Tag Archive: Collin Klein


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.

Quarterbacks:

Nathan Stanley- Stanley was the guy I was most excited to see and despite inconsistent accuracy he clearly has the best arm of the three quarterbacks in my opinion. I think his accuracy might improve over the course of the week as he works under center more. The limited footage I was able to see of him featured him exclusively in shotgun, so keep that in mind. He does seem to dip the ball down a bit when he’s throwing the ball down the field but he has some intriguing tools to work with.

Collin Klein- Klein is facing an uphill battle to prove that he can play quarterback at the next level but his throwing motion seems to have a slight pause at the top. It doesn’t seem to come off his hand naturally. Obviously he’s not the most accurate quarterback either, but he doesn’t have velocity to compensate and that makes him hard to like. I’m sure he will be great in interviews and you can’t discredit what he brought to the table for K-State, but this is not an atmosphere conducive to his skill set.

Colby Cameron- I was pleasantly surprised with Cameron’s velocity today. I didn’t think he had much beyond average velocity, and I haven’t seen him throwing outside the hashes 10-15 yards down the field yet, but he had velocity down the middle of the field and towards the hashes as well. I don’t think he has great arm strength by any means, but I was pleasantly surprised. Plenty of people will like him the most out of this group, and I look forward to seeing him more this week.

Ray Graham- Graham’s shiftiness was on full display today even though they weren’t in pads, but there’s not a ton you can take away without full pads. Still, he’s one of the best players here and he flashed today without a doubt.

Corey Fuller- Fuller is one of my favorite sleepers this year and I really think he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do. He has room to improve obviously, but he runs smoothly, he has track speed and he has reliable hands. He didn’t look like he was running great routes today, but I’m interested to see if he improves over the course of the week. He is going to be a big riser in my opinion, and as I said in my preview I prefer him to his teammate Marcus Davis.

Rodney Smith- Smith had one of the best catches of the day going up in traffic and high pointing a pass that probably should have been intercepted. He’s so tall and lanky, but he impressed me when I saw him today.

D.C. Jefferson- I didn’t see much of Jefferson blocking today but he looked great catching the ball when I saw him. He showed that he could go up and catch passes with his hands and I didn’t see him drop one. I really think he was misused/underutilized at Rutgers (I don’t think there are many that don’t feel this way) and could really help himself this week. Today was a good start based on what I saw.

Terron Armstead- Armstead is an impressive athlete but he wasn’t getting much push in the run game early in practice and I don’t think he did a great job mirroring in pass protection. He opened his hips up too early a couple times in pass protection and made him vulnerable to the inside move, but he has the athleticism and length to force pass rushers wide.

Nick Speller- I hadn’t seen Speller before but he didn’t seem to sustain blocks that well and despite flashing a solid initial punch that wasn’t enough to slow Catapano down in pass protection a couple times. He shocked him once, but Catapano’s active hands and motor overwhelmed him.

R.J. Dill- Dill has NFL tackle size but he struggled to push Catapano off the ball in the run game when I saw him. I haven’t scouted him before, so I’m still feeling him out as a prospect.

David Bass- Bass was a player I was very excited to see this week. He was surprisingly active versus the run and showed that he could use his length well to keep linemen off of him and didn’t let Terron Armstead or Nick Speller move him off the ball in the run game. A couple times Mark Jackson’s length seemed to neutralize him when rushing the passer, but I was encouraged by what I saw versus the run. He did bite hard on the run and not keep contain on a play action bootleg, allowing the quarterback to roll out uncontested for an easy completion. I was encouraged with what I saw from him today, and he is definitely one kid I am excited to see all week.

Anthony McCloud- As I mentioned in my preview for this game, McCloud isn’t going to penetrate into the backfield and be exceedingly disruptive. That was what I saw today as he was borderline impossible to move off the ball when matched up with an offensive lineman one on one. He has natural leverage and is well built and strong at the point of attack. I look forward to seeing how he pushes the pocket and stands up to double teams throughout the week.

