DAVID BRIGHT #64 OT STANFORD 6’5/300. I don’t think this guy has gotten the credit he deserves for his all-around play out at LT for the Cardinal. Every time I watch Stanford play he impresses me with his steady work out at LT in both pass-pro and the all important run blocking in the Stanford ground and pound offensive scheme. Against USC my notes indicate that he has good athleticism and almost ideal size for today’s NFL where his pro team is likely to pass almost twice as much as it runs the ball. He mirrors DL very well in pass-pro, and also can move defenders to open the way on running plays. He should be able to get a bit stronger in an NFL weight room. He’s a full 6’5 and I am guessing his arms will pass the length test when measured at the Combine. Some places show him as only a RsJr, but I show that he sat out his frosh year on The Farm, and has played since the 2014. That tells me his eligibility is used up and he is not required to declare as an underclassman. He’s also on the Sr Bowl Watchlist, and I hope to see him in Mobile next month. He may not be an elite prospect, but his size and skills fit the NFL profile IMO. Maybe I like this guy more than many, but I see him starting in the NFL in a couple of years. Round 3 or 4 for me.
LORENZO CARTER #7 OB GEORGIA 6’6/242 CARTER came back for his senior campaign and has been rewarded with a key role on an SEC Championship team. He is not a tackle machine, but then again with UGA playing 20 guys on D every game there are only so man plays/tackles to go around. But he is an impact/flash player because he is an above average athlete and a good effort player. Take his work in the SEC Championship Game against Auburn. He was credited with 6 tackles, 4 of them solo, 1/2 TFL and 1 QBH. He ranges around the field, spending a lot of chase time in opponent backfields. He probably will fit best in a pro defense that uses a base 3-4 scheme, which will allow him more latitude to roam and blitz. He may not get to the QB a lot (5 sacks in 2016) but he is close and impacts the pocket as indicated by a QBH count of 13 in 2016. That number indicates that the QB is flushed out of the pocket, and/or is taking a hit just as he releases the ball. Those plays can be even better than an actual sack when the QB is forced into a bad throw and the play results in an INT in the secondary somewhere. I think CARTER will look good at the Combine, but I doubt he blows it up, although he should show well when his arms and hands are measured. I expect he will be a mid-round draftee and will be a very good situational player as a pro. Let’s project him in Round 5 for now. He could also help himself if the accepts an invitation to a Star Game next month.
TONY GUERAD #93 DE UCF 6’3/305 There is nothing quite like success for their team to heighten attention for more of its starting players. The undefeated UCF Knights are a prime example of that phenomenon this season. And Guerod is a good specific example. He was a second team All-AAC selection last season, when he tallied 62 tackles, which was second among returning defensive players for the Knights. The entire DL was encouraged to add some weight in the Training Room. GUEROD was touted this season to be at a bit over 300 lbs. and it really helped him hold up against the run, and to set the edge. He’s got the perfect body type for a 3-4 DE to my eyes. He is stout but can get some push into the backfield. He plays with good energy, stamina and strength to translate to an NFL job. He does well holding his ground against blockers and is able to finish plays with the tackle. For the Championship game he tallied 7 tackles, 3 solo, 1/2 TFL and 1 QBH. The average fan does not think of UCF and Defense in the same breath most of the time. But pro scouts know that to win all of their games requires a steady defensive effort to keep things under control. It should be noted that in 4 of 12 games, the UCF Defense held opponents to under 20 points. That may not be dominant but it clearly indicates the guys on D are putting out solid work. That’s especially true when you realize the tempo at which the Knights Offense plays, thus forcing opponents to pick up the temp or be left in the dusk. It will likely be late, but IMO GUERAD has a solid chance to be a late round draftee by a base 3-4 scheme defensive NFL team.
TRAVIN HOWARD #32 TCU 6’1/210 HOWARD will finish the 2017 college season with his second straight season of 100+ tackles. In a perfect world he’s a bit light for a pro LB job, but not quite fast enough for full-time work as a SS. But in today’s NFL he should fit seamlessly into a Nickel-LB slot ala BUCANNON/JOSH JONES and many more. Most NFL teams are looking for someone with the right combination of athletic gifts and intelligence to diagnose what opposing offenses are trying to do, then attack. He’s a smart player with good, if not great athleticism. In the big rematch with Oklahoma last weekend HOWARD was credited with 15 tackles, 6 of them solo. He’s instinctive to the ball and will throw his body into the fray to support the run Defense. I had several notes of impressive plays on his part against the Sooners. On the Sooners first possession of the game HOWARD was stride for stride downfield past 20 yards covering A-A TE/ANDREWS and was able to break up a long pass from Mayfield. Later on he ran down RB/ANDERSON from behind to prevent a long TD jaunt. He’s a great combination of high FBI, ball instinct and solid tackling technique. He’s that all purpose defender that NFL DC look for to carry out multiple roles in an attempt to slow down today’s high octane offenses. At the least I would expect HOWARD to be an early Day 3 draft selection.
RONALD JONES #25 RB SOUTHERN CAL 6’1/205 Jr The Trojan programs enjoys an advantage over many colleges in that the campus and football program is something that many of their players find hard to leave early. Thus some superior athletes stick around for 4 seasons of college competition instead of heading for the NFL game. He may prove me wrong, but it would seem to me that JONES should be ready to come out early for the 2018 Draft. He came into the 2017 season with his weight up to between 205-210 lbs., which NFL Scouts were hoping to see. He looked to have lost none of his breakaway speed with the added weight and put up his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. As a frosh in 2015 he just missed the 1,000-yard mark with 987 yards gained. JONES should be among the fastest runners in the RB group at the NFL Combine. He will run between the tackles and break tackles, but once in the open it’s Katy-bar-the-door as he heads toward the end zone. Let’s take a good look at RoJo’s stats for 2017: 1486 rush yards, 6.1 ypc, and 18 TD. I would also note that in 3 years his average per carry never slipped below 6 ypc. Even tho no RB in the NFL gets every carry, except a guy named BELL, I would expect JONES to become the primary ball carrier for his NFL team. He’s too talented and productive not to be the main rushing weapon. He’s at least a Round 2 Draftee if he declares. Some team might grab him late in Round 1. On the assumption that he has pro aspirations I would urge him to come out now before he faces another 200 carries in 2018, or ends up sharing time more with Stephen Carr, the next great Trojans runner.
DEE LINER #25 DT ARKANSAS STATE 6’3/325 LINER is an example of a top ranked HS player who takes a while to find a collegiate home and then develops his game late. LINER was a Top 100 High School prospect who originally committed to Alabama, but saw very little action in two years there. After transferring to State and sitting out a year he played sparingly in 2016. But he showed some of his latent ability in 2017 as a senior for the Red Wolves. In the season ending contest with Troy he controlled the middle of the line-of-scrimmage most of the night. He finished with 5 tackles, 4 of them solo, including 1 TFL and was also given credit for 1 QBH. He has a naturally big frame with a wide-base to anchor from. He uses his arms well to punch back at OL who try to jolt him with their initial hand punch. He will also keep his feet and pursue the ball along the line of scrimmage or even into the backfield with solid penetration. He still has the look of a pro level athlete, with highly desirable size and bulk to help anchor a 4-man DL. He might be able to play some NT in a diverse defensive scheme that plays both 3-4 and 4-3 sets. LINER might be considered as a late Draftee for a team that needs some bulk to bolster their DL group. If not he’ll surely get a chance in Training Camp as an URFA.
HARRISON PHILLIPS #66 DT STANFORD 6’4/290 RsJr This former High School wrestling champion still shows the tenacity and energy that former wrestlers often bring to the football field. Tough as nails, fits him well once he puts the pads on. He’s actually not the perfect body type for the Nose position where he lines up most of the time for Stanford. But his balance and excellent hand use help him make up for his lack of bulk. I would anticipate that he will actually be a better pro fit for a base 4-3 scheme, and will be an excellent fit for a team that uses an Eagle, 2 DL set, on passing downs. If you doubt his energy and hustle let me point to his stats for the big PAC-12 Championship game against USC. PHILLIPS, playing on the inside, was credited with 13 tackles, 4 of them solo, 1/2 sack and 1/2 TFL. Folks that a ton of production for a Nose Tackle. I find him to be an intriguing prospect, despite his lack of typical NFL bulk, because he is so athletic and runs with such a high rev motor. Much of his productivity stems from his wrestling mentality and refusing to stay blocked. He just frustrates the hell out of blockers. He’s a country-strong young man from the Cornhusker state. He missed his true soph year in 2015 to a medical redshirt, so he could opt to head for the NFL after the Bowl Game for Stanford. If he comes out for the 2018 Draft then I believe his medical at the Combine could be his biggest test leading up to the Draft. He’s going to ace the interview process. I cannot see him lasting beyond Draft Friday unless something really worrisome shows up medically.
TRE’QUAN SMITH #4 WR UCF 6’1/200 Jr By the time UCF is done playing in their Bowl Game, SMITH should move past his 2016 reception numbers. He already has surpassed his yardage from last season with 1082 yards. He also jumped from 5 TD catches to 13 this season. SMITH plays longer than his 6’1 frame measures. Against Memphis in the AAC Championship game he had several leaping grabs, well downfield to his credit. He finished the game with 6 receptions, for a whopping 161 yards and 2 TD. Memphis had to give him special attention and double coverage in long yardage situations. SMITH, looks to have solid NFL speed to me. Several of his catches, and non-catches, were on balls that QB MILTON under-threw and an open SMITH had to hold up for the ball to arrive, thus letting DB back into the catch equation. He can jump and really extends his frame for catches. He also showed very reliable hands. Will he declare early? I don’t think we will know for sure until after the UCF Bowl Game. But I also think HC SCOTT FROST leaving may have SMITH leaning toward moving on after a stellar junior season for himself and his team. If he comes out, the Combine would be huge in establishing where he stands athletically. He too could be solidly in Round 4, with about 50 guys I think I have given that ranking to already. It’s a really good Draft folks, likely better than 2017 if another 100 underclassmen come out early.
CHAD THOMAS #9 DE MIAMI (F) 6’5/275 If you took a picture of THOMAS on the sideline before the game you might get most NFL Personnel people to write down his uniform number and head to the film room. He has that long, lean athletic look to him ala a CARLOS DUNLAP/Bengals. And on his best game days he shows it once the game starts. He was at his playing best weekend as the Hurricanes D tried to keep the game with Clemson from getting out of control. He was credited with 7 tackles, 3 of them solo, 2 TFL and 1 Sack. I also thought he deserved a QBH. I was pleased to see him out for Special Teams duty and thought he was called erroneously for a face-mask penalty in Punt coverage in the 3rd quarter. I was a bit disappointed to see down on the ground requiring assistance off the field on multiple occasions during the game. I fee like I have seen this before from him and it concerns me that he has a low pain tolerance level. As the saying goes, in the NFL players must play with pain and only come off the field for real injuries. Is THOMAS a potential hot-tub resident in an NFL locker room? That one is a tough call and probably requires a few honest answers from the Miami training room for NFL personnel folks. Let’s call his total resume’ a bit inconsistent, requiring some serious vetting during the upcoming interview process. For my money right now I can’t rank him higher than a 4th Rounder and a serious risk/reward player. I sure hope he shows up at an All-Star Game in January!