It’s the time of year when we start to hear which underclassmen are declaring for the draft. The prospects involved in Bowl games will likely wait it out. For the others, there’s no reason to hold back their intentions.
Tennessee announced left tackle Antonio Richardson will turn pro today.
Despite suggestions he held back this year, Richardson has massive potential. And it’s not the only thing that’s massive — he’s 6-6 and 327lbs, but holds the weight well.
Teams are going to be all over this guy. I remember in 2010 — Anthony Davis was a late addition to the class after opting to leave Rutgers. He too was a huge, athletic tackle who faced claims he hadn’t played his best football during the season.
Ultimately, the potential won out. Davis looked the part of a NFL tackle, tested well and was drafted 11th overall by the 49ers.
Richardson has even more potential. He’s exactly what teams are looking for — quick on his feet, huge frame, long arms, rarely beaten by pure speed and forces defensive ends to take difficult angles to attack the quarterback. He also flashes a nasty streak from time to time, which is a big plus.
While a guy like Jake Matthews will be considered a ‘safer’ option, he simply can’t compare to the upside on show here.
In fact there’s maybe only Auburn’s Greg Robinson who can compete when it comes to pure potential. My favourite tackle in this class — Cyrus Kouandjio — can only dream of a ceiling as high as Richardson’s. Fortunately for Kouandjio, he’s much more technically and fundamentally sound. There’s less bust potential, but he’s not a freak of nature.
The question to Richardson will be — can you deliver on that potential? When scouts and coaches look into his eyes during this process, will they see a man determined to be as good as he possibly can be?
That for me seems to be the one thing that will determine how high he goes in the draft. If he can convince people he’s ready to dominate — he’ll go very early.
Tony Pauline is reporting that Louis Nix will likely begin training for the combine at the beginning of January.
It’s not a major shock that Nix is planning on heading to the NFL. He turned down the option of going pro last year.
Yet in terms of his stock, that extra season could be costly.
Twelve months ago Nix was seen as the dominating, immovable force of Notre Dame’s defensive line. Nobody came out of the National Championship smelling of roses, but Nix’s fantastic 2012 season had him touted as a likely top-10 pick.
This year, he’s struggled to emulate that level of play.
He’s looked heavier for a start — and it doesn’t look like good weight. It’s a good thing he’ll start his combine prep immediately — he could do with trimming down.
The league values speed more than ever, even with the big guys. Dontari Poe was a top-15 pick purely down to his athleticism and size. His tape was nothing special at all, with almost nothing to highlight and say, “that’s why we need this guy”.
It’s vital that Nix can show quick twitch movement and mobility — because we all know what he’s capable of when it comes to filling a gap in the running game. Even this year it’s hard to knock his ability against the run — he anchors well, he’s strong in the upper body.
It’s good to see he’s getting a head start as he tries to prove he can also have an impact against the pass. Two-down linemen don’t tend to go in the top-15.
Finally a thought on Teddy Bridgewater — the default early pick at quarterback this year. I say that with respect for Bridgewater, who is a pretty good player with a future in the league at the right spot.
However — I saw a lot of comments yesterday suggesting the Houston/Jacksonville game was the ‘Bridgewater Bowl’. Let’s take a rain check on that.
Bridgewater’s first half display against Cincinnati last night was a perfect review of how he’s played in the last month.
By half time this was his stat line: 6/14, 86 yards. One touchdown, one interception.
At that point he’d only thrown three touchdowns since the end of October. For whatever reason, he was in a slump.
Admittedly things picked up in the second half and he threw two more touchdowns. Louisville squeezed past Cincy and life was good again.
But it made me question, once again, Bridgewater’s status in this draft.
He is a good college quarterback with a reasonable skill set. Is he a special player though? That’s what I keep coming back to. Is he special enough for a team like the Texans to feel he’s worthy of the #1 pick?
Houston, I presume, aren’t seeing this as the start of a major rebuild job. Unlike Seattle in 2008, they have a ton of young talented players — including possibly the best all-round player in the league.
Whoever replaces Gary Kubiak will inherit a roster with enough players to bounce back quickly.
Owning the #1 pick is a bit of a luxury. And much like the Chiefs last year, they should be doing better. Everything is set for a rebound season in 2014.
Yet Kansas City needed a quarterback and didn’t take one with the #1 pick. They drafted a right tackle and traded for Alex Smith long before the 2013 draft.
Could the Texans take a similar path?
Here’s some names for you — Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford.
Cutler is a free agent next year, and the Bears have to decide whether to pay him a hefty salary to keep him. Their lukewarm approach to contract talks and public admission that the franchise tag isn’t ideal could mean anything. It could be leverage. Or it could be a sign that all is not well between the two parties.
The Rams look set to own a top five pick on top of their own selection. Will they go in a different direction, potentially leading the way to Bradford’s departure?
That’s just two examples. You may be able to think of more. Theoretically the Texans could look at either player, or another veteran, just like Kansas City did. And that would give them the opportunity to draft Jadeveon Clowney with the #1 pick.
Alternatively, they could just take a quarterback with the #33 pick. It’s a deep enough class to consider that option. They could even move back into the first.
What I’m trying to show here is — just because the Texans are picking early and need a quarterback, it doesn’t mean they’re just going to draft Bridgewater.
And right now, I’m not convinced Bridgewater — or any quarterback for that matter — is worthy of going before Clowney. For all his negative publicity this year he still remains a generational physical talent. He has the ability to come into the league and become a superstar.
Those chance are greatly improved if you’re lining him up next to J.J. Watt. That could be a duo for the ages.
If you’re going to say “no thanks” to that proposition, you better make sure the other guy you take is very good.
Is Bridgewater good enough to win Houston a title one day? Maybe. He’d have weapons. It’d probably be a better spot for him than Jacksonville.
But is Bridgewater + whoever you get at #33 better than Clowney and A.J. McCarron? Or Clowney and whatever veteran you can add?
That is the big question facing the Texans. And it’s far from a foregone conclusion they decide to go quarterback if they get that top pick.