Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

 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

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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

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-

Defensive Tackles

Most to gain:

 One player who has already impressed in the measurables department is LSU DT/DE Michael Brockers who came in at an impressive 6’5 322 lbs. Brockers also checked in with impressive 35 inch arms which will help him disengage and keep defenders off his thick body at the next level. Physically speaking Brockers is “cut from the cloth” and looks the part of a dominant interior player with the added versatility to play five technique in a 3-4 defense; which is where I like him most at personally. Brockers is a little bit on the raw side from a technical standpoint, which is to be expected for someone who declared after only their red shirt Sophomore season of college. With that said, Brockers should shine in drills and show plus movement skills, while also showing power and explosion in tests that measure his sheer strength throughout his well proportioned and athletic-looking frame. When it’s all said and done and the lights come down on the Scouting Combine in Indy I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Brockers stand out from the crowd and eventually gain the Top 10 consideration he most likely deserves due to his incredible upside and scheme diversity. Another defensive tackle sure to make his mark on the 2012 NFL Combine is Mississippi DT/DE Fletcher Cox who also possesses the ability to play in multiple fronts at the next level. Cox is a somewhat lesser-known player to the general public at this point but that should all change come Monday afternoon. Cox is an incredible athlete who displays an impressive motor and incredible effort from snap to snap. He’s not as physically imposing as a player like Michael Brockers at 6’4 298 lbs, but he is much more technically refined and battle tested. Cox was even named SEC Defensive Player of the Week an astounding four times this past season, which is very impressive in the highly competitive South Eastern Conference. Fletcher Cox is a player who should test well and show his versatility/athleticism to play in multiple fronts. Expect his name to be one of the players on the rise after a very successful and impressive performance at the combine. The last player I want to mention quickly is Memphis DT Dontari Poe who has great athleticism for a man standing 6’4 346 lbs. Now, I haven’t gotten the opportunity to watch much film on Poe myself but he is said to have great movement skills, while also displaying impressive power and strength. He’s raw but flashes the potential to be the premier nose tackle prospect in this draft which could send his stock through the roof with so many teams searching for a big/physical guy who can eat up blocks and free up other players in the middle. Poe’s performance will tell us a lot about him and what he has to offer, as it will be the first time many of us have seen him live and on t.v. since he played at a smaller school at Memphis. Nonetheless, I fully expect Poe to put on a note-worthy performance and generate some buzz and excitement about his potential. He already put up a very stout 44 bench press reps at 225 lbs, although his arm length is a little shorter at 32′ inches,which definitely helps him throw up that weight with greater frequency but it’s an impressive start to say the least.

Most to prove/lose:

Theres a few players in Indy this week who will have some tough questions to answer, however all three have immense potential and could come out of the combine with much higher accreditation to their names with good performances. The first player is probably the one with the least to worry about and the most upside, but still has questions to answer is Penn State’s DT Devon Still. Still is a player I am relatively high on and like but there are some questions floating around about not only his work ethic and desire to be great, but also his durability as he has battle injuries throughout his career and recently missed the Senior Bowl because of another physical aliment. From what I have seen, read, and heard to this point in the combine, Still seems to be doing a commendable job answering questions about his character, choosing to answer the questions delivered to him head on and with obvious thought and deliverance. Still checked in at a stout 6’5 303 lbs. with nice 33 1/4′ inch arms. One of my favorite things about Still as a prospect is his violent/heavy hands. Still has an incredible grip and seems to understand stack and shed techniques to quickly disengage and find the football. He needs to improve his pad level and may have some stamina issues as he tends to wear down over the course of a game, playing with sloppier technique and slower get-off. However, when fresh and rested there may not be a player more physically gifted and talented than Still, as he is also very effective at penetrating the pocket by getting skinny through the hole and shooting gaps off the snap, which also allows players around him to make plays. Still probably won’t wow us in drills and tests tomorrow, other than his solid punch in bag drills but he is a pretty fluid athlete, but is not on the same physical level as some of the players mentioned above. However, when the lights come and pads come on he might be the best of the bunch. Another player who plays the same position as Still and played in the same conference is Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy. Worthy is an incredibly frustrating prospect to evaluate as he looks like a sure-fire 1st round pick one week, but a completely less stellar prospect the next. And it doesn’t just stop there with Worthy as he also tends to disappear for long stretches of time and plays with inconsistent effort from snap to snap. With that said, when Worthy is on his game and playing up to his ability he can be nearly unstoppable because of his absolutely over-powering strength and extraordinary burst/get-off to quickly shoot gaps and penetrate the backfield. Worthy flashes nearly every game but it is his inconsistency that is most troublesome with him, as well as his tendency to get nicked up and show less than adequate stamina to stay in the game for an extended period of time. Worthy has drawn comparisons to former Texas DT Shaun Rogers because of this and could completely fall out of the 1st round just as Rogers did in the 2001 NFL Draft before he was taken by the Detroit Lions with the 61st pick overall. It will be interesting to see where Worthy falls as he has Top 20 talent but hardly ever plays up to his ability for an extended period of time. Teams will have to figure out whether they can motivate him to get in better shape and play up to his ability before spending a 1st round pick on a talented player when he wants to be. Interviews and team meetings will be key for Worthy but look for him to shine in explosion drills as well and put up some solid numbers overall. One more player to mention is Washington DT Alameda Ta’amu. Ta’amu is a player many scouts are also split on as he possesses solid upside but enjoyed relatively moderate success this season despite his physical talents. Standing 6’3 348 lbs. with 32′ inch arms, Ta’amu is another candidate to play nose tackle in the NFL however I think he is much better served to play the one technique shaded over the nose guard or as a one gap three technique tackle in a 4-3. When scouting Ta’amu I found that he tended to pop-up off the snap and had little to offer in terms of his hand work and disengagement ability. He’s a little bit of a leaner and his short arms do not allow him to create much space between he and his defender. I like Ta’amu’s get-off but he is far too inconsistent with his pad level and hand placement for me to give him a high grade at this point. Ta’amu will have questions to answer regarding his lack of production this season while at Washington.

Others to watch:

A couple other players to watch who deserve to be mentioned are Cincinnati’s DT/DE Derek Wolfe, UConn DT Kendall Reyes, and Michigan DT Mike Martin. Wolfe is a personal favorite of mine because of his scheme diversity and ability to play  DT in a 4-3 or DE in a 3-4. I’m not quite sure where I like him more at this point but I tend to lean towards five technique because he has some pass rush ability (9.5 sacks in 2011) and ability to be a reliable run stopping defender and make plays behind the line of scrimmage (19.5 TFL). Wolfe came in at a stout 6-5 295 lbs. while possessing 33 1/4′ arms and has effectively gained weight since the Senior Bowl to appeal to both 4-3 and 3-4 teams at the DE or DT positions. Wolfe plays with solid leverage and knows how to disengage by winning at the point of attack by establishing effective hand placement and inside positioning. Look for Wolfe to garner some attention in the 3rd-4th round area. Kendall Reyes is a player who flashed at the Senior Bowls last month winning many one on one battles during individual drills. At the Senior Bowl Reyes showcased active hands capable of keeping the defender off his body as well as above average explosion off the snap. Reyes is a player who could also warrant some consideration at five technique and I am excited to see his movement skills in the drills on Monday to get a better feel for him as a prospect. Lastly, Mike Martin is a player with less versatility, but is an effective player in his own right who deserves consideration in the 3rd-4th round range as well. Martin is a relentless work horse, measuring in at 6’1 306 lbs. with 32 1/4′ arms. Martin is a player who won’t beat you consistently because he is not that type of athlete but slowly can wear you down over the course of a game. He’s extremely hard to sustain blocks on because of his rounded frame and thick upper body; and his persistent attitude and work ethic make him a menace to deal with from snap to snap. Martin is a classic over-achiever type athlete who should make his mark on the NFL as a solid rotational type defensive lineman early on in his career with the ability to become a starter later on down the road.

Combine Star(s): LSU DT/DE Michael Brockers, Mississippi St DT/DE Fletcher Cox, and Memphis DT Dontari Poe

Defensive Ends

Most to gain:

One of the players I am most excited to see in Indy this week is USC DE/OLB Nick Perry. Perry has bulked up and checked in to the combine at 6-3 271 lbs. with 33′ inch arms. It would seem to me that Perry wants to stay at defensive end in the NFL and has put on the extra weight to show his desire to stay at the position he played in college. With that said, Perry will still most certainly get looks at 3-4 OLB thanks to his impressive movement skills, and I actually think he has the versatility to be effective at both. I really appreciate Perry’s first step quickness up field and think he does a good job keeping defenders off of his body by displaying active and quick hands to slap away grabby offensive lineman. Watching Perry’s movements skills and ability to turn the corner and display some ankle and hip flexibility to dip his shoulder and turn the corner will tell us a lot about his upside as a pass rusher. In a class that lacks many quality pass rushers, Perry could be a real riser this week with a good performance…especially if he shows the ability to play in multiple schemes. Clemson DE/OLB Andre Branch Cliff Avril who was also a little raw and one-dimensional coming into the NFL but has since went on to become a pro-bowl level player. If Branch can showcase the bend, flexibility, and overall combination of pass-rushing skills he could sneak his way into the 1st round as an upside type player. The other pass rusher who is carrying some steam into the combine after a good performance at the Senior Bowl is Marshall DE Vinny Curry. Curry is a player who absolutely dominated at a lower-level school in Marshall setting numerous conference and team records for sacks for a career. Now, with his eyes set on the NFL, Curry must also demonstrate the ability to bend and get around the corner. Curry showed well at the Senior Bowl against some very good offensive lineman and could be one of the better steals/values if he makes it to the 2nd round. Expect Curry to start garnering first round consideration with a solid showing.

Most to prove/lose:

Nebraska DT/DE Jared Crick has not played football for months and it has been a while since we’ve seen him perform after suffering a season-ending torn pectoral muscle early on in the season. Before his injury Crick was seen as a future 1st round pick who had a good amount of potential. However, the injury he suffered put his future on hold for a little while but you can be sure Crick is ready to put the past behind him and showcase the type of skill-set that made him so highly regarded in the minds of nfl scouts at one time. Having checked in at 6-4 279 lbs, Crick will likely be a little small to play three technique but should be a good fit as a five technique player who has drawn comparisons to all-pro San Francisco 49er’s DE   If Crick checks out medically and looks the part in drills and tests he could re-establish his first round status prior to his season ending injury and sneak into the bottom half of the initial round. Another Big Ten defensive lineman who is in need of a solid performance at the combine is Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus is a very risky player, seeing as he only had one productive season at Illinois as he boost onto the scene with an astounding 16 sacks and 9 forced fumbles on the year. Many of these sacks however were not of the impressive variety as he seemed to accumulate many “garbage” sacks after his team-mates had done the dirty work by collapsing the pocket and forcing the quarterback to his area. When watching film of Mercilus it occurred to me that Mercilus lacked a quality burst/first-step while also lacking much of any variety in his pass rush arsenal. He lacked a quality counter and seemed to struggle finding the football as he didn’t always seem to show the type of ball awareness I like in an impact defensive end. With that said, he definitely deserves a long hard look as that type of production doesn’t completely happen by coincidence and there are many things to like about the way Mercilus plays. However, he will be up against it trying to justify that he isn’t a one-year wonder type player to scouts who seem to be unimpressed by him for the most part. The last player player that has a lot to prove this week is UNC DE Donte Paige-Moss who was once considered a high upside type player thanks to his impressive athleticism. However, this athleticism never seemed to culminate as Paige-Moss was actually benched in favor of a younger player because of his lack luster play this season. Paige-Moss will likely look pretty good in drills as well as showcase the type of athleticism that once made him a highly thought of prospect in the minds of scouts because of his immense upside. Paige-Moss will also need to qualm and make good on some of the post game comments he made after North Carolina’s season had ended, in which he essentially called out the coaching staff and threw his fellow team-mates under the bus. Paige-Moss has a long road ahead of him to once again become a draftable prospect in my mind.

Others to watch:

There are a plethora of players to keep an eye on tomorrow at this position but we will just focus on a few that I will have my personal eye on. First up is one of my favorite players in this draft and player I feel is flying a bit under the radar to this point. Tennessee DE Malik Jackson is a player who transferred to Tennessee from USC after the scandal involving Reggie Bush. At Tennessee Jackson played out of position at defensive tackle and is much better suited outside as a pass rusher standing ath 6’5 284 lbs. with 33 3/4′ inch arms. Jackson plays with solid technique and leverage overall and he has flashed as a pass rusher capable of reaching the corner when given the opportunity. Being a highly recruited athlete and player with immense potential due to his impressive physical stature, Jackson is a player many are currently sleeping on but he should open up some eyes tomorrow based on his skill-set so keep a close eye on him. The next two players are two guys looking to make the transition to outside linebacker in the NFL after having played defensive end throughout their college careers. Arkansas’s DE/OLB Jake Bequette is one of those players looking to make the transition after mainly playing with his hand in the dirt in college. Bequette has always been a player who has caught my attention and he really came on hot during the end of the Razorback season when he was able to collect eight of his ten sacks on the season in his last five games. Bequette doesn’t wow you with speed or athleticism but possesses a plus motor and is a relentless player who get’s after the quarterback and can force him to escape the pocket. Bequette will face a learning curve for his new position, so it could take some time but he is a good middle round prospect with upside. Another tweener type prospect is Virginia DE/OLB Cam Johnson who did well at last months Senior Bowl in the individual one on one drill sessions, showcasing very good quickness and ability to change directions effortlessly. Having measured in at 6’3 268 lbs. with 33 1/2′ inch arms, Johnson seems to be a player to consider at both defensive end and outside linebacker. His pass rushing skills entice me and I am excited to see how comfortable he is standing up and dropping back into coverage because I know he can get after the quarterback and cause havoc off the edge. One last player to keep your eye on is Syracuse DE Chandler Jones who has really picked up a head of steam after ESPN Draft Analyst Todd McShay has been touting him as a potential first round prospect and excellent value in the draft. I however do not personally see the same type of upside as McShay but do admit he does have a nice frame on which to build upon. Jones measured in at 6’5 266 lbs with 35′ 1/2 inch arms. A lot has been made about the lineage following Jones as he is the brother of UFC fighter and light heavy weight champion Jonny “Bones” Jones, while his other brother, Arthur Jones currently plays for the Baltimore Ravens as a 5th round pick from the 2010 NFL Draft. Having blood lines is great but I currently don’t see what all the infatuation is about to be perfectly honest. I see a player who is pretty raw and lacks much explosiveness to his overall game. His upside is nice but I wouldn’t currently touch him before the 3rd round personally, maybe tomorrow he will show me something I haven’t yet seen.

Combine Star(s): USC DE/OLB Nick Perry, Clemson DE/OLB Andre Branch, and Tennessee DE Malik Jackson

Outside Linebackers

Most to gain:

