Tag Archive: C


1-      Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

2-      Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

3-      Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

4-      Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

5-      Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State

6-      Arthur Brown, MLB, Kansas State

7-      Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

8-      Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

9-      Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

10-   Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU

11-   Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

12-   Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

13-   Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

14-   Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

15-   Keenan Allen, WR, California

16-   Robert Woods, WR, USC

17-   Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

18-   Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

19-   Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

20-   Kenny Vacarro, S, Texas

21-   DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama

22-   Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU

23-   Deandre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

24-   Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

25-   Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

26-   Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

27-   Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

28-   Eric Reid, S, LSU

29-   Cordarelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

30-   Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

31-   Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

32-   Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn

33-   DJ Hayden, CB, Houston

34-   Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

35-   Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida

36-   Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky

37-   Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame

38-   Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State

39-   Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State

40-   Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech

41-   Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia

42-   Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

43-   Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

44-   Johnathan Franklin, UCLA

45-   Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse

46-   Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin

47-   Justin Pugh, OG, Syracuse

48-   Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

49-   Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

50-   Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

51-   Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU

52-   Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

53-   Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

54-   Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

55-   Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

56-   Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Miss

57-   Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

58-   Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State

59-   Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech

60-   Kyle Long, OG, Oregon

61-   Quanterus Smith, DE, Western Kentucky

62-   Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

63-   Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati

64-   Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

65-   Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia

66-   Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State

67-   Dwayne Gratz, CB, Connecticut

68-   DJ Swearinger, S, South Carolina

69-   Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (OH)

70-   Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State

71-   Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers

72-   Kiko Alonso, MLB, Oregon

73-   Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State

74-   Dallas Thomas, OT, Tennessee

75-   Jordan Reed, TE, Florida

76-   Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State

77-   Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M

78-   Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas

79-   Hugh Thornton, OG, Illinois

80-   Brian Schwenke, C, California

81-   Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

82-   Sio Moore, LB, Connecticut

83-   Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers

84-   David Amerson, CB, NC State

85-   Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State

86-   Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia

87-   John Jenkins, DT, Georgia

88-   Bennie Logan, DT, LSU

89-   Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

90-   Barrett Jones, C, Alabama

91-   EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State

92-   Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

93-   Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida

94-   DeVonte Holloman, OLB, South Carolina

95-   Nickell Robey, CB, USC

96-   Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State

97-   Matt Elam, S, Florida

98-   Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

99-   Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

100- David Bakhtiari, OG, Colorado

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Florence has a near impossible task he will try to accomplish- replacing Robert Griffin III. He’s not a great prospect, but I am looking forward to seeing what he can do with a surprising number of weapons at his disposal this season.

Nick Florence, QB- Nick Florence has the unenviable job of attempting to replace a living Baylor legend in Robert Griffin III who won Baylor’s first Heisman trophy in the program’s history during his remarkable junior campaign last year. But because RGIII left for the NFL Draft Florence will have a year to show NFL scouts what he can do at the helm of Baylor’s still potent offensive attack. It will look different with Florence at the helm, the 6’1”, 205 pound quarterback isn’t the athletic marvel that Griffin is, but Florence got some playing time as a freshman when RGIII went down with a knee injury so he isn’t completely new to the starting role. The results weren’t exactly pretty; he threw for 1,841 yards, 6 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in 7 starts that year. He was efficient in his mop-up duty last year, but the team will have a LOT of offense to replace now that the lethal combination of RGIII and Kendall Wright has left for the NFL. Luckily for Florence they return some talent along the offensive line, Lache Seastrunk will get a chance to show what he can do after sitting out a year due to transfer rules, and he has four or five wide receivers capable of picking up big chunks of yardage to throw to in addition to a 6’6″, 260 pound tight end. I’m not that familiar with Florence’s game yet, but when I saw him as a freshman I wasn’t particularly impressed with his arm strength. A lot can and does change in a player’s growth from his freshman to senior season though, so I’ll withhold judgment until I see him the whole year this year barring injury. However, as of right now I would say Florence is a fringe draftable prospect.

Jarred Salubi, RB- Salubi is entering the season as the projected starter with the talented Seastrunk as his back-up, though I imagine they will both get quite a few touches. Salubi has been productive when given the opportunity to be, but he was stuck behind Terrance Ganaway last year. That is no longer the case as Ganaway has moved on to the NFL, and Salubi has a chance to show was he can do as the feature back. Salubi is a much different back than Ganaway as he is listed at 5’9”, 210 pounds versus Ganaway’s listed 6’0”, 240 pounds. Salubi doesn’t look like he has elite straight line speed to me, he’s probably a 4.5 guy when it comes to that, but according to my notes from the Alamo bowl (where he had 101 yards, 2 touchdowns and nearly a 3rd on only 5 carries) he has plenty of burst, quickness and shiftiness as a runner. Packing 210 pounds onto a 5’9” frame is impressive, and I am certainly intrigued by his skill set. I expect him to get a lot of touches this season, and it will be interesting to see if he can be productive in an offense in which he is not the least of the defense’s concerns. With RGIII and Kendall Wright gone the headliners of the program will be absent, but the offense should still be productive. Salubi will play a big role in replacing all of Ganaway’s rushing production.

Lache Seastrunk, RB**- Seastrunk is a redshirt sophomore thanks to the season he was forced to sit out due to transfer rules. I wish he hadn’t been required to sit out, because seeing Seastrunk’s speed in the backfield with RGIII while Kendall Wright, Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese were split out wide would have been a sight to behold. Regardless, it is my understanding that Seastrunk is eligible for the draft after this season and even if he was only a true sophomore I would probably have him on this list anyways. He’s a truly dynamic athlete even if he is only 5’9”, 190 pounds. Obviously we haven’t seen him play an actual game in college yet, but his speed is undeniable even if you watch his highlights from high school. He may have true 4.4 flat speed, has very impressive acceleration, burst and change of direction speed as well as the ability to run through sloppy arm tackles and shows impressive balance to keep himself upright despite being a small, speedy running back. He should be lethal if the Bears continue to run a lot of zone read plays like they did with RGIII and Ganaway because Seastrunk has the speed to get the edge even against defenders taking solid angles. What I will want to see from Seastrunk is vision and patience. He has the gamebreaking speed to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball and to rip off a big run every time he gets a carry, but that won’t happen as often in college as it did in high school and keep in mind, that was the last time he played in a game that counted (aka, Spring Games don’t technically count). He’s going to be so amped up for his first game and probably for his entire first season in college that he will probably try to make plays right off the bat. That’s good, but he can’t try to bounce everything outside and turn everything into a sprint down the sideline. He needs to take what the defense gives him sometimes and let his blocks set up in front of him. I think he can do it, it’s just going to be interesting to see how quickly he adapts to the college game this year. My guess? It won’t take very long.

Terrance Williams has 1st round upside, but NFL teams will be looking to see how he handles being the “go-to guy” for Nick Florence this season. Is he up to being a #1 in the NFL? Or is he better as a complementary guy? We will have to see, but I’m hoping that he will clean up his route running and improve his concentration on some routine receptions.

Terrance Williams, WR- Williams is Baylor’s top NFL prospect and for good reason, he is listed at 6’3”, 205 pounds and has legitimate sub 4.5 speed. Last season he did what many assumed Josh Gordon, now a Cleveland Brown, would do for Baylor’s football program: provide vertical speed on the outside as well as the height and leaping ability to win jump balls, not to mention a lot of production. Williams had a career year last year with 59 receptions, 957 yards and 11 touchdowns. I’m not sure he will be able to best those numbers without Kendall Wright opposite him and without RGIII throwing him the ball deep, but he should still be productive despite increased attention from defenses. My problem with Williams previously was his hands. After watching him as a sophomore I had questions about his hands as I saw him drop catchable balls, but when I recently watched him his hands seemed to have improved a bit. I saw him make catches in traffic, catch the ball with his hands a bit, adjust to the ball well on deep balls, and catch the ball well along the sideline with full awareness of where he was on the field. He still drops some catchable balls and has concentration lapses at times, and I will be watching for that during his senior season. He seems to catch the more difficult passes, but let a few of the easy ones get away from him. He also has shown that he is willing to block and block downfield which is good to see, and his long arms are certainly an asset when doing so.

