Tag Archive: Randall Cobb


NFL Quick Hits

This is a feature I’m going to try every week where I post some hopefully brief thoughts on the past weekend of NFL games. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do the same with College Football games, but I will post them if I have time to write them all up. Hopefully you guys enjoy this segment.

1- The Falcons Are Who We Thought They Were- I’m sure most of you guys know I’m a Falcons fan by now, and that loss to the Saints was tough. The Falcons scored on their opening drives in both halves, but otherwise were very inconsistent on offense. I’m wondering why they ran the ball so infrequently despite Steven Jackson having solid success on the ground, and I’m also wondering how they managed to hold Drew Brees and the Saints to 23 points despite a lackluster pass rush. I’m not too worried about the offensive line yet, I think they will gel and become a stronger unit, but the amount of pressure in Matt Ryan’s face and the inexplicable avoidance of the run game and quick-hitting pass game to try to counter the pressure was frustrating. Brees was on point as always and I was impressed with the Saints dramatic improvement on defense. Rob Ryan has done a great job with them up to this point, and the pressure they got on Ryan and the looks they were showing him pre-snap stuck out to me. The Falcons will be fine, but I don’t think they are a 13-3 team like they were a year ago. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think they are in the 10-6/11-5 area. We shall see.

2- Peyton Manning Needs To Stop Playing On Rookie- The way Manning was playing on Thursday night it is evident to me he was just playing Madden on a rookie setting, and a veteran with his resume should be playing on All-Madden at least, and preferably with a number of the sliders raised manually beyond that. Manning was obviously masterful, and that was despite having no running backs with a yard per carry average over 3.8 and only gaining 65 total yards on the ground. Joe Flacco came down to Earth after his fantastic playoff performances and it’s clear to me that he is missing Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta right now. Torrey Smith is a stud, but he can only do so much without a significant threat to take some pressure off of him. Dallas Clark surprised me with 7 catches for 87 yards, and if he can keep that up the loss of Pitta shouldn’t be quite as significant. I am a huge Demaryius Thomas fan and had a top 20 grade on him out of Georgia Tech and he has completely lived up to my expectations for him. I definitely expected Decker to be the #2 guy and Welker to be the 3rd option, but if the first week is any indication then Welker is going to get a lot of love from Manning this year. I don’t think 2 catches for 32 yards will be a typical week for Decker by any means, but I think I definitely underrated Welker’s potential impact coming into the year. I was also blown away by how well Duke Ihenacho and Shaun Phillips played. I liked Ihenacho out of San Jose State but realized some of his athletic limitations, however he had 12 tackles (including ELEVEN solo stops), 1 tackle for loss and 3 pass deflections as well as some pretty nice hits in this game. Phillips had 2.5 sacks and 3 QB hits on the night and definitely helped make up for the absence of Von Miller for at least one night. The Broncos looked like they were in mid-season form, but I don’t think the Ravens are going to have that much trouble on offense or defense for the entire season. They have lots of new faces on their roster and they need time to gel, and Manning took full advantage. Don’t hit the panic button yet Ravens fans.

3- EJ Manuel Is Making Me Look Stupid- I was pretty clear that I was not a fan of EJ Manuel at FSU and while it is still very early in his career my analysis of him is looking quite foolish right now. I have been very impressed with how Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have managed Manuel starting from his first pre-season snaps. They haven’t asked him to go out there and be Tom Brady, but much like Cam Newton his rookie season they will likely open up the playbook and let him attack more as he becomes more comfortable. I was happy to see Robert Woods get his first NFL catch and his first NFL touchdown, but Manuel got to see first hand that there’s almost nobody better than Tom Brady when the game is on the line. He may not have had a great day statistically, but when it counted he took the Pats down the field and got them in position to win the game. Danny Amendola predictably had a good game, I loved what Shane Vereen did and I was very sad to see that he is going to miss significant time due to a broken wrist (which he apparently suffered on the first play of the game!). I am hoping that Spiller was given limited touches because of his lost fumble, and not because he is inexplicably being mismanaged again in 2013. Regardless, Bills fans should be very encouraged by the early returns on EJ Manuel.

