Tag Archive: North Carolina


Top Seniors:

1-      Tajh Boyd, Clemson- Boyd really impressed me with his growth as a junior and had one of his best games in the bowl game against LSU. DeAndre Hopkins helped take over that game, but Boyd’s progression makes me think he will continue to improve as a senior. I’ve made this mistake before on Jake Locker, but I have high hopes for Boyd.

2-      David Fales, San Jose State- Thanks to Ben Allbright, Fales became a very popular name amongst NFL Draft analysts, particularly on Twitter. The hashtag #EpicFales may be one of the greatest hashtags of all time. Regardless, Fales has a NFL arm and really impressed me in the limited time I was able to watch him. He is not without flaws, but he’s definitely one of my top 5 QB’s even considering juniors.

3-      Jeff Matthews, Cornell- My good friend Emory Hunt turned me on to Matthews months ago and I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw. He’s got a strong arm, he’s accurate, and he’s definitely going to become more and more popular as the process goes on. Emory pointed out that he reminds him of Matt Ryan and I definitely see the similarities.

4-      Derek Carr, Fresno State- Carr has a very talented arm, not unlike his older brother David, but he worried me with how he handled pressure and he obviously struggled a lot while Margus Hunt terrorized him in Fresno State’s bowl game. He’s got another full year to show he can improve, and his natural talent means he’s in my top 5 QB’s, but I want to see him handle pressure better.

5-      Bryn Renner, North Carolina- This might be me showing my UNC fandom, but I really think Renner is a quality quarterback prospect. He certainly isn’t perfect, and he had a great season in a wide open offense last year, but he has experience in different styles of offense, a strong arm, and I think he’s an effective leader. I think he will open some eyes as a senior.

6-      Aaron Murray, Georgia- If I expect McCarron to be the most scrutinized quarterback in this class, I think Murray is going to be a close second. He has been deemed as a player who can’t win the big game, and he’s going to have a tough time changing everyone’s minds as a senior. I’m glad he came back because I still think he has room to improve, but there’s a stigma about him that is going to be hard to shake. I do think he is a NFL caliber starter though, but he’s definitely not a franchise caliber guy in my opinion.

7-      A.J. McCarron, Alabama- I can already tell McCarron is going to be a divisive prospect. Some are going to see a “winner” that has been a key cog to Alabama’s title runs and others are going to cite his terrific supporting cast (skill position players, offensive line, and defense) and claim he is not much more than a game manager. I certainly don’t think he’s an elite prospect and his arm strength leaves something to be desired, but I don’t think he’s been coasting on the talent of Alabama’s roster either. I think he has some starter upside, but I am excited to see how his 2013 tape looks. He will certainly be one of the most highly scrutinized quarterbacks in this class.

8-      Tyler Russell, Mississippi State- I thought Russell flashed upside when he was still splitting time as a sophomore and in his last full season as a starter he flashed a lot of upside but showed that he still had a lot of room left to grow. He had a pretty horrendous bowl game and clearly needs to work on some things, but he has all the size and arm strength you could want in a quarterback. He may never live up to the expectations I have for him, but I’m willing to be patient and see if he can progress like I believe he is capable of.

9-      Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech- Thomas is another guy I really thought would progress last year but unfortunately he regressed and was essentially a massive disappointment considering some of the hype he was getting in the pre-season. He has all the size and arm strength you could ever dream of, but he was maddeningly inconsistent with his accuracy and decision making and clearly has a ton of growing left to do. I continue to hear great things about his work ethic so I believe he can still improve, I just don’t know if he will ever put it all together.

10-   Zach Mettenberger, LSU- Mettenberger was getting a lot of hype coming into the season but he was underwhelming during his first season as a starter. He’s got an intriguing combination of size and arm strength but he has to put it all together this year. He has starter upside, but he isn’t there yet.

11-   Drew Allen, Syracuse- I might be one of the few people that prefers Drew Allen to the Belldozer, but I do. I think Allen is going to win the Syracuse starting job and show that he has NFL talent at the quarterback position. This is probably higher than anyone else will have him ranked, but I am convinced Allen has starter upside at the next level.

12-   Stephen Morris, Miami- I was one of the people advocating for Morris to start over Jacory Harris during Harris’ senior year and I still think he’s the better quarterback. He’s a quality athlete with a strong arm, but his accuracy wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked to see as a junior. Miami has been through a lot the last couple of years, so I’m excited to see if Morris can end his career on a high note this season.

13-   James Franklin, Missouri- Franklin is an intriguing guy thanks to his size, arm strength and athleticism, but like many of these quarterbacks he has to put it all together and show a mastery of the position as a senior. I personally don’t foresee him being a NFL starter, but he definitely has that upside if he can show more progression as a senior.

14-   Keith Price, Washington- At this time last year Price was coming off of a masterful performance in Washington’s bowl game against Baylor’s hapless defense. This year? He is coming off of a disappointing junior year that left a lot of people underwhelmed. He doesn’t have the arm strength I thought he had, his decision making was inconsistent, and he left a lot to be desired as a junior. I’m hoping he can reverse field as a senior, but I’m not holding my breath.

15-   Corey Robinson, Troy- I don’t think Robinson is going to be in very many top 15 quarterback rankings coming into the season, but I saw a talented quarterback when I watched him as a freshman and I still believe he can play at the next level. He may be undersized, but he has a NFL arm and I am excited to see if he can prove that as a senior.

Top Juniors:

1-      Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville- Bridgewater put on a show as a sophomore last year and made a believer out of me. I think he has all the arm talent, athleticism, toughness and intangibles to be a stud quarterback in the NFL. It remains to be seen how he will do this upcoming season, but I definitely have high expectations for him.

2-      Brett Smith, Wyoming- Smith is another player Allbright pointed out to me last year. I haven’t seen as much of him as I’d like, but what I have seen was very intriguing.

3-      Blake Bortles, Central Florida- I haven’t watched much of Bortles, but what I have seen was intriguing. It was his first full season as a starter so I look forward to reviewing some of those games but also to seeing how he does as a junior and as a starter with more experience.

4-      Braxton Miller, Ohio State- I am not sold on Miller as a NFL QB yet, but he made some strides as a sophomore and he’s too intriguing of a playmaker to leave him off this list entirely. He’s got a lot of upside, it’s just a question of whether he can ever become as good of a pure passer as he is as a runner.

5-      Garrett Grayson, Colorado State- Grayson is a player I think has a lot of upside. He’s definitely flying under the radar, but I expect that he will be the starter for Colorado State and prior to his collarbone injury last year he really showed me something. He looks like he has a NFL arm, it’s just a question of whether he can keep the starting job, stay healthy, and put together some good film.

Top Sophomores:

1-      Kevin Hogan, Stanford- Hogan has future 1st round pick written all over him. He’s got the size, the arm strength (though his deep ball could use some work), athleticism and high football IQ I look for in a QB. He really impressed me when he took over for Josh Nunes, and he is embracing his role as a leader on Stanford and from what I’ve read seems to have a strong hold on Stanford’s complex offense. I think he’s going to be great this year and while he is eligible I expect him to come out after his junior season, not after his redshirt sophomore year.

2-      Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M- I know a lot of people will be surprised that I have anyone ranked over Manziel, but as far as the NFL is concerned I think Hogan is the superior prospect at this point. There’s no denying Manziel’s uncanny feel for the game, shocking athleticism and knack for game-changing plays, but he still has a long way to go before he is a “surgeon” rather than a butcher as a quarterback as Trent Dilfer would say. The upside is there, but he’s still learning.

Size: Bernard is officially listed at 5’8” but weighs 202 pounds. I would personally like to see him add a little more weight to his frame, but packing 200+ pounds onto a 5’8” frame is no joke. He may not be a prototypical power back, but I personally really like shorter, compact running backs and the NFL has seen a number of those kinds of backs succeed lately. Bernard may not be a giant, but he is definitely big enough to be a successful NFL running back.

Speed: If you’ve been watching Bernard since he burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman last year you know that his speed isn’t what makes him great. He ran an official 4.53 at the combine and that is about what I expected from him. I knew he wasn’t a sub 4.45 guy, but I also didn’t expect him to be any slower than 4.55 or so. He isn’t going to rip off a lot of 50+ yard runs at the next level thanks to his straight line speed. He has enough speed to be an effective back, but it’s not where he excels.

