NFL Draft Center


2012 NFL Draft Watch: Prospect All-Star Games (JAN 21/2012)

Written By: Mark Scott

NFL Draft season is now in full swing as a record number of under classmen have officially declared and All-Star games featuring draft eligible prospects go down this Saturday, January 21/2012. It is the first chance since the College Football regular and post-season ended for prospects to showcase their talent to NFL Coaches, Scouts and Evaluators. The action begins with the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at 3 pm ET in Los Angeles, while the East-West Shrine Game will be played on the NFL Network at 4 pm ET from St. Petersburg, Florida. Following the two big games will be The Battle of Florida in Boca Raton, Florida at 8 pm ET on Fox College Sports. Of course practices have been happening all week and more than a few players have made good impressions, while all of the prospects jostle for draft position. There are not a whole lot of big names playing in these three games with mostly potential Day 3 Draft selections on the rosters, although there are a couple of note-worthy prospects that could be chosen on Day 2 of the draft.

NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will feature 100 potential NFL Draft picks this year led by Head Coaches Dick Vermeil and Tom Flores, although the game and practices will not be attended by NFL Scouts, as under the current collective bargaining agreement, they cannot attend events involving underclassmen. Nonetheless, they will all receive tapes of the event, so prospects will need to be on their A-game if they want to have a shot at getting drafted. Miami’s OL Brandon Washington, who will dress for the American Team, is the top dog at this event and has shown it this week during practices. The potential second round pick has lived up to his draft rating so far displaying the physical and mental abilities to play Offensive Tackle and both Guard positions. He showed he has the strength, quickness and footwork to handle playing Left Tackle, where he played this past season and then later in the week, he proved he could line up and play on the interior, where he was an All-ACC First-Team selection in 2010. Washington is definitely a guy to watch this Saturday. Northwestern’s DE Vince Browne has been the best of the American Team’s defensive linemen. He has shown good balance and quick feet and has shown the ability to get passed blocks and make plays along the line of scrimmage. Eastern Washington’s QB Bo Levi Mitchell is the player to watch among the small school contingent on the American squad after leading the Eagles to a FCS National Title in 2010 and being named the Walter Payton Award winner in 2011 as the best player in the Football Championship Subdivision. Along with Mitchell, Liberty’s NT Asa Chapman has shown this week in practice that he could be a solid run-stopper at the Nose in the NFL, but is limited when he has to move outside his area.  Morehead State’s RB Desmond Cox and Southern’s WR Jared Green are also worth a look as small school players, while the American Team will also include WR Keith Nichol MCST, S Eddie Whitley VTCH, WR Lavasier Tuinei OREG, DE Max Holloway BC and QB Jarrett Lee LSU. The National Team will be led by QB Jacory Harris MIA, ILB Chris Galippo USC, S Neiko Thorpe AUB, S Tony Dye UCLA and WR Taylor Embree UCLA. A pair of pass-rushers shined for the National squad during practices in Bowie State’s OLB Delano Johnson and Oklahoma State’s DE Wilson Youman. Johnson stood out immediately as he already has the body and build of an NFL player and then demonstrated the speed, power and explosiveness to rush the passer from the 3-4 as an OLB and with his hand on the ground as a DE in the 4-3. He also showed great passion and enthusiasm on the field. Youman showed good speed and strength to attack opposing quarterbacks and exceptional technique to the point he was asked by Coaches to demonstrate for others. Small school players to watch for the National Team includes Langston CB Antonio Dennard, Georgia Southern’s CB/KR LaRon Scott and Southern WR LaQuinton Evans.

East-West Shrine Game

This is definitely the game to watch of the three this weekend as it will showcase more potential NFL draft picks than the other two combined, although there may be only one or two players that get drafted before Day 3. The East squad will be led by Head Coach Bobby Ross and will feature players such as OLB/DE Brandon Lindsay PITT, QB John Brantley FLA, QB Austin Davis SMSP, WR AJ Jenkins ILL and OG Quinton Saulsberry MSST. Lindsay is the top rated prospect at this event and has some work to do after a disappointing season where he saw his stock fall from a potential late first-rounder to the late third round grade he had heading into this week’s practices. He has yet to blow anyone away this week and could see his stock continue to take a hit. On to the more impressive showings this week for the East Team starting with Tennessee RB Tauren Poole, who emerged as the top running back at the event demonstrating good quickness and a tough running style, while consistently getting to the second level in practice. A pair of East wide outs have performed well in Michigan State WR BJ Cunningham and WR LaRon Bryd of Miami. Cunningham has good size, hands and body control, but a lack of speed has hurt his stock. He has impressed scouts with his playmaking ability, but will need to eventually show he can consistently separate from defenders and get into the open field. Scouts are all over the board with him. Bryd continued his regular season struggles early in the week before emerging with impressive workouts mid-week. A massive wide receiver at 6’4, 224lbs, Bryd’s size has really caught the attention of scouts, but so did his ability to elevate and make catches at the ball’s highest point above opposing defensive backs. The East squad’s small school contingent has been perhaps the most impressive of all of the players at the event. Former LSU transfer, Regina (Alberta, Canada) DT Akiem Hicks is still a bit raw, but is a mammoth man at 6’5, 324lbs with an 84 inch wingspan that has shown he knows how to use his size and strength. He also displayed good movement and nimble feet for a man his size and could be a sleeper. Coastal Carolina’s CB Josh Norman might be the most impressive of anyone this week as he has shown good size, speed and an impressive burst towards the play. He’s made plays all week all over the field and could see his draft stock skyrocket into the first three rounds, although there are off-the-field concerns with him. QB BJ Coleman CHAT, WR Thomas Mayo CAL-PN, OG Rishaw Johnson CAL-PN and WR Tim Benford TNTC have also made good impressions on scouts this week. The West Team will be coached by Brad Childress and will include ILB Jerry Franklin ARK, OT Matt Reynolds BYU, S Blake Gideon TEX, QB Chandler Harnish, OT Markus Zusevics IOW and RB Marc Tyler USC. Arkansas WR Jarius Wright is the West’s top rated player in this game and probably should’ve been invited to the Senior Bowl instead. He is a smaller wide out, but has exceptional speed, great hands and very good route-running ability. He is a big-time playmaker that can stretch defenses as well as play in the slot. Iowa CB Shaun Prater has been one of the more impressive players this week showing that despite a lack of size and speed, he has good technique and fundamentals and has displayed good cover skills. He could fit in nicely as a nickel corner at the next level and has really helped his draft stock this week. USC DT DaJohn Harris has really emerged this week and has shown that he can be a solid run-stopper and an effective pass-rusher from the interior. He has a good first step off the snap and can generate excellent leverage against opposing offensive linemen. He has a ton of upside and should move up draft boards. Finally Miami-Ohio’s OG Brandon Brooks is an absolute specimen at 353lbs and his size alone had scouts buzzing. Brooks is extremely strong and dominated defensive linemen all week. He displayed excellent balance and quickness for a man his size and showed that he can be an anchor in pass protection or a bull-dozer in the run game. He really elevated his draft stock this week.

The Battle of Florida

The Battle Florida will include very few prospects if any that will even get drafted, but a number of these players will end up getting signed as undrafted free agents and land on practice squads. Names you will recognize include QB Stephen Garcia SCAR, QB Dominique Davis ECU, RB Zach Brown PITT, LB Ronnie Sneed KENT and CB Antonio Fenelus WISC. The teams will be coached by Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger.

 

*The Senior Bowl featuring the nation’s top Senior prospects will take place next Saturday with practices taking place all week. Updates next week.



2012 NFL Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 8 (JAN.6-JAN.8)

Written By: Mark Scott

The final weekend of Bowls is finally upon us with just three games remaining before the rematch of the century and BCS National Championship game between LSU and Alabama. There are a number of Day 3 draft eligible prospects in these final Bowls to watch including Pittsburgh’s Brandon Lindsay and Arkansas’s Jarius Wright.

All rankings attained from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, SI’s Tony Pauline and ESPN’s Todd McShay.

 

AT&T Cotton Bowl, January 6/2012

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Kansas State Wildcats

The best game of the three remaining Bowls, this matchup probably should’ve have been for a BCS Bowl rather than for the Cotton Bowl. Nevertheless it features two very good teams with a solid group of Day 3 prospects. Arkansas will field the majority of the prospects in this game starting with a pair of fast wide receivers. Sr WR Jarius Wright was always a productive wide out, but really took his game to another level this year in setting Arkansas single-season records for receptions (63), receiving yards (1029) and touchdowns (11), including single-game records for Arkansas with 13 receptions for 281 receiving yards vs. Texas A&M. He will also leave the Razorbacks as their all-time career receptions leader with 165 catches. He lacks size, but is one of the fastest wide receivers in the nation and possesses very good hands and route-running ability. He has a pretty complete game and while he can go deep and stretch defenses, his best fit at the next level will be as a slot receiver. Sr Joe Adams is a very similar receiver to his teammate Wright, but is just slightly slower, which is still faster than most, and doesn’t possess the same level of skills in the receiving game as him. However, he is a very good punt returner with big-play ability in both the return game and as a receiver. He should fit in as a slot receiver in the NFL as well, but will get on the field sooner on special teams as a returner. The Razorbacks’ also have three late round prospects on defense in Sr FS Tramain Thomas, rSr ILB Jerry Franklin and rSr DE Jake Bequette. Thomas is a ball-hawking safety with 12 career interceptions, including five this season. He is excellent in run-support and can lay out and intimidate ball carriers and pass-catchers with big hits. Franklin is a solid inside linebacker that contributes in run-support and in pass-coverage. He swallows up ball-carriers in the middle of the field and has the speed to make tackles from sideline to sideline. He is also adept at getting into opposing backfields to pressure the Quarterback or make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Bequette is a fierce pass rusher that has made a career of sacking the Quarterback. He’s not the best of athletes, but always goes hard and gets the most out of his talent. He should fit in nicely as a traditional 4-3 defensive end. For Kansas State, they have just two prospects worth noting in rJr ILB Arthur Brown and rSr Tysyn Hartman. Brown was a big part of Kansas State’s revival this season as he solidified the defense and middle of the field with his play and leadership. He is an excellent athlete with next-level ability and the speed to make tackles sideline to sideline. He could be drafted earlier than Day 3, although he may very likely return to Kansas State for another year alongside his brother in an attempt to take the Wildcats to another level and win a Big 12 Championship. Hartman is a tough, physical safety that plays with an edge. He still has improvements to make, but should make some team’s roster as a special teams ace and backup safety.

 

BBVA Compass Bowl, January 7/2012

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. SMU Mustangs

The Panthers will feature two prospects of note in their matchup with the Mustangs, while SMU will field a pair of late round picks. The top prospect remaining to watch among the final Bowls until the BCS National Championship is Pittsburgh’s rSr OLB/DE Brandon Lindsay, a potential third round pick. A very good athlete, Lindsay has shown that he can play in both a 4-3 defense as an end and standing up in the 3-4 as an outside linebacker. His size has him projected to fit best in a 3-4 defense.  He doesn’t have great speed or quickness, but he does have very good upper body strength and violent hands that allow him to push past blockers into the backfield. He has a good first step off the snap and can get to opposing passers as evidenced by his 18.5 sacks the past two seasons. Sr OG Lucas Nix is a strong, mobile run-blocker that can get to the second-level and continue to create holes for his ball-carrier. He began his collegiate career at Right Tackle, but a move inside to Right Guard really allowed his game to excel. He has excellent technique and is a hardworking anchor in pass-protection. He was slowed by a mid-season knee injury, but that shouldn’t hurt his draft stock. What will hurt his stock are the three criminal charges stemming from a drunken fight with a pair of West Virginia players at their house over the holiday break. Nix will still be allowed to play in this game and rates out as fifth round pick. Pittsburgh’s rSr ILB Max Gruder has a chance to be drafted late on Day 3. SMU also has a pair of potential late Day 3 selections in rSr OL Kelvin Beachum and Sr DE Taylor Thompson. Beachum was named to the 2011 All-CUSA First-Team and is an experienced offensive lineman as a 4-year starter at Left Tackle for the Mustangs, but will probably have to transition to Guard in the pros. Thompson is a productive pass-rusher as a defensive end in a 4-3 with 17 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in his collegiate career.

 

GoDaddy.com Bowl, January 8/2012

Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

The final Bowl of the season will be a showcase for one Day 3 prospect in Northern Illinois rSr QB Chandler Harnish, who will be trying to make a statement against the Red Wolves to show scouts that he should go higher in the draft. Harnish is a fantastic athlete with a NFL body and is one of the top dual-threat Quarterbacks in the nation. He combines good speed and mobility with an accurate arm that can make NFL throws. Certainly the level of competition he played against in the MAC will work against him, but he dominated that competition for four seasons as one of the most prolific players to ever to play in the conference and lead Northern Illinois to their first MAC Conference Championship since 1983 this season. He has very good intelligence and decision-making and should impress a few more scouts with his play this weekend. Right now he has a mid to late round grade, but with a couple QBs returning to school it could create an opening for him to possibly even be drafted on Day 2, although that might be pushing it. Arkansas State has a pair of possible seventh round picks in rSr SS Kelcie McCray and rSr OLB Demario Davis. McCray is a hard-hitting safety that is continuing to improve against the run and pass, while Davis is a great athlete that can make plays all over the field. Both could make an impact on special teams while they work towards a spot on defense.