2011 NFL Draft

Prospects to watch in the Poinsettia Bowl

There’s slightly less talent in the Poinsettia Bowl this year than in past games which featured the likes of Utah, TCU, Cal and Boise State. But it’s still an interesting matchup with a few future NFLers.

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Vincent Brown #80 of San Diego State catches a pass from teamate against the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl on September 5, 2009 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jacob de Golish/Getty Images)

Vincent Brown is one of the best receivers you may not have seen play.

* The top talent in this game in San Diego State receiver Vincent Brown. He’s been a consistent performer throughout his career but really blossomed this season. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but could be a reliable possession receiver in the pros. He projects as a mid-round pick and may end up being the only player drafted to play in this game.

* Aztec quarterback Ryan Lindley has developed into one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country this year. He has the size (6’4″) of a prototypical NFL quarterback and the arm strength to go with it. He’s only a junior and more than likely will return to school, but this game could give his stock a boost heading into his senior year.

* Navy rarely produces NFL talent but one player from this year’s squad could get a look. Quarterback Ricky Dobbs is a powerful runner who may have a future at running back in the pros. At 5’10″, 220 pounds he has the size and also the athleticism to be an effective between-the-tackles runner.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 1 Comment

Prospects to watch in the MAACO Bowl

This is a disappointing matchup in so many ways. Obviously everyone is expecting a Boise State blowout, but it also hurts in our ability to evaluate the Broncos’ top draft prospects.

Nov 26, 2010; Reno, NV, USA; Boise State Broncos receiver Titus Young (10 catches a touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Nevada Wolf Pack at Mackay Stadium. Photo via Newscom

Titus Young is one of the most exciting receivers in college football

* Kellen Moore may be the most well-known name on the field, but the player who will make the biggest name for himself in the NFL is Broncos receiver Titus Young. He’s undersized and probably will never be a true No. 1 receiver at the next level, but he has the athleticism to be an electric slot receiver. We’ve seen a rise in small receivers filling a specialized role in recent years (Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, Percy Harvin, etc) and Young has a chance to join that group.

* Lining up opposite Young will be Austin Pettis. He is built more in the mold of a true No. 1 NFL receiver. However, he lacks the athleticism and speed to be a significant player at the next level. He should be a mid-round pick, but probably isn’t more than a third or fourth option at receiver in the NFL.

* Utah has a pair of top NFL prospects as well. Cornerback Brandon Burton is a fringe 1st-round prospect. He has the size and straight-line speed that will immediately catch the attention of those watching at the combine. It will be interesting to see how he matches up against Boise State’s receivers. He should be able to handle Pettis without any issues. However, he may not have the athleticism and quickness to stick with Young.

* One of the more underrated prospects in this game is Utah center Zane Taylor. He doesn’t have the measurables to be a high pick, but he has a chance to sneak into the late rounds. Given time to develop, he could be a starter down the road.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Prospects to watch in the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl

Not much to watch in this one, but there’s a few fringe prospects for the die-hard draftniks to watch.

LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 31:  Bilal Powell #33 of the Louisville Cardinals runs the ball during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on August 31, 2008 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Bilal Powell is a player to watch tonight

* The top prospect for Southern Miss is defensive tackle Anthony Gray. He’s not much of an athlete, but has the size to play nose tackle. He could come off the board late in the draft, and could be a serviceable backup in a 3-4 system.

* Louisville’s top prospect is cornerback Johnny Patrick. He’s slightly undersized but has the speed to stick with anyone. He emerged as arguably the top cornerback in the Big East this year.

* The top offensive prospect to watch is Louisville running back Bilal Powell. He came from nowhere to take the starting job away from Victor Anderson and has posted one of the best seasons in Cardinals history. His size (6’0″, 215 lbs) and speed makes him an intriguing prospect. He looks like a mid-round pick right now, but could certainly climb with an impressive showing tonight and in offseason workouts.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Oklahoma DC Brent Venables trying to keep Travis Lewis in school

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 04: Linebacker Travis Lewis  of the Oklahoma Sooners makes a fumble recovery against Roy Helu Jr.  of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the Big 12 Championship at Cowboys Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Lewis has a future in the NFL, but he would be wise to return to school

It’s not often that coaches go on the record saying that a certain player needs to stay in school. Typically they give a bland statement along the lines of  ”he needs to do whats best for him and his family.”

So Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables statement about linebacker Travis Lewis comes as a mild surprise:

He needs to come back and improve himself in a variety of areas, and not go somewhere for a discount.”

While I think Venables should probably not go public with his opinion of Lewis’ future, I can’t argue with his assessment. Lewis is an impressive athlete, but far from a finished product. Another year under Venables could turn him into a 1st-round prospect.

However, this isn’t a great class of linebackers. Lewis may realize that he has an excellent chance to come off the board within the top 50-75 picks and decide that’s good enough for him. He also has a chance to skyrocket up the draft boards over the offseason. He’s an impressive athlete and could be a workout warrior at the combine.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Tyron Smith, Jurrell Casey entering NFL Draft

USC is losing two juniors to the NFL – offensive tackle Tyron Smith and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey.

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 7:  Tyron Smith #70 of the USC Trojans stretches before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils on November 7, 2009 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.  USC won 14-9.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

Smith is immensely talented, but still very raw

I’m not at all surprised by Smith’s early entrance. He would have benefited from another year at USC, but this is an incredibly weak class for offensive lineman – the worst since at least 2005 – and his draft stock will be elevated as a result.

Smith is an impressive athlete, and definitely has the raw ability necessary to play left tackle at the next level. He could come off the board as high as the top-20, but more realistically will fall in the 25-40 range.

Considering all the turmoil at USC over the past year, Casey’s decision to leave doesn’t come as much of a surprise either. But his decision certainly wasn’t impacted by a chance to boost his stock. This is a very deep class for defensive linemen, and Casey stands little chance of coming off the board within the top 50 picks.

Casey lacks the size and strength to play nose tackle, and lacks the athleticism to shift to end in a 3-4 scheme. This will limit the number of teams interested in his services, and could cause for him to plummet down draft boards.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

UConn RB Jordan Todman considering jump to NFL

UConn junior running back Jordan Todman has filed his paperwork to be evaluated by the NFL Draft advisory committee.

EAST HARTFORD, CT - NOVEMBER 27: Jordan Todman  of the Connecticut Huskies carries the ball past the Cincinnati Bearcats defense on November 27, 2010 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. The Huskies defeated the Bearcats 38-17. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Jordan Todman could be an early entry

Todman isn’t an elite prospect, but it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to go pro. This is a weak class for running backs, and he could conceivably come off the board as high as the 3rd round.

He has the ability to immediately help a team as a backup running back and on special teams (he has experience returning kicks). He probably will never been a feature back in the NFL, but he has the speed and quickness to be a nice change-of-pace back.

Defensive tackle Kendall Reyes also filed his paperwork. Reyes is athletic, but slightly undersized, and it would be a mistake for him to leave school. Should he enter the draft, there is no guarantee that he would hear his name called.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Blaine Gabbert, Aldon Smith file paperwork with advisory committee

Missouri juniors Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith have filed their paperwork with the NFL Draft advisory committee.

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 13: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert  of the Missouri Tigers passes during the game against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 13, 2010 at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Gabbert has a future in the NFL, but probably not until 2012.

Both have potential 1st-round ability, but I would be moderately surprised if either entered the draft. Missouri is coming off a surprisingly successful season, and could legitimately compete for a Big 12 title in 2010.

Additionally, both players still have a lot to prove in the college ranks.

Gabbert is a tremendously talented quarterback, but I believe he would get lost in the mix in this year’s draft. Assuming Andrew Luck, Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton all enter the draft, Gabbert could fall a long ways. By returning to school, he could elevate his stock to 1st-round status in 2012.

As for Smith, he is coming off a somewhat disappointing, injury-plagued season. He missed three games with a broken leg, and only recored 4.5 sacks – seven fewer than his total in 2009.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Virginia Tech RBs Ryan Williams, Darren Evans considering jump to NFL

According to the Washington Post, Virginia Tech running backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans have filed their paperwork to be evaluated by the NFL.

Hokies running backs coach Bily Hite said “just my gut feeling, I don’t think both of them will come back.”

CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 13: Darren Evans  of the Virginia Tech Hokies is tackled by Quan Sturdivant  of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Just one year after suffering a torn ACL, Darren Evans may elect to enter the draft

Williams, a redshirt sophomore, entered the season with a much higher NFL evaluation than Evans. He had a breakout freshman season in 2009 stepping in for the injured Evans. However, he failed to build upon his success in 2010. He missed three games with a hamstring injury and was mostly ineffective even when healthy. Most notably, he was held to just 40 yards on 20 carries against Boise State in the season opener.

