Tag Archive: North Carolina


Senior Bowl Preview: Offense

Senior Bowl Preview:

Quarterbacks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running Backs:

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

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

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

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

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

Fullbacks:

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

Wide Receivers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tight Ends:

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

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

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

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

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

Offensive Line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom

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East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

BJ Coleman, QB, Chattanooga: Coleman was far and away the best quarterback on the East roster and was in my opinion the best quarterback of both practices. He measured in at 6’3”, 234 pounds and had huge 10 ¼ inch hands (this was apparent when I shook his hand when I chatted with him after practice, he has a very strong handshake). His arm strength was apparent from the first throw he made and his passes cut right through the wind. His mechanics looked good as he has a compact, over the top delivery. The ball really shoots off of his hand and he has a quick release. He threw a couple nice deep balls today and demonstrated quality play fakes which I like to see. His accuracy was a bit erratic at times so he has room to improve from an accuracy perspective, but he easily has the best arm in St. Petersburg. He did have a couple wobbly throws during practice and that is something I noticed when I watched film of him, so that’s something I will be keeping a close eye on. I’ll have an interview with BJ up later in the week, so look out for that!

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: Davis was probably the second best quarterback on the East today. He doesn’t have as strong of an arm as Coleman or John Brantley, but he still made some impressive throws over the middle and had a nice deep ball one play after Coleman’s beautiful deep ball early in practice. You couldn’t tell the difference between who threw the ball if you only saw the ball, which is a plus for Davis. Davis’ height will make it hard to boost his stock since he measured in at just over 6’1”, 218 pounds. He isn’t the most physically impressive quarterback, but a couple times after a play I saw him pull a receiver aside and talk with him. That definitely impressed me, and it gave me a sense for the intangible qualities I’ve heard he has. It’ll be interesting to see how he does the rest of the week, but he’s never going to throw great passes from the far hash to the opposite sideline, he just doesn’t have that kind of arm strength. I’m not sure he has upside as a starter like Coleman does, but I do think he has the potential to stick on a roster and develop as a back-up.

John Brantley, QB, Florida: Brantley definitely has a strong arm but from the first throw he made you could see the hitch in his throwing motion. His mechanics definitely need work because his throwing motion dips down which elongates it. He has the arm strength to mask it a bit, but his mechanical flaws were obvious when he was alternating snaps with BJ Coleman early in practice. His arm strength was apparent, but his accuracy was inconsistent. Here’s hoping he picks it up the rest of the week because he left something to be desired today.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: Poole is the top running back in St. Petersburg in my opinion. It’s not easy to evaluate running backs when everyone is in shells and no one can tackle, but Poole displayed quality burst to hit the hole today. Obviously it will be easier to see more when they have pads on the rest of the week, so I will definitely have my eyes on Poole tomorrow. He may not go higher than round 4 or so but I think he can contribute to a NFL team as a rookie at running back. I’ll have an interview with Tauren later this week as well, so keep an eye out for that.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford, WR, Tennessee Tech: Benford was the best receiver on the East roster today without question in my opinion. I was consistently impressed with him and three different scouts I talked to liked what they saw from him as well. He created very consistent separation, was regularly targeted and had only one drop near the end of practice. Otherwise he was catching everything with his hands whether it was inside or outside of his frame. He seemed to be running crisp routes and showed some physicality and toughness which I liked. He absolutely ran over Jerrell Young on one play when Young got in his way on his route, and after he beat another defender for a catch in traffic he bumped him as he finished the rep. I really like this kid and I can’t wait to see how he looks the rest of the week. I will have an interview with Tim later this week as well.

Thomas Mayo, WR, California (PA): Mayo has been getting some hype as a small-school receiver and he definitely lived up to some of it today. He displayed impressive hands as he made a couple nice snags outside of his frame today. One scout I talked to said that when he worked him out he thought he had some concentration issues that led to drops, but that didn’t look like an issue today. It’s something I will be looking for the rest of the week though. I thought he looked a bit slow when he was running his routes though and he does need coaching up with his route running, but I think he has more straight line speed than quickness and burst. It will be interesting to see if that hypothesis holds up this week, but I did like some of what I saw from Mayo today.

A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: Jenkins is a guy that I have been high on for a long time and I even had him on my list of potential break-out players before the season started. He had a good season like I expected, but he did not have a good day today. He had way too many drops, at least four if I remember correctly, and while he showed the ability to create separation and to beat guys deep he didn’t finish the play with a reception. That really disappointed me, and I’m hoping that since he was a relatively late addition to the game that he just had an off day. I have high expectations for him the rest of the week, but today was not a good start for him at all.

Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: Lewis didn’t stick out to me much today, but on a couple plays he did demonstrate solid athleticism and hands. He looked passes into his hands well, but early on in practice he seemed a little bit nervous. Maybe that’s just my interpretation, but regardless I expect him to be more involved in the next three days of practice than he seemed to be today. He’s got draftable ability despite measuring in smaller than his previously listed 6’3” height.

B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: Cunningham started off the practice great today making catches on passes outside of his frame and looking like a polished receiver ready for the next level. But as practice progressed and he started going up against defenders he struggled to separate from some of the athletic defensive backs and showcased his inconsistent hands by dropping a number of passes. I was frankly surprised how well he was catching the ball early on in practice because I always questioned his hands when I watched film of him. He definitely lived up to that billing though, but it’s tough to figure out if his hands aren’t that good, if he has concentration issues or if it’s a mixture of both. I’ll keep track of it the rest of the week and post my thoughts on it.

Kevin Hardy, WR, Citadel: Hardy definitely has some athleticism and he showed quality speed and burst when he was running routes. His hands were inconsistent as well and definitely dropped some passes early on in practice. This same thing happened with Perry Baker last year and he recovered well and had a great rest of the week, so hopefully Hardy can do the same.

LaRon Byrd, WR, Miami: This may be one of the last times I give Byrd much mention in my notes because as expected I don’t think he will be drafted. He looked slow today, showed little to no burst or suddenness in his route running, and had as many dropped passes as anyone if not the most of any receiver all day. He’s an undrafted guy for sure and I’m not sure he will even get practice squad looks.

Tight Ends:

Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple: Rodriguez looked like the best tight end on the East roster today. He showed good burst and speed to threaten down the seam and absolutely burned Jerrell Young down the seam as he used good suddenness in his route to catch him flat footed and literally fly right by him. Young recovered though and managed to get up and deflect the pass which was lucky for him because Rodriguez was 5+ yards away from him down the field. Regardless, Rodriguez impressed me today and I will definitely be paying more attention to him as a blocker the rest of the week.

Chase Ford, TE, Miami: I did not have a lot of praise for Ford in my preview for this game but I have to admit he looked pretty good today. He isn’t a great in-line blocker and that showed today, but he made a number of nice catches outside of his frame and showed quality hands. I don’t know that he will be able to threaten much down the seam, but he made a couple nice catches in traffic today which helps him. He’s still an undrafted guy in my book, but he helped himself today.

Offensive Line:

Derek Dennis, OG, Temple: Dennis may have been the most impressive offensive lineman today in my opinion. I didn’t spend a lot of time watching the offensive line today, but every time I watched him he played with good pad level, bent at the knees, showed good hand placement and balance. I didn’t see him match up with Nick Jean-Baptiste at all, but that is a match-up I can’t WAIT to watch the rest of the week.

Desmond Wynn, OT, Rutgers: Wynn was listed as an OG by the Shrine Game roster but I think he has a chance to stick as a RT or as a guard. He measured in at 6’5”, 305 pounds today with 34 inch arms and 10 inch hands. He definitely started the day out right at the weigh in and continued his strong day in practice. Wynn was one of the only guys I saw slow down Akiem Hicks today and if he can work on his pad level a bit I think he has a future as a starter on the offensive line.

Rishaw Johnson, OG, California (PA): Johnson was getting some hype coming into the day but I wasn’t very impressed, particularly in the run game. He did a better job in 1 on 1’s in pass protection, but looked slow and heavy footed in the run game.

I didn’t get many notes on the offensive tackles today, but overall I was not impressed with them as a group. They did a good job in 1 on 1’s against guys like Julian Miller and Jabaree Tuani, but struggled against guys like Kyle Wilber and Micanor Regis. I don’t think this OT class is particularly strong, but it was only the first day. I’ll definitely have more notes on the offensive line the rest of the week.

