Considering the 2011 draft?

Considering the 2011 draft?

More underclassmen are bandied about in this week’s News Around the Nation segment!

BYU’s blindside protector may be the most interesting of note.

With a huge week of college football on the horizon, there is plenty to cover as Head Scout Brent Sobleski and Founder Tony Pauline quip amongst themselves.

Regular weekly segments (Taking Stock, Full of B.S., and Weekend Preview) all come back with a vengeance.

And more!

After listening to the podcast, all conversation can be directed to the site’s FORUMS.

If any questions or comments persist, the show can be contacted via e-mail at tfypodcast@hotmail.com.

Tune in next week.  Same Draft Insider time.  Same Draft Insider channel.

Three weeks of the NFL season are in the books and many first-day picks are starting to become more comfortable in their new homes. Chris Tripodi breaks down those Week 3 performances.

Jimmy Clausen (QB-Car)

Clausen got his first career start Sunday against the Bengals and the former Notre Dame star had his share of struggles. He had three fumbles on the day, the first coming on the Panthers’ first drive of the game. Clausen fumbled two center-quarterback exchanges, an issue he had during training camp, and also botched a handoff to running back Mike Goodson in the second half.

Exchange issues weren’t the only problem for Clausen on Sunday. Clausen completed just one pass in the first half and finished the game 16-for-33 for 188 yards and an interception. He had issues looking off the Cincinnati safeties all day and struggled driving throws on deep passes, resulting in his lone interception on a deep ball to Steve Smith.

Clausen is definitely a work in progress at this point, but will get another chance to start in Week 4 against the Saints. He is their quarterback of the future and the Panthers should stick with developing him with little hope of competing, but Matt Moore could see another opportunity in the coming weeks if Clausen can’t take care of the football.

C.J. Spiller (RB-Buf)

The Bills first-round pick out of Clemson, Spiller showed his game-breaking ability in limited Week 3 action. He ran just 4 times for 29 yards, but that included a 19-yard run where he busted through a small hole and bounced outside, beating Brandon Meriweather to the sideline. The Bills got creative with Spiller three plays later, lining him up outside for a screen pass that resulted in an easy 5-yard touchdown.

Spiller also returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the third quarter, splitting another small hole to beat half of the Patriots coverage team in a small space and bounce off the kicker on his way to the endzone. He showed off his 4.3 speed and no Patriot was within 10 yards of him when he crossed the goalline.

The major knock on Spiller is a lack of toughness and inability to finish off runs, which may prevent him from ever being a featured workhorse in the NFL. But his talent is unquestioned and he should be the big-play threat the Bills have lacked for years on offense. He may get more carries as the season goes on and the Bills fall further out of contention and should develop into a Reggie Bush-type of weapon in Buffalo.

Rob Gronkowski (TE-NE)

The second New England tight end profiled in my rookie reports, Gronkowski was drafted two rounds earlier than Aaron Hernandez but has been a much smaller part of the Patriots passing game. He may have slightly more interior blocking ability than Hernandez but both are players who will be more involved in the passing game, a good fit for the New England system.

After recording just one catch in each of the first two games, including a one-yard touchdown in Week 1, Gronkowski caught 3 passes for 43 yards and another touchdown against Buffalo in Week 3. He has been targeted just 6 times by Tom Brady compared to 15 for Hernandez, who has more catches in each of the past two weeks (6) than Gronkowski has all season (5)

While Hernandez’s speed, agility and ability to create yards after the catch make him a better option between the 20s, Gronkowski’s four-inch height advantage makes him Tom Brady’s preferred target in the red zone. That trend should continue and New England will use both players even more as the season goes on.

Daryl Washington (LB-Ari)

Washington, the 47th overall pick out of TCU, has stepped right into the Cardinals’ starting lineup alongside Paris Lenon on the inside and has been a tackling machine, recording 20 tackles in his first three professional games including 10 in Week 2 against Atlanta.

