Saturday, 31 October 2009

A proper chance to look at Bryan Bulaga


I've just finished watching the tape of Iowa defeating Indiana today which gave me a chance to have a good look at left tackle Bryan Bulaga. He's a junior lineman who might declare for the 2010 draft based on the fact it's not a strong class - potentially raising his stock higher than it otherwise would've been. If I had to be pushed at this stage I'd guess he might stick around for his senior year, but with the Hawkeye's unbeaten who knows what he'll decide if they have an unbeatable season in 2009?

I'll start with the positives. Bulaga is a strong guy and for the most part he overpowered his opponent using brute strength, driving through his blocks and pushing his man backwards. His use of hands was faultless, often delivering a solid punch or just managing to position his block to open a hole. He coped well against the bull rush but wasn't really tested by a decent edge rusher. His footwork wasn't always great, but he made up for it with power and had relative success in both pass protection and the run game. In fact, on a number of occasions he was able to open up a pretty big gap for the running back to exploit and he wasn't beaten once in pass protection.

The question I have to ask though is whether or not Bulaga will be able to dominate using just his strength in the NFL? It's one thing to over match your opponent playing a pretty average Indiana pass rush, it's another to stop Jared Allen or Julius Peppers using just your upper body strength. Having said that, he is a strong guy and won't come up against elite rushers every week. If I had to place him right now - I think he could be a very good right tackle in the NFL but only an average left tackle.

I was going to complain about his unwillingness to get to the second level and clearly there were a couple of times where he blocked off and just ended up standing there anxiously looking around for something to do. He didn't show the same kind of desire we see from Charles Brown to get in there and attack a linebacker. However, right in the last minute there he was blocking downfield as the Hawkeye's scored a rushing TD to kill the game - so I'm not sure it isn't something he could develop.

According to the game announcers, Iowa were running a variation of the zone blocking scheme. That probably helps him from a Seahawks perspective, because I don't think he's the prototypical lineman they look for. He's not really agile or nimble although his footwork isn't completely awful. He's got good height and isn't too big across the middle (6'6", 310lbs). As I've said before, I think with regard to Seattle and a lot of other teams he could be a plug in, year one starter at right tackle who ends up filling the position for 10 years. However, I also thought Jake Long was pretty much the same thing - an all-pro right tackle but a pretty average blind side guy. He got drafted first overall to play left tackle, so I think teams will target Bulaga as such in the same way. I do think he's a potential first round pick and with another year's seasoning he could be quite a high one.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Potential Seahawks? Guys who fit (defense)


This week we're reviewing some of the prospects that could make a good fit for the Seahawks. On Thursday we looked at the offense and today it's the turn of the defense. The rules are simple - prospects have to fit from a schematic point of view (there's little point considering someone who is marked down as a 3-4 OLB) and coincide with the way Tim Ruskell drafts using previous years as a benchmark. For this review we'll also be concentrating strictly on prospects who are likely to go within the first two rounds.

So who might be on Seattle's radar?

Click here to find out or select 'Read More'.

Defensive Tackle


Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska)
I have to believe Ruskell likes Suh as much as everyone else. In my opinion, he's easily the best senior prospect for 2010 and has elite potential at the next level. He's a very intelligent, grounded individual who originates from Oregon - so bringing him to Seattle would be something of a homecoming. He has perfect size (6'4", 300lbs), tone and fits any scheme - be it as a three-technique in the 4-3 or as a 3-4 defensive end. His production in four years starting is phenomenal - 15 sacks, four interceptions and two returned for touchdowns. He led his team in tackles last year and is on track to do the same again in 2009. Quite simply a superstar in the making.

Alternatives
There are two genuinely exciting prospects at defensive tackle. Suh is the best senior, but Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) has just as much potential and is expected to declare as a junior for 2010. Ruskell favors senior prospects early in the first round, but even he may make an exception if McCoy is available in round one.

Likelihood?
Unless the Seahawks are picking in the top five, they might not get a chance at Suh or McCoy. Glenn Dorsey was heavily touted as a #1 pick in 2008 and fell to Kansas City with the fifth pick - but injuries played a large part. It'd probably take an injury to either prospect to see any kind of drop, otherwise they'll be amongst the top picks and will almost certainly earn an invite to New York. Need always plays a part at the very top of the draft and teams looking for a quarterback in a deep class could force the defensive lineman down the board. But Tampa Bay will almost certainly target a defensive lineman early, having watched them live at Wembley last week I'll be stunned if they aren't picking in the top three. The Seahawks would have to be pretty bad between now and the end of the year to have a chance at Ndamukong Suh.

Defensive End

Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech)
A number of talented underclassmen will make the defensive end position a rich class in 2010. Derrick Morgan might be the best of the bunch. A relentless pass rusher, Morgan is a great edge rusher that consistently gets to the quarterback. As his stock has risen during the year, he's earned more double teams - but this hasn't been a problem in racking up nine sacks so far. The only concern I have is his 100% effort on every snap does lead to fatigue issues late in games. However, he's on the field for every defensive play the Yellow Jackets call. Seattle's rotation policy on the defensive line should help keep Morgan fresh if he ends up with the Seahawks.

Alternatives
Florida's Carlos Dunlap isn't everyone's favorite. Some think he's lazy and others question his lack of production considering his elite physical qualities. He stepped up his efforts last week against Mississippi State to record three sacks, so let's hope this is a sign of things to come. Is he a Ruskell pick? Possibly not, although the potential upside is off the charts - we've not see a prospect with his size and speed since Mario Williams in 2006. Jason Pierre-Paul (USF) and Everson Griffen (USC) both deserve first round grades and can operate in the 4-3. Rule out Greg Hardy (Ole Miss) however - he wouldn't get past question one on Ruskell's character exam.

Likelihood?
Patrick Kerney will be 33 in December and has missed 17 games in the last four years, whilst Darryl Tapp and Cory Redding hit free agency after the 2009 season. Even with Lawrence Jackson's improved play, the Seahawks could use a brilliant, young defensive end like Derrick Morgan. You cannot underestimate the importance of the defensive line in Jim Mora's defense. It's as simple as this - the team is dependant on them to create any kind of pass rush allowing the linebackers to make plays and the cover-2 to function. There might not be an elite senior prospect (the type Ruskell likes - see Aaron Curry) but this is a position Seattle's GM may make an exception for.

Linebacker

Bruce Carter (North Carolina)
Let's be honest here, the Seahawks aren't going to take a linebacker in round one of the 2010 draft. They've spent millions tying up Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill - and a top five pick plus even bigger money to draft Aaron Curry. Even if college football's greatest ever linebacker was available in next year's draft, the Seahawks would have to think twice about taking him. No doubt that Rolando McClain (Alabama), Sean Wetherspoon (Missouri) and Brandon Spikes (Florida) will go in rounds 1-2, but I see little point discussing them. So I've decided to talk a little bit about Bruce Carter instead. Whilst watching the UNC vs Virginia Tech game this week, Carter really stood out to me as one to watch. He's a junior so could declare - but I hope he stays for his senior year. He has cat-like agility and speed, consistently getting into the backfield to stop a run play or screen in it's tracks. He gets to the quarterback quickly on blitzes and generally impressed me. If he adds a bit more bulk (it's needed) I'm not sure if this will affect his top end speed, but he's one to watch out for even if Seattle aren't in the market.

