Tag Archive: Russell Wilson


Divisional Playoff Picks:

I’m going to be traveling on Sunday morning en route to the East-West Shrine Game so I am going to make all of my picks today. We’ve got four intriguing match-ups going on this weekend, so it will be interesting to see how they shake out.

Denver-Baltimore:

As much as I want to see Ray Lewis and Baltimore continue on this season I’m not convinced they are going to. It’s hard to bet against Peyton Manning and this Broncos team, especially since this Denver defense is much more complete than any defense Manning ever had in Indianapolis. They can really get after the passer but I think they’ll be able to slow down Ray Rice as well, and that’s what I’d be worried about most if I was a Ravens fan. The Broncos can match up with the Ravens on both sides of the ball, and I’m not sure they have the fire-power on offense or the talent on defense to take away Manning’s passing options. On top of that, I’m not a big Flacco fan and I’m not sure he’s going to be able to make the big throws the Ravens need to win this game. He made some last week, but this defense is a different animal. I’m hoping for a good game, but I think Denver is going to win by more than one score: 31-20.

Green Bay-San Francisco:

This is a tough match-up to pick, but I’m going to go with San Francisco. I think they match up ok with Green Bay’s bevy of weapons on offense and they should be able to get after Rodgers without blitzing which is a big no-no against him. If you can generate pressure with four or five rushers (like the Vikings did in Week 17) then you can knock him around a bit and not give him a lot of options and force him to make unbelievable throws. The 49ers should be able to do that, and I think they’ll be able to take away the semblance of a running game that Green Bay has. On the other side of the ball I think the 49ers will be able to run the ball how they want against the Packers, and Kaepernick’s mobility outside of the pocket should extend a couple drives for the 49ers that could prove to be critical. It’s risky to pick a young QB like Kaepernick against a seasoned veteran like Rodgers, but Kaepernick isn’t one to wilt under pressure. I’m going with the 49ers but I think it’s going to be close: 27-21

Houston-New England:

I have to pick the Patriots here. I just don’t think the Texans defense will be able to match up with the weapons that the Patriots have on offense, and if the Pats can get the run game going I think the Texans will struggle to slow Brady and the Pats offense down. The Pats aren’t a great team on defense, but I think they’ll be able to do enough to slow down the Texans offense. If they can bottle Foster up and not allow Schaub to suck their linebackers in with play action fakes I think the Pats will be able to win this game. I think it’s going to be a close game, but I’m not going to be able to bet against Tom Brady in a playoff game at home: 31-24

Atlanta-Seattle:

This is a hard game for me to pick. I mentioned last week that I think the Seahawks match up very well with the Falcons on defense and I still believe that. This game is going to come down to who wins the match-ups between the Falcons WR’s and the Seahawks corners and whether or not the Falcons can find a way to get Tony Gonzalez involved without forcing him the ball. And if Michael Turner finds a way to have a productive game the Falcons can definitely win. But if the Seahawks make the Falcons one dimensional I will be very nervous with Ryan trying to carry the Falcons to victory against a very talented Seahawks secondary. They are missing their top pass rusher, but their secondary is good enough that I’d still be concerned. The Seahawks will look to run the ball early and often and I think the Falcons have the advantage on this side of the ball. Their defense has been very good at coming up with clutch turnovers this year and even if they let Wilson and Lynch move the ball I have a feeling Wilson is going to end up with an interception in this game and Lynch needs to make sure he covers up the ball because the Falcons will be looking to strip it. It’s never a good idea to bet against Russell Wilson (I did it last week and we all know how that worked out) but I think the Falcons have the defense to match up with him and even though I’m very nervous for this game I’m picking the Falcons to win a close one: 27-20

Those are my picks, hopefully I can improve over my 2-2 record last week. Enjoy all the football guys and look out for my coverage of the East-West Shrine game this next week. I’ll be posting notes here and on The Football Standard.

–Tom

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Alright guys, I went 1-1 yesterday (I should have known better than to pick the Bengals) but the Packers came through for me. Today we have two more games to pick so I’ll try to finish strong today.

Indianapolis-Baltimore:

This is a tough game to pick and it could completely go either way in my opinion. The Colts are playing great and are playing with a lot of emotion for their Head Coach Chuck Pagano after his battle with cancer, and betting against Andrew Luck has never been a wise decision. However, betting against a Baltimore Ravens team that has just gotten their general back in Ray Lewis is an equally risky decision, and not one I’m inclined to make. I think the Ravens are going to be incredibly motivated to win this game for Ray Lewis, and while the Colts are a good football team (and vastly improved thanks to Andrew Luck at the helm) they won’t have their offensive coordinator Bruce Arians calling plays today and while they can survive without him, that’s not something you want to have to compensate for the day of the game. I’m picking Baltimore even though I’m not a big Joe Flacco fan (and wasn’t when he was coming out) but if the Ravens feed Ray Rice and play better on defense with Ray back in the fold I think they can pull this off.

Seattle-Washington:

This one is a tough game for me to call, but as much as I like Russell Wilson I think I have to pick Washington. The Seahawks aren’t the same team on the road as they are at home, and Washington is going to play with a chip on their shoulder since they probably aren’t getting the respect they deserve since they are an underdog in their own house. The Seahawks have a good defense though and if the Redskins are going to win this game their running game is going to have to be good, because the Seahawks two corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will take away any receiver they want on the Redskins. I hate to bet against Russell Wilson and I often say that doing that is a fast track to being wrong, but I have to go with the Redskins today.

Let’s see how I do and enjoy the games today! I’ll be live tweeting them so follow me @TMeltonScouting if you haven’t already.

–Tom

From now until the season starts I will be previewing the prospects from Big-12, ACC and Big East teams for the upcoming season. My colleague at NFL Draft Monsters Justin Higdon (follow him on Twitter @afc2nfc) will be covering the SEC, Pac-12 and Big-10 and you will be able to read those posts on NFL Draft Monsters. Check them all out to get ready for the 2013 NFL Draft by identifying the prospects you need to learn about!

Today I am previewing the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers have had a fantastic run since Bret Bielema took over, particularly in the last two years, going to consecutive Rose Bowls. That’s relatively unheard of, and even though they lost both in close games it still means the Badgers are a program on the rise and that they aren’t just a big, slow team that can’t hang with East or West Coast speed. I do want to mention that while Bielema has done a good job leading the Badgers into a new era after legendary Head Coach Barry Alvarez became the athletic director, I am not quite convinced he’s the best in-game coach. Specifically, I’m talking about timeout usage. I could go on a huge rant about this, specifically relating to Bielema, but the man simply doesn’t use his timeouts effectively. Take Wisconsin’s last second loss on a hail-mary to Michigan State last season. The Spartans were content to play for OT and were going to run the clock out but Bielema got cocky and called a timeout. That led the Spartans to get aggressive and roll the dice, and we all know what happened when they did. I was so shocked by the result that I actually wrote this after the game. Fast forward to the Rose Bowl against Oregon, when a wasted timeout early in the 2nd half (this is a vast oversimplification, I just don’t want to write 4,000 words about this) left Russell Wilson without a way to stop the clock other than spiking it with under 10 seconds to go, meaning he and the Badgers didn’t have a chance for one last play to score a touchdown and win the game. I’m sure some don’t think Bielema is a bad clock manager, but those two examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Bielema and his timeouts. I’ve actually never seen or heard of a head coach who uses them more poorly and sees his team suffer more for it as a result.

