September 18, 2014

2010 Patriots Daily Senior Bowl Review

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

The Senior Bowl was played this past weekend in a sloppy showing that saw the North prevail over the South (what is this, 1865?), 31-13. There was no surrender at the Appomottox Court House, but there were plenty of first impressions of Senior prospects who’ll be in this year’s NFL Draft. Its important to note, sometimes players who had good weeks of practice have bad games. And sometimes players who aren’t all that good happen to have good games. This is just the first step in the evaluation process. The Combine will follow at the end of the month. There will be many school Pro Days and private workouts between now and then. Impressions will change. Players will race up and down “the charts” without playing much football. But still, the Senior Bowl is a fun tool for those of us who love the draft and love to see new players come into the NFL.

So what did we learn? Lets take a look, position by position, at the good, the bad and the ugly.

Quarterbacks:

Of course the story here was Tim Tebow, Florida’s legendary quarterback who’ll, no matter what you think of his NFL prospects, will go down as one of the great college players of all time. His day was uneven at best. He made some decent throws and actually completed 8 of 12 with at least one perfect throw being dropped. But still, the hitch in his delivery was present, the slow release and all the other technique issues that make him a project. I have always been a Tebow believer. I feel strongly the talent is there, the size, the smarts, the mobility, the arm, the accuracy even and with some good, NFL coaching for a year or two, he will be productive in the league. But its evident he has a long way to go. He did dispel the somewhat over-the-top criticism he can’t take a snap under center as he did so at least half the time Saturday. But he is a work in progress and it’ll take many, many more practices and much hard work before he is ready to successfully step on an NFL field as a starting quarterback. The best quarterback in the game right now was Tony Pike from Cincinnati. He displayed good field presence, accuracy and touch. Of all the guys on the field at QB Saturday, Pike was the one who looked most NFL ready.

Running back:

Dexter McCluster from Mississippi had an uneven day. He looked a bit sluggish as a receiver running routes and fumbled once when hit head on. He didn’t show his usual explosiveness in the return game either. But one late burst on a screen play late in the game was impressive and shows once he gets an offense down, the speed and elusiveness is there and can open up an offense. Joique Bell was a small school kid from Wayne State who got a chance to play with the big boys and had his moments. Early in the game he showed both power and speed running the ball. He has a good 220+ frame and good quickness. But he struggled later and did put a ball on the ground though the offense recovered. He has a ways to go but has some obvious talent and size. LeGarrette Blount from Oregon made a nice showing with power and hard running. He’ll need to answer character questions as he missed most of 2009 due to a suspension. And his speed is only adequate. He’s never been used much in the passing game. But he has power and size and runs hard. It was a good day for him and a good first step.

Wide Receiver:

Jacoby Ford from Clemson showed off his world class speed a number of times on a reverse early in the game and an electrifying punt return. For the Patriots, Ford would solve a lot of problems. He has the kind of rare speed to stretch the field while also being able to play effectively inside in the slot. He has great kick return potential as well. He may even last to the second round, where the Patriots have three choices. Jeremy Williams from Tulane had a generally good day with six catches and a long run on a reverse. He has good size at 6’1″ 201 and looked to be a solid route runner. But he did drop one easy perfect throw from Tebow that would have converted a first down. Mardy Gilyard from Cincinnati was probably the best receiver in the game, topping the 100 yard mark and scoring a touchdown. He also showed return ability. With more positive displays before the scouts such as this one, it would be no surprise if Gillyard ended up in the first round of the draft.

Tight End:

Alabama tight end Colin Peek had a workmanlike day where he displayed good wheels and nice hands down the seam. He is somewhat of an under the radar player who wasn’t featured too much by the Crimson Tide, but has good ability and nice height at 6’6″. The Patriots will likely be in the market for a tight end. Peek is the type of mid-round guy they just might love. He scored the South’s only touchdown of the day. Garrett Graham from Wisconsin also displayed good foot speed and hands and the ability to get down field and create match up problems for linebackers. The Patriots likely need a pass catching tight end type, unless they feel Rob Myers is a sleeper in that regard. And Graham was the on guy in this game who looked like he could fit that bill.

