Tag Archive: NFL Draft


Here are my current QB rankings as of early November. This list does not indicate the order that I think they will come off the board in April, but rather which I like the most at this juncture. Enjoy!

1-      Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford- Luck has a great combination of size, good arm strength, accuracy and he is a very intelligent QB. I don’t think he will come out this year but if he did I think he has the football IQ to transition effectively to the NFL, much like Mark Sanchez.

2-      Jake Locker, QB, Washington- Yes, I have Jake Locker #2 even though I have Mallett going #1 overall in my mock draft. I personally think Locker will be the better NFL player, though he will need more coaching than most probably thought after his incredible progression from his sophomore to junior year. His intangibles are just so special that a good QB coach could really make him a quality NFL starter.

3-      Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas- Mallett has as much potential as any QB I have ever scouted because of his amazing arm strength and great size, but how good of a leader is he? How dependable is he late in games to make the right decisions and not turn the ball over? I don’t like his intangibles and his leadership ability and that combined with the offense he plays in, which is not preparing him for the NFL, make me doubt him as a prospect. However, that is just my opinion, and I still believe he is the odds on favorite to go #1 if Luck stays in school.

4-      Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State- I really like Cousins’ game so he stays high on my rankings. He has been effective this year, but I am a little concerned about how he played against Iowa. That was a huge game for Michigan State and he made some mistakes that led to three interceptions. However, I think he has the tools to be a good starting QB in the NFL.

5-      Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State- Ponder has disappointed me in the little that I have seen him this year, but it’s not enough to drop him out of the top 5 of my rankings. I still think he will be a solid starter in the NFL, but he doesn’t look like a franchise QB to me. He is a fringe first rounder in my opinion at this point, so we will see how he does the rest of the year.

6-      Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama- McElroy has been very efficient this year but I am not sure he is much more than a solid NFL starter. I think he will be a solid mid-round pick and he seems to be very intelligent and if he had a good running game and some quality targets to throw to I think he could be an effective QB. Like Ponder I think he may be a product of the players around him rather than a Franchise QB/leader that makes the rest of his teammates better.

7-      Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho- Enderle was one of my favorite QB’s coming into the season but he has had a very down year so far involving a lot of turnovers. I’m not willing to drop him down in my rankings yet since I haven’t scouted him in any of them specifically yet. However, I have definitely been disappointed with how he has played statistically thus far this year.

8-      Cam Newton, QB, Auburn- It is hard not to rank Newton in the top 10 even though he hasn’t shown me as much as I would like to see as a passer. In my opinion Newton is performing at a level that everyone expected Terrelle Pryor to perform at. He has shown the ability to throw the ball well, but his athletic ability and smoothness as a runner is what sets him apart from other QB’s. He has a lot of improvement to make as a passer, but to produce like he has as a first year starter in the SEC is absolutely amazing to me. I really hope there isn’t anything to these allegations of taking money for signing a LOI (Letter of Intent) because he is a fun player to watch.

9-      Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware- I haven’t ever seen much of Devlin, but from what I have seen he doesn’t seem to have a very strong arm but he does have pretty good accuracy. I don’t think he would be getting the same attention he has gotten from draftniks if it wasn’t for Flacco’s early success in the NFL out of Delaware, but he looks like a solid draft prospect to me.

10-   Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa- Stanzi has been statistically impressive this year and currently has the second best QB rating in the entire nation. I have not scouted him much this year, but he has had a strong statistical showing this year to be sure. In his last three important conference games against Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State he has thrown a combined nine touchdowns with no interceptions which is incredibly impressive.

11-   Stephen Garcia, QB, South Carolina- Garcia has shown some really incredible flashes, such as his 17/20 performance when the Gamecocks upset Alabama, but he has not been as consistent as I would like. In his three games since the Alabama upset he has thrown a combined five touchdowns with four interceptions and for the first time all season he completed less than 65% of his passes in a game in two of those contests. It will be interesting to see if he bounces back to finish the season strong, because right now he is a mid-round pick in my opinion.

12-   Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri- Gabbert is definitely on my radar but I would be surprised if he declared this year. He has impressive arm strength and accuracy along with good size, but he doesn’t have much in the way of mobility and I don’t like how often he is in shotgun and how much Missouri runs sets with four or five wide receivers. He definitely has NFL potential, but I think he needs to stay for his senior year to have a shot at the first round.

13-   Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma- Jones has had an incredibly productive season in his first full season as a starter and he is only a sophomore. He is playing much more efficiently, but he hasn’t been tested by many great defenses. I really wish I could see him play against Nebraska’s defense this year because they have made some really good QB prospects look like mid-round draft picks this season. He definitely has a lot of potential, but I have the same concerns about the offense he is playing in that I had with Sam Bradford.

14-   Andy Dalton, QB, TCU- Dalton has had a good statistical season but he really hasn’t played anyone outside of Oregon State in the first week, and he struggled in that game statistically. I was not impressed with Dalton at all after seeing him play against Boise State last year, so in my opinion he is a mid-late round pick in the NFL Draft. He has some redeemable talent and ability, but his ceiling is an average NFL starter. I think he may be better suited for a back-up role in the NFL, but I still need to scout him based off of his senior year tape.

15-   Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M- I have a really good feel for Johnson’s game and I think he is a 4th round pick at this point, perhaps a 5th rounder, but he has good size, athletic ability and a strong enough arm to warrant development. He just puts too much touch and air under his passes, he has a hitch in his throwing motion where he dips the ball below his chest near his hip, and he has poor footwork and pocket poise. With a couple or three years of development he could potentially be a solid starter, but I think he will have a longer road to starting in the NFL than a number of QB’s that I have ranked ahead of him.

16-   Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech- Taylor has had an impressive statistical season but he has not been tested much other than the first week against Boise State and potentially against NC State. It will be interesting to see how he performs against potentially tougher ACC teams like Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami, but if he continues to play well he will have a chance at the middle rounds, especially if he demonstrates some patience and pocket poise.

17-   Mike Hartline, QB, Kentucky- Hartline has been making me regret not naming him my pre-season sleeper at QB for the majority of the season. He played very well against Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia combining for over 900 passing yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception. He is having an impressive season overall, and I look forward to watching tape of him to see if he has improved on some of the things I saw him struggle with when I watched him against Alabama last year. Hopefully he keeps this up.

18-   Ben Chappell, QB, Indiana- Chappell has had a pretty solid statistical season, however those numbers are padded by games against teams like Arkansas State, Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron. He produced about 1,250 passing yards, a completion percentage of around 68% and 13 touchdowns with no interceptions in those four games. He torched Michigan for an astounding 480 yards passing with three touchdowns and one interception, but he had disappointing games against Ohio State, Illinois and Northwestern where he threw only two touchdowns with a combined six interceptions. He is a late round pick right now, and from what I noticed in the little I have seen him he seems to have a bit of a hitch in his throwing motion.

19-   Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada- Kaepernick is a true dual-threat QB. He is just as likely to beat you with his legs as he is with his arm. He has a strong arm, but I have never been very impressed with him as a passer. I haven’t scouted him yet this year, but I imagine his athletic ability and arm strength will warrant at least late round consideration when the Draft finally rolls around. However, I am not sold on him ever amounting into a solid starter in the NFL, therefore he will be down towards the bottom of all of my rankings.

20-   Nick Foles, QB, Arizona- Foles should be back from his injury this weekend, so it will be interesting to see how he finishes his junior season out. When I have seen him play I have noticed him staring down his receivers quite frequently which worries me as far as his transition to the NFL is concerned. He has good size and a nice arm, but I worry about the offense he plays in and how often he stares down his primary receiver.

21-   Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State- Pryor is an incredibly gifted player, but he still seems like an athlete playing quarterback to me. He has definitely shown signs of improvement this year, but at the end of the day they are just signs. I think if he comes out after his junior season he will get drafted higher than he deserves, but that doesn’t mean he will pan out obviously. He might have a higher ceiling at wide receiver in the NFL than he does at QB, but that is an entirely different can of worms.

22-   Mitch Mustain, QB, Southern Cal- Mustain has been residing low on my rankings all year, and it’s hard to say that he should be much higher considering how limited his playing time has been at Southern Cal, but I think he has the tools to be a successful back-up QB and if he is developed for three or four years I think he would have a shot at being a solid starter in the NFL. He has a lot of experience in a pro-style offense and that will help his transition to the next level.

23-   Scott Tolzien, QB, Wisconsin- Tolzien is nothing more than a game manager at Wisconsin, but he does a good job of avoiding mistakes and he has shown some added ability to make throws on 3rd down this year when they need a conversion. He isn’t going to be much more than a back-up on the next level in my opinion, but I think he could be a solid back-up who could step in and manage the game should the starter go down.

24-   T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina- Yates is barely on this list and it is only because he has shown flashes of ability this year. I don’t think he deserves to be drafted at this point, and his ceiling is probably a #3 or at best a #2 in the NFL.

25-   Justin Roper, QB, Montana- Roper is a guy who has impressive size but I have not been able to see him play. He has pretty impressive stats even though he is playing at the Division II level, but I look forward to being able to see his arm strength, throwing motion and overall mechanics if Montana is ever televised nationally. A guy with his size and production warrants some consideration.

I took some notes on the game and I also just had some overall reactions to some players that I paid attention to in the game. Obviously I can’t project them accurately after watching them live one time, but I have a feeling for some of the players that participated in this game as prospects so I thought I would post some notes on them. Hopefully you all find them interesting!

Taylor started off strong but struggled when he was forced to pick apart zone coverage.

Tyrod Taylor showing nice zip on his throws and making good, quick decisions on the first drive. He threw an absolutely beautiful pass to the sideline and Jarrett Boykin high pointed it and made a great catch on the sideline. He showed great hands and ability to make a catch in traffic here. I really like Boykin as a NFL receiver.

Taylor in shotgun, they brought pressure and Tyrod got out of trouble and extended the play. He’s not really one to stay in the pocket in the face of pressure which makes him hard to project to the NFL.

Tyrod has good arm strength and zip on his throws, even when on the run.Tyrod has spent a lot of time scrambling in this game. I like seeing him extending plays and drives with his feet but I wanted to see him stay in the pocket and go through his progressions more.

