Leading Up To The NFL Draft 2012

For new readers who may have only discovered these rants in the past year, let me do a reset regarding this annual feature.

I like college football; therefore, I watch a lot of college football on TV. While watching, I try to keep a notepad nearby to make notes about players that I see who might be successful in the NFL. Since I also read articles/columns about college football, I also know who is considered a “top prospect”; that lets me pay particular attention to those players to see if my eyes see the same promise that others see in them. Then, I put those notes away for several months and dig them out in April hoping to be able to decipher them as the basis for these analyses.

Back in 2010, I called myself “The Couch Scout” – - as a sort of homage to syndicated columnist, Norman Chad, in his persona as “The Couch Slouch”. That name is a kind of full disclosure; my “scouting” is done from the comfort of my living room – - or perhaps from a seat in a Las Vegas sportsbook on one weekend – - in the Fall. I do not visit schools; I do not go to practices; I do not talk to coaches; I do not have any organized set of “sources” feeding me information. What you get here is a distillation of the notes I took watching games with my own eyeballs – - nothing less and nothing more

Since television is my data source, there are two biases that are resident in these remarks:

    The “big schools in the big conferences” are on my television more often than “little schools in small conferences”. That is a fact of life and it means that I will never get to see some very good players in some of the smaller conferences. Such is the way of the world…

    In some cases, I only get to see a team play one time. Another fact of life is that very good players have mediocre/bad games now and then. Sometimes I see a good player on an off day and take no notice of him. I mean no disrespect to any players; what I have here are my notes from watching them play on television.

When I go back and look at these analyses over the last decade, I find that I get some right and I get some wrong. That is to be expected because these analyses are actually predictions of future performance – - and prediction is pretty easy so long as it does not involve the future. Enough preamble…

Since there is always hype about quarterbacks coming out of college, I will start with that position.

    Yes, I saw Andrew Luck play. Yes, I was mightily impressed.

    Yes, I saw Robert Griffin III play. Yes, I was mightily impressed.

    Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M) has gotten a lot of attention and ink recently. My notes say “accurate short passer” and “good mobility”. I had no “superlatives” in my notes as opposed to Luck and RG3 where superlatives were everywhere. Someone said Tannehill might go as high as the #3 overall pick; frankly, I think that would be a bit of a reach.

    Kirk Cousins (Mich. St) “does nothing spectacularly but does everything very well”. Sounds like a second or third pick to me…

    Kellen Moore (Boise St) is listed as smaller than most QB prospects; however, I made these notes. “All he does is win”; “hits receivers in stride” and “seems to go through a progression when selecting where to throw the ball”. If this guy is still on the board in the fifth or sixth round, he would be a value pick there.

    Brock Osweiler (Ariz. St) is “huge” and has a “very big arm”. He is also “not always accurate on short balls” and he evidently “throws behind his receiver” enough times to make me write that down. I read one report that had him as 6’ 7” tall and 250 lbs. That is a big quarterback indeed…

    Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) is not very big and is not fast but he is “elusive and can throw on the run”. This guy could also be a value pick in later rounds.

Since I started with the quarterbacks, let me stay with the offensive players and move on to running backs.

    Yes, I saw Trent Richardson play. Yes, I was mightily impressed.

    LeMichael James (Oregon) “looks too small to be an every-down RB in the NFL” but he is an “explosive runner” who has “more than enough speed to be a third-down back or slot receiver”. I would guess second round pick here.

    Bernard Pierce (Temple) is a “power back” who also “can break a tackle and turn it into a long gain.” Understand, I saw him play one game against a bad Maryland team where he scored a bunch of TDs and gained about 160 yards. Maybe he is that good; maybe the Maryland defense was that bad…

    Jonas Gray (Notre Dame) is a “power runner” who is “big but not tall”. “Decent blocker” and “good pick in middle rounds” are my other two notes.

    Todd Anderson (Mich. St) is “a very large man” who blocks very well. Can play fullback in the NFL but not every team uses a fullback anymore.

Next, come the wide receivers…

    Yes, I saw Justin Blackmon play. Yes, I was mightily impressed.

    Yes, I saw Michael Floyd play. Yes, I was mightily impressed.

