Tag Archive: Boston College


East-West Shrine Game Recap

Quarterbacks:

1-      Nathan Stanley, Southeastern Louisiana- Stanley still has room to improve as his accuracy and timing seemed to be a bit off at times, but he has the size and arm strength that makes him an intriguing developmental Day 3 guy in my opinion. He has a ways to go from working under center and making reads, etc. However, he’s got talent worth stashing as a 3rd quarterback late in the draft in my opinion.

2-      Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech- Cameron has never been my favorite prospect, but he showed me a little more velocity than I thought he had this week and I think he has some potential to be developed into a solid back-up.

3-      Matt Scott, Arizona- Scott certainly had his struggles this week, but he spins a clean ball and has the 2nd best velocity of all the quarterbacks in St. Petersburg and has the kind of athleticism that teams will be looking into at quarterback given the emergence of the zone read in the NFL. He’s very much a developmental prospect that is better out of the shotgun than under center at this point, but I think he warrants consideration on Day 3.

4-      Alex Carder, Western Michigan- I have never been a big fan of Carder and I don’t think he’s going to be a NFL starter, but he grades out as a 7th round/UDFA quarterback from what I’ve seen of him. I don’t think he spins a very clean ball and doesn’t have much beyond average arm strength and velocity, so I don’t think he has much upside at the next level.

5-      Seth Doege, Texas Tech- Doege’s lack of arm strength was on display this week and while he has made a career out of overcoming adversity I don’t think he is going to be a NFL starter. He will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Graham Harrell and be developed as a potential back-up in the NFL.

6-      Collin Klein, Kansas State- Klein struggled with velocity and accuracy every day that he was here and I think that there were so many questioning whether he could play quarterback at the next level coming into the week that it’s even more difficult to make that argument now. I actually expected him to be bigger considering the beating he took the past two years running the ball so much but he only weighed in at 218 pounds despite being over 6’4”. He looked best to me when he was running the ball, and maybe someone will still take a flyer on him late on Day 3 to try to develop him or maybe sign him as an undrafted free agent, but it’s hard to imagine him being a NFL quarterback after watching him this week.

Running Backs:

1-      Christine Michael, Texas A&M- There’s not a strong argument to be made that Michael isn’t the running back with the highest upside here in St. Petersburg. According to @DashDiallo1 (Follow him) he is high on the reserve list for the Senior Bowl and he has had a great week. Brandon pointed out something I had not noticed before- Michael seemed to be looking at the ball as he was taking hand-offs and pitches instead of keeping his eyes up and reading his blocks. I hadn’t noticed this, but that’s definitely something that he has to work on. He has all the size and athleticism to be a quality NFL running back, and if he can clean up his eye level when taking hand-offs or tosses he will be ready to make an immediate impact. It is certainly concerning, but it should be coachable.

2-      Ray Graham, Pittsburgh- Graham should be ready to contribute right away as he has the burst and athleticism you want as well as reliable hands. He’s had a good week and was the strongest back on the East roster.

3-      Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt- There are some that are high on Stacy and some that aren’t, but I’m a fan. He’s not a flashy back, but he does a lot of things well and I think if he lands with the right team he could be a solid contributor as a rookie. He’s not as explosive as Michael or Graham but his game translates to the next level.

4-      Kerwynn Williams, Utah State- Williams looked good this week as well and despite being an undersized back he has some burst and explosiveness. I don’t think he is a sub 4.5 guy in the 40 and there were some times I saw him get strung out when he tried to get the edge this week. I’m not sure he can be a NFL starter, but I think he has the potential to be a complementary back.

5-      Zach Line, SMU- Line caught my eye last year when I was watching SMU and I think he is going to make a NFL roster as a running back/fullback hybrid. Pure full-backs aren’t very typical anymore and that makes Line’s skill set valuable. I haven’t seen him block often, but he runs the ball effectively despite a lack of great speed and he has caught the ball well when I’ve seen him this week.

6-      Montel Harris, Temple- Harris has so many red flags thanks to his injury history and off-field issues that even with a great performance this week I would have hesitated to give him a draftable grade. He’s an undrafted free agent to me not only because of those things, but because of the wear and tear he’s had as a ball carrier. If you invite him into a camp and he impresses that’s one thing, but this running back class is way too deep to pick him in my opinion.

Wide Receivers:

1-      Corey Fuller, Virginia Tech- Coming into this week I thought Fuller was a sleeper and while he may not have had a perfect week I think he showed that he is a smooth runner with room to grow as a route runner, impressive straight line speed and reliable hands. There were plenty of people looking forward to seeing what Marcus Davis could do, but more and more I think evaluators are realizing that Fuller was the more talented Virginia Tech receiver on this roster. This was his break-out campaign and he has plenty to work on, but he is a great day three sleeper at receiver that has a lot of upside.

2-      Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State- Bumphis isn’t going to burn you vertically and I think he’s probably in the 4.5-4.54 range in the 40 yard dash, but what he can do is out-quick you. He is so good in and out of his breaks, he showed that he can run good routes, and he generated separation when he was allowed to work in the slot. He’s not going to run by a lot of players vertically, but he can make plays in the slot and gain yardage after the catch.

3-      Erik Highsmith, North Carolina- The only disappointing thing about Highsmith’s week was the weigh in, where he apparently measured at 6004 (6’.5”) instead of his listed height of 6’3”. He also measured in at 190 pounds with 8 inch hands, the smallest on the entire East roster. However, while he may not be a blazing fast kid he runs solid routes, knows how to use his hands to keep defenders off of him and he has good hands. In a very deep class at receiver Highsmith is going to be overlooked by a lot more flashy receivers, but even if it’s in the 6th-7th range or as an undrafted free agent I would be surprised if he doesn’t make a roster.

4-      Keenan Davis, Iowa- Davis had a good week this week and while I don’t think he’s a great threat on the outside I like him as a slot receiver threat. He measured in at a legit 6’2”, 216 pounds with huge 10 3/8” hands and while he doesn’t exactly eat up cushion he showed reliable hands all week. I liked what I saw from him this week and in the game.

5-      Emory Blake, Auburn- Blake didn’t stick out to me too much in a positive or negative way this week, but when I saw him I didn’t see drops and he may not be a guy with blazing speed but he can stretch the field vertically and track the ball in the air. He’s going to be a day three guy as well thanks to this very deep class, but he has a NFL skill set.

6-      Anthony Amos, Middle Tennessee State- Amos isn’t going to blow the doors off the combine by any means (4.5-4.54 guy in my opinion) but he has some quickness to him, he can create a little separation when he’s running routes (though he can improve here) and he showed impressive hands to snag passes outside of his frame. He’s another late round kid, but he can be a reliable possession guy for you at the next level, particularly in the slot.

Tight Ends:

1-      DC Jefferson, Rutgers- Jefferson had an impressive week and it was really evident that he was not properly utilized at Rutgers in part because of poor quarterback play. He’s got all the size and athleticism you could want at tight end and he showed the ability to high point throws and make catches with his hands outside of his frame. He’s got a lot of untapped upside and could be a nice value in the 3-4 round range given his talent level.

2-      Joseph Fauria, UCLA- Fauria was a player I was looking forward to evaluating this week, especially as a blocker, but he got injured early in the week and wasn’t able to come back in time for the game. He’s got plenty of upside thanks to his size and athleticism so it was a shame we didn’t get to see him compete all week.

3-      Lucas Reed, New Mexico- Reed was a player I was not familiar with at all but despite lacking blazing speed he has reliable hands along with a NFL body that should make him a relatively appealing day 3 target in a deep tight end class.

4-      Chris Pantale, Boston College- Pantale isn’t a flashy prospect but I thought he had a solid week. I don’t think he’s going to be a top 100 prospect by any means, but he should get a look later on day three.

Offensive Line:

1-      Terron Armstead, OT/OG, Arkansas-Pine Bluff- I don’t think anyone had a better week than Armstead did. He wasn’t perfect, but he showed that he can play offensive tackle from an athletic standpoint. He showed better technique than I anticipated as well and even though he opened up his hips early at times and got beat inside he was too much for any defensive end to handle in the game. The only defensive ends I saw beat him rushing the passer this week were David Bass and Devin Taylor, and we saw what happened to Tanner Hawkinson when he was tasked with blocking Taylor in the game.

2-      Mark Jackson, OT/OG, Glenville State- Jackson has the size and length you look for in an offensive lineman at over 6’5” with 33.5” arms. He didn’t look great outside at tackle because I don’t think he has the foot quickness for it, but if he loses a little weight (he weighed in at 341 pounds, I think he would be better off in the 325-330 range, so that’s something to monitor at the combine or his pro-day) I think he would be fine at guard. He is strong and while he doesn’t look like a natural puller he can generate push off the ball and he’s hard to shed after he engages you. He’s a quality day 3 option at guard.

3-      Manase Foketi, OT/OG, West Texas A&M- Foketi was a huge let down this week since we never even got to see him practice. I saw him standing watching drills on Monday and wondered if he was going to get in on practice the next day but he didn’t practice on Tuesday either and by the end of the week he wasn’t even in St. Petersburg anymore. I haven’t found out why he never competed but I am interested to hear what the reason was.

4-      T.J. Johnson, C, South Carolina- Johnson got some time at center and at guard this week and while he isn’t a great athlete he has all the size and length you could want at center as he measured in at over 6’4”, 323 pounds with 33 inch arms. He has shown that he can anchor against strong defensive tackles 1 on 1 and he looked good snapping the ball this week. He was the best center in St. Petersburg all week and he definitely warrants a pick on Day 3.

5-      Earl Watford, OG, James Madison- Watford didn’t play in the game unfortunately (I heard it was something with his knee) but he showed that he is athletic enough to play guard at the next level even if he still needs to get stronger and continue to improve on his technique. If he can add some lower body strength to help him anchor and drive he should stick on a roster.

6-      Jeff Baca, OG, UCLA- Baca is a late round guy but I think he has solid anchor and did a pretty good job in pass protection this week. He doesn’t have a lot of starter upside at the next level, but he did enough this week to earn a late round draftable grade from me.

Defensive Line:

1-      David Bass, DE, Missouri Western State- Bass was extremely impressive to me this week. I came in with high hopes for him and he certainly lived up to them. He has NFL size, athleticism and he did a good job versus the run and the pass all week. I have to go back and watch more of him, but I think he has helped elevate himself into potential top 100 consideration.