Tyrod really cooled off when GT started dropping 7 or 8 into coverage with a spy on him. He was forced to make quick reads and deliver the ball fast but he would hold the ball too long and turn it into a broken play by scrambling. There were a few plays where he literally had ALL day to throw but he did not look effective trying to beat GT’s zone coverage at all. It’s good that he can extend plays, but he has shown a strong tendency to hold onto the ball too long instead of delivering it in rhythm.

Williams looked like his pre-injury self at times in this game, but I wonder if he will declare because of his "down" year as a result of injury.

Ryan Williams showed flashes of his former self tonight. He looked a little big to me on TV, I’d be interested to see if he is at his normal playing weight. Maybe that is just me. He looked quick through and showed some nice vision and good quickness/burst. I want to see him run inside more but obviously I haven’t seen much of him this year because of his hamstring. From what I remember he looked like a very effective inside runner to me.

Darren Evans looked solid, but didn’t look like anything special. He is a hard runner but I’d be surprised if he clocked in at anything under a 4.5 in the 40. He didn’t have a great rushing average but he got what yards he could and he didn’t go down on the first hit. He struggled on the goal line but that was because of the penetration GT’s defensive line was getting, that is on the offensive line. That hurt his average as well. He looks like a mid-round pick to me right now, but that was definitely based off of limited viewing of him.

David Wilson definitely looked good to me. He looks like he has a lot of potential as a 3rd down back in the NFL. I’d like to see him catch more passes out of the backfield, but obviously this was a limited viewing of him. But as he gains more experience I really think he could be a valuable commodity when he comes out. He is so dangerous as a return-man, plus he runs the ball effectively… if he develops into a dangerous receiver out of the backfield then he would be potentially as dangerous as C.J. Spiller. He had a huge impact on the game with his rushing touchdown and his ultimately game winning kick off return for a score.

Boykin is the best of the trio of Virginia Tech receivers in my estimation. He has good hands and can make tough catches in traffic.

Jarrett Boykin looked good to me. He can make tough catches in traffic, he has huge strong, reliable hands and he is Taylor’s most reliable target in my opinion. I really like him as a NFL prospect, but he doesn’t look like much more than a #2 WR in my opinion. He has a lot of talent though and as he improves his route running I think he will develop into a reliable NFL target. Guys with his combination of size, hands and ability to make catches in traffic when high-pointing the ball are valuable.

Antoine Hopkins, #56 at DT for Virginia Tech, impressed me last night. He made a few stops right at the line of scrimmage, and coming into the game he had 20 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 pass break-up and 1 QB hurry. He was definitely having a strong game in the middle, and he looks like a nice NT prospect to me and he is only a sophomore. I need to see more of him obviously, but he is definitely on my radar. He is a squatty player at 6’1”, 302 pounds but he had a good game last night to be sure.

Rashad Carmichael had a solid game. I didn’t see how well he supported the run against the triple option, but when he was challenged in coverage he gave up a 43 yard completion and then made the game clinching interception later on that same drive. Every corner is going to give up some catches, even some big ones, but I like to see corners that can make a mistake and move on from it and not let one mistake lead to another and another. He was out of position on the play when he made his interception but he closed on the ball quickly and showed an impressive burst to close and he turned his head around just in time to make the interception. He is having a strong statistical season, but I really think he could be a great corner in a primarily zone scheme. I haven’t seen him enough in man coverage to evaluate him well, but he strikes me as a very dangerous corner in zone because of his ball skills and because of how well he closes on the ball.

Hosley has a lot of talent and he is a dangerous punt returner.

Jayron Hosley looked good to me as well. He is only a sophomore but he has a lot of talent. He is having a good season statistically but really he has had one incredible game against NC State in which he had 3 INT’s and 4 passes deflected. He is a talented player though, and I liked what I saw from him as a returner. He is really quick and he can make a lot of guys miss once he gets a block or two. He has to be more consistent in coverage because he likes to gamble from what I can tell, so that means he will give up big plays but also make them. I am excited to continue to watch him mature because he has 1st round talent without a doubt.

I liked what I saw from senior safety Davon Morgan, #2 on Virginia Tech. He looks much bigger on TV than he is listed as he is listed at 6’0”, 196 pounds. I would have guessed that he was 6’3” the way he looked on TV. He is having a productive season from a tackling standpoint, but he made a nice play on the ball in the game last night to make a game-changing interception. I think at worst he will be a solid special teams player in the NFL, but I haven’t seen enough of him to know how reliable of a tackler he is and to see how he is in coverage. Georgia Tech is not a good team to evaluate DB’s against.

Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech’s best receiver, did not really impress me much last night. He seems to be more of a finesse player than Demaryius Thomas was, but he did not make a catch in traffic last night that hit him in the hands and that was disappointing. He was also hurt on the play, and I’m not sure he returned for more than a few snaps the rest of the game. I would have liked to see more toughness than that, but I definitely want to see more from him before I will be sold on him.

I don't know how well Anthony Allen will transition to the NFL because I question his vision as a runner.

Anthony Allen had a productive game, but Georgia Tech’s triple option offense makes it hard for me (and a lot of other people) to evaluate their running backs. Allen is filling in for Jonathan Dwyer this year, and he is doing a good job of it, but the position does not seem to require the vision that a typical running back would need since the quarterback is the player who has to read his keys and decide whether to hand the ball off or keep it. If Allen gets the ball he just runs to the hole and gets what yardage he can, he doesn’t have to have great or even good vision to be effective. He has ability, but I’m not sure he can effectively translate to a pro-style offense at running back. Dwyer has not made an impact on the Steelers at all this season, and after falling to the 6th round I don’t think Allen will be facing a very favorable panel of suitors when the draft finally rolls around. Dwyer has not transitioned well to the NFL, so there isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest that Allen will.

Nesbitt will have a tough transition to the NFL, but I think he has the size, athleticism and vision to transition to RB in the NFL at some point.

Josh Nesbitt is an interesting prospect. He absolutely will not be playing QB on the next level, but today one of my good friends asked me if I thought he might be able to play running back. And honestly, I think he has the potential to do so. It would require a good deal of patience on someone’s part, and he might have to take part in a couple of mini-camps and training camps before he finally got a roster spot, but he has good size at 6’1”, 217 pounds and he packs some punch as a runner. He has good vision and he reads keys well or else Georgia Tech’s offense would not be nearly as effective as it is with him at Quarterback. The transition will be a big one, but as a late round pick I definitely think he will get some consideration. He has the size, the athleticism and the vision to contribute at running back in the NFL, so the only question will be how well or quickly he can transition to the pro-style offenses in the NFL.

Hopefully you guys enjoyed the notes, thanks for reading!

–Tom

My First Mock Draft of the Year

This is my first mock draft of the year and it is only the first round. I hit some snags while doing it, but for my first mock draft since April I thought it was a good effort. Let me know what you think obviously and hopefully you will enjoy the read!

First round:

Pick:  1  San Francisco 49ers- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas-

Analysis: First off, I don’t think Andrew Luck will declare this year, but if he does I think he is definitely the front-runner for the #1 overall pick.  That said, the next best thing is Ryan Mallett as far as potential is concerned. Mallett’s combination of size and arm strength is borderline unheard of, and as a result his potential is through the roof. He has some mechanical issues, such as his footwork (which I think leads to some inaccurate throws, I don’t think his actual accuracy is as bad as some say), however the #1 overall pick is about production, potential and glitz and glamour, not necessarily the best overall player in the draft. I don’t think Mallett is the best QB in this draft, nor do I think he is the best player in the draft, but that doesn’t mean he won’t go #1.

Pick:  2  Carolina Panthers- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama-

Analysis: This seems a little high for Dareus especially considering the two game suspension earlier this season, but he is an extremely disruptive force at DE in Alabama’s 3-4 defense, and though I think he would be a great fit in a 3-4 defense in the NFL I think he could play defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense as well. The Panthers’ defense is a bit of a mess right now between injuries and losing starters via free agency or trade, but their defensive tackles are absolutely awful. Until they upgrade that position they won’t be able to stop the run or rush the passer, so I think improving up the middle has to be a high priority for them this year.

Pick:  3  Buffalo Bills- Jake Locker, QB, Washington-

Analysis: I think Locker is a top 10-15 selection right now, but this is a very need-based pick so though I think it is a little bit of a reach as far as my evaluation of Locker’s stock at this point, I think it makes sense. The Bills finally cut Trent Edwards loose since he clearly wasn’t getting the job done and they need a new face of the franchise to promote optimism and sell tickets, and Jake Locker fits that bill perfectly. He has great intangibles, great athleticism and great potential, however he has not progressed the way many people thought he would this year so I think his stock has taken a bit of a hit. He could easily move back up to a top 5 pick by the time the draft rolls around, especially if he plays better the rest of the season, but right now Luck and Mallett are in the drivers’ seat for the #1 overall pick. Some will argue, like they do every year, that they should pass on the potential franchise QB and fill another need in round 1 and get a safer, less risky quarterback in round 2. I made that mistake when I wanted Brian Brohm in round 2 instead of Matt Ryan, so I probably won’t ever feel that way again.

Pick:  4  Detroit Lions- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU-

Analysis: The Lions have done a very nice job of acquiring nice pieces of talent since Matt Millen was fired. First there was Calvin Johnson, then Matt Stafford and now Ndamukong Suh. However, they are still lacking at the cornerback position, which is where Patrick Peterson comes in. Not only is Peterson arguably the best cornerback in the nation, but he is an absolutely electric return man. Once he gets the ball in his hands he can make guys miss and turn on the jets in a hurry. That makes him dangerous on punt returns and after he comes away with a turnover on defense. Having that kind of a playmaker at cornerback is something the Lions have lacked since they signed Dre’ Bly away from the St. Louis Rams years ago. The Lions could also consider a defensive end or a left tackle here, but in my opinion there is no better player available at either position than Patterson, making him the best selection for the Lions.

