Archive for January, 2013

Mock draft Wednesday’s: 2nd January

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Time for the weekly mock draft update and the first for 2013. I promised video of DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson) performance against LSU in this weeks Chick-fil-A Bowl and you’ll find it above. I’m going to break it down tomorrow, but wanted to include it in this piece because… well you’ve probably worked it out by now.

Thoughts on the mock

– This is the hardest time of the year to do a mock draft. Several teams haven’t got coaches or even GM’s. If Andy Reid lands in Arizona, will he really give Kevin Kolb another chance as the starter? If Ray Horton is appointed as a Head Coach, will it be to a team that suddenly has to adjust to the 3-4? Basically this thing could look a lot different in a fortnight. Not that it’s anything remotely like an accurate projection in early January. It’s just a discussion starter.

– I’m not convinced by some of the recent hype around certain quarterbacks. Tyler Bray has plenty of arm talent but made far too many mistakes this year and others have questioned his attitude. I can’t put him in the first two rounds at the moment. Suddenly Tajh Boyd is being touted as a first or second round pick based on his performance against LSU. I just can’t see that happening based on his overall 2012 performance. Mike Glennon is another player suddenly receiving a fair amount of hype. He still warrants (at best) a mid-round grade in my opinion.

– I still think Matt Barkley is the best quarterback in this class and therefore the most likely player to go #1 overall. USC has been a shambles on the field this year and a PR disaster off it. Lane Kiffin is lucky to still be in a job. He is completely responsible for the mess at Southern Cal. Yet despite all of this, Barkley had 36 touchdowns and a 157.6 passer rating – less than four points short of his 2011 mark where everybody was touting him as a top-ten pick. And for all those people questioning whether he’d be as good without Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, I present to you the Georgia Tech game – where Max Wittek managed a grand total of 107 yards and had three interceptions in a lousy defeat. Barkley isn’t the physical comparison to Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton. He is, however, an accurate and accomplished passer with the kind of attitude you can build a franchise around. The Chiefs have a good supporting cast, they just need a guy to pull it all together.

– I haven’t included Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M) following a report that he’s likely to stay in school for his senior year. With Luke Joeckel likely to turn pro, Matthews would have the opportunity to play left tackle next year for the Aggies. If he performs to expectations, that would put him in position to be a possible top-five pick in 2014.

– I’ve said this a few times, but this is a really good draft to be picking in the late first round. The talent differential from the top-ten to the 20-32 range is minimal. Whether the Seahawks pick 21st overall or 32nd, there’s going to be some good options to help keep this team moving forward. So basically, feel free to reach the Super Bowl guys.

Back to a first and second round projection today.

First round

#1 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
The Chiefs need a quarterback. They don’t have a terrible roster. They have to do this.
#2 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
The Jaguars need a pass rusher and Werner could steadily move up the boards after a 13.5 sack season.
#3 Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
Only Jacksonville had less sacks than Oakland this season. Moore had 12.5 in the SEC for Texas A&M.
#4 Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)
This is the starting point for whoever replaces Andy Reid. They have to repair the offensive line.
#5 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
Explosive linebacker. Incredible athlete. Worthy top-five pick.
#6 Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
Jones has top-five talent but the spinal stenosis issue will really linger. He’ll need to be cleared to go this early.
#7 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
Are they seriously considering persevering with Kevin Kolb? Really?
#8 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Buffalo might trade back into the first round to get a quarterback, allowing them to take the best player available here.
#9 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
If they really want to play smash-mouth football, this is the guy they should take.
#10 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
There’s a bit of Dockett in there. He could be the next great three-technique.
#11 Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan)
They need to take a left tackle.
#12 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
The X-Factor player of this draft.
#13 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
The complete cornerback. This would be a steal.
#14 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
Massive upside, but too inconsistent for the top-ten.
#15 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
Jordan will know he can make some money at the combine.
#16 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
The next best tackle on the board.
#17 Matt Elam (S, Florida)
Pure playmaker in the secondary.
#18 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
Athletic guard who could even switch to tackle. He will start for 10+ years.
#19 Ezekiel Ansah (DE, BYU)
Another player who could really boost his stock with a great combine.
#20 Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
With the tackles off the board, Chicago goes best player available on offense.
#21 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
He had a tremendous Chick-fil-A Bowl.
#22 Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
This guy is legit. A brilliant linebacker prospect.
#23 Kevin Minter (LB, LSU)
It’s time to start planning for life after Ray Lewis (legend).
#24 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
He’s contemplating whether to declare. If he does, he has more upside than any other receiver in this class.
#25 Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
When building a 3-4, you need a nose tackle.
#26 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
Just a really good football player. Mr. Clutch.
#27 Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)
His best fit in my opinion is at 3-4 end.
#28 John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
Blue-collar pass rusher. Underrated.
#29 Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
He had a great year on a losing team. Can play tackle or guard.
#30 Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
No, I don’t think the Patriots draft Wilson. But a team like Buffalo could trade into this range to get him.
#31 Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
They could use another interior pass rusher.
#32 Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
He’d go higher if he showed more consistent effort.

Second round

#33 Jacksonville – Jonathan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
#34 Kansas City – Robert Woods (WR, USC)
#35 Philadelphia – Barrett Jones (C, Alabama)
#36 Detroit – Logan Ryan (CB, Rutgers)
#37 Cincinnati – Giovanni Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
#38 Arizona – Justin Pugh (T, Syracuse)
#39 New York Jets – Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
#40 Tennessee – Kyle Long (T, Oregon)
#41 Buffalo – Markus Wheaton (WR, Oregon State)
#42 Miami – Alex Okafor (DE, Texas)
#43 Tampa Bay – Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
#44 Carolina – Shawn Williams (S, Georgia)
#45 San Diego – Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
#46 St. Louis – Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
#47 Dallas – Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State)
#48 Pittsburgh – Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
#49 New York Giants – Oday Aboushi (T, Virginia)
#50 Chicago – D.J. Fluker (T, Alabama)
#51 Washington – Eric Reid (S, LSU)
#52 Minnesota – Bennie Logan (DT, LSU)
#53 Baltimore – Sharrif Floyd (DE, Florida)
#54 Cincinnati – Keenan Allen (WR, California)
#55 Seattle – Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)
#56 Green Bay – Stepfan Taylor (RB, Stanford)
#57 Miami – Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma)
#58 Houston – Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
#59 San Francisco – Jordan Poyer (CB, Oregon State)
#60 New England – Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB, Connecticut)
#61 Atlanta – Brennan Williams (T, North Carolina)
#62 Denver – Terrance Williams (WR, Baylor)

DeAndre Hopkins is a top-20 talent

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Time to start a new bandwagon. A DeAndre Hopkins shaped bandwagon.

Without any doubt at all, he’s a stud. Any doubts about this guy need to be firmly removed following an incredible solo-performance against mighty LSU yesterday. He’s a top-20 talent who may go later… and a smart team will be ready to capitalise.

LSU’s passing defense isn’t quite as sharp since losing Morris Claiborne and Patrick Peterson to the NFL (and Tyronn Mathieu to marijuana) but this was still a terrific performance from an underrated player. Give credit too to quarterback Tajh Boyd, who had to deal with a relentless pass rush and constant pressure. But there’s no doubting who the star of the show was.

Hopkins had 13 catches, 191 yards and two touchdowns. His first score was set up by a physical grab down the left sideline, competing against pass interference to turn and locate the ball before making a difficult catch (see the play here). The touchdown (click here) owed a lot to Boyd’s accuracy and velocity, fitting a pass into a tight window. But Hopkins made the catch look easy in traffic. Clutch completion.

The second score was another tough catch at the back of the end zone, made possible by a good route (click here). It’s the kind of effortless play Hopkins makes time and time again. He’s such a smooth, controlled route runner with the hands to match.

I’m going to post the full game tape on the blog soon, but here are the other characteristics he flashed on the night. He’s a pure hands catcher. For nearly every one of his 13 receptions he extended his arms and plucked the ball out of the air. He had one drop by my count – a high pass on a crossing route he had no real duty to complete. His reaction was poignant – sheer frustration at himself for not making the grab. It’s testament to his character and attitude, something I’ll come back to later.

Fortunately drops are not a concern. He smothered every other pass thrown his way – on one occasion leaping above a defensive back to make a completion with his finger tips. For all the great physical traits you find with other players – and you’ll hear pundits continually talk about size and speed when it comes to the wide out position – you just cannot beat a guy who catches everything thrown his way and makes game-winning plays. ‘Reliable’ is sometimes superior to ‘explosive’. When you’re driving for the win, a quarterback wants a guy he knows he can go to. It might be his third read on the play, but he always knows in the back of his man is going to be there. In the red zone? Where’s my guy. This is the type of player Hopkins will be at the next level.

We’ve talked about clutch plays, but there was no greater example of this than a 4th and 16 completion on the game’s final drive. He found just enough separation over the middle for Boyd to slip a pass in between two defenders – similar to his first touchdown. Hopkins makes the diving catch and holds onto the ball. That play essentially won Clemson the game, as shortly after they marched down field and scored the winning field goal as time expired. Drop the pass and LSU wins.

He’s not the biggest receiver at 6-1 and 200-205lbs. He’s also not among the fastest – I’d project a time in the 4.45-4.50 range at the combine. This is where the league is in danger of being fooled again.

Conventional wisdom says that’s not spectacular enough for a high pick. The five most productive receivers in the NFL this year statistically were Calvin Johnson (6-5, 236lbs), Andre Johnson (6-3, 230lbs), Brandon Marshall (6-4, 230lbs), Demaryius Thomas (6-3, 229lbs) and Vincent Jackson (6-5, 230lbs). Clearly size matters. The man ranked at #9 is Roddy White of Atlanta – listed at 6-0 and 211lbs. He’s become a clutch receiver for Matt Ryan – the original dynamic target prior to Julio Jones’ arrival. Hopkins compares favourably to White – who was drafted #27 overall in 2005. They’re likely make comparable forty times (White had a 4.47), they have similar size and range. However, Hopkins hasn’t shown any of the inconsistencies that dogged White’s early years in Atlanta before the light switched on.

The way you make up for a lack of size is playing above your stature. Be physical. Master your routes. Understand the offense. Find advantages elsewhere. When you listen to Hopkins conduct an interview, he’ll talk about (for example) exploiting a cover-2 and appears to be a student of the game. Despite the arrival of highly-recruited Sammy Watkins he never complained about a reduced work-load in 2011. Watkins left the LSU game after picking up an injury in Clemson’s first offensive series. That makes a 13-catch near-200 yard performance even more impressive against one of the best defensive teams in the SEC.

During the game ESPN’s sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards relayed a story about Hopkins being asked in high-school to make a list of targets for the year ahead. Apparently he’s continued this tradition throughout his career and has met every goal he set out to achieve. Supposedly his one remaining goal for the 2012 season is to become a first round pick in the NFL draft. It’s this kind of determination and focus that’ll have GM’s and coaches salivating when they sit down to speak with this guy. And doesn’t he just sound like a perfect compliment to a workaholic like Russell Wilson? You can almost imagine the pair working overtime throwing passes during the off-season. It’s a chemistry waiting to happen.

I appreciate the front office’s apparent penchant for size at the receiver position. There are a lot of jump-balls to be won in this offense. They coveted both Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson on the trade market and decided both moves were too expensive. Big Mike Williams was a feature in 2010 and 2011. Sidney Rice is 6-4. If they’re going to add another receiver, they may favour the size of a Cordarrelle Patterson or Brandon Coleman.

However, one of the reasons this team believed 5-11 Russell Wilson could be a starting NFL quarterback was due to the way he made up for a lack of size. His release point, hand size, throwing velocity, accuracy and mobility rendered it a moot point. Pete Carroll has talked about players needing to make up for a lack of elite physical qualities to warrant consideration. Hopkins answers the call with his hands, clutch playmaking ability, route running and intelligence on the field. And it’s not like 6-1 and a 4.45-4.50 forty yard dash is a major issue anyway. This team drafted a smaller receiver in Golden Tate who can still go up and make physical plays.

One thing I’ve learnt watching Russell Wilson in Seattle is to never underestimate a prospect who is determined to be great. Few players have that quality. Some are physically good enough to never require that aspect of their personality. Others are so driven, so zoned in on making themselves ‘great’. I get that impression from Hopkins.

Now that we know he’s going to turn pro – and what a way to bow out of college – it’s time he warranted serious consideration as a first round pick. The likes of Keenan Allen and Justin Hunter continue to appear in multiple mock drafts carrying first round grades, while Hopkins is nowhere to be seen. I’d be very suspicious of any mock not giving this guy serious first round consideration – especially behind those two players. For the record, he ended the 2012 season with 1405 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. There’s going to be a lot of good receiving options in the late first round this year. Hopkins, Brandon Coleman, Cordarrelle Patterson, Markus Wheaton and others could all be available in that range. Stanford tight end Zach Ertz is another name to keep an eye on if he decides to turn pro. It’s perhaps another reason why the Seahawks would be better served addressing some of their pass-rushing issues in free agency to allow the front office to take advantage of the pass-catching talent available this year. Of course, there are other possible target positions in the first round. Tony Pauline confirmed today that Georgia’s brilliant linebacker Alec Ogletree will turn pro:

Ogletree’s final snap for Georgia was a sack – a fitting end for one of the more explosive defensive prospects entering the league in the last few years. It’s also difficult to look too far beyond Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, who will contest the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon on Thursday. Both players appear to be good fits for the WILL position in Seattle’s 4-3 under scheme.

Even so, it’s time to get excited about DeAndre Hopkins. He could be a name many more people are talking about by the time April comes around.