Note: I wrote an article for Field Gulls this week titled, ‘Seahawks draft focus: Potential 2013 targets’. Check it out by clicking here.
The first pass catcher off the board next year could be Stanford tight end Zach Ertz. He’s not a freak of nature like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski or Vernon Davis. But at 6-6 and around 250lbs, he’s a big target and will make plays. Ertz is a terrific run blocker and made several key plays in Stanford’s big 17-14 win over Oregon. He consistently puts his body on the line to break big gains and teams can use him for any play call. He and fellow tight end Levine Toilolo regularly lined up as Stanford’s only receivers against the Ducks, including in the games biggest play for a Cardinal touchdown with 90 seconds to go. Quarterback Kevin Hogan threw a fade to the left and Ertz made an acrobatic catch in tight coverage.
Losing Andrew Luck to the NFL was an inevitable blow for Stanford, but one of the main reasons they’ve stayed competitive is due to guys like Ertz. He’s been a reliable pass catcher all year, recording 11 catches for 106 yards against the Ducks to take him to 747 yards for the year with six scores. If you’re the Miami Dolphins and looking to build around Ryan Tannehill, you have to consider this guy. There isn’t a can’t-miss receiver option early in round one, while some of the better offensive lineman might be off the board by the the time the Dolphins pick. With his ability to line up outside and as a key blocker, Ertz could be a top-15 choice next April.
The race to be the #1 overall pick remains wide open. The top three 2013 eligible quarterbacks all endured further difficulties this week. Matt Barkley picked up a shoulder injury, threw two more picks and suffered a fourth defeat of the season – this time to fierce rival UCLA. Geno Smith lost his fifth straight game against Oklahoma and also had two more interceptions. Tyler Wilson’s miserable season continued with a 45-14 beat down from Mississippi State, including… guess what? Two picks.
Barkley’s swansong is quickly becoming a nightmare. One or two defeats and a solid bowl game probably would’ve justified his return for a final year, even if it was below expectations. USC entered the year as the AP’s #1 ranked team. They’re drifting towards ending the season unranked. Notre Dame visit the Trojans next week knowing a victory gets them in the BCS Championship game. Barkley might not even play due to injury and no amount of school records will make up for this disappointing season. Lane Kiffin and his coaching staff have a lot to answer for – they’ve done a terrible job this year. The consequence is Barkley throwing more picks than even his freshman season, a bad defense and a team playing completely within itself.
Smith started the year on fire with five straight wins, throwing 24 touchdowns and no interceptions in the process. Since then? Five defeats, eleven touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s been streaky, showing a few concerning traits that cropped up last year too. He sometimes struggles to progress through reads, forcing passes into tight areas and trusting his arm too much. For such a mobile quarterback he’s not terribly elusive and doesn’t often extend plays. The nature of the offense at West Virginia is the same as Oklahoma State’s where Dana Holgorsen previously coached. With such a deep quarterback drop and a spread out field, Smith is essentially encouraged to throw for power rather than touch. He’s a hard working, legit NFL prospect. But is he a top pick who’s going to save a bad team?
Tyler Wilson is a gun slinger who takes chances. He’s surprisingly mobile and can make plays with his feet. However, he’s made a lot of bad decisions this year. A lot of this has to be blamed on the chaotic situation at Arkansas and there’s no doubting Wilson would’ve had a tighter season with Bobby Petrino staring down his neck from the sideline. However, this is the tape scouts have to look at. He’s only around 6-1/6-2 tall and has a very slingy release point which will cause some concern. At times there’s a little Jimmy Clausen to his throwing motion, although Wilson is a much more natural passer. Like Barkley he’s thrown twice as many interceptions this year than last. Scouts will also question his decision to slam his team mates following the Alabama defeat – a game he didn’t take part in due to injury. He got a little too emotional there.
With the three quarterbacks all struggling, there’s no automatic #1 pick this year. Barkley or Smith could take it if a team like Kansas City decides it needs to build around a new signal caller. The $22m guaranteed over four years is not terribly problematic and the high reward of finding a franchise quarterback makes it a worthwhile gamble. What about alternatives?
Damontre Moore could go first overall – he has 12.5 sacks for Texas A&M this year and looks every bit a top NFL pass rusher who can feature in any defensive scheme. Another Texas A&M prospect – Luke Joeckel – is the best pure offensive tackle in the class and is another option to go first overall. Jarvis Jones has the talent to be the #1 pick but being diagnosed with spinal stenosis will cause some concern to NFL teams. Star Lotulelei has the upside to warrant the pick but nowhere near the consistency. Barkevious Mingo at LSU could come into contention.
There’s no obvious candidate and it could filter all the way through round one. We could see a lot of early low-cost trades next April. And if a quarterback doesn’t go first overall, we could see the same again in 2014 when the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, Marqise Lee and Cyrus Kouandijo will be eligible to turn pro. It is still a quarterback league, though, so don’t be surprised if we see a guy like Barkley go first overall despite his disappointing senior year.
There isn’t a player in college football like Cordarrelle Patterson. On Saturday he took a punt 81 yards to the house – completing a quartet of ways to put points on the board. He now has nine total touchdowns for the year – four receiving, three rushing, one from a kick return and one from a punt return. At one point Patterson was bottled up and heading to the turf but somehow stayed on his feet, kept his balance, spun away from the tackle and managed to run it in for a score. He also led Tennessee in receiving yards (52 yards, three catches). You can see the touchdown by clicking here. He’s not the most polished receiver, but he’s a natural home run hitter who will consistently put cheap points on the board.
Tony Pauline speculated last week that Patterson wouldn’t declare for the 2013 draft. He also suggested quarterback Tyler Bray and fellow receiver Justin Hunter would turn pro. I think as a trio they should make a pact – all return or all declare. Tennessee fired coach Derek Dooley today, mainly because the team is 0-7 in the SEC. Learning a new system could have a detrimental impact on Patterson ahead of his final year in college, especially if he’s playing with a new untested quarterback. He might not be a ten-catch-a-game guy at the next level, but he’ll find creative ways to score touchdowns. For a team that’s good enough to justify drafting a flair player like this, Patterson will provide a dynamic weapon in the NFL.
North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper was again superb against Virginia. Any zone blocking team in the NFL will have this guy right at the top of their draft board. Cooper shows unnatural athleticism for his size and positions and flashes really quality in pass protection. He pulls and gets to the second level better than any guard you’ll see in college. In fact he’s such an athlete we could see a move to tackle, similar to Branden Albert when he was drafted by Kansas City in 2008. Cooper and Chance Warmack are 1a and 1b when it comes to the best offensive lineman in this class. Either could leave the board first, but both shouldn’t get out of the top 10-15 picks.
Fellow Tar Heel Sylvester Williams deserves more attention than he gets. A lack of work ethic in high school and the JUCO ranks might put a few teams off, but nobody can deny how good he’s been for the Tar Heels. The light has switched on it seems and suddenly he looks like a dominating defensive tackle. He’s been playing with an injured ankle the last few weeks and was visibly struggling during the Virginia game. He’d got a lot of tape on the ankle and hobbled a bit after some plays. And yet he still dominated. It was a masterful performance, flashing an elite swim move to dodge blockers and break into the backfield. Williams had a big sack (you can see it by clicking here) and multiple tackles for a loss. Like Bruce Irvin he’ll turn 25 during his rookie season, but he has to be an option for the Seahawks as a possible every down three technique.
Brandon Coleman had a 41 yard reception for Rutgers against Cincinnati, in a squalid 10-3 victory. You can see the play by clicking here. It’s still presumed Coleman will be returning to Rutgers next year. He’s only a redshirt sophomore with 53 career catches. Yet in a draft without a receiver likely to go in the top fifteen picks, Coleman’s massive 6-6 frame and #1 potential could tempt him into turning pro. He finished with two catches for 49 yards against Cincy and has eight touchdowns on the year.
One final note – keep an eye on receiver Markus Wheaton at Oregon State. Teams will like his personality and attitude, plus his production this year has been excellent. He has ten touchdowns and 977 yards and could be a second round pick. He lacks elite size or speed and is listed at 6-1, 182lbs. However, a smart team with a good passing game will draft Wheaton and he’ll be a productive player. Not flashy, just productive.