Wednesday was a cold, wet, windy day. I sat with Steelers and Packers scouts and they were griping about how cold it was. I don’t mean that as a dig at them. But if people from Pittsburgh and Green Bay are cold, you know it’s nasty weather.
Those conditions didn’t mean a thing to Carson Wentz. He had another outstanding day. There is something funny about looking at the field and seeing the huge, star QB being from North Dakota State while the small scrappy guy is from USC. Something backward about that.
Wentz looks like the real deal, in terms of size and play. His passes cut through the cold winds of Mobile with no issues. Compare that to Cody Kessler, the USC kid. His passes were obviously slower. He doesn’t have the ability to drive the ball the way Wentz does.
And Wentz doesn’t have to put his body completely behind the throws. He looks natural. He does things with ease. There were times Kevin Hogan made some impressive throws, but he had to really get behind the ball. You won’t always have a clean pocket and obvious target so you can’t count on being able to make throws that way.
The most impressive throw by Wentz came when he put the ball over an underneath defender, but in front of the Safety. The WR was along the sideline. He was open, but still somewhat in traffic. Wentz showed good vision in seeing him there and then made the throw, which combined velocity, ball control and accuracy. You can’t gun that in since the ball has to go over a defender, but it still needs zip so the S can’t close on it. Wentz did that with ease. That’s an NFL throw.
TE Nick Vannett has prototypical size at 6-6, 256. The thing that impresses me is that he’s also athletic and moves really well. Vannett made some good down the field catches yesterday. He is a good threat down the seam. He also caught one short pass and then turned upfield impressively, showing off good RAC skills.
Another pass catcher who caught my eye was Leonte Carroo from Rutgers. He is very much a hands-catcher. I love receivers who extend for the ball. Get those arms out away from the body and snatch the ball. Don’t let it get into your pads. Carroo burned a CB for a long TD, showing speed as well as good hands.
Aaron Burbridge made a ton of big catches for Michigan State, but he’s having an awful week. He caught some passes, but has way too many drops. Focus on his game tape and not this showing. Just a bad week for him.
One Big 10 receiver who is lighting it up is Braxton Miller, the converted QB. Miller has shown good hands, catching almost everything that comes his way. He is raw as a route runner, but that can easily be taught. Miller does have the right traits to be a good NFL receiver. He has size and athleticism. While he may not be polished as a route runner, he does come out of his breaks quickly and fluidly. Very good week for him. Oh, and he’s got terrific RAC skills. One of my favorite plays came when he caught an intermediate pass. Miller wanted to run it in for a TD, but the DB hadn’t given up on the play. Miller worked his way down the field and finally got by the DB. You love to see that kind of competitive spirit and effort in practice.
Kenneth Dixon is a RB from La Tech. You may not have heard of him, but you will. Dixon is having a great week. He is a terrific runner and might be even better as a receiver. LBs and even some DBs struggle to cover him in 1-on-1 drills. LB Joe Schobert got the best of him once, but had to grab a handful of jersey to do it.
DE Carl Nassib is 6-7, 273. And he carries it well. I stood next to him the other night and it is crazy to think he was 218 pounds just a few years back. Nassib has been good, not great, this week. He has good burst off the edge. He will mix in some bull rushes. I was curious to see how he would do against good OTs. Solid so far, but not dominant the way he was during the season.
Jihad Ward played DT and DE for Illinois. He will take on double teams and do dirty work if that’s what’s needed. I like him at DE where he has some space to work with and can take advantage of his athleticism. He beat a LT on Wednesday with a good spin move. You don’t see too many 296 pound DL doing that.
OT Willie Beavers has struggled this week. He just hasn’t shown the athleticism needed to handle edge rushers. He’s won some battles, but not enough.
I had high expectations for OT Kyle Murphy coming into the week, but he’s been disappointing. He was a stud LT for Stanford, but seems to be struggling at RT this week.
Joe Dahl played LT for Washington State, but is playing OG in Mobile. He was impressive on Wednesday. Dahl is very good with using angles to win battles. He’s also able to get up to the 2nd level and block LBs.
LB/DE Paul Fanaika is 6-2, 276 and an odd player. He isn’t explosive or fluid, but has won his share of battles vs LTs. I think he would be better off shedding a few pounds. That would help his get-off.
The best LT for the North is Jason Spriggs from Indiana. He’s not been great, but has done the best job. Really good athlete.