Archive for October, 2012

Week seven CFB open thread

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Watching a game? Or a particular prospect? Let us know about it.

Week seven preview & Jonathan Cooper (G, UNC) tape

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Three games on my schedule this week – Oklahoma vs Texas, Alabama vs Missouri and West Virginia vs Texas Tech.

Oklahoma vs Texas

I made my mind up a long time ago on Landry Jones and despite returning for his senior year with the Sooners, I still don’t believe his destiny includes time as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Such is the importance of the position he might get a look in round two or three, but the days of him earning a round one projection (not from me) are long gone. He’s stiff, he doesn’t improvise, he’s handcuffed to the play call and isn’t really making a lot of decisions out there. He’s got the NFL arm and there are rare moment of pure quality, but not enough unfortunately. Jones also has a lot of careless turnovers. Texas has some nice defensive talent and it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with Oklahoma’s no-huddle, fast-tempo offense. They did a reasonable job against WVU and still coughed up 40+ points. The likes of Jeffcoat, Okafor and Vaccaro will play on Sunday’s. But the guy who really interests me is junior defensive tackle Chris Whaley. He’s a physical force with a high motor and is more than capable of knifing through to make plays. Keep an eye on #96 if you’re watching this game tomorrow.

Alabama vs Missouri

Alabama should have plenty of success running the ball against Missouri but this is still the most interesting game of the three. Sheldon Richardson has shown huge potential this year as an interior defensive lineman – but this will be a huge challenge. He’s playing at around 295lbs and he’s more of a pass rusher than run stuffer. How he copes with ‘Bama’s rampant running attack will be crucial for his stock. He doesn’t have to blow up Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones, but he does need to show he can hold his own and play at least decent run defense against the most physical attack in college football. A sack or two wouldn’t go amiss either. Richardson could be a top-15 pick next April and it’s games like this that scouts are going to turn to in the off-season.

West Virginia vs Texas Tech

Texas Tech are a dangerous opponent for West Virginia because they’re capable of scoring just as many quick points as the Mountaineers. I expect WVU to win this game and Geno Smith will probably put up huge numbers again, but it’s a potential banana skin for a team with ambitions of making a run at the BCS title. It’s worth noting that Smith has been liable to have the occasional off-day. That hasn’t happened yet, we’ll see if it comes in these tougher Big-12 meetings on the schedule. One thing I’ve noticed recently in studying Smith a little closer is he crouches down on certain throws, lowering the trajectory of the release. I haven’t seen any obvious issues with this so far and he does have an over-the-top throwing motion and mostly decent mechanics. It’s still something I’m going to keep watching and after last week’s double-fumble against the Longhorns (one for a touchdown) it’ll be interesting to see if WVU can do a better job in pass protection. Smith still needs to sense the pressure and not turn the ball over – but it’s hard to complain too much when he has 24 touchdowns so far this year and zero interceptions.

I’ll put an open thread on the blog tomorrow so please feel free to contribute if you’re watching a game or a prospect over the weekend. I’ve also added video on North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper at the top of this article. He’s a possible top-15 pick even for an interior lineman. Incredibly athletic, good against the pass and run. Expect him to have a long, successful NFL career.

Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia) vs Texas

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

2013 ‘top heavy’ for defense: How it could benefit Seattle

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Texas A&M's Damontre Moore is one of a number of potential defensive top-15 picks

In the last few years, the first round of the NFL draft has been pretty balanced between offense and defense. Since 1993 (the last time Seattle drafted a quarterback in round one) only three defensive players have been drafted first overall (Dan Wilkinson, Courtney Brown and Mario Williams), but in recent years the top-15 picks have been split evenly. Of the 75 top-15 picks since 2008, 36 have been offensive players and 39 defensive.

The 2013 draft will buck the trend.

Obviously it’s still early days and a lot can change, but we’ve quietly moved towards the half-way point in the college football season. There aren’t going to be too many surprises from now until the end of the year, and many of the rising stars from now on are likely to crop up after work outs rather than in-season performance. Enough people study the draft these days to get on angle on who has a shot to be a high first round pick – the access to fans and pundits is greater than it’s ever been. Most potential first rounders are at least on the radar by this stage.

