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2015 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

July 5, 2014 in Draft Reports

By: Justin Partlow

 

Taking a look at the next position in my draft preview series is the running back position. Traditionally the running back position was a strong suit, until the two back system came into play and many teams went away from drafting those backs early on in exchange for two guys later who could provide the same production. Fortunately for fans of running backs, the 2015 class looks to have a group of guys who can break the mold and become stars in the NFL. We’ve seen the running back class move into obscurity, but now it’s got it chance to move right back into the forefront of the NFL Draft. Below I’ll take a look at three guys who I think could have big impact years in college and be top end guys in the NFL.

RB Todd Gurley Georgia

For what it’s worth, I think of Todd Gurley as one of the top running backs in college football and would easily be a top 10 pick if he were to declare at the end of this year. Gurley is everything you want in a running back and then some. With his ridiculous power, ability to break away and get touchdowns and his surprisingly soft hands, he’s a dynamic threat in every sense of the game. Gurley though does have a bit of concern as he’s had some nagging injuries in college, but it doesn’t look to be a forefront issue when he reaches the NFL. The injuries though will be something to keep an eye on as he plays this upcoming year and if he has any more of those nagging issues. Gurley though is the perfect blend of speed, strength, and agility that teams want at RB, and should see himself go in the top 10 and at worst the top 15 picks come next draft.

RB Melvin Gordon Wisconsin

Another favorite of mine and how he plays the game, Melvin Gordon reminds me a little of Jamaal Charles at RB, but obviously not the same player as Charles has shown to be one of the top 3 RB’s in the NFL. Gordon is a dynamic player, he gets the ball in his hands and he’s already a threat to take it to the house every time. The issue though with Gordon is his hands, as he’s not shown enough in the passing game to be a reliable threat and that will cause some concern with teams. Gordon though is a great fit for teams who are moving more for that spread NFL offense that takes advantage of speed in all ways. Gordon will need to show teams better pass catching, but if he does he could cement himself as the 2nd RB off the board.

RB Duke Johnson Miami

Another guy who burst onto the scene as a RB, Duke Johnson was easily the heart and soul of the Miami offense until he suffered an injury last year and missed significant time. When Johnson went down, it was obvious how different the Miami offense was without him. Johnson is very good at getting into the open field and making plays with his feet. Johnson can take a small gain into something more with his vision, but that vision at times does cause him to have negative plays. Johnson though is someone to watch as he comes back from the injury. He may not be the highest rated guy compared to others like TJ Yeldon(who I believe is overrated), but Johnson will see his stock rise if he comes back healthy and shows what he can do.

2015 NFL Draft Preview: Quarterbacks

July 3, 2014 in Draft Reports

 

By: Justin Partlow

 

The offseason is one of the most critical times of the year especially for NFL scouting departments as they line up the names to watch for the upcoming season. With another very good QB class at the top, look for the 2015 class to generate some early buzz and have it sustain throughout the year. The questions will arise as always with each prospect, but the 2015 class will have a solid overall group even if it’s not as deep as the 2014 class. Below I’ll take a look at three guys to watch the upcoming year at the QB position regardless of them being a senior or not.

 

QB Marcus Mariota Oregon

Marcus Mariota was thought to be one of the first picks in the 2014 class if he were to declare, but over time it seemed as if he wanted to return. Once it officially happened, Mariota has his sight set on becoming the top pick in the 2015 draft. Mariota is everything you want in more of the “new age” QB’s that are in the NFL. Mariota has a strong arm, and has pretty good accuracy. Mariota is extremely mobile, but uses his feet only to help his cause instead of just running to run. As my good friend and mentor Ben Allbright has brought up though with Mariota, he doesn’t make many of those tough throws you want to see on film, which does cause some pause and concern. Mariota is a top end talent, the question comes down to how much does that system help hide his flaws and what he does? 2014 will be a big college year for Mariota, and if he passes it then he could very well find himself entrenched into the #1 pick slot.

 

QB Brett Hundley UCLA

Another guy who at one time was considered to leave for the NFL Draft, Brett Hundley is a gifted athlete who is very raw still at the QB position. Similar to Mariota, Hundley is someone who has the arm strength you want and the athleticism needed to be one of the new age QB’s, but his rawness shows up on film time and time again. Many times on film it seemed as if Hundley would look only at the first or second read then run. While he can get away with that in college because of his gifted ability, teams will target him in NFL and make sure that he has to throw the ball and not use his legs. Hundley is another guy to watch because you want to see him make that next leap this year, but if he doesn’t then he could become one of the more puzzling draft prospects with how raw he still would be

 

QB Bryce Petty Baylor

Finishing off the guys to watch is someone I really enjoying watching in Bryce Petty. Petty took over this year after Baylor had a great string of years from RG3, then Nick Florence. Petty is another one of the guys who really breaks the mold of what was expected out of an Art Briles QB. Petty isn’t a great athlete, but he can still get yards and make plays with his feet. Petty has an above average arm, but doesn’t always have the best speed behind his passes from what I’ve seen. Petty has the chance to become a starting QB in the NFL, but with the Art Briles offense there will be concerns about how he can do after teams saw the struggles of RG3 in his 2nd year. Petty could be that guy that has the biggest rise of all QB’s in 2014, it’ll mightily depend on his ability to take that leap and limit the reservations that teams would have on him.

 

REDSKINS DRAFT RECAP 2014

May 22, 2014 in Draft Grades, Draft Reports

by PIGSKIN PAUL

This was the final year of draft purgatory for the REDSKINS because of the RG3 trade in 2012. So when reviewing this draft we have to keep in mind that RG3 is a part of it. If fully healthy GRIFFIN is a Franchise QB about ready to come into his own under the new coaching staff of JAY GRUDEN. And thanks to the EAGLES, the REDSKINS had Christmas in April with their signing of WR/DESEAN JACKSON.

Now on to the meat and potatoes of their DRAFT.

 

 

Round 2 Pick 47       TRENT MURPHY/DE/LB/STANFORD

6’5       250 4.86/40   It certainly seemed like the Redskins were channeling their RYAN KERRIGAN-luv with this selection. MURPHY looks to be very similar to KERRIGAN, who has developed more than many felt he would coming into the League. The best comparison that I have heard for MURPHY is that he comes to the pro game with the same skill set/potential as MIKE VRABEL. His numbers from the Combine are fairly mediocre, but when you watch him play he’s nothing short of productive. He played with his hand both up and down for the stout Stanford D and produced 23.5 TFL & 15 sacks in 2013. My guess is he’s the replacement for BRIAN ORAKPO who may want way too much money long term for the Redskins tastes going forward. Was a team Captain.

PP rank #67.

 

 

Round 3 Pick 66       MORGAN MOSES/OT/VIRGINIA

6’6       315              5.35/40              Was a little disappointing at the Senior Bowl. He played/practiced way too upright and was beaten regularly to the outside by speedy pass rushing DE in Mobile. Then he went to the Combine and really posted some disappointing numbers. But his productivity in college, as well as 35.375” long arms still make him a solid developmental pick. MOSES will be highly motivated to prove teams were wrong in passing on him until Round 3. His slipping was great luck for Old DC. MOSES has starting potential and should accept coaching.

PP Rank #48.

 

 

Round 3 Pick 78       SPENCER LONG/OG/NEBRASKA

6’5 320   Lost most of his 2013 season to injury. We can assume he is progressing well medically for him to go this high. He’s a throwback to the HOGS of old. Operates primarily on strength and power. Was originally a walk-on at Nebraska. Has big strong hands (10.750”), with 33.125” arm length. Those are well above average for an Interior OL. He’s country strong and aggressive. Could move into the starting lineup soon. Another team Captain.

PP Rank #198.

 

 

Round 4 Pick 102       BASHAUD BREELAND/CB/CLEMSON

5’11       197   4.62/40              An aggressive press-Corner who has decent ball skills and is a willing, effective tackler. Still has developmental skill work to do, including improving his ball awareness once the ball is in the air. He has a knack for separating people from the ball ala PEANUT TILLMAN. Expect him to contribute in sub-packages right away and fight for a starting job as early as 2015. A very good value pick in Round 4.

PP Rank #78. 

 

Round 5 Pick 142       RYAN GRANT/WR/TULANE

6’0       200       4.64/40    Only lack of pure speed kept this guy out of the Top 100. He had 70+ catches in both 2012 & 2013. He has hands that measure 9.675” and he uses them to catch the ball away from his body. He gets open deep despite a lack of top end speed and locates the ball well. He has the potential to be a productive No. 3/4 receiver in the NFL. Could beat out some underperforming receivers like HANKERSON for a roster spot, especially if he can help out on Special Teams.

 PP Rank #206.

 

Round 6 Pick 186       LACHE SEASTRUNK/RB/BAYLOR

5’9       200 4.51/40   Was thought originally to be a Top 100 player, but his workout numbers were a bit disappointing to personnel people. He does have some burst and quickness in his running, but at times he dances too long picking his running hole. He should make a nice compliment to Alfred Morris and could give ROYSTER a battle for the No. 3 RB slot. Solid value pick with potential to upgrade the overall RB group.

PP Rank #104

 

 

Round 7 Pick 217       TED BOLSER/TE/INDIANA

6’5       255       4.79/40              BOLSER provides something that the ‘Skins are short of… full sized, inline blocking TE. He demonstrated during Shrine Week that he is athletic enough to compete at the highest level both as a blocker and as a short/middle-of-the-field receiver. The team is hoping he can be a better all-around version of LOGAN PAULSEN. With a RB like MORRIS, BOLSER’s blocking in the Red Zone could be a welcome addition to the offensive arsenal. Was a tri-Captain for the Hoosiers.

PP Rank #257.

 

 

 

Round 7 Pick 228       ZACH HOCKER/K/ARKANSAS

6’0       190          At first blush this might seem like a questionable selection. But perhaps his versatility & potential have Salary Cap appeal to the organization over the long haul. HOCKER was able to reach the end zone with 68% of his kick-offs last season. He has also seen double duty as a K and P during his collegiate career. He has good leg strength and looks like he might be able to bulk up a tad and improve his overall accuracy. At the Shrine venue I asked him if his punting career was over. He hedged his answer by saying he intended to go to the Combine as a K, but if he had a bad day he would ask to be allowed to punt. We may have to wait until Training Camp to understand the big picture with him.

 

 

Considering the lack of a First Round pick this was a pretty solid effort. Long term they may have gotten two starting OL out of this Draft. MURPHY may ease the potential cap loss of ORAKPO, or KERRIGAN. BREELAND, BOLSER, SEASTRUNK & GRANT could all be upgrades at positions of need. The only area I see a deficiency is a lack of upgrading team speed with this group. As a group these players would rank below average in NFL level speed and quickness.

 

I don’t give out grades for team drafts any more, but if I did this one would certainly be above average! Combine these 8 players with the VFA group that was signed earlier and the overall REDSKINS roster has been significantly upgraded in my opinion.

Early Winners Of Undrafted Free Agency

May 11, 2014 in Draft Reports, Scouting Reports

The NFL Draft may have been over, but the procurement of college talent is still well underway. Teams began signing players who weren't drafted as soon as the 7th round ended and it will continue through when teams have their rookie tryouts as players who are signed now may be released and other UDFA's will take their place. UDFA announcements are far from official at this point, but we can get an early look at what teams have done well in signing UDFA's. Here is a look at the best UDFA class from each division.

(All UDFA signing information is from NEPatriotsDraft.com)

AFC EAST: Miami Dolphins:

-None of the AFC East teams really stand out, but the Dolphins walked away with the most interesting guys. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson was a guy who has flashed a lot of potential and if he stayed in school, probably would have been in consideration for a top 100 pick next year (some felt he had that chance this year). He not only has a real chance of making it, but in 3-4 years he could develop into a starting caliber guy. Center Tyler Larsen is undersized, but he plays with great leverage and had a strong Senior Bowl week stonewalling most of the top DL he went up against. TE Gator Hoskins and CB Deion Belue are two other interesting names to keep an eye on. Both were considered draftable guys, and while they might just be practice squad names to watch this year they could have a future in this league.

AFC NORTH: Cleveland Browns

-All of the AFC North teams signed a couple interesting guys, but the Browns probably cast the widest net and will likely get the most value out of this group. Wide receivers Chandler Jones and Willie Snead were possible draftees, and both could get a long look in Cleveland given the state of their WR corps this year. Tight end Blake Jackson showed some nice pass catching ability in college and could earn a back-up spot down the road. Safeties Jason Hendricks and Nickoe Whitley could fight for a roster spot and help on special teams. Running back Isaiah Crowell has a lot of talent, but went undrafted due to off the field concerns. If he gets his act together he could be a great pick up. Finally, while all the hype will be on QB Johnny Manziel, the Browns picked up another similar quarterback in Conner Shaw. Shaw maybe won't ever be a starter, but he could be an interesting back-up option.

AFC SOUTH: Tennessee Titans

-The Titans didn't land the biggest UDFA class of these teams, but they got some intriguing players. Wide receivers Jaz Reynolds, Eric Ward and Josh Stewart could be competing for a spot. Running back Antonio Andrews performed well at the Senior Bowl and could be in the mix for a back-up job. Defensive end James Gayle could be asked to stand up in the Titans 3-4 and he looked good at the Senior Bowl before going down with injury. Center Gabe Ikard and safety Hakeem Smith, both were thought of as late round options and are nice pick ups here for the Titans.

AFC WEST: Oakland Raiders

-The Raiders brought in a pair of bigger receivers in Mike Davis and D.J. Coles, both of whom could have a shot of sticking around either at the bottom of the depth chart or at least on the practice squad. Tight end Jake Murphy is another guy who could be fighting for a roster spot and he could have a future at the next level. Linebacker Carlos Fields, RB George Atkinson III and OT Danny Kistler are all guys who could have a chance to make the roster as well.

NFC EAST: New York Giants

-The Giants didn't sign a lot of guys, but they did a really nice job adding some defensive line talent. Kerry Wynn could play base end or move inside for the Giants. New York also added DT's Kelcy Quarles who at one time was considered a top 100 pick and most thought would be drafted and Eathyn Manumaluena, who had a good career at BYU. Tight end Xavier Grimble many thought would be drafted and has a great chance to make it given the Giants thin roster at tight end. Safety C.J. Barnett could be a good special teams player as well.

NFC NORTH: Chicago Bears

-The Bears haven't signed a lot of guys yet, but they have brought in four guys worth watching. Quarterback Jordan Lynch was a Heisman candidate and while he's not really a good bet to stick at QB he's such a great athlete that the Bears could find a home for him. Linebacker Christian Jones was one of the better players on the Florida State National Championship defense and looked to be an early to mid round draftee. He did apparently fail a drug test at the Combine, but others did as well and they still found themselves drafted. Jones could end up being a steal given his talent and versatility. Linebacker DeDe Lattimore and guard Ryan Groy both were possible late round pick-ups making them good value signings here.

NFC SOUTH: New Orleans Saints

-The Saints brought in a number of guys who were considered draftable talents and really stockpiled some young talent here. They also did a nice job bringing in multiple guys at each position. Here are some of the more interesting guys they brought in. Safety- Ty Zimmerman and Pierre Warren, WR- Seantavious Jones and Brandon Coleman, RB- Tim Flanders, DL- George Uko, OLB – Kasim Edebali, Chidera Uzo-Diribe, CB- Brian Dixon, C- Matt Armstrong. Overall it's a nice mix of bigger school guys who were overshadowed and small school guys were overlooked. It wouldn't be surprising to see 2-4 of these guys make the 53 man roster and another couple to earn practice squad spots.

NFC WEST: San Francisco 49ers

-All of the teams in the West seemed to have the same approach with signing a smaller class, but focusing on 2-4 guys who could have a real shot of making the roster. All four classes are close, but the 49ers class gets the edge. Inside linebacker Shane Skov is very familiar with both the 49ers system and coaching staff and could have a real shot of making the roster even with the draft pick of Chris Borland. OLB Morgan Breslin had a huge Junior year with 13 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss, but saw his production slid in his senior year. As an UDFA he could be a diamond in the rough and a situational pass rusher for the 49ers. Offensive linemen Dillon Farrell and Fou Fonoti are both intriguing guys who could be options for the Practice Squad.

2014 Draft Unique Due to Elite Talent and Overall Depth

May 6, 2014 in Draft Reports, Scouting Reports

Typically an NFL Draft is defined as either a draft loaded with top end talent, or very good depth, as rarely is a draft considered to not have either or both to offer NFL teams. Last year was probably a weaker draft overall in both top end talent and depth, but it's made up for quite nicely this year as this draft class is teaming with impact talent to go along with extremely good depth. What makes this draft even more unique is that every position is considered strong at the top. Typically in other top draft classes, you have a couple positions that are are particularly weak, but that isn't the case this time around. Here is a break down of the talent and depth at each position and how it relates to some recent draft classes and top prospects:

Quarterbacks:

-This is a strong class despite the fact that there isn't a "sure thing" at the top in an Andre Luck or Matt Ryan type of prospect. Despite the lack of that elite QB prospect, there are four quarterbacks with strong first round grades in Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr. All four have the ability and potential to quickly become quality starters or more at the next level. In addition two other quarterbacks (Jimmy Garoppolo and Zach Mettenberger) appear to be decent early round options as well. Other quarterbacks like Tom Savage, A.J. McCarron and Brett Smith potentially could wind up as starters as well. Few drafts have 4 QB's worthy of first round grades (much less 1st round picks), and those that do typically don't have quarterbacks in that 2nd and 3rd tier as well.

Running backs:

-There won't be a first round running back selected this year and there might not even be a top 50 pick, but a lot of that has to do with how the position is viewed overall in the league and the overall depth of this draft. This class could still see 6 or 7 backs taken in the top 100 picks, and a number of later round guys with nice upside or potential. It's not a great running back class, but it is still pretty good and should bear a couple quality starters out of it. The depth of this class is really strong as the later rounds could be littered with guys who have the potential to develop into more. Now many won't make it, but there are a lot of intriguing late round running backs for teams looking to bolster their depth at the position.

Wide Receivers:

-This is the deepest position in the draft and probably the most talented receiver group in the last decade. There are two top stars in this deep class in Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, but even beyond them there are really interesting prospects. There could be 5 or 6 receivers taken in the first round, but you can still find more value beyond that. There are about 20 receivers worthy of a top 3 round grade, and typically there aren't more than 15 receivers taken in the first three rounds, so there will be a lot of talent in this group leading into the 4th round. Even in the later rounds of the draft there are a number of intriguing receivers to keep an eye on.

Tight Ends:

-Eric Ebron is a top 15 talent in any draft class, yet it's possible he slides out of the top 20 given the overall depth of this class. In addition to Ebron Jace Amaro and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are top 50 talents and capable of starting for any team in the league. Typically there are no more than 1 or 2 tight ends drafted that high, and there isn't much behind the top couple of guys at the position. Even after the top three tight ends are off the board there are other potential starting options for teams to find in the draft.

Offensive Tackles:

-Last year saw three offensive tackles selected in the top 4 picks, yet none of those three from a year ago are as highly rated as the top three OT's in this draft: Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, and Taylor Lewan. Even in this deep draft you could still have 10-12 offensive tackles (some guys may be viewed more as interior OL) taken in the top 100 picks. That is on par or greater than the deepest OT drafts of the past and rarely have there been three top prospects like this.

Interior Offensive Linemen:

-Now some of the potential offensive tackles could end up switching to guard depending on the team that drafts them. In fact Zack Martin from Notre Dame is a guy who could be the 4th tackle selected or the first guard off the board depending on who ends up taking him. Whatever position he's at he's a safe bet to be a top 20 selection. Of the "pure" interior offensive linemen you could have 5-6 guards and 3 centers taken in the top 100 picks, add that to the 12 tackles (including the guys who might shift to guard) and you have 20 plus offensive linemen in the top 100 picks. That's not typical by any stretch, and even more impressive considering the overall depth of the draft.

Defensive Ends/Rush Linebackers:

-These positions are added together since they are basically the same thing just depending on what a particular team runs. Now not everyone can play in either scheme, but they are basically part of the same pool of players. Even having this wider group there are some guys who could possibly be considered options here, but are considered more for the non-pass rushing LB's below. In this group of guys you have legitimately 15-18 top 100 prospects, and three major impact players at the top in Clowney, Mack and Barr. Very few drafts can match that impact talent at the top, much less the ability to get quality pass rushers beyond the top round. There is a bit of a gap in talent from the top 3 to the guys in the next group, but overall this is a very talented and deep group. Even later in the draft there are some high upside small school guys or high motor guys who could develop into nice situational pass rushers.

Defensive Tackles/3-4 Defensive Ends:

-There is probably only one real impact talent in this group in Aaron Donald, but he has the potential to be a very special player. He's a little under the radar due to his size, but he dominated college football and was one of the most impressive prospects during the offseason circuit. He has the potential to be one of the best disruptors in the NFL and could have an immediate impact. Beyond him you have 3-4 other guys who could be considered for the first round and a total of 11-13 guys worthy of top 3 round consideration. There is a nice balance of pass rushing guys and run stoppers in this group, including a couple players capable of doing everything. Regardless of your scheme if you need help at these positions you should be able to find quality options in this draft.

Non-Pass Rushing Linebackers:

-This is probably one of the thinner groups overall, but even saying that you have some quality talent at the top of this class with guys like C.J. Mosley, Ryan Shazier, Carl Bradford, Chris Borland and Christian Jones. These guys are very scheme diverse allowing them to play inside or outside depending on the scheme and all have the potential to be early quality starters at the next level.

Cornerbacks:

-This may be the 2nd deepest position in this draft with 4-5 first round talents and 15-20 guys worthy for top 100 pick consideration. Even beyond that initial group of 20 prospects you have a number of really intriguing guys later in the draft, win nice size and speed, but just unrefined overall. Now a couple of the guys could end up being converted to safety, which thins out these rankings some, but bolsters the safety rankings. Either way there is a lot of interesting talent in this class that could make an early impact in the NFL.

Safeties:

-As mentioned above the depth of this class is somewhat dependent on if some corners are viewed more as safeties by some teams, but even without some of those possible conversion guys, this is a good group. There isn't great depth in the safety group, but you have two top 25 talents in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor and two other safeties Jimmie Ward and Deone Bucannon considered worthy of top 50 selections. Having potentially four top 50 safeties is as good as most of the top classes. The issue is that beyond the top four guys, only Terrance Brooks (who should go in the top 75) is really the only other guy considered a potential early starter. There are some intriguing later round guys who could possibly develop, but they aren't guys you can count on. Even without any corners, having 5 safeties in potentially the top 75 picks is very good and enough to consider this a strong group at the top.

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, Scouting 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.

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.