The Scouting Department

The Scouting Department

2018 Two-Round NFL Mock Draft (2.0)

• Mock Draft 1.0, released on February 19, 2018, can be viewed here.

(Round 1)

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB. USC

Analysis: Simply couldn’t protect the ball in 2017, but see the 2016 Rose Bowl vs. Penn State for a glimpse into how special he can be. Projectable prototype quarterback for Dorsey &

• Mock Draft 1.0, released on February 19, 2018, can be viewed here.

(Round 1)

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB. USC

Analysis: Simply couldn’t protect the ball in 2017, but see the 2016 Rose Bowl vs. Penn State for a glimpse into how special he can be. Projectable prototype quarterback for Dorsey & Co. to move forward with.

2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB. UCLA

Analysis: Best to find your man a year early than a year late, and the G-Men aren’t likely to have a better opportunity of acquiring Eli’s successor. Rosen is the most pro-ready quarterback available.

3. New York Jets (f/IND): Josh Allen, QB. Wyoming

Analysis: Though any team drafting Allen is taking a tremendous risk, he suits the conventional mold of quarterbacks GM Mike Maccagnan has preferred in his time with Gang Green. Jets are all-in.

4. Cleveland Browns (f/HOU): Quenton Nelson, OG. Notre Dame

Analysis: In 2013, John Dorsey made the shrewd, unsexy decision to oversee the selection of Eric Fisher at No. 1 overall and has always valued linemen with premium picks. This gives Cleveland the flexibility to kick Joel Bitonio back to his college position at left tackle.

5. Denver Broncos: Saquon Barkley, RB. Penn State

Analysis: Despite the tremendous depth at the position in this class, the Broncos find themselves fortunate that the potential best player available falls to them. Denver is sorely lacking in explosion at the position and Barkley pairs with Keenum for a backfield overhaul.

Chris Ballard's Colts, with four picks in the first two rounds, are well-positioned to win the 2018 NFL Draft.

Chris Ballard’s Colts, with four picks in the first two rounds and no quarterback need, are well-positioned to win the 2018 NFL Draft.

6. Indianapolis Colts (f/NYJ): Bradley Chubb, DE. NC State

Analysis: How smart does Chris Ballard look if this materializes? The Colts collectively accumulated 25.0 sacks in 2017 – good for second-worst in the NFL. Chubb is the defined No. 1 edge player in the class and has amassed 44 TFL and 20.0 sacks over the past to seasons.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB. Alabama

Analysis: Having already made a concerted effort to reinforce the league’s worst pass rush with the acquisitions of Vinny Curry and Jason Pierre-Paul, Tampa would be fortuitous to land the draft’s top defensive back. Whether it’s at corner or safety, he starts immediately.

8. Chicago Bears: Tremaine Edmunds, LB. Virginia Tech

Analysis: A rare breed of physical specimen, the 19-year-old could either project as an interior player or on the edge as a stand-up pass rusher.

9. San Francisco 49ers: Derwin James, S. Florida State

Analysis: Few first-round prospects have ascended throughout the process quite like James has. 49ers GM John Lynch – a former safety himself – knows the value of the position better than most.

10. Oakland Raiders: Vita Vea, DT. Washington

Analysis: Despite the signings of cornerback Rashaan Melvin and linebacker Tahir Whitehead more is needed at each position – however, there’s presently no greater need than along the interior defensive line (as evidenced by Oakland’s flirtation with Ndamukong Suh). Vea is a good-bodied power nose in the Haloti Ngata mold who can take attention off Khalil Mack.

11. Miami Dolphins: Denzel Ward, CB. Ohio State

Analysis: The Phins’ pass defense placed right on the Mendoza line in 2017 and, despite Xavien Howard showing strong signs of encouragement, more is needed –  a particularly prudent option with Vea off the board. Ward is a productive and complete cornerback.

12. Buffalo Bills (f/CIN): Baker Mayfield, QB. Oklahoma

Analysis: After sliding up nine picks, this selection will be for a quarterback one way or another and it’s quite possible the Bills continue moving up the board from here. The signing of A.J. McCarron no longer necessitates the need to find an immediate starter, but if he falters than there may not be a more polished player at the position from this class than Mayfield.

13. Washington Redskins: Roquan Smith, LB. Georgia

Analysis: Best-player-available. Zach Brown is quality and was re-signed, as was Mason Foster – but the latter is declining and easily upgradeable. Roquan Smith is a rangy athlete capable of playing in a wide variety of base fronts.

14. Green Bay Packers: Mike Hughes, CB. Central Florida

Analysis: In 2016, Green Bay began overhauling its secondary by adding length and speed, but the process is far from complete – particularly on the boundaries. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine deploys a more aggressive press-man approach, which Hughes suits quite nicely. He’s scratching the surface of his potential.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Connor Williams, OT. Texas

Analysis: There are few teams in the current NFL landscape who struggle to protect the quarterback more than Arizona (who ranked tied for 30th in sacks allowed in 2017). Williams is right tackle or guard versatile with NFL-ready run blocking skills. In a no-trade scenario, with no quarterback available suited to play-caller Mike McCoy’s offense, the Cards address issues elsewhere.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike McGlinchey, OT. Notre Dame

Analysis: Offensive line has been an area of strength for Baltimore for multiple years, but a continued infusion of talent would be an all-encompassing benefit. McGlinchey book-ended Ronnie Stanley once before at Notre Dame in 2015 and would allow the Ravens to utilize Alex Lewis as a swingman.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, DT. Alabama

Analysis: Starting nose tackle Brandon Mebane is regressing with age and entering the final year of his contract. As well, defensive end Corey Liuget was suspended four games to start the 2018 season due to a PED violation. Da’Ron Payne’s is an ideal solution to both concerns.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Davenport, DE. Texas-San Antonio

Analysis: The Seahawks totalled 39.0 sacks in 2017 – 8.5 of which were traded to Philly with Michael Bennett. Between various pass-rushing reclamation projects and the likely release of Cliff Avril, Seattle could opt for upside and plug-in the explosive Davenport.

19. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch, LB. Boise State

Analysis: Sean Lee is turning 32, has never played 16 games in a season and the Cowboys defense is consistently weakened without him. Vander Esch is an impressive athlete with low mileage, coming off an elite year of all-around production.

20. Detroit Lions: Sam Hubbard, DE. Ohio State

Analysis: Pass-rushing woes in 2017 necessitated a move for a now-38-year-old Dwight Freeney, and despite Ziggy Ansah’s pricey Franchise Tag the need for an upgrade on the edge is sorely required. Hubbard is a productive, athletic end with deceptive ability in space.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (f/BUF): Isaiah Wynn, OG. Georgia

Analysis: The trade down to this selection, which also added Cordy Glenn, allows for better value at guard. New offensive line coach Frank Pollack saw first-hand how smooth a transition Zack Martin made from college tackle to pro guard – Wynn’s physical composition is similar.

22. Buffalo Bills (f/KC): Jaire Alexander, CB. Louisville

Analysis: While it’s very likely this pick is used in part as a trade-up chip for the Bills to land their passer in the top ten, if they keep it they land one of round one’s biggest bargains. Alexander may be the draft’s best player at his position and for durability and height/length reasons, he slips. Think Josh Verrett 2.0, and a fantastic complement to Tre’Davious White.

Sean McVay and Co. have quickly transformed the Rams into NFC contenders, but require pass rush help.

Sean McVay and Co. have quickly transformed the Rams into NFC contenders, but require pass rush help.

23. Los Angeles Rams: Harold Landry, OLB. Boston College

Analysis: The roster needed to contend in the NFC is taking shape, but Wade Phillips still lacks a reliable edge rushing option. Landry’s stellar Combine performance solidified the belief in his ability to be a space-playing 3-4 linebacker. The most polished player available in the position the Rams require most.

24. Carolina Panthers: Joshua Jackson, CB. Iowa

Analysis: GM Marty Hurney indicated a willingness to address the positional need by attempting to sign Bashaud Breeland (who failed his physical) and the corner market is relatively scarce. Rather than opting for a committee approach on the opposite boundary to James Bradberry, the high-potential Joshua Jackson is a seamless schematic fit for a primarily zone base secondary that finished middle of the pack in coverage last year.

25. Tennessee Titans: Josh Sweat, OLB. Florida State

Analysis: Gifted athlete with desirable speed, size and length. It was apparent at the Combine that his ideal fit comes as a base 3-4 edge, and despite past injury concerns he’s proven to be an accomplished pass disruptor. There is some ‘boom or bust’ factor to Sweat’s evaluation, but if he puts it together at the next level he could be a gem.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT. Florida

Analysis: With a relatively complete roster it’s quite possible that Thomas Dimitroff looks to be aggressive and move up to secure Atlanta’s target. If not, Taven Bryan is a fantastic option. Possessing a bullish lower-body build with an active motor, the Casper, Montana-native provides an excellent solution to the vacancy left by Dontari Poe.

27. New Orleans Saints: Calvin Ridley, WR. New Orleans

Analysis: When you’re picking at the bottom of round one and the top available player at a position of need falls to you, it’s fate. Though this is more based on circumstance, New Orleans’ offense would benefit tremendously from adding a passing game workhorse to aid Drew Brees while the window of contention remains open. Ridley possesses some similarities to Reggie Wayne in 2001.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Lorenzo Carter, LB. Georgia

Analysis: One pick that touches upon a couple needs. Jon Bostic only begins to answer how Pittsburgh will replace Ryan Shazier in 2018 and the team requires more production from former first-rounder Bud Dupree, having yet to active his fifth-year option. Carter is a long, rangy uber-athlete who can be molded into either role moving forward.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Kirk, WR. Texas A&M

Analysis: A rapid turnaround, aided by relatively wise spending in free agency, has the Jags sitting pretty on draft night. Though linebacker is arguably the team’s most glaring hole following Paul Posluszny’s retirement, it’d be a minor surprise to see Kirk available. The organization stood behind Blake Bortles this offseason and, as such, add another dynamic weapon to aid in his continued development.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez, OG. UTEP

Analysis: After hammering top roster needs at quarterback and defensive tackle in free agency the Vikings are free to address the interior offensive line. Rookie center Pat Elflein is a stud, but both guard spots are easily upgradeable, and a phone-booth mauler like Hernandez would bring a welcomed mean streak to an O-line that was ill-equipped against a formidable pass rush in the NFC title game.

31. New England Patriots: Kolton Miller, OT. UCLA

Analysis: After Nate Solder joined the Giants for historic money it’d be fitting if a player of a near-identical physical profile slots in as his replacement. One of the 2018 Combine’s true workout warriors, the mammoth blind-side Bruin blocker is raw but offers a boatload of athleticism for the position. Besides, edge blocking as a rookie isn’t such a herculean task when it’s for Tom Brady’s lightning-quick internal clock.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Dallas Goedert, TE. South Dakota State

Analysis: For a team with few – if any – immediate holes, there is an opportunity for reinforcement behind Zach Ertz. After losing a quality ‘move’ tight end in Trey Burton to free agency, Goedert can effectively replicate the physical attributes lost in the passing game. More of a linear athlete in the Travis Kelce mold, this adds another dynamic dimension to an Eagles offense patiently awaiting the return of Carson Wentz.

(Round 2)

33. Cleveland Browns: Isaiah Oliver, CB. Colorado

Analysis: Size, length, ball skills. Tremendous potential at the top of round two, and can also help as a returner. Offers a new matchup dimension on Cleveland’s boundary.

34. New York Giants: Billy Price, OG/C. Ohio State

Analysis: Big Blue invested heavily at left tackle with Nate Solder and double-down with the nasty (guard-capable) Billy Price, a fellow Buckeye product equally polished as Shurmur’s rookie center (Pat Elflein) in Minnesota last season.

35. Cleveland Browns (f/HOU): Justin Reid, S. Stanford

Analysis: Versatile, “student of game” type who can cover multiple positions in the secondary behind Damarious Randall, who enters a contract year.

36. Indianapolis Colts: Derrius Guice, RB. LSU

Analysis: The feature ‘back Indy’s been seeking since the Edgerrin James/Joseph Addai days; whether it’s Luck or Brissett under center, Guice is capable of carrying the load offensively.

37. Indianapolis Colts (f/NYJ): James Daniels, OG/C. Iowa

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht has quickly addressed pass rushing needs through free agency and the trade market, allowing for increased draft flexibility.

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht has quickly addressed pass rushing needs through the free agent and trade markets, allowing for increased draft flexibility.

Analysis: Reich touted the interior O-line depth of this class and the Colts are pleased to find a first-round talent, in the Pouncey twins’ mold, capable of playing three positions atop round two.

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sony Michel, RB. Georgia

Analysis: Perpetual home run threat capable of stabilizing a backfield in need of a workhorse. Sony finally becomes an outright bell-cow.

39. Chicago Bears: Desmond Harrison, OT. West Georgia

Analysis: An ideal schematic fit for Nagy/Helfrich; high-potential long-term left tackle option who could physically follow in the Tyron Smith development path when he fills out his athletic frame.

40. Denver Broncos: Braden Smith, OG. Auburn

Analysis: Guard will be a point of emphasis early on and Smith is a big, powerful people-pusher with a ready-made NFL frame.

41. Oakland Raiders: Rashaan Evans, LB. Alabama

Analysis: Modern prototype linebacker with range and explosion; doubles as a sub-package pass rusher.

42. Miami Dolphins: Lamar Jackson, QB. Louisville

Analysis: Though maybe not a round one quarterback team after converting $16.7M into guaranteed money on Tannehill’s deal, this would be an ideal situation for player and team; electrifying playmaker.

43. New England Patriots (f/SF): Mike Gesicki, TE. Penn State

Analysis: Gronk is pondering retirement and Dwayne Allen was a non-factor in the passing game last season. Gesicki is a more athletic Jeremy Shockey and red-zone demon.

44. Washington Redskins: Harrison Phillips, DT. Stanford

Analysis: Brute power and a hulking physical build, Phillips provides an instant upgrade at nose tackle as Washington continues to beef up through the defensive middle.

45. Green Bay Packers: Arden Key, OLB. LSU

Analysis: Ideal dimensions and profile as a base 3-4 edge rusher with considerable upside. If they’re drafting the 2016 version, then it’s a tremendous bargain at this point.

46. Cincinnati Bengals: Hayden Hurst, TE. South Carolina

Analysis: Eifert’s proved unreliable and, at worst, this provides a well-rounded contingency plan at a position lacking depth.

47. Arizona Cardinals: Mason Rudolph, QB. Oklahoma State

Analysis: Despite lacking an A+ arm, Rudolph is a formidable downfield passer with terrific accuracy; Cards finally secure what could be their long-term answer under center.

48. Los Angeles Chargers: Ronnie Harrison, S. Alabama

Analysis: Unbelievable value in a position of need; heavy, downhill box safety with ‘plus’ coverage skills for the position. Charger fans screaming ‘Roll Tide’ in this scenario.

49. Indianapolis Colts (f/NYJ): Courtland Sutton, WR. Southern Methodist

Analysis: Lacking explosion, but a big-bodied possession target who adds a much-needed dimension to Indy’s stable of receivers.

50. Dallas Cowboys: Orlando Brown, OT. Oklahoma

Analysis: A lot of value at this point; an immediate right tackle option who allows La’El Collins to kick back to guard where he was stellar in 2016.

51. Detroit Lions: Ronald Jones III, RB. USC

Analysis: Delivers the ‘big play’ element sorely lacking in the Lions stagnant backfield; Jamaal Charles 2.0?

52. Baltimore Ravens: Kerryon Johnson, RB. Auburn

Analysis: Alex Collins was reliable, but there is tremendous value here in Johnson – an explosive, efficient, productive runner – who adds more excitement and depth to Baltimore’s backfield.

53. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Miller, WR. Memphis

Analysis: Benjamin enters a contract year and Zay Jones’ situation is up in the air. Miller is a production machine with numerous similarities to Antonio Brown out of CMU in 2010.

54. Kansas City Chiefs: Kyzir White, S. West Virginia

Analysis: Ron Parker is gone and depth beyond Eric Berry is severely lacking. White favorably complements the aforementioned Berry and ideally profiles as a hybrid big-slot/tight end coverage option.

55. Carolina Panthers: Martinas Rankin, OL. Mississippi State

Analysis: A savvy selection that would provide deep coverage along the O-line; immediate help at guard and a strong center candidate once Ryan Kalil retires.

56. Buffalo Bills (f/LAR): Malik Jefferson, LB. Texas

Analysis: Rangy H/W/S prototype with superior coverage skills and an attack-minded approach to the position.

57. Tennessee Titans: Frank Ragnow, OG/C. Arkansas

Analysis: Deeply experienced leader with the ability to cover all three interior positions; lunchpail blocker with deceptive athleticism.

58. Atlanta Falcons: Rasheem Green, DE. USC

Analysis: Versatile, hybrid lineman with enough bulk for a sub-package interior rusher, but enough agility and quickness to disrupt from the edge as well.

59. San Francisco 49ers (f/NO): Austin Corbett, OG. Nevada

Analysis: The organization has heavily prioritized building an O-line in the Lynch era; the fleet-footed college tackle is a perfect fit for Shanahan’s outside zone and appears to be a carbon copy of fellow Nevada alum Joel Bitonio.

60. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jessie Bates, S. Wake Forest

Analysis: Self-motivator just scratching the surface of his potential; highly productive tackler with natural, center-field coverage awareness.

The always-enigmatic Patriots hold three of the first 63 selections and are liable to go in a number of directions.

The always-enigmatic Patriots hold three of the first 63 selections and are liable to go in a number of directions.

61. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jerome Baker, LB. Ohio State

Analysis: Springy defender, covers ground seamlessly with blistering play-speed; capable of matching nearly any caliber of athlete in coverage. Kindly suits the Jags’ defensive profile.

62. Minnesota Vikings: Kemoko Turay, DE/OLB. Rutgers

Analysis: In Mike Zimmer’s desired H/W/S mold; a limitless athlete whose role can be shaped in a number of ways, similarly to Anthony Barr.

63. New England Patriots: Mike White, QB. Western Kentucky

Analysis: Prototype pocket-passer with a firehose arm; New England uses young quarterbacks as currency and can restock the cupboard.

64. Cleveland Browns (f/PHI): Nick Chubb, RB. Georgia

Analysis: Prodigious, productive Dawg rusher who likely would’ve gone higher had he not suffered a significant knee injury in 2015.

 

Let me have it on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Read More 2910 Words

Dion Caputi’s 2018 NFL Draft position rankings (2.0)

Dion Caputi’s 2018 NFL Draft position rankings are based on pre/post-Combine film study and encompass evaluations from various All-Star bowls (Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, etc.). Note: Honorable mentions (“HM”) aren’t necessarily the No. 6 rated players by position, but noteworthy nevertheless.

*Bracketed numbers denote previous ranking.

Position rankings (1.0), released on

Dion Caputi’s 2018 NFL Draft position rankings are based on pre/post-Combine film study and encompass evaluations from various All-Star bowls (Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, etc.). Note: Honorable mentions (“HM”) aren’t necessarily the No. 6 rated players by position, but noteworthy nevertheless.

*Bracketed numbers denote previous ranking.

Position rankings (1.0), released on February 13, 2018.


Quarterback

  1. Josh Rosen, UCLA (2)
  2. Sam Darnold, USC (1)
  3. Baker Mayfield, OU (3)
  4. Lamar Jackson, LOU (4)
  5. Mike White, WKU (n/a)

HM: Riley Ferguson, MEM (5)


Running Back

  1. Saquon Barkley, PSU (1)
  2. Derrius Guice, LSU (4)
  3. Ronald Jones, USC (2)
  4. Sony Michel, UGA (3)
  5. Kerryon Johnson, AUB (5)

HM: Nick Chubb, UGA (n/a)


Wide Receiver

Antonio Callaway, fresh off a tremendous Combine, could be one of the steals of the draft at receiver.

Antonio Callaway, fresh off a tremendous Combine, could be one of the steals of the draft at receiver.

  1. Anthony Miller, MEM (1)
  2. Calvin Ridley, BAMA (2)
  3. Christian Kirk, TAMU (3)
  4. Equanimeous St. Brown, ND (5)
  5. D.J. Chark, LSU (n/a)

HM: Antonio Callaway, UF (n/a)


Tight Ends

  1. Mike Gesicki, PSU (2)
  2. Dallas Goedert, SDST (n/a)
  3. Hayden Hurst, SCAR (3)
  4. Tyler Conklin, CMU (5)
  5. Mark Andrews, OU (1)

HM: Adam Breneman, UMASS (HM)


Offensive Tackle

  1. Mike McGlinchey, ND (1)
  2. Desmond Harrison, WGA (2)
  3. Connor Williams, UT (4)
  4. Orlando Brown, OU (3)
  5. Kolton Miller, UCLA (n/a)

HM: Brian O’Neill, PITT (n/a)


Offensive Guard/Center

  1. Quenton Nelson, ND (1)
  2. Isaiah Wynn, UGA (2)
  3. Will Hernandez, UTEP (n/a)
  4. Billy Price, OSU (3)
  5. James Daniels, IOWA (n/a)

HM: Rod Taylor, MISS (n/a)


Interior Defensive Line/Defensive Tackle

  1. Vita Vea, UW (1)
  2. Da’Ron Payne, BAMA (n/a)
  3. Taven Bryan, UF (3)
  4. Rasheem Green, USC (2)
  5. Harrison Phillips, STAN (n/a)

HM: Nathan Shepherd, FHST (n/a)

Kansas star Dorance Armstrong Jr. is perfectly suited to a 3-4 edge role at the next level.

Kansas star Dorance Armstrong Jr. is perfectly suited to a 3-4 edge role at the next level.


Edge Defender/Defensive End

  1. Bradley Chubb, NCST (1)
  2. Harold Landry, BC (4)
  3. Marcus Davenport, UTST (2)
  4. Sam Hubbard, OSU (n/a)
  5. Andrew Brown, UVA (n/a)

HM: Dorance Armstrong Jr., UK (n/a)


Linebacker

  1. Roquan Smith, UGA (1)
  2. Tremaine Edmunds, VT (2)
  3. Leighton Vander Esch, BSU (3)
  4. Lorenzo Carter, UGA (HM)
  5. Shaquem Griffin, UCF (5)

HM: Kemoko Turay, RUT (n/a)


Cornerback

  1. Jaire Alexander, LOU (2)
  2. Denzel Ward, OSU (3)
  3. Joshua Jackson, IOWA (1)
  4. Mike Hughes, UCF (5)
  5. Isaiah Oliver, CU (n/a)

HM: J.C. Jackson, UMD (n/a)


Safety

  1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, BAMA (1)
  2. Derwin James, FSU (2)
  3. Ronnie Harrison, BAMA (4)
  4. Justin Reid, STAN (5)
  5. DeShon Elliott, UT (3)

HM: Dane Cruikshank, UA (n/a)

Kicker/Punter

  1. Michael Dickson, UT (1, punter)
  2. Eddy Pineiro, UF (2, kicker)
  3. Matthew McCrane, KSU (3, kicker)
  4. Daniel Carlson, AUB (4, kicker)
  5. Shane Tripucka, TAMU (5, punter)

HM: Ryan Santoso, UMN (HM, punter/kickoff specialist)

Hit me on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Read More 356 Words

NFL Combine 2018: Who will be the ‘Alpha’ QB?

