Monday, 30 November 2009
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
Nothing's changed from earlier in the year, when Bradford re-injured his right shoulder and made the decision to end his season prematurely. We're no closer to knowing how that injury has healed and likely won't hear anything until nearer the combine. Teams will need to convince themselves durability won't be an issue at the next level, but is there any way of truly finding that out when he's not on the field?
Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
People say he's 'pro-ready' but I'm not convinced. His low, side-arm throwing motion is a concern, he loses all velocity throwing off his back foot and you don't see a great range of passes. Almost all his throws are high percentage outside slants, which is a surprise considering the weapons he has at his disposal. He'll almost certainly declare for the draft, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had a long wait in New York reminiscent of another former Notre Dame signal caller.
Tim Tebow, Florida
The debate rages on - can Tebow take his college success into the NFL? He's done nothing to silence the critics this year, putting up smaller numbers than his two previous campaigns and not attempting to adjust his throwing mechanics. Still - he's led his team to a 12-0 season and Tebow remains an unrivalled leader. Some think he'll be a gigantic bust, others think he'll find a way to win. Only time will tell, but I expect one team will roll the dice in round one.
Colt McCoy, Texas
The Heisman favorite is a victory against Nebraska away from making it to the BCS Championship and likely taking home the biggest individual prize in college football. However, I just don't think he's a NFL quarter back. Nearly all his throws are short 5-6 slants or bubble screens. He doesn't make great reads and relies on his legs to make plays - something he won't be able to do as much at the next level. Buyer beware, but I don't expect anyone will take him in the first round - in all honesty he should be a mid-round flier at best.
Jake Locker, Washington
Nearly everyone - be it expert or humble fan - believes Locker should return to Washington next year. He's got unmatchable athletic ability and the tools to be a potential #1 pick in 2011. Some argue another season in Steve Sarkisian's pro-style offense will be his making. But Locker also knows what he'd have to turn down in that scenario - millions of dollars. It's a difficult decision for the home-town favorite and he'll likely seek advice from many before making a final choice.
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
Like Locker, Mallett will soon be presented with a tough decision. Without doubt he could use a year of seasoning - he has potentially elite tools but has been strikingly inconsistent in 2009. But Sam Bradford's injury woes this year has highlighted what could go wrong when millions of dollars are at stake. With all the debate surrounding the CBA and a potential rookie cap in the future, this could force Mallet and Locker to head for the pro's when they'd otherwise be best served staying put.
Tony Pike, Cincinnati
The Bearcats QB started the year on fire, putting up big numbers and leading an unfancied team to an unbeaten season. There was talk of Pike being a potential first round pick and challenging for the Heisman. Then reality set in - injuries forced Pike to the sidelines and his subsequent replacement matched his solid production. Question marks were raised about his work habits and desire after reports suggested he was close to quitting until his father persuaded him to continue. He has good size and decent mechanics but lacks arm strength. The negatives recently have hampered his stock, he'll need to show well at the senior bowl and combine.
Jevan Snead, Ole Miss
Tipped by many to be this year's version of Matt Stafford, it's been a disastrous year for Snead. He's thrown seventeen interceptions and made countless errors - despite owning ideal size and arm strength. The Rebels' coaching staff have to take their share of the blame, Snead hasn't been handled well this year especially after the bad start from which he never recovered. Considered a sure fire first rounder at the start of the year - Snead won't even declare now. He'll return to Ole Miss in 2010 hoping for much better.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
I've seen some suggest on this blog and elsewhere that Gerhart could be a first or second round pick. I cannot agree with that. He's a very entertaining running back and the kind you want to root for - all power and endeavour fighting for every yard. He's a back that takes what the defense offers and is incredibly durable. I don't want to under play his athleticism because it's better than your average work horse. However, he is what he is - and teams don't draft his type of running back early. He's not got breakaway speed and he won't make anyone miss. Gerhart's not a great cut back runner and I didn't see any real evidence of value to the passing game. His pass protection was a little disappointing, I expected a ferocious blocker to match his running style, but it never really happened.
If he does declare for 2010 and goes to a team that already owns an established ground game, I think he could be a surprising success. He'll beat you up through the middle, he's by no means a slouch so he can take it outside and pick up yardage but he's not going to bounce wide and break off. Gerhart could be a great compliment to somebody like Ray Rice in Baltimore. In my opinion, he could go in that fourth round range and my expectations would be relatively low at the next level because he is one dimensional. However - that doesn't mean he isn't great to watch on a Saturday.
On one hand, it was another example of the kind of influence Spiller can have. Even in a game when his work load was heavily restricted, he still managed to score some cheap points. After that opening kick off, South Carolina kicked short every single time coughing up a severe field position disadvantage - one that Clemson really should have benefited from. From a scouting point of view, it was difficult to learn anything more about Spiller. He was given very little running room and the Gamecocks sold out to stop him, knowing they wouldn't be beaten through the air. The Clemson defense was porous and went behind quickly, forcing the Tigers to move away from the running game completely.
Saturday, 28 November 2009
I've just got back and decided to watch some college football to unwind. I recorded the Clemson vs South Carolina game, ready to watch C.J. Spiller in action. It took him all of one second to have an impact, returning the opening kick off for a TD. I'll have some reaction to the rest of his performance as soon as possible, as well as reaction to Florida vs Florida State and Notre Dame vs Stanford (the two other games I have recorded). I've already got Texas vs Texas A&M and Alabama vs Auburn saved for later in the week.
