Tag Archive: Brandon Weeden


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 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had their best season in team history last year despite the crushing loss to Iowa State that prevented them from playing in the BCS National Championship game (a match-up I would have liked to see, actually, between Oklahoma State’s passing game and LSU’s pass defense). Still, Oklahoma State is coming off of a 41-38 OT win against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl and the program has a lot of momentum and buzz around it despite losing Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Markelle Martin to the NFL Draft. There was a lot of anticipation for Oklahoma State to name a starting quarterback, but on the day of the NFL Draft Head Coach Mike Gundy named true freshman Wes Lunt as the starting quarterback for the 2012 season. This surprised plenty of people (including myself) but it’s not hard to see why he made that decision. Gundy has said that he wants to continue the pocket passing-type offense that Dana Holgersen established at OSU with Brandon Weeden two years ago, and at 6’4″, 212 pounds Lunt fits that tall, strong armed pocket passer description better than junior Clint Chelf or redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh (Chelf is 6’1″, 201 pounds and Walsh is 6’2″, 199 pounds). Obviously Lunt didn’t win the position based only on his height, he showed a strong, accurate arm when he was confident enough to unleash it and from what I was able to see of the spring game he showed some poise in the pocket even when pressured to keep his eyes downfield. This season will be a big test for him and Oklahoma State’s offense, and they will likely rely heavily on their run game spearheaded by Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, their respective lightning and thunder combo at running back. They have some returning talent at receiver in senior Tracy Moore and sophomore Josh Stewart, but the true surprise of the spring was junior Charlie Moore’s emergence. Together, Gundy is hoping they will keep Oklahoma State’s offense afloat while they also sort out some issues along the offensive line thanks to having to replace three starters up front.

However, Gundy has been quoted saying this 2012 defense might be the best one he’s had since taking over as the head man at Oklahoma State, and if the front four can help slow down opposing running games while providing some much needed pass rush, he might be right. Oklahoma State’s strength figures to be at linebacker and in the defensive secondary where they return 6 of the units 8 returning starters. These groups are headlined by linebackers Alex Elkins and Caleb Lavey, cornerbacks Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert as well as safety Daytawion Lowe. If Oklahoma State’s defensive line can match the production of the rest of the defense then Gundy’s team might be able to coast on their running game and defensive prowess to a 9+ win season. They have the special teams to do it as well thanks to All-American Quinn Sharp returning for his senior season as Kicker, Punter and Kickoff specialist and the Cowboys have one of the nation’s most consistently productive return men in cornerback Justin Gilbert. This Oklahoma State team might look different than in the years past, but I believe that as Lunt becomes more comfortable as the starter this team could become a dark horse in the Big-12 despite losing two first round draft picks. Concerns on both the offensive and defensive lines scare me, but if those units come together they could push for another 10 win season. Here is the prospect breakdown for Oklahoma State:

Randle has a complete game thanks to his ability to run, catch and pass protect despite only one full season of starting experience. He will be the work-horse of Oklahoma State’s backfield this year, so we should know if he can carry the load or not after this season.

Joseph Randle, RB*- Randle is the top offensive player returning for Oklahoma State and will be relied upon to carry the load and help take pressure off of true freshman starting quarterback Wes Lunt. Lunt has a strong arm and Brandon Weeden-esque size, but he will be only months removed from high school graduation and will need to be brought along slowly. This will be a huge test for Randle’s NFL prospects because if he is able to effectively gain yardage despite facing more defenders in the box then Randle’s stock should rise even higher than it already has. He has NFL size for a running back at 6’1”, 194 pounds, plenty of speed, and his versatility to gain yardage on the ground and catch the ball effectively out of the backfield will make him particularly valuable to Oklahoma State this season. I wonder just how great his acceleration is to hit the hole, as he looks like he runs at one speed once he gets the ball in the backfield. He has impressive lateral agility and can make guys miss while also running through arm tackles, but I don’t see the burst to get through the hole that others do (at least not yet). He seems to have impressive vision and does a good job finding cut-back lanes, and has enough straight-line speed to rip off big chunks of yardage. I was also impressed at how good he was in pass protection, as I never saw him let a free rusher get into Weeden’s face despite only being a sophomore. But this year his vision will be as important as anything else this season as teams will try to take him out of the game and force their true freshman quarterback to win the game with his arm instead of handing off to a potential top 50 pick running back.

Jeremy Smith, RB*- Smith is the alleged thunder to Randle’s lightning and he backs that up, weighing 204 pounds despite only being listed at 5’10”. He figures to be a key cog in Oklahoma State’s offense this season as he will have to help keep Randle fresh over the course of the year. The running game has never been more important for Oklahoma State now that they are starting a true freshman quarterback, so Smith will be counted on to produce another season like his 2011 one where he totaled 646 rushing yards (7.1 ypc), 9 touchdowns and 11 receptions for 81 more yards out of the backfield. Randle and Smith combined to rush for 33 touchdowns last season, and both averaged better than 5.8 yards per carry. The yards may not be as easy to come by at times this season now that the wide open passing attack won’t be operated by a 28 year old veteran with a top 10 NFL Draft pick stretching defenses vertically, but the duo should be able to effectively take pressure off of Wes Lunt as he acclimates himself to the Big-12.

Tracy Moore, WR- Moore is the top returning receiver for Oklahoma State this season and figures to be the go-to guy for Wes Lunt in the passing game. He is listed at 6’2”, 220 pounds and returns after a 2011 season with 45 receptions, 672 yards and 4 touchdowns. He has shown fairly reliable hands, the ability to adjust to the ball well in the air and reportedly has similar straight-line speed as Justin Blackmon. Like Blackmon, he also can gain yards after the catch thanks to his speed and strength. That makes me think he has the potential to really improve his draft stock this season if Lunt can get the passing attack off the ground. Unfortunately, much like Blackmon, Moore has had a couple of run-ins with the law. He was held out of the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford by Mike Gundy (haven’t been able to find a specific incident that led to this) and has had two run-ins with the police in a three month span. He was arrested on March 24th on suspicion of public intoxication (he was of legal age to drink at that point I believe) and at 2 am on Sunday, June 3rd he was cited for public urination. He was only fined in both instances, totaling $398 in all, but after some of Blackmon’s run-ins with the law as well as other arrests in both the football program and other Oklahoma State programs I’m sure it would help the coaching staff sleep better at night if their players stayed out of trouble more than they currently do.

Charlie Moore may be an under the radar name right now, but if his 9 receptions, 243 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Oklahoma State Spring Game are any indication, he’s ready to break out as a junior.

Charlie Moore, WR*- Moore is a 6’2”, 202 pound junior who only had 3 receptions for 56 yards as a sophomore. Now that top targets Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper have moved on, Moore has an opportunity for more playing time. He has reportedly seized it as he had 9 receptions, 243 yards and 3 touchdowns in the spring game and it sounds like he had a very good spring. His performance in the spring game prompted Joseph Randle to say this: “I’ve been saying that he’s gonna be an All-American since the first day of spring.” It may not have surprised Randle, but suffice it to say it surprised pretty much everyone else. There’s no guarantee Moore will be one of the passing game’s primary targets because of his spring game performance, but I’m certainly not going to write it off and I don’t think Oklahoma State coaches are going to either. He showed some straight-line speed, an impressive ability to high point the ball and come down with catches in traffic and showed reliable hands as well. Moore definitely has some sleeper potential to him, so don’t be surprised if he and Moore both catch 50+ balls on the outside while sophomore Josh Stewart tears things up in the slot.

Lane Taylor, RG- Taylor stands at 6’3”, 328 pounds and comes into his senior season with 36 career starts including 12 as a junior when he didn’t allow a single sack. That doesn’t guarantee that he is a quality pass protector, but it’s a flashy stat at least. He is by far the most experienced starter on Oklahoma State’s offensive line, a unit that had its struggles during the spring, so it will be interesting to see if he plays well without a savvy veteran under center. He has shown the ability to drive block defenders as a mauling guard but also has a little phone-booth quickness to position himself and seal defenders to create running room for Randle and others. He looks a little slow footed and doesn’t project that well to a ZBS or a scheme that requires him to pull consistently, but he looks like a possible mid-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft right now.

Ryan Robinson, DE- Robinson is returning for his second season at Oklahoma State after he transferred in from junior college the year before. He stands at 6’4”, 246 pounds and reportedly looked quick off the edge in the spring and Mike Gundy said that he was in much better shape this spring and that he had finally “gotten it” after a year with the program. He only had 21 tackles, 2 TFL and 1 sack as a rotational player last year, but now that he figures to be in the starting line-up in better shape with the light-bulb coming on he could be a surprise pass rush threat for an Oklahoma State that desperately needs one; they don’t have a single defender returning that had more than 2 sacks or 4 quarterback hurries in 2011. Oklahoma State might have some talented linebackers and defensive backs, but without a pass rush the defense won’t improve. Robinson may play a critical role in providing that pass rush.

Alex Elkins, WLB- Elkins is the second leading tackler from 2011 and the 6’3”, 222 pounder returns for his second season with Oklahoma State after transferring from junior college to try to build on his 90 tackle, 4 TFL,1 sack, 2 pass break-up and 1 interception statistics from a season ago. Oklahoma State returns each of its three starting linebackers and figures to be a strength of the defense. Elkins was the most productive last season and has a chance to be even more productive now that he has a year of starting experience under his belt.

Caleb Lavey, MLB*- Lavey started all 13 games for Oklahoma State in the middle last season and as a first year starter he had 74 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack and an interception. There are rumblings that he could be the next great linebacker at Oklahoma State, and while I can’t attest to that it sounds like he had a good spring and figures to be a strength of perhaps the strongest part of Oklahoma State’s defense: their linebacking core. He is listed at 6’3”, 240 pounds and figures to be even more productive than he was as a true sophomore in his first season as a starter.