My biggest concern aside from his hands is his route running, which needs considerable work. Frequently when I’ve watched him I have seen him round off breaks and at times just slow down and turn around when running curl routes instead of sinking his hips, chopping his feet and exploding back out of his cut to create separation. Because Baylor spreads defenses out so much with all of their speed and talent on offense this wasn’t often an issue, particularly with RGIII holding zone coverages thanks to his ability to scramble and pick up big chunks of yardage. He doesn’t run crisp routes, and he doesn’t have a well developed route tree at this point and that will add to his learning curve when he heads to the NFL Draft after this season. He’s definitely got 1st round upside and I will certainly be writing a scouting report on him before the season starts, but his route running has to improve if he wants to contribute to a NFL team. He’s got NFL size, athleticism and he has the tools to be a good route runner thanks to his speed and burst, but he just hasn’t needed to run great routes to get open yet. That will change at the NFL level, but if his hands and route running continue to improve it will be hard not to like Williams as a NFL prospect. It will be very telling how he does when faced against quality cover men in the Big-12 (Texas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma should provide good tests for that) and it will be interesting to see if anyone ever jams him. They likely won’t thanks to the threat of getting beaten deep, but that’s something that I’ve never really seen anyone try against Williams. He isn’t the most physical guy even though he catches the ball well in traffic, and his long arms and quickness should help him beat the jam, but it’s a part of his game that is certainly unproven at this point.

Lanear Sampson, WR- Sampson isn’t the same dynamic prospect that Williams is, but he has a shot to get drafted in his own right. Sampson is listed at 5’11”, 200 pounds (just a few pounds less than Williams despite being 3 inches shorter) and looks like he has legitimate sub 4.5 speed as well. I haven’t seen as much of Sampson since I was always more focused on Kendall Wright and RGIII when I was watching the Bears, but Sampson has quietly been a 4 year starter in Waco and that won’t slip past the scouts who are evaluating him. He may not be an elite athlete, he may not be the biggest or the fastest, but he is consistent and reliable. Baylor’s wide receiver depth chart will be crowded again this year thanks to Williams, Sampson, Reese, Levi Norwood and the addition of senior Daryl Stonum from Michigan, but Sampson still has the inside track to being the #2 receiver on Baylor’s offense this year.

Tevin Reese, WR*- Reese is a bit of an enigma for me. He’s got all the speed you could ever want despite only being 5’10”, 160 pounds and I think he could be a sub 4.4 guy in the 40 yard dash. He’s got very impressive acceleration, burst and obviously is tough to catch once you let him get going. He’s one of the best vertical threats in the Big-12, yet his hands are SO inconsistent and it’s very frustrating. I’ve seen him drop some potential BIG plays, especially down the field, and it’s infuriating. They run a lot of bubble screens to get him the ball on easy receptions to let him use his speed, and run him on reverses to try to get him in space, but the reason they have to do as much of that as they do is because he just can’t be expected to come down with fairly routine deep passes even when he is open. He certainly does make the play sometimes, you don’t produce 51 catches, 877 yards and 7 touchdowns if you can’t catch at all, but if he wants to be taken seriously as a NFL prospect he is going to need to work his ass off to improve his hands. His speed will get him noticed, but teams will roll their eyes if they see him drop some of the passes I’ve seen him drop during his first two seasons in Waco.

Daryl Stonum, WR- I’ll admit, I’m not overly familiar with Stonum despite him spending his career with Michigan until recently. He was never a huge stat guy at Michigan, but not many of their receivers are due to Denard Robinson’s relatively erratic passing. Stonum is listed at 6’1”, 195 pounds and is also listed as having 4.5 speed. Baylor’s depth at receiver is pretty surprising given that they lost their top target in Kendall Wright, but with the addition of Stonum they have five legitimate targets now, assuming Levi Norwood gets more playing time as a sophomore. Stonum has made some mistakes in his past that led to his dismissal at Michigan. In 2008 he was put in jail for violating probation for charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and driving with a suspended license. In June, 2011 he was sentenced to two years of probation for operating a vehicle while visibly impaired, and violated that probation in January, 2012 when he was found to be driving with a revoked license. That led to 10 days of jail time and his ultimate dismissal from Michigan. It’s tough to argue that his decision making has improved despite this string of incidents, and given the sheer volume of drunk driving incidents the NFL had this summer NFL teams are going to be slow to pull the trigger on a guy like Stonum in the draft, but if he can stay out of trouble for the rest of the year until the draft he will greatly improve his chances of being drafted.

Not many people are familiar with Najvar, but his combination of size, athleticism and soft hands are going to make him very popular in scouting circles once he starts to get more targets. I think he has 1st round upside.

Jordan Najvar, TE*- Najvar is an intriguing prospect that I think could become very popular over the next two years in scouting circles. He’s a huge tight end that is listed at 6’6”, 260 pounds and has a listed sub 4.8 40 yard dash time. He’s an athletic kid and even though he only had 15 receptions, 146 yards and 2 touchdowns last season as a sophomore I think he is ready to break out. To give you some perspective, he is a Stanford transfer, and we all know how unbelievable their tight end depth chart was. He has shown that he is a willing blocker, though I haven’t seen him much as an in-line blocker, but his size and athleticism is going to make him a hot commodity, particularly if Florence figures out that it’s a lot easier to throw to a 6’6”, 260 pound tight end in the middle of the field than it is to try to hit a 5’10” WR. He’s flashed the ability to make nice seal blocks even on defensive ends, and seems to block down effectively. The true test will be seeing how he can do 1 on 1 when he isn’t blocking down. He’s got the size, athleticism, and effort level to be a stud. Keep an eye on him, I LOVE Najvar’s upside.

Cyril Richardson, OG*- Richardson is a large man, listed at 6’5”, 335 pounds. He played 12 games and started 4 of them at left guard as a freshman before moving outside to left tackle as a sophomore to protect RGIII’s blind side. Now he is shifting back inside to guard where he is probably a better fit due to his natural size and power, but lack of ideal lateral agility to stay at tackle. He could be a solid tackle in my opinion, perhaps more if he was played at right tackle, but I think his highest upside is inside at guard due to his size and arm length. He isn’t overly explosive out of his stance, but he has shown the ability to pancake defenders in the run game and generate some push. I’ve seen him make a few mistakes mentally in pass protection, particularly on stunts or strange blitz packages, so that will be something to keep an eye on this season at guard.

Cameron Kaufhold, OG- Kaufhold is Baylor’s “worst” starting interior offensive lineman, but that’s only because Cyril Richardson is a potential 1st or 2nd round pick depending on his development and Ivory Wade was a quality starting right tackle last season and now moves inside to center. The surprising thing is that Kaufhold is the second most experience offensive lineman with 26 career starts, second only to Wade. He is listed at 6’4”, 300 pounds and has shown the ability to generate some push off the ball, to anchor in pass protection and overall appears to be a solid guard. Will he be a top pick? Probably not, but now that he is moving from left guard to right guard his versatility could make him an attractive commodity to talent evaluators. It will be interesting to see how he does at that new spot.

Ivory Wade, C- It will be interesting to see Wade inside at center this season. He was very effective blocking down on defensive tackles last season and showed the ability to consistently shock his defender with his initial punch and drive him off his spot. He’s listed at 6’4”, 310 pounds and he has shown that he can generate push in the run game and also shows the ability to get to the second level and get his hat on a linebacker. He didn’t look that comfortable outside at tackle, but an interior of Wade, Richardson and Kaufhold returns a whopping 73 career starts, and all are listed at 6’4”, 300+ pounds. That interior offensive line should be impressive, and if the two new, young tackles can hold their own this could be an even better offensive line than they had last season. Keep in mind, Baylor has a knack for churning out quality centers. The coaching staff has shown no hesitation to move quality offensive linemen inside to Center and Wade is just the latest to do so. Don’t overlook that.

Terrance Lloyd, DE*- I am not that familiar with Lloyd since I didn’t focus on him much during his sophomore season with Baylor, but at 6’3”, 235 pounds he managed 36 tackles, 4.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks while starting 13 games. He enters the season with 17 career starts, and is a kid I am going to keep an eye on. He needs to add weight and get stronger at the POA, but I’m intrigued to see how he continues to develop from a pass rushing standpoint.