    Alshan Jeffery (So. Carolina) is a “big target” with “good hands and adequate speed”. If a team is looking for a possession receiver, this could be their guy.

    Kendall Wright (Baylor) has “great speed” and “good enough hands”. “When he gets open, RG3 gets him the ball and big plays happen.”

    Joe Adams and Jarius Wright (Arkansas) are both “small receivers”. Both look like they need “6 months of good home cooking to put meat on their bones.” However, both of them “catch well” and “make plays”. They do look small for the NFL though…

I need to interrupt my commentary here to present information that came to me via e-mail from a long-term reader who knows that I do these analyses every April. Here is the salient part of his note to me:

“If you get a chance to see Elvis Akpla in an All-Star Game, keep your notes handy. I think you will like him. He is a wide receiver at Montana State and he is dominating the competition there … The kid is a great athlete.”

I did not see Elvis Akpla play; in fact, I would only know him from Elvis Presley based on the fact that Elvis Presley is dead and Elvis Akpla is obviously not. I present him here only because he came to my attention via an old friend…

Moving on to the tight end position …I evidently did not see any prospects that jumped out and screamed “Take Me Now! I Am A Great Player!” My notes reflect several good players who should make contributions to NFL teams but no sure-fire prospects:

    Dwayne Allen (Clemson) is a “very good run blocker” who can “move defensive tackles around”. In the game I saw, he “made one nice catch in tight coverage”. However, he “looks pretty slow to me.”

    David Paulsen (Oregon) is an “excellent blocker” with “good size”. They must not have thrown the ball his way very much in this game because I do not have any notes on his catching. However, I do have a note that says, “maybe too slow for the NFL?”

    George Bryan (NC State) has “good hands” and “good size” but “questionable speed”. He blocks well on running plays.

    James Hanna (Oklahoma) is “big and tall” with “good hands”. Here are two more notes I made:

      “dominating the Baylor secondary”

      “why don’t they throw the ball to this guy more often?”

    Coby Fleener (Stanford) is touted by some writers as a potential first round pick. I saw Stanford twice last year and did not make a single note about him.

Here is another interruption to bring to your attention someone I have never seen play but who caught the eye of a long-term reader who went to UMass for two years before transferring to Cornell:

“UMass does not produce lots of pro football stars (Victor Cruz?) so you probably won’t go looking there for any draft prospects … Emil Igwenagu (TE) is going to make it in the NFL. He can catch, he can block … he can run. Some team will be very happy after they take him.”

Now you know everything that that I know about Emil Igwenagu…

When it comes to offensive linemen, I tend to lump them all together. Some folks try to project a guy as a left tackle as opposed to a right tackle – - or an interior lineman as opposed to what, an interior decorator? About the only “distinction” I might make is for a center who demonstrates some speed in addition to blocking abilities.

    Yes, I saw Matt Kalil play. Yes, I was mightily impressed.

    Yes, I saw David DeCastro play. Yes, I was mightily impressed.

    Cordy Glenn (Georgia) is “a huge dude” who will be a “really good run blocker”. On pass blocking my note says he “looks like a dancing bear on roller skates”. He will be taken high in the draft because of his size and his school, but I think he is “a project”.

    Brandon Mosley (Auburn) “runs well and blocks well”. Screen graphic said he was 6’ 6” and 303 lbs. My note says “he was 303 lbs in high school – - looks about 320 to me”. Good pick in the mid-rounds.

    William Vlachos (Alabama) is a “good interior run blocker” who “opens holes for Trent Richardson”. Probably worth a pick in the 3rd to 5th rounds.

    Lucas Nix (Pitt) is a “powerful run blocker” and an “adequate pass blocker”. He is aggressive to the point that I wrote “mean streak?”.

    Peter Konz (Wisconsin) is a “good run blocker” and a “decent pass blocker”. Playing center for a top-flight school along with good physical skills will get him taken in the draft.

    Rokevious Watkins (So. Carolina) is “the biggest OG I remember seeing”. He “moves well” and he “moves people” after he hits them.

    Mike Adams (Ohio State) is a “much better run blocker than pass blocker”. That makes him a project but “good size and good competition make him worth a pick”.

So much for offensive players I made notes on, here are some defensive linemen who will try to combat those offensive talents. Two defensive tackles who have gotten a lot of mention in the past couple of weeks are Fletcher Cox (Miss State) and Dontari Poe (Memphis). I have no notes on either one. I know I did not see Memphis last year and I do not recall if I saw Mississippi State. Lots of writers think these two could go in the first round of the draft. I have nothing to say on that matter. Quinton Coples has received a lot of attention as a top prospect at defensive end. I did not see UNC play last year so I have nothing to say about him either.

    Devon Still (Penn State) gives good “inside pressure on the passer” and “plays the run aggressively”. “A good DT for the NFL” would seem to be an omen that he should go in the early rounds.

    Michael Brockers (LSU) is “super-quick and still strong enough to throw blockers off him”. My other note says “hits runners to bring them down he doesn’t just fall down with them.” He should go early in the draft too.

    Nick Perry (USC) is “very quick off the ball” and provides “relentless pass pressure”. I also have a note than he “chased down a RB to the other side of the field” on a play indicating he has “good speed for a big man”. Probably gone by the second or third round…

    Josh Chapman (Alabama) is “a run-stuffer in the middle” who is “not very quick or very fast.” Perhaps a late round pick…?

    Chas Alexih (Pitt) “plays with lots of emotion and hustle” and is “always around the ball”. “Good speed for D-lineman” is another positive note. Probably in the later rounds…

    Jake Bequette (Arkansas) “hustles every play from snap to whistle” and is a “sure tackler”. My negative note says he is “not all that fast”. Probably a late round pick.

Here is another interlude from a reader sending me an e-mail. The sender is an alum of Marshall University and he must have felt strongly about his assertion here since he sent his note along in July of last year before much of anything happened in college football.

“…watch Vinny Curry – Jr. Marshall DE.”

I never did see Marshall play last year but I Googled “Vinny Curry Marshall” just now. One of the scouting/rating sites lists him as the sixth best DE prospect in the draft and projects that he will go in the first or second round. I guess I should have found a way to follow the direction provided in that July e-mail…

Now on to the linebackers:

    Donta Hightower (Alabama) is a “tackling machine” in the middle who can “cover the middle on passing downs”. Defense carried Alabama to the national championship and this guy was a standout on that defense.

    Vontaze Burfict (Ariz. St) is “big, fast and a violent tackler”. He should be able to play ILB in the NFL. However, there are other stories about Burfict getting into an altercation with teammates in the locker room last year and some questions about his “coachability”. I have no idea how serious any of those things are, but on the field, this guy can play linebacker.

    Melvin Ingram (So. Carolina) is a “relentless pass rusher” who is “good enough against the run”. “Too small to be a DE” means he has to play OLB and will have to learn to play pass coverage. At South Carolina on passing downs, he was always coming…

    Ronnell Lewis (Oklahoma) is a “good athlete” with “good speed” who is “quick off the ball”. When he was supposed to cover a receiver in the flat, he “plays pass defense pretty well.” A mid-to late round pick?

    Keenan Robinson (Texas) is a “sure tackler” with “good size and good enough speed” at ILB. Probably a middle round pick…

    Tank Carder (TCU) is “always around the ball” and “very quick to get to the point of attack on run plays”. My notes say “fast enough to play OLB and tackles well enough to play ILB”. The only cautionary note I have is that he is “not as big as other LBs.”

    Whitney Mercilus (Illinois) has “a great name for a defensive football player” and he also has “good quickness and balance going around an OT.” He is “not particularly good against the run” but is “always close to a passer even if he does not get a sack.” He will go high in the draft…

    Jabaree Tuani (Navy) is a “big linebacker who plays hard and is a sure tackler”. Given his service commitment to the Navy, he is not likely to be drafted, but I think he might be able to play at the NFL level if given a shot.

Moving along smartly to cornerbacks – - where I look for players who can both cover receivers AND make tackles on running backs…

    Yes, I saw Morris Claiborne play. Yes, I was mightily impressed.

    Yes, I saw Stephon Gilmore play. Yes, I was mightily impressed.