Pick:  5  Cleveland Browns- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia-

Analysis: I think that A.J. Green is in the drivers’ seat to be the first receiver off the board in April, and the Browns are a team that needs desperate help both at quarterback and at wide receiver. With Mallett and Locker both off the board already, the Browns should take the best player available and that figures to be Green. The Browns already have a former Georgia Bulldog on the roster in Mohamed Massaquoi, but he is not thriving as their #1 option. Green definitely has #1 WR potential, and he would give whoever takes snaps at QB more options to throw to as a result. I think Green is a very good player, but something about his game makes me wonder how well he will transition to the NFL. Honestly, I think he is a little over-hyped, but I haven’t scouted him yet this year so perhaps I will change my tune once I do.

Pick:  6  Minnesota Vikings- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska-

Analysis: This may seem like a strange pick, especially since the Vikings picked Chris Cook last year, but the Vikings really like to stick to the best player available, and in this case I think that is Amukamara. Now, when you look at their roster on paper it might not seem like they need a corner. They have Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook waiting in the wings. Asher Allen provides some depth, and bingo! No issue… right? I would say wrong. Winfield has lost a step or two, and will only get slower and become less suitable for the starting role, and Cedric Griffin has now torn both of his ACL’s within the last calendar year. That is too bad, especially since he fits their scheme well, but between Winfield’s age and Griffin’s injury history the Vikings aren’t as deep at corner as they appear to be on paper, and that is assuming Chris Cook pans out as well. Amukamara could really help shore up the position and if Cook pans out they could form a very nice tandem for years to come with Asher Allen filling in at the nickel spot.

Pick:  7  Dallas Cowboys- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa-

Analysis: The Cowboys have a couple of solid DE’s in Igor Olshansky and Marcus Spears, but Spears has never really lived up to his 1st round pick billing. Clayborn strikes me as an ideal 3-4 DE prospect. He doesn’t have the edge speed to fly off the edge as a 4-3 DE but he is so big, strong and has such good hand usage I think he could be very disruptive at the DE spot in a 3-4. He is good versus the run though I have not seen how well he handles double teams, though with coaching and weight training he should have no issues controlling two gaps in the NFL.

Pick:  8  St. Louis Rams- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama-

Analysis: Julio Jones has a boatload of potential and he hasn’t really come close to reaching it at Alabama. Part of that has to do with how balanced their offense is and how worried teams tend to be about him beating them when the Crimson Tide do pass, but he definitely has the potential to be a better NFL player than he was in college. He has great size, speed and can make some highlight reel catches. If the Rams are looking for a potential #1 WR for Bradford to throw to, Jones is one of the best they could hope to get in this draft class. I have my concerns about Jones’ route running and his tendency to drop passes, but that comes down to concentration because his hands are obviously reliable. Jones is one of the more interesting prospects in this draft class to project to the NFL because he strikes me as a hit or miss guy.

Pick:  9  San Diego Chargers- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State-

Analysis: I’m not sure how realistic it is for two 3-4 DE prospects to come off the board in the top 10, but the Chargers really need help at DE. Not only is the starter opposite Luis Castillo a better fit as a back-up, but Castillo himself is regularly injured. Heyward has great size, strength and defends the run well. He doesn’t have the speed off the edge to play DE in a 4-3, however I do think he could slide inside to defensive tackle in that scheme. But, I think his best fit is at DE in the 3-4 defense, and a combo of Heyward and a healthy Castillo at DE would be a very big boost for San Diego’s defense.

Pick: 10  New England Patriots (F/Oak)- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA-

Analysis: The Patriots are notorious for a few things. One is having multiple first round picks (which they have again this year) and the other is consistently spending high draft picks on their front 7 on defense. I think they will go this route again this year with one of their selections at least, and Ayers strikes me as the perfect “Patriot” player. He is a good pass rusher and he can drop back into coverage and make plays. I am not sure how well he defends the run, but he has a lot of potential. This might seem high for him, but the Patriots have made surprising picks like this before, especially when it comes to the front 7.

Pick: 11  Denver Broncos- Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama-

Analysis: The Broncos could really use a stud ILB to play next to DJ Williams, and if they pick up Hightower they could have the beginnings of one of the best front sevens in the NFL. If Ayers, Dumervil, Hightower and Williams are all healthy they would have a very dangerous group of linebackers. They can all get after the passer and defend the run too, which is the scary part. Of course, they all have injury histories which may ultimately scare the Broncos away from Hightower. But ILB is a need for them and Hightower is the best draft eligible ILB prospect without a doubt.

Pick: 12  Cincinnati Bengals- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina-

Analysis: Part of me wants to see the Bengals draft Christian Ponder, but I don’t think the Bengals will give up on Carson Palmer so easily (even if he hasn’t been the same QB since his horrific knee injury). That said, the Bengals could use a boost to their pass rush, and that is Robert Quinn’s specialty. The guy is an absolute freak athlete, and though he is suspended for the rest of this season for his interactions with an agent I would be relatively surprised if he didn’t declare for the draft this year. Perhaps he will surprise me and stay for his senior season, but I think he is talented enough to still get drafted in the 1st round if he declares. He will be a big gamble because he hasn’t played football all season, but the Bengals have taken risks on guys with worse character concerns than Quinn before so I think Cincinnati is definitely one of the most likely landing spots for Quinn in the first round. Combine their tendency to roll the dice on “character risks” with their need for a boost to their pass rush and Quinn makes a lot of sense.

Pick: 13  Seattle Seahawks- Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson-

Analysis: The Seahawks definitely need help at defensive end, and Bowers is the best pass rushing defensive end left on the table (though that isn’t saying much at this point). I honestly think Bowers is overrated at this point because of the hype he had coming out of high school, but he hasn’t really lived up to it during his time at Clemson. He hasn’t gotten to the quarterback as often as I (and many others) probably expected him to, and he doesn’t look like he has the best burst off the line and the best edge speed to be a good/very good pass rusher. At this point I almost think he would be a better fit in a 3-4 defense, but I haven’t scouted him enough yet this year to come to that conclusion yet. Perhaps he will be a better NFL player than college player, but he is just as likely to be a player with huge potential who never lives up to it in my opinion. I don’t know how likely this pick is because the Seahawks made it very obvious last year that they value production over potential when they made two of my favorite picks in the draft with Russell Okung and Earl Thomas.

Pick: 14  Miami Dolphins- Aaron Williams, CB, Texas-

Analysis: The Dolphins have a couple of young corners in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith according to their depth chart, but Sean Smith does not look like a natural corner to me at all. I always thought he would be a better fit at FS, so I think the Dolphins would be much better off drafting another corner and sliding him back to the safety position. Aaron Williams has a lot of potential and athletic ability, and he has been groomed by a program that has been churning out quality defensive back prospects for years now. I haven’t gotten a chance to scout him yet, but I will soon. As you can see from this picture, he is quite the playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.

Pick: 15  Arizona Cardinals- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State-

Analysis: This seems early for Ponder now since I think he has played himself into the “fringe” first rounder area thus far this season, but the Cardinals have to be desperate for a QB at this point and Ponder is the best available at this point. I think they could definitely go in another direction, perhaps cornerback if one they like is available, or they could slide down to get better value for Ponder or to see if some guys they like are still around. But for the sake of this exercise, I think they have to go with a QB. I don’t think Ponder will be ready to play as a rookie, and when I have seen him this year he hasn’t been particularly impressive. I am beginning to think that his terrific performance against UNC last year was an anomaly and that he will only be a solid starter in the NFL. It will be interesting to see if his performance the rest of that year confirms or denies those suspicions.

Pick: 16  New Orleans Saints- Greg Jones, OLB, Michigan State-

Analysis: Greg Jones is one of my favorite prospects in this draft. He has terrific instincts for the position and it physically pains me to mock him to the Saints, that is how good I think he is going to be. The Saints really need linebacker help, whether it is at WLB or MLB, so Jones makes a lot of sense for them from a need perspective.

Pick: 17  Green Bay Packers- Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida-

Analysis: I think Jenkins is being underrated by a lot of draft-niks right now because I haven’t seen him in a 1st round mock yet and I think he is one of the top three or four best corners in the nation. He is an absolute playmaker and he is physical and supports the run very well. I think his physicality makes him a good fit in Green Bay, plus he has dreadlocks so he would continue the tradition of the Packers having at least one corner with dreadlocks that was started years ago by Mike McKenzie. Plus, Al Harris and Charles Woodson are both getting old, and Harris has had trouble with injuries in recent years. They have some talent at corner on the roster in Tramon Williams, but to avoid a drop-off at the position the Packers could use another talented corner, and I think that could be Jenkins.

Pick: 18  New York Giants- Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois-

Analysis: This might seem high for Wilson, and honestly it probably is right now, but I think he has a lot of potential to be a stud ILB in the NFL. He has been a tackling machine this year for the Illini and he is coming off of a season ending injury from a season ago. The Giants might shy away from him because he his injury was from his neck, similar to what helped force Antonio Pierce away from football, but all indications are that he is healthy and he has been a force thus far this season.

Pick: 19  Jacksonville Jaguars- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh-

Analysis: The Jaguars always seem perfectly willing to take a chance on a super talented player even if they have their question marks. I wonder how well Baldwin will be able to adjust to the NFL because he has been able to cruise on his natural athletic ability for so long and because I don’t think he has good enough burst or quickness to create separation and run effective routes. However, he does have very long strides and good deep speed and he locates and adjusts to the ball in the air as well as any receiver I have ever scouted. He definitely has a lot of potential, but I think he will need a couple of years to adjust to the speed of the NFL and to work on his route running. Then in years three or four he will either strut his stuff or end up being a bust. He strikes me as a boom or bust guy.

Pick: 20  Philadelphia Eagles- Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina-

Analysis: The Eagles love to have fast, hard hitting players all over their defense and that makes Carter a perfect fit for their scheme. He is an athletic freak. He is very fast, very strong and he makes plays on defense and on special teams. I don’t think he has very good instincts, though that is masked by his athletic ability on a regular basis. But he won’t be asked to play in coverage that often as the SLB and he should be able to play the run and get after the passer and make an impact on special teams, which is what I think he does best.

Pick: 21  Washington Redskins- Malcolm Floyd, WR, Notre Dame-

Analysis: Floyd is a WR who I have always marveled at. There aren’t many WR’s I have ever seen who high-point the ball in the air better than Floyd does, and whenever there is a jump ball thrown within five yards of Floyd I just assume he is going to come down with it and marvel at how he does it. He doesn’t have very good deep speed and doesn’t run great routes, but his combination of size, leaping ability and reliable hands is hard to come by. He may not strike fear into defenses with his speed, but I think that if he gets single coverage in the NFL he will still find a way to come down with the ball, so despite his lack of deep speed he can still threaten defenses deep. The Redskins really need a deep threat for McNabb to throw to opposite of Santana Moss, and Floyd’s size and leaping ability would really contrast Moss’ quickness and deep speed well.

