Tag Archive: Chris Polk


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

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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.

Senior Bowl Preview:

Quarterbacks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running Backs:

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

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

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

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

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

Fullbacks:

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

Wide Receivers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tight Ends:

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

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

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

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

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

Offensive Line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Everyone knows Robert Griffin is the Heisman, but he wasn’t even the most productive player on his team or on the field tonight. Regardless of how terrible the defensive play was in this game Griffin demonstrated his ability early on making a couple stick throws when there was good enough coverage to warrant such a throw. However, he left the pocket prematurely pretty regularly in this game and didn’t seem comfortable standing tall in the pocket to deliver throws downfield. He’s shown the ability to do this at times, but I would like to see more consistency from him there. Because of the amazing season he’s had not a lot of people are talking about the question marks around his game, and continuing to develop his pocket poise instead of scrambling after his initial read like he was doing after facing consistent pressure in the 2nd quarter against Washington. He’s got insane upside and he has a very high football IQ according to all I have heard, however he needs to continue to study to improve his pre-snap reads. Baylor runs a very up-tempo offense and he runs it very well, however at times the desire to snap the ball quickly outweighs making a good pre-snap read and adjustment. In the 2nd half you saw Baylor make an adjustment for this which led to snapping the ball later in the play clock and also led to more successful plays and less sacks. It proves that Griffin can do it, I just want to see him do it more consistently and from under center versus the shotgun. I still don’t think Griffin should start Day 1, but I don’t think that young quarterbacks should play Day 1 at all except for special exceptions. However, the NFL has established a poor precedent by continually starting rookie quarterbacks not only during their rookie seasons (which I can understand if they prove they are ready) but day one. Here’s hoping Griffin goes to a team with a solid veteran ahead of him on the depth chart so he can learn for half the season before he enters the line-up.

Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor: Ganaway had the game of his life against Washington last night with 200 yards on only 21 carries (9.5 ypc average) as well as a staggering FIVE touchdowns on the night. Washington’s defense was absolutely dreadful, especially against the run up the middle, but Ganaway still helped himself by taking advantage of it. He has NFL size at 5’11”, 240 pounds but his 40 time is listed as a 4.62. He demonstrated some of his speed and as a power back it’s not expected that he run a 4.4 flat, but he ran with more power this season and has the potential to be selected late on day three of the NFL Draft in my opinion. He was very productive this season, perhaps due to defenses keying in on Griffin so intently, and it’s hard to think of a way he could have ended his career at Baylor with a better performance than 200 yards and 5 touchdowns. He demonstrated more burst than I thought he had a couple times last night, and showed his value as a short-yardage or goal-line back by punching in a couple of touchdowns inside the 10 yard line. He’s shown that he can run through arm tackles and pick up yards after contact this year, so he has some value. Unfortunately for him there’s not a huge market for one-dimensional power backs any more but I do think Ganaway can make a roster as a late round pick or as a UDFA.

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Wright is a 1st round pick as far as I’m concerned. He’s been a stud all season and while he may not have been the focal point of Baylor’s offense last night he has definitely improved his draft stock all year long. I’d love to see him at the Senior Bowl, but at this point all it can do is hurt him. He’s a top 32 guy without a doubt, and should have a great NFL career. There’s not much else to say about him at this point. Here is my scouting report on him.

Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor: Williams has potential due to his 6’3” size though he only weighs 190 pounds. He has a listed 4.49 40 yard dash time which is good given his height but he needs to get stronger. He was incredibly productive given his relatively inconsistent hands as he produced 59 receptions, 957 yards (16.22 avg) and 11 touchdowns in 13 games. There’s almost no way he will be this productive next season as a senior without Robert Griffin should he declare as I expect him to, so his stock will move up or down based on how hard he works to add weight and how hard he works to improve his hands. He dropped too many catchable passes this year and because he can’t expect to replicate his statistics this year without Griffin it will be up to him to make the most out of all of his targets. Right now he isn’t doing that and that limits his NFL potential.

Lanear Sampson, WR, Baylor: I think Sampson is Baylor’s second most reliable wide receiver. He produced 42 receptions, 572 yards (13.62 avg) and three touchdowns this season. He demonstrated some impressive body control and footwork by catching passes on the sideline last night against Washington and should have a quality senior season because as far as I have seen he has the second best hands of any of the Baylor receivers short of Kendall Wright. He isn’t a huge receiver as he is listed at 5’11”, 200 pounds but he has a blistering 4.39 listed 40 yard dash time. I wasn’t sure I thought he was that fast, but Baylor has one of the fastest groups of receivers in the country, so I can’t say I’m that surprised by that time. It will be interesting to see how Sampson does without RG3 next year, but he should be the highest ranked of the Baylor receivers coming into the season despite only solid statistical numbers. This is because of his athletic ability and his dependability as a receiver even though he wasn’t as statistically successful as Terrance Williams.

Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor: Reese may be Baylor’s most explosive receiver outside of Kendall Wright as he had 51 receptions, 877 yards (17.20 avg) and 7 touchdowns receiving plus 102 yards rushing on only 5 rushing attempts this season. He’s only listed at 5’10”, 160 pounds so he is not a big guy by any means and only has a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.48. He looked a lot faster than that to me on film, but there is no doubt he has the speed to threaten defenses deep. Like Terrance Williams he also had issues with drops this season and needs to correct this if Baylor is going to remain competitive that season. He’s got upside despite his limited size, but he won’t be as effective if he doesn’t catch passes that hit him in the hands more consistently next year.

Keith Price, QB, Washington: Keith Price may have been the most impressive player on the field in this game which is saying a lot considering the Heisman winner was the other starting quarterback. Price threw for 438 yards as he completed 23 of 37 passes for 4 touchdowns and ran for 39 yards and 3 more touchdowns. He demonstrated impressive maturity for such a young player in his first year as a starter and definitely displayed impressive arm strength, accuracy and athleticism. He’s listed at 6’1”, 195 pounds so his size will definitely be scrutinized as he develops as a NFL prospect, but his arm strength and athleticism make him an intriguing quarterback. He had a terrific season as a first year starter and Steve Sarkisian has a great reputation for developing quarterbacks, so there is reason to believe that “Sark” will get the most out of Price’s substantial upside. Hopefully Price stays for his senior season, but that decision is obviously well over a year away.

Chris Polk, RB, Washington: Polk definitely caught some people’s attention yesterday but he’s been an impressive back since he started to get carries at Washington two years ago. He was overshadowed by Jake Locker but he has been integral to Price’s development this year because of his running and his receiving out of the backfield. He’s got NFL size at 5’11”, 222 pounds with a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.48. He doesn’t have great speed but he has good enough speed to be a feature back in the NFL. He’s got great vision, very reliable hands, good footwork, impressive power and really seems to be the total package as a running back. I haven’t seen him much as a pass blocker, but if he declares for the draft officially (which I expect him to do) I’ll take a much closer look at him to evaluate that. Polk definitely has top 40-50 overall pick potential, so if your team needs a feature back then you need to read up on Chris Polk.

Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington: Kearse is a player that I never really thought would be much of a NFL Draft prospect. In the two years I watched him play with Jake Locker he demonstrated his upside thanks to his solid 6’1”, 200 pound frame as well as his solid speed evidenced by his 4.50 40 yard dash time. He’s not a freak athlete by any means, but he has NFL athletic ability and solid size for a NFL receiver. However, his hands were always a HUGE question mark for me and I thought they would prevent him from being anything more than a 5th-6th round pick when it was all said and done. I haven’t seen enough of him to say that his hands are no longer a concern, but his hands have definitely improved based on what I have seen of him this year and last night. He had 5 receptions for 198 yards and 1 touchdown last night and while 80 of those came on one reception he made catches on throws that last year he may have dropped. That progression is important and when I go back and study Washington’s games from this season I will be evaluating his hands very closely. Hopefully he will be at the Senior Bowl or the East-West Shrine Game so I can evaluate him even further, but keep an eye on him. His stock is rising.

Kasen Williams, WR, Washington: Williams is probably going to be the go-to guy at wide receiver for Price now that Kearse and Devin Aguilar are both graduating. He is listed at 6’2”, 212 pounds but just looks huge for a freshman on film. He’s got NFL size and hands and he demonstrated that this year by producing 36 receptions, 427 yards (11.9 average) and 6 touchdowns as a freshman. If Price stays for his senior season in two years then Williams and Seferian-Jenkins would both be juniors and that offense could be awfully fun to watch. That’s a long way away, but Williams has legitimate NFL ability and could be another very talented receiver in the Pac-12. Keep an eye on this kid.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington: Seferian-Jenkins is almost without a doubt the best freshman tight end I have ever seen in my entire life. Some of the catches this kid was making last night reminded me of Rob Gronkowski or Tony Gonzalez, and that is not an exaggeration. He is a 6’6”, 258 pound FRESHMAN tight end who produced 41 receptions, 538 yards (13.1 avg) and 6 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. That is absolutely remarkable, and his upside is absolutely staggering. I think he has the potential to be the #1 TE off the board in two years and honestly looked like he could have been a 1st round pick in this NFL Draft based on his receiving capability. Obviously he has a lot of time to continue to develop, but I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with this kid last night. His future is very, very bright.

Josh Shirley, DE, Washington: I had honestly never noticed Shirley before when I watched Washington but he definitely stuck out last night as he sacked the reigning Heisman winner THREE times. He wasn’t effectively blocked very often, but he definitely generated a lot of pressure and like so many of the Huskies impressive players last night he is only a freshman. He is listed at 6’3”, 229 pounds and produced 28 total tackles (23 solo), 12.0 TFL, 8.5 sacks (3 against Baylor), 2 forced fumbles and one pass break-up on the year. His future seems to be bright as well and seems like a possible candidate to be an OLB in the future. I thought he was a linebacker at first when I saw how well he was moving, but he is listed as a DE on Washington’s depth chart on the site I use. Look out for this kid in the future.

Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington: Ta’amu seemed like a top 40-50 lock before this game and many were raving about how hard it was to move the 6’3”, 337 pound mammoth defensive tackle off the ball. That was not the case for Baylor last night and that led to a huge game for just about anyone that elected to run with a Baylor uniform on. Washington gave up 482 rushing yards on 52 attempts and a few of those were negative yardage because of a sack on Robert Griffin. They also gave up 8 rushing touchdowns and on many wide open runs through the middle of Washington’s defense Ta’amu was nowhere to be found. He did not have a productive season with only 30 total tackles (15 solo), 7.0 TFL, and 3.5 sacks but often with run stuffing nose tackles the stats don’t tell the whole story. Unfortunately for Ta’amu the story being told now is not a positive one as his stock seems to be slipping. Here’s hoping he will be at the Senior Bowl so we can see him against quality competition with more support from the rest of his defensive teammates. Washington’s whole defense was god awful last night, but that includes Ta’amu.

1- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Analysis: Trent Richardson is a very special talent. He emerged as a freshman even while Mark Ingram was playing well en route to winning the Heisman that year, and had a couple key runs against Texas to help Alabama win the National Championship game. Richardson will be the feature back for Alabama this year and I am very much looking forward to seeing how he does as the main back. Regardless of who starts at QB for ‘Bama it will be someone who has not started on the college level before, so I anticipate that Richardson will get carries early and often every game.
2- Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
Analysis: Davis is one of my favorite prospects and last year I wrote a post on him stating that he was the best offensive prospect on Arkansas’ offense, which obviously insinuated that I thought he would get drafted higher than Ryan Mallett (who went in the 3rd round to the Patriots). Davis is incredibly talented and I am very much looking forward to seeing him play as one of the focal points of a potentially explosive offense this next year. He should help keep a lot of pressure off of Tyler WIlson early in the season, but if Wilson can play effectively then Davis should have more holes to run through. Either way, Davis is a great talent and I am a big fan.
3- Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M
Analysis: Gray emerged last year as a junior and helped Texas A&M finish their season on a high note en route to a bowl game against LSU. Gray should team up with Tannehill, Jeff Fuller and Uzoma Nwachukwu to form a pretty potent offense. I don’t have a good feel for Gray’s game and tendencies yet but I am really looking forward to watching him this season.
4- Chris Polk, RB, Washington
Analysis: Polk has been underrated since his freshman season, and some might be surprised that LaMichael James is ranked below him, but while Polk may not be the big play threat that James is at Oregon he is a very good runningback who has been productive in each of his three seasons at Washington. The burden of the offense will be on Polk this year now that Locker has graduated, so it will be interesting to see if Polk steps up to the plate and helps take some of the pressure off of the new starting quarterback.
5- LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
Analysis: James is a talented back but I don’t think he will be a starter in the NFL because I don’t think he could take the beating he would sustain running between the tackles consistently as a feature back. I think he could be a very good complementary back in the NFL, at least initially, but because I don’t think he is going to be a starter I couldn’t rank him as high as others might.
6- Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Analysis: Miller has the potential to explode onto the scene this year and I expect him to be the starting running back for Miami this year. If Miami can find a solid starting QB (not Jacory Harris, hopefully Morris steps up) then their offense could be dynamic with Miller, Travis Benjamin and LaRon Byrd to spread the ball around to. Miller should be effective running the ball regardless though, and I am very excited to see him get some consistent carries because he took over a game or two when he got all the carries on certain drives as a freshman.
7- Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
Analysis: Ellington is another speed back from Clemson and he has gamebreaking speed similar to C.J. Spiller. He will be the main back now that Jamie Harper has left for the NFL, and I think he will experience a great deal of success in that role. I don’t know what his tendencies are and I haven’t scouted him specifically yet because he was not eligible to come out this year (I believe he was a true sophomore) but I look forward to evaluating him because it will be interesting to compare him to C.J. Spiller because they both went to the same school and play the position of running back in similar ways.
8- Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Analysis: Ball really emerged as a legitimate rushing threat this season for Wisconsin and I think his emergence, along with that of James White, forced John Clay’s hand and led to him declaring early for the NFL Draft instead of coming back to school where he would have had his touches reduced. Ball is a very powerfully built running back and he fits Wisconsin’s scheme very well and should have a great season especially with James White spelling him as his #2 back. If they can get a quarterback to take some of the pressure off of the running game then Ball could have a huge season as a junior.
9- Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple
Analysis: I have not watched Pierce play a lot but I do know he is the cog that makes the Temple offense go and he should again be the focal point of their offense next year. It will be interesting to see him play since I have seen so little tape on him, but I expect to see a quality feature back when I watch him play.
10- Bryce Brown, RB, Kansas State
Analysis: Brown is a transfer from Tennessee and is a very talented back and with Daniel Thomas out of the way he could be in line for a huge season this year. Kansas State relied on their running game extensively last season and they will presumably do the same this year, so Brown’s role in the offense should be substantial. I look forward to watching him play this year, his first as a starter for Kansas State.

Hopefully you all enjoyed my preliminary running back rankings for the 2012 season. I can’t wait for college football to get here. As I said earlier I will do my best to keep churning out content but I will be very busy with my internship (which I work at 9-5 every week day) but I should still be able to chip away at these rankings in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for them and thanks for reading!

–Tom

Yesterday I managed to re-watch the Washington-USC game from last year when the Huskies managed to upset the then #3 ranked Trojans. Jake Locker was my main focus, but I noted some things about other players also. Here is my analysis of what I saw:

Jake Locker loads up to throw against USC (Doug Zylstra Photo)

Locker was impressive in this game. He wasn’t amazing, but he was pretty good. He has good arm strength and zip on all of his passes and has impressive accuracy. When he sets his feet or even at times on the run he can put the ball wherever he wants it. He has impressive athleticism and toughness, though I waited the majority of the game for him to step into a throw knowing he was going to take a big hit. He has come a long way since his freshman year in terms of his footwork, but he still has a ways to go. He looks more comfortable in his drops, but still needs to clean them up a bit. Once he sets his feet, he needs to step into the vast majority of his throws which he does not do right now. When he does he delivers accurate passes almost every time, but when he doesn’t it is much more of a toss-up. He can throw accurate passes off his back foot or off-balance which is why he can get away with it, but he needs to learn to step into more of his throws even if it means taking a hit for it at times. Those are his major issues with footwork, and I didn’t see any instances of him having trouble with his release, it looked clean the whole game.

He still has a tendency to throw some balls into coverage or force passes across his body or when he is off-balance, which is a bit of an issue. But there were plenty of signs that he has matured in this area as well. I doubt he will ever be a 100% pure polished QB in that he doesn’t take some chances, perhaps similar to Brett Favre, but I think there is more room for him to grow in this area before he leaves for the NFL. It will be interesting to see what strides he takes in this regard as a senior, and if he took any significant ones as the year went on in 2009 when he was a junior.

One thing I really want to see Locker work on is using his eyes and going through his progressions better. One thing he didn’t do very well in this game was to go through two or three of his progressions before he looked to scramble. At times the protection just wasn’t there so he was flushed out of the pocket, but there were times when he would look at his first read and then start to roll out to buy more time unnecessarily. This is something he did less than he used to, but it was still something that warranted mentioning. He needs to work on that to be sure. But one thing that he only flashed the ability to do was to look off the defense with his eyes and then deliver a throw to an open receiver that he intended to throw to the entire time. He showed this ability a few times, but he threw the ball 30+ times and he only did this four or maybe five times. I would like to see him do this much more often as a senior, and it will be interesting to see if he does a better job of going through his progressions and of looking off defenders in later games as a junior. But this was one thing that I really thought he needed to work on.

Overall, I am happy with how Locker looked in this game, though I think he could have been much better than he was. It will be interesting to see how he looks in later games from his junior year and how he looks in his upcoming senior season.

Jurrell Casey hits Locker (Doug Zylstra Photo)

I also paid attention to a few other players, though not as closely as I paid attention to Locker. One of the players that just kept showing up was Jurell Casey, a DT on USC. He routinely beat his man and penetrated into the backfield. He had at least two TFL’s versus the run, and a number of stops for limited gains versus the run. On top of that he helped flush Locker from the pocket multiple times, and his pressure allowed Everson Griffen to clean up Locker and get a sack in the 1st quarter. He was very impressive in this game, and I am very much looking forward to seeing him in this upcoming season. He is definitely going to be high on my DT rankings when I come out with them.

I also noted how redshirt-freshman RB Chris Polk looked. He had some running lanes at times, and showed pretty reliable hands out of the backfield, but he didn’t have a great game as far as I could tell. There were a lot of rushing attempts Polk had that were good for losses or very limited gains. I didn’t note exactly why he wasn’t effective, but generally I think USC’s defensive line just won the battle against Washington’s offensive line often. He didn’t dance around in the backfield or try to bounce too many runs outside, so I don’t pin those short or negative gains on him.

James Johnson makes a nice catch against Josh Pinkard (Doug Zylstra Photo)

Locker’s favorite target on the day seemed to be James Johnson, a freshman WR last year. He had a lot of catches in this game, and routinely made big catches for first downs whether he was in traffic or if he got open. He made a terrific catch on the sidelines with a defender draped over him on a 3rd and long on a perfect throw from Locker. He impressed me all game, though I did not pay attention to his blocking. He caught the ball with his hands away from his frame instead of letting the ball come into his pads in every specific catch that I remember from the game. He looks like he has a lot of potential, so it will be exciting to see how he develops this season as a sophomore.

So that about does it. Hopefully you enjoyed reading my thoughts on how the various players from this game looked. I am excited to see all of them again this year, and had Matt Barkley been healthy for this game I would have watched him very closely as well. I will have a write-up on him eventually, probably for more than one game.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom Melton