Cornerback

Joe Haden (Florida)
In my opinion, Haden is the clear front runner at the cornerback position for 2010. He owns a good package as a quick back with good recovery speed, whilst also remaining a tenacious and aggressive tackler. It creates the perfect package of a guy who can play coverage in any scheme whilst providing sufficient help in the running game with his ability to wrap up and hit hard. Haden flashes the occasional eye catching brilliance too - a leaping interception at full stretch for example like the kind we saw against LSU. He might be an underclassmen, but by 2010 he'll have had three solid years of starting experience playing on what some would regard a NFL calibre defense. He'd be a good fit for Seattle not only for the cover-2 but also the way he plays the game - competitive with a real edge.

Alternatives
It's not a deep class for CB's. Patrick Robinson (Florida State) is the highest ranked senior corner. He's aggressive and is something of an organiser for the Seminoles, but he also has good top end speed and prototypical size (6'0", 192lbs). There are some character concerns though - he's had suspensions. Syd'Quan Thompson (California) is the next best senior, showing toughness and good instincts at cornerback for the Golden Bears. I have reservations about his recovery speed though and he's not the biggest at 5'9".

Likelihood?
Joe Haden is likely to be the only cornerback who goes in round one, which limits the chances of Seattle drafting a cornerback early. I think his three years starting for Florida negates the fact he's not a senior, but at the point he's likely to be available for the Seahawks there's going to be bigger needs or more attractive options available. I think Ruskell could take a cornerback at some point, but probably later on in the draft where there could be some good value in rounds 3-4. Nevertheless I'm a big fan of Joe Haden's and I think he could have a very good career in the NFL.

Defensive Back/Safety

Taylor Mays (USC)
This is the piece I looked forward to writing the least. I've been pretty vocal about my lack of enthusiasm for this year's safety class. Whilst a lot of other people rave about the abilities of Eric Berry (Tennessee) and Taylor Mays (USC) - I feel like I'm watching a different game. Both have glaring flaws that seem to be negated by eye catching positives. In Berry's case, he's a very instinctive corner. This has helped him make a number of big play interceptions and when you put the ball in his hands, he's a threat to take it back for six. If you type 'Eric Berry' into YouTube, you'll likely see a collection of picks one after another. You'll probably think, "This guy is Ed Reed". The clips won't show the number of whiffed tackles Berry makes or the times he's just flat out over powered by a running back. He doesn't wrap up his tackles and will be a liability in the NFL against physically greater players.

On the other hand, Mays hits like a sledgehammer. When you get tackled by the USC safety, you'll know about it the next morning. Type Taylor Mays into YouTube and you'll be offered the chance to watch a number of these hits. What it won't break down is the regularity with which Mays is slow to react to the ball carrier, his lack of instincts and his reliance on big hits every snap when it's not always called for. It's borderline dangerous sometimes and he should get penalised more for late, dangerous hits. He nearly cost his team a win against Notre Dame with a pathetic lunge on a tight end late in the game.

Don't get me wrong - they are both good at what they do. But the weaknesses don't get mentioned very often and I don't think either warrants a top ten pick. When pushed for a selection here I've gone for Mays. He's a senior, he's from Seattle and he would add some bite to the Seahawks secondary. In all honesty though, I wouldn't take either until the late first round.

Alternatives
Red shirt sophomore Earl Thomas is fast rising up many draft boards after some eye catching displays in recent weeks. His lack of starting experience might put off Tim Ruskell but he's being talked about as a potential first round pick out of Texas. He has five interceptions this year - Berry and Mays have one apiece. The next best senior is Nate Allen (USF) who could go in round two. He has four interceptions on the season so far.

Likelihood?
Safety is a position of need for the Seahawks and there's definitely reasons why Tim Ruskell would take someone like Taylor Mays. After all, he's from USC (a school Ruskell likes to draft from), he'd be a popular pick as the local guy returning home and he's a four year starter. However, with the Seahawks currently at 2-4 heading into a stretch of four tough road trips in five weeks, drafting a safety early in round one might seem at this stage to be a bit of a luxury. If the GM's and scouts out there rate Berry and Mays as highly as most of the draft pundits, they'll go fairly early. If the Broncos pick is in the late 20's that would present good value to take a chance on the aforementioned duo. However, would the Seahawks really choose to draft a safety with a potential top-15 pick with a lot of needs at core positions elsewhere?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section or email rob@seahawksdraftblog.com.

Some thoughts on Ed Wang


I was asked by a couple of readers to keep an eye on Virgina Tech left tackle Ed Wang last night as the Hokies took on North Carolina. He's an intriguing prospect, owning prototype height and weight (6'4", 300lbs) and coming from an athletic background (both of Wang's parents were part of the 1970 Chinese Olympic team). It doesn't stand to be a deep class at offensive tackle in 2010, so it's worth having a look at what options will be there.

My initial impression was that Wang didn't play with a great deal of nastiness. He's very much a finesse player and on a few occasions he didn't really finish his blocks. It's not enough of an issue to be a red flag, because generally he did a good job overall and he did at least show some desire to get to the second level. However - some guys just lack a mean streak and Wang seems to be in that category.

When judging these lineman it's always important to decipher whether they'll be a good scheme fit. There's not much point dwelling on a guy who doesn't fit Mike Solari's zone blocking scheme, but thankfully Wang looks like he could slot into it based on the game tape. He's not overly big and reliant on power (although his body could use some toning). Wang has good footwork and manages to get into position quickly, whilst he also diagnoses plays quickly, knowing when to block off and when to pass the defensive end off to the guard inside.

The areas that he impressed were when performing cut blocks - something he does better than Charles Brown (USC) - and his ability to sustain blocks on passing downs. When an end or linebacker initiate one-to-one combat with Wang, he was virtually unbeatable. However, he did look susceptible to a strong bull rush and I'm not sure how he'd cope against physically bigger and faster lineman in the NFL - UNC didn't really threaten too much in this game. He also needs to do a better job of getting leverage because he's a waist bender who doesn't really get underneath the pads and drive upwards.

For some reason during the game the vast majority of VT's play seemed to focus on the right hand side. The quarterback Tyrod Taylor ran a lot of bootlegs to the right hand side and a lot of the running calls were to the right. To a certain extent, it's a credit to Wang for watching Taylor's blind side well enough to allow him to do this. But it puzzled me to a degree that they didn't run a few more plays to the left so we can get a better look at Wang under more pressure.