Mike Catapano- Catapano is a kid I wasn’t blown away by on film, but he’s hard not to like. He’s a high effort player with active hands who is going to make the most of his ability. He’s not going to be a dynamic pass rusher, but I think he has a great shot to stick on a roster. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on him this week.

Devin Taylor- Taylor is obviously one of the best athletes here thanks to his combination of size and athleticism. He still looks stiff to me but his athleticism off the snap gives him an advantage against some offensive linemen who aren’t exactly stellar athletes. His quickness gave Armstead issues a couple times in pass protection.

Melvin White- I didn’t see White much today, but I hope they let him press this week. I’m not sure I love him in a zone scheme based off of what I’ve seen on film, but I think he has a lot of potential as a press corner thanks to his length. I want to see how his hips and feet look this week, but I think he’s going to be in vogue because of how tall and long he is.

Cooper Taylor- I was really looking forward to seeing him and he didn’t disappoint today. He seemed to have a good feel in coverage and had an interception early on in the practice. He looked surprisingly fluid to me for a 6’4″ safety and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.

From now until the season starts I will be previewing the prospects from Big-12, ACC and Big East teams for the upcoming season. My colleague at NFL Draft Monsters Justin Higdon (follow him on Twitter @afc2nfc) will be covering the SEC, Pac-12 and Big-10 and you will be able to read those posts on NFL Draft Monsters. Check them all out to get ready for the 2013 NFL Draft by identifying the prospects you need to learn about!

Today I am previewing Kansas State. I actually like Kansas State as a dark-horse to win the Big-12 this year (my favorite is West Virginia) but I think Kansas State is still flying under the radar. They return a lot of talent on offense, particularly at wide receiver where they are fairly deep. With Collin Klein and John Hubert in the backfield they should continue to run the ball effectively, and if Klein can continue to progress and open up as a passer the Wildcat’s offense should be dangerous. Klein accounted for 40 touchdowns last season (13 passing, 27 rushing) and while it will be difficult to match that lofty total again, I think he is in line for an increase in passing efficiency and production. He isn’t a prototypical quarterback, but he is a fearless leader and he improves the play of those around him much like Tim Tebow did at Florida. That is an incredibly rare and valuable trait for a quarterback to have, and Klein has it in spades. With Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson all returning at receiver Klein will certainly have players to throw to whether he wants to move the chains, threaten defenses horizontally or if he wants to stretch the field vertically. It will be interesting to see if or how he progresses as a passer this year. One important note about Kansas State’s offense is that Manase Foketi **DOUBLE CHECK THIS** was attempting to transfer out of the program after the completion of his junior season but as far as I know Kansas State has continued to block his request to transfer. I don’t have an update at this time, but Foketi is Klein’s blind-side protector and losing him would be a significant blow to their offense.

On defense, Kansas State was surprisingly good last year and they return a number of important starters. They have a couple of intriguing pass rushers at defensive end in Adam Davis and Meshak Williams, a stud middle linebacker in Arthur Brown, and a couple impressive defensive backs in Nigel Malone and Ty Zimmerman. Those core players should keep Kansas State’s defense competent, and if other guys can step up I think Kansas State’s defense will surprise. They return a number of key starters across their entire team, but having a pair of pass rushers like Davis and Williams will only help the secondary headlined by Malone and Zimmerman who are both instinctual defenders with quality ball skills. Kansas State may not have a player who will end up being drafted in the 1st round come April, but they have a well stocked team full of reliable players who may not be as flashy or freakish as some of the talent stocked by other programs, but they are effective and worthy of serious draft consideration. With that, here are the prospects to look out for on Kansas State:

Collin Klein may not be a typical quarterback, but I think he is going to get a chance to play QB in the NFL. Tebow did, why shouldn’t Klein?

