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2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: PRO DAYS WEEK 1 RECAP

The pre-draft process for NFL prospects continues as the pro day portion began this month and will continue into April with individual workouts for those unable to get on the field at their school’s designated pro day. A number of prospects will have the pressure on them, especially those like Jarvis Jones that skipped the drills at the Combine to opt for optimal conditions at their pro day and those that were held out of workouts in Indy because of injury like Star Lotulelei. Of course there are others that didn’t perform the way they wanted to at the Combine and will be looking to improve on their numbers. The make-or-break season for prospects is just heating up as the 2013 NFL Draft nears closer with each passing day.

MARCH 1: Purdue

The Boilermakers Pro Day kicked off the month, but potential first-round pick DT Kawann Short did not take part due to the same hamstring injury that kept him out of drills at the Combine. Scouts will now have to wait until March 25 to see the highly-rated defensive tackle work out at his own personal pro day. Purdue CB Josh Johnson improved on some of his Combine numbers including a drop in his 40 time from 4.65 to 4.55 and raising his vertical jump to 36” and broad jump to 9’11”. He also looked good while running through positional drills. QB Robert Marve put on a good performance particularly showing off a strong arm and posting 22 reps of 225lbs. on the bench press which would have topped all quarterbacks at the Combine had he been invited. Marve’s performance won’t get him drafted, but probably earned him an invite to training camp with hopes of landing on a practice roster.

MARCH 4: Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Northern Iowa

Arkansas Pine-Bluff OT Terron Armstead continued his impressive climb up draft boards with another fantastic workout at his Pro Day. He decided to stand by his excellent Combine numbers that were among the best in the offensive line class and instead ran through an hour-long workout made up of various offensive line drills. Of note, Armstead was led through the drills by new San Diego Chargers offensive line coach Joe D’Allesandris. The Chargers have multiple holes across their offensive line and could be highly interested in the athletic tackle. Armstead looks like a sure-fire Day 2 selection. While Armstead had representatives from 12 teams out to watch him, Northern Iowa WR/KR Terrell Sinkfield grabbed the headlines by running a 4.19 40-yard dash. He posted 43 catches for 499 yards and 4 touchdowns this past season, but has a couple off the field red flags including an arrest for disorderly conduct in October. While his 40 time caught some attention, most scouts have said he doesn’t play that fast on film.

MARCH 5: Auburn, Missouri Southern

Auburn DE/OLB Corey Lemonier stood by his Combine numbers with the exception of the vertical jump which he improved to 34”. He ran through positional drills led by Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler. The Steelers happen to be in the market for a couple of linebackers. Some scouts apparently came away unimpressed by Lemonier’s workout. RB Onterio McCalebb, who had an impressive Combine performance, took it up a notch by improving his 40 time to 4.33 seconds, his vert jump to 37” and his broad jump to 10’11”. He also improved his times in the short shuffle (4.31s) and the 3-cone drill (7.01s) along with posting 10 reps on the bench press. McCaleb is a Day 3 selection that is probably best suited to be a return specialist, but could earn his way into a third-down back situation. There was disappointment at the Missouri Southern Pro day as unfavorable weather conditions prevented DT Brandon Williams from working out in positional drills, although had the weather cooperated he still would’ve remained on the sidelines due to a slight hamstring pull. He will stand by his Combine performance and should come off the board on Day 2.

MARCH 6: Wisconsin, Mississippi State, Texas Tech

There were reps from 28 teams at the Wisconsin pro day, most of which were there to see RB Montee Ball and offensive linemen Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner. Ball had a great workout improving his times in the 40, short shuttle and 60-yard shuttle. Most notable was his time in the 40 which he dropped from 4.66s at the Combine to 4.49s, which just might have secured him a spot as the second running back off the board following Alabama’s Eddie Lacy and a spot on Day 2 of the draft. He also looked very good in positional drills. Frederick and Wagner both stood by their Combine numbers, but worked out in positional drills under Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner. The most notable team rep at the workout was Packers G.M. Ted Thompson, who is in the market for a new running back and a couple of offensive linemen and appeared to have liked what he saw for the most part. Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks was one of the major disappointments at the Combine and saw his stock drop by about a round following a very unimpressive workout. He may have stopped the bleeding with his performance at the Bulldogs Pro day as he improved his numbers in the 40, short shuttle, vertical jump and the broad jump, although is 40 time of 4.58 was just slightly better than his disappointing 4.61 at the Combine. However, he did look a lot better running through positional drills this time out. The Patriots reps were said to be very interested in Banks. Fellow corner Darius Slay, who posted the fastest 40 time among defensive backs at the Combine with a 4.36 was unable to compete in positional drills for scouts after pulling a muscle trying to improve his time in the 60-yard shuttle. DT Josh Boyd looked very good running through defensive lineman drills with New York Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn. 28 teams were represented at the Mississippi State pro day including Denver Broncos DC Jack Del Rio and New Orleans Saints defensive back coach Wesley McGriff. Texas Tech safety Cody Davis put together a fantastic pro day including a 4.41 in the 40 and probably worked his way into the late round mix.

MARCH 7: Arizona, Clemson, Illinois, Mississippi

Under the radar quarterback Matt Scott looked fantastic throwing the ball at the Arizona pro day while reps from 18 NFL teams watched, including the entire Arizona Cardinals offensive coaching staff. He’s a Day 3 selection that could be a perfect fit for a read-option team. The Eagles were also said to be interested in Scott. Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins looked great in wide receiver drills at the Tigers pro day, along with improving his 40 time to 4.51s from 4.57s. He’ll remain in the second round mix. RB Andre Ellington pulled a hamstring at the Combine and will work out again for scouts on March 29. The Ole Miss pro day featured perhaps the largest prospect in the draft in OT Terrell Brown, who measured in at 6’10” and 388lbs with 38” long arms and a 92 3/8” wingspan. Brown put up pretty good numbers in drills for a man of his mammoth size. While Illinois had four mid-round prospects that drew reps from 27 teams to their pro day, it was little-known DE Glenn Foster that was the star of the day recording impressive times in the 40, short shuttle and 3-cone drill, along with numbers in the vertical and broad jumps that would have topped all defensive linemen at the Combine. He was also good in positional drills and his performance has sent scouts scrambling back to the film room. He definitely gets drafted now.

MARCH 8: Texas A&M, Ohio State, Florida International

Texas A&M put on one of the more notable pro days of the year as prospects like Luke Joeckel, Damontre Moore, Sean Porter and Christine Michael among others were on the field for reps from 28 teams on hand including New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan and Oakland Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen. Joeckel chose to stand by his Combine numbers and opted to run through positional drills led by new Oakland Raiders offensive line coach Tony Sparano for about an hour. The Chiefs and Raiders both met with Joeckel privately. Moore was another of the big Combine disappointments that dropped his stock from the top of the first round to the bottom of it. He was solid on Friday working out both as a defensive end and linebacker and improved his time in the short shuttle and increased his reps in the bench press from 12 to 19, while he also added another 10lbs. to his frame, however he put an end to his workout early due to a bothersome hamstring and probably didn’t really help himself. LB Sean Porter, LB Jonathan Stewart and WR Ryan Swope put in impressive workouts. There were 27 teams represented at the at the Ohio State pro day, most of which to watch potential first round pick Johnathan Hankins. Unfortunately Hankins chose to take part in a just a few select drills and didn’t really do anything to help or hurt his draft stock and probably remains a late first-rounder. No one else at the Buckeyes pro day stood out. Florida International FS John Cyprien competed in all drills except for the vertical jump and recorded a 4.64s in the 40, 4.44s in the short shuttle and a 7.01s in the 3-cone drill, along with a 9’11” broad jump and 18 reps of 225lbs. on the bench press. He was also very good in defensive backs drills.

Written By: Mark Scott

 



2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 4 (JAN.1)

Bowl Mania continues on New Year’s Day as six games involving a boatload of draft-eligible prospects will keep scouts, front offices and fans busy all day long. The day starts out slow for prospects, but quickly picks up as the bowls grow more important and involve higher profile prospect-stocked teams. A number of highly ranked players like Bjoern Werner, Taylor Lewan, Jarvis Jones and most of the rest of the Georgia draft class will be in action. Nothing like some college football to cure a hangover.

TAXSLAYER.COM GATOR BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (9-3)

New Year’s Day starts out pretty slow for prospects in the Gator Bowl with just one highly rated player. Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks (Sr) is an experienced corner with very good height and length that possesses the ability to play man coverage and in zone. His ball skills and instincts are among the best at the position and allow him to contribute in a number of areas and make game-changing plays. His lack of elite speed is the biggest question surrounding him right now and could keep him out of the first round, but won’t cause him to fall any further than the second. He was fantastic this season in winning the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and enters the 2013 NFL Draft as the top senior cornerback available. After Banks the Bulldogs have a group of mid to late round prospects that includes OG Gabe Jackson (rJr), CB Darius Slay (Sr), DT Josh Boyd (Sr) and OLB Cameron Lawrence (Sr). Jackson is a mammoth offensive lineman that moves incredibly well for a man his size and absolutely mauls defenders in pass protection and especially when run blocking. He has starting potential in the NFL and could be drafted as high as the third round. He still has a year of eligibility remaining and could return to Mississippi State for another season. CB Corey Broomfield (rSr) and WR Chad Bumphis (Sr) are likely undrafted free agents. Northwestern doesn’t have any noteworthy draft-eligible prospects this season.

