Kyle Long missed some opportinuties due to the flu, but he played on Monday and showed off his athleticism. However, he clearly lacks the fundamentals to start immediately at either tackle position. If a team wants to play him immediately it needs to be at left guard, where he primarily played at Oregon. But in a year or two he could develop into a left tackle once he refines his technique.
John Simon has been playing linebacker after spending his career at Ohio State primarily playing with his hand on the ground. He has experience at end and tackle, and for good reason. Simon simply lacks the athleticism to play linebacker and he has been exposed in coverage drills.
Robbie Rouse will make his living at the next level as third-down back, which requires strong blocking skills. It’s a tough skill to learn for undersized backs like Rouse, and he’s shown that he still has a ways to go. There’s a lot to like about his playmaking ability but he isn’t ready for that role just yet.
Jordan Poyer has helped himself as much as anyone this week. The Oregon State cornerback lacks elite athleticism but never backs down from a matchup and knows how to use his physical tools to his advantage. In one particular matchup against speedster Marquise Goodwin, Poyer jammed him and clearly won the battle by knocking him off the route early.
Speaking of Goodwin, he has impressed with his speed but lacks the overall tools to be anything more than a deep threat and return specialist at this stage of his career.
Aaron Dobson is another who has the speed to stretch the field but has done little else. He isn’t particularly physical hasn’t been able to create separation on shorter routes.
Chris Harper has been impressive so far. The former quarterback lacks the athleticism to be a deep threat, but he is a surprisingly polished route runner and looks like a prototypical possession receiver.
Eric Fisher has arguably been the most impressive prospect in Mobile. He was a likely top-10 pick before the week began, but there were still some concerns about making the jump from the MAC to the NFL. After three days of practice, there are no more questions lingering. Fisher is an elite prospect and could come off the board in the top five.
On the defensive side of the ball, the bigger winner this week has been Datone Jones. He has played end and tackle at UCLA and entered the week as a ‘tweener but he answered any questions out there about his athleticism. Jones clearly has the ability to contribute as a pass rusher on the edge and should now be considered a first-round lock.
Terrence Williams is one of my favorite prospects but I’ve been somewhat disappointing from what I’ve seen this week. He struggles to separate on the deep routes, making him more of a one-dimensional receiver than I initially thought. I had previously compared him to a young Andre Johnson, but without the ability to separate deep he may be more of an Anquan Boldin type. Either way, I still like him as a first-round prospect.
Ezekiel Ansah has been hyped up as an elite talent, albeit a raw one. So far I just haven’t seen it, either on tape or at the Senior Bowl. He has an NFL body but he isn’t nearly as athletic as he’s been made out to be. The Jason Pierre-Paul comparisons just don’t hold up. He reminds me more of Frostee Rucker. I still expect him to be in the first-round conversation, but I definitely will not giving him a first-round grade. There are just too many questions and not nearly enough potential to make up for it.
Oday Aboushi has been among the most disappointing prospects. I had only seen a limited amount of him during the season and was hopeful that he would show the athleticism to play left tackle. But his performance in Mobile has shown just the opposite. He may not even have the athleticism to play on the right side. On top of the limited quickness, he’s also looked soft. I wouldn’t touch him until the third round.
One of the biggest surprises has been Georgia’s Cornelius Washington. He played both end and linebacker in Georgia’s 3-4 but has been playing end at the Senior Bowl. He’s more athletic than I expected and has blown past a few linemen off the snap. He entered the week as a fringe prospect but may be solidifying his spot in the middle rounds of the draft.
Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman D.J. Fluker may have answered the question about his ability to remain at tackle at the next level during Monday’s weigh-in at the Senior Bowl.
Fluker was measured at 6’5″, 355 pounds and reportedly carried the weight well. But the key number for Fluker was his arm length (36 3/8 inches) which gave him the longest wingspan at the Senior Bowl.
Due to his size and limited mobility there are questions concerning Fluker’s ability to play tackle in the pros. But his long arms may give him the edge he needs in pass protection to make up for his lack of quickness. And if nothing else, it will ease the concerns of some scouts who may have been on the fence about his future position.
Fluker reminds me of Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt who entered the 2009 draft with similar concerns but has developed into a solid starting lineman in the league.
Clearly there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, but I thought it would be worth breaking down where Manti Te’o currently stands in the NFL Draft process. Here are just a few quick thoughts on what he can expect to encounter and how this story may impact his draft stock.
For starters, I have to wonder if this influenced Te’o's decision to skip the Senior Bowl. Since he came forward to Notre Dame about the fake girlfriend on December 26, it’s safe to assume he knew the media would eventually get their hands on it. It’s possible he didn’t want to expose himself to their questions so soon after the story broke.
Difficult times lie ahead for Te'o.
Te’o won’t be able to avoid questions from NFL teams, however. The combine in late February is going to be a miserable experience for him. NFL teams grill players over the tiniest mistakes they have made – even players with little or no serious character concerns in their past. Many teams have a coach or someone working in the front office who is capable of playing the “bad cop” in these interviews and you can bet Te’o will get their best shot in Indy.
Even if teams chose to believe Te’o's side of the story, he will still get grilled about having an online “girlfriend” whom he never met. That’s a difficult concept for most of us to grasp, and I’m sure there are more than a few old school NFL coaches who can’t even fathom the idea. They will want Te’o to explain every last detail about how it happened so that they can better understand him as a person. Teams routinely ask players about their relationships, so this won’t be an unusual line of questioning. But the answers Te’o gives will certainly be interesting.
I would not be surprised if some teams remove Te’o from their draft board if his responses to their questions aren’t satisfactory. Te’o's released statement already doesn’t match up with things he has said in the past. If he fails to clear things up some teams may simply not trust him.
Te’o is not an elite prospect, which is why teams may hold this against him. Teams are always willing to be more forgiving of a player with elite physical skills, but Te’o is a fringe first-round prospect with questions about his weight and athleticism. When a player already has concerns, teams tend to look for any excuse to drop them further down the draft board.
Additionally, a major plus in Te’o's scouting report was his intelligence and leadership. This story raises some concerns about the type of person he is – regardless of whether or not he was in on the hoax. NFL teams spend hours evaluating the personality of the players they are about to invest millions of dollars in on draft day. And teams have a profile of the type of person who typically succeeds at the next level. Having a year-long relationship with an online girlfriend who he had never met does not factor into that profile. Whether it’s fair or not, linebackers are supposed to be loud, confident, type-A personalities. Some teams will definitely look past this issue, but don’t underestimate the old-school mentality that still exists in many NFL locker rooms and front offices. There will be teams who are concerned with Te’o's ability to fit in and be a leader.
Manti Te’o – LB – Notre Dame Te’o has developed into a more well-rounded linebacker this season, as I outlined on Bleacher Report earlier this week. As the unquestioned leader of the Irish defense and a four-year starter, Te’o also has all the intangibles that teams look for in a potential 1st-round pick. Entering the season I thought he was a fringe 1st-rounder, but he’s solidified his place among the top 32 picks in my opinion.
Stepfan Taylor – RB – Stanford Taylor has been a workhorse for the Cardinal this year and is well on his way a third consecutive 1,000-yard season. Taylor entered the year a mid-round prospect, but his performance against USC caught the attention of scouts and he may have chance to climb into the top 50. It helps that this is a weak class of running backs, with only one prospect who looks like a 1st-round lock (Marcus Lattimore).
Dri Archer – RB – Kent State Archer is a junior and will likely return for his senior year, but he is definitely an under-the-radar name to know. He’s listed at 5,8″, 164 pounds but is as explosive as anyone in the college game. Through three games this season Archer is averaging 8.6 yards per carry, 9.9 yards per reception and 42.2 yards per kickoff return. He has the type of explosive speed that could land him a spot in the 3rd or 4th round if a team is looking to add a new dimension to their offense.
Montee Ball – RB – Wisconsin Ball left the Badgers game this past weekend with a head injury, which may have been his second concussion since this summer. In addition to the injuries, Ball has not looked like the same running back without the help of Russell Wilson, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz. At this stage, Ball looks like a fringe day-two prospect, and could easily slip into the 4th round or later.
Logan Thomas – QB – Virginia Tech I still believe Thomas has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in the draft based on his enormous potential, but it’s hard not to take notice of his struggles the past two weeks. In each of the Hokies past two games (vs Pittsburgh, Bowling Green) he’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Inconsistent play from his number-one receiver, Marcus Davis, definitely doesn’t help, but Thomas needs to step up his game down the stretch to remain in the mix to be the top selection in April.
Le’Veon Bell – RB – Michigan State Spartans
Bell carried the Spartans to victory over Boise State and in doing so gave his draft stock a nice boost. At times Bell has looked like nothing more than a short-yardage back, but he proved he can carry the workload. He still needs to show he can remain effective over the course of the season, but he looks like a 2nd or 3rd-round pick right now. He reminds me of LeGarrette Blount or Peyton Hillis.
Dee Milliner – CB – Alabama Crimson Tide Milliner started six game for the Tide last year, but this was his first chance to step up as the leader of the secondary. Michigan doesn’t exactly have the most potent passing attack, but Milliner shut down everything thrown his way. He finished with one interceptions and four pass break ups. There’s still a long way to go before the cornerbacks sort themselves out this year, but Milliner is definitely in the mix to come off the board in the 1st round.
Eddie Lacy – RB – Alabama Crimson Tide It’s not that Lacy looked bad against Michigan, it’s just that he didn’t get many chances. It looks like Lacy will be part of a running back-by-committee approach which will limit his ability to impress scouts this season.
David Amerson – CB – N.C. State Wolfpack Amerson entered the season as the top cornerback on many draft boards but he was exposed against Tennessee. He was torched for two long touchdowns and was exposed for his lack of speed. After watching this game, I started to wonder if Amerson might be better suited to play free safety at the next level.
Brandon Jenkins – DE- Florida State Seminoles Jenkins suffered a season-ending foot injury on Saturday. Jenkins can apply for a medical redshirt and would likely receive it, but I would be surprised if he didn’t enter the draft. Jenkins would have been a Day 2 pick had he entered the 2012 Draft and he’ll still have a chance to get back to that level if he’s healthy enough to work out this offseason.
By kicking him off the team, the LSU Tigers effectively killed Tyrann Mathieu‘s chances of being a 1st-round pick.
Mathieu has an uphill battle ahead
That may sound like a bold statement, especially this early in the draft process, but it’s the reality of the situation. Positive drug tests don’t always hurt a player’s draft stock. Teams understand that many players experiment with drugs, especially marijuana, during their college (and professional) careers. Most teams will overlook a positive drug test from an elite prospect because the reward greatly outweighs the risk.
But Mathieu isn’t an elite prospect.
A player in Mathieu’s shoes (i.e. a player on the cusp of 1st-round consideration) can’t afford to give teams any reason to drop him on their boards. Whether or not he should be given a 1st-round grade was already going to be a heated discussion in many war rooms, and now Mathieu just gave more ammunition to his detractors.
As a general rule of thumb, any prospect with one downfall can still be considered a potential 1st-round if he is elite in other areas but two eliminates him from consideration. Mathieu now has two significant red flags – size and character – and he will have a difficult time convincing teams to overlook his three positive drug tests.
Realistically, the best decision for Mathieu is to play at the FCS level this year and enter the 2013 NFL Draft. He should still come off the board in the 2nd or 3rd round and be given an opportunity to compete for a job at the next level. But if he wants to elevate his stock, he may need two more trouble-free years to convince teams that he has matured.
As I’ve been reviewing prospects for the 2013 Draft, I’ve been focusing on their games against top defenses. So when it came time to watch Tyler Wilson, I immediately turned to the Arkansas Razorbacks game against LSU. In theory, watching him take on college football’s top defense should provide some meaningful insight into his ability to play at the next level. But, unfortunately, Arkansas’ offensive line was so overmatched against LSU’s front seven that Wilson had little chance of success. By my count he was pressured on 16 of 29 dropbacks, so while it was a brutal performance, it’s tough to place too much of the blame on Wilson.
I’m not putting too much stock in this performance, but it is worth noting that the constant pressure got to Wilson. There were a few plays on which Wilson had a reasonable amount of time in the pocket, but took off running at the first sign of pressure. And even when he did stand in the pocket, he was so preoccupied with LSU’s front seven that he wasn’t seeing wide open receivers.
Here’s a great example of the pressure forcing Wilson to miss open receivers. This is his 9th dropback of the game, and he had already been pressured six times. As he drops back, a nice pocket forms around him and he clearly has the time to make a play. But when his downfield options aren’t open, he tucks and runs. Only after he’s on the move does he notice a wide open Greg Childs.
Again, it’s tough to take much away from this game given the pressure, but I was impressed with Wilson’s accuracy throughout the game. 15 of his 20 aimed passes were on target, including five of seven while under pressure. Due to the constant pressure the vast majority of these were short passes (he attempted just six beyond seven yards downfield) but it’s still encouraging to see him making the right decision and delivering a catchable ball.
This isn’t exactly what Wilson’s known for, but he demonstrated the ability to make plays with his feet. He’s no Michael Vick or Tim Tebow, but he can definitely be as effective as a guy like Aaron Rodgers. Ideally we won’t see him run this often in 2012, but he showed that when he has to, he’s can be threat.
It’s tough to see a future 1st-rounder in this performance, but it’s also rare to see any elite prospect pressured at this rate. Andrew Luck certainly never saw a defense like LSU’s, and even if he did, his offensive line was far better equipped to handle the pressure. As a result, I’m not going to hold this performance against Wilson. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to show he learned from this experience in 2012.
I’ll leave you with this play, easily his best throw of the game and the only one on which he really shows off his arm.
This is the third game I’ve charted of Matt Barkley, and I’m starting to get a pretty strong idea of where his strengths and weaknesses lie. So in this piece I’ll breakdown the game and then provide some overall analysis of where he stands heading into the 2012 season.
This category has been the primary focus with Barkley because it’s the one glaring weakness in his game. Through the first two games charted, Barkley had an accuracy rate beyond 15 yards of just 45.6 percent – meaning over the half of his deep balls were uncatchable.
Against Notre Dame, however, Barkley put together a solid performance, throwing an accurate pass on seven of his 10 throws beyond 15 yards.
This type of performance was definitely the exception rather than the rule for Barkley in 2011, but it does demonstrate his ability to be effective when throwing downfield. Now he just needs to demonstrate the ability to consistently turn in that type of performance in 2012.
Decision Making Under Pressure
I touched on this subject in my review of Barkley’s performance against Arizona State. Barkley does fairly well under pressure, but once the pocket collapses on top of him and he’s starting to get wrapped up, he panics. Twice against Arizona State he threw a pass up for grabs as he was being tackled, one of which was picked off and returned for a touchdown.
Against Notre Dame, it was more of the same. Three times Barkley gets wrapped up and throws up a prayer. Luckily for USC, Barkley actually completed one of these and the other two fell incomplete.
Here’s a great example of Barkley throwing the ball up for grabs late in the game. If you listen to the audio, Mike Mayock actually praises Barkley for getting rid of the football, but I have to disagree based on what I’ve seen in previous games. Barkley has shown that he’s not seeing the whole field on these last-second panic throws. Instead, he’s just getting rid of the football, with little regard for where the defenders are in relation to where and how hard he’s capable of throwing it.
This should be a very easy issue to fix, all he needs to do is hang on to the football and take a sack – and I’m guessing Barkley realizes his mistake almost immediately after he throws the ball. But in those moments of pressure instincts take over, and clearly Barkley needs to have the concept of ball security drilled into his head his offseason.
Some final thoughts on Barkley
While breaking down Barkley’s performances I’ve probably come across as overly critical, but there are a few reasons for that. For starters, I want to debunk the myth that Barkley is the slam-dunk No. 1 overall selection for 2013. He is not Andrew Luck and nothing is guaranteed for him.
But another reason for the criticism is actually due to the fact that the USC coaching staff trusts him more than most quarterbacks. He’s running a more complicated offense than Logan Thomas at Virginia Tech and, as a result, he’s being forced to make more difficult decisions. This draws attention to his flaws, but, in the long run, will be a valuable learning experience for him.
I still view Barkley as a 1st-round prospect entering the 2012 season, but that’s contingent on him continuing to develop. His downfield accuracy and his decision making under pressure are two issues which stand out from his 2011 performance and the USC coaching staff has undoubtedly noticed the same mistakes. If Barkley continues to develop in these areas and shows improvement in 2012, he will solidify his place in the 1st round and likely be in the top-10 discussion. However, if we see the same 2011 Barkley with minimal improvement, I will have a hard time giving him anything higher than a late 1st-round grade.