Anyways, Bielema sure has done a good job as a recruiter and that was evidenced by convincing Russell Wilson to transfer to the land of the cheese and he did it again with Danny O’Brien. I’m sure I’ll say this 1,000 times by the end of next season, but Badger fans please listen to me: Danny O’Brien is NOT Russell Wilson. I still believe he is a good quarterback, but like I said before last season Russell Wilson was special, and the Badgers won’t have another quarterback that good for a long time (if ever). O’Brien is officially the starter and has the unenviable job of replacing Wilson, who became a Wisconsin legend about as soon as he stepped on campus. O’Brien has the talent to keep defenses from keeping 8 defenders in the box because he will be able to make them pay thanks to Jared Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen catching balls from him. The offensive line at Wisconsin is always impressive, and despite losing three starters they will be good again this season.

My concern, much like it was last year, is with the defense. The Badgers’ defense last year was very average, if not poor, and was really held together by Chris Borland, Mike Taylor, Antonio Fenelus and to some degree Aaron Henry. This year it looks like the Badgers will have some more talent in the front 7, particularly along the defensive line, which would be a HUGE relief for any Badger fan. If the defensive line, particularly the defensive tackles, can occupy blockers better and contribute a bit to the pass rush then Wisconsin’s stellar linebacker tandem will be able to make a lot of plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. But beyond that, if the pass rush improves considerably it will make life a lot easier on Wisconsin’s weakest link- The defensive secondary. They are returning only ONE player with an interception from last season, and only two players who are projected to start have an interception in their entire careers. They have some starting experience returning, but it is mostly starting experience spent making mental mistakes, not playing the ball correctly, and generally allowing big plays from opposing offenses. If the secondary can step up, this defense could actually be decent or maybe even pretty good. But if they continue to play like they did last year (or worse, thanks to Fenelus and Henry heading to the NFL) then the Badgers will be in a world of hurt without Russell Wilson and a quick-strike offense to compensate. Thanks to Ohio State and Penn State being ineligible for the conference championship game you’d have to be brain dead not to think Wisconsin is the favorite, but Michigan State is reloading better than I thought they would, and Michigan figures to be jockeying with Nebraska for the top spot in the Legends division (seriously, Leaders and Legends is still the stupidest thing ever) and all three teams will be able to give Wisconsin a run for their money as the Badgers try to get to an unheard of third straight Rose Bowl. And with that, here are  the prospects to keep an eye on for the 2012 season:

O’Brien has a chance to lead Wisconsin to a third consecutive Rose Bowl. He won’t be able to do what Russell Wilson did, but he can still be a quality quarterback thanks to his experience and preference for a pro-style offense.

Danny O’Brien, QB*- I watched O’Brien a fair amount as a freshman and got a chance to see two games of him as a sophomore and I didn’t see the same quarterback. I don’t think it was simply a fluke season as a freshman or a sophomore slump the next year, I think that he is a pro-style quarterback who was miscast in a spread offense as a sophomore. His freshman year he looked more decisive, comfortable and accurate. You could tell he was confident and believed that he was “the guy” when he was playing, and as a result he made plays and won games. Then they fired his HC, brought in a spread offense offensive coordinator, and tried to force a square peg into a round hole. O’Brien never looked comfortable running that offense, particularly the zone read aspect. I never saw him keep it on the zone read once, and that’s because he’s a pass first QB, not a scrambler. Defenses figured that out, and even on plays where the read would dictate pulling it and running with it O’Brien would hand it off for a limited gain. He just wasn’t a good fit for that offense, particularly from that aspect. But luckily for O’Brien, he graduated in just three years and was eligible to transfer out without having to sit for a season before playing again. That led to him being pursued by Wisconsin and Penn State very seriously, and many actually speculated that he would be going to Penn State when he took another late visit to them and was seen wearing Penn State apparel on campus. He chose the Badgers in the end, and it’s hard to say that he made the wrong decision considering all the damage that has been done to Penn State’s program. I think it’s safe to say he is happy that he decided to go to Wisconsin, and now he has a chance to start for two more seasons before heading into the NFL Draft. O’Brien isn’t a giant by any means, being listed at 6’3”, 215, but he sure makes Russell Wilson look short. O’Brien is likely only 6’2”, but that still makes him a legitimate three inches taller than the superstar signal caller that led Wisconsin back to a second consecutive Rose Bowl despite arriving just weeks before the start of the season. O’Brien is a good quarterback, but he is not the next Russell Wilson. Make no mistake about it, O’Brien is still developing as a quarterback. Wilson transferred to Wisconsin as a polished passer who probably could have left for the NFL Draft if he wanted to, and he showed what he could do when supported by a quality offensive line and running game. O’Brien was efficient at Maryland as a freshman, but the new offense and lack of quality weapons (including the loss of his go-to receiver Torrey Smith) outside of Davin Meggett certainly played a role in his down season last year. That and the fact that Maryland flip flopped between O’Brien and CJ Brown, a scrambler/option quarterback, for most of the season.

Now O’Brien has been established as the starting quarterback and he will have plenty of pieces around him to succeed. He has returning Heisman finalist Montee Ball, the speedster James White, future stud RB Melvin Gordon at running back, plus Jared Abbrederis, and Jacob Pedersen for him to throw to. When I watched O’Brien as a freshman I saw an accurate quarterback with pocket poise, the ability to throw accurately on the move (particularly to his right, as he is right-handed) and enough velocity to be a NFL starter. He doesn’t have a cannon, and his deep balls tend to have plenty of air under them, but I’ve watched him make an all-arm throw from the middle of the field to the left sideline with plenty of velocity, and that was during his sophomore season. He doesn’t have Russell Wilson’s arm, but I think it’s good enough to get a shot in the NFL. The most interesting aspect of this transfer, at least in my opinion, will be seeing how much more comfortable O’Brien will be in a pro-style offense than he was in the spread offense he was running last year. The Badgers offense has a lot of similarities schematically to the pro-style offense he was running at Maryland as a freshman, just different terminology I’m sure (as well as a bit more of an emphasis on feeding the quality ball-carriers the Badgers have in their backfield). That should help ease the transition for him, plus they have a cupcake schedule before opening Big-10 conference play with Nebraska in week 5. The first four weeks they will play Northern Iowa, at Oregon State, Utah State and UTEP. Not exactly a rough schedule, so the Badgers should be 4-0 heading to Nebraska for a big away game. He will be under a lot of pressure to be the next Russell Wilson, but O’Brien will realize that a lot of the pressure that he felt at Maryland will melt away thanks to the amazing running game the Badgers will have again this season. That offensive line doesn’t rebuild, it only reloads, so despite losing three starters (including two 1st round caliber interior linemen, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz) they will continue to pound the rock at an impressive clip, especially since they have a quarterback who can make defenses pay when they load up the box against their stable of running backs. I’m very intrigued by O’Brien, and I am eager to see him return to his freshman form with his second chance at Wisconsin.