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Purdue Boilermakers (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-5)

There are even fewer prospects in the other game at noon between the Boilermakers and Cowboys, but at least each team has a noteworthy draft-eligible player in this one. Purdue DT Kawann Short (rSr) is a huge athlete with the ability to dominate a game. While he’s able to handle double-teams and clog up the middle he’s not just the typical space-eating defensive tackle, but is actually a very talented pass-rusher from the interior as evidenced by the 18.5 sacks and 48 tackles for loss he amassed over his collegiate career. He is also able to use his huge wingspan to knock down passes and block kicks on special teams. He would probably be rated as a first round pick, but major questions exist about his lack of effort game in and game out and thought that he plays too passive at times. He probably comes off the board in the second round and could end up being a steal if he can change his bad habits. Oklahoma State RB Joseph Randle (Jr) is a very talented running back with explosive speed and the ability to break off big runs when he gets just a bit of open space. He also has terrific hands out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. While he showed for the second straight season that he can handle a full workload as a feature ball-carrier, he will probably be best suited as a change of pace or third down back in the NFL. Randle has the choice to return to school for his final year of eligibility, but should he declare early he could be selected as high as the third or fourth round. Purdue CB Josh Johnson (Sr) is an underrated corner and has a chance to be a seventh round pick in April.

OUTBACK BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Michigan Wolverines (8-4) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2)

The number of prospects starts to pick up with the Outback Bowl matchup pitting Big Ten against SEC when the Wolverines and Gamecocks take the field. Michigan LT Taylor Lewan (rJr) is the highest rated prospect in this game and the only one that will be drafted in the first round in April. He’s a massive blindside protector with elite athleticism and may just be the most physically imposing prospect in the draft. His technique still needs some work, but he’s extremely competitive and plays with a mean streak. He’s soared up draft boards as the season’s gone on and looks to be the clear no.2 offensive tackle prospect behind Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel could sneak into the top ten of the draft. While he played basically his entire career at Michigan as a quarterback, WR Denard Robinson (Sr) will enter the draft as a receiver, although some think he could even be moved to cornerback. It is unlikely he’ll take too many snaps at quarterback in this game if at all. Instead he will likely line up as a receiver or running back throughout the game. While the position he’ll eventually play in the NFL is still unknown at this point, what is known about him is that he is an extremely fast and dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. He could come off the board in the first half of Day 3. Late round hopefuls for the Wolverines include DE Craig Roh (Sr) and SS Jordan Kovacs (rSr), while ILB Kenny Demens (rSr), CB J.T. Floyd (rSr) and DT William Campbell (Sr) will most likely go undrafted. Hearts are still broken for South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore (Jr) and what he’s had to go through after suffering his second brutal season-ending knee injury. In 2011 he went down with a torn ACL that he fought and rehabbed tooth and nail to come back from and did so successfully in regaining most of the form that had him rated as the top running back coming into the season. He was just starting to look completely like himself again when he went down with one of the most gruesome-looking injuries seen in sports in a while. Despite the injuries, the fact that he won’t be able to work out for anyone and another year of eligibility remaining, Lattimore has still chosen to declare early for the draft and hope for the best. His plan is to land on an NFL team and rehabilitate his knee with the best possible training staff. Is future at this point is a complete unknown. Aside from Lattimore whose draft stock is up in the air at this point, the Gamecocks feature a group of mid to late round prospects that will be playing in this game including FS D.J. Swearinger (Sr), OLB DeVonte Holloman (Sr), DE Devin Taylor (rSr) and C T.J. Johnson (rSr).

CAPITAL ONE BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Georgia Bulldogs (11-2) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-3)

Perhaps more so than any other team this season the Georgia Bulldogs are a legit showcase of NFL talent with up to twelve possible 2013 draft picks, six of which that could be taken among the first four rounds. OLB Jarvis Jones (rJr) is a freak athlete that is arguably the top pass-rusher and may even be the top prospect in the entire draft. He is an explosive pass-rusher with elite speed and strength and is constantly wreaking havoc in opposing backfields and taking out the quarterback. He rounded out his game very nicely this season displaying the ability to be more effective in stopping the run and holding his own when asked to drop into pass coverage. NFL front offices and scouts have all been eagerly waiting for Jones to enter the draft to have their shot at adding him to their squad, but if teams want him they’ll have to make a move as it’s not likely he makes it out of the top five selections. He is a big-time playmaker that should be able to start and dominate right away. NT John Jenkins (Sr) is a mammoth athlete and the best pure run-stopper in the draft. He’s basically impossible to move at the point of attack and is a dominating force in the middle. He handles double-teams without a problem and is able to make a play on the ball-carrier when he gets into the backfield. He’s not the most glamorous draft pick, but he is an immediate starter that can be plugged into the starting line up right away and will instantly upgrade anyone’s run defense. Outside of Jones, ILB Alex Ogletree (Jr) was Georgia’s best defender this year. Despite missing the first four weeks of the season he still managed to lead the team with 98 tackles in just nine games and was their most consistent and reliable player. He’s an outstanding athlete with the ability to make plays sideline to sideline whether chasing ball-carriers or dropping into pass coverage.  He possesses an excellent combination of size, length and speed and has the versatility to play multiple linebacker positions. His length especially has some scouts thinking that he could be a highly effective pass-rushing outside linebacker in the NFL. While Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o is the top ranked inside linebacker, Ogletree and his incredible athleticism is not far behind and may even be a more dynamic player than Te’o at the next level. He is a likely first round pick should he decide to declare a year early for the draft. QB Aaron Murray (rJr) is a tough, athletic quarterback with very good arm strength and clean mechanics, but he has struggles with his decision-making at times and lack ideal NFL size. He’s a confident kid with talent and could make for a nice developmental quarterback behind an established starter. A number of the quarterback prospects are closely jockeying for position with Murray likely a third or fourth round pick. Jones, Ogletree and Murray could all elect to return to school for their senior year, but only Murray is a real candidate to do that with Jones and Ogletree considered first round locks. The Bulldogs secondary is well represented with FS Bacarri Rambo (rSr) and SS Shawn Williams (Sr). Rambo is a playmaking safety that can lay the wood when delivering big hits and create turnovers in the secondary using his terrific instincts and ball skills. He’s constantly in the middle of the play making something happen. Williams is a smart, productive player that always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He’s a guy that coaches don’t have to worry about where is head is at and rarely makes mental errors. He’s a reliable safety that teams will know what they’re getting with him. Both safeties have the potential to be starters in the NFL and could be selected as high as the third round. A number of Georgia’s possible draft picks will be potential Day 3 selections including DT Abry Jones (Sr), WR Tavarres King (rSr), CB Sanders Commings (rSr), OLB Cornelius Washington (rSr) and CB Branden Smith (Sr). ILB Christian Robinson (rSr) will probably end up an undrafted free agent. The Cornhuskers have a pair of their own possible late Day 3 draft picks in RB Rex Burkhead (Sr) and FS Damion Stafford (Sr). Burkhead is a thick, power back with the ability to plow his way through the line for the hard yards inside or use his speed to make big plays on the outside with his feet or hands. He showed in 2011 that he can be a feature back, but this season he was constantly battling injuries causing him to miss six games and saw his production take a major dip. He’s probably a sixth round pick. Stafford will most likely join Burkhead in the last couple rounds of the draft. He is an underrated consistent defender that is at his best in run support and is decent in pass coverage, but could stand to make improvements in that area. He’s not going to blow any scouts away with his athleticism, but could be a solid special-teams and depth player that might come off the board late in the draft. Behind them is group of players that will likely go undrafted, but could sneak into the late portion of the draft including DE Eric Martin (Sr), K Brett Maher (Sr), ILB Will Compton (rSr) and DT Baker Steinkuhler (rSr).

ROSE BOWL GAME PRESENTED BY VIZIO, JANUARY 1/2013

Stanford Cardinal (11-2) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (8-5)

The 99th Rose Bowl will showcase two tough, smash mouth-types of teams in Stanford and Wisconsin and the seven prospects involved are perfect examples of that type of player. Stanford will feature one potential late first round pick to go with three others that could be mid-round selections. After taking over for Cody Fleener (Indy Colts), TE Zach Ertz (rJr) proved this season that he was an even better and more complete player than his former teammate. He showed off his big, soft hands and route-running ability in leading all FBS tight ends with 66 catches for 837 receiving yards, both school records, while adding six touchdowns. He’s not just another pass-catching tight end either after elevating himself into a dominant blocker this year. Ertz will be in close competition with Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert for the top spot among tight ends and could sneak into the late first round. Stanford’s linebacker combination of OLB Chase Thomas (rSr) and ILB Shayne Skov (Sr) are a pair of hard-nosed, intelligent defenders. Thomas constantly causes chaos at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. He’s not an elite athlete, but makes up for that with high-energy all-out effort on every down. He’s the type of football player every team would want and could go as high as the late second round. Skov is a notch or two below Thomas, but is still a very good football player. He is solid in run support and can provide a pass-rush from the middle when called upon. Skov has a red flag or two off the field and should be taken in the first half of Day 3. RB Stepfan Taylor (Sr) is a workhorse back that has proven over the last three seasons that he can handle full-time duties at the position with three straight seasons of at least 1100 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns. He’s also a running back that doesn’t need to come off the field on third down as he has proven to be a talented pass-catcher out of the back field with 91 receptions for 718 yards and five scores. He’s a tough athlete with a thick, powerful frame built to handle the rigors of the NFL. He could be selected in the late third/early fourth round. Late round hopefuls for Stanford include WR Drew Terrell (Sr) and C Sam Schwartzstein (rSr). The Badgers will feature three mid-round draft choices in RB Montee Ball (Sr), OT Ricky Wagner (rSr) and OC/OG Travis Frederick (Jr). In the end it seems like Ball’s highly publicized decision to return to school for his senior season didn’t hurt him much after all as he earned a similar third round draft grade to the one he received last year. Like Taylor, Ball is a workhorse back that can handle 30+ carries a game, while often contributing with his hands on third down. Ball compiled an amazing 5040 career rushing yards with an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns with 76 and most total touchdowns with 82, including 39 total scores in 2011 to tie Barry Sanders’ single season NCAA record. While Ball is a highly talented running back with the potential to be feature ball-carrier in the NFL, he has already put 900 carries on his body heading into the Rose Bowl. His collegiate workload could have an effect on his draft position, but will definitely have an effect on his career long-term. He’s a third or fourth round pick. Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick will continue the Wisconsin tradition of sending talented, rugged offensive linemen to the NFL. These two are absolute maulers at the line of scrimmage and have the ability to just destroy oncoming defenders when run blocking. They are big, strong and as mean as it gets with the versatility to play multiple positions on the offensive line. Frederick has slightly more upside than Wagner, but both players should come off the board somewhere between the third and fifth rounds.

DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Florida State Seminoles (11-2) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1)

It will be big school versus small school in this season’s Orange Bowl as legendary powerhouse Florida State welcomes upstart Northern Illinois to the big show. The big school/small school angle is quite evident in terms of NFL prospects as the Seminoles have eight or nine players that could be draft picks in April. At the top of the Florida State draft class are potential first round picks DE Bjoern Werner (Jr) and CB Xavier Rhodes (rJr). The rise of German-born Bjoern Werner has been pretty remarkable. In just five short years he’s gone from a high-school exchange student with zero football experience to a First-Team All-American and one of the very top draft-eligible prospects. He is a powerhouse pass-rusher with the strength and power to flatten offensive linemen and the speed and explosive burst to beat them around the edge. He made a name for himself as junior, but became a star and elite prospect this season when he stepped up as the Seminoles feature pass-rusher following Brandon Jenkins’ season-ending injury. Despite having to often face the opponents’ best pass protector Werner was dominant registering 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He looks like a sure-fire top ten pick and could come off the board in the first three selections. Rhodes is a tough, very physical corner with imposing size and strength. He excels in the physical part of playing defense using his superior strength to get in the face of opposing wide receivers and knock them off of their routes. He also has pretty good speed and has shown he possesses the ability to cover receivers anywhere on the field. He’s projected to be a late first, early second round pick. Following Werner and Rhodes are four projected mid-round picks in OLB Brandon Jenkins (Sr), QB EJ Manuel (rSr), DE Cornellius Carradine (Sr) and DT Everett Dawkins (rSr). Jenkins is an explosive pass-rusher with first-round talent, but a Lisfranc injury in his left foot ended his season and dropped him down draft boards leaving his stock a bit up in the air. It won’t be until February or March before he’s able to show he’s fully healthy and worthy of a spot in the first half of the draft. Manuel is a big, athletic quarterback with a very strong arm and the mobility to make plays with his legs, but is still a project at this time. He makes too many bad decisions, holds on to the ball too long and seems to get rattled pretty quickly by pressure. He came into the season as a Heisman candidate and potential first round pick, but struggled despite Florida State’s impressive record and will now need a good showing at the Senior Bowl to sneak into the late third round, but could fall into Day 3. Carradine came into the season as the little known third man behind starters Werner and Jenkins, but like Werner he raised his game to another level with Jenkins’ injury and was flying up draft boards into the first round before going down with a torn right ACL in the season finale. He amassed 11 sacks and 13 tackles for loss through twelve games, but like Jenkins his draft stock is really an unknown until he can show scouts he’s healthy again. Dawkins is a very athletic interior defensive lineman who is best at creating havoc in the middle and putting pressure on the passer even if it doesn’t translate to the stat sheet. His agility and athleticism allow him to move easily around the field and pursue ball-carriers. He should be an early Day 3 selection. Possible late round draft choices for the Seminoles include FB Lonnie Pryor (Sr), WR Rodney Smith (Sr), K Dustin Hopkins (Sr) and DT Anthony McCloud (rSr). Northern Illinois has just one late round hopeful in DE Sean Progar (rSr) for the 2013 NFL Draft. S Dechance Durante (rSo) is still just a sophomore, but is definitely a guy to watch for next year as he looks to have some star potential despite missing half the season with an injury.

 

Written By: Mark Scott



Mark Scott’s Official 2013 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

The NFL season is three-quarters of the way through with just four games to play, while the college football regular season has come to a close ramping up draft discussions across the nation. NFL teams are starting to solidify their positions in the draft order, although there is still some jockeying for position to do. Roster needs are starting to be clearly defined across the NFL as well and scouts now have until April to delve into game tape of all the prospects available for the 2013 NFL Draft.

1.   KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-10) – QB GENO SMITH/WEST VIRGINIA

The Chiefs have been a complete disaster this season and as a result the franchise could be blown up at multiple levels. Regardless of whether there is a new regime put in place or not there is no question the team needs to start over at the quarterback position. Geno Smith has had some ups and downs this season, but he is an outstanding athlete with a rocket arm and a great sense for the game. He has the tools physically and mentally to be a franchise quarterback. I see him blowing front offices away on and off the field at the Scouting Combine and flying up the draft rankings.

2.   JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-10) – DT STAR LOTULELEI/UTAH

The Jags have been awful again this season and have major issues across the roster. The pass rush has remained abysmal with only 13 sacks on the year, good enough for dead last and has ranked in the bottom third of the league in sacks the past four seasons.  The run defense is just as bad ranking 31st in the NFL giving up 144 yards/game. Star Loutlelei is the most dominant player in college football and arguably the top prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s a major force in the middle where he is able to handle multiple blockers and swallow up ball-carriers, while using his superior strength and explosiveness to bowl over offensive linemen and put heat on the quarterback. Star Lotulelei is the closest prospect to becoming the next Haloti Ngata that we’ve seen. He is an exceptional talent that will instantly improve Jacksonville’s run defense and pass rush.

3.   OAKLAND RAIDERS (3-9) – DAMONTRE MOORE/TEXAS A&M

General Manager Reggie McKenzie cleaned house of high-priced veterans when he took over leaving the team depleted of a lot of its talent. The pass rush might have been the most affected by the house cleaning and has struggled mightily since with only 14 sacks on the season. Damontre Moore was a good prospect that became a great prospect this season when he took his game to another level registering 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Moore is an explosive pass-rusher with the versatility to line up with his hand on the ground or standing up and can even be used on the interior of the defensive line from time to time. He is arguably the best pass-rusher in the draft.

4.   PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-9) – LT LUKE JOECKEL

The Eagles have not been able to protect the quarterback at all this year and Michael Vick has felt the brunt of it getting hit way too often. Jason Peters was considered one the best pass protectors in the NFL, but after tearing his Achilles twice during the offseason has his future in doubt. He’ll return to action eventually, but what kind of player will he be when he does return. Peters’ replacements Demetrius Bell and King Dunlap have been terrible while Todd Herremans has done an admirable job on the right side, but is better suited inside at guard. Joeckel is the far and away the top left tackle in this draft. He’s not an elite athlete, but possesses exceptional technical skills and footwork. He’s proven he can eliminate the other team’s best pass-rushers and because he’s started since his freshman year in college he has the experience to step in and play right away.

5.   CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-9) – DT JOHNATHAN HANKINS/OHIO STATE

Carolina has a number of holes on their roster and needs an infusion of elite talent to upgrade at multiple positions. One of the weakest areas that needs to be addressed is their average group of defensive tackles. Dwan and Ron Edwards are way past their prime and 2011 third-round picks Terrell McClain and Sione Fua have not developed enough at this point. Hankins is a massive athlete that moves exceptionally well for a man his size. He can take on double teams and clogs up the middle of the field. He instantly helps this Carolina run defense.

6.   SAN DEIGO CHARGERS (4-8) – OLB JARVIS JONES/GEORGIA

The Chargers can’t protect Phillip Rivers, but with Luke Joeckel off the board and this spot a bit too high to take either Taylor Lewen or Eric Fisher, they’ll have to focus on another area. Pass-rusher Shaun Phillips will be a 32-year old free agent after the season and might not be brought back. Jarvis Jones is the top player available and could fill the spot vacated by Phillips.  Jones is one of the top pass-rushers in the draft and is a special kind of talent. Jones along with 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram would give the Chargers a tandem of pass-rushers that could dominate for the next decade or so.

7.   CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-8) – ILB MANTI TE’O/NOTRE DAME

Cleveland could go any number of directions with this selection, but I do expect this to be a defensive player. They would’ve liked to take Jones to fill the hole left by the Scott Fugita at the strong side linebacker position, who is likely to retire because of injury. With Jones gone, the Browns take potential Heisman Trophy winner Manti Te’o to play middle linebacker to captain their defense and move D’Qwell Jackson to Fugita’s spot on the outside. Te’o would bring instant credibility to the Browns defense and would give them potentially the next Ray Lewis of the AFC North division.

8.   DETROIT LIONS (4-8) – DE BJOERN WERNER/FLORIDA STATE

It didn’t take long for Detroit to be back drafting in the top ten after finally making the playoffs last season. They’ve neglected the cornerback position for years in the draft and Dee Millliner could be a possibility here, but the Lions will ignore the position again to add to their defensive line. Kyle Vanden Bosch has only 3.5 sacks this season and is nearing an end after a long career, while Cliff Avril remains a solid threat on the other side, but isn’t the most dynamic pass-rusher. Florida State’s Werner is a disruptive talent that contributes in a number of areas. He is a powerful pass-rusher that is always causing havoc in the opponents’ backfield, while constantly getting his hands in passing lanes to knock balls down a lot like Houston’s J.J. Watt, while still being highly effective at stopping the run.

9.   ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-8) – QB MATT BARKLEY/USC

Arizona might have the worst quarterback corps in the entire NFL. It is absolutely abysmal. None of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley should be on this team next season. They need to completely start over. Luckily for them, Matt Barkly has slid down draft boards far enough that he could very well still be available for the Cards at this spot in the draft. Matt Barkley probably made a mistake in returning to USC for another year as they not only didn’t come close to playing for a predicted National Championship, but he also had his own struggles and to top it off he finished the season on the sidelines with a shoulder injury. He would’ve been a top five pick in the 2012 draft, but now looks like he will be lucky to go in the top ten with some scouts now saying he could a second-round pick. He’s not the best athlete and doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he does possess great fundamentals, experience in a pro-style offense and has the mental side of the game down pat. He is a major upgrade on what Arizona currently has.

10.   TENNESSEE TITANS (4-8) – DE SAM MONTGOMERY/LSU

The Titans pass rush has been majorly lacking this season. Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan have just 7.5 sacks between them and there is nothing on the roster behind them. Montgomery is an athletic, max-effort that is highly effective rushing the quarterback and defending the run. He possesses the versatility and skills to fit in any defensive scheme.

11.   BUFFALO BILLS (5-7) – ILB ALEC OGLETREE/GEORGIA

The Bills have made it clear that they’re looking for a potential franchise quarterback in this draft, but they’ll likely have to make a move up the draft to make sure they can secure Barkley or Smith otherwise they’ll have to reach quite a bit for one of the other quarterbacks or look elsewhere. That’s alright Buffalo needs major help on defense. Their ranked 30th against the run and have given up more rushing touchdowns this season than any other team. Ogletree has been a force for Bulldogs this year and arguably their most effective defender. A tackling-machine, Ogletree could easily slot in to the Bills starting middle linebacker spot moving Kelvin Sheppard to the outside.

12.   MIAMI DOLPHINS (5-7) – WR KEENAN ALLEN/CALIFORNIA

Brian Hartline and Davone Bess have both been good this season, but neither is a true #1 wide out and until Miami acquires one to replace the traded Brandon Marshall than rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be slow to develop. Just look at Sam Bradford in St. Louis as an example. Allen is currently ranked a top the wide receiver draft class at the moment, but the Tennessee duo of Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson aren’t too far behind and moving up. The California product is a big, down-the-field wide receiver with the ability to stretch the defense and go up and catch any ball above opposing defensive backs. He is exactly what the Dolphins need on offense.

13.   NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (5-7) – DT JOHN JENKINS/GEORGIA

The Saints defense has been just putrid this season. They can’t generate much of a pass-rush or stop the run. Jenkins is a mammoth athlete with the strength to handle multiple offensive linemen and stuff the run. He won’t ever put up eye-popping numbers on the stat sheet, but he will skyrocket the Saints run defense up the rankings. He’s the best run-stopper in the draft.

14.   NEW YORK JETS (5-7) – OLB BARKEVIOUS MINGO/LSU

The Jets are a complete joke and their regime led by Tannenbaum and Ryan is on the hot seat. They need a lot of help in a number of areas. While the Jets defense has held their own, they have done so for the most part without a very good pass rush. The Aaron Maybin project didn’t work out and both Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace are in their thirties. Mingo might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the draft. He has a long, lanky frame with an explosive burst off the snap and has incredible speed as a former track star. He’s still learning the game as he didn’t start playing until his junior year of high school, but has been well-coached by Les Miles at LSU and is making leaps and bounds in his skills as each game passes. Mingo could be the star pass-rusher that Rex Ryan needs to get his defense back to the top of the NFL.

15.   ST. LOUIS RAMS (5-6-1) – LT TAYLOR LEWEN/MICHIGAN

The Rams desperately need to get better protection for Sam Bradford, who has had to endure limited wide receivers and bad offensive lines in his short career. Jason Smith was a massive bust and was shipped to New York for Wayne Hunter who may be even worse. Rodger Saffold has done what he can, but he just is overmatched at left tackle. The Rams would’ve loved to land Luke Joeckel, but look to have won their way out of position with Joeckel emerging as one the very top prospects in the draft. Don’t sleep on Lewen though, he is a prototype left tackle and a better pure athlete than Joeckel, but isn’t as far in his development. He’s a very good pass blocker, but actually might be even better at run-blocking and he plays with a mean streak, an excellent trait to have in an offensive lineman.

16.   TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (6-6) – CB DEE MILLINER/ALABAMA

Tampa is the best in the NFL at defending the run, but has struggled mightily this season at stopping the pass. The talented, but troubled Aquib Talib was finally sent packing and Ronde Barber could be at the end of legendary career when the season comes to a close. Dee Milliner has been a stalwart for the Alabama defense and is the top corner in the draft. He possesses all the skills needed to be a #1 shutdown corner. He’s strong and physical and can run hip to hip with elite wide receivers. He won’t just help the pass defense as he is very valuable in run support as well.

17.   MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-6) – WR JUSTIN HUNTER/TENNESSEE

Adrian Peterson continues to carry the Vikings offense on his back. The passing attack just isn’t producing. Quarterback Christian Ponder has had his struggles, but Percy Harvin has been plagued by injuries again and the other Viking wide receivers just cannot get any separation.  Justin Hunter proved this season to everyone that he was healthy and could come back from a devastating torn ACL last year, although his production hasn’t completely returned, but that is to be expected after such an injury. He’s a smooth route-runner that can go deep or over the middle and uses his size and strength to outmuscle opposing defensive backs for the ball.

18. WASHINGTON (6-6) ST.LOUIS RAMS – WR CORDARRELLE PATTERSON

As noted earlier, Sam Bradford has had to throw to some pretty limited wide receivers since being drafted. Danny Amendola is a solid target, but seems to get banged up too much and their young wide outs still remain question marks. Patterson lit up the junior college ranks before bursting on to the National scene this season with Tennessee. He’s displayed exceptional speed and playmaking ability. He can be used in a variety of ways on offense and can line up at any of the wide receiver positions and the in the back field. A Percy Harvin-type talent, but taller.

19.   DALLAS COWBOYS (6-6) – OG CHANCE WARMACK/ALABAMA

The Cowboys need help on the offensive line in better protecting Tony Romo and improving their 30th ranked run offense. Dallas liked David DeCastro a lot in the 2012 Draft, but chose to pass on him and ended up going with a couple cheap veterans to fill the guard positions. It hasn’t worked out and with Alabama’s Chance Warmack still available because he plays guard despite being one of the very top ranked prospects in the draft, the Cowboys just can’t pass on his talent.

20.   CINCINNATI BENGALS (7-5) – DE DION JORDAN/OREGON

The Bengals have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL this season, but with three of their top pass rushers (Michael Johnson, Robert Geathers and Manny Lawson) set to be free agents at the end of the season it’s unlikely they’ll all be back. Dion Jordan is an exciting athlete with still raw abilities, but the sky is the limit for this guy. He’s long, lean and explosive and has the versatility to play multiple positions in the front seven.

21.   PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7-5) – OLB COREY LEMONIER/AUBURN

Pittsburgh yet again finds themselves with a top ranked defense this season, but age is quickly catching up to them and they need to keep adding young players to their defense to eventually take over for their seemingly ageless stars. Corey Lemonier is the type of rugged defender that should fit in perfectly with this Steelers defense. He is a relentless defender always in pursuit of the quarterback or ball-carrier. He possesses an explosive first step and has great closing speed. A pass-rusher first, he is also a big contributor against the run.

22.   SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-5) – DT SHELDON RICHARDSON/MISSOURI

The Seahawks are in need of a #1 wide receiver and could look at Baylor’s Terrance Williams at this spot, but instead decide to add to one of their strengths, the defensive line. Defensive tackle Alan Branch is a free agent after the season and could be brought back or upgraded. Sheldon Richardson put together a phenomenal season at Missouri this year. Richardson is a powerful bull rusher from the inside of the defensive line and is a much more active tackler than most interior linemen, mostly due to his all-out effort and quickness. The Seattle pass rush just got even scarier.

23.   INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (8-4) – NT KAWANN SHORT/PURDUE

The Colts put all their attention into rebuilding the offense at the 2012 NFL Draft, despite changing their defensive scheme from a long-used 4-3 to a 3-4. While the defense has held in there, they clearly are lacking the right talent to play in the new system. A big nose tackle is needed for Chuck Pagano’s defense and they would’ve liked to land John Jenkins to be that guy. Instead they go with Kawann Short, who is surely big enough to handle the position, but also brings a pass-rush element with him. He likes to penetrate and live in the opponents’ back field rather than just handle blockers and clog up the middle. If he can’t play the middle, they can easily slide him to the outside at the five-technique where they need just as much help.

24.   CHICAGO BEARS (8-4) – LT ERIC FISHER/CENTRAL MICHIGAN

The Bears cannot go into the 2013 NFL season with their current offensive line. They can’t protect Jay Cutler at all and continue to rack up penalties trying. JaMarcus Webb just isn’t a starting left tackle in this league and right tackle Gabe Carimi has already been moved inside to guard because he couldn’t handle playing tackle at the NFL level. Fisher might be most unknown prospect in the first round, but he shouldn’t be. Another athletic prototype left tackle, Fisher is quickly moving up draft boards and could surpass Taylor Lewen as the second-rated left tackle behind Luke Joeckel. He’s excellent in pass protection.

25.   GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-4) – TE TYLER EIFERT/NOTRE DAME

Jermichael Finley appears to have worn out his welcome in Green Bay with his disappointing play and attitude. He’s clearly not on the same page as the rest of the Packers offense and with ton of money due to him next year his days in Green Bay could be over following the season. Tyler Eifert was just named college football’s top tight end. He has great body control and ball skills and is a major weapon in the passing attack. He’s not going block many people, but he will stretch the field and demand a lot attention from opposing defenses.

26.   NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-3) – WR TERRANCE WILLIAMS/BAYLOR

The Patriots remain one the top offenses in football, but they still lack a legitimate deep threat. Chad Ochocinco was a disappointment last year and Brandon Lloyd has been almost as disappointing this season. All the while, Wes Welker will be a free agent and his relationship with Bill Belichick continues o deteriorate leading those to believe Welker won’t be a Patriot next year. Terrance Williams is a lanky wide out with good size and speed that is a dangerous pass-catcher deep down field.

27.   DENVER BRONCOS (9-3) – DT SHARIFF FLOYD/FLORIDA

The Broncos defense has played well this season ranking in top ten against both the pass and the run, but the middle of their defense is pretty average at both the defensive tackle positions and middle linebacker. Kevin Vickerson and Justin Bannan will both be in their thirties next season and neither is particularly good and could stand to be upgraded, especially since there isn’t much on the roster behind them either. Shariff Floyd is moving up draft boards. He can play in multiple schemes and on the outside or interior of the defensive line. He has the strength to stuff the run and the quickness to create a pass-rush and get to the quarterback. The Broncos don’t have anything like him on the roster at the defensive tackle position.

28.   ATLANTA FALCONS (11-1) – TE ZACH ERTZ/STANFORD

Tony Gonzalez is still one of the best in the game and extremely productive. He’s a major part of Atlanta’s offense, but looks like he is ready to retire at season’s end. He’s on the record as saying he is 95% sure he will call it quits. If Gonzalez does retire, there is nothing behind him on the Falcons roster to take over.  Ertz has emerged as a big-time playmaker for Stanford this year and is right behind Eifert for top spot among tight ends in the draft class. He possesses most of the same skills as Eifert in the receiving game, but is a better blocker than his Notre Dame counterpart.

29.   NEW YORK GIANTS (7-5) – DE EZEKIEL ANSAH/BYU

This could be anyone as the Giants and General Manager Jerry Reese tend to always go with the best player available regardless of position. Ansah may or may not be the best player available at this point, but he is the type of raw, explosive athlete with a ton of upside that they like. Osi Umenyiora is a free agent after the season and his rocky relationship with the front office to go with his contract demands could see his time in New York come to an end. Ansah is drawing comparisons to New York’s stud pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul.

30.   BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-3) – ILB C.J. MOSLEY/ALABAMA

This year more than ever has shown that the Ravens need to draft an inside linebacker to be Ray Lewis’ heir apparent when he finally decides to retire.  Lewis’ skills have deteriorated slightly as he’s gotten older and continued to pile up the battles on his body. When he went out with an injury this year Baltimore was left with a major gap in the middle of its defense. The Ravens do not want to have look for a guy when Lewis is already gone, they want someone to learn from him for a year or two before taking over. C.J. Mosley could be that guy.  He’s a versatile, well-coached three-down linebacker with the leadership skills to lead an NFL defense in the future.

31.   SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (8-3-1) – DT JESSE WILLIAMS/ALABAMA

The 49ers have one of best defenses in the NFL and one the top five-technique defensive end tandems as well with Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. What they don’t have is depth behind them and Smith is 33 and not getting any younger. Nose Tackle Issac Sopoaga will also be a 31-year old free agent. Australian-born Jesse Williams has the versatility and talent to fill either void, whether as depth behind Smith and McDonald or as a replacement for Sopoaga in the middle.

32.   HOUSTON TEXANS (11-1) – WR DEANDRE HOPKINS/CLEMSON

The Texans have lacked a legit second threat in the passing game across from Andre Johnson for years now. Hopkins is quickly moving up draft boards and is the type of dynamic player the likes of Percy Harvin that the Texans have never had. Hopkins can do a number of things on offense and can line up at multiple spots. He’s very fast and quick with the ability to make oncoming tacklers miss and can stretch the field deep. He would make this offense even more dangerous than it already is.

Written By: Mark Scott



Mark Scott’s Official 2013 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

The quarter mark of the NFL season has passed with every team having now played at least four games on the year which means it’s time to take a look ahead to next year’s draft with the first version of my 2013 NFL Mock Draft. Prospects are moving up and down draft boards each week during the college football season and now halfway through the year we know which draft-eligible prospects are solidifying their rankings as potential first round picks. The 2013 NFL Draft is considered to be a solid draft, but seems to be lacking in truly elite, complete prospects at number of positions. There doesn’t seem to be that can’t miss franchise quarterback, elite play-making number one cornerback, franchise left tackle or superstar running back. It does however have a good group of quarterbacks and is stocked with exceptional pass rushers and defensive linemen. The 2013 NFL Draft is still far away and this mock will probably look completely different in April as NFL teams move up and down the standings and draft-eligible prospects continue to show what they are made of as the year progresses.

1.  CLE 0-5 – QB MATT BARKLEY/USC

New ownership is taking over in Cleveland and a new regime (GM and Head Coach) is likely to be put in place. I don’t see that new regime willing to put their jobs on the line with a nearly 30-year old second-year quarterback as their starter. Brandon Weeden will probably be kept around as a backup the same way Colt McCoy was this season, but the new regime will draft and hand over the reins to Matt Barkley. The Browns cannot pass up the opportunity to take a franchise changing quarterback with the first overall pick just because they took a huge risk with Weeden last year. Barkley probably would’ve been drafted in the top three of the 2012 NFL Draft and funny enough he probably would’ve ended up on the Browns then as well. Playing in a pro-style offense at USC is the main reason I have Barkley just edging out the hard-charging Geno Smith of West Virginia.

2.  KC 1-4 – QB GENO SMITH/WEST VIRGINIA

The Matt Cassel era in Kansas City is most likely over following the season and the Chiefs will replace him by drafting current Heisman favorite Geno Smith. The West Virginia quarterback has lit up opposing defenses this year with astronomical numbers and has skyrocketed up draft boards into consideration for the first overall pick. If Smith is taken with the top pick than this selection will be Matt Barkley. The Chiefs finally get the franchise quarterback they’ve been searching for.

3.  JAX 1-4 – DE BJOERN WERNER/FLORIDA STATE

Surprise, the Jaguars pass rush is abysmal once again. They’ve finished at or near the bottom of the league in sacks the past three seasons and have recorded just 3 in five games this year. Jarvis Jones is the top ranked pass-rusher in the draft, but isn’t the greatest fit for Jacksonville’s 4-3 defense as he is better suited as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme like the one he plays in at Georgia. Bjoern Werner is one of the fastest rising prospects this year and is a perfect fit at defensive end for the Jags. He’s a ferocious pass-rusher that plays with the effort and passion General Manager Gene Smith looks for in his draft picks, even if this is a few spots higher than where he should be selected.

4.  TEN 1-4 – DE SAM MONTGOMERY/LSU

The Titans usually have a pretty good pass rush, but this year it stinks. They lost a couple of key contributors in free agency and their own big signing Kamerion Wimbley has only one sack this season, while Derrick Morgan continues to prove he’s a draft bust with just five sacks in his career. Jarvis Jones is passed up on again in favor of LSU’s Sam Montgomery, who is a better fit for the Titans 4-3 defense. Montgomery is a tremendous athlete with excellent pass-rush skills and has received fantastic coaching under Les Miles.

5.  CAR 1-4 – DT STAR LOTULELEI/UTAH

It’s no wonder the Panthers are drafting in the top five again when they have dedicated most of their money to running backs and linebackers, two of the least valued positions in terms of drafting and spending. The Panthers run defense is awful and their defensive tackles are below average. Star Lotulelei is a difference-maker in the middle that can handle double and triple-teams, while still putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He will improve both the run defense and pass rush and will give the Panthers ability to switch to a long-rumored 3-4 defensive scheme should they want to. He’s the closest prospect to being the next Haloti Ngata that we’ve seen.

6.  OAK 1-3 – OLB JARVIS JONES/GEORGIA

The Raiders are in a bit of a rebuild mode under new General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Dennis Allen especially on defense. McKenzie let go of a number of high-priced talent since taking over and it has depleted this roster of game-changers. They don’t have a pass rush and have one of the worst cornerback corps in the league. Allen had Von Miller in Denver playing a pass-rushing role from the 4-3 outside linebacker spot and could use Jones in the same way. Jones has the versatility to line up all over the front seven and while he has been predominantly used as a 3-4 outside linebacker at Georgia, he has the talent and drive to play in any scheme.

7.  DET 1-3 – CB DEE MILLINER/ALABAMA

The Lions have ignored the cornerback position for years and it continues to haunt them every year. They add some much needed talent in top ranked cornerback Dee Milliner. The Alabama product has emerged as a legit number one cornerback this season after taking over for 2012 first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick. Milliner is excellent in coverage and possesses the ball skills and instincts to create big plays on defense.

8.  NO 1-4 – DT JOHNATHAN HANKINS/OHIO STATE

The whole New Orleans defense has been just putrid this season and appears to lack the right type of talent to fit new Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. They can’t stop the run or the pass and have not been able to generate much of a pass rush. They’ve been unsuccessful in finding someone to pair with Sedrick Ellis on the interior of the defensive line and now Ellis will be a free agent in March. Whether they bring Ellis back or not they will still need to add another presence on the inside to fix the run defense. Hankins has been one of the most dominating players in college football this year and looks ready for the NFL.

9.  TB 1-3 – ILB MANTI TE’O/NOTRE DAME

New Head Coach Greg Schiano is changing the culture in Tampa, but still needs a leader on his defense, especially with long-time cornerback Ronde Barber set to retire at the end of the year. Linebacker isn’t necessarily the Bucs biggest need, but selecting Te’o is an opportunity they won’t pass up. Te’o is the top middle linebacker and has the talent that would make him that in any of the last few drafts. He’s a complete three-down linebacker with sideline to sideline range and will be the leader that Schiano can build his defense around for years.

10.  WSH 2-3 STL – LT LUKE JOECKEL/TEXAS A&M

The Rams finally gave up on former 2009 second overall pick and Left Tackle of the future Jason Smith and shipped him to the Jets. Current Left Tackle Rodger Saffold has struggled since being drafted in 2010 and would be a much better fit on the right side. Luke Joeckel is the top blindside protector and one of the most skilled offensive linemen in the draft. Joeckel should finally give quarterback Sam Bradford the protection he so desperately needs.

11.  MIA 2-3 – WR JUSTIN HUNTER/TENNESSEE

Brian Hartline has been fantastic for the Dolphins this season, but he is not a number one wide receiver. Justin Hunter is the top wide out in the draft and would fill the void left by Brandon Marshall who was traded to Chicago in the offseason and never really replaced. Hunter is a big, fast wide out with great hands that can stretch the field deep or wreak havoc making catches over the middle. Hunter, Hartline and Bess could be a formidable trio of wide receivers for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to work and develop with.

12.  BUF 2-3 – QB TYLER WILSON/ARKANSAS

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is clearly not the answer in Buffalo. He’s average at best and doesn’t have the elite skills needed to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL. It also doesn’t help that he really can’t throw the ball deep at all. The Bills have resisted drafting a franchise-type quarterback for a very long time and it’s about time they do draft one. Wilson has fallen down draft boards a bit since suffering a concussion and due to the struggles of the Razorbacks to live up to their potential this season. Wilson is back to being fully healthy again and has started to turn things back around for Arkansas. He possesses a strong accurate arm that should be able to handle the wild weather in Buffalo.

13.  IND 2-2 – OLB BARKEVIOUS MINGO/LSU

The Colts new coaching staff decided to switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme this year and have a lot of rebuilding to do to find the right personnel to fit it. Indy resigned long-time pass-rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but both are better suited for the more traditional 4-3 defense the Colts used to run. Both were also shopped around during the offseason and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either in a different uniform next year. Regardless Indy still needs a pass-rusher to fit their new defense and get a steal with Mingo still on the board. One of the top ranked prospects at the moment Mingo is still getting better and has as high a ceiling as anyone in this draft. He should become an instant force and the next great Colts pass-rusher.

14.  NYJ 2-3 – OLB/DE COREY LEMONIER/AUBURN

The Jets offense is a mess, but they won’t take a receiver here after selecting Stephen Hill in the second round this year and it’s a bit early to take a running back or right tackle so they will have to look at improving the offense later in the draft. The mighty Jets defense hasn’t been so mighty this season and a lot of that has to do with the lack of a pass rush. They have just five sacks so far and the pass rush doesn’t appear to be getting any better. Aaron Maybin has disappeared again and veterans Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace have provided nothing, while the defensive line hasn’t done much either. Lemonier has been the lone bright spot in a dismal season for Auburn. He has excellent pass rush skills and the versatility to line up at linebacker or defensive end which should be a nice fit for the multiple scheme the Jets use on defense.

15.  DEN 2-3 – CB DAVID AMERSON/NORTH CAROLINA STATE

Future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey has started to slow down the past few seasons and is near the end of his illustrious career. The rest of the Broncos cornerbacks aren’t particularly that good either. David Amerson started the season as one of the very top draft-eligible prospects, but has struggled to live up to expectations and has since slipped into the middle of the first round rankings.  Amerson is a good cover corner with elite ball skills and instincts, but needs to improve his speed and strength to hang with NFL wide receivers.

16.  GB 2-3 – LT TAYLOR LEWEN/MICHIGAN

The Packers don’t have a ton of holes, but could certainly stand to improve their left tackle and running back positions. Marshall Newhouse has struggled at left tackle and is better suited to play inside at guard, while Bryan Bulaga needs to remain at right tackle. Lewen is a bit of project, but has the look and size of a NFL prototype blindside protector and does possess a very high ceiling. The Packers have enough talent on their offensive line to give Lewen the time to continue to improve his game. This selection could easily be South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.

17.  DAL 2-2 – QB TYLER BRAY/TENNESSEE

This might be a huge shock, but if the Cowboys miss the playoffs again it could be time to replace Tony Romo and start over at the quarterback position. The Cowboys have won just one playoff game and played in only four with Romo as their quarterback. With Romo seeking an extension following the season, this is the time to cut him loose and move on. Tyler Bray has immense talent and the strongest arm in college football. He does have some areas in his game to improve on, but the skills to be a franchise quarterback are there.

18.  SEA 3-2 – WR KEENAN ALLEN/CALIFORNIA

Seattle has put together a pretty good team without a lot of holes, but their wide receiver corps does need to be upgraded. Sidney Rice is always injured, Braylon Edwards is a year to year player and Golden Tate is still a young developing NFL receiver. Keenan Allen is the type of big, athletic down the field wide out that Pete Carroll loves. Allen should be a great fit with the Seahawks and give them the potential number one receiver they need.

19.  STL 3-2 – WR ROBERT WOODS/USC

The Rams just breathed a huge sigh of relief after Robert Woods was still available for them at this spot, especially after missing out on some of the 2012 draft’s top wide outs. St. Louis has one of the worst receiving corps in the league and it has certainly hindered the development of quarterback Sam Bradford. Drafting Woods finally gives Bradford the go to number one wide receiver he has desperately needed since being drafted by the Rams himself.

20.  NYG 3-2 – OG CHANCE WARMACK/ALABAMA

The Giants almost always go with the best player available and worry about filling needs later. Chance Warmack is not only the best player available at this point, but also fill a huge hole for the Giants at left guard. Warmack is NFL-ready and might just be the best offensive linemen in the entire draft. DT Kawann Short, ILB Alec Ogletree or DE Jackson Jeffcoat could also fit the best player available type.

21.  CIN 3-2 (AFC 5) – RB MARCUS LATTIMORE/SOUTH CAROLINA

Free agent signing Benjarvus Green-Ellis was brought in to take over at running back for the departed Cedric Benson, but has struggled so far this season especially with fumbles, which was considered his biggest strength (He had never recorded a fumble in his career). Meanwhile Bernard Scott has done nothing since he was drafted. Marcus Lattimore is a stud that would add another elite weapon to this young Cincinnati offense. He tore his ACL last season, but has shown that he is pretty much back to where he was before the injury. Lattimore is a power back with the ability to make defenders miss and is also a receiving threat out of the back field.

22.  SD 3-2 (AFC 3) – CB JOHNTHAN BANKS/MISSISSIPPI STATE

Quinton Jammer is well into his 30s and is no longer playing at the level he needs too to be a number one corner. Both he and fellow starting cornerback Antoine Cason will be free agents at the end of the season and even if they bring both back next year, adding a young cornerback to the roster to take over for Jammer would be wise. Banks is an experienced SEC-hardened playmaking corner with good all-around skills.

23.  PHI 3-2 (NFC 4) – FS ERIC REID/LSU

Free Safety Kurt Coleman is average at best and could certainly be upgraded. Without too many glaring holes the Eagles can go in any number of directions. Eric Reid is the best safety in the draft and one of the best players available at this point and fits a need area for Philadelphia. Reid is another exceptional product out of Defensive Back U aka. LSU.

24.  ARZ 4-1 (NFC 3) – QB LOGAN THOMAS/VIRGINIA TECH

The Cardinals have had an amazing season so far this year despite Kevin Kolb and John Skelton playing quarterback. Both Logan Thomas and Virginia Tech have had some struggles this season and it has resulted in Thomas slipping down draft boards, but he is still a 6’6”, 250lb. athletic quarterback with a rocket arm and excellent mobility. He’s also extremely good on converting third and short by using his size to muscle his way to a first down.

25.  PIT 2-2 (AFC 6) – SS KENNY VACCARO/TEXAS

The Pittsburgh defense is quickly aging with multiple starters over the age of 30. They have already started the transition by letting go of a few veterans in the offseason. Troy Polamalu is 31 now and can’t stay healthy with any sort of consistency. I’m not saying cut him loose, but it might be time to find his eventual replacement and someone who can step into the starting lineup when he’s injured. Vaccaro has been tremendous this season for the Longhorns and has quickly risen into discussions as a first round pick and the top strong safety in the draft.

26.  NE 4-1 (AFC 4) – CB XAVIER RHODES/FLORIDA STATE

The Patriots cannot continue to use Devin McCourty as a starting cornerback. Every week teams continue to target him with success and New England still ranks near the bottom of the league in pass defense. Xavier Rhodes is a physical hard-hitting corner with solid cover and ball skills.

27.  SF 4-1 (NFC 6) – DT/DE SHARRIF FLOYD/FLORIDA

Defensive Ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald may be the best starting tandem of 3-4 ends in the league, but both are over 30 and the 49ers could use some youth behind them. Floyd has been dominant for the Gators this season and one of the main reasons their defense is one of the best in the nation. He’s flying up draft boards and looks to be a great pick late in the first round.

28.  MIN 4-1 (NFC 2) – WR TERRANCE WILLIAMS

The Vikings have had an outstanding year, but their offense is lacking in weapons after Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. They’ve had great success dropping it off short to Harvin and letting him create in open space, but that is only going to work for so long before defenses start keying in on him. Adding a deep threat like Williams across from Harvin will open up the field for everyone on the Vikings offense.

29.  CHI 4-1 (NFC 5) – LT ERIC FISHER/CENTRAL MICHIGAN

The Bears have one of the worst offensive lines in the league and have for some time now. JaMarcus Webb is absolutely horrible and it’s a wonder that Jay Cutler is able to somehow stay healthy despite being hit repeatedly every game. Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher is a bit off the radar right now, but his name is starting to emerge on more and more draft boards as he continues to impress scouts with his play this season. Georgia’s Alec Ogletree could be an option as an eventual replacement for the aging Brian Urlacher.

30.  BAL 4-1 (AFC 2) – ILB ALEC OGLETREE/GEORGIA

The Ravens have been searching for the last couple of years for an heir apparent to Ray Lewis and they finally land their guy in Georgia’s Alec Ogletree. He’s the top 3-4 inside linebacker in the draft and has the talent to take over right away should Lewis decide to retire following the season. Since he returned from four-game suspension to start the year he has quickly risen up draft boards and could easily be long gone by this selection.

31.  ATL 5-0 (NFC 1) – DE JACKSON JEFFCOAT/TEXAS

John Abraham continues to get older and Ray Edwards has been a major disappointment after coming over as a free agent last year. Even their defensive line isn’t all that great either. If the Falcons want to win a Super Bowl they will need to drastically upgrade their defensive line and pass rush. Jackson Jeffcoat is a talented, physical pass rusher that is a steal this late in the first round.

32.  HOU 5-0 (AFC 1) – DT JOHN JENKINS/GEORGIA

The Texans look like the best team in the NFL right now and have very few needs on their roster. One are they can upgrade is at the nose tackle position where they are still using the very average Shaun Cody. John Jenkins is a massive run-stuffing space-eating nose tackle that would be an immediate and major upgrade on Cody. Houston’s pass rush is already one of the best, but is only going to get better with Jenkins demanding double and triple-teams while he’s on the field.

 

Written By: Mark Scott



2012 Draft Watch: Bowl Games Part 2 (Dec.22-Dec.27)

Written By: Mark Scott

Bowl season is just starting to ramp up and so are the number of prospects in them. While the first five Bowls showcased a couple of mid-round prospects like Temple’s Bernard Pierce, Florida International’s T.Y. Hilton and Vinny Curry of Marshall, this next set of games will feature a much larger contingent of prospects with more than a couple Day 1 or 2 draft picks, especially in the Boise State/Arizona State and North Carolina/Missouri matchups.

*Rankings attained from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, SI.com’s Tony Pauline and ESPN’s Todd Mcshay.

 

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, December 22/2011

Boise State Broncos vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

The Broncos/Sun Devils matchup should be the first of many Bowl games from here on out with plenty of draft eligible prospects to watch, with more and more of those prospects being players that will go higher in the draft. While both teams have a couple of Day 2 prospects to check out, it is Arizona State’s Jr ILB Vontaze Burfict, who is the star prospect in this game.  Since Burfict entered college he has been considered a big-time talent destined for life as an NFL star. After starring in his first two seasons in college, Burfict took a step back this year, mainly because of a major lack of discipline in his on-field play committing personal foul penalties one after the other this year to the point where he was finally benched in the second half of the team’s season finale.  Aggressive, physical, and fast with great instincts and tackling ability, Burfict is the complete player physically, but the mental side of his game needs a major change and is the main reason for his fall from a top ten prospect to just hanging on to a first round grade. Burfict has all the makings of a superstar, but will need to be reeled in by a veteran team and strong minded coach, who won’t let him get away with any of his over the top antics on the field. If he can end up with a team like the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers, the whole league better watch out.  Another very intriguing player for the Sun Devils is rSr CB Omar Bolden, who is one of the top corners in all of college and won’t play in this game after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the spring. Bolden has everything a team would want in a number one cornerback and also boasts excellent return skills, but injuries will likely keep him as a Day 3 selection. A very similar situation to that of former Virginia corner Ras-I Dowling, who had all the skills of a top corner, but battled injury issues, especially in his final collegiate season. The New England Patriots still took a chance on his talent taking him with the first pick of the second round in 2011, though he eventually ended up on the season-ending IR after just two games. Bolden won’t go as high as Dowling did and will have to use the Combine to show that he is healthy and help improve his mid to late round stock.  For Boise State, they will feature three noteworthy players starting with rSR DE/DT Billy Winn. A likely second round pick, Winn will fit in perfectly with a team looking for a 3-4 defensive end and could even elicit late first round consideration. A powerful and violent pass-rusher, Winn is also exceptional versus the run as he is mobile enough to chase down opposing rushers on the outside. He will need to get stronger as he struggled at times to push around college offensive linemen, but still possesses the strength to hold his own.  The Broncos’ other two top prospects will likely come off the board late on Day 2 in rSr OT Nate Potter and rSr RB Doug Martin.  The leader of Boise’s offensive line that led the nation in sacks allowed is a tall, very athletic lineman, who should be able to line-up at either offensive tackle position, but made his name as a Left Tackle. An excellent run and pass blocker, Potter still has a number of areas to work on mainly in not allowing stronger pass rushers to bull rush through him. He will remind a lot of scouts of Patriots 2011 first round pick Nate Solder and could even work his way up to a similar draft slot with a great Combine workout, which is expected.  A physical and tough runner, Doug Martin is able to pound the ball inside, while still being able to shift his weight to make oncoming tacklers miss. He doesn’t possess homerun hitting speed, but he is a fantastic receiver out of the backfield and has shown next-level ability after rushing for over 1000 yards for the second straight season while adding 17 touchdowns this year. Meanwhile both teams have a couple of possible late round draft picks or undrafted free agents to watch for in Arizona State’s Sr WR Gerell Robinson and rSr C Garth Gerhart, while Boise State will field a possible fifth round pick in Sr FS George Iloka as well as rSr DE Shea McClellin, Sr DE Tyrone Crawford and star rSr QB Kellen Moore, who couldn’t have done more to over his collegiate career to get drafted, but unfortunately his size will likely cause one of the greatest college Quarterbacks ever to pass through undrafted.

 

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, December 24/2011

Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

Not the early Christmas present we were all hoping for as this game has just two players that will likely be drafted on Day 3 in Nevada’s rSr ILB James-Michael Johnson and Sr DT Brett Roy. Johnson is a solid linebacker that is mobile and fast enough to make plays sideline to sideline and has the ability to drop into coverage on passing downs, while still being stout against running backs on the inside and can get into the backfield when called upon. He sits as a fourth round prospect at the moment, but he is a guy to watch when the Combine comes around and could work himself into one of the first three rounds with a head-turning performance. DT Brett Roy is a blue-collar athlete, who always works until the whistle and plays above his skill level.  A pain to play against, he has demonstrated an ability to get into the backfield after a great season that saw him rack up 60 tackles, 18.5 for loss and 10 sacks in being named a First-Team All-American by Sports Illustrated, although he rates as just a sixth round pick right now. The Wolf Pack’s Sr WR Rishard Matthews earned Honorable Mention from Sports Illustrated as well and could have a chance to get drafted late in the seventh round. On the Southern Mississippi side of the field, there isn’t much to see in terms of prospects, although SI’s Tony Pauline recognizes the Golden Eagles’ Jr OLB Jamie Collins as a possible third round selection, the only draft outlet at the moment who has him even getting drafted. A converted defensive back, Collins has come into his own as an OLB piling up 94 tackles, 19.5 for loss with 6 sacks and 9 passes defended this year. He’s an elite athlete with a high ceiling on his talent. Sr DE/OLB Cordarro Law could be considered in the seventh round, while star rSr QB Austin Davis probably won’t get drafted as he ranks outside the top 300 prospects and top 20 QBs despite shattering most of the legendary Brett Favre’s school records.

 

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, December 26/2011

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Missouri Tigers

This game is jam-packed with next level talent, most of which play for North Carolina, where former Head Coach Butch Davis did an excellent job of recruiting elite players to the program. It all starts with Sr DE Quinton Coples, who has been rated as a Top 10 prospect for the past two seasons and is the clear cut top ranked defensive end in the draft. Coples did have his struggles this year after being moved back to the edge from defensive tackle where he played most of last season and became a star. Despite his struggles, Coples still was able to register 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss proving that his talent is undeniable as he is a ferocious pass rusher that has very few problems getting to the Quarterback. Though it is likely that he only fits into a team using a traditional 4-3 defensive scheme, but can play on the interior of the line as well as off the edge.  Following Coples is Sr OLB Zach Brown, who may just be the best athlete in the entire draft and could shoot up draft boards into the mid first round if he shows off that incredible athleticism at the Combine.  Brown has tremendous, almost unbelievable speed and playmaking ability shown by his 91 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles with 2 interceptions this season, his first as a full-time starter. He is very similar to his former teammate Bruce Carter, who went in the second round last year to the Dallas Cowboys, despite major injury concerns, which should only solidify Brown’s status as a for sure early second round selection, if not somewhere in the first. Brown does need to add more bulk and size to his frame, which should help improve his physicality and ability to shed blockers, but his upside and speed is through the roof. Next to Brown on the Tar Heels’ linebacker corps is Jr LB Kevin Reddick, who is often overshadowed by his more athletic teammate, but is actually rated higher at the moment by ESPN’s Todd McShay, who has Reddick among his Top 32 draft eligible prospects and if he enters the draft, he’s likely to be drafted on Day 2. He possesses excellent instincts and tackling ability and is versatile enough to line up at any of the traditional linebacker positions. Jr NT Sylvester Williams is massive at 6’3, 320lbs. but is still very raw after transferring to UNC from the Junior College ranks. Williams eats up a lot of space along the line, while taking on multiple blockers and is very effective at stopping the run.  He’s not a guy who’s going to get after the Quarterback much, but still can if facing just one blocker. His size provides him with options as he can play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme and should be selected on Day 2. Another massive prospect in Sr WR Dwight Jones, the 6’4, 225lb. wide out is sure to intrigue a number of teams with his size, strength and play-making ability. A much more polished receiver and pass catcher than former teammate and Browns’ 2011 second round pick Greg Little, Jones should have no problem in being taken on Day 2 of the draft if not higher.  While their top five prospects are going to get all the love, the Tar Heels still boast a solid, experienced group of late round players that scouts will have their eyes on in rSR CB Charles Brown, rSr DT Tydreke Powell, rSr RB Ryan Houston and rSr FB Devon Ramsey. For Missouri, they also have a couple of prospects worth watching in this game in Sr TE Michael Egnew and SR DE/OLB Jacquies Smith.  Egnew is another among the group of new style tight ends that more and more teams are starting to look for, lean, athletic with great hands and the ability to get down the field to make plays. Named a First-Team All-American and Missouri’s MVP in 2010 as a Junior after catching 90 passes for 782 yards and 5 touchdowns, Egnew’s play regressed this season and so did his production as he had a little over half of the numbers he put up last season, but that probably had more to do with a change in Quarterback from 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert to the more mobile and inexperienced James Franklin and yet was still named to the Coaches All-Big 12 First-Team.  He rates as a fourth round prospect and probably comes off the board early in Day 3. As for Smith, he is an undersized defensive end, who will likely find his spot in the NFL as a 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker. He is very similar to 49ers’ 2011 first-round pick Aldon Smith, but is not as strong or explosive as his former teammate, although he does possess a lot of the same qualities and Aldon Smith’s success as a rookie should help him improve his draft position where he currently sits as a Day 3 prospect.

 

Little Caesars Bowl, December 27/2011

Western Michigan Broncos vs. Purdue Boilermakers

A battle between the Broncos and Boilermakers will feature just one prospect of note, Purdue’s rJr DT Kawann Short. The 6’3, 310lb. defensive tackle is a strong run defender that can control the line of scrimmage and take on multiple blocks, while still being able to shed those blockers and make a play on the ball carrier. There’s not a lot of flash in his game, but he gets the job done and he does possess enough of a burst to get into the backfield as evidenced by his 14.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks this season. He’s a guy that a team can probably plug and play right away as a rookie and should come off the board in the third round. Perhaps the best wide out ever for Western Michigan (Packers’ Greg Jennings being the other), rSr WR Jordan White holds the majority of the school’s records for his position and put up another outstanding year with an incredible 127 receptions for 1646 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns while earning a spot on the AFCA Coaches’ All-America Team, only the second player in school history to do that.  Despite all of that, White isn’t a great route runner and his multiple serious injuries suffered throughout his career, including season ending injuries on both of his knees in different seasons will turn off teams, although he has been healthy for the most part the past two seasons. White should earn late round consideration from someone.

 

Belk Bowl, December 27/2011

Louisville Cardinals vs. North Carolina State Wolf Pack

The Belk Bowl will feature a mid-round inside linebacker and a pair of possible seventh round tight ends. North Carolina State’s rSr ILB Audie Cole is the main prospect to watch here and might be the only player in this game to hear his name called in the draft. Cole has good instincts and great anticipation, but sometimes becomes sloppy in his play, especially in his tackling and angle taking. At this point, he’s a great athlete, but will need to make big improvements in his game to stick at the NFL level. He could become a star linebacker if the right coach gets a hold of him and takes him under his wing. At 6’7, 240lb. Louisville’s rSr TE Josh Chichester is a fascinating prospect that is still a major work in progress, but could become a devastating playmaker with the right team, could you imagine if Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints get a hold of this guy. He’s a seventh round pick at best and could very likely go undrafted. North Carolina State’s rSr TE George Bryan is your NFL proto-type tight end at 6’5, 265lb. and is a tremendous athlete, who can block, run and catch. He’ll come off the board late on Day 3.