Gary Mason, DE- Mason is a guy I’ve had my eye on for over 2 years now, and it’s a little unbelievable to me that he is now a senior. He’s listed at 6’4”, 275 pounds and has 19 career starts at defensive end. He managed 26 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks and 2 pass break-ups in his 8 starts last season, and while I have had my eye on him for a while he’s never really lived up to the expectations I had for him. He has the size and athleticism, but until he takes that next step and really starts to produce consistently I don’t think he’s much more than a fringe draftable prospect. He has his chance to step up this year though, as his main competition, junior Tevin Elliott, was charged with sexual assault on April 15th and is still suspended indefinitely from what I have been able to find. That means if there was ever a time to step up and make plays, it’s now for Mason.

Tevin Elliott, DE*- Until the charges are cleared up, Elliott likely doesn’t have a football future, but if he ever does play a down of football for Baylor again he certainly has a NFL skill set. He’s listed at 6’3”, 250 pounds and has a lot of speed and burst off the ball to beat offensive tackles off the edge. He’s never really put it all together, much like Mason, and even though he had 27 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 pass deflection and an interception last year, none of it matters if he is guilty of sexual assault. I can’t speculate at all as to whether he is guilty or innocent obviously, but if he does play for Baylor again he has the potential to be an impact player. Now we have to let the legal system play out.

Ahmad Dixon, LB/S*- Dixon is a difficult player to project because he is safety sized but loves to play in the box like a linebacker. He’s listed at 6’0”, 205 pounds, so he is undersized for the linebacker position, but Baylor likes to keep him on the field as a nickel corner to keep him closer to the action and allow him to make plays near or behind the line of scrimmage. He’s a playmaker and is one of the best players on Baylor’s defense, and managed 89 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3 pass break-ups and an interception last year. His 5.5 TFL were tied for the most on the team with Gary Mason, and while I haven’t watched Dixon much I am very interested to see if he is a good tackler. Baylor had a TON of problems tackling against Washington in the bowl game, and their secondary in particular had a lot of issues. I’m interested to see more of Dixon to see if he is part of the tackling problem or not.

Joe Williams, CB*- Williams is an undersized corner, listed at 5’9”, 185 pounds, but he was very productive as a sophomore. Because he was a younger kid I didn’t pay much attention to him last season, but he had 43 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 12 pass deflections and an interception in 9 starts. I haven’t been able to see much of him, but if he continues to demonstrate quality ball skills he will give himself a shot to get drafted in spite of his size. Keep an eye on him this year.

KJ Morton, CB*- Morton is another junior corner opposite Williams, and like Williams he had a productive sophomore year as well. He had 75 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 6 pass deflections and 4 interceptions on the season. It would be HUGE for Baylor if Morton and Williams were able to step their game up to help stop some of the big plays that they gave up last season, because RGIII isn’t on the other side of the ball anymore to mask some of the defense’s issues. Morton and Williams will be under plenty of pressure in the pass-happy Big-12, but it will be interesting to see how they stack up. If Baylor’s defense is going to be any better, the secondary will have to step up, though the safety play was arguably more of a problem than the play of the corners.

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 West Virginia. The Mountaineers had a good season last year finishing 10-3 with a huge exclamation point 70-33 win against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Geno Smith was already a legitimate NFL QB prospect by then, but he returned for his senior season and is one of the top senior quarterback prospects in the country. He returns two of the best receivers in college football in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, as well as sophomore running back Dustin Garrison who ran for 742 yards, 5.5 ypc and 5 touchdowns as a freshman while also catching 24 passes for 201 yards out of the backfield. WVU has plenty of skill position talent, and if their offensive line can give Smith some time he will carve up defenses again this year. The offense returns 8 starters and figures to be the strength of this team, led by their potent passing attack.

West Virginia was never really known for their defense under Rich Rodriguez, but last season they gave up the most points per game of any Mountaineer defense since at least 2005. They allowed 26.8 ppg and almost 350 offensive yards per game, though they only returned 4 starters. This year they return 6, but have lost their best pass rusher Bruce Irvin to the NFL Draft. They have one defensive player returning with more than 2 sacks, and that is linebacker/safety Terence Garvin, who comes into his senior season after 3.5 sacks as a junior. West Virginia ran a 3-3-5 last season, which is not my favorite defense, but they are switching to a 3-4 this season. That will be a transition, and while they have some talent I’m not convinced the players they have are a great scheme fit for this new 3-4 defense. Regardless, I am hoping Terence Garvin will emerge as a quality pass rush option, because without someone to fill the void vacated by Bruce Irvin as well as Julian Miller I think the secondary might have some problems. I like Brodrick Jenkins and Darwin Cook, but I’m not sold on Pat Miller and Travis Bell. The defense is a question mark for me coming into 2012, especially considering all the passing offenses that WVU will face in the Big-12. With Oklahoma and Landry Jones, TCU and Casey Pachall, Texas Tech and Seth Doege, there are some high octane pass offenses in this conference. Luckily they moved in the year after Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden were commanding offenses, and unless Nick Florence (Griffin’s replacement at Baylor) has a lot of tricks up his sleeve Baylor will not be as explosive as they were last year. Texas A&M has moved to the SEC, and Oklahoma State is replacing Weeden with a true freshman quarterback as of now. Still, the Big-12 knows how to move the ball and without a pass rush WVU will struggle in this conference. Luckily, Tavon Austin is one of the top return men in the nation thanks to his 36 returns for 938 yards (26.1 avg) and 2 touchdowns as well as 19 punt returns for 268 yards (14.1 avg). I think West Virginia has a good shot at 8+ wins, but games like an away game at Texas, Kansas State at home, TCU at home and Oklahoma at home figure to be serious tests. With that, here is my prospect preview for West Virginia:

Geno Smith is one of the top senior quarterbacks in the nation and has the potential to be drafted in the top 10 next April.

Geno Smith, QB- Geno Smith is one of the top quarterback prospects eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft. I will have a full-length scouting report up on him eventually, but as of right now the 6’3” 214 pound senior looks like a rock solid pick to be a 1st round selection in the 2013 Draft. He has the requisite arm strength, ball velocity, accuracy, poise in the pocket, football IQ and intangibles to be a top 10 selection come April. The only questions that remain about Smith are related to the offense he plays in which features a lot of quick throws such as bubble screens and swing passes and also involves playing from the shotgun on the vast majority of the plays he runs. These are legitimate concerns, but I think Smith has the talent and the work ethic to overcome them unlike other spread offense QB’s in the past. Smith is a legitimate NFL talent and I can’t wait to see what he can do in the Big-12 this season.

Tavon Austin, WR- Austin is widely regarded as one of the top senior WR’s in the 2013 Draft class and it’s not hard to see why. Despite being listed at only 5’9”, 174 pounds Austin caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and 8 touchdowns, ran 16 times for 196 yards and 1 touchdown and also returned 36 kickoffs for 938 yards (26.1 avg) and 2 scores in addition to returning 19 punts for 268 yards and a 14.1 average per return. That’s a lot of versatility, playmaking ability, and remarkable consistency. He’s definitely got NFL speed, burst, acceleration and playmaking ability after the catch, but his lack of size and his inconsistent hands concern me. I’ve watched a number of passes bounce right off his hands, and from what I have gathered they seem to be concentration related rather than issues with his hands. Some WVU faithful (and perhaps even his Head Coach Dana Holgorsen) have questioned his effort level at times when he isn’t the primary target and that concerns me. He didn’t show any of those effort level questions in the bowl game shellacking of Clemson, but they had reportedly returned for West Virginia’s spring game. Austin has game-breaking NFL ability, but questions about his effort level and concentration definitely concern me.

Bailey may not be as widely known as Tavon Austin, but he is just as much of a big play threat and has just as much upside in my opinion.

