Five Prospects To Watch In College Postseason
(originally posted by me at Mocking The Draft)
With the college football regular season over, and the NFL season winding down, NFL draft preparations start heating up. While there are still nearly five months until the 1st pick is announced, things will start to move very quickly for prospects and NFL personnel men. For many prospects, Bowl week, All-Star games and the Combine can make or break a prospect’s chances. For some, millions of dollars in guaranteed money are at stake. Here are five guys who need to shine over the next few months.
Brandon Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State) – Weeden is a bit of a polarizing prospect. Few doubt that he is a talented QB whose talents (and positional value) should put him in the top 50-75 prospects in the 2012 class. However, his age (he will be 29 in the 2012 season) will create a lot of debate between now and late April. Some will claim that he is as pro-ready as a prospect can be, and his drafting team can still get a good 5-7 years out of him. Others will say that his age precludes him from consideration in the top 3 or even 4 rounds. I’m not sure how much Weeden can really improve his stock, even with an excellent showing in the Fiesta Bowl (although outshining Andrew Luck in that game could give Weeden a boost). The best thing that can happen to Weeden is for some of the junior QB prospects to return to school. Right now, he is probably sitting between 5-10 on the QB rankings. But if a few of Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin III, E.J. Manuel and Landry Jones don’t declare, Weeden could find himself moving up fairly high in the draft.
Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington) – Ta’amu is the #1 or #2 ranked NT on many boards right now. With more than half the league running a 3-4 scheme, big, strong nosetackles like Ta’amu are in high demand. However, I’m not sold on him being a late 1st-early 2nd round prospect as he’s currently projected. For as strong as Ta’amu is, he gets pushed around too easily at time. He also ends up on the ground far too often for my liking. Both of these problems could stem from having mediocre (for his size) lower body strength. On top of that, he has a tendency to get too upright at times and not maintain a consistent low pad-level. There were games this year where Ta’amu was effectively neutralized by single-team blocking (e.g. his game against USC). Not good for a guy who will be counted on to occupy multiple blockers at the next level. His best asset is his first step quickness off the ball for a guy his size. A good combine showing in the agility drills could get Ta’amu into the late 1st round, which is probably a round higher than I’d consider him.
Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina) – Coming into the 2011 season, Jeffery was widely considered to be a top 10 prospect. While some still have him that high, a bit of luster has come off of the Gamecocks’ star receiver. Watching his performance this year, it’s easy to see a guy with a lot of talent who has some issues with effort and consistency. Too many times Jeffery looked disinterested playing in a run-heavy offense. He – like some of the NFL’s high-talent, questionable-effort guys – tends to run sloppy routes, especially when the ball isn’t coming his way frequently. Throw in questions about his conditioning and weight, and there’s definitely a lot Jeffery needs to prove before he reclaims a spot in the top 10 overall picks. There’s no doubt Jeffery has a lot of talent, but he needs to excel at the combine and show that he is in shape and has enough burst and speed to be worthy of a top pick. He will also have to interview well to soothe concerns about his work ethic and attitude.
Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis) – Poe seems like the type of guy who will shoot up the boards as we move along in the process. His measurables (6’5 350 with decent mobility) are impressive. He has enticing upside and gives you the sense that he hasn’t come close to tapping his full potential. He, like Ta’amu, will draw a lot of interest as a NT due to the prevalence of 3-4 defenses. Poe is a bit taller than you’d like in a NT (only Ted Washington has had a lot of success at 6’5, although several quality NT’s have been 6’4) and struggles to keep his pads low. He will need a lot of coaching before he can be a reliable NFL defender, as his technique is pretty poor. However, his size, length and strength will be too much for some GM’s to resist. Poe can really improve his stock by interviewing well, demonstrating coachability and excelling in the strength tests at the combine.
Zach Brown (OLB, North Carolina) – Let’s face it, it’s a pretty bad year to be in the market for a quality 4-3 OLB. While it’s not typically a high-value position come April (except for the occasional elite prospect like Von Miller), there are usually a number of guys who make for solid late 1st-2nd round prospects. This year, Zach Brown is almost certainly the best of a class which is thin in talent at the top. He has tremendous athleticism for the position and should shine at the scouting combine. His speed and burst will draw some comparisons to Miller as we roll through the winter, but his instincts and power aren’t at the same level as last year’s 2nd overall pick. However, he still projects to be a top 15-20 prospect in the draft and with a solid showing at the Independence Bowl and good workouts, Brown could create a lot of distance between himself and the 2nd tier of OLB prospects and solidify his stock in the top half of round 1.