Jan 102017
 
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Romeo Okwara, New York Giants (January 8, 2017)

Romeo Okwara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Green Bay Packers 38 – New York Giants 13

Overview

There was some weird payback karma going on in this one. No, the 2016 New York Giants were not as dominant as the 2011 Green Bay Packers, and the Giants were not expected to beat the Packers and roll to the Super Bowl. But like the Packers in that playoff game five years ago, the Giants were victimized by costly dropped passes and a morale-shaking, end-of-the-half Hail Mary. Every Giants fan in the world must have had a flashback to the Giants Hail Mary at Lambeau Field – it was even in the same end zone! And like that older playoff match-up, a close game rapidly got out of hand in the second half.

The Giants lost by 25 points. This was the team’s most one-sided defeat of the season. And despite the strong start by the defense, this was a total team loss. Offense, defense, and special teams all played poorly. Long story short, when you give up over 30 points in a playoff game and/or you are held under 20 points, you are not going to win. You are also not going to win when your are -2 in turnover differential. Not on the road in the playoffs.

So the Giants go back to the drawing board. They will have to spend the next 12 months to get back to the same position (or better) that they found themselves in this January. While the Giants have a relatively young team with a solid core of players, their most important player is 36 and on the downside of his career. The clock is ticking.

Giants on Offense

It sounds like lazy writing on my part because I keep saying the same things over and over again. But this was the sixth game in a row where the Giants did not break the 20-point barrier. The last time that happened to a Giants team was 1980. The Giants had 13 offensive possessions. The results? One touchdown, two field goals, two turnovers, and eight punts. Four of New York’s 15 first downs came after the score was 38-13 with less than three minutes to play. The Giants managed seven first downs and six points in the first half. Not counting the last meaningless drive, the Giants had four first downs and a touchdown (the entire “drive” coming on one play) in the second half.

The most disturbing element to all of this is that Green Bay isn’t all that good on defense. They were 22nd in the NFL overall (8th against the run, 31st against the pass). The Giants ran for 70 yards against the Packers and 11 of those yards were a scramble by Eli Manning. In other words, Giants backs gained 59 yards. That was not terribly unexpected since the Giants ran for only 43 yards against the Packers in October. But for the second time, the Giants could not take advantage of a terrible Packers pass defense.

And here comes the broken record – once again, the Giants proved they could not score touchdowns by matriculating the ball down the field in small chunks. Not by coincidence, their sole touchdown came on the big pass play. The Giants only had three plays over 20 yards on Sunday: a 26-yard reception by Sterling Shepard that set up the first field goal, a 51-yard pass reception by Will Tye that set up the second field goal, and a 41-yard touchdown reception by Tavarres King. Those three plays were practically the extent of the Giants offense on Sunday – against the 31st-ranked pass defense!

In recent weeks, point production had been poor, but the Giants had emphasized the ground game with a 50/50 run-pass balance or better that had led the Giants to winning the time of possession battle. Not this week. New York called 47 pass plays and 16 runs. Point production did not increase and the Giants got clobbered in the time of possession battle (25:29 to 34:31). Turnovers were not an issue until the game was already decided. The offense only committed two penalties for a total of 10 yards, but both penalties put the Giants in 1st-and-15 holes that contributed to two three-and-outs.

This game was a microcosm of New York Giants offensive futility in 2016. The Giants couldn’t run the ball. Their best scoring drives contained big passing plays. Most damning of all for a team that was in its third year of running a West Coast Offense, the Giants were terrible at the short- to intermediate-passing game. They were a West Coast Offense that sucked running the West Coast Offense. This was a strange development given the team’s top 10 offensive ranking in 2015 in the same scheme with few personnel changes. The most significant changes were moving from the Tom Coughlin/Ben McAdoo dynamic to Ben McAdoo/Mike Sullivan with a number of position coaching switches (quarterback, wide receivers, offensive line).

Quarterback

Eli Manning did not play poorly. And he was victimized by dropped passes (at least six), a couple of breakdowns in pass protection, and no running game. But on a day the Giants passed the ball 47 times in 63 snaps (or 3x the number of running plays) against the 31st ranked pass defense, more was hoped for and expected. Thirteen points and 15 first downs (four of which were meaningless) are not good enough. The Giants had five three-and-outs. Three other drives also resulted in punts. Eli’s fumble and interception – while not to be excused – came when the game was already decided. Manning finished the game 23-of-44 (disappointing 52 percent) for 299 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Almost 40 percent of his yardage production came on just three pass plays.

Running Backs

Coming into this game, the question was would the Giants continue to try to force feed the ground game or would they try to take advantage of Green Bay’s poor pass defense? In the first half, the Giants passed twice as much as they ran (22 pass plays, 12 runs). Paul Perkins received the bulk of those snaps but he could not deliver with just 12 yards on seven carries (1.7 yards per rush). Rashad Jennings actually had more success four carries for 25 yards (6.3 yards per carry). Perhaps the most questionable decision of the first half was calling on Bobby Rainey to run the ball on 3rd-and-1 with less than two minutes to go before halftime. Rainey was stuffed on his only carry of the day. The Giants punted and a 7-6 game turned into a 14-6 nightmare when the Packers converted on their Hail Mary.

The Giants only ran the football four times in the second half of the game for a total of 22 yards. In all, Perkins (3 catches in 5 targets for 27 yards, one drop), Rainey (1 catch for 8 yards), and Jennings (1 catch for 4 yards) were targeted seven times, with five catches for 39 yards – but most of this pass-receiving action came after the score was 38-13. Perkins screwed the pooch by not falling on Manning’s fumble (the whistle had not blown).

Wide Receivers

Whether by design or by Manning’s decisions, the overwhelming majority of the passes were targeted at the wide receivers. Thirty of Manning’s 44 pass attempts were directed at the wideouts. However, the results were mostly extremely disappointing:

  • Odell Beckham caught 4 of 11 targets for 28 yards with three drops, including one dropped TD
  • Sterling Shepard caught 4 of 9 targets for 63 yards with two drops, including one dropped TD
  • Victor Cruz caught 3 of 4 targets for 30 yards
  • Tavarres King caught 3 of 6 targets for 63 yards with one 41-yard touchdown

In other words, these 30 pass attempts to wideouts resulted in 14 catches for 194 yards, just one touchdown, and 16 incompletions. Most disappointing was the play of Odell Beckham. It was hoped that “playoff Beckham” would reach even greater heights of excellence. Instead, Beckham laid a major egg. He was all but invisible against a terrible pass defense, and hurt his team with those three key drops. He dropped a 3rd-and-5 pass inside the 30-yard line on the promising opening drive. On the ensuing possession, he dropped what should have been a 28-yard touchdown pass. When the Giants were desperate, down 24-13 early in the 4th quarter, a wide-open Beckham dropped a deep pass on 3rd-and-11. The Giants punted and quickly found themselves trailing 31-13.

Victor Cruz’s career with the Giants may be over, and if it is, he went out with a whimper. The highlight of the game for New York was King’s 41-yard touchdown reception. One wonders if King should have replaced Cruz long ago. Shepard had a 26-yard reception on the first field goal drive, but three plays later could not come down with what should have been a 15-yard TD and then dropped a 3rd-and-3 pass.

Tight Ends

Jerell Adams was a somewhat surprising scratch as the Giants decided to go with more experience and activate Larry Donnell, who was not targeted in the game. Will Tye caught four of seven passes thrown in his direction for 66 yards, including the team’s longest play of the game and Tye’s longest catch of his career – a 51-yard reception that set up the second field goal. That said, a good tight end should have feasted on the defense the Packers were running. Tye just doesn’t have the size to muscle up against linebackers and come down with closely-contested passes.

Offensive Line

It was not a strong effort by the Giants up front. The Packers are no slouches against the run (8th in the NFL) or rushing the passer (40 sacks). Both showed as the Giants running backs were held to 59 yards on 16 carries (3.7 yards per carry) and Eli Manning was sacked twice with three quarterback hits. The Giants were only penalized twice on offense, but false starts by Ereck Flowers and Marshall Newhouse on 1st-and-10 stymied drives before they got started and led to two three-and-outs. The interior trio did not distinguish themselves with their run blocking as each had breakdowns that disrupted running plays, including the killer failed 3rd-and-1 effort late in the first half. The Giants could not run the ball despite the fact that the Packers played both safeties deep (cover 2). Julius Peppers got the first sack against Ereck Flowers, but that was a bit of a coverage sack where Eli ran into Peppers. Flowers later gave up a pressure by Peppers on 3rd-and-6 early in the 3rd quarter leading to a punt. On the second and last sack, Flowers was cleanly beaten by LB Clay Matthews, who stripped the ball from Manning for the final nail in the coffin. Marshall gave up one big hit on Manning late in the game.

Giants on Defense

To win this game, the Giants needed a dominating performance on defense. They didn’t get it. Tragically, it was the defense’s worst performance of the season, allowing five touchdowns (four through the air) and a field goal. The Giants did not force single turnover and allowed a close game in the 3rd quarter slip away with four consecutive scoring drives. Green Bay was 3-of-4 (75 percent) in the red zone and controlled the ball for over 34 minutes.

All of this despite the fact that the Giants defense started the game as well as could be hoped for (except for the lack of turnovers). The Packers first five possessions of the game resulted in four first downs and five punts. Green Bay was held scoreless until late in the second quarter. But then disaster struck. After poor punt, Green Bay got the ball on the Giants 31-yard line. Three plays later, they scored to take a 7-6 lead with 2:20 left on the clock. Then after a quick three-and-out, with 1:38 left on the clock, the Packers drove 80 yards in eight plays to take a heart-breaking 14-6 lead into the half when Aaron Rodgers completed a 42-yard Hail Mary pass that should have been easily knocked down.

The defense appeared to regain its composure in the 3rd quarter by first forcing a three-and-out and then holding on 4th-and-1 on the Green Bay side of the field. This turnover on downs spurred the offense to its only TD of the game and the Giants were within one point (14-13) with 5:16 to go in the 3rd quarter. It’s at this point the roof collapsed as Green Bay scored 24 unanswered points on their next four possessions. Despite accruing five sacks in the game, Aaron Rodgers had far too much time to throw. And with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out of the lineup after the first series, the secondary did not play as well as had been anticipated.

The defense was only flagged once.

Defensive Line

The run defense was respectable as Green Bay backs were held to 75 yards on 23 carries (3.3 yards per carry) with a long run of 10 yards. Indeed, there were only two drives where the Packers ran the ball remotely well, the main one being their last TD possession when the contest was all but decided.

The problem was the pass rush where it was feast or famine. The five sacks (three by the defensive line) were a bit misleading as Aaron Rodgers had an eternity to throw on some plays – including plays that resulted in big gains or touchdowns. It was clear that the Giants were trying to stay disciplined in their rush lanes and not allow Rodgers to hurt them outside the pocket, but they simply gave him too much time. The most disappointing player was DE Oliver Vernon (1 tackle) who was all but shut out. Defensive ends Romeo Okwara and Kerry Wynn each had a sack but combined for a total of two tackles. Defensive tackles Damon Harrison (5 tackles) and Johnathan Hankins (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss) had strong games. Reserve defensive tackles Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas each chipped in with one tackle each, including one impressive stop by Bromley.

Linebackers

Jonathan Casillas (11 tackles) and Keenan Robinson (6 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss on a screen pass, 1 pass defense) were active. Casillas had one of his better games against the run, and was a factor on the failed 4th-and-1 effort by Green Bay. He did give up a couple of receptions to TE Jared Cook however. The other linebackers were largely invisible. Devon Kennard was credited with one tackle. Run defense was solid. Aaron Rodgers only targeted seven seven receivers, three of whom were Cook (5 catches in 9 targets for 48 yards), RB/WR Ty Montgomery (3 catches in 4 targets for 41 yards), and FB Aaron Ripkowski (2 catches for 11 yards). But 34 of Montgomery’s yards came on a 3rd-and-10 play against the secondary (not linebackers) as a wide receiver when the Packers ran a pick play.

Defensive Backs

Losing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie early due to injury was huge. As the game wore on, the Aaron Rodgers and the Packers exploited match-ups in the slot against Trevin Wade in particular. Eli Apple (4 tackles, 1 pass defense on 3rd-and-8) also had some issues outside and finished a promising season on a down note. Janoris Jenkins (1 tackle) did a nice job except for the team’s only defensive penalty – a 32-yard pass interference flag in the 1st quarter. Coty Sensabaugh had six tackles, a sack, one tackle for a loss, and one pass defense on a 3rd-and-10 shot into the end zone to WR Randall Cobb.

Landon Collins was very active with nine tackles, one sack, and two pass breakups – including a 3rd-and-2 deep pass to TE Jared Cook. Collins had an amazing series midway through the 3rd quarter when he clobbered the fullback short of the first down after a short pass, helped to stuff the 3rd-and-1 run, and then did the same on 4th-and-1. Leon Hall started at free safety (over Andrew Adams) and accrued five tackles and broke WR Jordy Nelson’s ribs on a deep pass breakup. He did whiff on a sack opportunity that Hankins cleaned up on.

The only wideouts to do any real damage were Randall Cobb and Davante Adams, but these two wrecked the Giants secondary to the tune of 13 catches for 241 yards and four touchdowns. Three of Cobb’s five catches were for scores. Adams beat Apple deep for 31 yards and two plays later – after Rodgers had an eternity to throw – Adams beat Sensabaugh for a touchdown despite tight coverage. Then came the devastating 42-yard Hail Mary where none of the Giants defenders got enough depth or seemed to jump for the ball. Apple had the best shot at the ball, but Collins and Hall were back there too. This was one spot where DRC was really missed too with his height and leaping ability.

In the second half, Cobb beat Wade for 20 yards out the slot and then beat him against for the 30-yard touchdown on the very next play (Landon Collins also ran himself out of a chance to tackle Cobb short of the goal line). In the 4th quarter, Adams beat Sensabaugh out of the slot for 12 yards on 3rd-and-9. Three plays later, Apple was beat in the end zone for a 16-yard score by Cobb.

Giants on Special Teams

The Giants needed a strong game out of their special teams to win and they didn’t get it. The good news is that Robbie Gould made both of his field goal efforts (from 26 and 40 yards out) in very cold conditions. But Brad Wing self-admittedly had his worst day of the season with eight punts for 39 yards per punt (and a terrible 32.8 net). Not only were hist punts short, but there were a number of line drives. Wing did have one punt downed at the 6-yard line and another fair caught at the 10-yard line.

None of Gould’s four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks and the Packers returned two kickoff over 30 yards. Green Bay also returned a punt 23 yards, which set up a short field on the Packers field goal drive.

The Giants return game was a disaster. Dwayne Harris returned three punts for four yards (1.3 yards per return). Odell Beckham did not return a punt and the Giants came close to turning the ball over by accidentally touching a punt yet to be downed. While Harris did have a 31-yard kickoff return, Bobby Rainey may have sealed the Giants fate with his boneheaded decision to field a kickoff that was headed out of bounds or into the end zone. Instead, he stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line after the Packers had gone up 21-13. The atrocious field position contributed to a three-and-out and easy Packers score after the 23-yard punt return. Odell Beckham returned two kickoffs for the first time in his career, with both returns picking up 24 yards each.

(New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, January 8, 2017)
Jan 062017
 
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Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (December 11, 1938) NFL Championship Game

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (December 11, 1938) NFL Championship Game

Game Preview: New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, January 8, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The New York Giants and Green Bay Packers ancient playoff rivalry has officially been reignited in full force. The Giants and Packers met in NFL title games in 1938, 1939, 1944, 1961, and 1962. The Giants won the first of these NFL Championships but lost the other four. Fast forward to the 2007 NFC Championship Game – the Packers were heavy favorites to win what ended up being Brett Favre’s last game in a Packers uniform. In a post-season classic and arguably Eli Manning’s best game, the Giants won in overtime. Four years later, the Giants once again tore the hearts out of the Packers faithful by pulling off a monumental upset of a 15-1 Packers team that was expected to waltz to the Super Bowl. Now for the EIGHTH time, two flagship franchises of the NFL will meet in the cold of winter in the playoffs. It’s fitting that uniforms of both teams are not all that different from those teams in the 1960s and that the game will be played at venerable and frigid Lambeau Field.

In terms of roster makeup, five years is almost an eternity. Very few players remain on both teams from the 2011 playoff game. Tom Coughlin is gone as is most of his coaching staff from that season. But the quarterbacks are the same. And the fans remember. Despite significant changes in both franchises, I guarantee you that many Packers fans didn’t want to see the Giants again in the playoffs. It is impossible for Green Bay fans to shake the pain of 2007 and 2011. And the longer Sunday’s game remains tight, the more nervous the people in the stands will get. The players on both sides on the field will feel that nervousness. The pressure is once again on the Packers, not the Giants. Psychologically, this match-up favors New York.