Right now it looks like a good year if you want a defensive tackle, with as many as 6-8 potential first round picks at the position. There are some big-time pass rushers who could crack the top-15 and there’s the usual handful of cornerbacks in the running too. When you throw in guys like Manti Te’o and Alec Ogletree at linebacker, it’s easy to see why this is setting up to be a defense-dominated draft class. We may even see the #1 pick being spent on a defensive player for the first time since 2006.

On the other hand it’s not looking like a strong year for offensive talent. Matt Barkley, Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson will all hope to benefit from the league’s obsession with quarterbacks (Logan Thomas doesn’t appear likely to declare for 2013). Will the demand for the position remain? With eight teams taking a quarterback in the first round since 2011 and the likes of Cincinnati (Andy Dalton) and Seattle (Russell Wilson) finding starters recently in the middle rounds, eventually there’s going to be a tipping point. Smith and Barkley aren’t going to generate the kind of hype afforded to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, while Wilson is suffering within an Arkansas team that imploded two weeks into the new season.

Cleveland are the only team without a victory so far in 2012, but they were one of the teams to go quarterback last April. That player – Brandon Weeden – turns 29 on Sunday. If they end up with the #1 overall pick next year, they’ll likely face a number of big decisions. The new owners may wish to move on from Mike Holmgren and the staff assembled in 2010. That would put Weeden’s position in jeopardy and make a QB at #1 more likely. Considering his age, he needed to prove he could start and perform quickly to a high standard. With hindsight that was far too much to expect even for a player pushing 30 with previous pro-sports experience. Unfortunately for Weeden, Cleveland may go quarterback again next year. Demand will also be enhanced if teams like Kansas City, Oakland and Jacksonville decide they need to invest in a quarterback. And let’s not completely rule out Seattle, either. Even so, it seems like there’s going to be less hysteria around the position.

The 2013 class lacks a player like Trent Richardson who can drive through the perception of low value at running back. Marcus Lattimore could’ve forced his way into that bracket, but a lack of top-end speed and with a serious knee injury on his record – he’s unlikely to crack the top-15. He does have production, character and leadership on his side though, so don’t rule it out. There are multiple receivers who could find their way into the first or second round, but none appear to warrant top-15 consideration. It’s also a dry year for offensive tackles.

Apart from the likelihood of one or two quarterbacks going early, the only other hope on offense may come from an unusually talented pair of offensive guards. Chance Warmack has top-10 talent and will only last beyond that due to the relatively low value placed on interior lineman. Jonathan Cooper is equally as talented and shouldn’t last too long in the first round. Tennessee’s Dallas Thomas is also rising after moving from tackle this year. Imagine a scenario where Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Chance Warmack are the only offensive players taken in the top-15 picks. It’s not unlikely. That’s how good the defensive talent is this year.

This could actually play into the hands of a team like Seattle. Whether the Seahawks make the post season or simply have to settle for progress in 2012, they’re unlikely (bold statement) to be picking in the top-ten. If next years draft does prove to be top-heavy for defense, it’ll mean there’s more choice of offensive talent later on. If the teams intention was to, for example, make two early picks on offense – the depth would be there to do so. Most people would presume Seattle will target offense in the draft, whether that’s at receiver, offensive line or even quarterback. Picking later could be a benefit in that regard. That’s not to say the team wouldn’t consider defense – especially given the supreme talent and depth at defensive tackle. But right now it’d be an upset if the Seahawks didn’t make offensive improvement their priority in the off-season.

There is some precedent for the team benefiting from a scenario like this. Only last April Pete Carroll and John Schneider had their pick of the entire pass-rusher class – the teams #1 priority in the draft. Make no mistake despite what you read about Luke Kuechly and Mark Barron, this team was zoned in on improving the pass rush in the draft. There wasn’t an obvious top-10 pick at defensive end, meaning the Seahawks were able to trade down to #15 and still get their pick of the crop. They chose Bruce Irvin, but probably had one or two solid alternatives. As soon as Irvin left the board, the likes of Quinton Coples, Chandler Jones and others soon followed.

We could see a similar outcome next year, where the Seahawks have an entire group of players to pick from at a position of need – such is the possibility of this being a real top-heavy draft on defense. The big question is whether a player exists that fits the vision of this front office as well as the last #1 pick. Bruce Irvin has been described as ‘the ideal LEO’ many times by Pete Carroll. Does the ideal wide receiver for this team exist among the 2013 group? Or the ideal offensive lineman? Or even the ideal quarterback? Only seven months to find out…

Top-20 prospects – October 10th

1 – Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
2 – Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
3 – Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
4 – Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
5 – Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
6 – Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
7 – Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
8 – Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
9 – Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
10 – Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
11 – Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
12 -Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
13 – Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
14 – Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
15 – Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
16 – Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
17 – Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn)
18 – Marcus Lattimore (RB, South Carolina)
19 – Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
20 – Robert Woods (WR, USC)

Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia) vs Baylor

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M) vs Arkansas

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Guest scouting report: Kenny Loth on Margus Hunt

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Margus Hunt is a very interesting player. Very very interesting. He’s a world class track and field (well, pretty much just field) athlete who came to the U.S. to be coached in that pursuit. When scholarships were removed for track athletes at SMU, his coach suggested this behemoth of a man take up football. He’s now a starter in SMU’s 3-4 defense.

He has tons of raw ability and a perfect frame for the position, but I would like to see him in a Jason Jones role. As we all know his and Alan Branch’s contracts are up at the end of the season, so that could make DT the sexy pick this year (barring Scruggs or Howard stepping up in a big way).  Hunt does some really incredible things on the football field. Watching his tape, I see him knifing gaps like no-one else. He gets so skinny through holes and he hauls some ass. He has very long arms and huge strong hands (much like Jason Jones). He’s fairly explosive off the snap. Not an elite first step, but he’ll catch opponents off guard now and again.

Hunt lacks many pass rush moves, but has a nice inside knife ability. He has all the potential in the world, it just depends on how he uses it. Oh yeah, did I mention this kid ran a 4.7 before the first time he stepped on a football field? Despite his enormous 82 inch wingspan (got me droolin’) he benched 225 pounds 35 times and could turn that into upwards of 40 by the time he gets to the combine. He’s also a record setting kick blocker. He gets miraculous amounts of pressure for the scheme he plays in. No known injuries.

One issue is he really struggles to keep consistent pad levels. This leads to him getting blown off the ball by run blockers and he will be man-handled by NFL road graders if he doesn’t fix these issues. Hunt seems to lack ideal strength at the point of attack, which is probably due to his consistently poor pad level. He has decent closing speed, but he seems to get one hand on QBs and they just get away from him a lot. He doesn’t look like he has a consistent motor (he’s more like a Plymouth), but this could be due to his lack of experience. He rarely looks ‘lost’ on the field, but at the same time doesn’t always look like he has a comprehensive grasp of his duties or the play.

Another concern I have is that perhaps he isn’t all that dedicated to football. He hasn’t even played for four years. Some players his age (he’s 26) have been playing for four times that long! Speaking of his age, that’s another concern. But, hey, if an under-talented 28-year-old Brandon Weeden can go in the first round, why couldn’t a supremely talented Margus Hunt? Personally, I think he will be a first round pick, just because of how much of a freak athlete he is.

He fits in well with the Seahawks defensive scheme, because he’s kind of a tweener-3-4-DE/4-3-DT/DE type and we run a 4-3 look with 3-4 personnel. He would find an instant home in the nickel package and would be valued more highly on this team than others because of our obsession with turnovers, especial-teamly on special teams (see what I did there?). Overall I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing Hunt in Blue, Gray and Green, but at the right price. I wouldn’t want him in the first round. If he falls to the second I say snatch him up with a quickness. He’s got a VERY high ceiling.

Six first round defensive tackles in 2013? It could happen…

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Kawann Short is one of six potential first round defensive tackles

We’re already about half way through the college football season and the outlook for the 2013 draft is starting to take shape. It doesn’t appear to be a great class for offensive tackles, but there are two extremely talented interior guards who could be top-20 picks. The skill positions have plenty of depth, if not the elite top-ten picks we’ve come to expect in recent years. As usual there’s one truly exceptional cornerback prospect from the SEC – this time in the form of Alabama’s Dee Milliner.

One position is really standing out among others, however, and that’s at defensive tackle. It’s not a huge need for the Seahawks given the play of Brandon Mebane (Pro Bowl level through five games) and the depth with Alan Branch, Jason Jones and Jaye Howard. It’s worth noting, however, that both Jones and Branch are free agents after this season.  The hope is that Seattle’s offense will make subsequent progress to truly allow the team to go BPA in the draft. Since 2010, the team has really been filling needs in round one and this season has shown there are pretty obvious areas for concern on offense. If they can find more offensive production going forward this makes the prospect of drafting a talented interior defensive lineman more palatable.

I’ve posted some tape below and I’ll do a similar piece for other positions as we move forward. Thanks to JMPasq and Aaron Aloysius for putting the videos together. As you can see there’s a lot of depth at DT and this is without including Georgia’s massive nose tackle Jonathan Jenkins – a potential top-10 pick particularly if teams like Indianapolis pick early. I’m not sure any of the group are out of bounds for Seattle, given they signed Branch at 325lbs to play alongside Mebane. In fact there’s nothing to stop them re-signing Jones and adding a bigger lineman such as Jenkins or Johnathan Hankins to play early downs. Howard has a ton of potential and deserves consideration as a potential starter down the line, but the Seahawks may feel the group below are too good to pass.

Sheldon Richardson is a lighter prospect and a pure three-technique, disruptive pass rusher. Star Lotulelei has the size to play the pass and run equally well but so far at Utah has looked better as a pass rusher. Sylvester Williams has prototype size for a 4-3 lineman and he has a great motor, not to mention a lot of production this season. Williams’ biggest issue is age – he’s similar to Bruce Irvin as a former JUCO transfer and will likewise join the league in his mid-20′s. Kawann Short is another athletic interior pass rusher while Hankins can feature as a nose tackle in the 3-4 or a productive one-technique in the 4-3.

It’s a great class and the position could dominate the first round next April. Whether the Seahawks ever truly consider going in this direction remains to be seen, but this is still an exciting group.

Instant reaction: Seahawks dominate, still stressful

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Russell Wilson deserves more praise than the uni combo

The Seahawks dominated Carolina in every single aspect but the scoreline today. A 16-12 finish doesn’t fairly represent just how comprehensive this victory was, but the team ensured everyone had the usual Sunday headache with a series of errors and penalties. The first half brought back memories of the Green Bay game in week three – a completely one sided affair with the defense shutting down the opposition. Yet somehow the score was 6-3 at half time and it was all down to the teams greatest enemy right now – indiscipline.

A huge downfield pass play for around 56 yards was called back for a hold by Bren Giacomini. The same player had yet another personal foul flag. Chris Clemons’ suplex on Cam Newton prevented Seattle getting great field position late in the second quarter and instead Carolina drove for their first points of the day. A 17-0 half turned into a 6-3 half, and thankfully it didn’t prove costly.

Compounding the issue was a sluggish start to the third quarter with two turnovers including a pick-six by Russell Wilson. A third turnover followed shortly, with the juggling skills of Marshawn Lynch decidedly worse than his rushing skills. But while the first two were basic errors, the third was a freak event.

But just as it seemed another close game was going to be flushed down the toilet, both sides of the ball stepped up to the plate. Brandon Browner stole the ball for a turnover leading to a smart Wilson-to-Golden Tate touchdown. Another drive led to three more points and when Cam Newton finally drove the Panthers into scoring range – Browner made a vital play on third down to prevent Louis Murphy scoring a touchdown. Carolina went for it on fourth and strangely had Newton throw the ball – and he somehow missed a wide-open receiver throwing into the turf.

Even then the Seahawks had to close it out and thanks to a typical first down run from Lynch and a clever decision to take a safety (making life easy for Jon Ryan) the win was secured. Seattle’s three high profile rookies all had a big day:

- Bruce Irvin finished with two sacks and two QB hits. The first sack was a superb closing burst to tackle Newton by the ankle. The second won the game, forcing a fumble in the process. He’s an impact player, taking his sack total to 4.5 in five games. The Seahawks drafted him to make a big contribution at a crucial time and he did that today. There’s going to be times this year where he doesn’t feature and people will get frustrated, but he wasn’t drafted to be an every down playmaker. This is what he was brought here to do – make key plays with the game on the line.

- Bobby Wagner was immense for the second week in a row. He played the option brilliantly, showed excellent speed on one play to get to Newton on a QB keeper and looks every bit the established NFL starter. He entered the draft a borderline first round pick and went in the second because linebacker is a bit of a luxury pick. The Seahawks made a wise move taking him in round two and found a starter for many years to come. The secondary gets a lot of attention and rightly so, but the Seahawks also have one of the best linebacker groups for a 4-3 scheme.

- Russell Wilson showed tangible progress today and deserves a ton of praise. He’s a rookie starter in his fifth game – and not the typical rookie starter either who was a top-five or even #1 overall pick. Wilson is 3-2 as a starter having beaten Dallas, Green Bay and Carolina – his only two defeats coming on the road in the newly crowned toughest division in football. Sure – the pick-six was ugly. Guess what? Veteran quarterbacks with playoff appearances still throw passes like that. The second interception has no place among his stat line. He completed 76% of his passes and didn’t let the two interceptions get into his head. Is he the finished article? Absolutely not. Is he showing progress as a starter? Definitely. This regime doesn’t need five starting quarterbacks in two and a half years on the résumé. Wilson shouldn’t have to beat the Patriots next week to avoid question marks about his validity to stat. The Seahawks offense is still growing and they made their choice in pre-season. Wilson deserves a chance to show further progress over the next few weeks.

This is the type of performance we expected before the season began. If the mental mistakes and penalties can be ironed out, this is a forceful team who will be tough to beat at home or on the road. It’s up to the coaches now to make sure no more wins are jeopardised by indiscipline. And if they continue to play this way minus the mental mistakes, it’ll help us concentrate on a ‘best player available’ scenario for the draft. Which is a good thing, given the clear strength for 2013 is at positions like defensive tackle.

And oh yeah – not a fan of the blue-on-grey uniforms. My choice would be blue-on-blue and white-on-blue. Not that you care.

Week six review: Geno Smith makes a case

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

It was a good weekend for West Virginia and Geno Smith

Geno Smith’s 656 yard, eight score performance against Baylor last week was a Heisman statement. This week’s challenge against a much stronger Texas defense was a chance to make an ever bigger statement for his draft stock. He passed the test. Smith threw for four touchdowns, added 268 yards and now boasts a stat line including 25 total touchdowns, zero interceptions and 1996 yards. In five games. There are decent starting quarterbacks in college football who would call that a season.

It wasn’t a flawless display by any means – two fumbles led to Texas scores and while bad pass protection was the main culprit, Smith could’ve avoided turning the ball over. But overall it’s hard to find too many faults. He was economical at times, making intelligent decisions and knowing where to put the football. All four touchdown passes were razor sharp, throwing into tight windows and making the most of his playmakers. And perhaps the most astonishing thing is how few opportunities he gave Texas to intercept a pass – despite throwing 35 balls. You’d expect a high percentage of turnovers given the prolific passing game – it’s the nature of the game. It’s one of the reasons Pete Carroll plays ultra conservative in Seattle. Smith has such a grasp of this offense that he avoids bad throws – his only one for the night came on an ill-advised pass to Tavon Austin in double coverage. It was a rare error.

When Dana Holgorsen took control at WVU it was easy to see this was a marriage made in heaven. His offensive scheme was a perfect fit for Geno Smith, who had posted a solid 24-7 touchdown-interception ratio and 2763 yards as a first year starter in 2010. I remember highlighting his potential in the summer of 2011 purely due to the prolific scheme being able to make the most of this accurate, athletic passer. By the end of last season he was starting to show real progress, but it’s hard to believe just how much he’s improved under Holgorsen’s tutelage. He looks stronger this year, he’s avoiding some of the costly mistakes we saw in 2011. He looks like a top first round pick.

I also liked how sparky he was on the sideline. Sometimes it’s good to see a bit of emotion from a quarterback, they don’t have to be completely stiff. Smith was jawing at the Texas players and getting the crowd going afterwards. He was enjoying himself out there and that’s the way it should be.

I noticed a lot of hand wringing on Twitter after the game which is par for the course these days. Guys falling over each other to tell everyone they ‘always had Smith ranked as the #1 quarterback for 2012′ – each apparently calling that a little earlier than everyone else. We saw something similar with Robert Griffin III last year. There’s seemingly a race to be ‘the first’ to project a prospect as highly as possible on the off chance it actually works out. That’s not how this game works. So far Smith has looked very sharp and it’s correct to acknowledge that. But it’s also right to let the season play out. There’s some big games coming up – against Kansas State and Oklahoma to name two – and he’ll have further opportunities to prove just how good he is. We don’t have to anoint him now, just like we didn’t have to anoint RGIII until the end of last season. Smith is playing at a high level – but we need to see more to complete his assessment. So don’t fight too hard guys patting yourselves on the back.

Right now Smith and Matt Barkley are the clear top-two quarterbacks eligible for 2013. Tyler Wilson still has a chance to work his way back into contention despite a disastrous season for Arkansas so far – but GM’s will acknowledge the car-crash nature of the environment around Wilson when judging his stock. There’s still a chance the quarterback position will get interesting for April.

WVU receiver Tavon Austin appears destined to join Geno Smith in the first round. He was explosive against Texas. Austin had a 40 yard touchdown where he created separation down the middle, took the underneath throw and then just out ran several members of the Longhorns defense to round the corner and break free. It was all about pure speed and yards after the catch and it’s the kind of play scouts will be sending to GM’s and coaches in the off season. Austin also had a 67 yard kick return and ended with 10 catches for 102 yards. Teams needing a spark on offense really will consider this guy in the 20-32 range.

Elsewhere…

Sylvester Williams is a more rounded prospect than Star Lotulelei in my opinion. Against Virginia Tech he was a consistent force as a pass rusher, as North Carolina won 48-34. He recorded another sack which means 5.5 in just six games playing defensive tackle. Like Bruce Irvin last year he’s a little older as a JUCO transfer but that shouldn’t put a cap on the guy’s stock. He doesn’t have the same level of upside but then you have a better idea of what you’re going to get at the next level. He’s the perfect fit for a 4-3 team that values size and pass rushing in the interior. He should be a top-10 pick.

Damontre Moore is another pass rusher who should be climbing boards. He’s looked sensational for Texas A&M this year and I’ll post some tape on the blog soon. He had another sack in yesterday’s 30-27 win over Ole Miss, making it six so far for the season. He’s not Von Miller but he’s used in a similar way by A&M and he has similar size at 6-4 and around 250lbs. The guy can play and will interest 3-4 teams looking for an outside pass rusher. He’s working into the top-15 range and could keep rising.

Jarvis Jones at Georgia had another sack too, but in a 35-7 blowout defeat to South Carolina. Jones has 5.5 sacks this year but has struggled to have a major impact in the last two weeks. He’s still an elite talent, but it’s looking less likely he’ll be a candidate to go first overall next year. In the same game, Marcus Lattimore had 109 yards from 24 carries plus a single touchdown.

Florida State has been over rated all season. That was proven true with last nights 17-16 loss at NC State. EJ Manuel is not a legitimate NFL quarterback and proved that with a scoreless second half. FSU led 16-0 at half time. Manuel took too many sacks and threw a bad interception in the second half to spark the comeback, failing to notice the under-cutting defensive back. He has the physical tools to interest scouts but he’s just not got the smarts and polish to warrant any kind of pro-consideration. I wouldn’t spend a mid-rounder on him. There’s also some concern for Bjoern Werner who started the year on fire but has gone sackless in his last three games. Four of his 6.5 sacks came against Murray State, while the rest came against Savannah State and Wake Forest. He’s not looked dangerous against Clemson or NC State.

A pass rusher who deserves more attention is Travis Long at Washington State. He leads college football with 7.5 sacks after grabbing another against Oregon State. We’ve talked about him before on this blog and he probably won’t be a high pick – but he can get to the quarterback. Keep an eye on this guy.

Florida safety Matt Elam is making a strong case to be a first round pick. He was all over the field in the 14-6 win over LSU, making big plays that impacted the game. I put his tape vs Tennessee on the blog earlier so check it out. He’s rising.

DeAndre Hopkins is quickly turning into a very intriguing prospect with first round potential. He had seven catches for 173 yards in a win for Clemson over Georgia Tech, adding two touchdowns. In six games he has 777 yards and eight scores – the best stats for any receiver in college football. That’s no mean achievement given the number of pass-happy offenses in the NCAA and Clemson do have a strong running game with Andre Ellington. He’s ahead of guys like Steadman Bailey and Cobi Hamilton who both had 300-yard games this year. Hopkins could wind up being the top receiver from this class. It’s not unthinkable. He’s running good routes, he looks controlled and he’s making big plays.