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Mid Round CB’s to Watch in the Draft

April 22, 2014 in Draft Reports

By: Justin Partlow

 

When the 2014 NFL Draft prospect list began to be finalized, it was easy to see how talented the class was overall. One of the biggest and most underrated parts of the draft is the depth of the CB class. What makes the mid round CB class special is they all have ability to become starters at positions over time. Below I’ll take a look at three CB’s who could become starters after some developing for their respective teams.

 

Pierre Desir CB Lindenwood

 

Pierre Desir was one of the most unknown players heading into the all-star circuit due to his level of play he was coming from. After two impressive all-star circuit games, teams began to go back and watch film on Desir and they were certainly impressed with what was shown on film. Desir is a lockdown corner coming from D-2 football and showed the ability to blanket the top receivers at the different circuits he participated in. After continuing that momentum all throughout the offseason teams have pegged Desir somewhere to go in that possible 3rd round range, but could also rise if there is an early run on CB’s in the draft. Desir shows top end ability, but still there will be a bit of a learning curve as he moves up to playing against NFL talent each week. Desir has the talent to be a starting CB, but will need some seasoning before he reaches that point.

 

Nevin Lawson CB Utah State

 

Another player who benefited from the postseason all-star circuit, Lawson is a CB who uses his aggressiveness to be successful. Lawson isn’t the biggest player on the field, but what he doesn’t have in height he makes up for with his aggressive play and ability to play both in off-man schemes and in press coverage. Lawson is most effective when playing in press coverage, as he’s able to redirect WR’s off their routes, but also leads to a lot of Lawson’s issues as he can become too aggressive and it leads to penalties. Lawson on film though shows very fluid hips and the ability to cover outside receivers despite his height. Lawson is another player who has seen his stock rise from the later rounds to now into the 3rd to 4th round range. Teams will have to decide early on if they want Lawson to play more in the slot or outside, but if they commit to it early Lawson can become a starting CB for a while in the NFL.

 

Walt Aikens CB Liberty

 

Continuing the theme of guys who have worked their names up the rankings with their performances at the all-star circuit, Walt Aikens drew the attention of teams with his ability shown. Aikens comes from the 1-AA(FCS) ranks where he was a very good cover corner that showed the ability to play both in off man and press coverage, but played best in press coverage. Aikens is a physical player and that leads to a lot of his penalties as well, similar to what was mentioned with Lawson earlier. Aikens will need a good amount of seasoning as he needs to work on playing more with technique and not just relying on becoming a “grabbing” CB in the NFL. If Aikens can improve on his technique moving into the NFL he could become a starting CB as he shows the ability to flip his hips and play with all receivers no matter what their speed or height is. Look for Aikens to come off the board in the 4th round and become a very good developmental pick who could very well turn into a starting CB in the NFL.

Late Round Offensive Linemen to Watch

April 19, 2014 in Draft Reports

By: Justin Partlow

 

While the main focus of the 2014 draft class has been the top end of the OL class, the truth is that there is so much value in this OL class that will help many teams. The key thing to remember is teams will be helped not only with starting caliber talent, but also by adding quality depth that can go a long way in the development of a team. The key this year will be watching which teams look to take advantage of the OL class, and how each team goes about taking advantage of it. Below lets take a look at some later round players(day 3) who can make an impact in various ways in 2014.

 

James Hurst OT UNC

 

James Hurst was seen as one of the better OT prospects in the 2014 draft, until a broken leg has left him unable to really gain traction on his draft stock. While Hurst isn’t the greatest player or most athletic, what he does well is pass protect and allow for his QB to have a clean pocket for the most part. When you watch Hurst on film you notice how well he is at playing with proper technique, but at the same time he struggles when he plays against speed rushers. Because of that, I expect Hurst to move to RT in the NFL where he wont have to play against speed rushers, but more so against the power guys, where he can match up well against them. With the broken leg, Hurst has seen his stock drop only due to the rehab and wondering what happens, but if he’s healthy look for Hurst to become an early starter in 2014

 

Chris Watt OG Notre Dame

 

While not as highly heralded as his teammate Zack Martin, Chris Watt is the epitome of a “steady as he goes” type of OL. He may not be the strongest player on the field, or the fastest player, or even the most flashy player, but he just gets the job done and gets holes open for running backs and keeps his QB clean. What I really like about Watt is his ability to play with a mean streak and want to finish blocks. It’s always refreshing to see a player who wants to make it known with his presence instead of just making the block and stopping his effort there. Watt is someone who also provides possible scheme versatility as he can play OG in the NFL, but there is some chatter as to if he could play C and be more effective there. Watt has seen his stock settle in the 4th-5th round area, but at the same time he possesses the ability to start, depending on what team is able to develop him properly. Watt needs to work on his overall technique to succeed as he relies at times on his overall strength to make blocks. If Watt can refine his technique he could be a starter, but I also see someone who could provide great value as an interior reserve OL who can rotate between C and G.

