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

Shane Ray – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

AUBURN

*#18 – WR – Sammie Coates – 6’2/201

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

#50 – C – Reese Dismukes – 6’3/296

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

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

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

#81 – TE – CJ Uzomah – 6’4/264

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

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

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

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

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

#90 – DT – Gabe Wright – 6’2/285

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

Other Notables:

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

WISCONSIN

#25 – RB – Melvin Gordon – 6’1/207

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

*#61 – LT – Tyler Marz – 6’5/321

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

#78 – RT – Rob Havenstein – 6’7/327

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

#45 – DT – Warren Herring – 6’2/294

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

Other Notables:

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

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MICHIGAN STATE

*#15 – CB – Trae Waynes – 6’1/185

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

#89 – DE – Shilique Calhoun – 6’5/256

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

#27 – S – Kurtis Drummond – 6’1/200

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

#34 – MLB – Taiwan Jones – 6’3/250

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

#33 – RB – Jeremy Langford – 5’11/206

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

#14 – WR – Tony Lippett – 6’2/191

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

Other Notables:

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

BAYLOR

#14 – QB – Bryce Petty – 6’2/214

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

#5 – WR – Antwan Goodley – 5’10/225

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

#42 – WR – Levi Norwood – 6’1/195

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

#44 – MLB – Bryce Hager – 6’2/235

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

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

MISSOURI

*#56 – DE – Shane Ray – 6’3/245

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

#33 – DE – Markus Golden – 6’2/255

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

#65 – LT – Mitch Morse – 6’5/305

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

#21 – WR – Bud Sasser – 6’2/210

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

#32 – RB – Marcus Murphy – 5’9/195

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

Other Notables:

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

MINNESOTA

*#88 – TE – Maxx Williams – 6’4/250

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

#27 – RB – David Cobb – 5’11/220

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

#2 – S – Cedric Thompson – 6’2/208

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

#5 – LB – Damien Wilson – 6’2/240

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

Other Notables:

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

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

Andrus Peat – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

NOTRE DAME

*#78 – LT – Ronnie Stanley – 6’5/315

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

#18 – TE – Ben Koyack – 6’4/261

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

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

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

*#91 – DT – Sheldon Day – 6’2/285

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

#2 – CB – Cody Riggs – 5’9/185

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

Other Notables:

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

LSU

#70 LT – La’el Collins – 6’5/315

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

*#59 – DE – Jermauria Rasco – 6’3/247

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

#26 – S – Ronald Martin – 6’2/220

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

Other Notables:

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

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GEORGIA

#51 – ILB – Ramik Wilson – 6’2/232

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

#5 – CB – Damian Swann – 5’11/178

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

#52 – ILB – Amario Herrera – 6’2/231

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

#31 – WR – Chris Conley – 6’2/206

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

#82 – Michael Bennett – 6’3/202

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

#61 – C – David Andrews – 6’2/295

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

Other Notables:

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

LOUISVILLE

#9 – WR – DeVante Parker – 6’3/209

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

#70 – LG – John Miller – 6’2/325

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

#79 – LT – Jamon Brown – 6’5/326

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

#18 – TE – Gerald Christian – 6’3/242

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

#10 – RB – Dominique Brown – 6’2/216

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

#94 – OLB – Lorenzo Mauldin – 6’4/244

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

*#8 – S – Gerod Holliman – 6’2/213

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

*#3 – CB – Charles Gaines – 5’11/174

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

Other Notables:

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

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MARYLAND

#97 – DT – Darius Kilgo – 6’2/310

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

#6 Deon Long – WR – 6’0/195

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

Other Notables:

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

STANFORD

*#70 – LT – Andrus Peat – 6’6/312

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

#7 – WR – Ty Montgomery – 6’2/220

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

#58 – NT – David Parry – 6’2/303

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

#9 – OLB – James Vaughters – 6’2/258

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

Other Notables:

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

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

Kevin White – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

TEXAS A& M

#70 – RT – Cedric Ogbuehi – 6’5/305

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

#51 – LT – Jarvis Harrison – 6’4/325

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

#84 – WR – Malcome Kennedy – 6’0/205

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

#85 – TE – Cameron Clear – 6’6/270

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

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

Other Notables:

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

WEST VIRGINIA

#11 – WR – Kevin White – 6’3/211

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

#5 – WR – Mario Alford – 5’9/177

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

#67 – LG – Quinton Spain – 6’5/335

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

#4 – DE – Shaquille Riddick – 6’6/242

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

Other Notables:

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

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

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

#79 – RT – Daryl Williams – 6’5/325

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

#71 – LT – Tyrus Thompson – 6’5/320

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

#10 – TE – Blake Bell – 6’5/252

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

*#19 Eric Striker – OLB – 6’0/221

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

#98 – DE – Chuka Ndulue – 6’3/289

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

Other Notables:

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

CLEMSON

#3 – OLB – Vic Beasley – 6’2/235

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

#50 – DT – Grady Jarrett – 6’1/295

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

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

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

#26 – CB – Garry Peters – 6’0/190

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

#93 – DE – Corey Crawford

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

Other Notables:

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

#86 – DE – Trey Flowers – 6’4/268

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

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

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

#23 – CB – Tevin Mitchel – 6’0/188

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

#74 – RT – Brey Cook – 6’7/328

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

#11 – TE – AJ Derby – 6’5/245

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

Other Notables:

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

TEXAS

*#90 – DT – Malcom Brown – 6’3/320

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

#3 – OLB – Jordan Hicks – 6’1/234

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

#6 – DB – Quandre Diggs – 5’10/195

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

#88 – DE – Cedric Reed – 6’5/272

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

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

#28 – RB – Malcolm Brown – 5’11/225

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

Other Notables:

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

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

Jaelen Strong – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

CINCINNATI

#71 – LT – Eric Lefeld – 6’5/309

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

#1 – MLB – Jeff Luc – 6’1/253

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

Other Notables:

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

VIRGINIA TECH

#34 – S – Kyshoen Jarrett – 5’11/192

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

#8 – S – Detrick Bonner – 6’0/194

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

*#90 – DE – Dadi Nicolas – 6’4/231

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

Other Notables:

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

#21 – WR – Jaelen Strong – 6’4/212

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

#74 – LT – Jamil Douglas – 6’4/300

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

#1 – DE – Marcus Hardison – 6’4/300

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

Other Notables:

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

DUKE

*#16 – S – Jeremy Cash – 6’2/203

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

#77 – RG – Laken Tomlinson – 6’3/320

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

#3 – WR – Jamison Crowder – 5’9/175

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

#17 – WR – Issac Blakeney – 6’6/225

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

Other Notables:

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

#52 – LB – Denzel Perryman – 5’11/242

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

#37 – CB – LaDarius Gunter – 6’2/198

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

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

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

#91 – Olsen Pierre – DT – 6’5/305

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

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

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

*#8 – RB – Duke Johnson – 5’9/206

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

*#74 – LT – Ereck Flowers – 6’6/334

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

#4 – WR – Phillip Dorsett – 5’10/195

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

Other Notables:

#62 – C – Shane McDermott – 6’4/300

SOUTH CAROLINA

#50 – LG – AJ Cann – 6’3/318

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

*#28 – RB – Mike Davis – 5’9/220

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

#53 – LT – Corey Robinson – 6’7/348

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

#81 – TE Rory Anderson – 6’5/232

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

#97 – DT – JT Surratt – 6’2/305

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

Other Notables:

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

#59 – C – Andy Gallik – 6’3/299

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

#75 – RT – Ian Silberman – 6’5/293

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

#25 – OLB – Josh Keyes – 6’2/223

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

Other Notables:

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

PENN STATE

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

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

#1 – RB – Bill Belton – 5’10/205

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

#43 – MLB – Josh Hull – 6’0/227

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

#86 – DE – CJ Olaniyan – 6’3/244

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

____________________________________________________________________

NEBRASKA

#8 – RB – Ameer Abdullah -5’9/200

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

#68 – LG – Jake Cotton – 6’6/305

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

#80 – WR – Kenny Bell – 6’1/185

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

*#4 – DE – Randy Gregory – 6’5/245

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

#13 – OLB – Zaire Anderson – 5’11/220

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

Other Notables:

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

USC

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

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

#10 – MLB – Hayes Pullard – 6’1/235

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

#58 – OLB – JR Tavai – 6’2/250

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

*#15 – WR – Nelson Agholor – 6’0/185

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

*#6 – QB – Cody Kessler – 6’1/215

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

*#37 – RB – Javarious Allen – 6’1/220

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

Dec 202014
 
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Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State Rams (October 11, 2014)

Ty Sambrailo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 20, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

NEVADA

#17 – QB – Cody Fajardo – 6’2/215

Fifth year senior that has been starting since his redshirt freshman season. Dual threat type with a really strong arm. Led the team in rushing. Runs the ball a lot. A very cheap version of Kaepernick. Only saw him once and that was against Arizona. He played really well in that game, showing some toughness/grit/comeback ability. Projects to be a late rounder but he should get drafted. He is a runner because the scheme called him to be, but there is legit arm talent there. Not just a gimmick guy.

#53 – DE – Brock Hekking – 6’4/255

Probably mostly know because of his WWF type hair style. Not the prospect that some labeled him to be earlier in the year. Lacks some of the more important tools that you look for in a 4-3 DE. Had a down year in 2014 after leading this team in sacks and TFL in 2012 and 2013. His game is based purely on energy/hustle/aggression. Saw some tape against Colorado State’s 1st round caliber OT. His lack of physical talent was apparent but he brings it every play. Doesn’t stop until that whistle blows and can make plays based on effort alone every game. Late round prospect at best but he will be in demand. Coaches like this kind of guy.

#24 – DB – Charles Garrett – 5’11/205

Versatile DB that has a lot of experience split between S and CB. May be too thick for the CB spot in the NFL, lacks that quick twitch and reaction. I actually have some intrigue here with Garrett, I want to see more of him. He plays a fast and aggressive game, physical player. Wore a fee hats for this team and performed well across the board. Does he have the movement ability? There is some trouble off the field that needs to be looked in to as well.

#2 – WR – Richy Turner – 5’11/180

Slot receiver prospect with good quickness in and out of his breaks. Really smooth catcher and route runner. Unspectacular prospect but does enough of the little things well to get a late round look. He will likely test out well athletically. Would have liked to see more production but he can play. Limited player but a lot of good slot WRs in the NFL looked like this guy in college.

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

#8 – QB – Terrance Broadway – 6’2/221

Only saw Broadway once in 2014, wasn’t really impressed. Another dual threat QB that has some arm talent to him. Strong player that can run with some power but wouldn’t call him a guy that keeps opposing coaches up at night. Inaccurate on simple throws. Sloppy mechanics. Will leave school near or at the top of many all time passing records. Not really interested in him but will put an eyeball on him tonight.

#67 – RT – Daniel Quave – 6’3/324

Fifth year senior that has started every game of his career. Has played RG and RT. Projects to be a G at the next level. Only have one look at him on my sheet so I need to see more. Typical squatty guard that packs a punch but struggles to move with faster defenders at a lower level of college football. Really strong upper body. Could project to be a late day three guy.

#46 – RB – Alonzo Harris – 6’1/238

In between the tackles runner that needs to be a downhill guy in the NFL. Can’t be an outside runner. Most likely limited to short yardage/goal line duty. Will struggle to make it at the next level, just doesn’t have that quick twitch and vision to make things happen. Pretty basic player and athlete that lost carries to a talented sophomore they have. Doesn’t catch a lot of balls. Unspectacular guy that will likely get a look late in the draft or in free agency from a team that wants a power back.

#6 – DT – Justin Hamilton – 6’2/310

First team all Sun Belt. Probably the highest upside player in this game. Hamilton carries 300+ pounds with ease. Athletic mover in space but also plays a violent game. Angry player that beats guys up, plain and simple. I think he could be a solid 3-4 DE and/or 4-3 DT. The hybrid defensive schemes will love him.

#7 – CB – Corey Trim – 5’11/192

Again, I have not gotten a lot of looks at Trim. He is a good sized corner that was avoided for the most part in the game I saw. Looking forward to seeing if he has a physical side to him because he isn’t much of a speed guy.

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

UTAH STATE

#74 – OT – Kevin Whimpey – 6’5/295

Fifth year senior. Wide-shouldered team captain with a lot of strength. Needs to gain mass. Has the feet to play in the NFL but lacks the technique. His feet get stuck too often and his hand placement is too high. Late rounder at best here but I think he gets a look from someone based on his frame and experience.

#52 – LB – Zach Vigil – 6’/240

Probably the top prospect in this game. Productive and experienced leader. Fun guy to watch because he’ll do anything. Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year (19.5 TFL and 9.5 sacks) He shows ability to run with tight ends down the seam that are more athletic than him. But he can also blitz inside/out and push linemen through the pocket. Just a quality football guy that teams like to have on their team. I think he has an outside shot at being a top 100 pick if he can grade out well in workouts.

#99 – DE – BJ Larsen – 6’5/275

Another guy I like based on frame/speed alone. Larsen is a strong presence outside with a violent style. He shows some intriguing athletic ability as well. Reads and flows towards the action. Demands a lot of attention from the opposition but still makes an impact. Guys at this size with his movement ability almost always get drafted. I think he could be a 5th rounder.

UTEP

#14 – WR – Ian Hamilton – 6’5/229

Team’s leading receiver in 2014. Upside guy that will draw the attention of scouts based purely on long term upside. He has the tools. Big, tall, and long with some speed. Averaged over 20 yards per catch in 2014. I want to get another look at him, looking forward to looking at more position-specific traits here.

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

UTAH

#8 – DE – Nate Orchard – 6’4/255

All American. Led the nation in sacks per game, finished with a total of 17.5. Not just a pass risher though, he has a complete game to him. Initially came to Utah as a WR, has added 60 pounds since high school. He won’t test out in the top tier athletically, but he is a football player. Does so many things really well. Gravitates towards the action better than most pass rushers. Functionally strong. Uses his long arms and strong hands well. He could be a sneaky 4-3 DE prospect. He was considered a raw guy with upside heading in to 2014 and then he blew up. Tough matchup against the Colorado State LT, huge game for his draft grade. Could be a 3rd rounder.

#18 – DB – Eric Rowe – 6’1/201

4 year starter. Over 45 career starts on his resume, most of them at FS. Played CB this year and I think it really increased his draft grade. He has the height/length that the NFL looks for, but also legit sub 4.4 speed. Ball skills are there, as are the reaction times and instincts. Get involved often. Active player with a lot of aggression. Not sure he has the functional speed downfield, he’ll be tested by an All American WR in this game. Probably a round 3 or 4 guy.

#80 – TE – Westlee Tonga – 6’4/244

Will be an old rookie (27). Has a laundry list of injuries over his college career. Missed all of 2013 with a knee. He was a question mark for 2014 but he played really well. I saw him against USC and he was able to get open against their athletic LBs. Quick twitch guy in fort and intermediate routes that catches the ball when it’s near him. Physical guy with a lot of effort to his game. Works hard as a blocker, can control guys and at the very least stay between them and the ball carrier. Late round prospect that would be drafted if it weren’t for his age.

COLORADO STATE

#51 – OT – Ty Sambrailo – 6’5/315

The top prospect in this game. Big matchup for him being against Orchard for most of the game. Sambrallo has 1st round tools, traits, and skills but he isn’t mentioned with the top guys. I can remember seeing him whole scouting Richburg last year and thinking he had 1st round ability. His game is all about consistent body control and technique. He isn’t a power guy, but he is powerfull/strong enough. Easy mover that always looks balanced. You see some left tackles that lack body control when going after a blocker, not this guy. Sambrailo has the size and movement to be a 1st rounder. Just a consistent, no-nonsense kind of blocker that you rarely see make mistakes. NYG should be giving him a hard look.

#18 – QB – Garrett Grayson – 6’2/220

One of the day 2 or 3 QBs that could shoot up the draft boards in the coming months. Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. Very strong arm, good decision maker and can make all the throws. Footwork and throwing mechanics are all there. Would love to see what he can do at the Senior Bowl. I think he is just as talented as Ryan Nassib but with more upside.

#37 – LB – Aaron Davis – 6’1/221

A lot of guys like Davis, but I haven’t seen a good game yet. He is a poor tackler that doesn’t have a major physical impact on the game. There is a lack of size and power here and he doesn’t exactly have superb athletic ability. At best I see him as a late rounder.

#23 – CB – Bernard Blake – 6’0/185

Average corner with some height and length. Gets thrown at a lot, hence why he has some quality pass break up numbers. He isn’t a guy that strikes fear in to the opposing offense. Just another guy that could be drafted somewhere on day 3.

Nov 262014
 
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Amari Cooper, Alabama Crimson Tide (November 8, 2014)

Amari Cooper – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft – November 26, 2014 Report

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

After posting some draft comments last weekend, a couple of erstwhile, not to mention discerning, BigBlueInteractive.com regulars asked if I would consider posting some draft thoughts based on where the Giants stood regarding the 2015 draft between now and the end of the season given there isn’t much else to really get excited about in Big Blue land. Along the way, I’d also hope that at least when it comes to the draft that folks really try and think like a pro rather than carry on like a pampered frat house sophomore or a drunk hollering in a bar.

First off, people just have to stop talking about Jerry Reese’s draft picks. JERRY REESE DOESN’T MAKE THE PICKS! Neither does Marc Ross for that matter. The fact is that the Giants invest literally millions of dollars and hundred of man hours putting a grade on every draft eligible player out there and then coalescing as a collective around the guys they like.

Second, if guys are going to talk about the draft, it would be nice if they understood how it really works. In particular, when people say the it’s a lottery or a crapshoot what they mean is that the draft IS a lottery or a crapshoot. It is like flipping coins. George Young probably said it best when he said that when it comes to the draft you gather as much information as you can get, make the best picks you can, and then you cross your fingers. Hit a bunch of heads and they call you a genius; hit too many tails and they start calling your 4th round picks – that only had a 25% or so probability of ever working out in the first place – that don’t work out BLUNDERS!

Thirdly, folks could really humor this old draft guy by not posting who they’d take. Trust me, nobody cares! Fact is nobody should care who I’d take. Folks might care a tad, though, who I think the Giants might be looking because I have a pretty good track record of dissecting and predicting what they might be thinking, although nobody’s perfect!

Where we stand … If the draft were held this week the Giants would have the 7th pick in the opening round, the same as last week as each of the team’s just ahead of the Giants also lost. Of course, the lay of the land could change for the Giants as the next couple of weeks as they head into what can only be described as the ‘easy’ part of the schedule. Indeed, the Giants next four opponents have a combined record of 10-34, whereas during the current 6-game losing streak the opponents combined W-L record was 45-21. In fact, if its any small consolation to Giants’ fans, the 8 losses so far this year came against teams with a combined winning % of almost 70%; indeed, even throw out the wins against the Giants and they are still 53-27 or 66% against the rest of the league.

The good news for the Giants is that even if they are able to win the majority of their remaining games, although that’s hardly a given, they won’t lose all that many draft spots as there are just aren’t a whole lot of teams within striking distance ahead of them in the standings. In fact, even were the Giants able to run the table the rest of the year, they aren’t likely to draft much higher than the 13-14 range.

The less good news for the Giants if indeed their 2015 first round pick is to be in the #7 range is, at least how looks right now (although of course a whole bunch is going to change between now and April 30), that it appears that there is a major drop-off after the top 4-5  players in this year’s draft which right now look to be QBs Mariota and Winston (assuming he doesn’t get red-flagged), DEs Williams and Gregory and WR Cooper. Of that group, Alabama WR Amari Cooper is the most likely to somehow slip down to the 7th spot – and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise that if the Giants had their druthers they would love to add a big-play receiver like Cooper to pair with Beckham and hopefully Cruz, but it could very well take a trade up to guarantee getting the Tide star.

At the same time, again at least at this point in time, it does not appear as if there would be a particularly neat match between the top players available and the Giants’ draft priorities. The next best guys, at least on a consensus NFL board, for example, look like Alabama SS Landon Collins and OTs Brandon Scherff of Iowa and A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi. Each would fill a need, but none is the kind of real impact player that a team like the Giants would likely like to add if they were to get a top 10 pick this year. Collins, for example, is more an in-the-box type SS and the Giants would almost certainly prefer a rangy FS type. Of course, the Giants would be very intrigued by a so-called Blue Goose-can’t miss OT, but I am not sure there is such an animal in this year’s draft. Scherff, who has been described as this year’s Zach Martin, might be the most interesting OL option if it came to that. He’s not that athletic, but is a big, really tough, physical guy who you could start out at OG, but ultimately move to either OT if the need arose.

That said, I don’t see the Giants entering the draft with the OL the #1 priority. The one real gap they have is RG and there other ways to address that than use the highest pick you have had in almost two decades. My best guess is that heading into the 2015 draft the Giants top priorities will be a) upgrading the pass rush; b) adding some more weapons on offense including another WR and RB; and c) adding some speed and athleticism to the defensive back 7, along with the OL. Obviously, they likely won’t be able to accomplish everything with just three premium picks, but obviously some of those issues can be addressed just as well in free agency.

In fact, in the end, if the Giants were ultimately to pick around #7, there is a very good chance that the player they take isn’t rated quite in that area at this time as there are a bunch of players hovering just outside the top 10-15 right now with the upside to go higher. That group includes WRs Kevin White of West Virginia, Michigan tweener Devin Funchess, Davante Parker of Louisville, Jaelen Strong of Arizona State, along with enigmatic 6-5 Dorial Green-Beckham of Oklahoma, 6-9 Baylor DE Shawn Oakman, and dynamic Washington OLB Shaq Thompson. Time will tell.

Of course, the draft runs more than one round and if the draft were held this week the Giants would also have the 38th and 71st picks. And if there is some good 2015 draft news for the Giants its that it appears there will be excellent depth at several positions of interest including RB, WR, and safety, while there should also be some decent depth at positions like OG, OT and MLB. There could also be a couple or three DE prospects available in the second round, including Nate Orchard of Utah, Kentucky’s Bud Dupree and LSU junior Danielle Hunter; however, DE does not look like it will be particularly strong at the 2015 draft and any team that wants to upgrade at the position won‘t want to dawdle.

Meanwhile, the list of other players that could be on the Giants’ radar in the second round include RBs Tevin Coleman of Indiana, Miami’s Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska; WRs Sammie Coates of Auburn and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, South Carolina OG A.J. Cann; and safeties Gerod Hollimon of Lousiville, Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss and Derron Smith of Fresno State. For the record, there could also be a number of very good OT candidates in the 2nd round including Tyrus Thompson of Oklahoma, Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State, Ereck Flowers of Miami, and Spencer Drango of Baylor.

Sep 302014
 
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Todd Gurley, Georgia Bulldogs (September 27, 2014)

Todd Gurley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft: Quarter-Point Thoughts

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

What have we learned so far… Truth is we may not have actually learned a whole lot through the New York Giants first four games of the year. We did learn that the weeks after wins are a whole lot more fun than the weeks after losses.  We also learned that if the Giants are plus multiple turnovers (Houston, Washington) they probably win, but if they are a net minus multiple turnovers (Detroit, Arizona) they most likely lose.  Now the test for the Giants will be can win their share of games where there is no real difference in the turnovers.

And it is going to be a test because there are no gimmies over the next 7-8 weeks on the Giants’ schedule. However, with a offense that appears to be getting into sync – although they’d probably still like to see a few more big plays – and a defense that has guys who can rush the passer and other guys that can cover – although they’ll likely be having to paper over weaknesses at both linebacker and safety – the Giants figure to be reasonably competitive the rest of the way, again assuming they don’t end up -2 or more too many weeks in turnovers. At the same time, they may have just a few too many deficiencies (see above), not to mention the SOS difficulty, to win more than 9-10 games.

As such we are kind of thinking the Giants currently look like a team that will end up with a mid-round pick at the 2015 NFL Draft – say somewhere between 14 and 18 – although that’s why they actually play the games. We also note the qualifiers that (a) team needs can change quite literally from week to week, and (b) that the ultimate quality of the upcoming draft is still to be determined based on a number of factors including how many underclassmen opt to turn pro this winter. However, the draft is a process and to paraphrase “we are where we are!”

For starters, it certainly appears that much of the doom and gloom about Eli, the TEs and the offensive line – not that some of it wasn’t warranted at the time – may have been somewhat overblown hysteria. Certainly, the emergence of Larry Donnell as a legitimate receiving threat – for the record, he’s on pace to catch over 100 passes this season – has arguably been the best storyline for the Giants so far this season. If nothing else, should the emergence of Donnell continue the rest of the season, it will almost certainly take TE off the board for the Giants early at the 2015 Draft, although it is still possible the team could address the position in later rounds this coming May.

There is something of a similar story along the offensive line. Indeed, heading into the season it appeared that the Giants #1 priority heading into the 2015 off-season would be to figure out to do at LT with incumbent starter Will Beatty continuing to struggle through the pre-season. However, after a somewhat rocky start in the season opener against Detroit, Beatty has been pitching shutouts. And breaking down the game tape suggests that there are indeed some things Beatty appears to be doing differently of late. For starters, Beatty appears to be getting off the snap much more crisply that he did last year and in the pre-season. In particular, Beatty had been tending to just stand up off the snap before moving toward his assignment, whereas this year he‘s coming off the snap much lower and more assertively toward the point of attack. Beatty also appears to be taking somewhat better angles in the pocket. In the past, for example, Beatty has tended to drift out toward the DE when the latter takes a wide route, which in effect shortened the distance the DE had to go to get around him; this year, though, Beatty has been staying tighter to the pocket and has been letting the DE come to him. It also appears that Beatty has simply been battling harder his year. Against Washington, for example, he had his knees buckled on 2-3 occasions, but he still managed to throw his body between the rusher and the QB and disrupt the rush.

At the same time, though, Beatty still displays some really labored footwork, especially when back-peddling. Indeed, Beatty’s feet look like a couple of pistons when he’s moving in reverse; in particular, there’s just way too much up and down movement in his footwork which tends to limit his lateral range. And because he lifts his feet so far off the ground when back-peddling, Beatty struggles to maintain his balance when he has to absorb contact from a defensive linemen when one of his feet is off the ground. Meanwhile, anyone who wants to see how its supposed to be done only needs to look down the line at RT Justin Pugh who has a smooth, easy slide step and really does kind of glide around the pocket without a whole lot of wasted motion.

What it all may mean is that OT may not be quite the priority at the 2015 draft that it appeared to be at the start of the season. While he’s far from the most polished guy at the position, Beatty likely won’t be going anywhere – at least in the short term – this off-season, and even if the Giants did decide that #65 wasn’t worth the cap figure, it appears that Pugh is likely the LT in waiting. That doesn’t mean the Giants won’t address the position at the 2015 draft, it just may mean that it may be more a RT/depth type player rather than a pure LT with a premium pick. And that may be a good thing because the 2015 OT draft class hasn’t developed as well had been expected. Its still likely that the top LT prospects like Ogbuehi, Scherff and Peat will be off the board by the middle of the opening round, but there is something of a drop-off to the next level. And that may have the Giants looking at RT prospects like Corey Robinson of South Carolina, Oklahoma‘s Tyrus Thompson or Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State in the 3rd or 4th rounds. (And for anyone actually checking out Robinson, #50 next to him is A.J. Cann, arguably the best OG prospect in this year’s draft, who’d bring a little of that old Chris Snee intensity to the unit were he still there in the second round, although that’s probably a longshot.)

In fact, assuming that the Giants pick somewhere toward the middle of this year’s opening round, its not clear that there will necessarily be a great match between their needs and the talent available. Of course, the one thing about the draft is that its hardly static and a whole bunch can and likely will change between now and May. Right now, though, it also looks like there won’t be any mid-first round locks at DE to fill the Giants other big need for a quality edge rusher to pair with Jason Pierre-Paul. Again the elite DE prospects like Leonard Williams and Randy Gregory look like they will be long gone by the time the Giants get on the clock, and while the second tier group has some talent including guys like Mario Edwards of Florida State, Florida’s Dante Fowler or Shilique Calhoun of Michigan State there are no locks at the position outside the top 2-3 guys and the team might be just as well served looking at one of several underrated emerging prospects at the position rising like BYU junior or Alvin Dupree of Kentucky.

Of course, its almost impossible to project what other general goals a team like the Giants might have entering an off-season that is still months away. However, it would not be a surprise at all here if the Giants head into 2015 looking to upgrade both the speed and athleticism in the back seven, especially at WLB and at safety, on defense, as well as continue to add impact players on offense. Unfortunately, for a team like the Giants, it does not look like 2015 is going to be a very good year at all at either safety or linebacker. Alabama’s Landen Collins is a potential top ten pick at safety, but he’s another player likely to be off the board when the Giants make their opening round pick and there is a real drop-off at the position after that, although a team could get lucky  in the 3rd round with someone like Derron Smith of Fresno State, Ole Miss’ Cody Prewitt, Kurt Drummond of Michigan State or Syracuse junior Durrell Eskridge. Meanwhile, there’s a better than even chance no LB will be chosen at all in this year’s opening round, although Washington WLB Shaq Thompson and Miami ILB Denzel Perryman look to be good value in the middle of the second round.

On the other hand, the 2015 Draft looks like it will be very deep at the offensive skill positions. Indeed, WR is quietly emerging as the deepest position in this year’s draft. And while the Giants did select Odell Beckham with their #1 pick this past May, they are hardly set at the position behind Beckham and Cruz. In fact, if there is a player who could be described as a perfect fit for the Giants’ offensive scheme it could very well be Stanford WR Ty Montgomery, a bigger (6-1, 215), faster version of what the Giants had hoped they’d get in Jerrel Jernigan. For the record, Montgomery has already scored receiving, rushing and return TDs this fall, after catching 61 passes in 2013 when he also was #2 in the country in KO returns with an average of over 30 yards per pop. Like last ear, though, the 2015 draft looks like it will be rich with receivers such that teams should be able to get players who can contribute right through the second day and into the 4th round.

Meanwhile, the $64K question for the Giants at the 2015 draft just might be whether they pull the trigger if Georgia RB Todd Gurley were still available when they make their opening round pick. For those that don’t follow college football, Gurley is being described as the best player in all of college football this fall with AP type ability (as a football player not a parent!). Its possible, however, that he slips out of the top 10 because of the position he plays. You’d have to figure, though, that while Rashad Jennings has been solid enough this year, new OC Ben McAdoo would just love to get his hands on a big back like Gurley who can break tackles in the open field and really put pressure on opposing defenses to really have to think about devoting extra resources to stopping the Giants running game, in the process hopefully opening things up even more for the passing attack. And while ending up with a stud like Gurley is probably still something of a longshot, we’d still expect the Giants to look to add another back with a premium pick next year from a draft that like the situation at WR. is exceptionally deep at the position.

Aug 282014
 
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Brandon Scherff, Iowa State Hawkeyes (January 1, 2014)

Brandon Scherff – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Early New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

The college football season kicks off this weekend, and while it is way to soon – like by about 5-6 months – for people to start saying ’this is THE guy I want for the Giants in 2015,’ it is never too early to start watching the top prospects for the upcoming draft. And while there is still much sorting out to be done before next spring‘s draft, the early signs are that the strengths of the 2015 draft could match up reasonably well with the primary needs the Giants are likely to be trying to fill this coming off-season.

Offensive Line

For starters, it certainly appears that it could be yet another banner at OT, which could be good news for the Giants if LT Will Beatty continues to struggle this fall and the Giants feel they need to go in another direction at the position. Indeed, there are as many as 4-5 potential top-10 left tackles, including Cedric Ogbuehi of Texas A&M, Cameron Erving of Florida State, Iowa’s Brandon Scherff and La’el Collins of LSU. All four had expected to enter the 2014 draft where each was projected to be at least a first-round prospect, but they ultimately opted to return to class for one more year. Ogbuehi, for example, is a better overall athlete than former teammate Jake Matthews, the 6th player picked this past May, while the Hawkeyes’ Scherff is a little ragged around the edges, but he’s a huge guy with freakish strength and athleticism. Meanwhile LSU’s Collins is a rugged run blocker who could ultimately play inside at the next level, but he also has the long arms, light feet and surprising agility of a prototype left tackle. FSU’s Erving, who has played only one year at LT after converting from DT, may have the most upside of the bunch. In the end, though, the top OT prospect this year may end up being Stanford junior Andrus Peat, who hasn’t received as much national ink to date, but who has remarkable size and strength, along with excellent agility and a nasty disposition.

The bad news part of the OT story for the Giants, if in fact they head into the 2015 draft in search of an elite pass-blocker OT to pair with Justin Pugh, is that all the best ones could come off the board early and there is something of a drop-off to the next level at the position. However, there are several second-tier OTs this year who will be worth a look on the second day including 6-7, 350-pound Corey Robinson of South Carolina, along with Sean Hickey of Syracuse, Cincinnati’s Eric Lefeld, Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson of Oklahoma, Rob Havenstein of Wisconsin, Oregon’s Jake Fisher and unheralded Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State, who could just be the best prospect in the country nobody has heard of! And the depth at OT this year could be augmented if any of a small army of good, solid, although not yet elite, junior OT prospects enter the draft, including Spencer Drango of Baylor, D.J. Humpries of Florida, Le’Raven Clark of Texas Tech, Brandon Shell of South Carolina, Donovan Smith of Penn State, Miami’s Ereck Flowers, Jason Spriggs of Indiana, Taylor Decker of Ohio State, Tyler Marz of Wisconsin and Georgia’s John Theus.

Needless to say, the Giants also still have issues at OG, although they are probably less likely to use an early pick on the position than say at OT. Which is probably just as well as it does not look like there will be many, if any, OGs who are locks to be opening round picks next spring anyway, although Tre Jackson of Florida State and South Carolina’s A.J. Cann could be close. Jackson is a wide-body road-grader who is a dominating drive blocker with some short-area quickness, but isn‘t necessarily a great athlete, while Cann isn’t as big or physical, but is a better athlete and more polished technician. Meanwhile, there are some solid later second-day candidates at the position including Jackson’s FSU teammate Josue Matias and Alabama’s Arie Kouandjio, the brother of Cyrus Kouandjio who was considered to be a near-elite OT prospect last year, before a balky knee bumped him into the second round where he was selected by Buffalo. That second-day second-tier group could also get a boost if junior OGs Vadal Alexander of LSU and/or Landen Turner of North Carolina opt to enter the 2015 draft. However, even without much input from the underclassmen, there is some impressive depth at OG including the Miami’s Jon Feliciano, former teammate Malcolm Bunche who‘ll line up with UCLA this fall, 345-pound Quinton Spain of West Virginia, underrated Laken Tomlinson of Duke, John Miller of Louisville and Notre Dame’s Christian Lombard among others. Bottom line is that there could be potentially useful options at OG come next April/May well into the third day of the draft.

Defensive End

The Giants could also very well head to the 2015 draft looking to upgrade at DE if (1) Jason Pierre-Paul does not have a bounce back year this fall and/or (2) nobody really emerges to replace Justin Tuck on the other side. And like the situation at OT, defensive end looks like it will be one of the real strengths at the upcoming draft, although a lot will be depend on how many of this year’s top underclassmen ultimately opt to turn pro this winter. There are, for example, at least three junior DEs – Shilique Calhoun of Michigan State, Southern Cal’s Leonard Williams and Randy Gregory of Nebraska – with the top 5-10 potential, although they are very different players. USC’s Williams, for example, at 6-5, 295, is built more like a DT – and could ultimately play there in the NFL – but for now looks like a prototype 5-technique 3-4 DE in the J.J. Watt mold. The Huskers’ Gregory is a long, lean edge rusher who needs to add some bulk to better play the run – and at 6-6 has the frame to do so – but who has freakish athleticism and may have the most upside of the trio. Meanwhile, Calhoun won’t blow away anyone with his measurables, but he’s strong, quick, and relentless coming off the edge.

There is also some really intriguing potential depth at DE in this year’s draft class. Florida State’s Mario Edwards, for example, could ultimately challenge USC’s Williams for the top-grade among 5-technique DEs, while juniors Dante Fowler of Florida and Ohio State’s Noah Spence and Trey Flowers of Arkansas are solid second-day types. So is 6-8 Baylor junior Shawn Oakman, the former Penn State transfer who is still learning the game, but who has a really unique size/speed combination. However, no DE is likely to draw as much attention through the pre-draft process as former TCU redshirt sophomore DeVonte Fields, who won’t play at all this fall. Fields looked all of the part of an emerging pass-rushing star as a true freshman two years, but played little last fall because of a foot injury and then got suspended this year when he allegedly threatened an ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, other solid DEs to watch include James Rouse of Marshall, Ray Drew of Georgia, Jermauria Rasco of LSU and Nate Orchard of Utah, while other juniors that could have an early impact at the upcoming draft include Danielle Hunter of LSU, Charles Tapper of Oklahoma, Eli Harold of Virginia, BYU‘s Bronson Kaufusi and Missouri’s Shane Ray.

Tight End

It is hard to imagine that the Giants won’t want to do something at TE this coming off season. (In fact its hard to imagine that the Giants wouldn’t really like to do something at the position this week!) Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t appear that 2015 will be a banner year at the position. Florida State’s Nick O’Leary, for example, is currently the only tight end even remotely close to carrying a first-round grade and even he’s no lock to be taken all that early. O’Leary, the grandson of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, is something of a throwback type in that he’s a willing blocker with nice hands and that 6th sense to get open. But he isn’t all that big at around 6-3, 240, and he lacks the explosive speed and athleticism to be a true field-stretching receiving threat. Plus, there are going to be health concerns after O’Leary was involved in a second serious motorcycle accident this past spring. Meanwhile, Ben Koyack of Notre Dame and Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman are both solid two-way TE prospects with prototype size and decent athleticism, although neither has been all that consistently productive to date in their college careers. Moreover, neither brings the skill set that the Giants are now looking for at the position. And there is another drop-off to the next level of TEs which includes pass-receiving specialists like Rutgers junior Tyler Kraft, unheralded Wes Saxton of South Alabama, Rory Anderson of South Carolina, MyCole Pruitt of FCS Southern Illinois, Clive Walford of Miami and Gerald Christian of Louisville. E.J. Bibbs of Iowa State and USC’s Randall Telfer are the next best two-way type TEs.

Quarterback

For the record, the other real strong position at the 2015 draft will be QB with as many another 4-5 possible top-10 candidates including juniors Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Brett Hundley of UCLA, and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan leading the way, along with Florida State redshirt sophomore Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, and senior Bryce Petty of Baylor. Let’s hope the Giants aren’t interested as it would mean Eli had another bad year, but throw 27 picks again and all best just might be off. Just saying …

The Rest

Meanwhile, other positions that appear that they could be relatively strong in 2015 include running back with Todd Gurley of Georgia, Wisconsin’s Mel Gordon and T.J. Yeldon of Alabama leading the way. Safety could also be something of a strength with a deep class headed by juniors Landen Collins of Alabama and LSU’s Jalen Mills, as well as underrated Derron Smith of Fresno State. There is also some real talent at outside linebacker, although many of the top guys there including Vic Beasley of Clemson and rising star Benardrick McKinney of Mississippi State are more 3-4 edge rushers. Juniors Shaq Thompson of Washington and Oklahoma‘s Eric Striker, though, do have more than a little Ryan Shazier-type speed and explosion. There should also be a relatively strong middle linebacker group, although the top guys – including Denzel Perryman of Miami, UCLA‘s Eric Kendricks, Ramik Wilson of Georgia and A.J. Johnson of Tennessee – all look more like second-day types.

On the other hand, it may be a down year at wide receiver, cornerback and defensive tackle, although there will certainly be some good players at those positions this year. The top wide receivers, for example, should include juniors Amari Cooper of Alabama, Nelson Agholor of USC, Jaelen Strong of Arizona State and Maryland’s Stefon Diggs, along with seniors Rashad Greene of Florida State, Davante Parker of Louisville (if healthy), Antwan Goodley of Baylor and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. Meanwhile, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a potential top-10 cornerback, although he’s not overly long at just 5-9, while Florida State junior P.J. Williams also has mid-to-late first round potential. At the same time, Michael Bennett of Ohio State, appears to be the consensus #1 defensive tackle prospect this year, although he’s still not considered to be more of an early-to-mid second round prospect as he is somewhat undersized at barely 290 pounds and has limited upside. Indeed, if any defensive tackles are likely to have an opening round breakthrough this coming spring, it may come from one or more of a solid second-tier group at the position including rising juniors Ellis McCarthy of UCLA (an imposing 6-5 330-pound specimen), Arik Armstead of Oregon (who at 6-8 is also physically imposing), Rice’s Christian Covington, and Malcolm Brown of Texas, along with seniors Carl Davis of Iowa, 335-pound Washington, NT Danny Shelton and underrated Tyeler Davison of Fresno State. As of now, though, each of these guys rates as more a second or third rounder. If there is a positive angle to the 2015 DT picture, though, its that it is a pretty deep class, such that there could very well be some potentially useful prospects at the position well into the third day of selections.

May 172014
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (May 8, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Review: Eric’s Take

The New York Giants are not reloading; they are rebuilding. And while this rebuilding project does not reach down to the foundational level (head coach and quarterback), the offensive coaching staff was almost completely revamped (three new coaches, two re-assigned); core players have retired or been allowed to leave via free agency; an unprecedented 16 players were added in veteran free agency; and an additional 18 players have been added since the draft started.

Despite all of these roster additions, the New York Giants were not able to address every need in the 2014 NFL Draft. Team leadership was surprisingly candid about this immediately after the draft.

“In personnel, sometimes you can’t get everything,” said General Manager Jerry Reese. “You can’t just waive a magic wand.”

“You get seven picks, and you can’t take everything you need,” said Marc Ross. “You can’t have first round picks at every pick that you want and things that you think you need.”

How does a team that has added 34 players in the past three months still have significant holes? Because for a variety of reasons, too many picks in the last six NFL Drafts have not worked out and are no longer with the team. Hence the need for a major rebuilding project.

So before we look at what the Giants accomplished, let’s look at what they did not accomplish.

Ideally, the Giants would have liked to have added premium draft picks at the offensive tackle, tight end, defensive end, and linebacker positions. But as Reese and Ross said, you can’t do everything you want in one draft when you have so many needs.

Tight end has gotten more attention from fans, but the Giants have a glaring question mark at tackle. Will Beatty is coming off of a bad season and a significant injury that will hamper his preparation for the 2014 season. If he isn’t ready or struggles again, the passing and running games will suffer. Charles Brown, a former 2nd round pick of the Saints who was brought in for depth and insurance, struggled in New Orleans with inconsistent pass protection and penalties. The Giants could shift Justin Pugh to left tackle, but then who plays right tackle? Geoff Schwartz? Even he admits he is a better guard. James Brewer? He hasn’t taken the bull by the horns since drafted in 2011. Brandon Mosley or Stephen Goodin? Still relative unknowns.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin was surprisingly honest about his desire to add a tight end in the draft. “It has to work out for you and all of a sudden, bang, a couple guys were gone in that 2nd round and you say, ‘Wait a minute, how deep is that position and then who?’ Two of them (who we liked) are (drafted by other teams),” said Coughlin. “Yeah it’s a concern.”

So the Giants will have to hope that one of the following step up: journeymen Daniel Fells or Kellen Davis, or the talented but so far disappointing Adrien Robinson or Larry Donnell. I still would not write off the possibility of signing free agent Jermichael Finley if he can pass a physical.

On paper, the strength of the Giants defense seems to have shifted from the defensive line to the secondary. If true, I can’t recall at time when that was ever the case. Now the Giants must pray that Jason Pierre-Paul regains his 2011 form after two bad seasons. They must also pray that Damontre Moore develops into a quality pass rusher. Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers are not bad players, but they don’t scare anyone. Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck are just memories now. In 2014, the Giants may struggle to rush the passer.

Jerry Reese learned a valuable lesson in 2013: a good linebacker can dramatically improve the entire defense. Jon Beason proved to be an impact addition, not just because of his play, but perhaps more importantly due to his leadership. But Beason has had some significant injuries and the Giants still lack big-time playmakers at the outside positions. In a perfect world, the Giants would have added a top linebacking prospect. Jameel McClain may help, but he was just a guy in Baltimore. The Giants can get by with what they have (Spencer Paysinger, Jacquian Williams), but there is little depth and no special players.

OK, so let’s look at what the Giants did accomplish in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Adding an impact wide receiver was critical and the Giants appear to have done just that with the selection of Odell Beckham, Jr. in the 1st round. Last season, teams simply took Victor Cruz out of the game and dared the other receivers and tight ends to hurt them. They couldn’t. If Beckham develops into the player as hoped, the Giants will have the outside threat they have lacked since Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season when Hakeem Nicks became a shadow of himself. Beckham has it all except height. Since Eli Manning tends to throw the ball high, additional height would help but Beckham is very quick and fast, runs great routes, can make circus catches, and perhaps most significantly in the new Giants offense, is a tremendous run-after-the-catch receiver. Eli Manning has worked with Beckham in passing camps and fully endorses the selection. Unusually, there already seems to be chemistry there. Most encouraging is that there are reports that at least a half-dozen teams were trying to trade up to snag Beckham. He was picked right where the rest of the NFL seems to have expected him to go. Now if Rueben Randle could just develop, the Giants will be in very good shape at wide receiver.

In round two, most fans thought the Giants would draft an offensive tackle or tight end. But many were also thinking guard or center and the Giants arguably picked the best center in the draft with the selection of Weston Richburg. Richburg lacks ideal size, but most NFL centers are in the same size range (6’3”, 300lbs). He has everything else – strength, agility, quickness, smarts, work ethic, leadership qualities. Temperament wise, he has been compared favorably to Richie Seubert. J.D. Walton may start, but Richburg has the look of a 10-year starter. The Giants may even consider moving Richburg or Walton temporarily to guard if necessary. Richburg was expected to be drafted in this area of the draft and the only criticism that can be leveled here is that he was a “luxury” pick given the needs at tight end and tackle.

Fans debated before the draft how big a need was the defensive tackle position, especially given the free agent departure of Linval Joseph. Some said it was a big need. Others said they were relatively comfortable with the players behind Cullen Jenkins and Joseph’s replacement, Johnathan Hankins. But with the selection of Jay Bromley in the 3rd round, the Giants made it clear they wanted to add another quality prospect to compete with Mike Patterson and Markus Kuhn, as well as groom behind the 33-year old Jenkins. Bromley is the most controversial selection by the Giants. Most “draft experts,” and even Bromley’s agent, expected him to be drafted in rounds 4-6. Fans such as myself who have watched YouTube clips of him (always a dubious exercise) have come away with mixed evaluations. Some see a prospect who struggles at the point-of-attack while others have seen a guy who can penetrate and disrupt. Regardless, how Bromley develops or doesn’t develop will be a big factor in how this draft is evaluated years from now. To be brutally frank, the Giants have really struggled with their 3rd round selections (Jayron Hosley, Jerrel Jernigan, Ramses Barden, Travis Beckum, Gerris Wilkinson) not to mention bad luck with others (Chad Jones and Jay Alford). What we do know about Bromley is he is a guy who is easy to root for (see this outstanding New York Daily News article), he’s a New Yorker who grew up a Giants fan, and he does have good quickness and tenacity for the position. In addition, Bromley was a team captain at Syracuse. The Giants feel he can get bigger and stronger without affecting quickness. Jerry Reese went so far as to compare him to a shorter version of Chris Canty. In my personal view, ultimately, for Bromley to work out, he has to play far more stout at the point-of-attack then I saw on the limited YouTube video that I watched.

There was an intriguing post from BigBlueInteractive.com contributor Ross. Through the grapevine, he heard the following from a former employee of the Philadelphia Eagles:

Each year, teams think they found a few guys that are off the radar and can get them later in the draft for various reasons: injury, small schools, overshadowed etc. This year, one of those guys was Bromley. He said there was a buzz about him in recent weeks and thought he would get drafted earlier that the so called draft experts projected. He’s a “sleeper” and thought many teams wanted him. He said that he is the type of guy that no one talks about as so many teams are interested and they hope he slips. He said no one will work harder than him and Giants got a really good player. Said he was a sure 3rd round pick in his mind and also used the Chris Canty comparison as player type. Thought the Steelers or Bears would grab him in the 3rd which means that he didn’t think it was a reach at all.

As disappointed as many fans were with the “reach” of Bromley, they were equally excited about the Giants drafting RB Andre Williams, the nation’s leading rusher and Heisman Trophy candidate, in the 4th round. Name recognition goes a long way in making the average fan happy around draft time. That said, Williams looks like a very good value selection. A little oddly, running back was not perceived as big need by most Giants fans. This probably had to do more with talent issues at other positions than the true state of affairs, especially given David Wilson’s unsure status. In addition, while I’m a fan of Rashad Jennings, it’s still unknown if he can be the “bell cow” at running back. Williams is a throwback. He’s a big, powerful, bruising running back who seems more out-of-style in today’s pass-happy game. The biggest knock on Williams is his hands. He did not have a single reception in 2013 at Boston College. He also needs to hold onto the ball better (10 fumbles in three seasons). The Jennings-Williams duo gives the Giants backfield an entirely different feel. This is a sledgehammer combination that can wear down a defense if – and this is big “if” – the Giants can block for them up front.

Nat Berhe, the first of the Giants two 5th rounders, is an undersized heat-seeking missile who loves the physical side of the game. He is a big hitter and aggressive tackler. He also is another smart guy and former team captain. At worst, he should excel on special teams. At best, he could become the new in-the-box safety/linebacker in Perry Fewell’s three-safety package. “Well, you can compare it to the third safety role, that Deon Grant role as we’ve called it,” said Marc Ross. “That would be the most natural fit. This is what (Berhe) did and this is what that role was (in college).” The biggest knock on Berhe, other than his size, is that does not make many plays on the football in the air (five interceptions in three seasons).

The second 5th rounder, Devon Kennard, is one of those DE/LB ‘tweeners who the Giants have liked to draft in recent years, but who may not be a good fit for a 4-3 defense. Kennard is big, physical, smart, a team leader, and flashes as a pass rusher. But what we don’t know is if he has the quickness, agility, and speed to play linebacker at the pro level against pass-happy NFL offenses. I envision him as the equivalent to Mathias Kiwanuka (when he played at weakside linebacker), but the Giants have talked about him possibly being a candidate at middle linebacker. I question if he has the overall athleticism for that move. Some had projected Kennard to be drafted much earlier than the 5th round so this at least appears to be a good value selection.

The Giants final pick – CB Bennett Jackson in the 6th round – is also a good value pick. He was projected by some to go higher than this as well. Jackson is a former wide receiver who was converted to corner for the last two years of school at Notre Dame. Another team captain, he was limited his senior season by a shoulder injury. He is size-speed project with good intangibles but he faces stiff competition and numbers at the corner position on this roster. His best immediate prospect may be the Practice Squad unless he kicks ass on special teams in the preseason.

As for the 10 rookie free agents signed after the draft, the three most intriguing are TE Xavier Grimble, DT Kelcy Quarles, and DT Eathyn Manumaleuna. Safeties C.J. Barnett and Thomas Gordon also started a ton of games in the Big 10. Even had the Giants not had a huge need at tight end, Grimble would be an interesting signing. He has a nice combination of size, overall athleticism, and hands. His productivity at USC was hampered by injures and Lane Kiffin’s offense. He could surprise. Quarles was expected by some to be drafted as high as the 2nd-3rd round, but some have questioned his maturity and character. Manumaleuna may lack ideal size and athleticism, but he’s a disruptive football player who can play the run. The Giants also loaded up on defensive ends (Kerry Wynn, Emmanuel Dieke, and Jordan Stanton) and linebackers (Dan Fox and Justin Anderson), hoping one may be a diamond in the rough. Interestingly, 9-out-of-10 of the rookie free agent signings were on the defensive side of the football. None were on the offensive line.

Overall, this appears to be a respectable group. The Giants look like they have future starters in Beckham, Richburg, and Williams. Much depends on Bromley. Did the Giants reach again in the 3rd round or find a gem? The Giants will have to wait until 2015 to address their other needs at offensive tackle (unless Beatty rebounds), tight end (unless someone surprises), defensive end (unless Damontre Moore turns into a stud), and linebacker. The rebuilding project continues.

May 172014
 
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Todd Gurley, Georgia Bulldogs (November 23, 2013)

Todd Gurley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Early New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Will Allen/Peterson

A few things to start this off…

  • These are not rankings because ranking prospects this far out from the 2015 Draft would be pointless.
  • This article is strictly about draft-eligible RBs.
  • It’s premature for me to allege that next year’s RB class will be the best in a decade. People were talking about how strong the 2014 QB crop would be, but then Oregon QB Marcus Mariota stayed in school, several others saw their stock decline dramatically, and a position that was initially projected to be a major strength in its draft class didn’t come anywhere close to living up to expectations. That being said, the potential is there for the 2015 RB class to be absolutely stacked.

Now let’s get started…

A high ankle sprain suffered against LSU in late September hampered Georgia’s Todd Gurley (6’1”, 232 pounds) throughout his sophomore season, forcing him to miss three games and deleteriously affecting his level of play when he pushed through the pain. Head coach Mark Richt publicly acknowledged that Gurley was not yet 100 percent healthy at the start of spring practices. But reports surfaced in the following weeks that he was completed healed by late March and looked like his old self in the spring game.

Gurley is a violent runner with the power to explode through would-be tacklers and methodically wear down defenses as the game progresses. But what makes him a unique talent is his ability to see the hole, make a decisive cut, and accelerate through the opening with a sudden burst for a back of his size. It would also be unfair to classify his speed as deceptive because he ran 10.7 in the 100m coming out of high school and has shown breakaway speed on numerous occasions in each of the last two years.

To go along with his combination of speed and power, Gurley also flashes a great stiff arm, tremendous balance after absorbing contact to bounce off defenders, underrated agility, and a ton of value as a pass receiver out of the backfield.

The ultimate wild card in next year’s running back class will be Florida State’s Karlos Williams (6’1”, 219 pounds), a freak athlete with tremendous physical tools and unlimited potential who began the 2013 season as a safety before switching to offense in early September.

Williams, the No. 4 overall recruit in the nation in 2011 according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings, struggled to earn playing time in a loaded secondary and failed to live up to the lofty expectations that surrounded him when some compared him to Sean Taylor coming out of high school. However, Williams finally embraced the position switch and went on to have a very productive season in a supporting role as a complimentary back.

With a rare blend of size, power, speed, quick feet, and a lethal jump cut, Williams has as much potential as any running back in the country. Williams will likely be the lead back in a multi-headed attack that will also feature five-star freshman Dalvin Cook and sophomore Ryan Green.

Before he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee last October against Tennessee, Georgia’s Keith Marshall (5’11”, 219 pounds) wasn’t getting enough recognition as one of the best running backs in all of college football. Largely overshadowed by his more heralded running mate, Todd Gurley, Marshall was the lightning to Gurley’s thunder in Georgia’s backfield.

Marshall, an explosive home run hitter who was known for his sudden explosiveness through the hole and breakaway speed in the open field, bulked up to 219 pounds and was running with more power and physicality that added another dimension to his game. The season-ending injury robbed Marshall of an opportunity to seize an expanded workload with Gurley sidelined due to an ankle injury that hampered him throughout the year.

Although Marshall is reportedly ahead of schedule in his recovery, Georgia has not ruled out the possibility of redshirting him for the 2014 season and having him return in 2015 with two years of eligibility remaining. The Bulldogs’ backfield would still be loaded with Gurley, sophomore J.J. Green, and heralded five-star freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel forming an outstanding rotation of backs. But Marshall is a terrific talent to monitor no matter when he returns to action.

A total package runner with a dynamic blend of power and speed, South Carolina’s Mike Davis (5’9”, 216 pounds) has a very strong lower half, runs behind his pads, and flashes relentless leg drive on contact to push the pile and pick up additional yardage. Davis is as tough and competitive as any back in the country, as evidenced by the way he consistently finishes his runs with authority.

Most known for his physical running style, Davis is a deceptively well-rounded back with impressive balance, burst out of his cuts, elusiveness to make defenders miss in space with quick feet, and the ability to break off explosive plays on the ground. He also showed natural hands out of the backfield as a sophomore and should continue to be featured heavily as a pass receiver.

Although Davis runs with a low center of gravity and is often the one delivering punishment in collisions with defenders, nagging shoulder, rib, and ankle injuries had a noticeable effect on him physically down the stretch of his first full season as the Gamecocks’ workhorse back.

Having bulked up this offseason, Davis says he’s fully healthy and ready to continue handling a sizable workload, though he should be complemented nicely by promising redshirt freshman David Williams.

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (6’1”, 207 pounds) would have easily been the top-rated running back prospect in the 2014 class had he chosen to declare for the draft following his redshirt sophomore season. But Gordon opted to stay in school to continue to develop and chase a Heisman Trophy, despite the fact that the 2014 running back class was considered weak and next year’s has the potential to be the best in years.

A natural slasher whose running style is eerily reminiscent of Jamaal Charles’, Gordon is a very fluid runner and natural home run hitter with impressive burst and top-end speed. The biggest question mark surrounding Gordon is that he is completely unproven as a pass receiver, as he has just three receptions to this point in his college career.

While his decision to stay in school meant that he’ll be competing with several other premier talents as opposed to being the consensus top-rated running back – which he would have been had he declared for the 2014 NFL Draft – Gordon will almost certainly be an early-round selection as long as he avoids injury.

The next running back from the Crimson Tide’s pipeline to the NFL who’s set to attract early-round attention is Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon (6’2”, 218 pounds), a three-down contributor with a gliding style of running who has great vision and a natural feel for the position.

The lead back in what promises to be the deepest and most talented stable of runners in the entire country, Yeldon displays patience when running between the tackles and has great feet for such a big-bodied back. Not only does he possess enough elusiveness to make defenders miss in space on occasion, but he has also become a physical runner who fights for yards after contact. While Yeldon has proven to be a workhorse with dynamic qualities, he also runs very upright and has had serious ball security issues.

Yeldon will be complemented in Alabama’s backfield by a sophomore standout who’s workload should steadily increase as the season progresses (Derrick Henry), an explosive change of pace back with great top-end speed who has also been in the coaching staff’s doghouse for fumbling issues (Kenyan Drake), and a five-star freshman who faces an uphill battle to earn immediate playing time (Bo Scarbrough).

Next year’s draft has the potential to be loaded with productive high-profile running backs from power conferences, many of whom who were once highly recruited and have been in the national spotlight ever since. But Boise State’s Jay Ajayi (6’0”, 215 pounds) is an exception to that rule who has a chance to enter the conversation as one of the premier draft-eligible backs in the country this year.

Ajayi has tremendous acceleration, impressive balance, and quick feet for a 215-pound back. He’s a powerful, physical runner who accumulates yards after contact and also flashes an effective spin move. With former Boise State coach Chris Petersen taking over at Washington, it’s expected that the Broncos will be implementing a new offensive philosophy predicated on more of a power run game.

While he must clean up ball security issues that put him in the doghouse at times during his redshirt sophomore season, Ajayi is expected to be a workhorse and the focal point of Boise State’s offense this season.

A quick, shifty ball carrier who runs with deceptive power for a back his size, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah (5’9″, 195 pounds) opted to stay in school for his senior season in order to earn his degree before heading to the next level. Abdullah, who led the Big 10 in rushing yards last season, seemed to get stronger as games progressed last year.

A multi-dimensional back who flashed potential as a receiver out of the backfield, Abdullah is a player who should be featured more predominantly in the passing game in 2014. He runs with a low center of gravity and doesn’t go down easily, displaying powerful leg drive to accumulate yards after contact as well as elusiveness in space to make defenders miss.

Abdullah’s lateral agility and acceleration out of his jump cuts are very impressive. But the most glaring weakness in his game is ball security, as he has fumbled 20 times in his first three seasons at Nebraska.

A multidimensional weapon who has changed his style of running over the past couple years is Miami’s Duke Johnson (5’9”, 206 pounds), who’s still recovering from surgery to repair a broken right ankle he suffered last November. Johnson arrived at Miami as a 180-pound scatback who was heavily reliant on speed and quickness, but he’s bulked up to 206 pounds over the past two offseasons and become a different type of runner.

While the added weight has clearly taken away a bit of Johnson’s top-end speed, he flashes a powerful stiff arm and fights for yards after contact as well as anyone in the ACC. Johnson led the conference with an average of 3.3 yards after contact per rush before his season ended prematurely due to injury.

Johnson, who suffers from migraines, must answer questions about his durability and ball security this season. Not only did he play through a nagging foot injury as a freshman when he was in a timeshare with current Bucs RB Mike James, but he was also unable to finish games against South Florida and North Carolina last season. Johnson also had issues protecting the football, as he coughed up the rock twice inside the opposing five-yard line against South Florida and fumbled again a week later against Georgia Tech.

There is no question, however, that Johnson is an invaluable cog of the Hurricanes’ offense and that he’s primed for a big year if he’s able to stay healthy. The arrival of prized recruit Joseph Yearby and hopeful emergence of Gus Edwards (ran 4.54 at 232 pounds during spring workouts in late April) could help to keep Johnson’s workload manageable throughout the season.

Indiana’s Tevin Coleman (6’1”, 210 pounds), who was unable to play in the final three games of the 2013 season due to an ankle injury, is one of the most intriguing and underrated draft-eligible running backs in the country. Guys like Coleman, Melvin Gordon, and Ameer Abdullah are currently breaking the mold and shattering the stereotype of Big 10 running backs from years past that lacked top-end speed and home run ability.

If Coleman manages to stay healthy, there’s a legitimate chance that he could join the two aforementioned runners as well as Jeremy Langford as one of the premier backs in the conference. Coleman, who has said he expects to be more involved in the passing game this season after flashing potential as a receiver out of the backfield last year, is a dangerous space player with impressive burst and outstanding top-end speed.

Coleman is currently ranked by CBS Sports as the 31st-best running back among those eligible to declare in 2016. I believe he’s a much, much better prospect than that ranking indicates.

A fourth-string running back until the midseason firing of then-head coach Lane Kiffin, USC’s Javorius Allen (6’1”, 215 pounds) exploded onto the scene when given an opportunity to crack the lineup as a result of injuries to other backs and a recommendation to interim replacement Ed Orgeron from RB coach Tommie Robinson.

Tre Madden suffered a hamstring injury against Arizona in mid-October, causing him to play sparingly down the stretch. And Justin Davis went down for the season with an ankle injury against Notre Dame a week later. While Silas Redd initially became the primary ball carrier in their absence, he also missed time with a knee ailment and was unable to reclaim the starting job when he returned to action against UCLA.

Allen capitalized on the opportunity by becoming a big-play machine in the month of November, surpassing the 120-yard rushing mark in four out of five games and scoring 11 total touchdowns during that span.

A one-cut downhill runner with good speed for his size who was utilized effectively as a pass receiver on screens a year ago, Allen should continue to receive plenty of carries despite improved depth at the position. It’s worth noting that Allen is an older prospect who turns 23 in August.

Texas A&M’s Trey Williams (5’8”, 195 pounds) is an extremely dynamic talent who jumped off the screen every time I watched the Aggies play a year ago. Williams has tremendous feet, excels at making people miss, and flashes an impressive burst as well as top-end speed. His elusiveness and home run ability serve him well on special teams, as he was one of the most dangerous kick returners in the nation as a redshirt freshman.

Former starting running back Ben Malena was the one A&M’s coaching staff trusted the most in pass protection, which is why he saw the most playing time among a group of more talented backs that included Williams, Brandon Williams, and Tra Carson. Now that Malena has graduated, Williams is in line for a much-expanded role. Watch for him to be one of the most exciting skill players to watch in the SEC.

A pair of talented senior running backs in line for expanded workloads should have ample opportunity to audition for the next level in the nation’s most prolific rushing offense. Auburn’s Corey Grant (5’11”, 205 pounds), who originally signed with Alabama back in 2010 before transferring after his freshman season, possesses blazing speed and has shown the ability to turn the corner with ease as an outside runner. But Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has also cited his improvement at running in between the tackles, which projects as a major factor behind the expectation that he’ll be able to handle double-digit carries per game in a timeshare of sorts.

Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne (5’11”, 210 pounds), a three-star JUCO transfer who was an effective change of pace back in a limited role last season, will likely do much of the heavy lifting as an inside runner. Artis-Payne, whose running style should complement Grant’s nicely, has quick feet in the hole and sets up his blocks effectively before sprinting to daylight. Running backs coach Tim Horton has said that there is no clear favorite at the moment to fill the void left by Tre Mason. But Grant and Artis-Payne, who split reps with the first-team offense throughout spring practice, are both expected to earn significant roles in the Auburn backfield. However, five-star freshman Roc Thomas may threaten for early playing time.

When Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were sidelined due to injury, Baylor’s Shock Linwood (5’8”, 200 pounds) proved in two consecutive games that their ground attack wouldn’t skip a beat when the aforementioned backs left the program at the end of the season. Linwood – who posted consecutive 180+ yard outings on the ground against Oklahoma and Texas Tech, respectively, in mid-late November – displayed the potential that he could develop into one of the best backs in the Big 12 as early as this season.

A quicker-than-fast back with a compact build who runs with great balance and a low center of gravity, Linwood is expected to be the primary ball carrier as part of a three-headed attack in Baylor’s backfield. But he’ll have to fend off redshirt freshman Johnny Jefferson, a phenomenal athlete who had a monster spring.

Others to watch…

Oregon RB Byron Marshall (5’10”, 201 pounds) – Faded down the stretch before suffering an ankle injury against Arizona in late November. But Marshall and sophomore Thomas Tyner, both of whom have also been getting reps at wide receiver this spring, should form one of the top 1-2 punches in the country.

Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford (6’0”, 205 pounds) – A model of consistency for the Spartans as a sophomore, Langford surpassed the 100-yard mark on the ground in eight consecutive games to close the regular season. He is a tough, rugged runner who excels at generating yards after contact and possesses underrated speed, though he was more of a chain mover than a home run threat last season.

Texas A&M’s Tra Carson (6’0”, 230 pounds) – The thunder back in the Aggies’ running back rotation, Carson is in line for a much-expanded workload and has reportedly earned the coaching staff’s trust in pass protection more than the others competing for playing time.

Texas A&M’s Brandon Williams (6’0”, 200 pounds) – The Oklahoma transfer saw limited playing time a year ago and was slowed this spring by a minor injury. But he brings an added dimension to the Aggies’ backfield and has a tremendous amount of potential if the light finally comes on.

Alabama’s Kenyan Drake (6’1”, 201 pounds) – Severe ball security issues and the team’s remarkable depth at the position could jeopardize his ability to earn consistent playing time. But Drake, who’s built like a wide receiver, is a nice potential complement to Yeldon and Henry because of his burst, agility, and home run ability.

Washington’s Dwayne Washington (6’2”, 221 pounds) – The possible successor to Bishop Sankey in the Huskies’ backfield, Washington overcame early-season fumbling problems to show flashes late in his redshirt freshman campaign. Shaq Thompson, an elite linebacker prospect who may play on both sides of the ball this season, could also see snaps at running back for Washington.

Texas’ Malcolm Brown (6’0”, 225 pounds) – The former five-star recruit overcame injury setbacks from earlier in his career to be a workhorse in the Longhorns’ offense once Johnathan Gray suffered a torn right Achilles’ tendon against West Virginia in early November. Brown is a between-the-tackles banger who runs with power and finishes consistently.

Louisville’s Michael Dyer (5’9”, 215 pounds) – A once-heralded talent who has run out of second chances because of past off-the-field incidents involving guns and marijuana, Dyer will have to work his way up the depth chart after recovering from a sports hernia injury for which he underwent surgery in December. Dyer still has plenty of ability and potential, but he turns 24 in October and must prove that his baggage is in the past.

Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill (5’9”, 185 pounds) – Head coach Mike Gundy says the explosive JUCO transfer is “at a different level, speed-wise, than anybody I’ve ever coached.” Hill, who generated rave reviews this spring, is expected to be a movable chess piece who will receive touches from multiple spots along the formation, including running back.