The Utes running back is having to prove himself once more.
Williams has been trying to convince NFL teams he’s committed to football after briefly “retiring” from the game last fall.
That process really got underway last month at the NFL Combine, where Williams could explain his dismissal from Connecticut before his sophomore season and why he was ready to walk away from football only to come back a month later.
“It was necessary. Everybody read about what happened this season,” Williams told me. “So for me to be able to sit down one-on-one and explain it all to coaches and scouts and GMs was great for me to be able to get it off my chest and put it behind me.
“Those questions have been answered and I’ve been genuine about them.”
Williams, 23, was still haunted by the sudden death of his 7-year-old sister a decade ago. During his month away from football, he did a lot of soul-searching.
When he did come back, Williams shined for the Utes. The 5-11, 210-pound Allentown, Pa., native ran for 1,407 yards with 10 touchdowns and a 6.7-yards-per-carry average. He capped his college career with 222 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in a 26-24 win over Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl as the Utes finished the season with a 9-4 record.
“Once he came back to the team at Utah… he ran like a second-round talent player, like he’s going to be an NFL starter,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said of Williams. “He has NFL starter ability. You see big-time burst. He’s got excellent change of direction. I thought he had good vision. He is an explosive player. He gets out in the open field, he’s gone.
“When you factor in all the off-the-field stuff, try to put all that together, I don’t think he’s going to go that high. I think you’re probably talking about him in the fifth-round range. If he is dedicated and on it, ability-wise, he could be a big-time steal for somebody.”
Williams has also matured quite a bit since his dismissal from UConn.
Williams said in 2015 he “had hit rock bottom” after getting kicked out of Connecticut for using a stolen credit card. But he got a second chance at Utah and made the most of it.
“It was a chance and opportunity that I didn’t take for granted and am so blessed it was able to happen,” Williams said.
His parents have noticed a change in his maturity level, especially since he married his girlfriend four months ago.
“My parents, especially my mom, have seen me really be more of a man toward my academics and football, especially, and understanding you have to cherish the opportunities you’ve been given,” Williams said. “You can’t take anything for granted.”
Williams hopes he’s done enough over the last few months, like a 4.41-second time in the 40-yard dash at the combine, to get his shot with an NFL team. Williams has had private workouts with the Eagles and Cardinals and also met with the Vikings and Buccaneers, among others.
Despite his past, Williams said his character is actually one of his best attributes and he has the “innate qualities a team in the NFL wants to represent the brand and logo.”
All he needs is one team to agree.]]>
The Wyoming running back grew up as a Rams fan near St. Louis. Now that the Rams are in Los Angeles, Hill is in the market for a new team.
“I’m in a position to get drafted by one, so whichever one drafts me will be my new favorite team,” Hill told me as he prepares for next week’s NFL Draft.
Hill loves to play video games and his best game is Madden. His go-to team while playing Madden? The Derek Carr-led Raiders, who could use a running back.
Hill, who is from Belleville, Ill., left Wyoming after a junior season that saw him rush for 1,860 yards and 22 touchdowns last year in the Cowboys’ pro-style system. That was after rushing for 1,631 yards and six scores as a sophomore. He finished his three-year career in Laramie with 4,287 yards and 35 scores.
The 6-1, 219-pound power back decided to come out early despite a deep running back class that includes LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and the Oklahoma duo of Joe Mixon and Semaje Perine.
“I just make the running back class that much deeper,” Hill said. “I have complete confidence in myself and my abilities.
“Some players have one thing they do really well, I feel like I do everything really good. I catch the ball out of the backfield, block, runs hard.
“Football teams don’t go very far without their quarterback,” Hill added. “If you can keep your quarterback clean, the better chance you have of winning.”
Hill is projected as a mid-to-late-round pick, but doesn’t pay attention to draft projections – believing he’s among the best in the class.
“Brian Hill is a big power back,” said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former Ravens scout. “He’s physical. He runs hard. I do not think he’s very elusive. Had some issues with his vision.
“But, look, you’ve got some size and some power to work with him.”
Hill wanted to show at the NFL Combine he had speed to go with power. But he posted a disappointing 40-yard dash time of 4.54 seconds. He improved his 40 to 4.47 seconds at Wyoming’s pro day on March 9.
“It was very important. I knew I could get it under 4.5,” Hill said. “I was disappointed with my combine time. My pro day, I came in and focused on the 40.”
That disappointment at the combine was nothing compared to the heartbreak he felt when the Rams announced following the 2015 season they were leaving St. Louis after 21 seasons.
So, how would it feel if the Los Angeles Rams were the team to draft him?
“That would be very weird to play in a Rams uniform and have the setting be L.A. instead of St. Louis, like I’m used to,” the 21-year-old Hill said. “If you tell me I’m going to play for the Rams, I’m still thinking of the Edward Jones Dome, seeing Busch Stadium and being right in the middle of downtown St. Louis with the Arch there. I still get that feeling when I hear the Rams are playing.
“It would definitely be weird to get drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, but I wouldn’t mind at all.”]]>
Several players stood out at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 28.
Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson and his staff led the South team to a 16-15 win over the North squad coach by Chicago Bears coach John Fox and his staff.
California quarterback Davis Webb was named the MVP of the game, but did not look like an NFL-ready quarterback. Webb wasn’t the only quarterback who failed to impress in Mobile as none of the six played particularly well.
Players who helped themselves the most in Mobile were East Carolina receiver Zay Jones, Eastern Washington wideout Cooper Kupp, Toledo running back Kareem Hunt, Saint Francis safety Lorenzo Jerome and Temple linebacker Haason Reddick.
Jerome was one of several small school players on the Senior Bowl rosters that were loaded with seven Michigan players, more than any other school.
As the combine begins and everyone around the NFL is focused on the draft, familiarize yourself with the best senior prospects with player capsules and evaluations.
Isaac Asiata, OG, Utah – The 6-4, 315-pound Asiata got off to a great start in Mobile before aggravating his hamstring on the first day of practice. He is a powerful run blocker and was voted by Pac-12 defensive linemen as the best offensive lineman in the conference. Asiata has good reactive quickness, but can sometimes get too aggressive and lose hand placement. Asiata is likely a third-round pick, but could go higher if a team is satisfied his hamstring issue is behind him. He did an impressive 35 bench reps of 225 pounds at the combine.
Zach Banner, OT, USC – Banner is enormous at 6-8, 361 and a powerful run blocker with plenty of experience. He was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and made 38 starts for the Trojans. He’s smart with a good work ethic, but got off to a rough start in Mobile, though he did improve as the week went on. That said, Banners has to learn how to use his hands better to avoid grabbing, especially against speed rushers. That can be helped by improving his technique and footwork as he showed some lumbering feet in Mobile.
C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa – Beathard has good size at 6-3, 219 and is an intelligent, natural leader. He has a high football IQ after being around football his entire life as the grandson of former Redskins and Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard. He threw for 5,562 yards with 40 touchdowns and 19 interceptions over his career at Iowa. Beathard is not an athletic quarterback and is an extremely inconsistent passer. He completed just 58 percent of his passes, mostly because he’s a hesitant thrower who waits for a guy to come open before trying to lead his receivers. Beathard has to anticipate throws and improve his almost non-existent pocket awareness.
Adam Bisnowaty, OL, Pittsburgh – Bisnowaty may have been a four-year starter at Pitt and a first-team All-ACC selection last season, but it’s tough to see him as an NFL player, even though many draft analysts believe him to be a top-100 player. The 6-6, 307-pound tackle has good size and length, but very sluggish feet. He’s also not very strong for the position, which is a problem at tackle or guard. Bisnowaty had a pretty rough week in Mobile and was completely out of his depths during the game, in which he was badly beaten on nearly every snap. He struggled against speed and did not handle power rushes well either. While Bisnowaty know how to use his hands, he has to get stronger to be effective as a dependable NFL offensive lineman.
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin – Clement is a strong runner with good size at 5-10, 221. He showed more patience in Mobile than he did at Wisconsin, where he bounced back from a tough 2015 season to run for 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns last season to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors. While he was not asked to be a receiver at Wisconsin, he is underrated as a pass catcher and caught the ball very well in Mobile. He’s a north-south runner with good vision and is an excellent one-cut runner with acceleration. He is solid in pass protection, but knows he has to improve. There are durability concerns and got dinged up a bit on his first carry of the Senior Bowl, though he did return to run for 26 yards on three carries. He posted a disappointing 40-yard dash time at the combine, which will not help his draft stock.
Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan – A native of Sierra Leone, the 6-2, 215-pound Darboh emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 7 with his siblings after their parents were both killed during the Sierra Leone Civil War. They settled in Iowa and Darboh earned a scholarship to Michigan, where he developed into a productive receiver. Darboh caught 151 passes for 2,062 yards and 14 touchdowns over his career, ending with 57 receptions for 862 yards and seven scores last season to earn All-Big Ten honors. He moves well in open space and is a smooth route runner. Darboh has an incredible work ethic to go with excellent size, though he does have some difficulty getting off press coverage.
Julien Davenport, OT, Bucknell – Davenport is an athletic, 6-7, 310-pound former basketball player with a lot of upside as an NFL prospect. But he’s definitely a developmental player from an FCS school. Davenport was a four-year starter for the Bison and FCS All-American last season. He has good feet and superior length to help him handle speed rushers. He lacks ideal NFL strength and got pushed around a bit by bull rushes in Mobile. He bends well and is a solid blocker and should find himself in an NFL camp and then on the practice squad to develop into a possible every-day starter in a couple of years.
Dion Dawkins, OG, Temple – Dawkins was a first-team All-AAC selection as a left tackle for the Owls. But the 6-4, 317-pound lineman projects as a guard in the NFL and could be a very good one. He has long arms and a good punch to knock pass rushers off balance. Dawkins moves his feet well, can anchor down, and has excellent hand placement. He had a very good week in Mobile while consistently keeping the pocket clean and opening holes for the running backs. Dawkins could be a Day 2 selection in April’s draft.
Matt Dayes, RB, North Carolina State – Dayes is a strong, physical runner, who gained 1,166 yards and 10 rushing TDs last season. The compact 5-9, 207-pound running back can get small through the hole and is good in pass protection. He’s underrated as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Because of his physical style of running, he can sometimes get careless with the ball and fumbled during the Senior Bowl.
Josh Dobbs, QB, Tennessee – Dobbs took coaching better than any other quarterback in Mobile and showed off a strong arm whipping the ball around the field. Dobbs is athletic with good size at 6-3, 216, and went 3-0 as a starter in bowl games at Tennessee. He started 35 games for the Volunteers, throwing for 7,138 yards with 53 touchdowns and 29 interceptions while rushing for another 2,160 yards and 32 scores. The most frustrating thing about Dobbs is his inconsistent accuracy. He can make every throw and even dazzle with passes that thread the proverbial needle. But then he’ll come back to miss a wide-open receiver. Dobbs has to improve his footwork, which should help with his accuracy, and he has to develop a better pocket presence instead of scrambling at the first sign of pressure. If he can learn how to move the pocket to allow him to go through his progressions, he could carve out a good NFL career.
Jessamen Dunker, OG, Tennessee State – Dunker is a big, strong 6-4, 306-pound lineman who keeps a nice center of gravity. He is a road-grading run blocker, but has lumbering feet in pass protection. He uses his hands well to keep defenders off balance, but could be a liability as a pass blocker.
Travin Dural, WR, LSU – Dural has good size at 6-1, 206 and is an excellent route runner who can cut on a dime. He had 100 career receptions for 1,716 yards and 13 touchdowns. Dural can make the great catch, but also had multiple drops. He shies away from contact and lacks the toughness you’d like to see from an NFL prospect.
Evan Engram – TE, Ole Miss – The 6-3, 236-pound Engram could present matchup problems at the next level. While he’s undersized as a tight end and not a strong run blocker, Engram is a polished receiver, catching 65 catches for 926 yards and eight touchdowns last season with 162 receptions for 2,320 yards and 15 scores over his career. He’s extremely athletic and should shine at the combine. He is a very good route runner with good speed and, while he isn’t a great run blocker, he has shown a willingness to stick his nose in there against defensive linemen. The 22-year-old has tremendous upside and should be the second tight end taken off the board, possibly late in the first round.
Amba Etta-Tawo, WR, Syracuse – Etta-Tawo was a one-year wonder with 94 catches for 1,482 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Orange after transferring from Maryland. He had several drops at Maryland and his questionable hands showed up again in Mobile. A dislocated finger on the second day of practice could have been a factor and Etta-Tawo did not play in the Senior Bowl game. He has good size at 6-1, 200 pounds with excellent speed, but does not do well with contact. Someone will take a flier on Etta-Tawo on the final day of the draft because of his speed, hoping to mold him into a competent NFL receiver.
Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama – The 6-3, 227-pound Everett is a lot like Engram and will probably come off the board shortly after the Ole Miss tight end. Everett could also sneak into the first round following an excellent week in Mobile, but is most likely a second-round pick. He began his career at UAB, but finished at USA after the Blazers briefly shut down their program. Everett has very good hands and excellent athleticism. His 90 catches over the last two seasons earned him a pair of first-team All-Sun Belt selections.
Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana – Feeney had a fine week in Mobile to punctuate what was a very good senior season that saw him selected as a first-team All-American. He was a tackle and Indiana, but has experience at every offensive line position. The versatile 6-4, 304-pound lineman could be a second-round pick and Day 1 starter. There is some concern, however, after a month with a concussion.
Kyle Fuller, OL, Baylor – Fuller is a 6-5, 306-pound center with limited athleticism who does not bend well and struggled against power. He was consistently out-leveraged in Mobile. That’s not to say he didn’t have his moments, flashing the ability to anchor and use his long arms to keep pass rushers at bay. He was a three-year starter at Baylor and two-time second-team All-Big 12 selection.
Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy – Garcia was one of the stars in Mobile, showing a nastiness that earned him first-team All-Sun Belt honors. He did not allow a single sack last season, which included a game against Clemson and its impressive front four. Garcia was a four-year starter at tackle for the Trojans. He’s a tough road grader on the ground and anchors well with a good power step in pass protection. He slides well, but if he has a weakness, it’s that he will sometimes get beat on an inside move. Garcia has good length at 6-6, though, at 293 pounds, could put on some weight.
Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt – Holden earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl following a very good week at the East-West Shrine Game. He improved his stock in St. Petersburg and even grabbed a fumble to return it 7 yards. Of course, the fumble came on a sack he allowed. While he started 37 straight games for Vanderbilt, primarily at left tackle, if he becomes a starter in the NFL, it would likely be on the right side. He is strong, but has short arms for his 6-7, 312-pound frame. His limited athleticism was exposed against speed rushers in both all-star games. That said, Holden is a smart player and could have a long career as a swing tackle.
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama – Howard was the best player in Mobile. He has very good size at 6-6, 249 and showed off great hands. He should be the first tight end selected and is considered by some as a possible top-10 pick. Howard, who is solid as a blocker, can line up anywhere on the field and could be a matchup chess piece. He has good speed for his size and showed up in big games for the Crimson Tide. Howard had 114 career receptions for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns, with nine catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns in the last two national championship games.
Kareem Hunt, TB, Toledo – Hunt is another player who made some money in Mobile. He dropped some weight from college, coming in at 5-11, 216 pounds, and was very quick at the Senior Bowl. He capped a solid week with a huge game with 118 yards on just 15 carries. Hunt ran for a school-record 4,945 yards over his career and is a good pass catcher with 73 career receptions for 555 yards and a score. He’s tough and elusive with quick feet and great balance. He may have worked his way into the second round of the draft and could be the fifth running back selected.
Danny Isidora, OG, Miami, Fla. – The 6-4, 311-pound Isidora was one of the more unheralded players in Mobile. He had a solid week and is a good run blocker with a high motor. He’s strong and anchors well while keeping himself square with good balance. He started 39 straight games at Miami and was the best player on what was an unimpressive Hurricanes line. He should be a mid-round pick and can be a solid NFL player.
Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina – Jones states his case as the best receiver in this year’s draft class. He’s certainly the most accomplished receiver. Jones, the son of former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Robert Jones, set the NCAA single-season record last season with 158 receptions for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns. Of his 158 catches, 91 of them were for first downs. He is the NCAA’s all-time leading receiver at the FBS level with 399 receptions for 4,279 yards and 23 touchdowns. He had a great week of practice in Mobile and then shined in the game with six catches for 68 yards and an acrobatic touchdown. He had another incredible catch in the back of the end zone that didn’t count, but he showed off his excellent hands and athleticism. Jones was among the fastest players in Mobile, to go with very good size at 6-2, 202 pounds. He has explosive acceleration off the line and is a smooth and precise route runner to with reliable hands. Jones just about every tangible and intangible quality NFL coaches love. Don’t be surprised if Jones gets selected in the first round.
Kyle Kalis, OG, Michigan – Another monster inside, Kalis is a 6-4, 308-pound road grader. Kalis is very strong and great in a gap-scheme system. While he’s strong as an inline blocker, Kalis does have limitations in pass protection and that will push him down and into the late rounds of the draft. He does re-anchor well and was invited to the Senior Bowl afer a good showing at the East-West Shrine Game. Kalis is a fierce competitor and was a two-time All-Big Ten selection. Kalis has aspirations of being a professional wrestler once his football career is over.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington – Jones may have the FBS record for receptions, but Kupp is the NCAA leader with 428 receptions for 6,464 yards. He also scored 73 touchdowns during a career that saw him selected as a first-team FCS All-American four times. He can also return kicks, with three punt returns for touchdowns. Kupp impressed at the Senior Bowl as a precise route runner with sticky hands. He’s 6-2, 198 pounds and, if he runs well at the combine, will continue to rise up draft boards. He’s tough and isn’t afraid to catch the ball in traffic. Kupp was even productive against Pac-12 teams, with 27 catches and six touchdowns against Oregon and Washington.
Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky – Lamp was the highest-rated offensive lineman in Mobile, but unfortunately sprained his ankle on the first day of practice and sat out the rest of the week. He played tackle at Western Kentucky and played extremely well against Alabama. He should be able to boost his stock this week at the combine. He’s strong, bends well, anchors his weight, has good feet and excellent hand placement. In short, Lamp does everything well. He’s projected as a guard at the next level because of short arms, but should be a first-round pick, especially after showing off his strength with 34 bench press reps of 225 pounds at the combine.
Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado – Liufau is an excellent athlete with prototypical size at 6-3, 240. He throws well on the run and is the career passing leader at Colorado with 9,763 yards to go with 60 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. One of the most decorated players ever at Colorado with 98 school records. Liufau added 939 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. Liufau was seemingly always injured at Colorado, though he did play through most of the injuries. He has a long release and improper footwork, which leads to poor accuracy. He does throw a good deep ball, but the intermediate throws are where he struggles with a lack of touch on short passes. If he somehow carves out an NFL career, it will be primarily as a backup.
Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA – The ability is there with McDermott, who is huge with great length at 6-8, 305. He just has to put it all together, which is where a good offensive line coach could help develop him into an eventual NFL starter. He’s a strong, solid run blocker and can handle power rushers. While he doesn’t have great feet, he knows how to use his hands, but does not do well against speed. He doesn’t bend well and is susceptible to inside moves.
Jordan Morgan, OG, Kutztown – The 6-3, 313-pound Morgan came on late and was very good in the game. He’s strong with an excellent base that allows him to anchor. He was the Division II offensive lineman of the year and said he made monumental progress working with the Bears coaching staff in Mobile. The 22-year-old Philadelphia native was a four-year starter and three-time All-American selection. The arrow is pointed up for Morgan, who is considered a mid-round prospect but move higher with a good showing in Indianapolis.