2-      Mike Catapano, DE, Princeton- Catapano isn’t an elite athlete but he has a great motor, he’s strong, has active hands and is hard to push off the ball. He is the kind of kid who is going to get the most out of all his ability and his 6’3”, 270 pound frame with just under 34 inch arms. He’s an impressive kid and he’s going to be a contributor to a defensive line rotation as a rookie.

3-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina- Taylor is a guy who has as much upside as anyone in St. Petersburg but when I’ve watched him he just hasn’t lived up to his immense upside given his athleticism and his 6’7”, 275 pound frame. He had an up and down week in my opinion, but he had a great game going up against Tanner Hawkinson all night. Hawkinson doesn’t have good enough feet to stick at tackle and he doesn’t have the strength to play guard so Taylor beat him using his speed and his strength consistently all night. Taylor won’t have it so easy with NFL caliber tackles at the next level though, and despite his intriguing upside I still am not sold on him being an impact pass rusher at the next level.

4-      William Campbell, DT, Michigan- Campbell had a good week going against a poor cast of interior offensive linemen on the West roster but he has NFL size and athleticism. He never lived up to my expectations at Michigan but while he is still raw he certainly has upside. I think he’s a day 3 caliber draft pick with some upside as a nose tackle in a 4-3.

5-      Scott Vallone, DT/DE, Rutgers- Vallone didn’t have an amazing week but he has shown the ability to be disruptive and make plays versus the run. He’s never been much of a pass rusher, but I think he has some value as an undersized defensive tackle.

6-      Will Pericak, DT, Colorado- Pericak isn’t a flashy player but I think he has a place on a NFL roster. He’s got the size, length and strength to stick in a defensive line rotation. His motor and effort level impressed me this week.

Linebackers:

1-      Keith Pough, Howard- Pough had a fantastic week of practice. I think the thing that impressed me the most was the vocal leadership he was able to show and he was one of the only players that was able to energize the West practices at all. I definitely need to watch more of him but he really stuck out to me this week.

2-      DeVonte Holloman, South Carolina- I didn’t see as much of Holloman as I wanted to this week but he showed me enough to make me want to go back and watch more South Carolina to see him in action. He is likely a day 3 pick, but I think he has NFL talent.

3-      Sio Moore, Connecticut- Moore doesn’t strike me as a great fit in a 4-3 as an outside linebacker but I haven’t seen him in coverage a lot. Still, I think he is at his best when he is rushing the passer and when he was given the opportunity to that (even with his hand down) he was effective. I don’t think he fits the mold as a 3-4 OLB either though, so he might be a two down linebacker in a 4-3 who can put his hand down and rush the passer on obvious 3rd downs. He has upside, but he’s not a fit for every team in my opinion.

4-      Gerald Hodges, Penn State- Hodges packs some punch as a hitter but he didn’t stick out to me frequently this week when I was watching practice. When I did see him he seemed to flow to the ball well but I didn’t see him shed blocks effectively at the point of attack. That’s something I’ll certainly have to investigate more when I watch Penn State.

5-      A.J. Klein, Iowa State- Klein is a tackling machine that impressed me when I watched Iowa State, but he didn’t stick out to me much this week. He’s not a great athlete so he is going to have to compensate for that with good or great instincts, but I didn’t get a good enough look at him to evaluate that this week.

6-      Steve Greer, Virginia- Like a couple other linebackers in St. Petersburg he isn’t a great athlete but he showed a nose for the ball when I saw him this week and I already knew he was a good tackler. He’s going to have to play special teams to ensure a roster spot but I think he’s got value as a back-up linebacker.

Cornerbacks:

1-      Brandon McGee, Miami- McGee had an up and down season when I saw him play this year but he had a very good week. He showed fluid hips, good feet and impressive ball skills this week and he is going to run a very impressive 40 yard dash time at the combine. He’s got a lot of upside so keep an eye on him.

2-      Nigel Malone, Kansas State- Malone has been a guy I’ve liked all season since I previewed Kansas State before the season and he continues to live up to my expectations. He’s not the biggest or the fastest, but especially in a zone scheme he could be a very reliable corner. He’s got smooth hips, good feet and impressive ball skills. He evidenced those in the game as he got a pick 6 (even though it was thrown right to him). He might not end up in the top 100, but I’ll take him any time on Day 3.

3-      Terry Hawthorne, Illinois- Hawthorne has plenty of upside but he didn’t seem to close on passes in front of him very well this week, didn’t show me very smooth transitions and while he has good ball skills I wonder how good of a starting corner he can be. He had a nice interception when he was dropped into zone in this game (looked like Cover-3 but it was hard to see from the press box which was on the opposite side of the field from his interception) and he has talent, I just don’t know if I’d pick him day 2.

4-      Branden Smith, Georgia- Smith is an undersized corner who isn’t a great tackler but he is a good athlete with quality ball skills. He did badly misplay a pass thrown by Matt Scott to Chad Bumphis in the game that led to a long touchdown reception for Bumphis, but he usually plays the ball well. He doesn’t have the size or length to be an impact player and he weighed in at under 170 pounds but he has enough talent to warrant consideration on day 3.

5-      Sheldon Price, UCLA- Price had a solid season this year at UCLA and while I still have some questions about his game he definitely has the speed to play corner and he looked pretty good when flipping his hips in coverage this week. He has sub 4.5 speed which allows him to recover when beaten initially as well which helped him in 1 on 1’s this week.

6-      Josh Johnson, Purdue- Johnson has shown the versatility to contribute as a return man on special teams and to be a solid corner. He’s undersized but he showed me some ball skills this week and I think he warrants mid-late consideration on day 3.

Safeties:

1-      Cooper Taylor, Richmond- Taylor was a player I hadn’t seen at all coming in and I was anticipating him being a stiff, oversized safety that wasn’t good in coverage. I am happy to admit I was completely wrong and that Taylor showed good hips, impressive range and a good feel for the safety position. He’s got a great combination of size and athleticism and I think he warrants top 100 consideration based on what I saw from him this week.

2-      Duke Williams, Nevada- I’ve had my eye on Duke for a couple years now since he was a junior. He can really hit and while I have some questions about him in coverage I think he is a quality option at safety on Day 3.

3-      Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse- Thomas has good range and while he is undersized he seems to support the run pretty well despite the occasional missed tackle. At times he bites too hard on the run though and as the last line of defense that is a problem. He will get knocked for his lack of size, but if he can work on being less aggressive I think he could have a future as a starter.

4-      Earl Wolfe, NC State- Wolfe was a player I had a high opinion of coming into the week but he showed some ability in coverage as well as some ball skills. He’s a little undersized at 5’11”, 206 pounds but I think he will get drafted on day 3.

5-      Zeke Motta, Notre Dame- Motta carried a late day 3/undrafted free agent grade for me coming into the week but he showed more range and fluidity in coverage than I expected. I’m still not sold on him beyond a day 3 prospect, but he’s got more upside than I originally thought.

6-      Rashard Hall, Clemson- Hall didn’t impress me a lot when I watched tape of him but he has some ball skills and despite some missed tackles he looked solid against the run. He’s not my favorite safety prospect, but I think he has draftable talent.

Conference Predictions:

SEC:

West:

1-      LSU

2-      Alabama

3-      Arkansas

4-      Mississippi State

5-      Auburn

6-      Texas A&M

7-      Ole Miss

East:

1-      South Carolina

2-      Georgia

3-      Tennessee

4-      Florida

5-      Vanderbilt

6-      Missouri

7-      Kentucky

SEC Title Game: LSU and South Carolina: LSU is SEC Champion

Analysis: The SEC is loaded as usual, particularly the West. LSU loses Tyrann Mathieu which is unfortunate for every college football fan, but if Zach Mettenberger can establish a consistent passing game then the LSU offense is going to absolutely take off. Alabama is extremely talented as usual, but they are replacing so much on defense and at their skill positions on offense that there’s no way that they replicate their 2011 season. They are my early 2013 favorites however. Arkansas lost Bobby Petrino and their top three receivers, but unless their defense improves they won’t bump LSU or Alabama out of the top of the West. I went back and forth on South Carolina and Georgia a lot because both teams don’t have a great track record of delivering when the pressure is on. South Carolina’s defense could end up better than Georgia’s though, and even though I like Aaron Murray I have some questions about Georgia’s offense. Tennesse has talent and should be solid, but Florida’s ridiculous handling of their quarterback competition means I can’t project them any higher than 4th in the East. Vanderbilt is a bit of a dark horse with a strong core on offense and a bright coach in James Franklin, but just getting to a bowl game would be a successful season for them.

Big 10:

Legends:

1-      Michigan

2-      Michigan State

3-      Nebraska

4-      Iowa

5-      Northwestern

6-      Minnesota

Leaders:

1-      Wisconsin

2-      Ohio State

3-      Illinois

4-      Purdue

5-      Penn State

6-      Indiana

Big-10 Title Game: Wisconsin and Michigan: Wisconsin is Big-10 Champion

Analysis: If Wisconsin doesn’t come out of the Leaders division to compete for the Big-10 title again this year then Bret Bielema should just quit, because outside of Illinois there is no eligible team that has a slightly realistic chance of keeping them out of the title game. Michigan and Michigan State will be a terrific battle down to the end of the season in my opinion, and ultimately it will come down to how well Denard Robinson can deliver the ball and avoid turnovers in big games in my opinion. If he carries the Wolverine offense on his back he could be a finalist for the Heisman as well. Nebraska has some talent, but they will never be a legitimate Big-10 title contender until they get a real quarterback to replace Taylor Martinez, who is one of the worst passing quarterbacks of all the teams that don’t run an option offense.

ACC:

Atlantic:

1-      Florida State

2-      Clemson

3-      NC State

4-      Wake Forest

5-      Boston College

6-      Maryland

Coastal:

1-      Virginia Tech

2-      Georgia Tech

3-      North Carolina

4-      Miami

5-      Virginia

6-      Duke

ACC Title Game: Virginia Tech and Florida State: Virginia Tech is ACC Champion.