Collin Klein, QB- Ah, Collin Klein, the Big-12’s Tim Tebow. The comparison isn’t perfect, but they sure do have their similarities. They have NFL size (Klein is listed at 6’5”, 226 pounds), strong arms, a hitch in their throwing motions, the ability to bowl over defenders when gaining yardage with their legs, inconsistent accuracy and fantastic toughness and leadership capability. Klein may not be at the top of many team’s quarterback wish lists, and he likely won’t be drafted in the 1st round like Tim Tebow was, but I think he will get a shot to play QB in the NFL. He needs some mechanical work on his throwing motion, but he actually flashed the ability to go through progressions and scan the field a bit despite being relied upon to run the ball so much. Klein is the type of guy that many will find fault with, and many draftniks will probably grade him pretty low, but he will likely impress teams in interviews due to his reported football IQ and obvious leadership capability as well as his willingness to take a beating and play hurt. I don’t know if he will ever be a starting QB in the NFL, but if Tebow has managed to do it, hell, maybe Klein can do it too. I expect to see Klein at the East-West Shrine Game, or perhaps more likely, the Senior Bowl and I look forward to seeing him up close and speaking with him.

John Hubert, RB*- Hubert’s production suffered more than anyone else’s thanks to Klein’s ability to gain tough yards in short yardage situations which led to his 27 rushing touchdowns last season. Hubert is a quality back though despite his somewhat diminutive listed size of 5’7”, 185 pounds. Packing that much weight onto that small of a frame isn’t as easy as you might think, and I think he is eager to prove he is more than just a scat-back. He produced 970 yards on 200 carries last season (4.8 ypc average) as well as 3 touchdowns. He also demonstrated that he can catch passes out of the backfield by tallying 24 receptions for 188 yards and 1 more touchdown. Hubert is only a junior and I would be surprised if he declared early, so as a senior he should have a chance to show what he can do as the main feature of Kansas State’s running game. As a junior, though, he will likely remain in Klein’s considerable shadow.

Tyler Lockett, WR**- Lockett is a gamebreaker and even though he is only a true sophomore I had to include him in this list. Unfortunately he suffered a lacerated kidney against Oklahoma State and missed the final four games, but he said he is feeling “fantastic” and he was able to participate in spring practices before being held out because of a hamstring injury. Here’s hoping he gets over the injury bug for the rest of his career, but at 5’11”, 170 pounds he will likely continue to get nicked up. However, despite missing the final four games last year Lockett managed to catch 18 passes for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns, carry the ball 10 times for 110 yards (11.0 ypc) and return 16 kickoffs for 563 yards (35.2 average per return) including 2 for touchdowns. And that was all in just nine games! He looks like he has legitimate sub 4.45 speed to me and will likely be Kansas State’s primary deep threat on offense as well as their most dynamic kickoff return man this year. So while he may not be eligible for the draft this year, there is no way I could have left a playmaker as dynamic as Lockett off of this list.

Harper is flying a little under the radar thanks to Kansas State’s less than flashy passing game, but he is Klein’s go-to guy and projects to the NFL as a reliable possession type receiver.

Chris Harper, WR- Harper is widely considered Kansas State’s top wide receiver, and that was reflected in his statistics last season. He had 40 receptions (#2 WR had 21), 547 yards (#2 WR had 338) and 5 touchdowns (Lockett was #2 with 3, 5 were tied for #3 with 1 TD reception each). By catching 40 passes that meant that Harper caught almost 25% of Klein’s completions (40 of 161), accounted for 28.52% of the yards that Klein threw for (547 of 1,918) and accounted for 38.5% of the touchdowns that Klein threw (5 of 13). It may seem like I’m trying to skew the numbers to make Harper’s look more impressive, but the fact of the matter is Klein ran the ball 36 more times than he threw the ball last year and only threw for 470 more yards than he ran, yet had 14 more touchdowns rushing than he did passing. There just weren’t a ton of passes to go around, and it didn’t help that Klein only completed 57.3% of the 281 passes he attempted. Regardless, the 6’1”, 225 pound Harper figures to be the go-to guy for Klein again this season, and I think he has a shot at 50-60 receptions for 800 yards and 8 touchdowns if Klein continues to target him and if his accuracy improves at all. I don’t think Harper is going to be a top WR prospect even in a relatively weak WR class, but he has reliable hands to catch the ball outside his frame and while he isn’t a burner I think as he continues to improve his route running he will project pretty nicely as a possession receiver at the next level. Will he be a star? Probably not, but I think he will be a reliable WR who will be a pleasant surprise for whoever drafts him.