Win or lose, Ben McAdoo’s debut season exceeded expectations. Very few expected an 11-win season and a playoff spot wrapped up before the regular-season finale. Now we find out what mettle Ben McAdoo and his team are really made of. In some ways, this reminds me of 1984. In his second year after a disastrous debut season, Bill Parcells was still considered a question mark. His team was expected to be badly beaten by a Rams team that had easily done so in the regular season. However, the Giants pulled off the upset in a low-scoring game. It was the first major step in building the Parcells’ legacy. A win in Green Bay against his old team and his old head coach and mentor would be huge for McAdoo and the franchise.

That all said, there is one player on the Giants who may be under tremendous personal pressure: Eli Manning. The quarterback who holds virtually every record in team history turned 36 last Tuesday. As we have all learned, making the playoffs is never guaranteed. This could be Eli’s last shot at post-season glory. One more significant playoff run would ensure Eli’s legacy. On the flip side, if Manning fizzles, a team with a relatively young, solid core will have to be concerned about the all-important quarterback position moving forward in 2017. Does Eli Manning have a bit of post-season magic left in his right arm?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • TE Jerell Adams (shoulder) – probable
  • RT Bobby Hart (forearm) – probable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • DE Owa Odighizuwa (hamstring) – doubtful
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (back) – probable
  • CB Coty Sensabaugh (ankle) – probable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – probable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The New York Giants have not scored more than 20 points in five straight games. If that streak reaches six in a row, the Giants will likely be one-and-done in the playoffs. Looking at the big picture, what Ben McAdoo and his staff have done is force fed the ground game in recent weeks. While the team has surpassed the 100-yard mark in each of the last three games, it hasn’t been pretty and point production has suffered. This strategy has reduced risk, increased the time of possession, and turned Eli Manning into more of a game manager. The Giants have been playing not to lose on offense, relying on their rapidly improving defense.

Opposing defenses have pretty much approached the Giants offense the same all season: play two-deep safeties (cover 2), double (and sometimes triple) Odell Beckham, and dare the Giants to beat them in other areas. Simply put, the Green Bay Packers are not likely to be overly concerned about what the Giants running game or other receiving options will do to them. They know Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz, and Will Tye will not hurt them down the field. And they do not fear Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins. The Giants have demonstrated all year that if they don’t get big chunks in the passing game (almost exclusively to Beckham), they have trouble moving the ball and scoring.

Back in October at Lambeau Field, this was how the Packers handled the Giants. New York scored 19 points and just one touchdown. They had only ONE play over 20 yards (to Tye for 27 yards) and only ran the football 14 times for 43 yards. In total, the Giants finished with an embarrassing 14 first downs (4 in the first half) and 219 total net yards. A jittery Eli Manning struggled against a poor pass defense, completing only 50 percent of his passes. Both offensive tackles struggled terribly. Cruz was shut out and Shepard held to two catches for 14 yards. Beckham was targeted 12 times, but only had five catches for 56 yards.

The 3-4 defense of the Packers finished 2016 ranked 22nd in defense (8th against the run, 31st against the pass). Their shoddy pass defense has further been weakened by injury issues at corner. Back in October, the Packers had the NFL’s 1st-ranked run defense and 27th-ranked pass defense. The Giants approached that game as expected, passing the ball 74 percent of the time (40 passes, 14 runs). But the Giants could not take advantage of Green Bay’s poor pass defense. So the dilemma the Giants face in this game is do they go with another pass-heavy game plan, hoping to execute far better? Or do they continue their recent strategy of force-feeding their backs against what is a quality run defense that is likely to play the pass first? If the Giants could actually move the ball on the ground against Green Bay, the latter strategy would make sense as it would help win the time of possession battle and keep Aaron Rodgers on the bench.  The problem is that is a big “if” as the Giants have yet to demonstrate a consistent ground game that moves the chains AND produces points (note the Giants only have six rushing touchdowns this year). At the very least, one would hope the more explosive and instinctive Paul Perkins receives the bulk of the carries.

The Packers are almost dead last in pass defense, but they have 40 sacks and have forced 25 turnovers (17 of those interceptions). Ultimately, what the strategy comes down to is this: does Ben McAdoo believe Eli Manning can play at a different level than he did in the regular season and protect the football? Does he believe his tackles can block Green Bay’s outside rushers better than they did in October? If he does, then he is more likely to open up the offense and play match-up football. Does Eli have some magic left? Is Odell Beckham a money player in the playoffs? Can rookies like Shepard, Perkins, and maybe even tight end Jerell Adams make a difference?

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The New York Giants have a defense again. Unbelievably, the Giants improved from 32nd in 2015 to 10th in 2016 in yards allowed, and from 30th to 2nd in points allowed. But now it’s money time. The 2011 NYG defense finished 27th in the NFL, but turned it on during the playoff run. With the Giants offense struggling to score points, the pressure is on the defense to play as well if not better than it did down the stretch of the regular season.

The challenge is arguably the quarterback who is playing the best in the NFL right now, Aaron Rodgers. How well? A 40-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Worse, he has an 18-to-0 ratio in his last seven games. Rodgers is very accurate and can make all of the throws, even when on the move and not having his feet properly set. Indeed, some of his best plays come when he is buying time with his mobility. The Giants not only need to get pressure on him, but they need to bring him down. Not having Jason Pierre-Paul hurts as the Giants won’t be able to generate much consistent pass pressure without blitzing, like they did against the Washington Redskins last week. But when you blitz Rodgers, you are rolling the dice and risking giving up the cheap big play. The last time these two teams met, the Giants got virtually no pressure on Rodgers (no sacks and three QB hits). And there were plays when Rodgers had all day to throw.

That all said, there are two areas where the Giants should match-up well. One, with running backs Eddie Lacey and James Starks out, the Packers have been forced to play wide receiver Ty Montgomery at running back. While Montgomery has averaged an extremely impressive 5.9 yards per carry, he’s no Lacey. And the Giants feel they can rough him up. In the October meeting, the Packers ran for 147 yards on the Giants with Lacey leading the way.

The other area where the Giants match-up well is the Packers’ strength – their wide receiving corps. The last time these two teams met, Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were hurt. As great as Jordy Nelson (97 catches, 14 touchdowns), Davante Adams (75 catches, 12 touchdowns), and Randall Cobb (60 catches, 4 touchdowns) have been, this trio hasn’t dealt with the trio of corners the Giants can field.

The greater challenge in coverage may be tight ends Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers, as well as RB/WR Montgomery coming out of the backfield. The Giants did not defend the screen game well in October, and Cook did not play in that game. In addition, wide receiver Geronimo Allison has looked good and the Packers may try some 4-WR sets.

Despite New York’s lofty defensive ranking, this game will be a challenge for the Giants. Much depends on which version of Rodgers shows up. He hasn’t had his best games against the Giants, including in October when he only completed half his passes and threw two of his seven interceptions. The Giants are not likely to get much heat on him without blitzing their defensive backs, but Rodgers will be looking for that too based on his film study of the Washington game. Steve Spagnuolo has to pray his defenders up front stymie Green Bay’s patch-work ground game (watch out for the fullback too) so he can concentrate on the pass targets.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
This is an area where the Giants can win the game. I expect Odell Beckham to return punts. And keep in mind the Giants early season success in blocking or coming close to blocking punts and kicks. If the Giants get desperate, might we see a fake from the not-so-conservative Ben McAdoo?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on the Packers: “Winners of six in a row. They’re scoring the football at a good clip, 31 points a game during the streak. Taking care of the football and Aaron is playing MVP-type football. Defensively, they get after the quarterback and are forcing turnovers. They have 11 turnovers in the last three weeks. They’re holding opponents to 18 points during their winning streak.”

THE FINAL WORD:
My head says Packers given the level at which Aaron Rodgers is performing combined with New York’s constant struggle to score more than 20 points per game. Also, Rodgers doesn’t turn the ball over and Manning does. But my gut says the Giants are in heads of Mike McCarthy, Rodgers, and the Green Bay fans. The longer this game remains close, the more nervous the Packers will get. Eli Manning understands the preciousness of the situation. And we’re about to see if Odell Beckham has a playoff level. The turnover differential will probably decide the game.

Jan 022017
 
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Devon Kennard, New York Giants (January 1, 2017)

Devon Kennard – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 19 – Washington Redskins 10

Overview

This was a strange but encouraging game for the New York Giants. The Washington Redskins had everything to play for – win and they were going to the playoffs; lose and they were staying home. The game really meant nothing for the Giants other than staying sharp and avoiding injuries.

The Giants dominated the first half, sat two of their best players in the second half (Odell Beckham and Janoris Jenkins), allowed the Redskins to tie the game midway through the 4th quarter, and then calmly put the game away late. It was either a testament to a good Giants team peaking at the right time or an immense choke job by the Redskins. Most likely, it was a bit of both.

Regardless, give Ben McAdoo credit. He took a risk taking this game as seriously as he did. And he was rewarded by not only giving his team some momentum going into the playoffs, but he ended the post-season hopes of a hated division rival. In short, the Giants were ready to play a game in which they were at a natural emotional disadvantage.

Giants on Offense

I speculated in my game preview: “My guess is will see a heavy dose of the ground game – both to continue to prime that aspect of the offense for the post-season run, but also to protect Eli.” This is essentially what the Giants appeared to do. The run-to-pass ratio was a startling 40 to 28. The Giants played it VERY conservatively, which did indeed give them a chance to work on their anemic but improving ground attack and protect Eli Manning. At times, the offense had the feel of treating this contest as a preseason game.

The good news is the Giants ran for a season-high 161 yards and dominated the time of possession (35:52 to 24:08). The Giants did not turn the football over. That has happened four times this year, and it is no coincidence that the Giants won all four of those games.

The worries remain however. The Giants have not broken the 20-point mark for five games in row. The offense only scored 13 points against the Redskins, totaling just 17 first downs, 332 total net yards, and 171 net yards passing. The Giants were 6-of-17 (35 percent) on 3rd down, 0-of-1 on 4th down, and 1-of-3 (33 percent) in the red zone. Eight of their 12 possessions (67 percent) resulted in punts. Half of their possessions (six) resulted in three-and-outs, including five in the second half of the game.

Quarterback

In some ways, it has been a good season for Eli Manning, who topped the 4,000-yard mark for the sixth time of his career, and who just about tied his career-high completion percentage figure (63.1 percent). But Manning’s TD-to-INT figures (26-to-16) were disappointing as was his yards-per-pass attempt figure (6.7). To be blunt, the offense took a major step backwards in 2016, as the passing game fell from 7th in 2015 (271.4 yards per game) to 17th in 2016 (242.4 yards per game). Manning threw nine fewer touchdown passes and two more interceptions than he did in 2015.

Against the Redskins, the Giants only generated 13 points on offense. Only four drives gained more than one first down despite a season-high 161 yards rushing and allowing only one sack and two quarterback hits. To be fair to Eli, the Giants played it very conservatively on offense, and Ben McAdoo sat the team’s best offensive weapon for the bulk of the second half. Manning did complete 63 percent of his throws (17-of-27). But those 27 throws only generated 180 yards of offense with 24 percent of that production coming on one pass play for 44 yards. Only one other pass play gained more than 20 yards. Manning’s internal clock is off. He seems to feel pressure when it’s not really there. He misses seeing some open receivers and has been too inaccurate. Manning has also been lucky that some passes have not been picked off, including an early pick-6 chance by Josh Norman in this game.

Running Backs

As I’ve talked about for several weeks, Ben McAdoo and his offensive staff have made a conscious effort to get the ground game going, come hell or high water. The Giants ran the ball 40 times in 68 offensive snaps. The big news was that Paul Perkins was given his first official start and the rookie responded with 102 yards on 21 carries (4.9 yards per carry). This was the first time a Giants running back gained 100 yards during the 2016 season. Perkins had runs of 22 and 14 yards. But there were also key shorter runs like his tough 4-yard gain on 3rd-and-3 on the first scoring drive. Perkins is quicker and more instinctive than Rashad Jennings. There are similarities between Perkins’ late-season emergence and that of Ahmad Bradshaw during his rookie year in 2007. Perkins was targeted twice in the passing game, but both those attempts fell incomplete.

Rashad Jennings still got his touches, carrying the ball 18 times for 52 yards (2.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown. The problem with Jennings is that he simply isn’t producing. He’s averaged only 3.3 yards per run all season. If Perkins is the new Bradshaw, Jennings certainly is not Brandon Jacobs. Jennings caught one pass for five yards.

Wide Receivers

Despite sitting most of the second half, Odell Beckham, Jr. still finished the game as the team’s leading receiver with five catches for 44 yards, three of which came on the lone touchdown drive. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Beckham’s game was what he didn’t do, that is, retaliate against asshole corner Josh Norman, who was clearly trying to get under his skin.

With only 180 passing yards, the other receivers were fairly quiet. Sterling Shepard caught three passes for 30 yards and gained nine yards on an end-around. Victor Cruz had two catches for just seven yards.

The offensive play of the game was Eli Manning’s perfectly-thrown 44-yard deep pass to Tavarres King (18 snaps) after the Redskins had tied the game 10-10. This play put the Giants in field goal range and enabled the team to regain the lead late in the 4th quarter. Rogers Lewis (16 snaps) and Dwayne Harris (8 snaps at wide receiver) were not targeted.

Tight Ends

Jerell Adams (shoulder) did not play. Larry Donnell (25 snaps) played but was not targeted in the passing game. Will Tye caught four of five passes thrown in his direction and had a team-high 47 receiving yards, including a 24-yarder. The blocking by Tye and Donnell was decent – both were often sent in motion as lead blockers. However, Donnell was flagged with a holding penalty.

Offensive Line

Marshall Newhouse started at right tackle for Bobby Hart (forearm). The offensive line had a solid game. Against a Redskins team that had 37 sacks coming into the game, the line allowed one sack and only two quarterback hits. New York also rushed for a season-high 161 yards. Ereck Flowers was flagged for holding and Newhouse for illegal use of hands, the latter wiping out a 16-yard gain on 3rd-and-8 and leading to a punt. Left guard Justin Pugh gave up the only sack on a spin move by former Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins in the 4th quarter.

Giants on Defense

Coming into this game, the Redskins were 3rd in offense in the NFL, averaging 411 yards and almost 26 points per game. They were 14th in rushing, averaging 4.6 yards per rush, and 2nd in passing. A very aggressive Giants defense – missing Jason Pierre-Paul and sitting Janoris Jenkins in the second half – did the following to Washington:

  • 10 points (0 in the first half)
  • 16 first downs (4 in the first half)
  • 284 net yards (83 in the first half)
  • 38 net yards rushing (10 in the first half)
  • 246 net yards passing (73 in the first half)
  • 3 turnovers
  • 1 defensive score

Washington only had two drives longer than 34 yards. One was an 11-play, 76 yard drive that ended with a touchdown. The other was a 4-play, 57-yard drive that ended with an interception. Washington’s 13 drives resulted in two scores for 10 points, a missed 57-yard field goal, three turnovers, and seven punts. The Redskins came into the game with the FEWEST three-and-outs in the NFL with just 20. New York forced FIVE three-and-outs on Sunday.

Defensive Line

The Washington Redskins have a very good offensive line, yet New York largely controlled the line of scrimmage, holding the NFL’s 14th-ranked rushing attack to a measly 38 yards and 2.5 yards per carry. As expected, given the absence of Jason Pierre-Paul, most of the pass rush came from blitzes as defensive backs had three of New York’s four sacks. The only linemen to register hits on QB Kirk Cousins were Damon Harrison (25 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss) and Olivier Vernon (2 tackles). Harrison’s 10-yard statement sack knocked the Skins back to their own 4-yard line on their second drive. He also broke up a screen pass in the 4th quarter. Romeo Okwara (41 snaps), Owamagbe Odighizuwa (31 snaps), and Kerry Wynn (12 snaps) were shut out in the stat department. Johnathan Hankins (27 snaps), Jay Bromley (8 snaps), and Robert Thomas (6 snaps) were each credited with one tackle.

Linebackers

Keenan Robinson (47 snaps, 7 tackles) and Jonathan Casillas (38 snaps, 6 tackles, 2 pass defenses) were very active, combining for a total of 13 tackles. Devon Kennard (30 snaps, 2 tackles) continues to be employed both at linebacker and defensive end in pass rushing situations. His pass pressure was a factor on Kirk Cousins’ second game-deciding interception. Kelvin Sheppard (10 snaps) only had one tackle, but it was a tone-setting 3rd-and-1 stuff on the Redskins opening possession. Thirteen of Cousins’ 22 completions and 126 of his 287 passing yards went to RB Chris Thompson (6 catches for 37 yards), TE Jordan Reed (5 catches for 40 yards), and TE Vernon Davis (2 catches for 49 yards) – but much of that tight end yardage came against the defensive backs.

Defensive Backs

Janoris Jenkins (23 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 pass defense) sat out the second half with a sore back. He shut out his opponents. Coty Sensabaugh (ankle) and Nat Berhe (concussion) did not play. Redskins wide receivers were held to just nine catches for 161 yards, with 49 yards coming on one pass play to Pierre Garcon, who had four of the nine receptions. Giants killer DeSean Jackson was limited to two catches for 34 yards, and dangerous slot receiver Jamison Crowder only had two catches for 16 yards.