Brodrick Brown, CB- Brown is an undersized corner, listed at only 5’8”, 183 pounds, but there is no doubt that he can make plays on the ball due to his 15 pass deflections and 5 interceptions in 2011. It wasn’t a fluke either, he had 8 pass deflections and 2 interceptions as a sophomore (his first season with significant playing time). He may be undersized but his skills are undeniable, and while he doesn’t project to playing corner outside in the NFL he may have ideal nickel corner skills. He won’t be a high pick because of his lack of size, but if he has another productive season as he continues to demonstrate his impressive ball skills he will be a sure-fire NFL Draft pick.

Gilbert may have the most upside of any defender returning for Oklahoma State. His combination of size, athletic ability, ball skills and his playmaking ability with the ball in his hands after a turnover or on a kick-return make him a very intriguing NFL Draft prospect.

Justin Gilbert, CB*- Gilbert is the taller and perhaps more athletic of the two starting corners for Oklahoma State standing at 6’0”, 194 pounds, but he was similarly productive as his teammate Brodrick Brown. He had 10 pass deflections and 5 interceptions as a sophomore, his first as a starter. However, he also offers explosive potential as a kick returner as he returned 26 kick-offs for 698 yards (26.85 avg) and 2 touchdowns as a freshman before following it up with a near identical season as a sophomore with 26 kick-off returns for 703 yards (27.04 avg) and 2 more touchdowns. If you’re a betting man (or woman) I would probably bet on him returning 26 kick-offs for about 700 yards and 2 touchdowns on kick-offs again this year, but you assume all risk and reward if you actually bet on that. Regardless, Gilbert clearly has legitimate NFL talent as a corner and as a return man, and that means he should be on your radar heading into 2012.

DayTawion Lowe, FS*- Lowe is Oklahoma State’s returning leading tackler on defense, and having a safety lead your team in tackling can be an indication of a poor defense, and that was the case last year for Oklahoma State according to most. Regardless, Lowe had 97 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 pass break-ups and 1 interception in his first season as a starter. Lowe stands at 5’11”, 198 pounds and is the 3rd starter returning to Oklahoma State’s secondary which figures to be a strength of the defense. If the defensive line can pick things up the Oklahoma State could be a sneakily good defense, but the secondary figures to be reliable again this year with both starting corners and a starting safety returning.

Quinn Sharp, K/P/KOS- Sharp was an All-American as both a Kicker and a Punter last season. The 6’1”, 205 pound special teams ace made 22/25 field goals (missing 2 from 30-39 and 1 from 40-49, he did not attempt a 50+ yard field goal) and had a 38.8 yard net average as well as 12 punts of 47 downed inside the 20 yard line. I personally think Tress Way of Oklahoma was more deserving of All-American honors as a punter, but on top of being an effective field goal kicker and punter he also had a remarkable 61 touchbacks on kick-offs which was first in the nation by 21. This was preceded by 53 touchbacks in 2010, so it wasn’t a fluke. He’s a safe bet to be a reliable kicker, punter and kick-off man again in 2012, and may have a NFL future as a kicker and kick-off specialist if not as a punter as well.

Senior Bowl Top 5 Rankings:

Quarterback:

1- Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Weeden is a bit of a polarizing prospect but I like him. He had a pretty good week and while he isn’t NFL ready as some quarterbacks are I do think he warrants serious 3rd round consideration and some 2nd round consideration. I think he will end up in round two, but I’m not sure I would personally pick him that high. That said, even if he sits for a year or maybe two he would be 30 or 31 when he stepped into the starting line-up. That would give him a solid shot at 6-8 years of starting at the QB position. That’s not a lot of upside, but if he’s ready to play when he is inserted into the line-up I think he could help his team win games as much more than a game manager. He’s not an ideal Andrew Luck type prospect because of his age, but I think he could be ready after one year of learning on the bench.

2- Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin: Wilson was my #2 quarterback coming into the week and he remains there after watching him this week in practice. His height hurts him, we all know that, but he made a terrific point in an interview I read from him where he said that there are very few quarterbacks that are tall enough to just see over the offensive line. Most guys have to move in the pocket to find throwing lanes, and that’s something he can do. With his over the top release, strong arm, quick release and mobility I don’t think he will have a problem in the NFL despite measuring in at 5’10” 5/8. He’s got plenty of arm talent and more importantly has fantastic intangibles. Give him a year or two on the bench and I think he can be a quality NFL quarterback.

3- Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State: Cousins moves up to #3 for me after this week because I think he was pretty consistent. He doesn’t have a rocket arm, and he isn’t great in the face of pressure, but he’s got some upside and may be able to develop into a solid starter with a couple of years on the bench. I don’t think I would draft him as my quarterback of the future, but he could be someone with a Matt Moore type of career with maybe a little more of a shot at starting.

4- Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State: Lindley is still a guy I like even though he showed his typical inconsistency this week. His accuracy needs work but I think with a couple years on the bench learning from a NFL starting quarterback Lindley would have time to improve his mechanics and footwork which could help some of his accuracy issues. I’m probably in the minority on him, especially when it comes to ranking him over Nick Foles, but I like Lindley’s arm and long term development potential.

5- Nick Foles, QB, Arizona: Foles is a bit of a polarizing prospect himself. He’s got quality tools thanks to his size, natural arm strength and he’s got some accuracy, but I just don’t see a 1st or 2nd round pick when I watch him. He hangs onto the ball for a long time and just doesn’t look good with pressure in his face. He’s got potential, I won’t deny that, and I’ve heard good things about his football IQ this week, but I’m still not sold on Foles.

Running Back:

1- Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: Doug Martin, or the “Muscle Hampster” as he is sometimes referred to, came into the week as my top back here and that has not changed. He’s a complete back that can run the ball between the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield and pick up pressure in pass protection. He’s ready to start in the NFL right now and while I don’t think he will be a 1st round draft pick I definitely think he should go in the 2nd round which is where I have graded him for a long time now.

2- Chris Polk, RB, Washington: Some people here were dogging Chris Polk this week but I just didn’t see it. Maybe he didn’t look like he had as much burst as some thought he did, but he is more of a powerful back than a guy that has great change of direction speed and burst. He’s still got a NFL future ahead of him though because of his ability to run the ball and catch passes out of the backfield, though he needs work on pass protection like many running backs do when they leave the college ranks.

3- Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati: Pead demonstrated the ability that I thought he would this week. He’s a complementary back, not a feature back, but he’s more than talented enough to offer you the versatility to make plays running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield and maybe even on special teams. I’m not sure he’s got a NFL future as a punt returner, but perhaps he will as a kick returner. Regardless, Pead offers some upside as a 3rd round pick and I think he’s got a solid shot to go in that range.

4- Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State: Ballard came into the week #4 on my rankings and he stayed there after this week. I’m not sure he’s a guy that will go in the top 100 picks, or maybe even in the first four rounds, but I think he will be able to stick on a NFL roster and work his way into a contributing role early in his career. He still doesn’t look great catching the ball out of the backfield, but if he wants to improve that I think he will be able to.

5- Chris Rainey, RB, Florida: Rainey has been telling people all week that he’s going to run a 4.1 in the 40 yard dash. I’m not sure I believe that, but I do expect him to get into the 4.3’s and you can see his speed when he lines up at running back and at receiver. He lined up a lot at receiver this week, probably more than he would have liked, but being able to run the ball out of the backfield and be split out to run routes will only help his stock. He’s an explosive guy that should help whatever team drafts him stretch the field vertically and horizontally on offense, plus he offers value as a return man.

FB:

1- Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin: Bradie Ewing was the best fullback coming into this week and after Chad Diehl went down with a concussion earlier this week he was really the only one left standing. He’s got draftable ability at fullback and I think he will end up being a NFL starter.

Wide Receiver:

1- TJ Graham, WR, North Carolina State: Graham definitely helped himself this week, perhaps more than any receiver here. His speed is extremely evident and he looks like he will be running in the 4.3’s in the 40 yard dash, but he also caught the ball well, created separation with his route running, and overall looked like one of the more impressive receivers here. I really liked him as a sleeper and he looked terrific in his final game at NC State, but between that and this week of productive practices he should be on everyone’s radar by now. He’s a guy that I might have a 3rd round grade on once I finish my film study on him.

2- Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas: Adams was impressive this week, but I still have some reservations about him. His hands and concentration aren’t always what you want them to be, but he’s as explosive as anyone here in Mobile this week. He’s got plenty of upside as a slot receiver and as a return man, but if he can improve his hands and concentration issues he could be an extremely dangerous player at the next level.

3- Marvin Jones, WR, California: Marvin Jones came into the week under the radar and I personally had a 5th or 6th round grade on him, but he definitely helped himself this week. I’ve seen him drop some passes on film, but his hands were consistent this week and he looked like a possible 4th rounder this week. I’ll have to go back and study him further, but he definitely has draftable ability and should be a nice #4 receiver early on in his career.

4- Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona State: Gerell Robinson is a player I’ve seen a lot of this year because I spent a lot of time watching Brock Osweiler. He’s got upside as a receiver thanks to his size and length, plus his hands have become more reliable as the season has gone on. He came into the season as a possible undrafted free agent and now he may not make it into the 5th round, especially after a positive week this week.

5- Juron Criner, WR, Arizona: Criner’s hands were never in question, and he showed that this week, but I worry about his ability to separate at the next level. But if you can catch the ball you can stick in the NFL, so while he may not be an early pick I think he can stick on a roster. His route running wasn’t very impressive this week, but if he can get coached up for a year or two as a route runner I think he could clean up some of his sloppy footwork in his breaks. That might allow him to create more separation and be a more consistently productive receiver. Even if he never runs great routes he has shown the ability to make tough catches in traffic, so while I don’t think he has great upside as a receiver I do think he has upside and draftable ability.

