Tag Archive: Ohio State


Top Seniors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Juniors:

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

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

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

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

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

Top Sophomores:

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

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

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These prospects aren’t necessarily my top ranked guys or players that are going to go in the first round, but they are guys that I am 100% sold on and would fight for if I was in a NFL Draft War Room. Enjoy.

QBs:

Geno Smith, West Virginia
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

Honorable mentions: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse, Ryan Griffin, Tulane

Analysis: I have been fairly outspoken about not being a fan of this quarterback class. That’s not to say there won’t be solid starters that come out of this class, there will, but I’m not comfortable tying my reputation to many of these quarterbacks and even the guys that I like have flaws. Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson have been my top 2 guys for months and that’s not going to change. I think Wilson is going to be a very good value if he’s there on day 2 and whoever gets him is going to get a very good, tough leader who may not be a pro bowler but is a guy you can win with. Geno Smith has been completely overanalyzed by this point, but I don’t think he’s a “franchise” guy, but definitely has pro bowl upside. That’s worth a 1st round pick to me. He’s the #14 player on my overall big board. As for Nassib, he’s been my #3 QB for a long time as well and while his NFL success will be tied more to a good scheme fit than I think Smith and Wilson will I think that he’s going to be a quality starter as well. This is particularly true if he goes to a team with an entrenched veteran QB who can show him the ropes and give him time to develop. Like most of the QB’s in this class I don’t think he is ready to jump in and run the show from the start. And finally there is Ryan Griffin from Tulane who I wish I could have seen more of, but everything I saw of him was very intriguing. He’s going to be an early day 3 pick in my opinion and I really like his developmental upside. Should be a good #2 at least, potentially a solid starter. I’d roll the dice on him in round 4 or 5.

RBs:

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Dennis Johnson, Arkansas
Benny Cunningham, Middle Tennessee State

Honorable mention: Montee Ball, Wisconsin

Analysis: Franklin is my #2 running back in this class, Bernard is my #3, and Johnson is my #5. Franklin and Bernard have both been discussed an awful lot, I think they are both quality backs and will be effective NFL starters. Dennis Johnson is one player that I am far higher on than most, and I think he is going to shock a lot of people at the next level. When I watch him I see a young Michael Turner who can contribute on special teams as an effective kick returner. He’s a complete back and he is my early pick for the steal of the draft. Benny Cunningham is a late addition to this post, but I am extremely intrigued by him. He just ran a 4.51 at his pro day months after a season ending knee injury and if he comes back 100% I think he is going to be a steal on day 3. He absolutely has starter running back upside and if he gets his chance I think he will surprise people. Last but not least I couldn’t leave Montee Ball off this list. I’ve watched him live too many times at Camp Randall Stadium and despite his heavy college workload I think he is being underrated. He’s a quality back and he can likely be had in the 3rd or 4th round.

WRs

Keenan Allen, California
Robert Woods, USC
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Conner Vernon, Duke

Analysis: Allen has been my #1 WR since October and I haven’t wavered on that despite his knee injury, testing positive for marijuana at the combine or not being able to perform fully at Cal’s pro day. Maybe that makes me stubborn, but I’ve been watching him since he was a freshman and I’ve been convinced for three years that he has #1 WR upside at the next level, so why should I change my mind now? The tape screams NFL #1 to me, so that’s what I’m trusting. Robert Woods was initially my 1a to Keenan Allen but his injuries concerned me a bit and he dropped down on my rankings, but he is at worst a terrific #2 in the NFL and is back at #2 in my rankings. I wish I could hear more about his ankle to see if he was going to be 100% at the next level, but he’s a 1st round pick in my opinion and will be a very effective NFL receiver. Hopkins has been my #2 for a while but thanks to some possible character concerns I’ve dropped him down to #4, but I am still a big fan on tape. He should be a 1st round pick in my opinion, but if he drops to the 2nd round some team could get a nice value with him. And finally Conner Vernon is the last player I’ll “bang the table” for at the wide receiver position. In a class absolutely stacked with talent I wanted to add a late round guy who I think is worth fighting for. He may not be the biggest or the fastest, but Vernon just always seems to be open and he has very good hands. He’s not going to be a pro bowler, but he’s going to have a 10+ year NFL career in my opinion. Look for him on Day 3.

TEs

Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Justice Cunningham, South Carolina

Analysis: Eifert may feel like a cop out, but he’s been my #1 TE for months now and he’s in my top 10 on my big board (#9) so I’m very confident he is going to be an impact tight end at the next level. Cunningham may seem a bit out of left field, but from the first time I noticed him I just had a gut feeling that he was being completely slept on and I still feel that way. He may not be a stud at the next level, but I’m not sure I’ve even seen anyone project him to get drafted. In a deep, talented tight end class I really think he could surprise and make a roster.

OTs

Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
DJ Fluker (RT/OG), Alabama
Reid Fragel, Ohio State

Analysis: I’ve been a big fan of Fisher since before the Senior Bowl and he was awfully impressive there and I feel confident saying I was one of the first people to say he was on Joeckel’s level (if not better) back in January. Others have since come to a similar conclusion, and while I have Joeckel rated above Fisher on my big board (#2 and #3 respectively) I am convinced Fisher has pro bowl potential at tackle and is worth a high draft pick. Fluker is an interesting prospect and while I think he would underwhelm in pass protection at right tackle I think he is so effective in the run game that he is worth banging the table for if you are a power running team. Not only that, but if he doesn’t pan out at right tackle you can just slide him inside to guard and enjoy pro bowl caliber play for the next 10 years. Reid Fragel is the last tackle I am a really big fan of. He is a developmental guy who needs some technique work and could stand to get stronger, but I think he has the upside to play left tackle and getting a guy like that in rounds 3-5 is something I and many NFL teams will always be interested in. I think he’s going to have a better NFL career than many expect.

OGs

Chance Warmack, Alabama
Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Larry Warford, Kentucky
Hugh Thornton, Illinois

Analysis: Warmack and Cooper go without saying, they are studs and should be quality starters as rookies. Warford is a player some have cooled on, but I really like him as a quality starter at guard and I think he could start as a rookie. He’s short, squatty and not particularly mobile but he’s going to have a long, effective NFL career if you ask me. And finally there is Hugh Thornton, he’s had to overcome a lot of adversity in his life and some teams are reportedly concerned about the anger he has inside of him, but he screams effective NFL starter at guard and call me crazy, but I love the nastiness he plays with. There are some great stories in this NFL Draft, but it’s tough to think of a guy who’s had tougher luck than Thornton. I’m a fan of him on the field, but I’m honestly rooting for him more as a person than I am as a football player.

Cs

Barrett Jones, Alabama

Analysis: This is not my favorite crop of centers, and I’ve been pretty outspoken about Khaled Holmes being a mid-round pick (I gave him a 4th round grade in June) and while Barrett Jones may not be an elite center prospect I think he is too smart and too sound from a technique standpoint to not have a long NFL career as a starting center. He’s not going to dominate at the point of attack, but he’s as tough as they come and he’s going to be the leader of whatever offensive line he gets drafted to.

