Tag Archive: Nigel Malone


These prospects aren’t necessarily my top ranked guys or players that are going to go in the first round, but they are guys that I am 100% sold on and would fight for if I was in a NFL Draft War Room. Enjoy.

QBs:

Geno Smith, West Virginia
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

Honorable mentions: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse, Ryan Griffin, Tulane

Analysis: I have been fairly outspoken about not being a fan of this quarterback class. That’s not to say there won’t be solid starters that come out of this class, there will, but I’m not comfortable tying my reputation to many of these quarterbacks and even the guys that I like have flaws. Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson have been my top 2 guys for months and that’s not going to change. I think Wilson is going to be a very good value if he’s there on day 2 and whoever gets him is going to get a very good, tough leader who may not be a pro bowler but is a guy you can win with. Geno Smith has been completely overanalyzed by this point, but I don’t think he’s a “franchise” guy, but definitely has pro bowl upside. That’s worth a 1st round pick to me. He’s the #14 player on my overall big board. As for Nassib, he’s been my #3 QB for a long time as well and while his NFL success will be tied more to a good scheme fit than I think Smith and Wilson will I think that he’s going to be a quality starter as well. This is particularly true if he goes to a team with an entrenched veteran QB who can show him the ropes and give him time to develop. Like most of the QB’s in this class I don’t think he is ready to jump in and run the show from the start. And finally there is Ryan Griffin from Tulane who I wish I could have seen more of, but everything I saw of him was very intriguing. He’s going to be an early day 3 pick in my opinion and I really like his developmental upside. Should be a good #2 at least, potentially a solid starter. I’d roll the dice on him in round 4 or 5.

RBs:

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Dennis Johnson, Arkansas
Benny Cunningham, Middle Tennessee State

Honorable mention: Montee Ball, Wisconsin

Analysis: Franklin is my #2 running back in this class, Bernard is my #3, and Johnson is my #5. Franklin and Bernard have both been discussed an awful lot, I think they are both quality backs and will be effective NFL starters. Dennis Johnson is one player that I am far higher on than most, and I think he is going to shock a lot of people at the next level. When I watch him I see a young Michael Turner who can contribute on special teams as an effective kick returner. He’s a complete back and he is my early pick for the steal of the draft. Benny Cunningham is a late addition to this post, but I am extremely intrigued by him. He just ran a 4.51 at his pro day months after a season ending knee injury and if he comes back 100% I think he is going to be a steal on day 3. He absolutely has starter running back upside and if he gets his chance I think he will surprise people. Last but not least I couldn’t leave Montee Ball off this list. I’ve watched him live too many times at Camp Randall Stadium and despite his heavy college workload I think he is being underrated. He’s a quality back and he can likely be had in the 3rd or 4th round.

WRs

Keenan Allen, California
Robert Woods, USC
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Conner Vernon, Duke

Analysis: Allen has been my #1 WR since October and I haven’t wavered on that despite his knee injury, testing positive for marijuana at the combine or not being able to perform fully at Cal’s pro day. Maybe that makes me stubborn, but I’ve been watching him since he was a freshman and I’ve been convinced for three years that he has #1 WR upside at the next level, so why should I change my mind now? The tape screams NFL #1 to me, so that’s what I’m trusting. Robert Woods was initially my 1a to Keenan Allen but his injuries concerned me a bit and he dropped down on my rankings, but he is at worst a terrific #2 in the NFL and is back at #2 in my rankings. I wish I could hear more about his ankle to see if he was going to be 100% at the next level, but he’s a 1st round pick in my opinion and will be a very effective NFL receiver. Hopkins has been my #2 for a while but thanks to some possible character concerns I’ve dropped him down to #4, but I am still a big fan on tape. He should be a 1st round pick in my opinion, but if he drops to the 2nd round some team could get a nice value with him. And finally Conner Vernon is the last player I’ll “bang the table” for at the wide receiver position. In a class absolutely stacked with talent I wanted to add a late round guy who I think is worth fighting for. He may not be the biggest or the fastest, but Vernon just always seems to be open and he has very good hands. He’s not going to be a pro bowler, but he’s going to have a 10+ year NFL career in my opinion. Look for him on Day 3.