Tight Ends:

1- Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri: Egnew came into the week as my top tight end and that hasn’t changed either. He’s got everything you could want in a tight end because of his size, length, athleticism and hands. He’s still got room to improve as a blocker, but his value is as a receiver without a doubt.

2- Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana Lafayette: Green definitely showed his athleticism and potential this week. He’s not going to be ready to walk into the NFL and start I don’t think, but he’s got a lot of upside as a developmental prospect at the next level. He’s got the frame to fill out more after weighing in at 237 this week, he’s got impressive size, length and hands. He’s not a finished product, so his upside is very intriguing.

3- Deangelo Peterson, TE, LSU: Peterson is a bit underrated because LSU didn’t throw the ball consistently well while he was there. He’s got the size and athletic ability to offer some upside, but I don’t think he will get drafted very high because of his film. He’s a tough guy to project because there’s not a lot of film on him, but he has upside.

4- Brad Smelley, TE, Alabama: Smelley is a late round guy that can stick on a roster and contribute on special teams and add depth to the TE position. I’m not sure he will ever be a NFL starter, but may be able to work himself into a #2 role at some point.

5- Brian Linthicum, TE, Michigan State: Linthicum is in a similar boat to Smelley. He’s not a guy who’s got a lot of upside but I think he might be able to work himself into a #2 role at some point. He was hurt at one point during this week, I’m not sure with what, but he’s not a guy that I see being a NFL starter.

Offensive Tackles:

1- Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Adams took control day one and never really let it up in my opinion. He showed the ability to play left tackle from the get-go which impressed me. I don’t think he has the versatility to play on the right side though because he needs to get stronger in the lower body to anchor better versus bull rushes. He won’t be much of a run blocker in a man blocking scheme, but if he can pass protect at a pretty high level he should be worth a 1st round selection come April.

2- Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia: Cordy Glenn has plenty of upside when it comes to the NFL Draft. I think he could play both guard spots, right tackle and even left tackle in a pinch. He’s got pretty good athleticism for such a large man, though he does bend at the waist at times. He’s got plenty of potential as an offensive lineman, and pending my film study of him I think he’s got a 2nd round grade right now.

3- Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois: Allen came into the week pretty underrated but he definitely opened some eyes this week as he was able to succeed at offensive tackle and at guard in practice. I think he’s a left tackle in the NFL, but showing the versatility to play inside at guard will only help him when it comes to the NFL Draft. He’s a quality pass protector and I feel that in a zone scheme he could be an effective run blocker as well. He’s not going to get a great push in a man blocking scheme I don’t think, but if he can pass protect effectively he could find his way into the 2nd round come April. Left tackles always move up and get drafted earlier than you’d think, so don’t be surprised if Allen goes higher than most expect.

4- Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State: Sanders came into this week as one of my top offensive tackles and he definitely hurt himself this week. He has the athleticism and length to play left tackle in the NFL but he’s a year away from being a starter there. He’s got upside, but he needs to get much stronger in the lower body and it concerns me that he was not finishing blocks for the entire week this week. He was able to get into position and block effectively at times, but he didn’t finish the block and that’s concerning. If he doesn’t finish blocks in the NFL then he will give up effort sacks to guys with good motors.

5- Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California: Schwartz helped himself this week. He looked solid in pass protection, has an anchor to recover, and projects to the right side in the NFL. I don’t think he’s much more than a 4th or 5th rounder (I came into the week thinking he was more of a 5th or 6th rounder), but he’s got the potential to be a back-up RT for a year or two and then compete for a starting job if he progresses well.

Offensive Guards:

1- Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin: Zeitler came into the week as my top offensive guard here and that didn’t change. Was he perfect this week? No, definitely not. He showed some issues with speed off the ball and wasn’t perfect in pass protection either. But he’s definitely a 2nd round guard and may have pro-bowl potential down the line.

2- Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State: Osemele has plenty of upside thanks to his great size, strength and length. However, he lumbers when he moves and struggles to re-direct and change directions quickly thanks to his massive size. I think he can be a good run blocker in a man blocking scheme but he will struggle if asked to pull or block in open space. I don’t think he has the potential to play right tackle after seeing him this week, and he definitely looked better inside at guard.

3- Senio Kelemete, OG, Washington: Kelemete caught my eye thanks to his impressive first step, athleticism and he has some pop with his initial contact. However, he needs to get stronger to help him anchor versus bull rushes and to help create more of a push in the running game. He’s a great fit for a zone blocking scheme right now in my opinion, but if he wants to hold up better against bigger, stronger interior linemen then he needs to get stronger. When he doesn’t beat you initially off the ball to get position then he struggles to win 1 on 1 match-ups.

4- Tony Bergstrom, OG, Utah: Bergstrom looked like he might be able to stay outside at tackle early in the week but I think he might be better inside. I think he has the potential to play outside, but I think he might be better on the interior.

Centers:

1- Michael Brewster, C, Ohio State: Brewster didn’t have a great week in my opinion but he didn’t look bad. He’s a 2nd or 3rd round Center in my opinion that can have a long career as a starter. I don’t think he’s an elite player at the position, but he’s smart and should be comfortable starting for a long time. I don’t think he’s going to make a good offensive line great, but I think he will be a reliable player at the position for a long time.

2- Philip Blake, C, Baylor: Blake has shown the ability to play guard and center this week, and I think he’s going to go higher than many might think. He’s got an impressive anchor, he’s got pretty good length and I think he can be a NFL starter at center or guard after a year on the bench. He’s got the strength and girth you like at the point of attack for both positions, and might have slightly more upside than Brewster does at the position thanks to his size.

3- Ben Jones, C, Georgia: Jones looked like an average athlete this week and I have a 3rd or 4th round grade on him right now. He struggled to anchor this week and looks like a guy who could be a NFL starting center but I don’t think he’s going to be a good or great player at that position.

4- William Vlachos, C, Alabama: Vlachos is one of the most strangely proportioned human beings I’ve ever seen. He’s a short, squatty player with very short arms and just doesn’t look like a NFL player when you look at him from a pure measureables standpoint. He’s a fighter though and he has pretty good technique and plays with good leverage thanks in part to his lack of height, so he might end up being a starter at some point. He’s a 5th or 6th round pick in my opinion, but he might be able to have a long NFL career thanks to his football IQ and quality technique.

Thanks for reading! Defense coming soon.

–Tom

Senior Bowl Preview:

Quarterbacks:

-Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Weeden is my top quarterback because he has what the scouts are looking for in terms of size and arm strength. It will be interesting to see how he does with a batch of new receivers, but I like him as a prospect. Do I think he’s a 1st rounder? No, but I think he may end up in the 2nd round or at least the 3rd round barring a very problematic week for him here. His age will limit his stock, and it will definitely make him a polarizing candidate because I believe he will need a year of development before he can have significant success as a starter (meaning he would be about 30 years old by the time he was a starter). He’s got potential though and should have 6-8 years of quality quarterbacking in him if he is developed correctly, and that’s more than enough to spend a 2nd or 3rd round pick on if you need a quarterback.

-Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin: I am high on Russell Wilson, I’ll say it right now. Is he the prototypical quarterback? No, I don’t think he is. He’s going to measure in at 5’11” if not slightly under that in my opinion, and that will turn off a lot of scouts and a lot of draftniks if I had to guess. But I’ve watched this kid a lot over the last two years and I am convinced that he absolutely has a NFL arm and more than that I am convinced that he has a NFL head on his shoulders. There probably weren’t 10 quarterbacks in the entire nation this year that could have come into a completely foreign situation in Wisconsin and do anything like he did this season. Again, that’s my opinion, but I think people tend to forget just how skeptical some were before the season that he would be successful as a starter for the Badgers. I am really hoping I will be able to interview Russell to get a sense for his personality and his intellect on a one on one level, but I refuse to write him off because of his height. Plenty of people will, but I think that is a mistake. I wouldn’t bet against this kid based on what I know about him.

-Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State: I like Lindley and I think he has a chance to really impress this week. I was disappointed I didn’t get to see him at the East-West Shrine Game this week, but I am glad he has a chance to show what he can do on an even bigger stage. He has a live arm and NFL size, but his accuracy has been an issue and he can be a little erratic at times based on the tape I’ve seen of him. This week will be big for him, and while I think he will show his faults I think he will demonstrate his upside as well. He might not be this high on others’ rankings coming into the week, but hopefully he has a strong enough week to turn some heads.

-Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State: Cousins is a player that people have slept on his entire career. He’s never been big enough or fast enough or talented enough to be the outright favorite, but he has fought through it and been successful despite that. I think that speaks to some intangibles on his part, and I think he has a toughness and gutsiness to him that isn’t especially easy to find in a quarterback. However, his lack of arm strength will be a limitation at the next level and he isn’t especially poised in the face of pressure in the pocket. That doesn’t project him to be a great starter at the next level, but I think he has a long NFL career ahead of him as a back-up and a possible spot-starter.

-Nick Foles, QB, Arizona: Foles is an interesting player to me. He has the physical tools to be a NFL quarterback, but I am just not a fan. There’s obviously a lot more to playing quarterback than just your physical ability and God-given tools, but I don’t know much about Foles other than what I’ve been able to see on tape. I am not high on his intangibles at this point and haven’t been overly impressed with him in the 4th quarter when I have watched him. He has a chance to change my mind this week and I have to study a lot more of his 2011 tape, but at this point I think he is an overrated prospect as a possible 1st or 2nd round pick. The 3rd or 4th round range would be more realistic because at that point you are talking about a bit of a project and at least a year or two of development, but coming into the season I had a late round grade on him.

-Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State: This isn’t meant to be a slight against Moore, but when you’re a shorter player teams are ready to write you off as a potential starter anyways, but his lack of arm strength makes it even easier. He’s got average arm strength to be fair, but his ball velocity is lacking on throws beyond 10 or 15 yards. Measuring in at 6’0” or taller is critical for his draft stock, as silly as that might sound, because unlike Russell Wilson he doesn’t have the arm strength to make up for his lack of size. He’s got the intangibles and the smarts to be a NFL quarterback based on what I have seen on film and been able to find out about him, but being smart with limited size and arm strength doesn’t exactly qualify you to be a NFL starter. It means he will stick in the NFL, which I expect him to do, but it will be in a back-up role for the most part in my opinion.

Running Backs:

-Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: I love Doug Martin. I think people mentioning him as a possible 1st rounder are a little ambitious only because the demand for RB’s usually drives running backs down in the draft not up. Martin is absolutely a complete back though and he reminds me a bit of Ray Rice (I have to credit one of my Twitter followers for making the comparison to Rice before I did). He’s going to be a productive NFL back barring injury, and I expect him to demonstrate all of his ability throughout the week. I’m excited to see him in person.

-Chris Polk, RB, Washignton: Polk is a guy that has been underrated for about two years up until a couple of months ago. A lot of people felt comfortable saying that Jake Locker had “zero” talent around him at Washington. He may not have a had an abundance of talent around him, but Polk is a very legitimate 2nd or 3rd round running back prospect and he really helped make Locker’s life easier and he certainly helped Keith Price out in his first season as a starter this year. He’s the 1B to Martin’s 1A in my book, so I expect him to have a good week as well.

-Isiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati: Pead doesn’t strike me as an every down/feature back in the NFL but I definitely think he can contribute to an offense. He’s more of a complementary back in my opinion but he has impressive burst and speed as well as pretty good hands out of the backfield. I haven’t seen him much in pass protection, but he definitely warrants 3rd round pick conversation at the RB position. Again, I don’t see feature back potential from him but he could be a helluva complementary guy if used correctly.

-Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State: Ballard is a solid back who runs with good power and is a bit underrated at this point. Is he a top back? Not in my opinion, but I don’t think there’s much doubt he has the potential to contribute at the next level. I’m not sure if he is a guy who can be the feature back at this point, but he should show the ability to carry the ball effectively early on his career.

-Chris Rainey, RB, Florida: Rainey is a speed demon that has not shown the ability to consistently run through tackles and gain yards after contact. His value is in the open field and when he can find some space to run and really show off his great burst and speed. He’s not a feature back in my opinion, but he has plenty of upside as a complementary back, as a receiver out of the backfield (or possibly split out) and as a return man. He should show that off this week.

Fullbacks:

-Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin: Ewing was the starting fullback in Wisconsin’s run heavy offense and definitely has enough blocking ability to contribute in the NFL. Fullback isn’t a position with a ton of demand though, so I don’t know where his stock is at this point. He should have a strong week blocking, but I’m not sure he’s a very good receiver out of the backfield.

Wide Receivers:

-Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina: This receiver class looked extremely deep a few days ago, but after the Senior Bowl lost Michael Floyd, Nick Toon and now Kendall Wright three of the top five receivers who were supposed to be here won’t be. That means that, almost by default Dwight Jones moves up and I think he has 2nd/3rd round potential, which might make him the #1 receiver here. He’s got a lot of upside thanks to his size and athleticism but his hands are too inconsistent for my liking. Some have him in round 1, but I don’t like him enough for that.

-DeVier Posey, WR Ohio State: Posey has a lot to gain this week. He’s got NFL size and athleticism to be sure. His hands were always incredibly inconsistent at Ohio State and he figures to have a number of drops this week, but if he has the work ethic to improve his hands a bit he could really shoot up boards. He may do it anyways considering where his stock might be after serving a nearly year-long suspension.

-Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M: Fuller hurt his stock this year as he fell from a possible 1st or 2nd rounder to a 3rd or 4th rounder as of right now. He looked slow this year and that hurt his stock considerably, but if he can show better speed and consistent route running this week he could really breathe some life into his stock. I have a feeling he will look faster than most are expecting him to, so I think he could definitely help himself if he shows up with his A game this week.

-Marquis Maze, WR, Alabama: Maze is an underrated receiver in my opinion and I anticipate him turning some heads this week. He’s a bit undersized and the weigh-in will be important for him, but I think he has the hands and route running ability to create separation and stick in the NFL as a slot receiver.

-Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas: Joe Adams is a tricky player for me to project. He’s so explosive thanks to his fantastic speed and burst, and once he gets the ball in his hands he is so fun to watch because of his combination of balance, strength and physicality. He’s undersized but he doesn’t play like it, and that’s always fun to watch. But I’m not sold on him as a route runner and he has had drop issues in the past, he just doesn’t have great hands. It will be interesting to see what he weighs in at, but more than that I will be interested to see how well he catches the ball away from his body this week. He’s had trouble with that when I’ve watched him on film.

-Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State: Quick is a guy I haven’t had a chance to see play yet and I’m very excited to get that chance this week. He’s got impressive size and should have a positive experience at the weigh-in, but I honestly can’t say too much about him as a prospect at this point. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on him this week.

-T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State: T.J. Graham is a guy that really caught my eye as a sleeper after I saw him play in NC State’s bowl game. He had a huge game, but he was productive this season, has great speed and flashed the ability to run through arm tackles despite his size. He’s a good receiver and a good return man, and if he has a consistent week catching the ball and running routes I think he will definitely start to open some eyes and move up draft boards.

-Juron Criner, WR, Arizona: Criner is a player that a lot of people were high on coming into the year but his draft stock really dropped over the course of the season. He’s not the best receiver in the draft by any means, but he is still draftable and has some value as a prospect. I’m very anxious to see him going up against some quality competition at corner this week.

-Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona State: Robinson is a nice addition to this game and he easily had the best season of his career as a senior this year with Brock Osweiler throwing him the ball. Robinson is the definition of a possession receiver and consistently came up with big catches over the middle or on curl routes to extend drives for Arizona State this year. I like that about him, but I question his speed and I’m not 100% sold on his route running either. He’s got upside and value though, and considering he was a possible (or maybe even probable) undrafted free agent before the season started he has really helped his draft stock this year.

-Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa: I like McNutt but from what I’ve heard he is dropping on draft boards around the league, and it’s not super tough to see why. He’s solid in all aspects, but doesn’t do anything spectacularly well. Not only that, but he showed a lack of speed and physicality this year and that has to concern scouts. He’s a late round pick right now as far as I can tell, so this week is huge for him because he may be able to breathe a little life into his stock if he plays well. But if he doesn’t he might drive himself close to the 7th round/undrafted free agent conversation. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I can’t rule it out if he struggles.

Tight Ends:

-Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri: I really like Egnew and he is definitely the top tight end here in my opinion. He’s got great size and he has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Graham which I think are fairly legitimate due to their combination of size, athleticism and potential, but Egnew is obviously more polished as a receiver than Graham was when he came out. Egnew doesn’t have much experience blocking though which might hold him back at times this week, but if he is drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round range whatever team picks him will end up being very happy with him once he gets to camp.

-Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana Lafayette: Green is a talented tight end that looks very skinny on film and due to his athleticism honestly looks a little like a very tall, skinny receiver when you watch him. I haven’t seen much from him as a blocker at all, so this week could expose that for him a little bit, but he’s a natural receiver with significant upside. He should be in the 3rd round conversation this year, and I think that is very deserving.

-Deangelo Peterson, TE, LSU: Peterson is someone I thought could really improve his stock as a sleeper this season but thanks to Jordan Jefferson and LSU’s pathetic excuse for a passing game that never materialized. He’s got the size and athleticism as well as solid hands to be a productive receiving tight end but he never really got a chance to at LSU. This week could be HUGE for him for that exact reason because he will finally be able to show what he can do when he is consistently involved during this week of practices.

-Brad Smelley, TE, Alabama: Smelley is a fun guy to watch because he doesn’t look like he’d be a very good tight end but he makes plays despite that. He might offer more as a blocker than any of the three players I have mentioned previously, and he’s one of those glue guys that I think every roster needs. He’s not flashy, but he’s versatile and strikes me as a hard-working guy that will find a way to stick on a NFL roster whether he is drafted in the late rounds or not.

-Brian Linthicum, TE, Michigan State: Linthicum’s value is as a blocker and I’m not sure he has starting tight end upside in the NFL. I just don’t see the route running and athleticism to threaten down the seam, and the tight end position has increasingly become an integral part of the passing game. Think about it: A significant number of teams that ended up making the playoffs this year had an impressive target at tight end, and even though he might be underrated Jake Ballard has been huge for the Giants this year and we don’t need to talk about how good Gronkowski and Hernandez are for the Patriots. Linthicum should get drafted late, but I don’t think it will be for his receiving ability.

Offensive Line:

-Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State: I am high on Sanders and I have been since he was a junior. When I was scouting Christian Ponder I openly wondered if he had what it took to slide to left tackle but didn’t think he’d ever get a chance to show it in college. Little did I know that Datko would get injured and Sanders would take full advantage by doing a good job as E.J. Manuel’s blind-side protector. He’s improved his stock a lot this year and with one more good week he could lock himself up as a 1st rounder, and I expect that to happen.

-Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin: Zeitler has been underrated for over a year and he is finally starting to get the love that he deserves as a guard. I think he might be the top offensive guard prospect even though he’s not a behemoth like Osemele or Cordy Glenn. He’s very fundamentally sound and has starting experience in a great rushing attack at Wisconsin. He should be a riser this week and should end up in the 2nd/3rd round range come draft day. He has a 10-12 year career as a starting guard ahead of him, and will be a good value in that range.

-Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State: Osemele is a guy I really like. He is dominant once he gets his hands on you and I love watching that type of play from offensive linemen. He’s extremely large and strong, but he won’t be able to stick at left tackle in my opinion. It will be interesting to see if he gets a shot to play right tackle at all this week because I think he has a chance to stick there in the NFL, but even if he doesn’t look good there I think he will be a high draft pick as a guard.

-Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Adams is one of the well-known participants in Ohio State’s tattoo scandal from this past season but he is a legitimate pro prospect at offensive tackle. I’m not sure I love him at either tackle position because I think he struggles with speed a little too much to stick at left tackle at the next level but he’s not exactly a force in the running game either and might struggle to get a good enough push to be a quality run-blocking right tackle. Regardless, he clearly has talent and should impress at the weigh-in as long as he is in shape. He’s got upside and should be an early 2nd round pick, but may sneak into the late 1st round if there is a team that really needs a tackle picking late.

-Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia: Glenn could try and stick at right tackle much like Osemele this week but I don’t know if that his ideal fit. He’s tough for me to project right now, but he should be fine inside at guard. He’s a HUGE guy but he worries me with his waist bending and isn’t nearly as dominant in the run game as his size would make you think he would be. This week will be big for him because he will need to show up in shape and hopefully ease some concerns that I and others have about him.

-Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois: Jeff Allen is an underrated offensive tackle prospect that I am really glad got an invitation to this game. Every time I’ve watched him he has looked solid and I can’t recall a time off the top of my head that I saw him get beat badly. Obviously that isn’t exact, but my point is that Allen looked good consistently this year for the Illini and warranted an East-West Shrine Game invite but apparently didn’t get one, so I’m glad he is here. He can play left tackle in the NFL in my opinion and guys with that ability don’t stay under the radar for too long, so I don’t expect Allen to last long under the radar this week and he could end up being the talk of the Senior Bowl if he plays like I think he could.

-Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State: I’m actually not a big fan of Brewster, but I think he warrants consideration in the 3rd or 4th round. He has a chance to show me something this week though. But at this point I wouldn’t pick him in the 2nd round, I just don’t see top center ability from him despite his starting experience at an elite program at Ohio State.

-Ben Jones, C, Georgia: I’m not hugely high on Ben Jones either, but I think I like him a bit more than I like Brewster right now. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the two this week because I think Brewster is the better athlete, but Jones has always impressed me a bit more when I watch Georgia.

Sorry for the long wait! The defense is on the way!

–Tom

1- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: Grade: #1 overall pick
2- Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal: Grade: Top 5-10 overall pick
3- Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor: Grade: Top 15 overall pick
4- Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd
5- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: Grade: 2nd round
6- Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin: Grade: 3rd round
7- Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State: Grade: 3rd round
8- Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Grade: 3rd/4th round
9- Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Grade: 3rd/4th round
10- B.J. Coleman, QB, Chattanooga: Grade: 4th round
11- Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State: Grade: 4th/5th round
12- Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State: Grade: 5th round
13- Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State: Grade: 5th round
14- Nick Foles, QB, Arizona: Grade: 5th/6th round
15- Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois: Grade: 5th/6th round
16- John Brantley, QB, Florida: Grade: 6th round
17- Matt Scott, QB, Arizona: Grade: 6th round/7th round
18- Patrick Witt, QB, Yale: Grade: 7th round/UDFA
19- Case Keenum, QB, Houston: Grade: 7th round/UDFA
20- Dominique Davis, QB, East Carolina: Grade: UDFA
21- G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa: Grade: UDFA
22- Aaron Corp, QB, Richmond: Grade: UDFA
23- Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: Grade: UDFA
24- Jarrett Lee, QB, LSU: Grade: UDFA
25- Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU: Grade: UDFA

Keleche Osemele is one of the best offensive guard prospects in the country. His combination of size and strength is very intriguing.

Kelechi Osemele, OT, Iowa State- Osemele impressed me tonight. He’s so big and strong that once he locks on he can drive defenders off the ball in the run game. He seems to finish blocks well and will be fine blocking interior defensive linemen because of his great size (listed at 6’6″, 345 pounds) with long arms and great strength. He doesn’t have the foot speed/lateral agility to stick at LT in the NFL in my opinion, and while he might have a shot at RT I think his upside is highest inside at guard. At that spot he is a first round pick. His long arms will help him in pass protection at guard as well, and he doesn’t seem to lean into blocks and reach in pass protection. Doesn’t bend at the waist, he bends at the knees and lets defenders come to him in his stance. He’s a quality prospect, one of the best offensive guard prospects in the country. Don’t have a report on him yet, but I will eventually.

Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State- I can’t say enough about how well Leonard Johnson played tonight. Weeden throws the ball to Blackmon a lot, but a number of times Johnson’s blanket coverage on Blackmon forced Weeden to look at other receivers, hold onto the ball too long and at times force throws. Johnson was very good in man coverage, particularly down the sideline. He did a great job of taking away Weeden’s windows to throw to Blackmon by using the sideline to his advantage and staying right in Blackmon’s hip pocket making it nearly impossible to throw into that window. I wasn’t sure how impressed I was in zone coverage, and even in spite of his great effort mirroring Blackmon for the entire game he still gave up 10 catches for 99 yards and 1 TD. There wasn’t anything he could do about the TD, it was just a terrific play by Blackmon, but he definitely frustrated him and it was a very heated, competitive battle. Additionally, at least three or four of his catches were on screens at the line of scrimmage. Downfield Johnson had very good coverage for the majority of the game. They both seem to be very intense competitors, and while Johnson was jawing at Blackmon more and more throughout the game he never seemed to get so heated that he lost his cool. I had never specifically watched Johnson before, but he left a terrific impression on me tonight. He played great against arguably the best wide receiver in the country.

Brandon Weeden was on top of many Heisman lists prior to this game, but he won't be after his relatively disappointing performance against Iowa State.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State- Weeden has definitely had better nights. He was checking down a lot and throwing a LOT of bubble screens which kind of bothered me. More importantly he was checking down in critical situations. He was throwing underneath and into the backfield on 3rd downs late in the fourth quarter instead of pushing the ball downfield. Now, Blackmon was well covered overall tonight and if it weren’t for some bubble screens he probably wouldn’t have had many catches, and while Moore and Cooper stepped up when Weeden got them the ball it didn’t seem like he was consistently making good reads and good decisions tonight. He didn’t come up big in crunch time when his team needed him (until he made a nice touchdown throw to Cooper in the first OT which was immediately followed by an interception on a tipped ball that was forced to Blackmon against pretty solid coverage) and that’s a problem for me when evaluating QB prospects. Considering his age, his throwing motion which could stand to be tinkered with to speed up his release, and some of his issues in this close game it’s hard for me to grade him as a 3rd round prospect right now.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State- Blackmon had a good statistical game, but he struggled to create separation against Johnson tonight. Definitely not his best game, and while I’m not sure how many drops he had (may not have had any, but I thought I remembered at least one) he did make some nice catches extending his arms fully and had a terrific play against good man coverage by Johnson as he went up and made a great catch in mid-air as he demonstrated great body control and hands. He scored on that play, and it was definitely a highlight reel play. So while Blackmon didn’t have the best game of his career he still managed to make a couple great catches and plays to help his team. I think he could have done more, but some of that blame has to be placed on Weeden. It was encouraging to see him make plays like that, but at the same time I was hoping to see him step up late in the 4th quarter and in the overtime periods.

Darius Reynolds displayed some upside in this game, and I was particularly impressed with his hand-eye coordination as well as his ability to high point the ball in the air.

Darius Reynolds, WR, Iowa State- Reynolds had a pedestrian game by statistical standards with only 4 catches, 39 yards and 1 touchdown. However, I was impressed with his hands overall (though he did have at least one or two drops) as he made a great catch high pointing the ball well above the defender for his only touchdown in the first half. He almost had a second touchdown but it was ultimately ruled an incompletion. I personally believed it was a touchdown, but regardless of how it was ruled he still made a terrific play to get a hand on the ball, focus on it as he his arm was being grabbed while falling in the air and ultimately reel it in before he hit the ground. Broderick Brown stripped it out after it seemed clear to me that he had maintained control of it, but the referees ruled that there was not indisputable visual evidence to overturn the call of an incomplete pass on the field. Regardless, I had never seen Reynolds play before and he flashed some impressive ability. He’s a late round pick right now, but he flashed some upside tonight.

Jared Barnett, QB, Iowa State- Barnett wasn’t overly impressive in this game statistically, but I was convinced he had poise and composure by how he was playing as the game went on. Then the 4th quarter came about and Barnett made some big time throws and plays to help move Iowa State not only within striking distance but led the comeback to tie the game. He’s a redshirt freshman quarterback but his efforts in this game were very impressive. They weren’t all pretty, but he came up big when his team needed him to.

A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State- Klein is a junior linebacker on Iowa State that impressed me tonight. He seemed to be a reliable tackler, showed some ability in coverage by deflecting a pass or two, and seemed to be around the ball consistently in this game. I’d grade him as a 3rd-4th rounder for the 2013 class as he has some ability, but haven’t seen enough of him yet and I don’t think he’s an elite athlete. I liked what I saw from him tonight though.

Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State- Martin is an athletic player and he had a couple nice plays in coverage tonight. He missed some tackles early in the game and overall I think he earned mixed reviews in this game. He’s an athletic specimen, but I don’t know how high I am on him at this point.

