Tag Archive: Donte Paige-Moss


Renner has plenty of potential and I'm excited to see what the future holds for him and North Carolina's offense now that Larry Fedora is running things.

Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina: Renner is a quality QB but in his first year as a starter he wasn’t able to win the bowl game this year. However, he returns a lot of talent next year as a junior in Giovanni Bernard, Erik Highsmith (who was his real go-to guy today) and Jheranie Boyd. Additionally he will have an experienced offensive line blocking for him. He made some significant strides this year and finished with the 2nd most passing yards in North Carolina history thanks in part to the weapons he had at his disposal on offense (Dwight Jones most notably) and to Bernard establishing a running game. There’s plenty of upside there and you have to be excited by the hire of Larry Fedora who will hopefully aid Renner’s development like he did with Austin Davis. Renner has above average arm strength, solid accuracy and he’s more athletic than most realize. However, he spent too much time dropping his eyes to look at the rush and was left scrambling on 3rd and long situations too much that led to punts. That’s not all on him since he didn’t always have much to do with the negative plays that led to the 3rd and long situations, but it does provide evidence that he needs to develop as a quarterback. Not sure he will ever be a great NFL prospect, but he’s got the ability to be a quality college and NFL quarterback if he is developed correctly.

Giovanni Bernard, RB, North Carolina: Bernard is a special running back and I think he is going to end up going in the first round eventually. He started slow in this game but he showed his potential when he was had some room to run. He’s surprisingly patient for a freshman running back, he has impressive burst, good speed, catches the ball well out of the backfield, has impressive shiftiness as a runner and can run through arm tackles effectively. He’s got a boatload of upside and if Renner stays through his senior season then he could help fuel a very intriguing offensive unit for the Tar Heels.

Ryan Houston, RB, North Carolina: I didn’t see him get a single carry in this game which really is a shame. He was a senior in his final game, and makes me wonder if he was becoming a problem child in the locker room or if he wasn’t keeping his weight in check. Earlier in the year he looked much lighter and effective but didn’t warrant much if any work in this game. I’m hoping he gets an invite to some kind of All-Star Game so he can show what he can do because I think he warrants at least UDFA consideration. Will he be drafted? Honestly, probably not. But I still think he can contribute. Here’s hoping he gets his shot to do just that.

Dwight Jones has plenty of upside thanks to his size and athleticism but his hands are inconsistent and I don't think he has the potential to be a #1 target in the NFL.

Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina: Dwight Jones started out with an impressive touchdown catch as well as a couple other receptions but he really struggled to catch the ball after that as he had at least three drops that I counted. When it comes down to it his hands just aren’t that good. He body catches regularly and doesn’t make very many tough catches away from his body which limits his range as a receiver and means whoever is throwing him the ball has to make a stick throw right on his body or he isn’t as likely to catch it. He can threaten teams deep and has an impressive combination of size and speed but his hands just aren’t what you would expect them to be. He has upside without a doubt but I don’t think he has the makings of a #1 receiver in the NFL at all. I don’t think he is a leader that can be counted upon for a big catch when you need a 3rd down conversion or a critical touchdown, nor do I think he had the right attitude when the Tar Heels were losing this game in the 1st half and again in the 2nd half. I don’t really think it’s a coincidence that he was not targeted after dropping a number of passes and had nothing to do with their most successful scoring drives after his initial touchdown reception. Jones is a quality NFL prospect with upside but there is no way I would put a first round grade on him. Like I thought earlier in the year I still have a 2nd-3rd round grade on him and I don’t think he will be a #1 receiver in the NFL, though I do think if he landed in the right situation he could be a quality #2.

Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina: I am convinced that Highsmith has the best hands of any receiver on the Tar Heels this year. He made a number of catches in traffic and made catches to convert 3rd downs when the team needed it the most. He did a good job catching passes away from his body, making catches despite contact and moving the chains for the Heels. He even got vertical once or twice but the passes were underthrown from Renner (evidence of less than ideal arm strength) and he couldn’t come down with them. Highsmith will be back for his senior season and with quality size at 6’3” (he only weighs 190 pounds according to the listing I found, but he’s been adding weight every year) as well as 49 receptions, 726 yards and 5 TD’s after the bowl game today. He should be Renner’s go-to receiver next year when he needs to move the chains and in the red zone especially.

Jheranie Boyd, WR, North Carolina: Boyd may not have great hands, much like Jones, as he body catches frequently and I’m not convinced he has the range to make catches outside of his body like Highsmith does but boy can he stretch a defense vertically. He has impressive speed to get downfield despite a surprising listed 40 yard dash time of 4.52. He looks a LOT faster than that on the field, and I have a feeling that that time is not accurate. Regardless, he stretched the defense vertically very effectively today and finished with three receptions for 95 yards and a 44 yard touchdown. That gives him 14 receptions, 292 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. That may not be an impressive stat line, but keep in mind that the Tar Heels offense was pretty balanced this year with its first 1,000 yard rusher in over a decade in Bernard and well over half of Renner’s passing yards were accounted for by Jones and Highsmith. Boyd’s role should increase next year as long as he can continue to haul passes in, avoid drops, and stretch defenses vertically.

Jon Cooper will be one of the top three senior offensive guards in the country next year so keep an eye on him.

Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina: Cooper is a quality guard prospect and should be one of the top three senior offensive guards in the nation next year especially if David DeCastro of Stanford elects to declare for the 2012 NFL Draft. Cooper has quality size at 6’3”, 310 pounds but moves very well for his size as evidenced by how well he gets to the second level and by how well he pulls. I haven’t been able to evaluate him as much in one on one situations when trying to drive block, but he is definitely the Heels’ best offensive lineman. Look out for him next year!