4- “Same Old Bungles”- That is for my good friend Ryan Koons who is now an active duty marine. He is a die hard Bengals fan and whenever they manage to lose a game like this that is what he would always say. I have to say I really thought those days were behind Cincinnati because on paper I thought they were ready to win the AFC North. However, Andy Dalton continues to make me wonder about just how far the Bengals can go with him as a quarterback even in spite of the absolutely fantastic play of AJ Green. The Bengals have tons of talent on defense, they’ve got weapons on offense, but if they are going to win close games and go deep in the playoffs they need Dalton to play better and limit his turnovers. The run game deserves some ire as well as the Bengals only averaged 3 yards per touch and totaled 63 yards on the ground. On the other side I thought Jay Cutler, overall, had a good game and Brandon Marshall was fantastic. The Bears running game was sluggish as well, and hopefully that offensive line will slowly gel and improve over the course of the season. I know that probably makes Bears fans nervous because they’ve been waiting for that offensive front to improve for years, but I’m hoping this is the year for their sake.

5- Reggie Bush Is Dangerous, Christian Ponder Is Not- The Lions put up 38 points on the Vikings defense and a lot of that is due to Reggie Bush totaling 90 yards on the ground (4.3 ypc) and 101 yards and one touchdown as a receiver (with a long of 77). That’s very impressive production, and it comes despite only hauling in four of his eight targets on the day. Matt Stafford had another high attempt, high yardage day and while it wasn’t the most efficient performance it certainly got the job done. I wouldn’t expect too many four catch, 37 yard days for Calvin Johnson, but Bush, Nate Burleson and Joique Bell took the pressure off of him this week. On the other side Christian Ponder continues to prove his doubters right as he threw 3 interceptions, got sacked three times and lost a fumble on the day. He also spoiled a fantastic game for Jerome Simpson who had 7 catches and 140 yards which I certainly didn’t expect from him. Adrian Peterson had a 78 yard touchdown run on his first carry but gained only 15 additional yards on his next 17 carries, but still managed 93 yards and two touchdowns rushing as well as 18 yards and another touchdown receiving. I will be the first to admit that I liked Ponder out of FSU (clearly I’m 0/2 on scouting Florida State quarterbacks right now) but he doesn’t have the same velocity he had prior to the injuries he sustained his senior year, he isn’t making good decisions and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matt Cassel start at some point this season for the Vikings. That’s not a good sign, and it likely means the Vikings will be looking to draft a quarterback early in the 2014 NFL Draft. I have been patient with Ponder and he occasionally shows signs of life, but unfortunately now that he’s in his 3rd year these kinds of struggles won’t be tolerated anymore. He’s got to step up his game and quick.

6- Pryor Makes Oakland Offense Almost Competent- I really feel like I am ruining any credibility I have as a quarterback scout but I liked Tyler Wilson a lot out of Arkansas and I didn’t like Terrelle Pryor out of Ohio State, but I am glad the Raiders elected to start Pryor over Matt Flynn. Pryor’s legs gave the Raiders life in this game and while I don’t think it will get them to the playoffs it should make them more competitive than they would have been with Flynn at the helm. I didn’t get to see as much of this game as I wanted to because the feed went out for it multiple times at the bar I was watching the games at (for some reason it was streaming online, not sure why), so outside of Pryor impressing me as a runner and Andrew Luck being a stud I don’t have too many thoughts on this game. Sorry guys.

7- Nolan Nawrocki Your Crow Is Ready- I know it’s early, and I know it’s only his first start, but it was fun to see Geno Smith rally the Jets to an unlikely win against Tampa Bay week one. I’m not going to say he made some unbelievable plays on that final drive to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, but if Sanchez was the QB on that final drive I don’t think the Jets would have won that game. Smith isn’t known for his scrambling, but his athleticism was obvious at the NFL combine and he gave the Jets a chance to get lucky thanks to his skill set. He wasn’t mind-blowingly efficient by any means, but it was definitely a solid first start based on what I was able to see. Unfortunately for Bucs fans Josh Freeman struggled (though the Jets do still have a good, well-coached defense) and despite 154 yards from Vincent Jackson he only managed 210 yards on 31 attempts, was sacked three times and threw one touchdown and one interception. I wasn’t a Freeman fan coming out and his first season it really looked like he might make me eat my words, but he seemed to plateau after that rookie season and hasn’t quite been the same since.

8- Kaepernick Is The Truth- I wasn’t wild about Kaepernick’s throwing motion or accuracy coming out of Nevada, but Jim Harbaugh has done a fantastic job with him and that offense is now tailor made for him. It certainly helps having weapons like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis (even though Davis had a drop or two that he shouldn’t have) while Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are injured, but his athleticism, pure arm strength and seemingly improving accuracy really stood out to me against the Packers. Green Bay had absolutely no answer for the Kaepernick-Boldin connection and while they managed to keep him bottled up as a runner he shredded them for 412 yards and three touchdowns as a passer. The Packers will have to go back to the drawing board now to try to figure out how to slow Kaepernick down if they meet again in the playoffs. I thought Aaron Rodgers was great as usual even if he did come up just short, I still love Randall Cobb, and I was happy Jermichael Finley bounced back from that drop that led to Rodgers only interception with some solid catches, good yards after the catch and that impressive touchdown. The Packers should be fine and I think they will be a playoff team, but I’m sure they and their fans are annoyed that another referee controversy led to a do-over for the 49ers that led to an Anquan Boldin touchdown. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think the NFL downgrading Bill Leavy for that mistake is ridiculous. Leavy is a veteran official and while he made a mistake this just reeks of an overreaction to me.

