An Early Look: Devontae Booker, Utah

Carrying the rock for the Utah Utes for the second season is an intriguing running back by the name of Devontae Booker. Standing 5’11” and 212 lbs, Booker is a Redshirt Senior, heading into his second year of being a starting back for the Utes. Booker is coming off an impressive season last year; here are his stats from 2014:

  • 1,512 rushing yards off of 292 rushing attempts
  • 2 yards per carry average
  • 10 rushing touchdowns
  • 43 receptions for 306 receiving yards
  • 2 receiving touchdowns

Here are the games I scouted for Devontae Booker:
Washington State (2014), vs. Oregon State (2014), and vs. UCLA (2014)
Note: The GIFs are of plays that caught my eye
He was a three star recruit out of American River College (JC). Booker has the perfect body type for an NFL running back. He has great size and the perfect build to play professionally. He doesn’t have a great deal of mileage on him since he only has played one full season. Booker can make quick cuts to make defenders tackling air. He has unbelievable balance and is extremely hard take down by trying to take his legs away. Has crazy strength and explosion, will blow through a simple arm tackle. He can easily gain extra yardage by simply lowering his shoulder and taking defenders with him. He is an excellent inside the tackle runner; can move piles to gain a few yards on a third and short situation or find a small hole to burst off a big gain. When running outside, he is hard to stop when allowed to cut the corner. Booker is a very instinctive runner; he seems to naturally find the holes in the defense and knows where to run. He has great vision and finds seemingly small holes and is able to make something out of them. When in the open field, he has nice long strides to separate from defenders and makes him hard to catch. He does not have fumble issues at all and is a very reliable runner. He usually tries to help his QB out when running pass routes, sees his man in trouble, and tries to get open.
He needs a better spin move; it is rather slow and could be sped up some. On occasion, he can go to upright when running up the middle. That is not a big problem. He just needs to work on consistency. He takes some time to get up to speed, so his initial quickness is a little lacking. Due to not being able to get up to speed, his outside run game struggles some. Often, he gets slowed up in the backfield and is unable to get positive yardage. He doesn’t run very many pass routes and mainly catches passes in the flat or on screen plays. His pass blocking is absolutely hideous. Half of the time, he gives a half effort it seems. Often, he gets destroyed and pass rushers can make him look stupid.
The Bottom Line:
Devontae Booker is one of the top running backs heading into the 2016 NFL Draft. His power and explosiveness will make him a great asset to any team. One thing does concern me about his gameplay; he didn’t face the toughest of defenses last season. He faced Stanford last season and struggled against their top ten rushing defense. The majority of the defenses he ran against were ranked 40th or worse defending the run. Plus, he was not the starting back through the first three games of the season. This year, he will be the main workhorse and will get to face teams like Michigan, Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona. All of those teams have a chance to have some outstanding defensive play this year. If Booker can prove himself with another 1,000+ yard rushing season, and can continue to prove he is a reliable pass catcher, there is no doubt in my mind that he should be the “filet mignon” of the 2016 running back class.
Austin Morris is the creator of The Scouting Lab. He is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached at

An Early Look: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

Coming out of Michigan State University is an interesting prospect by the name of Shilique Calhoun. Calhoun is a Redshirt Senior standing at 6’5” and 250 lbs. In 2013 Calhoun put up some rather average numbers on the defensive end. The 2014 season showed improvement from Calhoun, although it was not by a great deal. Here are his stats from last season:

  • 39 total tackles (28 solo, 11 assisted)
  • 12.5 tackles for loss
  • 8.0 sacks
  • 1 Forced Fumble

Here is my preseason scouting report on Shilique Calhoun:
Games Scouted: vs. Stanford (2013), vs. Iowa (2013), vs. Ohio St. (2013), vs. Michigan (2013), vs. Nebraska (2014), and vs. Baylor (2015–Cotton Bowl)
Note: The GIFs are of plays that caught my eye
Calhoun was a 3 Star Recruit out of Middletown High School in Middletown, New Jersey. His size was meant for the NFL, and he has had no trouble growing into his frame. I was extremely impressed with his ability to pick up on read plays, whether it is the option or pass plays. He has the athleticism to not bite on the read option play until the QB makes his decision, and he does not get caught with his pants around his ankles so to speak. He does an excellent job of pursuing the ball carrier and is a very instinctive tackler. He does not take bad angles on his tackles, is an excellent run defender, and seems to easily be able to know where the runner is going and meets him there. He has great strength in both his upper and lower body. He has great mental awareness and rarely makes stupid mistakes. He does have great speed and explosion to get a quick jump on the opposing lineman but needs to be more consistent. Although he doesn’t have a high sack total, he does pressure the QB and hurry throws. He has faced off against some of the best linemen in college football (Andrus Peat, Taylor Lewan, and Brandon Scherff).