Analysis: Florida State is incredibly loaded, particularly on defense. Their defensive line is the best in football in my opinion, even better than LSU’s, and they return enough talent on offense to be a dark horse contender for the National Championship game. I don’t think they’ll make it because I’m not a big believer in EJ Manuel, but if he can improve enough to put up points this team could end up in the top 5 by season’s end. And yet, I have a gut feeling that this is Virginia Tech’s year and I think they will go toe to toe with Florida State in the ACC Championship game and win. I trust Logan Thomas more than Manuel in critical situations even if he is younger with less experience, and Virginia Tech returns plenty of talent on defense as well. Clemson will be nipping at Florida State’s heels as well but I don’t think Clemson’s offensive line has enough talent and experience to keep Florida State’s relentlessly deep and talented front four from terrorizing Boyd when he drops back to pass.

Big 12:

1-      West Virginia

2-      Kansas State

3-      Oklahoma

4-      Texas

5-      TCU

6-      Oklahoma State

7-      Texas Tech

8-      Baylor

9-      Kansas

10-   Iowa State

West Virginia is Big-12 Champion.

Analysis: I’m sure plenty of people will be surprised that I have West Virginia and Kansas State ranked ahead of Oklahoma and Texas, but I have plenty of faith in West Virginia’s offense to pass their way to the top of the Big-12 and if their defense improves at all they could very well win this conference. Kansas State shocked everyone last year by not only being good but by being good enough to get to the Cotton Bowl. And yet, everyone is writing them off again this year even though they return plenty of talent across their roster, and even their losses on defense aren’t irreplaceable. Collin Klein is the Tim Tebow of the Big-12 and he will keep Kansas State competitive even if it isn’t always pretty, and those writing KSU off will look foolish again this year. Oklahoma continues to be ranked in the top 5 year after year regardless of how many times they fail to live up to their talent level. Landry Jones plays a big role in that, and there aren’t many quarterbacks I wouldn’t want leading my team more than Jones. He’s not reliable under pressure, he panics in big time situations and collapsed when his best receiver Ryan Broyles went down last season. Oklahoma has plenty of talent on defense, but that has never stopped them from failing to live up to expectations, and even though Mike Stoops is back in the fold I don’t think it will be enough to win the Big-12 or a National Championship. Texas seemed to be on the right track naming a starting quarterback, but now the competition is back on and when you have two quarterbacks you really have none. So as good as that defense is it won’t matter if they don’t have any continuity at quarterback.

Pac-12:

North:

1-      Oregon

2-      Washington

3-      Stanford

4-      California

5-      Oregon State

6-      Washington State

South:

1-      Southern Cal

2-      Utah

3-      UCLA

4-      Arizona State

5-      Arizona

6-      Colorado

Pac-12 Title Game: USC and Oregon: USC is Pac-12 Champion.

Analysis: The Pac-12 is honestly one of the worst conferences top to bottom in the country, I was shocked by how little overall depth both divisions had. The North has three, maybe four bowl game caliber teams and the South has TWO. Look at that 3-6 list, only UCLA has an chance at a bowl game out of those four teams, and ASU, Arizona and Colorado should be awful this season. Oregon and USC both have a pretty easy road to the Pac-12 title game if you ask me, though Washington and Stanford won’t be pushovers even in spite of all the talent they lost.

Big East:

1-      Cincinnati

2-      Louisville

3-      South Florida

4-      Pittsburgh

5-      Rutgers

6-      Syracuse

7-      Connecticut

8-      Temple

Cincinnati is Big East Champion.

Analysis: The Big East is probably the worst big time conference in college football and they are clinging on for dear life and relevance right now. Cincinnati is the best by default this year now that West Virginia bolted for the Big-12, and after Louisville there isn’t a lot to write home about in the Big East. There’s the potential for some bowl eligible teams, but there isn’t a legit title contender in this whole conference and whoever the winner is will likely play a better conference champion in a BCS bowl game and get the tar beat out of them like Connecticut did two years ago at the hands of Oklahoma.

 

Thanks for reading, and happy college football season to each and every one of you!