9- RGIII Was Rusty, The Eagles Offense Wasn’t- The Eagles defense made this interesting in the second half as RGIII and the Redskins started to knock some of the rust off, but in the first half RGIII had a lot of issues fading away from throws and not stepping into his passes. He still did some of that in the 2nd half, but he was definitely much more crisp and effective once his receivers stopped dropping passes and Kyle Shanahan adjusted to get him into a rhythm with quicker, easier throws. Michael Vick was impressive, though he’s still the same Michael Vick that will hold onto the ball too long and take unnecessary risks with his body at times. LeSean McCoy looks like an ideal fit for Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme and he should have a huge year. I was also happy to see that one of my favorites from a couple years ago Mychal Kendricks looked much better (based on what I saw live) and was pressuring RGIII pretty consistently. I’m not sure he’s great in coverage, but it was fun to see him rushing some of Griffin’s throws. Additionally, that interception Cary Williams made on that out route that Griffin threw was nothing short of fantastic. What a terrific play.

10- Oh Philip Rivers, You Poor Bastard- Rivers was absolutely fantastic in the 1st half and he started off the 2nd half in the same fashion. He had the Chargers up 28-7 and seemed poised for a statement victory in week one of the 2013 season. Unfortunately, much like he and the Bolts have in the past, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Rivers and the offense began to sputter, the Texans woke up on offense, and the rally was complete once Brian Cushing read Rivers’ eyes beautifully and made a diving interception that he then returned for a game-tying touchdown. The Texans would go on to move the ball down the field and position Randy Bullock for a game winning 41 yard field goal. Andre Johnson continued to show why he is one of the best in the game with a 12 reception, 146 yard performance, Owen Daniels chipped in 67 yards and two touchdowns, and Deandre Hopkins added five receptions and 66 yards. I thought Arian Foster seemed determined to make a big play all game and didn’t seem focused on doing the little things. He was palming the ball and holding it away from his body, he dropped multiple catchable balls, and almost seemed to be showing off and looking to make someone look foolish. Maybe that’s just me over-extrapolating, but he seemed off tonight. I’d be surprised if Gary Kubiak doesn’t talk to him about how he’s holding the ball after he and the other coaches watch film.

Alright, so that was a LOT less brief than I expected it to be. I guess I had more to say than I anticipated, though I shouldn’t really be surprised since I am so long winded anyway. Sorry that was such a long post, hopefully you enjoyed it anyway!

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

Scouting Report:

Cobb is as versatile a football player as you will ever find, and that figures to make him very attractive to NFL teams.

Positives: The first thing you have to notice when you watch Cobb is his versatility. He lines up at QB in the wildcat, he plays wide receiver, he runs the ball from the wildcat and on reverses, he returns kick-offs and punts, plus he is the holder for extra points and field goals. That versatility is incredibly intriguing, plus he is a very elusive runner with the ball in his hands. He has good vision as a return man on both punts and kick-offs, plus he does a good job at finding seams as a runner and as a receiver running after the catch. He shows pretty good speed, though it isn’t elite, and changes directions fluidly and shows quickness as a route runner and as a ball carrier. He is very good at running after the catch and gaining yards after he gets the ball in his hands, and while he may not run through a lot of tackles he does a great job of avoiding them due to his natural feel for running with the ball. He catches the ball well with his hands and can make catches away from his body. He seems to time his leaps well and can high-point the ball in the air and can make catches in traffic. He also can absorb hits and hang onto the ball, which means he shouldn’t have a problem going over the middle in the NFL. He flashes the ability to create separation as a route runner, and he also flashes the ability to make some very impressive diving or one-handed catches as a receiver. He is also a very consistent return man and he rarely seemed to be tackled before the 30 yard line on kick-offs, which meant a lot of relatively short fields for Kentucky’s offense. He also gives a pretty solid effort as a blocker downfield.

