Joe Arrigo’s NFL Draft Series: The Big Board

Every team, “draft expert” and draftnik has a “big board”. I am no different. Here is my Big Board for the 2012 NFL Draft.                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                           Top 255 Players

1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford

2. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor

3. Matt Kalil OT USC

4. Luke Kuechly ILB Boston College

5. Morris Claiborne CB LSU

6. Trent Richardson RB Alabama

7. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St.

8. David DeCastro OG Stanford

9. Fletcher Cox DT Mississippi State

10. Michael Floyd WR Notre Dame

11. Courtney Upshaw OLB Alabama

12. Dont’a Hightower ILB Alabama

13. Riley Reiff OT Iowa

14. Melvin Ingram OLB South Carolina

15. Stephon Gilmore CB South Carolina

16. Quinton Coples DE North Carolina

17. Dontari Poe DT Memphis

18. Jonathan Martin OT Stanford

19. Mark Barron S Alabama

20. Michael Brockers DT LSU

21. Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama

22. Ryan Tannehill QB Texas A&M

23. Kendall Wright WR Baylor

24. Cordy Glenn OT Georgia

25. Peter Konz C Wisconsin

26. Coby Fleener TE Stanford

27. Mike Adams OT Ohio State

28. Whitney Mercilus DE Illinois

29. Devon Still DT Penn State

30. Nick Perry DE USC

31. Stephen Hill WR Georgia Tech

32. Janoris Jenkins CB North Alabama

33. Bobby Massie OT Ole Miss

34. Jerel Worthy DT Michigan State

35. Mohamed Sanu WR Rutgers

36. Dwayne Allen TE Clemson

37. Josh Robinson CB UCF

38. Brandon Thompson DT Clemson

39. Jayron Hosley CB Virginia Tech

40. Zach Brown OLB North Carolina

41. Kelechi Osemele OG Iowa State

42. Doug Martin RB Boise State

43. Brandon Weeden QB

49. David Wilson RB Virginia Tech

50. Michael Brewster C Ohio State

51. Amini Silatolu OG Midwestern State

52.Casey Hayward CB Vanderbilt

53. Rueben Randle WR LSU

54. Jared Crick DT Nebraska

55. Tommy Streeter WR Miami (FL)

56. Lavonte David OLB Nebraska

57. Harrison Smith S Notre Dame St.

58. Kendall Reyes DT Connecticut

59. Trumaine Johnson CB Montana

60. Robert Turbin RB Utah State

61. Alfonzo Dennard CB Nebraska

62. Ronnell Lewis OLB Oklahoma

63. Cam Johnson OLB Virginia

64. Josh Chapman DT Alabama

65. Brandon Brooks OG Miami (OH)

66. Mike Martin DT Michigan

67. Josh Norman CB Coastal Carolina

68. Ben Jones C Georgia

69. Chandler Jones DE Syracuse

70. Ladarius Green TE UL-Lafayette

71. Dwight Bentley CB UL-Lafayette

72. Brandon Mosley OT Auburn

73. LaMichael James RB Oregon

74. Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma

75. Shea McClellin OLB Boise State

76. Chase Minnifield CB Virginia

77. Jeff Allen OT Illinois

78. Vinny Curry DE/OLB Marshall

79. Brandon Boykin CB Georgia

80. Andre Branch OLB Clemson

81. Isaiah Pead RB Cincinnati

82. Bobby Wagner OLB Utah State

83. Leonard Johnson CB Iowa State

84. Nick Toon WR Wisconsin

85. David Molk C Michigan

86. Mychal Kendricks ILB California

87. Alshon Jeffery WR South Carolina

88. Chris Polk RB Washington

89. Lucas Nix OG Pittsburgh

90. Jarius Wright WR Arkansas

91. Senio Kelemete OG Washington

92. Ryan Steed CB Furman

93. Marvin McNutt WR Iowa

94. Justin Bethel S Presbyterian

95. Marvin Jones WR California

96. Levy Adcock OT Oklahoma State

97. Trevor Guyton DT California

98. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin

99. Matt McCants OT UAB

100. Billy Winn DT Boise State

101. Juron Criner WR Arizona

102. Brandon Washington OG Miami

103. Jamell Fleming CB Oklahoma

104. Philip Blake C Baylor

105. Jordan White WR Western Mich

106. Mitchell Schwartz OT California

107. Dwight Jones WR N. Carolina

108. Kirk Cousins QB Michigan St.

109. Jeff Fuller WR Texas A&M

111. Joe Adams WR Arkansas

110. Derek Wolfe DT Cincinnati

112. Chris Givens WR Wake Forest

113. Mike Harris CB Florida State

114. Michael Egnew TE Missouri

115. Tramain Thomas S Arkansas

116. DeVier Posey WR Ohio State

117. Asa Jackson CB Cal Poly

118. Markelle Martin S Oklahoma St.

119. Shaun Prater CB Iowa

120. Tony Bergstrom OT Utah

121. Gerell Robinson WR Arizona St.

122. Sean Spence OLB Miami (FL)

123. A.J. Jenkins WR Illinois

125. Frank Alexander DE Oklahoma

124. Cyrus Gray RB Texas A&M

126. Ryan Miller OG Colorado

127. Omar Bolden CB Arizona State

128. Keenan Robinson OLB Texas

129. Quinton Saulsberry C Miss St.

130. DeQuan Menzie CB Alabama

131. Drake Dunsmore TE N-western

132. Terrance Ganaway RB Baylor

133. Nate Potter OT Boise State

134. Bernard Pierce RB Temple

135. James Brown OT Troy

136. Malik Jackson DE Tennessee

137. B.J. Coleman QB UT-Chatt.

138. Marquis Maze WR Alabama

139. DaJohn Harris DT USC

140. Coryell Judie CB Texas A&M

141. T.Y. Hilton WR Florida Int.

142. Andrew Datko OT Florida State

143. Brad Smelley TE Alabama

144. Jack Crawford DE Penn State

145. Vick Ballard RB Mississippi St.

146. Joe Looney OG Wake Forest

147. JM Johnson ILB Nevada

150. Jake Bequette DE Arkansas

149. Audie Cole ILB N.C. State

148. Tyrone Crawford DE Boise St.

151. Travis Lewis OLB Oklahoma

152. Brock Osweiler QB Arizona State

153. Brandon Taylor S LSU

154. Greg Childs WR Arkansas

155. George Iloka S Boise State

156. Danny Coale WR Virginia Tech

157. Bruce Irvin OLB West Virginia

158. Devon Wylie WR Fresno State

159. Tom Compton OT South Dakota

160. Eric Page WR Toledo

161. Brandon Lindsey OLB Pittsburgh

162. Marcus Forston DT Miami (FL)

163. Terrell Manning OLB N.C. State

164. Brandon Bolden RB Ole Miss

165. Jonathan Massaquoi OLB Troy

166. Ron Brooks CB LSU

167. Justin Anderson OG Georgia

168. Jarrett Boykin WR Virginia Tech

169. Nigel Bradham OLB Florida State

170. Will Vlachos C Alabama

171. Trenton Robinson S Michigan State

172. Kheeston Randle DT Texas

173. Donnie Fletcher CB Boston College

174. Kellen Moore QB Boise State

175. Emmanuel Acho OLB Texas

176. Jaye Howard DT Florida

177. Kyle Wilber OLB Wake Forest

178. Nick Foles QB Arizona

179. Alfred Morris RB Florida Atlantic

180. Tydreke Powell DT North Carolina

181. Josh Kaddu OLB Oregon

182. Christian Tupou DT USC

183. Charles Brown CB North Carolina

184. Akiem Hicks DT Regina

185. Olivier Vernon DE Miami (FL)

186. Chris Rainey RB Florida

187. Ryan Lindley QB San Diego State

188. Hebron Fangupo DT BYU

189. Tauren Poole RB Tennessee

190. Adam Gettis OG Iowa

191. B.J. Cunningham WR Michigan State

192. Matt Reynolds OG BYU

193. Jermaine Kearse WR Washington

194. Edwin Baker RB Michigan State

195. T.J. Graham WR N.C. State

196. Ronnie Hillman RB San Diego State

197. Brian Linthicum TE Michigan State

198. Rishaw Johnson OG California (PA)

199. Brian Quick WR Appalachian State

200. Tony Jerod-Eddie DT Texas A&M

201. LaVon Brazill WR Ohio

202. Antonio Fenelus CB Wisconsin

203. Deangelo Peterson TE LSU

204. Bryan Anger P California

205. Antonio Allen S South Carolina

206. J.J. McDermott QB SMU

207. Davin Meggett RB Maryland

208. George Bryan TE N.C. State

209. Patrick Edwards WR Houston

210. Robert Blanton CB Notre Dame

211. Dan Herron RB Ohio State

212. Mike Daniels DT Iowa

213. Darron Thomas QB Oregon

214. Markus Kuhn DT N.C. State

215. Blair Walsh K Georgia

216. Evan Rodriguez TE Temple

217. Jaymes Brooks OG Virginia Tech

218. Shawn Powell P Florida State

219. Janzen Jackson S McNeese State

220. Kelvin Beachum OG SMU

221. Chris Greenwood CB Albion Christian

222. Adrian Robinson OLB Temple

224. Vontaze Burfict ILB Arizona State

223. Randy Bullock K Texas A&M

225. Case Keenum QB Houston

226. Donte Paige-Moss DE North Carolina

227. James Hanna TE Oklahoma

228. Cliff Harris CB Oregon

229. Chandler Harnish QB Northern Illinois

230. David Paulson TE Oregon

231. Tank Carder OLB TCU

232. Drew Butler P Georgia

233. Renard Williams DT Eastern Washington

234. Carson Wiggs K Purdue

235. Derek Dennis OG Temple

236. Rishard Matthews WR Nevada

237. Rokevious Watkins OG South Carolina

238. Lennon Creer RB Louisiana Tech

239. Kevin Koger TE Michigan

240. Philip Welch K Wisconsin

241. Cordarro Law DE Southern Miss

242. Brad Nortman P Wisconsin

243. Keshawn Martin WR Michigan State

245. Jerry Franklin ILB Arkansas

244. Marcel Jones OT Nebraska

246. Sean Richardson S Vanderbilt

247. Bradie Ewing FB Wisconsin

248. Marc Tyler RB USC

249. Sean Cattouse S California

250. Darrell Scott RB South Florida

251. Kelcie McCray S Arkansas State

252. Jewel Hampton RB Southern Illinois

253. Da’Jon McKnight WR Minnesota

254. Scott Solomon DE Rice

255. Elvis Akpla WR Montana State

Joe Arrigo 2012 Draft Series: OT Evaluations

The 2012 Offensive Tackle class is headlined by USC’s Matt Kalil. But Iowa’s Riley Reiff, Stanford’s Jonathan Martin, Georgia’s Cordy Glenn and Ohio States Mike Adams are also most likely first round picks that have a nice upside. Kalil will be the first tackle taken and rightfully so, he is the total package and should anchor the left tackle spot for some team for the next decade.

My Top 10 Offensive Tackles:

1. Matt Kalil – USC – 6-6 – 306:

Cut from the same cloth as Joe Thomas and Jake Long, Matt Kalil is one of the best offensive tackle prospects to enter the NFL in the past five years and has everything that you look for in a franchise blind side protector. A former top recruit who started for two seasons at USC, Matt is hoping to follow in his older brother Ryan’s footsteps in being a top pick out of USC who works his way into being one of the highest-paid players at his position in the NFL. As polished technically as you’ll find at the offensive tackle position, Kalil owns an elite combination of size strength, and athleticism for the position; his upper body strength (30 reps on bench) and long arms (34 inches) are both ideal. Kalil is a smart player who has the instincts and understanding of the game that you hope to see in a player. In pass protection, Matt is a natural at sinking back into his pass set immediately off the snap and his flexibility for a player of his size is some of the best that I’ve seen at the position in the last five years. Despite being taller than nearly any defender he matches up with, Kalil has no trouble bending down and playing underneath smaller defenders, showing an outstanding ability to consistently bend at the knees with the balance, light feet, and coordination needed to be a very successful NFL player. Matt is very nimble for a player of his size, owning the agility and range to move laterally with ease; he has the size, long strides, and quick feet to mirror any pass rusher in the country. In addition, Kalil does a great job of shifting his weight while shuffling his feet, showing the ability to consistently close off cutback lanes inside. He plays with a wide stance that is very effective at swallowing up defenders when they get inside on him, and when combined with his great lateral agility, it makes it very difficult for pass rushers to get around him. Matt uses his long arms to his advantage as a pass protector, showing a great understanding for how to extend his long arms out to attempt to lock on and gain control at the point of attack. He displays very good hand use, consistently firing his hands into the defender repeatedly until he can gain control. More of a finesse run blocker up front, Kalil excels at standing the defensive lineman up off the ball before using his wide frame and flexibility to turn and position or wall the defender away from the hole to open up a running lane inside. While he’s proven to be effective here in college, I would like to see Matt continue to work on getting underneath the offensive lineman at the point of attack, coil up, and explode through his hips to drive the defender backwards. He doesn’t physically dominate as a run blocker, but rather uses his athleticism and technique to just get the job done. Kalil is not as ferocious or tenacious as Joe Thomas and Jake Long were, which is why I would like to see him develop a more fiery attitude, as I think that would help him in the NFL. He has the tools and potential to dominate opponents in the run game, but seems to just settle for getting the job done here. Matt Kalil is a franchise left tackle prospect with everything that you look for in a future 10-15 year starter who will make it to a number of Pro Bowls. If he continues to fill out his frame and get stronger, in addition to polishing up his technique and fundamentals, he has the talent and complete package of tools needed to develop into one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.

2. Riley Reiff – Iowa – 6-5 – 313:

  The next in a very long line of productive Iowa Hawkeye offensive linemen to enter the NFL, Riley Reiff projects as a more-athletic version of former teammate Bryan Bulaga, who was selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. A three-year starter with 37 career starts for the Hawkeyes, Reiff was a former defensive end recruit who began his career at left guard playing next to Bulaga as a freshman in 2009 before replacing him at the left tackle position in 2010, where he spent the past two seasons holding down the blind side. Offering the great intangibles and work ethic that you look for in a player, Riley was one of five juniors on Iowa’s leadership group in 2011 and was a team captain in high school, and also was awarded with the team’s Hustle Team Award and Next Man In Award in the past three years. Owning ideal size for the left tackle position with shorter arms than you like to see (33 inches), Reiff has a terrific blend of size, strength, and athleticism at left tackle. Fluid in pass protection with the polished technique that you look for, Riley is more than capable of mirroring the best of pass rushers out on the edge. His great wrestling background is shown on the field, as he does a good job of bending at the knees and playing underneath the defender at the point of attack in pass protection, then using his reach to lock onto the defensive lineman before neutralizing him for the rest of the play with his good upper body strength (23 reps on bench). Reiff’s hand use at the point of attack is polished and is exactly what you look for with the way that he fires his hands quickly inside the defender off the snap to attempt to gain control. His footwork in his kick slide will still need some slight refining, to work on consistently staying square in his recovery, however the combination of size and athleticism that he offers is excellent. He could stand to continue to get stronger in the lower half to help anchor at the point of attack against stronger bull rushers at the next level. Although he’ll occasionally get over-extended by bending at the waist against shorter speed rushers who take advantage of occasional cutback lanes he leaves open inside, Reiff typically does a good job of keeping his feet underneath him and recovers well to cut them off before they can reach the quarterback; with more experience and coaching at the next level, he should continue to develop and improve quickly. In the run game, Riley comes off the ball quickly and drives into the defender with good leverage, displaying a consistent ability to stand the defensive lineman up and wall him off with proper positioning. He’s capable of driving the defender backwards, however he needs to continue to improve his functional strength and grip to lock onto the defensive lineman, sustain his block, and push him out of the hole. With his big frame, he is capable of clearing a wide running lane and was very effective on reach blocks in Iowa’s zone blocking scheme, in which his quick feet give him a great advantage. With how nimble he is, Reiff excels at sliding to the second level to take out the linebacker and is more than capable of moving in the open field, breaking down to redirect, and hitting a moving target in space. He’s not exactly a mauler inside, and is more of a finesse offensive lineman, however he has the traits needed to develop into a drive blocker at the next level. Although not as polished as Bryan Bulaga was when he entered the league in 2010, Riley Reiff offers better upside and a higher ceiling than Bulaga did. For the team that drafts him, Reiff will be an immediate contributor capable of holding down the fort at left tackle.

3. Jonathan Martin – Stanford – 6-5 – 312:

The blind-side protector for quarterback Andrew Luck, Jonathan Martin leaves Stanford after having been an elite three-year starter for the Cardinal. Having started 37 games at left tackle, Martin offers the experience and durability that you look for in a top prospect. Jonathan owns great versatility, having also lined up frequently on the right side of the line in Stanford’s run-heavy Hulk formation. With an impressive blend of size, strength, and raw athleticism, Martin proved over the course of his career to be one of the most reliable pass blockers in college football. In pass protection, he displays an excellent ability to quickly transition into his pass set, sit down in a chair, and anchor right off the snap. Jonathan possesses very good flexibility in the lower half, showing the consistent ability to bend at the knees that is needed to be successful at the next level. As a pass blocker, Martin owns enough strength in the lower body needed to withstand a bull rush off the ball before sinking back into his pass set to reset before re-engaging the defender. He’s a proven, dependable anchor who doesn’t own elite strength, but understands how to use his flexibility to his advantage. A polished prospect with the technique and fundamentals needed to start immediately at the next level, Jonathan consistently plays low at the point of attack with a smooth kick slide and outstanding leverage, and uses his long arms (34 inches) to his advantage as he extends out to gain control of the defender. Martin does now own ideal strength in the upper body (20 reps on bench), but rather makes up for it with his nimble feet and terrific agility as a pass blocker. He shows the quickness and fluidity needed to mirror speed pass rushers off the edge and has a very natural ability to shift his weight while shuffling his feet in pass protection. Between his light feet, flexibility, and core strength to anchor at the point of attack, Martin will never be a dominant offensive tackle, however he offers everything needed to be an extremely effective blocker who is very difficult to beat. However, I would like to see him continue to get stronger while filling out his frame, as he has room to continue to add weight and bulk up. A polished run blocker as well, Jonathan is a fantastic zone-blocking prospect who displays an innate understanding of angles, positioning, and leverage. Off the ball, he quickly engages the defender low at the point of attack to gain leverage while locking on before turning and either walling off or pushing the defensive lineman out of the play to open up a running lane inside. With his nimble feet and agility, he offers the mobility needed to pull outside as a lead blocker, pull through on traps, as well as slide to the second level to effectively take out the linebacker. Jonathan Martin is a complete prospect at the offensive tackle position. He will not be one to physically dominate opponents at the next level, as he lacks the strength and elite athletic tools to do so. However, he’s as reliable and dependable of a player as there is at this position, and with the experience that he has blocking for a future franchise quarterback in Luck, I believe that he has everything needed to translate that success to the NFL. He could play left or right tackle for the team that drafts him.

4. Cordy Glenn – Georgia – 6-5 – 348:

One of the most intriguing offensive linemen in this year’s draft, Georgia’s Cordy Glenn enters the NFL with some of the best versatility of any player available for selection this spring. With experience playing up and down the offensive line, Cordy projects favorably to both tackle and guard thanks to his experience, massive size, and natural athleticism. After signing with Georgia out of high school as a highly-recruited prep, Glenn was thrown into the mix as a true freshman, starting seven games at left guard and three games at right guard in 2008; as a sophomore in 2009, he started the season opener against Oklahoma State at right guard before moving to left tackle for the next four games and then kicking inside to left guard to start the final eight games there; he went on to start all 13 games as a junior at left guard and then finished his career at left tackle where he started all 13 games as a senior. He leaves Georgia with 49-career starts, second-most by any offensive lineman to play for the Bulldogs. A team leader who was elected captain in 2011, Cordy offers the type of leadership and work ethic that scouts and coaches covet in a player. The biggest player in attendance at the Senior Bowl, Glenn possesses the type of size and strength that is hard to find; however, when you combine that with his natural athleticism and quick feet, he’s the type of rare prospect that presents very high upside at the next level. In 2011, Cordy began the season slowly as he was getting accustomed to the left tackle position. Later on towards the end of the season, you could tell that he was improving from week-to-week, displaying the type of polished technique and fundamentals that he didn’t exhibit at the beginning of the season. This is a promising sign, as it shows that he is a coachable player who can develop quickly and can make an impact early in his career for the team that drafts him. In the run game, Glenn displays good hand placement at the point of attack with a strong grip, and when you add his big size to swallow up defenders as well as the power and strength to drive them off the ball, he presents the type of tools that you typically see in a player who has the potential to dominate in this area in the NFL; while he’s not a full-on road grader right now, he has the skillset to develop into a mauler in the right offensive system at the next level. Although
blocking out on the move is not one of the strongest points of his game, he offers the agility to pull through and kick a defender out or
to get to the second level to take on a linebacker; with the amount of games he’s played at both tackle and guard, he has plenty of
experience pulling and blocking in open space. As a pass blocker, Cordy excels playing inside, as it allows for him to use his great
strength to anchor at the point of attack and stonewall defenders at the line of scrimmage. Out on the edge at tackle, his lateral agility
limits how good he can be in blocking speed pass rushers. However, with 35-inch arms, he has the wingspan to extend out and gain
control of the defender off the snap, which helps him to wash the pass rusher right out of the play. Cordy Glenn is a very intriguing talent with the type of physical tools and skillset needed to start immediately at the next level. With his versatility, he could project to four-of-the-five offensive line positions, however in my opinion he will project best inside at guard in the NFL where he has the upside to develop into one of the best interior offensive linemen in the NFL.

5. Mike Adams – Ohio State – 6-7 – 323:

One of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school, Mike Adams had a rocky, up-and-down career with the Buckeyes, never quite living up to the steep expectations but finishing his career as a reliable and dependable blindside protector. A two-year starter with 25 career starts for Ohio State, Adams shared the Buckeyes’ Jim Parker Award as the team’s most valuable offensive lineman with center Mike Brewster in 2011. Owning a fabulous combination of size, strength, and athleticism for the position, Mike has an ideal frame with the long arms (33 inches), wingspan (81 inches), and length that scouts look closely for at the position. A polished prospect with the refined technique and fundamentals needed to contribute immediately at the next level, Adams has an NFL ready skillset with flexible, fluid athleticism as well as developed tools that will be required of him in order to compete for a starting job as a rookie. In pass protection, Mike does a fantastic job of sitting down in his pass set right off the snap, not allowing for himself to play too tall despite his huge size; his flexibility is rather impressive for how tall he is, as he manages to bend at the knees and sink his hips to get underneath the defensive end and gain leverage before locking on and using his upper body strength to take him out of the play. There are a few times when he will play too high at the point of attack, however this is something that can be ironed out with his position coach at the next level. Mike’s wide frame is valuable for him, as he has the ability to stretch out with good balance and make it very difficult for defenders to get around him. His hand use is good, but is still improving, however I do like that he has shown the ability to provide a strong punch at the point of contact off the ball. With his balance, he does a fine job of sinking back into his pass set with the lower body strength to anchor against bullrushing defensive ends. Adams’ long arms are among his greatest assets, as they allow for him to extend out off the snap to catch the pass rushing end while protecting the edge. With fantastic agility for a player of his size, Mike has the range to consistently protect the corner as well as the lateral agility and short-area quickness needed to rebound and come back inside when the end redirects; between his fluid athleticism, flexibility to bend, and his quick feet, Mike has the makings of being an elite player at the position and could have a better pro career than college career when everything is said and done. Mike Adams has the physical tools and skillset to develop into a Pro Bowl left tackle for a team for the next decade. However, he must prove that he can keep his head on straight, show that he is motivated and dedicated, as well as continue to develop and learn the nuances of the position in order to reach his potential.

The Next 5:

6. Bobby Massie – Ole Miss – 6-6 – 316

7. Zebrie Sanders – Florida State – 6-5 – 308

8. Brandon Mosley – Auburn – 6-5 – 314

9. Jeff Allen – Illinois – 6-4 – 306

10. Levy Adcock – Oklahoma State – 6-5 – 320

Overrated Mike Adams

Underrated Bobby Massie

Small School Sleeper: Tom Compton – South Dakota – 6-5 – 314:

One of the top small-school players in this year’s draft who has the tools and measurables that you look for at the offensive tackle
position, Tom Compton enters the NFL with fine upside as a developmental prospect. A four-year starter for South Dakota with 43
career starts, Compton has great experience and also has matched up with FBS talent around the country, having played against Air
Force, Wisconsin, Central Florida, and Minnesota in the last two years with the Coyotes. Owning ideal size for a tackle with the long
arms (34 inches) that you desire out of the position, Tom uses his long arms very well, displaying a strong, consistent ability to extend out and keep the defender at bay. Instinctive and quick off the ball with great recognition of incoming blitzes, Compton executes his blocks on a consistent basis and was a very efficient player at South Dakota. A polished player in pass protection, Compton offers the technique and fundamentals that you look for, and does a fine job of staying square with his wide base. He also offers great strength in the lower body (reported 700 pound squat), which allows for him to consistently anchor at the point of attack. Displaying refined and developed footwork to mirror pass rushers out on the edge, Tom is a better short-area athlete than a rangy one, as he will be susceptible to being beaten off the edge with some stiffness in his hips and average recovery quickness against speed pass rushers; however, when this happens, he does a fine job of instinctively breaking out of his kick slide and attempting to run the defender out of the play. He doesn’t possess the lateral agility needed to remain at left tackle; however, moving over to the right side or kicking inside to guard shouldn’t be a problem for him. Tom does a strong job of keeping his feet moving through contact when driving the defender off the ball in the run game. He possesses good, but not great upper body strength (20 reps on bench) to lock on and neutralize the defender for the rest of the play. He’s a better player when playing in small areas, however there were times at South Dakota when the Coyotes lined him up in the backfield as a fullback, which gave him an opportunity to show that he can block in the open field and hit a moving target. In addition, he’s displayed the ability to climb to the second level to effectively block the linebacker. With his short area quickness, he really does a good job of reach blocking and sealing the edge on runs outside to the right in the run game; he’s a high football IQ player who takes good angles. One thing that I would like to see Tom develop is more of a killer instinct and a fiery, tenacious attitude as a blocker, as he tends to be more of a finesse offensive lineman than an overly aggressive one. Although the transition from the FCS to the NFL will certainly take him some time to adjust to, Compton is a player who I believe has what it takes to make the jump. When faced with superior opponents in college, he did not struggle whatsoever and looked like he was meant to be there at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Having started 43 games for South Dakota, Tom proved to be a durable player throughout his career and does not have any known injury concerns as he enters the next level.

Joe Arrigo: The On The Sidelines (OTS) Rumor Report

For those of you that don’t know, this is the OTS (On The Sidelines) Packers Rumor Report. The OTS are Packers rumors that I obtain through various sources that I have come to know through my years doing radio. They are sources in NFL in various capacities and do have direct knowledge of what is being discussed  by decision makers and front office personnel. Please keep in mind what a rumor is, hence what the OTS is:

RUMOR:

n.

A piece of unverified information of uncertain origin usually spread by word of mouth.
Unverified information received from another; hearsay.

It appears that the free agent shopping spree that GM Ted Thompson went on is over. While the Packers had DE/OLB Dave Tollefson in for a visit, he was only offered a 1 year deal for the minimum. This was reported a few days ago by the Packers beat writers.

Nick Collins, his agent and the Packers decision makers are discussing what the next move is for Collins and the team. While the rumor is Collins received the “OK” to resume his career, the Thompson and Mike McCarthy are not to sure if they want to take the enhanced risk of letting Collins play for the Packers. This is a highly fluid situation and the Packers brass wants whats best for Collins long term (after football) and was told they are 80-90% certain he won’t be a Packer in 2012 and if he is (a Packer)” he needs to get in the sales business after he retires”. I was told from an NFC Scout that he wouldn’t let Collins play for his team because “a neck injury is nothing to play with and the risk doesn’t outweigh the reward.”

I was also told that the team will explore extending Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews during the season and Aaron Rodgers as well. I was told that Thompson and McCarthy view the three players mentioned as the leaders on and off the field.

I was told that the Packers would indeed move up a few slots for a certain few players. They have narrowed their board down to the guys that they feel would be available around the time of their pick, but won’t overpay to move up a few slots.

Keep an eye on running backs early in the Packers draft and also late in the draft. Doug Martin, Chris Polk, Lamar Miller, and Bryce Brown are guys that they interest in.  Brown is interesting since their are question marks with him, but he has ability and low tread on his tires which makes him a little more intriguing.

A few names to watch for in the 1st round are Michael Brockers, Fletcher Cox, Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Merculis, Steven Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick and Doug Martin.

I was told 2 players high on the Packers board from Oklahoma; Ronnell Lewis (OLB) and Ryan Broyles (WR). Both are guys, that an AFC Scout told me are 2nd (Lewis) and late 3rd to early 5th (Broyles) grades and would be excellent fits for the Packers.

B.J. Coleman is a QB to watch for the Packers. They have requested extra tape on him and view him as a high upside/developmental guy that could be a very good player in time.

The Packers have a lot of interest in Chris Greenwood, CB, Albion Christian. If you followed my mocks, I also have been high on him, but I was told 2 and a half months ago that the Packers really like this kid and hoped he’d stay “under the radar”.

Another name to watch for is Alabama DL Josh Chapman. He can play the NT or 5 tech and has the intangibles that Ted Thompson looks for. He played the 2011 season with tears in his ACL and meniscus and still had a very productive year. An NFC scout told me he is “the most underrated player in this draft and on that Alabama defense”. He told me he has a 3rd-late 4th round grade on Chapman (because of the knee injury).

The same scout told me that Arkansas St. safety Kelcie McCray is another kid that fits what Thompson looks for and is a 5th or 6th round guy.

Chase Minnifield is falling in the draft. Scouts are worried about his knees and speed. The AFC scout that I contacted told me that  Minnifield could fall as far as the 6th round. I was told by one of my Packers sources that they have legit interest in him.

 

Joe Arrigo’s 2012 Draft Series: LB Evaluations

The 2012 Linebackers class is above average with the help of some defensive ends sliding outside in a 3/4 defense. My highest rated ‘backer is Boston College’s inside linebacker Luke Kuechly. I love everything about the way he plays the game. He is a complete inside linebacker that is the best coverage ‘backer I’ve seen in a long time. On the outside I have Courtney Upshaw of Alabama (who I also included in w/ the DL evaluations) as the top OLB, but think Oklahoma’s Ronnell Lewis could be the most impactful outside linebacker from this class when it is all said and done.

Here are my Top 10 OLB:

1. Courtney Upshaw – Alabama – 6-1 – 273:

Posted Image One of the top pass rushing prospects in this year’s draft who offers excellent versatility at the next level, Courtney Upshaw leaves Alabama after having been one of the most valuable players on the top-ranked Crimson Tide defense in 2011. A two-year starter for the Tide, Upshaw finished his career in Tuscaloosa having produced 141 tackles, 36.5 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, four pass breakups, and one interception; his best statistical season came his senior year in 2011 when he tallied 52 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and his lone interception. Lining up in Alabama’s “Jack” linebacker position, Courtney is experienced lining up both with his hand on the ground at end in a four-man front as well as playing outside linebacker in the Tide’s 3- 4 defense; he projects well to either position at the next level. An intimidating defender who plays with the type of tenacious and fiery attitude that I love to see out of a pass rushing prospect, Courtney is a relentless player who offers a non-stop motor; his persistence and motor as a pass rusher are what makes him such a good player. As a pass rusher, he offers the acceleration and speed off the ball needed to beat the tackle to the edge as well as the flexibility and fluid athleticism needed to redirect quickly in the open field. Although he doesn’t possess an elite burst or explosive get off that you see with some other top pass rushers, Upshaw’s ability to line up anywhere in the box and create pressure is what makes him so valuable. He’s displayed a unique ability to consistently beat the tackle to the edge before dipping his hips and lowering his shoulder to get underneath the tackle and turn the corner in pursuit of the quarterback. He also owns very good vision, quickly finding an open crease in the offensive line and accelerating through it with the agility to elude blockers as he chases down the quarterback. Although this is nitpicking, I’d like to see Courtney continue to develop his swim and rip moves in his pass rush repertoire, as this will allow for him to continue to improve as a pass rusher in the NFL. He’s got a great start, owning polished hand use with a very good swim move, however he has great potential here and still has room to improve. An instinctive defender who reads and reacts very well to what he sees in front of him, Courtney locates the ball very quickly outside, showing a great ability to close down the line to meet the running back as he’s entering the hole. He plays with great leverage out on the edge in the run game, displaying a consistent ability to give the offensive lineman a violent punch at the point of attacking before setting the edge against the offensive tackle. Upshaw cleanly disengages with great hand use, and has the fluid athleticism and flexibility to sink his hips and get around the blocker to meet the running back in the backfield. The fact that one out of every four tackles he made was behind the line of scrimmage shows the type of impact he makes in defending the run. Despite being smaller than any offensive lineman he goes up against, Courtney shows the type of leverage and flexible ability to bend underneath the offensive lineman with an arched back to consistently win the leverage battle at the point of attack. Terrific in pursuit with sideline-to sideline range, Courtney plays downhill and has repeatedly shown the ability to chase down ball carriers from behind. Despite weighing over 270 pounds, he offers outstanding speed and closing speed for a player of his size.

2. Lavonte David – Nebraska – 6-0 – 225:

One of the most productive defenders in the country the last two years, Lavonte David signed with Nebraska out of Fort Scott Community College in 2010 and immediately left his mark on the program as he tallied 285 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 12 pass breakups, and two interceptions in his two seasons with the Huskers; his most productive season came as a junior in 2010 when he set the Nebraska-school record for tackles in a season with 152 while also adding 15 tackles for loss, six sacks, and 10 pass breakups. A great athlete with the ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline, David is a very instinctive player who reads his keys and is quick to react to what he sees in front of him. With the speed and range to make plays all over the field, Lavonte was a one-man
wrecking crew, proving to be a tackling machine for Nebraska the past two seasons. A quick, agile defender, David does a good job of
taking advantage of holes in the line, playing downhill to elude the blocker and reach the ball carrier as he’s coming through the hole.
Owning a great motor, Lavonte is a great playing in pursuit, consistently chasing down the ball carrier from behind; he also shows his
great instincts with his ability to rip the ball away from the runner, having forced three fumbles as a senior in 2011. An underrated
pass rusher, David’s quick-twitch, downhill mentality are very effective when he adds himself to the mix in the pass rush. His
deceptive strength to fight off running backs’ blocks as well as his short-area quickness have both proved to be strengths for him as a
pass rusher. A valuable, heady player in coverage, Lavonte does a very good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes before breaking
quickly to make a play on the ball; he’s a savvy football player with a great football IQ and has shown that in coverage, often
undercutting routes to attack the ball. With his fluid athleticism, he’s also proven to be more than capable of matching up with a
running back or tight end in man coverage. Having recorded 14 passes defended in two years, Lavonte has shown the type of ball
skills and playmaking ability in coverage that you don’t often see out of a linebacker, which is something that scouts have certainly
noticed. In a pass-happy Big 12 Conference that owns plenty of spread offenses, David did not come off the field on passing downs,
but rather proved to be invaluable with his ability to match up with smaller receivers and backs out of the backfield. David’s greatest
weakness is his lack of size; he looks more like a safety prospect than a linebacker, which could limit him schematically at the next
level. Lavonte David has the skillset, tools, and fantastic instincts to develop into a very good starting WILL linebacker in the 4-3
defense in the NFL. He does not project to either inside or outside linebacker in the 3-4.

3. Zach Brown – North Carolina – 6-1 – 236:

One of the best all-around athletes of any defensive player in this year’s draft, Zach Brown was a two-sport star (football, track) for the Tar Heels who has immense upside at the next level if he can land in the right situation and develop a better temperament on the field. Although he only started for one full season, Brown finished his career at North Carolina having started 23 games and producing 230 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, four pass breakups, and seven interceptions; his best statistical season came as a senior in 2011 when he tallied 105 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, all 5.5 sacks and four pass breakups, and three interceptions. A fantastic athlete with the fluidity and range to play sideline-to-sideline and make plays all over the field, Zach is an extremely quick, nimble, and agile player at the linebacker position who offers an intriguing skillset to defenses in the NFL. Brown is a finesse, quick-twitch defender who covers ground quickly and is more than capable of chasing down running backs on the perimeter with his track speed. Rather than taking on blockers in the box, Zach simply attempts to run around them to avoid contact. He’s far from being a physical defender, but rather seems to shy away from getting mixed up inside with bigger linemen; when he does take on blockers, he usually is easily neutralized due to his lack of bulk and strength; he must continue to fill out his skinny but lean frame and get stronger in order to have a better chance of stacking and shedding at the next level. Brown is far better at playing out in open space where he can use his great athleticism to his advantage in pursuing and chasing. To reach his potential and upside in the NFL, Zach must develop a better killer instinct and be willing to play more physically in defending the run. When attempting to make a tackle, he tends to throw his body at the ball carrier rather than actually breaking down and wrapping up; he needs further development as a form tackler. In addition, he tends to rely too much on his speed and range, at times over-pursuing a ball carrier because he didn’t take a proper angle to the ball. In coverage, Brown moves like a safety with his ability to gain great depth on his drops and turn and run with great flexibility in his hips. Although he’ll need to continue to develop his instincts to diagnose plays in front of him, he possesses the quick ability to break on a ball and close quickly on receivers who cross into his zone. In man coverage, Zach’s combination of size and speed makes him a terrific defender in manning up with tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. A tremendous prospect based on his measurables, Zach possesses a rare combination of size and athleticism for the linebacker position. The team that drafts him will be selecting him purely based on potential and upside, as he didn’t play with the type of physical demeanor or temperament to warrant being a Top 50 pick, which is where his physical tools and skillset will likely land him.

4. Ronnell Lewis – Oklahoma – 6-1 – 253:

A talented athlete with the physical tools needed to make the transition to the NFL. A 1.5-year starter with just 14 career starts for the Sooners, Lewis totaled 119 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, nine pass breakups, and two interceptions over the course of his career in Norman; his best statistical season came during his junior season in 2011 when he recorded 60 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, five pass breakups, and one interception. Owning an ideal build for an outside rush linebacker, Ronnell has a great combination of size, strength (36 reps on bench), and speed (4.68 40). As a pass rusher, Lewis offers a ton of versatility after having lined up both with his hand on the ground at end as well as standing up at linebacker. With good short-area quickness, Ronnell owns the quick feet needed to weave in and out of traffic in pursuit of the quarterback. He doesn’t own great explosion or an elite burst, but possesses enough acceleration needed to get the job done at the next level and has shown the quick change of direction skills that you look for at the position.. His speed is more evident with his range than with his ability to rush the passer, as he doesn’t show the ability to consistently run the arc. Lewis is a physical player with the strength needed to fight his way through blocks; he will need further refinement of his pass rush repertoire, however he has the type of upper body strength where he could really develop quickly if he improved his hand use. He was able to get by on his physical tools in college, however that won’t be the case in the NFL. As a run defender, Ronnell projects better as a linebacker than at end at the next level, as he doesn’t own the lower body strength needed to consistently set the edge or anchor at the point of attack. He owns long enough arms (32 inches) as well as the upper body strength to extend out and attempt to hold his ground, however he also doesn’t play with the consistent technique and fundamentals that you look for and will need to improve his inconsistent discipline here. Lewis understands how to locate the ball in the backfield and flow to ball carrier, however he doesn’t show the type of instincts and awareness needed to read or diagnose plays and will be step late at times because of it; he’s as raw from a mental standpoint as he is with his technique and hand use. Part of the reason for Ronnell’s average production at Oklahoma is as a result of being moved back and forth from end to linebacker without being given the chance to develop and learn the nuances of one position, shown in his inconsistent instincts, however his raw technique and lack great hand use also played a part here. Ronnell Lewis is an intriguing pass rushing prospect because of the physical tools that he offers, however it’s hard to be optimistic with a player who has injury questions, didn’t get the job done in the classroom off the field, and never appeared to be an overly productive player for his team. Lewis projects favorably as a 3-4 outside rush linebacker where the wide alignment outside could give him a better opportunity to rush the passer at the next level. In the 4-3 defense, he either projects as a pass rush specialist at end or as a developmental project as a WILL linebacker, however he projects far better in the 3-4 than 4-3.

5. Shea McClellin – Boise State – 6-3 – 248:

A relentless defender whose non-stop motor and ability to make plays all over the field have won scouts over at the next level, Shea McClellin enters the NFL with an intriguing combination of tools and versatility. A three-year starter at Boise State (started the final 37 games of his career) who was considered the heart of the defense for the Broncos, McClellin finished his career in Boise having produced 129 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks, four interceptions, and four forced fumbles; the most productive season of his career came as a senior in 2011 when he tallied 50 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two interceptions, and forced one fumble. Shea McClellin is a coach’s dream, bringing a fantastic motor and the type of non-stop pursuit that you simply can’t teach, as well as offering the versatility to line up at a number of different positions. He’s a tenacious defender who plays with a fiery attitude and violently attacks the line of scrimmage. An underrated athlete with the flexibility and agility you look for, McClellin has displayed the ability to get underneath offensive linemen and dart into the backfield to make a play as a pass rusher; Shea has a ton of experience rushing the passer from different angles and would be a great fit in a defensive scheme that likes to stunt a lot. He’s a disruptive player who may not always make the play, but wreaks enough havoc that he gives someone else on the defense the opportunity to bring down the quarterback or ball carrier. Although not explosive or overly fast off the edge, Shea anticipates the snap count very well, reads his keys and locates the ball quickly, and shows the type of natural pass rushing instincts that are hard to find. Good with his hand use at the point of attack, McClellin offers enough of a pass rush repertoire to make an impact, and I expect to see him continue to improve here on what is already a solid base so far. As a run defender, Shea is a very disciplined player who is rarely out of position. Although he doesn’t have great size or strength, he is a very physical player at the point of attack who seals the edge very well and plays with great technique. Because of his lack of strength he can be drive out of the play and swallowed up by bigger, stronger offensive linemen. McClellin pursues and chases as well as any defender in the country, often making a play well outside of the pocket or down the field thanks to his tremendous hustle. An overachiever who gets everything out of his abilities that he can, Shea does not possess the type of explosion or quick-twitch abilities that scouts typically look for in a pass rusher and because he doesn’t have the prototypical size or strength either, most scouts consider him to be a “tweener,” meaning he doesn’t have a true position at the next level. A high-character player who offers all of the intangibles that you look for in a prospect, Shea does not have any character concerns and proved to be a durable player over the course of his career with the Broncos. Shea McClellin is a player that is hard not to like because of the high-energy play and terrific intangibles that he brings to the table. In my opinion, he would fit well as a 3-4 outside rush linebacker where he would be given more space to work with as a pass rusher and would be cleaner from traffic than if he were playing in the 4-3 defense. In the 4-3, he could project as a project as a WILL or MIKE linebacker, or as a pass rush specialist on third downs. He’s the type of player that should move moved around and played in different positions in order to maximize his talents and abilities in the NFL, however I do believe that he has what it takes to have a successful career as a starting outside rush linebacker in the 3-4 defense. Although he won’t ever be an elite player, the consistency and reliability that he would bring would be worth investing in.

The Next 5:

6. Andre Branch – Clemson – 6-4 – 259

7. Bobby Wagner – Utah State – 6-0 – 241

8. Sean Spence – Miami (FL) – 5-11 – 228

9. Keenan Robinson – Texas – 6-3 – 240

10. Travis Lewis – Oklahoma – 6-1 – 246

Overrated: Adrian Hamilton – Prairie View A&M – 6-2 – 255

Underrated: Lavonte David & Ronnell Lewis

Small School Sleeper: Aston Whiteside – Abilene Christian – 6-2 – 259

My Top 10 Inside Linbackers:

1. Luke Kuechly – Boston College – 6-3 – 242:

The most instinctive linebacker to enter the NFL since Patrick Willis was drafted with the 11th overall selection by the San Francisco 49ers in 2007, Luke Kuechly leaves Boston College as one of the most productive players in college football history. A three-year starter for Boston College, in 2011, Kuechly won the Butkus Award (top linebacker in college football), the Rotary Lombardi Award (best lineman or linebacker in college football), the Lott IMPACT Trophy (defensive impact player of the year) and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player in college football). The most decorated defensive player in Boston College football history, Luke is the Eagles’ first two-time All-American, having led the country in tackles as a sophomore (183) and junior (191). He completed his career at Boston College having produced 537 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 10 pass breakups, and seven interceptions; his best statistical season came during his junior year in 2011 when he totaled 191 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three pass breakups, and three interceptions. As close to a sure-thing as I’ve seen in the past six years, Kuechly brings outstanding intangibles to the team that drafts him, offering the type of work ethic and leadership that few are blessed with. Possessing ideal height for the position with some room in his frame to continue to grow, Luke owns rare instincts at linebacker, whose ability to read and react to what he sees in front of himself is fantastic. He diagnoses plays as fast as any player that I’ve seen in the past six years and shows an elite ability to locate the ball before pursuing it down the field. He does an outstanding job in pursuit, displaying a relentless effort to swarm to the ball and has both the range and the straight-line speed needed to chase down ball carriers from behind. Kuechly is a polished prospect who plays with excellent technique and fundamentals; he consistently wraps up the ball carrier with near-perfect form when in position to make the tackle. With a great, non-stop motor, he does a very good job of playing over the top in the run game and is exceptional at playing inside-out while scraping over the top from his MIKE position. Luke takes great angles to the ball, which gives him a great opportunity to put himself in prime position to make the tackle. He makes it very difficult for offensive linemen to get to the second level to block him because he reacts so quickly to the play and possesses the athleticism to evade oncoming blockers in traffic. With his great technique and underrated upper body strength (27 reps on bench), he’s proven to be very effective at stacking and shedding blocks around the line of scrimmage and fills his hole very quickly on runs between the tackles; my only recommendation is that I think he could stand to add another 10 pounds of bulk and strength, which will make it even easier to shed blockers and make up for the jump to the next level. A deceptive athlete whose acceleration to quickly close on the receiver or ball carrier is very good, Kuechly does a great job of pursuing across the field, showing a heady ability to come from the backside of the play and still make the tackle; he’s always around the football and is rarely out of position. An experienced playing in dropping back into zone coverage, Luke has the athleticism and loose hips in his game to turn and run in transition well. He’s an excellent coverage linebacker who shows an innate ability to both cover zones as well as cover a tight end or running back out of the backfield with ease. Although not an elite athlete, his change of direction skills and fluidity in his drops are elite for a linebacker prospect. With 17 passes defended in three years, Kuechly has displayed the type of ball skills that you look for, however with the way that he is capable of dropping back and reading the quarterback’s eyes, he consistently puts himself in position to either make a play on the ball or make the tackle on the receiver who caught it down the field. The only area that he may not produce much at is as a pass rusher, however his production in dropping back into coverage makes up for it, however he has shown the ability to dart through the line and bring the running back down for a loss in the run game. Coming into the Combine, many scouts questioned what type of athleticism Luke had, claiming that he would not be capable of dropping back into coverage because he lacked great speed; those misconceptions were quickly dispelled, as Luke was one of the top performers in nearly every test, producing a 38 inch vertical jump and 10-foot, three-inch broad jump. Having played in 38-straight games, including a streak of 33-straight games with double-digit tackles, Luke was the epitome of reliable with the durability that you look for; he does not have any known injury concerns as he enters the next level. Luke Kuechly is one of the most complete prospects that I have seen and will be able to contribute immediately for the team that drafts him. He projects best as a MIKE linebacker in the 4-3 defense, although he does have experience playing outside and could move there if needed; however, he’s a natural MIKE who should play there in the NFL.

2. Dont’a Hightower – Alabama – 6-2 – 265:

  The true leader of the 2011 National Championship Crimson Tide defense, Dont’a Hightower enters the NFL with a complete package of skills that project very well to the next level. A 3.5-year starter with 41 career starts for Alabama, Hightower produced 235 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, five sacks, seven pass breakups, and one interception over the course of his career in Tuscaloosa; his best statistical season came in 2011 during his junior year when he made 85 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, four sacks, three pass breakups, and his lone interception. Offering elite intangibles, instincts, and leadership, Dont’a was a two-time captain who made the play calls and checks for Alabama’s defense. Built very well for an inside linebacker with an ideal combination of size, strength, and speed, Hightower is a classic thumper in the middle who will be a playmaker wherever he lands at the next level. A physical, sound tackler who consistently makes plays inside, Dont’a’s great instincts and understanding of the game allow for him to locate the ball and diagnose plays quickly from his middle linebacker position. Hightower is not going to be a lateral, sideline-to-sideline defender, as he doesn’t play with the fluidity or quick-twitch change of direction skills that you look for, however when playing straight-ahead, downhill inside the box, he’s among the best in the country. Dont’a fills the hole well with great run fits, showing an innate understanding of how to scrape over the top to meet a running back as he’s coming through the hole. In addition, Hightower does a terrific job of playing over the top and has enough speed to flow outside to the ball on the perimeter. While he doesn’t have great range, he plays with a high-motor and the type of intensity that is not easy to find. With his size, bulk, and strength, Dont’a is as good as you’re going to find at stacking and shedding blockers inside and has shown an instinctive ability to work through traffic while keeping his eyes in the backfield. Hightower’s physical play shows up on a frequent basis when he is able to deliver a violent hit to the running back or quarterback; he’s an intimidating presence in the middle whose teammates feed of his energy. Hightower is a very underrated pass rusher off the edge; in passing situations, he was moved down to defensive end in a four-man front and was told to get after the quarterback. With five sacks, including four in 2011, Dont’a did just that. He’s a disruptive presence on the line who uses his strength and short-area agility to work through creases up front, and is a terrifying player for quarterbacks to see coming when given an open hole to blitz from his linebacker position. He developed his pass rush repertoire throughout his career and seems to have a good feel for how to rip through the line or effectively use his hands to gain leverage and work his way into the backfield. He’s not entirely explosive as a rusher, however he brings consistent pressure and cannot be unaccounted for, otherwise he will wreak havoc. The versatility that he brings to the table to be able to line up at defensive end and bring production as an added pass rusher is invaluable. In coverage, Hightower has experience dropping back into zone where he displays a strong ability to gain good depth off the snap; he understands scheme concepts as well as offering the instincts needed to read and react to the action in front of him. He lacks the fluidity to turn and run in transition that is needed to be effective in man coverage at the next level and other than matching up big bigger tight ends, he does not project favorably here. Durability could be a question mark with Dont’a after he tore his left ACL four games into the 2009 season; he took a while to recover from the injury, but eventually bounced back with a great season in 2011. He also had surgery to repair a small fracture in his left hand before his junior year started, which is another thing that teams will need to look into. Dont’a Hightower has the talent, athleticism, and tools to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber middle linebacker in the NFL. He projects best as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense where he would be asked to
play in the box and his lack of great change of direction skills would not hurt him. In the 4-3, he also projects to the MIKE or SAM
position, however is not as good of a fit in the 4-3 as the 3-4. With his pass rushing ability, he also has the skills needed to line up and
be productive as an outside rush linebacker in the 3-4 or with his hand down at end in the 4-3.

3. Mychal Kendricks – California – 5-11 – 239:

One of the stars of the NFL Scouting Combine leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft, Mychal Kendricks is one of the best all-around athletes at the linebacker position in this year’s draft. A three-year starter for the Cal Bears, Kendricks produced a total of 259 tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, five passes defended, and four interceptions throughout his career at Berkley; his best statistical season came during his senior season in 2011 when he recorded107 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, four sacks, two pass breakups, and two interceptions. Mychal is a versatile player with experience at both inside and outside linebacker at Cal, and could project to both positions at the next level. Shorter than you’d prefer with enough bulk to make it work at the next level, Kendricks is a free-flowing linebacker whose greatest strength is his range and athleticism to make sideline-to-sideline plays. In the run game, Mychal diagnoses the play and locates the ball very quickly, displaying the quickness and acceleration to close quickly while taking good angles to the ball. With the straight-line speed to chase the running back down from behind on the perimeter, Kendricks owns a great motor and is always around the ball. He does a terrific job of playing inside-out from his MIKE linebacker position in Cal’s 4-3 and 3-4 defense, showing the ability to scrape over the top and meet the running back as he’s coming through the hole. When in position to make the tackle, Mychal is capable of crashing down on the back with a powerful tackle. In the open field, outside of over-pursuing and running past the ball carrier, he’s a reliable wrap up tackler who drags the ball carrier down to the ground aggressively after gaining control. His lack of size is going to be a concern, as he will struggle to wrap up and bring down bigger, stronger backs at the next level. In the box, Mychal uses his flexibility and fluid athleticism to bend down or use his quickness to evade blockers rather than taking them on. When the blocker engages Kendricks, he usually can be driven out of the play with ease due to his lack of size and strength (24 reps on bench), however with his great motor, he does fight throughout the play to disengage, although he can be neutralized relatively easily if locked onto. On third downs, Kendricks spent plenty of time both rushing the passer as well as dropping back into coverage. I love the timing and anticipation that he plays with when blitzing through the line, as he has shown the ability to explode across the line of scrimmage as the ball is being snapped; while he will tend to get stonewalled at the line by bigger offensive linemen when rushing the passer, he does a great job of taking full advantage of any open crease, quickly accelerating through it and closing down on the quarterback to make a sack. With 43 stops behind the line of scrimmage throughout his career, he’s shown a heady ability to effectively play close to the line of scrimmage and be an impact player thanks to his athleticism, quickness, and range to chase ball carriers down. As a pass rusher, he will need further development with his hand use and pass rush repertoire, however he offers nice promise and upside here. In coverage, Mychal has more than enough fluidity, speed, and athleticism to cover the running back out of the backfield or the tight end down the field in man coverage and does have some experience lining up in the slot.

4. James-Michael Johnson – Nevada – 6-1 – 249:

An intriguing athlete at the middle linebacker position who presents a fine blend of size, speed, and athleticism for the position, James-Michael (JM) Johnson enters the NFL after having been a four starter with a fantastic 50 career starts for the Wolf Pack. A productive player throughout his college career, Johnson tallied 295 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 11 pass breakups, and three interceptions through his four years in Reno; his best statistical season came as a senior in 2011when he recorded 100 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, and one interception. A two-time captain for Nevada, JM possesses the type of leadership, work ethic, and intangibles that coaches and scouts love to see in a player. Offering a lean frame with room to add weight and gain strength, JM is an excellent athlete with the speed and range to make plays all over the field. A smart defender who reads reacts well to what he sees in front of him, Johnson possesses the type of quick-twitch ability to break on the ball that scouts look closely for in linebackers. Although he will need to continue to get stronger at the next level, JM has displayed the ability to shed blockers well at the point of attack in pursuit of the running back. A downhill defender in the run game, Johnson accelerates quickly towards the ball carrier when he finds a crease, which is shown in his strong 37.5 tackles for loss; he has a knack for making plays in the backfield thanks to his instincts and speed to close on the ball. JM has nimble feet, which allows for him to pick his way through traffic easily; he does a good job of playing inside-out and scraping over the top in the run game. Johnson has the quick feet and agility to elude blockers rather than consistently take them on which is something that helped him when defending the run. With his aggressive style of play, there are times when he will take poor angles to the ball, which is something that surely will be corrected at the next level. In coverage, JM doesn’t have fluid hips to consistently turn and run down the field, however he gains very good depth in his drops with his range and has shown the ability to close quickly on receivers crossing into his zone. In man coverage, he’s still inconsistent with his ability to mirror tight ends and running backs down the field, as his technique is still rather raw, however with his speed and athleticism, if coached properly at the next level, could develop into a fine player here.

5. Audie Cole – N.C. State – 6-4 – 248:

A smart and instinctive three year starter for the Wolfpack, Audie Cole proved to be a valuable player for the Wolfpack over the course of his career with his versatility to play both SAM and MIKE linebacker in the team’s 4-3 defense. The 12th-leading tackler in school history, Cole leaves Raleigh having produced 276 tackles, 31 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, eight pass breakups, and one interception; his best statistical season came as a senior in 2011 when he moved inside to middle linebacker from his natural strongside position and tallied 108 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and four pass breakups. Audie was a team captain who offers the leadership and work ethic that you coaches and scouts look for in a player. Very instinctive at the linebacker position, Audie diagnoses very quickly, showing the read and react skills to locate the ball before flowing to the action. He owns polished technique with good size and long arms (32 inches) for the position, consistently displaying a good form as a tackler when bringing the ball carrier to the ground. A downhill, straight-ahead linebacker, Cole fills well in the hole and has a good motor, showing a consistent ability to always be around the football. Although his speed is not going to be something that will impress scouts, his ability to flow to the action in pursuit is strong. He does a very good job of playing over the top in the run game, also doing nice job of playing inside-out from his new position in 2011. Where Audie is going to struggle is with his lack of speed and range for the position. He’s an average athlete who will have trouble chasing down ball carriers to the perimeter at the next level. He also doesn’t have the change of direction skills or fluidity that I look for. In addition, while he displays good technique as a tackler, he needs to gain strength in the upper body and develop a strong grip, as there are times when backs will run through his arm tackles. Adding further strength in the upper body will also help him stack and shed at the point of attack, as he can be drive out of the play by bigger offensive lineman; there are times when he will struggle to work his way through traffic in the middle. Cole also needs to continue to develop in the lower half and play with better positioning and leverage when taking on blockers in the run game.

The Next 5:

6. Jerry Franklin – Arkansas – 6-1 – 242

7. Chris Marve – Vanderbilt – 6-0 – 235

8. Max Gruder – Pittsburgh – 6-1 – 230

9. Gary Tinsley – Minnesota – 6-0 – 240 (Gary Tinsley tragically passed away last week. I included him out of respect for him and where I had him ranked.)

10. Vontaze Burfict – Arizona State – 6-1 – 248

Overrated: Vontaze Burfict

Underrated: James-Michael Johnson

Small School Sleeper: Caleb McSurdy – Montana – 6-1 – 245

Joe Arrigo’s 2012 NFL Draft Series: QB Evaluation

The 2012 quarterback class is headlined by two players. One of which has the pedigree and has been projected to be the #1 pick of the draft for 2 years. The other is a guy that has all the tools (on and off the field) and made the world take notice after an award winning college season.

Both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are exactly what NFL teams look for both on the field but also off of it and in the community. But I personally think that Griffin is a better prospect then Luck. I know, I’ll catch heat for it, but I just like Griffin III and feel he has the special “it” that the great quarterbacks have. Look at these career statistics and tell me which belongs to Luck and which belongs to Griffin:

800-1,192- 67.1%- 10,366- 78 td- 17- int (41/40 games played and started)

713-1,064- 67%- 9,430- 82 td- 22 int (38/38 games played and started)

Griffin’s numbers are the first numbers on the list and compare quite favorably to Luck’s, maybe even a tad bit more impressive. This is not to diminish what Andrew Luck has done and (most likely) will do. But what it does show is that Griffin is not that “project” some people think he is.

As for the rest of the draft I think you can find some value in the later rounds, but I also think you could find a potential bust after the two  top prospects (who will be the top two picks in this draft).

My Top 10 Quarterbacks:

1. Robert Griffin III – Baylor – 6-2 – 223

The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner as the best college football player in the country, Robert Griffin III is a special talent with the type of elite physical tools and mental makeup that rarely comes along. A three-year starter with 40 career starts for the Bears, Griffin rewrote the record books at Baylor, having set 26 single-season, 20 career and eight single-game marks in his four years in Waco. Over the course of his career, Robert threw for 10,366 yards, 78 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions with a 67.1% completion percentage (800-1,192) while rushing for 2,254 yards and 33 touchdowns on 528 carries; his best statistical season came during his Heisman Trophy-winning junior year in which he threw for 4,293 yards, 37 touchdowns, and just six interceptions with a 72.4% completion percentage (291-402) and rushed for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns on 179 carries. Griffin brings elite intangibles, leadership, intelligence, and the work ethic that coaches and scouts dream about; he’s a very confident player who got the job done off the field as well, earning numerous academic honors in addition to ranking seventh in his class and being his class president in high school. The way that he led the Bears during his junior season is something that simply can’t be taught and brought back memories of Cam Newton’s spectacular season in 2010. At Baylor, Robert led his team to victories over Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, TCU, and
Washington in 2011, an enormous feat for a school that used to be considered one of the bottom-feeders of the Big 12. He has that “it
factor” that talent evaluators look very closely for at the quarterback position. Having been scouting Griffin since he was a junior in
high school, there is no doubt in my mind that he magically transformed from an athlete playing quarterback to a quarterback who is a phenomenal athlete in 2011. That transition began with his accuracy. Robert’s completion percentage improved every year of his
career (59.9% in 2008, 65.2% in 2009, 67.0% in 2010 in limited work, and 72.4% in 2011), showing his great work ethic and that he
can be coached. Early in his career, I held the belief with Griffin that if somehow he could develop and polish his ability to throw the
ball as well as improve his understanding of the offense he was running, he’d have the type of talent to do something special with it;
it’s almost inconceivable how much he improved from 2010 to 2011. To his credit, he has finally been able to capitalize on the
limitless ceiling that he seems to have. Owning a fine build with enough height to see the field clearly, Griffin’s raw athleticism allows
for him to stay on the balls of his feet and move about the pocket with ease. Robert has a very strong arm to drive the ball down the
field, as the ball simply explodes off of his arm with a simple flick of the wrist. He is more than capable of making any throw that an
NFL quarterback needs to make. Of Griffin’s 37 touchdown passes in 2011, 18 of them went for 35+ yards, showing his tremendous
ability to throw the ball down the field accurately. In addition, he owns some of the best velocity that I’ve seen in the past six years,
delivering the ball on a rope down the field. Griffin has a very quick release, showing the ability to deliver the ball in a hurry when
being pressured. In his mechanics, he has a bit of a 3/4′s to side-arm delivery at times, however when he plants his feet and steps into
his throw, this should not be an issue. When he begins to scramble outside of the pocket, that is when the angle of his throwing motion
tends to dip; this is a minor concern that may not need to be tweaked, but at least is worth mentioning. As mentioned, Robert’s
accuracy early in his career was not something to get excited about, often displaying the erratic passing that would lead you to believe that he was far from being an NFL prospect; in 2011, that accuracy improve to the point that he was capable of making any throw he wanted to. He showed a terrific ability to fire the ball into tight windows as well as use pinpoint accuracy down the field to drop the ball in the bucket in the only place that his receiver could make the catch. Griffin has done a great job of developing touch on his throws as well; early in his career, he floated the ball more than throwing it with precision, however he has improved to great extents his ability to put proper touch on his throws down the field, especially in putting it in the proper position for his receiver to run right underneath it. In addition to his accuracy, Griffin also developed his decision making and game managing skills, and as his just 17 career interceptions has shown, he does a fantastic job of taking care of the football and making good decisions. Having played in Baylor’s spread offense, Robert has spent the majority of his career out of the shotgun and will need to get used to playing under
center. However, as he’s shown throughout his career, if he works hard at it, there should be no need to worry about whether he’ll be
capable of doing it. If I have any doubts, it’s not with Griffin’s physical tools, but rather with the mental aspect of the game. At Baylor,
the Bears ran a “check-with-me” system in which Robert would walk to the line before his offensive coordinator sitting in the booth
would read the defense, send an audible down to the sideline, and they would signal the call into Griffin, who would then change the
play. The reason that I have more hesitation with Griffin than Andrew Luck is because Robert has not displayed the ability to walk up
to the line, read the defense, and begin to change the play, or adjust the offensive line’s protection scheme. While I’m not saying that
he can’t do it in the NFL, he just simply hasn’t shown whether or not he can yet. As Cam Newton showed last year, this could be
something to disregard completely after he learned how to do it, however it’s likely the only question mark that I see in Robert’s game. He’s shown enough of an ability to go through his reads and progressions in college to suggest that he can continue to develop here, and being that he’s a smart and instinctive player, I don’t see any need to worry about him being able to continue to develop this ability at the next level. A former track star who advanced to the semifinals of the US Olympic trials in the 400-meter hurdles, Griffin’s
athleticism is rare and simply stunning at times. He’s shown a consistent ability to escape the pocket while making plays that can only
be described as special. His mobility is the best that I’ve seen in six years and he likely is the most athletic quarterback to enter the
NFL since Michael Vick. Griffin has the straight-line speed (4.41 40) to out-run any defender to the end zone while also possessing
the quick-twitch agility, explosion, and natural running style needed to make any defender miss in the open field. When he gets out in
space with the ball in his hand, he has what it takes to take the ball the distance any time he moves past the line of scrimmage. Robert
is an explosive athlete with the burst and acceleration to make plays in small spaces, and has even displayed his hurdling ability from
track in jumping over oncoming defenders. His pocket presence is very good, showing the natural feel for where the pass rush is
coming from, and possesses the vision to find the open crease in the defense and run through it to free himself from traffic. While he
was given the freedom to tuck the ball and run if nothing was open down the field, this is something that he may have to adjust to in
the NFL if his coaches don’t want him to take off quite as often; with an athlete like Robert, there shouldn’t be hesitation in letting him
run, as he has the type of special traits that don’t come along very often and he is a smart player who understands when to run.
Durability does not figure to be a concern with Robert, however he did tear the ACL in his right knee three games into the 2009
season, which forced him to sit out the rest of the year. However, he bounced back and did not show any effects from the injury in
2010 or 2011. Robert Griffin III is a special player both physically and mentally, offering elite athletic tools, however also owning the type of confidence, leadership, and mental makeup that is rare. He’s a complete prospect at the position and has everything that you look for in a future franchise quarterback in the NFL. The sky is the limit for Griffin’s upside and potential, and I expect to see him have a long, very successful career at the next level.

2. Andrew Luck – Stanford – 6-4 – 234

The best QB  prospect that to enter the NFL since Peyton Manning in 1998, at least that’s what 99% of the scouts and draft experts say. Andrew Luck heads to the next level as the type of franchise quarterback prospect that only comes once every 10 to 20 years. A threeyear starter with 38 career starts at Stanford, Luck led the Cardinal to a 31-7 record over the course of his career while finishing second for the Heisman Trophy twice, as well as being named a two-time Offensive Player of the Year in the Pacific Athletic Conference. He helped lead a team that had endured seven consecutive losing seasons to three-straight bowl games, a near-chance at competing for a national championship, and the 11 games that Stanford won in each of the past two seasons is the most in school history. In his three years as the lead signal caller in Palo Alto, Andrew finished among the school’s all-time leading passers, having thrown for a total of 9,430 yards, 82 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions with a 67.0% completion percentage (713-1,064); his best statistical season came in 2011 during his junior year when he threw for 3,517 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions with a 71.3% completion percentage (288-404). As complete of a prospect as I have ever seen, Luck’s intelligence, instincts, and
understanding of the game are among the best to enter the league in the last 30 years; he owns the type of football IQ that you can only be born with. A proven leader who offers outstanding poise for the position, Andrew is a player who can be counted on no matter what the situation is, and is always capable of leading his team from behind for a victory; his consistency and reliability are two tremendous reasons why I am a fan of his. An elite game manager who takes care of the ball and doesn’t make mistakes often, Andrew has displayed the short memory needed to bounce back from an interception to lead his team down the field to win the game. An extremely smart quarterback who was valedictorian of his high school, Luck brings the intelligence and controlled emotions that you can rarely find at the position. He is the best in the country at reading defenses, showing a simply special ability to walk up to the line, read the defense, and change the play if needed. He understands how to change protection schemes, audible from a pass to a run (or vice versa) and will be able to handle an NFL playbook from the first second that he enters the league. At Stanford, like with Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, Luck was handed a small number of plays and given the freedom to walk up to the line, read the defense, and call out which one he felt was best for that situation. His ability to make reads and checks at the line is unlike any other
quarterback in the past 20 years, other than Manning. Andrew does a fabulous job of going through his reads and progressions,
showing a quick, instinctive ability to cycle through his receivers and deliver the ball on time. A cool, calm, and collected quarterback, Luck’s emotion on the field, or lack thereof, reminds me of the same way that Eli Manning looks down the field with a blank stare, showing no signs of being rattled in the most high pressure situations. There are few players that born with the type of composure that Andrew has. As a passer, Luck offers near-perfect mechanics with the smooth over-the-top delivery and quick release that you look for. He holds the ball chest-level high and is as polished from a mechanic standpoint as I’ve seen in six years. Andrew is an articulate, precise passer who displays the type of consistent pinpoint accuracy that you would expect from the first overall pick in the draft. He’s as accurate in the short-to-intermediate range as he is down the field, also showing the ability to put absolutely outstanding touch on his throws. He has proven throughout his career that he is capable of dropping the ball in the bucket outside of the numbers and has an innate ability to throw the ball with enough loft to allow for his receiver to run under it and make an easy catch down the field. In addition, Luck has shown a very instinctive ability to throw his receiver open and lead him down the field, as to draw him away from coverage and place the ball where only his receiver can catch it; his ability to throw the ball into tight windows on a consistent basis is extraordinary. Andrew owns the arm strength needed to make every throw that an NFL quarterback needs to make. He is capable of driving the ball down the field with great arm strength and has shown that he can throw it 60-70 yards with ease. If there is one question in his game, and it’s nitpicking at its finest, Luck does not throw the ball with the type of velocity that you normally desire. Rather than firing the ball to his receiver, he’s more of a finesse passer who uses precision and touch to throw the ball accurately; he throws the ball more gently than aggressively. Andrew is far from a gun slinger, and to me, his velocity simply represents a different style of being able to throw the ball rather than whether or not he can throw it strongly. I’m very impressed with the way that Andrew shortens up his throwing motion and throttles down the speed of his throws on shorter-to-more intermediate routes, as he to be more precise and accurate while putting even more touch on the throw. Luck also played with three tight ends being his dominant go-to receivers in 2011 and was not forced to drive the ball down the field quite as frequently as you’d expect, which is one reason for the misconception that he can’t throw it strongly down the field. Once he is in an NFL offense with legitimate receivers, he will be more than capable of increasing his velocity and throwing the ball with great timing. Andrew displays polished footwork with the smooth, fluid drop back that I look for at the position, and I would consider this to be one of his greatest strengths physically. He shows quick, nimble steps in his three and five-step drops along with a great understanding of how to step into his throws to increase the torque through his hips. These quick steps allow for him to speed up the process of delivering the ball and also adds to the escapability factor for him. He’s one of the most underrated athletes in the draft, having posted the same 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine as Cam Newton did in 2011. Luck displays outstanding pocket presence with a natural anticipation and feel for where the pass rush is coming from. He moves about the pocket very well with little trouble keeping his eyes down the field while sensing where to move. The fact that Andrew was only sacked 23 times over the course of three years shows the type of pocket presence he brings to the next level. A deceptive athlete, Andrew reminds me of Aaron Rodgers with his ability to quickly take off and run with the ball down the field at the last time you’d expect him to tuck it and go. He has more than enough speed to make something happen with his legs, having rushed for 957 yards and seven touchdowns on 163 carries (5.9 yards-per-carry) during his three-year career. His excellent athleticism was put on display at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis when he recorded a 36-inch vertical jump, 10-foot fourinch broad jump, and 6.8-second three-cone time. One thing that I like about Andrew’s game is his improvisational skills, as he does a very nice job of making something happen or getting the ball down the field when under pressure. He never gets rattled when the rush is in his face, and when he escapes the pocket, has shown a consistent and reliable ability to throw the ball accurately on the run. In addition, I’m very impressed with the great job he does of hiding the ball on play action fakes, truly looking like an NFL quarterback with the way that he executes the fakes before stepping back up in the pocket and delivering the ball down the field. He’s also incredibly efficient on third downs and will be as reliable as they come when needing to pick up the first down. Having started 38 games over the past three years, Andrew proved to be the epitome of durable over the course of his career and does not have any known injury concerns as he enters the next level. Andrew Luck is a franchise quarterback with the type of rare instincts, intelligence, intangibles, and understanding of the game needed to lead a team into the future for the next 10 to 20 years.

3. Ryan Tannehill – Texas A&M – 6-4 – 221

The only player in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history to record more than 4,000 passing and 1,500 receiving yards in a career, Ryan Tannehill enters the NFL with one of the most intriguing blends of physical tools, athleticism, and instincts for the position. A quarterback prospect out of high school, Tannehill was asked to move to wide receiver as a freshman where he finished first on the team in receiving as a redshirt freshman and second on the team as a sophomore. After starting quarterback Jerrod Johnson began to struggle in 2010, head coach Mike Sherman asked Ryan to move back to quarterback where he immediately grabbed ahold of the job of led the Aggies to a 5-1 record to finish his junior season. In 2011, Tannehill led the team to a 7-6 season as the starter while throwing for 3,744 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions with a 61.6% completion percentage (327-531); Ryan finished his career with the Aggies having thrown for 5,450 yards, 42 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions with a 62.4% completion percentage (484- 774) and caught 112 passes for 1,596 yards and 10 touchdowns. Owning ideal size for the position, Tannehill is a tall quarterback who sees the field well and is comfortable working out of the pocket. An efficient quarterback whose precision and accuracy are his strengths, Ryan does a very good job of putting the right amount of touch on the ball to deliver it quickly and accurately down the field. He’s displayed the ability to fit the ball into tiny windows, however he also has shown that he can drop the ball in the bucket down the field using great touch. Having only started for one full season at Texas A&M, he’s still developing his ability to throw the ball with pinpoint accuracy down the field, however he understands how to put enough loft on it to let his receiver run underneath the ball, and in the short-to-intermediate range shows excellent accuracy. Ryan’s arm strength down the field is very good, showing the ability to make every throw that an NFL quarterback needs to make. His velocity isn’t elite, however he makes up for it with his fluid mechanics and getting rid of the ball quickly. Tannehill offers a fine delivery with a quick release, however with this only being his first full season concentrating on the position, he is still refining and tweaking his mechanics, but is far enough along that he shouldn’t have any problems polishing it up at the next level. Although he looks more comfortable working out of the shotgun, Ryan also has experience working from under center as well, and shouldn’t have any trouble doing either at the next level. His footwork in stepping into his throws is something that he will need to develop, as there are occasions when he will throw off of his back foot; he also doesn’t drive the ball down the field, so developing more torque through the hips would be something that I would have him work on as well. Being that he is such a talented athlete, Tannehill offers outstanding mobility with the speed and agility needed to take off and make plays with his legs. He’s not a quick-twitch or explosive player, but rather owns long strides with light enough feet that he can redirect in the open field to evade a defender; he rushed for 382 yards and five touchdowns the past two seasons. Ryan shows great awareness here with a distinct understanding of when he should and should not take off with the ball. Ryan does a nice job of keeping his eyes down the field while moving about the pocket and has a strong sense for where the pass rush is coming from. I’m impressed with his ability to throw the ball accurately down the field while on the run and outside of the pocket. Tannehill has a good understanding of how to read defenses and go through his reads and progressions, however part of his development at the next level will be the mental aspect of the game and gaining more experience here after having only done it for a short period of time while at A&M. Ryan has shown the understanding of how to use pump fakes, however there were times through the past two years when he would get caught staring down his receiver, which is something that he’ll need to work on correcting. Over the past season and a half, Ryan has displayed the type of intangibles and leadership that coaches look for at the quarterback position. Ryan Tannehill offers all of the tools, skills, and instincts that you look for at the quarterback position. However, he’s still in need of
development and with his inexperience, isn’t as far along in being ready for the rigors of the NFL as some of the other quarterback
prospects are this year.

4. Brandon Weeden – Oklahoma State – 6-3 – 221

One of the most interesting quarterback prospects in this year’s draft who began his professional career in Major League Baseball, Brandon Weeden enters the NFL owning the type of physical tools you look for in a top prospect, yet he has age limitations that could limit how high he is drafted. Originally drafted in the second round of the 2002 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees, Weeden played four seasons in the Yankees’ minor league system before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers; after two seasons in Los Angeles’ system, Brandon was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Kansas City Royals where he went on to play one season before seeing his baseball career get cut short by a torn labrum and tendinitis in his rotator cuff. Opting not to have surgery, but rather to switch sports entirely, Weeden hopped off the mount and onto the gridiron when he enrolled at Oklahoma State. After redshirting in 2007, Brandon was a backup as a freshman and sophomore before winning the starting job as a junior. In his two years as the Cowboys’ starter, Brandon led Oklahoma State to a 23-3 record, including a Fiesta Bowl victory over Stanford to cap off his college career. He threw for a total of 9,260 yards, 75 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions with a 69.5% completion percentage (766-1,102) over his four year career, with his most productive season coming his senior year in 2011 when he threw for 4,727 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions with a 72.3% completion percentage (408-564). Offering ideal size at the quarterback position, Weeden is a poised player who looks very comfortable when working in the pocket. Owning the arm strength to make any throw that an NFL quarterback needs to make, Brandon is capable of consistently dropping the ball in the bucket with excellent touch on his throws outside the numbers and down the field. In addition, Brandon has very good accuracy to all parts of the field, displaying the touch and precision that you look for in a top prospect at the position. A smart, instinctive player who makes good decisions with the ball, Weeden manages the game very well while also possessing some of that “it” factor that you look for in a quarterback to lead the team. Brandon’s mechanics are ideal; he’s a natural thrower who also understands when he needs to throw the ball with different angles to put better accuracy on the ball. His footwork is going to be a work in progress at the next level as he makes the transition from the spread offense in college to the pro-style one that he’ll play in with the team that drafts him. Although he’s going to need some refinement in dropping back from under center, as he played the majority of his team with the Cowboys in the shotgun, I do like the way that he steps into his throws, putting more velocity and torque into his delivery. Brandon displays adequate pocket presence with fine awareness for where the pass rush is coming from, however he doesn’t offer the type of mobility to consistently get to the
perimeter or make many plays with his legs down the field; his ability to move about the pocket is not ideal and he will need further
development at throwing the ball on the run. One area that has some cause for concern is that Brandon will struggle at times when
under pressure; he needs to be comfortable in the pocket or he can get rattled. One thing that his coaches will likely look to correct is
the way that he pats the ball before throwing it; this will need to be corrected, as it gives defenders an easy chance to read when he is
going to deliver the ball. Where the biggest concern comes from with Brandon is the fact that he is already 28-years old and will be
32-years old when his rookie contract ends. Brandon Weeden has the physical tools to develop into a starter in the NFL, however his success at the next level will depend on how quickly he transitions from the spread offense in college to the prostyle one he’ll run in the NFL as well as how quickly the team that drafts him is willing to throw him into the fire. He’s the type of player that may need to play in the right offense in order to have success at the next level.

5. Kirk Cousins – Michigan State – 6-2 – 209

Michigan State’s all-time leading passer, Kirk Cousins enters the NFL after having had a prolific college career in East Lansing. A three-year starter for the Spartans, Cousins threw for 9,131 yards, 66 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions with a 64.2% completion percentage (723-1,126); his best statistical season came as a senior in 2011 when he threw for 3,316 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions with a 63.7% completion percentage (267-419). Also the winningest quarterback in Spartan history (27 victories), Kirk concluded his career ranked in the Top 10 All-Time in the Big Ten Conference in four different categories (completion percentage, passing efficiency, passing yards, and touchdown passes). Only the second three-time captain in Michigan State history (first sophomore to be named captain since 1949), Kirk offers the type of leadership, work ethic, and intangibles that coaches and scouts dream about. A smart, intelligent quarterback with adequate size for the position, Cousins has experience running a pro-style offense and is the epitome of what coaches look for in a game-managing quarterback. He has experience going through his reads and progressions, and although he’s still developing here, has displayed a good enough understanding to show that he has some upside here. He has plenty of experience playing under center and in shotgun, also displaying great timing with his play action fakes. Kirk is a great decision maker with the ball, offering better than a 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio at the college level. Experienced in the pro-style offense, Cousins has great mechanics, holding the ball chest-level high with a quick delivery; his mechanics are close to NFL-ready. He displays good arm strength to deliver the ball 50-60 yards down the field and has enough velocity to make most of the throws that an NFL quarterback needs to make. I love the way that Kirk instinctually leads his wide receivers down the field, whether it’s away from coverage and towards the end zone or simply to give his target a better opportunity to make a safer catch and avoid a big hit. He’s not the type who will force many throws, but rather likes to play it safe. He typically does a good job of taking care of the ball and doesn’t make many mistakes. Kirk throws the ball accurately in the short-to-intermediate range, and has shown the ability to drop the ball in the bucket as well as make accurate throws down the field, however his accuracy still is inconsistent and not where you’d like it to be at. In the pocket, he shows good pocket presence with a strong awareness for where the rush is coming from. He’s a solid athlete who possesses the mobility to escape the pocket when it collapses. However, he’s not the type of quarterback that is going to beat you with his legs, offering just enough speed out on the edge to scramble ahead for a few yards and pick up an occasional first down. With his mechanics, I’d really like to see Kirk work on stepping into his throws; he tends to throw off his back foot or at a standstill at times, which shows that he still needs some refinement of his footwork; throwing through his hips will give him better velocity and more accuracy with his throws. As much as there is to like about Cousins, I still have some doubts. He’s not what I would consider a poised, confident, and collected quarterback, often struggling under pressure, and has shown that he will get sloppy with his mechanics and footwork when under pressure from the defense. He’s not the type of quarterback that will be able to carry his team on his shoulders and go win the game singlehandedly. He shows flashes of having great potential and then other times you want to question whether he’s a draftable prospect. Kirk Cousins has the intelligence, great intangibles, and solid physical tools to develop into a very good, reliable backup quarterback who has the potential to develop into a serviceable starter in the league.

The Next 5

6. Russell Wilson – Wisconsin – 5-10 – 203

7. B.J. Coleman – Tennessee-Chattanooga – 6-3 – 233

8. Ryan Lindley – San Diego State – 6-3 – 229

9. Brock Osweiler – Arizona State – 6-6 – 242

10. Nick Foles – Arizona – 6-5 – 244

Overrated: Ryan Osweiler has some nice tools, but in today’s NFL your QB has to show athleticism and be able to move in the packet, Osweiler can’t do that. He didn’t produce like many thought he should have at ASU this past year and he should have stayed another year to refine his skills.

Underrated: Russell Wilson. He will be over looked because he is under 6 foot tall, but he has a skill set that if he was 6’1 or 6’2, would make him a day 1 pick.

Small School Sleeper: B.J. Coleman is a former top recruit who originally signed with the University of Tennessee,  is a quality small-school developmental quarterback prospect who projects early on as a fine No. 2 or more likely No. 3 quarterback for a team who has the instincts, understanding of the game, intangibles, and physical tools needed to develop quickly and have a successful pro career. Although he needs a few years of development, I believe that B.J. could compete for a starting job down the road if given the opportunity. He has some untapped potential because of the low-level of competition that he played at and the fact that he was dinged up for part of his senior year. Coleman is a player that I would strongly consider drafting in the mid-to-late rounds if I were running a draft.

Joe Arrigo’s 2012 NFL Draft Series: Safety Evaluations

The 2012 safety draft class is weak. Mark Barron is the only “stud” out of the bunch and a lock to go in the first round. After Barron,  Harrison Smith should be the next safety off the board and then all bets are off on who will be the third safety off the board. The 2013 class should be a lot better then this crop, but like in any draft, there is always a player or two that may surprise and make this group better then what it is projected to be.

 

My Top 10 Safeties:

 

1. Mark Barron – Alabama – 6-1 – 213

The quarterback and leader of the Alabama Crimson Tide National Championship-winning defense in 2011, Mark Barron is a physically intimidating player with an NFL-ready skill-set to start at the safety position. A three-year starter who started 38 career games for Alabama, Barron leaves Tuscaloosa having produced 235 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, five sacks, 24 pass breakups, and 12 interceptions; his best statistical season came during his sophomore year in 2009 when he tallied 74 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, half of a sack, 11 pass breakups, and seven interceptions. Built very well for a strong safety with the height, length (33 inch arms), and strength that you look for, Mark is a well-put together prospect who offers all of the physical tools needed to have a successful NFL career. A true strong safety who is a very reliable tackler in the open field, Barron has a very heady, instinctive ability to sit back while reading the action in front of him before diagnosing the play, locating the ball, and driving downhill to deliver a hit. He’s shown the ability to be a head hunter in the secondary and will make opposing receivers nervous about crossing in front of him. Mark is a natural at coming down and lining up in the box as a run defender, often acting as another linebacker for the Crimson Tide defense with his reliability and polished technique as a wrap up tackler. He does a terrific job of filling the hole when asked to and understands run fits up front. He offers a strong grip with good functional strength needed to grab the ball carrier and pull him backwards from his forward progress to prevent him from picking up additional yardage. Barron is a polished prospect both technically and mentally; he
understands how to take proper angles to the ball as well as showing the timing, anticipation, and awareness all needed out of a safety
in the NFL. Although not stiff in the hips, he’s a bit of a high-cut defender who doesn’t have ideal flexibility to turn and run that you
look for in a free safety; he’s not a short-area player who will change directions on a dime, however if asked to cover ground before
breaking down to make a tackle, he’s more than capable of being productive here. Mark will need to play with more discipline at the
next level; although I love the aggressive attitude that he brings as a run defender, there are times when he will go for the big hit
instead of wrapping up and will instead miss the tackle entirely, which is something that he must correct. In coverage, Barron will
have more success in zone coverage, as he’s a smooth, rangy player who doesn’t own elite speed, but enough to cover ground quickly
with good range and has proven to be a ball hawk throughout his career. In zone, specifically when covering one half of the field, he
reads the quarterback’s eyes before breaking on the ball to go up and make a play. His timing here is excellent, showing very good ball
skills during his career, having recorded 36 passes defended in the past four years. With his tall height, long arms, and leaping ability,
he has no trouble climbing the ladder and competing with a receiver for a jump ball. There are occasions when he can be beaten on
play fakes, which is something that he will need to continue to work on at the next level. In man coverage, he has the size, strength,
and speed to match up very well with tight ends down the field and has the tools needed to effectively mirror some of the bigger, more
athletic tight ends that have entered the league in the past few years. He doesn’t own the short-area, quick-twitch agility needed to
cover faster receivers in man coverage, and also lacks the recovery speed to catch up when beaten, however if with tight ends and
running backs out of the backfield, he should have no problem. Durability could be one big question mark that teams have with
Barron, as he missed the Capital One Bowl at the end of his junior season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in Alabama’s game
against Auburn. In addition, he was not able to work out at the Combine, nor at his Pro Day leading up to the draft after having
surgery to repair a double hernia, which is something that teams and their respective doctors will need to examine closely; if he falls
out of the first round on draft day, this is likely the reason. Although character concerns are not something that teams are worried
about, Mark was arrested in March of 2011 on charges of hindering prosecution, a misdemeanor charge, after police felt that he was
not telling the truth about a one-car accident when he was in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. While teams figure to question Mark
about the incident, it should not affect his draft stock. Mark Barron has the intangibles, physical tools, and raw talent needed to be a very good strong safety for an NFL team for the next 5-10 years. If he can stay healthy, he has the athleticism and skill-set to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber safety at the next level.

2. Harrison Smith – Notre Dame – 6-1 – 212

A smart, instinctive safety who figures to be over-drafted in 2012 due to a rather poor class at the safety position, Harrison Smith enters the NFL after having been one of the leaders of the Notre Dame defense the past four years. A 3.5-year starter with 47 career starts who was the Irish’s only team captain in 2011, Smith offers elite intangibles, owning the type of leadership, confidence, and work ethic that coaches and scouts look closely for in a player. The only player in Notre Dame history to record at least 200 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and 15 pass breakups, Harrison finished his career in South Bend having produced 309 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 28 pass breakups, and 10 interceptions; his best statistical season came as a junior in 2010 when he tallied 93 tackles, one tackle for loss, seven pass breakups, and all seven interceptions. A reliable and dependable last line of defense whose leadership and instincts were invaluable to Notre Dame the last three years, Smith is a savvy, high-football IQ player who is rarely out of position and provides a non-stop motor to his team. Offering prototypical size for the safety position, Harrison proved to be a physical, active defender in the run game during his career, consistently working his way down inside the box to make plays around the line of scrimmage. A player who reads and reacts very quickly to what he sees, Harrison diagnoses the play before breaking downhill to attempt to make a play. He is a sound, form tackler who can be counted on to make a sure tackle in the open field and has also displayed the ability to provide a pop at the point of contact with the ball carrier. Owning enough of a burst to make an impact,
Harrison’s instinctive nature kicked in when he lined up in the nickel back position or when close to the line of scrimmage, showing a
strong ability to locate the ball quickly before accelerating into the backfield to make a tackle for loss; although he won’t offer much as
a pass rusher, he has a knack for being a disruptive player around the line of scrimmage and almost always is capable of bringing the
ball carrier to the ground when he latches on out on the perimeter. Smith also displays a nice second gear that not all safeties have to
chase a runner down from behind. In coverage, Harrison’s instincts and heady play shined through here in college as he recorded 38
passes defended, a great number at a statistic that I look closely for with the safety position. Smith’s awareness and anticipation are
both strengths in his game, doing a terrific job of dropping back into his zone before reading the quarterback’s eyes and attempting to
make a play on the ball while it’s in the air; his ball skills are very good. Where I could see Harrison struggling at the next level is with
his speed and athleticism. Although he plays faster than he times, he’s not one that I would expect to chase a runner down from behind or to beat a running back to the perimeter; he made many of his plays as a result of being in the proper position, not because of his physical tools. Harrison’s range is average, showing enough ability to cover ground quickly in college, however I question if he has the type of range and straight-line speed needed to consistently be effective in zone coverage in the NFL. Harrison Smith has the tools to develop into a serviceable starting safety in the NFL for a team who will prove to be a reliable last line of defense against the run and will make enough plays dropping back into zone coverage to be considered a strong safety.

3. Justin Bethel – Presbyterian – 5-11 – 200

One of the top small-school players in the 2012 NFL Draft class, Justin Bethel enters the NFL with an intriguing skill-set to project to both safety and cornerback at the next level. A four-year starter for the Blue Hose, Bethel recorded 279 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 16 pass breakups, and seven interceptions; his most productive season came in 2011 during his senior year when he led the team in tackles with 87, in addition to tallying 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, six pass breakups, and four interceptions. Justin is one of the best special teams players in this year’s draft, also owning the Big South Conference record for most blocked kicks in a career with nine. Owning ideal size for either cornerback or safety, Bethel has good, but not great length with the long arms (32 inches) that you look for. Justin is a very good athlete, which he proved at the NFL Scouting Combine when he recorded the best vertical jump (39.5 inches) and second-best broad jump (10-feet, 11-inches) of any defensive back in attendance. A fluid athlete who offers the ability to open up his loose hips and turn and run down the field without any wasted motion, Justin has great range to cover ground quickly and has the straight-line speed to keep up with the majority of receivers he’ll match up with at the next level. In coverage, he’s one of the more versatile defensive backs in this year’s class, having played both safety and cornerback throughout his career in addition to lining up in the slot and coming off the edge as a rusher. I personally feel that his best fit will come as a free safety in the NFL with his fluid athleticism and awareness for the position. He’s further along from a development standpoint at the safety position, as he displays a strong ability to drop back as a reliable last line of defense, read the action in front of him, before diagnosing the play quickly and breaking to make a play. He offers a strong ability to plant and drive on the football, which was shown against California in 2011 when he cut in front of a receiver, intercepted the pass, and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. He’s a smart, instinctive player who I feel projects well at the safety position, but may need time to get accustomed to more complex coverages and schemes at the next level. At cornerback, he would project inside at nickel back early in his career, as he has experience playing here, and his short-area quickness and agility would give him an advantage here when matched up with slot receivers. He offers the upper body strength (19 reps on bench) to get an effective jam at the line of scrimmage, however further refinement of his technique will be needed here. At cornerback, he has shown that he can transition and turn and run to mirror the receiver down the field, however further coaching will be needed with his technique in order for him to better understand leverage and how to play the ball while it’s in the air; he recorded more of his interceptions and pass breakups while playing safety and being able to read and react than he did from corner. In addition, his back pedal is still sloppy and will need refinement. Still raw from a technique standpoint, Bethel will need to begin developing at one position so that he can learn the nuances of it and develop his fundamentals, as he jumped back and forth enough times between cornerback and safety during his career that he never had a true chance to grow in one specific role. However, the fact that he was able to make plays from both positions proves that he offers promise with his versatility at the next level. While the jump in talent level from the Big South Conference to the NFL will be a big one, he played well against California, Wake Forest, and Clemson the past two years, had success at the East-West Shrine Game, and stood out as one of the top performers at the Combine, which is why this doesn’t strike me as being as big of a concern with him as it is with other small-schoolers. Justin Bethel is a very intriguing prospect because of the versatility he brings to play cornerback and safety, the raw physical tools he possesses, as well as the outstanding special teams play that he offers to teams. In my opinion, he has what it takes to develop into a future starting free safety if given time to develop, learn the nuances of the position, and become accustomed to the speed of the next level.

4. Tramain Thomas – Arkansas – 5-11 – 200

The most underrated safety prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft, Tramain Thomas is a hard-hitting safety who offers a complete package of skills at the position. A two-year starter with 31 career starts for the Razorbacks, Thomas recorded 236 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, half of a sack, 13 pass breakups, and 12 interceptions; the most productive season of his career came during his senior season in 2011 when he tallied 91 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups, and five interceptions. Offering ideal size for the safety position with fluid athleticism, Tramain is a very instinctive player who displays a heady ability to consistently make plays in the secondary. Being the son of a coach and former quarterback, Tramain has a fantastic football IQ and understanding of the game. An aggressive player who does a great job of supporting his defense in the run game, Thomas is one of the most reliable open field
tacklers in the draft, showing a savvy ability to close downhill quickly before delivering a punishing blow to the ball carrier while
wrapping up with great technique. He locates the ball very quickly, showing a heady ability to diagnose the play in front of him before
breaking quickly and always being in the right position at the right time to make a tackle. From a technical standpoint, Tramain wraps
up well, also showing a unique ability to position himself properly to rip the ball away from the runner, having forced six fumbles
throughout in the last three years at Arkansas. Tramain plays with great tenacity and feistiness for a safety, something that you don’t
always see at the position; while there are times when he’ll be over-aggressive and miss an occasional tackle or over pursue, this is
something that can easily be corrected with further coaching and experience at the next level. He plays with a great motor and proved over the course of his career at Arkansas that he is capable of playing sideline-to-sideline and always being around the ball. Where Tramain will need improvement is with his strength (10 reps on bench) to bring down bigger, stronger backs at the next level. While he’s not an intimidating safety physically, his reliability and dependability as a last line of defense is very valuable to his team.
Defending the pass, Thomas is an experienced player at dropping back into zone coverage, reading the quarterback’s eyes, before
quickly redirecting and accelerating towards the receiver to make a play on the ball; he displays a strong ability to transition quickly in the open field. He offers great ball skills (25 passes defended) and body control to consistently compete with the receiver for the ball while it’s in the air. A ball hawk in coverage, Tramain reads and reacts very quickly to what he sees in front of him and has fantastic awareness and anticipation. He’s a fast player with plenty of range to cover ground and offers the straight-line speed in order to be an effective player at the next level. Far more comfortable dropping back into zone than covering a receiver in man coverage, Thomas will project well in a two-deep scheme at the next level. Having played in 47 games over the past four years, Tramain proved to be a durable player throughout his career and does not have any injury concerns as he enters the next level; he also does not have any known character concerns and brings good intangibles to the team that drafts him. Tramain Thomas is a complete prospect at the safety position who has what it takes to develop into a solid starting strong safety in the NFL with a year or two of further development.

5. Markelle Martin – Oklahoma State – 6-0 – 203

With the range of a free safety and the hard-hitting prowess of a strong safety, Oklahoma State’s Markelle Martin offers an intriguing blend of physical tools as he enters the NFL. A three-year starter for the Cowboys, Martin recorded 178 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 36 pass breakups, and three interceptions during his career in Stillwater; his most productive season came as a junior in 2010 when he tallied 55 tackles, two tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups, and all three interceptions. With prototypical size for the position, Markelle offers the range, closing speed, and quick-twitch abilities to cover ground quickly from his free safety position. A confident defender who plays with the type of attitude that you look for in a centerfielder in the secondary, Martin’s fluidity to turn and run as well as his closing speed gives him the ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline for his defense. Possessing great instincts at the position, Martin does a very good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes before breaking quickly to make a player on the ball. With 39 passes defended in four years, Markelle has excellent ball skills with the anticipation that you look for. Although I love the fact that he managed to record 39 passes defended throughout his career, it amazes me that he was only able to turn three of them into interceptions. Being able to hold onto the ball and come down with it rather than batting it away is something that he could really stand to improve on at the next level. He’s got the type of mindset you look for with his ability to get to the table and get his hands on it, you’d just like to see him now turn those breakups into interceptions. Martin has experience lining up in the slot as a nickel back in man coverage, although I don’t believe this will be his best fit at the next level. Instinctively, he does a nice job of cutting off the receivers’ routes by anticipating and driving on the ball, especially on shorter to more intermediate passes. However, with his tall, long frame, he doesn’t sink his hips in his backpedal as well as you’d prefer and doesn’t own the type of explosive burst to recover if beaten off the line or down the field. An intimidating headhunter in the secondary whose been known to make some big hits throughout his career, Markelle tends to play overboard at times when defending the run or breaking on a receiver in front of him, attempting to lay the wood rather than wrap up for a big tackle. This tenacious play has resulted in a number of failed tackle attempts, which is something that he must change in the NFL. Developing better technique as a form tackler when playing downhill would be my recommendation, as I feel he plays far too wild in attempting to make a big play at this time. He does have the upper body strength needed to chase and wrap up a ball carrier when given the opportunity to do so. Markelle had two injuries during his career that teams will certainly check out, as he missed the first two games during his sophomore season with a hip injury and he missed spring practice before his senior season after having surgery on his left shoulder. A great student in the classroom, Markelle earned Oklahoma State’s Nate Fleming Award for his academic success. He does not have any known character concerns entering the next level. Markelle Martin is a player who possesses all of the physical tools and instincts to develop into a solid starting free safety in the NFL, he just needs further development and refinement in a few areas of his game.

 

The Next 5

6.  George Iloka – Boise State – 6-3 – 225

7.  Antonio Allen – South Carolina – 6-1 – 202

8.  Brandon Taylor – LSU – 5-11 – 202

9.  Trenton Robinson – Michigan State – 5-9 – 193

10. Janzen Jackson – McNeese State – 5-11 – 188

 

Overrated: Janzen Jackson

 

Underrated: Tramain Thomas

 

Small School Sleeper: Kelcie McCray – Arkansas State – 6-1 – 202

A dependable three-year starter at Arkansas State, Kelcie McCray offers the measurables and physical tools that scouts look for at the
safety position. Over the course of his career with the Red Wolves McCray totaled 220 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups,
and 10 interceptions; his best statistical season came during his sophomore season in 2009 when he made 58 tackles, four tackles for
loss, four pass breakups, and four interceptions. Kelcie is a fine athlete with the tall, lean frame and long arms (32 inches) that you
look for at the position. A reliable last line of defense for his team, Kelcie offers the straight-line speed and range needed to cover
ground quickly in zone coverage. A natural at dropping back into zone, McCray has the tools needed to effectively cover one half of
the field in a two-deep scheme. Kelcie has displayed fine ball skills with the body control that you like to see, having produced 22
passes defended in four years for the Red Wolves. While I wouldn’t consider him a ball hawk, he is more than capable of getting the
job done if in position to make a play on the ball. Although he’s not a quick-twitch or explosive athlete, McCray offers enough fluidity
needed to turn and run in transition. Kelcie is not very experienced in man coverage and doesn’t project as a player that I would
consider to be able to move down to the slot as a nickel or dime back. McCray is still beginning to develop his instincts for the
position after having played quarterback in high school; however for the same reason, he sees the field well and understands how to
best position himself to make a play on the ball, as he understands the game from the quarterback position. He has yet to ful ly learn
the nuances of playing the safety position and must develop the ability to diagnose plays quicker in order to read and react faster to
what he sees in front of him. He is still very much a work-in-progress from a mental standpoint. Having led his team in tackles as a
senior (70), Kelcie has shown throughout his career that he is a sure wrap-up tackler who can be counted on in the open field to get the job done. He brings a physical attitude and temperament with the instincts to read run before driving downhill from his safety position and throwing his body into the mix. While he could really stand to continue to get stronger and fill out his frame, McCray does a fine job of breaking down in the open field to secure the tackle and has shown the ability to chase down and make a shoestring tackle of the running back in pursuit. He’s not experienced as a rusher off the edge, however is capable of sniffing out screens out on the perimeter and will make a handful of tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Having played in 49 games over the past four years, Kelcie proved to be a durable player for Arkansas State and does not have any known injury concerns as he enters the next level. He brings good intangibles with the leadership that you look for, having been a team captain in high school.

Joe Arrigo’s 2012 NFL Draft Series: Conerback Evaluations

When I look at the 2012 cornerback class I have mixed feelings. I see three really nice corners, but also some guys I wouldn’t want to draft in the mid rounds. This is a top heavy cornerback class with a couple late round sleepers.

 

Here are my Top 10 Cornerbacks:

 

1. Morris Claiborne – LSU – 5-11 – 188

 After Morris Claiborne was awarded the Jim Thorpe Award as the country’s top defensive back, for the second consecutive year the top defensive back selected in the draft will come from LSU. After Patrick Peterson set the NFL on fire with his return ability as a rookie, Claiborne enters the league with an equally-talented skillset that he’s ready to bring to a team. A two-year starter with 26 career starts for the Tigers, Claiborne produced 88 tackles, two tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups, and 11 interceptions in the past two seasons alone after tallying seven tackles in a backup role as a freshman; his best statistical season came in 2011 during his junior year when he recorded 51 tackles, one tackle for loss, six pass breakups, and six interceptions. Morris owns an elite skillset for the position with the height, length (33 inch arms), speed, and fluidity that you look for in a top prospect. An aggressive player, Claiborne is a natural in man coverage where he has shown over the past two seasons to be on the verge of developing into a potential shutdown cornerback. Experienced in both press and man-off, Morris is very effective when playing close to the line of scrimmage, as he has displayed a strong ability to get an effective jam at the line of scrimmage before riding the receiver down the field while staying in his hip pocket. A nimble defender with the quick-twitch athleticism needed to be a star, Morris has the loose hips and flexibility along with great short-area quickness to accelerate in and out of his breaks, and I really like his ability to flip his hips in transition with ease 219 before quickly turning and running down the field. He’s extremely quickly in small spaces, which allows for him to effectively mirror defenders down the field. Claiborne has shown an elite ability to drive downhill to make a play on the ball. Down the field, he does a terrific job of trailing right behind the receiver while at the last second either sticking his arm out to deflect the ball away or
accelerating, turning his body, and then leaping to pluck the ball out of the air. Claiborne has some of the best ball skills at the
cornerback position that I’ve seen in the past few years, and his body control to climb the ladder, extend out, and high point the ball is outstanding. In off-man coverage, Morris displays some of the same traits as in press, however he has a great understanding of how to read a receiver’s route as well as the quarterback’s eyes to put himself in better position to make a play. He’s a very heady, instinctive player who has a savvy understanding of the game and it appears to come easy to him. In zone coverage, Claiborne will need more refinement of his drops and technique, as there are times when he lets himself drift away from the area that he’s supposed to be covering and give the offense an opening, however with his range to close quickly on the action in front of him, as well as his ability to read the quarterback’s eyes before breaking on the ball, he has the tools needed to be effective in zone coverage as well at the next level. An aggressive player in defending the run, Morris will need to continue to get stronger and fill out his frame at the next level, as he’s still a rather lanky player, and could stand to add at least another 10-15 pounds to his frame. In the run game, I really like his ability to play downhill and react quickly to what he sees in front of him, however, he needs further development and refinement of his technique on how to break down in the open field and make a secure tackle, as there were a number of times the past two years when he would pursue the ball carrier before diving to attempt to make a shoestring tackle, and go right past the runner. Morris Claiborne has the talent, athleticism, physical tools, and instincts needed to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback in the NFL. He will need minor tweaks with his technique in his game, however he has the skillset needed to contribute, and likely start immediately in the NFL.

 

2. Stephon Gilmore – South Carolina – 6-0 – 190

A former top recruit with the combination of size, speed, and athleticism that you desire at the cornerback position, Stephon Gilmore is a high-upside player whose best football may be coming in his future. A three-year starter with 40 starts for the Gamecocks, Gilmore produced 176 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, seven sacks, 17 pass breakups, and seven pass breakups; his best statistical season came as a sophomore in 2010 when he tallied 79 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, two pass breakups, and three interceptions (41 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, seven pass breakups, three interceptions as a junior in 2011). A former high school quarterback who only began to fully concentrate on playing defensive back as a true freshman, Gilmore is still in the early
development stages of understanding the full nuances of the position, however he offers significant upside and promise given the
220 production he’s amassed in just three years of playing the position full-time. Owning an ideal blend of height, length (31 inch arms), speed (4.40 40), and fluid athleticism, Stephon has all of the physical tools needed to have a successful career in the NFL. A natural in man coverage, Gilmore has more experience playing off-man than in press, however he has the tools needed to get an effective jam at the line of scrimmage. In off-man, he will give up too much cushion, however he understands how to sit low in his backpedal with great flexibility and balance while mirroring the receiver down the field. As he continues to gain experience at the position, the cushion will become a minor issue. Down the field, he displays the quickness and acceleration in and out of his breaks needed to make a play on the ball. Having recorded 24 passes defended in three years, he has natural ball skills with the vertical (36 inches) needed to compete with receivers for jump-balls down the field; in addition, his body control and awareness to put himself in the best position to make a play on the ball is very good. Gilmore displays inconsistent technique and instincts for the position, as there are times when he will diagnose the play and locate the ball wonderfully, however there are other times when he seems to struggle reading the action in front of him. His technique in playing man coverage is something that doesn’t worry me, as that will come with further coaching, as will the instincts. The more experience he gains playing the position, the more his instincts will improve, which is something that showed throughout his three-year career with the Gamecocks. I do feel that Stephon has some upside and potential in zone coverage and wouldn’t be opposed to moving him to safety. With his instincts and understanding of the game from a former quarterback’s perspective, as well as owning the straight-line speed, range, and ball skills that you look for at safety, I believe he could also have a lot of success here. An active defender in the run game, Gilmore does a great job of driving downhill when he has the opportunity to make a play behind the line of scrimmage, and has shown the short-area quickness and burst needed to be an effective blitzer in passing situations (seven career sacks). Stephon Gilmore offers the physical tools, talent, athleticism, and intangibles needed to develop into a very good defensive back in the NFL. He’s going to need more development as a cornerback and is far from a finished product, however I believe that as a safety prospect he could produce relatively early in his career because of his understanding of the game and style of play.

 

3. Dre Kirkpatrick – Alabama – 6-1 – 186

The top cornerback recruit in the country coming out of high school, Dre Kirkpatrick enters the NFL after having helped Alabama win two National Championships during his career. A two-year starter with 24 career starts for the Tide, Kirkpatrick has great experience from playing in the SEC and leaves Tuscaloosa having produced 91 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups, and three interceptions over the course of his career; his best statistical season came in 2010 during his sophomore year when he tallied 53 tackles, four tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, and all three interceptions. A very confident cornerback who plays with a swagger, Dre is one of the most physical defensive backs in this year’s class and owns the combination of height, length, and speed needed to develop into a starting corner at the next level. Experienced in man coverage with the skillset that projects to both press and off-man at the next level, Kirkpatrick is a fluid athlete with no wasted motion when turning and running with the wide receiver down the field. An aggressive corner who fires his hands into the receiver to get an effective jam at the line of scrimmage, Dre rides the receiver down the field in man coverage while showing little hesitation to make contact to attempt to deflect the pass away. An explosive athlete who owns quick feet in and out of his breaks, Kirkpatrick offers the tools needed to match up with most receivers in man coverage at the next level, however lacks elite speed to stay with the fastest of wideouts that he’ll be matched up with. Dre is an instinctive player who reads and reacts very well to what he sees in front of him, and at times will trust his eyes too much. He takes some risks, which will result in pass breakups or interceptions, however they have also resulted in him getting beat deep for touchdowns, so this is something that he’ll need to continue to work on at the next level. In off-man coverage, he does a great job of smoothly dropping back while sitting low in his back pedal and reading the receiver’s route before accelerating out of his break to arrive at the receiver at the same time as the ball to bat the pass away. He has a heady understanding of how to plant and drive downhill, which also has translates well in the run game as well. Dre will need to play with more discipline with his physical play down the field, as he has been known to draw pass interference or illegal contact penalties down the field, and those only stand to increase if he doesn’t develop better discipline here. Kirkpatrick’s instincts and physical style of play project well to zone coverage as well, although he doesn’t own nearly as much experience there as he does in man. Dre’s ball skills and body control to elevate (35 inch vertical) are both what you look for at the position, however I wouldn’t consider him to be a ball hawk after producing just 19 passes defended in three years. Dre Kirkpatrick is a talented, athletic defensive back who owns the tools and skill-set needed to develop into a quality starting cornerback in both man and zone coverage schemes. He’ll need to continue to get stronger and develop better
discipline with his physical nature, and because he is still an underclassman he may need some time to develop and transition to the
speed of the next level. However, Kirkpatrick has everything that you look for in a future starting cornerback in the NFL.

 

4. Janoris Jenkins – North Alabama – 5-9 – 191

One of the most talented players in this year’s draft with some of the best all-around athleticism of any player available for selection in 2012, Janoris Jenkins is a player who must overcome significant character and attitude question marks in order to win over teams and be a top pick this year. After signing with the Florida Gators out of heralded Pahokee High School, Janoris was a star for the Gators for the first three years of his career before he was kicked off the team in the spring of 2011; in addition to being arrested once in 2009 after being involved in a fight, he was also arrested two times on drug-related events in a span of three months, the final straw being an arrest in April of 2011 on marijuana possession. After briefly considering entering the 2011 Supplemental Draft, Janoris opted to transfer to North Alabama. For Jenkins, who claims that he has matured and changed since he was kicked off the team at Florida, he will have an uphill battle leading up to the draft as he hopes to change his image for teams. A three-year starter at Florida and one-year starter at North Alabama, Jenkins was only the second true freshman in Gator history to start at cornerback on opening day. Throughout his four-year collegiate career, Janoris totaled 174 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 29 pass breakups, and 10 interceptions; after recording 121 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 25 pass breakups, and eight interceptions in 36 career starts at Florida, Janoris tallied 53 tackles, four tackles for loss, four pass breakups, and two interceptions in his lone year at North Alabama. As confident of a defender as there is in this year’s draft, Janoris plays with a swagger on the field and does not back down from competition, rather sticking his nose into the mix no matter what the situation. A very instinctive player who reads and reacts very well to what he sees in front of him, Jenkins is a smooth and fluid athlete who flips his hips very quickly to turn and run down the field with a receiver. A quick-twitch defender whose explosion and burst to the ball are elite, Janoris has all of the skills that you look for in a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. To prove just how high his upside is at the next level, as a junior, Janoris matched up with both former Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green and former Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, two Top 10 overall picks in the 2011 Draft, and held them to a combined eight catches for 61 yards. Owning fantastic ball skills, Jenkins attacks the ball while it’s in the air with little hesitation to throw his body at the receiver to attempt to dislodge the ball on contact. He does a terrific job of positioning himself correctly to make a play on the ball and to shield the receiver away, and while he may not out-jump taller receivers, he displays great body control as he extends out to bat the ball away or intercept it. Janoris Jenkins has the talent, athleticism, tools, and skill-set needed to develop into a Pro Bowl starting cornerback for a team in the NFL. There will be risk with selecting him due to the off-field concerns, however if he can keep his head on straight at the next level, Jenkins has everything that I look for in a premier player capable of developing into a shutdown cornerback in the NFL.

 

5. Josh Robinson – Central Florida – 5-10 – 199

A player who has the potential to be one of the gems of this year’s draft, Josh Robinson has a rare combination of elite physical tools and exceptional instincts for the cornerback position. A three-year starter with 36 career starts for Central Florida, Robinson produced 176 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 36 pass breakups, and 10 interceptions throughout his college career; the most productive season of his career came in 2009 during his true freshman season when he made 69 tackles, one tackle for loss, eight pass breakups, and six interceptions. Although shorter than you’d prefer, Josh was the fastest player at the NFL Scouting Combine and offers elite physical tools with outstanding straight-line speed for the position. A natural in man coverage who offers the loose hips and fluid athleticism to mirror top receivers down the field, Robinson transitions very well in the open field and has no trouble turning and running down the field. Sitting low in his backpedal, Josh accelerates quickly out of his breaks with very nimble feet to make plays in small areas. He’s an explosive player who displayed his great athleticism at the Combine when he jumped 11-feet, 1-inch in the broad jump. Robinson is more experienced playing off than press in man coverage, however he does have the long arms (31 inches) and upper body strength ( 17 reps on bench) that you look for here to develop as a press corner At times, he will get a bit high when turning and getting vertical, however this is a minor technical flaw that can be coached up at the next level and should not impact where he gets drafted. For a cornerback to have 46 passes defended in just three years is simply extraordinary. Josh is a ball hawk who displays fantastic ball skills with his ability to read the quarterback’s eyes and break on the ball to make a play. In man coverage, he does a great job of trailing the receiver down the field before closing quickly at the last second to either bat the ball away or cut in front of the wideout to make the interception. Although his lack of height won’t help him in jump ball situations, his 38.5-inch vertical jump and great body control both help to make up for it, giving him the ability to climb the ladder and compete with taller receivers for the ball. Although it’s nitpicking, you’d like to see him turn some of his 36 pass breakups into more interceptions. Owning a skillset that also projects favorably in zone coverage, Robinson is a savvy defender with his ability to drop back, diagnose the play in front of him, before breaking on the ball. His timing and awareness are both excellent, showing an instinctive ability to drive on throws and has proven to be a true playmaker throughout his career for the Knights. After making the interception or recovering a fumble, Josh has a heady ability to get up the field quickly with great vision, and with his elite straight-line speed, has shown the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands, having returned two interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns during his career. An active defender in supporting the run, Josh locates the ball quickly and displays the reliability that you look for out on the edge to make a tackle in the open field. Josh Robinson has the tools to develop into a future No. 1 starting cornerback for a team. With his ability to play both man and zone coverage, experience as a returner, and elite physical tools and instincts, Robinson is a play that I am very high on.

 

My Next 5

6. Jayron Hosley – Virginia Tech – 5-10 – 178

7. Casey Hayward – Vanderbilt – 5-11 – 188

8. Trumaine Johnson – Montana – 6-1 – 204

9. Alfonzo Dennard – Nebraska – 5-10 – 203

10. Josh Norman – Coastal Carolina – 6-0 – 197

 

Overrated: Norman- There are questions about his attitude and character. While he can play, do you trust him or will your team trust him after he gets paid? He also is not the smartest player on the field. He takes poor angles and struggles to break down when tackling. Lastly, Norman needs to fill out his frame, he is skinny.

 

Underrated: Josh Robinson- He has been the best cornerback in his conference for two years in a row. He is a playmaker and will come up and play the run effectively. He blew-up the combine when he ran great 40 time, but his tape is even more impressive.

 

Small School Sleeper: Chris Greenwood– Albion – 6-1 – 193: Greenwood has the size (6’1/196) and speed (4.41) to intrigue teams late in the draft. The level of competition is a huge question with Greenwood. He literally shut down half of the field for 3 years while attending Albion. Greenwood also has the type of personality that would make him a perfect fit in the locker room, humble, hard working and eager to learn. This kid is more of an athlete then CB right now, but if a team can  tap into his potential, they could have a diamond in the rough .

 

Joe Arrigo’s 2012 NFL Draft Series: Defensive Lineman Evaluations

The 2012 defensive line class is one that is deep. There is talent from the tackle to the defensive end position. I included some players that project as 3/4 outside linebackers as defensive ends since that is what they played in college or project as NFL defensive ends in certain teams schemes. I also broke them up into both defensive tackle and defensive end positions.

Here are my Top 10 Defensive Ends:

1. Melvin Ingram – South Carolina – 6-1 – 276:

In 2011, Melvin Ingram emerged as one of the top playmakers in the SEC, if not the country, on the defensive side of the ball in his only season as a starting defensive end for the Gamecocks. As a senior, Ingram produced 48 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, two pass breakups, two interceptions, and three touchdowns (one rushing, two return); in a situational pass rusher role early in his career, Melvin concluded his four years at South Carolina having produced 109 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss, and 21 sacks. One of the most intriguing athletes in this year’s draft who possesses excellent versatility at the next level, Ingram has experience playing both with his hand on the ground at end and tackle as well as standing up at linebacker, and projects well to both end and linebacker at the next level. A hybrid end who possesses a maxed out frame with great speed and agility for a 275+ pound defender, Melvin is a quick-twitch, attacking defender who South Carolina couldn’t keep off the field, moving him inside to tackle on third downs to maximize the number of pass rushers they had on the field. With an explosive burst off the ball, Ingram accelerates up the field, showing great instincts to find the open crease in the line and sneak inside it as he pursues the quarterback. Owning a polished pass rush repertoire, Melvin displays a great swim move to penetrate the line of scrimmage and also offers a very good spin move to create separation from the offensive lineman and turn away from the line to meet a ball carrier on the perimeter. He doesn’t offer the speed to consistently pressure the edge against the tackle, however his great hand use and his explosive, quick-twitch ability to make sideline-to-sideline plays is where he is going to bring great value. Ingram is a high-motor player with great range who closes on the ball quickly in the run game. He displays an instinctive ability to peek into the backfield and diagnose the play, locating the ball quickly before redirecting his angle to runner. Although he may have some trouble consistently setting the edge against bigger, stronger offensive linemen at the next level, he does a very good job of closing down the line the meet the ball carrier as he’s entering the hole and has shown enough of an ability to stack and shed with his leverage and flexibility that shows the type of upside that he can bring here. In addition, Ingram is a high-motor defender who pursues the ball very well and has shown on numerous occasions the ability chase down the ball carrier in the open field. While not a punishing tackler, he’s capable of providing a pop on contact with a strong upper body to consistently bring the runner down. Although he doesn’t have a ton of experience dropping back into coverage because of how well he rushes the passer, Melvin has displayed the fluid athleticism needed to gain depth in his drops and keep his head on swivel.

2. Quinton Coples – North Carolina – 6-5 – 281:

Among the most talented players in the 2012 NFL Draft, Quinton Coples is a player whose on-field production has yet to meet the immense upside and potential that he brings to the next level. A two-year starter for North Carolina, Coples finished his career at Chapel Hill having produced 144 tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss, and 24 sacks; his most productive season came as a junior in 2010 when he tallied 59 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks. A player who has all the potential in the world but has yet to put
everything together, Coples owns an elite combination of size, strength, and athleticism for the position. At times flashing the ability
to dominate competition, Quinton is a versatile player who started at both tackle (junior year) and end (senior year) during his career
with the Tar Heels. When on his game, Coples displays impressive strength off the ball to stack and shed the opposing offensive
lineman, penetrate the line of scrimmage, and make the play in the backfield. He does a good job of using his long arms (33 inches) to
extend out and create separation or to swim/rip through the line to gain penetration. Coples has impressive flexibility for a player of
his size, displaying a unique ability to bend and redirect both as a pass rusher as well as in pursuit in the run game. An explosive
player with the type of acceleration off the ball that is hard to find, Quinton flashed a unique burst for a player of his size during his
junior year, however that explosion was hard to find during his senior season in 2011. As a pass rusher, Coples has the raw blend of
size and strength to bullrush his way into the backfield, often providing pressure by just being a disruptive force on the line. While his
pass rush repertoire will need further development to continue to improve, he’s shown enough hand use at the point of attack to see
that there is something to work with there. Although he’s not going to consistently pressure the tackle to the edge as a rusher, his
ability to work up the field before cutting inside with his outstanding athleticism is rare. In addition, his ability to slant down, shooting through the gap is very good, showing the type of raw power to push his way into the backfield that you can’t always find at the end position. When he doesn’t manage to get to the quarterback, Coples does a fine job of getting his hands up to block passing lanes, having batted down four passes at the line of scrimmage the last two years. In defending the run, he’s displayed the ability to set the edge outside at end before stacking and shedding to make a play on the ball carrier. Both in defending the run as well as rushing the passer, he does a good job of using his long arms to extend outside of his frame, grab a hold of the ball carrier or quarterback, and drag them down to the ground. With how powerful he is, he’s showing a rare ability to make a tackle with one arm grabbing a hold of the runner or quarterback while still being blocked by the offensive lineman. As a run defender inside, he’s more than capable of taking on a double team and ripping through them with his strength; he won’t be a prototypical anchor inside, but rather has the short area quickness, which is hard to find in a player as big as he is, to get underneath the offensive lineman and make plays inside. There are questions about Coples effort during the course of the game during which he disappears.

3. Courtney Upshaw – Alabama – 6-1 – 273:

One of the top pass rushing prospects in this year’s draft who offers excellent versatility at the next level, Courtney Upshaw leaves Alabama after having been one of the most valuable players on the top-ranked Crimson Tide defense in 2011. A two-year starter for the Tide, Upshaw finished his career in Tuscaloosa having produced 141 tackles, 36.5 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, four pass breakups, and one interception; his best statistical season came his senior year in 2011 when he tallied 52 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and his lone interception. Lining up in Alabama’s “Jack” linebacker position, Courtney is experienced lining up both with his hand on the ground at end in a four-man front as well as playing outside linebacker in the Tide’s 3- 4 defense; he projects well to either position at the next level. An intimidating defender who plays with the type of tenacious and fiery attitude that I love to see out of a pass rushing prospect, Courtney is a relentless player who offers a non-stop motor; his persistence and motor as a pass rusher are what makes him such a good player. As a pass rusher, he offers the acceleration and speed off the ball needed to beat the tackle to the edge as well as the flexibility and fluid athleticism needed to redirect quickly in the open field. Although he doesn’t possess an elite burst or explosive get off that you see with some other top pass rushers, Upshaw’s ability to line up anywhere in the box and create pressure is what makes him so valuable. He’s displayed a unique ability to consistently beat the tackle to the edge before dipping his hips and lowering his shoulder to get underneath the tackle and turn the corner in pursuit of the quarterback. He also owns very good vision, quickly finding an open crease in the offensive line and accelerating through it with the agility to elude blockers as he chases down the quarterback. Although this is nitpicking, I’d like to see Courtney continue to develop his swim and rip moves in his pass rush repertoire, as this will allow for him to continue to improve as a pass rusher in the NFL. He’s got a great start, owning polished hand use with a very good swim move, however he has great potential here and still has room to improve. An instinctive defender who reads and reacts very well to what he sees in front of him, Courtney locates the ball very quickly outside, showing a great ability to close down the line to meet the running back as he’s entering the hole. He plays with great leverage out on the edge in the run game, displaying a consistent ability to give the offensive lineman a violent punch at the point of attacking before setting the edge against the offensive tackle. Upshaw cleanly disengages with great hand use, and has the fluid athleticism and flexibility to sink his hips and get around the blocker to meet the running back in the backfield. The fact that one out of every four tackles he made was behind the line of scrimmage shows the type of impact he makes in defending the run. Despite being smaller than any offensive lineman he goes up against, Courtney shows the type of leverage and flexible ability to bend underneath the offensive lineman with an arched back to consistently win the leverage battle at the point of attack. Terrific in pursuit with sideline-to sideline range, Courtney plays downhill and has repeatedly shown the ability to chase down ball carriers from behind. Despite weighing over 270 pounds, he offers outstanding speed and closing speed for a player of his size.

4. Nick Perry – USC – 6-2 – 271:

A talented former top recruit with great physical tools and athleticism, Nick Perry is a player who put everything together in 2011 to have a fine junior season before opting to make the jump to the NFL. A two-year starter for the Trojans, Perry produced 103 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, and 21.5 sacks over the course of his career; his best statistical season came in 2011 during his junior year when he made 54 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks. A natural pass rusher with a true understanding of what it takes to get to the quarterback, Nick owns the combination of size, strength (35 reps on bench), and athleticism needed to start at the next level. Perry comes off the ball with more build-up speed than explosion, however he shows the ability to get up the field before bending down, dipping his shoulder, and beating the tackle to the outside. He’s shown that he can consistently pressure the edge, if not run the arc as a pass rusher, as he owns good range outside to cover ground quickly. Although he’s not a quick-twitch defender, he displays nice quickness and lateral agility to side-step the tackle and beat him to the outside, and shows the balance and coordination needed to change directions quickly in the open field. Nick shows enough of a pass rush repertoire to suggest that he is still developing here; he shows good hand use in being able to bat the offensive lineman’s hands down before attempting to rip through the line. He’ll need to continue to refine and work on his swim and rip moves, however he’s got a fine start here. A high motor player who offers great effort on every play, Perry does a great job of chasing the quarterback down once he’s penetrated the line of scrimmage and shows a nice burst to close in short areas. When in position to make the sack, he also does a great job of striking not only the quarterback, but also aiming to jar the ball loose, having forced five fumbles in the past two years. As a pass rusher, he plays with good leverage at the point of attack, displaying the type of flexibility needed to play underneath the opposing blocker. Nick does a very good job of getting his long arms (33 inches) up to obstruct passing lanes when he can’t get to the quarterback, having batted down six passes in the last two seasons. As a run defender, Nick shows the ability to extend out and set the edge, understanding how to play with proper leverage, however he’s still too inconsistent here and will need to develop better strength in his lower body in order to become more effective. He does a much better job of simply shedding the block off the snap and closing down the line quickly to tackle the running back as he’s entering the hole. If Perry changes positions to outside linebacker, he will have to learn to play in space better, where he looks lost most of the times.

5. Whitney Mercilus – Illinois – 6-3 – 261:

One of the surprises of the 2011 season, Whitney Mercilus emerged out of nowhere as a junior in his first season as a starter to lead the country in sacks with 16 and win the Ted Hendricks Award as the best defensive end in the country. In his lone year as a starter, Mercilus produced 57 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, and also broke the Big Ten conference record for most fumbles forced in a season with nine; he finished his career at Illinois having produced 81 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, and two fumbles forced. Owning an ideal frame for the defensive end position, Whitney offers the athleticism and long arms (33 inches) that you look for. A high-motor pass rusher for the Illini, Mercilus racked up much of his production on second-and-third effort plays in which he pursued the quarterback and finally wrapped him up after closing on him. He does a great job of working through traffic and takes advantage of any open creases in the line and accelerates through it with ease. In addition, when closing in on the quarterback, Mercilus’ innate ability to target the quarterback’s arm to strip the ball away is very hard to find. While not an explosive presence up front , Whitney works up the field with his speed while showing enough flexibility to dip his hips, lower his shoulder and get underneath the offensive tackle to run the arc; he’s shown the ability to bend, however I wouldn’t call him a fluid or flexible athlete. Mercilus owns very quick feet with the agility, speed, and closing burst needed to swarm to the ball whenever he penetrates the line of scrimmage. He’s also a versatile presence up front with experience rushing the passer at both end and tackle, and should be able to translate that versatility to the next level. Whitney does not offer the polished hand use needed to be an effective pass rusher right away at the next level. He lacks the swim and rip moves that you look for, which will result in him getting up the field and staying blocked until either the quarterback runs to him or the play ends. He’s still a very green player who will need to continue to learn the nuances of the position and develop his instincts and awareness, as he doesn’t show the awareness that you look for and must develop a better anticipation of the snap count. Whitney simply seemed to be making plays off of his athleticism in college, not because he’s polished prospect, which certainly won’t fly at the next level. When he doesn’t manage to get to the quarterback, he does a nice job of getting his long arms in the air to attempt to block passing lanes, having batted two passes down in the past two seasons. Mercilus needs to play more disciplined when defending the run, as he doesn’t do a good enough job yet of setting the edge up front yet. Although he owns the long arms and upper body strength (27 reps on bench) needed to be effective here, he also needs to develop better lower body strength in order to anchor at the point of attack, set the edge, and not get flushed down-field away from the hole.

The Next 5

1. Vinny Curry – Marshall – 6-3 – 266

2. Cam Johnson – Virginia – 6-3 – 267

3. Shea McClellin – Boise State – 6-3 – 248

4. Chandler Jones – Syracuse – 6-5 – 266

5. Malik Jackson – Tennessee – 6-5 – 284

Overrated: While his pass rush skills are near the top of this class, Nick Perry, IF moved to a 3/4 linebacker will struggle early on. He is “lost in space” and there are some questioning his every down effort and if he is a one year wonder.

Underrated:  Cam Johnson played in a 3/4 and 4/3 scheme while at UVA and has the skill set to be a much better pro player then college player. He is the complete package, but lacks elite speed otherwise you;re looking at a sure-fire 1st round pick.

Small School Sleeper: James Brooks – North Alabama – 6-5 – 272

Here are my Top 10 Defensive Tackles:

1. Fletcher Cox – Mississippi State – 6-4 – 298

An intriguing defensive tackle prospect who offers outstanding versatility thanks to his rare combination of size, strength, and athleticism, Fletcher Cox is one of the most high-upside prospects in this year’s draft. A two-year starter at Mississippi State, Cox produced 107 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks throughout his career; his best statistical season came in 2011 during his junior year when he tallied 49 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks. Fletcher owns elite measurables for a defensive lineman, as he offers the height, length (34 inch arms), raw athleticism (4.79 40), and strength (30 reps on bench) needed to develop very quickly at the next level. He’s one of the most versatile defensive linemen in this year’s draft, as he has experience playing nearly
every position on the defensive line and projects favorably to both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses at the next level. An elite athlete with very quick, nimble feet for the position, Fletcher is a disruptive presence on the defensive line who excels as a one-gap penetrator. Cox gets up the field extremely quickly and often played in the backfield during his junior year in 2011. In the run game, he plays with good leverage for such a tall defensive lineman, as he owns the flexibility and fluidity needed to bend and sink his hips to be the lowest man at the point of attack. This leverage allows for him to attack the offensive line, diagnose the play, disengage, and then pursue to make the tackle. Once Fletcher penetrates the line, he does a good job of keeping his head on a swivel and locating the ball before
redirecting with his flexibility to make the play. With his upper body strength and big frame, he’s shown a consistent ability to swarm
to the ball carrier before wrapping him up with his long arms. Cox is not one that was asked to consistently anchor and hold his
ground at the point of attack in the run game, however I have no doubt that this is something that he’d be capable of doing if asked to
do so, however he would need to develop better strength in his core and in his lower body in order to develop here; he will have
trouble early on against double teams and needs to develop more sand in his pants in order to be able to take on two blockers and not
get washed out of the play at the next level. Although he will need to work on developing a more consistent get-off, he shows the
acceleration off the ball that you look for. In addition, he’s improved throughout his career with his ability to read plays in the
backfield, and as he continues to gain experience, he should improve here. With the way that he is a disruptive player, Fletcher may
not always make the play, but he wreaks enough havoc inside that he gives someone else on the defense the opportunity to bring down the quarterback or ball carrier. Cox plays with the type of motor that you look for, along with owning the range and lateral agility needed to play sideline-to-sideline in pursuit in the run game. As a pass rusher, Fletcher will need further improvement with his hand use; he shows some promise with his pass rush repertoire, however I’d like to see him continue to develop his swim and rip moves at the next level. He has proven to be effective when attempting to bull rush his way into the backfield, as he owns the strength and flexibility needed to play underneath the opposing offensive lineman before walking him into the backfield while collapsing the
pocket. In addition, he’s also shown flashes of owning an impressive spin move for a player of his size.

2. Dontari Poe – Memphis – 6-3 – 346

One of the most physically impressive players in this year’s draft, Dontari Poe offers teams a rare combination of size, strength, and athleticism for the defensive tackle position. A 2.5-year starter with 30 career starts at Memphis, Poe recorded a total of 101 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks over the course of his career; his best statistical season came in 2010 during his sophomore year when he tallied 41 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. A dancing bear whose immense size and light, nimble feet are extremely hard to find, Dontari is a disruptive presence who offers more untapped potential than almost any other player in this year’s draft. Off the ball, he flashes extremely impressive quickness, agility, and acceleration for a player of his size. His ability to change directions on a dime is something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen from a 350 pound athlete. When he’s on, he shows the ability to fight through blocks before closing down the line and crashing into the running back to stop him in his traps; he’s also shown the balance, coordination, and range needed to chase backs down in the backfield. Poe is well-versed in the art of taking on and shedding double teams at the point of attack and owns the lower body strength that you look for in a fire hydrant on the interior of the defensive line. Dontari is a flexible player who has shown the ability to dip his hips, stay low, and fire through the middle of the double team to penetrate the line of scrimmage. With his flexibility, he is capable of playing with outstanding leverage to the point that he can’t be moved off the ball at times. While he doesn’t have a ton of experience working in a two-gap scheme, he projects very well in this role, and with proper coaching, he has what it takes to develop into one of the best in the league here. Poe’s strength (500 pound bench, 700 pound squat, 400 pound clean) is incredible, which was shown at the Combine where he posted the top performance of any player in attendance in the bench press when he threw up 44 reps of 225 pounds. Poe’s upper body strength allows for him to collapse the pocket with ease; he was frequently double teamed at Memphis, as he had little trouble fighting through a single block. When he doesn’t manage to fight his way into the backfield, Poe does a nice job of getting his hands up to obstruct passing lanes, having batted down two passes at the line this past season. For as much as there is to like about Dontari, there are just as many reasons to hesitate. He’s a very raw player whose technique is underdeveloped and will need plenty of patience as he transitions to the next level.

3. Michael Brockers – LSU – 6-5 – 322

A strong, powerful interior defensive lineman for LSU, Michael Brockers is an intriguing, high-upside underclassman with plenty of untapped potential as he heads to the NFL. A one-year starter with 14 career starts for the Tigers, Brockers produced 72 tackles, 10.5 tackles, and two sacks in his two years he played on LSU’s defense; his best statistical season came during his sophomore year when he was starting, as he tallied 47 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and his two sacks. Owning an elite combination of size, strength, and athleticism for the defensive tackle position, Michael owns very long arms (35 inches) with the mass, power, and athleticism needed to develop quickly at the next level. A raw prospect with immense upside, Michael presents intriguing versatility to in both the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses in the NFL, as he has experienced lining up as a one, two, and three-technique while playing at LSU. As a run defender, Brockers delivers a violent blow to the offensive lineman at the point of attack off the ball and has proven to be capable of penetrating the line of scrimmage by simply using his powerful upper body strength to push the blocker backwards into the backfield. With the length that he possesses, Michael has shown flashes of being able to extend out, control the blocker at the point of attack, before shucking him to the side to grab ahold of the running back as he’s entering the hole; however, he’s very inconsistent here and must develop better technique in the run game. He owns the lower body strength needed to be an effective anchor in the NFL, however he tends to let his pad level rise and get pushed backwards when he loses the leverage battle; the upside is there with his size and strength, but must develop better technique at the point of attack. Michael simply plays too wild at times with little awareness or discipline, which is something that must improve when he lands at the next level and begins to work with his position coach on understanding the game and further learning the nuances of the position. Brockers is a streaky player who doesn’t yet understand how to get small and rip through underneath to beat a double team; he can be neutralized when he gets two blocks on him. However, as you would expect from a young, talented player, he did get better as his sophomore season went on.

4. Devon Still – Penn State – 6-4 – 303

The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, Devon Still enters the NFL after having finally emerged during his senior season as one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the country for Penn State. A two-year starter for the Nittany Lions, Still produced 55 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks in his standout season during his senior year; over the course of his career at Penn State, Still accumulated 113 tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks. Devon offers the leadership and intangibles that coaches and scouts look for in a player, having been a team captain at Penn State. Built well with tall height, a thick upper body, and the long arms (33 inches) that you look for, Devon has an ideal combination of size, strength, and athleticism for the position at the next level. An active defender in the run game who understands how to penetrate and create disruption, Still excels as a one-gap penetrator where he displays the type of quickness and explosion in short areas that I look for at the position. Because of this quickness off the ball, he’s proven to be very effective on slants and stunts on the defensive line. Inside, he has displayed enough of an ability to change directions quickly that he can effectively maneuver his way through small creases in the line. When given the chance to make the tackle, Still does a nice job of wrapping the ball carrier up and bringing him down with a thud. With a nice burst off the ball, Devon delivers a strong punch at the point of attack to the opposing offensive lineman. Owning the power and strength (26 reps on bench) to push his way into the backfield, Devon does a better job of getting up the field as a run defender than he does of taking on defenders and playing stout at the point of attack. He has a big frame to eat up space on the interior in the run game, however he’s inconsistent as an anchor. Devon’s pad level is inconsistent; there are plays when he will fire low off the ball and play with great leverage inside, however there are also times when his tall height will get the best of him and he will let his pads rise and give the offensive lineman a chance to drive him backwards. This is something that he must correct at the next level, otherwise he will be driven out of the play too frequently in the NFL. Still’s love for football and motor is also something that is inconsistent; he flashes the playmaking ability of a first round pick, however those come too inconsistently in my opinion.

5. Jerel Worthy – Michigan State – 6-2 – 308

Coming into the 2011 season, most scouts held a first round grade on Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy because of the talent, immense upside, and disruptive style of play that he brought to the table. One of the most talented defensive linemen in this year’s draft, Worthy is an extremely inconsistent player whose motor runs hot and cold, and simply plays when he wants to play. A three-year starter with 38 career starts for the Spartans, Jerel produced 107 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, and 12 sacks throughout his career in East Lansing; the most productive season of his career came in 2010 during his sophomore year when he tallied 40 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and four sacks. Well-built with a very thick frame and great bulk for the position, Worthy has the long arms (33 inches) that you look for in addition to owning great natural strength. When his motor is running strong, Jerel can be as disruptive as any defensive tackle in the country, displaying good quickness off the ball with a violent punch at the point of attack. He has the strength and raw power to physically push the offensive lineman right off the ball and bullrush his way into the backfield. Worthy’s hand use is excellent, doing a great job of fighting off of blockers while displaying a pass rush repertoire that is far more advanced than you’d expect to see from an underclassman. He offers an impressive swim move to play over the top of smaller defensive linemen while also possessing a rip move needed to split the crease in the line and penetrate the line of scrimmage. After disengaging from the blocker, Jerel locates the ball quickly in the backfield and has proven to be a punishing tackler capable of crashing down on the ball carrier or quarterback and driving them into the ground. When he isn’t able to work his way into the backfield, Worthy does a nice job of getting his hands up to block passing lanes, having batted six passes down at the line of scrimmage in the past three years. In the run game, he does a great job even when still engaged with the offensive lineman to extend one arm out, grab ahold of the runner with his great strength, and drag the ball carrier to the ground before he can accelerate through the hole. Jerel’s short-area explosion is outstanding; he’s displayed the ability to cross the face of the offensive lineman and win the leverage battle at the line of scrimmage. Even when he doesn’t make the play, his disruption in the backfield often breaks up the offensive play and allows for one of his teammates to swarm to the ball. Jerel is one of the most frustrating players in the country to scout because of the way that he underachieved this season. He consistently takes plays off and his motor is either on or off; it’s as if he flips a switch when he wants to play, and that switch gets flipped too frequently. Worthy plays too wild without proper awareness and will not be one to ever chase down running backs on the perimeter. He understands leverage and how to play with proper positioning, however he does it too inconsistently and must improve on this in order to be a successful pro.

The Next 5

1. Brandon Thompson – Clemson – 6-2 – 311

2. Alameda Ta’amu – Washington – 6-2 – 348

3. Jared Crick – Nebraska – 6-4 – 279

4. Kendall Reyes – Connecticut – 6-4 – 299

5. Josh Chapman – Alabama – 6-1 – 316

Overrated: Poe. He hasn’t done enough consistently on the field. While he has all the tools, the effort and consistency is not there to warrant a Top 15 pick.

Underrated: Cox. He can play in any scheme and be successful. He has the complete package and should be a the top DT off the board, but won’t be.

Small School Sleeper: Akiem Hicks – Regina (Canada) – 6-4 – 318

Joe Arrigo’s 2012 NFL Draft Series: Running Backs Evaluation

When evaluating the 2012 NFL Draft class many focus on the two Quarterback prospects and rightfully so. But even in today’s NFL where offense’s are scoring at a record pace and doing it through the air, a solid running game is needed. A running game completes the offense and will take an even more potent offense out of the game by keeping them off the field.

The running backs in the 2012 draft has a little bit of of everything, but only one true “bell cow back” in Alabama’s Trent Richardson. What this draft does have is a unique group of backs that can do specific things and a certain skill set to contribute to the team that selections them.

Here are my Top 10 running backs for the 2012 NFL draft class:

1. Trent Richardson- Alabama- 5-9 – 228:

Trent Richardson is the most complete running back prospect to enter the NFL since Adrian Peterson (who was selected seventh overall in 2007 by the Vikings). Trent Richardson is a classic workhorse back who put Alabama’s offense on his shoulders in leading the Crimson Tide to a National Championship season in 2011. The Doak Walker Award winner as the best running back in college football, Richardson is only a one year starter after splitting time with Mark Ingram during the first two years of his career.  Owning rare strength for the running back position (475 pound bench, 650 pound squat, 365 pound clean), Trent is built like a bulldog, who is a thick, powerful running back with Redwood tree trunks for legs and an ideal combination of size, strength, and speed for the position. A workhorse back capable of shouldering the load in the run game, Richardson is one of the best between-the-tackles runners to enter the NFL in the past five years. He displays rare patience to wait for his blocks to develop while staying at full steam in order to accelerate through the hole the second that it opens up. Richardson is a true “bell cow back” who owns the power and strength needed to run through tackles with ease; he does a fabulous job of running behind his pads, and with his center of gravity and pad level, he’s almost always the lowest man at the point of contact with the defender. Trent has natural vision down the field, finding open cutback lanes with ease while owning the burst and acceleration needed to hit it consistently. He’s shown the ability to stick his foot in the ground and cut up the field or bounce the run to the outside after reaching the second level. A versatile all-purpose athlete capable of running, catching, and returning, Richardson brought a complete package of tools to Alabama. A natural receiver out of the backfield, Trent caught 68 passes for 730 yards and seven touchdowns over the course of his career.

2. Doug Martin – Boise State – 5-9 – 219:

One of the most complete running backs available in this year’s draft, Doug Martin leaves Boise State after having been a valuable weapon on offense for the Broncos. A two-year starter in Boise, Martin finished his career having rushed for 3,435 yards and 43 touchdowns on 616 carries, good for a 5.6-yards per carry average; his best statistical season came as a senior in 2011 when he produced 1,299 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on 263 carries (4.9-yards per carry). A compact, downhill runner with a terrific combination of strength, agility, and quickness to take the ball the distance from 30 anywhere on the field, Martin has a habit of making defenders miss once he reaches the second level and is given room to work with in the open field. A patient runner with very good vision through the hole, Doug’s decisive running style and fantastic cutback ability are reasons why he has been a very hard player for opposing defenses to bring down. In addition to providing the shiftiness and elusiveness to make a defender miss in the open field, Martin runs low to the ground with good leg drive, and when you combine that with his great strength and balance as a runner, he’s proven that he can also run through defenders at the second and third levels. A very good yards-after-contact back who does not go down easily, Doug does a good job of running behind his pads and turns into a tough, powerful back through the hole once he reaches his top speed as quickly as does. His explosion and burst through the hole and down the field is excellent and I love his ability to stop and start on a dime when redirecting at the second level. Although not elite, Doug has shown that he has more than enough speed to beat a defense as a home run threat. What makes Martin such a complete back is his reliability as a pass blocker as well as when he’s catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s polished as a blocker with the overall strength to consistently take on and neutralize defenders at the point of attack. Having caught 67 passes for 709 yards and four touchdowns throughout his career at Boise State, Doug has displayed the soft, dependable hands needed to be a terrific check down or safety net.

3. Lamar Miller – Miami (FL) – 5-10 – 212:

Emerging at the national level in 2011, Lamar Miller took advantage of being handed the starting job and ran with it at Miami (FL). A one-year starter with just 13 career starts for the Hurricanes, Miller rushed for 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns on 227 carries (5.6 yards-per-carry) during his redshirt sophomore season; he finished his career at Miami having carried the ball 335 times for 1,918 yards and 15 touchdowns. A downhill, one-cut back with the agility needed to stick his foot in the ground and make a defender miss, Lamar owns the straight-line speed needed to take it the distance any time he touches it. Owning a fine frame for the position, Miller will need to continue to add weight and get stronger at the next level. With very quick feet to and through the hole, Lamar offers very good acceleration upon reaching an opening and shows the burst needed to pick up speed and run away from a defense. Between the tackles, he offers enough bulk needed to bounce off of tacklers, however not enough to physically run through them with power; he runs more upright than you’d prefer, not doing a good enough job yet of running behind his pads at the point of contact. Lamar shows the quickness at the second level needed to make a defender miss with one cut to get the ball outside and into the open field. Miller owns the explosion that you look for in short areas, making him a very difficult player to bring down for just one defender, as he’s more than capable of either evading or sliding off the tackle. He’s not quite a quick-twitch back who will make defenders miss on a consistent basis, but has the type of light feet where it comes natural to him to change speeds without hesitation to create separation.

4. David Wilson – Virginia Tech – 5-9 – 206:

When Ryan Williams and Darren Evans both declared for the 2011 NFL Draft, many expected David Wilson to come in and be a fine replacement, however not many could have expected him to rush for 1,709 yards and nine touchdowns on 290 carries (5.9-yards per carry) as well as being named the ACC Player of the Year in his first season as the Hokies’ starter in 2011. That standout season resulted in a one-and-done situation in which Wilson opted to declare for the draft himself, making it three Hokie backs in two years to enter the NFL. Over the course of his three-year career at Virginia Tech, David rushed for a total of 2,662 yards and 18 touchdowns on 462 carries (5.8-yards per carry). One of the top all-around athletes in the country at any position, Wilson proved in 2011 to be one of the most elusive backs in college football, capable of sticking his foot in the ground and getting up the field very quickly. An explosive and agile runner with great vision, David has very light, nimble feet with excellent quickness to find the hole and pick his way through it; he does a great job of tip toeing his way through traffic with good patience while also showing the suddenness, acceleration, and burst needed to dart in and out of holes in the open field. Wilson’s explosiveness was more than evident at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis where he had a standout performance (41 inch vertical, 11 foot broad jump) which has helped his draft stock. Wilson is a far more effective runner in the open field than between the tackles, David is an effective east/west runner who gets outside to the perimeter quickly on stretches and sweeps and has proven to be a dangerous threat in the open field who is very difficult for defenses to contain. He’s a very balanced runner who has shown on numerous occasions that he has the skills needed to create on his own. Between the tackles, Wilson does a fine job of following his blocks through the hole before sticking his foot in the ground to cut outside once he reaches the second level; he has little trouble side-stepping linebackers in the hole and offers the fluid athleticism and flexibility needed to redirect on a dime to take a different angle down the field.

5. Chris Polk – Washington – 5-10 – 224:

The second-leading rusher in Washington school history, Polk proved to be a bell cow for the Husky offense throughout his career, finishing his four-year stay with 4,049 yards and 26 touchdowns on 799 carries (5.1-yards per carry); his most productive season came as a senior in 2011 when he carried the ball 293 times for 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns (5.1-yards per carry). A workhorse back capable of carrying the full load in the run game, Polk offers an excellent combination of size, strength, balance, and speed for the position. In the last three years, Chris has 20 games where he carried the ball 20+ times, including 10 as a senior in 2011; his ability to shoulder the load in the run game and allow for his offense to run him into the ground and still gain production is something that I really like about him. He’s a dependable and reliable back who his team could lean on when they needed to pick up yardage. Chris is a north/south runner who possesses enough shiftiness and agility to make a defense respect his ability to make defenders miss. Although not very explosive or quick, he’s an agile player with light enough feet to tiptoe his way through traffic and make a cut to elude a defender. A big yards-after-contact back who runs with power, Polk is capable of running through arm tackles at the second level when given the chance to gain momentum with an open hole. He’s not one that owns the quick-twitch ability to create on his own in the backfield, however when he has the opportunity to hit a hole, he does so with good acceleration, giving himself the chance to bounce off of defenders down the field. I also like the fact that he churns his legs to pick up extra yardage after contact; it’s almost rare when one defender brings him down by himself, often needing swarming teammates to assist with the tackle. Chris is a very patient runner who consistently waits for his blocks to develop up front before entering the hole; there are times when he’s almost too hesitant, which will result in him being caught behind the line or being stonewalled at the line of scrimmage. One of the most underrated parts of Polk’s overall game is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. A natural receiver with soft hands, Chris hauled in a total of 79 passes for 683 yards and four touchdowns throughout his career with the Huskies. (Note: I have watched play since he was in High School at Redlands East Valley HS in Redlands, California)

The Next 5

6. Robert Turbin – Utah State

7. Isaiah Pead – Cincinnati

8. LaMichael James – Oregon

9. Cyrus Gray – Texas A&M

10. Terrance Ganaway – Baylor

Overrated: LaMichael James: I am not as high on James as others. He had inflated stats at Oregon, a few incidents that NFL teams have to really look into closely and was dinged up a lot.

Underrated: Chris Polk: He’s a guy that may end up being the second best back in this draft when it’s all said and done. He’s a guy that can do it all and just produced on every level he has played at. He seems to come up big when his teams need him too.

Small School Sleeper: Alfred Morris – Florida Atlantic: An underrated running back prospect who possesses the size, strength, and power to be an effective between-the-tackles runner at the next level.

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