NFL Prospect Focus: Texas A&M Offense
Texas A&M lost at home in their bid to beat Alabama two straight years. Still, they have a very strong group of NFL prospects on the offensive side of the ball led by quarterback Johnny Manziel and tackle Jake Matthews. The other top prospects are running back Ben Melana, and receivers Derel Walters and Mike Evans. Both Manziel and Evans are redshirt sophomores but could enter the draft if they desire. In Manziel’s case I think it’s a forgone conclusion that this is last year as an Aggie.
Johnny Manziel - Quarterback
Manziel put on a show Saturday, throwing for 464 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He also rushed for 98 yards on 14 carries. The guy is a magician on the field. He makes plays that few quarterbacks can make. He doesn’t have great size at 6'1". He is listed as weighing 210 pounds, but I doubt he is over 200. Still he is a rare athlete with great speed, change of direction and quick feet. He has the ability to extend plays like no one I've seen before.
As a passer, he has a quick release and good arm strength. He throws a tight ball and is very accurate. He has the ability to go through a progression while on the run which is rare. When he throws on the run his accuracy is nearly as good as when he is able to set his feet. He has the ability to make plays when nothing is there, and he does it game after game. Texas A&M has many designed running plays for him, and he runs like a running back. He displays excellent instincts and elusiveness along with good power for an undersized player.
As good as Manziel was in 2012, he is better in 2013. He has a little more size, his arm strength has improved, and he has become a more accurate passer. This is a rare player. The team that drafts him has to have a plan on how to use him as he is not a conventional quarterback. There are some character risks involved, but most of it is immaturity. On the field, he is a playmaker who has the tools to be as good as he wants to be. Unquestionably, he has high first round talent.
Jake Matthews – Tackle
Jake is a fourth year senior and a four year starter at tackle. He played right tackle his entire career until moving to left tackle in the spring when Luke Joeckel left for the NFL. Matthews is the son of NFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews and is one steady football player. He has a classic NFL tackle build at about 6’5" – 310 with the frame to carry 320 if he desired. He is even cut with long arms. Playing in a fast paced spread offense he is in excellent condition.
He usually lines up in a 2 point stance. The only time I have seen him get into a 3 point stance is when they line up in a short yardage situation. Regardless of the stance he is in, he gets off the ball very quickly and stays low. He is a natural bender who is always in good football position. He is very athletic with a very good base and outstanding balance. In the run game, he is strong and explosive on contact and consistently gets movement. He easily gets to the second level and has no problem adjusting to movement. He is used to pull a lot and shows he can play in space like an athletic guard. In pass protection he sets quickly and is very patient. He is alert to stunts and blitzes and he is consistent. He shows very good mirror ability and reacts to moves very well. He has the lateral agility to stop wide speed and anchors as well as any tackle I have ever seen. Matthews is an excellent technician with very good hand use. He has a strong punch and excellent hand placement. Matthews is an excellent prospect. Having reviewed Lewan from Michigan last week, I would rate Matthews higher. The advantage Matthews has over Lewan is Jake is a better athlete and has experience at both right and left tackle. I feel Matthews can play any position on the offensive line except center. Both Lewan and Matthews are better prospects than Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel last year and will be drafted very high. They may not be drafted as high, though, because there will be highly rated quarterbacks in this class.
Ben Melana – Running back
Melana can be a tough guy to evaluate because he isn’t a bell cow type running back. He plays in a rotation. With the offense that Texas A&M runs, the RBs don’t get a large number of carries. Still, Melana is an effective back and a solid prospect.
He doesn’t have great size at 5’9" - 195 but he has a solid build and plays with strength. He has very good initial quickness and gets to the hole quickly. He runs with lean and has power. He shows patience and instincts as a runner and has the ability to make a quick cut in the hole. He is a good, cutback type runner. While he doesn’t seem to have top breakaway speed, he has a burst when he finds a seam. He is effective both inside and outside and because of his lean and power, he consistently gets yards after contact. He showed tough inside running skills in the Alabama game and was effective in short yardage.
Melana is a willing and consistent pass blocker who will face up a pass rusher. On the game’s opening play he showed his run block ability, taking out a linebacker. He is used in the passing game and displays good hands. He is used mostly on short routes and check downs and will line up split out at times. He is an effective route runner.
I don’t see Melana as a high pick but he can be an excellent mid round pick who should be a good pro. He has the tools needed to be effective at the next level.
Mike Evans – Wide Receiver
Evans is a third year sophomore who can enter the draft if he chooses. The former basketball player has great size at 6’5" – 225 to go along with very good play speed. He had an outstanding game versus Alabama with 7 catches for 279 yards and a touchdown. That included a 95-yard TD reception.
With his size, Evans is a very strong and physical receiver. He uses his size effectively and in this game, was a mismatch. For a tall receiver, he runs well and can get in and out of cuts quickly. When making a cut, he can sink his hips and burst out of the cut. His body control is excellent. He showed good route running skills and is effective finding the open areas in zone. Evans has great hands and often snatches the ball. He also has very good leaping ability. Put all these traits together and it can be very difficult to cover this receiver.
After the catch, Evans looks like a big running back. He has good run instincts to go along with speed and power. In this game, he used a straight arm effectively to keep tacklers off him.
The player Evans reminds me of, from a physical viewpoint, is Chicago’s Brandon Marshall. They are similar in size and play a similar, physical game. If Evans decides to enter the draft, he will be a high pick. Athletic, big guys like this are hard to find.
Derel Walker – Wide Receiver
Walker is the Aggies number two receiver. He is a former Junior College transfer and this is the first year that he is a fulltime starter. He is tall and long but on the lean side at about 6’2" – 185. Still, he plays with adequate strength. In the Alabama game, He had 5 catches for 66 yards.
He is not asked to run many different types of routes but is effective with what they ask him to do. In this game most of his routes were short outs and comebacks. He also was used on a bubble screen. He ran one deeper sideline route where he was really laid out by the Alabama defender.
Walker shows good athleticism with quick feet and change of direction. He has good play speed (4.55 range) and a burst. He shows good hands and consistently catches the ball away from his body. After the catch he shows good run skills with some elusiveness and quick feet.
Walker flashes talent. As he wasn’t a regular last year, I haven’t seen enough of him to grade him fairly. This will be an interesting player to research later in the season.
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