No. 3 rated senior quarterback, gets a rare national television opportunity tonight when he and his Delaware teammates take on New Hampshire in the FCS quarterfinals.

Devlin originally signed with Penn State out of high school but transferred to Delaware after being beaten out for the Nittany Lions' starting job by Daryll Clark.

Devlin has starred for the Blue Hens since the transfer, immediately emerging as one of the top quarterbacks in Colonial Athletic Association in 2009 and earning the CAA Offensive Player of the Year award this season despite being hampered by a broken bone in his left (non-throwing) wrist. The injury limited Devlin in several contests and sidelined him against Duquesne.

Devlin's numbers aren't gaudy (2,414 passing yards and 18 TDs) despite the fact that he operates out of a QB-friendly spread attack for the Blue Hens. However, his 67.8% completion rate and only two interceptions this season certainly catch your attention. Scouts like his mobility, smarts and accuracy in the short to intermediate range but know that Delaware's scheme protects him.

Considering the inconsistencies of Washington's Jake Locker and Florida State's Christian Ponder this season, Devlin could make a push up the board with a strong performance in this game and in any all-star games he's invited to.

The all-star games, in fact, will likely make or break Devlin's chances at breaking into the first three rounds of the draft. There, scouts will ask Devlin to operate out of a pro-style offense that will force him to make the multiple reads and throw the deeper passes through tighter windows that he'll face at the NFL level.

Devlin is often compared to Joe Flacco, who preceded him at Delaware. The comparison is a pretty lazy one. Devlin is shorter, slighter and more athletic. He relies on timing and accuracy to complete his throws -- quite the opposite of the Ravens' 6-6, 238 pound strong-armed Flacco.

This game will be televised by ESPN2 and begins at 8:00 pm EST.


Posted on: December 3, 2010 9:22 pm
 

Five prospects I'll be focusing on this weekend

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.

Because I'm scouting them in real time these players make an early impression, often leading to consideration as my Prospect of the Week or Diamond in the Rough.

Even more often, however, it 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 and I break down six more players in Filmroom Notes, update our Top 32 prospects overall, Top 10 per position, Risers/Fallers for multiple games and offer extensive previews of the next week's action. I boast about our product for a simple reason: Having seen everything else out there - it is the most complete weekly NFL draft guide on the planet. 

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.

TE Rob Housler, Florida Atlantic: It might seem silly to list a second tier prospect like Housler on "Championship Saturday" but Housler and Troy receiver Jerrel Jernigan rate as two of my favorite "sleepers" of the 2011 senior class. I've gushed about Jernigan plenty in the past, but Housler is also one to watch. Though lighter than scouts would prefer, the 6-5, 228 pound Housler certainly possesses the receiving skills teams are looking for in today's hybrid receiving specialists. Housler, in fact, hardly qualifies as a sleeper anymore. NFLDraftScout.com currently ranks him as our No. 4 overall senior tight end. This game begins at 2:00 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.

DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State:
Though I expect Oregon to ultimately prevail in this latest playing of the "Civil War," I'm very excited to see how the Ducks contain the Beavers' strongman defensive tackle Paea. Paea nearly singlehandedly beat USC a few weeks ago, earning my Prospect of the Week honors, as well as recognition from the Pac-10 -- and that was against Trojan center Kris O'Dowd, one of the better center senior center prospects in the country. If the Beavers were to pull the upset, it will likely be because Paea and his defensive line cohorts are able to control the line of scrimmage. This is the recipe that Cal used in slowing down the Ducks' potent offense. Should the Ducks (and Auburn) win, this game could provide an intriguing look as to how Oregon might scheme against Auburn's superstar defensive tackle, Nick Fairley in the BCS Championship game. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.

