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2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: PRO DAYS WEEK 2 RECAP

Pro Days continued with a number of top schools and prospects showcasing their skills for scouts this past week including Florida, Oregon, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Alabama. Top prospects on display included Eric Fisher, Chance Warmack and Geno Smith.

MARCH 11: Central Michigan

There were representatives from 28 NFL teams at Central Michigan’s pro day, the majority of which were there to see projected top ten pick Eric Fisher. The Left Tackle has put together one of the best pre-draft seasons of any prospect rising from a possible late first-rounder to a potential #1 overall pick. His pre-draft success continued at his pro day where he decided to stand by his excellent Combine numbers and instead focused on running through various offensive lineman drills with Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line coach George Yarno. Teams came away extremely impressed with Fisher yet again.

MARCH 12: Florida, Syracuse, UCLA

Always a routine stop on the pro day tour, the Florida Gators played host to reps from all 32 teams, including a number of noteworthy decision-makers like Pittsbugh Steelers Head Caoch Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert, Jacksonville Jaguars new Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell, along with prominent members of the Colts, Bengals and Rams coaching staffs. Weather conditions were far from ideal with rain coming down and a soaked field to deal with. Potential late first round pick SS Matt Elam focused solely on positional drills where he looked great and the same went for linebacker Jon Bostic. OT Xavier Nixon ran thorugh offensive lineman drills despite a nagging hamstring injury, along with putting up 19 reps on the bench press. RB Mike Gillislee and FS Josh Evans were unable to improve their times in the 40, but that portably had more to do with the rain-soaked turf they had to run on. LB Jelani Jenkins looked excellent and very fluid in linebacker drills and put up solid measurables. WR Frankie Hammond, TE Omarius Hines and DL Earl Okine put up solid numbers in drills. Finally K Caleb Sturgis showed off a terrific leg, including hitting a 58-yard field goal despite the wet turf and might be the best kicker available. Three players chose not to workout on Tuesday including projected top five pick Sharrif Floyd, Lerentee McCray and Jordan Reed. They will run through drills on March 22 instead. There was no real reason for why Floyd chose not to workout aside from being advised by his agent to wait until later in the month, although teams were given notice beforehand. McCray and Reed were nursing minor injuries.

There were reps from 28 NFL teams on hand to watch Syracuse’s pro day featuring a number of Day 2 prospects including QB Ryan Nassib, SS Shamarko Thomas and OG Justin Pugh. Nassib stood by his numbers from the Combine and chose to just throw for scouts. The New York Jets appear to be the most interested in Nassib of any team. Thomas added a 6.84s three-cone drill to his Combine numbers, while Pugh added 22 reps on the bench press to his Combine workout.

Datone Jones and Johnathan Franklin were among 16 UCLA prospects that ran though workouts in front of reps from 15 NFL teams. Jones stood by his solid Combine numbers, but looked fantastic running through defensive lineman drills and projects as one of the better 4-3 defensive ends in the draft and a late first round pick. Franklin also stood by his Combine numbers and looked great during drills, particularly in catching the ball out of the back field. There were a couple of other interesting prospects on the field for the Bruins including TE Joseph Fauria and left-footed P Jeff Locke, who may be the best punter in the draft and is considered to be just as good as 2012 third-round pick Bryan Anger. Not that anyone should spend a third round selection on a punter though.

MARCH 13: Alabama, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Washington

As with Florida, Alabama is a routine stop for NFL teams and all 32 were in attendance for the Crimson Tide pro day. New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese and Jets General Manager John Idzik were among those in Tuscaloosa. Australian-born DL Jesse Williams stole the show with an incredible workout including a 4.84s in the 40, 30 reps on the bench press and a 7.69s in the three-cone drill, while weighing-in at 6’3”, 326lbs. His movement and footwork in drills was just fantastic as well. He is probably a first-round pick now. Highly rated OG Chance Warmack and OT D.J. Fluker both looked great while competing against one another. They both showed terrific strength and power. Warmack ran the short shuttle and three-cone dill, while Fluker will go through drills on April 11. They should both be first round selections. RB Eddie Lacy did not work out as expected, but has yet to schedule a his own pro day, while decorated OL Barrett Jones was still in a walking boot, but managed to throw up 27 reps in the bench press, along with weighing-in. CB Dee Milliner was in attendance, despite his shoulder still being in a sling following surgery. He didn’t really need to work out after a great Combine.