Hopefully you enjoyed my thoughts on the Oklahoma State-Iowa State game. It was sloppy at times, but overall it was a fantastic game and a huge upset. It was definitely a very fun game to watch, and it had a number of legitimate NFL prospects to take a look at. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Early Game Notes:

Here are some thoughts as I’m watching the early games. If you want to see some of these real time you can follow me on Twitter @TMeltonScouting

Michigan State-Iowa:

-Marvin McNutt has had a solid game today. He accounted for half of Vandenberg’s passing yards in the first half. I graded him as a 3rd rounder before the season, I don’t think he’s done much to change my mind in that regard. I’d still grade him in that range. He’s got pretty reliable hands, and is easily Iowa’s most reliable passing target. I just don’t buy him as much more than a solid #2 in the NFL right now.
-McNutt keeps making plays. Just set Iowa’s career receiving yardage record on a 48 yard bomb to set up Iowa with a great shot at scoring, still down 20 with a few minutes left in the 3rd. Fundamentally sound, just not sure he has tons of upside. Love seeing him come up with big plays when his team needs them though.
-Jerrel Worthy is quick off the ball, athletic and strong, but he’s not much of a pass rush threat in my opinion. I want to see him dominate 1 on 1 blocks more, and though I have been switching between different games I haven’t seen him draw double teams as a pass rusher. When you are extremely disruptive as a pass rusher you get double teamed, and it is a solid indicator that Worthy hasn’t been (at least from what I’ve seen). He’s disruptive against the run without a doubt, but has growing to do from a pass rushing perspective.
-Kirk Cousins is a solid QB, but I don’t think he’s a NFL starter. He’s smart, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, has lots of starting experience, but I don’t think he has much upside as a starter. You know what you’re getting with him: solid arm strength, accuracy, touch  and plenty of starting experience for a legitimate Big-10 contender.
-I think Riley Reiff can stick at LT in the NFL, but I need to see more of him before I grade him as a top 20 pick. He seems to be flying under the radar for the most part right now even though he’s a legitimate left tackle prospect. We’ll see if he heats up as the season concludes and the draft process kicks off. He does need to get stronger though. He needs more lower body strength which would help him stand up to bull rushes better, not get pushed around as easily by stronger, squatty players.
-Gholston has so much potential at 6’7″ 280 pounds but he hasn’t been very good today. Might have to credit Reiff with his lack of impact, but he has also been nicked up.
-Mike Daniels, an undersized senior defensive tackle on Iowa, has had a good game today. He’s been disruptive, has good quickness and has been involved in a number of stops at the line of scrimmage or behind it. He seems to be a high effort player with active hands. I would love to see him at the East-West Shrine Game, I think he is definitely a draftable prospect.

West Virginia-Cincinnati:

-I’m a Geno Smith fan though he has growing to do. I like his pocket poise, he has pretty good arm strength/zip (though definitely doesn’t have a cannon), he has quality accuracy to all levels except for long deep balls, he just doesn’t have the arm strength for it. He has had a couple nice bucket throws in this game, one for a very nice touchdown to Stedman Bailey in the first half. West Virginia hasn’t given him any help on the ground as they have 14 attempts for 24 yards (excluding Smith’s listed 6 attempts for negative 15 yards from sacks). He is quite literally carrying the offense and has still played well despite not having a running game. He’s been efficient, made good decisions and hasn’t made many bad throws. It’s a close game, so it will be very interesting to see how he finishes the game. He hasn’t been great late in games this year, so I’m hoping today will be different.
-Bruce Irvin has showed that he can speed rush, but I want to see more from him in other forms. He has flashed a bull rush, but I’m not sold on his hand usage. He doesn’t thrive when he is engaged in my opinion, and his effectiveness is highest when he can avoid contact. I’ll need to see more from him to change my mind on that. He has plenty of upside due to his athleticism, but I want to see better hand usage/block shedding from him.

Oklahoma State-Texas Tech:

-Brandon Weeden has absolutely shredded Texas Tech today. They are currently up 66-6 in the 4th quarter, and Weeden has been great. 31/37 currently, 423 yards and 5 TD’s with no interceptions. He proved that he has a NFl arm today in a very windy stadium by slinging the ball around like he was in a dome. His passes were cutting through the wind and it didn’t seem to effect him at all when I was watching him. He’s a legitimate NFL prospect, his age is just going to hinder how far up his stock can move. It limits his upside, especially since he may not be given an opportunity to step into the NFL and be a starter.
-I am very high on Joseph Randle. Would like to see him gain some weight to hold up to the pounding feature backs take, but he is very athletic, runs hard, bounces off tackles, has speed to break off long runs, and has soft hands out of the backfield. He’s got the whole package as far as an offensive weapon, and he really stepped up this year to replace Kendall Hunter. That offense is as dominant as it is because of the running aspect that they continue to bring to the table.
-I am really high on Justin Blackmon and he continues to play well. He has had some issues with drops, but I’m not convinced they are issues with his hands. I think it might be an issue with concentration. Still a concern, but he continues to dominate as Oklahoma State’s main target on offense.

Nebraska-Penn State:

-Devon Still is one of my favorite defensive line prospects in the country. He played a great game today against Nebraska (as he does most every week). Coming INTO the game he had 47 total tackles (24 solo), 15.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. He added to these totals today against Nebraska and continues to impress. He’s listed at 6’5″, 310 pounds and has the versatility to play 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT in the NFL in my opinion. His stock continues to rise, and if you haven’t had a chance to watch him play you should make an effort to do so. If you can’t stomach the Penn State situation, mute the game and just enjoy watching Still play. He’s a great player.

Those are some of my notes on the early games. I’ll try to keep up with the afternoon and evening games as best I can!

–Tom

Andrew Luck is the ultimate prize for whatever NFL team manages to lose enough to get the #1 overall pick.

1- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford– Did you expect anyone else to be #1? He’s the best QB prospect I’ve seen since I’ve been scouting and he’s a great bet to be the #1 pick in the 2012 Draft should he declare after this season (and there have been rumblings that he will).

2- Matt Barkley, QB, USC- Barkley has been on my radar since he was a true freshman at USC. I was never sold on Aaron Corp and while I thought Mitch Mustain had potential as a sleeper before his off-field issues, I always thought Barkley was the most talented QB on the roster once he got there. That has proven to be true, and he has continued to develop in a pro-style offense since emerging as the starter during his freshman year. Now in his junior year it seems there is a strong chance he will declare. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, but I think there is a small chance that he comes back to take a run at a Rose Bowl because their bowl ban will have expired. Part of me wants him to stay, but there isn’t much left for him to prove outside of leading his team to a great season with a post-season win.

3- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M- Tannehill flashed incredible upside last year leading Texas A&M to a furious finish before ultimately losing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl. He hasn’t had the same incredible start this season but he has still flashed potential. He doesn’t have much experience but as he continues to develop he could become a quality NFL QB. He has quality tools such as arm strength, accuracy and athleticism. Plus, he seems to be a guy with quality intangibles and leadership capability, so even if you need to develop him for a year or maybe two he has the upside physically and mentally to warrant early round consideration.

Russell Wilson might not be rated this high by other draftniks, but he's a great QB. The only serious knock on him as a prospect is his height.

4- Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin- Russell Wilson won’t be this high on many people’s rankings, but I was one of the people that was wholeheartedly convinced that he would be a spectacular quarterback for the Wisconsin Badgers and I said just as much in my post that I wrote shortly after it was announced that he was going to play for them this year. I didn’t think he’d be this terrific so early, but that really speaks to his fantastic intangibles and leadership qualities. Wilson’s only knock as a prospect and as a quarterback is his lack of size, as I would estimate he is about 5’10” or maybe slightly taller. That will make his transition to the NFL more difficult, but he is a very talented quarterback. He’s got very good arm strength, has accuracy to all levels of the field, throws a very nice deep ball, can make any NFL throw, and has demonstrated quality pocket poise at times. I think he could stand to improve as a passer with pressure around him when he’s in the pocket, especially when there is pressure at his feet. However, he is very athletic and uses his athleticism to extend plays and is great at making plays outside of the pocket. He may not be an ideal quarterback for a West Coast offense that requires frequent three step drops and throws as he will struggle to find throwing lanes at times and he may have problems with passes getting batted down at the line of scrimmage. But if he is drafted to a team with an offensive coordinator who knows how to get him out on the edge and make effective use of his athleticism and ability to throw on the move he could be a very dangerous quarterback. I know I won’t be betting against him simply because I know how hard he works and how well he assimilates into a new team. He became a leader of this 2011 Wisconsin Badgers team after being an official member of the roster for two months when it takes many quarterbacks two years if they can ever even become a captain. People have really underestimated how difficult and rare it is for him to do what he has done so far this year. Without sounding like a rabid Russell Wilson fanatic, it really is nothing short of incredible, not to mention very, very rare.

5- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor- As skeptical as I was of Griffin before the season based off of the film I watched of him last year, you can’t help but be impressed by the unbelievable statistical start to the season he has had. I’m still skeptical of the offense he operates in, but it’s very clear that he has developed since the end of last season. Due to his arm strength, improving accuracy, fantastic athleticism as well as his reputation for being a very intelligent, disciplined guy as well as a film junkie NFL talent evaluators and Draftniks alike are going to be salivating considering his potential. He still has strides to make in my opinion, but he has definitely progressed since last year. I’d be a fool to try to ignore that, so even if I still need to see more of him I can at least acknowledge that.

Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden are directing two of the most explosive, high-scoring offenses in the nation.

6- Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma- Landry Jones is a talented quarterback with quality size, arm strength and accuracy. His accuracy becomes more erratic when under pressure, however, and doesn’t seem to react well to pass rushers in his face. That is concerning for a NFL draft prospect, and it is the reason I might have him lower on this list than some other people do. He’s a quality prospect, I’m just not a big fan of him personally. He’s got upside, I’m just not sure he will ever be a quality NFL starter.

7- Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State- Osweiler is a junior with only seven games of NFL experience up until this point, and he has a huge test upcoming against Oregon this Saturday. He’s got a fantastic combination of size and arm strength (reminiscent of Ryan Mallett to be perfectly honest) and his accuracy looks significantly improved over last season. He’s not very mobile, but he has a terrific arm and he’s progressing in the mental aspect of the game. He’s got a boatload of upside, and I’m personally a pretty big fan of his. I’d be surprised if he declared this year, especially since he would have a maximum of 16 games of starting experience at the end of this year, but if he did I would definitely expect him to get drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round range. But if he comes back I would be surprised if he didn’t end up in the 1st round discussion for 2013.

Geno Smith is quietly establishing himself as a quality NFL Draft prospect. He may not have had a fantastic game against LSU, but putting up 468 passing yards against that defense is definitely worth mentioning.

8- Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia- Geno Smith was never someone I was particularly high on, but watching him put up 463 yards on LSU’s fantastic defense definitely opened my eyes. He was carving them up with downfield passes and showing off an impressive arm, and even though WVU was losing for most of the game he never stopped coming (even after they had been made into a one-dimensional offensive attack due to their struggling running game and the scoreboard). He wasn’t incredibly efficient as he threw 65 passes and completed only 38 of them (58.5% completion) and threw as many touchdowns as interceptions (2). One of them came on an incredible play by Tyrann Mathieu, but overall I was impressed with Smith. He looks very skinny on film, and I’d be surprised if he declared this season, but he definitely has upside in my opinion.

9- B.J. Coleman, QB, Chattanooga– Coleman definitely has upside, but he needs development. I don’t think he’s ready to step into a starting spot in his first year or two, but he’s definitely worth a mid-round pick. He has a strong arm, quality (but sometimes a bit inconsistent) accuracy, great size and some pocket poise. He just needs coaching and development, but he doesn’t have incredible upside in my opinion.

10- Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State- Weeden is a solid prospect but his age is going to make it hard for him to crack the top three rounds just because of his limited upside. How much better is he really going to get before he’s 30? He will improve with coaching, but at best he has a 5-7 year window as a starter once he gets to the NFL, and that’s assuming he sticks as a starter in the first place which as everyone knows is not guaranteed. He can stretch the field, he’s accurate and has been a key cog in one of the most explosive offenses in college football over the past two years, but his upside is limited due to his age and that makes him a mid-round guy.

11- Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State– Lindley is a guy that I identified as a player with upside that needs to improve in some areas. Right now he’s a mid-round guy with plus arm strength but inconsistent ball placement. He has upside due to his combination of solid size, quality arm strength and his athleticism but his accuracy is only above average at this point. He has struggled with ball placement as a junior and so far as a senior at times. He has a live arm so he definitely has upside, but if his accuracy doesn’t continue to develop then he won’t live up to his potential. He’s a developmental guy at this point with more upside than most mid-round QB’s.

Kellen Moore doesn't have much arm strength, but his other quality attributes make him draftable in my opinion.

12- Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State- Kellen Moore is an interesting guy because even though he is a smaller guy with very average arm strength I still think he has a shot in the NFL. I wouldn’t peg him as a starter in his first two seasons by any means, but he has quality accuracy, he’s very intelligent, he plays well in pressure situations and he’s got a vast amount of experience. He will have to transition from the spread offense that he has played in at Boise State, but because of his intangibles I don’t think that will be as big of a road block as it is for some spread QB prospects that attempt the same transition. He’s a fourth or fifth round pick in my opinion right now but he’s definitely got the upside to stick in the NFL. I’m not sure he will ever be a quality starter, but with his intelligence I think he can be a back-up QB in the NFL. I’m just not sure he has the arm strength to threaten defenses downfield and that can spell disaster at the NFL level.

13- Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State- Cousins is a guy I’ve been paying attention to since he was splitting snaps at QB with Keith Nichol as a sophomore and while he is definitely a NFL prospect I’m not as high on him as I thought I might have been. He hasn’t progressed like I was hoping he would and while he has the potential to stick in the NFL I would not bet on him being a quality NFL starter right now.

14- Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois- Harnish showed some ability when I watched him last year and while I haven’t had a chance to see him this year I definitely think he can stick in the NFL. I would like to see more consistent accuracy and ball placement from him before I would project him as a potential starter in the NFL, but I haven’t seen him play this year so I can’t speak to his progression from his junior to senior year yet.

15- Nick Foles, QB, Arizona- Foles is a prospect that you seem to either really like or completely dislike. I am personally not very high on him and I think that people putting 1st, 2nd or even 3rd round grades on him are vastly overrating him. He’s got good size and arm strength, and he’s accurate on short throws as well as medium throws at times, but the offense he plays in makes him look better than I think he really is. I’m definitely not high on him, but his size, arm strength, experience and production should get him drafted. I just don’t think it will be nearly as early as some people think.

NCAA Top 25 Picks Post

Here is a post where I make some picks for the games the top 25 teams are playing for the week. I’ll try to do this every week, but I might not always have time. I’ll track them to see how well (or poorly) I do over the course of the season. Enjoy!

Week Four NCAA Picks Post:

Oklahoma over Missouri

Analysis: Oklahoma’s offense and defense are both very good, and Missouri didn’t prove they could win against Arizona State, losing 37-30 in OT. James Franklin will probably struggle to carve up the Oklahoma defense like he did the ASU secondary, and I wonder just how much pressure their defense will be able to apply to Landry Jones. Jones will make poor throws when he has pressure in his face, so that will be the key to hanging in on this game. The problem is, I don’t think Missouri’s secondary can hold up consistently if the Tigers are forced to blitz to create pressure.

Oklahoma by 17

LSU over West Virginia

Analysis: LSU’s defense is the best in the country as far as I’m concerned. They were tested right off the bat against Oregon and stood very tall. I’ve never seen a defensive tackle rotation like theirs in all my years of watching football. I believe that they have four starting caliber defensive tackles, and they arguably have three starting caliber cornerbacks in Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon. Claiborne is a junior and Mathieu and Simon are both sophomores, but they might be the best trio of cornerbacks in the country. LSU’s run defense and pass defense are both very good and their defense is very fast, and I think they are going to cause a lot of problems for Geno Smith and his offensive counterparts. On defense, West Virginia will have to pressure Jarrett Lee, but also stop LSU from establishing the running game because they love to run play action after establishing the run (and they’re quite good at it). Without the play action fake LSU struggles to threaten downfield due to Lee’s lack of arm strength. However, I think WVU will struggle to take away the run game, end up loading the box, and therefore allowing Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham and Deagnelo Peterson to get behind the secondary.

LSU by 16

Alabama over Arkansas

This one was tough for me to call. Alabama probably has the #2 defense in the country behind LSU (at least as far as I’m concerned, but it’s definitely close) and they have a quarterback with limited experience as well in AJ McCarron. Luckily, they have two talented running backs to take the pressure off of him in Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. Marquis Maze has stepped up as I thought he would and has 15 receptions, 186 yards and 1 TD in the first three contests. I think Alabama will be able to move the ball on offense against Arkansas’ defense, but I think that Alabama will be able to slow down the Razorbacks offensive attack. I love their WR’s, led by Cobi Hamilton as of now (13 receptions, a team leading 252 yards, 19.4 average per catch and 1 TD) and Tyler Wilson has stepped in to fill the void left by Ryan Mallett like I thought he would. However, Alabama’s defense is vastly better than Missouri State, New Mexico, Troy (the three teams he has faced this year) and much better than Auburn’s defense that struggled mightily to stop big, physically gifted receivers every time they matched up against them. Arkansas won’t get shut out by any means, but Alabama is going to be Tyler Wilson’s first real taste of what it’s like to play against a SEC caliber defense, and I don’t think he’s going to enjoy it.

Alabama by 13

Boise State over Tulsa

This really isn’t a hard pick in my opinion. Boise State’s defensive line is fierce and I expect Billy Winn and company to be in GJ Kinne’s face for the majority of this game. Boise State’s offense is still clicking thanks to Kellen Moore, so I expect this to be a relatively easy win. Kinne has a chance to show talent evaluators what he can do though, as his team is clearly overmatched.

Boise State by 21

Wisconsin over South Dakota

This shouldn’t be much of a contest either, as Wisconsin’s offense has the potential to be one of the best in the Big 10 if it isn’t already the best. Their running game and play action game will be way too much for South Dakota to handle, and hopefully they have continued to work on their run defense. If they don’t have it tuned up soon they will have a lot of trouble stopping Nebraska.

Wisconsin by 21

Texas A&M over Oklahoma State

This one was very tough for me to call as well. This could very easily go either way considering it is a rare battle between the #7 and #8 teams in the country. Oklahoma State’s offense is a juggernaut still led by Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, but Weeden has thrown 6 interceptions already this season, so that is a concerning stat for OSU fans. However, Joseph Randle has stepped up to replace Kendall Hunter very nicely, running for 378 yards and 7 TD’s on only 62 carries (6.1 average). Ryan Tannehill is a dangerous quarterback though, and he’s got a number of weapons to work with. I’m not sure which defense is better than the other, but I do think that Texas A&M will miss Von Miller rushing the passer in this game. However, Oklahoma State’s defense is traditionally their weakness, so that is why I had to go with Texas A&M. I will be at an away game during this contest and I am very angry that I will miss it. It should be a great game. But I had to give A&M the slight edge.

Texas A&M by 6

Nebraska over Wyoming

Not a very tough call on this one. Nebraska should win this game easily even if Taylor Martinez doesn’t dazzle as a passer.

Nebraska by 28

Oregon over Arizona

This one wasn’t as easy for me to pick as I thought it might be. Oregon has a pretty good defense, but Arizona can move the football pretty well. I’m still confident in Oregon, but Nick Foles has a habit of surprising people when they sleep on him. I don’t think Oregon will take him for granted though especially after losing a tough one to LSU in Cowboys Stadium, and that’s why I think they will end up with a big Pac-12 win here.

Oregon by 14

Clemson over Florida State (Upset)

Clemson is absolutely on fire right now, and this is the worst time for Florida State to be playing them. This isn’t a guarantee by any means, but Clemson’s offense is firing on all cylinders and Florida State didn’t get consistent pressure on Landry Jones last week. Clemson’s offensive line isn’t nearly the equivalent of Oklahoma’s, but they have enough weapons on offense to at least make this a plausible upset. I don’t think Clemson has the defense to keep them in the game if they can’t score, so unless their defense steps up and slows FSU down they are going to make me look foolish for this pick.

Clemson by 7

South Carolina over Vanderbilt

This isn’t as easy of a pick as I thought it would be, especially since South Carolina is in a state of flux and Vanderbilt is undefeated for the first time in recent memory after three weeks. I don’t think Vanderbilt will be able to hold off South Carolina, but stranger things have happened. If it was ever going to happen, I think it would happen now. Steve Spurrier doesn’t seem to have much faith in Stephen Garcia and even though they have one of the best backs in the country in Marcus Lattimore you just never know what will happen in the SEC. I don’t expect Vanderbilt to pull it off, but this is one I would watch as a POSSIBLE upset.

South Carolina by 10

Virginia Tech over Marshall

Analysis: This shouldn’t be much of a challenge for Virginia Tech, but it should be a good tune-up game for Logan Thomas. I think he has tons of upside, and it’ll be interesting to see how he develops throughout the season.

Virginia Tech by 17

Florida over Kentucky

Analysis: Kentucky isn’t a terrible team, but Florida’s defense is vastly better than I expected it to be even without Janoris Jenkins. Chris Rainey really impressed me last week and if he can stay healthy I think he could really improve his draft stock. I’m pretty high on Jonathan Bostic, Jaye Howard and Dominique Easley on their defense, so I’m excited to see them play against Kentucky again. I don’t anticipate the Gators having a lot of trouble in this game.

Florida by 14

Baylor over Rice

Analysis: Robert Griffin has been absolutely LETHAL this year. He’s 41/49 for 624 yards (83.7% completion), 12.74 yards per attempts and he has 8 touchdowns and no interceptions. On top of that, he has 116 yards rushing. Kendall Wright has been huge for Baylor with 20 receptions (14 more than the next receiver), 312 yards (184 yards more than the next receiver) and 3 TD’s. I don’t think Rice has much of a chance to slow Griffin down. The first time he might slow down in my estimation would be October 15th against A&M once they get into the real meat of their schedule. I haven’t been able to watch much of him, but it will be interesting to go back and watch him play to see if he has corrected any of the things I said he needed to work on in my preseason scouting report.

Baylor by 21

South Florida over UTEP

Analysis: South Florida is having one of their best seasons in recent memory, at least to start the season, and BJ Daniels seems to be maturing rather nicely. As long as he continues to develop the sky is the limit for USF, and I don’t think UTEP will have much of a chance to slow them down this week.

South Florida by 17

TCU over Portland State

Analysis: TCU lost a tough one against Baylor in week one, but they seemed to have bounced back in recent weeks. Portland State shouldn’t pose much of a threat, even with an inexperienced quarterback still getting a feel for the starting role.

TCU by 17

Michigan over San Diego State

Analysis: Brady Hoke welcomes his former team into the Big House as the Head Coach of the Wolverines this week as pretty heavy favorites. Denard Robinson isn’t my favorite quarterback but he is incredibly fast and I’m not sure SDSU has the speed to keep up with him in this game. Junior Hemingway has really stepped up this year (even though he looks like a TE rumbling downfield sometimes on go routes). It’ll be interesting to see how Michigan does in this game, but I would be pretty surprised if they botched this game after clawing their way into the top 25.

Michigan by 17

USC over Arizona State

Analysis: Before the game against Illinois last week I might have picked Arizona State in this one, but Brock Osweiler is still developing and even though the Sun Devils had a huge win against Missouri a couple weeks ago I don’t think they are ready to knock off USC. USC has a big chip on its shoulder because of the bowl ban that was placed on them, and I think they will approach this game with something to prove even though they are favored.

USC by 10

Illinois over Western Michigan

Analysis: This shouldn’t be a challenging game for Illinois. Western Michigan isn’t a bad program, but I don’t think they have the firepower to stick with Illinois on either side of the ball. They just fought their way into the top 25, so I don’t think they’ll get upset after just earning their #24 ranking.

North Carolina over Georgia Tech (Upset)

Analysis: I have to admit that I am a UNC fan, so that may have had something to do with this pick (which really isn’t much of an upset, though technically it is). I think UNC’s offense can score on Georgia Tech’s defense, and I think UNC’s defense is fast enough and disciplined enough to slow down Georgia Tech’s option offense that absolutely dominated Kansas last week. Georgia Tech is flying high, but UNC usually plays them pretty well and they are talented enough to pull this off. I really wish I could see this game, but I will be traveling and working while it goes on.

Those are my picks for this week. Hopefully you enjoy them and I look forward to seeing some good football this week. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

E.J. Manuel's performance this year will either be the reason Florida State climbs back to the top of the ACC or the reason they have a mediocre season. If he plays well, the old FSU could be back. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

6. Florida State- Florida State lost quarterback Christian Ponder but outside of that they return a LOT of starters, key starters too. Jermaine Thomas at RB will be huge for them, they have talent at receiver, and they return a quality offensive line (especially their tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders). They also have one of the best pass rushers in the country in Brandon Jenkins, who should draw considerable attention this year as he attempts to mimic his incredible success from last year. Florida State’s saving grace will be E.J. Manuel’s considerable playing experience considering he was the back-up to Ponder all this time, but because of Ponder’s injuries he not only has regular season experience but bowl game experience. While he wasn’t dominant or spectacular in all of his playing time, he definitely showcased ability and should play well enough to give Florida State a good shot at an ACC title. If he plays really well then they may have a shot at a great bowl game or even a chance to win the National Championship.

7. South Carolina- South Carolina is returning a lot of talent and has a great recruiting class coming in. They have a number of players ready to emerge, and if Stephen Garcia can finally get his act together (and keep it together, which is usually the tricky part) South Carolina should have a great season. Garcia, Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey will make the offense viable provided the offensive line helps them out, and South Carolina should have a fierce pass rush if Devin Taylor emerges like I expect him to. South Carolina definitely has a lot of talent, and this may be the ole ball coach’s best chance to win a SEC title in a long time, with Alabama, Auburn and Florida all in a significant transition stage.

Trent Richardson has incredible upside and should help carry the Crimson Tide offense while A.J. McCarron adjusts to his new role as the starter. (AP Photo/ Butch Dill)

8. Alabama- It’s tough to ever count Alabama out of the top 5 or 10, but if there was a year to do it this would probably be the year. They lost a quarterback who is apparently allergic to losing in Greg McElroy, a Heisman winner and future NFL stud in Mark Ingram, a dynamic wide receiver in Julio Jones, multiple offensive linemen (most notably James Carpenter, who I might have had an interview with had I not projected him to go in the 3rd round) and Marcell Dareus, just to name a few. Losing four first round draft picks plus a quarterback who lost less times in his college career than I do when I play a full NCAA Football on Xbox is about as bad as it gets for a college program, but Alabama is an elite program now and like USC used to do they aren’t going to rebuild, they are going to reload. The problem with that is, while they can reload at most positions and they return a LOT of talent on defense, QB is going to be a question mark. A.J. McCarron is expected to be the starter, but he has little playing experience and will only be a redshirt sophomore. The QB position is incredibly important, especially for a possible national title run, and while I expect ‘Bama to be formidable because of their defense and a very dynamic running back in Trent Richardson and a receiver I am high on in Marquis Maze, if McCarron doesn’t step up in a big way they will lose at least a couple games even with a favorable schedule for a SEC school.

9. Oklahoma State- Oklahoma State had a fantastic season last year and they return some key starters this year, specifically Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, two of the key cogs in what may have been the most explosive offense in the country last year. They lost Kendall Hunter though, a very effective RB who really was the final piece to their explosive offense puzzle, so replacing him with another effective player will be critical if they want to have similar success on offense again this year. On defense they have some talent, but it will be a question mark until they step up in my opinion. They haven’t had much on that side of the ball in a while but it has been overshadowed by their high octane offenses. If their defense can step up then Oklahoma State has a chance to give Oklahoma a run for their money.

Russell Wilson may not have played for Wisconsin last year, but this year he could be the key to unlocking the potential of multiple players on offense, most notably wide receiver Nick Toon.

10. Wisconsin- Wisconsin is returning a lot of quality players, such as Montee Ball, James White, Nick Toon, Ricky Wagner, Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler, Louis Nzegwu, Chris Borland (coming back from injury), Antonio Fenelus, Devin Smith and Aaron Henry, to name a few. They will still have a very good offensive line as they return three good starters and already have a replacement for Carimi in place at LT in Wagner. RT will be an area of concern, as well as the DE spot opposite Nzegwu, previously occupied by the #11 overall draft pick J.J. Watt. They do have a significant upgrade on the way at QB though, and Russell Wilson’s transfer to Wisconsin makes them a favorite to win the Big-10 this year. Their pass defense is concerning to me though, because they lost two established starters in J.J. Watt and Niles Brinkley and while they might have solid replacements for them Wisconsin’s pass defense was an issue before they even lost them (see Rose Bowl game against TCU). If they can generate a quality pass rush and play better pass defense then Wisconsin could go a long way, but that back end is concerning to me.

Thanks for reading my most recent installment of my Preseason Top 25 Rankings! The top five teams will be unveiled tomorrow!

–Tom