He is very raw at the End position, playing as both a D-Lineman and a Tight End throughout college. If he wants to be a pass rusher at the pro level, he will need more consistency in getting through to the pocket. He needs a better arsenal of moves to get past pass rushers with. He is extremely raw but he has a very high upside. He has some trouble in changing direction on a dime, like effective pass rushers can do. He needs to learn how to more effectively hand fight. He stands too upright on his pass rush, which causes him to lose many battles.

Calhoun was expected to enter the 2015 NFL Draft, but decided not to. Clearly he would like to increase his production and prove he is a better defender. From a technique standpoint he improved greatly from the 2013 season to the 2014 season. The stats may not show it, but the film does. I feel he should be used as a run defender instead of an every down pass rusher. As of now, I see Calhoun being picked somewhere in the late second round. With a solid season, I can easily see him moving up to the early part of the second round.
Austin Morris is the creator of The Scouting Lab. He is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached at

An Early Look: Shawn Oakman, Baylor

Coming out of Baylor University is a defensive end by the name of Shawn Oakman. Oakman is an absolute freak of nature, standing at 6’9” and 280 lbs. Yes, ladies and gentlemen you read that right, 6 feet and 9 inches. Oakman is heading into his senior season and his hoping to cement himself as a top draft pick. Here are his stats from the 2013 season:

  • 51 total tackles (38 solo, 13 assisted)
  • 5 tackles for loss
  • 11 total sacks
  • 3 Forced Fumbles

Here is my preseason scouting report of Oakman:
Games scouted: Oklahoma (’13), SMU (’14), Buffalo (’14), Oklahoma St. (’14), and Michigan St. (‘15—Cotton Bowl)
Defensive scheme: 4-2-5
Note: The GIFs below are specific plays that caught my eye
Oakman is a 4-star recruit out of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania and Penn Wood High School. He has superior size and strength compared to the other college players and is a man playing against kids almost. He is already built for the NFL. He also has great upper body strength, which he can use to knock defenders back. When he is pass rushing, he has great speed to gain the advantage on other linemen. he has the ability to drop back into pass coverage when he is asked. Oakman played on the Punt Block team for Baylor. When he realizes he is not going to get to the QB, he jumps in the air to try and block the pass. He has a “mean” factor to his game and fights on every play. He does pursue the ball carrier if the runner is within reasonable distance. He has instinctive play on where the ball is and takes good angles when pursuing.

Originally, he was at Penn State, but transferred after off the field issues in 2012. He has poor balance, which could be related to being so tall. Defenders dive to take his legs out, and he is stopped in his tracks. He has trouble changing direction, cannot stop and cross a defender’s face. Often, he goes too fast when pass rushing. He has trouble rounding the corner to get to the QB. He seems to lack some lower body mass; his calves look a little skinny. He doesn’t seem to use leverage to help win battles and, often, comes in too high on linemen, which allows them to take control of the situation. Oakman is often taken out of run plays and needs to anchor himself better. He has rather average hand usage. He often has trouble separating from linemen on run plays. He needs a better barrage of moves other than a slap-swim move. He has some tackling issues, has had many clean shots on QBs, and has missed the easy sack. He dominates the poorer competition, but struggles a little bit more with top tier teams.
The bottom line here is that Oakman is a freak of nature who has great potential in my book. He reminds me very much of Arik Armstead from Oregon who was drafted this year to San Francisco. Unlike Armstead, Oakman is much nastier and has a lot more production to show for himself. Oakman does have some things to work on, such as his run defense. He occasionally makes a good play on the run, but it is not often. Pass rushing is definitely his game and should remain his main focus, as he has no trouble getting to the QB; he just simply needs to complete the play. I saw, in multiple games, instances where he had several clean blindside hits on the quarterback, and he found a way to miss. If not for the missed tackles, he would have crazy sack numbers each year if he just simply wrapped up.
I don’t personally feel Oakman belongs in a 4-3 defense. I feel his size and athleticism would better suit him as a D-Lineman in a 3-4 defense. Typical pro 4-3 linemen are quicker and can change direction a lot faster than Oakman can, which is why I feel if he is put in a 3-4 defense he will succeed. As of now, I feel it is a safe bet for Oakman to go somewhere in the mid to late first round in next year’s draft.
Austin Morris is the creator of The Scouting Lab. He is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached at

