Tag:Florida State
Posted on: March 27, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Five quietly creeping into 1st round conversation

Over the past week, I've spoken to representatives of nearly a third of the league's teams in an effort to nail down which 32 players will hear their name called out during the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

At this point, there appears to be some consensus on roughly 25 players as first round picks. There are another 15, however, vying for those final eight spots.

We all know that Washington quarterback Jake Locker and Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith are among those players on the bubble. But there are several other players who have generated significantly less buzz but who are quietly earning serious first round consideration from some clubs.

Here are five surprising names you could wind up hearing on April 28.

(Players are listed alphabetically)

DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina : There are still plenty of teams who remain nervous about Austin's intangibles, but of the five listed here, the former UNC defensive tackle is the most talented football player. Teams are as willing to gamble on size and athleticism on the defensive line as any position in football (other than perhaps QB). If the anticipated early run on defensive linemen transpires, don't be surprised if a 4-3 team drafting in the mid 20s to low 30s gambles on Austin's upside.

QB Andy Dalton, TCU : I know of plenty of teams who grade Dalton as a late 2nd to mid 3rd round pick, but most believe he'll come off the board sooner than that. The belief among many, in fact, is that Dalton will be off the board by the mid portion of the second frame. That could push a team like Seattle to take him at No. 25 or for another club to trade back into the late portion of the first round to secure his services, similar to how Detroit traded up (with the Vikings) last year to nab running back Jahvid Best.

OC Rodney Hudson, Florida State
: Florida's Mike Pouncey is getting most of the attention of draft fans and what little remains is generally being dedicated to Baylor's Danny Watkins -- at least when it comes to interior offensive linemen as possible first round picks. There do appear to be clubs with contingency plans involving Hudson, however. The former Seminole is an exceptionally safe player capable of contributing immediately.

OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona : After a rather ho-hum senior season at defensive end for the Wildcats, Reed's stock skyrocketed with a strong Senior Bowl and Combine. Add to this the fact that roughly half of the league's teams are now running a 3-4 base and this outside linebacker prospect is getting a lot of late first round attention.

DE Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh : Sheard is smaller than teams would like as a 4-3 defensive end and perhaps not quite as smooth an athlete as teams would like as a 3-4 rush linebacker. That said, I've spoken to representatives of clubs operating both alignments that feel that he could wind up a pretty solid player in either front due to Sheard's natural pass rush skills, surprising strength and high-revving motor.

Posted on: March 5, 2011 12:21 pm
 

Poll of NFL sources finds gulf of opinion on QBs

Since the Combine ended Tuesday, I've been polling league sources on their rankings of the quarterbacks. I spoken or texted with seven sources (ranging from area scouts to front office executives) as of Saturday morning and have some interesting results.

In six of the seven cases, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert were the top two rated quarterbacks. Four teams had Auburn's Newton as the top passer. Three had Gabbert. All three of the Gabbert fans noted, however, that his March 17 Pro Day would significantly impact their grade on him.

Interestingly enough, the same four teams that rated Newton No. 1 had Arkansas' Ryan Mallett ranked as the third QB -- with one exception. One of these clubs had the rankings had Mallett as the No. 2 passer behind Netwon. This source is obviously less concerned about the so-called character questions of these two SEC stars than other teams.

The wildcard of the QB rankings was Washington's Jake Locker. Three teams had Locker as the 3rd rated quarterback. The other four teams rated Locker 4th (two teams), 6th and 7th, respectively in this year's QB class.

The other QBs jumping ahead of Locker for these clubs were Florida State's Christian Ponder, TCU's Andy Dalton and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.

Given the choice between "sure," "likely," and "unlikely" five of the seven sources thought it was "likely" that all seven of the quarterbacks made the first three rounds.

To put that in perspective, seven quarterbacks being drafted in the first three rounds has happened only twice in the past 40 years (excluding the USFL.CFL-impacted Supplemental Draft in 1984).

Teams are certainly hoping that this year's group will enjoy more NFL success than the past two classes that sent this many highly-graded quarterbacks to the pros. The 1999 class featured huge busts in Tim Couch, Akili Smith and Cade McNown, among others. Donovan McNabb and, to a lesser extent, Daunte Culpepper were the success stories of the class. With the exception of Jay Cutler (and to a lesser extent Vince Young, Tarvaris Jackson) the 2006 class has yet to establish itself, either.

Posted on: February 28, 2011 7:24 pm
 

Could five QBs wind up in the first round?

We all know the value of quarterbacks raises as the draft gets closer. We also all know that significantly altering a player's grade based on Combine performance is a quick way to get a scouting staff fired.

That said, there is an increasing belief among NFL teams that as many as five quarterbacks could wind up in the first round, following strong performances from Ryan Mallett, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder at the Combine.

Mallett unquestionably has first round skills. While his struggles at the podium in front of the media has been well documented, league sources tell our own Len Pasquarelli of The Sports XChange that teams who interviewed him in Indianapolis "came away impressed with him."

Locker, too, has unquestionable talent. His career-long struggles with inaccuracy remain a concern for many, but there was no denying he enjoyed a strong throwing session at the Combine, throwing some of his most accurate passes on the deep outs, fly routes and post-corners that are generally considered the toughest throws scouts ask quarterbacks to make at the Combine. Some teams will take this as evidence that he's made strides under former pro quarterback Ken O'Brien -- and is likely to continue to do so under NFL coaching.

