Now it’s time to finish up my group rankings as we prepare for the NFL COMBINE this coming week.
ILB Group There is always a bit of disagreement within the scouting community on ILB vs OLB, but not too many would dispute that the best pure LB prospect may be REUBEN FOSTER?alabama. FOSTER reminds me a lot of former ‘Bama ILB MOSLEY, now wit the RAVENS. FOSTER shows the ability to defend effectively against the run and pass, which means he’s more likely to remain on the field for all three downs. FOSTER should be in the first half of Round 1. RAEKWON McMILLAN/Ohio State, who also shows versatility born of his athleticism is the other probable 1st Rounder in this group, tho he will be later in the Round.
I project another 3 ILB to be taken in the Top 100 selections in April. The average number of ILB taken per Draft is 10, with 12 being taken in 2106. I think somewhere in that 10-12 is a realistic range this year.
A perplexing prospect has emerged this year within this position group by the name of ALEX ANZALONE/Florida. ALEX is a nice sized, very athletic defender, who covers the field with speed and a nose for the ball. He shows some pass rush ability as a blitzer and is adequate in mid-field coverage duty. His best spot might be Inside in a 3-4 scheme, at 6’3/240, with a 76 1/4″ wingspan. He was invited to the Senior Bowl and was a standout all week. But he has missed more games in his college career than he has actually started. In the contact sport of football it is very hard to ignore his preponderance of injuries. Who rolls the ice on him, and how high in the Draft may end up becoming an ongoing saga come April.
Group Grade: B
CB Group This should be an exceptional year for teams needing some CB help on their roster. And the variety to choose from is part of the reason. There are big press-cover guys and quick twitch slot cover guys. There are zone defenders who will run step for step with speed receivers. Most of these Corners are willing participants in run support. The cherry on the cupcake is that as a bonus there are numerous CB who are excellent Return Specialists as well.
I expect a half-dozen guys to be taken in Round 1: MARSHON LATTIMORE/Ohio St, SIDNEY JONES/Washington, QUINCY WILSON/Florida, TRA’DAVIOUS WHITE/LSU, MARLON HUMPHREY/Alabama & ADOREE’ JACKSON/USC. HUMPHREY might be taken as a S. I also see as many as 15 CB in the Top 100.
The average number of CB taken in a Draft is 33, with 35 taken last year. I look for the same number this year.
As we head to the Combine I strongly recommend that you keep your eyes and ears open whenever you hear the name of FABIAN MOREAU/UCLA mentioned. He’s a full sized guy @ 6’/204. He bounced back very nicely last season from a nasty knee injury the year prior. He looked excellent in his play in the Shrine venue, and had many wondering why he was not in Mobile as well.Based on pure talent and size he’s very close to being a first rounder. His medical evaluation will be critical, and if that knee checks out OK his speed and quickness numbers will be scrutinized closely. Many think that a healthy MOREAU could run a sub-4.4/40. If he does, put his name down in late Round 1 for a team like the PACKERS.
Group GRADE: A-
S Group This could be the deepest and most talented S group in some time. In this era of pass-happy offensive attacks the S slots have re-emerged in importance for teams looking to stop big plays, down the deep middle of the field. It is also fashionable again to have a S or two who can be effective and impactful for blitzing situations.
I have 4 Safeties slotted for Round 1, which is a high number compared to most years. Right now my four are JAMAL ADMAS/LSU, MALIK HOOKER/Ohio State, OBI MELIFONWU/UConn & JABRILL PEPPERS/Michigan. ADAMS & HOOKER could be Top 12-15 if they post the expected numbers at the Combine. Overall I project about 10 S going in the Top 100.
In a normal year the League drafts 18 S, with 17 going last year. Play the over if your in Vegas in April, as I could see about 20 being drafted this year.
A sure-thing to fall in the Top 100 should be one of the best CB in college football the past 2 seasons in DESMOND KING/Iowa. KING is a real ball hawk as well as a great tackler. Unless he proves otherwise in Indy, the expectation is that he will be a bit slow, and a tad tight in the hips to be considered an elite CB for the pro game. But he could become the next BOB SANDERS/Iowa, who folks in Indy remember fondly for his All-Pro play as a crunching S. IF you like the play of MICAH HYDE for the PACKERS, expect KING to be just a step above in overall ability.
Group GRADE: B+
THat’s a wrap heading into the Combine. There is no doubt that we will see the prospect meter shift a bit based on some players who exceed expectations in Indy, and some who disappoint a bit. It’s always fun if you are tracking the detail of prospect evaluations.
This group of prospects is a bit light on proven skill position stars, but is long on potential and very deep in talent in general. I’d be glad to swap my first rounder for extra picks in Rounds 2-3-4. There may be little to separate prospect 50 from 100, which will make it critical for teams to identify the players who really fit the schemes of their current coaching staffs. It could also precipitate a rash of trades late in Round 1. And remember this is the first year that teams are allowed to trade Compensatory Picks, which were just announced. One more bit of spice to stir into your Draft gumbo.