Taylor Moton, OL, Western Michigan – Moton was a 6-5, 330-pound tackle at Western Michigan, but could be moved inside at the next level. He has a good anchor and is fundamentally sound, but his limited athleticism is exposed against speed rushers.
Tyler Orlosky, OL, West Virginia – Orlosky is an undersized center at 6-3, 292 with short arms. But he’s a tough, fiery competitor who was a team leader at West Virginia. He understands the game and, despite his physical limitations, was a second-team All-American. If he hits the weight room and gets a bit stronger, Orlosky could have a nice NFL career.
Nate Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh – Peterman has the size at 6-3, 225 and understands the quarterback position. He was perhaps the only quarterback in Mobile who had any sort of pocket presence. He was a two-year starter at Pitt after transferring from Tennessee and was a solid game manager. He threw for 2,855 yards with 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last season. Peterman finished his college career with 5,236 passing yards and 47 touchdowns to 17 picks. He has good arm strength, but not great as he struggles to push the ball outside or downfield with accuracy. He’s fairly accurate on intermediate routes, but, even then, is inconsistent. Peterman is mechanically sound and could be a longtime backup. He was the best quarterback in Mobile, but the cupboard was pretty bare.
Antonio Pipkin, QB, Tiffin – Pipkin might have the most upside of the six quarterbacks in Mobile. He made 44 straight starts at Division II Tiffin and was the GLIAC player of the year last season after completing 65 percent of his passes last year for 2,534 yards with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. Pipkin is an athletic, 6-1, 225-pound quarterback who has enough arm strength to make any throw. He threw for 10,940 yards with 88 touchdowns and 32 interceptions over his career and added 25 rushing touchdowns. While he can make plays with his legs, Pipkin does understand how to go through his progressions. He puts some zip on the ball and is accurate on intermediate routes, but loses accuracy when trying to throw it deep. He has a good feel of the pocket, but has to take care of the ball when rushed. He had a solid week of practice, but is not yet ready to play in the NFL. He will need an adjustment period on the practice squad to grasp an NFL offense.
Ethan Pocic, C, LSU – Pocic is maybe the most versatile linemen in the draft class. He played every offensive line position at LSU and does not get beat with leverage inside despite being 6-7, 302 pounds. He anchors well with a solid base, has good hand placement, and is a strong run blocker. He had one of the more impressive weeks in Mobile and should be an asset to an NFL roster.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State – While Ron Dayne would disagree, Pumphrey is technically the NCAA FBS rushing leader with 6,405 yards and 62 touchdowns. He may be tiny at 5-8, 169, but he’s tough and never missed a game at San Diego State. He was a workhorse back with reliable hands for the Aztecs and added 99 career receptions for 1,039 yards and five touchdowns. He ran for 2,133 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and can also return punts. Pumphrey has excellent vision, which helps him avoid the big hits. The Las Vegas native is quick and explosive and can get skinny through a hole. While he’ll never been a ground-and-pound player in the NFL, Pumphrey could find a spot as a Darren Sproles-type change-of-pace running back.
Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M – Reynolds caught 61 passes for 1,039 yards and 12 touchdowns last season and finished his career at Texas A&M with 164 receptions for 2,788 yards and 30 scores. While the athletic 6-3, 187-pound San Antonio native caught a lot of passes for the Aggies, he dropped several balls in Mobile. Reynolds had a very poor start to the week, but got better as it went along and ended with a very good game as he caught six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. Reynolds is strong with very good feet and field awareness, but has to be a more consistent pass catcher. While you’d like to see him add some weight, Reynolds could be a viable deep threat, but has to improve his hands or he’s destined to be the next Sammie Coates.
Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo –Roberts has very good size at 6-4, 261 pounds. When you look at his productivity with 45 catches for 533 yards and a school-record 16 touchdown passes and it’s hard not to love the guy as a red-zone threat. Roberts sees and tracks the ball well and uses his huge catch radius and giant hands to make difficult grabs in a crowd. He has quick feet, though not great long speed and does need to develop into a better run blocker. But this guy should shine at the combine. He’s also an extremely hard worker, driven to succeed following a difficult childhood full of adversity. Following an excellent week at the East-West Shrine Game, Roberts had a solid week in Mobile.
Sam Rogers, FB, Virginia Tech – Fullback may be a dying position, but Rogers might be the best one in this draft class.He is a very good blocker in pass protection and an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He was a high school quarterback who walked on at Virginia Tech. He ran for 692 yards and four scores in his career, with his best game coming last season against rival Virginia. Rogers ran for 105 yards and a pair of scores on just 15 carries and caught two passes for 29 yards against the Cavaliers. Rogers has 72 career receptions for 802 yards and seven touchdowns. He did have a fractured elbow late in 2014, but played in every game over the last two seasons.
Fred Ross, WR, Mississippi State – Ross has good hands and size at 6-1, 203. He’s a very good route runner with big-play ability. He caught 72 passes for 917 yards and 12 scores last season. While his total receptions and yards dipped from 2015 when he had 88 receptions for 1,007 yards while developing a great rapport with current Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Ross’ 12 touchdowns last season were two more than he had in the previous three years combined. He’s a smooth and fluid runner who is elusive in the open field. He will have some drops and has to get stronger, especially against press coverage, but he could become a solid slot receiver and could be a steal late in the draft.
Artavis Scott, WR, Clemson – Scott is only 5-10, 193, but is smart, quick and can cut on a dime. He became Clemson’s all-time leading receiver with 245 catches for 2,480 yards and 19 touchdowns in just three years. Scott was the first-ever true junior to play in the Senior Bowl after completing his degree a year early. Scott is a solid route runner, but does have a limited route tree. He’s definitely smart enough to expand that. Scott has good hands and the slot receiver could be a nice pickup early on the final day of the draft.
Justin Senior, OT, Mississippi State – Senior was a trainwreck for most of the week at the Senior Bowl. The 6-5, 322-pound lineman was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, but was consistently beaten during practices in Mobile. As much as he struggled during the week of practices, he was worse in the game. He got shoved back into Dobbs on a bull rush by Youngstown State linebacker Derek Rivers to cause an interception. Senior has sluggish feet and his hand placement is too high, which leads to multiple holds.
De’Veon Smith, RB, Michigan – Smith is 5-11, 228 pounds and is a strong runner – his legs never stop churning to move the pile – but has to be more patient if he’s going to succeed in the NFL. He doesn’t have great vision and tries to create own lane instead of following blocks. While he has good hands out of the backfield, with 36 career receptions, and a passion for the game, he lacks the explosiveness NFL teams crave. He had a good week at the East-West Shrine Game before receiving an invitation to the Senior Bowl, but failed to impress in either game. He is a north-south runner, but his lack of patience and vision still result in too many negative runs.
Eric Smith, OG, Virginia – The 6-5, 300-pound Smith was a late add to the Senior Bowl and was inconsistent during his two days there. He does not have good balance or footwork, which caused him to struggle against power pass rushers. He is a good run blocker who understands how to turn a defender to seal him from the hole.
Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas – Sprinkle has excellent size at 6-5, 256 pounds. He has good hands and caught 33 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns last season. He’s got stiff hips, however, and is not a fluid route runner. He struggles as a pass blocker and has to get stronger, but also improve his footwork. There are also off-field concerns, with the biggest red-flag incident coming in December. Sprinkle was suspended for the Belk Bowl after getting busted for shoplifting during a bowl-sponsored shopping spree. Sprinkle does have natural ability and will get drafted, but it might not be as high as he had expected. Look for Sprinkle to come off the board sometime in the late fifth or early sixth round.
Jamari Staples, WR, Louisville – The 6-3, 190-pound Staples runs like a deer with long strides. He’s a natural pass catcher, but has to develop as a route runner. Despite obvious athleticism, he has to improve his footwork to get in and out of break with fluidity. Staples began his college career at UAB before transferring to Louisville. He finished his career with 113 receptions for 1,901 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also returned kicks, which should get him into an NFL training camp this summer; it will just likely be as an undrafted free agent.
Freddie Stevenson, FB, Florida State – Stevenson is strong with a good punch in pass protection. But he does need to improve as a pass blocker because he doesn’t bend particularly well. What he does do run is run with toughness and catch the ball. He didn’t touch the ball much at Florida State with just 25 carries for 132 yards and 19 receptions for 160 yards with seven total touchdowns over the course of his career. He got to show off some of his ability at the Senior Bowl. Though not many NFL teams still employ a fullback, the 6-foot, 236-pound Stevenson could find a spot.
Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina – Switzer is small at 5-9, 179 pounds, but used his speed to become North Carolina’s all-time leading receiver. Switzer caught 96 passes for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns last season to finish his UNC career with 244 receptions for 2,907 yards and 19 scores. His ideal fit is as a slot receiver because he struggles to get off press coverage. He had a solid week at the Senior Bowl and, despite his small size, is surprisingly good at blocking downfield. Switzer is a polished route runner with big-play ability. He uses his speed to create separation and knows how to work the scramble drill, coming back to the ball to help bail out his quarterback. He’s also an excellent punt returner and should find a spot on an NFL roster.
Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky – Taylor is a determined competitor who can stretch the field with his speed. The 5-11, 198-pound Louisville native caught 98 passes for 1,730 yards last season and has scored 17 touchdowns each of the last two years to earn first-team All-CUSA honors each time. Despite his productivity for the Hilltoppers, Taylor’s hands are not great. His drops continued in Mobile, where he also showed a limited route tree.
Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech – Like Switzer, Taylor had a very good week at the Senior Bowl. He’s just 5-7, 177, but fast, quick, with shifty feet. Taylor led FBS with 1,803 receiving yards on 136 receptions with 12 touchdowns. He had a Louisiana Tech school-record 327 career receptions for 4,179 yards and 32 touchdowns. He’s tough and a natural pass catcher with an ideal spot as a slot receiver.
Jon Toth, C, Kentucky – The 6-5, 308-pound center had a rough week of practice. Toth made numerous mistakes and was consistently beaten in one-on-one drills. He did play better once the game rolled around. Toth was a four-year starter for the Wildcats and is a solid run blocker, though he has a hard time staying on his blocks.
Davis Webb, QB, California – Webb is nice and tall at 6-5, though a bit lean at 229 pounds. The former Texas Tech quarterback is a natural leader with a strong arm, but is far from NFL-ready. He was uncomfortable under center, botching several snaps, and has to improve his footwork. Webb threw for 4,295 yards with 37 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season. Those yards were a result of throwing the ball an average of 52 times per game. He’s inconsistent with his accuracy as his passes tend to sail on him. He did complete 11 of 16 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown in the Senior Bowl to earn MVP honors. The good news for Webb is the potential is there and he does have a great work ethic. In a quarterback-thin draft, he will get selected much higher than he deserves, possibly in the fourth round.
Chad Williams, WR, Grambling – Williams is 6-1, 204 with quick feet. He’s a natural pass catcher and is explosive off the ball. He’s an excellent route runner and was very productive at Grambling. Williams caught 210 passes for 3,062 yards and 28 touchdowns during his career with the Tigers. He also had 13 catches for 152 yards last season against Arizona. Williams is a feisty competitor, but does have some off-field concerns. He has tremendous upside, but will likely make his way to an NFL camp as an undrafted rookie.
Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU – Williams is a 6-foot, 211-pound power-running, tackle-breaking machine. He ran for 1,375 yards and 12 TDs last season despite missing three games. He stepped away from football in 2015 to take redshirt year after needing a mental break from football. That does raise some red flags and there are durability concerns. He does not catch the ball well as a receiver, but is a solid pass blocker. He has a nice burst and acceleration through the hole. As one-cut runner with good vision and balance, Williams, who is BYU’s all-time leading rusher with 3,901 yard, is perfect for a zone-scheme system.
Montravius Adams, DL, Auburn – Adams was sometimes unblockable at the Senior Bowl. He’s strong with powerful hands and moves well for a guy who’s 6-3 and 308 pounds. He’s explosive off the snap and consistently won one-on-one drills. He was then dominant during the game, with great penetration to alter runs or disrupt pass plays. The Georgia native had 8 1/2 tackles for loss and 4 1/2 sacks last season to go with 15 quarterback hurries. He also blocked a pair of kicks last year, giving him added value on special teams.
Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama – Anderson is a high-motor, instinctive linebacker who is also solid in coverage. While the 6-2, 258-pound Anderson did not play in the game because of a thumb injury, he had a very good career for the Crimson Tide with 19 sacks, nine of which came last season. He also had 19 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown last season. Anderson is a pretty much a lock for the second round.
Alex Anzalone, ILB, Florida – Anzalone was all over the field in Mobile. He was the most consistent defensive player at the Senior Bowl, showing off excellent lateral range. He’s quick with good size at 6-3, 240, and good vision. He’s an aggressive and instinctive player who can diagnose plays and is almost always around the ball. While he’s an athletic, sideline-to-sideline player, there are some injury concerns. He played in eight games last season, the most in any one season at Florida, and had 53 tackles with three sacks. The durability issues will push him down, but Anzalone could be a steal if he can stay healthy.
Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio – Basham was one of the stars at the Senior Bowl with a great week of practice. He an athletic 6-4, 259-pound pass rusher with an explosive burst and can convert his speed to power. His best fit is as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he could be a 4-3 defensive end. He’s an excellent edge rusher and is physical against the run, though his aggression does sometimes result in losing contain on outside runs.
Vince Biegel, OLB, Wisconsin – Biegel is a 6-3, 242-pound natural pass rusher with an excellent motor and get off. He lives in the backfield and can be a disruptive player on every down with 15 career sacks and 28 1/2 tackles for loss over his career. He’s tenacious with good vision and instincts and has quick feet to go with excellent footwork and an effective spin move. He was primarily a pass rusher at Wisconsin, but showed at the Senior Bowl he can drop in coverage. His best fit in the NFL is as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Ben Boulware, ILB, Clemson – Boulware may be a bit undersized at 6 feet and 236 pounds, but his is a passionate natural leader who was extremely productive at Clemson with 116 tackles last season for the national champions. His superior football IQ and instincts help compensate for limited athleticism. Boulware can still get sideline to sideline and takes excellent angles to the ball. He’s a very coachable player who may not measure out well, but is just a damn good football player.
Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston – As a former college basketball player, the 6-3, 244-pound Bowser is a very good athlete and has good pass-rush ability. He had 8 1/2 sacks in eight games last season, but there are some off-field issues. He missed a month last season with a broken orbital bone after getting to a fight with one of his Houston teammates. He had a productive career with 27 1/2 tackles for loss and 22 1/2 sacks over his career. The athleticism and upside are there is he can convince teams to trust him off the field.
Keionta Davis, DE, Chattanooga – Davis is an athletic 6-3, 274-pound pass rusher with an impressively quick burst off the snap. But he has to get stronger and learn how to split double teams because he was demolished on Mobile. He played all right in the Senior Bowl with a sack and tackle for loss, but, because he was manhandled in one-on-one blocking drills, Davis will be lucky to be a late-round pick.
Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia – Against the best receivers in Mobile, Douglas played extremely well. He has great size and length at 6-2, 204 pounds, and excellent ball skills. He led the nation last season with eight interceptions and breaks very well on the ball. He likes to play physical and is adept at press coverage, especially after a good jam of the receiver at the line. He has good recovery speed, but does tend to grab when beaten. He’s a bit stiff in his change of direction, but Douglas is one of the better cornerbacks in the draft and could sneak into the bottom of the second round.
Corn Elder, CB, Miami, Fla. – The 5-10, 179-pound Elder is a good athlete with added value as a returner. But as a cornerback, he doesn’t have great footwork or change of direction. He got spun around a bit in Mobile and grabs when beaten. He did play well for the Hurricanes with 158 career tackles, six sacks, five fumble recoveries and three interceptions during his 42 games (21 starts) for the Hurricanes.
Ukeme Marcus Eligwe, OLB, Georgia Southern – The 6-2, 239-pound Eligwe might be the best special teams player in the draft, but comes with some baggage after getting kicked out of Florida State. He wound up at Georgia Southern, where he excelled in coverage and was an All-Sun Belt selection last season after registering 104 tackles with 11 for loss, and three forced fumbles. He won’t get drafted, but could wind up as a special teams star.
Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M – Evans should be a second-day pick. He’s 6 feet, 193 pounds with good range and excellent ball skills. He gets out of breaks extremely well and is twitchy and quick. He had 78 tackles last season, one for loss, with an interception and three pass breakups. Evans can also contribute as a kick returner
Ben Gedeon, LB, Michigan – Gedeon is another player with good instincts and vision who is better in coverage than some would think. He’s also a solid tackler, even in the open field. With a non-stop motor, Gedeon flies all over the field and led all players with nine tackles in the Senior Bowl. He’s a 6-2, 243-pound sideline-to-sideline player who might not test off the charts, but is a solid football player who racked up 94 tackles, 15 for loss, and 4 1/2 sacks last season.
Nate Gerry, S, Nebraska – The are some off-field concerns with Gerry after two suspensions while at Nebraska – he was also ruled Academically ineligible for the 2016 Music City Bowl – but the 6-2, 214-pound safety does have some talent. He’s not a smooth athlete and can be rigid in his movement, but is more than solid against the run and is a sure tackler with very good vision.
Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan – Glasgow is the 6-3, 299-pound brother of Detroit Lions center Graham Glasgow. The younger Glasgow has an excellent burst and his strong week in Mobile could have boosted him into the third round. He’s an aggressive player with a good burst off the snap, which makes him a force against the run. He had 43 tackles last season with 9 1/2 for loss and four sacks.
Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M – Hall has great length at 6-5, 265 and a nice burst off the ball. He does a good job of using his hands to shed blocks. Hall was a bit overlooked because of bookend pass rusher Myles Garrett, who could be the first overall pick in the draft. But you shouldn’t forget about Hall, who can use his speed rush to get to the quarterback and is strong enough for a bull rush. Hall had 50 tackles, 13 for loss, and 4 1/2 sacks last year.
Connor Harris, LB, Lindenwood – Harris is the latest Division II star to come out of tiny Lindenwood, just west of St. Louis. Harris is the NCAA all-division leader in tackles with 633 and is solid in coverage. He struggled at times in Mobile because he lacks high-end speed and athleticism, but he compensates with excellent vision, a high football IQ and very good instincts.
Jordan Herdman, LB, Simon Fraser – It wouldn’t be a Senior Bowl without somebody from Canada and Herdman was one of the best in the Great White North over the last four years. The 5-11, 238-pound linebacker has very good vision and is a solid tackler who plays downhill. He was the two-time Great Northwest Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and is the GNAC all-time leading tackler with 428 career stops.
Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Miami, Fla. – Jenkins is a bit of a hothead, but the 6-1, 220-pound safety is strong against the run. He had a career-high 76 tackles last season with a sack-and-a-half and two interceptions. He doesn’t have very good ball skills, but will find a spot on an NFL team because he has the size, speed and strength coaches love.
Lorenzo Jerome, S, Saint Francis (Pa.) – Jerome got invited to the Senior Bowl thanks to an MVP performance at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. He had two picks in the NFLPA Bowl and added two more interceptions and a forced fumble in the Senior Bowl. The 5-11, 185 pound safety has excellent ball skills and is extremely athletic. He was the first player in Northeast Conference history to be a four-time first-team all-conference selection. Jerome had 18 career interceptions, including six last season. He was also a first-team all-conference return man and had four career returns for touchdowns. Jerome would be the first Saint Francis player in the NFL since 1952.
Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa – Johnson was a two-time All-Big Ten selection after registering 15 1/2 tackles for loss and 11 1/2 sacks over the last two seasons. He has quick feet for a guy who’s 6-3, 309, but he has to do a better job with his hands to shed blockers. He also doesn’t give himself a wide base and loses balance and leverage inside. He is long and strong though and has a motor that does not shut off. Coaches can work with a guy like that and he could develop into a starter at nose tackle in a 3-4 system.