 

Brandon Thomas OG Clemson

 

This name will come as a shock if you were reading this article about a week ago, but with Brandon Thomas out now with an ACL injury the question becomes if how long will Thomas stay on the board and will a team gamble on him to recover from the injury. Thomas before the injury was seen as a possible top 50 pick and someone who could start immediately at OG and be a top end player. Every time I watched Thomas on film I was impressed with his ability to pass protect as well as run block from the OT position and combining that with his project as an OG I saw someone who could be successful. The key to Thomas will be how his recovery processes is going, and what team will just take that gamble on him with the hopes of him being healthy and being a major contributor in 2015. Look for a team in the 5th to 6th round area take that gamble on Thomas and IR him for the year to recover and see if he can contribute in 2015.

Phillip Gaines: A Closer Look at the Rice CB

April 16, 2014 in Draft Reports

By: Justin Partlow

 

Heading into 2013, there was a little buzz about Gaines as possible prospect, but after a very good 2013 season and subsequent film review, Phillip Gaines is now seen as one of the top CB’s available in this class. With his natural ability to cover well both in man as well as zone coverage, Gaines has shown the ability to transfer his skills into either scheme into the NFL. Teams will need to account for his medical history, along with the jump up in competition, but Phillip Gaines looks to be the real deal.

 

Technique:

When you pop on the film of Gaines, one thing stands out immediately on film, he just is able to cover and do so fluidly. What I really enjoy watching in Gaines on film is his ability to redirect and change his hips without much effort and be able to cover anyone in front of him. It almost seems as if the challenge of facing the top receiver brings out the best of Gaines, and he plays even at a higher level than is expected. Gaines does a very good job of using his hands in coverage in an effort to redirect his opponent off his routes. Phillip has a very good backpedal and is able to click and close very well because of how well his technique is already refined. With his ability to play with high-level technique, Gaines looks the part of someone who can play immediately in the NFL at a high level.

 

Run Defense:

With most CB’s, the idea of playing in run defense leads to not much effort being shown. With Gaines, the exact opposite mentality is shown on film and it leads to much more of an intriguing skillset due to his ability to want to be an all around player on the field. When you watch film of Gaines, you notice his ability to stick his nose into the play and make tackles. Gaines has very good tackling form and does a good job of wrapping up his opponent and not letting him go. Gaines will need to work on calming himself down and being a bit less aggressive as he still has a tendency to over-pursue in run defense and get out of position on cut back lanes. While not a major fix, it’ll just be more of a discipline fix that can be taught over time with Gaines.

 

Pass Coverage:

As highlighted earlier, the pass defense ability of Phillip Gaines will be what sets him apart from other prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft class. Phillip Gaines not only shows great ability to redirect and flip his hips, but his natural awareness and ball skills are that of an elite player. Multiple times on film, Gaines was able to read the eyes of the QB and jump and make a play on the ball. Gaines has an uncanny ability to be able to guess and figure out where exactly the quarterback is going to be throwing the ball before it happens in real time. Having that natural ability will lead to the pick six plays that are coveted in the NFL. With this natural ability to do that, Gaines will be seen as one of the better “playmakers” at CB because of the ability to make those game changing plays. Gaines does need to watch his physicality in pass coverage, as he has been seen still trying to be physical 10+ yards downfield.

 

Overall:

Phillip Gaines wasn’t a highly rated guy heading into the 2013 season, but with his very good year and the film of him showing a high-end player, he’s now seen as one of the better CB prospects. With his impressive ball skills and ability to cover the top receivers, Gaines will be seen as someone who can play immediately in the NFL and can continue to develop over time. Look for Gaines to come off the board early in the 3rd round, but could very well move into the 2nd if there is a run on CB’s earlier.

2014 NFL Draft Top Pass Rusher Breakdown

April 15, 2014 in Draft Reports, Uncategorized

Jadeveon Clowney

Guys like Jadeveon Clowney don't come around too often. I hadn't previously watched him before studying him for this piece, but I had certainly heard the hype. When you hear people calling him the best pass rushing prospect of all time, you get a certain image in your head of what to expect. But in reality, he's a much more well-rounded player than I could have ever expected. He was almost more dominant against the run than he was rushing the passer.

run d 1a

Clowney lines up over the tight end, but he's going to cut back inside to the B gap between the left tackle and left guard.

run d 1b

He cuts across the face of the tackle so quickly that he's past him before the ball has even been handed off.

run d 1c

Clowney meets the running back head on moments after he's received the hand off.

Clowney spent the majority of his time in the backfield in every game I watched. Nobody was able to block him against the run, some even tried leaving him unblocked and running read option at him.

RO 1a

Clowney is in a similar position, lined up outside the left tackle.

RO 1b

But Clowney is so quick off the snap that he closes the gap between himself and the mesh point before the quarterback has a chance to properly read him.

