Tag:Auburn
Posted on: November 26, 2010 1:03 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.

QB Cam Newton, Auburn : Newton has been dazzling this season and could lock up the Heisman Trophy with a strong performance against Alabama. More importantly to those of us eager to see how well he'll translate his game to the NFL is how well Newton is able to decipher the exotic blitz and coverage schemes Nick Saban and his staff have devised. In terms of Newton's pro stock, this is the most important regular season game of his life. This game begins at 2:30 pm EST Friday and will be televised by CBS.

CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado : The Buffs don't get a lot of national exposure considering their struggles recently, but this important Big 12 showdown against Nebraska will pit Smith, one of the top senior cornerbacks, against a receiver in Nebraska's Niles Paul every bit his match in terms of size and athleticism. The Cornhuskers, of course, rely mostly on their running game and should be able to do so again Friday to beat an overmatched Colorado team. How Smith is able to keep up with the multi-talented Paul, however, should give scouts a good idea as to how the 6-2, 205 pound Smith will be acclimate to the speed of the NFL. I've spoken to scouts who have compared Smith to former Pro Bowler Chris McAlister. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST Friday and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DE/OLB Dontay Moch, Nevada: The pre-game hype will focus on the offense, but it could be whatever defense shows up in the Boise State-Nevada showdown that gives their team the victory. Moch enters this game as the country's active career leader with 60.5 tackles for loss. The 6-1, 242 pound Moch lines up as a defensive end for the Wolfpack, but projects best as a standup pass rushing OLB in the NFL. Moch wowed scouts in the spring by clocking in at 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but there are concerns that Moch is overly reliant on his speed. While fast in a straight-line, scouts are more interested to see how well he changes directions. Moch won the WAC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior (61 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks) and is on pace to exceed those totals this season (52 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks). This game begins at 10:15 pm EST Friday and will be televised by ESPN.

QB Jake Locker, Washington: The Huskies have struggled with teams that are more physical on the offensive and defensive lines than they are and that is precisely what awaits them Saturday against Cal. Washington and California are each fighting for their bowl lives and the Golden Bears have revenge on their side after the Huskies trounced them 42-10 last season in Seattle. Locker entered the year rated by most (including me) as the No. 1 prospect in the country based largely on how he played down the stretch last season. His best game was his last one -- againt California -- in which he completed 19 of 23 passes for 248 yards and three TDs (0 INTs) and ran for another 77 yards and two scores. A performance like that would almost surely result in a win for the Huskies and spot back in my first round projection. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST Saturday and will be televised regionally by Fox Sports.

WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State*: With the three top-rated teams in the country playing on Friday, there hasn't yet been a great deal of focus on this year's Bedlam rivalry outside of the state of Oklahoma, but it's coming -- after all, the Big 12 South division title is riding on this game. This game features two of the elite young receiver prospects in the country in Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles and Blackmon -- the favorite to win the Biletnikof Award as the nation's best at the position. Blackmon has been spectacular this season, catching an eye-popping 94 passes for 1,560 yards and 17 touchdowns. It is his consistency that has been perhaps most impressive. Blackmon has caught at least five passes for at least 125 yards and one touchdown in every game he's played this season (he missed the Kansas State game). A redshirt sophomore, Blackmon is eligible to leave OSU early for the NFL. He hasn't faced a secondary as talented as Oklahoma's yet this season, so this game provides scouts an excellent opportunity to see him matched up against quality athletes and a sound defensive scheme.  This game begins at 8:00 pm EST Saturday and will be televised by ABC/ESPN. 


Posted on: October 22, 2010 6:24 pm
 

Five seniors to focus on this weekend

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.

One of the players prominently featured in last week's "Who to Watch..." was Nebraska wideout Niles Paul . Last week in the loss to Texas, Paul demonstrated the athleticism and size combination that has led scouts to get excited about his game, but also the terribly inconsistent hands that has plagued him throughout his career. Twice, in fact, Paul dropped potential touchdowns against the Longhorns.

Scouting isn't just about touting players who play well on the big stage. It is about acknowledging those players who struggled under the bright lights. Perhaps Paul (and others) will improve once they get another opportunity. Perhaps not. Either way, how they perform in this critical situations goes a long way in determining their final grade.