John Johnson, S, Boston College – Johnson is a versatile 6-1, 205-pound defensive back who had 77 tackles and three interceptions last season as a cornerback. But his best fit is as zone safety. He’s not good in press coverage, but does have good ball skills. Johnson is a fluid, smooth athlete with range and speed and can be a contributor on special teams. His stock is rising and he could work his way into the middle rounds.
Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State – Kazee is one of the most aggressive cornerbacks in this draft class. He loves to play press coverage and jam receivers at the line, but he does get a bit too handsy. He was a two-time All-Mountain West selection and had a very productive career for the Aztecs with a school-record 17 interceptions. Kazee is lean at 5-10, 183 pounds, but a fluid athlete who trusts his eyes to read the quarterbacks and is instinctive with superior ball skills. He has excellent recovery speed and footwork to break on the ball. He changes direction very well and is even a solid tackler.
Desmond King, CB, Iowa – King was the 2015 Thorpe Award winner and had 14 career interceptions as a four-year starter for the Hawkeyes. He’s a 5-10, 206-pound DB with very good ball skills. He could be on an island outside or play nickel in the slot, which would be his ideal fit. While he does have excellent ball skills and good vision, he is tight in the hips, which is why moving him inside would be the right move for whichever team were pick him in the second round.
Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova – Kpassagnon is a physical specimen with a ripped 6-7, 280-pound body. He has great length and athleticism and might be the smartest player in the 2017 draft class. After injuries slowed his first two years of college football, Kpassagnon was an all-conference selection in 2015 with 9 1/2 tackles for loss and 6 1/2 sacks. He upped those numbers last season with 21 1/2 tackles for loss and 11 sacks to earn first-team FCS All-American honors. While Kpassagnon has explosive athleticism, he doesn’t have a good burst off the snap and too often gets muscled by offensive tackles. Though he’s not strong against the run, he does have a history of blocking kicks, which adds value for the next level. Kpassagnon has a lot of upside because of his athleticism, but will have to improve his technique and balance and overall strength.
Harvey Langi, LB, BYU – Langi had a solid week of practice in Mobile, showcasing his natural instincts and superior field vision. He has good size at 6-2, 252 and, while he’s not the fastest player, he’s a versatile athlete who saw time at defensive end and inside linebacker and even played some running back with a pair of rushing touchdowns last season. He finished his career with 139 tackles, 11 1/2 for loss, and 6 1/2 sacks, along with two interceptions and a forced fumble.
Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar – Langley has good length, but is lean at 6-0, 199. He has good speed and ball skills, evidenced by six interceptions last season at the FCS level, but he didn’t track the ball well in Mobile. Despite some limitations as a cover corner, Langley did have a solid week and was invited to the combine. He moves well and has long arms, but he lacks long speed and got beat several teams on deep passes. Langley has quick feet and is an athletic player, but tries to guess too much and it burns him.
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan – A first-team All-American last season, the 5-10, 188-pound Lewis has excellent feet and is a very good press corner. He had a good week at the Senior Bowl and showed off outstanding ball skills. Lewis had 25 tackles and two interceptions last season and would be ideal as a nickel corner to cover the slot. He’s likely an early second-round pick.
Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut – Melifonwu was one of the standouts at the Senior Bowl. He has incredible length at 6-4, 219 and is an athletic, rangy safety with good speed and instincts. He has very good ball skills and can be used as a matchup piece against tight ends or tall receivers. He’s also a solid tackler, making 118 stops to go with four interceptions last season, and has created a nice buzz heading into the combine. He should show well in Indianapolis and could be a first-round pick in April.
Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Charlotte – Ogunjobi is quick, relentless and powerful. The 6-3, 304-pound run stuffer was a first-team All-CUSA selection after starting all four seasons at Charlotte. He is technically sound with a good burst off the snap to be disruptive in the backfield. After recording 65 tackles, 13 1/2 for loss, with three sacks and 10 quarterback hurries last year, he boosted his draft stock in Mobile and could be a second-round pick.
Aarion Penton, CB, Missouri – Penton is another versatile DB who can play anywhere in the secondary. He had a good week of practice at the East-West Game to earn an invite to the Senior Bowl. The 5-9, 195-pound St. Louis native had an outstanding senior season with five interceptions. He’s instinctual with excellent ball skills and quick feet. He should get picked somewhere in the fifth round as his height will push him down a bit. Penton is a competitive player who tracks the ball well in the air.
Carroll Phillips, OLB, Illinois – Phillips has to get stronger, but he has a great burst off the snap and extremely quick closing speed. At 6-3, 237, he’s best suited as a 4-3 outside linebacker because he gets overpowered by NFL-caliber tackles and might not be effective as a 3-4 pass rusher. He did have nine sacks last season and could develop into an effective situational player.
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple – Aside from Zay Jones, there was not another player in Mobile who helped himself more than Reddick. He is a natural pass rusher with a great burst off the snap. But he also showed the ability to cover in space, making him versatile as a possible 3-4 linebacker. Reddick can stack the line at the point of attack and also blitz from depth. He had 65 tackles last season with 22 1/2 tackles for loss and 10 1/2 sacks to earn first-team All-ACC hoors. He’s explosive with good vision and diagnoses plays well with excellent instincts and athleticism. With an ability to also play special teams, Reddick will likely be a second-round pick, but could sneak into the bottom of the first round.
Duke Riley, LB, LSU – Riley closed a solid week in Mobile with an excellent game. He led the South team with seven tackles in the Senior Bowl thanks to good vision and nice closing speed. He had 93 tackles last season, nine for loss, with 1 1/2 sacks and an interception for the Tigers. While undersized at 6-1, 231, Riley is versatile with good lateral range and is trending upward leading into the draft.
Derek Rivers, OLB, Youngstown State – Rivers was extremely productive at the FCS level as a three-time first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection. He closed his career with a school-record 37 1/2 career sacks, adding 56 1/2 career tackles for loss. He’s a quick 6-4, 250-pound edge rusher who capped a quiet, but solid week of practice in Mobile with a dominant showing in the Senior Bowl. If he performs well at the combine, he could be a second-day pick.
Jalen Robinette, WR, Air Force – Air Force may be known for running the ball, but Robinette stood out as a receiver. He set the school record for receiving yards at Air Force with 35 receptions for an incredible 959 yards and six scores. That’s an average of more than 27 yards per reception. Robinette is 6-3, 218, and has big play written all over him thanks to his athleticism and excellent hands. He finished his career with 120 receptions for 2,697 yards and 18 touchdowns. He had two catches for 82 yards and a touchdown in 2015 against Big Ten champion Michigan State. Robinette might have to complete two years of military service before he can play in the NFL, but the ability is there. He showed well enough at the East-West Shrine Game to get an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he did struggle a bit with press coverage.
Ezra Robinson, CB, Tennessee State – Robinson doesn’t backpedal well and struggles with quickness. He has long arms, but his hand placement is not very good. He has to improve his footwork. Robinson, who is 5-11, 185 pounds, began his career at Michigan State before transferring to Tennessee State as a sophomore. He’s likely headed for the priority free agent route following the draft.
Isaac Rochell, DE, Notre Dame – Rochell brings some versatility as either a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive end. He has a good inside move with an excellent burst off the ball. He has good size at 6-4, 282 and is strong with good feet. He had seven sacks last season, though he does not possess elite pass-rushing ability. He’s stronger against the run, but could be a late steal in the draft if he can develop better pass-rushing skills.
Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane – Smart doesn’t have the ideal size at 6-1, 296 of an interior defensive lineman, but what he does have is a quick burst and pass-rush ability. He’s strong and tenacious and uses his hands well to get off blocks. He flashed NFL ability, with 183 career tackles, 39 1/2 for loss, and 9 1/2 sacks, but has to be more consistent. He doesn’t generate leverage well inside and gets overpowered by in-line blocks. He’s a developmental guy who could become a solid backup for years.
Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois – The 6-3, 255-pound Smoot has a quick burst with good speed as an edge rusher. He’s able to convert speed to power and had 29 1/2 tackles for loss and 12 sacks over the last two seasons. Smoot relies too much on his athletic ability and has to develop technique to beat NFL-caliber linemen. He did show flashes at the Senior Bowl and should be a late-round pick with some upside with the right coaching staff.
Jordan Sterns, S, Oklahoma State – Sterns has good vision and instincts, but does not tackle well in the open field. He’s 5-11, 196 and improved over his career, especially his ball skills. All five of his career interceptions came in the last two seasons. He had over 100 tackles in each of the last three seasons. He’s athletic, but not strong, and won’t be a top pick. But he could be a solid backup as a nickel safety.
Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee – Sutton battled various injuries at Tennessee, but when he was able to play, he was excellent. He has good length at 5-11, 182 pounds, with excellent speed and ball skills. Sutton is quick and instinctive, breaks well on the ball and is a solid tackler. He also has three punt returns for touchdowns on his resume. Sutton has huge upside as a cover corner if he can stay healthy.
Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama – Tomlinson was just a one-year starter at Alabama with 62 tackles and three sacks last season. But the 6-3, 312-pound lineman is a smart, hard-working player who has overcome a lot of personal adversity to get to where he is. NFL doctors at the NFL Combine will definitely want to check out his knees after two ACL injuries – one in 2011 while in high school and another in 2013 at Alabama. He was a consistent player for the Tide and ate double teams. He’s an excellent athlete for his size and a former wrestler who understands how to use leverage and can collapse the pocket, recording seven quarterback hits last season.
Damarius Travis, S, Minnesota –Travis has good size at 6-2, 215 with nice ball skills. He’s a solid tackler who will play downhill against the run. Randall is a physical player who earned All-Big Ten honors last season with 83 tackles, five for loss, two interceptions and five pass breakups. He does not change direction well, however, with tight hips and poor lateral quickness. If he can improve his footwork, Travis could be a valuable find late in the draft, especially as a special teams ace.
Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, DT, USC – The 6-1, 350-pound Tu’ikolovatu is an excellent run stuffer who has the ability to collapse the pocket. He’s strong and powerful with a good burst off the snap. He had a very good week in Mobile and showed he could fit well as a 3-4 nose tackle. He’s a passionate player who probably wouldn’t be on the field much for third downs, but is a reliable two-down player in the middle.
Chris Wormley, DE, Michigan – Wormley has excellent size and length at 6-5, 297 pounds, but does not have the speed to be an edge rusher. His best fit is as a 3-4 defensive end who can set the edge. He has a nice burst and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season with 40 tackles and six sacks. He has a narrow base and gets knocked off balance by strong offensive linemen. Wormley fell off a bit last year following an outstanding junior season that saw him record 14 1/2 tackles for loss and 6 1/2 sacks. His hand placement has to improve to get off blocks, but Wormley is a mid-round prospect who could eventually develop into a starter.
Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA – Vanderdoes is pretty agile for a guy who is 6-3, 320 pounds. He has good footwork and is athletic. Following an inconsistent career at UCLA and a torn ACL in 2015, Vanderdoes improved his stock at the Senior Bowl with an excellent week. He has a great burst off the snap and was trending upward heading into the combine.
Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson – Watkins is quick, explosive and strong. The 6-4, 312-pound defender was a disruptive force while leading Clemson’s outstanding defensive line. Watkins had 82 tackles, 13 1/2 for loss, with 10 1/2 sacks last season. He had an excellent week at the Senior Bowl and should be an early second-round pick.
Marquez White, CB, Florida State – White is an inconsistent player who flashes excellent coverage ability, but then will get beat on double moves. He’s a good athlete who trusts his eyes, sometimes too much, but has a very slight frame at 6 feet, 184 pounds and has to get stronger. He’s a finesse player who doesn’t like contact and will have to improve his technique to make an NFL roster.
Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU – White was one of the standout corners at the Senior Bowl. The 5-11, 191-pound All-SEC selection improved immensely from his junior year to his senior season and could work his way into the first round of April’s draft. He has very good footwork and ball skills. He anticipates throws with natural instincts and breaks well on the ball. He’s almost always in a good position with excellent technique and had 35 tackles to go with two interceptions last season as quarterbacks rarely threw his way.
Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State – Willis had a great game with two sacks and two forced fumbles to be named the South MVP. He has position flexibility as long and powerful 6-4, 255-pound pass rusher. He had 11 1/2 sacks last season to be named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Willis has good balance, a great burst and high motor and should come off the board in the second round.
Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona State – Gonzalez is the best kicker in the draft and should be the only one selected, possibly as high as the third round. The 2016 Lou Groza Award winner isn’t small, either, at 6-1, 201. He made all three of his field-goal attempts in the Senior Bowl after kicking the most field goals (96) in FBS history. He’s reliable and accurate and was a first-team All-American last season while closing his career with an FBS record 494 points scored.]]>
The Chargers will move into the stadium this fall, but on Jan. 21, the 27,000-seat venue played host to some future NFL players. It’s the sixth straight year StubHub Center has hosted the NFLPA Bowl, which began in 2012. After last year’s game was decided by a point and featured plenty of field goals, this year’s game was a blowout.
The National Team, coached by former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz, rolled to a 27-7 win over the American Team, led by former Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn.
So who helped themselves? If you ask Martz, it was East Carolina quarterback Philip Nelson. But the game’s MVP was Lorenzo Jerome, a 6-foot safety from FCS Saint Francis.
While Nelson and Jerome, along with running backs Tarik Cohen, Teriyon Gipson, Taquan Mizzell and T.J. Logan, boosted their draft stocks, others like quarterbacks Ryan Higgins, Sean Maguire and Mitch Leidner, and Houston defensive end Cameron Malveaux weren’t so fortunate.
Kendrick Bourne, WR, Eastern Washington – What stood out about Bourne in Carson was his ability to block downfield. He was an FCS All-American after catching 79 passes for 1,201 yards and seven touchdowns last season. The 6-3, 190-pound Portland, Ore., native had 211 receptions for 3,130 yards and 27 scores during a productive career with the Eagles. He’s a very good route runner who can create separation. The three-time All-Big Sky selection didn’t have a catch with two targets in the NFLPA Bowl, but he showed he can do more than just catch. Aside from locking on defensive backs on run plays, Bourne also played well on special teams and recorded a tackle. He has high productivity to go with a solid all-around game and should land an invite to an NFL training camp.
Ben Braden, OG, Michigan – Braden is a big man at 6-6, 304 pounds, but moves extremely well. He is adept at pulling and quick on his feet. He started 25 straight games through 2014-15 and made 36 starts in college. He’s battle-tested and was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season. He was considered a seventh-round prospect leading into the NFLPA Bowl, but should have bumped himself up a bit with a solid week in Carson.
Cethan Carter, TE, Nebraska – Carter had a productive week in Carson as an athletic tight end despite a muscular 6-4, 240-pound frame. He showed well enough at the NFLPA Bowl to get an invitation to the NFL Combine. Carter had some injuries at Nebraska, but finished his career with 59 catches for 744 yards and four touchdowns. He’s a good all-around tight end and plays well when in a three-point stance. Because he doesn’t have the ideal height for an NFL tight end, Carter should be an H-back at the next level and could come off the board in the sixth round.
Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T – Known as the “Human Joystick,” the shifty Cohen left A&T as the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher with 5,619 yards and 56 touchdowns. He averaged 6.5 yards on 868 collegiate carries. Not bad for a guy who’s only 5-6, 178 pounds. But what Cohen does have is excellent speed and very quick feet. He can cut on a dime and then has the explosiveness to dart past defenders. He made defenders look silly with an 18-yard run late in the third quarter of the NFLPA Bowl. He was an FCS All-American and MEAC player of the year last season while running for a career-best 1,588 yards and 18 touchdowns, with an average yards-per-carry of 7.5. He also caught 37 passes for 339 yards and a score. Cohen has even returned kicks and punts, so think Darren Sproles, because that’s the type of skill set Cohen has.
Ethan Cooper, OG, Indiana University of Pa. – Cooper pulls well and is impressively athletic for someone who is 6-3, 325 pounds. Cooper was a D-II All-American last season and was a four-year starter, starting three games late in his freshman year. Cooper does a very good job of staying on his block and driving the defender. He uses his hands well and keeps his feet moving. He knows how to turn defenders and seal them off to create running lanes. He had a great week in Carson and earned an invite to the NFL Combine.
Andrew Eide, OL, BYU – After standing out at Southern Utah, Eide had an opportunity to transfer up to BYU for his final season. But this is probably where his football career ends. He was consistently beaten by speed rushers at the NFLPA Bowl, and didn’t particularly stand out in the ground game. He’s 6-5, but is under 300 pounds, which is undersize for an NFL lineman, especially at tackle. Eide has excellent length, but just not the skill set to be a dependable NFL lineman. Eide is a former basketball player and defensive player who had eight sacks in 2015 for Southern Utah. That versatility could get him some sniffs from teams that may think about moving him back to defense.
Jake Eldrenkamp, OG, Washington – Eldrenkamp capped a very good week with an excellent showing in the game. The Pac-12 scholar athlete of the year, Eldrenkamp was also a first-team All-Pac 12 selection while helping the Huskies win the conference and get into the College Football Playoff. He’s 6-4, 301 pounds and is solid all-around as a run blocker and in pass protection. He moves well and understands blocking schemes. He’s an intelligent player who uses that football IQ to put himself in the right position more often than not.
Teriyon Gipson, RB, New Mexico – Gipson keeps his legs churning and has decent hands out of the backfield. He ran for 1,269 yards and 13 touchdowns last season to cap his career with 3,148 yards and 32 scores. He added 42 receptions for 387 yards and two touchdowns. Gipson has a low center of gravity at 5-8, 182, and is patient while hiding behind his blockers. He led the American team in Carson with 54 rushing yards on eight carries and scored his team’s only touchdown, on a 13-yard pass in the fourth quarter. It was one of three receptions for 32 yards for Gipson, who also returned kicks. After carrying the load last season for the nation’s leading rushing team, Gipson has a future in the NFL.
Brady Gustafson, QB, Montana – Listed as 6-7, but actually 6-5 and some change, the 240-pound Gustafson looks the part of an NFL quarterback. That’s Cam Newton size with a Carson Wentz background. Because of his stature and size-15 feet, footwork has been a priority for Gustafson as he prepares for a possible NFL future. He didn’t get off to a good start in the NFLPA Bowl, stumbling backward on his first snap. In two years as a starter for the Grizzlies, Gustafson threw for 4,769 yards with 37 touchdowns and 17 interceptions while completing 62 percent of his passes. He played in just seven games as a junior because of an injury. His first career start came in the 2015 opener when he threw for 434 yards with three touchdowns and a pick to help the Grizzlies upset Wentz-led North Dakota State. If he can speed up his elongated delivery, Gustafson could play in the NFL. He has a strong arm and high football IQ. The gamble is that he could be the next Joe Flacco or Brock Osweiler.
Keon Hatcher, WR, Arkansas – Hatcher battled through injuries at Arkansas, but when healthy is an NFL-caliber receiver. He’s 6-1, 206 with a 40 time in the 4.5-second range and caught 130 passes in his career for 1,866 yards and 19 touchdowns. Hatcher missed most of 2015 because of a broken foot, but came back with 44 receptions for 743 yards and eight scores in 12 games as a senior. If he shows well at the combine, as he did at the NFLPA Bowl, and can show teams his injury concerns are behind him, he could move into the sixth round.
Ryan Higgins, QB, Louisiana Tech – Higgins put up huge numbers for the Bulldogs in his lone season as a starter. The 6-2, 207-pound quarterback threw for 4,617 yards with 41 touchdowns and just eight interceptions while leading La. Tech to a 9-5 record and win over Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl. But he had a tough go of it in the NFLPA Bowl. Higgins fumbled his first snap, which was returned for a touchdown, and then was 3 of 6 for 24 yards and an interception. He had a DWI arrest last summer and had a litany of injuries during his college career. He’s a tough player and fierce competitor, but an NFL career is unlikely.
Nate Iese, TE, UCLA – Iese was another one of the standouts in Carson. A former defensive end, Iese is a very good athlete and was also a fullback at UCLA. That experience would make the 6-3, 242-pound California native a perfect fit as an H-back in the NFL. He was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection last season after posting a career-best 25 receptions for 400 yards and four touchdowns. Following his solid week in the NFLPA bowl, expect Iese to come off the board sometime on the third day of the draft with a very real shot at making an NFL roster.
Cameron Lee, OL, Illinois State – Lee started 25 games at both guard and tackle for the Redbirds and was an All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Honorable Mention selection. He stood out in Carson as a 6-4, 320-pound punishing run blocker. On one play in particular, he pancaked one player before heading downfield to make another block on an 11-yard run in the second quarter.
Lance Lenoir, WR, Western Illinois – Lenoir has decent size at 6 feet, 190 pounds and will fight for the ball. That competitiveness led to him becoming Western’s all-time leading receiver with 273 receptions for 3,796 yards and 28 touchdowns. While he has decent hands, he isn’t the fastest guy and might have a hard time creating separation in the NFL. If he can better develop as a route runner, he might have a spot at the next level.
Mitch Leidner, QB, Minnesota – Leidner struggled big-time rom his first series, when he fumbled his second snap. Leidner was just 3 of 12 for 38 yards and was sacked three times in the NFLPA Bowl. Leidner did come from a pro-style system at Minnesota, where he threw for 7,287 yards with 36 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. He was wildly inconsistent for the Gophers, tossing eight touchdowns and 12 picks last season. He’s 6-4 and 230 pounds and can make plays with his legs, but is not an accurate passer. Why or how he got an invitation to the NFL Combine ahead of Zach Terrell is a mystery.
T.J. Logan, RB, North Carolina – Logan runs with power and is a finisher. He has good field awareness, but wasn’t very productive at UNC. He had 650 rushing yards and seven touchdowns while splitting time with Elijah Hood last season, but did average 5.4 yards per carry, which was also his career average. Logan ran for 2,165 yards and 19 scores while catching 76 passes for 663 yards and four touchdowns. Because of his athleticism and nimble feet, Logan should get a shot in the NFL.
Jamal Lyles, TE, Michigan State – Lyles had a very good week of practice, but didn’t do much in the game. He did play well on special teams, but did not record a catch. That’s nothing out of the norm for the 6-3, 257-pound tight end, who had just 30 career receptions for 410 yards and two touchdowns. What Lyles does best is run block, helping pave the way for a team that ran for 151 yards per game in 2015 after assisting Jeremy Langford to rush for over 1,500 yards in 2014. Lyles may not catch many passes, but his hands are adequate. He can etch out a pretty decent NFL career as a run blocker or H-back.
Sean Maguire, QB, Florida State – Maguire was underwhelming in the NFLPA Bowl, going 9 of 21 for 96 yards, though he did throw the touchdown pass to Gipson. Maguire does understand the position. He sees the field well and knows where his checkdowns are, but he isn’t very accurate. After throwing for 1,520 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions as a junior, Maguire was expected to be the starter in 2016, but an injury during fall camp sidelined him. He played in just three games as a senior, completing 8 of 12 passes for 64 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He does have good size at 6-3, 232, but it’s doubtful he becomes the next Brad Johnson.
Taquan Mizzell, RB, Virginia – Mizzell had a game-high 96 rushing yards in the NFLPA Bowl. He’s an explosive and elusive runner who ran for 940 yards and five scores last season. Mizzell is a patient runner with good vision and cuts well. He ran for 2,075 yards over his career, but added 195 career receptions for 1,560 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s the only player in ACC history with at least 1,500 rushing and 1,500 receiving yards.
Levon Myers, OT, Northern Illinois – Myers struggled in pass protection in the NFLPA Bowl, though he did realize when he was beaten and didn’t worsen things by holding. The 6-5, 307-pound Myers has good length and a nice, wide, strong body, with very good technique, but his feet are too slow to combat NFL pass rushers. He is a solid run blocker, but would be a liability at tackle in the NFL. He was a two-time All-MAC selection and did play well against Ohio State in 2015, but his best plays came when he was run blocking in zone schemes. If he can’t pass protect, though, it’s tough to see Myers on an NFL team.
Philip Nelson, QB, East Carolina – Nelson certainly won the praise of Martz, who stated following the game that Nelson could be an NFL starter. He has some off-field issues that resulted in his college career starting in Minnesota before detouring to Rutgers and winding up at ECU. He was extremely inconsistent for the Pirates after completing just 50 percent of his passes in two seasons at Minnesota. He has a strong arm and did complete 68 percent of his passes for the Pirates for 2,621 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions, which almost always came at the worst possible times. To get Martz’s approval, Nelson capped a very solid week of practice by going 11 of 18 for 102 yards and an interception in the game. Nelson, who is 6-1, 216 pounds, also ran for 15 yards on four carries, including the game’s first score. Nelson moves well in the pocket, keeps his shoulders level and has a quick release. He was not invited to the combine, however, so will have to have another good outing at the ECU pro day.
Zach Pascal, WR, Old Dominion – Pascal has good hands, nice shiftiness an excellent size at 6-1, 216 pounds. He caught two passes for 30 yards in the NFLPA Bowl. Pascal’s quickness helped him catch 193 passes for 2,664 yards and 24 touchdowns for the Monarchs. He has added value as a returner, averaging nearly 23 yards per kick return over his college career. He was a three-year starter at ODU, but it’s tough to see a spot for him in the NFL. He just doesn’t go anything great that makes him stand out among a deep receiver class.
Michael Rector, WR, Stanford – Rector is 6-1, 190-pound former track athlete with excellent speed. He showed off that speed with a 22-yard end-around in the NFLPA Bowl. Rector can also return kicks, though he didn’t do much of that playing behind Christian McCaffrey. Rector had 104 career receptions for 1,681 yards and 15 touchdowns at Stanford. Rector could put on a show at the NFL Combine because of his athleticism.
Noel Thomas, WR, Connecticut – Thomas is a very good route runner with good speed. A Connecticut native, the 6-foot, 200-pound Thomas was very productive at UConn, leading the Huskies in receiving each of the last two years. He had 100 receptions for 1,179 yards, but just three touchdowns, last season to finish his career with 183 catches for 2,235 yards and 10 scores. A two-time All-American Athletic Conference selection, Thomas had a good week in Carson and could sneak into the bottom of the seventh round.
Lenard Tillery, RB, Southern – Tillery is passionate about football and it shows with his high game IQ. He has great feet and can cut on a dime, and plays with excellent awareness and vision. He’s an instinctive player who has incredible balance and runs hard. He also has pretty good hands as a receiver with 75 career receptions. Tillery ran for 1,665 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, his third straight year with at least 1,100 rushing yards. The 5-10, 200-pound Baton Rouge native is Southern’s all-time leading rusher. He finished his career with 4,856 yards and 48 total touchdowns.
Keith Towbridge, TE, Louisville – Towbridge won’t get drafted in April, but he does have some NFL attributes. He’s strong and a decent run blocker and solid route runner. What hurts him is low productivity with only two catches in four games last season, and 23 career receptions for 283 yards and three touchdowns. He’s also not very fast and has a history of injuries over the last two years. He has NFL size at 6-5, 265, but just not the athleticism needed for the next level.
Anthony Wales, RB, Western Kentucky – Wales has some wheels. The 5-10, 195-pound running back had a huge season with 1,621 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns while leading the Hilltoppers to an 11-win season. He also has 73 career receptions and added a 5-yard reception in the NFLPA bowl, to go with his two carries for 14 yards. Wales is a powerful runner with a low center of gravity and ran for 245 yards and three touchdowns in WKU’s 51-31 win over Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston – Ward had a good week of practice in Carson before a disappointing game. He tossed a pair of interceptions before leaving with an ankle injury. Ward’s stock took a hit, but he did show flashes of being able to play quarterback, dispelling the idea that he would have to move to receiver at the next level. He was nifty with his legs, though, scrambling for 28 yards on his first play from scrimmage. Ward went 27-5 as a starter at Houston, helping to rejuvenate the program. He threw for 8,705 yards with 52 touchdowns and 26 interceptions while rushing for another 2,375 yards and 39 scores. The 5-10, 174-pound Texas native is definitely not a top quarterback prospect and might not even get drafted, but neither did TCU’s Trevone Boykin, another college quarterback some thought needed a position change, before the Seahawks signed him as an undrafted rookie and he wound up making the 53-man roster.
Robert Wheelwright, WR, Wisconsin – Wheelwright has the ability to make big plays, something he did for the Badgers with 69 career catches for 890 yards and six scores. He has good size at 6-2, 208 pounds and decent 4.5 speed. While he isn’t a burner, Wheelwright does do a pretty good job of creating separation because he’s an adept route runner. Wheelwright certainly isn’t a flashy player and won’t be drafted, but he did enough at a big-time program like Wisconsin for some team to bring him into camp.
Dontre Wilson, WR, Ohio State – Wilson was one of the standouts for the National Team following an injury-plagued career in Columbus. He had just one catch for 4 yards in the game, but had an excellent week of practice and was cited specifically by his receivers coach, Torry Holt, as one of the best players in Carson. The 5-10, 187-pound Texas native had 77 career receptions for 925 yards and 10 scores, with half of those touchdowns coming last season. He won’t get drafted, but should get an opportunity in an NFL camp.
Jamal Agnew, CB, San Diego – Agnew breaks well on the ball and has excellent timing. A four-year starter for the Toreros, Agnew was the team’s defensive MVP last season with 31 tackles, two interceptions, 13 passes defensed and a blocked kick. The 5-9, 190-pound San Diego native was credited with 48 pass breakups and 11 interceptions over his career. He showcased his superior ball skills in what was a productive week for him in Carson. Depending on what he runs, he might have done enough to get drafted.
Eli Ankou, DT, UCLA – Ankou played very well in Carson and will play professionally; it just might have to be up in Canada. The 6-2, 330-pound Canadian native had 92 career tackles, eight for loss, and 1 1/2 sacks at UCLA. He was not invited to the NFL combine, but is ranked third among CFL prospects. Ankou has a nice burst off the ball and is very strong, using power to collapse the pocket and get good penetration.
Samson Ebukam, DE, Eastern Washington – Ekubam has incredible get-off and is a tenacious pass rusher. He had two batted passes during the NFLPA Bowl, though he did get knocked on his rear because he left his feet on his first pass deflection. He also played well on special teams during the game, adding value as an FCS player. While the Nigerian-born Ebukam is 248 pounds, he’s just 6-1, which is not ideal for a pass rusher. But he has a great work ethic and was a first-team FCS All-American last season after collecting 9 1/2 sacks to go with 71 tackles, 15 for loss, an interception and two forced fumbles. He finished his college career with 24 sacks, but was surprisingly not invited to the combine.
Roderick Henderson, DT, Alabama State – Henderson is a wide load inside at 6-1, 350 pounds, and he plays like it. Henderson is strong and gets low to create leverage that allows him to beat double teams. Henderson was one of the more feared D-tackles in FCS, finishing his senior season with 12 1/2 tackles for loss and a sack, along with two blocked field goals to earn second-team All-SWAC honors. He had 6 1/2 TFLs and a sack in 2015 and should get an opportunity to invade NFL backfields.
Isaiah Irving, OLB, San Jose State – An alert player, Irving was a three-year starter for the Spartans. He had 22 1/2 tackles for loss, 11 last season, and 11 sacks, seven as a senior, during his time at San Jose State. At 6-3, 250 pounds, Irving has good size for an outside linebacker, and his speed with 40-time in the 4.8-second range is adequate, though not ideal. What he has to show scouts is his ability to not only penetrate the backfield but drop in coverage.
Lorenzo Jerome, S, Saint Francis (Pa.) – Jerome had an incredible week in Carson and capped it with an MVP performance in the game. Though just 5-11, 185 pounds, Jerome can play. He has excellent ball skills and is extremely athletic. He was the first player in Northeast Conference history to be a four-time first-team all-conference selection. Jerome had 18 career interceptions, including six last season. But he was also a first-team all-conference return man and had four career returns for touchdowns. Jerome would be the first Saint Francis player in the NFL since 1952.
Tre’von Johnson, LB, Weber State – Johnson had a very good week in Carson, showing he can play downhill against the run and stick with running backs while in pass coverage. The 6-0, 231-pound Salt Lake City native was a first-team All-Big Sky Conference selection last season after recording 92 tackles, 12 1/2 for loss, 4 1/2 sacks and four passes defensed. He finished his career with 258 career tackles, 27 for loss, and nine sacks. Johnson can play special teams and could find a spot in an NFL training camp.
Ryan Lewis, DB, Pittsburgh – Lewis was actually Pitt’s second leading tackler last season with 79 stops from his corner position. He had eight pass breakups last season to go with two of his three career interceptions. The 5-11, 191-pound Seattle native is a tough competitor with decent speed, but if he gets drafted, it would probably be as one of the compensatory picks at the end of the seventh round.
Cameron Malveaux, DE, Houston – Malveaux has a good burst off the snap, but not great speed. He gets jammed up against the run, sometimes losing the ball carrier while failing to get off blocks. While making 37 starts, Malveaux tallied just 81 career tackles, 17 for loss and 3 1/2 sacks. You’d like to see more from a 6-6, 270-pound defensive end who played in 52 games. He has potential, but has to learn how to convert that burst to power and use his size and strength to get off blockers. There’s just no technique with Malveaux, so if an NFL team brings him into camp, the D-line coach would have to be extremely patient with him and teach him about leverage, hand placement, angles, etc.
Torry McTyer, CB, UNLV – McTyer is 5-11, 195, but plays bigger thanks to excellent ball skills. He reads routes well and has very good timing with his hands. McTyer was credited with 10 passes defensed in each of the last two seasons and had two of his three career interceptions last year. The Los Angeles native returned one of those picks for a touchdown. McTyer is very good at contesting the ball and had an excellent pass breakup on what was a well-thrown ball from Leidner to Lenoir.
Grover Stewart, DT, Albany State (Ga.) – Stewart has an excellent burst off the snap and that helps him collapse the pocket. He lived in the backfield at Albany State with 27 career sacks, including 7 1/2 as a senior, to go with 48 tackles for loss. That may have been against Division II competition, but Stewart had a very good week in Carson. The 6-5, 295-pound Georgia native then had three tackles in the NFLPA Bowl, two of them behind the line with a TFL and sack.
Pita Taumoepenu, OLB, Utah – Though he doesn’t have great height at 6-1, the 242-pound Taumoepenu does have long arms and is a natural pass rusher with a great burst. Taumoepenu is a speed rusher and doesn’t have the strength to shed blockers, especially at the NFL level. But he’s still raw, growing up in Tonga playing rugby. He didn’t start football until his senior year of high school, but is a superior athlete and capped his senior season at Utah with 41 tackles, 12 for loss, nine sacks and three forced fumbles. He had a very good showing at the NFLPA Bowl with four tackles and a sack to earn an invitation to the NFL Combine. Taumoepenu might not get drafted, but the team that gets him can let him develop on the practice squad and might have a diamond in the rough.
Ahmad Thomas, S, Oklahoma – Thomas is a very good tackler, especially in the open field. He’s a big hitter, but will also wrap up. When the 6-0, 216-pound Thomas hits a ball carrier, he usually wins. Thomas had 149 career tackles, five for loss, with 2 1/2 sacks, four interceptions and seven passes defensed. Three of his four interceptions came in the 2015 season. He doesn’t have great ball skills, but would be ideal as a hybrid safety/linebacker. He finished his career with 39 consecutive starts for the Sooners and was a two-time all-Big 12 selection.
Josh Thornton, CB, Southern Utah – Thornton has good ball skills and receiver-type hands. He is projected as a late-round pick, but may have solidified himself as a draftable prospect with his good showing in the NFLPA Bowl. The 5-11, 188-pound Florida native has great speed. While he played in just games last season, Thornton had three interceptions.
Jeremy Tyler, S, West Virginia – Tyler is a solid tackler who plays well against the run. He had two of his three career interceptions last season. The 5-11, 207-pound Georgia native had just one year as a starter for the Mountaineers, but was a special teams ace in all four seasons. That, along with decent speed, could be enough for an NFL team to give him a shot.
Nick Usher, OLB, UTEP – Usher has excellent vision and is a big hitter. The Los Angeles native has good size at 6-3, 240 pounds and plenty of experience as a three-year starter. He recorded 24 1/2 tackles for loss and 12 sacks with three forced fumbles during his career. He also was credited with three pass breakups. Usher is an instinctive player and was a two-time All-CUSA honorable mention selection. Thought he was all over the field at the NFLPA Bowl, Usher likely won’t be drafted, but could get a camp invite.
Jeremiah Valoaga, DE, UNLV – Voloaga is another tenacious player who pursues the ball through the whistle. He has a good burst off the snap and, even when he can’t get to the quarterback, has good vision and enough athleticism to deflect passes at the line. Valoaga has excellent length at 6-6, 255 pounds, though you’d like to see his college production be higher with just 19 tackles for loss and 7 1/2 sacks over his career. He was redshirted for the 2014 season for academic reasons and had an ankle injury that limited him to six games in 2015. He’s an explosive player, but has to show more consistency to make it at the next level.]]>
While the offensive stars didn’t exactly shine, there were plenty of defensive standouts in the West team’s 10-3 win over the East all-stars.
Louisville defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown, Florida defensive end Bryan Cox, South Carolina defensive end Darius English, Florida Atlantic defensive end Trey Hendrickson, Jackson State linebacker Javancy Jones, Arizona linebacker Paul Magloire, UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau and Arkansas defensive end Deatrich Wise were among the best.
Hendrickson was selected as the defensive player of the game while Louisiana-Lafayette running back Eli McGuire was the offensive MVP after scoring the game’s only touchdown.
It was also a bit of a family affair with a few sons of pro athletes in the game. Cox is the son of former NFL linebacker Bryan Cox, Illinois linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr., is following in the footsteps of his father, who was an NFL linebacker for 16 seasons, and Arizona wideout Trey Griffey is the son of Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey, Jr.
Here is a synopsis of players who helped and hurt their stock at the 2017 East-West Shrine Game.
Quincy Adeboyejo, WR, Ole Miss – Adeboyejo didn’t catch a pass in the game, but that was more a result of the quarterbacks not being in sync with their receivers. The 6-3, 195-pound Adeboyejo stood out among the receivers in St. Petersburg with a great week of practice. The Texas native caught 35 passes for 456 yards and a touchdown last season and finished his career in Oxford with 106 receptions for 1,454 yards and 11 scores.
Gavin Andrews, OG, Oregon State – Andrews may be a behemoth at 6-foot-6, 335 pounds, but he’s nimble for his size and pulls well. Once he gets on his target, he’s a good finisher. A downhill blocker, Andrews is a mauler inside and works especially well in zone schemes. He had just 10 career starts, missing significant time over the last three seasons because of injuries and a bout with mono in 2013.
Antony Auclair, TE, Laval – Auclair was a fun player to watch at Tropicana Field. The 6-6, 254-pound French-Canadian is a very good athlete with a 40-yard dash time under 4.8 seconds and a vertical leap of 34 inches. He’s also a fearless player, whether going airborne to hurdle a defender or lay out for a catch. He was the two-time conference offensive player of the year in Canada. He presents a big target and has sure hands. The former quarterback caught 17 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Billy Brown, WR, Shepherd – Brown is huge at 6-4, 245 pounds with great hands, evidenced by his 99 receptions for 1,580 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. As someone from a Division II school, Brown competed well against players from larger programs. He had an impressive and productive week of practice and showed that he could be valuable as a receiving tight end at the next level. He’s tough to bring down and carries would-be tacklers as he drives for additional yards. Brown will be a draft pick and should have a great opportunity to turn some heads in an NFL training camp.
