NFL Prospect Focus: Missouri Offense
Missouri is currently the #9 ranked team in the nation and is in first place in the SEC East. With two games left on their schedule, (Ole Miss, Texas A&M) a berth in the SEC Championship games is entirely possible. With that kind of record in the tough SEC, you would think that they are loaded with NFL talent on offense. While they do have some good prospects, I don’t see any seniors at this time that are worthy of premium round status (1st and 2nd rounds).
James Franklin – Quarterback
Franklin has had good production the last three seasons at Missouri, but he has a problem with durability. He missed time last year (three games) and has not played in the last four games this year. Franklin has good size (6’2 – 230) to go along with good, but not great, athletic ability. He plays from a spread formation where they pass the ball about 60% of the time. They also do a lot of read option in the run game. Franklin looks to have better than average straight line speed, but I would not call him a quick footed, elusive athlete. At times, he can be almost flat footed in the pocket and his ability to avoid pass rushers is average. He is a better ball carrier than scrambler.
The Missouri offense is more sophisticated now than it was when Blaine Gabbert was playing. Gabbert played from mostly a half-field read offense which is not the case now. Franklin goes through somewhat of a progression, but seldom do you see him get to the third option. While he has a strong arm and spins the ball well, I feel his accuracy is average. He has a deliberate overhand delivery, and the ball does not come out of his hand quickly. In the games viewed, he seldom had to put the ball in a tight window. His accuracy is best on shorter throws as is his ball placement. The further downfield he throws, the less accurate he is. He does flash being able to throw with touch, but again, he can struggle if he has to “thread the needle”. Though a good runner, he is only average at extending plays with his feet. His ability to throw with accuracy on the run is average.
Because of injuries, I have not seen as much tape on Franklin as I would like. Right now, I see him as a late round type who will need time to develop. With most clubs carrying only two quarterbacks on the active roster, I see James as a practice squad player as a rookie. In time he could develop into a competent number two quarterback, but I don’t see potential starter ability at this time. If he is able to come back and play the final two games of the season and play in a bowl game, I will look at that tape for a possible upgrade.
Justin Britt – Tackle
Going into the season, Britt was not on many club’s prospect lists. He missed the last third of the 2012 season with an injury. Before the injury, he started nine games and has experience playing both right and left tackle. The fifth year senior started 11 games in 2011 at left tackle.
Britt has size at about 6’6 – 315. He has shorter legs for a tall guy and has a long torso. He seems to have good arm length. His overall athletic ability is good. He shows some short area quickness, good feet, and consistently stays on his feet. His speed is average for the position, and he will probably run in the 5.25 range at the combine.
Britt almost always plays from a two-point stance. The only time you see him in a three-point is in short yardage or goal line situations. He has good initial quickness, and I like that he stays low coming out of his two-point stance on run downs. He shows good “pop” on contact and is usually able to generate some movement with his run blocks. You never see him give ground. He is good with combo blocks and can adjust on the move to make blocks on the second level. While he is not used to pull that often, he does a good job when asked. In pass protection, he can set quickly and does a good job getting his hands on his opponent. He generally keeps good position and shows that he can slide and recover. He plays with knee bend, keeps his back straight, and anchors well. Besides the Georgia game, where he struggled some with wide speed, he is a very consistent pass blocker.
Britt has the talent to be a mid-round draft choice. While he plays on the left side at Missouri, I see him as a guard or right tackle in the NFL. His position versatility should enable him to dress on game day as a rookie. Britt is a smart kid who shows some nasty in his play, and I can see him being an eventual starter in the league. Tough, smart, strong, and consistent offensive linemen always find a way to play.
L’Damian Washington – Wide Receiver
To date, Washington leads Missouri receivers in pass reception yardage. To date, he has caught 36 passes for 680 yards and nine TDs. The fifth year senior is a two year starter and has shown improvement every year. He has excellent size at about 6’4 – 200. He has a long, lean frame and moves around like a 6’0 guy. He is both quick and fast. He has good body control and has play speed in the 4.50 range. What also helps his value is his role as gunner on the punt team.
As a route runner, Washington is still raw. While he is athletic and can make sharp cuts, he is a raw route runner. In the Missouri offense, the receivers don’t run a lot of different routes. Washington runs a lot of streaks, crossing routes, bubble screens, and comebacks. I don’t think I have seen a double move route. While he can make sharp cuts, he often rounds his cuts and isn’t precise. He has good hands, and he shows the courage to compete for the ball in traffic. He has a burst to go after deep balls and adjusts well to the ball. After the catch, he has good run skills showing quickness and the ability to make the first man miss.
Washington is still raw in relation to other prospects, but he has talent. He needs to improve his route running skills and needs to add some bulk. His play on special teams shows he has some toughness, and that will help get him on the field early while he is still learning. Right now, I see him as a mid-round type, but the arrow is definitely going up.
Marcus Lucas – Wide Receiver
There are going to be other scouts that like Lucas more than I do. He is productive in the Missouri offense, but that’s not hard in that style of offense. The fourth year senior has excellent size at about 6’5 – 220, but I don’t see real good top end speed. He plays like a 4.6 – 4.65 guy. While he has straight line quicks, he is not real nifty and can be slow getting in and out of cuts. He has good jumping ability to go up and get the ball, but he also has concentration problems. In the games viewed, I saw four dropped balls, all of which should have been caught. As big as he is, I did not see a real physical guy. He flashes physical play, but I did not see it down after down. In their offense, he is used mainly as a short to medium range receiver. He is seldom used to stretch the field. He is also used a lot on bubble screen type throws, and while he usually will catch the ball, his run after skills are average at best.
I see Lucas marginal draftable player. He could get picked late (if he runs well), but more than likely will be a priority free agent. His size is his best strong point. He needs to improve all other areas of his game.
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