Archive for November, 2010

Newton under investigation

Friday, November 5th, 2010

ESPN are reporting allegations that a representative of Cam Newton sought money for the player’s signature during recruitment. The story claims a six figure sum of $180,000 was requested for Newton to sign up with Mississippi State. The Heisman front-runner’s father has distanced his family from the allegations, stating the representative was solely responsible for the approach and was not acting on behalf of Newton. An investigation is under way.

Right now it’s easy to blow this story up and make it into a big deal. Until we learn more or get some clear information via the investigation – there’s no telling how this could affect Newton’s draft stock. I will say this though – teams are going to have to do their homework. He was arrested during his time in Florida for possessing a stolen laptop.

Now this story is out there too.

Newton comes across personable and approachable. He appears to be switched on and comfortable in the spotlight. Nevertheless, there is work to be done by teams who potentially see him as a first round quarterback. I had him going to Cincinnati in my mock draft – a team that has always been willing to give guys the opportunity to ‘move on’. This won’t necessarily harm his draft stock as much as some think.

And one thing is even more certain today – Newton will not be hanging around after this year. He will declare for the 2011 draft.

Julio Jones faces ‘defining’ weekend

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Jones scored a 73-yard TD vs LSU in 2009

Last week I wrote positively about Julio Jones after watching his performance against South Carolina. He followed that display with a school-record 12-catch 221-yard effort against Tennessee. This weekend he’ll face-off with LSU’s highly rated cornerback Patrick Peterson. It’s a NFL meeting a year early.

In 2009 Jones scored his only 100+ yard game against LSU. It’s a slightly deceiving statistic though – a 73-yard touchdown screen padded out the stats and doesn’t represent the way Peterson handled Alabama’s star receiver. ESPN’s Todd McShay sheds some light on what really happened:

Jones caught four passes for 102 yards and a touchdown when these teams met last season, but don’t let the stats fool you into thinking he got the best of Peterson. The two were matched up on 74 percent of the snaps when both were on the field and Jones was targeted on seven of those plays. All seven were in-completions, including an interception that was incorrectly ruled out of bounds.

When I watched Florida vs Alabama this year, I kept a close eye on how Janoris Jenkins (CB, Florida) handled Jones. To be blunt, he completely shut him down. Jones had just four catches for 19 yards – all dump offs and short stuff. When scouts grade Jenkins in the off season they’ll watch the tape of his displays against Jones and A.J. Green last Saturday and that’s why he’ll go as early as I’ve proposed in my latest mock draft.

Alabama have switched their offense slightly this year. Having lost a number of key defensive prospects to the NFL (Terrance Cody, Rolando McClain, Kareem Jackson, Javier Arenas), they haven’t been able to smother teams and dominate with the run. LSU’s stumbling offense might let them off the hook in a similar way they destroyed Florida. However, if the Tigers can keep up, it’ll force ‘Bama to throw.

Expect Peterson to shadow Jones throughout. If he’s going to go as early as some are suggesting (top 5-10) we need to see a big performance. However – it’s an even bigger challenge for Jones. 

This week I put him in the top ten of my latest mock. As a prospect with all the physical tools to be a #1 receiver, he’s started to match production with potential. If he excels against a future top NFL cornerback on Saturday – that move will be justified. If he’s shut down again – my original assessment (that Jones deserves to be in the 20-32 range) may have been correct.

Prospect tracker: Studying Cam Newton

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

What do the numbers say about Auburn's star?

I’ve updated the prospect tracker today, which can be located by clicking here or selecting the logo in the lower title bar (you’ll need to click ‘Home’ to view this). Here you’ll find updated 2010 statistics for all of next April’s top draft prospects. It’s a good way to compare how the different individuals are performing – although admittedly stats only tell one side of the story. 

Nevertheless I wanted to compare Cam Newton’s passing numbers to the other prospects expected to go early in the 2011 draft. I’ll come to that in a moment. (more…)

Keeping an eye on the SEC

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

If you’re unable to watch some of the weekend’s big games, I’d recommend visiting the SEC’s official website. The ‘video’ section archives all the games in full – including most recently Auburn vs Ole Miss, Florida vs Georgia and Kentucky vs Mississipi State. If you want to take a look at guys like Cam Newton, Nick Fairley, A.J. Green, Janoris Jenkins and Derek Sherrod – it’s the perfect opportunity. I’d recommend watching Green vs Jenkins from the Florida/Georgia game.

Updated Mock Draft (full first round): 02/11

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

For the first time this year I’ve published a full first round mock projection. I’ve taken the time to try and see as many prospects as possible to try and project, even at this early stage, where certain individuals may fall. The draft order is a mix of current NFL standings and projections. Atlanta and New England pick 31st and 32nd overall purely on NFC and AFC rankings.

To view the updated 2011 NFL mock draft, click here or select ‘Mock Draft’ in the title bar.

Cam Newton (QB, Auburn) features for the first time. As you can see, he’s also amongst the top ten picks. For starters, it’s an absolute lock that Newton will declare. His stock will never be higher than it is now and the issues he’ll have in the pro’s are unlikely to be solved with another year at Auburn. If they reach/win the BCS title game, you also have to wonder what else he can achieve in the college game.

The big advantage would be extra experience starting, which is always a major bonus. However, having transferred from Florida via the JUCO ranks, he’d have to return as a fifth year senior. He will declare for the 2011 draft.

So why do I put him in the top ten, especially when I’ve voiced concerns about drafting him early?

Last night I sat down and studied every snap Newton took against LSU. Some of my concerns remain – specifically with the way he drops all weight on to his back foot when throwing, losing almost all velocity. This is a footwork issue and although he does take snaps under centre, he clearly needs to work on every aspect of drop backs, reads, getting the ball out quickly and developing almost completely as an all round passer.

The good news and an area where I have perhaps under estimated is the fact his release point is actually very good. He has an over the top release without the looping delay that Tim Tebow had or the side arm motion we see with Jimmy Clausen or Vince Young. He’ll learn to get his throws out crisply and drive through the ball. If he gets his footwork right, there’s no reason why he can’t be an orthodox passer.

It’s hard to judge accuracy when he doesn’t throw that much and with most defenses petrified of conceding the run. However, I’m yet to see anything off-putting. He isn’t wildly inconsistent and most of his passes hit the target. He’s got a range, he has a big arm. There’s something to work with.

And most of all he’s an elite athlete who will hurt teams with some specific run plays. He won’t be using the QB draw every other down ala Auburn, but you can use him in roll outs and bootlegs with success.

The point I’m trying to make with this diagnosis is that there’s enough on the tape for a team to buy in to Newton as a starting NFL quarterback. Right now he isn’t a natural pocket passer and it will take major work to get there. Is it impossible? No. Are the other benefits – the world class athlete… the dynamic playmaker… things that teams love to gamble on?

Yes.

If Tim Tebow is a first round pick at all, then Cam Newton is a high first round pick. Essentially, he’s Tebow but with much greater athleticism and mechanics. He doesn’t have the ‘moxy’ (again, hate the word – especially when describing QB’s) that Tebow brought to the table, but both have a lot of developing to do as passers, yet Newton’s ceiling is outrageously higher than Tebow’s.

Would I take the risk myself? It’s a big project and I’m still not certain. Can he be that orthodox QB that is capable of beating a team by throwing? Is he just a rare athlete who can outclass college players, but will be smothered in the pro’s? Is his destiny merely as a trick play gimmick or H-Back? Or will he be the next big thing?

Somebody will have convinced themselves of the latter by next April and he will go early.

Seahawks in round two?

Some suggestions for the direction Seattle could go in round two:

- Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame) – hands, routes and effort will keep him out of R1. He has the size and speed Seattle is looking for in it’s wide outs.

- Pernell McPhee (DE/DT, Miss. St) – a five technique candidate who can move inside as well.

- Rodney Hudson (OG, Florida State) – big talent if not big size. Should Seahawks stick by ZBS, Hudson is the perfect fit at guard or center.

- Cameron Hewyard (DE, Ohio State) - over rated for me and not a first round pick, but another 5-tech candidate later on.

- Von Miller (OLB, Texas A&M) – under sized but could have value as an edge specialist.

- J.J. Watt (DE, Wisconsin) – another 5-tech candidate with a growing reputation.

Agree or disagree? Let me know your thoughts on the latest 2011 Mock Draft or anything else you want to discuss. Get in touch in the comments section or email rob@seahawksdraftblog.com

Locker out vs Oregon – stock dropping further?

Monday, November 1st, 2010

It’s being reported that Jake Locker won’t feature in Saturday’s game between Washington and Oregon. A broken rib will keep him out indefinitely, with the earliest possible return on November 18th against UCLA.

The injury itself won’t be of great concern to scouts. It makes sense to keep Locker out of a game Washington haven’t much hope of winning any way and allowing time to heal. What it does do however is eliminate another key game from the schedule for Locker to flash his talents on a national scale.

The Ducks are currently ranked number one in the BCS Rankings. A performance of any kind in that game would’ve been duly noted. Instead scouts will linger on another disjointed display in Saturday’s blowout to Stanford, which renewed memories of a previous stock-killer against Nebraska.

Admittedly it would be harsh to pin much blame on Locker’s shoulders. He barely had a chance against Stanford, who systematically destroyed Washington in the trenches and regularly stopped Locker before he had a chance to flash his undoubted ability.

However – NFL teams will look at a prospect who hasn’t taken a leap forward as a fifth year senior. His numbers are not improved, his best win will probably be against USC again and he hasn’t shown any greater poise as a passer to compliment the playmaking ability. They’ll bare in mind Locker’s circumstance, but they’ll also wonder if the upside is high enough to warrant the big investment.

Right now I would put his stock firmly in that 25-40 range, depending on where certain teams are picking next April. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Locker will go earlier, it’s all about draft order. He isn’t going to fall out of the second round because there’s a high enough ceiling to justify investment earlier than that. He’s a far better prospect overall than Jimmy Clausen in my opinion.

Promise will not be enough to justify a high selection. Unless someone is really sold on his potential, I don’t see him falling as high as we thought before this season began. The emergence of Cam Newton (QB, Auburn) is an interesting side-story too. In my next mock draft this week, he’ll be making a first appearance. I’ve raised serious concerns about Newton as a passer. However – I do feel, like Tebow last year, someone will roll that dice in round one. The difference being here – Newton is a much, much greater athlete than Tebow and is nowhere near the mechanical headache Tebow was as a passer.

When you throw Ryan Mallett into the equation and potentially Blaine Gabbert too, there will be alternatives to Locker available.

Lot’s of people will point to Locker’s decision to return for another year at Washington. Certainly it’s been proven that staying in college gives scouts the chance to further dissect your game and perhaps lower your grade. Could this hurt Locker? Maybe – but you can also look at Sam Bradford who went back to Oklahoma, got injured and missed the entire year but still went first overall. Alternatively, Jimmy Clausen declared as an underclassman and didn’t go as high as he expected. Locker supposedly wasn’t given a first round grade by the draft advisory group before deciding to pass on the 2010 draft.