QB Cam Newton, Auburn: Hmmm, why might this be an interesting game to watch? Considering the BCS Championship, Heisman Trophy and a potential first round pick for Newton are all riding on this game, there is plenty of intrigue in this contest. South Carolina is in the SEC Championship game despite a pass defense that ranked 10th in the SEC, so Newton should have plenty of windows to throw through in this game. I'd be surprised, however, if South Carolina doesn't get a little creative with their rush packages, perhaps dropping more defenders into coverage so as to force Newton to stay in the pocket and beat them with his mind and arm and not his legs. Can Newton continue to dazzle with all the eyes of the sporting world watching? This game begins at 4:00 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

QB Christian Ponder, Florida: While he has certainly struggled at times this season, I remain firm in my belief that Ponder can be a successful NFL quarterback. He'll certainly be tested in this contest, as unlike Newton (who, again, is facing one of the worst statistical pass defenses in the SEC), Ponder is going against a Hokie unit that ranks second in the ACC in pass defense. In fact, defensive coordinator Bud Foster's group has stolen nearly a third more interceptions (20) than they've allowed touchdowns (14) this year. For FSU to win this game, Ponder will have to play well. This game begins at 7:45 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.

WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma: At an estimated 5-11, 185 pounds, Broyles lacks the size of many of the other top receiver prospects in country. With his only moderate size, many scouts will question whether he has the strength and toughness to handle the physicality of the NFL. There isn't a tougher, more physical defense in college football than Nebraska's. I look forward to seeing how Broyles (and running back DeMarco Murray, for that matter) handle this challenge. This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.

The action typically happens too fast on Saturdays for me to blog my thoughts.

For those interested in scouting "alongside" me, however, you can follow me on Twitter @RobRang . I'll be posting comments on these and other games all day long.
Posted on: November 18, 2010 1:44 pm
 

For Locker, it may be tonight (vs. UCLA) or never

Part of the reason why there has been so much attention heaped upon underclassmen quarterbacks Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallett (among others) has been the disappointing play of senior NFL passing prospects Jake Locker and Christian Ponder.

Locker's play has been particularly troubling this season due to the expectations that he make similar gains in Year Two under Steve Sarkisian as he'd made last season.

Locker has struggled with consistency in reading defenses and with his downfield accuracy.

After missing Washington's last game -- a blowout loss on the road to No. 1 Oregon -- Locker is running out of time to turn around his senior season.

Tonight, in a home showdown with former Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel and the UCLA Bruins, he'll get a significant test.

For as bad as the Bruins (4-5, 2-4 in the Pac-10) have been this season, they feature some legitimate NFL talent on the defensive side of the ball, including potential high round prospects Akeem Ayers (OLB) and Rahim Moore (FS).

Ayers' athleticism makes for a particularly interesting matchup for Locker. UCLA has enough speed on defense that Locker may not be able to simply run for first downs -- he'll have to throw for them -- giving pro scouts an opportunity to see how he'll fare in a pressure situation.

The Huskies (3-6, 2-4 in conference) need to win their final three games to assure an invitation to a bowl game. Washington has not been to a bowl game during Locker's career.

Each Friday, I highlight five prospects I'll be focusing on during Saturday's games. Locker, however, would certainly rank among those I'll be scouting closely this week.

Many football fans will elect to watch the pro game tonight (Chicago vs. Miami on NFL Network). I, and more importantly, many NFL scouts will instead be focusing on UCLA vs. Washington.

This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised on ESPN.
Posted on: October 16, 2010 5:44 pm
 

With Sr QBs struggling, NFL hoping it's Luck(y)

Entering the 2010 season there were high hopes from scouts that senior quarterbacks Jake Locker (Washington) and Christian Ponder (Florida State) would emerge as legitimate No. 1 overall candidates.

The two tied for the highest grade given by NFL scouts entering the season and have shown flashes of the ability to warrant their Heisman and NFL hype.

Neither to this point in the season, however, has shown the type of consistency scouts are looking for.

Locker's struggles against Nebraska (and other teams) have been well documented. It isn't just the inconsistent numbers that have scouts concerned, however. Locker hasn't yet shown the ability to read defenses or consistently hit open receivers. In his most impressive performance -- a victory over USC two weeks ago -- Locker had his reads limited by head coach Steve Sarkisian. Locker had only one or two reads to make, rather than scanning the entire field, before having the green light to run.

Ponder has likewise struggled, with his worst performance of the season (thus far) coming today against Boston College. Ponder completed 19 of 31 passes for 170 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He also lost a fumble.

Stanford's Andrew Luck, only a redshirt sophomore, has already announced his intentions to return. But, with the pickins' slim among seniors, NFL teams looking for a franchise quarterback in the upcoming draft are being left to hope that he and other underclassmen will boost the class.
Posted on: October 15, 2010 1:46 pm
 

5 Senior Prospects to Focus On Saturday

Each weekend I list the five senior prospects I'll be focusing on. These are players who appear to have challenging matchups that will help determine how well they'll be able to make the transition to the pro game.

A noteworthy performance (either positive or negative) can result in the player being profiled in our upcoming edition of Draft Slant, NFLDraftScout.com's weekly PDF file for premium subscribers.

Last week I profiled Michigan State inside linebacker Greg Jones, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller, LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis and UCLA defensive tackle David Carter. Nevis enjoyed a spectacular game against Florida and earned my Prospect of the Week honors. Miller wasn't as impressive as his statline would lead you to believe -- something I went over in detail in the current issue of Draft Slant.

Here are this week's Five to Watch:

OLB Mark Herzlich, Boston College: One could make the argument that Herzlich should be a focus each and every week, considering his amazing recovery from Ewing's Sarcoma. I'm particularly interested in how he does in this game considering the versatility of the Florida State offense and the weather. On the one hand, considering Herzlich's recovery, it may not be realistic to expect that he'll handle the heat and humidity of this game as well as his teammates. However, with the regular season halfway over, scouts have to be sure that Herzlich is getting back into real football shape. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.

RB Delone Carter, Syracuse: Carter has been impressive this season, rushing for 524 yards and five touchdowns so far. That said, his opponents have been less than impressive -- Akron, Washington, Maine, Colgate, South Florida. Without Greg Romeus, this Pitt defense isn't as dominant as we may have expected heading into the season, but Dave Wannestadt will have this team crowing the line of scrimmage to slow down the Orange rushing attack. How Carter handles the extra attention will be key. This game begins at noon EST and will be televised by ESPN.

OT Lee Ziemba, Auburn: Tiger quarterback Cam Newton has been as impressive as any young passer in the country so far this season, but his veteran offensive line, including Ziemba, have been a major contributor to his success. The biggest difference I've noted in the success this year of the Razorbacks hasn't been the improvement of their talented passer, Ryan Mallett, but greater speed and physicality of the Arkansas defense -- especially in the front seven. Ziemba, who isn't a great athlete and may have to move to OG in the NFL, will have his hands full in this contest. How he and his linemates hold up could be the determining factor in one of the best games of the week. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

WR Niles Paul, Nebraska: Paul is one of the nation's top senior receivers. In fact, I'm convinced that the versatile athlete (WR/RS) would contend for All-American honors if he played on an offense that featured him. Instead, he's relegated to only a few receptions a game for a Cornhuskers team that has been able to beat teams only running the ball and playing their typical stellar defense. This is a proud Texas Longhorn defense that Paul and his teammates will be facing, so the running may be tough. Paul won't face a better secondary all season long (well, except in practice) than this one -- at least until he earns an invitation to the Senior Bowl. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin: It is only because I list the games in chronological order that I have Carimi placed this low in the post. In reality, his one on one showdown against Ohio State's Cameron Heyward is far and away the best individual matchup of the weekend. If the Badgers can successfully run on the Buckeyes and keep Terrelle Pryor on the sideline, they have a chance to pull off the upset against Ohio State. Heyward will often line up against Carimi. At other times, he'll slide inside a bit and line up against senior guard John Moffitt, himself a solid NFL prospect. It should make for an excellent scouting opportunity for all three prospects, which is why this game is expected to have a dozen or more NFL scouts on hand. This game begins at 7:00 pm EST and will be telvised by ABC/ESPN.



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