Quentin Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State: Saulsberry doesn’t look like a dominant center but he looks like a well-rounded player who looked good in 1 on 1’s. This may just have been because his teammate Tyler Horn looked completely overmatched and didn’t look draftable today, particularly in 1 on 1’s. I’m excited to see him the rest of the week.

Defensive Line:

Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: All I can say is WOW. NJB as he will be referred to in the rest of my notes was fantastic in 1 on 1’s today. I didn’t pay attention to him in the team drills, but believe me I will be the rest of the week. I had concerns about him holding up versus the run and those concerns have not yet been dissuaded, but NJB looked like BJ Raji in 1 on 1’s. He is a shorter defensive tackle as he measured in at just under 6’2”, 335 pounds much like Raji is and his frame reminds me of Raji’s as well. That’s not to say NJB will end up in the top 10, but the comparison popped into my head today when I was watching him. He showed good burst off the snap, very active, strong and powerful hands and was essentially unblockable. Even when an offensive lineman was in good position and mirrored him he continued fighting thanks to an impressive motor (at least in this drill) and usually ended up winning the drill. I was very impressed and he looked like the #1 DT on either roster based on what I saw from him today. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table the rest of the week, but I hope he does this well in team drills particularly versus the run.

Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina (Canada): Like NJB I mostly saw Hicks in 1 on 1’s but he impressed me there as well. He was solid off the ball, showed active hands and quality bend and hip flexibility which was very nice to see. I was told to watch out for him this week and I definitely see some of what I was told to watch for. He’s got a ways to go as far as technique but the effort seemed to be there. While his hands were active they weren’t always effective and his pad level was inconsistent. When he got his pads low though he showed an effective bull rush which was definitely encouraging. He needs coaching, but the kid has upside without a doubt. He definitely won the weigh-in if that counts for anything since he measured in at 6’4.5”, 324 pounds with 35 1/8 inch arms and 10 1/8 inch hands.

Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: Conrath predictably looked slow off the edge today and gave credence to the people who have been projecting him inside to defensive tackle. But he measured in at 6’7”, 281 pounds so I don’t think that is his best position despite what others might think. I think he should continue to bulk up and get stronger and attempt to play 3-4 defensive end where his edge speed wouldn’t be as much of an issue and his height and frame would be a huge plus. He has upside but it isn’t as a 4-3 defensive end which is where he is playing this week. That’s unfortunate for him, but hopefully he can demonstrate his value despite playing out of position today.

Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: Wilber looks just as skinny in person as he does in film and his legs in particular looked very lean which is concerning, but he looked like a natural in 1 on 1’s. He demonstrated quality hand usage and looked smooth using his hands and pass rush moves to beat seemingly overmatched offensive tackles. He won’t hold up well in the run game because of his lack of size and strength, but he is a possible OLB convert thanks to some of his pass rush potential. He didn’t have a big year rushing the passer like I thought he might, but I am really excited to see what he does the rest of the week.

Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: Regis had a couple nice plays today and looked solid in 1 on 1’s. He had a couple impressive bull rushes where he decimated the offensive lineman he was going up against but he was also swallowed up at times. He’s got upside and I think he has some draftable ability so I will be watching him the rest of the week, but I don’t think he helped himself too much today.

Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia: Miller didn’t impress me much today and looked unspectacular in 1 on 1 drills. He didn’t create much push and didn’t show much edge speed either. He is either a versatile player or a ‘tweener, and right now it looks more like the latter unfortunately.

Linebackers:

Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: Lindsey started his full-time transition to linebacker today and from what I saw it went pretty well. I am very interested to see how he does in coverage the rest of the week but the little I saw of him today was positive. It’s not easy to transition from a down lineman to outside linebacker so I expect some significant growing pains at some point, but I expect he will demonstrate his upside at some point as well.

Max Gruder, LB, Pittsburgh: A couple of scouts sitting around me had good things to say about Gruder today and they were talking about the positive experience they had watching him when they traveled to Pitt’s campus on a scouting trip this year. That doesn’t surprise me one bit because while Gruder isn’t a physical freak he is very fundamentally sound. He’s easy to like for that reason, so while he may not have much starter upside I do have a draftable grade on him because I think he would be very valuable on special teams and as a reserve.

Cornerbacks:

Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina: Everyone was talking about Norman today as a result of his two interceptions. Not too many people mentioned that on the play he collected his 2nd interception on he made significant contact with the receiver as he was running his route and enabled him to recover and track the deep ball and come down with the interception. Not exactly perfect coverage, but he did display quality ball skills all practice thanks to his two interceptions plus a couple of nice pass deflections. He definitely impressed me as I had never seen him before but he consistently stuck out in one on one drills. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on him this week.

Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton: Pellerin impressed me today as well though I didn’t see him very much. He definitely seemed to give B.J. Cunningham fits when he matched up against him, but he showed quality athleticism, closing speed and seemed to be a pretty fluid athlete. Combine that with measuring in at just over 6’0” this morning and he had a good day.

R.J. Blanton, CB, Notre Dame: Blanton didn’t stick out to me too much today but he did seem to have a pretty good feel in coverage. This isn’t a great barometer, but on one play he was covering LaRon Byrd and he almost seemed to run Byrd’s route better than he did. That probably has something to do with Byrd having no suddenness as a route runner, but it was still impressive to see from Blanton.

Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: As I pointed out in my preview, Brown’s upside is as a zone corner and he showed that today as he closed well on plays in front of him. He turns and runs pretty well though he does have a bit of tightness in his hips. I’m not very high on him and I don’t think he has a lot to offer as a man coverage corner, but he has a chance to prove me wrong this week.

Justin Bethel, CB, Presbyterian: Bethel was a bit of a confusing prospect for me today because he showed some ability to close on plays in front of him but his backpedal needs serious work. There were times he wasn’t even pedaling in 1 on 1’s which was a bit surprising to see. He’s a small school guy who probably got away with some sloppy technique against a lower level of competition, but that won’t work very well here. If he tries that against the talented group of West receivers on Saturday he will get abused.

Safeties:

Matt Daniels, SS, Duke: Daniels has some ability but he didn’t look very good in man coverage today. He got burned a couple times and one time he got burned so bad that when he reached out to try to grab and hold the receiver as he ran his route he couldn’t even reach the guy. I expect that he will have better days than he did today, but today wasn’t a great day for him.

Jerrell Young, S, South Florida: I mentioned him a few times in earlier notes I had on offensive players and that means there weren’t a lot of positive plays that I saw from Young today. He got caught flat-footed in coverage a couple times and got burned as a result of it.

Christian Thompson, S, South Carolina State: I didn’t take a lot of notes on Thompson but he didn’t measure in very well this morning. He was just over 6’0”, 213 pounds and only had 31 5/8 inch arms and small 8 ¼ inch hands. He also looked leggy in his backpedal and didn’t click and close very effectively when I was watching him early on in drills. Overall this group of safeties did not impress me, the corners looked much better today.

Quarterbacks:

-BJ Coleman, QB, Tennessee – Chattanooga. 6’3”, 220 pounds, 4.93 40 yard dash
-I really like B.J. Coleman. He missed some time due to injury this year which I thought might hurt him, but I was very happy to see him get an invite to the East-West Shrine Game. His game reminds me a bit of Nathan Enderle from last year, and there are some parallels between them that are pretty interesting (both started Senior season vs Nebraska, strong armed QB’s without much talent around them, both invited to East-West Shrine Game. I could go on, but I won’t.) Regardless, Coleman is a quality prospect in his own right and I think he has a chance to go in the first four rounds. This week will be big for him but if he is healthy he should have impressive ball velocity, good accuracy and pretty good pocket presence. I look forward to taking notes on him all week.

