Every draft, there are guys who seem to come out of nowhere. And every year, there are guys who get super-hyped who never amount to anything. Most of the hype is reserved for offensive players unless you have a guy like Bruce Campbell tearing up the Combine. “Hail to the King, baby!”
Figuring out which are which is why personnel guys get paid the big bucks. But since I’m doing this on a free blog, I ain’t gettin’ paid nothin’ for my opinion. And maybe that’s exactly what my opinion’s worth, so here’s a heap of it…
It’s easy to get excited by the explosive potential of a CJ Spiller or Jahvid Best — guys who can take it all the way every time they touch the ball. Me? I love the guys that are going to be super-solid, grind-it-out backs who won’t necessarily have to be subbed out on third downs.
Topping that list for me are two guys who aren’t getting anywhere near the hype that I think they deserve: Toby Gerhart and Ben Tate. They’re likely to last to at least the third round, but I put their potential at just behind the guys in my top three this year: Ryan Mathews, CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best. Sure, Gerhart was the Heisman runner-up, but it seems like either everyone is disregarding him because they think he’s just another big, plodding guy or because “Heisman” equals “bust” (Rashaan Salaam anyone?). And Tate is generally lumped in the 7th to 10th-best backs in the draft.
Gerhart has great size and power and good speed, which he also showed off at the Combine. He’s a Brandon Jacobs-type pile-pusher and workhorse who can’t be arm-tackled. He protects the ball well through hole and has above-average quickness to get through the line. Tate also has good size and he’s a tenacious runner who always seems to give great effort. He has quick feet that help him find holes in the line and he keeps his legs moving after contact. His lower body is strong, and he has average explosiveness. He actually reminds me of Shonn Greene, but maybe better, because he’s also a stout blocker. He reminds me of Greene, too, because he’s not a natural-looking receiver.
Other backs who can definitely be gotten later in the draft but who I think can have solid careers in complementary roles include Charles Scott and Stafon Johnson — who will probably go around the 5th round — and LaMarcus Coker (my sleeper pick of the year). Scott and Johnson both have slight injury concerns — Tate’s coming off of a shoulder injury that kept him out of LSU’s bowl game and the Senior Bowl. And Johnson’s the guy — if you haven’t heard about this, it’s horrifying — who dropped a barbell on his throat early last fall while bench-pressing. He still talks with a raspy voice.
Scott’s game is very similar to Tate, but he’s bigger and a little slower. Johnson — the leading rusher at USC in 2008 — is a little different. He has average size, but he’s effective both inside and outside — with a nice stutter step to find holes in the line. He’s not blazing fast, but he runs close to the ground, with very good balance and stop-and-start ability, and he gets up to speed immediately. And he has good vision and sets up his blockers well. He’s also effective in short-yardage, where he lowers his pads well to deliver hits. He’s also a better-than-average receiver and an adequate blocker.
Coker is a guy who might not even be drafted, but I think he can carve out a niche as a Bernard Scott-type complementary back. He has character issues, but a really high ceiling. Check out my article on him here.
This draft is also very heavy on project QBs who may turn out to be quality NFL starters. They’re not getting the hype that Bradford, Clausen, McCoy, LeFevour and Pike are getting, but their ceiling (in some cases) may be even higher. The list includes Jonathan Crompton, Tim Tebow, Zac Robinson, John Skelton, Jevan Snead, Jarrett Brown, Sean Canfield, Ryan Perilloux, Matt Nichols, Max Hall, Mike Kafka, Bill Stull and Daryl Clark. Not all of these guys are going to be drafted, but they’ll all be in camps come training camp. They might take a few years to develop, but they’re definitely worth a look. And you can see concise scouting reports on all these by clicking here. http://sportsnation.espn.go.com/fans/Mohktal#/fans/Mohktal/blog/posts/104706
Of the wide receivers in this draft, one of the biggest surprises to me is that Dezmon Briscoe is getting ranked so low in most lists. I have him top-five, but most lists show him in the 10-12 range. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Hakeem Nicks last year, but bigger. He has great size, though he could stand to put on a little more muscle. Still, he moves smoothly for his size. Like Nicks, he shows excellent concentration and hands and adjusts well to underthrown passes. His field speed is adequate, though he ran a little slowly at the Combine. He also has nice sideline awareness and foot control and good after-the-catch ability.
Other receivers who will surprise are Blair White and Freddie Barnes. White probably has more potential as a starter, because of his size. Here’s his scouting report. He’s a physical receiver who isn’t afraid to go over the middle and also has strength and willingness to fight for extra yards. Runs good routes, showing very good quickness and body control for a man his size. Also sets up defenders well to get open. Great work ethic and goes after every pass. Good foot control on sideline. Good hands catcher most of the time, though lets ball get to body occasionally. Looks like a valuable second or third receiver.
Barnes is going to get by on his polish and route-running. Here’s his scouting report: Average size and speed. Great hands and good body control and acceleration. Savvy receiver who runs excellent routes and sets up defenders well to get open. Also sets up blockers well after catch. Has NCAA record for most catches in a season, with 155 — 17 in bowl game. Just looks smooth on field. Not a natural returner, but has sure hands and intelligence so he won’t hurt his team if used in that position.
There is a lot of offensive value in this draft. It all depends on what you’re looking for. But if your team has a lot of needs to fill, they can definitely afford to wait until the middle and later rounds to pick up some of these value guys.