Perhaps the most surprising quarterback generating recent first round buzz is Ponder. His multiple arm surgeries make his medical grade the most important result from the Combine (and teams won't have these complete results for awhile), but there is no question that the former Seminole is building momentum following a Senior Bowl MVP performance and a strong showing during passing drills. Considering his intelligence, mobility and accuracy to the short to intermediate levels of the field, Ponder is viewed by some as the top true West Coast Offense quarterback in the draft.

In last week's mock draft I had only two quarterbacks (Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Auburn's Cam Newton) projected in the first round. With virtually every one of the front office executives and head coaches acknowleding during their Combine interviews the supreme value of the quarterback position and another two months for the hype around these three to build, we could end up seeing that number more than double by April 28.

Posted on: February 27, 2011 2:52 pm
 

Ponder out-shines Newton in 2nd QB session

Cam Newton entered the second throwing session of the Combine with all of the hype, but it was Florida State's Christian Ponder who stole the show.

Ponder showed surprising zip and very good accuracy throughout the throwing session, especially in the short to intermediate levels. His deep outs and post-corner routes were especially impressive.

Newton has all of the physical tools scouts are looking for, but showed that he is still in the early developmental stages in dropping back, transferring his weight and throwing passes accurately. This led to some of his throws -- especially timing routes like deep outs -- to sail on him.

We'll have more on the QB and WR drills as a feature article.
Posted on: February 3, 2011 8:04 am
 

Wise to exercise caution on "Signing Day" grades

I can't help but chuckle at how big signing day has become in the college football world.

There is no denying that recruiting and signing the best players are the lifeblood of college athletics. Those fortunate to have boast the best talent often win -- in college football, sports and in most situations in life.

Last year offered as great of proof of this as any. Auburn received as a dominant a performance as we've ever seen from a first-year signee with JUCO addition Cam Newton. South Carolina, which met Auburn in the SEC Championship game, did so largely due to the play of their true freshman running back Marcus Lattimore.

According to MaxPreps.com, the recruiting website featured by CBSSports.com, Notre Dame, Florida State and Alabama currently rank 1-3 as the top rated recruiting classes this year. Other recruiting organizations - such as ESPN's Scouts Inc. (FSU, Alabama, Auburn) and Rivals.com (Alabama, FSU, Texas) had slightly different rankings. It is easy to see why these teams are expected to either maintain their perch among the elite programs in the country or, as in the case of Notre Dame and Texas, re-emerge as such.

The numbers of high school All-Americans signed to a class, however, certainly doesn't translate into immediate success. Many of these players will, of course, never pan out.

As a point of comparison, I took a peek in the rearview mirror at the 2007 recruiting winners.

Most had USC as a big winner, based largely on the signings of RB Joe McKnight, DE Everson Griffen, LB Chris Galippo and QB Aaron Corp. McKnight and Griffen wound up in the NFL and Galippo and Corp may do the same, but none of them became the dominant players expected considering their hype.

This is hardly just an issue at USC.

Others tabbed Florida as the big winner. They certainly found a star in Joe Haden, but what became of WR Deonta Thompson and RB Bo Williams -- the two higher rated prospects the Gators signed?

Now, perhaps this is simply an example of the pot calling the kettle black - after all, I'm a guy who is asked to assign grades to NFL teams on draft day before any of their new players get a chance to prove themselves - but let's remember than these are teenagers. Their bodies, minds and levels of commitment are going to be tested in a way they can't imagine. Let's do them all a service by tempering our expectations.

Perhaps there is never a better day than this one to remind us all of the message the NCAA has used in the past: "There are 380,000 NCAA student-athletes, and just about all of them will be going pro in something other than sports."

My advice to the thousands of recruits signing yesterday? Focus on your academics. Virtually all of you dominated in high school. A tiny percentage of you will do the same at the collegiate level, winning an opportunity to play professional football. You may win that NFL lottery someday, but yesterday you won a free education. Don't lose out on that guarantee simply because someone tabbed you an elite recruit destined for the NFL.
Posted on: January 29, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Don't put it past Locker to star in Sr Bowl

Washington's Jake Locker was the most scrutizined player in Mobile throughout this week's Senior Bowl practices.

The game will be no different -- except in one very key area.

I don't recall a single snap during the week of practice in which Locker ran with the ball. He clearly was attempting to put to bed concerns about his accuracy in the pocket. While he was unsuccessful in doing so, he also took away the element that makes him special.

Most of the mobile quarterbacks in the NFL lack elite accuracy. Their ability to buy time in the pocket or force secondary defenders to come up in run support and thereby leave their coverage responsibilities is precisely the skill that helps some passers succeed despite great accuracy.

Locker may have stuck in the pocket to his own detriment, at times, during the week of practice. In the game, however, his competitive juices could force him to vacate it -- especially if the South's defensive line is successful in rushing the passer -- as is the case in most all-star games, including last Saturday's East-West Shrine game.

This fact sets up the three most mobile passers in the Senior Bowl -- Locker, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Florida State's Christian Ponder -- to enjoy some success.

Kaepernick and Ponder have each helped themselves this week with strong performances. Sure, they'd like a strong finish to their week, but a ho-hum game will not hurt the impression they've already made on scouts.

Locker, however, has more riding on the game than the others due to his mediocre practices. That fact, as well as his re-discovered mobility could result in a strong, perhaps even MVP, performance.

The Senior Bowl will be televised by the NFL Network. It begins at 4 pm EST.
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: 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.


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