The player who may completely melt the track in Indy tomorrow with his performance in the 40 yard dash is North Carolina LB Zach Brown who has said he wants to run as fast as 4.3sin tomorrow’s marquee test. In fact, Brown is a player that should absolutely dazzle and leave mouths hanging in the annual “underwear olympics” that has become the NFL Combine. Fortunately for Brown, he is a player with incredible athleticism that will surely get some general managers in attendance enamored with his potential, however the tape tells a different story. Having done extensive film analysis of Brown I can tell you that he without out a doubt is a liability against the run and lacks the quality instincts to routinely get the most out of his physical talents. Right now, Brown is a much better athlete than football player and I wouldn’t personally touch him until the 2nd round because he plays so soft and seems to dis-like contact. This is not to say Brown cannot become a good football player as he definitely has the skills to be an effective blitzer and cover man, but he is currently not a three down linebacker. One would have hoped that Brown would have been able to adapt and learn the game by now but he seems to still be getting by on his athleticism which surely will not fly in the NFL. To me, Brown is a luxury pick that a team will undoubtedly jump on way too early based on his measurables and upside. From a height/weight/speed ration, Brown should excel in the NFL but my better judgement tells me he will vastly disappoint in the NFL. Perhaps my favorite player in this draft, who possesses quality instincts and recognition skills to make plays all over the field is Nebraska LB Lavonte David. David’s biggest knock has to do with his lack of ideal size, standing 6’1 233 lbs. However, David has put on 8-10 pounds since the Senior Bowl so it will be interesting to see how that affects his speed and athletic ability because he certainly has plenty to make plays all over the field, showcasing incredible range on film. David is quite simply is a gamer who ended up at Nebraska after spending his first two collegiate seasons at the junior college level before going on to set school records in just two seasons at a powerhouse program with great history and lineage at the linebacker position. David is incredibly smart and showcases very good football IQ and awareness to consistently find the football and unlike Zach Brown, he is much more physical and willing to get dirty and stick his nose in the trash and take on blocks/fill holes. David should impress in drills and will probably be a player that will shine in interviews as he is a bright kid he understands the game at an extremely high level. I have little doubt Lavonte David will be one of the bigger steals in this draft when he goes nearly a round later than he probably should, simply because he is a couple of inches too short and a few pounds too light….please! Another player who should wow scouts and general managers alike with his athleticism tomorrow is South Carolina DE/LB Melvin Ingram. Ingram enjoyed a great senior season for the Gamecocks this season while demonstrating his versatility to blitz the quarterback from multiple positions and angles. Ingram was highly impressive at the Senior Bowl last month as well, putting his explosion and athleticism on full display for those in attendance. Ingram is an interesting player because he is shorter than most would prefer at 6’1 264 lbs with just 31 1/2′ arms. Ingram has trimmed down about ten pounds since the Senior Bowl, likely because he wants to run a blazing 40 time so that might not be his actually playing weight in the NFL. Versatility will be key for Ingram in the NFL and I think he makes for an interesting pawn piece for a creative defensive coordinator who can line him up from all over the place and keep him rolling in waves from multiple angles/positions. Ingram will shine tomorrow and will almost assure you he will be a riser coming out of Indy. One last player to keep an eye on is Miami LB Sean Spence who is also undersized for the position at 5’11 231 lbs and is likely limited to weak side linebacker in a 4-3. With that said, I like Spence and think he will have a productive career in the NFL due to many of the same qualities I mentioned with Lavonte David. Spence is a reliable tackler who is an absolute missile, playing much bigger than his smallish frame would indicate. He comes downhill hard and can actually hit with a ferocious like mentality with good form and solid technique. He is also very quick and can cover a lot of ground while dropping into coverage. I will be watching closely to see what kind of ball skills both he and David have as they both seem to be comfortable in coverage.

Most to prove/lose:

One of the players that will be under close eye is West Virginia LB Bruce Irvin. Irvin is a player who had a very productive Junior season in which he accounted for 14 sacks, however he was completely out-of-place in the Moutaineers 3-3-5 defense in which Irvin was asked to play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end. Although he registered 8.5 sacks this season, Irvin didn’t show much in terms of a pass rushing repertoire as he tends to rely greatly on his up field speed and ability to just simply run past college offensive tackles. This however will not fly/work in the NFL and Bruce Irvin seems to be a situational type pass rusher who can come in a certain passing plays and get after the quarterback. Right now he is more of a “one trick pony” type pass rusher who needs to show more than sheer athleticism if he is to get drafted in the Top 100 of this years draft. Irvin is a player that comes from a rough background but has sworn to have moved on and learned from his past mistakes. Tomorrow is a big day for him and while I expect him to shine in drills and test, I don’t know how well it will translate at the next level. Another player with something to prove to scouts and general managers is Oklahoma LB Ronnell Lewis who has had off-field troubles and academic struggles that led to him being benched just this past season despite his explosive edge rushing ability and bone jarring hits. Maturity questions and medical issues regarding his recurring back problems are all issues that need to be addressed and cleared before taking a player like Lewis within the initial 50 selections of this draft. I love Lewis’s short area quickness and closing speed to get after the quarterback but this is a very risky player with plenty of red flags. If Lewis can dispel some of these things scouts will most certainly question, while performing well in drills and tests he should be a player on the rise leaving the combine.

Others to watch:

One player that has me particularly excited as far as upside and mid-late round sleeper type material is San Diego State LB Miles Burris. Burris is a player who I recently came across and found myself relatively impressed with his ability to read and react to plays while showcasing the type of athleticism, closing speed, and hustle/motor to be a special teams demon and potential starter down the road. Burris checked in at a strong 6’2 246 lbs. while also putting up 31 reps in the bench press. He is strong with a good head on his shoulders as he comes across as a very mature young man with big dreams of making it in the NFL. If I’m a general Manager this is the type of player I’m targeting in the 5th round range to come on my team and compete for a starting job as a developmental type linebacker with fantastic upside. The next list of players all have something to prove as they will likely play a different position in the NFL than they did in college and must show the type of ability to play in space and drop into coverage. These tweener type players include Pittsburgh’s DE/LB Brandon Lindsey, Troy’s Jonathon Massoquai, and Boise State DT/LB Shea Mclellin. All three of these players will be asked to work out of their element and move in space. If they can showcase fluid coordinated movement with good awareness skills it will greatly increase their stock and versatility to rush the quarterback and play in coverage which could do wonders for their appeal and draft stock. Oregon LB Josh Kaddu is a player some have labeled as a possible under-rated athlete capable of becoming a strong side linebacker thanks to his size and ability to match up with tight ends in coverage so pay close attention to him as well. Arkansas State LB Demario Davis is another under-rated athlete to keep an eye on as he is said to have the athleticism and measurables to look very good and test very well. Can’t say I have seen too much film on him personally but I know a few people who like him better than most as a potentially under the radar player.

Combine Star(s): UNC LB Zach Brown, South Carolina DE/LB Melvin Ingram, and West Virginia LB Bruce Irvin

Inside Linebackers

Most to gain:

In my view the entire inside linebacker crop is very week in general but there are a couple of players worth pointing out. The first is Boston College LB Luke Kuechly who probably isn’t a favorite to run or test all that well but he is most likely one of the safer picks in this draft. Kuechly will gain notoriety not only for his tape in which he shows great instincts and wonderful diagnosing ability, but for his mental intellect and football IQ in interviews with teams and coaches. There is probably not on other player who has a better understanding or feel for the game than Kuechly and while he may not wow you with his athleticism he more than makes up with it in how fast he is able to read his keys, process information, and diagnose the play. Kuechly is no slouch either and he truly has under-rated speed and range as he shows adequate but good enough burst and closing speed to make plays towards the sidelines. Kuechly is also an extremely gifted coverage player who shows the natural ability to read the quarterbacks eyes and make a play on the football. Kuechly is one of my favorite players in this entire draft and he should do well for himself and cement himself as a mid first round pick. The other linebacker I am excited to see at the combine tomorrow is Alabama LB Dont’a Hightower.

Most to lose/prove:

This honor most definitely has to go to the player with possibly the most questions regarding his talent, attitude, maturity and character than any other player in this entire draft. Vontaze Burfict is one of the most physically imposing players who will take the field in Indy but with him comes a barrage of red flags and character question marks. Burfict plays out of control and his aggressive nature has gotten him in trouble with both the referees and his out coaches. There is no doubting his physical skill-set but despite this I still see a player that really isn’t as much as a menacing force as he is made out to be. Sure he makes an occassional big hit but overall I question his ability to get off blocks, find the football (ball awareness) and break down in space and tackle as he tends to over-pursue and play out of control looking for the bone-jarring highlight reel hit instead of wrapping up. Burfict is the type of player that needs to go into the right situation with a veteran leader/locker room and a coaching staff that will hold him accountable for his actions, as he can and probably will get called for many penalties and fouls resulting in fines and possible suspensions. Burfict has many questions to answer and I already don’t like how he chose to answer a question presented to him regarding this past season where he more or less blamed it on the coaching staff and pointed the finger. To me that is a sign of immaturity and what was once a very promising player with a bright future looks to be a player on the decline with a lot to lose if he doesn’t get his act together and own up to everything like a man and shift all the blame on himself. USC LB Chris Galippo was once a heavily rated high school recruit with tons of potential before signing with the Trojans. However, injuries derailed Galippo’s development and he struggled to get/stay on the football field throughout his career, ultimately being replaced by a red shirt Freshman on the depth chart this past season. Despite this Galippo never once clamored for attention or blamed the coaching staff, but simply went about his work and contributed on special teams. He will now have to convince and answer to teams why this happened and how he thinks it made him a better football player, who deserves to be drafted in the later rounds. If Galippo can impress in interviews and show some of the athleticism he once possessed he could be the type of player who serves a special teams role and becomes a good depth/character guy.

Others to watch:

Two guys grab my attention who deserve to be mentioned here. First is NC State LB Audie Cole who despite not having awesome athleticism and range to make plays sideline to sidelines, he is a very disciplined player who understands how to read his keys and decipher plays. Cole is a nicely built player at 6’4 246 lbs. with what I like to call sneaky athleticism, as he actually shows some burst and closing speed to rush the passer and force them out of the pocket. Cole is a developmental guy I like and is a natural fit in a 3-4 defense where his size will allow him to take on blocks and shed on contact. Solid depth player and guy I consider anywhere after the 3rd round in this draft. The next guy I like is California’s LB Mychal Kendricks who is on the short side measuring in under six feet tall. Kendricks however has a stocky build and has some aspects of his game that remind you of another under-sized middle linebacker who went on to enjoy a very successful NFL career in London Fletcher. While that is likely the ceiling for Kendricks, this is a player that has a lot going for him and probably will make it in the NFL as a back-up spot-starter type player. He’s a downhill defender who is aggressive and takes sound angles to the football. He makes his reads quickly and understands how to hit and wrap-up upon contact. Kendricks does get engulfed by bigger blockers and he’s not the type of guy who can win in the phone booth but he can and will always give his best effort and it’s hard not to cheer for guys like that. Keep an eye on Kendricks as a guy who can also provide good depth with the small chance to become a starter later on down the road.

Combine Star(s): Boston College LB Luke Kuechly & Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict

-Thanks for reading, I will be adding a secondary preview to this write-up tomorrow…hope you enjoyed!

-Brandon-

Quarterbacks

Most to gain:

I think there are two players who have a lot to prove, and potentially a lot to gain with their performances this weekend at the annual NFL Scouting Combine in regards to the quarterback position but I will choose to focus on one here. Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler is perhaps the one player with the most advantageous opportunity of them all. Osweiller is incredibly tall and big at 6’6 240 lbs and is one of the biggest benefactors from Ryan Tannehill not throwing due to an injury, as well as the potential that both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin may also choose to wait until their respective pro-days to put on a show for scouts. This leaves the door wide open for a player like Osweiler to shine and make the most out of his opportunity. Osweiler is an incredible athlete and should test well as he shows above average movement skills for a man of his stature. Now, Osweiler does have an unorthodox throwing motion and release that some have claimed to be “erratic”, however scouts will have to decipher whether this will limit him, or if it is un-fixable, or is simply a case of a player who can still produce despite it…a la Phillip Rivers. If Osweiler can show up in the interviews and display the type of mental intelligence and football IQ ,as well as display the type of accuracy and arm strength to make all the throws in the NFL he could send his stock soaring into the 1st round. The other quarterback with a ripe opportunity to dazzle scouts with his on and off-field performances is Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden who has the type of arm talent to excite those in attendance looking for a potential franchise quarterback.

Most to prove/lose:

I think you can also make a case that Osweiler name belongs in this section as well as he could easily falter and lose some of the steam he currently has going for him. Osweiler has incredible potential but with that also comes incredible risk. There is no doubt Brock should have stayed at least another year in college as I proclaimed him to have one of the brightest futures in college football earlier this season.  Coaching changes ultimately lead to Osweiler declaring early and there is no doubt in my mind he should have stayed and continued to develop. However, having chose otherwise Osweiler must now focus on what it is he has to do to prove he is worthy of a high selection in the upcoming draft. I love Osweiler’s athleticism and he possesses unique size for the position, however he is still incredibly raw. I’m not quite sure if Osweiler has a firm grasp on coverages and making reads against NFL type defenses yet, which will surely set him back. Osweiler is definitely a candidate to have sit and learn for a few years before throwing him into the fire but that will all depend on who selects him and where they chose to do it. There is no doubt Osweiler is one of the bigger names to follow this weekend and his performance will be closely scrutinized and evaluated under the watchful eyes of NFL scouts and General Managers alike.

Others to watch:

As with any draft there a myriad of other quarterbacks to also keep a close eye on this weekend. Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson are two players who both should get some good long looks due to their incredible leadership and passion for the game. Each are very efficient passers who may not have elite measurables but get by on sheer heart and determination. Cousins doesn’t have the big arm of some other highly touted quarterbacks but he has a plethora of starting experience and a unique ability to put the ball where only his man can get it. Cousins is also a natural-born leader with and infectious personality that should grab the attention of decision makers in interviews. Wilson on the other hand is way undersized at 5’11 but shows under-rated arm strength and unique leadership abilities as well. He joined a Badgers football team very late in the pre-season and managed to take them to the next step and earn a chance to play in their second consecutive Rose Bowl where they eventually lost to Oregon. Both Cousins and Wilson should do extremely well in interviews as the both bring a professional attitude with a deep understanding of the game. Although they may not shine on the field don’t discount what is going on behind the scenes, where players like Wilson and Cousins will each earn their followers. One last player I would like to mention in this section is San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley. Lindley is a player who has peaked my interest lately after some film study. There is no doubting he is raw as his footwork needs a ton of work. He struggles to set and re-set his feet in the pocket and has an unbelievably choppy drop back and doesn’t quite know how to transfer his weight and step into his throws quite yet. With that said, Lindley does have exceptional arm strength and although his college completion percentage is nothing to write home about he makes a few “Wow” throws that really grab your attention and get you excited about his potential. With Lindley I see a player with a good amount of upside, who if developed correctly and patiently has a chance to start in this league later on down the road.

Combine Star(s): Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler & Oklahoma QB Brandon Weeden

Running Backs

Most to Gain:

Miami RB Lamar Miller has seen his draft stock fall some recently after expressing to the media that he would have off-season shoulder surgery. However, rumored to be participating fully in the NFL Combine should help Miller gain some of the momentum back in his favor. Miller is extremely fast and shows the type of suddenness and bust to quickly change gears and get up field. Lamar should shine in the 40 yard dash and put up a very respectable 10 yard split, which is vastly important to running backs at is shows their ability to get up to top end speed quickly and press the line of scrimmage. I love Miller’s inside running ability as well as he shows nice patience and vision in following his blocks and although he doesn’t have the lower body type strength or build to consistently run through arm tackles he certainly isn’t no slouch either who avoids taking hits and fighting for extra yards. Miller is in a dog fight with Virginia Tech’s David Wilson who should also shine athletically in drills, however I prefer Miller because he has the type of vision and patience that Wilson is currently lacking to his overall game.

Most to prove/lose:

Washington RB Chris Polk had an otherwise disappointing performance at the Senior Bowl last month as his body looked sloppy and he lacked the type of burst and acceleration through the hole to get scouts excited about his potential. Having said to have trimmed down and gotten in better shape for the Combine, Polk is looking to rebound and get his name back into the elite group of running backs in this draft class. There is no doubting Polk’s ability to run between the tackles and pick up those hard-earned yards but I personally don’t see a back that is going to turn many heads or outshine the competition, especially in a group of running backs who almost all show an explosive element to their game. I am doubting Chris Polk, and although I do believe he has the ability to be part of a nice running back by committee type approach in the NFL as a #2, I don’t quite yet see a running back who I can call a Top 5 talent at his position…I hope he proves me and others wrong this weekend with a good performance.

Others to watch:

Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead is a player who has grown on me as of recently. Pead enjoyed a stellar performance at the Senior Bowl and really caught the attention of scouts who went scurrying back to the tape to see if they may have missed something. When I went back to the tape I saw a player with incredible vision and cut-back ability. Pead is explosive and has the unique ability to plant and go, showing the skill to make one cut up into the hole and burst into the 2nd level of the defense. Pead also has tremendous feet and follows/reads his blocks well.  He can make you miss in space and always fights for extra yards…to me his a better version of Reggie Bush and even reminds me some of Philadelphia Eagles RB Lesean McCoy, which is high praise. I know that I am in the minority here but I see a solid 2nd round player when I look at Pead, who can definitely come in and help out in both the run and pass game as he is an excellent receiver out of the backfield as well. I am excited to see what he measures in at the combine as I was somewhat disappointed with his slight measurements at the Senior Bowl when he came in at 5’9 193 lbs.  Pead has the opportunity to put on a show this week and I have little doubt that he will dazzle in on field drills and agility/speed tests. Another player I want to quickly mention is Temple RB Bernard Pierce who has also caught my attention for the better on film. Pierce is not your classic burner type running back who can make the home-run play and take it the distance but he is very effective between the hashes and displays a little bit of wiggle and acceleration to make some plays out on the boundary. Perhaps the thing I love most about Pierce as a runner is his vision and ability to slip through tiny creases, always picking up positive yardage. Pierce is physical and can help your team pick up the first down and consistently move the chains. To me he is a #2 back that can wear down a defense over the course of a game and should enjoy a long career as a productive player in the NFL. One of the safer picks in this draft, Pierce would present tremendous value in the 3rd round and although he may not dazzle in workouts with his performance he will be one of the better running backs to come out of this draft when we look back 3-4 years down the road.  One last player who deserves a quick note is Florida RB/WR Chris Rainey. Rainey is a track star who should electrify and set the 40 yard dash on fire this year as I could see him running the 4.2’s. His quickness, acceleration, burst, and speed will be on full display in Indy. Currently I give Rainey a 4th round grade as he is more of a luxury type player at this point who is a bit of a tweener. He’s raw as a wide receiver but he has the ability to stretch the field vertically and open up your passing offense underneath. I’m not sure he will ever be a true threat at wide receiver or running back but he adds a nice little wrinkle to your offense if you can get him in space, showing a little Devin Hester to his game. With a solid showing in the 40, Rainey could sneak his way into the Top 100 overall and eat at the minds of giddy offensive coordinators who see a player with dynamic ability.

Combine Star(s): Miami RB Lamar Miller & Cincinnati RB Isaiah Pead

Wide Receivers

Most to gain: 

Two players who should shine in Indy this week were actually team-mates. Arkansas WR’s Joe Adams and Jarius Wright have exceptional talent and upside, as both possess the explosiveness and short-area quickness to be dynamic slot-type receivers. Adams has the added benefit of being a excellent punt returner which will only increase his value and worth in the minds of NFL teams. Getting Adams the ball in space, much like Rainey who we discussed before is a must as he can turn nothing into something with just a little room. Wright on the other hand is a vertical threat who can stretch the defense and hit on a deep bomb from time to time. I love the way he adjusts to the throw and I think he has the potential to become a very good slot wide receiver in the NFL and is getting somewhat overlooked as of right now. This will most certainly change after his performance as he definitely warrants early-mid Day 2 consideration. Both have incredible agility and foot speed and will likely put up some very impressive numbers in the various tests. Adams is said to have had or be scheduled to meet with all 32 teams, which should tell you just how interested team’s are in his services. Another player who is sure to light up the stop watches and turn some heads is a little more well-known in the minds of scouts and draft geeks alike because he is almost surely a 1st round pick at this point, and that player is Baylor’s Kendall Wright. Wright is a highly explosive athlete who can make plays at all levels of the field. He has been slowly moving up draft boards this entire season and may even be working his way into Justin Blackmon territory. With a solid showing Wright will have ensured himself as a 1st rounder and potentially the 2nd receiver off the board come April, which I fully expect him to do.

Most to prove/lose:

Perhaps no player in this Combine has more to lose than South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery who has come under fire for his lack of deep speed and suspected inability to create separation at the next level. He has also been rumored to have a somewhat poor work ethic as rumors have surfaced about his playing weight and relatively slow 40 time. There is no doubting Jeffery’s god-given abilities as he is an exceptionally strong and big-boddied receiver who can simply out box and out muscle defenders for the football. He uses his big frame to shield defenders from the ball well and can out jump nearly anybody thanks to his impressive wing span and catching radius. With that said, Jeffrey lacks a lot to be desired in terms of his ability to get in and out of his breaks cleanly as it seems nearly every pass he receives will likely be contested or caught in traffic/tight coverage. Jeffrey seems to have build up speed and may lack the explosion off the line to create much to any separation at the next level. He will need a 40 time in the 4.5-4.6 range to dispel any of this as I would think this to be a respectable number for him to achieve given his size and natural receiving ability. However, anything lower than 4.7 could spell an ugly turn out for Jeffrey who has a lot to prove this week in Indy if he is to shed the label of “possession wide receiver” and comparisons he has garnered in relation to former Detroit Lions bust Mike Williams. Other players in a similar situation as Jeffrey include Rutgers Mohamed Sanu Wisconsin’s Nick Toon. Sanu is one of my personal favorites in this draft, however scouts have also questioned his ability to consistently create separation as well. The thing with Sanu is that he was asked to line up in the slot position at Rutgers and despite otherwise shaky quarterback play and defenses geared and keyed in on stopping Sanu, he still was able to haul in a Big East record-breaking 115 receptions on the year. To me this is highly impressive, but Sanu will still likely have to run in the 4.5 range to dispel any myths about his deep speed and inability to create separation at the next level. Watching film it is easy to see that Sanu is extremely physical and strong at the catch point as he shows natural hands and the ability to make the hard catch look easy, in traffic nonetheless. My impression of Sanu is that he is simply a football player who should be a 1st round pick even if he does run in the 4.6 range. I’m excited to see how he does this weekend and will be keeping a close eye on him throughout the entire draft process because I think he is special. Toon on the other hand has more than just deep speed and separation issues to discount as he also battled through injuries for much of his career and questions have arisen about his durability and ability to stay healthy. Medical tests and testing times will loom large in where Toon will wind up in this years draft. One last player to keep an eye on from the wide receiver position is North Carolina WR Dwight Jones. Jones has always struck me as a player who lacks concentration issues and struggles to catch the ball in traffic. His physical abilities are impressive, but I just don’t see enough consistency with him to this point. The drill I am most excited to see Jones perform in will be the gauntlet drill, where receivers are asked to run in a straight line horizontally across the field and catch passes coming from there left and right. The drill exposes concentration and hand-eye coordination issues as well as the ability for a wide receiver to shake off a dropped pass and not get frustrated and off his game. Both Jones and Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller are two players I expect to struggle in this drill, as it truly one of my favorite and most valuable/effective drills in the entire combine for any position.

Others to watch: 

There are a host of other players to watch closely but one player who may fly up draft boards due to his size/speed combination is Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill. Hill is a player with freakish size at 6’5 200+. Playing in Georgia Tech’s limited passing game offense certainly limited Hill’s ability to make much of an impact as he failed to put up attention grabbing numbers other than his astounding average yard per catch ratio of 25.4, which speaks volumes to his big play making ability and ability to stretch the field vertically. If Hill can run in the 4.4’s watch out and expect him to go much higher than where his is currently projected based on upside alone. I haven’t been able to find or view much film to this point but certainly will be soon. Another guy to most certainly keep an eye on is Brian Quick out of Appalachian State. Quick has huge hands and an even bigger catching radius. He is extremely raw as was seen by his less than stellar showing at the Senior Bowl, however the upside is most definitely there with Brian. If he can harness his potential and bounce back from the shaky performance he had in Mobile he could be one to climb draft boards and go a lot higher than most people currently think. This wide receiver class is so deep so I will only quickly mention a few more. Notre Dame’s Michalel Floyd, Arizona State’s Juron Criner and California’s Marvin Jones are also players you will want to watch closely. Floyd is a potential Top 20 pick thanks to his impressive catching/ball skills and ability to win at many levels of the field. I am interested to see more on his route running ability and will be watching closely to see how efficiently and quickly he gets in and out of his breaks. If he tests well and does well in team interviews to dispel some of his issues in the past Floyd could easily wind up being the 2nd receiver taken. Criner is another one of my favorites as he doesn’t show elite athleticism and isn’t particularly flashy but simply competes and wins on most occasions. He has incredible body control and knows how to run routes effectively to create separation despite his lack of great speed or agility. He also has incredible hands and concentration, catching nearly anything and everything thrown his way. Jones is a player who flashed all week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl and after subsequent evaluation he seems to be a player with a good amount of skills to translate into the NFL. Jones is sneaky fast, a competitor, awesome team-mate and all around great human being. Like Criner he isn’t going to wow you in any one area, but the dude simply competes and knows how to perform the role being asked of him. He will make an impact in the NFL and be a productive player and even better locker room guy for one luck team.

Combine Star(s) Arkansas WR’s Joe Adams & Jarius Wright, Baylor WR Kendall Wright, & Georgia WR Stephen Hill

Tight Ends

Most to gain:

Georgia TE Orson Charles is expected to put his athleticism in full display in front of NFL scouts and general managers. Charles is dynamically sound and balanced athlete who definitely looks the part and carries his weight extremely well. Charles is currently in a battle with Stanford’s Coby Fleener and Clemson’s Dwayne Allen to be the first player selected at his position. Charles will be showcasing all of his skills on the grand stage and should show off wide receiver type skills in a tight end type body, which the NFL currently craves. Offensive coordinators everywhere are looking for these tight end/wide receiver hybrid type players and Charles should have no trouble opening up some eyes and getting these NFL decision makers excited due to his athleticism and solid hands. Now that Coby Fleener has decided not to participate due to an injury the door is wide open for a player like Charles to shine and put on a show, my guess is that he will not disappoint. The other tight end to keep an eye on is Lousiana-Lafayette TE Ladarius Green. Green is a sneaky smooth athlete who understands how to create separation while possessing an extremely reliable pair of hands. Green officially measured in at 6’3 today, where he had been listed as tall as 6’6 in other outlets/publications. This will definitely affect Green negatively as his length and height were one the biggest strengths he had going for him, but nonetheless he should perform admirably and could make his way into the initial 100 selections with a solid performance.

Most to prove/lose:

The player I am excited to see at the tight end position is Missouri’s Michael Egnew. Scouts and evaluators seem split on how effective they believe he can be at the next level, and I must admit I have been rather back and forth myself. I love his size at 6’5 250 but he doesn’t always show the type of aggressiveness and physicality to hold up as an in-line blocker as he seems to lack some strength and technique. I also don’t know if he has quite enough speed to stretch the field and work the seam routes down the middle of the field. Egnew is a player  I want to like but he definitely has to show me something this weekend. I want to see a physical temperament and player that moves fluidly and suddenly in space. Egnew’s bench press numbers and performance in explosive tests will be big in regards to where many will project him to go.

Others to watch:

A couple of other players to watch at the position are LSU TE Deangelo Peterson and Florida State TE Beau Reliford. Some people may not have heard much or know much about these two prospects but both Peterson and Reliford are two players who could carry some forward momentum and create some buzz going into their pro-days. Peterson wasn’t used much at LSU because of the lack of quarterback play and emphasis in the running game but his performance last month at the Senior Bowl has made some believe he can be one of those players who has a much better NFL than college career for one reason or another. Reliford on the other hand is probably a player many are not too familiar with but is a player who caught my eye last season at one point when scouting former Seminole QB Christian Ponder. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch much film on Reliford this season but being that he has good size at 6’5 250 and was a former basketball standout he could grab some attention as a potential sleeper and development player to grab later in the draft. Also keep an eye on both Oregon TE David Paulson

Combine Star(s): Georgia TE Orson Charles

-Thanks for reading. I will have the Offensive Lineman posted later as well as a defensive preview in the coming days!-

– Brandon

These rankings include players that fit both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense. This is a preliminary ranking and players could move up or down based on off-season performances and both on and off-field characteristics that may come to light between now and draft day. Rankings currently reflect the Top 25 but I hope to add to this list as we go through the NFL Draft process. For now this is where I currently rank each player, enjoy!

Rank Position Player Name School Height Weight Year Projected Round
1 DE Quinton Coples North Carolina 6’5 281 Senior Round 1
2 DE Michael Brockers LSU 6’5 305 Sophomore Round 1
3 DE Melvin Ingram South Carolina 6’1 276 Senior Round 1
4 DE Fletcher Cox Mississippi State 6’4 295 Junior Round 1
5 DE Nick Perry USC 6’3 250 Junior Round 1-2
6 DE Andre Branch Clemson 6’4 260 Senior Round 1-2
7 DE Vinny Curry Marshall 6’3 265 Senior Round 2
8 DE Jared Crick Nebraska 6’4 285 Senior Round 2
9 DE Malik Jackson Tennessee 6’4 285 Senior Round 2
10 DE Whitney Mercilus Illinois 6’4 265 Junior Round 2
11 DE Cam Johnson Virginia 6’3 270 Senior Round 3
12 DE Derek Wolfe Cincinnati 6’5 286 Senior Round 3
13 DE Chandler Jones Syracuse 6’4 265 Junior Round 3
14 DE Billy Winn Boise State 6’3 295 Senior Round 3
15 DE Trevor Guyton Arizona State 6’2 280 Senior Round 3-4
16 DE Tyrone Crawford Boise State 6’4 285 Senior Round 4
17 DE Jake Bequette Arkansas 6’4 264 Senior Round 4
18 DE Brett Roy Nevada 6’3 275 Senior Round 4-5
19 DE Jack Crawford Penn State 6’4 268 Senior Round 5
20 DE Jaye Howard Florida 6’2 305 Senior Round 5
21 DE Oliver Vernon Miami 6’3 265 Junior Round 5
22 DE Julian Miller West Virginia 6’4 268 Senior Round 5-6
23 DE Frank Alexander Oklahoma 6’3 255 Senior Round 5
24 DE Logan Harrell Fresno State 6’2 276 Senior Round 5-6
25 DE Kentrell Lockett Ole Miss 6’5 248 Senior Round 6

I know this is a day late but like they say, “better late than never”…let’s get into who/what caught my attention.

-Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden is the best quarterback down in Mobile this week and he has improved his stock greatly for his play. I have been impressed how well he has adapted to the pro-style offense as his footwork on his 3 and 5 foot drops look pretty crisp, and he is showing nice timing with his receivers. He’s not looking uncomfortable or overwhelmed at all, which was something that had potentially concerned me with leading up to the week. Weeden’s arm strength isn’t elite but it is good enough and he is showing good torque to drive the ball into tight windows. His balance when he drops back has also been impressive and he is proving to clear up many of the concerns I had with him leading into the week, including anticipation. Weeden still has questions to answer because of his age and whether he can come in and compete right away or needs further development and time, but this week has been a good step in the right direction for him.

Louisiana Tech RB Lennon Creer was a late add to the Senior Bowl after enjoying a successful week at the East-West Shrine Game. Creer has continued that momentum and parlayed that into another solid showing here this week. A former Tennessee Volunteer, Creer has always possessed a unique blend of talent to garner division one interest but he ultimately left and transferred to Louisiana Tech. Creer has pressed the line of scrimmage well and is showing some natural burst and lateral movement skills. I am excited to see how well he does in the game Saturday, but there is no doubt he has turned some heads and caught the attention of coach’s and scouts with his play the past two weeks.

-Florida WR/RB Chris Rainey has proved to be a very dynamic and versatile player all week. He has taken a lot of reps at Wide Receiver and while his routes have been a bit raw, his pure speed and quickness has been overwhelming for some Cornerbacks to keep up with. Speed kills in the NFL and Rainey definitely has it, which could get him drafted in the Top 100 because he is such a weapon in the return and passing game. The Dexter McCluster comparison definitely fits and Rainey is more of a luxury player who if you can get him his touches he could be a very viable and valuable weapon.

-Arkansas WR Joe Adams may not be as fast as Chris Rainey but he is a better Wide Receiver overall and is displaying some impressive traits. His foot speed and short area quickness are two of the things that make him such a nightmare to defend for an extended period of time and make him one of the best returners in this entire draft. He has also done a good job adjusting to the football and I really appreciate/like his overall skill-set as I think he can be a bit like an Antonio Brown or Randall Cobb in your offense and special teams unit.

-Arizona WR Juron Criner has opened up a lot of eyes this week with his play. Criner has displayed very solid hands even coming down with what had to be the catch of the week so far during Tuesday’s practice session. While he is not overly sudden or necessarily explosive in and out of his breaks he does a great job with body control and spacial awareness, which allows him to come down with the catch even in tight coverage. Criner is one of those interesting players I am excited to go do more film work on because of his performance.

-Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller has been extremely disappointing this week and looks like a shell of his former self. His lack of physicality has been exposed and he has a very tough time creating much of any sort of separation due to his lack of any quality burst or speed in and out of his routes. Fuller has also struggled to get his head around quickly enough to locate the ball and his concentration and hand-eye coordination has been lacking overall as he has failed to haul in some passes this week. Fuller reminds me of a poor man’s Roy Williams which isn’t saying a lot for him…his draft stock has dropped more than any other player from this year to last.

-North Carolina WR Dwight Jones has not impressed me this week. He struggled mightily with press coverage and failed to show the type of foot quickness and agility to create separation. He also got a bit upright and failed to drop his pad level when re-directed. I haven’t liked his level of physicality nor his attitude to compete at this point and while I admit he has loads of upside, he just hasn’t showed me enough to consider him in the 1st round as some have mentioned him in. Jones is more of a 2nd-3rd round WR for me at this point.

-Illinois OT Jeff Allen was a late replacement as well and has done a good job competing on short notice. A tackle for Illinois, Jeff Allen alternated between both the right and left side all season for the fighting Illini. His versatility had also been key for him here this week as he took snaps at guard and held his own for the most part. He is not overly athletic or long like some of the other highly touted offensive lineman prospects but don’t get it twisted Allen can play in the NFL. Allen plays with solid leverage and technique overall and can handle the bull rush by playing with a nice wide base and good inside hand positioning. His anchoring skills make him a soid fit to play at right tackle or guard in the NFL and I like him as a mid-round steal.

-Baylor C Phillip Blake has also caught my attention this week. Playing with players like RG3 and Kendall Wright it is very hard to notice a player like Blake on the line but he has held his own very well in 1 on 1’s. Blake is a thickly built player who neutralizes the bull rush and knows how to re-direct when beaten initially. He has quietly enjoyed a great week and will be getting extra looks on film from me and I am sure a handful of other scouts.

-Georgia OT/OG Cordy Glenn…or the “Dancing Bear: as I like to call him was the most impressive player for me today on either squad. He has nimble feet and displays nice quickness to get into his sets off the snap. His movement skills for a man who nearly weighs 350 lbs. is extremely rare and had me smiling and shaking my head at one point during team drills. On a toss sweep to the left Glenn pulled and fired out of his stance, getting out in front to pick up an attacking linebacker with great tenacity and aggressiveness. I was astonished at how well he moved and quickly he got up to speed to hit a moving target in space. Glenn also matched up very well with some of the best pass-rushers in Mobile this week in Upshaw, Coples, and Ingram and consistently held his own against these caliber players. Glenn is a long, strong, and surprisingly athletic big man who will be a very good offensive lineman in the NFL, who can start immediately. I was so impressed I haven’t ruled out the possibility of him staying at Left Tackle quite yet, but if that doesn’t work out he should be versatile enough to play Right Tackle or kick inside to Guard. I can’t wait to disect more film on this fine player, he is a real riser this week for me.

-Florida State OT Zebrie Sanders on the other hand struggled all week and really unimpressed me. He was consistently off-balance, dropping his head and bending at the waist, giving up ground to defenders all week. Granted he was lining up with some of the best defensive lineman in Mobile all week, he will face that caliber of competition on a week to week basis in the NFL. He lunged and got over-extended regularly and consistently failed to find his fit inside his man’s numbers. This was a big opportunity and week for Sanders to show what he is capable of but he failed to impress on a multitude of levels. I no longer see him as a potential first round pick and could fall out of the Top 50 overall completely with his poor showing.

-North Carolina DL Quinton Coples once again flashed his powerful and explosive nature by disengaging with relative ease on a consistent basis. As has been noted his get-off is nowhere near elite but he is just simply a sound and solid football player. I don’t think he warrants Top 10 talent but I would be shocked to see him fall out of the Top 15 overall at this point.

-South Carolina DL Melvin Ingram is probably the third best player on the South’s impressive defensive line after Upshaw and Coples. However, what makes Ingram special is his incredible quickness and athleticism as he does a great job of setting up his man and keeping them off-balance. His quick-twitch athleticism allows him to strike at a moment’s notice and his movements are extremely sudden and hard to mirror for opponents. Ingram is still developing in the handwork department and could do a better job turning his power to speed, but this a solid and versatile player who can make an impact immediately from multiple angles and positions along the defensive front….I like to call him the “Flying Torpedo”

-Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw has been the most impressive player in Mobile this week and while his lack of great height and sheer get-off may not be elite, Upshaw is a very fine player who has Top 10 talent in my opinion. No one player here can mix up his pass rush moves with speed and power better than Upshaw. He has extremely strong hands and plays with great leverage by consistently locking out and extending his elbows, being able to shed through contact. I really like Upshaw as a prospect and will be moving him up on my Big Board because of his consistent performances…I expect a big game from him Saturday.

-LB Zach Brown North Carolina has been flying around all over this entire week displaying his incredible range and athleticism..there’s a chance he could run as high as 4.4 in the 40 at the Combine. However, this doesn’t dis-warrant my notion that Brown is a better athlete than football at this point. I just don’t see his ability to make much of an impact in the run game and think he will be a liability in this area because of his average instincts and lack of physicality, as I’m not sure he enjoys contact. Brown will get over-drafted because of his great athleticism and while that is great because it makes him a great coverage player, I do not think he is a 3-down linebacker yet and prefer Lavonte David to him if I was an NFL Executive.

-Miami LB Sean Spence is another player turning heads and opening up eyes here this week. His physical demeanor and incredible instincts and ability to fly to the football is incredibly enticing despite his size (5-11 228 lbs.). Spence is another guy who was just a few inches taller we would be talking about a first round pick. Spence is one of my favorite linebackers in this draft despite his size…you just can’t teach attitude and physicality as it is something you have or don’t have, which Spence definitely does. 2nd-3rd round pick for me and solid player.

-Louisianna-Lafayette DB Dwight Bentley has intrigued me and others plenty with his play this week. Coming into the week I had heard he was a potential sleeper but never was I expecting him to be this good. He competed early and often and showed the ability to mirror his opponents and stay in their hip pockets with great consistency. His footwork and balance was good and he showed the ability to click and close on the football with good acceleration to a point rather than his man. I need to do more film work if I can find any on Bentley but he is the small schooler who got me most excited this week.

-Georgia DB Brandon Boykin has also been very impressive. His lack of height (5-9) and size (183 lbs.) will likely limit him a little, however this is one of the better slot/nickel corners available in this year’s draft. His footwork and short area quickness is very good and he competed hard on every rep from what I was able to see. The South squad has a lot of talented players in the secondary and Boykin is one of many who impressed this week. I’m giving him a solid 2nd round grade because of his coverage ability and for the fact that he can help you out in the return game.

-DB Casey Hayward Vanderbilt had an up and down week but was solid overall. His coverage was tight although he did struggle with foot speed at times. His punch/jam at the line is very good but I need to see him be a little less physical down the field as he got a little grabby well into the receiver’s routes..these things will draw P.I’s in the NFL. Nevertheless he seems to have very good ball skills evidenced by his 15 career interceptions and always seems to be around the football. I like him in the late 2nd early 3rd round range and think his best fit lies in a Cover 2 scheme.

-Last but certainly not least was North Alabama DB Janoris Jenkins who impressed greatly this week and showcased the skills that made him so effective against top SEC talent at Florida last year. He flips his hips so quickly and efficiently and can turn and run with receivers. He tends to gamble a little here and there by squatting on routes and stopping his feet, but overall he has been plenty impressive…just trying to make the big play instead of relying on his technique. He reminds me a lot of Asante Samuel and could be making a claim to be the 2nd CB taken after Morris Clairborne.

