Posted on: December 22, 2010 11:55 am
The Bowl season is always one of my favorite times of the year for scouting. The biggest reason is simply time management. With only a few games a day or week to scout, I have time to catch up on some of the film that I'd glossed over earlier.
The same applies to NFL scouts. With many home for the holidays, they're easier to get on the phone and exchange notes.
It is during this time that I'm usually able to pinpoint a few prospects across the country that are viewed as legitimate 2nd or 3rd round prospects by scouts but are perhaps not getting the media attention you'd expect for players with such high grades.
Here are five players that are earning these high grades but aren't yet generating a buzz in the mainstream media.
Learn these seniors' and juniors' names now. You'll be hearing them a lot more often soon.
WR Tandon Doss, Indiana: I listed the five prospects alphabetically, but it is appropriate that Doss leads off the list. With the likes of A.J. Green, Justin Blackmon, Julio Jones and so many other top underclassmen receivers generating all of the attention there are a host of talented wideouts not getting enough hype. At the top of that list in my opinion is the Hoosiers' Doss, a 6-3, 200 pound junior who quietly led the Big Ten with 175.8 all-purpose yards per game. How disrespected is Doss? The Big Ten media only recognized him as a Second Team all-conference player. The league's coaches, on the other hand, made him a First Team choice.
RB Jamie Harper, Clemson: With NFL teams increasingly moving towards a committee of running backs, big backs are finding more opportunities to run and catch rather than just be relegated to blocking duties. Running and catching is precisely what the 5-11, 235 pound junior does well. Scouts on hand for Harper's 197 all-purpose yards in the win over Florida State left gushing about his power, quick feet and soft hands...
CB Curtis Marsh, Utah State: Marsh might just be the hottest senior defensive prospect in the country right now. Switching from running back to cornerback only two years ago, Marsh has shown rare agility and straight-line speed for a man of his size (6-1, 200). The Senior Bowl has noticed, reportedly inviting Marsh to the game.
CB Johnny Patrick, Louisville: Patrick wasn't on my original list (BYU OT Matt Reynolds was), but his standout performance last night in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl matchup against Southern Miss only confirmed what I'd seen on tape earlier in the year . Patrick was beaten for a TD early, but I love the competitiveness he showed throughout the rest of the game, forcing a fumble, blocking a kick, providing lockdown coverage and coming up aggressively in run support. The four-letter network that covered the game last night rank Patrick 35th among cornerbacks. NFLDraftScout.com ranks him 6th (among seniors).
DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple: Wilkerson has received some attention this year, but not nearly enough. The past two seasons Wilkerson, a junior, has averaged 65 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. If Wilkerson had enjoyed this production in the SEC or Big 12 rather than the MAC, he'd not only be considered a first round pick, he'd be in the top 20. As more scouts break down his tape, don't be surprised if he ends up there.
Remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here.
Posted on: December 10, 2010 10:25 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2010 11:23 am
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton enters Saturday's Heisman Ceremony as the prohibitive favorite to take home the award, but he's hardly the only one of the four finalists with a bright NFL future.
In fact, some scouts believe Newton, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck , Oregon running back LaMichael James and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore – all underclassmen – all have a chance at NFL success, reversing a recent trend of Heisman candidates whose games simply didn't translate to the pros.
Newton, who led the country with 49 touchdowns and has carried Auburn to its first BCS Championship Game, is the most polarizing NFL prospect of the group.
There is no denying Newton possesses first-round tools. In joining 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as the only players in FCS history to have scored 20 touchdowns passing and rushing in the same season, Newton has dazzled scouts with his athleticism and strong arm.
Scouts remain split, however, on how well the junior will be able to make the transition from Gus Malzahn's spread option offense to a pro-style scheme. After all, his success has come in an offense that emphasizes his athletic strengths and simplifies his reads. For as dominant as he's played, Newton has only this season's 13 starts at the FCS level, quite a small sample set for scouts to determine his pro readiness.
These concerns don't extend to the redshirt sophomore Luck, whose recognition of defenses and pinpoint accuracy have made him the favorite to be the first pick of the 2011 draft should he declare early. The Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year broke John Elway's Cardinal record with 28 touchdown passes this season.
