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

Dec 262016
 
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Harold Landry, Boston College Eagles (November 26, 2016)

Harold Landry (#7) – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2017 NFL Draft Prospects: December 26, 2016 Bowl Games

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

MIAMI (OH)

#6 WR Rokeem Williams – 6’1/198

Fifth year senior. Nephew of former NFL WR Troy Brown. Big play guy, has averaged 20+ yards per catch over the past three seasons. Straight line athlete that will get a second look from teams if he can run a sub 4.45, which most expect. This will be my first look at him.

Other Notables:

#91 DE JT Jones – 6’3/246

MISSISSIPPI STATE

#8 WR Fred Ross – 6’2/205

Fourth year senior. One of the best WRs in school history. 1st Team All SEC in 2015, 2nd Team in 2016. Smooth route runner that gets in and out of cuts very well for a guy with his length. His hands are inconsistent, double catches a lot of balls and had a case of the drops throughout this season. He isn’t very physical, won’t do a ton to break tackles. Ross is a mid rounder that can likely contribute early on.

#58 OT Justin Senior – 6’5/305

Fourth year senior, three year starter primarily at RT. His future may be inside at the next level, just not a guy that looks good when he is sliding out to the edge. Senior has really good hands though, good technique and a powerful bunch. I think he gets drafted late. Higher upside at OG than OT.

#11 S Kivon Coleman – 6’3/205

Fourth year senior and two year starter. Coverage-savvy defensive back with good hips to turn and run against deep speed. Quick to diagnose, plays the game with his eyes and reacts quickly. Not the most physical guy but will stick his hat in the mix against downhill ball carriers. Late rounder based on being reliable on the back end and some nice tools to work with.

#88 DT Nick James – 6’4/325

Fifth year senior with some off field baggage that needs to be looked in to. Was arrested in August, but was never prosecuted. Lacks production but this is a guy that deserves another look from teams. He is a big body that moves very well. Does a lot of the dirty work inside and can be a handful for interior blockers. Big time weight room guy that has tools. Late rounder.

Other Notables:

#60 C Jamaal Clayborn – 6’4/320

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

MARYLAND

Other Notables:

#76 OT Michael Dunn – 6’5/300
#19 WR Teldrick Morgan – 6’0/190
#27 CB Alvin Hill – 6’0/200

BOSTON COLLEGE

*#7 DE Harold Landry – 6’3/250

Junior that hasn’t declared yet, if I had to guess I’d say he will be in this draft class. Landry has a legit shot at round 1 if he does. Probably best suited for the 3-4 OLB role, Landry is one of those short area burst guys that can beat anyone off the edge but also has a level of lower body balance and power that can be hard to find. He isn’t just fast in space, he is strong and quick in a phone booth. His pass rush moves have evolved and it showed, as he led the nation in sacks this year with 15. Every down defender that I could see going as high as the top 10 overall if he works out well.

#9 S John Johnson – S – 6’0/204

Fourth year senior, two year starter. A few initial looks at Johnson and you won’t see anything eye popping. But you really have to see him play more than a few times to appreciate all he can do for a defense. He has starts at S and CB in addition to seeing some time at LB. Very good special teams defender. Johnson is a fluid player that reacts well, reads the QB well, and will forecast correctly often. Smart and reliable guy to have on your back end. He’ll play at the Senior Bowl and could see him drafted on day 2.

#28 Matt Milano – 6’1/220

Two year starter that played a role that created production. His stats may inflate him a tad but he is still a solid three down defender that can do a few things for a defense. Fast to react, tough and hard nosed, Milano is a nice weak side fit for most teams. He can track the back side well and he’ll make the plays when he’s there. Maybe limited but still a guy that most teams will want towards the end of the draft.

Other Notables:

#36 FB Bobby Wolford – 6’2/248
#93 DE Kevin Kavalec – 6’2/260
#97 Truman Gutapfel – 6’3/288

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

NC STATE

#21 RB Matthew Dayes – 5’9/203

Fourth year senior. Has led the team in rushing each of the past two years. Very well balanced runner with a strong stout frame. Has more speed in the open field than you think, can run away from guys. Can also wiggle his way out of a tackle. Very good pass catcher, very good blocker. Dayes does everything well, but won’t stand out in any lone aspect. Most will say 5th-6th round, but I think he deserves a 3rd-4th round grade.

#66 C Joe Scelfo – 6’1/295

Fifth year senior, graduate transfer from South Alabama. Had a nice career there and proved he could perform at a high level in the ACC. Faced some big time competition this year and did well. Scelfo is very good on the move, excels as a run blocker in space and lateral mover. He isn’t very big or powerful, thus has a hard time with the bigger bull rushers when he is one on one. Maybe not a starter in the league but I think he can stick somewhere. Late rounder.

Other Notables:

#29 CB Jack Tocho – 6’0/200

VANDERBILT

#74 OT Will Holden – 6’7/314

Fifth year senior, three years of starting experience, two of which at left tackle. 2nd Team All SEC in 2016. Not a household name here but if you watch him 3 times, you realize he doesn’t get beat often in the SEC. He wins most of his one on one battles against both speed and power. Very smart, very sound technique. His athletic ability and power don’t stand out, but he consistently gets the job done. I’d be comfortable with him as a backup tackle with the potential of him evolving in to a starter. 4th or 5th rounder.

*#41 LB Zach Cunningham – 6’4/230

Fourth year junior that hasn’t declared yet, most are assuming he will enter the draft. Unanimous All American and 1st Team all SEC after leading the conference in tackles. I don’t see the star in him as I do with the other SEC linebackers in this class. He is very long and lean and doesn’t always have the body control I want to see when in traffic. What he does have is big time speed and versatility. He may be faster than some WRs in this class and he knows how to use it. Cunningham makes tackles all over the field and if he can find the right role, he can be an important piece to a good defense. In the same breath I could see him really struggling if he’s put in to the wrong role. Likely a day 2 guy.