Quickness: This is one of Bernard’s best attributes. He is extremely quick and he demonstrates this via his acceleration, his change of direction speed and when he eludes defenders in the open field. He may not run a sub 4.4, but he accelerates quickly up to his top speed and that is incredibly important at the running back position. He can stop and start on a dime, and regularly uses this quickness and change of direction ability to gain additional yardage when he gets in the open field or when he has a blocker in front of him.

Running Inside: Bernard is at his best when he is running zone plays where he can patiently wait for a hole to open up on the front side or find a cutback lane on the backside, hit the gas and get through it. If you ever talk to a running back or a running back coach you will hear the phrase “slow to the hole, fast through the hole” and Bernard epitomizes that. He runs patiently which makes him a great fit for a zone heavy scheme that relies on patience and good vision from the back. He frequently turns potentially negative plays into no gain or positive plays. By this I mean he can create for himself thanks to his quickness and elusiveness, meaning that even if the play is disrupted he has the skill set to salvage the run and get back to the line of scrimmage or beyond it if he isn’t immediately swallowed up once he gets the hand-off. This has been displayed a number of times when he runs between the tackles, and that has a lot to do with his impressive elusiveness but also with his terrific balance. Because of his size he tends to naturally be running with good pad level, but because of his thick lower body and good pad level he isn’t easy to take down with arm tackles. He may not be a pure power back, but he can run between the tackles very effectively and gain tough yards after contact thanks to his lower body strength.

Running Outside: Running outside isn’t necessarily the strength of Bernard’s game, but it isn’t a weakness either. I don’t think he has the straight line speed to consistently get the edge at the next level, but I don’t think he’s going to be getting caught from behind by defensive linemen either. He does a good job of utilizing his quickness and shiftiness to help make up for it, but running him outside the tackles and attempting to let him outrun the defense to the corner isn’t playing to Bernard’s strengths. He showed that he can run outside at North Carolina, but having a very talented (not to mention athletic) offensive line that could get out in front of him certainly played a role in his success on outside runs. He does have the vision and burst to bounce runs outside if he sees the defense over-pursue though.

Receiving: This is another strength of Bernard’s game. He may not be elite in this area, but he is still very good. He isn’t a terrific route runner at this juncture, but he has more than good enough hands to make an immediate impact in this aspect of the game as a rookie next season. He looks the ball into his hands, can make catches away from his body, and rarely drops catchable passes. He is lethal on screens and when you get him into the open field as a receiver he can be very dangerous. He is one of the more NFL ready running backs in this class when it comes to contributing to the passing game.

Blocking: Bernard may only be a redshirt sophomore, but he has shown significant improvement as a pass blocker since I first watched him as a redshirt freshman. He isn’t great in this area, but he is definitely above average (if not good). He has shown a willingness to meet his man in the hole instead of waiting for the defender to engage him, he has demonstrated the ability to shock and anchor with a solid base, and he has shown he can cut the defender when necessary. He should certainly improve in this area with NFL coaching, but he has demonstrated more than enough ability to project him as a reliable pass protector within the next couple of years.

Vision: This is part of what separates Bernard from other running backs in this class: his vision. As I mentioned earlier he runs patiently, allowing his blocks to set up, and he reads his blocks well and finds running lanes effectively. He does a fantastic job of using his blockers, especially in the open field, and consistently uses them to keep defenders out of the play as long as possible to gain additional yardage. He may not be the fastest back in the draft, but he uses his blocks as well as any of the other backs in this class in my opinion.

Ball Security: Bernard carries the ball high and tight to his body just like you are supposed to when you are carrying the ball. I’m not sure that I have ever watched him fumble after getting a carry or after making a reception, but at the very worst he does it very infrequently. He has had some issues muffing punts at times, but that is an entirely different skill than protecting the ball on a carry to carry basis.

Overall: Bernard is one of my favorite backs in this class and I think he has a chance to thrive in the NFL, particularly if he goes to a pass-happy zone team. Bernard may not be a straight-line burner, but he has more than enough quickness, vision, elusiveness, receiving ability and pass blocking upside to warrant spending a top 40 pick on him in my opinion. Will he be a 1st round pick? I’d be a little surprised, but it’s not impossible. This is an extremely deep and talented running back class, so unless running back is a glaring need for your team I wouldn’t expect them to invest in one in the first two rounds. That might mean a lucky team gets Bernard later than they ordinarily would, but regardless of when he gets selected I expect Bernard to make a positive impact early and often at the next level. However, what you see on the field from Bernard is essentially what you are going to get. There isn’t an incredible amount of upside with him because he is already a pretty polished back despite starting for just two seasons at North Carolina. That will turn some teams off, but a wise team will take advantage of that.

Projection: Top 64. I thought he might have a shot at cracking the 1st round, but this is such a deep and talented class that I think he will likely be a mid 2nd round pick when all is said and done.

East-West Shrine Game Recap

Quarterbacks:

1-      Nathan Stanley, Southeastern Louisiana- Stanley still has room to improve as his accuracy and timing seemed to be a bit off at times, but he has the size and arm strength that makes him an intriguing developmental Day 3 guy in my opinion. He has a ways to go from working under center and making reads, etc. However, he’s got talent worth stashing as a 3rd quarterback late in the draft in my opinion.

2-      Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech- Cameron has never been my favorite prospect, but he showed me a little more velocity than I thought he had this week and I think he has some potential to be developed into a solid back-up.

3-      Matt Scott, Arizona- Scott certainly had his struggles this week, but he spins a clean ball and has the 2nd best velocity of all the quarterbacks in St. Petersburg and has the kind of athleticism that teams will be looking into at quarterback given the emergence of the zone read in the NFL. He’s very much a developmental prospect that is better out of the shotgun than under center at this point, but I think he warrants consideration on Day 3.

4-      Alex Carder, Western Michigan- I have never been a big fan of Carder and I don’t think he’s going to be a NFL starter, but he grades out as a 7th round/UDFA quarterback from what I’ve seen of him. I don’t think he spins a very clean ball and doesn’t have much beyond average arm strength and velocity, so I don’t think he has much upside at the next level.

5-      Seth Doege, Texas Tech- Doege’s lack of arm strength was on display this week and while he has made a career out of overcoming adversity I don’t think he is going to be a NFL starter. He will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Graham Harrell and be developed as a potential back-up in the NFL.

6-      Collin Klein, Kansas State- Klein struggled with velocity and accuracy every day that he was here and I think that there were so many questioning whether he could play quarterback at the next level coming into the week that it’s even more difficult to make that argument now. I actually expected him to be bigger considering the beating he took the past two years running the ball so much but he only weighed in at 218 pounds despite being over 6’4”. He looked best to me when he was running the ball, and maybe someone will still take a flyer on him late on Day 3 to try to develop him or maybe sign him as an undrafted free agent, but it’s hard to imagine him being a NFL quarterback after watching him this week.

Running Backs:

1-      Christine Michael, Texas A&M- There’s not a strong argument to be made that Michael isn’t the running back with the highest upside here in St. Petersburg. According to @DashDiallo1 (Follow him) he is high on the reserve list for the Senior Bowl and he has had a great week. Brandon pointed out something I had not noticed before- Michael seemed to be looking at the ball as he was taking hand-offs and pitches instead of keeping his eyes up and reading his blocks. I hadn’t noticed this, but that’s definitely something that he has to work on. He has all the size and athleticism to be a quality NFL running back, and if he can clean up his eye level when taking hand-offs or tosses he will be ready to make an immediate impact. It is certainly concerning, but it should be coachable.

2-      Ray Graham, Pittsburgh- Graham should be ready to contribute right away as he has the burst and athleticism you want as well as reliable hands. He’s had a good week and was the strongest back on the East roster.

3-      Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt- There are some that are high on Stacy and some that aren’t, but I’m a fan. He’s not a flashy back, but he does a lot of things well and I think if he lands with the right team he could be a solid contributor as a rookie. He’s not as explosive as Michael or Graham but his game translates to the next level.

4-      Kerwynn Williams, Utah State- Williams looked good this week as well and despite being an undersized back he has some burst and explosiveness. I don’t think he is a sub 4.5 guy in the 40 and there were some times I saw him get strung out when he tried to get the edge this week. I’m not sure he can be a NFL starter, but I think he has the potential to be a complementary back.