Friday, 27 November 2009
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Rob Rang makes his weekly prediction, sending Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State) and Jonathan Dwyer (RB, Georgia Tech) to Seattle. I've not been impressed with Dwyer when I've watched him this year, he looks like he's added too much weight and become heavy. I would be surprised if he went in the first round. Okung is also a bit over rated and Rang himself sums him up perfectly: "steady, if unspectacular". With Derrick Morgan still on the board in that situation, picking ninth overall, it'd be hard to pass.
Walter Cherepinsky also updates his mock draft. He continues to predict Seattle will take Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland). To quote Cherepinsky: "Walter Jones has been placed on IR, and while Sean Locklear has held up well recently, he's way too unreliable. Locklear has missed 10 games in the past season and a half, and he's bound to get injured again sooner or later." Taking that into consideration, would the Seahawks really want to replace the afore-mentioned Jones and Locklear with a guy who this year alone has missed three games with turf toe and even more with an MCL injury? It won't happen.
Chad Reuter has Seattle taking Okung and C.J. Spiller: "The Hawks desire a game-breaker at the running back position, and Spiller fits that bill." I think this is an under played need for the Seahawks. Yes - the defensive line is creating no pass rush and the offensive line needs an upgrade. But the team in general lacks the kind of playmaking qualities Spiller would provide - especially breakaway speed. If he runs as well as expected at the combine, I'm not sure he'll last to the 24th overall pick.
Draft Tek's sophisticated software has calculated a new consensus mock. The Seahawks take local favorite Jake Locker (QB, Washington) and Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech). I haven't had any access to Washington games this year so it's hard for me personally to offer an opinion on Locker, although I have a hunch that he won't declare for the 2010 draft. Morgan is great value later in the first round and getting Jahvid Best (RB, California) with the Seahawks third pick is a steal.
Seahawks Draft Blog also discussed Ryan Mallett recently.
Chris Low lists the top 10 SEC underclassmen that could declare: "This is always an emotional time for seniors as they prepare to play in their final home game. But the reality is that this final week of the regular season will also see several top juniors and/or third-year sophomores bidding farewell before leaving early for the NFL draft."
Ted Miller speculates on the future of Jahvid Best, both for the Cal Golden Bears and in the NFL: "It remains decidedly questionable whether California running back Jahvid Best will play again this season. Best is a junior and he likely will strongly consider entering the NFL draft this spring, therefore it's possible that his Cal career is over."
Brian Hamilton reports that Jimmy Clausen's family are moving out of their home, fueling speculation he's about to leave Notre Dame for the NFL: "It's a bit frenzied around the Irish these days... and that silenced quarterback Jimmy Clausen regarding a real estate transaction that could be an early indicator of the expected: that he will bypass his senior season for the NFL. Century 21 real estate agent Kathye Currey told the Tribune on Tuesday that the house Clausen's family owns at 703 E. Angela Blvd. in South Bend has been sold."
J.P Giglio says North Carolina's stand out linebacker Bruce Carter will return for his senior season: "Carter ranks third on the team with 48 tackles and he also has two sacks and an interception return for a touchdown. The Tar Heels defense, which ranks first in the ACC it total yards (261.6 yards per game) and scoring (15.9 points per game) has seven junior starters. Defensive tackle Marvin Austin, linebacker Quan Sturdivant, safety Deunta Williams and Carter are all considered NFL prospects."
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Tim Tebow will play his last game in the Swamp this weekend against Florida State, with the NFL beckoning alongside a potential third appearance in the BCS Championship game. Without doubt the Gators quarterback will be remembered as one of the greatest players in college football history. However, it seems nobody polarises opinion more than Tebow and his potential future in the pro's. It's been discussed from the moment he took over the starting job in Florida and it continues today.
The critics have a lot of things they can pick on. Tebow has worked predominantly in a spread offense run by the same coach that helped make Alex Smith a number one pick. Clearly, that one hasn't worked out well at all for San Francisco. His mechanics are a major point of contention and his painfully slow release has led to issues in college games let alone the NFL. He can be hesitant in the pocket, he doesn't always make good reads and he won't be able to resort to running the ball as much at the next level. Tebow's also had the benefit of featuring alongside an incredibly talented supporting cast, boasting a defense that arguably outclasses anything else in the SEC and a number of talented weapons on offense.
Coming into the 2009 season, many waited with anticipation to see if Tebow would make any adjustments ahead of next year's draft. Missing the now departed Percy Harvin and some other noticable components, how would this affect his ability to put up huge numbers? The answer was a simple one really and shouldn't be a surprise. He's not adjusted his game at all and why should he? Florida are currently on a tremendous 21-game unbeaten run and stand on the precipace of an undefeated season. Why fix something that isn't broken on the off chance it'll help one man's stock? Tebow was never going to be that selfish.
But the fact he's without his stars, the Harvin's etc, has certainly had an impact on his numbers. An almost certain candidate for the Heisman at the start of the year, he's only an outsider in that particular race. Touchdown's thrown this year? Just fourteen. He threw 62 in his first two years as a starter. The year he won the Heisman, he added 23 rushing scores. In 2009, he has just eleven. Tebow will care little because he's very much a 'team first' individual, but this isn't exactly a blaze of glory to complete his college career.
