Saturday, 4 April 2009

Take Five with Kyle Rota

I once again caught up with Kyle Rota from College Talent Scout this week and had the opportunity to put some questions to him as we get closer to the NFL Draft. Amongst the topics of discussion, this week's USC pro-day and analysis on the Seahawks draft plans in rounds one and two. The format is the same as usual - five questions and five detailed replies from Kyle.

It was the USC pro-day this week. Could you share any thoughts on this year's class of Trojans (Sanchez, Matthews Jr, Cushing, Maualuga the bigger names, but also people like Patrick Turner WR)?

Kyle Rota - This year's class for USC players seems fairly weak, but that's comparing it to other classes - Off the top of my head 9 guys I think will get drafted, which is still phenomenal. I haven't had a chance to grade every USC player, but what I saw from Sanchez and Maualuga was impressive - both earned top-10 grades from me, and my feeling with Maualuga is that he could be an absolute demon in a 3-4 defense that allowed him to roll downhill to plays, and provide energy to ramp up an entire defense.

To read the full article click HERE.

Sanchez is really the ultimate wildcard, and not just because he only started 13 games - the bust potential on the kid is nearly as great as the ceiling, and his ceiling is HOF caliber. I'll be doing a comparison straight-up between Sanchez and Stafford before the draft, but probably not until RIGHT before the draft.

Cushing is a guy I like in the middle of the first round, I think he's versatile enough to play in either defensive scheme and has a lot of explosion. But he could drop on draft day because, with his injury history, he's the kind of guy I like but don't want to take. Matthews Jr has the pedigree, work ethic, and athletic talent to be a star - but I'm a big believer in instinctive players at LB, and what I've heard from some good sources is that Matthews isn't exactly Lofa Tatupu in that department.

Some of the smaller names can still be good players. Ellison is a bit of a tweener between LB and SS, personally I'd look at him as a flawed SS before I'd say LB, but that's just me. He's not likely to be on Seattle's radar at S, but he's a legit player. Their cornerback seemed like a pretty legitimate player in his own right, but every cornerback wants to play with USC's pass rush. I hate Fili Moala in the first or second round, but he's an intriguing prospect in the later rounds for some team - to me, he's still a potential monster 3-4 DE, but with a second day pick he's an interesting DT in a 4-3. Kyle Moore has been overshadowed by how great DEs look at USC and then flop in the NFL, but I like the guy, he really impressed me as perhaps a LDE in a 4-3, definitely worth a late-round flyer.

Patrick Turner is not a special talent, but he has an impressive set of hands and good height - my problem is that he'll have to MASTER the mental side of the game to be effective as a starter, he simply isn't all that strong (can't fight off the press) and possesses absolutely no explosion. He'll need to be excellent with his hands to get off the press and then run perfect routes to create enough separation to beat the corner. Scouting him is easy, but projecting what he will do in the NFL is hard because it will be up to him to improve. I'd consider him late in the draft but I wouldn't expect a lot from him, sort of a "well, if it works out we'll be really happy" sort of pick.

Charley Casserly made some interesting comments this week. Firstly, he suggested the Seahawks might take Chris Beanie Wells in his mock draft. Secondly, he continued to voice reservations about Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe, having previously suggested neither were 'top 10' offensive tackles. What do you make of his observations?

Kyle Rota - I trust that Casserly has better sources than I, so if he is getting any information that Seattle is interested in Wells I'd take that seriously. It even makes sense because Ruskell has not exactly shown the same kind of talent for scouting offensive players that he has shown for defensive players. In other words, if Ruskell takes Wells #4 it will be a gigantic mistake.

Wells is a great 2-down back when healthy - he's big, runs with a good pad level, has above-average speed, and really compares to Steven Jackson as a runner with perhaps a better feel for the game. Wells doesn't offer much on 3rd down, however, being a middling blocker and an unproven receiver, but that can be mitigated and worked around. More concerning are the whispers he doesn't know how to play through pain, and the knicks and cuts that seem to have him playing at less than 100% effectiveness - the Beanie Wells in the Fiesta Bowl (when he was in) was far more explosive than the Beanie Wells I scouted before the bowl, because he was healthy. But taller backs tend to take more punishment, and that Wells is already picking up scrapes and bruises does not make me confident he will make it 16 games against physical NFL defenses when he can't do 11 against Big-Ten defenses.

As I have said for months, these LTs scare me. Jason Smith is all potential - he's not even a dominant college player, but his athleticism is apparent and his smarts + upside makes the likely hood he reaches his potential pretty high.

Monroe is almost the opposite. He's a pretty refined OT for a college player, and a great pass-protector, but in ANY scheme he's merely an above-average run-blocker. If a team is going to rely on the pass like the Cardinals or Colts, that's worth quite a bit more than if a team wants to run smash mouth football. Then there are the very real concerns both medically (Monroe played through some knee problems, but still a concern) and with his competitive drive... You don't see him block the extra player, whereas every other OL I've seen loves to use their size and strength against smaller opponents in running plays.

Both are potentially All-Pros, but they have prominent flaws that aren't there with Joe Thomas or Ryan Clady (Jake Long actually was athletically mediocre and even the Dolphins didn't rate him as the best player in the draft, but Parcells wanted a nasty attitude with his first choice and felt like Long would at least be a solid player, even if a little exposed in pass-protection).

One thing we've discussed on the blog recently are the images showing Tim Ruskell and Seahawks staff watching Knowshon Moreno at the Georgia pro-day. You're a big fan of Moreno. How big a reach would it be to see him go 4th overall, and what kind of position could you justify that pick if the team needed to trade down?

Kyle Rota - I love Moreno, and am debating if I will do one more RB like Jeremiah Johnson, or just skip to Moreno. Regardless, Moreno at #4 would be a big reach. There are actually two theories that make me confused about where Moreno goes. For some reason, teams LOVE size/speed specimens at RB, even if they have nothing else going for him. Chris Henry the RB, 2nd round pick by the Titans a few years ago, exemplifies this - 5'11 230 with a 4.4 40... and a backup job his senior year went above several more established prospects. Ronnie Brown, about the same measurements as Henry, backed up Cadillac Williams at Auburn, but went ahead of Mr. Williams come draft day.

Moreno is not much of a size/speed specimen, so using that I can say Moreno could fall quite a bit come the draft. On the other hand, safe players tend to be chosen in 8-20 range, and Moreno has very little downside - aside from injuries, which he has no real history of, the guy is almost assuredly a very good (at least) NFL player. If Seattle can somehow get out of the top-10, I think Moreno is an excellent pick, but I just can't justify paying Moreno 7-10 million a year when his position is somewhat fungible and heavily reliant on the offensive line.

In a recent seven round mock draft for the Seahawks, you had the team taking Matt Stafford with the fourth overall pick. Is he likely to make it passed Detroit and if so, what does he bring to the Seahawks?

Kyle Rota - Well, he was more likely when Cutler was a possible trade-target. I still think such a thing is likely for a variety of reasons - some teams have Sanchez higher than Stafford, Detroit actually has a couple QBs who might do adequately while the rest of the team is built (whereas their OLs suck terribly), and Detroit could make their decision based on whoever accepts the smallest contract. I would say at this point, it's probably more likely Detroit will take him than otherwise, but it's possible.

Stafford would've been a better player if he had stayed in school for another year, but Seattle can give the NFL equivalent of a redshirt to the young QB and that should help immensely. What I like most is Stafford's short accuracy - he's more accurate than Sanchez on the shorter routes (minus slants, needs a bit of work there as he tends to throw the ball just a little too far behind his target on those... still caught, but hurts YAC). He also has a ton of heart and will be a guy who will gain respect in the locker room from his teammates, which is half the battle right there. What I've been hearing is that he was a bigger leadership guy than I'd thought earlier, so that helps, and I feel comfortable telling him I want him to be the (rather ugly) face of my franchise.

Oh, his howitzer of an arm wouldn't hurt either, but for our offense I view it almost as a bonus. He still needs work reacting to corner blitzes, consistently throwing off his front foot and reading deep coverage, but overall I think a good attitude and a good QB coach could get a very productive player from Stafford.

Are there any obvious candidates that stand out as potential second round picks for Seattle?

Kyle Rota - If Seattle does not take Crabtree, I could see Brian Robiskie as a guy Ruskell would love. I'm not huge on him, he didn't seem like a guy who ran as fast on the field as his combine time, but he's a safer pick than most WRs and can be a solid possession guy at the worst.

Alex Mack is one of the highest rated players on my board, and if he is there at 37 I hope Ruskell doesn't even bother doing the normal GM "look for trade" stuff... run up to the podium and don't let yourself be tempted by anyone else.

Donald Brown and LeSean McCoy are guys I'd rather see around pick #50, but neither would be a bad pick by any means as both have potential as good starters. Lately I've felt like Eric Wood could find himself as a fit both from Ruskell's character filter and Solari's zone-blocking schematic view. A sleeper, who I'm not sure will be there, is Louis Delmas the FS... sure, he's a small-school player, but he has elite athleticism, is versatile, and is surprisingly physical.

You can visit Kyle Rota's College Talent Scout website here.

Got any thoughts on the NFL Draft?


Michael Steffes said...

I actually have first hand knowledge that the Hawks scout spent time watching Kevin Ellison and talking to him at USC Pro Day.

The question is whether the see him as coverage LB or a SS. said...

I suppose every person must read it.