DEs

Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Tank Carradine, Florida State
Datone Jones, UCLA
Corey Lemonier, Auburn
William Gholston, Michigan State
David Bass, Missouri Western State
Stansly Maponga, TCU

Analysis: Werner, Carradine and Jones are pretty self explanatory. I think Werner has 10+ sack upside and he’s a top 10 player to me, as is Carradine. Jones may not have that same pass rush upside but I think he can be a very versatile player in the NFL, not to mention he is virtually unblockable 1 on 1 when he slides into DT in pass rush situations. Lemonier is a player some don’t like, but I think he has a ton of upside as a pass rusher. He needs some technique work but he’s a guy I think you roll the dice on, coach up and the dividend could be a stud right end if he commits and works hard. Gholston is a player that some don’t like, but I have a feeling that he could surprise some people. Part of that bad rep comes from simply having the same last name as Vernon Gholston, but he has all the size and athleticism you could want and I don’t think he was coached particularly hard at Michigan State because he was such a big time recruit for them. With some NFL coaching and guidance I think he could surprise a lot of people, so I’m definitely willing to bang the table for him. David Bass impressed me a lot at the East-West Shrine Game and I think he has starter upside at defensive end, so on Day 3 he is definitely worth a draft pick to me. And finally Stansly Maponga presents some upside on Day 3 as well. He doesn’t have the height you want, but I think he definitely presents value as a rotational pass rusher and could go earlier than some have him projected.

DTs

Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Jesse Williams, Alabama

Analysis: This is a deep crop of defensive tackles, but I am very high on both of these guys. Richardson has been my #1 DT for a long time and I think he’s going to be an absolute impact player whether he’s in a 4-3 or a 3-4 as a DE. As for Williams I think he is the rarely seen 3 down nose tackle that can be effective versus the run and the pass in a 4-3 scheme. He’s worth a 1st round pick and I think he’s going to have a long, effective NFL career.

OLBs

Sean Porter, Texas A&M
Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
Brandon Magee, Arizona State

Analysis: This may seem like a random group of outside linebackers, but I have been a fan of Porter for two years now and he is a poor-man’s Von Miller to me. He won’t be the dominant player Von is, but I think he can be effective if allowed to rush the passer in a similar capacity. I may be alone in that thinking though. Khaseem Greene is a guy that I think is going to be a good leader and an effective OLB in a 4-3, likely on the weak side. And Magee is a late round sleeper that I think is going to outperform everyone’s expectations for him.

ILBs

Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Kiko Alonso, Oregon

Analysis: Arthur Brown is my favorite 4-3 linebacker in this class and I personally think he is a definite first round draft pick and can play inside or outside in that scheme. Alonso may not be for everyone, but I love the way he plays and I think he is going to be good whether he’s inside in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3.

CBs

Jamar Taylor, Boise State
Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
Nickell Robey, USC
Nigel Malone, Kansas State

Analysis: Jamar Taylor and Johnthan Banks are traditionally ranked pretty high by most analysts, at least those that I interact with, and I really think Taylor is worth a 1st round pick. Banks may not have had the workouts that he needed to go in round 1, but he has good ball skills as well as the size and length that is becoming more and more popular to match up with bigger wide receivers. Poyer has been a favorite of mine for years, really since he housed an interception on Matt Barkley when Barkley was a sophomore. He’s a top 40 player on my board and I think he’s going to be a good corner in the NFL. Robey and Malone are two other players I think I am a lot higher on than most. Robey is a top 100 player in my book despite his obvious lack of size. He’s an absolute playmaker and I think you can never have too many of those at corner. Malone is undersized and doesn’t have elite athleticism, but he’s going to stick on a NFL roster, likely as a nickel or dime guy, and make plays on the ball when he’s on the field. I’ll take guys who can play the ball like Malone on my roster any day, especially late in the draft.

Safeties

Kenny Vacarro, Texas
Jonathan Cyprien, FIU
DJ Swearinger, South Carolina
Bacarri Rambo, Georgia
Duke Williams, Nevada

Analysis: Vacarro is at the top of plenty of safety rankings and I think he’s going to be a very good safety at the next level, and I feel the same about Cyprien. I was really impressed with what I saw from him when I watched him on tape and live. Swearinger was a popular name for a while but has cooled lately, but I’m still a big fan of his. If he’s there in the 3rd round I’d jump all over him. Rambo has some questions surrounding him but he strikes me as an absolute ballhawk and those aren’t as easy to find at the safety position as it may seem. I’d also jump all over him in round 3. And finally Duke Williams, a guy I’ve been rooting for since I saw him LAY someone out in a bowl game a couple years ago, should go sometime on Day 3 and I think he has legitimate starter upside.

Conference Predictions:

SEC:

West:

1-      LSU

2-      Alabama

3-      Arkansas

4-      Mississippi State

5-      Auburn

6-      Texas A&M

7-      Ole Miss

East:

1-      South Carolina

2-      Georgia

3-      Tennessee

4-      Florida

5-      Vanderbilt

6-      Missouri

7-      Kentucky

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

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

Big 10:

Legends:

1-      Michigan

2-      Michigan State

3-      Nebraska

4-      Iowa

5-      Northwestern

6-      Minnesota

Leaders:

1-      Wisconsin

2-      Ohio State

3-      Illinois

4-      Purdue

5-      Penn State

6-      Indiana

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

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

ACC:

Atlantic:

1-      Florida State

2-      Clemson

3-      NC State

4-      Wake Forest

5-      Boston College

6-      Maryland

Coastal:

1-      Virginia Tech

2-      Georgia Tech

3-      North Carolina

4-      Miami

5-      Virginia

6-      Duke

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

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

Big 12:

1-      West Virginia

2-      Kansas State

3-      Oklahoma

4-      Texas

5-      TCU

6-      Oklahoma State

7-      Texas Tech

8-      Baylor

9-      Kansas

10-   Iowa State

West Virginia is Big-12 Champion.

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

Pac-12:

North:

1-      Oregon

2-      Washington

3-      Stanford

4-      California

5-      Oregon State

6-      Washington State

South:

1-      Southern Cal

2-      Utah

3-      UCLA

4-      Arizona State

5-      Arizona

6-      Colorado

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

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

Big East:

1-      Cincinnati

2-      Louisville

3-      South Florida

4-      Pittsburgh

5-      Rutgers

6-      Syracuse

7-      Connecticut

8-      Temple

Cincinnati is Big East Champion.

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

 

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

–Tom

James Gayle is one of the best defensive end/3-4 outside linebacker prospects in the country, but somehow he seems to be flying under the radar. That won’t last long, as he is primed and ready for a double digit sack season as a junior.

Tom: First of all James, thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know you’re busy.

Tom: What was your favorite thing about playing for Virginia Tech last season?

James: Probably the fans, just the Virginia Tech atmosphere and playing at Lane Stadium. I’d rather play in our stadium than anywhere else in the country.

Tom: You’ve been productive both seasons you’ve been at Virginia Tech even though last year was your first full season as a starter, do you expect an even more significant break-out year this season?

James: Definitely. I think the thing that hurt me last year was my injury, I missed 3 games and I still led the team in sacks. I’m healthy now though.

Tom: What is your accurate height, weight, and 40 yard dash time?

James: 6’4”, right now I weigh about 266 or 267 and the last time I ran I ran a 4.45 40 yard dash time, but I think I only weighed 257 or 258 at that point.