-Thanks for reading…sorry I was unable to get it out sooner.-

-Brandon

Gonna do this a bit different today since I am a bit crammed on time, so I will just give a brief synopsis on things I noticed and caught my attention/eye. These are straight from my notes and I am sorry they are not as organized as usual.

– NC State LB Audie Cole impressed and surprised me a little today with his ability to turn and run with RB Doug Martin on a wheel route down the sidelines. I haven’t watched much film on Cole but one of the first things I remember noting was his lack of athleticism, which made me wonder if he had the ability to play sideline to sideline. Never did I think he had that much range so it seems I now need to go back and do additional work…I have been hearing good things about him all week.

– As I noted yesterday and have said repeatedly, I don’t care if LB Lavonte David (Nebraska) is undersized or not…kid can flat out play football. Early on he did give up inside positioning on 1 on 1 routes against the RB’s but overall I love his range and athleticism. David’s a kid who can play sideline to sideline and can cover a lot of ground while showing the added ability to make plays inside or outside the hash marks. This versatility to make plays against both the run and pass is extremely valuable and one of the reasons why he is my top weakside linebacker prospect. He also did a great job coming up and scrapping the edge in team, while also showing more strength and power at the point of attack than you would think given his lack of ideal size. David is a player on the rise and I am so happy to see him doing so well for himself down in Mobile because this kid really does have a chance to be a special player in the NFL, who can help you out in many ways.

– Bobby Wagner (Utah State) is said to also be having a solid week overall and creating some buzz. He has looked very good in blitz and coverage drills, putting his athletic ability on full display for scouts. He absolutely shut down Chris Polk during 1 on 1 passing drills and definitely looked the part, displaying fluidity and aggressiveness in coverage. One issue I did have when evaluating Wagner however was his ability to read and react (instincts). He seemed one step late and didn’t really trust his eyes and attack downhill like I prefer, so this is something I will be looking for in the game. There is no doubting this kid has talent and is helping himself down here this week however and I am excited to watch more of him.

– The other guy who has flashed for me all week and during film study is Virginia’s DE/LB Cam Johnson. I’m not quite sure where I like him quite yet…4-3 rush end or 3-4 OLB but I am hoping more film study will answer this question, there is a possibility he could appeal to both and that would certainly increase he stock tremendously. Johnson has been so quick off the ball and in his pass rush movements that offensive lineman have struggled to even get a hand on him at times. He absolutely ran right past big OT Mike Adams and burned Keleche Osemele yesterday with a great up and under move and these are two of the players with the biggest wingspans down in Mobile! His ability to change directions seamlessly is something that will give him a big edge to set up his man and keep them off balanced. He definitely has pass rush tools and skills, now I just need to figure out if he can defend against the run. Johnson is a player to watch, could be a big time sleeper.

RB Doug Martin (Boise State) was extremely impressive again today. He looked so natural catching balls out of the backfield and showcased the same burst and acceleration through the hole that makes him so good. He is also a balanced runner whose versatility will make him a weapon in his 1st year. I really like Martin and am particularly high on him…moreso than other draft analysts are and he may even crack my Top 3 with the kind of week he has had.

-Cincinnati’s RB Issiah Pead looked very natural out of the backfield and is proving to be an elusive runner. His lack of size and bulk for the position concerns me but he is a player who can make an impact as a solid third down back in his rookie season.

-Dan Herron is showing a nice overall skill set and his burst and athleticism isn’t great but it isn’t bad either. Herron is proving to be a jack of all trades kind of back who won’t wow you but can be productive and effective. More of a mid-round player at this point.

-Washington RB Chris Polk’s lack of burst has been a big concern all week but I feel he will have a much better showing in the game on Saturday when he is allowed to show off his aggressive running style. Polk’s upside is limited but he is a solid back overall. He probably won’t go in the 1st round at this point but can be a good rotational back for a team who can wear down the defense slowly over the course of the game….he’s more suited to a running back by committee type team.

-Wisconsin QB Russel Wilson has something special about him. He has a calming, confidence, presence, and aurora about him that inspires and focuses his team in the huddle…he appears to have that “It” factor we’re all looking for. Wilson struggled a little with snaps under center but that has been a recurring theme on the North squad all week and something that needs to be cleaned up before Saturday. He needs to stay in there and take the snap…got a little ahead of himself at times today. However he threw the ball pretty well and displayed patience and good decision-making skills overall. One of his throws was from outside the pocket where he displayed good velocity and ability to drive the ball between defenders into a tight window. I can’t wait to see how he handles the pressure coming up front from the South’s talented defensive line with players like Coples, Ingram, and Upshaw.

-Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins also flashed for me a little bit today. He has top-notch intangibles and displayed the same cool/calm demeanor in the huddle that is so encouraging to see from a young signal caller. Cousins did a great job squaring and getting his body into position using his feet to make throws to his left or right with accuracy. In team he flashed great pocket precesnce by stepping up to avoid the rush, before delivering a nice touch pass to Marvin Mcnutt over the top of a linebacker. Cousins is having a good week overall and he and Wilson are competing very closely…it will be interesting to see who gets the start for the North squad on Saturday.

– Kellen Moore (Boise State) continues to struggle this week. He seems to be aiming the football and does not look comfortable what so ever. Moore seems to be trying to process too much information all at once and seems to be a bit overwhelmed to be perfectly honest. He also struggled squaring his body when rolling out to the left or right and his accuracy suffered because of it. Moore is having a difficult week and is looking like a late round pick (6th/7th round) at this point.

-TJ Graham (NC State) struggled a little bit in the stalk blocking drill and may have a hard time sustaining blocks out on the boundry. Overall the North squad receivers were shown up today by the North corners as Leonard Johnson, Asa Jackson, Alfonzo Dennard, Donnie Fletcher, and Jamell Flemming all were fiery and aggressive showing the ability to get off blocks and disengage.

-Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard has been criticized for his lack of true speed and his inability to flip his hips and run for much of the Senior Bowl so far. I think he has done a good job responding to this with his play the last two days. Dennard made an excellent play on a deep ball thrown by Russell Wilson by locating it and timing his jump perfectly to deflect the pass away. He was also in his WR’s hip pocket all day and mirrored/shadowed his man very well. Dennard has his flaws but they can be covered up by putting him in a position to succeed. His skill set makes him a good fit for a Cover 2 type defense and while he may not be a 1st round corner anymore, there is no reason for him to fall out of the 2nd in my opinion…he’s too fundamentally sound to slip that far. Dennard was injured in practice today and will no longer be participating so we will have to wait until the Combine to get another look at him.

– OT/G Keleche Osemele impressed me a little today and played with a solid base/solid handwork. His technique was the best I have seen all week from him today and while I still see him inside at guard I can definitely see the intrigue with him.

DT/DE Derek Wolfe once again stole the show in my opinnion. He isn’t overly athletic but has a knack for exposing weaknesses because he is so fundamentally sound. I also love Wolfe’s versatility, and while I like him more as a 5 technique player, he can definitely play 3 tech. as well. He displayed nice bend by dropping his pad level and dipping his shoulder around the edge which should entice 3-4 teams. Wolfe is another player with a relentless motor who consistently gives his best effort and hustles. I have him solidly pegged in the 3rd round and while his lack of elite athleticism limits and will drop him some, this is a solid football player who will produce and be effective at the next level…one of my favorite players in the draft.

-Ohio State C Mike Brewster once again left me feeling disappointed. His lack of lower body strength and tendency to get blown back by quicker/more powerful defensive lineman is a huge concern for me. He lacks athleticism and while he has a big name coming from a big school I’m not a big fan of his play and think he is over-rated.

-One of the biggest winners from today had to be Michigan DT Mike Martin. Martin was explosive off the snap and showed powerful hands to disengage. Pair this with his relentless motor and effort and Martin is an extremely difficult player to sustain blocks on for an extended period of time. He does a great job shooting gaps and was disruptive and got into the backfield consistently today. His stock is on the rise and scouts are taking notice of his ability to penetrate.

-Sorry this was more dis-organized than usual, I hope you enjoyed nonetheless!-

-Brandon