–Tom

My First Mock Draft of the Year

1. Indianapolis- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford:
Analysis: It’s clear to everyone just how valuable Peyton Manning was to the Colts now. He’s practically an MVP candidate and he hasn’t even played a game. The Colts have since fired their defensive coordinator and while it’s arguable the Colts could use defensive upgrades there is no one in the draft that warrants a selection of Andrew Luck. Some people think that the Colts can’t have Luck and Manning on the same roster, but I disagree. Luck may be NFL ready, but you can’t convince me that he would be better off playing as a rookie instead of sitting for a year and learning from Manning. Learning from a MVP and a Super Bowl champion your first year on the job will only make you better.
2. Minnesota- Matt Kalil, OT, Southern Cal:
Analysis: The Vikings made a bold and, in my opinion, a great move releasing Bryant McKinnie. Leslie Frazier put his foot down by making it clear that even a quality LT will get cut if he shows up out of shape and isn’t ready to contribute to the team. However, that didn’t work out that well for the Vikings this year as Charlie Johnson has not been a worthwhile replacement in any sense of the word. He’s been consistently beaten as he’s tried to protect McNabb’s and Ponder’s blind side this year. LT is as big a need as any of the Vikings many needs, and it would be very easy to fix should Kalil declare for the draft this year. He’s the best left tackle in the country, and don’t forget that he was talented enough to keep an eventual top 10 pick in Tyron Smith at right tackle as a junior for the Trojans. Kalil has the potential to start at left tackle from day one, and that makes him very appealing to a team like the Vikings.
3. St. Louis- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State:
Analysis: The Rams have been assembling some pieces on offense in recent years. I’m not sold on Sam Bradford yet, but he is clearly the quarterback of the future for the Rams. With Steven Jackson continuing to play well, Lance Kendricks coming on board in the 2nd round last year, and by acquiring Brandon Lloyd at the trade deadline the Rams have made surrounding Bradford with some weapons a priority. Lloyd is a quality target, but getting him a true #1 target with plenty of upside is something they still need to do. That is where Blackmon comes in. Blackmon is my #1 WR in this draft class, he has very good hands (though he does have concentration lapses at times resulting in drops), fantastic body control and he is very hard to tackle once he has the ball in his hands. He’s the top receiver in this class, and the Rams must only evaluate his character to determine whether he will continue to improve and if he will stay out of trouble once he gets his first NFL paycheck.
4. Jacksonville- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU:
Analysis: The Jaguars have had a good defense this year and they really need offensive help, but one spot they could use help at is cornerback. Looking at the players available at this point I think Claiborne warrants the pick here more than any of them. Matt Barkley might have a higher grade, but with Blaine Gabbert on the roster I don’t think they will even consider a quarterback this early. Some will disagree with that based on Gabbert’s struggles this year, but he shouldn’t have been playing yet anyways. He needed a year to learn on the bench and he didn’t get it, and as a result the Jaguars have risked stunting his development. Claiborne is ready to come in and play right away and he is easily the most impressive cornerback in the country. He has very fluid hips, he turns and runs well, he has very good speed, he’s very athletic, and he has fantastic ball skills and return ability once he has the ball in his hands. He’s a playmaker at corner with great size, long arms and good instincts. It really speaks to LSU’s talent in the secondary that they may have a first round pick from their defensive backfield three years in a row if Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu are drafted in round one in 2012 and 2013.
5. Carolina- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa:
Analysis: The Panthers could use another wide receiver here and they have serious needs on defense, particularly at defensive tackle. However, Jeff Otah has not been particularly impressive when I’ve watched him and he has had serious durability issues since being drafted by the Panthers. Jordan Gross has been a mainstay on the Panthers offensive line for years but he is 31 years old now. He won’t be around forever, and drafting an eventual replacement for him as well as a player who could replace Otah at right tackle should he continue to struggle with injuries. Reiff might not be ready to start at LT right away, but he definitely has NFL LT ability.
6. Miami- Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal:
Analysis: Miami may end up trading up from this spot to assure themselves a shot at Barkley should he actually declare. I think he will after the fantastic season he’s had, but there is a possibility that he could come back and attempt to lead USC to a BCS bowl game. However, if he does come out he is definitely NFL ready as a result of his three years of experience starting in a pro style offense at USC. He is a NFL ready quarterback that could play day one much like Luck if necessary. Ideally he wouldn’t because I believe that quarterbacks should be developed patiently, but that’s just my opinion. Miami hasn’t had a legitimate quarterback since Marino, so hopefully Barkley can break that trend. Again, don’t rule out Miami moving up on draft day if they are in a similar position as they are in this mock to go up and get the quarterback they want.
7. Washington- Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor:
Analysis: Washington could go any variety of ways here, but quarterback is one of their most pressing needs. Rex Grossman and John Beck are not long term solutions by any means, and Robert Griffin has been one of the most impressive players, not just quarterbacks, in the entire country this season. He’s very mobile and his passing has developed vastly every year that he has been at Baylor and his athleticism would be utilized brilliantly by Mike Shanahan and his offense. He’s got as much upside as any quarterback in this class thanks to his passing ability and his athleticism, he just has to be developed appropriately. It’s a tricky thing to do, but Shanahan might be the man for the job.
8. Arizona- Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford:
Analysis: The Cardinals have huge needs along the offensive line but particularly at left tackle. They haven’t been able to adequately fill that position for years, and Levi Brown has not been holding up well at all. He has been flat out abused at times this year, and they don’t have an adequate replacement on the roster right now. I personally am not sold on Jonathan Martin being a quality left tackle yet as I think he might be a more ideal fit at right tackle, but I do think he will be drafted quite high because of his potential projection to the blind side.
9. Philadelphia- Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College:
Analysis: Kuechly continues to impress everyone who watches him. It’s hard to find significant flaws in his game and he has been doing amazing things at the linebacker position for Boston College. He’s a fantastic linebacker and is easily the most NFL ready linebacker that is eligible for the draft this year. He is only a junior so while he is absolutely ready for the jump to the next level it’s not a sure thing that he will leave early. However, the Eagles should be praying that he does because he is the perfect solution for their middle linebacker position. He’s a top 10 lock in my opinion because he is going to test off the charts in interviews and while he might not be an elite athlete with freakish ability he is very arguably the best tackler in the entire country and is as fundamentally sound and reliable as any linebacker prospect in the nation. The Eagles need a player like him in the middle of their defense as bad as anyone, and getting the chance to pick him #9 overall would be a godsend for their franchise.
10. Cleveland- Quentin Coples, DE, North Carolina:
Analysis: Cleveland seems to have hit home with Jabaal Sheard thus far but they don’t have a lot of pass rush talent opposite him and while they do have talent at defensive tackle I don’t think they have a defensive tackle with legitimate pass rush talent inside. Coples projects best to DE in the NFL, and while I’m not sure if he would be at RE or LE for the Browns since I wouldn’t want to move Sheard from where he has had success, I think he projects well to DE at the next level. Ideally he would be at left end, but on top of the value he presents as a starting left end he would also be able to slide inside to defensive tackle in pass rushing situations. He is a ‘tweener to some extent, but I think that works to his advantage in this situation. He would be able to be an every down defensive end, but he has such impressive size and strength that I think he could shift inside and use his athleticism to his advantage to create pressure from the interior in obvious passing situations. That would give the Browns some scheme flexibility and boost Coples’ value even more.
11. Kansas City- Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma:
Analysis: There is significant chance that Cassel will still be the Chiefs quarterback of the future, but he will be 30 next May and there is no indication that he is going to be durable for the long haul. Cassel hasn’t proven to be a franchise quarterback to any extent and the Chiefs front office has been making concerted efforts to surround him with weapons. He has Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin at his disposal now. The effects haven’t been exactly what the Chiefs desired. Landry Jones might not be my favorite quarterback in this class, but he has quality size, arm strength and accuracy. I don’t think he’s a franchise guy and I’m not sure he will win a Super Bowl without a quality supporting cast and a great defense, but that’s just my opinion.
12. Seattle- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama:
Analysis: Richardson is a top talent, but running backs don’t always go in the top five. I would argue that he’s on a similar level as McFadden and perhaps even Adrian Peterson as a prospect, but running backs have to make a fantastic case to go in the top 5-10 picks. There isn’t an incredible amount of demand for a running back in the top five, and outside of Washington and Cleveland there isn’t a ton of demand for running backs in the top 10. Shanahan doesn’t have a track record of picking running backs early on anyways, so I don’t think he would pick Richardson at 7 in this scenario unless he thought he was a truly elite talent. That, in my opinion, would cause Richardson to slide a bit. Seattle might not need him that much given Marshawn Lynch’s re-emergence to a degree, but with all of the highly touted underclassmen quarterbacks off the board I think that Pete Carroll would go in another direction other than quarterback. Richardson would help take a ton of pressure off of Tarvaris Jackson by combining him with Lynch in the running game. This might not be the most likely pick or the best pick for need for the Seahawks, but I do think Carroll is a man who could appreciate the immense value of this selection.
13. San Diego- Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia:
Analysis: San Diego has been searching for an upgrade at outside linebacker since they lost Shawne Merriman to injury years ago. Larry English hasn’t panned out like they thought he would (I personally thought he would be better as a RE in a 4-3, or perhaps only as a situational pass rusher in nickel packages) and they haven’t been able to upgrade him yet. Enter Jarvis Jones, one of the best pass rushers in the entire country. There’s no guarantee that he will declare as he is only a redshirt sophomore, but he has as much upside as a pass rusher as anyone in the nation. He’s been dominant rushing the passer this year and really helped ease the loss of Justin Houston to the NFL and made up for Cornelius Washington’s absence due to suspension at times this season. He’s got tremendous upside and while he needs to get bigger and stronger before he is NFL ready if he did declare I think he would demand immediate top 20 consideration.
14. Tampa Bay- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame:
Analysis: This might not be Tampa Bay’s biggest need, but Josh Freeman has a solid running back in LeGarrette Blount, a talented tight end in Kellen Winslow and a potential #1 WR in Mike Williams, but I think he could use another weapon at wide receiver. Floyd is a good value at #14 overall and has the potential to go higher than this, but his character concerns might drop him a little bit. The Bucs haven’t shied away from character concerns before, especially at wide receiver where they picked the potentially troubled Williams who quit the Syracuse football team and still went in the fourth round. Floyd has had his issues, but he is a talented, big bodied receiver who would really compliment Mike Williams’ explosiveness and burst well.
15. Buffalo- David DeCastro, OG, Stanford:
Analysis: Buffalo needs help along the offensive line and David DeCastro is as good as it gets for an offensive guard prospect. Top 15 picks at OG are extremely rare, but this might be one instance where it could happen. DeCastro is a fantastic guard prospect and while he is only a junior he is ready for the next level. The Bills have a few needs along their roster, but I think that DeCastro would fill a significant need at guard for the Bills.
16. Tennessee- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama:  
Analysis: The Titans have a quality corner in Cortland Finnegan, but they don’t have much talent beyond him. The Titans have other needs they could address here, but picking up a corner like Kirkpatrick who absolutely has top 15 ability makes a lot of sense in my opinion. The Titans have bigger issues than corner thanks to Finnegan’s ability, but getting another quality corner to start opposite him can help the defensive line, and if they are able to boost their pass rush and help out the secondary the Titans defense would really improve considerably. They need upgrades on defense and on offense, but picking up a very good corner like Kirkpatrick can’t hurt here.
17. New York Jets- Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma:
Analysis: The Jets are one of the most creative teams as far as blitzing schemes thanks to Rex Ryan and they have enough talent on the back end to get away with some intricate blitz packages. However, their secondary and defense overall would benefit considerably if they could get a better pass rush out of their base packages. Ronnell Lewis has been one of the better pass rushers in the country and while he is still young he has plenty of upside and the Jets have shown that they have at least some ability to get production out of athletically talented players, most notably Aaron Maybin who looked like an absolute bust on the Bills but has tallied 5 sacks since signing on with the Jets. Lewis is an athletic specimen as well, and if he is developed properly I think he can be a quality pass rusher for the Jets.
18. Denver- Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia:
Analysis: The Broncos defense has really stepped up this season and Von Miller in particular has been playing not only like a Pro-Bowler, but like an All-Pro. He has 10.5 sacks in only 11 games which is almost unheard of for a rookie. The Broncos defense is definitely on the right track, but they could probably use an upgrade at corner. Champ Bailey is getting older but still playing well, however they don’t have an abundance of talent opposite him. I have been high on Minnifield since I watched him last season as a junior, and I think he has legitimate 1st round ability. Any corner that gets a chance to learn from Bailey will benefit considerably from it, but I think Minnifield would help improve Denver’s back end considerably once he was deemed ready to start.
19. New York Giants- Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina:  
Analysis: The Giants may not have as serious of a need at linebacker as it seemed at the beginning of the year if Mark Herzlich proves to be the man for the job, but they have had serious issues with injuries and inconsistency at linebacker for years, so adding some talent to the fold isn’t a bad idea. Brown is extremely athletic and has significant upside and would fit very well on a Giants defense that likes an athletic front 7 and enjoys applying pressure with their front four and linebackers.
20. Dallas- Mark Barron, S, Alabama:
Analysis: Dallas has had issues at safety since they had Roy Williams starting at safety years and years ago and they’ve never really solved that problem. Mark Barron is one of the only safeties in the class that potentially warrants a 1st round pick. I was not high on him after his junior season, but he has shown much more ability in coverage than I expected to see this year. If he truly projects well to the NFL from a coverage standpoint then he definitely warrants 1st round consideration and the Cowboys would be wise to consider selecting him here.
21. Cleveland (F/ATL)- Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State:
Analysis: Cleveland’s offensive line could use an upgrade. Joe Thomas is a stud, but opposite him there isn’t anything special. Mike Adams has some potential as a left tackle, but I think he could be a good or a very good right tackle. He’s a local guy having gone to Ohio State and he would fill a need for them up front.
22. Cincinnati (F/OAK)- Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin:
Analysis: Cincinnati could use significant help along the interior of their offensive line and getting a center like Konz would be ideal. He’s easily the best draft eligible center for the 2012 draft and if he is healthy enough to play in the Big 10 Championship Game or whatever bowl game Wisconsin plays in then I think it is possible that he will declare. Regardless, if he decides to come out he is the rare center that warrants a 1st round selection.
23. Cincinnati- Alfonso Dennard, CB, Nebraska:
Analysis: Cincinnati has some talent at corner, but when they lost Jonathan Joseph to the Houston Texans in free agency it definitely hurt their secondary. Dennard is a physical corner and would help replace Joseph in the secondary. I don’t think he has the ball skills that Joseph has by any means, but he would definitely help shore up the hole he left at corner.
24. Chicago- Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State:
Analysis: Chicago has been searching for a left tackle for years and they haven’t found it yet. They drafted Chris Williams to play there and he has only recently showed enough to start inside at guard. J’Marcus Webb was certainly not drafted to be the future at left tackle but he has spent far too much time starting at that spot. He’s not a left tackle and he has struggled at the spot. Zebrie Sanders may not have been considered by many to be a starting left tackle but he pleasantly surprised a lot of people when he slid over to the left side of the line to replace Andrew Datko for Florida State this season. I think he has NFL potential at left tackle and if Chicago agrees then they have to pick him. Getting bookend tackles for an offensive line that has been one of the league’s worst for years would be a huge step in the right direction for the Bears organization.
25. Detroit- Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia:
Analysis: Detroit seems to be a team that drafts primarily for value and doesn’t reach for needs, preferring to get as much talent as possible. I like that drafting strategy, but unfortunately it led to them ignoring the offensive line and the cornerback position last year. This year I think they need to make sure they address the offensive line, and Cordy Glenn is one of the best remaining offensive linemen on the board at this point in the draft. He is a huge, powerful run blocker but I don’t think he can stick outside at tackle. That makes me think he could be a very good offensive guard, and the Lions could use the push up front.
26. Houston- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis:
Analysis: Dontari Poe is a raw prospect in my opinion but at a listed height and weight of 6’5”, 350 pounds he definitely has immense upside. Houston likes to penetrate upfield and cause havoc with their defense, and Poe could definitely help them do that. I personally he might eventually be a better fit in a 4-3 defense if he is able to improve his pass rush moves to collapse the pocket more versus the pass. However, a lot of teams will see his size and strength and assume he is ready to be a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. As we saw with Albert Haynesworth size and strength don’t automatically mean he can play nose tackle in that defense, so we need to be careful assuming that he is a great fit in that scheme. However, my opinion has never stopped NFL teams from doing what they want to do, so Poe could very well end up on a 3-4 team after all.
27. New England- Devon Still, DT, Penn State:
Analysis: The Patriots have plenty of talent in their front seven, but they still struggle to rush the passer at times. This might have to do with their transition from a 3-4 defense, but I think that Still projects well to the DT position in a 4-3 defense. He has had a fantastic senior year and could easily go higher than this, but it’s hard to figure out exactly where everyone’s stock is at this point. If he did make it this far I would not put it past the Patriots to take advantage of the value picking Still here would present.
28. New England (F/ NO)- Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina:
Analysis: New England has a lot of quick wide receivers but they don’t have a big, physical receiver. Perhaps they don’t want one, but I think it hurts them a bit in the red zone when they have to rely on quick routes from their wide receivers and throwing to tight ends in one on one coverage. At the very least, having a big, powerful wide receiver like Alshon Jeffrey couldn’t really hurt them in the red zone or overall. I worry about his ability to create consistent separation in the NFL, but he has fantastic size, very long arms and great hands. He’s got plenty of upside, but his stock has slipped this year due to inconsistent production partially because of him and partially because of transitions at the quarterback position. Jeffrey could easily go higher than this, but I’m not convinced he’s going to be a top 5-10 pick at this point.
29. Baltimore- Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State:
Analysis: Burfict has top 20 talent thanks to his combination of size, athleticism and his electrifying hitting ability. However, he has some character concerns that will probably scare a few teams away. The elite teams in the NFL often have the locker room presence to take risks on a certain number of these types of players. Burfict is such a player, and with Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and other strong locker room leaders the Ravens are one of the teams that could take a risk on Burfict. In fact, I think Ray Lewis would be a very intriguing mentor for Burfict because Lewis is a big hitter with great toughness and leadership capability. Burfict could learn a lot from Lewis and it might also help improve his reputation. Not only that, but Burfict would be the obvious heir apparent to Lewis at middle linebacker.
30. Pittsburgh- Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame:
Analysis: Pittsburgh, much like Baltimore, has an aging leader at middle linebacker in James Farrior and I don’t think the future replacement for him is currently on the roster. Enter Manti Te’o, a 1st round caliber middle linebacker. Te’o projects well to a 3-4 scheme that would require him to play downhill and blitz to help create pressure, two things that Te’o does very well. Pittsburgh would get a player who is a good fit for their scheme and they’d have a great replacement for Farrior in the middle of their defense.
31. San Francisco- Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington:
Analysis: San Francisco lost Aubrayo Franklin in free agency and most people anticipated them struggling to stop the run after losing him. That hasn’t been the case, however, they could still use an upgrade at the nose tackle spot. Ta’amu is one of the best nose tackle prospects in the country and he is very hard to move off of the line of scrimmage. He’d be a perfect nose tackle for the 49ers, and would be a reasonable value at this point in the draft.
32. Green Bay- Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State:
Analysis: I have been saying this since Clay Matthews emerged as a stud linebacker for the Packers: They need someone opposite him to help take pressure off of him. Matthews is a man-child, but he can’t get 10 sacks a year and apply consistent pressure without a talented player opposite him. At first they had Brady Poppinga and he was replaced by Erik Walden, but both players could be easily upgraded. Enter Brandon Jenkins, the nation’s sack leader from a year ago. He has tons of speed off the edge and while he needs to get stronger he has significant upside as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Thanks for reading! I’d appreciate any feedback so I can improve future mock drafts.

