It’s been a while since I’ve been active on here, so I decided to start up once again as we wind towards the 2015 NFL Draft with a big topic: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Mariota is near unanimously considered the second best passer entering the draft this season, behind only first-overall projected Florida State product Jameis Winston. A redshirt junior, Mariota amassed enough awards to fill a trophy case in 2014, including the Heisman Trophy and Rose Bowl Offensive MVP as he led the Ducks to a 13-2 season in which they were edged by Ohio State for the national title.
Where do we start with Mariota? Well, he’s an athletic freak for the position. Mariota led quarterbacks in every combine drill, including an impressive 4.52 second 40-yard dash time. At 6’4″ and 222 lbs, Mariota is also sized like a prototypical quarterback.
While Mariota’s athleticism is obvious, he follows this up with a very strong arm. However, unlike many cannon armed passers coming out of college, he also possesses a solid touch on his passes, lofting the ball when necessary and throwing bullets when needed. Mariota also has a quick delivery with sound mechanics. He’s been very careful with the ball in his time at Oregon, only throwing more than one interception in a game three times in his 41 starts for the Ducks.
Perhaps what he’s best known for are his Tebow-esque skills of improvisation, making would be tacklers miss and extending plays with his legs — keeping his eyes on the field for a play in the process. Similarly to 2014 first-round pick Johnny Manziel, Mariota also has a solid feel for passing on the run and handles off balance throws well.
Mariota’s first and foremost criticism is that he did not play in a pro-style offense at Oregon, something that tipped the scales for Winston over Mariota in many profilers’ minds as the top passer in this year’s draft class. The reasoning behind this is solid, as Mariota took few chances as a passer and was not asked to anticipate routes and defenders or throw into tight spaces often in the Ducks’ offense.
In addition, Mariota showed a tendency to sail passes when throwing down the field and overall has some questions about accuracy. His pocket presence is something that needs to be worked on, as he’s quick to pick up rushers and abandon the pocket rather than step up into a pass. Mariota also showed a lack of protection for the ball, coughing up 27 fumbles as a three-year starter.
While Mariota may not be the favorite for many at the quarterback position as a high potential, medium risk candidate, he’s a much more sure thing than Johnny Manziel coming out of school last season. Mariota will need to prove he can adapt to a pro-style offense and silence doubters by holding on to the football and working on both his overall accuracy and ball placement in tight windows.
The combination of arm, athleticism and improvisation has made some compare Mariota favorably to Robert Griffin III circa his rookie season, but I’m much more inclined to the Colin Kaepernick comparisons due to Mariota’s quick release and abilities outside the pocket.
Mariota is a sure-fire first round pick, and likely to be a top five selection as well, with the Jaguars, Raiders and Redskins (picks three through five) all dearly in need of talent on their rosters and the possibility of a team trading in front of the quarterback needy Bears and Jets (picks six and seven) to ensure they get their guy.
As the 2015 quarterback class is fairly thin and many teams looking for both a short and long term solution, teams will likely scramble over the opportunity to land Mariota, giving him a solid chance to land in the top five next month.
Hundreds of high school football players made the trip to Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana for a special event this past weekend: the 18th annual Manning Passing Academy.
While the camp features players and coaches at several levels of the professional and collegiate levels as camp counselors, it’s the after hours activities that interest scouts and NFL coaches, when the collegiate participants get to show off their abilities in the offseason. Among the analysts in attendance were Mike Mayock and Bucky Brooks. Both NFL.com’s quarterbacks guru (Mayock) and the former player/scout (Brooks) made some interesting observations about the participating quarterbacks.
One of the biggest stories of the weekend was the departure of Johnny Manziel from the Mannings’ camp due to a reported illness, while others cited that Manziel had been sent home due to a bit too much partying. Labeled as “just the latest saga in the summer of Johnny Football” by ESPN anchor Rece Davis, Manziel’s publicity seems to be in full-blown media mania mode following many off-the-field stories stemming from his activities at Texas A&M and unprecedented reception of the Heisman Award as a freshman in December.
Regardless of the media’s coverage of Manziel’s off-the-field antics, the sophomore phenom still receives a good deal of attention due to his playmaking style of quarterbacking o”n the field. Brooks’ thoughts regarding Manziel revolve around the prediction that Manziel’s pre-draft evaluation by scouts and coaches — will the ‘sandlot’ quarterback draw reviews closer to Tim Tebow or Russell Wilson? Brooks tends to believe the Manziel’s mental approach is more suited to comparisons to the latter of the two — especially if he continues to develop as a proficient pocket passer.
While Johnny Football indeed favors improvisation and an ability to make plays via scrambling outside of the pocket, it became clear to Brooks during the interview process that Manziel understands the necessity of learning the pocket passer approach. The same approach is what has made perhaps the other most-discussed college quarterback famous at Alabama: A.J. McCarron.
Katherine Webb, McCarron’s girlfriend and celebrity personality, may have gotten more camera time in the past six months of the collegiate offseason, but McCarron is clearly in for a media-filled senior season as the ever-constant scrutiny of professional talent evaluators as his draft chances hang in the balance. Alabama’s pro-style offense has led scouts to label McCarron as one of the more pro-ready quarterbacks for the 2014 NFL Draft class.
