OT Luke Joeckel Texas A&M

Blessed with incredibly light feet and great balance/flexibility it is easy to see what makes Joeckel one of the most highly touted LT prospects in all of college football. Joeckel’s athleticism and foot speed allows him to effectively release off the line and get into his stance/drop quickly. Joeckels is also very fundamentally sound, bending at the knees and maintaining leverage by getting good arm extension and inside hand placement. In the run game Joeckels takes very good angles and uses his size, length and footwork to effectively seal off his defender from the play and create running lanes. Joeckel produces just average push as a run blocker but he does a great job of sustaining and latching on once engaged to efficiently neutralize his opponent. Joeckel’s ability to coordinate his feet and re-direct by moving laterally is top notch and allows him to recover if beaten intially our caught out of position. He does a great job sinking his hips and sitting into his stance and his knee flexibility allows him to re-position and ride defenders around the edge and close the door on outside in pass rush moves. One of the biggest areas for growth for Joeckel will come in his ability to absorb the bull rush and anchor. His base and lower/upper body strength needs improvement. Too many times Joeckel got bull rushed into the backfield. Players who were able to convert speed to power gave Joeckel troubles today as he got caught flat footed and guessing at times. More time in the weight room and more repetitions on the practice field should clean this area of his game up and allow him to fully take advantage of his enormous potential as a franchise pass protector at the next level. He has all the tools necessary to be great but just needs seasoning.

OT Jake Matthews Texas A&M

The son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, Jake not only has the bloodlines but also the skill-set and abilities to be a very good player for a long time just like his dad. While not blessed with the same nimble footwork and athleticism as his teammate, Matthews still has plenty going for him as a player. Perhaps the most impressive part of Matthews game for me was the patience he showed in pass protection and also his functional playing strength. Once you are engaged with Matthews it is simply over, his ability to latch on and sustain blocks is very good due to his incredibly strong hands. Matthews also does a very good job of shooting his hands nicely out of the holsters, displaying a nice  punch to jolt his opponent and knock them on their heels. Matthews also plays with a very good wide base and showcases a strong anchor to absorb the bull  rush, simply neutralizing his opponents momentum on contact, thanks to his refined technique and ability to extend his arms and find his”fit” quickly. In his set Matthews is patient and smart, not opening up the inside door by over-commiting and getting caught out of position. His ability to mirror his opponent in the pass game gives him a great edge to react to his defenders movements and beat his main to the point. In the run game Matthews is equally impressive as he works hard to create rushing lanes for his running back. Matthews pre-snap awareness and quickness out his stance are also good and allows him to seal off gaps and beat his man to the punch. Matthews is ideally suited to the right side of the football and will likely be one of the top prospects at his position should he declare early. Texas A&M definitely has two of thse best offensive tackles in the entire NCAA with both Joeckel and Matthews.

RB Christine Michael Texas A&M

A relatively quiet game for Michael overall but he did show good hands out of the backfield and the shifty elusive running style that has caught the attention of scouts. Michael had a few good runs, displaying great vision and feel to find the cut back lane while also displaying the footwork and change of direction ability to make defenders miss in the hole. His burst and acceleration was above average and his slipperiness allowed him to slip defenders and run through arm tackles with solid pad-level and a tailor made spin move. Overall it was just an average game for Michael overall as he received only 13 carries for 33 yards. The key for Michael this season is to prove he can handle a full workload while remaining healthy for the entire season. If he can do that, Michael has the potential to be the first Senior running back off the board next April.

WR Ryan Swope Texas A&M

Another Aggie who had a relatively quiet game in this one, Swope managed just 5 receptions for 16 yards. With that said, Swope proved last season just how effective he can be when he gets the opportunity. Freshman QB Johnny Manziel is more of a run first quarterback at this point but would be wise to take greater advantage of his Senior wide receiver. While not overly ahtletic or explosive, Swope is incredibly intelligent and knows how to work his way open out of the slot position. Swope has sticky consistent hands and is a dependable downfield blocker and all around team player. Swope is your classic over achiever who may slip some in the draft and go behind more highly athletic guys with potential but Swope will surely outperform many of them due to his instincts for the position and effort on every play.

LB Sean Porter Texas A&M

Porter burst onto the scene last season for the Aggies, often drawing comparisons to former stand out and All-Pro Von Miller. Porter however is a different breed from Miller and plays the game a bit differently, with a different set of skills. One of the things that stuck out to me was how aggressive Porter was with his hands, ripping off blocks to disengage and converge on the ball carrier. Porter is a very fluid athlete with plus movement and change of direction skills which allow him to side step and sift through trash to avoid blocks and find the ball carrier. I love how well Porter does this while also keeping his head and eyes up and feeling his way down the line to take the correct angle to the ball. His smaller frame allows him to get engulfed at times and washed out of the play but his agility and ability to knife his way through and around blocks makes incredibly difficult to corral and contain. Porter is also extremely effective in coverage thanks to his superb athleticism which allows him to turn and run with almost any player. A&M trusts Porter in this area so much they have the trust and confidence in him to line up over the slot receiver on a large number of occasions. Although he doesn’t blitz nearly as much as he did last year since he moved to linebacker in A&M’s new 4-3 defense, Porter still has unique pass rush ability. His speed, flexibility, coordination and foot speed make him a nightmare to handle one on one as he has the ability to keep offensive tackles off balanced and constantly guessing. While he may not be as talented as Von Miller, Porter certainly has the skills necessary to transfer to the next level and make him a high pick come next April.

DE Damontre Moore Texas A&M

Moore caught my eye last year and was virtually all over the field in this game, accounting for numerous sacks and countless hurries. Moore plays the game with great urgency, hustle and effort and fights through the whistle consistently. For a man that stands 6-4 250, Moore has plus movement skills and burst off the football, which allows him to challenge up field and come back underneath. With that said I’m not sure how well he bends as his pad level rises and he struggles with flexibility turning the corner. I would also like to see him become more physical with his hands and use a better pass rush repertoire to fight off and through blocks.  With that said, Moore certainly has a lot of untapped talent and potential and is still adapting and growing as a pass rusher. His strength and technique needs to improve at the point of attack if he is to become more than a situational pass rusher, however his ceiling is very high if developed and coached up correctly. I appreciate how hard he fights through tackles and make plays from sideline to sideline thanks to his great motor and range. Certainly Moore is a player that finds ways to make and impact and is hard to keep contained for long stretches of time. His versatility to play multiple positions along the offensive line, as well as his ability to take correct angles and use his closing speed to chase down ball carriers make him an incredibly intriguing player. Moore seems to impact the play on more ocassions than not and is always involved in the play thanks to his superb awareness and instincts. He needs to do a better job setting the edge and resisting from crashing down and losing contain at times but overall Moore is an extremely dependable player and someone you want to have on the field as much as possible. I’m anxious to see how well Moore adapts to his new position as he is off to a very hot start and is definitely one to watch as the season wears on.

DT Shariff Floyd Florida

Regarded as one of the highest rated prep DT’s in the country, Floyd immediately made an impact for the Gators in his Freshman season while earning All SEC Freshman honors. Last season Floyd was asked to play outside at defensive end due to injuries and depth issues, performing admirably at his new position. Floyd is back inside again this season and certainly impressed me with his natural ability at his more natural position. While Floyd doesn’t possess the burst and quickness off the snap to consistently challenge gaps and make his way to the quarterback, Floyd is more of a technician in the middle whose biggest impact comes against the running game. Floyd has extremely powerful hands and uses his big mitts to effectively disengage and fight his way off blocks. Floyd also plays with very good and consistent pad level and is not afraid of contact. His pure strength and ability to anchor down and hold his position makes it hard not only for offensive lineman to move him off his spot but sustain blocks on him for long periods of time. I also appreciated how well Floyd moved laterally and made his way down the line to make plays against the run. These movement skills allow him to make plays in pursuit and should translate well to the next level. Don’t expect Floyd to cause much stir in terms of sacks and impact plays this season but there is no doubting he is a solid all around player who is a key cog in the middle of the Gators defense.

OT Xavier Nixon Florida

Nixon was hot and cold tonight but overall I didn’t quite see a player that I think will be a starter at the next level. His quickness and pre-snap awareness was off and allowed his opponent to get an early head start on him on more than one occasion. Nixon also played upright and allowed his base to get narrow while executing a poor drop step to gain depth on his kick step. I also question his flexibility and balance at times and also think he lacks a physical demeanor to consistently fight through the whistle. His lateral agility is lacking to a degree and had a bad habit at bending at the waist instead of the knees at times. I don’t mean to completely bash him but Nixon simply played uninspired football, struggling to find and locate blockers at the 2nd level. I did appreciate Nixon’s ability to anchor against the bull rush and recover when caught out of position at times but feel he has a long ways to go if he is going to play at the next level.

West Virginia QB Geno Smith #12

To say that Geno Smith was in total control this past Saturday would be an understatement. Geno was nearly flawless in every aspect of the game and finished the day 32/36 for a 88.9 completion percentage with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Smith’s command of the offense was magnificent to watch and his football IQ was on full display as he consistently made changes at the line based on the defensive alignment to put his team in the best position. Geno’s footwork both inside and outside the pocket was top notch and his rhythm and balance as a passer carved up the Ohio secondary from the first offensive whistle. I loved how well Geno moved within the pocket as he side stepped and used subtle shoulder movements to evade the rush and extend the play with his legs. Smith’s improvisational ability to make plays with his feet once the play broke down is what makes Geno such a tough quarterback to defend as he can beat you with his arm or feet but does not look to scramble before letting the play fully develop. Geno is the epitome of a dual threat quarterback but will try and beat you with his arm before his legs by keeping his head and eyes downfield and truly has remarkable field vision to see the whole play develop before making his decision where to go with the ball. Geno Smith added 65 yards and a touchdown on just 8 carries in the game and had a remarkable touchdown run after a broken play tested Geno’s ability to improvise with his feet when the play went awry. His gliding running style was eerily reminiscent of another great running quarterback in Vince Young, the difference being that Geno’s upside as a passer far surpasses that of the legendary Texas quarterback.

