January 15, 2016

Rolling thru my Bowl Game tapes and the final Bowl Games I have a dozen player thumbnails and other than a few of them, many of these guys may have not been on your radar yet. THat is what I am here to do. Bringing guys to your attention that aren’t on everybody’s lists is my duty in life as Pigskin Paul.

Defense was not the forte of the Oregon team in 2015 and it showed again in their Bowl loss to TCU. But COLEMAN emerged in his senior season as an impact, play maker on the Ducks D. His speed and agility serve him well making plays in an opponents backfield. He made a big 4th Quarter strip-sack in the Red Zone to keep the Ducks in the game, and at least prolong collapse until OT. He also showed some ability to effectively drop into shallow coverage to help out the Ducks overmatched secondary. For the game he had 5 Tackles, 2TFL, 1 Sack, 1FF & 1 PBU. That is the same kind of impact effort that he made all season long, where his season stat sheet read as follows: 13G/63T/12TFL/4.5S/4QBH/3FF. He began to emerge back in 2014 and showed that his effort then was not a fluke with a solid 2015 season. At last look I did not see his name in any of the 3 major Star Games, which is disappointing for an emerging talent. If he does not get an invite to the Combine, I will project him as a Pro Day star. He’s rising as a player with serious pro potential who may sneak into the late rounds of April’s Draft. If the NFL ignores him expect the CFL to be all over him.

Are some of you sick and tired of watching your favorite NFL team become impotent inside the Red Zone and end up settling for 3-points way too often?! In many cases I would say to you if your team had a true FB on the roster their Red Zone TD rate might go up significantly. Yep, I’m old enough to be old-fashioned. I hope you watched the Hawaii Bowl, in which Sen Diego State rolled all over a decent Cincinnati team 42-7. The AZtecs run the ball most of the time and a key player in their running game is GORDON, who is a throwback player. He is of course one hell of a blocker for the RB, PUMPHREY and PRICE, both of whom rushed for 1,000 yards this past season. But he was allowed to showcase his own running ability and other skills in this contest. In the 2nd Quarter he caught an option pass from RB/PUMPHREY, proceeded to run over a would-be tackler and scored his first TD of the day. By game’s end he had 4 receptions for 58 yards and that TD. He then recorded a 3rd quarter rushing TD. He blew up various defenders with crunching blocks. The former HS wrestler is a natural for Special Teams duty with his aggressive nature and love of contact. Do I expect him to be drafted… NO! But should a team that carries a FB on their roster and wants to run in goal line & short yardage situations seek him out as an URFA? You bet your chin strap.

TOM HACKETT/P/UTAH 5’11/195 #33
It will be very interesting to see (at least to me) if the 2 time Consensus All-America Punter will get drafted and then be able to earn a job in the NFL as the first rugby style Punter. Now the catch here is that HACKETT has been able to use multiple styles of punting in his collegiate career, with amazing results. Against BYU in the Vegas Bowl HACKETT had 6 punts averaging 49.5 ypp. He had 1 TB but offset that with 4 other punts downed inside the 20-yard line, and two were inside the 10. Word is also out that he will make a most interesting interview for personnel people with a nontraditional personality ala perhaps RAY GUY. For the full 2015 season HACKETT averaged 48-ypp with 23 of them going for 50 yards plus. 21 were Fair Caught, 28 ended up inside the 20 and only 9 were Touchbacks. Most importantly of all to NFL scouts will be the fact that he had no punts blocked this season. That sets him apart from most previous rugby style punters. On occasion HACKETT will actually deliver a standard US Football style punting stroke. Will some NFL team have the courage to think outside the box and actually draft him? Special Teams coaches gird up your loins for this guy. Stay tuned.

The more Alabama games that I watched this year, the more impressed I was with KELLY. He’s the leader of that OL that just won a National Championship. He’s not super athletic, but he is perhaps the best OC in this upcoming Draft. He’s a better prospect than BARRETT JONES was coming out of ‘Bama a few years back. He has the savvy to start in an NFL OL for the rest of this decade, as long as he’s surrounded by better athletes. Against CLEMSON, KELLY was near dominant in the center of that OL, especially in pass pro. He handled his man and then looked for other players to block. He never allowed penetration directly up the middle. His combination of smarts and strength allows him to effectively block better athletes. He reminds me a bit of his teammate from last year AUSTIN SHEPHERD, who played OT for the Tide despite being athletically challenged. I wrongly projected SHEPHARD to go undrafted. The VIKINGS took him in Round 7 and he’s already valuable, flexible backup. I won’t get fooled again. Mark KELLY down as draftable, with a chance to play a lot at the next level.

