Wisconsin QB Russel Wilson-

If Russel Wilson was merely 3-4 inches taller we would be talking about a potential first round draft pick. Wilson has many of the attributes you look for in a starting NFL quarterback and can make plays outside the pocket with his legs and arm, making him very dangerous and potent weapon.

I’ll start by saying this…I’m a big Russel Wilson fan and think he will succeed in the NFL despite his lack of quality size (5-10) and is good enough to eventually become a starting quarterback. We all know Wilson’s biggest knock is his small stature and many are concerned about his ability to see over his offensive line and find passing lanes at the next level. To this I say… make it work, fit your system around his individual strengths, skills and deficiencies! This means executing 7-10 step drops like they have for him at Wisconsin and letting him work predominately out of the shotgun like many teams in the NFL already do. This gives him the ability to see the entire field and effectively go through his reads and progressions. His height is a concern but there are ways to diminish this negative aspect of his game and it starts by building your offensive system around him. But it doesn’t stop there…another thing you must do if you’re going to draft Wilson to be your “Quarterback of the future” is allow him to roll out to his left or right and make/extend plays with his legs. Wilson is terrific at throwing with accuracy on the run and can make many NFL caliber throws outside the pocket.

Another thing I like about  Wilson is that he throws a very clean spiral and can get the ball out with a simple flick of his wrist very quickly. Wilson is also a very good decision maker who protects the ball and his TD/INT ratio has always ranked very highly. His arm strength really is under-rated and above average as he is able to make throws to all levels of the field. I would like to see Wilson step up into the pocket more often and really show the ability to drive the football into tight windows on stick throws, but overall he has enough arm strength to get the job done. I also have come to appreciate the football IQ Wilson has demonstrated during his time at Wisconsin and this was evidenced by a play in which he checked out from a designed running play and made a quick slant pass due to the defensive alignment that Oregon was showing. This shows a deep understanding of coverages and that he is confident in his decisions and leadership ability to go ahead and make that call. Another thing I appreciate is how well Wilson sells his play action passes. He uses his head and shoulders well to sell the fake and also does this when settling into the pocket before making a throw. One of the more special throws Wilson made in this game came on a play in the 3rd quarter when he was able to sit tall in the pocket and make an anticipatory throw to his wide receiver Nick Toon in the front right corner of the end zone. What made this throw special was the pocket poise Wilson showed as well as his ability to hold the safeties to one side of the field with his head and eyes and come back to Toon, throwing the ball to a spot before he even broke to the front right pylon of the end zone. Seeing this makes it plain to see that not only does Wilson trust his eyes and reads but he also goes through his progressions very efficiently. Russel Wilson is simply put a competitor who will do whatever it takes to win as he could be seen throwing blocks downfield for Montee Ball at one point early in this game.

A couple of issues I do have with Wilson involve his throwing mechanics as he tends to hold the ball a little low and not as close or high up on his chest as I would like or prefer. This will only take a little tweaking, but could speed up his already good throwing motion. Another correctable issue comes when the pocket around him begins to break down. Wilson has a tendency to escape the pocket before he necessarily has to and I would like to see him not leave the pocket so prematurely and instead step up into it and give himself more room to make the throw. I believe this has been an issue for Wilson due to his lack of height, as the closer his own offensive lineman and the opposing teams defensive lineman come to his face the more his lack of ideal height becomes an issue as his passing windows become smaller and smaller and his is unable to see the entire field. One way in which Wilson has afforded himself the ability to see over the offensive line and make good throws despite his lack of ideal height is ability to contort his body and throw from multiple platforms. Part of this is due to his above average arm strength, but most of it is just his natural ability as he has found ways to be successful despite his lack of height having dealt with this issue his entire life/career. Look I’m not saying Russel Wilson is the next Drew Brees or anything but he surely is the type of player who can be effective and become a starter at the next level. I have heard nothing but good things about Wilson’s intangibles in regards to his work ethic and film study as he is said to have a very good head on his shoulders as well. The fact that he learned the Wisconsin offense in about a month and was thus named the starter and co-captain of the team says a lot about his leadership and ability to pick up on concepts quickly. I have no doubt that Wilson would be a 1st or 2nd round pick if we were simply talking about his physical ability, however his height is the one thing that will make him drop some as well as his possibly smaller hands. For now I have Wilson rated in the early 3rd round and I am higher on him than most scouts out there. Just because I am from Wisconsin does not make me biased, I feel I know talent when I see it and Russel Wilson definitely has some, he just needs one person to see that and adapt their offense around him as I stated before.