Tom: You “only” weighed 257 or 258 pounds and you ran in the 4.4’s, Josh Gordon just ran a 4.53 in the 40 yard dash at his pro-day and got drafted in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft and he weighs 40 pounds less than you!

James: Well I’ve always been fast though, even when I was in high school I was running in the 4.4’s but I guess I never got slower since all I’ve gained since coming to Virginia Tech is muscle.

Tom: Do you have any statistical goals for yourself or the team?

James: For the team I just want to be the #1 defense in the nation, or at least top 5. For myself I just want to have a better season than I did last year and continue to improve. I think if I stay healthy I’ll be better than I was last year and put myself in a good position.

Tom: What was it like watching Logan Thomas progress and grow as the season went on last year?

James: It was great. It was great watching him get acclimated to defenses but I think it was the Miami game where he really showed everyone what he could do.

Tom: Did he look even better in the spring?

James: You can tell he’s more comfortable and I think he’s getting better every day.

Tom: Everyone just kind of assumed he was going to play tight end when he was coming out of high school and now he’s one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation, it’s crazy.

James: I knew he was going to play quarterback because I played in an all-star game with him in high school, haha.

Tom: Well then you knew something I didn’t! Now did your defensive coaches mention anything to you about things you were doing well during spring ball?

James: Yeah they said I’m starting to get the little things down like my technique and my angles. I feel like I did an overall better job of that in the spring than I did in the past.

Tom: What kind of technique stuff did they specifically say you were improving on?

James: Just when I’m pass rushing taking the right angles. I usually just get by with my speed but that’s not going to work with every tackle so I’m just trying to get better with my hands and trying to take better angles to get to the quarterback.

Tom: That’s great to hear, that’s what you need to be a complete defensive end. You’re going to be scary when you get that technique down James.

James: Haha, well I’ve been working on it all summer.

Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a football player? Maybe your speed?

James: Yeah my speed, I’m just a natural pass rusher.

Tom: What about some of the things you think you need to work on? Obviously you’ve already mentioned technique.

James: Yeah, I mean I really haven’t been playing football that long to be honest my first season was my junior year in high school so basically I didn’t really have anybody to actually coach me up or teach me the position. Then I redshirted when I got to Virginia Tech and they don’t really teach you anything when you redshirt so I was just learning how to play the position my redshirt freshman year.

Tom: Do you have any mentors for the defensive end position? People you’ve patterned your game after?

James: Oh yeah definitely. Coach [Charley] Wiles the defensive line coach, Cornell Brown has been really instrumental and then I watch a lot of film of Bruce Smith since he played here.

Tom: What is one thing that every defensive end has to have in order to be successful?

James: I think he has to be aggressive. That’s something you can’t really teach a guy to be honest. There are a bunch of guys that have ability but they’re not aggressive, but then there are guys that have less ability but are more aggressive and I think that’s important. I feel like that’s something you can’t teach, but I think that also goes for every position.

Tom: Are there any players on defense that stuck out to you during the spring? Anyone I might not have heard about?

James: Antone Exum. I think he’s going to be one of the best corners in the nation this year, him and Kyle Fuller. Antone runs a 4.3 and he’s like 225 pounds. He’s a good corner. Kyle is really good too he plays a lot bigger than he is. I’ve seen him lay some guys out that he was much smaller than.

Tom: Anyone on offense that has especially impressed you?

James: The running backs J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes, then Logan Thomas. The receivers too, I know Marcus Davis is going to have a big year. For the most part our offense is going to do pretty well.

Tom: I’m sure Hokie fans will be encouraged to hear that the running backs look good since you just lost David Wilson and Josh Oglesby.

James: Yeah it’s pretty different because when I came here I played against three All-American running backs. I played against Darren Evans first, then Ryan [Williams] and then David [Wilson]. So I’m pretty sure one of those guys is ready to step up next.

Tom: You’re getting some hype coming into the season, do you feel any added pressure because of some loftier expectations?

James: No not at all. I feel like I’m just going to play my game. I feel like the expectations that people have for me coming into the season aren’t any higher than the expectations I already have for myself, so it’s not any different. I feel like I should be one of the best defensive ends in the country and I feel like I should be an All-American.

Tom: I know you saw me mention that you and J.R. Collins are one of the best defensive end tandems in college football, what do you think makes him so dangerous?

James: J.R. Collins is relentless. I totally agree that we’re a great tandem too because I think that J.R. Collins’ name should be up there with any of the best defensive ends in the ACC this year. He’s relentless, he’s hard-nosed and if I could pick anybody to play on the opposite side of me it would be him.

Tom: That’s a glowing recommendation. And I was just looking at your defensive line depth chart last night and it occurred to me that you guys could have one of the best defensive lines in the country as well. Do you think that’s possible?

James: I definitely think it’s possible. I feel like if it weren’t for my injury last year we would have been one of the best in the country from a pass rush standpoint.

Tom: And then you have the Hopkins brothers. You guys have a lot of returning experience on that defensive line.

James: Yeah the Hopkins brothers! I feel like our defensive line is going to be one of the best of the country. Both of them are really good players, and then we’ve got Luther Maddy who started last year as a true freshman at defensive tackle, so we essentially have a couple starters at second string.

Tom: Ok, who are the rotational guys behind you and J.R.?

James: Tyrel Wilson is the guy behind me, he did well last year. And behind J.R. is Zack McCray, plus we have another defensive end named Dadi Nicholas who redshirted last year.

Tom: Did you say his first name is Dadi? That’s AWESOME!

James: Yeah his first name is Dadi, haha.

Tom: What is it like playing for Bud Foster in his aggressive defense? I imagine it’s pretty fun.

James: Oh definitely, because I feel like I’m a pretty aggressive player so coming to school with an aggressive defensive coordinator it just matches. So I really enjoy playing for him.

Tom: Are you comfortable buzzing into coverage? Foster likes to bring zone blitzes so I know he asks you to drop sometimes.

James: Yeah definitely I feel really comfortable dropping into coverage. At first when you don’t do it for a while it’s weird but I’ve been doing it all summer since I’ve been working out with the DB’s so I’m comfortable doing it.

Tom: Uh-oh… I hope they don’t move you to safety James. You’ve got the speed for it after all.

James: Hahaha. I don’t think I’m ready for some of these little receivers though!

Tom: Is there one game this year you are particularly looking forward to? Maybe Clemson?

James: Oh yeah definitely Clemson. They had our number last year but this year they gotta be ready to go to war.

Tom: You and Tajh [Boyd] go back to high school I’m sure you want to get a W against him.

James: Oh Tajh? Yeah definitely. I’ve been playing him since high school but I’ve never been able to beat him.

Tom: I think this year might be the year then James.

James: Yeah, hopefully.

Tom: You’ve got a pretty good football pedigree with your dad Jimmy playing running back at Ohio State from 1979-82 and your Uncle Shaun playing DB for the Buckeyes and in the NFL from 1984-95 as well. Do you think that has helped you pick up the game so quickly?

James: Absolutely. I feel like I have strong football bloodlines since both my father and uncle played at Ohio State. I think my dad was an All-Big Ten running back so that might be where I get my speed from. Actually in high school my father was one of the fastest backs in the nation. I think that’s where the speed came from.