Negatives: While Cobb may be a special athlete he doesn’t have elite speed which hurts him when trying to create separation and may limit his potential to be a very effective return man in the NFL. He struggled to create consistent separation when running routes which made it hard for him to get the ball. Sometimes when he runs routes he just doesn’t look very fast, but then he seems to have another gear when he is running with the ball in his hands. I think he can learn to be an effective route runner, but he will need some coaching up to become a good one. I think he has the quickness necessary to run good routes, he just has to work at it. This also isn’t a serious issue, but Cobb could work on ball security once he gets to the NFL. He usually has the ball pretty secure, but he fumbled a couple times in the games that I saw of him as a junior. Cobb will occasionally drop catchable passes which definitely isn’t a reflection of his hands which are good, I think it has more to do with a drop in concentration or more likely with him rushing to catch the ball so he can make a move to get yardage after the catch. He also muffed a couple of punts in the games that I watched of him as a junior and while he doesn’t usually have a problem with that I think it was because he was looking to run before he had control of the ball.

Overall: I am a big fan of Cobb. I have been trying to bring some attention to his abilities since last June after I watched a couple of his games as a sophomore. I was actually watching them to try to evaluate Mike Hartline going into his senior season but Cobb just jumped off the tape and I have been high on him ever since. He may not be an elite athlete as far as his 40 time and other tests are considered, but when you put a football in his hands he will make guys miss and get yardage after the catch or after he fields a punt. He is such a fluid runner with the ball and he is so elusive that it is just fun to watch him make plays in the open field. I love his versatility and I think a lot of NFL teams will value that as well, and I really think he can be a special player in the NFL. He is just so valuable as a receiver, runner, return man and even occasionally a passer that I think he will have a successful NFL career if he continues to work hard. If he can improve his route running to help him create some more separation I think he can be a very good #2 receiver, though I don’t think he will ever be an elite #1 WR.

Projection: Early-mid 2nd round. I would pick him in the late 1st round but I am a big fan of his, but I would be shocked if he made it out of the top 45-50 selections.

SKILLS
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

Speed: 3.5
Hands: 3.5
After Catch: 4.5
Body Control: 3.5
Range: 3.5

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Top 32 Big Board

Here is my top 32 Big Board for the 2011 NFL Draft. These, in my opinion, are the top 32 prospects in the NFL Draft. Many of them are hot-linked so that you can read my scouting reports on them. Enjoy!

1-      A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

2-      Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama

3-    Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

4-    Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

5-     Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

6-     Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

7-      Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

8-      Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

9-      J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

10-   Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

11-   Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

12-   Cameron Jordan, DE, California

13-   Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

14-   Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

15-   Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal

16-   Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

17-  Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

18-  Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

19-   Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

20-  Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

21-   Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

22-   Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

23- Justin Houston, DE, Georgia

24-   Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky

25-   Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech

26-   Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

27-  Jake Locker, QB, Washington

28-  Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

29-   Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

30-   Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida

31- Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

32- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

I thought I would put together a list of overrated and underrated players and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you enjoy the list and feel free to comment if you agree or disagree! Enjoy!

Overrated:

Locker has had a slow start to the season, and I don't think he is going to be able to live up to the pre-season hype and the comparisons to John Elway and Steve Young.

-Jake Locker, QB, Washington- Like I said at the beginning of the season, I don’t think Locker will be able to live up to the crazy hype that has involved him being compared to John Elway and Steve Young. He has had a relatively slow start to the year and he had an absolutely horrible game against a very good Nebraska defense. Needless to say, if Mallett has a good game against Alabama he will probably move up ahead of Locker on most QB rankings. I like Locker, but he has things to improve on like every other QB and it will be hard for him to take the same leaps and bounds that he did during the season last year. I think he will be the second or third QB drafted depending on whether Luck comes out or not and on how Ponder does this season.

-Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh- He has had a very slow start to the season, and though he has been running against teams playing 8 and 9 men at the box at times he still hasn’t looked like the same runner as last year to me. He hasn’t shown me much patience as a runner, and doesn’t seem to have much of a burst to hit the hole right now. His back-up, Graham, looked much more effective against Miami and really showed the burst to hit the hole and gain good yardage. I’m not saying Lewis isn’t a good running back, far from it, but he had one of the great seasons ever as a freshman last year and expectations were unbelievably high this year, and I think he has really underwhelmed so far.

Julio Jones has a lot of potential, but he hasn't shown the consistency that is more characteristic of high first round picks, especially those with his skill set.