–Tom

Here’s a quick breakdown of a view games that I think will be interesting over the next few days. Part two will be coming soon, but I didn’t want it to be too long of a post considering they are just previews for the games. This covers Thursday, Friday and some of Saturday. Saturday through Monday will be covered in Part Two. Obviously there aren’t a lot of competitive match-ups in week one of the season since most teams are essentially buying wins to start off the season instead of scheduling potentially challening out of conference opponents, but that’s out of my control. So enjoy some of the match-ups that might just end up being interesting!

Thursday:

-Wisconsin-UNLV:

There are plenty of prospects to look at in this game. Russell Wilson (QB), Montee Ball and James White (RB), Nick Toon (WR), Ricky Wagner (LT), Kevin Zeitler (OG), Peter Konz (OC), Louis Nzegwu (DE), Antonio Fenelus (CB), Aaron Henry (FS) and their former nickel corner Devin Smith. On the UNLV side they have a young QB in Caleb Herring who will be trying to improve on an average season as a freshman where he saw action in 8 games but didn’t do anything spectacular. He has an ok running game and a solid receiver in Phillip Payne who has 127 career receptions coming into his senior year as well as 1,786 total receiving yards and 19 touchdowns. He should be the main target for Herring in this game, and I imagine Fenelus will be up to the challenge of defending him. That could be the most intriguing match-up in the game outside of Wilson playing his first game on the Badgers, which certainly will get lots of media attention throughout the season as he becomes acclimated to the team, the coaching staff and obviously his teammates on offense. I’m excited to see how they all do in this game, but Ricky Wagner is the best prospect in this game in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how he holds up as a starter at Left Tackle. I have high expectations for him.

Friday:

-TCU-Baylor:

This is an intriguing matchup at the QB position with Casey Pachall replacing Andy Dalton at QB and with Robert Griffin III returning as the starter for Baylor. TCU is overrated as the #14 overall team in my opinion, but they are returning a strong defense led by Tank Carder who terrorized Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. I also think Stansly Maponga has some upside as a defensive end for TCU. Griffin is very athletically talented, but needs significant improvement with his mechanics and accuracy to be a serious or even dominant threat at QB. It will be interesting to see what Pachall has to offer, but Ed Wesley and a strong stable of RB’s are returning to help support him while he adjusts to the starting role. Kendall Wright is going to get a lot of looks from Griffin especially because of the loss of Josh Gordon, a receiver who had legitimate 1st round ability. TCU is obviously the favorite in this one, but Baylor has enough firepower to potentially hang around with them.

Saturday:

-Northwestern-Boston College:

This game could go either way, and has a couple intriguing prospects at QB. The superior prospect is obviously Dan Persa, the QB for Northwestern. He should give the Wildcats a serious boost on offense, and they’ve got a lot of talent on that offense for him to utilize. Boston College has a younger QB in Chase Rettig who should be a sophomore this year. He showed some ability as a freshman last year, so it will be interesting to see how he deals with the Northwestern defense. Montel Harris should help keep some pressure off of him even if he is an average NFL prospect. I think Northwestern is the favorite, but Boston College has a legitimate shot in this one.

-Notre Dame-South Florida:

Notre Dame is a heavy favorite in this game but I don’t buy the hype of them being a potential top 15 team. South Florida doesn’t have a great shot at winning this game but they have a QB in B.J. Daniels who can be very streaky, and can be dangerous when he’s hot thanks to his strong arm and legitimate athleticism so he can threaten with his legs as well as his arm. I’m not sold on Notre Dame’s defense at this point, but their offense shouldn’t have much trouble scoring on South Florida’s defense. Dayne Crist will be starting a game for the first time in a very long time so expect some significant rust, but they’ll make it easy for him to get into a rhythm, especially with Michael Floyd still intact.

-BYU-Ole Miss:

I actually think this could be an interesting game. I know nothing about either QB that Ole Miss was considering starting (except that the original starter Randall Mackey was arrested for disorderly conduct after a fight at a bar) so now Barry Brunetti is starting. I know a significant bit more about Jake Heaps, BYU’s QB, and I am excited to see how he progresses. He was incredibly impressive for a true freshman QB last year, and was quite impressive in their bowl win to cap off their season last year. This will be a huge test for him going against a SEC caliber defense, but I think he might be up to it. Ole Miss will rely a lot on Brandon Bolden, their quality RB, who put up 976 rushing yards (14 TD’s and 6.0 ypc) plus 344 receiving yards and 3 more TD’s on 32 receptions. It’ll be interesting to see how well they move the ball because I have no expectations for their QB. They have some talent on defense, but it will be interesting to see how they match up with BYU. Cody Hoffman, BYU’s very large WR, might create some match-up problems because of his size.

It’ll be interesting to see how these match-ups play out, but regardless I am excited to see some college football finally. Enjoy it, I know I will!

–Tom

Scouting Report

I was extremely impressed with Castonzos ability to mirror speed rushers on the outside and I think he is one of the more underrated prospects in the draft.

Positives: Impressive size, athleticism and long arms. He has a good frame that he will be able to add weight to once he gets to the NFL. He also has impressive lateral movement to mirror pass rushers off the edge, and that makes him a very good candidate to play LT in the NFL. He has a good kick slide, gets out of his stance well and is a very natural athlete when it comes to sliding and mirroring even the fastest pass rushers off the edge. He sustains blocks well and is very fundamentally sound as a pass blocker. He has a good wide base as a pass blocker, bends at the knees, regularly has good leverage, uses his long arms well to force defenders wide of the pocket and has enough athleticism, size and length to stop even the fastest guys off the edge. He is also an effective run blocker who flashes the ability to be a drive blocker in the NFL. He flashes the ability to get good leverage, he shows pretty consistent fundamentals as far as not leaning into his blocks, he sustains blocks well against defensive ends and shows the ability to down block on bigger, stronger defensive tackles to help create running room behind him. He also moves well for a large man and has no problems getting to the second level and engaging a linebacker when he gets there. He flashes the ability to cut block effectively and also flashes the ability to pull when asked to and looks comfortable on the move. He is also very intelligent and had a reported 3.5 GPA as a Biochemistry major and was a Rhodes Scholar candidate. Despite that, Castonzo shows some nastiness in the trenches which I really like, and he doesn’t stop driving or shoving his man until the whistle blows.

Negatives: Castonzo will struggle with leverage at times because of his height and when he plays too high his effectiveness drops significantly. He is susceptible to bull rushes for this reason and while he mirrors speed rushes very well if a defensive end gets under his pads they can drive him back at times. While he does a solid job of recovering when this happens he could stand to get stronger, especially in the lower body, to help prevent this from happening in the NFL. Castonzo is not an elite run blocker and his technique is not as sound in this phase of the game. He will at times lean too much into his blocks and get off balance, and struggles to sustain against larger defensive linemen. He won’t be an elite drive blocker in the NFL, but I think he definitely has room to improve as a run blocker. Castonzo is occasionally vulnerable to a good inside move as I have seen Brandon Jenkins beat him with a very good spin move to the inside and Da’Quan Bowers beat him to the inside once with a swim move.