Montee Ball, RB- What is there to say about Montee Ball that hasn’t been said. He is one of the most NFL ready backs in college football, and really the only question marks people have about him are whether or not he plays behind “too good” of an offensive line so that he doesn’t really have vision or the more legitimate concern about his substantial workload at Wisconsin. Ball is listed at 5’11”, 212 and likely has 4.5 speed, but since he slimmed down before his junior season he has had substantially more burst. I thought he might have been carrying too much weight, and he always ran at one speed as a sophomore. But he was a different back, and a better one, as a junior, and it showed as he was a Heisman finalist and rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns while catching 24 passes for 306 yards and 6 more touchdowns (he also threw 2 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, giving him 40 total touchdowns on the season). He has the size, the athleticism, the burst, enough speed to gain chunks of yardage, the vision, the hands out of the backfield and the ability in pass protection to be a starting NFL running back right now. That’s why I thought he should declare after his Heisman caliber season last year and start getting paid for carrying the ball 300 times a year. Instead, he chose to come back, and he will certainly raise question marks about all the tread on his tires thanks to the way Wisconsin likes to run the ball. That’s really the only question mark about him in my opinion though, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t have 7-8 years of productive NFL running once he leaves Wisconsin after this season. He’s got everything you could want in a running back outside of 4.35 straight line speed.

James White, RB*- James White is a peculiar player. He looked absolutely unreal as a freshman playing behind Montee Ball once John Clay went down with an injury, rushing for 1,052 yards on 156 carries (6.74 ypc) and 14 touchdowns while adding 11 receptions for 88 more yards. I thought the Badgers were going to have the best running back tandem in the country last year, but White encountered a bit of a sophomore slump and rushed for only 713 yards on 141 carries, good for a 5.06 ypc average, and 6 touchdowns while adding 10 receptions and 150 yards out of the backfield. Those are still solid numbers, particularly since he was backing up a Heisman contender, but he didn’t look like the same back at all to me. He didn’t seem as decisive, as explosive and as dynamic as he did as a freshman. I have questions about his vision and while he has plenty of speed, burst and explosiveness, I am waiting to see the freshman version of James White. He and Danny O’Brien are in similar boats, trying to recapture their freshman glory heading into their junior seasons. I don’t know if White will ever recapture that dynamic freshman year version of himself, but I really hope he does. I would draft that kid, but I’m not so sure I would draft the back I saw as a sophomore.

Melvin Gordon is going to be the next feature back at Wisconsin, go ahead and put me on record.

Melvin Gordon, RB**- Gordon is only a redshirt freshman this year, but I think he is going to be the next great Wisconsin running back. He only got 20 carries and rushed for 98 yards and 1 touchdown last season, but was given a redshirt after playing in only three games. Due to injuries more than anything else, he was given a chance to be the feature back in Wisconsin’s spring game and he carried the ball 30 times for 159 yards and a touchdown, surpassing the statistics he amassed in three games last year. Gordon is buried on the depth chart behind Ball, who will get the lions’ share of the carries, and White, who provides some speed that Ball and Gordon can’t quite provide, but Gordon has feature back written all over him at 6’1, 200 pounds. I can’t wait to see more of him this year, because the little that I have been able to see of him has been awfully impressive. He likely won’t get more than 100 carries this year (even that would be considerable, but it would be nice to see him get touches to help keep Montee fresh) but when he does get touches I expect him to impress.

Jared Abbrederis, WR*- Abbrederis is a kid you just can’t help but root for. He emerged originally as a walk-on freshman, catching 20 passes for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns while also contributing a bit as a kick returner and punt returner. Then his role expanded even more as a sophomore with the arrival of Russell Wilson, and the 6’2”, 180 pound receiver hauled in 55 receptions for 933 yards and 8 touchdowns. He expanded his role as a return man, showcasing his shiftiness and ability to make defenders miss on the way to accumulating 315 yards and a touchdown on only 20 punt returns (15.75 average per return) as well as accounting for 689 kick return yards on 28 kick returns (24.61 average). That led to him signing his scholarship offer last January, which I was very happy to see. You love to see hard-working kids rewarded for their efforts, and not many have worked harder than Abbrederis. He may not be the biggest or the fastest, but he is a quality football player who has been a reliable target for the Badgers. He had a very unfortunate fumble in the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon late in the game, and his mistimed jump on the Michigan State hail mary helped contribute to Wisconsin’s first loss of the season. Despite those two mistakes that were magnified because of the stages on which they occurred, I am a big fan of Abbrederis. He runs solid routes, catches the ball well with his hands and uses his long arms effectively, and makes plenty of defenders miss once he has the ball in his hands. Not only that, but even as a freshman he was subbed into the game instead of Nick Toon, who was a junior at the time, when they needed a receiver to block effectively. That says a lot about his effort level and his commitment to fundamentals, and even though he isn’t a huge receiver he takes his blocking seriously. He’s a pretty complete receiver who should continue to win talent evaluators over for the next two years as a Badger.

Jacob Pedersen, TE/H-Back*- Before Pedersen even became the starter I proclaimed that he would be the “next Lance Kendricks” meaning he would be a good blocker from the H-Back spot and also the primary receiving tight end. Despite only having 8 receptions as a freshman, I saw enough to project him as a quality passing option. He proved me right by catching 30 passes for 356 yards and 8 touchdowns despite only being a sophomore. At 6’4”, 240 pounds he is not big enough to play inline every down in the NFL, or even in the Big-10 really. He’s a good blocker for his size, much like Kendricks was, but he’s more of an H-Back/receiving tight end than an extension of the offensive line like the great blocking tight ends are. I have a feeling Danny O’Brien will be very happy to have Pedersen as a security blanket, I know Russell Wilson was.