Newton and Luck will hear their names called in the first round should they leave for the pros following this season.
James is also highly regarded by pro scouts, though at 5-feet-9 and 185 pounds, he lacks the bulk to hold up as a full-time starter in the NFL. James' production for the Ducks has been staggering. He broke the Pac-10 freshman rushing record last year with 1,546 yards and promptly broke the sophomore record this season with 1,682 yards, which led the FCS. While James offers dynamic playmaking skills due to his agility and speed, teams will have a hard time justifying a pick earlier than the third round on a situational back.
At first glance, Moore lacks the size to be considered an elite pro prospect. The Broncos list their record-breaking passer at 6-feet, 191 pounds. Perhaps not surprisingly, scouts question if Moore has the arm strength to compete in the NFL, as well.
Moore has shown remarkable accuracy throughout his career, however, and is a virtual coach on the field. He reads defenses quickly and shows great anticipation, completing 71 percent of his passes for 3,506 yards and an eye-popping 33 touchdowns against only five interceptions this season.
Moore doesn't possess the measureables to warrant high-round consideration, so he may be the most likely of this group to return in 2011.
Should he do so - and enjoy similar success with senior receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis moving on to the NFL - Moore could force scouts to look past his physical shortcomings and instead focus on his moxie and ball placement; traits that could earn him at least a late round selection.
For complete draft coverage from NFLDraftScout.com click here: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft
Posted on: December 6, 2010 7:33 pm
In firing head coach Josh McDaniels Monday, Denver Broncos' owner may also be endangering the career of the Broncos' 2010 first round pick, quarterback Tim Tebow.
In aggressively trading up to select him, McDaniels was obviously a believer that the former Heisman Trophy winner could be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL. As you may recall, there were many others who did not believe that to be true, citing Tebow's elongated delivery and significant adaptation from the spread offense as primary reasons why he'd never enjoy the same kind of success in the pros as he did in college.
Kyle Orton's emergence this season had pushed Tebow's development onto the back burner in Denver. Whomever owner Pat Bowlen elects to bring in as McDaniels' replacement will almost surely want to go with the proven commodity in Orton over Tebow, pushing the former SEC star's development back further.
Quarterback development is perhaps one of the least understood aspects of the NFL for many football fans. Many fans tout the idea of drafting a young quarterback and developing them behind a veteran. They may not realize that the second and third string quarterbacks rarely receive the number of snaps in a given practice week to develop, making training camp and OTAs the best opportunity for young signal-callers to make any real headway.
With presumably a new head coach and his chosen staff coming in after the season ends, the Broncos will be busy implementing their new scheme, meaning that Orton will be getting more practice time than he would if playing under McDaniels and in the system he clearly understands well.
Tebow's passion and the work ethic he showed at Florida is one of the reasons why coaches fell in love with him in interviews. However, with limited opportunity to improve and playing under a head coach who has nothing personally invested in him, Tebow's pro career could be on the verge of floundering before it ever really had a chance to float.
Posted on: December 4, 2010 5:29 pm
Mississippi nose guard Jerrell Powe surprised many with his announcement a few weeks ago that he was considering returning for another season of college football.
Apparently he's reconsidered, as the 6-2, 320 pounder is indeed going to make himself eligible for the 2011 NFL Draft, as the University of Mississippi's official athletic website is reporting .
“I have struggled for a long time about this decision, but in the end, it’s time for me to move on,” Powe said. “I really appreciate everything Ole Miss has done for me. I plan on coming back and supporting my school and my team for the rest of my life. I am in my prime right now and I feel it is in my best interest to start using my ability to earn a living for me and my family.
“I am very thankful to the Ole Miss family, the coaching staff and my teammates for the support I have been shown these past few years.”Quite frankly, Powe would have been better served coming out after last season. Powe earned second team All-SEC honors in 2009, racking up 34 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss.
This season, with opponents focusing their blocking schemes on stopping him, Powe has seen his numbers drop. While he again earned Second Team All-SEC honors, he only posted 27 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks this year.
More important than his statistics, the explosive power and quickness that Powe had demonstrated in 2009 was only seen in flashes this year.
Powe's ability to clog up running lanes as a prototypical 3-4 nose guard makes him a very valuable commodity. Despite his hype , he is no lock to make the first round. A strong performance at the Senior Bowl, however, could turn around his stock quickly.
Posted on: September 27, 2010 9:52 pm
Typically, my weekly Diamond in the Rough award goes to a player who stands out at a lower level of play.
Considering the NFL success of former Trojans Osi Umenyiora, DeMarcus Ware and Leodis McKelvin, I hardly consider Sun Belt powerhouse Troy to be among the "small schools" for traditional Diamonds in the Rough.
But Troy wideout Jerrel Jernigan was so dominant in a Sun Belt conference showdown with Arkansas State that I simply had to acknowledge his play here.
All Jernigan did was catch ten passes for a career high 209 yards, rush the ball five times for 31 yards and record another 71 yards on four (three kick, one punt) returns. The 311 all-purpose yards were also a career-high for Jernigan, who was recognized by the Sun Belt Conference for his second Player of the Week award already this season. He was recognized with the Offensive Player of the Week award Monday, after earning the SBC Special Teams Player of the Week following a September 12 performance against Oklahoma State in which he posted 277 all-purpose yards (including a 100 kick return for a touchdown and a 10-yard touchdown reception).
What made Jernigan's electric performance Saturday against the Red Wolves all the more stunning was that much of it came during rain showers.
Jernigan, 5-9 and 185 pounds, has true three-tier speed. He has the quickness to elude in tight quarters, the acceleration to burst through seams and the long speed to pull away from the pursuit. It didn't take long for him to demonstrate this rare combination against Arkansas State, as Jernigan caught reached high to snatch a high pass on a post route, accelerated between two Red Wolf defensive backs and was gone for a 70-yard score on only the Trojans' third play from scrimmage.
While Jernigan certainly lacks the height scouts would prefer, he has an athletic, surprisingly strong frame and has demonstrated great toughness over his career. He attacks the hole as a returner and does not back down from a physical challenge. Scouts would like to see more consistency out of Jernigan as a route-runner, though some of his troubles have been that he's been asked to line up at so many different positions in an effort to get him the ball. He rarely allows the ball to get into his chest, showing good hands to extend and pluck outside of his frame. Jernigan also showed good body control and the ability to track passes over his shoulder.
Jernigan currently leads all active FBS receivers with 209 career receptions and ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 5 senior wideout and yet few across the country know his name. They would if he played for a Big Ten or SEC team... and they will when he lights up practices at the Senior Bowl.
Posted on: September 25, 2010 9:11 pm
Just like how it became en vogue to tee off on Washington's Jake Locker after his struggles against a talented Nebraska defense, don't be surprised when every talking head out there jumps on the back of Arkansas' Ryan Mallett after a tough second half against the Tide, Saturday.
Just like they would have jumped on his bandwagon had he been able to engineer the upset.
Last week was a perfect example. Mallett made some legitimate NFL throws in the comeback victory over Georgia, but the same concerns that I (and more importantly, NFL scouts) have voiced about him in the past were evident when one breaks down the film rather than just peek at the box score.
Those same issues were even more evident against the Tide.
Mallett, despite what some commentators might tell you, has the marginal footwork most passers of his height have. His first of three interceptions against the Tide showed him throwing flat-footed, rather than stepping into the throw. His second was arguably his worst throw of the game -- high and behind his intended target. His third, off of his back foot, was an inexcusably lazy toss that he tried to throw away. Some quarterbacks don't have the arm strength to throw it out of bounds 40 yards away. Mallett could do it from 70. And he'd tell you the same.
As Alabama turned up the pressure in the second half, Mallett was forced to move his feet to either step up in the pocket or avoid a pass rush. When he did so, his accuracy plummeted. And that was predictable.
Now, before you claim that I'm simply jumping on Mallett now after his struggles against what likely will be the toughest defense he faces this season, know that I've been grading Mallett the same way for a long time now.
Here is what I said during my preview of the SEC in July :
One final note on the SEC prospects... I typically reserve comments for senior prospects, but Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett is an obvious NFL prospect regardless of when he leaves the Razorbacks. However, I wasn't as wowed by Mallett as some apparently are. His 6-6, 238 pound frame is considered a positive by most, though his long legs and only moderate foot speed/balance concern me. Mallett has a gun and can make some dazzling throws, but at least some of his success has to be attributed to Bobby Petrino's wide-open offense. Remember, this is the same offense that convinced many of us that former Louisville standout Brian Brohm was one day going to be an NFL star. With two years of remaining eligibility, Mallett has plenty of time to iron out some wrinkles to his game, but I, for one, feel he's being a bit overrated right now...
Mallett is a talented passer with a big arm. When he's protected, he's go the intermediate and long accuracy to shred defenses just like Drew Bledsoe did for the Washington State Cougars and early in his NFL career with the New England Patriots. That said, this is a different NFL than the one Bledsoe did his damage. Defenses force quarterbacks to move their feet and adjust quickly in today's game. I haven't yet seen that or the short range accuracy Mallett will need to be consistently successful.
Is he talented? Sure. Any quarterback with his arm strength and the ability to complete 75% of his passes in the first three quarters (for 313 yards and TD) against Alabama certainly is talented.
But, he's not the elite prospect some have characterized him as. And it didn't take 4-10 passing for 44 yards and two terrible interceptions in the 4th quarter to prove it.
Posted on: August 25, 2010 12:35 pm
My fellow analysts Chad Reuter and Chris Steuber have already posted articles previewing the top ten players for some of the BCS conferences, as well as feature stories on individual players among those conferences he felt deserved more attention.
For example, Chad's story on Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi is currently the headlining story on NFLDraftScout.com. Chris' story on Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson was previously the top story.
Chad ranks the top ten senior prospects of the Big East right here.
I wrote the SEC preview and a feature on Mississippi defensive tackle Jerrell Powe a few weeks ago. With our scheduling our Top 10 and feature stories to coincide with CBS' College Football schedule, I've been off for a few days and have the chance to amp up my work here on the blog, do some radio work and start up a Twitter account .
Today, however, my preview of the Top 10 Senior Prospects of the Pac-10 went up. So, too, did my feature article on Washington quarterback Jake Locker.
I only mention each of them here as the articles are not currently being featured on NFLDraftScout.com (where you'd normally find my/our work), but as part of CBS' College Football pages.
Posted on: August 23, 2010 2:05 pm
With each picking in the top five last April, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that the Bucs and Chiefs are excited about the play of their top picks, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (No. 3 overall) and safety Eric Berry (No. 5 overall), respectively.
I certainly was impressed with the play of both when scouting the Kansas City and Tampa Bay rookies off of tape after their preseason showdown, Saturday night.
McCoy's burst off the snap and good use of hands made him a consistent headache for Kansas City's starting offensive line. Though he was only credited with two tackles, he should prove to be the headliner of a young and talented Bucs' defensive line.
Berry finished second on the Chiefs with three tackles against the Bucs. His agility, instincts and open-field tackling skills are every bit as refined as I remembered from his All-American days at Tennessee. I rated him as the draft's safest pick, other than Ndamukong Suh, and certainly believe he remains just that. Berry changes this defense.
It was the "other" rookies on these rosters, however, that were the story.
The Chiefs surprised some with the selections of two undersized SEC stars in Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster in the second round, but they may be preparing to get the last laugh. Arenas returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown last week (called back due to penalty) and showed off his SEC-record return skills against Tampa, as well, returning his only kickoff opportunity for 54 yards. McCluster was barely seen in this game (one rush for -1 yard, one catch for 17 yards), but I've been told that the Chiefs may be waiting until the regular season before unleashing Mr. Versatility.
I've previously highlighted the play of Tampa wideout Mike Williams , the Bucs' fourth round pick (No. 101 overall). He finished the game with 3 catches for 44 yards, though arguably his most impressive was a catch in which the team did not receive credit. During a first quarter out-route thrown by backup Josh Johnson, Williams showed off his impressive vertical, long arms and body control in snatching a high and wide pass. The ball took Williams out of bounds, but just barely. He did all he could do, pointing his toes to the ground and falling out of bounds in the hopes of dragging them.
Safety Cody Grimm, the Bucs' 7th round pick (210 overall) saw time early in the game. I noticed him flying around during the second quarter. He isn't going to awe you coming off the bus, but his instinctive play has drawn raves from Tampa coaches already.