It's not all about numbers either. When I've watched Tebow this year, his performances from a technique and execution point of view have been decidedly poor. There were a couple of games, most noticably at home to Arkansas, when it could've proved costly.
So taking all this into account, why are people still lining up to praise college football's biggest star? Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Jon Gruden have all offered rich assesment's of Tebow, with the former suggesting Tebow could revolutionise the NFL. Jacksonville Jaguars GM Gene Smith has already said he'd love to keep the quarterback in state. Now, Wes Bunting from the National Football Post says despite all the mechanical issues, Tebow can still have a productive career in the NFL:
"Tebow hasn’t had the type of senior season many expected and has not taken the steps needed to prove he has what it takes to be a traditional dropback-type quarterback in the NFL. But that’s not to say he can’t be a successful starting-caliber QB. Look at what the Titans have done in recent weeks with Vince Young, who’s not a traditional dropback passer and is not the type of quarterback most NFL teams covet. If a team is open to using an unconventional offense for Tebow, allowing him to work from the spread, get him outside the pocket and run some power inside, there’s really no reason he can’t be a capable NFL quarterback."
"The idea of every team having a traditional dropback, strong-armed Carson Palmer-type quarterback is unreasonable because there’s a limited number of guys who can do that. However, if a team is willing to look outside the box and be creative with its play-calling, I think Tebow could end up having a successful career leading an NFL offense." - Wes Bunting, National Football Post
It's an interesting angle. It's obvious to anyone who has watched Tebow that he isn't going to be the traditional drop-back pocket passer. It'd take years to mould Tebow into something that frankly, is unnatural. You draft the guy because you are prepared to set up your offense to cater for his presence. You'd need a solid offensive line to prevent any issues with that low, slow release leading to batted passes and fumbles. You better get some nice weapons and incoporate some wildcat and spread formations. You also have to accept that Tebow will take a lot of hits because he will run with the ball - that's a big risk.
But I have to admit, there is something about Tebow that just intrigues me. His leadership, his character. This is a guy who is going to do whatever it takes to be a success and should he fail, it won't be through lack of effort. He'll take the team on his shoulders and make it his own, offering an instant identity to whichever franchise selects him.
Will he make mistakes? Yes. Will you need to work on those mechanics? Of course.
But Vince Young, despite all his personal problems and issues has found a way to win football games. Sometimes that may be in spite rather than because of his presence, but he's not held Tennessee back when he starts. They're 4-0 with Young behind center and 0-6 without him. There's absolutely no reason why Tebow can't be part of a winning team even if he's not throwing for 300 yards and trying to do his best Peyton Manning impression. You can't measure 'will to win' at the combine, but if you could Tebow would get a top grade. The question you have to ask is whether or not that alone will cut it at the next level?
Because essentially, there aren't any other guys like Peyton. You could wait forever trying to find that one quarterback and the year they arrive, you might have to be the worst team in the NFL to have a chance to get them. Sometimes you need to roll the dice, adapt because the quarterback you've taken isn't what we constitute to be the ideal.
I firmly expect Tim Tebow to go in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. Someone will take a chance and they'll pay a premium to find out whether Tebow is going to be a bust or the best calculated gamble in years. Come Saturday evening, Tebow won't be playing at the Swamp anymore. He's a maximum of three games away from looking to the future - as a potential starter in the NFL.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
"Price was very strong on the inside, anticipating the snap well, staying low and playing with good leverage and showing an explosive punch. He also anchored well against double-teams and showed good endurance.
Two plays in particular stood out. The first was a second-quarter sack on which Price used a great spin move and closed quickly on the quarterback, and the second was later in the quarter when he did a great job using his hands to disengage from the blocker then found the quarterback and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Overall, Price finished with six tackles (4.0 TFL), a forced fumble, a fumble recover, an interception and two pass breakups. He has impressive hands and the ability to collapse the pocket as a pass rusher, and while he might not be suited to play the nose in a 3-4 scheme he can certainly make a difference as a one-gap penetrator in a four-man front.
That ability to contribute in many ways along with his size and strength could make Price a late-first or early-second round pick if he chooses to jump to the NFL, and given the way injuries have affected the depth of the defensive tackle class you have to believe he is considering it." - Kevin Wiedl, Scouts Inc
Monday, 23 November 2009
I'm going to update my mock draft in the next few days and by then, I'll have had the time to work out a full order. If they were picking this early, they'd have a shot at the top defensive lineman (clearly the strength of the 2010 draft). Let me know what you think in the comments section or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, 22 November 2009
However, in the fourth quarter Suh took control of the game. Whilst the offensive line trying to stop him began to tire, Suh just kept on going. Suddenly he was getting into the backfield, tipping passes and getting to the QB. Now, I had mixed feelings about this. If teams can effectively double team him to this extent in college, will NFL lines be able to manage him with equal sufficiency? He really only got into the game when his opponents got tired.
On the other hand, every time I've seen Suh this year he's been involved in one way or another. I don't think I've ever seen a defensive tackle with his range - he leads his team in tackles, he makes interceptions (and returns them for scores), he blocks passes, he gets sacks. He'll drop into coverage every now and again and he never gives up on a play until the whistle goes. It might have taken a while for it to happen yesterday, but when Suh took over he effectively ended the game on his own.
His two tipped passes in the final quarter took him to ten for the year - a school record for his position. He added 1.5 sacks and a couple of hurries. He was still chasing guys down like a linebacker with just a couple of minutes to go. His career stats (which can be found here) have to be seen to be believed.