Washington came out of college as an outside linebacker prospect due to his lack of size (6-2, 230), a tendency to get caught inside and an inability to laterally scrape off blockers. But he has held his own on the inside so far and should be able to stay there if he continues to mature physically and adds strength. His rapid improvement over his final two seasons in college and his quick transition to the NFL also bode well for his future as starter.

Kareem Jackson (CB-Hou)

The Texans first-round pick in April’s draft, Jackson has started all three games for Houston this season and shows promise in both coverage and run defense. He’s had at least 4 tackles in all three games and 16 total, while defending 3 passes as well.

He has had his share of rookie issues as well, including this week against Dallas. Lined up in press coverage against receiver Roy Williams in the fourth quarter, Jackson lost the physical battle and got beat quickly to the inside. Jackson couldn’t stay on his feet as Williams caught a quick slant from Tony Romo that turned into a 63-yard touchdown, as Jackson couldn’t catch up after getting back on his feet.

Jackson has the potential to be a complete corner in the NFL and, despite losing out to Williams on Sunday, is extremely physical in bump-and-run coverage. If he can iron out the rough edges of his game, Jackson could turn into an effective shutdown corner for the Texans in a few seasons. But this year, expect some struggles.

Walter Thurmond (CB-Sea)

A fourth-round pick out of Oregon, Thurmond saw extensive playing time for the first time this season due to Marcus Trufant’s injury issues and responded with 8 tackles and a pass defensed against the Chargers. He was a highly-rated cornerback prospect before a serious season-ending right knee injury four games into his senior season that required surgery.

Thurmond is limited in terms of size (5-11, 190) and speed (4.55) but has very good awareness and ball skills and is aggressive both in coverage and against the run. A four-year starter with the Ducks, his upside may be limited to nickel and dime packages and spot-start duty due to his size and speed limitations, but he’s a polished corner that can definitely make an impact on the field when placed in the right situations.

Earl Thomas (S-Sea)

Thomas has been excellent in his first three games with the Seahawks, recording at least 6 tackles in each contest. But he broke out in a big way against Philip Rivers and the Chargers in Week 3 with two interceptions.

The first came on a tipped pass where Thomas was simply in the right place at the right time, but he showed off his speed on a 34-yard return that set Seattle up around the Chargers’ 10-yard-line when many other safeties may not have made it into the red zone. His second pick came on the game’s final play, where he took advantage of double coverage and jumped a pass intended for Legedu Naanee to seal the win for the Seahawks.

These interceptions more than made up for Thomas being late on a early 49-yard completion from Rivers to Buster Davis, where Thomas could’ve come up with a third interception if he got to the spot a second or two sooner.

Thomas’ combination of good ball skills, great hands and an aggressive, hard-hitting mentality should more than make up for a lack of size (5-10, 202) that was one of the few knocks on him out of Texas. After three weeks, he looks like a star in the making.

Eric Berry (S-KC)

While Earl Thomas is shining in Seattle, Eric Berry is dealing with a few early struggles in Kansas City. Against San Diego in Week 1, he allowed Antonio Gates to get inside on a touchdown pass and later overcompensated for Gates’ presence, allowing Legedu Naanee to get behind him for a long touchdown.

In Week 2, he bit hard on a play-action fake and missed his help responsibility on a long touchdown reception by Josh Cribbs. He also took a bad angle to the action after a completion to Ben Watson, allowing Watson to gain an extra 20 yards after the catch.

On the positive side, Berry has also been extremely stout in run support and has shown the ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, totaling 17 tackles including 2 for a loss against the Browns. He made just 4 tackles in Week 3, but avoided the big mistake against a struggling San Francisco passing game.

Berry oozes potential and has looked great at times but mistakes are to be expected from any rookie, even a safety taken in the top five. The early reports on Berry have been mixed but once he gains more NFL experience, he should be able to cut down on his mistakes in coverage and blossom into the playmaker that most scouts expect him to be.

(9/28/10 Edition)

(9/28/10 Edition)

A rather uneventful college football weekend, relatively speaking, presents an abridged version of this edition of the Weekend Watcher.

