Here are some notes I have on players I watched in recent bowl games:
-Justin Burke, QB, Louisville- He showed solid ability in the bowl game against Southern Mississippi. He has solid size, arm strength and accuracy. Plus he has some mobility to extend plays and occasionally pick up yards with his legs. He started a little slow but he seemed to improve as the game went on, especially with his ball placement. He won’t be drafted early, but as a late round pick he warrants consideration because he could make a team as a developmental #3.
-Byron Stingily, OT, Louisville- Stingily is a guy that I had not heard of all season long but he was pointed out to me by a friend of mine. (check out his site: http://www.falcfans.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=3 ) He is a senior who looked good to me in this game. He has good size and athleticism for an offensive tackle, and he mirrored pass rushers well in this game which was good to see. He seems to have at least adequate lateral agility to play LT in the NFL, but I am not sure how well he sustains blocks and I think he needs to be coached up from a technique standpoint. But he could end up being a mid-round pick because if you have the athletic ability to play LT in the NFL teams will draft you and attempt to develop your technique until you are ready to be a starter. I think Stingily has that potential, so he could go much earlier than many people could imagine this year.
-Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville- Patrick had a good game against Southern Miss. He had pretty good coverage in man and in zone plus he forced a fumble. He looks like he will be able to be a mid-round selection at corner but I am not completely sold on him as a man-coverage corner, though I think he could be a pretty good zone coverage corner right now.
-Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville- Powell is an impressive power back. He has good size, he runs hard and has pretty good burst for a guy his size. He also seems to run with good pad level. He is probably a 3rd or 4th round pick right now, but if he’s drafted into the right system he can be a contributor as a rookie. Especially in short yardage situations. He could eventually develop into a quality starter.
-Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse- Carter had a huge game against Kansas State thanks to two long touchdown runs, but even aside from those he was effective. He is a smaller back at only 5’9″ or so but he is well built and has great leg drive which helps him run through arm tackles and gain yards after contact. He also showed what will likely turn out to be low 4.4 speed when he ripped off those huge touchdown runs which was great to see. He has had some academic issues in the past as well as a minor off-field incident that (I believe) was a one punch fight. However, he will be at the East-West Shrine Game showcasing his talents so he has the potential to get drafted as high as the 4th round in my opinion. If he interviews well his game should speak for itself, even though I don’t think his hands are very good and I don’t think he has much experience as a pass protector because he usually isn’t on the field for 3rd downs. Oh, and I don’t think he fumbled at all this season despite over 200+ rushing attempts. That is impressive ball security.
-Marcus Sales, WR, Syracuse- It was hard not to notice him since he had three touchdowns against Kansas State. He had 5 catches, 172 yards and three scores in the bowl game, but he is only a junior and he should be back for his senior season since coming into the game he only had 21 catches, 242 yards and 1 touchdown in 11 games this year (he didn’t play in the first two games of the season, I don’t know whether it was for injury, a miscellaneous reason or if he wasn’t high enough on the depth chart). He ended on a very, very high note though and he showed some deep speed, though I’m not sure how much faster than a 4.5 he would run. He is listed at 6’0″, 177 pounds but he looked bigger than 177 to me on TV. He didn’t look like he was running very crisp routes, but the field was terrible so you could tell he was not exploding in and out of his breaks because he and the rest of the players on the field could barely stand up some places on the field. Regardless, when a guy breaks out like this you have to keep an eye on him, so I will monitor how he does next year to see how he looks and if he has NFL talent.
-Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State- I have never been a huge fan of Thomas and he didn’t look extremely good in this game. He broke a 51 yard run that I did not see, but after that he only managed 39 more yards on 21 carries, which isn’t even a two yard average. That isn’t his fault though because Syracuse was playing very downhill and they were determined to not let Thomas beat them even though he finished with 90 yards and 3 touchdowns on 22 carries. In my opinion he can be a quality power back in the NFL, but I haven’t watched him enough to see how often he runs with good pad level. However I think he has good vision, he does a good job of getting North/South and not dancing around in the backfield (something he struggled to do against Syracuse because of penetration into the backfield), he has surprising agility for a guy his size to make guys miss in the open field as well. At 6’2″, 228 pounds he is a load to bring down, but I don’t think he will run any faster than a 4.5 or a 4.55 at the combine. That doesn’t mean he can’t be productive though. I just need to see more of him to evaluate his pad level and his leg drive and ability to generate yards after contact. Usually when I have seen him he has been bottled up (against Syracuse) or he has been running through gaping holes (against Iowa State and UCLA) so I haven’t been able to judge his leg drive appropriately yet. He has ability though. I just don’t know if he will end up in the 2nd round as some believe. I think he will end up in the 3rd round after all is said and done. He also seems to have solid hands, but I haven’t evaluated him as a receiver or as a pass blocker yet.
-Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina- I love Burney. I’m a UNC fan and I have had the privilege of watching Burney for the last few years and I have always been a fan. He is definitely a smaller corner as he is only listed at 5’9″, 190 pounds but I think he is probably 5’8″, 180 or 185 in reality. I think he will run under a 4.5 also, which should help his cause. However if you can look past his small size and appreciate his game you will be impressed. I think he could be an ideal zone coverage corner because of his great ball skills, his experience in zone coverage and his great burst to close which is critical for cornerbacks in general, but especially for corners in zone coverage. He was one of the players suspended for part of the season (I believe it was six or seven games, I think seven) but he gave us a boost as soon as we got him back. I really hope he gets an invite to the East-West Shrine Game so he can show scouts what he can do. I really think he could be a great zone coverage corner. I think going in the 4th round is entirely realistic for him despite his size. In the right scheme though… he could definitely be a quality starter. I am not sure how he would do in a man coverage scheme though because he would be consistently mismatched with taller receivers and I don’t think it would play to his strengths like a zone system would.
-T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina- I am not a big Yates fan but he certainly did have a good senior season and I appreciate him helping send this senior class out with a win in the bowl game, even if it was controversial. I have been critical of Yates in the past because he is almost afraid to challenge downfield at times. I don’t mean over the top of the coverage, I mean the intermediate portion of the field. He is especially bad at throwing to the first down markers on 3rd down (not that there isn’t anything wrong with checking down, but he goes to his check down too quickly too often in my opinion) and in many games in his first three seasons he was borderline worthless late in the half or late in the 4th quarter. He would get the ball back with enough time to move the ball and just take underneath completions in the middle of the field that would waste clock and gain little yardage which is the exact opposite of what you want with little time left to operate. It looked like that would happen again before the end of the first half but then he scrambled outside of the pocket and found Erik Highsmith deep for a touchdown down the sideline on what was probably a busted play. Regardless, I didn’t think he had it in him, so I was impressed. Yates didn’t impress me much in this game, but he definitely has the arm, intelligence and experience in a pro-style offense to warrant a late round selection to be a #3 on some team. I don’t think he will ever be a starter, but he should have a long career as a back-up because, for better or worse, he just won’t challenge downfield and make mistakes. His arm is solid, his accuracy is solid, his decision making has improved, he has 46 career starts, he has some mobility and he seems to be a pretty smart guy. I think he will stick with someone as a late round pick.
-Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee- Bray is seemingly the anti-Yates in that he will take risks and sling it even if it might not be the best decision. That probably has more to do with him being a freshman that was only starting his 5th game of the season, but it was something I noticed. He threw a few interceptions in this game but regularly he came through with a clutch throw when Tennessee needed it. He definitely has a good arm and a lot of ability, so I came away impressed. Hell, coming in as a freshman with no starting experience and leading a 2-6 team to a 4-0 finish to get into a bowl game is impressive enough, and he almost had a fifth consecutive win before the controversy ensued in this game. In the first OT he showed his true potential throwing a strike to Luke Stocker who made a terrific catch on a ball thrown just within his reach in the end zone to tie the game and send the game into double OT. Then in the second overtime he threw a bad interception to Quan Sturdivant which led to North Carolina kicking the game winning field goal. Bray has a bright future ahead of him though, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how he progresses next year.
-Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee- Another freshman here but this kid is going to be a good one you can just tell. He is listed at 6’4″, 183 pounds and he looks extremely skinny so he definitely has weight to add to his frame, but this kid can jump out of the gym. There was a pass in this game that I thought was overthrown downfield along the sideline and I thought it would sail over his head. He gathered and jumped and snagged the ball out of the air with a defender right behind him and his foot came down out of bounds, otherwise it would have been an incredible catch. But he demonstrated great ability to catch the ball away from his body, high point the ball in the air and obviously he showed that he can jump. Being 6’4″ and being able to jump is an asset in itself, but he has very long arms too which is going to make him a match-up nightmare as he develops, especially in the red zone. In fact, he already might be a match-up nightmare. He had only 16 catches this season but he had 415 yards and an unbelievable seven, yes, seven touchdowns as a true freshman. He caught five of his seven touchdowns after Bray took over as well, so look for him to step up big to fill the shoes of the departing senior starters at wide receiver in Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore. I’m telling you guys, this kid could be really, really good. Especially if he has a quality QB in Bray throwing to him. Watch out for him next year, he put up two 100 yard games as a freshman. Expect more of that next year.
-Janzen Jackson, FS, Tennessee- Jackson is going to be an insane safety prospect next year. The INT he made on a deep ball to the end zone (to Erik Highsmith) was a fantastic play on the ball. He has terrific ball skills. He isn’t very big but he’s fast, has great range, locates the ball really well in the air and he is just a playmaker. I really like him as a FS prospect. Between Berry and Jackson Tennessee has had a ton of talent at safety recently. He did have some off-field issues as a freshman though so that will have to be looked into. He isn’t afraid to make a big hit either, even though he did have a helmet to helmet hit that helped set up North Carolina’s controversial field goal attempt to force overtime. But his combination of speed, range, ball skills and willingness to hit make him a very intriguing safety prospect even in spite of his potential off-field concerns.
-Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee- I haven’t scouted Stocker yet but I got a chance to watch him some in this game and I have to say I came away impressed. I had heard that he doesn’t have very good hands but that was not the impression I got. He had five catches, 58 yards and a touchdown. Did I mention that his touchdown occurred in overtime on a throw that was admittedly high from Bray, but Stocker jumped and extended fully in the air and made a terrific catch away from his body and came down in-bounds for the tying touchdown to force double overtime. It was a terrific catch, and though I haven’t had enough time to evaluate his hands on routine catches I don’t think I saw him drop a pass in this game and he seemed fine catching the other four balls he caught in the game. He also has a reputation as a good blocker but I have yet to evaluate him on that part of his game, though he didn’t do anything to make me doubt his ability as a blocker when I saw him against North Carolina. I definitely think Stocker has potential, and since my Falcons may be in the market for a TE this year Stocker is definitely on my radar.
I think that is enough for this round of player notes. What better way to ring in the new year than going over your notes from watching live bowl games to get a feel for current and future NFL Draft prospects? I can’t think of one. Happy New Year everyone and thank you for visiting my blog today and any other times you have checked in. I really do appreciate it. This blog officially had 5,243 views in December which just blows my mind. Before the beginning of the month I had about 7,400 views and now I am almost at 13,000 (currently 12,739). Thank you for all the support because if you all weren’t reading this I wouldn’t be as motivated to post this stuff. I would definitely still be taking notes and scouting, but it feels good to be appreciated. So thank you again! Let’s hope 2011 picks up where 2010 left off.