Overall: Castonzo really impressed me in all the games I watched of him. Is he an elite athlete? No, but he is a good athlete and he mirrors speed rushes as well as any tackle in this draft. He had a fantastic game against Florida State where he was matched up with Brandon Jenkins, a defensive end who had 13.5 sacks last year as a sophomore, and took away every single one of his attempts to speed rush him and beat him around the outside. He did get beat twice, once when he attempted to cut block and slowed Jenkins down but the quarterback held onto the ball too long and was sacked, and again when Jenkins showed an impressive spin move to the inside and rushed the quarterback’s throw. To Castonzo’s credit though, Jenkins tried that spin move again and was driven to the ground as a result. I think Castonzo may end up as the best left tackle in this draft class depending on how Tyron Smith develops. Castonzo is definitely the safer selection when it comes to left tackles, and while his ceiling may not be quite as high his floor is much higher, and I don’t think he will bust unless he uncharacteristically struggles with injuries. I think he will have a very good, long career as a left tackle in the NFL.

Projection: Top 20. I would pick him in the top 15, maybe in the top 10 if I really needed a left tackle, but I can’t imagine Castonzo sliding past 22 in the draft. The Cowboys, Vikings, Lions, Giants, Chiefs and Colts are all very realistic landing spots for him, though I doubt he ends up on the Cowboys. But if you need a very reliable left tackle out of this draft you should try and land Castonzo.

SKILLS
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

Strength: 3.0
Pass Blocking: 4.5
Run Blocking: 3.0
Footwork: 4.0
Technique: 4.0
Mobility: 3.5
Mean Streak: 3.5

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Top 32 Big Board

Here is my top 32 Big Board for the 2011 NFL Draft. These, in my opinion, are the top 32 prospects in the NFL Draft. Many of them are hot-linked so that you can read my scouting reports on them. Enjoy!

1-      A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

2-      Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama

3-    Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

4-    Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

5-     Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

6-     Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

7-      Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

8-      Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

9-      J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

10-   Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

11-   Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

12-   Cameron Jordan, DE, California

13-   Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

14-   Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

15-   Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal

16-   Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

17-  Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

18-  Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

19-   Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

20-  Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

21-   Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

22-   Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

23- Justin Houston, DE, Georgia

24-   Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky

25-   Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech

26-   Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

27-  Jake Locker, QB, Washington

28-  Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

29-   Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

30-   Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida

31- Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

32- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

My First Mock Draft of the Year

This is my first mock draft of the year and it is only the first round. I hit some snags while doing it, but for my first mock draft since April I thought it was a good effort. Let me know what you think obviously and hopefully you will enjoy the read!

First round:

Pick:  1  San Francisco 49ers- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas-

Analysis: First off, I don’t think Andrew Luck will declare this year, but if he does I think he is definitely the front-runner for the #1 overall pick.  That said, the next best thing is Ryan Mallett as far as potential is concerned. Mallett’s combination of size and arm strength is borderline unheard of, and as a result his potential is through the roof. He has some mechanical issues, such as his footwork (which I think leads to some inaccurate throws, I don’t think his actual accuracy is as bad as some say), however the #1 overall pick is about production, potential and glitz and glamour, not necessarily the best overall player in the draft. I don’t think Mallett is the best QB in this draft, nor do I think he is the best player in the draft, but that doesn’t mean he won’t go #1.

Pick:  2  Carolina Panthers- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama-

Analysis: This seems a little high for Dareus especially considering the two game suspension earlier this season, but he is an extremely disruptive force at DE in Alabama’s 3-4 defense, and though I think he would be a great fit in a 3-4 defense in the NFL I think he could play defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense as well. The Panthers’ defense is a bit of a mess right now between injuries and losing starters via free agency or trade, but their defensive tackles are absolutely awful. Until they upgrade that position they won’t be able to stop the run or rush the passer, so I think improving up the middle has to be a high priority for them this year.

Pick:  3  Buffalo Bills- Jake Locker, QB, Washington-

Analysis: I think Locker is a top 10-15 selection right now, but this is a very need-based pick so though I think it is a little bit of a reach as far as my evaluation of Locker’s stock at this point, I think it makes sense. The Bills finally cut Trent Edwards loose since he clearly wasn’t getting the job done and they need a new face of the franchise to promote optimism and sell tickets, and Jake Locker fits that bill perfectly. He has great intangibles, great athleticism and great potential, however he has not progressed the way many people thought he would this year so I think his stock has taken a bit of a hit. He could easily move back up to a top 5 pick by the time the draft rolls around, especially if he plays better the rest of the season, but right now Luck and Mallett are in the drivers’ seat for the #1 overall pick. Some will argue, like they do every year, that they should pass on the potential franchise QB and fill another need in round 1 and get a safer, less risky quarterback in round 2. I made that mistake when I wanted Brian Brohm in round 2 instead of Matt Ryan, so I probably won’t ever feel that way again.

Pick:  4  Detroit Lions- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU-

Analysis: The Lions have done a very nice job of acquiring nice pieces of talent since Matt Millen was fired. First there was Calvin Johnson, then Matt Stafford and now Ndamukong Suh. However, they are still lacking at the cornerback position, which is where Patrick Peterson comes in. Not only is Peterson arguably the best cornerback in the nation, but he is an absolutely electric return man. Once he gets the ball in his hands he can make guys miss and turn on the jets in a hurry. That makes him dangerous on punt returns and after he comes away with a turnover on defense. Having that kind of a playmaker at cornerback is something the Lions have lacked since they signed Dre’ Bly away from the St. Louis Rams years ago. The Lions could also consider a defensive end or a left tackle here, but in my opinion there is no better player available at either position than Patterson, making him the best selection for the Lions.

Pick:  5  Cleveland Browns- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia-

Analysis: I think that A.J. Green is in the drivers’ seat to be the first receiver off the board in April, and the Browns are a team that needs desperate help both at quarterback and at wide receiver. With Mallett and Locker both off the board already, the Browns should take the best player available and that figures to be Green. The Browns already have a former Georgia Bulldog on the roster in Mohamed Massaquoi, but he is not thriving as their #1 option. Green definitely has #1 WR potential, and he would give whoever takes snaps at QB more options to throw to as a result. I think Green is a very good player, but something about his game makes me wonder how well he will transition to the NFL. Honestly, I think he is a little over-hyped, but I haven’t scouted him yet this year so perhaps I will change my tune once I do.

Pick:  6  Minnesota Vikings- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska-

Analysis: This may seem like a strange pick, especially since the Vikings picked Chris Cook last year, but the Vikings really like to stick to the best player available, and in this case I think that is Amukamara. Now, when you look at their roster on paper it might not seem like they need a corner. They have Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook waiting in the wings. Asher Allen provides some depth, and bingo! No issue… right? I would say wrong. Winfield has lost a step or two, and will only get slower and become less suitable for the starting role, and Cedric Griffin has now torn both of his ACL’s within the last calendar year. That is too bad, especially since he fits their scheme well, but between Winfield’s age and Griffin’s injury history the Vikings aren’t as deep at corner as they appear to be on paper, and that is assuming Chris Cook pans out as well. Amukamara could really help shore up the position and if Cook pans out they could form a very nice tandem for years to come with Asher Allen filling in at the nickel spot.

Pick:  7  Dallas Cowboys- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa-

Analysis: The Cowboys have a couple of solid DE’s in Igor Olshansky and Marcus Spears, but Spears has never really lived up to his 1st round pick billing. Clayborn strikes me as an ideal 3-4 DE prospect. He doesn’t have the edge speed to fly off the edge as a 4-3 DE but he is so big, strong and has such good hand usage I think he could be very disruptive at the DE spot in a 3-4. He is good versus the run though I have not seen how well he handles double teams, though with coaching and weight training he should have no issues controlling two gaps in the NFL.

Pick:  8  St. Louis Rams- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama-

Analysis: Julio Jones has a boatload of potential and he hasn’t really come close to reaching it at Alabama. Part of that has to do with how balanced their offense is and how worried teams tend to be about him beating them when the Crimson Tide do pass, but he definitely has the potential to be a better NFL player than he was in college. He has great size, speed and can make some highlight reel catches. If the Rams are looking for a potential #1 WR for Bradford to throw to, Jones is one of the best they could hope to get in this draft class. I have my concerns about Jones’ route running and his tendency to drop passes, but that comes down to concentration because his hands are obviously reliable. Jones is one of the more interesting prospects in this draft class to project to the NFL because he strikes me as a hit or miss guy.

Pick:  9  San Diego Chargers- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State-

Analysis: I’m not sure how realistic it is for two 3-4 DE prospects to come off the board in the top 10, but the Chargers really need help at DE. Not only is the starter opposite Luis Castillo a better fit as a back-up, but Castillo himself is regularly injured. Heyward has great size, strength and defends the run well. He doesn’t have the speed off the edge to play DE in a 4-3, however I do think he could slide inside to defensive tackle in that scheme. But, I think his best fit is at DE in the 3-4 defense, and a combo of Heyward and a healthy Castillo at DE would be a very big boost for San Diego’s defense.

Pick: 10  New England Patriots (F/Oak)- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA-

Analysis: The Patriots are notorious for a few things. One is having multiple first round picks (which they have again this year) and the other is consistently spending high draft picks on their front 7 on defense. I think they will go this route again this year with one of their selections at least, and Ayers strikes me as the perfect “Patriot” player. He is a good pass rusher and he can drop back into coverage and make plays. I am not sure how well he defends the run, but he has a lot of potential. This might seem high for him, but the Patriots have made surprising picks like this before, especially when it comes to the front 7.

Pick: 11  Denver Broncos- Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama-

Analysis: The Broncos could really use a stud ILB to play next to DJ Williams, and if they pick up Hightower they could have the beginnings of one of the best front sevens in the NFL. If Ayers, Dumervil, Hightower and Williams are all healthy they would have a very dangerous group of linebackers. They can all get after the passer and defend the run too, which is the scary part. Of course, they all have injury histories which may ultimately scare the Broncos away from Hightower. But ILB is a need for them and Hightower is the best draft eligible ILB prospect without a doubt.