While there were reps from 30 NFL teams at the Oklahoma pro day, surprisingly none were offensive line coaches despite rising left tackle prospect Lane Johnson in attendance. Because of that, Johnson chose to just get measured and weighed. Quarterback guru George Whitfield ran Landry Jones through passing drills that included 70 throws with a focus on middle to deep passes. Jones complete 66 of the 70 throws and only one was said to have been bad. Jones chose to stand by his good Combine numbers where he was the top performer among quarterbacks in multiple drills. Steelers QB coach Randy Fichtner and Jaguars QB coach Frank Scelfo were in attendance. Jones spoke with seven different teams, most of which are in the market for a new quarterback. WR Kenny Stills improved his times in the short shuttle and three-cone drill and also caught the ball well from Jones all day. FS Tony Jefferson and LB Tom Wort both had to call it a day early after pulling up lame with hamstring injuries.

All 32 teams were represented at the Rutgers pro day and were witnessed to an outstanding performance by LB Khaseem Greene, who added 11 pounds and improved on his numbers from the Combine. He was also fantastic in positional drills, although numerous scouts said his workout didn’t quite do justice to his fantastic game film. He’s moving up and should come off the board in the second round. CB Logan Ryan chose not to attempt to improve his disappointing 40 time form the Combine and probably paid for it as his teammates and fellow cornerbacks Marcus Cooper and Brandon Jones put it very good performances. Cooper also measured in at an impressive 6’2”, 190lbs. His size and athleticism could make him one of the better sleeper picks of the draft. RB Jawan Jamison didn’t help his stock by running another slow 40 time. It’s looking more and more like Jamison should have returned to school after forgoing not just one, but two years of eligibility remaining. Although the NFL Advisory Committee did give him a third round grade prior to making that decision.

Washington CB Desmond Trufant continued his rise up draft boards with another phenomenal workout at the Huskies pro day and no one should be surprised if he comes off the board in the first round.

MARCH 14: West Virginia, Oregon, Michigan, California

Perhaps there is a quarterback worth taking in the top ten after West Virginia QB Geno Smith put on a show completing 60 of 64 passes in drills led by former NFL QB Chris Weinke. All seemed to be highly impressed with Smith’s performance. He displayed great touch and zip on the ball and looked throwing it deep. Smith actually worked out earlier in the week in an unrehearsed, full-scale passing workout for the Philadelphia Eagles, although high-ranking reps form the Chiefs, Jags, Raiders, Browns, Cardinals and Bills were allowed to attend. Most notable was Buffalo G.M. Buddy Nix.  Following his pro day performance, Smith met with Jags Head Coach Gus Bradley in a long, private interview. WR Tavon Austin was almost as popular as Smith and also looked excellent in positional drills and received attention from multiple teams. Smith and Austin are both coming off the board and probably earlier than most people seem to think. WR Stedman Bailey also looked good during positional drills, although he did have a pair of drops.

There were reps from 27 NFL teams in Eugene to take in the Oregon pro day, including Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid, along with his entire defensive staff and General Manager John Dorsey. The Philadelphia Eagles were also well represented as were linebacker coaches from multiple teams. Top prospect and projected top ten pick Dion Jordan was unable to perform after undergoing shoulder surgery following the Combine. S John Boyett also did not work as he is still recovering from knee surgery on both knees that caused him to miss basically the entire season. RB Kenjon Barner, LB Kiko Alonso and OL Kyle Long all turned in great workouts and improved on a number of their Combine scores.

Former Michigan QB Denard Robinson continued his transition from quarterback to a new position following his collegiate career choosing to workout at the Wolverines pro day as running back after going through wide receiver drills at the Combine where he struggled for the most part. He looked impressive in running back drills and finally earned himself some good reviews.

California WR Keenan Allen was unable to workout due to a knee injury, but is scheduled to hold his own pro day on April 9.

MARCH 15: Arkansas

There were 28 prospects, 23 of which were representing the Razorbacks on the field for reps from 29 NFL teams to see. The main attraction was QB Tyler Wilson, who looked excellent throwing the ball displaying better than expected arm strength in hitting every throw possible. He should come off the board on Day 2. Reps from the Buffalo Bills met with him.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL SCOUTING COMBINE STORYLINES/PLAYERS TO WATCH

Draft season continues on as the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine gets underway this week and brings together all of the top prospects for NFL front offices and scouts to see as 333 potential draft picks will report to Indianapolis. The prospects will be on display off the field at the weigh-ins, medical exams, press conferences and team interviews and on the field in a multitude of measurable and football drills. A great performance by one of the top prospects at this year’s Combine could determine who the top prospect is and who the first overall pick might be.

1.   Can a consensus #1 prospect emerge with a great performance at the Combine?

The 2013 Scouting Combine might just be the most competitive one yet as this year the event will get underway with no clear consensus #1 prospect rated among scouts, analysts and other draft experts. Right now any one of about four or five prospects among a group that consists of Luke Joeckel, Star Lotulelei, Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore and Chance Warmack could be considered the top guy, but even they have their detractors. That’s why a fantastic performance at the Combine this year by any of these prospects or another could solidify them as the top dog. One of these prospects needs to do something to separate themselves from the group. If you don’t agree with that notion, just look at Central Michigan Left Tackle Eric Fisher who has skyrocketed up draft boards from a late first round pick into the top ten after a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl and one would have to think that he’s coming to Indianapolis with the mindset of outshining Joeckel at their position and putting himself into consideration for that top spot among 2013 prospects. Joeckel appears to be the favorite at the moment to be considered the top prospect and most likely first overall pick, but if he disappoints at the Combine there will be any number of guys ready to steal that spot from him. The Combine is as important as ever this year for these prospects.

2.   The Quarterback Competition Continues

Perhaps the most interesting storyline of the 2013 NFL Draft is the ongoing Quarterback competition between eight or nine prospects and who will emerge among them as the top signal-caller and a guy worthy of taking early in the draft. Six quarterbacks (Glennon, Jones, Wilson, Manuel, Nassib and Dysert) failed to do much to improve their draft stock at the Senior Bowl as the event was filled with highs and lows as all six had their good and bad moments. The Combine will bring three more quarterbacks back into the fold as seniors Geno Smith and Matt Barkley will attend the event after skipping the Senior Bowl along with underclassman Tyler Bray, who might just have the best pure arm of anyone this year. No real reason has been made for why Smith skipped the Senior Bowl and he will have some fence mending to do this week, while Barkley missed the event because he was still recovering from shoulder surgery and the same injury will apparently keep him from throwing and doing most of the drills at the Combine as well. This will be Bray’s first opportunity since the college football regular season ended to show off for scouts as Tennessee didn’t even make a bowl game this year. Despite struggling down the stretch and skipping out on the Senior Bowl festivities, Smith comes into the Combine still as the favorite among quarterbacks to be taken in the first round, although to who is still up in the air. The pressure will be on all of these quarterbacks to impress NFL front offices and scouts this week and a great performance could have a major impact on just where all of these guys will come off the board. It is that wide open between these quarterbacks. Dysert won’t compete in drills after tearing his hamstring last week.

3.   SEC Showcase

If you needed any more proof as to why the SEC dominates college football and wins the BCS National Championship every year, look no further than the 2013 NFL Draft and this week’s Scouting Combine. Of the 333 prospects invited to the event, 73 are from the SEC. LSU leads the way with 13 players at the event including a record 11 underclassmen, Georgia is next with 11 invitations, while Florida and Alabama have 10 each. South Carolina (7) and Texas A&M (6) will combine for 13 prospects at the Combine. Up to 20 SEC prospects could be selected in the first round including Luke Joeckel, who is currently one of the favorites to be taken with the first overall pick by the Kansas City Chiefs.

4.   The Medical Reports

Medical/Physical exams may be the most important aspect of the Combine for prospects where NFL team doctors will get their first chance to examine potential draft picks. A failed medical report or unreported injury could affect a prospect more than anything else that happens this week. There are quite a few notable prospects that will have all eyes on them as they pass through the exam starting with Matt Barkley, who was going to throw at the Combine, but now isn’t and was said to be almost fully healthy, but may be further off then has been reported. The condition of his throwing shoulder is probably the biggest storyline to watch in regards to the medical portion of the event. Marcus Lattimore’s entire draft stock may rest with what happens in his medical exam. After blowing out his knee for the second straight season, the running back with first round talent is facing a tough road back to being fully healthy and returning to the form that had him ranked as the top ball-carrier in the draft before the injury. Others to keep an eye on include Jarvis Jones, who will continue to downplay his spinal stenosis condition, Tank Carradine (ACL tear), Keenan Allen (PCL strain), Jesse Williams (knee), Barrett Jones (Lisfanc injury), Eddie Lacy (recent torn hamstring), Zac Dysert (recent hamstring tear), Denard Robinson (nagging elbow injury), Sean Renfree (torn pectoral muscle), Kiko Alonso (nagging wrist injury) and Dion Jordan (pending shoulder surgery).

5.   Manti Te’o faces the Media and Interview Room

If Manti Te’o wanted all the attention, he sure got it with this fake girlfriend hoax whether he was in on it or not and the toughest part as a result of it will take place this week when he will have to face the media firing squad and hoards of reporters at his news conference and even more so in private interviews with team front offices and coaching staffs. His stock has taken multiple hits with this hoax off the field and more importantly his dreadful performance on the field in the BCS National Championship against Alabama where he was completely dominated. He has a lot of making up to do this week both on and off the field if he wants to remain a first round possibility. Te’o’s not the only prospect in for a tough week of interviews and questions as Alec Ogletree and Tyrann Mathieu will also be under the microscope. Despite starting the season with a four-game suspension for a violation of team rules, Ogletree was still able to play his way into the top 20 prospects, but a DUI arrest just a few days ago have sent red flags soaring. Baltimore appears to be the biggest benefactor of Te’o’s and Ogletree’s issues as the chance of one of them falling to the Ravens is now a real possibility giving the Super Bowl Champions a shot at landing an instant replacement at middle linebacker for the retired Ray Lewis. Mathieu’s off the field problems over the last couple of years are well documented and the Combine will be his final chance to win a team over and have a chance of even being drafted.

6.   A lack of elite offensive weapons

It’s not the most glamorous year for top prospects as the 2013 class is dominated by the defensive and offensive lines. Just a handful of prospects at the offensive skill positions appear to have a chance to be selected in the first round this year. The quarterback class is quite underwhelming with just Geno Smith as a likely first round pick, while maybe two wide receivers like Corrdarrelle Patterson and Keenan Allen might crack the first 32 picks. Eddie Lacy appeared to be the only running back with a shot at being a first round pick, but a recent tear in his hamstring and not being able to compete at the Combine could prevent that. While there may be a lack of elite offensive playmakers in the draft this year, there is no shortage of prospects in rounds two through four that have the ability to make an impact on NFL offenses. In fact the mid-rounds are stocked full of guys with next-level talent as nine quarterbacks, 12 running backs and 15 or more wide receivers could come off the board in these rounds with a number these prospects still having the chance to crack the first round. The tight end position has a couple of nice prospects as well in Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz and Jordan Reed who should all be off the board in the first two days of the draft. While there isn’t an Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson or Calvin Johnson this year, there is still a ton of talent at the offensive skill positions.

7.   The New Test

A new aptitude test will be added to the Combine this year. It will focus on measuring a player’s learning styles, motivation, decision-making skills, core intellect and their ability to respond to pressure or unexpected stimuli. There is no score, but will instead give a comprehensive look at a player’s non-physical capabilities, aptitudes, strengths and weaknesses. The exam will be 60 minutes and take place in a classroom environment the same way as the Wonderlic test is. The test results will be shared with one or two team executives to protect confidentiality and every team will receive one page of “coaching points” on every player who takes the exam. These points will assist teams to closer evaluate prospects and determine whether they will be able to fit in with the current roster and coaching staff/style. This new test will not replace the Wonderlic, but will instead help to support its results.

8.   Fast Man/Strong Man

Every year scouts and fans wonder “who the fastest man” and “who the strongest man” are at the Combine. This year the fastest man competition appears to be wide open as Ace Sanders, Marquise Goodwin, Tavon Austin, Markus Wheaton and Steve Williams lead the candidates from the wide receiver class, while Onterio McCalebb, Kenjon Barner and Andre Ellington appear to be the best bets among running backs to run the fastest 40 time. Cornerback Nickell Robey and Athlete Denard Robinson could also run in the 4.3s. Goodwin was actually a member of the American Olympic Track Team at the London Games where he competed and finished tenth in the long jump event and was the champion in the same event at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials. Alabama’s Jesse Williams is the favorite to be this year’s strongest man and has the potential to break the bench press record. His weight room performances at Alabama are apparently legendary and he is said to have the ability to bench 600lbs. As for prospects who have the potential to star in drills across the board and be the event’s “Workout Warriors,” keep an eye on freaky athletes like Ezekiel Ansah, Barkevious Mingo, Margus Hunt, Dion Jordan, Cordarrelle Patterson and Zaviar Gooden, while Lane Johnson, Menelik Watson and John Jenkins are expected to stand out among the bigger athletes.

9.   Small School Prospects

Every year the Combine gives a chance to a handful of the best small school prospects to compete and test their skills against the nation’s top draft eligible prospects for all the NFL to see. Each year at least one or two prospects emerge as player worth taking somewhere in the first three rounds. This year the best candidates to shine include Missouri Southern DT Brandon Williams, Tennessee-Martin DT Montori Hughes, Arkansas Pine-Bluff OT Terron Armstead and Florida International S Jonathon Cyprien. The Golden Panthers safety has already made a splash this year after a terrific Senior Bowl week.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT: SENIOR BOWL PRIMER

Most of the top senior prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft have been in Mobile, Alabama all week showing off for NFL front offices and scouts at the annual Senior Bowl, the preeminent post-season pre-draft prospect all-star game. There are a number of storylines to follow at the event this week with the culmination happening Saturday as the North squad takes on the South team in an extremely important game for the prospects involved. Futures and draft stocks are on the line and a whole lot of money is there for the making or losing. The Senior Bowl goes down Saturday at 4 pm EST on the NFL Network.

1.  The Quarterback Competition

The biggest storyline of the week has been the ongoing competition between the six quarterbacks at the event. All six came to town as part of the second tier of quarterbacks in the draft class behind West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Matt Barkley of USC, but with both of them not at the event it’s given this group a chance with all eyes watching to elevate their stock and even surpass Smith and Barkley on some draft boards. While none of the quarterbacks blew scouts away this week in practice all six showed off their strengths and weaknesses with Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones emerging as the top guys at the event, although they didn’t impress everyone as scouting reports differ around the league. Glennon showed off the strongest arm of the group and has been described as the most complete of the six by ESPN’s Todd McShay, although he was much taller (6’6 ¾”) than expected and looked stiff and robotic at times. Wilson has also drawn good reviews as the top quarterback at the event and was described by NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang as having the best combination of size, arm talent, toughness and experience. Every year quarterbacks start moving up draft boards around this time and both Glennon and Wilson seem to be doing just that as they are starting to be talked about as real first round possibilities. Landry Jones has also elevated his stock with a good week of practice and looks like he might have potentially secured a spot in the second round. EJ Manuel, Ryan Nassib and Zac Dysert didn’t show nearly as well and will probably be mid-round selections.

2.  First Round Left Tackles

Two of the most impressive prospects at the Senior Bowl this week have been a pair of left tackles in Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. Fisher has been this year’s unknown small-school prospect being talked about as a first round talent, but after an exceptional performance all week long competing against his North squad teammates (a more talented group of pass-rushers than the South Team) he won’t be an unknown anymore and appears to have locked down a potential spot in the top fifteen of the draft as the second highest-rated left tackle behind Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M. Lane Johnson looks to be a first rounder now after this week, but that could depend on his performance Saturday when he has to face the more talented pass-rushers from the North Team like Datone Jones. Either way he has helped his stock immensely, while other offensive tackles like Oday Aboushi and Justin Pugh struggled and discussions about moving them inside to guard are now being had.

3.  Dominant Nose Tackles

Georgia’s John Jenkins cemented his place as a first rounder this week with an absolutely dominant performance in practice. He blew everyone away with his mammoth size at the weigh-ins and then continued to do so on the field by displaying his rare athleticism. He mauled everyone that stepped in front of him and handled double-teams with ease. He did seem to get winded as the practices wore on, so the scouts will definitely be watching for how we plays late in the game on Saturday. North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams was a bit of a forgotten man with such a talented defensive line class this year, but he too was dominant during the week and showed off impressive athleticism and instincts as did Kawann Short of Purdue. Williams and Short could sneak into the late first round, but appear to be second round locks now.

4.  Impressive Pass-Rushers

UCLA’s Datone Jones appears to have made some money this week. He was awesome in practice often taking on the top offensive tackle at the event in Eric Fisher and looks to have completely shed the tweener label he came to Mobile with by showing he can be an effective 4-3 edge rusher. He displayed a non-stop motor and overwhelmed offensive linemen with his strength and power. Texas pass-rusher Alex Okafor was also good this week and most likely secured his spot in the second round. He doesn’t appear to be a star, but does look like he could be a solid, productive starter for years to come.

5.  Raw Athletes Struggle

BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah and Margus Hunt of SMU came to the Senior Bowl as two of the guys scouts were most looking forward to watching. Both are exceptional athletes with rare athletic abilities, but are still raw football players after only playing the sport for a few years. They were both two of the biggest disappointments so far this week as they struggled in drills and failed to flash the potential scouts wanted to see often enough. They all love Hunt’s size and length, but his lack of a burst off the snap has really stood out. Saturday is the most important day for these two if they want to hold on to their lofty draft stocks, especially Ansah.

6.  Emerging Cornerbacks

Washington’s Desmond Trufant may have made as much money as any prospect this week with his performance in practice. The younger brother of pros Marcus and Isaiah showed off tremendous skills as a potential shut-down corner and was clearly the best at the event at his position. He was excellent in matching the wide receivers in Mobile stride for stride and is now being talked about as a possible first round pick. Having Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks out of the event with an injury has only helped Trufant with more eyes on him. California’s Marc Anthony and San Diego State’s Leon McFadden have also helped their stock this week as did a pair of FCS prospects in William & Mary’s B.W. Webb and SE Louisiana’s Robert Alford.

7.  Big Play Wide Receivers

A number of wide receivers stood out this week and improved their draft stock with good performances. Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton and Terrance Williams of Baylor were the best of the bunch. Wheaton displayed fantastic speed and quickness often separating from defensive backs. He also showed off some strong hands and an ability to make catches in traffic and tight windows. He shown great all-around skills and has moved himself into the top group with the likes of Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter and Terrance Williams. Speaking of Williams, he displayed better than expected speed and quickness to go with his terrific hands and showed scouts that he is a legit big-time downfield threat. Wheaton and Williams weren’t the only wide outs who looked good this week as Marquise Goodwin (Texas), Quinton Patton (LaTech) and Tavarres King (Georgia) put in great performances.

8.  Denard Robinson’s Transition to WR

Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson’s transition to wide receiver has been one of the main ongoing storylines during this year’s draft process and it hasn’t gone well. Robinson’s playmaking ability as a quarterback has been slow to translate to the wide receiver position. He still looks good in the open field, but has struggled to run routes and catch the ball even with lowered expectations from scouts. A right elbow injury has not helped his case. He came to the event as a potential mid-round selection, but unless he plays well on Saturday he appears to have fallen into the last couple rounds and may even go undrafted. It has not been a good week for him.

9.  Those Who Aren’t Here

Every year a certain number of prospects decide to skip the event for one reason or another and unless it’s due to injury it ticks front offices and scouts off to no end. This year’s group has been especially annoying as seven of the eight notable prospects not at the event could be first round picks. Geno Smith has received the most heat for not showing up. As the top rated quarterback, but one with a lot still to prove, scouts wanted to see him here this week, especially after a dreadful performance in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. While his stock hasn’t suffered that much, it was a fantastic opportunity for him to show he’s worthy of a high draft pick, even the first overall spot to the QB-needy Chiefs. Instead other quarterbacks like Mike Glennon and Tyler Wilson have gained on him and the pressure to perform at the Combine next month will be extremely high. Others that have not pleased scouts with the absence include Star Lotulelei, Manti Te’o, Kenny Vaccaro, Jonathon Cooper, Chance Warmack and Tavon Austin, who really ticked scouts off by pulling out within 72 hours of the event. Montee Ball also skipped the event, but hasn’t received the wrath of scouts as he has very little to prove after over 1000 touches in his four year career at Wisconsin. As a non-first round prospect there was no need for him to take any more hits. Notable injury absences include Matt Barkley, Johnthan Banks, Tyler Eifert, Dion Jordan and Jesse Williams.

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



2013 NFL Draft Prospect Watch: Week 3

The third week of the college football season brings some excellent prospect matchups to watch beginning with an SEC slugfest between Alabama and Arkansas that could feature up to fifteen or more potential NFL draft picks including a number of possible first round selections. That will be followed by a fantastic and extremely physical head to head battle between Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o and Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell, both of which could be taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Best Head to Head Matchup to Watch: Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o vs. Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell @ Spartan Stadium

More often than not Notre Dame and Michigan State are great games and this year should be no different as both teams rank among the top 20 in the nation. The spotlight matchup to watch in this game and this weekend will be the leader of Notre Dame’s defense, ILB Manti Te’o as he tries to shut down Michigan State’s stud running back Le’Veon Bell.  This should be one of the more physical head to head battles between two draft eligible prospects all year as Te’o and Bell will line up across from one another and repeatedly meet somewhere in between all game long. Both players are earning first round buzz. Te’o ranks among the fifteen best prospects available for the 2013 NFL Draft and actually could have been a first round pick in this year’s past draft before choosing to return to Notre Dame for his senior season. He’s an intense, attacking defender with the speed and range to cover and make plays sideline to sideline. Extremely productive, experienced and with a high football I.Q., he projects as an immediate starter at the next level. In perhaps his toughest test of the season, Te’o will be tasked with stopping the Spartans’ star ball-carrier, Le’Veon Bell. A massive running back at 6’2, 245lbs, Bell is definitely a power back that has the size and ability to run over defenders, but also possesses the speed and footwork to make oncoming tacklers miss. He has displayed a good pair of hands out of the backfield as well (35 rec. for 267yds in 2011). A productive backup the past two seasons, Bell is now the star attraction on Michigan State’s offense and began this season with a breakout performance (44 carries for 210yds/6 catches for 55yds) against Boise State that has thrown his name into early Heisman Trophy discussions. While it’s still early in the season he seems to have emerged from a group of four or five backs as the second best option behind Marcus Lattimore and as a possible late first round selection. There are a number of other draft eligible prospects worth watching in this game too like Michigan State’s DE William Gholston (first-round) and CB Johnny Adams (Second/Third-round) as well as Notre Dame’s TE Tyler Eifert (second-round).

Best Game to Watch for Prospects: #1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Arkansas Razorbacks @ Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

This should have been the first real game of the year type matchup, but Arkansas’ loss to lowly Louisiana-Monroe last weekend and historical drop out of the rankings along with an injury to QB Tyler Wilson has taken some of the luster out of this matchup. Regardless this game will still feature upwards of fifteen potential 2103 draft picks between both teams. Now Alabama was featured in my Week One column, but since then a couple of their prospects have made moves on various draft boards. Most notably CB Dee Milliner has skyrocketed up the ranks into first round discussions and may now be considered the top corner available after his strong play in the first two weeks along with North Carolina State’s David Amerson looking highly overrated. Milliner is a big corner that in limited playing time has shown solid coverage skills along with good instincts and balls skills. He’s not the only one to move up draft boards as scouts have started to take more notice of QB A.J McCarron, who has looked pretty good so far this season, although he’ll be in tough to move up too far with such a good crop of quarterbacks available. It’s not all good news as RB Eddie Lacy, who some were wondering if he could make a push this season with more carries and a great year to be the third consecutive Crimson Tide running back to be selected in the first round probably won’t make that move now with freshman T.J. Yeldon looking like he’s going to be getting the bulk of the work for Alabama. That’s a shame given that he would be rushing behind three potential first round offensive linemen in OG Chance Warmack, OL Barrett Jones and RT D.J. Fluker, who give Alabama the best offensive line in the nation. For more on these three and the rest of Alabama’s top prospects check back to my Week One column.

It’s no secret that Arkansas’s main attraction is QB Tyler Wilson. The Razorbacks’ signal-caller came into this season as a potential top ten pick and Matt Barkley’s biggest competition for the top spot among quarterbacks. Wilson is certainly still in those discussions, but a concussion suffered last week could set him back and will cause him to miss at least this week’s game. Wilson possesses a strong, accurate arm along with excellent poise and toughness in the pocket. His return to full health will be closely watched by scouts throughout the rest of the season. Another Arkansas prospect whose return to full health is being closely monitored is RB Knile Davis, who suffered a season-ending broken ankle right before the start of last season. Davis looked incredible in 2010 drawing comparisons to former Razorback and current Raider RB Darren McFadden. Blessed with many of the same skills as McFadden, Davis is a physical freak built to be a feature back. He’s yet to really show that he’s fully recovered with a pair of oh-hum games to begin the year and will need to start putting together a few breakout performances to work his way back up to anywhere close to where he was at the end of 2010. Following Wilson and Davis are a group of potential mid-round selections to keep an eye on in interior offensive linemen OG Alvin Bailey and OC Travis Swanson along with WR Cobi Hamilton and OLB Alonzo Highsmith.

Written By: Mark Scott