Mock Draft, Top 100

Here ya go.

1. Houston Texans – DE/LB Jadeveon Clowney – Clemson
2. St. Louis Rams (from WAS) – OT Greg Robinson – Auburn
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – WR Sammy Watkins – Clemson
4. Cleveland Browns – LB Khalil Mack – Buffalo
5. Oakland Raiders – DT Aaron Donald – Pitt
6. Atlanta Falcons – OT Jake Matthews – Texas A&M
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Mike Evans -Texas A&M
8. Minnesota Vikings – MLB C.J. Mosley – Alabama
9. Buffalo Bills – TE Eric Ebron – UNC
10. Detroit Lions – OT Taylor Lewan – Michigan 
11. Tennessee Titans – CB Kyle Fuller – Virginia Tech
12. New York Giants – OL Zack Martin – Notre Dame
13. St. Louis Rams – WR Odell Beckham – LSU
14. Chicago Bears – CB Justin Gilbert – Oklahoma State
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – Alabama
16. Dallas Cowboys – DE Anthony Barr – UCLA
17. Baltimore Ravens – WR Marqise Lee – USC
18. New York Jets – LB Ryan Shazier – Ohio State
19. Miami Dolphins – WR Brandin Cooks – Oregon State
20. Arizona Cardinals – QB Blake Bortles – UCF
21. Green Bay Packers – NT Tim Jernigan – Florida State
22. Philadelphia Eagles – WR Cody Latimer – Indiana
23. Kansas City Chiefs – QB Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M
24. Cincinnati Bengals – CB Courtney Roby – Ohio State
25. San Diego Chargers – CB Darqueze Dennard – Michigan State
26. Cleveland Browns (from IND) – QB Derek Carr – Fresno State
27. New Orleans Saints – DE/LB Dee Ford – Auburn
28. Carolina Panthers – OT Joel Bitonio – Nevada
29. New England Patriots – DL Ra’Shede Hageman – Minnesota
30. San Francisco 49ers – DE Stephon Tuitt – Notre Dame
31. Denver Broncos – DL Kony Ealy – Missouri
32. Seattle Seahawks – OT Morgan Moses – Virginia

* * * * *

1. Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
2. Jadeveon Clowney – DE/LB – South Carolina
3. Khalil Mack – LB – Buffalo
4. Aaron Donald – DT – Pitt
5. Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
6. Greg Robinson – OT – Auburn
7. Mike Evans – WR – Texas A&M
8. Eric Ebron – TE – UNC
9. C.J. Mosely – LB – Alabama
10. Anthony Barr – LB – UCLA
11. Kyle Fuller – CB – Virginia Tech
12. Taylor Lewan – OT – Michigan
13. Carlos Hyde – RB – Ohio State
14. Calvin Pryor – S – Louisville
15. Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State
16. Marqise Lee – WR – USC
17. Odell Beckham – WR – LSU
18. Darqueze Dennard – CB – Michigan State
19. Bradley Roby – CB – Ohio State
20. Zack Martin – OL – Notre Dame 
21. Ra’Shede Hageman – DL – Minnesota
22. Blake Bortles – QB – UCF
23. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – FS – Alabama
24. Brandin Cooks – WR – Oregon State
25. Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville
26. Johnny Manziel -QB – Texas A&M
27. Tim Jernigan – DT – Florida State
28. Louis Nix – DT – Notre Dame
29. Justin Gilbert – CB – Oklahoma State
30. Cody Latimer – WR – Indiana
31. Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TE – Washington
32. Stephon Tuitt – DL – Notre Dame 
33. Jason Verret – CB – TCU
34. Jace Amaro – TE – Texas Tech
35. Derek Carr – QB – Fresno State
36. Jeremiah Attaochu – LB/DE – Georgia Tech
37. Dee Ford – DE – Auburn
38. Tre Mason – RB – Auburn
39. Lamarcus Joyner – DB – Florida State
40. Weston Richburg – OC – Colorado State
41. Chris Borland – ILB – Wisconsin
42. Joel Bitonio – OL – Nevada
43. Allen Robinson – WR – Penn State
44. Marcus Smith – LB – Louisville
45. Troy Niklas – TE – Notre Dame 
46. Davante Adams – WR – Fresno State
47. JaWaun James – OT – Tennessee
48. Kyle Van Noy – LB – BYU
49. Jordan Matthews – WR – Vanderbilt
50. Scott Crichton – DE – Oregon State
51. Cyrus Kouandjio – OT – Alabama
52. Kony Ealy – DE – Missouri
53. Xavier Su’A-Filo – OG – UCLA
54..Demarcus Lawrence - DE – Boise State
55. Jimmie Ward – S – Northern Illinois
56. Morgan Moses – OT – Virginia
57. Jack Mewhort – OT – Ohio State
58. Baushad Breeland – CB – Clemson
59. Gabe Jackson – OG – Miss State
60. Dominique Easley – DL – Florida
61. Marcus Martin – OL – USC
62. Martavis Bryant – WR – Clemson 
63. Phillip Gaines – CB – Rice
64. Trai Turner – OG – LSU
65. Daquan Jones – DL – Penn State
66. Stanley Jean-Baptiste – CB – Nebraska
67. Kareem Martin – DE – UNC
68. Robert Herron – WR – Wyoming
69. Deone Bucannon – SS – Washington State
70. Zach Mettenberger – QB – LSU
71. Telvin Smith – Florida State 
72. Donte Moncrief – WR – Ole Miss
73. Keith McGill – CB – Utah
74. Arthur Lynch – TE – Georgia
75. Dakota Dozier – OL – Furman
76. Dion Bailey – SS – USC
77. Pierre Desir – CB – Lindenwood
78. Will Clarke – DE – West Virgnia
79. CJ Fiedorowicz – TE – Iowa
80. Jordan Tripp – LB – Montana 
81. Tom Savage – QB – Pitt
82. Jeremy Hill – RB – LSU
83. Terrance Brooks – FS – Florida State
84. Chris Smith – DE/LB – Arkansas
85. Caraun Reid – DT – Princeton
86. Christian Jones – LB – Florida State
87. Kelvin Benjamin – WR – Florida State
88. Billy Turner – OL – North Dakota State
89. Jarvis Landry – WR – LSU
90. Jaylen Watkins – CB – Florida
91. Jimmy Garoppolo – QB – Eastern Illinois
92. Trent Murphy – DE – Stanford
93. Bruce Ellington – WR – South Carolina 
94. Brock Vereen – FS – Minnesota
95. Ego Ferguson – DT – LSU
96. James Gayle – DE – Virginia Tech 
97. Travis Swanson – OC – Arkansas
98. Paul Richardson – WR – Colorado
99. Jackson Jeffcoat – DE – Texas 
100. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif – OL – McGill

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Draft Notes

* Deone Bucannon is an interesting Safety prospect. The public consensus is that he’s a 2nd round pick. I’ve seen some people consider him as a fringe 1st rounder. I would not consider him for the 1st round at all.

Bucannon is a tough player to evaluate. You want to like the guy because of the physical way he plays, but there are some concerns. Put on the Cal game and you’ll see him miss 4 tackles. Put on the Oregon game and you’ll see him struggle against their spread attack.

The NFL game is more about being spread out and playing in space. That’s not Bucannon’s strength. He is better at playing in traffic. He tested well at the Combine, but that athleticism doesn’t show up on tape.

Bucannon did have 6 INTs this year, but many of them came on bad throws. Give the guy credit for making the plays, but they were more about QB error than his playmaking skills. I do think he shows a good understanding of the passing game and passing lanes. Bucannon just looks a bit slow at times in coverage.

* NT Tim Jernigan from Florida State is a really impressive player. He can play in the 3-4 or 4-3. Casual fans might watch his games and come away with mixed feelings, but if you can appreciate strength and leverage, Jernigan will impress you. He can 2-gap. He can eat up blocks. He can take on double teams. Jernigan stays square to the LOS and plays the run well. He’s got some athleticism. When he’s able to shoot gaps, he has the quickness to be disruptive. Really good player.

Unfortunately, Jernigan just tested positive at the Combine. Dumb. You can argue about marijuana use, but that’s not really the point. He knew he would be tested in Indy, but still showed up and failed. That shows poor discipline and stupidity. I think many of us know people who were going to take a drug test for a job and stayed clean until the test was over.

Plenty of NFL players are regular smokers. Most know when their annual test is coming up and do what it takes to pass the test, then they go right back to firing up. All that takes is some discipline and effort. If you can’t pass the test at the Combine, will you pass the annual test you get once in the league?

* There is now some talk that OLBs Jeremiah Attaochu and Marcus Smith could go in the 1st round. I like both players quite a bit. Attaochu is the better pass rusher, while Smith is the more complete player.

* I’m starting to wonder if Dee Ford goes in the 1st round. He is a pure speed rusher. That’s a great fit for some schemes, but not all. I think Seattle at 32 and the Jaguars in the 2nd round could covet him.

* RB Bishop Sankey cuts well and makes some impressive moves. But he looks slow and awkward in the backfield. I really wonder how his game will translate to the NFL. LeSean McCoy gets away with making a lot of cuts because he is a freak. Sankey isn’t close to that level with his moves. I don’t like him very much at all.

I’m not a big fan of the RB class in general.

* I cannot see WR Jodan Matthews going in the 1st round. There are just too many other WRs that are better than him. I think he’ll go in the mid-to-late 2nd round. Could turn out to be a terrific NFL player, but he does have an issue with drops.

* ILB Avery Williamson is growing on me. Tough inside tackler. Will take on blockers. Strong, physical player. Moves pretty well laterally. I just wish he was a bit faster. Could be a good run-stuffer in the 3-4.

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3-4 OLBs

This is shaping up to be an odd class of 3-4 OLBs. Let’s talk about some of them.

* Jadeveon Clowney – Obviously he would be the top of most lists. Clowney has his faults, but all 32 teams would love to have his talent. Can play in any system due to his ability, but probably is best suited for the 4-3.

* Khalil Mack – Probably the #2 guy on most 3-4 OLB lists. It is possible some teams could like him more than Clowney due to character issues. Also possible some could rate him #3 after Mr. Barr. Mack could go as high as #2 overall.

* Anthony Barr – Here is where things start to get interesting. Barr is 6-5, 255. He is a terrific athlete and was a productive pass rusher for UCLA the past 2 years. But not everyone loves him. Some feels he’s not physical enough and don’t like him until the late 1st round or even the 2nd. Some teams love him and see him as a Top 10 talent. I’m with them. The guy can fly off the edge and get to the QB. Those guys aren’t easy to find. While it is possible he could slide, I don’t think it is realistic to expect him outside the Top 15.

After the Big 3, things are wide open.

* Dee Ford – He’ll be next on many lists. I’ve started to wonder if Ford will be a 1st rounder. Yes, he is a good pass rusher. But put on the tape and you see him speed rush from LDE over and over and over. Can he beat good LTs in the NFL? He doesn’t have great size or athletic ability. Ford’s showing at the Senior Bowl was impressive, but I’m not as high on him as I was.

* Jeremiah Attaochu – I like him better than Ford. Attaochu is a hair bigger. He has a better vertical jump, which shows explosion. He has longer arms. Attaochu is also more versatile. He played LB and DE. He lined up all over and can do multiple things. I also think he plays with more of a mean streak, which will help him in the NFL.

* Kony Ealy – Ealy did not test well at the Combine, but was much better at his Pro Day. I have watched several games and I just don’t see him as a 3-4 OLB. Ealy is a good DE prospect, but I don’t see the agility for playing OLB. I don’t think he’s worthy of a 1st round pick at either spot.

* Kareem Martin – During the season I saw Martin as a pure DE. He then shocked me with a terrific workout at the Combine. I went back to re-watch tape and see what I missed. I still think he is a 4-3 DE. I just don’t see a player that is meant to be in space. That said, if Quinton Coples can play LB in the NFL, never say never.

* Demarcus Lawrence – I don’t get the love for Lawrence. Check out this note from Daniel Jeremiah.

The 30′s? I just don’t get that. He is 6-3, 251. That’s okay size, but nothing special. He isn’t a special athlete. He does have long arms and huge hands (11 inches), but I put on the tape and see a lot of hustle plays. Those are good, but not for someone that is highly rated. You want top prospects making plays more off talent than effort. I just don’t see anything special about Lawrence, but I seem to be in the minority here.

* Scott Crichton – Good size at 6-3, 273. Good athlete for that size. Natural pass rusher. Can play either size. Flies off the ball, turns the corner well and knows how to finish plays. 4-3 teams will love him, but I think he can definitely play in the 3-4.

* Marcus Smith – Played LB and DE in college. Comfortable standing up and rushing off the edge. Complete OLB. Able to set the edge vs the run. Surprisingly good in coverage. Can run with a TE down the seam. Good pass rusher. Mostly a speed rusher. Will need to work on being more physical with OTs, but that can be developed. Has a good chance to sneak into the 2nd round.

* James Gayle – Somewhat of an overlooked player. If you combined size, workout results and on-field production, Gayle might rank as the #4 overall guy in this group. Excellent build at 6-4, 259. Mostly played LDE for Va Tech, but they occasionally had him drop back into coverage. That’s not his strength, but he can play in space. Has good speed and quickness. Also strong and physical. Put on the Duke game from 2012 and you’ll see him run over OL. I think he can play in the 4-3 or the 3-4. Might be a 3rd round target.

* Trent Murphy – Love his motor, but I am not a fan of his as an NFL prospect. Just isn’t explosive. Had a good workout at the Combine, but I don’t think you see that consistently on tape. I prefer him as a 4-3 DE.

There are still other names to consider.

* Jackson Jeffcoat

* Will Clarke

* Adrian Hubbard

* Chris Smith

* Trevor Reilly

* Howard Jones

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Understanding Athleticism

LSU held its Pro Day today and things did not go well for WR Jarvis Landry. He was slow, stiff and showed no explosion. While the numbers don’t lie, this doesn’t mesh with what you see on tape, where Landry was a star receiver.

What gives?

We see this every year. Some players play better than they test. Rip a guy for a crappy Pro Day or Combine and you’ll get stories about Terrell Suggs, Joe Haden and Anquan Boldin. They didn’t test well, but have been NFL stars.

Unfortunately there are also plenty of guys who didn’t test well that were exposed as marginal athletes. They did not go on to NFL glory.

Trying to figure out which players are the exception is very tricky, to put it mildly. I believed in Boldin back in 2003. I didn’t care that he ran more than 4.7 at the Combine. I had watched him play for 3 years and Boldin’s game wasn’t built on speed. He was tough, physical and even athletic. But he wasn’t fast.

I was nervous about Haden. CB is a speed position. The fact he wasn’t huge and lacked ideal size kinda bugged me. He’s turned out better than I expected.

I don’t specifically remember my thoughts on Suggs.

Landry had a pretty miserable day.

6-0, 196
4.61
30.5 VJ
4.59 SS
7.59 3-cone

Those last 2 times are awful. They wouldn’t be special for offensive linemen, let alone a medium-sized WR.

Watch Landry in a game and you see some impressive plays, but also his physical limitations.

It gets to be tough to make a case for Landry. He’s not big. He’s not coming off a major injury. He was a good college player, but not a dominant force. I’m afraid his workouts are showing who he is and that means he won’t be a Top 75 pick.

Landry can still find a role in the NFL and he can become a good pro, but he’s far from a lock to start, let alone become a star receiver.

Go back to the previous trio for a minute. Suggs set sack records. Boldin was a dominant player on an elite team. Haden was an elite CB in the best conference in all of college football.

Landry was a good college player, but not on that level. He only started 12 games in 3 years. He was 77-1193-10 in 2013. Those are good numbers, but nothing special. Landry is good on tape, but not special. And now we see a bad workout. This is not a good trend.

Mike Mayock loves Landry. Why? Mayock sees toughness and skills and brains on tape. Landry is the kind of player you want to like. But right now the evidence is piling up and the verdict isn’t good. He’ll be in for a slide during the draft, especially when you consider what a deep draft this is.

Each case has to be studied like this. How did a player’s workouts compare to his game tape? Don’t think about results. Numbers can be deceiving. Watch the tape. See if a player exhibits NFL type athleticism on tape. Not everyone tests well. Was the player dominant in college? How did he fare in big games or against big competition?

The flip side of this can be true as well. OL Wesley Johnson had a strong showing at the Combine. Casual fans might have said “Hey, this guy is an athletic OL.”

Put on the game tape and you see something very different. His feet are terrible. Johnson did training to get ready for the Combine and mastered the drills. He then did very well on them in Indy. The game tape is nothing like that.

We’ve seen this before. Lydon Murtha was an OL for Nebraska. He had a good workout at the Combine. I hadn’t been impressed by his game tape, but thought the workout meant I needed to go back and re-watch him. I still wasn’t impressed. Murtha was a 7th round pick and started 4 games in his short career.

Athletic drills are a tool for quantifying athletic ability, but they can be flawed. The drills must be kept in context. If they don’t match the game tape, you must figure out which of the two is wrong. NFL teams struggle with this each year so don’t expect to be perfect as you decipher the info and come to a conclusion.

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Draft Rumor Mill

Russ Lande covers the NFL draft for Sports on Earth and has been a good draft analyst for quite a while. He shared some of the things he’s been hearing.

Kyle Fuller as the top CB?

Rumor 1: Cornerback surprise. Mock drafts have been projecting either Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert or Jason Verrett to be the first cornerback selected in May. But over the last month, we’ve heard from numerous people that Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller is the top cornerback on many draft boards. He doesn’t have exceptional height, but at just a shade under 6-foot, Fuller is more than tall enough and when you add in his 32 7/8tharms he has plenty of reach. Teams believe Fuller can excel in any defensive scheme because he has the size, strength, athleticism and physical playing style to excel in tight man coverage, along with the instincts, closing quickness and ball skills to make big plays from zone alignments. When you add in Fuller’s maturity, smarts and consistency, it shouldn’t shock anybody if he’s a first round pick and is as likely as any other cornerback to be the first one selected.

Marqis Lee an underrated WR?

Rumor 2: Receiver sleeper. As the 2013 college season got underway there was a lot of discussion about USC receiver Marqise Lee being a top ten pick, but an injury-plagued season hurt his stock. During my travels attending the Missouri and Texas A&M pro days over the last few weeks, I was fortunate to speak with more than twenty NFL people and Lee’s name kept coming up. He’s an incredibly hard-working young man, while his film shows outstanding routes, excellent use of hands to defeat the press and ability to easily set-up defenders to get them to turn their hips. No one is going to mistake him for Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin when it comes to size, but NFL people consistently commented that they were shocked at how physical Lee is, whether fighting through the cornerback’s jam to release off the line, staying on his stem while the defender tries to ride him off it or running through potential tackles to make big plays after the catch. Few top tier prospects would have played through the injuries Lee did in 2013 and his gutty performance against UCLA convinced NFL teams of his toughness. More than a few NFL people told me they would not be surprised if Lee ends up being the best NFL receiver from this years’ draft when we look back in five years.

Lee looked like a Top 10 type of prospect in 2012. He didn’t have as good a year in 2013 and some team could get very lucky.

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Big Receivers

The WR class of 2014 is absolutely loaded. There are players of every size, shape and skill set imaginable. Teams have the ability to figure out what exactly they want in a receiver. Teams looking for big receivers will have a couple of very interesting players to go after.

Mike Evans of Texas A&M and Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State are the big names among big receivers. Both are Redshirt Sophomores. Both players need a lot of work. They dominated in college, but that was mostly due to size. That won’t be enough for the NFL.

I like Evans more. A lot more. He’s not just a giant WR. Evans shows the potential to be a complete player. He had a good workout at the Combine and you can see good athleticism when you watch him play. In the Ole Miss game he jumped over a DB. That’s tough for a huge WR to do.

Evans does need a lot of work. Texas A&M had him line up outside to the right most, if not all, of the time. He ran a limited set of routes. NFL teams will need to work on his route running and will have to see if he’s comfortable moving around the formation.

But Evans does flash big time potential. He has good body control for such a big guy. He made a few spectacular sideline grabs this year. He has good, not great, hands, but occasionally he will make a really impressive catch.

Evans racked up plenty of RAC yards and I think he can do that in the NFL. He wasn’t just overpowering defenders in space. Evans showed good speed and some elusiveness with the ball in his hands.

His size does allow him to be physically dominant at times. Evans will fight through physical coverage and just manhandle some DBs. He is strong enough to put some on the ground. More impressively, Evans is able to play through contact. He can have a DB draped on him and still make a tough catch. Evans doesn’t have to be open to be open. That skill will serve him well at the next level.

One of my concerns with Evans is his emotional make-up. He can be too fiery at times and that can affect his play. He needs to grow out of that. There are going to be some tough games in the NFL. You must be able to get through those, mentally and emotionally.

I think Evans deserves to be a Top 15 pick. I can see him becoming a stud receiver in the NFL.

By the numbers

6-5, 231
arm – 35 1/8
hand – 9 5/8
40 – 4.53
VJ – 37
3C – 7.08
SS – 4.26
82-1105-5 in 2012
65-1322-12 in 2013

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I am not nearly as high on Kelvin Benjamin, the RS Soph from Florida State. Benjamin is even bigger, going 6-5, 240. He does not carry that size nearly as well. Evans looks like a giant WR. Benjamin looks like a LB playing receiver.

Benjamin did post huge numbers this year, but his tape just didn’t impress me. He caught a lot of intermediate crossing passes and then turned them into long plays when defenders weren’t able to tackle him in space. This worked great and FSU scored a lot of points.

But that doesn’t carry over to the NFL. Being a 240-pound receiver is still rare in the NFL, but you aren’t going to overpower defenders the same way. Guys will get you down. Take away those long runs and Benjamin is a very different player.

He’s got a hitch on his release and that happens over and over. That one simple move gives DBs an extra fraction of a second to adjust to him and stay close as he runs his route. Benjamin rarely gets separation on his own. He isn’t a good route runner and lacks the agility or quickness to create space between him and the DB.

Drops were an issue in several of the games I watched. Benjamin did make some impressive catches as well, but the drops were bad ones. The ball hit him in the hands and he simply dropped it.

I think Benjamin could be a good role player in the NFL, but I don’t see him as a starter. I would not take him until the middle rounds.

By the numbers

6-5, 240
arm – 34 7/8
hand – 10 1/4
40 – 4.61
VJ – 32.5
3C – 7.33
SS – 4.39
54-1011-15 in 2013

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To put it simply…Evans is faster, more agile, more explosive and has better hands. That’s the guy I want of the two. I think he can be an NFL star. I think Benjamin is going to be more of a role player. There is value in that, but not 1st round value.

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Sentreal Henderson’s Bad Pro Day

Miami OT Sentreal Henderson is a massive blocker with big time potential. But he also has big time questions. Henderson’s showing at his Pro Day didn’t help matters.

Yikes.

Henderson’s agent is in full spin mode.

Agent David Levine told the Miami Herald that Henderson “did not quit” the workout but rather that dehydration was the reason he could not finish. Levine said that Henderson met with New York Giants GM Jerry Reese after the workout and also met with the offensive line coaches of the Bengals, Seahawks and Jets as well.

Mortensen saying Henderson quit “was quite a mischaracterization,” according to Levine.

Even if that is true…and I’m not sure I buy it…Henderson looks bad for being dehydrated. A prospect’s Pro Day is one of the biggest days of his football career. The prospect needs to be ready to perform and part of that is being properly hydrated.

The Eagles had already pulled Henderson off their draft board, to give you some idea of what teams think of the young man. He could become a top flight RT or could be someone that struggles to understand the “pro” part of pro football. Being a professional means working hard, training properly and being reliable, on and off the field.

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Draft Notes

Mike Mayock had a pre-Combine conference call with the media and addressed a variety of topics. NFL.com wrote a good piece that highlighted his best comments. A couple of interesting takes…

4. Deepest draft in a while

Mayock’s thoughts on the depth of overall talent in the draft were strong. “Deepest and best draft class I’ve seen in probably 10 years,” he said. “I had a GM tell me the other day that having a top 20 pick this year is like having a top 10 pick last year. There are some positions that are stacked, where you can get a quality player through three or four rounds.”

10. Plenty of OTs to be found

As high as Mayock is on the depth of wide receivers in the draft, he was equally effusive about offensive tackles beyond the first round. “If you’re not going to jump on a tackle in the first round, you can get into the second round, or even later in the second round,” he said. Mayock named Virginia’s Morgan Moses, Clemson’s Brandon Thomas, Nevada’s Joel Bitonio and Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort as a few good examples of players who could be found in the second or third round and are likely to be starters.

You don’t have to agree with Mike, but you have to respect his opinion. Always great to get his thoughts.

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I feel like USC’s Dion Bailey is the one Safety that doesn’t get talked about enough. Here is a new video of him, mainly playing the slot against Colorado. Keep in mind that he lists at 6-2, 218.

He’s not great covering slot receivers, but you see his potential. And he shows great hands on the INT. That’s not a fluke. Bailey plucks the ball very naturally. I like the fact he shows good awareness, on the INT play for sure, but also for most of the game. Bailey is able to focus on his man, but also keep track of the action around him.

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I wrote about Dee Ford as a potential Eagles target.

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Can Kony Ealy play in the 3-4? I think he could for someone like Rex Ryan, who has successfully used Quinton Coples as an OLB. I’m not sure most teams would want Ealy there. He lists at 6-5, 275. And he’s got some thickness to him. He’s not a sleek pass rusher. I think ideally Ealy is a 4-3 DE, but his performance at the Combine will be closely scrutinized by some 3-4 teams that are trying to figure out if they think he can be a good 3-4 OLB.

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Safety Talk

NFL teams are desperate to find good starting Safeties. The 2014 draft has some talented prospects that teams will be highly interested in.

To me, there are 2 prospects that stand out…Calvin Pryor and Lamarcus Joyner.

Pryor lists at 6-2, 210. He might be heavier than that. He has an excellent combination of size, speed and strength. He’s very impressive when he attacks downhill. Pryor can deliver impact hits. He jumps off the screen when you watch the game tape. Really impressive physically.

He’s not a polished player. There are some plays where he takes a bad angle. There are some sloppy tackle attempts. Teams with a strong coaching staff will see a gifted prospect that can be developed into a star Safety. I can imagine that some teams won’t value Pryor as much.

Joyner will be a polarizing player. He is 5-8, 190. That size will cause some teams to really downgrade him. And I think that is reasonable. Do you want someone that size matched up with Calvin Johnson or Jimmy Graham in space?

Joyner plays much bigger than he is. To me, he jumps out when watching the tape. Joyner is a big-time hitter. He knows how to explode into runners and receivers. He delivers clean hits, which is all the more valuable in today’s NFL. Joyner offers versatility because he can play the slot. He’s got CB experience.

The natural comparison for Joyner is the Honey Badger, who just had an outstanding rookie season. Both guys lack ideal size,  but can be impact players and in unusual ways. Both are very good at playing in the box. Both can rush the passer and play the run. Both have good man cover skills.

Honey Badger had serious character issues. Joyner was a key player on a dominant defense that just won the national title. I’m betting teams will love him as they meet with him and do their background checks.

I see Pryor as a 1st round pick. Joyner could go 2nd or 3rd round.

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Two other guys who get a lot of talk are Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and Jimmie Ward. Dix could be a real good deep Safety. He is a good tackler and has good range and ball skills. There really isn’t anything compelling about him, but he could still be a 1st round pick. There will be some teams that like him better than Pryor.

Ward, who played at Northern Illinois, is 5-10, 191. He had a good showing at the Senior Bowl. I’ve seen some people mention him as a high pick and I just don’t get it. I see a solid prospect, but not a special player. He does have excellent cover skills. I could see some teams actually looking at him as a corner.

While Ward is the same weight as Joyner, he’s not nearly as physical of a player. Ward told me down in Mobile that he hoped to bulk up to 200 pounds. That’s a smart goal, but I still don’t see him as a player I would take early as a Safety. Teams wanting someone to play the slot could value him as early as the 2nd round.

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Deone Bucannon gets a lot of talk because of his size (6-1, 216), but he’s more inconsistent than you want. He’ll miss some tackles. He looks stiff when facing athletic guys in space. There is plenty to like with him, but I think Bucannon could slide more than some fans think.

A big Safety from the Pac-12 that I feel is under the radar is Dion Bailey from USC. He is 6-2, 218. Former LB. He has some downhill explosion. Bailey is a good athlete. He’s got terrific hands. He was a stud DB in high school and redshirted in 2010, but practiced as a S. Bailey moved to LB for 2011 and 2012. This year he went back to S and played really well. He had 5 INTs and broke up 6 passes. Bailey had 6.5 TFLs. He tied for the team lead in solo tackles. I think Bailey has a lot of potential.

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One small school guy that has really grown on me is Isaiah Newsome of Louisiana-Monroe. They list him at 5-11, 200. He can hit, cover and tackle.

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One player I’ve been asked a lot about is Allen Darby, the Arizona State star. Darby played well in the Shrine Game, but didn’t impress me all that much when I checked out his game tape.

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There are plenty of other Safeties to talk about. I need to watch more tape and do more research on them before writing about the players.

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Early Senior Bowl Review

I haven’t had a chance to study the tape yet, but here are some initial thoughts on the Senior Bowl.

* Dee Ford was the MVP and he deserved it. Ford was explosive off the ball and disruptive all afternoon. He was clearly the best player in the game. That doesn’t mean he’ll be picked the highest, but he really stood out. Ford also batted down a pass. That play showed discipline and awareness. There are some plays where he’s a bit out of control and will get burned by fakes, but you can work on that.

* Telvin Smith has probably frustrated a few teams with his refusal to even discuss a move to Safety, but he certainly has impressed them with his play. Smith flew around the field on Saturday. He was active and aggressive. That is exactly what you want to see from a 218-pound LB.

* None of the North QBs were good. Logan Thomas, Stephen Morris and Tajh Boyd had a rough week. Boyd was the most disappointing since I actually had high hopes for him. Thomas was 4 for 5…but only for 9 yards. The man lives on short throws. And he was sacked 5 times. Some of that was blocking, but some on him.

* David Fales helped himself by going 6-7-104. He had a TD and INT. Fales didn’t have a great week so it was good to see him bounce back with a good showing in the game. His best pass early on was a throw down the middle to a TE. The ball was up high, but Fales gave his guy a chance to make a play. Later Fales hit WR Jordan Matthews for a good gain with a really good throw. His TD pass came when on the move. The WR was wide open, but it was still impressive to see Fales find the guy and get him the ball.

* The TE that Fales hit was Crockett Gilmore, who had a fantastic game. He was 5-61-1. Gilmore was a late add to the game who came in and made things happen right away. He has good hands and shows a knack for getting open. I’m looking forward to watching some tape on him.

* I wasn’t impressed with Safety Ahmad Dixon. He had a couple of quick screens thrown his way. He didn’t handle either one of them well. It would have been good to see him look better when playing in space.

* Marcus Smith did impress me. The stat sheet shows one tackle, but I thought he did a solid job as both a run defender and a pass rusher. He was aggressive and physical with blockers. Smith showed some cover skills as well. There was one play when he turned and ran with the TE down the seam. That’s impressive for a guy who is 6-4, 258. You know 3-4 teams are interested in Smith as an OLB.

* ILB Chris Borland had a good game. He only had 1 solo tackle, but was credited with 7 assists. He forced a fumble. Borland also had a TFL. He was active and flew around the field.

* A couple of big CBs flashed. Stanley Jean-Baptiste broke up a pass and almost picked it off. He read the play in front of him and got a good break on the ball. Just couldn’t pick it off. I thought he showed good instincts this year. Dontae Johnson also had a PBU. He also got in on a TFL. Both guys will appeal to teams who want tall, long press corners.

* How cool was it to see DT Caraun Reid play so well? The Princeton star came down to Mobile and showed he was for real. He had a pair of sacks in the game, which capped off a strong week. Reid is quick, athletic and strong. Typical Ivy Leaguer that has to rely on brawn instead of brains. 4-3 teams will love him. Some 3-4 teams could see him as a NT. Might fit better with one that runs the 1-gap system.

* Kyle Van Noy showed off his versatility in one sequence. He made a tackle out in coverage on one play and then on the next snap got a sack. Van Noy might not be great in any one area, but the guy is a complete LB.

* S Craig Loston had a pick when a deflected pass came his way and was there for the taking. Nothing fancy, but you do like to see guys show good hands and make those catches. How often do we watch a game and yell at the TV “How did he drop that?”

* S Jimmie Ward looked good. He played some in the slot and showed the good man cover skills we expected. He also had an impressive tackle when he totally upended a bigger player. Ward lacks ideal size, but he’s tough and he will tackle.

* OT Sentreal Henderson struggled all game. He was regularly beaten in pass pro. He also was sloppy in the run game. Not a good day for the big guy.

* CB Chris Davis had an impressive INT. He jumped a route and showed good hands in snatching the ball away. Davis didn’t have one pick this year, despite several PBUs. He isn’t a shutdown corner type so his ball skills must improve if he’s going to make it in the NFL. Davis showed good potential on Sunday. We need to see more of that.

* Michael Sam had a rough week since he played mostly LB and just doesn’t fit there. He got to rush the passer on Saturday and came up with a sack. He’s a limited pro prospect, but has some pass rush ability.

* RB James White used a good stiff-arm and quick burst to get into the end zone on a short TD run. He led both teams with 11 carries for 62 yards.

Senior Bowl box score

Some highlights can be found here

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