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WR Cody Latimer Draft Profile


By: — May 8, 2014 @ 9:46 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL DraftAs we countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Vitals
College: Indiana
Height/Weight: 6’3”/215
Hands: 9 5/8”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.38 (pro day)
Vertical Jump: 39” (pro day)
Broad Jump: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A
3-Cone: N/A

Background (College Stats)
Like a number of recent college receivers and tight ends, Latimer’s first love was basketball. In fact, he was good enough at it to draw scholarship offers from lower-level Division I schools such as Morehead State and Western Carolina before his mother talked him into trying football as a high school junior and follow in the footsteps of his late father (Colby), who played college football at Bowling Green in the 1980s. Ultimately, the three-star recruit (and 49th-best receiver in his recruiting class, according to Rivals.com) opted to play the Hoosiers after an exceptional senior season in high school on the gridiron. In only his third year of organized football, Latimer started two of the eight games he played in as a freshman before missing the final three due to injury (sports hernia). He followed his 12-141-2 rookie campaign with 51 catches for 805 yards and six scores in 2012, garnering second-team All-Big Ten honors from the media and an honorable mention all-conference nod by the coaches. In his final season, Latimer became the first Hoosier since James Hardy (2007) with three straight 100-yard games and put himself on the NFL prospect map with an 11-catch, 189-yard, three-touchdown effort against Illinois. He ended 2013 with 72 catches for 1,096 yards and nine scores, allowing him to earn the same conference honors he did the year before. Latimer underwent surgery for a left foot fracture in January that he suffered in mid-October 2013 and did not participate in any positional drills at the combine, but left his mark in Indianapolis anyway when he led his position group with 23 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. He further helped himself by running 40-yard times between 4.38 and 4.45 (depending on the source) at his pro day just a bit over two months after his surgery.

NFL Player Comp(s): Hakeem Nicks

Strengths

  • Bigger receiver with great hand-eye coordination, body control and ball skills; makes nearly every catch look routine.
  • Shows no fear working over the middle of the field and maintains focus in traffic.
  • Wins more than his fair share of contested catches thanks to strong hands and impressive leaping ability.
  • Despite limited football experience, he already seems to understand how to use his body to shield off defender on short and intermediate throws.
  • Aggressive and tough (played more than half of the 2013 season with a foot fracture); drew praise from coaches about how he developed as a leader over the course of his career.
  • Strongest receiver at the combine and plays like it; motivated blocker that will drive defender out of bounds if necessary and play to the whistle.

Weaknesses

  • Not the most efficient route runner and will round off his cuts on occasion.
  • More physical than elusive, despite possessing impressive quickness and acceleration.
  • Could stand to improve in terms of fighting through contact in his routes.
  • Needs to learn to “sit down” more often against zone coverage.
  • Played some on kick coverage units, but has no experience as a returner.

Bottom Line
The long gap between the end of the college season and the NFL Draft often hurts more players than it helps, but one winner this offseason has been Latimer, who has seemingly evolved from a late-round possession receiver prospect into a potential late first-round selection. After watching four of his games – Bowling Green, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan – it is hard for me to believe that he was ever considered a late-round prospect; he deserves a spot among the top five receivers in the class. Considering the fact he isn’t even all that close to being a finished product yet, Latimer is easily a better prospect than the more highly-regarded Marqise Lee and a much safer bet than Kelvin Benjamin with a ton of upside. The caveat to his relatively late arrival to football is that a team may need to a full season or more to refine his abilities as a route-runner, but there’s little doubt that his rise to prominence this offseason was warranted and some team may end up getting top-20 value out of a player that may go late in the first round or early in the second. Although he has been labeled as a fit for the West Coast offense, he should be able to succeed in just about any scheme. Like any receiver outside of the top four (Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr and Brandin Cooks), Latimer shouldn’t be expected to set the world on fire as a rookie. However, I am convinced he has the ability to be a No. 2 receiver right away and can become his team’s go-to option sometime in his second season if necessary.



TE Jace Amaro Draft Profile


By: — May 7, 2014 @ 1:22 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL DraftAs we countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Vitals
College: Texas Tech
Height/Weight: 6’5”/265
Hands: 9”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.74
Vertical Jump: 33”
Broad Jump: 9’ 10”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.30
3-Cone: 7.42

Background (College Stats)
Amaro was an All-American selection at tight end coming out of MacArthur High School in San Antonio and rated as the third-best player at his position in his recruiting class. The Plano (Tex.) native was pretty much an afterthought as a freshman under coach Tommy Tuberville in 2011, registering only seven catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Amaro appeared to be much more in the team’s plans in 2012, however, and posted a 23-394-4 line through six games that season. His breakout game came in the Red Raiders’ 49-14 upset of a No. 4/5 West Virginia squad led by Geno Smith in which he exploded for 156 yards on five catches and a touchdown. Amaro did most of his damage before he was taking a hard hit to the midsection near the end of the first half while jumping for a ball. He returned after intermission to make two catches for 35 yards in the second half before exiting the game for good. It was later discovered the first-half hit Amaro took resulted in a spleen laceration and a fractured rib, injuries that caused internal bleeding and kept him bedridden for three weeks; he missed the rest of the regular season as a result. He recovered in time to make an appearance in Texas Tech’s victory over Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but was promptly ejected for throwing a punch at a defender late in the third quarter. Former Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury took over for Tuberville prior to the start of the 2013 season and seemed to immediately recognize what he had in Amaro, who overcame a slow opener against SMU to become only the second Red Raider (Michael Crabtree) to record eight or more receptions in nine consecutive games. Although he took two more big hits that caused him to miss some game action against Kansas State and Baylor, Amaro finished his final college campaign with the FBS record for single-season receiving yardage by a tight end (1,352, breaking James Casey’s 2008 mark).

NFL Player Comp(s): Gavin Escobar

Strengths

  • Spent the majority of his time in the slot and has a wealth of experience getting open against cornerbacks as well as linebackers and/or safeties.
  • Shows good focus as a receiver and a set of reliable hands that pluck just about every ball on or near his frame.
  • Consistently fights for yards after the catch and is a load to bring down.
  • Made a living on crossing routes and other throws within five yards of the line of scrimmage in college (over 50 percent in 2013).
  • While he doesn’t possess elite speed, he has some burst for a bigger player and can threaten the seam.
  • Routinely bounces back quickly after absorbing a punishing hit.

Weaknesses

  • Will “stalk block” in the slot, but merely stands up the defender most of the time; appears to be disinterested in blocking in-line at times and does not show the willingness to physically dominate his opponent in the way his size suggests he should.
  • Has the build and skills to become a complete tight end, but often looks uncomfortable in-line and may be a little ways away from realizing his all-around potential.
  • Does not win as many 50-50 balls as he should or use his size all that effectively to shield off defenders (although he did a much better job of the latter in his final college game).
  • Inconsistent fundamentals; sometimes he displays impressive quickness and footwork while he was too upright and rounds off his routes other times.
  • Allows defenders to occasionally alter his route.
  • Slight anger (ejected from 2012 bowl game) and character concerns (arrested for credit card fraud in March 2012, although that charge was later dropped).

Bottom Line
There is a lot to like about Amaro and probably just as much not to like. As a receiver in the passing game, it is hard to find a player with his mismatch potential who is so sure-handed. He shows good, if not great, effort with the ball in his hands and is a handful to tackle. The other notable positive he brings to the table is his ability to separate in the short and intermediate passing game, which isn’t exactly a trait that a lot of college receivers possess – much less tight ends. However, as impressive as he is as a receiver, he doesn’t play anywhere close to his size as a blocker. Despite possessing prototypical build for his position, he is very much a receiver in a tight end’s body. He appears content to stand up an undersized defender most of the time and shows little willingness to put forth the effort to drive him out of the play. Furthermore, his blocking technique is poor (not entirely unexpected for a player that spent so much time in the slot), something that becomes more obvious when considering his weight-room strength (28 reps of 225 pounds at the combine). The fact that he is entering a league that is as pass-happy as it ever has been helps his case to contribute immediately in the NFL, but he is not the special athlete that Eric Ebron is or nearly as well-rounded of a prospect at the moment as Austin Seferian-Jenkins. With that said, a creative offensive mind in the NFL will have a field day moving him around the formation in order to create mismatches. The blocking should come along with a lot of practice and experience and, once that area of his game is even considered average, he could enjoy Dennis Pitta-like success.



QB Derek Carr Draft Profile


By: — @ 1:11 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

As we countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Derek Carr

Derek Carr belongs ahead of Manziel among the “big four” at the QB position.


Vitals

College: Fresno State
Height/Weight: 6’2”/214
Hands: 9 1/8”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.69
Vertical Jump: 34 1/2”
Broad Jump: 9’ 2”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.20


Background
(College Stats)
Carr is famously (and probably unfortunately) tied to his other brother David, who was the No. 1 overall pick by the Houston Texans in 2002. Derek Carr’s college odyssey began in 2009, when then-coach Pat Hill declared he was in the running to be atop the depth chart as a freshman before it was announced that Ryan Colburn would be the starting quarterback. Carr was limited to 14 pass attempts in that season and redshirted the following year as Colburn held onto the job before graduating after the 2010 season. Carr became the unquestioned starter in 2011 and never looked back, earning second-team All-WAC honors by throwing for 3,544 yards and 26 touchdowns against nine interceptions. A change in conferences (to the Mountain West) and a new offense under OC Dave Schramm boosted Carr’s final numbers even more in 2012, when he named the 2012 MWC Offensive Player of the Year after setting a single-season conference record with 4,104 passing yards and finishing third in the country with 37 touchdown passes. He topped it all in 2013 with a season for the ages – even by the ridiculous standards in today’s spread offenses – becoming fourth in FBS history with 5,000 yards passing and 50 or more touchdowns in a single season en route to winning the Sammy Baugh Award as the nation’s top passer and being named MWC Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. He led the nation in 10 of the 14 statistical categories a quarterback can be up for – including passing yards, touchdown passes and in total touchdowns responsible for against turnovers – and is just one of 19 quarterbacks in FBS history to have over 10,000 career passing yards and 100 touchdowns.

NFL Player Comp(s): Tony Romo

Strengths

  • Sound decision maker who consistently makes the right play for his team, whether it means placing the ball only where his receiver can catch it or throwing out-of-bounds in order to “live another day”; displays the confidence to make throws into tight coverage when necessary.
  • Underrated athleticism; has good pocket mobility, a strong sense when to leave the “tackle box” in order to buy more time to throw and the ability to run for a first down if the opportunity presents itself.
  • Possesses more than enough arm strength to make NFL throws (especially when he steps into them), but also shows nice touch when necessary – particularly on red-zone fade routes.
  • Puts his receivers in winnable situations on just about every throw because he is so quick to react to what he sees.
  • Durable three-year starter (played all 39 games over final three seasons) that played through sports hernia late in 2012.
  • Film-study junkie with the football intelligence expected from the younger brother of a NFL quarterback and no character red flags; allowed him to earn the trust of his coaching staff to make his own checks at the line.


Weaknesses

  • Threw off his back foot a lot and routinely did not step into his target; does not always appear willing to look down “the gun barrel” on throws in which he is getting pressured.
  • Didn’t react well to pressure from defenders in the few cases in which he faced it regularly (USC and San Diego State are two good examples), often staring down and/or overthrowing his target.
  • Failed to synchronize his feet and eyes consistently, particularly early in the season.
  • Inconsistent accuracy when forced to throw on the move or off-platform.
  • College offense over final two seasons did not require him to make many progression (post-snap) reads.

Bottom Line
Starting with his second game of the 2013 season and ending with Fresno State’s overtime win in late October against San Diego State, Carr was nearly unwatchable in my eyes and appeared to be haunted by the demons of his older brother. Over the next five games, a funny thing happened: Carr transformed into a quarterback that looked to be the top quarterback available in this draft by a wide margin. What was the difference? Footwork. The biggest difference between his San Diego State and Nevada tape was the fact that he consistently stepped into his throws, regularly dropping 50-yard passes into the waiting hands of a receiver in stride. Whether this was a coaching point or just something Carr did unconsciously may not be answered anytime soon, but the fact of the matter is that I was ready to stop reviewing his games after San Diego State because he was consistently throwing off his back foot and appeared scared of the rush. The final five contests showed a signal-caller that had the potential to be an upper-echelon NFL quarterback. The Las Vegas Bowl game against USC was essentially a microcosm of the observation I made above, with the first half being awful and the second half revealing a player that could have made the game more interesting were it not for a number of drops from his receivers. Like most of the quarterbacks available in this draft, Carr would be well-served to land with a team that can provide him a strong running game to make him feel as comfortable as possible so he is less likely to revert back to back-foot throwing. Carr’s ceiling and floor isn’t nearly as dramatic as it is for a player like Johnny Manziel (who I do not foresee “learning how to win” in the pocket), but look no further than a player like Eli Manning last season to see what can happen when a quarterback reverts to back-foot throwing. It is for that reason why Carr belongs ahead of Manziel among the “big four” at the position, but behind Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles.



RB Terrance West Draft Profile


By: — May 6, 2014 @ 12:34 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL DraftAs we countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Vitals
College: Towson
Height/Weight: 5’9”/225
Hands: 9 1/8”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.54
Vertical Jump: 33 1/2”
Broad Jump: 10’
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A
3-Cone: N/A

Background (College Stats)
Every draft year produces its share of feel-good stories and West is one of them this season. Although he was heavily recruited by Clemson after a productive high school career, he needed to take a “prep” year at Fork Union Military Academy (Va.) for the 2009-10 school year when he struggled to qualify academically. West left Fork Union prematurely because he was too far from his home (Baltimore) and thought he had a walk-on offer from Maryland the following season before that fizzled out. The last straw was missing the filing deadline to gain admission to Morgan State. It was at that point West turned to selling shoes in order to support himself and his son before he got permission to walk on from Towson coach Rob Ambrose with the Tigers following their 1-10 season in 2010. Despite being away from football for two years, West “killed it” (in his words) the following spring and began destroying records during his history-making three-year run in the FCS. West drew only one start his freshman campaign, but put the Towson rushing attack on his shoulders when he carried 194 times for 1,294 yards and a FCS freshman-record 29 rushing touchdowns. He posted another 1,000-yard season (with 14 touchdowns on 195 attempts) in 2012 before shattering a multitude of FCS records this past year – including 41 rushing scores and 2,509 rushing yards – en route to finishing third in the voting for the Walter Payton Award.

NFL Player Comp(s): Rashad Jennings

Strengths

  • Patient runner with excellent vision; quicker feet and a bit more elusiveness than expected from a bigger back.
  • Thickly-built back that rarely goes down on an arm tackle or first contact.
  • A true workhorse runner who was the focal point of the offensive gameplan each week and still thrived despite all the attention defenses paid him; seems to embrace contact and appears to get stronger as the game goes on.
  • Has the ability to get “skinny” and squeeze out of a small hole.
  • Wasn’t used all that creatively in the passing game, but has natural hands and should serve as a strong safety-value option at the very least.
  • Looks to initiate contact and deliver the blow as a blocker.

Weaknesses

  • Doesn’t always play to timed speed; appeared to destroy defenders’ angles some of the time and unable to break away from FCS safeties and/or linebackers other times.
  • Makes too much contact with his blockers at the line of scrimmage.
  • Tends to run a bit high at times and will not always keep his legs churning upon contact (the latter seemed to improve as 2013 wore on).
  • Did not consistently show he was a classic big back that can move a pile and was stuffed too often near the goal line.
  • Massive workload (413 carries in 2013 alone, 802 for his career).
  • Carries ball exclusively in right hand.

Bottom Line
There are numerous players that have made the jump from the FCS level to the NFL and West has a chance to be as successful as any of them in recent memory. Although many will use the ever-popular “did not consistently face a high level of competition” phrase when evaluating him, the truth of the matter is that Towson faced the likes of Maryland and LSU (as well as North Dakota State, which might as well be a Division I program) and West produced against each of them. As his final numbers will attest, West was a man among boys at the FCS level for most of his career, but he has enough bad tape to give teams a bit of pause – as difficult as that is to believe for someone as productive as he was. (For the bad tape, look no further than his 2013 game against James Madison in which he appeared to be a good FCS back and little more for most of the game. For the good tape, move ahead three weeks and watch him post 39 carries for 354 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Eastern Illinois.) West has navigated a long and difficult road to get to this point, so talent evaluators have to like what they see from a psychological perspective. On the field, West’s best fit is probably going to be in a one-cut, zone-blocking scheme since he possesses above-average vision and the feet to make a move once he is in the hole. West profiles as a “sustainer” between-the-tackles thumper that will eventually wear down opposing defenses if given enough opportunities, but the team that drafts him would be well-served to add a “lightning” component to their backfield (assuming they don’t have one already) to the “thunder” West will provide.



RB Lache Seastrunk Draft Profile


By: — @ 12:25 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL DraftAs we countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Vitals
College: Baylor
Height/Weight: 5’9”/201
Hands: 9 1/4”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.51
Vertical Jump: 41 1/2”
Broad Jump: 11’ 2”
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A
3-Cone: N/A

Background (College Stats)
Rated as the third-best back in the 2010 recruiting class behind only Marcus Lattimore and current Louisville RB Michael Dyer, Seastrunk took a circuitous route to go from a blue-chip recruit out of Texas to a likely second- or third-day NFL draft pick, essentially burning a redshirt year at Oregon in 2010 when he got buried on the depth chart (behind the likes of LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner) before he was caught in the middle of a recruiting scandal centered around “talent broker” Willie Lyles and then-Ducks coach Chip Kelly. In part because he wanted to be closer to his ailing grandmother, Seastrunk returned to his home state to play for one of the schools he spurned during his initial recruiting process and sat out the 2011 season due to transfer rules before finally seeing his first college action in 2012. Baylor’s spread offense proved to be a perfect fit for his unique talents as he was named Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year after posting 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns on only 131 carries, securing honorable mention all-conference honors in the process. Despite being the only starting tailback in the nation last season to finish the season without a single reception, Seastrunk slightly improved his numbers from his sophomore campaign (158 rushes, 1,177 yards and 11 scores). His efforts in 2013 made him a first-team all-conference selection and Doak Walker Award semifinalist.

NFL Player Comp(s): A less well-rounded Andre Ellington

Strengths

  • Twitchy start-stop back that lacks elite speed, but still very much a big-play back.
  • Runs low to the ground and shows great balance even when making sharp cuts.
  • Displays good vision and shows good patience when he runs between the tackles; sets up his blocks well when he decides to hit the hole.
  • Strong lower body helps him get more yards after contact than most backs his size on inside runs.
  • Possesses great burst and can be special in open space without making a lot of moves to do so.

Weaknesses

  • Undisciplined runner that often looks to go east-west a bit too much.
  • Did not catch a single pass in 2013 and recorded more drops (10) than receptions (nine) in his two-year college career; attempts to throw him the ball usually amounted to long tosses designed to get him to the outside of the defense.
  • Limited exposure in passing game also carries over to his ability in pass protection; while a willing blocker, his awareness in identifying blitzers is below average.
  • Size, lack of durability and limited use (158 carries) suggests college coaches believed he was best used as a complementary runner (same staff gave Terrance Ganaway 250 carries in a RG3-led offense in 2011).
  • Ball security (career fumble percentage of 1.3 percent).
  • Benefited greatly from spread attack and wide-open running lanes against lesser opponents.

Bottom Line
Most scouts use a football player’s vertical jump and broad jump to quantify how explosive he is. Seastrunk’s vertical is tied for the fifth-best mark by a running back at the NFL Combine since 1999 while his broad was tied for second. (Just for a comparison, Cincinnati’s Giovani Bernard went 33 ½” on his vertical and 10’ 2” on his broad at the 2013 Combine.) So it goes without saying that Seastrunk makes the grade from a physical-talent perspective when it comes to serving as a complementary NFL back. But there within lies the rub; he has very little experience in the passing game, which makes him a smallish back without much of a small-back skill set and, thus, a difficult projection at the NFL level. Seastrunk has elicited comparisons to LeSean McCoy and, while that isn’t entirely off-base, the Philadelphia Eagles’ two-time All-Pro selection entered the league as a proven all-around back and was a true workhorse in college whereas the Oregon transfer has neither of those qualities going for him. It is entirely possible that Seastrunk ends up becoming a fine third-down back one day, but assuming that any player will go from such little exposure to the passing game to an above-average complementary back in 1-2 NFL training camps is a leap most evaluators would rather not make. In the final analysis, Seastrunk is too explosive not to enjoy some level of success at the pro level, but it needs to be noted that it is highly unlikely he will ever become a “foundation” back and that his true impact may not be felt for 2-3 years.



2014 NFL Mock Draft – Version 3.0


By: — May 4, 2014 @ 9:42 pm
Filed under: NFL Draft

Version 1.0
Version 2.0

NFL DraftWith draft day less than a week away, it’s time for my final update. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter @thepigskinguy.

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina – It’s looking like Clowney will be the first overall selection, regardless of whether or not the Texans keep the No. 1 pick. A trade down is still a likely scenario for Houston but Clowney sounds like the selection if the Texans don’t make a move.

Previous Pick: QB Blake Bortles

2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT Auburn – The Rams would probably like to trade out of this spot but if they stay, offensive tackle is the position they’ll target. Then it comes down to which player St. Louis likes more between Robinson and Jake Matthews.

Previous Pick: OT Greg Robinson

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, DE Buffalo – Gus Bradley is a defensive minded coach and unless the Jaguars absolutely love one of the quarterbacks in this draft, it will be hard for them to pass up on Mack. He will instantly upgrade Jacksonville’s pass rush.

Previous Pick: DE Jadeveon Clowney

4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M – Everyone on the planet appears to love Brian Hoyer but an organization needs more than just him at quarterback if it wants to end decades of losing. The franchise needs a quarterback and a player to excite its fanbase. The drafting of Manziel will take care of both of those problems.

Previous Pick: QB Johnny Manziel

5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson – I actually have Watkins as the top overall player in this draft. I think he is the one can’t-miss prospect given all the physical attributes Watkins brings to the receiver position. That theory will be tested if he goes to Oakland but Watkins certainly fills a need for the Raiders. Oakland has some decent receivers but no one close to being in Watkins’ class. He will be a game-changer from Day 1.

Previous Pick: WR Sammy Watkins

6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M – The Falcons are in a great spot because they could move up, or just sit at six and grab either a pass rusher or best offensive tackle available. In my final mock that player is Matthews.

Previous Pick: DE Khalil Mack

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M – The Bucs parted ways with Mike Williams and they really have few options beyond Vincent Jackson. After signing Josh McCown, it would be nice to give him a 6’5 receiver like Evans to throw the ball to in the red zone. Depending on how the draft shakes out early, Evans could very well end up in Tampa Bay.

Previous Pick: WR Mike Evans

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB Central Florida – The Vikings re-signed Matt Cassel but will also add a young quarterback in the draft. Minnesota is reportedly high on Zach Mettenberger and so am I, so he is a possible target in Round 2 if they don’t select a quarterback here. Minnesota really holds the key to the rest of the draft with this pick and because of that; the Vikings are one of the toughest team to mock. My gut says they want to trade down but I don’t complicate mocks with trades, so for my purposes I have them taking Bortles. However, I see this being the hot spot in the draft for teams trying to trade up into the Top 10.

Previous Pick: QB Teddy Bridgewater

9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT Michigan – Some have the Bills taking Eric Ebron but I don’t mock tight ends in the Top 10 because they rarely go that high. Buffalo also has a weakness at a much more valued position than tight end – offensive tackle – so Lewan would make sense for them.

Previous Pick: OT Jake Matthews

10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan State – A lot of people like Justin Gilbert as the top corner because of his speed and other measurables but I disagree. Dennard was the best cover corner in college football last year. Denard is tough, smart and he would make a great addition to Detroit’s secondary. I am probably wrong that he will go this high but I have heard from some people I know in the NFL that they are also high on Dennard, so I will take a shot with him in the Top 10.

Previous Pick: CB Darqueze Dennard

11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, LB UCLA – Barr could easily be a Top 10 selection given his ability and production in college. However, if Barr slips to 11, the Titans will have to strongly consider him. Tennessee can go in a lot of different directions but the Titans are in need of an explosive pass rusher and Barr fits the bill.

Previous Pick: LB Anthony Barr

12. New York Giants: Zach Martin, OT Notre Dame – Martin was excellent during his career at Notre Dame. He dominated as a left tackle and Martin has the versatility to play multiple positions on the line early in his career, which has to be appealing to New York. The Giants had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season and protecting Eli Manning is the team’s top priority.

Previous Pick: OT Taylor Lewan

13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S Alabama – When your name is “Ha Ha” you should be drafted in the Top 15 by law. Dix is all over the field. I actually think he is one of the 10 best players in the draft at any position. The Rams safeties are dreadful. Dix would come in and be a huge upgrade to a defense that already has a nasty front seven.

Previous Pick: S Ha Ha Clinton Dix

14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT Pittsburgh – How bad was the Bears’ rush defense last year? Ray Rice gained 131 yards on them. Chicago is one of the easiest teams to project. They badly need a defensive tackle or safety. If the talented Donald is on the board, he will be a strong possibility for the Bears. They need more than just Lamarr Houston.

Previous Pick: DT Aaron Donald

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State – Pittsburgh is a tough team to peg because they can go in many different directions like CB, TE, WR, OT or DL. I am going with Gilbert here if he is still on the board. Others are higher on Gilbert than I am but he has great speed and playmaking ability. I think Eric Ebron is another strong possibility for the Steelers.

Previous Pick: CB Justin Gilbert

16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S Louisville – The Cowboys signed Henry Melton but they still need a lot of help along their defensive front. However, safety has been a major weakness in Dallas’ defense for too long and a player with Pryor’s skill-set can finally put an end to that. If the Cowboys want to play the Tampa-2 scheme, they need better production out of the safety position. Pryor would be an excellent addition to their defense.

Previous Pick: S Calvin Pryor

17. Baltimore Ravens: Odell Beckham, WR LSU – The Ravens added Steve Smith but I don’t believe they are done adding weapons for Joe Flacco. Beckham is a tough receiver that can go inside similar to Anquan Boldin, only with more speed. He has all the skills to be a star NFL receiver.

Previous Pick: WR Odell Beckham

18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina – Geno Smith took a lot of criticism in his first season and much of it was deserved. Still, the Jets had the worst group of receivers and tight ends in the NFL. New York added Eric Decker in free agency but the Jets still have to upgrade at tight end. Ebron is the top tight end prospect available and would represent great value if he were still on the board at 18. Just a word of warning: Tight ends always get mocked too high. Ebron could certainly go in the Top 15 but I doubt he gets selected in the Top 10. Teams simply value other positions more than they do tight end.

Previous Pick: TE Eric Ebron

19. Miami Dolphins: C.J. Mosley, LB Alabama – I can see Mosley going as high as No. 9 to Buffalo but with the way my last mock played out, this is where he fell. Miami will obviously be looking offensive tackle first with this pick but I don’t see one worth taking over Mosley, and the Dolphins need help at linebacker too. Miami would be getting a steal if Mosley dropped to them here.

Previous Pick: OT Zach Martin

20. Arizona Cardinals: Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville – I still don’t know if I buy the hype about Bridgewater falling this far but there is a lot of smoke, so I suppose it could happen. If Bridgewater gets to the Cardinals, Arizona will have to strongly consider him with Carson Palmer probably only having one year left as an NFL starter.

Previous Pick: C.J. Mosley

21. Green Bay Packers: Kyle Fuller, CB Virginia Tech – The Packers two biggest needs are safety and tight end. Green Bay could go in one of those directions but Fuller would give the Packers another quality player at a valued position. Fuller is a smart, tough, versatile corner who should be able to help the Packers right away.

Previous Pick: DT Timmy Jernigan

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandin Cooks, WR Oregon State – Cooks is the kind of explosive playmaking threat Chip Kelly will love. He can do the same things for the Eagles offense that DeSean Jackson did, while also returning kicks. Plus, Kelly is familiar with Cooks from his time in the Pac 12.

Previous Pick: WR Donte Moncrief

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR USC – The Chiefs need more gamebreakers on offense and Lee would be a bargain this low for Kansas City. Lee is slipping in some circles but you have to look at his college situation. When a guy still puts up good numbers despite playing for the worst coach on the planet, it says a lot. Lee would be a nice fit in Andy Reid’s offense.

Previous Pick: WR Marqise Leee

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Shazier, LB Ohio State – A couple of years ago I really liked Lavonte David coming out of Nebraska and Shazier reminds me a lot of him. He is always around the ball making plays. Whichever team selects Shazier is going to get a future stud and it could be the Bengals. Cincinnati needs more athleticism at linebacker and Shazier would be just what the doctor ordered.

Previous Pick: DE Kony Ealy

25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix, DT Notre Dame – Nix is the top pure nose tackle in this draft and he would be a great fit in San Diego’s 3-4 defense. Nose tackle aren’t easy to find, so getting a dominant run stuffer like Nix at this point would be a great pick for the Chargers.

Previous Pick: DT Louis Nix

26. Cleveland Browns: Donte Moncrief, WR Ole Miss – I actually expect this pick to be traded to a team trying to get back into Round 1 for a quarterback. However, I put Moncrief here because I have a hunch he could be a surprise first-round pick Thursday. I thought Moncrief was one of the top receivers in college football last season but he didn’t play with an elite quarterback. I also believe NFL people think much more highly of him than draftniks on the Internet. Whichever round Moncrief goes in, I see him having a bright NFL future. If a team trades up in Round 1, this will be either Derek Carr or Zach Mettenberger.

Previous Pick: WR Brandin Cooks

27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE Auburn – Ford dominated last year in the SEC and if he goes to the right team like the Saints, he has a chance to be a stud in the NFL. I will not be surprised if someone like the Steelers grab him higher in the draft but if Ford lasts this long, Rob Ryan will love him.

Previous Pick: DE Dee Ford

28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR Florida State – If a top receiver is on the board at 28, I have to think the Panthers will pull the trigger. Right now, I think I am projected to be Carolina’s fourth receiver. The 6’5 Benjamin would give Cam Newton a huge target, especially in the red zone. Benjamin is slipping because of some off-the-field concerns but his physical skills still make him a possibility for the Panthers at 28.

Previous Pick: WR Kelvin Benjamin

29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE Texas Tech – This is the popular pick for the Patriots and I am going with Amaro as well. Rob Gronkowski is coming back from his second major injury and there is little behind him at tight end. The versatile Amaro would give Tom Brady another dangerous weapon in the passing game.

Previous Pick: TE Jace Amaro

30. San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Roby, CB Ohio State – The 49ers don’t have many weaknesses but one area where they could stand to upgrade is at cornerback, especially after losing Carlos Rogers. Roby’s off-the-field problems will scare away some teams but Jim Harbaugh could be one of the coaches who take a chance on his talent.

Previous Pick: CB Kyle Fuller

31. Denver Broncos: Timmy Jernigan, DT Florida State – The Broncos could grab an OT here to protect Peyton Manning but with Robert Ayers and Shaun Phillips both gone, defensive line is an area of need as well. Also, I have Jernigan slipping in my final mock and if he lasts this long, the versatile lineman will be one of the top players left on the board.

Previous Pick: DL Ra’Shede Hageman

32. Seattle Seahawks: Kony Ealy, DE Missouri – Ealy is a quick edge rusher who is also strong against the run. By this time in the draft no one knows what will happen but the Seahawks like to take guys who are the best players ranked on their board. If Ealy were still around at 32, he would be one of those players on my board.

Previous Pick: LB Ryan Shazier



WR Kelvin Benjamin Draft Profile


By: — May 1, 2014 @ 9:52 pm
Filed under: NFL Draft

As we countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Kelvin Benjamin

Kelvin Benjamin: Considered by many to be a boom-or-bust prospect.

Vitals
College: Florida State
Height/Weight: 6’5”/240
Hands: 10 1/4”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.61
Vertical Jump: 32 1/2”
Broad Jump: 9’ 11”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.39
3-Cone: 7.33

Background (College Stats)
Benjamin, who was considered the eighth-best receiver in his recruiting class, took his four-star talent to the Seminoles after three years with high school powerhouse Glades Central (Fla.). He redshirted in 2011 and put together a modest campaign in his first season on the field, playing in 13 games – but did not start any of them – registering 30 catches for 495 yards and four touchdowns on an offense led by the somewhat erratic future NFL first-round QB E.J. Manuel. Benjamin’s draft stock shot up in a big way in 2013, however, as eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston seemingly got more done from the pocket than Manuel ever could. In his only season with Winston under center, Benjamin averaged a touchdown every 3.6 receptions – the second-best mark in the country among wide receivers – and needed only 54 catches to go over the 1,000-yard mark (1,011, to be exact) and score an ACC-best 15 times. Making those numbers even more impressive was the fact that Florida State rarely needed much from him in the second half of games during its national championship run. For what it is worth, Benjamin reportedly blew off a planned workout with a NFL coach who had made a “special trip” to see him in mid-April, claiming he was too tired – presumably due to all the workouts he had finished leading up to that point.

NFL Player Comp(s): Plaxico Burress

Strengths

  • Extremely rare size and wingspan creates incredible catch radius and allows him to shield off defenders on short/intermediate throws as well as dominate in the red zone.
  • Size and strength makes him a handful for a defensive back to tackle in the open field; also has the toughness and willingness to work in between the hashmarks.
  • Has uncommon body control for a player of his dimensions.
  • Long strider who is faster than his timed speed; shows impressive burst with the ball after the catch as defenders rarely close on him once he gets going.
  • Should excel in downfield/deep-ball situations immediately; tracks the ball well over either shoulder.
  • Not the most sure blocker, but has shown the ability to “knock the block” off a defender when properly inspired.

Weaknesses

  • Tight end-like size makes it harder for him to sink his hips and transition in and out of his cuts during a route, characteristics that make him more ideally suited for more straight-line downfield throws (as opposed to double moves).
  • Average quickness means he tends to create most of his separation with the ball in the air; as such, he relies a bit too much on his physicality, making him susceptible to interference calls.
  • Suffers from “focus drops” and double-catches; does not always secure the catch as quickly as he should in part because he lets the ball get into his body too often.
  • Allows the ball to get too far away from his body after the catch.
  • Ball skills – while terrific at times – are erratic; does not always attack or come back to the ball in the air.

Bottom Line
It doesn’t take too long to realize why people have a love-hate relationship with Benjamin and consider him a boom-or-bust prospect. Look no further than the Seminoles’ 2013 game against Florida to see him at his best (scored three times, including once on a beautiful red-zone touchdown reception in which he looked over both shoulders to track down a lower-than-expected throw on a corner route and still caught it effortlessly) and his worst (three drops) in the same game. One look at his 2013 game-by-game log reveals he evolved from a secondary to primary option, showing a marked improvement in a number of areas as the year progressed. It should also be noted that when Florida State needed a play in the final seconds to beat Auburn in the national championship, it was Benjamin who was on the receiving end of the go-ahead score. He is a scary projection for teams because he is a size and talent mismatch for most defenses, but is also a 23-year-old raw rookie that is about 5-10 pounds away from forcing coaches to consider moving him to tight end. Players like Benjamin will always have a place in the NFL because there are so few defenders that can even dream of matching him physically. Benjamin has Demaryius Thomas-like upside assuming he wants it bad enough and the quarterback play he receives in the NFL is respectable. He is raw just like Thomas was coming out of Georgia Tech, but a lot of detailed work on the practice field over the next 1-2 years could allow Benjamin to become something very special – like he was near the end of the 2013 season against Florida (9-212-3 line) and Duke (5-119-2).



TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins Draft Profile


By: — @ 1:57 pm
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL DraftAs we countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Vitals
College: Washington
Height/Weight: 6’5”/262
Hands: 9 5/8”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.75
Vertical Jump: N/A
Broad Jump: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A
3-Cone: N/A

Background (College Stats)
Seferian-Jenkins recorded 126 catches in high school, played in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl and was a four-star recruit by Rivals.com that was ranked as the second-best tight end prospect in the country in 2011, behind only Florida State’s Nick O’Leary and ahead of draft classmate Jace Amaro. He made an immediate impact in his first season on campus, finishing in a tie for second on the team in receptions (41) and touchdowns (six). He took a week off before joining the Washington basketball team – something football coach Steve Sarkisian had promised he would have a chance to do during the recruiting process – and played 17 games as a reserve post player with the Huskies. Seferian-Jenkins decided to focus on football thereafter and tore up the Pac-12 in 2012, registering 69 catches for 852 yards and seven scores en route to being named a Mackey Award semifinalist and earning second-team all-conference honors. He entered his junior season holding the school’s career records for tight ends in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns, but encountered as much adversity as he faced in his short college stay when he was charged with DUI in March 2013 – which resulted in a one-game suspension to open the season – and underwent surgery to repair a broken pinkie finger later in the year. Nevertheless, the third-team All-American won what amounted to be the lifetime achievement Mackey Award despite posting career lows in receptions (36) and yards (450) in 2013 as the Huskies focused more on tempo and explosive plays than they had in either of his first two seasons. Doctors discovered Seferian-Jenkins had a stress fracture in his left foot during his medical exam at the NFL Combine, which meant he would undergo surgery to repair it and not be able to participate in combine workouts and or at Washington’s pro day.

NFL Player Comp(s): A less physical and aggressive Rob Gronkowski

Strengths

  • Prototypical build, excellent hands and impressive body control for a man of his size; provides a huge, reliable target for his quarterback in every situation, especially in the red zone.
  • Has natural feel and excels at finding the gaps in zone coverage while also using his mass to shield off a defender.
  • More than willing to work the middle of the field and absorb the big hit if necessary.
  • While not a speed demon, he makes a surprising number of downfield catches 15 or more yards down the field (highest of the top tight end prospects in his draft).
  • Despite expected quickness deficiencies, he ran a number of wide receiver routes – especially in 2012 – and seems to embrace the advantage he has against undersized defensive backs in such situations.
  • Stepped up as a speed rusher at defensive end in 2012 when Huskies were struggling to mount a pass rush.

Weaknesses

  • Capable of breaking a tackle or two after the catch, but not overly elusive or explosive.
  • Will challenge the seam with deceptive speed, but projects as an intermediate threat as opposed to a big-play threat.
  • Could do a better job at maintaining focus outside of red zone and plays with too much finesse, needs to play with more aggressiveness in order to fulfill immense all-around potential.
  • Not the dominating run blocker his size would suggest he should be, although he gives good effort consistently and holds up well at the point of attack.
  • Injuries (broken finger, stress fracture in his left foot) and off-field issues (charged with DUI) became a bit of an issue over the last 12-14 months.

Bottom Line
Seferian-Jenkins is likely going to get pushed down into the second day of the draft due to his underwhelming numbers in 2013, but he is easily a more complete tight end right now than the one prospect at the position that will almost certainly be drafted 10-20 picks ahead of him (North Carolina’s Eric Ebron). For what it is worth, Seferian-Jenkins showed elements of Tony Gonzalez in his play in 2012; he was a more impressive (well-rounded) tight end on tape in 2012 – before the foot injury and weight gain – than Ebron was in 2013. Although the 2013 Mackey Award winner paid the price statistically for the Huskies’ decision to focus even more on a fast-paced, big-play offense in 2013 that featured RB Bishop Sankey more than they did the previous year, he showed great maturity by not pouting and improved as a blocker to his credit. Additionally, it was rather amazing how often Washington QB Keith Price did not look in Seferian-Jenkins’ direction (outside of the 20s, that is) in 2013, suggesting the coaching staff may have decided to use him more as a decoy. Seferian-Jenkins should enjoy a long and successful stay in the NFL and, so long as he lands with a team that recognizes him for what he is – a first-down machine capable of dominating in the red zone – he could easily be every bit as decorated as Ebron when their careers come to a close.


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