A new set of 300-something (336 to be exact) collegiate stars take the annual trip to Indianapolis in what will likely be the most grueling job interview process of their lives.

Entering this Combine, I remain steadfast in my belief that all invited passers should throw, as nobody has anything to lose with so much

A new set of 300-something (336 to be exact) collegiate stars take the annual trip to Indianapolis in what will likely be the most grueling job interview process of their lives.

Entering this Combine, I remain steadfast in my belief that all invited passers should throw, as nobody has anything to lose with so much uncertainty regarding the selection order of quarterbacks at the top of the class. In essence, the distinction of being the first passer chosen – and likely at No. 1 overall – is entirely up for grabs.

With Sam Darnold electing not to throw at the Combine, additional eyes will be on Josh Rosen.

With Sam Darnold electing not to throw at the Combine, additional eyes will be on Josh Rosen.

USC’s Sam Darnold, who – for the time being – is tipped as the likeliest to be selected first by Cleveland, bowed out of the race after electing not to throw, leaving the door agape for others to claim the spotlight.

UCLA’s Josh Rosen will primarily be tasked with dispelling his perceived character concerns at this year’s Combine, but there may not be a ‘prettier’ stationary passer in this class. As such, he stands an excellent chance at significantly elevating his on-field perception with a comfortable and composed display in drills. Unlike his three years with the Bruins, he’ll have more than a half-second to deliver passes at the Combine.

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is one of the most polarizing of talents in the 2018 draft class. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner’s confident, animated demeanor is both a positive and negative depending on who you speak to, but his ability to lead an offense is inarguable. I’m eager to see him interact with fellow groupmates during the workout and how willing he’ll be to simply ‘be himself’ with so much discussion surrounding his personality throughout the process. Mayfield’s at his best when he plays with personality and it’d behoove him to do the same in Indy.

Two who will be scrutinized above all others are Wyoming gunslinger Josh Allen and Lousiville playmaker (and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner) Lamar Jackson.

Allen possesses a mouthwatering physical skill-set and a fully equipped toolbox, which has some believing he could go as high as No. 1 overall, but his evaluation is marred by erratic tape. On the other hand, Jackson has the most to prove of any Combine passer. It’s imperative for the 2-time ACC Player of the Year to exhibit an improved ability while throwing from a stationary position, as he’s developed a penchant for feeling more comfortable while mobile. Nevertheless, a tremendous talent and Combine discussion point.

I’m higher on Memphis’ Riley Ferguson than most. The former Tennessee Volunteer combined with Anthony Miller for what was one of college football’s most lethal pass-catch tandems last season. He enters the Combine as my No. 5 rated quarterback and I’m excited to observe how he compares to the perceived top talents at the position in Indy.

The three-time Buckeye captain might be the most appealing late-round quarterback option in the 2018 draft.

The three-time Buckeye captain might be the most appealing late-round quarterback option in the 2018 draft.

For prolific Oklahoma State pivot Mason Rudolph, his delivery will be an observation point as he possesses more of a push-power arm. Has he shortened his motion a bit? If so, it’ll elevate his perception.

Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett leaves college a similar prospect to how I viewed Tyrod Taylor out of Virginia Tech in 2011 – though slightly less of an athlete and slightly more of a ‘quarterback’. He stands a strong chance of having an extended NFL career and that begins in Indy by putting what I consider to be a ‘complete’ skill-set on display during workouts.

Lastly, Washington State’s Luke Falk has people wondering if he has enough arm to make every NFL throw. A dreaded ‘system’ player? The Combine is a perfect stage for him to quell those concerns.

Prediction:
For quarterbacks, the Combine is primarily beneficial to individuals with great physical optics – the guys who ‘look’ like quarterbacks in stature or motion. Therefore, the odds-on favorites to improve their draft appeal after drills will be Josh Allen (tantalizing blend of size and arm strength) and Josh Rosen (silky-smooth throwing motion and advanced mechanics). Expect them to be the biggest ‘winners’ from the positional group.

As a final honorable mention, keep an eye on Western Kentucky prototype Mike White: He looks the part and is equipped with an A-grade arm. The former Louisville Slugger All-American pitcher’s lack of evasion or mobility will be well-hidden during the battery of on-field testing where he’ll be allowed to just let-rip and put on a show.

Quarterbacks workout with running backs and tight ends on Saturday, March 3.

Drop me a line on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Read More 716 Words

2018 Two-Round NFL Mock Draft (1.0)

*Note: As there was a tie, No. 9 and 10 overall will be decided via coin toss at the Combine. In order to determine the order for this mock, I literally brought a 49ers fan and a Raiders fan together for a coin toss (in what proved to be a monumental waste of time and

*Note: As there was a tie, No. 9 and 10 overall will be decided via coin toss at the Combine. In order to determine the order for this mock, I literally brought a 49ers fan and a Raiders fan together for a coin toss (in what proved to be a monumental waste of time and resources). 49ers won the toss.


(Round 1)

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB. USC

Analysis: Simply couldn’t protect the ball in 2017, but offers more in both production and upside than all fellow quarterback classmates. See 2016 Rose Bowl vs. Penn State for a glimpse at how special he can be.

2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB. UCLA

Analysis: No worthy pass protection and the long-term need under center is palpable. Best to find your man a year early anyway, as this also relieves pressure on Shurmur to identify Eli’s successor. Rosen’s persona should mesh well in NYC.

3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE. NC State

Analysis: Though Indy’s rush offense was poor in 2017 its defense ranked 30th in yards (conceded) per game + 31st in sacks and Chubb is consistently dominant. This running back class may be the best in history – fry that fish later

4. Cleveland Browns (f/HOU): Saquon Barkley, RB. Penn State

Analysis: I struggled because this is the least-John Dorsey pick ever, but to land arguably the draft’s best player with the second of two picks makes it less of a luxury. O-line help still wouldn’t surprise me here either.

5. Denver Broncos: Quenton Nelson, OG. Notre Dame

Analysis: Unquestionably the best, most plug-and-play blocker in this draft class and the Broncos ranked 30th in sacks-allowed last year.

6. New York Jets: Calvin Ridley, WR. Alabama

Analysis: Ridley is a pass-game workhorse in the Reggie Wayne mold. Plenty of unpolished passers will still be available later, and with less immediate pressure than they would if taken here.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB. Alabama

Analysis: Corner, safety – doesn’t matter. Tampa’s defense sorely needs a talent upgrade and Minkah fields an all-around game with huge upside. Adding some more length to that secondary is an added bonus.

8. Chicago Bears: Connor Williams, OT. Texas

Analysis: New head coach Matt Nagy arrives from an organization in KC that put a premium on O-lineman, and with a bright-eyed young passer under center comes the responsibility of protecting him.

9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB. Georgia

Analysis: Whether Reuben Foster plays 16 games or not, there’s a need to upgrade the linebacking unit. Roquan is an alpha-dog in the Patrick Willis mold.

10. Oakland Raiders: Vita Vea, DT. Washington

Analysis: Brute power and an absurd first step, Vea is mammoth-sized (6’4″ 344lbs.) but packs it all into a good body. A 3-down space-eater who would certainly take some attention off Khalil Mack.

11. Miami Dolphins: Mike Hughes, CB. Central Florida

Analysis: Defense ranked 28th in the league in interceptions last season and there’s rather significant need for added talent + depth at the corner position. If not a quarterback (and I don’t expect it to be), pass defense must be a priority.

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Baker Mayfield, QB. Oklahoma

Analysis: Shocker, right? Not really. Andy Dalton will be 31 this year and – after peaking in 2015 – has regressed considerably. His salary also escalates beginning in 2019, just in time for Mayfield to take reigns. Something’s got to give on that idle offense.

13. Washington Redskins: Tremaine Edmunds, ILB. Virginia Tech

Analysis: Heavy down-hill playmaker who can bolster a run defense that was hapless in a few key moments last season. HWS (height/weight/speed) specimen cut from the same cloth as Dont’a Hightower.

14. Green Bay Packers: Rasheem Green, DT/DE. USC

Analysis: An all-encompassing defensive upgrade with an untraceable ceiling. Though boasting a similar skill-set (and pass rushing threat) to Fletcher Cox coming out of Mississippi State, Green’s best fit could come as a 5-tech.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen, QB. Wyoming

Analysis: I have extreme hesitancy on Allen, but the need for long-term hope under center is unquestionably required. The physical tools are tantalizing – but he must sit for at least a year.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Orlando Brown, OT. Oklahoma

Analysis: Likely a right tackle only, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Brown reminds me of another former mammoth OU tackle in Phil Loadholt, who was an above-average right tackle for 6 seasons.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Billy Price, C. Ohio State

Analysis: Multiple needs and the board is set up for all of them, but center may be the most glaring of all. Price is an angry blocker, day-one-ready and can arguably match even Phil Rivers for intensity.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Derwin James, S. Florida State

Analysis: At minimum, Chancellor claims he’ll sit out 2018 and this is a near-perfect solution from a talent perspective. The Legion of Boom is deteriorating and youthful turnover in the secondary is badly required.

19. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch, LB. Boise State

Analysis: Sean Lee is turning 32, has never played 16 games in a season and the Cowboys defense is consistently weakened without him. Vander Esch is an impressive athlete with low mileage, coming off an elite year of all-around production.

20. Detroit Lions: Marcus Davenport, DE. Texas at San Antonio

Analysis: Pass rush ineffectiveness necessitated the mid-season signing of Dwight Freeney and Ziggy Ansah is a free agent. Davenport bundles length, power and movement skills in a high-potential 6’6″ 255lb frame.

21. Buffalo Bills: Denzel Ward, CB. Ohio State

Analysis: Smooth, instinctual athlete who will likely play the majority of his snaps inside. Tre’Davious White was DROY-worthy, but the Bills’ pass defense still finished bottom-half in yards conceded in 2017.

22. Buffalo Bills (f/KC): Da’Ron Payne, DT. Alabama

Analysis: In 2017, the Bills defense ranked 29th in rushing yards conceded per game. Payne is a trim and powerful 3-down nose tackle who can help anchor a run defense early on as a rookie.

23. Los Angeles Rams: Joshua Jackson, CB. Iowa

Analysis: After Trumaine Johnson, who is a free agent, there is little to get excited about at the corner position. Jackson requires polish but possesses tremendous potential. B1G DB of the Year following a phenomenal 8-interception season.

24. Carolina Panthers: Courtland Sutton, WR. Southern Methodist

Analysis: After moving on from Kelvin Benjamin, this establishes an added big-bodied physical presence out wide for Cam. On the high-end, Sutton functions like Marques Colston did and can provide a consistently reliable target.

25. Tennessee Titans: James Daniels, C. Iowa

Analysis: Though he must continue to fill out his frame and strength is to be developed, Daniels can play all three interior positions along the O-line, where stability is needed. Titans have valued blockers with premium picks before.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Isaiah Wynn, OG. Georgia

Analysis: Fleet-footed college tackle with Pro Bowl potential at guard moving forward – and an ideal schematic fit in a ZBS.

27. New Orleans Saints: Christian Kirk, WR. Texas A&M

Analysis: Doesn’t quite replace the vertical threat lost when Cooks was dealt, but Kirk’s style of play is similar to that of Odell Beckham leaving LSU. Lack of stability in Aggies’ quarterback situation hampered production.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronnie Harrison, S. Alabama

Analysis: Heavy, productive, down-hill defender tied into an athletic and imposing 6’3″ 215lb frame. More importantly, ready to help out from day one.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dallas Goedert, TE. South Dakota State

Analysis: Relatively unpolished as a blocker, but there may not be a more dynamic route-runner and receiver from the tight end position in this class. Seems wildly unlikely a quarterback is considered here.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Mike McGlinchey, OT. Notre Dame

O-line took a big step forward in 2017 and Elflein is a stud, but further reinforcement is needed. McGlinchey is a four-position blocker and would help immediately wherever he’s plugged.

31. New England Patriots: Taven Bryan, DT. Florida

Analysis: Piece of clay with tremendous upside. Lack of top-end collegiate production won’t prevent a confident coach like Belichick from acquiring such a talent. Patriots are quirky on draft day but always value defense early.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Rashaan Evans, LB. Alabama

Analysis: Ideal inside-outside fit in a base 4-3 front with impressive lateral movement abilities. Explosive box defender who doesn’t get swallowed or stuck to blockers.

(Round 2)

33. Cleveland Browns: Isaiah Oliver, CB. Colorado

Analysis: Size/speed/length athlete + ball skills. Tremendous potential at the top of round two, and can also help as a returner.

34. New York Giants: Ronald Jones III, RB. USC

Analysis: Committee rushing approach isn’t working and RJ3 is a home run hitter with world class speed. Jamaal Charles 2.0.

35. Cleveland Browns (f/HOU): Justin Reid, S. Stanford

Analysis: Well-rounded, complete safety with good instincts and athleticism. “Student of the game”.

36. Indianapolis Colts: Derrius Guice, RB. LSU

Analysis: Uber-talent. Top 15 player based on 2016 tape but dealt with injuries in 2017.

37. New York Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB. Louisville

Analysis: Playmaker in every sense – supremely effective passing on the move, but requires polish. Good situation sitting a year behind McCown.

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Arden Key, DE. LSU

Analysis: Defense is a mess and Tampa only mustered 22.0 sacks in 2017 – good for worst in the league. Key has double-digit sack potential.

39. Chicago Bears: Anthony Miller, WR. Memphis

Analysis: Reminiscent of Antonio Brown’s electric Central Michigan tape. Stat-freak who eats with feet despite diminutive physique.

40. Denver Broncos: Sony Michel, RB. Georgia

Analysis: Strong north-south rusher capable of hitting home runs, and he’s accustomed to running as part of a tandem/committee.

41. Oakland Raiders: Donte Jackson, CB. LSU

Analysis: Lacking in overall size, but might be the fastest corner available in this class. Adds a sorely required element to a cornerback group that must start over.

42. Miami Dolphins: Will Hernandez, OG. UTEP

Analysis: Interior O-line stability is desperately needed, and Hernandez started 37 games at LG in four years. LOVES a trench fight.

43. New England Patriots (f/SF): Jaire Alexander, CB. Louisville

Analysis: Jason Verrett 2.0 – probably a top 15 pick if he were taller, but size means less for Patriots when evaluating DBs.

44. Washington Redskins: James Washington, WR. Oklahoma State

Analysis: Adds a downfield element not currently present on the roster and Alex Smith is locked in at $71M guaranteed – he needs support.

45. Green Bay Packers: Harold Landry, DE/OLB. Boston College

Analysis: Coming off a down year, but looked to be college football’s most fearsome edge rusher in 2016 with 16.5 sacks (and 22.0 TFL).

46. Cincinnati Bengals: Martinas Rankin, OT. Mississippi State

Analysis: Might be at tackle, might be at guard, but he’s a 4-position blocker and enters the league ready to play now.

47. Arizona Cardinals: Simmie Cobbs Jr. WR. Indiana

Analysis: Life after Larry Fitzgerald’s retirement could be rough; might be best to groom a prospect with a similar skill-base under him.

48. Los Angeles Chargers: Terrell Edmunds, S. Virginia Tech

Analysis: Tremaine’s older bro; big-bodied, downhill safety adept in coverage. Willing tackler in the box and can physically match NFL tight ends.

49. New York Jets (f/SEA): Harrison Phillips, DT. Stanford

Analysis: High-motor, power lineman with violent hands. 15.0 sacks over the last two seasons. Steps off the bus pissed off.

50. Dallas Cowboys: Desmond Harrison, OT. West Georgia

Analysis: Texas transfer might be the premier ‘boom or bust’ prospect in 2018; mouthwatering dimensions and talent base. Collins eventually slides back inside.

51. Detroit Lions: Maurice Hurst, DT. Michigan

Analysis: (Very) poor man’s Aaron Donald who can provide a consistent leverage-based pass-rush inside. Would be supreme value.

52. Baltimore Ravens: D.J. Moore, WR. Maryland

Analysis: B1G WR of the Year; combines strength + speed, Moore is a fantastic YAC threat and volume catcher.

53. Buffalo Bills: Mason Rudolph, QB. Oklahoma State

Analysis: If you’re going to select a quarterback who’s at least one year away from meaningful snaps, better to do it on day two.

54. Kansas City Chiefs: Braden Smith, OG. Auburn

Analysis: The Olathe, Kansas-native ideally projects to guard (with swing-tackle versatility). It’s imperative to protect Mahomes while he acclimates.

55. Carolina Panthers: Kyzir White, S. West Virginia

Analysis: Complete safety and the ideal frame + skill base for an NFL safety. Ascending quickly.

56. Buffalo Bills (f/LAR): Frank Ragnow, C. Arkansas

Analysis: Experienced captain with guard versatility; natural replacement for the retiring Eric Wood.

57. Tennessee Titans: Andrew Brown, DE. Virginia

Analysis: Fits the 3-4 end profile perfectly and proved to be a penetrative force when rushing from in or out over the past two years.

58. Atlanta Falcons: Derrick Nnadi, DT. Florida State

Analysis: Squatty three-down nose tackle in a base 4-3 with impressive lateral movement skills; Poe, Rubin up for free agency.

59. San Francisco 49ers (f/NO): Kerryon Johnson, RB. Auburn

Analysis: Whether Carlos Hyde returns or not, more is needed; Kerryon can be the workhorse in any offense.

60. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Jefferson, LB. Texas

Analysis: Who knows if Shazier will play again and Pittsburgh badly missed the range he provided at the position. Supreme value.

61. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jamarco Jones, OT. Ohio State

Analysis: Profiles well at either tackle spot and allows the Jags to reshuffle the deck along the O-line where necessary.

62. Minnesota Vikings: R.J. McIntosh, DT. Miami (FL)

Analysis: Height/weight/speed defender, just how Zim likes ’em. His dynamic skill-set would offer creative possibilities.

63. New England Patriots: Mike Gesicki, TE. Penn State

Analysis: Gronk is pondering retirement and Marty Bennett could be cut or retire; Gesicki is a Jeremy Shockey clone and helps in the red zone immediately.

64. Cleveland Browns (f/PHI): Carlton Davis, CB. Auburn

Analysis: Modern long-limbed press-man boundary corner; boasts terrific ball skills.

 

Let me have it on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Read More 2155 Words

Dion Caputi’s 2018 NFL Draft position rankings


*Dion Caputi's 2018 NFL Draft position rankings are based on pre-Combine film study and encompass evaluations from various All-Star bowls (Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, etc.). Note: Honorable mentions ("HM") aren't necessarily the No. 6 rated players by position, but noteworthy nevertheless.

Quarterback

  1. Sam Darnold, USC
  2. Josh Rosen, UCLA
  3. Baker Mayfield,


*Dion Caputi’s 2018 NFL Draft position rankings are based on pre-Combine film study and encompass evaluations from various All-Star bowls (Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, etc.). Note: Honorable mentions (“HM”) aren’t necessarily the No. 6 rated players by position, but noteworthy nevertheless.

Quarterback

  1. Sam Darnold, USC
  2. Josh Rosen, UCLA
  3. Baker Mayfield, OU
  4. Lamar Jackson, LOU
  5. Riley Ferguson, MEM

HM: Nic Shimonek, TTU

Running Back

  1. Saquon Barkley, PSU
  2. Ronald Jones III, USC
  3. Sony Michel, UGA
  4. Derrius Guice, LSU
  5. Kerryon Johnson, AUB

HM: Rashaad Penny, SDSU

Memphis star Anthony Miller amassed 2,896 yards and 32 touchdowns on 191 receptions over the last two seasons.

Memphis star Anthony Miller amassed 2,896 yards and 32 touchdowns on 191 receptions over the last two seasons.

Wide Receiver

  1. Anthony Miller, MEM
  2. Calvin Ridley, BAMA
  3. Christian Kirk, TAMU
  4. Courtland Sutton, SMU
  5. Equanimeous St. Brown, ND

HM: Daurice Fountain, UNI

Tight End

  1. Mark Andrews, OU
  2. Mike Gesicki, PSU
  3. Hayden Hurst, SCAR
  4. Troy Fumagalli, WISC
  5. Tyler Conklin, CMU

HM: Adam Breneman, UMASS

Offensive Tackle

  1. Mike McGlinchey, ND
  2. Desmond Harrison, WGA
  3. Orlando Brown, OU
  4. Connor Williams, UT
  5. Tyrell Crosby, ORE

HM: Brandon Parker, NCAT

Offensive Guard/Center

  1. Quenton Nelson, ND
  2. Isaiah Wynn, UGA
  3. Billy Price, OSU
  4. Braden Smith, AUB
  5. Frank Ragnow, ARK

HM: Mark Korte, ALBERTA

Interior Defensive Line/Defensive Tackle

  1. Vita Vea, UW
  2. Rasheem Green, USC
  3. Taven Bryan, UF
  4. Derek Nnadi, FSU
  5. R.J. McIntosh, MIA (FL)

HM: Harrison Phillips, STAN

Pass rusher Jeff Holland is comparable to fellow Auburn alum Dee Ford, who was selected 23rd overall in 2014.

Pass rusher Jeff Holland is comparable to fellow Auburn alum Dee Ford, who was selected 23rd overall in 2014.

Edge Defender/Defensive End

  1. Bradley Chubb, NCST
  2. Marcus Davenport, UTSA
  3. Arden Key, LSU
  4. Harold Landry, BC
  5. Jeff Holland, AUB

HM: Joe Ostman, CMU

Linebacker

  1. Roquan Smith, UGA
  2. Tremaine Edmunds, VT
  3. Leighton Vander Esch, BOISE
  4. Malik Jefferson, UT
  5. Shaquem Griffin, UCF

HM: Frank Ginda, SJSU / Lorenzo Carter, UGA

Cornerback

  1. Joshua Jackson, IOWA
  2. Jaire Alexander, LOU
  3. Denzel Ward, OSU
  4. Holton Hill, UT
  5. Mike Hughes, UCF

HM: Devron Davis, UTSA / Siran Neal, JSU

Safety

  1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, BAMA
  2. Derwin James, FSU
  3. DeShon Elliott, UT
  4. Ronnie Harrison, BAMA
  5. Justin Reid, STAN

HM: Jordan Whitehead, PITT

Texas' Aussie-born punter was named MVP of the Texas Bowl after 10 of his 11 punts were downed within Missouri's 15-yard line.

Texas’ Aussie-born punter was named MVP of the Texas Bowl after 10 of his 11 punts were downed within Missouri’s 15-yard line.

Kicker/Punter

  1. Michael Dickson, UT (punter)
  2. Eddy Pineiro, UF (kicker)
  3. Matthew McCrane, KSU (kicker)
  4. Daniel Carlson, AUB (kicker)
  5. Shane Tripucka, TAMU (punter)

HM: Ryan Santoso, UMN (punter/kickoff specialist)

 

Hit me up on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Read More 333 Words

College Football: Week 2 Storylines

UCLA's unforgettable comeback, (1) Alabama knocking off (3) Florida State, a nail-biter between West Virginia and Virginia Tech, as well as the Big Ten thriving early. Week 1 of the 2017 college football season was excellent, and fortunately for those of us at home, we're just getting started.

As we move into the second week

UCLA’s unforgettable comeback, (1) Alabama knocking off (3) Florida State, a nail-biter between West Virginia and Virginia Tech, as well as the Big Ten thriving early. Week 1 of the 2017 college football season was excellent, and fortunately for those of us at home, we’re just getting started.

As we move into the second week of the collegiate season, there’s once again a bevy of intriguing storylines on schedule for you to keep a close eye on. Here’s what I’m most looking forward to this weekend:

(5) Oklahoma AT (2) Ohio State – September 9, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC

The Buckeyes went to Norman and throttled the Sooners on their home turf last season, 45-24. This year, Oklahoma is coming off a more convincing Week 1 offensive performance where Sr. quarterback Baker Mayfield was able to call it a day by halftime. Can OU’s young head coach Lincoln Riley vindicate last season’s bad loss in Columbus? We’ll see.

Tyquan Lewis led the way against Indiana with two sacks.

Tyquan Lewis led the way against Indiana with two sacks.

Ultimately, this game will come down to Oklahoma’s offense against Ohio State’s defense, where the former looked dominant while scoring 35 first-half points and the latter notched five sacks, two interceptions, and one fumble in week 1.

Baker Mayfield will be under heavy scrutiny all season from an NFL evaluation standpoint, as he’s lacking prototype size or ideal physical traits for the next level. However, a signature performance early on would generate a dose of positive momentum for the Austin, Texas native.

Conversely, Ohio State’s defensive edge trio of Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, and Nick Bosa are sure to leave a mark on the game. As well, true Fr. running back J.K. Dobbins has Buckeye fans excited after his 181-yard rushing effort in his college debut. Scouts and fans alike will want to get a look at him – he’s wearing No. 2.

(13) Auburn AT (3) Clemson – September 9, 7 p.m. ET

Dabo Swinney spoke highly of Auburn’s balance on both sides of the ball last season and War Eagle is unquestionably superior to its 2016 counterpart. While it’s not impossible for Gus Malzahn’s squad to win ten regular season games this year, it’d require a sizable upset in order to win a night game at Memorial Stadium this Saturday.

However, Auburn boasts a potentially elite running game featuring the trio of Kerryon Johnson, Kam Martin, and Kamryn Pettway. Though Johnson is unlikely to suit up due to a hamstring injury, Pettway – last season’s bell cow – returns from suspension this week. Everyone’s favorite sleeper quarterback Jarrett Stidham will have to be a lot more effective this week if Auburn is to stand a chance of outscoring Clemson.

Clemson, last year’s national champion, has an enviable ground game itself with four players rushing for 50+ yards and at least one touchdown against Kent State in week 1. Oh, and the Tigers also completed passes to 15 different receivers as well.

Get ready for a lot of offense. Slam the over on this one.

(14) Stanford AT (6) USC – September 9, 8:30 p.m. ET

“It’s one of those dates you mark on your calendar because you know it’s going to impact your season,” said USC head coach Clay Helton of this tie.

Ronald Jones II rushed for three touchdowns in week one against Western Michigan.

Ronald Jones II rushed for three touchdowns in week one against Western Michigan.

We may be getting an early preview of the Pac-12 title game here and the contest is likely to be a tale of two star rushers. USC Jr. Ronald Jones II took charge offensively against Western Michigan in week 1 as his quarterback, Sam Darnold, failed to settle into the game. Meanwhile, Cardinal Jr. Bryce Love stepped in nobly in the wake of Christian McCaffrey as Stanford routed Rice in Australia.

As eluded to, Trojan Jr. quarterback Sam Darnold was porous in his season debut, but can quickly extirpate all negativity with a strong game this weekend. Though Josh Rosen carries the lion’s share of the pro buzz after UCLA’s come back, Darnold is still favored by many to be selected No. 1 overall in next year’s draft.

I’m expecting a tight game with a fun conclusion, and it’s possible that this won’t be the last time we see these two teams lock horns in 2017.

Quick Hits…

• (15) Georgia travels to South Bend to take on newly minted top twenty-five ranked (24) Notre Dame, but will do so with true Fr. Jake Fromm under center. Starter Jacob Eason sprained his knee against Appalachian State before Fromm entered and led Georgia on three consecutive touchdown drives. Gametime at 7:30 p.m. ET.

• (20) Washington State looks to avenge last season’s loss to unranked Boise State on September 9 at 8:30 p.m. ET. Get a good look at the Cougars’ interesting pro prospect Luke Falk, as he’s 101 passing yards away from breaking the school’s career passing record.

• Don’t forget, (16) Miami FL vs. Arkansas State has been canceled outright due to Hurricane Irma despite the game being staged in Jonesboro. ‘Canes athletic director Blake James confirmed it will NOT be replayed at a later date.

Read More 775 Words

2018 NFL Draft: Rosen takes early lead in QB race

College football is back, as evidenced by UCLA completing one of the greatest comebacks in history against Texas A&M this past week.

The Bruins stormed back from a 44-10 deficit late in the third quarter to emerge victorious, 45-44. The improbable comeback was largely attributed to the heroics of UCLA's Junior quarterback - and touted

College football is back, as evidenced by UCLA completing one of the greatest comebacks in history against Texas A&M this past week.

The Bruins stormed back from a 44-10 deficit late in the third quarter to emerge victorious, 45-44. The improbable comeback was largely attributed to the heroics of UCLA’s Junior quarterback – and touted 2018 draft prospect – Josh Rosen.

UCLA’s offense struggled early, as last season’s pass protection woes continued to prove problematic, while Rosen only completed about 50 percent of his first-half throws. However, evaluators will have noted multiple positives: Rosen took a balance of snaps both under center and in the shotgun with ease, he consistently compensated for an extreme lack of protection with a quick read + release, as well as exhibiting good pocket-mobility.

As the Bruins’ offense upped its tempo in the beginning of the fourth quarter, Josh Rosen seemingly developed a better rhythm and looked increasingly comfortable while moving the ball downfield in 10-15 yard increments. Methodical, cerebral, and never putting ball security at risk.

Comeback aside, what set Rosen’s performance apart from his 2018 quarterback classmates in week 1 was his ability to control the opposing secondary with look-offs and pump fakes. The second-half tape was ripe with NFL-esque window throws, and – to my quiet intrigue – Rosen would often change his arm angle dependent on the play, adjusting the release point of passes in order to avoid interference from defenders.

It was hardly a perfect game from the 2014 USA Today HS All-American, but mental fortitude is paramount in the evaluation game for quarterbacks. USC’s blue-chip passer Sam Darnold – who Rosen will compete with for the distinction of top eligible quarterback in this year’s draft – has a signature performance under his belt after last season’s Rose Bowl, and now Rosen has his.

Josh Rosen stat line vs. Texas A&M: 35/59 (59.3%), 491 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT, 2 fumbles (2 lost)

Elsewhere…

•  Speaking of Sam Darnold: the Trojans’ redshirt-Sophomore passer got off to a painfully slow start against upstart Western Michigan at home. He was lacking intermediate-long range potency, completing mostly short-range passes in bunches. He finished with no touchdowns and two interceptions, but his team won. Darnold faces Stanford on prime time this weekend.

• Many people are hot on imposing Wyoming gunslinger Josh Allen, but for now the big-armed passer with size I’m fixated on is Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. Though his Cowboys faced lowly Tulsa, good players take advantage of poor competition. He was dialed in from the outset, completing 20/24 passes (83.3%), for 303 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT. Rudolph’s first real test this season comes week 3 at Pittsburgh.

• While on the subject of Josh Allen, Wyoming’s offense was a horror show at Iowa converting just 5 of 18 third downs. Allen is purely a shotgun passer and while he flashed his elite arm talent and pocket athleticism, his performance was littered with dangerous throws. Though he’d occasionally throw the ball away on the scramble when running out of space, he would often fall susceptible to trusting his arm too much. His day ended 23/40 (57.5%), 174 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs. The next test evaluators will eagerly await is when Oregon comes to Laramie on September 16 for week 3. To me, the Carson Wentz comparisons are lazy, but Allen’s talent base is undeniable.

• Lastly, Louisville’s elite dual-threat (and Heisman candidate) Lamar Jackson picked up where he left off last year, completing 65.2% of his week 1 passes against Purdue, throwing for 378 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT + 107 yards rushing. For what it’s worth, Washington State gunslinger Luke Falk completed 84.6% for 311 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT against minnow Montana State. He’ll face Boise State at home next week and his performance this year could elevate him into the first round.

Check me out on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Read More 552 Words

2017 NFL Draft Grade: NFC North

The Bears hitch their wagon to Mitchell "Don't call me Mitch" Trubisky, the Lions get some Gators, Ted Thompson and the Packers leverage the second round for secondary support, while Minnesota was fortuitous to land its "All Day" replacement on day two.

Chicago Bears
Round 1 (No. 2): Mitchell Trubisky, QB. North

The Bears hitch their wagon to Mitchell “Don’t call me Mitch” Trubisky, the Lions get some Gators, Ted Thompson and the Packers leverage the second round for secondary support, while Minnesota was fortuitous to land its “All Day” replacement on day two.

Chicago Bears
Round 1 (No. 2): Mitchell Trubisky, QB. North Carolina
Round 2 (No. 45): Adam Shaheen, TE. Ashland
Round 4 (No. 112): Eddie Jackson, DB. Alabama
Round 4 (No. 119): Tarik Cohen, RB. North Carolina A&T
Round 5 (No. 147): Jordan Morgan, OG. Kutztown

Let me preface by saying that I actually like the collection of players the Bears added, but this evaluation hinges at least partially on Ryan Pace & Co.’s one-spot trade up into No. 2 overall. I’m a cautious believer in Trubisky and I think the biggest ‘win’ from this Chicago class is the fact that he is allowed to sit for a complete year behind Mike Glennon. Adam Shaheen is not “Gronk-lite”, but he’s a well-rounded player who can block/run/catch. Eddie Jackson is decent safety depth, but my two favorite picks were the last two: “Joystick” Tarik Cohen is an intriguing change of pace ‘back who offers electricity in space, while Jordan Morgan is a high-potential college left tackle who will transition to guard. Chicago gave up a boatload for one draft position and didn’t get much draft value elsewhere, but this is a long-term class for a rebuilding team so they won’t care what I think.

Grade: C+

Detroit Lions
Round 1 (No. 21): Jarrad Davis, LB. Florida
Round 2 (No. 53): Teez Tabor, CB. Florida
Round 3 (No. 96): Kenny Golladay, WR. Northern Illinois
Round 4 (No. 124): Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB. Tennessee
Round 4 (No. 127): Michael Roberts, TE. Toledo
Round 5 (No. 165): Jamal Agnew, CB. San Diego
Round 6 (No. 205): Jeremiah Ledbetter, DE. Arkansas
Round 6 (No. 215): Brad Kaaya, QB. Miami (FL)
Round 7 (No. 250): Pat O’Connor, DE. Eastern Michigan

I don’t see the ‘wow’ factor anywhere in this class past round one. I really like the Jarrad Davis pick: fills a major position of need and adds a very dynamic, twitchy interior linebacker with range and on-field leadership qualities. However, Teez Tabor and Kenny Golladay combine for maybe the most underwhelming day two haul of any draft class this year. Jalen Reeves-Maybin adds more athleticism in a big area of need, but was questionable value. Michael Roberts is a good blocker and a nice red zone option, while Brad Kaaya is the most exciting of the late round project passers, but that’s not enough to salvage a desired grade here.

Grade: C

Green Bay Packers
Round 2 (No. 33): Kevin King, CB. Washington
Round 2 (No. 61): Josh Jones, S. North Carolina State
Round 3 (No. 93): Montravius Adams, DT. Auburn
Round 4 (No. 108): Vince Biegel, LB. Wisconsin
Round 4 (No. 134): Jamaal Williams, RB. Brigham-Young
Round 5 (No. 175): DeAngelo Yancey, WR. Purdue
Round 5 (No. 182): Aaron Jones, RB. Texas-El Paso
Round 6 (No. 212): Kofi Amichia, OG/C. South Florida
Round 7 (No. 238): Devante Mays, RB. Utah State
Round 7 (No. 247):
 Malachi Dupre, WR. Louisiana State

Green Bay’s methodical and workman-like approach was evident yet again this year, valuing need over BPA. I was fired up about the team’s first three picks: King is your modern matchup boundary, while Josh Jones is a hit-stick safety with supreme athleticism – and in a post-Raji world, Montravius Adams’ blend of size/quickness/power fits right in. Mid-late rounds are hit or miss, but Jamaal Williams can do the dirty work Ty Montgomery can’t and Aaron Jones has intriguing long-speed. Malachi Dupre was a nice stamp: blue-chip high school recruit who suffered from poor quarterback-play at LSU – potential diamond. Par value, plenty of contributors.

Grade: B

Minnesota Vikings
Round 2 (No. 41): Dalvin Cook, RB. Florida State
Round 3 (No. 70): Pat Elflein, C. Ohio State
Round 4 (No. 109): Jaleel Johnson, DT. Iowa
Round 4 (No. 120): Ben Gedeon, LB. Michigan
Round 5 (No. 170): Rodney Adams, WR. South Florida
Round 5 (No. 180): Danny Isidora, OG. Miami (FL)
Round 6 (No. 201): Bucky Hodges, TE. Virginia Tech
Round 7 (No. 219): Stacy Coley, WR. Miami (FL)
Round 7 (No. 220): Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE. Northwestern
Round 7 (No. 232):
 Elijah Lee, LB. Kansas State
Round 7 (No. 247): Jack Tocho, CB. North Carolina State

One of three teams (Seattle, Cincinnati) who made 11 selections – the most this year. Like Green Bay, the Vikings knocked off a lot of needs. Dalvin Cook was my top rated running back, so to get him at No. 41 might be my favorite pick from the 2017 draft overall. A new long-term center was sorely needed and Elflein addresses that, offering some guard versatility in the interim. Jaleel Johnson is a wide-bodied 3-tech in the profile of Sharrif Floyd (who may not play again). Rodney Adams takes Cordarrelle Patterson’s place as the WR/KR on roster, while the intriguing Bucky Hodges is a modern move-TE with long arms and movement skill. I don’t think Ben Gedeon is the long-term Chad Greenway replacement Spielman & Co. might, but time will tell.

Grade: B

Hit me up on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Read More 745 Words

Caputi: Pick-By-Pick Analysis (Round 1)

Settle in, I'm here to accompany you through the 2017 NFL Draft's first day of selections. Here you'll find my pick-by-pick analysis as we progress through the night.

Have a comment for me? Hit me up on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

 

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE. Texas A&M
The right pick for

Settle in, I’m here to accompany you through the 2017 NFL Draft’s first day of selections. Here you’ll find my pick-by-pick analysis as we progress through the night.

Have a comment for me? Hit me up on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

 

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE. Texas A&M
The right pick for a franchise lacking a genuine premier cornerstone on defense for far too long. This situation reminds me so much of Mario Williams’ selection by Houston in 2006. Defensive end has become a true value position over the past half-decade and good teams require elite edge play. Myles Garrett will have bare the flag of the Cleveland revolution, but fortunately he has a ton of talent supporting his efforts.

2. Chicago Bears (via SF): Mitchell Trubisky, QB. North Carolina – *TRADE
Let the games begin. Cleveland consciously passed on Trubisky at No. 1 knowing it was impossible he’d be available to them again. Oh, and don’t forget about John Lynch’s San Francisco 49ers already making a bold move by allowing the Bears to select the potential franchise arm – acquiring a boatload for the one draft spot in the process, I’ll add. Only two picks in and already we have a major storyline to follow in the coming years. Browns and 49ers pass on Trubisky: will they find their QBs later? will Trubisky pan out? Time will tell.

*Details of trade
To Bears: 1st round pick (No. 2 – Trubisky)

To 49ers: 1st round pick (No. 3), 3rd round pick (No. 67), 4th round pick (No. 111) + 2018 3rd round pick

3. San Francisco 49ers (via CHI): Solomon Thomas, DE. Stanford
John Lynch goes to his alma mater for his first pick as a General Manager. Building the defense from the ground up after making Thomas the franchise’s third 1st round defensive lineman selection in as many years (previous Arik Armstead, 2015 and DeForest Buckner, 2016). He’s not a tweener, he’s versatile. Hand in the dirt on 4-3 looks or rushing off the edge in a two-point stance on 3-4 downs, he can change the complexion of games.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB. Louisiana State
Elite size to speed ration with an undeniable mean streak. Ultimately, this pick had to be made in support of Blake Bortles and the Jags’ minimalist ground game. T.J. Yeldon is a nice player, but Fournette adds an element that simply wasn’t there before this evening.

5. Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis, WR. Western Michigan
A more complete, all-around receiver than guys perceivably graded ahead of him, but finds the right “fit” for your offense trumps the public’s draft board. Davis is tremendously productive + experienced, enters the league with a ton of polish and adds a more imposing physical element to Mariota’s arsenal.

6. New York Jets: Jamal Adams, S. Louisiana State
Whether the organization realizes it or not, there is a rebuild going on right now and Adams’ tone-setting abilities are a timely addition. Though the needs on defense were greater elsewhere, the Jets front office were not expecting this scenario – too much talent to pass on. Great pick – my favorite thus far.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR. Clemson
The wide receiver need was always evident, but to get their guy this early is surprising when you consider the talent available on defense. That said, Phil Rivers ain’t getting younger and he’s never been able to rely on Keenan Allen to be healthy for a full 16 games. Williams is the best 50-50 receiver in this draft and adds an element that was sorely missing in the pass game.

8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB/WR. Stanford
Four-down player, don’t put him in a box as just being a running back. You want to allow him 20-30 touches and create opportunities for him in space, as he offers pretty scary open-field elusiveness. Can you imagine the possibilities of a Cam Newton + Christian McCaffrey backfield? Sign me up for some college-style options looks once in a while – they could be special together. Caf’s special teams ability is just the cherry on top.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross, WR. Washington
The fastest man in NFL Combine history is off to Cincy. The Bengals are fortunate that the one receiver who suits their offense best in this receiver group fell to them. Ross’ speed creates a dangerous over-the-top threat that should relieve AJ Green of some pesky double-coverages. Calling Ross a similar player to DeSean Jackson would be miscasting him – at minimum, he enters the NFL running B+ routes with A++ speed.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (via BUF): Pat Mahomes, QB. Texas Tech – *TRADE
The biggest talent at his position in the class and he’s entering the ideal situation where he can sit for a complete season before worrying about meaningful snaps. We thought all along that he had a hard-stop at No. 12-13 with the quarterback-hungry Browns and Cardinals soon on the clock. He creates his own opportunities and is equipped with an A++ arm. In 3-5 years, we may look back at the quarterback order and say this situation worked out the best.

*Details of trade
To Chiefs: 1st round pick (No. 10 – Mahomes),

To Bills: 1st round pick (No. 27), 3rd round pick (No. 91) + 2018 1st round pick.

11. New Orleans Saints: Marshon Lattimore, CB. Ohio State
The Saints front office, much like the viewing public, could never have imagined Lattimore would be available outside of the top ten. You must think his constant hamstring issue may have at least mildly contributed to this happening, but the cornerback-starved Saints are thrilled by the opportunity to roll the dice here.

12. Houston Texans (via CLE): DeShaun Watson, QB. Clemson – *TRADE
It’s well-documented that Bill O’Brien is a fan of the big, strong prototype passers. DeShaun Watson doesn’t quite fit that profile and it just goes to show how highly O’Brien must rate his intangibles. An accurate passer who comes alive in big moments, Watson is the safest quarterback in this class and he’s joining a playoff team. Houston went to the playoffs despite receiving marginal QB play last year, so the pressure isn’t on Watson to be a world-beater in year one.

*Details of trade
To Texans: 1st round pick (No. 12 – Watson),

To Browns: 1st round pick (No. 25) + 2018 1st round pick.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Haasan Reddick, LB. Temple
Cards missed out on landing a QB to create the ideal redshirt scenario they desired, but might have landed the best realistic player on their board otherwise. Reddick is a self-starter, improving annually and holds genuine 2-3 position versatility. Will help wherever needed and contribute as a pass rusher from day one.

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett, DE. Tennessee
This one made a lot of sense pre-draft. Marcus Smith hasn’t panned out and Philly required a more reliable option off the edge behind Brandon Graham. Three consistent years of sack production at Tennessee, I don’t care if the combine numbers weren’t eye-popping on him, he gets after it.

15. Indianapolis Colts: Malik Hooker, S. Ohio State
Boom or bust poster boy from this draft class. Hooker has only one year of production, but it was absurdly productive. Elite center-field type with excellent ball skills. Sideline to sideline range and near-cornerback caliber movement skills, but the inexperience and durability concerns must be noted. Will he show flashes of Ed Reed at the next level or are we talking Raheem Moore 2.0? I’m suspect there won’t be much in-between with him. Tremendous potential-based pick.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Marlon Humphrey, CB. Alabama
Ozzie Newsome drafts a player from Alabama? No way! Seriously, this is a bargain pickup here as Humphrey could have easily gone to New Orleans had Lattimore not been available as expected. A physical press-man type, he profiles somewhat like Pro-Bowler Stephon Gilmore stylistically. Makes you wonder about Jonathan Allen though – if Ozzie wasn’t even comfortable scooping him 

17. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen, DL. Alabama
While the arthritic shoulder situation is worrisome, the Redskins have glaring issues along their 3-4 base defensive line. Strictly from a talent standpoint, Allen is a top 3 player in this class and worth the risk here for Washington. The Skins’ trench play has already improved with this selection.