Other Notables:

#4 CB Torren McGaster
#69 DT Adam Butler – 6’5/295

Dec 242016
 
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New York Giants Offense (December 22, 2016)

New York Giants Offense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles 24 – New York Giants 19

Overview

Three bad calls may have changed the outcome of this game. But the greater reality is that the New York Giants simply did not play well enough on offense, defense, and special teams to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants did not match the Eagles early intensity and it cost them dearly as they found themselves in a quick 14-0 hole that ultimately proved too difficult to overcome. Interceptions, shoddy pass protection, dropped passes, missed tackles/sacks, and an anemic return game all contributed to the loss.

The good news? With Tampa Bay’s 31-24 loss to New Orleans, the 10-5 New York Giants are now officially in the playoffs. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Giants on Offense

The statistics for this game are very telling. But ultimately it is the final number on the scoreboard that continues to be the major problem. The Giants are simply not scoring enough. They haven’t reached the 30-point plateau all season. In the last four games, the Giants have scored 14, 10, 17, and 19 points. They are struggling to score more than ONE touchdown per game.

The Giants ran 88 offensive plays, were 10-of-22 on 3rd down (45 percent), had a season-high 24 first downs, and held the ball for over 34 minutes. When a team surpasses the 70-play mark, they usually win. But the Giants turned the ball over three times, including one for a defensive score. And the Giants were a pathetic 1-of-5 (20 percent) in the red zone. While the Giants generated an impressive season-high 470 total net yards, 63 of their 88 offensive plays were pass plays despite the fact that the Giants averaged 4.6 yards per rush.

Five scoring drives sounds like a lot. But in 12 offensive possessions, the Giants scored only one touchdown. Four other forays into the red zone resulted in only 12 points. There were three interceptions, one turnover on downs, and three punts. The Giants had five plays of 20 yards or more, but none longer than 33 yards. Remarkably, the Giants were only penalized twice on offense despite running almost 90 offensive snaps.

Quarterback

I’ve talked in recent weeks about the Giants playing it safer with more of a 50/50 run-pass ratio, allowing Eli Manning to become more of “game manager.” For whatever reason – perhaps the quick 14-0 and later 21-6 deficits – the Giants got away from that formula on Thursday night. Manning threw the ball an astounding, team-record 63 times (completing 38) and had his highest yardage game (356) since he passed the 400-yard mark in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens. But the aggressiveness came with increased risk which cost the Giants dearly as Eli threw three very bad interceptions, including one inexplicable throw into double-coverage that was returned for a touchdown. After the game, Eagles defenders boasted they rattled and confused Manning, and it is hard to argue against those damning claims.

We can point to good and bad throws, but ultimately you simply are not going to win games when one side of the ledger (one touchdown pass) is “balanced” with three interceptions and one defensive score. Eli was bad Thursday night and he was perhaps the major reason the Giants lost the game. Ben McAdoo was pretty blunt about it: “We need some more accurate throws, some better decision making… (on the first interception, it) looked like (Eli) may have been blind and if you’re blind you can’t pull the trigger there. We’d like to see him eat the ball there… The second interception there, he under threw it a little bit, needed to get a little bit more air under it. We’ll have to sit down and talk about the decision but he under threw it.” If Manning does not start playing smarter and tougher with better execution, the Giants are not going anywhere.

Running Backs

One of the tragedies of the game was that the Giants had one of their more productive ground games of the season, and the numbers would have been much higher had the run-pass ratio not been so out of whack. Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings carried the ball 24 times for 112 yards – an impressive 4.7 yards per carry. It looks like Perkins (15 carries for 68 yards) is starting to finally move ahead of Jennings (9 carries for 44 yards) even though Rashad was still on the field a bit more (41 snaps to Perkins’ 34 snaps). The Giants had a couple of longer runs with a 20-yarder by Perkins and a 19-yarder by Jennings. However, the passing plays to the backs were not productive. Jennings and Perkins caught 5-of-7 targets for a grand total of 16 yards. Bobby Rainey caught one pass for 13 yards on the last desperate drive, but he also dropped a pass.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham (11 catches for 150 yards), Victor Cruz (8 catches for 84 yards), and Sterling Shepard (7 catches for 61 yards) combined for 26 catches (season-high) for 295 yards. That’s the kind of productivity the Giants envisioned from these three before the season started. In fact, the catch totals were season-high numbers for both Beckham and Cruz (and Cruz’s first game with more than one catch since before the bye). But what should not be lost in those numbers are 18 other targets in the direction of those three that fell incomplete, some due to dropped passes by each receiver. Beckham claimed after the game that Manning’s deep shot into the end zone right before the final interception was a well-thrown pass, but he did not accelerate like he should have to get it. That said, the officials were letting Eagles defenders often mug the Giants receivers, including on a potentially decisive 4th-and-6 play to Shepard late in the game. The Giants threw the ball 63 times, but the Eagles were never flagged with defensive holding or pass interference. Ben McAdoo was a bit critical of the run blocking on the perimeter. Roger Lewis saw 22 snaps but only had one deep pass thrown his way.

Tight Ends

Manning and the Giants targeted Will Tye more this week. Eight times Manning threw in Tye’s direction, completing five for only 23 yards (4.6 yards per catch). But two of those throws ended in disaster, including the first interception that returned for a touchdown and the last interception where Tye did not do enough to fight for the ball. Jerell Adams caught one pass for nine yards. That said, this was the most Adams has played this year with 40 snaps as the Giants are beginning to employ more and more two-tight end formations. Adams had some issues blocking DE Brandon Graham.