Tom: I definitely think that could be where you got your speed from.

James: Yeah I’d say that’s it, haha.

Tom: I read in an article that before you started playing football you were “more of a video game guy” and that after you got done with video games you said “I think I’ll just play football.” How did that come about?

James: I really wasn’t that interested in playing football when school first started so I just played video games. Then I got tired of that and just decided to play football, but I had never lifted weights or anything so I was like 160 pounds at the end of my 10th grade year. So I just started lifting weights and eating right and by the beginning of my senior year I was like 210. Now that I’m over 260 I’ve put on over 100 pounds of muscle since high school.

Tom: And you haven’t lost any speed, that’s the scary thing. Now, do you still play video games? If so, what’s your favorite game to play?

James: Nah, I guess I kinda played myself out of that. I guess I play some NCAA. They’ve got me rated as one of the best defensive ends on the game so that’s good.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

James: Man, that’s tough. I guess that I can actually run a 4.4 because every time I get on the internet I see people saying I run a 4.7 or something like that. I want people to know that I have that kind of speed because that’s what I take pride in.

Tom: I had definitely read that you had 4.4 speed, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to believe that a 260 pound defensive end had 4.4 speed, that shit scares me.

James: Well I’ve seen guys at 270 be timed in the 4.5’s! It’s possible, there are guys that can do it. I guess we’ll see if I get my shot at the combine.

Tom: Well I predict that you will, that’s my prediction. It’s not bold, but it’s a prediction.

James: Haha, we’ll see.

Tom: I just want you to realize how unfair it is that you can run a 4.4 at that size, even a 4.5 would be just disgusting.

James: Well I’m very confident I can run a 4.5. I’ve never ran a laser 40 time, but I know I can do it.

Tom: Well that’s about all I have, do you have any questions for me?

James: No I don’t think so.

Tom: Well thank you for your time James, I appreciate the chance to talk with you a little more in depth. When does camp start up for you?

James: August 7th, I’m getting ready.

Only a couple weeks away! I’m ready for some football. Well good luck with the rest of your training and good luck this season!

James: Thanks! It was great talking to you.

Tom: You’re welcome, it was great talking with you as well. Take care.

Quarterback Rankings:

1-      Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal

2-      Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee*

3-      Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

4-      Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech*

5-      Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

6-      Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia*

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

8-      Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

9-      Casey Pachall, QB, TCU*

10-   Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Running Back Rankings:

1-      Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina*

2-      Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

3-      Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas*

4-      Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State*

5-      Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina*

6-      Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh

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

8-      Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama*

9-      Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

10-   Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas

Wide Receiver Rankings:

1-      Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal*

2-      Keenan Allen, WR, California*

3-      Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee*

4-      Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State*

5-      Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee*

6-      Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

7-      Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

8-      Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

9-      Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon

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

1-      Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame*

2-      Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State

3-      Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA

4-      Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn

5-      Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford*

6-      Michael Williams, TE, Alabama

7-      Jordan Reed, TE, Florida*

8-      Ryan Griffin, TE, Connecticut

9-      Colter Phillips, TE, Virginia

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

1-      Chris Faulk, OT, LSU*

2-      Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M*

3-      Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

4-      D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama*

5-      Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*

6-      Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia

7-      Alex Hurst, OT, LSU

8-      Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

9-      Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M*

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

1-      Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama

2-      Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

3-      Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

4-      Travis Frederick, OG, Wisconsin*

5-      Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas*

6-      Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky

7-      Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Georgia Tech

8-      Braden Hansen, OG, BYU

9-      Blaize Foltz, OG, TCU

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

1-      Khaled Holmes, C, Southern Cal

2-      Graham Pocic, C, Illinois

3-      Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas*

4-      James Ferentz, C, Iowa

5-      Mario Benavides, C, Louisville

6-      Dalton Freeman, C, Clemson

7-      Matt Stankiewitch, C, Penn State

8-      Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia

9-      Braxton Cave, C, Notre Dame

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

1-      Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU*

2-      Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas*

3-      Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

4-      Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State*

5-      Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

6-      Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

7-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

8-      Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

9-      James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech*

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

1-      Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2-      Johnathon Hankins, DT, Ohio State*

3-      Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

4-      Bennie Logan, DT, LSU*

5-      Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

6-      Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

7-      Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia

8-      Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois*

9-      Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida*

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

1-      Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

2-      Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford

3-      Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina

4-      Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State

5-      Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama

6-      Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State

7-      Jonathan Brown, ILB, Illinois*

8-      Bruce Taylor, ILB, Virginia Tech

9-      Jonathan Bostic, ILB, Florida

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

1-      Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia*

2-      Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU*

3-      Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

4-      Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State

5-      C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama*

6-      Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State

7-      Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida*

8-      Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford

9-      Khaseem Green, OLB, Rutgers

10-   Kenny Tate, OLB, Maryland
Cornerback Rankings:

1-      David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State*

2-      Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State*

3-      Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

4-      Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU*

5-      Jonny Adams, CB, Michigan State

6-      Nickell Robey, CB, Southern Cal*

7-      Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas*

8-      Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

9-      Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

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

1-      Eric Reid, FS, LSU*

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

3-      Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas

4-      Robert Lester, FS, Alabama

5-      Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma*

6-      Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia

7-      Ray Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami

8-      John Boyett, SS, Oregon

9-      Matt Elam, SS, Florida*

10-   Vaughn Telemaque, FS, Miami

Senior Bowl Top 5 Rankings:

Quarterback:

1- Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Weeden is a bit of a polarizing prospect but I like him. He had a pretty good week and while he isn’t NFL ready as some quarterbacks are I do think he warrants serious 3rd round consideration and some 2nd round consideration. I think he will end up in round two, but I’m not sure I would personally pick him that high. That said, even if he sits for a year or maybe two he would be 30 or 31 when he stepped into the starting line-up. That would give him a solid shot at 6-8 years of starting at the QB position. That’s not a lot of upside, but if he’s ready to play when he is inserted into the line-up I think he could help his team win games as much more than a game manager. He’s not an ideal Andrew Luck type prospect because of his age, but I think he could be ready after one year of learning on the bench.

2- Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin: Wilson was my #2 quarterback coming into the week and he remains there after watching him this week in practice. His height hurts him, we all know that, but he made a terrific point in an interview I read from him where he said that there are very few quarterbacks that are tall enough to just see over the offensive line. Most guys have to move in the pocket to find throwing lanes, and that’s something he can do. With his over the top release, strong arm, quick release and mobility I don’t think he will have a problem in the NFL despite measuring in at 5’10” 5/8. He’s got plenty of arm talent and more importantly has fantastic intangibles. Give him a year or two on the bench and I think he can be a quality NFL quarterback.

3- Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State: Cousins moves up to #3 for me after this week because I think he was pretty consistent. He doesn’t have a rocket arm, and he isn’t great in the face of pressure, but he’s got some upside and may be able to develop into a solid starter with a couple of years on the bench. I don’t think I would draft him as my quarterback of the future, but he could be someone with a Matt Moore type of career with maybe a little more of a shot at starting.

4- Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State: Lindley is still a guy I like even though he showed his typical inconsistency this week. His accuracy needs work but I think with a couple years on the bench learning from a NFL starting quarterback Lindley would have time to improve his mechanics and footwork which could help some of his accuracy issues. I’m probably in the minority on him, especially when it comes to ranking him over Nick Foles, but I like Lindley’s arm and long term development potential.

5- Nick Foles, QB, Arizona: Foles is a bit of a polarizing prospect himself. He’s got quality tools thanks to his size, natural arm strength and he’s got some accuracy, but I just don’t see a 1st or 2nd round pick when I watch him. He hangs onto the ball for a long time and just doesn’t look good with pressure in his face. He’s got potential, I won’t deny that, and I’ve heard good things about his football IQ this week, but I’m still not sold on Foles.

Running Back:

1- Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: Doug Martin, or the “Muscle Hampster” as he is sometimes referred to, came into the week as my top back here and that has not changed. He’s a complete back that can run the ball between the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield and pick up pressure in pass protection. He’s ready to start in the NFL right now and while I don’t think he will be a 1st round draft pick I definitely think he should go in the 2nd round which is where I have graded him for a long time now.

2- Chris Polk, RB, Washington: Some people here were dogging Chris Polk this week but I just didn’t see it. Maybe he didn’t look like he had as much burst as some thought he did, but he is more of a powerful back than a guy that has great change of direction speed and burst. He’s still got a NFL future ahead of him though because of his ability to run the ball and catch passes out of the backfield, though he needs work on pass protection like many running backs do when they leave the college ranks.

3- Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati: Pead demonstrated the ability that I thought he would this week. He’s a complementary back, not a feature back, but he’s more than talented enough to offer you the versatility to make plays running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield and maybe even on special teams. I’m not sure he’s got a NFL future as a punt returner, but perhaps he will as a kick returner. Regardless, Pead offers some upside as a 3rd round pick and I think he’s got a solid shot to go in that range.

4- Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State: Ballard came into the week #4 on my rankings and he stayed there after this week. I’m not sure he’s a guy that will go in the top 100 picks, or maybe even in the first four rounds, but I think he will be able to stick on a NFL roster and work his way into a contributing role early in his career. He still doesn’t look great catching the ball out of the backfield, but if he wants to improve that I think he will be able to.

5- Chris Rainey, RB, Florida: Rainey has been telling people all week that he’s going to run a 4.1 in the 40 yard dash. I’m not sure I believe that, but I do expect him to get into the 4.3’s and you can see his speed when he lines up at running back and at receiver. He lined up a lot at receiver this week, probably more than he would have liked, but being able to run the ball out of the backfield and be split out to run routes will only help his stock. He’s an explosive guy that should help whatever team drafts him stretch the field vertically and horizontally on offense, plus he offers value as a return man.

FB:

1- Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin: Bradie Ewing was the best fullback coming into this week and after Chad Diehl went down with a concussion earlier this week he was really the only one left standing. He’s got draftable ability at fullback and I think he will end up being a NFL starter.

Wide Receiver:

1- TJ Graham, WR, North Carolina State: Graham definitely helped himself this week, perhaps more than any receiver here. His speed is extremely evident and he looks like he will be running in the 4.3’s in the 40 yard dash, but he also caught the ball well, created separation with his route running, and overall looked like one of the more impressive receivers here. I really liked him as a sleeper and he looked terrific in his final game at NC State, but between that and this week of productive practices he should be on everyone’s radar by now. He’s a guy that I might have a 3rd round grade on once I finish my film study on him.

2- Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas: Adams was impressive this week, but I still have some reservations about him. His hands and concentration aren’t always what you want them to be, but he’s as explosive as anyone here in Mobile this week. He’s got plenty of upside as a slot receiver and as a return man, but if he can improve his hands and concentration issues he could be an extremely dangerous player at the next level.

3- Marvin Jones, WR, California: Marvin Jones came into the week under the radar and I personally had a 5th or 6th round grade on him, but he definitely helped himself this week. I’ve seen him drop some passes on film, but his hands were consistent this week and he looked like a possible 4th rounder this week. I’ll have to go back and study him further, but he definitely has draftable ability and should be a nice #4 receiver early on in his career.

4- Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona State: Gerell Robinson is a player I’ve seen a lot of this year because I spent a lot of time watching Brock Osweiler. He’s got upside as a receiver thanks to his size and length, plus his hands have become more reliable as the season has gone on. He came into the season as a possible undrafted free agent and now he may not make it into the 5th round, especially after a positive week this week.

5- Juron Criner, WR, Arizona: Criner’s hands were never in question, and he showed that this week, but I worry about his ability to separate at the next level. But if you can catch the ball you can stick in the NFL, so while he may not be an early pick I think he can stick on a roster. His route running wasn’t very impressive this week, but if he can get coached up for a year or two as a route runner I think he could clean up some of his sloppy footwork in his breaks. That might allow him to create more separation and be a more consistently productive receiver. Even if he never runs great routes he has shown the ability to make tough catches in traffic, so while I don’t think he has great upside as a receiver I do think he has upside and draftable ability.

Tight Ends:

1- Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri: Egnew came into the week as my top tight end and that hasn’t changed either. He’s got everything you could want in a tight end because of his size, length, athleticism and hands. He’s still got room to improve as a blocker, but his value is as a receiver without a doubt.

2- Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana Lafayette: Green definitely showed his athleticism and potential this week. He’s not going to be ready to walk into the NFL and start I don’t think, but he’s got a lot of upside as a developmental prospect at the next level. He’s got the frame to fill out more after weighing in at 237 this week, he’s got impressive size, length and hands. He’s not a finished product, so his upside is very intriguing.

3- Deangelo Peterson, TE, LSU: Peterson is a bit underrated because LSU didn’t throw the ball consistently well while he was there. He’s got the size and athletic ability to offer some upside, but I don’t think he will get drafted very high because of his film. He’s a tough guy to project because there’s not a lot of film on him, but he has upside.

4- Brad Smelley, TE, Alabama: Smelley is a late round guy that can stick on a roster and contribute on special teams and add depth to the TE position. I’m not sure he will ever be a NFL starter, but may be able to work himself into a #2 role at some point.

5- Brian Linthicum, TE, Michigan State: Linthicum is in a similar boat to Smelley. He’s not a guy who’s got a lot of upside but I think he might be able to work himself into a #2 role at some point. He was hurt at one point during this week, I’m not sure with what, but he’s not a guy that I see being a NFL starter.

Offensive Tackles:

1- Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Adams took control day one and never really let it up in my opinion. He showed the ability to play left tackle from the get-go which impressed me. I don’t think he has the versatility to play on the right side though because he needs to get stronger in the lower body to anchor better versus bull rushes. He won’t be much of a run blocker in a man blocking scheme, but if he can pass protect at a pretty high level he should be worth a 1st round selection come April.

2- Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia: Cordy Glenn has plenty of upside when it comes to the NFL Draft. I think he could play both guard spots, right tackle and even left tackle in a pinch. He’s got pretty good athleticism for such a large man, though he does bend at the waist at times. He’s got plenty of potential as an offensive lineman, and pending my film study of him I think he’s got a 2nd round grade right now.

3- Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois: Allen came into the week pretty underrated but he definitely opened some eyes this week as he was able to succeed at offensive tackle and at guard in practice. I think he’s a left tackle in the NFL, but showing the versatility to play inside at guard will only help him when it comes to the NFL Draft. He’s a quality pass protector and I feel that in a zone scheme he could be an effective run blocker as well. He’s not going to get a great push in a man blocking scheme I don’t think, but if he can pass protect effectively he could find his way into the 2nd round come April. Left tackles always move up and get drafted earlier than you’d think, so don’t be surprised if Allen goes higher than most expect.

4- Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State: Sanders came into this week as one of my top offensive tackles and he definitely hurt himself this week. He has the athleticism and length to play left tackle in the NFL but he’s a year away from being a starter there. He’s got upside, but he needs to get much stronger in the lower body and it concerns me that he was not finishing blocks for the entire week this week. He was able to get into position and block effectively at times, but he didn’t finish the block and that’s concerning. If he doesn’t finish blocks in the NFL then he will give up effort sacks to guys with good motors.

5- Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California: Schwartz helped himself this week. He looked solid in pass protection, has an anchor to recover, and projects to the right side in the NFL. I don’t think he’s much more than a 4th or 5th rounder (I came into the week thinking he was more of a 5th or 6th rounder), but he’s got the potential to be a back-up RT for a year or two and then compete for a starting job if he progresses well.

Offensive Guards:

1- Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin: Zeitler came into the week as my top offensive guard here and that didn’t change. Was he perfect this week? No, definitely not. He showed some issues with speed off the ball and wasn’t perfect in pass protection either. But he’s definitely a 2nd round guard and may have pro-bowl potential down the line.

2- Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State: Osemele has plenty of upside thanks to his great size, strength and length. However, he lumbers when he moves and struggles to re-direct and change directions quickly thanks to his massive size. I think he can be a good run blocker in a man blocking scheme but he will struggle if asked to pull or block in open space. I don’t think he has the potential to play right tackle after seeing him this week, and he definitely looked better inside at guard.

3- Senio Kelemete, OG, Washington: Kelemete caught my eye thanks to his impressive first step, athleticism and he has some pop with his initial contact. However, he needs to get stronger to help him anchor versus bull rushes and to help create more of a push in the running game. He’s a great fit for a zone blocking scheme right now in my opinion, but if he wants to hold up better against bigger, stronger interior linemen then he needs to get stronger. When he doesn’t beat you initially off the ball to get position then he struggles to win 1 on 1 match-ups.

4- Tony Bergstrom, OG, Utah: Bergstrom looked like he might be able to stay outside at tackle early in the week but I think he might be better inside. I think he has the potential to play outside, but I think he might be better on the interior.

Centers:

1- Michael Brewster, C, Ohio State: Brewster didn’t have a great week in my opinion but he didn’t look bad. He’s a 2nd or 3rd round Center in my opinion that can have a long career as a starter. I don’t think he’s an elite player at the position, but he’s smart and should be comfortable starting for a long time. I don’t think he’s going to make a good offensive line great, but I think he will be a reliable player at the position for a long time.

2- Philip Blake, C, Baylor: Blake has shown the ability to play guard and center this week, and I think he’s going to go higher than many might think. He’s got an impressive anchor, he’s got pretty good length and I think he can be a NFL starter at center or guard after a year on the bench. He’s got the strength and girth you like at the point of attack for both positions, and might have slightly more upside than Brewster does at the position thanks to his size.

3- Ben Jones, C, Georgia: Jones looked like an average athlete this week and I have a 3rd or 4th round grade on him right now. He struggled to anchor this week and looks like a guy who could be a NFL starting center but I don’t think he’s going to be a good or great player at that position.

4- William Vlachos, C, Alabama: Vlachos is one of the most strangely proportioned human beings I’ve ever seen. He’s a short, squatty player with very short arms and just doesn’t look like a NFL player when you look at him from a pure measureables standpoint. He’s a fighter though and he has pretty good technique and plays with good leverage thanks in part to his lack of height, so he might end up being a starter at some point. He’s a 5th or 6th round pick in my opinion, but he might be able to have a long NFL career thanks to his football IQ and quality technique.

Thanks for reading! Defense coming soon.

–Tom

Offensive Line:

Mike Adams (Ohio State) continued to show his ability. He plays well when he can use his length and his lateral agility to stay in front of pass rushers but when he has to anchor he can run into trouble because of his lack of lower body strength. He needs to get stronger, and he got beat by guys once he engaged them which worried me a little bit, but he has the ability to stick at left tackle if he can get stronger and continue to finish blocks. Mike Brewster (Ohio State) showed some ability today. When he doesn’t get too wide in his anchor he has more ability to recover and sustain blocks even when pushed back initially, but sometimes he will let his base get too wide which makes him easier to bull-rush. He did a pretty good job on Ta’amu a couple times though in 1 on 1’s.

Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin) is still the best guard here in my opinion, but he had some struggles today. He had issues with more athletic players like Kendall Reyes or Billy Winn as they were able to get off the ball and beat him with an initial move off of his outside shoulder. Vinny Curry was able to do the same thing, but a defensive end should be able to beat a guard with his athleticism. It wasn’t Zeitler’s best day, but he has proven he’s a 2nd round guard to me all week. Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State) also had an up and down day. I was impressed with him versus the run on a couple plays, and he did alright in a couple 1 on 1’s. The most surprising was when he neutralized Vinny Curry’s speed rush. I didn’t think he had the athleticism for that, but Curry didn’t do anything on the rep. I still think Osemele’s future is inside at guard, but he showed the ability to use his length to win match-ups against more athletic players today. Senio Kelemete (Washington) didn’t have a great day either. I think he can play tackle if necessary on game day, but his best position is inside at guard. He needs to get stronger as he only weighed in at 300 pounds, and it shows at times. He’s got athleticism but if he doesn’t beat you with his first step and positioning at the point of attack he struggles.

Mitchell Schwartz (California) showed a bit of ability at tackle today and still looks like a 5th or 6th round right tackle prospect. Draftable, but not a lot of upside. He has the ability to anchor when pushed back initially and while he may struggle with speed he looked solid today. Tony Bergstrom (Utah) had an up and down day, but looked better inside at guard than he did outside at tackle. Wolfe got the better of him when he was rushing at defensive end, but he was more reliable when he slid inside and won a couple match-ups. I still need to see more of him, but he has ability and probably a mid-round grade right now.

Defensive Line:

Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati) continues to impress me. He’s an underrated guy and I think he’s a 3rd or 4th round lock at this point. He doesn’t have amazing upside, but he’s shown the versatility to play inside and outside this week and I think he’s got the ability to be a starter at the 3-tech or the 5-tech, and I was surprised by his ability to bend and get under the offensive lineman’s pads today even when rushing from the defensive end position. He’s being overlooked right now, but scouts are onto him. Kendall Reyes (Connecticut) had his second strong day in a row looking good in 1 on 1’s and showing his burst and athleticism off of the line of scrimmage. He still worries me versus the run, but he’s got a 3rd or 4th round grade from me right now. I like him as a 3-tech because of his ability to beat you off the ball and penetrate into the backfield. But he will need to get stronger and add weight to get better versus the run. Billy Winn (Boise State) had his best day of practice today in my opinion. He had a better day yesterday after a slow start on Monday, but he showed good burst for his size and active hands to beat you off of the ball. I have seen him get blocked and stay blocked a bit too much this week though, so when I do more tape study on him I’ll be watching for that.

