BBI Guest Contributor

Feb 172015
 
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Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (December 28, 2014)

Le’Veon Bell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

by Brendan Cassidy for BigBlueInteractive.com

The Slow Death of the Fantasy Running Back:

Finding solid fantasy football running backs seems to be a more difficult task each year. As the NFL continues to progress into more of a passing league, reliable fantasy running back options seem to be dwindling. Add in all the running back time-shares across the league, and it is of upmost importance to snag at least one if not two quality running backs in the first few rounds of your draft. The last six years running back carries and touchdowns have decreased, and I see no reason why this trend will end in 2015. Grab the studs while you can, because the drop off will be steep and could ultimately end your fantasy season before it even begins.

The Rankings:

  1. Le’Veon Bell:

Any running back list for 2015 should begin with Le’Veon Bell at the top of it regardless of scoring format. Not only is he the top running back, he is the top overall fantasy player heading in to 2015. Bell finished the season second in rushing yards with 1,361; however, where he really added his value was the receiving game where he lead all running backs with 854 receiving yards and had 83 receptions (second only to Matt Forte.) He is an every down and back and one of Rothlesberger’s favorite targets in the receiving game (behind only Antonio Brown, who, by the way lead the entire NFL with 129 receptions in 2014.) If you have first pick in your draft, I would be confident grabbing him and if you are in an auction league, spending a pretty penny on him may very well be worth it.

  1. Eddie Lacy:

After a promising rookie campaign where Lacy took him Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, the second year back got off to a horrid start in the 2014 season. To the dismay of fantasy owners who invested a first round pick in him, Lacy was barely start-able the first quarter of the season. However, for those who managed to hold on to him through his struggles, it would soon pay off. The biggest reason Lacy was so inadequate the first month was most likely due to the fact Lacy started the season against three of the top run defenses (Seahawks, Jets and Lions.) After the tough stretch, Lacy was able to pick it up, averaging an elite 20.1 PPG the last twelve games of the season. This the type of production you should expect from him in Green Bay’s high powered offense as the feature back. Despite the slow start, Lacy finished 6th in fantasy points in the season in PPR season. Look for him to improve even more going into his third year and be in the running for top fantasy player of 2015.

  1. Jamaal Charles:

Jamaal Charles, the top fantasy player of 2013, took a small step back in 2014, but still finished with a very respectable season. The biggest reason for his regression was the dismantling of his offensive line and an injury that seemed to bother him throughout most of 2014. Despite missing almost two full games, Charles was able to finish 7th overall in fantasy points with 253.4 Charles gets a large chunk of his value through the receiving game (hence increasing his value even more in PPR leagues; whereas, he is around the 5th best option in a standard scoring league. Look for Kansas City to address the offensive line in free agency and/or the draft increasing Charles’s value for 2015.

  1. Demarco Murray:

Murray was the most difficult for me to rank. The Cowboys workhorse is coming off an incredible season where he was the most reliable running back in fantasy football, he scored in the top 12 in fantasy points among running backs every single week; a feat hard to come by, and reliability fantasy owners have to drool at. What scares me is he is coming off a season where he had over 400 touches and there is a good chance he could be suiting up for a different team next season. Aided by the top offensive line in football, Murray was able to rush for a league best 1,845 yards while taking home the AP Offensive Player of the Year Award. The biggest knock against Murray in 2015 will be the wear and tear he endured throughout the season. It truly seemed the Cowboys were running him into the ground in anticipation that he will sign elsewhere next season. Of the last 27 running backs to have 400 or more touches in a season, 22 saw a decrease in fantasy production the following season. Furthermore, of those 27 players, a third suffered an injury the following season leading to a significant amount of time missed. Murray has all the talent in the world, but fantasy owner should have tempered expectations in 2015, especially if Murray signs elsewhere.

  1. Arian Foster:

After missing the majority of the 2013 season due to injury, Arian Foster had a huge rebound campaign in 2014. Despite missing 3 games to injury, Foster finished the 2014 season as a top 5 back. When Foster did play he was elite, and worth every bit the mid 2nd round price tag fantasy owner paid for him. You can expect him to miss a few games each season, making it extremely important to grab his back up as a handcuff in 2015. If relatively healthy in 2015, you can expect Foster to put up another elite fantasy season.

  1. Matt Forte:

Forte is the running back most dependent in the receiving game on this list. Take away his receptions and receiving yards and he is nothing more than a middle of the road running back heading into his age 30 Season with a subpar offensive line. Having said that, Forte finished the 2014 season with an unreal 102 receptions for 808 yards. To put that in perspective, only three wide receivers had more receptions than Forte in 2014 (Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, and Julio Jones.)

While I think his receptions will go down a bit in 2015, there is no reason to believe he wont have 80-90 catches to go with 1,000 rushing yards, making him an elite fantasy option for the upcoming season.

  1. Marshawn Lynch:

Lynch, affectionately known as “Beast Mode” by his fans, is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro finishing with over 1300 yards and 13 TDs. However, questions surrounding his future with the Seahawks and even possible retirement keep him lower on this list than if he had no questions concerning his future. If Lynch, does return with the Seahawks, he is a bona fide first round pick (potentially top 5 overall) who will likely put up 1200 yards and 12-14TDs behind an extremely solid offensive line.

  1. LeSean McCoy:

McCoy was one of the top fantasy players in 2013, and many had high hopes for him in 2014, even drafting him first overall in many cases. Unfortunately for McCoy owners, while his season was solid, it in no way merited a top 3 pick. To put McCoy’s season in perspective, Matt Asiata (yes Matt Aaiata, arguably the least athletic RB in the NFl) finished with only seven fewer fantasy points than McCoy, while in a timeshare with Jerick McKinnon. Furthermore, McCoy was unfortunate to have had a large share of his TDs vultured by Darren Sproles and Chris Polk. Having said that, he is still the lead back for one of the most explosive and up-tempo offenses in the NFL. Look for him to rebound in 2015 with an increase in yards and touchdowns. I would feel comfortable taking him late in the first or early second round.

  1. C.J. Anderson:

In 2014 C.J. Anderson was one of the heroes for fantasy owners in the second half of the season. Undrafted in virtually all leagues, Anderson was able to shine as the lead back after both Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman went down with injuries. While his value as a starter is undeniable, it does worry me that the Broncos could use a running back by committee approach if Ball and Hillman are healthy. Factor in Peyton Manning’s age and health, and a lot of question marks surround this offense. If you feel like gambling, he is a solid pick in the beginning to middle of the second round with top 3 overall fantasy upside if he is the starter throughout the season.

  1. Jeremy Hill:

Jeremy Hill emerged as the top rookie running back (and most likely second most impressive after Odell Beckham Jr.) and a legit RB1 after an injury to Giovanni Bernard. Hill exploded in the second half of the season carrying many teams to fantasy championships. While he is an undeniable talent; the fact they have a talented Giovanni Bernard as a back up and possible sharer of carriers hurts Hill’s value. I would strongly suggest picking up Bernard in the 7th or 8th round if you spend a premium pick on Hill.

Honorable Mentions:

Adrian Peterson:

AP will be three years removed from one of the best seasons ever for a running back. Approaching the wrong side of 30 and having missed virtually the entire 2015 season after a child abuse scandal, I cannot justify spending a premium pick (1st or 2nd round) with Peterson and all the question marks that surround him. If he is around in the 3rd or 4th and you are feeling adventurous, look to nab him, but know the risks involved when you do.

Andre Ellington:

Ellington was having a solid season after leading the NFL in yards per carry in 2013. However, the former seventh round pick’s seasons was derailed with an ACL injury. While his effectiveness coming off an injury will be in doubt, you could do much worse having Ellington as an RB2 considering the upside he has.

Carlos Hyde:

This is somewhat contingent on Frank Gore and the 49ers parting ways in the offseason, which many people expect. In that scenario, Hyde, who was impressive in a limited role is all of a sudden catapulted into the work horse role in the 49ers run heavy offense behind a stout offensive line. He is one of my favorite “value picks” heading into next season if he is indeed the starter.

Lamar Miller:

Miller, the former University of Miami product, has been very boom and bust the past few seasons. Drafted high before the 2013 season, he disappointed many with a very inconsistent season. However, this past season he had a career year while seeing the bulk of the carries. It will be important to monitor the Knowshon Moreno situation, if he does not return to the Dolphins next year, look for Miller to get the bulk of the carries and be a mid to high end RB2.

What have we learned?

As you can see from this list, once you get outside the top 10 RBs there is a steep decline in talent and reliability. On the contrary, the wide receiver position is arguably the deepest it has ever been. You can nab solid WRs as late as the 8th or 9th round. Stack up on the elite RBs early and look to solidify your roster with WRs in the later rounds of the draft.

The guys who get the most carries tend to produce the most. Look to avoid running backs that have strong competition for carries in the earlier rounds, as the value usually isn’t there. Be smart with your running back drafting strategy and you will have a big advantage over your fantasy football foes in 2015.

Brendan Cassidy has over 15 years of fantasy experience, both in league and daily formats. He is also an avid life-long Giants fan.

Jan 312015
 
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Andre Williams, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

by Brendan Cassidy and Eric J. for BigBlueInteractive.com

While the wide receiver and quarterback positions were bright spots for the Giants in 2014, the same couldn’t be said for the running back position, and to some extent, tight ends. Going into the 2015 NFL Draft, these are both prime positions to be considered in rounds two through four (there most likely isn’t a player at either position deserving of the 9th overall selection.) Some players who we like that Big Blue could potentially take include: TE Max Williams out of Minnesota, TE Clive Walford and RB Duke Johnson from the University of Miami, and Todd Gurley out of Georgia. All of these players would have an opportunity to make an immediate impact and dethrone the current starters.

The biggest crutch for the running game seemed to be the offensive line. While both Jennings and Williams are talented, it proved difficult to find holes to run through. If the offensive line is improved via the draft and/or free agency, we can expect their production to go up next season. As mentioned earlier, don’t be surprised if a rookie back gets added to the mix for the upcoming season. The tight end position flashed during the season, but failed to have the consistency needed throughout the season. Regardless, here is a very early look at how the positions will stack up in 2015.

Running Backs:

Running back for the most part was a two-man show, with newly signed free agent running back Rashad Jennings and rookie Andre Williams. Jennings was coming off a career year with the Raiders where he ran for 733 yards, good for a respectable 4.5 YPC. The Giants liked what they saw and signed him to a 4-year, $10 million dollar contract. Andre Williams was a 4th-round pick of the Giants out of Boston College, fresh off a Heisman Trophy-nominated season. Williams lead college running backs with 2,177 rushing yards during the 2013 college season; however his lack of quickness, shortcomings in the receiving game, and trouble blocking caused him to slip in the draft.

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Trying to determine which Giant’s RB to draft for your fantasy lineup at this point is very difficult. When both are healthy, it seems that Jennings would get more touches. If you are in a PPR league, Jennings has more value as Williams is known for his lack of prowess in the passing game. However, Williams has seen quite a bit of action at the goal line and the Giants may begin to shift some of the goal line work over to him. This may be contingent on whether or not he shows he is capable of picking up the blocking assignments. If you throw in the uncertainty of how the offensive line will shape up, the running game is very muddled for 2015.

It was clear the Giants struggled to run the ball as they finished 23rd in the league, with an average of 100.2 yards per game while finishing 10th in rushing attempts. Connect the dots and you have a very low yard-per-attempt average. Only the Chargers and the Cardinals had a lower average. Here is the bright spot: the Giants finished 12th in rushing TD’s, and that means fantasy points. Furthermore, another positive for the Giants RBs is that Coughlin likes to run the ball, and insists on having balance on offense. So, how do we rank the Giants RB’s for fantasy in the upcoming season? First, we must recognize that this is a split backfield, so they need to be ranked behind the twelve or so three-down backs in the NFL. If the Giants improve their offensive line, there is no reason why they cannot finish around 14th in team rushing with Rashad Jennings edging out Andre Williams in fantasy production.

Rashad Jennings Projections:

  • 900 Yards, 8 Touchdowns
  • 40 Receptions, 300 Yards
  • Fantasy Football RB Rank: 15th Overall

Analysis: Jennings appeared to be more effective than Williams when healthy. It looks to be his job to lose. He ran with power and vision and was trusted to protect Eli. Therefore, he should edge out Williams this year in terms of production. When healthy, Jennings proved to be a stellar fantasy running back. In the nine games he played (not counting the Tennessee and Washington games where he totaled three carries and was a decoy), he averaged 15.5 points per game in PPR format. That was good for 9th best in the NFL ahead of some of the elite running backs. As noted earlier, the biggest issue for him will be his health. If healthy, he is a solid RB2 with upside. He should be owned in all formats.

Andre Williams Projections:

  • 750 Yards, 8 Touchdowns
  • 15 Receptions, 100 Yards
  • Fantasy Football RB Rank: 21st Overall

Analysis: For a rookie, Andre did well in filling in as the starter for Jennings. He will continue to mature and learn the position and his blocking assignments. The Giants will begin to trust him more as his second season progresses. He is a solid runner who will be a reliable player for the next few years. He needs to use this season to develop his pass catching abilities and field vision. He can be looked at as a low end RB2 or flex option in 12 team leagues. If Jennings fails to stay healthy, look for William’s value to get a major boost. He should be owned in most if not all formats, but look to grab him in the later rounds.

Larry Donnell, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Tight Ends:

Going into the 2014 season, the majority of fans were worried about the tight end position. Many on BBI expected the Giants to address the position through the draft with a premium pick. There was a strong backing for Eric Ebron out of North Carolina who went 10th overall to the Lions, two picks earlier than Odell Beckham. Going into the season the Giants entered with a bunch of “unknowns” at the position: Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, and “The JPP of tight ends” Adrien Robinson. While Fells excelled at run blocking, Donnell did the majority of the damage in the receiving game.

Donnell burst onto the scene week 4 against the Washington Redskins, catching 7 passes for 54 yards and 3 touchdowns, all career highs. While many had high hopes for him following this performance, he would struggle for the majority of the season going forward. He finished the season with 63 catches for 623 yards and 6 touchdowns. This was good for the 12th most points among tight ends in PPR leagues with 157.3 points. While this was solid fantasy production for Donnell, from a football standpoint he was plagued by poorly timed drops and fumbles. It appeared that Eli and the coaching staff began to lose confidence in him as the season went on. The last six weeks of the season Donnell was held out of the end zone, while averaging a measly 31 yards per game. From a fantasy football perspective, Donnell was the more valuable tight end; however, one could argue Fells was the more effective tight end for the Giants in 2014.