Offensive Line

The numbers look good. The Giants averaged 4.6 yards per run as the line opened up some very good holes for Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings. Eli Manning was not sacked. However, Manning was officially hit a far, far too high 10 times and was under duress more than that, including when the Eagles were only rushing three. The right side of the offensive line – RT Bobby Hart and RG John Jerry – probably had their worst game of the season. DE Brandon Graham gave Hart fits all night. Officially, Graham had four QB hits on Manning, but it seemed like more than that. Jerry had his hands full with Pro Bowl DT Fletcher Cox and was flagged with a killer false start penalty on 4th-and-1 right before the 4th-and-6 incomplete pass. Justin Pugh struggled in pass protection in the second half. He was also flagged with a 10-yard holding penalty. LT Ereck Flowers held up well for the most part but did allow a pressure on the last play where Eli was intercepted.

Giants on Defense

Many will argue that the defense did enough to win this game, as they only allowed 17 points, 15 first downs, and 286 total net yards (including only 168 net yards passing). The Eagles were 4-of-12 (33 percent) on 3rd down, 0-of-1 on 4th down, and 0-of-1 in the red zone. The Eagles did not pick up one first down on six offensive possessions. The defense was sabotaged by two very questionable personal foul penalties.

But… the Eagles had two touchdown long touchdown drives (78 and 75 yards) in the first half, including the Eagles first possession where the Giants defense looked like it was sleep-walking. (This is the fifth time this year the defense has surrendered a TD on the opening drive). Another drive in the second half gained 73 yards before the Giants held with a goal line stand. While the Eagles only reached the red zone once, their two longest plays of the night were touchdowns – a 40-yard pass and 25-yard run. The Giants defense did not accrue a sack and was credited with only three quarterback hits. There were far too many missed tackles and sack opportunities. And the Eagles rushed for 118 yards, including 27 frustrating yards by the quarterback Carson Wentz.

Defensive Line

A frustrating night for the defensive line. The Giants held feature back Ryan Mathews to 46 yards on 18 carries (2.6 yards per carry). But 17 of those 46 yards came on the first play of the Eagles first touchdown drive. The always-dangerous Darren Sproles carried the ball only seven times. Six of those runs only gained 15 yards. But his far-to-easy 25-yard touchdown put the Eagles on top early. The bigger frustration was line’s inability to bring quarterback Carson Wentz down. Wentz avoided negative plays by avoiding sacks and turning those potential killer losses into positive scrambles, completions, or throwing the ball away. Wentz scrambled for nine yards on the opening touchdown drive, eight yards (with an added 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty) on the second touchdown drive, and an 11-yard gain on the field goal drive. Giants defensive ends only combined for a total of six tackles, one tackle for a 6-yard loss (by Olivier Vernon), and two quarterback hits. The defensive tackles only accrued three tackles.

Vernon played the run extremely well. But one would have to say that both Eagles offensive tackles did a fine job with Vernon and Romeo Okwara in pass protection. The 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on an incomplete 3rd-and-14 pass on Vernon was highly questionable. Okwara (50 snaps) received the bulk of the playing time over Kerry Wynn (5 snaps) and Owa Odighizuwa (2 snaps). Wynn combined with Devon Kennard to stuff Mathews on 4th-and-goal. Inside, reserve Jay Bromley (16 snaps) saw more playing time than Robert Thomas (3 snaps).

Linebackers

Like the defensive line, a frustrating night for the linebackers as most of the damage on the ground amounted to two running plays for 42 yards (the other 23 carries by backs picked up 44 yards) and three Carson Wentz scrambles for 28 yards. Pass coverage on the tight ends was far better than it was in the first match-up when the Giants gave up 152 yards receiving to the tight ends alone. This time, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, and Trey Burton caught six passes for 63 yards. Mathews and Sproles caught thee passes for 39 yards.

Jonathan Casillas (knee) and Keenan Robinson (shoulder) came into the game banged up and they played less than normal as Casillas was on the field for 34 snaps and Robinson 29 snaps. Kelvin Shepard actually played more than any linebacker with 44 snaps, followed by Devon Kennard with 35 snaps. Once again, big plays were lacking as the unit as a whole was credited with just 11 tackles and one pass defense. Casillas had a chance at a pick but couldn’t make the play. Kennard helped to stuff that play on the goal line.

Defensive Backs

Minus Janoris Jenkins, the secondary held up incredibly well aside from one major exception. Unbelievably, Eagles receivers only caught five passes for 66 yards. It would have been a virtually perfect coverage performance had it not been for the 40-yard touchdown by Nelson Agholor. Apple was closest to Agholor and may have been distracted by the very questionable 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the previous play. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie shut out his opponent all night and finished with an interception and two passes defensed. Trevin Wade was the primary nickel corner and may have played the best game of his Giants career, including a key tackle of Darren Sproles short of the sticks on 3rd down and an expertly-defended deep pass late in the game. Safety Landon Collins led the team with nine tackles and two tackles for losses. Andrew Adams badly missed Darren Sproles on his 25-yard touchdown run. He did tackle Mathews for a 2-yard loss late in the 3rd quarter. Coty Sensabaugh only played 11 snaps, but he did have a tackle for a 3-yard loss and a QB hit off a blitz.

Giants on Special Teams

The good news was that Robbie Gould was a perfect 4-of-4 on field goal attempts with efforts from 35, 35, 29, and 41 yards. Brett Jones was flagged with a false start before one of these successful attempts. Four of Gould’s kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Two other kickoffs were only returned 19 yards apiece. Brad Wing punted three times, averaging 48.3 yards per punt with one kicked out of bounds at the 2-yard line. The always-dangerous Darren Sproles did not return a punt.

The bad news is the Giants could not get their own return game going. Dwayne Harris and Bobby Rainey returned four kickoffs for only 82 yards (20.5 yards per return). Harris returned three punts for -2 yards. Harris continues to make questionable decisions on his returns. He also fumbled a punt that was fortunately recovered by Trevin Wade.

(New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 22, 2016)
Dec 212016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 6, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 22, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
If the New York Giants beat the Philadelphia Eagles, the Giants will return to the playoffs for the first time in five years. If they lose, they can still get in this week if one of four other teams lose on this weekend.