Offensive Line:

The best lineman of the day for me was LSU’s Cirion Black who showed a combination of strength, good footwork and relentlessness in playing the game. Much talked about guard Mike Iupati from Idaho struggled mightily early in the game at right guard and appeared uncomfortable there. Later, when he switched to his more natural left guard spot, he performed much better. Yet, he appeared more of a mauler type and not a particularly good athlete. The Patriots prefer better athlete on their line and Iupati did not appear to be their style of player. Boston College’s Matt Tennant struggled some at center and it appears he will need to gets stronger before he is ready to play in the league. Pencil him in as a mid-round choice who’ll have to undergo serious NFL strength and conditioning coaching and improvement. Arizona State’s Shawn Lauvao caught my eye holding his own against Alabama’s massive tackle Terrence Cody in the second half. Lauvao played mostly tackle this year for the Sun Devils, but played guard for them in the past. He played guard Saturday. The Patriots may like his tenaciousness and versatility, though it appears he may need to bulk up a bit as well.

Defensive Line:

There were two extremely impressive lineman for me during the game, those being Dan Williams from Tennessee and Cam Thomas from North Carolina. Williams has all the tools and could be a top 15 pick. He can play inside and outside in a 3-4 and would fit the Patriots perfectly, though they may have to move up to get him. He is polished, stout at the point of attack, plays hard and is very disruptive versus the pass. He seemed skilled at diagnosing screens as well. Thomas looked like a prototypical nose tackle who caused a ton of problems for opposing linemen. He had a sack, which isn’t his forte, but also was very stout against the run. At 330 lbs., he’d fit perfectly on the nose for a 3-4 team and improved his stock immensely on Saturday. Somewhat unheralded, he may now have moved up into the second round of the draft. Another player who really caught my eye was Georgia’s Geno Atkins who made a ton of plays and was very active. He may be a bit undersized for the Patriots, though he looks capable of being an end and could possibly fit with them there. A pure hustle player who looked like a 3-4 end to me and a more talented version of Mike Wright was Penn State’s Jared Odrick. The team that drafts Odrick will get their money’s worth as he can play all 3 downs and his motor never stops. He has solid talent as well and is equally good against both the run and pass. He is just a good football player, not spectacular at anything, but very good and hard working at all aspects.

Linebacker:

I included Michigan’s Brandon Graham here, though he played pretty much straight 4-3 defensive end in the game. Graham was easily the game’s MVP, racking up 2 sacks, causing a fumble and generally terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. Reportedly, the Patriots worked him out earlier this week and spent a lot of time with him. Mike Mayock compared Graham favorably to former Michigan end Lamarr Woodley, now a starting linebacker for the Steelers. To me, he reminded me somewhat of former Patriots Willie McGinest, albeit a bit shorter at 6’2″. In any event, his pass rush skills are beyond dispute after the display he put on Saturday. He is good against the run. The question is, can he play standing up at all? He didn’t Saturday. Can he be an outside linebacker? Should the Patriots even care anymore? What is wrong with having a designated third down rusher if he is superior at it? It says here Graham can convert to OLB, but it may take some time. He clearly is a good, physical and relentless football player. If he is merely a situational pass rusher his first year, so be it. But if you add him, he will make plays for you in 2010. One of the other two players who stuck out to me at linebacker was TCU’s Daryl Washington who was an inside linebacker in college but played outside Saturday. He was good, showing solid instincts in the passing game and good tackling ability. He has a 6’3″ frame but only checks in at 228 right now, a bit small for Patriots linebackers. But perhaps its time the Patriots not be so beholden at linebacker to “the mold.” Washington can play football. Its obvious. He is smart, he is physical, he’s quick, he’s a good tackler. At one time Tedy Bruschi was undersized for a 3-4 as well. That turned out all right. Washington can put on weight. And the Patriots should consider him even if he doesn’t fit their traditional requirements. San Jose State’s Justin Cole also looked to have a good day to me. He has more of the Patriots prototypical size and he’s played outside before. He has a little bit of everything, good size, movement, pass rush ability and long arms. He’s probably a mid-round choice but may make a good outside linebacker project for a 3-4 team. On the other side of the spectrum, Miami’s Darryl Sharpton I thought looked like he lacked instincts and didn’t pack a punch when he did make a tackle. I was unimpressed. South Florida’s George Selvie is a player I liked during the college year, but he is a college defensive end who is trying to convert to linebacker as well. He looked completely lost out there, as much as anyone on the field at any position, and did not make any plays. Though he has great size and talent, its apparent its going to take time with Selvie. While I’m not completely down on him and think there is plenty to work with to turn him into an NFL linebacker, that it will probably take him at least a year, maybe two, probably removes him from any first and possibly even second round consideration.