Tramaine Thompson, WR*- Tramaine Thompson is listed as a probable starter, but I think he will likely be Klein’s #3 option this season behind Harper and Lockett. Thompson was the 2nd on the team in receptions (21) and yardage (338) but that is largely due to the fact that Lockett missed the final 4 games and only finished with 3 fewer receptions and 88 fewer yards while scoring two more touchdowns. Thompson led the team in average per reception and certainly has the speed to threaten teams vertically, but at 5’7” 165 he is an even smaller target than Lockett and I’m not sure how reliable his hands are at this point. Kansas State is undeniably a run-first team so even though Kansas State has three legitimate pass catchers at receiver don’t expect Bill Snyder to demand that Kleinn throws for at least 3,000 yards. That means fewer targets for all of the receivers, and that includes Thompson.

Adam Davis, DE- Adam Davis teamed up with Meshak Williams to form a surprisingly formidable pass rushing duo last year, combining for 11 sacks (Davis had 4) and additional tackles for loss (Davis also had 4). There were a lot of questions surrounding Davis’ health at this time last year because of a severe back injury he suffered. Davis had a slipped disk and a pinched nerve in his back and after surgery he said he “couldn’t bend over because if I turned the wrong way it hit my nerve and sent pain down to my legs.” He worked hard and rehabbed from the injury and was still limited on August 18th when that interview was published, but despite all of that the 6’0”, 255 pound defensive end produced 34 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and 2 pass break-ups while starting all 13 games for the Wildcats. Now a senior and a year removed from the injury everything appears to be fine but that is something that NFL teams will certainly want to check out when they scout him after this upcoming season. Davis has quality burst off of the ball, flashed some impressive hand usage to keep linemen from locking him up and can blow by slow-footed offensive linemen if he can keep their hands off of him. He’s obviously very undersized and may need to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but Davis is one man I would not bet against. He worked very hard to come back from that back injury and he is all effort and hustle. He’s a player and I think he has a shot to double his production from his junior season, his first game action with the Wildcats after transferring from junior college. Don’t sleep on him because of his height!

Meshak Williams, DE- Williams is the defensive end with superior height at 6’3” but actually weighs less than his defensive end counterpart Adam Davis, tipping the scales at only 245 pounds. Williams has burst off the ball as well and he converted that into 28 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and a team-leading 7 sacks last season. He too was a junior college transfer and thanks to his height he will be considered more favorably as a possible 4-3 defensive end. Both Williams and Davis have things to improve as pass rushers, but they have the burst to intrigue evaluators as pass rushers and together the tandem has a legitimate chance to combine for 15-20 sacks next year. They should be fun to watch if they remain healthy.

Arthur Brown is one of the top senior linebacker prospects in the country and reminds me quite a bit of former Nebraska standout Lavonte David.

Arthur Brown, MLB- Brown is arguably the top NFL prospect on Kansas State. He will draw a lot of favorable comparisons to former Nebraska and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Lavonte David thanks to their relative lack of size, impressive instincts, tackling and coverage skills. Because he is listed at 6’1”, 225 many will knock him for lacking size much like they did with David, but if he repeats his junior season (his first game action with Kansas State after transferring from Miami and sitting out in 2010) production with 101 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 pass break-ups and an interception then he could very well go in the 2nd round like Lavonte David did. Brown has the athleticism, instincts and quality fundamentals to be a quality weakside linebacker in the NFL and he is one of the top senior 4-3 linebackers in the nation.