Ricky Wagner, OT- Wagner is an offensive tackle I’ve been talking up since Gabe Carimi was still playing on the Badgers a couple years ago. I don’t think he’s going to be a left tackle in the NFL, but I was impressed with him when I watched him a couple years ago and I liked some of what I saw of him on the left side as well. He’s not a great pass blocker, but he’s reliable and good enough to play on the right side at the next level in my opinion. The problem I have with Wagner is that even though he is listed at 6’6”, 322 pounds and he plays offensive tackle for Wisconsin, he’s not a typical road grader that you would like at right tackle. His run blocking is fine for a left tackle, but he’s not a good enough pass blocker to stick on the left side at the next level. He’s kind of a man without a home, not being a good enough pass blocker to stick on the left and not a good enough run blocker to be a great fit on the right. I am interested to see how he looks this year, as I’m hoping he will have improved in one aspect or the other (or if we’re lucky, both!) to provide some clarity about which position he projects best to in the NFL. Otherwise he might be a bit of a swing tackle that is never much more than a solid/reliable starter at either spot. I like him, but he’s not a 1st round pick at this point in my opinion.

Frederick doesn’t have a ton of game experience at center (just four starts) but his combination of size, strength, and football IQ is going to make him a possible 1st round draft pick at the position.

Travis Frederick, C/OG*- Frederick is a mauler in the trenches and will be moving inside to Center full time this season despite having only four career starts at the position in his first two years with the Badgers. At 6’4”, 328 pounds he is an absolute behemoth for a center, and will give the Badgers a huge advantage in the run game despite losing a great center in Peter Konz who I had graded as a first rounder. Frederick has received a lot of praise from coaches and media alike for his football IQ, and that is critical for any offensive lineman moving inside to center. The fact that he happens to have great size for an offensive guard, and the fact that he was a very good left guard last season, only means that by moving inside to center he gives the Badgers another year (or maybe two if they are lucky) of having what I call “three guards” inside. By that I mean, often times centers are very smart players with sound technique, but they are often in the 6’2”-6’3”, 300 pound mold and not particularly physically imposing. But when you have a 6’3”+ center who weighs 310+ and most importantly PLAYS as big as he is you have an advantage. Instead of having two guards and a center who can’t drive block one on one or block a defensive tackle one on one in pass protection, you theoretically have three guards who can drive a man off the ball when matched up in man blocking schemes and that really helps you generate push in the run game and dominate opponents with power man blocking. Frederick gives the Badgers a chance to do this again, and I for one can’t wait to see how he does. Centers with his skill set often go in the first round because it is so rare to find a center who can snap well, make line calls and also be big, strong and physical enough to generate push in the run game 1 on 1. That’s why centers like Nick Mangold, Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Pouncey went in the 1st round and why Peter Konz would have had he not had injury questions surrounding him. Centers that big and talented are rare and are extremely valuable commodities. The fact that Frederick combines his size, strength and technique with a high football IQ means he has the chance to be the next first round center either this year or next.

Ryan Groy, OG*- Groy is the 6’5”, 322 pounder replacing Frederick at left guard and while he only has 6 career starts (including two at FULLBACK) he played in all 14 games last year and if you know anything about the Wisconsin football program you know they churn out road grading offensive lineman like a Hershey’s factory churns out chocolate. I haven’t scouted Groy specifically, but think about the left side of Wisconsin’s offensive line: LT- Wagner, 6’6”, 322 pounds LG- Groy, 6’5”, 322 pounds C- Frederick, 6’4”, 328 pounds. You think Wisconsin is planning on running to the left at all this year?

Brendan Kelly, DE- Kelly is a player that before last year I never thought I might include his name in one of these prospect previews. He is a 6’6”, 250 pound defensive end who played high school football in Eden Prairie (which is about 10 minutes away from where I am currently writing this, and also was a rival team of Edina high school where I happened to go) before choosing to go to Wisconsin to play college football. He has been through a myriad of injuries and has rarely been on the field unfortunately. He sustained a serious groin injury as a freshman but attempted to play through it before realizing that he had torn four muscles off of his pelvis, and missed the final conference game the Badgers played that season. When he attempted to come back during fall camp the next year he aggravated the injury, leading to additional surgery and time on the sidelines. He had three total surgeries on his groin, he has missed time with a hand injury, and missed some time in the spring with a hamstring tweak. None of it fazed him though, as he continued to support his teammates, lift what he could lift, watch film, and continue to demonstrate an intense passion for the game of football. He has fought through a lot of adversity to remain on this team, much less play, and I find myself rooting for him to stay healthy this year and show what he can do. He played in all 14 games last season as a junior, and totaled 35 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 pass break-up and 2 forced fumbles. It wasn’t as if he got those sacks against bottom feeders either. His three sacks were in three different games, coming against Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State. He started the final 8 games, his first coming against the Cornhuskers. The Badgers will use a rotation along the defensive line, but Kelly is expected to get a lot of snaps. He also has the potential to petition for a 6th year of eligibility thanks to losing almost three full years of his career due to hand and groin injuries. We’ll see if he gets that, but I am looking forward to seeing if he can help Gilbert boost the Badgers’ pass rush this season. They could really use it.

David Gilbert, DE*- Gilbert flashed some potential to me as a sophomore because the 6’4”, 250 pound defensive end showed an impressive get-off as well as burst and speed to get the edge. He’s an impressive looking athlete, and he had 3 sacks in Wisconsin’s first four games last year (though they played UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois and South Dakota in the first four weeks, with Gilbert getting a sack in each game except for the NIU game). However, he sustained a serious foot injury and was granted a medical redshirt to preserve his junior year of eligibility. He’s very strong, and he has all the physical tools you could want to be an effective defensive end. I want to see him play smarter, improve his technique and prove that he’s more than just an edge rusher with a bit of a bull rush. If he improves his technique and continues to improve his craft as a defensive end he could get 8-10 sacks this year or the next and boy do the Badgers need a pass rusher. They have really missed the pressure J.J. Watt put on passers.

I honestly believe that Beau Allen could be the best defensive tackle the Badgers have had in years.

Beau Allen, DT*- I haven’t scouted Allen specifically, but the 6’3”, 323 pound defensive tackle gives the Badgers some much needed size in the middle of the defense. As a sophomore he had 22 tackles, 4 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss despite not starting a single game because he was playing behind Patrick Butrym. I was never a Butrym fan, so I am interested to see if Allen can be a superior talent. Wisconsin fields three undersized tackling machines at linebacker, so they need their defensive tackles to occupy blockers and allow them to fly around and make plays without being reached by offensive linemen. If Allen can keep his linebackers clean and also apply pressure on the passer like he did in a rotational role last year he is going to get a lot of attention from scouts. I can’t remember the last time the Badgers had a quality pass rusher at defensive tackle, but I think Allen has a chance to change that. He has already shown signs of being an impact player, such as totaling 3 tackles for loss and a sack in Wisconsin’s 2012 Spring Game.