The Eagles have lost five games in a row and are 5-9. But they are still playing hard and they always give the Giants trouble. It’s always a rough spot for the road team on Thursday night football, and the Giants are a bit banged up right now.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • OL Marshall Newhouse (shoulder) – probable
  • OL Will Beatty (lower leg) – probable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) – probable
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (knee) – questionable
  • LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder) – probable
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (back) – questionable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – out
  • LS Zak DeOssie (hamstring) – probable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Eagles are a very respectable 12th in defense (13th in points allowed). They are 17th against the run and 12th against the pass. Under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, they are well coached. The challenge for the Giants is blocking the guys up front. Fletcher Cox (6.5 sacks) is a disruptive player at defensive tackle and Philadelphia’s two ends – Connor Barwin (4 sacks) and Brandon Graham (5.5 sacks) – usually give the Giants fits. Philadelphia has good depth on the defensive line and will rotate their players frequently. The Eagles have 31 sacks on the season. Second-year middle linebacker Jordan Hicks is coming on and he has three interceptions.

The last time these two teams met in early November, the Giants offensive line did a decent job in pass protection but the Giants were only able to generate 58 yards rushing, averaging a paltry 2.6 yards per carry. The Eagles held the Giants to 16 first downs. The Giants only had two drives longer than 31 yards. But the defense helped to provide New York with good field position and Eli Manning threw four touchdown passes.

So the key question here is do the Giants continue to force-feed the running backs this week, like they did against the Cowboys or Lions? Or does Ben McAdoo worry about the Giants’ previous ground-game ineptitude against the Eagles and come out with a greater focus on the passing game? My guess is that McAdoo has decided to get this ground game going come hell or high water. While the point production hasn’t been there, the Giants have reduced their mistakes and become a more physical offense with the greater run emphasis. That doesn’t mean New York won’t take its shots to the wideouts. Odell Beckham (2), Sterling Shepard (1), and Roger Lewis (1) combined for four touchdowns in November. If Eli has time, the Giants have to like their match-ups against this secondary.

To me, offensively, this game really comes down to how well the Giants offensive line and tight ends can block the Eagles up front. Philadelphia has owned New York in recent years because the Giants get their asses kicked on the line. Ideally, the offensive front will build on its decent game against the Lions. Both tackles – especially Ereck Flowers – need to do a reasonable job. Fletcher Cox and Bernie Logan will also challenge the interior trio.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Eagles are currently 20th in offense (9th rushing, 24th passing). Their offensive line has been doing a very good job of run blocking, and Lane Johnson now returns to right tackle after a 10-game suspension. Running back Ryan Mathews has eight rushing touchdowns and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The mercurial Darren Sproles averages 4.7 yards per carry. The Eagles ran roughshod (169 yards) over what had been the NFL’s best run defense (Baltimore Ravens) last week. In the November match-up, the Eagles ran for about 100 yards and had two rushing touchdowns against the Giants.

The defensive focus is obvious: stop the run. Not only do the Giants have to be tough, stout, and physical up front, but they have to be disciplined as the Eagles will run the read-option (something New York did well against in November, but that was with Jason Pierre-Paul in the lineup). The Eagles will test Romeo Okwara, Kerry Wynn, and Owa Odighizuwa in run defense. They also know that Jonathan Casillas (knee) and Keenan Robinson (shoulder) are beat up.

Although the Giants defeated the Eagles in the first match-up, the defense did not have one of its better games. Two interceptions helped, but the defense gave up four plays of more than 30 yards and allowed five drives over 50 yards. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz threw for 364 yards. And the Eagles tight ends killed the Giants, accruing 152 receiving yards. While the Giants did a good job on Sproles in coverage, the Eagles are likely to test the Giants undercoverage again with a heavy dose of passing to the tight ends and Sproles. Keep in mind that the Giants two best cover linebackers are playing hurt.

The Giants match-up fairly well with the Eagles wide receivers. But the health situation of Janoris Jenkins is a concern. If he can’t go, the Eagles will likely target Coty Sensabaugh and Trevin Wade. Wentz has been up-and-down this year with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His favorite targets are wide receiver Jordan Matthews, tight end Zach Ertz, and Sproles.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Eagles are tough on special teams. In the first game, Darren Sproles returned one punt for 66 yards (his longest of the year) and was a shoe-string tackle away from an 81-yard score on that play. The Giants obviously have to do a better job of keeping him in check. The Eagles led the NFL in kickoff return average. Jason Pierre-Paul – who will miss this game – did block an Eagles field goal attempt. It will be fascinating to see how much the Giants use Odell Beckham at punt returner moving forward.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Philadelphia’s defensive line: “They play very well up front. There will be some carryover from the scheme we saw last week with Detroit. They play a lot of the wide nine, but they’re loaded up front. One of the best front fours in the game.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Having two division rivals play on Thursday night this late in the season is absurd. Despite the fact that the Giants are the better team, this is a tough spot for them as they will be the road team on a very short week with no real practice. The Giants have more to play for and this is definitely a very winnable game, but don’t be shocked to see the Eagles pull off the upset.

Dec 192016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 18, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 17 – Detroit Lions 6

Overview

This was an impressive win against one of the NFL’s better teams. It was a matter-of-fact, business-like effort that was reminiscent of the Giants teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The offense was unspectacular but efficient. The defense was smothering and opportunistic. Special teams helped the defense by pinning the Lions offense deep in their territory. There weren’t a ton of highlights, but at the end of the day, the Giants tallied yet another victory – their eighth in nine games.

Giants on Offense

Statistically, the offensive performance was not much better than the dreadful performance against the Cowboys as New York only accrued 17 points (up from 10), 17 first downs (up from 12), and 300 total net yards (up from 260), averaging 4.8 yards per offensive play. But the offense was far more efficient, being 7-of-15 (47 percent) on 3rd down conversions and 2-for-2 (100 percent) in red zone opportunities. And the Giants did not turn the ball over. Offensively, the New York was flagged just twice.

The big change in the last two weeks has been the commitment to the run. Last week, the Giants literally ran the ball on half of their offensive snaps. This week, 32 of New York’s 62 offensive snaps were running plays – or slightly MORE than half. Against the Cowboys, the Giants averaged 3.1 yards per rush. This weekend, they averaged 3.6 yards per rush. These are not good figures. But the commitment to the ground game is keeping opposing defenses honest, balancing the time of possession, providing more respite for the defense, and most importantly, reducing mistakes and risk. The offense may not be winning games, but it hasn’t been losing them either.

That all said, let us not lose sight of the fact that the offense is not carrying its fair share of the workload. Seventeen points is not enough. Punting the football away seven times in a game is far too much. The offense needs to do better.

The Giants had four pass plays over 20 yards but none over 29 yards. Their longest run was 11 yards.

Quarterback

This was a bit of a rebound performance for Eli Manning, who had not reached the 200-yard passing mark in the previous three games. While Manning barely surpassed that mark against the Lions (201 gross yards), he was efficient (20-of-28 or 71 percent completion percentage). Manning threw two touchdowns and no interceptions and finished with a 115.3 QB rating. Quarterbacks hate the description, but Eli “managed” the game, very similarly to Phil Simms in the later years of his career. Manning averaged 10 yards per completion.

Running Backs

For better or worse, Ben McAdoo and staff have decided to run the football and grind it out. Detractors will point to the scoreboard – only 27 total points in two games. Advocates will point to fewer killer mistakes and improved time of possession. Giants backs ran the ball 31 times for 105 yards (Odell Beckham had a 9-yard end around), averaging 3.4 yards per carry. That average was dragged down by Rashad Jennings, who only gained 38 yards on 18 carries (2.1 yards per carry). The far more productive player was Paul Perkins, who carried the ball 11 times for 56 yards (5.1 yards per carry). Shane Vereen also chipped in with 11 yards on two carries (5.5 yards per carry). The ground game was an important factor in all three scoring drives.

The backs were only targeted five times in the passing game for a total of two completions for 9 yards. The best passing play was a 25-yard screen pass on 3rd-and-12 where Vereen fumbled at the end of the play, the ball being recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by Victor Cruz. However, an illegal-use-of-hands penalty wiped out the play. Vereen has had ball security issues in his limited playing time this year.

Wide Receivers

Same story as most of the other contests. Odell Beckham remained the primary option with six catches of eight targets for 64 yards and a touchdown. Sterling Shepard was a bit more productive this week with four catches (targeted five times) for 56 yards and a touchdown. Victor Cruz got his one catch – this one on a perfectly-thrown pass from Eli Manning for 29 yards. Cruz hasn’t caught more than one pass in a game since before the bye week. It’s no coincidence that the Giants best passing plays came on their scoring drives:

  • 29-yard pass to Cruz and then 6-yard TD to Shepard.
  • 22-yard pass to Beckham on FG drive.
  • 25-yard pass to Beckham on 3rd-and-10, 23-yard pass to Shepard, and 4-yard TD to Beckham.

Beckham did drop a deep pass right before halftime that might have resulted in additional points. Shepard also dropped a pass.

Tight Ends

The tight ends were move involved this week with seven catches in eight targets. Will Tye caught four passes for 25 yards and Jerell Adams chipped in with three catches for 18 yards. Both averaged only about six yards per catch however. Tye was flagged for holding, but the penalty was erased with an offsetting penalty by the Lions. The blocking was decent.

Offensive Line

Justin Pugh returned to left guard after missing five games with a knee injury. The Giants ran for 114 yards on 32 attempts (3.6 yards per carry). Eli Manning was only officially hit three times, but two of those were sacks. The first sack occurred on a strange play where RT Bobby Hart let the left defensive end go and Pugh attempted to block him from across the formation. The whole thing looked like a mess. The second sack came when RDE Ezekiel Ansah beat LT Ereck Flowers to the inside. Flowers also gave up the other hit on Manning. Bobby Hart’s illegal-use-of-hands penalty did wipe a touchdown on the Giants field goal drive. Overall, this was a reasonably good performance.

Giants on Defense

Despite missing two of their best players (Jason Pierre-Paul and Janoris Jenkins), for the second week in a row, the New York Giants defense did a number on the opponent:

  • 6 points
  • 16 first downs
  • 324 total net yards (but 48 of those came in garbage time)
  • 56 yards rushing (13 of which came on QB scrambles)
  • 5-of-14 on third down (36 percent)
  • 0-of-3 in red zone opportunities with two turnovers

Detroit’s 11 offensive drives resulted in:

  • 2 field goals
  • 2 turnovers
  • 6 punts
  • end of the game

Aside from the two turnovers, there were not a lot of dramatic plays. The Giants were credited with only one sack, four QB hits, four tackles for losses, and five pass defenses. But the run defense was excellent and the secondary only gave up one big passing play. Detroit’s two longest drives (74 yards and 58 yards) resulted in end zone turnovers. Those turnovers were the difference in the game. And the Lions had come into the game with only seven interceptions and three fumbles lost all year. Also keep in mind that the Lions are the NFL’s comeback kings this year, winning eight come-from-behind games in the 4th quarter. Not this time.

Defensive Line

The Giants controlled the line of scrimmage, limiting the Lions to 56 yards rushing on 19 carries (2.9 yards per rush). Ironically, Detroit’s best run of the game was their first play which picked up 12 yards. The Lions only attempted to run the ball seven times (not counting one scramble) in the second half as they recognized the futility of doing so. The pass rush was a bit better than the stats reveal. The Giants were only credited with one sack and four QB hits. However, Matthew Stafford was forced to escape the pocket a number of times. As expected, Oliver Vernon led the way with 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB hits, and the fumble recovery in the end zone that prevented a touchdown. Damon Harrison (4 tackles) and Johnathan Hankins (5 tackles, 0.5 sacks) were rocks in the middle. Romeo Okwara (2 tackles) was not as noticeable this week. Kerry Wynn was flagged with a late roughing-the-passer penalty.

Linebackers

It was a pretty nondescript game for the linebacking corps as Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, B.J. Goodson, Kelvin Sheppard, and Keenan Robinson were only credited with 10 total tackles. Casillas had one tackle for a loss and Kennard one quarterback hit. Coverage was decent as tight end Eric Ebron was limited to four catches for 36 yards. And not counting one late 33-yard garbage-time catch, the backs were held to five catches for 28 yards.

Defensive Backs

While not perfect, the Giants did a good job on a potentially-dangerous passing attack despite Janoris Jenkins missing the bulk of the game with a back injury. Three Lions receivers caught a total of 14 passes (in 22 targets) for 176 yards. But 67 of those yards came on one play, when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) was beat deep by WR Golden Tate. However, give DRC credit for chasing down Tate at the 11-yard line and saving a touchdown as the Lions fumbled the ball away on the next snap. DRC finished the game with a team-high three pass defenses and a game-sealing interception in the end zone late in the 4th quarter.

Eli Apple played every snap and also saved a touchdown with his sole breakup in the end zone. DRC and Apple combined for 14 tackles, including two tackles for losses by Apple after short throws. Eli was flagged with a defensive holding penalty on a 3rd-and-9 incomplete pass that kept a field-goal drive alive. He also gave up a 21-yard completion on 3rd-and-7 to WR Marvin Jones despite very tight coverage. CB/S Leon Hall saved a touchdown with his forced fumble that was recovered in the end zone by the Giants. Coty Sensabaugh and Trevin Wade both received more playing time than normal (25 snaps each) with Jenkins out. Landon Collins had a team-high eight tackles. He was flagged with a 6-yard pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-3. Collins made a strong tackle on TE Eric Ebron after a 1-yard catch on 3rd-and-2 to force a punt late in the 3rd quarter.

Giants on Special Teams

The Detroit Lions have one of the strongest special teams units in the NFL and the Giants held serve in this department. The negative was the partially-blocked punt that traveled only 18 yards with Jonathan Casillas missing his man. Thankfully that did not lead to any points for Detroit. Brad Wing has been very busy this year. He punted the ball seven more times on Sunday, averaging 42.6 yards per punt (41 yards net) despite the block. For the second week in a row, two of his punts were downed inside the 5-yard line. That was huge.

Robbie Gould nailed his 47-yard field goal attempt. One of his four kickoffs resulted in a touchback, but another was ruled out-of-bounds at the start of the second half and contributed to Detroit’s second field goal drive because of the outstanding field position it provided.

Dangerous returner Andre Roberts was limited to 32 yards on two kickoff returns and 11 yards on four punt returns. That was huge as well. There was a big hit by Kerry Wynn on one kickoff return.

Dwayne Harris returned one kickoff 23 yards and two punts 19 yards. Odell Beckham returned two punts and had a spectacular 63-yard touchdown return called back due to a blatant and unnecessary illegal block by safety Eric Pinkins.

(Detroit Lions at New York Giants, December 18, 2016)
Dec 172016
 
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Elijah McGuire, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns (November 19, 2016)

Elijah McGuire – © USA TODAY Sports Images

2017 NFL Draft Prospects: December 17, 2016 Bowl Games

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

HOUSTON

#1 QB Greg Ward Jr – 5’11/190

Three year starter with 27 winds under his belt. Had a very solid dual-threat career, completing 67+% of his passes three straight seasons. He will make a move to WR or RB at the next level. Very shift and savvy ball carrier that can add some bulk to his frame and be a threat in the open field. He will likely get drafted in the final round.

#94 DE Cameron Malveuax – 6’6/270

Fifth year senior and two year starter. Dirty work-type guy with tools. Will be attractive to teams looking to develop a 3-4 DE, as he is a guy that will be able to add 20 pounds to his frame. Plays a physical, tough brand but won’t be the play-making type. Late rounder at best.

#26 CB Brandon Wilson– 5’11/200

Fifth year senior, three year starter. Actually has seen starts at CB and RB over the past two years in addition to be a dangerous kick returner. There is a chance some teams see him as a RB at the next level. He isn’t the most fluid ball skill guy and will struggle in downfield coverage. He has a physical style to him though, risky type that will take chances. I like him as a late rounder, you can do a few things with him. In the era of short rosters, he has game-day versatility.

Other Notables:

#51 LB Steven Taylor– 6’1/225
#81 LB Tyler Bowser– 6’2/340

SAN DIEGO STATE

#56 OG Nico Siragusa – 6’5/330

Fifth year senior and three year starter. 1st Team All Muntain West 2 straight years. Some call him the best OL in school history. Has played both guard spots but primarily on the left side. Road grader type that gets off the snap well and will win a lot of one on one battles. He can handle big guys in the NFL right away. Doesn’t have the foot quickness to be a factor in space against linebackers. Needs better balance and body control on the move. 3rd-5th rounder is where I would peg him now.

#19 RB Donnel Pumphrey – 5’8/180

Record setting all purpose back. His name was thrown in to the Heisman discussion about mid-way through the year. Doak Walker Award finalist. Currently the #2 career rusher in NCAA history, behind only Ron Dayne. Anyone that rushes for over 6,000 yards in 4 years needs to be looked at. He doesn’t carry a ton of weight, he won’t break tackles, and his presence as a tackler is minimal. However I think there is some Dexter McCluster in him and he could find a spot somewhere in the league as a rotational back and return man. 5th or 6th round,

#23 CB Damontae Kazee – 5’11/190

2015 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and many consider him the favorite to win it in 2016. 40+ career starts and 15 IN Ts over the past two seasons despite teams often trying to throw away from him. Kazee is very physical, very aggressive. He shows no hesitation in going after ball carrier and fullbacks alike. I didn’t get to see him challenged in coverage that much yet. He really does have shut-down potential because of his speed and playing strength. He is smart, experienced, quick reactions. He is a darkhorse for a guy that could creep up in to that 1st/2nd row area.

Other Notables:

#75 OT Miller, Kwayde – OT – 6’7/315
#71 OT Brunskill, Daniel – OT – 6’5/265
#54 OLB Munson, Calvin – 6’1/245
#58 DE Barrett, Alex – 6’3/258
#12 S Smith, Malik – 6’0/190

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APPALACHIAN STATE

#75 C Parker Collins– 6’2/295

One of my favorite centers to watch this year. I don’t think he is the top guy in the class but he plays really hard and will make an impact in the league. I see an eventual starter here if he can add some bulk and strength. Three year starter with experience at OG and C, his future will likely be at C. He is one of the better ones in this class when it comes to blocking on the move at he second level. Real competitor here. Late rounder that will be very attractive to teams that move their centers laterally often.

#14 RB Marcus Cox– 5’10/205

Downhill slasher that will shoot upfield when the lanes are there. He has some explosion and violence to him that will get him to break tackles and gains yard after contact, something I always look for. Pretty good receiver out of the backfield. He didn’t do well in limited pass blocking opportunities from what I saw but I would need to see more before I put a negative label there. Late rounder.

Other Notables:

#6 LB Gilchrist, Kennan – 6’2/225
#3 S Gray, Alex – 6’3/225

TOLEDO

#3 RB Kareem Hunt – 6’0/225

Four year starter that has had a very long, productive career. He has gained nearly 5,000 career total yards, averaging over 6 yards per carry. Hunt isn’t very shifty or fast, but he has a good downhill approach with a low pad level and consistent ability to break tackle and fall forward. He has shown more versatility this year with soft hands out of the backfield and quality pass blocking. Reminds me of NYG RB Rashad Jennings coming out of Liberty. 5th-6th rounder.

#91 DT Treyvon Hester – 6’3/300

Fifth year senior, three year starter. Really quick and active interior guy that will get in on a lot of action. Moves well in traffic, shows a natural flow to the ball. He isn’t a very stout guy but he does play strong and powerful.. Violent player that could do well on an attacking, aggressive defense. 5th-6th rounder.

Other Notables:

#23 S Rogers, DeJuan – 6’0/190

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UCF

#10 CB Shaquill Griffin – 6’1/200

I’ve only seen him once this year but he fits the mold of tall, long, fast corners that a lot of teams are searching for right now. He showed me that he can turn and run with legit speed as well as make plays on the ball. He is a physical, aggressive guy. I want to see more but he is someone that can shoot up the board in the coming months. 25 pass break ups over the past two years.

Other Notables:

#21 S Drico Johnson – 6’2/205
#24 CB DJ Killings – 6’0/185

ARKANSAS STATE

#93 DE Chris Odom – 6’3/255

Son of former NFL linebacker Cliff Odom, a 13 year veteran. Tools are there, teams will like the height/weight/speed combination and he put together a 12.5 sack season this year. Odom bends well off the snap and turns the edge, does a lot of little things right. Scouts and coaches alike are always intrigued by prospects with NFL in their blood. I think he will test well and some will see a high ceiling edge rusher here. Potentially a 4th or 5th rounder.

Other Notables:

#55 LB Xavier Woodson-Luster – 6’1/207
#94 DT Waylon Roberson – 6’1/342

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

SOUTHERN MISS

#9 QB Nick Mullens – 6’1/200

Accurate thrower that has started for four years. Didn’t have the 2016 some of us thought he would, could even say he took a step back. 90+% of his snaps came from the shotgun and he wasn’t forced to make multiple reads pre and post snap. Will need a lot of development. He protects the ball well and will fit the ball in to tight windows. Does a nice job of timing his throws and anticipating lanes. Just doesn’t have the measurables or arm power that some want to see.

Other Notables:

#70 C Cameron Tom, 6’2/287
#12 LB D’Nerius Antoine – 6’1/215

UL LAFAYETTE

#15 RB Elijah McGuire – 5’11/215

Top prospect in the game. Will leave school as their all time career yards leader by a long shot. Dual-threat type that averaged 35 catches per season since 2014. He’s put on about 25 pounds over the past three years and I think the best is yet to come with him. He truly is an every down threat and I would say his hands out of the backfield are among the best in the class. I haven’t seen him tested much as a blocker just yet, so that will factor in to his grade but when we are talking about what he can do with the ball, he excites me. Versatility and high ceiling type.

Other Notables:

#7 LB Otha Peters 6’2/228

Dec 162016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 6, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Detroit Lions at New York Giants, December 18, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
At 9-4, the New York Giants are close to finally returning to the playoffs. But they are not there yet and they can still screw this up. This is a dangerous game for the Giants. Sunday’s contest against the Detroit Lions is sandwiched between two division games, with the following game against the arch-rival Philadelphia Eagles coming four days later on Thursday night. After the Giants biggest win of the season thus far, will New York suffer an emotional letdown against the first-place, 9-4 Detroit Lions?

Amazingly, eight of Detroit’s nine wins have been 4th-quarter comebacks. If the game is close, the Lions believe they will pull out the win.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Shane Vereen (concussion) – questionable
  • OG Justin Pugh (knee) – probable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) – probable
  • DT Johnathan Hankins (shoulder) – probable
  • LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder) – questionable
  • LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) – probable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – questionable
  • LS Zak DeOssie (hamstring) – probable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
It’s bad and getting worse. The Giants are now down to 27th in offense in terms of yards and 25th in terms of scoring. Eli Manning hasn’t topped the 200-yard passing mark in the last three games. The last time he threw for more than 260 yards was on October 16th against the Ravens. Victor Cruz has caught FOUR passes since the bye week. The starting tight end – Will Tye – hasn’t caught more than two passes in a game the last four contests. The Giants are 30th in the NFL in rushing (both yards per game and rushing average).

Enter the Detroit Lions, who are middle-of-the-pack in yardage allowed (15th) but 10th overall in scoring defense (20.6). “Last seven ballgames, they’ve given up about 16 points and have caused 10 turnovers,” said Ben McAdoo. “It starts upfront. They’ll try and squeeze you. They play the wide-nine as they try and play with width and work hard up the field. Try and get to the quarterback first and play everything else along the way. Their secondary and the linebackers are doing a nice job playing to the front. They’re well-coordinated.”

In Detroit’s 4-3 defense, the players to watch up front are DE Ezekiel Ansah, ex-Raven DT Haloti Ngata, and DE Kerry Hyder. Ansah is the primary pass-rushing threat even though he has no sacks thus far this year (14.5 in 2015). Hyder is a player who has come out of nowhere to lead the Lions in sacks with eight. So both Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart will be under the spotlight once again. Ngata is on the downside of his career but he can still present problems. What will be interesting to see is how effective left guard Justin Pugh will be coming off of a knee injury that caused him to miss the last five games. Middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead leads the team in tackles (107) and Darius Slay is developing into one of the NFL’s better cornerbacks. Linebacker DeAndre Levy has missed most of the season due to injury but is getting healthy again. He’s strong in coverage. [LATE NOTE: Ansah (shoulder), Slay (hamstring), and Levy (knee) are “questionable” for the game.]

Weather may be an issue again on Sunday with rain in the forecast. Through 13 games, the Giants are averaging 3.4 yards per rush. The Lions have allowed 4.3 yards per rush. With Eli struggling and the defense peaking, I would not be shocked to see McAdoo make a big commitment to the run on Sunday. But in the end, the Giants will be what they have been – the Manning-to-Odell Beckham show. If that duo can click, the Giants will move the ball and score. If they struggle to connect, the offense will be dead in the water. It would be nice to say the Giants can diversify their passing game, but they have proven incapable of doing so. At some point, the coaches have to decide whether Victor Cruz – who is struggling to separate – is helping or hurting the offense. I’d be tempted to get a more vertical threat such as Roger Lewis more playing time.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants defense is coming off its best game and the team is now 7th in scoring defense (18.8 points per game). But with the Giants offense struggling and a diverse passing offense coming to town, the Giants defense can’t afford to let the positive press go to their heads. Jason Pierre-Paul is still out.

Statistically, the Lions are just 21st in the NFL in yards per game and 17th in scoring (22.7 points per game). But quarterback Matthew Stafford is having a tremendous season with a 22-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio and completing 66.7 percent of his passes. Stafford has five targets with over 42 receptions, including WR Golden Tate (71 catches, 3 touchdowns), ageless slot WR Anquan Boldin (55 catches, 7 touchdowns), RB Theo Riddick (53 catches, 5 receiving touchdowns), WR Marvin Jones (46 catches, 4 touchdowns), and TE Eric Ebron (43 catches, 1 touchdown). There is no one target to concentrate on.

The Lions do not run the ball well. They are 29th in rushing (25th in yards-per-rush with 3.8 yards per carry). Detroit only has four rushing touchdowns and Riddick leads the team with just 357 rushing yards. Obviously, the Giants don’t want to allow the Lions to get their ground game going on Sunday (especially if the weather is bad), but the defensive focus will be more on the 13th-ranked passing game.

The Giants have to feel good about their cornerback match-ups on Tate, Boldin, and Jones. An interesting battle will be Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs. Boldin – these two played together with the Cardinals. Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple will likely cover Tate and Jones most of the time. The issue will probably be covering Riddick and Ebron as receivers. (LATE UPDATE- Riddick is “doubtful” with a wrist injury and Ebron is “questionable” with a knee injury). Ebron is having a decent year and the Giants have a way of making opposing tight ends look like superstars. So pass coverage by Landon Collins, Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson (who has a shoulder issue), and Devon Kennard will be key. My guess is we don’t see a lot of Kelvin Sheppard this week.

One variable to keep an eye on is that Stafford has a significant injury to the middle finger of his throwing hand. He played with it last Sunday and fully practiced this week, but it could be a factor, especially if the ball is wet. The Lions have only turned the football over 10 times this year (7 interceptions and 3 fumbles). Also, DE Olivier Vernon will be facing rookie left tackle Taylor Decker.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Detroit Lions are very good on special teams across the board. They are top-10 in both punt and kickoff coverage. The punter and kicker are having fine seasons. Andre Roberts has returned two punts for touchdowns this year and is averaging over 14 yards per punt return. He also returns kickoffs.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Detroit’s offensive weapons: “They’re all players that would probably be featured in other places. With the collection of guys they have, they have a pretty unique group and a guy that’s pretty special delivering the ball. Marvin Jones, we looked at him as a free agent. He’s a very talented player. He doesn’t just go long; he can really stick his foot in the ground and separate. (Anquan) Boldin is tough playing inside. He’s a completion waiting to happen. (Golden) Tate can do a lot of different things for you, short, deep, in the backfield, whatever the case may be. (Theo) Riddick is a guy that is a matchup challenge coming out of the backfield getting screens and burst routes. He can run away a little bit. (Eric) Ebron is a young, developing player. He’s a big target and can run down the middle of the field. Put the fear in two-deep coverage.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Historically-speaking, this is the type of game the Giants would lose… coming off of an emotional divisional win, now facing a non-division opponent with another division game on the horizon. It will be interesting to see if a Ben McAdoo-coached team suffers a letdown in this spot. The Lions are a well-coached team with a solid defense, diverse passing game, and very good special teams. This game will be close. And the new Cardiac Kids in Detroit believe they will win the close game. The difference maker in this contest could be returner Andre Roberts.