Suh is certainly flexible enough to play in either the 4-3 as a three technique or the 3-4 at defensive end, which is the main reason I continue to keep him above Gerald McCoy in the rankings. He appeals to all teams, whilst McCoy will strictly interest those looking for a 4-3 three tech. Depending on who is picking at the very top of the board and with a less than stellar quarterback class unlikely to take up the top picks, it's not unrealistic that the pair could go #1 and #2.
There was one other prospect that stood out for Nebraska - senior safety Larry Asante. Reader and contributor '1st Hill' recently asked me to keep an eye on him and he wasn't hard to pick out against K-State. He was called early for an ugly horse collar penalty but recovered to make a series of well timed tackles, an interception and also a key forced fumble. Asante did a good job diagnosing plays throughout, showed good center field skills in safety support and generally his tackling was sound. He finished with 11 total tackles.
He's had some injury trouble and hasn't shown a consistent ability to make big plays during his career, but I'd feel comfortable giving him a grade in the 5th round range. If you're looking for a late round alternative to bigger names like Eric Berry and Taylor Mays, then Asante might be worth keeping an eye on.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Let me start with what he did well. On the very few times Oklahoma State threw the ball, Okung was above average in pass protection. He has ideal size and tone (6'6", 305lbs) and certainly looks the part on the field. When Colorado rushed the passer, Okung got into position quickly and knew which guy he had to block. Once the two engaged, he flashed good upper body strength at the point of attack and seemed to dominate because of that. In the running game, he was nowhere near as good - but I did want to mention that I at least saw in this game a greater willingness to get to the second level.
Now on to the not so good stuff. Before the game, Okung was bouncing around on the sidelines screaming at his teammates. If only he showed even half that effort on the field. At times, he was a complete liability in the running game. Ok - Colorado knew that they were going to run, run and run some more with the QB situation. But Oklahoma State were flat out awful in short yardage situations and Okung has to shoulder his share of the blame.
On 4th and 1 with 4:02 left in the first quarter, the Cowboys ran left behind their star left tackle. I'm not sure if it was a communication error or a blown assignment, but on the snap Okung jogs into the second level and stands lost in the open field as three Colorado players run straight past him and hammer the running back for a loss. Okung turns round almost in shock as he stands alone, blocking nobody. He really should have picked up the linebacker who made the original tackle. If he's running to the second level, who is he actually trying to block if it isn't that linebacker? It's almost like he was expecting the guy to stand still and wait to be pushed over. As the OLB hits the runner, the MLB also runs straight past Okung to join in the action. Again, who is Okung trying to block if it isn't the two linebackers on his side considering he's moved into the second level? Even if that's a blown assignment, surely he's got to get his hands on somebody? Just jogging into the second level and watching three guys run past you isn't good enough.
This wasn't the only example of an assignment mistake or simply a lack of effort. Frequently he didn't finish blocks, he's happy to engage but doesn't drive until the whistle and I want to see that from any lineman starting their career who are heading to the NFL to be top picks. Sometimes he was pushed back when trying to run block. I saw little evidence of an ability to handle complicated blocking assignments where he'll be forced to block off and pass guys off to a guard. He seemed to concentrate on blocking his man, which suggests to me he's a much better fit for a man scheme than one that uses zone.
I know that pass protection is the crown jewels when it comes to the NFL. No doubt that Okung is good in that area and for that reason, he's going to be drafted in round one. However, as a complete package I am in no way convinced he is a top ten pick. Maybe he will be, enough people are talking about him going in that area. Left tackle is second only to quarterback when it comes to premium positions in the pro's and in a weak class, Okung might get over drafted to a team badly needing to protect an expensive QB (Detroit? Tampa Bay?).
In a team with a solid O-line already, he should fit in nicely as a senior with some experience in the college game who pass protects quite well. That's the situation Michael Oher walked into with Baltimore and that would be an ideal kind of situation for Okung too. But if I had to predict where he should go in the draft, I'd say he's only a late first round pick at best. I still prefer Charles Brown (OT, USC) if he can add an extra 15lbs of bulk before the combine as my #1 senior tackle prospect.
To read resident scout Kyle Rota's thoughts on Okung, click here.
In 199 touches this year, Spiller has only fumbled the ball once. Ball security is undoubtedly crucial when teams access running back prospects, so you can put this one on the list alongside elite speed, versatility and massive production.
Friday, 20 November 2009
"Kerney's motor, strength, and initial quickness has made him a successful player in the NFL. I see similar traits in Morgan." - Matt McGuire, Walterfootball.com
Thursday, 19 November 2009
One other interesting note from Cherepinsky's mock is his placement of Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas) in the top ten. He notes: "The SEC product has an amazing arm and has put up some really impressive stats lately. In his past four games, Mallett has thrown nine touchdowns to only one interception, and he's maintained a completion percentage of 67.3 and a mind-boggling YPA of 11.6."
One thing to note here is the quality of those last four opponents: Troy, South Carolina, Eastern Michigan and Ole Miss. The best team of the four is undoubtedly Ole Miss, where he posted a completion percentage of just 35.3%. The 67.3% noted by Cherepinsky above is largely responsible for his success against lesser opposition.
