Category Archives: NFL Draft

Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are Looking Out for Themselves

Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey have each opted-out of participating in their team’s bowl games. To be honest, I can’t say that I blame either one for their decision. Fournette is considered to be the best running back prospect in the 2017 draft and McCaffrey is rated as the third-best running back prospect. What does either player have to gain from playing in an extra game? Nothing.

The argument against supporting their decisions is that football is a team sport and they are letting their teammates down. That seems to be a noble argument, but it’s one that isn’t in the best interest of either player. Neither Fournette nor McCaffrey have anything to gain from playing additional college games but have plenty to lose. Not only do I not fault them for looking out for themselves, I commend them for deciding to do what is in their rational best interest.

Both players have dealt with injuries during their careers. With each additional game they play, they risk additional injuries. And nobody knows if those potential injuries would be severe enough to end their playing careers or just bad enough to cause their draft stock to slide. Either way, they risk losing a substantial amount of money.

I have previously written about Fournette and how I thought he should manage his college eligibility. It wasn’t a popular opinion, but I stand by it. Fournette had absolutely nothing to gain by playing multiple years of football at LSU. The argument was made that he would never consider sitting out a full year because playing at LSU is what he really wanted to do. I’m sure he did want to play at LSU, but to assume that he wanted the wear and tear of college football on his body isn’t an assumption that I was willing to make.

For players like Fournette and McCaffrey, there was nothing to gain by continuing to play college football. NFL scouts knew what they brought to the table and that hasn’t changed. And for all of those people that say that NFL scouts care deeply about on-field performance? I say that is over-blown. All too often we see marginal players shoot up the draft board after wowing NFL general managers at the combine. That’s right. How fast a prospect runs the 40-yard dash in their underwear carries weight with a player’s draft position.

This would have held particularly true with players the caliber of Fournette and McCaffrey. Pretend you’re an NFL general manager for just a moment and ask yourself which version of the player is most attractive. Is it a version of Fournette and McCaffrey that have as much wear and tear on their bodies as possible or is it a version of each player that has stood minimal physical abuse? And remember, the version with minimal wear and tear will run the 40 in their underwear and will pump out as many bench press reps as possible at the combine.

Todd Gurley is an example of what an injury can do to a players reputation and draft stock. Gurley was once believed to be the first or second best player in the 2015 draft.  But his injuries scared teams away. His weaknesses included durability due to his ACL tear. The ACL tear was an injury that occurred during his junior year after having nagging injuries during his sophomore year.

I’d say that an NFL general manager would take the proven but preserved version of Fournette and McCaffrey. Especially considering that we’re talking about running backs. These players are investments and running backs are not players that a general manager invests in with a long-term mindset. The average career length for an NFL running back is just under three years. Perhaps a player like Fournette or McCaffrey can give their NFL team an additional year or two if they enter the draft with more tread on their tires.

While others may label Fournette and McCaffrey as selfish, I won’t be one of those critics. I’ll instead applaud each player for doing what is in his best interest because sometimes it should be all about you.

 

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

And while you’re at it, Subscribe to our podcasts

My 2017 “Big Board”

Now that the 2016 NFL Draft is complete, it’s time to start talking about the 2017 draft.  It’s like Christmas, every year people start getting in the holiday spirit earlier than the year before.  Well, this year we’re getting way ahead of ourselves.

We don’t know which NFL teams will be drafting at the top.  We don’t know which college players will stand out in the fall.  Still, that shouldn’t stop us from having some fun.  Let’s look at some possible 2017 draftees before the 2016 rookie contracts are finalized.

Disclaimer: I’m totally playing favorites here.  This is not meant to be a serious, analytical piece examining which prospects will be taken in the top ten.  This is simply a list of ten guys I’m looking forward to watching go through the process of turning pro.

  1. Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan

This is the main reason I had to put in the disclaimer.  I haven’t seen enough of Rush to be fully comfortable saying he’ll make for a great pro one day, but I have seen enough to be interested in how he does this fall.  Last year’s stats are intriguing.  25 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, 3848 yards on 324 completions, a 66.3 completion percentage, if he improves on those numbers he’ll certainly draw someone’s interest.

  1. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Without Freeman, the Oregon Ducks might have lost six games last year, instead of four.  Whenever Vernon Adams was struggling (which was often), his saving grace was being able to hand it to Freeman.  He rushed for at least 105 yards in all but two games and scored touchdowns in bunches with six multi-score performances.

  1. Roger Lewis, WR, Bowling Green

Again, I’m never sure how anyone else is going to look at MAC football and those who play it, but this guy’s talented.  He’s got the hands, the quickness and at six-foot, 196 he’s not as small as he sometimes looks.  As a sophomore last year, Lewis won the Paul Warfield Award, the Touchdown Club of Columbus’ honor for the nation’s top collegiate receiver.  2014’s winner was Amari Cooper.  Even though his quarterback has graduated, I can’t wait to see what Lewis will do this fall.