RO 1c

Clowney attacks the running back, which would normally indicate a keep read for the quarterback, but Clowney is there so quickly that he doesn't have a chance to pull the ball away from the running back without risking a fumble.

RO 1d

The ball looses control of the ball as he's brought to the ground by Clowney, but the officials judged it to be a deliberate forward pass that fell incomplete.

Clowney's film is full of plays just like these that don't show up on the stat-sheet. While he didn't register many sacks this year, he still had a huge impact on the game. Offensive coordinators were forced to game plan around him. They tried to run the ball away from Clowney and then left a tight end or running back (sometimes both) in to chip and help the left tackle block him. Even then, Clowney would provide legitimate pressure that would force the quarterback to scramble away from him or check the ball down before he would have liked to.

He's a truly unique prospect that is rarely available. For me, he is the best player in this draft by far. Only the need for a quarterback should stop the Texans drafting Clowney number one overall. While he might not fit Romeo Crennel's 3-4 scheme perfectly, they'd find a way to make it work. He's much to talented a prospect to pass on because he might not be an ideal fit for your current scheme.

Khalil Mack

Mack is one of the more versatile players in this draft class. He's probably best suited to the 3-4 outside linebacker position, but could play a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end in the 4-3 in a Von Miller-type role.

Mack offers a variety of pass rushing moves with an arsenal consisting of speed rushes, bull rushes and inside counter moves.

bull 1a

Here, Mack lines up outside the left tackle.

bull 1b

Mack explodes up and into the left tackle, getting underneath him and driving him back. Notice the hand placement from Mack, who gets inside leverage.

bull 1c

Mack drives the tackle back towards the quarterback, who feels the pressure and starts to scramble. Mack stays alert and begins disengaging his block. He spots the quarterback motioning to throw and gets his hand out in the passing lane. The quarterback ends up being forced to throw the ball away thanks to Mack's pressure. It seems like a simple thing, but it shows good awareness from a position that is often all about getting after the quarterback and racking up sack numbers.

Match ups are key in today's NFL. The best pass rushers can line up from either side and get after the quarterback. Mack showed that he can be just as effective rushing from the right side of the line.

right rush 1a

Once again, we can see how Mack gets his hands inside those of the right tackle, giving him all the leverage.

right rush 1b

Mack gets the most out of that leverage, driving the tackle back and keeping him at arms length.

right rush 1c

The quarterback is forced to step up into the pocket after his right tackle was driven back into him. Mack is able to get off the block quickly and pounce inside to register the sack.

Awareness is easily Mack's most attractive quality. He's very aware of what the offense is trying to do and what position he needs to be in to make a play, which isn't always all about rushing the passer.

int 1a

Here, the left tackle attempts to cut-block Mack, clearing the throwing lane for the quarterback to throw a bubble screen. A lot of pass rushers would be caught off-guard by this play as their sole focus is on sacking the quarterback. But Mack sees the cut-block coming, gets his hands on the back of the tackle and his eyes on the quarterback..

int 1b

Mack is able to see the pass the entire way into his hands, making for an easy interception.

int 1c

Mack then outruns both the quarterback and the wide receiver as he takes the interception all the way back for a touchdown.

It's easy to see why Mack has been touted as a top five pick for quite some time now. He's an athletic, versatile weapon that every defensive coordinator would love to have. I'm not sure he'll develop into a 15+ sack per season guy, but I think he could easily average 10-12 and be a much more well-rounded player.

Anthony Barr

Barr stands out as a physical specimen from the moment you see him. At 6'5”, 255 points, Barr is the ideal size for a 3-4 outside linebacker. He displays exceptional burst and closing speed, as well as being a fluid athlete. However, having only recently converted to the outside linebacker position, he is extremely raw when it comes to technique and the intricacies of playing the position.

The reason he's rated so high is because of his athleticism and ability to rush the passer. One thing he can definitely do is run the arc and beat a tackle around the outside with pure speed.

arc 1a

Here, Barr lines up over the left tackle in a two-point stance.

arc 1b

You can see Barr's long reach here as he engages the tackle, keeping him at a distance where he can't land his hands on Barr's body.

arc 1c

Barr gets to the corner too quickly, forcing the tackle to reach and grab for anything he can. He ends up grabbing Barr's facemask, but gets away without the penalty call.

arc 1d

Barr has no problems breaking free of the tackle as he turns the corner in pursuit of the quarterback.

arc 1e

Barr then does an excellent job of getting his hand on the football and stripping it loose.

But outside of running the arc, Barr is very raw as a pass rusher and as a defender. He lacks a variety of effective pass rush moves, which means a tackle can commit to the speed rush without having to worry about him coming back inside.

spin 1a

On this play, Barr attempts a spin move.

spin 1b

He takes the tackle outside, as he would on a speed rush, creating a gap inside between the tackle and guard.

spin 1c

Barr begins to spin back inside.

spin 1d

But coming out of the spin, he doesn't work back inside. Instead, he finds himself in front of the tackle in a similar position to the one he was in before he attempted the spin move.

spin 1e

Barr doesn't have a back up plan and ends up being easily blocked. There's no point in performing the spin move without using it to get back inside. Otherwise it just slows down the rush and makes it easier to block. But the fact he used it shows he is willing to try other moves.