Wisconsin RB Montee Ball:

Montee Ball has incredible lateral agility, cut-back ability, vision and receiving skills out of the backfield that will get him drafted early and make him a valuable commodity come draft day.

Montee Ball enjoyed one of the better seasons we have seen from a collegiate running back position since Barry Sanders. Ball is a decent sized back at 5-11 210 lbs. and has been said to have lost up to 20 lbs this past off-season to make himself into a more dynamic runner. Ball has incredible vision and lateral agility that allow him to meander through traffic and find ways to consistently pick up positive yardage. Montee is also a very decisive runner who uses his one cut running style to take what the defense is giving him and is not afraid to lower his head to finish his runs and pick up extra yardage. Although Ball is not a very physical back he is also no pushover either. Ball shows the ability to run through arm tackles and consistently makes the first man miss due to his impressive footwork. Ball’s top end speed will be somewhat of an issue at the next level as he is not a burner by any means and he is much more effective running between the tackles rather than bouncing the run outside and beating you with his sheer speed. Much has been made of the TD numbers Ball has been able to put up this season (39), however those numbers are somewhat extrapolated from the incredible guard-center duo he had blocking for him in Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler. Both of these big men will be high NFL Draft picks whenever they decide to come out, which I will get into a bit later in this post. One of my favorite things about watching Ball run is both his lateral agility and cutback ability but also his incredible spin move that constantly leaves defenders in his wake. Ball’s spin move has been extremely effective for him during his career and has allowed him to finish his runs and pick up those much-needed extra few yards. Perhaps the other most impressive trait about Ball is his feel and vision for cut back lanes. His combination of skill sets as a runner make him a better fit for a zone blocking scheme, however I think he can thrive in a power one as well. The other thing that will get Ball drafted on the first day of the 2012 NFL Draft should he come out is his ability as a receiver out of the backfield. Ball has extremely reliable hands and he has proved to be a savvy route runner who knows how to get open and find ways to make an impact in the passing game. On a big third down early in this game Ball was releasing out into the flats on a simple arrow route when the play began to break down and Russel Wilson scrambled to his right to buy himself more time. Being initially covered by a linebacker Ball broke off his route and worked his way back towards the middle of the field away from coverage and created a passing lane and outlet for his quarterback to get him the ball. This play went for a large gain and showcased the football IQ and overall awareness Ball possesses as a receiver. Later in the game the Badgers used Ball split out wide one on one with a cornerback. Ball ran a quick slant route, beating his man for inside position and picking up the first down. Instances like these make me believe Ball can be on the field for all three downs and contribute both in the run and passing game, which will make him a valuable commodity for many teams out there in need of another back to fill their two back system. Ball does need to improve somewhat in his pass protection as his technique and awareness for picking up defenders needs some refinement but is a correctable issue. Overall I think Ball is a solid 2nd round pick and guy you can feel comfortable about drafting and contributing early on in his career. He has his limitations, however he also offers an exciting blend of skills that will give him the ability to contribute early and score TD’s inside the red zone and near the goal line for whichever team drafts him.

Wisconsin C Peter Konz-

In my assumption Peter Konz is NFL ready right now and is the best Center prospect to come out of the Big Ten since All-Pro C Nick Mangold.

Peter Konz is a player I am extremely high on as I have considered him to be the best center prospect to come out of the Big Ten since Nick Mangold. This is high praise considering how good of a career Mangold has had up to this point in his career for the New York Jets. Konz has been rumored to be considering returning for his Senior season, however I feel he is NFL ready right now and his draft stock will be as high as it will ever be based on his film from this season. Center’s don’t go that high in the draft in the first place but I feel like Konz has solidified himself as a 1st round pick and would simply be risking injury to improve his already high prestige/regard in the minds of NFL scout and General Managers. Peter Konz is a player that is an absolute mauler in the run game who consistently knocks his defender off the football and finishes his blocks. He does this by playing with great leverage and overall technique as his initial pop off the line of scrimmage is something I can definitely appreciate. His leg drive and ability to open up rushing lanes/holes off his backside is extremely polished and he seems to take extra pride near the goal line or on short yardage situations where it all comes down to the battle in the trenches. In pass protection Konz plays balanced and displays natural knee bend while also getting good arm extension to wall off his defender once engaged. Konz’s technique allows him to absorb bull rushers and stymie his defender with solid overall hand placement and leverage. Konz also packs an above average to good punch move that can jolt his defender and knock them off-balance from time to time. The other thing I love about Konz is how well he communicates gap assignments and works with his fellow offensive lineman. Konz does a great job making sure everyone is on the same page and knows their assignments. Both Konz and Zeitler work extremely well together and probably better than any other guard-center duo in the entire country, as they both understand gap assignments, spacing, and splits extremely well. To me it is an easy decision on whether Peter Konz should declare for the NFL Draft or not, but ultimately it is his decision and not mine as there are factors to consider that I am most likely not aware about. Should he declare Konz is a near lock to go in the 1st round and will surely be the first player drafted at his respective position.

Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler-

Kevin Zeitler is an extremely effective run blocker whose best fit appears to be in a power based running scheme. This ability in the run game will entice team's looking for an inside big man to open up holes and improve their ground game.

Kevin Zeitler is the type of guy who can immediately come in and improve your teams running game. Zeitler brings a lunch pail type attitude to run blocking and plays extremely inspired in or around the goal line, where he seems to take pride in making the big block to spring the ball carrier for a touchdown. His push in the run game is one of the reasons why Montee Ball was able to enjoy so much success in punching it in for six this season an astounding 33 times. Zeitler’s best fit appears to be in a power run blocking scheme where he can make the most out of his ability and consistently open up holes in the running game. Wisconsin offensive lineman are extremely well coached and is one of the reasons why we see such a pedigree in the NFL of Badgers offensive lineman. Zeitler is next in this line of this tradition as his overall skill set appears to be better than former Badger guard and 2011 NFL Draft pick John Moffitt. One knock on John coming out was that he lacked the athleticism/lateral movement necessary to play the position in the NFL. Zeitler doesn’t have this problem as he can get to the 2nd level very smoothly/efficiently and seal off linebackers on a consistent basis. The Badgers also love to pull their big men and get Zeitler out in front of the pack. Here Zeitler shows an uncanny awareness for picking up oncoming defenders and neutralizing them at the point of attack. In pass protection Zeitler plays with natural knee bend and a solid base, his hand to hand combat skills and hand placement are two things he does very well when battling with defenders one on one. It is Zeitler’s hand placement that allows him to consistently get his big paws underneath and around his opponents shoulder pads and control/drive them off the football. Zeitler will be a good-great run blocking option once he gets to the NFL and his pass blocking skills are above average. Kevin Zeitler should find himself drafted, should he come out within the initial 2-3 rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Wisconsin WR Nick Toon-

Nick Toon has NFL size and ties and is a team player who seems to do all the little things right. His limited explosion/burst is a limiting factor but he should find a way to contribute at next level.

Nick Toon is a player with NFL size 6-2 220 lbs. and NFL blood lines as his dad Al Toon was an All-Pro Wide Receiver for the New York Jets after being drafted 10th overall in the 1985 NFL Draft. His son Nick is also a very good receiver who has been given high praise by scouts leading up to his Senior season. The 2012 NFL Draft is extremely deep at the wide receiver position which will knock Toon down some, however he is a solid prospect in his own right. One of Nick Toon’s better qualities as a receiver is his great body positioning. Toon does a great job of using his big body to shield defenders from the football and seems to be most comfortable working underneath coverages on short to intermediate routes such as drags, slants and deep ins/outs. Toon is a big target who is also a very smart and reliable receiver. In this game Toon was working across the middle on a critical 3rd down late in the game when he noticed coverage and attention to his route being brought towards the middle of the field. Immediately Toon changed directions and worked his way back towards the sidelines away from coverage to save his quarterback and give him a throwing lane/option. After securing the catch Toon lunged and used his long frame to stretch for the first down and keep the drive/game alive for the Badgers. This play showed incredible awareness of the situation and is a telling sign that Toon simply gets the game of football thanks in part to his NFL pedigree. Another aspect of Nick Toon’s game that I love to see is his effort as a downfield blocker, decoy or pick player. Toon doesn’t give minimal effort when he knows he is not getting the football or when the play is not coming to his side of the field and he’s working a backside route. He understands teamwork and selling his routes to open up opportunities and plays for his team-mates whether it be by blocking downfield or keeping defenders occupied with his routes. The reason Nick Toon will fall some is because of his lack of speed/burst/explosion. Toon doesn’t display the ability to get into and out of his routes very quickly, which will limit his ability to create separation at the next level. I would like to see him lower his body weight more effectively before breaking or stemming off his routes. I also noticed in this game that Toon has a bad habit of taking a mis-step on his initial push of the line of scrimmage. This is something that can be fixed relatively easily but needs to be addressed as it limits his already limited a ability to explode off the line of scrimmage and get into his routes/eat up cushions.  As I said before Nick Toon seems to have reliable hands and is a possession type receiver at the next level. However, sometimes Nick has a bad habit of trapping the ball against his body at times instead of securing the catch with his hands. Although I have not seen him drop one of these yet, it is a sign he doesn’t completely trust his hands. Overall it’s hard not to like Nick Toon as a prospect because of his NFL pedigree and commitment as a team player by doing all the small things right. However, I’m not sold on his speed or ability to separate in the NFL which is my biggest cause for concern for him and aspect of his game that makes him slip a little. There are definitely holes to his game but Toon is a guy I would feel safe taking in the 3rd round.

Oregon RB LaMicael James-

LaMichael James is slight of build but his open field running skills, suddenness, and shiftiness as a runner make him a dangerous arsenal in a two back system who can bring the flash and awe to a team's running game.

LaMichael James is a player that nearly everyone is aware of due to the impressive stats and runs he has put together during his illustrious career at Oregon. James is a player with a slight build at 5-9 190 lbs. but has under-rated leg drive/power and is more effective between the tackles than he is given credit for. Surely his stats have been a little extrapolated by the system he has played in at Oregon for the past three seasons, but he is also a very skilled player who can bring the speed and dazzle to a two back system in the NFL. James is a player that is very comparable to Jahvid Best but has a little better inside running ability and is less prone to injuries, although James also dealt with an injury of his own this season. However, Best’s top-end/long speed seems to be a bit better than James overall and his size is just a bit bigger. Best went on to become a 1st round draft pick for the Detroit Lions in the 2010 NFL Draft and would definitely be warranting that spot if not for a multitude of concussions he has suffered both in college and in the NFL. Like Best, LaMichael James is a very slippery runner who bounces outside efficiently and has very good foot speed and quickness. James is also extremely agile and quick in space and seems to work very well in confined areas where his short-area quickness is best utilized. On top of this James also shows the ability to accelerate and decelerate very efficiently/quickly making him tough to contain in the open field. LaMichael James also shows very sudden cut-back ability who can change directions/gears in a blink of an eye. As a runner James is also very patient and follows his blocks well, showing the same feel for cut-back lanes and vision that Montee Ball also possesses. In the open field James is a very creative runner who eludes defenders and knows how to avoid big hits, which will allow him to stay healthy in his career for the most part. Another thing you have to appreciate about LaMichael James is that he doesn’t try to do too much and picks up what he can get while always seeming to fall forward working north and south rather than east and west. James isn’t much of a threat at the goal-line despite his high rushing TD numbers in college, although he is capable of punching it in from time to time. Seeing that the Adrian Peterson just went down to a serious knee injury and that the Vikings were rumored to be interested in Jahvid Best before it would make sense for them to add a player like LaMichael James to their arsenal. Other teams that would seem to make sense are: Bears, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Rams, Bengals, Browns, and Broncos. Wherever James ultimately winds up he should find relative success in a two back system where he can bring the flash and awe. James has already declared and made himself eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft, which I believe to be a wise decision on his part as he will have trouble increasing his draft stock any higher due to his limited size. In what is becoming a deeper/top-heavy 2012 running Back Draft Class James might slip a little but he will have to be considered somewhere in the bottom half of the 2nd round in my opinion. James will have to prove he can be an effective receiver out of the backfield, but he has enjoyed some success of already doing this while at Oregon. The bigger question will be how he holds up in pass protection, which will be something to keep a close eye on at the NFL Combine and his Pro-day.

Wish I had the time to write about everyone who caught my attention but here is a list of the other players who caught my eye in this game FB Bradie Ewing, LB Chris Borland, LB Mike Taylor, LB Michael Clay, WR DeAnthony Thomas, LB Kiko Alonzo, WR Lavasier Tuinei. Hope you enjoyed the reading!

-Brandon

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