    Yes, I saw Dre Kirkpatrick play. Yes, I was mightily impressed.

    Jayron Hosley (VA Tech) is a “good pass defender” but does hot have “good fundamental tackling skills” on run plays. In addition, my notes say he “looks awfully small for covering NFL sized receivers”. Worth taking in the mid to late rounds…

    R.J. Blanton (Notre Dame) is “a big defensive back” who is “fast enough but not with ‘sprinter speed’ “ and a “solid tackler”. He “plays the run strong”.

    DeQuan Menzie (Alabama) is the “guy playing the other cornerback position”. He is “bigger than Kirkpatrick” and a “good tackler” but “may not be fast enough to be a cornerback in the NFL”. Perhaps a team will draft him in the late rounds and move him to a safety position…?

    Antonio Fenelus (Wisconsin) was “first team All Big Ten in 2010” according to announcers. My notes say “looks pretty ordinary to me” and “looks too short to cover tall NFL receivers”. Obviously, the game I saw and the player that the selectors for the “all Big Ten Team” saw were two different people…

Safety is the last of the defensive positions; I do not distinguish between free safeties and strong safeties here.

    Neiko Thorpe (Auburn) “seems to be in on every other tackle” and “defends the pass well enough”. He “looks a bit skinny for the NFL.” Probably a late round pick…

    Antonio Allen (South Carolina) is “tall and quick” and a “good tackler in the open field”. He “looks skinny – needs to hit the weight room and the chow line”. He had “good cover skills.”

    Mark Barron (Alabama) “hits like a truck” and is “always around the ball”. He “played pass defense well enough.” He should go in the first couple of rounds.

    Tysyn Hartman (Kansas St.) is “big and strong – - hits hard.” My notes say “speed is suspect for NFL” but he “seems to know where the play is going most of the time.” Probably a late-round project…

    Blake Gideon (Texas) has “good size” and “plays the run well”. However, he “gets beaten deep” and “gets beaten on quick moves in short zones”. As a long-term starter at Texas, he has seen good competition that might move him up on draft boards but my guess is that he is a late round pick or an undrafted free agent.

    George Iloka (Boise St.) is “a big dude with very good speed” and who “hits running backs hard”. “Good in pass coverage too.” The only negative comment here was “made some borderline late hits; self-control?” Given his size and skills, I suspect he will go in the first three rounds.

    Harrison Smith (Notre Dame) is “a big guy with really long arms” who “can run a bit” and who “hits people so that they go down.” The downside of his hitting is that he does not hit low so the tackle is sure; instead, he is a “highlight reel hitter” and that can cost you at the NFL level.

With regard to punters and place-kickers, my notes are thin indeed.

    Drew Butler (Georgia) Punter: His kicks go “high and long” and he “dropped one inside the 10 [yard-line] with a perfect bounce.”

    Anson Kelton (TCU) Punter: “Screen graphic said he was 6’ 2” and 265 lbs. I believe it.”

    Derek Dimke (Illinois) Place-kicker: “Little guy with a big leg.”

Just to conclude this compendium, allow me to present one more note from one more “correspondent” regarding a place-kicker:

Tyler Almieda kicks for Mount Union so you’ll never see him on TV. His value is on kickoffs, he will put the ball in the end zone half of the time.”

The “correspondent” is correct; I never did see Mount Union or Tyler Almieda on TV. In fact, about the only things I know about Mount Union is that the school is in Ohio and that it is usually one of the final teams left standing in the Division III championship tournament.

So, watch the draft later this week and see if this guide gives you some insight into some of the folks who are selected about whom you have heard nothing from the ESPN talking heads over the past month or so.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

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Comments

  • Peter  On April 25, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Sorry I’m late; just catching up on these rants.

    Fifty words or less: Which is a greater plague on humanity – Mock Drafts or Bracketology?

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm

      Peter:

      I would have to give the edge to Mock Drafts here. Bracketology really only begins in December and annoys the Hell out of folks until the second week of March.

      Mock Drafts begin in May and continue until the next April…

      I need to go and read Dante’s Inferno again to see just which ring of Hell is appropriate for Bracketologists and for Mock Draft compilers…

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