Barr is very much a developmental project at this point, but his physical attributes are rare. He is unreliable against the run and untested dropping into coverage. He has the athletic ability to do both at a high level, but having only played defense for two years, he has a lot of catching up to do. Teams would be wise to follow the career path of Aldon Smith, who was taken seventh overall by the 49ers. They used him as a pass rush specialist while he developed, which allowed him to see time on the field and use his best qualities while hiding his short comings.

2014 Quarterback Breakdown

April 14, 2014 in Draft Reports

Teddy Bridgewater

I have Teddy Bridgewater as my top quarterback in this class. He might not have the 'wow' factor that a Johnny Manziel brings to the table, but he does a lot of the overlooked things very well. Playing in a pro-style system has benefited him greatly. I saw him on numerous occasions walk up to the line, change the protection or the play, something which plenty of NFL quarterbacks struggle with.

great play 1a

This play was a fantastic all-round play from Bridgewater that could easily get overlooked. He walks up to the line and changes the protection based on his read on the defense.

great play 1b

His offensive line adjust and pick up the blitz, but his right tackle is struggling to contain the block on the edge. Bridgewater calmly and almost causally takes a few steps to his right to avoid the rusher.

great play 1c

The entire time, Bridgewater keeps his eyes downfield on his targets, making progressions. He could have easily just taken off running for the first down marker here, but instead spots a receiver running open downfield.

great play 1d

He effortlessly throws an accurate pass 20 yards downfield while on the run, hitting his target in stride for a first down and a big gain.

Throwing on the run is something Bridgewater was asked to do plenty of in college. One of the tougher throws for a quarterback to make is while running to their left.

boot left 1a

Here, Bridgewater is running a play-action bootleg to his left.

boot left 1b

He gets his head around quickly coming out of the fake and starts to make his reads.

boot left 1c

This can be an incredibly ackward throw, but Bridgewater makes it look easy. He squares his shoulders to the target, gets his feet positioned correctly and calmly makes the throw.

boot left 1d

The accuracy is perfect from Bridgewater, hitting his receiver right between the numbers for an easy catch and another first down.

Plays like that are extremely common in the NFL, particularly in west coast offenses, which suit Bridgewater's strengths best. Being able to make those kind of plays help keep the offense moving and stop the defense to overcommitting to the run. Teams that have a strong running attack already in place will like what Bridgewater brings to the table.

One of the few knocks I do have on Bridgewater is his deep ball. I don't think he has a huge issue with arm strength, as he displays plenty of velocity when he needs it. I think he can misjudge just how much he needs to put on the ball and where he needs to be placing it when throwing deep.

deep ball 1a

On this play, Bridgewater looks to throw a deep ball to his left.

deep ball 1b

His receiver has a good yard or two on the corner, with the safety struggling to make up ground as well. A good throw here and the receiver potentially has a touchdown.

deep ball 1c

But Bridgewater doesn't put enough on the pass, forcing the receiver to stop and come back to the ball.

deep ball 1d

That allows the corner to make up ground and break up the pass.

The deep ball is something Bridgewater is going to need to work on. He's more suited to working a west coast system based on short and intermediate passes that move the chains. But he'll need to prove he can hit the homer run ball when he needs to, otherwise defenses will play their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage and make the underneath throwing windows a lot tighter for Bridgewater.

Overall though, I still see Bridgewater as the best quarterback in this class. He's much further along in his development than any of the other top quarterbacks, which is partially down to the system he played in at Louisville. The team that drafts him can be happy knowing that he's ready to slot in and start from day one.

Johnny Manziel

Manziel is easily the most debated name in this years NFL draft. He's the prototypical boom or bust prospect. He a complete wildcard in team evaluations. Some teams will think he has too many problems to overcome, while others will think they can maximize his upside.

I see two main problems with Manziel's game; his footwork and his running instincts. Lets start with the footwork, which at times is almost non-existent.

bad throw 1a

Here Manziel is given a clean pocket. He has a receiver crossing over the middle of the field.

bad throw 1b

Without any real threat of being hit, Manziel fails to set his feet and throws off his backfoot, almost jumping to throw the ball.

bad throw 1c

That makes it hard for Manziel to get much velocity on the throw. It dies on him and the receiver has to reach down and practically pick it up off the floor to make the catch.

That was a wide open throw that you'd expect every quarterback to make easily, but because Manziel fails to set his feet correctly, he nearly misses it. But some coaches may believe they can fix that footwork. Manziel has shown that he can get the job done despite having poor mechanics.