18. Tennessee Titans: Adoree Jackson, CB. Southern California
This pick was (hopefully) made with patience in mind. As the diminutive playmaker develops as a corner I do hope to see him contribute immediately as an ace returner and hopefully on offense a little. Size and matchup length aren’t mandatory physical traits in Tennessee, nor have they ever been. It was always going to take an open-minded team to choose Adoree and the Titans may reap the long-term benefits as a result.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE. Alabama
Great fortune for the Bucs, who continue adding to an enviously impressive core of weaponry for Famous Jameis. Howard represents elite pass-catching potential, but enters the league with polish as a blocker. Hell, he did it so much at Bama, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Either way, massive bargain at this point.

20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, OT. Utah
There’s no better athlete available along the offensive line in this draft class. Bolles essentially stays home and has long-term left tackle potential, though he requires a bit of polishing – which should come at RT. In a rather weak OL draft overall I think Elway & Co. go the potential route. Bolles is a mean dude on-field and enjoys a good trench battle.

21. Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis, ILB. Florida
Rangy interior linebacker to the team who was most desperate for help in that spot in the league. Davis is a leader by example, modern in style and provides a major athletic boost to the Lions’ linebacking core. Conventional thinking says there was just no way Reuben Foster would be available here though. For them to pass on him says quite a bit about what kind of slide Foster might be in for tonight and/or tomorrow.

22. Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris, DE. Missouri
A coaches dream, Harris is a self-starter who has had to earn his time at Missouri behind a conveyer belt of strong collegiate edge defenders. After two productive starting seasons, I’m happy to see him land with a 4-3 team as I believe 4-3 end is his ideal situation. To Miami, he’s Cam Wake’s heir apparent.

23. New York Giants: Evan Engram, TE. Ole Miss
All along, it was a very strong possibility that Engram could go ahead of David Njoku. His skill-set appeals to more teams, including those who already had an entrenched tight end. The reason is he’s not a true tight end, nor is he a wide receiver – though versatile nonetheless. Eli obtains a field-stretcher.

24. Oakland Raiders: Gareon Conley, CB. Ohio State
Simply put, if the off-field allegations didn’t happen, he’s comfortably a top 15 pick. Give the Raiders front office the benefit of the and assume they know something the public doesn’t, because there still appears to be some uncertainty here. That said, on-field, this is a fantastic all-around player who contributes day one. Oakland entered this draft lacking a solution at corner opposite Sean Smith. We’ll see how this one plays out.

25. Cleveland Browns (via HOU): Jabrill Peppers, S/LB. Michigan – *TRADE
His personality should certainly help to provide a spark in a stagnant Browns locker room. Hue Jackson is attempting to change the culture of the organization’s on-field product and you do that by collecting players like Peppers. Though, to me, he’s more of a tweener than he is versatile I’ll assume the team selecting him is doing so with a specific role in mind for him.

26. Atlanta Falcons (via SEA): Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB. UCLA – *TRADE
Relentless motor off the edge either as a 4-3 end or standup edge linebacker. Offers some role diversity for the Falcons’ pass rushing setups and increases the ‘compete’ level of an already strong defensive core. By the way – who didn’t love that on-stage moment? You’ve just got to love live TV. Good for him – as he’s certainly not going to enter the NFL lacking in motivation.

*Details of trade
To Falcons: 1st round pick (No. 26 – McKinley),

To Seahawks: 1st round pick (No. 31), 3rd round pick (No. 95), 7th round pick (No. 249).

27. Buffalo Bills (via KC): Tre’Davious White, CB. Louisiana State – *TRADE
4-year starter who should make a seamless transition into a starting role from day one and competent enough to contribute in a multitude of roles in coverage. Stephon Gilmore departed and reinforcements were needed asap. Nice to see Buffalo think big-picture and acquire a 2018 1st round selection while still crossing off a considerable roster hole.

28. Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, DE. Michigan
Long disruptive figure who feasted in opposing backfields. That said, he’s a one-year wonder, but the Cowboys are clearly pleased with the upside aspect of this pick. Despite his size + frame, Taco gets real-real skinny. Dallas has some talent on the edges, but these days teams require 3-4 viable options. I like this pick, Taco is too talented to have slid out of day one.

29. Cleveland Browns (via GB): David Njoku, TE. Miami (FL) – *TRADE
Supremely gifted athlete with absolutely no physical limitations. Njoku is still just 20 and enters the league as something of a diamond in the rough, as his catching is a little inconsistent for my liking. However, when he’s your third 1st round pick, than I think you feel comfortable rolling the dice on his talent. If you pass on all of the quarterbacks, at least help Kessler. They did with this pick.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt, OLB. Wisconsin
Can’t draw it up any better. Energy, toughness, attitude – all ideal characteristics Pittsburgh seeks on defense, all adjectives of T.J. Watt. One of the more complete defenders available at this point and it’s logical that he proved too talented to slip out of day one. Steelers have been trying to get younger on D for years.

31. San Francisco 49ers (via ATL by SEA): Reuben Foster, ILB. Alabama – *TRADE
We’ll assume this slide – like teammate Jonathan Allen’s – was medical related, but I applaud rookie GM John Lynch for being aggressive at both the top and bottom of round 1. Thomas and Foster help frame a new attitude for a rebuilding San Francisco defense that was very good not long ago.

*Details of trade
To 49ers: 1st round pick (No. 31 – Foster),

To Packers: 2nd round pick (No. 33), 4th round pick (No. 108).

32. New Orleans Saints (via NE): Ryan Ramczyk, OT. Wisconsin
Plug and play right tackle to help keep the grizzled Drew Brees upright. Saints addressed the big cornerback need earlier and now knock off arguably the second largest hole on the roster. Unsexy, but sound pick to conclude the day.

Read More 2384 Words

Caputi’s Final 2017 NFL Mock Draft

Here we go, football fans - the big day is here.

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE. Texas A&M
Quarterback rumors are on sale, but no one's buying. There's an obvious dearth of talent in Cleveland and fortunately the most talented player in this class also addresses a considerable need. Note: Browns

Here we go, football fans – the big day is here.

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE. Texas A&M
Quarterback rumors are on sale, but no one’s buying. There’s an obvious dearth of talent in Cleveland and fortunately the most talented player in this class also addresses a considerable need. Note: Browns defense ranked No. 30 in sacks last year (26.0)

2. San Franciso 49ers: Mitch Trubisky, QB. North Carolina
New General Manager. New Head Coach. New Quarterback? The organization’s current situation under center is concernedly comprised of Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. Shanahan gets his prototype. Note: 49ers had the league’s worst-ranked passing offense in 2016.

3. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams, S. Louisiana State
An impact player is needed in the defensive secondary here and there may not be a safer player in this class. Da Bears have lacked a tone-setting defender since Brian Urlacher’s retirement; Adams fits the bill. Note: Bears defense conceded 399 points last season (ninth-worst in the league).

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB. Louisiana State
In a make-or-break season for Blake Bortles the franchise is well placed to support its fourth-year quarterback while still solving a position of concern. Doug Marrone is given a physically imposing specimen with long speed. Note: Jacksonville’s 101.9 rushing yards per game ranked 22nd-best in 2016.

5. Tennessee Titans: Marshon Lattimore, CB. Ohio State
Long-time starting cornerback Jason McCourty was jettisoned for economic reasons and despite the signing of Logan Ryan, help remains sorely required at the position. The former Buckeye is a gifted athlete with an exciting future if hamstrings issues don’t continue to flare up. Note: Titans defense begrudgingly boasted the NFL’s 30th-ranked passing defense last year.

6. New York Jets: O.J. Howard, TE. Alabama
If Gang Green isn’t feeling a quarterback here (and the belief entering the day is they aren’t), this is represents a tantalizing alternative. Elite pass-catching potential + nicely refined blocking skills in a position of significant need. Note: The last tight end to be selected No. 6 overall (or higher)? Vernon Davis in 2006.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Hooker, S. Ohio State
The vintage Eric Weddle era already feels like a lifetime ago and the organization is desperate for a playmaker in the secondary. Ohio State produced last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year for the team – double dipping is allowed. Note: Chargers defense allowed the 4th-most points in the NFL in 2016 (423 total).

8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB. Stanford
Provides much-needed electricity and can hurt a defense in a multitude of ways. Think outside the box here – position and role can change on any down; he runs, he catches, he scores touchdowns when in space. Note: Panthers offense finished middle of the pack in total yards (19th) and touchdowns (17th).

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Solomon Thomas, DE. Stanford
Michael Johnson is now 30 and the quietly-elite Carlos Dunlap becomes a free agent after 2018. Cincy, more so than most, values pass rushing options. Thomas is an active power-edge reminiscent of vintage Aaron Kampman (2006-2007). Note: Bengals defense had 9.0 less sacks in 2016 than in 2015.

10. Buffalo Bills: Marlon Humphrey, CB. Alabama
A similar profile to the now-departed Stephon Gilmore: comfortable in press-man, combining length + speed with an eagerness to intervene in run defense. Not much on the roster past Ron Darby. Note: Humphrey created 8 turnovers in two years (five interceptions, three forced fumbles).

11. New Orleans Saints: Haasan Reddick, LB. Temple
Though cornerback is by far the bigger concern, this selection represents more talent value. Nollins’ added some depth at linebacker, but Reddick has 2-3 position versatility and flashed elite pass rushing proficiency as a senior in 2016. Note: Saints defense placed 27th in sacks last season (30.0).

12. Cleveland Browns: Mike Williams, WR. Clemson
Were quarterback a real priority, I find it difficult to believe they’d pass on “their guy” at No. 1. Instead, Cleveland opts to add some weaponry for Kessler & Co after upgrading the defense earlier. Kenny Britt is barely a short-term solution and Williams could create a mouthwatering duo with last year’s 1st round draft choice Corey Coleman. Note: In 2016, Browns placed 27th in receiving yards per game (230.8) and t-30th in receiving touchdowns (15).

13. Arizona Cardinals: Pat Mahomes, QB. Texas Tech
Never look a gift horse in the mouth – particularly when the gift is a quarterback. Arizona is in the optimal situation of being able to give a redshirt year to whomever it taps as its future under center. Highly gifted, in-time Mahomes could prove to be the best passer this class produces. Note: In 2012 – a year before Carson Palmer’s arrival – the Cards ranked 28th in passing yards per game.

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett, DE. Tennessee
Supreme value, as he could’ve crept into the top 10. Tremendous production with 32.0 sacks in three seasons of starting. Barnett is as prolific in the classroom as he is on-field; great character. Marcus Smith hasn’t panned out and Chris Long is a stop-gap. Note: Eagles defense was t-16th in sacks last season (34 total).

15. Indianapolis Colts: Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB. UCLA
Robert Mathis has rode off into retirement and incomes a fresh-faced motor edge in his likeness. McKinley enters the NFL coming off a better year than some remaining counterparts in the same role. Note: Indy’s defense placed 19th in the league with 33.0 sacks last season.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Corey Davis, WR. Western Michigan
The current wide receiver situation in Baltimore is shocking. If Breshad Perriman can put things together, great – it’s a bonus, but otherwise reinforcements are needed. Davis, and his four years of absurd production, are a safe selection here. Note: Ravens offense finished 2016 with 20 receiving touchdowns, tied for 21st in the league.

17. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen, DL. Alabama
The (medical-related?) slide ceases, much to the Skins’ benefit. Though some more disruption depth off the edge would help, this is tremendous value. A top 3-5 talent if healthy, Washington can easily improve its 3-4 base trench-play. Note: Last year, the Redskins’ defense placed 9th in both sacks (38.0) and yards per game (119.8).

18. Tennessee Titans: John Ross, WR. Washington
Front office has taken care to ensure Mariota is continuously supported in his development and an injection of electricity is needed. Ross is often miscast as a one-dimensional vertical threat, but he boasts elite speed and (as of today) B+  route running skills. Note: (At 232.5) Titans offense ranked 25th in overall receiving yards per game last season.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook, RB. Florida State
A tornado of uncertainty surrounds Doug Martin’s future with the Bucs and the chance to grab a special all-around workhorse is too tempting to pass on. And he’s only about a four hour drive away. Note: Bucs rushing offense ranked 24th in the league last season (101.0).

20. Denver Broncos: Cam Robinson, OT. Alabama
His combination of length and size could allow him to cover 3-4 positions in the NFL. If the whole long-term left tackle thing doesn’t pan out, he projects to be an elite guard/right tackle. Note: Denver conceded a 24th-ranked 40.0 sacks in 2016.

21. Detroit Lions: Reuben Foster, LB. Alabama
Victim of circumstance (and maybe some pre-draft character questions), as he’s undoubtedly a top 10 talent in this class. Detroit is gifted an elite falling talent at arguably its greatest position of need. Note: Lions defense finished middle of the pack (15th) in total yards conceded per game last season (354.8).

22. Miami Dolphins: Forrest Lamp, OG. Western Kentucky
The franchise has shown the willingness to invest prominent picks in reinforcing the offensive line. Laremy Tunsil kicks out to left tackle and Forest Lamp, at guard, is arguably the most ready-to-play blocker in this class. Note: Phins allowed the 14th-most QB hits in the league last year.

23. New York Giants: David Njoku, TE. Miami (FL)
G-Men have invested prominent picks into their OL recently and brought in D.J. Fluker as well. This could finally be the year they address the need for a dynamic tight end, and Njoku is a special athlete. Note: NYG ranked 18th in receiving yards per game (251.7) last season.

24. Oakland Raiders: T.J. Watt, OLB. Wisconsin
It’s a great spot for a corner (among other defensive positions), but the organization is in dyer need of pass rush help. “Little” Watt gets to the quarterback and probably shouldn’t be available here. Note: Raiders finished last in the league with 25.0 team sacks in 2016.

25. Houston Texans: DeShaun Watson, QB. Clemson
He’s not the ideal Bill O’Brien profile, but you want your quarterback to be an alpha-male personality who performs best in big situations. Houston went to the playoffs with poor play under center in 2016, so there’s little pressure to do “too much” in his rookie campaign. Note: In 2016, Texans ranked last in average yards per pass attempt (5.9).

26. Seattle Seahawks: Kevin King, CB. Washington
Perfectly suits the profile of what’s desired on the boundary in Seattle and he’s a local product. The Legion of Boom core is aging fast and Richard Sherman’s situation is awkwardly uncertain. Note: ‘Hawks defense conceded 7.2 yards per reception last season, tying them for 15th in the NFL.

27. Kansas City Chiefs: Zach Cunningham, ILB. Vanderbilt
Derrick Johnson is 34 and coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2016. They reinforce the interior linebacker spot with a big search-and-destroy playmaker. Note: Chiefs gave up the 7th-most rushing yards per game (121.1) last season.

28. Dallas Cowboys: Tre’Davious White, CB. Louisiana State
The position needs to be addressed early and the ‘Boys are fortunate to see an experienced man-capable available here. Note: Dallas conceded the 7th-most passing yards per game (260.4) in 2016.

29. Green Bay Packers: Alvin Kamara, RB. Tennessee
Offense lacks a workhorse in the ground-game and there’s 3-down value here. Exciting do-it-all talent if perceived character concerns can be overcome. Note: Pack came in at 20th in rushing yards per game (106.3) last season.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Charles Harris, DE/OLB. Missouri
There’s little behind the soon-to-be 39-year-old James Harrison on the edge opposite Bud Dupree. Harris is a self-motivater with the ideal skill-set for a 3-4 conversion rusher. Note: Pittsburgh conceded the 10th-fewest points (327) in the league in 2016.

31. Atlanta Falcons: Jordan Willis, DE. Kansas State
Ascending prospect who has improved in each of his last three-years as a starter, including a strong pre-draft process. Active and instinctual, a bargain for a team with very few needs. Note: Atlanta conceded the 8th-most yards per game (371.2) in 2016 on defense.

32. New Orleans Saints (via Patriots): Rasul Douglas, CB. West Virginia
Surprise. Former JUCO, one (elite) year wonder with 8 interceptions in 2016. Physically he combines size and modern prototype length. Cornerback must be addressed with one of their two picks. Note: Nollins’ allowed the most passing yards per game (273.8) in 2016.

Call me an idiot on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Read More 1691 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Running Backs

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five running backs who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
The RB class contains several talented runners who project very well at the next level. Overall depth

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five running backs who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
The RB class contains several talented runners who project very well at the next level. Overall depth in the class will allow teams, in need of a RB, to find starting caliber backs on the drafts third-day. Reminiscent to last year when the Bears drafted Jordan Howard, the league’s second leading rusher, in the fifth-round.

1. Leonard Fournette, LSU

Coming out of high school Leonard Fournette was regarded as the number one prospect in the nation, and was one of the most highly recruited players to ever come out of the state of Louisiana. Throughout his stay in Baton Rouge Fournette did not disappoint as he set LSU’s school rushing record by a freshman (1,034 yards) in 2014, then as a sophomore proceeded to establish the Tigers single-season rushing mark in both yards (1,953) and touchdowns (22).
Fournette has all the makings of a lead back who is capable of spear heading a team’s ground game. He is an explosive runner who demonstrates a natural feel for the position as he can find openings by getting “skinny” and sneaking through and getting into the defenses second level. Fournettes quick-feet and excellent lateral quickness allow him to change direction, string together multiple cuts on a run, and make defenders miss in the open field. He can bounce a run to the outside or simply plant his foot and cut it up field once he sees an opening on the plays backside.
His balance and strength allow him to easily break through arm tackles and become a difficult runner to bring down to the ground once he gets behind his pads and starts lowering his shoulder into defenders, while also demonstrating a violent stiff arm.
What makes Fournette ever so dangerous is that besides the ability to power through a defense, becoming an effective short yardage or goal line runner, he possesses terrific build up speed that once he gets in the open field he has a chance to pull away from defenders, and take it in for a touchdown.
In terms of what still needs to be developed, pass protection would top the list as he needs to be better at helping to protect the QB. Fournette must get better at absorbing the impact from the defender instead of just meeting them at the POC or attempting to stall them with a shoulder block. While as a pass catcher Fournette was limited in the number of passes thrown his way so his route running and overall effectiveness in the passing game is something his NFL coaches will need to develop.
Overall, Fournette’ s combination of size, speed, and power running ability project him developing into a lead back and a bell cow for an offense. He has all the attributes you look for in a true-blue chip NFL runner that you build your team around, and one that can be an impact starter as a rookie next season.

2. Dalvin Cook, Florida State

A five-star high school prospect and top running back in the state of Florida Dalvin Cook put together quite the resume as a Seminole. Cook posted back-to-back All-America Campaigns (unanimous All-American in 2016) as he leaves FSU as the school’s all-time leading rusher surpassing the 20-year record set by Warrick Dunn. He also ranks second all-time in the ACC with 4,464 career rushing yards, and became the only player in conference history to break the 4,000-yard marker in just three seasons.
Cook possesses a well-rounded game posing just as big of a threat as a pass catcher as he is a runner. Whether it’s his quick-feet when he strings together multiple cuts on a single run, or when he easily bounces a run designed to go up the middle to the outside, Cook is an offensive weapon that opposing defenses need to game plan against.
Cook’s balance and quickness allow him to run through arm tackles in the defenses second and third levels once he is past the LOS. He can make defenders miss in the open field and possesses the athletic ability to change directions without needing to slow down. While his vision and instincts help him quickly identify holes opening on the plays backside.
Cook flashes game-breaking ability when he catches a screen pass out of the backfield and runs up the sideline turning on the jets and running by the defense into the end zone for a touchdown. With his speed, Cook is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, whether it is being handed off to him or thrown to him.
While his blocking technique and overall strength need continued development, he is not a total liability in pass protection as he is aware of protection schemes and which defender is his responsibility to pick-up when the defense rushes or blitzes the quarterback.
Where Cook can struggle is in short-yardage situations where he is called on to lower his pad level, take on a defender, and move the sticks.
Overall, when you watch Cook play his ability pops out at you, and there is no doubt that we are watching one of the more exciting players in the country, and a future NFL running back. Cook’s versatility and all-around talents fit perfectly in today’s pass happy NFL game. Flashing game-changing talent as both a runner and pass catcher.

3. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

As a sophomore in 2015 all Christian McCaffrey did was become the NCAA single-season all-purpose yards’ record holder (3,864) eclipsing the mark which was previously held by Barry Sanders. McCaffrey also became the only FBS player to ever lead his team in rushing, and receiving yardage in the same season. He would be named The AP player of the year and Paul Hornung Award winner leading the NCAA and Pac-12 in rushing with 2,019 yards, while racking up another 1,070 yards on 37 kick-offs returns for a whopping 28.9-yard average per return.

This past season McCaffrey once again led the PAC-12 in rushing with 1,603 yards while playing in only 11 games.
McCaffrey’s athletic ability and big play potential is evident when you watch him play. Whether it’s as a runner, receiver, or returner his ability in space and the threat to score at any time is impressive.
As a runner, McCaffrey displays excellent vision as he can quickly identify a hole and accelerate through the line of scrimmage and into the defenses second and third levels. He plays with patience and demonstrates good instincts as a runner in allowing his blockers time to set up and quickly anticipating an opening or a play developing. With quickness and speed being his calling card, McCaffrey can easily get to the edge and take the corner at full speed and quickly accelerate up field.
As a receiving threat, McCaffrey’s hands are good enough to play wide receiver on a full-time basis. He can line up in the slot and run receiver routes. He can set up defensive backs with head fakes, and create separation at the top of his stem with sharp precise cuts.
While on special teams McCaffrey, for his career, averaged 26.4 yards on kick-off returns helping to consistently set up his offense with very good field position.
The main concern with McCaffrey is his size. At 5’11” and 202-pounds he will not be every down carry the load type of running back. Instead he projects as more of a stretch runner that will threaten the edge of the defense as opposed to a between the tackles type who will keep pounding away inside.
Overall, McCaffrey does not possess the frame that can add that much more weight so expecting him to be a 20-25 carry runner is unrealistic. Where McCaffrey can win is by leveraging his quickness, speed, and playmaking ability in both the running, and passing game along with additional chances on both kick-off and punt return duties. This would allow McCaffrey ample opportunities to get the ball into his hands and to continue making big plays.


4. D’Onta Foreman, Texas

In a draft class deep with talented runners it appears Texas tailback D’Onta Foreman gets lost in the shuffle. However, the reigning Doak Walker Award winner is a talented power runner who in just a one season as a starter led the BIG-12 with 2,028 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in route to being named a Consensus First Team All-American, becoming the first Longhorn runner to earn that distinction since Ricky Williams back in 1998. He ended his collegiate career by rushing for a school-record, 13 straight 100-yards games.
Foreman is an old-school downhill power runner who is comfortable running it between the tackles and taking on big-bodied defenders at the LOS. He has very good athleticism for a big power back carrying his weight well, demonstrating quick-feet and vision with his jump cut ability in and out of holes along with a knack to see blocking develop at the first and second level of the defense. Foreman is a patient runner who will allow his blockers to get out and set up their blocks, and follow them through the gap. He is good at finishing his runs by lowering his pad level and running through defenders. Demonstrates good balance and leg-strength running through arm tackles, bouncing off and continuing to pick up YAC; also, is a weapon in short-yardage and goal line situations.
Foreman has very good straight line speed, breaking off long TD runs of 74 and 62 yards this past season. Just last week Foreman confirmed his long speed for scouts at Texas Pro Day where he was hand-timed twice running a 4.45 forty.
Some of the concerns in Foreman’s resume starts with his marginal receiving production, where in his three seasons at Texas where he totaled just 13 receptions. He never appeared to be a viable option in the passing game for the Texas coaches. His pass-blocking is also questionable, and is still a work in progress, taking some questionable angles and appearing to still be learning how to block. He also had seven fumbles this past season, losing six of them, which bring into question his ball security.
Overall, Foreman is a big north south runner with good quickness, vision, and strength. He possesses the speed to break-off big chunks of yardage and could be an ideal four-minute back capable of grinding out the clock. Appears to be best suited for a power Gap blocking system where he will make his mark creating tough yards. Limited contributions as a receiver and blocker could lessen his draft stock.


5. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

A three-year starter and two-time first team Big-12 selection (by the league coaches) Perine leaves Oklahoma as the school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,122 yards despite turning pro after just three seasons. The NCAA single-game rushing record holder (427 yards vs. Kansas in 2014) Perine is fourth in Oklahoma history with 49 rushing TD’s and second with six games of at least 200 rushing yards.
Perine is a powerful compact runner who rarely goes down on first contact, displaying very good balance that allows him to excel at running through contact. Exhibits good play strength and an ability to finish by lowering his pads and punishing tacklers at the end of his runs. At 5’11” and 233-pounds he is deceptively quick for his size as he can quickly plant and cut in seemingly one motion, swiveling his hips, to allude defenders or spring through an opening at the LOS. He does not dance around behind the line, instantly looking to follow his blockers, up into the hole, or use his good run vision to find an outside alley that could develop on the plays backside.
Perine has solid instincts as a runner, anticipates openings, and can feel his way through the trash along the line of scrimmage. He is good at avoiding negative runs, and is rarely ever taken down for a loss. Instead he is always leaning forward and driving his legs to gain positive yards on a play.
Perine is a bit of a short stepper with tightness in his hips – gears to cut, does not open his stride in the open field and can get caught from behind, lacking breakaway speed.
He never really developed as a pass catcher, only 40 receptions in three seasons, as he shared the backfield with Joe Mixon who was much more heavily utilized in the passing game.
Overall, Perine is a big, strong, competitive runner with bruising power to produce tough yards between the tackles. With his vision, balance, and ability to excel in short-yardage situations, bouncing off contact, Perine appears to have the makings of a 15-20 carry between the tackle thumper at the next level. Proving to be a viable option in the passing game, will determine if Perine can develop into a three-down back.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

Read More 2092 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top – 5 Quarterbacks

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five quarterbacks who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
The 2017 QB class is one of the more highly scrutinized position group heading into the draft. Seemingly

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five quarterbacks who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
The 2017 QB class is one of the more highly scrutinized position group heading into the draft. Seemingly being knocked for lacking ready-made signal callers who can come in on day one and lead their respective franchise. While the 2017 QB class may not have a plug-n-play franchise signal caller it does have some talented athletes who with time and proper coaching can develop into starting caliber NFL quarterbacks.

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Watson has been one of college football more decorated athletes over the past two seasons having compiled a 32-3 record as a starter. He led Clemson to back-to-back National Championship games, and helped secure the schools second National Championship title in its history with a 35 – 31 victory over Alabama this past January, where he was named the National Championship game most valuable offensive player.
Three-year starter and team captain Watson exudes leadership and confidence at the helm of an offensive unit, and is lauded by coaches and teammates for his work ethic, competitiveness, and overall high football character.
Physically Watson is a good athlete, who possesses solid size. He can extend plays with his feet and escape pressure with the quickness, and foot speed to become a dual-threat out of the backfield.
As a passer, Watson has a quick trigger able to quickly get rid of the football. Possessing good arm-strength capable of making all the necessary throws expected of an NFL QB. Displays solid accuracy on back shoulder throws, end zone fades, and on 50/50 balls, giving his receiver a chance with his ball placement and very good touch on his throws. Has good pocket awareness able feel pressure off the edges and can climb the ladder to buy some time for his receivers to get open. Tough as nails as he plays his best it seems in big games or in critical situations of a ball game illustrated by the fact he had 16 touchdowns thrown, to only two interceptions for his career in the fourth quarter.

While there are certain areas of his game that still need fine tuning, such as not staring down receivers, cleaning up his footwork, and improving his down field accuracy. Not to mention the fact he played in a hybrid-spread offense and must get familiar with huddling, reading defensive coverages pre-snap, and aligning protections Watson is far from a finished product.

However, with 35 starts under his belt, big-time production versus some elite competition, off the charts leadership qualities, Watson has the makings of a starting caliber NFL QB who can help his team win on Sundays.

2. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

Kizer is one of the more physically gifted quarterbacks in the entire 2017 NFL draft. Possessing prototypical height, size, and athleticism Kizer, who measured in at 6’4” 233-pounds with long arms and big hands, simply looks like a starting NFL QB.
In his second season as the Irish starting QB Kizer had a up and down campaign that saw him struggle with his accuracy, decision making, and overall confidence. For his career in South Bend Kizer made 23 starts throwing for over 5,800 yards with 47 passing touchdowns, and 18 rushing scores.
Besides being a good athlete with height and size Kizer possesses elite arm strength and can make and complete special types of throws. He can fit the ball into tight windows, stretch the defense vertically with the best of them, and place touch on the ball to drop in between the 2nd and 3rd levels of a defense. He has a clean delivery with a quick release. He shows solid awareness, able to buy time in the pocket with his feet. Can also tuck it and run for big yards possessing enough speed to pull away from linebackers in certain conditions. Kizer shows good toughness as he will stand firm in the pocket, take a hit, to deliver the football, and has no qualms lowering his pad level and running over a defender in short-yardage situations or at the goal line.
Parts of his game where he struggled was bird-dogging his receivers waiting for them to come open, and not going through his progression, which in turn resulted with him holding onto the ball too long, with the outcome typically being a sack or a negative play. He was not consistently able to throw receivers open, especially versus better competition, as you would see passes sail on him, bounce off the turf, or not even coming close to the intended target.
There are not many quarterback prospects in this draft that can match Kizer’s physical skillsets however. What he will need is time (to sit and learn behind a veteran) and a good QB coach who can correct some of his issues. When right though, Kizer has a huge ceiling and if placed in the proper situation with proper coaches he can be a big-time NFL quarterback.

3. Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina

A relative unknown prior to the 2016 season Trubisky was just a one-year starter (13 starts) at North Carolina, seeing only limited action as a backup his freshman and sophomore seasons. Having said that Trubisky does leave UNC ranked fifth, in school history, for both career passing touchdowns (41) and passing yards (4,762) demonstrating how productive he was when he was on the field.
Trubisky possesses solid size (6’2” 222-pounds) with solid athletic ability, and quick feet. While he too played in a spread offense there are examples on tape of Trubisky reading the field sideline-to-sideline and going through a progression. His delivery is a compact over-the-top delivery, with a quick-release, and the ability to throw it from different arm angles. While not possessing elite arm-strength he is solid in this area, able to torque his upper-body to get plenty of zip on the ball, capable of making all the throws. What really stands out with him as a QB is the anticipation and accuracy he shows from both the pocket and when asked to throw it on the run. He can throw a receiver open and lead them away from coverage understanding the importance of ball placement.
Having only made 13 starts in his career Trubisky is still a developmental prospect who still needs time to develop a feel for the pocket, refine his footwork and learn to take snaps from under center on a regular basis. He could also stand to show more poise in the pocket against pressure as he would tend to rush his throws and not operate comfortably with bodies by his feet.
While Trubisky had probably the best tape in 2016, among the rest of the QB group, his body of work still leaves many wondering how to project Trubisky as an NFL signal caller.
Although he displays traits you like to see in starting QB’s like size, athletic ability, solid mechanics, accuracy, and anticipation. He is a prospect that many will debate leading up to the draft, and probably continue to after he has been drafted.

4. Davis Webb, California

The 6’5” 229-pound Webb started his career as a Texas Tech Red Raider playing for head coach Kliff Kingsbury. While playing at Texas Tech Webb set seven Big-12 freshman records, and four different school marks, including throwing for at least one touchdown in his first 18 career games. He led the Big-12 in passing yards per game (317.4) and was named the offensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl after leading Texas Tech to a victory over #14 Arizona State by passing for 403 yards and four touchdowns.
After losing the starting job to Patrick Mahomes, after he got injured, Webb decided to transfer to Cal for his senior season. In his lone season at Cal, Davis finished 2nd in the PAC-12 in passing yards, completions, and total touchdowns (43).
Davis possesses the prototypical size, and length along with a strong-arm that can make NFL type throws. He can place the ball on a rope standing on the boundary hash and throw it to the field sideline. He shows surprisingly quick feet and solid ability to extend plays by escaping pressure when the pocket collapses, and on rollouts. Playing in the same spread Cal offense that produced last year’s top pick in Jared Goff, Davis demonstrated his solid mental processing ability by progressing through full-field reads and audibling at the LOS, which is something we rarely saw Goff do. He shows good downfield accuracy with an ability to drop the ball in a bucket, over the top of a defense, and lead his receiver away from coverage to help maximize his YAC ability.
As is the case with most QB’s who come from a predominately spread offense Webb has picked up some bad habits along the way. Such as throwing off his back foot, and sloppy footwork in the pocket which affected his downfield passes as they would either sail over the intended target or simple be nowhere near the receiver. His decision making also suffered a bit as he would rely on his arm to force the ball into heavily covered receivers, and at times throw it to a receiver who was being sandwiched by a corner and high safety.
Unlike some of his spread predecessors though Webb possesses the size, arm-strength, and feel for the passing game that should excite the NFL. He is an intelligent kid who really took to the coaching that Hue Jackson and his staff offered up down at the Senior Bowl, and it showed in the game. With his skillset, it wouldn’t surprise me if Webb finds himself higher on several team’s draft boards than many would have anticipated originally.

5. Brad Kaaya, Miami

Entering the 2016 college football season Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was generally regarded as the second-best college football quarterback behind Clemson’s Deshaun Watson at the time, and a prime candidate to be a very high draft pick.
However, after a solid junior season in which he threw for more passing yards (3,250) and touchdowns (27) than he had ever before in his career, Kaaya has seen his draft stock take somewhat of a slow dive even after becoming Miami’s All-Time leading passer with 9,968 yards in just three seasons.
Kaaya’s strength revolve around his height, decision making, pocket presence, and ball placement. Also, working in Kaaya’s favor was playing in a Pro-Style offense last season under head coach Mark Richt. He was asked to take snaps from under center, read the full-field when going through his progression, called out protections and identified the Mike backer at the LOS. All of which is huge in terms of being mentally prepared for what he will see when he gets inside a NFL QB room next season. Physically, Kaaya also possesses a quick release with a solid arm. He drops back and sets up quickly with sound footwork in the pocket. Makes good decisions with the ball, only seven interceptions in over 400 pass attempts, displays good pocket presence able to feel backside pressure and either climb the pocket or maneuver to avoid the rush by sliding his feet to extend the play. He throws a tight catchable spiral knowing when to take pace off the ball, and conversely when he needs to fire it into a tight window. His accuracy and touch along with ball placement on back shoulder throws and corner fades is above average.
Where Kaaya struggles is on throws downfield (20 plus yards) outside the numbers towards a moving target and on out routes as he lacks the elite arm-strength to consistently make those types of throws on time, and on a line. Appearing instead to be more comfortable throwing inside the numbers, on in-cutting routes, to stationary targets. Kaaya has also fallen into some bad habits of not fully striding into his throws, short-arming passes as he prematurely bails to protect himself from taking a big hit. Possessing only adequate foot speed Kaaya is a true pocket passer and won’t threaten the edges of the defense and needs a solid pocket in front of him to operate effectively.
Kaaya seemingly is flying under the radar in terms of pre-draft hype, but as the draft gets closer look for his name to prominently be mentioned among the QB group that teams will be looking to maneuver for on day two of the draft.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

Read More 1997 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Safeties

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five safeties who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.

The 2017 safety class looks to be one of the more talented and deepest position group in recent drafts.

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five safeties who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.

The 2017 safety class looks to be one of the more talented and deepest position group in recent drafts. Teams with a demand at safety should be able to fulfill their needs with this 2017 draft class. There are liable to be starting caliber NFL safeties still waiting for their names to be called on day three, of this draft, then we have had for quite some time.

1. Jamal Adams, LSU

Adams is a well-built physical safety with good speed and strength that excels at or near the line of scrimmage. A two-year starter and a 2016 first team All-SEC and a second team All-American (as voted on by the AP) Adams was the leader of the Tigers backfield and a team captain. His combination of size and play speed allow him to make plays both in the run game as well as in coverage. He is a solid off-coverage safety who can diagnose and attack downhill with quickness and burst to wrap up and secure the tackle. With his speed, he displays good range with the ability to go from the hash marks to the sideline and provide over-the top help. He can cover a tight end in the slot and will get physical with them at the top of their routes. Adams also brings a swagger and enforcer type mentality to the defensive backfield.

However, there is no doubt that where Adams is most impactful is at the line-of-scrimmage where he is both instinctive and competitive, able to deliver some explosive hits with terrific timing, and anticipation. He is an aggressive run defender able to chase down ball carriers and make plays sideline-to-sideline. Lining him up inside the tackle box is like having an extra linebacker out on defense that the opposing offense must deal with.

While there is some unease in terms of his coverage ability (not a lot of plays on the ball when scouting his film), plus struggles with quick change of direction, as well as too many missed tackles due to his over aggressiveness in pursuit, Adams heads into the draft process as the top-rated safety on many draft boards.

The combination of very good football character, speed, athleticism, and impactful plays will have Adams on the field early as a rookie with the potential to develop into a cornerstone player on defense for any team that selects him.

2. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Jabrill peppers is one of the more talked about and scrutinized prospects in the 2017 draft due mainly to questions surrounding a true positional fit for him at the next level. However, the 2016 Big-Ten DPOY and recipient of the Ronnie Lott Impact Trophy is a hybrid player who can be used on all three phases of a football team.

Peppers projects best as a hybrid LB/SS a position that has become more popular in the NFL the past few seasons. As a safety Peppers has shown the ability to press tight ends at the line-of-scrimmage as well as bigger receivers outside the numbers in red zone and goal line situations. As a corner (limited reps in 2015) he displayed quick-feet and hip flexibility to open and run with a receiver in man coverage downfield. He does a good job of getting his hands on them altering their routes, and positioning his body between them and the ball. In off-coverage he uses his very good short-area burst and open-field tackling ability to minimize the yardage on anything caught in front of him. As a run defender, he appears comfortable and instinctive as a in the box strong safety who can quickly locate and chase down ball carriers with his speed. He is willing to come up and set the edge to help funnel runners back inside towards his lineman. As a blitzer Peppers was very effective coming in off the edge or on delays from a linebacker position.

Where Peppers struggles is with downfield coverage as his ball reactions, and awareness leave something to be desired. He has trouble with quick receivers and will at times play slower than his stopwatch numbers may indicate.

While safety will most likely be the position where he sees the most snaps at during his NFL career, Peppers versatility allows a defensive coordinator to disguise coverages and utilize his athleticism in several different ways from multiple positions. Allowing Peppers to line him up and see snaps at all three levels on defense might be the most effective way for him to make an immediate contribution defensively as a rookie.

3. Malik Hooker, Ohio State

In 2016 Hooker was a redshirt sophomore and first-year starter for the Buckeyes. In that one season though Hooker was named a first team All-American and All-Big Ten defender as he led the Big-Ten with seven interceptions, returning three of them for scores – which topped the FBS.

Hooker is a coverage safety who is best suited to play free safety at the NFL level. He possesses a combination of quickness, speed, balance and short-area burst. A good athlete Hooker is very good transitioning and attacking downhill using his speed and change-of-direction. He is effective playing a single-high set or a two-deep zone safety. He is instinctive when playing the pass with range to either side. Hooker can cover receivers in the slot or carry a tight end up the seam. He also demonstrated very good zone cover skills and can key on the QB eyes to jump routes, and use his natural hands to pick-off the ball with a nose to find the end zone.

As a run defender Hooker can get slowed down with play-action or RPO plays causing some hesitation with his reaction times. He can struggle to jolt and shed blockers (needing additional strength), can take some bad angles in pursuit, and doesn’t always arrive under control which led to missed tackles. He also tends to duck and lead with the crown of his helmet coming downhill to tackle a ball carrier which, in the NFL, is a good way to end up seriously injured.

Hookers play-making ability and overall athleticism gives him a shot to be the top-rated safety heading into the draft. However, he currently stands third on this list mainly due to his struggles defending the run, coupled with just one-year starting experience, and his postseason injuries. Hooker, is scheduled to miss the scouting combine as he recovers from a couple of surgeries, one in which repaired a torn labrum while the other a sports hernia. How he recovers from both operations will go a long way in determining how high Hooker will get drafted. However, it is never a good thing, especially for a safety, to enter the NFL having already gone through a major surgery on his shoulder.

4. Budda Baker, Washington

A three-year starter on defense for Washington and a NCAA Consensus All-American in 2016 Budda Baker was one of the more fun prospects to scout. Baker is quite simply a play-maker in the defensive secondary. Whether he was lined up at safety or as a slot corner Baker was all over the field demonstrating innate playmaking ability. He possesses terrific anticipation, timing and zone awareness. Along with lateral quickness, agility, and quick-feet, Baker has excellent balance and body-control. He can mirror and cover receivers (in the slot) off the LOS. Displays instincts and awareness in coverage as he can quickly diagnose and locate the ball. Very smooth in his transition able to plant-and-drive quickly, which when combined with his ability to seamlessly change directions, and open field tackling makes him very effective in zone coverage. Despite a lack of ideal size Baker plays bigger than his measurable might indicate. He is an aggressive tackler and packs a wallop when he hits his opponents. His aggressiveness makes him very good blitzing off the edge as he gets there quick, and makes his presence felt. As a run defender Baker is quick to read and react, displaying no concerns or issues coming downhill and attacking ball carriers. He is a highly intense, aggressive, and competitive football player when asked to defend the run.

The main concern with Baker revolves around his lack of size. Listed at 5’10” Baker looks to be a couple of inches shorter than that. Which makes it hard to envision him as a full-time starting safety. Instead what Baker offers is a strong, hard-hitting physical presence with ideal hip flexibility, speed, and fluidity to be a playmaker from the nickel/slot position. Drawing favorable comparisons to Arizona Cardinals DB Tyrann Mathieu.

5. Marcus Williams, Utah

Even though Marcus Williams was a three-year starter and an All-PAC 12 defender for Utah many may consider him a bit of a sleeper at the safety position. Williams is a rangy safety with length and speed to go along with his fleet feet and lateral agility. His backpedal is smooth and balanced which makes Williams look, at times, like a corner instead of a safety. While in coverage he is quick to read and react, able to zoom around the field playing in a single-high safety set, which allows him to stand out on tape. He possesses good speed and fluidity allowing him to keep pace with receivers and tight ends. Shows good range off the hash, to either side, taking direct angles to the ball. He can break on throws, showing good short-area burst to close. With 11 career interceptions Williams demonstrated quick soft hands, like a receiver, to snatch interceptions.

While a solid downhill defender Williams is a bit high-cut, and will play too tall failing to get low and wrap up the ball carrier’s legs. He was also inconsistent on his downfield ball reactions with his back to the throw preferring to keep everything visible to him.

Overall, Williams is an active, aggressive defensive back who is at his best reacting to plays in front of him. He possesses good size/speed combo coupled with range, and sure-hands that allow him to be a “centerfield” type playmaking safety.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

Read More 1631 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Cornerbacks

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five cornerbacks who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.

Cornerback is one of the draft’s more deeper position groups. There could be as many as five defensive corners

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five cornerbacks who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.

Cornerback is one of the draft’s more deeper position groups. There could be as many as five defensive corners selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. With plenty of talented players still on the board for teams to grab on day two as well.

1. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

A former four-star prospect and a top-50 recruit nationally Lattimore possesses excellent foot quickness, with the ability to change directions, and stop/start without needing to slow down. He demonstrates terrific lateral agility along with flexibility. Stands low and balanced in his stance and can quickly open his hips to turn and run with a receiver. Flashes speed to track down ball carriers or to quickly recover if beaten. While in coverage Lattimore exhibits very good instincts and awareness. He can swiftly locate the ball mid-flight, able to diagnose routes while keying off QB eyes to release his man and drive towards the ball or the intended receiver. Lattimore is also a very good and willing run defender. He will come downhill aggressively to set the edge. He will take on lead blockers, and will utilize his hands and quickness to fight through to wrap up the ball carrier. He is a competitor who plays hard and does not give up on a play.

While average size and previous leg injuries are, a bit concerning. If he can stay healthy he possesses the explosiveness, instincts, and play speed to develop into a terrific cover corner in the NFL.

2. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

A two-year starter for the Crimson Tide and a 2016 first team All-American on defense, as voted by the FWAA, Humphrey is a well-coached competitive football player whose father (Bobby Humphrey) was a former RB at Alabama and a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos. Humphrey displays the instincts to diagnose and quickly react to what the offense is attempting to set up. He possesses the flexibility and agility to mirror the receiver off the line of scrimmage. With his size and straight line speed he gets himself in position to make a play on the ball downfield. In run support Humphrey is an aggressive defender who will attack downhill able to shed blockers, and locate the football. Humphrey demonstrates his competitive toughness, both on defense and special teams, as he is willing to throw his body around all over the field, and will play to the whistle.

While he can struggle with strength at the point-of-contact as well as quick-twitch receivers and double-moves Humphrey has the size, speed, and agility to mirror receivers downfield. With an aggressive two-hand jam Humphrey projects as a press cover corner at the next level.

3. Jalen Tabor, Florida

Tabor is a tough average sized corner who plays bigger than his dimensions may indicate. Displays quick-feet, balance, and agility. He can stop and start without losing momentum, and is quick in his transition able to plant his foot in the ground and attack forward. Displays instincts, and awareness in coverage along with an aggressive play speed attacking quickly underneath and out in the flats. Comfortable playing off coverage, peeking into the backfield, and maintaining proper position downfield. Does a nice job of anticipating, keying off the QB, to jump/undercut routes, displaying very good short-area burst, and either coming away with a turnover or a pass break-up. A willing run defender who won’t shy away from contact, but can struggle with bigger bodied blockers.

Tabor is an off-coverage zone corner whose instincts, along with the ability to anticipate and jump routes will allow him to make plays in the NFL. His ball skills, short-area quickness, and toughness will also allow him an opportunity to flourish inside as a nickel defender.

4. Tre’Davious White, LSU

White possesses average height and length with a thick muscular build to go with quick-feet and agility to cover receivers. White’s an experienced four-year starter (47 career starts) on the LSU defense, and ranks fifth all-time in school history with 34 pass breakups. He demonstrates loose hips and good short-area burst. He is fast with his backpedal and can quickly transition forward on anything underneath. White is very zone aware with good pattern recognition, understanding how to read QB’s and progressions, and when to undercut routes. While in press coverage he is physical both at the line-of-scrimmage as well as at the top of the receiver’s route. White does a good job of positioning his body between the receiver and the football, both downfield, and in red zone situations. While he is a willing run defender he does not always arrive under control and can miss tackles failing to wrap up.

White was one of the more improved players in 2016, making his decision to stay in school for a fourth season a wise one. He showed better awareness and anticipation in coverage while also doing a better job of getting his hands on the ball (14 PBU’s). He was a more confident corner playing with more swagger as opposed to previous seasons and it was evident in his play.

A solid week of practices down in Mobile for the Senior bowl (before an injury cut short his week) may have cemented White a spot in the first round of the draft.

5. Sidney Jones, Washington

Sidney Jones possesses good size along with length on a narrow and thin frame. Jones was a three-year starter, and a key contributor on defense for the Huskies. He can shadow a wide out off the line with quickness and change of direction ability. He can quickly flip his hips and run vertically with a receiver. Demonstrates very good recovery speed to make up ground if he is beaten at the snap. Good plant-and-drive quickness which allows him to transition swiftly. Displays solid awareness in off coverage, likes to keep his eyes on the QB in the pocket. A naturally aggressive player, which can be seen in the way he comes downhill, throwing his body around, to help defend the run.

Lack of strength is a concern with Jones as he can struggle to effectively reroute receivers off the line or shed blockers downfield. He has also shown some inconsistencies with awareness, while in coverage, failing to turn his head and playing the ball. Additionally, you notice that he would predominately line up on the left side of the defense. Whether that was a coaching decision or his lack of versatility will need to be considered.

However, Jones is an athletic corner who plays the game hard and aggressively. His combination of size, quickness, and speed along with the ability to play both press and off coverage are positives that many teams will want to have.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

Read More 1085 Words

2017 Senior Bowl Standouts – Offense

With the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl now officially in the books that puts an end to the college all-star game portion of the pre-draft process. Having scouted both the North and South team’s practices throughout the week, and graded the game film from Saturday here are the players who stood out the most down in

With the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl now officially in the books that puts an end to the college all-star game portion of the pre-draft process. Having scouted both the North and South team’s practices throughout the week, and graded the game film from Saturday here are the players who stood out the most down in Mobile.

Offense

1. Davis Webb – QB – California, Webb had an up and down week during the practice sessions in terms of accuracy and ball placement. Where Webb really shined was on game day as he went 11-16 for 165 yards with a touchdown. Webb, who played only one season for Cal after transferring from Texas Tech, has a strong arm coupled with a quick release, and you notice the football exploding out of his hand. On his touchdown throw Webb did a nice job of holding the safety with his eyes before dropping a ball into the arms of Texas A&M receiver Josh Reynolds. Webb, who replaced Jared Goff as the starter at Cal, is bigger than last year’s 1st overall pick with a stronger arm and better anticipation in the passing game.

2. Cooper Kupp – WO – Eastern Washington, The Eastern Washington product was the talk of the week down in Mobile for his smooth route running ability and hands. Kupp caught everything thrown his way and at times made getting open look easy. Kupp is a natural pass catcher and does a nice job of looking the ball into his hands. He was able to separate at the top of his route and made catches at all three levels of the defense.

3. Zay Jones – WO – East Carolina, Jones, the NCAA leader with 158 receptions in 2016, may have been the best player on the field at Ladd-Peebles stadium on Saturday. Jones took a very good week of practices into the game and was able to display his full repertoire. Jones has very good body control and is able to contour his body and adjust nicely to poorly thrown passes. He possesses a wide catch radius and can go up and high point a catch, extend away from his body, or get his hands underneath a low pass and scoop it up. He is also physical of the top of his route and can make contested catches as he is blanketed by a defensive back. Jones, whose father is former NFL linebacker Robert Jones, may have been the biggest winner this week down in Mobile. He took advantage of his opportunities and displayed the ability to be a downfield playmaker, and may have gone from a day three pick to a very high day two selection.

4. Josh Reynolds – WO – Texas A&M, The Texas A&M receiver quietly had a very impressive week of practice culminating on game day where he ended up with six receptions for 96 yards including a 39-yard touchdown reception. Reynolds really shined in the one-on-one drills along with team runs. He is explosive off the line of scrimmage with quick feet and does a nice job of attacking the football on hitches and comeback routes. He catches clean with his hands able to snatch the ball out of the air. He can stack the defender then use his quickness and speed to separate over the top. He locates the ball nicely mid-flight and does a good job of looking it into his hands. Reynolds led the SEC in receiving yards (1,039) and touchdowns (12) in 2016, and after spending a week watching him operate in both practice drills and on game day you can see the talent that Reynolds possesses.

5. Forrest Lamp – OL – Western Kentucky, Lamp was not able to complete the week in Mobile as he suffered an ankle injury during one of the practice sessions. He was held out as a precaution, but had already done enough to impress scouts that the missed time should not negatively affect his stock. Lamp is an experienced four-year starter at Western Kentucky predominately at left tackle where he excelled. However, his height and short arm length (31 1/8) will likely have him moving inside to guard at the NFL level. Lamp displays the lateral agility, short-area quickness, and balance to succeed as an offensive lineman in the pros. Lamp can rework his hands to fend off defensive lineman and can sink his hips to re-anchor and become stout at the point-of-contact. While still early in the pre-draft process it is not out of the question that Lamp might be the first offensive lineman off the board come April.

Others who also flashed during the week on offense……Chad Williams – WO – Grambling State, Dion Dawkins – OG – Temple, Evan Engram – TE – Ole Miss

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

Read More 715 Words

2017 Senior Bowl Standouts – Defense

With the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl now officially in the books that puts an end to the college all-star game portion of the pre-draft process. Having scouted both the North and South team’s practices throughout the week, and graded the game film from Saturday here are the players who stood out the most down in

With the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl now officially in the books that puts an end to the college all-star game portion of the pre-draft process. Having scouted both the North and South team’s practices throughout the week, and graded the game film from Saturday here are the players who stood out the most down in Mobile.

Defense

1. Haason Reddick – LB – Temple, as an undersized defensive end Reddick was very productive for the Owls football program. However, in the NFL Reddick is looking at a position switch to either inside or outside linebacker, and the Senior Bowl would be his first time playing these new positions in front out coaches and scouts. Reddick did not disappoint as he was all over the field whether he was lined up as in inside Will-backer in a 3-4 or even further outside as a weak-side LB in a four-man front. Reddick demonstrated an ability to quickly diagnose and locate while also displaying the ability to play off the LOS and in space. In coverage, he was able to quickly break on the ball and got his hands on a couple of pass deflections. While in run defense he was able to shed blockers, and wrap up the ball carrier. With his pass rush ability Reddick gives defensive coordinators the option of rushing him off the edge either by blitzing him or standing him up in a two-point stance. A tough and competitive athlete Reddick should be an instant contributor on special teams as a rookie while he continues his transition to linebacker.

2. Obi Melifonwu – S – UCONN, Melifonwu catches your eye with his size, and length for a defensive back, but what really impressed many was his ability to move and redirect without slowing down while in coverage or planting and attacking downhill in run support. For a safety, his size Melifonwu appears to have the foot quickness and agility to cover tight ends in the slot or taller receivers on the outside (especially in red zone situations). With rumors circulating that Melifonwu expects to run the forty in the high 4.4’s at the combine next month the intrigue surrounding Melifonwu might just be starting to ratchet up.

3. Alex Anzalone – LB – Florida, A highly-touted recruit out of high school Anzalone was one of the better linebackers down in Mobile this week. He was consistently around the football as he displayed good instincts to quickly diagnose and locate the ball. He was solid in his run fits coming downhill and filling the hole with authority. He also possesses good speed and burst able to quickly close in on the ball carrier. Coaches lined him up both inside as well as on the outside demonstrating some of his scheme versatility. The biggest concern surrounding Anzalone revolve around his health. Injuries have taken a big chunk of his playing time away the last couple of seasons, missing four games last season with a broken arm, and 12 games the previous year with a shoulder injury. If he can stay on the field, he looks like he has the skillset to develop into a four-down LB.

4. Tarell Basham – Edge – Ohio, Basham, the 2016 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, showed good quickness off the snap able to engage and get into the offensive lineman instantly. He displayed strong hands as he would knock back lineman when he planted them into their chests. He can convert speed to power and walk back the tackle into the quarterback’s lap. While he was solid with his run defense there were, times were, he gave up the edge and lost containment allowing the ball carrier to breakout for a long run. What teams will need to figure out is whether Basham will need to add more weight and play as a hand in the dirt defensive end or stand him up as an outside LB in a 3-4 defense.

5. Damontae Kazee – CB – San Diego State, Kazee was one of the more aggressive defensive backs in the one-on-one drills, and team sequences during the mid-week practices. He took it to every receiver he went up against being physical with jam at the line, and at the top of their stem as well as downfield. Kazee has very quick feet which allows him to mirror a receiver downfield, while also allowing him to plant and drive forward in his transition. Kazee was able to get his hands on the ball, displaying good awareness and ball skills something he also demonstrated in college where he ended up with 17 career interceptions and 29 passes defensed. With his agility, closing burst, and toughness Kazee projects best inside as a slot corner/nickel back. Throughout the week Kazee displayed good competitiveness and toughness that caught the attention of not only the receivers he was battling but also the scouts and coaches in attendance.

Others who also flashed during the week on defense……Dalvin Tomlinson – DT – Alabama, Isaac Rochell – DE – Notre Dame, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu – DT – USC, Marquez White – CB – Florida State

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

Read More 771 Words

Mocking the Top-10 Picks of the 2017 NFL Draft

With the conclusion of the 2016 regular season this past weekend many teams and their fans have started to gear up for the 2017 NFL Draft. While the complete and final draft order will not be finalized till after a Super Bowl Champion has been crowned the top-ten of the first round has been cemented,

With the conclusion of the 2016 regular season this past weekend many teams and their fans have started to gear up for the 2017 NFL Draft. While the complete and final draft order will not be finalized till after a Super Bowl Champion has been crowned the top-ten of the first round has been cemented, with the Cleveland Browns securing the top overall selection.
With College all-star games starting next week, followed by the scouting combine, and pro days a lot will change from now till draft day. Having said that here is a quick stab at what the teams selecting in the top-ten may do come April:

1. Cleveland – Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

The Browns number crunching front office sees no clear-cut franchise quarterback sitting atop of the draft and decide to go with a potential game changing pass rusher to improve their defense.
Garrett numbers were a bit down this season (8.5 sacks) as he dealt with a couple of lower-body injuries throughout the season. However, when healthy Garrett possesses the length and first step quickness off the edge, along with natural bend, that most dominant pass rushers must have.
Adding a talent like Garrett to a young defensive core that includes the likes of Jaime Collins (assuming he is resigned), Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, and Danny Shelton will provide the Browns a good foundation to build on that side of the ball.

2. San Francisco – DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

With a new GM and head coach tandem being hired this off-season the Niners decide to also usher in a new era at quarterback going with Notre Dames talented DeShone Kizer.
While North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky appears to be the darling of the QB class early in the process, I feel like Kizers size, arm strength, and overall upside will shine above all others come draft time and he will be the first QB taken in this class.
While he had a up and down junior campaign in South Bend this past season (58.7 completion percentage) the tools and football makeup is there with Kizer. Despite the fact he may not be ready to start opening weekend of next season he does have a high ceiling, and is a prospect at a need position that San Francisco just can’t pass up.

3. Chicago – Jamal Adams, LSU

Another slot where the consensus pick will have a QB going is the bears at number three. However, with head coach John Fox entering a pivotal season, one in which he needs to win more games, Chicago looks to shore-up a safety position that has been a major need since Mike Brown left the team back in 2008.
In LSU safety Jamal Adams, the Bears get a physical player who will come down support the run and provide a presence in the Chicago secondary. Adams can also cover tight ends and offer over-the-top support on the defenses back-half.
Improving the secondary to go along with an underrated, and improving front seven will go a long way in helping the Bears get more wins next season.

4. Jacksonville – Jonathan Allen, Alabama

The Jaguars continue to add more talent to their defense as Alabama’s Jonathan Allen falls into their laps with the fourth pick.
Allen, considered by many one of the safest picks in this draft class, brings production and versatility from one of college football’s best defensive units. He can play multiple positions along a defensive front, and can provide pressure as both a 4-3 defensive end or inside tackle. Allen is also able to play end as a 5-technique if the Jaguars new coaching staff decides to switch to a 3-man front.
He is strong and athletic at the point-of-attack and could turn out to be a better pro than some of his highly-regarded Crimson Tide defensive predecessors.

5. Tennessee – Malik Hooker, Ohio State

The Titans get this selection from the Rams as part of the trade compensation they received from Los Angeles for the right to draft Jared Goff. With the selection, the Titans give defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau something he has been seeking since leaving the Steelers, and that is a ball hawking safety.
Hooker announced on Monday that he would be entering the draft even though he had two years of eligibility remaining and only one full season as a starter under his belt.
Hooker possesses good speed and displays tremendous range in coverage. He is also seemingly always around the football as he led the Big-Ten with seven interceptions (three of which he returned for touchdowns) last season to go along with four passes defensed and 74 tackles.

6. New York Jets – Leonard Fournette, LSU

Coming off a disappointing season, one in which many had them pegged to make the playoffs, the Jets are hoping to rebound next year and could look to build their team around a good defense and solid running game.
LSU Fournette is a workhorse back possessing the power, speed, and vision that can carry an offense. He can power through between the tackle runs, while also possessing the foot quickness and speed to bounce a run outside and take the edge on a defender.
With Fournette carrying the ball 25 times the Jets can help alleviate some of the deficiencies they will most likely have at the QB position next season.

7. San Diego – DeShaun Watson – Clemson

With the organizations exact location still up in the air and their future at quarterback, behind an aging Phillip Rivers, also uncertain the Chargers select Clemson’s Watson. Watson would be able to sit and learn behind Rivers, for a season or two, while providing the Chargers a future face of the franchise to sell and market to the new fan base.
Watson came into the season as a consensus top of the top QB. However, after a season in which he led the ACC with 17 interceptions some of the luster has worn off the junior signal caller. Meanwhile all he has done this season is once again lead his Clemson team back to the College Football National Championship game next week.
Watson’s dual-threat ability as both a passer and runner will add a new dimension to the Chargers offense. While also supplying the new coaching staff a talented centerpiece to build the offense around once Rivers time with the Chargers is up.

8. Carolina – Derek Barnett – Tennessee

The Panthers biggest need is along the offensive line, but without an offensive line prospect worthy of being selected in the top-ten Carolina looks to revamp an aging defensive line particularly at the end position.
Barnett could help supplant veteran Charles Johnson as he is set to be an unrestricted free agent as of this post. Barnett has posted 52 tackles for loss and 32 sacks over the last three seasons as a Volunteer. He displays the athleticism and ability to bend the corner off the edge that teams look for in pass rushers. Barnett is also a ferocious competitor who is constantly hustling all over the field.

9. Cincinnati – Reuben Foster, Alabama

With veteran Rey Maualuga getting up there in years and succumbing to injuries the last couple of season the Bengals select his heir apparent for the middle of their defense with Alabama’s Reuben Foster.
Foster is a highly aggressive, athletic, big-hitting middle linebacker with instincts for the position who can quickly diagnose, locate, and flow to the football. He has developed into a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine who can be a leader and cornerstone player for the Bengals defense for years to come.

10. Buffalo – Jabril Peppers, Michigan

The Bills select the third safety in the top ten and one many might be surprised lasted this long. Coming into the season the Wolverines do-it-all hybrid defender, and Heisman Trophy finalist, was touted as a sure-fire top-five selection. However, with some questions surrounding a positional fit for Peppers in the NFL, along with coverage limitations Peppers could find himself possibly sliding out of the top ten completely.
What he will supply the Bills, or any team selecting him, is a versatile defender who can line up in multiple spots for a defensive unit. While also providing a boost to the return game on special teams.
Whether it is at linebacker, free safety, returner, or even on offense Peppers can provide an immediate impact as a rookie next season. The key will be placing him with a coaching staff that will be creative in utilizing his abilities in a multitude of different ways.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

Read More 1344 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Inside Linebackers

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five inside linebackers who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
Although this is not a deep group as a whole, there are a couple of top notch

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five inside linebackers who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
Although this is not a deep group as a whole, there are a couple of top notch prospects who will be selected in the first round and expected to make an impact as rookies next season.

1. Reuben Foster, Alabama

Foster, the 2016 Butkus Award winner and Unanimous First-Team All-American, is the leader and signal caller for Alabama’s defensive unit. A unit which has been the catalyst for much of the on-field success Alabama has had this season as they lead the nation in rush defense (63.4 YPG), total defense (247.8 YPG), and scoring (11.9 PPG).

Foster has been a two-year starter for the Crimson Tide and led the team with 94 tackles this past season. Often overshadowed by some of his higher profiled defensive mates Foster has developed into one of the more complete linebackers in college football. He is a three-down player who is effective in defending the run as well as capable of dropping back into coverage.

Foster is a highly aggressive, athletic, big-hitting middle linebacker who looks to finish his tackles by running through a ball carrier. He is physical at the point-of-contact able to take on lead blockers and stack them at the line of scrimmage. He demonstrates his instincts for the position by quickly locating the football, diagnosing the play, then proceeding to flow to the ball carrier, and making his presence felt once he arrives.

Foster prepared for his senior season by trimming his weight down from 240 pounds to around the 225-230 range. The added quickness allows him to now make tackles sideline-to-sideline, and able to avoid blockers on the run, while also taking good angles to the ball.

Foster is very comfortable dropping into coverage with the ability to quickly change directions and mirror tight ends or receivers crossing the middle of the field. He can open his hips and cover down the seam, or quickly click his heels and come downhill to tackle anything caught in front of him.

Foster will not only head into the 2017 NFL Draft as the top-ranked middle linebacker, and possible top-ten pick, but when it’s all said and done he could prove to be a better pro than some of his Crimson Tide predecessors.

2. Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham is a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine, if you don’t believe me just put on Vanderbilt’s games from this past season versus Georgia and Florida respectively. You will see Cunningham at times appears to be unblock able. He led the SEC in tackles (119) this past season on his way to becoming the first Commodore player in school history to be named a Unanimous First-Team All-American.

At 6’4” 230-pounds Cunningham’s length, and speed are his two biggest assets. He possesses very good closing burst that allows him to track down ball carriers from behind or beat them to a spot. He has strong hands and a powerful punch, which will cause offensive lineman to jolt back when he extends his arms and plants them into the blockers chests. His ability to be physical at the point-of-contact allows Cunningham to stack and quickly shed blockers, as he gets to the ball carrier.

Cunningham possesses good range and body control to excel in coverage. He can cover backs out of the backfield, run step for step with tight ends across the middle or down the seam, and at times was lined up on the numbers covering receivers. His ability to change directions quickly with his feet, coupled with good balance, and loose hips allow him to be a playmaker in space. As an NFL linebacker, he projects to be a four-down player who can be used in multiple ways on both defense and special teams.

Playing in the SEC Cunningham has gone up against some quality opponents as well as athletes, and not only held his own, but in some cases out shined some of those better-known players.

3. Kendell Beckwith, LSU

Beckwith is a fourth-year senior who took over the starting middle linebacker position in the seventh game of his sophomore campaign (2014) and hasn’t relinquished it since then.

After last season, where he was named a semifinalist for both the Bednarik and Butkus awards, Beckwith had an opportunity to forgo his final season in Baton Rouge to enter the NFL draft. Instead he decided to come back and fulfill his commitment to the LSU program, while also embracing new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda switching to a 3-4 defense which would require Beckwith to go from playing the MIKE backer in a four-man front to one of the inside positions in the new scheme.

A left knee injury ended Beckwith’s season quicker than anticipated, and the news got worse last week when a report surfaced that Beckwith had apparently torn his ACL.

When healthy Beckwith is a downhill linebacker who has the size to be a hole plugger, and a dependable run-stuffing defender. He does a nice job of anticipating the plays flow and leveraging that to get to the spot before the ball carrier does. With his balance and lateral quickness he is able to hastily sift through the trash around the line of scrimmage.

He displays a good deal of patience in diagnosing the play and reading his keys before taking his initial step.

Beckwith has strong hands and he does of nice job of hand fighting to keep the lineman from getting into his frame. He is also strong enough at the point-of-attack to stack and shed blockers as he continues his pursuit to the ball carrier. Beckwith also demonstrates a knack to shoot through gaps and get himself into the backfield and at the feet of the runner.

While in pass coverage Beckwith appears comfortable dropping into a zone coverage and can quickly wrap up anything caught in front of him or out in the flats.

Knowing that the knee injury will keep him sidelined during the pre-draft process, likely extending into his rookie season, Beckwith still retains a spot in my top-five. Mainly because once he is healthy Beckwith is an instinctive inside linebacker, and a downhill run stuffer. His size coupled with his strength permits him to compete inside versus lead blockers and pulling lineman, highlighting his ability to stack and shed at the point-of-contact.

Once this knee injury is put behind him, look for Beckwith to quickly emerge as a starting caliber linebacker and a defensive mainstay along an NFL teams front seven.

4. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State

The football factory run by head coach Urban Meyer over in Columbus Ohio continues to produce NFL caliber talent. After sending six defenders to the NFL last year the Buckeyes this year have another group of talented players led by middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan.

McMillan, a former five-star high school prospect, has been a starter at linebacker for Ohio State for the past three seasons. In 2015 he led the team with 119 tackles, which was the most by a Buckeye sophomore in 25 years (Steve Tovar had 125 tackles in 1990).

McMillan is a thickly built middle linebacker who was made to play inside the box, and in the center of a defensive unit. He is a physical player who possesses the instincts, size, and leadership qualities that can take command of a unit and make sure every member knows their assignments.

McMillan demonstrates the ability to quickly diagnose, locate, and get to the football. It’s apparent he possesses the natural instincts for the position.

He has no issues coming downhill filling the hole, and laying a big hit on the running back. As he is a good tackler who will keep his feet churning and run through the ball carrier.

While on passing plays he appears comfortable dropping back into coverage, opening his hips and shadowing a tight end or receiver coming across the middle of the field. McMillan can also race out (from in between the hash marks) to the flats to cover a back sneaking out of the backfield.

Some of the concerns with McMillan are that he does not appear to be a quick-twitch athlete and doesn’t possess elite sideline-to-sideline speed. McMillan also appeared to have trouble quickly disengaging from blockers, and was not very effective as a Blitzer.

However, while he may lack the overall athleticism that some of the other linebackers in college football seem to possess, his ability to quickly reads his keys and diagnose a play coupled with his capacity to drop back into coverage will allow him the opportunity to develop into a three-down linebacker who could mature into the leader of a defense for years to come.

5. Jarrad Davis, Florida

Predominately a special team’s contributor his first two seasons in Gainesville, Davis moved into the starting lineup in 2015 and recorded 94 tackles with 11 tackles for loss. This season injuries caused him to miss a few games, and limited some of his impact as he attempted to play through them.

As a middle linebacker, Davis is athletic with good length, and a physical temperament that seems determined to try and knock someone out every time he goes to tackle them. He is strong at the point of contact, not afraid to mix it up with bigger offensive lineman. Some of that physicality is evident on Davis run blitzes. He picks a gap and blasts his way through to either make the tackle or at the very least impede the play flow causing the runner to alter his path or slowdown, which allows time for Davis teammates to gather around the ball carrier and secure the tackle.

Being as aggressive as he is, Davis is seen consistently hustling to the ball with good sideline-to-sideline speed. While he was not used much as a pass rusher, Davis displays a good burst and closing speed to quickly get to the quarterback once he sees him outside the pocket.

Some of that same aggression however can cause Davis to overrun a play, and get himself out of position to make a tackle. Davis also tends to freeze up or get sucked in on play action or Read/Pass/Option plays. Which lead to concerns regarding Davis instincts for the positon, and if an eventual move to an outside LB position (likely weak-side) could be where Davis eventually ends up at in the NFL.

Physically and athletically Davis has what it takes to play linebacker in the NFL. Whether it’s as a MIKE backer or at one of the outside positions in a 4-3 front, where he could be better positioned to leverage his speed and tackling ability. He is a versatile athlete who could come in and contribute immediately.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

Read More 1741 Words

2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Defensive Tackles

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five defensive tackles who look to be available come the Spring of 2017. While at first glance this does not appear to be an overall deep group of defensive tackles, there

Continuing with our series in previewing some of the prospects for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. This week we take a glimpse at the top-five defensive tackles who look to be available come the Spring of 2017. While at first glance this does not appear to be an overall deep group of defensive tackles, there are some intriguing prospects who offer size, strength, and scheme versatility that is sure to get the attention of NFL scouts.

1. Malik McDowell, Michigan State

Having projected Alabama’s Jonathan Allen as a defensive end the Spartans McDowell takes the top spot as the best interior defensive lineman. While McDowell’s stats were a bit down this season (in terms of tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks) partially due to the fact he missed the final three games of the season because of an ankle injury, McDowell still was a presence on the field when was healthy.

McDowell presents a big athletic body with length and power upfront. He is a solid run defender able to stack and shed blockers at the line of scrimmage utilizing his reach along with his strong hands.

Displays good instincts as he can quickly locate the football, and can quickly identify and react to what the offense is attempting to run. McDowell also plays with good balance, rarely is on the ground, and possesses good lateral quickness to work through the trash down the line for such a big man.

As a pass rusher McDowell can collapse the pocket by knocking back the offensive lineman and power rush him into the backfield. He possesses good quickness off the snap along with quick hands that allow him to disengage the blocker and penetrate the backfield with sound technique. On passing downs, the Spartans coaches would kick him outside to end and allow him to rush the passer from the edge as he has good change of direction ability and hip flexibility.

McDowell plays the game hard, as he is always hustling to the ball, and violent as he has no problems playing through the whistle.

At 6’6” McDowell has position and scheme versatility as he can line up either inside as a tackle in a four-man front, or as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

2. Chris Wormley, Michigan

Wormley is another athletic, tall, versatile defensive lineman who demonstrates good strength at the point-of-contact with an ability to penetrate the backfield and cause disruption.

Wormley has a thick base and uses it to gain leverage at the line of scrimmage over smaller interior lineman. While he lacks the quick first step and overall foot speed he makes up for it with his power along with instincts and balance. He possesses good agility and bend as he gets low in his stance and at the snap springs into the offensive lineman’s chest with a forward lean. He displays good instincts and powerful hands, able to jolt blockers backwards when he extends his arms and plants his hands in the middle of their chest.

He can stack and shed at the point-of-contact and be a stout run defender. He is also capable of setting up a hard edge, as a defensive end, and funnel the action back towards the middle of the defensive line.

As a pass rusher Wormley can bull rush lineman back into the backfield and collapse the pocket. He also has shown the ability to “Get Skinny” and slip through the gaps between blockers to pressure the quarterback. However, he does not possess a refined pass rush repertoire and is pretty much limited to power rushing offensive lineman.

Wormley’s lack of quickness and limited pass rush ability are the only real knocks against him. Otherwise his combination of size, strength, and effort coupled with being well-coached should allow him to be an instant contributor along a team’s defensive line as a rookie.

3. Davon Godchaux, LSU

Godchaux is one of the more underrated defensive tackles in this class. Playing on a unit that potentially appears to be loaded with NFL caliber athletes you can see how a player like Godchaux may go unnoticed.

A three-year starter along the Tigers defensive line Godchaux possesses a good combination of quickness, and power. He is strong and can hold his ground at the point-of-contact yet is still able to use his quick first step, and explode to the ball at the snap to provide an interior pass rush.

Godchaux also is quick to locate and decipher what the offense is attempting to run displaying terrific instincts. He plays with balance as he can bounce off blockers to work down the line and pursue the action from the backside. He has a flexible active body and can uncoil his hips and power through would be blockers. He can stand-up lineman at the point-of-contact then rip/pull them to the ground and proceed to make the tackle.

As an interior pass rusher Godchaux displays a wide array of pass rusher technique and uses his active hands to rip and swipe opposing lineman off him. He is good at not allowing the lineman to get into his frame, displaying an effective stutter step that allows him to freeze the lineman, use his quickness to cross his face, and beat him to his inside shoulder.

Godchaux does have some off-the -field issues. Earlier this season he was arrested and suspended from the team due to a domestic violence incident. Godchaux was later reinstated back onto the team when no charges were filed against him.

Godchaux is tailor made to play the three-technique position along a four-man front, particularly in an attacking scheme that will allow him to utilize his quickness and strength to attack a gap, and penetrate up field.

4. Carlos Watkins, Clemson

Watkins made a name for himself as a junior last season, his first as a starter, along Clemson’s defensive front. While freshman teammate Dexter Lawrence has seized some of the spotlight this season, Watkins still had a very good senior campaign as his sack totals of 8.5 is tops on the Tigers defensive unit.

Watkins has good size and length for a defensive tackle. He can hold his ground and take on double-teams displaying good power, and will flash the ability to stack and shed blockers up front. He can however get too tall out of his stance which causes him to lose leverage and get easily moved out of the way or pinned inside.

As a pass rusher Watkins shows inconsistency when it comes to hand fighting and being able to disengage and free himself from offensive lineman. Although he can utilize his power to effectively bull rush a guard into the QB’s lap helping collapse the interior of the pocket. He does however have issues when needing to quickly redirect, displaying some lower body stiffness.

Watkins is also inconsistent when it comes to effort as his motor tends to run a bit hot and cold. There were too many examples where Watkins is just standing around watching the play if his initial rush had been thwarted. These types of examples can question a player’s passion for the game as well as overall endurance and whether he is in the best shape possible.

Overall, Watkins is a tough run stopper with the potential to develop into a good pass rusher. He best projects as a five-technique or nose tackle in an odd man front.

5. Montravius Adams, Auburn

Adams is another big-bodied defensive tackle who can occupy blockers and create penetration up the middle. Adams size and length jump out at you when you watch him play. He flashes the ability to dominate when he wants to. He can be physical up front, and surprisingly displays good quickness off the snap when asked to penetrate and attack a gap. He utilizes a quick swim move to slip by lineman, and get himself in position to make a play in the backfield.
The problem with Adams however is that he is a lumbering athlete who is not fluid or quick with his movements. He is limited as a pass rusher displaying limited lateral agility as well as change of direction skills. He displays below-average balance and tends to get tall out of his stance which causes him to lose battles upfront versus double-teams.
Montravius Adams is an intriguing prospect who when he flashes his ability will undoubtedly have NFL coaches and scouts excited about his potential. His combination of size and initial off the ball, gap penetrating, quickness allows him to be a dominate force for a defense. He can line up to play anywhere along a “30” front, and could be equally terrorizing in the middle of a “40” front.
However, getting him to put forth that type of effort on a consistent basis will be the main question surrounding Adams when it comes time to select him. Having his production and effort match his tape will be the primary goal for his teams coaching staff.

Danny Shimon

NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate.
Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

Read More 1433 Words

The Top 5 Corners in the 2016 NFL Draft

In any draft, corners are in high demand. You can go back over 20 years and you will see that on average, 12 to 15 corners get drafted in the first three rounds of the draft every year. This year will be no exception as the corner class is fairly strong and deep.

Jalen Ramsey

In any draft, corners are in high demand. You can go back over 20 years and you will see that on average, 12 to 15 corners get drafted in the first three rounds of the draft every year. This year will be no exception as the corner class is fairly strong and deep.

Jalen Ramsey – Florida State

Jalen is easily the best corner in this draft and a certain top five selection in next month’s NFL Draft. There are some clubs that like Ramsey as a safety also but I see him as potential Pro Bowl player early in his career as a corner. Ramsey has the desired height, speed, length and athleticism to shine playing on the outside. His cover skills in man and zone are outstanding and he plays the ball well in the ball well in the air. He is very willing as a run support player and has also done a great job on coverage teams. Ramsey will step in and start right away for just about any team in the NFL.

Vernon Hargreaves III – Florida

Hargreaves is a third year junior who entered the Draft. He was a three year starter and a dominant player in the best conference in college football. Has very good speed to go along with outstanding quickness and body control. The only thing he lacks is ideal height and length which could hurt him with some teams. Hargreaves measured 5104 and has 30 5/8” arms.

Still he can play press or zone equally well and plays a physical game in both coverage and run support. He plays the game with a confident cockiness which is a good thing. He has the attitude that he can’t and won’t be beat. Like Ramsey, he can start for most teams in the league right away. He is a possible top 10 selection.

Eli Apple – Ohio State

At 6’1 – 200 with good arm length and 4.40 speed, Apple has the physical dimensions that most NFL teams covet in a corner. He is a third year sophomore and a two year starter for Ohio State. With his size and length he has a strong jam and shows the ability to play press man extremely well. In run support he is aggressive and a hitter, he just needs to do a better job wrapping up with his tackles. And added plus is Eli’s age as he won’t turn 21 until after training camp opens. As good a player as he is now, there is still a lot of upside.

William Jackson III – Houston

Jackson has been a quick riser in this draft with his late season play at Houston and his All Star and Combine performances. Jackson has ideal height and length (6001 – 31 ½”), to go along with very good speed (4.37).

Jackson excels at press coverage and will start early for a team that plays a lot of press. He still needs to develop his off man and zone skills but the talent is there. When you watch him do drill work, he can stay low in his pedal, flip his hips and transition as well as anyone. While Jackson III will be a work in progress he has as much upside as any corner in this draft.

Mackensie Alexander – Clemson

On tape, Alexander looks as good as any corner in the draft. He is an aggressive man coverage guy and has not given up a touchdown pass in 24 consecutive game. What he lacks is ideal height and speed (5’10, 4.49). You can make a case that Alexander is a better player than Jackson who is my number four corner and probably half the clubs in the NFL would agree.

Another area of concern for Alexander is that he did not record a single interception in his college career. Some will argue that teams didn’t throw at him and that can be a valid argument. At the Clemson Pro Day he showed good hands and ball skills, so it may not be the negative that some people feel it is.

Read More 605 Words

The Top 5 Interior Defensive Linemen in the 2016 NFL Draft

When we talk about interior defensive linemen, we can be talking about players with various styles of play. Some of the players we profiled earlier in this series (3-4 DE’S) could very well fit into this category also. That just shows the versatility and depth of the defensive lineman in this draft. Some of

When we talk about interior defensive linemen, we can be talking about players with various styles of play. Some of the players we profiled earlier in this series (3-4 DE’S) could very well fit into this category also. That just shows the versatility and depth of the defensive lineman in this draft. Some of the following could very well line up as 4-3 nose tackles, 4-3 3-techniques and some might even be able to play the 5 –technique.

Sheldon Rankins – Louisville

At 6014 – 299, Rankins lacks ideal size. He showed at the Combine that he is quick and explosive running the 40 in 5.03 and the 3-cone in 7.44. Rankins has a great motor and goes hard from snap to whistle. He plays the run well and can provide and interior pass rush (6 sacks in 2015). I fell he is best suited to play as a 3-technique in a one gap 4-3 scheme. He may also be able to play on the nose in a 4-3 and might be able to be nose in a 3-4 but that could be a stretch. Regardless, he will hear his name called late in the first round or early in the second.

Kenny Clark – UCLA

The third year junior has made 29 consecutive starts for the Bruins. He plays mostly as a 0 or 1- technique at UCLA but he is capable of playing any inside position in a 4-3 or a 3-4. He is very instinctive and flashes dominant ability versus one on one blocks. As a pass rusher he excels as a bull rusher but he can also put countermoves together and be a consistent inside pass rusher. He is often double teamed yet still makes plays. As an added bonus, he was voted a Co – Captain as a junior.

Vernon Butler – Louisiana Tech

Butler had a strong season with 50 total tackles including 10.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. He followed that up with a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl and then the Combine. AT 6037 – 323 with 35” arms, Butler has ideal size to play in different schemes. While he lacks top end speed, he is quick off the ball, can use his hands get rid of blocks and make plays. AT present he is best as a run defender but can be an adequate pass rusher with technique development.

Jonathan Bullard – Florida

Bullard is another player who has scheme versatility. At 6’3 – 285 with 33 5/8” arms he may be best suited to play as a 4-3 3-technique. He played as a defensive end at Florida and he could easily line up as a 5=technique also. He had very good production this past year with 66 total tackles and 6.5 sacks. He is a top competitor and plays at a high level of intensity. He gets off the ball quickly, stays low, gets penetration and is disruptive. Bullard has a frame that can hold 290+ without losing any athleticism. I see him as a solid second round pick.

Sheldon Day – Notre Dame

Day is a very productive three year starter for Notre Dame. Some have described him as a poor man’s Aaron Donald. While his competitive nature is similar to Donald, he lacks the speed that Donald had when he entered the NFL two years ago. Day’s biggest problem is his lack of ideal height (6005) but he has long arms for his height and is a strong, explosive player. He is a very good inside pass rusher with moves and a burst to the quarterback. In the run game, he is difficult to block one on one and is quick to find the ball. With his height he is limited to playing as a 3-technique in a 1-gap 4-3 scheme.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Read More 553 Words

Breaking Down RB Kenyan Drake and DT Kenny Clark

Kenyan Drake – RB – Alabama

Drake is a fourth year senior who has been a key contributor as a backup for Alabama. He can play as a running back, a kick returner and can even split out as a wide receiver.

Size –

6006 – 208 – 4.45 (All estimates)

Strong Points –

Excellent

Kenyan Drake – RB – Alabama

Drake is a fourth year senior who has been a key contributor as a backup for Alabama. He can play as a running back, a kick returner and can even split out as a wide receiver.

Size –

6006 – 208 – 4.45 (All estimates)

Strong Points –

Excellent athlete with very good speed. Quick to change direction. Very good in space. Hands and pass routes. Returns kickoffs.

Weak Points –

Strength and power. Not an inside runner. Tries to take many of his carries to the outside. Blocking.

The Way We Hear It –

Drake is a career backup at Alabama and that is just what he will be in the NFL. He lacks the inside run skills to be an every down player. Will be best as a spot player. He is a good receiver who has the open field run skills to turn a short pass into a long gain. Will also be useful as a kickoff returner. Give him 5-8 touches a game and he just may come up with a home run every once in a while.

 

Kenny Clark – DT – UCLA

Clark is a third year junior and a two year starter for UCLA. He played as a backup as a true freshman and got a few starts. He has been the fulltime starter the last two years. 2015 was his best year with 77 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 6 sacks.

Size –

6026 – 310 – 4.95 (All Estimate)

Strong Points –

Thick build with long arms. Has outstanding strength and power. Can dominate one-on-one blockers. Very instinctive. Quick to shed. Excellent play versus the run. Very good bull rusher and has some secondary moves. Top competitor. Makes plays even though he is consistently double teamed.

Weak Points –

A little short to play anywhere along the line.

The Way We Hear It –

A third year junior and a two year starter who is entering the Draft. Plays mostly as a 0 and 1 technique but can play any inside position in any front. Dominates when he is blocked one-on-one and is excellent versus double teams. Very strong and powerful to get penetration and disrupt run lanes. Very good hand use to shed and get to ball. Has top instincts and is seldom fooled. As a pass rusher he is mostly a bull rusher who can collapse the pocket. Has some moves but needs to develop more. Will start and be productive as a rookie and can play as a nose or a 3-technique in a 4-3 or as a nose in a 3-4. Might even be able to play at a 5 tech. He should become a very good NFL player.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Read More 376 Words

Breaking Down OT Kyle Murphy and LB Scooby Wright

Kyle Murphy – OT – Stanford

Murphy is a fourth year senior and a two year starter for Stanford. He started at right tackle in 2014 and was moved to left tackle this season. He is a former 5-star recruit who had offers from programs such as Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, Oklahoma and Florida. Played

Kyle Murphy – OT – Stanford

Murphy is a fourth year senior and a two year starter for Stanford. He started at right tackle in 2014 and was moved to left tackle this season. He is a former 5-star recruit who had offers from programs such as Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, Oklahoma and Florida. Played as a backup in 2012 and 2013 but did have two starts his freshman year.

Size –

6064 – 305 – 5.10 (All Estimates)

Strong Points –

Has good size and a frame to carry at least 315. Has played and started on both the right and left sides. Is very athletic, can run, moves well in space and can adjust on the move. Technique sound, very good hand use, keeps his back straight and is a natural knee bender. Quick off ball. Is explosive on contact with explosiveness through his hips. Tough and competitive, looks to finish, plays had every down. Very consistent run and pass blocker.

Weak Points –

Needs to get a little bigger, especially in the lower body

Summation –

Murphy is a very solid football player who does just about everything very well. He gets off the ball quickly, has explosiveness on contact, gets movement with run blocks and gets and keeps good position in pass pro. He plays with natural band and can anchor. Is athletic enough to pull and play in space. Just needs to get a little bigger and stronger. He will be a high pick who can come in and start at either guard or tackle position as a rookie. A very sound player a team can rely on.

Scooby Wright – LB – Arizona

Wright is a third year junior and a three year starter for Arizona. He missed all but three games this past season. He originally had a knee injury and then injured his feet. Came back to play in Arizona’s bowl game where he put up big numbers (15 tackles, 2 sacks). He won the Nagurski award following the 2014 after he finished with 163 total tackles and 14 sacks. He was a 2-star recruit coming out of high school. Lines up both at LB and sometimes as a DE in pass rush situations.

Size-

6004 – 242 – 4.80

Strong Points –

Highly productive. He is a top competitor with a non-stop motor. Has very good instincts and is around the ball. Effective as a pass rusher when used on blitzes and when lined up as a defensive end. Takes good angles in pursuit

Weak Points –

Short with short arms. Misses tackles because of the short arms. Lacks speed. Can be slow to shed at times. More run and hit than stack type. Just an average athlete. Coming off two injuries that have to be checked out (knee, foot)

Summation –

Wright is fun to watch on tape because of his high competitive nature and the way he runs all over the field making plays. That said, he is a marginal athlete with average speed. Don’t know what he will time, but he plays like a 4.8 guy. Has a short stocky frame with short arms. While he makes a lot of tackles he also misses a lot. He is tough and aggressive but can be overpowered at the point of attack. Not a top take on type, more a go around blocks type. He is very instinctive and knows how to find the ball. Will make it because of his competitive nature, he is the consummate overachiever. May never be a starter nut can be a terror on special teams.

Read More 512 Words

Breaking Down Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche

Going into the 2015 college football season, many had Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche as the highest rated inside defensive lineman for next April’s NFL Draft. While Nkemdiche has the talent to be to be a very good player, I am not sure at this point that he is the top interior defensive lineman.

Going into the 2015 college football season, many had Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche as the highest rated inside defensive lineman for next April’s NFL Draft. While Nkemdiche has the talent to be to be a very good player, I am not sure at this point that he is the top interior defensive lineman. While I am far from having all the players evaluated, I can say right now he isn’t close to being as good at Ohio State’s Joey Bosa. Whether or not he becomes a better pro remains to be seen.

Nkemdiche is a third-year junior and a three-year starter for Ole Miss. By almost all accounts, he will be entering the NFL Draft as an underclassman. Coming out of high school, he was rated as a 5-star player and the top defensive lineman in the country. He was recruited by all the top programs and originally committed to Clemson before changing his mind and accepting a scholarship to Mississippi. His older brother Denzel was already a member of the Ole Miss Football team.