Here are this week's Five to Watch:

QB Ricky Stanzi, Iowa: I mentioned in a previous blog post that NFL teams looking for help at quarterback might be forced to turn towards underclassmen as many of the senior passers have struggled so far this season. Stanzi is one of the few exceptions. The 6-4, 230 pound Stanzi has struggled with consistency in years past, but has thrown 13 touchdowns against only two interceptions while operating out of a pro style offense. He's always shown the tools to intrigue NFL scouts and could be on the verge of a monster jump up boards if he's able to continue what so far has been a magical senior campaign. That said, in unbeaten Wisconsin, Stanzi has one of the tougher, more technically sound defenses he'll see all year long. This game could prove critical in how Stanzi is viewed by scouts the rest of the year. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DE Cameron Jordan, Cal: A nationally underrated prospect, Jordan has been as impressive this year as any senior defensive lineman I've scouted. His numbers aren't necessarily eye-popping. Through six games this season, he's posted 24 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, but remember that Cal operates out of a 3-4 alignment, which doesn't put the defensive ends in position very often to make plays. Many were surprised last year when former Cal defensive end Tyson Alualu was the 10th overall pick of the draft. Jordan doesn't have that kind of upside, but he is sneaking up on scouts a bit. If he were playing in the SEC or Big 12, most college football fans would know his name by now. It will be interesting to see how Jordan performs in this game, considering the versatility and young talent on this ASU offense. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by Fox regional coverage. 

RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State:
The fifth leading rusher in the FBS, Hunter has rushed for an eye-popping 830 yards and scored 10 touchdowns on the ground over the first six weeks of the season. He'll be facing a much stouter run defense Saturday against the Cornhuskers, however. Like many smallish backs the 5-8, 197 pound Hunter is often characterized as a speedy, change of pace prospect only. If he is to have a chance at shedding that label, he could use a strong performance at home against Nebraska. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

ILB Kelvin Sheppard, LSU: I've characterized LSU junior cornerback Patrick Peterson as the best defensive player in the country on multiple occasions and acknowledged defensive tackle Drake Nevis as a former Prospect of the Week. Somehow, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard rarely seems to get the credit he deserves. He leads the top-rated SEC defense against Auburn's dynamic offense Saturday in what is the biggest game of the weekend. Sheppard has the speed to beat the Auburn backs (and quarterback Cam Newton) to the sideline. How he handles coverage and pass rush responsibilities could prove critical in this one. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

DL Allen Bailey, Miami: Bailey entered the season as highly touted as any defensive lineman in the country. One look at him and it is easy to see why, as the 6-4, 285 pounder owns more of the more imposing physiques you'll ever seen on a defensive lineman. That said, through the first six games of the year Bailey has only accumulated 21 tackles and five tackles for loss. Last week, against Duke, Bailey only registered two tackles, including just his second sack of the year. Voted a team captain, Bailey may have to turn it up a notch Saturday against North Carolina to get his teammates on track. The 'Canes, after all, have lost three straight to the Tar Heels. This game begins at 7:30 pm EST and will be televised on ESPN2.


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.



Posted on: September 30, 2010 1:40 pm
 

5 Most Disappointing Prospects through September

In this week's issue of Draft Slant, I list a handful of breakout prospects that scouts had graded as either late round or free agents in the preseason, but through the first month of the college season have greatly exceeded expectations and are rising fast.

Without giving away the identities of the players, themselves, I can tell you that the players listed come from a variety of conferences from the SEC to the WAC.

While that article is reserved for our premium subscribers, I thought I'd list a group of five players whose stock is going in the exact opposite direction over the first month of the season.

Players are listed alphabetically.

RB Mario Fannin, Auburn: I touted Fannin as much as anyone heading into the season as a potential breakout star and while I still maintain that he has talent, there is no denying that he's again struggling this year with the issues (injuries, fumbles) that had sidetracked him in the past. Part of a rotation for the Tigers, Fannin had seven touches for 79 yards and two touchdowns in the opener againt Arkansas State. Since, however, the Auburn coaching staff has apparently lost faith in his ability to get the tough yards and hold on to the football, as he has accumulated only eight touches for 28 total yards (and no scores) since.