Pick: 12  Cincinnati Bengals- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina-

Analysis: Part of me wants to see the Bengals draft Christian Ponder, but I don’t think the Bengals will give up on Carson Palmer so easily (even if he hasn’t been the same QB since his horrific knee injury). That said, the Bengals could use a boost to their pass rush, and that is Robert Quinn’s specialty. The guy is an absolute freak athlete, and though he is suspended for the rest of this season for his interactions with an agent I would be relatively surprised if he didn’t declare for the draft this year. Perhaps he will surprise me and stay for his senior season, but I think he is talented enough to still get drafted in the 1st round if he declares. He will be a big gamble because he hasn’t played football all season, but the Bengals have taken risks on guys with worse character concerns than Quinn before so I think Cincinnati is definitely one of the most likely landing spots for Quinn in the first round. Combine their tendency to roll the dice on “character risks” with their need for a boost to their pass rush and Quinn makes a lot of sense.

Pick: 13  Seattle Seahawks- Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson-

Analysis: The Seahawks definitely need help at defensive end, and Bowers is the best pass rushing defensive end left on the table (though that isn’t saying much at this point). I honestly think Bowers is overrated at this point because of the hype he had coming out of high school, but he hasn’t really lived up to it during his time at Clemson. He hasn’t gotten to the quarterback as often as I (and many others) probably expected him to, and he doesn’t look like he has the best burst off the line and the best edge speed to be a good/very good pass rusher. At this point I almost think he would be a better fit in a 3-4 defense, but I haven’t scouted him enough yet this year to come to that conclusion yet. Perhaps he will be a better NFL player than college player, but he is just as likely to be a player with huge potential who never lives up to it in my opinion. I don’t know how likely this pick is because the Seahawks made it very obvious last year that they value production over potential when they made two of my favorite picks in the draft with Russell Okung and Earl Thomas.

Pick: 14  Miami Dolphins- Aaron Williams, CB, Texas-

Analysis: The Dolphins have a couple of young corners in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith according to their depth chart, but Sean Smith does not look like a natural corner to me at all. I always thought he would be a better fit at FS, so I think the Dolphins would be much better off drafting another corner and sliding him back to the safety position. Aaron Williams has a lot of potential and athletic ability, and he has been groomed by a program that has been churning out quality defensive back prospects for years now. I haven’t gotten a chance to scout him yet, but I will soon. As you can see from this picture, he is quite the playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.

Pick: 15  Arizona Cardinals- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State-

Analysis: This seems early for Ponder now since I think he has played himself into the “fringe” first rounder area thus far this season, but the Cardinals have to be desperate for a QB at this point and Ponder is the best available at this point. I think they could definitely go in another direction, perhaps cornerback if one they like is available, or they could slide down to get better value for Ponder or to see if some guys they like are still around. But for the sake of this exercise, I think they have to go with a QB. I don’t think Ponder will be ready to play as a rookie, and when I have seen him this year he hasn’t been particularly impressive. I am beginning to think that his terrific performance against UNC last year was an anomaly and that he will only be a solid starter in the NFL. It will be interesting to see if his performance the rest of that year confirms or denies those suspicions.

Pick: 16  New Orleans Saints- Greg Jones, OLB, Michigan State-

Analysis: Greg Jones is one of my favorite prospects in this draft. He has terrific instincts for the position and it physically pains me to mock him to the Saints, that is how good I think he is going to be. The Saints really need linebacker help, whether it is at WLB or MLB, so Jones makes a lot of sense for them from a need perspective.

Pick: 17  Green Bay Packers- Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida-

Analysis: I think Jenkins is being underrated by a lot of draft-niks right now because I haven’t seen him in a 1st round mock yet and I think he is one of the top three or four best corners in the nation. He is an absolute playmaker and he is physical and supports the run very well. I think his physicality makes him a good fit in Green Bay, plus he has dreadlocks so he would continue the tradition of the Packers having at least one corner with dreadlocks that was started years ago by Mike McKenzie. Plus, Al Harris and Charles Woodson are both getting old, and Harris has had trouble with injuries in recent years. They have some talent at corner on the roster in Tramon Williams, but to avoid a drop-off at the position the Packers could use another talented corner, and I think that could be Jenkins.

Pick: 18  New York Giants- Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois-

Analysis: This might seem high for Wilson, and honestly it probably is right now, but I think he has a lot of potential to be a stud ILB in the NFL. He has been a tackling machine this year for the Illini and he is coming off of a season ending injury from a season ago. The Giants might shy away from him because he his injury was from his neck, similar to what helped force Antonio Pierce away from football, but all indications are that he is healthy and he has been a force thus far this season.

Pick: 19  Jacksonville Jaguars- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh-

Analysis: The Jaguars always seem perfectly willing to take a chance on a super talented player even if they have their question marks. I wonder how well Baldwin will be able to adjust to the NFL because he has been able to cruise on his natural athletic ability for so long and because I don’t think he has good enough burst or quickness to create separation and run effective routes. However, he does have very long strides and good deep speed and he locates and adjusts to the ball in the air as well as any receiver I have ever scouted. He definitely has a lot of potential, but I think he will need a couple of years to adjust to the speed of the NFL and to work on his route running. Then in years three or four he will either strut his stuff or end up being a bust. He strikes me as a boom or bust guy.

Pick: 20  Philadelphia Eagles- Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina-

Analysis: The Eagles love to have fast, hard hitting players all over their defense and that makes Carter a perfect fit for their scheme. He is an athletic freak. He is very fast, very strong and he makes plays on defense and on special teams. I don’t think he has very good instincts, though that is masked by his athletic ability on a regular basis. But he won’t be asked to play in coverage that often as the SLB and he should be able to play the run and get after the passer and make an impact on special teams, which is what I think he does best.

Pick: 21  Washington Redskins- Malcolm Floyd, WR, Notre Dame-

Analysis: Floyd is a WR who I have always marveled at. There aren’t many WR’s I have ever seen who high-point the ball in the air better than Floyd does, and whenever there is a jump ball thrown within five yards of Floyd I just assume he is going to come down with it and marvel at how he does it. He doesn’t have very good deep speed and doesn’t run great routes, but his combination of size, leaping ability and reliable hands is hard to come by. He may not strike fear into defenses with his speed, but I think that if he gets single coverage in the NFL he will still find a way to come down with the ball, so despite his lack of deep speed he can still threaten defenses deep. The Redskins really need a deep threat for McNabb to throw to opposite of Santana Moss, and Floyd’s size and leaping ability would really contrast Moss’ quickness and deep speed well.

Pick: 22  Indianapolis Colts- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State-

Analysis: Hudson is the top OG in this class in my opinion and though he is relatively undersized he is so technically sound and mobile for the position that I would be shocked if he slides out of the first round. The Colts love a smart and technically sound offensive lineman and they need help up front so this pick seems like a match made in heaven to me.

Pick: 23  Tennessee Titans- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami-

Analysis: The Titans have tried to find a second quality starting corner but none of their attempts have really hit home yet. I think Brandon Harris would fit in very well on their defense because of his athletic ability and his playmaking ability. Not long ago the Titans secondary was coming down with interceptions with astonishing regularity, but as the pass rush has waned so have the turnovers. They need playmakers in the secondary and pass rushers up front, and if Derrick Morgan can get healthy Harris and the rest of the Titans secondary could stand to benefit.

Pick: 24  Houston Texans- Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA-

Analysis: The Texans have needed help at FS for the majority of their existence as a franchise, so I think it is high time that they finally address that problem. Rahim Moore is a playmaking FS at UCLA and had a mind-boggling 10 interceptions last year as a sophomore. He hasn’t had the same success this year, and though I haven’t watched him I can’t imagine teams are challenging him as often as they were last year. Regardless, he would give the Texans that true centerfielder that they have needed for so long, and with Mario Williams rushing the passer he could come away with some easy turnovers as a Texan.

Pick: 25  Kansas City Chiefs- Jurell Powe, DT, Mississippi-

Analysis: The Chiefs really need help at NT in their 3-4 defense and Powe is the best draft eligible NT in the draft in my opinion. He is quick off the ball and is very disruptive versus the run and can collapse the pocket with his bull rush. He actually reminds me a lot of B.J. Raji, minus the spin move Raji flashed at Boston College. Both are built low to the ground but are very strong and thick, and both project well to the 4-3 NT position. However, like Raji, Powe could end up playing NT in a 3-4.

Pick: 26  Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia-

Analysis: The Bucs have one quality corner in Aqib Talib, but they have not yet found a suitable replacement for the ancient Ronde Barber. I am not a huge fan of Ras-I Dowling, but his size is a huge plus and his lack of elite speed is less of an issue in the Bucs defense. If they continue to run the Cover-2 then Dowling could fit in very well, plus they would have two of the bigger corners in the NFL with Talib and Dowling dropping back into coverage.

Pick: 27  New England Patriots- Cameron Jordan, DE, California-

Analysis: The Patriots love to spend their early selections on the defensive side of the ball, and drafting Ayers and Jordan would really shore up two of their weaker positions in their front 7. Jordan looks to be a nice 3-4 DE prospect who I think may sneak into the first round, though I don’t think he will be drafted as high as his former teammate Tyson Alualu was last season. With Jordan replacing Seymour and Ayers rushing the passer and dropping into coverage at linebacker the Patriots front seven would be very dangerous again.

Pick: 28  Pittsburgh Steelers- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State-

Analysis: This may be late for Sherrod, but I haven’t had a chance to watch him much yet. He is probably the only OT I would grade as a potential top 15 pick at this point, but the way the draft order came out this week I just didn’t think he would get picked until 28. Regardless, the Steelers could use an upgrade over Max Starks at LT and sliding him back to LT and playing Sherrod at LT would improve their pass blocking and their offensive line as a whole.

Pick: 29  Chicago Bears- Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida-

Analysis: The Bears need help all over the offensive line. I am not sure if Chris Williams will ever be a reliable starter, but I’m not sure the Bears are willing to spend another first round pick on the position until they are sure what they have in him. However, their interior offensive line is also a mess and warrants serious overhaul in my opinion. Pouncey may have played awful at center at the beginning of the year for Florida, but he was a very good offensive guard prospect before his horrible showing at the pivot, and I see no reason he shouldn’t be a quality OG prospect now. The Bears could really use him at either guard position, so drafting him at this spot makes perfect sense, especially if they aren’t completely sold on upgrading Chris Williams yet.