Overall I'd put Wang in the middle round bracket. I'm not sure he could kick inside because of his lack of a mean streak and I'm not even sure he's a viable option at right tackle. That might put some teams off, because he's a bit one dimensional as a left tackle only and even then he's going to have to prove he can cope against better pass rushers. That could affect his stock, but he fits what Seattle want from their lineman and could be a viable option in the 2010 draft in the middle rounds.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Potential Seahawks? Guys who fit (offense)


This week I`m going to review some prospects who match what the Seahawks look for in their draft picks. I`m concentrating on prospects they might take with their two first round picks - all the guys listed below could go in the top 32. In order to warrant consideration they have to be good scheme fits, for example an offensive lineman must be able to slot into the zone blocking scheme. In his time with the Seahawks, Tim Ruskell has favored senior prospects in round one with solid production from big schools. This will also be taken into consideration when compiling the list. Today we`ll concentrate on the offense - so who could be on Seattle`s radar?

Quarterback

Sam Bradford (Oklahoma)
Would Tim Ruskell buck a trend to draft an underclassmen at the most important position in football? It`d be a big shift in philosophy for Seattle`s GM, but with Matt Hasselbeck 35 next year and approaching a contract year it might be something he has to consider. None of the senior prospects seriously warrant first round grades, including Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy. Bradford has a grounded personality and leads by example. His injuries are a concern, particularly to a team that has been hampered with health issues the last two years. But his accuracy, poise and production (88 touchdowns in just over two years) should keep him in the top fifteen picks and a possible steal if he slides past the first handful of selections.

The alternatives
Jimmy Clausen ranks as the most pro-ready prospect and is perhaps alone amongst the potential 2010 class in terms of being a potential day one (or early) starter. But he has a tempestuous personality that could rub some people the wrong way and only one year`s solid production. Jake Locker is the local hero, but perhaps a little too much of a gamble for a risk averse GM. I expect the Washington QB to stay in college and enter the 2011 class.

Likelihood?
To quote Tim Ruskell, the Seahawks ¨are in the zone¨ when it comes to finding a long term option at quarterback. It has to be considered next year, it`s as simple as that. But does that mean they`ll pull the trigger? I`m still not sure and I`d imagine Ruskell would prefer to draft a productive senior at a time when there aren`t so many question marks regarding the offensive line. Then again, he might not be afforded that luxury.

Running Back

C.J. Spiller (Clemson)
Spiller (a productive senior) fits what the Seahawks want from their running backs. Simply put, they want someone who won`t sell their play calling. Spiller has shown he`s flexible (and good enough) to work as a runner, receiver and blocker. He`s a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands whether he`s running a route, a draw play or returning a kick. There are some concerns - he hasn`t got ideal size (5`11¨, 195lbs) and he`s probably better suited in a two back system. That could restrict his ability to climb up the board too much, but his production - 2882 rushing yard, 1184 receiving yards, 2297 return yards and 39 total touchdowns - should secure a first round grade. Mel Kiper said today he`d give Spiller the Heisman. Seattle needs some spark and a young playmaker on offense.

The alternatives
Cal`s Jahvid Best has put up impressive numbers over the last two years, but struggled against top opposition this year. Still - he`s a home run hitter and the Seahawks need an upgrade at running back. USC`s Joe McKnight is a similar playmaker but there are some character concerns, whilst Georgia Tech`s Jonathan Dwyer has been a big disappointment.

Likelihood?
It could come down to position on the draft board. If the Seahawks are picking in the top ten and the back end of round one, they might be (somewhat ironically) too early and too late to grab Spiller. I`m happy to give him a solid mid-first round grade and if the Seahawks own a pick in the late teens, I seriously expect them to consider drafting the Clemson running back.

Wide Receiver

Brandon LaFell (LSU)
Senior wide outs are almost as rare as their running back counter parts these days and admittedly I`d put underclassmen Damian Williams (USC) and Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State) ahead of LaFell in my own personal rankings. However, as we know Tim Ruskell prefers senior prospects and LaFell is still a potential first round pick in his own right. He`s not had the best 2009 season, only registering 100+ receiving yards once this year against lowly Mississippi State. He struggled to have an impact against Florida (44 yards) and Georgia (52 yards) when I`ve watched LSU this year. At the same time, he hasn`t been helped by inconsistency at the quarterback position. On a more productive offense, he could put up bigger numbers.

The alternatives
I`m a big fan of Damian Williams, who flashes big play potential every week for USC. He`s an excellent return man and has a similar gliding running style to Jeremy Maclin. He`s a bit raw when it comes to route running but he has deep speed and YAC ability with the ball in his hands. Dez Bryant is the most hyped receiver, but what effect does his suspension have? How does Tim Ruskell access that situation?

Likelihood
Given the chance to draft the most dynamic college receiver in years (when the position was a need) the Seahawks chose to draft a linebacker instead. Even with two first round picks, I have to believe it`s unlikely the Seahawks will spend a high pick on a wide out in 2010 given what`s on offer - a group without any elite prospects.

Offensive tackle

Charles Brown (USC)
The Seahawks like their lineman to be nimble, athletic and capable of fitting into their zone blocking scheme. This isn`t a good year for offensive tackles, but converted tight end Charles Brown is by far the best scheme fit for Seattle. He owns elite footwork and above average agility. He knows when to block off and progress to the second level and he has some value in the running game. I don`t like his tendency to perform poorly timed cut blocks and he`s occasionally caught a little flat footed. He could also stand to gain a further 15-25lbs of bulk, particularly upper body muscle to get a stronger punch and retain leverage. If he can do that, there`s no reason why he can`t shoot up the draft board, similar to Jason Smith last year.

The alternatives?
Russell Okung is the most decorated senior lineman and many expect him to be the first off the board. I`m not convinced about his stock or ability to fit into Seattle`s scheme. He might have to feature at right tackle, but even then he probably has a better chance of success elsewhere. Trent Williams is another possibility but his weight gain, sloppy 2009 play and inability to work in a ZBS probably eliminates him from contention.

Likelihood
With Walter Jones being placed on IR and Sean Locklear`s continued absence through injury, offensive tackle is the trendy pick for the Seahawks right now. The fact is however, this isn`t a great class at the position. Even with the best intentions, they might not be able to fill this need early in 2010. With a lot of money invested already in Sean Locklear, his performance upon return this year could be crucial to any future decision. Having said that, Charles Brown is the most realistic option for the Seahawks in round one and is worth monitoring for the rest of the year.

Interior lineman

Rodney Hudson (Florida State)
Not many interior lineman stand out in college football, but Hudson stuck out like a sore thumb against North Carolina last week. Not only is he a very exciting prospect, he also fits Seattle`s scheme perfectly. Athletic, intelligent and dominant - Hudson is a rare package. As a junior he isn`t guaranteed to enter the 2010 draft, but without doubt he`s the number one guard in the country. That could persuade him to declare and if he does, the Seahawks must consider drafting him. He`s a borderline first round pick - that`s how highly I rate him. If the Seahawks are picking right at the end of round one, I don`t think that would be too high to fill a massive need in the interior line.

The alternatives?
There are none. It`s very rare that interior lineman are given first round grades and last year was a rare exception with both Alex Mack and Eric Wood going early. Mike Iupati is considered a potential first rounder in some quarters, but coming from Idaho he seems an unlikely fit for Tim Ruskell.

Likelihood
Hudson would have to declare for the draft first of all whilst also confirming a high grade with continued good form. His lack of size (285lbs) will put off most teams not running a ZBS and he might decide to stay with Florida State to add bulk and enter the 2011 draft. Even then, some will consider it a stretch for the Seahawks in their current rut to consider spending an expensive pick on a guard - particularly with Tim Ruskell previously using middle round picks to fill holes in the interior. He did take Max Unger early last year though and if he does intend to rebuild Seattle`s offensive line - drafting Hudson could be the best possible start.

Next time we`ll look at the defensive side of the ball. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section or email rob@seahawksdraftblog.com

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Wednesday links

Rob Rang has updated his mock draft. The Seahawks have moved down a few spots on the draft board, but still take Taylor Mays. I had another chance to watch Mays yesterday in action against Oregon State and all the concerns expressed during the 2009 season were once again confirmed. Seattle add Trent Williams (OT, Oklahoma) later on, not a move I'm a fan of personally.

Charley Casserly believes the recent injury problems suffered by Sam Bradford could help him in the long term: "My experience with Dr. James Andrews, the renowned orthopedic surgeon who will do the surgery, is flawless. If he tells you something, you can count on it. We never had a surgery by Andrews on one of our players that was not successful. So if I was with a team and he told me Bradford was going to be fine, I would believe it."

Wes Bunting ponders whether Bradford's decision was financially motivated: "with all the concern about the possibility of a rookie pay scale, plus the fact Bradford has already lost out on a potentially huge payday by opting not to come out for the 2009 draft, I get the feeling money was a significant factor in his decision."

Matt McGuire voices some concerns about Bradford's pro-prospects: "The bottom line is there are more questions than answers with Bradford at this point and he can't do anything to answer the questions. The Combine and Pro Day mean nothing. It isn't a game environment and he is throwing to wide-open receivers."

Chad Reuter lists two of my favorite prospects, Charles Brown (OT, USC) and C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson) amongst those who helped their stock this week: "Brown might not reach No. 2 overall like Jason Smith did, but the athleticism he has shown in wins over Notre Dame and Oregon State gives him a real chance to make the top 10... Spiller bounced some runs outside to gain 81 yards on 14 carries. His all-around game will remind scouts of former first-round picks Felix Jones and Chris Johnson, especially when his sub-4.4 track speed lights up the 40-yard dash at the Combine."

Todd McShay thinks Texas safety Earl Thomas is rising up draft boards: "Should Thomas leave school following this season the overall safety class would become very strong. Eric Berry ranks as the No. 1 overall player on the board, and while USC's Taylor Mays remains in the top half of the first round Thomas could become legitimate competition for the No. 2 spot in the safety class."

Calvin Watkins reports that Oklahoma State wide out Dez Bryant will remain suspended for the rest of the 2009 season, effectively ending his college career. He'll enter the 2010 draft competing with Damian Williams to be the first receiver taken. For more on this story, check the video below:

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Thoughts on USC's Charles Brown


I've just finished watching the tape from USC vs Oregon State which took place at the weekend. I put most of my focus on the Trojans' left tackle Charles Brown, a prospect who's generated some buzz recently and could be a candidate to move up draft boards. He's 6'6" and 285lbs, with the kind of athleticism you'd expect to see from a converted tight end. Brown also fits Seattle's zone blocking scheme, which favors intelligent lineman with agility. He'll be 23 years old by the 2010 draft next April.

I'd had a chance to watch USC in the past and my initial impressions of Brown were that he had good footwork, had some value as a run blocker to match his obvious pass protection skills and could be a potential top end first round pick, form permitting. So what did the tape throw up today?

Again I was impressed with Brown's footwork. When he stands up and uses his feet to get into position, he had success. His real quality is getting into position quickly to make a sufficient block. Frequently Brown opted to use a cut block with less success. Sometimes it did the trick, sending the defensive end to the ground and giving Matt Barkley a free pass on his blind side. On other occasions (such as the Trojans first touchdown) Brown missed his man and needed Joe McKnight to help keep Barkley on his feet. It just all seemed a bit unnecessary, especially the frequency with which he went with the cut. When he stood up and relied on that excellent footwork, he was a lot more effective.

Sometimes Brown was caught a little flat footed. With 4:57 in the first quarter, Oregon State sent a two man blitz from his side. He didn't know which man to block, when he really should have taken the rusher inside and left the outside threat for Joe McKnight who was quickly into pass protect. In the end that indecisiveness allowed the inside guy a chance to burst through and Brown was fortunate not to get called for holding, pulling him back by the jersey. On the positive side, he recovered quickly to get back into position and help McKnight. The play actually led to a Barkley interception, but that was a quarterback error and no blame could be pinned at Brown.

I liked his determination to get to the second level on running plays. One one example with 5:49 left in the second quarter, he takes on the first defensive lineman but diagnoses quickly that he can let the left guard take that man, allowing him to move on and tackle a linebacker at the next stage. He drives back a linebacker doing enough to give the running back a bit of room to get the first down.

Sometimes he was driven back into the quarterback. It never cost him in this game, but it highlighted to me that he could stand to add some bulk to his upper body. He hasn't got a big punch from the snap and he occasionally loses leverage when a rusher gets underneath his pads. There's room on that frame to get up to a more ideal 305lbs and that's something he should be trying to do now ahead of any work outs during the off season. It shouldn't affect his footwork or agility too much as long as the weight goes up top and not on the midriff.

Overall I was satisfied with Brown's performance. I'm not sure I saw enough evidence to suggest he was going to rise up the boards like Jason Smith last year. Much will depend on his ability to add a bit of bulk and perform consistently throughout the rest of the year. As things stand, I'd classify him as a borderline late first round pick or an early second. He could push up into the middle of round one, particularly if teams are unconvinced by the rest of the senior offensive lineman, including Russell Okung and Trent Williams. The premium nature of his position could aid his rise up the boards, but for now I see no reason why Seattle couldn't target him with Denver's pick should they wish.

Bradford explains decision to declare

Monday, 26 October 2009

Todd McShay & Mel Kiper on Sam Bradford

The Taylor Mays debate & Tim Ruskell


I wanted to write a little more about Rob Rang's first 2010 mock draft that was published recently, where he has the Seahawks taking Taylor Mays (S, USC) with the seventh overall pick. In an earlier blog post I commented that on face value I could see this happening. Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell likes to draft four year starters in round one, he's taken high profile prospects from SoCal in the past and Mays is a local product having originally grown up in the Seattle area.

Ruskell may also see Mays as the 'final piece' of the jigsaw so to speak, having invested heavily on defense over the last few years. As Rang testifies, "Seattle's undersized cornerbacks are never going to be able to truly compete with the Larry Fitzgeralds, Anquan Boldins and Michael Crabtrees of the NFC West." Mays at least offers a unique blend of size and speed that few possess at the safety position - he's often described as having linebacker size and cornerback speed.

However, I have huge reservations about Mays as an early first round pick. I've voiced these concerns quite regularly on the blog in the past - that Mays' football instincts are not up to par standard. He relies heavily on big hits to get by, usually not delivering said hit until the ball carrier has made a first down. He's often a step behind the play or reacts slowly and his tendency to hit rather than play for the ball has made him a liability in coverage.

Matt McGuire from Walterfootball.com voiced some similar concerns this weekend, even comparing him to current Bengals safety Roy Williams and Vernon Gholston of the Jets - another athletic prospect who went 6th overall in 2008:

"Mays has had his question marks for a couple years. One, he takes poor angles to the football. I see this multiple times in run support and pass coverage in the games I have taped and reviewed this season. Secondly, he has zero ball skills. He doesn't locate the football to make a play on the ball and he doesn't intercept the ball. Third, he gets out of control. Fourth, he has no tackling technique. Fifth, like Gholston, he has no instincts.

"In the Notre Dame game, I was really frustrated with his tape. His tackling technique is pathetic. He'll throw his body around. Mays thinks football is all about big hits. He doesn't use his arms or hands to wrap up, and this will cost him in the NFL.

"I wouldn't draft Mays in the top 40 picks. He's a highly overrated prospect right now. He reminds me of Roy Williams (safety, Bengals). Williams is an average starter, but the Cowboys let him go for a reason." - Matt McGuire, Walterfootball.com

I would tend to agree with McGuire's assessment here, although I think there comes a time in round one when Mays' athletic qualities will be attractive to a good team who can afford to take a calculated gamble. He's a first round pick, but I wouldn't put him in the top ten. Having said that, I completely understand why Rob Rang placed Mays with the Seahawks. After all - in a mock draft you're trying to predict what Tim Ruskell will do, not what you personally think 'should' happen.

I looked at the rest of Rang's mock and admittedly it's still early days - a lot will happen between now and April - but let's just say this is how the board falls in round one. I looked at the next ten picks after Seattle had taken Mays at #7 and tried to pin down an alternative pick I could see Ruskell making. I imagine he'd probably love to take Oregon-born Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska) the elite player in this draft for me but he goes first overall to the Titans.

Aside from Mays, the other seniors at the top of the board are defensive end Greg Hardy (severe character red flags, will not be a Seahawk on Ruskell's watch), offensive lineman Russell Okung (not a good scheme fit for the zone blocking scheme) wide out Brandon LaFell (I think this is a bit early for a player who just doesn't have a 'wow' factor) and of course Tim Tebow (a Ruskell pick in every way, but a huge project and doesn't have the same financial value as he would in Jacksonville).

Unless the Seahawks would heavily reach for a guy like C.J. Spiller (as much as I like the Clemson running back), in this scenario it would take a move away from past draft philosophy from Ruskell to select an underclassmen early. Now, from a personal point of view I would advocate a guy like Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech) who just flat out impressed me with his relentless style and superior edge rush. With both Jake Locker (QB, Washington) and Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame) going with the next two picks after the Seahawks take Mays, a lot of fans would be hoping the team drafts a long term option at the most important position in football.

But again - that would take a big shift from Ruskell's risk averse policies of the past and his favoritism towards senior prospects in round one. Whether things will change should the Seahawks finish with another poor regular season record, I'm not sure. I'm assuming at this point that Ruskell will get a new contract - his current one runs out at the end of the 2009 season although the fact he's just appointed Jim Mora as Head Coach suggests to me there won't be any big changes in the front office.

I feel like this is going to be a key debate as we go through the rest of the college football season, particularly if the Seahawks struggle over the next few weeks (quite possible considering a very tough quartet of road fixtures on the horizon).

Does another bad season force Ruskell to seriously consider drafting an underclassmen with potential, but without the same guarantees that came with Aaron Curry? He hasn't taken an underclassmen in round one since his first draft as GM - when he selected Chris Spencer. Would he be prepared to take a Jimmy Clausen, Jake Locker or Sam Bradford as the future of the franchise? Would he tap into a strong defensive line class that will be filled out with possibly four talented underclassmen - Gerald McCoy, Carlos Dunlap, Derrick Morgan and Jason Pierre-Paul?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section or email rob@seahawksdraftblog.com

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sam Bradford to enter 2010 draft

Rob Rang's first mock draft


It's still early days but NFL Draft Scout/CBS Sportsline's Rob Rang has published his first mock draft for 2010. I'm sure most of you are well aware of Rang's work over the last few years, he's the expert when it comes to correctly predicting who the Seahawks will take in the draft. So who does he think Seattle will take in his first, initial prediction?

A pair of Trojans, actually. He suggests the Seahawks could take safety Taylor Mays in the top ten picks, with offensive lineman Charles Brown added later on.

"Seattle's undersized cornerbacks are never going to be able to truly compete with the Larry Fitzgeralds, Anquan Boldins and Michael Crabtrees of the NFC West. A head-hunting free safety like Mays, however, would give the Seattle secondary some teeth.... Future Hall of Famer Walter Jones has yet to make it through a full week of practice after undergoing two knee surgeries. And with various other members of their offensive line succumbing to injury already, the Seahawks may have little choice but to focus on the offensive line early and often in 2010. Brown, a former tight end, has shown greatly improved strength and tenacity as a run blocker in his second season as the Trojans' starting left tackle." - Rob Rang

I tentatively compiled my own mock draft last night and will publish it sometime this week. With regard to Rob Rang's mock, I have a few thoughts. Firstly, although I could envisage the Seahawks going in this direction I still think that is very high for Taylor Mays. Yes - he has the size and speed combo that opens eyes. He hits like a sledgehammer and would make an interesting additions to Seattle's secondary. However, he's not shown good instincts this year and has often relied too much on a big hit to get the job done and as we saw against Notre Dame - that's not always a good thing.

I can see why Rob has made that choice though. Mays is a four-year starter at a school Tim Ruskell likes to select from. It would be an interesting position for the Seahawks to be in, though. I'm a big fan of Georgia Tech's DE Derrick Morgan who's still available and both Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame) and Jake Locker (QB, Washington) remain on the board. Having said that, Ruskell would have to move away from his obvious preference towards taking senior prospects in round one to select any of that trio.

I like the Charles Brown pick, he fits Seattle's zone blocking system and impressed me in the Notre Dame game last week. I want to see more of him in the coming weeks to make a full judgement, but I think if there's one senior offensive tackle who could rise up the boards - it's Brown.

What do you think of Rob Rang's first mock draft? Let me know in the comments section or email rob@seahawksdraftblog.com

Quick thoughts on Eric Berry vs Alabama


I'm heading to Wembley, London today to watch the New England Patriots walk all over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I wanted to get some quick thoughts on last night's action on the blog though and my main focus of attention was Eric Berry's performance against Alabama. As you may know, I've been critical of the Tennessee safety. If you check most other draft blogs or scouting websites you see almost universal hype for Berry. I'm not on the bandwagon.

For starters, Berry was hardly involved in the game. That's not really his fault, he plays safety. Alabama rarely threw deep against Tennessee, instead choosing to pound it up the middle with Mark Ingram or throw a few short routes to Julio Jones. Monte Kiffin tried to be creative with his big name prospect, moving him around to line up at cornerback and safety whilst also pushing him up to the line of scrimmage frequently to blitz or support the run.

Even still - he was almost a non-event in this game. When asked to play as a cover corner he looked quite good, showing an ability to stick with his man and make a play for the ball. That is what Berry does well, he reads a quarterbacks eyes better than most defensive backs. When a quarterback makes a bad pass, that's when Berry's big play potential shines through. Unfortunately in this game, Alabama leaned on their running game and Greg McElroy played the percentages never really affording Berry to use his main strength.

So how did he cope against a run heavy offense? On the few occasions he was able to make a tackle, it showed up why I have very serious concerns about that area of his game. He never, I repeat, never wraps up. When he gets to the ball carrier you can guarantee he's going to dive low and try to take the guys legs. This leaves him susceptible to the increasingly frequent whiff and he almost seems unprepared to get in there and use his hands to tackle a guy. He's not the biggest and he certainly doesn't have a great deal of upper body strength and I think he knows this. He projects his body well driving with his legs creating a lot of power to hit low. But he can't deliver the same force using his arms.

With 5:14 left in the game he made a particularly ugly play, completely whiffing on Mark Ingram with Alabama pinned back deep in their own red zone. Ingram just runs to the right with Berry pushed up to the line of scrimmage and the running back just runs straight past him. I'm not even sure Berry touched the guy - he just flat out missed him as he ran straight past his ear. It's such a basic play, to not even challenge Ingram at the line was just unacceptable for me. So many mock drafts have Berry going in the top ten, but if I'm taking a safety that early in round one - he doesn't whiff on that tackle, simple as that.

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to place Eric Berry in the draft. He's clearly a playmaking threat in the passing game, he reads plays well and he's a threat to make an interception a pick six. On the other hand, he looks like he could be a complete liability against the run or simply facing the more physical receivers, tight ends and running backs in the NFL.

Elsewhere, C.J. Spiller again continues to impress me week in, week out. The guy is a flat out playmaker - exactly the kind Seattle could use on offense. Here's the stat line as he helped Clemson defeat Miami - 81 rushing yards from 14 attempts, six receptions for 104 yards including a 56-yard TD grab and 90-yard kick return touchdown. He runs well, he catches well, he returns kicks well and he even pass protects well. If the Seahawks aren't keeping tabs on this guy, they should be.

Jahvid Best was in devastating form for the second week in succession, recording 159 rushing yards as California defeated Washington State 49-17. He added a 27 yard passing touchdown to two rushing scores, including a 61-yard scamper. After a mini-slump recently that ended his Heisman hopes, Best is back on top form.

Golden Tate continues to help his draft stock as the Notre Dame wideout took 11 passes for 128-yards and a pair of touchdowns. His quarterback Jimmy Clausen went 26/39 for 246 yards as ND defeated Boston College 20-16. Keep an eye on Clausen, I'd put money on him declaring and his stock continues to rise each week.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Jason Fox - Just to get more OL from Florida

Figured since Rob put up his initial impressions of FSU OG Rodney Hudson, I'd throw in a report on Jason Fox, an offensive tackle prospect from Miami. At 6'7 310, Fox is pretty light for a tackle, but suits Seattle's desire for smaller, quicker linesmen. Fox is also a great Ruskell fit, having started 36 games going into his Senior year and was selected as a team captain his Junior (and possibly Senior, though I can't verify that) season.

Fox is probably best suited as a right tackle in the NFL. While he does not consistently lose the edge battle, Austin English (a good, athletic DE from Oklahoma) seemed to be testing the limits of Fox's ability to control the corner, especially when he took a wide (pass-rushing) stance. It's hard to imagine Fox even slowing down a pass rusher like Dwight Freeney, though Fox's quickness out of his stance is a big plus.

If Fox can catch the pass rusher, he does seem to do well. While he can be pushed back by a strong bull-rush, he doesn't consistently get pushed back. I was really impressed by his hands use - almost no college OT prospects demonstrate an actual "punch" in pass protection, but I've seen Fox give one from time to time - even if it lacks pow, it was nice to see and speaks well about Fox's ability to learn and master technique.

The concern with right tackle is that typically the right tackle has to take on bigger DEs, which could prove problematic for Fox. He has the footspeed to stay with most DEs, and the strength to play with most DEs, but there are going to be weeks where he is overmatched. While I present a lot of problems with Fox, the truth is that he has looked as impressive as anyone in pass protection this year. This draft class just doesn't have a lot of great blindside protectors.

Surprisingly, Fox is a very good run blocker. You'd expect a guy his size to struggle a bit with leverage, but Fox uses superior footwork and hand placement to seal the defender and open holes. Haven't had the chance to see Fox get to the 2nd level much, but he seems to have done well in the few chances he's had. Looks like a natural runner, as you'd expect from a former TE. He has very little power in his game, but opens a ton of holes with technique and athleticism.

In the end, Fox is a guy who could end up playing for Seattle. Miami grades their OL notoriously easily, but Fox is still grading out over 95% in his career, and easy grading or not, that's impressive. There are a lot of similarities between Unger and Fox, and Seattle could do a lot worse than Fox. I'd consider Fox a good value anywhere in the 2nd round, but that grade is extremely tentative.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Rodney Hudson - a guard worth scouting


I was recently asked for some thoughts on Florida State interior lineman Rodney Hudson and as luck would have it, FSU were in action last night against North Carolina. The perfect opportunity therefore, to scout the Seminoles' starting left guard. A lot of people talk about Seattle's need for a left tackle and clearly that has been the case this year - the Seahawks may start their fifth choice at the position at Dallas in week eight. However, I personally feel that there's a more pressing issue through the middle.

When Sean Locklear is healthy, I think he actually could be a more than adequate left tackle in the NFL. Since Mike Wahle's retirement, the Seahawks have been using (injury allowing) Rob Sims, Mansfield Wrotto and Steve Vallos at left guard. The center position is also a potential cause for concern in the future with Chris Spencer a free agent in 2010 and Max Unger has been starting as a rookie. Simply put, the interior line is arguably more insecure than Seattle's situation at tackle.

Trying to find good quality interior lineman in the draft can be difficult. Last year was an exception when guys like Alex Mack and Eric Wood went in the first round. Having said that, I was suitably impressed when I watched Rodney Hudson today. He's only a junior, so won't necessarily declare for the 2010 draft. If he does however, he's worth keeping an eye on.

For starters, he's a good scheme fit. Seattle favors nimble, athletic lineman who don't have elite size or strength, but can move around in a zone blocking scheme. At 285lbs he isn't huge and he's not the tallest. He has surprising strength at the point of attack though and is more than capable of stretching wide, showing good footwork. On screen passes yesterday he was regularly getting into the second level as a lead blocker.

FSU regularly called running plays to the left knowing Hudson was capable of creating big holes to attack. On a QB sneak in the third quarter, Christian Ponder tucked in behind Hudson to get a key first down. Shortly after, he was able to block off and support the left tackle (who'd been beaten by a defensive end on the edge). Hudson recognised the situation and before the DE could get to Ponder, he levelled him almost sending him to the turf.

Hudson has some experience at center and is capable of diagnosing defensive reads, but he's since moved to left guard which appears to be a more natural fit. He shouldn't have any difficulty picking up the more difficult functions of the ZBS.

NFL Draft Scout ranks Hudson as the best interior lineman amongst his peers and gives him a second round grade. He was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the week during a win over Brigham Young in week three.

Mocking Dan had some high praise for Hudson after last night: "Junior Rodney Hudson might be the best guard in the nation. He's athletic for an interior linemen and really understands leverage."

As we've already mentioned, it's no guarantee he'll declare for next year's draft. However, it's worth keeping an eye on this FSU prospect over the next few weeks. It's not often you see a young interior lineman who really stands out in the college game, but in Hudson we've found one. He's a good fit for Seattle's scheme with big potential.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Thursday links



Mel Kiper has updated his 2010 big board. Sam Bradford, previously top, has slipped to #5 after injuring his shoulder for a second time. This pushes Ndamukong Suh to first place, following a steady rise up the board over the last few weeks. Check the video above for more draft talk with Kiper and Todd McShay.

Kiper justifies Bradford's fall: "Bradford is snakebit; there's no question. But you're talking about a guy who very likely could have been the first pick last year, or at least would have been in the mix had he come out. So the issue is the evaluation process. Surgery could very well be his best option to make sure the shoulder is right and that means he might not even be able to throw at the level he'd want to at the combine."

Wes Bunting updates his 'Super 30' list, tallying the nations top draft prospects. Washington quarterback Jake Locker remains in first place, followed by the two stud defensive tackles - Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. I'm surprised not to see Joe Haden (CB, Florida) make the list but also pleased to see someone downgrading Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State) whom I'm not overly keen on.

Walter Cherepinsky updates his mock draft. The Seahawks pick Charles Brown (OT, USC) with the 13th overall pick. It wouldn't surprise me if Brown made a move up the boards, he's a converted tight end with good footwork and athleticism - he fits Seattle's zone blocking scheme. C.J. Spiller is the second Seahawks' pick (27th overall). That's a good call from Cherepinsky - I like both of those picks.

Scott Wright says Jimmy Clausen is 'the real deal': "I wrote that more than two years ago, even though Clausen had only played in a grand total of two college games at the time. Despite that relatively limited track record I felt comfortable going out on a limb and since then Clausen has done nothing to change my opinion. In fact, he has developed into an even better player than I imagined."

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Bradford out for the year, set for the NFL?



Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford could miss the rest of the 2009 season. The news broke today that he may decide to have surgery on his injured shoulder and won't feature for the Sooners again this year. How would that affect his draft stock? Bradford has the option to return for another year in the college ranks, an option Todd McShay feels he should seriously consider in the video above. I can understand that line of thought because scouts wanted to see Bradford playing behind a new offensive line and without his main receiving weapon - tight end Jermaine Gresham.

However, I personally think (like Gresham) he'll head for the NFL despite missing most of this season. The simple fact is, he's already risked great damage to his draft stock by returning at all this year. If he returns in 2010 and re-injures that shoulder, his stock will be in tatters. If the position now is - he's only a mid-first round instead of top five, rest assured his stock will be even lower if the shoulder becomes an issue again.

By taking surgery now, he has plenty of time to rehab the injury and be at his best for the combine work outs next year and various pro-day workouts. It's a deep class at quarterback, but one which Bradford could top. His focus has to be, "what do I need to do to be ready for the NFL?" and "how can I prove to the scouts my shoulder is OK?"

This could also be a lesson for two underclassmen touted as potential top picks in 2010. Jake Locker and Jimmy Clausen will look at Mark Sanchez starting in the NFL with a huge contract and they'll see Sam Bradford with his injured shoulder and a potential loss of earnings. If they're looking for excuses to enter the league, this could be it.

Should Bradford return to Oklahoma? Should he head for the NFL? Is he a possible option for the Seahawks as a long term successor to Matt Hasselbeck? Let me know in the comments section below or email rob@seahawksdraftblog.com

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Muench on Spiller: He needs to show toughness

I'm a fan of Clemson's running back C.J. Spiller and I think he's someone the Seahawks may monitor. Greg Knapp wants a running back who can be used for any play call and someone who can be effective in pass protection or as a receiver. Spiller does all those things well and he's a very capable return man on kick offs and punts. But Steve Muench from Scouts Inc wants to see more from Spiller before he gets to the NFL:

"Spiller continues to be very impressive from an athletic standpoint, showing the ability to get to the second level quickly and make defenders miss once there, and the speed to run away from the defense when he gets to daylight. He ripped off a 66-yard touchdown run on which he pressed the line of scrimmage well and got the defense flowing to the hole, then used his vision to see the cutback lane and hesitated just enough to let the pursuit run past. Spiller then hit the seam and was gone in a flash.

"However, we were surprisingly disappointed with his effort and competitiveness at times. Spiller was seen running out of bounds when he could have lowered his shoulder and picked up a few more yards. The bottom line, though, is that Spiller has the physical tools to make plays at the NFL level. He needs to sharpen some areas of his game but still projects as a late-first-round pick." - Steve Muench, Scouts Inc

I would agree with Muench's grading for Spiller, the late first round seems a good fit for someone who can be a threat every time he has the ball, but would probably be better suited in a two back system.

Muench also reviewed the Iowa vs Wisconsin game, offering some thoughts on offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga in the process:

"Bulaga showed he is quick enough to get into good position against speed as both a run and pass blocker. We would like to see him get more movement in the running game against smaller players like Schofield, but Bulaga did wall him off effectively and keep him out of plays. Bulaga also got into his pass sets quickly and established good initial position, though he does not show a violent initial punch and Schofield was able to knock his hands down and get around him on occasion. Bulaga was also caught flat-footed on a spin move at one point. In the end, Bulaga showed enough to remain in the late-first or early-second round range." - Steve Muench, Scouts Inc

Undoubtedly running back and offensive tackle are two positions the Seahawks will be focusing on over the next few drafts. The offensive line has been beaten up with injuries but you have to believe the Seahawks aren't going to give up on their project to transfer Sean Locklear to left tackle so quickly. This decision may even be made for them with a relatively poor 2010 class of left tackle's. Charles Brown (USC) is my favorite so far, but I want to see him in action a couple more times before I make a full judgement.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Taylor Mays and draft thoughts on USC vs ND


I've just had a chance to watch some film of the USC vs Notre Dame game from Saturday and Taylor Mays is simply not doing it for me. I raised concerns earlier in the year about his instincts and how he relies too much on big hits, usually when the ball carrier has already made the first down. These concerns were again prevelent at the weekend.