In fact, let's compare the last three games to Mallett's toughest macth-ups this season:
vs Troy - 76.7% completed passes
vs South Carolina - 85.2%
vs Eastern Michigan - 87.5%
TD/INT ratio: 8/1
982 passing yards
vs Alabama - 34.4% completed passes
vs Florida - 44.4%
vs Ole Miss - 35.3%
TD/INT ratio: 3/1
638 passing yards
Mallett is very raw and when I watched Arkansas against both Auburn and Florida this year, there was a lot of inconsistency on show. He does own a NFL arm and flashed that ability to launch the ball down field. However, he also showed on numerous occasions very poor accuracy on shorter routes, particularly in the red zone. It could be argued he missed a couple of simple passes against Florida that potentially, could have won his team the upset of the year.
He's comparable to Joe Flacco in that he needs to learn from scratch how to operate from behind center and his footwork in particular is a cause for concern. He also has a similar skill set to Flacco. Whether he will declare or not remains to be seen, but I get the feeling this is going to become an increasingly big debate over the next few weeks. Mallett finds himself in a similar position to Jake Locker - they'd both benefit from another year at college. Like Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez last year, however, the odds are at least one of them may declare.
Draft Tek's computer calculated a new mock draft this week. Using team needs and a regularly updated big board, it predicts how the draft will fall next April. Unfortunately, this time it's made a projection that simply won't happen. It says Seattle will take Greg Hardy (DE, Ole Miss) 9th overall. Under the current front office regime, there is absolutely no way the Seahawks will entertain Hardy's 'soap opera' life style and horrendous injury record.
The second pick is Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame), who (perhaps realistically) drops to the back end of round one as opposed to the top five pick a number of pundits are predicting. I wrote about my concerns regarding Clausen this week. The Seahawks do get good value in round two however, where they take Jahvid Best (RB, California).
The Human Review publishes an interesting mock draft. They have Seattle taking C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson) with the 9th overall pick and Charles Brown (OT, USC) 28th overall. I discussed the possibility of Spiller going in the top ten on Tuesday. The Seahawks will undoubtedly want to target their defensive line after a number of disappointing performances and the relative depth at the position. However, I find it hard not to like what has been predicted here. I've made no secret of my fondness for both Spiller and Brown.
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
"The most impressive individual player in the country over the past three weeks has been Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan, who has seven sacks over that span and absolutely terrorized Duke's offensive line last week.
We've had Morgan in our top 15 overall since early October and in this week's updated rankings he will move ahead of fellow junior Carlos Dunlap (Florida) as the top defensive end on the Scouts Inc. board. And while there's no guarantee Morgan will skip his senior year we've been told by two people close to the situation that he's a virtual lock to enter the 2010 draft.
Morgan is no one-trick pony. He is a relentless pass rusher but also shows great effort holding the point and in pursuit against the run, and recently he has shown the ability to play out of a two-point stance and drop into coverage on zone blitzes.
Should he elect to come out early and perform as well as we expect in pre-draft workouts it would not be a surprise to see Morgan become a top-five pick, and there is no way we see him falling out of the top half of the first round." - Todd McShay, Scouts Inc
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Nobody has done more to help their draft stock in recent weeks than Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. It's a down year for Heisman candidates and whilst I appreciate Mark Ingram's efforts for Alabama, for me C.J. Spiller deserves the award more than anyone else. He's been carrying Clemson on his back for most of the year and is simply a threat to score every single time he touches the ball - there's no other prospect in college football right now that can match his playmaking qualities.
The thing is, it's becoming increasingly hard to project where he could go in the draft. There are things that could push him quite high - production, speed (particularly if he lights up the combine) and that ability to break off a big play in so many different ways. Throw in the fact it's not a great class at the offensive skill positions - particularly running back - and teams looking for a spark might be willing to take Spiller higher than expected.
On the other hand, concerns remain about his durability and necessity to work as part of a committee. One thing that often gets mentioned is the fact Spiller is a senior running back - a rarity these days as many prospects at the position leave early to restrict the work load they take before entering the pro's. But let's look at Spiller's number of carries compared to some of the other running backs that entered the NFL in recent years:
C.J. Spiller - 543 carries
Ray Rice - 910 carries
Matt Forte - 809 carries
Darren McFadden - 785 carries
Donald Brown - 698 carries
Chris Johnson - 624 carries
Beanie Wells - 585 carries
Jonathan Stewart - 516 carries
Knowshon Moreno - 498 carries
As you can see, Spiller's college work load has been carefully managed whilst featuring in a two-back system alongside James Davis. He'll enter the league touching the 600 carry mark, which would put him about par for the position. There are other durability concerns, specifically with a hamstring problem Spiller has suffered. In any sport, competitors that rely on elite speed are prone to hamstring injury's and once they start to happen, they can re-occur at any time. This is something that will need to be checked out thoroughly by NFL scouts.
So let's get to the point - where could he go in the draft? In my first 2010 mock of the year, I had him going 16th overall to the San Diego Chargers. He was the third offensive skill player to leave the board after Dez Bryant (6th overall, Chiefs) and Damian Williams (13th overall, Jets). Now, I don't believe Bryant really warrants going that early. I put him there because I felt a team like Kansas City might look for a weapon on offense - Scott Pioli has shown he doesn't mind reaching to fill a big need (re: taking Tyson Jackson 3rd overall in 2009).