Justin Tuggle, OLB- I saw the name Tuggle and just had to do some research to see if he was related to Jessie Tuggle and, in fact, he is. Justin is Jessie’s son and believe it or not he wasn’t a linebacker from birth. He was a quarterback (and a pretty good one) in high school and set school records in passing yards and passing touchdowns there. He started 3 games for Boston College at quarterback, throwing for 229 yards and 4 touchdowns. He left for Community College in 2010 before transferring to Kansas State for his junior season. He didn’t contribute much, only playing in 4 games on special teams and totaling one tackle against Texas A&M, but if for no other reason than because he is Jessie’s son he is someone to keep an eye on. He is listed at 6’3”, 227 pounds and apparently has transitioned very naturally to the outside linebacker position (should that surprise anyone? It flows in his blood) and is in an intense competition for the only vacant starting linebacker spot. I don’t know if he has won it for sure or not, but it sounded like he pulled ahead after the spring game where he was able to tally 4 tackles including one for loss. Arthur Brown had this to say about Tuggle’s performance: “He’s doing a great job,” Brown said. “When he’s out there running after the ball, you can tell he’s a great athlete. He definitely transferred all his offensive skills to defense. I think he has a lot more potential.” I, for one, am excited to see if Tuggle holds onto the job and if he is able to capitalize on his potential and his quality linebacking pedigree. The NFL could use another Tuggle.

Nigel Malone, CB- Malone really catches your attention when you watch him and when you look at his stat line. He may be listed at only 5’10”, 176 pounds but he isn’t afraid to come up to support the run (as evidenced by his 58 tackles) and he has some of the best ball skills of any defensive back in the conference, tallying 10 pass break-ups as well as 7 interceptions in his first season with the Wildcats. Malone isn’t a technician at cornerback quite yet, but he has pretty impressive instincts and clearly has a nose for the ball. He won’t blow people away with his measurables in my opinion, but once you watch him play you have to be impressed with how well he plays the ball. I’m very interested to see how he does now that he has a year of starting experience under his belt, and I think he is a legitimate top 100 pick coming into the season. If he’s coachable and if he works hard he can improve his technique and maybe add a little weight to his frame, but I don’t think you can teach ball skills, especially not one’s that enable you to tally 17 passes defended (including 7 interceptions) in your first season as a starter in a major football conference. Keep an eye on Malone, he’s a playmaker.

Allen Chapman, CB- Champan is the “other” senior corner returning as a starter for Kansas State. He is listed at 5’11”, 180 pounds and was another junior college transfer who had his first game action as a Wildcat last year as a junior. He started 7 games, played in all 13 and had 50 tackles, 4 pass deflections and 1 interception. He was solid, but was obviously overshadowed by Malone’s dynamic performance opposite him. I don’t know how good Champan’s prospects are, but with Malone opposite him it’s only a matter of time before teams get tired of him deflecting passes and at times intercepting them, so he will get tested this year. It will be interesting to see how he holds up.

Ty Zimmerman, SS*- Zimmerman is one of my favorite prospects on Kansas State and he really impressed me in coverage against a very good passing offense in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas. He deflected two passes intended for their big tight end Chris Gragg thanks to his impressive instincts, athleticism and ball skills. A player with his football IQ, awareness, instincts and ability to make plays on the ball will be very popular once he is ready to leave for the NFL. He is entering his junior season this year and while I don’t expect him to leave he certainly will have the option to. He currently has 25 career starts and assuming Kansas State manages to make a bowl game, he could leave after this season with as many as 38 career starts if he stays healthy. That’s pretty amazing, and starting experience and awareness is something that talent evaluators love to see in safeties. They are the quarterbacks of the secondary and football IQ is very important for them, and Zimmerman has that in abundance in my opinion. Keep an eye on him, he may not have gaudy statistics (he only has 5 career interceptions coming into the season) but he is without a doubt a NFL safety.

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