Underclassmen declaring early for the NFL Draft
by Paul Emery
February 6th 2013
The official list from the NFL is now out and, as ever, there are a few surprises. Returning to school are Taylor Lewan (Michigan) and Jake Matthews (Texas A&M;) who may well have been first round picks. Georgia QB Aaron Murray also elected to return to school, presumably with an SEC championship on this mind. UCLA OLB Anthony Barr also decided to have another year, which will be his second at the position and seems to be a sensible decision.
Here’s the breakdown of each prospect – sorted by college. I’ve seen most, but I’ve put those I haven’t at the bottom under the “More Work Needed” section – mine, not theirs. I’ll catch up with them between now and the Draft.
D.J. Fluker – OT – Alabama. Huge right tackle with grape vines for arms. Was invited to the Senior Bowl as he has graduated, but was hurt and unable to play. Some teams may see him as a decent left tackle, in the way the Bills did with Cordy Glenn – but he’s most probably going to stay at his college right tackle position.
Eddie Lacy – RB – Alabama. Has shared time throughout his Alabama career, so is not as worn down as some backs. Powerful one cut runner with a trademark spin move. Also a reliable receiver and good pass protector. Should be in contention to be the first RB drafted.
Dee Milliner – CB – Alabama. Taller CB who might be a little better than Dre Kirkpatrick last year. Certainly in a weaker class than last year, he should push for the top 10.
Alvin Bailey – OG – Arkansas. Big guard who looks OK in short areas, but when asked to move his feet he struggles more. It’s a nice guard class and he may still be around on day three.
Knile Davis – RB – Arkansas. Missed most of last year with injury and struggled to regain his form. Prior to the injury he would have been a first round pick. Showed flashes of his former self, but had some fumble problems.
Corey Lemonier – DE – Auburn. I’m higher on Lemonier than most. His production in terms of sacks fell away when Auburn got into SEC play. Has the right idea with his technique, just needs to get a little stronger.
Keenan Allen – WR – California. Missed the end of the season with a knee injury and with Cal not making a Bowl game it’s been a bit “out of sight, out of mind” with him. But he should be the first WR off the board – a nice hands catcher with long arms and a wide catching radius.
DeAndre Hopkins – WR – Clemson. Played second fiddle to Sammy Watkins, but is a fine prospect in his own right. May lack top end speed, but his routes are good enough to create separation.
Ray-Ray Armstrong – SS – Faulkner College. Former Miami (Fl.) prospect who was kicked off the Hurricanes in the spring. Attempted to play at Faulkner College but the NCAA didn’t rule he was eligible. A big hitter who needs to break down more before he tackles. More of an old school in the box guy who will stand a chance of making a roster on special teams.
Jelani Jenkins – OLB – Florida. Bothered by injury much of the year, including the Bowl game which he missed. I didn’t think he had the momentum to come out early, certainly he’ll need to show well at the Combine and his Pro Day.
Jordan Reed – TE – Florida. Not much of a blocker, but a nice receiver who lacks blazing speed but is smooth and can get down the seam.
Matt Elam – SS – Florida. There’s very mixed opinion on Elam and I’m not his biggest fan. I’m looking for safeties who can cover man to man and he’s not great. Very active in the box, but this kind of safety is becoming a dinosaur.
Sharrif Floyd – DT – Florida. One gap penetrator who can play 4-3 DT or 3-4 DE in a one gap scheme. Had a superb season and should be off the board fairly early on day one.
Duron Carter – WR – Florida Atlantic. Son of Cris Carter – has bounced around a bit – one year at FAU but didn’t play. Unlikely to be drafted.
Xavier Rhodes – CB – Florida State. Bigger CB who struggles at times to change directions. An ideal Cover-2 corner, but only 2 teams are going to run this next year (Vikings and now Cowboys). May be viewed as a safety by some teams – could be an answer against TE’s.
Menelik Watson – OT – Florida State. Manchester born right tackle who is fairly new to the game. Probably needed another year of seasoning, but came out to support his family. Has tremendous upside.
Bjoern Werner – DE – Florida State. Had a mixed year – started off like a house on fire against the likes of Murray State – but then was shut down for a large portion. Re-appeared late in the season, but was invisible in the Bowl game. Flashes a top burst off the edge, but struggles to set the edge in the run game – I’ll be interested in his arm length as I think he may have short arms…
Kwame Geathers – DT – Georgia. Actually played the NT position for Georgia with John Jenkins playing DE.
Jarvis Jones – OLB – Georgia. Might be the best player in this Draft – but USC didn’t clear him medically (spinal stenosis) and he was allowed to transfer to Georgia. That injury must have been something for USC to let a talent like him slip away…
Alec Ogletree – ILB – Georgia. When he’s on he looks like a first round pick, but when he’s not he gets hung up on blocks far too easily. The Bowl game was a nice example – quiet for three quarters, but then decided to play and made game changing plays.
Mike Edwards – CB – Hawai’i. (pictured right) Kicked out of Tennessee after being found guilty of armed robbery. Wasn’t given a custodial sentence and was able to start again at Hawai’i. Very gifted cover corner – BYU challenged him and he was very good. Top 100 talent, just depends when you want to pull the trigger because of his past.
Akeem Spence – DT – Illinois. Illinois were awful this year and I didn’t think Spence had a big enough year to declare. A one gap penetrator, but only rare flashes of top 100 ability.
Chris Faulk – OT – LSU. Injured early in the year and missed the rest of the season (knee). Thought he would come back next year, but after the top 4 OT’s there is a talent void and he will push to go on day two.
Michael Ford – RB – LSU. Only 71 carries on the year, so very difficult to get a feel for him. More speed to Spencer Ware’s power.
Bennie Logan – DT – LSU. Looks to have the size and arm length to two gap (extend arms, get into his man – stack and shed them) but hasn’t quite worked things out technique wise. Looks like Michael Brockers did early in 2011 – but didn’t come on as the year moved forward as Brockers did. The potential is there, but still raw.
Tyrann Mathieu – CB – LSU. Was a Heisman trophy candidate in 2011 with a superb year, but was kicked off the team after repeated issues with drugs. Has been in rehab, but it’s clearly the number one issue stopping him being drafted early. Undersized impact player with return ability on the field.
Barkevious Mingo – DE – LSU. A fantastic athlete off the edge, yet doesn’t always get after it. Sack production isn’t what it should be for an athlete like him. Makes efforts to get into his blockers and win that way, but lacks the strength to do so.
Kevin Minter – ILB – LSU. With Manti Te’o in free fall Minter could be the beneficiary. Faster than Te’o, Minter is under rated on a talent laden defense – but he’s more consistent than Ogletree and should push for a first round slot.
Sam Montgomery – DE – LSU. Longer than Mingo, but not as quick off the snap – is often the last defensive lineman to move. Consistently got into Luke Joeckel’s chest plate in the Texas A&M; game – but wasn’t strong enough to do anything about it. Length will appeal, but he must get it in the weight room.
Tharold Simon – CB – LSU. Bigger cornerback who is a little similar to Xavier Rhodes. Got picked on in the Bowl game and had a poor game. Question his ability to re-direct – hips did not look loose. Could be considered at safety.
Eric Reid – SS – LSU. Did not play that well early in the year and even North Texas caught two TD’s on him in man coverage. Perhaps was a bit heavy – looked more explosive later in the year. Has some similarities to Mark Barron, but his overall year was not as good as Barron’s in 2011.
Spencer Ware – RB – LSU. Bigger back who carries his weight well. Has the ability to break tackles. Not featured down the stretch, may not be a high pick but could be a sleeper.
Brad Wing – P – LSU. Not sure how many punters get suspended, but Wing was for the Bowl game. Australian native, of which there seem to be quite a few kickers/punters, with a huge leg. Like Brian Anger last year, could push for a top 100 placing.
Le’Veon Bell – RB – Michigan State. Opinion seems to be varied on him, with the key concern being speed. If he can run a decent 40 time (4.5 is fine) he should be a day two pick. But he may be a 4.6/4.7 guy in which case his stock will drop. All around back who can pass protect and catch.
William Gholston – DE – Michigan State. Cousin of former Jet bust Vernon. Has a nice frame but a little like Vernon, only plays in flashes. Didn’t do himself any favours in terms of avoiding comparison to one of the bigger busts in recent drafts.
Dion Sims – TE – Michigan State. Big TE who doesn’t look that fast. OK as a blocker, but needs to play lower. A nice short range target for a young QB, but unlikely to go super high.
Sheldon Richardson – DT – Missouri. Should push to be a very high pick. Has elite quickness and consistently disrupted. A classic one gap three technique.
Stefphon Jefferson – RB – Nevada. Productive in the pistol offense, but runs a little too upright and as such I think he’s a day three type.
Giovani Bernard – RB – North Carolina. Durability is the only concern with Bernard, who is a big play threat as a RB and punt returner. Has an ACL tear in his past and missed two games this year with injury. On talent alone should push Lacy to be the first RB off the board.
Thomas Parker – LS – North Carolina. A long snapper declaring early – might be the first one ever…
David Amerson – CB – North Carolina State. Started the season poorly getting beaten repeatedly deep, particularly in the Tennessee and Miami games. Did settle down and played better down the stretch, but couldn’t repeat his 2011 season where he led the nation in interceptions. Some teams may see him as a safety.
Tyler Eifert – TE – Notre Dame. Often used from the slot where he was a mismatch. Has soft hands – is OK as a blocker, but will need to continue to work on that aspect of his game.
Cierre Wood – RB – Notre Dame. Lost the starting job down the stretch to Kevin Reddick. I know RB’s don’t like to stay in college too long, but this strikes me as a strange decision.
Johnathan Hankins – DT – Ohio State. Dominant for the first three quarters of the year, but faded down the stretch. Often played over the tackle, which wasn’t the best use of a big zero or one technique type guy. When he played over the center he looked like a top five pick.
Tony Jefferson – SS – Oklahoma. Classic downhill Cover-2 safety – wasn’t asked to cover man to man that often, so will need to show loose hips at his Combine workout.
Kenny Stills – WR – Oklahoma. The only experienced returning WR for the Sooners this year, so was the guy who defenses tried to stop first. Lacks blazing speed, but creates separation with good route running.
Tom Wort – ILB – Oklahoma. The second British born prospect in this list, which is nice. Struggled with various injuries and lacks great momentum. Will suit an aggressive defense.
Joseph Randle – RB – Oklahoma State. Not the biggest back, but looks best running in between the tackles. Running style and size don’t match. Needs a fast 40 time.
Dwayne Beckford – LB – Purdue. Has had quite a few brushes with the law and was kicked off the Purdue team. Electing to declare rather than transfer to a smaller school. Has talent, but the off the field red flag may see him go undrafted.
Jawan Jamison – RB – Rutgers. Short RB who is often compared to Ray Rice. Started off the year well, but faded down the stretch. I’ve seen him three times and don’t see anything special…
Logan Ryan – CB – Rutgers. Ryan shows flashes of top 100 talent, but I wasn’t sure about him. Then I watched Cobi Hamilton destroy him in the Arkansas game and made my mind up – day three.
Gavin Escobar – TE – San Diego State. San Diego State were only on once in the UK this year, so my exposure to Escobar is limited. But from highlights (dangerous I know!) he looks to be a top 100 level talent – decent size, speed and hands.
Marcus Lattimore – RB – South Carolina. When healthy is a Trent Richardson/Adrian Peterson level talent. But he suffered his second serious knee injury in 2012 and is clearly a major medical risk. One of the better people off the field in this Draft, I think most people are pulling for him.
Ace Sanders – WR – South Carolina. Initially said he was returning to school, but changed his mind at the last minute. Undersized slot receiver is also a dangerous returner.
Zach Ertz – TE – Stanford. Fairly similar to Tyler Eifert – used in the slot and create some mismatches. An OK blocker, but often not on the field in the Stanford jumbo package.
Levine Toilolo – TE – Stanford. More of a blocker – has limited production as a receiver. Will need to show his hands and speed at the Combine if he hopes to crack the top 100.
Justin Pugh – OT – Syracuse. As he has graduated, he was invited to the Senior Bowl but lost a ton of money from just having his arms measured (31.5” – very short). Has elite feet, but may need to move inside to guard.
Josh Boyce – WR – TCU. Under the radar prospect but I think he has talent. Perhaps would have benefited from another year, would like to see more physicality in particular.
Tyler Bray – QB – Tennessee. Has the tools, but needs some refinement with his delivery – drops the ball down to his hip a little like a certain Mr Tebow. A much better passer than Tebow though.
Justin Hunter – WR – Tennessee. Tore his ACL and wasn’t quite back to his pre-injury form this year. But with the change in the coaching staff I can certainly understand his decision to come out early.
Cordarelle Patterson – WR – Tennessee. Junior college transfer with only one year at Tennessee. Dynamic playmaker who is still raw in terms of route running. Will be able to help right away in the return game and has considerable upside.
Luke Joeckel – OT – Texas A&M.; Not a Matt Kalil elite level prospect, but in a class lacking any elite prospects he’s still in with a top 5 chance. To be fair to him has passed every test set of him this year.
Damontre Moore – DE – Texas A&M.; Moved to DE in a 4-3 this year and responded with a superb year. With the Jaguars and Raiders at two and three in the draft both 4-3 teams, he should interest both.
Nickell Robey – CB – USC. Undersized CB who is best over the slot WR. Should be ideal for a team that faces the likes of T.Y. Hilton in division.
Robert Woods – WR – USC. Was second fiddle to Marqise Lee this year, but he’s still a very good prospect. Production was down in 2012 because of Lee being featured – some have him in the 2nd or 3rd round, which I think would be superb value.
Greg Reid – CB – Valdosta State. Former Florida State CB who is a dangerous returner. Kicked off the FSU team in August, moved down to Valdosta State, but tore his ACL and never played for them.
Marquess Wilson – WR – Washington State. There’s all sorts of coverage of Wilson’s fall out with Mike Leach on the internet and some might even be true! Leach says he wasn’t willing to work hard and GM’s will be looking into what actually happened. Production was down in the new system – seemed to struggle to separate.
Stedman Bailey – WR – West Virginia. Over shadowed by the electric Tavon Austin, but is a good prospect in his own right. A good route runner who creates separation with quickness.
Travis Frederick – C – Wisconsin. Wisconsin fired the offensive line coach early in the season, which was a very unusual move. Frederick started mainly at guard in 2011, but played center in 2012. Sits in his stance very nicely in pass protection and has power in the run game. Doesn’t seem to be ranked that high, but I like him.
More Work Needed
Steve Williams – DB – California.
David Bakhtiari – OT – Colorado.
Jose Jose – DT – Central Florida.
Jeremy Wright – RB – Louisville.
Jajuan Harley – DB – Middle Tennessee.
Terrence Brown – DB – Stanford.
Stansly Maponga – DE – TCU.
Bradley Randle – RB – UNLV.
Joe Kruger – DE – Utah.