Travis Bond, OG, North Carolina: I wasn’t able to see much of Bond today but he is the “other” offensive guard prospect on the Tar Heels. He’s much larger than Cooper as he stands at 6’6”, 340 pounds and is less mobile than the nimble Cooper. His size helps and hurts because he is the size of an offensive tackle but is inside at guard which can create issues against smaller defensive tackles that can gain automatic leverage because of his height. I’ll make sure to watch him more next year since it wasn’t much of a priority since I was confident that he wasn’t going to declare, but keep an eye on him since he will be in the 3rd-4th round mix next year.

Quentin Coples, DE, North Carolina: Coples may be the most well-known prospect on the Tar Heels and for good reason. He’s a talented player with a great combination of size, athleticism and strength. He has very strong hands which he uses to help him shed blocks and keep blockers off of him. He is listed at 6’6”, 285 pounds with a 4.76 40 yard dash time. His edge speed isn’t great and I think that is going to prevent him from being an impact 10+ sack player in the NFL, but I do think he will be a quality 4-3 LE if he is drafted. That makes me think he won’t be a top 10 pick like a lot of people thought he would be coming into the season, but I could see him as a top 20 overall selection because a 4-3 that can stop the run and rush the passer is a pretty rare find. Coples has shown he can do that and that he has a quality motor, though I don’t think his football IQ and recognition skills are very impressive. The Heels gave up a staggering number of rushing yards today, but the defensive tackles were more to blame for that than Coples was in my opinion. Coples played a role in it, but I don’t think that it was necessarily indicative of his run defense as an individual. I would be very surprised if he dropped out of the 1st round after a less than stellar senior season but I don’t think he should go in the top 10 at this point.

Donte Paige-Moss underwhelmed just about everyone this year as many expected him to declare after this season and go in the 1st or 2nd round.

Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina: Paige-Moss was widely considered a possible early declaration and a potential 1st round draft pick before the season began (despite some claims that he was overrated from a select few, you know who you are) but he had a minimal impact all season and was replaced by Kareem Martin opposite Coples for the entire season. Paige-Moss is a freak athlete but his technique is almost non-existent and his only success occurs when he can beat the offensive tackle off the edge using his impressive athleticism to run around the edge for the sack. He’s got a lot of upside still, but without getting stronger and learning some semblance of hand usage he won’t ever live up to his potential. One slight sign of hope is that Paige-Moss made a great effort pursuing downfield and from the backside today which was encouraging to see when many Tar Heel defenders seemed to be going through the motions. This offseason will be crucial for him because if he hits the weight room and works on his hand usage then he might be able to redeem himself. It’s all up to him and what level of work he is willing to put in. I’m not saying he is going to prove his doubters wrong, of which I am one of them based on his performance this year, but I can’t rule it out.

Tydreke Powell, DT, North Carolina: Tydreke Powell is a solid NFL Draft prospect and he will likely be at the Senior Bowl in Alabama (hopefully I will be as well) but he played poorly today. His upside as a pass rusher is limited and I don’t think he will be a significant pass rusher in the NFL by any means, but if he is going to be able to be a 2-down nose tackle in a 4-3 or a 3-4 he is going to have to hold up against the run well and he was struggling in that aspect today. He was able to penetrate on occasion, but he was not maintaining his gap responsibility at all and that led to gaping holes for Missouri up the middle for Franklin, Lawrence and Moore to run through. It was pathetic to be honest, and Powell is the nose tackle that is usually double teamed and frankly he wasn’t doing his job. This game isn’t a 100% accurate reflection of his ability but it definitely hurts his stock in my eyes. His value is going to be as an occasional penetrator but primarily being able to stand up effectively versus double teams and not get washed out. He didn’t do a good job of that today and that hurts his stock going into the All-Star game portion of the year.

Sylvester Williams has a ton of potential and should be back for his senior season. He's very raw and is still early on in his development as a defensive tackle, but with quality coaching he could be a stud.

Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina: Williams was the other starting defensive tackle for the Heels today and while I love his upside as a prospect he also struggled to stop the run today against Missouri. He was mostly facing double teams but he was pushed off the ball more than I would like and struggled to get off blocks at times. He’s a very raw player as he barely played football in high school and played at a junior college before transferring to the Tar Heels. He’s got a ton of upside but he is still developing, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he hasn’t developed the technique necessary to be a dominant defensive tackle. He definitely has that upside and has definitely flashed his upside by penetrating and disrupting plays in the backfield. The next step is to get stronger, develop his hand usage and learn to stand up better versus one on one blocks to avoid getting washed out. He definitely contributed to the problems today but because he isn’t often lined up at nose tackle he isn’t always the key cog to holding up the offensive linemen at the point of attack. He is asked to win one on one match-ups more often than not, Powell is usually the guy that is expected to occupy the double team and keep the linebackers clean. Neither happened today and that was what led to a lot of running lanes up the middle for Missouri.

Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina: Zach Brown has a lot of upside due to his athletic ability but he struggles against the run at times and that is very concerning to me. He’s pretty good in coverage and he made a great catch on an interception today but he very rarely made plays versus the run and on the seemingly infrequent occasion that he was in position to make a play he missed at least four or five tackles and I only saw him wrap up for a tackle one time the entire game on a tackle he made late in the 2nd half at the line of scrimmage. His tackling and run defense is a serious concern, but his ability to blitz allows him to make plays in the backfield due to his athleticism and he is so athletic that he makes plays in coverage. I just don’t think he’s a very sound football player and that’s why I don’t have a 1st round grade on him and personally think he is quite overrated. He’s got a lot of potential but he doesn’t fight off blocks well, he isn’t a good tackler and he will be a liability versus the run unless he gets stronger. I have a 3rd round grade on him currently because he has

Reddick is a quality middle linebacker and while he is a better tackler than Zach Brown he still tackles too high at times.

Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina: Reddick is a quality linebacker that should come back for his senior season. He’s a junior so he is draft eligible but I think that even though there may be sanctions and a transition from Butch Davis’ regime to Larry Fedora’s it would be good for him as a prospect if he returned. Hopefully Fedora finds a defensive coordinator that likes to attack because the Heels defense is ferocious when it can dictate games with its athleticism and pass rush. That said, Reddick is a solid NFL Draft prospect himself and I think he is a more fundamentally sound football player than his teammate Zach Brown. He’s a better tackler than Brown (even though he attempts more arm tackles and tackles high more than I would like) and at 6’3”, 240 with a listed 40 time of 4.67 he isn’t a slouch when it comes to combinations of size and athletic ability. He missed a tackle or two today as well and isn’t necessarily the impact player that Brown is at times, but he is more reliable in my opinion. It will be interesting to see if he comes back or not but I think it makes sense for him to return. He isn’t an elite prospect and even if he comes back next year I wouldn’t expect him to go much higher than the 3rd round.

Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: Brown is another undersized, primarily zone corner that the Tar Heels have produced but I don’t think he is as good as Burney was at the position. Brown is a solid tackler and is decent against the run but his only value is in zone coverage and even in that aspect he is not much more than above average. He can close on plays in front of him but his ball skills are less than stellar and his ability in man coverage is limited by his lack of size, speed and ball skills. He will be a late round pick if he is drafted at all, and if he is drafted when Burney went undrafted it would be a pity. Burney was always the better corner in my mind.

James Franklin has definitely progressed since the beginning of the season and that is encouraging. He threw 8 of his 11 total interceptions in three games, so it will be interesting to see how he does in the SEC.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Franklin had a terrific first half but demonstrated some of his inconsistencies by struggling at times in the second half. Some of that was the playcalling taking the foot off the gas to some extent, but he was not making the same impressive stick throws he was in the first half. He was very productive thanks to his rushing total but his passing wasn’t as impressive nor was his decision making. He’s got upside due to his size, arm strength and developing accuracy as well as his athleticism to pick up yardage with his legs. He’s improved since the beginning of the season in my opinion, and that’s all you can ask for from a young quarterback. It will be interesting to see what strides he can take next season as a junior against tougher defenses in the SEC.

L’Damian Washington, WR, Missouri: L’Damian Washington is definitely a WR to keep an eye on. For one he is a great story even beyond football thanks to all he and his family have been through which makes it even more fun to see him having success on the football field. On top of that, he’s a 6’4″, 185 pound receiver that increased his production from 5 receptions for 35 yards and 0 TD’s as a freshman to 20 receptions, 364 yards (leading to a team-leading 18.20 yards per reception average) and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers are sure to increase over the next two years as he and James Franklin continue to develop together. He demonstrated reliable hands against North Carolina and has intriguing upside because of his size, athleticism, body control and hands. Keep an eye on this kid, I know I’m rooting for him.

Wes Kemp, WR, Missouri: Kemp is a senior wide receiver on Missouri that will probably not end up getting drafted however he has a pretty impressive combination of size and athleticism as he stands at 6’4″, 220 pounds and has a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.47. I don’t think he’s much of a sleeper and at best will be a 7th round pick barring a significant stock jump thanks to an All-Star game or an impressive performance at the combine. This is largely due to his inconsistent hands that led to some drops when I watched him last year against Blaine Gabbert and his production did not elevate as a senior. He will intrigue some teams because of his physical attributes, but at best I see him improving his hands and developing into a solid #4 or #5 receiver in the NFL, and that is assuming he makes a roster. But don’t be surprised if teams give him a shot because you can’t find 6’4″, 220 pound receivers that run a 4.5 or faster everywhere.

Moe isn't the biggest or the fastest player in Missouri, but he may be the most reliable and while it isn't flashy it certainly counts for something.

T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri: Moe is a pretty underrated receiver that has solid NFL upside. He’s not the biggest, the fastest or the most explosive but he was Gabbert’s most reliable target last year and I don’t think that has changed with Franklin throwing him the ball. Moe had 54 receptions, 649 yards and 4 touchdowns receiving this year and also contributed 61 yards rushing, 47 yards on punt returns and a solid 607 yards with a 23.35 yards per return on kick-offs. He is listed at 5’11”, 195 pounds with a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.49 and none of that blows you away, but he is as reliable as they come and should have a good senior season next year. I’m not sure he will be more than a 4th round pick because I’m not sure he has a lot of upside since what you see is what you get with him: a receiver that doesn’t have great size or great speed but has very reliable hands and will make plays for you when you really need it. He won’t be at the top of everyone’s list but he will be one of those guys that goes a little lower than he probably should but then surprises everyone in training camp when he catches everything and becomes a favorite of the coaching staff.

Does this look familiar? If you watched the Saints beat the Falcons on Monday Night Football you saw Jimmy Graham catch a very similar touchdown against a quality corner Brent Grimes. Egnew has similar potential.

Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri: Egnew may be the most underrated tight end in the country right now. He’s got great size at 6’6”, 245 pounds and a very impressive listed 40 yard dash time of 4.6 flat. He is definitely an impressive athletic specimen and when you combine that with his very reliable hands you have a very intriguing tight end on your hands. His closest comparison may be Jimmy Graham to his combination of great size, athleticism and very reliable hands (though Graham does drop passes from time to time). However, Egnew is often split out as a receiver and rarely lines up and blocks as an inline tight end which will be one of the major things he has to work on. His blocking has not been demonstrated like the other top draft eligible tight ends and that will make teams that run the ball a lot with an inline tight end blocking wonder if he will be a good fit in their scheme. Additionally he is rarely jammed off the line of scrimmage allowing for an easy release which won’t continue in the NFL. Despite this both his blocking and defeating jams off the line of scrimmage can be coached and that makes me think that if he is picked anywhere outside of the top 50 that he may be one of the better values in the draft.