Stedman Bailey, WR*- Bailey is the “other” explosive receiver on West Virginia. Standing at 5’10”, 194 pounds Bailey is bigger than Tavon Austin but doesn’t lack for explosiveness either. In fact, despite catching 29 fewer passes (72 for Bailey, 101 for Austin) he had more yardage (1,279 to 1,186) and touchdowns (12 to 8) despite being a redshirt sophomore. Entering his junior season he has been left off the Maxwell Award Watch list while Geno Smith and Tavon Austin were both selected, leading him to tweet “I still got a lot to prove I see… #Motivation.” I like to see that from a player, even if it is because of an individual award. Bailey is without a doubt a NFL player, and if you doubt that then go watch him against LSU. He scored a touchdown on Morris Claiborne, the #6 overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys, in that game (pictured to the right). He’s explosive and has a lot of upside, but I hope he stays out of trouble. I found an article talking about Bailey being cited for attempting to steal a bottle of Theraflu for $4.99. He wasn’t arrested, and it’s not a big deal in the whole scheme of things, but I’m sure it raises eyebrows that he didn’t just pay for the cough medicine. Regardless, no judgment here, but when I found it while researching him I thought it warranted a mention. Keep an eye out for Bailey this year, I expect another 70+ catch, 1,000+ yard 10+ TD season from him. If he manages that I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he left early for the NFL Draft since Geno Smith and Tavon Austin will both be graduating.

Joe Madsen, C- Madsen is West Virginia’s longest tenured offensive lineman, starting 38 games (every game he has played in he has started) over the last 3 years all at center. He is listed at 6’4”, 310 pounds and definitely has impressive size for a center. He isn’t a great NFL prospect because he doesn’t seem to anchor that well in 1 on 1 situations, he doesn’t look like he has very long arms and lets defenders get into his pads too much. He is a solid run blocker, but he isn’t a great pass blocker in my opinion. He has the potential to get drafted because of his size, experience and football IQ thanks to his vast playing experience, but he leaves something to be desired with his technique.

Jeff Braun, RG- Braun is West Virginia’s second most experienced offensive lineman but I’m not particularly impressed with him either. He has NFL size at 6’4”, 321 pounds and was playing at left guard when his more “natural” position is right guard, but I wasn’t overly impressed with his technique either and I think he is a late round prospect much like Madsen at this point. He has 38 career starts just like Madsen, and that should help the interior offensive line now that Josh Jenkins is returning from injury (Jenkins has 24 career starts as well) but I don’t think any of them will earn grades higher than late round/UDFA unless their play improves significantly as seniors.

Will Clarke, DE*- Clarke was playing a little out of position in West Virginia’s 3-3-5 as a defensive end and now that West Virginia is going to be running a 3-4 defense he is going to be playing out of position again as a down lineman in that scheme. That isn’t to say he can’t do it, but I don’t think it plays to his strengths. He doesn’t anchor that well since he is 6’6”, 269 pounds and would likely be a better fit as a DE in a 4-3 or perhaps even as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He has some get-off and despite being outweighed by 40-60 pounds by most guards and tackles he goes up against he can drive them back with a bull-rush initially, and flashes some hand usage and the awareness to stay at home on bootlegs, etc. He doesn’t seem like an ideal fit in a 3-4 though because he drops his head and doesn’t locate the ball very well when being blocked despite his height. And while he flashes some hand usage he can be controlled by bigger, stronger tackles at times. He’s athletic and has some quickness to him, but he will likely be playing very much out of position again for West Virginia this year. If he still makes plays despite it while also maintaining gap integrity then he is going to be on a lot of NFL radars.

Garvin was a safety/linebacker hybrid in West Virginia’s 3-3-5 defense last year, but will be moving to the outside linebacker spot in their 3-4 this year. He is the returning sack leader on the Mountaineer defense, so he may be their best bet to replace some of the pass rush they lost when Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller graduated.

Terence Garvin, OLB- Garvin is a 6’3”, 223 pound senior linebacker/safety who is going to be lining up as an outside linebacker in West Virginia’s new 3-4 defense. He was playing a hybrid position last season, and now they have chosen to let him continue to play off the edge as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s not big enough to play that in the NFL (yet) but he certainly has plenty of speed, burst and closing speed to be an impressive NFL linebacker. He seems to have pretty good instincts and is a good tackler as well, breaking down well in the open field when I have seen him and tackling effectively while also showing the potential to be a big hitter. He has the frame to add weight and I haven’t seen him engage and shed blocks much due to his size, but he definitely has upside as a linebacker.

Brodrick Jenkins, CB*- Jenkins is West Virginia’s top returning corner as he started opposite Keith Tandy towards the end of his sophomore year last season (4 games started but he played in all 13). He was second in pass break-ups with 8 (Tandy had 9) and also had 2 interceptions in his first season with any starting experience. He has NFL speed, has showed the ability to jam, turn and run, and also closes quickly on plays he reads in front of him. He has some instincts and ball skills, and I think he warrants some attention in what figures to be his first full season as a starter.

Darwin Cook, SS*- Cook is returning for his second season as a starter and the 5’11”, 204 pound strong safety finished with 85 tackles, 4 pass break-ups and 2 interceptions in 13 starts. It’s tough to get a great feel for his game because of poor camera angles for DB’s, but he was productive as a sophomore and figures to be just as productive as a junior.

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!

First up for me is Oklahoma. They are a popular pick to win the Big-12, but I am not so sure. I don’t trust Landry Jones at quarterback even though he accumulates attractive stats. Not only that, but the Sooners return ONE receiver with any starting experience what-so-ever in college football. They will be completely reliant on young freshman receivers to take the pressure off of him, and we all saw how Jones did when his #1 target Ryan Broyles went down at the end of the 2011 season. They have talent at RB and their offensive line is good, but they lost their top two pass rushers in Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis and they don’t return a single defender with 6 or more sacks (their leaders have 5.5, 4.5 and 3.5). They have a very good secondary highlighted by Tony Jefferson and Demontre Hurst, and Tom Wort anchors the defense at middle linebacker, but I am concerned that the Sooners won’t be able to generate a pass rush without blitzing. That will make things more difficult for their secondary, and I don’t know how their run defense will be. Overall, there are a lot of question marks with this Oklahoma team, but they are still being picked to win the Big-12. I can’t go out on that limb, and I think they will end up with 9 or 10 wins. So, without further adieu, here is their prospect preview:

Landry Jones has a lot of work to do if he wants to restore his name as a potential top 5 quarterback come draft time. As of right now, I have a 4th round grade on him.

Landry Jones, QB- Jones has NFL size at 6’4”, 229 pounds and has 37 career starts which is a phenomenal amount of experience for a college quarterback. Last year he was on his way to another statistically impressive season with four games remaining, having totaled 3,349 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. However, after his top target Ryan Broyles went down with an injury missing the final four games Jones’ production dropped off significantly. He only threw for 1,114 yards in the final four games (after averaging 372 passing yards per game in the first nine, he only averaged 278.5 per game in the final four). On top of that, he threw only ONE touchdown against a less talented Iowa team in Oklahoma’s bowl game and NINE interceptions over that same span. This is as good evidence as any that Jones is a product of the talent around him, not a franchise quarterback that elevates the play of those around him. That four game stretch likely played a huge role in him coming back for his senior season to try to rebuild his draft stock which had tumbled into the 3rd or 4th round. Many draft analysts had him pegged in that area before that, but that four game stretch made it popular to grade him in that mid-round area. Now that he is returning for his senior season he has a realistic chance to leave for the NFL with an incredible 50 career starts, which is just about ideal for a college quarterback prospect. He has the size, and has enough arm talent to play in the NFL. He has good arm strength, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it watching his ball velocity on intermediate throws. He has pretty good accuracy, but the offense he plays in as well as the ability of his receivers help mask some of his accuracy issues. He certainly isn’t as gifted as a pure passer as Sam Bradford was. On top of that, Jones has trouble making plays when his team needs it most, much like I believed Bradford did. He also doesn’t have a lot of pocket poise and makes mistakes when pressured, when good and great quarterbacks make defenses pay in the face of pressure and blitzes from defenses. Jones has an uphill battle to prove to draftniks and scouts alike that he is a better quarterback than he showed in the last four games last season, and to prove that he warrants legitimate top 96 consideration. Gaudy stats won’t be enough, he will need to lead his team to wins with key plays late, make decisive reads and throws under pressure, and work the pocket better and stand tall to deliver throws instead of throwing off his back foot and fading away from pressure. It remains to be seen if he can make the necessary adjustments to force his name back into top 5-10 quarterback conversations, but as of today I am very skeptical.