Ethan Hemer, DT*- Hemer is another big, strong defensive tackle who will be starting at nose tackle I believe. He is listed at 6’6”, 305 pounds and by playing next to Allen I believe he gives the Badgers the biggest defensive tackle starting tandem that they have had in some time. Like I just mentioned, they need big defensive tackles to keep their linebackers clean and I am eager to see if Hemer is up to that challenge. He comes into the season with 20 career starts, including all 14 games last season, and he managed 34 tackles and 1 sack in those 14 starts. I don’t need him to make 100 tackles, 15 sacks and force 5 fumbles (though that would be terrific) but he needs to show that he can hold up against double teams and help clog up running lanes in the middle of the defense. Nose Tackles that can do that are very valuable in the Big-10, and just as valuable in the NFL.

Chris Borland, MLB*- Borland is just a beast, I know that word is overused but it’s true. I remember when I was watching him as a freshman (god that feels like a long time ago) and even though he is probably only 5’10”, 250 pounds (yes, he’s listed at 250 pounds, though he’s also listed at 5’11”) he plays very instinctually, flies to the ball and is a tackling machine. He was second on the team in tackles with 143 tackles, led the team by a wide margin with 16.5 TFL, had 2.5 sacks, 5 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions and FIVE forced fumbles. Make no mistake about it, Borland is a man who can stuff a stat sheet and he really has a knack for forcing fumbles. His freshman year in 2009 he only had 54 tackles (36 solo), but he had 10.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 pass deflection, 1 interception, a blocked kick and five more forced fumbles! He got a medical redshirt in 2010 and came back at full force as a redshirt sophomore as you all know. He enters his junior year with 28 career tackles for loss, 7.5 career sacks, 3 interceptions and a staggering 10 forced fumbles. He’s undersized and he won’t be able to play middle linebacker in the NFL, but I think he will get a shot to play outside linebacker in the NFL. Maybe it will have to be in a Tampa-2, but he is too instinctual and too good a tackler to not get a NFL shot.

Mike Taylor, OLB- Taylor is taller than Borland at 6’3” but despite being listed four inches taller he weighs 28 pounds less, listed at only 222 pounds. That’s pretty light even for a weak side linebacker, but he produced anyways as he led the team in tackles (which is no easy task playing next to Borland) with 150 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 pass break-ups and 2 interceptions. He’s a senior this season and figures to help Wisconsin have one of the best, if not the best, linebacker tandems in the entire Big-10 conference. If the defensive line can keep him and Borland clean they are going to wreak a lot of havoc on opposing offenses, you can count on it.

Shelton Johnson, SS- There is actually a fair amount of potential in the Badgers’ front 7, more than I expected and more than they have had since they had J.J. Watt leading the charge to the Rose Bowl against the TCU Horned Frogs. The Badgers had a lot of trouble on the back-end last year though, even in spite of having two well established senior starters in Antonio Fenelus and Aaron Henry. Now they have both moved on to the NFL, and Shelton Johnson is the only, yes ONLY, returning defensive back that had an interception last season. He had four of them along with 54 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and four pass break-ups, so I think he has a chance to be a reliable safety in his second season as a starter, but the lack of talent around him is extremely concerning. The only returning defensive back besides Johnson with an interception in his entire career is Devin Smith, who has three, and he sustained a season-ending injury last season that earned him a medical redshirt. Johnson is going to be the best player in this secondary, and if a Smith and Marcus Cromartie don’t step up at corner this pass defense is going to struggle mightily, particularly with big plays. That is, unless the pass rush improves considerably. The defensive secondary will be the kryptonite of this Badger squad, but Johnson has a chance to help stop some of the bleeding.

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

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.

Senior Bowl Preview:

Quarterbacks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running Backs:

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

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

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

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

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

Fullbacks:

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

Wide Receivers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tight Ends:

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

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

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

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

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

Offensive Line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom

1- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: Grade: #1 overall pick
2- Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal: Grade: Top 5-10 overall pick
3- Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor: Grade: Top 15 overall pick
4- Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd
5- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: Grade: 2nd round
6- Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin: Grade: 3rd round
7- Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State: Grade: 3rd round
8- Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Grade: 3rd/4th round
9- Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Grade: 3rd/4th round
10- B.J. Coleman, QB, Chattanooga: Grade: 4th round
11- Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State: Grade: 4th/5th round
12- Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State: Grade: 5th round
13- Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State: Grade: 5th round
14- Nick Foles, QB, Arizona: Grade: 5th/6th round
15- Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois: Grade: 5th/6th round
16- John Brantley, QB, Florida: Grade: 6th round
17- Matt Scott, QB, Arizona: Grade: 6th round/7th round
18- Patrick Witt, QB, Yale: Grade: 7th round/UDFA
19- Case Keenum, QB, Houston: Grade: 7th round/UDFA
20- Dominique Davis, QB, East Carolina: Grade: UDFA
21- G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa: Grade: UDFA
22- Aaron Corp, QB, Richmond: Grade: UDFA
23- Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: Grade: UDFA
24- Jarrett Lee, QB, LSU: Grade: UDFA
25- Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU: Grade: UDFA

Wisconsin-Illinois:

-Montee Ball was the man in this game. He had a fantastic game rushing 38 times for 224 yards and 2 TD’s. He also added two receptions for a cumulative total of -1 yards, but he had a 5 yard reception for a touchdown to help bring Wisconsin back early in the 2nd half. I can’t say enough good things about Montee Ball. Last year he looked like he lacked burst, might have been carrying too much weight, and while he was still very effective I didn’t think he was a legitimate NFL prospect. This year he dropped about 25 pounds and the second I saw him touch the ball for the first time this year I immediately said “Wow, Montee looks like a completely different back.” He has so much more burst, so much more speed to finish runs, and hits the hole harder and faster. He still runs the ball hard, he runs through arm tackles with ease, he can run guys over when he puts his head down, and he gains a lot of yardage after contact. He has very reliable hands out of the backfield, and overall strikes me as a very complete back. Will he go in the first round? I’m not sure, but I would definitely put a 2nd round grade on him at this point. He has feature back written all over him in the NFL, and has proven that he can be an every down back because of the emphasis Wisconsin puts on running the ball and working the clock. Montee Ball, it’s time to go pro! I’ll have a scouting report up on him this upcoming week.

-Russell Wilson was not the headliner of this game by any stretch of the imagination. Montee Ball literally carried them, and Wilson was essentially a glorified bystander. He was 10/13 for only 90 yards and 1 touchdown (to Montee Ball) and ran for another touchdown on a naked bootleg at the goal line. Wilson has had much better games, and while he only threw three incompletions two of them were poor throws while he had plenty of room in the pocket to throw. He missed both high, and the second pass was not a clean spiral. Once Wisconsin had taken control of the game he did convert two throws on 3rd downs with ease to extend their drives which should not be overlooked, but I think Wisconsin could have handled Illinois very easily in this game if Wilson had been more of a difference maker in the passing game. You wouldn’t know it by looking at the statistics, but for a while Illinois was doing a solid job of taking Montee Ball away and Wilson wasn’t moving the ball for Wisconsin. Ball and Wisconsin’s offensive line wore Illinois down in the second half, but if that hadn’t happened I don’t know if Wilson could have won this game for Wisconsin today throwing the ball.