-Johnny Brantley, QB, Florida: 6’3”, 220 pounds, 4.89 40 yard dash
-I left his name as “Johnny” since that was how it was listed on the official roster and it cracked me up. Brantley is a guy that is starting to get some buzz as a sleeper and I understand why. He’s got experience playing in the SEC and he’s got a very strong arm. He did not have much success in his last two seasons as a starter in Florida but playing for two entirely different coaching staffs with very different offensive philosophies certainly didn’t help. I’m sure he appreciated not being taken out on 1st and 2nd down and thrust into a 3rd and long this year like he was in Urban Meyer’s last season at Florida (his first as a starter). He still didn’t do much passing this year in his first and only year under Charlie Weiss (who is now the head man at Kansas) but he did throw for 2,044 yards while completing 60% of his passes for an 8.5 yard average per attempt. He only threw 11 touchdowns as compared to 7 interceptions, but that was an improvement over his very unimpressive 9 touchdown, 10 interception stat line as a junior. Plenty of people have soured on him and don’t give him much of a chance at the NFL, but guys with his size and arm strength are always in demand. He’s been through a lot at Florida, but if he can have a solid week at the Shrine Game it could ensure him a chance as a late round draft pick or as an undrafted free agent come April.

-Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: 6’1”, 221 pounds, 4.78 40 yard dash
-Davis is the quarterback with the least upside of the quarterbacks on the East Roster. His size and arm strength are both average for the NFL and if there are any windy days down in St. Petersburg I think that will become very apparent. He’s the most athletic of the three quarterbacks and he does have an abundance of starting experience but I don’t think he has enough upside to warrant much consideration before the 7th round or as a priority free agent in April. He’s solid in a number of areas but spectacular in none, though he is supposed to have pretty good intangibles and football IQ. I don’t expect to see anything different than what I did at Southern Mississippi, but he might have the biggest adjustment to taking snaps from under center since Brantley had a chance to do that a bit with Weiss at Florida this year and Coleman ran an offense with pro-style looks in it. He’s definitely #3 on the depth chart for me, but it will be interesting to see him up close.

Running Backs:

– Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: 5’10”, 215 pounds, 4.56 40 yard dash
-Poole isn’t a freak athlete and he isn’t a burner, but he is a compact, well built running back. I like running backs that have compact, well filled out frames and Poole fits that bill. He runs hard, he’s strong, he has a good natural pad level because of his size, and he has shown the ability to run through arm tackles and gain yardage after contact. He’s my #1 RB at the East-West Shrine Game and I’m excited to see him in person. He’s an underrated guy that may not go very high on draft day but will be ready to contribute immediately and surprise people in training camp.

-Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland: 5’8”, 215 pounds, 4.56 40 yard dash
-I’m not a big fan of Meggett. He’s never really been the feature back until this season and his lack of production gives me pause when trying to evaluate him. He’s got the compact frame that I like in a running back, but he doesn’t break as many tackles and gain as many yards after contact as you would think given his size and strength. He’s supposed to be a big weight room guy who works very hard and was a team captain, but weight room strength doesn’t always translate to the football field and I’m worried that it doesn’t in his case. I question his balance a bit and that concerns me since I’m not sold on his vision and he doesn’t have the burst and speed to rip off big chunks of yardage. He’s a complete back though because he can run the ball, catch it out of the backfield and offer effort as a pass blocker. He needs work in all areas in my opinion, but there is ability to mold in all facets. He’s got some upside because he’s never really gotten a chance to be a feature back, but I wonder if he will ever reach it.

Wide Receivers:

-T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State: 5’11”, 180 pounds, 4.36 40 yard dash
-Graham definitely doesn’t look like he weighs 180 pounds to me so I will be very interested to see what he weighs in at. My estimation would be he’s actually about 5’10”, 170 pounds but that is just my opinion. Regardless of his official measurements there is no denying his speed and explosiveness. He put all of his ability on display in NC State’s bowl game against Louisville as he put on a show with 7 receptions for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns in that game. He finished the season with 46 receptions, 757 yards and 7 TD’s receiving this year which nearly exceeded all of his production as a receiver from his previous three seasons on the Wolfpack. In his first three years he totaled 52 career receptions, 673 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. He was only 6 receptions short of doubling his career receptions, yards and touchdowns total as a receiver as a senior. On top of that, Graham also has 630 career punt return yards with one touchdown and 3,157 career kick return yards and two more touchdowns. He had well over 5,000 total yards as a member of the Wolfpack and I think that his value as a receiver and a kick returner will be on full display during the East-West Shrine Game. I definitely think Graham will be a riser during the week and I really like his NFL upside. He’s my #1 WR on the East going into the week, so it will be very fun to see him play in person.

-B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: 6’2”, 216 pounds, 4.59 40 yard dash
-I’m not a big Cunningham fan personally but there’s no denying the production he has amassed while at Michigan State. He has never had a season with under 500 receiving yards in his four years as a Spartan and in the past two years he has totaled 129 receptions, 1,917 yards and 21 touchdowns receiving. The list of more impressive stat lines over the last two seasons is pretty short and it’s headlined by a potential top five pick in Justin Blackmon. As a senior Cunningham had by far his best season with 79 receptions, 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a junior he was pretty inconsistent and dropped too many passes for my liking, but he seemed to improve that a bit as a senior. His hands are still a concern for me and I will be paying close attention to both how well he catches the ball this week and HOW he catches the ball. Namely, is he snagging passes outside of his frame, therefore displaying quality range, or is he body catching and letting passes outside of his frame bounce off his hands.

-Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech: 6’0”, 200 pounds, 4.43 40 yard dash
-Coale is a guy I have been paying attention to for the last two years because I’ve watched a significant amount of Virginia Tech over that time and while he may not be the #1 receiver on their depth chart there isn’t a lot of doubt in my mind that he had the best hands on the team. I was and still am high on Jarrett Boykin, a fellow senior who will be vying to be drafted, but Coale is a quality player in his own right. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him drop a routine pass and he adjusts very well to the ball when it’s in the air and has much better timed speed than I expected him to have. He’s got serious sleeper potential and I think he could be a guy that catches a lot of people’s eyes during the week of practices at the Shrine Game because he will almost certainly make a great catch that sticks in people’s minds. He is all effort all the time and while he probably won’t go very high in the draft I would be shocked if he didn’t end up making a NFL roster and working his way into a contributing role.

-Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: 6’1”, 209 pounds, 4.50 40 yard dash
-Lewis is a solidly built WR that has more speed than I expected him to have. I haven’t seen him enough to quantify exactly how good his hands are, but he strikes me as a mid-late round prospect that should be able to stick on a NFL roster. He missed three or four games this season which hurt his statistics as he totaled 60 receptions, 600 yards and 8 touchdowns on the year. That’s a solid total, but it pales in comparison to his junior season (his first with East Carolina) when he burst onto the scene with 89 receptions, 1,116 yards and 14 touchdowns. I haven’t done enough tape study to figure out if the drop-off is due only to his missed playing time or if he was not the same player he was last year when he had Dwayne Harris playing with him. Hopefully he is 100% ready to go and he can impress in this game because I think he has enough value to get drafted in the 5th or 6th round range.

-Thomas Mayo, WR, California-Pennsylvania: 6’2”, 200 pounds, 4.59 40 yard dash
-Pennsylvania: Mayo is a guy who is getting some love as a small-school sleeper. I haven’t seen any game tape of him yet, but I have heard good things. I’m very excited to see him in person and I think he has a chance to make himself some money if he plays well. I have a feeling a lot of people know of him, but don’t have a great feel for his game yet.

-LaRon Byrd, WR, Miami: 6’4”, 220 pounds, 4.53 40 yard dash
-I’m not sure why Byrd is on this roster to be honest. I thought he had some upside a couple of years ago, but he has continually disappointed me and anyone else who expected him to be productive. He was effectively buried on Miami’s depth chart and Jacory Harris’ ineptitude at quarterback didn’t help things, but I am pretty skeptical of Byrd’s talents at this point. He had more touchdowns as a freshman (4) than he had the next three years of his career (3, one each season). On top of that, he capped off his career as a Hurricane with a monster season totaling 11 receptions, 125 yards and 1 touchdown. Obviously I was being sarcastic saying he had a monster season since there are players playing in this game that have almost as many touchdown receptions this year as he had overall receptions. Byrd has the size and athleticism combination you would like to have in a receiver, but I’m not sold on his hands and his lack of almost any progression over his entire career at Miami makes me question whether he will ever reach the potential he seemed to flash as a freshman three years ago.