Dominique Whaley, RB- Whaley is a former walk-on but he burst onto the scene when he surprisingly emerged as the starter for Oklahoma last season. He produced 627 yards and 9 touchdowns in 7 games as well as 15 receptions for 153 yards before his season was cut short due to an ankle injury. He returns for his senior season as the likely starter but will split time with the undersized but explosive Roy Finch and will likely have his goal-line carries stolen by 6’6”, 245 pound quarterback Blake Bell. Whaley’s 40 yard dash time is around 4.55, so not blazing, but if he can overcome injury issues he has the potential to get drafted. He’s no stranger to hard work since he earned his way onto Oklahoma as a walk-on, and that kind of hard work always translates to the next level even if he doesn’t have ideal timed speed.

Roy Finch, RB*- Finch is only a junior and it would be surprising if he declared early, but he is the most explosive back that I am aware of on Oklahoma’s roster so I think he warrants mention. He is only listed at 5’7”, 166 pounds so he is very small and doesn’t have the size or bulk to be a feature back in college or the NFL, but he has an approximate 40 yard dash time of 4.45 and has been productive despite his size. As a sophomore he produced 605 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on only 111 attempts, plus he totaled 34 receptions for 296 yards as a receiver. He also returned 11 kickoffs for 223 yards. He definitely offers versatility, and his ability to accelerate quickly, stop on a dime, make sharp cuts and make defenders miss in the open field reminds me of Darren Sproles. Sproles’ emergence as one of the most versatile players in the NFL despite his lack of size should only help Finch’s perception if he can demonstrate similar athleticism and versatility. If Trey Franks isn’t brought back (he was suspended indefinitely and Bob Stoops was quoted as saying “we aren’t counting on any of them” referring to Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks, and Quentin Hayes. When asked if they could be reinstated Stoops only said “we’ll see.”) then Finch could be the primary return man for Oklahoma.

To be honest, I am not sold on Kenny Stills at this point. He has upside, but he’s skinny and I don’t think he is as explosive as advertised.

Kenny Stills, WR*- Stills is the top returning receiver for Landry Jones to throw to this season. The 6’1”, 189 pound receiver was productive last season as he totaled 61 receptions for 849 yards (13.9 ypc) and 8 touchdowns. However, he didn’t total a single touchdown in the last four games when he didn’t have Ryan Broyles opposite him, and I have some questions about his hands, his true explosiveness as a WR as well as his physicality. He has an estimated 40 yard dash time of 4.49 but he just doesn’t look like a burner to me, and he doesn’t look extremely quick in short areas as well. I kind of think he is a product of the offense that he plays in, though he is on the Maxwell watch list, the award given to the best WR in the country. I definitely have some questions about Stills’ ability to translate to the NFL, so I will be interested to see how he does without a #1 target drawing attention away from him, and he won’t have Jaz Reynolds or Trey Franks around to help take pressure off of him.

Trey Millard, FB*- Millard has been touted as the “best fullback I’ve ever had” by OU head coach Bob Stoops, even though he isn’t often on the field as a traditional fullback. He showed up as a reliable blocker for Oklahoma throughout the season and has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield when he is targeted. He’s not a star, but he’s a reliable player. It will be interesting to see if he is involved more in the passing game now that James Hanna has gone on to the NFL.

Lane Johnson, LT- Johnson is a former tight end prospect who is now a senior starting at left tackle for the first time at Oklahoma. He didn’t play in 2010 but started 12 games at right tackle in 2011. He has the size you want in a left tackle at 6’6”, 296 pounds and converted tight end prospects traditionally do pretty well at left tackle thanks to the athleticism it requires to play tight end, so it will be interesting to see how he does at left tackle this year. He looks skinny on film, and could definitely stand to add weight to his frame and it shows when he is bullrushed in pass protection. Shoots off the ball at times, seems to have impressive short area quickness. Shows that he can get out of his stance pretty quickly and get into his kick slide. Doesn’t look like a great drive blocker, but plays with pretty good pad level and seems to mirror well. I don’t see a lot of nastiness and doesn’t always finish blocks, and is a little raw with his technique and footwork but he definitely has the athleticism and foot speed to be a quality blind side protector for Jones this season in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how he does on the left side and if he shows improved technique this year.

Ben Habern, C- Habern enters his senior season with 30 career starts despite missing 6 starts last season due to injury. He is listed at 6’4”, 292 pounds but looks more like 6’3” on film to me. When I have watched him I have never recorded a bad snap, even when I watched his first game back from a forearm injury with a cast on the arm that he snaps with. Shows an ability to anchor and seems to be mobile for a center his size, but can be pushed back when strong defensive lineman gets him on skates. Definitely needs to watch his hand placement when he’s blocking to make sure he doesn’t let his hands wander outside the numbers and draw holding penalties. He doesn’t look like he has very long arms, but he is smart, makes correct blitz pick-ups in pass pro. Seems to be more of a wall-off blocker than a drive blocker. He strikes me as a solid but unspectacular center, and right now is a fringe draftable prospect.

Jamarkus McFarland, DT- McFarland is one of two returning starters on the defensive line for Oklahoma and will need to step up as both Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander are gone and they were their best pass rushers. McFarland was solid last season as he started 7 games and totaled 21 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and half a sack. He’s listed at 6’1”, 296 pounds and is currently a fringe draftable prospect. His performance without two proven pass rushers on the outside will be telling for his NFL Draft prospects.

Tom Wort, MLB*- Wort may not be a big linebacker (listed at 6’0”, 229 pounds) but he is tough and seems to be a good leader. He wore Austin Box’s #12 in Oklahoma’s season opener last year and was crying as he came onto the field. He already has 21 career starts in his young career and produced 71 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 pass break-ups and 2 interceptions as a sophomore last year. He’s a reliable tackler who is improving in pass coverage, and he’s tough. He’s not big, but he’s effective.

Demontre Hurst has impressive ball skills and he can hit, as you can see from this picture. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Demontre Hurst, CB- Hurst may not be big, he’s only listed at 5’9”, 182 pounds, but he impressed me last season with his ball skills. He enters his senior season with 27 career starts at cornerback and has had 11 pass break-ups and 1 interception each of the last two years while also forcing 4 fumbles over those same two seasons. He has shown me that he is a reliable tackler, has impressive ball skills, is athletic and closes well and can support the run from the cornerback position. He doesn’t have elite height, but he’s a really nice sleeper prospect at corner. Hurst can definitely play.

Aaron Colvin, CB*- Colvin actually finished the season tied for the lead in tackles with Travis Lewis, and as a result is Oklahoma’s leading returning tackler. He also had 6 pass break-ups this season, and figures to move in to the starting position opposite Hurst now that Jamell Fleming has moved on to the NFL. Colvin is taller than Hurst as he is listed at 6’0”, but only weighs 176 pounds. I haven’t seen Colvin play as much as Hurst, so I don’t know as much about his playing style, but I do know he has 9 pass break-ups the past two years, 8 total tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He’s got ability and a surprising amount of experience, having started 13 games in his first two seasons despite quality NFL talent in Jamell Fleming and Hurst above him on the depth chart.

Tony Jefferson, FS*- Jefferson is a player I’ve been high on since I watched him as a freshman and I actually had him on my list of potential break-out players before his sophomore season. He’s versatile as he can line up at safety or at nickel back, he can play man or zone coverage and despite lacking elite size for the safety position (5’10”, 199 pounds) he loves to get involved in run support, he blitzes effectively and he does a great job dropping into coverage. He’s a fluid athlete with good speed, acceleration and ability to close, and one of my favorite draft eligible safeties for the 2013 NFL Draft.

Tress Way, P- I have had my eye on Tress Way since I watched him as a freshman and was blown away by his leg. He’s got a NFL leg without a doubt and it was obvious to me when I saw him two years ago. He is listed at 6’1”, 218 pounds but size and weight aren’t critical measurables for punters. Their hangtime is their key stat, and I was taught that you can hear if a punter has a NFL leg. If he does, the ball will “pop” off his foot like a gun shot. I believe Way has that caliber leg, and not only does he have the leg for distance he had an insane 34 punts downed inside the 20 yard line last season. I can’t find an official ranking list for this stat, but I would have a hard time believing that isn’t near the top which is especially impressive since he only punted 63 times. That means more than half of his punts were downed inside the 20! Punters don’t often get a lot of NFL Draft love, but I think Way has a chance to get drafted if he continues to demonstrate a strong and accurate leg.