Good throw 1a

On this play, Manziel will end up throwing the deep go route to his left.

Good throw 1b

But he starts by looking to his right and reading the defense. He then looks down the middle to check the safeties.

Good throw 1c

Before progresses to his left and pulls the trigger. You can see in this throw, he's still leaning back, not properly transferring his weight over his front foot.

Good throw 1d

But he still manages to place the ball perfectly on the back shoulder of his receiver, where only the receiver can make the play.

Manziel has taught himself to get by without the correct footwork. But without it, his passes can look very floaty and not have much velocity on them, or can die on him and fall short of the receiver like we saw above. If a quarterback guru (say, Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien) thinks he can fix the footwork, then Manziel becomes a lot more attractive to that team.

The other main problem I have with Manziel is also partially what makes him such a unique prospect; his running instincts. Watch any Manziel highlights package and you'll see play after play of Manziel running all over the place, avoiding defenders and making big plays with his legs. Making plays with his legs aren't a problem. The fact he's able to elude defenders and buy more time is actually a huge positive. But what he can't allow to happen is what happened on this next play.

instincts 1a

Manziel is given a clean pocket to work with on this play. He's under no real pressure and has time to work through his progressions.

instincts 1c

Manziel doesn't see any receivers open, so takes off running. The defense actually have a man set to spy Manziel and come up to tackle him should he start running. Manziel makes a cut similar to that of a running back to completely elude the defender and runs into the open field.

instincts 1d

Manziel manages to avoid more defenders before he eventually steps out of bounds for a nice gain. A solid result on the play. However, if we look back at the point he started to take off.

instincts 1b

He had a receiver running wide open right past the deep safety. Manziel had no pressure on him in the pocket. If he had stayed in the pocket a fraction longer, he might have seen the receiver running open and had a potential touchdown. But instead, he took off running and missed the open receiver.

This is what Manziel can't allow to happen. The scrambling ability is a huge positive to his game, but only if he's not missing open receivers as a result of it. Coaches will be conflicted with this. They won't want to completely take away the running ability that makes him unique, but they can't have him missing open receivers down field.

This is what makes Manziel so difficult to evaluate; and what makes him a boom or bust prospect. He has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the draft, but also the highest bust potential. He'll need a good coaching set up that will work on his fundamentals and work a system to fit his talents.

Blake Bortles

To me, Bortles was one of the more disappointing players I have watched this offseason. Bortles has seen plenty of hype, touted as the potential number one pick, but I didn't see anything that made me believe that hype. To his credit, he is very aware of what's going on around him in the pocket and displays good pocket mobility to avoid rushers and help his offensive lineman recover on blocks.

good in pocket 1a

On this play, South Carolina move Jadeveon Clowney inside over the right guard. They run a stunt with a blitzer coming in behind Clowney. At the same time, the left tackle is having to deal with a speed rush off the edge. All of this is happening before Bortles even reaches the top of his drop.

good in pocket 1b

But Bortles doesn't panic and start running around. He remains poised and works his way out of the pocket to elude the oncoming rushers.

good in pocket 1c

Bortles keeps his eyes downfield, finding a target. He does a nice job squaring his shoulders to his target and making the throw.

good in pocket 1d

Which is completed for a first down. This is Bortles best trait. He's very good at keeping poised and moving in the pocket to keep plays alive while still keeping his eyes down the field instead of on the rushers. He has a very good feel for the pocket, which isn't something that a lot of college quarterbacks have.

However, that trait alone doesn't make a prospect worth a top 10 pick. Outside of that, I was very underwhelmed. The scheme he played in wasn't one that showed off a quarterback ability; it involved a lot of read-option and triple-option plays, as well as bubble screens. It was rare to see Bortles throw the ball down the field. When he did, he had issues with accuracy and bad decisions.

bad int 1a

On this play, Bortles has a receiver running a skinny post route against a corner playing off.

bad int 1b

As Bortles begins his throwing motion, the corner has already started to jump the route. Bortles is looking straight at receiver, but elects to throw the ball anyway.

bad int 1c

The defender is easily able to jump in front of the receiver and intercept the pass. Bortles either didn't see the defender breaking on the ball, or felt that he could fit the ball in to a window that was shut. Either way, the outcome was a bad interception.

Bortles is a raw prospect in my opinion. He has some qualities that are difficult to teach; poise, pocket awareness and mobility to name a few. But he has a lot to work on and develop to be a consistent NFL starting quarterback. While he's been touted as a top 10 pick, I would feel much better about him in the mid 20s range to a team trading back up into the end of the first round for a quarterback.

Kevin Pierre-Louis: A Closer Look at the Boston College LB

April 12, 2014 in Draft Reports

By:Justin Partlow

 

When the 2013 season started, not many people knew the name Kevin Pierre-Louis and many didn’t expect the big year that he ended up posting. Pierre-Louis, or better known as KPL, really was able to breakout during the 2013 season and prove himself as more than just a late round option at LB. KPL was able to turn into a legitimate mid round option at LB, who can prove to fit very well into one of the traditional cover two schemes. Below I’ll take a look at what KPL does well, and we he needs to improve on to become a starting caliber player in the NFL.