Defensive Back:

Probably the defensive back who had the best day was Florida State’s Patrick Robinson, a cornerback. Robinson looked comfortable and quick, providing good coverage and good run support. Solidly built he is another player who perhaps won’t flash the amazing athletic ability of other corners, but is solid in every way, tough, physical, smart and will be a good corner in the NFL for many years. Alabama’s Javier Arenas had an uneven day, displaying good instincts at time and making a nice return on special teams, but getting beat for a long touchdown by Gillyard. Arenas is a good player and reportedly a leader, but not talented enough to be a great corner in the NFL and is probably a mid-round choice. He’ll help some team with his excellent kick return ability, however. Two safeties who had good days include USC’s Taylor Mays, who had an interception and was active in run support and Nebraska’s Larry Asante. Mays at one time was considered a sure-fire top 5 pick. Then he had a mediocre year this year and its even a question whether he’ll go in the first round now. He did a lot to rehabilitate himself Saturday with a very strong day in which he looked like a leader on the field and played with intensity. Asante is a tough, physical, smart safety who’ll probably start in the NFL for ten years.

College Scout, September 5, 2009

by Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
September 5, 2009

Welcome to another year of College Scout. As usual, we’ll be spotlighting mostly senior top players in two nationally televised games, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. We’ll see who projects as particular fit for the Patriots and in some cases who doesn’t. Later in the year, we’ll look at some of the best juniors too, as some will undoubtedly enter the draft next April. I hope this weekly column adds to your enjoyment of the great sport of college football and your feedback, as always, is much appreciated.

Georgia at Oklahoma State, Saturday at 3:30 PM EST on ABC

Georgia heads to highly regarded Oklahoma State’s home turf a decided underdog, an unusual position for the Bulldogs. Georgia did lose a lot this offseason, such as their All-American quarterback and running back, but the cupboard is far from dry and there is a lot of talent left over. If they can pull off the upset here, this will be the last time all year they’re overlooked. Oklahoma State looks to be explosive on offense against this year. Here is who to keep your eyes on:

Georgia QB Joe Cox (#14)

Cox is a 5th year senior who has never had the chance to be the starter. He does now that Matt Stafford has gone on to the NFL. Cox has one previous career start. The highly recruited Cox has sat patiently waiting for his chance. He is a guy who was 31-0 as a starting QB in high school. Has thrown 58 career passses at Georgia, showing nice touch and a solid 5-1 TD/INT ratio. He doesn’t have the big arm Stafford has, nor the size, coming in at only 6’1″ 198. That size will hinder him getting a shot in the NFL, but he does have smarts and accuracy and moves around the pocket well. May project as a potential NFL backup. He has had the flu heading into this game, but is expected to play. Reportedly, Cox is a very well liked and respected teammate, and people appreciate the hard work he put in while waiting 5 years for his chance. He is a bit of an unknown, his size is a concern, but was well-regarded coming from high school and could play himself into being an NFL prospect. Asked this year after spring practice to name one pick as the team leader, 107 of 110 Georgia Bulldogs picked Joe Cox. That is a pretty impressive statement about his leadership as well.

Georgia DT Jeff Owens (#95)

The 6’3″ 300 lb. Owens came into last season a consensus All-SEC candidate only to be injured early in the first game. He  missed the rest of the season. He has started 24 games in his career and has been a very effective gap plugger, the type the Patriots would like. What he hasn’t done is make a lot of plays or sacks. He has only gotten to the QB 3.5 times in his career. Now recovered from injury, the very strong Owens has a chance to play himself into the first round of the NFL draft if he can add a bit of playmaking to his stout, physical mauling of offensive linemen. Owens may fit best at end in the NFL in a 3-4.

Georgia DT Geno Atkins (#56)

Atkins is a 6’1″ 290 lb. sparkplug for the Bulldogs whose play has him listed on many preseason All-Conference first team lists. Atkins, unlike his fellow lineman Jeff Owens, has been a consistent playmaker for the Bulldogs in his previous 3 years, generating 16 career sacks. He also has 73 career quarterback hurries. His size makes it questionable if he’d fit with the Patriots and may be more suited with his speed (4.8) and quickness to a Warren Sapp type role in a 4-3 one gap defense.

Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson (#11)

The 6’3 218 lb. Robinson directs the high powered Cowboys offense heading into a senior year of a college career that has already seen impressive statistical accomplishment. The mobile Robinson also possesses an excellent arm and the ability to step up in the pocket and throw on the move. He already is first in all-time career offense for OSU. He does have an NFL future and has the arm strength to play at that level. Playing in a spread offense, it’s difficult to tell how easily or quickly he could adapt to the NFL, but he has the size and strength missing in a lot of college spread quarterbacks. Reportedly he runs a very impressive 4.62. At the moment he is probably a mid-round choice and the offense he plays in hurts him. But if he shows in preseason the ability to adapt to other offenses and play under center, he could move up. Certainly for now, he remains one of the most exciting offensive weapons in college football.

Oklahoma State LB Patrick Lavine (#4)

The smallish Lavine checks in at 6’2″, 226 which is probably too small to play linebacker for the Patriots. But he is a tackling machine who could end up with more tackles than any player in OSU history. He relies on speed to get to the ball carrier and is also good in coverage. Lavine has NFL potential, but probably in a different type defense. For today, let’s see if he can back up his words as he has said he has waited two years to avenge OSU’s 2007 35-14 loss to Georgia.

Oklahoma State CB Perrish Cox (#16)

The 6’0″ 198 lb. Cox is not only one of the better cornerbacks in the country, he may be one of the best kick returners. Has taken 4 kickoffs back to the house and one punt in his first three years. A very exciting returner. But what’s more, he is a top-notch corner who makes plays there as well. Already, Cox is almost a sure-fire first day pick who intrigues with his size/speed combination. He is also a willing participant in run defense. Keep your eye on him as this is one guy on OSU that would fit the Patriots defense (and special teams) and could be a very high pick next year.

Virginia Tech vs. Alabama at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta 8:00 PM EST on ABC

Two very well coached teams face off with Alabama expected to be a national title contender and a touchdown favorite over the Hokies. The Hokies have some things to figure out on offense, having just lost last year’s freshman sensation running back Darren Evans to a season-ending injury a few weeks ago. Defense is the strong point for each team. Expect a close, hard fought, physical contest. Here is who to watch for:

Virginia Tech TE Greg Boone (#8)

Somewhat of a freak size-wise for a tight end, Boone checks in at 6’3″ 280 lbs. But he does have some pass catching ability, having pulled down 38 catches for 513 yards in his career. He has good hands and obviously can block at his size. There may be some consideration for using him at tackle since he has obvious athletic ability. The Pats could conceivably consider a project like this, as they have had other converted tight ends come thru their system as tackles before. Probably would never be more than a second tight end in the NFL and thus a late round choice.

Virginia Tech CB Stephen Virgil (#22)

Became a starter as a junior in 2008 and had a very impressive year with 6 INTs. Also returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Has 2 career blocked kicks. Has good corner size and runs a 4.39. He comes into the year as VT’s top cornerback and could move way up into the first round with improvement.

Alabama DE Brandon Deadrick (#95)

The 6’4″ 287 Deadrick has the height to possibly fit at end in the kind of 3-4 the Patriots run. Has started 21 career games heading into the year and has 6 career sacks. Will only be 22 at draft time. Has the frame to put on a bit more weight and one senses he hasn’t quite finished improving as a player. Possible first day pick who, under Nick Saban, has familiarity with a system similar to what the Patriots have.

Alabama NT Terrence Cody (#62)

The massive 6’5″ 365 lb. Cody dominates the middle of the ‘Bama line at nose tackle. So massive, he makes Vince Wilfork look tiny. Nicknamed “Mount Cody”, he’s on every first team All-American list as the nose tackle. Was a big part of Alabama having the second best run defense in the country last year. Just a massive man who should clog up the middle of lines in the NFL for a long time. Perfect fit for the Patriots in a 3-4. He is a bit more athletic than you’d think, as big as he is. Strong and works hard. Keep your eye on him. Should be interesting to see how he plays against a spread-type team and if that is one way to neutralize his dominance.

E-mail Greg Doyle at [email protected]