Dan Hoch, OT, Missouri: Hoch is a guy that I thought might be able to slide over to LT at some point when I was scouting Blaine Gabbert last year. That never really materialized but I think he may have draftable ability as an offensive tackle prospect. He doesn’t have very good athleticism but he has great size at 6’6”, 320 pounds as well as quality length. If he is drafted it will be as a late round pick in the 6th or 7th round but the more likely scenario may be signing with a team as an undrafted free agent and attempting to make a roster that way.

Jacquies Smith, DE, Missouri: I honestly didn’t see much of Smith today and that might be a pretty accurate reflection of the impact he had this year. It’s pretty clear to me that Aldon Smith created the havoc as a pass rusher for Missouri last year and that Jacquies Smith was more of a secondary pass rush option that benefited from his presence opposite him. Without Aldon Smith around Jacquies Smith’s numbers dropped slightly from 10.0 TFL’s and 5.5 sacks to 8.0 TFL’s and 5.0 sacks. Now, that isn’t a huge drop, but with or without Aldon Smith it demonstrates that Jacquies Smith isn’t an impact pass rusher and that hurts his stock. However, he does have the build and some athletic ability to offer possible upside thanks to his 6’3”, 255 pound frame and his listed 40 yard dash time of 4.62. He’s got upside due to his athleticism but his production has been less than impressive. I still need to watch him more to determine exactly why, but I would be surprised if he went before the 4th round when players with measurables but limited production tend to start coming off the board.

Hamilton may not be a stud DT prospect but he definitely has draftable ability as a 4-3 NT and I think he may go as high as the 5th round.

Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri: Hamilton seemed to have a pretty good game today as Missouri bottled up a very good running back in Giovanni Bernard early and often despite the occasional quality run. Hamilton may not be a household name at defensive tackle and honestly I haven’t scouted him specifically at this time, but at 6’5”, 305 pounds he definitely has the size to play NT in the NFL either as a 4-3 NT or as a 3-4 NT depending on whether he can add weight to that frame. I’d be surprised if he couldn’t to be honest, and judging by the issues UNC had running up the middle I’d say Hamilton can create some problems by occupying blockers in the middle. It sure would have been interesting to see if Hamilton could have made the same impact for the Tar Heels at nose tackle today, but that is neither here nor there. Right now I don’t have a great fix on Hamilton’s ability but there are a number of quality nose tackle prospects popping up in this 2012 class so don’t be surprised if you see a number of defensive tackles drafted this year. There may not be a lot of elite talent but it seems to be shaping up to have some depth to it.

Zaviar Gooden, OLB, Missouri: Gooden is a junior linebacker for Missouri who flashed some potential today and made a very impressive interception on a ball that rolled on Dwight Jones’ back that he managed to corral before it hit the ground. He’s definitely on the draft radar for next year and hopefully he goes back to school to continue to improve. He’s 6’2”, 230 pounds and has a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.67. He’s not a freak athlete as far as size or athleticism is concerned, but he was pretty productive this year with 80 total tackles (54 solo), 6.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 4 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions and one blocked kick. It will be interesting to see how he does next year in the SEC against potentially tougher competition.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for reading! More prospect recaps are on the way as bowl season heats up!

–Tom

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Get ready guys, this is a long post. It’s over 4,000 words long. You might have to break this one up since it will take a while to read. Enjoy the info!

Logan Thomas: Thomas started a bit slow, but overall I was very impressed. He made some legitimate NFL throws last night and continued to flash his great arm strength that made Virginia Tech want to groom him as Tyrod Taylor’s replacement instead of playing him at tight end like he wanted to. He believed that was his best shot at the NFL, but clearly Virginia Tech was right to play him and develop him as a quarterback. He has size and athleticism that is reminiscent of Cam Newton and is equally difficult to tackle in the backfield and when he scrambles for yardage with his legs. His accuracy is the thing he needs to improve on the most, but it looks much better and more consistent than it did when I saw him earlier in the year. He’s still raw and developing but he’s got tons of upside. As he continues to work on his mechanics and develop pocket poise he could develop into a potential first round quarterback prospect. He’s definitely intriguing, but while he has plenty of upside due to his great combination of size, arm strength and athleticism he still has to continue to work on his fundamentals. As he continues to do that he will become more consistent and really start to legitimize himself as a NFL prospect. It will be fun to potentially watch him in the ACC Championship game as well as a potential BCS Bowl Game. I have been waiting for this Logan Thomas to show up all year as I listed him as a potential break-out player for this season in his first year as a starter, so it is encouraging to see him continually developing week to week.

Bryn Rynner: I was very impressed with Rynner in this game. He didn’t have an elite stat line as he was only 14/26 for 224 yards (8.6 yards per attempt) and 1 touchdown, but he didn’t throw an interception against a pretty talented Virginia Tech defense even if they were missing a few players because of injury. He made some impressive throws, displayed a live arm, and extended plays effectively thanks to his athleticism. He’s not a very big quarterback, but I was impressed by his quality arm strength and accuracy. I think he and North Carolina have a bright future as he continues to develop.

David Wilson: Wilson has world class speed first of all. That is obvious the second he touches the ball. He can run between the tackles, he has surprisingly good leg drive given his size, he has reliable hands out of the backfield and he seems to have pretty good vision to find cutback lanes and other seams to run through. The problem with him is that because of his speed he will try to make big plays happen a bit too often when he needs to just gain yardage. This usually happens when he tries to bounce plays outside when he can’t find room to run inside. That doesn’t work against faster defenses though, which resulted in a TFL or two against North Carolina. Wilson is a very versatile weapon though, and given the shelf life of running backs I think he should declare after this year. I think that given the correct situation he could have a Demarco Murray type impact on a roster. He’s a dynamic player who has proven he can be the feature back in college. I’m not positive he can do this at the next level, but he has the potential to be a game changer.