Pick: 22  Indianapolis Colts- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State-

Analysis: Hudson is the top OG in this class in my opinion and though he is relatively undersized he is so technically sound and mobile for the position that I would be shocked if he slides out of the first round. The Colts love a smart and technically sound offensive lineman and they need help up front so this pick seems like a match made in heaven to me.

Pick: 23  Tennessee Titans- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami-

Analysis: The Titans have tried to find a second quality starting corner but none of their attempts have really hit home yet. I think Brandon Harris would fit in very well on their defense because of his athletic ability and his playmaking ability. Not long ago the Titans secondary was coming down with interceptions with astonishing regularity, but as the pass rush has waned so have the turnovers. They need playmakers in the secondary and pass rushers up front, and if Derrick Morgan can get healthy Harris and the rest of the Titans secondary could stand to benefit.

Pick: 24  Houston Texans- Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA-

Analysis: The Texans have needed help at FS for the majority of their existence as a franchise, so I think it is high time that they finally address that problem. Rahim Moore is a playmaking FS at UCLA and had a mind-boggling 10 interceptions last year as a sophomore. He hasn’t had the same success this year, and though I haven’t watched him I can’t imagine teams are challenging him as often as they were last year. Regardless, he would give the Texans that true centerfielder that they have needed for so long, and with Mario Williams rushing the passer he could come away with some easy turnovers as a Texan.

Pick: 25  Kansas City Chiefs- Jurell Powe, DT, Mississippi-

Analysis: The Chiefs really need help at NT in their 3-4 defense and Powe is the best draft eligible NT in the draft in my opinion. He is quick off the ball and is very disruptive versus the run and can collapse the pocket with his bull rush. He actually reminds me a lot of B.J. Raji, minus the spin move Raji flashed at Boston College. Both are built low to the ground but are very strong and thick, and both project well to the 4-3 NT position. However, like Raji, Powe could end up playing NT in a 3-4.

Pick: 26  Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia-

Analysis: The Bucs have one quality corner in Aqib Talib, but they have not yet found a suitable replacement for the ancient Ronde Barber. I am not a huge fan of Ras-I Dowling, but his size is a huge plus and his lack of elite speed is less of an issue in the Bucs defense. If they continue to run the Cover-2 then Dowling could fit in very well, plus they would have two of the bigger corners in the NFL with Talib and Dowling dropping back into coverage.

Pick: 27  New England Patriots- Cameron Jordan, DE, California-

Analysis: The Patriots love to spend their early selections on the defensive side of the ball, and drafting Ayers and Jordan would really shore up two of their weaker positions in their front 7. Jordan looks to be a nice 3-4 DE prospect who I think may sneak into the first round, though I don’t think he will be drafted as high as his former teammate Tyson Alualu was last season. With Jordan replacing Seymour and Ayers rushing the passer and dropping into coverage at linebacker the Patriots front seven would be very dangerous again.

Pick: 28  Pittsburgh Steelers- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State-

Analysis: This may be late for Sherrod, but I haven’t had a chance to watch him much yet. He is probably the only OT I would grade as a potential top 15 pick at this point, but the way the draft order came out this week I just didn’t think he would get picked until 28. Regardless, the Steelers could use an upgrade over Max Starks at LT and sliding him back to LT and playing Sherrod at LT would improve their pass blocking and their offensive line as a whole.

Pick: 29  Chicago Bears- Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida-

Analysis: The Bears need help all over the offensive line. I am not sure if Chris Williams will ever be a reliable starter, but I’m not sure the Bears are willing to spend another first round pick on the position until they are sure what they have in him. However, their interior offensive line is also a mess and warrants serious overhaul in my opinion. Pouncey may have played awful at center at the beginning of the year for Florida, but he was a very good offensive guard prospect before his horrible showing at the pivot, and I see no reason he shouldn’t be a quality OG prospect now. The Bears could really use him at either guard position, so drafting him at this spot makes perfect sense, especially if they aren’t completely sold on upgrading Chris Williams yet.

Pick: 30  New York Jets- Allen Bailey, DE, Miami-

Analysis: The Jets seem to attract guys with tons of potential and Bailey would fit that bill perfectly. He has a pretty incredible combination of size, strength and overall athleticism and on paper seems to project perfectly to the 3-4 DE position. However, I personally think he is very overrated. I don’t think he sheds blocks well at all and he usually the last Miami defensive lineman off the line of scrimmage. Being slow off the ball and struggling to shed one on one blocks, much less getting washed out by double teams, makes me wonder how he will ever transition to the NFL. However, I have been wrong before, and if he can improve his hand usage and learn to stand up to double teams and beat one on one blocks more consistently he could be a handful in the NFL. He seems to be yet another boom or bust guy, and if I had to put money on one I would put it on bust.

Pick: 31  Atlanta Falcons- Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin-

Analysis: This may seem awfully high for Kendricks, but I have graded him as a early-mid 2nd rounder since I started scouting him last season, and I don’t feel much differently about him now. I don’t know if he will sneak into the first round or not, but I do know that as an Atlanta Falcons fan I would be ecstatic if we ended up with him on draft day. Kendricks is a great athlete, he has very reliable hands and he is a much better blocker than most give him credit for. He had a number of key seal blocks in the bowl game against Miami last year and I watched him block Allen Bailey one on one on more than one occasion in that same game. He is a good in-line blocker, better than I thought he would be actually, and he is an even better receiver. Drafting him while we still have Tony Gonzalez would allow Gonzo to show him some of the tricks of the trade, and when Gonzo retires Kendricks would be ready to step in and give Ryan a reliable target to throw to at the position. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Falcons slide into the 2nd round if they are picking late in round 1. Thomas Dimitroff is a Patriots disciple and the Patriots are notorious for stock-piling draft picks. If there were ever a year for Dimitroff to try that it would be this year.

Pick: 32  Baltimore Ravens- Mark Barron, S, Alabama-

Analysis: Ed Reed has been the gold standard for safety play for years and years, but he is wearing down and injuries or his better judgment will eventually end his career. When that happens the Ravens have to be ready, and getting a playmaker like Barron is the first step for preparing for that day. Reed should still have another year or two left in him (hopefully) and drafting Barron to sit behind Reed (and play when he is injured) would help his development and put the Ravens in terrific position to replace Reed when that day comes. Plus, Dawan Landry and Tom Zbikowski are nothing to write home about.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

I have thought of Christian Ponder and Jake Locker as top 3 QB’s in this upcoming draft class for a long time, even when assuming that Mallett would come out. However, I have been monitoring their progress so far this season and watching them when I can, and honestly I haven’t been too impressed. When I have seen of Ponder so far this year he has not played up to my expectations. Perhaps they were too high, and that he really is just a fringe 1st rounder, but I have to say I was disappointed. Last season he looked like a great leader and I thought he was going to take off this year and show everyone what kind of potential I knew he had after watching him last season. Because before his junior year… I thought his ceiling in the NFL was as a back-up, and there was no reason to think otherwise. Perhaps I was guilty of a knee-jerk reaction after his great season last year. I still have two or three games I have to watch (along with the remainder of his season), but I would be surprised if they led me to a different conclusion than what I have come to now that FSU has played six games this year. His stats don’t actually look that bad, except that his completion percentage has dropped from 68.8% a year ago to 60% this year, his yards per attempt has dropped from 8.23 a year ago to 6.78 this year, and his far and away best game came against Samford, which accounted for four of the ten touchdowns he has thrown this season.

I am waiting for Ponder to step up and take control of the offense. FSU’s running game has been much more productive this season thanks to the emergence of Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson (who combined for 270 total yards of offense against Miami along with four total touchdowns) which has taken the pressure off of Ponder. But I haven’t seen him enough to determine if he is still making key plays in crucial situations, but I do know that he had a horrendous statistical game against Oklahoma that I am re-watching right now. In that game FSU’s rushing attack was slowed to only 3.8 yards per carry and Ponder struggled mightily, completing only 39.3% of his passes for 113 yards and two interceptions. There is going to be a game this year where it all comes down to how Ponder plays and he has to put the team on his shoulders and win it for them like he did against North Carolina, and his draft stock will be defined by that game. Will he step up to the challenge and show his potential to be a solid/good starting QB in the NFL? Or will he collapse under the pressure and lend credence to those who think he is no more than a game manager. I tend to believe he will step up to the pressure, but it’s hard to support that after his up and down season so far. But when it comes to ranking him the #2 QB in this draft class (excluding Luck since I don’t think he will declare) then yes, I do think I overrated him.

As for Locker, I think we all overrated him. That’s not to say that I don’t think he is worth a 1st round pick, because I do think he is worth that high of a selection, but the media compared him to John Elway, he was talked up as a potential #1 overall pick last year but he has simply not delivered yet this year. Part of that has to do with his relatively poor play this year, which can be attributed to the lack of talent on Washington’s team right now as Steve Sarkisian continues to improve the program and part of that can be attributed to Locker simply playing poorly. However, the expectations for him were so astronomically high that I expected that he would disappoint regardless of how well he played, and that seems to have been the case thus far. Many still have him going in the top five in mock drafts right now, but I have to say that I would be surprised if he got drafted that high at this point in the season. There is obviously a lot of time left, but I think he is a fringe top ten pick at this point. Yes, he has tons of potential and with another year of coaching I think he could definitely be a good or maybe even great QB in the NFL, but he is not there yet in my opinion. Obviously I still have a lot of tape to watch of him considering the fact that the season has not yet concluded, but he has underwhelmed me and most everyone else, and I my expectations weren’t even as unrealistic as some people’s were. Hopefully he plays better for the rest of the season (I have to say I was impressed at how well he seemed to bounce back from his awful game against Nebraska when he played USC and won), but at this point I think a lot of people, including myself, overrated Jake Locker. I had him ranked as my #3 QB after Ponder, and excluding Andrew Luck I do think Locker is the #2 in this class, but that only means that I believe Mallett is the only one with top 5 potential, Locker is more of a top 10-15 QB and Ponder is a late first round/early second round QB at this point.

