Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top Prospects by Position

Tight Ends

1) Erin Ebron, North Carolina Tarheels
Career Stats: 112 Catches, 1805 Yards, 8 TDs
Height: 6'4             Weight: 250 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.60 
Bench Press: 24 Reps

Ebron leads off this class of tight ends after an impressive junior season and a great showing at the Combine. Ebron is a very athletic for a tight end, with physique similar to Vernon Davis. He isn't at the same level in terms of speed as Davis was, but he possesses the same athleticism abilities that can make Davis a matchup nightmare. Ebron has a great burst off of the snap and is especially dangerous on seam routes as he can create problems for linebackers and safeties. He runs solid routes too as he often bailed out his quarterback this year who just threw it in his general direction. He is also a solid blocker in the run, but he could stand to improve a bit more on his pass protection. Going forward he gets a great push, but can get a bit out of place on throws. While Ebron has a large frame, he needs to learn to use his body more effectively to shield smaller defenders away from contested throws. He has a good set of hands, but he isn't always in optimal position when the ball comes his way. Ebron is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential, and that potential has put him in the top 10 of some draft boards. 

2) Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington Huskies
Career Stats: 146 Catches, 1840 Yards, 21 TDs
Height: 6'5              Weight: 262 lbs. 

The difference between Ebron and Seferian-Jenkins is a foot injury at the Combine. SJ, in my opinion, is a better tight end than Ebron is, but the injury has raised a red flag. If he can make a full recovery, SJ can make a big impact at the next level. He has a body physique and skill set that is very similar to Jimmy Graham of the Saints (Seferian-Jenkins also played on the U. Washington basketball team). He is basically a wide receiver in a tight end's body. He has great hands and runs his routes incredible well. His burst of the line very quick and he is explosive in and out of his routes. He has made some very tough catches at every level of the field. He attacks the ball well while it is in the air and is very sure handed. Best of all, he has the athleticism and versatility to line up along any point of the line. He can get off the line quickly out of a three point stance, and frequently would line up out wide. SJ also possesses a good blocking set. He is powerful at the point of attack and can take on speed rushers. If healthy, Seferian-Jenkins could be a very dynamic weapon similar to what Graham does with the Saints.

3) Jace Amaro, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Career Stats: 138 Catches, 1818 Yards, 13 TDs
Height: 6'5              Weight: 265 lbs
40 Yard Dash: 4.74 
Bench Press: 28 Reps

Amaro has a chance to slip into the first round after the junior season he put together, in which he totaled 106 catches and over 1000 yards. His Combine 40 might not be that impressive, but Amaro actually plays a lot faster than what his timed numbers would indicate. He has a good burst off of the snap and plays with good quickness for someone his size. He is able to beat most linebackers and safeties out of his breaks and is great and finding the soft spot in the zones and exploiting it. Amaro can sometimes rely too much on his speed and doesn't always use his body to shield defenders from the ball. He would become a much more effective receiver over the middle and in the redzone if he can learn to combine that with his speed. However, he does have a great pair of hands, as illustrated by his reception total this year. One has to wonder if he is a one-year wonder and the product of a system, but he looks to be a play making tight end. It is also a bit worrying that he doesn't have a tremendous amount of experience lining up next to the tackle. Similar to Aaron Hernandez, Amaro is a tight end who would does his best work out of the slot or out wide. That's not to say that he cannot line up from there. But if he wants to be a three down tight end, he is going to have to do better with his burst coming out of the three point stance and improve his blocking.

4) Troy Niklas, Notre Dame Fightin' Irish
Career Stats: 37 Catches, 573 Yards, 6 TDs
Height: 6'6              Weight: 270 lbs
40 Yard Dash: DNP
Bench Press: 27 Reps

The production might not read on the stat lines, but Niklas is a solid tight end who has had mediocre quarterback play which held back his potential. Niklas is a big tight end who could develop into a true threat in the NFL. He is quick off the line for someone his size, especially when he is split out wide. His speed out of his cuts isn't the greatest, but that is something that can be polished out at the next level. He also has very good hands and is adept at making the tough catches across the middle of the field. While he may lack upper tier speed, he is good at picking up additional yards after the catch. Really, Niklas's size is what will make him such a weapon at the next level. His size gives his team a huge target in the middle and he can be a mismatch nightmare in the redzone. His size also makes him very formidable as a run blocker. He keeps good leverage and has the ability to drive back linebackers and defensive ends. As a blocker, Niklas needs to improve his down field blocking and his pass protection. He has a tendency to get a bit sloppy with his technique and can disengage from a blocker before his man has made his move. Niklas has some good potential to succeed in the NFL.

5) C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa Hawkeyes
Career Stats: 91 Catches, 899 Yards, 10 TDs
Height: 6'5             Weight: 265 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.76
Bench Press: 25 Reps

Fiedorowicz is more of a throwback tight end than the other prospects in this draft. He is a very powerful run blocking tight end who can help seal the edge. He does a lot of his best work lining up next to the offensive tackle as opposed to in the slot. His burst up the seam is very good and he is quick on his slants and out routes. He is very fast in those shorter routes and can really do the most damage in the short to intermediate range of the field. One of his biggest weaknesses is the fact that he doesn't really have top end speed to break away from defenders. However, Fiedorowicz is one of the best in this draft at using his body to shield defenders and muscle his way to contested catches. He can flat out bully corners and safeties to get himself into position. This can work against him as he has a tendency to get a bit too physical and draw flags. All in all, Fiedorowicz might be a bit more of a project and take time to develop. However, I think he can immediately contribute to a team's redzone game plan similar to the impact Joseph Fauria had with the Lions this past year.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Top Players by Position

Offensive Tackles

1) Jake Matthews, Texas A&M Aggies
Height: 6'5
Weight: 308 lbs.
Bench Press: 24 Reps

Obviously you can't portray how talented an offensive tackle is by throwing up a bunch of good looking stats. However, tape will show that Matthews is an absolute rock on the edge who will be the next starting tackle for some fortunate team over the next decade. Matthews has a great combination of size and athleticism that is reminding scouts of Joe Thomas and Chris Long. In pass protection, he is about as consistent as you can get while going up a wide range of prospects on the left and right side. He has the quickness to drop back with rushers going around the edge, but is strong enough to hold off bull rushers at the point of attack. He maintains good balance by keeping his foot moving constantly before contact and uses his hands very well. While Matthews isn't weak by any stretch of the imagination, he could stand to use a bit more strength for the next level. Bull rushes can cause him to take a few steps back upon contact and put some pressure on his quarterback, but as I've mentioned he maintains very good balance during these. The strength will come and should elevate his play to the next level. It would also help him out in the running game to blast open holes. Matthews excels in the running game due to his quickness, often beating opponents at the whistle and driving them back. His quickness also makes him ideal on traps and pulls as he can reach his blocking assignments with ease. Out of the top tackles in this draft, Matthews is the safest pick to be a franchise tackle for a long time to come.

2) Greg Robinson, Auburn Tigers
Height: 6'5
Weight: 332 lbs.
Bench Press: 32 Reps

Greg Robinson's performance at the end of the season and during the Combine has vaulted him up everyone's draft boards, with some having him going as high as second overall. He certainly seems worthy, as he is an incredible athlete for a man his size. He has a massive frame that yields tremendous strength, allowing him to handle bull rushes and take on multiple defenders at the line. He gets tremendous push in the rushing game as he utilizes his powerful legs and great balance better than any other run blocker in this class. Robinson also has incredible speed for a man his size, evidenced by him sharing a Combine best 4.84 40 yard dash among all offensive lineman. This allows him to get to the next level of the defense after his first assignment. Robinson also possesses powerful hands that don't disengage once he has made contact. There really aren't a lot of holes in Robinson's game at this juncture. The only thing that stands out is that he hasn't had a terrible amount of experience in pass protection. Auburn only threw the ball about 16 times a game, so it isn't like he's had a lot of practice. That said, he has shown a lot in those limited snaps. Against speed rushers, he can have a tendency to step back instead of sliding to mirror the rusher. However, he does have good footwork to mirror a rusher and is rarely overpowered by a bull rush. Robinson has the most upside of any tackle in this class.

3) Taylor Lewan, Michigan Wolverines
Height: 6'7
Weight: 309 lbs.
Bench Press: 29 Reps

Like Robinson, Lewan has very good athleticism for someone that size. He has a big frame and moves very well for someone carrying that much weight (4.87 40). He is very good as a run blocker, maintaining good leverage and driving through his defender. Lewan has very strong hands that make it very difficult to shed blocks once he has initiated contact. This can work against him however, as it leads to more holding penalties than a team will desire. Yet his combination of strong hands and a powerful upper body allows him to hold up well when going head on against the rush. He rarely gets off balance in those situations and can throw a rusher off their course. He is also very quick to get to the next level and continue to blast open holes for the running back. One of the only areas where Lewan tends to struggle is against speed rushers, especially ones coming off the edge as opposed to shooting to the inside. Lewan has a massive frame, but against the smaller rushers who are quick to the outside shoulder, he doesn't slide his feet quickly enough to mirror them. Lewan has above average athleticism to go along with his frame, so it is very possible that he can be coached into a premier pass protector at the next level.

4) Antonio Richardson, Tennessee Volunteers
Height: 6'6
Weight: 332 lbs.
Bench Press: 25 Reps

The gap in talent between Lewan and Richardson would be less prominent if Richardson hadn't had knee surgery after his sophomore year. As is the theme with talented tackles, Richardson has good athleticism for a man in that frame. Yet the knee surgery took its toll on him this year as he looked about a half step slower against edge rushers. This was most evidenced in the game this year against Florida, who utilizes a lot of smaller speed rushers and consistently got pressure on the Volunteers' quarterbacks. Richardson is better against the power rushers, but there are a few times when he doesn't maintain his balance. He doesn't always use his hands to the best of his abilities either. However, as a run blocker, Richardson maintains good leverage and uses his powerful lower body to open up lanes. He, too, has the quickness to get off of his first assignment and reach the second or third level of the defense. Richardson has a good amount of upside as long as he can stay healthy. He had good performances against some of the toughest defensive players in the country. He held his own against Clowney in both of their meetings, and didn't give up much pressure against Kony Ealy of Missouri either. If healthy, Richardson could develop into a solid left tackle. At the worst, he could be a very good right tackle.

5) Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama Crimson Tide
Height: 6'6
Weight: 322 lbs.
Bench Press: 21 Reps

Kouandjio (kwan-joe) is the most intriguing tackle prospect in his class. After taking over as a true freshman on a line loaded with talent and improving drastically over his sophomore year, Kouandjio showed some very dramatic highs and lows this year. As a run blocker, he makes a case for top spot in the class with his strength and his burst off of the line. He was a key component to and offensive line that paved the way for Alabama's running backs to accumulate over 200 yards a game. He is a driving blocker who can also get to the next level. This is where I reiterate that this is why he is the most intriguing tackle prospect. His game tape doesn't quite match up with his Combine numbers. His bench press was rather unimpressive and he didn't have anything close to the 40 time that he was projected to have. However, Kouandjio's biggest issue to work on at the next level is going to be pass protection against the speed rushes. He can handle the bull rushes very well, maintaining good balance and leverage throughout engagement. Yet against the speed rushes, his footwork gets sloppy and he doesn't get into position quickly enough. This was most evidenced by the Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma, where Eric Striker manhandled him to the tune of three sacks. Kouandjio was also revealed to have had a knee injury which could help explain his disastrous game, but the film also shows that he is going to need to improve in pass protection to make it as a left tackle at the next level.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Top Players by Position

Running Backs

1) Bishop Sankey, Washington Huskies
Career Stats: 644 Attempts, 3496 Yards, 5.43 YPC, 37 TDs, 67 Catches, 567 Yards, 1 TD
Height: 5'9
Weight: 209 lbs.
40 Time: 4.49 seconds (1.59 10-Yard Split)

This really is not a deep class of running backs, but there are couple of intriguing prospects this year. Leading the pack is Bishop Sankey, who has served as the focal point of the Washington offense for the last two years. Despite defenses often selling out to stop him, Sankey often played very well against even the toughest opponents. Sankey has good vision both behind the line of scrimmage and in the open field. He does a good job of letting blocks develop in front of them and then has a pretty good burst through the hole. Sankey doesn't have top end speed, but he does possess a lot of open field moves that help him pick up additional yardage. He maintains good balance on spins and in his lateral movements, allowing him to start back up again with little effort. Sankey has also shown that he can make catches out of the backfield. His total receptions isn't eye popping, but he does have good hands and again can make people miss tackles in the open field. Sankey would be well served if he could work on his straight line speed to get it down into the low or mid 4.40s. He's also going to need to work on his pass rush protection if he wants to stay on the field for three downs. 

2) Tre Mason, Auburn Tigers
Career Stats: 516 Attempts, 2979 Yards, 5.77 YPC, 32 TDs, 19 Catches, 249 Yards, 1 TD
Height: 5'8
Weight: 207 lbs.
40 Time: 4.50 seconds (1.50 10-Yard Split)

Mason is probably the most well known of the running back prospects because of a late season surge that put him in Heisman contention. Mason had an incredible three game stretch at the end of the season that really showcased his abilities. Mason is a bit of a smaller back, but he runs with excellent pad level and has powerful driving legs. He also has good vision and is able to read his blocks and hit the hole from the moment it develops. Mason has a bit more of an explosion when he makes his burst through the hole, but he also lacks the top end speed to avoid getting caught from behind on long runs. His low center of gravity makes him very difficult to arm tackle either in the box or in the open field. This also allows him to pick up additional yards when he is hit behind the line of scrimmage. This also makes up for his lack of finesse in the open field. Unlike Sankey, Mason really only possesses a spin move kind of like Eddie Lacey that he can use to break the tackle of a corner or safety. Like Sankey, however, he is also going to need to improve his overall play if he wants to be a three down back. His pass protection is more adept, but he is not a true threat out of the backfield like other backs in this draft.

3) Carlos Hyde, Ohio State Buckeyes
Career Stats: 523 Attempts, 3198 Yards, 6.11 YPC, 37 TDs, 34 Catches, 271 Yards, 4 TDs,
Height: 5'11
Weight: 230 lbs.
40 Time: 4.66 seconds (1.65 10-Yard Split)

Carlos Hyde would probably by higher on this list if his numbers weren't so pedestrian at the Combine. Neither of his times were particularly terrible, but they are going to remind scouts of the stereotypical Big 10 plodding running back. Its pretty obvious from his size and measurables that Hyde isn't going to burn many people with his speed. However, he does have a decent burst when he gets to the next level. What Hyde
does have going for him however is tremendous patience, size, and balance. Hyde is great at letting his blockers reach their assignments and following them before making his move. He has a great burst behind the line to get to the linebackers and is a terrifying sight to a cornerback trying to bring him down right in the hole. He rarely goes down on first contact and can bounce off of defenders before picking up more yards. He is incredibly difficult to bring down in the open field due to his sheer size. While he isn't the greatest receiver, he has average hands and can pick up first downs once he has a full head of steam going. Hyde is definitely in contention to be the first running back off of the board, all things considered.

4) Lache Seastrunk, Baylor Bears
Career Stats: 289 Attempts, 2189 Yards, 7.57 YCP, 18 TDs, 9 Catches, 107 Yards, 1 TD
Height: 5'9
Weight: 201 lbs.
40 Time: 4.51 seconds (1.56 10-Yard Split)

This may sound a bit contradictory, but Seastrunk would actually benefit from being a bit more impatient when he is behind the line scrimmage. Seastrunk probably is the most talented overall back in this draft, but this is one of the main things that is holding him back. He has a tendency to wait behind the line of scrimmage and not just make due with what the offensive line is giving him. He often reverses field which does not fly as well in the NFL and will try and bounce it outside rather than just hit the hole and pick up minimal yards. A 4.51 40 yard dash isn't really slow, but he was recruited by Oregon and had boasted elite speed. Yet like I said, when he is in the open field he is incredibly shifty and moves his feet very quickly. Seastrunk could end up being a steal if he is still available in the late third or fourth round. There is no doubt that Seastrunk has the ability to take the ball to the endzone on almost any play. I was a little disappointed by his 40 time, but he is so elusive when he reaches the second and third level of the defense that it starts to make up for his perceived lack of speed. I think that he plays a lot faster than his clocked speed. 

5) Jeremy Hill, Louisiana State Tigers
Career Stats: 345 Attempts, 2156 Yards, 6.3 YPC, 28 TDs, 26 Catches, 254 Yards, 0 TDs
Height: 6'0
Weight: 233 lbs.
40 Time: 4.66 seconds (1.56 10-Yard Split)

Hill is one of the more difficult prospects at this position to get a read on because of how his game tape looks compared to his Combine results and off the field incidents. While Hill's 40 time has a bit left to be desired, his split time was rather impressive, ranking higher than Sankey's. Hill isn't going dance around in the back a lot, nor is he going to wait too  long to make his move upfield. He is very decisive behind the line and will hit the hole with a very quick burst during which he can be difficult to bring down. If he can learn to compress his size a bit through the line, he would avoid taking larger hits and wouldn't be exposing himself to fumbling as much. However, his burst through the hole into the second level when he makes his move is very explosive as he moves quickly with all that weight he carries. While Hill doesn't move around a lot in the backfield, he has surprising agility and footwork in the open field. He can make guys miss and his second gear is better than his Combine stats indicate. He does need to work on receiving and blocking assignments, but more importantly he needs to stay clean off of the field. Hill has good potential if he can improve his straight line speed and not dance around after sucker punching bar patrons.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Top 5 Prospects by Position

The season is over, and now so is the Combine. The Combine is meant to give some more tangible evidence to the draftibility of a prospect when scouts need more than video evidence. Some players may look good on tape, but when they get to the Combine and are open to high scrutiny, it is revealed that player was the beneficiary of a system. Yet not every drill is particularly meaningful to all the positions across the board. For example, the 40 time of a defensive lineman isn't terribly important, but what is good to know is the ten yard split time from that 40 (to measure explosiveness off the line). So after the viewing all the Combine results, here is my current top prospects by position. I'll be doing another one of these after the individual and school Pro Days.


1) Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville Cardinals
Career Stats: 9817 Yards, 72 TDs, 24 INTs, 68% Completion
Height: 6'2
Weight: 214 lbs. 
Teddy Bridgewater is head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to readiness. He could be plugged into an offense and make an impact from day 1. He has an incredible amount of talent to go along with a high football IQ. Bridgewater has been observed to be almost obsessed with getting better and understands the intricacies of the game more than any other quarterback prospect in this draft. That alone makes him the top prospect at his position this year. He is capable of making all of the throws and has a good grasp on anticipation, often throwing before his receiver has come out of their break. His arm strength is not the greatest which might hurt when throwing deep in the NFL, but he also possesses very good mechanics that keep him accurate. The biggest knock that I have heard against Bridgewater is that his frame is very slender. There were rumors circulating that he might even come into the Combine weighing less than 200 pounds. He proved that wasn't the case during the weigh-ins, but that doesn't change the fact that he does look rather frail and could be injury prone at the next level. That was really the same knock against Tom Brady when he was coming out of Michigan, that he wouldn't be able to withstand the punishment of the NFL. Well Bridgewater can thank Brady for the rules that have softened the NFL and given him a chance to have a long career.

2) Blake Bortles, Central Florida Knights
Career Stats: 7598 Yards, 56 TDs, 19 INTs, 66.3% Completion
Height: 6'5
Weight: 232 lbs.
Bortles is the name that has been shooting up the draft boards since the last third of the college season. He consistently put up strong numbers in a pro style offense and lead the Knights to a couple of marquee victories this year, including Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and one over Teddy Bridgewater in Louisville. Bortles has a big frame that guys like Mel Kiper drool over, which is in my opinion the biggest reason for him being so high on the draft boards. Don't get my wrong, I think that Bortles has talent and could develop into an above average quarterback during his career, but I wouldn't be able to caution the Texans enough to not take him first overall. His mechanics aren't always the greatest, and he has a tendency to throw off of his back foot which causes passes to sail. His football intelligence is also pretty high, but there were times where he made a pass that left you wondering. He made two such throws in the Fiesta Bowl. Bortles is still a good prospect because he has the size and the arm to go along with a few years experience in a pro style system. If he lands with the right quarterback coach and offensive system, he could be a good quarterback for the next decade.

3) Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M Aggies
Career Stats: 7820 Yards, 63 TDs, 22 INTs, 69% Completion
Rushing Stats: 2169 Yards, 30 TDs,
Height: 5'11
Weight: 207 lbs.
If Manziel was four inches taller, he'd be the top quarterback prospect, hands down. But alas, Manziel didn't even check in at six feet tall and that has some coaches and scouts worried. I love the talent and tenacity that Manziel is going to bring to whomever drafts him, but it is clear that he is going to need to be drafted by a team with a well established offensive line so that he doesn't get obliterated. Manziel has strange mechanics, but they have produced some pretty eye opening results. He has the ability to put the ball on the money with a lot of difficult throws, but the consistency isn't always there in his mechanics and it causes his accuracy to suffer as a result. He wasn't asked to run as often off of design plays this year, and all of his passing statistics improved as a result which is an encouraging sign. However, it was also clear that Manziel really does his best work outside of the pocket which is also not going to fly in the NFL unless his coach and O coordinator are able to adapt the play book. Russell Wilson really has provided the mold for smaller quarterbacks to succeed, and it comes from a combination of great blocking up front and a lot of roll outs. Manziel has a lot of unique talent, and he also has the ability to scramble and pick up a lot of yards. He is definitely going to be the most interesting quarterback in this draft.

4) Derek Carr, Fresno State Bulldogs
Career Stats: 12,842 Yards, 113 TDs, 24 INTs, 67.5% Completion
Height: 6'2
Weight: 214 lbs.
Derek Carr has the most prolific stats of any of the top prospects on the boards since he took over the starting job as a sophomore but saw spot duty as a freshman. Carr also has the strongest arm and the fastest release of the other prospects in his class. He has a cannon for an arm and doesn't require a huge build up to get the ball downfield. This gives him the ability to hit pretty much every throw one could ask of an NFL quarterback. He excels at throwing to receivers down the sideline and driving to them on slants and intermediate routes. Carr is also good at going through his progressions and hitting the second or third option in a play. Carr's arm may have all the talent in the world, but if he wants to really make an impact at the next level, he is going to have to become more consistent with his footwork. He has a tendency to not completely square his body and step into his throws which can cause his passes to go wide of the target. This is exacerbated by the fact that he doesn't always remain calm under pressure. Speed rushers flustered him in games, and that was when his footwork suffered the most. Carr saw his brother implode in the NFL and knows what he has to do in order to avoid that. He may slip into the second round, but I doubt he would last long if he made it there.

5) Zach Mettenberger, Louisiana State Tigers
Career Stats: 5783 Yards, 35 TDs, 15 INTs, 65.5% Completion
Height: 6'5
Weight: 224 lbs.
If Mettenberger hadn't torn his ACL towards the end of the season, I would probably have him rated higher than Carr. Mettenberger is an interesting prospect because he has the coveted "NFL size" and also has a rocket for an arm. Similar to Carr, this allows him to make a lot of tough throws along the sideline and down the field. He is also very confident with his placement in the middle of the field. He was a bit of a development in college as he was kicked out of Georgia, had to spend a year at JuCo, then had a coordinator change before his senior year. After pro coordinator Cam Cameron got to Baton Rouge, Mettenberger drastically improved his play. His mechanics became more refined, his footwork was better, and he was seeing the field better. He still needs some work however. He's usually only had two reads before dumping it off the the running back or just getting rid of it, so he is going to have to continue to work on understanding the defenses and playbook better. He also operated a lot out of the shotgun, so his coaches are going to have to work on speeding up his drop backs a bit. All in all, Mettenberger is a prospect who will probably fall into the third round or maybe the late second. However, if a team wants to take a chance on him and develop over a couple of years (Patriots, Cardinals, Houston?), he could become a solid quarterback at the next level.