Giovanni Bernard: Bernard scared me when he left the game with an injury but it was reported as only a mild concussion which is great news. Hopefully he will be back for the game against Duke, but as long as he is healthy long term I’d be just fine with him missing it. He is UNC’s first 1,000 yard rusher since 1997 which is almost unbelievable to me, but he has “star” written all over him in my opinion. He has very impressive burst, he runs hard and with good pad level, he has the speed to break off long chunks of yardage, he has good hands out of the backfield (35 receptions in his first year) and has helped legitimize UNC’s offense by establishing a running game that has been borderline non-existent for years. He and Rynner are going to be very fun to watch for the next two or three years assuming Rynner comes back for his senior year and Bernard stays through his junior year since he will be draft eligible as a redshirt sophomore after next season.

Ryan Houston: Houston is a huge power back for North Carolina, however this year he has slimmed down a bit. He is still listed at 6’2”, 245 pounds but he has definitely shaved off extra weight and you can see it. He’s in much better shape. I think he has draftable ability as a late round pick but is more likely to be a UDFA. He runs so hard and has such fantastic leg drive thanks to his great size and strength, but he’s not going to run a good 40 yard dash time in my opinion but he has ability. He’s great in short yardage and on the goal line, and because those are the only carries he ever seems to get that explains his less than impressive ypc average. I’m rooting for him, but we’ll see what happens after the season.

Josh Oglesby: I think Oglesby has ability. It would be in the 7th round or as an undrafted free agent but I think he has some talent. He’s not going to be a feature back in the NFL, but I think he can make a team as UDFA and stick as a special teamer. He is a physical back that could be used in short yardage situations and could help soften up defenses with a few touches, plus I don’t think he has bad hands out of the backfield. He has been productive when he gets touches and provides a more powerful back as a complement to Wilson’s game-breaking speed. He’s not likely to get drafted at all, much less high, but he’s worth at least paying attention to in my opinion.

Jarrett Boykin: Boykin is a guy I have been high on for a long time and he was actually involved in my first set of posts when I started my blog over a year ago in June of 2010. Boykin is a senior wide receiver for Virginia Tech that has potential as a solid #2 in the NFL thanks to his combination of size, quality athletic ability and very big and reliable hands. He’s not a burner and he’s not an athletic freak, but he’s been the cream of the Virginia Tech wide receiver crop for years and is the top receiver in VT history both in receptions and yards (though Danny Coale is a close second in both categories). He’s got NFL potential but is probably a fourth round pick at this point. He had a big day against North Carolina with 10 catches for 106 yards. He seems to have one or two drops on catchable passes a game despite his very reliable hands, so it makes me wonder if his hands aren’t quite great or if he just lacks concentration on a few plays per game. Either way he is more than draftable and I think he has a great shot at a long NFL career because of his team-first attitude, quality work ethic and reliable hands.

Danny Coale: Danny Coale is an undersized Virginia Tech receiver who, despite less than ideal speed, always manages to catch deep passes to the surprise of opposing defenses. He’s got great hands, he’s very tough, he makes catches in traffic, and he has great quickness. He’s more quick than fast which helps him create separation, but he’s smart, will go over the middle and make catches when you need them just like Boykin will. He won’t go as high as Boykin because of his lack of size, but he has made some fantastic catches at Virginia Tech and much like Dane Sanzenbacher of Ohio State (now with the Chicago Bears and getting some playing time…) he might get drafted late or not at all, but he will stick on a NFL roster. I guarantee it.

Dwight Jones: Dwight Jones has NFL size and pretty good speed but he leaves something to be desired as a receiver. He has pretty good hands but he body catches more than I would like to see and he doesn’t run very good routes consistently. He has NFL ability, but I have a 3rd round grade on him right now. He definitely has upside and he has been very productive for North Carolina especially this season with 68 receptions, 1,018 yards and 8 touchdowns. He will definitely get drafted, but I don’t think he is anything beyond a solid/quality #2 in the NFL. He’s definitely not a #1, and I don’t think he will be the gamebreaker he is at times for UNC even with a #1 caliber receiver opposite him.

Erik Highsmith: Highsmith is a 6’3”, 190 pound junior wide receiver on North Carolina. He has some upside due to his size and reliable hands, but he is more of a possession type of receiver. He doesn’t threaten much vertically but he’s reliable when he can create separation and get the ball thrown his way. He has had a career high 41 receptions, 608 yards and 4 touchdowns so far this year. He will likely be the #1 or #2 receiver next year with Jones graduating and while I don’t have anything beyond a 5th round grade on him at this point I do think he has draftable talent. I could see him being a nice #4 receiver in the NFL, one of those guys you can bring out on the field on 3rd down or in the red zone that you know will catch it if you throw it his way and that can find a hole in a zone for a first down conversion. He won’t make the streaking touchdown necessarily (though he did have a huge gain to set up a late UNC touchdown as they attempted a late comeback) but he will be in the NFL.

Marcus Davis: Davis is a developing receiver on Virginia Tech. Not a lot of people realize this but Logan Thomas is losing two senior wide receivers to graduation after this season.  Davis has emerged as a legitimate #3 target at wide receiver for Virginia Tech (though he has almost identical numbers to D.J. Coles, another quality junior receiver) and has almost matched his career totals from his previous two seasons in just this one year as a junior. This year he has 20 receptions (had 24 in first two years), 330 receiving yards (had 364 yards in first two years) and four touchdowns (had three in first two years). He’s 6’4”, 228 pounds and the first time I saw him play I thought he was a tight end because while he was very big he was also moving incredibly fast. If he is a legitimate 6’3”, 225+ pounds then I think he could have a future at that position, but he probably wants to stick at receiver. While he has played a key role for Virginia Tech this year and I like his hands and his size I think he is going to match his career production again in one season as a senior next year. Logan Thomas will be in his second full season as a starter as a junior and if he continues to develop he could be a Heisman candidate next season much like Cam Newton was as a junior at Auburn last year. Davis will be one of his top two receivers along with D.J. Coles and they should help keep the passing game from dropping off. If VT can replace David Wilson at RB, should he actually declare, then their offense could be very dangerous next year. Davis has a lot to do with that, so look out for him.

