DARRYL BALDWIN/RT/OHIO STATE #76 6’6/310
Whether a professional scout, or an amateur, like myself, it’s important to always be on the lookout for late blossoming talent. BALDWIN appears to be just that for the Buckeyes. He came into the program as a DT back at the end of the Tressel era. He red-shirted, then played for a season as a back-up DT. He spent the past two years converting to OT under the MEYER regime at LT. He now finds himself ensconced at RT as the starter for his final year as a Buckeye. The first thing you notice is that he passes the eye test as a full sized, in-shape player, who shows some athleticism. He appears to have long arms and uses them fairly well for a relative newcomer at OT. Against Penn State, he demonstrated mobile feet and the ability to get off the snap quickly. He also did well getting to second level blocks. He stays on the man he is blocking until the end of the play. The weak spot in his game will be pass pro, but that can be improved in a couple of years by a veteran OL Coach at the pro level. I doubt I’d be looking at drafting him unless I really needed an OT project to develop and had a couple of Supplemental 7th Round picks in my pocket. This is he kind of guy the SEA HAWKS bring in for OL COACH TOM CABLE to develop. I would hazard a guess that he could be a priority URFA, with multiple suitors, the day after the Draft concludes.
MALCOLM BROWN/DT/TEXAS* #90 6’4/320
This big underclassman shows more than enough talent to warrant late First Round Draft attention. His initial quickness, at his size, is well suited for 4-3 NFL scheme. He is NOT necessarily suited for the Nose in a 3-4 scheme. He comes off the snap quickly, but can stand up too straight, too quickly at times. He clearly showed more energy and better results in the first half against K-State, but that was to be expected. There is not a lot of quality depth along the DL for the Longhorns right now, so the good big guys played a lot of snaps. Combine that with a pretty inept Texas Offense that wasn’t on the field a whole lot and it makes for a tiring scenario for al the big uglies in the Texas D. IMO, big guys need a few possessions off if they are expected to chase all game. I do not think he’s out of shape. He also shows good strength in holding his own against inside run plays. He pursues well, but isn’t catching anyone along the sideline unless the DB delay things on the corner. I’d like to see him develop more of a shock hand punch rather than getting tied up dancing with the OL, which I felt he did a bit too often. I would expect him to come out early as the transition to a Charlie Strong roster hits high gear in 2015.
FRANK CLARK/DE/MICHIGAN #57 6’2/270
CLARK could have great appeal starting about Round 3 of the DRAFT, for a team that uses multiple defensive schemes (most of today’s NFL) and is looking for a player who can disrupt the pocket. He had a very solid game against Michigan State last Saturday. He’s getting lost in the shuffle somewhat of the poor season that the Wolverines find themselves struggling through because of a pathetic and ineffective Offense. But his effort, productivity and ability to pressure the QB all fit today’s NFL priority list. In 2013 he had 4.5 Sacks, 7.5 TFL & 7 QB hurries. Against the Spartans last weekend he was one of the Wolverines standout players who helped harass CONNOR COOK/QB into a relatively mediocre performance. CLARK may not be stout enough to hold up full-time at DE in the NFL, and not quite fast enough to stand up in a 3-4 scheme all the time. But he has a chance to be a multi-purpose defender, ala ex-Wolverine BRANDON GRAHAM, who though not a full time player, fills multiple roles for the NFL Eagles. This guy would be really interesting to watch under NFL coaching for Senior Bowl week. Depending upon how many elite underclassmen declare for the 2015 NFL Draft CLARK could rank near the bottom of my Top 100 prospect list.
CONNOR COOK/QB/MICHIGAN STATE * #18 6’4/220
COOK is a potential First Round QB prospect, but not if he comes out after this season. He still needs work on his mechanics and his reading of defenses. He has an above average arm and good mobility. He can extend plays with his footwork and gain yards when things break down. But he needs another year to improve his overall play ala KIRK COUSINS not that long ago. He is in fact, more athletic than COUSINS from what I have seen of him. He had a typically solid game against arch rival MIchigan last Saturday passing for 12/22 – 227 yards – 1 TD – 0 INT. It was not a performance that cried out for being a first round draftee, however. His stats suffer a bit from being in a run first, ball control Offense for HC DANTONIO, and that will not change if he returns to school. Right now he plays fast enough to look good against Big 10 competition, but is not close to what he’ll need to do against NFL defenses. Hopefully, we will get to scout him again next season in Spartan green. Stay in school CONNOR… for your own sake.
QUANDRE DIGGS/CB/TEXAS #6 5’10/205
This 3-year starter for the Longhorns makes a most interesting prospect for the NFL. He has good ball instincts and is normally a sure tackler, though I saw him whiff a couple of times against Kansas State out in space. But he’s not incredibly fast or quick, which causes him to lose contact with some receivers fairly early on deep routes. He loves to play in the box and is very productive in helping to stop the run. DIGGS plays hard and tough. He finds the ball, if the play is in front of him, and will pick off a few throws each season. Because of his speed limitations he likes to get a bump on receivers early. I think his NFL future might eventually be as a S, not a corner. His compact size and tackling ability could make him a slower version of another ex-Longhorn EARL THOMAS. He should make a solid Special Teamer and at least a sub-package defender from the get-go. Because of his coverage limitations I do not see him as a Top 100 prospect once underclassmen enter into the mix.
RANDALL EVANS/CB/KANSAS STATE #15 6’0/190
Like most guys on the K-State roster EVANS is not what I would consider an elite athlete. He’s also not going to be a ball-hawking INT machine in the NFL. But he’s a good sized, press cover guy who likes to bump at the line and knock receivers off their patterns. In today’s NFL game of QB/receiver offensive timing, legal disruption is a very useful tool. EVANS is also a very aggressive tackler, who can take people down out in the open field. He’s a savvy vet, who can locate the ball and react to it in he air. His lack of super speed and/or quickness keep him from being an elite CB prospect, but he has enough speed to press-cover and then recover to continue coverage downfield. He is also used effectively in some zone blitz situations for the Wildcats. He was credited with 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 INT and 12 PBU in 2013 in 11 starts. He’s lost some playing time to a talented Juco this season, which may allow him to sneak under the radar to some astute pro personnel department. As a 3rd Day draftee he certainly looks to have enough ability and want-to, to work his way into sub-packages, handle multiple Special Teams roles and start a few games in injury situations. He looks like a very solid potential invitee to Shrine action in January.
RANDY GREGORY/DE/NEBRASKA* #4 6’6/240
Seeing that I have a lot of URFA prospects mentioned in this week’s feature I thought I’d best give you a thumbnail on one of the elite prospects for the 2015 DRAFT. He will still have a year of eligibility beyond 2014, but I will be shocked if he does not throw his hat/helmet into the 2015 Draft ring. GREGORY is an elite pass-rush specialist. In fact he reminds me a lot of ALDON SMITH/MIzzou who’s a 49’ers pass-rushing star when he’s not suspended. I will not speak to the off-field issues in that equation, but I think out on the grass it’s a legit comparison. Against Rutgers he was clearly schemed for in blocking assignments. On some obvious passing downs he was combo blocked by the LT, TE & FB. But at times Rutgers LT KEITH LUMPKIN more than held his own in man-on-man blocking. GREGORY had a decent game with 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QBH and he used his huge wingspan to block a Field Goal attempt. He was moved around a bit from side to side in the Huskers formation, and played some downs standing up somewhat like a 3-4 ILB. I am a bit concerned that GREGORY almost looks skinny right now compared to last season. I don’t know if he has lost weight to be quicker,especially standing up, but at the point of attack right now he’s almost a non-factor. I’d like to know what he weighs, and why. But right now I am a bit concerned that he’s sacrificed too much strength to gain added quickness. He’ll want a combo of both to play at the pro level and be a constant factor. But he has that length and quickness, which includes some natural pass-rush moves, that could make him a difference maker in the NFL. He is Top 10 Draft material.
JEFF HEUERMAN/TE/OHIO STATE #5 6’5/255
After watching the Buckeyes in 4 games this season I feel confident in saying HUERMAN is another player whose numbers are a circumstance of the system he plays in. The TE is not featured a whole lot right now at Ohio State and he is sharing snaps with a quality underclassman, who was a MEYER recruit. But watching him in action I think he may the best all-around TE that they have had in a while athletically in Columbus. He doesn’t look quite as big as his listed numbers, but he is a solid blocker both inline and especially on the move, or downfield. Against Penn State I think he was only targeted 4 times, catching 3 of them for a paltry 19 yards and 1 TD. He makes a great safety valve option for BARRETT as he grows as a QB. He looks to have dependable hands and moves fluidly. I don’t see a Top 100 spot for him as a prospect, but he should be draftable as long as he tests out in the middle of the TE class at the Combine. May make a better pro than a college player overall.
MIKE HULL/ILB/PENN STATE #43 6’0/230
You see HULL’s name on the Penn Sate roster and you think legacy player and a nice collegian. Then you wonder what he’s going to do for his real life’s work. But, if you actually watch him play, like in the Ohio State game, you see this year’s Big 10 version of CHRIS BORLAND. Well, he’s not as strong or athletic as BORLAND, but the point is all he does is compete and make lots of tackles. He recorded 19 tackles against Ohio State, including 2.5 TFL, and also picked off a pass that set up the Nittany Lions for a score. Hull plays with his head and his heart, and the results are impressive. Remember an undersized LB names LARRY IZZO, who played a long time in the League mostly on Special Teams, but surprisingly well in some starting assignments while taking over for injured starters? After watching HULL against he Buckeyes I see the same kind of player/competitor as IZZO. He finds a way to succeed. Like several other players in this week’s thumbnails I’m not projecting him to be drafted next May. But I will add that once into an NFL Training Camp he will be a tough player to cut. He could easily improve the bottom 10 of more than a few NFL rosters immediately. Was named Senior Bowl defensive player of the week for his effort against Ohio State.
J.J. WORTON/WR/PR/UCF #9 6’2/210
The bottom line first, is that WORTON is not real likely to be drafted next May. He’s a good, not elite athlete without any superior skills. But he looks to me like an excellent URFA for Training Camp with some team that has a battle brewing for a No. 5 WR and versatile Special Teams performer. He does a lot of the little things well and actually has made some very big plays for UCF the past couple of years. He’s an excellent Punt catcher, who can weave his way through traffic and improve a team’s field position with his return. He has shown excellent hands as a receiver. They are still showing highlight films that include is catch last season of the acrobatic, game saving TD catch against UCONN. Last Saturday he had a typical day at work with his lunch pail. He played on just about every Special Teams unit and had 4 catches, for 42 yards and 1 TD against Temple. He was also very conspicuous with his downfield blocking for his fellow receivers and runners. I am hoping he’s a local invite to the Shrine Game so he can show his versatility in All-Star action.
JAY AJAYI/RB/BOISE STATE #27 6’0/215 You can’t get a clear read on his talent just by looking at the stat sheet. BOISE has a history of alternating their RB so the cupboard is never bare from one season to the next. It is highly likely though that he will post numbers this year to match his outstanding 2013 season, when he gained 1425 yards rushing, including 18 TD. Through 7 games this year he’s already at 867 yards and 8 TD. In the Fresno game the D was keying on him from the start. He patiently loosened them up by catching 4 passes and blocking well in pass pro. As the game progressed he wore down the entire defense finishing the night with 30 carries for 158 yards and 2 TD. He’s a power runner who breaks tackles and will move the chains on 3rd and short, but he also shows speed when a big opening appears. He looks to me to have excellent pro potential and at 250 carries a year he needs to give serious thought to 2015 Draft entry before the tread gets worn down too far and he ends up injured his senior year in school. NFL teams will particularly love his nose for the end zone. A definite Top 100 prospect on my list.
TREY DePRIEST/ILB/ALABAMA #33 6’2/250 For some reason DePRIEST isn’t impressing most scouts and I don’t get it. He’s certainly no better than a 3rd Rounder, but he looks the part to me of a 3-4 scheme ILB. He’s savvy and finds the ball well. He can shock & shed blockers with his strong hands. He has solid tackling technique and takes good angles to the ball most of the time. Given his size and functional strength, he is a punishing tackler who takes a toll on his opponents. He was ‘Bama’s 3rd leading tackler in 2013. I also happen to think he’s better than adequate at dropping into pass coverage over he middle for his size. The game with A&M marked his 46th career game played at ‘BAMA. That’s the most for any defender on their current roster. TREY is also strong in pursuit of the ball, ranging all the way to the boundary. Right now I consider him to be under-appreciated for his hard work and results, much like a guy named HAWK who plays inside in the PACKERS defense. If he’s not TOP 100 then he surely becomes a Day 3 priority pick.
ANTWAN GOODLEY/WR/BAYLOR #5 5’11/225 I’ve been waiting over a month for this guy to get his quad healthy and jump back into the Baylor receiving rotation. He’s back now and looking strong. He’s a unique body type for a wideout. But his thickness does not preventing him from running good patterns and getting in and out of his breaks quickly. He’s a solid hands catcher. He has good long speed and is a solid deep ball threat, not just a possession catch guy. In the upset Loss to WVU he was PETTY’s most dependable receiver with 9 catches for 132 yards and a TD. There were too many dropped balls on PETTY passes, but not by GOODLEY. I was not impressed however, with some of the 4th quarter barking GOODLEY aimed at PETTY. He seemed oblivious to the pocket pressure being exerted on PETTY and was clearly bitching about lack of balls thrown his way, and seeming misreads on his patterns. He needs to be more supportive of his QB in those situations. At times, with his size and catching ability he reminds me of ANQUAN BOLDIN. If he finishes the season strong he has a solid chance to go by Round 3 next May.
GENEO GRISSOM/OLB/E/OKLAHOMA #85 6’4/255/ The Sooners went down to defeat for the second time this season due to mistakes on both sides of he ball. But their PK was the true goat this weekend. That being said GRISSOM was part of an athletic but underachieving Defense that displays a lack of big play ability and intensity. GRISSOM is a prime example of that syndrome. He’s a great looking physical specimen, who plays standing up most of he time, but he puts his hand on the ground and slides inside on 3rd and long. He’s usually around the action, but unless executing an outside pass-rush I don’t see any sense of urgency to his play. I also don’t think he wants to throw his body around to get to the ball. He plays in spurts and gets caught up in the traffic way too much. He had 2 consecutive sacks to end the first half, but then just ran around the rest of the game. Given his physical numbers he just doesn’t seem to make many plays. He should shine in his shorts at the Combine, but he’s going to have to get tougher and more consistent to the ball on the field. He should be a Top 100 prospect based on his look, but his overall play doesn’t deliver the goods.
ANTHONY HARRIS/FS/VIRGINIA #8 6’1/190 Virginia has been one of the biggest surprises in the country this year. Expected to be a bottom feeder in the ACC, again, the team is 4-3 (with a tough schedule), which doubles its win total from 2013.The surge has primarily been led by stout defensive work. And the best player on that D is HARRIS. He led the nation with 8 INT last season, while racking up 80 tackles. His INT count is only at 1 so far, but through 7 games he’s already been credited with 65 total tackles. He flew all over the field in the tight loss to DUKE, recording 14 tackles for the game, as well as 1 PBU and 1 QBH. Despite being under 200 lbs. he gives receivers and runners cause for pause with his violent hits. He even dings himself at times with the speed and violence of his tackles. He has great field vision and ball awareness. His energy and effort are relentless. His size and style of play remind me of… wait for it… ED REED. He may not be a First Rounder next May, but he should be. He would upgrade half the secondaries in the NFL the first time he walked out onto the field. I luv me some ANTHONY HARRIS and look forward to watching him up close and personal in Mobile next January.
MARCUS MURPHY/RB/RS/MISSOURI #6 5’9/195 Now that I have freed up my mind from its “little guy” complex I present another short guy who is dynamite in a bottle. Get the ball into his hands 15 times a game, or more, and he will be a difference maker for your team. And after watching him 4 times this season I don’t even care what he runs for a 40-time at the COMBINE. His work this past weekend against Florida in the Swamp was the perfect example of how this explosive playmaker can change a game for his team. MURPHY began the game by taking the opening kick-off 96 yards for a TD. He rushed the ball only 8 times for a paltry 23 yards, but did score another TD. THen he capped off his days work with an 82-yard Punt Return for a TD. The Mizzou Offense was almost as bad as the Gators, but MURPHY’s work made it look like a landslide offensive performance. I have very little doubt that MURPHY will be just as effective as a pro with his multi-dimensional skill work. Any solid NFL team looking for a playmaker would be silly not to draft this guy. The only question is how early in the DRAFT?
CODY RIGGS/CB/PR/NOTRE DAME #2 5’9/185 This feisty, athletic little CB has been a big part of the fine start to the Domers’ season. His number one asset is his change of direction ability, which is key for a Corner, especially in the pro game. His speed is good, his quickness exceptional. He’s also pretty aggressive in support of the run defense for his size. RIGGS had his moments at FSU, and held up well overall. He shows some nice shake and bake in the Punt Return game, and is dependable at fielding punts. I don’t see a guy who strikes me as an NFL starting CB. But I do think he will make a good Nickel Back and play a serious role on Special Teams. With those return skills and his tackling ability he should be able to play on all Special Teams units. Mark him down as a late Round PIck, 5-7.
DERRON SMITH/FS/FRESNO STATE #13 5’11/200 This hard hitting, ball hawking FS is considered to be among the top S prospects for 2015. His 2103 season cemented him as such. He’s not putting up the numbers, especially in Picks this year, but as many talent evaluators like to say most INT are as much luck as skill. His all-around skills are what attract scouts. He is just as happy to play in the box against the run as he is to drop into coverage. He’s a solid tackler who displays good form and energy. Against Boise I thought he took some poor angles to the ball and missed a few tackles. But no one is perfect. He runs sideline to sideline and shows good ability to find the ball and pursue. In a tight game he made a big 3rd down TFL late in the 2nd Quarter to keep Boise from tacking on a late score. EVerything about his play is better than average and when you roll that into a neat package it makes him a potential NFL starter, with solid Special Teams potential.
P.J. WILLIAMS/CB/FLORIDA STATE #26 6’0/200 An awful lot of folks have this guy marked down as an elite NFL CB prospect. I am not sold yet. He is a supremely talented athlete with the size and speed you look for. And overall he had solid coverage on Notre Dame receivers Saturday night. He has super confidence in his own ability which is critical in the make-up of a shut down Corner. He also demonstrated to my eyes that he will make tackles downfield. My biggest criticism of his play against ND was his propensity to get rubbed off of his man on crossing plays, at which point he stopped hard pursuit and watched the play from 10-20 yards away. Big gains resulted several times when he failed to fight his way through the picks and pursue in an attempt to catch up with his man. That won’t fly at the next level. His desire needs to catch up with his physical skills. I began noticing RONALD DARBY out on the field with his more aggressive style of play in the second half, and less of PJ. He might be best served to return for his senior season and work on his toughness and desire to finish every play even when beaten. Especially if he fancies himself as a First Rounder.
T.J. YELDON/RB/ALABAMA #4 6’1/220 After relatively disappointing NFL results for ‘Bama RB like INGRAM & RICHARDSON this century the football world seems almost indifferent to the exploits of YELDON. Yet after watching him closely this year in 4 games, he looks like the brightest RB prospect since a guy named ALEXANDER left the Crimson Tide for a strong NFL career. And YELDON is clearly faster than ALEXANDER. My notes indicate that his patience and vision in picking his holes is exceptional. I also believe that he has excellent balance and shakes free of anything but a full contact tackle attempt. He is strong enough to move the pile at the end of runs if needed. Although not a pure speedster, he is a long striding, smooth runner with little wasted motion. EVen though he shares carries in the ‘Bama backfield he gets max results in his limited touches. As Alabama absolutely dominated TEXAS A&M this past Saturday YELDON romped for 114 yards and 1 TD on only 13 touches. They don’t throw much to him, but he seems to have soft hands and moves naturally out in space. For his size I am surprised at his jump-cut and explosion ability. Assuming he comes out for the 2015 DRAFT I see him in a small group of elite backs that will be hard to pass on for the entire first round.