I will be previewing Texas next, followed by Oklahoma State. Keep an eye out for them here as well as at NFL Draft Monsters!

–Tom

Holmes is highly touted and regularly ranked as the #1 center in the country, but he has a number of flaws in his game that concern me.

Size: Holmes is listed at 6’3”, 310 pounds, which is very impressive size for a center. Not sure how long his arms are, but he has the frame to add weight to his lower body. His size is the first thing you notice about him. He’s the size of a guard but plays center, which is what every NFL team is looking for. You love to essentially have three guards on the field, except one of them is snapping the ball. Not many teams have that.

Athleticism: Holmes is a pretty good athlete. He doesn’t have a great first step off the line of scrimmage, but he gets to the second level well and does a good job double-teaming initially before getting to the second level where you would engage a linebacker. He is also athletic enough to get out in front of screens, though he rarely does as the center, and does a terrific job cut-blocking for a man his size. Holmes isn’t an elite athlete, but for a man his size he moves pretty well, and shows the ability to quickly maneuver when run blocking to wall off a defender and create a running lane.

Technique: This is where I have a problem with Holmes. I think his technique needs a lot of work, and he has some bad habits that will be hard to correct. First, his hand placement could use improvement. It is good at times initially, but far too many times he lets his hands get outside the numbers which will result in holding calls at the next level. I saw him hold more times than I could count, including many incidences where he should have obviously been called for holding, but he never drew a single holding penalty in any of the games I watched from his junior season (and I watched over half of USC’s games). Second, he leans too much as a blocker, leading to balance issues and problems sustaining blocks. This is especially apparent as a run blocker, as he will bend at the waist at times, lean into blocks either too much to the right or left, and the defender will make a quick move resulting in a block shed while Holmes often ends up on the ground. Third, he regularly takes poor angles when trying to block linebackers at the second level. Time and time again he lets linebackers get by him without being able to engage them, all because he doesn’t approach them correctly. To his credit, he did a better job of this later in the season, so there is hope for him to improve this, but it was a consistent issue throughout the year. Overall, his technique did not impress me in the least, and he has a ways to go before I will give him a good grade in this area. It is very difficult to get a player to stop bending at the waist and leaning into blocks too much, and it’s tough to improve a player’s balance particularly someone as large as a 300 pound offensive lineman. These are all issues that Holmes has, and unfortunately I don’t think they are easily corrected.

Pass Protection: Holmes is a pretty good pass protector considering all the issues I have with his ability as a run blocker. He has a pretty good anchor, though it could be improved, and it is pretty rare to see him get bull-rushed into the quarterback once he is in his pass set. He shows that he can sit down, anchor and stop a defensive tackle’s bull rush and does a solid job mirroring defenders. He is very smart so he rarely, if ever, picks up the wrong defender in pass protection. His size and lower body strength give him an advantage in pass protection as defensive linemen won’t be able to overpower him easily, though shorter, squattier players have a tendency to get into his pads and push him a yard or two before he anchors. Additionally, he will get beat off the ball every once in a while by a defender who has good burst off the ball and beats him with a quick move off either shoulder. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, and when it does it leaves Barkley running for his life. Overall, Holmes is an above-average pass protector, but I want to see more from him in this area.

Run Blocking: Run blocking is one of my problems with Holmes. He certainly flashes some impressive play, particularly as a wall-off blocker and as a cut-blocker. However, he struggles to create movement as a drive blocker and struggles to sustain 1 on 1 blocks with defensive tackles quite a bit, and even struggles to keep linebackers blocked at times. There is a popular adage with great offensive lineman that “once they get your hands on you, you’re out of the play.” That is unfortunately not the case with Holmes, at least when run blocking, and frequently when a defensive lineman or linebacker made a play in the backfield against USC it could be traced back to a player Holmes was blocking or trying to block. It was a very alarming trend, particularly for someone who was getting 1st-2nd round pre-season grades and was often ranked the number one center in the 2013 NFL Draft class. Holmes does show a little nastiness to pancake defenders and to knock them down when combo-blocking (multiple times John Martinez, USC’s right guard #59, would be blocking a defensive tackle one on one and Holmes would come in from the side and knock him to the ground and proceed to the second level to find a linebacker). I like that in a lineman, particularly in a lineman that is often considered the quarterback of the offensive line. Holmes shows that he can initiate a block, turn the defender (or himself) and create a lane behind him for the back to run through, or he can make a cut block near the line of scrimmage or in space. That makes me think he projects better to a zone blocking scheme than a man blocking scheme, which is strange considering his impressive size for a center. Overall, Holmes’ run blocking is below-average, and there were plenty of instances where it was poor and even abysmal at times. He was the weak link at times in the running game, and that was with a true freshman starting at left guard. That is a concern for a supposedly good or great center.

Intangibles: This may be Holmes’ strongest area. According to Aundrey Walker, USC’s new starting left tackle, Holmes “knows the whole play-book, he’s like having another coach out on the field.” That’s a glowing recommendation, and it backs up what I have heard, read and observed about Holmes. He regularly makes line calls and points things out to Barkley at the line of scrimmage and he rarely makes a mental mistake in pass protection. He seems to be the leader of the offensive line, and that is definitely something that helps his overall grade. Having a center with Holmes’ level of football IQ is exactly what you want, and it often leads to a long career in the NFL.

Overall: Holmes is a tough guy to figure out, because he flashes impressive run blocking occasionally and he shows above-average pass blocking regularly, but when he makes mistakes in the run game they are extremely costly. He has impressive size for a center, he has above-average strength for the position, as well as pretty good athleticism. He also has the football IQ and starting experience to be able to compete for a starting job right away if it weren’t for his significant flaws as an every-down run blocker. Looking at him on paper, his size and athleticism plus his football IQ make him very attractive. However, his technique needs considerable work and some of his bad habits are not easily coached out of players. On top of that, he doesn’t project well to a man-blocking scheme that would ask him to move a defensive tackle off the ball one on one. He is a better fit in a zone blocking scheme that would take advantage of his mobility, his ability to cut block, and his ability to turn defenders and create cut-back lanes for backs to take advantage of. So while Holmes certainly has some impressive qualities, and some NFL caliber skills, he also has some issues that are serious red flags for me when projecting him to the next level.

Projection: 4th round. He gets a mid-round grade from me for now because he has draftable ability, and NFL teams will not discount his football IQ that is sure to impress in interviews as well as on the field. However, he absolutely needs to improve his technique and try to put an end to his bad habits if he is going to improve his draft stock this year. I’ll certainly be on the look-out for any improvements, but right now I can’t grade him in the top three rounds and he won’t be my #1 overall center the next time I update my center rankings.

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

Offensive Line:

Mike Adams (Ohio State) continued to show his ability. He plays well when he can use his length and his lateral agility to stay in front of pass rushers but when he has to anchor he can run into trouble because of his lack of lower body strength. He needs to get stronger, and he got beat by guys once he engaged them which worried me a little bit, but he has the ability to stick at left tackle if he can get stronger and continue to finish blocks. Mike Brewster (Ohio State) showed some ability today. When he doesn’t get too wide in his anchor he has more ability to recover and sustain blocks even when pushed back initially, but sometimes he will let his base get too wide which makes him easier to bull-rush. He did a pretty good job on Ta’amu a couple times though in 1 on 1’s.

Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin) is still the best guard here in my opinion, but he had some struggles today. He had issues with more athletic players like Kendall Reyes or Billy Winn as they were able to get off the ball and beat him with an initial move off of his outside shoulder. Vinny Curry was able to do the same thing, but a defensive end should be able to beat a guard with his athleticism. It wasn’t Zeitler’s best day, but he has proven he’s a 2nd round guard to me all week. Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State) also had an up and down day. I was impressed with him versus the run on a couple plays, and he did alright in a couple 1 on 1’s. The most surprising was when he neutralized Vinny Curry’s speed rush. I didn’t think he had the athleticism for that, but Curry didn’t do anything on the rep. I still think Osemele’s future is inside at guard, but he showed the ability to use his length to win match-ups against more athletic players today. Senio Kelemete (Washington) didn’t have a great day either. I think he can play tackle if necessary on game day, but his best position is inside at guard. He needs to get stronger as he only weighed in at 300 pounds, and it shows at times. He’s got athleticism but if he doesn’t beat you with his first step and positioning at the point of attack he struggles.

Mitchell Schwartz (California) showed a bit of ability at tackle today and still looks like a 5th or 6th round right tackle prospect. Draftable, but not a lot of upside. He has the ability to anchor when pushed back initially and while he may struggle with speed he looked solid today. Tony Bergstrom (Utah) had an up and down day, but looked better inside at guard than he did outside at tackle. Wolfe got the better of him when he was rushing at defensive end, but he was more reliable when he slid inside and won a couple match-ups. I still need to see more of him, but he has ability and probably a mid-round grade right now.

Defensive Line:

Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati) continues to impress me. He’s an underrated guy and I think he’s a 3rd or 4th round lock at this point. He doesn’t have amazing upside, but he’s shown the versatility to play inside and outside this week and I think he’s got the ability to be a starter at the 3-tech or the 5-tech, and I was surprised by his ability to bend and get under the offensive lineman’s pads today even when rushing from the defensive end position. He’s being overlooked right now, but scouts are onto him. Kendall Reyes (Connecticut) had his second strong day in a row looking good in 1 on 1’s and showing his burst and athleticism off of the line of scrimmage. He still worries me versus the run, but he’s got a 3rd or 4th round grade from me right now. I like him as a 3-tech because of his ability to beat you off the ball and penetrate into the backfield. But he will need to get stronger and add weight to get better versus the run. Billy Winn (Boise State) had his best day of practice today in my opinion. He had a better day yesterday after a slow start on Monday, but he showed good burst for his size and active hands to beat you off of the ball. I have seen him get blocked and stay blocked a bit too much this week though, so when I do more tape study on him I’ll be watching for that.

Vinny Curry (Marshall) continues to disappoint me. He was being hyped up as a 1st rounder for quite some time, but I haven’t seen any tape or practices that make him look like a 1st round guy. He’s got NFL size and he’s got some athleticism, but he didn’t beat Kelechi Osemele off the edge today and that is a red flag. It’s only one rep, but Osemele is probably going to have to be a guard at the next level and while he has length Curry should be able to beat him off the ball. Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) has been a frustrating player to watch because he’s got all the size and athleticism you could want in a nose tackle but it just doesn’t translate to dominating performances. He’s a 3rd round guy and a 2-down player with some burst, but not much more than that in my opinion.

Check out our full coverage of the North Roster at NFL Draft Monsters here. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

North Roster Notes:

Tight Ends:

Michael Egnew (Missouri) continued to be the class of the tight ends in Mobile. He’s such an impressive athlete and he is flashing ability as a blocker this week. He’s got reliable hands, he knows how to use his body to shield defenders, and if he continues to improve as a blocker he could be a top 40 selection. Regardless, I think he’s a 2nd round lock. He’s underrated in the scouting community right now, but that won’t last long. He’s the top senior tight end. Brian Linthicum (Michigan State) didn’t practice today, I’m not sure why. Hopefully he will be back on the field in the next day or two.

Offensive Line:

As I said in my preview of the Senior Bowl I think that Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin) is the top senior offensive guard and I still believe that. He looks like a 2nd round lock to me, and all the scouts around me were impressed with him today. He’s an impressive player and while he was beat by speed a couple times overall he had a good day. I talked with him briefly when I set up an interview after the practice and he thought he did poorly, but seemed to be his own toughest critic and assured me he would be better on Wednesday. He might be the 2nd or 3rd best offensive lineman in mobile this week. Mike Adams (Ohio State) continued to impress today. He wasn’t quite as impressive as he was yesterday, but he still played well and got some time at right tackle and guard as well as left tackle. I don’t see a great push from him in the run game so I don’t like his potential as much at right tackle, so I think left tackle is his best position. He will struggle with speed at one point, but barring an unforeseen injury the match-up between Adams at left tackle and Coples at defensive end may be the most intriguing of any that could occur in that game. I can’t wait to see that.

Mike Brewster (Ohio State) is a solid center but I don’t like his ability to anchor and he struggles against bigger, stronger players at times. He did show the ability to handle Ta’amu at times, but Ta’amu struggles with leverage and hasn’t played as strong as he looks sometimes. He’s the best center in Mobile, but that isn’t saying as much as one might think. Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State) continued to struggle a bit in my eyes. He’s powerful and has a nice punch, but it seems to be limited to the phone booth. He lumbers when he moves, struggles to redirect and doesn’t have the athleticism to stick at right tackle. He will have to move inside to guard and he might limit teams from a scheme standpoint there. He can excel in a man scheme that doesn’t require a lot of pulling from him, but if he’s in a scheme that requires more movement from him he will struggle in my opinion. Mitchell Schwartz (California) also had an up and down day. He’s a solid, 5th/6th round right tackle prospect but he might have to move inside to guard. I don’t think he has much starting upside in the NFL, and he struggled with speed outside today.

One player that really stuck out to me today was Senio Kelemete (Washington). He has the versatility to play guard or tackle but spent most of his time at tackle today. I don’t know if he can play left tackle, and I think his upside is highest at guard, but he is an impressive athlete with a good first step and some pop on contact. I would like to see him sustain and finish a little bit better, but he’s an impressive player that may end up in the top 100 selections come draft day. His versatility to play tackle and guard will only boost his stock. Tony Bergstrom (Utah) also flashed a little bit today. He didn’t have a great day, but he has a pretty impressive initial punch and may have the makings of a right tackle in the NFL. I haven’t seen him much, but on one play his initial punch sent a defender to the ground in 1 on 1’s.

Defensive Line:

Mike Martin (Michigan) has arguably been the most impressive defensive lineman for the North since practices started. He is a compact guy but he is very strong, has active hands and impressive burst off the line of scrimmage. He and Brewster had a couple impressive battles but overall Martin definitely won the match-up. Scouts have higher grades on him than most media pundits do, so don’t be surprised if Martin goes much higher than people expect. I haven’t studied him yet, but he has the makings of a potential 2nd round grade from me. He’s an animal. Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati) continued to impress. They gave him a few reps at defensive end today which surprised me, but he has been disruptive at defensive tackle so far this week. He’s a great 3-tech or 5-tech prospect in my opinion, and I definitely like what I have seen from him so far. Kendall Reyes (Connecticut) surprised me with his speed and burst off the ball today. I knew he was athletic, but I was surprised to see him come off the ball so quickly. He’s a quality 3-tech prospect, though I’m not sure I have much higher than a 3rd or 4th round grade on him right now.

Jack Crawford (Penn State) probably shouldn’t be here in my opinion. I’m not a fan and neither are the scouts I’ve talked to. He sounds like one of those guys who can show you something in practice and flash in 1 on 1’s, but doesn’t show up on game day and struggles to locate the ball. Vinny Curry (Marshall) hasn’t shown me much when I have seen him either. He has ability, I just don’t think he has 1st round ability. He didn’t show me round one ability on tape and he hasn’t shown it to me here yet. I’m hoping to see him perform like I’ve heard he can, but it’s not there yet. Billy Winn (Boise State) also disappointed me a bit today. He was going up against some quality talent on the North offensive line, but he only won one or two match-ups if I remember correctly. He stayed blocked more than I saw on tape, and didn’t have much variety in his pass rush moves. I’ll be watching him the rest of the week, but he looked like a 3rd round guy to me today. Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) was also unimpressive to me today. He’s got everything you could want in a 4-3 or 3-4 nose tackle prospect but it just doesn’t equate to a quality performance. The size and athleticism is there, he just can’t produce. He’s a two-down player in a 4-3 and might be able to play three downs in a 3-4 if he can prove he can collapse the pocket, but the pass rush just isn’t there from him. He needs to play with better pad level to avoid negating his natural power, as he was even blocked by Brewster in 1 on 1’s today. He’s got upside, but he’s a 3rd rounder in my opinion.

