2013 NFL Draft

Doctors clear Jarvis Jones

Despite Jarvis Jones’ performance over the past two seasons at Georgia, his NFL draft stock was in question due to a near-career-ending injury suffered while playing for USC in 2010.

But those questions should be resolved thanks to a report from NFL.com’s Gil Brandt

Each team will still want to learn more about the injury and its potential long-term impact on Jones’ ability to play. But this is clearly a step in the right direction.

Jones was obviously cleared to play by the medical staff at Georgia and, according to Brandt, has been cleared by more doctors.

Presumably Jones will go through more medical testing at the combine along with everyone else, so teams will have multiple reports to lean on if they’re concerned about his health.

In the end, Jones’ health will likely be a non-issue.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2013 NFL Draft Leave a comment

Senior Bowl notes

  • 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.
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2013 NFL Draft Leave a comment

D.J. Fluker impresses at weigh-in

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.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2013 NFL Draft Leave a comment

Evaluating Manti Te’o’s draft stock

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.
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2013 NFL Draft Leave a comment

NFL Draft Stock Report: Risers and Falls

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.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2013 NFL Draft Leave a comment