Pick: 30  New York Jets- Allen Bailey, DE, Miami-

Analysis: The Jets seem to attract guys with tons of potential and Bailey would fit that bill perfectly. He has a pretty incredible combination of size, strength and overall athleticism and on paper seems to project perfectly to the 3-4 DE position. However, I personally think he is very overrated. I don’t think he sheds blocks well at all and he usually the last Miami defensive lineman off the line of scrimmage. Being slow off the ball and struggling to shed one on one blocks, much less getting washed out by double teams, makes me wonder how he will ever transition to the NFL. However, I have been wrong before, and if he can improve his hand usage and learn to stand up to double teams and beat one on one blocks more consistently he could be a handful in the NFL. He seems to be yet another boom or bust guy, and if I had to put money on one I would put it on bust.

Pick: 31  Atlanta Falcons- Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin-

Analysis: This may seem awfully high for Kendricks, but I have graded him as a early-mid 2nd rounder since I started scouting him last season, and I don’t feel much differently about him now. I don’t know if he will sneak into the first round or not, but I do know that as an Atlanta Falcons fan I would be ecstatic if we ended up with him on draft day. Kendricks is a great athlete, he has very reliable hands and he is a much better blocker than most give him credit for. He had a number of key seal blocks in the bowl game against Miami last year and I watched him block Allen Bailey one on one on more than one occasion in that same game. He is a good in-line blocker, better than I thought he would be actually, and he is an even better receiver. Drafting him while we still have Tony Gonzalez would allow Gonzo to show him some of the tricks of the trade, and when Gonzo retires Kendricks would be ready to step in and give Ryan a reliable target to throw to at the position. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Falcons slide into the 2nd round if they are picking late in round 1. Thomas Dimitroff is a Patriots disciple and the Patriots are notorious for stock-piling draft picks. If there were ever a year for Dimitroff to try that it would be this year.

Pick: 32  Baltimore Ravens- Mark Barron, S, Alabama-

Analysis: Ed Reed has been the gold standard for safety play for years and years, but he is wearing down and injuries or his better judgment will eventually end his career. When that happens the Ravens have to be ready, and getting a playmaker like Barron is the first step for preparing for that day. Reed should still have another year or two left in him (hopefully) and drafting Barron to sit behind Reed (and play when he is injured) would help his development and put the Ravens in terrific position to replace Reed when that day comes. Plus, Dawan Landry and Tom Zbikowski are nothing to write home about.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

This is my analysis of Matt Ryan’s Week 1 performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played poorly in this game as evidenced by his statistics: 27/44, 252 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, a completion percentage of 61.4% and a QB rating of 67.6. But there is definitely more to his performance than just his stat line, so when I re-watched this game and took twelve single spaced pages of notes on it I paid particular attention to Matt Ryan and how he played. Here is what I found:

“]Ryan had a poor performance in this game. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was when I watched it live, but he still had a pretty bad game considering everything that happened. The interception he threw to Polamalu was an incredible play on Polamalu’s part because of the instincts, closing speed and just overall uncanny ability to pick the pass off and get his feet inbounds, but it wasn’t an impossible play to make. Ryan had been throwing that same ball to Roddy all game long, he probably threw it at least 10 times or more over the course of the game. The Steelers’ corners started to key on it and had blanket coverage on a number of them as the game went on, but finally Polamalu tried to jump one and he came away with a great interception. That is on Mularkey for calling such a predictable game, but it is also on Ryan for staring Roddy down on that route and for throwing to him on that same deep curl over and over for the entire game. Plus Ryan doesn’t have the arm strength to throw a deep curl to the sideline like that, so his passes hang in the air a bit which gives the defender more time to close on the ball and make a play on it. Hence why Pittsburgh’s corners and defensive backs were in Roddy’s hip pocket all game regardless of how crisp he was going in and out of his break.

He had a number of bad throws in this game (I counted about seven in this game), some of which were due to bad footwork (I counted about five or so instances of this, meaning an off balance throw, throw off his back foot, etc.) and some just due to him getting flustered in the pocket and panicking. There were a few instances where he had time to throw and just missed his target, which will happen. However, we really need to stop making the deep curl and deep out such a critical route in our offense. Ryan can throw it and complete it, but if we keep doing it over and over like we did in this game teams will key on it and have some easy interceptions because of how long the ball stays in the air. He has to time the throw perfectly, throw an accurate ball and put it on the right shoulder for Roddy or anyone else to have a good chance at catching it, otherwise the defensive back will be able to knock it away if they close on it well or if they are expecting it. Mularkey really needs to work to Ryan’s strengths which involve beating blitzes, quick throws, throws over the middle and throws that require more touch and accuracy rather than pure arm strength like throws to the sideline require. We can’t scrap them from our offense entirely obviously, but there’s no reason we should be blatantly playing to one of his greatest weaknesses on such a regular basis.

Ryan threw the ball 44 times in this game. That number is much higher than I would prefer, especially when our running game was as ineffective as it was.

Ryan had a number of good throws in this game, I counted about seven good throws, five very good throws and fourteen solid throws overall. As you can tell, we threw the ball way more in this game than I think we would ordinarily want to. Our running game was just not effective for the majority of the game, but I will touch on that more when I break down how Turner, Snelling, Norwood and the offensive line did. However, Ryan and Roddy had a lot of pressure put on them to perform well and Ryan did a very good job of coming up with big 3rd down conversions in this game. He started out playing poorly on 3rd down at the beginning of the game which coincided with him looking very uncomfortable with his offensive line. He showed a number of examples of poor pocket poise at the beginning of the game as well as some bad footwork and bad decisions that occurred when he panicked in the face of pressure. That is definitely not something I expected to see out of Ryan so I made sure to see how he looked in those situations as the game progressed. As the game continued he definitely settled down and played better, made better decisions and showed a lot more poise. However, he was getting away with those deep curl throws to Roddy and Roddy made some very nice catches with defenders blanketed all over him which had to help Ryan’s confidence. So after he threw that interception to Polamalu his confidence took a huge hit and he resorted to his earlier antics a bit during the drive in overtime, but still looked better late than he did early in the game.

Ryan definitely had a mixed bag as far as good decisions and bad decisions as well as good/very good throws and bad throws. Again, we threw the ball way more than I would normally like (44 times, which is way too high for a run-first team like us) and we were completely ineffective running the ball (25 attempts, 58 yards and only 2.3 yards per carry). We couldn’t run the ball well so we got into 2nd and 3rd and long situations far too often, and Ryan had to throw us into field goal position to get us any points what-so-ever. We had no balance and eventually we just became entirely too predictable and mistakes were made like Ryan’s interception late in the 4th quarter. Because I am writing this after the fourth game of the season I have the benefit of looking for trends, and I found some that were similar to those I identified three years ago when he came out of Boston College. When he was at Boston College he regularly had to throw the ball a lot to keep the team in games and often when he did that he would turn the ball over more often than when the team had a semblance of a running game. In the two games that we have had no running game (against Pittsburgh and San Francisco we had a combined 156 rushing yards on 54 attempts for a pathetic 2.88 yards per carry average) Ryan threw the ball 44 and 43 times, respectively. In those two games he threw three interceptions versus only one touchdown, had an average of just under six yards per attempt versus over seven yards per attempt in the two games against Arizona and New Orleans, and an average QB rating of about 67 against Pitt and San Francisco versus about 112 against Arizona and New Orleans. In this case I truly believe the stats speak for themselves: When Ryan has to carry the offense by throwing the ball 35 or 40+ times in a game, we struggle and he struggles as well. The only times we will have to do that is when we get behind early in the game or when our run game sputters, which is what happened against Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

The disparity in Ryan's stats when he throws the ball more than 40 times versus 35 times or less is staggering.

Now, I haven’t re-watched the past three games yet so I can’t accurately describe how Ryan played in each of them, but I can tell you right now that the dominant running game we had against Arizona and New Orleans played a significant role in Ryan being vastly more effective and efficient. He is very good off of play-action, especially when we don’t roll him out to the sideline and we just let him make his progressions naturally. However, when the running game isn’t effective and he has to do a lot of straight three and five step drops to try to throw the team into the game he is going to turn the ball over more. That is just who he is as a player. He doesn’t have the rocket arm strength or arm to put the team on his back like Peyton Manning and throw for 400 yards and pull out a win in my opinion, which I now realize means that I don’t think he will be one of the best QB’s in the NFL for his entire career. That is a bit disappointing considering the incredible hype he had after his great rookie season, but he is definitely a good enough QB to put together a crucial game-winning drive when we need it most. I know that because he has done that regularly during his first two and a quarter seasons on the Falcons. That means we can win a Superbowl with him if we surround him with enough talent along our offensive line to consistently run the ball and if we give him enough weapons to keep the defense off balance by spreading the ball around. We don’t have those pieces in place yet so it will be interesting to see how we go about acquiring those pieces to allow Ryan to flourish. Because if we surround him with that talent I absolutely believe he will.

Overall I think Ryan had a below average game, but it was not nearly as horrible as I thought it was watching it live. The Polamalu interception was so late that it made everything seem so much worse than it was. Our offensive line really made it hard on Ryan, but he made quality throws to convert for first downs on at least eleven or twelve 2nd and 3rd downs with seven or eight yards needed to pick up a first down. Many of them were on 2nd and 10 or 3rd and 10. That had a lot to do with our ineffective running game obviously, but Ryan still stepped up to the challenge and did the best he could. He definitely missed some open targets in this game because he got too locked in on Roddy, and I saw probably three or four instances when he could have made a routine or solid throw and picked up a nice gain or a significant chunk of yardage. That will happen, but Ryan is usually much better about going through his progressions than he was in this game. It was a poor effort on his part, and that was reflected in his stats, but there was plenty of silver lining to be found in this game in the form of his number of good, accurate throws, his poise in the pocket getting consistently better throughout the course of the game, and his regular conversions in long yardage situations on 2nd and 3rd downs. It will be interesting to break down the rest of the Falcons games this year to see how Ryan progresses as the season goes on during my careful film study of each game.

Look out for more in-depth Falcons analysis! Go Falcons!!

Thanks for reading, hopefully you enjoyed this piece. I will have a number of other Falcons-focused reviews coming throughout the course of the season as I get around to re-watching each of the games, taking a lot of notes on each play, and then analyzing the information I gather and summarizing it for everyone to read. I’d like to do this for more teams than just the Falcons, but I think it makes sense to start with the Falcons and perhaps try analyzing a critical game for another team every once in a while. I’m sure I will have a Vikings and Packers game analysis at one point during the season since I see them play so often and I am so familiar with their rosters.

Thanks again!

–Tom

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