 

Technique:

When evaluating LB prospects, I look hard at how well they play with technique, not only in the run game, but also how they play in pass coverage. First off, KPL does a good job, but needs to improve on his run defense. KPL will allow himself to get swallowed up by offensive linemen at times, and doesn’t play aggressive to disengage from blockers. At the same time, when he can play free in space, KPL shows the ability to be very successful due to his ability to use his speed to an advantage. When he can stay clean from blockers, KPL shows the ability to be a high-end player and someone who can be very successful in the NFL. Now watching KPL in pass coverage is quite different from him when he’s playing run defense. Due to his natural athleticism, Pierre-Louis is very good in his ability to play with proper pass defense technique, as well as his ability to engage the defender and be able to reroute him off his intended route. Pierre-Louis does an excellent job of trusting his instincts and playing to those abilities and in coverage it shows as he’s able to trust his instincts to make plays.

 

Run Defense:

As mentioned earlier, KPL does things well, but also shows a lot of errors due to his technique flaws, as well as his natural weight, which doesn’t allow for him to be able to just take on blocks consistently. As well KPL doesn’t do a very good job of attempting to engage oncoming blockers and make a move to get around them. It almost looks as if KPL doesn’t want to have anyone in front of him, so he could just get his plays and do so without much effort. It’s easy to see the difference in KPL when he’s able to play in space and free from others around him, and when he is playing in the “muck” of the field with everyone around him. With this in mind, look for teams to see KPL as someone who is a 4-3 only fit because of his ability to play zone coverage well, as well as his weight not being conducive to being a possible 3-4 candidate.

 

Pass Coverage:

As I alluded to earlier, this is what makes KPL very intriguing to watch and project to what he could become in the NFL. For what KPL doesn’t do well in run defense, he does a very good job of recognizing zone’s and playing to those strengths. KPL also has the speed and size to play in man coverage and run with TE’s and slot WR’s. This comes back to the belief of KPL being a very good cover 2 scheme fit where he can use his instincts and zone coverage responsibilities to be very successful. What also is impressive about KPL is his ability to reroute offensive players and not allow them a free release to run their routes. In some respects it’s almost as if KPL is a safety type player who is playing LB in college. There will be some intrigue of him moving to Safety, but for now the best overall position for KPL is as a 4-3 WLB.

 

Overall:

Kevin Pierre-Louis isn’t the household name, but he’s someone who gets the job done and provides a good deal of value for a position that is somewhat of a dying breed in the NFL. What KPL does well is what NFL teams now covet, and that’s the ability to cover anyone on the field as we continue to see TE’s get bigger and faster and slot WR’s become stronger and more athletic. Someone like Kevin Pierre-Louis would allow for a team to have a good fit on passing downs, and if they were a true 4-3 scheme, they have someone who can develop into a possible starting candidate. Look for a team with that 4-3 scheme to take Pierre-Louis somewhere in the 5th round range.

Odell Beckham Jr.: A Closer Look at the LSU WR

April 3, 2014 in Draft Reports

By: Justin Partlow

 

Odell Beckham was always seen as one of the more exciting receivers in college football with his ability to change the game, both on offense and on special teams. This year though, Beckham really had his coming out party under the watchful eye of Cam Cameron at OC. While being a much-maligned NFL OC, Cameron was able to get the best out of his QB, Zach Mettenberger, and that translated into very good years out of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Beckham has the ability to transform into a very good WR in the NFL, and below I’ll take a look at how he can do that

 

Route Running:

When looking at a WR in depth you want to see the intricacies and what he does well and needs to improve on, besides looking at the actual catches. When you watch Beckham, you see someone who has refined his route running the past year, but also has some wasted movements in his routes, and will at times round off his routes. While not a major concern, Beckham will need to work on this in the NFL in order to gain a competitive advantage over his defenders he’ll face. Also on film when you watch Beckham, you see someone who when he runs the correct routes, will be very explosive in and out of his breaks. When Beckham plays with confidence in his route running, he can be an absolute terror for defenders with his impressive short area quickness he shows. Look for an NFL WR Coach to work on the intricacies with Beckham’s route running and turn him into a more dynamic version than he shows now

 

Catching Ability:

Simply put, Odell Beckham Jr. has ridiculously big hands. It’s impressive to see just how easy some of the catches that Beckham can make on film. There’s the infamous kickoff play where he literally one hands the kick off for a touchback. Beckham is very impressive with his hands and when he doesn’t have small concentration lapses, will make any catch look routine. Between him and Jarvis Landry, they were able to make up for someone of the poor throws that Mettenberger would have. Simply put here, Beckham isn’t someone you thoroughly need to worry about with his catching ability.