Larry Donnell Projections:

  • 61 Catches, 560 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
  • Fantasy Football TE Rank: 15th Overall

Analysis: We believe the coaching staff will give Fells more of an active role in the offense, leading to a slight drop in Donnell’s production for 2015. If you take away his three-touchdown game against the Redskins, he only had three touchdowns the rest of the season. His production could drop even more if the Giants do decide to invest a premium pick at the position in April. He will most likely be looked at as a high-end back up or bye-week filler in twelve-team leagues.

Daniel Fells, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Daniel Fells – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Daniel Fells Projections:

  • 26 Catches, 282 Yards, 3 Touchdowns
  • Fantasy Football TE Rank: 45th Overall

Analysis: From a fantasy football perspective, it is hard to expect much from Fells. As mentioned earlier, his bread and butter is blocking, that’s what earns him a spot on the roster. We do, however, expect his numbers to go up slightly from this past season (16 catches, 188 yards, 4 TDs), as he earns more playing time at the expense of Donnell. Nonetheless, aside from a Donnell injury, he has little to no fantasy value.

These positions will be looking to rebound in the second year of Ben McAdoo’s offense. If the offensive line is improved, the running game will surely benefit. If Donnell can increase his football IQ, he has a shot at being a TE1 going into the season. We can only hope they will continue to grow as players and increase their value for the Giants and fantasy owners alike.

Brendan Cassidy has over 15 years of experience in fantasy football in both league and daily fantasy formats and is an avid New York Giants fan.

Eric J. was born into a Giants family and is a lifelong season ticket holder.  He has dominated his fantasy leagues for the past 14 years.

Jan 282015
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

by Brendan Cassidy for BigBlueInteractive.com

The 2014 season was a trying one for the New York Giants.  After one of the busiest offseasons in franchise history, with high turnover at key positions, many were expecting big things from the Boys in Blue.  However, that was not to be, in large thanks to a restructured offensive line and a subpar defense that struggled to get a stop whenever it needed one.  The Giants finished a disappointing 6-10.

Despite all the letdowns from the 2014 season, there were some bright spots in this season of disappointment, the brightest being the emergence of rookie sensation Odell Beckham Jr.  In just 12 games during his rookie season, Beckham did the unthinkable: racking up 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 TDs, which were good for top 5 Fantasy Football WR numbers on the season.  Another positive for this Giants squad was the progress Eli made in the West Coast System, under first year Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo.  Coming off a horrendous 2013 season (3,818 yards, 18 TDS, 27 INT), Eli was able to bounce back and have arguably the most productive year of his career throwing for 4,410 yards with 30 touchdowns to go with only 14 interceptions.  The progress he made throughout the year is definitely encouraging.   I am hopeful he will continue to improve especially if the offensive line problems are addressed this upcoming offseason.  Possibly the biggest spark would be Victor Cruz returning to his old form.  While this is a big “if”, Giants fans have to be drooling at the potential this offense could have in 2015.

While the 2015 season is still more than seven months away, and the Giants personnel is sure to change through the draft and free agency, here are my very early fantasy football projections for the Giants key offensive players at quarterback and wide receiver:

Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 21, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback:

Quarterback for the Giants is a one-man show, as it has been for more than a decade.  With Eli Manning entering his 12th season and second in McAdoo’s West Coast Offense, it is fair to think he will make even more progress in 2015.  Coming off a horrid 2013 season where many were even questioning Eli’s future with the Giants, Eli was able to prove all the doubters wrong.  McAdoo’s quick-paced gun-slinging offense did wonders for Eli in his first year.  Probably the most telling statistic was the fact that his interception per throw rate went from a career high 4.9% in 2013 to a very respectful 2.3% in 2014.  He finished as the 10th overall fantasy QB in 4 point passing TD leagues ahead of players such as Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, and Matthew Stafford while finishing only 3 points behind Tom Brady.

With the wonder Odell Beckham coming back for his second year, the return of Cruz (to what extent is to be seen), Rueben Randle (who really came on in the last few games last season), and an offensive threat at tight end like Larry Donnell, Eli should have plenty of weapons to come back with.  That being said, here are my projections for Eli for the 2015 season:

Eli Manning Projections:

  • Yards: 4,550, Completion Percentage: 63%, Touchdowns: 32, Interceptions 13
  • Fantasy Football QB Rank: 8th Overall

Analysis: While I think it’s fair to say Eli will never be an Elite Fantasy Football Quarterback on the level of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, or Andrew Luck, I think he has the potential to be a serviceable mid- to low-end QB1 this season.  Assuming Cruz comes back somewhere close to what he was before his injury, he has arguably the best weapons of his career.  Look for Eli to have one of, if not the best year of his career next year.

Wide Receiver:

Wide receiver is one of, if not the strongest position on the Giants roster.  Beckham, as you all know, had one of the best rookie seasons of all time for a WR, and with Cruz coming back and Randle looking like a solid number 3, the wide receiver corps has the potential to be special.  Beckham looks to be an elite Fantasy WR next year with the potential to be the top overall WR.  If you average out his stats over 16 games this past season, it comes out to 121 catches, 1,740 yards, and 16 touchdowns.  That is 24.67 points per game in a PPR league and 17 points per game in non-PPR, edging out Antonio Brown for tops in the entire NFL, who had 24.31 in PPR and 16.12 in Non-PPR respectively.  The sky is the limit for Beckham.  Let’s just hope he can stay healthy and continue to produce at this level.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

As for Victor Cruz, he is probably the toughest player to evaluate for next season.  So much hinges on his health and if he can return to his former self, and how the emergence of Odell Beckham as the clear-cut number 1 will affect his performance.  He has played with Hakeem Nicks while he was in his prime, so I don’t think the latter will be an issue.  More than anything, what concerns me the most is the grueling rehabilitation he is currently going through.  Returning to the player he was will be a tough task.  Before his injury, he was a borderline top 10 Fantasy WR, but now it is hard to gauge.  If he returns as a fantasy WR3, (somewhere in the range of 1,000 yards 6-8 TDS), I think Giants fans have to be thrilled.  Assuming Beckham has the year we all expect from him next year, this would be great production from the Giants top 2 WRs next season.  But we won’t really know until he steps onto the field come August.

Rueben Randle seems to be seen as a scapegoat and disappointment by many on BBI, which in some aspects is fair.  As a second round pick and looked at as polished player coming out of college and a “safe” pick, many here had high hopes for him.  He has had trouble running correct routes in the past (which led to a good amount of Eli’s interceptions in 2013) and had many poorly-timed drops when it mattered most.  However, at the end of 2014, when many had given up on him, he showed glimpses of the player he could become.  He finished the season with a very respectable 71 catches for 938 yards and 3 TDs.  Granted, part of this was aided by 132 yard and 158 yard performances the last 2 weeks of the season.  While I don’t necessarily think his catches and yards will go up in 2015, due to the return of Cruz, I do expect him to be much more polished with better route running and fewer mistakes.  Look for him to still be in the WR3/Flex conversation from a fantasy perspective.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 28, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Odell Beckham Projections:

  • 118 Catches, 1660 yards, 15 Touchdowns, 120 Rushing Yards
  • Fantasy Football WR Rank: 2nd Overall

Analysis: All signs point towards a monster season for Beckham.  With these projections, he would finish with 386 points in a PPR League.  This would leave him second only to Antonio Brown’s 388 based on this year’s results.  While this is slightly less production per game than this past year, I believe with the return of Cruz this would be a phenomenal output from Beckham.  The other factor being defenses will have a full year to study tape, and focus their game plans on containing him.  He is a bona-fide first round draft pick this upcoming year especially in PPR leagues.  If you miss on one of the elite RBs, you should seriously consider nabbing him in the mid-to late-first round.

Victor Cruz Projections:

  • 64 Catches, 870 Yards, 6 Touchdowns
  • Fantasy Football WR Rank:  28th Overall

Analysis:  Coming off Cruz’s injury, I think expectations have to be tempered.  With Cruz looking to be a number 2 at best in this upcoming season, these numbers would be very respectable and great production for a second WR.  Cruz will be in the Fantasy WR3 conversation, with a bit of upside.  Definitely a value pick in later rounds of drafts if he returns anywhere near to the player he was pre-injury.  Cruz is worth consideration after the 7th round in a 10-team draft.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Rueben Randle Projections:

  • 53 Catches, 720 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
  • Fantasy Football WR Rank: 52nd Overall

Analysis: Like I mentioned earlier, I think Randle will have his best season as a pro in 2015.  While this doesn’t necessarily mean more fantasy production with the return of Cruz as the clear number 2, I think he will prove to be a reliable number 3 and he will continue to improve as an overall player in a crucial make or break contract year.  He is probably worth a late-round flyer in deeper leagues (while knowing there is limited upside), unless Cruz gets re-injured or is completely ineffective coming back from his injury.

If a few things go the Giants way next season, look for them to have a ton of Fantasy value from the quarterback and wide receiver position.  Next week I will take a look at the Giants’ running back and tight end fantasy value going into the 2015 season.

Brendan Cassidy has over 15 year of experience in fantasy football in both league and daily fantasy formats and is an avid New York Giants fan.

Jan 062015
 
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Y.A. Tittle, Allie Sherman, and Kyle Rote, New York Giants (1963)

Y.A. Tittle, Allie Sherman, and Kyle Rote, New York Giants (1963)

By Larry Schmitt

Allie Sherman, who was head coach of the New York Giants from 1961-1969, passed away on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. Sherman was 91.

Sherman was a significant figure in New York Giants history over two tenures with the franchise.

Beginning in 1949, he was brought on board as a specialist to transform the young and talented Charlie Conerly from a Single Wing tailback to a T-Formation quarterback. Then Head Coach Steve Owen’s offensive philosophy was deeply rooted in the 1920’s hand-in-the-dirt line-plunging style and he was reluctant to move away from his favored A-formation.

Sherman, an undersized tailback at Brooklyn College, was a coach’s favorite wherever he went. He was always attentive at meetings, asking questions, and providing insightful feedback. He obsessed over the handbook for modern offensive football: “The Modern T-Formation With Man in Motion,” by the influential triumvirate of George Halas, Clark Shaughnessy and Ralph Jones.

Sherman spent five seasons under the tutelage of Earl “Greasy” Neal in Philadelphia. During that time, the Eagles adopted the Bears signature T-Formation and became a formidable force for the first time in franchise history. Sherman’s coaching helped Steve Van Buren become an All-Pro back and eventual Hall of Fame inductee.

Sherman was a great teacher, and his players were his pupils. After spending the 1948 season as a head coach for a minor league team in Paterson, NJ, Sherman received the call to return to the NFL. Conerly slowly transformed from a flashy player who improvised on pass-run options into the field commander of a professional team. The Giants as a team peaked in the 1950 and 1951 seasons, finishing second in the Eastern Conference behind the powerful Cleveland Browns. In 1952 and 1953, the core of the team aged, the offensive line broke down, and Owen never fully committed to the T-Formation. The entire staff was dismissed and Sherman moved to the CFL where he was the head coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Canadian style of play with 12-man teams and the larger field allowed Sherman to experiment with new concepts. His teams made the playoffs three consecutive years and were among the league leaders in offense.

Sherman returned to New York as a scout for two seasons. After Vince Lombardi vacated the offensive coordinator position following the 1958 season to coach Green Bay, Sherman was promoted to that position. Conerly’s fortunes were greatly enhanced as the once-successful duo was reunited. Sherman transformed Lombardi’s run-heavy, sweeping offense into a dynamic passing outfit. In 1959, the Giants repeated as Eastern Conference Champions and Conerly won the NFL’s “Most Valuable Player” award following the season.

Sherman assumed the Giants head coaching position in 1961 following Jim Lee Howell’s retirement, and helped resurrect another aging quarterback’s stature. When Y.A. Tittle was traded to New York from San Francisco, little was expected as most people around the league thought we was finished. Instead under Sherman, Tittle led New York to three consecutive Eastern Conference titles, thereby advancing to three consecutive NFL Championship games. Although New York lost all three title games, Tittle won the NFL’s “Most Valuable Player” award twice, following the 1961 and 1963 seasons. And Sherman was awarded the NFL’s “Coach of the Year” award following the 1961 and 1962 seasons, being the first man to win the award twice. Many of the Giants scoring records from this era still stand, despite the team having played 14-game seasons.

Sherman’s career peaked in 1963. The core of the Giants team had aged. Many of the team’s defensive stars were traded, most infamously middle linebacker Sam Huff who held a celebrated grudge against Sherman. A combination of little value received in return for those trades and poor drafting doomed the Giants to a repetitive cycle of mediocrity and inconsistency. Following an 0-5 pre-season in 1969, which included a humbling loss to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Jets, Sherman was relieved of his duties.

Despite the Giants never finishing above .500 over the 1964-1968 seasons, Sherman’s 57-51-4 regular season record placed him second all time in franchise history at the time behind Steve Owen, and has only been surpassed by Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin.

Sherman never coached again, choosing to move into private business and also appeared on locally-produced Giants-related television and radio programs and as an analyst for ESPN’s match-up program.

Jan 022015
 
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Brandon Scherff, Iowa State Hawkeyes (January 1, 2014)

Brandon Scherff – © USA TODAY Sports Images

January 2, 2015 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

HOUSTON

#92 – DT – Joey Mbu – 6’3/310

Not a huge stat sheet guy but he is a very good player. Three year starter. Does a lot of the dirty work inside, good at anchoring his spot. Ideal body for the position, huge lower body. He has some good mobility to him, surprising ability to pursue in space. He’ll be playing at the Senior Bowl as well. 4th pr 5th rounder at this point that has a Barry Cofield type potential.

#50 – Efrem Oliphant – 6’1/220

Two year starter. Led the team in tackles each of the past two seasons. I haven’t scouted him yet but I’ve made a couple notes in passing while scouting Mbu. More physical than his size tells you. He can pop a ball carrier pretty good. Gets lost in traffic a lot but he can wiggle his way to the ball carrier. Not sure he can be a steady LB in the NFL but he can be picked up late.

PITTSBURGH

#68 – RT – TJ Clemmings – 6’5/308

Fifth year senior. Was a top tier defensive end recruit out of high school but made the move to RT prior to the 2013 season. He looks like a completely different player right now in contrast to last year. Clemmings is a fluid athlete that brings a power-style to the line. He is at his best as a run blocker, showing the ability to both drive straight ahead and move laterally with a presence. He has plenty of skill work ahead of him as a pass blocker but the ability is there and he has shown flashes of being a dominant overall lineman. High upside prospect that may need some extra time to smooth his rough edges. 2nd or 3rd rounder right now.

#74 – RG – Matt Rotheram – 6’6/335

Has experience at OT and G. Most likely a G in the NFL. Huge body, carries the weight pretty well and he isn’t as stiff as I originally thought. He reacts well to the defense and he has the strength to hold his ground againdt power players. I’ve seen defenders bounce off him, just has a lot of presence inside. Pitt loves to run behind him. Rotheram doesn’t pass the initial eyeball test but if you watch him a lot, there is something there with him. May need to work on footwork and bending at the knee, but he is worth a day three pick.