Darren Evans, on the other hand, bounced back after sitting out the 2009 season with a torn ACL. His size (6’0″, 220 lbs) and explosiveness makes him an intriguing prospect. He gradually improved through out season, and finished the year with an average of 5.9 yards per carry.

If I had to guess, I would say Evans will enter the draft while Williams will return to school. The 2010 season really couldn’t have gone worse for Williams, while it couldn’t have gone much better for Evans. If Evans returned to school, he would run the risk of losing carries to Williams and seeing his stock fall.

Williams, however, has two more years of eligibility remaining. Even if he struggles again in 2011, he could return for 2012.

If Evans enters the draft, I would expect him to come off the board in the 3rd or 4th round – with his medical examination playing a key role in his stock. Williams would probably fall into the same range, but has a chance to raise his stock much higher if he returns to school.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

A.J. Green, Justin Houston meet with Falcons

A.J. Green, who has previously said that the potential NFL lockout would influence his decision to enter the draft, had an opportunity to get some answers to his questions.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Green, Justin Houston and other Georgia underclassmen met with Falcons president Rich McCay to discuss making the jump to the NFL. The potential lockout was reportedly the main topic of discussion.AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13: A.J. Green  of the Georgia Bulldogs pulls in this touchdown reception against Demond Washington  of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

As I’ve stated before, I fully expect Green to enter the draft. He is a top-15 lock, and could go as high as the top five. The looming lockout should have no impact on his decision.

Justin Houston, however, could be swayed by the potential lockout. He is a potential 1st-round pick, but definitely not a lock. By returning to school he could reasonably expect to boost his stock without running the risk of having to sit out the season in the NFL.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Falcons Comments Off

Why I wouldn’t draft Cam Newton

Cam Newton is going to turn pro after the National Championship Game. Anyone who says otherwise is dilusional or a liar. And when he does, speculation will begin that maybe maybe he – not Andrew Luck – should be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.

If I were running a team, not only wouldn’t I draft Newton No. 1 overall, I wouldn’t draft him at all.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04: Quarterback Cam Newton  of the Auburn Tigers looks to pass against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 SEC Championship at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Cam Newton has bust written all over him

No matter what you believe about Newton’s involvement in his recruiting process, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s demonstrated a pattern of behavior which leads me to believe the game of football isn’t his top priority.

To play quarterback in the NFL there is one thing you need above all else: commitment.

How many times have we seen extremely talented quarterbacks come and go without so much as making a mark league? Just look at the 2006 NFL Draft as an example. Matt Leinart, Vince Young and Jay Cutler were all supposed to be franchise quarterbacks for years to come. Well, two of the three are already on their second team and the third may be joining them soon.

All three have the ability to be great quarterbacks. Yet all three have significant character flaws, most notably a lack of effort on the practice field.

Compare Tom Brady to Vince Young. Strip the names off their jersey and just throw them out on a practice field together. Which one do you think NFL scouts will drool over? Here’s a hint: it’s not the three-time Super Bowl champ.

Raw skill gets you noticed, but it doesn’t win games.

Some of the hardest working quarterbacks in the league are Brady, Petyon Manning and Drew Brees. So do you think it’s a coincidence that they’ve won a combined five Super Bowls in the past decade?

Numerous others with limited natural ability have risen to among the best in the game in recent years due to an exceptional work ethic and a willingness to put in the time and effort on the practice field. Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Delhomme are two great examples.

So while Cam Newton may have all the ability in the world, I question his desire to turn that ability into greatness. He may prove me wrong, but chances are he won’t until years down the road after he’s already blown an opportunity with the team that drafted him – much like Michael Vick.

Players such as Vick – and Newton – can get by with their abilities. As a result it stunts their desire to take their game to the next level. Why spend hours studying when they could just be mediocre and enjoy the social life that comes with being a NFL quarterback?

That attitude plagues too many young quarterbacks these days. If teams do their homework, however, they can avoid making a $50M mistake. If a player acts a certain why in college, he’s unlikely to change after receiving his multi-million dollar signing bonus.

So buyer beware, Cam Newton is a bust waiting to happen.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 2 Comments