-Julio Jones, WR, Alabama- Julio Jones is an incredible athlete and has a ton of potential, but I think he is only scratching the surface of his potential at this point. I think he is one of those players who could be much better in the NFL than he was in college, but that is just my opinion. He hasn’t shown a lot of consistency in his time at Alabama, and though he can make some great catches and plays I would like to see him make plays more regularly. Part of this has to do with Alabama’s rather average QB play during his time here, but he should still be making plays despite that. Calvin Johnson always managed to. It will be interesting to see if he makes me a believer this year and shows a lot more consistency, but as of right now I think he is overrated by a lot of people because he was so highly recruited out of high school. He absolutely has NFL potential though. I just worry that he may be one of those boom/bust types because he will either get it in the NFL and be a very good receiver or he will remain a great physical specimen that doesn’t play up to his potential.

-Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh- I know Romeus is hurt right now, so his stock will probably come down a bit, but I don’t get all the love for this guy. Yes he puts up some nice sack numbers and he has good potential as a pass rusher, but I literally watched him get effectively blocked in 1 on 1 match-ups with TE’s against BUFFALO last year. I’m sure he has developed since then, but I haven’t had a chance to see him play this year so I have to assume that he hasn’t developed considerably better hand usage and block shedding ability. So under that assumption I have to say he is very overrated. If he can’t play the run and get off blocks from college TE’s then how is he going to be a NFL starter at RE and stand up to starting caliber LT’s in the NFL that are at least solid at run blocking? There isn’t any way. Until I see him play the run better, shed blocks better and also flash some serious pass rush ability (essentially more than just a good speed rush/edge rush) then he will be very overrated in my opinion.

Allen Bailey has a lot of potential, but I don't think he is an impact player and I personally think he is one of the more overrated prospects in the country.

-Allen Bailey, DE/DT, Miami- I’m not sure there is a player in the country more overrated than Allen Bailey in my opinion. He looks awful every time I watch him play. He is a physical freak, he has great weight room numbers, and he looks like a good football player when you see him standing somewhere, but he doesn’t play well. Yes, he can get the occasional sack on a pass rush and yes he will make the occasional tackle versus the run, but I have watched him get blocked 1 on 1 by Lance Kendricks, Garrett Graham and other offensive lineman (Kendricks and Graham are both TE’s by the way) and I have seen them take him out of the play completely versus the run. Now, Bailey’s body type and skill set makes me think his best fit will be at 3-4 DE on the next level. I don’t think he has the edge speed or the quick-twitch pass rush ability to play DE in a 4-3, and I think that 4-3 DT would be his second best position behind 3-4 DE. However, he can’t shed a block to save his life. He has very bad hand usage, he is routinely the last player off the line and doesn’t have good burst off of the line of scrimmage, he doesn’t have a very good motor from what I have seen, and he doesn’t make impact plays versus the run. Not to mention every time he gets double-teamed he gets completely washed out of the play despite his great strength (which is a serious issue for a 3-4 DE prospect and a 4-3 DT prospect even if the guy is going to play under tackle in that scheme). I watched Pittsburgh’s offensive line double him and by the end of the play he was so far downfield that he when the offensive lineman still blocking him shoved him as he was giving up on the play he was no longer in the camera shot when the tackle was made. Bailey is so overrated it is ridiculous, and I wouldn’t pick him before the 4th or 5th round if I was a GM.

-Marvin Austin, DT, UNC- He might not be overrated for long, but when people talk about him as a 1st round pick I think they are talking about his potential more than his actual performance. He has the potential to be an absolute dominant DT, but I have been waiting for well over three years to see that player and I haven’t seen it yet, and I may never see it at North Carolina because he might not even play this year. He has so much ability and so much potential, but he just hasn’t lived up to it as a Tar Heel. To me he is a boom/bust guy, and I would definitely think he is more likely to be a bust than a boom player if he doesn’t get to play all year. But that is just me. Guys like Austin really scare me as NFL prospects because they have a lot of ability, so you pick them earlier than you probably should, and more times than not (in my opinion) they end up being a waste of a high NFL Draft selection.

Harris has potential, but I'm not sure he will ever live up to it, especially not in the NFL.

-Jacory Harris, QB, Miami- Harris is a guy that I have higher expectations for, but I don’t think he will ever live up to them. To do that he would have to put more zip on his passes and cut out his bad habit of putting so much touch on his throws, but he has continued to do it this year and I think the glitz surrounding his game and being the Miami QB has started to fade, and people are seeing him for who he really is. He’s a good college QB, but he’s not going to be a good NFL QB in my opinion. He is rail thin, he doesn’t seem very tough to me, he doesn’t look like a good leader, he doesn’t make good decisions under pressure, he forces throws into coverage and continues to make bad decisions, plus his passes have too much touch on them regardless of where he is throwing them on the field. So to me, Harris is overrated and has been for a while, but maybe he won’t be for long if he keeps throwing interceptions.

Underrated:

Greg Jones is one of my favorite linebacker prospects in the country, if not my favorite.

-Greg Jones, ILB, Michigan State- Jones is a fantastic linebacker and whether he plays inside or outside on the next level I would be absolutely shocked if he doesn’t become a very good player. He is a great tackler, he has great instincts and even though he isn’t the biggest guy he supports the run well and is good in coverage. He is as good a linebacker as there is in the entire country in my opinion, yet he gets almost no press. He should get a lot more of the spotlight as the season comes to a close and the post-season activities start. I have a feeling he will show up big in the senior bowl barring an unfortunate injury.

-Brandon Saine, RB, Ohio State- I have really liked Saine since last year when he was competing for PT with Herron in Ohio State’s backfield, but I think he has an opportunity to break out this year. He had a very pedestrian stat-line against Miami, but I haven’t watched that game yet to see how he managed only 7 yards on 12 carries. Regardless, I like him as a running back and I am excited to see how he does the rest of the season. Hopefully he shows up big for the Buckeyes since he is one of my sleepers for this senior class.

-Ronald Johnson, WR, Southern Cal- Johnson isn’t the biggest receiver, but I like him as a potential sleeper this year. He might be too well known for that, but considering his past production I don’t think it is too far out of the question. Regardless, he has already surpassed his total for touchdowns from last season (he had 3 last year and already has 4 this year) and he has looked good in the time that I have seen him this year. He is definitely underrated in my opinion, and I am really excited to see how he does against better Pac-10 competition.

Derrick Locke is a great sleeper prospect, and I am really excited to see how he fares in the SEC this year.

-Derrick Locke, RB, Kentucky- Locke is one of my favorite sleepers and he seems to be having a good season this year. He already has 372 yards (including a 6.1 ypc average) and 5 td’s, plus 8 catches for    60 yards. He already has 69 touches on offense in three games for over 430 yards and 5 scores, so he is definitely a key cog in Kentucky’s offense. He is similar to Dexter McCluster in that way to me, because McCluster was the engine that made Mississippi’s offense go last year, and Locke is that same guy for Kentucky. I really like Locke, and I think he has the ability to be drafted in the 3rd or 4th round in the draft this year.

-Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky- Cobb has superstar written all over him in my opinion. He might not be the biggest, the fastest or the strongest, but the guy is a straight-up playmaker. He has 160 yards receiving (2 TD’s), 108 yards rushing (1 TD), 65 yards on punt returns (on 10 returns, 50 of which came on one touchdown return), plus 5 KR’s for 103 yards… he even has 2 completions as a passer (2/2 actually) for 34 yards and a score. He has a touchdown as a receiver, a passer, a rusher and as a return man… He is so versatile. I can’t wait to see him play against some SEC competition, because if he can make a couple big plays against those defenses then he can make a play against anybody.

I think that about does it for my list of overrated/underrated players. I think this is definitely a solid list, let me know if what you would have done differently or what you agree or disagree with!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

I took some time out of my time off during Fourth of July weekend to watch some football (like that’s a surprise) and I wanted to take a look at this game to get a feel for what to expect from Alabama’s offense and Kentucky’s offense during this upcoming year. Some of what I saw surprised me in a good way, but overall the guys I took notes on in this game something to be desired. Enjoy my breakdown of the players I took notes on!

Analysis of game:

Hartline has potential but he was plagued by bad decision-making in this game, especially when under pressure.

I watched this game because I wanted to evaluate Mike Hartline as a junior against quality competition, but I went in knowing that he had his struggles statistically in this game. However, it turns out that his performance in this game was just as bad as the statistics showed, if not worse. He never settled in and looked comfortable against Alabama’s pressure, he routinely made bad decisions under duress and did not show much pocket poise at all. He has good height but he looks very skinny and does not look strong or tough. He didn’t demonstrate good pocket poise in this game, and because I put so much stock in how well you handle yourself in the face of pressure I was very disappointed in him because of how he dealt with Alabama’s blitz packages. He showed good zip and some good accuracy in this game, and he throws a pretty good deep ball and put a couple of them right on the money. Like most QB’s, when he can get into a little bit of a rhythm and when he has time to throw the ball he can be effective. But when he is pressured he does not look comfortable, he doesn’t make good decisions and he turns the ball over. That is the bottom line, and barring a cataclysmic change in how he handles pressure and duress differently as a QB as a senior he will be nothing more than a 7th round or UDFA QB to me, which is really disappointing. However, I am glad I found this out now and not after I had already put my faith in him as a potential sleeper at the QB position. He could still show something as a senior and get himself drafted, but he won’t be a quality starter in the NFL because he won’t be able to survive without a great offensive line and running game to keep teams from coming after him when he drops back to pass. That’s too bad, but that is just how these things go sometimes. Just ask Joey Harrington.