An Early Look: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

Coming out of Mississippi State University is a QB who was in the Heisman race last season, but fell off at the end of the year; Redshirt Senior Dak Prescott is a very well built prospect standing at 6’2” and 230 lbs. Athletically, Prescott is the whole package, but as a QB, he leaves much to be desired. Here are his stats from last season:

  • 3,449 passing yards
  • 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions
  • 986 rushing yards with a 4.7 rushing average
  • 14 rushing touchdowns

Here are my preseason notes on Prescott:
Prescott placed eighth in Heisman voting last season. He throws with an over the top delivery. He keeps his feet moving in the pocket. He doesn’t really have a favorite receiver and spreads the ball around pretty evenly. Usually, he tries to go through his reads before scrambling out of the pocket. He can suck defenses in when he fakes the run, has decent arm mechanics, is usually a smart runner, and makes good decisions on where to run with the ball. He is a serious goal line threat can either run or pass. He can make the goal line fade throw or a quick slant in the end zone.
His production decreased the deeper he got into the season. He does not throw a consistently tight spiral and does not have a great deal of ball speed and power on his passes, which causes him trouble on deeper throws. He can, at times, get too much air under his passes and overthrow his receivers. Prescott needs to have a better point of release. He has average ball placement and makes a good effort to throw to where only his guys can get to it. Prescott does not do well in the face of pressure. He needs to learn how to throw the ball away and tries to do too much with his feet, which leads to sacks. He has some ball security issues. He does not have much quickness or agility when running and is more of a “run you over” guy. In several games, he threw the ball while getting hit, which led to interceptions and many close calls.
Info charted from games in 2014 (Texas A&M, UT Martin, Kentucky, Auburn)
Realistic Completion Percentage:

  • Behind Line of Scrimmage to Line of Scrimmage-96% completion on 26 attempts
  • Line of Scrimmage to 10 yds-59% completion on 41 attempts
  • 11 yds to 25 yards-42% on 43 attempts
  • 25 yds or greater-19% on 13 attempts

Completion Percentages on Man vs. Zone Coverages

  • 46% Completion Percentage vs. Man Coverage
  • 64% Completion Percentage vs. Zone Coverage

The bottom line is, I don’t see Prescott fitting in the NFL. Prescott reminds me way too much of Tim Tebow due to the type of offense he came out of, his better running ability than throwing ability, and his body size. I feel that Prescott is a much better runner than he is a passer, and he should consider choosing one or the other to work on. As of now, I see Prescott going in the 6th Round. I don’t see enough instinctive talent as a QB to see him lasting in the league because athletic talent will only last you so long.
Austin Morris is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached at

An Early Look: Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Coming out of THE Ohio State University is a QB whose name has been heard by many who follow the college football scene, Braxton Miller. Miller, a 6’2”, 215 pound, Redshirt Senior is coming off of a torn labrum he suffered prior to the start of last season. Miller has made a name for himself at OSU having quite a lot of production in his time at the school; here are his career stats so far:

  • 5,292 passing yards
  • 52 passing touchdowns and 17 interceptions
  • 3,054 rushing yards and 5.5 rushing average
  • 32 rushing touchdowns

Miller’s mechanics were absolutely hideous in 2011 and 2012, so he took the time prior to the 2013 season to focus on improving. The change was quite noticeable as his TD/INT ratio greatly dropped and he played more consistent football. There is no rock solid guarantee that Miller will be starting this season. Coach Urban Meyer has quite a decision to make on who he will start at the QB position. Will he start Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, or Miller? Any one of these guys could start and help OSU win another National Championship. Regardless of what the final depth chart will look like, here are some pre-season notes on Braxton Miller:
He throws a tight spiral, which is surprising considering he wears gloves on both hands during most games. The gloves are present usually during rain, snow, or colder weather. He does a good job of spreading the ball evenly to his receivers. On deeper throws, he does a nice job of stepping up in the pocket to avoid the edge rush. He does an adequate job of throwing against zone coverage. He seems to be aware of the down and distance set in front of him. He does a nice job reading the defensive end on read option plays. He usually tries to go through at least two reads before he scrambles. He is an extremely fast QB who can change directions on a dime. He has experience playing in unfavorable weather conditions. Throughout his college career, he has faced some of the best defenses in the nation.
Miller suffered a torn labrum prior to the 2014 season. He rarely throws the ball down the middle of the field and mostly throws to the right and the left sides. Miller struggles greatly when throwing against man coverage. His ball placement is absolutely atrocious; he does not allow his receivers to do much after the catch. He has a little bit of a windup on his throws that should be shortened some. He has spent most of his career in the Shotgun formation, with not much experience under center. Miller has some serious ball control issues (10 fumbles in 2013). He would rather run than throw the ball away. Miller rarely completes his deep throws.
Info from charted games (2013 vs Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State, and Illinois)
Realistic Completion Percentage