However, the beauty of college football and the NFL Draft is that so much can change so quickly, and there is plenty of time for plenty of change to happen. So let’s just sit back and enjoy it and I will do my best to break it down and explain it right here for all of you to read.

Thanks for reading, I will have some updated rankings coming up soon!

–Tom

This is my analysis of Matt Ryan’s Week 1 performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played poorly in this game as evidenced by his statistics: 27/44, 252 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, a completion percentage of 61.4% and a QB rating of 67.6. But there is definitely more to his performance than just his stat line, so when I re-watched this game and took twelve single spaced pages of notes on it I paid particular attention to Matt Ryan and how he played. Here is what I found:

”]Ryan had a poor performance in this game. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was when I watched it live, but he still had a pretty bad game considering everything that happened. The interception he threw to Polamalu was an incredible play on Polamalu’s part because of the instincts, closing speed and just overall uncanny ability to pick the pass off and get his feet inbounds, but it wasn’t an impossible play to make. Ryan had been throwing that same ball to Roddy all game long, he probably threw it at least 10 times or more over the course of the game. The Steelers’ corners started to key on it and had blanket coverage on a number of them as the game went on, but finally Polamalu tried to jump one and he came away with a great interception. That is on Mularkey for calling such a predictable game, but it is also on Ryan for staring Roddy down on that route and for throwing to him on that same deep curl over and over for the entire game. Plus Ryan doesn’t have the arm strength to throw a deep curl to the sideline like that, so his passes hang in the air a bit which gives the defender more time to close on the ball and make a play on it. Hence why Pittsburgh’s corners and defensive backs were in Roddy’s hip pocket all game regardless of how crisp he was going in and out of his break.

He had a number of bad throws in this game (I counted about seven in this game), some of which were due to bad footwork (I counted about five or so instances of this, meaning an off balance throw, throw off his back foot, etc.) and some just due to him getting flustered in the pocket and panicking. There were a few instances where he had time to throw and just missed his target, which will happen. However, we really need to stop making the deep curl and deep out such a critical route in our offense. Ryan can throw it and complete it, but if we keep doing it over and over like we did in this game teams will key on it and have some easy interceptions because of how long the ball stays in the air. He has to time the throw perfectly, throw an accurate ball and put it on the right shoulder for Roddy or anyone else to have a good chance at catching it, otherwise the defensive back will be able to knock it away if they close on it well or if they are expecting it. Mularkey really needs to work to Ryan’s strengths which involve beating blitzes, quick throws, throws over the middle and throws that require more touch and accuracy rather than pure arm strength like throws to the sideline require. We can’t scrap them from our offense entirely obviously, but there’s no reason we should be blatantly playing to one of his greatest weaknesses on such a regular basis.

Ryan threw the ball 44 times in this game. That number is much higher than I would prefer, especially when our running game was as ineffective as it was.

Ryan had a number of good throws in this game, I counted about seven good throws, five very good throws and fourteen solid throws overall. As you can tell, we threw the ball way more in this game than I think we would ordinarily want to. Our running game was just not effective for the majority of the game, but I will touch on that more when I break down how Turner, Snelling, Norwood and the offensive line did. However, Ryan and Roddy had a lot of pressure put on them to perform well and Ryan did a very good job of coming up with big 3rd down conversions in this game. He started out playing poorly on 3rd down at the beginning of the game which coincided with him looking very uncomfortable with his offensive line. He showed a number of examples of poor pocket poise at the beginning of the game as well as some bad footwork and bad decisions that occurred when he panicked in the face of pressure. That is definitely not something I expected to see out of Ryan so I made sure to see how he looked in those situations as the game progressed. As the game continued he definitely settled down and played better, made better decisions and showed a lot more poise. However, he was getting away with those deep curl throws to Roddy and Roddy made some very nice catches with defenders blanketed all over him which had to help Ryan’s confidence. So after he threw that interception to Polamalu his confidence took a huge hit and he resorted to his earlier antics a bit during the drive in overtime, but still looked better late than he did early in the game.

Ryan definitely had a mixed bag as far as good decisions and bad decisions as well as good/very good throws and bad throws. Again, we threw the ball way more than I would normally like (44 times, which is way too high for a run-first team like us) and we were completely ineffective running the ball (25 attempts, 58 yards and only 2.3 yards per carry). We couldn’t run the ball well so we got into 2nd and 3rd and long situations far too often, and Ryan had to throw us into field goal position to get us any points what-so-ever. We had no balance and eventually we just became entirely too predictable and mistakes were made like Ryan’s interception late in the 4th quarter. Because I am writing this after the fourth game of the season I have the benefit of looking for trends, and I found some that were similar to those I identified three years ago when he came out of Boston College. When he was at Boston College he regularly had to throw the ball a lot to keep the team in games and often when he did that he would turn the ball over more often than when the team had a semblance of a running game. In the two games that we have had no running game (against Pittsburgh and San Francisco we had a combined 156 rushing yards on 54 attempts for a pathetic 2.88 yards per carry average) Ryan threw the ball 44 and 43 times, respectively. In those two games he threw three interceptions versus only one touchdown, had an average of just under six yards per attempt versus over seven yards per attempt in the two games against Arizona and New Orleans, and an average QB rating of about 67 against Pitt and San Francisco versus about 112 against Arizona and New Orleans. In this case I truly believe the stats speak for themselves: When Ryan has to carry the offense by throwing the ball 35 or 40+ times in a game, we struggle and he struggles as well. The only times we will have to do that is when we get behind early in the game or when our run game sputters, which is what happened against Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

The disparity in Ryan's stats when he throws the ball more than 40 times versus 35 times or less is staggering.

Now, I haven’t re-watched the past three games yet so I can’t accurately describe how Ryan played in each of them, but I can tell you right now that the dominant running game we had against Arizona and New Orleans played a significant role in Ryan being vastly more effective and efficient. He is very good off of play-action, especially when we don’t roll him out to the sideline and we just let him make his progressions naturally. However, when the running game isn’t effective and he has to do a lot of straight three and five step drops to try to throw the team into the game he is going to turn the ball over more. That is just who he is as a player. He doesn’t have the rocket arm strength or arm to put the team on his back like Peyton Manning and throw for 400 yards and pull out a win in my opinion, which I now realize means that I don’t think he will be one of the best QB’s in the NFL for his entire career. That is a bit disappointing considering the incredible hype he had after his great rookie season, but he is definitely a good enough QB to put together a crucial game-winning drive when we need it most. I know that because he has done that regularly during his first two and a quarter seasons on the Falcons. That means we can win a Superbowl with him if we surround him with enough talent along our offensive line to consistently run the ball and if we give him enough weapons to keep the defense off balance by spreading the ball around. We don’t have those pieces in place yet so it will be interesting to see how we go about acquiring those pieces to allow Ryan to flourish. Because if we surround him with that talent I absolutely believe he will.

Overall I think Ryan had a below average game, but it was not nearly as horrible as I thought it was watching it live. The Polamalu interception was so late that it made everything seem so much worse than it was. Our offensive line really made it hard on Ryan, but he made quality throws to convert for first downs on at least eleven or twelve 2nd and 3rd downs with seven or eight yards needed to pick up a first down. Many of them were on 2nd and 10 or 3rd and 10. That had a lot to do with our ineffective running game obviously, but Ryan still stepped up to the challenge and did the best he could. He definitely missed some open targets in this game because he got too locked in on Roddy, and I saw probably three or four instances when he could have made a routine or solid throw and picked up a nice gain or a significant chunk of yardage. That will happen, but Ryan is usually much better about going through his progressions than he was in this game. It was a poor effort on his part, and that was reflected in his stats, but there was plenty of silver lining to be found in this game in the form of his number of good, accurate throws, his poise in the pocket getting consistently better throughout the course of the game, and his regular conversions in long yardage situations on 2nd and 3rd downs. It will be interesting to break down the rest of the Falcons games this year to see how Ryan progresses as the season goes on during my careful film study of each game.

Look out for more in-depth Falcons analysis! Go Falcons!!

Thanks for reading, hopefully you enjoyed this piece. I will have a number of other Falcons-focused reviews coming throughout the course of the season as I get around to re-watching each of the games, taking a lot of notes on each play, and then analyzing the information I gather and summarizing it for everyone to read. I’d like to do this for more teams than just the Falcons, but I think it makes sense to start with the Falcons and perhaps try analyzing a critical game for another team every once in a while. I’m sure I will have a Vikings and Packers game analysis at one point during the season since I see them play so often and I am so familiar with their rosters.

Thanks again!

–Tom

Game analysis: Oklahoma State

Solder is very athletic, but he needs to get stronger and improve his hand usage to raise his draft stock in my opinion.

Nate Solder is an intriguing physical specimen, but he still has a lot of room to grow if he is really only 305-310 pounds at 6’9”. He needs to get a lot stronger in his lower body so he can anchor better against bull rushes, and so he can get a more significant push in the run game. However, he has impressive mobility from what I can tell and looks like a TE running around in open space. He is a good combo-blocker, and moves with good fluidity from the double team to the next level to engage a linebacker. He takes away the speed rush easily because he is an athletic guy and gets out of his stance quickly on a pretty regular basis (though sometimes he will be slow out of it, I can’t say I’m sure why). His footwork looks better than it did when I saw him against Texas earlier this year, but he still worries too much about the speed rush sometimes and opens his hips up too early, making him vulnerable to an inside counter move. I have seen this before from guys who are slower and less athletic, but they usually open their hips up too early to attempt to compensate for their lack of lateral agility. Solder doesn’t have that issue, so it is just something he needs to be coached up on and drilled on as far as I can tell.