The star of the game was undoubtedly Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) who had two interceptions, one sack (on 3rd-and-8), and one tackle for a loss. His first interception stopped a scoring threat in the 3rd quarter and his second all but ended the contest when Washington was threatening to tie or win the game. DRC dominated his match-ups. So did Eli Apple (4 tackles) except for the Redskins lone TD drive. Apple first gave up back-to-back plays that gained 33 yards. He then got beaten by TE Jordan Reed for the 1-yard touchdown slant. Apple was very aggressive against the run, helping to blow up two running plays.

Landon Collins led the team with eight tackles and two tackles for losses. He also had a 12-yard sack on 3rd-and-14, as did corner/safety Leon Hall (31 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) on 3rd-and-10. Collins did give up a 31-yard completion to TE Vernon Davis on the Redskins field goal drive. He also was flagged with a late hit penalty. Hall saw more playing time at safety at the expense of Andrew Adams (31 snaps, 1 tackle). On Pierre Garcon’s 49-yard catch-and-run, Adams not only got beat in coverage, but he failed to make the tackle after the catch.

Trevin Wade (41 snaps, 4 tackles) ended the game by recovering a fumbled lateral for a touchdown. He did give up an 11-yard completion on 3rd-and-6 on the TD drive when he fell down on the play.

Giants on Special Teams

Robbie Gould made both of his field goals (22 and 40 yards out). He has not missed since coming to New York (10 straight kicks). All four of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks and the Redskins had no kickoff return yardage.

Brad Wing punted eight times, averaging 45.4 yards per punt (but only 37.9 yard net). One of his punts resulted in a touchback. Dangerous punt return Jamison Crowder returned five punts for 40 yards, including a 19-yard return that was factor in setting up Washington’s first score of the game.

The Giants did not return a kickoff. Dwayne Harris returned six punts for 46 yards (7.7 yards per return) with a long of 12 yards.

(New York Giants at Washington Redskins, January 1, 2017)
Jan 022017
 
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Jarrad Davis, Florida Gators (September 17, 2017)

Jarrad Davis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2017 NFL Draft Prospects: January 2, 2017 Bowl Games

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

FLORIDA

*#78 OT David Sharpe – 6’6/357

True junior who hasn’t declared yet. Some are saying he’s coming out and if he does, he would have a shot at being one of the top 3 OTs. Personally, I think he needs to go back to school. He has two years of starting experience and he is a guy who improves monthly. But he doesn’t need to be 357 pounds. It slows him down and he gets beat often on double moves and late blitzes. Just doesn’t react well enough. His mammoth size and power are dominant. He can lock a guy up and render him useless when everything is lined up. But he is still very raw.

#40 LB Jarrad Davis – 6’2/238

Fourth year senior. My top rated linebacker and one of my top overall players in the class. Has unreal speed and quickness. Explosive is only where it begins for him. Such a strong, powerful force when tackling and will play tougher than anyone on the field. Fought threw a nasty high ankle sprain late in the year. He could have come out last year and been a first round pick. Now, another year of experience and 10 more pounds of muscle, he is one of the top LBs I’ve seen recent years. I have never compared a LB to Ray Lewis before, he may be the first.

*#57 DT Caleb Brantley – 6’2/297

Fourth year junior who hasn’t announced anything yet. Very quick first step and he has gotten better at staying low and playing under the pads of blockers. Lost 15 pounds this past offseason and it was a good move. He has made some blockers look downright silly with his initial explosion and quick arm moves. He has a developed skill set that is ready for pass rush duty in the NFL. Can he be an every down defender? Not sure yet. Too often I’ve seen him drilled back 4-5 yards by double teams. If he comes out, he can be a 3rd rounder.

*#31 CB Teez Tabor – 6’0/201

Undeclared junior. A lot of hype surrounding him this year after being named All SEC in 2015. He didn’t have a good year and should return for his senior season. He has the right triangle numbers but his skill set appears to be a few steps behind. Struggles at the point of attack and is too often beat at the line. Just doesn’t have the fluidity and balance when tracking the ball either. He has tools and with a strong year in 2017, he could be a top 10 pick. He’s not there yet.

#91 DT Joey Ivie – 6’3/301

Fourth year senior who as been in the DL rotation for three years now. Missed some this season with a thumb injury. Dirty work guy who plays a style full of grit and hustle. Strong hands and upper body. Can occupy blockers and space. Made some plays in 2016 that showed he can be more than just a stay at home guy. Late rounder.

IOWA

#16 QB CJ Beathard – 6’2/215

Fifth year senior, two year starter. Comes from a pro style offense and shows really good pocket presence and decision making. Never quite had an arsenal of weapons to work with and was often outmatched by opposing defenses. Tough guy who stands tall in the pocket in the face of pressure. Makes all the throws. Can really drive the ball in to tight lanes and downfield. Projects as a backup in the NFL. 4th/5th rounder.

#14 CB Desmond King – 5’11/200

Fourth year senior and four year starter. Won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015. Came in to the season as my top rated CB in the senior class, and he is still there. The major question with him is speed. Can he play CB on an island in the NFL? Some say no. I think he can. King’s best play has been against his best opponents. He is a passionate, aggressive player who can do it all from the defensive backfield. He is a guy who may make a better FS than CB. Also adds some big time return ability. King is a 1st rounder, potentially a top 15 guy if he tests well.

#67 DT Jaleel Johnson – 6’4/310

Fifth year senior. Leader of the defensive line. 10 TFL and 7.5 sacks were a surprise considering his greatest strength is consistently doing the dirty work inside. He has that natural power to him with a strong initial punch and easy ability to anchor against double teams. He lacks some awareness and needs more skill-work when it comes to getting off blocks with moves. High upside here because I saw a ton of improvement from September to now. I think the more he plays the more he will get out of himself. 3rd/4th rounder.

Other Notables:

#29 RB LeShun Daniels – 6’0/225
#46 TE George Kittle – 6’4/250
#64 OT Cole Croston – 6’5/307
#56 DT Faith Ekakitie – 6’3/290

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

WESTERN MICHIGAN

#84 WR Corey Davis – 6’3/214

FBS all time leader in career receiving yards. Has been a stud since day one. Coming from the lower level of Division I but he looked like a man among boys week in, week out. His ball skills in traffic are near top tier and he is much better after the catch than you think. Very efficient mover who can get in space and run away from defenders. Long strider. He is still a tad raw when it comes to route running and it looks like he is still a little slow to react to the defense. Really good kid, hard worker, loves the game type. I don’t think he has the movement to be considered a star prospect, but he is more than solid. 2nd rounder who could sneak in to round 1 if he tests really well.

#72 OT Taylor Moton – 6’5/325

Fifth year senior and four year starter. Has seen significant time at RG, RT, and LT. Likely projects best inside at the next level. Tremendous power and pop off the snap. Really big, strong, well-developed frame. Technique off the snap is a plus, has trouble sustaining blocks in space. Will lean and bend at the waist too much. Should be a day 2 pick with versatility being his main attraction.

#1 DE Keion Adams – 6’2/245

Fourth year senior. Two year starter. Finished 2016 with 17 TFL and 7.5 sacks. Likely a 3-4 OLB in the league who will need time to develop his frame. He has plus-burst off the line with easy change of direction and flexibility. Can get to the edge and bend it well. Lacks power presence and strength. Late rounder.

Other Notables:

#15 WR Carrington Thomas – 6’2/176
#11 QB Zach Terrell – 6’2/204

WISCONSIN

*#65 OT Ryan Ramczyk – 6’5/315

Fourth year junior who played only one year at Wisconsin after redshirting and junior college. If he comes out, he has a legit shot at competing with Cam Robinson to be the first left tackle taken in this draft. I’m not there with him yet. If anything, I am more impressed with the junior Western Michigan LT Okorafar. Ramczyk does a really nice job of setting himself up with body control and balance. He shows good hands. He is smart and aware. But he doesn’t dominate defenders and he doesn’t use his lower body enough. The biggest catch with him is the fact that he has a torn hip labrum that needs surgery following this game. That can be a 4-5 month recovery, thus making his rookie year in question. He should go back to school and clean things up. He would likely be the top OT in next year’s class.

#6 RB Corey Clement – 5’11/219

Fourth year senior who has been a part of the RB rotation all four years. Has been nicked up here and there throughout his career and there were questions about him entering 2016. He responded with his best year yet. Clement is yoked. Very stout and muscular from head to toe. Physical, hard runner. Limited space athlete who appears tight-hipped and heavy-footed at times. Will be a contributor between the tackles. Could be an ideal short yardage back with how hard he runs and how quickly he can accelerate with such a strong frame. Needs to protect the ball better. 5th/6th rounder.

#23 RB Dare Ogunbowale – 5’11/205

Fifth year senior. Former walk on who began his career as a defensive back. Made the move to RB in 2014. Very smooth mover light feet and easy agility. Changes direction on a dime. Looks like he is on ice skates at times. Pass catching back who can make some things happen in space. Won’t break a lot of tackles. Late rounder.

*#45 OLB TJ Watt – 6’5/245

Brother of JJ Watt. Fourth year junior. I think he is leaning towards going back to school. He’s sustained injuries to both knees earlier in his career. 2016 is really the only season of tape you have to go by. He had a very strong year, finishing with 14.5 TFL and 10.5 sacks. I try not to compare him to his brother, but there are so many similarities when it comes to his technique and hustle. He is a kid full of grit and effort. Plays strong. He has the kind of frame that can easily hold more weight. In time I think Watt can be a big time OLB in a 3-4 scheme, but he should go back to school and put together another healthy year while improving his skill set. If he comes out he is a day 2 pick.

#47 OLB Vince Biegel – 6’4/245

Fourth year senior with a lot of experience. Totaled 30+ TFL over the course of 2014 and 2015 combined. Fought a foot injury this year that appeared to slow him down a bit. Turned it on late in the year and appears to be fully back. This is a big game for him. Very solid all around player who works well near the point of attack. Has more speed and agility than you think. Can chase guys down from behind and also anchor against power blockers. Limited player. 5th/6th rounder.

Other Notables:

#15 WR Robert Wheelwright – 6’3/211
#8 CB Sojourn Shelton – 5’9/168
#19 CB Leo Musso – 5’10/194

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

USC

*#9 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster – 6’2/220

Third year junior and three year starter. Physically, JuJu is probably the most talented WR in this class. More upside than anyone. His 2015 tape with Cody Kessler at QB was some of the best I’ve seen in recent years. In 2016, the QB play took a huge hit, as did his production. But what really bothered me this year, his effort and attitude on the field was poor. All season. He’s got a lot of diva in him and that would concern me if I used a 1st round pick on him. When he’s on, JuJu has elite-level ball skills and strength. He can get himself open. He can out-muscle anyone with or without the ball. He has legit downfield speed. Very good combination of physical abilities. 1st round talent, not sure where he is mentally.

#73 OT Zach Banner – 6’9/360

Fifth year senior. Three year starter. Played for the USC basketball team one year. Missed the season in 2013 due to surgery on both of his hips. Banner is one of the biggest prospects you’ll ever see. I’ve been back and forth on him a few times. His length and hand power are NFL-ready. He could start week 1. But there have been times where his footwork just doesn’t look good enough and he routinely gets beat to the edge by speed rushers. The upside with him is big time but the floor is low as well. Can he lose some weight and speed up his feet? If so, he could be a mainstay at RT in this league for years. 3rd/4th rounder.

#72 OT Chad Wheeler – 6’6/310

Fifth year senior with a ton of starting experience. Has suffered a handful of injuries that have caused him to miss time over the past two years. Weak and under-developed frame that shows up on tape every week. Doesn’t have the power to sustain blocks or move guys in the trenches. Solid footwork on the outside, good body control as a pass blocker. Upside is there, just needs strength work. Day three guy.

#1 WR Darreus Rogers – 6’1/215

Fourth year senior. Broke out in 2016 and notches a career high 51 catches for 654 yards. Considered Mr. Dependable on this offense. Really good route runner who makes tough catches in traffic. Doesn’t jump off the screen athletically. He is physical guy though who will play hard and smart. Late rounder.

*#2 CB Adoree Jackson – 5’11/185

Third year junior who is one of the most exciting players in the country. A legit 3 way kid. One of the most dangerous athletes in the country with the ball in his hands. As a CB alone, he is one of the top 5 in talents there. Excellent mover. Part of the track and field team at USC and is an All American there. Mentally he doesn’t forecast as well as you want yet, but his movement his top tier and he is a tough kid. Has some techniques to clean up. If he comes out he is likely a 1st rounder.

Other Notables:

#48 TE Taylor McNamara – 6’5/245
#96 DT Stevir Tu’ikolovatu – 6’1/320

PENN STATE

#11 LB Brandon Bell – 6’1/233

Fourth year senior. Three year starter. Has missed 6 games over the past two years with injuries. Straight line athlete who works well between the tackles. Can work his way through traffic. Solid downhill defender who hits hard, delivers blows, tackles well. Don’t want him in space with big coverage responsibilities and doesn’t have the difference making speed. Late rounder.

#6 S Malik Golden – 6’0/205

Fifth year senior. Started off as a WR and is now the leader of the secondary. One and a half year starter. Good in traffic, very good tackler. Tight hips when he has to move backwards in coverage. Might be best suited as a guy who creeps up towards the line and covers tight ends and backs. Late rounder.

#94 DE Evan Schwan – 6’6/263

Fifth year senior. Didn’t really play until this season and led the team with 6 sacks. Has really good pop out of his stance. Actually moves better than Nassib, but doesn’t have a third of the strength. Needs to add weight and power. The frame is there but he is a late round developmental type.

Other Notables:

#72 C Brian Gaia – 6’3/295

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

AUBURN

#8 WR Tony Stevens – 6’4/212

Fourth year senior. Didn’t produce much but showed in 2016 that there are tools to be worked with. Very good height/weight/speed guy who some have mentioned Sammie Coates when looking for upside-comparisons. Raw route runner, body catches often. But when you see him run deep and attack the ball, you have to think upside.

#1 DT Montravious Adams – 6’4/309

Fourth year senior and three year starter. One of my favorite DTs in the class who grew on me more and more as the year went on. Great size. Has the length to get his hands on blockers with control. Frame is almost John Henderson-esque. I viewed him as a run stuffing, space eater early in the year but he showed some tremendous athletic plays this year. Making tackles near the sideline, disrupting the pocket, chasing backs from behind and catching them downfield. Really versatile player who I now consider a top 50 prospect overall.

*#55 DE Carl Lawson – 6’2/254

Fourth year junior. Sat out 2014 with a torn ACL. Has been in and out of the lineup for a couple years with a couple of other injuries. A lot of people get excited about this kid because of the first step and easy lower body bending. He is attractive in space. Their scheme has him moved around often. I don’t see it with Lawson. He doesn’t have the strength to beat blockers after getting engaged and we aren’t talking about elite movement. I think he needs to go back to school. If he comes out, maybe a 3rd/4th rounder.

#23 S Jonathan Ford – 6’0/203

Fourth year senior with a lot of experience all over the defensive backfield. Projects as a SS in the NFL who shows good eyes and feet. Physical kid. Wouldn’t trust him in one on one coverage with WRs, but he works well in zone. Will play at the Senior Bowl. Limited upside but he can help a team. 5th/6th rounder.

Other Notables:

#64 OG Alex Kozan – 6’4/310
#70 OT Robert Leff – 6’6/297
#15 CB Joshua Holsey – 5’11/195

OKLAHOMA

#11 WR Dede Westbrook – 6’0/176

Fourth year senior, former JUCO player. Has been the team’s main deep threat in his 2 years and broke out in a big way this season. Went for 74/1,465/16 and has put himself in to the first round discussion. Excellent tracker of the ball when he is moving at full speed. Can reach his top speed in a blink. Will definitely be a deep threat right away in the NFL. His lack of strength and weight concerns me. He can get tossed around at the point of attack and he doesn’t hold up well in traffic. Risky pick here but likely a top 45 guy.

*#32 RB Samaje Perine – 5’10/235

Third year junior. Has had the NFL body since he was a freshman. Enormous, powerful lower body who can break tackles with ease and push piles. Really strong runner with good balance and short area quickness. Has had an issue staying on the field. Takes so many hits. Durability will be a concern but when he is on the field, he can be a reliable short yardage guy at least. Plus-blocker and a good kid. 3rd-4th rounder.

*#25 RB Joe Mixon – 6’1/226

Third year sophomore. Saw him a few times early in the year and immediately thought he was the best back in this team and potentially one of the best in the country. At his size, Mixon may have some of the best speed and explosion we’ve seen in awhile. Really good vision, quick reaction type. His red flag is the ugly incident on video where he punched a girl a couple years ago. The PR nightmare of drafting him could cause his grade to slip. He should return to school.

#26 Jordan Evans – 6’2/233

Former high school RB. Has been the leading, or second leading tackler for all three seasons he’s been a starter. Very smart, savvy player who is constantly moving in the right direction. Makes a lot of tough, contested tackles. Little tight hipped and may struggle to make plays laterally. Overall a solid defender with limited upside but a high floor. 4th/5th rounder.

#13 S Ahmad Thomas – 6’0/217

Fourth year senior. One of the best run defending safeties in the country. Strong, powerful tackler. They gave him more responsibility in coverage this year and he performed well. Better than I thought. There could be something here with this kid Versatile is the name of the game at safety. I want to see him more in the coming months. 4th/5th rounder.

Other Notables:

#95 DE Austin Roberts – 6’6/270
#93 DT Jordan Wade – 6’3/305
#58 C Erik Wren – 6’3/310

Dec 312016
 
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Reuben Foster, Alabama Crimson Tide (December 3, 2016)

Reuben Foster – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2017 NFL Draft Prospects: December 31, 2016 Bowl Games

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

LSU

*#15 WR Malachi Dupre – 6’4/195

Has not declared yet but there are rumors he is definitely leaving. Has led the team in catches/yards/TDs each of the past 2 years. Has been a big play threat with easy speed and acceleration. Looks a little weak to me, doesn’t do well when he’s getting pushed around by physical DBs. Inconsistent hands and ball skills. He should return to school but he has some size/speed that teams will always look hard at. He could be a 3rd rounder.

#77 C Ethan Pocic – 6’7/303

Fourth year senior, 3 year starter. Very smart, leader of the line type who has some experience at OG as well. Leverage is always a struggle for him but he has such good body control and balance. Gets his hands on and will lock on consistently. Gets his hips in the hole and finishes blocks. Very good pass protector but can be exposed against smaller, quicker rushers. Could use some bulking up. 4th/5th rounder.

#83 WR Travin Dural – 6’2/207

Fifth year senior. Shows good speed downfield, gets behind the defense and can make things happen after the catch. Iffy route runner at best who won’t make sure cuts or maintain speed when changing direction. Not a good enough athlete to be considered a top guy. 5th/6th round.

*#33 S Jamal Adams – 6’1/213

Third year junior, starter all three seasons. Will likely finish as my top overall safety in this class. This kid does it all and he brings a certain level of swagger to the defense while doing it. He has elite-level reaction and explosion and might be the best tackling defensive back in the class. He is fast, violent, smart, savvy. Checks everything off. I think he is top 10 overall.

#52 LB Kendell Beckwith – 6’2/247

Fourth year senior, has been starting since halfway through 2014. Very physical, imposing ‘backer who will immediately bring any defense’s physicality to another level. Fills the lanes, takes on blocks, and tackles with as much power as anyone. He improved his range and coverage ability in 2016 but those parts of his game will likely bring is grade down a tad. Day 2 guy.

#18 CB Tre’Davious White – 6’0/197

Four year starter and the leader of the defense. Versatile player who can wear multiple hats in the secondary. Also adds a lot of return value. Physical at the point of attack and will out-perform his athletic ability. Very tough, hard nosed guy who tackles well and jams up receivers. Maybe not the elite cover corner but he can smart-his way in to a lineup and help a defense early in his career. 3rd/4th rounder.

#40 LB Duke Riley – 6’1.230

Fourth year senior, just a 1-year starter but showed in 2016 that he deserves to be in the draft discussion. Earned an invite to the Senior Bowl. Really fast, rangy linebacker who can reach the sidelines from the middle with ease. Hits hard. Good intangibles and a quick decision maker. Struggles against head on blockers and won’t factor much against the pass. Little limited but he can be a solid backup and special teams star.

Other Notables:

#81 TE Colin Jeter – 6’7/254
#76 OG Josh Boutte – 6’5/346
#92 DE Lewis Neal – 6’2/272
#46 DE Tashawn Bower – 6’6/253

LOUISVILLE

#18 TE Cole Hikutini – 6’5/248

Fourth year senior and two year starter, former JUCO player. Excellent size/speed/hands combination. Very smooth pass catcher with toughness. Can be a good blocker once he gets bigger and stronger. Quietly had one of the best seasons of all the TEs in the country in 2016. Will play at the Senior Bowl. 3rd/4th rounder if he tests out well.

#17 WR James Quick – 6’1/180

Top tier high school recruit, fourth year senior. Never quite lived up to the hype but showed all the upside one needs to draft him in the middle rounds. Very smooth in and out of his breaks. Has the speed to get behind a defense. Has made some spectacular catches over his career but also drops some of the easy ones. Has concentration and consistency lapses.

#2 WR Jamari Staples – 6’4/194

Fourth year senior. Started off at UAB before the program was shut down. Big play receiver in his two years with the Cardinals. Good ball skills and reliable in one on one situations. He isn’t the kind of guy who runs himself open, though. He needs work on route running and his high hips won’t help. Just a guy who takes too long to change direction. There is some long speed to him though. Late rounder.

#92 OLB Devonte Fields – 6’4/245

Very long path to where he is now. Was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman at TCU in 2012. He fought injuries, was in the coaches doghouse, and was arrested soon after that season and left the program. He played his 2014 season at a junior college before coming to Louisville. He had a huge year in 2015, leading the nation with 22.5 TFL while adding 11 sacks and 12 QB hurries. Very natural, smooth, explosive mover off the edge who can get under blockers. He doesn’t have the power element to his game, which will need to change, but he could be a nice pass rusher for any 3-4 team. 2nd/3rd rounder.

#25 Josh Harvey-Clemons – 6’5/228

Fifth year senior who started off at Georgia. Transferred after 2013 and sat out 2014. At this time last year some people were calling him a Kam Chancellor type. Not even close. He is a solid player who can be moved around a bit, but he doesn’t have that kind of physical presence. Not even half of it. He has a smooth lower body and more flexibility than most with his length. He can run well, tackles well. I’d be nervous with him in a role that requires a lot of decision making. His best role is up against big tight ends in man coverage. That can be a major weapon in this league but he is limited otherwise. 4th/5th rounder.

#97 DT Deangelo Brown – 6’1/310

Fifth year senior. Sat out 2013 after tearing his Achilles in summer workouts. Was the dirty-work guy next to Sheldon Rankins. I actually noted him a few times last year and had a star next to his name coming in to 2016. He responded with 12 TFL and 3 sacks coming from a role that has him see more than his fair share of double teams. He lacks the ideal body and tool set, but I think he can be a nice find for someone late in the draft. 5th/6th rounder.

Other Notables:

#61 C Tobijah Hughley – 6’3/296
#23 RB Brandon Radcliff – 5’9/210
#55 LB Keith Kelsey – 6’1/236

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

GEORGIA TECH

#58 C Freddie Burden – 6’4/299

Fifth year senior. Three year starter. Exceptionally quick out of his stance and like most coming from this program, excels as a run blocker on the move. Will be sought after by zone blocking schemes. Has some short area pop but needs to show more strength when anchoring. Late rounder.

Other Notables:

#91 DE Patrick Gamble – 6’5/277
#92 DT Francis Kallon – 6’5/294

KENTUCKY

#72 C Jon Toth – 6’5/315

Fifth year senior. Has started every game of his career. Great size and foot speed, easy bender. Can really move and cover a lot of ground from the C position. He needs time to add man strength and power because too often I saw him getting drilled back by defensive tackles when he’s alone. There is a lot to like about his upside but he won’t be much help early on. 5th/6th rounder. Will play at the Senior Bowl.

Other Notables:

#94 DE Courney Miggins – 6’5/285

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

WASHINGTON

*#1 WR John Ross – 5’11/173

Fourth year junior who missed 2015 with an injury. Has been a hit on this team since 2013. Big play guy who was playing WR and CB early in his career. Has now fully focused on WR and turned himself in a 1st round caliber prospect. Finished second in the nation with 17 TDs and reminds some of DeSean Jackson. Ross has elite stop and go explosion, he is the kind of guy who defenders have a hard time touching. His receiver skill set still has a little ways to go, however. Drops some easy passes and gets sloppy with his route running. He’s been clocked sub 4.3 a few times and if that is the case at the combine, I have a hard time believing he wont be a top 20 pick. Also returned 4 kicks for TDs over his career.

#15 TE Darrell Daniels – 6’4/246

Fourth year senior. Came to Washington as a WR, quickly made the move to TE. Hasn’t done much statistically for the Huskies but there are some tools here that can get you intrigued. Really good in traffic at attacking the ball while keeping defenders boxed out. I need to see more of him as a blocker before I have a real gauge on where he goes. He could be a 5th/6th rounder.

*#32 S Budda Baker – 5’10/192

Third year junior who hasn’t declared yet. Split 50/50 on what he will do. 1st Team All American and probably the fastest and quickest of all the safeties in this class. Other than his size, Baker is exactly what you want out of a safety. He is all over the field and has as much range in deep coverage as anyone. He also plays the run hard and will make tackles up, down, left, and right all game. He has CB type cover ability. Can a frame like his hold up with his violent, aggressive style? That’s a risk. Some see Earl Thomas here. I think he’s a notch or two below that but still a day 2 pick if he comes out.

#20 CB Kevin King – 6’3/192

Fourth year senior who has seen plenty of time at S and CB. Primarily played CB in 2016 and has been one of my top senior CBs all year. King has a shot at being my number one guy at the position. I love the length/speed combination and he has rare foot/hip movement for his size. He is a guy who can get away with not touching a WR, but stick with him all over the field. Such good movement here. Plays physical when ball carriers come his way. There may be a shoulder issue that needs to be looked in to, however. Really looking forward to seeing him at the Senior Bowl and in this game.

*#26 CB Sidney Jones – 6’0/181

Third year junior who has not yet made his decision. He has a chance to be the top CB in the class, thus I think he will come out. Very smooth operator, someone who makes things look easy. Sometimes he plays like he knows it, meaning he gets a little too lax when it comes to technique and mechanics. His talent is there. Size, speed, quickness. But he has bust written all over him unless he cleans it up. Big test for him today.

*#11 DT Elijah Qualls – 6’1/321

Undeclared junior. One of the most interesting athletes in the draft is he comes out. Qualls plays a lot of stand up outside linebacker in this scheme even though he is built like a nose tackle. This guy can really move and he plays like his hair is on fire. Hyper, high energy type who will make things happen. Won’t impress with any eye popping stats but he is an impact player who can fill different roles on a defense. Could be a 2nd rounder.

*#50 DT Vita Vea – 6’5/332

Redshirt sophomore who hasn’t made a decision yet either. Also a guy who I would say is 50/50 right now. Big space eater who will refuse to be pushed back, frees up the players behind him consistently. Very solid, yet unspectacular, defender who fits in best as a 3-4 NT at the next level. I didn’t see enough consistency with him to be confident enough to call him anything more than a day 2 pick. He should go back to school and prove more versatility and/or dominance.

Other Notables:

#52 C Jake Eldrenkamp – 6’5/297
#28 LB Psalm Wooching – 6’/231

ALABAMA

*#74 OT Cam Robinson – 6’5/328

Third year junior and All American. Has been starting for three years now and is slated to be the top OT in the class. Potentially a top 10 pick. Robinson’s game is sheer power. He can knock any defender in to tomorrow when his full weight is behind his punch. The size and foot speed are both there. Shows good technique but will have lapses here and there. Has some off field trouble that needs to be looked in to. Robinson is not a sure thing left tackle, but I would be confident enough to take him in round 1 and put him somewhere on my line. High ceiling.

*#13 Ardarius Stewart – 6’1/214

Fourth year junior. I didn’t watch him too much early on but he kept off jumping off the screen every time I saw Alabama play. Now, I am thinking he could be a 1st round pick. Stewart led the team in receiving and TDs. The national love for sophomore WR Ridley may have made some overlook just how good Stewart is. He is an aggressive, fast, strong kid who always plays hard. Very passionate player. He is very strong and tough after the catch and in traffic, true football player. He will be one of my favorite WRs if he comes out. He’s a gamer.

#88 TE OJ Howard – 6’6/242

Came back for his senior season after almost coming out last year. Uber-talented kid who gets some people really excited. Has all the tools in the world as a blocker and receiver. Has shown the ability to out run defensive backs and out muscle defensive ends. I’m not all in on this kid just yet. If anything, I think he’s underachieved his entire career and just doesn’t get the most out of himself. He is borderline lazy at times and just doesn’t show the “it” factor. I question is passion for the game and even though he is talented with upside, it doesn’t mean he will reach it.

#93 DE Jonathan Allen – 6’3/291

Three time first team All SEC and All American in 2016. Without doubt one of the top DL in the class. The question here is what position does he fit in best? Are there schemes he is better off in? Allen is not the most explosive athlete in the class, but week after week there may not have been a better defender in the country. He is moved inside and out often, taking advantage of several different matchup issues he presents. Excellent feel for the action. NFL-ready hand power and footwork. Good kid, will be a leader early in his career. He may never lead the league in sacks, but he can be a dominant player in any situation. Top 20 pick for sure.

#10 LB Reuben Foster – 6’1/228

Fourth year senior who is next in line among the great Alabama linebackers. One of the best LBs in the class, if not the best. Lost 15 pounds from last year and showed he has all the range and pursuit speed one needs. Foster brings elite-level power to his hits and tackles. Just a stone wall who forces ball carries backward. He showed smarts and instincts this year, sniffing out several screens and counters before they occurred. Foster is a week 1 starter in the league who could have an impact similar to CJ Mosley’s in Baltimore. Top 20 pick.

*#26 CB Marlon Humphrey – 6’1/196

Junior who hasn’t made a decision yet but all signs are pointing towards him coming out. Has a shot at being the top CB drafted. Size, speed, quickness are all there and he may be the most physical CB in the class. Really good tackler and run supporter. Can press anyone at the line, shows dominant traits. Needs to show he can see the field better, as he’s been beaten by locking on to the QB’s eyes too often. 1st rounder for sure, maybe a top 15 guy.

#56 OLB Tim Williams – 6’4/237

Fourth year senior who didn’t really arrive on the radar until 2015 where he broke out with 10.5 sacks. He tied for the team lead in 2016 (8.5) and added 15.5 TFL. He is as explosive off the edge as anyone. He can out move any blocker in front of him and his bendability as well as change of direction can make him a terror to deal with. Williams doesn’t have a ton of power or strength to him, though. If a blocker can lock on, it’s over. He wasn’t a factor play to play this year and may be a gimmick type guy. But pass rushers always have a way of creeping their way up boards and he could be a late 1st rounder.

#22 OLB Ryan Anderson – 6’2/253

Fifth year senior. Former top recruit who never quite lived up to the hype until 2016 production wise. He leads the Crimson Tide with 17 TFL on the year. He plays outside standing up and with his hand in the dirt. Has some man strength in him and can add a physical brand to any defense in the NFL. His best role is likely a 3-4 OLB. You don’t want him in coverage. He can do a lot of dirty work in the trenches and will sneak in to some big plays if you sleep on him. Not the most explosive guy but a solid football player who can play to his assignments. He is a 4th/5th rounder.

#54 DT Dalvin Tomlinson – 6’3/305

Fifth year senior. Lost his 2013 season to injury. Since then he has been a steady presence in the Alabama DL rotation. Dirty work type guy who will control blockers and eat up space. Very good hands and feet. He can be an early contributor but there is a limit to what he can do. Late rounder.

Other Notables:

#11 WR Gehrig Dieter – 6’3/211
#78 Korren Kirven – 6’4/311
#99 K Adam Griffith – 5’10/191

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OHIO STATE

*#4 WR Curtis Samuel – 5’11/197

Third year junior who hasn’t declared yet. Listed as a RB on their depth chart, but plays more WR. All American. Led the team in receiving yards, catches, and yards per carry. He is all over the place kind of like the way Percy Harvin was when he played for Urban Meyer at Florida. He has water bug quickness with enough top end speed to outrun almost everyone once he is in space. He doesn’t show a developed skill set as a WR. He body catches a lot of balls and appears more gimmicky than skillful. If he comes out it will take a creative offensive mind to take advantage of what he can do. Day 2 pick.

#65 C Pat Elflein – 6’3/300

Fifth year senior. Rimington Award winner First Team All American and considered by many to be the top C in the draft. Has two years of experience at guard. Very stout, strong, powerful blocker who consistently wins one on one battles. Anchors himself in to the ground well. Struggles with speed and quickness. Had a really rough game against Michigan, just doesn’t show good enough lower body movement and bending. I’m not as high on him as some are. 3rd/4th rounder at best.

#2 WR Dontre Wilson – 5’10/195

Fourth year senior. Has the ability to be a solid jack of all trades type player but simply didn’t get the touches in because of Samuel. They are the same player but Wilson is a tad less talented. Wilson is on the OSU track team and displays that kind of rare speed at times on the field. He isn’t the natural mover or playmaker with the ball in his hands, though. Late rounder who can be a solid returner and gimmick player.

*#8 CB Gareon Conley – 6’0/195

Third year junior, hasn’t declared yet. If he comes out he certainly has a chance at being the top CB in the class. Very good size and speed with loose hips and advanced footwork. Shows the technique you want, shows the physical side you want. Good awareness in zone coverage and will stay focused on his assignments. Really high upside guy, similar to Eli Apple from last year.

*#2 CB Marshon Lattimore – 6’0/192

Third year sophomore who hasn’t made his decision yet. I’ve had a few moments where I thought Lattimore was the best CB on this team and in turn, the top in the country. He shows flashes of highly developed skills. Might be a better athlete than Conley. He isn’t as physical but his ability to stick to a WR all over the field is obvious. He has a leg issue that needs to be looked in to.

*#5 LB Raekwon McMillan – 6’2/243

Third year junior who hasn’t made a decision yet. 2nd Team All American. Dominant at times with the power to own the inside gaps and the speed to chase guys down sideline to sideline. Average in coverage at best. The team leader in tackles for two straight years reminds me of the 2015 version of Alabama’s Reuben Foster. He is really thick and could benefit from shedding a few pounds to up his athleticism. But in the end, this kid is a starter in the NFL year one. Slight liability in coverage. Day 2 pick if he comes out.

Other Notables:

#5 WR Corey Smith – 6’1/190
#95 P Cameron Johnston – 5’11/198

CLEMSON

*#1 WR Mike Williams – 6’3/225

Third year junior who came back strong in 2016 after missing 2015 with a broken neck sustained early in the year. Has a good chance at being the top WR in this class. One of the more physical pass catchers you’ll ever see. Really good size and will outmuscle most defensive backs when the ball is in the air. Very tough after the catch. Top tier ball skills and is more flexible and nimble when attacking the ball than you would think. Could be a top 10 pick.

*#4 QB Deshaun Watson – 6’3/215

Fourth year junior, Heisman Trophy finalist. At this time last year everyone expected him to be the top QB of this class and potentially the top pick of the class. It wasn’t a great year for Watson, however, and he is now trying to claw his way back in to first round discussions. The biggest red flag here is the fact that he’s thrown 28 interceptions over the past two years, including 15 this season. He’s turned it up a notch lately and is still an option to the first QB taken. Superb athlete who considers himself a thrower more than a runner. Shows nice touch on passes all over the field. Can make all the throws. A lot of his grade will come from the pre-draft meetings and workouts. The talent is there.

#16 TE Jordan Leggett – 6’5/260

Fourth year senior, broke on to the scene in 2015. 15 TDs over the past two years. Ideal frame and movement ability for the position. If he wasn’t on such a stacked offense, Leggett could have been featured more. He has the ability to dominate. Guys his size shouldn’t move as easily as he does. Really good ball skills, comfortably twists and turns his big frame. He’s made his fair share of mental mistakes and there are times he appears to have lapses in concentration. High ceiling, low floor type guy who could be a late 1st rounder.

*#9 RB Wayne Gallman – 5’11/205

Fourth year junior who has led the Tigers in rushing all three of his years at Clemson. Very explosive straight line athlete who can plant his foot in the ground and shoot out of a cannon. Has a reckless-type running style. Maybe a tad too upright and will leave himself prone to injury. I question if his frame will hold up in the NFL with his running style. Doesn’t have a natural feel to running, lacks easy vision and reactions. I see a 3rd or 4th rounder.

*#3 WR Artavis Scott – 5’10/190

Third year junior who should probably go back to school. He was the team’s main underneath threat who can do some damage from the slot. Limited player with his size but a guy with the water bug quickness and toughness over the middle. Has some return ability as well. 4th/5th rounder if he comes out.

#25 CB Cordrea Tankersley – 6’1/200

Fourth year senior who has shown flashes of being the top CB in the class. He is in the running. Good press corner who can get his hands on as well as flip his hips and stick to a WR all over the field. Top notch ball skills. Inconsistent player, especially when it comes to being physical and defending the run. Need to see more of him but the upside is there.

#94 DT Carlos Watkins – 6’3/300

Fifth year senior. Interesting story here. Was involved in a fatal car accident in 2013 and missed most of the year with injuries sustained from it. Had to use a redshirt. He was finally back in All ACC form in 2015 and is now considered a top 100 pick. Limited athlete who won’t jump off the screen or stat sheet, but it’s hard not to notice how stout he is at the point of attack. He rarely gets moved. Very reliable run stuffer who will do a lot of dirty work. He can beat one on one blocking with sheer power. Not a dominant, but certainly a reliable, player. Day 2 pick.

#10 LB Ben Boulware – 6’0/235

One of my favorite players to watch in the country. Leader of the defense type who you love if he’s on your team, hate if you’re against him. Fiery guy, always in the opponents face. Very good short area quickness and always finds his way to the action. Natural football player who will always be among team leaders in tackles. He lacks the physical ability to be a dominant player. He won’t run that well, doesn’t cover that well, lacks the size to take on blocks. He is limited and he isn’t on the same level as the top LBs in this class. He will be a day 2 pick though and he will find his way on to the field. He’s too natural of a player to not.

#18 S Jadar Johnson – 6’0/210

Wasn’t a full time starter until 2016 but the fourth year senior has become one of the leaders of the defense in a hurry. He’s a talker. Very vocal, very intense competitor. He steadily proved week after week that he can be a solid deep coverage safety with range and ball skills. May not be the most gifted athlete but he can think his way in to production. I like him as long as you don’t throw too much on his shoulders responsibility wise. 3rd/4th rounder.

Other Notables:

#57 C Jay Guillermo – 6’3/310

Dec 302016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 25, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Washington Redskins, January 1, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
This is effectively a playoff game for the Washington Redskins. For the New York Giants, it’s a tune-up for the playoffs and a chance to hurt their long-time division rival. There is not a lot of playoff experience on the Giants roster and this game will provide a preview of the type of intensity the Giants will face next weekend. The stadium will be rocking. The Redskins will be desperate.

Ben McAdoo has said his starters will play the entire game. That remains to be seen. While keeping sharp and building momentum are important, so is not suffering injuries to key players in a relatively meaningless game.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • TE Will Tye (illness) – probable
  • TE Jerell Adams (shoulder) – questionable
  • RT Bobby Hart (forearm) – probable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • LB B.J. Goodson (concussion) – questionable
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (back) – questionable
  • CB Coty Sensabaugh (ankle) – questionable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The good news is that the Giants running game is finally showing some signs of life. The bad news is that Eli Manning simply is not having the type of season hoped for and expected. The naysayers are pointing to his age and saying this is the beginning of the inevitable deterioration. Since Eli’s 400-yard game against the Ravens on October 16, he only has ONE 300+ yard game to his credit, and that came in his last game when he threw three killer interceptions against the Eagles. Back in September, Manning also threw two killer interceptions in a 29-27 loss to the Redskins. Proponents will point to “playoff Eli” (8-3 post-season record). The next two games will be very telling about how worried the Giants should be about the quarterback position heading into the new year.

Unless he dramatically ups his game in the playoffs, we probably are witnessing the end of Victor Cruz in a Giants uniform. Cruz simply isn’t producing. He has 37 catches and one touchdown this year, and that score came in the season opener. The last time Cruz was a consistent scoring threat was 2012. It would be nice for Cruz to finish up his Giants career on a high note, but that probably is not in the cards. The good news is that Cruz did have eight catches in the Philly game. Let’s see if he can build off of that.

What will be fascinating to see is if there is a “playoff” version of Odell Beckham, Jr.? Every sport has its superstars. But the real legends make their mark in the post-season.

As for the Redskins, they are a bit of an odd team defensively. They are 29th overall on defense (22nd in scoring defense). They are 25th in run defense and 28th in pass defense. But the Redskins can get after the quarterback and have two quality corners. Washington has 37 sacks on the year with a trio of pass-rushing threats at linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, including Ryan Kerrigan (11 sacks), Trent Murphy (9 sacks), and Preston Smith (4.5 sacks). Right defensive end Chris Baker is a solid player and Giants fans are very familiar with cornerback Josh Norman. He and fellow corner Bashaud Breeland are both coming off of 2-interception games against the Bears.

To the point, this is the weakest defense the Giants will see from here on out. Teams can run, pass, and score on the Redskins. But Washington can present problems for Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart. Eli Manning will be at some risk in this game. I would not be shocked to see him bail on some plays if he is about to get clobbered. Much attention will be given to the Beckham-Norman head-to-head match-up. My guess is will see a heavy dose of the ground game – both to continue to prime that aspect of the offense for the post-season run, but also to protect Eli.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants defense really struggled in the September game against Washington. The defense allowed 400 yards of offense, did not force a turnover, forced only two punts, gave up three leads, and allowed six plays of 20 yards or more.

Remarkably, the Redskins are 3rd in offense in the NFL, averaging 411 yards and almost 26 points per game. They are 14th in rushing, averaging 4.6 yards per rush, and 2nd in passing. While Washington’s skill positions get a lot of attention, the Redskins field one of the biggest and best offensive lines in the NFL. Left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff are Pro Bowl players. The Redskins will count on Williams to erase New York’s best pass rusher, DE Olivier Vernon.

QB Kirk Cousins is within striking distance of a 5,000-yard season despite throwing the same number of passes as Eli Manning. His 24-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio is not as impressive. Cousins has a bit of Jekyll and Hyde in him. If you want to bring out the worst in Cousins, you have to take away his running game, which is easier said than done with that big offensive line and running backs Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson. Kelley is the pounder while Thompson provides the flash and catches the football out of the backfield (43 receptions).

Where the Redskins really hurt you is the big play. They are second in the NFL in plays over 20 yards with 74. While Cousins can do damage down the field with the vertical game, especially with WR DeSean Jackson (18.0 yards per catch), many of the big plays come from receivers doing damage after a short reception. Both Jackson and slot WR Jamison Crowder are very adept at this as well, as demonstrated by their punt return backgrounds. That said, Washington can threaten defenses in the passing game in all three levels. Jordan Reed is one of the most dangerous pass-receiving tight ends in football. TE Vernon Davis is nearing the end, but he is still a viable target with over 40 receptions. And then there is WR Pierre Garcon who leads the team with 75 catches.

The Giants must limit the damage Washington does on the ground or it will be a long day. So much of Washington’s offense is based off of play-action and the threat of the run. New York is not likely to get much heat on Cousins without blitzing.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Jamison Crowder is tied for first in the NFL averaging 13.1 yards per punt return, with one 85-yard touchdown return. He had a 50-yard return in the September game against the Giants. In that game, the Redskins also ran a fake punt that picked up 31 yards. The Giants blocked a punt against Washington (erased due to an unrelated unnecessary roughness penalty).

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Washington’s offense: “Offensively, Kirk’s playing at a high level. He’s seeing the field, moving in the pocket well, we know he can make all the throws. Their offensive line has gelled together nicely. Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson provide a strong one-two punch at the running back position and they’re loaded on the perimeter with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder. Crowder is really playing well for them.”

THE FINAL WORD:
It’s strength on strength (Giants defense versus Redskins offense) and weakness on weakness (Giants offense versus Redskins defense) in this game. But it’s hard to see the Giants matching the Redskins intensity and sense of urgency since this is a de facto playoff game for Washington. We saw against Philadelphia (first half-quarter of the game) what happens when the other team plays with more of both.

Dec 302016
 
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Dalvin Cook, Florida State Seminoles (November 19, 2016)

Dalvin Cook – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2017 NFL Draft Prospects: December 30, 2016 Bowl Games

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

GEORGIA

#73 OT Greg Pyke – 6’6/323

Fifth year senior, three year starter. Has been one of the best SEC linemen over this past three year span. Very solid all around player who could project inside or outside. He needs to get stronger before he can be thrown out there in the NFL trenches. Doesn’t use his lower body enough and his punch is average at best. He can develop in to a nice, versatile backup in time. 5th/6th rounder.

Other Notables:

#54 C Brandon Kublanow 6’3/293

TCU

#66 OT Aviante Collins – 6’6/295

Fifth year senior who missed 2015 with an injury. Started at left tackle in 2012 as a true freshman and put himself on the radar, making a few Freshman All American teams. Since then, Collins has been in and out of the starting line up for a variety of reasons. He just hasn’t been on a steady incline when it comes to his progression, but his solid 2016 season has put some hope back in his tank. He has exceptional foot speed and quick hips. Very good frame that will handle more weight. Upside-wise, I think Collins is a late rounder who can be a starter when all is said and done.

#94 DE Josh Carraway – 6’4/255

Fifth year senior that broke out in 2015, earning 1st Team All Big 12 honors after finishing with 9 sacks. He added another 8 this season and shows attractive traits to his game. He can shoot out of his stance with good leverage and strong hands. Has shown progression as a versatile pass rusher, showing moves inside and outside. As of now he is a one-dimensional guy who struggles to defend the run with consistency. His ability against the pass with attractive tools will likely get him looked at in round 3 or 4.

#30 S Denzel Johnson -6’2/210

Fourth year senior, two year starter. Plays a hybrid S/LB type role. Very physical guy who can shoot downhill like a missile and make an impact at and behind the line of scrimmage. Has had 24.5 TFL for over the past two seasons. Covers a lot of tight ends and backs out of the backfield. I don’t think you can trust him against WRs in space, but he could be a valuable nickel/dime defender if you want a guy who can defend the run well just in case. Nice measureables. I see a 5th/6th rounder.

Other Notables

#40 James McFarland – 6’2/250

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STANFORD

#57 OG Johnny Caspers – 6’4/296

Fifth year senior and three year starter at RG. Lacks the ideal size, length, and power but Caspers is a mechanically sound, consistent player. He is very good on the move and could be very attractive to teams that run a zone blocking scheme. I question his ability to hold up by himself against bigger, more physical DTs. He could be a guy who moves to center in the NFL. I like him, just don’t love him. Early day 3 guy.

#3 WR Michael Rector – 6’1/190

Fifth year senior. Has some of the best speed among the WRs in this class. Long limbs, big hands. He is a guy who I’ve wanted to see more of and every time I did, I kept on wanting to see more. His upside is very high because he can outrun anyone. His issue is that he appears to be a much better athlete than he is a football player. He doesn’t run crisp routes and he can be jostled at the line by physical corners. He will get drafted by someone who sees a Ted Ginn type potential. Day three guy.

*#90 DE Solomon Thomas – 6’3/276

Third year junior. Was a top tier recruit out of high school and this season he started to show what he can be. Thomas is a kid with man’s strength already. Very powerful dude who will stifle blockers and drive ball carries through the ground. He may be the most versatile defensive lineman in this class, as he splits time lined up over interior blockers and outside the tackles. If he is used correctly at the next level, he is matchup nightmare depending on situations no matter where he is. He can be moved around and his impact is almost always the same. Very interested to see where this guy ends up. Potentially a top 10 guy.

Other Notables

#6 WR Francis Owusu – 6’3/219
#29 Dallas Lloyd – 6’3/213

NORTH CAROLINA

#3 WR Ryan Switzer – 5’10/185

Fourth year senior. Has led the Tar Heels in receptions 3 of his 4 years with the team. Has a shot to be the top slot receiver in this class with his combination of agility and awareness of the defense. He is the QB’s best friend type who will find the holes and lanes in coverage. He won’t burn anyone deep but he is effective after the catch and can always find the extra yards. Likely a 3rd/4th rounder.

#71 OT Jon Heck – 6’7/300

Fifth year senior and four year starter. Has missed some time here and there with various injuries, none of which were overly serious. Really tall and long frame who needs more bulk. Can play the game with his hands. Very long reach and strong enough hands to lock on to defenders. Just doesn’t use his lower body enough because he doesn’t bend well and he lacks power. He is a developmental, backup type. 5th-6th rounder at best.

#84 WR Bug Howard – 6’5/210

Fourth year senior who has been steadily contributing to the offense from the beginning of his career. Big time height/weight/speed guy who can make tough catches in traffic. Adjusts to the ball well. Will get behind a defense and beat one on one defenders downfield. Upside-based pick here who needs to refine his skill set all the way through. 6th/7th rounder.

#8 RB TJ Logan -5’10/190

Fourth year senior. Never been the go to guy in the backfield but he’s been a steady presence as a pass catcher and big play threat. Logan is explosive and fast. His 4 career kick return TDs will give him another look from most teams. He can bring up the rear of a RB depth chart and still add value as a pass catcher and return specialist. Late rounder.

Other Notables:

#68 C Lucas Crowley – 6’3/286

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NEBRASKA

#11 TE Cethan Carter – 6’4/244

Fourth year senior. Doesn’t have a ton of production to his name but I think part of that was the system he was in. Carter is an every down player who probably grades out better as a blocker than receiver. But again, I think he could have easily produced more in a different situation, much more. He is put together well and should be ready for the NFL very early on in his career for a guy who can be had on day 3 .

#25 S Nathan Gerry – 6’2/220

Fourth year senior who has been an important piece to that defense from the beginning. Top 5 in Nebraska history for career tackles and interceptions. Plays in the box a lot but showed in 2016 he can be a factor in deep coverage against receivers. Very solid mover in space and will come downhill hard and knock ball carries back. Good ball skills. He can be a 3rd/4th rounder if he tests well.

Other Notables:

#34 RB Terrell Newby – 5’11/190
#55 DT Kevin Maurice – 6’3/300
#52 LB Josh Banderas – 6’3/240
#88 Ross Dzuris – 6’3/255

TENNESSEE

*#6 RB Alvin Kamara – 5’10/215

Fourth year junior. He is coming out. Started off at Alabama but transferred after his freshman season when he realized how stacked the RB position there was. Also was in the Nick Saban doghouse for some minor infractions. In his two years at Tennessee, he averaged over 6 yards per carry and caught 67 passes for 637 yards. All great numbers. Kamara is a one of those guys who makes things look easy on the field. He is a versatile ball carrier than can out-move almost anyone but also shows the power to consistently break tackles.

*#3 WR Josh Malone – 6’3/200

Undeclared junior. I think he is coming out after two strong seasons in a row. One can rightfully make the argument that Malone is the WR in this class with the most upside. He is as explosive as it gets and he combines that with savvy movement after the catch and quality ball skills. Malone is a little raw as a route runner and drops some easy balls, but 18.9 yards per catch and 10 TDs in 2016 got a lot of people excited about his potential.

#11 QB Josh Dobbs – 6’3/210

Fourth year senior who has been starting since his freshman season. Was pretty low on the list of QBs before this season but I think this kid has something that is worth taking a look at for potential backup duty. He is a plus athlete who carries the ball well. Really improved his accuracy and division making. Led the team in some impressive late game comebacks. Dobbs has the tools and I would consider him late in the draft. He can be a quality backup.

*#9 DE Derek Barnett – 6’3/265

Several people have been waiting for this kid to finally be draft eligible. The true junior was a Ted Hendricks Award finalist and earned All-SEC honors all three years of his career. I wasn’t overly impressed with Barnett in my preseason scouting of him, but he was on another level in 2016. The relentless, powerful edge rusher excels at getting to the QB multiple ways. He has an array of rush moves and his skill set is versatile enough to be moved all over the line to create mismatches. Very good run defender as well. Barnett is a 1st rounder who could be a top 10 guy if he tests well. There are some concerns about his overall athleticism.

#23 CB Cameron Sutton 5’11/186

Fourth year senior. Had started every game of his career until a badly sprained ankle in 2016 forced him to miss 6 games. Has been highly regarded for years now and could be one of the top 5 corners in this class. Has a nice blend of footwork and instincts. Rarely gets fooled, very smart, heady player. Shows a physical side, good press guy. Will turn and run but has been burned deep his fair share of times. I see a day 2 corner here that translates to the NFL very well.

#50 DE Corey Vereen – 6’2/249

Fourth year senior who has been a starting the majority of the games since 2014. Really good burst and get off. Has a quick twitch and low center of gravity that can make it tough for blockers to get a hold of. Won’t blow anyone away but he can be a nice fit for a 3-4 team at OLB. 6th/7th rounder.

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SOUTH ALABAMA

#12 TE Gerald Everett – 6’4/240

Interesting situation here. Didn’t start playing football until his senior year of high school. Lightly recruited, went the JUCO route. Played a season at UAB before the program got shut down then transferred to South Alabama. They put his tools on display and is now considered one of the highest upside prospects in this class. Really nice frame that can handle more weight. Excellent movement ability from a speed and agility perspective. Makes tough catches in traffic away from his body. Not a strong blocker but he shows effort there. He can be a big time player in time. Day 2 possibly. Looking forward to his pre-draft process.

AIR FORCE

Other Notables:

#9 WR Jalen Robinette – 6’4/215
#8 S Weston Steelhammer – 6’0/200

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MICHIGAN

#88 TE Jake Butt – 6’6/250

Fourth year senior. Split time until 2015 where was given the majority snaps and broke out. 1st Team All American in 2015. A lot of people are excited about him and label him the top TE in the class. I don’t see it. Every time I watch him I feel under-impressed. He doesn’t move anyone as a blocker and we aren’t talking about an explosive pass catcher. He is average to above average across the board. Tough kid, good over the middle but nothing I am spending a top 45 pick on. I say 3rd rounder.

#82 WR Amara Darboh – 6’2/215

Fourth year senior who improved mightily from 2015 to 2016. Strong, physical guy with some size. Runs good routes and will make tough catches in traffic. Still has a hard time getting himself open against quality man coverage. 3rd/4th rounder.

#4 RB De’Veon Smith – 5’11/228

Fourth year senior with two years of starting experience. Absolute bull with the ball in his hands. He’ll break multiple tackles every week and he showed more wiggle and vision this year. Very good blocker, maybe the best in the class. Reliable guy who can be a great complement in someone’s backfield. 4th round type.

#86 WR Jehu Chesson – 6’3/203

Fifth year senior. Took a minor step back in production this season. He doesn’t have the upside of Darboh but he has shown flashes of being a solid underneath threat who uses length and size to position himself in front of defensive backs. Smart player with good route running ability. 5th/6th rounder.

#78 OT Erik Magnuson

Fifth year senior and two year starter. Had a very nice year and put himself on to the radar for day three linemen. Has a good combination of length and hand strength. Lacks the fast feet but he is technically further along than most. Projects as a solid backup at the next level.

*#5 S Jabrill Peppers – 6’1/205

Undeclared junior who is a sure thing to come out early. Projected by some to be a top 10 pick. I will get in to him more in the coming months, but I don’t see the special in him as a defender. Very solid and versatile, yes. But I actually think he is special with the ball in his hands. I look at him as a top tier RB prospect who can also be a top tier return specialist. He’s played all over the field for Michigan and if he can get in to the right system and role in the league, he can be a special one.

#43 DT Chris Wormley – 6’5/300

Fifth year senior. One of my favorite DL in the draft and a guy who I think should end with a top 15 overall grade. He doesn’t have eye popping production but that means almost nothing when evaluating him. Wormley is NFL-ready day one to play anywhere on the line you need. He can play inside and out-bend and out-move guards. He can play outside and simply overwhelm the edge blocking with his elite strength and power. He reminds me a ton of former Patriot Richard Seymour. 1st rounder.

#29 CB Jourdan Lewis – 5’10/179

Fourth year senior and three year starter. Two time All American. Owner of first place all time at Michigan for single season and career pass breakups. Really good footwork and ball skill guy. Love the body control and ability to stick to a receiver’s hip pocket and make plays on the ball. He’s not the star his numbers make him look like but he can be a very good nickel corner. Needs more strength and consistency from a decision making perspective. Early day two kind of guy.

#33 DE Taco Charlton – 66/272

Fourth year senior. Wasn’t really a factor on this defense until 2015. Had a breakout year this season, leading the team in sacks with 9. He’s a guy you can easily fall in love with when looking at the measurables. Very good triangle numbers. Shows good mechanics and technique and we saw flashes this year of a guy who had sky high potential. Could be a 2nd rounder if he tests well.

#96 DT Ryan Glasgow – 6’4/299

Fifth year senior, this will be his 33rd career start. Team considers him the top DL on the team. A dirty work guy who never gets pushed back. Plays low, strong, and quick. Will constantly fight his way through traffic and make plays in the backfield. Really impressive motor and consistency. Won’t be a star but he will be a reliable rotational guy. 4th/5th rounder.

#8 CB Channing Stribling – 6’2/175

Fourth year senior. Was a rotational guy until he got his shot as a senior this season and took advantage of it. 2nd Team All Big 10, led the team with 4 INTs. Triangle numbers guy who plays a physical brand, in your face style. Will beat guys up at the point of attack. Doesn’t have great agility or acceleration. Needs better footwork. This is a kid you can develop. 5h/6th rounder.

#25 S Dymonte Thomas – 6’2/199

Fourth year senior and two year starter. He is the safety net behind this talented Michigan defense. Roams the deep coverage areas, makes a lot of secondary calls. One career INT but is better at attacking the ball in the air than that would lead you to believe. Solid height, weight and speed. Late rounder who can be a solid backup and shows some starter potential if he can add some weight and play more physical.

Other Notables:

#67 OG Kyle Kalis – 6’3/305
#71 Ben Braden – 6’5/330
#19 FB Henry Poggi – 6’4/257
#44 S Delano Hill – 6’1/214
#42 LB Ben Gideon – 6’3/247
#99 DT Matthew Godin – 6’6/294

FLORIDA STATE

*#4 RB Dalvin Cook – 5’11/213

Third year junior. He is coming out of school. I could write a paragraph about his accolades alone. Most important, he is an All American and the all time leading rusher in FSU history. Cook will likely finish the grading process as my top overall back and possibly top 5 overall player. He is top tier when it comes to speed, quickness, vision, and adjustments. He runs harder and more physical than you think, catches the ball very well, and will make an impact as a blocker. Cook is the complete package, real deal.

*#77 OT Roderick Johnson – 6’7/311

Third year junior who has been starting since halfway through his freshman season. His potential is as high as any OT in this entire class but he didn’t take the step forward many were hoping for in 2016. Very inconsistent technique and performance as a pass protector. His hand placement and footwork are among the worst of the “top” OT prospects although his overall athletic ability is among the best. Johnson has shown flashes of very dominant play here and there, but I just don’t see the progress I need to in order to call him a 1st round talent. If he comes out someone may gamble early, but I think he is a 3rd rounder.

*#15 WR Travis Rudolph – 6’1/192

Another former top tier high school recruit, third year junior. Not sure if he will come out. Very smooth mover who has been the go to WR on that team for a couple years. Somewhat similar to Rashad Greene from a couple years ago. Can run himself open consistently and has smooth ball skills, easy pass catcher. My complaint about him is that he is very frail. He gets tossed around by physical DBs. He doesn’t do very well in traffic. I would love to see him go back for his senior season because there is a high ceiling here. If he comes out I think he is a 3rd rounder.

#72 OG Kareem Are – 6’6/325

Fifth year senior, spent two years at junior college. Showed a ton of improvement this year and put himself in to mid round discussion. Are is an enormous mauler. Very difficult for guys to get around him and now that he is moving his feet better, he is a tough matchup for anyone. He still really struggles in space and has limitations, but I see a potential starter here down the road. 3rd/4th rounder.

#8 WR Kermit Whitfield – 5’8/182

Fourth year senior. Has seen some up and down production throughout his career. His size is an issue. But Whitfield may be one of the fastest players in this class. His stop and go is a weapon that a good offensive mind in the NFL can use. Also adds some return value. Late rounder who needs the right system to succeed.

#44 DE Demarcus Walker – 6’4/280

One of my favorite defensive linemen in the class. Fourth year senior. Second in the nation with 15 sacks. I’ve been back and forth on whether or not he should be viewed as a DE or DT. It depends on the scheme but I do believe he can play both. He is a matchup nightmare for any kind of blocker. He can out-move you, out-leverage you, out-power you, out-smart you. Walker loves the game and is a very self-made guy who pays attention to small details to make himself better. Not the most gifted guy out there but I think he is one of the most reliable and versatile. I’ll have a 1st round grade on him.

#27 CB Marquez White – 6’0/184

Fourth year senior and two year starter. Also played basketball for the Seminoles in 2014. Has that kind of long, lanky body. Had a very strong year and put himself in to the mid round discussion. Makes plays on the ball and stays with receivers up and down the field. Not a very physical guy. Would like to see him ass some weight and clean up his backpedal. 4th/5th rounder who some teams may really like because of his length and upside.

Other Notables:

#23 FB Freddie Stevenson – 6’1/241

Dec 292016
 
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Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas Razorbacks (September 17, 2016)

Jeremy Sprinkle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2017 NFL Draft Prospects: December 29, 2016 Bowl Games

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

SOUTH FLORIDA

#87 WR Rodney Adams – 6’1/190

One of my favorite under the radar WRs in this class. Such and explosive change of direction guy who can get in and out of breaks with the best in this class. Plus ball skills in traffic, can get up over DBs and win a lot of one on one situations. He is on the skinny side and will struggle with physical CBs here and there. I would love to see this guy in a real offense with real talent around him. Day three guy I would take a flier on.

Other Notables:

#57 LB Nigel Harris – 6’0/231
#36 S Nate Godwin – 5’10/205

SOUTH CAROLINA

#74 OT Mason Zandi – 6’9/314

Fifth year senior who moved from RT to LT in 2016. I think his future will need to be at RT in the pros. Doesn’t have the feet and too easily gets beat on double moves inside to be trusted on a QB’s blind side. Zandi has elite-level length with good enough hand power to initially control pass rushers. He has some impressive tape against the nation’s top edge rushers. I don’t see starter potential here but he can make a roster. Day three guy.

#5 DE Darius English – 6’6/245

Fifth year senior. Has been the team’s top pass rusher over the past 2-3 years and finished 2016 with 9 sacks. He is very think and lacks power presence. Late round developmental type prospect. Tools are there but he is a ways away from being an NFL pass rusher.

Other Notables:

#11 LB DJ Holloman – 6’2/230

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ARKANSAS

#83 TE Jeremy Sprinkle – 6’6/256

Fifth year senior who has the tools and potential to get anyone excited. His upside is through the roof, arguably higher than last year’s TE Hunter Henry. A guy with this kind of height and length combined with the ball skills and aggressive nature is rare. He caught a lot of balls on the move in traffic over the past two years and his long strides in space could make him a dangerous weapon up the seam and after the catch. I’m not sure he can grab a first round grade but he’ll be close. He needs to show more ability as a blocker and needs to strengthen his lower body. If he can, we are talking about a starter with Pro Bowl potential.

#70 OT Dan Skipper – 6’10/319

Fourth year senior who has been starting since his freshman season. Has experience at guard and tackle. Plays on the left side for Arkansas, may need to make a move to RT in the pros. With this kind of length, his lack of foot speed can be somewhat looked past. He doesn’t always look great out there but he is a very reliable presence in the trenches. Works hard, finishes blocks, very aware. He is also a weapon on special teams as a field goal defender. He’s blocked a handful over his career. I see a 3rd/4th rounder here.

#80 WR Drew Morgan – 6’0/193

Came out of nowhere to lead the team in catches and receiving yards in 2015, repeated that in 2016. He’s as tough as they come in traffic and after the catch. Plays WR as if he we a LB running with the ball. He turned in to the most reliable 3rd down threat on that offense. He won’t outrun anyone but he can get himself open and shows very good ball skills. Could be a nice slot prospect in the NFL. 5th-6th rounder.

#51 LB Brooks Ellis – 6’2/245

Fourth year senior and three year starter. Team leader in tackles in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Really smart, instinctive linebacker who can think his way to tackles. Might be be the most gifted athlete but his initial movement and positioning can make up for it. Excellent tackler in space. Hits hard, takes on blocks well. On-field general for the defense type but he may not be a three down guy in the NFL. 4th/5th rounder who will be limited, but reliable.

#29 CB Jared Collins – 5’11/173

Fourth year senior who has been seeing time since year one. Three year starter in the SEC with 34 career pass break ups. Very thin, bordering frail looking. Moves exceptionally well though with minimal wasted motion when tracking WRs. Doesn’t have the physical side to him but he is a decent form tackler and he can track receivers all over the field. Late rounder.

#55 DT Jeremiah Ledbetter – 6’3/280

Fifth year senior who started off at junior college. Father played a few years in the NFL. Slightly undersized DT who has natural power and strength to him. Delivers a nice jolt to blockers who try to lock on to him. Made a move to DE halfway through the 2016 season, showing versatility. I could see him being a very solid 3-4 DE who will do a lot of dirty work. This kid grew on me more and more as I watched Arkansas play. 5th/6th rounder who not every team will be looking at but the ones who are will like him a lot.

#48 DE Deatrich Wise Jr – 6’5/273

Fifth year senior. I had him on my short list of guys to watch in 2016 and he’s been a disappointment. After 7 sacks in his final 4 games last year, Wise finished with just 3.5 sacks total in 2016. It wasn’t because he saw double teams, either. He has the frame and power presence that can get you excited. Very aggressive after the snap with his hands, plays through the whistle. He struggles to beat blockers on one one because of poor pad level and too much wasted movement when changing direction. Someone will still gamble on his tools but I don’t see anything better than a 6th/7th rounder after seeing him a bunch this season.

Other Notables:

#4 WR Keon Hatcher – 6’2/204
#24 RB Kody Walker – 6’1/254
#37 P Toby Baker – 6’3/214

VIRGINIA TECH

*#7 WR Bucky Hodges – 6’7/245

Fourth year junior. Many are calling him a tight end but I am keeping him at WR because I haven’t seen him line up with his hands in the dirt once. He plays a WR role completely for the Hokies. I see a Kelvin Benjamin type with this kid. Moves well enough to be a WR and his size alone strikes fear in to anyone who covers him, and I mean anyone. Hodges is a little limited when it comes to the route tree but his impact will be felt early and often in the NFL if he comes out. Potential 1st rounder. 2nd rounder at worst.

*#1 WR Isaiah Ford – 6’2/195

Undeclared junior. The jury is split on whether or not he is coming out. Ford is the kind of kid who shows up to a workout/combine and gets everyone to nod their head. Very good triangle numbers. He;s long and fast with big hands. Catches the ball very well. Effortless top speed downfield. When I watch him on tape, however, I just don’t see the football-related movement. Struggles to change direction when moving at a full speed, doesn’t make much happen after the catch, struggles to make quick decisions. I think he is more of an athlete than a football player but two straight 1,000+ yard seasons with almost 150 catches says otherwise. There will be a lot of love/hate with this kid if he comes out. Potential 2nd rounder who could sneak in to the end of round 1.

*#31 CB Brandon Facyson – 6’2/197

Another undeclared junior here. There is a shot Facyson could be the first Hokie taken in next year’s draft. He has the triangle numbers that coaches and scouts alike drool over. Virginia Tech has put out some very solid DB talent over the past few years and Facyson might be the best of them all. His technique needs work, as he gets a bit lazy and too confident in his ability at times. But all in all, this kid has the tools to be a stud. Potential 1st round talent if he comes out.

#60 DT Woody Baron – 6’2/280

Fifth year senior. Projects as a 3 technique with his quick first step and ability to bend under blockers and find his way to the action. He finished 5th in the ACC with 17.5 TFL and with his ability to move around the line, he could be drafted late.

Other Notables:

#45 FB Sam Rogers – 5’11/230
#72 OG Augue Conte – 6’5/305
#71 Jonathan McLaughlin – 6’5/294
#4 DE Ken Ekanem 6’3/230
#8 DT Nigel Williams – 6’2/297
#19 S Chuck Clark – 6’0/205

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OKLAHOMA STATE

*#28 WR James Washington – 6’0/205

Undeclared junior. Proved his ability to get make plays downfield was more than a flash in the pan. Washington has elite-level speed and ability to track the ball in the air. Very good at high-pointing the ball and coming down with full awareness of his body and the field. He ran a limited route tree but the upside here is going to draw a lot of attention if he comes out. Potentially a sub 4.4 guy who can be had in round 2.

*#2 QB Mason Rudolph – 6’4/220

Undeclared junior. The people I know said he is going back for his senior season. Still need to mention him as a possibility in this wide open QB class. Has the pro-body and pro-arm and pro-release. He’ll need a year off in the NFL as he transitions from one of the more QB-friendly systems in the nation. He can make a lot of throws but lacks the consistent accuracy, especially when throwing downfield. Could be a mid rounder if he comes out, nothing higher than round 3.

#47 TE Blake Jarwin – 6’5/248

Fifth year senior and probably the best TE in the Big 12. Love the frame and speed here. Made some big plays downfield and moves very well for a guy his size. He isn’t a power blocker at all and will need to show some strength improvement before he is thrown out there in the NFL. Can be a nice project with big upside. 5th/6th rounder.

*#45 LB Chad Whitener – 6’0/243

Started off at California, transferred after 2013 and sat out 2014. Started two years for Oklahoma State earning 1st Team All Big 12 in 2015 and 2nd Team in 2016. One of those guys who always finds his way towards the action whether its against the run or pass. Very good first few steps. Sticks to the man he is tackling and comes with authority. Not sure if he is coming out but he will be just under the top tier guys in this class if he does. Day 2 pick.

Other Notables:

#77 OT Victor Salako – 6’6/335
#32 RB Chris Carson – 6’1/215
#13 S Jordan Sterns – 6’0/200
#6 CB Ashton Lampkin – 6’0/190
#20 LB Jordan Burton – 6’2/215

COLORADO

#4 CB Chidobe Awuzie – 5’11/205

Fourth year senior who started games from the beginning of his career. One of my favorite DBs in this entire class. Leader of one of the top pass defenses in the country. Aquzie doesn’t have your traditional CB build but he isn’t your traditional CB. He has actually played every position in the secondary and has been equally effective at all of them. He is arguably the most physical CB prospect I’ve seen in years. Very smart and instinctive. His only question is long speed, a big one I know. Awuzie can be a factor at any DB spot you put him in. There is a lot of value here. I say 1st round grade but he is likely a day two guy.

#9 S Tedric Thompson – 6’1/205

Another fourth year senior who has started games every season of his career. Had some concussion issues in 2014 that cut his year short. Thompson is one of my favorite safeties in the class. He is all over the field. Equally effective against the run and pass. Came down with 7 INTs in 2016 alone but is better in when he is near the line. There is a good amount of range here in deep coverage when he needs it. Just an all around guy who I think translates to the NFL very well. Late day two guy, maybe late round 2 if he tests well.

#58 DT Josh Tupou – 6’3/325

Fifth year senior. Redshirted in 2015 because of being suspended by the team for violating team rules. Was arrested for starting a brawl at a bar. Tupou showed signs of being a dominant inside force that every 3-4 team needs. He is a limited athlete and pass rusher, but his impact has been enormous this year. If he can clear his red flags, Tupou can be a 3rd/4th round pick.

#23 Ahkello Witherspoon – 6’2/190

Former JUCO transfer who has about 2 years total in starting experience. Led the nation in pas breaks ups (22) in 2016. I was really impressed with this kid at times, to the point where I was thinking potential 1st rounder. I’m not sure he’ll reach that level grade wise but man, this guy can get you excited. He is really competitive, really long, and reacts really well in man coverage. This is the kind of CB every team is looking for. If he runs well enough, he can be a 2nd/3rd rounder. If I had to guess, he is going to be a 4th/5th rounder and it wouldn’t surprise me if he out-performed most CBs drafted ahead of him.

#98 OLB Jimmie Gilbert – 6’4/230

Fourth year senior, three year starter. A third down weapon for the Buffaloes who excels at speed rushing the edge with his strong initial burst and length. 3rd Team All American. Has the frame that can get you excited. Even though he is high-hipped, he shows very fluid movement below his waist with easy reaction speed. He is an upside prospect more so than an immediate help. 5th/6th rounder.

Other Notables:

#74 C Alex Kelley – 6’2/310
#13 QB Sefo Liufau – 6’4/230
#31 Kenneth Olugbode – 6’1/220

Dec 282016
 
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Garett Bolles, Utah Utes (November 26, 2016)

Garett Bolles – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2017 NFL Draft Prospects: December 28, 2016 Bowl Games

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

PITTSBURGH

#53 OG Dorian Johnson – 6’5/315

Fourth year senior and my top rated guard in this class. I think he will end up with a 1st round grade, near top 20 overall. Johnson has steadily improved since last year and is now the rare combination of power and movement ability. He was the only guard I saw all year that consistently won the battles with the Clemson defensive tackles. That really left an impression on me. Despite his lengthy frame, he bends and gets under guys exceptionally well and displays the consistent technique you want to see. NFL-ready guard day one.

#69 OT Adam Bisnowaty – 6’6/305

Fifth year senior and another four year starter. He’s had a few minor injuries throughout his career but nothing that should really impact his final grade. The two time All-ACC left tackle is considered the top blind side protector by some. Really smooth athlete in pass protection that has an easy time staying balanced and quick. He has the ideal frame and footwork that will get a coach excited. The one thing that always popped up when I scouted him was a lack of finishing power. He has a hard time locking guys up and won’t get much of a push as a run blocker. More of a finesse blocker at this point. This LT group is very up in their air but Bisnowaty will likely finish in the top 3 of this group and be drafted in the first round.

*#23 RB James Conner – 6’2/235

Fourth year junior. Well documented story here. Led the team in rushing as a freshman in 2013 before earning All America honors in 2014 where he rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 TDs. He tore his MCL early in 2016 and was soon after diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma. He was declared cancer free in May 2016 and was the team’s starting RB week one of this season. On the field, he proved his talent is still among the best in the nation, earning 1st Team All ACC and declaring early for the draft. Conner is a bruiser that can bully tacklers up and down the field. There is more wiggle to his hips than you would think and he showed excellent hands this season. Conner is a complete back that will be a factor in the league right away. He can be a day 2 pick for sure.

#4 QB Nathan Peterman – 6’2/224

Fifth year senior that started off at Tennessee. Starting QB for Pittsburgh in 2015 and 2016. There is something to this kid that I really like. He shined the most against their toughest opponents. He has made some big time throws in big time moments in their wins against top 10 opponents. Peterman is tough, smart, and athletic. He can anticipate and read defenses well. He is coming from an NFL-style offense. There are several check marks next to his name and I think he can be had in the middle of the draft.

#83 TE Scott Orndorff – 6’5/255

Fourth year senior that had 23 career receptions entering 2016. Wasn’t really on my radar until I saw him against Clemson (9 catches-128 yards-2 TDs). This kid has the frame and ball skills that can get a coach excited. He averaged almost 17 yards per catch this year. He isn’t a plus blocker but a team looking for a TE to develop in the passing game, he’s on their radar. Late rounder.

#5 DE Ejuan Price – 6’0/255

6th year senior that missed two separate seasons with chest/pectoral injuries. Almost missed half a season with a back injury. Price is not your typical edge rushing prospect. He lacks length and doesn’t have that top tier explosion from his stance. What makes him stand out, however, is the top-tier technique and attention to detail. He understands how to use his low center of gravity and leg strength to get under and control blockers. Very effective use of his hands. Price has 23.5 sacks and 40 TFL over the past two seasons. He reminds me of James Harrison with the way he simply overpowers blockers, collapsing the pocket on one play and beating them to the edge on the next. I think he has an outside shot at getting his name called towards the end of day 2.

Other Notables:

#38 CB Ryan Lewis – 6’0/200
#47 LB Matt Galambos – 6’2/245

NORTHWESTERN

#80 WR Austin Carr – 6’1/200

Fifth year senior. Exploded in 2016, leading the Big 10 in receiving by a wide margin. If you’re looking for a guy to be labeled as the best slot WR in this class, Carr may be it. He wasn’t on y radar until just a few weeks ago but the more I see, the more I like. He is a very explosive route runner, meaning he can get in and out of breaks quicker than anyone can cover and his immediate speed after the catch is noteworthy. Carr is a very consistent presence that runs the entire route tree and will surprise you deep if you try to jump his short routes. If he can test well in workouts, he could sneak in to round 3.

*#1 LB Anthony Walker – 6’1/245

Fourth year junior. Broke out in 2015, earning All American honors after finishing fourth in the country with 21.5 TFL. He’s played the weak side and middle spots for that defense. I’ve seen him a handful of times now and I don’t see the dynamic playmaker his numbers would lead you to believe. He is pretty stiff when changing direction and won’t chase many guys down from behind. I see an NFL caliber player here but not someone that should come out early. If he does come out, I see a 3-4 ILB type that gets taken early day 3.

*#16 S Godwin Igwebuike – 6’0/205

Fourth year junior that hasn’t declared yet. Led the team in tackles and pass break ups. I’ve only put the microscope on him twice this year and if he comes out, I’ll have to get another two or three games of his on tape. From what I see, thee is potential here to be one of the top safeties in this class. He has cornerback-type hips and feet. Very fluid and balanced. Minimal wasted motion. He flies all over the field and shows good tackling ability and a physical nature. I question his deep speed and range in coverage but if he comes out, I’ll get that extra work in. Mid rounder with potential to be more.

Other Notables:

#76 OT Eric Olson – 6’6/305
#7 DE Ifeadi Odenigbo – 6’3/265

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WEST VIRGINIA

*#1 WR Shelton Gibson – 6’0/198

Undeclared junior. I would think he won’t come out but he did lead the nation with 23.2 yards per catch in an offensive scheme that isn’t exactly designed on a lot of downfield passing. Gibson shows efficient movement as a route runner and is further along than most WRs that come from these spread attacks. I don’t like hoe he double catches a lot of balls and he doesn’t have the speed you would think by looking at his numbers. As of now I see a mid rounder at best if he comes out.

#65 C Tyler Orlosky – 6’4/296

Fifth year senior, three year starter and two-year team captain. Leader of the offensive line. Power-based blocker with heavy hands and a strong upper body. He can overpower linebackers and anchor against defensive tackles. Sub-par mover in space that is late to react to quick stunts and rush moves. Wasn’t responsible for sustaining blocks in such a quick passing game. Struggles to consistently play with leverage and foot speed. Late rounder but I think he gets drafted.

#7 RB Rushel Shell – 5’10/225

Fifth year senior that started off at Pittsburgh. Was a top tier recruit out of high school who had some maturity issues early on in his career. Nothing major. He’s constantly be the guy that was about to break out, but never quite did. Part of that reason has been the abundance of talent at RB for West Virginia that has caused him to split much of the action. A nagging ankle injury this season didn’t help Shell is likely a late round pick but one of those guys that could not surprisingly come in to the league and rush for 800+ yards in year one. He is very strong, low to the ground, and quick in a phone booth. He can break a lot of tackles. Someone is going to see that in him and want him in their backfield.

#13 S Rasul Douglas – 6’2/203

Fourth year senior and former JUCO transfer. Got in to the starting lineup this season and shined in a versatile DB role. Douglas played a lot of CB for West Virginia, showing the ability to turn his hips and run with downfield speed. His ball skills are among the best in the Big 12 and his nation-leading 8 interceptions are sure to turn some heads. He projects as a versatile backup DB that can be a vital nickel/dime package guy. 5th/6th round.

Other Notables:

#57 OG Adam Pankey – 6’5/316
#6 WR Daikel Shorts – 6’1/202
#97 DE Noble Nwachukwu – 6’2/275
#95 DT Christian Brown – 6’2/305

MIAMI

*#86 TE David Njoku – 6’4/245

Third year sophomore that, if he comes out, will likely finish as my top overall TE in a talented group. He may end up with a higher grade than what I gave Hunter Henry a year ago. Njoku is a physical specimen that has shown dominant traits as a blocker and receiver. He gets up the seam as quick as anyone from the line, can make special moves after the catch combined with agility and power, and shows uncanny instincts when running option routes against zone coverage. He is a smart kid with a ceiling as high as any TE we have seen lately. 1st rounder on my board if he comes out.

*#15 QB Brad Kaaya – 6’4/215

True junior that is now the all time career passing yards leader in the storied program. His intentions for the draft have not yet been declared, but many think he’s coming out. He’s essentially the same kid we saw in 2015, which isn’t a good sign of you ask me. I don’ see it with him. I don’t like his arm and I’m not sold he will be able to handle the size and speed of the NFL. He looks frail to me in the way I have always felt about Sam Bradford. A lot of people like this kid, though. He is in the running for a first rounder if he comes out.

#3 WR Stacy Coley – 6’1/195

Fourth year senior that has put together a nice career. Capped his career off with 9 TDs. Coley is the top speed threat on this offense but he just didn’t get the looks he probably deserved. Kaaya struggled to throw the deep ball well and the offensive line was very inconsistent. Coley is likely a day three guy that will be pro-ready right away. He’s a guy that could factor earlier than many drafted before him.

#63 OG Danny Isidora – 6’4/305

Redshirt in 2012, missed most of 2013 with a foot injury. He’s started every game since and is one of the team’s leaders. Isidora is the guy you want inside when your team needs a yard or two. He can get a consistent push forward in the trenches and works through the whistle. He doesn’t look pretty as a pass blocker but you rarely see him get beat. I’m not sure he is a year one starter in the league, but I consider him an eventual one. Looking forward to seeing him at the Senior Bowl.

*#2 RB Joseph Yearby – 5’9/200

Junior that hasn’t declared yet but it sounds like he will for financial reasons. He was supposed to be the even, if not better replacement of Duke Johnson but he never quite ran away with the role. He is a solid all around back but doesn’t stand out anywhere. His quick adjustments at the point of attack can free himself of traffic but he doesn’t get away from defenders in space. Limited size and athletic ability. He can be a backup somewhere with the hope he reaches the potential that people think he once had.

#29 CB Corn Elder – 5’10/180

Fourth year senior that was considered one of the best two way recruits coming out of high school. Settled in at CB in his first year at Miami. I would say Elder, since halfway through the 2015 season, Elder has been one of the better CBs in the ACC. He has good length for his frame and shows the deep speed to run with anyone, and I mean anyone. His power presence is limited and he gives too much cushion underneath, but I think his style of play fits in well to the league. His speed may be elite. 4th-5th rounder and we will see him at the Senior Bowl.

#26 S Rayshawn Jenkins – 6’2/210

Fifth year senior. Missed 204 with a back injury but has had two healthy seasons since. Jenkins is a three year starter that has been productive across the board. He is a plus tackler with good instincts in coverage. He doesn’t have the kind of speed to factor in cover 2 or to stick with speed downfield, but in a role where he can play downhill, he can be a factor. 5th-6th rounder that will also play at the Senior Bowl.

Other Notables:

#6 S Jamal Carter – 6’1/215

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INDIANA

#67 OG Dan Feeney – 6’4/310

Fifth year senior, four year starter. Missed 2013 with a foot injury. Two time All American and considered by many to be the top guard in the draft. He missed some time in 2016 with a concussion and was also forced to play some left tackle because of injuries to their OL. Feeney hasn’t left the best impression on me yet. He is solid, yes. Top 75 pick, yes. But I see holes in his movement as a pass blocker and he doesn’t overpower anyone as a run blocker. His post-engagement with defenders is off and on. I can see the upside of a starter here but nothing I would touch in round 1, maybe not round 2.

Other Notables:

#4 WR Ricky Jones – 5’10/185
#87 Mitchell Paige – 5’7/180
#93 DT Ralph Green III – 6’5/305

UTAH

*#72 OT Garett Bolles – 6’5/300

Played just one year at Utah after being the top JUCO recruit last year. He showed enough to warrant being labeled a potential top 10 pick in my opinion. He has everything you want out of left tackle prospect. Length, feet, power, strength, finesse, and body control. Bolles had a very tough upbringing that included some legal and drug issues. He’s been out of trouble for years though. As of now, Bolles is the most impressive left tackle I’ve seen eligible for this class.

#28 RB Joseph Williams – 5’11/205

One of the more interesting stories in college football. His career began in 2012 at Connecticut, but he didn’t last long there and went the junior college route. He signed with Utah in 2015 to back up, and eventually replace, Devontae Booker. Things weren’t going well early this year and he abruptly retired after 2 games. Fast forward a month and Williams was back and taking the country by storm. He rushed for 332 yards/4 TDs against UCLA on October 22. Williams might be the fastest RB in this class. He is more of a straight line guy that a quickness based back which will worry some, but this kind of ability can’t go overlooked. If he can check mark the concerns off the field, he is a sleeper to end up in the second day of the draft.

#54 OG Isaac Asiata – 6’3/320

Fifth year senior. Will turn 25 at the end of his rookie season. Brother of Vikings RB Matt Asiata. Has started games all four years of his career. Will play inside in the NFL but has seen time at RT. Shows really good short area burst and power. Can overwhelm defenders at the point of attack and drive them out of a play. Slow feet in pass protection and struggles to factor in space against linebackers. Not a fit for every scheme but he can handle the size and power of the NFL right away. He will put on a show at the combine with the bench press and he is going to be featured at the Senior Bowl.

#12 WR Tim Patrick – 6’5/210

Has had a long road to where he is now. Will turn 24 during his rookie season. Started off at junior college where he starred in both football and basketball. Signed with Utah in 2014 but has missed 17 games in his three years with different injuries, including 4 in 2016. Still led the team in receiving, catches, and touchdowns. He is long and lean with good start up speed. Has the tools and rare height to go with it that will get him extra looks from scouts. Injuries aside, Patrick could be an early day 3 guy based on upside and potential.

*#93 DT Lowell Lotulelei – 6’2/310

Undeclared junior but all signs are pointing towards him coming out. Brother to Panthers star DT Star. Following a very similar path to the NFL. You have to watch a few games to truly appreciate Lotulelei and all he can do for a defense. He is such a strong presence inside that demands double teams and eats up space. He won’t make a ton of plays but he can get his hat in there when the opportunity arises. Borderline first round pick here.

*20 S Marcus Williams – 6’0/195

Third year junior that hasn’t declared yet but will likely turn pro after this game. Williams is a smart, versatile defender with 10 career interceptions. He doesn’t make a he impact against the run but he is more than physical enough and won’t hesitate to get after a downhill running back. Williams may be one of the best athletes at the position in this class if he comes out and his intangibles are top tier. If he comes out, we are looking at a day 2 pick here.

#49 DE Hunter Dimick – 6’3/272

Fifth year senior. After an shoulder-injury filled 205, Dimick came back strong in 2016. He was third in the nation in both TFL and sacks (21.5 and 14.5). He is a high energy, overly aggressive player that doesn’t turn off. Dimick lacks the tools you look for in an edge rusher. He isn’t explosive, he is tight hipped, and he won’t turn the edge without losing momentum. He will have a hard time adjusting to NFL pass blockers but his production and motor cannot be ignored. Day three prospect here that will have an uphill fight on his hands.

Other Notables:

#16 WR Cory Butler-Byrd – 5’10/180
#52 OT Sam Tevi – 6’5/305
#50 OLB Pita Taumoepenu – 6’1/245
#29 CB Reginald Porter – 5’11/185
#14 CB Brian Allen – 6’3/205
#39 K Andy Phillips – 5’11/210

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TEXAS A&M

#11 WR Josh Reynolds – 6’4/195

Fourth year senior that spent his first year in junior college. From week one I have been drawn to the length and movement of Reynolds. He is a long strider that can get behind a defense but also has the agility and balance to make sharp cuts in and out of his breaks. He’s been a big play receiver every year of his career and I don’t think his name is mentioned enough when discussing the top pass catchers in the class.

#65 OT Avery Gennesy – 6’5/305

Fifth year senior and two year starter. Spent two seasons in junior college. Bruiser-type that may need to move inside at the next level. Just doesn’t have the hands/feet combo that a player needs outside. He has a thick, powerful base and a solid first step that could be better suited at guard. 4th/5th

*#15 DE Myles Garrett – 6’5/270

Third year junior that is the favorite to be the top overall player in this draft class. Have to think he will be the #1 pick in May. He is a better prospect that former Aggie Von Miller was at this stage. Forget about the lack of production in 2016, he rarely saw plays where he wasn’t double or triple teamed. This is the kind of edge rusher that doesn’t come around often. He has it all.

#14 S Justin Evans – 6’1/200

Fourth year senior that spent two seasons in junior college. Started in both of his years with the Aggies. Also adds value as a solid kick returner. Very good speed in space and plays physical enough to be a multi-threat. Might be a little slight-framed for his style of play, so he will need to bulk up a bit. Very good reaction and hip movement. Reacts well in man coverage and should be able to play multiple roles. He’ll be at the Senior Bowl and could be a late day 2 guy.

#10 DE Daehson Hall – 6’6/260

If you saw Garrett and Hall line up pre-snap, you’d think you were looking at an NFL defensive line. Hall has measurables that coaches dream about. Garrett rightfully gets the publicity, but Hall can be a highly regarded edge guy himself. He has a consistent motor, plays with good technique, and will finish plays with violence. Hall will also be at the Senior Bowl and will likely be a day 2 pick.

#33 LB Shaan Washington – 6’3/240

Fourth year senior. Has been a tackle machine over the past three years. Really physical bruiser that showed more range in 2016 than he did last season. Not sure he is quite the athlete you want out there on every down, however. Could be a solid 2 down thumper and special teamer 6th/7th rounder.

Other Notables:

#8 QB Trevor Knight – 6’1/215
#72 OG Jermaine Eluemunor – 6’4/315
#31 LB Claude George – 6’2/240

KANSAS STATE

#75 DE Jordan Willis – 6’5/258

Three year starter. Really nice frame here with plenty of groom for growth. Physical, hard working, aggressive player that will pursue the action all over the field. Shows good initial movement with plenty of knee bend and power. Uses his hands well. Doesn’t have that elite burst around the edge but he is quick enough to keep a blocker honest. He will need to get stronger and continue to improve his technique for him to factor. Potential is high here. 3rd/4th rounder.

#22 S Dante Barnett – 6’1/194

Fifth year senior that received a medical hardship redshirt in 2015 after suffering an early season shoulder injury. Came back strong in 2016 proving he can still play his versatile safety role. Very good near the line of scrimmage. May not ave the speed to be in deep coverage by himself but he has the look of a special teams ace and solid backup. 5th/6th rounder.

Other Notables:

#6 WR Deonte Burton – 6’2/209
#52 LB Charmeachealle Moore – 6’0/228

Dec 272016
 
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Dion Dawkins, Temple Owls (October 2, 2015)

Dion Dawkins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2017 NFL Draft Prospects: December 27, 2016 Bowl Games

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

ARMY

Other Notables:

#11 LB Andrew King – 6’0/246

NORTH TEXAS

Other Notables:

#11 WR Thaddeous Thompson – 6’2/202

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TEMPLE

#66 OT Dion Dawkins – 6’5/318

Fourth year senior. Has had a windy road to where he is now including a couple of minor lower body injuries and an assault arrest. The red flags seem minimal, however and he is line to be a day two pick. Dawkins plays left tackle for Temple and was rewarded 1st Team All AAC in 2016, 2nd team in 2015. He is a very physical, mammoth kid that relishes the role of the enforcer. Technique wise he appears inconsistent and borderline lazy at times. But when he is lined up and mentally in it, Dawkins can beat anyone one on one. I need to see more to confirm my initial belief that he can be a starting caliber guard in year one.

#5 Jahad Thomas – 5’10/188

Fourth year senior. Led the team in rushing three straight years but his ability is limited. He is undersized and lacks ability to break tackles. Very good hands out of the backfield but without more presence as a blocker, he may have a hard time sticking at the next level. The gap between him and their sophomore RB Armstead is significant. Late rounder at best because of his pass catching ability.

#7 OLB Hasson Reddick – 6’1/230

Fifth year senior. Former walk on that has put himself among the school’s top all time defenders. Finished second in the nation with 21.5 tackles for loss. Will play at the Senior Bowl. Reddick plays a DE type role in their defensive scheme and will likely be sought after by 3-4 teams in the middle of the draft. Very hungry, aggressive player that can get under the pads of blockers and turn the edge. He lacks tools and won’t fit in to some schemes.

#50 DE Praise Martin-Oguike – 6’1/255

Started his career in 2011 and was not with the team in 2012 and 2013. Long story short, he was falsely accused of rape and had to deal with that before continuing his career. He led the team with 7.5 sacks in 2014, dealt with several injuries in 2015 but fought through them, just to come back in 2016 and seal the envelope with a solid season. If I had to choose between him and Reddick, it would be a coin flip as of right now. Martin-Oguike has the NFL body and short area reactions. Very strong kid that I think can be a fine 3-4 OLB rotational guy with the upside of being more. Every down player. He should be drafted late.

Other Notables:

#15 CB Nate Hairston – 6’0/193

WAKE FOREST

#8 LB Marquel Lee – 6’3/240

Fourth year senior, three year starter. 4th in the nation with 19 TFL in 2016, also led the team in tackles. I can see why someone could fall in love with Lee after watching him for a week or two. He is big and fast, very good at making initial reads. He can get in the action often, something you always want to see from a LB. I think the upside with him is big but I need to see more power presence before I can say I like him. He gets beat by blockers too often and he lacks violence as a tackler. Those are two red flags for me when I scout LBs. I think he will be a 5th-6th rounder that can be sought after by any defensive scheme.

*#53 DE Duke Ejiofor – 6’4/270

Fourth year junior that hasn’t declared yet. If I was advising him, I would say go back to school. Ejiofor broke out in a big way this season, finishing 4th in the ACC in sacks and 8th in TFL. I watched him plenty and while I do see the freakish upside, his skill set just isn’t there yet. If he goes back to school and improves that along with putting together another All ACC performance, we’re talking potential 1st rounder. He is very athletic (sub 4.6 40, 39 inch vertical, ran hurdles in high school) and it shows up from time to time on tape. The only thing that annoys me here is what the team does with him role-wise. He can be much more if they let him simply rush the edge but their DE role is a little too inside for me. Oh well. If he comes out he is a 5th/6th rounder right now unless a team falls in love with the athleticism.

#25 CB Brad Watson – 6’0/200

Fourth year senior and two year starter. He was on my list of guys to watch this season after an impressive 2015 campaign. He has the size and speed to match up with a variety of receivers. He is pretty good with his hands and will tackle ball carriers coming at him well. His struggles are maintaining his balance and speed when tracking the ball came up with each week I scouted him. He’ll need to be better there if he plans on sticking around. Still though, a solid cover man with his size and speed will likely get drafted. 5th-6th round.

Other Notables:

#26 LB Thomas Brown – 6’3/225
#40 DT Josh Banks – 6’4/290

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MINNESOTA

#79 OT Jonah Pirsig – 6’9/325

Fifth year senior and three year starter. Fought an ankle injury this season and missed 3 games but when healthy, I think he may be one of the top 10-12 senior tackles in this class. He likely needs to be on the right side, as footwork and speed to the edge are weaknesses here. He really knows how to use his length though and when he locks those hands on, its over. Very strong kid who has the potential to be a starter at the next level. I’ll say as high as round 4 for him right now.

#7 QB Mitch Leidner – 6’4/230

Three year starter that has the tools to get you excited but his 2016 was very disappointing. After showing signs in 2015, hopes were high but he just couldn’t put it together. Leidner can really spin it, he is a very good athlete, and he’s tough. But he fails to read defenses and just too often ends up throwing the ball in to traffic. He was woefully inconsistent this year. Someone could fall in love with the tools though and draft him late.

#7 S Damarius Thomas – 6’2/215

Fifth year senior that sat out most of 2015 with a severe hamstring strain. Came back strong in 2016 and showed the kind of versatility you want to see in today’s safety. He is a very solid run defender, to the point where some say he can play weak side linebacker in the NFL, but also has more than enough movement ability to cover WRs in space. Thomas won’t be a household name but he can fill a lot of holes in the back seven of a defense. Guys like this are becoming more and more popular. 4th-5th rounder.

#5 CB Jalen Myrick – 5’10/205

Fourth year senior, two year starter. Adds some value as a return specialist. Has a stocky build for the position but also can run downfield with anyone. Very good speed. Has some potential nickel corner in him I think. Plays a physical game but has the movement to stick with speed. May lack the length most are looking for but he can find a spot on a team looking for a DB/return specialist combo. Late rounder.

Other Notables:

#82 WR Drew Wolitarsky – 6’3/220

WASHINGTON STATE

*#4 QB Luke Falk – 6’4/215

Junior that hasn’t declared yet. There is an outside chance he could creep in to the first round with the QB class being very up in the air without a no-doubt-top-guy. Falk is coming from the Air Raid scheme put together by Mike Leach, an offense that has not produced any quality NFL QBs. Falk is a different passer than those other guys, however. I think he has legit NFL ability and could be a starter down the road in this league. Very good and consistent throwing mechanics along with toughness under pressure and ability to adjust when his initial reads aren’t there. If he comes out, I don’t see a major gap between him and the likes of Watson/Kizer to be honest.

#9 WR Gabe Marks – 5’11/190

Fifth year senior. All time Pac 12 leader in career receptions. Has certainly benefited from the Leach Air Raid system. Marks is a fun guy to watch because he lacks some of the god-given ability that some of these other WR prospects have, but he is out-playing almost everyone that tries to cover him and his consistency is noteworthy. Very clean and crisp route runner, very strong hands, and very tough in traffic. Marks can be an important slot receiver for someone early in his career. Limited upside? Sure. But I think he has a high floor. Mid rounder, maybe he sneaks in to the end of round 3 if he runs well.

Other Notables:

#21 WR River Cracraft – 6’0/200
#73 OG Eduardo Middleton – 6’5/318
#18 Shalom Luani – 6’0/205

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BOISE STATE

*#13 RB Jeremy McNichols – 5’9/215

Undeclared junior. Doak Walker Award semifinalist. Has had a ton of touches and production over the past two seasons since taking over for Jay Ajayi. I think he will come out. This kid is yoked from head to toe. Very well put together that won’t go down on initial contact but also showed speed to run away from defensive backs in space. Good vision and anticipation. Might be one of the best blockers AND receivers among this RB group. He is an every down guy that can handle the NFL speed and power day one. I see a day 2 pick here.

#73 OG Travis Averill – 6’3/295

Fifth year senior and three year starter. 1st Team All Mountain west in 2016. Really athletic guard that can dominate on the move at the second level. Zone blocking schemes are going to really like this kid. Plays with a low center of gravity and good hand placement. He was consistently impressive, but not dominant, in every game I saw. 5th-6th rounder.

#82 WR Jordan Sperbeck – 6’0/180

Fourth year senior. Two time 1st Team All Mountain West Conference and Boise State’s all time leading receiver. Lines up in the slot and outside. Very savvy mover in and out of his breaks than can quickly react to what the defense is showing and find the windows. Averaged over 16 yards over his career. Makes difficult catches appear routine. He has sneaky speed and agility. Early day three guy.

Other Notables:

#66 OG Mario Yakoo – 6’4/326
#51 LB Ben Weaver – 6’1/224
#49 K Tyler Rousa – 5’9/189

BAYLOR

*#9 WR KD Cannon – 6’0/180

Third year junior that was a blue chip recruit out of high school. Had a very strong first two seasons but didn’t take the step up I thought he would once Coleman left. Cannon has elite speed, likely a sub 4.4 guy. He had 5 games of a 50+ yard catch thus year alone. Definitely a guy that grabs the attention of defensive backs. I he comes out he is a 5th rounder type but big time speed has a way of getting guys bumped up a round or two.

#55 C Kyle Fuller – 6’5/315

Fourth year senior. This will be Fuller’s 39th straight start, the anchor of the Baylor offensive line. He’s been responsible for all the line calls and directing traffic in the pass-happy offensive scheme. He doesn’t move particularly well against quicker pass rushers and struggles to adjust his weight when they force him to react. He’ll be sought after late in the draft for a team looking for an interior backup.

#28 S Orion Stewart – 6’2/205

Fifth year senior. One of the best safeties in the Big 12 over the past three years. Initially it’s easy to really like Stewart, a guy with size, speed, and a physical nature. He can run downfield with fast receivers and pop a ball carrier coming across the middle. The more you watch him though, the more you notice he has issues tracking the ball and even more issues tackling in space. He seems hesitant and lacking instincts. The tools and production will get him drafted late. He could be a factor on special teams early on.

Other Notables:

#7 WR Lynx Hawthorne – 6’0/195
#20 LB Aiavion Edwards – 6’1/220
#9 CB Ryan Reid – 5’11/190