It was a contrasting weekend for quarterbacks again. Jake Locker’s performance against Oregon State further increases the likelihood he could go first overall. On the other hand, I’m not sure which team even drafts Christian Ponder after another hapless display, this time against Boston College. I also had the opportunity to watch two other ‘big name’ quarterbacks in Auburn’s 65-43 victory over Arkansas. Ryan Mallett left the game with a concussion after throwing just 15 passes for 96 yards and a score. It didn’t look serious and he shouldn’t miss any further time.
Funnily enough he was knocked out of the game by defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who’s having a productive year so far. I didn’t see enough in this game to justify a first round grade – he’s the type of solid, not spectacular interior defensive lineman you find in the 2-4 round range. He isn’t the type of player to be permanently in the opponents backfield like Brian Price last year and he’s not the most stout run defender either. Just a solid player who will carry some value after round one.
Some people asked about Cam Newton (QB, Auburn) and what he brings as a potential pro-prospect. He’s a Florida transfer who arrived at Auburn via the JUCO ranks. He has some background issues that would need to be cleared up. Personally, I wouldn’t draft him as a quarterback. Newton’s an amazing athlete with great size (6’6″, 250lbs). But he’s also a run-first QB and how many of those do we see in the NFL? It’s ok at Auburn to run 25 times like he did against Arkansas and put up 188 yards and three scores. He won’t be running endless QB draws at the next level.
He only attempted 14 passes on the day for 140 yards and a further TD. There are some technical flaws in the way he throws – mainly his tendency to almost always lean back and put his weight onto his back foot, losing a lot of potential zip and velocity on his throws. There’s talk he’ll consider entering the 2011 draft, but I don’t see the point. He isn’t going to be a first round pick at quarterback. I imagine he’ll eventually be drafted as an athlete, trained at another position whilst taking the occasional snap under center. A fun player to watch and a definite Heisman candidate, but not a high draft pick.
One big highlight in an entertaining game was Arkansas receiver Greg Childs. He had nine catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns in a much more productive performance than I’ve previously seen from him. He’s legible to declare as a junior and flashed good hands, an ability to create YAC after the run and polished routes. He’s not as explosive as teammate Joe Adams for pure speed, but he’s a more rounded prospect and deserves consideration maybe even in rounds 2-3.
-Anthony Castonzo (OT, Boston College) is probably the best of a bad bunch at tackle. He didn’t struggle with leverage as much as I thought he would against FSU despite his tall frame. He has better power than I first though. However, one of the worst attempted cut blocks I’ve seen in a long time gave up a huge sack/QB hit on Saturday – a definite area to improve.
-Gabe Carimi (OT, Wisconsin) and Cameron Heyward (DE, Ohio State) are exactly what I expected. Carimi isn’t a good fit at left tackle at the next level because he isn’t a great athlete and he’ll be susceptible to even an average speed rush. He should work out as a solid right tackle and therefore fall in the middle rounds. Heyward’s a bit over rated for me. He hasn’t got a great first step and lacks the speed to make up for it. He’s not physically dominating and only has one sack for the year.
-Da’Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson) is someone I’m much higher on. He got three more sacks this weekend against Maryland taking his total to nine in six games. He’s on pace for 18 for the year and surely has to be a contender to be the first defensive end taken. A light has switched on for Bowers and he looks like the guy he was expected to be as a #1 overall recruit. Top ten pick.
- Blaine Gabbert (QB, Missouri) is one to watch. He’s leading an unbeaten team despite being slowed by a hip pointer in recent weeks. He showed no signs of that at Texas A&M, passing for 361 yards at 31/47 and scoring three touchdowns. Missou won 30-9 and if you’re looking for a QB that might be available outside of round one with some value, Gabbert may be the guy.
-Ryan Broyles (WR, Oklahoma) hasn’t had much attention this year, but he’s one to keep an eye on. He’s a junior and could declare with many more performances like he had in Oklahoma’s mauling of Iowa State. Broyles had 15 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown. He’s not got the size of Julio Jones, Michael Floyd or Jonathan Baldwin – but he’s excelling on a productive offense, has shifty seperation skills and good hands.
-Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame) still worries me some. Nine catches and 157 yards against Western Michigan looks good, but his big 80-yard reception flashed a common problem – he body catches far too much. The coaching staff at ND have worked tirelessly on trying to improve Floyd this year, but he still runs sloppy routes a lot of the time and hasn’t become a dominant physical specimen. Right now, I’d be surprised if either Floyd or Jones land in round one. Baldwin might get a pass because of his team’s QB situation, but he’s borderline too.