Posted on: December 22, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 22, 2011 11:02 am
Over the next few weeks there will be announcements from dozens of players accepting invitations to the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and the mutlitude of other all-star games this winter.
Few players, however, will have more on the line than Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner, each of whom NFLDraftScout.com has learned will be playing in the January 28 contest.
A year ago it seemed unlikely that Florida State's Chrstian Ponder (or Washington's Jake Locker, for that matter) had a chance at the first round. Tannehill, blessed with even better physical skills that Ponder could also enjoy a signficant rise up draft boards with a strong showing in Mobile. As I pointed out in our current cover article, the 6-4, 225 pound Tannehill has the arm strength, mobility and upside to entice teams despite the fact that Tannehill and Texas A&M, as a whole, struggled mightily late in games this season.
Wagner, on the other hand, stood out throughout the season but scouts will want to see how he performs against the elite competition 2012 has to offer. Though he was a three-year all-conference pick at Utah State, the WAC is far from the SEC in terms of week-in and week-out competition. Also, at 6-0, 235 pounds Wagner lacks the bulk scouts prefer at inside linebacker, where he played the majority of his snaps for the Aggies. Any thoughts on moving Wagner outside full-time will be tested against the speed he's likely to face in Mobile. As such, an impressive performance there could vault the linebacker NFLDraftScout.com currently grades as a solid second round prospect, even higher.
Wagner has been creating a great deal of buzz in recent weeks in the scouting community. Though no television feed can accurately portray a linebacker's full range of responsibilities, the following YouTube video capturing Wagner against Auburn in the season-opener does give you an idea as to why. The video comes courtesy of BrownsOrBust.
Posted on: August 20, 2011 11:35 pm
Edited on: August 21, 2011 12:15 am
I will be blogging live from the press box tonight from Seattle for the Seahawks-Vikings preseason game. My goal is to give readers some insight as to how some of the rookies and perhaps other young players for both teams performed.
Earlier I posted some thoughts based on how several of the Seahawks' rookies performed throughout the first half. This post will focus on the Vikings' rookies, especially quarterback Christian Ponder and tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Ponder showed some mobility in escaping the rush, but was the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, at times. He was willing to step up in the pocket in the face of pressure and kept his eyes downfield, completing a nice pass to Juaquin Iglesias to extend a drive early. The Vikings ultimately kicked a field goal on the drive. Ponder did not challenge the defense on anything longer than 10-15 yards.
Ponder's mobility and experience in a pro-style offense made him very effective on play-action bootlegs. He showed the ability to throw on the move, but picked up the majority of his yardage from these plays with his legs, often surprising Seahawk defenders with his speed.
He was inconsistent with his accuracy, forcing receivers to adjust often. Ponder did throw a nice back shoulder fade to Devin Aromashodu in the early 3rd quarter. His moderate height (6-2) was an issue on a few plays, as he had a couple of throws tipped and/or knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
Rudolph had a bit action his way in the first half (three catches for 22 total yards). He was targeted on three consecutive throws from Ponder as the half was coming to a close. He caught two of them as Seattle dropped coverage to protect deep, giving up underneath routes. The first catch was the tougher one, coming directly at his face mask as he turned to look for the ball. He got his hands up quickly, secured the catch and attempted to turn upfield before being ridden out of bounds. Rudolph did a nice job of gaining a clean release and showed some burst out of his breaks to gain freedom from defenders. He did not show much in terms of straight-line speed, however, on the few plays where he was allowed to run longer routes. Rudolph has good size and strength as a blocker. While he was unable to knock defenders off the ball, he did show some competitive fire in locking onto his target and turning to seal the defender.
Posted on: July 10, 2011 1:06 pm
The Oklahoma Sooners received good news over the weekend as senior Jamell Fleming has returned to the program after leaving the school prior to spring semester due to academics.
The 5'11, 192 pound Fleming had earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 accolades last year after leading the Sooners with five interceptions and ranking second in the entire country with 19 passes defensed. Fleming not only demonstrated an ability to make big plays -- he did so in critical games, coming through with two interceptions against NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior quarterback for the 2012 NFL Draft Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M), an interception against Florida State's Christian Ponder (now a Minnesota Viking as the No. 12 overall pick of the 2011 draft) and was recognized as the Defensive Player of the Game in Oklahoma's 48-20 thrashing of Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl largely due to his 55-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. The return for a score was the longest by any Sooner in the Bob Stoops era.
NFL scouts will certainly be keeping an eye on Fleming. Besides his prowess as a cornerback, Fleming has also demonstrated the hustle and reliable open field tackling skills to be a force on special teams. Fleming led the Sooners with 18 special teams tackles in 2008 and was second on the club with nine a year later.
Fleming, according to the depth chart on Oklahoma's official team page, is currently listed as second behind sophomore Gabe Lynn. Should he be able to re-emerge as a standout starter for the Sooners, he certainly ranks as one to watch for the 2012 draft. NFLDraftScout.com currently rates him as a 5th-6th round value and the No. 17 rated cornerback, overall.
Posted on: June 9, 2011 4:59 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 11:03 am
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Posted on: May 3, 2011 8:35 pm
Over the next two weeks I will be highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.
Considering their importance to the game and the number of high profile passers who went early in the 2011 Draft, I'm starting off with the quarterbacks.
Players are listed alphabetically, not in the order in which I see their fit with their respective teams.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers: I will be the first to admit that I have not been as high on Kaepernick as many others are, but there is no denying that he was drafted into an ideal scenario with the 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh. Kaepernick has rare physical tools, as well as the intelligence and work ethic to be successful. Kaepernick's elongated throwing motion, however, is a concern of mine. I had reservations about it and know that some teams did too. I believe that when a club asks a quarterback to significantly alter their throwing motion it lessens the likelihood of the quarterback ever having success, which is one of the reasons why Kaepernick's fit with an NFL team was so important. The 49ers and Harbaugh, however, don't appear concerned with the hitch in his delivery . Harbaugh is widely credited with developing Andrew Luck's natural talents and preaches an offense that spreads the field and occassionally allows the quarterback the freedom to run -- all of which bode well for the former Nevada passer. Perhaps best of all, as a 2nd round pick, Kaepernick might be afforded the luxury of time to develop.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans: Assuming the Titans re-sign veteran Kerry Collins or add another veteran quarterback, Locker is in a position to succeed. Though a four-year starter at UW, he is not yet ready to make the jump into the NFL, as only his final two seasons were in a pro-style offense. His time spent at Washington under then-head coach Tyrone Willingham, was essentially spent as a running back taking snaps from center -- just as it was for him in high school. However, Locker has shown improvement in his technique since the season, leading many to believe that he is just scratching the surface of his potential. Furthermore, he is a nice fit in this scheme. Think about what the Titans do well... They feature the ultra-athletic Chris Johnson on the stretch play. A quarterback capable of bootlegs and play-action off of Johnson's runs will be successful.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings: While many jumped on the Christian Ponder bandwagon following the Senior Bowl or the Combine, I've been touting the FSU passer for quite some time and believe that he was the most pro-ready passer in this draft. It doesn't surprise me, quite frankly, that Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier believes Ponder could be his opening day starter. Ponder has the intelligence to pick up Bill Musgrave's offense quickly, especially since many of Musgrave's West Coast Offensive principles tie in with what Ponder played with at FSU. Though Ponder doesn't have a big arm, his short to intermediate level accuracy, touch down the seam, and confidence in play-action make him a good schematic fit for the Vikings' run-heavy attack and focus on quick screens to take advantage of Percy Harvin's unique talent.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Okay, you may have seen this coming, considering the fact that many have concerns about how well the No. 1 overall pick will be able to transition from a spread-option offense that was so perfectly suited to his wonderful athletic tools to Rob Chudzinski's multiple-formation, vertical-passing attack. I have no doubt that the Panthers already have a plan in place to cater their offense around Newton's unique skill-set, but this is a complicated scheme for any quarterback to master, much less a rookie. I do not have the concerns about intelligence or leadership that some others seem to have about Newton. I understand the physical comparisonst to Vince Young, but believe the mental toughness Newton demonstrated in fighting through all of the off-field distractions this season more than prove his ability to focus on game-day. I also like the talent around Newton in Carolina -- along the offensive line, running back and at receiver. I just have real reservations about any passer with only one year of starting experience at the D-I level making the jump to the NFL... and unlike the other players mentioned in this post, Newton won't have the luxury of time. The high price and attention of the No. 1 overall pick will almost certainly force the Panthers to play him immediately.
Posted on: April 27, 2011 7:28 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 7:29 pm
This year’s draft might be rifer with quarterback quandaries than any lottery in recent memory.
In fact, quarterback might be the one position that commands as many disparate opinions as defensive end – where scouts seem to be in agreement that eight or nine could be taken in the first round, but are all over the board in terms of an order -- maybe even more.
And here are a few late assessments from scouts on the quarterbacks not named Newton or Gabbert:
--There remain serious questions about the arm strength of Andy Dalton of TCU, especially on deep balls, and passes thrown outside the numbers. Dalton possesses leadership skills that some deem off the charts, and has the most college starts of any of the top-ranked quarterbacks, but his measurable attributes are fairly average.
--While he has just pedestrian speed, and there are concerns over off-field rumors, Ryan Mallett of Arkansas times the fastest in taking the snap under center and getting rid of the ball.
--Washington’s Jake Locker was a guy who ran too much early in 2010, but was impressive later in the season in identifying second and third options in the passing game.
--Christian Ponder probably throws to the “right receiver,” with very nice touch but suspect arm strength, more than any of the quarterback prospects.
Posted on: April 27, 2011 2:01 pm
There has been a great deal of speculation that there will be a handful of quarterbacks selected in the first round. After the Jacksonville Jaguars (who own the No. 16 pick), however, there is only one team -- the Seattle Seahawks (No. 25) with an obvious need for a young passer.
So, unless we see several teams reach for quarterbacks in the first half of a draft loaded with talented offensive and defensive linemen, there is going to be a fair amount of trading into the second half by QB-needy teams if these predictions are to come true. One of the fascinating elements of this year's QB class is how widely disputed the ranking of the players is among NFL teams. I've spoken to clubs that see Washington's Jake Locker as the No. 3 quarterback of the class and TCU's Andy Dalton as seventh best option. Others have the two flipped, with every combination of Florida State's Christian Ponder, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick ranking 3rd-7th, as well. Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, of course, are each expected to be top ten picks.
Here is a look at the teams currently slated in the bottom half of the first round whose picks could be for sale.
Philadelphia (No. 23) -- Many throughout the league believe that the Eagles will be very tempted by Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith. While Smith is certainly a first round talent, his myriad of off-field concerns could push him out of the first. The Eagles could feel that they could land him five or ten spots lower and might be willing to trade as teams needing a QB jump ahead of Seattle.
Seattle (No. 25) -- Because Seattle has a clear need for a young quarterback, there is a belief among some that they'll reach for a quarterback at No. 25 if they have to. General manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have noted on numerous occasions, however, their intent to beef up the offensive and defensive lines. It certainly could be smoke-screening on the part of the Seahawks, but with no third round (due to last year's trade for Charlie Whitehurst), the Seahawks will almost surely be entertaining offers to move down.
New England (No. 17, No. 28, No. 33) -- I list all three of the Patriots' picks within the top 33 selections because history tells us it is unlikely that Bill Belichick is going to keep all of them. Whether he packages some combination of the picks to move up for a pass rusher or moves down in an effort to be in the same position of power for next year remains to be seen. As I've mentioned before, one of the reasons that teams may look to trade into the late portion of the first round this year would be the longer contracts potentially available to players drafted in the first round. That will appeal to QB-needy teams like the Titans and Bengals, among others.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 7:42 pm
Each week CBSSports.com's Lauren Shehadi and I have discussed the top prospects and a few sleepers at a different position leading up to the NFL Draft.
This week, appropriately enough given all of the hype about them right now, we talked about the quarterbacks. We discussed everyone you'd expect - including presumptive No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett and also touched upon three lower-rated quarterbacks who I believe could also find success in the NFL with some fine-tuning.
Here is how NFLDraftScout.com currently rates the quarterbacks.
Here is the link to the video.