Geno Smith was in complete command of the West Virginia offense Saturday and showed the poise, composure and skills necessary to be an early NFL Draft pick next April

As a passer one of the first things you notice about Geno Smith is his great throwing mechanics. Smith plays with a good natural knee bend, a wide base and always holds the ball high and tight to his chest ready to let it rip at any time. His throwing motion is quick and compact and I love how well Geno does in getting his feet around to square his body to his intended target, especially on the run.  His superb throwing mechanics is one of the reasons why Geno is able to enjoy so much success in the accuracy department to all levels of the field. Although, his deep ball is not quite elite, as the ball comes out a little flat at times, Geno consistently puts his receivers in the best position to make a play on the ball. It is in the short to intermediate routes where Geno’s accuracy truly shines and stands out where he consistently hits receivers in stride and gives them the opportunity to make the run after the catch. Geno Smith’s arm strength is also very good and he displays the type of arm talent to make throws to all levels of the field including from the hash to far sideline. His ball comes out clean and tight with great velocity and RPM’s, especially on stick throws and passes between the numbers. Overall, Geno Smith started his season off remarkably well and his surely put his name towards the top of the early Heisman debate/contention. With that said, I am excited to see how well Geno plays against the more talented defenses of the Big 12 as he faced an Ohio Bobcat team that rarely put pressure in his face and forced him to make a decision with chaos happening around him and a defender bearing down. Surely, Geno will face much tougher defenses that will force him to show the same type of ability when faced with a much tougher defensive pass rush. After his performance this opening weekend I have firmly cemented Geno Smith as a first round pick as I think he has enormous upside, potential and ability to be a unique talent at the next level given his overall skill-set.

West Virginia WR Tavon Austin # 1

Lighting in a bottle, that is the image and phrase that comes to mind when best trying to describe Tavon Austin. Austin’s first step quickness is remarkable as he can accelerate to full speed in the blink of an eye, making him an extremely dangerous player in the open field to contain. Austin is undersized and has a slight frame at just (5-9 175) but his quick feet, agility and suddenness to make people miss should protect his body from taking many direct hits at the next level, pro-longing his shelf life in the NFL. The other thing that will pro-long Austin’s shelf life and enhance his value in the NFL is his ability as a kick returner. Austin has a unbelievable stutter step that makes opponents hold their breath in fear of what he can do when he has some open field to work. Tavon’s explosiveness and ability to change speeds and directions on a dime, and his balance, vision and shiftiness are all qualities that will make him a dangerous weapon in the NFL for a long time to come. On the downside, the NFL’s new kickoff rules will slightly diminish Austin’s value as a returner, however Austin has the hands and ability to work out of the slot to be a mis-match in the passing game as well and should be a 5-10 touch a game player with the ability to take it to the house with his blazing speed and track like quickness at a moments notice.

West Virginia WR Stedman Bailey #3

Stedman Bailey may not receive the same hype as West Virginia stars Geno Smith and Tavon Austin, but make no mistake he is surely an integral cog in the Mountaineer offense and has quality NFL skills to boot as a pass catcher.

Although Austin gets much of the attention and recognition for his game changing ability, it is Bailey who has the more upside as a wide receiver at the next level. Bailey, (5-10 190) has the better size and NFL frame of the two West Virginia receivers and is much more polished player overall. Bailey runs very tight, crisp and efficient routes and uses no wasted steps or movements to alert his defenders of his route or intentions. He also has incredibly strong and soft hands to consistently pluck the ball away from his frame and did a great job with timing his jump, body control and high pointing the football to come down with his first of two touchdown receptions on the day. Bailey and star quarterback Geno Smith have a relationship and connection dating back to high school and surely have developed a deep feel, trust and chemistry for one another’s ability to make plays on the field. This connection took off last season when Bailey accounted for 72 receptions for 1,279 yards and 12 touchdowns for a yards per reception rate of 17.8, which ranked third overall in the entire FBS for receivers with at least 70 receptions on the season. Although Bailey is not as explosive an athlete as his teammate Austin, Bailey still has plenty speed to burn, athleticism and quickness to make yards after catch and make people miss in the open field. On the flip side, Bailey is a much more physical receiver capable of running through arm tackles and matching up with more agressive and competitive defensive backs. The other thing I really appreciated about Bailey was his football IQ as both a a receiver and blocker. Bailey is very active in the running game and looks to put a hat on a hat to seal off his defender and make running room off his backside. In the receiving game, Bailey did a tremendous job of working his way back to the QB when the play broke down and forced Geno Smith to move outside the pocket and find an open receiver. Bailey could be seen working his way back to the football to get open and give his quarterback a target. This shows me that Bailey has the acute awareness, mental intellect and football IQ of a veteran receiver and most surly will be noticed by NFL Scouts who break down his game tape. Look for Bailey to have an even stronger Junior season and potentially declare a year early with his partner and high school teammate Geno Smith, in what could be a very special season for the Mountaineers.

Marshall WR Aaron Dobson #3

Dobson had a mediocre game in my assessment as he seemed to quit on his team and disappear during the 2nd half, and although he did have some nice plays they did little to affirm my belief that he is one of the top wide receivers in college football. Dobson did a nice job of changing up his speeds effectively and using double moves to get behind the defense. West Virginia chose to use single coverage on Dobson a lot throughout the game but surprisingly Dobson did very little with the opportunity. His 4 catches for 72 yards are not terrible but 40 of those yards came on a busted coverage in which Dobson was able to get behind the defense. Other than this one play Dobson appeared slow coming out of his breaks and rounded off his routes, drifting away from the intended path, while also showing very little effort on the backside when the play was designed away from him. This lack of effort and inability to step up and respond to the adversity when his team fell behind will surly leave a lasting negative impression on scouts who were able to take in his performance. I will be watching Dobson closely within the coming weeks to see how he responds to what was overall a very lack luster performance.

#21 South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore

Coming off a knee injury last fall, Lattimore showed little ill effects displaying great agility, athleticism and instincts to find and hit the hole with great consistency. Lattimore has all the makings of a true number one running back.

Lattimore got off to a rough start Thursday evening when his first carry led to a turnover, after fumbling on his first attempt following knee surgery last year. However, Lattimore quickly redeemed himself by finding the endzone twice and conjuring up his 9th career 100 yard game in route to South Carolina’s 17-13 win over the Commodores. Lattimore’s fumble likely had more to do with rust and inexperience with contact than actual ball security issues, however it is still something to watch moving forward. While it is apparent that Lattimore may have  lost some burst and explosion as a runner since his knee injury last fall, Lattimore was extremely impressive in all assets of his game. Marcus was decisive and displayed excellent footwork and vision to feel and hit the hole, getting up to the 2nd level very seamlessly. I also appreciated how well Lattimore converted from runner to receiver or blocker as he made a few key blocks to open things up for Connor Shaw and also found clean releases to become a check down option out of the backfield. His ability to stay on the field on all downs is what makes Lattimore a true work horse back. Perhaps what was most impressive was how agile and athletic Marcus Lattimore is for not only a big back (6-0 218) but especially for one coming off a major knee injury. His ability to change directions and elude/side-step would be tacklers without losing much momentum or speed is extremely rare and something NFL Scouts will certainly notice and covet come draft time. Add on to this the fact that Lattimore runs with very good pad level upon contact and through arm tackles regularly and you have all the makings of a true number one running back who can stay on the field for all three downs. With Lattimore you get a solid and dependable back who refuses to leave yards on the field and consistently picks out and finds the correct hole or cut-back lane. He most certainly showed a lot following his injury to scouts and assuming he can stay healthy for the entire season, we could be talking about the first running back taken next April, should he choose to declare a year early.

#98 South Carolina DE Devin Taylor

Blessed with incredible length, size and athleticism (6-8 265 lbs), Taylor is an ultra tall and linear defensive lineman with great upside as a pass rusher. With that said I didn’t always see a player who has put it all together and lived up to his immense upside and potential quite to this point. With Taylor you get flashes but not much consistency as he displays good burst and explosion off the line but the dis-interest to be physical and play with urgency that is incredibly frustrating to watch. Too many times Taylor is the one absorbing the contact rather than delivering the blow and he must improve his technique and strength at the point of attack to effectively disengage and slip blocks with greater frequency . Taylor’s high cut frame also makes it difficult for him to dip and run the arc to the quarterback as his pad level and flexibility to turn the corner is just not quite there to this point. Taylor also lost contain on more than one occasion by choosing the wrong gap and giving up outside positioning. On the bright side, Taylor is a player with a good get-off for his size as he shows the burst and acceleration to challenge upfield, showcasing great movement and change of direction skills for a man of his stature. I also appreciated the hustle and effort I saw from Taylor as he could be seen chasing and pursuing the play from sideline to sideline and as far as 20+ yards down the field to get involved. Overall, I get the feeling that Taylor is seemingly not getting the most out of his frame and ability as he seems to lack much physicality and aggressiveness, playing softer than a player with his size and ability should.  Predicted by many to have a break out year opposite star rusher Jadevon Clowner, Taylor must play more like his counterpart and teammate if he is to reach the lofty goals and expectations that have been placed upon him this season.

#7  South Carolina DE Jadevon Clowney

Clowney’s talent was on full force, although he was typically fazed out by the play calling by Vanderbility. He displayed outstanding recognition and change of direction skills to get after the quarterback with reckless abandon. Although not yet draft eligible, Clowney has all the makings of a future first round pick.

Jadevon Clowney is a bad man. Clowney was extremely physical and agressive, while displaying a nice get-off. Couple this with his very good change of direction and overall movement skills and you have a defensive end that is extremely disruptive and difficult to contain. This is why Vanderbilt generally ran and executed plays to the opposite side of Clowney, while also using a running back ore extra tight end to chip or help out with the extremely talented defensive end for the Gamecocks. Clowney is a balanced athlete who displays excellent closing speed and range to make plays all over the field and in space. The biggest difference between Clowney and his teammate Devin Taylor is the functional strength and leverage he plays with as compared to his counterpart. Clowney gets good pop and contact and is extremely strong and physical at the point of attack, blowing up blocks to free up others and knocking his opponent on their heels with a very good jolt. I would like to see Clowney use his hands a bit more often as he has a tendency to lean and throw his shoulder into his opponent, rather than use his hands to stack and shed a block. However, Clowney was still extremely effective thanks to his pad level and the fact that opponents must respect both his speed/quickness and also his power. Overall, I was very impressed and pleased with Clowney and believe he is a sure-fire future first round pick, especially in a league where pass rushers have become and extremely valuable commodity  in today’s pass happy NFL.

#2 Vanderbilt RB Zac Stacy

Coming off a career year in which he rushed for nearly 1200 yards and 14 touchdowns, Stacy was generally held in check for most of the night, as he accounted for only 48 yards on 13 carries. With that said, Stacy seemed to be battling either cramps or some sort of lower leg injury throughout much of the game. Stacy did have a couple nice runs where he displayed quick feet and a good burst to find the hole and get up into the 2nd level of the defense. Being that Stacy is a smaller back (5-9 210) he isn’t one to break tackles and move a pile with his strength but his ability to make you miss and change directions in space is what can make him so effective. I am excited to watch more of Stacy this coming year and although this wasn’t his best game I know from watching him last year that he has plenty to offer in the running game for the Commodore offense and should build on his excellent Junior campaign from last season.

#11 Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers

The younger brother of star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Jordan certainly has the ability to become a nice quarterback prospect of his own with a strong Senior season.

The younger brother of Superbowl winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Jordan has a tough mark to live up to but showed well in last nights game against a very talented Gamecock defense. Rodgers was confident and made quick decisions and although I believe the ball could come out quicker at times, I thought Rodgers was efficient with both his ball placement and accuracy, especially between the hashes. His ability to extend and make plays outside the pocket with his feet makes him a tough quarterback to contain. This mobility and dual threat ability is what makes Rodgers an intriguing prospect. If he can become a more efficient passer this season, Rodgers has the type of ability that can be intriguing to NFL teams, especially those operating a west coast type of offense. Although he seemed more poised in the pocket from this season to last, I still need to see him keep his eyes downfield and let the play develop before looking to escape. His internal clock is good but needs some fine tuning to learn and trust his arm just as much as he trusts his legs. Rodgers looked much more confident and comfortable in the pocket and seemed to be in good command of the offense and I generally liked his footwork and balance within the pocket as well as his throwing mechanics and anticipation to make the correct throw. Rodgers seems to have upside as a passer and it should be fun to watch him operate this under-rated Vanderbilt team in what is most likely the most talented conference in all of college football.

#87 Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews

Matthews has excellent size at 6-2 205 lbs and his frame allows him to snare catches away from his body with relative ease. His stat line of 8 receptions for 147 yards and a long touchdown was impressive and Matthews is certainly a smooth athlete but I get the feeling that he is more of a one speed, one gear athlete that lacks much burst and acceleration to consistently gain separation. I still need to see more of Matthews, however nothing about his game really stood out to me that would make me think he can be a special receiver at the next level.

Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell #24

Le’Veon Bell was literally the “Bell Cow” (pun intended)  for the Michigan State Spartans offense last night. Bell toted the rock an astounding 44 times for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns, while hauling in 6 receptions for 55 yards as well. Bell’s 265 total yards from scrimmage in the game last night out performed the entire Boise State offense by nearly 50 yards. Bell is a big strong runner (6-2 245 lbs.) who lacks elite burst, explosion and top-end speed but is a chains mover who can get the tough yards inside. One of the most impressive aspects of Bell’s game last night was his ability to slip blocks, as he showed some elusiveness in the open field as well as natural and nimble footwork to side-step would be tacklers. Watching Bell reminded me of a more complete LeGarette Blount, especially considering this impressive leap over a defender in the 1st quarter last night.

Le’Veon Bell showed impressive agility, power and vision while torching the Boise State defense for 250+ yards from scrimmage in last night’s season opener

However, Bell isn’t simply just a bruiser who can grind inside and wear down a defense, as he also showcased impressive ability in blitz pickup and becoming a receiver out of the backfield. Showcasing the ability to be a complete back is what separates Bell from a player like Blount. Perhaps the greatest improvement from this year to last from Bell was his ability to feel out and find the cut back lane, showing the vision, patience and power to consistently pick up positive yardage, as he consistently fell forward and displayed the leg drive to churn out yards after contact. Bell also changed gears effectively and has the start stop ability to keep the defense honest and respect his overall skill-set. I would like to see Bell become more of a downhill runner as he doesn’t  always attack the line of scrimmage and show the burst and acceleration to get up to the 2nd level of the defense. Overall, Bell was extremely impressive last night and is well on his way to an All-American type season, assuming he avoids injuries from his high number of carries. If State is to challenge for the Rose Bowl this season their pass game will have to improve as it will be hard for Bell to carry the offense, especially once conference games begin.

Michigan State TE Dion Sims #80

Sims was a consistent target over the middle and in the flats for the Spartans offense last night and for first-year starter Andrew Maxwell. Sims nabbed 7 receptions for 65 yards to lead all Spartan receivers and displayed soft hands and good hand-eye coordination to consistently pluck the ball away from his body and extend his arms on passes over his head. Sims size (6-5 285) is NFL quality and while his athleticism and quickness is impressive for a man of his stature, I am not quite sold on his ability to stretch the defense to this point but need to see more film of him. He is a big target and safety blanket type player who can also present some matchup problems being split out wide, while matched up with a linebacker.

Sims is still improving in the run game as a blocker and shows good effort and seems to do just enough to get by, but is in no way a talented in-line blocker to this point. Sims needs technique work as he seemed to struggle sustaining blocks, bending at the waist rather than the knees and dropping his head and falling off blocks. Staying square to his target and developing more upper body strength is needed for Sims to be a more effective blocker in the run game. Sims was good not great in his first game but I certainly appreciated his ability to make key catches and pick up crucial first downs by finding the first down marker, sitting down, squaring to his quarterback and giving Maxwell a big target to throw to. Sims will certainly be a big part of the Spartans offense this season, on a team that lost many key starters in the receiving game.

Michigan State DT Anthony Rashad White #98

White has the challenging task of replacing former Spartan Jerel Worthy who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 2nd round of last years draft. A native of Battle Creek, Michigan White is best known for his key field goal block in overtime of last years bowl game against Georgia to seal the win for the Spartans. Coming into the season White has had limited starting experience and production. However, White has the size (6-2 330 lbs.) to become one of the better NT prospects in this draft with a big senior year. With that said, I didn’t always like what I saw from White last night. He appeared to lack the initial quickness off the line or the lateral agility to make plays along the line of scrimmage. The most troubling part was seeing White struggle to hold his ground in the run game with much consistency or slip blocks to make plays away from his body. While White did command attention and double teams at times his simply lacked proper technique and the motor to fight through contact when his initial move was neutralized. White has to show much better overall awareness and ability to shed blocks/disengage before earning a better grade from me.

Michigan State DE William Gholston #2

William Gholston has an intriguing blend of size and athleticism but his burst and explosion off the line is far from elite or consistent.

William Gholston has a unique blend of size (6-7 280 lbs.) and athleticism but his game was lacking something to be desired last night. Gholston’s burst and acceleration off the blocks was just average and I thought his pad-level off the snap could have been better. Gholston was disruptive at moments but his lack in variety in the pass rush department was troubling. He needs to work on his handwork and becoming a better leverage player to make a difference in both the run and pass game. Gholston’s flexibility was also just average as he struggled to dip his long frame underneath the tackles shoulder pads to get the edge, as tackles simply rode him around the corner and past the quarterback on multiple occasions last night. The good news for Gholston is that he looks to have the body type and frame to add even more weight and become a quality 5 technique prospect at the next level, however he also got off to a rough start and will need to show me more in the following weeks to earn the first round grade many have given him.

Michigan State MLB Max Bullough #40

Bullough was impressive last night as he proved to be very instinctual and smart, always lining up the defense and putting his team in the best position to make the play. I appreciated how well Bullough flowed to the football and moved to his left and right while keeping his head and eyes up to sift through traffic and defeat blocks. While not overly athletic or dynamic, Bullough appeared to have plenty of range to make plays not only between the hashes but also outside on the edge. You can tell he really trusts his eyes and reads his keys well and while he may have taken a false step from time to time, he consistently made the correct decisions to beat blocks and find the football to disrupt the play. In coverage Bullough tended to get a little flat-footed and upright and may not have the foot speed to keep with faster backs coming out of the backfield but I need to see more of him in this department before putting that in concrete. Overall Bullough has a lot of qualities you look for in a quality linebacker and caught my eye and attention with his play last night.

Michigan State CB Johnny Adams #5

Adams (5-11 177 lbs.) has a thin frame especially in his lower half but is a quick twitch athlete who did a nice job defeating blocks and coming off his man to make tackles in the open field. Adams is both quick and fast and moves smoothly changing directions, while showing an agressive and competitive attitude in coverage. Adams did let his man get behind him for a big play once last night and while his recovery speed was decent, it wasn’t enough to make up for his inability to jam his receiver at the line. Adams struggled on more than one occasion re-directing his man at the line, much less getting a hand on his receiver to not give up inside positioning on an easy pass a catch for a first down late in the game. I liked Adams physicality in the running game but his inability to press in man to man was discouraging and I will look to see how he performs in that area within the coming weeks.

Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard #31

Dennard led the Spartans with 3 passes defensed and showed solid coverage skills, awareness and physicality to match up on the outside

Dennard was the more impressive of the two Michigan State corners in my estimation last night. Dennard was agressive, flippedhis hips and broke on the football nicely. His change of direction ability and physicality at the catch point led to 3 passes defensed as he was able to stay in his receiver hip pocket and play tight coverage, not allowing much separation. Has good footwork and can turn and run with just about any receiver thanks to his impressive speed and athleticism. Dennard did gamble at times last night and was over agressive at times, appearing to guess and let his man get behind him while also struggling to find and locate the football in the air which led to a flag. However, Dennard responded well to his bad plays and followed them up with good showings while the ball was in the air, displaying a short memory which you love to see in a defensive back. His ball skills, discipline and awareness were all sound for the most part and he was rarely caught out of position except on a couple occasions.

 Detroit Lions – B – (2.875) – #11/32

1.23 Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

2.22 Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma

3.22 Dwight Bentley, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette 

4.30 Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma

5.03 Tahir Whitehead, OLB, Temple

5.13 Chris Greenwood, CB, Albion

6.15 Jonte Green, CB, New Mexico State

7.16 Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma

The Detroit Lions put together another strong draft under the dynamic duo of Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz, striking talent and value with just about every one of their picks. Riley Reiff will be the eventual successor to Jeff Backus at left tackle and should be able to unseat the incumbent starter at right tackle in Gosder Cherilus from the word “go”. With Stanford guard David DeCastro still on the board when the Lions made their selection, many fans were clamoring and clenching their fists in hopes of landing what looks to be an All-Pro type player. However, the Lions stuck to their guns and drafted the player who presents more value to them and plays the more premier position in the NFL. The impact Reiff can have simply outweighed the type of impact DeCastro could present, especially in an offense where the passing game is number one and the protection of Matthew Stafford is imperative. Many fans will be reminded of the last time the Lions missed out on an All-Pro type player by one pick in which guard Steve Hutchinson was drafted right before the Lions in the 2001 NFL Draft, leaving the Lions to take Jeff Backus. However, the difference is this time the Lions had the chance to land a player of DeCastro’s talent but decided Reiff presented the better value to them. Unfortunately, I imagine many Lions fans will look back on this draft down the road and point to the type of player we could have had in DeCastro, who should go on to have a terrific career. Nevertheless, Reiff was the right decision and although he may not end up competing at the same level of DeCastro, the Lions got their future left tackle for the next 10-15 years at pick 23, which is rare to find in terms of value at that spot in the draft.

In the second round the Lions landed Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles who has set just about every record for a collegiate receiver at the Division I level. Broyles was a surprise pick that caught everyone off-guard as the Lions surely needed to upgrade their secondary and had other players like Wisconsin center Peter Konz, Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David and Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry all still on the board to choose from. However, the Lions brass once again made a move they thought would best impact our team and Broyles should be an instant slot receiver who adds another dimension to a dangerous aerial attack. Before the draft Schwartz hinted that if you are drafting to fill a need you are chasing a moving target. Schwartz pointed to last years situation in which the Lions believed their running attack was set, especially after spending a 2nd round pick on Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure to pair with incumbent starter Jahvid Best, only to see both end up on the injured reserve not even half way through the 2011 season. Wide receiver would seem to be a position of strength with players like Madden cover boy Calvin Johnson, sensational rookie Titus Young and savvy veteran Nate Burleson. However, Burleson has found himself on the wrong side of 30 and only has so many more seasons of quality football left in him. His leadership and knowledge is undeniable and now would seem to be the perfect time to give him some young cubs to train and mentor to become true Lions. The thought amongst Lions fans I have spoken with is Broyles would have been available with our 3rd round pick and we should have went with one of the many secondary players who could have helped out our problem on the back-end. While that argument has some value, I find it hard to believe as there was a run on wide receivers towards the beginning of the 3rd round. Broyles was a player many would have considered a potential first round pick before he tore his ACL, ending his senior season and collegiate career. How quickly we forget how dominant this player was at his level of competition as one only needs to look at these numbers to decipher just how important Broyles was to his Oklahoma team. Before Broyles injury the Sooners were 7-1 and Landry Jones had a completion percentage of 66.48 with a 26/9 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. After his injury the Sooners went 3-2 and Jones’s stats faltered to a 57.48 completion percentage and an touchdown to interception ratio of 3/6. Those type of stats would seem to indicate that Broyles had a very large impact on the Sooner’s success, so if the Lions did their homework and believe he can come back to his pre-injury form I have absolutely no problems/reservations with the selection. In fact the pick feels eerily similar to last year when the Lions spent a 2nd round pick on a wide receiver in Boise State’s Titus Young. Young went on to enjoy a very good rookie season, after many Lions fans bashed and questioned the pick. I would guess many Lions fans will once again be glad Mayhew and company are the ones making the decisions a year from now when they look back on some of the thoughts and comments they have made in regards to Broyles and his value in this offense. The Lions were one injury away from being vulnerable and thin, with the selection of Broyles the Lions have added strength, stability and depth to a position of extreme importance in which you can never have too many weapons and pass catchers.

In the 3rd the Lions finally addressed the secondary, much to the delightment of the fan base with the selection of Louisiana-Lafayette corner Dwight “Bill” Bentley. My first exposure to Bentley came during Senior Bowl week in which he consistently caught my attention for all the right reasons. He proved he belonged and competed from repetition to repetition while taking to coaching. Bentley is a Pahokee, Florida native who played with Janoris Jenkins in high school (imagine trying to throw against that defense). While he may not have the upside, talent and athleticism of Jenkins who some Lions fans secretly wanted in the 1st despite his off field concerns; Bentley isn’t too far behind and comes with a lot less baggage. I graded Bentley during his performance against San Diego State in their bowl game this past year and came away very impressed with his natural ability. He played off-man and showed outstanding instincts in trusting his eyes and breaking on the football. While he is a little thin, he was exceptional as a blitzing corner off the edge and would seem to be an ideal fit in the type of defense the Lions employ. Bentley will be able to come in and contribute in nickel packages right away and should do well lined up over the slot due to his quick feet and loose hips. Another strong pick by the Lions brass with Bentley would seem to be a very willing competitor, which Mayhew has said he values most in defensive backs.

The fourth round brought yet another strong selection who fits right in with the Detroit mentality. Oklahoma defensive player Ronnell Lewis, who is also known as the “Hammer” for his bone wrenching hits and physical style of play. Lewis is an extremely powerful and physical player who should bring instant return on investment with his special teams ability. While it is not yet known how the Lions will deploy Lewis’s skill set, whether it be at defensive end or outside linebacker you can be rest assured he will be a quality player who adds depth to a defense with a plethora of pass rushers. Lewis has a good first step and is extremely explosive in tight quarters. His closing speed and acceleration is very impressive and he does an excellent job using his hands to stack and shed/disengage from would be blockers. His ability to set the edge and anchor against the run will make him an ideal man out on the edge as he also shows impressive awareness, instincts and integrity to keep contain. I will be very interested to see how they use Lewis as he will most likely be a situational pass rusher early on in his career. If it wasn’t for the fact that Lewis lacks a “true” position in the NFL, he would have likely been drafted much higher than where he actually was. However, where the Lions secured his talents was a matter of value and adding talent at a spot in the draft where they felt comfortable.

The remainder of the Detroit Lions 2012 NFL Draft saw them address the defense yet again with the selections of LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Chris Greenwood, CB Jonte Green and LB Travis Lewis. The Lions traded up and sent a 2014 4th round draft pick the division rival Minnesota to secure the rights to Temple LB Tahir Whitehead. This was perhaps the pick I had the most problems with as I hate trading away future draft picks especially within the division unless it is a player I feel very strong about. With that said the Lions must feel pretty strong about Tahir to make that kind of committment and investment in his services so I can live with it as long as it plays out better than I imagine it will. The Lions also added local product of Albion College in Chris Greenwood who put on an absolute show for scouts in attendance at Michigan’s pro-day in which he ran a blistering 4.41 forty with an impressive 43 inch vertical and 11-2 broad jump at 6-1 193 lbs. With that type of length and athleticism its hard to see why the Lions wouldn’t consider making an investment in his undeniable potential and upside. This is perhaps the player I am most excited to see develop as he most definitely has the physical ability to compete at the next level. Going against the Lions cast of receivers in practice daily should give him much to work on as he continues to develop, especially against Megatron who has the same freakish ability and size but to an even greater degree. Greenwood’s film shows a player with considerable tightness in his hips which could lead to a move to safety, however if he is able to improve we could be looking at one of the better steals in this draft. With their last selection the Lions landed another Oklahoma product in linebacker Travis Lewis who was excellent value at this point in the draft. Lewis had a tremendous Junior season and was on his way to becoming a potential first round pick before playing with a nagging foot injury in which his production and tape suffered. Nonetheless, Travis Lewis is a player who plays the game with great urgency and passion as he always seems to be around the football. He will add nice depth and competition to our linebackers group that has a nice combination of youth and veteran presence.

All in all the Lions managed to get quite a nice haul. I also very much appreciate the fact we were able to land Boise State QB Kellen Moore and Houston WR Patrick Edwards. Both players should have a very good shot of making the final roster, Moore as the 3rd string QB and Edwards as the 5th or 6th receiver. With another strong draft the Lions have continued their ascension up the NFL ladder and could compete for a world title as early as this season if everything goes as planned and falls into place. The pieces are there and the team has been built for long-term success instead of short-term gains as it was in the past. The Lions and their faithful fan base are finally have some people with steady hands on the wheel with a clear path for this team, unlike the previous regime who seemed to drunkenly stumble their way through the entire process and end up in places we would rather not remember or talk about (ie: Wendy’s Drive Thru).

My 2012 Detroit Lions Draft:

1.23 David DeCastro, G, Stanford

2.22 Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska

3.22 Jayron Hosley, CB Virginia Tech

4.30 Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia

5.03 Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech

5.13 Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State

6.15 Nate Potter, OT, Boise State

7.16 Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

Final Mock Draft

Posted: April 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

1) Indiannapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck

2) Washington Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III

3) Cleveland Browns (via MN): RB Trent Richardson

4) Minnesota Vikings(via TB): OT Matt Kalil

5) Tampa Bay Bucanneers: CB Morris Clairborne

6) St. Louis Rams: DT Fletcher Cox

7) Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Justin Blackmon

8) Miami Dolphins: QB Ryan Tannehill

9) Carolina Panthers: CB Stephon Gilmore

10) New York Jets (via BUF): WR Michael Floyd

11) Kansas City Chiefs: G David DeCastro

12)Seattle Seahawks: LB/DE Melvin Ingram

13) Detroit Lions (via ARZ): S Mark Barron

14) Dallas Cowboys: DT/DE Michael Brockers

15) Philadelphia Eagles: DT Dontari Poe

16) Buffallo Bills (via NJY): OT Riley Reiff

17) Cincinnati Bengals: CB Dre Kirkpatrick

18) San Diego Chargers: LB/DE Whitney Mercilus

19) Chicago Bears: DE Quinton Coples

20) Tennessee Titans: LB Luke Kuechly

21) Cincinnati Bengals: OT/OG Cordy Glenn

22) Cleveland Browns: QB Brandon Weeden

23) Arizona Cardinals (via DET): LB/DE Courtney Upshaw

24) Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Dont’a Hightower

25) Denver Broncos: DT Jerel Worthy

26) Houston Texans: WR Kendall Wright

27) New England Patriots: LB Shea McClellin

28) Green Bay Packers: DE/OLB Nick Perry

29) Baltimore Ravens: DE Chandler Jones

30) San Francisco 49ers: G Kevin Zeitler

31) New England Patriots: CB Janoris Jenkins

32) New York Giants: RB Doug Martin

Rico Wallace has NFL size and length and absolutely posesses NFL size and ability despite only playing at the Division III level.

Wide receiver Rico Wallace doesn’t come from a big time school or football program. He doesn’t even come from a universitymany are familiar with or have heard of for that matter. Shenandoah University is a small school tucked away between the mountains of Virginia, in a quiet and reserved setting. One of the last places you would expect a potential NFL prospect to emerge out of, Rico Wallace has worked and earned his way into being considered a draftable prospect by many teams who will be selecting their next young batch of players to lead their respective teams into the future only one week from now. Rico is just hoping for the opportunity to be drafted but even if that does not come to fruition he knows he has the heart and determination to make it as an undrafted free agent. His attitude and perseverance is something that shines through the moment you begin speaking with this young man. Rico is a person who was brought up on hard work and always putting your best foot forward in everything you do. He’s received a lot of strength and personable qualities from his mother who he claims is the “strongest person he knows”. However, NFL teams are questioning the level of competition Rico played at and it has proved to be difficult to show that he belongs and deserves to be drafted.

Despite his immense potential and physical skill-set, Rico did not earn a combine invite, nor the opportunity to play in one of the many all-star game circuits that happen following the collegiate season. Instead Rico’s first opportunity came when he was given the chance to attend and participate in the BSN Showcase in Akron, Ohio. Here Rico shined in individual one-on-one drills where many talent evaluators on hand said he looked smooth and fluid running his routes, noting how seamlessly he acclimated himself to the increase in the level of competition. It was after Rico’s performance in the BSN Showcase that he started to gain some attention outside of the very few die-hard draft fans and scouts who were aware of his name before. Nonetheless it was from this point on that Rico has begun to create some headway for himself, as numerous teams have shown interest in him since then. Measuring in at 6-3 210 lbs, Rico possesses very good size and length to play the position in the NFL. His production at Shenandoah improved from year to year, as Rico transitioned from the position of quarterback in high school to wide receiver, where he has been re-writing the record books at Shenandoah University. This past season Rico led the USA Southern Athletic Conference in nearly every major statistical category as he dominated the conference in everything from receptions and touchdowns to yards per game and yards per reception.

Despite this dominate performance Rico has earned little fan fare to this point. Considering that since 1991, only 15 players have been drafted from the Division III ranks, you begin to understand what he is up against. From recent pro prospects like wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts, who came from Division III Mount Union, to more established NFL players like linebacker London Fletcher and running back Fred Jackson. These particular players have proved that nothing is impossible and it doesn’t matter where you came from as long as you can play, and in the end that’s all that matters. In fact when you do a simple comparison between Pierre Garcon’s senior season and Rico Wallace’s, you find that Mr. Wallace’s numbers exceed that of his fellow Division III wide receiver counterpart. Garcon had 67 receptions for 955 yards and 14 tds’, while Wallace accounted for 67 receptions, 1241 yards and 14 td’s. Their numbers are eerily similar, however Garcon played for what many consider to be a Division III powerhouse in Mount Union, while Shenandoah has not quite yet found the same type of success. Nonetheless, for simple comparison sake it is extremely evident that Rico Wallace did in fact dominate the completion at the Division III level, which is what you like to see from a player emerging from the lower ranks. In fact, this past season Mr. Wallace had a game for the ages in which he accounted for 5 td’s! I personally have little doubt that Rico Wallace has what it takes to make it in the NFL as I have seen a player that consistently shows up on tape and exudes rare skills for a Division III prospect. Sure, he has a learning curve and things to improve upon, such as his strength and route running ability but how many wide receivers coming out of college don’t have something to improve upon? Rico has an unbelievable amount of upside and a very high ceiling and scouts, fans and general managers are finally beginning to see that when they break down the film of this talented receiver. Rico was nice enough to sit down with us the other day and share his journey to this point, as well as catch us up to speed on some of the things we may have missed while enjoying other more highly sought after prospects.

Brandon Holstein: Tell me about your childhood or upbringing and what initially drew you to the game of football?

Rico Wallace: Well, basically I grew up with five brothers and my mom and I guess the thing that drew me most to the game was the competitiveness about it. I also appreciate the team camaraderie that is associated with the game.

Brandon Holstein: Tell me what it was like growing up with five older brothers, I understand that you are the youngest, is that correct?

Rico Wallace: Yeah, you know it was a fun experience. The older ones were able to set a good example for me and the younger ones who were closer to my age were more relatable. The older ones were also a little more wiser and had more experience and things so it was just really fun to learn and do things with them all growing up.

Brandon Holstein: I understand that your mother is a very important person in your life, tell me some of the qualities you have taken from her and some of the things she has taught you along the way?

Rico Wallace: Yeah definitely, my mother is one of the strongest people I know. I think the thing I get from her most is her positive attitude and the way she handles any tough situation thrown her way.

Brandon Holstein: What do you think your greatest strength as a wide receiver is and what do you pride yourself the most on regarding your overall game?

Rico Wallace: I would say learning quickly and using my natural instincts to my advantage as far as just getting myself into the best position possible to make a play. To me that’s the hardest thing about being a receiver and it’s something I take great pride in and think I do exceptionally well.

Brandon Holstein: What do you perceive is your biggest weakness and what have you been doing to improve upon that?

Rico Wallace: As far as the next level is concerned I think I need to work a little more on my speed. I’ve been doing a lot of speed and resistance training to get faster and quicker.

Brandon Holstein: It seemed to me when watching film of you that you ran what some might consider to be a limited route tree at Shenandoah. How comfortable and confident are you in your route running abilities?

Rico Wallace: Yes, we actually run more routes during practice and that kind of thing but you see a lot of that when you’re watching my highlight tape as far as the big over-the-top type plays. However, you see more of my ability to run a full NFL route tree when you watch more game film as opposed to some of the film that’s out there of me on the internet.

Brandon Holstein: What’s been the biggest challenge for you coming from a small Division III school like Shenandoah and why do you believe you can make the leap in competition to the NFL?

Rico Wallace: That’s one of the things I’m most proud of, as far as my ability to play up to the level of competition I am competing against. I’m just a naturally competitive person so I’m sure that once I get to the next level I am confident I can step my game up and compete at that elite level.

Brandon Holstein: Tell me about how you ended up at Shenandoah and if you were heavily recruited out of high school?

Rico Wallace: I had a couple different division one schools that showed interest in me but never really followed up with me regarding the recruitment process. I ended up going on different visits but Shenandoah seemed like the best fit for me.

Brandon Holstein: If you don’t mind me asking or sharing with us which schools had expressed interest in you coming out of high school?

Rico Wallace: The first school that came and talked to me was Navy in Annapolis; the coach from Maryland also came and talked to me and also some schools like Villanova, Sacred Hart and Delaware State from the Division IAA level also showed some interest.

Brandon Holstein: You recently participated in the James Madison Pro-Day on March 16th. How do you think you did and what do you feel you could have done better?

Rico Wallace: I think I did Okay overall, I had another combine type of thing in Akron, Ohio earlier in the year and I think a lot of the numbers kind of matched up with how I did there. As far as what I could have improved upon, I think I could have done a little bit better with my short shuttle time.

Brandon Holstein: What were some of your results or times at the James Madison Pro-Day in terms of the forty yard dash and vertical jump?

Rico Wallace: The forty, I heard a couple scouts had me at a 4.53. And in my vertical I tested out at 37.5 inches.

Brandon Holstein: What would you say motivates or drives you the most?

Rico Wallace: I would have to say my love for the game. You know I just want to play as long as I can and even when I’m done I want to get into coaching, so just being around football makes me happy and it’s what I want to continue to do.

Brandon Holstein: You participated in the BSN Showcase in Akron Ohio, tell me what that experience was like and how well you think you did at that event?

Rico Wallace: First day you know we just went through measurables and that sort of thing, getting our height and weight. The next day we did more of the combine stuff and did some 7 on 7 type drills before participating in the actual game on the last day. It was my first time actually getting out there and doing the combine type stuff officially and I believe they timed me at a 4.55 forty, with a 36 inch vertical and 9-10 ft. broad jump.

Brandon Holstein: What teams would you say have shown the most interest in you to this point; anyone in particular knocking on your door repeatedly during this process?

Rico Wallace: I would say the Carolina Panthers are one team that has shown a good amount of interest. I just got a couple other phone calls recently from the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars as well.

Brandon Holstein: Well that would be quite the trip to play with Cam Newton, what do you think that would be like?

Rico Wallace: Oh man, you know that would be crazy! To have the opportunity to play alongside someone I admire and who has started off their professional career the right way, I think it would be a trip to sort of grow up together basically in that system.

Brandon Holstein: One of the things I notice when watching film of yours is the effort you give as a blocker; is that something you take pride in as a receiver and why is that?

Rico Wallace: Absolutely, you know half of a receiver’s game is blocking unless you’re in a pass heavy offense. I believe that you should never let your man make the tackle and I definitely take pride in doing that because if my man makes the tackle than I feel like I’m letting the whole offense down.

Brandon Holstein: One of the things that gets’ asked of young players is their ability to play Special Teams. What kind of ability do you think you have in this area and how comfortable are you contributing in that capacity to begin your career?

Rico Wallace: You know when it comes to blocking I feel the same way, whenever the ball is in the air or whatever I like to think no matter which way I get on the field I’m always going to give my best effort.

Brandon Holstein: What round(s) have you been hearing you might be selected in? How high have you heard your name going and how far do you think you could drop?

Rico Wallace: The highest that I’ve heard is the 5th round and then, you know, the lowest is an undrafted free agent.

Brandon Holstein: If it turned out you did become an undrafted free agent how would you handle that and what would be you do from there?

Rico Wallace: To me it’s pretty much all the same whether you get drafted or not, it’s what you do once you get your chance and either way I’m just going to make sure I come there prepared and do my best.

Brandon Holstein: Looking back on your career at Shenandoah what are you most proud of?

Rico Wallace: I guess you know going through my four years it would be setting a good example for the younger players and kind of being that positive role model for them. I would say that’s definitely one of the things I take most pride in.

Brandon Holstein: I’ve been in contact with your agent Ryan Earls over at Cover 3 Reps, tell me why you chose to go with him and what that experience has been like to this point?

Rico Wallace: Yeah, I went with them because I like Ryan’s personality. He’s very outgoing and he’s definitely somebody that is very ambitious about what he’s passionate about, which is being an agent and understanding how the whole process works. He’s been very helpful and instrumental in teaching me some of the things that I wasn’t as aware about, so he has been a big help and great agent. Just getting to know him you can tell he has a very family like mentality and is very knowledgeable when it comes to explaining to me how things work so you can tell he is well versed an educated.

Brandon Holstein: The next set of questions are kind of rapid fire questions just to get a better feel for your personality away from the football field so here we go, the first one is what would be your last meal if you had to choose?

Rico Wallace: A last meal? (Laughs) Oh that’s tough! I would say…wow (laughs again)

Brandon Holstein: Are you a barbeque guy or what’s your preference (laughing)?

Rico Wallace: You know I don’t know I like a lot of things but I would have to say just steak you know?

Brandon Holstein: Okay, okay so steak? Any other side condiments at all in there?

Rico Wallace: Oh no, I mean if the steaks seasoned well I’ll eat just that as is (laughs).

Brandon Holstein: Alright, alright (laughing) the next one is your favorite movie of all time?

Rico Wallace: Toy Story.

Brandon Holstein: And why is that?

Rico Wallace: You know I like the different emotions that it goes through. I like, you know the soundtrack and the music and all that so…when it came out it was just one of a kind.

Brandon Holstein: I know where you’re coming from, that was a favorite of mine growing up as well so good choice there. What’s your favorite kind of music or favorite song of all time?

Rico Wallace: I listen to rap and R&B but I also listen to a couple other different genres and I guess if I was to choose a favorite song I would say Michael Jackson’s, “Dirty Diana”.

Brandon Holstein: Nice, I can dig that…what would you say you are most excited about in the NFL?

Rico Wallace:  I think it’s just exciting to focus specifically on football. It will be nice not having to worry about classes and such and just going to work and focuses on my craft. I think it will be very exciting to learn the game a lot more, especially with professional coaches with professional trainers. I feel like I have a high ceiling, so I feel like I can get a lot better yet with proper coaching and things like that.

Brandon Holstein: Definitely, who was your favorite team growing up?

Rico Wallace: Oh, I mean I was a big Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan growing up.

Brandon Holstein: Any particular reason why?

Rico Wallace: I always liked their defense. Even though I play offense I love a good defense. When I was watching them growing up they had players like John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber on the defense and that group was just always making plays on that side of the ball.

Brandon Holstein: Just a side question here but who do you emulate your game after and what one player in the NFL do you feel is your best comparison?

Rico Wallace: I would say Larry Fitzgerald. He’s a guy that I’ve watched a lot and I like how he trains and stuff. He’s somebody I would definitely like to play like and model my game after.

Brandon Holstein: Last question for you here Rico. What are your plans for draft day and what’s it going to be like for you?

Rico Wallace: I just plan on spending my day at home in Maryland with my family. Me and my girlfriend are going to go home and just try and spend time with them and hopefully I hear my name called and get that phone call so we can all celebrate together.

Brandon Holstein: Well we wish you the best of luck Rico and hope you get that phone call you’re hoping for as well. We want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us here at NFL Draft Monsters and we can’t wait to follow your path to the NFL and professional career.

Rico Wallace: Alright, yeah thanks!

As you can tell by the conversation above, Rico Wallace is an extremely humble and appreciative guy. He’s soft spoken, yet he’s a confident player and person who believes in himself and the abilities he has as a wide receiver. I personally love players who are humble and not full of themselves and I could tell instantaneously that Rico is not one to boast or brag about how skilled he is. Instead, Rico is the type of player who lets his play on the field do the talking and he comes across as a team player who is willing to do whatever he can to help his team out. This is the type of player you can feel confident about taking in the middle to late rounds to develop and mature as an all around receiver. Some of the qualities I appreciate most about Rico’s game are his efforts as a blocker, his catching radius, his ability to track the deep ball and adjust to off target passes, body control and natural hands. To me, Rico is exceptional in every one of these areas and absolutely deserves to be drafted. I have included some highlight videos of Rico below and encourage you to check them out and see just why Rico Wallace has the potential to make the lead from Division III to the pro ranks. Rico Wallace has a lot going for him and we at NFL Draft Monsters personally cannot wait to hear his name called on draft weekend and see what team might be getting one of the better steals in this entire draft.

Thanks for reading my interview and spotlight piece on Shenandoah wide receiver Rico Wallace.-

- Brandon

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40v0ijv3GDQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWmlJssUClA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1lJzwh-QGg

This past weekend I had the opportunity to sit down with NFL Draft hopeful and former Northern Iowa linebacker LJ Fort.Fort led the FCS this past season in tackles (184) and also accounted for an astounding 14.15 tackles per game. LJ is an athletic linebacker with range, who says he plays much bigger than his size (6-1 230 lbs.) would indicate. LJ puts his heart, determination, and passion into everything he does and what I found from our interview is a player and person who is eager, anxious and excited to prove he has what it takes to make it both on and off the football field. His interests and passions in life are far reaching from the football field and I feel extremely fortunate to have had the pleasure to sit down with LJ and learn a little bit more about him and what makes him tick.

 Brandon Holstein: At What age did you become involved in the game of football and how quickly did you fall in love with it?

LJ Fort: I actually started playing football in Hawaii because my parents were in the military so we traveled everywhere. A couple Samoans would always be playing football outside in the yard so that’s where I first started playing football, was with those big Samoans where you had to run for your life basically.

Brandon Holstein: You come from a pretty big family LJ with a military and athletic background, how competitive of a person did this make you growing up?

LJ Fort: Yes sir, pretty big family with four kids and they all ran track, went to state and my mom also went to state in high school too for track. I was the oldest of the kids so I didn’t really compete with any of them specifically but there was always competition within my family growing up.

Brandon Holstein: LJ, I found out that you are very passionate about the bible and your religion; can you tell us a little bit about where this came from and what draws you to the lord?

LJ Fort: I’ve always grown up in the church and my mom made it a point for us to attend church every Wednesday and Thursday. Then I got to college and I just knew that I needed Jesus Christ, so once I made the decision to make him a part of my life I found a whole new purpose for myself and it’s been amazing ever since.

Brandon Holstein: One of my Twitter followers wanted to get your reaction from this verse: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me.” Can you expand on this passage a little bit and let me know what it means to you?

LJ Fort: Absolutely, I love that passage. I believe that Jesus is demonstrating how to pray and I just love how he uses that context to let you know that whatever you are going through personally he is right there with you.

Brandon Holstein: So if football didn’t work out for you LJ, do you think this is something you would pursue, as far as following your religion or maybe even the ministry?

LJ Fort: Definitely, that’s one of my goals in the future to run a youth ministry camp. Right now I also volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club and I am also the leader at a small group for my football team.

Brandon Holstein: You lead the FCS in tackles with a school record 184 this past season LJ; can you tell me how you were able to be so effective and efficient in consistently finding and taking down the ball carrier?

LJ Fort: Yeah, I have to give most of that credit to my linebacker coach, Javon Dewitt who helped me over the summer. I wasn’t really satisfied with my play my Junior season and I knew I was better than that so I went to him and he broke down tape just for me and really did a good job coaching me on specific techniques that made a world of a difference in my game and it showed my Senior year.

Brandon Holstein: So it seems like you were really able to put everything together this year, would you attribute this to more time spent in the film or weight rooms or do you think most of it came from the coaching you received?

LJ Fort: No, I mean I have always put in the work so I know it wasn’t that. But it was mostly just little technique stuff like how to take on a blocker and shedding them differently as well as taking a good first step and not false stepping or anything like that to give me that split-second advantage to get a better angle to make the tackle.

Brandon Holstein: You were a running back in high school LJ, how do you think this helped you as far as your transition to the defense side of the football in college?

LJ Fort: I played both offense and defense in high school so it wasn’t as big of a transition but being a running back is definitely a position where you have to be more athletic and I would have to say that is the forte of how I play the linebacker position.

Brandon Holstein: Can you touch on what you believe your greatest strength is as a linebacker and do you believe you can play all three downs in the NFL?

LJ Fort: Definitely the best part of my game is my athletic ability to get to the ball carrier as fast as I can. My first step and acceleration are two of the things that are the best part of my game. The first two downs in football is all just mental and it doesn’t matter how big you are if you have the mentality that you’re the biggest out there then that’s how you are going to play.

 

Brandon Holstein: What would you say is the one aspect of your game that you need to improve the most on and what you have been doing to get better at that specific thing?

LJ Fort: I would have to say probably my point of attack and dealing with how to disengage after a lineman is able to get their hands on me. Just learning how to get off those blocks because most of the time my quickness is enough to get around them but on draw plays and things like that they are able to climb right up on you and you don’t necessarily have that advantage on them, so that’s probably the one area of my game I need to improve most in.

Brandon Holstein: What would you say motivates or inspires you the most LJ?

LJ Fort: First and foremost is just playing for the glory of god and just playing to make his name known. And secondly just that gift that I have and just being able to take advantage of that because there are people out there that can’t even walk, so just playing for those people motivates me. Also, my family of course.

Brandon Holstein: Do you consider yourself to be a natural leader on the field LJ and how do you draw or bring inspiration out of your teammates on the field?

LJ Fort: When I get on the field I flip a switch and I just get so intense and emotional. I’m just so focused on winning I turn into a different person. I don’t know, I’m just like extremely intense on the field and just making sure my teammates and myself are doing everything we can to win.

Brandon Holstein: Do you think you can make an impact on special teams early on in your career and do you think you have the experience to help out in this aspect of the game?

LJ Fort: I made sure I was on special teams this year and for much of my collegiate career so that was really fun because I love kickoffs. Special teams is all just mental and really comes down to if you’re ready to hit somebody in the mouth or not. I love being a head hunter out there so special teams is a favorite of mine.

Brandon Holstein: You’re listed at about 6-1 230 lbs. which some consider to be a little undersized for an NFL linebacker. How do you back that up and what do you say when people question how you will hold up in the NFL due to your limited size?

LJ Fort: It’s all a mentality thing, like I said before if you play like you are 250 lbs. then you will play that way. When you play with that mentality you will always be that much better.

Brandon Holstein: These next set of questions are designed to get to know you a little bit away from the football field better so the first one here  is, what is your favorite type of food and if you had to choose a last meal what would it be?

LJ Fort: Ah man that’s a really good question (laughing). Man, there isn’t nothing better than some ribs and some cheese cake piled up.

Brandon Holstein: Really? Some cheesecake huh (laughing)? Do you like putting cherries on your cheesecake too?

LJ Fort: Oh yeah, got to have that (laughs).

Brandon Holstein: If we were to look at your Ipod what kind of music would we find?

LJ Fort: Aw man I listen to a bit of everything. From country to rap, rock I just like it all. Lot of Christian music as well.

Brandon Holstein: I’m actually a country guy myself; do you have a favorite artist or song you would like to share with us?

LJ Fort: I actually got to meet Luke Bryan this year so that was quite the experience.

Brandon Holstein: Oh yeah? How did you get to meet him?

LJ Fort: He and Jason Aldean actually came to Cedar Falls to do a concert and we were working it so we got to take a picture with them and meet them so that was pretty cool.

Brandon Holstein: Awesome, awesome, he’s a great artist. What would you say is your favorite movie of all time?

LJ Fort: Man that’s crazy (laughs). I have so many. I’ll have to go with 300.

Brandon Holstein: 300 the Spartan movie? You just really like the action and fighting and all that?

LJ Fort: Yeah. Remember the Titans would have to be up there as well

Brandon Holstein: What was your favorite NFL team and player growing up and why?

LJ Fort: My favorite team was the Chicago Bears just because all my family is from Chicago. My favorite player of all time is Charles Woodson and that’s why I wear number 24 my whole entire football career.

Brandon Holstein: Okay, okay so you like Chuck? He’s a great athlete I mean that guy is pretty ageless, I don’t know if he is ever going to slow down and stop creating turnovers (laughing). I’m actually a Detroit Lions fan so I’m waiting for the day he retires in all honesty, even though he did go to Michigan. I mean I love him and respect him but he’s just so darn good you know?

LJ Fort: Yeah, he’s a turnover machine.

Brandon Holstein: exactly.

Brandon Holstein: Last question here LJ. Where will you be for draft day and who will be watching with you?

LJ Fort: I’ll just be with some of my other teammates that have a chance of being drafted or picked up by teams, so just hanging out with them and taking in all the excitement and stuff.

Brandon Holstein: Absolutely. Well we wish you the best of luck LJ and good luck this weekend. We hope to hear your name called at some point, I know I will be cheering for you so we just want to wish you the best of luck from all of us here at NFL Draft Monsters and we look forward to following your career, whether that’s on the football field or away from it.

LJ Fort: Hey thanks, I appreciate your time so thank you!

-Thank you for reading my interview with Northern Iowa LB LJ Fort, I hope you enjoyed it!-

- Brandon

Size: Measured in at the combine at a stout 6-2 271 lbs. and has been said to have gained 10 lbs. of muscle in preparation for the scouting combine in hopes of staying at the defensive end position in the NFL. Nick Perry has a thick upper and lower half and is a very well proportioned athlete, as it is very evident that he has put in the time, effort and energy in the weight room to develop his athletic looking frame. With that said his frame appears to be nearly maxed out as there is little room on his body to add much more weight. Perry also possesses only average length with 33 inch arms but regularly gets the most out of his body thanks to his explosive athleticism and superb body control.

Nick Perry is a naturally explosive athlete with an impressive first step and strong upper body. Perry's potential to convert speed to power is a rare quality and something that makes him a unique and enticing prospect from a pass rushing perspective.

Pass Rush/Quickness:  Very good first step quickness (1.57 10 yard split). Has active and violent hands capable of slapping away his opponents attempt to corral him. Flexibility is only average and he struggles to get much bend and dip underneath his opponents shoulder pads when running the arc as he shows some stiffness in his torso and ankles. Shows good snap awareness and timing as he routinely coils out of his stance and explodes up-field with nice initial quickness. Understands hand placement and gains inside positioning quickly thanks to impressive array of hand to hand combat techniques making it very hard to sustain blocks for an extended period of time. Nick Perry has great body control and is natural playing with his hand in the dirt while working in confined areas thanks to his impressive short area burst and closing speed. Possesses a scary combination of speed and power and converts the two with relative ease. Needs refinement in this area but the potential he possesses here affords him the opportunity to keep his opponent off balanced and constantly guessing what move Perry will use next. Needs to develop a greater pass rush arsenal but flashes a useful spin move on occasion. Parlaying between his natural explosive speed and power makes him a difficult assignment to contain, game plan and prepare for. Offensive tackles must respect his speed and power and if Perry can do a better job of switching up the two and utilizing more useful pass rush moves like an up and under he could be a force off the edge for quite some time. Constantly collapses the pocket and narrows room/space for quarterback to move and work within. Not an overly sudden player but effective change of direction skills makes it hard to get and keep hands on him for an extended period of time. Does a nice job getting his hands up in passing windows when he can’t get to the quarterback and shows nice ball awareness in passing situations.

Run Defense: Solid upper body strength (35 reps @ 225) with a nice base, core strength and balance to anchor upon contact and hold the point against the run. Needs to do a better job fighting off blocks, especially against double teams as he struggles to disengage and find the football at times. Fires out of stance low and gets good initial push thanks to impressive power and explosion throughout his upper and lower body. First step quickness affords Perry the ability to get into/under his opponents pads quickly, showcasing impressive pop on contact and capable of knocking his opponent on their heels. Powerful and explosive player who does not shy away from contact as he jolts his opposition with a strong punch. Plays with disciplined leverage techniques and takes solid angles to the football and gives nice chase/effort on nearly every play. Mirrors, slides and shuffles his feet well laterally when moving to his left or right to follow the play and keep contain. Needs to learn how to disengage and find the football as he has a tendency to drop his head and miss on opportunities to make a play. Has the tools to get better in this area just needs more time and coaching.

Recognition/Awareness/Instincts:  Generally finds and locates the football adequately but can be a split second late at times to diagnose the play/action happening in front of him. Shows better awareness as a pass rusher at this time as he struggles to locate the football when engaged in the phone booth with his opponent against the run. A naturally instinctive playmaker with the wherewithal to find and locate the football routinely and pin point the passers high shoulder when coming off the edge. Disrupts passing lanes and settles into passing zones nicely while dropping into coverage and has an innate awareness to keep the play in front of him while working against the run or pass. Disciplined player who restrains from crashing down and losing outside contain.

Motor/Toughness: Nick Perry is a very durable and dependable guy who missed very little time during his three seasons at USC due to injury. Doesn’t shy away from contact and likes to mix it up in the trenches with the big uglies. Motor is above average to good but he could show a little better hustle and overall conditioning throughout the course of the game. Doesn’t give up on plays and shows adequate pursuit on the backside, although he could give better overall effort in chase at times. Brings it on nearly every play and goes hard from snap to snap. Wouldn’t consider him relentless in this area but he displays a good enough motor to be effective on every play.

Tackling/Coverage: Not overly affective at changing directions fluidly as he is athletic enough to drop into coverage but displays a good degree of tightness in his hips when asked to turn and move in space. Gets a little narrow and upright when moving his feet and would seem to have some man to man limitations as a 3-4 stand-up linebacker as of right now. Would likely face a pretty steep learning curve if drafted to play the 3-4 outside linebacker position but I could see him making the transition with time due to his impressive athleticism, drive and determination. However, I see Perry as being a better overall player as a 4-3 right defensive end due to his overall skill set and believe not only is that where he wants to play but should play given that he is already in his element and comfortable at that position. Where not only will his skills as a pass rusher transfer nicely but also in a more timely and efficient manner for him to make an impact right now. Not overly explosive as a tackler but has the power and strength to lay the wood on occasion. Wraps up nicely and nearly always finishes when he puts himself in good position to make a play and take down the ball carrier.

Intangibles: Has taken very well to coaching and developed/worked on his craft the past three seasons at USC. Fans, coaches and teammates respect his work ethic and desire as he was named USC’s Defensive Lineman of the Year for his play in 2011. Declared for the draft a year early after his Junior season in which he led the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks on the season and seems to be just scratching the surface of his immense potential. Grew up in inner city Detroit where he led his high school to a state championship in 2007 with an astounding 36 sacks on the season, which was good for a Michigan prep record. Decided to make something out of himself by choosing the game of football over the streets in an area where violence and turmoil was omnipresent. This decision speaks volumes about Nick Perry’s character, persistence and discipline not only as a football player but as a human being, as it would have been easy for him to succumb to the streets and go down the wrong path. Instead Perry chose the game he loves and has been consistently getting better every season thanks to his dedication in the weight and film rooms.

Nick Perry is a superb athlete with a very high ceiling. His combination of explosive power and speed make him a very dangerous weapon coming off the edge and may not be matched by any other single player in this draft. Perry’s explosive first step make him a consistent threat to gain the edge and his ability to utilize his body in space while displaying impressive hand to hand combat techniques is a very crucial skill to possess as a pass rusher. The best fit for Nick Perry in my assessment would be at the right defensive end position in a 4-3 defense and is a perfect fit for a “Wide 9” alignment, like those used by the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions, due to his impressive first step and up-field pass rush ability. Expect to hear Nick Perry’s named called in the first round as he is certainly one of the premier pass rushers in this draft with the ability and potential to crack the top 20.

-Thanks for reading my scouting report on USC DE/OLB Nick Perry, please feel free to comment below-

  -Brandon-

Andre Branch has the speed, strength, and length to be an effective pass rush threat in the NFL. With more coaching and technique work in the areas of hand placement and pad level, Branch could present excellent value for a team looking to upgrade its pass rush.

Size: Tall athletic build for the defensive end position with long arms and defined mid section and upper body with enough room to continue to add to his frame without sacrificing much speed or explosion. Will likely need to add some muscle to become an every down defender as a 4-3 defensive end but has the type of frame to do so.

Pass Rush/Quickness: Good enough but far from elite first step and lacks true explosiveness to to threaten the edge consistently. Initial quickness is good and has the straight line speed to be a factor but has an inconsistent get-off and doesn’t always time the snap count as well as he should. Has some natural flexibility and dip and bend ability to avoid the reach of an offensive lineman and does a great job using his body to create leverage and push the pocket from the outside in. Long angular frame allows him to keep defender off his body as he works the edge and collapses the pocket while keeping his opponent at bay with his long arms (34 inches). Balanced and coordinated athlete with plus range and good motor to pursue on the backside. Hand placement is inconsistent and he could do a better job using this tool to create space and separation for him to work. Relies on upfield rush and lacks a quality counter at this point to be effective when initial momentum is neutralized. Pass rush arsenal is lacking at this point although he shows an effective club move and a degree of violence  when he is on his game. Upper body strength is good and has a lot of raw potential and upside as a pass rusher but is still learning and developing, especially in terms of turning speed into power. Would like to see him fight more through contact as he seems to want to go around rather than through his opponent at this point, however this can be learned and taught with better technique. Comes out of the three-point higher than he should and raises his pad level out of his stance at times. Pretty good movement skills and changes directions efficiently, making him a good candidate to move to outside linebacker in the NFL as a pass rushing 3-4 backer. Still raw and developing and has yet to put it all together and take full advantage of his god given abilities; good upside if motivated and coached up right.

Run Defense:Exceptional upper body strength but struggles in the phone booth a bit at the point of attack and cannot yet stand up to double teams. Effective at setting the edge on occasion and rarely loses contain or crashes down recklessly. Needs to do a better job protecting his lower body, however he shows the balance and mental alertness to stay on his feet and make his way to the ball carrier. Does a good job keeping play in front of him while mirroring action by sliding and shuffling his feet, using his lateral agility to stay involved in the play. Active in pursuit and gives good chase and effort downfield. Could take better angles to the football at times but takes tight angles around the edge and shows the ability to flatten and use his plus closing speed and acceleration to chase down the ball carrier. Still learning how to stack and shed and cannot yet be trusted to disengage consistently and slip blocks by using solid technique; needs to be coached up in this area. Will likely need to add at least ten pounds to hold up as a pass rush defensive end in a 4-3 system as he struggles to hold his ground in short yardage situations.

Recognition/Awareness/Instincts:Locates the football well and shows a good degree of discipline and integrity. Sets the edge, keeps contain and doesn’t over-commit. Well coached up layer who recognizes the play and trusts his eyes. Very rarely is caught out of position and shows the mental awareness to keep the play in front of him and honor his assignments. Cerebral enough to know that when he does not reach the passer he can still effect the outcome of the play by getting his long arms up to disrupt passing lanes. Snap awareness and timing needs to be improved but that will come with more experience and coaching.

Motor/Toughness:Has a consistent motor and will consistently give good effort in chase or pursuit. Doesn’t give up on the play and will work through the whistle. Flashes a mean streak but would like to see him fight through contact with more urgency and tenacity. Has the ability within himself, just needs to bring it on every play with greater frequency. Doesn’t play soft and usually will use his violent hands and physicality to wear down his opponent and keep them honest to respect his natural abilities.

Tackling/Coverage: Has natural movement skills and does  a good job getting his body into position to make the tackle. Shoots the arms through contact but doesn’t always wrap up as well as he should and has a tendency to drop his head prematurely. High points the shoulder of the quarterback coming off the edge and shows adequate ball awareness to force fumbles on occasion from the quarterbacks blind side. Has some tightness in his hips but has above average agility and change of directions skills to make plays in space and use his long frame to keep players contained and within his striking range. Good candidate to make the switch to 3-4 rushing outside linebacker because of his ability to drop into coverage and play well in space while identifying players that enter his area. Played the “Bandit” position at Clemson and while his main attraction to NFL teams will be his pass rush ability, Branch also has a good amount of upside as a player capable of playing in space and dropping into coverage.

Intangibles: Played behind former Clemson defensive end Daquan Bowers for much of his career but got consistently better every year while learning the game and working on fixing some of his weaknesses. Has blossomed into a good player with a solid Senior season in which he led the Tigers with 10.5 sacks. Has also took on a leadership role and seems to be a player others can aspire to, thanks to his work ethic and passion for the game. Consistent motor and gives good hustle on every play. No off the field issues that I could find or have any concern with.

High upside player who has yet to reach his full potential and take advantage of his natural skill set. Needs to improve his pad level and hand placement and will struggle to hold up in the run game until he adds weight and plays with greater technique. Natural ability as a pass rusher and has many tools working in his favor to become a consistent pass rush threat. Versatility to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme and is a good candidate to mold and develop. If motivated and proves to be a coachable player, Branch has the ability to become a very good pro. Reminds me some of former Purdue defensive End and current Detroit Lion Cliff Avirl who also had great upside coming out of college as a pass rusher but had some raw areas to his game, while also showing the versatility to fit in both a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Will likely need some coaching and technique work but has the ability to make an impact as early as his first year if brought into the right scheme and system with a coach who knows how to mold the skills he possesses. I see Andre Branch going in the late 1st to early 2nd round and would be a good fit for a team like the Packers (28), Patriots (27, 31) or Dolphins (42) in the 2012 NFL Draft.

-Thanks for reading my scouting report on Clemson DE/OLB Andre Brach, please comment below with your thoughts or insights on this player.

-Brandon-