I firmly believe Spiller is more of a playmaker than Bryant. The Chiefs also need a running back, so in this projected scenario could they consider Spiller? Undoubtedly, yes they could. That might sound surprising - C.J. Spiller going as early as 6th overall? Hey, don't rule it out. As I've said, he is an outstanding playmaker and whether right or wrong, teams value guys who can make things happen. Let's be honest, we've seen it before (Miami taking Tedd Ginn Jr. 9th overall in 2007). It doesn't have to make sense to actually happen.
If Spiller turns up in Indianapolis for the combine and runs, as expected, a time close to Chris Johnson's 4.24 forty yard dash, teams will sit up and take notice. So far he's only being talked about as a late first rounder or at best a mid-first rounder. C.J. Spiller's stock is going upwards only as each week passes, so bare that in mind.
On the other hand, as much as we've seen teams draft skill players early in the past, we've also seen a lot of teams prefer to wait until later on to draft running backs. A case in point - Oakland haven't got much return from their $60m investment in Darren McFadden, whilst Chicago and Baltimore have got maximum value from second round picks Matt Forte and Ray Rice.
Because Spiller is best suited in a two back system and if hamstring problems do put doubts in people's minds, he could fall back into the mid-late first round. However, I have a hard time believing he'll drop any further, particularly considering the lack of alternatives in this particular draft class.
So what about the Seahawks in all of this? If the season ended today, they would be picking eighth overall. The second pick from Denver would come in at 28th overall, despite the Broncos' recent three-game losing streak. As things stand, I expect Tim Ruskell will target first and foremost defensive lineman. But let's speculate for a second that the top four are off the board by the eighth pick (Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Derrick Morgan and Carlos Dunlap). Let's also suggest the top quarterback (Sam Bradford) is gone as is the top left tackle (personally, I'd say Charles Brown but it seems more likely to be Russell Okung). It's not an unrealistic example to expect the top prospects at QB and LT to be gone that early and the stellar defensive line class is likely to be tapped into early and often.
I actually think there's a chance that in this situation, the Seahawks would also consider C.J. Spiller if he was available. I want to stress that it's still early days and a lot can change between now and April, least of all the final draft position. But this is a Seahawks team that needs a spark on offense. Sure, there are other pressing needs. The team's total lack of a pass rush on Sunday in Arizona will almost certainly force the front office to re-think personnel amongst the defensive line. The Seahawks need a long term answer at quarterback and the offensive line needs a boost.
But if we're going to speculate about prospects who might be on Seattle's radar in the first round, Spiller has to be part of the discussion. If he were to last until later in the first round, I have to believe he'd warrant very serious discussion with the pick acquired from Denver.
I've posted two videos below showing highlights from his performance in Clemson's latest victory against North Carolina. In the game he became the first player in team history to score a rushing, receiving and passing touchdown, taking his stats for the year to 1952 total yards and 14 touchdowns. You can see the clips in high definition from a different angle here and here.
Monday, 16 November 2009
For a report I wrote on Haden following Florida's victory over LSU earlier in the year, click here.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
I've seen him a few times now and voiced concerns. Having just watched the tape from yesterday's Tennessee defeat to Ole Miss, I'm positively determined that he's going to be a huge liability against the run in the NFL. It's one thing seeing him getting positively blown away why Ben Tate (RB, Auburn) and Tim Tebow (QB, Florida), but having watched Dexter McCluster dance around to the tune of 282 yards is quite another. If he's going to struggle against bigger guys, so be it. You can work on that. But McCluster is 5'8" and 165lbs. He's quick, but then isn't Berry supposed to be quick too?
For large parts of the game, Berry was anonymous. The Rebels ran the ball with great success and it restricted the need to test the error prone Jevan Snead too much. I was half expecting Berry to have a big game today, just because Snead is usually good for 2-3 big interceptions. Fair play to Ole Miss for their game plan, it's just a shame the coaching staff didn't protect their quarterback this well earlier in the season.
But when questions were asked of Berry, he whiffed. Here's the big problem - he just doesn't wrap up his tackles. He always (and I mean ALWAYS) goes low to make a tackle. This was no more evident than a third quarter play when McCluster took an option to the right. Berry meets the running back in space and dives at his legs. He completely misses the tackle, rolling onto the floor. It allows McCluster to turn a two-yard loss into a ten yard gain and on the very next play, it's a simple touchdown.
It wasn't the only example of poor tackling by Berry on the afternoon. People rate him so highly because of his playmaking ability. Type 'Eric Berry' into YouTube and you'll find out why people compare him to Ed Reed. Coming into 2009, he had 12 interceptions (three returned for six). But I have to question whether those big plays from the past are clouding judgement today. In three games this year, I've had to watch carefully just to pick up Berry on the field. He has just two interceptions, despite lining up all over the field at cornerback and safety.
If you take away that ability to make big plays, you're left with a pretty average football player. I dread the thought of seeing him against big tight ends in coverage, or the prospect of watching him trying to tackle a NFL running back. This year - without the big TD returns or interceptions - it's hard to work out what all the fuss is about.
I'd be very surprised if he goes as early as some people are predicting in the 2010 draft. It's perhaps important to remember that he's not necessarily a shoe-in to declare, having previously expressed a desire to graduate in dentistry. If you put him on a good defense with bigger guys in the secondary, you can get creative with him and perhaps tap into that playmaker that's been missing this year. However, I just can't imagine a bad team (and they tend to be the ones picking early) will invest top money in Eric Berry.