  • Behind Line of Scrimmage to Line of Scrimmage-82% completion rate on 31 attempts
  • Line of Scrimmage to 10 yds-62% completion rate on 32 attempts
  • 11 yards to 25 yards-53% completion rate on 20 attempts
  • 25 yards or greater-24% completion rate on 18 attempts

Completion Percentage on Man and Zone coverages

  • 48% Completion Percentage vs. 38 Man Defense Plays
  • 68% Completion Percentage vs. 62 Zone Defense Plays

Preseason Prediction:
Overall, I feel Braxton Miller has a chance at having a Heisman like season and could possibly have one of National Championship caliber. Even with a great year, I don’t see Miller becoming a successful pro QB due to his poor ball placement and inability to throw successfully beyond the Line of Scrimmage. Also, I feel his type of play will not translate to the NFL. Prior QBs before him at Ohio State are perfect examples. Troy Smith and Terelle Pryor both were excellent quarterbacks for the Buckeyes, but their athletic talent only got them so far. NFL history also dictates that unless they are put in the right offense, run n’ gun QBs do not do well. I currently believe Miller will be drafted in the 5th Round, and it will take a great deal of improvement in the 2015 season to change my mind.
Austin is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. Reach him by e-mail at

An Early Look: Connor Cook, Michigan State

Even though the NFL Draft was almost a month ago, it is never too early to start taking a look at the prospects for next year’s draft and get a head start on the NCAA Football Season.
In this article, we will be taking an early look at QB Connor Cook. Cook is a 6’2″, 220 pound, Redshirt Senior at Michigan State. I felt like it was a good idea for Cook to not enter the Draft last year because, at the time, he still had some issues to work on to help improve his craft. I watched a few games of Cook in 2013 and in all honesty, it was hard to watch. He was a very raw and inexperienced quarterback who made mistakes. Fast forward to the 2014 season, and he had greatly improved, but still had some parts of his game he needed to work on. The law of averages tells me that by the end of his senior season, Cook will have developed even more. Here are my preseason notes on Connor Cook:
He has great athletic ability to get out of the pocket and avoid being sacked. He has greatly improved his mechanics from his first year of starting. He’s not afraid to stand in the pocket and make a throw. He spreads the ball around very evenly to his receivers and different spots on the field. He has the rare ability to go through his reads and progressions, sees the whole field, and has a decent enough arm to make all necessary throws. He puts nice touch on the ball to where only his guys can get to it. He is very accurate on deep throws and doesn’t often miss.
He does have some hesitation issues. He seems to have trouble figuring out where he wants to go with the ball. He tries to complete passes while he is getting hit, which often leads to interceptions. He doesn’t really have a tight spiral on his passes, so the wind catches the ball (this makes me curious about hand size). His footwork is still a little sloppy but is much better than when he first started. He tries to force the ball into places it shouldn’t go. He could have better pocket awareness to know when to get out of Dodge. He needs to know when to throw the ball away or take a sack. He needs to get more air under the ball. Too many passes are batted down at the line of scrimmage, and too many balls end up in the dirt.
I charted several of Cook’s games and found an interesting piece of information. Cook does not seem to have a favorite receiver; he spreads the ball around to every player a couple of times a game. Watch Manning or Rodgers toss the pigskin and you will notice they do the same thing – distribute the ball evenly to everyone.
Keep in mind this is a preseason report, so the point of scouting now is to get an idea of how the players play the game and what they should be improving on from the previous year. Cook still has a lot to work on heading into 2015, but I feel he will greatly improve from 2014. As of now I have Cook listed as a 3rd Rounder. If he can have a great season and improve his mechanics, I can see him easily moving to the 2nd Round.
Austin is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. Reach him by e-mail at

