Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Top Prospects by Position

Courtesy of Justin Rasile

1) Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Career Stats: 182 Tackles, 12 Interceptions, 32 Passes Defended
Height: 6'0                 Weight: 202 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.37 Seconds
Vertical: 35.5 Inches

A wide receiver playing cornerback? Perhaps, but when one is willing to come up and make a hard tackle, I think they will do just fine.  Every time the ball is in the air, he does everything right.  From knocking the ball away, to recovering after occasionally getting burned, to even picking the ball off, he is a true man to mancorner.  He posses Patrick Peterson like moves once he has the ball in his hands and can take the ball to the house.  Oh yeah, he is also a return man.  Quick feet and soft hands give him a real shot at cracking the top ten in this year’s draft.

2) Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State Spartans
Career Stats: 167 Tackles, 10 Interceptions, 26 Passes Defended
Height: 5'11               Weight: 191 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.51 Seconds
Vertical: DNP

I may get hounded for this a little bit but I think Dennard is the best cover corner coming out in the draft.  I constantly see the little things that he does right that somewhat reminds me of Darrelle Revis (DennardIsland?).  He reads the quarterbacks eyes better than the rest of his counterparts coming out in this years draft.  He makes great plays once the ball is in the air and has the athleticism to catch the ball and then bring it to the house.  He is a willing tackler and can make a big hit that can quickly re-energize a team.  His energy is one that gets you excited just watching him.  The biggest knock on him is his injury history.  He has sat out multiple games with a variety of injuries that could scare some teams off.

3) Bradley Roby, Ohio State Buckeyes
Career Stats: 179 Tackles, 8 Interceptions, 41 Passes Defended
Height: 5'11               Weight: 194 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.39 Seconds
Vertical: 38.5 Inches

Playmaker.  That is the one word I would use to describe Bradley Roby.  He made key plays at key moments during the Buckeyes’ season and he also had 5 touchdowns during his collegiate career.  He is a very good open tackler that has the strength to grab just a single foot and bring down the ball carrier.  That is a huge perk because in the NFL, you cannot be a Deion Sanders and not tackle.  This kid can tackle.  Despite getting burned a couple of times, he recovered quickly enough to come back to the ball and find a way to make a play on the ball or do whatever he could to make sure the receiver would not come down with the pigskin.  If you are playmaker, there will be a spot for you in the NFL.  There is a particular play against Michigan where he runs all the way across the field to stop a sure fired touchdown.  I will always take a player like that on my team.  He may get beat up in the jump balls, but with the right coaching, that is something that can be solved by high pointing the ball and punching it as soon as the receiver gets his hands on the ball.

4) Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech Hokies
Career Stats: 173 Tackles, 6 Interceptions, 32 Passes Defended
Height: 6'0                 Weight: 190 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.49 Seconds
Vertical: 38.5 Inches

One of the things that I constantly heard broadcasters broadcasting Fuller’s games say was that he ran the route better than the receiver would.  This would put him in a great position to make a play on a ball.  Fuller has some strong hands and is perfectly okay with just knocking the ball down, as opposed to risking it and going for the interception.  Defensive backs are always told to knock the ball down, I guess this kid was listening (coachability).  He has two other brothers that have been drafted into the NFL so he will have their experience and lessons to help get him as prepared as possible once he finally gets drafted by a team.

5) Jason Verrett, Texas Christian Horned Frogs
Career Stats: 160 Tackles, 9 Interceptions, 41 Passes Defended
Height: 5'9                 Weight: 189 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.47 Seconds
Vertical: 39 Inches

Physical freak?  Yes.  Short?  Yes.  Can he get it done in the NFL? You bet your sweet ass he can.  This kid can flat out play.  Despite his 5’9” frame, his forty was still an impressive 4.38 and he jumped out of the building.  You can be worried about his size (and with good reason) but he will get bigger in those NFL training programs.  He is a willing tackler and he does a very good job in coverage, as noted by the game against LSU in his senior year where no receiver could find time getting open. Ahem Odell Beckham Jr.  He sticks to his man like glue and barely ever leaves a window open for the quarterback to throw the ball and if by chance the receiver does manage to get open, he has great closing speed to come in and blow the play up in anyway that he can.  I also love guys that really contribute on special teams.  Which is a big reason as to why I like Verrett, Roby, and Fuller.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Top Prospects by Position