McCarron can do it all — he has everything a scout looks for in a prospect — but the question is whether he can make the jump to an even more competitive level of play. Brooks came away impressed with McCarron’s “team-first” mentality and surprising aspirations to mirror Brett Favre’s “gunslinger’s mentality” as an expression of McCarron’s belief that he can be a playmaker at the professional level.
Each draft class features a player who receives the label of being the most physically talented quarterback of the group. Brooks believes that this label is most appropriately given to Miami junior Stephen Morris, whose impressive arm strength and pinpoint accuracy impressed scouts at the Manning camp. Other than passing abilities that include polished senses of touch and ball placement, Brooks came away with an impression that Morris’ anticipation and timing could make him a top quarterback in an impressive field of 2014 passers.
Brooks named several other passers in attendance as possible sleeper candidates for next May, including the likes of Devin Gardner (Michigan), Bryn Renner (North Carolina) and James Franklin (Missouri). Both Gardner and Franklin displayed impressive athleticism in combination with passing ability that could make either player appeal to professional scouts in the way Denard Robinson did this offseason. Renner’s claim to fame (according to Brooks) is an under-utilization of his passing talents in the Tar Heels “dink and dunk” offense that could lead to a late round ‘steal’ selection in May’s draft.
Mayock came away with similar impressions from the same collegiate passers as Brooks, with his most polished honors going to Renner and McCarron (although Mayock emphasized McCarron’s less-than excellent arm strength). Morris was mentioned in Mayock’s report as having been “developed well over the past couple years” due to notable mechanics, tight throws and impressive accuracy. In addition to Gardner, Mayock cited Florida passer Jeff Driskel as a raw quarterback prospect with passing ability and plus athleticism to keep an eye on as he starts his junior season.
The 2014 NFL Draft class of quarterbacks is shaping up to be a group to watch this season.
Since our coverage was ended a bit prematurely towards the end of the fifth-round, I’m back to finish up each prospect’s quick analysis.
151st pick – Cowboys select Oklahoma St. RB Joseph Randle
Junior 6’0″ 204 lbs 4.59 40-yard
NFL Comparison: Fred Jackson
Randle doesn’t have top-tier speed, but he’s very quick and runs hard. Accelerates well out of the backfield, but still needs to develop vision as a runner.
152nd pick – Giants select Richmond S Taylor Cooper
Redshirt Senior 6’5″ 228 lbs 4.55 40-yard 23 bench reps
A player with a reputation for being a quick learner, Cooper displays good instincts and hard-hitting ability to make up for a lack of elite speed. Plays aggressively and physically.
Has a history of injuries and a medical scare in 2010 has worried scouts.
153rd pick – Falcons select TCU DE Stansly Maponga
Redshirt Junior 6’2″ 256 lbs 4.84 40-yard 30 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Dwight Freeney
Already a good pass-rusher with an excellent spin move, Maponga explodes off the snap.
Likely to play end for Atlanta, but needs to prove he’s more consistent to get playing time.
154th pick – Redskins select Florida St. RB Chris Thompson
Senior 5’7″ 192 lbs 4.42 40-yard 21 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Darren Sproles
Size is a clear issue, but coaches love Thompson’s resiliency — having suffered a major back injury as a junior at Florida State.
Likely will serve as a change of pace and receiving back for Washington.
155th pick – Vikings select UCLA P Jeff Locke
Redshirt Senior 6’1″ 209 lbs
A lefty punter who can likely contribute on kickoffs as well, Locke is the first punter or kicker to go in the 2013 NFL Draft.
156th pick – Bengals select Kansas OT Tanner Hawkinson
Redshirt Senior 6’5″ 298 lbs 5.06 40-yard
NFL Comparison: Steve Maneri
Hawkinson played tight end in high school, and it shows in his athleticism as a tackle. Started 48 straight games for Kansas.
May be more ideal to move back to tight end in the NFL due to strength concerns, like Maneri has done with the Chiefs.
157th pick – 49ers select Alabama DE Quinton Dial
Senior 6’6″ 318 lbs 5.29 40-yard
Touted as a scheme-versatile lineman, Dial is a non-stop attacker who plays aggressively every down.
Very agile for his size, but needs to learn technique to succeed at the NFL-level.
158th pick – Seahawks select Rice TE Luke Willson
Redshirt Senior 6’5″ 251 lbs 4.51 40-yard 23 bench reps
159th pick – Packers select Iowa CB Micah Hyde
Senior 6’0″ 197 lbs 4.52 40-yard 12 bench reps
Played both safety and corner at Iowa, and will likely be treated as a tweener by Green Bay. Has a public intoxication arrest on his record.
160th pick – Rams select Vanderbilt RB Zac Stacy
Senior 5’9″ 216 lbs 4.53 40-yard 27 bench reps
Experienced special teams player. Stacy is a good interior runner who falls forward, but won’t be much of a help in the passing game either as a blocker or receiver.
161st pick – Broncos select Georgia WR Tavarres King
Redshirt Senior 6’0″ 189 lbs 4.40 40-yard 11 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Emmanuel Sanders
Regarded by some as a developmental starter, King has speed and a fluidity to his movement to beat corners deep and excels at beating press coverage.
Inconsistent hands and a lean frame will lead to little playing time as a rookie.
162nd pick – Redskins select Florida St. DE Brandon Jenkins
Senior 6’3″ 251 lbs 5.08 40-yard 18 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Robert Mathis
Jenkins explodes off the edge, but is criticized for having played more as a linebacker than end. Long arms give Jenkins leverage on blockers, but a lack of bulk will be an issue in defending against the run.
163rd pick – Bears select Louisiana Tech OT Jordan Mills
Senior 6’5″ 316 lbs 5.30 40-yard 20 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Ray Willis
Mills played both tackle and guard in college, and may be asked to be a super reserve player. Plays more a strength game than finesse — unlikely to see time on the left side of the line.
164th pick – Dolphins select Florida RB Mike Gillislee
Senior 5’11” 208 lbs 4.48 40-yard 15 bench reps
A good receiver, Gillislee isn’t afraid to block for quarterbacks. Plays much slighter than his build and shies away from contact.
Has the speed to break away, but doesn’t break tackles and needs to learn to hit the hole.
165th pick – Lions select Appalachian State P Sam Martin
166th pick – Dolphins select Florida K Caleb Sturgis
167th pick – Packers select Mississippi St. DE Josh Boyd
Senior 6’3″ 310 lbs 5.14 40-yard 32 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Sen’Derrick Marks
Plays a bit too weak for tackle in a 4-3, but should make a rotational run-stopping end for Green Bay.
168th pick – Ravens select Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner
Redshirt Senior 6’6″ 308 lbs 5.15 40-yard 20 bench reps
A tough player who performed with a knee injury in 2012, Wagner was a walk-on at Wisconsin who earned his playing time. Should make for good depth and could develop as a starting right tackle.
169th pick – Jaguars select Florida S Josh Evans
Senior 6’1″ 207 lbs 4.54 40-yard
NFL Comparison: Reshad Jones
Evans reads plays well, attacking the ball carrier when he senses a run play. He is aggressive on jump balls, but often allows receivers to catch the ball rather than risk blowing an attempt at an interception.
170th pick – Chiefs select California (PA) C Eric Kush
Redshirt Senior 6’4″ 304 lbs
Kush was projected undrafted.
171st pick – Lions select Virginia Tech WR Corey Fuller
Redshirt Senior 6’2″ 204 lbs 4.32 40-yard 12 bench reps
Very fast and a hard worker, Fuller is a developmental receiver.
172nd pick – Raiders select Colorado TE Nick Kasa
Senior 6’6″ 269 lbs 4.71 40-yard 22 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Kevin Boss
Already a competent blocker, with size and speed on his side — a potential playmaker with some work.
173rd pick – Broncos select Virginia Tech OT Vinston Painter
Redshirt Senior 6’4″ 306 lbs 4.90 40-yard 32 bench reps
174th pick – Cardinals select Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope
Redshirt Senior 6’0″ 205 lbs 4.28 40-yard 16 bench reps
Shows remarkable awareness for a young receiver and has great possession skills.
175th pick – Browns select Notre Dame S Jamoris Slaughter
Redshirt Senior 6’0″ 195 lbs 4.57 40-yard
Good athlete with a presence in both the run and pass games. Has durability concerns.
176th pick – Texans select San Jose St. OT David Quessenberry
Redshirt Senior 6’5″ 302 lbs 5.06 40-yard 25 bench reps
Another former tight end, Quessenberry is both athletic and muscular for his size — he has developmental upside as either a tackle or guard.
177th pick – Bills select Florida St. K Dustin Hopkins
178th pick – Jets select Michigan OG William Campbell
Senior 6’4″ 311 lbs
179th pick – Chargers select Florida International DE Tourek Williams
Senior 6’3″ 260 lbs 4.74 40-yard 25 bench reps
180th pick – 49ers select Florida St. OLB Nick Moody
Redshirt Senior 6’1″ 236 lbs 4.70 40-yard 17 bench reps
181st pick – Raiders select Central Florida RB Latavius Murray
Redshirt Senior 6’3″ 223 lbs 4.39 40-yard
Murray has an incredible track record with holding onto the ball, with only one fumble in 453 rushing attempts.
182nd pick – Panthers select Oregon RB Kenjon Barner
Redshirt Senior 5’9″ 196 lbs 4.39 40-yard 20 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Joe McKnight
Experienced with returners and a capable pass-catcher. Has struggled with fumbles.
183rd pick – Saints select Tarleton St. DE Rufus Johnson
Redshirt Senior 6’5″ 272 lbs
184th pick – Raiders select Tennessee TE Mychal Rivera
Redshirt Senior 6’3″ 242 lbs 4.78 40-yard 17 bench reps
Rivera is known for making near-impossible catches and displays both good route-running and solid hands. Very poor blocker at this point.
185th pick – Cowboys select South Carolina OLB DeVonte Holloman
Senior 6’2″ 243 lbs 4.71 40-yard 15 bench reps
He’s very instinctual, yet Holloman often lacks the physical ability to make plays on his reads.
186th pick – Steelers select Oklahoma WR Justin Brown
Senior 6’3″ 207 lbs
187th pick – Cardinals select Clemson RB Andre Ellington
Redshirt Senior 5’9″ 199 lbs 4.54 40-yard
Ellington frustrates attackers with quick cuts and an ability to stop and start, but needs to learn to let his linemen do more work and set up blocks.
188th pick – Bears select Georgia OLB Cornelius Washington
Redshirt Senior 6’4″ 265 lbs 4.53 40-yard 36 bench reps
Flexible player, who can serve both as 4-3 end and pass-rushing lienbacker. Has some off-the-field concerns.
189th pick – Buccaneers select Miami RB Mike James
Senior 5’11” 223 lbs 4.50 40-yard 28 bench reps
More of a plodder than a true runner, James saw time both as a pass-catching fullback and lead blocker in his time at Miami.
190th pick – Bengals select Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead
Senior 5’10” 214 lbs 4.65 40-yard 21 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Peyton Hillis
Burkhead runs hard and is built sturdy. While he may not have quite the size of Hillis or the experience at fullback, Burkhead has the ability to mirror Hillis’ impact as a tough runner.
191st pick – Redskins select Georgia S Bacarri Rambo
Redshirt Senior 6’1″ 211 lbs 4.57 40-yard 17 bench reps
Rambo is an aggressive tackler who reads the offense well and makes plays at both safety positions.
He has had off-the-field issues, including suspensions due to failed drug tests in 2012.
192nd pick – Colts select Oregon S John Boyett
Redshirt Senior 5’10” 204 lbs 4.64 40-yard 27 bench reps
Short stature may limit Boyett’s impact in the NFL. Possesses good ball skills and can read teh quarterback, but injury concerns are a problem.
193rd pick – Packers select Illinois St. LB Nate Palmer
Redshirt Senior 6’2″ 248 lbs 4.73 40-yard
194th pick – Seahawks select LSU RB Spencer Ware
Junior 5’10” 228 lbs 4.63 40-yard
195th pick – Texans select Jacksonville St. WR Alan Bonner
Senior 5’10” 193 lbs 4.50 40-yard 14 bench reps
196th pick – Vikings select UCLA OG Jeff Baca
Redshirt Senior 6’4″ 302 lbs 4.98 40-yard
While Baca handles bull-rushers well, he has difficulty dealing with finesse rushers. Ideally a guard at the professional level.
197th pick – Bengals select Arkansas WR Cobi Hamilton
Senior 6’2″ 212 lbs 4.50 40-yard 11 bench reps
Fluid receiver who can gain yardage after the catch. Will get in trouble with fumbling when trying to gain yards and has a history of concussion problems.
198th pick – Texans select Bowling Green DT Chris Jones
Senior 6’2″ 302 lbs 5.25 40-yard 30 bench reps
199th pick – Lions select Notre Dame RB Theo Riddick
Senior 5’10” 201 lbs 4.68 40-yard
200th pick – Ravens select Notre Dame DE Kapron Lewis-Moore
Redshirt Senior 6’4″ 298 lbs 4.95 40-yard
Athletic for his size and plays hard, Lewis-Moore has a history of injuries (including a torn ACL in the BCS Title Game earlier this year).
201st pick – Texans select Connecticut TE Ryan Griffin
Redshirt Senior 6’6″ 261 lbs 4.90 40-yard
202nd pick – Titans select Nevada CB Khalid Wooten
Redshirt Senior 5’11” 210 lbs 4.43 40-yard 17 bench reps
203rd pick – Ravens select Colorado St.-Pueblo OT Ryan Jensen
Senior 6’4″ 317 lbs 5.23 40-yard 30 bench reps
204th pick – Chiefs select Kansas St. FB Braden Wilson
Redshirt Senior 6’4″ 251 lbs 4.78 40-yard 22 bench reps
205th pick – Raiders select Oklahoma DT Stacy McGee
Redshirt Senior 6’3″ 308 lbs
206th pick – Steelers select Florida St. LB Vince Williams
7th Round (notable picks are detailed)
207th pick – Chiefs select Princeton DE Mike Catapano
208th pick – Jaguars select New Mexico St. CB Jeremy Harris
209th pick – Raiders select San Diego St. WR Brice Butler
210th pick – Jaguars select Appalachian St. CB Demetrius McCray
211th pick – Lions select Alabama TE Michael Williams
Redshirt Senior 6’10” 278 lbs 5.20 40-yard
NFL Comparison: Jake Ballard
An exceptional blocker, Williams may develop into a pass-catcher with the proper coaching.
212th pick – Eagles select Utah DE Joe Kruger
Junior 6’6″ 269 lbs 4.81 40-yard 24 bench reps
Brother of Cleveland ‘backer Paul Kruger, Joe plays with intensity and has a great work ethic. Versatile, could play 4-3 end or 3-4 end if coached properly.
213th pick – Vikings select Penn State LB Michael Mauti
Redshirt Senior 6’2″ 243 lbs 4.83 40-yard 28 bench reps
Mauti plays instinctually and reads offenses in a way to make up for less than great athletic ability. Durability is questionable.
214th pick – Vikings select North Carolina OG Travis Bond
215th pick – Jets select Wake Forest FB Tommy Bohanon
216th pick – Packers select Grand Valley St. WR Charles Johnson
217th pick – Browns select East Central DE Armonty Bryant
218th pick – Eagles select Oregon State CB Jordan Poyer
Senior 6’0″ 191 lbs 4.50 40-yard 8 bench reps
Good sized corner who has the ability to take on taller receivers in coverage. Poyer is a willing run defender who has experience with special teams and has played both man and zone coverage.
219th pick – Cardinals select Rutgers TE D.C. Jefferson
220nd pick – Seahawks select Vanderbilt OG Ryan Seymour
221st pick – Chargers select Southern Utah QB Brad Sorenson
222nd pick – Bills select Arkansas TE Chris Gragg
223rd pick – Steelers select Samford DT Nick Williams
224th pick – Packers select Maryland WR Kevin Dorsey
225th pick – Giants select Ohio OG Eric Herman
226th pick – Patriots select Illinois DE Michael Buchanan
Senior 6’6″ 255 lbs 4.71 40-yard 22 bench reps
Buchanan is a versatile player that will fit well within New England’s hybrid defense. With the ability to use his body to get a jump on blockers, Buchanan should be able to get leverage both as a stand-up rusher or with his hand in the dirt.
227th pick – Browns select Chadron St. OT Garrett Gilkey
228th pick – Redskins select Rutgers RB Jawan Jamison
Redshirt Sophomore 5’8″ 203 lbs 4.62 40-yard 20 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Ray Rice
Jamison is an elusive runner capable of getting yardage between the tackles and is a capable pass-catcher. Undersized, but runs hard and makes tacklers miss.
229th pick – Vikings select Florida St. DT Everett Dawkins
Redshirt Senior 6’2″ 292 lbs 5.01 40-yard 23 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Greg Scruggs
Dawkins is athletic for his size and utilizes both a bull-rush and swim move. Although he may not make for a great run-stuffer, Dawkins should be able to create an interior pass-rush as a rotational lineman for Minnesota.
230th pick – Colts select Utah St. RB Kerwynn Williams
231st pick – Seahawks select Harding DE Ty Powell
232nd pick – Packers select South Florida LB Sam Barrington
233rd pick – Raiders select Missouri Western DE David Bass
234th pick – Broncos select Miami (Ohio) QB Zac Dysert
Redshirt Senior 6’3″ 231 lbs 4.83 40-yard
NFL Comparison: Josh McCown
Judged by many to be a mid-round pick, Denver took Dysert late as another option to last-year pick Brock Osweiler. Can throw on the move and is a good athlete, but needs to learn to take snaps under-center rather than only in shotgun — with teaching could be a starter in the future.
235th pick – Patriots select Rutgers LB Steve Beauharnais
236th pick – Bears select Washington St. WR Marquess Wilson
Junior 6’3″ 194 lbs 4.45 40-yard 7 bench reps
Wilson can burn corners with deceptive speed, who uses placement and vertical ability to beat corners on jump balls.
237th pick – 49ers select South Florida QB B.J. Daniels
238th pick – Ravens select Elon WR Aaron Mellette
239th pick – Eagles select Oklahoma DE David King
240th pick – Bengals select Ohio St. OT Reid Fragel
Senior 6’8″ 308 lbs 5.09 40-yard 33 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Brandon Mosley
Like Mosley, Fragel is a former tight end. He has ideal size and is athletic for his frame, while not sacrificing strength — however his footwork and technique need to improve if he’s going to make it as a tackle.
241st pick – Seahawks select New Hampshire DT Jared Smith
242nd pick – Seahawks select NE Oklahoma St. OT Michael Bowie
243rd pick – Falcons select Central Florida DB Kemal Ishmael
244th pick – Falcons select Notre Dame S Zeke Motta
Senior 6’2″ 213 lbs 4.75 40-yard 11 bench reps
NFL Comparison: Craig Dahl
Motta is already a proficient run-defending safety with a good back-pedal that will serve him well in combating poor straight-line speed. Should make a good special teams player if not a starter.
245th pick – Lions select Florida A&M LB Brandon Hepburn
246th pick – 49ers select Iowa St. OT Carter Bykowski
247th pick – Ravens select California CB Marc Anthony
Redshirt Senior 6’0″ 196 lbs 4.59 40-yard 12 bench reps
Anthony has good size for the position and long arms that aid in winning jump balls against receivers. Anticipates routes and makes hard tackles — proven by his production over three years as a starter.
Does tend to get caught up trying to jar the ball out instead of taking runners down and has issues biting on fakes and double moves from receivers.
248th pick – Titans select Nebraska S Daimion Stafford
249th pick – Falcons select Duke QB Sean Renfree
250th pick – Dolphins select Arkansas St. S Don Jones
251st pick – Bengals select South Carolina C T.J. Johnson
252nd pick – 49ers select Rutgers CB Marcus Cooper
253rd pick – Giants select Massachusetts RB Michael Cox
254th pick – Colts select South Carolina TE Justice Cunningham
And with that, we’ve covered every pick! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for team-by-team breakdowns of how each team fared in the draft.
With all of the questions flying around West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, everybody is wondering where he’ll go in the first-round come Thursday’s NFL Draft festivities.
Adam Schein is adamant that Smith won’t leave the first round — in fact he goes as far as alleviating any misconceptions that Smith isn’t a legitimate franchise quarterback.
Why does Schein believe this?
Well, he cites the thought that Smith has both the “tangibles and intangibles” a team looks for in their franchise quarterback. Undoubtedly, Smith has talent. The problem many see with Smith is the same that many of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class exhibit: inconsistency. While many young players have problems with consistency, it’s remarkable that all of these passers have at the collegiate level.
There are solid possibilities for Smith going in the top-five — Jacksonville, Oakland and Philadelphia all clearly need quarterbacks. Blaine Gabbert has flopped in his time starting for the Jaguars, Oakland is devoid of talent at the position, and the Eagles have concerns about Michael Vick’s durability and age.
Even after the addition of Kevin Kolb, it’s clear that Buffalo needs a quarterback (even if they’re looking at Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib). Smith could even go to the Cardinals, although glaring needs and the recent addition of Carson Palmer could temper any thoughts of Smith playing in Arizona.
A couple interesting teams that Schein throws into the mix for Smith should he fall from the top-ten are Tampa Bay and Tennessee. Although Josh Freeman is squarely locked-in at starter for the Bucs and Jake Locker is the heir apparent following Matt Hasselbeck’s departure from Tennessee, it’s been made known that Greg Schiano has his reservations about Freeman and Locker’s early struggles both in performance and staying on the field have worried Titans management.
It would be a bit of a shock for either team to take Smith, especially since the Buccaneers just shipped off their first-round pick for Darrelle Revis — it would likely take a few picks this year and possibly their first next year to jump back into the first. The Titans are in a similar situation to the Browns in that if they grab Smith that means they’re giving up on a former first-round pick in Brandon Weeden.
One team that Schein comments about that makes sense is the New York Jets. Yes, they’re clearly in need of defensive help at several positions (and even more so after the trading of Revis), but now with two first-round picks they could afford to spend one on Smith — thus upgrading tremendously on the likes of Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, David Garrard and Greg McIlroy.
Geno Smith makes for a very interesting story this year not only because the Revis trade has shaken up the first-round, but also because he isn’t the clear-cut prospect that we’ve seen in quarterbacks from years past — i.e. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford or Matthew Stafford.
Steelers Looking at Quarterback?
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com has some interesting news out of Pittsburgh: the Steelers are looking at taking an heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger come draft day.
They’ve even got one in mind already — Tennessee’s Tyler Bray.
Bray’s got talent, that’s for sure, but off-the-field issues have squarely eliminated him from first-round discussions. Between arm strength and an unabashed fearlessness when it comes to off-the-field problems (just look at Big Ben), the Steelers could be the perfect fit for Bray — that is if another team just jump on him in the second- or third-round before Pittsburgh can.
Another name Rosenthal throws out there is Miami of Ohio product Zach Dysert. The apparent backup plan, should Pittsburgh stand-pat at quarterback in the draft, is for veteran Charlie Batch to be brought back in to compete with Bruce Gradkowski for clipboard duties.
NFL Draft Reports Mock Draft 3.0
I’m currently working hard on getting out a final mock draft prior to the real thing later this week, so stay tuned tomorrow and Thursday. This one will be a beat meatier and likely will be a two-part post.
NFL Draft Preparation Under Way
The 2013 NFL Draft is only a few days away, and here at NFL Draft Reports we’re hard at work prepping for Thursday night’s first-round festivities. I’ll be personally covering the first-round with live updates with some help from a couple new faces, while the second-round will be handled by myself and a said new contributors that I’ll be announcing in the next couple days.
It’s an exciting time in the NFL, and we’re here to bring you all the news you need on the draft, so make sure to tune in on Thursday!
It’s often good news for a player to receive a glowing review from NFL Films veteran Greg Cosell–and that’s just what Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter was credited with in one of Cosell’s most recent Yahoo! Sports features.
Cosell’s view of receivers in the NFL today is that there are no longer designations like ‘X’, ‘Y’, or ‘Z’ on the offense — rather most top-level receivers must be able to fill the “Joker” role, which is all about flexibility and confusing defenses by lining up in many different spots on both the outside and inside (and even the backfield, as Cosell noted with Atlanta receiver Roddy White).
In his piece, Cosell labels Hunter as the “most physically talented wide receiver” while additionally calling the former Volunteer “the most intriguing receiver on the board” and being “most explosive as a route runner” of the receivers in this year’s NFL Draft. Cosell compares Hunter to both A.J. Green in several aspects (including “fluidity” in movements) and even to Randy Moss due to Hunter’s vertical (Cosell does temper these comparisons with the acknowledgement that Hunter will need some develop to match the contributions of Green or Moss in the NFL).
Hunter has both size and vertical ability in his favor (with the best vertical of receivers at the NFL Combine), while also flashing a 4.44 40-yard dash time for scouts in Indy.
Cosell makes it clear that he expects Hunter to be off the board within the top-32 next Thursday night — even if he acknowledges lingering effects from a 2011 ACL injury and a tendency to have easy drops at the collegiate level (which he balances out by claiming his “acceleration and vertical explosiveness clearly projects to the NFL”).
Just from watching film clips of Hunter’s past season at Tennessee shows after the catch ability, a drive to get yards after contact and an ability to make plays over defenders on balls thrown up by quarterback Tyler Bray–in fact, he was often asked to make catches in traffic during his time at Tennessee.
Hunter isn’t the only prospect that Cosell talks up. Unlike many scouts, who have concerns about injuries and slow 40-yard times, Cosell is very optimistic about the NFL future of California product Keenan Allen.
While Allen may not be as fleet-footed as other receivers in the class, Cosell claims Allen exemplifies the Joker receiver that coaches are looking for — he can play in the slot and outside in multiple roles due to his receiving abilities and good size at 6’2″ and 206 pounds.
Cosell specifically admires Allen’s run after the catch abilities and versatility, as he states that Allen “looked like a big running back” and can contribute both as a returner and out of the backfield. In fact, Allen draws comparisons to Reggie Wayne from Cosell due to his ability to do just about everything required of a receiver.
Allen is a “fluid route runner” with deceptive body movements and possesses both “excellent quickness in-and-out of breaks” and “short space burst” according to Cosell — something that often sets apart top receivers from solid, but unspectacular, receivers. When combined with excellent catching skills and technique, Allen’s size and his vertical ability, Cosell makes the argument that Allen’s straight line speed and physicality are deceptive enough to make him a legitimate deep threat as well (all 40-yard time concerns aside).
Cosell’s not alone in having Allen near the top of the draft board. While West Virginia’s Tavon Austin excited with speed and Olympic athleticism at the Combine, his relative inexperience and Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson’s maturity questions led some others (Brian Billick and Taylor Jones) to believe Allen could very well be the top receiver in the draft.
There are a number of other receivers that Cosell praises, including Texas Tech’s Da’rick Rogers –who Cosell specifically notes for having schooled LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu out of the slot back when Rogers played for the University of Tennessee in 2011. With subtle, yet excellent, route running and body movement combined with solid catching abilities, Cosell claims Rogers could be a receiver climbing draft boards behind the scenes.
Mathieu gives Rogers a fight the entire way in their matchup, but it’s remarkable to see the success that Rogers had against a top collegiate corner (who would be a higher pick if not for character concerns).
To see Rogers’ game clip versus LSU, go to 2:56 in the below video.
The numerous other receivers mentioned are DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson), Chris Harper (Kansas State), Aaron Dobson (Marshall) and Aaron Mellette (Elon University). Cosell goes as far as saying that several of these receivers (notably Hopkins, Harper and Rogers) are not far from last year’s first-round crop of receivers (Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright and A.J. Jenkins) in many scouts’ eyes.
Cosell’s piece, although a bit lengthy, is definitely worth a read.
The past several weeks have seen several prospects jump up draft boards, in the likes of Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson, while others suffered from the fluctuations of pundit analysis–see Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner and California receiver Keenan Allen.
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks is back to break down his top-five most overrated and underrated prospects in a recent piece. Let’s jump right in.
1. West Virginia WR Tavon Austin
Brooks starts off his list with West Virginia’s Tavon Austin–a receiver NFL Films’ Greg Cosell claims is a versatile, explosive player in the likes of Percy Harvin.
In what Brooks calls a “meteoric rise” since the NFL Combine, Austin has gone from a mid-round pick to nearing top-ten status as the NFL Draft approaches. Although Brooks acknowledges that Austin has the potential to be a “role player” in the sense of DeSean Jackson, he also argues that the first-round is no place for a role player to be selected–especially a player who stands at only 5’8″ tall–and that’s why the argument is made that Austin is the single most overrated player in this year’s draft class.
The argument is best summed up in Brooks’ own words:
“The NFL remains a big man’s game, and it’s hard for a diminutive pass catcher to function as a legitimate No. 1 receiver. I believe Austin can be an explosive complementary player, but you don’t take role players early in the draft.”
2. Utah DT Star Lotulelei
One of the reasons that Lotulelei is on this list is that Brooks credits much of his success as being due to physically overpowering smaller linemen–which is not to say he won’t be able to do this to some degree at the professional level. Like Dontari Poe coming out of Memphis, the assumption is that Lotulelei will have to develop technique as an addition to his play style if he’s going to play up to his draft stock.
Brooks doesn’t go as far as to say Lotulelei shouldn’t be a first-round pick, but he claims that the Utah product is one of the most overrated players in the draft (similarly to some other NFL insiders). Of more question than his first-round status at this point is his work ethic and motor in games–which many scouts have questioned after reviewing game tape.
3. Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib
Nassib is an interesting addition to this list, as he’s largely considered to be a second-round pick (whereas each other in this top-five very likely could go in the top-32).
Brooks notes that Nassib has climbed up draft boards drastically, going from at best a mid-round pick to bordering on the first-round. His play style in college was fast-paced and less complicated than most professional systems–allowing him to read defenses while they try to adjust to Syracuse’s offensive style. While Nassib has the accuracy demanded of a professional quarterback, Brooks claims he doesn’t have the arm strength to consistently make deep passes–something that is corroborated by many scouts–and tends to leave deep passes up for receivers (and defenders) to make plays.
Brooks has Nassib on the least simply because he feels the Orange product would be a very overrated first-round pick.
4. Florida International S John Cyprien
Cyprien is an athletic, tough-hitting safety, who plays physically (even in practice). If you doubt me, take a look at his Senior Bowl tape below–there’s plenty of high motor in Cyprien, who’s drawn comparisons to Troy Polamalu for his athletic prowess.
Brooks believes that the Senior Bowl propelled Cyprien above his true draft status, somewhere in the second-round. It’s a combination of that toughness and football knowledge that Brooks believes will drag the FIU safety down in the NFL–he plays over-aggressively at times and shows that he needs to learn more about the game, and those extremely physical tendencies could lead to problems with penalties.
5. UCLA DE Datone Jones
Size and production stand out for Brooks when evaluating Datone Jones.
The biggest criticisms are that he’s always benefited from a strong supporting cast (Brooks throws out names like Anthony Barr, Brian Price and Akeem Ayers) and throughout his college career he hasn’t been too productive in getting to the quarterback (only 6.5 sacks in 2012).
Many scouts like his high-motor playing style and quickness off the snap, comparing him to 4-3 pass-rushing ends in the sense of Justin Tuck, but Brooks focuses on his size (6’4″ 283 lbs) as being more of a tweener–meaning Brooks thinks he’ll need to either shed some weight or put some muscle on his frame if he’s going to play either 4-3 end or 3-4 end/4-3 tackle.
To add to the criticism, Brooks claims that Jones has a tendency to get “rag-dolled” by physical linemen when he goes up against guards or centers–something that would hurt his chances of playing tackle or end in a 3-4 and most certainly tackle in a 4-3.
Brook’s Most Underrated:
- Mississippi St. CB Darius Slay – Recently invited to the NFL Draft, Slay is a dynamic corner that Brooks compares to Johnathan Joseph
- Florida St. QB E.J. Manuel – Size and athleticism led Brooks to claim comparisons to Josh Freeman and Daunte Culpepper
- Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins – He might not be a blazer, but Hopkins has the tools to be an impact receiver
- Michigan St. RB Le’Veon Bell – Having drawn comparisons to LeGarrette Blount by some, Bell will need prove himself as a pass-catcher and blocker if he’s going to escape a repeat of Blount’s early-NFL struggles
- Nevada S Duke Williams – He’s got a ton of ability, but Williams needs to get smarter on the field and stay out of trouble off-the-field
Landry Jones may have been a top quarterback at one point, but those days have clearly passed.
Jon Gruden claims in an ESPN insider piece the main reason Jones has dropped from the top is that he wasn’t challenged enough in his past two seasons at Oklahoma–the Sooner’s playing style supposedly led to Jones looking like “a player who got bored” and a player that “got complacent” over his junior and senior campaigns.
That’s not to say Gruden 100 percent doesn’t like Jones. In fact, as seen in conversations with Jones, Gruden admires the quarterback for handling the Oklahoma up-beat offense well.
The biggest rap against Jones is that he plays inconsistently–something Mike Mayock agrees with Jon Gruden on. Mayock’s quote from an earlier article sums it up:
“I’ve seen him make all the throws, but like a lot of this year’s quarterbacks, there is no consistency with this kid.”
It’s shaping up that Jones will likely be a mid-round pick. There’s been little in the news about Jones since the combine (in which he displayed below-average athleticism, even for a quarterback), but the Sooner has drawn several workouts–including one from the Bills last month.
Buffalo’s involvement is interesting to say the least, as the K-Gun influences that are rumored to be in the works for the Bills offense would require a quarterback who’s familiar with an up-tempo, no-huddle play style–something that Jones is very familiar with. Even if new head coach Doug Marrone’s coaching staff decides to take an early-round quarterback (such as Geno Smith or Ryan Nassib), there is a legitimate chance they could do something similar to the Redskins last season (who liked Kirk Cousins enough to make him a fourth-round pick after selecting Robert Griffin III at second-overall).
Still, scouts and coaches will have to overlook Jones’ past two seasons (capped by a poor performance in January’s Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M) if they’re going to advise their team to take Jones as more than simply a late-round flier.
For more from Gruden’s QB Camp with Landry Jones, see the video below, in which Gruden focuses heavily on the fast-paced offensive attack of Oklahoma.