Tight Ends:

-Chase Ford, TE, Miami: 6’5”, 245 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Ford’s 9 receptions, 88 yards and 1 touchdown may not seem that impressive, but he nearly matched LaRon Byrd’s production, so he must be good! I personally don’t think Ford was the best tight end on Miami’s roster, I think Blake Ayles (a USC transfer) was. Unfortunately, Ayles went down with an injury at the beginning of the season and didn’t accrue any stats this year. Hopefully he will be healthy soon, but in the mean-time I can’t say I think Ford has much of a chance of being drafted. Ayles would have been the starter had it not been for his injury, so I don’t have very high expectations for Ford this week. Frankly, I think there are other more deserving tight ends that could have been in this game. Ladarius Green, Nick Provo, Aron White and James Hanna are all guys I like at this position that won’t be at this game.

Offensive Guards:

-Derek Dennis, OG, Temple: 6’3”, 328 pounds, 5.45 40 yard dash
-I wanted to give you guys a synopsis of what I expect from the offensive tackles for this roster but I haven’t seen any of them enough to give you what I consider a quality breakdown of their abilities. I’ve always enjoyed watching offensive line play though, so rest assured I will keep a close eye on them throughout the week. Dennis, however, I have seen. I’ll admit before the first time I saw him I glanced at his 40 yard dash time and wondered how athletic he could be, but that’s just another reason not to put stock in the 40 yard dash times of offensive linemen. Dennis moves much better than his 40 yard dash time would seem to indicate, especially for such a large man. I think Dennis could be a real riser this week, especially if his line coach can coach him up a bit and help him with his technique. Dennis has some tools you look for in an offensive lineman and while I don’t think he will go before round 4 or 5 I do think he has starter potential in the future. He’s going to take a year or two of coaching up and developing, but if he takes coaching well and has a good work ethic I think you could see him starting in a few years.

Centers:

-Quentin Saulsberry, OC, Mississippi State: 6’2”, 300 pounds, 5.16 40 yard dash
-Saulsberry is kind of under the radar right now since there are some talented interior offensive linemen in this class. The center class is headlined by a first round center in Peter Konz, but it has some draftable talent and Saulsberry is in that group. I don’t have a great feel for his game yet, but he is being mentioned as a sleeper and I am excited to see how he looks this next week. He’s an under the radar guy, but he might be a riser this week.

Defensive Ends:

-Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: 6’7”, 280 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Conrath has played DE at Virginia for a long time but a few people have started to project him inside. I disagree with that because I think he has a pretty ideal frame to bulk up and play defensive end in a 3-4 defense. He might not be big enough yet, but at 6’7” he has the frame you love to see in 3-4 defensive ends. It will be interesting to see where he plays this week since I don’t think he is a great fit as a left end in a 4-3 defensive scheme but I don’t think he fits well as a defensive tackle in that scheme either. As a result he might be a little out of position this week depending on where he lines up, but as a mid-late round guy I like him.

-Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia: 6’3”, 268 pounds, 4.76 40 yard dash
-Miller is a solid but not spectacular defensive end for West Virginia. Playing opposite Bruce Irvin meant he didn’t attract a lot of attention and that helped him rack up 57 total tackles (31 solo), 11.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 pass break-ups this season. I don’t think he has a lot of edge speed and I don’t think he’s fantastic against the run either, so I question how much upside he has at defensive end. I think his best case scenario is being a rotational defensive end in the NFL, but I am looking forward to seeing how he looks in person getting off the ball, how much bend he has and how well he uses his hands among other things.

-Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: 6’4”, 240 pounds, 4.70 40 yard dash
-Wilber is a guy that I was high on coming into the season but he didn’t have the break-out season that I expected him to have. Many people think he will have to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL and I tend to agree. He has a pretty skinny frame despite his 6’4” height so I don’t know how much weight he will be able to pack on. He’s listed at 240 pounds and I think he could get up to 250 or 255 pounds on a quality weight training program but even at that weight he is likely too light to be able to play at right end in the NFL. This week will be important for him because he may get a chance to drop into coverage at some point. I haven’t seen him do that much at Wake Forest but I haven’t completed my film study on him yet. Regardless, he’s an athletic guy with upside in my opinion. This year he had 69 total tackles (47 solo), 10.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass deflection and he also blocked a kick. In the past two years he has 25 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 6 pass break-ups and 2 blocked kicks. The production and athletic ability is there, so I’m hoping he can have a big week and help demonstrate the ability that led me to put him on my list of potential break-out players at the beginning of the season.

Defensive Tackles:

-Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: 6’2”, 335 pounds, 5.06 40 yard dash
-Jean-Baptiste definitely catches your eye when he’s on the field because of his sheer size. The weigh-in will be important for him because if he comes in looking flabby and out of shape it will raise some concern from talent evaluators. However, his combination of size and athleticism is pretty impressive. I just don’t think he is as good as he could be yet given his natural size and athleticism. He was a complete non-factor in the Anti-Defense Bowl between Baylor and Washington a couple weeks ago and that’s concerning to me. I am interested to see how he plays this week but it seems that defensive tackles, perhaps more than any other position (at least, off the top of my head) really know how to turn it on when they are playing for a pay-check. Albert Haynesworth is the best example I can think of to support this claim, and if Jean-Baptiste plays great this week in stark contrast to his performance against Washington it will help his stock but make teams wonder where this effort level and ability was when everyone watching that game was begging for a quality defensive performance.

-Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: 6’2”, 305 pounds, 5.20 40 yard dash
-Regis was definitely overshadowed at Miami because that defensive line was bursting with talent. They didn’t live up to it this year unfortunately, but a defensive line with Olivier Vernon, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo had a lot of potential. That left Regis in a reserve role before Forston’s injury, and even though he has had playing time throughout his career at Miami he has never had more than 8.0 TFL and 3.0 sacks, which he posted as a junior last year. I’m not sure he has much upside beyond a defensive tackle that can contribute to a 4-3 rotation, but it will be interesting to see how he looks this week.

Linebackers:

-Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: 6’2”, 250 pounds, 4.68 40 yard dash
-Lindsey flashed onto the scene as a junior when he posted an impressive 18.0 TFL, 10.0 sacks and 3 fumbles forced after Greg Romeus went down with another injury. This year he was without Romeus and Jabaal Sheard but he still posted 55 total tackles (31 solo), 11.0 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 pass deflection. Lindsey doesn’t project to a defensive end position very well but I think he will be able to transition effectively to the outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 defense. He’s an athletic guy and has shown that he’s capable of producing at Pittsburgh even though he may not have been used properly.

-Max Gruder, MLB, Pittsburgh: 6’1”, 230 pounds, 4.71 40 yard dash
-Gruder isn’t a freak athlete by any means and he probably doesn’t project to be a NFL starter now or in the future, but I think he’s going to be a great special teams player and a quality reserve in the NFL. He’s a reliable tackler and the Pittsburgh coaching staff admitted that they continued to try to take him out of the lineup but he was so fundamentally sound that he always found his way back onto the field. It will be interesting to see how he looks this week, but I wouldn’t expect him to be dominant in any one phase of the game. He seems like a guy who is solid in all facets but spectacular in none, and while that may help get him drafted I don’t think it gives him a great shot to start in the NFL.

Cornerbacks:

-Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: 5’9”, 204 pounds, 4.49 40 yard dash
-Brown is another undersized cornerback from North Carolina that I think is primarily a zone corner personally. I always thought that his former teammate Kendric Burney was the better player and Burney went undrafted. That’s not to say that Brown will also go undrafted, but it speaks to where his draft stock is likely to end up barring a spectacular performance this week. I don’t think Brown has the size and speed to stick with receivers in man coverage very effectively, but North Carolina likes to run zone coverage and Brown should offer value in that phase of the game. I am interested to see him try to press corners during the week and I want to see how he does in man to man, though I anticipate him having some issues especially against taller, more physical receivers.

Safeties:

-Matt Daniels, S, Duke: 6’0”, 210 pounds, 4.53 40 yard dash
-Daniels is a quality sleeper prospect at the safety position. He isn’t a freak athlete but based on what I have read he has great intangibles, a high football IQ and an impressive work ethic. Those kinds of players are the ones you like to bet on when it comes to the NFL because they’ll get the most out of their ability even if they don’t project to be perennial pro-bowl players. Daniels has always impressed me as a tackler when I’ve watched him play over the last two years but I have never seen him much in coverage. This year he produced 126 tackles (65 solo), 4.0 TFL, 14 pass deflections, 2 interceptions and 1 forced fumble. I am interested to see how he looks in coverage this week but I expect him to be one of the more reliable tacklers at the East practices all week.