Vinny Curry (Marshall) continues to disappoint me. He was being hyped up as a 1st rounder for quite some time, but I haven’t seen any tape or practices that make him look like a 1st round guy. He’s got NFL size and he’s got some athleticism, but he didn’t beat Kelechi Osemele off the edge today and that is a red flag. It’s only one rep, but Osemele is probably going to have to be a guard at the next level and while he has length Curry should be able to beat him off the ball. Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) has been a frustrating player to watch because he’s got all the size and athleticism you could want in a nose tackle but it just doesn’t translate to dominating performances. He’s a 3rd round guy and a 2-down player with some burst, but not much more than that in my opinion.

Check out our full coverage of the North Roster at NFL Draft Monsters here. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

North Roster Notes:

Tight Ends:

Michael Egnew (Missouri) continued to be the class of the tight ends in Mobile. He’s such an impressive athlete and he is flashing ability as a blocker this week. He’s got reliable hands, he knows how to use his body to shield defenders, and if he continues to improve as a blocker he could be a top 40 selection. Regardless, I think he’s a 2nd round lock. He’s underrated in the scouting community right now, but that won’t last long. He’s the top senior tight end. Brian Linthicum (Michigan State) didn’t practice today, I’m not sure why. Hopefully he will be back on the field in the next day or two.

Offensive Line:

As I said in my preview of the Senior Bowl I think that Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin) is the top senior offensive guard and I still believe that. He looks like a 2nd round lock to me, and all the scouts around me were impressed with him today. He’s an impressive player and while he was beat by speed a couple times overall he had a good day. I talked with him briefly when I set up an interview after the practice and he thought he did poorly, but seemed to be his own toughest critic and assured me he would be better on Wednesday. He might be the 2nd or 3rd best offensive lineman in mobile this week. Mike Adams (Ohio State) continued to impress today. He wasn’t quite as impressive as he was yesterday, but he still played well and got some time at right tackle and guard as well as left tackle. I don’t see a great push from him in the run game so I don’t like his potential as much at right tackle, so I think left tackle is his best position. He will struggle with speed at one point, but barring an unforeseen injury the match-up between Adams at left tackle and Coples at defensive end may be the most intriguing of any that could occur in that game. I can’t wait to see that.

Mike Brewster (Ohio State) is a solid center but I don’t like his ability to anchor and he struggles against bigger, stronger players at times. He did show the ability to handle Ta’amu at times, but Ta’amu struggles with leverage and hasn’t played as strong as he looks sometimes. He’s the best center in Mobile, but that isn’t saying as much as one might think. Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State) continued to struggle a bit in my eyes. He’s powerful and has a nice punch, but it seems to be limited to the phone booth. He lumbers when he moves, struggles to redirect and doesn’t have the athleticism to stick at right tackle. He will have to move inside to guard and he might limit teams from a scheme standpoint there. He can excel in a man scheme that doesn’t require a lot of pulling from him, but if he’s in a scheme that requires more movement from him he will struggle in my opinion. Mitchell Schwartz (California) also had an up and down day. He’s a solid, 5th/6th round right tackle prospect but he might have to move inside to guard. I don’t think he has much starting upside in the NFL, and he struggled with speed outside today.

One player that really stuck out to me today was Senio Kelemete (Washington). He has the versatility to play guard or tackle but spent most of his time at tackle today. I don’t know if he can play left tackle, and I think his upside is highest at guard, but he is an impressive athlete with a good first step and some pop on contact. I would like to see him sustain and finish a little bit better, but he’s an impressive player that may end up in the top 100 selections come draft day. His versatility to play tackle and guard will only boost his stock. Tony Bergstrom (Utah) also flashed a little bit today. He didn’t have a great day, but he has a pretty impressive initial punch and may have the makings of a right tackle in the NFL. I haven’t seen him much, but on one play his initial punch sent a defender to the ground in 1 on 1’s.

Defensive Line:

Mike Martin (Michigan) has arguably been the most impressive defensive lineman for the North since practices started. He is a compact guy but he is very strong, has active hands and impressive burst off the line of scrimmage. He and Brewster had a couple impressive battles but overall Martin definitely won the match-up. Scouts have higher grades on him than most media pundits do, so don’t be surprised if Martin goes much higher than people expect. I haven’t studied him yet, but he has the makings of a potential 2nd round grade from me. He’s an animal. Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati) continued to impress. They gave him a few reps at defensive end today which surprised me, but he has been disruptive at defensive tackle so far this week. He’s a great 3-tech or 5-tech prospect in my opinion, and I definitely like what I have seen from him so far. Kendall Reyes (Connecticut) surprised me with his speed and burst off the ball today. I knew he was athletic, but I was surprised to see him come off the ball so quickly. He’s a quality 3-tech prospect, though I’m not sure I have much higher than a 3rd or 4th round grade on him right now.

Jack Crawford (Penn State) probably shouldn’t be here in my opinion. I’m not a fan and neither are the scouts I’ve talked to. He sounds like one of those guys who can show you something in practice and flash in 1 on 1’s, but doesn’t show up on game day and struggles to locate the ball. Vinny Curry (Marshall) hasn’t shown me much when I have seen him either. He has ability, I just don’t think he has 1st round ability. He didn’t show me round one ability on tape and he hasn’t shown it to me here yet. I’m hoping to see him perform like I’ve heard he can, but it’s not there yet. Billy Winn (Boise State) also disappointed me a bit today. He was going up against some quality talent on the North offensive line, but he only won one or two match-ups if I remember correctly. He stayed blocked more than I saw on tape, and didn’t have much variety in his pass rush moves. I’ll be watching him the rest of the week, but he looked like a 3rd round guy to me today. Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) was also unimpressive to me today. He’s got everything you could want in a 4-3 or 3-4 nose tackle prospect but it just doesn’t equate to a quality performance. The size and athleticism is there, he just can’t produce. He’s a two-down player in a 4-3 and might be able to play three downs in a 3-4 if he can prove he can collapse the pocket, but the pass rush just isn’t there from him. He needs to play with better pad level to avoid negating his natural power, as he was even blocked by Brewster in 1 on 1’s today. He’s got upside, but he’s a 3rd rounder in my opinion.

One player that really impressed me today was Shea McClellin (Boise State). He’s very athletic, has impressive burst and really gave the offensive tackles trouble in 1 on 1’s today. I love his potential as a 3-4 outside linebacker. I haven’t seen him in coverage this week, but I really think he has the potential to be 1st rounder and an impact player at that position. Hopefully I’ll have an interview later this week, I talked to him briefly after practice today.

Linebackers:

Honestly, I didn’t see much of the linebackers today but one thing I will say is that I like Audie Cole (North Carolina State). He impressed me on film and he has impressed me so far when I have seen him, though that time has been limited thus far. He’s going to be a riser after this week, I can tell you that.