If you watched the incredible TCU comeback win in Overtime over Oregon in the ALAMO BOWL, then you should have noticed this man in action. He has caught my eye on multiple occasions in other TCU games I watched this past season. He is a very “long” 6’5 and uses his vine-like arms to great advantage, whether it is shedding blockers or obscuring the QBs view of the field. He is not an edge-rusher, but has penetration ability and is stout enough to stuff the run. In that TCU win, without QB/BOYKIN, LATHAN was a one-man wrecking crew late in the game. He is the guy who sacked the Oregon back-up QB on the last play of regulation. Then he used his long arms and flexibility to knock down a pass in the first OT. He plays strong and will set the edge against the run, but does bring some pocket pressure to bear on opposing QB. He looks to me to be able to handle the DE slot in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He is not currently listed on an All-Star Game roster, which I feel is a terrible oversight. He may not even be invited to the Combine. But mark my words, more than a few scouts will have their eyeballs trained on him in film study.

Once transferring from Colorado to Nebraska his college career really hit stride. Has over 40 career starts on his college resume’. He is the new (since steroid crackdown) prototype of an OT, with a long and fairly lean frame, if there is such a thing at about 300 lbs. He has good arm length and uses his arms and hands to fend off defenders. He is also agile for a tall guy and can get to his second level blocking assignments without much difficulty. He played quite well in the Cornhuskers San Francisco Bowl victory over UCLA. I thought it was quite interesting that when Nebraska starting OC RYNE REEVES went down with an injury LEWIS was helping to point out UCLA defensive alignments and making line-calls from his LT slot. That may speak volumes to his FBI, which should show up in the interview process over the next few months. Let me reassure you that in the NFL football smarts are a major factor for most players. Pro football is not a place for dumb guys. There has been much discussion about a pro move to OG for him. His ability to show potential to play the interior OL would be huge in buying him time as a reserve at the start of his pro career. Right now he is scheduled to appear at the SHRINE venue in Florida and will work under long time OL guru in Coach MIKE MASER. Watching his work in practices should be quite interesting.

D.J. READER/DT/CLEMSON 6’2/325 #48
Clemson has a ton of good athletes on their roster, as you should have noticed in their exciting loss to Alabama. That was a game for the ages, with Alabama Special Teams tipping the game in their favor. What you should have noticed was what a tough time Heisman Winner DERRICK HENRY had running the ball between the tackles in that contest. He had to fight for every yard he got and had his lowest yard per carry average of the season. We saw lots of pursuit and pocket pressure from the Clemson DE slots, but if you watched carefully READER and a couple of his friends really clogged up the center of the line of scrimmage all night long. I had written READER off as a just a big guy who took up space and would disappear at the next level. I may have misjudged him. He really pushed some ‘Bama OL around and refused to be pushed backwards himself most of the night. On a couple of occasions he helped collapse the pocket from the inside, which really bothers most QBs, even at the pro level. He shows decent mobility in a short area and great power to hold the point of attack. He was credited with 4 tackles in that Championship Game, but had far more influence on the running game than that number indicates. He belongs playing head up on the OC in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He may not get drafted in April, but if he does I will nod my head, not in wonder at the pick, but in knowing what he is capable of in the pits.

I just luv it when late in the season a player I’ve not been scouting seriously just jumps off the screen in a game. That is exactly what SAMUEL did with his play right from the first UCONN possession of the St. Pete Bowl. By and large he was unblockable most of the day for the Huskies OL. His stat sheet does not jump out at you, but that’s not uncommon for the interior DL. He grabbed my attention with a TFL on the first UCONN possession of the day. A bit later he felt the blockers setting up for a screen pass and adroitly dropped back toward the line of scrimmage in anticipation of a throw. He played smart and hard all game long, and showed decent athleticism. He’s a bit light and not a real pass-rush threat, but certainly looks like he could have some value in a DL rotation for any defensive set his team chooses to operate out of. He had some solid numbers for the 2015 season with 12 Games started, 42 tackles, 7 TFL, 1 sack and 4PBU, which were basically batted balls near the line of scrimmage. With 30 starts in his Marshall career he’s proved he can compete at a high level. Another guy not on an All-Star roster, which makes me question who the scouts are for a talent hungry roster like the NFLPA has. Probably not a draftable guy, but his agent could get some serious calls at the conclusion of the Draft. SAMUEL looks to me like a guy who could battle for a roster spot in an NFL Training Camp.

A former 5-Star recruit who took a long time to develop in a very deep Cardinal defense. But 2015 was his breakout season. He was a dominant force in the first half of the Rose Bowl spending a lot of time on the Iowa side of the line-of-scrimmage. He also pursues well along the line. He was second on the Stanford team in tackles in 2015 with 57. He was also credited with 14TFL, 4S, 1QBH, 3PBU. That last stat of 3PBU makes me wonder if he might eventually be a candidate to lose 10-15 lbs and play standing up in a 3-4 scheme as a pro. He should test out as being fast for a DL, and may show impressive spring in his legs. In a vanilla defensive scheme like the Vikings I’m not sure he will have much appeal. But for teams like the BILLS and PATRIOTS he might make a very versatile and productive chess piece who plays multiple roles ala ROB NINKOVICH. As I write this SHITTU is scheduled to play in the Shrine Game next week. I will be watching him carefully in practices to see how he is used and what he can do well. Gameday rules are pretty vanilla in All-Star Games so practice may speak more to his overall potential. Another Round 4 guy for me. I must be thinking Round 4 has 50 selections in it, as I continue to pack names into that round.

We’ve been watching this man fly around the field and make plays for the Sooners for 4 years, and hoping he would fill out just a bit. But the latter really hasn’t happened so what we have here is a flash player, capable of making plays that change the game. It will be absolutely critical that he run fast, jump high and cut on a dime at the Combine. But even if he does all that I’m still not sure he goes Top 100 on Draft weekend. He plays a lot like an in-the-box, zone-blitz S, but that might be asking too much of him at the pro level. The question is not whether he’ll play pro ball, just how hot of a commodity he will be? He looked better than most of his teammates in the Bowl loss to Clemson, recording 5 tackles which included 2 TFL. He also made plays that influenced the Offense all night long, with his pressure pursuit. He clearly could be a Gunner on Special Teams coverage units, as well as a multiple sub-package contributor to any NFL Defense. Teams should take note, and STRIKER take heart, in the Rookie season of BUCS LB KWON ALEXANDER, who isn’t a whole lot bigger than STRIKER. The right DC should be able to put STRIKER in a position to succeed and play pretty much full-time. STRIKER finished his senior season with 67 tackles, 19TFL, 7.5Sacks, 1 INT, 11 QBH, 1 FF. He’s either Round 3 or 4 in my scouting book.

This guy looks the part of a traditional NFL pocket passer. But he also shows a lot of fundamental flaws in his throwing mechanics. Which is somewhat surprising given how many games he has played for the Hoosiers. He certainly has the arm to compete at the pro level, but his accuracy is erratic. In the overtime loss to Duke we saw both sides of SUDFELD’s game. He went 28/51, for 389 yards and 3 TD. But he also opened the action with 2 UNT in the first quarter. In 12 games during the 2015 season he fell just short of completing 60% of is throws, 59.95%. UNder HC WILSON he has had very little opportunity to make play-calling decisions. He has also not been blessed, especially in 2015, with a lot to work with in the receiver corps. I will add that I was pleasantly surprised to see his ability to tuck the ball and run. That demonstrated better athleticism than I had previously given him credit for. He might have a slight chance to develop into something decent as a pro if he goes to a team with a QB guru and he has a couple of years to sit and learn. Look for him to be drafted late.

I found it quite enjoyable to watch TEXAS TECH play this past Fall with the current college-MANZIEL in QB PAT MAHOMES, who might be my Heisman favorite going into the 2015 season. The Red Raiders fought their way to a 7-5 season and a spot in the Texas Bowl, where LSU ran them out of the stadium. But let’s talk about WASHINGTON, who we have to consider in the short, but elusive RB slot. He has proven to have excellent quickness and very good hands. Plus he is solidly built and can through secondary tacklers when needed. Remember that at his current height/weight ratio if he was 5’11 he would weigh about 215 lbs. He is not on an All-Star Game roster right now and that is a shame. For such a venue his skill set indicates he could post some big numbers at that kind of venue.. TECH was unable to run much against LSU so his Bowl numbers were not impressive in the running game with 10 runs for 37 yards. But his 7 catches for 81 yards give you a feel for that part of his game. He is a tough guy who also blocks pretty darn well. His 2015 season numbers cry out as a guy with multiple skills as a change-of-pace RB who could bring value to an NFL Offense: 13 games, 1492 yards rushing, 6.4 ypc, 14 TD, 41 receptions, 385 yards, 2 TD. If he isn’t in Indy at the Combine they have missed another good prospect. He has great potential explosion when he touches the ball, and by Round 5 I would be pounding the table for my team to select him.

For the next three weeks what you read from me will be centered and All-Star games. THen we’ll jump back into game film until the Combine rolls into view.