Archive for September, 2012
There’s been a lot of negativity about Logan Thomas’ performance against Georgia Tech this week. It wasn’t a great display, far from it. But neither is it worth the collective tutting among certain members of the draft community because he didn’t put up 400 yards and score multiple touchdowns like Geno Smith.
First of all, this was classic Virginia Tech. And by that, I mean lousy play calling at the start of a new season. It happened last year against Clemson (their first real test, and first defeat), against Boise State in week one the year after and Alabama in 2009. For some reason the Hokies are perennial slow starters before picking up speed as the year develops. The play calling has a large part to play.
In this one against Georgia Tech, they ran Logan Thomas in five of his first ten touches. He’s a decent runner, but he’s not Cam Newton. What’s more, he seems to be carrying a bit of extra weight this year and while he’s still a good athlete – he’s better off using his legs to extend plays rather than running the ball more than the back in the opening quarter. I get the impression he was never completely settled, always keeping the option to run in the back of his mind and taking an edge off his passing accuracy. He seemed to be a fraction off for most of the night. There wasn’t much flow to get at here – a lot of short stuff but not enough plays to stretch Georgia Tech. It was all so predictable and unchallenging. The fact Thomas wasn’t playing a great game didn’t help, but neither was he helped by a stodgy game plan.
Alarm bells rang across the country as he short-armed another short pass. It was a bit reactionary. He actually didn’t make any glaring errors, didn’t turn the ball over once and still won the game. For a further example of the bad play calling – when Virginia Tech were driving to save the game with seconds left they called the same short pass to the left sideline for minimal gain. Even on third down. Thomas pulled them out of the water on fourth down and they got a field goal to go to over time.
He’s the kind of quarterback who naturally doesn’t take a ton of risks, he plays a solid game. He’s got the arm to make most middle-range throws look easy. Fast forward to 3:39 in the video and you see a nice short drop, recognising the coverage and firing a dart that only his receiver can catch over the middle. It’s a good, solid completion made easy. His first touchdown pass shows excellent touch and placement. The pass at 7:38 is a very good throw fit into a tight window. His second touchdown is a nice play downfield, although the coverage isn’t great from GT. The only really poor decision I see on the video is the pass at 4:51 which is a head scratcher. Is the receiver running the wrong route? It kind of looks like he just throws an ugly ball and he almost gets picked off.
Considering how negative people have been about this game, it’s still a 230-yard performance with two touchdowns and no turnovers with a further 40-yards rushing. He led his team from a losing position to a crucial victory against a tough conference opponent. If we’re saying that’s not good enough – and Thomas will play better – it’s testament to his potential.
Not every quarterback is going to show the technical quality of Mark Barkley or the mass-production of the Dana Holgorsen-coached Geno Smith. On Monday Thomas was compared to a cluster of quarterbacks none of which really fit (Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick). He has the same size and physical potential as Ben Roethlisberger (he’s not elusive like Big Ben) but his game is very similar to Josh Freeman. That might not excite people much these days, but there’s a place in the NFL for a starting quarterback with that skill set. He won’t make many mistakes, he’ll take what he’s given and he has the arm and mobility to be a difference maker.
For what it’s worth I don’t think he’ll declare for the 2013 draft unless he’s lights out. He didn’t attend the Manning Passing Academy this year and has another year to run at VT. I think the likelihood is he’ll stick around before entering the 2014 draft.
Credit where credit is due, this is the best Landry Jones has looked for a long time. Hopefully that is down to some form of epiphany at the end of last season rather than the quality of opponent in week one. Yet there are some encouraging signs here.
For starters, Jones looks slimmer. He was too big last year and his mobility was non-existent – he was like a great big block of stone in the pocket. Against UTEP he looked lighter and nimbler, his footwork was better and he kept a few plays alive. He still took some avoidable sacks, but there’s evidence of improvement. The key will be not slipping into old habits against stronger opponents.
Even so it’s good to see Jones has been working during the off-season. I’ve no way of knowing whether he got into a comfort zone last year but there are plenty of reasons why that could’ve happened. Oklahoma were the pre-season #1 team and many expected the Sooners to win because of their quarterback. Jones was being hyped up by multiple members of the national scouting fraternity as a top NFL draft pick. He’d also witnessed Sam Bradford’s positive rookie year having left the same offensive system. Life was good for Landry Jones.
Yet when the season began, he was awful. He relied totally on scripted plays, often throwing blind or without making any kind of read. He forced throws, he took sacks. He’d crumble under any kind of pressure. By the end of the year they were taking him out of the red zone and playing a rushing quarterback. He didn’t declare because he knew his stock had been obliterated. Instead of being the top-10 pick people were projecting in the summer, he was now a mid-rounder at best.
It looks like that experience acted as a wake-up call. This is only one game, but it’s better. He’s always had a good arm and the first touchdown pass is one of the best you’ll see all season. At 1:02 in the video above he drops back, makes a couple of reads before throwing to the opposite side of the field for a huge score to Kenny Stills. Note the Manning-esque stutter-step footwork. Note the arm – there are quarterbacks in the NFL who cannot make that throw. It’s incredible. He benefits greatly from elite pass protection on the play, but he makes the most of it.
There’s the usual dose of scripted plays here and one thing that will always bother me with Jones is the scheme. He’s programmed to avoid deviating away from what he’s told. The best quarterbacks in the NFL have multiple options at the LOS and make the correct decision as the play unfolds. The ability to improvise is a key, underrated aspect when looking at potential pro-quarterbacks. Defenses are not going to make life easy for you at the next level and being able to respond to adversity is a big-time characteristic. For Oklahoma, Jones more often than not knows exactly where he’s going to throw before he even leaves the huddle. This has led to mistakes in the past with teams second guessing the play-call and even in this video you’ll Jones snap, turns to his left and throw semi-blind to a covered receiver.
That won’t cut it at the next level, but there are positives in this video. If he can show a little more inspiration, continue to improve his footwork in the pocket and keep making big plays – he can propel his stock to a level many still continue to project. I remain sceptical for now, but he has a lot of football left to show he’s worthy of a place in round one.
It’s impossible to determine Seattle’s needs before the season even starts. However, this is a draft blog and it’s worth highlighting some of the prospects to monitor as the college season progresses. We can add names to this list, we can strike others off. The main reason for a piece like this is really so we can look back in April and see how accurate/inaccurate it really was. I’ve tried to cover all bases and some of the picks below are a bit obvious, others not so much. I’ve also put together an updated top-50 watch-list after the initial top-40 list a few months ago.
What if… the Seahawks need a receiver?
Right now most people would list receiver as the teams top priority. Sidney Rice needs to prove he can stay healthy, Doug Baldwin has to show he’s not a one-year wonder. Apart from that there’s not a great deal to be positive about. Adding a talented receiver would bring another dimension to the Seahawks offense and would help quarterback Russell Wilson if he proves worthy of long-term consideration as the teams starting quarterback.
Da’Rick Rogers (WR, Tennessee Tech)
I’ve started with Rogers because I want to go against conventional wisdom. If we’ve learnt anything from Pete Carroll and John Schneider, it’s to think outside of the box. Rogers was kicked off the team at Tennessee after multiple violations of the schools substance abuse policy. He’s since joined Tennessee Tech in the hope of having a big year against weaker opposition, before entering the 2013 draft. It’s a similar situation to Janoris Jenkins a year ago – and despite all of Jenkins’ problems he was still the 39th overall pick. Rogers is 6-3 and 215lbs and will need to convince teams he’s a changed man to max-out his stock. Even so, Carroll and Schneider don’t appear to be afraid of a challenge and Rogers could be the most physically gifted receiver in next years draft. It’s just a shame he won’t be able to show what he can do in the SEC.
Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
Rogers’ loss is Patterson’s gain and the JUCO transfer exploded onto the scene against NC State this week. Tyler Bray has a lot of technical issues with his release, but nobody can deny his arm strength and Patterson will benefit big-time if he continues to grow into the offense. Here are some highlights from his time in the JUCO ranks:
The raw talent is there for all to see. He may prove to be a little too raw for NFL teams looking for an immediate fix, but he’s certainly one to watch going forward. We already know that Carroll & Schneider are willing to consider talented JUCO transfers (see: Bruce Irvin). He’s listed at 6-3 and 205lbs so he matches the size traditionally associated with #1 receivers in the league.
Robert Woods (WR, USC)
Of course… the Seahawks don’t follow the pack. And my last sentence in the Cordarrelle Patterson write-up goes against what we’ve learnt about Carroll and Schneider. The group-think machine that judges Russell Wilson to be ‘one of the worst picks in the third round’ also says a #1 receiver has to be above 6-2 in height and carry the size capable of matching up to the most physical defensive backs in the league. Tight ends are more involved in the passing game these days purely due to the size and athleticism of guys like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Seattle’s priority next year was to find their own version of the Gronk. But it also wouldn’t surprise me if they continued to think outside of the box. Carroll recruited Woods – who’s listed at 6-1 and around 190lbs. When he burst onto the scene as a freshman, college football crowned Woods the next big thing. Only the emergence of Marqise Lee has changed that. Most people forget how good and how productive Woods was before Lee’s explosive arrival. It’s worth remembering that A.J. Jenkins (6-0, 190lbs) was taken 30th overall by San Francisco last year. I can imagine the Seahawks making a similar move for Woods in round one next April. In fact, if I was doing a ridiculously early mock draft today I would pair Woods with the Seahawks.
Other alternatives: Keenan Allen (California), Justin Hunter (Tennessee), Marquess Wilson (Washington State)
What if… the Seahawks need a defensive lineman?
Seattle likes what it has at defensive end and probably isn’t likely to spend a first round pick on the position after re-signing Chris Clemons and drafting Bruce Irvin. Red Bryant is also tied-up long term. There’s talent inside too with Brandon Mebane and the underrated Alan Branch. I’m a big fan of Jaye Howard and will be interested to see if he becomes the teams latest mid-round steal over the course of the next couple of seasons. There’s other complimentary pieces too and good overall depth on the DL. But as with good cornerbacks, you can never have enough good lineman.
Sylvester Williams (DT, UNC)
Another JUCO transfer, this time at North Carolina. Williams got off to a fast start this weekend with two sacks in an opening-day beat-down against Elon. Williams looked the part last year and after further tape study of the North Carolina defense, he looks like a player we should keep an eye on for Seattle. He’s listed by ESPN at 305lbs and 6-3 but I think he’s a little heavier than that, or at least has the potential to gain weight. Some teams will look to try and move him to the nose, but I think he’s better off playing at his current weight and acting as a more orthodox tackle. He’s powerful enough to hold his position against the run but shows enough speed and explosion off the snap to act as a pass rushing force. Getting someone who consistently warrants an extra blocker inside will max-out Seattle’s speed off the edge. Williams is a very interesting prospect.
Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
I’m not as excited about Loutlelei as some others – I’ve seen him appear at #1 on some big boards which I think is in part inspired by opinions within the league that he could’ve been a high pick this year. The potential is unquestioned, I just think he has many things to learn. He made the correct decision to return to Utah and play another season in the PAC-12 . There were times last year when he just got blown out of plays and while he is a pass rushing threat with incredible athleticism for his size, I feel like he’d be a liability in the league based on current tape. If he polishes up his technique and learns to become consistently difficult to handle (rather than explosive one play, awful the next) then he could be a top-15 pick. I suspect he’ll be a guy the league salivates over in terms of potential but there will be an element of risk involved.
Barekvious Mingo (DE, LSU)
I do not expect the Seahawks to go this route, but let’s consider this a ‘what if?’ moment. Bruce Irvin has been tagged as the ideal LEO, but at West Virginia he was always more effective as a specialist. What if that proves to be the case in Seattle too? Chris Clemons signed a deserved new contract but isn’t getting any younger – and the team has been ruthless in cutting ties when the time is right. Mingo won’t fit everyone’s scheme, but he fits Seattle’s as a speed rusher off the edge who does most damage lined up at the LOS. The thought of using a rotation of Irvin and Mingo is pretty enticing if a little close to over-kill. But Mingo has talent. And the Seahawks could be in a position to take the best player available next year. It’ll be difficult to keep a lid on his potential competing in the SEC.
Other alternatives: Akeem Spence (Illinois), Jonathan Jenkins (Georgia), Bjoern Werner (Florida State)
What if… the Seahawks need a linebacker?
This is going to be a position of real strength in the 2013 draft. The Seahawks may find it hard to resist completing the set at linebacker having already drafted KJ Wright and Bobby Wagner to start. Leroy Hill keeps hanging on every year, but eventually they’re going to find someone to fill that spot. There are multiple first round options destined for next years draft even at this early stage. I haven’t included Jarvis Jones in this section because a.) I feel he’s likely to be a top pick and out of reach for Seattle and b.) I want to cover some other options.
Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
When you go back and watch the tape from 2011, it’s a surprise Brown didn’t declare for the 2011 draft. The guy is a great football player. Period. He’s the kind of prospect who tilts a defense just through his sheer presence on the field. He’ll not make a ton of huge game-changing plays, but he’ll push everyone around him to play with his level of intensity. He’s a three-down linebacker who moves well from sideline-to-sideline, is strong taking on the run and is no slouch in coverage especially against big tight ends. He isn’t going to offer much pass rushing threat but the rest of his game makes up for it. He’s not got ideal size at 6-1 and around 230lbs but he’ll make a NFL team better next year.
Hayes Pullard (LB, USC)
A brilliant athlete who started the season with a pick-six against Hawaii. I’m not convinced he’ll declare as a redshirt sophomore but if he keeps making plays and USC have the kind of year people expect, he could be tempted. He’s not a big guy at 6-1, 235lbs but he can move. He’s not going to be a great force against the run but he can cover better than most linebackers I’ve watched in recent years. He’s mobile enough to get around the field and he plays with the intensity the position requires at the next level. I think he’s an ideal pick for a team looking to upgrade the WILL linebacker role – something the Seahawks may consider next April.
Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
The kind of solid MLB who crops up every year and seems to go in the first two rounds. If Luke Kuechly is a success in Carolina, expect Te’o to potentially go as early as the top-15 picks because overall I preferred Te’o on tape. He had an interception against Navy on Saturday and will continue to make plays – and that’s the thing that separated the two for me. Kuechly was a tackling machine beyond the LOS but he wasn’t an impact player. He was a safety net, a last line of defense that often was needed as Boston College. Te’o didn’t have the enormous tackle numbers last year, but he had five sacks. The Seahawks could easily move Wagner to the WILL and put Te’o inside if they wanted to go early at linebacker next April.
Other alternatives: Kevin Reddick (UNC), Devon Kennard (USC), Alec Ogletree (Georgia), C.J. Mosley (Alabama)
What if… the Seahawks need an offensive lineman?
There are two high quality guard prospects slated for 2013 plus a handful of tackles and centers that could find their way into round one. Jonathan Cooper is as good a guard prospect as you’ll see entering the league while Chance Warmack started well for Alabama on Saturday. Keep a check on Barrett Jones who’s played tackle, guard and now center at Alabama. Khaled Holmes at USC is another good center although the Seahawks are unlikely to look at that position. Chaz Green at Florida, Brennan Williams at UNC, Jake Matthews at Texas A&M and Oday Aboushi at Virginia are the tackles I’m focusing on.
Jonathan Cooper (G, UNC)
For a period of time Cooper featured in my first round mock draft for 2012, but he decided to return to North Carolina. He would’ve been a first round pick last year, but with a bit more attention he’s almost certainly destined to go in the top-32 next April. He’s a big guy at 320lbs but displays almost tackle-like athleticism and he’s dominant in the run-game. He can be explosive with unmatched footwork, but he’s also a student of the game and you see him picking up stunts and blitzes pretty easily. His best attribute is probably in pass protection. Again the footwork comes in to play, but he’s powerful and shows great technique keeping the pass rusher in front and at arms length. He could be a top-15 pick. He’s better than guys like DeCastro.
Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
Versatile lineman who lacks the technique and athleticism of Cooper but is just a typical road-grader who dominates in ‘Bama’s run-centric system. He has a wide frame and he’s difficult to beat inside in pass protection, but he’ll be drafted mostly as a run blocker. Against Michigan on Saturday he was consistently driving his man into the backfield and creating huge running lanes. Time and time again it looked like a NFL lineman had crept onto the field to deal with middling college recruits. Warmack’s value will be slightly limited compared to Cooper’s, but any team looking for a no-thrills guard will consider Warmack in the first two rounds.
Brennan Williams (OT, UNC)
Cooper’s partner in crime. The reason I wanted to highlight Williams instead of several other talented offensive lineman is due to one reason – his father, Brent, is a former Seahawk. I see Williams as a more of a right tackle and depending on James Carpenter’s recovery and/or potential move to guard, this could be a position Seattle reviews next off-season. He’s a big guy at 6-6 and 320lbs and unlike Cooper, he’s better against the run than in pass protection. He’s tough and he’s shown a willingness to get to the second level and look for linebackers in the run game. When looking at Cooper over the summer this guy flashed up more than once and he could be a riser over the course of the year.
Other alternatives: Chaz Green (OT, Florida), Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia), (G/C/OT Barrett Jones, Alabama)
What if… the Seahawks need a cornerback?
It’s considered a position of strength for the Seahawks but you can’t ignore a quality cornerback. I still think it was a mistake to pass on Jimmy Smith in 2011 – a player definitely worth a top-10 grade but fell due to off-field concerns. He’s now part of a growing Baltimore secondary and given James Carpenter’s struggles and ill-health, I can’t help but think of a secondary including Browner, Sherman and Smith at corner. Moving forward I think the Seahawks will look to keep topping up the position, but they’ve had so much success outside of the 1st-3rd rounds they maybe feel confident enough to keep looking for diamonds in the rough.
Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
A player nobody was really talking about this summer until the Michigan game on Saturday. You watch the game, you go back and look at the 2011 tape. Then you realise this is a top-15 pick in the making. He’s got the kind of size teams are looking for (6-1, 190lbs), he’s incredibly competitive in run support. But more than anything else he can cover and he has that playmaking instinct teams look for. He’s the kind of cornerback Seattle likes. They may need to be picking early to get a shot at this guy, he’s the real deal and another first round corner from the Nick Saban production line.
Jonathan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
He’s not the fastest and he looks a bit stiff sometimes, but he’s 6-2 and 190lbs and again looks like a Seattle cornerback. His greatest strength is run support and he can be a ferocious tackler. He’s also a bit of a ball hawk when tackling – he’ll go for the strip more often than not and he’s produced some good results. The big question is whether he can show to be a more agile corner going forward. He doesn’t change direction well and recovery speed is questionable. He’s also a second slow to react at times and too often allows 4-5 yards on a quick pass. But in what looks like a pretty poor year for cornerbacks he might be the next best after Milliner.
Other alternatives: Terry Hawthorne (CB, Illinois), Tyrann Mathieu (unattached, may turn pro)
What if… the Seahawks need a quarterback?
We cannot get away from this question… not yet anyway. Russell Wilson has a chance to ensure we don’t have to talk about quarterbacks anymore, but until the season starts it’d be ignorant on our behalf to not look at the position. The Seahawks greatest need will remain at quarterback until someone nails the starting gig – not just for 2012, but for the foreseeable future. The biggest fear for Seattle’s front office will be a distinctly average performance from Wilson. If he plays badly, at least you know the search continues. If he plays at anything above average – there’s cause for optimism. But if he’s below average, you’re in a difficult situation. Do you give him time? Do you attack the draft? It’s questions like this that keep us coming back to QB… for now.
Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
Watching Barkley against Hawaii just reminds you why this guy should be the #1 pick next year. On a technical level he’s off the charts – he doesn’t have the natural physical gifts of Andrew Luck, but on a technical level they are extremely close and Barkley may be superior. His footwork, mechanics, poise and accuracy are on a different level to any college QB I’ve seen before. He looks like a better athlete this year in terms of build and arm strength and without doubt he should be the top pick. Pete Carroll loves the guy, Matt Barkley would welcome the chance to play in Seattle given his ties to the city. It’s a perfect match but is unlikely to happen without a RGIII type trade. Carroll has said in the past he would pay for the right guy.
Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech)
Thomas’ best football is ahead of him. While he’ll never be Drew Bress, Eli/Payton Manning or Tom Brady, his ceiling is Ben Roethlisberger and his floor is probably only Joe Flacco. He’ll make plays at the next level, whether it’s throwing downfield or doing enough with his legs to move the chains. He’ll be at his best on a physical team that highlights the running game and plays good defense – like the Seahawks. He’s a smart player who takes what he’s given and doesn’t tend to force things. Virginia Tech should be right up there competing for the ACC title and Thomas has a chance to send his stock skyward. However, he didn’t attend the Manning passing academy this year which suggests he fully intends to stay for his senior season at VT in 2013.
Other alternatives: Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas), Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
UPDATED 2013 WATCH-LIST TOP 50
#1 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
#2 Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech)
#3 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
#4 Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia)
#5 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
#6 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
#7 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
#8 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
#9 Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
#10 Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
#11 Chance Wormack (G, Alabama)
#11 Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
#12 Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia)
#13 Keenan Allen (WR, California)
#13 Sam Montgomery (DE/LB, LSU)
#14 Chaz Green (OT, Florida)
#15 Robert Woods (WR, USC)
#16 Jonathan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
#17 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
#18 Akeem Spence (DT, Illinois)
#19 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
#20 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
#21 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
#22 Marcus Lattimore (RB, South Carolina)
#23 Montee Ball (RB, Wisconsin)
#24 Brennan Williams (OT, North Carolina)
#25 Da’Rick Rogers (WR, Tennessee Tech)
#26 Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M)
#27 Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
#28 Kevin Reddick (LB, North Carolina)
#29 Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas)
#30 Hayes Pullard (LB, USC)
#31 Knile Davis (RB, Arkansas)
#32 Terry Hawthorne (CB, Illinois)
#33 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
#34 John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
#35 Barrett Jones (C, Alabama)
#36 Marquess Wilson (WR, Washington State)
#37 William Gholston (DE, Michigan State)
#38 Andre Ellington (RB, Clemson)
#39 TJ McDonald (S, USC)
#40 Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
#41 Khaled Holmes (C, USC)
#42 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
#43 Devon Kennard (LB, USC)
#44 Levine Toilolo (TE, Stanford)
#45 Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
#46 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
#47 Terrance Williams (WR, Baylor)
#48 Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)
#49 Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
#50 Kenny Stills (WR, Oklahoma)
Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is one to watch this year. He’s listed at 6-1, around 200lbs and plays like a Pete Carroll corner – physical, willing to play run support and he makes plays. He had an interception against Michigan in a comfortable win, adding to the three he had last year. Nick Saban regularly churns out talented corners and Milliner may be the next off the production line. See above for 2011 game tape. He could be the top 2013 corner.
I was also impressed – again – by linebacker CJ Mosley. He read the eyes of Denard Robinson and returned an interception for a touchdown – his third career pick-six which ties a school record. He has the mobility to play coverage at a high level but also the physical capacity you’d expect from a Crimson Tide linebacker. Again, he’d be a good fit in Seattle’s scheme and another player to keep an eye on this year. T.J. Yeldon is going to be some player to watch over the next few years – he’s a 6-2, 216lbs freshman running back who can move.
Bjoern Werner is a big-time prospect who isn’t generating enough hype. He has a little J.J. Watt to his game but I think he’s a better pass rusher. The week one stat line is somewhat influenced by Florida State’s weak opponent (Murray State), but he had four sacks, five tackles for a loss and a pass deflection. It’s a great start for a player who could be a top-15 pick next year. Another player destined to be an early pick – Jarvis Jones – also started fast with 1.5 sacks for Georgia against Buffalo.
Matt Barkley launched his Heisman campaign with 372 yards, four touchdowns and zero turnovers in a 49-10 win over Hawaii. Marqise Lee isn’t eligible for the 2013 draft but should be a top pick in 2014 – he has all the physical tools and playmaking potential you’d want from a #1 receiver. He also had a big kick-off return for a touchdown. Lee’s emergence as a dominating wide-out won’t help Robert Woods if he’s looking to enter the NFL next year. Twelve months ago Barkley was looking for Woods pretty much every snap. Now Lee is recording the 10-catch, 202-yard stat-line and Woods is generating 6-catches for just 42-yards. He did have a couple of scores against Hawaii, but it sums up Woods’ future role in the league. He’s probably always going to be at his best as a #2 or slot receiver to a physically superior #1.
Keenan Allen had a losing start at California as he tries to cement his position as one of the top draft-eligible receivers for 2013. He scored on a juking 39-yard end-around and also had a nice reception/run down the middle for 32-yards. He finished with five catches for 69-yards but will suffer this year for not playing in the kind of productive offense that has boosted AJ Green, Julio Jones and Justin Blackman.
West Virginia took most of last season to really fire in Dana Holgorsen’s offense, but they look set for a big year in 2012. The Mountaineers won 69-34 against Marshall thanks to 32-36 passing from Geno Smith, four touchdowns and 323 yards. Smith also added 65 yards rushing and a further touchdown from eight carries. It helps having a playmaker like Tavon Austin, who rushed three times for 66 yards and caught ten passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Smith could really push his stock upwards playing in this offense and he has the tools to interest NFL scouts.
Jutin Hunter had nine catches for 73 yards on his return from a knee injury, but he also had several drops and looked rusty. It was another Tennessee prospect that caught the eye – JUCO transfer Cordarrelle Patterson. You can see tape from his Vols debut here. He had six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown, plus two rushes for 72 yards and another score. He looks raw, but he also looks the part physically with unique acceleration and strong hands. Tony Pauline wrote on Patterson’s display: “(He) offers size, dependable hands and showed terrific football speed during the victory.” Chris Steuber was also impressed…
Cordarrelle Patterson is on everyone’s radar now. Wow. Playmaker! #Tennessee
— Chris Steuber (@ChrisSteuber) September 1, 2012
It’s still early but Patterson has a quarterback in Taylor Bray who can get the ball downfield and exploit his speed/size. He could emerge as a big-time prospect this year. Bray had 333 yards against NC State with two touchdowns and no turnovers. On a negative note, David Arneson struggled badly at corner. He had 13-interceptions last year but a switch to safety appears inevitable at the next level and he won’t be a first round pick next April.
Montee Ball laboured to 120 yards from 32 carries as Wisconsin edged past Northern Iowa 26-21. Ball had a touchdown and a further 31 receiving yards. I like Ball, but can’t help but feel his stock can only dip after last year. He doens’t have Russell Wilson at quarterback any more keeping things balanced and he’s going to be the main focus of the Badgers offense. It’ll be tough for him. Marcus Lattimore fumbled his first snap on his return from injury at South Carolina, but his second touch was a 29-yard touchdown. He looked sharp if not fully 100% just yet in a 110-yard, two-score performance against Vanderbilt.
Saturday was a good day for the Clemson Tigers. Tajh Boyd looks sharp at quarterback, DeAndre Hopkins set a school record for receptions in a single game and Andre Ellington was sensational. The top senior running back had 231-yards from 26 carries and looks better than ever before. He exploded through openings, led some key drives and could end up being one of the best playmakers in the ACC this year. Hopkins also looked good with Sammy Watkins missing through injury – he caught 13 passes for 119 yards including an excellent touchdown pass in the back-right corner of the end zone.
Chris Gragg is a tight end worth monitoring at Arkansas. He looked good at times last year if a little raw, but he started well this weekend with 110 yards from seven catches against Jacksonville State. He also had two touchdowns via Tyler Wilson. This was a pretty easy day for Wilson who had three total scores and 367 yards. Knile Davis returned from the ankle injury that ruined his 2011 season and record 70 yards from 18 carries and a touchdown.
Finally to Landry Jones, the man people are already making excuses for last year and trying to argue he can be a first round pick. If Landry Jones is a first round pick next year, it’s because somebody made a mistake. Oklahoma beat UTEP 24-7 but reports say Jones again looked rattled when things weren’t going smoothly and took three sacks. He has feet made out of cement and needs zero pressure, timing and heavy reliance on scripted passes to be productive. In the NFL he’s going to need to improvise, move around comfortably and find passing lanes. He’s not going to be able to judge pre-snap where he’s throwing, make the pass blind and hope it comes off. Jones is a mid-round talent with backup value. Don’t believe the hype.
On Monday we get our first look at Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. He plays Georgia Tech.
It’s way too early to tell, but this could be Seattle’s greatest need next April depending on how things play out. So it’s worth looking at some of the receivers working under the radar. Jordan Matthews could be the best wide out in the SEC this year and he had a good start against South Carolina. Cordarelle Patterson is new on the scene but eligible for next year’s draft as a JUCO transfer. He made some big plays for Tennessee in week one against NC State.
NOTE - The Seahawks waived Kellen Winslow today. It’s believed he refused to take a pay cut and that was the end of that. Another tight end is going to be added, but I think the main motivation is the play of Anthony McCoy. He’s shown real progress this pre-season and has chemistry with Russell Wilson. When I scouted McCoy at USC he looked like a first round talent, but dropped in the draft due to off-field concerns. My guess is McCoy’s progress made Winslow’s large contract expendable. It’s a position to keep an eye on in college football this year, but the last few years have been lean at tight end.
Without wanting to linger too much on a success story for a rival NFC West team, I do want to take the time to congratulate Austin Davis for making the St. Louis Rams roster. He played very well during pre-season and beat out #2 quarterback Kellen Clemens. It’s worth noting Clemens was the only quarterback on the Rams roster with experience in coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s system, so it’s a significant move. I had the chance to interview Davis a year ago and was extremely impressed, and he deserved more credit for his achievements at Southern Miss. Congrats, Austin and all the best.