Head Scout, Brent Sobleski, returns for his favorite weekly addition.

All eyes were on Fayetteville Saturday afternoon for the weekend’s marquee meeting between Alabama and Arkansas.

The top two prospects worthy of note, Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and Alabama’s Marcell Dareus were both underwhelming for differing reasons.

Clearly, the three interceptions thrown by the Razorbacks’ signal caller were both inopportune and devastating to his team’s lack of success. But with Mallett in particular, his continued growth as a quarterback is becoming an interesting story.

Statistics can be manipulated but in attempts to compare like opponents (since ‘Bama’s defense is entirely different from last season); Mallett showed tremendous improvement against the Crimson Tide almost a year after he first faced their impregnable defense…

2009 – 12/35, 34.3%, 160 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

2010 – 25/38, 65.8%, 357 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT

How the Tide approached the titanic gunslinger is a testament to his ever evolving ability.  Early in the contest, the nation’s best defense sat back in zone coverage waiting for Mallett to make an inevitable mistake, like he has been prone to do early in his career. While the mistake would eventually come, Mallett pried apart the Alabama defense when they made their own mistakes. He found wide open receivers who came unglued from their coverages. A very different approach by a quarterback with a history of forcing the ball downfield with less than pinpoint accuracy.

In the second half, Alabama became much more aggressive, forcing the tempo, sending multiple blitz packages which got to the 6-feet-6-inches tall quarterback causing more mistakes.  Mallett still finished 10-16 in the half, but that did include the two terribly thrown interceptions which sealed his team’s fate.

It may not be much of a consolation prize, but Ryan Mallett has grown as quarterback since his third start in a Razorback uniform, despite certain lingering concerns within his skill set. Now the question will continue to linger, can he be considered an elite prospect despite those limitations?

Defensive lineman, Marcell Dareus, looked good early before having an ankle clipped near a pile thus rendering the top rated end ineffective throughout the second half.  His initial play displayed the raw power which makes him unblockable at times to opposing teams.

Dareus already possesses an NFL build, plays with leverage, and muscles opponents. He is not as polished resulting in the same type of dominance as an Ndamukong Suh of last year, but physically is similar. Some issues do arise when the end does not make the correct hat read and was seen coming out the backdoor of blocks too often for scouts’ liking. His hustle often makes up for the mistakes, working down the line hard, and often making tackles on the opposite side of the field.

Wanting to watch heralded linebacker, Dont’a Hightower, closely, his play was often overshadowed by his running mate, Nico Johnson. Hightower entered ‘Bama’s program with high expectations. It was said he may have even been more talented than recent top ten overall selection, Rolando McClain. Much like McClain, Hightower presents and impressive combination of size and ability as a 6-feet-4-inches tall and 260 pound Mack backer. The interior linebacker has yet to show the athleticism and explosiveness once seen prior to his torn ACL last season.

Hightower was much more effective in a straight line, taking on lead blockers with reckless abandon, and timing his blitzes quite well. When asked to take on linebacker moving laterally or dropping coverage, Hightower labored.

Instead, Johnson popped off the film. The other sophomore inside linebacker was flying around the field.  In the scheme of a 34 defense, the Buck linebacker is expected to make more plays because of design. He is asked to flow over the top, coming free from blockers, and making tackles. Still, Johnson was a terror sideline to sideline making tackles near the line of scrimmage from the opposite side of the field. He has no troubles in coverage against tight ends or backs. And his drops are much more fluid than the previously discussed ‘Bama backer.

Only a true sophomore, Nico Johnson is already developing into one of the finest linebackers in the nation.

So many prospects in this game, yet seemingly so little time to cover them all.

Names such as Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams should be brought up as he continues to develop into a complete prospect. Instead of doing his damage purely from a slot or wing alignment, Williams was getting clean releases off the line to prove a viable target for Mallett.  The senior is average nearly five catches and 60 yards per game, which equate to an impressive 12 yards per reception from the position. His size, at a listed 6-feet-2-incehs tall, will be his biggest obstacle to overcome as the off season scrutiny eventually ensues.

Alabama junior Julio Jones is one of the biggest names in the entire upcoming draft class. Yet, he had his issues going up and retrieving the football in situations when his quarterback did not place the football well within his grasp.  Three times Jones was asked to make a play on the football.  Three times he failed. Going up and getting the football is a trait expected of a wide receiver of his caliber and eventual draft standing.

Last year’s Heisman trophy winner, Mark Ingram, continued to impress with his patient as a runner, toughness finishing runs, and immaculate footwork in and around the hole to find openings. He always plays his best against the best competition, and it was no different against Arkansas with 184 totals yards and two touchdowns.

Left tackle James Carpenter displayed issues which will give him fits if he does not correct his technique. The blindside protector played against his best competition to date and had his struggles.  Most are derived from a perceived lack of playing strength.  As a result, the 6-feet-5-inches tall and 300 pound senior rears into his punches to land them effectively.  He also gets far too wide in his base in his pass set, almost slipping and loosing his footing twice as the game progressed.  A very good collegiate football player, who may not have enough to be anything more than depth at the next level.

Thursday night, the “U’ traveled to Pittsburgh to face the underachieving Panthers.

Attention was placed on Pitt’s *other* defensive end, Jabaal Sheard, after All Big East performer Greg Romeus was lost to the team due to a back injury.  Sheard’s presence was felt throughout the game versus Miami, despite facing a solid trio of tackle prospects. Veteran blockers Joel Figueroa and Orlando Franklin, as well as the man mountain known as Sentreal Henderson, each surrendered pressure or sacks to the Pittsburgh linemen.

His quickness of the edge proved to be his most effective weapon but rips, underneath moves, and spins were all on display within his repertoire.

Issues arose, and will continue to do so, when offenses decide to run directly at the 260 pound edge rusher. Sheard is active at all times, trying to work off blocks, and working his way down the line in pursuit, but does not have the girth

Opposite, left tackle Franklin is an intriguing prospect. His size at 6-feet-7-inches tall and 312 pounds make him an ideal target for teams looking for a prototype line prospects.  Currently the team’s blindside protector, the Hurricane may be better served on the right side of the line. Far too often he is seen leading with his helmet, hands wide, and bent at the waist.  His footwork is solid in his kick step, but his punch once again is far too wide leaving his chest open.  As a result, Franklin was almost planted once in the first half was able to recover, barely.

Earlier, the play of an elite wide receiver prospect was discussed.  Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin is in a similar situation. He needs to step up his play against top competition. Miami did a wonderful job getting pressure up front, then bracketing the talented receiver behind.  But three catches in total, none in the first half, and 26 yards simply does not cut it. Pitt’s offense and Baldwin himself have to find ways to get open.

Since the Watcher is omnipotent, we shall go back in time.  After listening to the rave reviews TFY’s own Tony Pauline has bequeathed upon Nevada’s quarterback prospect, Colin Kaepernick, during the sites last podcast it was time to travel backward and review some slightly older tape.  This is definitely a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

Two issues presented themselves.

First is Kaepernick’s release. Not one looking to change a quarterback’s throwing motion, much like a baseball pitcher; Kaepernick’s side arm release at 6-feet-6-inches tall is of little concern.  The problem is how the ball is released from his grip.  Rarely does the Nevada signal caller spin the ball with a tight release, far from it.  Only once in the entire game against California did a tight spiral emerge from his grasp.  Balls will have issues getting to their targets if not thrown with more consistent spin.

Second is his running style. Kaepernick, a long and lean prospect, is completely upright when he takes off from the pistol. He is not built like Tim Tebow and will receive plenty of vicious blows from defenders in the National Football League transitioning behind center. It is a concern despite the amount of rushing attempts seen in college without harm.

Remember…the eye in the sky does not like, and the Watcher sees all.

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