by David Syvertsen
Now that we are a full two months in to the season, we can start to gauge where a lot of prospects will stand next spring. A lot can and will happen over the next few months, but lets not forget the best information one can obtain on a player is provided on game day. I don’t like to get overly specific on where a player will be drafted this early on in the process, but I do have a list of players that have played their way in to a more desirable position than where we had them prior to the season. In contrast, I also have seen quite a few prospects that have not lived up to the hype that many were boasting about in August. Here are my top three overrated/underrated seniors.
– OVERRATED –
DE Devin Taylor – South Carolina – 6’8/267
I’ve seen Taylor four times already and not once did I turn the tape off with a positive impression on the tall, freakishly long defensive end. Sure, he screams potential when you see him in pads. Tall, plenty of room for added muscle, long arms and quick hands. Coaches will see him and try to mold him in to the next Jason Pierre-Paul. I don’t see it. He doesn’t play the game like a football player. There is minimal quick twitch reaction around the ball. He rarely blows by the right tackle as a pass rusher. He struggles to disengage. If Taylor were a freshman, I would say there is plenty of promise here. But as a senior, he should be far more advanced and it leads me to believe the upside here is minimal. Late round prospect at best on my sheet.
S Baccari Rambo – Georgia – 6’0/210
There are a few members of the Bulldogs defense that could be on this list, but I will stick with Rambo for now. I’ve seen him play three times already and I’ve yet to see how anyone could have voted him to the All American team in 2011. Stats are a big deal with those kind of things so I never put too much weight on them, but it still confuses me. The effort he plays with is comical, if not incredibly disappointing. He is out there to try and make the bone jarring hit or bring down an interception. Both are positives that one can bring to the defense, but there is a lot more to being the unit’s last line of defense. His tackling mechanics do not exist, as he almost always fails to wrap up. His lack of deep speed can easily be exploited. There don’t seem to be a lot of instincts involved in zone coverage. I feel a lot of his success comes from the guys around him. Match that with the visible laziness on the field, I’ll pass on him in every round next April.
QB Matt Barkley – USC – 6’1/218
I’ll be opening a can of worms with this one. And this will be a popular debate for months, I can see it coming. As of right now, I’m not on the side that supports Barkley as a top tier NFL prospect. I see another Jimmy Clausen type here. A player that had a ton of hype coming out of high school and has played well enough to keep himself in a lot of discussions. However at the end of the day, I simply don’t see it. Most quarterbacks do not look good under pressure, I know. All the good ones have made plenty of poor decisions and had bad games, I know. But what I see here is a guy that will not take over and dominate games. I don’t see him making other players better. If anything, Barkley owes a tremendous amount of gratitude to Robert Woods and Marquis Lee. Those two are arguably the top WR duo in the nation. They hide a lot of the issues Barkley has. The intermediate accuracy isn’t there often enough. He can feel pressure in the pocket but he doesn’t escape it very well. The arm strength is very average. Rarely do I see him zip a ball in to tight areas. On top of all that, Barkley is not a very big guy. I understand it is not a vital component to being a top tier QB, but it is a negative for a player that struggles with pocket mobility and accuracy.
– UNDERRATED –
OT Xavier Nixon – Florida – 6’6/314
Nixon has had an up and down career at Florida. He stared off with a bang, but had some issues keeping his weight high enough for life in the trenches. He was in and out of the starting lineup for awhile, but not this year. He is not in the top tier of a strong group of offensive tackles, but he is closer than most think. Nixon is a big body with plenty of strength and agility. His technique has been spot on each of the four times I’ve seen him so far. He has been tested against the best pass rushers the nation has to offer this year. He’s more than held his own. The quick footed athlete with size and power will get noticed by a lot of teams looking to develop a blind side protector. I think he is a top 75 kind of prospect.
S Zeke Motta – Notre Dame – 6’2/215
I’m not sure how many people at this time last year believed that former Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith would reach the first round. Motta is in a similar situation. He has the size/speed combo that teams love to use at the safety position. Motta plays big. Brings it with each hit he makes and has sound tackling technique to boot. What I really like here though is the range he can show in deep coverage. Not necessarily the fastest prospect, but he seems to always be flowing in the right direction. He has the fluid hips and light feet. Can cover a 10 yard split with the best in college football. He will be considered a pro-ready, reliable draft pick that can play multiple roles in a defense. This safety class is really up in the air right now, and Motta may end up being near or at the top of my board for the position.
DE Cornellius Carradine – Florida State – 6’5/265
With the injury to Brandon Jenkins, Carradine was given an opportunity to show scouts just how ready he is for the NFL. I’ve seen him three time so far, and each game I come away with another reason why this kid should be considered a potential first rounder. Carradine looks the party, with a thick and well developed frame from top to bottom. Long arms, big butt, strong hands. His ability to play low, balanced, and powerful is something you only see out of a handful of prospects this year. Carradine simply needed more game time action to refine his pass rush moves. He is comiong a long nicely there and if this upward trend continues through the end of the season, I think we’ll have trouble naming five defensive ends better than him. At such a premium position, Carradine might be a safe bet for a top 32 selection.