Dyrell Roberts, WR, Virginia Tech: Dyrell Roberts only caught three passes on the season but it was brought to my attention by a reader’s comment that Roberts broke his arm early in the season and has the option of choosing a redshirt (since he never redshirted) or a medical redshirt. It’s unfortunate for him because it was the second season in a row he sustained a season ending injury, but it sounds like he will be back next season. He was widely considered VT’s best and most explosive receiver until last season, though I always maintained that Boykin was the best. He is listed at 6’1″, 196 pounds and a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.53. I’d be surprised if he didn’t test faster than that as I believe he has the speed to test defenses vertically, but his hands have always been a huge question mark for him. It will be interesting to see what he does next year, and I for one am hoping he can stay healthy. Thanks to Jim for bringing this to my attention!

D.J. Coles: Coles is another big, athletic receiver for VT. He’s a junior this year and at 6’3”, 224 pounds he has totaled 26 receptions, 331 yards and two touchdowns. That accounts for almost all of his career statistics, but that doesn’t mean he lacks ability. In fact, I think Coles is ready for a break-out receiver next year. I can’t decide whether he or Davis will emerge as Thomas’ #1 target next year, but I think they are both going to have break-out years. Coles’ will be more noticeable because he had such a miniscule impact last year with only three receptions. But he is ready for big things and I think he will be targeted early and often by Thomas next year because of his quality size, very reliable hands and his knack for making the great catch. He adjusts very well to the ball in the air as well and tracks it well off of the quarterback’s hand. He’s going to blow up next year, so watch out for him.

Travis Bond: Bond is the junior right guard on North Carolina and he impressed me a lot in this game. He’s 6’7”, 340 pounds so he absolutely has NFL size and he helped get a consistent push against VT’s interior defensive line. He’s much bigger than all of their defensive linemen and he helped generate a consistent push in the running game, especially when Bernard was still in the game. Even after that they generated enough push to get Blue some yardage even though he’s the #3 back. I didn’t get to evaluate him much in pass protection, but I believe Bond has a NFL future. Just have to figure out what kind of one it is.

Jonathan Cooper: Cooper is another NFL offensive guard prospect on North Carolina. He plays left guard at 6’3”, 305 pounds and he also had an impressive push against VT’s defensive line. I didn’t see him in pass protection either, but he’s a quality junior draft prospect as well and warrants some attention. One noteworthy thing about UNC’s offensive line is that they will return every starter but their center next year and they will be a very experienced group with three seniors (LG, RG and RT) and a junior at LT. A sophomore will likely step in at center, but that’s an experienced group up front that should help clear a lot of running lanes for Bernard next year. I can’t wait to see that.

Quentin Coples: Coples is a very impressive prospect. I think he has a lot of versatility to play inside or outside at the next level, but I’m not sure which scheme he would fit best in yet. I think he would be effective as a 4-3 LE, but I don’t think he would generate a ton of sacks. Regardless, I think he has good edge speed considering his 6’6”, 290 pound frame, very strong and powerful hands, he displays consistently good hand usage to disengage from blocks, and overall has plenty of upside. I’m not sure he will be a top 5 pick like some are suggesting, but he definitely has top 15 pick written all over him at this point. Just haven’t quite seen the dominance that many were expecting.

Donte Paige-Moss: Paige-Moss has been tabbed by many as an overrated prospect on the Tar Heels and I tend to agree. He has fantastic athleticism and was considered a potential break-out player by some, but has not been starting for the Heels and has had a limited impact this year with only 21 tackles (11 solo), 4.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks and two pass deflections. He has a great frame for a pass rusher at 6’4”, 260 and has ideal athleticism for the RE position but he just hasn’t developed at all. He still has plenty of upside if the light comes on for him, but I’m not sure exactly what that requires. I think if he worked harder to get stronger and improve his hand usage he might progress next year as a senior, but he will have to earn his starting spot back or make a serious impact as a rotational guy as a senior. His stock is a mid-round guy that is a high risk/high reward player because he has a lot of upside but there’s very little from his junior year that suggests he will live up to his potential.

Kareem Martin: Martin is the guy who has replaced Paige-Moss at DE for the Tar Heels. He’s got plenty of upside due to his athletic ability as well as his impressive 6’6”, 260 pound size. He is only a sophomore but he has been very impressive with 34 total tackles (18 solo), 6.0 TFL, 4 sacks and 5 pass deflections. UNC does a pretty good job of getting their hands up into passing lanes and Martin is not an exception to that rule. I like Martin and think he has plenty of upside at DE for the Heels and should help replace Coples next year as I expect him to fill out that 6’6” frame and show up at 270+ pounds next season. Martin screams LE due to his size, and if Paige-Moss can get his act together UNC could have the feared pass rush from their DE’s that everyone expected them to have this season. Keep an eye on Martin, he has a lot of potential.

Sylvester Williams: Williams is a guy that stuck out to me from the second VT snapped the ball on their first drive. Williams has great size at 6’3”, 320 pounds and definitely has a lot of ability for such a large man. He’s only a junior but he has 47 total tackles (18 solo), 6.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF and two pass deflections. I think he is going to be a legitimate 2nd or 3rd round prospect next year, and I am excited to watch him as a senior on a defensive line that has plenty of talent.