Watching this game certainly opened my eyes to how Mike Hartline carries himself, but I was also very pleasantly surprised by other players on Kentucky’s offense. I also got a closer look at Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Julio Jones and James Carpenter on Alabama’s offense. So it was a good bit of tape for me to watch, and here are my thoughts on those respective players.

First and foremost, the two players who really impressed me the most in this game were Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke on Kentucky. I already knew what Ingram and Richardson were capable of on Alabama, but I had no idea what to expect out of Cobb and Locke, but they really impressed me.

Cobb should be in the end zone a lot next year, and I think he has the potential to be a star.

Cobb is a WR who converted to the position from QB, so he is still learning the position. But Kentucky does everything they can to get him the ball and rightfully so: the guy is an absolute playmaker. I have come to understand that some guys just have an ability that other players don’t to make plays every time they touch the ball, and Cobb is absolutely one of those players. Every time he touched the ball he made a guy miss and got extra yards. He just makes moves and plays that most guys can’t make, and hardly anyone knows who he is. But I guarantee you if you watch a Kentucky game and Cobb gets his hands on the ball he will look like he’s in 3D and the rest of the players are in 2D. He just pops out at you and makes you notice him when he gets the ball in his hands, whether he is taking snaps in the wildcat, catching the ball as a receiver, or returning the ball on kickoffs or punts. He just makes plays and makes guys miss. And the crazy thing is he was only a sophomore, but he was the best player on the field for Kentucky along with Derrick Locke. I often talk about how crucial it is for a QB to tilt the playing field in his teams favor when he gets on the field, but that is absolutely not limited to the QB position. But it is rare to see in any position, and WR is no exception to that. However, I will say this right now: Randall Cobb makes the Wildcats better when he is on the field. He is that special of a player. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see him as a junior, but this kid is going to be a star, I just know it. So remember Randall Cobb’s name, he is going to be a star by the time he leaves Kentucky.

Locke runs hard despite his size, and is effective running between the tackles. To be honest, his playing style reminds me a lot of Warrick Dunn.

Now Cobb may have shot off the screen like 3D fireworks when I watched this game, but Derrick Locke had a quietly good game too, but it was much more methodical and slow to develop than Cobb’s game. Locke is the RB on Kentucky and he will be a senior this season while Cobb is only going to be a junior, however I really liked what I saw from Locke. You can tell he has playing experience because this had to be a frustrating game for him. Alabama’s defense was extremely stout up the middle and Kentucky had to stick with the run even if it wasn’t producing much in the way of yards. But credit to Locke, he stayed patient and got whatever he could on every touch he got, even if it was breaking a tackle behind the line and turning a negative play into a two yard gain. He just kept wearing the defense down and running hard, which is surprising because he is listed at only 5’9”, 190 pounds. So when you look at his size you think “He is a NFL scat back and 3rd down back, the lightning to a more durable, power back’s thunder,” but that is not the case at all. Locke can carry the load, and he did last year with almost 200 attempts and 31 catches as a receiver. He produced almost 1,200 total yards from scrimmage as a runner and receiver along with eight touchdowns as a runner and receiver (six rushing, two receiving).

Now I know this is high praise, but his running style and overall game reminded me a LOT of Warrick Dunn. He can run up the middle effectively despite his size, he is a patient runner and is small enough that he can hide behind his blockers a bit, plus he is an effective receiver out of the backfield and can turn a one yard swing pass into a 12 yard gain by making a guy miss and hitting the accelerator. He is a starting quality back because he can carry the load, and he is good at finding cut-back lanes as a runner. And once he finds a seam he can hit it with a good burst and has the speed to take it the distance once he gets in the open field. Now, I was thinking about how he played and all of a sudden it dawned on me that he reminds me a ton of a poor-mans Warrick Dunn, and the more I thought about it the more the comparison fit well in my opinion. Normally I hate comparisons between two players because there are just too many variables to usually make a valid comparison, but as comparisons go I think this is an accurate one. That’s not to say that I think Locke will be as good as Dunn in the NFL, but I think their playing styles are very similar. I definitely think Locke has the potential to get drafted in the 3rd or 4th round, especially with a productive (and healthy) season as a senior. Not a lot of RB’s stay all four years, especially if they have the talent to go pro, but despite that I think Locke will show that he has a lot to offer a NFL team because of his versatility, and I look forward to scouting him more as a senior. Depending on how well he is known, he could be my sleeper as a RB because he is really flying under the radar right now, but I don’t think that will last much longer.