QB Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: Despite earning preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year accolades, scouts had plenty of concerns about Johnson's pro prospects before the season have even begun. Now, after an ugly four interception game against the likes of Florida International, scouts are even more concerned that Johnson, while talented, simply lacks the accuracy and football IQ to handle the adjustment to the NFL. Once considered a potential Top 50 prospect, Johnson now appears destined for the 5th or 6th round... at best.

QB Jake Locker, Washington: There are a great many jumping off Jake Locker's bandwagon after a disastrous performance against the Cornhuskers two weeks ago. In reality, Locker was struggling with accuracy and the reading of defenses in the two previous games (BYU, Syracuse, as well). Locker's No. 1 status has always been a projection that would come true IF he made similar gains under Steve Sarkisian that he made in his first year under the former USC quarterback coach. So far, Locker hasn't made those gains. Some scouts, in fact, wonder if he's regressed. Locker remains in the hunt to be the first senior QB off the board (and thus a potential high first round selection), but the time has come to stop making excuses for him. In his second year of this offense and his fourth as a starting quarterback, Locker needs to show better recognition and accuracy if he is going to be successful in the NFL.

NG Jerrell Powe, Mississippi: As proof of what a roller coaster ride scouting can be, Powe would have made my list of the "safer" prospects heading into this season. He was a standout, even dominant performer, at times times last year. This season, however, Powe has struggled mightily. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that Ole Miss rotates their defensive linemen. Some also may be due to the fact that he's playing this season as much as 60 pounds lighter than he's played in the past. Either way, the explosive power and consistency Powe had shown last year simply hasn't been there in the Rebels' first four games.

WR Terrance Toliver, LSU: Toliver was viewed by many as the top senior receiving prospect in the country heading into the season. He certainly was touted as a potential future high round pick as a prep star. Unfortunately, Toliver and the LSU offense, as a whole, has struggled this season. Toliver has only 11 catches through the first four games for 96 yards. The 6-4, 206 pounder with reported 4.4 speed has yet to catch a touchdown this season.


One could make the argument that the host of players suspended or injured so far this season should also be included on this list. I have too much respect for our readers to take the easy way out and list the likes of North Carolina's DT Marvin Austin, FS Deunta Williams, WR Greg Little, South Carolina TE Wesley Saunders, West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan (all suspended for one or more games) or injured players like Houston QB Case Keenum, etc. and the like among this list. With serious off-field or health questions, they are certainly falling -- or at least on the cusp of falling -- in the eyes of scouts. However, the players I listed above are falling because they simply aren't producing on the field to the level scouts expected heading into the 2010 season.
Posted on: September 20, 2010 1:26 pm
 

Player of the Week -- Clemson S DeAndre McDaniel

One might just assume I'm a rabid Auburn Tigers fan, as for the second week in a row I'm picking a senior prospect whose team the Tigers beat as my Player of the Week.

Last week I highlighted the play of Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod. This week the honor goes to Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel .

Some will argue that "Player of the Week" is a misnomer. I don't pretend that I've already scouted every prospect throughout the country and that my choice (McDaniel, in this case) was unquestionably the best. It isn't that McDaniel was so dominant that he deserves attention over, say, Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas (who rushed for another 181 yards in the undefeated Wildcats thrilling win over Iowa State) or Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick (who finished with 329 all-purpose yards and five TDs in an impressive win over Cal). However, part of the coverage that we, at NFLDraftScout.com, have provided to our readers as part of our Draft Slant feature, is a Player of the Week. In picking one out each week, I tend to focus on Top 50 senior prospects for this honor and adhere to certain guidelines in terms of the level of competition the player faced.

In a game with plenty deserving acknowledgement, McDaniel was the most consistently impressive. McDaniel, who lined up deep in coverage as well as coming up in a hybrid linebacker role, finished with six tackles, and two passes defensed, including a textbook high-point interception in the second quarter that led to Clemson's second touchdown of the game and a seemingly unsurmountable 17-0 lead. Though the Tigers eventually came back to win this contest, McDaniel's play stood out. It wasn't just McDaniels' numbers that caught my eye, but the versatility and timing with which he recorded them.