  1. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

Another super sophomore last year, Smith-Schuster put up the fourth most receiving yards in FBS.  If you want to see blazing speed you’ve found it right here.  Get the ball in this guy’s hands and watch him run by people.  There’s no doubt he has some refining to do, but his potential is undeniable.

  1. Desmond King, DB, Iowa

With so much passing going on, corners are valuable nowadays and King is one of the best around.  Iowa went undefeated in the regular season because of its defense, which becomes much easier to play when you only have to worry about the opposing quarterback throwing to one side of the field.  King locked down the opponents’ best target all season.  Maybe last year was a fluke, but I doubt it.

  1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Mr. Yards after the Catch, himself checks in at number five.  McCaffrey finished third in Heisman voting last season and will be back in New York as a finalist again this year.  On a team that’s lacked offensive playmakers for years, he’s what Cardinal fans have been waiting for.  Hand it to him, split him out, sneak him out into the flat and check it down to him, it doesn’t matter.  McCaffrey averages six yards a carry and 14 yards per completion.

  1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Mayfield burst onto the scene during Oklahoma’s magical run to the College Football Playoff and I want to see if he can continue playing at such a high level.  The top-notch numbers he put up were one thing, but the way he led his team by example was another.  The Sooners fed off his energy and he was able to answer the bell for them just about every time.  He’s fun to watch and I’m glad he’ll be coming back for another year.

  1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

With Derrick Henry and McCaffrey and Leo Fournette all going off last fall, Cook got a bit overshadowed.  Still, he scored 19 touchdowns on the ground and was one of two players with 200 attempts to average north of seven yards a carry.  Don’t forget about this guy.

  1. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

He’s got to be the most feared defender in college right now, which is funny because his team is terrible defensively.  Opponents plan their games around Garrett and it works because there’s no one else to help.  Garrett still gets his though.  12.5 sacks last year tied him with Shaq Lawson for fifth in the FBS.  There’s a premium on pass rushers of late and Garrett looks to be the next great one.

  1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

This guy’s unreal.  He can bully you or blow by you, depending how he’s feeling at the time.  Last fall, Fournette got off to a torrid start, rushing for 1352 yards in his first seven games.  He couldn’t keep up that frantic pace, but he still finished third in the FBS in rushing yards.  This rising junior has already proven, at least physically, he’s ready for the jump to the NFL.  Watching him takeover games should be even more of a spectacle in 2016.

Feature Image

Five Late Round Picks I Got My Eye On

The draft itself is only one part of the draft season storyline.

With no real games to watch, football fans go mad and cling to what they can.  The combine, pro days, contract signings and training camp all keep the draft and its players relevant in the offseason.  It’s how we get through the long winter, or summer, in this case.

Now that the 2016 NFL Draft is complete, it’s finally time to hypothesize which players will prove to be great picks for their team.  Early picks are n fun so here’s a list of late round picks whose professional prospects intrigue me for one reason or another:

Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State Buckeyes

Round 3, Pick 22 (85 overall) to the Houston Texans

If it weren’t for J.T. Barrett taking his spot when he was injured, Braxton Miller might not have been drafted at all.  His inaccuracy severely limited his quarterbacking potential in the pros.  Moving to receiver has given his career new life.  Even though he had an underwhelming first season at his new position, there’s still a ton of potential here.  The Texans are awful.  If they’re smart, they’ll find ways to get the ball in Miller’s hands and let him do his thing.

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia Bulldogs

Round 4, Pick 14 (112 overall) to the New England Patriots

Had the Patriots had a reliable receiver last year, they might’ve been able to sneak by the Broncos in the AFC title game.  Mitchell (great name, by the way) is a guy who can step in and vie for that role.  He’s a possession receiver with great speed and elusiveness.  That’s what you ordered, correct Mr. Brady?  Mitchell has torn an ACL in the past and Georgia didn’t have a good season last fall.  Those are the only reasons he wasn’t taken much sooner.  Oh, and apparently he’s not just a dumb jock, either.

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah Utes

Round 4, Pick 38 (136 overall) to the Denver Broncos

This pick was an absolute steal for the defending Super Bowl champs.  Booker’s stock fell drastically because of a torn meniscus suffered in November.  He says he’s at about 90 percent right now and it sounds like he shouldn’t miss much, if any, of camp.  Booker can catch, he can block, and he’s always running downhill, picking up extra yardage.  He can flourish in Denver if given a real chance to chisel out solid chunks of playing time.

Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State Buckeyes

Round 4, Pick 41 (139 overall) to the Buffalo Bills

With such upside why not see what Cardale can turn into?  It’s not like the Bills know who their quarterback will be in five years.  They’ve tried a lot of different guys lately but none have stuck.  Let Cardale learn from the bench, give him some reps to show what he can do, and maybe he evolves into a somewhat reliable gunslinger.  He’s got two things you can’t teach: superior size (6’5”, 250) and a cannon for an arm.  So, the tools are there, he’s just go to learn how to use them to the best of his ability.  Taking a flyer on Jones was a great move for the Bills.

Keenan Reynolds, RB, Navy Midshipmen

Round 6, Pick 7 (182 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens

That’s right, Kenan Reynolds, the running back now.  The old record-breaking Naval Academy quarterback will be making the sensible transition to running back in the offseason.  This will be quite the experiment.  Reynolds didn’t take any handoffs in college and orchestrating a triple threat attack is a much different task than anything he’ll be asked to do in Baltimore.  Even so, his work ethic is unquestionable and his ability to pick up tough yards is unique.  Nobody’s saying it’ll be easy, but it’s hard to bet against this guy.

Photo Courtesy: Erik Drost / Flickr

Joshua Perry: Best of the Buckeye Bunch?

It is no secret that the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft is loaded with Ohio State prospects. We have heard all about how defensive end Joey Bosa possesses top pick talent and is almost guaranteed to be off the board within the first six or seven selections. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is the most well-rounded player at his position in the 2016 field and is slated to be picked in the top-half of the first round in an era where running backs are regarded as a reach early in the draft. Taylor Decker, Darron Lee, Eli Apple and Michael Thomas are also thought to be drafted in or just outside of the opening round. In what is shaping up to be a historic draft, even by Ohio State standards, could linebacker Joshua Perry not only be a sleeper first round pick but formulate himself into the best pro out of the group?

Forget about Ohio State, we already know that Perry is probably the nicest guy in the entire draft field and is a true role-model. However, the man can play some football. Perry missed just five tackles throughout the entire 2015 season.

Now, think about that for a second. That is an amazing stat considering it was a rarity to see Perry on the sidelines during a defensive snap for the Buckeyes. An NFL linebacker who rarely misses tackles is the recipe for a long and successful career, provided that the injury bug is avoided. Perry’s versatility will be a huge advantage as he is more than capable of playing any of the three linebacker positions.

Athleticism usually isn’t one of the first things we talk about regarding Perry, but it probably should be. He is listed at 6’4″, 254 pounds and was the third-heaviest linebacker to run the 40 at the 2016 NFL Combine. Perry finished the 40 in 4.68 seconds and only six other linebackers finished with a faster time.

Not that the other Ohio State players who will be drafted, whether it is round one or seven, are going to have brief and unsuccessful careers because they shouldn’t, but I like Perry to play on Sunday’s for a decade-plus and finish his career as one of the better Buckeyes selected when we look back at this draft class. Is it likely that Perry will know which team he is playing for by the end of the first round? Probably not, but around this time in the next year or two, 32 general managers may be trying to figure out who the next Joshua Perry is.

NFL scouts and experts mainly agree that Perry’s play is not dominating in any one area on the field, but it’s extremely well-rounded and diverse when it comes to possible defensive schemes and should be a great fit for any of the 32 teams he will soon be a part of.

Have you ever heard Perry speak? Not that his voice has anything to do with the football field, but Perry sounds like and is as intelligent as it gets. The intelligent players are the ones who turn into solid NFL pros. Not all,  but especially the players with talent and Perry certainly possesses that. Being such a high-character guy, Perry will be an addition welcomed wholeheartedly by the NFL. At the end of the day, Perry’s character and football ability may be mentioned in the same sentence and not necessarily in that order.

Photo: http://alchetron.com/Joshua-Perry-324403-W

Top 10 Big 12 NFL Draft Prospects

The Big 12 might struggle this year when it comes to top picks in the NFL draft, which starts this Thursday, April 28. There isn’t a stand out player in the Big 12 that will more than likely go early in the first round. Before the 2015 season ended I would have said that Treyvon Boykin, or even Shawn Oakman, would be going high in the draft, but with their recent stints in jail I would have to say this is highly unlikely. Most people know that it doesn’t matter where you get drafted all that matters is how well you perform in training camp and the pre-season games. Last year the two best rookies coming out of the Big 12 were Jordan Hicks (before his injury) and Tyler Lockett. Both of them were drafted in the third round. They both should be stand out players for years to come.  According to Saturday Blitz, out of all of the Power 5 conferences, the Big 12 produces the least amount of NFL talent. According to ESPN the Big 12 only has 132 players on active NFL rosters. To put numbers in perspective, the SEC has 309 players.

It is very interesting to compare top ten lists of experts’ predictions of who in the Big 12 would be drafted high in 2016 before the 2015 season and after the 2015 season. The newest top 10 list I have seen on Saturday Blitz is in this order:

10) Shawn Oakman (Baylor): The two previous preseason lists on CBS Sports had Oakman at number four. This was before all of the allegations and arrests came about. I think he will still be drafted but his stock went down quite a bit. Oakman has also struggled generating power from his lower body to create leverage against offensive tackles. He also struggles to use his hands well and has been known to give up on most plays after the first pass rush. Even though Oakman is huge at 6’9″, 280 I still think he has a lot of work and maturing to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went late in the second, or even the third round.

9) Spencer Drango (Baylor): I don’t fully agree that he will be the tenth person to go in the Big 12. I haven’t seen him play much, but from what I have read about him he seems like he will probably be the fifth person in the Big 12 to go. He is tough, durable and reliable (only missing four games his whole career). It sounds like he might not be the quickest to the ball but is very smart. I have a feeling Drango will be a stud in the NFL.

8) La’Raven Clark (Texas Tech): Clark is a good player who had not-so-good coaching in college. Texas Tech struggled with its offensive line coaching, but that didn’t stop Clark from getting All-Big 12 First Team honors both his junior and senior years. Hopefully his talent will be paired with a good coach so his full potential can be shown.

7) Karl Joseph (West Virginia): Joseph wasn’t even on the preseason top ten list that I found, but he was number seven even after his 2015 was cut short due to an injury. During the 2015 season it looked like Joseph had the potential of being one of the best players in college football. Joseph was quick on the field and led the NCAA with five interceptions in four weeks. He will be a great NFL player as long as his injury doesn’t affect him.

6) Josh Doctson (TCU): Doctson was in the same position on the preseason and postseason lists that I found. Doctson was the star wide receiver for the Horned Frogs. One of his specialties was that he made plays even if the ball wasn’t thrown directly into his arms. He is not remarkably fast, but he is one of the best receivers in this year’s draft.

5) Emmanuel Ogbah (Oklahoma State): Ogbah, who is going into the NFL early has recorded double digit sacks the past two seasons is more than likely going to be a great NFL player. He has the size and speed to do great things. Hopefully he will put out more effort in the NFL than he did in college. If he does this he will be very successful.

4) Corey Coleman (Baylor): Coleman is another person that was on the postseason list, but was not mentioned on the preseason list from CBS Sports. Coleman is a huge offensive threat because he is exceptionally fast. He isn’t the smartest player, especially when it comes to plays and reading routes. I think this will take some time in the NFL, but teams will still pick him up because they will love his playmaking ability.

3) Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma): Shepard is a very quick and a smart route runner. His size may limit him on how high he will go in the draft. But honestly that will not matter as long as he performs well in the league.

2) Cody Whitehair (Kansas State): Whitehair, who has started in almost every position on the Wildcats offensive line is very versatile. After watching him throughout the years I know he is a hard worker who puts out maximum effort on the field during every play. These are both great attributes for NFL players to have. I hope a great team picks him up.

1) Andrew Billings (Baylor): Both on the preseason top 10 and postseason top 10, Billings was number one. Billings is young and quick. He is a really smart player, but still has a lot to learn. If he can learn different ways to get off of the line to beat the offense he will be a stud on Sundays.

*Featured image courtesy of Flickr/Marques Stewart

Which Buckeye drafted in ’16 will have the best NFL Career?

Ohio State will see a mass exodus of talent drafted come the end of next month, but which former Buckeye star will have the best career at the next level?

There are a number of different ways you could go with this. The Buckeyes entered the 2015 college football season as the undoubted favorites to repeat as national champions.

The reason? A roster loaded with future NFL talent that most would take over any other roster in the country. Although those preseason predictions didn’t come to fruition, the talent was still there.

14 Buckeyes were invited to the 2016 NFL combine. Although not every one of them had the best of showings, it would not be surprising at all to see all 14 drafted.

Who we expect to succeed:

When you think of the Ohio State teams from the past two seasons, the first two names that come to mind are Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott. Both players were stars at the college level and possess the rare ability to succeed for years to come at the NFL level.

Bosa didn’t put up the best numbers at the combine, looking slower in running the 40 than most anticipated. But what he lacked at the combine, he shows time and time again on film with his tremendous burst off the ball. Bosa will be a top-10 pick no doubt, and has a talent to become a 10-sack-a-year guy for years to come in the NFL.

Ezekiel Elliott finished his Ohio State career as one of the most decorated players to ever tote the rock for the Buckeyes. Zeke can do anything you could ask of an NFL back. He can run between the tackles at 6’0″ 225 pounds, and has the speed to break away from the defense running a 4.47 at the combine. Elliott is one of the best pass blockers in the draft and can also catch the ball out of the backfield. His draft stock is soaring.

Other Buckeyes with a chance to become first round picks include Eli Apple, Darron Lee, and Taylor Decker.

Hell, a team desperate enough for a playmaker may even take a chance on one of if not the best athlete in the draft in Braxton Miller.

Sleepers:

There are also some Buckeyes who have not gotten as much hype as the players mentioned above that also have a chance to have very good NFL careers.

Vonn Bell may be the best safety in this draft class that not many people are talking about. He is a tremendous playmaker who is always around the ball and can play the pass and run. Bell could end up being one of those players teams look back and ask why did we pass on this kid.

Another sleeper from this year’s Ohio State draft class is Aldolphus Washington. Washington is a defensive tackle who can create havoc by getting pressure right in the face of the quarterback. Look for Washington to be a very good 3-technique DT in the NFL.

My last sleeper pick is TE Nick Vannett. He has great size and is a very good route runner. Vannett put forth a good showing at the senior bowl and if placed with the right quarterback could have a great NFL career.

All in all, expect at least a few Buckeyes from the 2016 NFL draft to become very good players in the next stage of their football career.

Image via youtube.com

The NFL Combine: A Story of Hot Moms and Self-Identifying as a Cat

Do you know what time of the year it is? That’s right. It’s NFL Combine season.

The Combine gives college football players the opportunity to prove how many repetitions they can do on the bench press, how fast they can run the 40-yard dash and how fast they can run the three-cone drill. These are just some of the highlighted events that the prospective NFL players get to prove their worth in.

I find the Combine to be a boring spectacle that is used as an attempt at a standardized athletic test. Do you know what I prefer as a means of evaluating would be NFL talent? Actual football games.

My preference is to watch the Joey Bosas and the Reggie Raglands of the world prove their worth on the football field. All of a player’s strengths and weaknesses can be found on the field and are preserved in the countless hours of film that the players find themselves on. A large portion of that film is available to all of us bloggers and even more is available to NFL general managers.

So why is there a need for exercises like the three-cone drill? That’s easy. NFL general managers are essentially risk-averse gamblers.

I get it. Drafting college athletes and signing them to multi-million dollar, multi-year contracts is risky. But here’s the thing – there are no sure bets. There are no sure small bets or large bets. There are just bets.

Once a player has performed for their college team, and more often than not their Senior Bowl types of teams, a general manager should have all of the information they need to make a confident but not fool-proof assessment of whether a player fits their needs on the football field. But like I said, general managers are risk-averse gamblers and the old three-cone drill somehow acts as a safety blanket.

All of the hopeful NFL draft picks that participate in the Combine also take part in interviews. Look, none of us actually like interviews. Whether you’re applying to be a fry cook or the 15th Vice President of your local bank, interviews suck. And you know why they suck? They suck because more often than not we’re asked some ridiculous question that has little to do with the job we desperately want to be hired for. If you’re like most of us, and not a football player, you’ve probably been asked some version of this question – How many golf balls fit in a school bus?

Here are some of the more memorable questions asked at the 2016 Combine:

Spare me the psycho-babble when I ask my follow up question: Why do these questions or questions like them mean anything?

That’s right, they don’t mean anything. And if you think they do, well, remember what I said – Spare me the pyscho-babble.

My favorite response to questions of these sorts was from Cam Newton. Here is what Newton was asked:

Essentially, did he see himself more as a person who drinks milk out of a saucer and arches his back when touched? Or did he look at himself as someone who lets his tongue hang out and drools all over the place and chases after a frisbee?

Newton answered this question the way that I would want to and that was by telling the psychologist that it wasn’t a relevant question because he was a human being. Well done Cam. That answer deserves a retro-active dab.

While I am clearly impressed with how Newton chose to handle the question, the psychologist was less than impressed and used Newton’s answer to diagnose him as a person that has issues with authority.

Maybe Newton has issues with authority and maybe he doesn’t, but the reality of the situation is that it didn’t matter how he answered this question or how any of the players answer questions such as this. The person asking the question will always find a problem with the answer.

So I don’t care how fast a player runs around three cones, I don’t care if a player finds his mom attractive and I don’t care if a player is able to self-identify as a cat. What I do care about is how well a player performs in actual games.

And one more thing. Don’t even get me started on the Wonderlic.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SMerenbloom.

*Featured image courtesy of youtube.com

2015 NFL Draft Prospects (QB, RB Edition)

The 2015 NFL Draft projects to be plentiful with quality running backs and quarterbacks, but I wanted to delve deeper into this group than the usual suspects of: Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, and Todd Gurley. I think an abundance writers have been penned many superlative articles about the top Heisman Trophy candidates and quite frankly I find anointing players as “can’t miss” usually leads a draft analyst down the primrose path. My list includes Heisman hopefuls, likely first round picks, and small college studs that will be fighting for an opportunity to compete at the combine, in February.
Ameer Abdullah RB Sr. Nebraska 5’9 195
Abdullah, an Alabama native, spurned SEC schools that recruited him as a corner because he believed in his ability to run the football. It would appear that Abdullah knows best and the gamble to go to Nebraska has paid off. With the running back position being devalued in the NFL (none taken in the first round in 2014) it is imperative that a player offers more than just running the ball. Ameer Abdullah has showcased his great return skills and hands during his career in Lincoln. He is a capable blocker despite his diminutive size and has excellent hands, (50 receptions last two years) vision, and breakaway speed. I think with most teams employing a two running back system, coupled with his incredible return skills, Ameer Abdullah projects anywhere from the 2nd-4th round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Jeremy Langford RB Sr. Michigan State 6’0 205
Jeremy Langford has enjoyed a nice career at MSU and starts this season on the Doak Walker watch list. Last season Langford enjoyed a banner campaign for the Rose Bowl Champions; he had 1422 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 28 receptions and 18 touchdowns. While Langford needs to learn to be patient in letting his blocks develop (it’s not speed TO the hole but speed THROUGH the hole) sometimes he runs straight into the pile; he’s a great blocker, makes one cut and goes downhill. He runs with great body lean and always moves the pile while falling forward. Langford is the type of running back that projects as a mid round pick but could easily rush for 1,000 yards multiple times and have a stellar NFL career.
David Johnson RB Sr. Northern Iowa 6’1 215
If I were to predict one running back currently in college to usurp Marshawn Lynch and become next “Beastmode” David Johnson would be the guy. Johnson runs the ball with a violent thudding style where he is the aggressor not the would be tackler. Johnson is a workhorse for the Panthers, amassing 3,129 yards, 103 receptions, and 44 TD’s; during his career at Northern Iowa. Johnson begins 2014 on the Walter Payton watch list (FCS Heisman) and like Langford could be another mid round selection that contributes mightily during his rookie year.
Trayion Durham RB/FB Sr. Kent State 6’1 248
I would be remiss if I didn’t include one fullback prospect on my list, even as the evolution of the Spread Offense has made the position a bit of an anomaly. While at Kent State, Durham hasn’t been the typical battering ram type of Moose Johnston traditional fullback (2755 yards and 24 TD’s) he projects as one in the NFL. He is much more than just a lead blocker on the blast however. He and Dri Archer (3rd round 97th pick Steelers) combined in 2013 to be one of the most prolific tandems in the country. Durham has some wiggle and it is a matter of which team drafts him and how they choose to utilize him that will ultimately decide his professional fate. Whether he gets designated as a big back like a Jerome Bettis or a fullback really doesn’t matter. I expect Durham to enjoy a lengthy career in the league.
Bret Hundley QB Jr. UCLA 6’3 227
Hundley was the first five star QB prospect (Scout.com) to ever sign with the Bruins. Last season Hundley had a completion percentage of 67.2 and threw for 24 TD’s with 9 Ints.
The UCLA signal caller possesses all the tangible physical metrics that would seemingly guarantee him NFL success. Athleticism, arm strength, and size are all features Hundley has an abundance of. In 2014 Hundley will need to show more poise and confidence working through his progressions. During the NFL evaluation process next spring it’ll be vital for Hundley to demonstrate that he can effectively read defenses, like he will have to do at the next level. UCLA’s offense is almost exclusively shotgun so he will have to showcase good footwork and technique from under center. With that being said, I fervently expect Hundley to be a 1st-2nd round pick in 2015 and with a transcendent year Hundley could very easily vault ahead of Winston and Mariota and find himself at the very top of the draft. If Hundley struggles, it would behoove him to come back to school and he will be at the very top of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Sean Mannion QB Sr. Oregon State 6’5 220
Mannion is the definition of a pure pocket passer, in the mold of a Drew Bledsoe. He displays a cannon arm and has nice touch on his intermediate passes. When he’s under fire he tends to fade in the pocket instead of stepping up to get better velocity on his throw. His mobility is limited but he has the arm to make all the throws in the NFL. In 2013 Mannion threw for a PAC 12 record 4,662 yards and OSU record 37 TDs. Right now I’d put Mannion in the 3rd to 4th round range but with the caveat that he could quickly develop into a franchise QB.
Kevin Rodgers QB Sr. Henderson State 6’3 215
There isn’t a quarterback playing in college currently that has had a more prolific career than Kevin Rodgers. Rodgers has put up back to back 4,000 yard passing seasons in Henderson State’s vaunted Scorched Earth Offense and lead the Reddies to the D2 playoffs the past two seasons. Rodgers football cognition is off the charts. He is able to process and decipher coverages on the fly with relative ease. He displays surprising velocity and throws an accurate ball. The 2013 Great American Conference Player of the Year and Harlon Hill Finalist (D2 Heisman) is now on the NFL radar and will look for a spot in a post season all star game to ascend up NFL draft boards; much like Jimmy Garrapolo (Eastern Illinois, 2nd round Patriots) did this year.
Whether they play “big time” college football or at a small school the NFL doesn’t discriminate if you can play. Whether you play in the SEC or NAIA all college players dream of a chance to play in the league. These players have all had remarkable collegiate careers and look to build on their past successes and become just another rookie in 2015. With a healthy and productive 2014, I expect all seven of these players to hear their name called at the 2015 NFL Draft. Look for my prospects column throughout the season, as well as my picks column. Follow me on twitter: @purebredwarrior to stay up on all things cool.

Kevin Rodgers, Henderson State
Kevin Rodgers, Henderson State

Bret Hundley, UCLA
Bret Hundley, UCLA

2015 NFL Draft Prospects (WR edition)

imageThe 2014 NFL Draft produced a bumper crop of talented wide receivers. With three of the first twelve picks of the draft, five in the first round and twelve receivers selected in the first two rounds; it would be improbable for this year’s group to be as top heavy as last year’s class. The class of 2015 may not produce a Sammy Watkins type of franchise receiver; but it should be talent laden with great depth into the latter rounds.

Ty Montgomery, Stanford, Sr. 6’2 215

Montgomery enjoyed a stellar 2013 for the PAC 12 Champions with 2,208 all purpose yards, earning consensus All American accolades as a kick returner. As a wide receiver (WR) Montgomery proved to be a formidable force against PAC 12 defensive backs, with 61 receptions for 958 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns; the Ty Montgomery draft buzz is deafening. He combines good speed with surprising shake and agility that belies a man of his stature. Montgomery is a legitimate deep threat that shows good burst after the catch. He thrives in David Shaw’s quick screen attack, where Montgomery utilizes his size and strength to break tackles, for huge gains. The preseason Maxwell, Biletnikoff, and Hornung watch lists include Montgomery. Unfortunately for Ty Montgomery the injury list also includes him. Montgomery missed all of spring practice due to surgeries on his knee and arm that are expected to sideline him for the first couple of games in 2014. If Montgomery can recover and come close to replicating the 2013 magic, look for him to be a first round pick next spring.

Antwan Goodley, Baylor, Rs Sr. 5’10 225

The pass happy Baylor offense continues to put up video game statistics and in 2013 Antwan Goodley was one of its primary beneficiaries. The Midland, Texas native (Midland High) enjoyed a breakout year with 71 receptions for 1,339 yards (109.9 per game) and 13 touchdowns; earning him All Big 12 First Team honors. While Goodley isn’t blessed with sprinter speed, he runs crisp routes and is phenomenal after the catch. He’s as tough to bring down as any receiver in the country and at 225 pounds he’s the equivalent of a power back lined up in the slot. With a decent 40 time at the NFL Combine in February, I project Goodley as a 3rd-5th round pick.

Josh Harper, Fresno State, Rs Sr. 6’1 184

The draft stock of Josh Harper depends on who can emerge and fill the void left by QB Derek Carr (2nd round pick Raiders). If Brian Burrell or Zack Greenlee can ascend to the heights Carr’s offense reached in 2013, it bodes well for Harper’s immediate future. In 2013 Harper lined up primarily in the slot, flanked by Davonte Adams (2nd round pick Packers) and Isaiah Burse (UFA Broncos); 2014 will be the year for him to be the feature receiver in Fresno State’s high powered attack. Harper had 79 receptions for 1,011 yards with 13 touchdowns in 2013; earning him a 2nd Team All MWC distinction.

Deontay Greenberry, Houston, Jr. 6’3 198

When I watch college football and subsequently evaluate prospects, future NFL players usually jump off the screen at me. Deontay Greenberry is that type of standout prospect whose talent is undeniable. The first 5 star (Scout.com) recruit ever to sign with the Cougars, Greenberry thrived in Offensive Coordinator Doug Meacham’s no huddle attack in 2013. Greenberry had 82 receptions for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns last season; earning him First Team All AAC. He starts this season on the Biletnikoff and Maxwell watch lists. With a healthy and productive season look for Greenberry to declare early for the draft and be a 1st-2nd round draft pick.

Amari Cooper, Alabama, Jr. 6’1 202

A toe injury hampered Cooper last season but he still managed 45 receptions for 736 yards in Alabama’s conservative offense. As a freshman, Cooper exploded on the national stage for 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns for the 2012 National Champions; earning Freshman All American accolades. The Miami (Northwestern HS) native needs to remain healthy and put up numbers similar to his freshman season, to ensure his place at the top of this year’s receiver class.

DeVante Parker, Louisville, Sr. 6’3 209

imageThe homegrown (Ballard, HS) Parker enjoyed a stellar season with 12 touchdown receptions in 2013. Parker lacks elite straight line speed but possesses great body control, soft hands, and superior athleticism that allows him to high point the football. Parker makes an abundance of catches when he is well covered. He has an uncanny knack for using his big frame to position himself to make the play. I look for Parker to thrive in Bobby Petrino’s offense and continue to elevate his draft stock.
There are lots of games to be played, film to be scrutinized, and workouts to go through before next year’s draft. All six of these receivers have separated themselves with their previous body of work, enough to be on the NFL radar. Follow me on twitter @purebredwarrior for random ruminations about draft prospects, football, pop culture or whatever else comes to mind.

Draft Day Steals

With summer reruns and basebore in full swing, if you’re like me, then you’d like to hit fast forward into football season. With NFL mini camps going on, training camp in July, and preseason games in August, don’t despair because football is rapidly approaching. I thought now would be a good time to publish a piece I wrote for the CFBROUNTABLE pre-draft on April 20th; to spotlight players that I thought would be draft day steals.
 
20140523-081631-29791493.jpg

As the NFL Draft approaches, most fans and media focus all of their attention on 1st round commodities like: Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, and Sammy Watkins. The real intrigue of any draft class isn’t found in the first round, but rather the draft day steals and diamonds in the rough that are found in the later rounds. All Pro players such as: Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, Zach Thomas, Arian Foster, Cameron Wake, Tony Romo, Wes Welker, and Steve Largent were either taken near the end of the draft; or went undrafted. The 2014 NFL Draft is one of the most talent laden drafts in the past decade and promises to have plenty of talented players still on the board during day 3 of the draft (rounds 4-7). I want to shine a light on a few of the players, that if your team drafts may wind up being the steal of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Billy Turner OT North Dakota State University

Turner was a 4 year starter and 6’5 315 pounds of blunt force trauma for the 3 time NCAA FCS (formerly 1AA) Champions NDSU Bison. He possesses nimble feet and a nasty streak. Turner participated in the Senior Bowl and showed glimpses that he belongs among the elite lineman in this years draft. Turner had 46 consecutive starts at NDSU at left tackle but projects as a right tackle or guard in the NFL. He needs work on his technique; mainly low pad level and pass protection set. Considering most offensive linemen not drafted in the first round need a “redshirt” year in the NFL; I expect Turner to be a starter by 2015 and beyond.

Draft projection: late 3rd-5th
Drafted: 3rd round (67th pick) Miami Dolphins

Dakota Dozier OG Furman

Dakota Dozier stock has been steadily rising since the end of the Paladins 2013 campaign. Dozier 6’4 313 turned heads with his play during the week of the East West Shrine Bowl in January. Dozier, like most players on my list suffers from the dreaded “level of competition” label for playing in a non BCS league; but his demeanor, technique, and work ethic have him on all 32 NFL team’s radar now. He doesn’t have much position versatility; he’s a guard only, but one I think will start for years in the NFL and will probably be available on day 3 of this years draft.

Draft projection: 4th-5th round
Drafted: 4th round (137th pick) New York Jets

Brandon Dixon CB Northwest Missouri State

Dixon has had a meteoric rise on the pre-draft NFL workout circuit. Brandon Dixon was the standout defensive player at the NFLPA game, in January. He followed that up with an impressive NFL Combine in February. Measuring in at 6’0 203 pounds while running a 4.41 further buttressed Dixon’s ascension as a prospect that looks like a future starter in the NFL. Dixon has both the size and speed that NFL teams now covet at the cornerback position; to counter the taller receivers that are now prominent. Dixon starred, in the secondary for the NCAA Division II power Bearcats alongside his twin brother Brian (also a late round or UFA NFL prospect) for the past two seasons.

Draft projection: 3rd-5th rounds
Drafted: 6th round (195th pick) New York Jets

Phillip Gaines CB Rice

Every year the draft has one prospect that I’m amazed isn’t getting a consensus first round grade. Meet the enigma that is Phillip Gaines. If you’ve watched Rice play in the past few years, then you’d immediately be drawn to Gaines. Phillip Gaines is a ball hawking playmaker that I think if we were to redraft this years draft in 2019, Gaines would be a top ten pick. With 35 passes defended in 2012-2013, Gaines shows an incredible acumen for playmaking. Gaines had a stellar week at the East West Shrine Bowl and followed that up with a blazing 4.38 40 yard dash at the combine. Gaines measured in at 6’0 193 and posted the second fastest 3 cone drill time among cornerbacks at the NFL Combine, with a time of 6.62. His anticipation, agility, and break on the ball, are among the top defensive backs in the 2014 class. Despite his bonafides, I fully expect Gaines to available after round 3.

Draft projection: 4th-5th rounds
Drafted: 3rd round (87th pick) Kansas City Chiefs

Jimmy Garoppolo QB Eastern Illinois

Garoppolo looks like he came from Central Casting to play the part of NFL Quarterback. Garoppolo was the stand out offensive star of the East West Bowl and he parlayed that into an invite to the Senior Bowl; after Alabama’s AJ McCarron turned down his invitation. Jimmy Garoppolo has a quick release, above average arm strength, a keen mind, and is a precise passer; that has led a record setting offense for the Eastern Illinois Panthers during his tenure, at the school. Garoppolo isn’t a sleeper anymore after winning the Walter Payton Award as a senior as the best player in the FCS. I hesitated putting him on my list, because he will probably be taken within the first 100 picks. Don’t be surprised if Jimmy Garoppolo is a house hold name by the end of the decade.

Draft projection: 2nd-3rd rounds
Drafted: 2nd round (67th pick) New England Patriots

Jeff Janis WR  Saginaw Valley State

jeffjanis

Janis has all the metrics that coaches covet in a wide receiver: 6’3 219 with a 4.42 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine. Janis also has the strength to defeat press coverage, which he displayed in Indianapolis by bench pressing 20 reps of 225 pounds. Janis has the size, speed, and athleticism (37.5 inch vertical jump) to be an immediate red zone threat in the NFL. The knock on Janis other than “level of competition” is he’s a body catcher. That may dissuade some teams but with sound coaching, I’d run a 4.4 to the podium to take him on day 3 of the draft.

Draft projection: 6th-7th rounds
Drafted: 7th round (236th pick) Green Bay Packers

These are a few of the many players that will be vying for an NFL roster spot in August, but may very well end up establishing themselves as elite professional football players, in the years to come. When you watch the draft, keep in mind that the teams that find the best players in rounds 3-7, or that sign and develop undrafted talent, will probably be the teams playing for the Lombardi Trophy, in the future. I hope to be the CFBROUNTABLE’s resident Draftnik this Fall, as well as provide a weekly picks vs the spread column. Follow me on Twitter @purebredwarrior and have a great summer!