Kickers:

-Blair Walsh, K, Georgia:
-Walsh is a confusing player to me, but then again kickers in general are pretty confusing to me. During his sophomore and junior seasons he missed a combined five field goals, a terrific stat line for any kicker. In his first three years he missed 13 field goals, eight of which occurred when he was kicking as a freshman. Then this season he inexplicably missed 14 field goals, more than he had missed his entire career up until this point! I haven’t done my film study of Georgia yet but I definitely will and I am very interested to see what situations he missed kicks in. I’m not sure what to expect from him this week, but hopefully he gets his mojo back and starts making kicks more consistently because he’s got a helluva leg. He had 19 touchbacks this year and that was kicking from the 30. In the NFL he will be able to kick the ball into the end zone very consistently and provide a lot of touchbacks for his special teams unit. That gives him value, but it won’t mean much if he can’t make field goals when asked to.

This is obviously just a fraction of the talent at the East-West Shrine Game, but these are the players I am more familiar with. I’ll have notes on most every player by the end of the week and they will be posted here every day after practice, so check in every day for your East-West Shrine Game fix!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom

Austin Davis has had an impressive career at Southern Mississippi but he is an average NFL Draft prospect in my opinion.

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Miss: Austin Davis is a solid college quarterback that has been productive throughout his career but I just don’t see him being a future NFL starter without something considerable changing. His arm strength is average, his accuracy is average, he has not impressed me with his poise in the face of pressure, and while he does have mobility I don’t think it makes up for some of his shortcomings as a passer. He spends the vast amount of his time in a shotgun, has solid mechanics, but there is nothing spectacular about him. He may be draftable but if he is then he is going to be a late round pick in the 7th round range but I would not be surprised if he went undrafted.

Tracy Lampley, RB/WR, Southern Miss: Lampley is a junior playmaker on Southern Miss and has consistently made plays when they really need them most. He is only a junior so he should be back next year, but he absolutely dominated against Houston with 71 yards rushing and 125 yards receiving with two touchdowns. He has also demonstrated some potential as a punt returner this year with 350 yards and 1 touchdown on the season as well as an average of 12.07 yards per return. He is a smaller player at only 5’9”, 168 pounds according to the listing I have but he definitely has 4.45-ish speed. He’s very explosive and just has a knack for making big plays. He is definitely an under the radar guy to watch for his senior year next year for the 2013 NFL Draft.

Dominique Sullivan, WR, Southern Miss: Sullivan is a sophomore wide receiver on Southern Miss that I think has significant potential. He has impressive size at 6’4”, 208 pounds and even though he was behind two seniors on the depth chart he produced 27 receptions, 386 yards and 2 TD’s this year after barely contributing anything as a freshman. He is ready to step up into a go-to guy role in my opinion and will be one to watch as a junior next year. I don’t know how good his hands are yet because he had a solid catch in traffic on one hand but also dropped a pass he let get into his pads once and let a quick slant that was high but hit him right in the hands bounce off them and fall incomplete. He’s got upside but all his physical ability is worthless without quality hands.

Cordarro Law absolutely took this game over in the second half. He is a very consistently disruptive player, the only question about him is his lack of size.

Cordarro Law, DT, Southern Miss: Cordarro Law is an undersized defensive lineman as he is listed at 6’2”, 261 pounds but may weigh more than that. He is a pretty athletic defensive lineman, he flashed a nice spin move in this game, solid hand usage, and has been an absolute TFL machine this year. After this game I believe he will have 20 if not more on the year which is very impressive. He is very consistently disruptive due to his athletic ability, burst and quickness. I like his potential as a DT in a 4-3 scheme but if he is lighter than 280 pounds he is going to need to gain some weight because even 280 pounds is pretty undersized for a 4-3 DT. He has legitimate upside and while I’m not sure he will be a very high draft pick I have a gut feeling that he will be involved in a NFL rotation sooner rather than later. He’s got a good motor, solid technique and good athleticism. He can contribute at DT if he can add weight without losing the quickness that has made him so disruptive.

Lampford Mark, RB, Nevada: Mark is a player that I had never watched before tonight but he has impressed me. Is he the next Adrian Peterson? No, but I think he can contribute at the next level. He might not be a starting back, and he might not get drafted early, but I think he has NFL talent. He’s a 6’1”, 200 pound running back but so few people are talking about him that I can’t even find a listed 40 yard dash time for him. He was Nevada’s leading rusher this year and will finish with 900+ rushing yards on the season after another huge rushing game against Southern Miss. I really hope he gets an invite to an All Star game but even if he doesn’t I think he warrants some consideration as a UDFA. Maybe he won’t get drafted, but I saw enough from him tonight to think that he at least has a shot at the next level.

Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada: Unfortunately Matthews did not play in this game but he is probably the top rated prospect that could have played in this game. He is listed at 6’2”, 215 pounds and produced 91 receptions, 1,364 yards and 8 touchdowns as well as 307 yards and a punt return touchdown (13.35 average per return). It’s too bad he wasn’t able to play in this game and he clearly had an impact because Nevada’s passing game really struggled to get going even with Mark’s fantastic first half.

Brett Roy isn't the biggest defensive tackle but he is strong, has a great motor and has such a good work ethic it's hard to doubt him.

Brett Roy, DT, Nevada: Roy is not a highly rated defensive tackle prospect but I think his combination of size (6’3”, 280 pounds), strength, hand usage and a very obvious intensity and motor will make him a draftable prospect. He wasn’t as disruptive as Cordarro Law was in this game, but he definitely had a significant impact. He seems to have strong hands and pursues well because of his motor. He could stand to add some more weight to get up to 285+ but I don’t think that will be an issue as it was announced during the game that he came to the Wolfpack as a 200+ pound safety and is leaving as a 280+ pound defensive tackle. Roy strikes me as a guy that isn’t the most athletically gifted player but his work ethic, motor and sheer effort level will lead him to a NFL defensive tackle rotation. He’s probably in the 5th-6th round range right now, but maybe he will move up if he performs well in an All-Star Game.

James-Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada: I haven’t seen much of Johnson but he has been invited to the Senior Bowl so assuming my credentials are good to go I will be able to see him in person in just a few weeks. He didn’t have a mind-blowing stat line this year as the 6’2”, 240 pound linebacker had 88 total tackles (44 solo), 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble and 3 pass break-ups. He’s a pretty solid player that is a mid-round prospect at this point but Dontay Moch was a mid-round guy at this point in the season also but shot up draft boards because of his athleticism. I’d be surprised if Johnson did the same, but his stock can still be boosted.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

1- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Grade: Top 10
2- Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina: Grade: 1st Round
3- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Grade: 1st round
4- Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd
5- Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas: Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd
6- Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers: Grade: Early/Mid 2nd
7- Rueben Randle, WR, LSU: Grade: Early/Mid 2nd
8- Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin: Grade: 2nd/3rd
9- Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina: Grade: 2nd/3rd
10- Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa: Grade: Grade: 3rd
11- A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: Grade: 3rd
12- Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State: Grade: 3rd
13- T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International: Grade: 3rd/4th
14- Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas: Grade: 4th
15- Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma: Grade: 4th
16- Marquis Maze, WR, Alabama: Grade: 4th
17- Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas: Grade: 4th/5th
18- Jarrett Boykin, WR, Virginia Tech: Grade: 4th/5th
19- DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State: Grade: 5th
20- Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M: Grade: 5th
21- Juron Criner, WR, Arizona: Grade: 5th
22- Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada: Grade: 5th
23- Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington: Grade: 5th/6th
24- B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: Grade: 5th/6th
25- Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona State: Grade: 5th/6th
26- Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: Grade: 6th
27- Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan: Grade: 6th
28- Marvin Jones, WR, California: Grade: 6th
29- Chris Owusu, WR, Stanford: Grade: 6th
30- Derek Moye, WR, Penn State: Grade: 6th
31- Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami: Grade: 6th/7th
32- Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State: Grade: 7th
33- T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State: Grade: 7th
34- Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State: Grade: 7th
35- Mike Willie, WR, Arizona State: Grade: 7th
36- Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan: Grade: 7th/UDFA
37- James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State: Grade: 7th/UDFA
38- Da’Jon McKnight, WR, Minnesota: Grade: 7th/UDFA
39- Thomas Mayo, WR, California (PA): Grade: 7th/UDFA
40- Darius Reynolds, WR, Iowa State: Grade: 7th/UDFA

1- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama*: Grade: Top 15 Overall
2- Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin*: Grade: Early 2nd Round
3- Lamar Miller, RB, Miami*: Grade: Early 2nd Round
4- David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech*: Grade: Early 2nd Round
5- LaMichael James, RB, Oregon*: Grade: Early/Mid 2nd round
6- Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple*: Grade: 3rd round
7- Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas*: Grade: 3rd round
8- Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: Grade: 3rd/4th round
9- Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State*: Grade: 3rd/4th round
10- Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State: Grade: 4th round
11- Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: Grade: 4th round
12- Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati: Grade: 4th/5th round
13- Brandon Bolden, RB, Mississippi: Grade: 5th round
14- Chris Rainey, RB, Florida: Grade: 5th round
15- Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State: Grade: 5th/6th round
16- Jeff Demps, RB, Florida: Grade: 6th round
17- Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland: Grade: 6th round
18- Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky: Grade: 6th/7th round
19- Marc Tyler, RB, Southern Cal: Grade: 7th round
20- Lennon Creer, RB, Louisiana Tech: Grade: 7th round
21- Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor: Grade: 7th round/UDFA
22- Antwon Bailey, RB, Syracuse: Grade: 7th round/UDFA
23- Adonis Thomas, RB, Toledo: Grade: 7th round/UDFA
24- Victor Anderson, RB, Louisville: Grade: 7th round/UDFA
25- Ryan Houston, RB, North Carolina: Grade: UDFA