Austin Carr, WR, Northwestern – Carr went from being a walk-on freshman to a Biletnikoff Award finalist as a senior. Highly productive for the Wildcats, the 6-1, 200-pound California native caught 90 passes for 1,247 yards and 12 touchdowns last season to lead the Big Ten. Carr doesn’t have any great traits as a receiver, not that big or fast, but he does have dependable hands and is driven to succeed. He might go undrafted, but should be a priority free agent.
Gehrig Dieter, WR, Alabama – Dieter has good size at 6-3, 207 and is not afraid to make catches over the middle. He’s tough and has pretty good hands to go with being a solid route runner. He could stand to be more aggressive, however, with contested balls or laying out for passes just out of his reach. He does have added value as someone who can play special teams. He caught just 15 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns last season, but had an amazing junior year with 94 receptions for 1,033 yards and 10 scores.
Avery Gennesy, OT, Texas A&M – After sending offensive tackles like Jake Matthews, Luke Joeckel, Cedric Ogbuehi and Germain Ifedi to the NFL over the last few years, Gennesy is nowhere near that class. He struggles against athletic pass rushers and was consistently beaten during the East-West game. He’s 6-5, 315 pounds, but lumbers when he slides. Though a two-year starter at left tackle for the Aggies, a move inside will likely be in Gennesy’s future. Without outside protection, he may be able to succeed at guard, just don’t expect to hear his name until day three of the draft.
Trey Griffey, WR, Arizona – Griffey is another player with a strong work ethic. Like his dad, Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey, Jr., Griffey tracks the ball well in the air. He has excellent body control to adjust to the ball and has the ability to make the difficult catches. Despite his abilities, the 6-3, 216-pound receiver was slowed by injuries in college and never had more than 31 receptions in any season. He’ll get drafted in the later rounds with a team willing to take a flier on him and it’d be extremely fortuitous of that team was either the Cincinnati Bengals or Seattle Seahawks.
Karel Hamilton, WR, Samford – With a nod to North Texas punter Eric Keena, who made a remarkable one-handed grab to snare a high snap, Hamilton had the best catch of the East-West Shrine Game. The 6-1, 202-pound receiver reached back to catch a low pass toward the sideline just before the ball hit the turf. He displayed a superb ability to make an adjustment on a poorly thrown pass to still catch it. Put that together with his incredible production at the FCS level – with 111 catches for 1,389 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and 279 career receptions with 31 scores – and Hamilton should find a spot in an NFL training camp this summer.
Tobijah Hughley, C, Louisville – Hughleey struggles against power rushers and had a hard time with teammate DeAngelo Brown in the East-West game. The 6-2, 295-pound Kentucky native was a three-year starter at Louisville, but his starting days are done. He might get picked somewhere in the seventh round of the draft, but it’s more like Hughley will sign as an undrafted free agent as a camp body.
Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt – Holden had a very good week of practice to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl the following week. He improved his stock in St. Petersburg and even grabbed a fumble to return it 7 yards. Of course, the fumble came on a sack he allowed. While he started 37 straight games for Vanderbilt, primarily at left tackle, if he becomes a starter in the NFL, it would likely be on the right side. He is strong, but has short arms for his 6-7, 312-pound frame. His limited athleticism was exposed against speed rushers in the East-West game. That said, Holden is a smart player and could have a long career as a swing tackle.
Blake Jarwin, TE, Oklahoma State – Jarwin is solid in the run game, but does not use his size at 6-5, 250 well as a receiver. He’s a body catcher with unreliable and inconsistent hands. Jarwin caught 19 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns last season and finished his career in Stillwater with 41 receptions for 616 yards and five scores. It’s unlikely he has any NFL receptions in his future.
Colin Jeter, TE, LSU – Jeter is a solid route runner with good hands and a nice catch radius at 6-6, 255 pounds. A two-year starter for the Tigers, Jeter finished his career with 23 receptions for 289 yards and two TDs. Jeter is a block-first tight end and helped pave the way for running back Leonard Fournette to become a top pro prospect. Jeter does well in the trenches, but isn’t quite athletic enough to stifle defenders in the open field. He likely won’t be drafted, but could get into an NFL camp.
Kyle Kalis, OG, Michigan – Another monster inside, Kalis is a 6-5, 305-pound road grader. Kalis is very strong and great in a gap-scheme system. While he’s strong as an inline blocker, Kalis does have limitations in pass protection and that will push him down and into the late rounds of the draft. He is a fierce competitor and was a two-time All-Big Ten selection. Kalis has aspirations of being a professional wrestler once his football career is over.
Gunner Kiel, QB, Cincinnati – Kiel put up some big numbers in college, especially as a sophomore when he threw for 3,254 yards with 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. But accuracy and injuries have been his biggest problems. He threw for just 804 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in five games as a senior. Kiel completed just 52 percent of his passes last season and finished his career with a completion percentage of 60.6, with 6,856 yards and 56 touchdowns to 26 picks after transferring from Notre Dame. He fumbled a snap under center and struggled to complete passes in the East-West game. Kiel is a smart player, but lacks the physical skills to be an NFL quarterback.
Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois – Lunt has a quick release, but accuracy is an issue. He completed just 54.7 percent of his passes for 1,376 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions last season. The 6-4, 220-pound former Oklahoma State quarterback saw his completion percentage decrease in each of his three seasons in Champaign. Like Kiel, there is no NFL future for Lunt.
Erik Magnuson, OL, Michigan – Magnuson is a very good run blocker who pulls well. The 6-5, 310-pound Southern California native started 37 games for Michigan, primarily at right tackle. He’ll likely be moved inside where he can play more inside of a phone booth, which would suit his physical limitations as a player without ideal arm length or foot quickness. Magnuson could hear his name called late in the fourth round or early in the fifth round of the draft.
Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State – You look at the productivity Marks had in college with 316 catches for 3,453 yards and 37 touchdowns and it’s easy to be impressed on the surface. He’s small at a shade under 6 feet and only 187 pounds, and is a decent route runner, though he ran a lot of stretch plays for the Cougars. But he lacks top-end speed, has inconsistent hands and lacks the toughness needed to be an NFL receiver. He practiced really well in St. Petersburg, but then got some alligator arms over the middle in the East-West game. He had a couple of drops in the game and muffed a punt. His numbers might get him drafted, but it’s more likely Marks gets into a camp as an undrafted free agent.
I’Tavius Mathers, RB, Middle Tennessee State – Mathers set single-season school records with 1,561 rushing yards and 2,194 all-purpose yards last season. He also scored 20 touchdowns, but was sort of a one-year wonder and transferring from Ole Miss. The 5-11, 200-pound Tennessee native is a shifty runner with good speed and solid hands out of the backfield. He caught 66 passes last season for 633 yards and three scores and was named first-team All-Conference USA. He became the first player in NCAA FBS history to have at least 1,500 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving and 60 catches in the same season. His best game last season came in a 51-45 win at Missouri, when Mathers ran for 215 yards and a score and added eight receptions for 48 yards and another touchdown.
Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette – McGuire is a tough runner with excellent vision. The MVP of the East-West game, McGuire ran for 42 yards on seven carries, including an 18-yard touchdown. He cuts well and has a good burst through the hole. McGuire is a very good athlete and also played basketball at ULL. But he put up some big numbers on the gridiron, rushing for 1,127 yards and seven scores last season. The 5-9, 205-pound Louisiana native finished his career with 4,312 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns. He should be a mid-round pick with a skill set similar to that of former Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon, now with the Baltimore Ravens.
Taylor McNamara, TE, USC – McNamara is another big target at 6-5, 255 with a nice catch radius. He’s solid all the way around as a run blocker and route runner with long arms and good hands. He basically has the build of prototypical H-back player. He caught just 25 passes for 198 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons at USC after transferring from Oklahoma. He isn’t a great athlete, but his versatility and all-around game should get him in an NFL camp.
Drew Morgan, WR, Arkansas – Morgan led the Razorbacks in receptions each of the last two seasons and finished his career with 138 receptions for 1,763 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has dependable hands, but there are some character concerns. The 6-foot, 193-pound receiver will address those at the NFL combine, where he hopes to improve his stock to become a draftable player. Despite a decent showing at the East-West game, he’s not quite there yet.
Nick Mullens, QB, Southern Miss – Mullens is athletic, smart, experienced and a natural leader, but that likely won’t translate to an NFL career. At a school that produced Austin Davis and one Brett Favre, Mullens is actually the all-time passing leader at Southern Miss with 11,994 yards, including a school-record 4,476 yards in 2015. He threw for 591 yards last season against Rice. Mullens, who is 6-1, 205 pounds, completed 63.3 percent of his passes last season for 3,272 yards with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He made 41 starts over his career, but will have to try to earn a practice squad spot if he even gets invited to an NFL camp.
Storm Norton, OT, Toledo – While the East-West game was dominated by the defensive linemen, Norton was out of the few standouts on the offensive line. He has superior length at 6-8, 310 pounds, moves well and is adept at pulling. With a strong punch and fundamentally sound footwork, Norton even pancaked a defender in pass protection during the East-West game. Norton was a two-time, first-team All-MAC selection and was picked on some All-American teams last season. He may have done enough in St. Petersburg to move up to day two of the draft, though it’s more like he hears his name called early on the third day.
Dare Ogunbowale, RB, Wisconsin – Ogunbowale has decent speed and is a solid blocker, showing very well while matching up against linebackers at the East-West game. He had just 319 carries at Wisconsin, playing behind Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. Ogunbowale can be a good complementary back in the NFL, similar to what former Badgers back James White has done with the Patriots. While he’s only 5-11, 205 pounds, Ogunbowale runs hard and had 42 rushing yards on eight carries in the East-West game after rushing for 1,518 yards and 13 scores over his career at Wisconsin.
Scott Orndoff, TE, Pittsburgh – Orndoff fails to use his 6-5, 255-pound frame to shield defenders. Part of that is he doesn’t use his hands to catch the ball. He’s a body catcher and isn’t a particularly good route runner. He is a strong, tough player and a solid run blocker, but even if he does get drafted, it’s tough to see Orndoff make an NFL roster.
Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo – The first thing that stands out about Roberts is his size at 6-5, 270 pounds. Then you look at his productivity with 45 catches for 533 yards and a school-record 16 touchdown passes and it’s hard not to love the guy as a red-zone threat. Roberts sees and tracks the ball well and uses his huge catch radius and giant hands to make difficult grabs in a crowd. He has quick feet, though not great long speed and does need to develop into a better run blocker. But this guy should shine at the combine. He’s also an extremely hard worker, driven to succeed following a difficult childhood full of adversity.
Jalen Robinette, WR, Air Force – Air Force may be known for running the ball, but Robinette stood out as a receiver. He set the school record for receiving yards at Air Force with 35 receptions for an incredible 959 yards and six scores. That’s an average of more than 27 yards per reception. Robinette is 6-3, 218, and has big play written all over him. He finished his career with 120 receptions for 2,697 yards and 18 touchdowns. He had two catches for 82 yards and a touchdown in 2015 against Big Ten champion Michigan State. Robinette might have to complete two years of military service before he can play in the NFL, but the ability is there.
Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan – Rush doesn’t have the strongest arm and therefore anticipates throws, which he did with success at CMU thanks to his intelligence and understanding of the Chippewas system. He set a single-season CMU record in 2015 with 3,848 passing yards and is second in CMU and MAC history with 12,894 career passing yards to go with 90 touchdowns and 55 interceptions. But he missed several receivers during the East-West Game. Despite having good size at 6-3, 230 pounds, it’s tough to see an NFL future for Rush.
Victor Salako, OL, Oklahoma State – Salako is a punishing run blocker at 6-5, 315 pounds who understands how to use leverage to seal off defenders and create running lanes. Salako began his career at UAB, where he started as a sophomore. He was an instant starter upon transferring to Oklahoma State for his final two seasons. Though he doesn’t have quick feet, the arrow is pointing upward for Salako because of his strength. A move inside to guard would benefit him at the next level.
Eric Saubert, TE, Drake – Saubert has good size at 6-5, 250, and decent speed with a 40-time in the 4.6-second range. He’s not a great blocker or strong at the point of attack, but has shown the ability to be an excellent receiver. The problem has been inconsistency, especially with his hands. Despite a couple of drops in the East-West game, Saubert did earn a Senior Bowl invite. A three-time all-conference selection and second-team FCS All-American selection last season, Saubert led Drake with a career-best 56 catches for 776 yards and 10 scores.
Joe Scelfo, C, North Carolina State – Scelfo uses a strong work ethic and high football IQ to make up for physical limiations like his short arms and slow feet. But he is strong and had a nice week in St. Petersburg. He’s 6-1, 300 pounds and is a very good run blocker. He transferred to N.C. State for his final year after standing out as an All-Sun Belt selection while at South Alabama.
Dan Skipper, OT, Arkansas – Skipper is a giant at 6-9, 325 pounds, but is sluggish with his footwork. He gets beat by speed rushers because he doesn’t slide well or use his hands to punch. He has short arms for his height and doesn’t bend well, causing him to often lose leverage. Teams may fall in love with his size, but that would be a mistake because he’ll be a liability on the edge of an NFL line.
De’Veon Smith, RB, Michigan – Smith is 5-11, 228 pounds and is a strong runner – his legs never stop churning to move the pile – but has to be more patient if he’s going to succeed in the NFL. He doesn’t have great vision and tries to create own lane instead of following blocks. While he has good hands out of the backfield, with 36 career receptions, and a passion for the game, he lacks the explosiveness NFL teams crave. He had a good week of practice in St. Petersburg and was named a team captain before receiving an invitation to the Senior Bowl, but he failed to impress during the game. He is a north-south runner, but his lack of patience and vision still result in too many negative runs.
Tony Stevens, WR, Auburn – Stevens is an athletic dynamo with great size at 6-4, 213 pounds; the problem is he can’t catch. He had several drops in St. Petersburg to cap a rough, inconsistent week. He’s still pretty new to football, so maybe teams will see his upside as a raw, developmental player, but it will take a team with a solid coaching staff that has some patience to allow Stevens to grow into his potential.
Sam Tevi, OL, Utah – Tevi is another very good athlete with some upside. The 6-5, 310-pound former defensive lineman had a nice week in St. Pete. A two-year starter with experience at both tackle spots, Tevi’s athleticism and versatility should land him an invitation to an NFL camp, even if he fails to get drafted.
Zach Terrell, QB, Western Michigan – Terrell has every intangible you want in an NFL quarterback. He’s a proven winner and leader with an unquestioned work ethic and intelligence. He has good size, too, at 6-2, 210, and some mobility. Terrell’s arm strength isn’t great, but it’s serviceable for an NFL quarterback. He has a future in the NFL, maybe not as a starter, but as a reliable backup. Perhaps the best word to describe Terrell as a quarterback is efficient. He threw for over 12,000 yards and 96 touchdowns, completing 65.5 percent of his passes and just 31 interceptions in four seasons. He had a completion percentage last season of 69.8 while throwing for 3,533 yards with 33 touchdowns and only four picks to lead WMU to an undefeated regular season and MAC championship before falling to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. He also won the Campbell Trophy, better known as the “Academic Heisman.”
Alek Torgersen, QB, Penn – A two-time, first-team All-Ivy League selection, Torgersen put up big numbers and is 6-2, 225 pounds. He has a strong arm and quick release, both of which were on display during an impressive week of practice. Torgersen is Penn’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (52), completion percentage (65.1), and total offense (7,937), completing 67 percent of his passes as a senior for 2,231 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. He had tunnel vision at times in St. Petersburg, and was underwhelming during the East-West game.
Kermit Whitfield, WR, Florida State – Whitfield is small at 5-8, 178 pounds, but is extremely fast with 4.3 40 time and can make the difficult catch, but inconsistent hands. He can be a dynamo with Tyreek Hill-like ability. But he’ll likely have to make his mark on special teams. He should put on a show at the NFL combine, but he’ll have to do quite a bit to get drafted. He’s likely to be an undrafted free agent, but his speed will get him a camp invitation.
Joe Williams, WR, Utah – Williams has good speed with an excellent burst. He’s 5-11, 205, runs hard, hits the hole as a north-south runner and catches the ball well. He ran for 1,407 yards and 10 scores last season, not bad for a guy who “retired” a couple weeks into the season and missed four games. He’s a physical talent, though fumbles were an issue at Utah, but some question his commitment to the game. He also had an off-field incident that led to his dismissal from Connecticut. While his talent would merit a higher selection, Williams’ other issues will push him to a late-round pick.
DeAngelo Yancey, WR, Purdue – Yancey had a nice week of practice in St. Petersburg. At 6-2, 217, he has good size and is a very good athlete and pretty good route runner. The problem is he’s not the smartest player and can be careless with the ball. He lacks both field and situational awareness, both of which are red flags when scouting a player. Yancey caught 49 passes for 951 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, so the big-play potential is there. It’s just unlikely he’ll get a chance to showcase it in the NFL.
Tony Bridges, CB, Ole Miss – Bridges may be lean at 6 feet, 185 pounds, but he isn’t afraid to come up and crash the line for run defense. Bridges has good speed and breaks well on the ball. He was a two-year starter at Ole Miss with three interceptions as a junior. He was limited to eight games last season and will be a longshot to make an NFL roster despite his aggressive style of play.
DeAngelo Brown, DT, Louisville – Brown is stout and strong at 6 feet, 310 pounds and capped a good week of practice with a dominant performance in the East-West game. He gets a good push off the snap to consistently get penetration in the backfield. He progressively improved over the last three years after missing all of 2013 with an Achilles injury. He had 40 tackles, 6 1/2 for loss, and two sacks as a redshirt junior. He capped his college career with 40 more tackles, but 13 for loss, and three sacks. Brown is ridiculously strong, putting up 225 pounds in the bench press 40 times. That is five more than Aaron Donald did at the 2014 NFL Combine.
Richie Brown, LB, Mississippi State – Brown has good instincts, which help compensate for limited athleticism. He’s 6-2, 235 pounds and a solid tackler in the open field. He’s also decent in coverage, with five career interceptions, and can contribute on special teams. Brown led the Bulldogs in tackles the last two years, posting more than 100 stops in each season. His junior year was his best season with 109 tackles, 12 for loss, and 6 1/2 sacks. While Brown isn’t a world-class athlete, he’s a good football player who could make an NFL roster through sheer will.
Bryan Cox, DE, Florida – The son of former NFL linebacker Bryan Cox, he showed well at the East-West game with a nice week of practice and then a very good game. Cox gets great penetration with a good burst and ability to split double teams. He had just 99 tackles over four years at Florida while dealing with injuries. But he a fifth of those tackles were behind the line of scrimmage and he added 10 sacks. The talent is there, along with his strong hands and high motor, but health could be an issue and force him down draft boards.
Kevin Davis, LB, Colorado State – Davis is a sure tackler with good closing speed and finished the East-West game among the defensive leaders with five tackles. He’s a bit undersized at 6-1, 237 pounds, but was highly productive for the Rams with 110 tackles, including 10 1/2 for loss, and three sacks last season. It was his second straight season with over 100 tackles to earn consecutive All-Mountain West honors. While he won’t be drafted, Davis may have done enough in St. Petersburg to be a priority free agent once the draft ends.
Treston Decoud, CB, Oregon State – Decoud has had some personal adversity to get to where he is, something that speaks to his love of football. He’s also a pretty good player with great size at 6-3, 208 pounds. Though he had just two interceptions at Oregon State, returning one for a touchdown, he does have good ball skills. He forced a fumble in the East-West game. He had six interceptions at a JuCo the year before transferring to Oregon State. Likely a late-round pick, Decoud could be a good option as a nickel corner, or even a free safety given his length.
Darius English, DE, South Carolina – English is tall and lanky at 6-6, 245, and a natural pass rusher. He has a quick first step and was unblockable at times in the East-West game with a sack and a half and tackle for loss. He hasn’t yet converted his speed to power and is not that great against the run. He’s a bit of a one-year wonder with 60 tackles last season, to nearly match his career total prior to his senior year. His 13 tackles for loss were more than his 11 stops behind the line before 2016 and he had nine sacks last year after registering just six in the previous three years. That could mean English is trending upward, but it could also mean last season was a fluke. If the East-West game was any indication, let’s go with the former.
Randall Goforth, S, UCLA – Though undersized at 5-11, 190, Goforth has very good ball skills. He did leave the East-West game in the second quarter because of an injury, but it wasn’t considered serious. But it does raise concerns over a player who dealt with shoulder problems throughout his college career. If he can stay healthy, Goforth could add valuable depth to any team’s secondary. He has the talent as someone who started five games as a freshman and had 44 collegiate starts. He had four interceptions last season, returning one for a touchdown.
Ralph Green, DT, Indiana – Green has a great burst off the snap and his strong enough to anchor the middle while eating up double teams. He’s 6-4, 317 and rarely pushed off the line. He had 92 career tackles, including 21 for loss, and four sacks. He added eight batted passes. Green has undeniable talent, but was also suspended for a game in 2015 following an arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge.
Nate Hairston, DB, Temple – Hairston had an excellent week in St. Petersburg, proving he can play well on special teams and is a very good tackler. He’s got good size at 6 feet, 192 pounds and decent speed with an expected 40-time in the 4.5-second range. Hairston, who had a pair of interceptions last season, could be a nice value pick on the third day of the draft.
Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic – Hendrickson capped a tremendous week in St. Petersburg by putting on a show during the game to claim defensive MVP honors. He was all over the field and boosted his stock immensely. Hendrickson went from a day three pick to someone who could go as high as late in the second round. The 6-4, 255-pound pass rusher is more likely a third-round pick, but whichever team gets him will love his tenacious motor. He never stops and flattens well to the quarterback. He had a strip sack in the game after collecting 9 1/2 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in his senior year. He finished his career with 29 1/2 sacks and even added four blocked kicks to his resume.
Joey Ivie, DT, Florida – Ivie is another high-motor player with good pass-rushing skills. He also had a sack in the East-West game and finished his career with 6 1/2 career sacks from the middle. Ivie is 6-3, 298 with a good burst off the snap. He might go undrafted, but Ivie could show well in an NFL training camp.
Javancy Jones, LB, Jackson State – Jones was one of the small-school stars in St. Petersburg. He tracks the ball well and is a sure tackler. Despite not having great speed, Jones has good instincts and takes good angles in pursuit to put him almost always around the ball. He had a good week of practice and then an excellent game, with four tackles and one for loss. He also had a tackle on special teams, increasing his value there. He’s 6-1, 245 and does have some pass-rush ability. Jones posted 82 tackles and four sacks with 19.5 tackles for loss in 2016 to earn FCS second-team All-American honors. He could be a steal somewhere in the sixth or seventh round.
Ashton Lampkin, CB, Oklahoma State – Lampkin is another DB with good ball skills and decent size at 6-0, 189. He had five interceptions and was credited with 12 pass breakups over his career. He was a solid special teams contributor at the East-West game, likely ensuring he will be selected somewhere in the later rounds.
Paul Magloire, LB, Arizona – Magloire went from someone off most people’s radars to the talk of the town in St. Petersburg. He had a great week at the East-West game, shining in practice and then making plays all over the field in the game. He’s an instinctual, solid tackler, who takes good angles and is an excellent athlete despite being undersized for a linebacker at 6-1, 227. The best fit for Magloire in the NFL would be as a safety/linebacker hybrid, similar to what the Arizona Cardinals do with Deone Bucannon. Magloire doesn’t do anything great, but he does everything well. He’s quick, good in coverage, plays downhill, fills holes, has excellent vision, and was productive at Arizona with 153 tackles, 112 of them solo stops, in two seasons.
Leon McQuay, S, USC – McQuay is tough and a good tackler who had a solid week in St. Petersburg. But he had an inconsistent career for the Trojans. He battled through injuries to finish his career with 123 tackles, 6 1/2 for loss, with a sack, five interceptions, 16 passes defensed and three forced fumbles. McQuay is 6-1, but also thin at just 190 pounds. He is the grandson of late NFL running back Leon McQuay. Some team will give him a shot, but he’ll have to develop and add some weight to be an NFL player. Maybe some time on the practice squad will do him some good.
Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA – Outside of maybe Hendrickson, there wasn’t another defensive player who had a better week in St. Petersburg. The 6-foot, 205-pound Moreau shined, improving his stock that could now see him go early in the second round. Moreau, who started 40 games at UCLA, is excellent in coverage. He breaks well on the ball, reads the quarterback, has good footwork and is fluid in his change of direction. He also has outstanding field awareness and knows how to use the sideline as his friend. He even lined up as a gunner on punts, adding value as a special teams player.
Jalen Myrick, DB, Minnesota – Myrick’s ideal position would be as a nickel corner, but he has the versatility to line up outside and could enough play safety. He’s 5-10, 200 pounds with good ball skills and is a good open-field tackler. He finished his career with 93 tackles, eight for loss, with half a sack and three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown in 2015. While not eye-popping numbers, opposing quarterbacks had a total passer rating of 22.8, which was the lowest opposing rating of any cornerback in the country. Myrick could go early on day three of the draft.
Hardy Nickerson Jr., LB, Illinois – Nickerson is the son of the former Buccaneers linebacker with the same name. Like his dad, Nickerson is a sure tackler with fundamentally sound skills. He wraps up instead of trying to lay a huge hit. That makes him a solid open-field tackler. At 6 feet, 230 pounds, Nickerson is also good in coverage and has three career interceptions. He left Cal following a 2015 season that saw him rack up 111 tackles and transferred to Illinois, where he could be play for his father, who is the Illini’s defensive coordinator. Nickerson capped his career with 107 tackles and posted career numbers with 4 1/2 tackles for loss, two sacks and two picks. Nickerson’s pedigree and productivity should get him drafted.
Aarion Penton, CB, Missouri – Penton is another versatile DB who can play anywhere in the secondary. He had a good week of practice in St. Pete. The 5-9, 195-pound St. Louis native had an outstanding senior season with five interceptions. He’s instinctual with excellent ball skills and should get picked somewhere in the fifth round as his height will push him down a bit.
Karter Schult, DE, Northern Iowa – Schult was the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year after collecting 17 sacks to lead the nation with 24 tackles for loss. He’s tenacious with a high motor. While not overly fast, Schult takes good angles and is strong with a thick build at 6-3, 270. He should have done enough at the East-West game to hear his name called during the draft.
Channing Stribling, CB, Michigan – Stribling was one of the more disappointing players at the East-West game. He has great length at 6-2, but is only 180 pounds and shies away from contact. Stribling is coming off a very good senior season in which he had four interceptions and 12 pass breakups to go with 29 tackles and a sack. He had 18 starts at Michigan, but despite his breakout season in 2016, he may have hurt himself with a lack of aggression at the East-West game. It’s unlikely he comes off the boards before the sixth round.
Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado – Thompson is a box safety with good ball skills. He also tackles well, making five stops in the East-West game. He had 63 tackles with seven interceptions and 16 pass breakups last season. Only West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas and Florida State sophomore Tarvarus McFadden, who each had eight picks, recorded more interceptions.
Jack Tocho, CB, North Carolina State – Tocho has good size at 6-0, 200 pounds and good coverage skills. The Charlotte native earned his degree in three years and was a team captain last season. He had five career interceptions and 26 pass breakups, with an astounding 122 career tackles as a cornerback. He’s not great at any one thing, but Tocho is a smart player who is solid all-around. If he can run well, he could move himself up boards a bit to ensure he doesn’t fall out of the draft.
Josh Tupou, DT, Colorado – Tupou is a load inside at 6-3, 345 pounds and uses his size well. He’s strong and tough to move off his spot, which opens things up for linebackers to make plays. But Tupou does create his own plays with his push in the middle and made a couple of stops in the backfield at the East-West game. Tupou is a perfect three-technique mauler, though there are some off-field concerns. He was suspended for all of the 2015 season following an arrest on assault charges, that were later dropped, stemming from a house party brawl. Tupou was a four-year starter, finishing his career with 124 tackles, 15 1/2 for loss, and 6 1/2 sacks.
Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas – Wise gets a good push off the ball and was living in the backfield at the East-West game thanks to excellent penetration. The 6-5, 275-pound pass rusher had a great week of practice and could be moved up and down the line. While he has pass-rush skills, he does need to improve as a run defender, though he did show well in that department in the East-West game. Wise undoubtedly has NFL ability, but has to be more consistent. He finished his dominant outing in the East-West game with seven tackles, including a sack and a half and a fumble. Wise fell off a bit last season, after collecting 10 1/2 sacks and eight tackles for loss, with three forced fumbles, as a junior. He had just 5 1/2 sacks and 3 1/2 TFLs last season, but did register a career-high 49 tackles. Wise is trending upward and could continue to see his stock rise with good workouts over the next two months.]]>
Dekker was looking forward challenging his former Wisconsin Badgers teammate Thursday night at Spectrum Center.
But when Dekker had his chance against Kaminsky in the second quarter of Houston’s 107-95 win, his dunk attempt was blocked by Miles Plumlee.
“What’s the old adage? Mouse in the house,” the 6-foot-11 Kaminsky quipped before the game about posting up against the 6-9 Dekker.
The matchup between the former Badgers teammates who led Wisconsin to consecutive Final Four appearances in 2014 and 2015 didn’t exactly light the NBA marquee.
Kaminsky was just 3 of 9 and missed all three of his 3-point attempts while finishing with 9 points. Dekker also missed his three shots from behind the arc and had 4 points on 2-for-7 shooting. The two did sink consecutive buckets early in the second quarter.
Dekker hoped to “get the upper hand in almost every” statistical column, but the most important thing was getting a win.
As for his blocked dunk, Dekker showed video of the play to Rockets teammate James Harden in the locker room, claiming he was fouled. Harden, who had 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but also nine turnovers in the sloppy game, agreed with Dekker.
Thursday was just the second time Dekker and Kaminsky were on the same court since they left Wisconsin. But, even as Kaminsky scored 22 points when the Hornets went to Houston last month and Dekker had only 5 points, the Rockets won both games.
Dekker, who is from Sheboygan, Wis., and Kaminsky, who hails from Lisle, Ill., became like brothers during their three years together in Wisconsin. And, just as you want to beat your brother in the back yard, each was hungry to best each other Thursday night.
When I told Dekker that Kaminsky said he would “be going at him” if Dekker was defending him, Dekker just smiled.
“I’ve heard that before from Frank,” Dekker joked. “It’s always good to play against Frank, good to play against friends and former teammates. It’s pretty cool for our families.
“We spent a lot of time together, did a lot of good things at school together. Seeing how we’ve come, I’m proud of what he’s done.”
Kaminsky was the NCAA player of the year in 2015 before the Hornets selected him with the ninth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Dekker chose to forgo his senior season at Wisconsin and join Kaminsky in the 2015 draft, with the Rockets selecting him 18th overall.
Neither made much of an impact as rookies. Kaminsky played in all but one game last season, but with just three starts and averaged 7.5 points per game on 41-percent shooting. Kaminsky has improved in just about every statistical category this season, and his scoring average is up to 10.3 points per game.
Dekker was plagued by a back injury last season, seeing time in just three NBA games while splitting time with Houston’s D-League affiliate in Hidalgo with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
“The main thing was finding my confidence once I got my feet back and legs under me,” Dekker said. “It takes a lot out of you being hurt, mentally and physically, so getting a few games down there definitely gave me the feeling that I was back in the basketball swing of things.”
But it was during the Summer League when Dekker thinks he really “turned the corner.” He’s played in 55 games this season, with one start, and is averaging 7.4 points per game after not even attempting a shot as a rookie.
“I spent all of the spring and summer in Houston rehabbing, getting stronger, just trying to fine-tune my game as much as possible,” Dekker said. “No one really expected me to be in a position to be a big contributor for this team this year. I used that as motivation and make a splash. So far, it’s worked.
“But that just means there’s so much more to do to continue to get better.”
The Rockets and Hornets hope both former Badgers continue to improve.
Though the Rockets arrived in Charlotte late Wednesday night, the two still made time to go out for dinner.
“That’s one of my best friends,” Kaminsky said, “so when he comes into town, I’ve got to see him.”
The Rockets won’t visit Charlotte again until next season. Maybe then, they’ll both in the starting lineup.]]>
What really hurt players, especially the quarterbacks, was a reliance on the spread offense instead of the coaches in an all-star game designed for professional scouting to use more pro-style systems.
None of the quarterbacks who played in the 38-30 win by the Crusaders team over the Patriots squad on Jan. 16 will see an NFL field.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t other players who could join Bozick in the NFL.
Wingate receiver Jordan Berry, Ohio Dominican defensive back Billy Eakins, Southwest Baptist defensive lineman Vice Epenesa and Pittsburg State defensive back Darrius White all had nice weeks in front of 27 NFL scouts in Virginia Beach.
Anthony Autry Jr., WR, Texas A&M-Kingsville – A former Georgia Tech player, Autry had three catches for 35 yards in the Dream Bowl. He has good size at 6-foot-2, 188 pounds with a 40-yard dash time around 4.6 seconds. He lacks the explosiveness you’d like to see, but is a good possession receiver. Autry had 87 catches for 1,587 yards and 16 touchdowns with an average yards per reception of 18.2 yards in two seasons with the Javelinas.
Xavier Ayers, WR, Western New Mexico – Ayers is 5-10, 190 pounds and does not have top-end speed to really get noticed. What he does have is outstanding productivity at the D-II level, with 80 receptions for 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns to earn him All-American honors.
Jordan Berry, WR, Wingate – Berry has sure hands, but he is only 5-10 and 171 pounds. He’s the same height as Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, but 20 pounds lighter. Berry caught 48 passes for 717 yards, a 14.9-yards-per-catch average that led the South Atlantic Conference. Berry doesn’t let the ball get into his body and is instead a hands catcher. He led Wingate in receptions each of his four seasons and could get a shot in an NFL camp, where the right strength coach could add the necessary weight to get him NFL-ready.
Connor Bozick, OL, Delaware – Bozick will be an NFL draft pick following an impressive college career. He does just about everything well, pulling, pass blocking, run blocking, understanding zone schemes. A two-time All-CAA selection, Bozick started 34 of the 46 games in which he played and is a monster at 6-5, 320. Bozick was a standout tackle at Delaware, but will likely be moved inside to guard at the next level.
DeJon Coleman, RB, Dixie State – Coleman has excellent vision, good speed and runs with patience. He finished the Dream Bowl with 58 yards on six carries, including a 37-yard burst in the first quarter. He’s 5-8, 181 pounds with a 40-yard dash time of 4.5 seconds. Coleman ran for over 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns at Dixie State, setting school records. Coleman has great balance and strength and will return punts with a fearlessness needed in the face of oncoming gunners. His ability to return kicks could get him a camp invite somewhere.
Dakota Conwell, QB, West Liberty – The 6-1, 210-pound former Arizona signal-caller put up big numbers in northern West Virginia with 6,766 passing yards and 70 touchdowns to go with 1,533 rushing yards and 16 scores to be a three-time all-conference selection. But he does have a concussion history, suspending his career because of it. He’s got a strong arm, but accuracy is also an issue for Conwell and it’s unlikely a professional football career is in his future.
Romelo Doctor, RB, Newberry – Doctor is a big, physical runner with 23 tough yards on six carries at the Dream Bowl. He’s 5-11, 215 pounds with 4.8 speed and was a two-time all-conference selection in the ECAC. Listed as a fullback at Newberry, Doctor is an excellent blocker, but a powerful runner. He ran for 1,235 yards as a junior and followed it up with 704 yards and 11 scores his senior season. He also caught 28 passes for 209 yards after making 26 receptions for 237 yards and two touchdowns in 2015.
John Dudley, TE, Greenville College – The 6-3, 240-pound St. Louis native won’t win any foot races, but is a very good route runner and has reliable hands. He also knows how to work the scramble drill and isn’t afraid to catch the ball in a crowd. He caught 32 passes for 590 yards and nine touchdowns last season for the Division III Panthers.
Russell Fallacara, OL, William Patterson – Fallacara did not have a great week and then struggled during the game. He failed to create holes and was overmatched by interior rushers while trying to pass block. He’s also too small for a guard at 5-10, 280 pounds and it’s unlikely he gets even an Arena League job.
Robert Healy, RB, East Stroudsburg – Healy has nice hands out of the backfield and is a solid blocker. He had the key block to spring Coleman for his long run. Healy owns just about every school rushing record at East Stroudsburg. He set the single-season rushing record last year with 1,163 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also led the team in receiving as a junior with 52 catches for 757 yards and three scores. His 3,993 rushing yards are a career school record and he added 1,915 receiving yards. Despite his productivity at the D-II level, Healy is only 5-9, 194 pounds with a 40-time around 4.9 seconds. That isn’t nearly good enough to get NFL teams interested.
Trevor Heitland, RB, Coe College – Heitland led all of Division III with 1,913 rushing yards, averaging 6 yards per carry. He’s 5-9, 194 could be a nice third-down option in the pros, as in the CFL, with 149 career receptions for 1,822 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also returned both punts and kicks in college, but his 40-yard dash time is in the 4.8-second range.
Daniel Jones, WR, Southwestern Oklahoma State – Jones capped a nice week with three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown in the Dream Bowl. He made a nice adjustment on the ball for his 34-yard touchdown reception. Jones was a dynamic player at the D-II level, leading the Bulldogs with 61 receptions for 968 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 157 rushing yards and serving as the team’s primary returner. He was the conference’s player of the year, but the problem with his NFL potential is that he’s tiny at 5-6, 150 pounds and not a speed demon with a 40 time in the 4.5-second range.
Jeff Kidd, QB, LIU Post – Kidd has a strong arm, but isn’t very accurate and will throw it into coverage when pressured. He has great size, though, at 6-4, 219, and was his conference’s player of the year last season after throwing for 2,825 yards and 28 touchdowns 340 rushing yards and four scores in 11 games. Kidd led LIU Post to an undefeated regular season and second Northeast 10 title in three seasons.
Justin Lane, QB, Central Washington – Lane threw for 2,653 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, with a school-record 469 yards coming in his collegiate finale, completing nearly 78 percent of his passes in a 37-30 win over Humboldt State. Lane has nice size at 6-2, 200 pounds, but not the strongest arm and struggled with accuracy during the Dream Bowl. He does move well and can throw on the run.
Easton Melancon, QB, Louisiana College – Melancon is too short to play in the NFL, standing under 5-10 and weighing 216 pounds, but he could find a spot in an indoor league. He has big hands and a strong arm, but has Tom Brady-like speed (slow). He also needs to work on his accuracy, completing only 54 percent of his passes for 3,116 yards and 34 touchdowns to 15 interceptions in two seasons.
Jameson Parsons, WR, St. Cloud State – A two-time nominee for D-II player of the year, Parsons is a dynamo on the outside. The 6-2, 200-pound Minnesota native caught 71 passes last season for 1,142 yards and seven touchdowns. High-end speed, with a 40-yard dash time around 4.75 seconds, is about the only thing lacking in his game, but he makes up for it as a diligent route runner. Parsons is an athletic, polished route runner, tracks the ball well and catches just about everything thrown his way thanks to his large hands.
Casey Perry, OG, Charlotte – Perry is supposed to be Charlotte’s best offensive NFL prospect in the program’s four-year history. But he struggled against both speed and power rushers in the Dream Bowl. The 6-2, 343-pound Perry started 25 games for the 49ers and is a solid run blocker. But his lack of athleticism is apparent in pass protection against adept pass rushers. As the only FBS player in the Dream Bowl, he should have dominated; instead he gave up sacks.
Seth Peters, QB, Hendrix – Peters led the nation with a 74.3 completion percentage and threw for 3,013 yards with 26 touchdowns. At 5-10, 203 pounds, he does not have the size NFL teams want and he came from a system that relied heavily and short passes, so arm strength is a question mark. But he started games over four years and is a natural leader on the field. He just may have to play somewhere other than the NFL to fulfill his professional football dreams.
Adam Prince, OL, Wisconsin-Stevens Point – Prince really struggled in the Dream Bowl, with pass rushers exposing his lack of athleticism. Prince doesn’t slide his feet or use his hands well to keep pass rushers at bay. He looks the part of an NFL tackle at 6-6, 330 pounds, but plays like a lumbering bear instead of a dancing one with heavy feet.
Ryan Radke, WR, Thiel College – Radke had capped a nice week in Virginia Beach with an excellent showing in the Dream Bowl with three catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. A three-year starter for the Tomcats, Radke left Thiel as the school’s all-time leader with 6,108 yards of total offense. A quarterback at Thiel, Radke threw for 2,308 yards and 21 touchdowns, with nine interceptions, last season while rushing for another 1,109 yards and 12 scores. At 5-10, 180 pounds and a 40 time around 4.8 seconds, it’s unlikely Radke will get an NFL shot despite his gaudy numbers at the D-III level.
Jeremy Salmon, TE, Maine – Salmon has great size for a potential NFL tight end at 6-3, 270 pounds. He’s a solid receiver, but an adept blocker and would be an ideal fit as an H-back at the next level. A three-year starter at Maine, Salmon was primarily used a blocker by the Black Bears. He finished his college career with 34 receptions for 502 yards and a touchdown. He had two catches for 42 yards in the Dream Bowl.
Matthew Valentine, OL, Bemidji State – Valentine is surprisingly nimble for 6-4, 315-pound Division II player. He pulls well and has enough speed to get out in front of the ball carrier. A three-year starter at Bemidji, Valentine was a D-II All-American and played well in Virginia Beach. Valentine could get a rookie camp invite with a chance to earn a spot in an NFL camp.
Bo James Villarreal, OL, Texas A&M-Kingsville – Villareal is long and has decent size at 6-4, 280 pounds, but he is not a very good athlete and, worse, isn’t that aggressive. He lets rushers come to him instead of attacking them. That results in speedy pass rushers getting to the edge and beating him. He doesn’t slide very well and gets caught backpedaling. His professional football dreams were likely squashed at the Dream Bowl.
Dayton Winn, RB, Hendrix – Winn is basically the Christian McCaffrey of Division III. A two-time D-III All-American, Winn was fourth in Division III with 1,888 all-purpose yards and third with 24 total touchdowns. The problem with Winn is that he’s only 5-9 and barely 160 pounds. Though he’s got just 4.5 40-speed, Winn is shifty in the open field and does a nice job of following his blockers.
Devlon Wortham, RB, Southeastern Oklahoma State – Wortham runs hard and catches the ball well out of the backfield. The 5-8, 200-pound Texas native ran for 1,140 yards and 18 touchdowns last season for the Savage Storm, adding seven receptions for 62 yards and a score. He ran for 32 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in the Dream Bowl. Wortham has nice explosiveness once he gets the ball in his hands and won’t shy away from contact.
Alex Attia, DL,Seton Hill – Attia is a thick 6-1, 304 pounds and strong up front. He gets excellent penetration, able to use his hands to shirk blockers. Attia had 48 tackles last season with 13 for loss and six sacks for the D-II Griffins. Seeing Attia get a camp invite would not be a surprise.
Kevin Chapple, LB, Lock Haven – Chapple put up plenty of big numbers at Lock Haven. The 5-11, 236-pound Columbus native had 96 tackles, 16 1/2 for loss, with 5 1/2 sacks last season. He added a pair of sacks in the Dream Bowl to cap a nice week. Chapple has a non-stop motor and plays to the whistle. He doesn’t have great speed, but is one of those players will give a relentless effort on every play. Despite his lack of speed, Chapple is a very good athlete and had a 9-foot broad jump in Virginia Beach. He also has a high football IQ and very good instincts. He needs to add some weight to have a real shot in the NFL, but the potential is there.
Josh Davis, LB, Henderson State – A three-time all-conference selection, Davis is a tackling machine. But at 5-10, 243 pounds with a 40-time around 5 seconds, he’s too small and slow for the NFL. He makes up for his physical limitations with good instincts and finished his career with 298 tackles, 31 ½ for loss, and 8 1/2 sacks.
Billy Eakins, DB, Ohio Dominican – Eakins has good ball skills and is dynamic with the ball in his hands, returning a Lane interception 37 yards for a touchdown. Eakins had three picks last season for the Panthers, who play at the D-II level. The 5-10, 184-pound safety added 48 tackles and a sack to cap his career as a four-year starter. While not a burner, Eakins does have decent speed and has an explosive break on the ball. He could get a shot in an NFL camp or, at the very least, a CFL opportunity.
Vice Epenesa, DT, Southwest Baptist – The former Missouri Southern lineman and Samoan native dominated D-II competition in Bolivar, Mo. Epenesa is massive at 6-5, 301 and strong, with a good burst off the ball. Epenesa finished his senior season with 53 tackes, 8 1/2 for loss, and five sacks from the interior. He even had an interception, knocked down a pass at the line and blocked a field goal. He blocked an extra point attempt during the Dream Bowl, adding to his special teams value. The NFL isn’t afraid to dip into the D-II talent pool, especially for dominant defensive linemen – see Baltimore’s Brandon Williams – and Epenesa could be a late-round pick.
Troy Gahm, DE, Alma College – Gahm has a great burst off the ball and is like a missile when rushing the quarterback. He also has a knack for slapping the ball, forcing three fumbles last season and getting another strip-sack in the Dream Bowl. The 6-4, 233-pound Michigan native had 11 1/2 sacks last season to finish his career with 22 sacks. His sack total increased every year and had added 44 1/2 tackles for loss, including 18 1/2 in 2016. While he’s quick off the ball, Gahm won’t win any long foot races and his vertical and broad jumps aren’t very impressive.
Tavares Garner, CB, Henderson State – Garner is a fundamentally sound tackler and was highly touted coming out of high school. He began his career at Texas A&M, but spent his final two seasons at Division II Henderson State in Arkansas. He’s 5-10, 193 pounds and had 30 tackles, four for loss, with a fumble recovery and three passes defensed last season. He was an all-conference selection as a junior.
Emanuel Ivey, S, Fairmont State – Ivey is a little small for a safety at 5-11, 188 pounds and lacks ideal speed with a 40-time of around 4.7 seconds, but has a knack for being around the ball. He had five interceptions last season, after picking off two passes in 2015. He had an impressive Dream Bowl with three pass breakups and team-high seven tackles for his Crusaders club. Ivey began his career as a cornerback and plays with a fearless confidence coaches like.
Kevin Joseph, CB, Southwestern Oklahoma State – Joseph had a gimme interception in the Dream Bowl, and he was a ballhawk for the Bulldogs. The 5-10, 180-pound Miami native picked off four passes last season after transferring from Santa Ana College. Joseph has good instincts, but isn’t that fluid of an athlete. He’s also not fundamentally sound as a tackler, as he’d rather lay a big hit than wrap up.
Josh Keys, DB, Faulkner – The 5-11, 190-pound Texas Tech transfer tackles well in the open field. He dominated NAIA receivers and led Faulkner with four interceptions to go with 66 tackles, three for loss, and 12 passes defensed. Keys has serious off-field issues though, dismissed from Texas Tech following multiple failed drug tests. Keys, who was heavily recruited out of high school, says he’s learned from his mistakes.
Jaquille Oden, DE, Newberry – Oden posted 18 tackles for loss and seven sacks last season and then played extremely well in the Dream Bowl. The 6-2, 250-pound Spartanburg, S.C., native does a nice job of retracing his steps to get a pair of sacks on consecutive plays in the third quarter of the Dream Bowl.
Deric Robertson, DB, Southwestern Oklahoma State – A transfer from the Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Robertson breaks well on the ball and does a nice job of reading the quarterback. He had 62 tackles last season, with three interceptions and a trio of passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and a tackle for loss. Robertson also has good size at 6-2, 200 pounds
Malik Sims, DB, Shenandoah – The 5-10, 191-pound Maryland native isn’t afraid to come up to help against the run and tackles well. He had a career-high 14 tackles in a game last October and finished his senior season with 92 tackles with an interception and forced fumble.
Devante Thomas, CB, Chadron State – Thomas is extremely talented, but his lack of size at just 5-7, 182 pounds, will probably prevent him from getting to the NFL. The former Western Kentucky defensive back diagnoses routes well and has a very good break on the ball. He had just one interception and five pass breakups last
season, but had a great week in Virginia Beach.
Sam Van Ginkel, DE, Northwestern College – Van Ginkel has a nice burst, excellent vision and uses his hands well to keep blockers off of him. He also has great size at 6-5, 245 pounds and showed very well at the Dream Bowl. Van Ginkel definitely has a pro future after being named an NAIA All-American twice. He was also the Great Plains Athletic Conference defensive player of the year in 2015 and leaves college as the GPAC’s all-time sacks leader with 39 1/2.
Darnell Vickers, DL, West Liberty – A 6-1, 284-pound Akron native, Vickers constantly faced double teams in his three seasons at West Liberty after transferring from Florida A&M. He was still a three-time all-conference selection and finished his career with 22 tackles for loss and four sacks. He played extremely well in the Dream Bowl, abusing interior linemen to pick up a sack.
Darrius White, DB, Pittsburg State – White shined on special teams in the Dream Bowl, which bodes well for an NFL future. He’s only 5-9, 186 pounds, just a tad smaller than Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Pitt State was White’s third college, however, after going from a JuCo, where he was a two-time all-conference selection, to Georgia Southern for a year, and then to Pittsburg. White had three interceptions for the Gorillas and finished his college career with six picks.
Jarvis Williams, DL, Eastern Illinois – Williams played up and down the line for the Panthers and in the Dream Bowl. He gives a relentless effort and a ferocious pursuit to the ball. He had 7 1/2 sacks to go with 82 tackles, including 19 for loss, over two seasons at EIU. He’s undersized at 5-11, 256 pounds, and will have to impress scouts at the EIU pro day to get NFL scouts interested.]]>
The quarterback play was putrid during the inaugural game, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some participants who could be in an NFL training camp this summer.
There were several NFL prospects who stood out among the FCS, Division II, D-III and NAIA players. With 32 HBCU players on opening day NFL rosters in 2016, scouts may have found a few more last month.
The Brave team’s 14-10 win over the Pride was a sloppy game with several special teams miscues.
North Carolina Central quarterback Malcolm Bell accounted for both Brave touchdowns and was named the game’s MVP, despite running for just 15 yards and going 5 of 16 through the air for 54 yards.
The true standout players were Alabama State offensive tackle Jylan Ware, North Carolina A&T defensive lineman Marquis Ragland, Grambling running back Jestin Kelly, who was the game’s leading rusher with 84 yards on 14 carries, Kentucky State defensive back Raymond Malone, Morgan State DB Deadrick Jones and North Carolina A&T defensive end Angelo Keyes.
Chris Andrews, QB, Morgan State – A graduate transfer from Wagner, Andrews will likely have to change positions if he wants a career in the NFL. At 6-foot-1, 235, he’s got pretty good size, but never completed more than 48 percent of his passes in any collegiate season. His final year at Morgan State was by far his best season, throwing for 1,366 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions and rushing for 238 yards with two scores.
Tarian Ayres, QB, Virginia State – Ayres threw for 1,343 yards with 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions while rushing for another five scores last season. He’s 6-1, 200 and has some off-field concerns with a 2014 arrest. Ayres has the ability to improvise and make plays with his legs. His arm leaves a lot to be desired with a lack of touch or accuracy, so it’s best if he finds another line of work for his future.
Brandon Barnes, TE, Alabama State – Barnes has great size at 6-5, 256 and good hands. He’s a solid route runner, but was not helped at the HBCU bowl because of poor quarterback play. He still made the most of it, showing flashes of NFL ability. Though he had just 29 career receptions and touchdowns for the Hornets, Barnes has some upside and could be a name to listen for on the third day of the draft.
Malcolm Bell, QB, North Carolina Central – Bell had career highs with 2,431 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, but he also threw 14 interceptions and was sacked 20 times in 12 games. He finished his career with 6,340 passing yards, good for second in school history. Though thin at 6-1, 190, Bell can make plays with his legs and ran in the first touchdown of the HBCU game. He ran for 575 yards and nine scores last season. But he struggled to complete even the simple throws in Virginia Beach and an NFL, or even CFL future, seems like a far-away dream.
Lamont Brown, RB, Morgan State – Brown is a physical north-south runner, but probably does not have an NFL future. Brown missed most of the 2014 and 2015 seasons because of torn ACLs in each knee. He had a promising freshman season with 708 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The 5-10, 200-pound Virginia native bounced back to rush for 455 yards and two scores last season. He has nimble feet, but lacks top speed.
Ronald Butler, QB, Tennessee State – Butler began last season at wide receiver but was moved back to quarterback and had an impressive season with 2,132 passing yards and a career-best 21 touchdowns to nine interceptions. His only reception of the season was a 44-yard touchdown against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Butler led the Ohio Valley Conference with 26 total touchdowns last season, but his professional future, if there is one, won’t be at quarterback.
Jonathan Dorsey, TE, Alabama A&M – Dorsey has good hands and size at 6-6, 225 pounds. He’s never really had the benefit of a steady strength and conditioning staff, so with added weight, he had tremendous upside and could create matchup problems. A second-team All-SWAC selection, Dorsey was second among SWAC tight ends with 26 catches for 449 yards and four touchdowns. Before he can be a solid all-around tight end, he needs to add weight, but he has the receiving skills and athleticism to make an NFL roster.
Lance Felder, TE, Lincoln, Pa. – Felder caught only three passes for 38 yards against Division II competition. The 6-foot, 236-pound Brooklyn native doesn’t exactly have the size or productivity that is going to have NFL scouts standing up for him. He had one catch for 19 yards in the HBCU game.
Tevin Garrett, TE, Jackson State – Garrett has great size at 6-4, 250 and stood out as a blocker in the HBCU game, but productivity at the FCS level is an issue. He had just seven catches for 69 yards and a touchdown last season and had just one 4-yard reception over his career prior to his senior year.
Greg Hankerson, QB, Norfolk State – Hankerson threw for 3,770 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions over the last two seasons after transferring from Florida Atlantic. Another undersized QB at 6-0, 190, Hankerson will use his legs to make plays – rushing for nearly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. He didn’t throw it well in Virginia Beach, but did show his athletic ability when scrambling until a fractured ankle ended his night.
Ahmaad Harris, WR, South Carolina State – A grad transfer from UCLA, Harris is small – listed at 5-10, but is probably more like 5-6, and 180 pounds – but quick. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following a touchdown reception from Bell raised a red flag for a lack of discipline. He also had just nine career receptions, including only five last season for the Bulldogs. It’s unlikely he has a future as a professional football player.
Averion Hurts, QB, Texas Southern – If Hurts somehow gets a shot with an NFL team, it won’t be at quarterback. He’s undersized, generously listed at 6-feet, 195 pounds (more like 5-10) and completed just 51 percent of his passes last season for 1,857 yards with 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He does have six career rushing touchdowns, but even that won’t be enough to get him in an NFL camp. He was not very good in Virginia Beach, constantly missing receivers and completing just one pass for 6 yards in four attempts.
Kievon Jackson, RB, Langston – Jackson has a quick burst and nice acceleration through the hole. He averaged 7 yards per carry while running for 856 yards and 12 touchdowns with 23 receptions for 302 yards and a score at the NAIA level. He’s compact at 5-10, 190 and runs with patience while doing a nice job of following his blockers.
Terrence Johnson, OL, Lincoln, Pa. – Johnson understands zone-blocking schemes and assignments. But the big 6-3, 344-pound lineman doesn’t move well in space and lacks the athleticism needed for the NFL.
Jestin Kelly, RB, Grambling State – Kelly is a load at 5-11, 240 pounds and runs with power, but he’s also deceptively quick on the edge. He ran for 873 yards and eight touchdowns while leading the Tigers to an 11-1 record and win over N.C. Central in the Celebration Bowl. Kelly does a great job of following his blockers and running behind his pads. At 240 pounds, he rarely gets knocked backward and almost always falls forward.
Kevin Kenton, OL, Tennessee State – Kenton had a rough go of it in Virginia Beach, consistently getting beaten by more athletic defensive linemen. He’s 334 pounds, but also just 6-1 with short arms. He’s a decent run blocker, but would be a liability at the next level in pass protection.
Denzel Keyes, WR, North Carolina A&T – Keyes was probably the best receiver in Virginia Beach, but was not able to showcase his abilities because of the poor quarterback play. He was targeted a few times and able to consistently get open, but did not register a catch. At 6-4, 210 pounds, he has ideal size and should have at least one NFL team willing to give him a shot.
Landen Malbrough, WR, Morgan State – Malbrough showed why he had low productivity in college, with just 43 receptions for 615 yards and six touchdowns over the last three seasons. He doesn’t have very good hands. His best game in college came in a 27-14 loss to Norfolk State, when he caught six passes for 75 yards and both Bears touchdowns. But he was plagued by drops in Virginia Beach, catching just one pass for 6 yards.
A.J. McMinn, FB, North Carolina A&T – McMinn is a really good blocker who is tough, physical and extremely strong. He used his big 6-1, 263-pound body to maul defenders. The problem is he’s playing a dying position, so it might be hard for him to find a spot on an NFL roster. While he never had a carry in college, he did catch 11 passes during his career for 104 yards and a touchdown, which does add value to his stock.
Michael Moaga, OG, Kentucky State – Though he was a cog for the Thorobreds up front last season, Moaga struggled big-time in the HBCU game. He did have flashes, including a pancake block of AJ Mundle, but was too inconsistent to believe he could play at the next level. Moaga was embarrassed by Cheyney defensive end Shadeed Cheeseboro when he was moved to left tackle in the fourth quarter.
Collins Moore, WR, Alcorn State – Moore looked out of his depths with a couple of dropped passes and poor routes. He failed to create any separation with his routes and showed a lack of speed. He’s smaller than his listed height of 6-2 at Alcorn, where he played tight end. The former Ole Miss player looked like an unathletic tight end trying to play receiver in Virginia Beach.
Anthony Mosley, OL, Southern – Though undersized at 6-1, 279, Mosley is an impressive inline blocker. He moves his feet and was able to drive defenders off the ball in the HBCU game. It’s tough to project that success at the next level, however. An All-SWAC selection, Mosley probably doesn’t have an NFL future, but might be able to play professionally in Canada or the Arena League.
Jylan Ware, OT, Alabama State – Ware is big at 6-7, 295 pounds, and powerful, and should be in an NFL camp next summer. He’s athletic and technically sound, but could stand to add a few pounds of muscle. While he was able to dominate FCS competition and showed well in the HBCU game, the NFL is a huge step up. Some team could use a late draft pick on him, place him on the practice squad for a year or two and then Ware could develop into a longtime NFL starter.
Kerry Williams, C, Alabama State – Williams has good size at 6-2, 295 for a center and is an excellent run blocker. He seals well and can get to the second level. But with spread offenses and shotgun formations becoming more prevalent, Williams’ inconsistent long snaps are an issue.
Dominique Woods, OL, Morgan State – Woods is only 6 feet tall, but his 334-pound body is impressive as an interior lineman. He primarily played center for the Bears, but has been used at guard. That versatility could bode well for his professional future. A three-year starter, the construction management major has the tools to build an NFL career. It’s just a matter of one team giving him a shot.
Avery Wright, OG, Elizabeth City State – Wright is a solid run blocker, but was inconsistent in pass protection and looked lost at times. At 6-2, 343 pounds, he has good size, but his lack of athleticism is a glaring negative when evaluating Wright as a prospect.
Bryce Bradley, DB, Virginia State – The 5-10, 195-pound safety had a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown in the HBCU game, thanks to his ability to read the quarterback and a nice break on the ball. You’d like for him to be a little bigger, but he does have a good all-around skillset. It’s just tough to see him suiting up with an NFL team.
Shadeed Cheeseboro, DE, Cheyney – In addition to having the best name in the HBCU game, Cheeseboro was solid throughout and provided constant pressure late. Another converted tight end, Cheeseboro is an outstanding athlete with a nice burst off the snap. He’s only about 6-2 and 230 pounds, so he may fall into that tweener spot where it’ll be tough for NFL teams to define a role for him.
Bryant Frazier, DL, Virginia State – Another player on the small side for his position at 6-1, 276, Frazier had a couple of tackles and a fumble recovery in the HBCU game. Playing defensive tackle for the Trojans, Frazier racked up 14 1/2 sacks last season and had an amazing 24 tackles for loss. He should get drafted in the later rounds, despite his size, after wreaking havoc on Division II opponents.
Justin Hill, DB, Lane College – Hill is a solid tackler with good eye discipline and recognition. He had three interceptions to go with 49 tackles, four for loss, and half a sack last season while even getting some carries in at running back. At 5-10, 193, you’d like for Hill to have a little more length at corner, but smaller guys have made it in the NFL. A lack of top speed, however, with a 40-yard dash time in the low 4.7-second range, will likely prevent his NFL dreams from becoming a reality.
Deadrick Jones, DB, Morgan State – Jones was a defensive and special teams standout in the HBCU bowl. He forced a forced fumble, recovered a muffed punt and blocked a field goal. He has good instincts and athleticism, but also made some dumb mistakes. He drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and doesn’t quite know all of the game’s rules, celebrating a touchdown following his muff recovery – not knowing you can’t advance a muffed punt. He’s also just 5-10 and a very gaunt 173 pounds with short arms. The athleticism is there, and with the right coaching staff that is willing to be patient in developing him, he may have a shot, but it’s unlikely.
Venson Jones, DL, Shaw – Jones is a massive human being at 6-2, 350 and looks like Vince Wilfork in his prime against Division II competition. He was one of the defensive standouts in the HBCU game, despite missing the second half with a pulled hamstring, and should have done enough to get an invite to a camp next summer. You can’t coach size and that’s one thing Jones has plenty of, to go along with strength a good burst off the ball. He does need to use his hands better to avoid stalemates at the line, but if he’s in the middle of a 3-4 defense, he’d be asked to occupy blockers so the linebackers can make plays, and that is something Jones does well.
Jameel Jackson, S, Grambling – Jackson is 6-1, 200 pounds and had four interceptions last season. Small-school guys have to be able to play special teams at the next level and Jackson struggled mightily in that area during the HBCU game.
Keelan Jones, LB, Shaw – The 6-1, 221-pound Kansas City native really had a nice week in Virginia Beach. He was consistently in the backfield during the second half the game and gave a relentless effort with a tenacious pursuit. It was that kind of work ethic that helped him average over 10 tackles per game in college. He’s exactly the type of player coaches love to have and, though he played at a D-II school, could get a camp invite later this year.
Javonte Kelly, LB, Lane College – Kelly is a hard-nosed player with good vision who can find spots in the middle to provide pressure. He’s an excellent blitzer, picking his spots, and makes up for limited athleticism by being a technically sound tackler. While he plays with excellent instincts, he’s 5-10, 276, which is usually too short and too heavy to play middle linebacker in the NFL. He may have to go north to fulfill his professional dreams.
Angelo Keyes, DE, North Carolina A&T – Keyes was a dominant force in college and showed that again in Virginia Beach. He consistently got excellent penetration – with a TFL, batted pass and sack on consecutive plays in one series – and dominated the HBCU competition. Keyes is a gifted athlete who has speed and excellent hand-eye coordination. Keyes had eight tackles for loss to go with six sacks last season and should find his way into an NFL camp.
Damond King, DE, Texas Southern – King’s athleticism at 6-3, 256 pounds was easy to see. He’s got natural pass-rush ability with tenacious pursuit. He even showed the ability to be a special teams contributor, picking up 6 yards to convert a fake punt. King likely isn’t the next Michael Strahan, but he may be able to get into an NFL camp if he shows well at his pro day.
Raymond Malone, S, Kentucky State – Malone was a defensive standout for the Thorobreds with 61 tackles, 5 1/2 for loss, seven passes defensed and an interception last season. He helped Kentucky State reach the SIAC championship game and a top-five Division II ranking for the first time in school history. The Detroit native is long at 6-3, but needs
to add more weight to his 190-pound frame. An Eastern Michigan transfer, Malone is an excellent athlete who plays with confidence and has superb ball skills.
Paulin Miano, DE, Virginia Union – At 6-5, 268, Miano has prototypical size for a pass-rushing end. But he can do more than just get to the quarterback; he’s solid against the run. He plays through the whistle and is a good tackler. Limited to nine games last season, Miano had 27 tackles, 4 1/2 for loss with a sack and interception. But his junior year was something special with a school-record 25 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and five forced fumbles.
AJ Mundle, DE, Elizabeth City State – A former tight end, Mundle is only 6-1, which is extremely short to be a defensive end in the NFL. He is 260 pounds and has a very good burst, but lacks the strength to shed blocks. He played both ways in the HBCU game, making a tough grab over the middle while at tight end. With a 40-time that nears 5 seconds, Mundle doesn’t stand out like he needs to for NFL teams to give him a shot.
Demetrius Newberry, S, Chowan – Newberry is a stout 5-11, 225 pounds and hits like a truck. He was extremely active in the HBCU bowl, seemingly always around the ball. A linebacker at Chowan, Newberry could transition to safety in the pros, though his ball skills need work. He is an excellent blitzer, however, living in the backfield as a senior with 21 1/2 tackles for loss and 5 1/2 sacks.
Miles Pace, DE, Virginia Union – An All-CIAA first-team selection last season, Pace gets excellent penetration thanks to a nice burst off the ball. Following a 10-sack season as a junior, he fell back to just four last season, but did record 10 1/2 tackles for loss in 10 games. He’s 6-1, 237, which is undersized for an NFL defensive end, but he lacks the speed and athleticism to be an NFL outside linebacker.
Nicholas Patterson, OLB, Winston-Salem State – A defensive end for the Rams, the 6-3, 232-pound Patterson would have to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the pros. He crashes the line and does a good job of seeing the field and tracking the ball. The question is whether he has the athleticism to play well in coverage, something he didn’t have to do much for D-II WSSU.
Marquis Ragland, DL, North Carolina A&T – A multiple All-MEAC selection, Ragland capped an impressive week in Virginia Beach with a dominant performance in the HBCU game. The 6-3, 277-pound Fayetteville, N.C., native was constantly in the backfield and especially had his way with Moaga. He had 50 tackles, 11 for loss, and 3 1/2 sacks last season and then was nearly unblockable in the Spirit of America Bowl. Ragland should find his way into an NFL camp next summer.
Travon Spencer, LB, Kentucky State – Spencer was the first player in Kentucky State history to record over 100 tackles in a season. The 6-1, 224-pound Louisville native had 7 1/2 tackles for loss with a sack, two forced fumbles and an interception. Productivity, even at the D-II level, isn’t an issue for Spencer.
Guy Stallworth, S, Grambling State – Stallworth 71 tackles, 6 1/2 for loss, with an interception and eight passes defensed as a senior. He has very good size at 6-1, 200 pounds, but as bad as the quarterbacks were, he wasn’t able to showcase any real ball skills in the HBCU game, though he did have five tackles. Grambling will have a number of players at its pro day, which is where Stallworth will have to impress. The next couple of months will also allow Stallworth to fully heal from an injured ankle.
Bradley Street, DB, Alabama State – Street struggled in special teams in Virginia Beach, which hurts any slim chance he would have had to be in an NFL camp. Following a solid junior year that saw him in on 68 tackles with six pass breakups and two forced fumbles, the 5-11, 187-pound Street was limited to just three games as a senior.
Cameron Sullivan, DB, Winston-Salem State – Sullivan is a big hitter who flies to the ball and plays well on special teams. The problem is, while he can pack a big punch, he’s a little guy at only 5-8, 167 pounds. He puts everything he has into the game, but it probably won’t be enough to get into an NFL camp. He was an All-CIAA honorable mention selection after leading the Rams with 40 tackles and three interceptions.
Bryan Thames, DE, Lane College – Thames was another player who impressed in Virginia Beach. He was constantly in the backfield, harassing the quarterbacks in the HBCU game. He had 22 tackles with 7 TFLs and 3 sacks last season. At 6-1, 222, he will project as an outside linebacker, but he’ll have to show NFL teams he can drop back in coverage as a 3-4 backer to get a shot.
Phillip Williamson, OLB, Winston-Salem State – Williamson held his own against Ware, who was the best lineman in the HBCU game. The Durham, N.C. native began his career at North Carolina before transferring to WSSU. He’s 6-3, 235 pounds with good pass-rushing skills and finishes with authority. Williamson did show well in coverage, which is something NFL scouts want to see for a guy who projects as a 3-4 outside backer.
Kristian Wilson, DB, Bowie State – Wilson reads the quarterback well and has a good break on the ball. He had a couple of pass breakups in the HBCU game, nearly taking one to the house in the third quarter on a poorly thrown ball from Bell. Though he’s a smart athlete who uses his football IQ to play with confidence, Wilson likely won’t be able to overcome his lack of size at 5-8, 167 pounds to play in the NFL.]]>
But after a pair of disappointing seasons following a 10-win campaign in 2013, McNeill was fired by athletic director Jeff Compher last December.
The beloved 57-year-old players coach was gone. ECU announced his replacement nine days later — former Duke offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery.
“They’re just two different types of people,” senior wide receiver Isaiah Jones told me Saturday at Rocky River High School. “Both are great men. Coach Mo has an unbelievable energy level. He’s crazy, exciting. He pushes us to be the best that we can. That hands-on NFL experience is something he brings to the table.”
Evident at Rocky River, where ECU held a practice and scrimmage, Montgomery has brought a more regimented style to the program as opposed to McNeill’s more laid-back approach.
Jones, who is on several national watch lists, admitted the adjustment period has not been easy.
“It’s been tough adjusting to a new system, new coaches, new faces,” said Jones, who caught 98 passes for 1,099 yards and five scores last year. “But that’s part of football, part of the game, part of the business aspect, so you’ve got to get used to it.”
As for Montgomery, who spent four years as an NFL receiver with the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Oakland after going undrafted in 1999 out of Duke, the response from players has “been lovely.”
“I’m honest with them. I’m hard, but I’m fair,” Montgomery said. “I do what’s right by them and try to treat them with love because we love them all.”
Montgomery got into coaching in 2006 as a receivers coach at Duke under then-coach Ted Roof. When David Cutcliffe took over the program in 2008, he retained Montgomery as the receivers coach. Following the 2009 season, Montgomery was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers as their receivers coach under head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
When I spoke with Arians at the NFL Combine in February, he spoke glowingly of Montgomery, telling me, “(ECU) got a good one.”
Montgomery said he tried to soak up as much information as he could in his two years under Arians’ tutelage, taking notes on napkins when paper wasn’t available.
“Every day is a learning experience,” Montgomery said of his first head-coaching job. “It’s great to have mentors that prepare you for the situations you get to and you’re able to call when you get to a situation you did not previously think of because every day is a new day.”
At ECU, Montgomery is tasked with turning around a program that followed up a 10-win season by going 8-5 the following year and 5-7 last season. At Saturday’s scrimmage, the defense definitely had the better day — a change from the team’s first scrimmage in April.
“The defense came out with a whole lot of energy,” Montgomery said. “That was something we’ve been waiting on. They had to hear some things all week.
“They played their butts off.”
Montgomery said he’d like to see more consistency and was “pissed off” at how many penalties were committed. Numerous false starts frustrated Montgomery and offensive coordinator Tony Peterson, considering they were practicing in a high school stadium with only about 100 or so fans in attendance.
The Pirates aren’t just trying to adjust to a new coaching staff, they’ll have a new quarterback under center in former Minnesota and Rutgers QB Philip Nelson. Minnesota’s Mr. Football in 2011 was dismissed from the Rutgers program following assault charges in 2014.
At ECU, he’ll be one-and-done as a fifth-year senior. He’s hoping to capitalize on having a plethora of weapons as his disposal as ECU boasts perhaps the best wide receiver group in the American Athletic Conference.
While quarterback is settled, Montgomery said Saturday’s scrimmage helped “quite a bit” to settle other position battles. One thing that was certain Saturday, complacency will not stand under Montgomery.
“Every part of our game can be detailed. Our technique and just the way we play overall has to get better,” Jones said. “We have to limit the penalties and protect the football. We’ve got to get better as a whole if we plan to win games like we want to this year.
“There’s always work that can be done. You’ve always got to keep turning the screws… keep working. Always have to keep studying film, breaking it down, going over what did I do wrong, what can I capitalize off of, what can I get better at?”
Practicing in Charlotte is one way Montgomery believes the Pirates can build long-term success. Not only is Charlotte a “fertile recruiting ground,” traveling across the state for a practice gives his players a dress rehearsal for packing everything up for a road game.
So far so good because Nelson could just be a place-filler until Kingsley Ifedi, a dual-threat quarterback from Charlotte’s Vance High School, arrives on campus next year. Another highly touted prospect is running back Jerry Howard from Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, S.C., just south of Charlotte.
But there’s another reason Montgomery wanted to bring his team to Charlotte.
“So many people from this area head to Greenville every weekend or every other weekend,” Montgomery said. “Then they turn around and drive all the way back home. We just wanted to say thank you for doing that.
“We’re trying to build our fan base, but we have a tremendous amount of fans, alumni and the Pirate Club right here in the Queen City.”
So there was Montgomery before and after Saturday’s practice, glad-handing and hugging alumni, parents of players and Pirate Club members who were at Rocky River. He may not be the lovable Ruffin McNeill, but Montgomery is doing everything he can do endear himself to Pirate Nation. The next step is winning and he’s clearly undaunted in his commitment to doing so.]]>
Peyton and Eli Manning are both quarterbacks, as are David and Derek Carr, Matt and Tim Hasselbeck, and Josh and Luke McCown. Sterling and Shannon Sharpe both caught passes. The Gronkowski brothers all play offense. The Trufant brothers are all defensive backs, as are the McCourty twins. Mike and Maurice Pouncey are both offensive linemen.
Clay and Casey Matthews are both linebackers. Their father, Clay Jr., played against his brother, Bruce, though the Hall of Fame offensive lineman usually got the better of that matchup.
Ronde and Tike Barber played on opposite sides of the ball, but the cornerback and running back twins did not often come head to head.
That is a contrast to the Long brothers, who have gone face to face in the trenches. Chris, who is almost four years older than Kyle, is a defensive end for the New England Patriots after spending eight years with the St. Louis Rams. Kyle has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons as a guard for the Chicago Bears.
The two not only got to play each other in the second preseason game last Thursday, they also practiced against each other all week.
“We never really played against each other, or even on the same team in organized sports,” Chris Long told reporters. “It’s definitely new when we practice against each other or play against each other, but it’s just fun to see your brother at the end of the day. I hadn’t seen him since the beginning of July, and I might not see him for a long time.”
As for hitting his younger brother, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Chris said trying to move his 6-6, 320-pound younger brother is like trying to dislodge “a big tree stump.”
“Luckily I’m out there on the edge and we didn’t have to deal with each other much,” Chris said.
The Long brothers are the sons of Hall of Famer Howie Long, who was a dominant defensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders from 1981-93. Practicing against each other in Foxborough, Mass., last week was special for another reason – Howie grew up in nearby Charlestown.
“I understand where our family comes from and the history [here] is something that’s very important,” Kyle said. “I was thinking about where I could go to see some Revolutionary War stuff. I wanted to see some historical sites, but the schedule is just not going to allow it. We’re tight. It’s training camp, we understand that. It’s a business trip.”
There is another Long brother, though Howie Jr. chose to play lacrosse at the University of Virginia, Chris’ alma mater. Howie Jr. returned to football last year, however, as a scouting assistant and personnel assistant for the Raiders.
“There was no, ‘Because my dad did it,’” Chris said of football. “Actually, I wanted to play baseball. Honestly, I just think with a kid developing, playing a lot of sports, it’s just kind of whatever you’re good at. It feels good to do things that you’re actually good at it. It’s just real simple. Whatever you’re best at, you kind of gravitate to, and eventually that’s what happened with me and Kyle. I mean, you look at him. He has no choice.
“Being half a foot shorter and 60 pounds lighter, it keeps things in perspective. I always felt like I knew a bigger person. Hanging around him and my dad, I’m the smallest one out of the three of us. Then there’s my youngest brother, Howie who is more normal-sized like I am. It’s never intimidating seeing big people. It’s helped.”
While Kyle, the 20th overall pick from Oregon in the 2013 NFL Draft, didn’t enter the NFL with as much fanfare as Chris, the No. 2 selection in the 2008 draft, he’s certainly made the most of it.
“He’s a talented player, and when you combine that with knowledge of the game, which you do every year, everybody is trying to gain that edge every year,” said Chris, who has 51 1/2 career sacks – including double-digit sack seasons in 2011 and 2012. “You can only get better and better. What he’s been able to do on the field has been tremendous in three years.
“He’s a really good kid and I just enjoy kind of watching him grow into being a man in this league. I know the work that it takes and I just think, more than anything, just seeing the way he’s plugged away, he grows up every year. It’s just fun to see him, each and every year, get better.”
Last weekend was just the second time the Long brothers have gotten an opportunity to square off. When the Rams played the Bears last season, Chris had to sit out because of a knee injury that cost him 11 games. They did play against each other in a 2013 Rams victory in St. Louis. Kyle was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after starting a post-whistle scuffle.
When a fight broke out between Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery and Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler last week, Kyle said he had his head on a swivel.
“I was making sure Chris wasn’t coming to drop-kick me,” Kyle quipped. “I turned around, and of course he was making a beeline for me.”
While Kyle said in 2015 going against his brother isn’t much fun, he admitted last week that lining up opposite Chris “was really cool.”
“My rookie year, I played him when he was in St. Louis, and we didn’t directly go against one another. I mean, I saw him every once in a while, but (this) was a real good opportunity to line up and go, ‘Oh my God, that’s my brother right across from me.’ It was just a lot of fun. I’m proud of him and just happy to be here. We’re really lucky to be in this situation.
“He’s a great older brother, and he’s a heck of a football player. The Pats are lucky to have him. … He has worked his tail off to get back to where he is, and I’m looking forward to him having a lot of success.”]]>