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

–Tom

North Practice: Day 1

Quarterbacks:

No quarterback really separated himself today in my opinion, but Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) looked solid as far as arm strength and accuracy. A couple of his deep balls wobbled a bit and two of them weren’t thrown to the correct shoulder that I saw, but it’s the first day and the QB’s and WR’s have no chemistry together yet. Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) struggled a bit and threw a number of passes that were either behind his intended receiver or they were not in stride so they had to slow down. Again, it comes down to a lack of chemistry, but he had his flashes. I think Wilson has the strongest arm of the group, but it’s not a very strong-armed group of quarterbacks. Kellen Moore (Boise State) looks like he is in for a bit of a tough week. His arm strength is very average and while he threw a few nice balls today I just don’t think he has the arm to be a starter. You can overcome a lot of things with football IQ and intangibles but that lack of arm strength will limit him and any offense that chooses to make him their starter.

Running Backs:

It’s tough to evaluate running backs when they aren’t wearing pads and there’s barely any contact allowed, but I am very high on Doug Martin (Boise State) and Chris Polk (Washington) and have been for a while. Martin looked natural catching passes out of the backfield and showed quality burst whenever he had the ball in his hands. Polk did the same and I really think that is going to be a fantastic battle to see who ends up getting drafted earlier. Very lucky to be able to see both of them. Dan “Boom” Herron (Ohio State) and Isaiah Pead (Cincinnati) rounded out this group, a very talented group of running backs all who have plus burst in my opinion. I think Martin and Polk are the better backs and they have feature back written all over them. Can’t say I feel the same about Herron and Pead at this point.

Wide Receivers:

It was a pretty easy day for the receivers today, but I think the guy that stuck out most to me was TJ Graham (North Carolina State). He clearly has 4.4 speed (could run as fast as a 4.35 in my opinion) and his explosiveness and burst was on full display today. He created separation nearly every time I watched him run a route and he caught the ball cleanly every single rep I saw of him. He has the potential to be a HUGE riser this week, especially if he plays like this every day of practice. Obviously this was just one day, but this definitely showed the upside Graham has as a receiver. Don’t forget he’s also a valuable return man. Marvin Jones (California) also had a good day. He was able to beat Alfonzo Dennard a couple times in 1 on 1 drills and caught the ball cleanly every time I saw him. He’s got above average hands and he’s definitely draftable in the 5th round range, but he could help himself this week. On tape he doesn’t look like much more than a complementary receiver to me and having Keenan Allen opposite him really helped, but he’s a solid, draftable player. Marvin McNutt (Iowa) struggled to create consistent separation today and I have a feeling that may be a theme of the week. He doesn’t look natural as a route runner and while the effort is there he just doesn’t have the speed. As one scout said “He’s moving his arms and hustling, but he’s not going anywhere.” His stock has been in decline all year, and he’s looking like a receiver who is going to get graded in the 5th-7th range for sure to me.

One player I was interested to see was Brian Quick (Appalachian State) but he didn’t impress me too much today. He looked a bit leggy when he was running routes and while he looked smooth at times he had three drops today that hit him right in the hands. He has ability, and he likely had some first day jitters now that he was called up to the big leagues, but it wasn’t a great first impression. He did have a very nice catch on a deep ball from Cousins where he showed some ability to adjust to a poorly thrown ball, track it through the air and catch it cleanly. DeVier Posey (Ohio State) also had positive flashes like Quick did, but as is customary he dropped a number of balls. It was either three or four that he dropped on the day, but either way scouts definitely noticed. It’s easy to love his athleticism because he has explosiveness and burst, ran good routes in 1 on 1’s today and flashes the ability to catch the ball outside of his frame too. But too many times he lets the ball hit him right in the hands and fall incomplete. He’s got upside, but if he can’t catch the ball it’s worth nothing. I think it’s a mixture of not having great hands and having concentration issues to be honest with you, but that’s still not reassuring.

Tight Ends:

Michael Egnew (Missouri) looked like the more impressive tight end in this group, but it was really only between him and Brian Linthicum (Michigan State) because Emil Igwenagu (Massachusetts), as expected, was taking snaps as a fullback. He was at the East-West Shrine Game last week and while he didn’t really impress me, he got snaps at fullback and I expected the same to hold true this week. Egnew looked smooth running routes, caught the ball cleanly each time I saw him and I have to say I was very impressed that he was up to 251 pounds. He’s been working, and I think it will help his stock. Linthicum didn’t look bad as a receiver, but he didn’t look good. He dropped a pass or two and doesn’t look as smooth or as natural running routes as Egnew does.

Offensive Line:

Mike Adams (Ohio State) was the star of the offensive line today. He had a great showing at the weigh-in when he measured in at 6’7”, 323 pounds with just under 34 inch arms, and his good day continued at practice. He consistently used his length and athleticism to his advantage and I didn’t see him get beat once in pass protection. He did get bull-rushed a bit once, and could stand to get stronger in the lower body (one reason I worry about him if he tried to move to right tackle) but he looked like a left tackle all practice today. Mike Brewster (Ohio State) didn’t impress me as much, though I wasn’t very high on him coming into practice. He looks like a 3rd or 4th round center to me, and I question his ability to anchor when beaten initially. He’s got a solid build, but he just hasn’t lived up to the 2nd round hype that he was getting for a long time at the beginning of the season. Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State) showed some ability in the run game today using his elite combination of size, strength and length to engulf defenders and even pancake one of them in the run game. However, the play after he pancaked a defender in the run game at right tackle he got beat off the edge by a speed rush and didn’t even get his hands on the defender. I thought he might be able to stick at right tackle, and there’s still a chance of that, but he will need to do a lot better than that against speed to remain on the outside. And, as expected, Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin) had a good day today. He’s not as flashy as some of the other offensive line prospects here but he is the best guard on either roster in my opinion. He may not have the insane upside of Kelechi Osemele or Cordy Glenn, but he looked good in drills today and can hold his own 1 on 1 against defensive tackles. He will rise this week.

Defensive Backs:

Unfortunately I didn’t see much of the defensive line or linebackers at all today, but I heard that Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati) looked good from Shawn Zobel (@ShawnZobel_DHQ follow him) and didn’t hear rave reviews on Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) which was not very surprising. I’ll have notes on them the rest of the week though.

Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska) didn’t have a great day as he struggled to keep up with the faster receivers. The most troubling play was when Marvin McNutt got behind him in man coverage on a deep route down the seam. He doesn’t look like he has fluid hips, and struggled to turn and run with receivers downfield today. 1st round corners should not be getting beat deep by receivers that might run a 4.6 in the 40 yard dash, and his lack of recovery speed was pretty evident on that play. I think that Dennard’s upside is highest when he is able to be physical at the line of scrimmage and when he is defending slower, bigger receivers. He frustrated Alshon Jeffrey but he couldn’t keep up with TJ Graham. I feel similarly about Leonard Johnson (Iowa State). He was good against Justin Blackmon and Marvin McNutt on film, but TJ Graham created separation despite his impressive ability to mirror routes in man coverage (at least when I saw him today). I think he might struggle with the speed demon receivers, and matches up better with possession type players. Jamell Fleming (Oklahoma) didn’t look great to me as he struggled to close quickly on curl routes a couple of times. I’ve seen him close on tape though and he’s looked good in man coverage on tape to me as well, so I expect him to have better days than he had today later on in the week.