My First Mock Draft of the Year

1. Indianapolis- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford:
Analysis: It’s clear to everyone just how valuable Peyton Manning was to the Colts now. He’s practically an MVP candidate and he hasn’t even played a game. The Colts have since fired their defensive coordinator and while it’s arguable the Colts could use defensive upgrades there is no one in the draft that warrants a selection of Andrew Luck. Some people think that the Colts can’t have Luck and Manning on the same roster, but I disagree. Luck may be NFL ready, but you can’t convince me that he would be better off playing as a rookie instead of sitting for a year and learning from Manning. Learning from a MVP and a Super Bowl champion your first year on the job will only make you better.
2. Minnesota- Matt Kalil, OT, Southern Cal:
Analysis: The Vikings made a bold and, in my opinion, a great move releasing Bryant McKinnie. Leslie Frazier put his foot down by making it clear that even a quality LT will get cut if he shows up out of shape and isn’t ready to contribute to the team. However, that didn’t work out that well for the Vikings this year as Charlie Johnson has not been a worthwhile replacement in any sense of the word. He’s been consistently beaten as he’s tried to protect McNabb’s and Ponder’s blind side this year. LT is as big a need as any of the Vikings many needs, and it would be very easy to fix should Kalil declare for the draft this year. He’s the best left tackle in the country, and don’t forget that he was talented enough to keep an eventual top 10 pick in Tyron Smith at right tackle as a junior for the Trojans. Kalil has the potential to start at left tackle from day one, and that makes him very appealing to a team like the Vikings.
3. St. Louis- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State:
Analysis: The Rams have been assembling some pieces on offense in recent years. I’m not sold on Sam Bradford yet, but he is clearly the quarterback of the future for the Rams. With Steven Jackson continuing to play well, Lance Kendricks coming on board in the 2nd round last year, and by acquiring Brandon Lloyd at the trade deadline the Rams have made surrounding Bradford with some weapons a priority. Lloyd is a quality target, but getting him a true #1 target with plenty of upside is something they still need to do. That is where Blackmon comes in. Blackmon is my #1 WR in this draft class, he has very good hands (though he does have concentration lapses at times resulting in drops), fantastic body control and he is very hard to tackle once he has the ball in his hands. He’s the top receiver in this class, and the Rams must only evaluate his character to determine whether he will continue to improve and if he will stay out of trouble once he gets his first NFL paycheck.
4. Jacksonville- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU:
Analysis: The Jaguars have had a good defense this year and they really need offensive help, but one spot they could use help at is cornerback. Looking at the players available at this point I think Claiborne warrants the pick here more than any of them. Matt Barkley might have a higher grade, but with Blaine Gabbert on the roster I don’t think they will even consider a quarterback this early. Some will disagree with that based on Gabbert’s struggles this year, but he shouldn’t have been playing yet anyways. He needed a year to learn on the bench and he didn’t get it, and as a result the Jaguars have risked stunting his development. Claiborne is ready to come in and play right away and he is easily the most impressive cornerback in the country. He has very fluid hips, he turns and runs well, he has very good speed, he’s very athletic, and he has fantastic ball skills and return ability once he has the ball in his hands. He’s a playmaker at corner with great size, long arms and good instincts. It really speaks to LSU’s talent in the secondary that they may have a first round pick from their defensive backfield three years in a row if Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu are drafted in round one in 2012 and 2013.
5. Carolina- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa:
Analysis: The Panthers could use another wide receiver here and they have serious needs on defense, particularly at defensive tackle. However, Jeff Otah has not been particularly impressive when I’ve watched him and he has had serious durability issues since being drafted by the Panthers. Jordan Gross has been a mainstay on the Panthers offensive line for years but he is 31 years old now. He won’t be around forever, and drafting an eventual replacement for him as well as a player who could replace Otah at right tackle should he continue to struggle with injuries. Reiff might not be ready to start at LT right away, but he definitely has NFL LT ability.
6. Miami- Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal:
Analysis: Miami may end up trading up from this spot to assure themselves a shot at Barkley should he actually declare. I think he will after the fantastic season he’s had, but there is a possibility that he could come back and attempt to lead USC to a BCS bowl game. However, if he does come out he is definitely NFL ready as a result of his three years of experience starting in a pro style offense at USC. He is a NFL ready quarterback that could play day one much like Luck if necessary. Ideally he wouldn’t because I believe that quarterbacks should be developed patiently, but that’s just my opinion. Miami hasn’t had a legitimate quarterback since Marino, so hopefully Barkley can break that trend. Again, don’t rule out Miami moving up on draft day if they are in a similar position as they are in this mock to go up and get the quarterback they want.
7. Washington- Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor:
Analysis: Washington could go any variety of ways here, but quarterback is one of their most pressing needs. Rex Grossman and John Beck are not long term solutions by any means, and Robert Griffin has been one of the most impressive players, not just quarterbacks, in the entire country this season. He’s very mobile and his passing has developed vastly every year that he has been at Baylor and his athleticism would be utilized brilliantly by Mike Shanahan and his offense. He’s got as much upside as any quarterback in this class thanks to his passing ability and his athleticism, he just has to be developed appropriately. It’s a tricky thing to do, but Shanahan might be the man for the job.
8. Arizona- Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford:
Analysis: The Cardinals have huge needs along the offensive line but particularly at left tackle. They haven’t been able to adequately fill that position for years, and Levi Brown has not been holding up well at all. He has been flat out abused at times this year, and they don’t have an adequate replacement on the roster right now. I personally am not sold on Jonathan Martin being a quality left tackle yet as I think he might be a more ideal fit at right tackle, but I do think he will be drafted quite high because of his potential projection to the blind side.
9. Philadelphia- Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College:
Analysis: Kuechly continues to impress everyone who watches him. It’s hard to find significant flaws in his game and he has been doing amazing things at the linebacker position for Boston College. He’s a fantastic linebacker and is easily the most NFL ready linebacker that is eligible for the draft this year. He is only a junior so while he is absolutely ready for the jump to the next level it’s not a sure thing that he will leave early. However, the Eagles should be praying that he does because he is the perfect solution for their middle linebacker position. He’s a top 10 lock in my opinion because he is going to test off the charts in interviews and while he might not be an elite athlete with freakish ability he is very arguably the best tackler in the entire country and is as fundamentally sound and reliable as any linebacker prospect in the nation. The Eagles need a player like him in the middle of their defense as bad as anyone, and getting the chance to pick him #9 overall would be a godsend for their franchise.
10. Cleveland- Quentin Coples, DE, North Carolina:
Analysis: Cleveland seems to have hit home with Jabaal Sheard thus far but they don’t have a lot of pass rush talent opposite him and while they do have talent at defensive tackle I don’t think they have a defensive tackle with legitimate pass rush talent inside. Coples projects best to DE in the NFL, and while I’m not sure if he would be at RE or LE for the Browns since I wouldn’t want to move Sheard from where he has had success, I think he projects well to DE at the next level. Ideally he would be at left end, but on top of the value he presents as a starting left end he would also be able to slide inside to defensive tackle in pass rushing situations. He is a ‘tweener to some extent, but I think that works to his advantage in this situation. He would be able to be an every down defensive end, but he has such impressive size and strength that I think he could shift inside and use his athleticism to his advantage to create pressure from the interior in obvious passing situations. That would give the Browns some scheme flexibility and boost Coples’ value even more.
11. Kansas City- Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma:
Analysis: There is significant chance that Cassel will still be the Chiefs quarterback of the future, but he will be 30 next May and there is no indication that he is going to be durable for the long haul. Cassel hasn’t proven to be a franchise quarterback to any extent and the Chiefs front office has been making concerted efforts to surround him with weapons. He has Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin at his disposal now. The effects haven’t been exactly what the Chiefs desired. Landry Jones might not be my favorite quarterback in this class, but he has quality size, arm strength and accuracy. I don’t think he’s a franchise guy and I’m not sure he will win a Super Bowl without a quality supporting cast and a great defense, but that’s just my opinion.
12. Seattle- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama:
Analysis: Richardson is a top talent, but running backs don’t always go in the top five. I would argue that he’s on a similar level as McFadden and perhaps even Adrian Peterson as a prospect, but running backs have to make a fantastic case to go in the top 5-10 picks. There isn’t an incredible amount of demand for a running back in the top five, and outside of Washington and Cleveland there isn’t a ton of demand for running backs in the top 10. Shanahan doesn’t have a track record of picking running backs early on anyways, so I don’t think he would pick Richardson at 7 in this scenario unless he thought he was a truly elite talent. That, in my opinion, would cause Richardson to slide a bit. Seattle might not need him that much given Marshawn Lynch’s re-emergence to a degree, but with all of the highly touted underclassmen quarterbacks off the board I think that Pete Carroll would go in another direction other than quarterback. Richardson would help take a ton of pressure off of Tarvaris Jackson by combining him with Lynch in the running game. This might not be the most likely pick or the best pick for need for the Seahawks, but I do think Carroll is a man who could appreciate the immense value of this selection.
13. San Diego- Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia:
Analysis: San Diego has been searching for an upgrade at outside linebacker since they lost Shawne Merriman to injury years ago. Larry English hasn’t panned out like they thought he would (I personally thought he would be better as a RE in a 4-3, or perhaps only as a situational pass rusher in nickel packages) and they haven’t been able to upgrade him yet. Enter Jarvis Jones, one of the best pass rushers in the entire country. There’s no guarantee that he will declare as he is only a redshirt sophomore, but he has as much upside as a pass rusher as anyone in the nation. He’s been dominant rushing the passer this year and really helped ease the loss of Justin Houston to the NFL and made up for Cornelius Washington’s absence due to suspension at times this season. He’s got tremendous upside and while he needs to get bigger and stronger before he is NFL ready if he did declare I think he would demand immediate top 20 consideration.
14. Tampa Bay- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame:
Analysis: This might not be Tampa Bay’s biggest need, but Josh Freeman has a solid running back in LeGarrette Blount, a talented tight end in Kellen Winslow and a potential #1 WR in Mike Williams, but I think he could use another weapon at wide receiver. Floyd is a good value at #14 overall and has the potential to go higher than this, but his character concerns might drop him a little bit. The Bucs haven’t shied away from character concerns before, especially at wide receiver where they picked the potentially troubled Williams who quit the Syracuse football team and still went in the fourth round. Floyd has had his issues, but he is a talented, big bodied receiver who would really compliment Mike Williams’ explosiveness and burst well.
15. Buffalo- David DeCastro, OG, Stanford:
Analysis: Buffalo needs help along the offensive line and David DeCastro is as good as it gets for an offensive guard prospect. Top 15 picks at OG are extremely rare, but this might be one instance where it could happen. DeCastro is a fantastic guard prospect and while he is only a junior he is ready for the next level. The Bills have a few needs along their roster, but I think that DeCastro would fill a significant need at guard for the Bills.
16. Tennessee- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama:  
Analysis: The Titans have a quality corner in Cortland Finnegan, but they don’t have much talent beyond him. The Titans have other needs they could address here, but picking up a corner like Kirkpatrick who absolutely has top 15 ability makes a lot of sense in my opinion. The Titans have bigger issues than corner thanks to Finnegan’s ability, but getting another quality corner to start opposite him can help the defensive line, and if they are able to boost their pass rush and help out the secondary the Titans defense would really improve considerably. They need upgrades on defense and on offense, but picking up a very good corner like Kirkpatrick can’t hurt here.
17. New York Jets- Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma:
Analysis: The Jets are one of the most creative teams as far as blitzing schemes thanks to Rex Ryan and they have enough talent on the back end to get away with some intricate blitz packages. However, their secondary and defense overall would benefit considerably if they could get a better pass rush out of their base packages. Ronnell Lewis has been one of the better pass rushers in the country and while he is still young he has plenty of upside and the Jets have shown that they have at least some ability to get production out of athletically talented players, most notably Aaron Maybin who looked like an absolute bust on the Bills but has tallied 5 sacks since signing on with the Jets. Lewis is an athletic specimen as well, and if he is developed properly I think he can be a quality pass rusher for the Jets.
18. Denver- Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia:
Analysis: The Broncos defense has really stepped up this season and Von Miller in particular has been playing not only like a Pro-Bowler, but like an All-Pro. He has 10.5 sacks in only 11 games which is almost unheard of for a rookie. The Broncos defense is definitely on the right track, but they could probably use an upgrade at corner. Champ Bailey is getting older but still playing well, however they don’t have an abundance of talent opposite him. I have been high on Minnifield since I watched him last season as a junior, and I think he has legitimate 1st round ability. Any corner that gets a chance to learn from Bailey will benefit considerably from it, but I think Minnifield would help improve Denver’s back end considerably once he was deemed ready to start.
19. New York Giants- Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina:  
Analysis: The Giants may not have as serious of a need at linebacker as it seemed at the beginning of the year if Mark Herzlich proves to be the man for the job, but they have had serious issues with injuries and inconsistency at linebacker for years, so adding some talent to the fold isn’t a bad idea. Brown is extremely athletic and has significant upside and would fit very well on a Giants defense that likes an athletic front 7 and enjoys applying pressure with their front four and linebackers.
20. Dallas- Mark Barron, S, Alabama:
Analysis: Dallas has had issues at safety since they had Roy Williams starting at safety years and years ago and they’ve never really solved that problem. Mark Barron is one of the only safeties in the class that potentially warrants a 1st round pick. I was not high on him after his junior season, but he has shown much more ability in coverage than I expected to see this year. If he truly projects well to the NFL from a coverage standpoint then he definitely warrants 1st round consideration and the Cowboys would be wise to consider selecting him here.
21. Cleveland (F/ATL)- Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State:
Analysis: Cleveland’s offensive line could use an upgrade. Joe Thomas is a stud, but opposite him there isn’t anything special. Mike Adams has some potential as a left tackle, but I think he could be a good or a very good right tackle. He’s a local guy having gone to Ohio State and he would fill a need for them up front.
22. Cincinnati (F/OAK)- Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin:
Analysis: Cincinnati could use significant help along the interior of their offensive line and getting a center like Konz would be ideal. He’s easily the best draft eligible center for the 2012 draft and if he is healthy enough to play in the Big 10 Championship Game or whatever bowl game Wisconsin plays in then I think it is possible that he will declare. Regardless, if he decides to come out he is the rare center that warrants a 1st round selection.
23. Cincinnati- Alfonso Dennard, CB, Nebraska:
Analysis: Cincinnati has some talent at corner, but when they lost Jonathan Joseph to the Houston Texans in free agency it definitely hurt their secondary. Dennard is a physical corner and would help replace Joseph in the secondary. I don’t think he has the ball skills that Joseph has by any means, but he would definitely help shore up the hole he left at corner.
24. Chicago- Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State:
Analysis: Chicago has been searching for a left tackle for years and they haven’t found it yet. They drafted Chris Williams to play there and he has only recently showed enough to start inside at guard. J’Marcus Webb was certainly not drafted to be the future at left tackle but he has spent far too much time starting at that spot. He’s not a left tackle and he has struggled at the spot. Zebrie Sanders may not have been considered by many to be a starting left tackle but he pleasantly surprised a lot of people when he slid over to the left side of the line to replace Andrew Datko for Florida State this season. I think he has NFL potential at left tackle and if Chicago agrees then they have to pick him. Getting bookend tackles for an offensive line that has been one of the league’s worst for years would be a huge step in the right direction for the Bears organization.
25. Detroit- Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia:
Analysis: Detroit seems to be a team that drafts primarily for value and doesn’t reach for needs, preferring to get as much talent as possible. I like that drafting strategy, but unfortunately it led to them ignoring the offensive line and the cornerback position last year. This year I think they need to make sure they address the offensive line, and Cordy Glenn is one of the best remaining offensive linemen on the board at this point in the draft. He is a huge, powerful run blocker but I don’t think he can stick outside at tackle. That makes me think he could be a very good offensive guard, and the Lions could use the push up front.
26. Houston- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis:
Analysis: Dontari Poe is a raw prospect in my opinion but at a listed height and weight of 6’5”, 350 pounds he definitely has immense upside. Houston likes to penetrate upfield and cause havoc with their defense, and Poe could definitely help them do that. I personally he might eventually be a better fit in a 4-3 defense if he is able to improve his pass rush moves to collapse the pocket more versus the pass. However, a lot of teams will see his size and strength and assume he is ready to be a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. As we saw with Albert Haynesworth size and strength don’t automatically mean he can play nose tackle in that defense, so we need to be careful assuming that he is a great fit in that scheme. However, my opinion has never stopped NFL teams from doing what they want to do, so Poe could very well end up on a 3-4 team after all.
27. New England- Devon Still, DT, Penn State:
Analysis: The Patriots have plenty of talent in their front seven, but they still struggle to rush the passer at times. This might have to do with their transition from a 3-4 defense, but I think that Still projects well to the DT position in a 4-3 defense. He has had a fantastic senior year and could easily go higher than this, but it’s hard to figure out exactly where everyone’s stock is at this point. If he did make it this far I would not put it past the Patriots to take advantage of the value picking Still here would present.
28. New England (F/ NO)- Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina:
Analysis: New England has a lot of quick wide receivers but they don’t have a big, physical receiver. Perhaps they don’t want one, but I think it hurts them a bit in the red zone when they have to rely on quick routes from their wide receivers and throwing to tight ends in one on one coverage. At the very least, having a big, powerful wide receiver like Alshon Jeffrey couldn’t really hurt them in the red zone or overall. I worry about his ability to create consistent separation in the NFL, but he has fantastic size, very long arms and great hands. He’s got plenty of upside, but his stock has slipped this year due to inconsistent production partially because of him and partially because of transitions at the quarterback position. Jeffrey could easily go higher than this, but I’m not convinced he’s going to be a top 5-10 pick at this point.
29. Baltimore- Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State:
Analysis: Burfict has top 20 talent thanks to his combination of size, athleticism and his electrifying hitting ability. However, he has some character concerns that will probably scare a few teams away. The elite teams in the NFL often have the locker room presence to take risks on a certain number of these types of players. Burfict is such a player, and with Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and other strong locker room leaders the Ravens are one of the teams that could take a risk on Burfict. In fact, I think Ray Lewis would be a very intriguing mentor for Burfict because Lewis is a big hitter with great toughness and leadership capability. Burfict could learn a lot from Lewis and it might also help improve his reputation. Not only that, but Burfict would be the obvious heir apparent to Lewis at middle linebacker.
30. Pittsburgh- Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame:
Analysis: Pittsburgh, much like Baltimore, has an aging leader at middle linebacker in James Farrior and I don’t think the future replacement for him is currently on the roster. Enter Manti Te’o, a 1st round caliber middle linebacker. Te’o projects well to a 3-4 scheme that would require him to play downhill and blitz to help create pressure, two things that Te’o does very well. Pittsburgh would get a player who is a good fit for their scheme and they’d have a great replacement for Farrior in the middle of their defense.
31. San Francisco- Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington:
Analysis: San Francisco lost Aubrayo Franklin in free agency and most people anticipated them struggling to stop the run after losing him. That hasn’t been the case, however, they could still use an upgrade at the nose tackle spot. Ta’amu is one of the best nose tackle prospects in the country and he is very hard to move off of the line of scrimmage. He’d be a perfect nose tackle for the 49ers, and would be a reasonable value at this point in the draft.
32. Green Bay- Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State:
Analysis: I have been saying this since Clay Matthews emerged as a stud linebacker for the Packers: They need someone opposite him to help take pressure off of him. Matthews is a man-child, but he can’t get 10 sacks a year and apply consistent pressure without a talented player opposite him. At first they had Brady Poppinga and he was replaced by Erik Walden, but both players could be easily upgraded. Enter Brandon Jenkins, the nation’s sack leader from a year ago. He has tons of speed off the edge and while he needs to get stronger he has significant upside as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Thanks for reading! I’d appreciate any feedback so I can improve future mock drafts.

–Tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom

As many of you are aware the Arizona Wildcats fired then coach Mike Stoops after a 1-5 start to the season. His teams gave up 72 points in his last two bowl games while scoring only 10 and he lost his last 5 games last year. That means in his last 11 games he was 1-10 with a lost bowl game in a blow-out. Arizona hasn’t really bounced back as they have only won 2 of their last five games with an interim coach as their search for a new coach has progressed.

It appears that search is coming to a conclusion. Many are now reporting that Rich Rodriguez, the former blockbuster coaching hire by Michigan, will be coaching the Wildcats next year.

This could be a match made in heaven for both organizations, at least for the next 3-5 years. Rodriguez was not a popular coaching candidate after he was ousted from Michigan, and while he could not win or play defense at Michigan with the players he recruited there Brady Hoke and his staff have molded this team into a legitimate Big Ten contender in less than a year. Despite this, Rodriguez’ ability as a recruiter can’t be denied and he has had success building potent offenses everywhere he went, but especially in West Virginia and even in Michigan. As far as I am aware Matt Scott, a senior quarterback that is Nick Foles’ primary back-up, hasn’t played yet this season. I can’t comment on this with any kind of certainty, but there is a possibility that Scott could be back next year with Rodriguez. We will have to see.

Arizona operates a pretty wide open offense right now, but it’s about to get even more wide open with Rodriguez in the fold. I think this is a great hire for Arizona because he knows how to draw talent to a program and I don’t think he will have any trouble doing that with solid access to both Texas and California where he is located in Arizona. Additionally, this is a pretty significant hire for a program that really hasn’t proven itself in the Pac-10 or the new Pac-12. Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez to replace a fantastic coach in Lloyd Carr. Arizona hired Rodriguez in the wake of… Mike Stoops?

I consider this a win for Arizona right now, but it’s a win for Rodriguez too. He has a chance to prove that he can rebuild this program and start to win at a school that has not won consistently in this sport for years. It will be interesting to see if he can do it, but one thing for Arizona Wildcat fans to be careful of is this: If Rich Rod turns you around and in three or four years you have a shot at a BCS game and finish with 9 or 10+ wins he is going to be getting calls from other high end/elite programs in college football to come do the same for them only with better resources and superior tradition. So while this looks like a steal for you guys in the short term, don’t forget that many people consider Rodriguez a snake for abandoning West Virginia and chances are his firing from Michigan hasn’t made him more loyal as a head coach. Should he succeed in turning Arizona around from their recent struggles I would not be surprised to see him leave Arizona for a “superior” coaching job.

It will be interesting to see what happens with other coaching vacancies. Houston Nutt will be out of Ole Miss as soon as they can finish the paperwork, Luke Fickell isn’t likely to be the coach of Ohio State next year (though apparently Urban Meyer is?) and Butch Davis needs to be replaced at North Carolina. Other openings will come after the season, but with Rodriguez’ hiring as well as rumors of Meyer going to Ohio State, Gus Malzahn being mentioned for the Ole Miss job, and Skip Holtz potentially going to UNC the carousel has definitely started to spin!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom