Posted on: February 10, 2012 3:26 pm
Unless Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III defy the trend of top-rated quarterbacks choosing not to throw at the Scouting Combine, talent evaluators are going to have a tough time seeing both throw prior to the 2012 draft.
That's because Stanford and Baylor have each scheduled their on-campus "Pro Day" workouts on March 22, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The conflicting schedule could force teams to split up their decision-makers to take in the workouts. This happened last year when the Carolina Panthers sent head coach Ron Rivera to watch Cam Newton's Pro Day workout at Auburn while general manager Marty Hurney reportedly attended Ryan Mallett's workout at Arkansas.
Another possibility, of course, is that Luck and/or Griffin could schedule their own individual workouts so that scouts could attend both.
If scouts are, indeed, forced to choose one or the other, the smart money is on Griffin generating more interest despite the fact that Luck is regarded as the top prospect in the draft. While both quarterbacks are viewed as exceptional talents worthy of top five consideration, Griffin has many more questions to answer prior to the draft than Luck.
Having established himself as the elite talent in the country two years running, Luck's game has already been dissected by most decision-makers. Griffin's ascension has been more sudden. Furthermore, scouts will want to see how Griffin drops back from center after having taken the majority of his snaps out of the shotgun while at Baylor.
While there remains some debate as to which direction the Indianapolis Colts may go with the No. 1 overall pick, they are thought to be leaning towards Luck. Should they take Griffin or any other player with the first pick, the line of suitors to trade up into the St. Louis Rams' No. 2 pick would be a long one. Should Griffin not be drafted No. 1, however, it remains to be seen if he generates the same trade interest or if he "falls" past No. 2 overall. Among the teams expected to be interested in adding Griffin would be the Cleveland Browns (owners of the No. 4 overall pick), the Washington Redskins (No. 6), Miami Dolphins (No. 9*), and Seattle Seahawks (No. 12*). *Miami and Seattle's first round pick won't be decided until a coin-flip at the Combine. They may move up one spot each in the draft order after finishing tied with the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.
As it stands now, I am projecting Griffin to slip to No. 4 overall, where the Browns could nab him. Dane Brugler has the Heisman winner landing with Cleveland, as well.
Scouts are quick to point out that Pro Day workouts in which quarterbacks are throwing "against air" rather than defenses do not ultimately play a significant role in determining his final grade. That hasn't stopped the "Pro Day season" from becoming a huge part of the pre-draft process. Teams dedicate plenty of money and time crossing the country to attend the workouts.
I, myself, have attended several Pro Day workouts of highly regarded quarterbacks, including last year's for Jake Locker, Sam Bradford's in 2010 and Mark Sanchez in 2009.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Andrew Luck, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Jake Locker, Kansas City Chiefs, Mark Sanchez, Marty Hurney, Miami Dolphins, Pro Day, Robert Griffin III, Ron Rivera, Ryan Mallett, Sam Bradford, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Stanford, Washington Redskins
Posted on: January 16, 2012 9:02 pm
The deadline for underclassmen leaving college early for the NFL may have passed Saturday but with some players (and programs) electing to not announce the news publicly, the number of prospects heading into the 2012 draft is sure to grow.
Auburn junior quarterback Barrett Trotter appears to be the first such example.
Trotter, 6-2, 207 pounds, was put in the unenviable position of trying to replace Cam Newton. With Trotter at the helm Auburn was nearly beat in their season opener against Utah State. He threw 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in starting the first seven games of the season for the Tigers. He was benched at halftime against Florida after completing just two of eight passes for 33 yards over the first two quarters. Trotter didn't see action the rest of the year until an injury to starter Clint Moseley during the Chick-fil-A Bowl put him back on the field. To Trotter's credit, he responded with arguably the best game of his career, completing 11 of 18 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown in Auburn's 43-24 victory over Virginia.
Despite his heroics, Trotter is not a highly regarded pro prospect. He was rated the No. 26 quarterback of the 2013 draft class by NFLDraftScout.com. Prior to his playing time in 2011 Trotter had only attempted nine passes in his collegiate career. He completed six of them for 64 yards and had also run for 68 yards and a touchdown. For his career Trotter completed 98 of 176 for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns against six interceptions.
Unlike some prospects with an inflated opinion of their standing with NFL scouts, this appears to be an example of a student-athlete taking the academic side of his life seriously while exploring his dream of playing at the professional level.
A redshirt junior, Trotter already has his undergraduate degree and according to Charles Goldberg of al.com is staying in grad school and planning to participate in Auburn's Pro Day tryouts in March.
Posted on: November 26, 2011 12:15 pm
In addition to the prospects Senior Analyst Rob Rang wrote about in his "five players to watch" blog post, take a look at these memorable ten one-on-one match-ups (plus a slew of honorable mention selections) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.
Because players move around based on different formations and what coaches see as favorable match-ups, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.
All times Eastern.
1. Penn State DTs Devon Still (#71/6-4/310/5.06)/*Jordan Hill (#47/6-1/298/5.06) at Wisconsin RG Kevin Zeitler (#70/6-4/318/5.26)/C *Travis Frederick (#72/6-3/330/5.27)
Both Penn State and Wisconsin rank in the top ten nationally in scoring and total defense, but the Badgers' more potent offense (they rank 5th in scoring, Nittany Lions 106th) should put some pressure on PSU's talented defensive line. Still ranks 11th in the country with 16.5 tackles for loss, mostly when able jump the snap and penetrate into the B-gap. That means Zeitler, a solid top 125 talent likely to be an NFL starter due to his strength, technique, and fair mobility must be quick enough to ride Still out of the play. Once Still is stopped on his initial move, he won't necessarily bull his way in; but Zeitler and Frederick, the thick starting left guard who moved to center for the injured Peter Konz, will have to sustain blocks against the athletic Still, as he is agile enough to drag down junior RB Montee Ball from behind for short gains if given a clear path.
Crawford is also on scouts' radars as a mid-round pick because he has the size and agility to be a very capable swing end able to stand up on either side of the line. Although the London, England native is not elite with his speed off the edge, he will test Wagner's sprained MCL and the lateral movement of any of the inexperienced tackles the Badgers throw at him if their junior starter isn't healthy enough to stay on the field. Scouts will also take a look at two potential late-round picks in the hustling Latimore and the athletic but inconsistent Oglesby.
2. Alabama DE/OLBs Courtney Upshaw (#41/6-2/265/4.76)/*Dont'a Hightower (#30/6-4/260/4.74) at Auburn LT A.J. Greene (#77/6-5/298/5.18)/RT Brandon Mosley (#75/6-5/305/5.22)
Two potential first round picks will challenge Auburn senior tackles Greene and Mosley during the Iron Bowl. Upshaw will likely rush the passer and try to contain sophomore running back Michael Dyer from the strong and weak sides of the line, though he'll more regularly likely go against the adequate Greene both standing up and his with hand on the ground. Hightower and junior DE/DT Jesse Williams (#54/6-4/320/5.28) tests the lateral agility of Mosley--the junior college transfer who has some athleticism and strength, but not elite amounts of either.
3. Clemson RT Landon Walker (#72/6-5/305/5.18) at South Carolina DE* Devin Taylor (#98/6-6/260/4.76)
Two of the top defensive lines in the country reside in this fight for the pride in the Palmetto State. Walker's one of the most underrated tackles in the country, but Taylor plays stronger than his long, lean frame would indicate. If Walker can anchor in pass pro against Taylor, or even if top freshman Jadeveon Clowney moves to that side of the line, scouts will be impressed. Branch is a potential 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker prospect who also plays with leverage against the run despite a somewhat lean build. But scouts want to see him beat Watkins off the edge--the Gamecocks' top lineman is playing out of position at left tackle, but his toughness helps him win more battles than he loses. Still, if Branch wants to earn a second-round grade, he'll need to show the quickness and flexibility to get the corner.
4. Ohio State LT Mike Adams (#75/6-6/320/5.28)/RT J.B. Shugarts (#76/6-6/305/5.23) at Michigan DEs Ryan Van Bergen (#53/6-6/288/4.84)/*Craig Roh (#88/6-4/269/4.76)
When the Buckeyes have the ball in the Midwest's version of "The Game", their talented offensive line must control some solid Wolverines defenders up front. Adams looked like a top ten pick at left tackle with his fluid movement and prototypical length, though he'll need to play hard every snap against the active Roh and workmanlike Van Bergen. Shugarts may not be drafted due to his average athleticism but he'll give great effort to keep those ends away from freshman quarterback Braxton Miller. Brewster's also fighting the non-athlete label from scouts, as his reaching and slow footwork could be exposed by the high-motor Martin, who is not easy to stop from penetrating into the backfield to track down Miller or Ohio State's top running back, "Boom" Herron.
5. Virginia Tech LT Andrew Lanier (#72/6-5/306/4.87) at Virginia DE Cam Johnson (#56/6-3/270/4.76)
Like many other games today, scouts will have bouncing between multiple OL-DL match-ups in this battle for Virginia bragging rights. Cam Johnson is looking like a top 50 pick at times because of the pressure he puts on the outside shoulders of left tackles like Lanier. He'll need to prove to scouts he has a counter to his up-and-under move, however, or Lanier will negate it after the first couple of series. Conrath's long, lean frame is not typical of most college DTs; watching him against the short, stout Brooks will be interesting, though he'll be lined up across from the slimmer Nosal on most plays. Jenkins (like Clemson's Rennie Moore) has below-average size but will find his way into the backfield to chase redshirt sophomore QB Logan Thomas if Brooks/Nosal don't keep their feet moving and hands active.
6. Penn State CB D'Anton Lynn (#8/6-0/208/4.53)/Chaz Powell (#2/6-1/206/4.48) at Wisconsin WR Nick Toon (#1/6-2/220/4.52)
If the Badgers are to advance to the Big Ten Championship Game, they'll need senior Russell Wilson to find his favorite receiver on their preferred out routes as well as down the sideline. One reason Toon is considered a top prospect in the 2012 draft class is that he can use his size advantage over smaller college corners. But Lynn and Powell will give no quarter at the line of scrimmage or downfield, so the son of former first round pick Al Toon must use foot quickness to separate during his routes and prove he can win 50/50 balls against Penn State's two well-built outside defenders.
7. Iowa State LT Kelechi Osemele (#72/6-5/347/5.40) at Oklahoma DE Frank Alexander (#84/6-3/255/4.82)
Iowa State would love to make it two wins over Oklahoma schools by beating the Sooners one week after upsetting Oklahoma State in Ames last weekend. The Cyclones' massive left tackle will be a big factor if they're to pull off another unexpected win. He plays with the nasty attitude NFL offensive line coaches love. Some scouts suspect he will have to move inside at the next level due to a lack of agility, and though Alexander brings more strength and hustle as a pass rusher than pure speed -- he will attempt to help them make their case.
8. Virginia Tech WR Jarrett Boykin (#81/6-2/218/4.64)/Danny Coale (#19/6-0/200/4.43) at Virginia CB Chase Minnifield (#13/6-0/185/4.49)
The son of former NFL cornerback Frank Minnifield obviously has the length, quickness, height, and ball skills (13 INT, 18 PBU) to be an NFL corner, but will be closely watched by scouts to see if he has strength to handle larger receivers like Boykin downfield as well as the foot work and instincts to stay with the savvy Coale. Virginia Tech's receivers also have something to prove against their in-state rivals, as Boykin's large hands don't always make the big catches when needed and Coale looks to show scouts he is more of a play-maker than pure possession receiver.
9. Rutgers LG Desmond Wynn (#70/6-5/295/5.14) at Connecticut DT Kendall Reyes (#99/6-4/296/4.99)
Reyes is the sort of athletic big man coveted by NFL defensive coordinators preferring three or four man fronts -- and especially those using a mix of both because of his versatility. After putting up big numbers against non-conference foes (9 TFLs, 4 sacks), he has a grand total of two tackles for loss and a half-sack in the past five games. But that doesn't mean he isn't active, as he has managed to rack up 14 tackles in the two weeks. Wynn will therefore have to not only prevent Reyes from knifing into the backfield, but also sustain his block to ensure the probable All-Big East tackle won't shed to grab freshman running back Lyle McCombs.
10. Louisiana-Lafayette CB Dwight Bentley (#5/5-10/180/4.49) at Arizona WRs Juron Criner (#82/6-4/215/4.62)
Arizona quarterback Nick Foles suffered bruised ribs against Arizona State, but he is expected to play in this game. Bentley has gotten close looks from scouts this year due to his toughness and ball skills, especially when he intercepted two passes against Oklahoma State in the season opener. He'll face strong competition from the 6-4 Criner on the outside, as the senior has had three 100-yard games in the last five games even after tweaking his knee a couple of weeks ago. And Criner isn't the only one able to stretch defenses vertically, or go over the top of Bentley with his six-inch height advantage, as will Foles' other targets: *Dan Buckner, David Douglas and Gino Crump.
Georgia CBs CB Brandon Boykin (#2/5-10/183/4.44)/*Branden Smith (#1/5-11/176/4.39) at Georgia Tech WR *Stephen Hill (#5/6-4/206/4.57)
Rutgers DE Manny Abreu (#51/6-2/260/4.76) at Connecticut LT Mike Ryan (#71/6-5/335/5.38)
Michigan State WRs B.J. Cunningham (#3/6-2/216/4.59)/Keshawn Martin (#82/5-10/190/4.44) at Northwestern CB Jordan Mabin (#26/5-10/180/4.57)
Iowa State WR Darius Reynolds (#7/6-1/208/4.54) at Oklahoma CB Jamell Fleming (#32/5-11/192/4.54)/*Demontre Hurst (#6/5-09/182/4.46)
Cincinnati LT Alex Hoffman (#59/6-6/298/5.28) at Syracuse DE *Chandler Jones (#99/6-5/265/4.86)
Rice DE Scott Solomon (#35/6-3/270/4.79) at SMU LT Kelvin Beachum (#70/6-3/306/5.52)
Tennessee DE/DT Malik Jackson (#97/6-5/270/4.82) at Kentucky RG *Larry Warford (#67/6-3/336/5.34)
Nevada DT Brett Roy (#47/6-3/280/4.88) at Utah State OG Phillip Gapelu (#68/6-2/300)
Wyoming CB Tashuan Gipson (#4/6-0/203/4.57) at Boise State WR Tyler Shoemaker (#89/6-1/212/4.50)
Kansas RT *Tanner Hawkinson (#72/6-5/295/5.04) vs. Missouri DE Jacquies Smith (#3/6-3/255/4.62)Kansas C Jeremiah Hatch (#77/6-2/308/5.48) vs. Missouri DTs Dominique Hamilton (#90/6-5/305/5.24)/*Sheldon Richardson (#34/6-3/290/4.86)/Terrell Resonno (#93/6-3/295/5.08)
Maryland CB Cameron Chism (#22/5-10/190/4.52) at North Carolina State WR T.J. Graham (#6/5-11/180/4.36)
Illinois CB Tavon Wilson (#3/6-0/205/4.54) at Minnesota WR Da'Jon McKnight (#6/6-1/212/4.54)
Alabama CBs Dre Kirkpatrick (#21/6-2/192/4.49)/*DeQuan Menzie (#24/5-11/198/4.65) at Auburn WR *Emory Blake (#80/6-1/197/4.58)
Duke WRs Conner Vernon (#2/6-1/195/4.53)/*Donovan Varner (#26/5-08/175/4.53) at North Carolina CB Charles Brown (#12/5-09/205/4.49)
Virginia Tech CB *Jayron Hosley (#20/5-10/172/4.52) at Virginia WR Kris Burd (#18/6-0/200/4.53)
Penn State WR Derek Moye (#6/6-4/210/4.54) at Wisconsin CB Antonio Fenelus (#26/5-08/190/4.49)
Oregon State WRs James Rodgers (#1/5-07/188/4.48)/*Markus Wheaton (#2/6-0/178/4.47) at Oregon CB Anthony Gildon (#18/6-0/182/4.57)
Florida WR Deonte Thompson (#6/5-11/200/4.44) at Florida State CB Mike Harris (#1/5-10/195/4.52)
Washington State WR Jared Karstetter (#84/6-3/210/4.64) at Washington CB *Desmond Trufant (#6/6-0/185/4.49)
Clemson RG Antoine McClain (#74/6-5/335/5.34) at South Carolina DT Travian Robertson (#42/6-4/303/5.08)
Notre Dame CBs Gary Gray (#4/5-10/195/4.49)/Robert Blanton (#12/6-0/200/4.53) at Stanford WR Griff Whalen (#17/6-0/187)
UCLA OT Mike Harris (#65/6-5/326/5.32) at Southern Cal DE *Devon Kennard (#42/6-3/250/4.72)
San Diego State CB Larry Parker (#29/5-11/170) at UNLV WR Phillip Payne (#4/6-3/205/4.62)
Tulsa LT Tyler Holmes (#78/6-4/302/5.29) at Houston OLB Sammy Brown (#8/6-2/240/4.67)
Posted on: November 2, 2011 4:09 pm
Former Super Bowl MVP and CBS' analyst Phil Simms made waves yesterday with his proclamation that Andrew Luck was being "hype[d] a little too much" and that he didn't see "big time NFL throws" from the Stanford redshirt junior quarterback.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 10:59 am
Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.
RB Lamar Miller, Miami: Like Ellington, Miller, a redshirt sophomore, is thought to already be considering making the leap to the pro level. Miller has rushed for 706 yards already this season, more than he did all of last year. He’s toting the rock more than 18 times a game, proving that he has the toughness to handle a full-time role at the pro level. Blessed with speed and legitimate NFL size (5-11, 212), Miller could join the long list of former backs from The U to earn a top 64 grade. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN.
Posted on: October 19, 2011 8:14 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 8:14 pm
The Associated Press broke news out of Baton Rouge earlier today that LSU would be suspending two of its biggest stars in cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and running back Spencer Ware. In addition, nickelback Tharold Simon is also being suspended.
According to The Daily Reveille, a student newspaper for LSU, the suspensions are being levied by head coach Les Miles because the three players each failed random drug tests.
Each player is expected to be suspended for Saturday's tilt against defending BCS champs, Auburn. It isn't yet known if Saturday's game will be the extent of the suspension. LSU, ranked No. 1, is scheduled to play at Alabama, currently the No. 2 team in the country, a week later in Tuscaloosa.
Mathieu has been arguably the nation's elite defensive player thus far this season. In just seven games this season, Mathieu has forced six turnovers, turning two of his four forced fumbles into touchdowns as well as intercepting two passes.
Ware is the team's leading rusher with 512 yards and six scores.
Simon, though not a starter, is also a key contributor. He has recorded 29 tackles and an interception of his own thus far this season.
LSU has not yet made a public comment other than have a spokesman, Michael Bonnette announce that the team was investigating the matter and that Miles "will handle [it] accordingly."
Needless to say, NFL scouts will be keeping a close eye on the developments in this case. Mathieu and Ware, in particular, had already established themselves as potential high round prospects despite the fact that each is just a true sophomore.
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:37 am
Edited on: October 7, 2011 12:40 am
Oregon running back LaMichael James was carted off the field with his right arm in an air cast Thursday night game against California.
The injury occured when James' arm was bent backward as he was tackled by a host of Cal defenders. The crowd hushed as they realized the Ducks' star was the injured player. James was in obvious pain as his training staff attended to him. Oregon and California players, alike, knelt in concern as 2010 Heisman finalist was driven into a tunnel in Autzen Stadium.
James, the NCAA's leading rusher last season with 1,731 yards, had been enjoying another spectacular night. He left the field having rushed 30 times for 239 yards and a touchdown against a Cal defense that was one of the few to shut him down last year. Cal limited James to just a 3.4 yards on 29 carries last year -- a lower number than Auburn allowed in the BCS Championship game.
Including the rushing yards he put up against Cal Thursday, James has run for 852 yards in 2011 -- or 118 yards more than the next highest rusher in the country, Pittsburgh's Ray Graham. Graham, like James, has played in five games.
Many expected James, a junior, to strongly consider leaving early for the NFL following this season.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: October 1, 2011 12:03 pm
In addition to the five players NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang mentioned in his weekly preview, you may want take a look at these ten one-on-one 2012 NFL Draft prospect match-ups (plus a few more worth an honorable mention) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.
Because players move around based on different formations, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.
All times Eastern.
1. Michigan State DT *Jerel Worthy at Ohio State C Mike Brewster
Scouts hoped that the flashes of talent Worthy showed in his first two seasons portended a break-out 2011 junior year. However, he failed to make an impact in his only game against a BCS-quality team (Notre Dame). Worthy's first step can challenge Brewster, who also needs a big performance for scouts to consider him worthy of a pick in the top half of the draft. But the key for both players comes after initial contact; Worthy will be looking to shed to close on ballcarriers, while Brewster tries to mirror and extend in order to protect freshman quarterback Braxton Miller when he's in the pocket, as well as when he takes off to utilize his fleet feet.
2. Auburn LT A.J. Greene/RT Brandon Mosley at South Carolina Defensive Ends
Mosley started off the year as the Tigers' left tackle, but was replaced by Greene and moved back to the right tackle spot at which he excelled in 2010. Both players will have significant challenges taking on an extremely talented defensive end group for the Gamecocks. They could match up pretty well against 6-foot-7 ends junior Devin Taylor and freshman Jadeveon Clowney, who rely on strength and length to make plays rather than elite speed to turn the corner. Greene will also face end/tackle/linebacker prospect Melvin Ingram, who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Ingram will attempt an outside rush vs. Greene, but can also take the inside lane -- he'll also move to tackle in passing situations to use his patented spin move.
3. Nebraska DT Jared Crick at Wisconsin C *Peter Konz
There are several one-on-one match-ups worth watching when the Cornhuskers take on the Badgers in a prime-time battle of top-ten teams. Scouts will most closely be watching any time Crick, a two-time All-Big 12 pick, and Konz meet in the middle. The Badgers' junior could be the top center selected if he decides to declare due to his mobility (despite having to snap the ball, he pulls outside in front of runs quite often). But Crick's relentless pressure will force Konz and redshirt sophomore left guard Travis Frederick to play through the whistle whether he bull rushes or loops inside or outside into the backfield. Showing a strong anchor vs. Crick in addition to that athleticism at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds could expedite his entrance into the NFL. Other battles in the trenches scouts will be watching: Wisconsin junior LT Ricky Wagner vs Nebraska DE Cameron Meredith, Wisconsin RG Kevin Zeitler vs. Nebraska junior DT Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska LT Jermarcus Hardwick vs. Wisconsin DEs Louis Nzegwu.
4. Arkansas Wide Receivers va. Texas A&M Coryell Judie/Terrence Frederick (in Arlington)
The Aggies missed Judie in their loss to Oklahoma State last week, as their top corner was out due to a hamstring injury. But even if he's healthy, the Razorbacks face even a bigger challenge with Razorbacks junior quarterback Tyler Wilson throwing to four NFL prospects. Two have great size with Cobi Hamilton and Greg Childs measuring at around 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, and the others sub-4.4 speed in Joe Adams and Jarius Wright. Neither Judie or Frederick hit the six-foot mark, so any time they can outfight Hamilton or Childs (who is still not fully back from a 2010 knee injury) for the ball would be a plus for scouts. NFL defensive coordinators looking at either Aggies corner as a nickel or dime player inside would also like to see them effectively trail Adams or Wright. Consistent hands and yards after the catch are what the Hogs' receivers need to separate themselves not only from A&M defenders, but the overload of mid-round receiving prospects available in this draft.
5. Alabama LG *Chance Warmack at Florida DT Jaye Howard
Reigning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week Howard is easy to spot - he wears jersey number six despite lining up in the trenches. He has a chance to creep up draft boards with a strong performance against Warmack, who anchors quite well against bull rushes with natural bend and great length for the position. (Also watch how well he blocks on the move.) Howard moves like a linebacker even though he tipped the scales at over 300 pounds over the summer, but needs to improve his hand usage and show multiple pass rush moves to beat Warmack (and senior center William Vlachos, sophomore right guard Anthony Steen) and chase A.J. McCarron and junior Heisman candidate running back Trent Richardson.
6. North Carolina WR Dwight Jones at East Carolina CB Emanuel Davis
NFL scouts thought Davis could be one of the tough but wiry non-BCS cornerbacks typically landing in the third round of each draft. He had two interceptions and nine pass break-ups last year for the Pirates, but missed the opener for disciplinary reasons and hasn't made many big plays yet this fall. He'll give up about six inches in height to Jones, who will try to use his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame on slants and go over the top of Davis if matched up downfield. Davis is not a contact-shy cover corner, but must do more than throw his shoulder into Jones if lined up well off the line to prevent big plays, or else the Tar Heels' big receiver will shed the tackle and eat off a chunk of yards.
7. Clemson NT Brandon Thompson at Virginia Tech RG Jaymes Brooks
Two 4-0 teams meet in Blacksburg in a potential preview of the ACC Championship Game. Thompson and Brooks are two of their more unheralded players, but NFL scouts will match their battles very closely. Both are stout players, each listed at about 6-foot-2, 310 pounds. Thompson has the athleticism advantage over Brooks, showing the quickness off the snap and hustle to pressure redshirt quarterback sophomore Logan Thomas. The 2010 second-team right guard must not only prove himself agile enough to mirror Thompson in pass protection, but also seal him off to create running lanes for junior RB David Wilson. Brooks will disappoint scouts if he leans on sophomore center Andrew Miller to stop Thompson from disrupting plays.
8. Mississippi State DT *Fletcher Cox at Georgia C Ben Jones
Jones is a sturdy four-year starter who is expected to take the same role at the next level but he should not overlook Cox, who flashed athleticism, length and some pop against Auburn and LSU. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Cox isn't making a ton of plays yet (1.5 tackles for loss, no sacks), but scouts noticed his ability to penetrate in those early games -- especially when he planted LSU left guard T-Bob Hebert in the backfield early in the second half of that contest. Jones will, therefore, need to maximize his athleticism when facing Cox, as well as coordinate the young guards playing on either side.
9. Northwestern DE Vincent Browne at Illinois LT Jeff Allen
Allen is a four-year starter and 2010 honorable-mention All-Big Ten pick, and his Fighting Illini have gotten off to a 4-0 start this season. Northwestern is the fifth straight team to visit Champaign this fall, but Browne won't be bringing a dish to pass. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder has just one sack this year, after bringing down the quarterback seven times in 2010. Scouts have concerns about both players' agility on the edge, so if Allen keep Browne from making his typical hustle plays or if Browne can beat Allen off the snap, they may force NFL teams to re-evaluate them.
10. Nevada ILB James-Michael Johnson at Boise State RB Doug Martin
I don't include a lot of running back vs. linebacker match-ups in these articles because the battle in the trenches should not be ignored. But Martin really hasn't had a big game yet this season; scouts know he can use his low center of gravity and quick feet to run through tackles if holes are made available to him, but it would be helpful to his draft stock if he proved the elusiveness and vision to make something out of nothing. Johnson is a very intriguing 4-3 Mike linebacker that deserves more pub. His length and athleticism allow him to cover some ground, even outside the tackles. NFL scouts will take notice if he manages to defeat Boise linemen blocks with strong hands, instincts, and speed to keep Martin from reaching the 100-yard mark that has eluded him so far this year.