TEs

Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Justice Cunningham, South Carolina

Analysis: Eifert may feel like a cop out, but he’s been my #1 TE for months now and he’s in my top 10 on my big board (#9) so I’m very confident he is going to be an impact tight end at the next level. Cunningham may seem a bit out of left field, but from the first time I noticed him I just had a gut feeling that he was being completely slept on and I still feel that way. He may not be a stud at the next level, but I’m not sure I’ve even seen anyone project him to get drafted. In a deep, talented tight end class I really think he could surprise and make a roster.

OTs

Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
DJ Fluker (RT/OG), Alabama
Reid Fragel, Ohio State

Analysis: I’ve been a big fan of Fisher since before the Senior Bowl and he was awfully impressive there and I feel confident saying I was one of the first people to say he was on Joeckel’s level (if not better) back in January. Others have since come to a similar conclusion, and while I have Joeckel rated above Fisher on my big board (#2 and #3 respectively) I am convinced Fisher has pro bowl potential at tackle and is worth a high draft pick. Fluker is an interesting prospect and while I think he would underwhelm in pass protection at right tackle I think he is so effective in the run game that he is worth banging the table for if you are a power running team. Not only that, but if he doesn’t pan out at right tackle you can just slide him inside to guard and enjoy pro bowl caliber play for the next 10 years. Reid Fragel is the last tackle I am a really big fan of. He is a developmental guy who needs some technique work and could stand to get stronger, but I think he has the upside to play left tackle and getting a guy like that in rounds 3-5 is something I and many NFL teams will always be interested in. I think he’s going to have a better NFL career than many expect.

OGs

Chance Warmack, Alabama
Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Larry Warford, Kentucky
Hugh Thornton, Illinois

Analysis: Warmack and Cooper go without saying, they are studs and should be quality starters as rookies. Warford is a player some have cooled on, but I really like him as a quality starter at guard and I think he could start as a rookie. He’s short, squatty and not particularly mobile but he’s going to have a long, effective NFL career if you ask me. And finally there is Hugh Thornton, he’s had to overcome a lot of adversity in his life and some teams are reportedly concerned about the anger he has inside of him, but he screams effective NFL starter at guard and call me crazy, but I love the nastiness he plays with. There are some great stories in this NFL Draft, but it’s tough to think of a guy who’s had tougher luck than Thornton. I’m a fan of him on the field, but I’m honestly rooting for him more as a person than I am as a football player.

Cs

Barrett Jones, Alabama

Analysis: This is not my favorite crop of centers, and I’ve been pretty outspoken about Khaled Holmes being a mid-round pick (I gave him a 4th round grade in June) and while Barrett Jones may not be an elite center prospect I think he is too smart and too sound from a technique standpoint to not have a long NFL career as a starting center. He’s not going to dominate at the point of attack, but he’s as tough as they come and he’s going to be the leader of whatever offensive line he gets drafted to.

DEs

Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Tank Carradine, Florida State
Datone Jones, UCLA
Corey Lemonier, Auburn
William Gholston, Michigan State
David Bass, Missouri Western State
Stansly Maponga, TCU

Analysis: Werner, Carradine and Jones are pretty self explanatory. I think Werner has 10+ sack upside and he’s a top 10 player to me, as is Carradine. Jones may not have that same pass rush upside but I think he can be a very versatile player in the NFL, not to mention he is virtually unblockable 1 on 1 when he slides into DT in pass rush situations. Lemonier is a player some don’t like, but I think he has a ton of upside as a pass rusher. He needs some technique work but he’s a guy I think you roll the dice on, coach up and the dividend could be a stud right end if he commits and works hard. Gholston is a player that some don’t like, but I have a feeling that he could surprise some people. Part of that bad rep comes from simply having the same last name as Vernon Gholston, but he has all the size and athleticism you could want and I don’t think he was coached particularly hard at Michigan State because he was such a big time recruit for them. With some NFL coaching and guidance I think he could surprise a lot of people, so I’m definitely willing to bang the table for him. David Bass impressed me a lot at the East-West Shrine Game and I think he has starter upside at defensive end, so on Day 3 he is definitely worth a draft pick to me. And finally Stansly Maponga presents some upside on Day 3 as well. He doesn’t have the height you want, but I think he definitely presents value as a rotational pass rusher and could go earlier than some have him projected.

DTs

Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Jesse Williams, Alabama

Analysis: This is a deep crop of defensive tackles, but I am very high on both of these guys. Richardson has been my #1 DT for a long time and I think he’s going to be an absolute impact player whether he’s in a 4-3 or a 3-4 as a DE. As for Williams I think he is the rarely seen 3 down nose tackle that can be effective versus the run and the pass in a 4-3 scheme. He’s worth a 1st round pick and I think he’s going to have a long, effective NFL career.

OLBs

Sean Porter, Texas A&M
Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
Brandon Magee, Arizona State

Analysis: This may seem like a random group of outside linebackers, but I have been a fan of Porter for two years now and he is a poor-man’s Von Miller to me. He won’t be the dominant player Von is, but I think he can be effective if allowed to rush the passer in a similar capacity. I may be alone in that thinking though. Khaseem Greene is a guy that I think is going to be a good leader and an effective OLB in a 4-3, likely on the weak side. And Magee is a late round sleeper that I think is going to outperform everyone’s expectations for him.

ILBs

Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Kiko Alonso, Oregon

Analysis: Arthur Brown is my favorite 4-3 linebacker in this class and I personally think he is a definite first round draft pick and can play inside or outside in that scheme. Alonso may not be for everyone, but I love the way he plays and I think he is going to be good whether he’s inside in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3.

CBs

Jamar Taylor, Boise State
Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
Nickell Robey, USC
Nigel Malone, Kansas State

Analysis: Jamar Taylor and Johnthan Banks are traditionally ranked pretty high by most analysts, at least those that I interact with, and I really think Taylor is worth a 1st round pick. Banks may not have had the workouts that he needed to go in round 1, but he has good ball skills as well as the size and length that is becoming more and more popular to match up with bigger wide receivers. Poyer has been a favorite of mine for years, really since he housed an interception on Matt Barkley when Barkley was a sophomore. He’s a top 40 player on my board and I think he’s going to be a good corner in the NFL. Robey and Malone are two other players I think I am a lot higher on than most. Robey is a top 100 player in my book despite his obvious lack of size. He’s an absolute playmaker and I think you can never have too many of those at corner. Malone is undersized and doesn’t have elite athleticism, but he’s going to stick on a NFL roster, likely as a nickel or dime guy, and make plays on the ball when he’s on the field. I’ll take guys who can play the ball like Malone on my roster any day, especially late in the draft.

Safeties

Kenny Vacarro, Texas
Jonathan Cyprien, FIU
DJ Swearinger, South Carolina
Bacarri Rambo, Georgia
Duke Williams, Nevada

Analysis: Vacarro is at the top of plenty of safety rankings and I think he’s going to be a very good safety at the next level, and I feel the same about Cyprien. I was really impressed with what I saw from him when I watched him on tape and live. Swearinger was a popular name for a while but has cooled lately, but I’m still a big fan of his. If he’s there in the 3rd round I’d jump all over him. Rambo has some questions surrounding him but he strikes me as an absolute ballhawk and those aren’t as easy to find at the safety position as it may seem. I’d also jump all over him in round 3. And finally Duke Williams, a guy I’ve been rooting for since I saw him LAY someone out in a bowl game a couple years ago, should go sometime on Day 3 and I think he has legitimate starter upside.

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.

Seth Doege- Doege’s arm strength looked as questionable as ever today. He threw a couple rainbows when I was watching him and I didn’t see much velocity, but it will be interesting to see how he does working from under center. Arm strength is going to be the main strike against him all week though.

Kerwynn Williams- I wasn’t overly impressed with Williams when I watched film of him but he looked good to me today. He’s so quick even if he doesn’t have the size I usually like in running backs. I want to see him in a full pads prospect.

Dan Buckner- Buckner impressed me today when I saw him, he tracked a nice ball over his shoulder and I’ve always thought he had reliable hands. He’s not a burner, but I think he’s going to be a Day 3 gem for somebody in this deep class of wideouts.

Amos Anthony- I didn’t see Anthony much but he made a couple impressive catches with his hands, including one on a throw that was well behind him from Seth Doege. I haven’t seen him play before so I want to see more of him this week.

Joseph Fauria- Fauria was skinnier than I expected him to be but he seemed to hurt his hip during practice, so hopefully he will be able to recover and play the rest of the week.

Braden Brown- Brown struggled mightily when I watched him today. He didn’t show a good anchor against bull rushes, he struggled versus inside moves because of opening his hips too early and didn’t seem to sustain blocks well. I didn’t have a draftable grade on him coming into the week and he didn’t do much to change that today.

Dann O’Neill- O’Neill predictably struggled with pad level since he stands at 6’8”. He didn’t impress me in drills and was beaten badly a couple times by Wes Horton, one time he barely even got a hand on him as he beat him off the edge. He has tackle size at 6’8”, but I don’t think he’s going to stick there in the NFL.

Manase Foketi- Foketi didn’t participate today and I’m not sure why. It was certainly disappointing because he was the offensive lineman I was most looking forward to seeing on the West squad. Hopefully he is out there tomorrow.

James Ferentz- Ferentz isn’t going to blow you away with his size and strength, he’s LISTED at 6’1”, 288 pounds, but he’s a coach’s son and he plays smart. Even in drills he was praised by the offensive line coach for funneling Josh Boyd to his right side where he would have guard help. Smart centers often find a way to stick, but if you’re looking for a man-blocking scheme center Ferentz probably isn’t going to be your guy.

Kirby Fabien- Fabien was at tackle when I saw him and he seemed overwhelmed there. He opened his hips too early, was reaching in pass protection and wasn’t “letting them come to him” in 1 on 1 drills which led to him getting beat a couple times. He had a tough first day, but I’m interested to see how he rebounds the rest of the week.

Andrew Robiskie- Robiskie struggled a lot in 1 on 1 drills and was beaten badly a couple times. Like Fabien he had a tough day when I was watching him, so seeing how he bounces back will be important. He looked overwhelmed by the size and athleticism of some of the West’s interior linemen to me.

Blaize Foltz- Foltz is a Day 3 kid in my opinion and he’s very, very strong so he held up well in drills when I was watching him. The West has some strong interior linemen, so look for him to hold up better than some of the other interior guys this week thanks to his strength.

Wes Horton- I was not a Horton fan when he was at USC, but after he missed this season due to injury I was looking forward to seeing how he looked. He’s not exactly going against NFL left tackles in practice, but he was able to win off the edge and with strength and hand usage. He’s one guy I want to see more of.

Brandon Thurmond- Thurmond was one guy I wanted to see and he flashed some real skills today. I didn’t have a lot of notes on him, but he definitely caught my eye. I will have plenty of notes on him tomorrow, so look out for those.

William Campbell- Campbell is inconsistent off the snap and was getting coached pretty hard by the DL coach about firing off the ball and staying low out of his stance. If he can stay low and keep his pads down he could be very disruptive because he flashed impressive athleticism for a 6’5”, 310 pound (listed) defensive tackle. He showed an impressive arm over move a couple times and a nice bull rush when he kept his pads low. He has a lot of potential but he’s never really lived up to it, so it will be interesting to see if the light comes on this week.

Josh Boyd- Boyd was getting coached as hard if not harder than Campbell by the defensive line coach as he was not firing off the ball well either. He seemed to step it up a bit in drills but he had an inconsistent day. I’m interested to see how he progresses all week, but he flashed some potential as a bull rusher and he can beat you off the snap if he fires off well.

Travis Johnson- Johnson may not have elite athleticism or speed but he has such active hands and a good effort level it’s hard not to like him. I heard him talking after practice saying that he really admired Clay Matthews’ playing style and that he felt comfortable in a 4-3 or a 3-4, for what it’s worth.

Will Pericak- Pericak was probably my favorite defensive linemen from either practice today. I hadn’t seen him play much before this, but he looked the part of a 3 tech defensive tackle and showed an impressive motor and strong, active hands. He was a handful for every interior offensive lineman I saw him go up against 1 on 1. I am definitely going to be tracking him down for an interview and I will have a close eye on him this week, but if you missed it I tweeted out during practice that “Will Pericak is going to make a NFL roster. #VaultMe” and I mean it. Keep an eye on Pericak.

Nigel Malone- Malone isn’t going to be a 2nd or 3rd rounder but I would love to pick him on Day 3. He’s not the biggest or the fastest but he has smooth hips, good feet and he has great ball skills. I’m sold on him at this point even though I didn’t get to see a lot of him today. He’s going to stick on a roster I am sure of it.

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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