With 5:25 left in the third quarter, Clausen throws a high floated deep pass from midfield to the left corner of the end zone for Golden Tate. He's in double coverage, but gets a yard on the corner back. Mays is in prime position to make a play for the ball, but instead he puts his head down and tries to take out the man. He never once looks for the ball, which he easily could've got a hand on to break it up. The result? A big touchdown.

It only got worse later on. Notre Dame are on 4th and 10 with 37 seconds left. Clausen lays out a pass through the middle, which Mays is slow to react to. The cornerback makes the tackle, but because Mays is so late on the play he clumsily comes diving in after the receiver is on the turf, hitting him in the helmet and drawing a penalty. The home team couldn't take advantage, but it could easily have cost USC the game.

Chad Reuter at NFL Draft Scout sums it up perfectly:

"Mays was often a step late to help his corners and multiple times he chose to lower a shoulder into a receiver instead of wrapping up and possibly forcing a fumble. The personal foul he picked up (his second of the half) for needlessly launching himself head-first into a receiver in the game's final series in regulation could have been a killer. Thankfully for Mays and his teammates, Clausen and his receivers couldn't connect in three throws to the end zone."

On a more positive front, two receivers stood out. Damian Williams (USC) and Golden Tate (ND) put up a combined 225 receiving yards and scored four touchdowns. I like Williams' speed and ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. He's a return threat on special teams but looks particularly dangerous on screens when you get the ball to him in space. He's not a polished route runner, but with 100+ receiving yards in each of his last three games he's developing quickly. Golden Tate has really picked up the slack after Malcom Floyd went down injured. He's on course for approaching 1500 receiving yards and 12 TD's this year. He's got great hands, is good after the catch and generally has a very good all round game without owning any elite size or speed physical statistics.

I also kept an eye on two offensive lineman, Charles Brown (USC) and Sam Young (ND). I was really disappointed with Young, who in all fairness doesn't warrant any consideration until the later rounds - something again echoed by Chad Reuter:

"Young anchored well against Griffin and others at times, and has the size and durability to be drafted sometime on Draft Saturday (rounds four through seven). But efforts like this one against USC might cause him to be selected closer to the end of the day."

Brown was much more impressive. I liked his footwork, he seemed really nimble on his feet. Pass protection was very good man on man, showing reasonable strength but good athleticism to wall off rushers. Occassionally he was pushed back when a defensive end got his hands underneath his pads and he could do a better job gaining leverage and showing a stronger initial punch. But I didn't see anything that really put me off - I'd like to see him again over a full game.

Quarterbacks review - where we stand

It was a big weekend for quarterbacks when it comes to the 2010 draft. All the big names were in action - from Tebow to Bradford and McCoy to Clausen. So how did things go? Could anyone put in the big performance that stood out to shoot a prospect to the top of the board? Did anyone put in a display that warranted a drop in the rankings?

Tim Tebow just about managed to guide the Florida Gators past Arkansas - who own one of the worst defenses in the country. At times, the Heisman favorite really struggled in the passing game. He made poor reads, his accuracy was more than questionable and his agonisingly slow release led to a fumble in the first half. Nobody can beat Tebow when it comes to the intangibles - leadership, determination and a desire to get the job done. For that alone, not to mention the star quality that comes with his name, I think someone will take Tebow considerably earlier than he probably should go. But this weekend just emphasised that all the concerns about Tebow from a mechanical point of view from last year still remain.

Sam Bradford was taking a gamble whatever decision he made at the end of the 2008 season. If he went to the NFL, people would say he's not had enough experience. He chose to return to OU and after two shoulder injuries, people are saying it's going to cost him $10-15m if his stock drops. From a monetary position, Bradford may miss out. But he should be applauded for returning, trying to refine his mechanics and also win a title for the Sooners. Having said that, one of the biggest concerns about Bradford was his slight frame and his ability to take pressure. The two injuries came about after pretty basic sacks - the kind Matt Hasselbeck suffered with some frequency yesterday. It's hard to get a read on any improvements Bradford may have made to his passing game when he's sat watching the game from the sidelines and rest assured a lot of teams are going to be concerned about his ability to tackle the physical side of the pro's.

Colt McCoy was truly awful against Bradford's Sooners and belittled those who still rank him amongst the potential top picks in 2010. As with Tebow, McCoy is a great college quarterback. But for a brilliant play by Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell last year, he'd have won the Heisman and Texas would have made the Championship game. In the NFL - that counts for nothing. Colt McCoy is not a NFL caliber quarterback. On Saturday we saw the usual collection of screen passes and short routes, mixed in with a few quarterback draws. McCoy's accuracy was all over the place, particularly when he threw further than 10 yards. He fumbled the ball when running in the OU red zone and tossed a woeful interception later on that probably should have cost his team the game. He simply doesn't have the arm and skill set to make it in the NFL and shouldn't really justify anything more than mid-late round consideration.

Tony Pike had an eventful evening in Florida against USF on Thursday night, putting in an impressive display in the first half before leaving the game with a wrist injury. We should know early this week the extent of the problem and consequently how that will affect his ability to impress scouts between now and the end of the year. The Cincinnati quarterback has really enhanced his stock in leading the Bearcats to a 6-0 record. He's capable of making some NFL type throws - one in particular on Thursday night when backed up in his own end zone was absolutely first class. He was also clinical at the other end of the field in the Bulls' red zone. Like Bradford, concerns remain about his ability to take hits - he has a lean frame and has struggled to add weight. He needs to show he can play through the plain with this wrist injury.

Overall, an underwhelming picture. You have to wonder if this will further open the door for two big name underclassmen - Jake Locker (Washington) and Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame). Like Mark Sanchez last year, if they feel confident of going early in the draft (and earning the contract that goes with it) they may be tempted to avoid some of the injury problems witnessed by Bradford and Pike.

One other thing to consider, the four guys listed in detail above all play in a variation of the spread offense. Both Locker and Clausen are playing in pro-style offenses this year, which will no doubt appeal to scouts. Locker has the tools that NFL teams will drool over, if not the CV and production to go with it. Clausen doesn't have the limitless upside, but he's probably a safer pair of hands for a team looking for a quick return.

Unless things change quickly, the two underclassmen could take pole position.

Top ten plays from the weekend

Keep an eye out for Jahvid Best's run...