Now, obviously Alabama was the better team so it was not surprising that they had more players that I needed to take note of, but I made sure to take note on how Greg McElroy and James Carpenter did. When I watched Kentucky I took particular note of how Hartline did, but Cobb and Locke just caught my attention over and over again during their offensive possessions and special teams plays. The same can be said of Ingram when Alabama had the ball, but Trent Richardson and Julio Jones had pretty quiet games. Here are my thoughts on the Alabama players:

McElroy was not much more than a game-manager in this game.

First of all, McElroy looked pretty average to me in this game. I think he has NFL potential similar to John Parker Wilson, but honestly I liked JPW’s game more than I like McElroy’s at this point. Contrary to what the announcers seemed to feel watching this game, I absolutely thought McElroy looked like a game manager for the vast majority of this game. He did have a very impressive drive when Alabama was inside their two yard line and he led them down the entire length of the field on a methodical drive for a touchdown. It was impressive, and it was a good drive, but I can’t say I saw him make a lot of NFL throws in this game. He shows pretty adequate touch and I’d say average or a little above average arm strength, above average accuracy and he doesn’t force throws into coverage and is willing to take a sack instead of forcing a throw where he shouldn’t. His intelligence is well reported, but I don’t see him making a lot of checks at the line like Hartline seemed to be doing in this game, nor do I see him going through more than one or two of his progressions on a regular basis. He also doesn’t use his eyes very well to confuse the defense and keep his real primary read a chance to get open. How a QB uses his eyes to keep a defense honest really says a lot, and McElroy mostly just looks at his receivers as he goes through his progressions, and doesn’t use his eyes well at all. Again, he didn’t look bad in this game, but he did nothing out of the ordinary other than lead that very long drive, but none of the throws or reads he had to make were of particular difficulty by any means. So he I would say is an average to above-average QB in college, but if he was on a less talented team he would not look nearly as good as he does on Alabama, nor would he have his precious undefeated record to cling to.

Ingram has the potential to be a quality every-down back in the NFL.

Ingram, however, impressed me. He is a powerful runner and finishes runs well, plus he runs through arm tackles like they are yellow tape in a marathon. He also showed good vision, patience and pretty good burst and acceleration to go from East/West to North/South quickly. There was one play where he was running to the left, cut laterally to the right to try to find a seam, he found one, made one cut and all of a sudden he was in the secondary on the way to his second touchdown of the day. It was a display of burst and quickness that I wasn’t quite sure he was capable of, so that was very encouraging to see. I think he definitely has NFL talent, so I am excited to see how he does this season.

Trent Richardson also has a lot of talent, but you could tell he was still adjusting to the college ranks in this game. He looked like a totally different running back in the National Championship game against Texas, so you can tell he grew a lot as a player during the course of the year. This was earlier in the year though, so you could tell he was making some mistakes because of his inexperience. It was a quiet game for him, but he showed his potential and I know what he is capable of from the BCS title game. He will definitely make defenses pay for worrying too much about Ingram next year, that’s for sure.

Richardson has a lot of potential, and should help keep Ingram fresh during the season.

One of the more unimpressive players on Alabama was left tackle James Carpenter. He didn’t have a good game, as he routinely looked sloppy fundamentally, ended up on the ground a number of times, got called for two holding penalties and looked uncomfortable in pass protection. He just looked raw fundamentally and didn’t do a good job drive blocking in the run game, and he looked underdeveloped as a pass blocker. When he got his hands on the defender he did a better job of taking him out of the play, but if he had been going against a very good speed rusher he would have been eaten alive in this game. As it was he did fine because Kentucky’s RE was not a household name by any means, but he still did not impress me. Whether he looks any better as a senior is up in the air, but he looked like he 1. might not get drafted until the 6th or 7th round if he gets drafted at all and 2. that he might have to slide inside to guard in the NFL if he sticks with a team. That sure is a drop-off from Andre Smith, who was drafted #6 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals (even though I didn’t like him as a prospect, he was vastly more talented than Carpenter is). Hopefully he looks better as a senior, but my expectations will not be high.

That about does it for my analysis of Kentucky-Alabama from last season. I will have more to say about Alabama after I watch the Texas-Alabama match-up in the National Title game but that is a little further down the road. Hopefully you found this post interesting, and I hope that if you watch either team next year you will be able to recognize some of the things I mentioned about the players I took notes on this game. And seriously, look out for Randall Cobb. The guy has star potential.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom Melton