Saturday, 14 November 2009
Positive: Tall with long arms. Very good athlete for the position. Runs well in the open field. Plays with good leverage. Good lateral slide. I've scouted half a dozen tackles for this draft class and Brown is the only one who seems to have more than a passing familiarity with "punching" the DE in pass protection (something very, very few OTs do in college, but is extremely important in the NFL). Shows good awareness for the blitz and does a good job picking it up. Works his way well to the 2nd level and adjusts well on linebackers. Usually pretty good effort. Not a dominating run blocker, but uses the DE's momentum to run him out of the play.
Negative: What weight will he play in the NFL at? That's the biggest concern, if he's 285 he's a very small tackle. If he can get over 300, well, he's still small but it's not as big a problem. Struggles when DEs shoot inside, probably a strength issue there. Also has a bit of vulnerability to spin moves. Becomes a watcher sometimes (watcher is when a tackle makes initial contact, then watches as the play progresses around him), not a lot but it's something I wasn't happy to see. Made a few mental errors (noise at Oregon's famously loud Autzen stadium hurt him a bit, but USC gave up something like 8 false starts that game so it wasn't just him, and he wasn't the worst offender), but it's not a constant problem.
Fit: If Brown fits anywhere, it'll be at Seattle. He's best suited for a zone system as a left tackle. The biggest concern is if he's big enough for the NFL in any system - generally it's a bad thing when DEs like Mario Williams and Julius Peppers outweigh the LT, something that could happen to Brown.
Overall: I like Brown, but I want to see more. It seemed the more I saw him, the less I was impressed, but some of that could be due to the 2nd game being the beatdown USC suffered against Oregon. He's a lot more polished than given credit for, and every bit as athletic. More tape is needed, but right now Brown is solidly a first round grade and arguably the best tackle in this class for Seattle (I'll need to watch Russell Okung of Oklahoma State as a senior to be sure, right now Brown has the edge but I scouted Okung on 2008 tape).
Tennessee @ Ole Miss
Jevan Snead has been the year's biggest disappointment. He's gone from outside bet to go first overall to almost certainly returning for his senior year. This could be a chance for Eric Berry to flash those play making skills against an erratic quarterback. I've been far from impressed by Berry so far, this is a chance to show at least some of the hype is justified.
Iowa @ Ohio State
Having struggled to get any footage of Bryan Bulaga in the first half of the season, this will now be the third successive week I'm watching his Hawkeye's. He's playing left tackle for Iowa, but I think he's a right tackle in the NFL - at least for the system Seattle uses. It'll be interesting to see how he performs in his team's biggest game of the year so far.
Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh
It's been a while since my last good look at Jimmy Clausen. This is a really tough game on the road, so a perfect opportunity to see if he justifies his place as potentially the first quarterback off the board in 2010. I want to see him throwing off the front foot and I need to make sure his low, side arm release doesn't lead to too many tipped passes.
Florida @ South Carolina
I've seen the Gators so much this year I almost feel like I can call their plays. It's pretty obvious now that Tim Tebow isn't going to change his game to cater for watching NFL scouts, his main focus is an undefeated season with Florida. He'll lead an all star-cast to Carolina and it's yet another chance to look at one of my favorite 2010 prospects - cornerback Joe Haden.
Friday, 13 November 2009
On film at least, he looks trim enough and every bit a NFL lineman. He could probably enter the NFL now and not be any worse than he would be with an extra year's seasoning, but he has to convince teams he can manage his weight to justify any kind of high pick. So with that in mind, how did he perform last night and is he a good fit for the Seattle Seahawks?
In a word, no. With Mike Solari coaching the offensive line, Seattle has very publicly incorporated a zone blocking scheme. One of the reasons I never thought the team would draft Eugene Monroe was that I felt he wasn't a good enough fit for this system. Davis reminded me of the same complaints I had with regard to Monroe.
He's ideally suited to a man blocking scheme. He never blocked off once, simply locking on to an opponent and blocking that man until the play was dead. No desire to get to the second level was ever witnessed and he never showed a nasty streak to blow his guy out of the way and instantly find someone else to block. One of the things I love about Charles Brown (OT, USC) is that he diagnoses plays so well, he knows when to block off and when to progress and tackle a linebacker. He's fight his man down and drive through his blocks. I saw none of that from Davis.
But (similar to Eugene Monroe) what Davis does, he does well. He was practically unbeatable in one-on-one combat. He did a good job dealing with two of the better pass rushers in college football - Jason Pierre-Paul and George Selvie. There will be teams who deploy man scheme who will find great value in a guy who blocks his man very well and keeps the blind side quiet. Other teams, like the Seahawks, will look elsewhere. Davis is neither agile nor flexible enough to adequately fill the teams needs in a ZBS, but he could easily become a top first round pick for somebody else if the weight problems are no more.
As an aside, I was again very impressed with the afore-mentioned Pierre-Paul. He's raw, but with massive potential. He could stand to get a bit stouter against the run and probably get a bit more upper body bulk. But he has a long wing span and in the two games I've seen him, he's actually tipped about four passes just throwing those long arms out there and getting something on the ball. Pierre-Paul owns a great spin move and he effortlessly glides into the backfield, showing tremendous speed and agility. He should be a first round pick.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Draft Tek's sophisticated software has calculated a new mock draft. You'll notice I was asked to offer some thoughts on each pick - I should stress that I didn't choose the guys Seattle take I merely commented on what the computer predicted (it's based on team needs). The Seahawks take C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson) and Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame) - not a bad couple of picks in all honesty.
Chad Reuter updates his mock draft at CBS Sportsline. He has the Seahawks taking Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State) and C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson). I still think Charles Brown (OT, USC) could be the top offensive lineman in the 2010 class, although Reuter leaves him out of his mock completely (although he has a guard from Idaho going #21 to Philly). I will also be pretty stunned if Jonathan Dwyer, Terrance Cody and Greg Hardy go in the first round.
If you missed it last week, don't forget to check out my first 2010 mock draft of the year.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Matt McGuire still isn't a fan of Florida's Carlos Dunlap: "Dunlap is a big body. He is 6-6, 280, but it isn't the size of the dog; it's the size of the fight in the dog. It doesn't matter how big Dunlap is because he doesn't play that big when you watch the tape. Dunlap's draft stock is all over the map. He could go in the top 10, but he could also fall to the second round. Nothing would shock me."
Wes Bunting is worried for Tony Pike's draft stock: "If Pike ends up getting benched the rest of the season and sees another quarterback come in and lead his team to a successful postseason run, it could have a detrimental effect on his draft status in April."
Also from Bunting, a favorable review of Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward: "The more I watch Heyward, the more convinced I am that he has the ability to line up just about anywhere on an NFL defensive line. He showcases an impressive first step off the ball and does a great job keeping his base down and generating a powerful initial jolt on contact. On top of that, he’s a gifted athlete who showcases good body control and has the length to consistently shed blocks."
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Having said that, he'd been flying a little under the radar over the last few weeks. I'd not seen anyone put him as high as I did in my first 2010 mock draft and I even saw people putting Greg Hardy ahead of him in some projections (that simply will not happen). It seems people are starting to realise just how good Morgan can be.
Kevin Wiedl, ESPN's Draft Blog
"Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan turned in an impressive performance in the Yellow Jackets' 30-27, overtime victory over Wake Forest, showing why many scouts rank the junior as a first-round lock.
Morgan did a great job anchoring and disrupting against the run, including a second-and-4 play on the first possession of overtime on which he blew up a lead block from Demon Deacons FB Mike Rinfrette, forced Josh Adams to chance direction and allowed his teammates to clean up the play for a 4-yard loss.
Morgan also victimized Rinfretti earlier in the game as a pass rusher, running through him on a third-down play late in the fourth quarter with the score tied at 24. Wake was driving in Georgia Tech territory for the potential game-winning score, but Morgan came off the edge and exploded through Rinfretti before getting to QB Riley Skinner, forcing a punt and keeping Tech alive.
Both plays showed the explosiveness Morgan has in his hips. He overwhelmed the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Rinfretti and made game-changing plays when his team needed them most. Morgan has the frame (6-4, 268) and power to be an effective 4-3 end, and though we haven't seen much of him dropping into coverage we don't doubt the he could do so as a 3-4 rush end.
Morgan has all the tools NFL teams look for and is shooting up draft boards. Given how well he is playing and that it's hard to see him getting out of the first round, chances are Morgan is headed to the next level after this season."
Monday, 9 November 2009
"Hudson is a very athletic guard and if he were to declare for the draft, he would be a late first, early second round draft pick."
- Chris Steuber
That at least confirmed my suspicions about where he could potentially go in the draft. When I scouted him earlier in the year, I felt like I was watching the perfect interior lineman for the Seahawks. During Tim Ruskell's tenure as GM, the team have drafted and signed more agile blockers who can operate in the zone blocking scheme. Some teams might be put off by Hudson's lack of size (290lbs) but the Seahawks would love his agility.
"Hudson is undersized, but possesses tremendous feet. He moves very well laterally and has the quickness to make an impact at the second level. At this time, he’s a better pass protector than he is a run blocker, but he’s improved his strength and will only get better."
- Chris Steuber
One of the things that really impressed me was Hudson's strength. Considering he isn't the biggest, I saw him driving guys back 4-5 yards to create running lanes. When Florida State ran a quarterback sneak, Christian Ponder placed himself behind Hudson and used him to get the first down. That same strength won't necessarily translate into the same kind of dominance in the NFL, but he certainly plays above his size.
But Steuber mentioned something I hadn't considered. Remember Branden Albert? A dominant, athletic guard for Virginia who ended up being projected as a left tackle in the NFL - leading to being selected 15th overall by Kansas City in 2008. Can Hudson make a similar transition?
"Hudson’s athleticism provides an NFL team with options; he could play OT if needed, but obviously his best position is at guard. If he were a little taller, he would be an OT prospect."- Chris Steuber
In fairness, there's a notable difference between Albert and Hudson. The former is 6'5" - owning the ideal frame to add bulk and adjust to play at left tackle. With Hudson only 6'2" and currently 290lbs, he hasn't got the same height advantage and he'd have to add around 15-20lbs to get anywhere near the weight Albert was at the '08 combine (309lbs). Still, I think it emphasises the kind of athleticism Hudson owns and that in part is testament to his value.
Obviously any discussion about Hudson has to accept that he's a junior and won't necessarily declare. Still, pretty much every mock I read has Bryan Bulaga (another junior lineman) pencilled in, so until I hear otherwise I see no reason to discount Hudson from the 2010 talk. If he does declare, he could be worth monitoring from a Seahawks perspective.