2015 NFL Draft Review: NFC North

Starting now and over the next few days you see may draft analysts puts grades on each clubs draft. Personally, I feel that is an exercise in futility, because it can take up to three years to get a gauge on the quality of a draft.
Having spent most of my adult life in the player evaluation business with different NFL clubs, I know how hard each team works in preparation for the draft. When it is all said and done, they make the selections based on their draft board and how the player chosen fits within their current schemes. While an analyst may think another player is better, no one knows for sure until we see how they play within the scheme. That said, over the next two weeks, I will review the drafts of each of the 32 NFL teams on a division by division basis. First up will be the NFC North.
Chicago Bears
Kevin White – WR – West Virginia
For weeks going into the draft, Kevin looked like the obvious choice of the Bears. He will start off as the obvious replacement of Brandon Marshall. While he may be a bit smaller than Marshall, he is much faster and more athletic. Coming from the West Virginia spread, White will need to learn the nuances of an NFL route tree, but he has the natural traits to be a dynamic player right form the get go.
Eddie Goldman – DT – Florida St.
With the Bears switching to a 3-4 base defense, there was a need for a run stuffing nose tackle. Goldman is one of the best in the draft at that position. Getting him in the second is a bit of a steal for the Bears, as many had him rated as a sure-fire first rounder.
Hroniss Grasu – C – Oregon
Grasu started 52 games for the Ducks and is as athletic as they come for a center. While he may not start right away, he should take over the center position before midseason. He has the smarts and awareness to make all the line calls and is a natural leader.
Jeremy Langford – RB – Michigan State
Langford will prove to be the perfect complement to Matt Forte. Jeremy is a tough inside runner, a reliable pass blocker and receiver. He ran for nearly 3000 yards over the last two seasons.
Adrian Amos – DS – Penn State
Amos is one of the fastest and most athletic safeties in this class. He ran 4.37 at the Penn State pro day. Amos is a good cover guy but needs to improve in run support and tackling.
Tayo Fabuluje – OT – TCU
Fabuluje is a big, powerful wide body who will need to lose some weight in order to be effective at the NFL level. While he was about 350 at the Combine, he was down to 332 at the TCU pro day. Don’t be surprised if Tayo spends his rookie year on the practice squad.
Green Bay Packers
Damarious Randall – DS – Arizona State
Six weeks ago, there weren’t too many who felt Randall would go in the first round. With more and more clubs going to safeties that have man coverage skills, Randall’s stock began to rise. Randall has corner size and speed to go along with good hips and range. He should come in and start right away at free safety.
Quinten Rollins – DC – Miami (Ohio)
The transition Rollins made from being a college point guard to a starting corner in football is nothing short of amazing. When you watch him play, the things that sticks out are his incredible instincts and ball skills. His timed speed and short arms are what kept him out of the first round.
Ty Montgomery – WR – Stanford
Going in to the 2014 season, Montgomery was looked at as a possible second round pick. His overall play fell off a bit during the season, but he can be a very reliable third receiver for the Pack. He also has excellent kickoff return ability.
Jake Ryan – LB – Michigan
Ryan has the versatility to play either inside or out. I would think that in the Green Bay scheme, his best fit would be inside. Ryan has top instincts to go along with outstanding toughness.
Brett Hundley – QB – UCLA
You couldn’t ask for Hundley to land in a better spot. He gets to sit and learn from Aaron Rodgers, one of the best in the game. Hundley needs to improve his decision making and accuracy, and he will have plenty of time to do that in Green Bay.
Aaron Ripkowski – FB – Oklahoma
Green Bay is one of the few teams that use a conventional fullback. Ripkowski landed in the perfect place.
Minnesota Vikings
Trae Waynes – DC – Michigan State
With all the tall receivers in the NFC North, Waynes will help the Vikings with matchups. He is an excellent press cover corner who just needs to improve his tackling skills. Waynes was clearly the best corner in this draft.
Eric Kendricks – LB – UCLA
Kendricks is a bit undersized, but he is one of the more instinctive linebackers in this draft. He makes plays all over the field. He also is excellent in coverage. An added bonus is Kendricks and last year’s number one Anthony Barr are former roommates, and that will help Kendricks with the transition to the NFL.
Danielle Hunter – DE – LSU
Hunter has outstanding natural physical traits as far as speed, change of directions and body control. He just hasn’t put it all together yet. Had he stayed in school another year, he may have been a first round pick next year. Hunter’s upside is as good as any player in this draft.
T.J. Clemmings – OT – Pittsburgh
Getting Clemmings in the fourth round is the steal of the draft. Clemmings is a first round talent who fell because of a reported foot injury. People I have talked to say the foot is fine and is an old injury. He will be a rookie starter.
MyCole Pruitt – TE – Southern Illinois
Pruitt is an ideal “move” tight end who will help the offense.
Stefon Diggs – WR – Maryland
Diggs is another steal. He was an early entry into the draft and had outstanding production at Maryland. I felt he was, at worst, a third round value, but with a strong wide receiver group, he fell.
Tyrus Thompson – OT – Oklahoma
Thompson has size and power. He needs to lose a little weight to help his movement skills, but he has the traits to be an eventual starter.
Austin Shepherd – OT – Alabama
Shepherd played tackle at Alabama but is more likely to move inside to guard at Minnesota. He has a solid chance to make the team and be a quality backup.
Detroit Lions
Laken Tomlinson – OG – Duke
There were some who felt that Tomlinson was more of a second round talent. Still, he has the traits to come in and start at guard, and that is the important thing. With Larry Warford, the Lions can have one of the league’s best guard tandems in another year. Tomlinson is a powerful run blocker and shows excellent hand use in the pass game.
Ameer Abdullah – RB – Nebraska
Abdullah may not have ideal size, but he has proven to be a very durable back while at Nebraska. He is as quick to the hole as any back and has outstanding instincts. Though he lacks size, he is an every down back who will also help in the passing game.
Alex Carter – DC – Stanford
Carter has the traits to play corner or safety in the NFL. He was a very reliable player while at Stanford and was productive versus both the run and pass.
Gabe Wright – DT – Auburn
Everyone thought that the Lions would be taking a defensive tackle early on in the draft. With the Wright pick, they waited until the fourth round. He will give the Lions quality depth.
Michael Burton – FB – Rutgers
I felt Burton was more of a free agent type, but he can block and is a reliable receiver out of the backfield
Quandre Diggs – DC – Texas
Diggs has the suddenness and overall cover skills required. He just lacks height. He will struggle versus taller receivers.
Corey Robinson – OT – South Carolina
Robinson may be a late pick, but don’t be surprised when he becomes a starter in year two or three.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Some Top Names for Day 2

With the second and third rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft being held tonight, there are plenty of good football players still available to clubs. Some of these players were looked at as potential first round picks, so the teams at the top of the order have a lot to choose from.
The best name on the board is LSU tackle La’el Collins who was considered to be a top 15 player. The question about Collins is if he will be drafted at all with his name being tied to a Baton Rouge murder case. Though police say he is not considered a suspect, just the fact that they want to talk to him has been enough for many teams to take him off their board until the case is solved. Though it is unfortunate for Collins, after the Aaron Hernandez case, you can’t blame clubs.
As for the players who will get drafted tonight, there are three quarterbacks on that list starting with Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson. The others are Baylor’s Bryce Petty and UCLA’s Brett Hundley.
The top running backs available are Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Boise State’s Jay Ajayi. Don’t be surprised to see Miami’s Duke Johnson also drafted tonight.
Going into the draft, the wide receiver class was considered close to last year’s group, and there are still some very good players available. Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong leads the group and if it weren’t for a wrist injury, he may well have gone in the first round. After Strong, the list includes Ohio State’s speedy Devin Smith, Florida State’s Rashad Greene and Oklahoma’s Dorial Green-Beckham.
There hasn’t been a tight end drafted yet, and I would think that three have a good chance of hearing their names called tonight. Minnesota’s Maxx Williams is the top tight end, followed by Clive Walford from Miami and Devin Funchess from Michigan.
In my opinion the best offensive lineman left is Pitt’s T.J. Clemmings. Clemmings has as much upside as any offensive linemen in the draft. Another very athletic tackle is Oregon’s Jake Fisher. As for the guards, the group is led by Penn State’s Donovan Smith, Tre’ Jackson from Florida State and A.J. Cann form South Carolina. There have been some reports that Jackson may have a knee problem so keep that in mind if you don’t hear his name called. In the third round, it would not be a surprise if Hobart guard Ali Marpet gets a call.
On defense, the best player available is Nebraska’s Randy Gregory. A month ago, many felt he was a sure fire top 10 selection. After failing the drug test at Indy and showing up for workouts at under 230 pounds, his stock has dropped. I feel it’s safe to say he will get picked sometime early in the second round.
As for the defensive linemen, Florida State’s Eddie Goldman and Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips are the names that stand out. Each could have very easily gone in the first round. The other defensive lineman who will go high in the second round is Florida State defensive end Mario Edwards Jr.
The edge rushers in this draft are a talented group and there still are quite a few highly productive players left. Eli Harold from Virginia, Nate Orchard form Utah, and Hau’oli Kikaha from Washington head the list. A small school name to remember is Davis Tull from Tennessee – Chatanooga.
There are still four very good inside linebackers on the board. Benardrick McKinney form Mississippi State heads my list, followed by Paul Dawson from TCU. The other two are a bit undersized but also extremely productive. They are Denzel Perryman from Miami and Eric Kendricks from UCLA.
At corner, three names jump out and two are both from Florida State. P.J. Williams lacks elite speed but has excellent cover and ball skills. Ronald Darby is one of the fastest corners available. LSU’s Jalen Collins would have gone in the first if it weren’t for failed drug tests while at LSU. Some other names at that position who will warrant consideration are Charles Gaines from Louisville and Quinten Rollins from Miami (Ohio).
At the safety position three names jump out. The first, Landon Collins from Alabama was thought to be the best safety in this class. The other two are Utah’s Eric Rowe and Louisville free safety Gerod Holliman. Holliman has great ball skills but is very average in run support.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