 

Special Teams Ability:

This is what will help Beckham with his transition to the NFL. Beckham is a dynamic athlete in the return game, but at the same time does have errors with making cut back decisions that lead to some poor returns. When Beckham trusts his blocks and gets upfield, he can be one of the most dynamic players in the NFL with his ability to be so elusive, despite not having elite speed. Teams will look for this to be the part that they can use early on while transitioning and working on his route running in order for him to be successful. Beckham has the making of at worst being an elite special teams player, but with how well he plays overall, he can truly be one of the more dynamic players in the NFL.

 

Overall:

Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the more fun WR’s to watch in the 2014 NFL class with his abilty to affect the game in so many ways. With his elusive ability, explosive short area quickness, and his ability to make hard catches look routine, Beckham offers a package that is rare for someone at his height. Look for an NFL team to take Beckham early on and utilize his game changing ability while refining his overall WR ability that he shows flashes of so many times on film.

CJ Fiedorowicz: A Closer Look at the Iowa TE

April 3, 2014 in Draft Reports

By: Justin Partlow

 

One of the more underrated TE’s in all of college football has easily been CJ Fiedorowicz from Iowa. This is mainly due to the fact that he’s asked to be more of an inline blocker and hasn’t been a huge focus of the team, but that hasn’t diminished the value that people can see when they watch Fiedorowicz. With his very good blocking ability, his underrated athleticism, and his team first mentality he brings to the table, Fiedorowicz will be one of the best TE investments a team can make in the 2014 NFL Draft.

 

Athleticism:

While not the most athletic guy on the field, Fiedorowicz shows very good athleticism for a TE and can beat his defender for position and make tough catches. At his height and weight, CJ does a very good job of using his athleticism to make plays, even though he’s not the main focal point of the offense. Teams will have some reservations as the NFL is looking for more of the “joker” type TE’s who can flex out as a WR or play in the slot as a TE, but make no mistake CJ will be successful because of what he does well on the field between his athleticism and his very good technique he already has.

 

Blocking:

 

This is what sets Fiedorowicz apart from the other entire high end TE’s in this class with the exception of Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. Fiedorowicz is one of the premier blockers in college football at his position and will routinely drive his defender back off the ball and displays an impressive punch for a TE. What I find impressive about Fiedorowicz is his ability to always keep his feet moving and take his defender down the field with ease because of his leverage he plays with. Teams will fall in love with this part of Fiedorowicz’s game because of the ability to become a goal line TE early on along with having the ability to make plays all over the field for them.

Catching:

This is easily the most underrated part of Fiedorowicz’s game simply due to what has been alluded to earlier with Fiedorowicz. Iowa has been built on being a smash mouth team that likes to play the “old school” way and that leads to a lot of games where Fiedorowicz wouldn’t get many touches. When Fiedorowicz would get the ball, it was impressive to see, and almost frustrating because if he goes to any other school that throws more, he’s a different viewed prospect. When Fiedorowicz is out making plays in the passing game, he displays a very natural catching ability. Fiedorowicz is very impressive in his ability to pluck the ball out of the air, instead of letting the ball into his chest. Look for teams to utilize Fiedorowicz as a big time red-zone target due to his size and ability to box out defenders.

 

Overall:

 

As I mentioned earlier, if Fiedorowicz plays for another team that throws the ball more, then he’s seen as an earlier prospect. Due to Fiedorowicz being more of a secondary focus in the Iowa offense, he wasn’t able to get the credit or publicity that was deserved and this has led to him being an under the radar prospect. Look for a team to “steal” Fiedorowicz in the middle rounds and turn him into a very good TE who plays in the NFL for a very long time. Fiedorowicz would be an extremely good fit for a team who already has a good joker TE and is looking for someone to pair with that TE.

Storm Johnson: A Closer Look at the UCF RB

April 1, 2014 in Draft Reports

By: Justin Partlow

 

One of the more underappreciated RB’s in college football, Storm Johnson has been a consistent and effective running back. Johnson, while not having the most elite speed, is able to make big plays both in the passing game and running game. Playing with Blake Bortles has helped garner more attention for Johnson, but still he’s seen as one of the later round RB’s due to some of his main issues including his vision. Below I’ll take a look at what Johnson does well and what he needs to improve on to be a successful RB in the NFL.

 

Running Abililty:

Instead of breaking it down to multiple small categories, I’ve decided to focus directly on passing and running ability and talking about the different parts regarding each. Looking at Johnson on film, you see flashes of someone who can be very successful, but also it’s his vision that can cause issues for Johnson. It’s a very inconsistent trait that shows up on film for Johnson and leads to him making cuts that he shouldn’t. Watching Johnson vs Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, Johnson would make an impressive cut where he would see the cut back lane and gain extra yardage, then would try to make another cut and would end up cutting right back to the defender. When Johnson doesn’t worry as much about cutting back and going for the big play every time, he’s quite a consistent runner who gets yards and in times in bunches.

What I really like about Johnson on film is how fiery and deliberate that he is when he chooses to run downhill. Johnson will barrel over defenders and make defenders pay for trying to get in his way. If Johnson can work on playing in control and finding the cut lanes instead of forcing himself to make the cuts then he can have a chance to really make his name in the NFL with his physical style

 

Passing Game:

While I complain a lot about the little things with Johnson in the running game, the pass catching ability of him isn’t something I’m very worried about. When you sit down and watch the film, you see someone who sets up the screens well and will make good plays when receiving out of the backfield. Johnson displays solid and consistent hands, which will become a positive in the NFL if he moves into more a 3rd down role (which is what I think he will be early on.) Johnson also is very impressive in how he handles the blocking ability of being a RB. I like how he’s able to recognize and make the chip block on a defender who is getting by the offensive linemen. It’s a good trait that will carry over well into the NFL for Johnson. If Johnson can hone in on these things he shows in the passing game, then he can early on get major playing time as a 3rd down RB as he refines the running game aspects that I mentioned earlier.

 

Overall:

Storm Johnson is a very solid and consistent running back that can hopefully find his niche in the NFL. While not an elite athlete by any means, Johnson makes up for it by being a violent runner when he plays downhill. I like Johnson to come off the board somewhere in the 5th round range and have the ability to be a early contributor for a team in the 3rd down role. If Johnson can improve on his flaws running, then a team could be a getting a very nice steal in Johnson.

Morgan Moses: A Closer Look at the Virginia OT

March 27, 2014 in Draft Reports

By: Justin Partlow

 

Heading into the 2013 season, Morgan Moses was finally given his chance to be the starting LT for the UVA Cavaliers. After starting at RT the past few years, Moses watched teammate Oday Aboushi graduate and got his chance to prove that he could a quality LT not only in college, but also in the NFL. After a very good senior year, Moses continued his success during the off-season bowl circuit. Moses wont wow you with his speed or how awesome he does things, but he just gets the job done and can shut down his opponent.

 

Technique:

 

Moses has significantly improved his technique since he first arrived at UVA. When you compare the film of Moses in 2012 to 2013 you can notice the improvement in his balance and base that he plays with. Moses in 2012 would play more out of control and would reach at his opponent. This lead to much of the issues of him getting out balance and leading to his opponent being able to work around the massive size of Moses and make a play. In 2013, Moses showed better balance and played under control when he would play in both the run game as well as pass protection. Moses displays good hand usage, but also needs to work on being more aggressive against his opponent and not let his opponent into his body.

 

Run Blocking:

 

As alluded to, Moses has used his balance fixes to become a better overall player, but it really has shown up on film with his run blocking. Moses is a massive player, and uses his size to be a dominant run blocker. On film the easiest thing that shows up is how strong Moses is and how dominant he can be over guys who are as big or smaller than him. I’ve seen multiple times on film where Moses can latch onto his opponent, and at times just throw him around like he’s a rag doll. Moses shows good footwork on film and doesn’t really tend to reach and get off position as compared to previous years of film. Moses can stand to work on his hand placement a little in the run game. Look for Morgan Moses to really make his name early on with his run blocking ability, but that doesn’t mean he’ll only be a run blocking kind of player in the NFL.

 

Pass Blocking:

 

As I alluded to just above Moses isn’t just a good run blocker, he’s also a very good pass protector and has proven himself against some of the top competition in the ACC. The most notable matchup was against Jeremiah Attaochu from Georgia Tech. Attaochu had a very good game if you look just at his stats, but when you watch Morgan Moses against Jeremiah Attaochu, you see a completely different story than what the stats just dictated. Moses was dominant and was able to shut down Attoachu from making the big plays that he’s known to make for Georgia Tech. Moses was able to do so by using his good arm length, and his pretty good footwork for someone his size to mirror Attaochu and be successful. Outside of that game, you could see many times throughout the year that Moses was able to mirror, redirect and stop his opponent from making a play at the QB. Moses can still work on his punch and his hand placement, but the main issue will come with working to stay lower in his stance. At times Moses would stand up high in his stance and lead to him getting a little off balance and susceptible to being beaten by his opponent. If Moses can fix up the technique issues that are shown on film, he can show to be a very good LT and a very good RT prospect for the NFL.

 

Overall:

 

Morgan Moses came to UVA after the long wait from his HS days, and finally at the end of 2012 and the 2013 season everyone was able to see the talent that existed. Moses has shown the ability to play as a LT and a RT, and will certainly get the first crack as a LT in the NFL. As a good friend of mine Seth Cox has said, Morgan Moses reminds him of Marcus McNeill, the very good former LT for the San Diego Chargers. Look for Moses to make his name early on and be a good consistent starter for a long time in the NFL.

 


Which Round should UVA OT Morgan Moses be drafted?