Bob McGinn at the Journal Sentinel is one of best connected journalists in the business — and a great follow if you love the draft. If anonymous scouting quotes are your thing, McGinn’s articles on the draft will feel like nirvana.
If you need any more proof his sources are legit — McGinn ranks #2 overall in the Huddle Report’s mock draft rankings over the last five years.
Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
“He’s big and he can get behind guys… He’s competitive. Really good hands. He’s a bigger guy so he’s not a sudden guy who will gain a lot of separation against man coverage. He’s going to beat you vertically and he’s a big guy. He’ll win by getting body position on guys. He’s not a No. 1, not a special guy like that. He’s a No. 2.”
“People will say he can’t run and played at Indiana… But he’s big. He’s in the top group.”
This is consistent with what we’ve been hearing on Latimer over the last few weeks. Some people are concerned that he isn’t able to create major separation. Any team that values timing and precise routes will probably prefer other players in this class. But the point I’d make to counter that is — some teams (like Seattle and Philadelphia) aren’t asking for consistent separation. They’re actively challenging their receivers to win 1v1 battles instead — high pointing the football and dominating the redline.
Neither the Seahawks or the Eagles are likely to be too concerned by Latimer’s ability to separate. They’ll be much more focused on his strong hands, ability to compete for the ball in the air, freaky athleticism and excellent run blocking.
That final quote sums it up. “He’s in the top group.”
He sure is — and that’s why I think the Seahawks will be lucky if he’s there at #32.
Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
“Really like his up side… He’s actually a little more fluid for a big guy getting in and out of his breaks but he’s not as fast and certainly not near as smart as Evans. He’s going to be a project. Good kid. He could have really used another year in school.”
“Boom or bust… You can see some flashes. Little bit inconsistent, there’s lack of speed and some stiffness.”
“I should like him more… I just thought he was a prima donna. That was his personality on tape.”
He’s a acquired taste. Some teams will be scared off by a 240lbs receiver because there just aren’t many in the league. If you want excuses to dislike him you can find them — the ridiculous drops, the sloppy routes, the lethargy in his play at times.
Then there’s the other side to it. Some teams will love his incredible size and flashes of brilliance. He has plays where he leaps way above helpless defensive backs to high point a difficult grab. He’ll break tackles in the open field. He’ll lay the wood on a key block. He could be a monster at the next level and perhaps there aren’t many 240lbs receivers because Benjamin is a special case? A rare talent?
Personally I think a lot of teams won’t be willing to offer a first round grade. But it only takes two or three to like the guy and he’ll go in the 12-22 range. What’s the saying we’ve heard a few times this off-season? “You can’t teach 6-5”?
Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
“He’s a vertical receiver… He’s a big guy with straight-line speed. He drops balls. He’s got some tightness to him and he’s not real quick, but he’s powerful. He may be the best blocker of all the receivers. He actually goes after people.”
“Really soft… “He doesn’t want anything to do with it.”
Talk about a contradiction between two scouts. One says he’s the best blocker in the class and really goes after people. The other says he’s soft.
Moncrief’s one of the more difficult players to project in this draft. He could easily be a first round pick with a combination of supreme athletic quality and potential. But you’d be banking on upside. There’s some poor 2013 tape out there. Part of it’s on the schizophrenic Ole Miss offense. Part of it’s on Moncrief.
Perhaps crucially for the Seahawks he doesn’t have the strongest hands or the best ability to high point or compete for the football. I wouldn’t rule him out because of that — because he’s also a SPARQ demon. And Seattle loves a development project. It’s still worth noting, however.
Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
“He’s a vertical guy… Clemson said he was the fastest guy on their team. I said, ‘No way he’s as fast as Watkins.’ They said yes. This guy separates from them all. He’s 6-4 and can run. If Al Davis was still alive he’d be all excited over him.”
“He has a Randy Moss-type build… “Doesn’t run as fast as Randy but a notch below. There’s some immaturity. He scored a touchdown and threw the ball in the stands and did the throat-slash gesture. He does some idiotic stuff. But as far as natural ability he’s up there.”
The Moss comparison is an easy one to make. At times when you watch Bryant on tape you just get blown away by his potential. He’s a big play waiting to happen and any quarterback with a big arm is going to love his ability to stretch the field.
He’s well coached too as all Clemson receivers are. He sells the deep route perfectly and often creates good separation over the middle driving forward then exploding into a crossing route.
Bryant’s problems are all character based. He nearly destroyed his own career through sheer laziness and complacency. He was told not to travel with the team to the Chic-Fil-A Bowl after the 2012 season following his latest act of immaturity. That acted as a wake-up call and he knuckled down in 2013 right when he needed a big year.
The question is though — what happens when he gets paid? He has a young child and maybe that Bowl game was an epiphany moment. “How am I going to provide for my kid?” Will it be mission accomplished with the first contract, or will he continue to work on his craft and remain motivated? In the right environment he could be a star. But it’s a titanic sized ‘if’.
Ja’Wuan James (T, Tennessee)
“Athletic enough to play either side but more suited to the right… He can walk in and start for you right off the bat. Solid, not spectacular. Has a lot of talent. One of those eight- to 12-year guys as a starter if he can stay healthy.”
“Very intelligent (Wonderlic of 25), great kid, solid player… Great family. Just draft him because you’ll never have a problem with this kid.”
“He’s kind of like (Alabama’s D.J.) Fluker from last year… Just a big, powerful guy with long arms.”
James is going to go in the first round, probably the top-20. As the first scout notes — he’s a plug-in-and-play starter who will do a job for you. He’s probably not going to make it to multiple Pro-Bowls or get a ton of attention, but you’ll never complain about him. For five years on that first contract you’ll get a really solid offensive tackle.
I wasn’t a big fan of Fluker at Alabama and actually prefer James. But if that’s the comparison NFL scouts are making you wonder how early he could go. Fluker went #11 overall despite being the sixth offensive lineman to leave the board. Don’t be shocked at all if James goes a lot earlier than people think.
Call it a hunch, but I think as teams have done their homework on him he’s shot up boards. It happens. When Tom Cable went to work him out at Tennessee I wonder if the Seahawks were zoning in on him and thought there was a very real chance he’d be there at #32? Now it’s probably a long shot I’d say. He will need to improve his core strength though — he doesn’t drive many people off the ball in the run game and he only had 22 reps on the bench press at the combine.
Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
“I was disappointed in him, I really was… He looks like Tarzan but kind of plays like Jane.”
“In September, I’d have said forget this guy, he’s overrated… But the guy had a really good year doing what he does best, and that’s outside pass pro. Not a good play-strength guy. Not a good run blocker. Has never really embraced the whole process as far as passion and work ethic.”
“He’s got some fatal flaws in terms of stiffness… I could see him being a starter but not a very good starter.”
“He may sneak into the bottom of the first. He’s a better player than (Seantrel) Henderson and (Antonio) Richardson and a 1,000 times better kid and teammate.”
“Those Virginia offensive linemen scare the heck out of me… They’re always athletic as heck but they’re soft. There’s something about Virginia. Maybe it’s too academic or something.”
When I watched Moses against Vic Beasley and Clemson I was incredibly disappointed. He looked gassed and out of shape. But then you watch him shut down Jeremiah Attaochu and you see the potential. As a pass protector he’s pretty good, but you just can’t get excited about the idea of drafting him early.
If the Carolina Panthers are making a left tackle the priority they need to consider this because after he goes, they’ll struggle to get a rookie starter at the position. He has the length Seattle looks for and they might go for it — but it’d be a little underwhelming.
Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
“He’s pretty efficient as a left tackle but best suited as a guard… He doesn’t have elite feet or length (337/8 arms). He’s a tough (expletive). He’s not a road-grader. He needs to get stronger but he tries to finish your (expletive) and he’s smart (Wonderlic of 29). He’s really grooved.”
“He can play tackle, guard or center… All he does is block his guy. Tough, smart. Second round.”
This is all fair. Bitonio does have to get stronger (24 reps on the bench at the combine). But his attitude and technique more than make up for it and if you can combine the two you’ll be looking at a very good player. There won’t be any sense of entitlement with Bitonio if he does go early.
I think he can play tackle and sure — he might be a better guard. He reminds me a ton of Logan Mankins. They’re almost identical players entering the league — in terms of athleticism, college career etc. The Seahawks could plug him in at left guard with the option to move him to tackle if they get any injuries. Or they could just throw him in there at right tackle. He won’t struggle.
As much as they love length, we also know they love competitors. They’re willing to go away from size ideals if the player makes up for it in other areas. And there aren’t many more determined individuals in this class at any position.
And one final reminder — if you’re going to focus on arm length, remember his arms are just as long as Taylor Lewan’s and are actually longer than Jake Matthews.