Other Notables:

#28 – OLB – Anthony Gonzalez – 6’3/230
#9 – S – Ray Vinopal – 5’10/200
#8 – OLB – Todd Thomas – 6’2/230

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IOWA

#68 – LT – Brandon Scherff – 6’5/320

Considered by many to be the top or one of the top players in this entire class. There is a lot of discussion surrounding Scherff and what he will be in the NFL. There is no mistaking his ability to dominate defenders at the point of attack. He is a punishing run blocker with tremendous hand strength and explosive lower body power. Violent player off the snap, big country strong body. He is a better athlete than people give him credit for. Played tennis and basketball in high school, was also a high school QB for a couple years. I’ve watched him a lot this year and I think he can play LT in the league. He played on a bum knee this year and was still a very good performer athletically. He displays consistent pass protection skills, very balanced with good body control. My only gripe is that he wasn’t really challenged much in the Big 10, rarely faced off against NFL caliber opponents. The Senior Bowl will be huge for him. I still think he can be a top 10 pick and I’ll likely have him graded in the top 20.

#78 – RT – Andrew Donnal – 6’6/305

Overlooked because of Scherff. Donnal has a nice body with room for more weight. He plays an athletic style of football, really sound mechanics. He has stretches where he looks like he really knows what he’s doing out there. May not have ideal strength and power yet but I think he is late round prospect worth trying to develop.

#71 – DT – Carl Davis – 6’5/315

Might be by favorite DT in the nation. Huge body, just always looks bigger than everyone else on the field. Carries the weight very well, most of it is in his lower half. He is the anchor of that defense and there may not be a DT in this class better than him at anchoring his position and demanding attention. Davis doesn’t blow up the stat sheet, but that’s not his role. However when he does get after it, he gets off blocks and shows tremendous short area movement. Big time power presence inside that will be a very good NFL defender. 2nd or 3rd rounder I think but I’ll have him graded higher.

#90 – DT – Louis Trinca-Pasat – 6’3/290

The other DT on this Hawkeyes defense. Different style than Davis but I like him a lot too. More active and productive, he shoots the gaps and moves with late quickness and strength. Might be undersized for the 4-3 but there are schemes that he would fit right in to. 4th or 5th rounder at this point but he is someone I’ll keep a close eye on for late value.

#52 – MLB – Quinton Alston – 6’1/232

Little bit of an unknown but he has a solid year in 2014, his first year as a starter. Was buried on the depth chart behind some really good LBs at Iowa the past few years. He is a crafty defender, gets to the ball. Average athlete and I would say below average power to his game. Late rounder with some potential because he has gotten much better as the season’s progressed.

Other Notables:

#45 – RB – Mark Weisman – 6’0/240
#11 – WR – Kevonte Martin-Manley – 6’0/206
#37 – S – John Lowdermilk – 6’1/210

TENNESSEE

#27 – CB – Justin Coleman – 5’10/188

3 year starter with 4 INTs in 2014. Fluid mover that is undersized and not that physical. Gets pushed around a bit. I can’t say I’ve watched Coleman more than 1 or 2 times this year. Will need to get more information on him in the coming months but nobody I’ve talked to has said he is worth anything more than a late rounder.

#54 – DT – Jordan Williams – 6’5/284

Shot in the dark here but Williams jumped off the screen a couple times against quality opponents. Love the body and he has some good speed to him. Late rounder that hasn’t done much from a production point of view but I think he can be a player.

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KANSAS STATE

#16 – WR – Tyler Lockett – 5’11/175

Some consider him to be the top WR in the Big 12, which is some pretty good praise because there are some quality players there in that conference. Explosive, 0-60 in a couple steps type WR. He is also one of the top return specialists in the country. He could be drafted for special teams alone but he is a legit WR prospect. Elite movement ability, pretty good skill set as well. I’d say he is a 4th or 5th rounder but could bump himself up if he runs a sub 4.4 forty.

#66 – C – CJ Finney – 6’3/303

Four year starter, started off as a walk on. Has been 1st Team All Big 12 for three years in a row. Highly regarded by some people but I haven’t been as impressed. He got man-handled against Auburn, constantly getting pushed back. I’m not sure he can handle DTs by himself. Pretty good foot and hip quickness though, may be a fit for some schemes. 5th or 6th rounder at best.

#85 – TE – Zach Trujillo – 6’5/256

In the games I saw, he didn’t impact the offense too much. But when I see a guy this big with over 20 yards per catch, it gets my attention. I wanna see him more in the coming months. He is a pretty good blocker with wiry strength. Has the frame and length to be an NFL TE. Look for him tonight, he might be a diamond in the rough type.

#21 – MLB – Jonathan Truman – 5’11/219

Will be fighting an uphill battle because of the size issue, but he is a really good player. Reads the action and is always around the ball. Have to like guys that play like him. Late rounder that may make an impact as a special teamer.

Other Notables:

#15 – QB – Jake Waters – 6’1/210
#44 – DE – Ryan Mueller – 6’1/248
#15 – CB – Randall Evans – 6’0/194

UCLA

*#17 – Brett Hundley – 6’3/222

Redshirt junior, hasn’t declared yet but many expect him to. He could have come out last year but made the right decision to go back. He has another year of eligibility and I think he should use it. Still has the same issues he did a year ago. Woefully inconsistent as a passer but has the tools. He has the frame to take hits as a running QB unlike Mariota. He is a great kid off the field unlike Winston. He has a stronger arm than both and at his best, I think he is better than both those guys. He just has Geno Smith-type bad days. Most likealy a top 45 pick if he comes out, don’t rule him out as a potential top 10 guy.

#94 – DE – Owamagbe Odighizuwa – 6’3/270

Led the DL in sacks this year. The 4-3 teams looking for a DE will like this kid a lot. He is tools-rich and I think his upside is a bit untapped much like I thought about Tank Carradine a couple years ago. He came back from a hip injury that forced him to miss all of 2013. Really looks the part. Has a quick first step, plays low and strong. High upside here. 3rd or 4th round.

#6 – MLB – Eric Kendricks – 6’0/230

Has led the Bruins in tackles for 3 years in a row, and was second his freshman year. He is a guy that is constantly in the right position, whether against the run or pass. Lacks some physical talent but he has wiry strength. Reliable tackler. May be restricted to a 3-4 scheme in the NFL but still a 3rd or 4th rounder.

Other Notables:

#23 – S – Anthony Jefferson – 6’1/185

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WASHINGTON

*#7 – OLB – Shaq Thompson – 6’2/225

Hasn’t declared yet but many expect him to. Thompson is viewed as the top 4-3 OLB prospect in the nation by a pretty side margin. Elite athlete and playmaker. Former top tier HS recruit that fulfilled expectations to say the least. Played a lot of RB this year as well, averaging almost 8 yards per carry. Scored 4 defensive TDs this year. There really isn’t much Thompson can’t do to be honest. He is a very good all around player, might be the top overall athlete in this class. Now the question is, can he hang with the power and strength of the NFL? He is undersized for LB, and he isn’t very stout at the point of attack. He is a pursuit-based LB. That’s fine but I question his play to play impact. His style of play and weaknesses can be exposed pretty easily. I think he is a good player but I won’t have an elite grade on him like some do.

#71 – NT – Danny Shelton – 6’2/339

Very unique player here, may be as unique as you will ever find. Initially he looks fat, slow, and out of shape. Watch a few plays and you’ll notice he may be one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the nation. He broke out in a huge way this year with 16..5 TFL and an amazing 9 sacks. Shelton is a consistent hustler that actually shows sideline type range. He is constantly around the action. Very stout at the point of attack, good power from his legs, active hands. I think he is a 1st rounder if he checks out OK off the field, which I am hearing is questionable.

#8 – Hau’oli Kikaha – 6’3/256

Interesting player here. Made an immediate impact in 2010 but then he tore the same ACL twice, missing half of 2011 and all of 2012. Came back strong in 2013 with 15.5 TFL, 13 sacks and had a monster 2014 with a second best in the nation 24 TFL and second best in the nation 18 sacks. Ultra productive edge rusher here. He has the first step quickness, and dip/bend well, and has really violent hands. He is one of those hyper defenders that OL hate to deal with. The switch is always on for him. Can he play in a 4-3? I’m not sure yet. I think his best fit is in a 3-4 but he could end up being a solid Jason Babin type DE. 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#10 – MLB – John Timu – 6’1/235

Thompson may be the superstar of the defense, but Timu is Mr. Reliable. Four year starter and two time team captain. Might be a little light in the pants but he is a pretty instinctive athlete. He moves well in a phone booth, wiggles his way to the ball. His issue is strength and power. When an OL gets to him, its over. That bothers me when I look at LBs. 5th or 6th rounder I think that has some value to him.

Other Notables:
#72 – LT – Micah Hatchie – 6’5/306
#78 – C – Mike Criste – 6’6/316

OKLAHOMA STATE

*#1 – CB – Kevin Peterson – 5’11/185

Hasn’t declared yet, I think it is 50/50 whether or not he does. I’ve seen him a few times and I really like him. I think he has 1st round potential. Explosive mover, really gets in and out of breaks fast. Can turn and run with anyone. There were times last year where I thought he outplayed Justin Gilbert. I didn’t see him press guys at the line though, so he is still a bit of an unknown to me.

#91 – James Castleman – 6’2/296

Productive player. Plays a couple of roles inside. Gets off the ball well and can play a violent game. Strong hands and active feet. Doesn’t stand out but he doesn’t get beat by lone blockers that often. Late rounder.

#26 – RB – Dennis Roland – 6’2/210

Looks the part. Led the team in rushing the past two years, although that isn’t a huge thing to brag about. In between the tackles runner. Little tight-hipped but he can move downhill with speed and power. I like him as a short yardage back, I think he has more upside than what we see out of him here.

Other Notables:

#58 – LT – Daniel Koenig – 6’6/310
#89 – DE – Sam Wren – 6’2/255

Jan 012015
 
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Amari Cooper, Alabama Crimson Tide (November 8, 2014)

Amari Cooper – © USA TODAY Sports Images

January 1, 2015 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch (Late Games)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

OREGON

*#8 – QB – Marcus Mariota – 6’4/215

Fourth year junior. Heisman winner. Is probably the favorite to be the #1 overall pick at this point but far from a sure thing. He doesn’t fot the mold of what everyone wants at QB. Better athlete than thrower. Has blazing, Kaepernick-type speed in the open field. He is a quick decision maker, has a really quick release. Very good accuracy from the pocket and on the move. You can do a lot with Mariota. He is developing in to a fine passer but there is still plenty of work to be done. Top tier intangibles. Really hard worker, passionate about the game. I question his durability in the NFL. Guys with his body type can’t take hits as a runner in the NFL for very long. He needs to change his game a little. Do I want to get in to another NYG quarterback debate? Not really. But if Mariota is there at #9 somehow…I have to think hard about it.

#55 – C – Hroniss Grasu – 6’3/300

Fifth year senior with a ton of experience. Has been the top OL on that team for a few years now, might be the top C in this class. Superb athlete for the position. Can pull out laterally and lead block, often found 30 yards downfield throwing blocks. I really like his game. You won’t find a better athlete at C in this draft, but Grasu has added some strength and power to his game as well. 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#75 – LT – Jake Fisher – 6’6/299

Thought very highly of by his coaching staff and teammates. Oregon had some major issues earlier in the year when he was hurt, but when he returned things really stabilized. He isn’t a real wide guy but he plays pretty strong and tough. Known for putting defenders through the ground. He has experience at guard, then to RT, then made the move to LT when Johnstone got hurt. He has some upside if he can pack on some more weight. 3rd or 4th round I think.

#54 – LG – Hamani Stevens – 6’3/312

I didn’t give him any attention until I saw him take Grasu’s spot at C when he got injured. He is a pretty good player that can backup all the interior spots. Has more power to his game that Grasu, but a pretty heavy footed guy. Late rounder that has value.

*#9 – DE – Arik Armstead – 6’7/296

I gotta think he returns to school, but he is worth discussing. He has legit upside. Tools-rich and has plenty of football skill. Started off playing basketball at Oregon, so there is some really good foot speed and agility here. Violent player, can knock the crap out of linemen. He plays low despite his height. I’ve seen flashes where he looks like a Mario Williams type prospect. He fought a nasty ankle injury all year and didn’t produce the way he could have. He can be a top 5 pick in 2016 if he returns to school. Now? Probably a 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#14 – CB – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – 5’10/185

Almost came out last year. Could have been a 1st rounder if he did. 4 year starter with elite movement ability. Has a physical style of play but lacks a presence. He can tackle well, hits hard. Actually struggled a bit in 2014, couldn’t really put a finger on why. He just seemed a step behind mentally in the 4 games I watched this year. I still think he is a top 45 overall talent, I think he goes somewhere in round 2.

#4 – S – Erick Dargan – 5’11/210

Broke out in a big way this year. 6 INTs. Physical run defender that lays the lumber. Quick reaction and good speed when running with WRs. Under the radar a little bit, I think he can sneak in to the 2nd or 3rd round.

#91 – OLB – Tony Washington – 6’3/250

Good NFL body here, has experience in a few different roles. Good edge rusher, can play with the presence to mix it up with the OL. But also has shown he can play in space with wide receivers. He is a good reaction type athlete. May not be that fast or agile, but he is rarely fooled. Consistently around the action. 4th or 5th rounder that can fit in to any scheme.

#13 – CB – Troy Hill – 5’11/175

Elite mover and ball skill guy. He can sneak up boards in the coming months with a few good workout times. Not the physical corner I like but he can still play. 4th or 5th rounder right now.

#22 – OLB – Derrick Malone – 6’2/222

I need to see some more of him, but he was pretty productive late in the year when I saw him. Fast and rangy. Good cover LB. Lacks presence and strength but he knows how to play around it a little. Late rounder.

FLORIDA STATE

#5 – QB – Jameis Winston – 6’4/230

Has never lost a game as the starting QB heading in to the playoffs. A true winner that brings the best out of himself when the game is on the line. Deeply respected and loved by his teammates. Gets the most out of other players. Winston’s struggles off the field have been documented and it will cause some teams to cross him off their board. With that said, his talent and ability to lead an offense cannot be overlooked.. He is a big, physical player that can handle the speed of the NFL game. If he can get rid of his early game blunders and play like he does in the second half of games, he can be a star at the next level. His first order of business needs to be an upgrade in maturity off the field, however. Has a shot at being a top 3 pick if he comes out.

#70 – LG – Josue Matias – 6’6/325

One of my favorite guards in the class. Will be the first Dominican Republic native to ever play in the NFL. Was brought to the United States when he was 6 years old. Three year starter who has never missed a game. Matias has raw tools and a developing skill set that can fit in to most NFL blocking schemes. His wingspan and girth are about as good as it gets. His footwork needs to be improved; however the athleticism and ability to move are there. He can be a dominant guard at the next level once he fine-tunes those small but vital aspects of the position.

#75 – C – Cameron Erving – 6’6/308

Erving redshirted his first season at FSU because of a back injury. In 2012 he was one of the team’s primary run stuffing defensive tackles until he made the move to left tackle prior to the 2012 season. He’s been locked in as a starter ever since and has made several All-American teams. His performance as a pass blocker held him back from the elite grade. He struggled against some of his toughest competition, allowing too much pressure to the outside speed rush and double moves inside. His pad level and road-grading style was always best suited inside. He showed his versatility in 2014, moving to center and playing at a very high level. Best suited at center or guard where his weakness as a lateral mover in pass protection can be hidden. His raw strength and power is NFL ready and versatile linemen like this are always in high demand. 2nd rounder I think.

#80 – WR – Rashad Greene – 5’11/180

Leaves FSU as one of the all time leading receivers in school history. Led the Seminoles in receptions and receiving yards all four years of his career. Smooth mover and pass catcher that is very QB-friendly. Consistently runs himself open and will catch passes all over the route tree. High effort player that makes good decisions with and without the ball. His combination of speed, agility, and ball skills will fit the NFL game very well. Only his lack of size and physicality will hurt his final grade. He is a dependable receiver no matter where he lines up. While he lacks star power, he is sure bet to be a productive player at the next level. 2nd or 3rdrounder.

#35 – TE – Nick O’Leary – 6’3/247

My favorite TE prospect in the nation. The former high school #1 tight end recruit and grandson of Jack Nicklaus is favored to with the Mackey Award. An old school football player that shows a complete and versatile style. O’Leary is an all-out hustler that does all of the little things well. His less-than-ideal size and speed rarely show up on tape. He has elite ball skills and might be the most dependable blocker of any tight end in the class. A gritty gamer with the ability to fit in to any scheme right away as a starter. 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#54 – RG – Tre Jackson – 6’4/330

Three year starter at Right Guard that has never missed a game since earning that spot. Received a 3rd round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board in the winter of 2014. Jackson may be the top RG in the nation after displaying his ability to produce equally as a run and pass blocker. He can handle the power game of the NFL right away, but may struggle with the speed/quickness/complexity of blitzing and stunting fronts. Jackson is not a fit for every scheme because he appears uncomfortable in space and on the move. In a power scheme however, Jackson can be a day one starter at the next level.

#50 – RT – Bobby Hart – 6’4/320

Three year starter. Will be 20 years old when drafted. May have been out of position at right tackle. He has the ideal frame and style for a guard but was likely moved outside because of the amount of talent they already had inside. Hart was a quality wrestler and basketball player in high school and that kind of athleticism shows up on tape. His issues as a blocker are more technique based than anything. Has the tools to be a quality backup and eventual starter in the NFL. Just needs to shore up his feet and hands and may have to make a move to the inside. 5th or 6th rounder.

#9 – RB – Karlos Williams – 6’1/225

Williams was a top tier recruit out of high school at the safety position. He played two years on the defensive side of the ball prior to being moved to running back after the first two games of the 2013 season. He has the physical tools that can create a quality running back. Size and speed are there but he doesn’t show the skill set out of a top tier running back prospect. 2014 was a down year after a solid 2013. He doesn’t have a natural feel for the position or what to do with the ball inhis hands. He is a powerful downhill force that could be a short yardage contributor. But his running style and lack of vision and reaction will hold him back at the next level when considering him as an every down back. 6th or 7th rounder.

*#15 – DE – Mario Edwards – 6’3/294

The former 5 star recruit has been used in a wide variety of ways. He can play with his hand in the dirt outside the tackle or across from the guard. He can play standing up. He has shown ability in coverage against tight ends. He has been used a lead blocker near the goal line and even been given the ball on fake punts. Athletes like this are rare to come by and if a coach can be creative with him, Edwards will be a difference maker. He isn’t a clear cut fit for the vanilla defensive schemes but a creative coach can give him multiple roles based on packages. The power he shows on the field is top tier. Very functional strength and surprising ability to cover ground in a short space.

*#90 – DT – Eddie Goldman – 6’4/314

Former top tier HS recruit. Injured in the ACC Championship but should be in pads tonight. Some view him as a top 15 pick but I’m not there yet with him. He has all the talent. Moves well, strong hands. He can beat blockers a few different ways. Goldman doesn’t produces the power I want from his legs though. Not saying he is weak, but he doesn’t anchor well, gets pushed back too often. An elite DT prospect shouldn’t get pushed around the way he does. He should go back for another year but I am sure someone spends a top 45 pick on him if he comes out.

#26 – CB – PJ Williams – 6’0/196

2nd Team All ACC and 2014 National Championship game MVP. Williams has the physical goods to play cornerback at a high level in the NFL. He has the size, strength, and physical style of play to handle any role thrown his way. His ability to beat up a receiver at the line of scrimmage as well as stay in their hip pocket all over the field is heavily sought after. In addition, he can defend with a presence against the outside run. His aggression and ability to move with balance and precision is the exact combination the NFL looks for in cornerbacks. Top 45 pick, maybe a top 20 guy.

**************************************************************

ALABAMA

*#9 – WR – Amari Cooper – 6’1/202

All American. Record setting WR that was NFL ready last year. Top tier ball skills and route running. Has 4.4 speed and is really tough after the catch. Cooper does everything at a really high level. I wouldn’t call him a rare prospect but he is going to be a very good player in the NFL. His game translates well. Larry Fitzgerald type receiver. He gets nicked up a lot, that is my biggest concern with him. Still a first rounder and will end up in the top 12 on my board at least.

*#4 – RB – TJ Yeldon – 6’2/218

Junior that hasn’t declared yet but I think he will. He has been very involved in that offense since his freshman year. He looked like an NFL back two years ago. Big, thick, and really athletic. Patient runner that may be a bit too patient. He really trusts his last second quickness and agility. Yeldon hasn’t been the star I thought he would be, but he can be a very good NFL back. There are some ball security issues here and he tends to be too slow to react to the action in front of him. Might be a 3rd rounder but I like him.

#77 – LG – Arie Kouandijo – 6’5/318

Might be by favorite G prospect in the country. Really turned it on in the second half of the year and we started to see that dominant potential be fulfilled. He has a huge frame, really long arms and strong upper body. Little weak on the lower half. Had a nasty injury history early on in his career at Alabama, almost ended before it started. That knee needs to check out but has been starting since week 1 of 2013 and hasn’t looked back. If the knee looks clean, he can be a 2nd rounder.

#2 – WR DeAndrew White – 6’0/190

I’ve always liked White but he was under the shadow of some of the other elite players on this offense. I like his short area explosion and he has some solid ball skills downfield. Tracks the deep ball well. Good after the catch. Underrated WR that can be had on day 3.

#45 – FB – Jalston Fowler – 6’1/248

Yes he is a fullback but I’ve always thought some teams will see him as a RB. Fowler has some solid RB traits. Vision, short area quickness. Body lean, pad level. I thoink if he went somewhere else, he’d be a 3rd or 4th round prospect. I think he gets taken in the 5th or 6th.

#79 – RT – Austin Shepherd – 6’5/316

Two year starter. Has good body control and a strong upper body. Lacks the movement ability, bends at the waist a lot. He has an NFL frame and good power, I think someone will give him a look as a backup type. Late rounder.

*#26 – S – Landon Collins – 6’0/215

Widely considered the top safety in the class, might be a top 10 caliber player. I like Collins a lot but I’m not sure he fits in to the elite tier. He is at his best near the line of scrimmage. Really physical and a sound tackler. He is a reliable last level of a defense type guy. Is he elite in coverage? I don’t think so. He can shadow receivers but he doesn’t have the reaction and awareness in zone coverage that I look for. Top 32 talent? Yes. Top 10? I don’t think so.

#33 – ILB – Trey DePriest – 6’1/245

Classic 3-4 thumper. 3 year starter that needs to be between the tackles. Not a good athlete when he gets outside. Physical guy that blitzes well, but only fits in to a few schemes.

Other Notables:

#22 – WR – Christian Jones – 5’11/187
#72 – RG – Leon Brown – 6’6/320
#84 – TE – Brian Vogler – 6’7/265
#6 – QB – Blake Sims – 6’0/208
#27 – S – Nick Perry – 6’1/212

OHIO STATE

#63 – DT – Michael Bennett – 6’2/288

Viewed as one of the top pass rushing DTs in the country. 13.5 sacks over the past two years. Explosive out of his stance, constantly in the backfield. Really quick and active hands, can get off blocks. Swallows a 5-10 yard gap when he’s in space like a DE. Can he anchor against the run? Probably not but he won’t need to if he gets drafted in to the right scheme. Not a fit for everyone but some will view him as a top 45 overall guy.

#12 – CB – Doran Grant – 5’11/191

I don’t have much on Grant yet. I haven’t scouted him yet. Two year starter with marginal production. Did have 5 INTs in 2014. Looking forward to his matchup for him.

#14 – MLB – Curtis Grant – 6’2/243

Former top tier recruit, hasn’t lived up to the hype. Looks the part but he is a better athlete than he is a football player, a combination that usually doesn’t work outwell for LBs. Doesn’t read the players in front of him, but will chase guys down and packs a punch. Could be a solid special teamer and backup LB. Late rounder.

#5 – TE – Jeff Heuerman – 6’5/255

Some say he is the top TE in the class when it comes to being a balanced tool/skill set guy. He can block well, runs the seam. Soft and reliable hands. There is some ability in space with the ball in his hands as well. He wasn’t used much in this offense but there is still a lot to like. 4th or 5th rounder maybe.

#9 – WR – Devin Smith – 6’1/199

One of the fastest WRs in the country, might run a sub 4.3 forty. OSU is undefeated when he scores a TD (over 20 wins). He averaged over 26 yards per catch in 2014. He can run by anyone, and I mean anyone. Good ball skills and has some good route running ability underneath. He more than just a speed guy. He may be a guy I look in to more in the coming weeks.

Other Notables:

#6 – WR – Evan Spencer – 6’1/212

Jan 012015
 
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Shane Ray, Missouri Tigers (September 27, 2014)

Shane Ray – © USA TODAY Sports Images

January 1, 2015 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch (Early Games)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

AUBURN

*#18 – WR – Sammie Coates – 6’2/201

Junior that has already declared for the draft. Big time speed and can get downfield behind a defense about as fast as anyone. Has the size and strength as well to be a factor in traffic. Averaged over 22 yards per catch over the past two seasons. I always get weary of giving high grades to guys that appear to be better athletes than football players, but I might make an exception for Coates. He could have been a more productive player in a different scheme. This guy has all the tools but he can really catch the ball as well. Couple minor injuries to look at but he could be another Torrey Smith or Nate Washington type. 2nd or 3rd round.

#50 – C – Reese Dismukes – 6’3/296

Will end his career with 50 starts. Highly recruited out of HS. Could have been the top C in the 2014 Draft. Dismukes has the typical squatty frame that fits well inside. Really good presence as a run blocker. Quick lower half, strong upper body. Always in control, always sticking to his man. Quietly, he just doesn’t get beat. I don’t see any dominant traits to his game but he will be a good starter in the NFL. 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#44 – RB – Cameron Artis-Payne – 5’10/210

Came in to the year as part of a RB duo, but he absolutely took off. Led the SEC in rushing this season. Numbers are a little inflated because of the favorable scheme to RBs but he is still a solid prospect. Good inside runner, patient but quick reaction type. He can miss contact in a phone booth and explode for 5-10 yards. May not have great top end speed but he doesn’t need it. Quality rusher, may lack some receiving and blocking ability. 4th-5th rounder.

#81 – TE – CJ Uzomah – 6’4/264

Upside type guy that has never really produced the way he could have. Maybe it is a scheme thing. He carries 260+ pounds with ease and he moves really well. Even takes some snaps at WR. He’s made a couple catches where you just have to raise your eyebrows and wonder. Late round project.

*#8 – MLB – Cassanova McKinzy – 6’3/249

Junior that hasn’t declared yet. Only scouted him once but I’ve seen him in passing a couple times. Very good athlete with range to get to the sidelines. I like his game speed and aggression. Can tackle with presence. Enforcer inside. Not much of a pass defender, loses a lot of his foot quickness there. Might be a 3-4 type but I’ll need to see more. Has a shot at being a 2nd rounder.

#9 – S – Jermaine Whitehead – 5’11/193

Under the radar safety with a lot of starting experience and good ball skills. Reads and flows really well. I want to see him another 1 or 2 times to get a better read on his ability to tackle and play physical though. Not sure where to peg him yet.

#90 – DT – Gabe Wright – 6’2/285

Has dropped weight for 2014 because he plays outside a lot. I think he projects as a 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT in certain schemes. Has a solid but unspectacular speed/power to his game. Nothing special, late rounder that I know some guys like.

Other Notables:

#14 – QB – Nick Marshall – 6’1/210
#62 – RG – Chad Slade – 6’5/313
#20 – RB – Corey Grant – 5’10/205
#6 – CB – Jonathan Mincy – 5’10/192

WISCONSIN

#25 – RB – Melvin Gordon – 6’1/207

Already declared. Very well known and some consider him the best RB in this class. Very explosive and has more size than people think. Wiry strength. His game is built on the ability to get out in space, make guys miss, and runaway. But he added some strength to his game. He shows great vision, and I mean GREAT vision. He sees things in space that other good backs simply don’t, kind of like McCoy. Good blocker, average pass catcher. I question if he can be an every down back, if he can hold up. Little thin on the lower half but some scouts see a top 10 guy here. Not sure about that but I think he’ll be a first rounder. I’m still trying to figure him out.

*#61 – LT – Tyler Marz – 6’5/321

Junior that hasn’t declared and I think he is leaning towards going back to school but I wanted to discuss him. Marz is a smooth player with plenty of violence and size to his game. Not saying he is Joe Thomas but he does have an awfully similar style. Bose, the outstanding DE from Ohio State, said Marz was the best he faced all year. I saw him in September and labeled him a top tier OT nationally. He did, however, take a couple step backs when I saw him twice in November. Curious to see what he decides, he could be a sleeper top 15 guy if he comes out.

#78 – RT – Rob Havenstein – 6’7/327

Over 40 career starts after this game. He isn’t much of a space guy but he is pretty consistent and reliable. Gets the job done. Isn’t pretty and he is probably a limited pass blocker, but he can play. He knows how to use his size and length. Maybe a 5th or 6th rounder that projects as a backup initially.

#45 – DT – Warren Herring – 6’2/294

Was a career backup heading in to 2014, didn’t give him a lot of attention early on. But I liked what I saw in November and watched a couple hames from October. This guy can play. Not a scheme fit everywhere but he is consistently disruptive. Really good hand work and leverage. Gets off the ball well, constantly forcing his man to react. I like guys like this. Very poor man’s Aaron Donald. Late rounder but I guarantee a few teams will like him a lot.

Other Notables:

#49 – TE – Sam Arneson – 6’4/244
#73 – LG – Dallas Lewallen – 6’5/322
#54 – RG – Kyle Costigan – 6’4/315
#91 – DT – Konrad Zagzebski – 6’3/285
#30 – MLB – Derek Landisch – 5’11/230

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MICHIGAN STATE

*#15 – CB – Trae Waynes – 6’1/185

Fourth year junior. Widely considered to be one of the top three corners in this draft class if he comes out. He always stood out to me last year when I was scouting Drummond, the 2014 first rounder by Cincinnati. He moves better and has a longer frame. Fits the mold of the new mold of tall, long cover corners that the deep speed and physical nature that the NFL loves. He can stick to a WR all over the field. Love the agility and deep speed. Good test for him today. Top 45 pick, maybe a 1st rounder.

#89 – DE – Shilique Calhoun – 6’5/256

Fourth year junior, hasn’t declared yet. Some thought he could have come out last year and been a top 45 pick. I haven’t seen that side of him yet. He doesn’t have that short area explosion that I want out of a 1st round DE. He is tough and physical though, certainly has the body for it. Can be a strong DE that plays the run and pass equally well. 2nd or 3rd rounder, I tend to think he is more of a 3rd rounder.

#27 – S – Kurtis Drummond – 6’1/200

First team All American. Actually a guy I need to scout more. I haven’t been able to get the looks at him to make a real judgment. He is a well balanced player, a guy that can play in the box or in deep coverage on any given play. Led the team in tackles, led the conference in passes defended. Drummond is not a superior athlete and I’ve seen hin out run a few times already, but I think he can get by with heady play and good reaction times. I still need to see more but some label him a 2nd/3rd round pick.

#34 – MLB – Taiwan Jones – 6’3/250

Solid but unspectacular 2+ year starter for the Spartans. Leader of the front seven that makes all the checks and audibles. Coach on the field type. He looks like he has the goods but he doesn’t react the way you want a MLB to. He can be drafted late but I wouldn’t expect more than a backup/special teamer down the road here.

#33 – RB – Jeremy Langford – 5’11/206

Every year there are senior running backs like this. Not overly athletic, nothing stands out about their size. But he was consistently productive and a big senior season. Solid between the tackles, breaks off defenders. Smart runner, very aware of the defense and game situations. He can be a quality back in the NFL, at least a backup. 5th or 6th rounder.

#14 – WR – Tony Lippett – 6’2/191

Interesting player here. He started off as a CB, but ended up moving to WR and led the team the past two years by a wide margin. Was a big play threat in 2014, opened a lot of eyes. However in addition to being a solid WR prospect, Lippett played plenty of CB in 2014 as well and actually looked really good. Rare two way prospect and I actually think his long term upside is higher on defense. 5th or 6th rounder that could shoot up draft boards.

Other Notables:

#44 – DE – Marcus Rush – 6’2/245
#63 – LG – Travis Jackson – 6’3/286
#25 – WR – Keith Mumphrey – 6’1/211

BAYLOR

#14 – QB – Bryce Petty – 6’2/214

QB friendly spread attack, has inflated numbers. Tools wise Petty is average. He can make all the throws, decent athlete. I like his toughness. He stands tall in the pocket and will take all the hits and he won’t get rattled. Smart guy as well. Petty has these weired stretches throughout games though where he can’t hit the side of a barn if it was 10 yards in front of him. Very inconsistent accuracy. I like what he has going on between the ears but I don’t think he is a starter in the NFL. 3rd or 4th rounder.

#5 – WR – Antwan Goodley – 5’10/225

Saw him last year thinking there was a shot he would come out early after a team leading 71 catch/1,339 yard season. Fifth year senior that has a weird body type for the position, looks more like a RB. Unique player. There is more deep speed to his game than you think. Really explosive in a short space. Plays the game hard and does a lot of little things right. Might be a Golden Tate type player in the NFL. 3rd rounder I would say that could bump up a lot if he runs fast.

#42 – WR – Levi Norwood – 6’1/195

More traditional WR than Goodley but wasn’t as productive. Easy mover and really fluid in and out of breaks. Good route runner, good hands. Some teams may actually prefer him to Goodley. He has some decent return ability as well. I think he is a day 3 guy.

#44 – MLB – Bryce Hager – 6’2/235

Leading tackler in 2014 and 2012. Heady linebacker that plays within the tackle box really well. Limited athlete though, gets exposed on space. 3-4 ILB prospect I think that could be drafted day 3.

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MISSOURI

*#56 – DE – Shane Ray – 6’3/245

Junior that hasn’t declared yet but I would be surprised he he didn’t. Could be the top edge rusher in this class. I don’t think there is anyone that is as explosive as him in this class. He gets out of his stance and turns the corner as well, if not better, than anyone. He is a little light in the pants, may not have the power presence to play DE in a 4-3. I’ve seen him a lot this year and I think he could do it down the road. Right away he offers elite-caliber edge rushing ability.

#33 – DE – Markus Golden – 6’2/255

One of my favorite DE prospects in the nation. Has a thicker build and stronger game than Ray, but may not have the height and length some teams want. Golden plays as hard as any defender in the country. Always running to the action. Has talent though as well, good explosion out of his stance and a variety of rush moves. Plays low and fast. He is plenty big enough for me, I think he is a 1st round caliber guy that you can get in round 2.

#65 – LT – Mitch Morse – 6’5/305

Another one of my favorites. Morse is a very good LT prospect that shows elite footwork and body control. I talked up Justin Britt this time last year while everyone had him labeled as a late rounder. Britt went on to start at RT for #1 seed Seattle this year. I think Morse is just as good as Britt, may be even better. If NYG needs to wait on bringing in a LT, Morse should be the target starting in round 4. I really like him.

#21 – WR – Bud Sasser – 6’2/210

Overlooked WR prospect here. Didn’t do much until 2013, Was the team’s leading receiver in 2014. Really smooth hands catcher with body control. Stronger than your typical college WR. He is an underneath threat but showed some ability to get behind a defense. Reliable 3rd down guy with some untapped upside. 5th or 6th rounder.

#32 – RB – Marcus Murphy – 5’9/195

Might be the top KR prospect in the country. I don’t say this often, but I think he has Devin Hester-type potential. Goes from 0-60 in a few steps. Changes direction at full speed, good vision. Consistently out-ran angles that defenders had on him. A decent RB prospect as well but he is a special teams guy before anything. Late rounder I wouldn’t mind spending a pick on to see if he can be that next elite KR.

Other Notables:

#88 – WR – Jimmie Hunt – 6’0/215
#9 – SS – Braylon Webb – 5’11/207
#89 – DT – Matt Hoch – 6’5/295

MINNESOTA

*#88 – TE – Maxx Williams – 6’4/250

Redshirt sophomore, has already declared for the draft. May be the top TE prospect in this class. Didn’t exactly have a dominant season and I was surprised to see him come out, but he does have talent. Really good athlete in space, carries that weight well. Can be a traditional TE that blocks, not just a receiver. I’ll need to do some more work on him in the coming weeks but he is top 45 caliber from what I have seen to this point.

#27 – RB – David Cobb – 5’11/220

Caught the nation off guard with is 2014 season. Rarely gets talked about but he rushed for 1,548 yards this year. He can run between and outside the tackles. Almost never goes down on initial contact, breaks a lot of tackles and that is what I look for the most in backs. He can get the job done. Might be a limited athlete but I can see him being a 4tth or 5th round pick.

#2 – S – Cedric Thompson – 6’2/208

Love the game speed here. He is all over the field, constantly around the action. I want this top of guy at safety. Aggressive and strong, tackles well, not a liability in coverage. May not be a great awareness guy in deep zone coverage, but he can run with WRs. Day three guy.

#5 – LB – Damien Wilson – 6’2/240

Superior athlete, can run laterally as fast as any LB I’ve seen this year. Loves to pursue and catch plays from behind. Doesn’t read the action though, struggles when the action is in front of him. Won’t fill the lanes, take on blocks. He can be a great special teams LB that a team will try to develop in to a quality LB down the road. Day 3 guy.

Other Notables:

#52 – LG – Zac Epping – 6’2/318
#58 – C – Tommy Olson – 6’4/308
#48 – DT – Cameron Botticelli – 6’4/286

Dec 302014
 
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Andrus Peat, Stanford Cardinal (October 18, 2014)

Andrus Peat – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 30, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

NOTRE DAME

*#78 – LT – Ronnie Stanley – 6’5/315

Two year starter. One year at RT, one year at LT. Similar situation to Greg Robinson last year, an underclassman that has not been talked up much by the main talking heads this year but also a guy that scouts have been raving about. Stanley, if he comes out, has a legit shot at being the first OT taken in this draft. Potential top 3 overall grade here. He is a great run blocker with a powerful first few steps. Looks unbeatable at times when you consider the strength and movement skills. Gets sloppy with his footwork and hand placement but his weaknesses are little things that can be corrected. He is an elite prospect if he comes out.

#18 – TE – Ben Koyack – 6’4/261

Was primarily a blocking TE over his first three years. Used as a TE, FB, H-Back. I like his ability to be a complete TE in the NFL. The physical side is there. Really good effort blocker with plenty of strength to his game. Shows soft hands, long arms, toughness as a receiver. Limited upside and he isn’t the prospect that Niklas was last year but he can stick in the NFL for sure. 4th or 5th rounder that can be depended on to fill a role.

#74 – RT – Christian Lombard – 6’5/315

Has played plenty of RT, RG, even a little bit of LT over his career. Had an injury shortened 2013 (back). Came back strong in 2014 and cemented himself as a classic ND offensive line prospect. Quality run blocker that shows limited athletcism as a pass blocker. I think his future is inside, the foot quickness just isn’t there for him to play OT. The issue with him inside however is a lack of quality knee bend. He does’t play a low game. I don’t like his potential but we can get drafted late.

*#91 – DT – Sheldon Day – 6’2/285

Junior that hasn’t declared. I expect him to return, he had a rough 2014. He played DE in the old 3-4 scheme, made gthe switch to 4-3 DT this year. Many thought he would break out in to a pass rush machine but it didn’t happen. He gets overwhelmed and controlled at the point of attack too easily. He is an interesting player, can show signs of being a guy that OL have a hard time blocking with his quickness and low center of gravity but he is a one trick pony at this point. He sprained his MCL in November as well. Overall a disappointing year for him and I can’t imagine his grade being anything better than a 4th rounder.

#2 – CB – Cody Riggs – 5’9/185

Undersized and lack of presence in man coverage. Has some good movement ablilty. Light feet and can change direction well with the action in front of him. Limited cover man when he has to turn his backs, a little too tight-hipped for a player his size. Late rounder that has been unspectacular his whole career.

Other Notables:

#33 – RB – Cam McDaniel – 5’9/194
#77 – C – Matt Hegarty – 6’4/300

LSU

#70 LT – La’el Collins – 6’5/315

One of my favorite OL prospects in the nation. Could have come out last year and I would have had a top 20 grade on him. Former LG, made move to LT prior to 2013 season. He is a punishing, controlling OL. He looks a lot leaner this year and moves a lot better, but still has the road grader mentality. He can beat defenders multiple ways. Really adjusts well, good reaction. He is a true leader, looks out for teammates and takes a lot of pride in being the enforcer. I love guys like that and he has all the ability. He may finish in my top 10 overall. Should be a top 20 pick when all is said and done at worst.

*#59 – DE – Jermauria Rasco – 6’3/247

Disruptive two year starter. Was constantly around the action in the two games I saw. Would like to see more of this kid. Reminds me of the other edeg rushers we’ve seen out of LSU over the past few years that have been OK at best in the NFL. May not have the frame for a 4-3 DE. The first step quickness is there but he doesn’t do much afterward to beat a blocker consistently. I like the hustle though. 5th or 6th rounder.

#26 – S – Ronald Martin – 6’2/220

Physical, versatile safety. Can fly in to the box and make the tackle. But also a much better cover safety than you would think. Showed the range to play in deep coverage. Fast reaction and makes plays on the ball. Little under the radar safety here that I think could work his way in to the first 5 or 6 rounds.

Other Notables:

#18 – RB – Terrence Magee – 5’9/217
#27 – RB – Kenny Hilliard – 6’0/232
#43 – FB – Connor Neighbors – 5’11/229

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GEORGIA

#51 – ILB – Ramik Wilson – 6’2/232

One of my favorite MLB prospects in the nation. 235 tackles, 17 TFL, 5 sacks over past two years. He isn’t a compiler by any means. Wilson is all over the field and I think he may be one of the best athletes in this LB class. He shows a big time presence as tackler, consistently delivers a violent pop to the ball carrier. Shows a lot of range to the sidelines, he can run with anyone. He does struggle in coverage, not the same athlete when dropping back as he is when playing the run. But for a 4-3 LB prospect, Wilson is a good one. Possible 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#5 – CB – Damian Swann – 5’11/178

2 year starter, has a knack for being involved in big plays. 11 INT, 10 FF, 5 FR over past three seasons. Play to play, Swann is an average CB prospect. He moves well but doesn’t do some of the smaller but important things. High and sloppy backpedal, gambles too much, won’t read the action. Still an interesting prospect that can likely be had on day three. There is something about him that I like. Defenders that are constantly around the action can end up being good players in the league. Swann fits in to that discussion.

#52 – ILB – Amario Herrera – 6’2/231

Four year contributor, solid inside linebacker. Limited range though and he just seems to be a step behind anything outside of the tackle box. Could be a very good 3-4 ILB prospect but I think he is limited otherwise. Sound tackler, led UGA in 2014 with 112. Not a 3 down guy. Late rounder.

#31 – WR – Chris Conley – 6’2/206

Leading receiver in 2014. Not a special athlete by any means but it’s hard not to appreciate how smooth he is. Very reliable hands, good body control. Excels near the sidelines and in the end zone. Has some sneaky speed to him too. Comparible to a WR I really liked in the 2014 Class that flew under the radar, Kevin Norwood, whom is making his way up the depth chart in Seattle right now. Conley is a guy that gets it, quality football player and really good kid off the field.

#82 – Michael Bennett – 6’3/202

Another less than stellar athlete that is a smart enough receiver to make an impact. Led UGA in receptions in 2014. Tough as nails over the middle. Struggles to separate but he has a good chance of coming down with the ball in traffic. Physical guy that will out-perform guys drafted ahead of him. Late rounder but a guy that can be reliable to find a role for himself and perform it well.

#61 – C – David Andrews – 6’2/295

Third year starter, leader of the OL. Makes all the line calls. Smart and a hard worker. Talent wise I don’t see anything here to warrant much. The coaches rave about him and his quiet but vital impact on their running game. I have failed a few years in a row with a few centers that were a lot better than where I had them graded, so I want to put him in here. Andrews Can swing his hips in to the hole well, always appears balanced and strong. But there aren’t any overly impressive traits to his game.

Other Notables:

#61 – DE – Ray Drew – 6’4/276
#14 – QB – Hutson Mason – 6’3/202

LOUISVILLE

#9 – WR – DeVante Parker – 6’3/209

The best player in this game. First round caliber WR, some say he should be a top 15 guy. I don’t have him in the same breath as Strong/Cooper/White but he’s a quality prospect. Missed 6 games in 2014 but still finished as the team’s leading receiver with 35 catches for 735 yards. Had a couple dominant performances. Big play threat. Long and lean but strong upper body.

#70 – LG – John Miller – 6’2/325

Over 40 career starts. Team captain. Thumper that is at his best as a straight ahead run blocker. Miller has the typical body of a guard, bowling ball type that packs a lot of power. Shows signs of dominance here and there. Doesn’t move to his left very well. He can react well but the foot quickness isn’t always there. 4th-5th rounder at best.

#79 – LT – Jamon Brown – 6’5/326

Mammoth left tackle that has played some at RT as well. Lost weight prior to the 2014 season and it certainly made a difference as a pass blocker. He appears to be more fluid moving to the outside, he can move pretty well. The power presence is there, strong hands and a long reach. Brown is a guy that looks worse the longer the play goes but he is good right off the snap. I think he is a RT in the pros but he can be a good one, starting caliber eventually. 4th or 5th rounder.

#18 – TE – Gerald Christian – 6’3/242

Started off at Florida, played for Lousiville in 2013 for the first time. Has some really explosive traits to his game, can be a big play threat from the TE spot. Aggressive blocker, may need more strength. I think he can be an important piece to a passing game in the league. A lot of talent but some quality football skills as well. Late rounder worth going after for sure.

#10 – RB – Dominique Brown – 6’2/216

One of my favorite under the radar RBs in the nation. Really explosive downhill speed. Missed 2012 with a knee, came back strong in 2013. He has tools to work wth and a nice skill set that looks pretty far developed when it comes to pad level, lean, and ball security. Maybe doesn’t have the vision/awareness yet. Late rounder I would gamble on.

#94 – OLB – Lorenzo Mauldin – 6’4/244

Was a 4-3 DE prior to the 2014 season. Team made a switch to the 3-4 and he is now at OLB, a better spot for him in the NFL. He can change direction with ease, really athletic lower body from a flexibility and quickness perspective. He has a high ceiling and I think he has an outside shot at being a 1st rounder. May not be as strong as some teams want but he can rush the edge. High potential here, I’ll have him graded out in the top 50 overall.

*#8 – S – Gerod Holliman – 6’2/213

Nation’s leader in INTs with a stunning 14 in just 12 games. Some will look at the stats and say he is up there with Landon Collins as the top S in this class. I don’t think he’s that good. We see several prospects over the years with big INT numbers that simply aren’t that good. He obviously has the ball skills and he can play to his size in coverage. But he isn’t a physical guy and his tackling is poor in every game I watch. He may be a 1st rounder but hell be a 3rd rounder on my board. Still a solid prospect, just not elite at all.

*#3 – CB – Charles Gaines – 5’11/174

Hasn’t declared yet. Haven’t heard anything but I think he is worth talking about. One of the best movers of the CB class. Looks like he plays on ice skates. Really easy change of direction guy with the deep speed as well. There is a physical style to him but teams will question if he is strong enough, and rightfully so. I like Gaines but will need to see more before I label him a 1st rounder.

Other Notables:

#26 – RB – Michael Dyer – 5’9/215
#53 – RG – Jake Smith – 6’3/305
#6 – WR – Eli Rogers – 5’10/182
#11 – DE – BJ Dubose – 6’5/263
#48 – OLB – Deiontre Mount – 6’5/243

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MARYLAND

#97 – DT – Darius Kilgo – 6’2/310

3-4 Nose Tackle type. Has some sneaky short area quickness to him, can be an anchor. Limited player though, 5th or 6th rounder for specific schemes.

#6 Deon Long – WR – 6’0/195

Hidden weapon here that has good movement. Can run himself open and catch the tough passes. Circuitious route to where he is now but there is some hidden talent here.

Other Notables:

#40 – OLB – Matt Robinson – 6’2/240
#47 – ILB – Cole Farrand – 6’3/245
#14 – CB – Jeremiah Johnson – 5’11/195

STANFORD

*#70 – LT – Andrus Peat – 6’6/312

My favorite LT prospect in the nation. Hasn’t declared yet Has true “Blue Goose” potential Dominant physical guy but has the feet to skate his way to the edge. He can block anyone the league throws at him.

#7 – WR – Ty Montgomery – 6’2/220

Versatile player with a tool set that scouts drool over. Great speed and quickness. Has elite yard after the catch potential, good return man. Underwhelming 2014 season will knock his grade down. Inconsistent hands. Could be one of the bargains of the 2015 class if he can be had in round 3.

#58 – NT – David Parry – 6’2/303

Noticed him early in the year and is one my favorite DT prospects in the nation. Wrestler-type with his low center of gravity and easy quickness. Tough guy to block that can make a big impact in any scheme. Might be a late rounder be he may make my top 75 overall.

#9 – OLB – James Vaughters – 6’2/258

May be resticted to the 3-4. Power player with a long frame, a lot of muscle. Smart player that can move quick in a phone booth. Could be an impact guy in the NFL.

Other Notables:

#91 – DE – Henry Anderson – 6’5/295
#8 – S – Jordan Richards – 5’11/210
#2 – CB – Wayne Lyons – 6’1/196
#17 – ILB – AJ Tarpley – 6’1/238

Dec 292014
 
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Kevin White, West Virginia Mountaineers (November 29, 2014)

Kevin White – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 29, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

TEXAS A& M

#70 – RT – Cedric Ogbuehi – 6’5/305

The next Aggie left tackle that will end up in the first round, making it three in a row for the program. Has played RG, RT, and LT. Surprisingly, he showed the biggest signs of struggle this year at LT. Because of injuries to the OL, they moved him back to his more natural position, RT a few weeks ago. He struggled with a couple vital components to the position, mainly being body control and hand strength. He isn’t the top 5 prospect that many thought he would be prior to the season, but we are still talking about a top 25 guy. Teams still draft right tackles in the first round and rightfully so. All said and done I still think he’ll be called at some point in round 1 and play a Michael Oher type RT.

#51 – LT – Jarvis Harrison – 6’4/325

Interesting story here. Has been moved to LT from his guard spot. Coaches say it was because of injuries elsewhere on the OL but Harrison appears to be a better LT than Ogbuehi. He is a very good athlete, better than Ogbuehi. May not be that tall but he has length. All said and done I think he plays LG in the NFL but wouldn’t surprised if a few teams like him at LT. I only saw him in the beginning of the year and at the end. He was night and day different because his offseason was hampered by calf/shoulder issues. I just think he was out of shape when I first saw him. He looked great late in the year and I look forward to a tough matchup for him here.

#84 – WR – Malcome Kennedy – 6’0/205

Slot receiver, didn’t have the 2014 that many were hoping for. I don’t see the high upside here althought a lot of guys think he’ll be drafted somewhere in the top 150 overall. He is a quick twitch athlete that catches the ball in traffic. Gets open quickly. I just don’t see the route running ability. Better athlete than football player type. Had it easy in that offensive scheme. Maybe a top 250 overall guy on my board.

#85 – TE – Cameron Clear – 6’6/270

Quite the opposite of Kennedy. I think he has the potential to be a much better NFL player than college player. He was mainly a blocker in their scheme and a very good one at that. Problem for him is that the A& M offense is sp spread-heavy that his role wasn’t used a lot. But when he is on the field. Clear played at a high level. There are some ball skills and movement ability to his game that is hidden. I think he can be a player. Late rounder worth taking a shot on because at the very least, he will be a good blocking TE.

#29 – CB – Deshazor Everett – 6’0/193
Under the radar cover corner, three year starter. Has the height/length/speed that teams love to gamble on at the position. Has a lot of experience in man coverage, can hang with anyone downfield. Tighter hips than you would think for such a good athlete. Needs work on skill aspects of the position but the top tier athleticism is there. He is the kind of guy that will workout well and boost his stock a couple rounds. Still more of a 4th/5th round type at best but there is a lot of upside there.

Other Notables:

#31 – S – Howard Matthews – 6’1/215
#5 – S – Floyd Raven – 6’2/200

WEST VIRGINIA

#11 – WR – Kevin White – 6’3/211

If I had to pick one prospect that boosted his stock the most via level of play this season, it’s this guy. He has height, length, and ridiculous hand size. He is one of those guys that you watch over the course of a few weeks and find it really difficult to pinpoint an actual weakness in his game. White is every part of an elite WR prospect and should be taken in the top 15 overall, if not top 10. He had a pretty indirect path to where he stands now but if anything, it may help his draft outlook across the league. His size as I noted is near a top tier grade. But White shows tremendous ball skills and ability after the catch as well. May not have the elite speed, but he always seems to play faster than the defense, including Alabama week 1. White is one of my favorite WRs in this class and still has a shot at finishing at the top.

#5 – WR – Mario Alford – 5’9/177

The other half of the WR duo. Not the prospect that White is obviously, but Alford is a very good player himself. Undersized but very fast and explosive. Some are comparing him to Stedman Bailey but he isn’t as polished. Needs to run better routes and catch the ball better. I actually think he compares more to Tavon Austin with his movement ability. Not a first rounder but still a guy that can do a lot for an offense based purely on his speed/quickness/agility. 4th or 5th rounder.

#67 – LG – Quinton Spain – 6’5/335

Under the radar OL that I’ve been talking up since the beginning of the season. Fifth year senior. Huge frame. Has plenty of experience at LT and LG. I think his NFL future will be inside where he just seems more comfortable. His weaknesses are exposed in space. Classic road grader that can make a lengthy highlight film full of knockdown blocks. Drives guys through the ground. Really good at getting his paws inside and locking on. He is a quick decision maker, reacts well to the blitz and stunt games. His biggest issues derive from being out of shape, which is a bg concern for me. He needs to be lighter. He is rotated in and out of the game a lot. He also gets top heavy and will get lazy with his technique. Still a guy that may be worth a gamble late in the draft. He can be a good one.

#4 – DE – Shaquille Riddick – 6’6/242

Potential diamond in the rough here. Played his whole career at Gardner-Webb until 2014. Had 6 sacks and 9 TFL. Nothing dominant by any means but he is tools-rich and plays the game hard. He can bend well and cut the corner, plays with strong hands. Good tackler, good pursuit. His issue is body related. He has gained 75 pounds since high school but there is still more that he needs to put on. He has wide receiver legs, definitely needs more girth there. Can his frame handle another 20+ pounds. Interesting edge athlete here that I would think should be taken in the top 200 picks.

Other Notables:

#64 – RG – Mark Glowinski – 6’5/305
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OKLAHOMA

*#3 – WR – Sterling Shepard – 5’10/195

Junior that has not yet declared. Someone told me is going, someone told me he is staying. I trust both guys so I really have no idea. He is worth talking about though. Really explosive route runner with good top end speed. Will remind Giants fans of Victor Cruz. He is a shorter guy but there is some thickness to him. Big play threat that can get behind a defense and compete for the ball. Love his ability to get open. Really quick mover and fearless in traffic. If he comes out he has a shot to be a 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#79 – RT – Daryl Williams – 6’5/325

Huge frame. One of my favorite RT prospects in the nation. I think he is made for the NFL. Big and tough, a lot of functional power to his game. He can get low enough and really drive block. Defenders are tossed around by Williams when the body control and balance are there. Effective against linebackers in space. His wide-ness certainly helps. Sure he struggles with some speed to the outside but nothing that should kill his grade. I like him a lot…similar to Phil Loadholt who I loved years back. I’ll have him graded higher than most, somewhere in the top 60-90 overall.

#71 – LT – Tyrus Thompson – 6’5/320

Most like Thompson more than Williams, calling him a potential rise between now and the draft. I’m not huge on him. He does have the size/length/foot speed to play LT. Very athletically gifted. I just don’t like the lack of power and strength to his game. Too often I saw him driven back by bigger defenders. Really thin lower half that I think limits his potential power output. I would label him a 6th or 7th rounder at this point. Not sure what I am not seeing that others do.

#10 – TE – Blake Bell – 6’5/252

You may remember Bell as a rushing QB for the Sooners. Very popular with the fans. He was a short yardage back that could throw a little. He switched over to TE to help the team out and may have carved himself a spot in the NFL. Good power and functional strength. Doesn’t offer much speed wise but he does a lot of little things well. If he gets drafted it will be late. Late rounder with limited upside but a lot of teams, including NYG, like guys that made a position change late in their career.

*#19 Eric Striker – OLB – 6’0/221

Junior that hasn’t declared yet. He gets a lot of national hype but when you really sit down and grade him, he’s not much of an NFL prospect. He blew on to the national scene against Alabama last year in the bowl game where he abused Kouandijo for 3 sacks and more QB hurries. I think that was simply a tough matchup for Kouandijo more than anything. You don’t see edge rushers in the NFL playing at 220 pounds. Striker is an OK prospect and I think he can contribute, but he isn’t nearly the star that some make him out to be. If he comes out I think he is looking at a mid-round slot. Just not sure teams would know what to do with him.

#98 – DE – Chuka Ndulue – 6’3/289

Steady contributor over the years with over 30 starts. Not a big guy but does a lot of the dirty work really well. Most likely a 3-4 DE prospect but could possibly slip inside the 4-3 scheme. He is really quick in short spaces. Really strong, low center of gravity. These guys are a headache for blockers. Ndulue won’t ever be an elite guy but he can be a contributor to a good NFL defense is the scheme is right. 6th or 7th rounder that I like a lot for some teams.

Other Notables:

#48 – FB – Aaron Ripkowski – 6’1/257
#74 – LG – Adam Shead – 6’4/339
#77 – RG – Dionte Savage – 6’4/335
#10 – SS – Quentin Hayes – 6’0/193

CLEMSON

#3 – OLB – Vic Beasley – 6’2/235

Fifth year senior. One of the top defensive players in the country. Has a legit shot at being a top 10 pick. Incredible first step and ability to bend and turn the corner. 41.5 TFL over the past two years. Almost always gets the initial advantage off the snap because of the explosion and underrated strength. Beasley needs to add more weight and by the look of his frame, he may be close to maxing out. We’ll see though. Not a fit for every scheme and he might be a situational player in the NFL. Not sure he can play all three downs. That said, his pass rush potential is really high and in this league, he’ll get taken early because of that. 1st rounder for sure, maybe top 10 but I will have him somewhere in the 20-25 range I think.

#50 – DT – Grady Jarrett – 6’1/295

This 1st Team All ACC defender won’t get the attention while walking off the bus because of his lack of size and length. Jarrett may stand close to under 6 feet tall with short arms but has been a consistently productive player for three years in a row. He is a bowling ball inside that can be a horror to deal with for linemen throughout a game. His low center of gravity and good usage of knee bend and power from his base can be a handful for blockers to deal with. His best fit is in a scheme where he can penetrate the inside gaps with minimal anchor responsibilities. 4th or 5th round.

#43 – MLB – Stephone Anthony – 6’2/245

1st Team All ACC defender that builds his game off of awareness, strength, and tackling ability. Anthony is a quality inside run defender with quick, powerful downhill ability. While he is athletic enough to play in the NFL, he may not be considered a 3 down linebacker. This brand of NFL defense has taken a slight step backward but he can still carve a nice niche for himself at the next level. Smart defenders with strength, power, and downhill ability will always be in demand. Possible starter for some schemes but most likely a special teamer and situational defender. Guys like this are usually taken in the 5th or 6th round.

#26 – CB – Garry Peters – 6’0/190

Had a strong 2012 season and created some hype, but injury riddled 2013 set him back. 2014 treated him well, earning 1st Team All ACC over the likes of PJ Wlliams (FSU) and Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest). Peters is as smooth as it gets. Really good awareness and reaction time. Has the length and height to factor. My question is speed and physicality. Can be match up one on one in man coverage? I think he may be a zone-only corner but I’ll be curious to see how well he runs. 5th or 6th rounder that could get in to day 2 with a few good workouts.

#93 – DE – Corey Crawford

More traditional DE prospect than Beasley, but doesn’t have half the potential. Height/length/strength are all there but he isn’t explosive off the snap. He doesn’t play the game with any sort of skill set. Kind of slow reacting, unaware. He does get his fair share of QB pressures though and he can anchor his position against the run. Not a bad prospect but I don’t see the upside. 6th or 7th rounder.

Other Notables:

#67 – RT – Kalon Davis – 6’5/340
#68 – LG – David Beasley – 6’4/329
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ARKANSAS

#86 – DE – Trey Flowers – 6’4/268

A coach-favorite type guy. Really clean off the field, team captain type. Gets a decent amount of attention nationally but lacks the superstar ability. He doesn’t have the quick pop out of his stance, struggles to reach the corner and get by a good OT. Flowers does play the game low and strong with good mechanics though. He is really consistent and reliable. One of the better run defending DEs that I’ve seen this year, something that is still really important to NFL coaches. Flowers won’t be a star but I guarantee he out-performs a few DL that get drafted ahead of him. Most likely a top 100 guy, maybe a little lower but not much.

#47 – MLB – Martrell Spaight – 6’0/228

Every year I get sort of attached to a LB prospect before his name gets out there. This year, it’s been Spaight, the SEC’s leader in tackles. He was a JUCO All American in 2011 and 2012, and spent most of 2013 as a backup and rotational LB. He broke in 2014 and I still think people overlook him. Not that tall, not that fast, not that big. But Spaight plays the game with his eyes as good as any LB in the country. He is always moving in the right direction with balance and power. He consistently finds his way to the action. Spaight is a limited athlete that shows weakness in coverage but I’ve noticed an improvement from September to now. He is a football player, plain and simple. He may go 5 rounds without hearing his name called but I’ll have him in the top 100 overall, maybe top 65.

#23 – CB – Tevin Mitchel – 6’0/188

Has been in and out of the starting lineup for a few years, but emerged as their top CB in 2013 and some things have clicked for him. He moves well with the action in front of him. Quick reaction, good eyes. Doesn’t have the deep speed to hang with the fast WRs. Limited scheme wise but he can play. Late rounder.

#74 – RT – Brey Cook – 6’7/328

Mammoth right tackle with almost 30 career starts. Already has the NFL body from head to toe. Really strong hands. Sound technique and skill set. His feet are made for the RT spot only but they move well enough. He has such a long reach and good balance, he can get away with being on the slow side. He delivers a powerful punch and his hips are quick as a run blocker. I like him more than most. He’ll go somewhere day 3, might finish top 150 on my board.

#11 – TE – AJ Derby – 6’5/245

One of my favorite darkhorse, diamond in the rough prospects. Former QB at Iowa and JUCO. Started 1 game at QB for Arkansas in 2013. Made the move to TE in 2014 and his athletic ability caught my eye. Showed some big time speed and accleration on a TD against Alabama that stands out. He can play strong when blocking but is obviously still rough around the edges. Late round project that I think will pay off for someone.

Other Notables:

#34 – OLB – Braylon Mitchell – 6’3/231
#27 – S – Alan Turner – 6’0/205

TEXAS

*#90 – DT – Malcom Brown – 6’3/320

Junior that hasn’t declared yet. Many expect him to. He is married with 2 kids. Might be the top prospect in this game. Brown shows dominant traits to his game. Really powerful and explosive off the ball and he can toss guys aside with ease at times. Plays a little hot and cold but his upside can’t be denied. All around DT that can fit in to any scheme.

#3 – OLB – Jordan Hicks – 6’1/234

Finally Hicks tapped in to his sky high potential in 2014. Has always been a source of excitement and disappointment for the Longhorns. Physically gifted, former top tier HS recruit. Showed all the football skills you want out of a LB with Strong calling the shots. He can do everything. Pursue the run, blitz, pass rush, cover. A true 3 down LB. Struggles a bit with the action coming right at him but he played his way to a top 100 pick, maybe even top 75.

#6 – DB – Quandre Diggs – 5’10/195

I had high hopes for Diggs in 2013 as he was replacing Kenny Vaccaro after showing gamebreaking ability in 2012. He hasn’t gotten to the level I thought he would but I still think be an impact guy. He is a really quick mover that plays zone and man equally well. Really aggressive player. Diggs doesn’t tackle well and he is constantly guessing/gambling. Easily fooled. I’m not sure where he plays in the NFL but he’ll be drafted somewhere day 3.

#88 – DE – Cedric Reed – 6’5/272

Quality edge rusher, has had a productive career. Lacks the quick twitch you want and there isn’t a lot of staying power to his game. He is crafty with refined rush moves but there isn’t anything about him that stands out. Most likely drafted but late.
#9 – WR – John Harris – 6’2/218

This will be my first time scouting Harris. Led Texas with 64 catches/1,015 yards. Size and long speed are both there. Had a couple games where he took over.

#28 – RB – Malcolm Brown – 5’11/225

Part of the Texas loaded backfield. Hasn’t lived up to the hype but he always showes glimpses. He has all the ability as a rusher. Big, strong, fast. Runs high and doesn’t see the running lanes well though. He’ll get drafted late but needs to show he can do more than run the inside gaps if he wants anything in the first 5 rounds.

Other Notables:

#8 – WR – Jaxon Shipley – 6’0/190
#80 – TE – Geoff Swaim – 6’4/250
#33 – LB – Steve Edmond – 6’2/258

Dec 272014
 
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Jaelen Strong, Arizona State Sun Sun Devils (November 28, 2014)

Jaelen Strong – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 27, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

CINCINNATI

#71 – LT – Eric Lefeld – 6’5/309

Long time starter and underrated player. Has been 1st Team All conference three years in a row. Lefeld is an average athlete in pass protection, but does a good job of staying square to the defender. Gets his hands on you quick. Can stick to a guy. Nice frame for the position. All around solid player that should be drafted day 3.

#1 – MLB – Jeff Luc – 6’1/253

1st Team All AAC. Really thick, physical run defender that can make his presence known every week. He is really quick between the tackles and can actually do a nice job of making himself small to blockers and sneak in to running lanes. Physically he can lay the lumber every play. He is the kind of guy that backs look out for and that linemen can get beat up by. Strictly a run defender though, as he has trouble performing well in space, especially coverage. Limited player but one that could be worked with in a blitz heavy scheme. 6th/7th rounder.

Other Notables:

#93 – DT – Brad Harrah – 6’3/260
#43 – LB – Nick Temple – 5’10/218

VIRGINIA TECH

#34 – S – Kyshoen Jarrett – 5’11/192

Versatile defensive back, almost entered the 2014 Draft. Plays all over the field. If he were just a little bigger he could have been a top 45 overall prospect. I love the game speed here. He has the quickness to cover slot receivers man to man, the rangy speed to play a CF role in deep coverage, and the explosion to fly in to the box and defend the run. I see him as a 3rd or 4th rounder that every team will be interested in. He can do so many different things.

#8 – S – Detrick Bonner – 6’0/194

The other safety on this defense. Some actually view him as a better prospect than Jarrett, but not me. He has more size and more straight line speed, but he doesn’t move with instincts directing the way. He doesn’t react the way I wan a safety to. Poor tackler in space, doesn’t cover well at all. All he has is superb straight line speed. Maybe he gets drafted late because of it.

*#90 – DE – Dadi Nicolas – 6’4/231

Fourth year junior that has not yet declared. Workout warrior that has run a 4.4 40 and set records for vertical jump and broad jump. Broke out in a big way this year with 17 TFL. Has 10 TFL since Oct 23 (5 games). I watch him and see a guy that needs another year of college. He needs to fill out if he is going to play any pass rushing role at the next level. More of an athlete than a football player…a trend I’ve seen with Virginia Tech players.

Other Notables:

#63 – LT – Laurence Gibson – 6’6/297
#79 – RG – Caleb Farris – 6’3/307
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ARIZONA STATE

#21 – WR – Jaelen Strong – 6’4/212

The best prospect of the day if you ask me. Consider me in the small group of people that think Strong has a shot at the top 10 overall. Of the top WRs in this class, Strong has the best size factor. He is tall and long with big hands. I see some Brandon Marshall in him. He can dominate underneath with his strength, getting off the ohysical corners and putting himself between them and the ball. Really good at positioning his body and getting to the ball first. He can also get behind a defense and burn them for a long TD. Very reliable 3rd down and red zone target. I think he is still very much in the learning phase of the game and if/when he figures it out, he can be a star in the NFL. 1st rounder for sure, maybe top 10 if he runs well.

#74 – LT – Jamil Douglas – 6’4/300

Versatile lineman that has a ton of experience. He played LT for all of 2014 but I think his future is inside at guard. He struggles to maintain speed and balance when he is out in space. However he can drive straight ahead really well. Has the combination of foot quickness and hand power to mix it up with bigger defenders. I always think Oniel Cousins when I watch him. A solid backup that could play a few spots in a pinch and not kill an OL. 4th/5th rounder.

#1 – DE – Marcus Hardison – 6’4/300

Really interesting player here. Was a JUCO transfer prior to 2013, was heavily sought after. Plays mostly DE but will shift inside from time to time. Has a different body type, really short and stocky torso but thinner legs than you think. He is a legit 300 pound athlete that runs a 4.7, which is pretty rare. He is a hustler that likes tp pursue across the field. Can pack a punch. He had a strong finish to his season and in the 4 games I saw, he always did something that raised my eyebrows. I think a 3-4 or hybrid defensive front scheme could do wonders with this kid. Hard to project, but could see him going as early as round 2 if he works out well.

Other Notables:

#10 – QB – Taylor Kelly – 6’2/211
#3 – S – Damarious Randall – 6’0/189

DUKE

*#16 – S – Jeremy Cash – 6’2/203

Junior that hasn’t declared, been in school 4 years though. Transfer from Ohio State in 2012, led Duke in tackles last season. I only scouted him once in 2014 because I didn’t really notice his production until halfway through the year. Cash is a S/LB hybrid for Duke, hence all the TFL and Sack numbers. He uses his speed and quickness to beat the OL in space. Good tackler and pretty smart with quick reaction. But I want to see what he can do in coverage. He can’t play LB in the NFL at that size. Sounds like he will return to school but he is seeking a grade from the Advisory Board. Maybe a top 100 guy if he comes out.

#77 – RG – Laken Tomlinson – 6’3/320

One of my favorite guard prospects in the nation. Has the body and power presence I want. Bends pretty well. Has over 50 career starts. Because he is on Duke, he won’t get the media attention that the guys from FSU get, but Tomlinson is just as good as them. He is strong from head to toe and his feet are really active. I’ll have him graded somewhere in the top 75 overall.

#3 – WR – Jamison Crowder – 5’9/175

Record setting WR. Obviously there is a size deficiency here but Crowder is one of the few slot guys that I think can really make it at the next level. Every year we see ultra-productive WRs come out that are under 5’10 and end up fading out in the NFL. I think Crowder sticks. He is one of the best route runners you’ll find. Sets defenders up and explodes by them. Will catch anything within arms distance. Strong and tough with the ball in his hands. There is some top tier return ability here as well and it will only enhance his grade. I think he has a good shot at being a top 100 overall player.

#17 – WR – Issac Blakeney – 6’6/225

High upside prospect here that hasn’t made a ton of plays at Duke over his career. But a WR with this size and speed will always get attention from scouts. He moves in and out of breaks better than you would think, and can probably run his 40 in the 4.5-4.6 range. There are a lot of raw/rough edges to his skill game though. Late rounder if he gets drafted at all.

Other Notables:

#7 – QB – Anthony Boone – 6’0/225
#73 – LT – Takoby Cofield – 6’4/310
#47 – MLB – David Helton – 6’4/240
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MIAMI

#52 – LB – Denzel Perryman – 5’11/242

Ultra productive weak side/middle linebacker. Will likely finish as my top graded LB (3-4 OLBs excluded) in this class. Might be shorter than the ideal prospect but he is a pure football player. Very smart and good instincts. Gets himself in to the right position after the snap to make plays. Incredible power as a tackler between the tackles and in space. Really send a violent jolt to the ball carrier. Gets lost in traffic though and has had stretches where he couldn’t make even a small impact on the game. I like Perryman, he can fit in to any scheme and give you 100+ tackles every year. Is he a guy that leads the NFL in tackles every year? Probably not. But he can be a very good 2nd or 3rd round pick.

#37 – CB – LaDarius Gunter – 6’2/198

One of the more underrated corners in the nation. Gunter is a tall and long with really good movement. He can turn and run with the fastest receivers, but also showed a physical side in 2014. He can beat guys up at the line of scrimmage. Not a very good tackler and will struggle to make reads. But ask him to sit on an island and cover a WR man to man, he can do it. 3rd rounder right now that could sneak his way in to the top 45.

#34 – OLB – Thurston Armbister – 6’3/241

Solid LB prospect that probably doesn’t get the attention he deserves. Good measurables, the height/speed/agility are all there. Might be a better athlete than football player at the moment but he offers some high upside. Had a few nice games in 2014.

#91 – Olsen Pierre – DT – 6’5/305

There isn’t a lot of production here but Pierre has some tools that the NFL scouts love. He is really long. Holds 300+ pounds really well. Has the quick twitch, sudden-ness to his game. He can be a versatile guy that wears a couple hats for a DL. Late rounder.

#71 – DE – Anthony Chickillo – 6’4/282

Fourth year senior, was a top tier recruit out of high school. Played right away, has a ton of experience. Didn’t have the career that most thought he would, but was still a solid player. Versatile, can fit in to multiple schemes. He is a relentless hustler, motor is always on. I think he is a limited athlete though, that popped off the screen multiple times. He is pretty strong though, could be a guy that adds some weight and stars as a 3-4 DE. 5th-6th round.

*#8 – RB – Duke Johnson – 5’9/206

Junior that hasn’t made the declaration yet. I’ve given a lot of extra attention to Johnson over the past month. He will finish as one of the top backs on my board, right up there with Gurley and Coleman. He is incredibly explosive and agile. Such a good change of direction mover, shows you signs of McCoy really. He put 10 punds on from last year which was a good move for him, backs need to be 200+ in the NFL. Johnson can be a starter at the next level, no question. He is a great ball carrier, great pass catcher, great blocker. I think the 2nd or 3rd round here.

*#74 – LT – Ereck Flowers – 6’6/334

Junior, hasn’t made a decision yet. Interesting prospect here. A lot of people think he could be a top 15 overall pick if he comes out. Tore his meniscus in October (nothing serious) but came back and played really well. Mammoth OT that has experience on both sides. Flowers needs another year in college I think. He has a lot of sloppy parts to his game that simply need seasoning. Loses his center of gravity/balance too often. Doesn’t get his hands inside. Crosses his feet when moving laterally. Everything can be coached up so there will still be plenty of teams with a high grade on him. There is a big time power presence and he plays a mean style. The upside is big, this I could see him being a top 45 pick if he comes out. I just won’t have him graded up there.

#4 – WR – Phillip Dorsett – 5’10/195

Might be the fastest player at the combine this year. Rumor has it he may run in the 4.2 5 range. He plays fast too, he isn’t just track star. I can remember watching him play in 2013, thinking he was a definite early declaration guy. He then tore up his knee. Came back strong in 2014, led Miami in receiving yards. Had an amazing 26+ yards per catch. He has legit deep speed but also a good change of direction guy. He may not make the play to play impact, but that speed is a weapon. Decent ball skills, has some return ability. Could be a 4th/5th rounder but watch out if he actually does run a 4.25 forty.

Other Notables:

#62 – C – Shane McDermott – 6’4/300

SOUTH CAROLINA

#50 – LG – AJ Cann – 6’3/318

Fifth year senior. All American. Hs started 50 of 51 games since his redshirt season in 2010. Will likely finish as one of my top 2 or 3 guards in this class. Classic road grader with big power and short area explosion. SC loved to run behind him the past two years. Very rarely do you see his man make a tackle. There are a couple holes in his game s a pass blocker, but most college guards are that way. He’ll be a starter in the NFL. Top 45 pick, good shot at being the first guard taken.

*#28 – RB – Mike Davis – 5’9/220

Junior that has said he plans to declare for the draft. Some view him as a big time back that could land somewhere in the top 45 overall. He had a huge 2013, finally being out of the Lattimore shadow. Davis is a little like Ed Lacy. He is built low to the ground, has a power approach to the game but can be sneaky fast. I see him as a grinder like Lacy. Just a guy that continues to pick up positive yards, pushes the pike forward. But when you don’t expect it, he’ll break off a big run. I’ve felt a few times that he could benefit from losing some weight and adding more quickness to his game. Most likely a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

#53 – LT – Corey Robinson – 6’7/348

Mammoth three year starter that started of his career bouncing back and forth between the OL/DL. Robinson moves a lot like a RT prospect. He can swallow up a lot of space but his feet and knee bend are sub-par for the position. He is a powerful kid though that excels as a run blocker. He has the ability to start in the NFL but will need to be coached up on his technique. I could see him being a top 100 overall guy at best.

#81 – TE Rory Anderson – 6’5/232

Athletic pass catcher that will remind some of former Gamecock Jared Cook. He is really athletic when going after the ball in traffic. He can turn his body and reach the ball at the apex of his leap. Really good ball skills. There isn’t much of a power presence here but he loves to hit. He is a physical guy. Anderson never really got to the level that some thought he could but he fought some injuries and poor QB play. Late rounder that could get his name called in the 4th/5th round he if works out well.

#97 – DT – JT Surratt – 6’2/305

One of the more consistent DTs I have seen this year. Not a star and won’t be one in the NFL, but he can be a reliable, Barry Cofield type guy for a 4-3 defense. Very emotional/passionate player that delivers a punch at the point of attack. Violent hands, strong tree trunk legs. He can swallow up space and blockers but will hustle to the sidelines. Limited upside but again, he’ll be a reliable player. 4th-5th round.

Other Notables:

#17 – QB – Dylan Thompson – 6’3/218
#12 – SS – Brison Williams – 5’11/208
#3 – WR – Nick Jones – 5’6/168
_______________________________________________________________________

BOSTON COLLEGE

#59 – C – Andy Gallik – 6’3/299

Has a shot at being the first center taken. Will finish as one of my top 2 guys at the position I think. 4 year starter. Technically sound, uses his feet and hips really well. Really good bender, can produce a lot of power from a low position. Gallik is one of those super-centers that pulls out in to space and leads the running back outside of the tight ends. Really good athlete. Overall a very good player here that teams will look to towards the back end of round 2.

#75 – RT – Ian Silberman – 6’5/293

Former Florida Gator. Played just one year at BC after a backup-duty career at Florida. I liked Silberman every time I watched BC play. He has a nice frame. A little undersized girth wise but he has the height and length. I like how he moves. Quick feet, can explode out of his stance. Really well balanced. There is a power deficit here as you would probably expect. He cant lock on to guys. The better DL he faced off against got off his blocks with ease. Late round project with more upside that people think.

#25 – OLB – Josh Keyes – 6’2/223

Every year I have a grade on a few guys that is much higher than what we see out there. Keyes will be one of those guys this season. He was a backup until this season. He was put in to an edge rushing role and thrived. He finished with 11.5 TFL and 4 sacks. Nothing eye popping but I watched his game against USC where he had 5.5 TFL. I loved how easily he changed direction. He is technically sound, finishes tackles. There is a size/strength issue and it will likely keep him as a late day three prospect, but he is a guy I would take a flyer on. There is some hidden talent here.

Other Notables:

#2 – QB – Tyler Murphy – 6’2/214
#67 – LT – Seth Betancourt – 6’5/300
#99 – DE – Brian Mihalik – 6’9/288

PENN STATE

#65 – LG – Miles Deiffenbach – 6’3/303

3 year starter. Nothing special about his game but he gets the job done. He isn’t a pretty prospect, but he can be reliable interior guy. Could likely play some center as well. Not sure he has the quick twitch to start in the NFL, but could be a backup type for most schemes. Late rounder.

#1 – RB – Bill Belton – 5’10/205

Won’t jump off the stat sheet and I really don’t know if he will even get drafted. But I liked him every time I saw PSU play. He is really good change of direction ball carrier. Plays pretty tough, bigger than his frame would indicate. Good receiver good blocker. For where you can get him, I think Belton can be one of the better values at RB in this class.

#43 – MLB – Josh Hull – 6’0/227

Another season, another PSU linebacker in the conversation. 4th year senior with some big tackle numbers. I saw him a few times, but I was so impressed with her performance against Ohio State (19 tack/2.5 TFL/1 INT). He is an average athlete to the outside but he can be explosive between the tackles. Closes a gap real fast. He is one of those LBs that appear slippery to blockers. Really good movement after the snap and gets himself in position. Strong and powerful tackler that can really stone a ball carrier. May not be on the same level as some of the other PSU linebackers in the NFL but he can get drafted in the round 4-6 area.

#86 – DE – CJ Olaniyan – 6’3/244

Second year starter. Has long limbs and a frame that hand handle more weight. Average movement in space but he shows some pop out of his stance. Really good at playing with his hands. Shows some pass rushing potential from both a tools and skills perspective. PSU likes to move him around a little. Late rounder at best.

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NEBRASKA

#8 – RB – Ameer Abdullah -5’9/200

One of the more underrated players overall in this draft class. Ultra-productive back that showed the ability to do it all. Will be viewed as an undersized back but Abdullah spent the past two years putting on some quality weight. He is a lot stronger and tougher than you think. He can run with a violent style when he needs to. Hard guy for a lone tackler to being down. He runs with such a low pad level and his late movement is top tier. Showed plenty of ability to block and catch the ball over the past two years. I see a Pierre Thomas type player here. I view him as a top 45 guy, but may last until the 3rd round.

#68 – LG – Jake Cotton – 6’6/305

One of my favorite under the radar OL in the nation. Excellent athlete, moves like a tight end. He can deliver plenty of pop on the move, could be a perfect fit for teams that have some zone blocking schemes. There is some strength needed though. He doesn’t lock on to guys, won’t control bigger defenders. The athleticism is something to watch though. Late rounder with a lot of upside if he can get stronger.

#80 – WR – Kenny Bell – 6’1/185

One of the top WRs in Nebraska history. 4 year starter. Led the Cornhuskers in either catches or yards every year of his career. Run-heavy program though. Bell is a little bit of a compiler and may not be the best NFL receiver prospect. He has decent speed and acceleration, OK route runner. His ball skills are the best part of his game. He has strong, big hands. I question his toughness in traffic over the middle. His game may be limited downfield. Seems like the kind of guy that is good enough at everything to be a factor on college, but doesn’t have the ability to translate the success to the NFL. Day three guy.

*#4 – DE – Randy Gregory – 6’5/245

Widely considered the top edge talent in this class. Gregory has all tools that every scout looks for. He’s long and lean with explosive movement and functional strength. He bends so well, it is almost freaky, and it allows him to get under the blocker’s pads and win the leverage battle. He had a rough 2014 injury wise, they really piled up (knee, foot, toe, concussion). But many of the scouts that have seen him play label him the top edge guy by a wide margin. I am a little hesitant because of his body type. Like Barkevious Mingo a few years back, I question his strength and power presence. I don’t care how fast you are, you need to have a power element to your game. I’m not sure Gregory can anchor a spot or do anything with his inside shoulder. I’ll have him in the top 20 overall just not sure about top 5.

#13 – OLB – Zaire Anderson – 5’11/220

Leading tackler. Squatty frame that delivers a violent pop to ball carriers and blockers. Very strong. Good instincts, gets in to position. He has a natural flow to the ball and that is the top thing I look for in linebackers. Probably a limited athlete in space and may be too small for some schemes. But I like this guy a lot. Late rounder that could end up working his way up to a starting spot down the road a la Chase Blackburn.

Other Notables:

#74 – RT – Mike Moudy – 6’5/305
#6 – S – Corey Cooper – 6’0/216

USC

*#94 – DT – Leonard Williams – 6’4/290

The top prospect in this game. Might be the top overall prospect in the nation. Freak of nature type guy when you consider his size/strength/speed. Has some football skills too, not just an athlete. All American that could probably play 4-3 DT or DE. Played a 3-4 DE type role at USC but he was moved around a lot. Started 2014 off with an ankle injury that hampered him quite a bit. Finished with a few strong performances. He has elite power from his legs and hands. He really is a matchup nightmare for any kind of blocker. Williams can beat you in so many ways. I have a hard time finding a comparison for him, but I could see a Mario Williams or JJ Watt type. Top 5 pick I think.

#10 – MLB – Hayes Pullard – 6’1/235

Fifth year senior. Really productive career. Has been the leading or 2nd leading tackler all four years. Can be a MLB or WLB prospect for 4-3 teams. Really good speed from sideline to sideline but also explosive downhill in to traffic. He can lay the lumber. He is a quick thinker, plays the game with his eyes, beats blockers to a spot. He can really be swallowed up by OL though. When a blocker reaches him, he can’t get off without running out of position. Not a dominant LB by any means but he can play in the NFL. Maybe similar to Jonathan Casillas, a guy I’ve always liked as a rotational LB. 4th or 5th round.

#58 – OLB – JR Tavai – 6’2/250

Rush LB with plenty of versatility and experience. Hyper player, gets by on constant effort and a non stop motor. Led the team with 7 sacks. Will drop in to coverage and play the run well. Solid all around player. Most likely a 3-4 guy. Few injuries to ankles/feet but nothing too serious. Most likely a 6th or 7th rounder.

*#15 – WR – Nelson Agholor – 6’0/185

Junior that has not yet declared. Was one of my favorite WRs coming in to 2014. When Marquis Lee was hampered with injuries in 2013, it was Agholor that stepped up and showed glimpses of domination. Agholor is a god athlete, but his best feature is between the ears. Really good at reading the defense and wiggling his way open. Really good after the catch. Has the late quickness and agility to miss tacklers. He has elite skills and above average tools. Might not run that fast or measure that tall/long, but he is a player. I might have him in my top 5 WR, but he will most likely be drafted somewhere around #75 overall.

*#6 – QB – Cody Kessler – 6’1/215

I talked about Kessler in November as a guy that people should watch for as a potential QB that shoots up the board in the coming months. There are questions with Winston and Mariota, serious ones. After them, the QB class is pretty bad. Kessler could swoop in and sneak in to the 1st round. He lacks the height that most want but you know what, I really see some Drew Brees type throwing ability here. Tough as nails. Really accurate no matter where he is or where he is throwing the ball. Quick decisions, quick release. Kessler played in an NFL type offense, threw almost 40 TDs with just 4 INTs while completing 70+% of his passes. If I had to guess, I say he goes back to school but he is a guy you should watch out for.

*#37 – RB – Javarious Allen – 6’1/220

I have to be honest. Even though I’ve seen USC plenty this year, I only scouted Allen once. It wasn’t a very good game for him. I don’t have a good feel for him yet other than what some guys have told me. A lot of people like Allen as much as Coleman and Yeldon. He is a junior that may not declare though, so we’ll see. He is a physical back with surprising speed on the open field. He can run away from a defense. I noticed tight hips and lack of ability to miss contact. Runs a little too high. Really good pass catcher though with good skills. Some say he could be a 1st rounder, but I would peg him somewhere in the 3rd.