Posted on: December 10, 2011 2:20 pm
Two years ago I campaigned hard for Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to join former Michigan great Charles Woodson as the only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy in the modern era.
Considering the fact that LSU sophomore cornerback and punt returner Tyronn Mathieu made plays every bit as dramatic and consistently as Woodson did for the 1997 Wolverines, he too should get strong consideration for the award. Whether it be with his interceptions, fumble recoveries or returns, Mathieu unquestionably had more "Heisman-esque" moments this season than Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson and Montee Ball. Mathieu's chances at the trophy would seem even better with none of the other four finalists having an obvious edge over the others. Like Baylor's Griffin (affectionally called RG3), Mathieu even had the benefit of a spectacular nickname (Honey Badger) to aid in the hype-building that has unfortunately become so important in building a Heisman campaign.
Two critical mistakes, however, will keep Mathieu from winning the award -- an October 21 suspension for using synthetic marijuana and a controversial hit from behind against Alabama cornerback 'Dre Kirkpatrick that some labeled a cheap shot and felt deserved another suspension.
I do believe Mathieu deserves to have been among the finalists for the Heisman Trophy. His exploits on the field and in helping LSU finish the season undefeated and in position to win the BCS Championship in my opinion demanded that he be there.
However, the Heisman Trophy carries with it not only the expectation of athletic supremacy, but playing and carrying oneself with integrity, as well.
As such, for those interested, my Heisman "ballot" would read:
1. Robert Griffin III, Baylor
2. Andrew Luck, Stanford
3. Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
4. Trent Richardson, Alabama
5. Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Posted on: March 24, 2011 12:41 pm
Many in the media have lauded this year's defensive end class as one of the best in recent years.
While that may be true, I'd argue that the defensive tackle group is not only more talented at the top, it is deeper as well.
Like last year, when attention on the defensive tackles centered around the top two players Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, this crop of run-stuffers is largely described elsewhere as Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley and a bunch of other guys.
Those other guys may not wind up as top ten picks like Dareus and Fairley, but draft fans may wind up surprised by how high the next three defensive tackles could go.
I've spoken to representatives of teams operating out of the 4-3 and 3-4 that see the next three defensive tackles -- Illinois' Corey Liuget , Baylor's Phil Taylo r and Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson -- as all potential Top 20 picks.
To put that in perspective, the last time there were five defensive tackles drafted within the Top 20 was ten years. Teams can only hope this year's crop winds up as good as 2001, when Richard Seymour (No. 6, Marcus Stroud (No. 13) and Casey Hampton (No. 19) began their standout careers. Unfortunately, the first defensive tackle in 2001 -- Gerard Warren -- was the most disappointing of the group, especially considering his high draft selection. Damione Lewis (No. 12) never panned out for the Rams, either.
I've written before about the raving reviews I've heard of Liuget . As a classic penetrating three-technique defensive tackle, he could hear his name called as early as No. 14 to the St. Louis Rams. I'd be surprised to see him get past the trio of Philadelphia, New Orleans and Seattle with picks No. 23-25.
Unlike Liuget, who could play in the 3-4, but projects best inside in a four-man front, Taylor is more scheme versatile. He's the unquestioned top nose guard prospect in this draft at 6-4, 337 pounds, but has the rare athleticism at that size to also split gaps and remain at defensive tackle. Most teams operating out of the 3-4 alignment will tell you that the toughest part of fielding a 3-4 defense is finding a nose guard. That fact could boost Taylor's stock much higher than most believe. The Washington Redskins at No. 10 and Houston Texans at No. 11 could be intrigued by Taylor's ability to immediately improve their interior run defense. I'd be surprised to see Taylor fall out of the first round with the Jets at No. 30 in need of reinforcements behind oft-injured NG Kris Jenkins.
Like Taylor, Wilkerson is scheme-versatile. He's also position-versatile, having starred at defensive tackle at Temple and having the long frame (6-5, 305) and strength (27 reps) to handle the conversion outside as a five-technique defensive end. Wilkerson had the widest wingspan (85 1/4") of all the defensive tackles measured at the Combine and second among all defensive linemen (Oklahoma State DE Ugo Chinasa measured 86 1/8").
That position and scheme versatility, coupled with his impressive production at Temple (70 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks) could see Wilkerson drafted as high as the Patriots' No. 17 overall pick. The fact that Wilkerson's production came against questionable competition in the MAC could be enough to push him into the mid or late 20s, but I'd be surprised if the Steelers or Packers with the final two picks of the first round, respectively, didn't pounce on his upside should he fall into their laps, respectively.
Category: NFL Draft
Posted on: February 7, 2011 1:24 pm
Like his former Nebraska teammate Ndamukong Suh, Prince Amukamara is not going to rest on his laurels at the Combine. He plans to participate fully, according to source close to him.
The 6-0, 205 pound Amukamara turned down an opportunity to partipate in the Senior Bowl, but his level of play wasn't questioned. The All-American provided lock-down coverage and physical run support in 2010. Like Suh, Amukamara entered the year as the top-rated senior prospect by several scouting organizations, including National Football Scouting which helps NFL teams coordinate the annual Combine and NFLDraftScout.com.
Despite his reputation, Amukamara has a lot riding on his workout. Questions about his true speed have been rampant ever since Oklahoma State redshirt sophomore Justin Blackmon beat him for five catches, 157 yards and two touchdowns in a showdown between the two stars October 23. See the video here.
Getting beaten by Blackmon, who won the Biletnikof Award as a redshirt sophomore, is hardly a reason for shame. Amukamara had provided his typically stellar coverage for most of the game, but was beaten for an 80-yard score in the second quarter when Blackmon fooled him with a slow release, before bursting upfield. Earlier in the game Blackmon had beaten Amukamara downfield on a go-route, forcing a pass interference penalty from the Nebraska cornerback. With college rules, the penalty gave the Cowboys 15 yards. In the NFL, of course, the penalty would have been for the yardage lost by the interference -- a difference of 35-40 yards.
Blackmon is a savvy route-runner with deceptive speed, but isn't expected to run in the 4.4s. The fact that he was able to get deep on Amukamara consistently is a concern. The two other big corners expected to be first round picks -- Peterson and Colorado's Jimmy Smith -- did not have a game this season in which they struggled as much as Amukamara did against Blackmon, making their respective speed in workouts potentially less important to their final stock.
With a strong showing in Indianapolis, Amukamara could all but lock up a spot in the top ten and perhaps even the top five. Some teams, in fact, like Amukamara more than Peterson. A poor showing, however, and he could slip behind Peterson and Smith and into the mid teens. I currently have Amukamara pegged to go to the Houston Texans with the 11th pick of the draft.
After scouts had questioned his competitiveness with the decision to not play in the Senior Bowl, they'll be pleased by his decision to participate fully at the Combine.
For the very best in NFL Draft content, be sure to keep the page refreshed at NFLDraftScout.com.
Posted on: January 11, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2011 11:53 pm
The Auburn Tigers won the Bowl Championship Series thanks to the play of two juniors, Heisman winning-quarterback Cam Newton and All-American defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Typically, the quarterback gets most of the credit for a win like this. But in a surprising 22-19 defensive battle, Fairley is the one being talked about the most.
His stat line of five tackles, three for loss, a sack and forced fumble is very impressive. He played a fine game on the college game's biggest stage. But despite all of the headlines and proclamations about his future as the number one pick, scouts breaking down his performance found plenty of things that need to improve before considering him a dominant NFL player.
Fairley certainly flashed the upper body and hand strength that he used all season to make 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks against sophomore Carson York and seniors center Jordan Holmes and guard C.E. Kaiser. Multiple times he pushed York or Kaiser aside using pure strength to reach a running back coming through the hole. On a handful of other plays, he used violent hands and quickness to swim over and swipe his man aside to penetrate into the backfield.
His most impressive play came with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. A simple but strong swipe vs. York, who got caught leaning and lost his balance, allowed Fairley attack Thomas, planting him in the ground and forcing fumble that was recovered by Oregon.
The first-team All-SEC showed versatility by playing inside or outside, depending on the situation. Hie stood up against Holmes playing the one-technique spot, walking down the line while engaged to get into plays. He did this to create traffic on the play that resulted in a safety, as well as the team's big fourth-and-one to stop Oregon from scoring on one possession in the second half.
He even showed some nimble feet dropping into coverage on zone blitzes twice during the game, though a lack of fluidity and flexibility made it tough for him to make tackles in space.
The first series of second half, showed the good and bad of Fairley's game. He exploded off the snap on one play but left tackle Bo Thran (the line's only pro prospect), stood him up then pushed him back a couple of yards. Fairley did eventually stand his ground to swallow up RB LeMichael James, who was running with his head down in traffic instead of looking for the available cutback lane. Then Fairley looked what some call a "dirty" side, turning James helmet into the dirt after the play was over, receiving a personal foul penalty.
And two of his three tackles for loss came on busted assignments. In the first half, when York thought he had passed Fairley onto the already-engaged Holmes on one play. QB Darron Thomas was a sitting duck, but got rid of the ball for an incompletion. The second TFL came when Thomas failed to read an unblocked Fairley correctly, getting planted into the turf for a red zone sack instead of handing to RB LaMichael James, who would have walked into the end zone.
NFL teams won't be running that sort of play, and Fairley shouldn't count on too many missed assignments from veteran pro linemen. York and Kaiser are also not NFL-caliber players, which scouts will also note when grading this performance.
Fairley missed a couple of opportunities to make plays in the backfield once beating his blocker because he lacks the ability to bend. In fact, he stands straight up after the snap quite often, which will cause him leverage problems against NFL linemen. He also looked inconsistent in his ability to recover from cut blocks around the line of scrimmage.
On two occasions, it looked while watching live that Fairley exploded into the backfield with impunity, but Oregon's blocking schemes had actually taken advantage of his aggressiveness to allow him through while a screen pass made big yardage -- the second time resulted in the Ducks' first touchdown for James to the left side.
Fairley's stamina will also be questioned, because although he sat out a few series, he got lazy in fourth quarter. He stood around on multiple plays, including a crucial on third-and-10 on Oregon's final touchdown drive. He also guessed at the snap instead of reacting because he was tired, getting offsides call to put the ball on the two-yard line.
He was a non-factor on Oregon's late touchdown, and found himself on the ground for fifth time (once with help of a blitzing teammate) on the two-point conversion.
Fairley should be congratulated, and quite proud, of his play this year and his team's BCS title. Considering where the program was a couple of seasons ago, this was quite an accomplishment—and he has plenty of good tape for scouts to peruse.
But the things I've pointed out, watching this game through scouts' eyes, must be examined when the Panthers consider him for the number one overall selection in April. Sometimes the hype surrounding a performance overwhelms the truth of what was done on the field.
When at his best, Fairley could be a Kevin Williams-type difference-maker at the next level. If he lacks the penetration ability to play the three-technique like Williams, he could be a very successful Jay Ratliff-type nose tackle. But some scouts consider him a potential one-year wonder, potentially make him the next Ryan Sims.But that's a gamble teams will be lining up to take.
--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter
Posted on: January 4, 2011 12:14 am
Andrew Luck proved every bit worth all of his hype with a dazzling performance in a 40-12 win over Virginia Tech Monday night in the Orange Bowl.
Luck completed 18 of 23 passes for 287 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
In this day of gaudy statistics, Luck's performance might appear hardly the stuff of legend, I know.
But if you didn't watch him last night... well, then, you missed out.
Because Luck's statistics in this game simply don't do him justice.
Now to be fair, Stanford is far from a one-man show. The Cardinal dominated a proud Hokie defense on the ground, rushing for a staggering 247 yards and two scores. In doing so, Virginia Tech was unquestionably more vulnerable to Luck's passing. The Stanford defense was just as impressive holding the Hokies to only one touchdown in the game and that was on a remarkable individual play by Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor (who played well in a losing effort).
At times, the Monday Night Football announcing crew of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski bordered on hyperbole when describing Luck. He wasn't perfect on the night, despite their words describing his play. His second touchdown, for example, Luck threw a deep ball down the middle that floated, forcing wideout Coby Fleener to pause before catching the ball and crossing the goal line. It was enough to beat the Hokies deep on one play, but may very well have been intercepted against a quality NFL defense. Luck was, nonetheless, lauded for his great throw by the MNF crew.
On Luck's interception, he led receiver Ryan Whalen a step too far, allowing for Hokie cornerback Jayron Hosley to accelerate past Whalen and make an impressive pick. Luck made another questionable throw in the third quarter, attempting to dumping off a short pass amid pressure that was nearly intercepted.
Luck, however - as he's done in virtually every game the past two years - was simply staggering with his accuracy throughout much of this game. He fired the slant, threw with touch down the seam and made arguably his two most impressive throws while rolling to his right and attacking the sideline. He was at his best in the second half, completing 9 of his 10 attempts.
In a previous article for NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com I pointed out that Luck was the best prospect I'd ever graded - at any position .
For those that read my material last year, you might recall how high I was on Ndamukong Suh. If you missed Luck tonight, but happened to see Suh destroy Colt McCoy and the Longhorns to the tune of 12 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in the Big 12 Championship game, that should give you an idea as to how well Luck played tonight against the Hokies.
He was a man amongst boys, at times, proving every bit worth the hype and the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft should he choose to be.
Posted on: December 13, 2010 1:31 pm
NFLDraftScout.com analyst Chris Steuber highlights the "race" to have the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft with a breakdown of the Panthers, Bills and Bengals are facing.
The Panthers, at 1-11, are the favorite to finish with the worst record, as they could find it difficult to win another game this season. Their home matchup this weekend against the 4-9 Arizona Cardinals could decide things, as the Panthers face the Steelers and Falcons to close out the year.
It would be unfair to rookie Jimmy Clausen for the Panthers to invest another high round selection at quarterback this soon. Statistically, he's been terrible this season (51.3 completion percentage, 1 TD/7 INTs), but there have been flashes of the arm strength, toughness, accuracy and leadership necessary to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL.
Again, giving up on their 2010 second round pick after only 10 starts (assuming he starts the final three games this season) it would be unfair to Clausen. However, the Panthers can't be focused on what is fair for any individual player. They have to do what is best for their franchise - and that would be drafting Luck, should the redshirt sophomore elect to leave Stanford with two years of collegiate eligibility remaining.
Should Luck not come out, the Panthers would find themselves with a much tougher decision. Carolina is a team with plenty of holes, so the Panthers would be wise to investigate trade the pick. As well all know by now, however, the financial obligations of the No. 1 overall pick make it very difficult to trade out of the top spot.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, should they have to go in another direction because Luck returns to school, their holes in personnel don't necessarily match up well with talent likely to be available. The Panthers would love to find an elite defensive lineman in this draft -- and there are some good ones -- but none as sure as Ndamukong Suh last year. The team could use some reinforcements along the offensive line -- but many scouts believe that there won't be an offensive tackle worthy of a Top 15 pick in this draft, much less No. 1. Besides, left tackle Jordan Gross is among the better all-around left tackles in the league. He's not Carolina's problem.
The two best players (other than Luck) could be fellow underclassmen Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green. Peterson is as good of a cornerback prospect as I've ever seen, but plays at one of the few positions where Carolina already has some talent. Green is a future Pro Bowl regular, but the team has already invested heavily at the position and likely will find the idea of giving another young receiver No. 1 overall type money unpalatable.
Carolina fans have had little to celebrate this season. Perhaps if they and their team gets "Luck"y, there will be a silver lining around this dark cloud.
Posted on: December 9, 2010 5:42 pm
The 2010 NFL season has been a strong one overall for rookies. This isn't a surprise considering the amount of hype that the group enjoyed prior to the draft.
Two players who didn't gain a great deal of attention, however, were among the rookies who most stood out this past weekend.
Undrafted free agent Chris Ivory enjoyed another strong performance for the Saints, overtaking No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh to be recognized for the third time this year. He rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints' 34-30 win at Cincinnati. The highlight of Ivory's afternoon was a career-long 55 yard run in the second quarter that was the first touchdown scored by either team.
Other offensive players whose play stood out this week included Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung, Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams, and fellow Buc LaGarrette Blount (running back).
While the Cowboys' Sean Lee , as a second round pick, certainly entered the league with a much higher profile than Ivory, the success of the Cowboys' flashy first rounder Dez Bryant and Lee's long recovery from a 2008 ACL surgery made him one of the "quieter" high profile selections in Dallas history. The former Penn State star has flashed during his rookie season but remains a backup behind veterans Keith Brooking and Bradie James for the Cowboys.
Lee's play against the Colts spoke volumes, however. Lee victimized Peyton Manning for two of the All-Pro's four interceptions in this game, returning the first 31 yards to score his first NFL touchdown. Lee's second came in overtime, putting the Cowboys in position to kick the winning field goal. He also tied his previous career-high with five tackles on the day.
Among the other defenders whose play stood out this weekend was the Giants' pass rusher (and reigning Defensive Rookie of the Week) Jason Pierre-Paul, Cincinnati's Carlos Dunlap, New England inside linebacker Brandon Spikes and a trio of cornerbacks - Cleveland's Joe Haden, Kansas City's Javier Arenas, and the Patriots' Devin McCourty.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Bradie James, Brandon Spikes, Carlos Dunlap, Chris Ivory, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Devin McCourty, Dez Bryant, Indianapolis Colts, Jason Pierre-Paul, Javier Arenas, Joe Haden, Keith Brooking, LaGarrette Blount, Mike Williams, Ndamukong Suh, New Orleans Saints, Penn State, Peyton Manning, Russell Okung, Sean Lee
Posted on: November 24, 2010 5:03 pm
Reviewing film from each NFL game, as well as talking to pro personnel scouts, I'm usually able to compile a fairly strong list of rookies to highlight in this space. It has led to my acknowledging the strong play of various players in this extraordinary rookie class.
A few players are making it difficult to highlight other rookie performances, however, as they week in and week out are proving that their respective teams can rely on them.
Entering this week's games only two players had earned Prospect of the Week more than once -- the Detroit Lion's defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Cleveland Browns' safety T.J. Ward .
With another strong performance in Cleveland's 24-20 loss to Jacksonville, Ward now has earned the Defensive Rookie of the Week three times, including twice in a row. He was featured last week in this space after expanding upon his rookie tackle lead with eight stops, including two passes broken up. That gave him 75 tackles, a full third more than any other rookie in the league regardless of position.
Against the Jags, Ward was even better recording five tackles and the first two interceptions of his pro career. Ward's two picks -- both of which came off of deflections -- gave the Browns six turnovers on the day.
The Saints' rookie running back Chris Ivory , not to be out-done, earned the Offensive Rookie of the Week award for his 99 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. Ivory, who played three seasons at Washington State before transferring to Tiffin University, ran like a man who wanted the residents of Washington state to remember what might have been. Ivory was arguably the difference in a surprisingly competitive game between the Saints and Seahawks that featured some beautiful passing by Drew Brees and Matt Hasselbeck. Ivory expoded to and through the hole on various interior power plays for the Saints, dragging or stiff-arming his way through the Seattle defense.
Ivory had previously been recognized for his performance a month ago after a breakout performance Week Six against the Bucs. Ivory led all NFL backs with 158 rushing yards that week.