NFL Scouting Combine Preview (part 2) - NFL Draft
This is part two in my preview of the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
While the No. 1 pick has been recently dominated by the quarterback, expect the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft to be dominated by the defense. CBS has 14 defensive players in their Top 25; ESPN/Scouts Inc. has 20 in their Top 32; Mel Kiper Jr. has 15 in his Top 25. This is a big year to grab a blue-chip stud on
defense with standouts at every position and every scheme.
Here's a rundown of some names to monitor at the combine who will be wreaking havoc on opposing offenses for years to come.
DEFENSIVE ENDS & 3-4 OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
It starts and ends with generating a consistent pass rush. Speed rushers, bull rushers, run stuffers, and more are available in this class.
Jarvis Jones, Georgia: A man-child on the outside with a near-elite first step and closing speed to the ball-carrier. A spine issue has raised some red flags, yet he remains one of the premiere prospects at his position.
Barkevious Mingo, LSU: Very lean and long edge rusher that will test very well. Must confirm pre-draft hype regarding his speed and explosion in 40-yard dash and shuttle drills.
Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: Can play either DE or 3-4 OLB. Length and quickness are a strength. Footwork in open spaces and coverage skills will be looked at closely by 3-4 defenses.
Dion Jordon, Oregon: Thin prospect with tremendous upside. Plenty of room to add bulk. Strength and tweener status are two big question marks.
Bjoern Werner, Florida State: Well-rounded prospect. Lacks ideal pass-rush moves, relies heavily on power. Needs to show good footwork and athleticism to validate 3-4 versatility.
Ezekiel Ansah, BYU: Raw talent with limited football experience. Elite ceiling due to combination of size, strength, speed and short-area quickness. Workout warrior potential.
Other players to watch: Texas' Alex Okafor has a NFL-ready body that could contribute on day one. Datone Jones of UCLA had a strong senior season and an even better Senior Bowl. FSU's Cornellius "Tank" Carradine was the ying to Werner's yang with the Seminoles. LSU's Sam Montgomery must prove he hasn't reached his plateau as a football player. Margus Hunt of SMU is garnering a lot of attention because of his size, but he needs to reassure those inside the NFL he is committed after only recently taking to the game.
Digging deeper: FSU's Brandon Jenkins had a Lisfranc injury cut short his 2012 season. Western Kentucky's Quanterus Smith has an excellent frame and really excelled in the Sun Belt Conference. Michigan State's William Gholston had an up-and-down season and appears to lack ideal speed to play defensive end in a 4-3. Auburn's Corey Lemonier must show he can match up physically against bigger offensive linemen.
As many as seven or eight defensive tackles could go in the first round and that is solely focusing on players that already have the bulk to play the position. This is a great year for 3-4 defenses to load up on talented, big-bodied anchors up front.
Star Lotulelei, Utah: Locked in as a Top 5 pick. Absolute brute strength and agile for his size. Lacking as a pass rusher.
Sharrif Floyd, Florida: Could feasibly play anywhere in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. Showed huge progression in skills this season.
Sheldon Richardson, Missouri: Dominates inside and can penetrate while being double-teamed. Few weaknesses in his game and should test well.
John Jenkins, Georgia: Huge nose tackle prospect that can occupy running lanes. Needs to confirm he can move well in open space and not just play inside the tackle box.
Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State: Collapses the pocket and has excellent agility for his size. Improving his pad level and hand usage will take him a long way.
Jesse Williams, Alabama: Another big NT that anchored a dominant Crimson Tide defense. Not a true pass rusher, but flows to the football very well.
Other names to watch: Purdue's Kawann Short was scheduled to participate at the Combine, but will be unable due to a hamstring injury. UNC's Sylvester Williams was impressive at the Senior Bowl and could go in the first half of the first round. Bennie Logan from LSU has the athleticism to wow evaluators
and could boost his stock dramatically. Height is a concern for Akeem Spence, a potential third round option from the University of Illinois. FSU's Everett Dawkins is a former defensive end that plays with a great motor, but struggled with consistency.
Digging deeper: Not many prospects come from Missouri Southern State, but Brandon Williams plays with great technique and is a three-time All-American. The younger brother of Cincinnati Bengals' Robert Geathers, Georgia's Kwame Geathers could garner attention if he tests well, especially when considering his massive frame. Jordan Hill from Penn State is another undersized prospect that will need to prove he can hang with the big boys of the NFL.
There is a small handful of elite prospects and a smaller pocket of early-round talent at the position this year. Beyond that, it is a mixed bag -- allowimg many players to boost their stock with a strong performance at the Combine.