AJ Jenkins- Jenkins had an average game with only 4 receptions for 33 yards, but he was impressive. He had a touchdown called back by a very questionable offensive pass interference call on a TE who allegedly “picked” the defender like a basketball player, but in reality he barely touched him as he ran by him (his shoulder nicked Fenelus who was in coverage on the play). Jenkins had created legitimate separation over the middle, caught it cleanly and picked up the rest for a TD only to have it called back. Later on same drive Illinois was inaccurately called for a second “picking” penalty and this was even worse Darius Millines, a wide receiver on Illinois, stopped his route and avoided the defender and may not have actually touched him. Yet, the penalty was still called and another catch and run by Jenkins (this time down inside the five) was negated by a bad call by the refs. Jenkins was matched up with Fenelus the entire game from what I saw, and it was a pretty even battle. Jenkins created separation relatively consistently and if it weren’t for those penalties he would have had about 50-60 yards and potentially a touchdown. I’m a huge Jenkins fan and while I don’t think he’s a 1st or 2nd rounder because I don’t think he has great deep speed he strikes me as a nice #2 or slot receiver in the NFL because of his good hands, willingness to go over the middle, ability to make catches in traffic, and because he can make defenders miss in the open field to pick up yards after the catch.

-Antonio Fenelus had a very good game today. He was matched up on AJ Jenkins all game and while Jenkins did make some plays and create separation against him Fenelus held his own in coverage. Overall he had pretty good coverage on deep throws, he used the sideline well as a defender, but he did get beat deep on at least one play when Jenkins had separation down the middle but O’Toole’s pass was underthrown in the face of the wind. As a result, Fenelus recovered and made a great diving interception on the play. Fenelus had another shot at an interception but it went right through his hands, was tipped around and eventually intercepted by Aaron Henry. I’ve liked Fenelus since I watched him last year and personally feel that he is underrated. He’s not an elite corner prospect, but I think he has NFL ability and is worth mid-round consideration.

-Jeff Allen is the left tackle on Illinois. He has a lot of starting experience with over 30 career starts under his belt, and might actually be a four year starter. I’m not sold on him sticking at LT in the NFL, but I think his upside might be as a right tackle in a zone blocking scheme. He’s pretty agile for his size (listed at 6’5″, 315 pounds) and gets off the ball effectively, especially in the running game. I haven’t seen him much so I don’t know how well he cuts, but he is not a drive blocker so putting him in a man blocking scheme that relies on driving defenders off the ball is not where his upside lies. He does seal well and positions himself effectively to create running lanes for Illinois’ running backs, but I don’t think he has as much upside in a man scheme as he does in a zone scheme. He had a solid game against Whitney Mercilus because he didn’t have as many issues with him attempting to speed rush, but he struggles with speed and I don’t think he has the lateral agility and kick slide to mirror elite NFL pass rushers. I think he could be a solid/quality RT, but is a potential back-up LT that could play there in a pinch. That gives him some value, but I still grade him as a 4th round guy right now. If he has to move to RT his inability to move defenders off the ball in the run game hurts his value if he is forced to move there.

-This was the first game I have gotten to see Whitney Mercilus in since he has caught fire and garnered significant National attention. He’s a legitimate prospect, but I think he has to stick at LE in the NFL. He doesn’t have the edge speed to stick at RE in my opinion. He’s a strong guy with a lot of potential, but it was hard to evaluate him as a pass rusher when Russell Wilson only threw the ball 13 times and Montee Ball had 38 carries for 224 yards. I like his potential, but I need to see more. He had 17.5 TFL and 12.5 sacks coming into the game today, so I just need tos ee more of him.

-Michael Buchanan is another one of Illinois’ talented defensive linemen. He was on my list of potential break-out players before the season began and has produced 11.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks and 1 forced fumble on the year (before the Wisconsin game). He’s got great speed off the edge, but he needs to get stronger and add weight to stand up better against the run. He’s got potential, but still needs developing and coaching.

-Illinois middle linebacker Jonathan Brown may only be a sophomore but he is a star. Before today’s game he had 78 total tackles (only 29 solo), 14.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 4 pass break-ups, 1 forced fumble and an interception. He has great instincts, he fills well, he flows to the ball well, and he just makes plays. I’m a huge fan and he is definitely someone to keep an eye on. He showed up often today as he always does.

-Ian Thomas is an underrated linebacker in my opinion. He’s only 6’1″, 235 pounds but he was filling very well when he had the opportunity to against Wisconsin. Is he a top 100 guy? No, but he’s a quality tackler with 64 tackles (23 solo), 8.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks so far this year. He’s got draftable ability in my opinion, but no one is talking about him. I think he will at worst get picked up as a UDFA and make a roster because of his potential contributions on special teams.

Yale-Harvard:

-Patrick Witt was the only reason I watched some of this game, and while I think he has some arm talent and accuracy I was not overly impressed. He stared down his receivers regularly, didn’t make very good decisions and ended up with two interceptions before I tuned back in to the Wisconsin-Illinois game. He has enough ability to be brought on as a UDFA, but I’m not sure he has draftable talent beyond late round consideration right now. He could make himself some money with a quality performance in a post-season game like the East-West Shrine Game though.

Michigan-Nebraska:

-Alfonzo Dennard didn’t seem to have a very good game against Michigan. I didn’t see much of the game, but when I watched I was not very impressed. I like him, but he hasn’t been helping his stock a lot in recent weeks.

-David Molk may be my #1 senior center in this class. He’s not very big, but he’s very mobile, has tons of starting experience, and is overall very reliable. He won’t be able to block a DT one on one in the NFL very often, but he’s intelligent and should have a very long NFL career. Not a 1st round pick, but definitely warrants 2nd-3rd round consideration.

-Denard Robinson should just move to slot receiver. I know Michigan won this game, but he could be such a dynamic receiver in the slot and that is the only position he has a NFL future at. Just bite the bullet Michigan!

I focused on the Illinois-Wisconsin game, but I had a few notes on the other prospects as well. Enjoy the rest of the games tonight!

–Tom

Vanderbilt-Kentucky:

-Jordan Rodgers has helped revitalize Vanderbilt’s season and in his fourth consecutive start he has Vanderbilt within one game of bowl eligibility. He’s very athletic, has some arm talent, but is still improving and developing as a quarterback. He isn’t on the same level as his brother, but it is worth watching what he can do in the SEC both this year and next. He’s got some weapons on offense in Zac Stacy at RB plus Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd at WR. Matthews and Boyd are both 6’3″ plus, and as Rodgers continues to develop and gain experience I think he might make Vanderbilt a potentially fun offense to watch next year. Rodgers will be a senior in his first full season as a starter next year, Stacy will be a senior, Matthews will be a junior and Boyd will be a sophomore. They’ve got some intriguing pieces on offense, let’s hope this isn’t just a teaser and that they actually take the next step next year. I for one will be rooting for them to do so.
-Zac Stacy had another big day for Vanderbilt. I’ll need to watch him more because he has had a productive season this year. He now has 891 yards and 9 TD’s on the season as well as 16 receptions for 78 yards. I would expect him to exceed 1,000 yards rushing either this upcoming week or next, and if he is able to do then Vanderbilt has a solid shot at a bowl game. He’s their workhorse, and without him I don’t think Vanderbilt’s offense would be nearly as productive as they have been recently. I haven’t scouted him yet, but I will get to it soon when I watch Rodgers just to get a baseline idea of what he can do.
-I’m not sure anyone has enjoyed Rodgers’ presence at the quarterback position more than Jordan Matthews. He had his 3rd consecutive 100+ yard game after totaling just 8 receptions, 107 yards and 1 TD in the first six games he played in (he missed the game against Alabama). It has been a totally different story the last three weeks as he has produced 21 receptions, 452 yards and three touchdowns (one in each of the last three games). He’s been super productive and has helped open up Vanderbilt’s offense. Can’t wait to watch some of these recent games to see what he can do.

Baylor-Kansas:

-Robert Griffin had a very slow start, and while I didn’t see the game and I can’t speculate on how it happened, it certainly seemed like he carried Baylor back into the game and ultimately won it in overtime today against Kansas. I was wondering why he was struggling so much against such a seemingly bad Kansas squad, but he really rallied Baylor late in the game and helped erase a 21 point 4th quarter deficit. They scored three touchdowns in the quarter (all by Griffin, 1 rushing TD and 2 passing TD’s), forced overtime and Kansas went for a two point conversion and failed, resulting in a one point win for Baylor. I’ll definitely be watching this game later, because I have been wondering if Griffin had the ability to lead his team to a comeback win like this for a while. It was against a bad Kansas team, but it is still more than I have seen from him before. Obviously my thoughts on this game will be posted on my blog once I have a chance to break it down at a later date.

Georgia-Auburn:

-Aaron Murray is a guy I’ve been impressed with since he was a freshman. It feels like he’s been leading Georgia forever, but he is still only a sophomore. Still, he seems more mature than your average sophomore and is without a doubt the leader of Georgia’s football team. He had one of the best games of his career today when he went 14/18 for 224 yards and 4 touchdowns while adding 21 yards rushing. He was making plenty of stick throws and was placing the ball perfectly today. It was fun to watch him play this well.
-Jarvis Jones is an animal. I don’t have a lot of defensive players in this list because it’s tough to find stats for defenders the day of the game, but Jones warrants mention. I’m not sure what his final statistics were in this game, but I know he had at least one sack because I saw it. He has 9 sacks on the season I believe and an unreal 16 tackles for loss. He’s been fantastic for Georgia, and has incredible upside. It’s going to be fun to watch him develop. He’s only a sophomore, but he has had an absolute break-out season this year. He’s listed at 6’3″, 241 pounds and looks skinny on film. He has plenty of room to add weight, and I would be surprised if he wasn’t 250+ next year as a junior for Georgia.

TCU-Boise State:

-I definitely kept an eye on this game not only because there were plenty of prospects to see, but because these two teams always seem to play each-other pretty tough. TCU played them tough again today and unfortunately it came down to another field goal attempt and Boise State couldn’t capitalize on it. Must be frustrating for Boise and their fans, but yet again they won’t get a shot at an elite bowl game. I hate to say it, but I have been one of their detractors who said that if they were in a better conference they wouldn’t always be undefeated. They aren’t exactly changing my mind by losing to Nevada last year and TCU this year.
-Kellen Moore is a good QB, but I question his ability to be a NFL starter. His arm strength is an issue, but that can be improved up and overcome at least to a degree. It’s definitely worrisome that he doesn’t throw a great deep ball because of his lack of arm strength and he doesn’t have good zip on intermediate or longer throws. He’s an accurate quarterback though, he’s very intelligent and he has tons of starting experience as a four year starter. I think he can stick in the NFL, I just don’t think his combination of size and arm strength give him a lot of upside as a potential NFL starter. I do think he will make a roster and be quality back-up that might eventually get his shot, but I think he is a developmental guy that will get drafted in the 4th round range. One thing that bothered me about him today was his issues handling pressure that TCU was bringing. He isn’t used to getting hit, and when TCU was able to pressure him, hit him and sack him he seemed rattled and was missing some throws that he usually makes. He obviously rebounded in the second half, but I thought that was worth noting.

Wisconsin-Minnesota:

-Russell Wilson was the epitome of efficiency and Montee Ball broke the Big 10 single season touchdown record with three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) today against Minnesota. He has an unreal 27 touchdowns on the season now. He has 1,232 yards, 23 rushing touchdowns and 14 catches, 234 yards and 4 touchdowns on the season. Definitely a fantastic year, and they still have two games left against Illinois and Penn State (I have a ticket to the Penn State game, very excited for that). Russell Wilson literally threw one incompletion today, and threw for 178 yards and 4 touchdowns.
-Nick Toon showed up big for Wisconsin today, but I am a little concerned that he all but disappeared in Wisconsin’s big games against Michigan State and Ohio State with a combined 5 catches for 97 total yards and 0 TD’s in those games. His only 100 yard games have been against the likes of South Dakota and now Minnesota, two teams with vastly less talent than Wisconsin. To be fair to Toon, who I think has NFL upside, he did have 4 catches, 94 yards and 1 TD against Nebraska which was Wisconsin’s first big game of the year. However, it is a bit concerning that he didn’t step up in much closer games later in the year, but is showing up against less significant opposition like he has.

USC-Washington:

-Matt Barkley continues to play well and I have to say he made Steve Sarkisian look pretty smart for saying he’d draft Barkley over Andrew Luck considering Luck’s relative struggles against Oregon tonight (to be covered later in this post) as well as Barkley’s quality season this year. He seems to have gotten better every week, which makes me think that the chances of him declaring early might be increasing. Regardless, still fun to see him play well because I have been high on him since he was a freshman.
-If you read my blog consistently you may remember me saying that I don’t know why Curtis McNeal isn’t getting more touches for USC a few weeks ago. Well recently he has been, and he has been playing fantastic. He has exceeded 100 yards rushing in three of the last four games, and has exceeded 85 yards rushing in each of the last five. Last week against Colorado he sat most of the second half, but in the first half he had 10 carries for 87 yards. Against Washington today he had 18 carries for 148 yards and another touchdown. Keep feeding McNeal USC, he’s got tons of ability. Looking forward to seeing him continue to grow and develop.
-Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are still beasts. Really fun to watch them play. People are really underestimating how significant Lee’s emergence has been for Woods. If Lee wasn’t playing this well as a freshman then Woods would be getting doubled and USC’s passing attack would be significantly impaired. It’s fun to watch these guys when Barkley has time to get them the ball.

Arkansas-Tennessee:

-Tyler Wilson continues to have a very good season for Arkansas. He’s flying a little under the radar, but he has played very well. He has 2,850 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions on the season after the game against Tennessee today. He has NFL upside, but I don’t think I will put a first round grade on him assuming he comes back for his senior year next year. I’d place him in the 2nd round conversation because he has upside, but needs to work on some things. Doesn’t always spin a clean ball, doesn’t have a rocket arm (though replacing Mallett would make anyone’s arm strength look inferior) but has quality accuracy.
-Dennis Johnson has been very strong the last four weeks and is showing Arkansas fans what might have been if he hadn’t gotten hurt and allowed Knile Davis to become the staple of their running game last season. He has filled in pretty well, and is one of the more underrated running backs in the SEC.
-Jarius Wright continues his fantastic season. He has the potential to end up in the 1st round, he has had a terrific year this year. He has 53 catches, 906 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games now. He is their go-to guy on offense.

Virginia-Duke:

-I didn’t get to see this game since it wasn’t on in my area, but Chase Minnifield, a cornerback on Virginia that I am very high on, had his 3rd interception of the season (13th of his career) and returned it for his first career defensive touchdown. I’m high on him and I look forward to getting to watch him more often.

Oregon-Stanford:

-This was supposed to be the game of the night but Oregon definitely surprised me and played much better than I expected them to. They were in control of this game after the 1st quarter, and they just had way too much speed and athletic ability on offense for Stanford.
-Andrew Luck played well in my opinion, but made a few mistakes and was flustered at times. He threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown and struggled to make plays downfield due to his lack of talent available to him at wide receiver. He still played a good game, but even Luck couldn’t find a way to win this one. His team was overmatched talent wise, especially at wide receiver and cornerback. Luck looked human in this game, but he is still a very good quarterback. He responds very well to adversity and was simply trying to make a play with his back against the wall when he threw his pick 6. It’s unfortunate how it played out for him, but he’s still a lock for the #1 overall pick in my opinion.
-Darron Thomas threw the ball as well as I have ever seen him throw it in this game. He would miss a throw every once in a while, but he was throwing darts all over the field and made some legitimate NFL throws in this game. Makes me wonder where this has been all season, because he looked like a completely different quarterback in this game. I didn’t even see him throw the ball like this last year when he led Oregon to the National Championship game against LSU.
-LaMichael James continues to play well, and it is very reassuring to see him healthy even if he has to play with that big pad on his right arm. He’s very explosive, agile and is stronger with better leg drive than he has had in previous years. I still have a 2nd round grade on him, but I don’t think he’s going to be able to hold up as a feature back in the NFL.
-Chase Thomas, an outside linebacker on Stanford, had a horrible game today in my opinion. He was taken out of the passing game by Darrion Weems, the senior Left Tackle on Oregon, and struggled mightily against the zone read that Oregon runs so well. He consistently collapsed on the running back instead of staying disciplined and making sure Thomas didn’t pull it and run. Instead, Thomas was able to keep it and scamper for significant rushing yardage a number of times and each time it was Thomas who let him break contain. Definitely a disappointing game for Thomas.

Arizona State-Washington State:

-It is fitting that this was the last game on tonight as well as the last game in this post because in my opinion it was the best game of the night. I completely expected Arizona State to win, but Washington State pulled off the upset thanks to two unreal individual performances.
-Connor Halliday is a freshman quarterback that has played in only three games in his college football career. I’m not even sure that he started this game for Washington State since I started watching after it had already started, but that doesn’t take away from what he was able to do. Halliday, a 6’4″, 180 pound freshman went 27/36 for 494 yards and 4 touchdowns and led the Cougars to an upset of Arizona State. He wasn’t just checking down and hitting drag routes for lots of YAC either, Halliday was making stick throw after stick throw and he was doing it under pressure, on 3rd down, it didn’t seem to matter. When he was threatening to take the lead he threw a strike to the end zone and it was dropped. Then it was 3rd and long, his RT jumped for a false start penalty. Now it was 3rd and longer and what does he do? Deliver another strike to the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the game to take the lead. Halliday played a fantastic game and while he doesn’t have perfect mechanics, a rocket arm or perfect accuracy he certainly has good arm strength, accuracy and shockingly good pocket poise for a freshman. The amount of poise it took to go toe to toe with Arizona State’s potent offense led by a quarterback in Brock Osweiler that has legitimate 1st round talent in his first significant playing time in his college career is inconceivable. He played a fantastic game, and was honestly the most impressive player that I watched today. That’s how good he was.
-Marquess Wilson was Halliday’s favorite target today as he accumulated 8 receptions, 223 yards and 3 touchdowns. He had an absolutely unreal game today, and while I had heard of him before as one of the best receivers in the Pac-12 I didn’t really think he was on the same level as Robert Woods and Keenan Allen but after seeing him tonight I think he is worthy of being mentioned as one of the best young receivers in the Pac-12. This was the first I’d ever seen him, but he had an absolutely fantastic game. He made a number of tough catches and obviously came up big when his team needed him to, and he helped make Connor Halliday look like a 4th year starter who had led 10 4th quarter comebacks in his career tonight.
-Brock Osweiler was impressive as well, though his performance will likely be lost in the shuffle because of Connor Halliday’s emergence and because he ultimately won the game. However, Osweiler still went 28/44 for 351 yards and 1 touchdown in this game despite an anemic running game that mustered just 60 yards on 24 carries. Osweiler would have had even more yards if his receivers hadn’t dropped a few catchable balls (particularly one by #13 that absolutely changed the game. He dropped a ball right on the money in a hole in the zone on 3rd and goal that would have been a TD, Arizona State then attempted a field goal and missed it, giving Washington State control). However, he was making some very impressive NFL throws. He was putting touch on passes to get the ball over the linebacker and in front of the safety down the seam and behind the corner, in front of the safety down the sideline. He made stick throw after stick throw in the 2nd half to lead his team to touchdown drives to try to stick with Washington State’s suddenly potent offense. I was very impressed even though he had a couple questionable decisions, but he played very well and deserves props for that. I’m still very high on him for the 2013 NFL Draft.
-Gerell Robinson had a huge game for Arizona State. He had 8 receptions, 158 yards and 1 TD tonight, and when I was watching I didn’t see him drop any passes he should have caught.

I know it was a long post, but hopefully you appreciated some of my thoughts on the afternoon and evening games. Thanks for reading!

–Tom