Player of the Week, along with The Diamond in the Rough (small school prospect), used to be features of Draft Slant . This PDF file can be purchased as an individual issue or one can purchase the entire year (16 issues). Or, if you just want to see an example, you can download this free sample of Week One here .

We thought that the Player of the Week and Diamond in the Rough deserved more acknowledgement, however, and thus, every Monday, I'll post my picks for each award.

Player of the Week - September 18, 2010
S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson 6-0 / 215 / 4.54 -- opponent: Auburn

Versatile defender capable of impacting the game in various ways. Good range and vision to play in the deep middle. Reads the quarterback's eyes and gets a jump on the ball. Showed terrific ball skills, timing and leaping ability to high-point his interception in the second quarter. The interception was McDaniel's first of 2010 - but he led the ACC with eight pick-offs last year. McDaniel's aggression does mean that he'll occasionally take a false step towards the line of scrimmage and can be victimized by good play-action. He was not beaten in this game, however. A bit shorter than scouts would prefer for the position, McDaniel has a well-built frame and looked comfortable near the line of scrimmage. He scrapes well, showing the lateral agility, balance and vision to avoid blockers. His instincts and comfort inside were on display in the 4th quarter when he sniffed out a receiver end-around and dropped wideout Terrell Zachary for a 7-yard loss. The play came at a perfect time for Clemson, as the team, after surrendering 24 consecutive points, had just scored to tie the game. McDaniel demonstrated reliable open field tackling skills throughout the game. He breaks down well in space to handle smaller, quicker athletes and can provide a much more explosive pop than he's generally given credit for. His lack of top power was exposed a bit with a strong effort from Auburn 5-10, 240 pound back to get a 4th quarter first down. McDaniel took on Smith too high and was surprised by Smith's power. Though he certainly wasn't bowled over, McDaniel did struggle to make the stop. In the NFL McDaniel will have to learn to tackle with greater balance and leverage for this mistake not to be repeated. Considering the consistency with which he played Saturday night, however, the one play (Auburn punted moments later) certainly wasn't a drawback. McDaniel's versatility and consistency, in fact, secured his place as the top all-around senior safety in the country -- at least in my eyes.

Posted on: July 27, 2010 10:19 am
Edited on: July 27, 2010 6:35 pm
 

As promised, my SEC notes after film review

After a short hiatus to the coast of Washington State to chase the elusive chinook salmon, here are the SEC film room notes I had promised.

Again, I fully recognize that there have been many off-field stories that have broken recently -- the ongoing NCAA investigations , important rookie signings and, unfortunately, the terrible accident that fractured the skull of Baltimore pass rusher Sergio Kindle, thereby endangering his rookie season and perhaps even his NFL career. 
There are so many off-field news stories right now that I am trying to focus on the action that takes places between the white lines. I posted my thoughts on what surprised/disappointed/impressed me after my initial review of ACC prospects a few days ago.

Here are my thoughts after scouting the top senior prospects in the SEC.

  • In the opinion of many NFL scouts, the essential difference between the SEC and the rest of college football is the different talent and depth the Southeastern Conference boasts along the defensive line. Though a few teams have narrowed the gap (North Carolina and Pittsburgh chief among them), the SEC again is loaded up front with run-stuffers and pass-rushers. Mississippi nose guard Jerrell Powe is currently our top-ranked prospect from the conference. He is quickly followed by pass rushers Pernell McPhee (Mississippi State) and Cliff Saunders (South Carolina). Powe has been often compared to former Boston College standout (and current Green Bay Packer) B.J. Raji for his stout presence in the middle. Like Raji, who missed the 2007 season due to academic suspension, Powe has struggled to keep his grades in check. In fact, he was deemed ineligible three consecutive years from 2005-2007. NFL teams will no doubt take Powe's academic struggles in mind when determining his final grade. What is obvious on film, however, is that he is a talented player who could physically compete immediately in the NFL.
  • The defensive line is typically what the SEC is known for, but this year the unique talent in the conference comes along the offensive line and at tight end. My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter broke down the conference's depth up front in a feature article here . No fewer than eight senior SEC offensive linemen are currently viewed as potential draft-worhty prospects. The conference also boasts NFLDraftScout.com's top three rated senior tight ends in South Carolina's Weslye Saunders, Tennessee's Luke Stocker and Arkansas' D.J. Williams. I was a bit underwhelmed with each of them, quite frankly. Saunders (6-5, 272) has incredible size and surprising overall athleticism, but isn't the speed threat most of today's NFL teams are looking for. Williams, at 6-2, 244 pounds, has some speed and is a tenacious blocker considering his size, but simply lacks the bulk for most clubs. The most well-rounded of the bunch is the 6-5, 252 pound Stocker, though he doesn't possess any skills on film that left me wowed, either.
  • Considering that they're the defending National Champions, it might surprise you to learn how few of the SEC's highly rated prospects play for Alabama. In defense of the Crimson Tide, many of their top-rated prospects who would be seniors this year elected to leave early (ILB Rolando McClain, CB Kareem Jackson, etc.). Furthermore, their depth and coaching is so good that some seniors seeing the field extensively for the first time in 2010 will no doubt emerge as legitimate prospects. However, at this point, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior Crimson Tide prospect is left tackle James Carpenter, currently viewed as a 3rd-4th round prospect -- and one likely to have make the transition inside to guard. Quarterback Greg McElroy, rated as a 6th-7th round prospect is next. Of course, considering the draft-eligible underclassmen on this team (Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Marcel Dareus, etc.), the Tide rolls on.
  • Speaking of Alabama, with all due respect to Heisman winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson is a fabulous NFL prospect in his own right. One that I feel could have been similarly productive in Alabama's offense had been given Ingram's attempts. Luckily for Nick Saban and Tide fans, as a true sophomore, Richardson has at least two more seasons in Tuscaloosa. He flashed first round talent as a true freshman...
  • Though I wouldn't rank them among the elite prospects in the conference just yet, a few players did flash on film that haven't generated a lot national attention just yet. I mentioned Alabama's Carpenter earlier. Auburn running back Mario Fannin is a terrific receiver who has popped off the tape throughout his career, but has never been able to string together the dominant season his skill-set seems capable of producing. Fannin has struggled with fumbles and injuries early in his career, but, if over both, could enjoy a breakout campaign in 2010. Kentucky wide receiver Chris Matthews, at 6-5, 222 pounds, surprised me with good body control and enough acceleration to think he could surprise, as well.
  • 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... 

Posted on: March 1, 2010 12:54 pm
 

Ben Tate deserves a closer look

Ben Tate has a legitimate gripe about not getting more national attention.

With all of the attention heaped upon Mark Ingram, Dexter McCluster and Anthony Dixon, few around the country realize how effective he was for the Tigers this season. His 1,362 yards in 2009 were the fourth highest single-season-total in Auburn history.

And remember... Auburn has quite the history of running backs (Bo Jackson, Cadillac Williams, James Brooks, Stephen Davis, Ronnie Brown, etc.)

Tate is once again likely to be overlooked, as the talking heads will be talking more about CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best's speed than anything else in the days following the running back workouts. However, look at what he accomplished in Indianapolis:

Bench Press: #1 of all RB's; 26 Reps of 225 lbs
Broad Jump: #1 of all RB's; 10'4"
Vertical Jump: #2 of all RB's; 40'5"
40 Yard Dash: #3 of all RB's; 4.43 seconds

Tate seemed to predict his success in an interview with the Opelika Auburn News a few days before his strong workout at the Combine.

 “There’s nothing more important than what you do on the field,” Tate said. “But if there’s someone close to you who has similar numbers and you all are being seen as equal-type players, these numbers you put up at the combine can make a big difference. “They can leapfrog you over a couple guys that are almost the same type of running back.”

Considering his production at the Combine, as well as the more important numbers he put up when in a system that fit his downhill rushing style with the Tigers, Tate should be rising up draft boards.

Posted on: March 30, 2009 3:29 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2009 3:39 pm
 

Vols DE Ayers "Most Polarizing Defender..."

With the draft less than a month away most teams are settling their draft boards. One player whose stock remains very much in flux is Tennessee defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Ayers.

There appear to be two camps when it comes to Ayers. Some teams view him as a top ten prospect. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, whose opinion I respect, recently ranked Ayers as the 5th best player in the entire 2009 draft. Other teams, however, view Ayers as a second round prospect -- and a marginal one at that.

I contacted four teams about Ayers -- two AFC teams and two NFC teams. Two of the clubs operate primarily out of the 4-3, two primarily out of the 3-4 defense. The reviews were stunningly mixed. One 3-4 team loves him. The other ranks him as the 8th best pass rushing OLB prospect of the draft. Similar results came from the 4-3 teams. Each viewed him strictly as a 4-3 defensive end in their scheme.

I respect the opinions of my contacts in the league, but ultimately, I trust my own eyes more than anyone else's. Therefore, I went back to the film. I own game-film of 6 Tennessee games (UCLA, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Wyoming, Kentucky), as well as the Senior Bowl. After two days of reviewing these tapes, I feel comfortable with my current grade of a late first round to early second round grade.

Ayers, 6-3 (3/8), 272 pounds, primarily lined up as the right defensive end out of the 4-3 alignment in the 6 UT games viewed. This is the position he lined up throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl, as well. I have detailed notes from those practices, as well as the Senior Bowl, itself, in which Ayers earned Defensive MVP honors with 3 tackles, including 1.5 sacks. I thought that Ayers was arguably the most impressive player early in the week of practice in Mobile and wrote as much in my Monday and Tuesday reviews of the South practices.

Monday: The surprise was vs. Oher was Ayers, whose quickness off the snap, strength to anchor and dizzying array of counter moves enabled him to beat Oher at times and consistently proved too much for lesser pass blockers. If he can build upon his initial showing with a strong week of practice, Ayers could be the latest example of players catapulting up draft boards with a strong performance in Mobile.

Tuesday: Perhaps due to the colossal battles waged between Oher and Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers on Monday, the two were rarely matched up against each other for this second practice. After an eye-opening initial practice, Ayers struggled with lesser blockers early Tuesday. He picked up his play as the one on ones heated up, however, and finished practice playing with the fervor he’d shown a day earlier. His final snaps of the scrimmage Tuesday, in fact, were spent bull-rushing Tulane tackle Troy Kropog onto his back during one play and using a beautiful swim move to cleanly get past the Green Wave blocker and into the backfield on the next.

 

The concern I and others have with Ayers is twofold. For one, he didn't establish himself as even a starting caliber player until his senior season despite signing with the Vols as one of the most highly touted preps in the country. Until this season, he was viewed by many as a bit of a bust. Secondly, even though he was as good as any defensive lineman in the SEC this season (and that is saying something) and absolutely deserved the 1st team conference honors he received this year (49 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss), he finished with only 3 sacks.

Based on the film, Ayers consistently plays to his level of competition. His most dominant game (statistically-speaking) was against Georgia, which unfortunately, I don't have film of. Against Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith, Ayers showed good burst, impressive strength to shed, good agility and vision when redirecting and hustle. These were the same attributes I saw against Oher in the Senior Bowl practices.

Against lesser talent in the Wyoming and UCLA losses, however, Ayers disappeared too long for my taste.

Ayers' fluidity improved so dramatically from his Combine performance and Pro Day, that I can understand why some are very excited about him. Those close to the Tennessee program rave about his emergence as a senior leader and there is no denying his athleticism. While he predominately lined up at right defensive end, he also moved inside to defensive tackle, at times, to the left defensive end and was a standup pass rusher from either side, as well. He is not truly explosive off the snap, but can bend under the tackle and has very good lateral quickness to "get skinny" and beat the offensive tackle back inside after a jab-step to the outside to tackle runners for loss.

He has the versatility that every team is looking for and the opinion that he could be an ascending talent will likely push him into the first round -- but there is significant boom or bust potential here.

For these reasons, Ayers was characterized to me by a high ranking official of one of the four teams as "the most polarizing defender who's gonna go in the top 50. Some love him. Some are only luke-warm on him. He's moving up though..."

 

 
 
 
 
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