While Nkemdiche has been a very good player for Ole Miss, he is not the dominant player that many expected him to be. His stats are very average. In 2014, he finished the season with 35 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, and 4.0 tackles for loss. To date, this season, he has recorded 22 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss. For his career, he only has 5.5 sacks.

Granted, he is constantly double teamed and opponents prepare to face him. Nkemdiche has good, not great, size. He will measure at about 6034 – 295. He has a thick, well-muscled frame with good length. He has very good strength and power and shows the ability to hold the point versus single and double blocks. He is a very good athlete for his size with speed and a burst and plays with natural bend. He has great balance, stays on his feet, and can change direction and move well laterally.

Nkemdiche has above average instincts. He often plays with his head down and can be slow to find the ball, or he can lose track of the ball. When he keeps his head up, he is much better. He has quick hands, knows how to play with leverage, and can shed quickly. He moves well through trash and shows he can be a good pursuit player. He often gets penetration to disrupt running plays, and while he may not make the tackle, his penetration sets up teammates to make the play.

As a pass rusher, Robert gets pressures and hits, he just doesn’t have a lot of sacks. He can be quick off the ball and has the agility and change of direction to redirect his charge. He shows a good spin move, and his overall hand use is very good. He just needs to learn to finish his pass rush better.

As a competitor, I sometimes question his overall aggressiveness. He picks and chooses when to make plays. While he will flash a dominant type play where he can’t be blocked, there are too many plays where he is not a factor.

Overall, Nkemdiche has the natural talent to be a top NFL interior defensive lineman. He can play either tackle position in a 4-3 and can play either end position in a 3-4. He has to pick up his level of intensity and play hard every down. His upside is unlimited, but because of his inconsistency, he also has some downside. While he will go very high based on his talent, the team that drafts him has to know that there is also some risk.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Read More 552 Words

2015 Season Preview: New York Jets

After a disastrous 2014 season, the Jets cleaned house. John Idzik and Rex Ryan are out and new General Manager Mike Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles are in. The atmosphere is different, and the Jets will try and work their way up from the bottom of the AFC East.

Bowles and Maccagnan are both

After a disastrous 2014 season, the Jets cleaned house. John Idzik and Rex Ryan are out and new General Manager Mike Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles are in. The atmosphere is different, and the Jets will try and work their way up from the bottom of the AFC East.

Bowles and Maccagnan are both tough, no nonsense people, and I expect that under their leadership, the Jets will be competitive within their division and conference in short order.

Quarterback

Going into training camp, Geno Smith has the quarterback job, but there is no guarantee that he will be the starter come opening day. Smith has the physical traits to be a top player, but does he have the mental toughness and leadership needed to reach his ceiling?

Challenges will come from veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Bryce Petty. Fitzpatrick doesn’t have anywhere near the physical traits that Smith has, but he is very knowledgeable and knows how to play within himself. Petty is clearly the quarterback of the future and will step into the job as soon as he feels comfortable in the NFL-style game. Coming from the simple Baylor spread, the transition may take a year.

Running Back

The Jets don’t have a true bell cow running back, but they do have some interesting players who can be productive within a rotation. Stevan Ridley, Zac Stacy, and Chris Ivory should all be able to complement one another. None of these backs is a home run threat, but they all do some things fairly well. Ridley may have the best overall talent, but he has had fumbling issues in the past. Stacy had a big year in 2013 with the Rams and then got buried on the depth chart. Ivory is a tough inside runner but doesn’t do much in the passing game.

Receivers and Tight Ends

The Jets have some talent at the wide receiver position. But do they have a quarterback to get them the ball? Clearly, the most talented player in the Jets wide receiver corps is Brandon Marshall. Marshall has a history of playing very well his first two years with a new club. He seems to wear out his welcome after that. When he is on his game, he is one of the better possession receivers in the NFL.

Eric Decker is also a big possession receiver, and with Marshall around, he could perform better than he did in 2014. The deep threat should come from rookie Devin Smith. Smith becomes the Jets best home run threat the day he steps on the field.

At the tight end position, the best of the group is second year player Jace Amaro. Amaro is a very athletic “move” type tight end. He is not physical enough to play with any consistency in tight. Jeff Cumberland is a reliable backup, and we are still waiting for Kellen Davis to play up to his natural talent.

Offensive Line

The two best players on the Jets offensive line are left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold. With this being their 10th season together, they are clearly on the back nine of their careers.

Last year, the Jets brought in Breno Giacomini to play right tackle, and while he started 16 games, his play was average. This year, the Jets signed former Seahawks’ first rounder James Carpenter, and the hope is that he can play up to his very good natural talent. He will most likely line up at guard. The other guard should be 10-year veteran Willie Colon.

A player to watch in training camp is fifth round rookie Jarvis Harrison. Harrison was a second round talent, but many questioned his commitment to the game and that’s why he dropped to the fifth. If the Jets push the right button, they may have themselves a top young talent. James Brewer and Brian Winters provide depth (assuming Winters can stay healthy).

Defensive Line

As a whole, this may be the most talented position group on the Jets roster. Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Damon Harrison are as good a starting line as there is in the league. Add to that first round pick Leonard Williams, and the Jets are loaded! I felt Williams was the best player in the draft last April. Leger Douzable, T.J. Barnes and Stephen Bowen provide quality depth at a position group where depth matters. When a team has a strong six or seven man defensive line rotation, they are in good shape.

Linebacker

This is another group that has quality talent but is starting to age. Inside, the starters are Davis Harris and Demario Davis. Harris had quite a few teams interested in him in free agency but re-signed with the Jets. Davis is very steady but unspectacular. His best football is still in front of him.

Erin Henderson, if he can keep his head screwed on straight, is an excellent backup. The Jets signed former Chief Joe Mays as insurance. Jamari Lattimore is a quality special teams’ performer.

On the outside, Calvin Pace, in his 13th year, is back again. Bowles has to hope that he can get Quinton Coples to play up to his enormous potential. Jason Babin may be getting a little long in the tooth, but he can still come off the edge in pass rush situations. Rookie Lorenzo Mauldin from Louisville may become a starter before the season is half over. He has a very consistent game against both the run and pass.

Secondary

John Idzik found a way to get rid of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Maccagnan found a way to get them back. Revis is one of the best cover corners in football and Cromartie, though aging, is still very good. The third corner is former Browns starter Buster Skrine, and the three of them may give the Jets one of the best corner groups in the league.

There is quality depth with Antonio Allen, who can also play safety, Darrin Walls, and Marcus Williams. At safety, the starters are last year’s first round pick Calvin Pryor at strong safety and Marcus Gilchrist at free. The top reserve should be Jaiquawn Jarrett.

Outlook

The Jets will be improved and will compete, but it remains to be seen if they have enough to move out of the AFC East basement in Bowles first year. The quarterback play, like with any team, will be the key. One of the problems the Jets have to face is that the AFC East has become a very competitive division, and both Miami and Buffalo should be able to challenge New England for the title.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Read More 1050 Words

What do Scouts do During the Summer Months?

The draft and rookie mini-camps are over, does that mean that college scouts have nothing but free time until training camp? Not really. While they aren’t on the road, there is plenty of work to be done. The cycle for the 2016 NFL Draft has begun.

Spring Combine Meetings

Between now and the

The draft and rookie mini-camps are over, does that mean that college scouts have nothing but free time until training camp? Not really. While they aren’t on the road, there is plenty of work to be done. The cycle for the 2016 NFL Draft has begun.

Spring Combine Meetings

Between now and the end of May, the clubs who are members of either BLESTO or National Scouting will have week-long meetings going over the prospects in the upcoming senior class. During these meetings, each of the combine area scouts gives a verbal assessment of each of the players in his area. His report will include some character information, plus the strong and weak points of each prospect.

The hard copy of these reports is also given to each member club as well as a school-by-school list of the senior prospects in each scout’s area. This list becomes the starting point for scouts at each school for their summer and fall evaluations. I say starting point because there are always going to be players at some schools who are not on the list. These could be players who, until this upcoming season, have never been starters and really haven’t shown scouts that they are a potential prospect.

The list also does not include underclassman who may be thinking about leaving school early and entering the draft. This is done by league mandate as the NFL does not want to encourage underclassmen in any way to enter the draft.

Summer Evaluations

With game tape availability being the way it is now, it is so much easier for scouts to get a jump start on their fall work. Five or six years ago, a scout had to have hard copies of tape made and sent to them from the various club’s video departments in order to do tape study.

Now, with technology the way it is, as long as they have a tablet and an internet connection, they can watch as much tape as they want, just about anywhere. Once connected to the club’s master video computer, every game tape form the 2015 season and prior is there. It’s as simple as clicking on on the game.

When the college teams begin training camps in early August, most scouts already have a strong idea of how each prospect has played, and they also have a good idea as to what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Depending on philosophy, some clubs have some or all of their scouts working on the next year’s draft right after the Scouting Combine in February. Other clubs have the scouts working on the current class through the draft, and then they begin work on the next draft. It’s just a matter of philosophy on when they want to begin the scouting cycle.

No matter what the philosophy, the summer months are still downtime to an extent, and scouts can do their work from home rather than on the road. With tape availability the way it is, there is no reason a scout doesn’t have access to two full years (usually junior and senior) of tape when making his evaluations. That makes scouting so much easier today than it was when I was a road scout.

A scout no longer has to go to the school in order to watch video, he can do it at home, and when training camps open, all he needs to do is watch practice and talk to people who can gave him pertinent background information.

There is no reason a scout doesn’t have a good evaluation of all the top players in his area at the beginning of the college season. Once the season starts, then his evaluation is more on if the player shows improvement in his play or declines. Tape availability also gives the scout more time to do background and character evaluations. That said, there is no reason for mistakes to be made come draft day.

Underclassmen

There are always going to be underclassmen entering the draft. By league rule, scouts cannot ask the colleges about an underclassmen unless the school offers up the information first. That does not mean the scout cannot begin doing tape evaluations of the top underclassmen at each school. As word leaks out that certain players will definitely be coming out, then the scout begins looking at tape of that player more earnestly. With league rules the way they are, club scouts cannot ask about an underclassmen entering the draft until after he is officially in the draft, and they won’t be until next January. He then has to play catchup as far as character evaluation, but the talent evaluation should already be thorough.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Read More 730 Words

2015 NFL Draft Review: NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For the second straight year, the top of Tampa Bay’s draft has been strong. With the first pick in this year’s draft, the Bucs surprised no one with the selection of Jameis Winston. Winston was a worthy first overall pick on talent. but we all know there is some risk

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For the second straight year, the top of Tampa Bay’s draft has been strong. With the first pick in this year’s draft, the Bucs surprised no one with the selection of Jameis Winston. Winston was a worthy first overall pick on talent. but we all know there is some risk involved with this pick based on his off-field issues. Time will tell if Tampa Bay did the right thing.

A huge area of need for the Bucs was the offensive line. With their two second round choices, the Bucs selected two offensive linemen. Donovan Smith is a huge left tackle, who back in January many “experts” were saying should have stayed in school. The following week at the Senior Bowl, Smith showed that he was ready to be an NFL starter. Many feel Smith will be better off at guard, but Tampa Bay has said he will remain at tackle.

The other second round pick was Hobart lineman Ali Marpet. Hobart is a Division III school where Marpet dominated. He was the talk of the Senior Bowl, where he showed he could play with the big boys. He has the versatility of being able to play anywhere on the offensive line. He will most likely start out at guard.

In the fourth round, the Bucs selected LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander. After watching tape, I felt Kwon would be best as a Will in the Tampa Bay scheme, but with that position already filled, Alexander will most likely start out at Sam.

Receivers Kenny Bell and Kaelin Clay, as well as fullback Joey Iosefa are developmental types who may need a year in the practice squad unless they prove they can be strong special teams’ performers.

Atlanta Falcons

I love the Falcons first pick. Clemson outside linebacker Vic Beasley is an outstanding edge pass rusher who will give Atlanta something they haven’t had in years. He still needs to improve his ability to defend the run, but with him now playing on his feet, I don’t see that as a problem.

If it weren’t for multiple positive drug tests while at LSU, corner Jalen Collins would have been a first round pick. Tall and long corners are difficult to find, and Collins has very good overall cover skills. He should come in and start right away.

Until he came up with a toe injury and couldn’t work out until mid-April, I had Tevin Coleman has one of the top running backs in the draft. At his pro day he ran a sub 4.4 which shows how explosive he could be. He ran for over 2000 yards behind a very average line at Indiana.

Justin Hardy is an excellent yet under rated receiver. He lacks good top end speed but he is a very good route runner and catches everything thrown his way. He could be an ideal slot receiver for Atlanta.

Getting nose tackle Grady Jarrett in the fifth round is a steal. While he lacks ideal height, he is a top competitor who can use his hands and make plays. He will get a lot of play time as a rookie. Tackle Jake Rodgers and defensive back Akeem King are developmental types who will be practice squad candidates.

New Orleans Saints

After the Saints traded tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle, they stated they would use the draft to upgrade their defense. That’s not the way the draft started out, as they selected Stanford tackle Andrus Peat. I’m not criticizing the pick as I had Peat as the best tackle in the draft and he was too good a talent to pass up.

With the pick they received from Seattle for Graham, the Saints took Clemson inside linebacker Stephone Anthony. This is a pick I really like, as Anthony has outstanding instincts and is very tough at the point of attack. While some experts felt this pick was a reach, I feel that Anthony will prove this to be an outstanding selection.

Washington outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha may not be the fastest guy when he runs a forty, but all he does is sack the quarterback. He had 32 sacks over the last two seasons. In my opinion, he was one of the better edge rushers available and an ideal fit for the Saints defensive scheme.

Quarterback Garrett Grayson will be Drew Brees eventual replacement. He landed in the right spot as he will be able to learn under Brees for a few seasons before he is ready to take control of the offense.

Florida State corner P.J. Williams was a possible late first round talent who slid to the third round because of a DUI shortly before the draft. He should start as a rookie and play well. Outside linebacker Davis Tull from Tennessee-Chattanooga is a fifth round steal. He is a natural edge rusher with a high motor. He had 37 career sacks while dominating FCS competition.

Tyeler Davison should be a solid rotational defensive tackle, while Damian Swan and Marcus Murphy are developmental types.

Carolina Panthers

General Manager Dave Gettleman took some heat from draft experts when he selected Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson in the first round. I’ll side with Gettleman here as Thompson is an excellent scheme fit for the Panthers. Shaq is a highly instinctive playmaker and that will carry over to the NFL. In sub-packages, the Panthers will be able to do a lot with Thompson.

Devin Funchess can be a matchup nightmare if used correctly. He can play as a flexed tight end or as a big wide receiver. What he won’t do is give you much as a blocker.

Oklahoma tackle Daryl Williams should be able to play right tackle or guard. He is a powerful run blocker and getting better as a pass blocker. He should start as a rookie. Playing at Texas State, linebacker Davis Mayo didn’t get much publicity but he is another highly instinctive and athletic linebacker who will have a role early. Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne is a strong inside pounder who will have a role as a rotational back.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Read More 971 Words

Draft: 3 biggest bargains of round one

Although there were very few curveballs in a rather vanilla round one of the 2015 NFL draft, we certainly weren't void of a few value selections in the latter stages of the night.

Here are three in particular that stood out:

Bud Dupree to the Steelers at No. 22

Prior to Randy Gregory

Although there were very few curveballs in a rather vanilla round one of the 2015 NFL draft, we certainly weren’t void of a few value selections in the latter stages of the night.

Here are three in particular that stood out:

Bud Dupree to the Steelers at No. 22

Prior to Randy Gregory and Shane Ray’s off field indiscretions in the pre-draft, there may have been a limited number of scenarios where all five of the highly rated pass rushers were not all off the board by the time Pittsburgh was on the clock at No. 22. However, for the eternally defensive-minded Steelers, Kentucky conversion edge defender Bud Dupree fell fortuitously into their lap. Although the secondary absorbed multiple blows this offseason, with Jason Worilds’ shock retirement came the immediate requirement for a pass rushing reinforcement. Dupree (my 10th ranked player overall) was projected by some to go as high as seventh to Atlanta. A height, weight, speed specimen with significant upside, he will luckily not be thrust into a high leverage role prematurely as he — and his raw skill set — acclimatizes to the NFL game.

Shane Ray to the Broncos at No. 23

The 2014 SEC Defensive Player of the Year’s slide was not unforeseen after being cited for marijuana possession during the very week of the draft, but the Broncos were happy to capitalize. Ray (my 3rd ranked player overall) brings with him to Denver a pleasantly violent on-field demeanor and unmatched motor. Though I view him to be a better fit as a classic 4-3, hand in the dirt, defensive end, simply having him installed opposite Von Miller makes a good unit all the more dynamic. I’d expect him to contribute primarily as a spot rusher while he adjusts to the pro level and (hopefully) adds to his frame.

Malcom Brown to the Patriots at No. 32

Big bodies who can move and affect the passing game are a commodity. For New England, it was fortunate that Brown (my 14th ranked player overall) was able to get past a handful of defensive tackle-needy teams in the twenties — particularly the Detroit Lions at No. 28 who lost both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley this offseason. Malcom Brown improved significantly in 2014 and accumulated 13.0 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. A slippery pass rusher packed into a beefy frame, he boasts an abundance of athleticism for the position as well. Yes, Vince Wilfork is gone, but Brown is not his replacement. The latter is a different profile of player and, unlike Big Vince, won’t have to come off the field in obvious passing situations.

Honorable Mention…

The 49ers trade down two spots and still get their man

Despite the surprisingly sparse amount of trade movement, San Francisco was able to slide down just two spots and take the player they coveted all along. The 49ers went from No. 15 to No. 17, managing to acquire a fourth round pick (No. 117 overall) and a 2016 fifth round pick as well. Fair play to San Diego for getting its man, but quick and easy draft manipulation is always worthy of props.

Let me hear it on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Read More 458 Words

NFL Draft Day Two: The 11 Best Available

When the music stops at the cessation of any NFL draft's first day, we're left with a handful of talented players still standing, unselected.

Though the 2015 NFL draft isn't as classically stockpiled with as much overall depth as we've been accustomed to in recent years, there is plenty to monitor heading into the top

When the music stops at the cessation of any NFL draft’s first day, we’re left with a handful of talented players still standing, unselected.

Though the 2015 NFL draft isn’t as classically stockpiled with as much overall depth as we’ve been accustomed to in recent years, there is plenty to monitor heading into the top of the second round.

Of the remaining dancers without a partner, here are the eleven most enticing available:

Jake Fisher, OT. Oregon (6’6″ 306 lbs.)

Former tight end with superior athleticism and quickness off the snap. A potential left tackle in a zone blocking scheme, he gets by on good technique and above-average footwork. There is a Joe Staley element to his profile.

Randy Gregory, OLB. Nebraska (6’5″ 235 lbs.)

Quality movement skills and lower body explosion packaged into a long frame. Though his get-off is sub par as slowly unravels out of his stance, Gregory does well to use his hands to beat blockers. Chase linebacker who plays with effort. If he gets past his substance concerns and reinforces his semi-wiry frame, he could be a major day two bargain.

Landon Collins, S. Alabama (6’0″ 228 lbs.)

Aggressive and tough, Collins is a downhill hammer that finds the football in run and pass defense. Will add a certain attitude to a defense and comes physically ready for the NFL. A lack of ball skills or natural coverage ability prevented him from the first round, but he’s an impact run defender from day one at the strong safety position.

Eddie Goldman, DT. Florida State (6’4″ 336 lbs.)

A lot to be said about big men who can carry their weight well. Goldman is a wrecking ball at the point of attack and can affect the oppositions rhythm with his natural power. He lacks the ability to consistently affect the passing game on third-down, likely limiting him to 3-4 teams.

T.J. Clemmings, OT. Pittsburgh (6’5″ 309 lbs.)

Experienced leader who displays impressive quickness and lateral movement skills. The former defensive end is still constantly learning the nuances of playing on offense, but has long term potential to be a left tackle if he goes to a patient team.

Jaelen Strong, WR. Arizona State (6’2″ 217 lbs.)

Big body target who can prove to be a reliable safety valve due to his ability to adjust and shield defenders away from passes. Lacks explosion and doesn’t consistently make catches off hi frame with natural hands, but there’s an undeniable talent level that should intrigue teams early day two.

La’El Collins, OG/RT. LSU (6’4″ 305 lbs.)

Powerful, thickly-built dual guard or right tackle. A finisher in the run game who eliminates when engaged. Leader with three-years of starting experience. Though he is not a suspect, Collins has a scheduled meeting with police over an April shooting of a pregnant woman. If not for the uncertainty of the situation, he’d have likely been a first round selection.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR. Missouri (6’5″ 237 lbs.)

A laundry list of maturity and off-field concerns are difficult to overlook, but the physical makeup is tantalizing. Fluidity and smooth movement despite carrying a larger, taller frame. Strength and separation of areas of concern, but can extend and high-point over most defensive backs. Can he deal with physical NFL cornerbacks, though?

Jordan Phillips, NT. Oklahoma (6’5″ 329 lbs.)

Beefy 3-4 nose tackle only; decent movement skills. Anchors well and can push the pocket using his supreme length and strength. Won’t provide much of a pass rush, but should contribute from the outset for a team that needs help at the 0-tech. Two down player, but imposing dimensions.

Ronald Darby, CB. Florida State (5’11” 193 lbs.)

Track speed with smooth change or direction and obvious fluidity. Man-coverage capable boundary corner by gives up inside release quite often on film. Lacks top end ball skills, but could make for a very intriguing project to a team in day two. Rather significant upside.

Tevin Coleman, RB. Indiana (5’11” 206 lbs.)

Workhorse ‘back who produced heavily despite playing behind an unimpressive offensive line. Greatest strength is his refusal to go down, but can also be a weakness as he too often looks for the home run. Still, a smooth-cutting between the tackle rusher who can maintain speed off contact. Lacks open-field elusiveness of some others and relatively unproven as a pass catcher.

Honorable mentions…

Jalen Collins, CB. LSU (6’1″ 203 lbs.) – New school boundary corner; size/speed/length.
T.J. Yeldon, RB. Alabama (6’1″ 226 lbs.) – Decisive bruiser with instincts; keeps feet moving.
Eric Kendricks, ILB. UCLA (6’0″ 232 lbs.) – Stat freak with an aggressive downhill demeanor.
Donovan Smith, OT. Penn State (6’6″ 338 lbs.) – Day one starter at guard/right tackle.
Eli Harold, DE/OLB, UVA (6’3″ 247 lbs.) – Gets regular pressure; fluidity to play in space.

Let me hear it on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

Read More 736 Words