One player that really impressed me today was Shea McClellin (Boise State). He’s very athletic, has impressive burst and really gave the offensive tackles trouble in 1 on 1’s today. I love his potential as a 3-4 outside linebacker. I haven’t seen him in coverage this week, but I really think he has the potential to be 1st rounder and an impact player at that position. Hopefully I’ll have an interview later this week, I talked to him briefly after practice today.

Linebackers:

Honestly, I didn’t see much of the linebackers today but one thing I will say is that I like Audie Cole (North Carolina State). He impressed me on film and he has impressed me so far when I have seen him, though that time has been limited thus far. He’s going to be a riser after this week, I can tell you that.

I was focusing on the offensive line and the defensive line today, but my colleague at NFL Draft Monsters Brandon Howard was keeping an eye on the skill position players today. Give him a follow on Twitter @DashDiallo1 and follow this link to get to our complete coverage of the North and South practices! Thanks for reading!

–Tom

North Practice: Day 1

Quarterbacks:

No quarterback really separated himself today in my opinion, but Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) looked solid as far as arm strength and accuracy. A couple of his deep balls wobbled a bit and two of them weren’t thrown to the correct shoulder that I saw, but it’s the first day and the QB’s and WR’s have no chemistry together yet. Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) struggled a bit and threw a number of passes that were either behind his intended receiver or they were not in stride so they had to slow down. Again, it comes down to a lack of chemistry, but he had his flashes. I think Wilson has the strongest arm of the group, but it’s not a very strong-armed group of quarterbacks. Kellen Moore (Boise State) looks like he is in for a bit of a tough week. His arm strength is very average and while he threw a few nice balls today I just don’t think he has the arm to be a starter. You can overcome a lot of things with football IQ and intangibles but that lack of arm strength will limit him and any offense that chooses to make him their starter.

Running Backs:

It’s tough to evaluate running backs when they aren’t wearing pads and there’s barely any contact allowed, but I am very high on Doug Martin (Boise State) and Chris Polk (Washington) and have been for a while. Martin looked natural catching passes out of the backfield and showed quality burst whenever he had the ball in his hands. Polk did the same and I really think that is going to be a fantastic battle to see who ends up getting drafted earlier. Very lucky to be able to see both of them. Dan “Boom” Herron (Ohio State) and Isaiah Pead (Cincinnati) rounded out this group, a very talented group of running backs all who have plus burst in my opinion. I think Martin and Polk are the better backs and they have feature back written all over them. Can’t say I feel the same about Herron and Pead at this point.

Wide Receivers:

It was a pretty easy day for the receivers today, but I think the guy that stuck out most to me was TJ Graham (North Carolina State). He clearly has 4.4 speed (could run as fast as a 4.35 in my opinion) and his explosiveness and burst was on full display today. He created separation nearly every time I watched him run a route and he caught the ball cleanly every single rep I saw of him. He has the potential to be a HUGE riser this week, especially if he plays like this every day of practice. Obviously this was just one day, but this definitely showed the upside Graham has as a receiver. Don’t forget he’s also a valuable return man. Marvin Jones (California) also had a good day. He was able to beat Alfonzo Dennard a couple times in 1 on 1 drills and caught the ball cleanly every time I saw him. He’s got above average hands and he’s definitely draftable in the 5th round range, but he could help himself this week. On tape he doesn’t look like much more than a complementary receiver to me and having Keenan Allen opposite him really helped, but he’s a solid, draftable player. Marvin McNutt (Iowa) struggled to create consistent separation today and I have a feeling that may be a theme of the week. He doesn’t look natural as a route runner and while the effort is there he just doesn’t have the speed. As one scout said “He’s moving his arms and hustling, but he’s not going anywhere.” His stock has been in decline all year, and he’s looking like a receiver who is going to get graded in the 5th-7th range for sure to me.

One player I was interested to see was Brian Quick (Appalachian State) but he didn’t impress me too much today. He looked a bit leggy when he was running routes and while he looked smooth at times he had three drops today that hit him right in the hands. He has ability, and he likely had some first day jitters now that he was called up to the big leagues, but it wasn’t a great first impression. He did have a very nice catch on a deep ball from Cousins where he showed some ability to adjust to a poorly thrown ball, track it through the air and catch it cleanly. DeVier Posey (Ohio State) also had positive flashes like Quick did, but as is customary he dropped a number of balls. It was either three or four that he dropped on the day, but either way scouts definitely noticed. It’s easy to love his athleticism because he has explosiveness and burst, ran good routes in 1 on 1’s today and flashes the ability to catch the ball outside of his frame too. But too many times he lets the ball hit him right in the hands and fall incomplete. He’s got upside, but if he can’t catch the ball it’s worth nothing. I think it’s a mixture of not having great hands and having concentration issues to be honest with you, but that’s still not reassuring.

Tight Ends:

Michael Egnew (Missouri) looked like the more impressive tight end in this group, but it was really only between him and Brian Linthicum (Michigan State) because Emil Igwenagu (Massachusetts), as expected, was taking snaps as a fullback. He was at the East-West Shrine Game last week and while he didn’t really impress me, he got snaps at fullback and I expected the same to hold true this week. Egnew looked smooth running routes, caught the ball cleanly each time I saw him and I have to say I was very impressed that he was up to 251 pounds. He’s been working, and I think it will help his stock. Linthicum didn’t look bad as a receiver, but he didn’t look good. He dropped a pass or two and doesn’t look as smooth or as natural running routes as Egnew does.

Offensive Line:

Mike Adams (Ohio State) was the star of the offensive line today. He had a great showing at the weigh-in when he measured in at 6’7”, 323 pounds with just under 34 inch arms, and his good day continued at practice. He consistently used his length and athleticism to his advantage and I didn’t see him get beat once in pass protection. He did get bull-rushed a bit once, and could stand to get stronger in the lower body (one reason I worry about him if he tried to move to right tackle) but he looked like a left tackle all practice today. Mike Brewster (Ohio State) didn’t impress me as much, though I wasn’t very high on him coming into practice. He looks like a 3rd or 4th round center to me, and I question his ability to anchor when beaten initially. He’s got a solid build, but he just hasn’t lived up to the 2nd round hype that he was getting for a long time at the beginning of the season. Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State) showed some ability in the run game today using his elite combination of size, strength and length to engulf defenders and even pancake one of them in the run game. However, the play after he pancaked a defender in the run game at right tackle he got beat off the edge by a speed rush and didn’t even get his hands on the defender. I thought he might be able to stick at right tackle, and there’s still a chance of that, but he will need to do a lot better than that against speed to remain on the outside. And, as expected, Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin) had a good day today. He’s not as flashy as some of the other offensive line prospects here but he is the best guard on either roster in my opinion. He may not have the insane upside of Kelechi Osemele or Cordy Glenn, but he looked good in drills today and can hold his own 1 on 1 against defensive tackles. He will rise this week.

Defensive Backs:

Unfortunately I didn’t see much of the defensive line or linebackers at all today, but I heard that Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati) looked good from Shawn Zobel (@ShawnZobel_DHQ follow him) and didn’t hear rave reviews on Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) which was not very surprising. I’ll have notes on them the rest of the week though.

Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska) didn’t have a great day as he struggled to keep up with the faster receivers. The most troubling play was when Marvin McNutt got behind him in man coverage on a deep route down the seam. He doesn’t look like he has fluid hips, and struggled to turn and run with receivers downfield today. 1st round corners should not be getting beat deep by receivers that might run a 4.6 in the 40 yard dash, and his lack of recovery speed was pretty evident on that play. I think that Dennard’s upside is highest when he is able to be physical at the line of scrimmage and when he is defending slower, bigger receivers. He frustrated Alshon Jeffrey but he couldn’t keep up with TJ Graham. I feel similarly about Leonard Johnson (Iowa State). He was good against Justin Blackmon and Marvin McNutt on film, but TJ Graham created separation despite his impressive ability to mirror routes in man coverage (at least when I saw him today). I think he might struggle with the speed demon receivers, and matches up better with possession type players. Jamell Fleming (Oklahoma) didn’t look great to me as he struggled to close quickly on curl routes a couple of times. I’ve seen him close on tape though and he’s looked good in man coverage on tape to me as well, so I expect him to have better days than he had today later on in the week.