One thing that I think Solder needs to work on is his hand usage. I saw some signs of improvement between the Texas game and the Oklahoma State game I just watched, but he still has issues sustaining blocks sometimes, though he looked much better in this regard when it came to pass blocking in this game. Part of that probably has to do with Texas having much better pass rushers than Oklahoma State, but Solder did his job and neutralized the man he went up against more times than not in this game, so that’s what matters. Another thing that looked better, even though he still needs work on it, was his footwork. Against Texas I noticed that he was back-pedaling a lot to take away the edge in pass protection, but in this game he was using his kick slide well and, aside from opening his hips prematurely, he took away the corner with better fundamentals. He is a natural knee bender it looks like, and it didn’t look like he was bending at the waist in this game from what I could tell. He did a decent job of anchoring against the bull rush, but he needs to get much stronger in his lower body or he will get walked into the quarterback on a regular basis when he gets to the next level, especially when he will have trouble winning the leverage battle since he is 6’9”.

Solder has great size, long arms and impressive athleticism, but he needs to fill out his frame if he is going to be a quality NFL player and a high draft pick.

Overall, I liked what I saw from Solder in this game. Is he an elite prospect? Not in my opinion. Is he well polished? No, not yet. Does he have a lot of potential? Absolutely. A 6’9”, 305 pound man who can move like he does is incredibly rare, and he looked more fundamentally sound in this game than when I saw him before. I will absolutely watch him two, three or maybe four times next season, and I hope to see better footwork, a stronger lower body, better hand usage to sustain blocks and hopefully he won’t open his hips prematurely as often as he did both times I saw him. If he can work on those flaws he will be a much more polished prospect, which will only help his stock. I am excited to see how he does next year, because a guy with his combination of size and athletic ability is very rare for the position, and I think he could be a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme for that reason.

Hopefully you enjoyed this read, and keep an eye out for Solder next year. He’s hard to miss on the left side of Colorado’s offensive line!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Analysis of Game: Oklahoma State

Jerrod Johnson has a lot of talent, but I think he needs to work on his fundamentals to warrant a draft selection as high as the 2nd round.

I realized that I would get an opportunity to watch Johnson in this game while I looked for further highlights of Andre Sexton, so I paid particular attention to him in this game. To be perfectly honest, I was not very impressed. He clearly has a lot of talent, but his fundamentals are relatively sloppy overall and his throwing motion is not clean in my estimation. He doesn’t operate out of an exclusively spread offense, but Texas A&M does run a lot of four and five wide receiver sets over the course of a game. That means Johnson is in shotgun quite a bit, though to his credit he did line up under center a number of times. He doesn’t have much poise in the pocket, and needs significant work on learning to stay patient in the pocket so he can buy time by stepping up or side-stepping the rush (which he should have no problem with considering his mobility). However, some of that has to do with his offensive line’s poor performance. I imagine he is used to having to scramble for more time, but if he gets drafted and developed properly by a team with a decent pass-blocking offensive line he should be able to adjust to having a fairly consistent amount of time to scan the field. But as it stands right now he is being pressured very frequently. To make matters worse, it usually happens before he has had ample time to go through his progressions. This isn’t an excuse for ALL of his bad footwork and his other bad habits, but it certainly does explain how he developed some of them and why they are so persistent.

This picture isn't the greatest example of his throwing motion, but against Oklahoma State it looked like he had a dip or a hitch in his throwing motion. That can be an issue.

Johnson does have pretty good size, mobility and arm strength, but a lot of his passes had a surprising amount of air under them in this game. I think this has to do with him not stepping into some of his throws, throwing off of his back foot, etc. However, it is still an issue that I noticed and I thought it warranted mention. So between his lackluster footwork, his throwing motion with a bitch of a hitch in it (he seems to drop it down below his chest on a regular basis) and a number of his passes hanging in the air for too long, Johnson has some issues he will have to overcome to get drafted in the first three rounds come April. Not to mention he will have issues transitioning to the NFL because of his experience in a more wide-open attack at Texas A&M, largely because of all the snaps he takes in shotgun. However, he also rarely goes through more than one of his progressions, and if that option is covered he usually starts to scramble to try to extend the play instead of staying patient, going through his other reads and buying time inside of the pocket. Perhaps as a Senior he will have matured and he will spend more time in the pocket, but he seems to have been conditioned to scramble after his first reads aren’t there, partially because of the offense he runs and how he plays and partially because his offensive line doesn’t consistently give him enough time to comfortably stay in the pocket.

Jerrod Johnson has natural talent that is worth developing, but unless he shows that he is more fundamentally sound this year I would be surprised if he was picked in the first two rounds.

I personally grade Johnson as a 4th rounder at this point, but he could move up with another good season this year. But a good statistical season won’t suffice in my opinion. I think he needs to show more patience in the pocket, better footwork, perhaps better mechanics on his release, and more consistency in going through more than just one or maybe two of his reads on any given play. I would be very surprised if he showed improvement in all these areas, especially if it was significant improvement, but I will watch a few of his games regardless to get an accurate feel of his strengths and his weaknesses. But at this point this is my impression of his ability and if I had to put a grade on him today I would grade him as a 4th rounder. He definitely has talent that warrants development, but he needs mechanical work and that means for a year or two he will need to be developed before he can get any kind of significant playing time.

Feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with this, I love getting comments and the conversation generated from my posts can be very interesting. Hopefully you enjoyed reading this, and thanks for visiting my blog!

–Tom

This blog post is focused on Case Keenum, the quarterback of the Houston Cougars. He is rather well known for his gaudy passing numbers but there is a lot more to a quarterback than impressive stats. Read on to find out why Keenum will be lucky to be drafted barring significant improvement as a senior despite all of the accolades he may get for his passing production.

Analysis of Game: Houston @ Oklahoma State

When I watched this game I was actually watching the game so I could find highlights to use for a highlight reel for Andre Sexton. It’s a long story, but the Sports Agency I have an internship with represents him and I need to put a highlight reel together for him. But one of the games I watched today (I watched four) featured Case Keenum and Houston against Oklahoma State, and I figured I would give Keenum some of my attention while I watched out for noteworthy plays for Sexton. I will state ahead of time that I am not a believer in Keenum and I think he is the essence of a system quarterback, I don’t think he has a very strong arm, I don’t think he can read defenses well and I think he is worth a 6th or a 7th round pick at best as of right now. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get on with what I saw when I had the opportunity to watch him in this game:

Case Keenum has impressive passing stats, but that isn't unusual for a quarterback operating out of a spread offense.

First of all, Keenum operates out of a pure spread offense and is almost exclusively in the shotgun. If you haven’t read any of my previous posts, the reason this is such an issue is because when QB’s spend the majority, if not all of their time in the shotgun, they don’t get a chance to improve their footwork on their three, five and seven step drops. In addition, they don’t learn to read defenses from under center (where it is more difficult to judge what the defense is doing than when you are standing back in shotgun) and spread offense QB’s regularly look at only their first or maybe second read. All of those things are extremely hindering once they get to the NFL, and that results in a very high bust rate in spread offense QB’s. I was not surprised that he was operating out of the shotgun that often, but still it is disappointing not to see a sizeable percentage of snaps from under center mixed in.

Second of all, Keenum did not strike me as an impressive QB despite his gaudy numbers and reputation as a quality QB. He panicked easily in the face of pressure, he left the pocket prematurely on a regular basis, and he rarely, if ever, went through more than one or two of his progressions the entire game. He forced passes into coverage, threw passes across his body at times and showed very little ability to buy time in the pocket by stepping up while still looking downfield. He didn’t look like he had very good mechanics, and when he is facing pressure he is more than willing to throw off of his back foot with no regard to his usual mechanics as far as I can tell. To his credit, he is accurate when he isn’t pressured as far as I can tell, and his throwing motion looks relatively clean. He also showed more mobility than I would have previously expected as he scrambled up the middle, bounced the run outside to avoid pursuit from the backside and scored on a 20 or so yard touchdown run in this game. So if the play breaks down he is a threat to run, which helps his value.

I project Keenum to be a 7th round draft pick, which is probably much lower than most NFL Draft sites. But I have my reasons.

Overall I can’t say I am impressed with Keenum at all, but it was good to finally get a feel for how he plays the game. But I value poise under pressure, leadership and the ability to read defenses quite a bit, and Keenum did not impress me in any of those regards when I watched him in this game. I project him as a 7th round pick right now, but we will see how he looks during the season this year. You might look at his stats and think, wow, a quarterback who put up 5671 yards, who completed 70.3% of his passes, averaged 8.10 yards per attempt, and had 44 touchdowns with only 15 interceptions (that includes a whopping six interceptions against Air Force in Houston’s bowl game), he must really be something. Well, not quite in my opinion. I learned my lesson about trusting stats, especially when it comes to spread offense quarterbacks, a long time ago. I thought I’d pass that along to anyone who reads my blog.

So now when your friends talk about how good Case Keenum is, feel free to tell them exactly why that may just not be the case.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

First of all, I apologize profusely for the huge gap between this post and my last post, which was close to three weeks ago. My computer had a bunch of viruses on it and apparently the hard drive was about to break (which Geek Squad said was probably caused by bumping or dropping it, woops!) so I got it fixed, it took about a week, and I now have Windows 7 instead of Vista and I just installed Microsoft Office 2007 about an hour ago before I finished writing this up (since I couldn’t read any of my notes before that because I didn’t have Microsoft Word on my laptop. It was a pretty serious issue. I also couldn’t watch tape all that time!) Anyways, between my laptop breaking and not having Microsoft Office I had a long unintentional break between my posts, so thank you for bearing with me and occasionally checking my blog out to see if I had gotten my act together and written anything! Here, at long last, is my post about the Wisconsin-Miami Champs Bowl game from last season!

Harris is talented both as a runner and as a passer, but he needs to learn to put more zip on his throws if he is going to legitimize himself as a NFL prospect.

When you watch Miami games Jacory Harris is a guy you just have to take notes on. He’s a very talented guy, he’s a good quarterback and he’s a threat to run, and those players are always intriguing and they always warrant a lot of discussion and projection, especially if they mature throughout their careers, learn to make better decisions, read defenses, and generally just become more efficient. An efficient QB who can run when all else fails and pick up quality yards is scary, which is why Mike Vick was the #1 overall pick in 2001. Little did we all know that you can’t just learn to throw accurately, make good decisions and read defenses from the pocket once you get to the NFL, but he was picked that high because if he became as good at throwing as he was at running he would have been one of the best players in the NFL. Anyways, Harris warrants discussion for a number of reasons. He has pretty good accuracy, and does a respectable job of reading defenses for a young quarterback and showed the ability to recognize a blitz and find his hot read quickly to avoid a sack and to pick up quality yards. That’s good to see.

However, Harris really seemed to struggle in this game. He does not strike me as a tough quarterback at all, and at times he would run timidly and does not seem at all willing to take a hit even if it means picking up the first down. I know you don’t want your quarterback running around initializing contact, but when he’s scrambling and he can either run out of bounds two yards short of the first down marker or put his head down and get as many yards as possible, I want my QB to put his head down and go for it, not run out of bounds with his tail between his legs. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s how I feel about it. Harris seems to prefer jogging out of bounds, and I don’t really like to see that. He also seemed bothered by the cold, but that wasn’t just a problem for him, the whole Miami team was huddled around the heaters and it was only 50 or 55 degrees outside. The Wisconsin players all had short sleeves on, mostly because in the Winter it gets real cold up north, so 50+ is t-shirt weather to those of us from Minnesota and Wisconsin. So between his timid running style and the fact that he seemed to be bothered by the “cold” I was not very happy with how Harris did in this game from a toughness aspect. He did take some shots and he popped right back up from all of them, but that just confused me more because you’d think that if he could absorb the hits he was taking when he was dropping back to pass that he could “suck it up” (so to speak) and run harder when he does scramble.

Harris never got comfortable against Wisconsin. Whether it was his ankle injury, the regular pressure from Wisconsin or the "cold" weather, he never settled in and got into a rhythm.

One thing that is a little alarming about Harris’ game is the amount of touch and air he puts under the majority of his throws. He throws an accurate ball and does great when touch is required, but sometimes you need to throw the ball with some zip and he does not seem to understand when that is necessary. He floats a LOT of passes, whether he is on the run, whether he has his feet set in the pocket, or whether he is throwing into a quickly closing window over the middle. I don’t know if that is something he will ever be able to stop doing since he has probably been getting away with it for his entire playing career, but if it is indeed correctable then he should already be working on it as we speak. Hopefully he shows me some progression in this area because it is really concerning how much air and touch he has on the majority of his passes.

Harris also never really looked comfortable in this game. He had his moments when he completed a few passes in a row, but Wisconsin got enough pressure on him (which, along with his injured ankle, had to contribute to him never getting into a rhythm) to keep him from ever getting into a groove and it definitely showed. He didn’t go through his progressions as well as I would have liked, he stared down his receivers regularly, he didn’t do a good job of buying time in the pocket without scrambling outside of the tackle box, and he looked sloppy throwing on the run when he couldn’t set his feet. He needs to do a better job of keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage even when rolling to his left. That is when you will see right-handed QB’s get a little less accurate if they don’t keep their shoulders square. In my experience it is because their throwing motion will be slightly elongated and their mechanics will therefore be different, meaning the throw won’t be as accurate and won’t have as much zip on it as it would have regularly had if he had set his feet or kept his shoulders square while rolling out.

Overall, Harris has a lot of talent and ability, but he has to work harder on the little things, the fundamentals, if he is going to take big enough strides to be considered a potential NFL starter and an early NFL Draft pick. Right now I’d grade him as a 4th or 5th round selection because of his potential and ability. That alone warrants some consideration in the mid-rounds and if he can be coached up well then he could be well worth the investment. However, he does not look like a NFL starter to me yet. Of course it is very early to be predicting how he will do in the NFL and where he will be drafted because he is going to be a Junior in his second season as the full-time starter, so I realize I am jumping the gun with this. I just feel obligated to state where I think he is as far as his progression as a QB, and in my opinion he is still rather raw and needs developing. Hopefully he stays through his Senior season so he can get as much experience as possible before moving on to the NFL. I have to say, I am intrigued by some of his ability and I really hope he works on putting more zip and less touch on some of his passes this year. Hopefully he takes some significant strides in his second season as a starter.

If Cooper can come back from his serious knee injury healthy then he could still be an impact player in the NFL.

One other player I knew I had to take notes on was Graig Cooper, who was a junior running back for the ‘Canes at the time. As soon as you see him touch the ball you can tell that this kid is fast. He flies around the field, has great acceleration and great burst to hit holes, seams, anything. He definitely has potential as a game-changing running back in the NFL. The tragic part about this was that he suffered a very serious knee injury in this game in the 2nd half on a rather run of the mill kick-off return. In fact, if he hadn’t suffered the injury he could have potentially scored on the play, though that is purely my own speculation. I don’t have much of an update on his rehab obviously, but I read that he has not yet been cleared to begin running as of early April. Hopefully he has made progress since then, but the fact remains that this was a very serious injury, and I would be pretty surprised if he was 100% during his senior season, which is disappointing for him and for his fans (of which I was one) because I was really rooting for him last year. It’s a shame this had to happen to him at such a critical time in his career.

In any event, I still managed to get some notes on him from this game before his injury, and though it would be particularly impressive if he came back to pre-injury form I think he will still have value even if he isn’t just as explosive as he was before he got hurt. He seems to have pretty good vision, and on one particular play that I remember JJ Watt did not stay at home and collapsed to where the run was supposed to go, but Cooper got the ball and immediately cut to the outside to where Watt would normally be and got a nice gain on the play. If he plays next year (which I really hope he will, even if it isn’t a significant amount) I will be interested to see how much of his great quickness and explosiveness he regains as he gets closer and closer to 100%. Hopefully he comes back as strong as can be expected, and I will be carefully monitoring his progress as more information becomes available. I’ll keep you all posted naturally.

Hankerson made this incredible one-handed grab late in the game. I know he has reliable hands, but if he can show this kind of concentration even on routine catches he will be an early NFL Draft pick.

Harris’ primary receivers on the ‘Canes are Leonard Hankerson, LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin, which is a pretty nice trio of receiving targets. I didn’t get a lot of notes on them in this game, though I have been impressed with each of them at different times when I have seen them. Frankly, Harris didn’t give them a lot of catchable balls in this game so it was hard to find times to take notes on them, but when I saw them catch passes they all impressed me. Hankerson had a great one-handed catch late in the game and made another catch or two with his hands which was nice to see. Byrd, as far as I can tell from my notes, didn’t make a catch without catching the ball away from his body which was great to see. And Benjamin has always been good for big chunks of yardage and a lot of separation, and he nearly pulled off a terrific 3rd down catch along the sidelines on Miami’s last ditch attempt after they recovered an onside kick. I am excited to see how all three progress this season, and I think that if Harris continues to improve and if Miami’s offensive line holds up they could have a very explosive offense on their hands. I am excited to see them all play.

Orlando Franklin, Miami’s left tackle in this game, is going to receive mixed reviews from me. I heard rather frequently last year that he looked good filling in for Jason Fox, Miami’s very reliable left tackle who got hurt during his senior season before he left for the NFL. However, he looks more like a left guard to me than a left tackle, though he will have ample opportunity to prove me wrong during his senior campaign. He doesn’t look very quick out of his stance, and he seemed to struggle with Schofield and Watt versus the pass and Watt gave him some trouble with his quickness off the ball versus the run as well. Overall, he just didn’t seem athletic enough to handle Schofield, Watt or Chris Borland, a linebacker who will occasionally play with his hand in the dirt on obvious passing downs. I don’t know if he was quite prepared to play left tackle last season, so hopefully he will look more comfortable on the outside as a senior when he is preparing to play the position. I will definitely be paying attention to him this year.

Bailey has a lot of potential and natural athletic ability, but I am not a believer yet. He needs to get stronger versus the run and improve his hand usage before I buy him as a potential 1st round pick.

On the defensive side of the ball Miami naturally has some talented players, but Allen Bailey is definitely one of the more highly touted players on the roster. He has drawn comparisons to Justin Tuck because of his versatility to play defensive tackle and defensive end, though I think he mainly played defensive end in this game. However, I can’t say I was entirely impressed with him in this game. He had a sack where he got a nice bull-rush on Josh Oglesby, shed his block and wrapped Tolzien up for a sack, but he was also blocked effectively in the run game by Garrett Graham, Lance Kendricks and Oglesby multiple times. That was particularly alarming because a DE/DT ‘tweener should be strong enough with good enough hand usage to man-handle 95% of TE blocks. I can understand getting blocked effectively by Graham a time or two because he has a good reputation as a run blocker (even if I think he gets away with holding rather regularly). But he got blocked effectively by Graham multiple times one on one, by Kendricks multiple times, and got blocked one on one effectively by Josh Oglesby versus the run. That was pretty shocking, and it really made me question him as a prospect. Sure, he can get after the passer, but if he can’t defend the run or shed blocks in the trenches then his value as a prospect will be significantly lower to me. He’s getting a lot of positive pub right now, but I am definitely not a believer in Bailey as of today. He has another year to show me what he can do, but he needs to show me a lot more ability versus the run for me to think he will be the quality player everyone else seems to think he will be.

One player I saw flash some impressive ability was Olivier Vernon, a freshman defensive end on Miami. He didn’t get a lot of playing time as a freshman, but he absolutely tossed Gabe Carimi like a rag-doll on a run play and got a great TFL. He didn’t make any other plays as good as this one in the game that I noticed, but he sure did flash some ability on this play. I have high hopes for him in his career, and I think that he will show some substantial growth as a sophomore. I am very interested in seeing him play this season, he is definitely a sleeper for the DE position. Hopefully he breaks out and makes me look smart!

Harris has 1st round ability, and he is one of my favorite draft elligible corners this year. (Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan)

Finally, one player that I am a big fan of on Miami’s defense is their corner Brandon Harris. He was only a sophomore last season but he managed 15 pass deflections and two interceptions on the year. I watched the Miami-FSU game early in the year and I immediately noticed him. He just makes big plays whenever I watch him. There was one particular play against Wisconsin when Harris got beaten, I believe it was by Garrett Graham underneath, and he turned upfield and I thought it was a certain touchdown. But Harris didn’t give up on the play and he came up behind Graham and as he began to wrap him up he punched the ball out just before he crossed the goal line. Miami recovered the ball in the end zone for a touch-back and Miami stayed in the game, all because Harris didn’t give up on this play and forced the fumble. I think he is going to end up declaring after his junior season and he is going to be a high draft pick if he plays well this year in my opinion. He is definitely one of my favorite draft-eligible corners, even if he doesn’t support the run as well as I might like. Definitely keep an eye out for Harris next season, I think he is going to break out even more than he did last year.

That just about concludes the notes I have for the Miami Hurricanes. Check out my blog post below for my write-ups on the Wisconsin players I took enough notes on to get a feel for their ability as a player. Hopefully you enjoy this post and my other posts to come. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

I recently re-watched this game to take a look at a number of the prospects on Wisconsin and on Miami. There were so many that I have to split it up into two parts much like I did with the Virginia Tech-Tennessee write-up that I did a couple of weeks ago. Here is my write-up for all of the Wisconsin players I took notes on:

Kendricks may very well be my favorite TE in this draft class. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

There were a lot of players for me to take notes on in this game, but none of them stuck out more than Lance Kendricks, a TE on Wisconsin. He was only a junior in this game, but he arguably the best game of his career against Miami with at least 8 catches and well over 100 yards, many of the catches came on critical first down conversions, and he did a great job of catching every pass with his hands and getting quality yards after the catch. He also did a very good job of sealing the edge on a number of good run plays, and even gave Alan Bailey, a stand-out defensive lineman on Miami, trouble in one on one blocking situations. Overall, Kendricks was the best player in this game as far as I’m concerned, and he is definitely one of my favorite TE’s in the draft next year. Heck, he might be my favorite. If he wasn’t so good already I would have him as my sleeper without a doubt. I can’t wait to see him play this season.

I also took a lot of notes on Scott Tolzien, who had a solid game against Miami. He had a good number of yards, and aside from an unlucky interception that came after one of his passes was deflected at the line and intercepted by a defensive lineman, he didn’t make many mistakes (if any) by throwing the ball into coverage. He took what the defense gave him and usually that involved a pass to Lance Kendricks or Garrett Graham. He has solid footwork, decent arm strength and decent accuracy, but he is not a stand-out in any area. He flashed some pocket poise, but other times he would get happy feet and rush a throw or get outside of the pocket unnecessarily. Not many of his throws were NFL caliber throws, meaning you have to have NFL quality arm strength and accuracy to make the throw. Usually his man was open or a few times he would throw the ball up and let his man go make a play on it. He had decent timing, but I am not sure how good he is at anticipating what will happen on any given play. He seems to do an ok job of pre-snap reads, and at times he would check out of a play, but other times Miami would be showing a blitz (often in the 2nd half they would bring a run blitz on 1st down to try to force Wisconsin into 2nd and 3rd and long situations) and he would just leave the play as is and they would get stuffed for a short gain or a loss. This is partially on Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator for getting extremely predictable and calling a run play on at least nine first downs in a row without throwing a pass, but it is also partially on Tolzien because I think he has the ability to check out of a bad play-call like that. It was hard to watch that kind of ineptitude over and over.

Tolzien still looks like a game manager to me, but I am interested to see how he progresses in his second season as a starter.

So my impression of Tolzien hasn’t really changed. Wisconsin lives off the run game, especially John Clay, and Tolzien just has to manage the game, not force throws into coverage, and convert some 3rd downs when he is asked to. Early in the game Wisconsin was very conservative on 3rd and long, and would almost just give up on the drive if they were in a 3rd and long. But as the game went on Tolzien got more confident and regularly found Kendricks or Graham on 3rd and long to extend the drive. So, Tolzien might not look like a quality NFL starter, but he looks like a 7th round/UDFA type player who could end up on a practice squad. I’m not sure he is #3 QB material yet, but he will have a year to prove that he can still develop and get better, so it will be interesting to see how he does in his second season as a starter this year.

Obviously you have to take note of how John Clay does when you watch Wisconsin, and he had a good game today. He played through some kind of ankle injury that he suffered during the game but he had an effective day and eclipsed the 100 yard mark yet again. He runs hard, finishes runs strong and runs through arm tackles with ease. He doesn’t have much burst, and I think he is going to be more of a one dimensional power-back in the NFL if he doesn’t show that he can block on 3rd downs in the backfield or threaten defenses as a receiver out of the backfield. He had a catch or two underneath in this game, but he needs to show more than that to make me think he is a reliable option out of the backfield. Right now I think he is more of a 3rd or 4th round prospect, but next year I would like to see him play at a lighter weight than 248 pounds, which is what he was listed at. I have a feeling he was heavier than 250 in this game, and he really seemed to have a gut when he would stand up straight or lean over before the play would start. If he could get down to under 240 I think he would be more effective, he wouldn’t wear down as easily, he would have better stamina and he might have more of a burst to hit the hole when he finds it. He is a quality power-back right now, but I don’t think he is going to be a high draft pick if he doesn’t get in better shape. Just imagine a leaner version of Clay with more strength, less fat and a little more quickness. He would be very hard to slow down. Hopefully someone is in his ear telling him this so he can terrorize the Big 10 again next year.

John Clay is a true power back, but it would really help his draft stock if he could show the ability to catch passes out of the backfield and to block on passing downs.

Nick Toon is a receiver who is really flying under the radar but I love his game. He gets good separation, has solid size and does a good job of catching passes away from his body with his hands. He has nearly made some spectacular catches along the sideline, and if Tolzien had helped him out a bit he could have come down with a big catch on a deep ball down the sideline. When I watched it live I definitely thought it was a catch, so he nearly got his feet in-bounds. I think that Toon will emerge some more this season, and I really think he is a good sleeper candidate for his class. I would be surprised if he declared after his junior year this season, but I think he could solidify his draft stock for a big push as a senior with another good year this year. I am excited to see how he builds upon his 800+ yard season as a sophomore.

I have become quite fond of scouting offensive linemen, and Wisconsin is usually a good unit to scout for that, especially if you like good run blockers. Wisconsin has three pretty good upper classmen this year: Gabe Carimi, their LT, Josh Oglesby, their RT (who is a junior), and John Moffit, who plays C and OG. Carimi and Moffitt are both seniors. I took some notes on them, but this wasn’t exactly a banner day for any of them.

Carimi may be best prospect out of the three, so I will start with him. My general impression of him is that he will have to slide over to RT in the NFL. He is a pretty good run blocker, but he isn’t the drive blocker I thought he might be when I started watching this game initially. He can get some push off the line, but he doesn’t dominate his man in the running game like Jake Long did at Michigan. However, he doesn’t look especially fluid as a pass blocker, nor does he seem mirror speed rushers particularly well. Miami has a couple of good speed rushers, and he didn’t really get beat in this game, but I personally think his ceiling is higher at RT. Naturally I will need to watch more of him, especially from a pass blocking standpoint, because if I had taken notes on him, Oglesby and Moffitt on every snap this would have taken hours longer for me to scout. However, my impression remains unchanged that he has a higher ceiling at RT than at LT in the NFL, though potentially he could start at RT and be a back-up at LT that could play there in a pinch. He didn’t really look like a 1st rounder in this game to me, but he is still a quality OT prospect despite that.

Carimi is a quality tackle prospect, but I don't think he is a 1st round talent right now.

Next I will break down Moffitt a bit for you. I actually anticipated him playing at OG in this game, so I was a little surprised to see him inside at center. He looked good on every snap though, I don’t believe I recorded a bad snap from him when Tolzien was under center or when he was in shotgun, which is pretty impressive for a guy who spent a lot of last year playing offensive guard. If center is his true NFL position then he could be a pretty rare prospect because of his ability to block effectively in the run game. He’s a pretty big guy, and he has the ability to block a defensive tackle one on one, which is extremely rare for a center. However, I think he may slide outside to guard in the NFL, even though I think he projects just fine to the pivot spot. He should be a solid guard, a pretty good run blocker and a pretty good pass protector, but I wouldn’t grade him any higher than a 3rd rounder or maybe a 4th rounder right now. Obviously I will have to see how he does as a senior, but he looks like a solid OG prospect and a potentially good center prospect to me right now.

Oglesby is a bit different from Carimi and Moffitt. Those two guys are pretty fundamentally sound, they don’t make a lot of mistakes, and they are two of the leaders on that offensive line. Oh, and Carimi came back from a knee injury in this game when he got rolled up on from behind. He just walked it off and came back in, that was impressive. But Oglesby is a huge RT with long arms, but he isn’t as fundamentally sound. He is an effective run blocker more-so because of his size than his technique, and he leans a lot into his blocks and ends up on the ground his fair share. He is usually just bigger than the guy he is blocking, so his fundamentals don’t need to be very well developed in order for him to move him off the line or to get him to the ground. But when he has to pass protect his size isn’t a significant advantage like it is versus the run, and he doesn’t look like he has good footwork or lateral agility. That becomes an issue when he is asked to neutralize speed rushers. When he can get his hands on the defender he can usually neutralize him with relative effectiveness, but if he has to mirror a speed rush he can have some issues. He needs to do what he can to improve his lateral agility and really work hard to improve his footwork or he is going to have serious issues trying to play RT in the NFL. He has great size and strength, but he needs to polish his fundamentals a lot.

Watt has impressive size but he was too quick for Orlando Franklin versus the run in this game.

JJ Watt is an intriguing defensive end with good size and athletic ability. I didn’t watch him on every play, but he seems to have a pretty good motor, and he does a good job of getting upfield and penetrating into the backfield. There were a few plays he disrupted for a loss in this game, and he looked like he was too quick for Orlando Franklin versus the run. He also does a good job of getting his hands up in passing lanes to knock down passes or alter throws, as he had one or two pass deflections against Miami. There were a couple plays that he misread or did not keep contain on, and on both plays it allowed the Miami ball-carrier to bounce outside and to gain some yardage. He needs to work on keeping contain, not overreacting to the run, and I’m not sure how good his hand usage is. I need to watch him on a snap to snap basis to evaluate his burst off the snap, how much speed he has to get the edge, and what kind of pass rush moves he has. From what I saw in this game he doesn’t seem to have much to offer as a pass rusher, but that can change between his junior and senior seasons, and I didn’t get a lot of good looks at him. But versus the run he sure does have an impact. He will get a lot more attention this year since O’Brien Schofield has graduated and moved on to the NFL, so it will be interesting to see how effective he is this year.

That about does it for Wisconsin and Miami. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and liked what I had to say. Feel free to leave comments! I can’t wait for the football season to get here.

Thanks again!

–Tom Melton