4-3 Linebackers
Courtesy of Justin Rasile

1) Ryan Shazier, Ohio State Buckeyes
Career Stats: 317 Tackles, 45.5 Tackles for Loss, 15 Sacks, 9 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'1                 Weight: 237 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: DNP
Bench Press: 25 Reps

Watching Shazier makes you excited about what this kid can do at the next level. He is the prototypical outside linebacker in the NFL standing at 6'2 and 235 pounds. He drives his feet upon contact and genuinely enjoys hitting people. He is fast, quick, and agile and proved it on and off the field. He flies towards the ball but still remains balanced enough that if the ball carrier makes a quick cut, he can make the adjustment and still finish the play. By the way, he also ran a sub 4.4 forty yard dash at his pro day. His size, speed, and leaping ability (42 inch vertical) makes it seem like a great match for him to cover any tight end in the league. To go along with that, he can drop into coverage and pick off the ball. He needs to work on his drop steps but a little more coaching can fix that. He can change the game very quickly with his pass rushing ability and knocking the ball loose. Shazier very rarely misses a tackle because of his incredibly strong hands and great tackling technique. Once he gets his hands on you, you are going down. He makes very explosive hits because of his solid core and then drives the ball carrier to the ground. Shazier should be a great linebacker in the NFL.

2) C.J. Mosley, Alabama Crimson Tide
Career Stats: 319 Tackles, 23 Tackles for Loss, 6.5 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'2                 Weight: 235 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: DNP
Bench Press: DNP

This man has had the privilege of working under the defensive mastermind in Nick Saban for the past couple of years.  He knows how the NFL works just by being in that system.  That is why I believe it is an easier transition for those Alabama players to jump to the next level, and Mosley is no different. He is tackling machine and is constantly in the middle of all the action.  He had 5 games with 9 or more tackles, with three of those games coming against Texas A&M, LSU, and Auburn (three of the biggest games of the year).  He gets up and loves the spotlight. Mosley looks like one solid muscle but those NFL training programs can add even more mass and muscle to an already well-built frame.  Mosley plays with a great but controlled aggressiveness and that allows him to channel all of his anger into the next play.  He has that linebacker mentality of driving through the ball carrier and keeping his feet chopping at all times, which gives him that POP that we love to, see from backers.  The knee injury that everybody is talking about is a little overblown, NFLplayers come back from catastrophic injuries with more ease nowadays.    He also had the very fortunate opportunity of playing with extremely talented players around him but there is no doubt that he will be a very goodlinebacker.

3) Christian Jones, Florida State Seminoles
Career Stats: 223 Tackles, 24 Tackles for Loss, 8 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'3                 Weight: 240 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.60 Seconds (1.60 10-Yard Split)
Bench Press: DNP

He played with great technique and always forced everything inside, as a great outside linebacker should do, and this blew up the offensive play, which allowed the guys in the middle to make plays.  Jones has a great knack for knowing where the ball is at times but he is also not fooled with any read option, obviously less used in the NFL but still shows great awareness and good athleticism. Florida State had a need at defensive end and Jones willingly filled the void, although it hurt his draft stock a bit, and may have set him back in his development for being an outside linebacker, he is a team player and is willing to help out his team in anyway possible.  His forty time is a little sub par, especially with the tight end position getting faster and bigger so he may struggle in coverage.  His playing at defensive end definitely didn’t help him garner any better skills in coverage, but rather impeded it. Jones may struggle quite a bit at the next level, but if he plays with good technique and contains just like he did in his previous seasons, he will find a starting job on a team and will hold that position for years to come.

4) Kyle Van Noy, Brigham Young Cougars
Career Stats: 223 Tackles, 61.5 Tackles for Loss, 26 Sacks, 11 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'3                 Weight: 243 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.60 Seconds (1.60 10-Yard Split)
Bench Press: 21 Reps

Van Noy looks like and plays like a defensive end but what makes him such a great player is that he is more than that.  He is extremely athletic and moves around the line with great ease.  The fact that teams had to game plan around him makes his stats more impressive as noted by his 68 tackles and 17.5 tackles for a loss.  I love fiery players that play with a passion and love for the game and despite never meeting Van Noy, he seems like that kind of player.  In two of his interceptions therewere great displays of athleticism as he jumped into the air and maintained focus in traffic to come down with the ball.  He also has those long arms that will be key for batting balls down in the air or at the line.  Van Noy seems like a great player that you can plug into a few key spots and he will be an instant upgrade.  He does a great job of attacking the midsection of players, which is the best place to tackle somebody (especially since quarterbacks cannot be hit anywhere else).  He takes on blockers and sheds them with terrific ease, which just adds to his value of playing multiple positions on the field.

5) Carl Bradford, Arizona State Sun Devils
Career Stats: 145 Tackles. 43 Tackles for Loss, 21.5 Sacks, 6 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'1                 Weight: 250 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.72 Seconds (1.66 10-Yard Split)
Bench Press: 23 Reps

He is an every down kind of linebacker that plays every game.  What more needs to be said for a backer position in the NFL.  He does not take on blockers well because his short arms make it hard for him to get off blocks.  Bradford hits and wraps well when he can get close enough to the ball carrier and He does a very good job of hitting with energy and pop.  He is quite the explosive player when he gets close.  Bradford set the Arizona State Sun Devils record by powercleaning 400 pounds, hence he is a very strong player.  He had the opportunity to rush the quarterback at his position at Arizona State and he does a pretty good job behind the line as noted by his 39.5 tackles for losses in the past two years (20 sacks). He anticipates throws well and does a great job of swatting the ball down once it had been thrown.  Plays every game.  Multiple positions.  Welcomes contact.  I love those kinds of players.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Top Prospects by Position

3-4 Outside Linebackers
These scouting reports come courtesy of my friend, Justin Rasile. I wouldn't have been able to complete all of these without his help.

1) Khalil Mack, Buffalo Bulls
Careers Stats: 327 Tackles, 75 Tackles for Loss (NCAA Record), 28.5 Sacks, 16 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'3                  Weight: 251 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.62 Seconds (1.56 Seconds 10-Yard Split)
Bench Press: 23 Reps

This is one of the most athletic rushing outside linebackers Iv'e ever had the pleasure of watching. Mack has the speed, quickness, burst, and can even drop back and pick the ball off. By the way, when he has the ball in his hands, he looks like a running back. he tucks the ball away and will not let go until he goes down or is in the endzone. His burst is what impresses me the most. It is so fast that as soon as the ball is snapped, he is somehow in the quarterback's face (just ask Taylor Decker from Ohio State). Despite playing for the University of Buffalo, Mack played against notable competition like Ohio State, Baylor, and Georgia. He has the stregnth to bullrush his opposition but also has the elusiveness to swim move the offensive tackle and blow the play up. While playing football at a young age, everbody is told to "bite the ball" and although not many players carry that skill with them as they get older, Mack does. I could easily see him coming in and immediately having an impact. This kid is a beast.

2) Anthony Barr, UCLA Bruins
Career Stats: 152 Tackles, 41.5 Tackles for Loss, 23.5 Sacks, 10 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'5                Weight: 255 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.63 Seconds (1.56 10-Yard Split)
Bench Press: 15 Reps

Raw. Extremely raw with such an upside. Anthony Barr was one of my favorite collegiate players to watch this past season. One of the things I was paying attention to was his transition from running back to outside linebacker. It is very apparent that he is learning the position, but it is also very noticeable that he is a big boom or bust prospect. He has amazing burst off of the line, comparable to Mack, but when going head to head against a bigger ball carrier, he gets hesitant when making the tackle. That is almost to be expected. It's a difficult transition from defense to offense, especially when it's not from corner to receiver. As long as he works hard at it and fits into the right defense, he can succeed. He has good, quick hands and fights offensive linemen well to not let them engage him. Barr is smart when attacking the quarterback as he goes after the ball and tries to lodge it loose. The majority of his big hits are when the ball carrier does not see him. As long as Barr lands with the right team, he can have a very good professional carrier.

3) Dee Ford, Auburn Tigers
Career Stats: 93 Tackles, 27.5 Tackles for Loss, 20.5 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'2               Weight: 252 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: DNP
Bench Press: DNP

He brought down Johnny Football during a game, what more needs to be said? He was consistently going up against the best offensive tackles the SEC had to offer and he made an impact play seemingly every game. I love his relentlessness as it helps him make plays all over the field. He plays pretty smart, staying away from aiming for the head of the quarterback and going for the sure fired tackle. Ford has great balance for a rushing defensive end. When a quarterback pulls up to throw the ball, he has some keen ability to watch the ball and not leave his feet too early, which would give the quarterback the option to fake and tuck the ball. He shows the ability to bring down the smaller, quicker quarterbacks like Manziel, but also the bigger quarterbacks like Jameis Winston. This may seem as something weird to say, but quarterbacks are getting bigger and stronger, so it gives comfort knowing that at his 250 pound frame he can bring down those bigger quarterbacks like Roethlisberger. Ford could be a great situational edge rusher in his first year much like Bruce Irvin, but once he adds a few more pounds he could be quite a dominant player.

4) Trent Murphy, Stanford Cardinal
Career Stats: 160 Tackles, 52.5 Tackles for Loss, 32.5 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'5                 Weight: 250 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.75 Seconds (1.63 10-Yard Dash)
Bench Press: 19 Reps

Murphy reminds me of Calais Campbell, which in my opinion is a good thing. Campbell is always around the ball and has that long and lengthy frame that makes it quite difficult for offensive linemen to control him. Murphy shares many of those exact qualities. He is that big 6'5-6'6 frame for a prototypical defensive end. One of my favorite plays from this past season was when Murphy was pursuing Oregon State's quarterback Sean Mannion and he deflected Mannion's pass. His pass was caught by the tight end, but Murphy is simply relentless is his pursuit of the ball and doesn't give up on plays, as evidenced by his shoe string tackle on the play. He stays true to his area of the field to cover and he doesn't let play actions take him away from the play. Murphy does a good job of taking on running backs and using his big body of pushing them to try and do whatever he can disrupt the play. Although he appears to not have the greatest footwork, he has a pretty good spin move for a big man which will throw the offensive tackle off balance when he chooses to use it. I would be ecstatic to grab this kid in the second or third round, as he will be a great source of production in many aspects of the game. If he adds a little bit more strength and keeps his speed, he could very easily become an every down end.

5) Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Career Stats: 196 Tackles, 43.5 Tackles for Loss, 31.5 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'3                 Weight: 252 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: DNP
Bench Press: DNP

When a player has the ability to put a team on their back and take over a game, you have a special player. Attaochu was a constant menace all over the field for opposing teams. He has the canny ability to get to the quarterback while being the key player that offenses would focus on. He has great burst which is a necessity in the NFL but he also has some experience playing as a 3-4 linebacker has he played that position the year before. His experience of playing the position will give him and advantage over most of the other comparable players coming out this year. HE can make his body skinny so that he can squeeze through the small holes on the interior offensive line. This ability will give him another advantage of blitzing from the linebacker spot but also having the talent to bull rush the offensive line. Anyway to get to the quarterback, Attaochu can do it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Top Prospects by Position

Defensive Tackles

1) Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh Panthers
Career Stats: 181 Tackles, 66 Tackles for Loss, 29.5 Sacks, 6 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'1                       Weight: 285 lbs.
10 Yard Split: 1.59 Seconds
Bench Press: 35 Reps

Donald is another prospect who would be selected higher if he were a few inches taller. However, Donald makes up for his lack of height with a great skill set as a pass rusher. He is an explosive athlete who consistently launches himself off of the line and through the gap. His first step is just so much faster than the offensive lineman he was going up against in college. Donald has great balance and very nimble feet with his low center of gravity that makes him very difficult to handle. He becomes even more of a nightmare when you factor in his great pass rushing moves. He has a very good swim, rip, and spin move to disengage from blockers. His use of hands is fantastic as well. As evidenced by his total bench reps, Donald possesses a great amount of strength in his compact frame that offers him great versatility as a pass rusher and makes him formidable against the run. He plays with great pad level and can throw blockers off of him when he gets a good burst off the line. The only real weakness about Donald is his height which limits him to only a few true defensive schemes. Still, any team that takes him in the mid first round will be getting a tremendous interior force.

2) Louis Nix III, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Career Stats: 122 Tackles, 14 Tackles for Loss, 2.5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
Height: 6'2                       Weight: 331 lbs.
10 Yard Split: 1.85 Seconds
Bench Press: Did Not Participate

Nix played primarily as a nose tackle in the Irish 3-4, but he would also have the ability to play as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 system like Chicago's that wants bigger tackles. At either position, Nix should make a huge impact, especially in the run game. His massive size and power gives him a great advantage against blockers. He routinely shut off running lanes and forced the back to go to another gap or break it out wide. Nix has surprising speed and athleticism for his size. He can close in on running backs when he gets off of his block and can close in on the quarterback after using his well refined swim move. Nix was not really asked to bring down the quarterback that often at Notre Dame however. Nix has the ability to drive back his blocker with his strength and good pad level. This allows him to consistently close the pocket from the front and force the quarterback to shift laterally. This is one of the most coveted ability after actually getting to the quarterback since flushing the quarterback often leads to big plays on defense. Nix could improve his quickness off of the line, if there is any flaw to his game. He has shown a good amount of quickness, but it isn't there consistently. He could also add another pass rush move if wants to put up solid sack numbers throughout his career. 

3) Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota Golden Gophers
Career Stats: 91 Tackles, 24 Tackles for Loss, 10 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'6                     Weight: 310 lbs.
10 Yard Split: 1.75 Seconds
Bench Press: 32 Reps

Hageman is the one first round prospect that has gotten no recognition in the lead up to this draft. There is a lot of disagreement over where he will land, but I think that he would be perfect in the second half of the first round. One thing that stands out about Hageman is versatility along the line. While he was primarily lined up as a defensive tackle, Minnesota used his great length and athleticism as an edge rusher from time to time. He also looks to have the build and ability to play as a defensive end or nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Against the run, Hageman is a monster as his length gives him great leverage and his natural strength allows him drive back his blockers and shut down a running lane. He has also shown some good pass rushing moves and has a good explosion off of the line to really throw his blocker off balance. Like Nix, this allows him to really close the pocket and force the quarterback to throw it away or take off running. One area of weakness that I see in Hageman is that he has only average closing speed. Although he is a converted tight end, it takes him a bit of time to really get a full head of steam going. All of his numbers would be much higher if could improve on this factor. Hageman also needs to be more consistent in his overall play. From playing too upright, to not using his hands enough, Hageman is prone to lapses in production. If he can fix these two problems, he can be a dynamic player along any defensive line.

4) Timmy Jernigan, Florida State Seminoles
Career Stats: 138 Tackles, 25 Tackles for Loss, 8.5 Sacks, 0 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'2                       Weight: 299 lbs.
10 Yard Split: 1.72 Seconds
Bench Press: 27 Reps

Jernigan is an all around very good prospect to play defensive tackle in a 4-3. He is a very physical player at the point of attack, battling his blocker until the end of the play. He is great at closing a running back's lane is getting off of his blocker to make the tackle. His use of his hands to drive back blockers and to keep them from getting a solid grip on him can make him a very frustrating challenge. Jernigan is a very good run stuffer, but he needs some refinement in his pass rushing game. He looks to have all of the makings of a natural pass rusher, but he needs to start more consistent in when he goes to pass rushing moves as opposed to just a bull rush or quick step inside. He has shown that he can be dangerous when he has his timing down, but again that needs to be more of a go-to than a fall back technique. Jernigan could also be a good fit as a defensive end in a 3-4 if he were to trim down just a bit.

5) Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Career Stats: 126 Tackles, 25 Tackles for Loss, 21.5 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'5                       Weight: 304 lbs.
10 Yard Split: Did Not Participate
Bench Press: 31 Reps

Obviously, Tuitt actually played in a 3-4 system along with his teammate Nix. Tuitt played end in that system, but he also has the prototypical build and skill set to play as a three technique. In terms of rushing the passer, Tuitt is a much more natural player than Nix is. He has numerous moves that he can go to to disengage from his blockers and can be relentless with hands to keep a solid grip from forming against him. He could learn to be a bit more consistent with his hands to be even more effective. Tuitt also needs to play with better balance. He's been shown to be pushed off of his path to the quarterback or runner from time to time. Tuitt does possess great power and has a mean bull rush. He also has great close in speed against running backs and get to quarterbacks. What really impresses about Tuitt is that he always seems to get a hit on the quarterback in some way shape or form. He is very disruptive, getting his hands up quickly when he senses a pass or driving his blocker back into the quarterback. Tuitt is a dynamic player who could sneak into the end of the first round.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top Prospects by Position

4-3 Defensive Ends

1) Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina Gamecocks
Career Stats: 130 Tackles, 47 Tackles for Loss, 24 Sacks, 9 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'5                       Weight: 266 lbs.
10 Yard Split: 1.56 Seconds
Bench Press: 21 Reps

The best player in the entire draft. By now, everyone has heard of Clowney and has probably seen just how dominant he can be. Clowney is a tremendous athlete who, despite his size, moves with the same agility and speed of a wide receiver. Despite weighing 60 pounds more than the average receiver, his Combine 40 (4.53 seconds) was equivalent to the average receivers' 40 over the last five years. No one his size should be able to move like that. His burst off of the line and ability to fly past a tackle or guard into the backfield is simply out of this world. This makes him an absolute nightmare on passing downs as is evidenced by his sack and forced fumble totals. Clowney is great at the art of the sack-strip and came up clutch in numerous games with a key turnover. His speed makes him great in pursuit of running backs going across field or cutting back. His ability to fire through the line makes him tough on slower developing running plays. Clowney is not a perfect player at this point however. He could stand to improve runs coming directly at him, especially using his hands more to shed the block. While he has a good framework and has shown tremendous ability in pass rushing moves, he needs to continue to develop them and go to them more often. He has a great swim and rip move, but he tends to rely too much on his raw athleticism at this point. Although he is not a perfect player, he is a perfect prospect from an athletic standpoint. Clowney can be used in multiple spots along pretty much any defensive front seven. He will be an absolute beast in the NFL.

2) Scott Crichton, Oregon State Beavers
Career Stats: 165 Tackles, 51 Tackles for Loss, 22.5 Sacks, 10 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'3                       Weight: 273 lbs.
10 Yard Split: 1.62 Seconds
Bench Press: 24 Reps

Crichton isn't as well known as Clowney, but he is still a very good prospect for a 4-3 end. He has great power and is often able to drive back the tackle or guard that is blocking him. This power combined with his quick burst off of the snap can make him very difficult to handle. Crichton has some great physical tools, but he could still use some refinement in his technique. At this point in his career, he really only has a swim move. While he does utilize it with good efficiency, he should add another move or two to his repertoire to really flourish at the next level. Yet what is impressive about Crichton is how well he uses his hands to shed blockers in both the run and pass defense. His hands are very active which keeps his blocker from every really getting a solid grip on him. Blockers have to work really hard to keep their balance when trying to block Crichton due to all of his positive qualities. His height might be knocked by some scouts, but he has shown a lot of promise going against some very good competition. Crichton might fall in the draft, but I think that any team that can coach him into more than a one move player will get a lot of production out of him.

3) Kony Ealy, Missouri Tigers
Career Stats: 95 Tackles, 27 Tackles for Loss, 12.5 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'4                     Weight: 273 lbs.
10 Yard Split: 1.66 Seconds
Bench Press: 22 Reps

Ealy was part of a fierce Missouri defense this year that only allowed 23 points per game. Ealy was a big reason for that success as he is a great source of disruption at the line of scrimmage. He has shown the ability to fight off bigger blockers and seal the edge to force running backs inside. However, he did beat up on some weaker competition this year. To really succeed in the NFL, Ealy is going to need to add muscle in order to consistently beat the tackles and not get pushed around in the run game. Like all the other top defensive end prospects, Ealy gets a good jump off of the line. He also has a relentless motor and has never given up on a play. This allowed him to sack Manziel in Mizzou's upset this year and also allowed him to sack Nick Marshall of Auburn three times in the SEC Championship. His relentless attitude is a plus, but it can only take him so far. Ealy could stand to improve his speed to help him close the gap on running backs on quarterbacks. His speed and power should improve once he gets in an NFL locker room however. What also makes him a good prospect is his versatility. Ealy was lined up all over the line and even rushed standing up. I like Ealy most as a 4-3 end, but wouldn't be surprised to see him playing 3-4 outside linebacker.

4) Dominique Easley, Florida Gators
Career Stats: 72 Tackles, 18 Tackles for Loss, 5.5 Sacks, 0 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'2                     Weight: 288 lbs.
10 Yard Split: Did Not Participate
Bench Press: 26 Reps

Easley is hard to classify because he played as much at the defensive tackle spot as he did on the end. But because I am making my DT section about true 4-3 DT and 3-4 nose tackles, I'm sticking Easley here. Easley is a great athlete who is, unfortunately, injury prone. He has had multiple injuries throughout his time at Florida, and it culminated in an ACL injury this past season that could put his NFL future in jeopardy. If he can remain healthy, Easley could be a steal in the late second or third round. As I mentioned, Easley is incredibly experienced at all positions along the line. After Clowney, Easley has the best release off of the line of any defensive lineman. He burst is so sudden that he is often two steps ahead of his blocker. He has a great amount of strength too that makes him a force at the point of attack against running plays. Easley is just constantly disruptive. It seems like he is always in on the play and often gets some kind of hit on a quarterback. He also possesses a solid array of moves to beat his man. Hopefully Easley can stay healthy for the rest of his career.

5) Kareem Martin, North Carolina Tar Heels
Career Stats: 178 Tackles, 45.5 Tackles for Loss, 19.5 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles
Height: 6'6                       Weight: 272 lbs.
10 Yard Split: 1.53 Seconds
Bench Press: 22 Reps

Martin is one of the more frustrating prospects in this draft because he has so much potential but has never quite lived up to it. He had a great senior year, but his production and development before that were disappointing. And he still hasn't put it all together yet, as his biggest weakness this year was inconsistency. While he may disappear at times, Martin can be dominant when he is totally committed and focused. He has great athleticism and a great natural body to play on the end. His length gives him great power and he usually maintains good leverage against his blocker. He has shown the ability to use his hands well to shed blockers, and is great against the run. He's even better as a pass rusher as he has shown the ability to get to the quarterback using the both his natural strength and power. However, he needs to develop some additional moves and not be so reliant on his raw athleticism. If Martin falls in the hands of a dedicated coach, he could become a huge asset on any line.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Top Prospects by Position

Wide Receivers
This was the toughest group to rank because of how much talent and depth there is at the position this year. There is a good chance that five or more receivers could go in the first round with as many as twelve going by the end of the second. Receivers who get a first round grade from teams may end up slipping into the second round. It wouldn't be surprising to see a team like Oakland, St. Louis, or Detroit taking two receivers in the first two or three rounds this draft.

1) Sammy Watkins, Clemson Tigers
Career Stats: 240 Catches, 3391 Yards, 27 TDs
Height: 6'0              Weight: 211 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.43 Seconds (1.53 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 37.5 inches

Watkins heads off a very strong receiver class and has made a case for himself to be in contention for the second overall pick. Any other year, he would have a legit shot at being taken first overall. He has been a difference maker since the moment he stepped on the field at Clemson and despite a rough second year, has really shined. Watkins is a tremendous athlete who just has the natural speed and agility to destroy defenses. He has a great burst off of the line and runs a very polished route. His speed allows him to take the top off of any defense and his explosiveness out of his cuts makes him difficult to cover at any level of the field. Watkins has the potential to be a true number one receiver from the moment he steps on an NFL field. He has the entire package that you can want out of a number one receiver, save maybe his height. He plays much master than he is timed as numerous unofficial 40s had him clocked in the low 4.3s. He has natural size to him that makes him tough to bump off of his routes or to out muscle him on a contested throw. His hands are exceptional and he consistently catches the ball away from his body. In my opinion, Watkins is the closest thing to a sure fire prospect at the next level.

2) Mike Evans, Texas A&M Aggies
Career Stats: 151 Catches, 2499 Yards, 17 TDs
Height: 6'4              Weight: 231 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.53 Seconds (1.57 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 37 inches

Evans answered a lot of questions when he ran a 4.53 at the Combine. Many had questioned his speed and how well he would be able to operate at the next level. While Evans might not have great top end speed, he showed that he had the quickness to separate from corners and can pick up yards after the catch. Evans does his best work along the sideline, where his size and quickness gives him a great advantage over most cornerbacks. His size and vertical is going to make him an instant impact player in the redzone as any quarterback can pretty much just loft the ball towards him. Part of what makes him so dangerous in these throws and along the sideline is his physicality which he uses to just dominate opponents. He really uses his strength well, as he has adapted it to every phase of his game. He is rarely held up at the line or pushed far off his routes, and he shields corners incredibly well to make catches. Evans has dominated some very tough competition, and its very hard to see him failing at the next level. The only real knock against him is that he is prone to some lapses in concentration. He'll make dumb drops a bit too often, but hopefully that is something he can knock out with experience. Evans could easily go in the top ten and won't last too long if he drops out of that. 

3) Odell Beckham Jr., LSU Tigers
Career Stats: 143 Catches, 2340 Yards, 12 TDs
Height: 5'11           Weight: 198 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.43 Seconds (1.50 10-Yard Dash)
Vertical: 38.5 Inches

Beckham's stock has been rising throughout the draft process as scouts have begun to take a deeper look at his tape and got a chance to see his measurables at the Combine. His height is a minor knock, but his speed and acceleration really impressed the most. He has one of the best releases off of the line and maintains great speed through his entire route. Beckham Jr. has a lot of versatility as he was lined up all over the line and even returned punts and kicks to help give a glimpse of his athleticism. His acceleration and top end speed gives him the ability to split the defense and make plays downfield. The most impressive attribute about Beckham Jr. is his hands. He measured some of the largest hands at the Combine which gives him the ability to just pluck the ball out of the air. He makes tough catches in traffic and has shown the concentration to make a catch with a poor line of sight on the ball. Beckham Jr. really doesn't have a whole lot to improve in his game besides cleaning up his routes a little bit. He has the potential to be a solid number one receiver, but at worst he is a dynamic second and slot receiver.

4) Marqise Lee, Southern California Trojans
Career Stats: 248 Catches, 3655 Yards, 29 TDs
Height: 5'11            Weight: 192 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.52 Seconds (1.56 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 38 inches

Lee actually has the best stats out of any of the top five receivers, but he is a bit lower on this list here. Yet what that means in this class is that he is still looking at a top twenty selection. Lee was recruited to USC as an athlete to play as a safety, but he was converted to a wide receiver instead and has been the focal point of the Trojans' attack since. Like some of the other top receivers here, he has a great burst off of the line which gives him an immediate advantage. He is also very explosive making his cuts and is incredibly dangerous once he has. Lee plays a lot faster than what his time would indicate. When he has the ball in space, he is incredibly difficult to bring down. He doesn't always take the best angles, but when he is able to get to the edge he is typically gone. Any doubts that one may have about his speed can simply be erased by watching him actually play against defenses. He too has the ability to take the top off of the defense and score on big plays. The factors that have dropped Lee a bit lower on this list are injuries and drops. Lee drops routine balls more than a receiver of his caliber should be. He needs to improve his concentration to avoid this in the NFL. Second, injuries have been a bit of an issue with Lee ever since his sophomore year which really showed in his production this year. If Lee can stay healthy, he should have a very good career.

5) Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State Seminoles
Career Stats: 84 Catches, 1506 Yards, 19 TDs
Height: 6'5             Weight: 240 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.61 Seconds (1.62 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 32.5 Inches

Benjamin is the biggest risk/reward prospect this draft. Benjamin has a massive frame and is very physical against corners and safeties. At 6'5, no corner can really hold him up at the line of scrimmage and it is difficult to push him off of his route. He also has some good quickness to help get himself separation. However, his quickness doesn't necessarily translate into top end speed. Benjamin takes huge strides when he runs, so its not like he can really move that much quicker. He can make some good plays after the catch, but he isn't a burner by any stretch. He also is not the greatest route runner in the world at this stage of his career. He is still very raw, but makes up for it with his sheer athletic potential. Benjamin's size and athletic prowess gives him a massive catch radius similar to that of A.J. Green. He uses his frame to shield defenders and can win contested throws and jump balls. Benjamin has had some issues with drops over the last two seasons however. He often is looking to turn up field before he has actually caught the ball. He is still very raw and is going to need a good coach to reach his full potential, but if he can reach that level he can become one of the most dangerous receivers.

6) Brandin Cooks, Oregon State Beavers
Career Stats: 226 Catches, 3272 Yards, 24 TDs
Height: 5'9              Weight: 189 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.33 Seconds (1.50 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 36 Inches

I'm going to include Cooks in this because I believe that all six of these receivers have a legitimate shot to be drafted in the first round. Cooks is all over people's wide receiver rankings, but he rounds out the first round prospects here. Despite his size, cooks is more than just an athlete who is lined up all over the field. While he has the ability to play from a multitude of line ups, he also possesses the skills of a natural wide receiver. He runs a good route and has elite explosiveness out of his cuts. His ability to stop and start on a dime makes him a terror in the open field. His 40 time speaks for itself. Once he has the ball in the open field or is able to beat a defender to the edge, no one is going to catch him. Cooks ran a lot of different routes at Oregon State rather than just a bunch of go routes. He done pretty much everything and also has a great set of hands. He may drop a few passes every now and then, but his concentration to make catches that are well defended is very impressive. The only real limitation to Cooks is his height. I'm usually a believer that talent and speed can overcome height, but in this case it could be a bit of a factor. He was able to line up out wide a lot at Oregon State, but he could be relegated more to the slot role in the NFL. Still, Cooks has an incredible amount of potential and is very tough for a player his size. He is definitely worthy of a late first round pick (Patriots, Chiefs, 9ers?).