Tydreke Powell: Powell is a 6’3”, 310 pound senior defensive tackle. He’s a very strong, powerful defensive tackle that is hard to move in the trenches. He’s got 43 total tackles (18 solo), 4.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF and 2 pass break-ups. He’s not a dynamic pass rusher by any stretch of the imagination, but I think he has a legit NFL future as a 3rd or 4th round pick because he won’t threaten much in the pass game but he is an effective run defender. He can help his stock in a post-season game and I look forward to potentially interviewing him at the East-West Shrine Game or perhaps more likely in the Senior Bowl.

Zach Brown: Brown is a freak athlete that is extremely fast. He is a senior that has decent size for a linebacker at 6’2”, 230 pounds but he definitely needs to get bigger and stronger to hold up in the NFL in my opinion. He looks skinny at times but he has plenty of athletic ability and raw speed. He’s extremely fast and that has helped him accumulate 81 total tackles, 10.0 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 INT’s, 3 FF’s and four pass deflections. He is a very effective blitzer because of his speed, but without more strength and better hand usage to shed he won’t be as effective once he is engaged as a pass rusher or as a run defender. He has ideal athleticism for pass coverage though, and could make himself a lot of money with a great post-season game performance in a bowl game and in the Senior Bowl. One problem I have with Brown is his problems wrapping up. He has missed a number of tackles simply because he didn’t wrap up the ball carrier and he likes to go for the big hit, but he isn’t a fundamentally sound tackler. That will hurt him in the evaluation process, but he’s so athletic that a lot of teams will probably overlook it.

Kevin Reddick: Reddick is another one of North Carolina’s talented linebackers. He is only a junior but he is 6’3”, 240 pounds and has had a productive season at middle linebacker. He has 62 total tackles (35 solo), 6.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks and 3 pass break-ups. He isn’t the freak athlete that Brown is, but he has legitimate NFL ability and is probably the best tackler on the team. He is a very reliable tackler and that is one of my favorite things about him. The dichotomy between Reddick and Brown in that aspect is very noticeable. I look forward to watching Reddick next year as a senior.

Charles Brown: Brown is an undersized corner at only 5’10”, 205 pounds but I would be surprised if he didn’t officially measure in at 5’9”. He’s solid in zone coverage, but he gets burned deep and struggles to locate the ball on deep throws while it is in the air. He can be handsy in coverage, and while he is a solid tackler I’m just not sold on him being a legitimate NFL corner. He’s a 5th round pick right now in my mind, and I just don’t think he has a lot of upside.

Jayron Hosley: Hosley has a lot of upside but like a number of corners to come out of VT he has tons of ability but isn’t always consistent. He can make some amazing plays, but can also give up big ones at times. He’s got great athleticism and breaks on passes very well, recovers well due to his great speed when beat and has fantastic ball skills, but he doesn’t tackle very well. He has 8 pass deflections and three interceptions this year as well as one forced fumble despite only being 5’10”, 171 pounds (though I would be surprised if he was not also 5’9”). He doesn’t have NFL size necessarily, but he definitely makes up for it with his athletic ability and ball skills.

J.R. Collins: Collins is only a sophomore but he has tons of upside. He is 6’2”, 240 pounds and like a lot of VT defensive ends he is undersized but very, very athletic. Hopefully he will show up at 250+ pounds for his junior season next year which would help him a lot versus the run (though he was getting snaps inside at defensive tackle this year due to injuries which was baffling considering his size) but it would also make it easier for him to shed blocks and rush the passer. Right now he relies on his athleticism, but as he develops he should be able to use his strength to get to the passer more often. He has 8.0 TFL’s and 6 sacks this year, so expect an even better year next season from Collins. He is definitely one to watch.

Derrick Hopkins: Hopkins is a guy that I really like. Like Collins he is also a sophomore, but he has legitimate NFL size at 6’0”, 301 pounds and surprising athleticism. He impressed me in this game and has had a pretty good year with 43 total tackles (19 solo), 5.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks and one forced fumble. I think he has legitimate NFL upside and I’m excited to watch him develop year to year along with Collins.

Antone Exum: Exum is yet another talented sophomore on Virginia Tech. He has TONS of upside at safety in my opinion at 6’0”, 220 pounds but he has great athletic ability and he has been the definition of a playmaker so far this season. He has 65 tackles (30 solo), 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 1 interception, two forced fumbles and a staggering 10 pass break-ups. He played very well against North Carolina and I think he has tons of upside. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops, but I am very high on him right now.

As you can see both of these teams have a lot of young, developing talent on their rosters. I think both teams will be good next year, though it will be interesting to see how good. Virginia Tech will be losing a lot of talent at wide receiver but they are returning two more seniors at the position. They may very well lose David Wilson to the NFL which would mean a new running back and two new starters at receiver for Logan Thomas to work with. It’s certainly possible that after his junior year Thomas will declare, but it will be particularly interesting to see he adjusts to a significant personnel change in his supporting cast. On defense VT will be very talented as they aren’t losing much talent at all unless Jayron Hosley leaves. They have a ton of young talent on the roster so next year their defense should be very scary, especially in the front seven and along the defensive line.

For UNC they have a very nice core of young talent on offense. They will be returning 8 or 9 starters on offense including potential studs at QB and RB in Bryn Rynner and Giovani Bernard. Watching those two for the next two years will be very special, so I am excited to see that. As has become customary UNC’s defense is extremely fast and athletic, and they will return 7 starters I believe. They have a lot of young talent in the front 7 and some up and coming talent in the secondary. Their strength is usually in the front 7 though, so it should be a strength again next year. I’m looking forward to seeing how they play next year, but I think that with the right coaching hire UNC could take a big step in the right direction next year.

Thanks for reading, I know it was a very long post. Hope you enjoyed it!

–Tom

1- Quentin Coples, DE, North Carolina
Analysis: Coples really emerged last year after the suspensions to North Carolina’s two defensive linemen at the time, Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn. He produced 59 total tackles (33 solo), 15.5 TFL, 10.0 sacks, 2 FF and 2 pass deflections last year, which is a great season. He elected to come back to school and now will be one of the top defensive end prospects in this entire draft. Hopefully he avoids the same fate as Quinn and Austin and actually gets to play the year before he enters the draft, but the NCAA is investigating UNC again and Coples has been photographed multiple times at a party with UNC alums now in the NFL and they are wondering how he paid for airfare, hotel, etc. Hopefully he doesn’t get suspended for the entire season, but I’m not holding my breath that he won’t miss any games after last year.
2- Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
Analysis: Jenkins was an absolute beast last year. As a sophomore he produced 63 tackles (42 solo), 21.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks, 2 FF and 2 pass deflections. He is now entering his junior season and is definitely one of the best defensive ends in the entire country. I am excited to see if he can replicate the season he had last year, and if he can he should be a top 10 pick without a doubt. He is incredibly fast off the line and has great edge speed, so if he produces again he will be a very hot commodity come draft time.
3- Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
Analysis: A lot of you may not know Devin Taylor but I highlighted him as a player I expect to break out in 2011. So I expect a lot from him, because he really impressed me last year and demonstrated some incredible potential. As a 6’7″, 250 pound sophomore not yet in the starting line-up Taylor managed 46 total tackles (33 solo), 13.0 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 1 INT (returned for TD), 1 fumble recovery and EIGHT pass deflections. He is so tall, so fast and has such long arms that he is an incredible handful for anyone to block, and even when he gets blocked he has demonstrated his ability to get his hands into passing lanes to alter throws or knock them down altogether. I think Taylor has shades of Julius Peppers in him, he has that kind of combination of size, arm length and athletic ability in my opinion. I am really excited to see him play again this year.
4- Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall
Analysis: Vinny Curry had a beast of a season last year, and really put himself on the map because of it. He was absolutely everywhere when Marshall jumped out to a big lead against West Virginia but WVU managed to come back and win late. However, Curry still had a great season, especially statistically. He managed 94 total tackles (44 solo), 18.0 TFL, 12.0 sacks, 2 FF and 3 pass deflections. He didn’t play the greatest competition, but in his first two games of the season (against Ohio State and then West Virginia) he had two sacks in each game against significantly better teams, which shows at least to a degree that he can play with anyone. I really look forward to watching him again this year, and I hope he can replicate his disruptiveness from last season.
5- Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina
Analysis: Paige-Moss is a guy that I’m not that familiar with despite him being on my team (UNC) but I was surprised at just how productive he was last year. He managed 49 total tackles (28 solo), 13.5 TFL, 7.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 pass deflection and one kick/punt blocked. That’s impressive production for a guy who wasn’t expected to play a lot or start before Quinn’s suspension, so I am excited to see North Carolina’s pass rush this year if Coples and Paige-Moss are both on the field at the same time.
6- Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami
Analysis: I have been a fan of Vernon since I saw him play as a freshman, and I watched him toss Gabe Carimi like a rag doll on a run play in the Champs Bowl two years ago. Since then I have kept an eye on him, and he has been impressive. Last year as a sophomore he managed 39 total tackles (25 solo), 10.5 TFL and 6.0 sacks. He is very fast off the ball, has flashed great hand usage and is very strong. He will be on a very talented Miami defensive line this year, and I can’t wait for him to truly emerge and show people what he can do. He has incredible potential, and while he has flashed it more and more as he gets older he has not dominated yet, but I think that may happen this season.
7- Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Analysis: Okafor didn’t put up insane stats last year as a sophomore either, but he flashed potential and should be in the starting lineup this year. He produced 27 tackles (13 solo), 3.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks and one fumble forced as a part of a rotation. With Okafor and Kheeston Randall rushing the passer Texas has the potential to have a very dangerous defensive front.
8- Nick Perry, DE, Southern Cal
Analysis: Perry is a guy that I have been waiting to break out for over a year now, but I think this is the year he will do it. He has crazy potential and a great combination of size and speed, and last year he managed 25 total tackles (15 solo), 7.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 2 FF’s and 3 pass break-ups. He apparently looked very good in the spring, so I am excited to see how he produces this year for Southern Cal. He has a ton of potential.
9- Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
Analysis: Bequette is a guy that impressed me a lot when I watched Arkansas. He reminds me a lot of Ryan Kerrigan in that he has pretty good size and athleticism with surprising edge speed. Last year he produced 32 total tackles (17 solo), 8.5 TFL, 7.0 sacks, 1 FF and 3 pass deflections. He is entering his senior season and much like Kerrigan last year I expect him to step up and threaten the 10 sack mark and solidify himself as a top 60 pick candidate . He’s not very flashy, but he has a great motor and should get serious consideration as a 4-3 LE.
10- Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy
Analysis: Massaquoi really emerged last season as a sophomore and is now entering his junior season after producing 76 total tackles (54 solo), 20.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks, 1 FF and 1 pass deflection. He doesn’t have great size at 6’2″, 250 pounds and his lack of height will be criticized through the draft process much like Brandon Graham’s was, but if he can prove that he has the edge speed, the get-off and at least some hand usage then he will be able to be drafted in the top 2-3 rounds. It will be interesting to see how he does this year as a junior now that all the focus will be on him, and I look forward to critiquing his game now that he has become a known commodity.

Hopefully you enjoyed my early defensive end rankings for the 2012 Draft. If some of these juniors declare this defensive end class could be incredibly impressive. I won’t say it would be as good or better as this past class, but I was not a huge fan of some of the guys in this class so depending on how the season goes I might actually like this one better.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom