NFL Draft Center


2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (JAN.7)

The BCS National Championship should be a good one this year with traditional college football powers Alabama and Notre Dame playing for the title. The Crimson Tide are looking to cement their legacy as a college football dynasty with their third National Championship in the last four years, while the Irish are looking to be back on top of the college football world with their first title since 1988. As they do every year, Alabama will have a number of NFL prospects on display for front offices, scouts and fans to see with up to 12 possible draft choices led by the likes of Dee Milliner, Chance Warmack and Jesse Williams. The Irish will counter with a decent class of their own featuring potential first round picks Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert. This game is definitely one to watch.

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (12-1)

Ever since Nick Saban took over the Alabama football program, the Crimson Tide have continually sent fantastic draft classes to the NFL, often laden with elite first round prospects.  This year is no different as the Crimson Tide boasts another stacked group of draft-eligible players featuring multiple top-100 prospects including first-round locks CB Dee Milliner (Jr) and OG Chance Warmack (Sr). Milliner is far and away the top rated cornerback for the 2013 NFL Draft and one of the very top prospects as well. He was incredible and nearly unbeatable for the Tide this year in amassing 20 passes defended, 18 pass break-ups, 2 picks, 51 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He’s a shutdown cover corner with the ability to close down the outside in run support. He possesses the size, speed and strength to match elite wide receivers, although his ball skills could still use some work to turn some of those pass break-ups into turnovers. There’s no doubt he will be the first corner selected in the draft and could very well crack the top ten picks. Warmack is the best prospect on Alabama’s incredibly talented offensive line that will send three players to the NFL draft. He’s a mammoth wrecking machine that may be the most dominant guard prospect in a long time. He mauls defenders when run-blocking and is just about as good in pass-protection. He’s extremely light on his feet for a man his size which allows him to get to the second-level when run-blocking and continue to open up massive running lanes for his ball-carrier. He’s one of the very best prospects in the entire draft and should be a first round pick, but because of the lower value placed on his position he could fall into the later portion of the round much the same way Stanford’s highly-rated David DeCastro did in last year’s draft. Joining Warmack in the draft from Alabama’s All-American offensive line is RT D.J. Fluker (rJr) and OL Barrett Jones (rSr). Like Warmack, Fluker is a dominant run-blocker with great size and power that possesses the ability to destroy opposing defensive linemen and linebackers.  Some polishing is still needed in his game, but he is one of the best right tackle prospects just behind Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and should be selected on Day 2. Jones is the leader of the Crimson Tide line and arguably the most versatile offensive lineman in the draft. Throughout his college career, Jones has displayed the ability to play a high level at left tackle (2011 Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s top offensive lineman), center (2012 Rimington Award winner as the nation’s top center) and at guard where he played his first two seasons and was named to 2010 AP All-American Third-Team. He’s an intelligent, max-effort player with fantastic fundamentals and excellent leadership. He should have a long, productive NFL career and could come off the board in the third round. It wouldn’t be an Alabama draft class without a dominant defensive lineman or top running back. As a former Australian rugby player, DT Jesse Williams (Sr) is a highly interesting prospect that possesses intriguing athletic ability and excellent versatility. He’s a huge defender with a low center of gravity and absolutely incredible strength (600lb. bench press). He is impossible to stop at the point of attack and has the power to dominate double-teams, while still possessing the speed to play on the outside and rush the passer. He can be used at every position on the defensive line in multiple schemes. As good as he is already he’s still improving at a rapid pace after only picking up football at the age of 15 and has a very high ceiling. He could be taken anywhere from the mid-first round to as late as the early third, but should come off the board somewhere in between. He could easily be one of the steals of the draft. RB Eddie Lacy (rJr) is the next in the long line of talented running backs to come out of Alabama. He’s a well-built power back with the ability to bulldoze his way through the middle while keeping his legs moving and breaking tackles. He’s a reliable ball-handler and has the potential to be a feature back on first and second downs in the NFL. He’s arguably the top draft-eligible running back for the 2013 NFL Draft with South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore injured and likely out of action for a while. He could be taken as high as the late second/early third round. Alabama also has a solid group of mid to late round prospects that includes SS Robert Lester (Sr), ILB Nico Johnson (Sr) and TE Michael Williams (rSr). All three should be reliable contributors at the next level and will be picked on Day 3. Late round hopefuls for Alabama include DE Quinton Dial, DE Damion Square and S Carson Tinker. The Crimson Tide could have actually had an even more impressive draft class this year if ILB C.J. Mosley (Jr) and QB A.J. McCarron (rJr) hadn’t already announced that they would be returning to school for their final season of eligibility. While McCarron was probably going to be just another mid-round prospect, Mosley was being talked about as a potential late first round pick and the second-rated inside linebacker behind Te’o.

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (12-0)

While Notre Dame doesn’t have near the same size or level of draft class as Alabama, they still have a number of solid prospects led by first round picks ILB Manti Te’o (Sr) and TE Tyler Eifert (rJr). After surprising everyone last year by choosing to return for his senior season and turning down what looked to be a for-sure spot in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Manti Te’o looks to have made the right decision after leading the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season, a spot in the National Championship, a Heisman nomination and an even higher draft ranking. It’s not very often that things work out like that for a prospect when he chooses to return to school and pass on an almost guaranteed spot in the first round (just ask Matt Barkley), but Te’o’s magical season was one for the ages. The Heisman finalist was amazing this season in leading the Irish defense to a spot among the best in the sport. He racked up 103 tackles, his third straight season with 100+ tackles and was among the leaders in interceptions with seven, while adding a multitude of national awards and honors to his trophy case. Te’o is as complete a linebacker as you’ll find. He plays every down and is just as good in defending the pass as he is the run. He plays with great instincts, intensity and an extremely high football I.Q. He attacks the line of scrimmage and ball-carrier with quickness and power and possesses the ability to cover sideline to sideline never leaving him out of position. It would be a major surprise if he’s not selected among the top ten in the 2013 NFL Draft. Tyler Eifert is ranked on most draft boards as the top tight end for the 2013 NFL Draft and a possible late first round draft choice. He’s an athletic, pass-catching tight end with good speed and reliable hands. He’s able to create mismatches in the secondary and dominate defensive backs using his superior size and strength, while fearlessly navigating the middle of the field. He’s still developing as a blocker, but the 2012 Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end shouldn’t last past the early second round. After Te’o and Efiert, the Irish have a group of potential mid to late round prospects that includes DL Kapron Lewis-Moore (rSr), OC/OG Braxston Cave (rSr), RB Theo Riddick (Sr), FS Zeke Motta (Sr) and RB Cierre Wood (rJr). Lewis-Moore is a versatile defensive lineman that can be used in multiple schemes and could be selected as high as the late third round. Late-round hopefuls include OC/OG Mike Golic Jr., S Jamoris Slaughter and WR John Goodman.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL Draft Prospect Watch: Week 1

This is a new feature on NFL Draft Center where every week of the college football season I will take a closer look at the best game to watch for potential prospects and the best head to head matchup in a game between draft eligible players. This season gets started with a bang Friday night when one of the best head to head battles we’ll see all season long takes place as two of the top prospects in the draft, CB David Amerson and WR Justin Hunter face off with one another, while a Crimson Tide showcase in prime time follows on Saturday night.

Best Head to Head Matchup: North Carolina State CB David Amerson vs. Tennessee WR Justin Hunter and North Carolina State QB Mike Glennon vs. Tennessee QB Tyler Bray @ the Georgia Dome, Friday/7:30 PM

While the Boise State/Michigan State game will get all the national attention on Friday night, the game all the NFL scouts will be glued to is the matchup between North Carolina State and Tennessee as it features a showdown between the consensus top cornerback in the draft in the Wolf Pack’s All-American David Amerson and one of the top receivers available in Volunteers’ wide out Justin Hunter. Both rate among the 15 best prospects to potentially enter the 2013 NFL Draft with Amerson ranked among the top five on most boards. The reigning Jack Tatum Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back, Amerson put together a season for the history books in 2011 as he set a new ACC and NC State record for interceptions in a season with 13, falling just short of tying the FBS record of 14. Amerson is a big corner at 6’3”, 195lbs. with good length and large hands. He can man up one on one in coverage with anyone and possesses the instincts and ball skills to switch his mindset from defense to offense mid-play with the ball in air. He is also exceptional versus the run and has shown the ability to improve his skills and technique at a rapid progression. He will be in tough though Friday when he has the task of covering Justin Hunter. The Tennessee product is a tall, lean receiver with good speed. He’s an excellent route runner, but it’s his elite leaping ability and great hands that have scouts comparing him to Cincinnati Bengals standout A.J Green. There is a big question surrounding Hunter though and that’s whether or not he can return to the same player he had shown before tearing his ACL in the third game of the season last year. This is a huge test for both players and one that could go a long way in determining where both of them could be selected come the draft and whether they can maintain the lofty status among prospects that they currently have.

Amerson versus Hunter may be the main attraction in their game Friday night, but it’s not the only head to head battle worth watching as this game will be the first this season to feature two of the top ten quarterbacks available for the draft. Tennessee’s Tyler Bray is that gun-slinger type quarterback and will remind a lot of people of Chicago’s Jay Cutler. He possesses a cannon for an arm and might just throw the best deep ball of any of this year’s quarterback prospects. He can be lazy at times in his technique and often chooses to try and make the much more difficult throw than using one of his safer, more open options. He will also need to show he can stay healthy after missing five games with a hand injury in 2011. After having to stand in the shadow of Russell Wilson for a few years, Mike Glennon finally got his shot last season after Wilson chose to transfer to Wisconsin. Glennon possesses the NFL prototypical size and arm strength for the next level, but because of his lack of game experience he still has work to do in improving his technique, footwork and decision making. He’s probably a third or fourth round pick right now, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him shoot up draft boards with an even stronger season than last year.

Best Game to Watch for Prospects: #8 Michigan vs. #2 Alabama @ Cowboys Stadium, Saturday/8 PM

The top game of the week is undoubtedly the first matchup of the season between two top ten teams in the Crimson Tide and Wolverines. It’s also the best game of the week to watch for prospects even if it is predominantly an Alabama showcase. The Tide will again enter a new season with a whole slew of potential Day 1 and 2 draft picks. Their offensive line is the crown jewel of their roster as it features three possible first round selections in OL Barrett Jones, OG Chance Warmack and RT D.J. Fluker. All three are big, physical and experienced. They’re well coached under Nick Saban and have the versatility to play multiple positions on the line. Jones in particular has displayed the ability to play both tackle and guard positions and will begin this season at Center after starring last year at left tackle.  As usual Bama is stocked on the defensive side of the ball, although they don’t appear to have that elite first round prospect this time around. Their top defensive prospect is Nose Tackle Jesse Williams, who could make his way up draft boards from his second round rating with another good season. He’s still a bit of project after growing up in Australia and only starting to play football at 15 years old. He eventually made his way to Western Arizona Community College where he quickly displayed high level talent and gained the attention of Saban. In his first year at Alabama, he started all 13 games as a five-technique defensive end, but will make the move inside to Nose Tackle this season. Williams possesses amazing strength (600lb. bench press) and great all-around physical tools. Behind Williams is a pair of linebackers in C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson and a pair of defensive backs in FS Robert Lester and CB Dee Milliner, who could all come off the board in the third or fourth round. Finally Alabama’s most interesting prospect to watch will be running back Eddie Lacy, who will attempt to make it three straight Tide running backs to be taken in the first round. He has some work to do as he is currently rated as a late second/early third round pick by many publications.

While Alabama’s starting lineup is full of potential early round draft choices, Michigan features just one notable potential early round draft choice in OT Taylor Lewan, who might just end up being the first player taken playing in this game. A massive left tackle that plays mean and nasty, Lewan has the ability to battle one on one with the opposing team’s top pass rushers. He’s not a perfect prospect by any means and still has a lot of work to do in improving his footwork and blocking techniques, while also cutting down on the number of penalties he gets. The progress he displays this year will go a long way in determining if Lewan is that early first round selection some scouts think he might be or if he will be taken later in the first or even as low as the second or third rounds. The Wolverines next two best prospects look like Day Three picks. Defensive End Craig Roh probably should be taken a bit higher than he will go, but in a year that could be special for pass rushers he could find himself still available heading into the mid to late rounds. He has great instincts and is a tireless worker on and off the field. He’s got good speed and plays with an edge and is the type of player every coach wants on his team. He probably just isn’t going to stand out among the talent in this year’s crop. Quarterback Denard Robinson is one of the most electrifying athletes in college football today, but given his lack of size and an elite arm, he will have to make the ever so tough transition to wide receiver or running back that so many of his type of quarterback has had to make when attempting to move to the next level. Robinson is likely to be available in late on Day Three, unless there is a team out there that really likes him.

Written By: Mark Scott



2012 NFL Draft Watch: BCS National Championship Part 9 (JAN.9)

Written By: Mark Scott

The BCS National Championship Game and rematch of the century is finally here as LSU and Alabama are set to duke it out for the second time this season. Both teams are stacked and possess some of the best prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft, including a potential eight first round draft picks between them. The majority of the elite prospects are on defense with the likes of Claiborne, Kirkpatrick, Upshaw, Hightower and Barron, but Heisman Finalist Trent Richardson will also showcase his talents in this matchup on offense. It should be an incredible game with a group of prospects that could shape the 2012 NFL Draft.

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

 

Allstate BCS National Championship Game (January 9/2012)

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Louisiana State Tigers

ALABAMA

The Crimson Tide will showcase a buffet line of top prospects in this game, including five likely first round selections. It all starts with 2011 Heisman Finalist and Doak Walker Award winner rJr RB Trent Richardson, as complete a running back as you will find. He has the strength of a power back to pound the ball up the middle with the speed and agility to beat defenders on the outside, while also possessing excellent receiving ability out of the backfield. He is a big-time playmaker with great vision, who has been groomed for a NFL career since he arrived at Alabama and is a better prospect than former teammate and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (2011 New Orleans First Round Pick, 28th overall). He could be a Top Ten draft choice this year. On to defense as the rest of Alabama’s top prospects are defensive players beginning with Jr CB Dre Kirkpatrick, a tall, athletic corner that possesses great ball skills and instincts, while he continues to improve and get better in coverage. He is a confident player with a lot of upside and could end being the top corner in this draft. SR OLB Courtney Upshaw is a ferocious, versatile defender that can play multiple positions in multiple schemes. He has fantastic strength and power with a great burst and his best fit is as a pass-rusher whether standing up or with a hand on the ground. It should be interesting to see which team he goes to in the draft because he could land in any number of spots in the first round. Another stud linebacker that will be a first round selection is rJr ILB Don’ta Hightower.  He is a fantastic leader and imposing athlete that could immediately step into a NFL starting defense. He has great size, speed and strength that allows him to stuff the run and is fluid enough to drop into pass coverage. There are some questions about his effort, but battling back from serious knee injury suffered during the 2009 season should silence those questions. Sr SS Mark Barron is a complete player and easily the top safety in the draft. He is a terrific athlete that does it all on the field, whether it is in pass coverage or contributing against the run. He possesses great ball skills and is a devastating hitter with fantastic leadership ability. A very underrated player, he will be a steal for some team in the second half of the first round. After their top five prospects, Alabama has a pair of Day 2 defenders in rSr NT Josh Chapman and Jr FS Robert Lester. Chapman is a big, strong Nose Tackle that is dominant against the run and swallows up ball-carriers in the middle of the field, while taking on multiple blockers. He doesn’t get to the passer very much, but still has a good first step off the snap and possesses some explosiveness. He might not be the top rated Nose Tackle in the draft, but he is definitely the best coached under Nick Saban. He could be a great sleeper pick on Day 2. Hidden amongst all of the elite prospects on his team, Robert Lester is an excellent Free Safety with great cover skills and instincts that can also lay out offensive players with big hits. The Crimson Tide also has some possible late round draft choices in rSr WR Marquis Maze, rSr C William Vlachos, Sr CB DeQuan Menzie and Sr OLB Jerrell Harris.

 

LSU

The Tigers have their own fantastic group of prospects starting with a potential Top Five draft pick in Jr CB Morris Claiborne. An excellent athlete, Claiborne is the top cover corner in the draft and also possesses terrific ball skills and instincts. He is a complete cornerback that is well-coached and should start right away in the NFL. Some have him rated as a better prospect than former teammate and Arizona 2011 first-round pick (5th overall) CB Patrick Peterson, although he doesn’t have the returner skills that Peterson has. Possibly joining Claiborne in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft could be a pair of young defensive linemen in rSo DE Sam Montgomery and rSo DT Michael Brockers. Montgomery has started to gain some first round buzz following the end of the regular season and for obvious reasons after he recorded 9 sacks and 9 tackles for loss on the year. He is a very fast pass-rusher with an explosive burst that allows him to blow past offensive linemen en route to the Quarterback or chasing down ball-carriers on the outside. A little undersized, he currently projects as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. Brockers is an imposing interior defensive lineman that is versatile enough to play multiple positions on the line. He is an excellent run-stopper that can also wreak havoc behind the line of scrimmage, while occasionally getting to the Quarterback. Both Montgomery and Brockers are still young, developing players that could benefit from another season at LSU and probably will return to school for the 2012 campaign. On offense, LSU rJr OT Alex Hurst is starting to gain some buzz around him. The 6’6, 340lb. Offensive Lineman is a mammoth man that uses his size and strength to dominate defenders. He has very good fundamentals and technique that allow him to use his intelligence on the football field. He has a lot of experience and can play either Right Tackle or inside at Guard. He could be an early Day 2 selection if he chooses to enter the draft this year. Also on offense for the Tigers is Jr WR Reuben Randle. A tall, reliable wide out, Randle has big play ability deep and on third downs. He has a great set of hands and good speed that allow him to make plays downfield. He has made some very good improvements this season and has terrific upside as a potential feature NFL receiver. Randle currently sits as a possible Day 2 selection and he too could return for another season at LSU. Sr SS Brandon Taylor hasn’t gotten the attention that his defensive back mates like Claiborne and Heisman Finalist Tyrann Mathieu have gotten, but he is an outstanding player in his own right. Taylor made big-time improvements in his game this season and showed that he can defend against the pass and run. He has a great work ethic along with good instincts that make up for a lack of size and speed. He currently rates as a Day 3 draft choice. LSU also has a pair of possible late round selections in Sr TE Deangelo Peterson and Sr QB Jordan Jefferson, although it would be a surprise to see Jefferson get drafted, even in the seventh round.