5-      Zach Line, SMU- Line caught my eye last year when I was watching SMU and I think he is going to make a NFL roster as a running back/fullback hybrid. Pure full-backs aren’t very typical anymore and that makes Line’s skill set valuable. I haven’t seen him block often, but he runs the ball effectively despite a lack of great speed and he has caught the ball well when I’ve seen him this week.

6-      Montel Harris, Temple- Harris has so many red flags thanks to his injury history and off-field issues that even with a great performance this week I would have hesitated to give him a draftable grade. He’s an undrafted free agent to me not only because of those things, but because of the wear and tear he’s had as a ball carrier. If you invite him into a camp and he impresses that’s one thing, but this running back class is way too deep to pick him in my opinion.

Wide Receivers:

1-      Corey Fuller, Virginia Tech- Coming into this week I thought Fuller was a sleeper and while he may not have had a perfect week I think he showed that he is a smooth runner with room to grow as a route runner, impressive straight line speed and reliable hands. There were plenty of people looking forward to seeing what Marcus Davis could do, but more and more I think evaluators are realizing that Fuller was the more talented Virginia Tech receiver on this roster. This was his break-out campaign and he has plenty to work on, but he is a great day three sleeper at receiver that has a lot of upside.

2-      Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State- Bumphis isn’t going to burn you vertically and I think he’s probably in the 4.5-4.54 range in the 40 yard dash, but what he can do is out-quick you. He is so good in and out of his breaks, he showed that he can run good routes, and he generated separation when he was allowed to work in the slot. He’s not going to run by a lot of players vertically, but he can make plays in the slot and gain yardage after the catch.

3-      Erik Highsmith, North Carolina- The only disappointing thing about Highsmith’s week was the weigh in, where he apparently measured at 6004 (6’.5”) instead of his listed height of 6’3”. He also measured in at 190 pounds with 8 inch hands, the smallest on the entire East roster. However, while he may not be a blazing fast kid he runs solid routes, knows how to use his hands to keep defenders off of him and he has good hands. In a very deep class at receiver Highsmith is going to be overlooked by a lot more flashy receivers, but even if it’s in the 6th-7th range or as an undrafted free agent I would be surprised if he doesn’t make a roster.

4-      Keenan Davis, Iowa- Davis had a good week this week and while I don’t think he’s a great threat on the outside I like him as a slot receiver threat. He measured in at a legit 6’2”, 216 pounds with huge 10 3/8” hands and while he doesn’t exactly eat up cushion he showed reliable hands all week. I liked what I saw from him this week and in the game.

5-      Emory Blake, Auburn- Blake didn’t stick out to me too much in a positive or negative way this week, but when I saw him I didn’t see drops and he may not be a guy with blazing speed but he can stretch the field vertically and track the ball in the air. He’s going to be a day three guy as well thanks to this very deep class, but he has a NFL skill set.

6-      Anthony Amos, Middle Tennessee State- Amos isn’t going to blow the doors off the combine by any means (4.5-4.54 guy in my opinion) but he has some quickness to him, he can create a little separation when he’s running routes (though he can improve here) and he showed impressive hands to snag passes outside of his frame. He’s another late round kid, but he can be a reliable possession guy for you at the next level, particularly in the slot.

Tight Ends:

1-      DC Jefferson, Rutgers- Jefferson had an impressive week and it was really evident that he was not properly utilized at Rutgers in part because of poor quarterback play. He’s got all the size and athleticism you could want at tight end and he showed the ability to high point throws and make catches with his hands outside of his frame. He’s got a lot of untapped upside and could be a nice value in the 3-4 round range given his talent level.

2-      Joseph Fauria, UCLA- Fauria was a player I was looking forward to evaluating this week, especially as a blocker, but he got injured early in the week and wasn’t able to come back in time for the game. He’s got plenty of upside thanks to his size and athleticism so it was a shame we didn’t get to see him compete all week.

3-      Lucas Reed, New Mexico- Reed was a player I was not familiar with at all but despite lacking blazing speed he has reliable hands along with a NFL body that should make him a relatively appealing day 3 target in a deep tight end class.

4-      Chris Pantale, Boston College- Pantale isn’t a flashy prospect but I thought he had a solid week. I don’t think he’s going to be a top 100 prospect by any means, but he should get a look later on day three.

Offensive Line:

1-      Terron Armstead, OT/OG, Arkansas-Pine Bluff- I don’t think anyone had a better week than Armstead did. He wasn’t perfect, but he showed that he can play offensive tackle from an athletic standpoint. He showed better technique than I anticipated as well and even though he opened up his hips early at times and got beat inside he was too much for any defensive end to handle in the game. The only defensive ends I saw beat him rushing the passer this week were David Bass and Devin Taylor, and we saw what happened to Tanner Hawkinson when he was tasked with blocking Taylor in the game.

2-      Mark Jackson, OT/OG, Glenville State- Jackson has the size and length you look for in an offensive lineman at over 6’5” with 33.5” arms. He didn’t look great outside at tackle because I don’t think he has the foot quickness for it, but if he loses a little weight (he weighed in at 341 pounds, I think he would be better off in the 325-330 range, so that’s something to monitor at the combine or his pro-day) I think he would be fine at guard. He is strong and while he doesn’t look like a natural puller he can generate push off the ball and he’s hard to shed after he engages you. He’s a quality day 3 option at guard.

3-      Manase Foketi, OT/OG, West Texas A&M- Foketi was a huge let down this week since we never even got to see him practice. I saw him standing watching drills on Monday and wondered if he was going to get in on practice the next day but he didn’t practice on Tuesday either and by the end of the week he wasn’t even in St. Petersburg anymore. I haven’t found out why he never competed but I am interested to hear what the reason was.

4-      T.J. Johnson, C, South Carolina- Johnson got some time at center and at guard this week and while he isn’t a great athlete he has all the size and length you could want at center as he measured in at over 6’4”, 323 pounds with 33 inch arms. He has shown that he can anchor against strong defensive tackles 1 on 1 and he looked good snapping the ball this week. He was the best center in St. Petersburg all week and he definitely warrants a pick on Day 3.

5-      Earl Watford, OG, James Madison- Watford didn’t play in the game unfortunately (I heard it was something with his knee) but he showed that he is athletic enough to play guard at the next level even if he still needs to get stronger and continue to improve on his technique. If he can add some lower body strength to help him anchor and drive he should stick on a roster.

6-      Jeff Baca, OG, UCLA- Baca is a late round guy but I think he has solid anchor and did a pretty good job in pass protection this week. He doesn’t have a lot of starter upside at the next level, but he did enough this week to earn a late round draftable grade from me.

Defensive Line:

1-      David Bass, DE, Missouri Western State- Bass was extremely impressive to me this week. I came in with high hopes for him and he certainly lived up to them. He has NFL size, athleticism and he did a good job versus the run and the pass all week. I have to go back and watch more of him, but I think he has helped elevate himself into potential top 100 consideration.

2-      Mike Catapano, DE, Princeton- Catapano isn’t an elite athlete but he has a great motor, he’s strong, has active hands and is hard to push off the ball. He is the kind of kid who is going to get the most out of all his ability and his 6’3”, 270 pound frame with just under 34 inch arms. He’s an impressive kid and he’s going to be a contributor to a defensive line rotation as a rookie.

3-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina- Taylor is a guy who has as much upside as anyone in St. Petersburg but when I’ve watched him he just hasn’t lived up to his immense upside given his athleticism and his 6’7”, 275 pound frame. He had an up and down week in my opinion, but he had a great game going up against Tanner Hawkinson all night. Hawkinson doesn’t have good enough feet to stick at tackle and he doesn’t have the strength to play guard so Taylor beat him using his speed and his strength consistently all night. Taylor won’t have it so easy with NFL caliber tackles at the next level though, and despite his intriguing upside I still am not sold on him being an impact pass rusher at the next level.

4-      William Campbell, DT, Michigan- Campbell had a good week going against a poor cast of interior offensive linemen on the West roster but he has NFL size and athleticism. He never lived up to my expectations at Michigan but while he is still raw he certainly has upside. I think he’s a day 3 caliber draft pick with some upside as a nose tackle in a 4-3.

5-      Scott Vallone, DT/DE, Rutgers- Vallone didn’t have an amazing week but he has shown the ability to be disruptive and make plays versus the run. He’s never been much of a pass rusher, but I think he has some value as an undersized defensive tackle.

6-      Will Pericak, DT, Colorado- Pericak isn’t a flashy player but I think he has a place on a NFL roster. He’s got the size, length and strength to stick in a defensive line rotation. His motor and effort level impressed me this week.

Linebackers:

1-      Keith Pough, Howard- Pough had a fantastic week of practice. I think the thing that impressed me the most was the vocal leadership he was able to show and he was one of the only players that was able to energize the West practices at all. I definitely need to watch more of him but he really stuck out to me this week.

2-      DeVonte Holloman, South Carolina- I didn’t see as much of Holloman as I wanted to this week but he showed me enough to make me want to go back and watch more South Carolina to see him in action. He is likely a day 3 pick, but I think he has NFL talent.

3-      Sio Moore, Connecticut- Moore doesn’t strike me as a great fit in a 4-3 as an outside linebacker but I haven’t seen him in coverage a lot. Still, I think he is at his best when he is rushing the passer and when he was given the opportunity to that (even with his hand down) he was effective. I don’t think he fits the mold as a 3-4 OLB either though, so he might be a two down linebacker in a 4-3 who can put his hand down and rush the passer on obvious 3rd downs. He has upside, but he’s not a fit for every team in my opinion.

4-      Gerald Hodges, Penn State- Hodges packs some punch as a hitter but he didn’t stick out to me frequently this week when I was watching practice. When I did see him he seemed to flow to the ball well but I didn’t see him shed blocks effectively at the point of attack. That’s something I’ll certainly have to investigate more when I watch Penn State.

5-      A.J. Klein, Iowa State- Klein is a tackling machine that impressed me when I watched Iowa State, but he didn’t stick out to me much this week. He’s not a great athlete so he is going to have to compensate for that with good or great instincts, but I didn’t get a good enough look at him to evaluate that this week.

6-      Steve Greer, Virginia- Like a couple other linebackers in St. Petersburg he isn’t a great athlete but he showed a nose for the ball when I saw him this week and I already knew he was a good tackler. He’s going to have to play special teams to ensure a roster spot but I think he’s got value as a back-up linebacker.

Cornerbacks:

1-      Brandon McGee, Miami- McGee had an up and down season when I saw him play this year but he had a very good week. He showed fluid hips, good feet and impressive ball skills this week and he is going to run a very impressive 40 yard dash time at the combine. He’s got a lot of upside so keep an eye on him.

2-      Nigel Malone, Kansas State- Malone has been a guy I’ve liked all season since I previewed Kansas State before the season and he continues to live up to my expectations. He’s not the biggest or the fastest, but especially in a zone scheme he could be a very reliable corner. He’s got smooth hips, good feet and impressive ball skills. He evidenced those in the game as he got a pick 6 (even though it was thrown right to him). He might not end up in the top 100, but I’ll take him any time on Day 3.

3-      Terry Hawthorne, Illinois- Hawthorne has plenty of upside but he didn’t seem to close on passes in front of him very well this week, didn’t show me very smooth transitions and while he has good ball skills I wonder how good of a starting corner he can be. He had a nice interception when he was dropped into zone in this game (looked like Cover-3 but it was hard to see from the press box which was on the opposite side of the field from his interception) and he has talent, I just don’t know if I’d pick him day 2.

4-      Branden Smith, Georgia- Smith is an undersized corner who isn’t a great tackler but he is a good athlete with quality ball skills. He did badly misplay a pass thrown by Matt Scott to Chad Bumphis in the game that led to a long touchdown reception for Bumphis, but he usually plays the ball well. He doesn’t have the size or length to be an impact player and he weighed in at under 170 pounds but he has enough talent to warrant consideration on day 3.

5-      Sheldon Price, UCLA- Price had a solid season this year at UCLA and while I still have some questions about his game he definitely has the speed to play corner and he looked pretty good when flipping his hips in coverage this week. He has sub 4.5 speed which allows him to recover when beaten initially as well which helped him in 1 on 1’s this week.

6-      Josh Johnson, Purdue- Johnson has shown the versatility to contribute as a return man on special teams and to be a solid corner. He’s undersized but he showed me some ball skills this week and I think he warrants mid-late consideration on day 3.

Safeties:

1-      Cooper Taylor, Richmond- Taylor was a player I hadn’t seen at all coming in and I was anticipating him being a stiff, oversized safety that wasn’t good in coverage. I am happy to admit I was completely wrong and that Taylor showed good hips, impressive range and a good feel for the safety position. He’s got a great combination of size and athleticism and I think he warrants top 100 consideration based on what I saw from him this week.

2-      Duke Williams, Nevada- I’ve had my eye on Duke for a couple years now since he was a junior. He can really hit and while I have some questions about him in coverage I think he is a quality option at safety on Day 3.

3-      Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse- Thomas has good range and while he is undersized he seems to support the run pretty well despite the occasional missed tackle. At times he bites too hard on the run though and as the last line of defense that is a problem. He will get knocked for his lack of size, but if he can work on being less aggressive I think he could have a future as a starter.

4-      Earl Wolfe, NC State- Wolfe was a player I had a high opinion of coming into the week but he showed some ability in coverage as well as some ball skills. He’s a little undersized at 5’11”, 206 pounds but I think he will get drafted on day 3.

5-      Zeke Motta, Notre Dame- Motta carried a late day 3/undrafted free agent grade for me coming into the week but he showed more range and fluidity in coverage than I expected. I’m still not sold on him beyond a day 3 prospect, but he’s got more upside than I originally thought.

6-      Rashard Hall, Clemson- Hall didn’t impress me a lot when I watched tape of him but he has some ball skills and despite some missed tackles he looked solid against the run. He’s not my favorite safety prospect, but I think he has draftable talent.

Conference Predictions:

SEC:

West:

1-      LSU

2-      Alabama

3-      Arkansas

4-      Mississippi State

5-      Auburn

6-      Texas A&M

7-      Ole Miss

East:

1-      South Carolina

2-      Georgia

3-      Tennessee

4-      Florida

5-      Vanderbilt

6-      Missouri

7-      Kentucky

SEC Title Game: LSU and South Carolina: LSU is SEC Champion

Analysis: The SEC is loaded as usual, particularly the West. LSU loses Tyrann Mathieu which is unfortunate for every college football fan, but if Zach Mettenberger can establish a consistent passing game then the LSU offense is going to absolutely take off. Alabama is extremely talented as usual, but they are replacing so much on defense and at their skill positions on offense that there’s no way that they replicate their 2011 season. They are my early 2013 favorites however. Arkansas lost Bobby Petrino and their top three receivers, but unless their defense improves they won’t bump LSU or Alabama out of the top of the West. I went back and forth on South Carolina and Georgia a lot because both teams don’t have a great track record of delivering when the pressure is on. South Carolina’s defense could end up better than Georgia’s though, and even though I like Aaron Murray I have some questions about Georgia’s offense. Tennesse has talent and should be solid, but Florida’s ridiculous handling of their quarterback competition means I can’t project them any higher than 4th in the East. Vanderbilt is a bit of a dark horse with a strong core on offense and a bright coach in James Franklin, but just getting to a bowl game would be a successful season for them.

Big 10:

Legends:

1-      Michigan

2-      Michigan State

3-      Nebraska

4-      Iowa

5-      Northwestern

6-      Minnesota

Leaders:

1-      Wisconsin

2-      Ohio State

3-      Illinois

4-      Purdue

5-      Penn State

6-      Indiana

Big-10 Title Game: Wisconsin and Michigan: Wisconsin is Big-10 Champion

Analysis: If Wisconsin doesn’t come out of the Leaders division to compete for the Big-10 title again this year then Bret Bielema should just quit, because outside of Illinois there is no eligible team that has a slightly realistic chance of keeping them out of the title game. Michigan and Michigan State will be a terrific battle down to the end of the season in my opinion, and ultimately it will come down to how well Denard Robinson can deliver the ball and avoid turnovers in big games in my opinion. If he carries the Wolverine offense on his back he could be a finalist for the Heisman as well. Nebraska has some talent, but they will never be a legitimate Big-10 title contender until they get a real quarterback to replace Taylor Martinez, who is one of the worst passing quarterbacks of all the teams that don’t run an option offense.

ACC:

Atlantic:

1-      Florida State

2-      Clemson

3-      NC State

4-      Wake Forest

5-      Boston College

6-      Maryland

Coastal:

1-      Virginia Tech

2-      Georgia Tech

3-      North Carolina

4-      Miami

5-      Virginia

6-      Duke

ACC Title Game: Virginia Tech and Florida State: Virginia Tech is ACC Champion.

Analysis: Florida State is incredibly loaded, particularly on defense. Their defensive line is the best in football in my opinion, even better than LSU’s, and they return enough talent on offense to be a dark horse contender for the National Championship game. I don’t think they’ll make it because I’m not a big believer in EJ Manuel, but if he can improve enough to put up points this team could end up in the top 5 by season’s end. And yet, I have a gut feeling that this is Virginia Tech’s year and I think they will go toe to toe with Florida State in the ACC Championship game and win. I trust Logan Thomas more than Manuel in critical situations even if he is younger with less experience, and Virginia Tech returns plenty of talent on defense as well. Clemson will be nipping at Florida State’s heels as well but I don’t think Clemson’s offensive line has enough talent and experience to keep Florida State’s relentlessly deep and talented front four from terrorizing Boyd when he drops back to pass.

Big 12:

1-      West Virginia

2-      Kansas State

3-      Oklahoma

4-      Texas

5-      TCU

6-      Oklahoma State

7-      Texas Tech

8-      Baylor

9-      Kansas

10-   Iowa State

West Virginia is Big-12 Champion.

Analysis: I’m sure plenty of people will be surprised that I have West Virginia and Kansas State ranked ahead of Oklahoma and Texas, but I have plenty of faith in West Virginia’s offense to pass their way to the top of the Big-12 and if their defense improves at all they could very well win this conference. Kansas State shocked everyone last year by not only being good but by being good enough to get to the Cotton Bowl. And yet, everyone is writing them off again this year even though they return plenty of talent across their roster, and even their losses on defense aren’t irreplaceable. Collin Klein is the Tim Tebow of the Big-12 and he will keep Kansas State competitive even if it isn’t always pretty, and those writing KSU off will look foolish again this year. Oklahoma continues to be ranked in the top 5 year after year regardless of how many times they fail to live up to their talent level. Landry Jones plays a big role in that, and there aren’t many quarterbacks I wouldn’t want leading my team more than Jones. He’s not reliable under pressure, he panics in big time situations and collapsed when his best receiver Ryan Broyles went down last season. Oklahoma has plenty of talent on defense, but that has never stopped them from failing to live up to expectations, and even though Mike Stoops is back in the fold I don’t think it will be enough to win the Big-12 or a National Championship. Texas seemed to be on the right track naming a starting quarterback, but now the competition is back on and when you have two quarterbacks you really have none. So as good as that defense is it won’t matter if they don’t have any continuity at quarterback.

Pac-12:

North:

1-      Oregon

2-      Washington

3-      Stanford

4-      California

5-      Oregon State

6-      Washington State

South:

1-      Southern Cal

2-      Utah

3-      UCLA

4-      Arizona State

5-      Arizona

6-      Colorado

Pac-12 Title Game: USC and Oregon: USC is Pac-12 Champion.

Analysis: The Pac-12 is honestly one of the worst conferences top to bottom in the country, I was shocked by how little overall depth both divisions had. The North has three, maybe four bowl game caliber teams and the South has TWO. Look at that 3-6 list, only UCLA has an chance at a bowl game out of those four teams, and ASU, Arizona and Colorado should be awful this season. Oregon and USC both have a pretty easy road to the Pac-12 title game if you ask me, though Washington and Stanford won’t be pushovers even in spite of all the talent they lost.

Big East:

1-      Cincinnati

2-      Louisville

3-      South Florida

4-      Pittsburgh

5-      Rutgers

6-      Syracuse

7-      Connecticut

8-      Temple

Cincinnati is Big East Champion.

Analysis: The Big East is probably the worst big time conference in college football and they are clinging on for dear life and relevance right now. Cincinnati is the best by default this year now that West Virginia bolted for the Big-12, and after Louisville there isn’t a lot to write home about in the Big East. There’s the potential for some bowl eligible teams, but there isn’t a legit title contender in this whole conference and whoever the winner is will likely play a better conference champion in a BCS bowl game and get the tar beat out of them like Connecticut did two years ago at the hands of Oklahoma.

 

Thanks for reading, and happy college football season to each and every one of you!

–Tom

Quarterback Rankings:

1-      Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal

2-      Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee*

3-      Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

4-      Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech*

5-      Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

6-      Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia*

7-      E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State

8-      Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

9-      Casey Pachall, QB, TCU*

10-   Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Running Back Rankings:

1-      Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina*

2-      Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

3-      Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas*

4-      Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State*

5-      Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina*

6-      Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh

7-      Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M*

8-      Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama*

9-      Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

10-   Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas

Wide Receiver Rankings:

1-      Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal*

2-      Keenan Allen, WR, California*

3-      Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee*

4-      Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State*

5-      Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee*

6-      Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

7-      Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

8-      Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

9-      Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon

10-   Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Tight End Rankings:

1-      Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame*

2-      Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State

3-      Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA

4-      Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn

5-      Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford*

6-      Michael Williams, TE, Alabama

7-      Jordan Reed, TE, Florida*

8-      Ryan Griffin, TE, Connecticut

9-      Colter Phillips, TE, Virginia

10-   Ben Cotton, TE, Nebraska
Offensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Chris Faulk, OT, LSU*

2-      Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M*

3-      Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

4-      D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama*

5-      Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*

6-      Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia

7-      Alex Hurst, OT, LSU

8-      Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

9-      Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M*

10-   James Hurst, OT, North Carolina*
Offensive Guard Rankings:

1-      Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama

2-      Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

3-      Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

4-      Travis Frederick, OG, Wisconsin*

5-      Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas*

6-      Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky

7-      Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Georgia Tech

8-      Braden Hansen, OG, BYU

9-      Blaize Foltz, OG, TCU

10-   Lane Taylor, OG, Oklahoma State
Center Rankings:

1-      Khaled Holmes, C, Southern Cal

2-      Graham Pocic, C, Illinois

3-      Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas*

4-      James Ferentz, C, Iowa

5-      Mario Benavides, C, Louisville

6-      Dalton Freeman, C, Clemson

7-      Matt Stankiewitch, C, Penn State

8-      Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia

9-      Braxton Cave, C, Notre Dame

10-   Ivory Wade, C, Baylor
Defensive End Rankings:

1-      Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU*

2-      Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas*

3-      Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

4-      Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State*

5-      Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

6-      Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

7-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

8-      Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

9-      James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech*

10-   William Gholston, DE, Michigan State*
Defensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2-      Johnathon Hankins, DT, Ohio State*

3-      Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

4-      Bennie Logan, DT, LSU*

5-      Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

6-      Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

7-      Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia

8-      Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois*

9-      Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida*

10-   Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Middle Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

2-      Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford

3-      Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina

4-      Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State

5-      Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama

6-      Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State

7-      Jonathan Brown, ILB, Illinois*

8-      Bruce Taylor, ILB, Virginia Tech

9-      Jonathan Bostic, ILB, Florida

10-   Christian Robinson, ILB, Georgia
Outside Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia*

2-      Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU*

3-      Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

4-      Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State

5-      C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama*

6-      Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State

7-      Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida*

8-      Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford

9-      Khaseem Green, OLB, Rutgers

10-   Kenny Tate, OLB, Maryland
Cornerback Rankings:

1-      David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State*

2-      Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State*

3-      Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

4-      Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU*

5-      Jonny Adams, CB, Michigan State

6-      Nickell Robey, CB, Southern Cal*

7-      Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas*

8-      Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

9-      Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

10-   Tharold Simon, CB, LSU*
Safety Rankings:

1-      Eric Reid, FS, LSU*

2-      T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern Cal

3-      Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas

4-      Robert Lester, FS, Alabama

5-      Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma*

6-      Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia

7-      Ray Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami

8-      John Boyett, SS, Oregon

9-      Matt Elam, SS, Florida*

10-   Vaughn Telemaque, FS, Miami

Defensive Ends:

1- Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Coples was dominant at times this week and looked unblockable in 1 on 1 drills versus almost everyone on the South offensive line. He can be as good as he wants to be thanks to his great combination of size, length and athleticism. He projects to be a great LE in the NFL if he continues to work and provide the effort level that he had this week.

2- Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama: Upshaw has convinced me that he can play 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB. I think he might be a better 3-4 outside linebacker, but he’s got plenty of upside. He might not have ideal measurable and 40 yard dash times, but he is a very strong, powerful player that is fundamentally sound. I wouldn’t bet against Upshaw in the NFL, and I don’t think you should either.

3- Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina: Ingram definitely impressed me this week. I think he can play in both a 4-3 and a 3-4 as well, and should be fine at outside linebacker where I think he might have the most upside. He has an impressive variety of pass rush moves and was all effort this week, taking reps standing up, with his hand in the dirt at DE and even inside at defensive tackle at times in 1 on 1’s.

4- Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State: McClellin feels like he should be higher on this list, but the three guys ahead of him are potential 1st rounders much like McClellin might end up being. He’s an impressive kid with better speed and pass rushing ability than a lot of people give him credit for. He’s a top 60 pick for sure, may be a top 40 guy when all is said and done.

5- Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall: Curry definitely has upside, and should get a 2nd or 3rd round grade from me after I finish my tape study of him, but he didn’t beat Mike Adams all week and didn’t look overly impressive rushing the passer this week. Once he was engaged he struggled to rush the passer, and while he has size and athletic ability he needs some development.

Defensive Tackles:

1- Mike Martin, DT, Michigan: Martin really impressed me this week. He’s not tall, but he’s very well built and is extremely strong, plus he has natural leverage because of his lack of ideal height. He’s got a terrific motor and very active hands, and just doesn’t stay blocked. He’s going to go higher than a lot of people expect him to.

2- Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson: Thompson definitely showed his athleticism this week when he beat people off the ball initially with his burst and hand usage. He’s a 2nd round pick in my opinion but he’s got plenty of upside as a 3-tech, and he reminds me a bit of Jonathan Babineaux from the Atlanta Falcons.

3- Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut: Reyes weighed in lighter than I was hoping him to, but he’s got plenty of burst and athleticism off the snap. He’s got upside as a pass rusher, and might be able to contribute in a rotation early on in his career in pass rushing situations, but I worry about him versus the run. He can penetrate and get into the backfield, but I think he might get washed out in the run game if he doesn’t get stronger and put on a little weight.

4- Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati: Wolfe came into the week very underrated but he had a strong week all week, showing his versatility to play defensive end or defensive tackle. He projects very well to a 5 technique or to a 3 technique at the next level in my opinion. His versatility will definitely help him on draft day, and he really opened some eyes this week if they hadn’t watched him play much. He may end up with a 3rd or 4th round grade from me once all is said and done. I think he has a future as a NFL starter without a doubt.

5- Jaye Howard, DT, Florida: Howard is someone I’ve been a fan of since early on in his junior season when I was watching tape of Florida. He’s got NFL size and athleticism, and I think he may end up in the fourth round when all is said and done. He’s not rated high but he’s got the ability to contribute to a NFL rotation early on in his career.

Linebackers:

1- Keenan Robinson, OLB, Texas: Robinson is my favorite linebacker here and it was really fun to be able to interview him yesterday. He’s a complete linebacker than can play all three positions if needed, but projects best to the weak-side. He’s strong, can attack blocks, is a very good tackler who has pop as a hitter, shows ability in coverage and can blitz when asked to. He’s got it all, and he’s very underrated despite that. I may end up putting a 2nd round grade on him when my film study on him is done.

2- Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina: Brown had a great week, partially because the practices were non-contact and he wasn’t able to display his relatively poor tackling skills. This week was the perfect venue for Brown to show off his terrific athleticism and his ability to run around and find the ball. However, when he’s got the pads on and is asked to tackle he will come back down to Earth because he’s not a fundamentally sound tackler and often tries to go for the big hit. He also likes to arm tackle, and doesn’t consistently wrap up at all. I expect two or more missed tackles from him today.

3- Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska: David is an undersized linebacker who will probably have to play weak-side linebacker in the NFL, but he’s a very good tackler who is a pretty complete linebacker himself. If he was a little bit bigger he would be a very highly thought of prospect, and I have always been one who doesn’t like to overlook smaller players with lots of talent.

4- Sean Spence, OLB, Miami: Spence is another undersized playmaker at linebacker. He’s even smaller than David is unfortunately, and at the beginning of the week there was talk of moving him to safety, but I think he has to stay at linebacker personally. He’s got good instincts, is a reliable tackler and shows some ability in coverage. Play him at weak-side linebacker and he should be fine.

5- James-Michael Johnson, ILB, Nevada: JMJ is one of the more athletic middle linebacker prospects in the draft this year. Like Brown, the practices this week were a chance for him to put on a show thanks to his athletic ability. I’m much more interested to see how he tackles today.

Cornerbacks:

1- Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: Jenkins looked like a 1st round pick the entire week. He’s an impressive athlete  with the ability to play press-man, off-man or zone coverage in my opinion. Some were not high on him coming into the week, but I knew I was watching a special corner when I saw him at Florida. He’s got off-field concerns that will hurt his stock, but I still see him ending up in round 1. I feel more comfortable with him on the field than I do with Dre Kirkpatrick.

2- Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia: Boykin is an undersized corner but he presents plenty of upside as a starter at corner as well as a return man. He won a college football award for versatility this year, and I think he may end up in the 2nd or 3rd round range once all is said and done.

3- Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt: Hayward has been underrated for the last two years but he’s finally starting to catch some people’s eyes. He told me he thought part of that was that not a lot of people watch Vanderbilt, which I definitely think has some merit. But he put his skills on display this week and I think he’s a top 100 player without a doubt.

4- Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma: Fleming is a guy that not a lot of people have been high on, but I like his upside as a man or zone coverage corner. He’s a quality cover man, and I think he has starter potential in the NFL.

5- Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State: Leonard Johnson came into the week with a little hype and I think he lived up to it. He’s not a very good off-man corner, though he does have the ability to mirror receivers which impressed me, but his value comes as a press-man corner or perhaps in zone. I think he’s a top 100 player as well.

6- Ryan Steed, CB, Furman: Steed isn’t a big corner but he has pretty good change of direction ability which he showed this week. He looked better in press-man than off-man, but struggled a bit when asked to locate the ball and make a play on it at times. I haven’t seen much tape on him, but I think he has upside and would like to see more of him if I get the chance.

Safeties:

1- George Iloka, S, Boise State: Iloka is one of the more physically impressive players here thanks to his impressive size, length and athletic ability. He didn’t impress me in man coverage this week, but he’s got pretty good range and his size will help him deep against big, physically imposing receivers at the next level.

2- Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State: Martin didn’t stick out to me a lot this week, but he’s always looked reliable on film and in a weak safety class he may go earlier than he should. I’m interested to see how he does when he’s asked to play deep in pretty vanilla coverages today.

3- Brandon Taylor, S, LSU: Taylor was a playmaker at safety this year for LSU but I didn’t quite see the playmaking ability here this week. He’s definitely a draftable prospect in the 4th round range, but I’m not sure how much upside he has.

4- Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina: Allen is a player that has a good feel for finding the ball and seems to be a pretty reliable tackler. I’m not sure how he is in coverage though, so I’m looking forward to seeing him more today.

5- Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: Smith has had a solid week but he hasn’t been great. He’s not a flashy player and seems like a pretty reliable guy, but I’m not sure he has starter upside at the next level.

Kickers/Punters:

1- Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M: Bullock was the Lou Groza award winner this year and he was a great kid to talk to when I had the chance. He’s got a strong leg and he’s obviously very accurate, so I’ll be rooting for him in the NFL. He may even have a chance to get drafted, which isn’t a given for kickers.

2- Drew Butler, P, Georgia: Butler has a very strong leg, I noticed it last year when I was scouting Justin Houston. He can really punt that ball a long way, and has a shot at getting drafted even though he had a pretty inconsistent year kicking for Georgia when I watched him.

3- Brad Nortman, P, Wisconsin: Nortman is a very good punter with a strong leg as well. He, Butler and Anger from the Shrine Game all showed draftable ability to me which is pretty rare for punters.

Offensive Line:

Cordy Glenn (Georgia) was the clear offensive lineman winner today. He showed the ability to play outside at tackle as well as at guard today, and he was effective against every player except for Quinton Coples who was able to beat him on a couple of 1 on 1’s. He’s agile for his size and in talking to scouts they didn’t think his occasional waist-bending was a serious issue. He has the potential to play at four offensive lineman positions. He is strong enough and has a good enough anchor that he can recover if he’s initially pushed back, which enabled him to slow down Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram today.

Glenn’s ability to slow Upshaw and Ingram down today definitely set him apart from Zebrie Sanders (Florida State), Matt McCants (UAB) and James Brown (Troy) today. All three struggled mightily with bull-rushes today and were consistently pushed back and beaten thanks to their lack of lower body strength and ability to anchor. I like Zebrie Sanders’ potential, but his lower body strength is a serious issue right now. I think he has a shot at the 1st round still because of his upside, but he hasn’t been good the last couple of days.

Ben Jones (Georgia) and William Vlachos (Alabama) have had a down week so far in my opinion. Jones is a mid-round center prospect in my opinion who has struggled with bull-rushes and speed at times this week. He’s not a center that can handle defenders one on one in the run game or pass protection for the most part. Vlachos is a very physically limited offensive lineman who has a late round or free agent grade in my opinion. He might stick on a roster because of his football IQ, but his short arms and limited size will hurt him.

Jeff Allen (Illinois) continued a strong week today, this time inside at guard. That versatility will help him as he was consistently good at both tackle and offensive guard this week. Good, not great, but he’s definitely draftable in the 3rd or 4th round range.

Defensive Line:

Quinton Coples (North Carolina) continues to show his fantastic upside. He isn’t a top 10 or possibly a top 15 pick, but he’s definitely got a 1st round grade from me. His upside is incredibly intriguing, but I don’t think he can consistently be a pass rushing force from the RE position, though I do think he could be a fantastic left defensive end. He can be as good as he wants to be, so interviews will be extremely important for him. I saw someone mention it on Twitter, but he seems like a possible candidate for a guy who breaks out in his contract year, earns a huge deal, and never lives up to the deal. He’s got red flags for sure, but his potential is extremely intriguing.

Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) and Melvin Ingrim (South Carolina) continued to impress me. I think they are both versatile enough to play in a 3-4 at OLB or in a 4-3 at left defensive end. They both struggled a bit against Cordy Glenn, but he may be a top 50 prospect in my opinion, so I understand that to an extent.

Kheeston Randall (Texas) continued to struggle today. He showed some of his agility and his athleticism but he struggled to disengage once blocked and too often was effectively blocked by William Vlachos, someone I don’t think is going to be a very effective center in the NFL because of significant physical limitations. However, I like what I have seen from Brandon Thompson (Clemson) and Jaye Howard (Florida). I’ve liked Howard for some time, but Thompson has definitely made it clear that he has quality starter upside as a 3-tech which is what I saw from the tape I’ve watched of him.

Check out NFL Draft Monsters for the rest of our Senior Bowl Coverage!

South Roster Notes:

Tight Ends:

Ladarius Green (Louisiana Lafayette) is my favorite tight end on this roster. He’s my #2 TE in Mobile behind only Michael Egnew, but Green may have just as much upside as any tight end in the draft. His combination of pure size and athleticism is extremely intriguing and like Egnew he has good hands. He needs work as a blocker, but if the effort and work ethic is there that can be coached. But he will be a helluva match-up problem as a receiver who can be split out in the NFL, and those joker tight ends are all the rage right now. He looks like a 2nd or 3rd round prospect to me. Deangelo Peterson (LSU) is another player I’ve liked all year. He’s a sleeper because he never got much of a chance to show what he can do as a receiver at LSU, so he could surprise people once he gets to the next level. He’s got pretty good hands, size and athleticism and should end up in the 4th round or maybe a little higher on draft day. Brad Smelley (Alabama) has had a solid couple of days. He’s not an early-round guy by any means, but he’s draftable and has the work ethic to be a contributor on special teams and work his way up the tight end depth chart despite his lack of great size and athleticism.

Offensive Line:

Zebrie Sanders (Florida State) impressed me today to a point. He’s an impressive athlete with a good first step, he can get out of his stance quickly and block down on defensive tackles which I liked. He really needs to get stronger in the lower body though and his hand placement was an issue today. He was letting his hands get too far outside which will draw holding calls and limit his ability to control the defender after he’s engaged him. He’s struggled to “finish” blocks as well. Multiple times in 1 on 1’s he had won the battle right up until the end when Coples or Ingram would finish and he didn’t. Sustaining that block and playing to the whistle isn’t always something you can coach. He’s got the athleticism and the length to play left tackle though, he just needs some coaching and weight training. I still have a late 1st round grade on him, but he’s obviously not perfect. Jeff Allen (Illinois) continues to impress. I’ll credit Wes Bunting (@WesBunting follow him) for showing me the light on him so to speak, but whenever I watched him I thought he looked like a solid tackle. He’s one of those players that the more I’ve watched him the more I like him. He’s definitely a sleeper at left tackle right now and while he struggled with Coples a couple times today, so did everyone. Allen held his own all day though and impressed scouts without a doubt. He’s got left tackle ability and will definitely go higher than people think. He could go in the 2nd round when all is said and done.

Ben Jones (Georgia) did not impress me today. He was consistently beat off the snap by quicker players like Brandon Thompson and struggled to anchor against stronger players. He’s an average athlete that is a mid-late round player in my opinion, definitely not a 2nd or 3rd round Center. His stock is on its way down in my opinion. William Vlachos (Alabama) also looked bad today. His arms just look remarkably short (he measured in with 30 inch arms, which is not good for an offensive lineman) and he struggled to anchor today as well. He looks like a late round player to me. Matt McCants (UAB) had a bad day as well outside at tackle. He was victimized multiple times by Coples and Ingram as well as Courtney Upshaw. He has little strength in his lower body and it showed today. But he doesn’t look like an impressive athlete and just flat got beat off the edge a couple of times today. He’s not earning a high grade from me either, though I still need to study him. Will Blackwell (LSU) didn’t look very good to me today either, though he was solid. He’s an average player in my eyes, not sure how much starting potential he has. He’s got a draftable grade from me, but didn’t impress me too much today.

Philip Blake (Baylor) impressed me today though. He showed a strong anchor and looked pretty good at guard and at center today. I will definitely be keeping an eye on him the rest of the week. Cordy Glenn (Georgia) was a very pleasant surprise as I didn’t expect a great week from him. He didn’t show much bend in his waist and had an impressive ability to anchor and sustain. He’s an impressive player that might be able to stick outside at tackle or succeed inside at guard. He’s definitely above Kelechi Osemele on my board right now. Troy Brown (Troy) didn’t impress me much today though. He didn’t look very good at tackle, and I think he might have to shift inside at the next level. He’s a solid player, but I’m not sold on him at tackle.

Defensive Line:

Quentin Coples (North Carolina) was the biggest winner out of anyone I watched today. The guy absolutely has top 5 talent, it’s just a question of how much he wants it. He will be as good as he wants to be, so it’s a question of desire and work ethic for judging him. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a sense of that throughout the week. He is just so athletic for his size that he had me drooling at his potential as a strong side end in a 4-3. He’s not an ideal right end in my opinion but as a left end he could be one of the best in the league if he wants it bad enough. I just hope he lands somewhere with a great defensive line coach that can light a fire under him. He’s got some red flags around him, but his upside is as intriguing as any defensive player in this entire draft in my opinion. Melvin Ingram (South Carolina) and Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) continued to impress me today. Ingram looked very fluid in pass rush drills, showed an impressive variety of pass rush moves and consistently won 1 on 1 battles in the pit. I think he is fluid enough to be a 3-4 OLB and I think he has enough strength and power to play 4-3 DE. He’s a versatile player that will likely earn a 1st round grade from me once I’m able to watch him more on tape. Upshaw is such a physically impressive player. He’s not a freak from a measurables standpoint but you can tell he’s going to be a quality player in the NFL from watching him. He’s so strong and physical that I would never bet against him. His lack of length might limit his upside a bit, but there’s no question he can be a starting outside linebacker in a 3-4 or maybe even a 4-3 left end. I just haven’t watched him enough yet, but I like his game.

My two favorite defensive tackles on this roster were Brandon Thompson (Clemson) and Jaye Howard (Florida). Thompson has solid measurables and packed 311 pounds onto his 6’2” frame but his burst and quickness is my favorite part about his game. He gets off the ball very quickly and overwhelmed some of the interior linemen on the South today. He was consistently disruptive all practice and looks like a quality 3-tech in the NFL, perhaps a similar player to Jonathan Babineaux on the Atlanta Falcons. Howard is a guy I’ve liked since I watched him play over the course of his junior season and I was happy to get to see him live today. He’s lighter than I would have liked right now, but he beat Cordy Glenn a couple times in 1 on 1 drills. He’s got some burst and athleticism, but I’d like to see him get stronger and get up above 300 pounds for sure.

Kheeston Randall (Texas) continued to disappoint today. He got pancaked by Ben Jones, a player I am not high on, and struggled consistently against everyone he went up against. He won a couple of battles, but his stock has been slipping all season and nothing I saw today will change that. He looks like a guy who will go in the 4th round range to me. He’s got the size you’d love in a defensive tackle but he has limited length and he weighed in at under 300 pounds. He’s got potential, but he hasn’t lived up to it at all. Tydreke Powell (North Carolina) and Tony Jerod-Eddie (Texas A&M) both showed some ability as bull-rushers in 1 on 1 drills when they were able to push their man off the ball, but neither showed the ability to shed and they look like 2-down guys in the NFL. Powell plays too high at times and negates his strength, and on film I’ve seen him try to penetrate upfield and make plays in the backfield despite his lack of great burst or quickness. He’s a mid-round guy in my opinion, and I’m not sure he has much upside. Jerod-Eddie is similar but when I’ve seen him he seems like he has a bit better gap responsibility, but I haven’t done enough study on him yet. He seems like he could possibly be a 3-4 defensive end, but if he plays defensive tackle in a 4-3 he would strictly be a run stopper.

Linebackers:

I think my favorite linebacker in all of Mobile is Keenan Robinson (Texas). He’s got experience playing all three linebacker positions but I think his best position is probably the weak-side. He’s a helluva hitter, a very good tackler and he has ability in coverage. He’s a complete linebacker and he’s going to be a riser after this week. Keep an eye on him at practice, he will impress you. One player who surprised me a bit was Zach Brown (North Carolina). I shouldn’t be so surprised he looked good in practice because that is when he should theoretically look best since there is no tackling allowed and that is something he struggles to do. But he took better angles than I saw on tape and clearly has all the athleticism you could want in coverage. Sean Spence (Miami) was disruptive today and when you watch him you can’t help but imagine how good he would be if he was bigger. His weigh-in likely hurt his stock, but in the right system (perhaps a Cover-2 or heavy zone system) he could be an impact linebacker. Nigel Bradham (Florida State) is another player I like. He’s just a solid, fundamentally sound guy that I think has a NFL future as a starter. I’ve liked him since his junior year, so I am excited to take a closer look at him the rest of the week when I have the chance.

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

–Tom

Defensive Line:

Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall: Curry is a very talented player but when I watched him I just didn’t see 1st round ability from him. He’s been very productive at Marshall and deserves to be at the Senior Bowl, I just don’t know that I buy him as a 1st round pick based on the film I’ve seen of him. I will be very interested to see how he does against this significant jump in competition.

Mike Martin, DT, Michigan: Martin is an all effort/all hustle defensive tackle that I like despite his lack of size. He’s going to be a rotational guy from day one in the NFL in my opinion and while he won’t wow people at the weigh-in I think he is going to make an impact at the next level.

Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State: I’m glad McClellin got an invite here because I like him as a defensive end. I don’t think he’s a 1st rounder but he’s definitely in the 2nd/3rd round range on my board right now and I haven’t done much film study on him yet. He’s got some edge speed and if he filled out his frame a little bit I think he could be a 4-3 left end and apply a pass rush from the position which is much harder to find that many realize. He can definitely help himself this week, so I’m looking forward to watching him.

Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington: Ta’amu had a TON of hype going into the bowl game against Baylor and then Baylor ran right up the middle all game and people started to hop off the bandwagon. Ta’amu didn’t impress me in that game at all obviously, but he didn’t get to be a legitimate NFL prospect because he played like that all season. He will make himself a lot of money this week if he shows he can stand up to double teams and that he has some burst off the line of scrimmage. But he will continue to drop if he gets washed out versus the run and shows no push as a pass rusher.

Billy Winn, DT, Boise State: Winn is a guy I have been high on since last year, he’s got impressive size and length based on the film I’ve seen of him and I really like his upside as a 4-3 DT or as a 3-4 defensive end. He’s got versatility and I think he’s going to end up going in the first two rounds, especially since this defensive tackle class isn’t exactly stacked.

Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati: Wolfe is an underrated player that doesn’t have huge upside but I think he has starting potential in the NFL. Brandon Holstein (@NFLDraftRoundUp on Twitter, follow him) pointed him out to me the first time months ago this season and when I got a chance to watch him I liked what I saw. Again, he’s not a stud defensive tackle but he is definitely draftable in the 3rd/4th round range in my opinion and I look forward to seeing what he can do this week.

Andre Branch, DE, Clemson: Andre Branch was a player that I did not like at ALL when I watched him as a junior last season with Bowers opposite him, so I did not have high expectations for him as a senior at all. Most of his pressure on the quarterback came as a result of one on one’s and he didn’t show that he could use his hands at all and accomplished all his production thanks to his athleticism. But this year he flashed hand usage and the ability to use pass rush moves when I watched him. He has a TON to prove this week because if he has a good week he could be one of the biggest winners of the Senior Bowl thanks to his prototypical defensive end size and athleticism. Keep an eye out for Branch because he could make himself a ton of money this week.

Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Coples came into the season projected to be a top 5 pick and his stock has slowly slid ever since then. He didn’t live up to expectations as a defensive end this year and plenty of people are projecting him inside to defensive tackle. I have no doubt that he could bulk up to play defensive tackle, but I haven’t given up hope on him as a left end. I think people really underestimate how difficult it is to find a left defensive end that can play the run and rush the passer at a high level. Coples has that potential and I think that is what will keep him from sliding out of the top 20 or 25 ultimately. He has a lot to prove this week as well, and as a Tar Heel fan I will certainly be rooting for him.

Jaye Howard, DT, Florida: I am really happy that Howard is here. I remember watching him as a junior and thinking that he definitely had draftable ability and I believe he was on my list of potential break-out players this year. He definitely deserves to be here and he could open some eyes this week. He’s not the flashiest guy but he is reliable and should make some plays in the backfield this week.

Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina: Ingram has a chance to make himself a lot of money this week as well. He’s got quality size for a defensive end and has really improved his stock over the course of the season when everyone (including me) thought Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney would be the talk of the defensive end position. I’m excited to see him live this week.

Tydreke Powell, DT, North Carolina: Powell is a player that I personally think is very overrated. He’s got a late round grade from me at this point and having seen a significant amount of film on him I’m not sure there’s a lot he can do this week to change my mind. His upside in the NFL is a 4-3 NT but he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher and he doesn’t defend the run well either. His best bet is to land in a scheme that asks all of their defensive linemen to penetrate and make plays in the backfield, but he isn’t the athlete to consistently do that (it’s just what he likes to do, based on film). Powell could get exposed this week if he doesn’t play with better gap responsibility, and I have no reason to think he will based on the film I’ve watched.

Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama: I’m very glad Upshaw is here and I’m sure a lot of other people are as well. He will likely be playing out of position at 4-3 DE all week, but he has enough ability to play with his hand down and succeed even if his best position is 3-4 OLB in my eyes. I’m excited to see him in person because he really impressed me when I watched him this year, especially in the National Championship.

Linebackers:

Honestly, I’m not wowed with the linebackers here. Zach Brown (North Carolina) is the odds on favorite to be the first one drafted, but I’m not high on him and he looks like a better athlete than a linebacker when I watch him. He won’t be able to show his tackling ability this week so he could really impress people thanks to his athleticism and potential but he struggles with wrapping up and making quality tackles. One guy I do like is Nigel Bradham (Florida State). He’s not an elite prospect but I think he will be a NFL starter in a 4-3 defense. Another guy I am very high on is Keenean Robinson from Texas. He’s got great instincts and may be my odds on favorite to boost his stock as much as any other linebacker in Mobile this week. Look out for him, he is an absolute player.

Defensive Backs:

This defensive back group took a hit when Mark Barron (Alabama) announced that he would not be here this week, but it makes sense that he elected to skip it because his stock can really only go down at this point. I’m very excited to see Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt) who I have been talking up for well over a year at corner, Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama, formerly of Florida), Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska), Jamell Fleming (Oklahoma) and Leonard Johnson (Iowa State). Jenkins was a corner I was very high on when he was at Florida, so it will be fun to see him in person despite the troubles he has this past year. Jamell Fleming and Hayward were both on my potential break-out players list that I posted before the season this year, so I am very excited to see both of them live. I really like both of them in coverage even though they may not have prototypical size (Hayward may be 5’9” or 5’10”) and speed. They’re good cover corners and that should show this week.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,896 other followers