NFL Draft: First round in review

As expected, Tampa Bay opened the draft by selecting Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Also as expected, the Tennessee Titans selected Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. There was a lot of talk about teams trying to trade into the second position, but I think Tennessee’s asking price was too high for any team to pay.
Jacksonville was up third and also did the expected, drafting Florida defensive end Dante Fowler. He is a perfect fit for the Jag defense and gives them a presence coming off the edge. The Oakland Raiders had a choice to make between USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. They went with the Al Davis type choice in selecting Cooper. The surprise to that point of the draft was Williams was still on the board.
With Washington up at the five spot we had the first surprise of the draft. They selected Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff. Scherff is an excellent player but is five too high for him? Time will tell.
The Jets probably had no idea Leonard Williams would still be on the board when they were up. Looking at the gift, they select Williams, who many feel was the best player in this draft. This was an excellent start for new General Manager Mike Maccagnan.
I thought that the Bears might be looking at trading down, but with both Vic Beasley and Kevin White on the board they had a choice of two solid players. With Brandon Marshall traded, the Bears got his replacement in West Virginia’s Kevin White. No real surprise here.
It was supposed to be a lock that Bud Dupree would be drafted by the Falcons, but with Vic Beasley still on the board they went with the more natural pass rusher. This was an excellent choice for Atlanta, as it’s very difficult to find top edge rushers and that is what Beasley is.
The Giants had to get a pass blocker, and they got a big one in Miami’s Ereck Flowers. Flowers still is a bit raw but has tremendous upside. Through nine picks, one of the biggest surprises was there were no trades. So much for the pre-draft rumors.
With the tenth pick, St. Louis took Georgia running back Todd Gurley. There is no question Gurley was the best back in the draft before his injury. Will he still be the same back post-surgery? We won’t know the answer to that until fall and maybe not even then. It might be 2016 before Gurley is back to what he was early last fall.
The pre-draft chatter was the Vikings were favoring Michigan State corner Trae Waynes. The chatter proved correct as that was who Minnesota took. With the NFC North loaded with receivers, you have to have guys to cover them. A great pick by the Vikes.
In my mock draft on Wednesday, I felt Cleveland would take DeVante Parker, the big receiver from Louisville. Cleveland failed to take a receiver last year and it haunted them. I figured they would then take nose tackle Danny Shelton with the 19th pick. I was wrong as they took Shelton at the 12 slot. Shelton is a perfect fit for what Cleveland wants at nose tackle.
I don’t think there were many who felt that New Orleans would go offensive line with their pick, but that’s what they did, selecting Stanford tackle Andrus Peat. I felt Peat was one of the best offensive lineman in this class. He played in an NFL system and has been very productive in both the pass and run game.
Miami selecting DeVante Parker was a mild surprise, but he is a big, fast and productive receiver who gives Ryan Tannehill another weapon..
At 15 we finally had a trade, with San Diego moving up to draft Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. The Chargers had a huge need at the position and Gordon was the last back with first round value in this draft. After going two years with a running back being drafted in the first round, we saw two go in the top 15 picks.
Houston’s selection of Wake Forest corner Kevin Johnson was also a mild surprise. Not that he wasn’t deserving. He is easily the second best corner in the draft. To me the surprise is that Houston drafted a corner. That said, in the NFL, corner is one of the most important positions on the defensive side of the board.
I don’t know if I know anyone who didn’t have San Francisco selecting Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead. They had a need and Armstead has as much upside as any player at that position.
Andy Reid isn’t afraid to take a risk. He has done it a number of times over the years and usually it works out well. This year, he selected Washington corner Marcus Peters who may have the best overall cover skills in the draft. While he lacks great top end speed, his instincts and ball reactions are outstanding.
Cleveland was up again at 19, and again I felt they would go wide receiver. Again I was wrong, as they chose Florida State center/tackle Cam Erving. I can’t criticize as offensive line was also a big need and Erving has more versatility than any other lineman this year. With this draft being strong at the receiver position, maybe they will go receiver in the second round.
Philly drafted one of the most underrated players in the draft. USC’s Nelson Agholor is a great route runner, with soft hands and excellent run after ability. On top of that he is an outstanding return man. Chip Kelly got himself a very good player with the pick.
In recent weeks, I was told by a few scouts that Texas A&M tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was a lock for the first round. He was doing well with his rehab and there were a group of offensive line coaches who really liked him. That proved true as Cincinnati selected Ogbuehi at number 21.
A few days ago I wrote that Bud Dupree was my most over rated player, I based that on the fact that many analysts felt he would be drafted in the top 10. I thought that he was more of a “20 to 25 guy”. Pittsburgh selected Dupree at 22. He is a good fit for the Pittsburgh scheme.
At 23 Denver traded up for Shane Ray. Four days ago he was considered a top 10 pick but his being charged with pot possession hurt his stock. Denver got a steal with this pick.
Arizona had needs on the offensive line, by getting Florida’s D.J. Humphries they got a young and athletic left tackle who is still developing.
In Ron Rivera’s defense, the Will linebacker is a very important position. Undersized Shaq Thompson is the type of player who will excel as a Will in that scheme.
Ozzie Newsome always seems to come out of the first round with a great player. That was again the case last night as the Ravens got Dez Bryant clone Breshad Perriman. Perriman is big and physical and can be a defensive backs nightmare in one on one situations.
Dallas who had multiple defensive needs, got one of the stars of the Combine when they selected UConn corner Byron Jones. He will be an excellent matchup with the taller receivers in the league.
I like Duke guard Laken Tomlinson but not as a first rounder. He is a big, powerful bulldozer in the run game and keeps improving in pass pro. The question is, could they have gotten him a little later?
Colts’s offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton just keeps adding firepower this off-season. Wideout Phillip Dorsett is the fastest receiver in this class.
The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said Wednesday night that Arizona State safety Damarious Randall was the fastest “riser” in the draft. With Green Bay selecting the speedy cover guy at 30, Mayock became very prophetic.
New Orleans said they had to improve their defense and they got the most athletic inside linebacker available in Clemson’s Stephone Anthony. Anthony also has top instincts and can be a very physical tackler.
The Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots closed out the first round by selecting Texas’s versatile defensive lineman Malcom Brown. Brown has the ability to play anywhere along the line for the Pats.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

NFP Prospect Focus: Shaq Thompson and Hau'oli Kikaha

The University of Washington has several top defensive players in this draft. We have already profiled nose tackle Danny Shelton and corner Marcus Peters. Today will look at one of the more interesting players in the draft, Shaq Thompson, as well as fellow outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha.
Shaq Thompson – OLB – Washington
6001 – 228 – 4.64
Thompson is interesting in that he could probably play three different positions at the NFL level and be a solid player at each. He has played safety, linebacker, and running back while at Washington. This past season, he got considerable playing time at both linebacker and running back and looked good at both.
Strong Points –
A true two way player, he has played both linebacker and running back well in 2014. He played some safety as a freshman and is very athletic with excellent change of direction, burst, and overall body control. He is an aggressive playmaker on both sides of the line of scrimmage, shows good linebacker instincts, and is very good in coverage, with good hands and ball skills.
Weak Points –
His weaknesses are his size for linebacker and speed for a running back. Having to play running back this year hurt his linebacker development. He runs too tall when at running back. He can be a bit slow to shed blocks and is not a top stack linebacker.
Summation – Shaq made it clear at his pro day that he wanted to play linebacker in the NFL. That said, the team that drafts him will play him where they want. My opinion is that he is a 4-3 Will linebacker in a 1-gap scheme. He needs to get to about 235 but he has the speed, quickness and instincts to excel at that position. He has excellent upside as a defensive player, but he needs to be in the right scheme. His versatility will allow the team that drafts him to use him in various ways while he is learning the NFL game.
Hal’oli Kikaha – OLB – Washington
6024 – 249 – 4.90 (pro day)
Strong Points –
Kikaha was a consistent two year starter at the University of Washington. He plays the game at a high level of intensity. He is a good athlete who shows good change of direction and explosiveness. He looks and plays faster than he times. He plays like a 4.75 type. He has excellent pass rush production, with 32 sacks over the last two seasons. He knows how to use his hands. He has the frame to get a little bigger. He is a top character guy who was Pac-12 All Academic.
Weak Points –
He lacks the size to play down as a defensive end, has very average timed speed (4.90), and needs work and has limitations in pass coverage. He is better in zone than he is in man. He has average arm length (32.5) for a pass rusher.
Summation –
Kikaha played as a standup defensive end at UW. He is a productive and relentless pass rusher and that showed not only at UW but at the Senior Bowl. With his marginal timed speed, some teams may try him at DE, but he lacks the size and growth potential for that position. He will need time to develop his pass coverage skills but should produce as a designated pass rusher as a rookie. He should be a starter by year two.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe