Who Caught My Eye Week 13 & More

December 2, 2015

The last full weekend of College Football game action is over. And Bowls will nurture us for the next month plus. I watched 6 games starting last Friday and taped 10 more. I’ll use notes from those venues to generate prospect thumbnails over the next 2-3 weeks. Here are my observations from this past weekend. It’s a Baker’s Dozen to get started and I’ll use those game tapes to bring you more later this week, or next Monday.

Clearly BELL is one of the best all-around S prospects in the nation. Though not quite the ideal size for today’s S position he is not bashful in laying hits on receivers and runners. He seems to have a 6th sense for locating the ball. At times it is hard to look at stats and get a feel for the true value of players that populate loaded rosters like he Buckeyes. But I think his 2015 season stats reveal his versatility on the field. BELL totaled 63 tackles, including 1 TFL, 2 INT, 9 PBU and 1 fumble recovery. The stats are good but don’t tell you how well he understands the dynamics of the game around him, which is critical at the S spots. He played a very intelligent and controlled game in helping the Buckeyes dismantle the Wolverines last weekend. He’s a veritable traffic cop in that Ohio State secondary. If he decides to go pro expect him to post some excellent numbers at the Combine and thrust himself into the second round. Despite my overall high regard for him as a prospect, I do not see him as elite enough to warrant a first round selection however.

Yes I know he’s too short, too light and too slow to make an elite RB for the NFL. But he does all the little things you ask of a back-up RB in the NFL. I don’t believe he’s going to ring the bell with his speed at the Combine, but I have seen him break runs of over 50-yards 3 times this season. He ran wild again against Nebraska to help the Hawkeyes wrap up a perfect 12-0 regular season. CANZERI carried 17 times, for 140 yards and 2 TD. His long run this day was a 68-yard TD romp. He has decent hands and will give effort in pass-pro. He has been shaken up for short periods throughout his collegiate career and missed multiple games.This season he has 964 yards rushing, in 10 games, having missed 2 games to injury. He’s certainly not a potential NFL star, but I don’t see why he can’t carve out a roster spot in the League much like former Cornhusker REX BURKHEAD. His quickness and shiftiness will serve him well as a pro, if not in the NFL perhaps in Canada.

CHESSON had a whopping 14 catches in 2014. He has come to life in 2015 under new HC JIM HARBAUGH and his offensive system. He’s a long gifted athlete who has a chippy attitude which he still shows on Special Teams units. He blocked a 4th Quarter punt just as the Wolverines started to mount a comeback attempt. He is best on coverage units, not returns as you might expect. Against Ohio State you can’t blame CHESSON for lack of productivity. He hauled in 8 balls for 111 yards and a TD.On the season JEHU totaled 45 catches (2nd on team) for 14.4 yds/catch and 8 TD. He uses his length well in working the sidelines and can highpoint the ball with his vertical jump. His hands are reliable and once he catches the ball he can streak downfield with his long strides. He is also willing to fight in a crowd and it often takes multiple defenders to finally get him down. He is clearly now RUDOCK’s go-to guy. I fear he has shown too much this year to stay in school Wolverine fans, especially late in the season. I’d rank him as a Day Two draftee right now. He may decide to make hay while the sun shines.

With the emergence of PAXTON LYNCH at Memphis this mid-major star has lost some of the pub he earned in 2014. But it is not from lack of productivity or pro potential. DOUGHTY just led the Hilltoppers to their first 10-Win season in school history. And he personally just wrapped up a second straight year of passing for over 4,000 yards and 40 TD. And he’s not just whipping up on little boy teams. Last week, against perennially sound Marshall he passed for 27/39- 69%- 370 yards and 5 TD, with no INT. He reminds me a bit of AARON RODGERS at CAL with his current throwing style and his body frame. He’s working on beefing up a bit, and like RODGERS, I’d bet he’ll get to 220, in a couple of seasons. His arm is strong and he can make all the throws, as they say. He also has nice touch on his throws. He can zing it when he needs to, but he seems to take no delight in trying to break receivers’ fingers. He lives with his playbook and already has high FBI. He is willing to trust his receivers and throw timing routes. He sees the whole field and looks to be going through receiver progressions on a regular basis. He’s in my Top 5 QB prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft.

It does not look like a very good year for TE prospects for the 2016 Draft, but if HENRY decides to come out he looks to be a good one and probably rises to the top of the TE list.
He doesn’t have huge numbers in great part because the RAZORBACKS, under HC BIELEMA, like to pound the ball on the ground. And make no mistake HENRY is a solid contributor to the blocking effort to power that running game. But he also displays excellent hands, and can get open deep. I was very impressed with his effort against MISS STATE two weeks ago. What really caught my eye was an ankle injury that took him off the field late in the 1st Quarter. He went to the bench to get checked out and returned to action 2 possessions later with a re-taped ankle and a noticeable limp. He confined his play to blocking for a while but just before half-time started catching balls again. By the end of the day, which included another rousing Arkansas comeback, he had recorded 7 catches for 129 yards and 2 TD. In the official Arkansas season stat sheets HENRY is listed as having 0 drops this season. In an age where I get frustrated weekly by star receivers and their gameday drops I find that stat very encouraging. If he chooses to come out early I expect him to be the first TE drafted next April. He reminds me of guy I saw play a lot in Green Bay named MARK CHMURA.

Oregon was supposed to have the best set of OT in the nation in 2014 in JOHNSTONE & JAKE FISHER. Clearly the Football Gods decided no team deserved that big of a competitive advantage. So JOHNSTONE missed the entire campaign with toe and knee injuries. He’s back and looked as good as new playing LT for the Ducks in 2015. He’s a well proportioned athlete, and though long, he’s thick enough to battle in the trenches with the strongest DL. Playing in the diverse Duck offense means he’s well versed in both run and pass blocking. He is a natural knee bender and has a very solid hand punch that puts most defenders back on their heels. TYLER can fire out and pull or get to second level blocks, and stays fairly low out of his 3-point stance. He’s also blessed with good balance and stays on his feet. I am betting that when he gets to the Combine his weight will be over 300 lbs. I believe he is more pro ready than FISHER was coming out early last year. Right now I would project him in the Second Round. Hoping to see him in Mobile next month.

TANNER has been a wild card for the Badgers during his career under 3 Head Coaches. He has been asked to bail the team out as a QB, of all things, on multiple occasions. But despite his athleticism and FBI a lack of throwing accuracy doomed those experiments long term. This season with new HC PAUL CHRYST deciding to ride JOEL STAVE at QB, McAVOY found a permanent spot at S. And he turned in stellar efforts week after week, culminating in the big Win over MINNESOTA, which brought PAUL BUNYAN’s axe back to the Badger state for another year. McAVOY recorded 3 tackles and had 2 INT for the Badgers including the game clincher late in the 4th quarter. On the season he had 39 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 6 PBU and 6 INT. When you look at his size and overall athleticism it appears that it may be a challenge to determine exactly where he fits overall as a potential pro. But given his size, versatility and surprising athleticism it would seem likely that he gets a look near the end of the Draft and may stick on an NFL team in large part because of his versatility.

Teammate SHAWN OAKMAN gets almost all of the press on the other side of the DL, but in just about every Baylor game that I watched PALMER was the guy making more impact plays overall. He had only 5 starts in 2014 because of a knee injury. But he came back strong in 2015 showing no ill effects from said injury. Against TCU, at less than 250 lbs., PALMER was forced into playing DE in a 3-4 base set due to injuries in the DT corps. He held up quite well managing to total 5 tackles in the constant pouring rain, including 1.5 TFL and 1 sack. He also forced a fumble by BOYKIN in the 2nd Quarter of play. He has excellent all around athleticism and I expect him to test with the LB group at Indy. I also expect him to post some very impressive workout numbers within that group. He looks like an ideal specimen for an OLB spot in a 3-4 base scheme, and I would expect he can help produce some pass rush pressure from the outside. For the 2015 season PALMER recorded 5.5 sacks as well as 14 QBH. This guy had a nice college career without much fanfare. He’s one of those players who I can see having a more productive pro career than his college one. If he can impress in the post-season I’d not be shocked to see him drafted as high as the 4th Round.

If you had the patience to watch the BAYLOR/TCU monsoon game last week them you should have noticed this guy, just like I did. I thought I saw him make a lot of tackles on the sloppy field. But I was amazed when I saw the stat sheet that had him credited as being in on 13 tackles. Folks that’s a ton in one game for someone who plays the interior of the D-Line. Within that work number were 3.5 TFL, 1 sack & 1 fumble recovery. PIERSON is not stout enough to play on the nose in the NFL, but he should be effective in a DT rotation in a base 4-3 scheme. He has just enough agility to slide through some OL gaps and pressure the pocket. I think his arms are going to measure up as fairly short, which will hurt him overall as a prospect. I would also point out however, on the plus side, that he seemed to be out on the field for almost every defensive snap. After watching tape of that Baylor contest NFL personnel people in bad weather climates like Seattle, Green Bay, Buffalo, etc. should be making a note in his scouting profile that he seems to be a “mudder”. I like him as a late round draftee next April.

RAMSEY is clearly an elite athlete and a top notch NFL prospect. He bit the bullet for the team and switched to CB for the 2015 season. And he has done just fine thank you. He’s very physical and limits opposing receivers each week. He can catch up with plays going away from him and has no fear of providing man-cover when needed. He did an outstanding job against rival Florida last week, but their offense is very limited in the passing game. He’s a willing tackler and likes to occasionally go for the big hit. For the 2015 regular season RAMSEY had 43 tackles, 2TFL, 1 sack and 10 PBU. And even though he can blanket his receiver he has not shown the ball skills to get an INT. In fact it’s because of that lack of takeaways on the corner that I think his NFL position will be at S unless his team is desperate for a CB. He’s not quite as intense or vicious as the original, but I think his pro potential is similar to a guy from USC decades ago named RONNIE LOTT. Expect RAMSEY to come out and be a First Round selection even as a S. He’s that athletic and talented. He also seems to have a high FBI.

While watching DOUGHTY of WKU, I couldn’t help but notice REAVES and his explosive work in the Return Game. His 1st half, 95-yard Kick-off Return was like a demonstration tape of what to look for in potential Return Specialists. He showed sharp early cuts, without losing any speed through the gaps and then smooth jet-like sailing along the sideline with no one closing on him at all. He has also taken a Punt back for a TD this season, which makes him the first Marshall player to do so in one season since a guy named TROY BROWN, who is beloved by PATRIOTS fans. Now the really good news, from a prospect perspective, is the fact that REAVES finally won himself a starting job as a WR in this his senior season. He speedy, quick and elusive REAVES had two catches for 45 yards in the Loss to WKU. For the 2015 regular season he had 47 catches (2nd on team) including 4 TD grabs. It’s REAVES combination of speed and quickness that make him so dangerous. As a Punt Returner he had 13 returns for an average of 13.7 ypr and 1 TD. As a kick returner he brought back 22 for an average of 30.5 ypr and 2 TD. In this day and age in the NFL, where Special Teams play tilts the field of play and scoreboard in so many games I can’t believe this guy won’t be highly sought after in the later rounds next April. A lot of Special Teams Coordinators are going to be holding their breath and banging tables for their team to select this guy before someone else does.

REED came to Alabama in 2014 from the JC ranks. He has been the anchor of their talented DL since his arrival. He’s an interior strong boy whose best pro position will likely be as a DE in a 3-4 scheme. As most of you know ‘BAMA has been rotating a large and talented DL group over the past few seasons to great advantage. Accordingly individual stats can be unimpressive. There are only so many tackles to go around. But when you look at the final ‘Bama stats sheet for 12 games REED ranks 4th of all defenders with 50 tackles. He does a bit of everything including 2 PBU at the line of scrimmage and 6 QBH. But his real forte is just being an immovable object on that defensive front. He primarily occupies blockers and either stuffs runs himself at the line of scrimmage or keeps blockers off the LB corps which then amasses multiple tackles. The Crimson Tide DL has controlled games this season because of the stout play of their DL led by REED. He may not be a glamour boy but ask opponents who can’t be moved along that DL and REED’s name will come up almost every time. Because he’s not an edge rushing force I don’t see him as a First Rounder, but by Draft Friday expect him to be in high demand.

One of the big stories this season has been the fine play of the Cougars as they have put together an 11-1 record. This weekend they face TEMPLE in the AAC Conference championship game. Their Offense under the direction of QB/GREG WARD has been running up scores this season, but a stout defensive unit has also done its part. And by far the leader of their front 7 has been ROBERTS who has totaled 127 tackles in 12 games, which is quite a jump for a player who had 26 tackles in 2014. He was especially impressive in the team’s “upset” win over NAVY, where coaches used him primarily to “spy” Navy QB/AARON REYNOLDS. He really hindered REYNOLDS overall and thus slowed down the NAVY Offense, especially in the second half. When the day was over ROBERTS had recorded 7 tackles, which included 5 TFL and 2.5 sacks. In other words he spent most of his day in the Navy backfield. He will clearly make an immediate impact in the NFL on Special Teams with his speed, nose for the ball and ability to tackle in the open field. What he lacks in ideal height he more than makes up for in speed and his nose for the ball. The light really came on for ROBERTS under new DC TODD ORLANDO. I will be very surprised if he is not drafted, though he will certainly have to wait until Draft Saturday.