Manti Te'o, Notre Dame: Despite making some strange headlines, the tape does not lie. A bad game against Alabama should not take away (okay, maybe a little) from what had been one of the most productive seasons for a defensive player in years.
Alec Ogletree, Georgia: A recent DUI is going to raise eyebrows. That said, there isn't a more athletic, high-ceiling player at the position in this class.
Arthur Brown, Kansas State: Brother to Eagles RB Bryce Brown. Great vision and tackler in open space. Maxed out frame and short stature are two big question marks.
Kevin Minter, LSU: Highly aggressive inside linebacker who can blitz, play the run and hold his own in coverage. Must test well in the 40-yard dash and cone drills.
Khaseem Greene, Rutgers: John Madden would say something like, "This guy is just a good football player." Always around the ball, sufficient speed and plays the run with good instincts.
Other names to watch: UNC's Kevin Reddick is great against the run and plays with a downhill attitude. Oregon's Kiko Alonso could play inside or outside, but has some off-field red flags. Jelani Jenkins from Florida has a great first-step and can close quickly on the football. Needs to improve his tackling technique and play more under control. Stanford's Chase Thomas is lacking as an athlete and the Combine will likely not help his draft stock. Lateral agility and movement in the open field are two deficiencies of UConn's Sio Moore.
Digging deeper: Texas A&M's Sean Porter lacks height, struggles to bring down the ball-carrier and will need to show he's more than just an athlete. Penn State has two solid prospects in Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti. Hodges is a former safety and quarterback that obviously knows the game well. Mauti may be nothing more than a hustle player that will struggle to keep up with the NFL's exceptional athleticism. Howard University's Keith Pough needs to bulk up and improve his strength at the point of attack. South Carolina's DeVonte Holloman is a former safety that lacks ideal size, but tracks the football well inside the box.
The days of having just one shutdown corner are long gone. Pass-happy does not sufficiently explain how the NFL has become these days. As teams open up the playbook and chuck the pigskin around, defenses must continue to stockpile talent in the secondary.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: An intelligent, elite cornerback who can cover anyone. A hair shy of being a Patrick Peterson or even Morris Claiborne type talent.
Johnthan Banks, CB, Miss St.: Covered some of the nation's best in the SEC. Long arms and plays the football well. Very thin, but plays bigger than listed height and weight.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.: A high-cut athlete playing an aggressive brand of football. Still developing his zone coverage skills and did not play much in the slot.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas: Best safety in the draft, but not an elite player. Prefers man coverage and lacks straight-line speed.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut: Very fluid lower half while in coverage. Struggles locating the ball, but can knock down passes with his long arms.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington: Improved draft stock in a big way at Senior Bowl. Must continue and build upon that positive momentum.
Eric Reid, S, LSU: Once considered a blue-chip safety prospect, Reid's game has been picked apart. Look for solid testing to rebound his stock as a late-first round pick.
Matt Elam, S, Florida: Undersized strong safety that takes aggressive pursuit lines to the football. Can be a team's emotional leader on defense.
Other names to watch: FIU S John Cyprien is flying up draft boards due to his strong tackling and solid zone coverage. Houston CB D.J. Hayden has a great feel for mirroring receivers and anticipating the route while in coverage. Rutgers CB Logan Ryan is terrific in run support and makes decisive plays on the ball. Georgia's Shawn Williams is a free safety option with adequate speed and a well-balanced game. Oklahoma S Tony Jefferson has plus speed and can break quickly to the ball while in deep coverage. Boise State corner Jamar Taylor has a checkered injury history and can matchup well against receivers lined up inside. Georgia S Bacarri Rambo has a great name, obviously, but some off-field problems may push him into the late second round.
Digging deeper: South Carolina S D.J. Swearinger must play with less aggression when in coverage and reign in his downhill style of play. Georgia Southern S J.J. Wilcox stood out at the Senior Bowl and could further improve his stock with good technique and footwork. N.C. State DB David Amerson has plummeted on draft boards and desperately needs to save his reputation as a football player. LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu has a well-documented history and the NFL will want to talk to him directly to ascertain his potential red flags. California CB Marc Anthony looks like he can compete physically against bigger receivers, but does he possess the footwork and hip fluidity to match? Oregon State CB Jordan Poyer is a two-sport athlete (baseball) that will need to add more upper body strength to his repitoire. B.W. Webb of William and Mary is an excellent cover corner that is definitely under the radar right now.